CHINA-AFRICA FORUM

November 3, 2006 at 11:12 pm | Posted in Africa, Asia, Economics, Financial, Globalization, History, Oil & Gas | Leave a comment

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Creation of the Forum
http://english.china.org.cn/english/features/China-Africa/81869.htm

http://english.china.org.cn/english/2005/Aug/140012.htm

The China-Africa Cooperation Forum
(CACF)
was jointly proposed and established by China and some
African countries in 2000, on the basis of “equal negotiation, enhancing
understanding, increasing consensus, strengthening friendship and promoting
cooperation.” Its purposes are to conform to the changing international situation,
meet the requirements of economic globalization and seek co-development through
negotiation and cooperation.

The forum is to be
held every three years
, with the second taking place this December.
China and African countries take turns in hosting the event.

On October 10-12, 2000, the First CACF
Ministerial Conference was held in Beijing
. Nearly 80 foreign
ministers and ministers in charge of international economic cooperation affairs from 45
African countries attended, along with representatives of 17 international and regional
organizations, heads of nongovernmental organizations and entrepreneurs. Chinese President
Jiang Zemin, Premier Zhu Rongji and Vice President Hu Jintao and Togolese President
Gnassingbe Eyadema, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Zambian President Frederick
Chiluba, Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and Secretary General of the Organization of
African Unity Salim Ahmed Salim attended the opening and closing ceremonies of the
conference and delivered speeches.

During the meeting, Chinese and African representatives exchanged views on proposals of
establishing a new international political and economic order and strengthening
cooperation in trade between China and African countries. The meeting passed the CACF
Beijing Declaration and the Program for China-Africa Cooperation in Economic and Social
Development. Both parties agreed to establish a long-term, stable partnership of new type
that is based on equality and mutual benefit.

Follow-up Actions

After the first ministerial conference, China and some African countries established
ministerial commissions to plan and coordinate the implementation of follow-up measures.
In the following three years, both parties made joint efforts to promote implementation of
the agreements reached, making new progresses in cooperation in various areas.

High-ranking officials of both sides exchanged frequent visits. More than 30 African
leaders visited China, and President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji of China’s third
generation of collective leadership also visited African countries. Nongovernmental
exchanges increased continuously and contacts between political parties and women, youth
and businesses organizations on both sides became closer. Sino-African dialogue mechanisms
were also diversified, with China and some African countries establishing political
consultation systems between foreign ministries and joint commissions on issues of
economy, trade and science and technology. On international and regional affairs, China
and African countries actively maintained legal rights and interests of developing
countries through consultation, cooperation and mutual support.

Economic and trade cooperation between China and African countries was strengthened and
expanded rapidly. China reduced and exempted a total of 10.5 billion yuan of debts owed by
31 African countries to it, contributing to economic and social development of these
countries.

The Chinese Government also set up trade promotion centers for investment development
in 11 African countries, establishing special funds and offering preferential discount
loans to encourage and support Chinese enterprises to invest in Africa. Meanwhile, China
actively created investment opportunities for African enterprises. Investment in China
from countries such as South Africa has increased continuously year by year.

Trade between China and African countries has grown rapidly and is becoming more
balanced. In 2000, trade volume between China and African countries exceeded $10 billion.
In the first seven months of 2003, trade volume reached a record $10.25 billion. Exports
of African countries to China increased greatly. In the first half of 2003, African
countries’ exports to China totaled $4.11 billion and imports valued at $4.48 billion.

China and African countries have achieved much with cooperation in human resources
development. China annually offered 1,500 scholarships to African students to come study
in China. It also held various seminars and training classes for senior African diplomats
and economic and financial officials. Technological training in agriculture and processing
sectors had also been offered. Meanwhile, China sent experts, teachers and technologists
to African countries, training about 7,000 local experts urgently needed in economic and
social development for African countries.

China continued to offer various help to African countries without any political
conditions attached, helping the recipients to construct infrastructures and social
welfare projects such as roads, water supply systems, schools and hospitals. Chinese
medical taskforces to African countries provided local residents with medicine, medical
equipment and publications for free. China also promoted cooperation in epidemic
prevention and cure, including AIDS, malaria and pulmonary tuberculosis.

China has also added Egypt, South Africa and Morocco to the list of approved tourist
destinations for Chinese people.

The Second CACF Ministerial Conference is scheduled to be held in Ethiopia’s capital of
Addis Ababa on December 15-16. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and leaders of some African
countries are expected to attend the meeting. The meeting will review the implementation
of tasks put forward in the first ministerial conference, discuss new measures in
deepening cooperation in areas of human resources development, agriculture, infrastructure
construction, investment and trade, and make detailed cooperation plan in various areas
for the next three years.

CACF has become an important platform for China and African countries to strengthen
unity and cooperation while maintaining common benefits. With joint efforts of all members
of the forum, the Addis Ababa meeting is expected to make new contribution in enhancing
friendship between China and Africa, deepening bilateral cooperation and promoting common
development.

(China.org.cn December 10, 2003)

China-African Forum Reaches Action Plan

· Chinese Premier’s Four-nation Tour Fruitful: FM

· Chinese Premier Back Home After Four-nation Tour

· Chinese Premier Meets African Leaders at China-Africa Forum

· China-Africa Cooperation Forum Not Talking Shop: Ethiopian FM

· China to Strengthen Cooperation with Africa on NEPAD Priorities

· China to Train 10,000 African Personnel in Three Years

· 20 Accords Signed in Sino-African Business Conference

· African Leaders Hail Strong Friendship

· Wen Calls for More Help for Africa

· Speech by Premier Wen at Opening Ceremony of China-Africa Cooperation Forum

· UN Pledges Support for China-Africa Cooperation

· Sino-African Cooperation of Great Prospect: AU Chairman

· African Nations Have High Expectations for Upcoming China-Africa Forum

· Interview: Action-oriented Spirit Highlights China-Africa Cooperation Forum

· Forging a New Chapter in Sino-African Friendship and Cooperation

· Great Achievements of Sino-African Economic and Trade Cooperation

· ‘We Have Learned a Lot’

· Sino-Ethiopian Relations Enter New Stage: Chinese Ambassador

· Kenya, China Mark 40-year Diplomatic Ties

· China, Ethiopia Value Win-win Partnership: Chinese Ambassador

· Over 100 Chinese Entrepreneurs to Go with Wen to Africa for Upcoming Forum

· Kenyan VP Stresses Need to Strengthen Sino-Kenyan Ties

· Chinese Industrialists Encouraged to Invest in Mauritius

· People’s Daily Hails New China-Africa Partnership

· Great Prospects for Sino-African Cooperation

· African Culture Merits Chinese Study

· China-Africa Cooperation Forum: Past, Present and Future

· Technical Cooperation Between China, Uganda Brings Great Achievements

· China, Ghana Enjoy Good Economic Relations

China-Africa Forum Follow-up
A senior Chinese diplomat said in Beijing yesterday
that China and Africa are satisfied with the follow-up work of the
Forum on China-Africa Cooperation
, referring to work done to reduce debts,
encourage trade and promote talent.

“Delegates to the meeting appreciated China’s
efforts on implementing the follow-up actions after the second ministerial
conference,” said Xu Jinghu, secretary-general of the Secretariat of the Chinese
Follow-up Committee and director of the Foreign Ministry’s African Department.

Xu made the remarks in the wake of the forum’s 4th Senior Officials Meeting, which was
held in Beijing on August 22-23.

China has carried out a series of measures such as reducing or exempting some African
countries’ debts, granting duty-free status for some African products and training 10,000
people.

At the forum, the two sides agreed that China would host a summit involving national
leaders in Beijing next year, along with the group’s third ministerial meeting.

The summit will provide a chance for leaders to exchange views on relations and major
issues of common concern, said Xu.

“The summit to be held next year is a milestone in Sino-African
friendly cooperation and will bring an important influence to maintaining and enhancing
long-term stability, mutual benefit and a cooperative partnership,” Xu said.

(Xinhua News Agency August 29, 2005)

GEOPOLITICS

November 3, 2006 at 10:19 pm | Posted in Books, Economics, Financial, Globalization, History, Military | Leave a comment

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IMPERIUM EUROPA, THE EURASIAN ALTERNATIVE, GEOPOLITICS

GEOPOLITICS

GEOPOLITICS actually is an ancient concept. It is a method of political analysis, emphasizing the role played by geography in international
relations. Theoretically geopolitics aims at establishing a political grammar of world politics, through a scientific discipline based on the objective reality of geography.

Hence, geopolitics is often seen as a “realistic” attempt to establish world policy as an objective science based of some kind of “physico-spacial reference”. Geopolitical theorists stress that natural political boundaries and access to important waterways are vital to a nation’s survival.

The term geopolitics (Geopolitik in German) was developed by Rudolf Kjéllen, a Swedish political scientist in 1905. As a subbranch of political geography, geopolitics focused on the spatial development and needs of the State. It combined Friedrich Ratzel’s theory on the organic nature of the State along with Sir Halford J. Mackinder’s Heartland Theory. The term was later borrowed by Karl Haushofer, a German geographer and follower of Friedrich Ratzel.

As a modern concept geopolitics received its classical form in the work of Friedrich Ratzel, Rudolf Kjéllen, Harold J. Mackinder, Alfred T. Mahan and Karl Haushofer. The idea behind geopolitics is based on the assessment that geography is a crucial factor in the system of causes, forming the parameters of politics.

Friedrich Ratzel’s influence on modern geography is legendary. Robert E. Dickinson writes about Ratzel: “There is no doubt that Friedrich Ratzel has been the greatest single contributor to the development of the Geography of Man.” (Robert E. Dickinson,
The Makers of Modern Geography. New York: Friederich A. Praeger, 1969. p.64)

In his analysis from 1890 (Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783. New York: Dover, 1987) Alfred Thayer Mahan argued that the rise of British Power in the 18th and 19th century was
attributed to the country’s island position, which gave it advances in regard to world trade.
Mahan argued that the basis of British world power was its capacity through its navy to control the waterways, which at that time was the main communication structures in the world. Mahan explained Britain’svictory in the Napoleon war on the ground control of the main communication network of the world is the main advantage in the great struggle regarding European power hegemony that lay behind the Napoleon wars. Mahan’s writing encouraged President Theodore Roosevelt to develop U.S. Naval power in the first decade of the twentieth century.

Sir Halford Mackinder, argued in 1904 that the new trend in the modern industry and particularly the development of the railroad as the main infrastructure and communicative
meant a change in the balance between land and sea power and favor the dominance of land powers in the twentieth century. In a famous article titled “the Geographical Pivot of History” (Halford J. Mackinder, “The Geographical Pivot of History.” Geographical Journal, vol.23. 1904. pp.421-444), Mackinder also identified East Europe and Central Russia as the heartland of the world and claimed that the power that controlled Russia would rule the world. This claim however was contested by other scholars and geopolitical theorists.

In the 1920s, the German General and geographer Karl Haushofer developed Geopolitik as a policy for Germany and Europe. Haushofer developed his idea of geopolitics through a study of the emergence of the modern Japanese state. His concept of Lebensraum (living space) was actually developed by Ratzel, who is often called the founder of political geography. In 1924 Gerneral Haushofer founded and edited the journal “Zeitschrift für Geopolitik” and then became a professor of geopolitics. The journal, and Haushofer’s career, only lasted until 1944. Haushofers ideas were were only of limited influence on the National Socialist regime for it had his own concept of geography and the expansion of the state. Haushofer’s son Albrecht was indicted in the July 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler so the elder Haushofer was imprisoned in a concentration camp. Following the war, Haushofer was interrogated by the allies and in 1946, distraught over
the death of this son, Haushofer committed suicide. Nevertheless Haushofer is still accused of providing the academic and scientific support for the expansion of the Third Reich.

The concept of geopolitics is of theoretical interest today due to two reasons:

a) The physical, spacial parameters of the world, as an object of social science analysis might still provide us with a special pathway into the scientific study of international policy.

b) Because it is important to identify a pattern of “objective” correlation within the international order, which can save modern social analysis from the pitfall of relativism.

Eurasia

“Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; Who rules the World-Island commands the World.” Sir Halford Mackinder, the English geographer who wrote “Democratic Ideals and reality” , put this lapidary motto at the basis of his own global geopolitical concept.

Geopolitics – as it is studied in the American and European (and since recently also Russian) military and diplomatic academies and institutes – is based on the fact that between Russia (Eurasia) and the West (atlantism, the US) there is an irremovable contradiction, such as existed between Rome and Carthage, Athenes and Sparta in the ancient times, or between Great Britain and Continental Europe (including Russia) in the modern epoch.

Geopolitics states that the kind of a civilization is to a very great extent predetermined by its geography, landscape, climate, structure of space. The insular and coastal peoples, the seafarers’ races create commercial societies – dynamical, technologically developed, innovative, but gravitating around plutocracy, egoism and individualism. The peoples dwelling in the depth of continents, in the steppes, forests, plains and wildernesses, on the contrary, are static, conservative, contemplative, yet valiant and inclined to communitarian-conciliary principles.

Leviathan” in the terminology of geopolitical science symbolizes a maritime, “mobile”, commercial civilization, e.g. Athenes, Carthago, England, the US, in contraposition to “Behemoth” – symbol of a continental, “static”, non-commercial civilization, e.g. Sparta, Rome, the Holy Empire, the
Golden Horde, Russia. This polarity of West and East, sea and land, island and continent, atlantism and eurasism predetermines the dynamics of the fundamental lines of world politics. Eurasists and atlantists are opposed to each other defending two different, alternative, mutually excluding images of the world and its future. It is this opposition which defines the historical outline of the XXI century.

Not always these lines are evident, and sometimes, in the most complex cases, one has to apply some smart enough methodology to find out where the hidden concerns of eurasism lay, and where those of atlantism. Thus the great opposition of civilizations (maritime and overland) is as old as history. And only the final ruin of one of the poles marks by itself the end of this history – that end which was hurriedly declared by the American liberals (F. Fukuyama) after the demolition of the bipolar world of Yalta.

The US with very clearly acknowledge itself as the contemporary and historically most successful by the issuing of “sea power”, apogee of the commercial civilizationof liberal ploting. After the second world war it replaced England, queen of the seas, having bought from her the main strategic spots of check over maritime, insular and coastal spaces of the planet. The whole tradition of Anglo-Saxon and American geopolitics
(from Mahan and Mackinder to Spykman, Brzeszinski and Wolfowitz) sees foreign policy through the eyes of atlantism, moving step by step towards the final triumph of the “sea power”, towards the globalization of their civilization kind.

The Anglo-Saxon World surrounding the Atlantic, including Great Britain and America, lead by a capitalist elite has been leading a war against Europe since the beginning of the 20th century. According to the classic Geopolitical doctine Eurasia is the Key to World Power and the Atlantist powers are trying
to gain it. With the end of Second World War Europe has become (trans-) atlantic under the hegemony of the
US-led Leviathan NATO. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the US has achieved an unprecedented position of global supremacy. To regain its souvereignity Europe has to end its status of a protectorate of the United States by turning away from the Atlantic towards the Russian and Muslim East and to get rid of American supremacy. By creating a global police force operating beneath the auspices of NATO and the United Nations, it is possible to defend and thus facilitate the interests of Americanisation throughout the world. It is only right, therefore, that we emulate their example by both defending and advancing our own interests in a similar manner. Internationalism must be met with an inter-national force of Eurasian solidarity, an explosion of non-sectarian militancy in which dogmatism and reaction will have no place. In other words, opponents of globalisation – regardless of their various political affiliations – must stand shoulder to shoulder in the struggle against Americanisation at all levels of society. Europe must find emancipation from the New American International Law.

How right was Carl Schmitt in the past when he wrote: “Behind the facade of general norms of international law lies, in reality , the system of Anglo-Saxon imperialism”. More than ever before, in the New World Order, behind the facade of international law lies in reality the system of American imperialism. What Europe needs is a “Monroe Doctrine for Europe” as an answer to the New World Order and American totalitarian ambitions for Weltherrschaft. Or as General de Gaulle once said : “A truly free Europe, is Europe free from American hegemony”.

This inevitably leads to the question of the role of Russia for Europes future. Straddling the Eurasian continent, deprived of nearly all its former superpower glory, economically devastated, politically adrift Russia today poses a unique challenge to geostrategy. Eurasism (in its strict historical meaning) is a philosophical current arisen in the 1920s among the Russian emigrates. Eurasianism is a clear answer to the Atlantic strategy. Against the establishing of the atlantist world order and globalisation stand the supporters of the multi-polar world – the eurasists. The eurasists defend on principle the necessity to preserve the existence of every people on earth, the blossoming variety of cultures and religious traditions, the unquestionable right of the peoples to independently choose their path of historical development. The eurasists greet the generality of cultures and systems of values, the open dialogue among peoples and civilizations, the organic combination between the devotion to traditions and the creative impulse.

“At a planetary level Eurasianism means active and universal opposition to globalisation, and is equal to the ‘anti-globalist movement’. Eurasianism defends the blossoming complexity of peoples, religions and nations. All anti-globalist tendencies are intrinsically ‘Eurasianist’. We are consequent supporters of ‘Eurasianist federalism’. This means a combination of strategic unity and ethno-cultural autonomies.” (Alexander Dugin)

http://www.geocities.com/integral_tradition/geopol.html

FELIX MENDELSSOHN ORATORIO: ELIJAH

November 3, 2006 at 3:37 pm | Posted in Art, History, Israel | Leave a comment

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Mendelssohn: Elijah

Shaw, Bonney, Quivar, Hadley, Hampson, Atlanta Symphony (Sung in English)

The story of Elijah and King Ahab and Queen Jezebel I Kings 17

Disc:1

1. Introduction (Elijah) – ‘As God The Lord Of Israel Liveth’
2. Overture
3. 1. Chorus – ‘Help Lord’
4. Quartet: Recitative – ‘The Deep Affords No Water’
5. Duet With Chorus – ‘Zion Spreadeth Her Hands For Aid’
6. 3. Recitative (Obadiah) – ‘Ye People,
Rend Your Hearts’
7. 4. Air (Obadiah) – ‘If With All Your Hearts’
8. 5. Chorus – ‘Yet Doth The Lord See It Not’
9. 6. Recitative (Angel) – ‘Elijah! Get Thee Hence’
10. 7. Double Quartet – ‘For He Shall
Give His Angels’

Disc: 2

1. 21. Air – ‘Hear Ye, Israel!’
2. 22. Chorus – ‘Be Not Afraid’
3. 23. Recitative (Elijah, Queen) And Chorus – ‘The Lord Hath Exalted Thee’
4. 24. Chorus – ‘Woe To Him!’
5. 25. Recitative (Obadiah, Elijah) – ‘Man Of God, Now Let My Words Be Precious’
6. 26. Air (Elijah) – ‘It Is Enough, O Lord’
7. 27. Recitative – ‘See, Now He Sleepeth’
8. 28. Trio of Angels – ‘Lift Thine Eyes’
9. 29. Chorus – ‘He, Watching Over Israel’
10. 30. Recitative (Angel, Elijah)- ‘Arise, Elijah’

IRAQ INSURGENCY

November 3, 2006 at 2:38 pm | Posted in Globalization, History, Islam, Middle East, Military | Leave a comment

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Islamic Resistance Movement is an insurgent group in Iraq fighting against the U.S. lead coalition forces as part of the Iraqi Insurgency.

The group has a military wing known as the 20th Revolution Brigades (Literally: “Brigades of the Revolution of the Twenty”).

The group, previously known as the Iraqi National Islamic Resistance, was among the first groups that were formed after the
occupation of Iraq, formed around August, 2003.

Resistance Movement and the 20th Revolution Brigades.

LOGO: It’s a map of Iraq, with a Quran on top of it, and the verse “Fight them, God shall torture them by your hands”, and in the middle there is a mirrored symbol of an AK gun, with an Iraqi flag attached to it, between the gun and the flag, a small print says “Islamic Resistance movement”, and below, a larger print reads “Brigades of the 20th Revolution.”

Logo of the Islamic Resistance Movement and the 20th Revolution Brigades.

It’s a map of Iraq, with a Quran on top of it, and the verse “Fight them, God shall torture them by your hands”, and in the middle there is a mirrored symbol of an AK gun, with an Iraqi flag attached to it, between the gun and the flag, a
small print says “Islamic Resistance movement”, and below, a larger print reads “Brigades of the 20th Revolution.”

Islamic Resistance Movement is an insurgent group in Iraq fighting against the U.S. lead coalition forces as part of the Iraqi Insurgency.

The group has a military wing known as the “20th Revolution Brigades” (Literally: “Brigades of the Revolution of the Twenty”).

The group, previously known as the Iraqi National Islamic Resistance, was among the first groups that were formed after the occupation of Iraq, formed around August, 2003.

FRANCIS GALTON & THE WISDOM OF CROWDS

November 3, 2006 at 4:40 am | Posted in Books, History, Philosophy, Research, Science & Technology | Leave a comment

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The Wisdom of Crowds

The Wisdom of Crowds

The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective
Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations
,
first
published in 2004, is a book written by James Surowiecki about the aggregation of information in
groups, resulting in decisions that, he argues, are often better than could have been made
by any single member of the group. The book presents numerous case studies and anecdotes to illustrate its argument, and touches on several
fields, primarily economics and psychology.

The opening anecdote relates Francis Galton‘s
surprise that the crowd at a county fair accurately guessed the weight of an ox when their individual guesses were averaged (the average was closer
to the ox’s true weight than the estimates of most crowd members, and also closer than any
of the separate estimates made by cattle experts).

The book relates to diverse collections of independently-deciding individuals, rather
than crowd psychology as traditionally understood.
There are parallels with statistical sampling
theory—a diverse collection of independently-deciding individuals is likely to be
more representative of the universe of possible outcomes, thereby producing a better
prediction.

Its title is an allusion to Charles Mackay‘s Extraordinary
Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
, published in 1841.

Types of crowd wisdom

Surowiecki breaks down the advantages he sees in disorganized decisions into three main
types, which he classifies as:

Cognition

Market judgment, which he argues can be much
faster, more reliable, and less subject to political forces than the deliberations of
experts, or expert committees

Coordination

Coordination of behavior includes optimizing the utilization of a popular restaurant and
not colliding in moving traffic flows. The book is replete with examples from experimental economics, but this section relies
more on naturally occurring experiments such as pedestrians optimizing the pavement flow,
or the extent of crowding in popular restaurants. He examines how common understanding
within a culture allows remarkably accurate judgments about specific reactions of other
members of the culture.

Cooperation

How groups of people can form networks of trust
without a central system controlling their behavior or directly enforcing their
compliance. This section is especially pro-free market.

Four elements required to form a wise crowd

Not all crowds (groups) are wise. Consider, for example, mobs or crazed investors in a
stock market bubble. Refer to Failures of crowd
intelligence
(below) for more examples of unwise crowds. According to Surowiecki,
these key criteria separate wise crowds from irrational ones:

Diversity of opinion

Each person should have private information even if it’s just an eccentric
interpretation of the known facts.

Independence

People’s opinions aren’t determined by the opinions of those around them.

Decentralization

People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge.

Aggregation

Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision.

Failures of crowd intelligence

Surowiecki studies situations (such as rational
bubbles
) in which the crowd produces very bad judgment, and argues that in these types
of situations their cognition or cooperation failed because (in one way or another) the
members of the crowd were too conscious of the opinions of others and began to emulate
each other and conform rather than think differently. Although he gives experimental
details of crowds collectively swayed by a persuasive speaker, he says that the main
reason that groups of people intellectually conform is that the system for making
decisions has a systematic flaw.

Surowiecki asserts that what happens when the decision making environment is not set up
to accept the crowd, is that the benefits of individual judgments and private information are
lost, and that the crowd can only do as well as its smartest member, rather than perform
better (as he shows is otherwise possible). Detailed case histories of such failures
include:

Too centralized

The Columbia shuttle disaster, which
he blames on a hierarchical NASA management bureaucracy that was
totally closed to the wisdom of low-level engineers.

Too divided

The U.S. Intelligence community failed to prevent the September 11, 2001 attacks partly because
information held by one subdivision was not accessible by another. Surowiecki’s argument
is that crowds (of intelligence analysts in this case) work best when they choose for themselves
what to work on and what information they need. (He cites the SARS-virus
isolation as an example in which the free flow of data enabled laboratories around the
world to coordinate research without a central point of control.)

Too imitative

Where choices are visible and made in sequence, an "information cascade" can form in which only the
first few decision makers gain anything by contemplating the choices available: once this
has happened it is more efficient for everyone else to simply copy those around them.

Is it possible to be too connected?

Surowiecki spoke on Independent
Individuals and Wise Crowds, or Is It Possible to Be Too Connected?
.

The question for all of us is, how can you have interaction without information
cascades, without losing the independence that’s such a key factor in group intelligence?

He recommends:

  • Keep your ties loose
  • Keep yourself exposed to as much diverse sources of information as possible
  • Make groups that range across hierarchies

Tim O’Reilly[1]
and others also discuss the success of Google, wikis, blogging and Web
2.0
in the context of the wisdom of crowds.

Perspective and wise questions

Surowiecki discusses the success of prediction
markets
. Similar to Delphi methods but unlike opinion polls, prediction (information) markets ask
questions like "Who do you think will win the election?" and predict outcomes
rather well. Interestingly, if the question is formed "Who will you vote for?"
the question is not as predictive. When people have an opportunity to express an opinion
regarding the outcome rather than report their choice, the aggregate opinion (or
collective wisdom) tends to be correct.

Applications

Surowiecki is a very strong advocate of the benefits of decision markets, and regrets
the failure of DARPA‘s controversial Policy Analysis Market to get off the ground. He
points to the success of public and internal corporate markets as evidence that a
collection of individuals with varying points of view but the same motivation (to make a
good guess) can produce an accurate aggregate prediction. According to Surowiecki, the
aggregate predictions have been shown to be more reliable than the output of any think tank. He advocates extensions of the existing futures
markets even into areas such as terrorist activity, and
prediction markets within companies.

To illustrate its thesis, he says that his publisher is able to publish a more
compelling output by relying on individual authors under one-off contracts bringing book
ideas to them. In this way they are able to tap into the wisdom of a much larger crowd
than would be possible with an in-house writing team.

Will Hutton has argued that Surowiecki’s analysis
applies to value judgments as well as factual issues, with crowd decisions that
"emerge of our own aggregated free will [being] astonishingly… decent". He
concludes that "There’s no better case for pluralism, diversity and democracy, along
with a genuinely independent press." [2].

Applications of the wisdom of crowds effect currently exist in three general
categories: Prediction markets, Delphi methods, and extensions of the traditional opinion
poll. The most common application is the prediction market, a speculative or betting
market created to make verifiable predictions. Assets are cash values tied to specific
outcomes (e.g., Candidate X will win the election) or parameter (e.g., Next quarter’s
revenue). The current market prices are interpreted as predictions of the probability of
the event or the expected value of the parameter. NewsFutures
is an international prediction market that generates consensus probabilities for news
events. Consensus View predicts the
performance of financial markets, including stocks, futures and foreign exchange. InnovateUs is an enterprise class idea marketplace
where employee consensus predicts market potential for new ideas. Delphi methods are
information aggregation tools that include Hutton’s notion of judgments as well as
verifiable outcomes. Dialogr
is a Delphi method that elicits, judges, and aggregates the collective value of ideas.
Opinion polls are surveys of opinion using sampling; are usually designed to represent the
opinions of a population by asking a small number of people questions and then
extrapolating the answers to the larger group. The opinion poll Opinion Republic is an experiment to capture
public opinion and then converge on the most broadly accepted opinions.

See also

References and further reading

External links

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wisdom_of_Crowds

THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV & THE RUSSIA OF THE 1860’S

November 3, 2006 at 1:52 am | Posted in Books, Globalization, History, Literary, Philosophy | Leave a comment

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The Brothers Karamazov as a Novel of the 1860’s

http://www.utoronto.ca/tsq/DS/07/073.shtml

In the strictly formal
sense, all four of Dostoevsky’s great novels are set in the 1860’s, that intense decade in
which he came to prominence and which thereafter always engaged his closest attention.
Unlike Turgenev, who usually allowed some time to elapse before sitting down to write
about contemporary life, Dostoevsky was very impatient in dealing with events of the
1860’s. Crime and Punishment was set in 1865 and appeared in 1866; The Idiot,
which is set probably in 1866 or 1867, came out in 1868; and the events of The
Possessed
date from the very end of the decade while the book itself appeared in
1871-72. By way of contrast, although the events described in The Brothers Karamazov
take place in 1866 (as I shall assume for the purposes of this paper), Dostoevsky began
thinking seriously about the novel only in 1876, started writing in 1878, and published it
serially from January 1879 through December 1880. Thus what is for Dostoevsky an unusually
long time passed between the time of the action in The Brothers Karamazov and the
time of its writing.

The action of the novel in a sense also extends back from 1866: we know that Alesha is
20, Ivan and Smerdyakov 24, and Dmitry 27 at the time the novel’s action occurs
. This means, for example, that Smerdyakov and Ivan were born in 1842, and by
1855 were only just entering their teens. It is significant that Alesha, the youngest
member of the family, is the only one who might accurately be termed a child of the
1860’s, and yet he goes entirely against its prevalent intellectual atmosphere.

A sense of chronological accuracy was not one of Dostoevsky’s strengths as a novelist.
However, since the period between the time of action and the time of writing was so brief
in his first three novels, he could deal relatively easily with anachronisms falling into
that interval. But he allowed many inaccuracies having to do with the period before the
time of action: for example in The Possessed Dostoevsky confuses elements of the
1830’s quite clearly with those of the 1840’s in delineating the intellectual formation of
his hero Stepan Petrovich Verkhovensky.(1) Given the great gap between the time of the
action and the time of writing in The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky had severe
problems with anachronisms, especially for the period following the time of action. Thus
early in the novel we find a reference to the famous Von Sohn murder case, which occurred
in 1870 (XIV:34);(2) Ivan writes his article on ecclesiastical courts in response to a
book which appeared only in 1875 (XIV:56); late in the novel there are specific allusions
to the political situation of 1876 (XV:152); and we also find a reference to a painting of
Kramskoi’s first exhibited
only in 1878 (XIV:116).
Most important of all is the
fact that Dmitry’s trial is linked in Dostoevsky’s mind with the Vera Zasulich trial of
1878
. There is indeed such a profusion of anachronisms of this sort
that Victor Terras is quite justified in saying that “while the novel is set in the
1860s, the atmosphere is that of the late 1870s.”(3) If this were entirely true,
however, it would be impossible to view The Brothers Karamazov as any sort of novel
of the 1860’s, as I do here.

The fact is, though, that the novel also contains a considerable number of
pre-time-of-action anachronisms, at least enough to justify our treating The
Brothers Karamazov as more of a novel of the 1860’s than it
might appear at first glance.
For example Dmitry’s mother, Adelaida
Miusova, who could not have given birth to him later than 1840, is pictured very much as
an emancipated woman of the 1860’s avant la lettre: she wished, we learn, “to
display her feminine independence, to oppose social conventions as well as the despotism
of her relations and family” (XIV:8) in deciding to marry Fedor Karamazov. Then, when
she realized what a scoundrel Fedor was, she abandoned both him and her three-year-old son
to run away with a “seminarian and teacher who was perishing of poverty”
(XIV:9), very much in the tradition of the 1860’s. Adelaide’s cousin Petr is depicted only
a little less anachronistically as a man who has adopted an intellectually fashionable
anticlericalism which has moved him to engage in litigation with a monastery located near
his estate (XIV: 10-11).

Smerdyakov’s biography provides us with very clear anachronistic details. At the age of
12, we read, that is, in 1854, he placed his mentor Grigory in what he considered an
untenable position during his Bible lessons, when he asked: “God created the light [svet]
on the first day, but the sun, the moon and the stars on the fourth day. So then where did
the light come from on the first day?” Grigory is so incensed by this that he strikes
him on the cheek, and soon thereafter his epileptic seizures commence (XIV:114). This
entire scene is a cliche of the antinihilist literature of the 1860’s, and in general
Smerdyakov is a standard nihilist of the 1860’s even though his intellectual formation had
to occur in the 1850’s, at least if one is to hold Dostoevsky to a chronological standard.
But that is precisely the point.
The Brothers
Karamazov
is a novel formally set in the 1860’s
which dislocates
the general atmosphere of the 1870’s onto the 1860’s and the atmosphere of the 1860’s onto
the 1850’s and the 1840’s. Chronology is so telescoped and intermixed in the novel that we
simply cannot hold the author to any significant chronological accountability.

It is my contention that The Brothers Karamazov may usefully be regarded, among
other things, as a novel of the 1860’s, and more specifically as a belated antinihilist
novel of a peculiar sort, a summing up of Dostoevsky’s response to the literary current
which began with Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons in 1862 and which had been effectively
stoppered by The Possessed in 1871-72. When he sat down to write The Brothers
Karamazov, Dostoevsky believed that the intellectual momentum had clearly swung
away from the radicalism of the 1860’s, that he had contributed considerably to this
desirable development through his own writings, and that with this novel, as he wrote in a
letter of May 1879, he could complete what he called “the rout of anarchism.”
That rout had to be accomplished on the religious plane, through the refutation of Ivan’s
arguments by Father Zossima and Alesha.

Indeed, one may view Dostoevsky’s four great novels as a single enormous discussion of
the central religious and ethical questions which the men of the 1860’s had brought to the
fore. In Crime and Punishment Dostoevsky demonstrated that an ethic could not be
based upon mathematics (the life of one old pawnbroker to ameliorate the lives of a
hundred others); in The Idiot he proved, at least in my interpretation,(4) that an
ethic could not be founded upon esthetics; and in The Possessed he showed that the
ethical could not be equated with that which promoted the purposes of a political
revolution. Thus in The Brothers Karamazov by a process of elimination Dostoevsky
arrived at the conclusion that the only foundation for a true ethic must be revelation, a
belief in God and immortality. But he also wished to demonstrate this positively, through
the discourses of the great religious figures in the novel.

The Brothers Karamazov contains many echoes of the literature of the 1860’s. At one
point Madame Khokhlakova quotes Bazarov, when she comments that she had always believed
there would be nothing after death, that “‘a thistle would sprout on my grave’, as a
certain author once put it” (XIV:52). Two further points are worth noting in this
connection. First, in 1876, at the very time he began creating The Brothers Karamazov
in his mind, Dostoevsky thought briefly of writing a novel with exactly the same title as
Turgenev’s (Ottsy i deti), although the book’s content apparently would have been
quite different. (5) And second, Maxim Antonovich, the radical critic whose most famous
single piece of literary criticism was probably his intemperate attack of 1862 on Fathers
and Sons
, devoted his literary swan-song to a long review of 1881 denouncing The
Brothers Karamazov
as a “mystic-ascetic novel.”(6)

Chernyshevsky’s What Is To Be Done?, the greatest single influence on the
radical generation of the 1860’s, is the source of several echoes in The Brothers
Karamazov
.
Thus the young
socialist Kolya Krasotkin tells Alesha that he is an “egotist”, i.e. an adherent
of the doctrine of enlightened egotism which Chernyshevsky elaborated in his novel
(XIV:483); and toward the end of The Brothers Karamazov Dmitry speaks to Alesha of
going off to America with Grusha for three years or so in order to learn English and then
return as Americans, much as Lopukhov does in What Is To Be Done? (XV:186). The
Brothers Karamazov
also contains a running polemic with Dostoevsky’s great ideological
opponent of the 1860’s, Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin. At one point the gushing Madame
Khokhlakova talks of Shchedrin as her mentor in the matter of feminine emancipation: she
had recently, she says, dispatched

to him a brief note with the text: “I embrace and kiss you, my writer, on behalf
of contemporary womankind, keep it up,” and signed it: “a mother.”
(XIV:350). Here Dostoevsky twits Saltykov
by asserting that his most ardent followers are flighty, brainless females. At another
point later in the novel Dostoevsky distorted some of Saltykov’s writings of 1875 through
paraphrase (XV:78). Saltykov, incidentally, followed these details quite closely, and was
quick to reply to his old opponent. Such muted polemics were not the most important part
of the novel, of course, although they are strongly reminiscent of the 1860’s.

As in Dostoevsky’s earlier and more overtly antinihilist novels, the characters of The
Brothers Karamazov
are divided into those who exist on a more superficial, political
level, and those who embody more profoundly metaphysical problems. In Crime and
Punishment
Lebezyatnikov serves as an example of the first category, Raskolnikov and
Svidrigaylov of the second. In The Idiot the first category is represented by
Burdovsky and the young radicals gathered about him. In The Possessed Petr
Verkhovensky is a very well-developed example of the first grouping, while Stavrogin is a
most powerful example of the second.
In The
Brothers Karamazov
we find an entire constellation of figures who fall into the first
category. Adelaida Miusova and then Madame Khokhlakova are samples of the scatterbrained
emancipated female; Petr Miusov is the fashionable anti-clerical activist; Smerdyakov has
grown up as a committed nihilist, and a dangerous one as well, for he is capable not just
of murder but of parricide; and the divinity student Rakitin spreads his evil intellectual
influence throughout the novel, all the way down to Kolya Krasotkin, who admires Rakitin
as his teacher and openly declares his socialist convictions.
And
then, in the second category, there is the great metaphysical figure of Ivan Karamazov.
Ivan not only – in his “Legend of the Grand Inquisitor” – recasts Shigalev’s
doctrines on the dominion of the enlightened few over the innumerable herd in religious
terms, but he and Alesha also grapple with the central religious question of Dostoevsky’s
world. As the narrator writes of Alesha in a crucial passage:

No sooner had he, after taking serious thought, come to the astounding conviction that
immortality and God exist, than he immediately, naturally, said to himself: ‘I wish to
live for immortality, and accept no halfway compromises.’ He acted just the same way as he
would have, had he decided that God and immortality do not exist, in which case he would
immediately have become an atheist and a socialist (for socialism is not merely a matter
of the labor question… but is first and foremost a problem of atheism, a problem of the
contemporary incarnation of atheism, a question of the Tower of Babel which is being built
without God not in order to reach Heaven from Earth, but in order to bring Heaven down to
Earth). (XIV:25)

Similarly, later in the novel this argument is extended to the conclusion that if a
person decides that God and immortality do not exist, he is obliged to invert his
understanding of the moral law entirely and commit acts which would be considered criminal
under the old ethical code (XIV:65). Thus between Ivan on the one hand and Alesha and
Father Zossima on the other are established the fundamental dichotomies: between
acceptance of the world as it is (Father Zossima urges his followers to consider the
beauty of the natural world and comprehend that “life is paradise” [XIV:272]),
or its rejection; between belief in God and immortality as the foundation of the
traditional ethical code, and atheism, with the inevitable inversion of the established
ethical creed which flows from the conviction that God does not exist.

A certain number of relatively superficial themes characteristic of the antinihilist
novel of the 1860’s occur in The Brothers Karamazov,
although
they do not occupy an especially prominent place. One such topic, as we have already seen,
is that of feminine emancipation, brought to the fore especially through Madame
Khokhlakova, and also satirized in such passages as that about the three women:

Three ladies are sitting there, sir, one feebleminded without any legs, another
hunchbacked without any legs, still another with legs but even overintelligent, a student
taking special courses who’s always trying to get away to St. Petersburg to search for the
rights of Russian women there on the banks of the Neva. (XIV:186).

A second important antinihilist theme is the radical negation of literature, art and
esthetics, with Pushkin as the central target of abuse (the dedication of the Pushkin
monument in Moscow in 1880 could be interpreted as an explicit rejection by Russian
society of the radical view of him: as one character says disgustedly, “they want to
put up a monument to your Pushkin for his women’s feet” [XV:17]). Thus Smerdyakov
declares sharply that “poetry is rubbish.” “Who on earth speaks in
rhyme?” he goes on to ask. “And if we did all start talking in rhyme, say by
order of the authorities, would we get very much said?” (XIV:204). In Dmitry’s long
conversation with Alesha where he speaks of
Rakitin’s influence on his thinking, Dostoevsky depicts the radical contempt for poetry
with biting sarcasm. According to Dmitry,
Rakitin had taken advantage of Madame Khokhlakova’s money to begin writing verses for
the first time: “And anyway,
Rakitin says, I wrote better than that Pushkin of yours, because I managed to cram so
much civic melancholy into a clownish verse” (XV:29). This remark is followed by an
anti-parody of sorts, or a parody on the parodies of Pushkinian works which such satirical
poets of the 1860’s as Dmitry Minaev used to produce. Entitled “On the Healing of my
Object’s Injured Leg”,
it deals with the
subject of Pushkin’s weakness for women’s feet,
and illustrates,
incidentally, an intertwining of Pushkin’s fixation on women’s feet and Dostoevsky’s
fascination with feminine lameness.

Still another antinihilist theme of the 1860’s to be found in The Brothers Karamazov
is the belief in rationalism, especially rationalism organized as
natural science. That true follower of Dmitry Pisarev, Kolya
Krasotkin, scornfully dismisses history as “the study of a series of human
stupidities, nothing more. I respect only mathematics and natural sciences”
(XIV:497). In one of his conversations with Alesha Ivan rejects the notion of
non-Euclidian geometry (XIV:215), much as Chernyshevsky did in real life, and that quite
furiously, on the ground that Euclidian geometry is the foundation of a rational
explanation of the physical world as it exists, and that it is totally impermissible to
toy with the axioms of mathematics or geometry. Early in the book
Father Paisy comments to Alesha that modern science has sought to
undo religion for quite some time, but without success on the whole
(XIV:155-56). Still, as frequently occurred in the antinihilist novel of
the 1860’s, propaganda for natural science can have a powerful effect on individuals who
are not especially intelligent. In The Brothers Karamazov that happens to be
Dmitry, who for a time succumbs badly to Rakitin’s malign influence. He tells Alesha that
he now knows there are various “nerves” in the brain with “little
tails” which give rise to images in the mind, consciousness, so that the mind is
merely a matter of “chemistry”. “Rakitin was explaining all this to me
yesterday, brother”, Dmitry says, “and it was just like a revelation. This
science is magnificent, Alesha! And then the new man will appear, I understand that now…
But still I feel sorry for God”, Dmitry adds, because, as he realizes, “Rakitin
hates God” (XV:28-29). Extreme hostility toward any manifestation of the supernatural
was an integral part of the radical worldview which Dmitry has so naively absorbed.

All these themes, however, though they demonstrate certain superficial links between The
Brothers Karamazov
and the anti-radical novel of the 1860’s, do not go to the book’s
deepest level, formed of an interweaving of the problem of the family, blood relationships
between parents and children, and the question of crime – in this instance parricide – and
violations of the accepted ethical code. Radicals in the nineteenth century and since have
instinctively recognized the family as a major obstacle to the implementation of their
doctrines. When Kolya Krasotkin is asked what he means by declaring himself a socialist,
he defines socialism as follows: “This is if everyone is equal, everybody has nothing
but common property, there are no marriages, and religion and all the laws are just
the way anyone wants them” (XIV:473. Italics added.) In The Possessed the girl
student keeps asking about the origin of the family, to which Stavrogin responds that it
might be improper to provide too detailed a reply (X:306);and in The Brothers Karamazov
old Karamazov comments to Alesha that “in our fashionable time nowadays people
reject fathers and mothers as a prejudice” (XIV:158).

Dostoevsky very brilliantly grasped the crucial hostility of the radical mind to the
institution of the family and the idea of blood relationships, and therefore he defended
the family at its weakest point in making of his last novel a version of
Fathers and Sons which dealt with
the relationships between generations on a far deeper level than Turgenev ever reached.
The Karamazov family has a series of mothers, and a father who has not been able to
maintain his marriages, who is on the worst of terms with his sons, who is little more
than a mere biological progenitor of his children. Into this family which is
metaphysically on the very edge of existence Dostoevsky thrusts the issue of parricide in
its most extreme form. The actual murderer, of course, is the son closest to the
“nihilist” of the antinihilist literature, but it is the technically innocent
Dmitry who is brought to trial. We are told that the fashionable ladies in attendance at
the trial are quite certain of his guilt, but at the same time down to the last moment
expect him to be acquitted “out of humane feeling, from the new ideas and new
feelings which have such currency now, etc.” (XV:95). But in fact the jury finds
Dmitry guilty, and he, in accordance with the Christian conception of guilt, accepts his
punishment on the grounds that he did wish for his father’s death even if he did not
actually murder him. Dostoevsky thus shows the absolute dichotomy at the most fundamental
level between the radical view of morality derived from atheistic socialism, which holds
that it can be quite acceptable even to kill one’s own father, and the traditional,
religiously grounded ethic, which maintains that one deserves punishment even for
seriously wishing harm to another, regardless of whether one has committed some overt act.

In The Brothers Karamazov, then, Dostoevsky goes back over much of the same
ground that he had covered in his earlier novels – particularly in Crime and Punishment
and The Possessed – in order to make his final artistic statement on the centrality
of religious belief to a proper system of ethics. Though with scant regard for chronology,
he recapitulates at a higher level the arguments of the 1860’s in this novel which he
explicitly sets in that decade, and through which he hoped to have the final word in that
discussion. And in my view The Brothers Karamazov did indeed terminate that great
philosophical and literary argument which by then had continued for some twenty years.

NOTES

  1. See Charles A. Moser, “Stepan
    Trofimovic Verxovenskij and the Esthetics of His Time”,
    Slavic
    and East European Journal
    , vol. 29, no. 2 (Summer 1985), p. 158.
  2. All volume and page citations given within the text are to Fedor Dostoevsky, Polnoe
    sobranie sochinenii
    (Leningrad: Nauka, 1972).
  3. Victor Terras, A Karamazov Companion: Commentary on the Genesis, Language, and Style
    of Dostoevsky’s Novel
    (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1981), p. 63.
  4. Charles A. Moser, “Nihilism, Aesthetics and The Idiot“, Russian
    Literature
    , vol. 11 (1982), pp. 377-88.
  5. Carl R. Proffer, ed., The Unpublished Dostoevsky: Diaries and Notebooks, 1860-81
    (Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1975). II. 149.
  6. 80

  7. Maksim Antonovich, “Mistiko-asketicheskii roman”, Literaturno-kriticheskie
    stat’i
    (Moscow-Leningrad: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo khudozhestvennoi literatury,
    1961), pp. 396-448.


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