Hard not to disagree with Cornel West's assessment.
Here is what Cornel West had to say about the US President on a recent speaking tour:
In his recent comments, West added to his charge list the following:
He Was Lucky
An old man
leaves the house, carrying books.
A German soldier snatches the books
and throws them in the mud.
The old man picks up the books,
the soldier hits him in the face.
The old man falls,
the soldier kicks him and walks away.
The old man
lies in mud and blood.
Underneath he feels
A Conversation through the Door
At five in the morning
I knock on his door.
I say through the door:
In the hospital at Sliska Street
your son, a soldier, is dying.
He half-opens the door,
does not remove the chain.
Behind him his wife
I say: your son asks his mother
He says: the mother won't come.
Behind him the wife
I say: the doctor allowed us
to give him wine.
He says: please wait.
He hands me a bottle through the door,
locks the door,
locks the door with a second key.
Behind the door his wife
begins to scream as if she were in labor.
(Translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan)
He was fifteen,
the best student of Polish.
He ran at the enemy
with a pistol.
Then he saw the eyes of a man,
and should’ve fired into those eyes.
He’s lying on the pavement.
In her later works Swir writes explicitly about women's lives, women's bodies and their sexual lives. She writes with directness and intensity about the body as both an object of desire and of suffering. There are few poets who write as beautifully and directly about erotic love and the way desire shapes our lives.They didn’t teach him
in Polish class
to shoot into the eyes of a man.
I'll Open the Window
Our embrace lasted too long.
We loved right down to the bone.
I hear the bones grind, I see
our two skeletons.
Now I am waiting
till you leave, till
the clatter of your shoes
is heard no more. Now, silence.
Tonight I am going to sleep alone
on the bedclothes of purity.
is the first hygienic measure.
will enlarge the walls of the room,
I will open the window
and the large, frosty air will enter,
healthy as tragedy.
Human thoughts will enter
and human concerns,
misfortune of others, saintliness of others.
They will converse softly and sternly.
Do not come anymore.
I am an animal
(Translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan)
The First Madrigal
That night of love was pure
as an antique musical instrument
and the air around it.
as a ceremony of coronation.
It was fleshy as a belly of a woman in labor
as a number.
It was only a moment of life
and it wanted to be a conclusion drawn from life.
it wanted to comprehend the principle of the world.
That night of love
"It is necessary to judge these hands stainedThe New Yorker on the strange irony that on the day Margaret Thatcher died Chilean authorities were exhuming the remains of legendary Chilean poet Pablo Neruda to determine whether he was murdered by the Chilean junta led by Margaret Thatcher's great friend and ally General Auguste Pinochet.
by the dead he killed with his terror;
the dead from under the beaten earth
are rising up like seeds of sorrow"
Pablo Neruda (Portrait of The Man)
"In a country where, for decades, history was buried, it is fitting for Chileans to dig up Neruda to find out the truth of what happened to him. In a sense, Neruda was Chile’s Lorca, the Spanish poet who was murdered in the first weeks of Francisco Franco’s Fascist coup of Spain in 1936, and whose blood has been a stain on the conscience of his country ever since.this story about why Neruda was such a significant political figure at the time and why he was such a threat to the Chilean junta led by General Pinochet. At the time of his death, just two weeks after the coup that overthrow Chilean President Salvador Allende, Neruda was planning political exile in Mexico where he intended to denounce and campaign against the military regime.
Chile now has a chance to do the right thing by its poet. Neruda’s beach home, at Isla Negra, some miles from Santiago on the coast, is a lovely, modest villa on a rocky beach, with windows that look out to sea and the poet’s lyrical collection of old ship mermaids as decorations. He and his widow, Matilde Urrutia, were buried there, and that is where the investigators went to look for the truth of what happened. In the end, even if Neruda died of cancer, as was said at the time, his exhumation is an opportunity to reinforce the message to authoritarians everywhere that a poet’s words will always outlast theirs, and the blind praise of their powerful friends"
That made the poet dangerous to some very powerful people, who had shown they would stop at nothing to defend their interests. They had ousted his friend, Salvador Allende, from the presidency less than a fortnight earlier. Allende died in a coup that was as much about silencing dissident voices as bringing about regime change. Another voice, that of popular singer Víctor Jara, was cut off four days later. Neruda remained. He was perhaps the loudest. His face certainly the most recognisable worldwide. He was too dangerous.
Members of the junta are on record expressing the view on the morning of September 22 that if Neruda flew into exile, his plane would fall into the sea. In the afternoon, radio stations under military control announced the poet would probably die in the next few hours, at a time when he was still awake in the hospital. The following day he was dead.
That historical mystery alone explains why his body was exhumed this week.
Gillard’s announcement of new school spending for primary school students of A$9,271 and for secondary students is A$12,193 is to be welcomed, but needs to be seen in the context of where the money both comes from and where it will go.As Teese and Zyngier point out the Gillard Plan entrenches disadvantage because it gives significant funding increases to private and independent schools despite 1000 of those schools already being over-funded.
Because of her previous commitments that no school will lose a dollar in funding many over-resourced independent and Catholic schools will continue to maintain their advantage at the expense of poorer resourced public schools. At the same time public schools in middle class suburbs also stand to benefit.
Non-government schools will emerge as the big winners from the Council of Australian Governments meeting on national funding reform, to be held in Canberra on April 19. Which is ironic, seeing that the greatest need is in the public system. Few schools serving the poorest communities in Australia are non-government. About 80 per cent of all disadvantaged children attend government schools. Yet despite this, state and federal governments are set to give all non-government schools real increases in funds over the next three, and possibly six years. This includes the 1000 schools currently overfunded – schools that are "funding maintained".
The Gillard government has made private and Catholic schools a political priority. As most public funding for these schools comes from the Commonwealth, getting them on side will enable Canberra to pressure the states to boost funding for government schools – by at least 3 per cent.
Even if the states agree, this will not end the large funding gap between public and private. The federal government has had the chance to intervene massively in the funding of government schools, but it will have to finance its political debt with non-government schools through more public debt. It will have little to spare for government schools. These have been thrown back on the fiscal mercies of state governments.
We risk emerging from the most thorough review of national school funding with an architecture of advantage and disadvantage that is even stronger than when we began.
This owes much to the states, not just Canberra. They have used states’ rights to advantage non-government schooling, while cutting funds to government schools. The Australian constitution has become a wall behind which conservative ministers roam freely in their ideological dreaming. The funding review promised to pull down jurisdictional walls and to put children, not governments, first. Instead, taxpayers must find ever more money for private schools and for non-government systems to carve out ever more space in a feudal delusion that ignores one basic fact. Public schools are the schools of our nation. Their needs must not come second to private advantage or sectional interest.
"......a new American way of fighting, blurring the line between soldiers and spies and short-circuiting the normal mechanisms by which the United States as a nation goes to war"Mazetti describes how the CIA has become consumed by drone warfare which is now the laboratory for new ways of killing.
The Mural Arts Program today rededicated a mural of Paul Robeson on his 115th birthday, while students from Robeson High School in West Philadelphia celebrated a victory inspired by the civil rights leader.
At nearly four stories tall, the mural of Robeson faces west on Chestnut Street near 45th, just across the street from the high school that bears his name.
Born in 1898 in Princeton, NJ, the scholar, activist, athlete, and entertainer was blacklisted during the McCarthy era, and died in seclusion in Philadelphia, at age 77.
“He had the nerve to try to get out and stop lynchings during the Truman administration,” notes Frances Aulston, who runs the Paul Robeson House at 50th and Chestnut Streets. “He walked around the White House saying, ‘This isn’t supposed to happen,’ and tried to put a stop to it.”
“He fought against poll taxes that were common during that time, and worked hard to make sure people had the right to vote,” Aulston says. “But because he had the courage and conviction to speak out, he was persecuted greatly in this country.”
“When we saw this mural starting to fade, we knew we had to fix it,” says Jane Golden, executive director of the Mural Arts Program. “Because he meant so much to the world, we knew his image shouldn’t fade. By redoing this mural, by preserving it, it lives on for another 20 years as a beacon of inspiration.”
“He’s always an individual that influences me in my life,” said Totiana Myers, a sophomore at Robeson High.
Last December, the Philadelphia School District recommended that the school be closed. Myers battled on the front lines, along with the rest of the school’s 200-plus students, and last month the SRC announced that Robeson would be spared.
“We fought hard and our fighting wasn’t in vain,” says Myers. And, she notes, Robeson stands tall, looking down on West Philadelphia, almost as a guard, smiling down.“I think this was the best birthday present we could have given him,” she says, looking up at the mural.
For more info on the Paul Robeson mural or the Paul Robeson House, go to muralarts.org and paulrobesonhouse.org.
by Simon J. Ortiz
He couldn’t have been more than sixteen years old,likely even fifteen. Skinny black teenager, loose sweater.When I got on Bus #6 at Prince and 1st Avenue,he got on too and took a seat across from me.A kid I didn’t notice too much because two older guys,street pros reeking with wine, started talking to me.They were going to California, get their welfare checks,then come back to Arizona in time for food stamps.
When the bus pulled into Ronstadt Transit Center,the kid was the last to get off the bus right behind me.I started to cross the street to wait for Bus #8when two burly men, one in a neat leather jacketand the other in a sweat shirt, both cool yet stern,smoothly grabbed the kid and backed him againsta streetlight pole and quickly cuffed him to the pole.
Plastic handcuffs. Practiced manner. Efficiently done.Along with another Indian, I watch what’s happening.Nobody seems to notice or they don’t really want to see.Everything is quiet and normal, nothing’s disturbed.The other Indian and I exchange glances, nod, turn away.Busted boy. Busted Indians. Busted lives. Busted again.
I look around for the street guys going to California.But they’re already gone, headed for the railroad tracks.I’m new in Tucson but I’m not a stranger to this scene.Waiting for the bus, I don’t look around for plainclothes.I know they’re there, in this America, waiting. There; here.Waiting for busted boys, busted Indians, busted lives.
Simon Ortiz, “Busted Boy” from Out There Somewhere. Copyright © 2002 by Simon Ortiz.
Review of the Ben Quilty Exhibition After Afghanistan at National Art Gallery School Darlinghurst
by Michael Breen
“So often artists are the ones who go into difficult situations. Doctors and others go into difficult situations in communities, too, but they don’t make representations of these situations that transform how people see the world. All I am saying is that I want artists to feel they could take leadership in the world, not that their work will simply be relegated to what we call ‘the art world’”
Carol Becker, Dean, Columbia University School of Arts.
The Old Darlinghurst Gaol is a fitting sandstone crucible to contain Ben Quilty’s “After Afghanistan” exhibition. As commissioned War Artist, Quilty has delivered the ADF and the Australian public more and less than was bargained for. If truth is the first casualty of war, this is not the usual jingoistic propaganda. On the contrary this exhibition is an expressionistic audit of Australia’s presence in a country which historically has conquered its invaders.
These works capture the community costs of collateral damage to the men and women and their families and Australian society endured for their service. They are precious national documents about what war does. Unlike an inanimate camera a war artist’s mind and soul are consumed in capturing and recording scenes from which most of us are protected. These works make demands on the viewer. And are the demands worth the discomfort?
How does he do it?
Quilty’s media vary but his most distinctive work is akin to German Expressionism between World War 1 and World War 11. I see it in the tradition of the Brucker (Bridge) School of Schmidt Rottulf, Emile Nolde and Oska Kokoschke. “The Bridge” was a to be a link between the past of war and a hoped for brighter future.
Quilty asked his subjects to choose a pose which depicted how they felt and thought. All he asked was their nakedness, so their bodily gestures would reflect their inner selves. He treats the bodies as an expressionist. Anatomical detail is not as important as what is below the skin. He enacts Leonardo’s admonition: “A good painter has two chief objects to paint, man and the intentions of his soul, the former is easy, the latter hard, because he has to represent it by the attitudes and movements of the limbs. Represent your figures in such action as may be fitted to express what purpose is in their minds; otherwise your art will not be good”.
As Leonardo suggests Quilty treats the bodies so that they express all this stuff. His thick painterly strokes and pallet knife sculpt below the skin and bone. But when it comes to the faces, they are realistic and as plausible as any face wearing the experiences which carved the features. The emotions ooze off the canvas with the paint. This is the man who painted iconic Australian artist, Margaret Olley to her satisfaction and the admiration of the Dobell Prize judges.
I noticed “Jim” I’ll call him, going around the exhibition, a moist eyed, cropped straw haired tentative young man. He had an army issue camel back, water carrier. In conversation he told me how hard it was to see what he was seeing and walking around the exhibition was physically painful because of a knee wound. At first when he returned from Afghanistan he found it a welcome change to have nothing to do. But the lack of daily duties, relevance and a meaningful occupation just created a theatre for nightmare scenes. The ADF did offer services to these guys but the only people who understood were “the mates” who had “been there”. They know the context, the losses, the crazy adrenalin rushes and they could cry and drink. The exhibition corroborated Jim’s scarcely credible experiences.
Had chaps like Jim not been moved, shaken, and shattered by what was Afghanistan they would have to have been schizoid psychopaths. They were soft bodies meeting flying metal. Only because they are humans do they suffer the long-term effects of shattered bodies, relationships, families, villages and culture. They embody the recoil of weapons which our soldiers, medics and their families. They also carry the pictures of the soul rasping bastardy to which humanity can sink in war. God knows what all this does to the souls of politicians who decided to send these youngsters.
The artist in society.
Yes, but who needs this stuff? Has Quilty gone too far? Wasn’t he just meant to capture the glory of war and the gallantry of Aussie Diggers? Shouldn’t he just have been grateful for his free trip to Afghanistan and put a good spin on it like an army does? Many would think like this. I don’t. If the function of art is to ‘hold the mirror up to nature’ its most important function may be to show us what we would not see otherwise.
War artists and historians and the media have often censored narratives and images. The objectivity with which politicians engage Australia in war is matched by the subjective experiences of men, women and children of both sides. Quilty’s figures capture the enduring physical, psychological, cultural and social effects of the choice to go to war.
Many a modern artist has settled for anodyne abstractions which will grace bourgeois’ spaces and be traded for faux appreciation and dollars, or “go nicely with the carpet”.
Not Quilty’s images which will enhance the rooms of our psyches’, those interior rooms of the mind we seldom visit and which will help us burgeon differently.
"Or to put it even more simply, in the words, of David Wearing, "People praising Thatcher's legacy should show some respect for her victims." That would be nice, wouldn't it? Let's please show some respect for Margaret Thatcher's victims. Let's respect those who mourn everyday because of her policies, but choose this one day to wipe away the tears. Then let's organize to make sure that the history she authored does not repeat"Dave Zirin writes in The Nation here about why ordinary people are celebrating the death of Margaret Thatcher.
I received a note this morning from a friend of a friend. She lives in the UK, although her family didn't arrive there by choice. They had to flee Chile, like thousands of others, when it was under the thumb of General Augusto Pinochet. If you don't know the details about Pinochet's blood-soaked two-decade reign, you should read about them but take care not to eat beforehand. He was a merciless overseer of torture, rapes and thousands of political executions. He had the hands and wrists of the country's greatest folk singer Victor Jara broken in front of a crowd of prisoners before killing him. He had democratically elected Socialist President Salvador Allende shot dead at his desk. His specialty was torturing people in front of their families.
As Naomi Klein has written so expertly, he then used this period of shock and slaughter to install a nationwide laboratory for neoliberal economics. If Pincohet's friend Milton Friedman had a theory about cutting food subsidies, privatizing social security, slashing wages or outlawing unions, Pinochet would apply it. The results of these experiments became political ammunition for neoliberal economists throughout the world. Seeing Chile-applied economic theory in textbooks always boggles my mind. It would be like if the American Medical Association published a textbook on the results of Dr. Josef Mengele's work in the concentration camps, without any moral judgment about how he accrued his patients.
Pinochet was the General in charge of this human rights catastrophe. He also was someone who Margaret Thatcher called a friend. She stood by the General even when he was in exile, attempting to escape justice for his crimes. As she said to Pinochet, "[Thank you] for bringing democracy to Chile."
Therefore, if I want to know why someone would celebrate the death of Baroness Thatcher, I think asking a Chilean in exile would be a great place to start. My friend of a friend took to the streets of the UK when she heard that the Iron Lady had left her mortal coil. Here is why:
I'm telling [my daughter] all about the Thatcher legacy through her mother's experience, not the media's; especially how the Thatcher government directly supported Pinochet's murderous regime, financially, via military support, even military training (which we know now, took place in Dundee University). Thousands of my people (and members of my family) were tortured and murdered under Pinochet's regime—the fascist beast who was one of Thatcher's closest allies and friend. So all you apologists/those offended [by my celebration]—you can take your moral high ground & shove it. YOU are the ones who don't understand. Those of us celebrating are the ones who suffered deeply under her dictatorship and WE are the ones who cared. We are the ones who protested. We are the humanitarians who bothered to lift a finger to help all those who suffered under her regime. I am lifting a glass of champagne to mourn, to remember and to honour all the victims of her brutal regime, here AND abroad. And to all those heroes who gave a shit enough to try to do something about it.
"Margaret Thatcher was the most divisive and destructive Prime Minister of modern times, mass unemployment, factory closures, communities destroyed — this is her legacy. She was a fighter and her enemy was the British working class ... How should we honour her? Let's privatize her funeral. Put it out to competitive tender and accept the cheapest bid. It's what she would have wanted."Writing on the Overland Blog Jeff Sparrow reminds us that we should never forget many of Thatcher's political positions:
How to remember Margaret Thatcher? Shall we recall the friend of Augusto Pinochet, the woman who protested bitterly about the arrest of Chile’s murderous dictator, a man to whom, she said, Britain owed so much? What about the staunch ally of apartheid, the prime minister who labelled the ANC ‘terrorists’ and did everything possible to undermine international action against the racist regime? The anti-union zealot who described striking miners defending their livelihood as an ‘enemy within’, hostile to liberty? The militarist who prosecuted the Falklands war, as vicious as it was pointless? The Cold Warrior, who stood by Reagan’s side, while the US conducted its genocidal counterinsurgencies in Latin America? The British chauvinist who allowed Bobby Sands to slowly starve to death?Both Jeff Sparrow and Rjurik Davidson writing in Overland reminds us that Thatcher's political legacy is very much alive and grows stronger here in Australia . Davidson makes the connection between Thatchers political and economic agenda and Julie Gillard and the Australian Labor Party's embrace of market fundamentalism.
But the key point is this: those who admire the deceased public figure (and their politics) aren't silent at all. They are aggressively exploiting the emotions generated by the person's death to create hagiography. Typifying these highly dubious claims about Thatcher was this (appropriately diplomatic) statement from President Obama: "The world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend." Those gushing depictions can be quite consequential, as it was for the week-long tidal wave of unbroken reverence that was heaped on Ronald Reagan upon his death, an episode that to this day shapes how Americans view him and the political ideas he symbolized. Demanding that no criticisms be voiced to counter that hagiography is to enable false history and a propagandistic whitewashing of bad acts, distortions that become quickly ossified and then endure by virtue of no opposition and the powerful emotions created by death.Greenwald concludes that:
When a political leader dies, it is irresponsible in the extreme to demand that only praise be permitted but not criticisms.
There's something distinctively creepy about this mandated ritual that our political leaders must be heralded and consecrated as saints upon death. This is accomplished by this baseless moral precept that it is gauche or worse to balance the gushing praise for them upon death with valid criticisms. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loathing Margaret Thatcher or any other person with political influence and power based upon perceived bad acts, and that doesn't change simply because they die. If anything, it becomes more compelling to commemorate those bad acts upon death as the only antidote against a society erecting a false and jingoistically self-serving history.In the New Left Project Tom Mills has written an excellent piece The Death of a Class Warrior in which he reviews Thatcher's political career and political legacy. Mills argues that Thatcher provided:
a sustained, violent assault on British society launched on behalf of big business in the name of ‘strong government’ and cloaked in the rhetoric of national renewal.Mills argues that Thatcher was able to appeal to and draw on a range of impulses that had developed during the 1970's and had coalesced into a coherent political ideology (often called neoliberalism or market fundamentalism). She did this by using the coercive powers of the state to:
Mrs. Thatcher became the cheerleader for what became the greatest giveaway of the century as the City of London’s gain became the industrial economy’s loss. Britain’s lords of finance became the equivalent of America’s great railroad land barons of the 19th century, the ruling elite to preside over today’s descent into neoliberal austerity............The Iron Lady was convinced she was rebuilding England’s economy, while in reality it was only getting richer from London’s outlaw banks. Throughout the world, the damage wrought by this financialized economy has been immense.Hudson and Sommers also point out that one of Thatcher's greatest effects was on the British Labor Party:
As the uncredited patron saint of New Labour, Mrs. Thatcher became the intellectual force inspiring her successor and emulator Tony Blair to complete the transformation of British electoral politics to mobilize popular consent to permit the financial sector to privatize and carve up Britain’s public infrastructure into a set of monopolies. In so doing, the United Kingdom’s was transformed from a real economy of production to one that scavenged the world for rents through its offshore banks. In the end, not only was great damage inflicted on England, but on the entire world as capital fled developing countries for safe harbors in London’s banks. Meanwhile, governments throughout the world today are declaring “We’re broke,” as their oligarchs grow ever more rich.And then there is music. Here are 21 Incredibly angry songs about Margaret Thatcher
They’re out there somewhere/ all assembled
disassembled/ bewildered/ voiceless
each seeking the others/ seeking us
hemmed in by their question marks and doubts
with their eyes on the ironwork in the plazas
the doorbells/ the shabby rooftops”
Benedetti dicated his last poem to his secretary:
Once in a while
joy throws little stones at my window
it wants to let me know that it's waiting for me
but today I'm calm
I'd almost say even-tempered
I'm going to keep anxiety locked up
and then lie flat on my back
which is an elegant and comfortable position
for receiving and believing news
who knows where I'll be next
or when my story will be taken into account
who knows what advice I still might come up with
and what easy way out I'll take not to follow it
don't worry, I won't gamble with an eviction
I won't tattoo remembering with forgetting
there are many things left to say and suppress
and many grapes left to fill our mouths
don't worry, I'm convinced
joy doesn't need to throw any more little stones
My life has been like a farce
My art has consisted
In this not being noticed too much
I've been as a levitator in my old age
The brown sheen of the tiles
Never came off my skin
Despite the past four years of a pro-uranium government in WA, 42 interested companies, 253 tenements with exploration drilling, and millions of dollars in subsidies, there has not been a single uranium mine approved.
BHP Billiton has sold Yeelirrie WA’s biggest uranium deposit; and dissolved its uranium division.
And the world’s largest uranium miner, Cameco, has put Kintyre, WA’s second biggest uranium deposit, on hold stating that development of the deposit is not economically viable. In early 2013 the company wrote down the value of the Kintyre project by US$168 million, and stated that the uranium price would need to jump from its current low to US$67 lb for the project to break even.
Paladin, a Perth based uranium miner has said the uranium price would need to be even higher at US$85 lb to justify any further investment in the industry, and in February 2013 it wrote down its uranium assets by US$123 million.
Despite this back-pedalling by experienced companies, there is no shortage of uranium hopefuls, like Toro Energy, who remain enthusiastic about the price of uranium recovering, despite the lack of evidence to support their optimism.
Toro Energy, a small company with no mines and no proven experience, is leading the charge with WA’s most advanced uranium proposal – Wiluna – a much smaller deposit than Kintyre or Yeelirrie. As its name suggests, Toro is bullish about pursuing this small deposit despite the shaky economics, the lack of investor interest and fierce public opposition.
There are few grounds to suggest that uranium prices will ever bounce back to the high prices seen in 2007. Long term projections do suggest a more modest recovery, but not to the levels that would make most uranium projects in WA economically viable. The demand for uranium is simply not there.
Uranium is different to other minerals. It pushes moral boundaries, it permanently pollutes country and it contributes to the global nuclear waste problem and proliferation risk. Uranium is unwanted, unnecessary, and uneconomic – altogether a bad way for mining investors to lose money.