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Tuesday, 19 June


Goodbye to the Mackintosh

By Dorothy Bruce

What can you say when a building burns down. If a factory or empty structure then you probably dont say anything wonder perhaps at what might go up in its place. But when its a building like the Mackintosh School of Art then again there are no words. How can words express what Glaswegians and so many others feel about a building described by that overworked word iconic?

The Mackintosh or the Mack as it was locally referred to, was part of Glasgows, Scotlands, Europes and international architectural and cultural heritage. It was also a renowned academic institution, internationally recognised as one of Europes leading university-level institutions for the visual creative disciplines.

it heralded the closure of an era of classical affectations and stuffy decor, reimagining and reinventing structure, spaces and interior designs.

Im no expert in art. Ive merely dabbled in painting and drawing courses, done a few classes in tapestry weaving, visited numerous galleries, and have known artists. Oh, and I spent years obsessed with researching and writing a book on Alexander Reid and those around him at that period. The resulting book never got into print as publishers seem to have a blockage when faced with anything to do with art, despite my manuscript being a biography rather than a book about paintings. But when you write about Reid art has to find a place in the narrative. Reid was the Glasgow art dealer who lived in Pariss Montmartre, and for some months in 1876 lodged with the Van Gogh brothers, working in a local gallery with Theo whilst being painted a number of times by Vincent.

I dont know how well Reid might have known



Deturpaes: Notas crticas sobre Mercadorias e Educao All that is Solid for Glenn Rikowski

Glenn Rikowski

Deturpaes: Notas crticas sobre Mercadorias e Educao







My article Deturpaes: Notas crticas sobre Mercadorias e Educao has been published in Curriculo sem Fronteiras (Vol.18 No.1), a Brazilian journal.


The Resumo / Abstract are below, and you can get the article from either Academia of ResearchGate.

Glenn Rikowski



Este artigo argumenta que as tentativas de entender a mercantilizao da educao e da pesquisa educacional, sem recorrer ao maior pensador sobre as formas de mercadoria Karl Marx -, inevitavelmente levam a confuses e a deturpaes na teoria educacional. Isso demonstrado por meio de uma crtica a um artigo recente de David Bridges (2017), no qual o autor se concentra na mercantilizao na pesquisa educacional. Ao ignorar as ideias de Marx, e tambm de tericos marxistas contemporneos, que escrevem sobre a mercadoria e a mercantilizao, Bridges no realiza distines cruciais na anlise da mercantilizao e, alm...


Global capitalism in Central Asia and competing economic imaginaries openDemocracy

For the US, Russia and China, Central Asia is a space of competing economic influences.

Khan Shatyr entertainment centre. Photo CC BY 2.0: Ben Dalton / Flickr. Some rights reserved.The US, Russia and China have competing visions and strategies of economic development in Central Asia, partly in response to economic problems and contradictions in their own advanced and emerging capitalist economies. In seeking to regulate Central Asia, the major powers are also competing to shape global capitalism and the international order. Central Asia offers an array of economic opportunities for major powers, including access and control of valuable natural resources, favourable terms of trade and efficient trade routes.

In recent years, two economic regional integration initiatives have propelled Central Asia from the periphery to the centre in geopolitics. First, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) was established by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in 2015, with Armenia and Kyrgyzstan joining later. The EEU introduces the free movement of goods, capital, labour and services, and provides for common policies in macroeconomic and industrial spheres. There are plans for greater economic integration and harmonisation, and for its expansion and cooperation with countries from South Asia and Middle East. It operates through supranational and intergovernmental institutions, and is largely modelled on the European Union.

Second, in 2013 President Xi Jinping of China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to create trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient trade routes, such as the land and maritime Silk Road. Since then, many Central and South Asian countries have signed cooperation agreements with China to invest in roads, railways and transport hubs, as well as i...


I am from Salamiya but none of this applies to me openDemocracy

In Syria, one could notice some of the significant remarks denigrating others based on their religion, sect, race or color.

This article by Abdullah Amin Al-Hallaqforms part of a special series focused on Oral Culture and Identity in Syria. It is the outcome of an ongoing partnership between SyriaUntold and openDemocracys North Africa West Asia in a bid to untangle the roots of sectarian, ethnic and other divides in Syria.


For better or for worse, I am not sure which exactly, I was born in the city of Salamiya, located in the heart of Syria to the east of Hama. I am Ismaili by birth (Ismailism is a branch of Shia Islam). Both my parents belong to the Ismaili faith but I am irreligious by conviction. I follow secular tactics in my day-to-day life and apply secular strategies to live in the world. I respect the right of any person to believeas well as not to believein any religion or doctrine (although most believers do not respect or recognize our rights to not believe). I respect that right provided they do not see their sect or religion as the end of all righteousness, based on supernatural and shamanistic ideologies firmly rooted in environments still mired in superstitions.

Holding ones own sect in high regard was not shown publically in Syria, perhaps due to the Syrian mosaic and coexistence propaganda, which we experienced so clearly after the revolution! However, one could notice some of the significant remarks that were flourishing among the least educated in this or that community, remarks denigrating to others. Denigrating others based on their religion, sect, race or color is to a certain extent a pretension to superiority based on ones own sectarian or religious affiliation. There is no need to dwell on the obvious here: the need to not label an entire group with one defining feature, and to be careful not to attribute to the whole what only some of its members might gossip about. For the purpose of this article, however, there are some rare verbal n...

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Monday, 18 June


Scotland is better at democracy than Westminster but thats too low a bar openDemocracy

Three quarters of Scots feel they have little or no influence over local services. A coalition of campaigners is seeking to change that.

Image: Garbh Allt, one of the latest community land buyouts. Credit: Garbh Allt Community Intiative Estate

Scotland is a great teacher about modern politics. The politics is more open and inclusive than it is in Westminster partly as a result of having ditched Westminsters one-party-takes-all voting system. But being better at democracy than Westminster is not a particularly high bar.

Scotland does not escape the inequality, confusion and precariousness that is fuelling bad politics across the globe. Democracy is not only about elections: in Scotland we see a relatively vibrant political and activist culture, often challenging and at times belligerent in the face of concentrations of power. Still, we can do better.

Democracy is not only about elections it is mostly about power. Jane MacLeay, the American trade union organiser, defines power as being the ability to stop bad things happening to you and your community and the ability to make good things happen. If democracy is about anything it should be about making sure that all communities have that sort of power. This might seem obvious but it is not a conclusion we came to quickly.

In 2012, a coalition of campaigners including Common Weal, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Scottish Rural Parliament, Galgael and others, began to try and work out what would make Scotlands democracy better. We had a good starting point Scotlands 1989 Claim of Right drawn up by the Scottish Constitutional Convention, which asserts the sovereignty of Scottish people.

We wanted to discuss and begin to describe how this beautiful idea could be made a reality. After 18 months of public meetings, roundtables and a citizens assembly we produced a set of recommendations called Democracy Max.

The main idea is that democracy should work best locally in the places we live and work, send our kids to school, dance with our friends...


Mondays trade votes are a cynical move to entrench undemocratic procedures openDemocracy

The vote on EU trade deals with Canada and Japan is a cynical move to quash debate about the democratic processes for and the content of the UKs future trade deals.

This Monday, MPs will be asked to debate and vote on two EU trade deals with Canada and Japan. The government will argue that this is all about stability for business and normal because we remain an EU member until the end of the transition period.UPDATE: after this article was published the order of business for parliament was changed to remove the debate about the EU-Canada deal. The debate on the EU-Japan deal went ahead as scheduled and the debate on the EU-Canada deal is likely to be tabled soon. This Monday, MPs will be asked to debate and vote on two EU trade deals with Canada and Japan. The government will argue that this is all about stability for business and normal because we remain an EU member until the end of the transition period. We must not be fooled: tabled ten months before the transition period and in the midst of Brexit mayhem, this is a cynical move to quash debate about the democratic processes for and the content of the UKs future trade deals. Lets start with the argument that signing on to the EU-Canada (CETA) and EU-Japan (JEFTA) trade deals sends a strong signal to business that the UK is serious about maintaining stability as it enters the transition period. In fact, the opposite is true. The government has delayed, beyond all reasonable expectations, bringing its Trade Bill back to the Commons. The Bill is extremely limited in scope, but it does seek to establish the transfer of EU trade deals into UK law. Not bringing it to parliament means that, ten months before we enter the transition period, when we are allowed to start formal trade negotiations, we still dont have an adequate procedure in place to govern the transfer of EU trade deals into UK law. More importantly, there is no agreement from partners that they are prepared to do this without making changes to the text. There is also no indication from the UK government about the kind of trade deal it wants nor how it will incorporate expertise from business or civil society into the negotiat...


American students as teachers: facing the world adults are wrecking openDemocracy

Im glad to see corporate America standing with me and the other students of Parkland and everybody else, he said, because when we work together we can accomplish anything.

lead MAY 25, 2018: David Hogg and other students in Publix supermarket, Parkland Florida, honoring victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. SMG/Press Association. All rights reserved.

During the first week of May 1963, more than 800 African-American students walked out of their classrooms and into the streets of Birmingham, Alabama, to call for an end to segregation. Despite frequent arrests and having dogs and high-pressure firehoses turned on them, they kept marching. Their determination and ceaseless bravery later called the Childrens Crusade was captured in photographs and newspaper articles across the country. Through acts of peaceful and defiant civil disobedience, these students accomplished what their parents had failed to do: sway public opinion in support of the civil rights movement.

Fast forward to March 24, 2018. Naomi Wadler, a fifth grader, is standing at a podium in front of hundreds of thousands of protesters at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. Young as she was, Wadler, who organized a walkout at her elementary school to honor the 17 victims of the Parkland massacre, delivered a searing and heartfelt speech about the countless gun-related deaths of African-American women in America. Her steely resolve and the power of her message brought me to tears. I wondered: Is this what it will take? Will a new generation of fearless student-leaders be the agents of change that America so desperately needs?

As a teacher, it took me a while to begin to see just what my students truly had in them. During my first two years of high school teaching, Im not sure I loved or even liked my teenage students. If someone asked me about my job, I knew the right things to say working with teenagers was challenging yet inspiring but I didnt believe the lip service I was paying the profession. Much of my initial experience in the classroom was emotiona...


Nicaragua: Ortega/Murillo's tough exit from power openDemocracy

In Nicaragua, the idea that its six million people are capable of running their own country and determining their destiny is not yet an established one.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and First Lady Rosario Murillo greet supporters during an event commemorating the 36th anniversary of the Sandinista National Liberation Front. AP Photo / Esteban Felix.All rights reserved

Upon reaching political power in 2007, the Ortega/Murillo duo designed a strategy for staying in government for a long period of time. The strategy was based on three pillars: one, purchasing and/or acquiring consciences within State institutions and semi-autonomous bodies - including big business; two, manipulating and making changes in the written law and the political constitution of Nicaragua to suit them best; and three, completely destroying political parties that could possibly have been real opponents. They never were.

Two State institutions should be mentioned here in particular, both of which were caught in the whirlpool of this strategy: the Army and the Police. A "supreme chief" was imposed on both entities and proceeded to exert his power arrogantly and manipulatively. He offered them opportunities for enrichment, power, and technical training, and asked in exchange only one thing: blind obedience - as blind, in fact, as to lead them to forget the content of and due compliance with their founding charter, which establishes them as non-partisan, non-deliberative institutions, abiding by the Constitution under civilian rule. This political concept became a secondary priority, shunned and veiled both institutionally and in practice.

The strategy had also a populist component: attention to an impoverished, jobless society with little or no education or training which demanded goods and services to be able to survive. This included handouts and donations of land, breeding stock, zinc, wood, nails, purlins, half-built houses, parks, videos, alcohol, music and T-shirts to kit out this social philosophy and bad use of money.

It was embarrassing to hear people who went to university, who have studied abroad, stating on television and in printed articles that Ortega was "intelligent".



How El Salvadors evangelicals have joined the backlash against womens reproductive rights openDemocracy

The changing religious landscape in this historically Catholic country has not been good news for women, who live under one of the worlds harshest anti-abortion laws.

A Protestant megachurch in El Salvador, 2018. Photo: Flickr/BBC World Service. CC-BY-2.0. Some rights reserved.In El Salvador, just being suspected of having an abortion can put a woman behind bars. In February 2008, Teodora del Carmen Vsquez was sentenced to 30 years in prison for aggravated homicide after she had a stillbirth.

It was the worst thing that I could have lived, Vsquez, 34, told 50.50 over the phone from her house, about 30 minutes outside San Salvador. For me, those were difficult moments, more than anything because they separated me from my son and from the people who love me my parents and siblings.

Vsquez was released from prison in February 2018, after a decade behind bars, when her sentence was commuted by the supreme court.

She has not been absolved of the crime, however, and the government has not apologised for her long detention. Nor can she get back the time she lost with her son, now 14 years old.

More than 100 women have been convicted of abortion-related crimes in El Salvador since abortion was illegal under all circumstances, in 1997.

Religious groups lobbied for the ban more than 20 years ago. They continue to protest any loosening of the restrictions that have been proposed in the countrys legislative assembly, the latest of which...


Better from a friend or from a bank? Kyrgyzstan between informal and formal financial services openDemocracy

A third of Kyrgyzstans GDP sits in informal institutions. I spoke to people who use these systems to find out how it works and why its important.

Market at Jalal-Abad, Kyrgyzstan. Photo BY-NC-ND 2.0: Marco Fieber / Flickr. Some rights reserved.As the taxi driver prepares to embark on his daily route connecting Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, to Talas, a city located in the countrys north east, a passer-by hands him stacks of money. The man explains that the money (which is the national currency, the som) is for his village. The driver appears accustomed to this sort of request: he charges his fee and takes the stacks. Once we depart, I ask the driver about this financial transfer, and he explains that the funds are meant to cover the persons sherine obligations. You know, his sherine is quite a costly one, I wonder why do people go on with this system?

Sherine is the Kyrgyz term that designates an informal financial institution widespread across Kyrgyzstan, a country in the heart of Central Asia that achieved independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. This system corresponds to what economists term Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (ROSCAs). The concept describes a group of individuals who agree to make a number of financial contributions to a common pot over a predefined period of time. At the groups regular meetings, the pots lump sum is given in turn to each contributor for their personal use, until eventually every group member has had their turn in using the funds, which ends a sherine life cycle.

ROSCAs have been around for centuries all over the world, albeit under different denominations. As prominent US political scientist Robert Putnam puts it in his seminal book Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, ROSCAs have been found from Nigeria to Scotland, from Peru to Vietnam, from Japan to Egypt, from West Indian immigrants in the eastern United States to Chicanos in the West, from illiterate Chinese villagers to b...


Confronting the money-power elite openDemocracy

Those who control the creation and allocation of money are able to control every other aspect of society. Shouldnt that be us?

Credit: Flickr/Liz West. CC BY 2.0.

The world today is controlled by a small elite group that has been increasingly concentrating power and wealth in their own hands. There are many observable facets to this power structure, including the military security complex that President Eisenhower warned against, the fossil fuel interests, and the neoconservatives and others that are promoting US  hegemony around the world, but the most powerful and overarching force is the money power that controls money, banking, and finance worldwide. It is clear that those who control the creation and allocation of money through the banking system are able to control virtually every other aspect of society.

What can be done to turn the tide? How can we empower ourselves to assert our desires for a more fair, humane and peaceful world order? I believe that the greatest possibility of bringing about the desired changes lies in economic and political innovation and restructuring.

The monopolization of credit.

I came to realize many years ago that the primary mechanism by which people are controlled is the system of money, banking, and finance. The power elite have long known this and have used it to enrich themselves and consolidate their grip. Though we take it for granted, money has become an utter necessity for surviving in the modern world. But unlike water, air, food, and energy, money is not a natural substanceit is a human contrivance, and it has been contrived in such a way as to centralize power and concentrate wealth.

Money today is essentially credit, and the control of our collective credit has been monopolized in the hands of a cartel comprised of huge private banks with the complicity of politicians who control central governments. This collusive arrangement between bankers and politicians disempowers people, businesses, and communities and enables the super-class to use centralized control mechanisms to their own advantage and purpose. It misallocates credit, making it both scarce and expensive for the productive private sector while enabling central governments to circumvent, by deficit spending, the natural limits imposed by its revenue streams of taxes and fees. Thus, there is virtually no limit to the amounts that are lavished on the machinery of war and domination.

In todays world,...

Sunday, 17 June


18.06.2018 openDemocracy

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#sfaf18 Sinn Fin vows to take responsibility in government in South, while asking DUP to do same in North Slugger O'Toole

There was a buzz around the Belfast Waterfront as Sinn Fin delegates, exhibitors and media wandered around the long corridors between the food stalls and the conference hall. The early morning showers didnt seem to dampen enthusiasm as the delegates listened to nearly 30 speakers from across the island and beyond during the two hours of live lunchtime coverage on RTE.

David and I gave a quick rundown on the Friday night speeches and looked forward to Saturdays business in a Slugger Live experiment on Facebook.

Former party president Gerry Adams was in attendance but was keeping a low profile, often spotted sitting beside Tom Hartley in the hall listening to the debates.

The political showdown of Sinn Fins ard fheis was predicted to come during the Saturday afternoon Standing With Women debate that would see two different ways of dealing with party policy on abortion.

  • Motion 93 allowed for abortion when a womans life, health or mental health is at risk, and in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, as well as allowing abortion without specific indication through a GP-led service for a limited gestational period. And Sinn Fin legislators would have to act in line with the view of the Ard Chomhairle.
  • Motion 95 instead recognised that abortion remains a deeply divisive issue both within Sinn Fin and in wider society, and agreed that all Sinn Fin members should be allows to articulate and vote on the issue of abortion according to their own conscience.

TDs spoke from the podium supporting the need for a single party position. Other delegates spoke about the need for elected representatives to obey the party. Relying on freedom of conscience is a cop out for a political party, a temporary sticking plaster that often unravels to reveal an infected sore.

At one point, nearly fifty people stood in a queue to get on stage to give speeches.



The Happy Prince **** Jonathan Fryer

The Happy Prince 1In Richard Ellmanns magisterial biography of Oscar Wilde, the Irish playwrights final couple of years in other words, the period between his release from prison and his death in the Hotel dAlsace in Paris gets somewhat short shrift, partly because Ellmann himself was a dying man as he struggled to complete his book. I have long maintained that that means that Wildes exile is nearly always portrayed as pure tragedy, whereas in fact any close reading of his voluminous letters from 1897 to 1900 makes clear he enjoyed many good times and sexual encounters in France and Italy, free of the moral strictures of perfidious Albion (less so in Switzerland, where he thought the people looked like turnips). Indeed, as his devoted friend and first homosexual lover, Robbie Ross, recalled soon after Oscars death, apart from a few barren periods when his monthly allowance ran out, he was able to have champagne every day. I was delighted that in Rupert Everetts films, The Happy Prince, which is now on release in London, the champagne does indeed flow. As do the willing youths of Naples and the Paris boulevards, including the delightful young soldier Maurice Gilbert, who was passed around among members of what would in the 1930s would wittily be dubbed The Homintern of well-connected queer gentlemen.



While everyones watching the football, the Russian government is raising the retirement age openDemocracy

Screen Shot 2018-06-15 at 15.13.27.pngThis move signals the end of the Russian federal states social commitments. RU


A pension office in Kaliningrad, one of the World Cup host cities. (c) Igor Zarembo / RIA Novosti. All rights reserved.Increasing the retirement age in Russia is quickly becoming a reality. On 14 June, as Vladimir Putin opened the FIFA World Cup in Moscow, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced the retirement age rise as if it was a done deal. Of course, the legislation still has to go through Russian parliament, but given United Russias parliamentary majority, the government is unlikely to face any problems.

As ever, the Russian authorities pass anti-social laws as if they were carrying out a police operation

The authorities prepared well for this. Before the presidential elections, the population was served only good news for instance, a new (and very generous) benefit for families when they give birth to their first child. If the pension age increase was discussed at all, then only as something abstract and theoretical. But straight after the March presidential elections, it became a necessary move: the discussion went from being about whether the pension age should be raised at all, to the detail...

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