Sunday, December 21, 2008

Shoe hurled at Bush flies off Turkish maker’s shelves

The shoe hurled at President George W. Bush has sent sales soaring at the Turkish maker as orders pour in from Iraq, the U.S. and Iran.

The brown, thick-soled “Model 271” may soon be renamed “The Bush Shoe” or “Bye-Bye Bush,” Ramazan Baydan, who owns the Istanbul-based producer Baydan Ayakkabicilik San. & Tic., said in a telephone interview today.

“We've been selling these shoes for years but, thanks to Bush, orders are flying in like crazy,” he said. “We've even hired an agency to look at television advertising.”

Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zeidi hurled a pair at Bush at a news conference in Baghdad on Dec. 14. Both shoes missed the president after he ducked. The journalist was jailed and is seeking a pardon from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Baydan has received orders for 300,000 pairs of the shoes since the attack, more than four times the number his company sold each year since the model was introduced in 1999. The company plans to employ 100 more staff to meet demand, he said.

“Model 271” is exported to markets including Iraq, Iran, Syria and Egypt. Customers in Iraq ordered 120,000 pairs this week and some Iraqis offered to set up distribution companies for the shoe, Baydan said.

Baydan has received a request for 4,000 pairs from a company called Davidson, based in Maryland. He declined to provide further details.

~ Bloomberg ~

The end of apathy, the audacity of hope

Yet, the malaise which is compounded by the world economic crisis is even deeper. Has the political system gone bankrupt? Since the return of democracy, Greece has been governed by two parties that were founded at the time – PASOK and New Democracy in September and October 1974 respectively.  While the two aforementioned parties are still the only ones that actually possess the wherewithal to rule the country with relatively reliable and mainstream party platforms committed to the further integration of Greece to the core of European integration, the fact that the choice is still one between a Karamanlis and a Papandreou while lesser political families continue to play key roles in both parties implies that many if not most feel that the political system is alien. The question is at the same time simple and harsh: at a time when a black person in the United States knows he can become President of his country, how many Greeks actually feel that they could become Prime Minister of their country or even aspire to it? The answer is unfortunately almost none. The problem is that the two parties that owe much of their support to clientelist policies leading to a bloated, dysfunctional public sector and requisite public debt which have reached their limits while the private sector is held hostage either to the lack of proper regulatory mechanisms, lack of competitiveness, or to crooked tax inspectors and the like. At the same time, no other credible alternative and inspiring political force exists while the two big parties seem at this stage unable to put their differences aside and do what needs to be done together.

As a result, on Tuesday, 9 December while riots were ongoing in different neighbourhoods in the centre of Athens, 65,000 Athenians were at the Olympic Stadium watching a Champions League game between Panathinaikos and Anorthosis as if the fires in Athens and elsewhere had nothing to do with them! While the rage among the youth is an expression of the need for change; others think that what is going on has nothing to do with them. Fortunately, the latter are wrong. The riots and continued protests have launched vigorous debates and discussions among an ever growing number of citizens that begin to understand that although safe in their middle class cocoons, apathy can only bring about further social, economic and political gridlock as well as more street violence. The audacity of hope, as Barack Obama suggests, will hopefully emerge from this painful process. The need for all to feel that the country, its citizens and its leaders can do better is paramount. Hopefully, 6 December 2008, in spite of its tragedy, marks a new beginning for all.

~ more... ~

Greek fire: from riot to social rebellion - Collective Reinventions

An overview and analysis of the recent Greek rebellion, which assesses what has been achieved and what can advance the movement.

In one scene, Molotov cocktails rain down in the night on a police station, their explosive flashes lighting up an otherwise dark street; in another, the national Christmas tree is torched by angry protesters. The current unrest in Greece seems to have taken place under the sign of fire, one that was ignited by the police killing of a teenager in Athens two weeks ago. Beyond the pyrotechnics, however, there has been another kind of conflagration: what started as concentrated rage at the police has assumed the dimensions of a social rebellion, moving beyond the actions of a “violent fringe” to involve large numbers of young people. While undoubtedly having specifically Greek characteristics, this burgeoning movement has attracted attention elsewhere. French officials have expressed worries about a “contagion” spreading to youth in their country. They have even gone so far as to withdraw a plan to reform French secondary education, citing the fear of a possible replay of the Greek events as a reason. There have been solidarity protests in a number of countries, including exemplary actions by Turkish anarchists eager to show their sympathy with their counterparts in Greece.

If the reaction to the police killing had been limited to skirmishes between cops and a few anarchists, however, the Greek events would have literally burned themselves out after a few days. What is interesting about the current situation is precisely how it grew into something larger, expanding from street battles to the occupation of secondary schools and university faculties, and showing not only combativeness but a sense of initiative and imagination, as in the dramatic seizure of television and radio stations by protesters who took control of the microphones and cameras. Viewers of a national NET television channel on December 16 saw the broadcast of a speech by the Greek prime minister interrupted by another emanating from the network studio and showing protesters there holding a banner that said, “Stop watching television. Take to the streets.” A day later, protesters draped large banners over parts of the Parthenon, transforming a tourist site into a forum from which to launch their call for a Europe-wide solidarity action on December 18. On December 18 itself, young demonstrators in Athens wore large bar codes to symbolize their rejection of being treated as objects, as commodities. These gestures were both poetic and to the point, showing the ingenuity of the movement.

As the counterattack against the police turned into a broader offensive at the end of the first week’s clashes, the revolutionary minority at the rebellion’s core—whom the Greek government and media sought to isolate and vilify as “criminals”—found that its anti-state and anti-capitalist message resonated with a generation facing bleak economic prospects. Moreover, as others—mainly, but not only, students—became involved, the rebellion no longer “belonged” to the anarchists, who in any case had never asserted any claim of ownership. Language considered extreme only a few weeks ago had now entered into a larger public discourse where many voices could express themselves. Amidst this polyphony, a kind of dialectics (διαλεκτική, argument or conversation, in the original Greek) was being practiced in the streets and occupied buildings of the country. The uprising had also ceased to be a purely Greek affair, as sizeable numbers of young immigrants—with their own long history of grievances against the police—joined the fray. There were indications of workers joining the movement. Significantly, on December 17, a group of “insurgent workers” occupied the headquarters of the main Greek trade union federation. The occupiers issued a declaration that, among other things, stated the goal of their seizure of the union building:
To open up this space for the first time—as a continuation of the social opening created
by the insurrection itself—a space that has been built by our contributions, a space from
which we were excluded. (…) We have to acquire a voice of our own, to meet up, to
talk, to decide, and to act. Against the generalized attack we endure. The creation of
collective “grassroot” resistances is the only way.

Communiqué of the General Assembly of Insurgent Workers, Athens, December 17, 2008

Arrayed against the rebellion have been the forces of the Greek state, abetted in some places by the fascist thugs of the Golden Dawn organization. Also playing their allotted role in counter-insurgency have been the political parties, including the Stalinists of the KKE (Communist Party of Greece), who issued vile calumnies of those fighting the police in the streets. More adroitly, the independent “new left” party SYRIZA (Coalition of the Left and Progress) has sought to position itself—by extending a kind of critical support to the protest movement—so as to be able to co-opt the discontent for its own electoral ends.

If the Greek movement of occupations becomes more generalized, then this rebellion may turn into the most significant revolt in Europe in the past 20 years, eclipsing the kinds of protest waves seen in France in recent years, for example. What makes the Greek uprising especially interesting has been its fluid, shifting character—or to use another good Greek word, its proteanlos incontrolados (the uncontrolled ones). And the difference in meaning is crucial: either the movement leads to self-organization, to the prefiguration of new social relationships, as in the Spanish Revolution, or it ends in a kind of nihilism. nature. It has been part insurrection, part protest movement, part movement of occupations, without being defined by any single category. However, this rebellion will develop further only to the extent that it widens and deepens “the social opening” referred to in the communiqué cited earlier, thereby becoming a truly mass phenomenon and not merely an affair of radical youth. There are signs that this is possible, but it will only happen if the revolt moves from pure negation to affirmation, beyond a necessary and militant No to a daring and visionary Yes. If this doesn’t occur, the movement is likely to devolve into a predictable, albeit interesting, kind of street theater. One of the rebellion’s most popular slogans, spray painted in English, has been “No Control.” In this, one hears an echo of the punk “No Future”; one might find a distant link to the most radical of the Spanish anarchists who proudly called themselves

By attacking both capital and the state, the Greek insurgents have shown that these are two sides of the same coin, a currency whose denominations are hierarchy, exclusion, and exploitation. They are not seeking another government but another society. Their rebellion has also been a timely reminder that the radical transformation of the world does not depend on the workings of some ineluctable “laws of history.” In addition to the necessary objective conditions, it also requires a decision on the part of large numbers of people to fight back, to make themselves heard, and to make change.

In the Byzantine era, Greek Fire was a devastating weapon made from a mixture of elements whose exact composition was a closely guarded secret. The present rebellion in Greece represents an altogether different kind of fire, one whose fuel derives from conditions found everywhere. Its heat has already torn holes in the shroud enveloping an era of diminished horizons and worsening social conditions. In place of resignation and fatalism, it offers other choices, putting the world in another light.

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but in the end it is still only that: imitation. Trying to blindly replicate the Greek scenario elsewhere is doomed to failure, especially in the U.S., where conditions are quite different. To begin with, the rules of engagement for cops here do not include much tolerance for Molotov cocktails (it is more than likely that American cops would start shooting), nor are there the kinds of “no go areas” (like the Greek universities) in which to shelter from the police.

To emulate the spirit of the Greek rebellion requires little, but yet requires a great deal: audacity and verve, but also creativity and intelligence.

Just as the last pages in the Greek events have not been written, this is an unfinished text.
We hope to expand it in the near future. Comments, additional information, and inquiries would be most welcome:

P.O. Box 61036
Palo Alto, CA 94306

The text above is from a leaflet which is being distributed today (Saturday, Dec 20th) at a demonstration in San Francisco expressing solidarity with the Greek revolt.

~ ~

Arundhati Roy - Come September Speech

In this acclaimed Lannan foundation lecture from September 2002, Roy speaks poetically to power on the US' War on Terror, globalization, the misuses of nationalism, and the growing chasm between the rich and poor. With lyricism and passion, Roy combines her literary talents and encyclopedic knowledge to expose injustice and provide hope for a future world.

The monster in the mirror

-- India's response to the Mumbai attack has included possible war on Pakistan. But Arundhati Roy argues that terrorism must be fought with justice, or civil war will result. --

We've forfeited the rights to our own tragedies. As the carnage in Mumbai raged on, day after horrible day, our 24-hour news channels told us we were watching India's September 11, 2001. Like actors in a Bollywood rip-off, we're expected to play our parts and say our lines, even though we know it's all been said and done before.

As tension in the region builds, the US senator John McCain warned Pakistan that if it didn't act fast to arrest the "bad guys", India would launch air strikes on "terrorist camps" in Pakistan and that Washington could do nothing because Mumbai was India's September 11.

But November isn't September; 2008 isn't 2001; Pakistan isn't Afghanistan, and India isn't America. So perhaps we should reclaim our tragedy and pick through the debris with our own brains and our own broken hearts to arrive at our own conclusions.

It's odd how in the last week of November thousands of people in Kashmir, supervised by thousands of Indian troops, lined up to cast their vote, while the richest quarters of India's richest city ended up looking like war-torn Kupwara - a ravaged district of Kashmir.

The Mumbai attacks are only the most recent terrorist attacks on Indian towns and cities this year. Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Guwahati, Jaipur and Malegaon have all seen serial bomb blasts in which hundreds of ordinary people have been killed and wounded. If police have arrested the guilty - both Hindu and Muslim, all Indian nationals - something's going very badly wrong in this country.

If you were watching television, you may not have heard that ordinary people, too, died in Mumbai. They were mowed down in a busy railway station and a public hospital. The terrorists did not distinguish between poor and rich. They killed both with equal cold-bloodedness.

The Indian media, however, was transfixed by the rising tide of horror that breached the glittering barricades of India Shining and spread its stench in the marbled lobbies and crystal ballrooms of two incredibly luxurious hotels and a small Jewish centre.

It's true one of these hotels is a Mumbai icon - an icon of the easy, obscene daily injustice that ordinary Indians endure. On a day when the newspapers were full of moving obituaries by beautiful people about the hotel rooms they had stayed in, the gourmet restaurants they loved, a small box inside a national newspaper (sponsored by a pizza company, I think) told us India ranked below Sudan and Somalia on the international hunger index.

But this isn't that war. That one's being fought in our villages, on river banks and rubber estates, and in the slums and shantytowns of our gigantic cities.

That war isn't on TV. So maybe, like everyone else, we should deal with the one that is.

~ more... ~

From: Interview: Arundhati Roy rubbishes POTA-like law

New Delhi: Booker Prize winning author and activist Arundhati Roy has expressed a strong disapproval for the call for POTA and says following the American model on homeland security isn't a real option.

In an exclusive interview with CNN-IBN, she says the country needs to introspect and not look at the terror attacks in isolation.

Making sense of the attacks?

It’s easy to go along the path and say that there is no reason, it’s complete insanity but I just want to say that if that’s the path we are going to take, we will have to ask ourselves if it is at all possible with any amount of intelligence, and any, any amount of security. If we want to follow the American model, their Homeland Security is twice our GDP. I don't think we have that option.

We have to think about the Pakistan-America relationship. Pakistan is stuck in a war with Afghanistan, it is a war that we are stuck in, it is a part of that war and we are getting a blow back. We have half a million troops just for Kashmir. How many do you need for the whole of India?

Greek protesters trash Xmas tree


image from

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