The Promise of Paradise features area – 100 Mile House Free Press

The Promise of Paradise

image credit: Tara Sprickerhoff

A new book by journalist Andrew Scott called The Promise of Paradise showcases some of the unique stories British Columbia and the South Cariboo have on offer.

The book delves into the history of “intentional” or “utopian” communities throughout British Columbia, exploring their roots and the many different attempts to build idealistic colonies in the wilderness of B.C.

The Promise of Paradise is an updated version of a book by the same name, published 20 years ago by Scott. The new edition contains a chapter on the history of the Emissaries of Divine Light the spiritual community led by Martin Exeter that helped found 100 Mile House as well as how intentional communities have evolved in British Columbia.

“Quite a bit has happened in the last 20 years and nobody else has really written about it,” says Scott.

Scott says it was important to include the Emissaries of Divine Light in the revised version of the book.

“They were one of the largest and most successful for a long time of communal intentional communities in British Columbia.”

While the Emissaries of Divine Light were spread throughout B.C., they were headquartered in 100 Mile House for many years. Scott says they were unusual because of their size.

“They built 100 Mile House. There were hundreds and hundreds of other communal communities in the 60s and 70s but most of them might have had a dozen or 20 people. At the most, to have 100 people working together and learning together is unusual, but to have 1,000 is unprecedented.”

Among other stories, the book also tells the history of the Ochiltree Organic Commune, a “rebel commune” with an interesting history that often brought meat to more traditional “hippy” vegetarian conferences and often saw themselves in conflict with other groups or local government. The group has now morphed into the Community Enhancement and Economic Development Society (CEEDS) located near Horse Lake.

The new version of the book also includes a chapter on modern day intentional communities.

“The earlier communities were often led by a single charismatic leader who inspired people and had followers. While he was leading, if he was doing a good job, some of those communities flourished.”

Styles of intentional communities have since changed, however.

“Over the years what I call distributed forms of leadership became more successful,” he says. “Most intentional communities are really based on developing consensus, not having a strong leader, but having everyone at once participate in the leadership.”

Scott tells the stories though a combination of careful archival research and first-person accounts, where he brings the stories and people featured in the book to life.

“I generally have a lot of respect for people who have stuck out doing these kinds of things. The Emissaries of Divine Light are very much reduced in size, but they keep hanging on and I wish them well,” he says.

“There have been a lot of hilarious accidents and failures over the years, but generally speaking I think people will feel inspired reading about these groups.”

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The Promise of Paradise features area – 100 Mile House Free Press

Globalization Is Just a Contemporary Word for Financial Colonialism – Truth-Out

The collapsed remains of the Rana Plaza garment factory in near Dhaka, Bangladesh, June 30, 2013. The police in Bangladesh filed formal murder charges June 1, 2015, against 41 people accused of involvement in the 2013 collapse of a building that housed several clothing factories, leaving more than 1,100 people dead in the worst disaster in garment industry history. (Photo: Khaled Hasan / The New York Times)

What do imperialism and colonialism look like today? John Smith’s Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century argues that core capitalist nations are no longer reliant on military force and direct political control of other countries. Instead, they maintain a financial grip on the Southern Hemisphere in particular, exploiting labor in these countries to increase their own profits. Order this book from Truthout by clicking here!

The “have” nations increase profits for their corporations at the expense of grievously underpaid workers in developed nations. The developed nations call this globalization, John Smith argues in his book Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century: Globalization, Super-Exploitation, and Capitalism’s Final Crisis. In this interview with Truthout, Smith discusses his contention that globalization is just neocolonialism by another name.

Mark Karlin: Why did you choose to begin your book with the collapse of Rana Plaza in 2013, which killed more than one thousand exploited garment workers in Bangladesh?

John Smith: Three reasons. First, the Rana Plaza disaster — a heinous crime, not an accident — aroused the sympathy and solidarity of hundreds of millions of people around the world, and reminded us all of just how intimately connected we are to the women and men who make our T-shirts, trousers and underwear. It epitomized the dangerous, exploitative and oppressive conditions endured by hundreds of millions of workers in low-wage countries whose labor provides firms in imperialist countries with much of their raw materials and intermediate inputs and working people with so many of our consumer goods. I wanted to bring these legions of low-wage workers “into the room” from the very beginning; to confront readers with the fact of our mutual interdependence and also with facts about the great differences in wages, living conditions and life chances that we are aware of but too often choose to ignore.

This brings me to the second reason. Fidel Castro, the greatest revolutionary of our times, explained Cuba’s unparalleled international solidarity as repayment of its debt to humanity. We who live in imperialist countries have an enormous debt of solidarity to our sisters and brothers in nations that have been and are being ransacked by our governments and transnational corporations! There can be no talk of socialism or progress of any sort until we acknowledge this debt and begin to repay it! We need to redefine — or better, rediscover — the real meaning of socialism: the transitional stage of society between capitalism and communism in which all forms of oppression and discrimination which violate the equality and unity of working people are progressively and consciously overcome. It is indisputable that the greatest violation of this equality and greatest obstacle to our unity arises from the division of the world between a handful of oppressor nations and the rest; working people in imperialist nations must seize political power and wrest control of the means of production in order to heal this mutilating division. This is what informed my decision to begin Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century with the Rana Plaza disaster.

Finally, Rana Plaza and Bangladesh’s garment industry is an extremely useful case study which exemplifies features shared with other low-wage manufactures-exporting nations. These include the centrality of ultra-low wages, the predilection of employers for female labor, and the growing preference of firms based in imperialist countries for arm’s-length relations with their low-wage suppliers, as opposed to foreign direct investment. Furthermore, analysis of Bangladesh’s garment industry poses a series of questions and paradoxes which mainstream economics cannot resolve and which Marxist economists have barely begun to tackle. Chief amongst them is the mainstream doctrine that wages reflect productivity, and that if Bangladeshi wages are so low it means the productivity of its workers are correspondingly low — but how can this be true when they work so intensely and for such long hours? Another is this: what is the relation between the global shift of production to low-wage countries and the global economic crisis, still in its early stages? This question is absent from mainstream and most Marxist accounts of the crisis, rendering them, in my opinion, completely redundant. The study of the Rana Plaza disaster and of Bangladesh’s garment industry therefore generates a list of issues and paradoxes which provide the themes for each subsequent chapter, and so serves to organize the whole of the rest of the book.

John Smith. (Photo: Monthly Review Press)

How has uber-capitalism, asserted globally by developed nations, replaced the need to control colony nations through direct political power?

Uber-capitalism signifies the supremacy of the law of value, which now rules uber alles. In other words, markets — in particular, capital markets and the capitalists who wield their social power through these markets– rule the world to a greater extent than ever before. This doesn’t mean there’s nothing else under the sun — pre-capitalist communal societies and subsistence economies still survive in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America, as do the post-capitalist economic relations manifested in the welfare states in imperialist democracies (a major concession won by workers in those countries, financed to a large extent by the proceeds of super-exploitation in low-wage nations), the post-capitalist economic relations in Cuba defended by the revolutionary power of its working people and the remnants of China’s socialist revolution which have yet to be reversed by this country’s ongoing transition to capitalism. However, as capitalist social relations have extended their grip on the oppressed nations of the global South, and as the transition back to capitalism of the former socialist countries gathers pace, so these remaining redoubts of non-capitalism have shrunk, and today exist in highly antagonistic contradiction to rampant “market forces,” a euphemism for capitalist power.

The social power of capital is enforced through the so-called rule of law, which exalts the sanctity of private property and negates the sanctity of human life. Any people that dares to defy laws protecting capitalist property, e.g. by defaulting on debts or by expropriating assets, is subject to the most severe economic penalties, and, if that is not sufficient, is threatened with subversion, terrorism and invasion. The transition from colonialism of yesteryear to the neocolonialism of today is analogous to the transition from slavery to wage-slavery, and merely signifies that capitalism has largely dispensed with archaic, precapitalist forms of domination and exploitation, while taking great care to preserve its monopoly of military force for use in cases of revolutionary challenge to its rule.

What is the “GDP illusion?”

GDP — gross domestic product — measures the monetary value of all the goods and services produced for sale within a national economy. It is often criticized for what it excludes — goods and services that aren’t produced for sale, such as those produced by domestic labor and those provided for free by the state; and so-called “externalities,” i.e. the social and environmental costs which don’t appear in the accounts of private firms, such as pollution, damage to workers health, etc. However, it has never, to the best of my knowledge, been criticized for what it includes. The problem can be illustrated by considering the mark-up on a T-shirt made in Bangladesh and consumed in the US. Leaving aside, for simplicity’s sake, the cost of transport and of the raw materials used up in production, up to $19 of the $20 final sale price will appear in the GDP of the US, the country where this commodity is consumed, while the GDP of Bangladesh will be expanded by just $1, made up of the factory-owner’s profits, taxes levied by the state, and a few cents paid to the workers who actually made the T-shirt. The $19 mark-up can be broken down into the “value-added” by wholesalers and retailers and by the advertisers, owners of commercial property, etc. who provide services to them. This strongly suggests that much, most or all of the value-added that is captured by US wholesalers and retailers was actually generated in Bangladesh, not in the US.

GDP is simply the aggregate of all of the value-added of all the firms in a national economy. Taxes, and the government services financed by these taxes, are accounted for by assuming that the value of these services is exactly equal to the taxes used to pay for them — and so GDP can therefore be calculated by summing firms’ income before the deduction of taxes.

What is critical, therefore, is the nature of so-called “value-added.” For an individual firm, this is obtained by subtracting the cost of inputs from the monetary value of its output. At this point, mainstream economic theory and standard accounting practice makes a crucial and wholly arbitrary assumption: a firm’s value-added is identical to the new value created by the production process within that firm and does not include any value generated elsewhere and captured by that firm in circulation, i.e. in markets, where titles to value are circulated but none is generated. This conflation of the value generated in the production of a commodity and the price received for it is the basis of the ruling economic doctrine in all its forms. On the other hand, recognition that the value generated in production and the value captured in the marketplace are two entirely different quantities which bear no necessary relationship to each other is the starting point of Marxist value theory, one implication of which is that activities, such as advertising, security services and banking produce no value whatsoever and are instead overhead costs, forms of social consumption of values generated in productive sectors of the economy — much of which have been relocated to low-wage countries like Bangladesh.

This, then, is what I call the GDP illusion, whereby the value generated by low-wage labor in poor countries appears to be generated domestically in rich countries. In this way, the parasitic and exploitative relationship between imperialist countries and low-wage countries is veiled by supposedly objective raw economic data, considered as such even by many Marxist and other radical critics of the system who should know better.

How do you define “global labor arbitrage”?

This term was popularized in the early 2000s by Stephen Roach, a senior economist at Morgan Stanley, who described global labor arbitrage as the replacement of “high-wage workers here with like-quality, low-wage workers abroad,” adding that “extract[ing] product from relatively low-wage workers in the developing world has become an increasingly urgent survival tactic for companies in the developed economies.” Yet this only offers a superficial description of the phenomenon, while the mainstream theory that Roach subscribes to does not adequately explain it. Before I give my definition of global labor arbitrage, I should first explain its meaning in terms of the mainstream economic theory. Simply, it means moving production to where labor costs are lowest. “Labor costs” doesn’t just refer to wages — from the capitalist’s point of view, what matters as well as the cost of labor (i.e., the wage) is the monetary value of the goods or services produced by this labor — in other words, unit labor cost, defined as the cost of the labor required to produce an extra unit of output. According to mainstream theory, efficient, unimpeded markets equate workers’ wages with their “marginal product,” i.e. their contribution to total output, and from this two important consequences flow. First, workers are not exploited — they receive in wages no more and no less than they contribute. Second, free markets equalize unit labor costs between industries and countries — if wages are higher for some workers, it means they are more productive.

So, if, in the real world, (unit) labor costs are actually lower in some countries than in others, it means that workers in those countries receive wages which are lower than their marginal product — in other words, even according to mainstream economic theory, they are being exploited. And, secondly, it means that the functioning of the labor market is impeded by extra-economic factors that depress wages, namely restrictions on the free movement of labor across borders. In mainstream economic theory, “arbitrage” means profiting from market imperfections that result in the same commodity fetching a different price in one place than in another. No other market suffers from imperfections on anything like the same scale as those encountered by the sellers of living labor, creating enormous opportunities for corporations to profit at their expense.

While none of this can be disputed by mainstream economists, the norm is to obfuscate these issues for what might be called public relations reasons, and it is to his credit that Stephen Roach spoke so plainly. But the mainstream explanation is inadequate, for several reasons. First, workers don’t just replace their wages; their unpaid labor is the source of all of the capitalists’ profits, and also pays for economic activities that do not add to social wealth, such as advertising, security, finance, etc. In other words, the exploitation of living labor is fundamental to capitalism and does not depend on market imperfections. Second, suppression of the free movement of labor cannot be regarded as an incidental, exogenous factor; instead, we need a concept that recognizes this to be an intrinsic part of contemporary global capitalism. And the same goes for the compulsion mentioned by Stephen Roach that has obliged capitalists in imperialist countries, on pain of extinction, to shift production to low-wage countries.

My definition of so-called global labor arbitrage is, therefore, that the division of the world between a handful of oppressor nations and a great number of oppressed nations, “the essence of imperialism,” as Lenin said, is now an intrinsic property of the capital/labor relation and is manifested in the racially- and nationally-stratified global workforce; and that the super-exploitation this makes possible is a central factor countering the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, postponing the eruption of systemic crisis until the first decade of the 21st century.

What is the relationship between imperialism as currently practiced and mass migration?

Decolonization has emancipated the national bourgeoisies of the oppressed nations, giving them a place for their snouts in the trough, but the working peoples of the oppressed nations, whose hard-fought struggles achieved decolonization, still await their day of liberation. The division of the world between a handful of oppressor nations and a great majority of oppressed nations is today manifested in the racial and national hierarchy that constitutes the global working class; maintaining these divisions plays an absolutely central political as well as economic role in capitalism’s continued survival. Violent suppression of free movement of labor across national borders, especially those between imperialist and low-wage nations, is a key factor producing and perpetuating wide international wage differentials; these in turn propel both the migration of production processes to low-wage countries and the migration of low-wage workers to imperialist countries, which are therefore two sides of the same coin.

How is gender discrimination built into the capitalist workforce?

Capitalists utilize all forms of division and disunity amongst working people in order to reap super-profits from doubly-oppressed layers and to bear down on the wages of all workers. Since hunger for cheap labor is the main force driving the global shift of production, it’s no surprise this is manifested in a preference for the cheapest labor in those countries, namely that of women (and children); and as Bangladesh illustrates, this is no less true of countries where patriarchal culture has hitherto excluded women from life and labor outside the home. Conferring the status of wageworkers and breadwinners on young women and concentrating them in large numbers in factories tends to transform their social status and self-image, never more so than when fighting street battles with baton-wielding cops and company goons. To temper the subversive consequences of their greed, capitalist politicians crank up promotion of obscurantist, patriarchal ideologies, aimed at impeding the growth of militant class consciousness among these doubly-oppressed layers of the working class, performing a similar function to the promotion of sexiest celebrity culture and the cosmetics and fashion industries in other parts of the world.

More generally, the wealth gap between men and women is much greater than the income gap, reflecting the cumulative results of centuries and millennia of patriarchal class society. Patriarchy, like imperialism, predated capitalism and was a condition for its rise. Frederick Engels explained, in Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, that women’s oppression originated in the transition from primitive communism to class society, when a layer of the male population used their superior physical strength and aggression to seize possession of the social surplus and live at the expense of the rest of society. To pass accumulated wealth down the male line, they seized control of women’s fertility, resulting in what Engels called the “world-historic downfall of the female sex.” This implies that social revolution, opening the door to the abolition of class division, is a prerequisite for uprooting women’s oppression, which can only be accomplished by building a society that places human beings and children at its center, in place of profit and private wealth accumulation.

Originally posted here:

Globalization Is Just a Contemporary Word for Financial Colonialism – Truth-Out

Why Aren’t They Shouting? How Technology Changed Everything in Banking – Small Business Trends

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Like every other industry, technology is transforming everything we knew about the banking industry. Depending on your point of view, this transformation is improving or threatening our economy. “Why Aren’t They Shouting?: A Banker’s Tale of Change, Computers and Perpetual Crisis” is an exploration through the implications of this transformation using the personal story of a banker who has seen the world change from spot brokers to robots who invest for you.

Like every other industry, banking has beendisrupted by technology. Banks are able to do powerful things, like transfer trillions of dollars within 24 hours, because of it. The chief issue is whether this power is making banks more effective or more dangerous. Why Arent They Shouting?A Bankers Tale of Change, Computers and Perpetual Crisis shares the story of one banker as he lived through the ups and downs of banking undergoing a technical revolution. His book provides a truly insightful look into the history of technology and what it could mean for bankings future.

Put simplistically, banks are just people and computers, all the rest is nice to have but not essential. Why Arent They Shouting?

The books title stems from a past experience author and banker Kevin Rodgers recalls while leading a group of German visitors on a tour of Deutsche Bank where he worked at the time. As he describes, the tour was a well-executed success but Rodgers could tell that something was amiss. One woman asked a question that seemed to be on every visitors mind, Why is everything so quiet? This disturbed Rodgers for a while because he hadnt noticed the transformation of his office from a shouting match between spot brokers into keyboard clicks and hushed chatter. Rodgers explains: In short, computers had, in all but the direct emergency, reduced the need to shoot anything at all.

That simple question by a member of a tour group became the starting point for a broader question Rodgers explored in the pages of his book. There he examines how technology transformed his career and the industry where he spent most of his professional career. Computers, he notes, have been a part of the banking industry for decades but previously they were limited and clunky. As computing power developed and became more portable, things started to change. Information became decentralized, jobs became automated, and financial products became more complex. With this rise in complexity and convenience came the lure that eventually collapsed the mortgage industry and threatened the entire banking system.

Rodgers book is an exploration of how the banking system evolved into that near-fatal condition and the situations that society will have to confront as we face even more technology in our banking future.

Rodgers is a former banking executive who worked in various aspects of the financial services industry from the trading floor all the way up to the C-suite. He has previously worked at Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, and Bankers Trust and retired in 2014.

The best part of Why Arent They Shouting? is the detailed industry perspective Rodgers offers to readers about the bank industry, especially the foreign exchange market. Rodgers doesnt just present details about the banking industry, he provides a look into the mentality of the bankers on the ground floor and executive suite. This perspective helps provide readers with some context for the decisions made by banks, particularly those leading up to the Great Recession. The lessons Rodgers takes from these days and from his wide range of experiences in the banking industry point to vital questions that bankers (and regulators) should be asking moving forward.

Why Arent They Shouting is an exciting personal ride through banking as it evolves, yet the books content can be a challenge. Although Rodgers makes several attempts to break the content down, many aspects of the global banking industry (particularly the foreign exchange market) can still be a little intimidating. Readers should have no trouble picking up on the overall issues (security, competition between banks, etc.) but they might miss out on the context in the terminology. For example, readers will probably understand that CollateralizedDebt Obligations are not a good thing from the authors perspective, but they still may not understand how they work.

Why Arent They Shoutingcontains a needed perspective in a world where a post-recession economy continues to be disrupted by a dizzying array of new technologies. Rodgers brings humans back into the equation. His book explores How did banks evolve to the current thing they are today? and What should we be on the lookout for in the future? As his book cleverly points out, it will be the humans and the rules they create, not technology, that will sustain the banking industry. His book offers a personal view into an industry many consumers regard with wary concern. Through his words, readers get a chance to see the humans that are behind the banking headlines.

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Why Aren’t They Shouting? How Technology Changed Everything in Banking – Small Business Trends

Ten favorite personal-finance books – Christian Science Monitor

March 11, 2017 While great literature is said to transcend audiences, the bestpersonal financebooks are arguably most impactful when they address a particular stage or challenge of your financial life with practical insight and advice.

With this in mind, here are 10 ValuePenguin favorite personal-finance tomes many of them among Amazons best sellers and Goodreads.coms most loved for four different aspects or times of managing your money.

1. Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence

Authors:Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez and Monique Tilford

Goodreads rating:4.07 / 5

Published during The Great Recession, in 2008, this book looks at personal money management (i.e. getting out of debt, starting to save) in the context of ethics as opposed to spreadsheets. It touches upon mindfulness, building good habits and even being a more environmentally-friendly consumer.

2. The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

Author:Dave Ramsey

Goodreads rating:4.28 / 5

Like other books in the financial-management genre, the title tells you what you need to know. Ramseys may be best for readers who are looking to climb out of debt before worrying about the ensuing stages in their personal-finance development.

3. I Will Teach You To Be Rich

Author:Ramit Sethi

Goodreads rating:4.04 / 5

If youre more likely to gain from a step-by-step and goal-oriented approach, Seithis book may be worth picking off the shelf. He offers a practical approach to what he calls the four pillars of personal finance:banking, saving, budgeting and investing.

4. The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of Americas Wealthy

Authors:Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko

Goodreads rating:3.99 / 5

Taking the tack that much can be learned from those of us who have already made it, so to speak, these two authors, both with Ph.D.s, examine the best practices of Americas very rich. The books success and value lies in how it makes those takeaways apply to those of us with a lot less in our portfolios than the lux types.

5. The Richest Man in Babylon

Authors:George S. Clason, Charles Conrad

Goodreads rating:4.22

This 100-pager, while nearly a hundred years old, retains as much value as when it was first published, in 1926. Some of the authors of the other books on this list have this classic on their bookshelves, and look fondly on its timeless advice for aspiring wealth-builders.

6. Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook

Author:Tony Robbins

Goodreads rating:4.14 / 5

While some of Robbins work focuses on get-rich-quick schemes for the everyman, his latest book offers more traditional advice on investing. Its at its best when it borrows from the strategies and methods of top investors.

7. The Wealthy Barber

Author:David Chilton

Goodreads rating:3.97 / 5

Unlike Robbins effort, this book claims to empower even the average salary-earner to help him or her to gain financial independence. Its more readable than the average personal finance book, in part through its use of a successful barbers experiences to illustrate Chiltons most powerful points.

8. Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even if Youre Not)

Author:Beth Kobliner

Goodreads rating:4.25 / 5

Also the author of Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties, Kobliner addresses this 2017 book toward readers who have grown into parenthood, and now want to instruct their kids in managing money. She offers a guide teaching toddlers to teens everything there is to know about money, whether its how to use acredit cardor how to pay for college.

9. Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not

Author:Robert T. Kiyosaki

Goodreads rating:3.92 / 5

Kiyosaki takes the stories of his own father, and the wealthy father of his best friend, to explore how parenting affects a long-term outlook on money and investing.

10. How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free: Retirement Wisdom That You Wont Get from Your Financial Advisor

Author:Ernie J. Zelinski

Goodreads rating:3.71 / 5

At times, this may feel less like retirement wisdom than quiet wisdom you might receive from your yogi. Zelinski goes beyond dollars and cents to address how everything thats important in your life is connected to the time after your work life ends; it also aims to get you to that milestone more quickly.

This story originally appeared on ValuePenguin.

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Ten favorite personal-finance books – Christian Science Monitor

Utopia in the Time of Trump – lareviewofbooks

MARCH 11, 2017

THE FLOODS OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY revealed a salient fact that wasnt very important before: lower Manhattan is indeed much lower than upper Manhattan, like by about fifty vertical feet on average. In Kim Stanley Robinsons New York 2140, out this month, this now extremely important fact has combined with rising sea levels to transform the city into what its inhabitants have come to call a SuperVenice: a hacked-together improvisation they navigate via water taxis, skybridges, airships, and private boats they store in the ruined lower floors of skyscrapers. The world has recovered from two massive economic depressions following the two Pulses two decades-long periods of rapid sea level rise following major ice-sheet collapses in Antarctica and is now mostly soldiering on again as normal. In fact, New York becomes something of a frontier city again, in its own way a boom town. Flooded with squatters, climate refugees, and other persons rendered undocumented by the midcentury loss of huge swaths of paper and digital records, the city may have lost its crown as the capital of global finance to Denver, but its still one hell of a town. Its doing so well by 2140, in fact, that some of those fantastically rich Denverites, 124 years from now, are even starting to see New York real estate as a buying opportunity, the next great target for re-gentrification.

Where most contemporary histories of the future imagine climate change as either an annoying irritation or else the end of history the disaster that will end civilization in New York 2140 Robinson cuts more of a middle path. Climate change does indeed prove utterly catastrophic in this novel, laying waste to the coastal cities where a startling percentage of the worlds population currently lives, and devastating a huge amount of infrastructure and fixed capital, costing trillions of dollars but humans are incredibly versatile problem-solvers, and we adapt. Technical solutions like sea walls and skybridges are really only the start of what would be necessary in a flooded Manhattan. Think of the immense social changes, the legal, economic, and architectural structures that would need to be innovated when huge areas of major cities are permanently underwater, or indeed become part of the intertidal zone. Even by 2140, nearly 100 years after the start of the crisis, the long work of retrofitting civilization to rising sea levels goes on, and not all of it is even that unhappy; its no secret that the capitalists use the same phrase to denote both crisis and opportunity, creative destruction. Theres even an investment fund keyed to up-to-the-minute oceanographic data, which you can buy, sell, or short based on your predictions of sea level change from tsunamis, storm surge, and other ecocatastrophic fluctuations.

Befitting its setting, the eco in New York 2140 is as much economy as ecology; climate disaster becomes just another black-swan market event no one could have predicted, with winners (mostly rich people) and losers (mostly the rest of us). And true to Robinsons famous political orientation toward utopian speculations, it falls to his 2140 characters to disrupt the cycle of bubble, crash, and bailout that has run nearly uninterrupted across multiple economic depressions since we all got it wrong the first time, way back in 2008. His protagonists are an unlikely group: a couple of homeless hackers, a YouTube-style celebrity, a hedge fund manager, an NYPD detective, a city organizer, a super, some kids all living in the abandoned Met Life building, to which they have somewhat dubious squatters rights. But ingenuity and accident give them an unexpected opening to make a real difference in the larger world, and they decide to grab it.

Unlike seemingly everyone I knew in high school, college, and graduate school, Ive never actually lived in New York City, though I did grow up in New Jersey, and have spent enough time there that I still feel the usual sort of warm glow about the place. To the extent that the East Coast/West Coast divide replicates in science fiction as it does across most contemporary pop cultural genres, Robinson is a Californian sojourning in New York, but to this Jersey kid he got the details impressively right, even down to a sidelong glance at my beloved Meadowlands. At times, the book actually felt a bit over-researched to me, with too many characters talking about what used to be at this site or that, before the flood, but I came to understand that this was not simply as-you-know-Bob overexposition; it was also a token of the immense trauma they and everyone in Future New York is still living through. What else would you think about, as you flew through a strange web of skybridges and ziplines crisscrossing the ruins of what used to be the greatest city in the world? Of course they talk and think often about how things used to be, back when the world was normal. They live with that temporal confusion every day. (I will concede, however, even as an unrepentant Robinson booster, that the people of 2140 seem awfully well informed about nuts-and-bolts details of the 2008 financial crisis.)

It is undeniably clear that Robinsons project has become the construction of a huge metatextual history of the future, not unlike those sagas imagined by Asimov or Heinlein in the Golden Age of Science Fiction, distributed across overlapping but distinct and mutually irreconcilable texts. Each new Robinson book comments on and complicates the vision of the future espoused by earlier ones, typically by refocusing our attention on some heretofore overlooked component of the problem. Here, for instance, an event that featured in the background of his other future histories including the Mars books ice sheet collapse moves to the foreground, while the question of outer space exploration and colonization is now bracketed entirely. Likewise, the question of animals in an era of mass extinction (what one character in New York 2140 calls not the Anthropocene but the Anthropocide) which was a major theme in Robinsons novel 2312 returns here in unexpected ways, some more optimistic but most rather less so. There are decent people trying to make a positive difference by working for government, like in Science in the Capital, and even some hope somehow squeezed out of the United Statess necrotic political process, if you can imagine such a thing. If the narrative situations in these books sometimes coincide, if sometimes the starting points for these stories seem a bit similar, this shouldnt be altogether shocking or offensive to us; to whatever extent the future flows out of physical, biological, and historical law it will be largely path-dependent, and with only so much variation among possibilities.

This formal similarity of possible futures, all branching out from a single history, has often been an explicit concern of Robinsons. He once published a companion to the Mars trilogy in The Martians, which contains stories in which some aspects of the Mars narrative go different ways; he also published an essay, Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions, which spells out several possible futures that might have come out of his alternate history story The Lucky Strike (many of them strongly undercutting the optimism of the original story). This fascination with theme and variation turns out to be unexpectedly manifest in New York 2140 as well, whose opening chapter appeared in modified, alternate-universe form in Fredric Jamesons An American Utopia last summer as Mutt and Jeff Push the Button. Whereas it was oriented toward Jamesons discussion of universal conscription as a vision of a classless anticapitalist utopia in that book, here Mutt and Jeff set the table instead for the revolutionary financial hacks of New York 2140.

Like Galileos Dream, 2312, and Aurora before it, New York 2140 remixes many of Robinsons key futurological themes, once again with a significantly more pessimistic orientation. One of the many competing narrative voices in New York 2140, a historian (or at least history-minded amateur) who is only referred to as a citizen, seems to exist in metafictional relationship with the rest of the text, living in 2140 New York along with the others but simultaneously understanding himself to be part of a constructed and perhaps somewhat tunnel-visioned narrative. The a citizen narrator seems to understand himself to be in a sort of ongoing argument with interlocutors who dont want him to be too pessimistic, who dont want to hear a bunch of boo-hooing and giving-upness, but who also need to be made to understand that there arent actually happy endings in history, just people coming together to make choices that can make things better or make them worse (and so we should strive to make them better). Like most of the recent Robinson novels in what I would call his postScience in the Capital Middle Period and remixing, in different ways, the ends of both 2312 and Aurora New York 2140 ends on a note of strong ambiguity. The heroes have achieved many of their goals but there was no guarantee of permanence to anything they did, and the pushback was ferocious as always, because people are crazy and history never ends, and good is accomplished against the immense black-hole gravity of greed and fear. And out there of course, forever hovering over everything like the sword of Damocles, is the rest of the ice sheet, the climatological monster weve summoned and can neither control nor banish, which could slide into the ocean at any time, and throw everything theyve built into utter chaos once again.

Ive taken the highly unusual and possibly ill-advised step of quoting from very late in the book here because of something that I feel must be said: written before Trumps election and released just after his inauguration, New York 2140 stands as the first major science fictional artifact of the Trump era, anticipating even in its articulation of the conditions of victory the fragility of progress and the likelihood of reversal. The story ends at a moment of upswing (like the pie-in-the-sky optimism of November 2008, which felt at the time like an exhilarating moment of liberation) but how can we not hear in those words not only the disappointing and broken struggle of the actual Obama years but also the screeching, lunatic backlash of the Trump era to which we have now all been condemned? Dont be nave! the a citizen narrator implores us. There are no happy endings! Because there are no endings! And possibly there is no happiness either! I felt for a bit reading New York 2140 that perhaps it was no longer right to call Robinson our last great utopian visionary, as he is so often described; maybe even Stan has finally wised up and realized were all doomed. When the misanthropic voice of H. G. Wells pops up in one of the epigram pages that periodically punctuate the novel, to announce, upon first seeing the Manhattan skyline, What a beautiful ruin it will make! it really felt to me, when reading the novel in the bleak, miserable December of 2016, like the piercing stab of the truth, the real truth. We are going to take this beautiful place and make it a ruin, make everything a ruin until everything is dead. In fact, speaking realistically rather than utopically, we probably already have. Climate change is an intensifying feedback loop we cant interrupt and cant reverse; even if we stopped burning carbon tomorrow, itd probably already be too late to stop most of it, and we wont stop burning carbon, especially not post-11/8. Some version of New York 2140 maybe better, likely much worse seems to be the actual future of our civilization, the one our political leaders and titans of industry and artificially intelligent high-speed-trading algorithms driving the invisible hand of the market have, in their infinite wisdom, chosen for us.

So maybe New York 2140 is a genuinely utopian text after all, insofar as it puts the start of the worst of the disaster in the 2050s, when the crooks who did this to us will all be dead, and Ill be in my 70s, even more bitter and dyspeptic about the state of the world than I am now, if thats possible. In 2052, when Robinson imagines the first Pulse starting, assuming of course Trump doesnt kill us all first, my kids will be 40 and 38, both of them just a little older than I am today. Too bad for them, I guess! Too bad for any kids they might want to have, or any kids those kids will have, or any kids theyll have, or

But of course this isnt the full story either, not all of it. New York 2140 has actually clarified for me my previous misunderstanding of Robinsons intellectual project in his Middle Period, where (it has always seemed to me) we keep getting utopia-but-worse, -and-worse, -and-worse-yet. What is actually happening, I realize now, is more complicated than that. In Benjamins Theses on the Concept of History, he writes of the work of historical materialism as a bid to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger. Robinsons project since the Mars books has been to attempt to seize hold of the future as it flashes up at a moment of danger and say a better world is possible yes, even here, and even here. After all, every second of time, Benjamin says in that same essay, is a gate through which the Messiah might enter.

The passage that solidified this new understanding for me was ironically one in which two characters (the aforementioned Mutt and Jeff) find themselves trapped in a Waiting for Godotesque situation with nothing but time, discussing the past. Once upon a time, the Vladimir says to the Estragon, there was a country across the sea, where everyone tried their best to make a community that worked for everyone.

Utopia?

New York. We then see the Vladimir describe the founding of this New York as a place where everyone could be whoever they wanted to be, where who you were before you got there didnt matter a free place, a beautiful place, a gift. Of course its a place that never fully existed in our bad history, but from time to time we saw its glimmers, and in any event its a place we might have had.

Why didnt anyone live there before? the Estragon asks.

Well, thats another story. Actually there were people there already, I have to say, but alas they didnt have immunity to the diseases that the new people brought with them, so most of them died. But the survivors joined this community and taught the newcomers how to take care of the land so that it would stay healthy forever. Oh oh well. So this is all just another utopian dream, a lullaby, a tale for children, an alternate history not all that unlike the one Robinson himself crafted in his own The Years of Rice and Salt. But despite its what-if nature, its really not so far out of the realm of the possible. The lullaby simply imagines people who are just like us, except they chose to seize hold of utopia, together, in their shared moment of danger. It could have happened! It didnt, alas the colonists chose to accelerate the wretched work of genocide instead but it might have. Even in the world-historical disaster that was first contact between the New World and the Old, even in a time of horrific, unthinkable mass death, we can still find seeds for the utopia that might have been founded then instead. Every moment has those seeds, Benjamin said; ours does too. In this way,New York 2140 truly is a document of hope as much as dread and despair. And its a hope well dearly need in the Anthropocene, the Anthropocide, the Capitalocene, the Chthulucene, postnormality, whatever you want to call the coming bad years that, with each flood and drought and wildfire and superstorm, we have to realize have already begun our own shared moment of danger, as it now begins to wash up over our beaches, breach our levees, flash up at us in an ever-rising tide.

Gerry Canavan is an assistant professor of 20th- and 21st-century literature at Marquette University and the author of Octavia E. Butler (University of Illinois Press, 2016).

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Utopia in the Time of Trump – lareviewofbooks

Stand on Tradition – The Weekly Standard

“To put it in a nutshell, Joo Carlos Espada tells us, his book “aims at providing an intellectual case for liberal democracy.” This aim puts The Anglo-American Tradition of Liberty on a crowded shelf of mostly desiccated husks. What gives his work vitality is his wish to clarify why European democracy differs from England’s and ours, and his search for what is common among various figures from the past 60 years whom he admires, and earlier thinkers similar to them.

These goals lead him to defend the substance and conditions of our Anglo-American life of liberty, not to attempt to explore freedom’s deathless merits. To accomplish his task, Espada briefly discusses a large number of philosophers, statesmen, and scholars. This breadth means that he does not attend to scholarly minutiae, chains of philosophical abstraction, or detailed questions of policy. Each of his discussions is interesting, although some are more telling or reliable than others. I would especially recommend his remarks on Karl Popper, Michael Oakeshott, and Edmund Burke. His discussion of Alexis de Tocqueville is as good a 20-page presentation of what matters in him as one is likely to find.

Espada’s concern is more with tradition than principle. John Locke’s principled arguments promoting free government were useful in Britain and America because they entered countries that already practiced or defended limited government and the rule of law. In France, however, the “effect of the importation of Locke’s doctrines,” Espada tells us, quoting Anthony Quinton, “was much like that of alcohol on an empty stomach.” Lockean principles came to light there as a wholesale reordering or destruction of traditional ways.

In general, indeed, the Europeans made themselves dizzy with rationalistic schemes. Their hope, stemming from Descartes, not to ground politics and morals on anything that we merely assume is, however, doomed to fail. In fact, it leads finally to relativism. For if all is not completely rational, then it seems that nothing is. Along the path to such relativism, however, came the disasters of the Marxist and Nazi attempts at total amalgamation and control. These were liberty’s very opposites.

If the Anglo-American tradition of liberty is vital to liberty’s existence, how can liberty prevail where this tradition never existed, or is now withering? Espada’s answer to this pressing question is not simple, partly because of what he has in mind with “tradition.” Sometimes he points to matters that were, or are, primarily English, quoting John Betjeman and T.S. Eliot on peculiar English tastes that range from “boiled cabbage cut into sections” and dartboards to Tennyson’s poetry and Elgar’s music. Other times he includes American practices advocated or instituted by Madison or noticed by Tocqueville. Occasionally, he points to tradition as attachment to one’s own familiar routines. But we can see that such attachments could, in many places, as easily be illiberal as liberal.

What we most usefully learn from Espada’s approach is that liberty requires (or is strongly aided by) a public and private disposition to allow competitive spheres of social, political, and economic influence rather than social and political monoliths; a proclivity to let people lead their lives without much interference from others; and support of government that is “limited and accountable.” These dispositions and their objects are broader than “traditional” ways simply, and we can see how several concrete practices could be compatible with them. Espada, however, does not explore the varied ways to advance these liberal dispositions.

To what degree are these dispositions the seedbed or material of liberty, and to what degree are they liberty itself? Espada’s intelligent discussion of liberty’s tradition leads him to downplay some of its concrete institutions and principles. There is occasional mention, but little discussion, of religious toleration, a free and responsible press, free speech, good character, and the rule of law. There is mention, but little analysis, either of the place of expanding economies in modern liberal countries or of their disruptive effects on traditional ways.

Some of these practicessay, religious tolerationcould perhaps be dealt with within the general dispositions I just discussed. Some omissions might also be explained by Espada’s wish not to identify liberal democracy with any current political party or movement, or to allow figures who range from Hayek to Oakeshott to near-socialists and social democrats such as Raymond Plant and Ralf Dahrendorf exemplify the Anglo-American tradition. Liberal democracy covers a wide range. Nonetheless, it is important to discuss these practices because instituting them clarifies areas where the limits, accountability, competition, and variety in authority that Espada connects to liberal democracy must be won and defended, and cannot merely grow. Tradition, habit, or “political culture” are not enough to support them, whatever their importance. This is especially clear with religious toleration and competitive economies.

In general, Espada downplays the place of principles, or the revolutionary ground, of American and even British liberty. He is taken with Hayek’s notion of spontaneous order, and is wary of the schemes of founding and constructing that he believes belong to the hyper-rationalism that is one of liberalism’s enemies. Yet the United States was founded explicitly, England had its own principled revolution in 1688, and the Locke (or Lockean) principles that thrived in welcoming Anglo-American traditions or practices are not identical with those traditions. The meaning and benefits of equal rights, religious toleration, voluntary action, liberated acquisitiveness, and limited government all needed to be rationally explained, justified, and defended, even in welcoming situations.

Indeed, relativism or irrationalism arises not only from an extreme reaction to reason’s disappointed hopes but from eschewing reason in favor of guidance from race, nation, tribe, or other identities. From Nietzsche on, in fact, relativism is defended by some thinkers themselves. Liberal democracy deserves (and its founders present) an intellectual defense that can bring out what is true in it, even if this is not the whole truth about human affairs. Espada offers little defense of liberty itself, or even of the liberal way of life, beyond its moderation and the growth in economic and other information it might provide. He writes thoughtfully about the possibility of truth in the absence of comprehensive certainty, but he reaches no firm conclusion.

We should also point out that liberal democracies do not rely completely on already-friendly soil. They also produce resources with which to buttress their traditions, and favor practices that are conducive to them. Among these are virtues of character such as responsibility, tolerance, and industriousness that citizens need in order to live successfully in liberal democracies, and the attraction of friends and family that reasserts itself even amidst liberalism’s geographic dispersal. In this regard, restless American individualism buttresses free government somewhat differently from the mixture of tradition, respect for authority, limited government, and “inner contentment with life which explains the Englishman’s profoundest wish, to be left alone, and his willingness to leave others to their own devices.”

It is not clear why the basic goals of liberal democracy could not be approached within several “traditions” were these virtues and natural charms to assert themselves, within limited, accountable institutions. Liberal principles must be asserted and defendednatural rights examined as true guides not arbitrary onesif one is to see why we should protect them, and how, when their traditional soil seems increasingly barren.

One virtue of Espada’s wariness of rationalistic schemes is his distrust of experts and his keen sense of the current gap between ruling elites and many of the people they purport to help. This view informs his discussion of the European Union. Here we should remind ourselves that “experts” do not understand better than their clients the ends they serve, that much specialization is false, and that legalistic or pseudo-philosophic expertise in “just” distribution and “correct” behavior is often mere political imposition.

We cannot take freedom for granted todayanywhere. Liberalism cannot rely on practices, traditions, or dispositions alone, but also requires reasonable, convincing argument. Still, Joo Espada is correct to point to the importance of liberal traditions, and to the importance of the writers and statesmen who defended them. This thoughtful book will be valuable for all lovers of liberty.

Mark Blitz is Fletcher Jones professor of political philosophy at Claremont McKenna College and the author, most recently, of Conserving Liberty.

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Stand on Tradition – The Weekly Standard

Book World: In a robot showdown, humanity may happily surrender – Prince George Citizen

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

By Yuval Noah Harari

Harper. 449 pp. $35

Many people fear that the path of artificial intelligence will eventually lead to a standoff between humans and machines, with humans as the underdogs. Confrontation looms in the forecasts of futurists and in the narratives of science fiction movies such as “The Matrix,” “The Terminator” and “Westworld.” But there’s another way our demise could go down. We could begin wondering what makes people so special, anyway, and willingly give up the title of supreme species – or even the preservation of humanity altogether. This is the path explored by historian Yuval Noah Harari in his new book, “Homo Deus.” There’s no need for a Terminator to come after us when, instead of fighting the network in the sky, we assimilate into it.

At stake is the religion of humanism. Whereas theists worship gods, humanists worship humans. Harari, whose previous book, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,” foreshadows this one, defines religion as any system of thought that sees certain values as having legitimacy independent of people. “Thou shalt not kill” derives its force from God, not from the mortal Moses. Similarly, humanists believe in “human rights” as things earned automatically from the universe, whatever anyone else says. The right not to be tortured or enslaved exists outside human convention. (Philosophers call this bit of magical thinking moral realism.)

We may take for granted the right not to be tortured or enslaved – or various other humanist doctrines, such as the idea that we’re all inherently valuable individuals with the free will to express our authentic selves – but we have not always done so. People were seen as property even well after that bit about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” was inked to parchment. As Harari argues, we’ve lived with alternatives to humanism, and we can again. And ironically, he writes, “the rise of humanism also contains the seeds of its downfall.”

That’s kind of a fudge, one of a few in the book. It’s not the humanist revolution per se that planted those poison seeds. It’s more the (somewhat symbiotic) scientific revolution. You don’t need universal rights to study electricity and invent computers. Or to apply our inventions toward the evergreen pursuits of health, happiness and control over nature (or as Harari calls them, “immortality, bliss and divinity”). Nevertheless, scientific and technological progress might eventually undermine the humanist ethos.

On the scientific front, research is pushing back on the idea of free will (as philosophers have for ages). The more we can explain human behavior with neuroscience and psychology, the less room there is for some magical human soul.

Meanwhile, artificial intelligence is rendering us useless, taking the jobs of taxi drivers, factory workers, stock traders, lawyers, teachers, doctors and “Jeopardy!” contestants. And, Harari argues, liberal humanism rose on the back of human usefulness. It advanced not on moral grounds but on economic and military grounds. Countries such as France offered dignity to all in exchange for service to the nation. “Is it a coincidence,” Harari asks, “that universal rights were proclaimed at the precise historical juncture when universal conscription was decreed?” But with robots making and killing things better than we can, who needs people? Intelligence will matter more than consciousness. “What’s so sacred about useless bums who pass their days devouring artificial experiences” in virtual reality?

Even if the human species does continue to serve the system meaningfully, we might not matter as individuals. Harari suggests that algorithms might get to know us better than we know ourselves. As they collect data on our Web searches, exercise routines and much more, they’ll be able to tell us whom we should date and how we should vote. We may happily take their advice, literally ceding democracy to databases. Once our authentic, enigmatic, indivisible selves are exposed as mere predictable computations – not just by philosophers and scientists but by our every interaction with the world – the fiction of free will might finally unravel. (Personally, I’m not sure our brains will allow this.) We’ll enlist as mere specialized processors in the global cyborganic network.

Harari presents three possible futures. In one, humans are expendable. In a second, the elite upgrade themselves, becoming essentially another species that sees everyone else as expendable. In a third, we join the hive mind, worshipping data over individuals (or God). “Connecting to the system becomes the source of all meaning,” he writes. In any case, he says convincingly, “the most interesting place in the world from a religious perspective is not the Islamic State or the Bible Belt, but Silicon Valley.”

I enjoyed reading about these topics not from another futurist but from a historian, contextualizing our current ways of thinking amid humanity’s long march – especially a historian with Harari’s ability to capsulize big ideas memorably and mingle them with a light, dry humor.

In “Homo Deus,” Harari offers not just history lessons but a meta-history lesson. In school, history was my least favorite subject. I preferred science, which offered abstract laws useful for predicting new outcomes. History seemed a melange of happenstance and contingency retroactively cobbled into stories. If history’s arcs were more Newtonian, we’d be better at predicting elections.

Harari points to an opposing goal of his field. He writes that “studying history aims to loosen the grip of the past,” showing that “our present situation is neither natural nor eternal.” In other words, it emphasizes happenstance. That’s a useful tactic for the oppressed fighting the status quo. It’s also a useful exercise for those who see the technological singularity as a given. We have options.

It’s possible we’ll choose to avoid our loss of values. On the other hand, it’s possible we’ll choose to accelerate it. Harari, a vegan who disputes humanity’s reserved seat atop the great chain of being, briefly ponders this option: “Maybe the collapse of humanism will also be beneficial.” Indeed, don’t we owe a chance to animals and androids, too?

Hutson is a science and technology writer and the author of “The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking.”

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Book World: In a robot showdown, humanity may happily surrender – Prince George Citizen

Don’t like a point of view? Free speech protects it, anyhow – The Seattle Times

Mean-spirited, self-absorbed, holier-than-God attitudes are definitively with us. They did not arise out of nothing but out of modes of askew child rearing, cultural degeneration and too many postmodernist, leftist professors preaching what should never be practiced.

Charles Murray, someone who makes his living by thinking and appreciates its grandeur as a guiding force, recently had a firsthand encounter with a mob of college students insisting instead that fury should rule the day.

I am tempted to generalize about a sickeningly spoiled, intellectually betrayed younger generation out to announce its moral superiority by way of moral thuggery. That goes too far. Were talking about 100 people. But they symbolized more than themselves. Something significant is indeed going on. And it is pathetic.

The setting for this story is Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont. Murray, a libertarian author and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute think tank, had been invited to speak at the school by libertarian students, and no wonder.

A few years back, he had written an amazing book that as much as predicted what we witnessed in the 2016 presidential election. It was called Coming Apart and was about an upper-middle class more and more separated from a white working class letting go of self-reliance, industriousness, marriage and religion. A nation once unified in its norms was no more, and the result was gated communities over here and increased poverty, crime and family dissolution over there.

You could read the book and not be persuaded by every sentence while nevertheless feeling that, yes, it is crucial to restore the exceptionalism of earlier days. Worry about all of this grew in 2016 when we witnessed so much talk about the establishment masses growling at the elites who in turn looked down on the deplorables. Donald Trump then made vulgarity his calling card as he rose mightily against political correctness.

It was legitimate to do so. Political correctness can be incorrect to the point of pulling a professors hair, hurting her neck, making her fear for her life and sending her to a hospital. This was what happened to a woman who was on the scene to debate Murray after his talk. To its credit, the administration did its best to maintain peace and sanity, and the professor was there to assure another side got told. But the protesters were not about to permit something as civilized as an exchange of views.

So the students unleashed obscenities in chants and signs, pushed, threatened, banged on a car, roughed up the professor and left one thinking of what else we have seen lately: the violence, speech oppression and vandalism at Berkeley, still other frenetic, mindless protests, silly university speech codes, safe zones, microaggressions, trigger warnings and no-sombrero rules.

Look around and its clear mean-spirited, self-absorbed, holier-than-God attitudes are definitively with us. They did not arise out of nothing but out of modes of askew child rearing, cultural degeneration and too many postmodernist, leftist professors preaching what should never be practiced. To what extent could our future be shaped by those caught up in such a self-satisfied la la land of absurdist rationalizations and desires for collectivist control?

It is hard to say, but I am not just indulging ad hominem displeasure here. The main thing is the assault on free speech. Without it, there is no democracy. Truth becomes harder and harder to find. We do not grow. We do not learn. Without free speech, life shrinks, goodness shrinks, meaningfulness shrinks.

A few incidents do not give us the end of the American creed but they do point to ways in which it is being subverted. An incident in which a powerful, creative thinker is shut up is all the more frightening because it tells us how much we would be hurt if the villains of this tale were to grow as much as they would like in their power and influence.

Whats needed is much ado about something very scary.

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Don’t like a point of view? Free speech protects it, anyhow – The Seattle Times

The start of something? An assault on free speech at Middlebury – mySanAntonio.com

Photo: Lisa Rathke /Associated Press

Middlebury College students turn their backs to author Charles Murray during his lecture March 2 in Middlebury, Vt. Later, the protest took on a more ominous tone.

Middlebury College students turn their backs to author Charles Murray during his lecture March 2 in Middlebury, Vt. Later, the protest took on a more ominous tone.

The start of something? An assault on free speech at Middlebury

At Middlebury College this month, Charles Murray needed a safe space literally.

In a significant escalation of the campus speech wars, protesters hooted down the conservative scholar in a lecture hall and then roughed up a Middlebury faculty member escorting him to a car.

The Middlebury administration commendably tried to do the right thing and stand by Murrays right to be heard but was overwhelmed by a yowling mob with all the manners and intellectual openness of a gang of British soccer hooligans.

If campus protests of speech begin to more routinely slide into violence, Middlebury will be remembered as a watershed.

First, there was the target. Charles Murray is controversial mainly for his book The Bell Curve, about IQ but he is one of the most significant social scientists of our age. He is employed by the prestigious conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute, and his books are highly influential and widely reviewed. His latest, which was to be the topic of his Middlebury talk, is Coming Apart, a best-selling account of the struggles of the white working class that illuminated some of the social forces behind the rise of Donald Trump.

No one is bound to accept any of Murrays ideas, but they are inarguably worth engaging. He exists in a different universe from Milo Yiannopoulos, the alt-right provocateur infamous for saying or doing anything to get infamous. That Middlebury protesters cant tell the difference between the two shows that their endeavor to know or understand nothing outside their comfort zone has been a smashing success.

Second, there was the venue. No one has ever mistaken Middlebury, a small Vermont liberal arts college founded by Congregationalists, for Berkeley. It doesnt have a reputation as a hotbed and training ground for rabble-rousers, and yet it has given us one of the most appalling episodes of anti-speech thuggery in recent memory. If it can happen at Middlebury, it can happen anywhere.

Finally, there was the violence. The students who brought in Murray framed the evening as an invitation to argue and asked professor Allison Stanger, a Democrat in good standing, to serve as Murrays interlocutor. When chanting students commandeered the lecture hall, Stanger and Murray repaired to another room for a live-streamed discussion. Protesters found the room, pounded on the windows and pulled fire alarms. When Murray and Stanger exited at the end of the live-stream and headed for their getaway car, protesters shoved and grabbed Stanger, who later went to the hospital, and pounded on the car and tried to obstruct it.

Stanger wrote afterward that she feared for my life. And for what offense? Talking to someone who thinks differently from the average Middlebury faculty member or student.

Political correctness has been a phenomenon on campuses since the 1980s but now has become much more feral. The root of the phenomenon is the idea that unwelcome speech is tantamount to a physical threat against offended listeners. Shutting down a speaker and literally running him off campus is, from this warped perspective, an entirely justifiable action.

Of course, speech doesnt threaten anyone. The appropriate response to an erroneous argument is counterargument. And the free exchange of ideas always allows for the possibility that someone will actually learn something.

If campuses arent to sink further into the miasma of illiberalism, administrators will have to actively fight the tide of suppression. Its not enough to say the right things about free speech; they have to punish thuggish student agitators. Otherwise, college campuses may become increasingly unsafe spaces for anyone departing from a coercive orthodoxy.

comments.lowry@nationalreview.com

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The start of something? An assault on free speech at Middlebury – mySanAntonio.com

Why We Need the Benedict Option and How It Doesn’t Have to … – Patheos (blog)

by Heather Walker Peterson

When I mentioned to a friend that I was interviewing Rod Dreher about his book The Benedict Option, my friends response was that Dreher struck him as reactive. Since then, Ive read the book and multiple reviews. In light of my background and career, I believe that Dreher is being pro-active not reactive as long as direct measures are taken to avoid some of the sins of the kingdom building of past fundamentalists.

A driving force behind The Benedict Option as a response to liquid modernity or Moral Therapeutic Deism is the U.S.s cultural movement toward a full embrace of nontraditional sexual ethics. This embrace is not just the Supreme Courts ruling regarding marriage but the social expectations of open affirmation of diverse sexual mores in the educational and corporate spheres.

For my own setting, my ears are deaf to accusations that Dreher is fearmongering regarding the loss of job and educational opportunities for conservative Christians. I work at an evangelical postsecondary institution, and among such universities we are currently planning for not if we lose our accreditation or our students become ineligible for state and federal loans but when in respect to our institutional stances on traditional sexual ethics.

When recent alums have talked to me about career aspirations as faculty in conservative Christian universities, I have praised their desires but told them that they may need to consider one of the parallel structures that Dreher writes about: Christian study centers near major public universities. Perhaps more shocking, a friend of mine is reconsidering his option to send his graduating high schooler to a prestigious evangelical institution because hes concerned his child will have less job opportunities with that institutions name on her resume.

Like many evangelical reviewers, my initial reaction to the idea of the Benedict Option, a strategic withdrawal, was that it smacked of the separatist, fundamentalist cultural ghettoization of my childhood, a bunker mentality. In the cultural wars, we lobbed critiques at contemporary thought with no regards for its grains of veracity or the individuals behind the ideas. We labeled social justice as liberal and focused on Bible studies instead. It seemed that truth, disregarding our limited interpretations of it, was more important than love.

Can the Benedict Option be different? How do proponents, as a church, community, or other organization, not relive the sins of the fundamentalist movement that began in the 1920s?

In his book, Dreher is direct about the need for Benedict Option Christians to work with their hands as much as their minds. Many monks take care of the basic need of their monasteries along with their intellectual studies. Therefore, an intentional part of Benedict Option organizations has to include hands-on ministry to help evangelicals pull themselves out of a mind-only, bunker approach. It could be soup kitchen volunteering or as simple as my local Christian study center, which has a coffee time with refreshments available for the international students who need a place to hang out.

Dreher touches on this with his comments on the thoughts of Reformed theologian Hans Boersma. Dreher, rightfully I think, insists on the need for liturgy to restore Christians collective memory. However, as Ive become more immersed in churches with historical liturgies, I can vouch that liturgy may aid but doesnt make worshippers view the world sacramentally, what Dreher calls real participation in the eternal, echoing Boersma.

In his book, Heavenly Participation, Boersma writes about the sacramental quality of the world, the created order as all being a gift from God. To avoid the nonsacramental views of the world that many Christians have now (Catholic and Protestant, according to Boersma), the parallel structures of strategic withdrawal will have to include intentional teaching on sacramental ontology. In viewing the world as gift, members of Benedict Option communities must be trained to love not only the natural world around them but also to love those not like them but still made in the image of God.

To study sacramental ontology contextualized, one must study church history.

Dreher relies on the historical church in following Benedicts rule in approach to culture, but will those who branch off into their own Benedict Option also do so?

Im somewhat tentative about the ability of many evangelicals to set up intentional communities. These will be evangelicals who are responding to what they see as the downslide of Western culture. Theyre from a subculture focused on interpreting Scripture for oneself (and who also have a tendency to just pick and choose a historical tradition here or there without a full understanding of its context).

Gods Word is authoritative, but as Vanhoozer has noted almost twenty years ago in Is There Meaning in This Text?, fundamentalism teaches the authority of the text but practices the authority of the interpretive community. Scandals in megachurches have shown us that leaders with charismatic personalities can become untouchable. The leader who interprets Scripture can become more authoritative than Scripture itself.

Members of the Benedicts Options parallel structures will need to rely on the history of the church to understand varied interpretations of Scriptures in their engagement with culture. They will also have to be intentional about an openness to critique within and outside of their structures.

After quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffers book Life Together, Dreher writes, a community that cannot face its faults and love each other through to healing is not truly Christian. He wisely points out in the chapter The Idea of a Christian Village the dangers of idolizing community or of excessively controlling it to make it perfect.

In my mind, an important book for those with plans for a Benedict Option church or community is Andy Crouchs Strong and Weak to understand how healthy vulnerability in power relationships leads to flourishing. I believe that any community who wants to grow needs to have intentional places and times for critique. Making ourselves open to critique is hard, but this vulnerability is central to transformation as Christians, whether individually or collectively.

Ultimately, Dreher is making a call for faithfulness in resistance to cultural assumptions we as Christians have been habituating. As we become disillusioned with our culture, I pray we also become disillusioned with ourselves, even as we create new Christian community. As Bonhoeffer wrote, it is when we experience the disillusionment of our close fellows and ourselves that true community can happen.

Heather Walker Peterson is a writer, mother, assistant professor and department chair. She also writes at humanepursuits.com

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Why We Need the Benedict Option and How It Doesn’t Have to … – Patheos (blog)

In a robot showdown, humanity may happily surrender – Washington Post

By Matthew Hutson By Matthew Hutson March 9 at 12:33 PM

Matthew Hutsonis a science and technology writer and the author of The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking.

Many people fear that the path of artificial intelligence will eventually lead to a standoff between humans and machines, with humans as the underdogs. Confrontation looms in the forecasts of futurists and in the narratives of science fiction movies such as The Matrix, The Terminator and Westworld. But theres another way our demise could go down. We could begin wondering what makes people so special, anyway, and willingly give up the title of supreme species or even the preservation of humanity altogether. This is the path explored by historian Yuval Noah Harari in his new book, Homo Deus. Theres no need for a Terminator to come after us when, instead of fighting the network in the sky, we assimilate into it.

At stake is the religion of humanism. Whereas theists worship gods, humanists worship humans. Harari, whose previous book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, foreshadows this one, defines religion as any system of thought that sees certain values as having legitimacy independent of people. Thou shalt not kill derives its force from God, not from the mortal Moses. Similarly, humanists believe in human rights as things earned automatically from the universe, whatever anyone else says. The right not to be tortured or enslaved exists outside human convention. (Philosophers call this bit of magical thinking moral realism.)

[Will technology allow us to transcend the human condition?]

We may take for granted the right not to be tortured or enslaved or various other humanist doctrines, such as the idea that were all inherently valuable individuals with the free will to express our authentic selves but we have not always done so. People were seen as property even well after that bit about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was inked to parchment. As Harari argues, weve lived with alternatives to humanism, and we can again. And ironically, he writes, the rise of humanism also contains the seeds of its downfall.

Thats kind of a fudge, one of a few in the book. Its not the humanist revolution per se that planted those poison seeds. Its more the (somewhat symbiotic) scientific revolution. You dont need universal rights to study electricity and invent computers. Or to apply our inventions toward the evergreen pursuits of health, happiness and control over nature (or as Harari calls them, immortality, bliss and divinity). Nevertheless, scientific and technological progress might eventually undermine the humanist ethos.

On the scientific front, research is pushing back on the idea of free will (as philosophers have for ages). The more we can explain human behavior with neuroscience and psychology, the less room there is for some magical human soul.

Meanwhile, artificial intelligence is rendering us useless, taking the jobs of taxi drivers, factory workers, stock traders, lawyers, teachers, doctors and Jeopardy! contestants. And, Harari argues, liberal humanism rose on the back of human usefulness. It advanced not on moral grounds but on economic and military grounds. Countries such as France offered dignity to all in exchange for service to the nation. Is it a coincidence, Harari asks, that universal rights were proclaimed at the precise historical juncture when universal conscription was decreed? But with robots making and killing things better than we can, who needs people? Intelligence will matter more than consciousness. Whats so sacred about useless bums who pass their days devouring artificial experiences in virtual reality?

[Do we love robots because we hate ourselves?]

Even if the human species does continue to serve the system meaningfully, we might not matter as individuals. Harari suggests that algorithms might get to know us better than we know ourselves. As they collect data on our Web searches, exercise routines and much more, theyll be able to tell us whom we should date and how we should vote. We may happily take their advice, literally ceding democracy to databases. Once our authentic, enigmatic, indivisible selves are exposed as mere predictable computations not just by philosophers and scientists but by our every interaction with the world the fiction of free will might finally unravel. (Personally, Im not sure our brains will allow this.) Well enlist as mere specialized processors in the global cyborganic network.

Harari presents three possible futures. In one, humans are expendable. In a second, the elite upgrade themselves, becoming essentially another species that sees everyone else as expendable. In a third, we join the hive mind, worshiping data over individuals (or God). Connecting to the system becomes the source of all meaning, he writes. In any case, he says convincingly, the most interesting place in the world from a religious perspective is not the Islamic State or the Bible Belt, but Silicon Valley.

I enjoyed reading about these topics not from another futurist but from a historian, contextualizing our current ways of thinking amid humanitys long march especially a historian with Hararis ability to capsulize big ideas memorably and mingle them with a light, dry humor.

In Homo Deus, Harari offers not just history lessons but a meta-history lesson. In school, history was my least favorite subject. I preferred science, which offered abstract laws useful for predicting new outcomes. History seemed a melange of happenstance and contingency retroactively cobbled into stories. If historys arcs were more Newtonian, wed be better at predicting elections.

Harari points to an opposing goal of his field. He writes that studying history aims to loosen the grip of the past, showing that our present situation is neither natural nor eternal. In other words, it emphasizes happenstance. Thats a useful tactic for the oppressed fighting the status quo. Its also a useful exercise for those who see the technological singularity as a given. We have options.

Its possible well choose to avoid our loss of values. On the other hand, its possible well choose to accelerate it. Harari, a vegan who disputes humanitys reserved seat atop the great chain of being, briefly ponders this option: Maybe the collapse of humanism will also be beneficial. Indeed, dont we owe a chance to animals and androids, too?

Homo Deus

A Brief History of Tomorrow

By Yuval Noah Harari

Harper. 449 pp. $35

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In a robot showdown, humanity may happily surrender – Washington Post

What Is Wrong In Washington? – CleanTechnica

March 9th, 2017 by George Harvey

By the early 1900s, express passenger trains were fast enough that their stopping distances were well over a mile. At such a distance, if the engineer of a train saw something blocking the track ahead, it was usually already too late to stop the train in time to avoid a collision.

Accidents were avoided with signals, which had come into use in the 19th century. An engineer who saw a signal to proceed could have a high degree of confidence that the railroad was clear all the way to the next signal, even though he could not see that far ahead. But if the signal told him to stop, there was often no telling what the problem might be. A train could be stalled. A bridge could be out. There could be a wildfire. Even though many tracks were supposed to carry only trains going in the same direction, in an emergency a train might be coming from the opposite direction.

Let me put a question to you. Suppose someone decided to ignore a signal to stop. Perhaps he wants to keep up with his schedule. Perhaps he suspects the signal was broken. He has a train loaded with passengers, but he ignores their safety because he finds protecting their lives inconvenient. Suppose you were on a train whose operator did this. How would you feel about that?

That image is, unfortunately, where the United States is on climate change, under the Trump administration. It is headed toward a possible wreck, against the signal. In fact, the person at the throttle is making every indication of increasing speed.

Some people take comfort in the idea that the government in Washington is under the control of conservative Republicans, who are acting in good faith for the benefit of the people of this country. As a person who lived most of his life as a conservative Republican, I can assure you that this is not the case.

Conservative Republicans have historically protected the environment. Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, and Richard Nixon all signed acts or orders protecting environments, ecological systems, and species. They were responsible for national parks, wildlife preserves, and the creation of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA). If they thought science was undecided on an issue, they erred on the side of caution, as Ronald Reagan did when he was confronted with the possibility of a hole in the ozone layer. What we see now is the reverse of this aspect of conservatism.

It is not the only area of traditional thinking that is being assailed. They claim to have Christian values, but attempts to exclude Muslims show clearly that they understand neither the Constitution nor the parable of the Good Samaritan. They do not hold to real conservative ideas on human rights, which many in the party started to abandon in the 1960s, shortly after Eisenhower enforced integration in the schools. They do not show a conservative approach to the empirical use of financial resources, for if they did, they would not be attempting to gut the EPA, which saves the country 10times as much money as it costs. They are not interested in education, which I was taught was necessary foreffective democracy. They are not interested in truth, and, in fact, appear to be horrified by it. Instead, they choose to follow ideology blindly.

A short look at the group in power in Washington shows that they do not represent the people of the country. They do not even represent traditional Republicans. In fact, they do not even represent big business. What they represent is the small portion of businesses and people that profit from fossil fuel extraction.

To excuse their deeds, many of them look for ideological guidance to the writings of Ayn Rand. And here, I believe, we can see where they have gone wrong. Ayn Rand is taken to be a great proponent of competence, but if you take a critical look at her writings, you can see fairly quickly that neither she nor her protagonists has any idea of what competence is.

Dagny Taggart was a main character of Atlas Shrugged. Early in the book, as an officer of a railroad, she ordered an express train full of passengers to proceed against a signal without any knowledge of why the signal told the train not to proceed. She did not belong in a railroad boardroom because of some ability she might have had. She belonged in prison because she recklessly endangered peoples lives for the sake of a schedule and her own convenience.

Ayn Rand did not understand that competence requires understanding and wisdom, and that means experience and knowledge. She was unable to see that assertive self-assurance, in the absence of wisdom and understanding, is merely a self-promotional form of gross incompetence. So she wrote about things she did not understand, creating horrors that looked attractive to people who also do not understand.

Combining the mindless egotism of Ayn Rand with what is termed a Free Market is having disastrous results. What is meant by Free Market is clearly anything but free, as it provides a framework within which the most powerful forces can exercise their greed without reference to the needs or rights of others. This concentrates power into the hands of a very few. It is a very few that may be competent at organizing a business or engineering takeover of a political system, but it is not made up ofpeople who can competently run a nation full of people in a world in such a crisis as climate change.

Adherence to Rands ideology is sufficiently blind that it ignores virtually all else. While conservative Republicans may claim other important issues on their agenda, hijackers have made it all subject to the free market, and the conservatives have been sufficiently grateful to the hijackers for their partys takeover of the Congress, that they have allowed themselves to be led by them.

This sort of capitalism is very flawed in part because it places the emphasis on the near term typically, next quarters profits. It fails badly at long-term planning. And it fails utterly at putting value on anything that cannot be monetized in the marketplace. The environment only has value if it is in a park that can attract paying visitors. A species only has value if it can be exploited. Science and truth only have value if they contribute to short-term profitability. For the current government in Washington, dignity has no value, honor has no value, and grace has no value. Faith, hope, and charity have given way to the of a religion that can be monetized, the worship of Mammon.

Even as the cost of dealing with climate change is growing, the cost of electricity from wind, solar, and storage is falling to the point where they can compete successfully with natural gas. The question is not, I believe, whether the fossil fuels industry is heading to a derailment, but how many plants, animals, and human beings will be hurt.

A real conservative pays attention to signals.

Buy a cool T-shirt or mug in the CleanTechnica store! Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech daily newsletter or weekly newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.

Tags: American politics, Donald Trump, Global Weirding, Republicans

George Harvey After many years as a computer engineer, George Harvey retired. Now he writes on energy and climate change, maintains a daily blog on the same subjects, and has a weekly hour-long TV show, Energy Week with George Harvey and Tom Finnell.

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What Is Wrong In Washington? – CleanTechnica

Voices The hidden figures behind automation – Accounting Today

The current job description of an accounts payable clerk will disappear in possibly as little as 20 years. This may seem bleak, but the reality is that software advances, developments in robotics, AI and machine learning are bringing a new age of automation one in which machines will be able to outperform humans in various work tasks.

According to McKinsey Global institutes January 2017 report on the future of automation, nearly half of the activities that people are paid to do in the global economy can be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technology. Activities most susceptible to this automation are repetitive, non-creative tasks such as data collection and processing. This puts at risk many jobs in customer service, sales, invoicing, account management and other data entry positions, not the least of which includes AP clerks.

However, these projections dont necessarily mean that the future is hopeless for those holding AP positions. In McKinseys words, People will need to continue working alongside machines to produce the growth in per capita GDP to which countries around the world aspire.

Skilled employees will work alongside software automation and RPA (robotic process automation) to approve data analyzation, guide software in the right direction and even perform tasks that we may not know exist yet. This will require some new skills-based learning, but it is also an opportunity for AP department employees to step out from behind the curtain, develop their job descriptions and have more interesting and meaningful jobs. Employees will be able to focus on raising their profile, supporting the business with more meaningful work, providing good internal service, and in turn, be more motivated.

Reckon this is wishful thinking? Think again. Its been done before.

After all, the first computers wore skirts. In the early decades of the 1900s, mathematical and technical calculations were made manually rather than by machine. This work required a large workforce to compute all the information. With the industrial boom brought on by WWII, organizations like NASA began recruiting women for this work, who they called computers. It has even been said that the first computers wore skirts.

Eventually, as the machines we know today as computers began to develop, many of these manual tasks were automated. Rather than discarding the women that had previously done this job, NASA and other organizations simply retrained employees to work alongside these machines and perform less menial tasks. This conscious step allowed the women who had been the quiet backbone of the organization to make themselves and their work known.

One example recently made popular by the book and award-winning film Hidden Figures is that of African-American physicist and mathematician Katherine Johnson and her team. Johnson worked as a computer on NASAs early team from 1953-1958, where she analyzed topics such as gust alleviation for aircrafts. When NASA used electronic computers for the first time to calculate John Glenns first orbit around the earth, officials asked Johnson to verify the computers numbers and her reputation for accuracy helped establish confidence in the new technology. Johnson herself went on to use these new computers to aid in calculations until her retirement in 1986. Similarly, the value of AP clerks and other accounting professionals will shift as they become valuable as human analysts and strategists, vital in the role of validating a machines processes.

These kinds of shifts can be seen throughout history, like in the move away from agriculture and decreases in manufacturing share of employment in the United States, both of which were accompanied by the creation of new types of work not foreseen at the time.

We can expect a similar response to automation in the accounts payable department. As AP software becomes more advanced, clerks and controllers will evolve to work with it, not be replaced by it. The important work of AP clerks will no longer be in the shadows. The job will be transformed from paper pusher to vital business asset.

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Voices The hidden figures behind automation – Accounting Today

Free speech is not freedom from consequence – Bulletin

It was a formula Milo Yiannopoulos, former editor at Breitbart news and star of the white nationalist alt-right, had used many times. Say something incendiary and offensive in a public platform, provoke liberal outrage, argue this is another attack on free speech by the left who is obsessed with political correctness and reap the reward of the notoriety the episode generates. Except this time, another group inserted itself into this well-oiled formula. Yiannopoulos went too far, and angered the right as well as the left.

America is learning just how much conservatives will tolerate when faced with unsavory facts about a successful bedfellow. A candidates boast he can molest women with impunity? Not disqualifying. Yiannopoulos claim the tragic shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was an expression of mainstream Muslim values? Give him a book deal. But Yiannopoulos apparent defense of pedophilia and assertion that sex with a sexually mature 13-year-old boy is not abuse? Now we have crossed the elusive line in the sand. And mysteriously, the right has stopped insisting Yiannopoulos is entitled to say whatever he wants.

In a series of videos posted on Twitter by the conservative blog Reagan Battalion, Yiannopoulos appears to condone or even encourage relationships between older men and boys as young as 13.

I think in the gay world, some of the most important, enriching and incredibly life affirming, important shaping relationships, very often between younger boys and older men, they can be hugely positive experiences for those young boys, Yiannopoulos argues, claiming this sort of arbitrary and oppressive idea of consent fails to recognize the subtleties and complicated nature of many relationships.

When another man on the podcast points out this enriching relationship sounds like molestation by Catholic priests to him, Yiannopoulos is flippant.

And you know what, Im grateful for Father Michael. I wouldnt give nearly such good [oral sex] if it wasnt for him, he says.

Of course this is wrong. The idea sex between adults and young teens cannot only be consensual but actually a positive experience for the younger party is dangerous and damaging to victims of childhood abuse, particularly when the argument comes from a gay man who seems to be drawing on his own experiences. Such assertions are horrifying.

But the backlash these revelations incited, costing Yiannopoulos his book deal, keynote speech at the CPAC American Conservative Union conference and position at Breitbart news, reveals the hypocrisy of the free speech defense Yiannopoulos employed so regularly. Apparently, free speech is only unassailable when the right agrees with the content.

Yiannopoulos has been allowed to get away with appalling verbal attacks in the past. At a December 2016 speech at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Yiannopoulos projected a picture of Adelaide Kramer, a transgender woman and student in the audience, on the screen behind him, called her a tranny and accused her of forc[ing] his way into the womens locker rooms.

Kramer was, understandably, terrified and traumatized. In an email to UW-Milwaukees chancellor, obtained by the student publication Media Milwaukee, she asked, Do you know what its like to be in a room full of people who are laughing at you as if youre some sort of perverted freak? She has since left the school.

To be clear, Yiannopoulos was not simply airing a controversial opinion in this case; he intentionally targeted a student for public ridicule, causing that student to fear for her safety. Nevertheless, conservatives rushed to his defense in the name of free speech. CPAC invited him to speak three months later.

Here is the problem: When the left insists normal speech has become hate speech, they are considered triggered snowflakes. But when the right finds a transgression they will not tolerate, whether it is sympathy for abusive priests or gay people daring to patronize their businesses, they are the noble moral arbiters of society. Anger at Yiannopoulos now, while indisputably justified, tacitly condones every bigoted comment he made before this moment.

This backlash reveals what we knew all along about the free speech defense of Yiannopoulos. There is no debate between free speech crusaders and gleeful censors. The debate is about the platform speakers are entitled to.

The same people distancing themselves from Yiannopoulos now decried the violent protests at University of California, Berkeley, his impending visit incited just last month. Thats the pesky thing about free speech: Everyone is entitled to it, not just far-right provocateurs.

Freedom of expression as it is constitutionally understood encompasses freedom of assembly, of the press, to petition the government and yes, of speech. In other words, protesting a free speech fundamentalist is exercising your right to freedom of speech.

Gonzaga professor of womens and gender studies Sara Diaz concurs: When students or faculty say they dont want a speaker on campus that is not a violation of freedom of speech, she clarifies. In fact, it is an exercise of free speech.

GU found itself in a similar situation to the one faced by Berkeley with Dinesh DSouzas invitation to speak on campus last year. In both cases, the universities were faced with the presence of controversial figures invited by their schools College Republicans club and had to balance their legal and philosophical impetus to ensure all views can be expressed on their campuses with a desire to ensure an inclusive academic environment free of bigotry. Both schools got it right by supporting their students invitations; as academic freedom is an essential right of universities with a clear legal trail all the way to the Supreme Court.

And the student bodies of both Berkeley and GU got it right by protesting in response.

As Diaz puts it, Freedom of speech does not protect us from the consequences of violating the norms of speech, such as rudeness, spreading misinformation [and] academic dishonesty.

Yiannopoulos is free to spew his hateful diatribe at whoever will listen. He is owed that right by the Constitution. But he is not owed a megaphone.

My recommendation for dealing with the Yiannopouloses of the world? If its free speech they want, its free speech theyll get. Robust debate and protest, not censorship, is the proper way to deal with bigots. And when they claim, as Yiannopoulos did, to be the victim of a cynical media witch hunt, can we please call them snowflakes?

Eleanor Lyon is a staff writer. Follow her on Twitter: @eleanorroselyon.

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Free speech is not freedom from consequence – Bulletin

Rolling Stone Australia – Yoko Ono on John, Bowie and Spirituality – Rolling Stone Australia

83-year old artist and musician, Yoko Ono, shares with us her Words of Wisdom, including childhood fables, ephemeral success and why it’s important to get outside.

Who are your heroes? That’s easy my husband, John Lennon. He was the only person who put up with me. It’s difficult for a guy to understand what women are thinking. Most guys don’t even listen. He was very forward-thinking in that sense. He really jumped into feminism, no argument. He would ask me, “Could you find feminist groups for me?” Even now, I don’t think men get together and say, “Let’s be feminists.”

Do you have a favourite city? I love every city I’ve been to, but Liverpool is great. John and I would pass through and say hello to relatives. People there are really strong in spirit, especially the women. I wouldn’t say they’re working-class I don’t think they’d like for me to label them that way but they have a working-class mentality, a strength and wisdom.

What music still moves you? Indian music is incredible. Gypsy music is fantastic. All the Middle Eastern music is very strong. John and I loved folk songs from different countries the rhythm and the harmonies are very, very different. I can’t say, you know, “Be-Bop-a-Lula”.

What do you think John would have made of social media? John felt that something like social media would come out. He was doing that anyway. When somebody said something he didn’t like, he would send a letter: “It’s not true!” He would never ignore those communications.

Do you have a fitness regimen? I walk around. Walking is such a great way to relax. I know it might be dangerous, but that’s only in the corner of my mind. Maybe I’m the only one now. Very few famous people are walking around now. They disappeared. It’s that kind of world. It’s sad, isn’t it?

What’s the best advice you’ve gotten? I don’t take advice. My background is very different, so it’s very difficult for a person to advise me. My parents were very liberal and cherished that I had my own opinions. Other people’s thinking is theirs, and my thinking is mine. There’s no point in listening. And, so far, it’s gone well.

Did you get advice about how to make records a certain way? I make records my certain way.

What was your favourite book growing up? There were two, and both are Chinese. One, Sangokushi, tells you how to battle very carefully and logically. The other, Saiyuki, has more to do with spiritual travelling. One monk decides how to solve a situation, not in a battle. One guy is very cocky. He says, “I know everything, and I can fly to the end of the world in 10 seconds.” The monk says, “Show me how you do it.” The guy goes zoom, zoom to the end of the world, and at the end are five huge poles. He says, “I’ll put my name on that.” He writes his name and goes back to the monk and says, “I just went to the end of the world.” And he says, “Oh, really?” The monk opens up his hand and says, “Are these the poles?” Meaning the guy never went anywhere. He never went outside of the monk’s five fingers.

What’s your favourite memory of your friend David Bowie? He was one of the very few people who liked my work. I think he said something about my music in [the 1992 compilation] Onobox that was very nice. At the time, nobody cared about it, and he was courageous to say something.

What books are you reading right now? I usually read three books at once. One right now is The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success [by Deepak Chopra]. It pretends to be about success so people will say, “I want to read that!” But actually, he’s making a very good statement about how you can be spiritually successful. I love actual printed books. I can’t get out of that yet.

Have you thought about writing a memoir? No. That would be a very tricky thing to do. I care about writing something that would make some people feel bad, even though they maybe were bad. I think about their children and wives, and I don’t want to hurt anybody. So the book would be rather…boring [laughs].

What’s the best part of success? Well, I don’t know, because I’m not successful yet. We’re not getting world peace.

Is that your gauge for success? Well, I wouldn’t say, “Until then”, but it’s one of the big things for me.

What do you do to relax? Relax? I don’t relax too much. I’m always thinking about the next project.

Last November marked the 50th anniversary of you meeting John for the first time, when he attended your gallery show in London. You had a spyglass he looked into that said, “Yes”. What does that work mean to you now? At the time I had a very difficult life. I said, “Well, I want to change it”, and this was a sign that said “yes” instead of “no”. It saved me.

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Rolling Stone Australia – Yoko Ono on John, Bowie and Spirituality – Rolling Stone Australia

How Conservatives Begat Trump, and What to Do About It – The … – The Objective Standard

In the wake of Donald Trumps ascent to dominance in the GOP, conservative leaders blame Republicans for the calamity. But they shouldnt.

Before we turn to why they shouldnt, consider why they do.

There are many reasons Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, writes Dennis Prager, but the biggest reason is this: The majority of Republicans are not conservative.

David French observes that the party of Lincoln is in ruins, calls for conservatives to stay firm in their opposition to Trump, and scolds GOP leaders for supporting this reprehensible man.

Jay Cost says the Republican party of 2016 is a spectacular failure:

Lacking sufficient organization and largely bereft of vigilant leaders, it has proven itself incapable of refining and enlarging public views around a principled commitment to the national interest. It is little wonder that a demagogic, ill-informed outsider like Trump is on the cusp of capturing its most important nomination. The party lacks the strength to resist him.

And Matt Walsh chastises Trump-supporting Republicans who

turned out in droves for a left-wing vulgarian who, when hes not bragging of his adultery or fantasizing about dating his daughter or mocking POWs and the disabled, has taken to perpetuating conspiracy theories about how his former opponents father killed JFK.

Underscoring the insanity of supporting this mess of a man, Walsh recalls that Trump said himself, he could shoot someone in the middle of the street and these people would still follow himand, nevertheless, millions of Republicans have voted for him. There is no complaining now, Walsh concludes:

We cant whine about our demise. We chose it. Well, some of us did not choose it, yet we live in a country where millions of our fellow Americans did . . . And here we are. Thanks, Republicans.

Thats an indication of where conservatives are placing the blame.

First, let me acknowledge a kernel of truth in what these conservatives say: Every Republican who has supported or voted for Donald Trump is partly to blame for the political ascent of this repulsive, power-lusting opportunist. During the primaries, Republicans had the alternative of supporting and voting for Ted Cruz, a flawed but essentially good candidate, whose ideas and positions on the most pressing issues of the day were infinitely better than anyone elses in the race. So, shame on Republicans who had the means of knowing this, yet supported Trump (or anyone else) instead of Cruz.

But the political rise of Trump is not merely the fault of Republicans. It is also, and more so, the fault of conservativesespecially conservative leaders, both old and new.

The seminal act of conservative culpability in this regard took place in 1957, shortly after the publication of Ayn Rands Atlas Shrugged.

In the pages of her revolutionary novel, Rand had handed conservatives, and the world in general, an observation-based, demonstrably true philosophy that, in addition to providing principled guidance for choosing and pursuing life-serving values at the personal level, also provides a rock-solid foundation for supporting and defending freedom and capitalism at the political level. This book was a godsend to everyone who loves life, loves America, and wants to advance the ideal of a government dedicated to protecting individuals rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.

What did conservatives do with this gift? They shat on it.

Two months after Atlas was published, William F. Buckleys popular conservative magazine, National Review, ran a review of the book, penned by ex-communist Whittaker Chambers. The reason for the scare quotes around the word review in the previoussentence is that it was not a review but a lie. A big lie. Indeed, it was and remains an unsurpassed (although often aspired to) model of intellectual dishonesty, injustice, malice.

The screed claimed, among myriad additional lies, that From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: To a gas chambergo!

To those who have read Atlas, that one claim is sufficient to convey the jaw-dropping depths of dishonesty involved in the so-called review. For those who havent read Atlas, Ill indicate briefly, without spoiling the plot of the novel, how obscenely dishonest this claim and the entire review it represents are.

Atlas is a story about the role of reason in human lifeabout the fact that the individuals reasoning mind is his only means of knowledge and his basic means of livingabout the principle that each individual is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of othersand about the principle that being moral consists in using ones mind to pursue ones life-serving values while respecting the rights of others to do the same.

Among the countless ways in which these ideas are vividly depicted and illustrated in Rands thousand-page novel, the heroes of Atlas take an oath, which they all uphold unwaveringly: I swearby my life and my love of itthat I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.

As part of their commitment to living by this oath, the heroes call for a government that does one thing and one thing only: protects the rights of all individuals by banning physical force and fraud from social relationships so that everyone can act on his own judgment, produce goods and services, trade them with others by mutual consent to mutual advantage, and flourish in a land of liberty.

Also as part of their commitment to living by the principle that no one should ever sacrifice or be sacrificed for anyone, the heroes in Atlas, time and again, refuse to cooperate with government officials or unscrupulous businessmen who seek to violate anyones rights for any reason in any way whatsoever.

From this book, the reviewer for National Review heard a voice commanding: To a gas chambergo?

He did not. He lied.

He lied to discredit Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged. He lied to stop people from reading her work or taking her ideas seriously. And William F. Buckley and the editorial staff at National Review not only published this big lie and stood by it in 1957; they also have republished it repeatedly since then, most recently just a few years ago.

Following this initial conservative big lie about Rands ideas, similarly malicious treatments of Rand and her philosophy became the modus operandi of the leaders of the conservative movement. To this day, with few exceptions (Ted Cruz being one), if conservative leaders dont ignore Rands ideas (as Dennis Prager, Jay Cost, and Matt Walsh do), they misrepresent her ideas (as Daniel Flynn, Roger Scruton, Anthony Daniels, Andrew Klavan, Bill Whittle, and countless others do).

With their commitment to ignoring or maligning Rand and her philosophy of rational egoism, individual rights, and laissez-faire capitalism, leaders of the conservative movement have decisively severed themselves and their movement from any affiliation with the one philosophy that could support freedom, capitalism, and the American republic.

Before we turn to the results of such evasions and malice, lets briefly consider the motivations behind them.

If youre a professional intellectual (e.g., a philosopher, an economist, a journalist, or a political talk show host), and if your aim is to defend capitalism, and if an extremely careful thinker writes books with titles such as Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal and The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, might you have a professional responsibility to examine this thinkers arguments and to determine whether her views are true and worth sharingor false and in need of (honest) dismantling?

Why, then, have conservative intellectuals chosen instead to ignore or misrepresent Rands ideas? Why wont they consider the principles of her philosophy, take them straight, represent them accurately, and either acknowledge that they are trueor explain where Rand erred?

Here, we can only speculate. But I think the answer is rather straightforward.

Almost to a man, conservative intellectuals seek to anchor capitalism in religion, faith, and altruism. Rand, however, sawand demonstratedthat doing so is impossible. She showed that capitalism, the political-economic system of individual rights and self-interest, can be supported only by a morality of individual rights and self-interestnamely, rational egoism. Rand further sawand demonstratedthat for a morality to be valid, it cannot be derived from supernature via revelation or faith; rather, it must be derived from actual nature via observation and logic. And Rand not only demonstrated these (and many related) truths; she did so with such clarity and concretization that there is no way to analyze her works and point out where she erred in any substantial or fundamental waywhich is why no one has.

So, people who desperately want Rand to have erred about what is necessary to defend freedom and capitalismand who are unwilling to face the fact that she got these matters righthave two choices: (1) They can ignore her ideas; or (2) They can misrepresent them and thus appear to have acknowledged and dismissed her ideas, while actually having dismissed strawmen.

Why are conservatives unwilling to face the fact that Rand got these issues right? Again, we can only speculate, but, given the nature of Rands ideas along with uncontroversial facts about conservatives, the answer appears clear.

Rands philosophy opposes religious dogma and exposes it as baseless; thus, conservatives who are unwilling to challenge religious dogma cannot bring themselves to give her ideas a fair hearing. Conservatives, by and large, were taught, from Sunday school onward, that reason cant deliver the deepest, most important truthsonly faith can. They were taught that being moral consists in obeying Gods commandments, that selflessness is good and selfishness is evil, that we are our brothers keeper, that we must be openhanded toward the poor and needy, that we know all of this because the Bible tells us soand that none of this is to be challenged.

Well, Rand challenges all of it. And she not only challenges it; she also disproves itby proving (or demonstrating) the contrary in each respective area. For instance:

Conservatives who encounter Rands demonstrations and proofs are thus faced (implicitly or explicitly) with questions such as:

And conservatives answers to such questionsin conjunction with their willingness or unwillingness to face the scoffs and scorn that likely will come their way if they embrace the truths Rand discovereddetermine whether they (a) choose to embrace or at least grapple with her ideasor (b) choose between ignoring or misrepresenting them.

Again, this is speculation. But I cant think of another plausible explanation for why so many conservativesand virtually all conservative leaderseither ignore or misrepresent Rands ideas. (If you know of another plausible explanation, let me know.)

Now, how has the conservatives dismissal of Rands ideas paved the way for the political ascent of Donald Trump?

To answer that, we need only answer the question: What happens when the leaders of a political movement ostensibly dedicated to defending individual rights, freedom, and capitalism ignore the only demonstrably true moral and philosophic foundation for those valuesand, instead, pretend that such values can be defended by means of religion, faith, and altruism?

The answer is: They fail. And they leave a vacuum where the philosophic defense of capitalism should be.

Here we need not speculate, because its simple historic record.

During the past several decades, when conservative-championed political representatives have held office in the White House or Congress or both, they have (in the aggregate) increased government intervention in the economy, increased regulatory burdens on businesses, increased government spending, increased taxation, increased the size and scope of the welfare state, and generally increased rights violations by the government. (For examples of all of this, see The American Right, the Purpose of Government, and the Future of Liberty; The Republicans Opportunity to Restore America . . . and Their Obstacle; Altruism: The Moral Root of the Financial Crisis; The Creed of Sacrifice vs. The Land of Liberty; The Rise of American Big Government: A Brief History of How We Got Here; and The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism.)

Well, when conservative leaders through their representatives in government expand rights-violating policies for decades on end, what do the citizens who were counting on those leaders to constrain government and reduce spending and cut taxes come to think of the ideas behind the movement? Naturally, they come to the conclusion that the ideas arent practical, dont work, and need to be replaced.

Replaced with what?

The answer to that is wide open and depends on what is available and easily digestible when the rebellion begins.

Most Americans are not professional intellectuals. They are not philosophers, economists, journalists, or political talk show hosts. Rather, they run or work in restaurants, doctors offices, tech companies, or countless other kinds of businesses that provide the material goods and services we need in order to live and prosper. In other words, Americans have areas of specialization, and they dont have time to investigate and grapple with every philosophic, economic, or political theory someone claims is true. They count on professional intellectuals to do the heavy lifting in those areas and to convey the essentials in laymans terms so that chefs, waitresses, doctors, and engineers can understand them sufficiently for their purposes. Just as professional intellectuals count on doctors to treat cancer and to explain the essentials of that process in laymans terms, and just as professional intellectuals count on engineers to make electronic devices and to explain in laymans terms how they work, so too doctors, engineers, chefs, and the like count on professional intellectuals to do their job. Its called division of labor.

But conservative intellectuals havent done their job. They havent identified and conveyed the essential ideas and principles necessary to support and defend freedom, capitalism, and America. Theyve chosen instead to ignore or misrepresent those ideas so as to avoid scoffs, scorn, or having to reconsiderwhat they learned in Sunday school. (Thank God the Founders werent conservatives.) And because conservative intellectuals failed to do their job for decades, those who had been counting on them to do their job went looking for someone else to professionally defend freedom, capitalism, and America.

Who did they find?

Well, when Americans looked around to see who might be offering new ideas about how to limit government to its proper function of protecting rights, they saw no professional intellectuals with such ideas. What about Ayn Rands ideas and the handful of professionals who advocate them? Intellectuals from both the progressive left and the religious right had already discredited Rands ideas in the minds of their readers and listeners. Ayn Rand? Isnt she the materialist who says its morally wrong to help other people? Well, thats all I need to know about her and her philosophy. And: Wasnt Rands big book Atlas Shrugged about why men of ability should send lesser people to gas chambers? Thats monstrous. How could anyone even consider her ideas?

So freedom-loving Americans saw no professional intellectuals prepared to defend individual rights, capitalism, and America on solid ground. And they were not about to turn to that horrible Rand person.

Where did they turn?

They looked past professional intellectuals. They looked for a problem-solver of a completely different variety. They looked for someone who is not a conservative but nevertheless is pro-freedom, pro-business, pro-capitalism, anti-left, and maybe even politically incorrect to boot. They looked for someone in the public eye who will say it like it is and cut deals and make America great again.

Enter Donald Trump.

Unlike conservatives, who drone incessantly about Judeo-Christian ethics and the virtues of sacrifice and humility, Trump is a bold, brash, money-loving businessman. Sure, hes crudebut thats good, Republicans figured, because it makes the left apoplectic. And, yes, hes inconsistentbut thats OKtoo, Republicans figured, because hes a pragmatic, reality-oriented businessman who gets things done. And, best of all, they figured, Trump is not a conservativeso hes not going to retry those godforsaken conservative principles that have failed for decades on end to make America great again. Hes going to ditch principles and do what worksand thats what we want.

In short, Trump-supporting Republicans see him as a new, bold, non-conservative problem solverand as a big middle finger to the conservative leaders who have repeatedly let them down. Conservatives, these Republicans have said, Youre fired! Were hiring Trump!

Some may say my analysis is oversimplified. It is not. Nor does it exonerate Trump supporters. They are partly to blame for this nightmare. But conservative intellectuals bear the lions share of responsibility.

That conservative leaders havefor nearly sixty yearsignored or maligned the one philosophy that can support and defend individual rights, capitalism, and the American ideal is an observable fact. That conservatives could have embraced Rands philosophy and used it as a rock-solid foundation for their efforts to establish and maintain a rights-protecting government and a free society is clear as day to anyone who reads Rands work. And that the failure of conservative leaders to do so paved the way forand indeed necessitatedthe rise of someone to fill the void is a matter of natural law: In political philosophy, as in physics, nature abhors a vacuum.

Donald Trump is now the standard-bearer for the Republican Party because when conservative leaderswho, by their chosen profession, had a responsibility to identify, convey, and apply a viable philosophy to support rights, freedom, and capitalismwere handed a philosophy that clearly could do so, they ignored or maligned it. And they did so for decades.

Republican presidential candidate Trump is a product of conservative leaders evasions. Hes their Frankenstein. Hes their fault.

Have other factors contributed to the rise of Trump? Yes, many other factors have. But conservatives evasions are the fundamental cause. If conservative leaders had embraced rather than ignored or misrepresented Ayn Rands ideas, conservative efforts to defend freedom, capitalism, and the American ideal would have been anchored in an irrefutable moral and philosophical foundation; thus, America would now beor would at least be headed in the direction ofthe rights-protecting republic it is supposed to be. In such a context, a vulgar opportunist such as Trump couldnt garner political support from any sizable portion of the population. Instead, hed be using the best words to complain about the difficulty of cutting deals without the coercive power of eminent domain.

So the point here is not that no other factors have contributed to the political ascent of Trump. Rather, the point is that the fundamental cause of his ascent is the evasions of conservative leaders.

What is the solution to this problem?

There is no quick fix. Conservatives evasions have plunged America deep into a swamp of unprincipled politics and philosophic confusion. The only way out of the muck is by means of a new movement led by new intellectuals. The intellectuals needed for this movement are those who are willing to look at reality, to think for themselves, and to embrace and convey the philosophical, moral, and political ideas that actually support a system of individual rights, freedom, and capitalism.

In other words, the solution is for new intellectuals to do what conservative intellectuals should have done but have refused to do ever since 1957: Read Ayn Rands works, see whether her ideasmake sense, and, if they do, embrace them and use them to argue for a return to the American ideal of a government that does one thing and only one thing: protects rights.

Those who want to learn about Ayn Rands ideas can profitably start almost anywhere in her corpus. If you like fiction, you might start with We The Living, The Fountainhead, or Atlas Shrugged. If you prefer nonfiction, maybe start with Philosophy: Who Needs It, or The Virtue of Selfishness, or Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.

If you want a quick overview of Objectivism, see What is Objectivism? For an article-length primer on Rands morality of self-interest, see Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rands Morality of Egoism. And for a systematic presentation of her theory of rights, see Ayn Rands Theory of Rights: The Moral Foundation of a Free Society.

Wherever you start, know this: Rands ideas challenge the fundamental ideas youve been taught about philosophy, religion, morality, rights, and politics. And bear in mind that Rand is the first to point out that you should not accept her ideasor anyones ideasunless they make sense to you. As she puts it: The most selfish of all things is the independent mind that recognizes no authority higher than its own and no value higher than its judgment of truth.

But if you give her ideas a hearingrather than listen to conservatives who misrepresent them as a matter of courseI think youll see that they make sense, that they are grounded in perceptual reality, and that they support freedom, capitalism, and the American ideal like nothing youve encountered before.

If you do come to see that Rands ideas are sound, you can then join the movement that should have been soaring since 1957 but that conservative leaders chose to cripple with their dishonestythe movement dedicated to supporting individual rights, freedom, and capitalism by reference to the observation-based moral and philosophical foundations on which these values depend: the Objectivist movement.

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How Conservatives Begat Trump, and What to Do About It – The … – The Objective Standard

Freedom in the 50 States 2015-2016 | Overall Freedom …

William P. Ruger

William P. Ruger is Vice President of Policy and Research at the Charles Koch Institute and Charles Koch Foundation. Ruger is the author of the biography Milton Friedman and a coauthor of The State of Texas: Government, Politics, and Policy. His work has been published in International Studies Quarterly, State Politics and Policy Quarterly, Armed Forces and Society, and other outlets. Ruger earned an AB from the College of William and Mary and a PhD in politics from Brandeis University. He is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan.

Jason Sorens is Lecturer in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College. His primary research interests include fiscal federalism, public policy in federal systems, secessionism, and ethnic politics. His work has been published in International Studies Quarterly, Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Peace Research, State Politics and Policy Quarterly, and other academic journals, and his book Secessionism: Identity, Interest, and Strategy was published by McGill-Queens University Press in 2012. Sorens received his BA in economics and philosophy, with honors, from Washington and Lee University and his PhD in political science from Yale University.

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Freedom in the 50 States 2015-2016 | Overall Freedom …

Successful Aging: How to find entry points in adding technology – LA Daily News

Q I bought my 80-year-old mother a new iPad. She opened the box, threw up her hands and said, I cant do that. What can I do to help her learn the new technology? My tech savvy 30-year-old daughter volunteered to teach her. Any advice how my daughter can be most effective?

B.K.

A Dear B.K.:

To provide tips for effective tech mentoring, lets begin by understanding some of the reasons for resistance. Opposition to technology is not a new story, according to Calestous Juma, professor at the Harvard Kennedy School. In his book Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies (Oxford University Press. 2016), Juma refers to 600 years of technological controversies ranging from attacks on coffee, the printing press and margarine to debates on the potential impact of alternative intelligence, drones and 3-D printing.

He notes that society supports technology when it is perceived as an addition to our lives, embracing our desire for inclusion, purpose, challenge, meaning and alignment with nature. If technology diminishes an aspect of our humanity, he notes there is resistance.

That resistance filters down to individuals and in particular older adults. Here are some barriers as suggested by librarian and writer Renate Robey in a guide for librarians in how to teach technology:

Lack of perceived benefit or need: To be motivated to learn the new technology, older adults need to understand exactly what the benefit will be. Such benefits include being part of a grandchilds life, keeping up with family happenings, playing online games or researching family history.

Negative feelings about social media: Older adults may be frustrated and annoyed that communication has drastically changed from making phone calls and personal visits to email, tweets and Skype.

Fearful about internet safety: A deep mistrust of placing personal information on a computer is another barrier. The concern is real and is called internet fraud. Pop-up browser windows that simulate virus-scanning software can fool victims into either downloading a fake anti-virus program (at a cost) or an actual virus that opens up information on the users computer to scammers.

Computer anxiety: Fearful of breaking the computer or making a mistake can easily lead to computer anxiety. Many older adults were brought up in a school environment where the initial answer to a question had to be correct and making mistakes resulted in a lower grade.

Cognitive or physical issues: Normal changes with age can present learning obstacles. Declines in vision, memory, dexterity and mobility may make it difficult to perform simple tasks like handling a mouse. Ability to read is key. Yet, about two in five older adults indicate they have a physical or health condition that makes reading difficult, according to the Pew Research Center.

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B.K, since your daughter volunteered to be your mothers personal tutor, heres a draft of a possible script that addresses some of the barriers.

Daughter: Hi, Grandma. I know you want to stay in touch with me, but I live 3,000 miles away. I have a way for us to be part of each others lives. Lets begin with the new iPad you received as a gift for starters and learn about email. I will set it up for you. Note that doesnt mean we cant talk on the phone. Using email will just make us closer.

Know that you cannot break the computer and there are no permanent mistakes. If you misspell a word, it can be corrected. We are using a touch screen so you dont have to deal with a mouse. And remember, there is no rush. I am going to write down all of the instructions. Well use the instructions as I demonstrate the process and for practice well write lots of emails together. After I leave, you can always contact me or Mom when you see something on the screen you dont understand. You have my email address and phone number.

When you are comfortable with email, we can learn about Skype where we actually can see one another and talk. Youll love it. Actually, if you like, we can start with Skype.

Grandma, I love you.

Hopefully Grandma is relaxed with a pace that is comfortable for her and with practice, time, repetition and reaping the rewards of staying in touch with her granddaughter, shell become tech savvy.

Thanks, B.K., for your good question. At some point in our tech world, we all are learners.

Note: Most of our communities have classes on technology for older adults.

For more information, go to Helendenn@aol.com; also see http://www.HelenmDennis.com for previous columns.

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Successful Aging: How to find entry points in adding technology – LA Daily News

A French Surrealist’s Eclectic Remembrances of His Cohort, Finally in English – Hyperallergic

Philippe Soupault, Lost Profiles: Memoirs of Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism

Lost Profiles: Memoirs of Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism is a diminutive, stylish book that kicks off by appreciatively documenting a curiously seedy period of transition within the anti-rationalist French avant-garde: from Dada to Surrealism. Published by legendary City Lights in late 2016, this alluring collection of amiable reminiscences was penned by co-founding Surrealist poet Philippe Soupault (18971990) and first appeared in French in 1963 as Profils perdus. City Lights has bracketed this English translation with an introduction by Mark Polizzotti, the director of the publications program at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and an afterword by poet Ron Padgett.

Polizzottis contribution is essential, as he not only contextualizes Soupault within the Parisian avant-garde but corrects some dating errors of Soupaults and reverses some of Andr Bretons bowdlerizing, revealing the essential conceptual contribution that psychologist, philosopher, and psychotherapist Pierre Janet played in Soupault and Bretons budding Dada-cum-Surrealist movement. (Breton had neglected the erudite Janet in his accounts.) On the other hand, Polizzotti keenly reports that Soupault tends to assign himself the starring role a bit more than is warranted, thus advancing the thesis that every biography is a disguised autobiography.

Though essentially about his experiences as a rather blissful young man, Soupault wrote this book of portraits at age 66, sparing it the typical excesses of literary juvenilia. Indeed, his generally urbane tone is neither ironic and frivolous, nor competitive and facetious. His clipped, fluid prose avoids academic stodginess with lan, and there is nothing insolent, narcissistic, lecherous, or self-protective about it.

The translation by poet Alan Bernheimer has flair too, delivering Soupaults appealingly eclectic text in delightful form to the Anglophone audience for the first time. Soupaults sharp but sweet anecdotal memories of fellow experimental artists and antagonists include laudable short portraits of Guillaume Apollinaire, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, sad surrealist Ren Crevel, novelist Georges Bernanos, painter Henri Rousseau, poet Charles Baudelaire (whom he sketches as a precursor avant-gardist) and lesser-known poets Pierre Reverdy and Blaise Cendrars. Given the heroic stature of some of these audacious subjects, within their chapters Soupault seems to delight in making large small and small large, humanizing the celebrated with intimate particularization and paeanizing the obscure with encomium.

With a seductive cubist cover painting by Robert Delaunay of a scowling Soupault ignoring a quaking Eiffel Tower, this enjoyable collection of crisp recollections popularizes what was once essentially arcane. Like Marc Dachys essential Discoveries: Dada: The Revolt of Art, Soupaults book with its pocket size, short chapter format, and reasonable price makes for the perfect travel companion. Even though the essays presume a certain level of familiarity with the French avant-garde, they have an engaging quality that transmits Soupaults palpable love for experimental art and for his quelle surprise exclusively male subjects. Lost Profiles offers witty and unexpurgated views of venturesome men during a daring era, but it is in no way a sufficiently broad-spectrum historical overview of the birth of the avant-garde in Paris.

Soupault, whose style of disaffection favored plain living and high thinking, lived a lengthy literary life, never ceasing to write improbable tales. Rather young during World War I when he served in the French army, he saw the Parisian art spirit of the times as one based in Dada iconoclastic destruction, bent on devastating conventional systems of representation, traditional morality, and all sorts of rational social organization (which the Dadaists saw, in light of the war, as depraved and crazed). This effervescent mood, which fted scandal, was particularly incited in Paris by the arrival of Tristan Tzara. This closed a circuit, as Dadaist Tzara had been influenced by Parisian Cubism: borrowing and intensifying the anti-logic of juxtaposition, condensation, and displacement specifically from Synthetic Cubist collage. For Soupault, Tzaras tipsy Dada showed the nonsense latent in all sense.

As Soupault writes, Dada was out to destroy all the established values, the literary practices, and the moral bias in the interests of what Apollinaire (an outspoken and thought-provoking defender of Cubism) called the new spirit in art. Perhaps that is one reason that the essay Steps in the Footsteps (Les pas dans les pas) has been moved from the end in the French edition to open the collection in English: It is here that Soupault recalls how he and Breton were first affiliated through Apollinaires friendship and encouragement as they came to know Tzara and participate in the earliest performances of the Paris Dada movement. In 1919, with Breton and Louis Aragon, Soupault co-founded the Dada journal Littrature. That same year, Soupault collaborated with Breton on Les Champs magntiques (The Magnetic Fields), the text of automatic writing that inspired Andr Massons automatic drawings. Together, these works are widely considered the foundation of the Surrealist movement and the greatest contributions by the original Surrealist group.

Of course, Soupault had a famous falling out with Bretons goatish brand of Surrealism (a term taken from Apollinaires text Onirocritique that was itself snatched from Artemidoruss ancient Greek treatise on dream interpretation) arising from the movements increasingly Soviet Communist ties and Bretons self-anointment as leading arbiter. In 1927 Soupault and his wife Marie-Louise translated William Blakes Songs of Innocence and Experience into French, and the following year Soupault authored a monograph on Blake, arguing that he had anticipated the Surrealist movement.

After putting down this fulfilling read, a few nasty thoughts kept haunting me. Soupaults anti-rational Dada-Surrealism was largely the art of generalizing where the particular was in play. Dada-Surrealism rejected the tight correlation between words and meaning, which perhaps sounds familiar in our era of Trump post-factuality: slippery conceptual bullshit moves that exploit Soupault-type forms of verbal extrapolation in the interests of far-right political manipulations. It seems to me that what Soupault wanted to show us was that verbal impossibilities could produce astonishing transgressions that liberate the mind from conservative militaristic convention something quite the opposite of spectacular post-factual speculative conspiracy theories (think Pizzagate) that support Trump by liberating thought from a concern for credibility.

In that sense (and that one alone), Soupaults avant-gardism helped cultivate a taste for the ambiguity of the post-truth political economy of the alt-right, with its toxic mix of white supremacy, misogyny, xenophobia, militarism, and oligarchic tendencies. Indeed, hard-right Trump trolls are similar to their Dada predecessors in that they do not recognize any limits to truth claims. For some, merely saying things that are not usually said openly is part of the transgressive thrill of Trumpism. Even when Trump himself is caught in an egregious lie, his anti-globalist, nationalist supporters manage to believe that he is instead revealing critical truths, and that any reporting to the contrary actually exposes the anti-conservative bias of the perceived media and cultural lite.

Like the Dadaists, the trolling radical right has always been acutely sensitive to the emotions of shockingly vulgar communications whose primary goal is cognitive manipulation. Trump panders to prejudice by liberating previously repressed aggression, viciousness, and mockery and redirecting it at immigrants, people of color, women, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. So it saddens me to say that I could not help but notice that the alt-right trolls and the Dada-Surreal heroes share many of the clever cognitive-dissonant techniques in their messaging. Of course, the evil onus is on the alt-right (already a pass term, as this groups objectives are no longer an alternative to anything but central to sites of forceful power). Therefore, it is important to note that Soupault did not stop his intellectual pursuits with the anti-rational Magnetic Fields. Following his co-founding of Surrealism, he practiced journalism and directed Radio Tunis from 1937 to 1940 after he was arrested in Tunisia by the pro-Vichy regime during WWII. After the war, he resumed his journalistic activities, worked for UNESCO, and taught at Swarthmore College while writing essays and novels.

The reality of Trump has now sunk in, and the sense of trauma on the cultural left has deepened (with the stakes only likely to get higher). As a starting point for political activism/artivism, perhaps artists engaged in increasingly vehement expressions of dissent may wish to consider how best to combat the normalization of Trumps impulsive anti-rationalism through the refusing anti-rationalist eyes of Soupaults disaffection, conversely tempered by his journalistic rigor and educational commitment. This double-bladed approach of utilizing anti-rational (post-truth) mind games and facts-based objective accuracy may best frustrate Trumps insatiable desire for recognition and get under his oh-so-thin skin.

Lost Profiles: Memoirs of Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism is now available from online booksellers and City Lights.

Continued here:

A French Surrealist’s Eclectic Remembrances of His Cohort, Finally in English – Hyperallergic

Is Ayn Rand still relevant 35 years on from her death? – The Adam Smith Institute (blog)

Though she died in 1982, huge numbers of people still come to Ayn Rand through her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and their lives are changed as a result. No wonder. These novels assert the nobility of using your mind to reach your full potential. They make self-belief cool.

Rands heroes are individualists who live by their own creative talentsexisting for no one else, nor asking others to exist for them. They are rebels against the establishment and its ways. They do not conform to social norms, but stand by their own vision and truth: a vision built on their own values and a truth built on fact and reason, not on the false authority of others. They are the creative minds who discover new knowledge, who innovate, drive progress and consequently benefit all humanity.

But minds cannot be forced to think. Creativity, and therefore human progress, depends on people being free to think and act in pursuit of their own values. That is a powerful case for liberty, values, mind, reason, creativity, entrepreneurship, capitalism, achievement, heroism, happiness, self-esteem and pride. And against the life-destroying consequences of coercion, extortion, regulation, self-sacrifice, altruism, wishful thinking and refusing to use ones mind.

Nowhere do Rands ideas change more lives than in her adopted United States, where her novels tap into the American ideals of self-reliance and individualism. In the early 1990s, a decade after her death, a survey by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club rated Atlas Shrugged as the most influential book after the Bible. Today, Rands ideas are taught in colleges across America and discussed in academic and popular journals. Institutes and groups have been set up to promote her ideas.

Her ideas are accelerating in other English-speaking countries too, such as the UK (where 20,000 Rand books are sold each year), Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India, where English is widely spoken. Even Indian footballers and Bollywood stars acknowledge her influence on their lives.

Beyond the English-speaking countries, Sweden, a country of just 9.5m people, leads the world in Google searches for Ayn Rand. About 25,000 copies are bought each year in Rands native Russia, another 13,000 a year in Brazil, 6,000 in Spain and 1,000 each in Japan and Bulgaria. Even in China, some 15,000 Rand books are bought each yeara number which, given that countrys economic and intellectual awakening, can only increase.

All this gives Rand a significant impact on the political debate. In the United States, many of those she inspired rose into public office. Former US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan (1926-) was an early member of Rands inner circle. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (1948-) shows his new clerks The Fountainhead movie. Politicians such as former Congressman Ron Paul (1935-), his son, Senator Rand Paul (1965-) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (1970-) cite Rand as an influence. Even President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) described himself as an admirer of Ayn Rand.

Nor is this only a US phenomenon. Annie Lf (1983-), leader of Swedens Center Party and former Enterprise Minister, helped launch the Swedish translation of The Fountainhead, calling Rand one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th Century. Rands ideas were praised by the reformist Prime Minister of Estonia, Mart Laar (1960-), and influenced Australias Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser (1930-2015), along with many other past or current political leaders.

What other novels have had such an impact on events, more than half a century after their publication? And what other novelist?

See the article here:

Is Ayn Rand still relevant 35 years on from her death? – The Adam Smith Institute (blog)