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Avnery on Iran’s Theoretical Bomb

April 3rd, 2015 · Iran, Israel, Jewish Culture, Middle East, Palestine

avneryUri Avnery
April 4, 2015

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Bomb?

I MUST start with a shocking confession: I am not afraid of the Iranian nuclear bomb.

I know that this makes me an abnormal person, almost a freak.

But what can I do? I am unable to work up fear, like a real Israeli. Try as I may, the Iranian bomb does not make me hysterical.

MY FATHER once taught me how to withstand blackmail: imagine that the awful threat of the blackmailer has already come about. Then you can tell him: Go to hell.

I have tried many times to follow this advice and found it sound. So now I apply it to the Iranian bomb: I imagine that the worst has already happened: the awful ayatollahs have got the bombs that can eradicate little Israel in a minute.

So what?

According to foreign experts, Israel has several hundred nuclear bombs (assessments vary between 80-400. If Iran sends its bombs and obliterates most of Israel (myself included), Israeli submarines will obliterate Iran. Whatever I might think about Binyamin Netanyahu, I rely on him and our security chiefs to keep our “second strike” capability intact. Just last week we were informed that Germany had delivered another state-of-the-art submarine to our navy for this purpose.

Israeli idiots – and there are some around – respond: “Yes, but the Iranian leaders are not normal people. They are madmen. Religious fanatics. They will risk the total destruction of Iran just to destroy the Zionist state. Like exchanging queens in chess.”

Such convictions are the outcome of decades of demonizing. Iranians – or at least their leaders – are seen as subhuman miscreants.

Reality shows us that the leaders of Iran are very sober, very calculating politicians. Cautious merchants in the Iranian bazaar style. They don’t take unnecessary risks. The revolutionary fervor of the early Khomeini days is long past, and even Khomeini would not have dreamt of doing anything so close to national suicide.

ACCORDING TO the Bible, the great Persian king Cyrus allowed the captive Jews of Babylon to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. At that time, Persia was already an ancient civilization – both cultural and political.

After the “return from Babylon”, the Jewish commonwealth around Jerusalem lived for 200 years under Persian suzerainty. I was taught in school that these were happy years for the Jews.

Since then, Persian culture and history has lived through another two and a half millennia. Persian civilization is one of the oldest in the world. It has created a great religion and influenced many others, including Judaism. Iranians are fiercely proud of that civilization.

To imagine that the present leaders of Iran would even contemplate risking the very existence of Persia out of hatred of Israel is both ridiculous and megalomaniac.

Moreover, throughout history, relations between Jews and Persians have almost always been excellent. When Israel was founded, Iran was considered a natural ally, part of David Ben-Gurion’s “strategy of the periphery” – an alliance with all the countries surrounding the Arab world.

The Shah, who was re-installed by the American and British secret services, was a very close ally. Teheran was full of Israeli businessmen and military advisers. It served as a base for the Israeli agents working with the rebellious Kurds in northern Iraq who were fighting against the regime of Saddam Hussein.

After the Islamic revolution, Israel still supported Iran against Iraq in their cruel 8-year war. The notorious Irangate affair, in which my friend Amiram Nir and Oliver North played such an important role, would not have been possible without the old Iranian-Israeli ties.

Even now, Iran and Israel are conducting amiable arbitration proceedings about an old venture: the Eilat-Ashkelon oil pipeline built jointly by the two countries.

If the worst comes to the worst, nuclear Israel and nuclear Iran will live in a Balance of Terror.

Highly unpleasant, indeed. But not an existential menace.

HOWEVER, FOR those who live in terror of the Iranian nuclear capabilities, I have a piece of advice: use the time we still have.

Under the American-Iranian deal, we have at least 10 years before Iran could start the final phase of producing the bomb.

Please use this time for making peace.

The Iranian hatred of the “Zionist Regime” – the State of Israel – derives from the fate of the Palestinian people. The feeling of solidarity for the helpless Palestinians is deeply ingrained in all Islamic peoples. It is part of the popular culture in all of them. It is quite real, even if the political regimes misuse, manipulate or ignore it.

Since there is no ground for a specific Iranian hatred of Israel, it is solely based on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No conflict, no enmity.

Logic tells us: if we have several years before we have to live in the shadow of an Iranian nuclear bomb, let’s use this time to eliminate the conflict. Once the Palestinians themselves declare that they consider the historic conflict with Israel settled, no Iranian leadership will be able to rouse its people against us.

FOR SEVERAL weeks now, Netanyahu has been priding himself publicly on a huge, indeed historic, achievement.

For the first time ever, Israel is practically part of an Arab alliance.

Throughout the region, the conflict between Muslim Sunnis and Muslim Shiites is raging. The Shiite camp, headed by Iran, includes the Shiites in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. (Netanyahu falsely – or out of ignorance – includes the Sunni Hamas in this camp.)

The opposite Sunni camp includes Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf states. Netanyahu hints that Israel is now secretly accepted by them as a member.

It is a very untidy picture. Iran is fighting against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, which is a mortal enemy of Israel. Iran is supporting the Assad regime in Damascus, which is also supported by Hezbollah, which fights against the lslamic State, while the Saudis support other extreme Sunni Syrians who fight against Assad and the Islamic State. Turkey supports Iran and the Saudis while fighting against Assad. And so on.

I am not enamored with Arab military dictatorships and corrupt monarchies. Frankly, I detest them. But if Israel succeeds in becoming an official member of any Arab coalition, it would be a historic breakthrough, the first in 130 years of Zionist-Arab conflict.

However, all Israeli relations with Arab countries are secret, except those with Egypt and Jordan, and even with these two the contacts are cold and distant, relations between the regimes rather than between the peoples.

Let’s face facts: no Arab state will engage in open and close cooperation with Israel before the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is ended. Even kings and dictators cannot afford to do so. The solidarity of their peoples with the oppressed Palestinians is far too profound.

Real peace with the Arab countries is impossible without peace with the Palestinian people, as peace with the Palestinian people is impossible without peace with the Arab countries.

So if there is now a chance to establish official peace with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, and to turn the cold peace with Egypt into a real one, Netanyahu should jump at it. The terms of an agreement are already lying on the table: the Saudi peace plan, also called the Arab Initiative, which was adopted many years ago by the entire Arab League. It is based on the two-state solution of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Netanyahu could amaze the whole world by “doing a de Gaulle” – making peace with the Sunni Arab world (as de Gaulle did with Algeria) which would compel the Shiites to follow suit.

Do I believe in this? I do not. But if God wills it, even a broomstick can shoot.

And on the day of the Jewish Pesach feast, commemorating the (imaginary) exodus from Egypt, we are reminding ourselves that miracles do happen.

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Poems for the Millennium, volume 5: Barbaric Vast & Wild…

April 2nd, 2015 · Book Launch

…just out from Black Widow Press!

POEMS FOR THE MILLENNIUM, VOLUME 5: Barbaric Vast & Wild: An Assemblage of Outside & Subterranean Poetry from Origins to Present
Edited with commentaries by Jerome Rothenberg and John Bloomberg-Rissman

Barbaric Vast & Wild is a continuation and a possible culmination of the project that began with Jerome Rothenberg’s Technicians of the Sacred in 1968 and led to the first four volumes of Poems for the Millennium in the 1990s and 2000s. In this new and equally groundbreaking volume, Rothenberg and John Bloomberg-Rissman have assembled a wide-ranging gathering of poems and related language works, whose outside/outsider and subterranean/ subversive positions challenge some of the boundaries to where poetry has been or may be practiced, as well as the form and substance of the poetry itself. It also extends the time frame of the preceding volumes in Poems for the Millennium, hoping to show that, in all places and times, what the dominant culture has taken as poetry has only been part of the story.

Divided into four “books” – Visions, Voices, Extensions, and Performances – Barbaric Vast & Wildbrings together on a global and historical scale – from the paleolithic caves to the immediate present – works from the hieratic and sacred to the mundane and the radically transgressive and politically subversive. The range here is enormous: Egyptian pyramid texts, biblical prophecies, pre-Socratic poet-philosophers, Buddhist wanderers and “divine madmen,” along with poems and related language works from dialects and “nation languages,” thieves’ cants and other argots or vernaculars, working class and lumpen poetries, popular and newspaper poetry, sermons and rants, glossolalia and glossographia, slogans, graffiti, private writings (journals and diaries) or semi-private (correspondence, blogs, or social-networkings), and the “art of the insane” (Art Brut) that marked the early turning of avant-garde artists and poets to the idea of an “outside” poetry and art.  The work as a whole may be taken as another step toward what the editors have called an “omnipoetics” and an “anthology of everything.”

Writes Charles Bernstein of this latest addition to Poems for the Millennium:

Bararic Vast and Wild is the crowning jewel of the Poems for the Millennium series, just that it proposes a deep othering of the entire project, a movement beyond the radically reconceived visionary canon of poetic invention to an uncharted realm beyond any literary canon formation, from Blake’s chartered streets to something that proposes a reimaging of the literary in its re-grounding in the uncharted. … The fact is that the mad eclecticism of this anthology is its greatest virtue – it moves in leaps and bounds, like Nijinsky on peyote. It defies any category previously existing and yet as a reader I feel I get it, get it again, and get it over and again, as I am pulled in different directions. In a way, this book works, even more than Rothenberg’s other anthologies, as an epic poem – along the lines of a work, as Walter Benjamin imagined, composed just of quotations. The constellation – or set of constellations – is stunning and unexpected – the connections are themselves visionary or outside rational historical plotting. What this does is to make a book magically readable – not a text book, not a succession of cultural touchstones you ‘ought’ to know, but an autonomous reading experience that changes everything page by page.”

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Paul Celan and the Meaning of Language — An Interview with Pierre Joris

April 1st, 2015 · Book Launch, Interview, Paul Celan, Poetics, Poetry, Translation

Above right: Paul Celan, passport photo
Breathturn into Timestead:
The Collected Later Poetry of Paul Celan

A Bilingual Edition Translated and with Commentary by Pierre Joris
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 736 pages,ISBN-10: 0374125988


Doug Valentine with Pierre Joris

Paul Celan and the Meaning of Language
An Interview with Pierre Joris


There is great pleasure to be found in Paul Celan’s poetry. His dazzling neologisms (“wordwall”, “smokethin”, “icethorn”) and surreal imagery are testaments to how powerful, beautiful and intriguing imagination can be. But his poetry is difficult to understand, its emotional content buried, it seems, beneath the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust…..


Doug – Before we get to Breathturn, would you please tell me what you think are the core conceptual and emotional components of Celan’s poetry? You’ve spoken of his relationship with the German language; the loss of his mother; his biting sarcasm; and his “optimistic anarcho-socialist strain.”

Pierre – There can be little doubt that the core emotional experience for Celan was the loss of his parents, and especially the mother, in forced labor camps. Or, in a wider sense, he was shaped by those historical events that defined the generation(s) of Jewish (and non-Jewish) people who lived through the Nazi period. But it is important to note a very major difference between him and many, if not most, other survivors who were or became writers. 

As I wrote elsewhere, “despite the presence throughout the work (or better maybe below the work) of the events of the Nazi years, especially the murder of his mother, there is a strong refusal in Celan to let his writing become simply a repository for a narrative of the Shoah, in a profound contrast to most Holocaust writers, a major part of whose endeavor has been to dwell again and again on the past in order to chronicle with as much accuracy as it they could muster the events of their lives during those fateful years (Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi come to mind but also poets like Abba Kovener or Abraham Sutzkever). Not only did Celan not write such an autobiographical prosopopoeia, but  he refused steadfastly to speak in public or private about the events connected with the Shoah. Symptomatic for this reticence is the following biographical comment from 1949: “With the exception of a one year stay in France, I, for all practical purposes, never left my native city prior to 1941. I don’t need to relate what the life of a Jew was like during the war years.” This decision not to dwell on those years and the horrors they gave birth to —  no matter the shadow they throw on the rest of his life — informs the stance of his writing for the next quarter-century. One way to see you this is to examine the rewriting of the poem “Deathfuge” in the poem “Stretto” — which I did in some detail in the introduction to my 2005 bookPaul Celan: Selections (University of California Press).

continued here.

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Rap Against Rape

March 31st, 2015 · Violence Against Women

“How do you fight back against the brutality and violence of rape culture?” asksGreg Seals on the Daily Dot. And answers: “If you’re anything like artist Uppekha Jain or television host Pankhuri Awasthi, you shout so loud you can’t be ignored.

Only days after the release of the powerful BBC documentary India’s Daughter, these two women came together to shine a light on the reality of India’s rape culture by broadcasting their voices to the world in a powerful, viral video. Dubbing themselves the BomBaebs, the Mumbai-based women penned a searing spoken-word piece, ‘Rap Against Rape.'”

Unhappily Leslee Udwins BBC-Docu “India’s Daughter” can still not be seen outside England. Under pressure from the Indian Government, which is threatening the BBC with legal proceedings, the latter is slowly giving in, the Perlentaucher reports, saying that “a copy of the video circulating on Youtube has now been erased.”  I could not verify this as I found a copy on Youtube, though maybe this refers only to availability in India?


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English PEN’s Writers in Translation Winners:

March 29th, 2015 · Translation

 A European-language Heavy List

Moroccan writer Abdellatif Laâbi, writing in French, was one of 16 winners of a “PEN Translates” award, announced yesterday:

download (1)Although the list does include books originally written in the lesser-translated languages of Chinese, Turkish, and Gallegan (Galician), the majority are from the French (5), Spanish (3), and German (2), with additional titles from the Italian and two from the Portugeuse.

Within those languages, a diversity of nationalities, styles, and genres are represented, including the poetics of Abdellatif Laâbi in Selected Poems, translated by André Naffis-Sahely and set to be published by Carcanet in June 2016. Naffis-Sahely has previously won a Hemingway Grant to support the collection.

In a prepared release, Samantha Schnee, a trustee of English PEN and Chair of the Writers in Translation Committee, said that this most recent round of grants will enrich their “World Bookshelf” “even further, making our World Bookshelf an excellent resource for anyone wishing to explore the world through its finest contemporary literature — a boon to both armchair travellers and world travellers alike.”

Indeed, readers can “travel” from Colombia to China to the Congo, from Syria (in Jonthan Littell’s Syrian Notebooks) to Turkey to Morocco. But there is still a heavy concentration in just a few literary languages, without support for books from the Urdu, Hindi, Malayalam, Indonesian, Bengali, Vietnamese, Tamil, Farsi, and, all right, Arabic. It is a much different thing to engage a different language tradition vs. traveling with a writer to a different country.

Still, it is good to see more Chinese books receiving support in English translation, and there was also a Chinese winner among the “PEN Promotes” titles, A Perfect Crime, by A Yi, translated from the Chinese by Anna Holmwood and set to be published by Oneworld in May 2015.

Winners of a 2014 PEN Translates award:

  • Whispering City by Sara Moliner (pseudonym), translated from Spanish by Mara Lethem. Published by Little Brown. February 2015
  • Morning Sea by Margaret Mazzantini, translated from Italian by Ann Sarah Gagliardi. Published by Oneworld. March 2015
  • Gone to Ground by Marie Jalowicz Simon, translated from German by Anthea Bell. Published by Serpent’s Tail. March 2015
  • All Days Are Night by Peter Stamm, translated from German by Michael Hofmann. Published by Granta. March 2015
  • Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan, translated from Chinese by Helen Wang. Published by Walker Books. April 2015.
  • What Became of the White Savage by Francois Garde translated from French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins. Published by Dedalus. May 2015
  • Syrian Notebooks by Jonathan Littell, translated from French by Charlotte Mandell. Published by Verso. April 2015
  • Reckless by Hasan Ali Toptas, translated from Turkish by Maureen Freely and John Angliss. Published by Bloomsbury. March 2015
  • The Lights of Point-Noire by Alain Mabanckou, translated from French by Helen Stevenson Mann. Published by Serpent’s Tail. May 2015
  • The All Saints’ Day Lovers by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, translated from Spanish by Anne McLean. Published by Bloomsbury. May 2015
  • Now and At the Hour of Our Death by Susana Moreira Marques, translated from Portuguese by Julia Sanches. Published by And Other Stories. September 2015
  • The Low Voices by Manuel Rivas, translated from Gallegan by Jonathan Dunne. Published by Harvill Secker. February 2016
  • The End of Eddy Belleguele by Edouard Louis, translated from French by Sam Taylor. Published by Harvill Secker. March 2016
  • Horse Hands by Daniel Galera, translated from Portuguese by Alison Entrekin. Published by Hamish Hamilton. March 2016
  • Sudden Death by Alvaro Enrique, translated from Spanish by Natasha Wimmer. Published by Harvill Secker. April 2016
  • Selected Poems by Abdellatif Laâbi, translated from French by André Naffis-Sahely. Published by Carcanet. June 2016

Winners of a 2014 PEN Promotes award:

  • These are the Names by Tommy Wieringa, translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett. Published by Scribe UK. February 2015
  • Out in the Open by Carlos Carrasco, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa. Published by Harvill Secker. April 2015
  • A Perfect Crime, by A Yi, translated from the Chinese by Anna Holmwood. Published by Oneworld. May 2015

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Uri Avnery’s Vision for the Future of Israel & Palestine

March 28th, 2015 · Gaza Strip, Israel, Palestine, West Bank

avneryUri Avnery

March 28, 2015

The Israeli Salvation Front

THE 2015 election was a giant step towards the self-destruction of Israel.

The decisive majority has voted for an apartheid state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, in which democracy will slowly disappear.

The decision is not yet final. Israeli democracy has lost a battle. It has not yet lost the war.

If it does not draw the lessons, it will lose the war, too.

All the justifications and alibis of the Israeli Left are useless. It’s the bottom line that counts.

The country is in existential danger. Not from the outside, but from the inside.

An Israel Salvation Front is needed now.

We have no other country.

FIRST OF ALL, the full extent of the debacle must be acknowledged and full responsibility must be taken.

The leaders who lost must go. In the struggle for the life of the state, there is no second opportunity.

The struggle between Isaac Herzog and Binyamin Netanyahu was a match between a lightweight boxer and a heavyweight.

The idea of a National Union government must be rejected and roundly condemned. In such a government, the Labor Party would again play the contemptible role of a fig leaf for the policy of occupation and oppression.

Now a new generation of leaders is needed, young, energetic and original.

THE ELECTION pitilessly exposed the deep chasms between the different sectors of Israeli society: Orientals, Ashkenazis, Arabs, “Russian”, orthodox, religious and more.

The Salvation Front must encompass all sectors.

Every sector has its own culture, its own traditions, its own faith(s). All must be respected. Mutual; respect is the foundation of the Israeli partnership.

The foundation of the Salvation Front needs a new authentic leadership that must emerge from all sectors.

The State of Israel belongs to all its citizens. No sector has exclusive ownership of the state.

The huge and growing gap between the very rich and the very poor, which which largely parallels the gap between the ethnic communities, is a disaster for all of us.

The salvation of the state must be based on a return to equality as a basic value. A reality in which hundreds of thousands of children live under the poverty line is intolerable.

The income of the upper 0.01%, which reaches to the heavens, must be brought down to a reasonable level. The income of the lowest 10% must be raised to a humane level.

THE ALMOST total separation between the Jewish and the Arab parts of Israeli society is a disaster for both and for the state.

The Salvation Front must be based on both peoples. The chasm between them must be eliminated, for the good of both.

Empty phrases about equality and fraternity are not enough. They lack credibility.

There must come into being a sincere alliance between the democratic forces on both sides, not only in words but in actual daily cooperation in all areas.

This cooperation must find expression in frameworks of political partnership, joint struggles and regular joint meetings in all areas, based on respect for the uniqueness of each partner.

Only a permanent joint struggle can save Israeli democracy and the state itself.

THE HISTORIC conflict between the Zionist movement and the Palestinian Arab national movement now threatens both peoples.

The country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is the homeland of the two peoples. No war, oppression or uprising will change this basic fact.

If this conflict continues without end, it will endanger the existence of both peoples.

The one and only solution was and is their co-existence in two sovereign states: a free and independent State of Palestine side by side with the State of Israel.

The two-state solution is not a recipe for separation and divorce. On the contrary, it is a recipe for close co-existence.

The 1967 borders, with mutual agreed changes, are the basis of peace.

The co-existence of the two states in the joint homeland does necessitate frameworks of partnership at the highest level, as well as open borders for the movement of people and goods. It also needs solid security arrangements for the good of both peoples.

Jerusalem, open and unified, must be the capital of both states.

The painful tragedy of the Palestinian refugees must find its just solution, agreed upon by the two sides. This solution will include return to the Palestinian state, a limited symbolic return to Israel and the payment of generous compensation by international funds to all.

Israel and Palestine shall work together so as to achieve a return of Jewish property left in Arab countries or the payment of generous compensation.

The State of Palestine will keep its affinity with the Arab world. The state of Israel will keep its affinity with the Jewish people in the world. Each of the two states will have sole responsibility for its immigration policy.

The problem of the Jewish settlers in Palestine will find its solution in the framework of agreed border changes between the two states, the inclusion of some settlements in the Palestinian state with the agreement of the Palestinian government and the re-settlement of the rest of the settlers in Israel.

Both states shall cooperate in the creation of a democratic regional partnership, in the spirit of the “Arab Spring”, while resisting anarchy, terrorism and religious and nationalistic fanaticism throughout the region.

The masses of Israelis and Palestinians will not believe in the chances of peace and co-existence if there is no real and open partnership between the peace camps of both peoples.

To establish such a partnership, organizations and individuals of both sides must start right now to conduct joint political action, such as constant consultation and joint planning on all levels and in all areas.

THE JEWISH character of the State of Israel finds its expression in its culture and its affinity with the Jews throughout the world. It must not express itself in its interior regime. All citizens and all sectors must be equal.

The democratic forces within the Jewish and the Arab public must join hands and work together in their daily actions.

International pressure by itself will not save Israel from itself. The salvation forces must come from within.

World-wide pressure on Israel can and must assist the democratic forces in Israel, but cannot take their place.

BASIC VALUES do not change. However, the ways of talking about them with the public must change.

The old slogans are ineffective. The values must be re-defined and re-formulated in up-to-date language, in line with the concepts and language of a new generation.

The two-state vision was defined after the 1948 war by a small group of path-blazers. Since than, huge changes have taken place in the world, in the region and within Israeli society. While the vision itself remains the only practical solution of the historic conflict, it must be poured into new vessels.

There is a need for political unity, a unifying salvation front that brings together all the forces of peace, democracy and social justice.

If the Labor Party is able to re-invent itself from the bottom up, it can constitute the basis of this camp. If not, an entirely new political party must be formed, as the core of the Salvation Front. 

Within this front, diverse ideological forces must find their place and engage in a fruitful internal debate, while conducting a unified political struggle for the salvation of the state.

The regime within Israel must assure complete equality between all Jewish ethnic communities and between the two peoples, while safeguarding the affinity of the Israeli-Jewish public with the Jews in the world and the affinity of the Israeli-Arab public with the Arab world.

The situation in which most of the resources are in the hands of 1% of the population at the cost of the other 99%, must come to an end. A reasonable equality between all citizens, without connection with their ethnic origin, must be restored.

There is no social message without a political message, and there is no political message without a social message.

The Oriental Jewish public must be full partners in the state, side by side with all other sectors. Their dignity, culture, social status and economic situation must be accorded their proper place.

The religious-secular confrontation must be postponed until after peace is achieved. The beliefs and ceremonies of all religions must be respected, as well as the secular worldview.

The separation of state and religion – such as civil marriage, mass transportation on Shabbat – can wait until the struggle for existence is decided.

The protection of the judicial system, and above all the Supreme Court, is an absolute duty.

The various associations for peace, human rights and social justice, each of which conducts its laudable independent struggle in its chosen field, must enter the political arena and play a central role together in the unified Salvation Front.

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Richard Moore, Poet & Film-Maker (1920-2015)

March 27th, 2015 · Film, Obituaries, Poetry

Poet, film-maker, founding member of KPFA, yogi and much more, Richard Moore was associated with the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance. More details here & here for tributes. Below the just posted film with Robert Duncan and John  Wieners.

Published on Mar 25, 2015
From the series USA: Poetry (1965) by Richard O. Moore

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Gulf Stream in Trouble

March 26th, 2015 · Climate Change, Man-made Disaster, Oceans, Uncategorized

Atlantic Conveyor - graph by Rahmstorf from PIK 20150317

Press Release by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research


Atlantic Ocean overturning found to slow down already today

The Atlantic overturning is one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards.  Also known as the Gulf Stream system, it is responsible for the mild climate in northwestern Europe. Scientists now found evidence for a slowdown of the overturning – multiple lines of observation suggest that in recent decades, the current system has been weaker than ever before in the last century, or even in the last millennium. The gradual but accelerating melting of the Greenland ice-sheet, caused by man-made global warming, is a possible major contributor to the slowdown. Further weakening could impact marine ecosystems and sea level as well as weather systems in the US and Europe.

“It is conspicuous that one specific area in the North Atlantic has been cooling in the past hundred years while the rest of the world heats up,” says Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, lead author of the study to be published in Nature Climate Change. Previous research had already indicated that a slowdown of the so-called Atlantic meridional overturning circulation might be to blame for this. “Now we have detected strong evidence that the global conveyor has indeed been weakening in the past hundred years, particularly since 1970,” says Rahmstorf.

Because long-term direct ocean current measurements are lacking, the scientists mainly used sea-surface and atmospheric temperature data to derive information about the ocean currents, exploiting the fact that ocean currents are the leading cause of temperature variations in the subpolar north Atlantic. From so-called proxy data – gathered from ice-cores, tree-rings, coral, and ocean and lake sediments – temperatures can be reconstructed for more than a millennium back in time. The recent changes found by the team are unprecedented since the year 900 AD, strongly suggesting they are caused by man-made global warming.

“The melting Greenland ice sheet is likely disturbing the circulation”

The Atlantic overturning is driven by differences in the density of the ocean water. From the south, the warm and hence lighter water flows northwards, where the cold and thus heavier water sinks to deeper ocean layers and flows southwards. “Now freshwater coming off the melting Greenland ice sheet is likely disturbing the circulation,” says Jason Box of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. The freshwater is diluting the ocean water. Less saline water is less dense and has therefore less tendency to sink into the deep. “So the human-caused mass loss of the Greenland ice sheet appears to be slowing down the Atlantic overturning – and this effect might increase if temperatures are allowed to rise further,” explains Box.

The observed cooling in the North Atlantic, just south of Greenland, is stronger than what most computer simulations of the climate have predicted so far. “Common climate models are underestimating the change we’re facing, either because the Atlantic overturning is too stable in the models or because they don’t properly account for Greenland ice sheet melt, or both,” says Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University in the US. “That is another example where observations suggest that climate model predictions are in some respects still overly conservative when it comes to the pace at which certain aspects of climate change are proceeding.”

No new ice-age – but major negative effects are possible

The cooling above the Northern Atlantic would only slightly reduce the continued warming of the continents. The scientists certainly do not expect a new ice age, thus the imagery of the ten-year-old Hollywood blockbuster ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ is far from reality. However, it is well established that a large, even gradual change in Atlantic ocean circulation could have major negative effects.

“If the slowdown of the Atlantic overturning continues, the impacts might be substantial,” says Rahmstorf. “Disturbing the circulation will likely have a negative effect on the ocean ecosystem, and thereby fisheries and the associated livelihoods of many people in coastal areas. A slowdown also adds to the regional sea-level rise affecting cities like New York and Boston. Finally, temperature changes in that region can also influence weather systems on both sides of the Atlantic, in North America as well as Europe.”

If the circulation weakens too much it can even break down completely – the Atlantic overturning has for long been considered a possible tipping element in the Earth System. This would mean a relatively rapid and hard-to-reverse change. The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates there to be an up to one-in-ten chance that this could happen as early as within this century. However, expert surveys indicate that many researchers assess the risk to be higher. The study now published by the international team of researchers around Rahmstorf provides information on which to base a new and better risk assessment.

Article: Rahmstorf, S., Box, J., Feulner, G., Mann, M., Robinson, A., Rutherford, S., Schaffernicht, E. (2015): Exceptional twentieth-century slowdown in Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation. Nature Climate Change (online) [DOI:10.1038/nclimate2554]

Weblink to the article:

Attached material:

- Figure 1 of the article by Rahmstorf et al (2015), showing linear trends of surface temperature for 1901–2013, based on the temperature data of NASA GISS (white indicates insufficient data)

- Atlantic Conveyor – Graph of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation by Stefan Rahmstorf from PIK

Further information:

- Weblink to NASA animation “The Great Ocean Conveyor Belt” (downloadable video that shows the current system that now is found to slow down in the North Atlantic): here

- Weblink to a study on possible impacts of a shutdown of the thermohaline circulation: here

- Weblink to the expert assessment of an AMOC tipping: here.  

Map based on NASA GISS data of warming 1901-2013 in Rahmstorf AMOC NCC study 2015

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Happy 90th B-Day, Pierre Boulez!

March 25th, 2015 · Composer, Concert, Music

Olivier Messiaen: “Beneath it all, Pierre Boulez is simply a poet.”

Soprano Marisol Montalvo sings Pierre Boulez’s “Pli selon pli” live with L’Ensemble Intercontemporain conducted by Matthias Pintscher. “Pli selon Pli” is a set of five songs based on poems by Stéphane Mallarmé. It is for me one of the seminal 50s/60s musical compositions & bears returning to again & again. Details on composition & the poems available here; see also the following homage in the Guardian.

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Dawn Clements @ Pierogi: hurry!

March 24th, 2015 · Uncategorized

The latest show of Dawn Clements’ magisterial work is up now at the Pierogi gallery — but only until 29 March. So hurry to 177 North 9th Street in Brooklyn to catch it!


Here’s the Press Release:

Pierogi is pleased to present an exhibition of recent work by Dawn Clements. In addition to continuing to explore the subject of domesticity, Clements takes on sentimentality. This new body of work includes paintings on paper of aging floral and still life arrangements on her kitchen table. Clements’ signature glued, folded and distressed paper, gives the work an almost sculptural quality. This and her use of scale, endow these works with a heft and depth of feeling that is remarkable.

“After some years involving much travel away from home, I took this past year to be home, reflect and work. This work took me back to my living space, particularly the kitchen table. I count my days through my work. The past seven-and-a-half years of my life have involved love, loss, and change. Thoughts of passing days, people, gestures and the often overlooked objects of daily life have driven my work in a sentimental direction, many in the form of watercolor flower works.”   (Clements, 2015)

In addition to a renewed focus on her domestic space, Clements has also made a return to color. This exhibition will include large and medium-scale works on paper: in Gallery one, primarily large watercolor paintings of Clements’ year in her kitchen, such as “Peonies”, “Chrysanthemums,” and “Hyacinth, Camellia, and Sugar Egg.” On view in Gallery two will be several black and white works including a large ballpoint pen drawing of a woman in her bedroom from Raffaello Mattarazzo’s film “L’angelo bianco” (1955) and a drawing of the library at Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Umbertide, Italy.

This will be Dawn Clements’ sixth one-person exhibition at Pierogi. Her work is currently on exhibit at Bates College Museum of Art (“Back and Forth: the collaborative works of Dawn Clements and Marc Leuthold”), and has been included in numerous exhibitions including: “Paper” (Saatchi Gallery, London), “Ghost of Architecture” (Henry Art Gallery, Seattle), “Ballpoint Pen Drawing Since 1950” (Aldrich Contemporary, CT), “Making Room: The Space Between Two and Three Dimensions” (MassMoCA), “11th National Drawing Invitational: New York, Singular Drawings” (Arkansas Arts Center), “Contemporary American Drawing” (Xiang Art Museum, Sheng Zheng, China), and the Whitney Biennial 2010 (Whitney Museum of American Art, NY). Her works are included in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art (NYC), Whitney Museum of American Art (NYC), Brown University, The Tang Museum, the Deutsche Bank Collection, among others. Clements received an MFA from the State University of New York at Albany and a BA from Brown University. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.



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