Iraq’s forgotten Christians in Kurdish exile

SebastianMeyerIraqiChristian_18-1Jenna Krajeski at Harper's Magazine:

One afternoon in early September, a crowd formed in the mall’s basement. “We are disrespected, all of us!” a man shouted, waving his arms. His audience shuddered. “I waited for three hours and all I got was this,” he said, holding up a bag of chocolate cookies and one of powered milk. “There’s no rice. When the rain starts, the basement will be full of water. They’ll throw us into the streets and kill us because of this,” he said, pointing to the cross around his neck. “Either you are Muslim, or you will die.” His voice cracked. “Our government treats us so badly. We don’t want them anymore. We want the European government. There are only 200,000 of us, Europe could take us.”

Among the IDPs on all floors the desire to leave Iraq was unmistakable. The project of securing a visa to America or Europe was a distraction from the empty days, one that replaced the jobs and social lives they had left at home in Nineveh. Many people clutched applications and new passports like trophies, which they displayed to each other or to visitors as proof of their determination. It was clear to them that Kurdistan, in spite of its autonomy, was very much a part of Iraq. They had themselves blurred the borders when they crossed them.

more here.

The Rise and Fall of Public Housing in NYC

Fekner_600Richard Price at Guernica:

In 1935, the first public housing complex in New York, prosaically christened First Houses, (landmarked since 1974) on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, offered 122 apartments featuring oak wood floors and brass fixtures. The rent, adjusted to each family’s monthly income, ranged from five to seven dollars. The recently formed New York City Housing Authority—the agency charged with the design, construction, and administration of this and future housing developments across the city—stopped accepting applications when their number went north of three thousand.

As of 2012, according to figures compiled by Mark Jacobson for New York Magazine, the NYCHA oversaw 334 projects, 2602 buildings, nearly 180 thousand apartments, and 400,000 to 600,000 tenants (the wide range a result of the impossibility of tallying the number of off-lease tenants). In Jacobsen’s words, “If Nychaland was a city unto itself, it would be the 21st most populous in the U.S., bigger than Boston or Seattle, twice the size of Cincinnati.”
And in defiance of their current hell-hole reputation, the waiting list for apartments stood, in that year, at 160,000 families.

In the beginning it seemed like a good idea.

more here.

heidegger’s black notebooks

Gordon_2-100914_jpg_250x1326_q85Peter E. Gordon at the New York Review of Books:

Heidegger was one of the most influential thinkers of the modern era. He was also a convinced Nazi. During his brief term as rector at the University of Freiburg (1933–1934) he worked to advance the process of Gleichschaltung, or coordination, that brought the university into alignment with the official policies of the Third Reich. Apologists for Heidegger have occasionally sought to underplay the gravity of this political record. They note that he stepped down from his post after less than a year, and they add that many of his academic contemporaries, such as Ernst Krieck and Alfred Baeumler, were both more zealous and more effective in their collaboration. The difference, however, is that few today take those other men seriously as scholars. Heidegger, meanwhile, continues to be read, and his permanent place in the pantheon of Continental philosophy seems more or less secure.

How, then, can one study his philosophy without taking some cognizance of his ignominious past? One strategy for resolving the dilemma has been to insist on a neat distinction: Heidegger was good at philosophy but bad at politics. An elegant defense along these lines was developed by Hannah Arendt, his erstwhile student, whose essay “Martin Heidegger at Eighty” (published in these pages in 1971) compared Heidegger to Thales, the ancient philosopher who grew so absorbed in contemplating the heavens that he stumbled into the well at his feet.

more here.

Kiran Desai: ‘You look bad if you go to India in western clothes’

Heidi Julavitz in The Guardian:

Women-in-Clothes-Why-We-WearKD: I remember starting to wear the most basic T-shirts and jeans and being unhappy in them. If you haven't grown up wearing a lot of jeans, they're very uncomfortable.

HJ: They have grommets on them. That dig into your body!

KD: Why did they become so popular? Remember after September 11, when everyone was terrified that anyone who looked strange in New York would summarily shoot something? Well, my aunt has only worn saris her whole life, and her son told her: “You've got to try to wear jeans.” So they put her into jeans and she couldn't sit down. I kept saying, “Sit down,” and she'd say, “I can't!” You have to have some sort of self-respect in the end that doesn't alter depending on where you go, which place you travel to. Ideally, I would come up with some sort of uniform, something I'm happy in, that's not dull, but also that I could wear all the time.

HJ: Gustav Klimt used to work in a blue kaftan. It was a painter's smock, and it was linen, and almost looked like a monk's robe.

KD: With exciting fabric, you could wear that with your long johns in the winter! I'm writing a story right now about these women going to visit the family jewellery in the bank – these precious stones mixed with beads and glass. That was your inheritance, and it mattered a lot, as any Indian woman knows. And the grandmother keeps giving it away to the granddaughters, then reclaiming it because she can't bear to let it go because … it's like her stomach is missing. I've seen it so strongly, the jealousy, greed – having to pass on your jewellery, feeling your jewellery is your stomach, in a way. It's that much the centre of your life – your saris, your jewels. There are women in my family – their eyes, their entire expression changes as soon as they're in front of a sari or old jewels they've handed down. Something really old comes up. I remember my grandmother had these jewels, and whenever she had to give one away, she felt like an organ was missing.

HJ: And she had to give it away because …

KD: Because you inherited it. You have to give it to a daughter when she gets married.

HJ: So in the story you're writing, they're going to visit the jewellery in the bank?

KD: Yes.

More here.

Collaboration: Strength in diversity

BirdsFreeman and Huang in Nature:

Sticking with co-authors with similar surnames to yours might dent the impact of your work. The reason is unclear, but bibliometrics suggest that teams with greater ethnic diversity generate papers that make more of a splash in the scientific literature. We analysed1 2.5 million research papers in which all of the authors had US addresses. Our study showed that US-based authors with English surnames were more likely have co-authors with English surnames than would occur by chance; those with Chinese names were more likely to have co-authors with Chinese names, and so on. The trend held for seven other groups, including Russian and Korean populations, between 1985 and 2008 in 11 scientific fields, including biomedicine, physics and geosciences. The results hint that scientific research is much like the rest of social life. Studies of social networks find that people eat with, work with and generally connect with others similar to themselves, a tendency that some sociologists call homophily.

To the extent that surnames can be a proxy for ethnicity, homophily in scientific collaborations also seems to be related to a work's reception in the scientific community. After controlling for numbers of authors and for factors such as an ethnic groups' population density, we find that greater ethnic homogeneity among authors is associated with a paper's publication in lower-impact journals. It also predicts fewer citations. Papers with four or five authors of multiple ethnicities have, on average, one to two more citations than those written by authors all of the same ethnicity. This effect represents a 5–10% difference in the mean number of citations for a given publication. What might explain this observation? Scientists with lacklustre or fewer papers may have a narrower pool of potential collaborators. Homophily is greater for authors with weaker publication records. But even when we compare work from authors with similar publication histories, homophily is still associated with lower-impact papers.

More here.

Most People With Addiction Simply Grow Out of It


Maia Szalavitz in Substance:

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.” However, that’s not what the epidemiology of the disorder suggests. By age 35, half of all people who qualified for active alcoholism or addiction diagnoses during their teens and 20s no longer do, according to a study of over 42,000 Americans in a sample designed to represent the adult population.

The average cocaine addiction lasts four years, the average marijuana addiction lasts six years, and the average alcohol addiction is resolved within 15 years. Heroin addictions tend to last as long as alcoholism, but prescription opioid problems, on average, last five years. In these large samples, which are drawn from the general population, only a quarter of people who recover have ever sought assistance in doing so (including via 12-step programs). This actually makes addictions the psychiatric disorder with the highest odds of recovery.

While some addictions clearly do take a chronic course, this data, which replicates earlier research, suggests that many do not. And this remains true even for people like me, who have used drugs in such high, frequent doses and in such a compulsive fashion that it is hard to argue that we “weren’t really addicted.” I don’t know many non-addicts who shoot up 40 times a day, get suspended from college for dealing and spend several months in a methadone program.

Only a quarter of people who recover have ever sought assistance in doing so (including via 12-step programs). This actually makes addictions the psychiatric disorder with the highest odds of recovery.

Moreover, if addiction were truly a progressive disease, the data should show that the odds of quitting get worse over time. In fact, they remain the same on an annual basis, which means that as people get older, a higher and higher percentage wind up in recovery. If your addiction really is “doing push-ups” while you sit in AA meetings, it should get harder, not easier, to quit over time. (This is not an argument in favor of relapsing; it simply means that your odds of recovery actually get better with age!)

So why do so many people still see addiction as hopeless? One reason is a phenomenon known as “the clinician’s error,” which could also be known as the “journalist’s error” because it is so frequently replicated in reporting on drugs. That is, journalists and rehabs tend to see the extremes: Given the expensive and often harsh nature of treatment, if you can quit on your own you probably will. And it will be hard for journalists or treatment providers to find you.

More here.

Wednesday Poem

The Hart Crane Connection

There’s a connection I’ve made between
the overcrowded livestock
ships in Fremantle harbour, and Hart
Crane’s last voyage.

There are death ships steaming for Bahrain
with five storeys
of corroded sheep yards, the shit spilling
overboard like black hail,

half the bleating cargo either crushed
or starving to death,
and no relief from the septic winds of trade
blowing wavespray through the hold.

Hart Crane rode the full-blown tide cruising
three hundred miles
off Havana, a broken poet at the stern
watching a clipper

pass with a dark consignment
of dying animals: skulls
and sheep skins drying on the mast ropes
like a ghostboat’s ensign,

and the deck hands out smoking on the boards.
That Hart Crane
inhaled a line of uncut snow in his cabin
before going over

the stern rail of the Orizaba is incidental.
He was being shipped
to his death for years, and no amount of drugs
could ever change

his destination. He knelt in solemn meditation
like an Islamic butcher
over the wake, the clipper he’d seen now
tacking out of view.

He watched the bottle-nosed dolphins ride
the wash for awhile
and then, with a curse for the halal killing,
bled himself of poetry.

Stoned, and thick with dread at running aground
in America again,
he wept for the religious exploitation of animals,
then delivered himself to them.

Read more »

Thoughtlessness Revisited


Richard Wolin responds to Seyla Benhabib's NYT piece on Hannah Arendt, in The Jewish Review of Books:

Benhabib’s allegations concerning the purported banality of Eichmann’s anti-Semitism are peculiar, since they are fundamentally at variance with Arendt’s central arguments and claims. In fact, in Eichmann in Jerusalem Arendt repeatedly insisted that Eichmann acted not out of ideological conviction, as one might expect of a fanatical anti-Semite, but as a “functionary,” an exponent of what she terms “administrative mass murder.” Thus as she declared in a 1964 interview: “I don’t believe that ideology played much of a role. To me that appears to be decisive.” These observations led Arendt to the (to my mind, quite astonishing and unacceptable) conclusion that “[Eichmann] had no criminal motives.

Thus, it is not really the case, as Benhabib suggests, that Arendt “underestimated Eichmann’s anti-Semitism,” since, as we have seen, Arendt discounted ideological motives entirely. Consequently, Arendt’s interpretive framework leads to the implausible conclusion that someone who proudly claimed responsibility for the murder of six million Jews—and who, on more than one occasion, openly regretted that he had not killed more—remained unaffected by the reigning ideology of the regime he served: anti-Semitism.

More importantly, it is disingenuous to suggest that Eichmann’s anti-Semitism, crude though it may have been, was “banal,” since it was part of an ideological template that underwrote the extermination of European Jewry. As the historian Raul Hilberg observed: “[Arendt] did not . . . grasp the dimensions of [Eichmann’s] deed. There was no ‘banality in this ‘evil.”

More here.