The Green Train - Witness Filmmakers: Rashed Radwan and Carmen Marques' Once upon a time Iraq boasted an extensive railway network criss-crossing the country. But like so much else there, trains were a victim of the years of conflict and now only a skeleton service still runs. Sixty-one year-old Abdul Latif Salman has a unique connection to the railways and a personal history that mirrors the turbulence of recent decades. In his youth he was one of three drivers assigned to Saddam Hussein's private luxury train. He was later a prisoner of war in Iran for ten years and his son was killed by a bomb attack on a government building in Iraq.
Democracy | Special Reports | The Browser
War No More As Steven Pinker observes, we recall the twentieth century as an age of unparalleled violence, and we characterize our own epoch as one of terror. But what if our historical moment is in fact defined not by mass killing but by the greatest levels of peace and safety ever attained by humankind? By way of this provocative hypothesis, the acclaimed psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist aims to liberate us from the overblown victimhood-by-contiguity of the present moment, maintaining quite credibly that we ought to be grateful for living when we do. In his vivid descriptions of the distant and recent past, Pinker draws from a wide range of fields beyond his own to chart the decline of violence, which he says "may be the most important thing that has ever happened in human history." He argues that prehistory was much more violent than early civilization and that the past few decades have been much less violent than the first half of the twentieth century.
The myth of the rational voter Bryan Caplan, of George Mason University and blogger at EconLog, talks about his book, The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies. Caplan argues that democracies work well in giving voters what they want but unfortunately, what voters want isn't particularly wise, especially when it comes to economic policy. He outlines a series of systematic biases we often have on economic topics and explains why we have little or no incentive to improve our understanding of the world and vote wisely. So, it's not special interests that are messing things up but the very incentives that lie at the heart of a vote-based system.
The crisis raises legitimate questions about capitalism itself | The A-List | Must-read views on today’s top news stories – FT.com
Economists and Democracy by Dani Rodrik - Project Syndicate Exit from comment view mode. Click to hide this space CAMBRIDGE – I have been presenting my new book The Globalization Paradox to different groups of late. By now I am used to all types of comments from the audience. But at a recent book-launch event, the economist assigned to discuss the book surprised me with an unexpected criticism.
Guest blogger Steven Spadijer, of Australian National University, continues with Part Two of his series on Direct Democracy. Part One is available here. In today’s post I’ll examine the role direct democracy has on informing the people. Weekend Musing: Direct Democracy and Voters - macrobusiness.com.au | macrobusiness.com.au
Weekend Musing: Direct Democracy and Economics - macrobusiness.com.au | macrobusiness.com.au Guest blogger Steven Spadijer presents a multi-part series on Direct Democracy to start off the Weekend Musing articles for 2012. In this first post he examines the empirical evidence, speficially the economic impact versus a “representative” democracy. The second post will confront the questions regarding the intelligence of voters, particularly the information-rich environment effect on voter knowledge and interest in politics.
Hackgate, power elites and the limits of the “corruption” critique Just days before the first revelations of hackgate started to emerge, I remarked to a left-wing friend of mine impatient at the failure of the causes we share to gain any wider traction, that it was nearly always “corruption” scandals involving elites rather than the power of reasoned critique which opened up a window for profound and lasting change. The observation stemmed from the insight of Robert Darnton, and other scholars of revolutionary France, that it was not so much the rational arguments of the Enlightenment philosophes, but the relentless attacks of the libellistes – the French gutter press - on the greed and depravity of Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette, which led to the French populace’s disillusionment with monarchy and ultimately the downfall of the ancien regime. More recently, we saw in Egypt, how the malfeasance of Mubarak’s government, as exposed by Wikileaks and others, played such an important role in spurring on the protesters.
This weekend The Chronicle of Higher Education published an opinion piece by Michael Morris arguing that in the name of campus security campuses should start data mining all student internet traffic. Or as the not so subtle, fear mongering, almost fit for Fox News title says, “Mining Student Data Could Save Lives.” Morris’s article to put the matter bluntly is a phenomenally bad idea. Indeed his argument so ill conceived that it is difficult to know where to begin in exposing the problems. Making the University a Police State
'The Fate of an Honest Intellectual', by Noam Chomsky (Excerpted from Understanding Power) I'll tell you another, last case—and there are many others like this. Here's a story which is really tragic. How many of you know about Joan Peters, the book by Joan Peters? There was this best-seller a few years ago [in 1984], it went through about ten printings, by a woman named Joan Peters—or at least, signed by Joan Peters—called From Time Immemorial. It was a big scholarly-looking book with lots of footnotes, which purported to show that the Palestinians were all recent immigrants [i.e. to the Jewish-settled areas of the former Palestine, during the British mandate years of 1920 to 1948]. And it was very popular—it got literally hundreds of rave reviews, and no negative reviews: the Washington Post, the New York Times, everybody was just raving about it.
University Inc. corporate corruption of Research & HE
“We need a wholesale revision of how a democracy both listens to and treats young people.”  The global reach and destructiveness of neoliberal values and disciplinary controls are not only evident in the widespread hardships and human suffering caused by the economic recession of 2008, they are also visible in the ongoing and ruthless assault on the social state, workers, unions, higher education, students, and any vestige of the social at odds with neoliberal values. Under the regime of market fundamentalism, institutions that were meant to limit human suffering and misfortune and protect the public from the excesses of the market have been either weakened or abolished, as are many of those public spheres where private troubles can be understood as social problems and addressed as such.  Privatization has run rampant, engulfing institutions as different in their goals and functions as public schools and core public services, on the one hand, and prisons, on the other. Beyond the Limits of Neoliberal Higher Education: Global Youth Resistance and the American/British Divide | Truthout
Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down: the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody. They were not figuring these things out as they went along.
Activists: Gabriela Romano, Jenny Lujan and Marcela Crabbe Filmmaker: Rodrigo Vazquez Argentinians are used to hitting the streets to start revolutions, fight for their rights or overthrow governments. But now people are taking to the streets to protect the country's valuable water sources up in the Andean mountains from multinational mining companies. This film is made from within the anti-mining activist movement and will follow three teachers that have defeated a Canadian mining company and are now mounting a campaign against a Chinese one. How to Stop a Multinational - Activate
The New American Corporate State - Forbes.com
In a noted 2008 essay, Mark Fisher reflected on the pervasive sense of capitalism’s permanence, a feeling he termed “capitalist realism.” But despite its gloomy tone, the piece ended on a note of hope: The very oppressive pervasiveness of capitalist realism means that even glimmers of alternative political and economic possibilities can have a disproportionately great effect. The tiniest event can tear a hole in the grey curtain of reaction which has marked the horizons of possibility under capitalist realism. The Strike and Its Enemies
The State of Statelessness - Henry Farrell Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imaginationby Benedict AndersonVerso, 2006, 255 pp., $25 The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asiaby James C. ScottYale University Press, 2009, 464 pp., $35 On August 8, 1897, Michele Angiolillo, an Italian anarchist, shot Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, the Prime Minister of Spain.