British artists against Iraq war


This video is called Butchering Iraq – Bush’s and Blair‘s Crusade.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

British stars mark decade of war with new event

Wednesday 03 April 2013

Actor Timothy West will join musician Brian Eno and comedians Arthur Smith and Shappi Khorsandi to stage a show raising funds for the anti-war movement.

Stop the War Coalition has announced that it will host a benefit event to mark the 10th anniversary of the start of the war on Iraq.

Ten will comprise 10 10-minute pieces of new plays, music, poetry and comedy introduced by leading political figures such as Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone, Lindsey German, Jeremy Corbyn MP and Ken Loach.

The event takes place on Sunday April 7 at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court, starting at 6pm. Call (020) 7565-5000 for more information.

This is in London.

Brian Eno on the Iraq war:

“Far from admitting it was a mistake, there’s now a vigorous effort to rewrite history and convince us that, in the end, it has all turned out for the good. In order that we don’t embark on yet another stupid war – in Iran, or Mali, or anywhere else – we need to remember what really happened in Iraq.”

American painted turtle, new research


This video from the USA is called Western Painted Turtle Hatchling.

From the Washington University in St. Louis in the USA:

Painted Turtle Gets DNA Decoded

Apr. 3, 2013 — Scientists have decoded the genome of the western painted turtle, one of the most abundant turtles on Earth, finding clues to their longevity and ability to survive without oxygen during long winters spent hibernating in ice-covered ponds.

Understanding the natural mechanisms turtles use to protect the heart and brain from oxygen deprivation may one day improve treatments for heart attacks or strokes, the researchers say. Both can lead to severe disability or death within minutes in patients deprived of oxygen.

The research team includes scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the University of California at Los Angeles, St. Louis University and other institutions. Their analysis is now available online in Genome Biology.

The new data confirm that the turtles’ pace of evolution parallels their speed on the ground. In other words, it’s exceedingly slow, about one-third of the rate of human evolution and one-fifth the rate of the fastest evolving python.

In fact, turtles have evolved a distinctive body design that has changed little over the past 210 million years, the authors note. Unlike other reptiles, turtles sport a sharp beak instead of teeth and live encased in a hard shell, a convenient home in which to hide when danger lurks.

“Turtles are nothing short of an enigma,” says senior author Richard K. Wilson, PhD, director of Washington University’s Genome Institute. “They may be slowly evolving, but turtles have developed an array of enviable features. They resist growing old, can reproduce even at advanced ages, and their bodies can freeze solid, thaw and survive without damaging delicate organs and tissues. We could learn a lot from them.”

The western painted turtle lives in freshwater ponds and streams and is the most widespread turtle in North America. It holds the distinction of being the first turtle and only the second reptile to have its genome sequenced. Comparing the turtle’s DNA to that of other animals, the scientists show that turtles are more closely related to birds than to lizards and snakes.

A close look at the turtle genome reveals that these creatures do not rely on novel genes for their unique physiological adaptions, such as the ability to withstand oxygen deprivation. Rather, they activate gene networks common to most vertebrates, including humans, but use those genes in different ways.

“This is a backdoor route for turtles to evolve,” says co-author Patrick Minx, of The Genome Institute. “Rather than evolve new genes, they adapted existing genes for new uses.”

For example, the scientists identified 19 genes in the brain and 23 in the heart that are activated in low-oxygen conditions, including one gene, APOLD1, whose expression is increased nearly 130 fold. These genes also are present in humans and may be important candidates to explore for treatments to reduce tissue damage due to oxygen deprivation.

Like other turtles, painted turtles are slow to age and are known for their long life spans. They become sexually mature at about 5 years of age and can live for 40 or more years in the wild. While impressive, some other turtle species don’t reach sexual maturity until their 40s and can live for well over a century.

Indeed, it is the long lapse of time from one generation to the next that is at the root of turtles’ slow evolution. Living longer gives them fewer opportunities to evolve, Minx says.

The researchers also identified common patterns of gene loss in the turtle associated with longevity, sex determination and a lack of teeth, findings that warrant further investigation.

One aspect of turtle evolution that is progressing rapidly is their threat of extinction. As many as half the 330 turtle species worldwide are considered threatened, making them the most endangered major group of vertebrates on a global scale. Their demise is due, in part, to human consumption, encouraged by unsubstantiated but persistent claims that eating turtles can increase life expectancy and cure cancer.

Habitat loss and modification are also important, but it is turtles’ popularity on restaurant menus and dinner tables, particularly in Asia, that is the biggest reason for their global decline, the researchers say.

“The challenge is to preserve the rich diversity of turtles that still exist on Earth as we continue to unravel their secrets for success,” says first author H. Bradley Shaffer, PhD, of the University of California at Los Angeles. “Turtles have a tremendous amount to tell us about evolution and human health, but time is running out.”

The research was funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Charleston, SC April 12, 2013 – College of Charleston Marine Biology Professor Andrew M. Shedlock is one of the lead researchers on a team that decoded the world’s first turtle genome, which could have applications for human medical conditions. The western painted turtle has the ability to withstand anoxia, or situations of extremely low oxygen, and extreme cold. By understanding the genome, or the entirety of an organism’s hereditary information, researchers may be able to offer insights into human care of the heart and brain in cases of hypoxia-induced injuries: here.

Climate change could contribute to the demographic collapse of the painted turtle, a species that has temperature-dependent sex determination. A scientist is sounding the alarm about the painted turtle’s future in a new study: here.

In anoxia, why can’t humans be more like western painted turtles? Here.

Sack fascist football manager, Internet petition


This video from the USA says about itself:

Feb 18, 2011

Racism in association football (known in the US as soccer) is the abuse of players, officials and fans because of their skin colour, nationality, religion or ethnicity. Some may be targeted (also) because of their association with an opposing team. However, there have been instances of individuals being targeted by their own fans.

By Peter Lazenby in Britain:

Anti-fascists launch a sack di Canio petition

Wednesday 03 April 2013

Anti-fascist campaigners in Sunderland launched a petition today demanding the town’s football club sack its self-confessed fascist manager Paolo di Canio.

Sunderland Anti-Fascist Coalition launched the online petition with an initial target of 5,000 signatures.

It said: “Given Sunderland Football Club‘s commitment to anti-racist activities it should not be associated with such an unsavoury individual and betray the memory of the millions who have suffered under the politics of fascism worldwide.”

The petition is being backed by the Durham Miners’ Association, which is demanding the return of a miners’ union banner from the club.

Secretary Dave Hopper, who led calls for di Canio’s dismissal, has urged miners, ex-miners and all trades unionists to sign the petition.

He said more information was being revealed about di Canio’s fascist links, including his attendance at the funeral of a leading Italian fascist.

Mr Hopper told the Star: “We support this petition. We feel that with more and more information about di Canio coming to light, his position is completely untenable.”

On demanding the return of the Monk Wearmouth pit banner, Mr Hopper said: “Our banner represents the Durham miners’ long struggle for the rights of the working class – rights which were annihilated by fascism in Germany, Italy, Spain and Chile.

“The appointment of di Canio is a disgrace and a betrayal of all who fought and died in the fight against fascism, including miners from Wearmouth and indeed all of County Durham.”

You can sign the petition at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/safcdicanio/

Pressure mounts on Sunderland and Paolo Di Canio with calls for clarification on fascist views: here.

Sunderland’s new manager Paolo Di Canio is believed to have attended the funeral of an Italian fascist linked to a terrorist bombing that killed 85 people: here.

UPDATE September 2013: Steve Bruce believes Paolo di Canio was sacked by Sunderland due to his old-fashioned management style. Di Canio, whose appointment at the Stadium of Light caused shock due to his openly fascist views, was axed on Sunday with the Mackems rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table on just one point from five games: here.

Highland cattle calf born, video


This video shows the birth of a highland cattle calf, close to a busy road in the Netherlands.

The video was made by D. and A. Neefjes.

Highland cattle in Rotterdam: here.

Highland calves on Texel island: here.

Naardermeer Galloway cattle: here.

Spanish king’s daughter, a criminal suspect


This June 2010 photo shows Spanish Princess Cristina and her husband attending a wedding

From the BBC:

3 April 2013 Last updated at 14:40 GMT

Spanish princess to face court in corruption inquiry

Spain’s Princess Cristina has been summoned to appear in court over allegations that her husband misused millions of euros of public money.

It is reported to be the first court summons for a direct descendant of the Spanish king. She is King Juan Carlos‘s youngest daughter.

Her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, denies wrongdoing and has not been charged.

He is suspected of having massively overcharged local authorities for organising sporting events.

It is alleged that some of the money ended up in companies controlled by Inaki Urdangarin – who is the Duke of Palma and a former Olympic handball player – in offshore bank accounts.

The events allegedly happened between 2004 and 2006, when the duke stepped down as head of the non-profit Noos Institute.

He and his former business partner Diego Torres are suspected of misusing millions of euros in public funds that were given to the institute – a charitable foundation.

Mr Torres, who was questioned by a judge in February, has also denied any wrongdoing.

The duke has sought to distance King Juan Carlos from the scandal, pointing out in February that the royal house “had no opinion, did not advise and did not authorise” any of his activities at the institute. …

‘Out of touch’

Princess Cristina has been asked to appear in court in Palma de Mallorca, in the Balearic Islands, on 27 April.

Emails have come to light suggesting that the princess knew about her husband’s financial affairs, the Spanish El Pais newspaper reported.

Anti-corruption campaigners have urged the judge to formally name Princess Cristina as a suspect, alleging that she may also have been involved.

Emails published by Spanish newspapers in February also appear to show that King Juan Carlos took a close interest in his son-in-law’s business affairs.

Support for the royal family has diminished in recent years, amid criticism that it is out of touch with ordinary Spaniards as they struggle with a severe economic crisis.

The king, 75, is credited with steering Spain to democracy after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 – but his reputation has been damaged by the corruption inquiry implicating his son-in-law and by a luxury elephant-hunting safari he took in Africa last year at a time of record unemployment in his country.

Correspondents say that the summons issued to the princess by Judge Jose Castro will be seen as another extremely damaging blow to the royal family.

The duke was suspended from official royal engagements in December.

His wife – who works as the director of social welfare programmes for a Barcelona-based financial services group – has kept a low profile since reports of the alleged scandal emerged two years ago.

She has mostly confined herself to the mansion in which she lives in the city with her husband and four children.

“The royal household does not comment in any way on judicial decisions,” a spokesman for the royal family told the AFP news agency.

From prehistoric hominids to modern humans, video


The California Academy of Sciences in the USA writes about this video:

March 29, 2013

One of the oldest fossils ever discovered dated at 3.2 million years old, “Lucy” (Australopithecus afarensis) provided scientists evidence of bipedal, upright walking by human ancestors. In this animation, see what similarities Lucy shares with modern humans.

Trace the milestones of our species’ fascinating history in a dramatic addition to Tusher African Hall.

For more information visit http://www.calacademy.org/human-odyssey/.

South African hominid discoveries: here.

How climate change may have shaped human evolution: here.

A 14,000-year-old fragment of thigh bone found in a cave in China may represent evidence of the unexpected survival of long-vanished human ancestors. If so, then right into and through the ice age, a creature that was either Homo habilis or Homo erectus survived alongside the Neanderthals, the unknown humans who left behind some DNA in a cave in Siberia, the mysterious so-called hobbit of the island of Flores in Indonesia, and modern Homo sapiens. But by the end of this multicultural ice age 10,000 years ago, only one human species survived: here.

Europe, not Africa, might have spawned the first members of the human evolutionary family around 7 million years ago, researchers say. Tooth characteristics of a chimpanzee-sized primate that once lived in southeastern European suggest that the primate, known as Graecopithecus, may have been a hominid, not an ape as many researchers assume. One tooth in particular, the second lower premolar, is telling. It features two partially fused roots, a trait characteristic of early hominids but not ancient apes, a team led by geoscientist Jochen Fuss of the University of Tübingen in Germany reports May 22 in PLOS ONE: here.

Abraham Lincoln, interview with US historian


Historian Allen Guelzo

By Tom Mackaman in the USA:

Understanding Lincoln: An interview with historian Allen Guelzo

3 April 2013

Allen Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce III Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College, where he serves as director of the Civil War Era Studies Program. He is the author of numerous books, including Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America and Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Guelzo spoke with Tom Mackaman of the World Socialist Web Site in his office at Gettysburg College on a Saturday morning in March. A large academic conference was being held that weekend at the college entitled “The Future of Civil War History.” Gettysburg, in southeastern Pennsylvania, was the location of the bloodiest battle in the Civil War, and the city’s college is now one of the leading centers in the study of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln.

During the period addressed in this interview, the late antebellum and the Civil War, American capitalism and its political representatives, led by Lincoln, played a revolutionary role, confronting the reactionary leadership of the American South and its system of slave labor. Within a decade of the end of the Civil War the class struggle between the triumphant capitalist order and the working class had supplanted the earlier struggle between “free labor” and slavery as the decisive issue in American history.

Tom Mackaman: How did you come about your interest in Lincoln and the Civil War?

Allen Guelzo: I suppose the interest in Lincoln and the Civil War really is a long-term one that grows out of a certain boyhood interest and fascination with the man. But I didn’t really get deeply involved in Lincoln Studies until the mid-1990s. Because my PhD had been in the history of American philosophy, I was writing a book on the idea of freedom of the will and determinism in American thought. I knew that Lincoln had had some things to say on the subject, so I looked them up, ended up writing a paper about them, got invited to read it at the Abraham Lincoln Association meeting, and once my hand was in the Lincoln cookie jar I couldn’t get it out. A publisher approached me about writing a book on Lincoln. One thing led to another and, well, here I am.

TM: Which was the first book?

AG: Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President, with a title borrowed shamelessly from Walt Whitman.

TM: You have been at work on Lincoln, the Civil War, and the emancipation of the slaves for a number of years now. How have your thoughts on these subjects evolved?

AG: Well, I don’t know actually that they have changed all that much. In general the outline that I have had in my mind of Lincoln as a character and a thinker has been pretty stable. And it really grows out of a moment in Charles Sellers’ book The Market Revolution in 1991, when, in describing the role of lawyers as the “shock troops of capitalism”, it struck me how very much Lincoln looked exactly like what Sellers was describing. That was reinforced when I read John Ashworth’s first volume on the capitalist transformation of America, and once again this description of the role of lawyers just seemed so remarkably close to Lincoln that it made me pursue this notion of Lincoln as your archetypal Whig, bourgeois, middle class cultural figure. And that in large measure is what I’ve been working from ever since.

TM: Could you explain what you mean by that a little bit more?

AG: Lincoln is, both culturally and in terms of his economic thinking, firmly and immovably located in the center of what we can call liberal democratic thought in the 19th century. He is very much market oriented, with tremendous confidence in the power of a capitalist society to transform for the better, and he believes in opening the possibilities of that society to as many as possible. To him, that’s what’s coterminous with liberty. If you have to put him in company, he would belong with John Stuart Mill, whom he seriously admired. Shortly before he was assassinated, Lincoln was asked by a journalist what books had been most influential for him. One of the two books he indicated is Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. Put him in that context of the upwardly aspiring bourgeoisie—that’s Lincoln.

Lincoln is someone who has fled from romantic agrarianism, the kind of agricultural subsistence economy that his father was a participant in and a good example of. Lincoln regarded that world with distaste and left it as soon as he turned 21. He never looks back, and moves at once into the world of the cash economy, cash wages, investment, and business, and that’s where he lives for the rest of his life. He fails twice actually at being in business, but undeterred by that he shifts over to becoming a lawyer, and that’s when he becomes part of the “shock troops of capitalism” that Sellers talks about.

TM: In his law practice he did extensive business with railroad concerns, did he not?

AG: That was his single most lucrative client. Lincoln’s law practice is a very extensive one, and it runs all the way from big railroad cases down to $2.50 trespass cases. But what is remarkable about his law practice is that it’s overwhelmingly a civil practice—only about 15 percent of his overall cases were criminal cases. And the preponderance of that civil practice was debt collection. He was, so to speak, a repo man. He was either collecting or enforcing collection. And he was a big friend of the railroads. He even served briefly as a lobbyist. If you’d asked anybody in central Illinois in the late 1850s who Abraham Lincoln was, they probably would have said, “Oh, that railroad lawyer.”

One aspect of that railroad practice stands out: in 1856, Lincoln wrote a very extensive memorandum about evicting squatters from railroad land. That was a hot-button issue, because the lands that the Illinois Central was constructed upon were originally federally owned public lands, and many of them had been squatted upon over the years by people who were firmly convinced that they possessed preemption rights. In other words, they believed they had the right of first refusal if the land was ever to be disposed of by the government. Lincoln’s memorandum pulls out all the legal floorboards from under them and authorizes the Illinois Central Railroad to proceed to eviction without any restraint.

TM: Lincoln was an attorney for the railroads. But in other contexts, in certain quotes, did he not privilege labor?

AG: He does indeed talk about labor having priority over capital, which many people mistake as a statement of the labor theory of value. But he’s actually not talking about any labor theory there. What he’s doing is objecting to a labor relationship that said that capital has to give orders to labor, that laborers are so ignorant and so stupid—and of course what he’s primarily talking about here are slave laborers—that the only way any kind of productive work will happen is if capital—meaning slave owners—gives them direction. That he objected to, because that impugned the agency of the self-motivated laborer in a capitalist economy. But it’s the agency of the laborer, not any imputation to the value of the laborers’ product, that Lincoln is describing.

He’s actually responding to James Henry Hammond’s famous “Mudsill” speech of 1858 which Lincoln thought was profoundly offensive for re-introducing the notion of status: status meaning that certain people were born a certain way, and they were always going to be that way, so the only way you’ll make them work is if you flog them. That was what Lincoln was objecting to.

TM: What do you make of the concept of the “free labor ideology,” a concept that is associated with the work of the historian Eric Foner?

AG: Foner wrote the book— Free Labor, Free Soil, Free Men —in 1970, based on his doctoral dissertation under Richard Hofstadter. And it’s a very, very, good book. In fact it’s hard to put a finger on a book that better explicates the free labor ideology of the Republicans—and of Lincoln in the bargain. Some close seconds to that are Heather Richardson’s The Greatest Nation of the Earth, which is not specifically about Lincoln but is about the broader free labor/free wage commitments of the Republicans, and a very good chapter on Lincoln in Daniel Walker Howe’s Political Culture of the American Whigs.

TM: Could you explain the way Lincoln’s career as an attorney in this period influenced his thinking on slavery?

AG: To Lincoln, slavery undercut the free labor outlook on the world because it denied advancement and self-improvement. For Lincoln, the great attraction of any economic regime was the degree to which it permitted accumulation and self-promotion. He once described the ideal system as being one where the penniless beginner starts out working for somebody else, accumulates capital on his own by dint of savings, goes into business for himself, and then eventually becomes so successful that he hires others, who in turn continue the cycle. And he spoke of that as being the order of things in a society of equals. For him, the very notion of equality is a matter of equality of openness, aspiration, and opportunity.

This is what he says in 1859 at the Wisconsin State Agricultural Fair (and bear in mind that he is saying this only a year after one of the most severe financial depressions in the 19th century):

Some of you will be successful, and such will need but little philosophy to take them home in cheerful spirits; others will be disappointed, and will be in a less happy mood. To such, let it be said, “Lay it not too much to heart.” Let them adopt the maxim, “Better luck next time”; and then, by renewed exertion, make that better luck for themselves.

The only reason people do not succeed in a capitalist environment is because they are improvident, they are lazy, they are good for nothing, or they experience some incredible turn of bad luck—that’s why “better luck next time.”

That may seem like vanishingly small consolation to people who’ve just come through a depression, but for Lincoln, that kind of hardship paled beside slavery. Slavery says that there is a category of people that can never be allowed to rise, that cannot improve themselves no matter how hard they try because they will always be slaves. It’s very much the classic disjuncture between the Enlightenment and feudalism. Feudalism talks about people being born with status, and everyone comes into this world equipped with a status. This status is either free or slave, serf or nobility, elect or damned, whatever. For the Enlightenment people come into this world armed with rights, and the ideal political system is the system that allows them to realize those rights, to use those rights in the freest and most natural fashion possible.

TM: Is this what you have in mind when you refer to Lincoln as the last Enlightenment figure in American history?

AG: Exactly. This is why I call him our last Enlightenment politician. Or at least the last one who is securely and virtually exclusively located within that mentality.

TM: Lincoln once said that he did not have a political thought that did not flow—

AG: From the Declaration of Independence …

TM: … Could you talk about the relationship between Lincoln and the American Revolution, and Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence in particular?

AG: He loves—and he’s not exaggerating—the Declaration of Independence. When he talks at Gettysburg about the country being founded on a proposition, that’s what he means, and specifically that all men are created equal. What does he mean by equal though? He means equality of aspiration. He spoke those words about never having had a political thought which did not flow from the Declaration in February of 1861, outside Independence Hall. He believed that what the Founders meant, what the Declaration of Independence meant, was that everybody in the race of life ought to get a fair start and a fair chance. That was the star by which he navigated, and the best example he could offer to anybody was his own life.

TM: The rail splitter.

AG: Sure. Here’s someone who had come up from grinding backwoods poverty and by dint of his own effort, intelligence, and gifts, had risen to more than a modicum of success. Not only success in financial terms but success socially. In every respect he was his own confirmation of his theories. Anyone who impugned free labor and the free labor ideology was really attacking him personally.

TM: Considering further Lincoln’s own intellectual formation, much has been made of his facility with Shakespeare and the Old Testament. What other influences were there? Did he read Melville, did he read Hawthorne?

AG: Not likely. He had no taste for fiction. He said once that he tried to start Ivanhoe but only got halfway through it—which may replicate the experience of many undergraduates and high school students today. But that in itself is something of a statement. He read precious little fiction. He loved poetry, though. But it was, significantly, not romantic poetry that he cottoned up to. He did like Byron, but the poets he admired the most were very much poets of the Enlightenment. He loved Pope and quoted him often from memory. He loved Burns, who is a transitional figure between the Enlightenment and romanticism.

In terms of other things that he reads, he reads political economy. He read most of the major treatises that flowed downstream from Adam Smith. He’s read McCulloch, Henry Carey, and Francis Wayland. One observer said that on political economy he was great, that there was no one better than Lincoln.

He also had some scientific interest in geology. John Hay, his secretary, was surprised to discover he had some interest in philology and the origins of language. He never explains why he is interested in those, but he would always surprise people by what he knew. One Canadian journalist who visited in him 1864 was taken aback when Lincoln launched into a long “dissertation” on comparative points of British and American law.

That’s particularly surprising because in another context Lincoln professed to know nothing about international law. But Lincoln habitually would tell people he was totally ignorant of a subject which in fact he was quite well versed in, because then they would underestimate him, and when they underestimated him they would fall into his trap. Leonard Swett once said that anybody who mistook Lincoln for a simple man would soon end up with his back in a ditch.

TM: The film Lincoln depicts this moment in which Lincoln makes a major decision by discussing Euclid’s principles of mathematics. Is there some basis to this in fact?

AG: Yes, he did read Euclid. It appealed to what one of his law partners referred to as Lincoln’s passion for “mathematical exactness.” Lincoln was not eloquent in the usual 19th century way, certainly not in the romantic way. He was not a man of frothing at the mouth or shaking his fist in a dramatic way. Lincoln was logic, and when he got the hook in your mouth he would pull you in no matter how much line was involved. One observer of the Lincoln-Douglas debates said that if you listened to Lincoln and Douglas for five minutes, you would go with Douglas. If you listened to them for an hour you always went with Lincoln.

I thought the film was 90 percent on the mark, which given the way Hollywood usually does history is saying something. I thought that it got with reasonable accuracy a lot of Lincoln’s character, the characters of the main protagonists, and the overall debate over the 13th Amendment. The acting and screenwriting were especially well done. I remember thinking afterwards that all the time I’d been watching the movie I had never thought that Daniel Day-Lewis was acting, because what he portrayed seemed so close to my own mental image of what Lincoln must have been like.

TM: Lincoln remains such a popular figure. What explains his hold on our fascination and our affection? If we were to consider him only as an attorney for the railroads, as a bourgeois politician, perhaps this would be difficult to explain?

AG: For several reasons. First, as a leader, he is a combination of the virtues of democratic leadership—as opposed to, say, aristocratic leadership, which honors valor, physical prowess, and dominance. Democratic leadership is more about perseverance, self-limitation, and humility. What we see in Lincoln is a collection of the virtues we think are most important in a democratic leadership.

Secondly, he really did preside successfully over this incredibly critical moment we call the Civil War. He did keep the union together, he did defeat the Confederacy. Anyone who sits down for a moment to think about what the alternative would have looked like—a successful breakaway Confederacy—and how that would have flowed downstream has to be with impressed with what Lincoln was able to save us from. There is in the end no intrinsic reason why the Southern Confederacy should not have achieved its independence. And if they had, that would have had serious implications for the later role the North American continent plays in world affairs. Imagine a North American continent as divided politically and economically as South America. This would take the United States off the table as a major world player, and then what would you do with the history of the 20th century?

But I think Lincoln is also important in a third way—and this may be of interest to your readers. I come back to the old Werner Sombart question—“Why there is no socialism in America?” There have been any number of answers. I wonder out loud whether one reason there is no socialism in America is because of Lincoln.

In the American context Lincoln imparted to liberal democracy a sense of nobility and purpose that it has not always had in other contexts. He makes democracy something transcendent, and especially at Gettysburg where he talks about the nation having this new birth of freedom. He ratchets the horizons of liberal democracy right up past the spires of Cologne Cathedral and he makes it this glowing attractive ideal that people are willing to make these tremendous sacrifices to protect. Because at the end of the day this is what the Civil War is about—it’s about the preservation of liberal democracy. In the 1860s the United States was the last Enlightenment experiment that was still standing. What you had in the climate of mid-19th century Europe was the renaissance of romantic aristocracy …

TM: He refers to this in the Gettysburg Address…

AG: Yes, that’s really what he’s talking about. This war is a test whether this nation or any other nation so conceived can long endure. Is democracy self-destructive? Are the aristocrats right? That the only way you’ll ever have order in society is to let them run things? That you cannot put rule into the hands of ordinary people because they’ll botch it from selfishness, egotism, and stupidity? The Civil War becomes this demonstrator model for aristocrats to say, “See what happens when you let ordinary people govern.” The romantic contempt of the American experiment, whether that contempt comes from a Heinrich Heine, from an Otto Von Bismarck…

TM: Or from the Southern elite…

AG: Exactly. This is what Lincoln saw in the Southern elite—a defection from Enlightenment bourgeois politics toward aristocratic rule. And I think there’s really some substance there. Because if you look at someone like Bismarck, for instance, the Prussian Junkers are not great aristocrats. They are the squirearchy. They are very similar in complexion and structure to the plantation aristocracy of the Old South. No surprise then that Bismarck sees in the Confederacy something that he admires, that he applauds. Lincoln saw himself arrayed against that.

Lincoln sees American democracy as a last stand, what he calls the last, best hope. And if this goes down, we may so discredit the whole notion of democracy that no one will ever want to go this way again, and so this is the test. It’s a test of whether or not we’ll have this new birth of freedom, if we’ll finally shuck off these last husks of aristocracy and move forward in the direction of democracy. That for him is the vital issue.

People today often want to separate slavery, and say that Lincoln was interested in preserving the union and not in destroying slavery. No, that gets it exactly wrong. The two are as knotted together as a rope, because the only union worth preserving is a union that has abjured slavery. So for Lincoln to get rid of slavery is to purge America of the aristocratic poison. He once said that slavery was the one retrograde institution that was poisoning the American republic, keeping the American republic from realizing its full potential.

TM: What do you make of the criticism of Lincoln the historical figure from the standpoint of identity politics, or, more recently, similar criticism over Lincoln the film?

AG: There has been a current that wants to reject the image of Lincoln as the Emancipator by questioning whether or not he emancipated the slaves. It has had some long innings. Some of it goes back to Marx’s comment on the Gotha Program, that the proletariat has to emancipate itself, that it cannot look to some other agency to do so. That image of self-emancipation certainly has a role to play in W.E.B. Du BoisBlack Reconstruction in 1930, because Du Bois will say we can’t really talk about emancipation unless it’s self-emancipation. Du Bois is picturing race as the replacement for class. And this gets popularized in the writing of people like Vincent Harding, Lerone Bennett, Barbara Field, and any number of people writing today—some of whom have probably never read Du Bois, much less Marx.

Lincoln does drop comments that can be taken out of their historical context. For instance the most widely cited statement about race is the one he makes at the fourth debate at Charleston, Illinois. He says:

I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races,—that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together.

People like Bennett focus on this and say, Lincoln was really just another garden variety racist. What they do not see is what Lincoln follows that comment with. He says:

there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence—the right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I hold that he is as much entitled to these as the white man.… he is not my equal in many respects, certainly not in color—perhaps not in intellectual and moral endowments; but in the right to eat the bread without leave of anybody else which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every other man….

That must have made every white supremacist in the crowd gasp.

I think, on the whole, given that the environment of the US in the middle of the 19th century is so white supremacist in its assumptions, Lincoln is actually quite remarkable for standing apart from that. But the decontextualized quote provides fodder for people to say that Lincoln was really not on our side.

This is aided and abetted by Richard Hofstadter’s famous essay in The American Political Tradition in which he refers to the Emancipation Proclamation as having “all the moral grandeur of a bill of lading.” What Hofstadter meant is that here is the man capable of writing the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural, but when it comes to the Emancipation Proclamation it’s as flat as a pancake. Why? Hofstadter’s conclusion is that Lincoln was just insincere about it. And even Marx noted that the language in the Emancipation Proclamation was dull. He compared it to a summons sent by one county lawyer to another. Again, they quote Marx out of context, because then he goes on to say something very laudatory.

Put these together and you have people saying Lincoln wasn’t the Great Emancipator and he wasn’t sincere, and so on and so forth. I think that this is thoroughly, absurdly, off-base. It’s off-base because of the historical process. They really don’t understand the rules of the ground game in 1861 and 1862. One black power activist in the 1960s wrote, “Why didn’t Lincoln free the slaves altogether? Why didn’t he just wake up one morning and say, I’m going to free all the slaves?” Well, he’s not the Czar of all the Russians. He’s the president of the United States, and legally he’s allowed to do certain things, and that’s not one of them. He has to work within the process.

TM: Concretely, for example, there’s the argument that Lincoln didn’t free the slaves, that the slaves freed themselves in the Civil War.

AG: That’s to misuse the word freedom. Slaves free themselves by running away, but they free themselves de facto, but not de jure. A slave that runs away is still a runaway, just like a convict who escapes from prison is not free; he’s an escapee, and can be picked up and arrested and incarcerated. In the Civil War you have many runaways, but there has to be something more than that. You have to have the application of law. That is what Lincoln provides in the Emancipation Proclamation. It is the legal statement of the freedom of about 3 million slaves.

TM: It’s also the case that the large number of runaways in the Civil War was made possible by the presence of the Union Army in the South …

AG: Which is also acting as an instrument of Lincoln’s policy. So ask the slaves themselves how they were freed, and they will say, “Lincoln’s proclamation.” The testimony of freed people before the joint committee on reconstruction—about how they became free is uniform. They were well aware that the Fugitive Slave Laws and Constitutional provisions for the rendition of slaves were still in force. The position of runaways remained perilous. The Emancipation Proclamation resolved that.

One other way to look at this is to say, “What if George McClellan had won the presidency in 1864, defeating Lincoln?” He would have immediately begun negotiations with the Confederacy. And it is difficult for me to imagine that those negotiations would have not involved some sort of provision for rendition. After all, the treaty ending the Revolutionary War with Great Britain and the treaty ending the War of 1812 with Great Britain both involved the rendition of runaway slaves. Absent the Emancipation Proclamation, that could have happened again.

TM: There’s a conjoined argument, and that is that the Civil War really didn’t accomplish anything at all in light of the implementation of Jim Crow

AG: That’s rubbish.

TM: To bring us up to the present, I was somewhat surprised that there was not more commemoration, more celebration, of the anniversary of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation…

AG: I was surprised too.

TM: What do you make of that?

AG: Part of this goes back to the reputation the Emancipation Proclamation has had attached to it by people like Hofstadter. That line—that it had no more “moral grandeur than a bill of lading”—I encounter at so many levels and in so many places. And, yes, the Proclamation does lack the rhetorical force of the Gettysburg Address. But it is a legal document; it’s got work to do.

And yet I will say this. Just yesterday, I heard a gentleman from the Henry Ford Museum who said that 200,000 people came to see a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation borrowed from the National Archives. I think we underestimate the power that the Proclamation in fact still has.

On the other hand, we made an overture to the White House, trying to solicit their interest for something on January 1, the 150th anniversary. They blew us off. They just weren’t interested. They were in reelection mode and that trumped any interest in Lincoln and the Proclamation. I thought that was really, really, weird. You would think that the first African American president would leap at the opportunity. But no. Absolutely nothing.

TM: I wonder if it doesn’t have to do with the symbolic appeal to equality that the Emancipation Proclamation makes in the context of mounting social distress and deepening economic crisis. How do you explain it?

AG: I really don’t know. Maybe part of it is identity politics. Maybe they’re just thinking about practical, nuts and bolts things and uninterested in history. I mean, the guy is from Chicago. Somehow the idea of a celebration for the Emancipation Proclamation just got nixed.

Falsifying the American Civil War: Doris Kearns Goodwin at Gettysburg: here.

On November 15, 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman led a 60,000 soldier Union army from the recently captured city of Atlanta deep through the heart of the state of Georgia, resulting in the seizure of the port city of Savannah on December 21. In the March to the Sea, as the campaign became known, the Union army fed itself off the land, destroyed infrastructure and liberated tens of thousands of slaves, in the process delivering a deathblow to the slaveholders’ rebellion. The American Civil War would be over within four months: here.

With the approach of the 150th anniversary of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, followed less than a week later by the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, attention is once again focused on the US Civil War, and on the president who led the military and political struggle that ended with the abolition of slavery: here.

For most history buffs, the Civil War’s sesquicentennial ends on Thursday. That day in 1865, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at the Battle of Appomattox. Most historians, though, acknowledge that the war’s most ambitious aim—full equality for black citizens—took many more years to accomplish, and even continues. But in his new book, After Appomattox, historian Gregory P. Downs makes a far bolder claim. Appomattox hardly ended the war: A full-scale military occupation continued for at least another five years, and without it, slavery may have persisted far longer than it did. Almost 100,000 Army soldiers remained in the South through the end of 1865, Downs meticulously documents, with up to 20,000 troops stationed there until 1871: here.

Sleepy long-eared owl, video


This is a video of a sleepy long-eared owl, in a garden in the Netherlands.

The maker of the video is Hilko Hof.

Saudi dictatorship’s Canadian weapons


This video says about itself:

Canadian Weapons En Route To Saudi Arabia

8 January 2016

The Canadian government is supplying weapons to the government of Saudi Arabia during a time when Saudi human rights records are at an all time low.

By Derrick O’Keefe from Canada:

Baird in Bahrain: What about those Canadian arms sales to Saudi Arabia?

April 3, 2013

The destruction of Bahrain's Pearl monument

I knew it had to be a hoax, even if the dateline didn’t read April 1.

A story buzzing around social media yesterday morning claimed that John Baird had been embarrassed by reporters at a press conference in Amman, Jordan.

The piece asserted that journalists had peppered Baird with a series of questions about Canadian politics, concluding: “An unidentified reporter suggested that Canada sounded more like an autocracy than a democracy … At this point Minister Baird indicated that the Press Conference was over.”

Now come on.

We know that scenario is not going to happen. Because if there’s one thing Harper’s government does do almost as well as many autocracies, it’s limit access and manage the media. Besides, Baird was visiting a genuine autocracy — they wouldn’t be so rude as to let an important foreign guest be put in the compromising position of having to answer questions from curious and critical reporters.

Later in the day there was a real embarrassment for Baird, when it was confirmed that at least two young Canadian citizens were indeed part of the attack on foreign oil workers in Algeria earlier this year.

Back when the incident happened, Baird had aggressively questioned Algeria’s claims about the Canadian citizens. So, with these new revelations, Baird stayed mum on the issue, and the file was handed off to the highly capable spin machine known as Jason Kenney, who busily went to work turning this into a story that would serve the overall Conservative agenda. The egg on Baird’s face was noted, but the media quickly turned its focus towards ‘homegrown terrorists’ — perfectly in synch, as it happens, with the preferred ‘law and order’ and security focus of Kenney and the Harper government.

No doubt talk of ‘homegrown terrorists’ will now dominate the media, but there should be much more scrutiny on Baird and his current trip’s itinerary. Canada’s foreign minister is, after all, in the midst of a veritable tour of dictatorships in the Middle East. Jordan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Bahrain — all dictatorships, all autocratic regimes. I know, I know, they are always referred to as “moderate” regimes, but that is just code for regimes the West doesn’t presently want to overthrow.

The official press release announcing Baird’s trip is a study in platitudes and message control. Take, for example, the bizarrely vague statement of purpose for Baird’s visit to Qatar and Bahrain: “In visits to Qatar and Bahrain, the link between peace and prosperity will be explored in detail — to the benefit of those in the region and beyond.”

The words “human rights” do not appear anywhere in the press release.

The only regimes whose crimes are alluded to at all are Syria and Iran – and that’s because the Harper government is, in perfect alignment with the Gulf state dictatorships, among the most hawkish in pursuing regime change in those two countries.

The UAE — where Baird enjoyed a widely reported Tim Horton’s photo-op with his counterpart — is an apartheid state, where migrant workers do the bulk of the labour in the country while being denied their most basic rights. Ditto for Qatar. The “moderate” monarchy that rules Qatar has even imprisoned a poet for daring to recite and post to the Web verses that celebrated the Arab Spring.

And then there’s Bahrain. In March 2011, within days of the NATO bombing of Libya, Saudi troops and armoured vehicles rolled into tiny Bahrain to help the ruling monarchy crush that country’s inspiring and determined democratic movement. Many were killed or jailed. Doctors were imprisoned for the crime of tending to the movement’s wounded. The odious regime even went so far as to demolish the Pearl monument in the main square where the democratic movement had rallied (see the accompanying photo above.)

The Canadian government has much to answer for with respect to this brutal suppression of Bahrain’s Spring. That’s because none other than Saudi Arabia — with its totalitarian, misogynist regime — was, other than the U.S., the top recipient of Canadian arms sales in 2011.

Last year, the Ottawa Citizen reported these damning facts about Canadian complicity in Saudi Arabia’s repression against Bahrain’s popular movement:

…the total in government-approved arms export licences for Saudi Arabia was more than 100 times the $35 million approved in 2010.

The Middle Eastern kingdom also has quietly purchased hundreds of LAV-3s from General Dynamics Land Systems in London, Ont., over the years and was expected to receive more than 700 last year.

The LAVS are synonymous in Canada with this country’s combat mission to Afghanistan, where the wheeled, armoured vehicles earned their stripes as the military’s main workhorse.

Video and photos shot by protesters and media outlets in March 2011 showed Saudi troops using LAV-3s to suppress an uprising inspired by events in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya and opposed to Bahrain’s ruling Khalifa family.

More than 30 protesters were killed, hundreds wounded and nearly 3,000 arrested in the joint Saudi-Bahraini crackdown, which was largely ignored by Canada and other Western states because of Bahrain’s strategic relationship with the U.S.

With John Baird in Bahrain this week, he should be having to answer hard questions about these facts.

All the Tim Hortons photo-ops in the world can’t hide the shame of this government’s complicity in gross violations of human rights.

Baird’s silence on abuses in Bahrain exposes Canada’s inconsistency: here.

Canada selling weapons to Philippines despite human rights concerns. Trudeau has sold 16 combat helicopters worth $185m to the Philippine air force despite criticizing Duterte’s human rights abuses: here.

ExxonMobil oil kills Arkansas birds


An 'oiled' duck recovered near the Bell Slough State Wildlife Management Area in Mayflower, Ark., is rescued Monday, April 1, 2013 and prepared to be taken to HAWK Center, a wildlife rehabilitation group trying to save birds after a pipeline ruptured and dumped several thousands of barrels of oil Friday (AP Photo/Log Cabin Democrat, Courtney Spradlin)

From Associated Press:

Ducks Near Arkansas Oil Spill Found Dead After ExxonMobil Pipeline Rupture (PHOTO)

By JEANNIE NUSS

Posted: 04/01/2013 5:52 pm EDT | Updated: 04/02/2013 10:40 am EDT

MAYFLOWER, Ark. (AP) — The environmental impacts of an oil spill in central Arkansas began to come into focus Monday as officials said a couple of dead ducks and 10 live oily birds were found after an ExxonMobil Corp. pipeline ruptured last week.

“I’m an animal lover, a wildlife lover, as probably most of the people here are,” Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson told reporters. “We don’t like to see that. No one does.”

Officials are urging people in Mayflower, a small city about 20 miles northwest of Little Rock, not to touch any injured or oiled animals as crews clean up Friday’s spill.

About 12,000 barrels of oil and water have been recovered since ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline sprung a leak, spewing oil onto lawns and roadways and nearly fouling a nearby lake.

Dodson said he expects a few more oily birds to turn up in the coming days. …

Still, the air smells like oil, and area residents say it has for days.

“We live five miles out in the country and we’ve had the smell out there,” Karen Lewis, 54, said outside a local grocery store. Its parking lot, like much of this small city, is teeming with cleanup crews and their trucks.

Meanwhile, in the neighborhood where the pipeline burst, workers in yellow suits waded in an oil-soaked lawn Monday as they tried to clean up part of the area where the spill began.

The pipeline that ruptured dates back to the 1940s, according to ExxonMobil, and is part of the Pegasus pipeline that carries crude oil from the Midwest to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

Exxon spokesman Charlie Engelmann said the oil is conventionally produced Canadian heavy crude.

“Crude oil is crude oil,” Dodson said. “None of it is real good to touch.”