"It is reality that awakens possibilities, and nothing would be more perverse than to deny it. Even so, it will always be the same possibilities, either in sum or on the average, that go on repeating themselves until a man comes along who does not value the actuality over the idea. It is he who first gives the new possibilities their meaning, their directions, and he awakens them."
- Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities
"The truth will set you free. But not until it is done with you."
- David Foster Wallace
I’ve been a massage therapist for many years, now. I know what people look like. People have been undressing for me for a long time. I know what you look like: a glance at you, and I can picture pretty well what you’d look like on my table.
Let’s start here with what nobody looks like: nobody looks like the people in magazines or movies. Not even models. Nobody. Lean people have a kind of rawboned, unfinished look about them that is very appealing. But they don’t have plump round breasts and plump round asses. You have plump round breasts and a plump round ass, you have a plump round belly and plump round thighs as well. That’s how it works. And that’s very appealing too.
Woman have cellulite. All of them. It’s dimply and cute. It’s not a defect. It’s not a health problem. It’s the natural consequence of not consisting of photoshopped pixels, and not having emerged from an airbrush.
Men have silly buttocks. Well, if most of your clients are women, anyway. You come to male buttocks and you say — what, this is it? They’re kind of scrawny and the tissue is jumpy because it’s unpadded; you have to dial back the pressure, or they’ll yelp.
Adults sag. It doesn’t matter how fit they are. Every decade, an adult sags a little more. All of the tissue hangs a little looser. They wrinkle, too. I don’t know who put about the rumor that just old people wrinkle. You start wrinkling when you start sagging, as soon as you’re all grown up, and the process goes its merry way as long as you live. Which is hopefully a long, long time, right?
Everybody on a massage table is beautiful. There are really no exceptions to this rule. At that first long sigh, at that first thought that “I can stop hanging on now, I’m safe” – a luminosity, a glow, begins. Within a few minutes the whole body is radiant with it. It suffuses the room: it suffuses the massage therapist too. People talk about massage therapists being caretakers, and I suppose we are: we like to look after people, and we’re easily moved to tenderness. But to let you in on a secret: I’m in it for the glow.
I’ll tell you what people look like, really: they look like flames. Or like the stars, on a clear night in the wilderness.
Think about who you are beneath the skin.
In the most fundamental space you occupy, who are you? Write it down.
We all need to be reminded that who we are is a fluid constancy, divorced from the form we are in.
This is what I like to describe as the difference between objectivity and “objectivity.” Objectivity is the belief that there is a real world out there that’s more or less knowable; the “objectivity” that journalists practice holds that it’s impossible to know what’s real, so all you can do is report the claims made by various (powerful) people. The chief benefit of “objectivity” is that it means you will never have to tell any powerful person that they’re wrong about anything.
If someone comes along and tells you that, no, there are ways to figure out what’s actually happening with the world, and simply repeating without question what interested parties claim to be happening is not a very helpful approach, that’s going to be, as Sullivan put it, “disruptive.” That’s what I think she’s really getting at when she says, “I don’t think Nate Silver ever really fit into the Times culture and I think he was aware of that.”
Geena Davis, quoted in Casting Call: Hollywood Needs More Women for NPR’s All Things Considered.
James Scott, Seeing like a State (via perscientiamlibertas)
Recent attempts to explain how the universe came out of nothing, which rely on questionable notions such as spontaneous fluctuations in a quantum vacuum, the notion of gravity as negative energy, and the inexplicable free gift of the laws of nature waiting in the wings for the moment of creation, reveal conceptual confusion beneath mathematical sophistication. They demonstrate the urgent need for a radical re-examination of the invisible frameworks within which scientific investigations are conducted. We need to step back from the mathematics to see how we got to where we are now. In short, to un-take much that is taken for granted.
Perhaps even more important, we should reflect on how a scientific image of the world that relies on up to 10 dimensions of space and rests on ideas, such as fundamental particles, that have neither identity nor location, connects with our everyday experience. This should open up larger questions, such as the extent to which mathematical portraits capture the reality of our world – and what we mean by “reality”. The dismissive “Just shut up and calculate!” to those who are dissatisfied with the incomprehensibility of the physicists’ picture of the universe is simply inadequate. “It is time” physicist Neil Turok has said, “to connect our science to our humanity, and in doing so to raise the sights of both”. This sounds like a job for a philosophy not yet dead.
George Carlin (via deadconsumer)
Costco CEO Craig Jelinek supports raising the minimum wage.
Costco announced record profits today, averaging $10,000 in profit per employee compared to $7,400 at Walmart.
The secret to Costco’s success is paying employees well, providing benefits, and giving them an opportunity to unionize.
So large corporations’ excuses that treating & paying workers well would damage profits are all a crock of shit.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Geographic are working on the Birds of Paradise Project.These beautiful birds are found only in New Guinea and surrounding islands.
It’s not just that the birds are pretty. You have to see them. Like none I’ve ever seen before. Their behaviors, the beautiful movements, just have to be seen.
Jan. 31 2013
A full-scale invasion of Africa is under way. The United States is deploying troops in 35 African countries, beginning with Libya, Sudan, Algeria and Niger. Reported by Associated Press on Christmas Day, this was missing from most Anglo-American media.
The invasion has almost nothing to do with “Islamism”, and almost everything to do with the acquisition of resources, notably minerals, and an accelerating rivalry with China. Unlike China, the US and its allies are prepared to use a degree of violence demonstrated in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Palestine. As in the cold war, a division of labour requires that western journalism and popular culture provide the cover of a holy war against a “menacing arc” of Islamic extremism, no different from the bogus “red menace” of a worldwide communist conspiracy.
Reminiscent of the Scramble for Africa in the late 19th century, the US African Command (Africom) has built a network of supplicants among collaborative African regimes eager for American bribes and armaments. Last year, Africom staged Operation African Endeavor, with the armed forces of 34 African nations taking part, commanded by the US military. Africom’s “soldier to soldier” doctrine embeds US officers at every level of command from general to warrant officer. Only pith helmets are missing.
It is as if Africa’s proud history of liberation, from Patrice Lumumba to Nelson Mandela, is consigned to oblivion by a new master’s black colonial elite whose “historic mission”, warned Frantz Fanon half a century ago, is the promotion of “a capitalism rampant though camouflaged”.
A striking example is the eastern Congo, a treasure trove of strategic minerals, controlled by an atrocious rebel group known as the M23, which in turn is run by Uganda and Rwanda, the proxies of Washington.
Long planned as a “mission” for Nato, not to mention the ever-zealous French, whose colonial lost causes remain on permanent standby, the war on Africa became urgent in 2011 when the Arab world appeared to be liberating itself from the Mubaraks and other clients of Washington and Europe. The hysteria this caused in imperial capitals cannot be exaggerated. Nato bombers were dispatched not to Tunis or Cairo but Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi ruled over Africa’s largest oil reserves. With the Libyan city of Sirte reduced to rubble, the British SAS directed the “rebel” militias in what has since been exposed as a racist bloodbath.
The indigenous people of the Sahara, the Tuareg, whose Berber fighters Gaddafi had protected, fled home across Algeria to Mali, where the Tuareg have been claiming a separate state since the 1960s. As the ever watchful Patrick Cockburn points out, it is this local dispute, not al-Qaida, that the West fears most in northwest Africa… “poor though the Tuareg may be, they are often living on top of great reserves of oil, gas, uranium and other valuable minerals”.
Almost certainly the consequence of a French/US attack on Mali on 13 January, a siege at a gas complex in Algeria ended bloodily, inspiring a 9/11 moment in David Cameron. The former Carlton TV PR man raged about a “global threat” requiring “decades” of western violence. He meant implantation of the west’s business plan for Africa, together with the rape of multi-ethnic Syria and the conquest of independent Iran.
Cameron has now ordered British troops to Mali, and sent an RAF drone, while his verbose military chief, General Sir David Richards, has addressed “a very clear message to jihadists worldwide: don’t dangle and tangle with us. We will deal with it robustly” - exactly what jihadists want to hear. The trail of blood of British army terror victims, all Muslims, their “systemic” torture cases currently heading to court, add necessary irony to the general’s words. I once experienced Sir David’s “robust” ways when I asked him if he had read the courageous Afghan feminist Malalai Joya’s description of the barbaric behaviour of westerners and their clients in her country. “You are an apologist for the Taliban” was his reply. (He later apologised).
These bleak comedians are straight out of Evelyn Waugh and allow us to feel the bracing breeze of history and hypocrisy. The “Islamic terrorism” that is their excuse for the enduring theft of Africa’s riches was all but invented by them. There is no longer any excuse to swallow the BBC/CNN line and not know the truth. Read Mark Curtis’s Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam (Serpent’s Tail) or John Cooley’s Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism (Pluto Press) or The Grand Chessboard by Zbigniew Brzezinski (HarperCollins) who was midwife to the birth of modern fundamentalist terror. In effect, the mujahedin of al-Qaida and the Taliban were created by the CIA, its Pakistani equivalent, the Inter-Services Intelligence, and Britain’s MI6.
Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, describes a secret presidential directive in 1979 that began what became the current “war on terror”. For 17 years, the US deliberately cultivated, bank-rolled, armed and brainwashed jihadi extremists that “steeped a generation in violence”. Code-named Operation Cyclone, this was the “great game” to bring down the Soviet Union but brought down the Twin Towers.
Since then, the news that intelligent, educated people both dispense and ingest has become a kind of Disney journalism, fortified, as ever, by Hollywood’s licence to lie, and lie. There is the coming Dreamworks movie on WikiLeaks, a fabrication inspired by a book of perfidious title-tattle by two enriched Guardian journalists; and there is Zero Dark Thirty, which promotes torture and murder, directed by the Oscar-winning Kathryn Bigelow, the Leni Riefenstahl of our time, promoting her master’s voice as did the Fuhrer’s pet film-maker. Such is the one-way mirror through which we barely glimpse what power does in our name.
The press freedom situation in the Americas
The annual global indicator can also be broken down by region and, by means of weighting based on the population of each region, can be used to produce a score from zero to 100 in which zero represents total respect for media freedom.
This produces a score of 17.5 for Europe, 30.0 for the Americas, 34.3 for Africa, 42.2 for Asia-Pacific and 45.3 for the former Soviet republics. Despite the Arab springs, the Middle East and North Africa region comes last with 48.5.
Here are some of the key findings concerning our region:
- Jamaica and Costa Rica are the highest ranking country from the Americas, just ahead of Canada, the western hemisphere’s traditional leader.
- On the other hand, Cuba is still at the bottom, next to the usual underachieving countries: Syria, Iran, China, Sudan, Yemen, and the like.
- Mexico is one of the biggest disappointments, largely due to the high number of journalists and netizens killed therein. That ratio is similar to that of Somalia, Syria, and Pakistan.
- Argentina fell amid growing tension between the government and certain privately-owned media about a new law regulating the broadcast media.
- Chile is beginning to recover after plummeting 33 places in last year’s index (student protests).
- A lack of pluralism, intermittent tension with the political authorities, harassment and self-censorship are the main reasons for the scant change in Nicaragua, Guatemala and Panama, where attacks on journalists tripled in the space of a year, local unions said.
- Brazil, South America’s economic engine, continued last year’s fall because five journalists were killed in 2012. Its media landscape is also badly distorted. Heavily dependent on the political authorities at the state level, the regional media are exposed to attacks, physical violence against their personnel, and court censorship orders, which also target the blogosphere.
- Paraguay fell eleven places in the rankings after its President’s removal in a parliamentary “coup” on 22 June 2012, which had a big impact on state-owned broadcasting along with a wave of arbitrary dismissals against a backdrop of unfair frequency allocation.
- In general, Uruguay, Portugal, Spain, El Salvador, Haiti, the United States and the Dominican Republic have been doing fairly good lately. In contrast, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Honduras, delivered bad news this year (as expected).
Read on for the full regional analysis.
FJP: We at the Future Journalism Project have been reporting on these issues for the last few months, hence the popularity of press freedom as a frequent discussion topic in these pages. So, please go ahead and follow us on Twitter.
Image: Adjusted partial screenshot of Freedom of the Press 2013 Map, via Reporters Without Borders.