‘School lessons and shelling forge new identity in east Ukraine’ | FT.com

It’s refreshing to see some genuine reportage about Ukraine appearing in mainstream western media.

While some may see this week’s Minsk memorandum, which calls for a ceasefire in east Ukraine and the eventual re-establishment of national borders, as the first step towards the DPR’s disbandment, there are few signs in the region of a rebel leadership preparing to relinquish control — or a society that wants them to.

After a months-long siege that has destroyed local infrastructure, and left the population under the near-constant percussion of artillery, a new sense of regional identity has taken hold in Donetsk. Though some of it is being transmitted through top-down initiatives such as Ms Prussova’s class, much of it has come through the Ukrainian army’s shelling, which has turned many formerly pro-Ukrainian locals against Kiev.

Courtney Weaver’s piece for the FT included this sad but amusing quote from a previously pro-Ukrainian 20-year-old student Continue reading

Advertisements

‘Good’ Blasphemy | The American Conservative

The American Conservative, a publication I usually quite like, has been vocal in its reaction to the Paris shootings with four posts so far by one author, all beating the same drum. I ended up posting a comment on the latest thread.

It starts with a quote from Rod Dreher’s fourth piece (which also encapsulates his argument):

“But when some within that civilization punish blasphemy with violence and murder, then, says Ross, we all had better defend that blasphemy to protect our own right to speak and to worship as our consciences dictate.”

I then continue as follows:

Rousing stuff, but a false syllogism. It’s conflating two separate issues. Worse, doing so is probably reacting exactly as these bastards hope we will.

Instead, why not staunchly defend the legal right to freedom of speech while deploring those who choose to use it in a juvenile, destructive fashion? Equally, unequivocally condemn any use of violence while holding onto enough heart to grasp the anquish such sophomoric “journalism” triggers for many ordinary Muslims.

What you seem to be missing is that this atrocity was probably intended to foment division. Doesn’t the rather doctrinaire, self-righteous response you’ve repeatedly indulged in so far play directly into their hands?

Cui bono? Worth asking before letting rip.

Laura Poitras and Tom Engelhardt | TomDispatch

Laura Poitras in conversation with Tom Engelhardt.

I was put on a watchlist in 2006. I was detained and questioned at the border returning to the U.S. probably around 40 times. If I counted domestic stops and every time I was stopped at European transit points, you’re probably getting closer to 80 to 100 times. It became a regular thing, being asked where I’d been and who I’d met with. I found myself caught up in a system you can’t ever seem to get out of, this Kafkaesque watchlist that the U.S. doesn’t even acknowledge.

TE: Were you stopped this time coming in?

LP: I was not. The detentions stopped in 2012 after a pretty extraordinary incident.

I was coming back in through Newark Airport and I was stopped. I took out my notebook because I always take notes on what time I’m stopped and who the agents are and stuff like that. This time, they threatened to handcuff me for taking notes. They said, “Put the pen down!” They claimed my pen could be a weapon and hurt someone.

“Put the pen down! The pen is dangerous!” And I’m like, you’re not… you’ve got to be crazy. Several people yelled at me every time I moved my pen down to take notes as if it were a knife. After that, I decided this has gotten crazy, I’d better do something and I called Glenn [Greenwald]. He wrote a piece about my experiences. In response to his article, they actually backed off.

via Tomgram: Laura Poitras and Tom Engelhardt, The Snowden Reboot | TomDispatch

Anthony Albanese: Labor has gone too far in supporting national security laws | The Guardian

At a time like this the security agencies will take the opportunity to impose things that have been in their bottom drawer for a long period of time. I believe our agencies, including Asio, do a great job for this nation … but it’s also the case in a democratic country like ours – we’re talking about fighting for freedom, it’s important to ensure freedom is protected and not given up.

That’s Anthony Albanese on Sky News’ Australian Agenda on Sunday morning. The Guardian’s report continued.

Albanese argued the impact of theNew law should be closely examined by everyone. “There are legitimate criticisms and they need to be responded to by the government.

He signalled the laws might need to be wound back. “I’m concerned about the rights of journalists. I’m someone who has consistently supported the rights of media to report.”

Asked whether his critique was supported by other senior figures, Albanese said: “I’m speaking for myself.”

Continue reading

Dan Rather to Pundits Calling for War: Send Your Own Kids or ‘Don’t Even Talk to Me’ | Mediaite

All of these people on television, some of whom I have enormous respect for, it unsettles me to hear them say, listen, we the United States have to ‘do something’ in Ukraine, we have to ‘do something’ in Syria, we have to ‘do something’ in the waters around China, we have to ‘do something’ in Iraq, we have to ‘do something’ about ISIS. What they’re talking about are combat operations.“My first question to anyone who’s on television saying ‘We have to get tough, we have to put boots on the ground, we have to go to war in one of these places’ is: I will hear you out if you tell me you are prepared to send your son, your daughter, your grandson, your granddaughter to that war for which you are beating the drums. If you aren’t I have no patience with you, and don’t even talk to me.

[ . . . ]

Those of us in journalism, and I include myself in this, we have a lot to answer for about what we did do and what we didn’t do in the run up to the war in Iraq. We didn’t ask the right questions, we didn’t ask enough questions, we didn’t ask the followup questions. We did not challenge power. I am concerned that once again as the war drums begin to beat and get louder and louder that there will be a herd mentality of saying, ‘Well, we have to go to war in Syria, we have to go to war in Ukraine.’ I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that we need to be thinking very very carefully and seriously about this, and journalists have a special responsibility to at least ask the right questions.

via Dan Rather to Pundits Calling for War: Send Your Own Kids or ‘Don’t Even Talk to Me’ | Mediaite.

Felix Salmon on “Flash Boys”

Michael Lewis’ bestseller on HFT triggered a frenzy of interest in this arcane subject.

Of the many reviews and commentaries, the sanest I’ve seen so far is a long piece by Felix Salmon.

Lewis has succeeded in shocking millions of people with the news that the stock market has violated their code—that it isn’t fair. Wall Street insiders, and those of us who knew about HFT already, have been generally underwhelmed by this revelation, because we’ve known that the Wall Street code has always favored a small group of rich and well-connected institutions who can afford to pay enormous sums of money to maintain their edge in the market. The advent of HFT just created new entrants into that charmed circle, while causing many incumbents to lose their gilded meal tickets.

O’Hagan on Assange

Andrew O’Hagan spent much of the first half of 2011 with Julian Assange. He’d been hired by Canongate in the UK and Knopf in the US to ghostwrite a memoir/manifesto they’d bought the rights to for about US$2.5 million in total.

It didn’t work out and the publishers finally put out an unauthorised version of O’Hagan’s draft in September that year.

Now, O’Hagan has finally published his “fly on the wall” account of those months in a long piece in the LRB. For all of his undoubted brilliance and courage, Assange doesn’t emerge well from the encounter. If O’Hagan’s right, he’s slowly unravelling under the pressure of inner demons and the astonishing whirlwind he created through Wikileaks.

It’s a fascinating, troubling, sad tale, both for Assange personally and for what might have been had he possessed greater maturity and wisdom. Continue reading