Sunday, May 31, 2009
video from : Synthetic Knowledge
From 2009 War Tax Boycott
The costs of war keep adding up, in dollars and in lives.
For over six years peace activists have voted, lobbied, marched, and taken direct action to first prevent and then end the illegal war and occupation in Iraq. Courageous soldiers have refused to fight the war. In Iraq and around the world peace-loving people have called for an end to the violence. But the Bush administration and Congress continue to authorize over $8 billion a month for the war on terror while the U.S. economy is in a tailspin and budget cuts are hitting services across the country. Politicians cannot be trusted with our money.
The War Tax Boycott campaign unites taxpayers who oppose this war in a powerful act of nonviolent civil disobedience — saying NO! to war with our money. Thousands of individuals in the U.S. take this stand despite the risks. Uniting our voices and actions through the War Tax Boycott strengthens our demand that Congress cut off the funds for this war and redirect resources to the pressing needs of people.
The War Tax Boycott was initiated in September 2007 by the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC) and is endorsed by Voices for Creative Nonviolence, War Resisters League, and the Maine WTR Resource Center. The War Tax Boycott campaign is also supported by the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, Veterans for Peace, Nonviolent Direct Action Working Group of United for Peace and Justice.
Over 500 people around the U.S. joined the War Tax Boycott during the 2008 tax season, ending April 15, 2008. They redirected over $300,000 to humanitarian programs, including medical aid for Katrina survivors, support for Iraqi refugees in Jordan, food banks, programs for the homeless, books for prisoners, environmental projects, peace groups, and hundreds of other nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and around the world.
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GENEVA (AP) — An independent U.N. human rights investigator said Thursday that the United States is failing to properly investigate alleged war crimes committed by its soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Although some cases are investigated and lead to prosecutions, others aren't or result in lenient sentences, said Philip Alston, the U.N. Human Rights Council's special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings.
"There have been chronic and deplorable accountability failures with respect to policies, practices and conduct that resulted in alleged unlawful killings — including possible war crimes — in the United States' international operations," Alston said in a report dated May 26 and published on a U.N. Web site.
A spokesman for the U.S. mission in Geneva, Dick Wilbur, said Alston's conclusions and recommendations would be reviewed closely.
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It seems timely to remind us of this report from a year ago:
In 2002, as evidence of prisoner mistreatment at Guantánamo Bay began to mount, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents at the base created a "war crimes file" to document accusations against American military personnel, but were eventually ordered to close down the file, a Justice Department report [large pdf file] revealed Tuesday. -- NYT May 2008The report also covers Iraq and Afghanistan: See tables of Interrogation Techniques Observed, Tables 8.1, 9.1, and 10.1 (the pdf document is searchable).
from the report:
One SSA who served two rotations as OSC at GTMO told us that he initially told the agents to write up detainee abuse allegations to a "war crimes" file so the FBI could retrieve the information if it was needed for further investigation.~ more... ~
Learn more at timothylearyarchives.org.
When: May 30, 2009
Place: 33 Revolutions
Address: 10086 San Pablo Ave
El Cerrito CA 94530
Here's a google map link
Take the Central Ave Exit of Highway 80, then go east five minutes to San Pablo Avenue.
It's just two blocks from El Cerrito Plaza Bart.
Phone: (510) 898-1836
You are cordially invited to a little celebration of a big day in Tim's life.
That's right, it's been 13 years since Tim left this dimension of space and time :-)
Have a drink and an organic nibble on us as we celebrate Tim's 13th year as a spirit (or however you identify the post-life experience :) !!
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Von NotHaus, 64, says he once was friends with psychedelic drug proponent Timothy Leary. But he's best known on the radical right for creating "American Liberty currency" certificates in denominations of $1, $5 and $10, starting in 1998. The certificates were backed by stocks of silver and gold stored in Idaho, von NotHaus said. The currency has been popular with extreme-right tax protesters and members of the radical "sovereign citizens" movement, who maintain that the federal government has no right to tax or otherwise regulate them, as well as those who believe that the Federal Reserve, America's central bank, is run by a private body for personal profit.
In 2007, federal agents raided the company's Evansville, Ind., headquarters, and seized two tons of copper coins featuring Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and 500 pounds of silver from a Liberty Dollars warehouse. The raids followed the U.S. Mint's issuance of a public warning to consumers and businesses that using Liberty Dollars in lieu of U.S. currency was a crime.
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Growing repression, racism, violence tied to global recession, Amnesty International says in 2009 annual report
...Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan said that while world leaders are focused on attempts to revive the global economy, they are neglecting deadly conflicts that are spawning massive human rights abuses. "Ignoring one crisis to focus on another is a recipe for aggravating both. Economic recovery will be neither sustainable nor equitable if governments fail to tackle human rights abuses that drive and deepen poverty, or armed conflicts that generate new violations."
Khan said there are growing signs of unrest and political violence raising the risk that recession will lead to even greater repression, citing the harsh reactions of governments to protests against economic, social and political conditions in countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Cameroon and other African countries. Impunity of police and security forces was widespread.
Khan said billions of people are suffering from insecurity, injustice and indignity and the economic downturn is aggravating the abuses and has created new problems. "This crisis is about shortages of food, jobs, clean water, land and housing, and also about deprivation and discrimination, growing inequality, xenophobia and racism, violence and repression across the world.
"In the name of security, human rights were trampled on. Now, in the name of economic recovery, they are being relegated to the back seat," she said.
Larry Cox, Amnesty International USA executive director, noted that the organization welcomed President Obama's decision to close Guantanamo and reject torture. He called on the president to take another critical step to putting to rest the harmful national security policies of the Bush administration.
"Now, the president must ensure that those responsible for the abuses are brought to justice. The United States can only strengthen -- not weaken -- its moral authority and global security overall through accountability," Cox said. "U.S. leadership could be critical in addressing the myriad human rights abuses causing suffering for millions. But the United States' credibility is still tarnished by the unjust policies of the previous administration. President Obama's own domestic and international agenda will be enhanced when the U.S. policies more closely match the president's opinion of adhering to long-standing American ideals," he said. ...
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The history of Weimar Germany illustrates how the social, political, and cultural destruction caused by hyperinflation so easily leads to the loss of liberty
In the wake of President Obama's $3.6 trillion budget and a series of bank and industry bailouts by the Federal Reserve, the specter of hyperinflation haunts the United States United States. There are plenty of historical examples of what hyperinflation can do to an economy. One need not necessarily look to 1920s Weimar Germany for an example; present-day Zimbabwe provides the most recent version of the economic wreckage caused by government planning that devalues a national currency. But Weimar Germany is instructive in that it illustrates the social, political, and cultural destruction caused by hyperinflation that leads to the loss of liberty; for it was Weimar Republic Germany that gave birth to the political success of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement.
Social and political revolutions often follow defeat on the battlefield, and so was the case with Germany in the wake of World War I. By the summer of 1918, it was apparent that Germany had lost the war. Even the absurdly optimistic reports from the High Command could not hide the fact that the German Army would not prevail on the field of battle. Five years of warfare in which soldiers from both sides were sacrificed in meat-grinder-like assaults on entrenched positions bad nearly wiped out an entire generation of German men. Since arriving in France in 1917, American troops had tilted the balance of power in favor of the Allies, and it was only a matter of time before the Yanks would turn the tide.
Choked by an Allied blockade that threatened starvation at home, and battling a loss of confidence in Kaiser Wilhelm II, the army readied itself for defeat. In order to deflect responsibility for defeat, army leaders handed over power to a civilian government under Prince Max yon Baden in October 1918. The beginning of the end came when the German naval command, as part of a last-ditch effort, ordered the fleet at Wilhelmshaven to engage the British fleet--a ludicrous command that compelled the majority of sailors to mutiny. Demonstrations at Kiel, Germany, on November 3, 1918, ignited a larger mutiny and soon soldiers, sailors, and workers from all over Germany were organizing local "soviets" in order to take control of local governments. Senior Prussian officers no longer controlled the army, but in what became a characteristic of the "1918 revolution," mutineers and erstwhile revolutionaries generally maintained order in their ranks. In many cases, junior and non-commissioned officers were elected to lead defeated or mutinous units back home. It was, in the end, perhaps the most ordered military collapse in the history of warfare. Carl Zuckmayer, a young German officer commenting on the scene, wrote, "Starving, beaten, but with our weapons, we marched back home."
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...In the postwar years in Australia, education expenditure as a proportion of GDP nearly trebled, from 1.6 per cent in 1950-51 to 4.3 per cent in 1970-71; and primary, secondary and tertiary enrolments grew by 11 per cent, 45 per cent and 89 per cent respectively, in a single decade after 1964-65. Consequently, the number of Australian universities grew from nine in 1958 to sixteen in 1971, with four new universities established in 1964-66 alone. This increased the proportion of people aged seventeen to twenty-two attending university by 48 per cent between 1960 and 1972, with many coming from families and social classes that had had little or no previous association with universities, often relying on teaching studentships, which gave impecunious students an opportunity to attend university but required them to study in specific fields, and then work in often isolated or undesirable government schools. Overall, between 1955 and 1970 university student numbers increased 300 per cent, from 30,000 to 120,000, while full-time academic staff increased 250 per cent, from 2000 to 7000.
Such rapid periods of expansion have occurred before and the results have been the same--the politicisation of students, teachers and academics, and the emergence of a radical cadre that impacted on their societies for decades to come. As James Billington remarks in Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith (1999): there is a "recurring problem of satisfying a rapidly increasing educated population with expectations that run far ahead of vocational opportunities", and this first became manifest on a mass scale around the 1840s, when "the rise of revolutionary movements ... was directly related to the development of a new class of intellectuals in continental Europe [which] created original ... ideologies, and eventually developed a new sense of identity" as an intelligentsia committed to radical social and political change. During the European revolutions of 1848, it was the intelligentsia that "bore the contagion from their studies into the streets, from banquets to barricades, and across national borders. They popularized, legitimized, and internationalized the revolutionary impulse."
The situation intensified through the nineteenth century, as education became compulsory and public expenditure multiplied dramatically across Europe, with Germany alone increasing primary school funding 3000 per cent over the three decades up to 1901. Students of various ages and teachers at various levels became ubiquitous, with the latter forming "a kind of officer's corps [with] a strong corporate esprit", and commitment to pursuing their own interests (Carlton Hayes, A Generation of Materialism, 1963).
Developments were particularly dramatic in Russia, where the composition of the student population in secondary schools changed radically as vast numbers of commoners entered the system, quickly transforming the educated class from "a small band of rich youths with troubled consciences and patriotic aspirations, [into] a large pool of people of all estates" antagonistic to the Tsarist regime. Consequently, throughout "the last half century of its existence, the old regime was in a state of permanent war with the student population" (Richard Pipes, Russia under the Old Regime, 1977). In the period from 1905 to 1914 alone, the number of higher institutions and their students doubled, to reach 100 and 150,000 respectively, making Russian higher education "a battleground for a reactionary government and a revolutionary movement bent upon the government's destruction" (Oron Hale, The Great Illusion, 1971).
In such periods (then and now), the dominant political ideologies and commitments of academics, teacher educators, tertiary students, teachers and school students became vital political factors. The key ideologies throughout Europe and Russia were various forms of nationalism, liberalism and socialism, and increasingly radical versions of the sociology of Henri de Saint-Simon, and the Idealist philosophy of G.W.F. Hegel, especially in the radical versions devised by Mikhail Bakunin or Karl Marx, which retained their influence into the period under consideration here. While all of these differed on the question of whether it should be the nation, the people, an ethnic group, a social class, or a conspiratorial vanguard that led the revolution, all envisaged an elite position for the intelligentsia, while the latter also had the added advantage that this was done as part of a universal--indeed, "scientific"--scheme of history, providing, as Billington puts it, "intellectual security and strategic guidance for revolutionaries", and becoming "the principal sources of modern revolutionary ideology, [spreading] across national and cultural boundaries to attain nearly universal appeal". ...
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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli police shut down a Palestinian theater in East Jerusalem on Thursday, forcing foreign writers taking part in an international literature festival to move elsewhere for the second time in a week.
The police action was the latest in recent weeks against what Israel sees as attempts by the Palestinian Authority to host political activities in the city, where both sides in the conflict have staked claims to have their national capital.
Organizers and guests voiced disappointment at the treatment of what they said was a cultural, not a political, event.
"All cultural events which take place in areas of contention have political undertones," British writer Jeremy Harding said at the theater after police moved in. "Talking about what literature is and what it means in a fraught political situation is the most honest thing we can do. They didn't like that."
On the same day, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was meeting Barack Obama at the White House, seeking support from the U.S. president for Palestinian demands that the new Israeli government change policies that Abbas says will block a resumption of peace negotiations.
Police ordered the assembled authors and the audience for the closing event of the 6-day Palestine Festival of Literature to leave before a reading at the Palestinian National Theater. It lies in the city's east, which was captured by Israeli forces in 1967 and occupied along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Saturday's opening event at the theater was also shut down.
A police notice declared a closure on the orders of Israel's internal security minister on the grounds of a breach of interim peace accords from the 1990s. These laid the framework for talks on establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but left the status of Jerusalem to be determined by further negotiation.
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War crime defendant Bosnian Serb leader on Monday filed a 140-page motion charges against him should be dropped because he secretly dealed with a top U.S. official in 1996 for 'immunity' over war crimes against Bosnian Muslims.
Radovan Karadzic, arrested and brought to the tribunal for former Yugoslavia last year after 11 years on the run, has said since his arrival that former U.S. peace mediator Richard Holbrooke promised him to be freed from any court case over his war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Karadzic said that Holbrooke said him the secret deal provided him immunity if he disappeared from public life.
"If the Trial Chamber finds that the Holbrooke agreement is binding on the Tribunal, it should order that the indictment be dismissed," Karadzic and his lawyer said in the motion filed on Monday.
Karadzic, leader of the Bosnian Serbs during the 1992-95 Bosnia war, faces two charges of genocide over the 43-month siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica.
Holbrooke has repeatedly denied the existence of a secret deal, describing Karadzic's claim as "no more than another lie from the most evil man in Europe".
The tribunal has said that even if one exists, it would not give Karadzic immunity from prosecution.
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More than 2,000 Muslim immigrants and leftist Greeks marched peacefully through Athens Friday to protest alleged mutilation of a copy of the Koran, the Holy Book of Islam, by police.
It was the second demonstration after the Greek police hurled a Koran belong and Iraqi immigrant and mutilated it.
Immigrant groups, anti-racist groups and human rights organizations scheduled the rally in central Omonia Square for Friday evening.
Dozens of police deployed to prevent possible clashes with neo-Nazis protesters gathering nearby for a separate demonstration to mark the May 29, 1453, fall of Constantinople -- modern-day Istanbul and then the capital of the Byzantine Empire -- to the Ottomans. Far-right protesters shouted anti-immigrant slogans.
"We want this officer put on trial, and we ask the government to protect our prayer sites in Athens," said Zuri, a Moroccan protester.
The Muslim Union of Greece says that during police checks at a Syrian-owned coffee shop, an officer took a customer's Koran, tore it up, threw it on the floor and stomped on it. Police have launched an investigation.
The Muslim Union, representing thousands of immigrants in Athens, said it had filed a lawsuit against the unidentified policeman.
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Debora MacKenzie writes in New Scientist:
Hospitals in Greece have identified H1N1 swine flu in two students who had no contact with known cases of the virus and had not been in countries with widespread infection. The infections were discovered even though the students should not have been tested for swine flu under European rules. The Greek authorities say this shows the rules must change.
Indeed, an investigation by New Scientist earlier this month showed that the EU rules would exclude exactly such cases and could make H1N1 appear much less widespread in Europe than it is.
Takis Panagiotopoulos of the Hellenic Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Athens and colleagues reported on 28 May in Eurosurveillance, a weekly bulletin published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Stockholm, Sweden, that two Greek men returning home from Scotland had tested positive this week for H1N1 swine flu.
The two go to university in Edinburgh and had attended term-end parties at the end of last week. Both developed coughs and fevers at the weekend before flying back to Greece, where one went to hospital in Athens on Tuesday.
"The examining physician decided to take a pharyngeal swab, which was tested at the National Influenza Reference Laboratory for Southern Greece, although the patient did not meet the European Union and national criteria for the new influenza A (H1N1) testing," the team reports.
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Saturday, May 30, 2009
By Chris Spannos (ZNet)
[A variation of this talk was delivered today, Friday, May 29th at the B-Fest in Athens, Greece. The gathering is an international anti-authoritarian festival hosted by the Babylonia newspaper, at the University of Fine Arts in Athens, from May 27-31. The purpose of the gathering is to explore vision and strategy after last December's social uprising there.]
Hello, today's track is called "Land & Freedom" and I've been asked to talk on the subject of Participatory Society: Urban Space and Freedom.
Before I begin, however, I would like to thank you for inviting me here today and for hosting this conference. This is the first time I've been to Greece and it is an honor to be here under such circumstances.
Greece knows all too well the barbarism of U.S. imperialism and as Greeks struggle to change their society today so too do we struggle in the U.S. against oppressive forces there. We in the U.S. need to catch up in our political consciousness, organization, and concern for vision. This conference is exemplary in its mission to look at the past and present to strategize for the future. While here I hope to learn from you to see what I can take back home. The overarching goal that should unite everyone everywhere, ultimately, is a hope and effort to overcome today's systemic problems while developing shared vision of a fundamentally new society and the struggle for its realization. That is what we are working towards here today.
Today's cities are far from offering equitable conditions and opportunities to their inhabitants. The majority of the urban population is deprived or limited - in virtue of their economic, social, cultural, ethnic, gender or age characteristics - in the satisfaction of their most elemental needs and rights. Public policies that contribute to this by ignoring the contributions of the popular inhabiting processes to the construction of the city and citizenship, are only detrimental to urban life. The grave consequences of this situation include massive evictions, segregation, and resulting deterioration of social coexistence.
- World Charter for the Right to the City
Over the last few days here in Greece I've been told that almost half the population live here in Athens and also that more than half are located in urban areas throughout the country. So, you may be interested to hear that today, for the first time in history, 3.3 billion people around the globe, half of humanity, live in cities. Over one third of this population does not share in the benefits that cities have to offer. It is estimated that within two decades 60 percent of the earth's population will live in urban areas and, if we continue on the current trajectory, by 2050 the urban population of the developing world will be 5.3 billion (UN projections), primarily in Asia and Africa. Because of these trends this century has been called the "Century of the City" (State of the Worlds Cities 2008 / 2009, UN Habitat).
This rapid urbanization has happened on a pace and scale unprecedented and has set in motion long-term and in some cases irreversible, social, material, and environmental damage. Migration to and between urban centers, natural growth (births outpacing deaths), urban sprawl, increasing fuel and food prices, the need for work, mass use of private transportation, and the convenience of urban lifestyles all contribute to consumption of large amounts of energy and production of excessive amounts of waste. These patterns make today's cities primary sources of pollution. Increasing growth of urban areas means increasing risk of climate change where the underprivileged and disempowered suffer most.
Between and within cities high concentrations of wealth, power, and privilege make spatial and social disparities more, not less, pronounced. Urban inequality directly impacts all aspects of societal life, including health, nutrition, gender and race equality, education, and mortality. Everywhere where this spatial, social, and material inequality reins lack of popular decision-making control reduces people's participation and integration into society.
Based on the above I recognize three major problems:
(1) Rapid Urbanization is assisted by lack of popular decision-making control over society's institutions and our very own lives, making cities locations where obscene concentrations of wealth and power coexist with mass dispossession of at least half the earth's population with trends forecasting more into the near future.
(2) The logic of city planning and urban development is driven by the interests of capital and top-down decision making by local, regional, and national governments where the objectives of the rulers over the ruled are contrary to the interests of the rest of us. The system of capitalism, a system defined by private ownership of productive assets, markets with roles for buyers and sellers, and corporate divisions of labor in workplaces has contributed to the misinformed use of human and natural resources where the benefits of city life are made available only for the few while the high costs of urban growth and convenience are socialized for the many.
(3) UN Habitat reports that in the decade between 1990 and 2000 urbanization in developing regions was characterized by the entry of new cities that did not exist as such in 1990. The report states, "This constellation of 694 new cities started out as rural towns and became urban areas by virtue of changes in their administrative status, natural growth or in-migration." (PDF) The problem is not the number of cities but rather the structures within and between them, and also possibly their size and current rate of growth. But where did they come from? These cities did not appear magically, nor were they the product of divine intervention or an evolutionary outcome hardwired into history. Rather, they are human-made creations. Similarly, so are the vast disparities of wealth and power that exist within and between these cities. The maintenance of urban inequality is made possible through human-made hierarchical institutions that serve elite interests. Therefore, our hope lies in the self-conscious ability of people to carry out their own social and material objectives for the improvement of their own lives and their ability to exercise decision-making control over their own destinies. To accomplish this, and successfully overthrow counter-revolutionary forces (outlined below), we will need shared vision of a society organized around an institutional framework that delivers self-management, classlessness, solidarity, and diversity.
The society I advocate is called a Participatory Society and has consequences for how we orient ourselves to the problems mentioned above. I will now focus on these consequences and along the way outline a new institutional vision as a proposed solution.
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From Little Known Military Thug Squad Still Brutalizing Prisoners at Gitmo Under Obama by Jeremy Scahill (AlterNet)
As the Obama administration continues to fight the release of some 2,000 photos that graphically document U.S. military abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, an ongoing Spanish investigation is adding harrowing details to the ever-emerging portrait of the torture inside and outside Guantánamo. Among them: "blows to [the] testicles;" "detention underground in total darkness for three weeks with deprivation of food and sleep;" being "inoculated … through injection with 'a disease for dog cysts;'" the smearing of feces on prisoners; and waterboarding. The torture, according to the Spanish investigation, all occurred "under the authority of American military personnel" and was sometimes conducted in the presence of medical professionals.
More significantly, however, the investigation could for the first time place an intense focus on a notorious, but seldom discussed, thug squad deployed by the U.S. military to retaliate with excessive violence to the slightest resistance by prisoners at Guantánamo.
The force is officially known as the the Immediate Reaction Force or Emergency Reaction Force, but inside the walls of Guantánamo, it is known to the prisoners as the Extreme Repression Force. Despite President Barack Obama's publicized pledge to close the prison camp and end torture -- and analysis from human rights lawyers who call these forces' actions illegal -- IRFs remain very much active at Guantánamo.
IRF: An Extrajudicial Terror Squad
The existence of these forces has been documented since the early days of Guantánamo, but it has rarely been mentioned in the U.S. media or in congressional inquiries into torture. On paper, IRF teams are made up of five military police officers who are on constant stand-by to respond to emergencies. "The IRF team is intended to be used primarily as a forced-extraction team, specializing in the extraction of a detainee who is combative, resistive, or if the possibility of a weapon is in the cell at the time of the extraction," according to a declassified copy of the Standard Operating Procedures for Camp Delta at Guantánamo. The document was signed on March 27, 2003, by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the man credited with eventually "Gitmoizing" Abu Ghraib and other U.S.-run prisons and who reportedly ordered subordinates to treat prisoners "like dogs." Gen. Miller ran Guantánamo from November 2002 until August 2003 before moving to Iraq in 2004.
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The IRF-ing of Omar Deghayes
Perhaps the worst abuses in the Spanish case involve Omar Deghayes, whose torture began long before he reached Guantánamo, and intensified upon his arrival.
A Libyan citizen who had lived in Britain since 1986, in the late 1990s, Deghayes was a law student when he traveled to Afghanistan, "for the simple reason that he is a Muslim and he wanted to see what it was like," according to his lawyer, Stafford Smith. While there, he met and married an Afghan woman with whom he had a son.
After 9/11, Deghayes was detained in Lahore, Pakistan, for a month, where he allegedly was subjected to "systematic beatings" and "electric shocks done with a tool that looked like a small gun."
He was then transferred to Islamabad, Pakistan,where he claims he was interrogated by both U.S. and British personnel. There, the torture continued; in a March 2005 memo written by a lawyer who later visited Deghayes at Guantánamo, he described a particularly ghoulish incident:
"One day they took me to a room that had very large snakes in glass boxes. The room was all painted black-and-white, with dim lights. They threatened to leave me there and let the snakes out with me in the room. This really got to me, as there were such sick people that they must have had this room specially made."
Deghayes was eventually moved to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where he was beaten and "kept nude, as part of the process of humiliation due to his religion." U.S. personnel placed Deghayes "inside a closed box with a lock and limited air." He also described seeing U.S. guards sodomize an African prisoner and alleged guards "forced petrol and benzene up the anuses of the prisoners."
"The camp looked like the Nazi camps that I saw in films," Deghayes said.
When Deghayes finally arrived at Guantánamo in September 2002, he found himself the target of the feared IRF teams.
"The IRF team sprayed Mr. Deghayes with mace; they threw him in the air and let him fall on his face … " according to the Spanish investigation. Deghayes says he also endured a "sexual attack." In March 2004, after being "sprayed in the eyes with mace," Deghayes says authorities refused to provide him with medical attention, causing him to permanently lose sight in his right eye.
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Friday, May 29, 2009
White House to Merge Domestic, International Security Staff
by Jason Ditz
President Obama announced today that he will be combining the White House staffs dealing with international and homeland security, claiming that the move would “make Americans safer.” The president will establish a “global engagement directorate” and a “National Security staff” that will deal with all policymaking related to “international, transnational, and homeland security matters.” National Security Adviser James Jones will head the staff.
Jones, a former Marine commandant, praised the move, saying that “terror around the world doesn’t recognize borders.” President Obama said the move “will end the artificial divide between White House staff who have been dealing with national security and homeland security issues.”
The statement was issued as a press release, though it largely took a back seat to the revelation of the president’s choice for the Supreme Court. It claimed to be a required move to “deal with new and emerging 21st Century challenges,” with cybersecurity at the top of the list - even ahead of WMD terrorism.
To that end, the president is expected to appoint an Internet Czar later this week, a position which will have broad oversight both government-run and private networks. The position will said to report to both Jones and top White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers.
By Margaret Wente
...A lot of us would say: Good riddance. Working-class culture was sexist, homophobic, casually racist and exclusively male. Not even auto plants are like that any more. At Ford's state-of-the-art plant in Brazil, half the workers are young women. The muscle work is done by robots. Everyone is flexible and works in teams, and the emphasis is on good communication. No one in my dad's shop would be remotely qualified to work there.
As low- and semi-skilled manual jobs disappear, working-class men are getting hammered - and so is their masculinity. “Manual labour has been a key source of identity, pride, self-esteem and power for working-class men,” says a recent British study, which set out to probe a fascinating question: What makes these men so unemployable?
The conventional answer is that their education levels are too low and their skills are too poor. But the more accurate answer is that they're psychologically mismatched to the seismic shifts in our economy. The new economy (over the long term) is creating tons of service jobs in retail, customer support, and personal care. The trouble is that these jobs require temperamental attributes that are stereotypically feminine - things like patience, a pleasant demeanour, deference to the customer and the ability to empathize and connect. Another way to put it is that these jobs require emotional labour, not manual labour. And women, even unskilled women, are much better at emotional labour than men are.
The author of the study, Darren Nixon, did his field work in Manchester, where he interviewed dozens of long-term unemployed men. Once the embodiment of proud working-class culture, Manchester has had its guts ripped out by deindustrialization, and is trying to reinvent itself through the arts and tourism. Some of the men he interviewed had tried their hand at retail or other service jobs, but none had lasted long. “I've got no patience with people, basically,” one subject told him. “I can't put a smiley face on.” Or: “Telephone sales, no. Too much talking.” Another man said, “If someone [a customer] gave me loads of hassle, I'd end up lamping them.” Several of them, in fact, had lost their jobs when they lamped the boss.
“Responding to the demands of customer sovereignty unquestionably is antithetical to young working-class men whose culture valorizes sticking up for yourself,” writes the author in awkward academese. But his point is clear. The defining value of working-class masculinity is the ability to stick up for yourself when someone tries to give you shit. The defining requirement of service work (in their view) is having to eat it. Service work is a fundamental challenge to their masculine identity...
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From Anarchist attacks on the rise in Greece
Anarchy made a spectacular return to Greece this month as explosions struck banks and private businesses and a riot rocked downtown Athens.
Widespread urban guerrilla violence, growing racism toward Greeces 1 million immigrant population and unprecedented disillusionment toward the political class characterize Greek society five months after it experienced its gravest rioting since World War II.
Greece faces a proliferation of new anarchist and anti-establishment terrorist groups, which pose a growing threat to stability, Greek and foreign analysts say.
"We have a new generation of terrorists showing its presence and teeth over the past couple of years, and now they have a new pool of possible recruits," said Thanos Dokos, director of Greek think tank ELIAMEP. "Growing numbers of people are saying that if the politicians cannot understand with other means, then targeted violence might shake them out of their stupor."
Greece's center-right government has been battered by bribery, real estate and sex scandals, making it a tempting target for anarchists. A government reshuffle in February was widely criticized, and a second round of changes is expected after European parliamentary elections in June, in which the government is expected to do poorly.
Scandals have forced four ministers to resign in the past two years. Widespread public disillusionment was compounded by anger in December when a policeman fatally shot a 15-year-old boy, triggering a week of cross-country rioting.
Police credibility plunged when riot squads stepped back and allowed widespread vandalism and looting in an attempt to avoid clashes that might cause further casualties.
When the smoke cleared, public and private businesses had suffered millions of dollars in damage. Public trust in the police was further damaged when it emerged in April that a policeman was a member of an organized gang of bank robbers that has carried out nearly 30 armed robberies since December.
"Prison riots, social exclusion, human rights violations, police brutality, lack of accountability and corruption are just a few manifestations that the system in Greece has reached its limits," said Panos Kostakos, a researcher at the Department of European Studies at Bath University in Britain. "Weak states have always provided strong ground for malevolent actors and dark networks."
Fresh attacks occurred a week ago Saturday as incendiary devices exploded outside a private security firm, a car dealership and a business selling military surplus gear.
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By Barbara H. Peterson
Monsanto and its cohorts in crime promised us that they would not be using Terminator technology called GURT, or genetic use restricted technology. In fact, the United Nations actually issued a moratorium on the project. So we're safe, right? Wrong.
As usual, the boys in the little white lab coats have not been idle. In spite of the moratorium, not only are they working heatedly on Terminator technology, but are getting ready to introduce Zombie technology. Terminator, and Traitor or Zombie technologies are just variations of GURT. Whereas Terminator technology produces plants with sterile seeds, Zombie technology carries this a step further by creating plants that could require a chemical application to trigger seed fertility every year. Pay for the chemical or get sterile seed. This is called reversible transgenic sterility. They have been working steadily on perfecting this technology, and are now poised to introduce it to the world as a solution to the current GMO contamination problem. Move over Terminator, here comes the Zombie.
If a field gets contaminated with seeds containing the Terminator gene, the resulting plants will have sterile seeds, so the reproductive cycle ends. If the contamination is from the Zombie gene, the resulting plants will most likely require a certain pesticide or will be sterile.
Plants are engineered with sterility as the default condition, but sterility can be reversed with the application of an external stimulus that restores the plant's viability. In order to bring the "zombie" seed back from the dead, the farmer or breeder must use an external stimulus (such as a proprietary chemical) to restore the seed's fertility. (Terminator the Sequel, 2007 PDF doc)
Either way, if you are a small farmer with a contaminated field, your seed-saving venture for the following year will be less than successful. Planting sterile seeds takes the same amount of work as well as monetary outlay that planting good seeds does, but without the return on investment. And, you cannot tell the difference between the good, the bad, and the ugly seeds until it's too late. That is, if the patent enforcement brigade doesn't raid your property first and force you to destroy your crops and all of your seeds due to patent infringement. Then you get nothing, and have to pay for the privilege.
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Our speculation that the “secret billionaire club” meeting at the beginning of the month was primarily focused around population control. a cause célèbre embraced by David Rockefeller, Ted Turner and Bill Gates, has been confirmed by a London Times report.
Details of the secret confab were thin on the ground in the initial reports concerning the meeting of rich “philanthropists” like Rockefeller, Turner, Gates, Warren Buffet and George Soros, which took place in New York on May 5 at the home of Sir Paul Nurse, a British Nobel prize biochemist and president of the private Rockefeller University.
An ABC News report about the confab offered little more than fawning idolatry towards the attendees, and was little more than a sophistic exercise in ass kissing and creeping adulation for people like Rockefeller and Turner, who were portrayed as philanthropic saviors of the planet.
We questioned this premise by pointing out that Turner has publicly advocated shocking population reduction programs that would cull the human population by a staggering 95%. He has also called for a Communist-style one child policy to be mandated by governments in the west. In China, the one child policy is enforced by means of taxes on each subsequent child, allied to an intimidation program which includes secret police and “family planning” authorities kidnapping pregnant women from their homes and performing forced abortions.
Of course, Turner completely fails to follow his own rules on how everyone else should live their lives, having five children and owning no less than 2 million acres of land.
In the third world, Turner has contributed literally billions to population reduction, namely through United Nations programs, leading the way for the likes of Bill & Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet(Gates’ father has long been a leading board member of Planned Parenthood and a top eugenicist).
Our initial suspicions that the secret meeting was primarily concerned with population control has been confirmed by a London Times report, which states, “SOME of America’s leading billionaires have met secretly to consider how their wealth could be used to slow the growth of the world’s population and speed up improvements in health and education. The philanthropists who attended a summit convened on the initiative of Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, discussed joining forces to overcome political and religious obstacles to change.”
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The mass exodus from Swat is making headlines globally. Over a million have been displaced. This is the worst humanitarian crisis since the Rwanda tragedy in 1990s. The explanation offered is that this is necessary to flush the Taliban out of Swat's lush, green valley in Pakistan's north. This military operation, launched in order to stabilise the US occupation of Afghanistan and its so-called "war on terror", is hardly mentioned in the corporate media. On the contrary, major US newspapers have been invoking the fear that Pakistan's nuclear weapons might fall into the hands of the Taliban. Is this a story planted by the CIA?
This is the fourth time in less than three years that the Swat area has been subjected to a military operation. However the latest offensive is of a different character.
First, this military operation was hastily launched. The United States threatened to use drones in Swat if Pakistan did not stop the Taliban from advancing into the neighbouring districts of Dir and Boner.
Second, it is not a mock operation. This time the Pakistan army is targeting the Taliban.
Third, the mainstream media in Pakistan and the major political parties are openly supporting this military action. Previously the mainstream Islamist and right-wing parties, including former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), were sympathetic to the Taliban and opposed targetting them. This time around, the PML-N is siding with the ruling coalition, led by Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP).
The general public is turning against the Taliban. The swing in the public's perception was catalysed by a video showing the Taliban whipping a girl. This shocked Pakistanis. However Taliban spokesperson Muslim Khan defended the punishment and asserted that the girl should have been stoned.
While the media previously had been dominated by pro-Taliban anchorpersons and columnists, they are not siding with the Taliban this time. Ridiculed as the ``Media Mujahidin'', many pro-Taliban journalists have now begun criticising the Taliban. However it is the liberals in the media who are proving to be the worst warmongers. Back in 1999 they were the first to welcome the military takeover of Pakistan, hoping that General Pervez Musharraf would rid Pakistan of the fundamentalist "beards". Later, disillusioned by Musharraf, they pinned all their hope on Uncle Sam.
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In this clip, Robert Anton Wilson talks about the influence of Alfred Korzybski, Friedrich Nietzsche, Benjamin Tucker, Karl Popper, Timothy Leary, Harry Stack Sullivan, Eric Berne, Wilhelm Reich, and James DeMeo on his books and ideas.
"There is nothing rationally desirable that cannot be achieved sooner if rationality itself increases. Work to achieve Intelligence Intensification is work to achieve all our sane and worthwhile goals." -Robert Anton Wilson
From Silence on the square
Outside the Communist Party, memories of the 1989 massacre get hazy
AMONG journalists at a Chinese newspaper, there has been some surprising talk of publishing a story to mark the 20th anniversary on June 3rd and 4th of the massacre of hundreds of Beijing citizens by Chinese soldiers. One journalist even told his colleagues he would be ready to go to jail for doing so. But such bravado, especially if it proves more than rhetoric, is likely to be rare. For many in China the nationwide pro-democracy protests of 1989 and their bloody end have become a muddled and half-forgotten tale.
This does not stop the Communist Party worrying about the issue. It fears that the efforts of even a small number of people to keep memories alive could be destabilising. The most senior official to serve jail time for his role in the Tiananmen Square unrest, Bao Tong, has been escorted by security officials from his Beijing home to a scenic spot in central China (far from muttering journalists) where he will spend the anniversary period. Mr Bao agreed to go, says a family member. But in China an invitation from the police can be awkward to refuse. Several other dissidents report heightened police surveillance.
This year’s anniversary has spurred a hardy few to pronounce on the massacre. A Beijing academic, Cui Weiping, told a gathering of intellectuals called to commemorate it that the party’s campaign to deter public discussion of Tiananmen, and public acquiescence to it, had damaged China’s “spirit and morality”. She posted her remarks on her blog.
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From The ghosts of Tiananmen
Ten years after the Tiananmen massacre of 1989 I wrote a book, Bad Elements, about the fate of the protesters, dissidents and free-spirited Chinese who had wanted to change their country. Much had changed in those ten years, and even more has changed since. New buildings, ever taller, ever bigger, have made cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing virtually unrecognisable to anyone who has been away for longer than six months. Old neighbourhoods disappear overnight, to be replaced by high rises, shopping malls and theme parks, sometimes replicating in miniature, or in painted concrete, razed ancient landmarks. This isn’t just a matter of economic growth; it is a transformation.
So was I wrong to detect a whiff of decay in the authoritarian one-party state when I travelled in the People’s Republic of China ten years ago? Was I misguided in my belief that the dissident “bad elements” still mattered? It is not hard to find educated, prosperous citizens in the wealthier coastal regions who will say so. The foreign traveller in China today will often be told, sometimes in excellent English, that the country is not yet ready for the freedoms my dissidents demanded. China is too big, one hears, too large, too old, the Chinese masses are too uneducated, in fact, China is just too damned complicated for democracy to take root. The whip-hand of authoritarian rule is still essential to keep chaos at bay and enable prosperity. Democracy is a luxury to be enjoyed after wealth and education; first food and shelter, then, possibly, freedom.
An alternative argument comes down to pretty much the same thing, but has a more patriotic ring. It claims that China already has a kind of democracy; a Chinese democracy in line with native traditions, a quasi-Confucian system where wise and benevolent rulers act, as if by osmosis, according to the wishes of the people. And the people, instead of indulging in selfish demands for rights—which suit the westerner, but are alien to the Chinese—sacrifice their private interests for the good of a great nation with 6,000 years of history.
These arguments will be expressed, usually with great conviction, while one’s attention is drawn to those tall, glitzy buildings, and those malls stuffed with the luxuries of the modern world. Look at what China has achieved in 20 years! Don’t the figures speak for themselves? So why should it matter what such voices in the wilderness as Wei Jingsheng, who spent 14 years in prison before being exiled to the US, still say about the lack of democracy in China? Or former student leaders of the Tiananmen demonstrations, some of whom now have business careers in the west. After all, their voices are no longer much heard in China. Those born around 1989 have barely heard of the protests, let alone of people who played prominent roles back then. Parents won’t talk about it lest their children get into trouble. And the children have other things to worry about, like getting ahead in the exciting but often brutal world of authoritarian capitalism.
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I am as loath to predict what might happen now as I was in 1999, but one can imagine certain possibilities. One is an old Chinese pattern of local rulers replacing a crumbling central power. Provincial bosses, like the warlords of 100 years ago, may take control of their regions. They are unlikely to be friends of democracy. Or extreme nationalism might be stirred by a fearful government, keen to deflect the middle-class resentment onto foreign targets. But this, too, is a tactic full of risk, as radical nationalism could be turned against the government itself, as a punishment for its weakness. Then again, China’s army, anxious to restore order in the unruly empire, might step in and crush all dissent.
There is a more positive alternative to these routes of violence and oppression. It was expressed with great eloquence in a remarkable document, first signed by more than 300 Chinese citizens—law professors, businessmen, farmers and even some party officials. The 300 signatories of Charter 08, launched at the end of 2008 on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, were soon joined by thousands more. It was drawn up as a conscious echo of an earlier charter by Czechoslovakian dissidents in 1977, seeking human rights in a stagnant satellite of the Soviet empire. It is not radical. The signatories demand free elections, an independent judiciary, free speech and basic human rights. But of course, in a one-party dictatorship, these demands are radical. And so one of the “bad elements” I wrote about 20 years ago, a quiet-spoken intellectual named Liu Xiaobo, who organised the charter, was promptly arrested and jailed. Others, too, were harassed, and interrogated. One thing is clear: dissidents clearly do matter to the rulers of the People’s Republic of China.
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By Tom Hayden (OpEd News)
8 May, 2009
Don't go around tonight,
Well it's bound to take your life,
There's a bad moon on the rise.
""Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1969
The truth was obscure, too profound and too pure,
To love it you have to explode.
""Bob Dylan, 1978
Anyone meeting Mark Rudd today would think him a nice level-headed guy: retired community college teacher, carpenter, husband, father of two, rank-and-file peace activist. Turning 62, his hair is gone white, the paunch protrudes, but the blue eyes are observant. All in all, laid back but present.
This is the same Mark Rudd I met in the heat of the 1968 Columbia University student strike, the Mark Rudd who ended a letter to Grayson Kirk, Columbia's president, by declaring, "Up against the wall, motherfucker!"-, the Mark Rudd who proudly led Students for a Democratic Society to close its offices and end its organizing efforts in the midst of the greatest student rebellion of the 20th century, the same Mark Rudd who went underground and supported a plan to bomb Fort Dix, which went awry and killed three of his friends""all by the time he was 22 years old.
Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen
By Mark Rudd
William Morrow, 336 pages
Rudd struggles to reconcile these two selves, representing two eras, in his memoir, "Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen," an important contribution to a growing collection of narratives from former participants in the revolutionary 1960s' underground. Other recent works include Bill Ayers' "Fugitive Days," Cathy Wilkerson's "Flying Close to the Sun,"- Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, and Jeff Jones' "Sing a Battle Song,"- David Gilbert's "No Surrender," Leslie Brody's "Red Star Sister," Roxanne Dunbar's "Outlaw Woman," and the 2002 Oscar-nominated documentary "The Weather Underground." The saga is turned into fiction as well in Dana Spiotta's "Eat the Document." Other novels that mine the same or similar terrain include Heinrich Boll's classic "The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum," Susan Choi's "American Woman," and Neil Gordon's "The Company You Keep." No doubt there will be more.
That may be more books than those devoted to such organizations as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or the Students for a Democratic Society, not to mention community organizing or the farmworkers' movement of those years, and the genre is likely to grow, revealing an abiding fascination with the question of why it was that some peaceful dissenters turned to violence so suddenly in the late '60s. The Weather Underground took credit for 24 bombings altogether and, according to federal sources, there were additionally several thousand acts of violence during the same years. In 1969-70 alone, there were more than 550 fraggings by soldiers, according to one authoritative historian of the Vietnam War.
The fascination with such violence is not new. Similar themes can be found in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's 19th-century novel about young Russian nihilists, "The Possessed," in Joseph Conrad's "Under Western Eyes," Henry James' "The Princess Casamassima," Andre Malraux's tale of the Shanghai uprising, "Man's Fate," and, of course, Ernest Hemingway's stories of the Spanish civil war.
What explains the enduring interest in such radicals? I believe it has something to do with exploring the extremes of personal commitment. To fail heroically, though miserably, is seen by many as attaining a greater glory than the rewards to be had from the mundane life of patient political work. As Karl Marx wrote of the Paris Commune, the French Communards at least had stormed the heavens. And as Rudd quotes Erich Fromm quoting Nietzsche, "There are times when anyone who does not lose his mind has no mind to lose."
Fiction may be a better vehicle than autobiography or history for ascertaining the truth in clandestine histories where the secret lives of others are at legal risk. In Rudd's self-description, he is far from heroic, but more like a confused young man from the Jersey suburbs staggering out of a novel by Philip Roth, either "American Pastoral" or "I Married a Communist."
There is an unconsciousness in Rudd's memory of himself, a kind of bumbling innocence that will disappoint a reader seeking more. When, for example, the milling students at Columbia sought tactical direction, Rudd writes: "I had only the vaguest idea of what we were doing."- When Rudd is told by a comrade that his demonstration is out of control, he replies, "I know. I have no idea what to do." When Rudd calls for taking a hostage, he says, "I meant a building," not an administrator. But then he supports taking Dean Henry Coleman hostage, yelling: "Now we've got the man where we want him! He can't leave unless he gives in to some of our demands." When the media selects him as the new revolutionary symbol, he remembers a "gnawing sense that I was in over my head."
Some of this is funny, as for example when Rudd calls his father in Maplewood, N.J., to say "We took a building" and the old man replies, "Well, give it back."
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Anniversary of the fall of the Paris Commune:
...The Paris Commune (French: La Commune de Paris) was a government that briefly ruled Paris, from March 28 (more formally, from March 26) to May 28, 1871. It existed before the split between anarchists and socialists had taken place, and it is hailed by both groups as the first assumption of power by the working class. Debates over the policies and outcome of the Commune contributed to the break between those two political groups.
In a formal sense, the Paris Commune was simply the local authority, the city council (in French, the "commune"), which exercised power in Paris for two months in the spring of 1871. However, the conditions in which it was formed, its controversial decrees, and its tortured end make its tenure one of the more important political episodes of the time.
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The toughest resistance came in the more working-class districts of the east, where fighting continued during the later stages of the week of vicious street fighting in what became known as La Semaine Sanglante ("The Bloody Week"). By May 27 only a few pockets of resistance remained, notably the poorer eastern districts of Belleville and Ménilmontant. Fighting ended during the late afternoon or early evening of May 28. According to legend, the last barricade was in the rue Ramponeau in Belleville.
Marshall MacMahon issued a proclamation: "To the inhabitants of Paris. The French army has come to save you. Paris is freed! At 4 o'clock our soldiers took the last insurgent position. Today the fight is over. Order, work and security will be reborn."
Reprisals now began in earnest. Having supported the Commune in any way was a political crime, of which thousands could be, and were, accused. Some of the Communards were shot against what is now known as the Communards' Wall in the Père Lachaise Cemetery while thousands of others were tried by summary courts martial of doubtful legality, and thousands shot. Notorious sites of slaughter were the Luxembourg Gardens and the Lobau Barracks, behind the Hôtel de Ville. Nearly 40,000 others were marched to Versailles for trials. For many days endless columns of men, women and children made a painful way under military escort to temporary prison quarters in Versailles. Later 12,500 were tried, and about 10,000 were found guilty: 23 men were executed; many were condemned to prison; 4,000 were deported for life to New Caledonia. The number killed during La Semaine Sanglante can never be established for certain, and estimates vary from about 10,000 to 50,000. According to Benedict Anderson, "7,500 were jailed or deported" and "roughly 20,000 executed". 
According to Alfred Cobban, 30,000 were killed, perhaps as many as 50,000 later executed or imprisoned and 7,000 were exiled to New Caledonia. Thousands more - including most of the Commune leaders - succeeded in escaping to Belgium, Britain (a safe haven for 3,000-4,000 refugees), Italy, Spain and the United States. The final exiles and transportees were amnestied in 1880. Some became prominent in later politics, as Paris councillors, deputies or senators.
In 1872, "stringent laws were passed that ruled out all possibilities of organizing on the left." For the imprisoned there was a general amnesty in 1880, except for those convicted of assassination or arson. Paris remained under martial law for five years.
Karl Marx found it aggravating that the Communards "lost precious moments" organising democratic elections rather than instantly finishing off Versailles once and for all. France's national bank, located in Paris and storing billions of francs, was left untouched and unguarded by the Communards. Timidly they asked to borrow money from the bank (which of course they got without any hesitation).
The Communards did take over the Paris mint and issued a 5 franc coin (identifiable by a trident mintmark) which is today quite scarce. However, they chose not to seize the national bank's assets because they were afraid that the world would condemn them if they did. Thus large amounts of money were moved from Paris to Versailles, money that financed the army that crushed the Commune.
Communists, left-wing socialists, anarchists and others have seen the Commune as a model for, or a prefiguration of, a liberated society, with a political system based on participatory democracy from the grass roots up. Marx and Engels, Bakunin, and later Lenin and Trotsky along with Mao tried to draw major theoretical lessons (in particular as regards the "dictatorship of the proletariat" and the "withering away of the state") from the limited experience of the Commune. A more pragmatic lesson was drawn by the diarist Edmond de Goncourt, who wrote, three days after La Semaine Sanglante, "…the bleeding has been done thoroughly, and a bleeding like that, by killing the rebellious part of a population, postpones the next revolution… The old society has twenty years of peace before it…"
Karl Marx, in his important pamphlet The Civil War in France (1871), written during the Commune, touted the Commune's achievements, and described it as the prototype for a revolutionary government of the future, "the form at last discovered" for the emancipation of the proletariat...
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The current scandal over MPs’ expenses builds on a long process of disaffection and disgust. Turnout in general elections has fallen from 78% in 1992 to 59% in 2001 and 61% in 2005. Labour won the last general election with the support of only 21% of the people entitled to vote (i.e. a 35% share of the 61% turnout).
The percentage of people saying in polls that they are “interested in politics” has remained about the same as far as records go back (60%, back to 1973), and young people are as likely as older people, or more so, to describe themselves as “interested in politics”. But confidence in our ability to affect politics by voting — or to affect it other than on very particular issues by any other means — has declined heavily.
The passive disaffection now widespread is dangerous. It makes it easier for governments to cut back democracy even further. The large pool of people who are “fed up with all politicians” form a rich fishing-ground for racist and fascist politicians.
Two hundred years ago in Britain, activists who batled for votes for all were certain that victory for that demand would mean a social overturn — making government serve the poor many rather than the rich few — and those who resisted them shared that certainty. Though MPs then were surely more corrupt than now, and voted in by narrow and arbitrarily-delimited electorates mostly of the well-off, Parliament really controlled the government. A debate in Parliament could really swing the policy of the state.
Bit by bit, from 1832 to 1928, the rich conceded the right to vote to the poor. Bit by bit, at the same time, they set up mechanisms which neutralised that right. Parliament was elected — but it was more and more dominated by the Government, which in turn operated in a frame more tightly set by an increasingly large unelected state machine, staffed at its higher levels by wealthy people tied by a thousand strings to the bosses and bankers.
The Blair and Brown governments have tilted the system even further against any real control for the voters. You vote for your MP. But it is hard for parties other than those with lots of money, and good connections to the media, to establish themselves as “known” options for you.
Those parties’ manifestos are written to emphasise attractive buzzwords (chosen by market research) and to minimise firm commitments. Even if the manifesto has a firm commitment, the MP is elected for five years.
Thus, and rationally, most people vote only on the general tone and “image” of the parties. Unless a lively and democratic party organisation controls them, MPs are tied by no “mandate” tighter than that.
Once elected, Parliament does not choose the government. The Queen does. Usually, of course, the Queen must choose the leader of the biggest party. But that leader, once chosen as Prime Minister, can then chose his own large “payroll vote”.
Today, 120 out of the 350 MPs of the majority party are ministers or deputies. They have to back the Prime Minister’s line, on pain of losing salary and career. Thus, for example, though 154 out of 230 non-payroll Labour MPs have signed an appeal against Royal Mail privatisation, the Government can press on with it. There is no provision for a vote among Labour MPs to decide Labour government policy.
The Government also sets the agenda for Parliament, largely deciding what can or cannot be debated. The current Parliament, elected in 2005, has the highest rate since 1945 of revolts by MPs of the majority party against the Government. Almost no revolts make any difference to Government policy. Revolts make little difference outside Parliament, too: research into the 2005 general election results shows that “rebel” and “loyalist” Labour MPs lost votes to almost exactly the same extent. Voters hadn’t monitored the revolts.
Until about 1994 the “serious” newspapers used to publish detailed, sometimes word-for-word, reports of Parliamentary debates every day. Now none of them bothers. A great number of laws are now “administrative law”, made by ministers without reference to Parliament on the authority of previous legislation. Even the ministers have little control. They are mostly in their jobs for short terms, and often with little prior knowledge of the area; and they work in a frame set by permanent unelected officials who control the flow of information.
Memoirs show that there was never even a proper debate in the Cabinet about Britain joining the USA in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, although at least two members of the Cabinet clearly opposed the invasion. The Prime Minister has power. But he or she exercises that power under pressures and influences among which pressure from MPs is a tiny factor as compared to the pressures and influences from top bosses, bankers, and officials — the ruling class.
How can we recover the radical meaning and logic which democracy had when campaigners first raised the call for “votes for all”? In 1871 Karl Marx analysed how the Paris Commune — the ordinary city council — had been able to become “a thoroughly expansive political form... essentially a working-class government” during a brief period when the bourgeois national government had abandoned Paris and the workers transformed the administration.
“The Commune was formed of the municipal councillors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at short terms. The majority of its members were naturally workers, or acknowledged representatives of the working class. The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary, body, executive and legislative at the same time... From the members of the Commune downwards, the public service had to be done at workers’ wages...”
In history, such democratic principles — right to recall representatives; the government, the executive, being elected (and subject to re-election) by the assembly, not appointed from above; all officials being accountable and on workers’ wages — have only ever been fully embodied in fresh political forms arising in times of revolution.
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MYTHOMANIA: the specific characteristic which differentiates humans from other species. Animals live in the real world. People devise myths and live by them, create societies and civilizations with myths as the main fabric. The larger the number of people sharing a notion, a conviction, the more likely it is to be an illusion or fiction.
Society: a group of people united by the BELIEF IN CERTAIN COMMON MYTHS― belief they seemingly need as much as food and oxygen.
The social state of things, the social relations, are concealed by a screen of myths and lies. Let us tear this screen apart. The only possible lifestance for a person who wants to preserve his/her self-esteem, is the conscious and assertive effort to dissolve myths, illusions and lies.
According to the prevalent perception, we are a democratic society of free citizens, with equal rights under the law. In the gloomy real world, WE ARE COMMODITIES. Our masters buy and sell us, accumulating wealth and power. We are poultry farm chicken, with a recognized right to elect our supervisors.
The predominant religion is not Christianity, of which only the shell remains. COMMODITY IS THE NEW RELIGION of the developed world; it has prevailed gradually over several decades. Capitalists, politicians and bureaucrats constitute its sacred hierarchy. Consumption is its holy communion. Theologists and priests of the creed are regime intellectuals, journalists, technocrats, advertisers and stars. Its credo is limitless growth, and its temple is, of course, the market.
All of us, THE FAITHFUL TO COMMODITY, we sell ourselves, our living activity, for a wage. Thus we receive holy grace, also known as purchasing power, in order to be worthy of participating in the ritual of Consumption. Being commodities in the Holy Market, the meaning we define for our lives is the increase of our purchasing power, to consume other commodities in limitless quantities.
The capitalist system, the commodity democracy, is NOT forcibly imposed on society by the ruling class. MOST PEOPLE ACTIVELY SUPPORT AND REPRODUCE this system, that is THE RELATIONS OF COMPETITION, DOMINATION AND EXPLOITATION. We accept being used by the powerful as commodities, lifeless things; thus we gain the possibility to consume other commodities. By conforming, each person gains another miserable ‘‘advantage”: the possibility to use poorer people as commodities, to become himself a small boss.
HYPOCRICY is the main element of interpersonal relationships under the commodity civilization. We use each other through coercion and manipulation. Relating to other people is not our top priority, we prefer relating to luxury items, status symbols, substitutes for self-esteem. Since we don’t hesitate cannibalizing each other, it’s not a surprise we treat nature accordingly.
POLITICS under inequality: elites of major stockholders of corporations and politicians, exclusively hold the authority of decisions concerning the whole of humanity, using us, the ordinary people, as tools to their own benefit. Deception, intimidation and bribery are institutions of their poultry farm politics. If necessary, they have more convincing means for its continuation: armored divisions, aircraft carriers and cruise missiles. Parliamentary democracy (or rather commodity democracy) is the most advanced mechanism for the concentration of wealth and political power in the hands of the oligarchs.
HIERARCHY, COMMODITY, MONEY, THE NATION-STATE, are not mere social institutions. THEY ARE DOCTRINES OF A SECULAR RELIGION. The believers are the overwhelming majority of people, regardless of class origin and income level, and they reproduce the creed through their daily activity.
The holders of political and economic power are silly caricatures without their subordinates. The power of the rulers lies in the servility of their subjects; and the sheer need for sustenance is not the primary motive for submission. Regardless of pretexts, their poverty or stupidity are rather secondary reasons. THE SUBORDINATES EMBRACE HIERARCHY AND IMPOSITION AS SACRED VALUES; SERVILITY AND THE WORSHIP OF POWER IS THE LIFESTANCE THEY CHOSE AND BELIEVE IN. Let’s face it: the working classes are probably more conservative than the ruling ones.
Assuming the following notions are valid: The person is a social institution. Each society subjects its members to a particular socialization process, since birth; our thought, mentality and behaviour is thus definitely conditioned. Through this process, the young individual internalizes the values, rules and standards of the certain society; internalizes the special way his/her society fabricates meaning and projects it on the meaningless universe.
If the above are true, concerning our ‘‘open democratic societies”, the culture of hierarchy is injected into the mind of the young person through institutions like the family, school and mass media. We are deliberately addicted to this sadomasochistic culture since infancy; as an outcome, we perceive domination, competition and exploitation almost as natural forces, like gravity or the light. At the same time, we like to believe we are free.
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Excerpt from the Translator/Editor's Foreword to Figures of the Thinkable (including "Passion and Knowledge")
With this second in a series of electro-Samizdat editions, which follows upon the publication a year ago of The Rising Tide of Insignificancy (The Big Sleep) [RTI(TBS)] book-length translations into English of Cornelius Castoriadis's Carrefours du labyrinthe (Crossroads in the labyrinth) series are now complete. Figures of the Thinkable (including Passion and Knowledge) [FT(P&K)] contains, with one exception, all texts selected for the single French posthumous volume of Castoriadis's Carrefours writings -- Figures du pensable (FP) -- plus one last major Carrefours text yet to be published in book form in English. One task accomplished, others may begin.
It was, however, with constant self-questioning, enormous hesitation, and considerable trepidation that the anonymous Translator/Editor (T/E) began electro-Samizdat publication of Cornelius Castoriadis/Paul Cardan writings in December 2003. These concerns have now been addressed and alleviated to a great extent by the vast out-pouring of interest and support the first such volume has garnered. Over 5,600 visits for this "public document file" were recorded in the first seven months, according to Bill Brown of the NOT BORED! website. While internet statistics are not wholly reliable, it is fair to state that probably more people have obtained copies of this edition than of any other Castoriadis volume previously published in English. A major article, in the leading American academic journal, on the controversy surrounding publication brought knowledge of Castoriadis's work to the nearly 100,000 subscribers of The Chronicle of Higher Education, most of the copies of which are reportedly seen by multiple readers. Courses now propose RTI(TBS) chapters as suggested reading for young students quite adept at and used to procuring information on the web. And various left journals, on line and in print, have announced to their readers the easy availability of RTI(TBS). By all available accounts, our first risky experiment in Castoriadis/Cardan internet publication for the third millennium has been an unmitigated success. Absent any positive or conciliatory movement on the part of the Castoriadis literary heirs (they have in fact rejected offers of third-party mediation), this initial success therefore seems to warrant a second trial.
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Three men have been arrested after an attack on the Waihopai spy base near Blenheim in a breach of security at one of New Zealand's most sensitive security installations.
An inflatable cover of a dome has been cut open, deflated and draped over one of the satellite dishes inside.
The protest group Waihopai Anzac Ploughshares has claimed responsibility for getting through security to tear the statellite dish cover.
It's Echelon spy network they are opposed to, claiming the network is part of the US government's global spy network used in the war on Iraq. Echelon collects and analyses signals.
A press release on behalf of Ploughshares details exactly what went into the protest. At 6am they cut through three security fences, deflated one of the dome's covers using sickles, then knelt down beside it to pray. It took security guards half an hour to even realise anything had happened.
The protesters have been arrested and taken to Blenheim police station.
Prime Minister Helen Clark says it was a senseless act of vandalism and it will be dealt with by the criminal justice system. Clark says she has spoken about the incident with the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) which provides foreign signals intelligence to the government.
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009
From What do they teach at the "Kremlin's school of bloggers"? by Evgeny Morozov (Foreign Policy)
One of the Kremlin's pet new media projects has been a site called liberty.ru. It's been set up under the auspices of the Fund for Effective Politics, a think-tank headed by Gleb Pavlovsky, who has been instrumental in shaping the Russian ideology of the last decade. The official objective of liberty.ru - as articulated by Pavlovsky - has been to tap into the immense creativity of the Russian internet users and involve them in producing ideas that could make Kremlin's increasingly unappealing ideological package relevant to the younger generations. Liberty.ru was meant to become something like Russia's DailyKos or Talking Points Memo.
From Network Attack Weapons Emerge by David A. Fulghum (Aviation Week)
Devices to launch and control cyber, electronic and information attacks are being tested and refined by the U.S. military and industry in preparation for moving out of the laboratory and into the warfighter's backback.
It's a part of a technology race that is already well underway. The Russian attack on Georgia last year showed weaknesses in some combat areas, but not in cyberwarfare, say U.S. analysts.
"The Russians conducted a cyberattack that was well coordinated with what Russian troops were doing on the ground," says a longtime specialist in military information operations. "It was obvious that someone conducting the cyber[war] was talking to those controlling the ground forces. They knew where the [cyber]talent was [in Russia], how to use it, and how to coordinate it.
"That sophisticated planning at different levels of cyberwarfare surprised a lot of people in the Defense Dept.," he says. "It looked like a seamless, combined operation that coordinated the use of a range of cyberweapons from the sophisticated to the high school kids that thought it was cool to deface official web sites. The techniques they used everybody knows about. The issue was how effective they were as part of a combined operation."
The U.S. is looking for a tool to duplicate that kind of attack. Moreover, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded several contracts to information technology (IT) companies to design a cyberattack range. Candidate sites include Naval Air Warfare Center's China Lake, Calif., radar cross-section facility and the U.S. Air Force radar cross-section range at Holloman AFB, N.M.
Several future attack devices are being built in a U.S. cyberwarfare attack laboratory. The one shown to Aviation Week & Space Technology is a software framework for locating digital weaknesses. It combines cybersleuthing, technology analysis and tracking of information flow. It then offers suggestions to the operator on how best to mount an attack and, finally, reports on success of the effort.
Right now, electronic and cyberattacks are conducted and understood by a very few. To make the capability part of the warfighter's arsenal it has to be configured and packaged so that a non-expert could use it on the battlefield.
From Athens Newspaper Headlines of the Athens News Agency:
ELEFTHEROS: "Abstention is leading - Voters' tendency terrifies the two mainstream parties".
From Number of Europeans keen to vote in EU elections increases (EU Observer):
The survey also shows people's awareness of the election date has increased – 49 percent now say they will take place in June, compared to 16 percent last month.
The citizens of Malta, Hungary and Cyprus were best informed on the issue, while the Finns, Portuguese and Dutch were the least knowledgeable about the voting date.
The poll also indicates that 53 percent of the people are now interested in the elections and 46 percent are not, with the result contradicting those of a similar survey from last week.
That poll – also carried out by TNS Opinion – for the French Political Innovation Foundation showed the exact opposite trend on 18 May, saying 46% of the people were interested in the vote while 53% were not.
Meanwhile, the results of a separate Ipsos opinion poll for French daily 20 minutes and Le Point magazine published on Tuesday showed a different picture with regards to the number of people planning to vote.
It said the abstention level in France would be higher than 60 percent and the turnout no higher than 35 to 39 percent – although 45 percent of the French respondents in the TNS poll said they would "definitely vote."
The TNS Opinion survey was conducted from 4 to 15 May in all EU member states but due to legal restrictions on publishing the pre-electoral results in Greece, Italy and Luxembourg, the results for these countries have not been published.
From European election: Brussels braces for big protest vote (Guardian):
The EU's credibility and legitimacy look set to suffer next month when its sole exercise in direct democracy is expected to see voters spurn the ballot boxes in record numbers or vote increasingly for extremists, mavericks and populists.
In what is touted as a festival of freedom and democracy, some 375 million voters in 27 countries are entitled to elect a five-year European parliament in polls held from 4 to 7 June. Around 9,000 candidates are competing for 736 seats.
But the ballot looks more likely to turn into an unruly protest engulfing Europe's elites, producing an angrier parliament more hostile to Brussels. From the UK to Portugal, from Romania to Denmark, fringe parties and extremists are likely to gain seats at the expense of mainstream parties as voters vent their anger over financial meltdown, rising unemployment and perceived corruption among the governing classes.
From Euro-Elections: A Mass Revolt? (Sky News):
The impact of the MPs' expenses scandal may be a very British issue, but across Europe there are signs that people are fed up with their governments for their own particular reasons.
A common thread is the global economic downturn and unemployment, with many voters determined to punish ruling parties for - in their view - either causing it, or mishandling it.
A study by the LSE and Trinity College Dublin suggests that mass-abstention is the bigest threat with a predicted turn out of only 30%. The Guardian reported this week that many other people plan to turn their backs on the big parties in favour of extreme, populist or maverick candidates.
From Abstention Is Feared, Wrangling Runs High (ERT):
With the European Parliament elections being at the gate, political parties in Greece have focused their attention to a campaign against abstention. Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stressed that each ballot counts and appeared certain that the overwhelming majority of the citizens will do their duty as always. Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos called on the citizens to cast their ballots on the 7 June elections. The heads of the euro-ballots also expressed their concern on abstention in a press conference organized by the offices of the European Parliament in Athens. Marietta Giannakou and Giorgos Papakonstantinou also touched on the conditions under which the debate of the political leaders will take place.
From High Abstention Predicted (E-Politik):
The downswing of European Parliament election turnout seems to continue. In a new Eurobarometer survey, held in January and Febuary this year and yet not published, only 34 % of the European citizen declared they intend to vote the new European Parliament between the 4th and the 7th of June this year. This would be the lowest result since the Parliament was first elected in 1979.
From European elections: Abstention will be the rule (Euro Topics):
The most recent parliamentary elections last autumn left many Romanians frustrated because the politicians and parties have failed to keep their promises. Stelian Tanase writes in the daily Adevărul about the connection between national and European elections: "I believe the reason [for the indifference of the voters] is not just that Brussels is so far away; it's also what happened in the last elections. … I detect a certain carelessness in the repetition of the same old techniques that almost everyone recognises. I'm not sure whether the 'promise everyone everything' formula will work this time. … June 7 will basically be a test of how voters react to the tricks of the politicians. Have they learned their lesson from the bluff last autumn or can they forgive and forget this quickly? Abstention will be the rule, but the direction the vote takes will tell us something about the collective short-term memory."
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