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numbers of jailed writers: PEN does not divest

[from this source:] … tracks the detention and imprisonment of writers, and in 2023, at least 339 writers were detained or imprisoned around the world for their writing or otherwise exercising their freedom of expression. Since the first edition of the Index was published in 2019, we have witnessed a steady increase in the number of writers jailed globally.

the report’s “key takeaways” are worth citing, before getting on to why I am:

  • The number of writers jailed reached a five-year high, with at least 339 behind bars during 2023, an increase of 9 percent from 2022.
  • China, already the world’s top jailer of writers, registered a significant increase, exceeding 100 writers behind bars for the first time. The majority were jailed for online expression that was critical of official policies or expressed pro-democracy viewpoints.
  • The crackdown on writers and the creative community continued in Iran, with 13 new arrests and the silencing of previously detained writers through various conditions placed on their release. Women who wrote or advocated against the compulsory hijab remained particularly at risk, and Iran jails the highest number of female writers worldwide.
  • War and conflict had a significant impact on writers in 2023, as the crackdown on dissent in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and in Russia resulted in substantial increases in the number of jailed writers, placing both countries in the top 10 for the first time.
  • As the annual Freedom to Write Index marks its fifth edition, an analysis of trends over the past five years shows a clear and steady increase in the number of writers jailed globally, from 238 in 2019 to 339 in 2023. Notable increases were seen in the number of female writers jailed, from 35 to 51, as well as in the number of jailed writers classified as online commentators, from 80 to 180.

here are the phrases used to denigrate the incarceration of writers:

writers engage in something called “free expression” with the meaning that

their writing plays a “significant role” in “promoting critical inquiry” …

and “fostering connections between people” …

and (a very interesting one) “cultivating visions of a better world anchored in fundamental human rights”

these phrases are from that source too. Then, writers…

  1. recognize the power of words to affirm historical truths,
  2. develop or maintain culture,
  3. hold individuals and institutions to account.

It is for these reasons that PEN says,

For the same reasons we members of the international community, whatever that means, MUST “assume a greater role in protecting and supporting writers, and ensuring their ability to freely express themselves.”

“But,” says PEN, singling them out, “democracies have been slow to understand that attacks on writers are both the precursor to and a consequence of broader attacks on human rights, democracy, and free expression.”

The turn democracies might be said to have made, explaining why democracies and not autocracies, theocracies or Real Existing Socialisms have been singled out, is to encourage free expression for the frictionless exchange of information; which must be something like Erica Jong’s “zipless fuck.”

PEN America hit the headlines for its cancellation of the 2024 World Voices festival.

PEN was denounced for its response to the violence unleashed by the state of Israel on the people of Palestine. This has been called a genocide in line with similar and much earlier genocides of colonised and disenfranchised peoples.

The Guardian reports that 28 of the nominated 61 authors and translators withdrew their books from consideration for PEN’s annual award ceremony. The festival was due to take place 8 May in New York and Los Angeles.

Among the writers to come out in protest at PEN’s failure to condemn Israeli actions are Naomi Klein, Michelle Alexander, Hisham Matar, Maaza Mengiste, Susan Muaddi Darraj, Isabella Hamad and Zaina Arafat. This so-called “prominent group” of writers, along with others, signed an open letter accusing PEN of hypocrisy. The letter reads in part,

In the context of Israel’s ongoing war on Gaza, we believe that PEN America has betrayed the organization’s professed commitment to peace and equality for all, and to freedom and security for writers everywhere.

The open letter to PEN is doing, in other words, what PEN says is the writer’s job, promoting critical inquiry, fostering connections between people and cultivating visions of a better world anchored in fundamental human rights. It is undertaking exactly that which the democracies have been slow to understand, presumably outside of democracies, is at risk; here it is happening in the USA, a case in point; and under the aegis of a nonprofit international organisation. This undertaking is that of all writing:

  1. to recognize the power of words to affirm historical truths,
  2. to develop or maintain culture,
  3. and to hold individuals and institutions to account.

Hypocrisy is of little personal interest. What I find interesting is the reduction of writing to its weakest elements, to its public utility; a reduction in line with human-rights discourse’s own.

Writing or literature is constrained to the problems it chooses and it will, as Deleuze writes, get the solutions it deserves.

Writing or literature is not free. It does not express. It perceives. It, in D.’s words, on the phone this morning, goes into the funerary pit and comes out spewing its anus out covered in dismembered bodies; it has to and does so freely out of the realisation that being equal to the human castatrophe demands it, demands it of those who would write of that condition at all.

To D. I said, that’s what literature does.

So it’s strange seeing proof of it in PEN’s estimation of the number of writers being jailed at the same time as that proof is doubly denied: once from the point of view of public morality and from the political high ground arrogated exclusively to capitalist democracies; twice by the organisation assuming this high ground and then not living up to its own principles.

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Please don’t tell us otherwise…

Auckland Council is asking for feedback on how Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland should grow over the next 30 years, with public consultation now open until 4 July 2023.

“And we want to hear from Aucklanders on whether they think we have got this right.”

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on the mimetic creation of another form of expression or, translation and self-consciousness in art: Damian Lanigan’s novel The Ghost Variations

The name has a further meaning, you see. It’s not about the narrator being haunted. It’s not about that Schumann piece, written at the dictation of angels, a yutbe clip appears below. It’s about an altogether other dictation, no less angelic but, in this case, the angels have to be generated to do the dictation.

Chinchilla, play, Robert David MacDonald, brilliant. Brilliant because it’s about art as much as it is art. In other words, it’s about artistic creation and that of an ensemble, the Ballets Russes. Chinchilla is Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev. The play’s special power comes from its special ontological position, as translation.

Oscar Wilde’s “The Critic as Artist” starts fittingly at the piano. In it we find that every work of art worthy of being so called is really a work of translation. Damian Lanigan’s novel translates from one art form to another to make great art.

From pianist to the novelist, from the narrator who is a concert pianist, to the writer who is also a playwright, says his blurb, Lanigan translates to the typewriter that is now a keyboard from the piano that is for Declan Byrnie a machine of torture. See,

A piano performance consists of a body that can never get quite comfortable, possessing an insufficient number of hands and a sucking vortex mind. The poor frightened beast must assert his control over this bizarre Heath Robinson mechanism: strings and hammers and wood and steel and felt and glue stretched in and around a misshapen coffin that weighs about nine tons, has the temperament of a prima ballerina and the capacity of a nuclear power station.

— op. cit., 117

At a certain point it enters the landscape, because it’s always been a part of the landscape of writing. See,

The sunlight breaking on the hillside across the valley, the peaks drifting in and out of view, the way the colour of the water changes, it’s constantly shifting, this permanence, and the mountains are a billion years old, and the clouds are three minutes old, and so you get this collision of massiveness and insubstantialness, the now and the ancient, and the constant shifts between green, grey, white, blue, brown and silver, zero visibility and infinity.

— ibid., 242

Published by Weatherglass Books very well in 2022 you just have to read it really.

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save Auckland City from austerity–because austerity is more harmful than borrowing

Auckland Council is facing some significant financial challenges, requiring some tough choices. We [It, the council] need[s] to overcome a forecast budget shortfall that has grown to $295 million for the 2023/2024 financial year.

— from the Budget Summary [here] [for the truth of this, see below, A Better Budget for Auckland: under the provisions of the law the Council does not have to run a balanced budget]

what’s on the table:

  • Maintaining the currently reduced number of public transport services (as of December 2022) for 2023/2024 to save $21 million
  • Reducing our [its] funding to Tātaki Auckland Unlimited to save a further $27.5 million, with effects on service delivery (including economic development and tourism promotion) and pricing at venues it manages such as Auckland Zoo, Auckland Art Gallery, and stadiums and venues in Auckland
  • Reducing regional services such as community and education programmes, arts and culture programmes, regional events, economic development, and other social services activities such as homelessness funding, community empowerment and funding for youth centres to save $20 million
  • Reducing local board funded activities across all boards to save $16 million
  • Reducing regional contestable grants to save $3 million
  • No longer directly providing early childhood education services to save $1 million.

…the approach is:

We [It] need[s] to balance the budget and have [has] limited options available to us to achieve that in the next financial year.

The proposed budget package for 2023/2024 includes:

• Reducing our [its] operating costs by an additional $125 million across Auckland Council and Council Controlled Organisations. This would impact some services we [it] currently deliver[s].

• A rates package that would see a total rates increase for the average value residential property of around 4.66 per cent or $154 a year (around $3 a week)

• Selling our [its] shareholding in Auckland International Airport (currently around 18% of the Airport’s shares) to reduce our [Council] borrowing

• Borrowing no more than $75 million of additional debt, so that we [Council] can cope with any future financial uncertainty (current policy allows us [Council] to further borrow up to $140 million).

[Council’s] Our budget still allows for a wide range of crucial everyday services to be provided for Aucklanders, as well as $2.8 billion of capital investment in the likes of transport assets, parks and community facilities, city centre and local developments, urban regeneration and cultural development, and environmental management. We [It] might need to bring forward some asset-renewal spending for storm-damaged assets, and we [Council] can do this by reprioritising and delaying some of this new capital investment.

From 2023/2024, we [it] are [is] also proposing to spend around $20 million more each year to reduce the impact of future storms. This would likely require rates to increase for 2023/2024 by around an additional 1 per cent (on top of the 4.66 per cent increase proposed to address our budget shortfall).

By proposing a mix of options to balance the budget, we [Council] believe[s] we have a credible plan that sets us on the path to be a simple, efficient, and serviced-based organisation.

Following public feedback, if this proposed budget package is not supported or if our [Council’s] financial challenge worsens, we would need to make up the shortfall another way. The alternatives are likely to be limited to:

• increasing general rates by up to 13.5 per cent, or a total increase of $336 annually for the average value residential property (around $6.50 per week)

• increasing debt further, within the limits of our [Council’s] prudential borrowing policy.

We [Council] have [has] some tough choices ahead, so please share your thoughts through this consultation on what you think of the proposals.

— from the Budget Summary [here]

My personal view is that support of regional services, regional contestable grants, local board funding and the provision of early childhood services, as well as all the services and areas of public and social funding slated for cuts should be regarded as Fixed Costs.

These costs are internal and integral to running the city.

Auckland Council ought to have the political will to economic courage. Council ought to require the cost of running the city be met, not by increasing its internal indebtedness and raising already punitive costs to citizens in rates, but externally, at the national level.

also, the business model would indicate one of two things: either Auckland Council is undercapitalised to meet future commitments, including service delivery, addressing failing infrastructure and climate change commitments; or it’s a bust. Given Council’s assets, it shouldn’t be too difficult to raise the capital to meet its longterm operating costs.

A Better Budget for Auckland:

… “the Council does not have to run a ‘balanced budget’. The law says councils have a Balanced budget requirement but that they only have to ‘balance the books’” …

… “Council says that it cannot borrow more than $140m without breaching internal policy, but as the Council these policies can be adjusted” …

“Auckland Council should be investing now – in tourism, public transport, the arts, and other social services. Investing in the city will bring revenue back.” … “Cutting and selling are no way to bring Auckland back” …

A Better Budget proposal:

Unfreeze targeted rates $50.9m

Existing Council rates package $93.2m

Extend borrowing $150.9m

TOTAL: Alternative Budget Revenues $295.0m

>>make your opinion known by having your say here.

>>>refresh your memory on Mark Blyth’s economic views below because austerity has never worked anywhere<<<

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CATDOGDUCK presents: Can you see?

watch the video

buy the album

here

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the book from the TV: DIEM25 TV

Everything Must Change! The World After Covid-19 is the book from conversations from the online television series from the Democracy In Europe Movement 2025. (ed.s Renata Ávila and Srećko Horvat, OR Books, 2020.)

DIEM TV diem25

it’s probably more important to know that it happened, that it’s happening, than to read the book or watch the TV… I didn’t know before how much of a stranglehold is exercised by Wall Street on the global financial system, simply because of the high percentage of transactions globally that are conducted in dollars. I didn’t know that Gaddafi was assassinated, dragged from a drainpipe and shot, before he was able to institute a pan-African currency called the Afrique. … And I didn’t know a lot more. But what I suspected and what has been confirmed by this book is that the Left is embarrassed.

Embarrassed by the redundancy of its moral indignation. Embarrassed by the winding-up of the ideas market. Embarrassed by the downturn of its own fortunes in that market, from stakeholder to small stall-holder, to panhandler. Embarrassed by a nostalgia for its own rich past, a nostalgia for Ideology; now a poverty of ideas. A riches to rags story. Embarrassing for all that it seems able to do is to critique. To slip around in the spilt blood of its historical and historicised present. … Panhandler? no, the pan has no handle.

Here’s a little of Brian Eno’s contribution to the conversation, a bit I liked, a kind of dandiacal tastegroup led political aesthetic, slowcooking populism to raise consciousness:

one thing I think might make a difference is a shift in societal attitudes toward wealth. I think that displays of wealth will soon seem very coarse, gross and crude, and that this shift will impact people’s actions. For example, when minimalism began as an art movement about fifty years ago, it seemed quite radical in its questioning of this idea of “more is better,” and that more detail and luxurious materials were better. Minimalism has now, however, translated into a broader cultural movement from its beginnings as a stylistic notion. While it takes a long time, these aesthetic shifts do eventually have societal effects.

Yes. There’s a call to arms!

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#TrueCost

https://www.adbusters.org/full-articles/truecost

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Camille Paglia & others in Electric Ghost

I recommend David G. Hughes’s interview with Camille Paglia from an online magazine I will be reading more of … when I’ve finished the Cristi Puiu interview… Electric Ghost is here

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day 285 – 295 dears protect me. And: Who is … ? or Hooton hears a hayek

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works of subversion, of critical subversion, of the dominant digital culture, works critically subverting, for the minority interested in such things, the domination of digital culture, as clever as they are, sometimes ingenious, remain as clever and ingenious as the objects of their critique, they remain as a paean to human ingenuity, forgetful of the other species who lack that ingenuity, but, still, who underwrite the ongoing survival of this clever ape

We have no confidence in this attempt at the man in full.

— email from Christopher Hitchens’s widow and agent to all who would act in complicity with his biographer, Stephen Phillips or the publisher of the proposed bio, W.W. Norton

Who is … ? or Hooton hears a hayek

Matthew Hooton, a PR consultant1, writing the Politics column for the NZ Herald of 5 February 2021 (PR–with the bloody beating heart of politics in its hands), warns that the Climate Change Commission’s advice to government, if followed, would make 1984’s reforms seem like kid’s stuff. He says the report, prepared under the chair of Rod Carr–the Rogernome in question–“combines the chilling indifference of the most swivel-eyed 1980s Rogernome with the absolute certainty in analytic ability of the hardest-line Soviet apparatchik.”

Rod Carr himself shown in the photo beside the column looks more like Tolstoy in his muzhik phase than any apparatchik–that or a Roger-Gnome. But the language is striking in its evocation of another era altogether.

carr, with symbolism

“Give Carr,” Hooton writes, “a ready-made ideology, whether written by Friedrich Hayek or Arne Naess, and he undoubtedly has the intellectual capacity to drive it to its logical end.” While the intelligence is not doubted, the wisdom is. “[Simon] Upton,” Hooton continues, “now Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, has always displayed similar fervour, making the same transition from free-market radical to deep-green mandarin.” This is a striking observation, about mandarins … but it has nothing to do with Arne Naess’s whose deep ecology cannot be called an ideology, and whose injunctions on public debate I am here breaking–avoid tendentious quoting, he says. Avoid tendentious use of straw men.

It has everything to do with Hayek, as a lot does since the war, except the war. It has not least to do with the era in which he propounded his thesis.

this is hayek

Apart from sounding the alert about the dangers of communism (“Fascism is the stage reached after communism has proved an illusion”)–like Henny Penny (the sky actually was falling)–Hayek wrote: “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men [sic] how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.” (The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism, 1988) He also said that if socialists studied economics they would not be socialists. Or deep-green mandarins.

Hooton writes the “commission says bluntly that some businesses will need to be closed, but says the benefits of climate action must be shared across society, and for the costs not to fall unfairly on certain groups of people.” I’m not sure what he means, and suspect a meddlesome sub. But then he goes on, and this is the Hayekian bit:

“To achieve this [sharing both costs and benefits of climate action equally?], [the commission] says we must consider the connectivity between “the material and non-material”, between “the people, the land, the atmosphere and the oceans” and indeed “the connectedness of all things, including the past, present and future”. It claims to have in fact taken all this into account when setting budgets for each gas and advice for each industry.2

“No human mind can do this, as understood by everyone but fanatics.”

I think that bears repetition: No human mind can do this, as understood by everyone but fanatics.

But what about a deep-green mandarin who has the intellectual capacity to drive a ready-made ideology to its logical end?

Hooton recommends that Carr move back to his “old belief in using prices to gather information and markets to make decisions.” This is despite the Letter from the Chair, the Carr-seat, stating on page 3 of the report, “As a country we should use only our fair share of the remaining global carbon budget,” and despite budgets referred to throughout the report being not financial but carbon. So that a market does seem to be at issue, one where carbon–and its emission in the form of gases–is monetised in order that price information can be used by that market to make decisions.

Hooton signs off with, “The Soviet economics he seems to have adopted…” this is Rod Carr he’s talking about “…more recently…” seems to have adopted more recently, or, more recently “…has a record unparalleled in history…” ? “…not just of causing unnecessary disruption and incalculable costs…” incalculable! “…but of delivering everything but what the policy-maker intended. There’s only 37 working days to tell him so.”

Only 37 working days to work up a parallel history to show that the record of these Soviet economics Carr–he’s only chair of the Commission mind you–has more recently adopted, or, these that more recently have a record of producing everything but what the policy-maker intended–the report contains only advice not policy mind you–and of causing disruption that is unnecessary, probably because it involves action on climate, the costs of which are incalculable, despite the best efforts of the report to calculate them.

But only fanatics could! Only the fanatical would attempt to! No human mind could do so.

However, and this is the clincher for Hayek’s thinking, what no human mind can do, except the fanatical, the market can, using the mechanism of price to gain information. And this is in fact exactly what the Climate Change Report proposes. With the rider that the auction reserve and cost containment reserve price triggers in the NZ ETS need to be higher and that the price corridor they signal should be sufficiently wide, precisely, to allow price discovery by the market to occur and to factor in inflation to prevent the price levels from eroding in real terms.3

The belief underlying the Climate Change Commission’s Report on climate change is in its quantifiability in keeping with current economic thinking. The problem is seen as one belonging to the carbon economy. This is the economy that trades in carbon stock, storage and the reductions of its release into the atmosphere quite apart from any deleterious effects it may have there. When the sky is actually falling.

The report and the advice it contains refuses the political courage that in a time of plague protected NZ from its worst effects in favour of an economics in mitigation of those effects.

This leaves open the question of what is driving Hooton’s attack on Carr, which offers the grotesque spectacle of an Hayekian using Hayek to attack an Hayekian. How many Hayeks could an Hayekian Hayek if an Hayekian could Hayek Hayek? As understood by everyone except fanatics, no human mind can do what a market can.

Meanwhile, in a parallel history in the multifactualmediawurst, advertising himself on Twttter and weighing in at a healthy midbeard length, seemingly unaware of Hooton’s PR pro bono work for Carr, in the same newspaper the day after, Simon Wilson plays down the red scare Hooton hacks up.

…”the most shocking thing about the CCC report is that it isn’t very shocking. … The proposals seem, somehow, obvious.” (Saturday 6 February 2021, Weekend Herald)

Wilson concedes they will be lifechanging. But he is fearless, looking down the barrel of a “mere 1 per cent per year hit on GDP”. It’s like it’s a barrel of fun–“a mountain of new economic opportunities”–and Carr is a barrel of monkeys.

But, scarily, “lurking between the lines on those 188 pages”, and likely what has stirred the Hooton from its hole, “the hope that we’ll do it using good democratic processes.” Like cheese. I suppose.

carr with cheese

Carr ends the interview thumping on his tub so hard Wilson can’t decipher the words, having, perhaps, got beardlash from Carr. “And then it was over.” Wilson writes. “He walked off into the bright sunshine, a little skip in his step. Let the debate commence.

“Read the report. Submit on the report.”

Or just submit.

  1. “The eloquent, sometimes angry, dependably provocative commentator from the free-market right of politics. The bête noire of very many on the other side [sic]. The founder and owner of Exceltium, a political PR firm, a role which his detractors contend should disqualify him from …” – for who Hooton is see here
  2. The oddity of a budget for “each gas” has sort of been addressed earlier in the article, having to do with “emissions reductions” in the Commission’s report, itself a grammatical oddity, since it is not a question of the reduction of emissions such as the addition of an apostrophe would express, as in emissions’ reductions.
  3. The relevant passage is taken with minor alterations from page 131 of the report. NZ ETS–New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme–is a carbon market towards decarbonisation (a favourite word of the report), that is, turning a negative to positive account, for the sake of measurement, by price, that is monetisation. But this magical trick is not without the consequence that the new positive will then obediently go back to being a negative.

, it is the beginning of a passionate and all-consuming love affair that will defy all social bounds …

, email us with your favourite historical lovers.

— from Auckland Art Gallery’s newsletter promoting Ammonite.

and now to end with the very quite music of Lotte Laserstein’s Abend Über Potsdam (Evening Over Potsdam), 1928:

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Deleuze|Guattari studies conference Tokyo 2019

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