Nomadics

Meanderings & mawqifs of poetry, poetics, translations y mas. Travelogue too.

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Ernst Jandl would have been 90 today!

August 1st, 2015 · Poetry, Poetry readings, Uncategorized

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Kenneth Irby (November 18, 1936 – July 30, 2015)

July 30th, 2015 · Obituaries, Poet, Poetry

Irby at home in Lawrence, trying to point me toward a CD we wanted to listen to — November 2011.

Irby at home in Lawrence, KS, trying to point me toward a CD we wanted to listen to — November 2011.

Profound sadness at the passing of an old friend, a major poet — whose work is way underappreciated in this, his country —, a great lover of literature, landscape and music. Below a poem from the sixties — p. 133 in his indispensable The Intent On (Collected Poems 1962-2006), North Atlantic Books 2009 — one of the poems I came across early on in his book Relation, and that introduced me to a part of this land I knew nothing about, and which I learned — via Robert Duncan — to call Irbyland. For more on his work, check out the Irby homage on Jacket2, here.

 

Three Geographical Variations

for Ed Dorn

North out of Lawrence we turned
east before we had to a back
track to Valley Falls and Ozawkie back
roads north into Hiawatha
Old trips of the past will not save us
Noon meals in or out of a calendar
picture quiet and readdress the east
turn into White Cloud and Iowa Point
to reach toward the river and where
the river’s urge in us eased us a little
That is the flow the urge toward
each other links hand in hand as
word in word driving drinking beer all Sunday afternoon
I have come west and at the far ocean remember
It does not matter loose specifics of whose
the linkage matters the flow
the closeness possible the intimations of divinity
as intimations of the dreamed spread land
spread before the eyes of those White Clouds diddled sooners
even the willful wily promoters
looking west at the land’s run
out from under them

*

I will not let blood and I do not know
if there is any turning back upon the land
to traverse, how much
traversing now will reopen
what spaces seem nowhere
ease us together—it is not different to go past
the endless misuse of landscape
here in Berkeley or there in New Mexico, what space
is open beyond is open across the whole world
Looks past whatever salvations of individuals
realizing salvation is only to pass
into the space all people live in

*

There is no need to substitute any world for this one
in order to come into any wonder or more
enter the open imagination. Good and evil
seem kindness and indifference    at each footstep
At the other edge of each tree    another pasture
the shade fallen on each face into the sun
Into each lit house dark street we walk home
The stories where we are all changed
beyond the wardrobes back wall    pass through
The eye is blue wonder brown opener the horizon
shines through upon the toss and fling the ring glints
head up in the air    grass goes by    like starlings
iridescent in the sky

—16 Apr 1966

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James Hansen & Climate Danger in the ‘Hyper-Anthropocene’ Age

July 28th, 2015 · Arctic Ice, Climate Change, Environment, Fossil fuel, Permafrost

SealevelchangeHere the two concluding sections of J. Hansen et alii‘s paper: Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 ◦C global warming is highly dangerous. You can find the whole paper, footnotes, bibliography & figures here.

(…)
7 The Anthropocene

The Anthropocene (Crutzen and Stoermer, 2000), the era in which humans have contributed to global climate change, is usually assumed to have begun in the past few 25 centuries. Ruddiman (2003) suggested that it began earlier, with deforestation affecting CO2 about 8000 years ago. Southern Ocean feedbacks considered in our present paper are relevant to that discussion.

Ruddiman (2003) assumed that 40 ppm of human-made CO2 was needed to explain a 20 ppm CO2 increase in the Holocene (Fig. 24c), because CO2 decreased ∼ 20 ppm, on average, during several prior interglacials. Such a large human source should have left an imprint on δ 13CO2 that is not observed in ice core CO2 (Elsig et al., 2009). Ruddiman (2013) suggests that 13 5 C was taken up in peat formation, but the required peat formation would be large and no persuasive evidence has been presented to support such a dominant role for peat in the glacial carbon cycle.

We suggest that Ruddiman overestimated the anthropogenic CO2 needed to prevent decline of Antarctic temperature. The CO2 decline in interglacial periods is a climate 10 feedback: declining Southern Ocean temperature slows the ventilation of the deep ocean, thus sequestering CO2 . Avoidance of the cooling and CO2 decline requires only human-made CO2 forcing large enough to counteract the weak natural forcing trend, not the larger feedback-driven CO2 changes in prior interglacials, because, if the natural forcings are counteracted, the feedback does not occur. The required human- 15 made contribution to atmospheric CO2 would seem to be at most ∼ 20 ppm, but less if human-made CO2 increased deep ocean ventilation. The smaller requirement on the human source and the low δ 13C content of deep-ocean CO2 make the Ruddiman hypothesis more plausible, but recent carbon cycle models (Kleinen et al., 2015) have been able to capture CO2 changes in the Holocene and earlier interglacials without an 20 anthropogenic source.

Even if the Anthropocene began millennia ago, a fundamentally different phase, a Hyper-Anthropocene, was initiated by explosive 20th century growth of fossil fuel use. Human-made climate forcings now overwhelm natural forcings. CO2 , at 400 ppm in 2015, is off the scale in Fig. 24c. CO2 climate forcing is a reasonable approximation 25 of the net human forcing, because forcing by other GHGs tends to offset negative human forcings, mainly aerosols (IPCC, 2013). Most of the forcing growth occurred in the past several decades, and two-thirds of the 0.9 ◦C global warming (since 1850) has occurred since 1975 (update of Hansen et al., 2010, available at http://www.columbia. edu/~mhs119/Temperature/).

Our analysis paints a different picture than IPCC (2013) for how this HyperAnthropocene phase is likely to proceed if GHG emissions grow at a rate that continues to pump energy at a high rate into the ocean. We conclude that multi-meter sea level rise would become practically unavoidable. Social disruption and economic con- 5 sequences of such large sea level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.

This image of our planet with accelerating meltwater includes growing climate chaos and storminess, as meltwater causes cooling around Antarctica and in the North At- 10 lantic while the tropics and subtropics continue to warm. Rising seas and more powerful storms together are especially threatening, providing strong incentive to phase down CO2 emissions rapidly.

8 Summary implications

Humanity faces near certainty of eventual sea level rise of at least Eemian proportions, 15 5–9 m, if fossil fuel emissions continue on a business-as-usual course, e.g., IPCC scenario A1B that has CO2 ∼ 700 ppm in 2100 (Fig. S21). It is unlikely that coastal cities or low-lying areas such as Bangladesh, European lowlands, and large portions of the United States eastern coast and northeast China plains (Fig. S22) could be protected against such large sea level rise.

Rapid large sea level rise may begin sooner than generally assumed. Amplifying feedbacks, including slowdown of SMOC and cooling of the near-Antarctic ocean surface with increasing sea ice, may spur nonlinear growth of Antarctic ice sheet mass loss. Deep submarine valleys in West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin of East Antarctica, each with access to ice amounting to several meters of sea level, provide gateways 25 to the ocean. If the Southern Ocean forcing (subsurface warming) of the Antarctic ice sheets continues to grow, it likely will become impossible to avoid sea level rise of several meters, with the largest uncertainty being how rapidly it will occur.

The Greenland ice sheet does not have as much ice subject to rapid nonlinear disintegration, so the speed at which it adds to 21st century sea level rise may be limited. However, even a slower Greenland ice sheet response is expected to be faster than carbon cycle or ocean thermal recovery times. Therefore, if climate forcing continues 5 to grow rapidly, amplifying feedbacks will assure large eventual mass loss. Also with present growth of freshwater injection from Greenland, in combination with increasing North Atlantic precipitation, we already may be on the verge of substantial North Atlantic climate disruption.

Storms conjoin with sea level rise to cause the most devastating coastal damage. 10 End-Eemian and projected 21st century conditions are similar in having warm tropics and increased freshwater injection. Our simulations imply increasing storm strengths for such situations, as a stronger temperature gradient caused by ice melt increases baroclinicity and provides energy for more severe weather events. A strengthened Bermuda High in the warm season increases prevailing northeasterlies that can help 15 account for stronger end-Eemian storms. Weakened cold season sea level pressure south of Greenland favors occurrence of atmospheric blocking that can increase wintertime Arctic cold air intrusions into northern midlatitudes.

Effects of freshwater injection and resulting ocean stratification are occurring sooner in the real world than in our model. We suggest that this is an effect of excessive small 20 scale mixing in our model that limits stratification, a problem that may exist in other models (Hansen et al., 2011). We encourage similar simulations with other models, with special attention to the model’s ability to maintain realistic stratification and perturbations. This issue may be addressed in our model with increased vertical resolution, more accurate finite differencing method in ocean dynamics that reduces noise, and 25 use of a smaller background diffusivity.

There are many other practical impacts of continued high fossil fuel emissions via climate change and ocean acidification, including irreplaceable loss of many species, as reviewed elsewhere (IPCC, 2013, 2014; Hansen et al., 2013a). However, sea level rise sets the lowest limit on allowable human-made climate forcing and CO2 , because of the extreme sensitivity of sea level to ocean warming and the devastating economic and humanitarian impacts of a multi-meter sea level rise. Ice sheet response time is shorter than the time for natural geologic processes to remove CO2 from the climate system, so there is no morally defensible excuse to delay phase-out of fossil fuel emissions as 5 rapidly as possible.

We conclude that the 2 ◦C global warming “guardrail”, affirmed in the Copenhagen Accord (2009), does not provide safety, as such warming would likely yield sea level rise of several meters along with numerous other severely disruptive consequences for human society and ecosystems. The Eemian, less than 2 ◦C warmer than pre-industrial 10 Earth, itself provides a clear indication of the danger, even though the orbital drive for Eemian warming differed from today’s human-made climate forcing. Ongoing changes in the Southern Ocean, while global warming is less than 1 ◦C, provide a strong warning, as observed changes tend to confirm the mechanisms amplifying change. Predicted effects, such as cooling of the surface ocean around Antarctica, are occurring 15 even faster than modeled.

Our finding of global cooling from ice melt calls into question whether global temperature is the most fundamental metric for global climate in the 21st century. The first order requirement to stabilize climate is to remove Earth’s energy imbalance, which is now about +0.6 W m−2 , more energy coming in than going out. If other forcings are unchanged, removing this imbalance requires reducing atmospheric CO2 20 from ∼ 400 to ∼ 350 ppm (Hansen et al., 2008, 2013a).

The message that the climate science delivers to policymakers, instead of defining a safe “guardrail”, is that fossil fuel CO2 emissions must be reduced as rapidly as practical. Hansen et al. (2013a) conclude that this implies a need for a rising carbon 25 fee or tax, an approach that has the potential to be near-global, as opposed to national caps or goals for emission reductions. Although a carbon fee is the sine qua non for phasing out emissions, the urgency of slowing emissions also implies other needs including widespread technical cooperation in clean energy technologies (Hansen et al., 2013a).

The task of achieving a reduction of atmospheric CO2 is formidable, but not impossible. Rapid transition to abundant affordable carbon-free electricity is the core requirement, as that would also permit production of net-zero-carbon liquid fuels from electricity. The rate at which CO2 emissions must be reduced is about 6 % yr−1 to reach 5 350 ppm atmospheric CO2 by about 2100, under the assumption that improved agricultural and forestry practices could sequester 100 GtC (Hansen et al., 2013a). The amount of CO2 fossil fuel emissions taken up by the ocean, soil and biosphere has continued to increase (Fig. S23), thus providing hope that it may be possible to sequester more than 100 GtC. Improved understanding of the carbon cycle and non-CO2 10 forcings are needed, but it is clear that the essential requirement is to begin to phase down fossil fuel CO2 emissions rapidly. It is also clear that continued high emissions are likely to lock-in continued global energy imbalance, ocean warming, ice sheet disintegration, and large sea level rise, which young people and future generations would not be able to avoid. Given the inertia of the climate and energy systems, and the grave 15 threat posed by continued high emissions, the matter is urgent and calls for emergency cooperation among nations.

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Lee, Again

July 27th, 2015 · Poet, Poetry

As I opened the beautiful Fulcrum Press hard-cover edition of Lee’s The White Room, out fell a letter and typescript of the poem “Old Bosham Bird Watch”, which you can read in toto in the available extracts from the Collected. Here the first page of Lee’s typescript:Leems

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Lee Harwood (1939-2015)

July 27th, 2015 · Obituaries

leeportsmall

Sad to see an old friend and a poet I admired very much leave our world. You should check out his Collected Poems published by Shearsman Books in 2004. Download a PDF sampler from this book here. Below, a poem from the early 70s:

Five postcards to Alban Berg

1
waves break over the headland
the pain of closeness  / “to a lover”
The mountains
walk in the mountains
The lightness of touch
clear air

2
the blue sky
(pan to) spring ploughing
and cattle grazing on the (green) slopes
the wild flowers abundant and      many coloured
Can you see now?   can I… ?
Many miles away…      Here

3
The dark night  / “close to your lover”
the rain and wind outside

4
in the evenings as the sun sets
red skies and the swimming

the insult of an image
when it’s only what’s here before you

5
the skies clear        (blue)
midday       the moon still there
sheep deep in the flowers      daisies and poppies
Off beyond the distance “you”
Minutes in the day when (maybe) the pictures cross
and focus
The island     firm
the mountains up into the sky      “beyond”

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Neo-Beat Amazigh Band

July 25th, 2015 · Amazigh, Arab Culture, Music, Translation

It was a pleasure last week to get together with poet El Habib Louai & his band — for their lovely gig in Brooklyn that included Louai’s Arabic translation of Ginsberg’s “America” & plenty of other goodies, poetry- and music-wise. They are a treat! Catch them if you get a chance…

Neo-Beat-Band_Page_1

Neo-Beat-Band_Page_2Neo-Beat-Band_Page_3 Neo-Beat-Band_Page_4

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Tomorrow: 50th B-Day of Dylan going Fender Stratocaster

July 24th, 2015 · Music, Whatever


As Carl Wilson remarks on Slate reviewing Elijah Wald’s book Dylan Goes Electric! Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night That Split the Sixties: “Because history is told by the victors, rock lore holds up the Newport tale as the fierce nonconformist standing up to the timid crowd, but on a deeper level it was one nonconformity against another, a dispute about what it meant to rebel.” And the famous myth about Dylan being booed, bottles thrown on stage, Pete Seeger supposedly asking for an axe to cut the cables, etc. seem to be just that: myth, i.e. one way of telling the story. As Wilson sums up Wald’s version: “Far from being driven from the stage, for instance, Dylan and band actually overstayed their allotted time, the closing-night showcase having been programmed to maximize diversity (and minimize idolatry) by granting tight 15-minute slots. Dylan was in the middle of the bill. There definitely was booing, but the most vociferous was about the shortness of the set. Others were responding to the uneven sound mix; only a minority were folk fundamentalists. (Still, since Dylan had never been received with anything but rapture at Newport, even a scrap of real hostility was news.) Also, nothing seems to have been thrown at the stage except in the solo acoustic encore, when Dylan asked for “an E harmonica” and a tinny rain of mouth harps clattered to the floor beside him.”

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Tariq Ali on Greece

July 23rd, 2015 · Europe, European History

p01gzww8Diary

Tariq Ali

LRB

July 2015

In the early hours of 16 July, the Greek parliament voted overwhelmingly to give up its sovereignty and become a semi-colonial appendage of the EU. A majority of the Syriza Central Committee had already come out against the capitulation. There had been a partial general strike. Tsipras had threatened to resign if fifty of his MPs voted against him. In the event six abstained and 32 voted against him, including Yanis Varoufakis, who had resigned as finance minister after the referendum, because, he said, ‘some Eurogroup participants’ had expressed a desire for his ‘“absence” from its meetings’. Now parliament had effectively declared the result of the referendum null and void. Outside in Syntagma Square thousands of young Syriza activists demonstrated against their government. Then the anarchists arrived with Molotov cocktails and the riot police responded with tear-gas grenades. Everyone else left the square and by midnight it was silent again. It’s difficult not to feel depressed by all this. Greece has been betrayed by a government that when elected only six months ago offered hope. As I walked away from the empty square the EU’s coup brought back memories of another.

I first went to Greece at Easter 1967. The occasion was a peace conference in Athens honouring the left-wing Greek deputy, Grigoris Lambrakis, murdered by fascists in Salonika in 1963 as the police looked on, and later immortalised in Costa-Gavras’s movie Z. Half a million people attended his funeral in Athens. During the conference wild rumours began to spread around the hall. On the podium, a Buddhist monk from Vietnam couldn’t understand why people had stopped listening to him. Someone with family connections in the military had reported that the Greek military, backed by Washington, was about to launch a coup to pre-empt elections in which they feared the left might do a bit too well. The foreign delegates were advised to leave the country straightaway. I caught an early-morning flight back to London. That afternoon tanks occupied the streets. Greece remained under the Colonels for the next seven years.

I went to Athens this month for the same reason: to speak at a conference, this one ironically entitled ‘Rising Democracy’. Waiting for a friend in a café in Exarchia, I heard people discussing when the government would collapse. Tsipras still has supporters convinced that he will triumph whenever the next election is held. I’m not so sure. It has been an inglorious six months. The young people who voted for Syriza in large numbers and who went out and campaigned enthusiastically for a ‘No’ vote in the referendum are trying to come to grips with what’s happened. The café was packed with them, arguing furiously. At the beginning of the month they were celebrating the ‘No’ vote. They were prepared to make more sacrifices, to risk life outside the Eurozone. Syriza turned its back on them. The date 12 July 2015, when Tsipras agreed to the EU’s terms, will become as infamous as 21 April 1967. The tanks have been replaced by banks, as Varoufakis put it after he was made finance minister.

Greece, in fact, has a lot of tanks, because the German and French arms industries, eager to get rid of surplus hardware in a world where wars are fought by bombers and drones, bribed the politicians. During the first decade of this century Greece was among the top five importers of weapons, mainly from the German companies Ferrostaal, Rheinmetall and Daimler-Benz. In 2009, the year after the crash, Greece spent €8 billion – 3.5 per cent of GDP – on defence. The then Greek defence minister, Akis Tsochatzopoulos, who accepted huge bribes from these companies, was convicted of corruption by a Greek court in 2013. Prison for the Greek; small fines for the German bosses. None of this has been mentioned by the financial press in recent weeks. It didn’t quite tally with the need to portray Greece as the sole transgressor. Yet a Greek court has been provided with conclusive evidence that the largest tax avoider in the country is Hochtief, the giant German construction company that runs Athens airport. It has not paid VAT for twenty years, and owes 500 million euros in VAT arrears alone. Nor has it paid the contributions due to social security. Estimates suggest that Hochtief’s total debt to the exchequer could top one billion euros.

It is often in times of crisis that radical politicians discover how useless they are. Paralysed by the discovery that those they thought were friends are not their friends at all, they worry about outrunning their voters and lose their nerve. When their enemies, surprised that they have agreed to more than the pound of flesh demanded, demand more still, the trapped politicians finally turn to their supporters, only to discover that the people are way ahead of them: 61 per cent of Greeks voted to reject the bailout offer.

It’s no longer a secret here that Tsipras and his inner circle were expecting a ‘Yes’ or a very narrow ‘No’. Taken by surprise, they panicked. An emergency cabinet meeting showed them in full retreat. They refused to get rid of the ECB placeman in charge of the Greek State Bank, and rejected the idea of nationalising the banks. Instead of embracing the referendum results, Tsipras capitulated. Varoufakis was sacrificed. The EU ministers loathed him because he spoke to them as an equal and his ego was a match for Schäuble’s.

Why did Tsipras hold a referendum at all? ‘He’s so hard and ideological,’ Merkel complained to her advisers. If only. It was a calculated risk. He thought the ‘Yes’ camp would win, and planned to resign and let EU stooges run the government. The EU leaders launched a propaganda blitz and pressured the Greek banks to restrict access to deposits, warning that a ‘No’ vote meant Grexit. Tsipras’s acceptance of Varoufakis’s resignation was an early signal to the EU that he was about to cave in. Euclid Tsakalotos, his mild-mannered successor, won the rapid approval of Schäuble: here was someone he could do business with. Syriza accepted everything, but when more was demanded, more was given. This had nothing to do with the economy, and everything to do with politics. ‘They crucified Tsipras,’ an EU official told the FT. Greece had sold its sovereignty for a third bailout and an IMF promise to help reduce its debt burden – Syriza had begun to resemble the worm-ridden cadaver of the discredited Pasok.

It, too, was once a party of the left. In 1981, when it first came to power, its leader, Andreas Papandreou, was hugely popular and in his first six months in office he pushed through real reforms – not the regressions that neoliberals call ‘reforms’ today. Many students radicalised by the struggle against the dictatorship, as well as many Marxist intellectuals who had contested US hegemony, flocked to join it. Within a few years some of the best known among them had been integrated morally and politically within the new structures of power as Papandreou took the country into the EU. But as the years passed Pasok degenerated. In this century it has been virtually indistinguishable from its old rival, New Democracy.

Syriza is a child of the current crisis and the movements spawned by it. A political instrument was needed to challenge the existing parties and Syriza was it. The aims that Tsipras has now abandoned were listed in the Thessaloniki programme, republished below, which the party accepted unanimously in September last year.

On their first trip to Berlin on 20 February this year, Schäuble made clear to Tsipras and Varoufakis that their programme was incompatible with membership of the Eurozone. Tsipras agreed to put the programme on hold and was offered a few ‘concessions’: the Troika – the auditors representing the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF – was replaced with a structure that was supposedly more accountable and whose bureaucrats would not be allowed to enter Greek ministries. This was claimed by Tsipras and Varoufakis as a victory. The truth was the opposite. It is now known that Schäuble offered an amicable, organised Grexit and a cheque for 50 billion euros. This was refused on the grounds that it would seem to be a capitulation. This is bizarre logic. It would have preserved Greek sovereignty, and if Syriza had taken charge of the Greek banking system a recovery could have been planned on its terms. The offer was repeated later. ‘How much do you want to leave the Eurozone?’ Schäuble asked Varoufakis just before the referendum. Again Schäuble was snubbed. Of course the Germans made the offer for their own reasons, but a planned Grexit would have been far better for Greece than what has happened.

When capitalism went into crisis in 2008, the scale of the disaster was such that Joseph Stiglitz was convinced it was the end of neoliberalism, that new economic structures would be needed. Wrong, alas, on both counts. The EU rejected any notion of stimulus, except for the banks whose recklessness, backed by politicians, had been responsible for the crisis in the first place. Taxpayers in Europe and the United States gave trillions to the banks. The Greek debt by comparison was trivial. But the EU didn’t want to make any shifts that could damage the process of financialisation that they had insisted was the only way forward. Greece, the weakest link in the EU chain, went first, followed by Spain, Portugal, Ireland. Italy was on the brink. The Troika dictated the policies to be followed in all these countries. Conditions in Greece have been horrific: a quarter of a million Greeks applied for humanitarian relief to buy food and help with rent and electricity; the percentage of children living in poverty leaped from 23 per cent in 2008 to 40.5 per cent in 2014 and is now approaching 50 per cent. In March 2015 youth unemployment stood at 49.7 per cent, 300,000 people had no access to electricity and the Prolepsis Institute of Preventive Medicine found that 54 per cent of Greeks were undernourished. Pensions dropped by 27 per cent between 2011 and 2014. Syriza insisted that this constituted collective punishment, and that a new ‘deal’ was needed, one that aimed to bring some improvement to the conditions of everyday life.

The EU has now succeeded in crushing the political alternative that Syriza represented. The German attitude to Greece, long before the rise of Syriza, was shaped by the discovery that Athens (helped by Goldman Sachs) had cooked its books in order to get into the Eurozone. This is indisputable. But isn’t it dangerous, as well as wrong, to punish the Greek people – and to carry on doing so even after they have rejected the political parties responsible for the lies? According to Timothy Geithner, the former US treasury secretary, the attitude of the European finance ministers at the start of the crisis was: ‘We’re going to teach the Greeks a lesson. They lied to us, they suck and they were profligate and took advantage of the whole thing and we’re going to crush them.’ Geithner says that in reply he told them, ‘You can put your foot on the neck of those guys if that’s what you want to do,’ but insisted that investors mustn’t be punished, which meant that the Germans had to underwrite a large chunk of the Greek debt. As it happens, French and German banks had the most exposure to Greek debt and their governments acted to protect them. Bailing out the rich became EU policy. Debt restructuring is being discussed now, with the IMF’s leaked report, but the Germans are leading the resistance to it. ‘No guarantees without control’: Merkel’s response in 2012 remains in force.

The capitulation means more suffering, but it has also led to questions being asked more widely about the EU, its structures and its policies. For Greeks of virtually all political persuasions the EU was once seen as a family to which one must belong. It has turned out to be a pretty dysfunctional family. I hadn’t been thinking of voting in the EU referendum in Britain whenever it takes place. Now I will. I’ll vote ‘No’.

17 July 2015

The Thessaloniki Programme

We demand immediate parliamentary elections and a strong negotiation mandate with the goal to:

    Write off the greater part of public debt’s nominal value so that it becomes sustainable in the context of a ‘European Debt Conference’. It happened for Germany in 1953. It can also happen for the South of Europe and Greece.

    Include a ‘growth clause’ in the repayment of the remaining part so that it is growth-financed and not budget-financed.

    Include a significant grace period (‘moratorium’) in debt servicing to save funds for growth.

    Exclude public investment from the restrictions of the Stability and Growth Pact.

    A ‘European New Deal’ of public investment financed by the European Investment Bank.

    Quantitative easing by the European Central Bank with direct purchases of sovereign bonds.

    Finally, we declare once again that the issue of the Nazi Occupation forced loan from the Bank of Greece is open for us. Our partners know it. It will become the country’s official position from our first days in power.

    On the basis of this plan, we will fight and secure a socially viable solution to Greece’s debt problem so that our country is able to pay off the remaining debt from the creation of new wealth and not from primary surpluses, which deprive society of income.

    With that plan, we will lead with security the country to recovery and productive reconstruction by:

    Immediately increasing public investment by at least €4 billion.

    Gradually reversing all the Memorandum injustices.

    Gradually restoring salaries and pensions so as to increase consumption and demand.

    Providing small and medium-sized enterprises with incentives for employment, and subsidising the energy cost of industry in exchange for an employment and environmental clause.

    Investing in knowledge, research and new technology in order to have young scientists, who have been massively emigrating over the last years, back home.

    Rebuilding the welfare state, restoring the rule of law and creating a meritocratic state.

    We are ready to negotiate and we are working towards building the broadest possible alliances in Europe.

    The present Samaras government is once again ready to accept the decisions of the creditors. The only alliance which it cares to build is with the German government.

This is our difference and this is, at the end, the dilemma:

European negotiation by a Syriza government, or acceptance of the creditors’ terms on Greece by the Samaras government.

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“Ulysses already wanted to go to Europe:”

July 22nd, 2015 · Cultural Studies, European History, Middle East

raoul-schrott-102-_v-img__16__9__l_-1dc0e8f74459dd04c91a0d45af4972b9069f1135Raoul Schrott on the Mediterranean

An excellent poet, translator (of the Odyssey & the Iliad, among others), essayist, travel writer, born in Germany and living today in Austria, Raoul Schrott, whom I have been reading for some 20 years now, is virtually unknown, because untranslated, in this country — which is a crying shame! In the context of a series of articles concerning the politics & cultures of the Mediterranean basin connected to the present boat-people refugee crisis, the German newspaper taz published an interview with Schrott in which he gives a sweeping overview of how Europe came to be Europe. Here some extracts I have translated:

taz: Mr. Schrott, was Ulysses the first boat-immigrant?

RS: No. He was able to return home after many years spent in a war. But he too, like the refugees today, wanted to get to Europe after a long war, in order to survive. Both are in their own ways war refugees.

As translator of not only the Iliad but also the Gilgamesh epos, as a spcialist of Homer, you are an expert in the antique Mediterranean world. What role did the Mediterranean play for people back then?

The Mediterranean and the countries that border it is a space in which humans as well as ideas have been wandering forever — where our area is only the end-station of this unending migration. But we ourselves are nothing else than the product of permanent migrations. Genetically we belong to the species Homo Sapiens which immigrated here from Ethiopia some 60,000 years ago.

Here Homo Sapiens met Neanderthal, the remainder  of the homo erectus population, who had himself immigrated from Georgia some 1.3 million years ago. To the latter we owe that we lost our curly hair and have a gene for white skin — otherwise we would be black. Some 9000 years ago, farmers from North Syria and Anatolia come into our Northern lands, bringing bags of single-grain wheat and barley, mix with us, bring the first Indo-European language and teaching us agriculture.

And then some 5000 years ago  people from the kazakh steppes, who know how to ride horses and had carriages, migrated all over Europe. They also brought the use of milk and cheese-making, brought also specific types of ceramics. The Europeans are wide mixture of peoples. The idea that there is something autochthonously  European, something like a  modern form of a “race,” that we are who we are, here, and all the others are strangers, is not only a total illusion, but totally absurd — we have always only been the end-station because the peninsula Europe happened to end here.

What does that mean in terms of culture?

That for example from the last ice-age until antiquity, Europe has taken over everything that came from Syria and Iraq: various grains, domesticated cattle, sheep, goats, the first urban centers, the first democracy and also the script — and all the knowledge connected with it.

Culturally speaking this is even more obvious. Our writing comes from the two-rivers land, Mesopotamia. The road traveled by this invention shows already how complexly things move, winding their ways around the Mediterranean. Culture does not mean to settle in one fixed place, culture means to develop something that is handed on that in a new context will be newly adapted. Our alphabet was originally adapted from egyptian hieroglyphs by semitic forced laborers in the Sinai peninsula. In North Syria these signs were enriched with vocals. The Phoenicians  spread this script. It was then taken over by the Greeks who called it the Phoenician script. The first traces of it were found on the island of Ischia. From there the script wanders over to the Etruscans in the Toscana and reaches the Romans — and only then does it come to us. Or look at the Middle Ages: when we took over everything from the Arab high culture. And you may be surprised when I tell you that even the most Greek of the gods all came from the Near east.

Apollo, Athene and Zeus too?

Apollo was originally an anatolian god called Apalunias, meaning father of the lions. Athena was Anat, the sister of the semitic war-god Baal. Zeus was the god Sius a sun-god already imported in Mycenaean times from Anatolia. Everything that the very first European text — Hesiod’s Theogony — tells us, stories ranging from the creation of the world to the origins of the gods, of man, of woman, were transported from Northern Syria, from what is today the Syrian-Turkish border, to Greece. And constitutes the basis of our European thinking. Add to this as second text the Iliad (which Hesiod already uses as resource) — & this didn’t just become for the Greeks a first historical document with which they could show that they too had a past, because before that they were migrants, before that they were working on ships, as sailors but also as pirates, and so on, in the most various countries of the Eastern Mediterranean. In 19C Germany this same document was then instrumentalized for another purpose: the unification of all this various Greeks fighting amongst themselves became a model that legitimized the unification of the various German Länder. In that sense we are not thinkable without ancient Greece just as ancient Greece is not thinkable without the other countries of the Mediterranean, especially the high cultures of the surrounding countries.

(to be continued)

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Carl Weissner Gets Stellar Notice in Book Podcast

July 20th, 2015 · Novel, Prose

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