Karl Marx never looked so good

A cartoon series about the life and times of Karl Marx is set to be shown on a Chinese video streaming website with the full backing of Beijing, according to the host company. The Leader, which recounts the story of the German philosopher and socialist revolutionary, will be broadcast by Bilibili.com “soon”, the company said on Tuesday. The production was commissioned by the central government’s Marxism office, in cooperation with authorities in Inner Mongolia; Weiming Culture Media, which is based in the region; and animation company Dongmantang, Bilibili said on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service. (South China Morning Post, Dec. 19, 2018)

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Can Democracy Work?

"Can Democracy Work?" is James Miller's sequel to his book of thirty years ago, "Democracy Is in the Streets." In the intervening years he seems to have become less certain of the answer.

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Democracy Is in the Streets

I have been re-reading James Miller's 1987 "Democracy is in the Streets" since he was in Oakland a month ago. The book provides a richly detailed account of the short life of the "Students for a Democratic Society" (SDS) from their beginnings at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1962 through their being a major driving force behind the protests against the Vietnam war to their collapse in 1969.

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Made in China 2025

The Trump administration has been worried about China turning itself into a leading economic power. Its current trade war with China is officially aimed at bringing about relatively small changes in China’s economic policies but its real aim is to constrain China’s long-term development. We can be sure that China would be willing to adjust its trade policies but it will certainly not abandon its overall development plans. There is no reason to think that the Chinese would ever consent to being in a permanently inferior economic position.  And it is not obvious that the US can keep it there.

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Trouble in Paradise

The small city of Paradise has been consumed by one of those California forest fires that are becoming only too frequent. Dozens of people have died. Meanwhile, we have been choking in the polluted air 200 miles away. Last year, close friends almost lost their house in the fires that raged around Santa Rosa.

Who can we blame but ourselves? Our freeways are clogged by millions of cars; we fly across continents for business or pleasure; we maintain polluting industries in order to keep the economy going. When our politicians prove unable or unwilling to take action they only reflect our own attitudes. Living in Berkeley, I find myself surrounded by “environmentalists,” but they still burn their woodfires in their chimneys even on the worst bad-air days. Official “Spare the air” alerts are a joke. They are backed up by nothing and largely ignored.

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“Hong Kong is hell.”

That was about the last thing I heard as I was leaving the city. Said by the taxi driver who was taking me to Kowloon Station on the way to the airport.

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Two views of Beijing

August 16, 2018

The World Congress of Philosophy is continuing; but today, Thursday, it is mostly student presentations in Chinese. I take time off and get on the subway to do some sightseeing. What I discover is an abyss in the human heart.

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Categorized as China

Meeting Joshua Wong

Joshua Wong, Hong Kong Pro-democracy activist, spoke to TIME on August 16, 2017, a day before a ruling on his 2014 occupation of the Citizen Square. He's facing immediate imprisonment if judges rule against his favor. - Photo by Aria Hangyu Chen for TIME

August 11, 2018

It is Saturday morning and I am about to meet up with Joshua Wong at the Bricklane Café right across from Hong Kong’s Legislature where Wong’s political party has its office. It turns out that Wong has already been at work that weekend morning and I am not the only visitor he will see that day. I am curious to hear from him about the current state of Hong Kong politics.

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And how about democracy?

"Is our democracy in danger? It is a question we never thought we'd be asking? … We have spent years researching new forms of authoritarianism emerging around the globe. For us, how and why democracies die has been an occupational obsession. But now we turn to our own country."

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt in How Democracies Die

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Political Realism vs. Political Realism

Trump must be a puzzle to our political realists. He certainly shares their scorn for seeing politics in moral terms. Unlike George W. Bush, he doesn’t speak of an axis of evil in the world; and unlike Obama and the Democrats, he is little concerned with the issue of human rights. As an amoral capitalist he believes in self-interest and the exercise of power, in the use and pursuit of money in politics.

But he is also not much interested in the actual political realities. He sticks to a simple picture of what the world is like, despises experts, and ignores advice. In his factual claims he is often quite unrealistic.

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Donald Trump’s Biggest Mistake

Donald Trump has already made a number of serious mistakes in his political career. I am not talking here of decisions over which the political parties might disagree. I am talking rather of mistakes due to his incompetent handling of political matters. Politics is also a craft which can be employed in the service of different policies. Trump is proving that he is not a master of this kind of skill.

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Politics in an age of advanced technology

For Ideas - 08ellul - 05 Mar 1982 --- French historian Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) held the highest teaching diploma in France in Law. He was a Professor at Law Faculty at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques (Institute for Political Studies) in Bordeaux from 1937 until 1980. (Sophie Bassouls/Corbis) THIS IS THE LARGE HI-RES VERSION

Technology has transformed and deformed our long-evolved political order and it is likely to do more of that. A technologically enabled economic and financial system has certainly diminished the regulatory power of the state. Goods, services, and people can now move easily across continents, not always under the control of governments. Pictures, words, ideas, and information are massively channeled within and between political systems, often defying the power of states but also often abetting it. At the same time, the state’s tools of surveillance and repression have become definitely more effective. Its military strength has vastly increased and can be projected over wider distances. We notice, thus, a diminution of state power in some respects, but also an increase in others.

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The Battle for Hegemony in the Middle East

The current American administration appears set on all out conflict with Iran. In this endeavor it has allied itself unconditionally with Saudi Arabia. Is this a clear-sighted policy? In an uncompromising speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation, Mike Pompeo, the new American Foreign Secretary, today, May 21, 2018, threatened that "Iran will continue to feel the 'sting of sanctions' if its doesn’t change the 'unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen. These will be the strongest sanctions in history by the time we are complete'.” Bloomberg News adds in its report on the speech: "The former CIA director essentially demanded Iran’s total submission without offering anything in return aside from the hazy prospect of sanctions relief at some future date." There is no doubt that the Iranian authorities will find this offer as unacceptable as it is meant to be. Thus, the stage is set for more confrontation.

Here is an exceptionally insightful critique of this course of policy from May 2017 by an Israeli analyst.

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How many is too many? Do we still need to think about overpopulation?

Our politicians do not like to speak about overpopulation out of fear for the pious who believe that human beings ought to multiply. Left-wing ideologues argue that there is no such thing and that every apparent problem can be solved through a more equal distribution of resources. Enlightened progressivists are confident that there will be a technological fix. Economists tell us that we need continuous growth and hence more consumers. And the statisticians are confident that the growth of the human population will eventually slow down. We are, in reality, already bursting at the seams; numerous ecological problems are due to the fact that there are already so many of us. We need to think harder about the problem, something we find hard to do. We need to consider what the size of the human population should ideally be? And if we are already overloaded, we must also ask how we can reduce the size of the population in a humane way. We need to ask what obligations we have to coming generations.

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