Transcript of Paul Mason at the Left Forum 2011 Opening Plenary

Update: This is the most popular post on my blog, and I’ve found that in the two years since I put it up, the original YouTube video (with better sound quality) has been removed and the Essential Dissent site is cleared out. I’ve tried to fix it up as best I can.

I watched the video below of Paul Mason‘s speech at the Left Forum 2011 Opening Plenary and was flabbergasted. It’s packed with incisive analysis of our current historical moment. I couldn’t find a transcript, so wrote it up myself. For more, see what used to be Essential Dissent.

Hey, if you’re gonna do your internationalism, I think, you know, inviting a white guy from England, you could do better. [laughter]

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Book Review: Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson is one of the best books I have read recently, by far. At first glance, this looks like one of those mediocre-to-terrible books that seem to dominate the intellectual landscape. But Steven Johnson is the absolute opposite of the idiotic Thomas Friedman (see also: Thomas Friedman, idiot), and a far cry from the pseudo-intellectual Malcolm Gladwell.

Johnson actually has expertise in the study of innovation. He’s written a book that delved quite deeply into a case study of John Snow’s invention, essentially, of epidemiology, and has written a book each on neuroscience and “the connected lives of ants, brains, cities, and software”. Not only is this book about innovation, but its creation backs up some of its insights.

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The dazzling hypocrisy of "Don’t Make Us Pay"

I came across these ads recently:

Oh my god! The bad mean government wants to make you pay more to use debit cards! Are they levying a tax?

Of course not. This is a campaign by the banks to repeal a law that limits the fees they can charge retailers. They really don’t like any limitations at all, do they?

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Bastille Day in Egypt: Amn Dawla and the coming floods

There’s been very little that’s hit any mainstream news sources, but the Twitter hashtag #AmnDawla follows an astounding story.

Amn Dawla (أمن الدولة) means “State Security”. This is Egypt’s equivalent of the Stasi – spying on, controlling, and torturing the citizens of Egypt under Mubarak. And – this is really important – don’t forget that the US outsourced most of its torture to Egypt. The CIA kidnaps people off of the streets of cities like Milan, or takes them from battlefields, and then engages in “extraordinary rendition”: delivers them to third parties like Egypt to be tortured.

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Movie Review: I AM

Yesterday I got free preview tickets to the movie I AM (warning: embedded YouTube starts immediately).

Here’s the blurb:

I AM, a prismatic and probing exploration of our world, what’s wrong with it, and what we can do to make it better, represents Tom Shadyac’s first foray into non-fiction following a career as one of Hollywood’s leading comedy practitioners, with such successful titles as “Ace Ventura,” “Liar Liar,” and “Bruce Almighty” to his credit. I AM recounts what happened to the filmmaker after a cycling accident left him incapacitated, possibly for good. Though he ultimately recovered, he emerged a changed man. Disillusioned with life on the A-list, he sold his house, moved to a mobile home community, and decided to start life anew.

Shadyac was there in person and fielded questions from the audience at the end of the screening.

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