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Zero Squared #48.5: Yasin Kakande's Full Interview
December 16, 2015 08:56 PM PST
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On Sunday we uploaded an interview with Yasin Kakande wherein we stepped in and offered paraphrased narration because we thought that the audio quality of his side of the conversation made it difficult to follow. However, having listened to the conversation with earbuds we find Kakande’s answers comes through clearly and this week we're uploading the full conversation, a conversations we’d shortened because of the time required to edit in the narration.

Kakande is a former journalist for the newspaper the National out of Dubai, a news producer for City 7 TV in Dubai, and a former reporter and assistant editor for the Bahrain Tribune. His book Slave States is out from Zero Books this month. It is an exposé of the Kafala system.

Kafala is a sponsorship system used to monitor migrant workers in the Gulf Arab Region. Kafala requires that a migrant worker’s employer acts as his or her sponsor. It puts the employer in charge of most aspects of a migrant workers life. The human rights organization Amnesty International has documented many human rights abuses by Kafala employers. At a FIFA hearing in July of this year, AIUSA Advocacy Director Sunjeev Bery testified against Kafala. He reported that “The Kafala sponsorship system is a recipe for worker abuse.” The concern was raised in regards to the migrant workers preparing for the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Bery said that “As a first step, Qatar must abolish the inherently abusive policies that give employers the power to decide whether a worker can leave the country or take another job.”

Zero Squared #48: Kafala-An Insult to Islam
December 13, 2015 04:47 PM PST
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Yasin Kakande is the guest this week on the Zero Squared podcast. Kakande is a former journalist for the newspaper the National out of Dubai, a news producer for City 7 TV in Dubai, and a former reporter and assistant editor for the Bahrain Tribune. His book Slave States is out from Zero Books this month. It is an exposé of the Kafala system. Kafala is a sponsorship system used to monitor migrant workers in the Gulf Arab Region. Kafala requires that a migrant worker's employer acts as his or her sponsor. It puts the employer in charge of most aspects of a migrant workers life. The human rights organization Amnesty International has documented many human rights abuses by Kafala employers. At a FIFA hearing in July of this year, AIUSA Advocacy Director Sunjeev Bery testified against Kafala. He reported that "The Kafala sponsorship system is a recipe for worker abuse." The concern was raised in regards to the migrant workers preparing for the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Bery said that "As a first step, Qatar must abolish the inherently abusive policies that give employers the power to decide whether a worker can leave the country or take another job."

The Skype connection this interview with Yasin Kakande was particularly poor and in order to compensate for this we've narrated over many of Kakande's answers in order to make sure that both his voice and ideas can be heard.

In this episode you'll hear a clip from Sam Cooke's hit Chain Gang, clips from the BBC and MSNBC on the subject of Qatar and the Kafala system, an excerpt from the Frontline documentary Dubai's Night Secrets: Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in Dubai, and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

Zero Squared #47: Imperialism or Security
December 02, 2015 06:07 PM PST
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Margaret Kimberley has been an editor and Senior Columnist of Black Agenda Report since its inception in 2006. Her work has also appeared on sites such as Alternet and Counterpunch and in publications such as The Dallas Morning News and The Chicago Defender. She is a regular guest on radio talk shows and has appeared on Al Jazeera English, Russia Today, the Real News Network and GRITtv, and this week she’s on Zero Squared to discuss the aftermath of the Parisian terrorist attacks.

During the podcast I ask why Russia can’t be or doesn’t want to be a member of NATO. There is, as per usual, a specific historical answer to that question that neither of us raise. Specifically, while a partnership between Russia and NATO was established after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, NATO decided to suspend co-operation with Russia in response to the conflict in the Ukraine. Relations between NATO and Russia had been strained since the Russia/Georgian conflict in 2008. What it comes down to is a conflict over how far the European Union should extend and which nations should join. This much is obvious, really, but it bears being said directly here at the outset.

In this episode you’ll hear a clip from Mizzou student protests, Negativland’s hit song Guns, Colin Powell’s comments on the conflict between Russia and Georgia, and an excerpt from Negativland’s 1980 album titled, what else, Negativland.

Zero Squared #46: Political Determinism
November 25, 2015 10:42 AM PST
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C Derick Varn is a poet, teacher, and theorist. He currently lives in Cairo, Egypt and has previously taught in South Korea and Northern Mexico. He is a lecturer in English Literature, Composition, and Intercultural communication. Even though I have never met in him in person I consider Varn to be, at this point, an old friend. He is a reader at Zero Books and a regular guest on the Zero Squared podcast.

This week we return to discussing Russell Jacoby's Dialectic of Defeat and end up discussing the problem of “political determinism.” Political determinism is the one sided idea that political will rather than economic necessity shapes the world.

An easy way to understand what political determinism is to consider conspiracy theories, or more accurately the conspiracy theory of history. From the perspective of the deep conspiracy theorist, history is determined by willful acts. There is no such thing as an accident. All plans work out as they are envisioned. If there are poor people in the world it is because somebody, somewhere, wants it that way. The radical alternative to this conspiracy theory version of history is one that admits for unintended, but not acausal, consequences.

If you're a regular listener to this podcast I have two requests for you. The first is to ask you to check out Zero Books new youtube channel. Just search for Zero Books at youtube to find it. Also, if you like this little show you might leave a review at iTunes. If you like the press take a look at our website. Zero Books has six new titles coming in December: Slave States, The Space of Writing, Drone Apocalypse, Against Capitalist Education, Enjoying It: Candy Crush and Capitalism, and Positive Realism. These books make great Holiday gifts for the grad student or communist in the family. Okay, so that was three requests.

In this episode you'll hear from Mister Speedy Delivery, Mister Rogers, a Walmart factory worker, a clip from Sam Cooke's hit “Chain Gang” and Dan Lett's “Green Sharpie.”

Zero Squared #45: Psychology or Progress?
November 19, 2015 11:39 AM PST
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Ashley Frawley is the author of the Semiotics of Happiness from Bloomsbury, a Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy at Swansea University, and a reader for Zero Books. She recently debated Zero Books author Mark Fisher on the subject of the importance of personal psychology to left organizing and spoke about the immigration crisis at the Battle of Ideas. Topics covered in our conversation include the pessimism of the left, revitalizing the Enlightenment, and left-wing attitudes towards Islam. The back of the jacket copy from her first book includes the following paragraph: Emerging from the analysis is the observation that, while apparently positive and light-hearted, the concern with happiness implicitly affirms a 'vulnerability' model of human functioning, encourages a morality of low expectations, and in spite of the radical language used to describe it, is ultimately conservative and ideally suited to an era of 'no alternative' (to capitalism). In this episode you’ll hear a collage of pop music from 1970-2010 that took me three hours to assemble to what I must admit might be a less than fully realized result, the Tinkler's “The Future is Not as Good as it Used to Be,” Charles Manson's advice on how to get out a tough stain, Dan Lett's “Gravy,” and a bunch of other noise and clips.
Zero Squared #44: COINTELPRO and American Maoism in the 60s
November 11, 2015 07:20 PM PST
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Aaron Leonard is a writer and historian. He is a regular contributor to Truthout, Rabble.ca, the History News Network, PhysicsWorld, and Canadian Dimension magazine. His book Heavy Radicals was published by Zero Books in February of this year and he returns to the podcast to talk about COINTELPRO and American Maoism.

Joshua Moufawad-Paul reviewed the book in Marx & Philosophy Review of Books this way: Leonard and Gallagher’s historiography reads as a grand political tragedy: it is the story of an organization that, despite significant state interference, temporarily became the primary force of revolution in the United States, and then, also despite state interference, imploded and became a marginal grouplet. Apprehending this tragedy should provide the contemporary left with several useful lessons. Joshua Moufawad-Paul, Marx & Philosophy Review of Books

In this episode you’ll hear a cut up of a documentary on Mao, a songified speech from Bob Avakian, and Andrew Kliman and Raya Dunayevskaya explaining the negation of the negation. Right now you’re listening to the March of the Volunteers but in just a moment you’ll be listening to Aaron Leonard and I discuss the history of some heavy radicals.

Zero Squared #42: The Truth About Art
November 01, 2015 09:48 AM PST
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Patrick Doorly is an art historian specializing in Renaissance Italy. He divides his time between writing and teaching art history in the Department for Continuing Education, Oxford University, where he was acting director of studies for art history in 2001–02. Previously he was Head of Critical and Theoretical Studies at the School of Art & Design, Croydon College. Today we'll discuss his book The Truth About Art which was published by Zero Books in August of 2013. His book: Traces the multiple meanings of art back to their historical roots, and equips the reader to choose between them. Art with a capital A turns out to be an invention of German Romantic philosophers, who endowed their creation with the attributes of genius, originality, rule breaking, and self-expression, directed by the spirit of the age. Recovering the problems that these attributes were devised to solve dispels many of the obscurities and contradictions that accompany them. What artists have always sought is excellence, and they become artists in so far as they achieve it. Quality was the supreme value in Renaissance Italy, and in early Greece it offered mortals glimpses of the divine. Today art historians avoid references to beauty or Quality, since neither is objective or definable. In this episode you’ll hear some excerpts from Pierre Grimes, Robert Hughes, John Cage, Joseph Beuys and George Plimpton on Good Morning Mister Orwell, a BBC interview with Marcel Duchamp, and the theme from the 1968 film “Je t'aime, je t'aime,” and something called “Phased Floyd.”
Zero Squared #41: Echo
October 21, 2015 11:32 AM PDT
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Fiamma Montezemolo is both a Cultural Anthropologist (PhD University Orientale of Naples) and an artist (MFA San Francisco Art Institute). She has taught for many years in Mexico, Italy and USA and she is currently teaching at the California College of the Arts. Her film Echo will be exhibited at an event organized by the Zero Books author Mike Watson entitled The Elephant in the Room?: Talk and Screenings on Social Inequality, Meritocracy and Art' and slated to occur some time in December. Echo is set in the border between Mexico and USA and it is an ethnographic research on the after life and “echoes” of 9 art works that have been part of the two-decade old public art event called inSite. It highlights the procedures of intrusion at work in such a site as the US-Mexico border as well as the now canonical deployment of the emblematic figure of fieldwork. It teaches us that intrusion is an ontological dimension of intervention, at once anthropological, curatorial, and artistic. By revisiting the scenes of these curatorial and artistic interventions, “echo” emerges both as a concept and a practice that assembles the futures of art works beyond its expected ruins and remains.  In this episode you’ll hear some excerpts from Laurie Anderson, an explanation of the liberatory potential of nonracist “racist” jokes from Slavoj Zizek, an excerpt from the audiobook “Tales from Ovid” read by Ted Hughes, Steve Reich's Clapping Music, and Steve Reich's Drumming.
Zero Squared #40: Poor But Sexy
October 14, 2015 09:13 PM PDT
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Agata Pyzik is a Polish journalist who divides her time between Warsaw and London, where she has already established herself as a writer on art, politics, music and culture for various magazines, including The Wire, Guardian, New Statesman, New Humanist, Afterall and Frieze. Her book, Poor but Sexy, was published last year by Zero Books. Daniel Trilling, author of Bloody Nasty People blurbed her book this way “A necessary corrective to the paper-thin portrayal of Eastern Europe by Western media. Pyzik's writing is clear, direct, knowledgeable - and partisan, in the best sense of the word.” In this episode you’ll hear an excerpt from Dezerter's Ask the Policeman, XTC's Are You Receiving Me, and Weird Nun by Stride machine. You'll also hear a McDonald's Ad, Claire's theme from the 1991 film Until the End of the World, and Kraftwerk's Electric Cafe at 45 RPM.
Zero Squared #39: Land of Hunger
October 07, 2015 04:01 PM PDT
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Please take a moment this week to fill out a very short survey. Zero Books is working on offering a book club and we'd like to get your input. Wayne Holloway is a writer director, working in commercials and movies in London and in LA. His first book, Land of Hunger, is out from Zero Books and is the subject of our conversation this week. Land of Hunger is a collection of short stories, that interconnect, loop and return upon each other despite their seemingly disparate subject matter. Fragments that resonate across time and place, from the Ukraine during the Russian Civil War, to the miners' strike, to the world of animal rights protestors. It's Wednesday, the 7th of October, 2015 and I'm Douglas Lain the publisher of Zero Books and the host of this podcast. In this episode you’ll hear an excerpt of a cover of the Beatles' Sexy Sadie by Joe Goldmark, a monologue from My Dinner With Andre, archival clips of advertising from the year 2000, the '84 Miner's Strike, the Bolshevik revolution, and Cyndi Lauper's cover of John Lennon's hit Working Class Hero. The music you're listening to right now is an astro funk hit by the Earons. This is The Land of Hunger and in just a moment you'll hear Wayne Holloway and I discuss his book by the same name.

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