Monthly Archives: June 2011

Facebook to June 24

What’s on your mind?
  • The so-callled Republican party is now the last gasp of racism and caricature economics. A mighty effort before, hopefully, time sweeps it away. They started the Civil War. Why don’t they end it and die with its end. What is the new party coming. Or does this country have enough independent thinking left to create one?

    7 minutes ago · Like ·

  • What is the white on the walls of the Matisse Chapel in Vence – every photo is different. But what a lovely white it may be.
    June 19 at 6:09pm · Like · · Share
    • Michael Dowd likes this.
      • Michael DowdMy mother told me that when I went to the south of France I really should see that chapel. I had not expected something so modest and understated, a tiny building next to a small road, but after I’d been inside that lovely quiet space for even a few minutes it became magical.

        June 20 at 7:31am · Like
      • Karl ReismanYes – I visited it some 20 years ago, but the sisters coralled us in a crowd and led us through – so it was sort of noisy. But I have always felt it was one of the great works of art or faith or whatever it is.

        4 minutes ago · Like
    • Write a comment…
  • Amira Hass interview on CBC Sundat – only Israeli journalist to live in the occupied territories – “I keep finding new ways to express anger. I don’t want to repeat myself.”

    Hour One – Amira Hass has perhaps the most dangerous beat for a reporter in the world. For the past 18 years, she has reported from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Israel’s occupied territories.
    June 19 at 5:57pm · Like · · Share
  • Republican Leadership Conference – This country was born, and it wants to die – a slave society.

    The nation’s GOP elite gathered in New Orleans this weekend for the Republican Leadership Conference. In attendance were presidential candidates Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and potential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Prior to a speech by RNC Chair Reince Preibus, an Obama impers
    June 18 at 9:23pm · Like · · Share
      • Michael DowdI didn’t think much of Bachman, Gingrich et. al. but that is wildly offensive and disgraceful. Unbelievably racist.

        June 19 at 9:59am · Like
      • Michael DowdWonder what Mass. Republican Senator Scott Brown will have to say on this? An apology Monday morning would be good, and a request that the RNC chair apologize as well.

        June 19 at 10:08am · Like
      • Karl ReismanYeah – but the RNC is not ‘responsible’ for the RLC.?

        9 minutes ago · Like
    • Write a comment…
  • ‎”Liberal Press” Bah! They kill their own. Spitzer Wiener.- ‘Christian’ morals – never ends.

    June 12 at 6:54am · Like ·

      • Michael Dowd

        It is a curious reality that many of the same Liberal commentators who defended Clinton’s real sex behavior want Weiner to leave for email sex. But how can one start to explain the “Born Again Christian” Eric Cantor (R) saying Congressman W…See More
        June 12 at 7:16am · Like
    • Write a comment…
  • Review – history of modern lit crit – of Bloom The Anatomy of Influence – by Sam Tanenhaus

    At the age of 80, with almost 40 books behind him and nearly as many accumulated honors, Harold Bloom has written a kind of summing-up of his monumental career as a critic and scholar.

Last night’s “debate”

The farce that is the Republican propaganda machine and its windbag candidates takes us back to a time well before my birth 80 years ago.
Alf Landon ran in 1936 – but there was no television or powerful media
to make it sound important.

Carrie Nation prohibition know nothingism the civil war-That these candidates are deluded does not make their backers’ plan less terrifying.


Someone asked me 2 questions. Replies

Question 1

As for BANKS – I just spent two hours trying to deal with
an “Urgent” message sent me on a secure channel by my bank – Wachovia – which I could not reach because the link to it was hidden in a list of small print in the lower right hand side of the screen.
And which when after many phone calles to Wells-Fargo who could tell me nothing, when I finally got the message it told me about something I could not DO anything about for 4 weeks. Truly urgent.
Everybody is much too specialized and robotic for the system to survive at all.    Including EYE doctors.

It is my impression that when GW Bush took office the US banks represented about 22%  of the US Economy.
And that now they represent about 66% of the US economy.
Clearly something is wrong.

And this octopus is expecting the so-called “people” of Ireland and Spain and Iceland and “Greece”  to make up for all their numerical chaos selling fake products
(see The Big Short by Michael Lewis and the Harvard Senior thesis the CDO Market Meltdown  by A. K. Barnett-Hart 2009)

And yes – if there is a chance for the finance people to design an
artificial product that will tie Greece to them to Europe or anybody else,
they will do it.
There ought to be a law preventing all but a limited list of
basic financial products.
But that would “limit the free market”.

Basically I think
That corporations are not “persons” and should not have the protection of persons.
That corporations are made only accountable to their shareholders – and that this is no longer a viable way for them to be organized. They need at the least to be accountable for the long-run costs of their operations,
no matter how unpredictable these may be.
And that it is people who need to be “rescued”.

So much for banks. Except to say that JP Morgan was a lot more efficient than the present system, (not to ignore  12 hour
child labor and other such niceties).

Question 2
As for Joyce.
Ulysses gets its ratings because its IDEA is more directly accessible to the “public” – including the people on the committees that choose these things.
I think that Joyce already thought that Finnegans Wake was more important and that Ulysses was “past work”
The immensity of the thinking in Finnegans Wake is beyond contemplation – and is alreadly lost in time, like the Buddha.
Joyce in this sense seems out of time – and was already enjoying it all while alive, somehow knowing – or giving the illusion of knowing – the past and the future, laughing and
at the same time weeping, for the world, for his daughter, and for the human race, and feeling “crucified”.

So let us laugh.

You suggested we read other classics – not just Joyce on June 16.
And let us start – why not – reading at least the Illiad online
every year – WHEN. How do we pick a date?
Dante is much harder.  I recently found an Italian animation
“Dante.s.Inferno.An.Animated Epic.2010.Italian”,                                            which comes fairly close to making Dante somewhat available to me – although I doubt I shall ever achieve it.

It is much clearer when read aloud
particularly in Italian – which I don’t much understand.
so maybe we could broadcast the reading that already exists
Please pardon my ironical tone throughout this letter.

June 11 2011 from Facebook

  • Review – history of modern lit crit – of Bloom The Anatomy of Influence – by Sam Tanenhaus

    At the age of 80, with almost 40 books behind him and nearly as many accumulated honors, Harold Bloom has written a kind of summing-up of his monumental career as a critic and scholar.
    4 minutes ago · Like · · Share
  • Greece

    Here are the hard facts about the ongoing crisis in Greece. Fact one: After over a year of trial and error, Greece’s bailout of 110 billion euros has not worked since the tough austerity measures that were imposed upon Greeks have failed to significantly eliminate deficits; instead, budgets remain o
    The world is not all bribery corruption war and massacre – just mostly. There are some socially and politically beautiful moments that we must treasure – and of course hope.
  • It isn’t true that a watched pot never boils; it just takes longer.
    · Like · Cathy Lee Gasconlikes this.

  • Gregor Shapiro Kvällen är ung – Long days are one of the great beauties of the world.
    “beautiful – OK so you have long…” on Gregor Shapiro‘s photo.
  • “Aristocracy can only go so far….” on Michael Dowd‘s status.
  • Obviously necessary after the Bush cuts for the rich and since.

    We cannot shred the social safety net when it’s most needed. It’s long past time to require the super wealthy to pay their fair share.
  • Who needs a bank? Johnson #Open Democracy Can Bitcoin ( work?

    Peter Johnson has worked in technology companies and financial services and is a member and trustee of the New London Chamber Choir. He is also a consultant for KidStart and a trustee of Siblings Together. In 2010 he founded a parent group that recently applied to found a bilingual primary free scho
  • Europe and the Heroism of Reason (Husserl 1935) from “Open Democracy”

    Jorge Semprun’s experience of exile and incarceration, political engagement and imaginative writing meant that he both lived and reflected on the disasters that befell Europe in the mid-20th century, Here, he seeks the heart of Europe via a journey through three moments of its modern history.
  • corporations are not persons and money is not speech –

    Join Move to Amend this 4th of July as we Declare Our Independence from Corporate Rule in communities across the nation!

    ‎”chilling new Al-Qaeda video – “lone wolves” in the U.S. should buy assault rifles and carry out wave of shootings”

    Al-Qaeda’s spokesman and Bin Laden’s possible successor tells lone wolves in the US to exploit gaps in our guns laws, buy assault weapons and launch a wave of mass shootings.

  • “Cosmetic surgery and allied procedures were less hard hit by the great global crash than many other businesses. Women saw their faces and bodies as assets needing investment to help them in a tough market” LMD Mona Chollet
  • So we are finally in that science fiction world.

  • “Fear of Islamic fundamentalism exonerated Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s predatory regime in Tunisia, fear of “Marxism” justified Silvio Berlusconi’s victories in Italy. And a (legitimate) fear of the Front National (FN). . could mean that any policy the FN is against would become sacrosanct in France.. . To accept this intellectual straitjacket is an act of political folly” Serge Halimi Le Monde Diplomatique.
  • Karl and Alan Robert Roughleyare now friends.

    As Tom Lehrer once said “Freedom of PLEASURE, a right UNFORTUNATELY NOT guaranteed by the Constitution.”

June 10 2011 Some Tweets


Europe and the Heroism of Reason (Husserl 1935) from “Open Democracy” I love this piece. 2002 still deep & true.
The Scandal of France: Power and Shame  Patrice de Beer                       “the French media has always tried to observe a CLEAR distinction between public and private
also re Anthony Wiener.



The city has triumphed:  Over  50% of the world’s population is now urban.




Who needs a bank? Johnson #Open Democracy Can #Bitcoin work? @Maddow @MMFlint @CountdownKO @Hardball


jordi sevilla segura

sevillajordijordi sevilla segura

by Bryllars
RT @olgarodriguezfr: Salario mínimo:
Belgica 1.336€    France 1.321€    England 1.148€
        Spain 641€

Luciano Frontelle

frontelleLuciano Frontelle

by Bryllars
” We can’t tolerate it that 43% of the young have no jobs. That should be the first priority of our society,” @ BBC #spanishrevolution
@Hardball “the French media has always tried to observe a clear distinction between public and private lives”
Iowa Idaho Ohio “IOHADAWA” Stephen Colbert – or IDAOHIOWA? Or IDAHIOWA? Or IDAHOWA?
Michael Moore
MMFlintMichael Moore
Brigette DePape, the Canadian Senate page who stunned Canada with her silent protest, explains why she did it:

June 10 2011 some Facebook posts

  • Gregor Shapiro Kvällen är ung – Long days are one of the great beauties of the world.
    7 minutes ago · Like · · Share
  • A light supper, a good night’s sleep, and a fine morning have often made a hero of the same man who by indigestion, a restless night, and a rainy morning, would have proved a coward. — Earl of Chesterfield
    Karl Reisman and Robin Finnegan shared a link.

    We cannot shred the social safety net when it’s most needed. It’s long past time to require the super wealthy to pay their fair share.
    25 minutes ago · Share
  • The rule in the art world is: you cater to the masses or you kowtow to the elite; you can’t have both. — Ben Hecht
    Yesterday at 9:24am· Like ·

      • Michael DowdWhen I judge art, I take my painting and put it next to a God made object like a tree or flower. If it clashes, it is not art. – Paul Cezanne

        4 hours ago · Unlike · 1 person
      • Karl Reisman

        Aristocracy can only go so far. Yes aristocratic works – Bach (for whom?) Mozart even Joyce produce a richness – if it has an audience trained to understand it – that small group works do not need. We are here at the question of the value of Art. One of the great human acievements, like the equally difficult understandings of Einstein and his followers. Joyce attempted to make complexity flexible and universally available. But in one way that is a contradiction. Still narrowing us down to aristocratic work will not do.
        20 minutes ago ·
  • corporations are not persons and money is not speech –

    Join Move to Amend this 4th of July as we Declare Our Independence from Corporate Rule in communities across the nation!
  • Charles Roberts and Gulf Stream Council are now friends.
    • Write a comment…
  • The Clinton administration launched an attack on people in Texas because those people were religious nuts with guns. Hell, this country was founded by religious nuts with guns. Who does Bill Clinton think stepped ashore on Plymouth Rock? – P. J. O’Rourke

Europe and the Heroism of Reason (Husserl 1935) from “Open Democracy”

What being “European” means to me

Jorge Semprun, 8 June 2011

Jorge Semprun’s experience of exile and incarceration, political engagement and imaginative writing meant that he both lived and reflected on the disasters that befell Europe in the mid-20th century, Here, he seeks the heart of Europe via a journey through three moments of its modern history.

(This article was first published on 27 February 2002)

About the author
Jorge Semprun (1923-2011) was an author, screenwriter, and engaged political intellectual. He was born in Spain and educated in exile in France, where he joined the Spanish Communist Party in 1942 (he was expelled in 1964). He became a resistant during the Nazi occupation, before being arrested and deported to Buchenwald concentration camp. He served as Spain’s minister of culture from 1988-91. Jorge Semprun died in Paris on 7 June 2011

In order to organise my thoughts about Europe, I want to take three intellectual journeys to try to approach its reality from both a cultural and an historical point of view.

The topic is rich and vast. It is hard to find ways of traversing this immensity. I’ll start with a memory. It is Vienna 1935, towards the end of the great period of Viennese culture. This is the city where writers and painters inherited all the great riches of European culture. Sigmund Freud is still working here.

The year of 1935 is important, the moment in Europe when the two European totalitarianisms – Nazism and Stalinism – began turning on each other. The Nazis had been in power in Germany for two years, and Austria has begun to feel the rot. Its government is already caving in before fascism.


In Germany, Hitler’s SS had started liquidating the plebeians in his own movement, while in the Soviet Union, Stalin was beginning to exterminate the Bolshevik old guard.

Two years later, in 1937, during the Paris Exhibition on the right bank of the Seine, the Soviet and German pavilions stood defiantly facing each other. On the Hitler pavilion there were huge eagles; the Soviet building sported a pair of Caucasian metal-workers whose image became famous across the world, expressing after a fashion a certain socialist ideal. The lucid minds of the time discovered in this confrontation a surprising cultural resemblance that resided in the heroic surrealism of the sculpture and the grandiose architecture of the pavilions.

The Spanish republic had a pavilion in the same exhibition. Spain was then into the the second year of its civil war for. In part because of the politics of “non-intervention”, the republic was beleaguered. But, at the risk of sounding chauvinistic, this modest pavilion had a kind of sobering and modern allure. Pablo Picasso’s Guernica was there, Alexander Calder’s Fountain of Mercury, the last painting by Juan Miro – the most modern and audacious art of the time. This exemplified a kind of successful relationship between the political and the cultural avant-garde.

Two years on, in 1939, the Spanish republic was defeated; and with the German-Soviet pact the two totalitarianisms set about carving up Europe.

Prague: Husserl’s heroism of reason

In May 1935 in Vienna, an old German philosopher of Jewish origin, called Edmund Husserl, gave a lecture. At that time, he was already in flight from his native Germany. Even by 1928, his philosophy student and disciple, Martin Heidegger, had deleted from the fly-leaf of his book, Being and Time, the warm dedication : “To his Master, Edmund Husserl, with veneration and friendship”. It didn’t look good, to say the least, if a lecturer at a German university insisted on dedicating his book to a Jew who had been chased out of the university.

A whole book could be written on the meaning of this murderous deletion, this negationism. By deleting the name, Heidegger pretended to wipe out the decisive contribution of Jewish culture to the German language from German university life, indeed from German cultural life as a whole.

In 1838 Heinrich Heine had written that the profound affinity which prevailed between those two radical nations, the Jewish and the German, was destined to create together in Germany, a new Jerusalem, a modern Palestine. It was an Enlightenment dream: the fusion of these two cultures. And one might have believed in that era that it was possible, that we were on the path to that merger.

Remembering the great figures of German literature and culture in that epoch – Freud, Einstein, Kafka, not forgetting Elias Canetti and others – it is obvious that the Jewish part of German culture made an inestimable contribution to the Europe of the time. And now, more than two generations later, we still feel the lack of it.

The annihilation is still there, haunting us. With the extermination, and the subsequent decline of the life of the diaspora since the creation of Israel, this Jewish culture – both European and cosmopolitan – is missing. This is assuredly one of the major lacunae in the construction of Europe today.

Husserl’s 1935 lecture was couched in extremely abstract, rigorous philosophical terms. He talks about philosophy during the crisis which was gathering in Europe, and asks a vital question: what does Europe represent today? His first answer is that Europe is above all, a spiritual entity. It cannot be defined by its territorial character.

“I see Europe”, he says, “not as a country which we could circumscribe on a map. From a spiritual point of view, it is obvious that Great Britain and the United States of America, belong to Europe”. Immediately, one can begin to see what Husserl means by the spiritual character of Europe – a whole tradition of thinking, an extended critique which has its roots deep in our cultural history.

Husserl’s Europe is linked neither to a piece of land nor to the whole discourse of nationhood. And indeed, his second important idea is the concept of supranationality. This was the first time that a European philosopher had clearly delineated this concept. He calls for a transformation worthy of Europe at its best: an unprecedented supranationality which would grow out of the unique spiritual strength of Europe. Nations, Husserl argues, come together only thanks to the dictates of commerce and the perpetual contestation of powers. He talks about the necessity of moving beyond this.

What is striking is that there is no mention of Nazism in this text. After his colloquium, Husserl was on his way back to Germany, where indeed he would live until his death in 1939. He converted to Catholicism, having taken refuge in a convent in flight from persecution. This is how all these conference manuscripts were saved – preserved in the convent and smuggled out by the priests to Louvain.

The third of Husserl’s points in this extremely rich text is his argument that Europe’s crisis of 1935 could only be resolved in one of two ways. There would be either a fall of Europe, where it becomes spiritually alienated from its own meaning, a collapse into spiritual hatred and barbarism; or it was possible that Europe could undergo a spiritual rebirth, arising out of the heroism of reason. The author might be reproached at this point for his impossibly abstract line of thinking. Idealist philsophy of the will as the only remedy for the disintegration of Europe? This, surely, is too obscure.

Nevertheless, the heroism of reason, while it is an abstract concept, is one which can help to develop a very interesting and concise historical metaphor. For, present in that lecture hall in Vienna in 1935, was a young Czech student of phenomenology called Jan Patocka. He organised his own conference in Vienna a few months later, echoing Husserl’s idea of Europe.

Patocka, at the time less than 30 years old, is one of the most interesting and unfairly neglected figures in European philosophy. He studied at the University of Prague, but was prevented by Nazism and (after 1948) by the communist regime from continuing his studies. His books were mostly the transcripts of private seminar papers, later translated into French.

Patocka returned again and again to Husserl’s lecture on Europe. One of his collections was called Plato and Europe, and another The idea of Europe : a poem. His political writings, anthologised in French under the title Freedom and Sacrifice, include several pieces about Europe. And in its own calm fashion, Husserl’s phrase the heroism of reason came to apply to Patocka’s own life very exactly.

For Patocka became, alongside Vaclav Havel and Jiri Hajek (foreign minister during the brief Prague spring of 1968), one of the signatories of Charter77 – the movement of Czech intellectual dissidents. Jan Patocka died on 13 March 1977 at the age of 70, having been harshly interrogated by the communist police for ten hours.

On the day of his funeral, police helicopters circled over his cemetery to keep people away from the ceremony. They shut all the flower-shops in Prague so that nobody could buy any flowers to put on his grave. For me, this is a very strong metaphor.

To think of this philosopher, who as a young man attended this conference in Vienna about the spiritual and philosophical struggle for Europe’s survival – against barbarism and the death of the spiritual life – dying during police interrogation, with all the flower-shops being closed down while he was buried…is quite something!

Weimar and Buchenwald: Europe against Europe

Now to take another route to what seems to me to be essential in the spiritual culture of Europe. Weimar, a small German city with a long and important politico-cultural history, is one of those places which is perhaps the most appropriate for inspiring meditation in Europe, or even the world.

a gate in a garden

On an island on the banks of the river which runs from the ramparts of its old city walls, there is the summerhouse and garden which belonged to Goethe. There, surrounded by reminders of this man who was a great European, one of the defenders of its cosmopolitanism in its deepest sense, is a good place to think about what has become of Europe.

It is really an extraordinary place. For Weimar, the cultural capital of Europe in 1999, is the home of Schiller’s and Nietzsche’s archives; it is also only a few kilometres from the site of the Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald. This proximity is both very strange and instructive.

It is a kind of short-cut to the political as well as the cultural history of Germany. In the 1920s Weimar was the place where, for only the second time in the country’s history, Germany’s national assembly gathered to attempt to create a constitution for what became the Weimar republic. The delegates were trying to create a seed-bed for parliamentary democracy, which in the event the Nazis would destroy and bury beneath their charnel-houses.

Now that the Weimar republic and the Buchenwald concentration-camp have both disappeared, it is possible to begin to see what Europe means – something which has precisely been constructed against fascism and against Stalinism. This history was already fully visible by 1937 when Buchenwald was opened by the Nazis.

At first, it was full of the German political opposition, the communists and social democrats. Later, it became an international camp where all the peoples of Europe were represented. But it wasn’t an extermination camp, like Auschwitz or Birkenau. It didn’t have gas-chambers. It was a camp where people were destroyed through forced labour, not by sudden extermination.

The camp was shut down by the third American army, led by General Patton, and was empty by June 1945. But in September of that same year it was reopened as a special camp under the authority of the Soviet forces; only in 1950 (after the creation of the German Democratic Republic) was it finally closed to become a place of memory. It is therefore a very significant site.

A museum of Nazism marks the spot. But the titles to the exhibits must be read rather carefully to avoid the impression that the camp was liberated by the Red Army rather than the Americans. So now, there is another, smaller museum next to the first, which tells the story of the Soviet camp. Here, in Buchenwald, is the history of Europe in a striking nutshell – the history of Europe against which Europe is being built today.

London: Orwell’s rediscovery of democracy

A final detour is through London. George Orwell (whose true name was Eric Blair) fought in Spain in an International Brigade connected to the extreme left-wing of Europe – a grouping which was diametrically opposed to Stalinism – whose local representatives were the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM). From this experience he wrote a fantastic work, Homage to Catalonia. In mid-1940, he began another remarkable book (finished in 1941, just before the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union), The Lion and the Unicorn.

Orwell, an internationalist and a socialist, opposed to Stalinism, confronted daily by the Luftwaffe’s bombing-raids (“As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me”) reacted in a characteristically surprising way: he set about rediscovering England.

The Lion and the Unicorn is a groundbreaking book about the reclamation of a sense of national belonging by someone who was driven to extreme radicalism precisely by his internationalism; one reason for his opposition to Stalinism was its abandonment of internationalism in the retreat to building “socialism in one country”.

From today’s perspective, Orwell’s encounter with England is both a rediscovery of belonging and of liberal democracy from someone who had come from a strongly left-wing position. Because it must be said that liberal democracy was the target not only of the fascists and Nazis, but also of the extreme left. A democracy which had become stultified had enemies on both sides. So, Orwell’s essay appears today as also essentially about democracy – as the universal precondition for western societies.

Maybe I should have started with this. But I will finish with this, or recommence with this! Because, in Europe today, it is so clear that the unity of Europe can only be founded on the basis of democratic reason, the principles of democracy and the certainty of its values. Many western intellectuals like to question or denigrate the universality of democracy. They like to support in its stead, the local values of community life, the warmth and succour of those local communities, communitarianism itself.

But in the Europe that is being built, there are many ways that Orwell’s basic universalist and democratic principles might be translated into local values. On this basis indeed, it is obvious that Europe’s unity can be built only through diversity.

There are those who argue with extraordinary equanimity that Europe must have but one single language. That would be a disaster, in my opinion. It would be akin to giving up our history and our roots. Some of these advocates have little doubt that only the French language merits this exclusive status – thanks to its clarity, its capacity for abstraction, its precision. But today, the democratic basis of Europe must be built on the knowledge of several languages, not with the imposition of a new lingua franca.

Europe, compared to other regions of the world, has the resources and opportunity to draw upon a great range of languages and cultures. This is a huge linguistic advantage. But there are, after all, three intercontinental if not universal European languages: English, Spanish and French. If a second chauvinist moment may be forgiven, the only language which is irresistibly expanding in the world today is Spanish. English is also expanding, but it is way behind Spanish! Spanish is even competing with English in the United States, the bastion of the English language in the modern world.

The existence of three world languages in Europe creates the the chance to build Europe’s spiritual character through cultural diversity and respect, through the knowledge and practice of all cultures and languages. Today, the very sense of the unity of Europe must come through cultural diversity and its practice: and that means everyone in Europe speaking at least two European languages.