Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Athens Xmas Uprising

Alexandros Grigoropoulos - in memoriam

Riots 'turn Athens into a war zone'

The revolution will not be televised

Athens riot anarchy 2008

Wait & bleed in Athens

Rioters of the world unite

Already, the Greek riots are prompting talk of a new era of networked protest. The volume of online content they have inspired is remarkable. Photos and videos of the chaos, often shot with cellphones, were posted online almost in real time. Twitter, a service for exchanging short messages, has brimmed with live reports from the streets of Athens, most of them in Greek but a few in English.

A tribute to the slain teenager—a clip of photos with music from a popular rock band—appeared on YouTube, the video-sharing site, shortly after his death; more than 160,000 people have seen it. A similar tribute group on Facebook has attracted more than 130,000 members, generating thousands of messages and offering links to more than 1,900 related items: images of the protests, cartoons and leaflets.

A memorial was erected in Second Life, a popular virtual environment, giving its users a glimpse of real-life material from the riots. Many other online techniques—such as maps detailing police deployments and routes of the demonstrations—came of age in Athens. And as thousands of photos and videos hit non-Greek blogs and forums, small protests were triggered in many European cities, including Istanbul (see picture above) and Madrid. Some 32 people were arrested in Copenhagen.

The spread of sympathy protests over what began as a local Greek issue has big implications for the more formal anti-globalisation movement. That movement has ignored the idea of spontaneous but networked protest, and instead focused on taking large crowds to set-piece events like summits. Such methods look outdated now. Governments are not the only things that networked “anarchy” threatens.

~ more... ~

Crossing swords: Buckley in perspective

Another significant omission is Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., the renowned liberal historian and political icon who was such a fixture in American political letters. This oversight, again, is the result mainly of my not having access to the substantive speeches they made when they debated one another. As far as I know, Buckley did not include in his collections the text of his debates with Schlesinger nor to my knowledge did Schlesinger document his exchanges with Buckley.

That they debated and feuded is well known and is easily gleaned from published correspondence and commentary, but this material, while interesting, is not substantive enough to sustain an extended treatment of their ideological differences or the manner in which they were presented to the public. Of course, one can make assumptions based on both men's well-known ideological and political loyalties, but I concluded that this approach would not till enough new ground to make a full-length chapter interesting.

A few observations are worth making, however. Schlesinger mentioned Buckley several times in his posthumously published diaries and it is apparent that the two men were not fond of one another. Schlesinger accused Buckley of intellectual dishonesty and even threatened to sue him when Buckley used a comment made by Schlesinger during one of their debates as a blurb on a published collection of columns, essays and correspondence.

As Buckley recounted the episode in The Jeweler's Eye, Schlesinger had, during one debate, made the comment: "Mr. Buckley has a facility for rhetoric which I envy, as well as a wit I seek clumsily and vainly to emulate." Buckley used the comments as a blurb on Rumbles Left and Right, his first collection of essays. Schlesinger was not amused, Buckley later recalled: "You would have thought it was the greatest swindle since the donation of Constantine."

Schlesinger, not known for being quick on his feet, first denied he ever made the statement and then had his lawyers contact Buckley demanding that the blurb be removed from the book, claiming use of the quote constituted a breach of Schlesinger's privacy.  Buckley found this too much. "A most interesting complaint, considering that Mr. Schlesinger's words had been uttered before an audience of 1,500 or so, before television and radio, and before members of the press and the wire services. For someone who wants what he says to be kept private . . . that's a strange way to go about it, wouldn't you say?"

When Buckley refused to remove the blurb, Schlesinger issued a statement in which he decried its use. He argued that it was uttered well before the publication of the book and that, in any case, it was intended as sarcasm. Buckley refused to back down, arguing that a writer's gifts do not, like a soufflé, collapse with the passing of a couple of years. Moreover, he told readers that Schlesinger had not meant to be sarcastic and that he would gladly refer the matter to an objective panel that could review the transcript or a recording of the comments.

Buckley was astonished at Schlesinger's lack of humor, and Schlesinger by Buckley's pluck. And the relationship certainly did not warm up. When Buckley's Firing Line team asked Schlesinger a few years later to appear on the show, Schlesinger, reportedly, refused on the ground that he did not want to increase Buckley's influence. This led to another entertaining exchange in which Buckley responded with a public letter to Schlesinger, which appeared in National Review. "I should have thought it would follow from your general convictions that a public exchange with me would diminish, rather than increase, my influence. And anyway, the general public aside, shouldn't you search out opportunities to expose yourself to my rhetoric and wit? How else will you fulfill your lifelong dream of emulating them?"

Schlesinger responded. "Dear Bill: I do not see the National Enquirer or National Review or whatever it is called; but I understand that you ran your silly letter of January 15 to me in your issue of February 10. I gather also that in neither this nor the succeeding issue did you run my reply of January 30, though it had obviously been in your hands in plenty of time. In a better world I might have hoped you would have had the elementary fairness, or guts, to provide equal time; but, alas, wrong again."

Buckley got testy in reply: "Now, suppose I had begun this letter, 'Dear Arthur, or Dear Barfer, or whatever you call yourself?' Would I do that? No; and not merely because it's childish, but because it isn't funny. The reason I did not publish your reply to my original letter is that I thought it embarrassingly feeble and it did not come to me with your permission to publish it."

~ more... ~

To make Israel safe, give Palestinians their due

Summary: If it hopes to bring peace to the Middle East, the Obama administration must put Palestinian politics and goals first.

Reviving the Middle East peace process is the worst kind of necessary evil for a U.S. administration: at once very necessary and very evil. It is necessary because the festering dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians in a volatile, strategically vital region has broad implications for U.S. interests and because the security of Israel is one of the American public's most enduring international concerns. It is evil because it is costly and difficult. The price of engagement is high, the chances for a solution are mixed at best, and all of the available approaches carry significant political risks. A string of poor policy choices by the Bush administration made a bad situation significantly worse. It inflamed passions. It weakened the position of moderate Israelis and Palestinians alike. And it reduced the U.S. government's credibility as a broker.

Even without the damaging aftermath of eight misspent years, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute will not be easily settled. Many people have tried to end it; all have failed. Direct negotiations between Arabs and Jews after World War I foundered. The British tried to square the circle of competing Palestinian and Jewish aspirations from the time of the 1917 Balfour Declaration until the ignominious collapse of their mandate in 1948. Since then, the United Nations, the United States, and the international community have struggled with the problem without managing to solve it. No issue in international affairs has taxed the ingenuity of so many leaders or captured so much attention from around the world. Winston Churchill failed to solve it; the "wise men" who built NATO and the Marshall Plan handed it down, still festering, to future generations. Henry Kissinger had to content himself with incremental progress. The Soviet Union crumbled on Ronald Reagan's watch, but the Israeli-Palestinian dispute survived him. Bill Clinton devoted much of his tenure to picking at this Gordian knot. He failed. George W. Bush failed at everything he tried. This is a dispute that deserves respect; old, inflamed, and complex, it does not suffer quick fixes.

As Kissinger has famously observed, academic politics are so bitter because the stakes are so small. In one sense, this is true of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute as well: little land is involved. The Palestine of the British mandate, today divided into Israel proper and the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank, was the size of New Jersey. In 1919, its total population was estimated at 651,000. Today, the territory counts about 5.4 million Jews and about 5.2 million Arabs. Two diasporas in other parts of the world -- some 7.7 million Jews and 5.2 million Palestinians -- believe that they, too, are entitled to live there.

But the conflict is about more than land; many people on both sides feel profoundly that a compromise would be morally wrong. A significant minority of Israelis not only retain a fervent attachment to the land that makes up the Eretz Yisrael of the Bible but also believe that to settle and possess it is to fulfill a divine decree. For these Jews, it is a sin to surrender land that God has given them. Although most Israelis do not share this belief with dogmatic rigor, they would be reluctant to obstruct the path of those seeking to redeem the Promised Land.

It may be difficult for outsiders to understand the Palestinians' yearning for the villages and landscapes lost during the birth of Israel in 1948. The sentiment is much more than nostalgia. The Palestinians' national identity took shape in the course of their struggle with Zionism, and the mass displacement of Palestinians resulting from Israel's War of Independence, or the nakba ("catastrophe" in Arabic), was the fiery crucible out of which the modern Palestinian consciousness emerged. The dispossessed Palestinians, especially refugees living in camps, are seen as the bearers of the most authentic form of Palestinian identity. The unconditional right of Palestinians to return to the land and homes lost in the nakba is the nation's central demand. For many, although by no means all, Palestinians, to give up the right of return would be to betray their people. Even those who do not see this claim as an indispensable goal of the national movement are uneasy about giving it up.

~ more... ~

Is Kissinger the key to restoring U.S. relations with Russia?

Henry Kissinger's visit with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow last weekend went practically unnoticed by Western media. I only found a brief piece by AFP on the topic. Not so with Russian outlets. RIA Novosti and Russia Today reported on the talk between the former Secretary of State and the Russian President at Medvedev's residence outside the capital. Kissinger, according to those accounts, agreed with President Medvedev that U.S.-Russian relations could and should be improved. Coinciding with the talks, the Russian navy in a display of strength was on route to visit Cuba for the first time after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Kissinger, while pointing out that he wasn't speaking for President-elect Barack Obama, stated that he was maintaining contact with the new administration and was sure an attempt would be made to improve the relations. According to Russia Today, "Kissinger said the destinies of both countries are closely interlinked and both can contribute to peace and progress in the world."
Kissinger's visit was also the theme of a RIA Novosti editorial. In the piece, titled "Looking into Obama's eyes," Dmitry Kosyrev gives the foreign policy veteran an important role in the future of Russian-American relations. While the best and the brightest of America's foreign policy community are mulling about repairing the relations between the countries, the "Republican Kissinger is the number one magician there," writes Kosyrev and adds: "Mr. Kissinger is playing a key role in getting out of this deadlock."
Whether Henry Kissinger, who had endorsed John McCain, is in fact playing the pivotal role described in the RIA Novosti editorial is an interesting question that, unfortunately, I can't answer.
So I'll just end with the rather challenging conclusion offered by the RIA Novosti editorial: "Medvedev and Obama are not the only ones who should look into each other's eyes. Our two countries should do the same."

~ Deutsche Welle ~

The men who spied on Nixon: new details reveal extent of 'Moorer-Radford Affair'

A Navy stenographer assigned to the National Security Council during the Nixon administration "stole documents from just about every individual that he came into contact with on the NSC," according to newly declassified White House documents. 

The two-dozen pages of memoranda, transcripts and notes -- once among the most sensitive and privileged documents in the Executive Branch -- shed important new details on a unique crisis in American history: when investigators working for President Richard Nixon discovered that the Joint Chiefs of Staff, using the stenographer as their agent, actively spied on the civilian command during the Vietnam War. 

The episode became known as "the Moorer-Radford affair," after the chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the time, the late Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, and the stenographer involved, Navy Yeoman Charles Radford. The details first surfaced in early 1974 as part of the Watergate revelations, but remained obscure until historians in the 1990s and this decade began fleshing out the episode. 

The affair represented an important instance in which President Nixon, who resigned in 1974 amid wide-ranging allegations that he and his subordinates abused the powers of the presidency, was himself the victim of internal espionage. In adding to what has already become known about the episode, the latest documents show how the president and his aides struggled to "get a handle on" the young Navy man at the center of the intrigue and contain the damage caused by the scandal. 

A trained stenographer, Radford was in his late twenties when he was assigned to the NSC staff of Henry Kissinger during Nixon's first term. The yeoman worked out of the Executive Office Building under two admirals, Rembrandt Robinson and Robert O. Welander, who served as formal liaison between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the NSC. As Radford later described his work -- in polygraph tests, sworn testimony, and interviews with historians and journalists -- he spent 13 months illegally obtaining NSC documents and turning them over to his superiors, with the understanding that the two admirals were, in turn, funneling the materials to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and other top uniformed commanders. Radford's espionage took many forms: making extra photocopies of documents entrusted to him as courier; retrieving crumpled drafts from "burn bags"; even brazenly rifling through Kissinger's briefcase while the national security adviser slept on an overseas flight. 

Nixon's team of in-house investigators -- informally known as "The Plumbers," since their primary mission was to stop leaks of classified materials to the news media -- discovered Radford's covert activity in December 1971, during their probe into a sensational series of stories published by the syndicated newspaper columnist Jack Anderson. A thorn in Nixon's side since the 1950s, Anderson had obtained highly classified minutes of NSC meetings about the India-Pakistan War then roiling South Asia, and published excerpts from the documents just days after they were typed up. In addition to disclosing sensitive information about the movement of a carrier task force in the Bay of Bengal, the series showed the Nixon administration had deceived the public about its true aim of supporting Pakistan in the conflict, and later won Anderson the Pulitzer Prize. 

Inside the Nixon administration, however, where officials were still reeling from other high-profile leaks -- like The New York Times' publication of the Pentagon Papers in June, and the paper's disclosure of key details in the United States' nuclear arms talks with the Soviet Union -- the Anderson columns inspired outrage. A joint Plumbers-Defense Department investigation quickly zeroed in on Radford, who was known to have had contacts with Anderson, a fellow Mormon, and to have enjoyed access to virtually all of the documents the columnist had published. 

Under intensive polygraph testing in late 1971, Radford denied having leaked the India-Pakistan documents to the columnist. (Anderson died in 2005 without ever disclosing who had been his source, but he told author Len Colodny in November 1986: "You don't get those kind of secrets from enlisted men. You only get them from generals and admirals.") However, the young stenographer did eventually break down and tearfully admit to Nixon's investigators that he had been stealing NSC documents and routing them to his Pentagon superiors. Radford later estimated he had stolen 5,000 documents within a 13-month period.

~ more... ~

Cabbage-patch revolutionaries? The French 'grocer terrorists'

They are brilliant ex-students from bourgeois families who live in a farm commune in the green, empty, centre of France. To the delight of local people, they have revived the defunct village shop and bar. They are also, according to the French Interior Minister, "ultra-leftist-anarchist" subversives, members of an "invisible committee" plotting the violent downfall of capitalism.

Since nine of the alleged "terrorist grocers" were arrested one month ago, severe doubts have surfaced about the French government's allegations. Villagers at Tarnac in Corrèze in south-west France and parents of the suspects have campaigned for the investigation against the so-called "Tarnac Nine" to be dropped. The whole notion of an "ultra-left" terrorist threat is an absurdity, they say: the convenient fantasy of an "authoritarian", centre-right government.


But what of the explosives planted this week – a few days before Christmas – in Printemps, the Paris department store? All the evidence suggests that this bizarre incident was not the work of an Afghan group, as a rambling warning letter to the French news agency claimed. Investigators, and independent experts, said yesterday that the ageing, unfused, and therefore non-threatening sticks of dynamite found in a lavatory cistern were probably planted by a lone crank or by a would-be subversive group on the far left.

The French intelligence expert and former intelligence official Eric Dénécé believes that the evidence points leftwards. "[The ultra left] is a threat which should be taken seriously," he said yesterday. "There is a real resurgence of these movements, driven by groups in Germany, Britain and the United States.

"They attract relatively young people, who are often highly intelligent. They start off in eco-terrorism or in the most radical wings of the animal rights or anti-capitalist movements."

The evidence that the Printemps "toilet bomb" was planted by someone on the far left comes mostly from the language of the warning letter to Agence France-Presse. There were no religious references or Koranic texts. Instead, the letter spoke of "capitalist" stores and "revolutionary" movements – words never used by Islamist radicals.

Police sources indicated yesterday that the "Islamist" line of inquiry for the Printemps "bomb" had been more or less abandoned. They said that inquiries now concentrated on the possibility of a malicious stunt by someone with a grudge against the store or a "clumsy" attempt to spread fear by an extremist group, "probably on the left".

The evidence for an ultra left-wing Printemps plot is thin – so far. The evidence against the Tarnac Nine is equally thin – but intriguing. Seven of the "nine" have been placed under formal investigation by magistrates but released pending further inquiries. Two – the alleged ringleaders, a boyfriend and girlfriend, Julien Coupat and Yildune Levy, aged 34 and 25 – remain in custody, accused of "associating with wrong-doers with terrorist aims". Their parents have been refused permission to see them.

~ more... ~

U.S. report warns of 'strategic shock' leading to massive unrest

The United States could be sleep-walking into its next crisis, a military report said.

The report by the U.S. Army War College's Strategic Institute, said that a defense community paralyzed by conventional thinking could be unprepared to help the United States cope with a series of unexpected crises that would rival the Al Qaida strikes in 2001, termed a "strategic shock."

The report cited the prospect of the collapse of a nuclear state leading to massive unrest in the United States, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security," the report, authored by [Ret.] Lt. Col. Nathan Freir, said.

~ more... ~


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