Tikkunista: Week Ending June 7th

Jun-07-2013 | Comments Off

Our intermittent summer service starts with no Tikkunista for the next two weeks: Twitter feeds will continue.

This week starts with a look Turkey and some views on the meaning of the protests. On the subReddit “Ask a Historian” Tigorin gives a useful historical background starting with the Ottoman empire. Haroon Siddiqui, from the Toronto Star, gives an excellent debunking of the dominant Western media spin that this is a rebellion against tyrannical Islamists. It’s not: “There is no Arab Spring in non-Arab Turkey. The nation has had its spring over the last 10 years under [Erdogan’s] leadership.” Ayşe Soysal, the former President of one of Turkey’s elite universities, offers her views of what the protestors are asking for and how the Prime Minister’s arrogance exacerbated the situation. And this one minute video is fascinating: people in Izmir apartments turn off and on their lights to support the protests.

In the US, The Guardian first broke the story that the NSA was collecting phone records of millions of Americans daily. Today the government appears to also have been data-mining Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Paltalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple. Their respective CEOs claim they know nothing about this, which is probably true, but doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Further proof that it is? The head of US security, James Clapper, argues that revealing this program might cause “long-lasting and irreversible harm” to US national security. In other US news, Governor Scott Walker plans to sell off many of Wisconsin’s university buildings, federal private prison populations grow by 784% over 10 years, as Corrections Corporation of America, the US’s largest operator of for-profit prisons, offers to buy prisons as a remedy for “challenging corrections budgets.” In exchange, the company asks for an assurance that the prison would remain at least 90 percent full. This is not unrelated to why the United States has the world’s highest percentage of population incarcerated. A fascinating review of a new book about the US “What Then Must We Do?” also notes these United States’ rankings among advanced “affluent” nations: inequality (21st out of 21); poverty (21st out of 21); life expectancy (21st out of 21); infant mortality (21st out of 21); mental health (18th out of 20), maternity leave (21st out of 21); gender inequality (21st out of 21); and overall environmental performance (21st out of 21). (Relevant Noam Chomsky observation: “The United States and Canada are racing full-speed to destroy the environment as quickly as possible.”)

The IMF, always happy to put the con back in economics, now admits “we failed to realise the damage austerity would do to Greece.” That apology, and €15, would now buy you a fine cup of Greek coffee. Meanwhile the Bank of Spain heads for the 1930s with their recommendation to ‘suspend’ minimum wage in order to tackle unemployment. In Canada, the Globe and Mail suspects Canada is doubling down on a bad bet, as it examines how the tar sands distorts Canada’s economy. And a fine article in The Atlantic asks, plaintively, How Did Work-Life Balance in the U.S. Get So Awful? Amusingly (if you share my black sense of humour) as the economic world devolves, you can now get all your self-destruction needs in a single strip mall. People may not be working, but history is. Al Jazeera notes a wonderful revolutionary (in both senses) plan to pull together a new network connecting indigenous people from around the world. In a victory for the environment, Monsanto will halt production of genetically modified corn in all of Europe, except Spain, Portugal and Czech republic. And in the Middle East “Peace Process”, even Israel’s mainstream Channel 2 has started to question the two-state solution, while Counterpunch eviscerates “Kerry’s Hopeless Plan (starring) Palestinians as Fall Guys, Again.” Yossi Sarid, former Israeli deputy foreign minister, was asked about the two-state solution. “It could be,” he says, with obvious discomfort, “that the train has already left.”

Science works differently. The very fine blog, Brainpickings (Thanks, Gord, for making me aware of it!) looks at Daniel Dennett’s book on the Dignity and Art-Science of Making Mistakes, and the essential role of mistakes in science. It also gives a delightful summary of Dorion Sagan’s new book: Cosmic Apprentice: Dispatches from the Edges of Science, which explores why science and philosophy need each other (“There is no philosophy-free science, just science without consideration of its philosophical assumptions.”) A tremendous piece of art looks at the scientific process of exploring drug addiction, making it both simple and thrilling. Evolution gets shown in action, in a National Geographic piece on how 3-toed skinks are moving from eggs to live birth. And the internet is the hero in helping to decode Mayan codexes.

A wonderful experiment run on facebook finds both a hairy scapegoat and cyber misogyny. Elsewhere, women writers fight back against “fluffy pink marketing”, as novelist Polly Courtney announces at her book launch that she’s dropping her publisher, HarperCollins, in frustration at having her books presented as ‘chick lit’. A brilliant reaction that came out of her act was to re-imagine covers for male authors’ books, as they’d be marketed if the authors had been female. Reactions are always interesting… here’s the hilarious reaction of kitty on encountering a pair of lizards, and a boxer pup encountering a piece of lime. Less hyper are a spelling bee winner, and a sloth with carrots, (which really shows why they’re called “sloths”). To honour of the sad death of Jean Stapleton’s this week, here’s the deeply moving scene from 1980’s “Archie Bunker’s Place” in which Archie mourned Edith’s death.

Some humour needed after that. A Shoppers Drug Mart customer service rep writes a genuinely funny response to a junk mail complaint; an interloper appears at the bird feeder; a street performer makes magic; and a remarkably gifted server clears the table. We end with some photos. Remarkable Photoshop skills dress classic statues in modern clothes. In Focus has 28 photos of the California wildfires. There’s Peter Zeglis’ photo tour of Iceland in black and white, Mikko Lagerstedt’s “Portraits of Solitude”, and one more portrait of solitude from my recent photos.

And we’ll end with a Quote for the Week, from a recent Chomsky interview on current education: “Teach to the test is the worst possible way of teaching. But it is a disciplinary technique.” Happy June to you, whether you have to write tests, have to mark them, or can celebrate not having to do either.



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