Sunday Reading

by zunguzungu

From “How Didactic Art Could Be Less Boring,” just because I like it:


(also, here, the links I posted yesterday on Occupy Wall Street)

W. E. B. Du Bois and Shirley Graham Du Bois observing Nigeria’s independence (1960): (via)

John Weeks Reviews: Africa’s Odious Debts (African Arguments) – By Léonce Ndikumana and James K. Boyce

Among the public and the media in developed countries, and not absent from the work of professional economists, is the perception that the countries of sub-Saharan Africa received large amounts of development assistance over the last three decades.  This perception has been journalistically fostered by Dambisa Moyo (Dead Aid) and with more superficial respectability by former World Bank economist William Easterly (The White Man’s Burden).  The message of these polemics is that “trillions” in aid dollars have been “squandered” in African” to no benefit, with the lack of benefit typically attributed to corruption in “African” governments.

This mini-industry of anti-aid polemics represents such a gross distortion of the truth that calling it propaganda is an extreme understatement.  More appropriate would be ‘gross and willful distortions of the truth’.  While many, including this reviewer, have attacked these attempts to misrepresent the reality of financial flows in and out of sub-Saharan Africa, none have done so with the analytical clarity and empirical thoroughness of Ndikumana and Boyce in their outstanding work, Africa’s Odious Debts.  The reality that the authors demonstrate is simply stated and appalling in its implications:  sub-Saharan Africa, location of the poorest countries in the world, has generated net capital outflows for decades.  One could with small exaggeration say that for a generation Africa has provided aid to the United States and Western Europe.

Taking a quote from here:

…[S]ub-Saharan Africa experienced an exodus of more than $700 billion in capital flight since 1970. Some of this money wound up in accounts at the same banks that made loans to African governments. Africa is a net creditor to the rest of the world in the sense that its foreign assets exceed its foreign liabilities. But there is a key difference between the two: the assets are in the hands of private Africans, while the liabilities are public, owed by the African people at large through their governments.

ProPublica’s guides to Obama’s record.

Myths RETOLD:

OKAY
so you remember the book of Genesis, right?
that’s the one where there’s a garden
and Adam is in it
and then he’s bored so God makes him a sex slave out of one of his ribs
but hold on there, cowboy
because before Eve
there used to be a different chick
her name was Lilith
and she was not made out of anybody’s ribs except her own…

via

From the great Paul Kerschen’s upcoming book, his story “Atlas”:

You go to the war because you’re poor. You start out poor and you’ll go to the war. All your family in the world is a sister and Uncle Sam, and it’s your uncle who has your back.

Beyond the Barricades:

‘Haussmannization’ – the mid-19th-century programme of urban renewal in Paris named after the prefect in charge of it, Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann – was specifically aimed at making it difficult or impossible for protestors or revolutionaries to take streets via the barricade. If alleys and small streets were difficult for armies to navigate, wide avenues were seen as unblockable, as well as conducive to the rapid transfer of troops or police around Paris. Haussmannization was translated for more than 100 years into other places around the world, from modernized megacities to US university campuses in the wake of the 1960s protests.

Recent events in London seem to demonstrate that, due to various technological and ideological shifts, the days of the Haussmannized city street as a deterrent to protest are numbered. Barricades have given way to flash mobs, the targets have shifted toward the emporiums of consumerism, and the cat-and-mouse battles between the police and those who resist them take place nearly as often online as in the physical places of the city. Despite differences of means and ends between the first set of anti-austerity protestors and the more recent rioters, several strands run between the two groups, all evocative of the new tactics and rules of urban disorder.

Tom Friedman Needs A Factchecker:

We’ve called out Tom Friedman in recent months for being “radically wrong” in the past. And then for being “still wrong.” No surprise then, that he’d be wrong and causing confusion yet again.

The Nephilim fossil of upstate New York

All we see here is a group of former chancellors radiating an indecent complacency about access, one that is out of touch with current research about the damage done to educational attainment by the Great Cost Shift to students.

Bob Dylan’s paintings are “Workmanlike but they do their job…”:

From Savage Mind’s “Around the Web Digest

Tim Parks wants to tell us What’s Wrong With the Nobel Prize in Literature. Literary Salopn has a round-up of reactions.

Rob Horning on Steve Jobs:

Part of me feels viscerally an envy with regard to Jobs that marks the degree to which I’ve vicariously participated in the myth that has been built around him, in the entrepreneur worship, the fantasy of power—of being able to alter other’s lives and still be regarded as benevolent. Technology is a perfect vector for that sort of power, masking the agency of those who develop it and program it and representing that as irresistible progress. That instinctive envy engenders a deep skepticism of Silicon Valley, of the sort of people drawn to it, those who seeking technocratic means to dominate the world, impose a vision, dictate the contours of others’ lives. Jobs worship perpetuates the idea that proprietary technology is developed for us, for our improvement and our needs, rather than for profit or for the egos of venture capitalists and self-proclaimed visionaries. It makes more sense to me, if you want to worship tech gurus, to choose someone like Linus Torvalds, though I doubt he’ll be on the cover of Time when he dies.

Steve Jobs and the Routinization of Charisma

What everyone is “too polite to say about Steve Jobs”:

The internet allowed people around the world to express themselves more freely and more easily. With the App Store, Apple reversed that progress. The iPhone and iPad constitute the most popular platform for handheld computerizing in America, key venues for media and software. But to put anything on the devices, you need Apple’s permission. And the company wields its power aggressively.

In the name of protecting children from the evils of erotica — “freedom from porn” — and adults from one another, Jobs has banned from being installed on his devices gay artgay travel guidespolitical cartoonssexy picturesCongressional candidate pamphletspolitical caricature,Vogue fashion spreads, systems invented by the opposition, and other things considered morally suspect.

Apple’s devices have connected us to a world of information. But they don’t permit a full expression of ideas. Indeed, the people Apple supposedly serves — “the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers” — have been particularly put out by Jobs’ lockdown. That America’s most admired company has followed such an un-American path, and imposed centralized restrictions typical of the companies it once mocked, is deeply disturbing.

and

In 2010, the Daily Mail managed to get a reporter inside a facility in China that manufactures products for Apple and the paper shared a bit about what life is like:

With the complex at peak production, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week to meet the global demand for Apple phones and computers, a typical day begins with the Chinese national anthem being played over loudspeakers, with the words: ‘Arise, arise, arise, millions of hearts with one mind.’

As part of this Orwellian control, the public address system constantly relays propaganda, such as how many products have been made; how a new basketball court has been built for the workers; and why workers should ‘value efficiency every minute, every second’.

With other company slogans painted on workshop walls – including exhortations to ‘achieve goals unless the sun no longer rises’ and to ‘gather all of the elite and Foxconn will get stronger and stronger’ – the employees work up to 15-hour shifts.

Down narrow, prison-like corridors, they sleep in cramped rooms in triple-decked bunk beds to save space, with simple bamboo mats for mattresses. Despite summer temperatures hitting 35 degrees, with 90 per cent humidity, there is no air-conditioning. Workers say some dormitories house more than 40 people and are infested with ants and cockroaches, with the noise and stench making it difficult to sleep.

The Social Genius Behind Steve Jobs

Against Nostalgia:

Mr. Jobs’s magic has its costs. We can admire the design perfection and business acumen while acknowledging the truth: with Apple’s immense resources at his command he could have revolutionized the industry to make devices more humanely and more openly, and chose not to. If we view him unsparingly, without nostalgia, we would see a great man whose genius in design, showmanship and stewardship of the tech world will not be seen again in our lifetime. We would also see a man who in the end failed to “think different,” in the deepest way, about the human needs of both his users and his workers.

Virus hits drone fleet:

“We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,” says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus. “We think it’s benign. But we just don’t know.”

Beyoncé does it again

The Belgian choreographer was surprised when she first saw the video. In an interview with Belgian radio station Studio Brussel today she said: “I didn’t know anything about this. I’m not mad, but this is plagiarism…What’s rude about it is that they don’t even bother about hiding it. They seem to think they could do it because it’s a famous work…Am I honoured? Look, I’ve seen local school kids doing this. That’s a lot more beautiful.”

Barefoot cartography (via @bintbattuta):

The women of Itaha Kalpi, a drought-hit village in Bundelkhand, UP, came together across caste lines to map water and other resources available in their village in rangoli, and then on paper. In the process, the barefoot cartographers also learnt to map their inequities, their aspirations and demands