Friday, January 2, 2009

Israel backed by army of cyber-soldiers

While Israel fights Hezbollah with tanks and aircraft, its supporters are campaigning on the internet.

Israel's Government has thrown its weight behind efforts by supporters to counter what it believes to be negative bias and a tide of pro-Arab propaganda. The Foreign Ministry has ordered trainee diplomats to track websites and chatrooms so that networks of US and European groups with hundreds of thousands of Jewish activists can place supportive messages.

In the past week nearly 5,000 members of the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) have downloaded special “megaphone” software that alerts them to anti-Israeli chatrooms or internet polls to enable them to post contrary viewpoints. A student team in Jerusalem combs the web in a host of different languages to flag the sites so that those who have signed up can influence an opinion survey or the course of a debate.

Jonny Cline, of the international student group, said that Jewish students and youth groups with their understanding of the web environment were ideally placed to present another side to the debate.

“We're saying to these people that if Israel is being bashed, don't ignore it, change it,” Mr Cline said. “A poll like CNN's takes just a few seconds to vote in, but if thousands take part the outcome will be changed. What's vital is that the international face of the conflict is balanced.”

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Did Nostradamus prophesy the current financial crisis?

From Google Groups:

This is so interesting....in the second line..about the lake....well
where Wall Street is right now....there used to be a large lake! I
just saw this on the History Channel. There was a show that talked
about what Mahattten and New York was like before we turned it into a
mega city. I have to admit, I have goose bumps!


On Sep 27, 7:25 am, Peace Crusader wrote:
> My Dear Fellowmen,
>
> Nostradamus may have prophesied the current financial crisis about 450
> years ago. What do you think about his prophecy in century 8,
> quatrain 28?
>
> This is the original quatrain:
> Les simulacres d’or & d’argent enflez,
> Qu’apres le rapt au lac furent gettez
> Au desouvert estaincts tous & troublez.
> Au marbre script prescript intergetez.
>
> My translation:
> Line 1 - copies or images of gold and silver are inflated.
> Line 2 – thieves steal what is thrown into a lake.
> Line 3 – discover that they are all gone after disturbing.
> Line 4 – those in the marble scripts are questioned.
>
> Meaning:
> Line 1 – the copies may mean money which has been inflated.
> Line 2 – the lake may be represented by the stock market into which
> the money is invested. But thieves stole these investments.
> Line 3 – After disturbing the system, it will be discovered that
> everything is all gone.
> Line 4 – Marble may be a metaphor to give an impression of being
> wealthy and stable but behind the marble façade are cheap materials.
> The scripts may refer to the shares of stocks. An investigation will
> be conducted.
>
> Hence, the quatrain may mean that investors put in their money into
> the investment houses and banks. An investigation will be held that
> will disturb the system. It will be discovered that the investors’
> money has been inflated and that the investment have been stolen and
> are all gone.
>
> Accounting hocus-focus?
>
> Does the interpretation of the prophecy make sense?
>
> Regards,
> Aristeo Canlas Fernando, Peace Crusader and Echo
> Motto: pro aris et focishttp://www.geocities.com/peacecrusader888/
> “The Internet is mightier than the sword.”

Number of the month -- -13

This was the temperature in Celsius when a driver observed that all the wind turbines were stationary. As we have stated in this pages many times (e.g. most recently here) it is in the very nature of wind energy that it is not available during extremes of weather, because they occur during stationary highs. People are going to die.

~ Number Watch ~

5 Psychological experiments that expose humanity's dark side

Psychologists know you have to be careful when you go poking around the human mind because you're never sure what you'll find there. A number of psychological experiments over the years have yielded terrifying conclusions about the subjects.

Oh, we're not talking about the occasional psychopath who turns up. No, we're talking about you.

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Greek Uprising, Echoes of Castoriadis: 1968, Autonomy & the Self-Managed Society

By Chris Spannos

31 Dec, 2008

Autonomous, the word (Auto + Nom(os)), is, of course, derived from the Greek. Auto meaning "self," "same," and "spontaneous," and nomos meaning "law" or "custom"---as in, "one who gives oneself his or her own law is practicing the act of self-governance."


Cornelius Castoriadis

Inspired by the recent Greek rebellion, I am reminded of the Late Greek/French theorist of Autonomy and Self-Management, Cornelius Castoriadis, who made the distinction between those that think society's institutions, laws, traditions, beliefs, and behaviors are either the product of divine intervention (i.e. god/s) or hardwired into historical outcomes, and those who are aware of their self-conscious ability to transform society into something new and better. He called the latter "Autonomy."

Castoriadis, widely considered one of the most serious theorists of democracy, was an ardent proponent of direct democracy. He believed equality and freedom were inseparable. "In Greece," wrote Castoriadis, "democracy was also called at the outset isonomy, equality of the law for everyone." ("Socialism and Autonomous Society," Political and Social Writings, Vol. 3, Minnesota, pg. 316, 1979). In Greece, decades before the police killing of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos this December 6th, and in the immediate wave of uprising afterward, Greeks have resisted and rebelled against the material and social inequality that rules every moment and that makes "equality of the law for everyone" impossible. Greek resistance and rebellion is consistent with Castoriadis' autonomous project.

Cornelius Castoriadis died eleven years ago on December 26th at the age of 75. He was a professional economist for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. As a youth Castoriadis became a Marxist and eventually joined the Greek Communist Party (KKE) but soon left, becoming a Trotskyist and highly critical of the KKE. In December of 1945 Castoriadis left Greece for Paris where he later broke with Trotskyism and founded the legendary revolutionary journal "Socialism or Barbarism" in 1948, launching its inaugural issue in 1949.

The journal had such diverse and eclectic members as Claude Lefort, Jean-Francois Lyotard, and Guy Debord. Castoriadis also had connections with C.L.R James and had heavily influenced the London Solidarity Group and Maurice Brinton, a pen name for Christopher Agamemnon Pallis, an Anglo-Greek born in India who not only provided first hand journalistic accounts of key uprisings such as the Belgian general strike of 1960, the Paris uprising in May '68, but also wrote the pivotal pamphlet The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control about the suppression of workers' power in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. (See Brinton," For Workers' Power, AK Press, 2004 for this collection). Brinton translated many of Castoriadis' writings into English for the London Solidarity Group.

Castoriadis wrote under various pseudonyms to avoid French deportation, including Paul Cardan and Pierre Chaulieu. During this period Castoriadis became a leading theorist of the French New Left and proponent of widely held views among youth and student participants, not least via his influence on Daniel Cohn-Bendit and others centrally involved in the May '68 uprising in France which saw ten-million people rise up, turn society upside-down, then drift back into their everyday lives. These views included that orthodox communist movements were conservative and bureaucratic, and that Marxist theory itself was the source of these problems.

After being influenced by the 1956 uprisings and worker council formations in both Hungary and Poland, Castoriadis published his classic 1957 Workers' Councils and the Economics of Self-Managed Society ("Socialism or Barbarism," No. 22). This was republished as a pamphlet by the London Solidarity Group in 1972, and their preface states "To the best of our knowledge [until Castoriadis] there have been no serious attempts by modern libertarian revolutionaries to grapple with the economic and political problems of a totally self-managed society."

Castoriadis is relevant now not simply because of his Greek origins, and the current Greek uprising, nor his travails through support of but eventual departure from Marxism and communism, (it is interesting that, as Castoriadis would have likely predicted, the KKE has criticized and distanced themselves from today's youth lead uprising in Greece) or the influence of his thinking in '68, but because the world still needs an answer to the hard question he addressed of what a new society might look like. Castoriadis' main contribution one decade after his death is, therefore, that he sought to seriously answer this question.

By now the anger and passion of the current Greek rebels, who have also set off solidarity actions across Europe and around the world, is being challenged by exhaustion, fatigue, and the holiday season lull. But all signs indicate that any cooling down period will retain enough smoldering fuel to quickly heat back up with economic crisis, renewed anger at police brutality, state repression and corruption, and steadily worsening social and material conditions. Major labor and student demonstrations are scheduled to take place in the new-year, on the second Friday of the first month of 2009, and so most commentators expect the uprising to continue.

The first three-weeks of the revolt---a period when the Kathimerini newspaper published a widely quoted poll indicating that 60 percent of the Greek population shared the understanding that a social "uprising" was occurring---included mass mobilizations and demonstrations, barricades, clashes with police, the taking over of public institutions including three universities in Athens---the Polytechnic, Economics, and Law school buildings---the General Confederation of Workers (GSEE) building, and the law office of Kougias, the lawyer defending the policeman who murdered 15-year-old Alexis. The National Theater, a National T.V. station, radio stations, the French Institute, and various banks and police stations were also targets. There were also repeated attacks on the Christmas Tree, in the heart of Athens, in Constitution Square.

In the case of the occupation of the national T.V. station mentioned above, on December 16th students disrupted the televised broadcast of Prime Minister Karamanlis addressing Greek parliament on the state of the country. The televised occupation lasted almost two minutes. Their largest banner read "Stop Watching, Get Out Onto the Streets," and smaller ones "Immediate Release of All Those Arrested," and "Freedom to All of Us." The station then cut to commercials. (Video here)

On December 18th those rebelling dropped huge pink banners---calling for international solidarity with the uprising---at the ancient Athens location of the Acropolis. The banners bore the word "Resistance" in large black letters in Greek, English, Spanish, and German. In the third week of revolt reports claimed students were occupying approximately 800 high schools and 200 university departments across Greece. These institutions were taken over and transformed into centers of organizing and activism for revolt, for example the Polytechnic University in the Exarchia district of Athens, but also the "Liberated City Hall Of Aghios Dimitrios" whose communiqué declared:

"Within the frame of this insurrection, the City Hall of Aghios Dimitrios has been occupied since the morning of Thursday Dec. 11, so that it may become a place of counter-information, meeting, and self-organizing of the residents of the wider region and for the collective formation and implementation of actions. A main component of this occupation is the daily popular assembly with participation of up to 300 people, a process that functions in contrast to the entrusting of the management of our demands as well as of our struggles to whichever "representatives," elected or not. A process that tends to be implanted deeply into the consciousness of its participants [in] their role as political beings."

While some occupations currently continue many, such as the Polytechnic and other schools have concluded, at least for the time being.

According to Castoriadis, those who contest the established order by revolting against existing institutions to transform or create new ones act to serve their own interests. An "Autonomous" action then would be one in which people, as individuals or as a collective, act with their own independent objectives in mind. These objectives are totally different from the objectives of those empowered to rule society as order-givers over those disempowered as order-takers. The agents of change include workers in class struggle, but also students, youth, women, minorities, etc.:

"The transformation of society, the instauration of an autonomous society involves a process that cannot be accomplished either uniquely or mainly in the production process. Either the idea of a transformation of society is a fiction without any interest, or the contestation of the established order, the struggle for autonomy, the creation of new forms of individual and collective life are invading and will invade (through conflict and with contradictions) all spheres of social life. Among these spheres, none plays a 'determining' role, even in the 'last instance.' The very idea of any such 'determination' is nonsense." (Political and Social Writings, Ibid. pg.328).

Autonomous action addressing the Totality of social relations becomes possible when people defined by their genders, sexuality, class, culture, community, etc., see themselves as agents for themselves concerned with their own material and social fate in society.

The struggle against the established order and toward a new society demands new consciousness. Autonomy in consciousness means gaining as much understanding and insight as possible into the influences that shape our thinking and becoming as free as possible from alienation and rationalizing our oppressions. (See also Maurice Brinton, "Solidarity and the Neo-Narodniks," For Workers' Power, AK Press, 2004, original 1972). Realizing autonomy in consciousness is a difficult process. It includes becoming aware of the oppressions that afflict us and their sources in the hierarchical institutions that define society. The struggle to free oneself and others from these oppressions is made very difficult as the oppressions are often produced and re-produced in obscure social and material patterns that surreptitiously shape the human condition and human needs. The struggle for autonomy is the struggle for emancipation from the institutions that produce and reproduce society's alienation, class rule, sexism, and racism and to create new institutions that produce self-management, classlessness, diversity, and participation in all spheres of life.

In Castoriadis' vision of a Self-Managed Society economic life is organized by federated workers' councils, council administration, and economic planning. To avoid the command structures and bureaucracy of centrally planned economies the councils "will collect, transmit and disseminate information collected and conveyed to them by local groups." The center and periphery of a council society will have a "two-way flow of information" and there will also be a reorganization and transformation of work including the division of labor. For Castoriadis, equitable and full participation in the economy is key. (Workers' Councils and the Economics of Self-Managed Society, Ibid.)

However, while Castoriadis was a pioneer in championing a non-market, worker council vision, much has been learned since by others who have developed more effective planning procedures that allow for greater council self-management than his early model from 1957. (Ibid.)

A modern-day leading candidate for a possible Self-Managed Society that is directly within the tradition of Castoriadis, and even inspired by some of his ideas on this topic, would be the Participatory Society vision. This vision shares many commonalities with Castoriadis' proposal, especially in spirit and goals. In their specific conception, however, there are also some important differences.

The contemporary vision of a "Participatory Society" I am referring to (and described in greater detail in the book I have edited, Real Utopia: Participatory Society for the 21st Century published by AK Press, 2008) encompasses new social and material relations in all spheres of life. It aims to be a self-managed society, meaning institutions would convey to people decision-making input in proportion to how they are affected by a decision. It also aims to be a solidarity society, meaning its institutions create a context in which people care about one another; and a classless society, meaning, its institutions convey to all economic participants comparable influence and wealth via a balanced division of labor, an equitable and fair remuneration scheme, and self-managed decision-making; finally, it means to be a diverse society, where there are multiple lifestyle outcomes and options to choose from.

In the current vision of a Participatory Society, the sphere that is (so far) most developed is the economy, although some insights have also been developed for other spheres of life. The vision is not a blueprint, nor detailed map. It will require further development by all who care to realize such a society. Also, it is not a society conceived for perfect human beings. It does not assume moral purity nor propose some heaven on earth, a place for angels rather than human beings. Instead, this vision comes from past and present struggles and thoughts---not least the work of Castoriadis---and is rooted in real world conditions for real people.

Advocates of this new view of a Participatory Society propose that social vision should broadly encompass the core structures for economic production, consumption, and allocation; political adjudication, law making, and legislation; culture and community religious, spiritual, national, ethnic and racial identifications and practices; and kinship procreation, child rearing and socialization of future generations; enabling as well of course, that all of society rests on a sustainable ecological foundation which all species interact with and rely on.

This vision is spelled out in much more detail elsewhere and requires more space than is allowed here. Parecon, the economy of a Participatory Society, was initially developed by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel and is the most developed part of the conception. A parecon is comprised of social rather than private or state ownership of productive assets; nested worker and consumer council's and balanced job complexes rather than corporate divisions of labor; remuneration for effort and sacrifice rather than for property, power, or output; participatory planning rather than markets or central planning; and self-management rather than class rule.

We believe that this economic vision, and the overall proposal for a Participatory Society, is in the best spirit of Left history, theory, and practice. In the tradition of Castoriadis' vision, it is an attempt to grapple with the question of what a Totally Self-Managed Society might look like in its basic institutions even as its members define its policies and trajectories. And once again, arriving at such a shared vision is a task that we will all need to participate in.


Chris Spannos is staff with Z, named after the 1969 Costa-Gavras film, also titled Z, that is about resistance and repression in post-war Greece. Chris has edited the book Real Utopia: Participatory Society for the 21st Century (AK Press, 2008).

~ ZMag ~

Mass uprising of Greece’s youth

The veteran Greek politician Leonidas Kyrkos, now in his eighties, is an iconic figure of the Greek left. He told me what he'd like to say to the young people out on the streets: “Welcome to social struggle, my friends. Now you must take care of yourself and your struggle.”

Following the killing of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos by a special police unit on 6 December, school and university students have risen up in an unprecedented outpouring of rage. Spontaneous demonstrations, mostly organised by email and SMS, have shaken towns and cities across the country: Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, Larissa, Heraklion and Chania in Crete, Ioannina, Volos, Kozani, Komotini.

This is an uprising with many origins; the most obvious is police brutality. Alexis is not the first victim of the Greek police, only the youngest. But its roots also lie in the economic crisis – a national one which struck hard even before the consequences of the global financial storm made themselves felt. On top of this, Greece is going through a profound political crisis, both systemic and moral; it comes from the duplicity of political parties and personalities, which has broken all trust in state institutions.

Alexis's death wasn't an exceptional case, or a blot on the otherwise pristine copybook of the Athens police. The list of student and immigrant victims of torture and murder by the police goes back a long way. In 1985, another 15-year-old, Michel Kaltezas, was murdered by a police officer – a crime whitewashed by a corrupt judicial system. The Greek police may be no worse than police forces in other parts of Europe, but the wounds left by Greece's dictatorship, the military junta of 1967-74, are still open here; and the memory of those seven dark years is deeply ingrained in people's minds. This society does not forgive as readily as some.

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France: New Anti-Capitalist Party `a very exciting initiative'

There's been surprisingly little discussion in the UK on the launching of the New Anti-Capitalist Party (Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste or NPA) over the water in France. I thought I'd take a look at this interesting and significant new development and so I spoke to John Mullen, the editor of Socialisme International, to see if I could find out more.

You recently attended the French launch of the "New Anti-Capitalist Party". How did it go?

The official founding conference will be in January 2009. For the moment there are 400 “committees for a new anti-capitalist party” all over France. The Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) was the force which proposed and coordinated the foundation, and will dissolve itself into it in a couple of months time. I attended the November national delegate meeting as one of the delegates for my town.

The meeting was very encouraging. The new party initiative is obviously attracting a lot of people, many of them young, others are experienced union activists, mostly (apart from the LCR members) people who have not been in a party as such before. Obviously for the moment, there is quite a lot of concentration on the preparation of a programme to be voted at the founding conference. Nevertheless many committees have been active in campaigning on the issue of the financial crisis, defending schools and universities against budget cuts, defending illegal immigrants against expulsions and so on.

Four-hundred committees seems like an impressive number of groups for an organisation that hasn't even been launched yet. How do these committees operate? How large are they, for instance would you have more than one in a town? Essentially are they the new party in waiting or are they the campaign for the new party?

It is impressive. In Montpellier, a day-long regional meeting got 2000 people to it, a similar regional meeting in Marseilles got 1500, other towns had huge meetings. National commission meetings on ecology, on politics in working-class neighbourhoods and so on have produced wide debates and proposals. Essentially the committees are already the new party in embryo – every week there is a national political leaflet given out in almost all the towns. But the committees also have a lot of autonomy. In one town there will be a public meeting on the financial crisis, in another a symbolic invasion on the local hypermarket to protest against the government's refusal to raise the minimum wage. The LCR already had very much a federal sort of organisation (for better and worse), and this will no doubt continue.

But the party-in-embryo does not yet have a regular publication, an essential element for a campaigning party. Nor does it yet have a proper financial structure, though plans have been made for subs based on income. There is a website, and a weekly paper should be set up two months after the founding conference.

So what's the thinking behind the new organisation? After all, even more than the UK, there's no shortage of left-wing groupings.

The massive strike waves and political movements of the last few years have shown that there are many, many people in France who would like to build a political alternative on the radical left. Olivier Besancenot, the spokesperson of the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, has recently had significantly higher popularity ratings than Sarkozy or his prime minister, Fillon. But this widespread sympathy for radical left ideas has not led people to join far-left parties to anything like the extent one might think. And the Socialist and Communist parties are generally identified as “the parties who don't change much when they're in government”, even if the Socialist Party has not yet been fully converted to Blairism.

The New Anti-capitalist Party was called for by the LCR (and the LCR will be dissolving and merging with it). The idea was a party which is based on struggle, where elections are secondary, but which does not ask members to all identify with a specific revolutionary or Trotskyist position.

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Two paths in the face of the capitalism’s global fracture

Two presidential meetings were held in November in the face of the international financial collapse and the ominous warning signs it represents for the future of humanity. The first, convoked by US President George Bush, brought together the Group of 20, G20, in the National Construction Museum in Washington. The second meeting, initiated by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, united the countries that make up the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), and met in the Ayacucho Salon in Miraflores Palace.

In the capital of the empire the G20 agreed upon an erratic document lacking any precise definitions, except the common aim of propping up capitalism and correcting what different heads of states classified as “excesses resulting from the lack of regulation”. In Caracas, after diagnoses that expounded the graveness of the systemic crisis and its structural character, transcendental economic and political measures were adopted, such as the creation of a common monetary zone, the decision to put an end to the hegemony of the US dollar in international trade, and defence of a multipolar world.

If Bush could boast about having attracted China, Brazil and Argentina to his meeting of imperialist powers, the ALBA meeting concluded with a dinner where the Russian head of state dropped by: a clear outline of the new global political map that the crisis is beginning to draw up.

It would be over the top to call it the “Ayacucho of the 21st Century”. But the spirit of Antonio José de Sucre, the victor of the final battle against the Spanish empire, was present in Miraflores Palace on the morning of November 26, when the heads of state of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Dominica, Honduras and Ecuador, accompanied by minimal committees, began an unusual debate for these types of meetings. So much so that, seven hours later, following a heated battle of ideas, characterisations and proposals, the heads of states and governments approved the creation of a common monetary zone and gave birth to the Sucre, currency which will act as an instrument for trade, and which moreover is the name of a new mechanism created: the Unitary System of Regional Compensation. (In Spanish the new mechanism is called Sistema Unitario de Compensación Regional, which when abbreviated becomes SUCRE.)

The III Extraordinary Summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America-Peoples Trade Agreement (ALBA-TCP) was not just one more of the countless presidential encounters held over the last few years. Not only because a different climate reigned amongst the participants, removed from formalities and diplomatic nonsense, but because in line with the features that characterise them, Hugo Chávez, Ricardo Cabrisas, Evo Morales, Daniel Ortega, Roosevelt Skerrit, Manuel Zelaya and Rafael Correa sought out and found responses to the crisis which is shaking the planet from a perspective not only autonomous, but frankly opposed to that held by the imperial centres.

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Financial Meltdown 101

AlterNet is resurfacing some of the best and most popular articles published in 2008 as the year comes to a close. In this piece published this fall, Arun Gupta helps makes sense of these confusing economic times. 

From 1982 to 2000, the U.S. stock market went on the longest bull run ever, as share prices rose to dizzying heights. In the late 1990s, a combination of factors, which included the Federal Reserve lowering interest rates, created a huge price bubble in Internet stocks. A speculative bubble occurs when price far outstrips the fundamental worth of the asset. Bubbles have occurred in everything from real estate, stocks and railroads to tulips, beanie babies and comic books. As with all bubbles, it took more and more money to make a return*. This led to the Internet bubble popping in March 2000.

During this time of market mania, the Fed guts the Glass-Steagall Act, which was enacted during the Great Depression to prevent the type of banking activity that led to the 1929 stock market crash. In 1996, the Fed allows regular banks to become heavily involved in investment banking, which opens the door to conflicts of interest in banks pushing sketchy financial products on customers who poorly understood the risks. In 1999, under intense pressure from financial firms, Congress overturns Glass-Steagall, allowing banks to engage in any sort of activity from underwriting insurance to investment banking to commercial banking (such as holding deposits).

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What Would Jesus Buy?



An examination of the commercialization of Christmas in America while following Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir on a cross-country mission to save Christmas from the Shopocalypse (the end of humankind from consumerism, over-consumption and the fires of eternal debt.) The film also delves into issues such as the role sweatshops play in America’s mass consumerism and Big-Box Culture. From the humble beginnings of preaching at his portable pulpit on New York City subways, to having a congregation of thousands – Bill Talen (aka Rev. Billy) has become the leader of not just a church, but a national movement.

Excerpts from Civil Disobedience...Henry David Thoreau...1849

I HEARTILY ACCEPT the motto,—"That government is best which governs least";(1)  and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe,—"That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government. The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war,(2) the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for, in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure.

[2]    This American government—what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity? It has not the vitality and force of a single living man; for a single man can bend it to his will. It is a sort of wooden gun to the people themselves. But it is not the less necessary for this; for the people must have some complicated machinery or other, and hear its din, to satisfy that idea of government which they have. Governments show thus how successfully men can be imposed on, even impose on themselves, for their own advantage. It is excellent, we must all allow. Yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way. For government is an expedient by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it. Trade and commerce, if they were not made of India rubber,(3) would never manage to bounce over the obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way; and, if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions, and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads.

[3]    But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.

[4]    After all, the practical reason why, when the power is once in the hands of the people, a majority are permitted, and for a long period continue, to rule, is not because they are most likely to be in the right, nor because this seems fairest to the minority, but because they are physically the strongest. But a government in which the majority rule in all cases cannot be based on justice, even as far as men understand it. Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience?—in which majorities decide only those questions to which the rule of expediency is applicable? Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience. Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice. A common and natural result of an undue respect for law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined. Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power? Visit the Navy Yard, and behold a marine, such a man as an American government can make, or such as it can make a man with its black arts—a mere shadow and reminiscence of humanity, a man laid out alive and standing, and already, as one may say, buried under arms with funeral accompaniments, though it may be

"Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,
 As his corpse to the rampart we hurried;
 Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot
 O'er the grave where our hero we buried."(4)

 

[5]   The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus,(5) etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others, as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders, serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it. A wise man will only be useful as a man, and will not submit to be "clay," and "stop a hole to keep the wind away,"(6) but leave that office to his dust at least:—

 

"I am too high-born to be propertied,
 To be a secondary at control,
 Or useful serving-man and instrument
 To any sovereign state throughout the world."(7)

 

[6]    He who gives himself entirely to his fellow-men appears to them useless and selfish; but he who gives himself partially to them is pronounced a benefactor and philanthropist.

[7]    How does it become a man to behave toward this American government to-day? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it. I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which is the slave's government also.

[8]    All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable. But almost all say that such is not the case now. But such was the case, they think, in the Revolution of '75.(8) If one were to tell me that this was a bad government because it taxed certain foreign commodities brought to its ports, it is most probable that I should not make an ado about it, for I can do without them. All machines have their friction; and possibly this does enough good to counterbalance the evil. At any rate, it is a great evil to make a stir about it. But when the friction comes to have its machine, and oppression and robbery are organized, I say, let us not have such a machine any longer. In other words, when a sixth of the population of a nation which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves, and a whole country is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army, and subjected to military law, I think that it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize. What makes this duty the more urgent is the fact that the country so overrun is not our own, but ours is the invading army.

[ ... ]

[11]    All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men. When the majority shall at length vote for the abolition of slavery, it will be because they are indifferent to slavery, or because there is but little slavery left to be abolished by their vote. They will then be the only slaves. Only his vote can hasten the abolition of slavery who asserts his own freedom by his vote.

~ Poway Unified School District ~

Calif. taxpayers due refunds may instead get IOUs

If you expect you'll be getting a refund from California when you file your 2008 state income tax return, be prepared:  you may instead receive a "registered warrant."  Translation:  an IOU.

California is rapidly running out of money.  Blame it on the state budget deficit that continues to bleed billions of dollars from California's reserves.  Facing inadequate credit to make up the difference,  California's Controller John Chiang warns that by the end of February, the nation's most populous state may not be able to pay some of its debts, and instead be reduced to issuing those creditors IOUs.

"My office has projected that, in approximately 60 days, there will be insufficient cash available to meet all expenditures reflected in the 2008-09 Budget Act," stated a Tuesday letter from Controller Chiang to the directors of all state agencies.  "To ensure that the State can meet its obligations to schools, debt service, and others entitled to payment under the State Constitution, federal law, or court order. California may begin, as early as February 1, 2009, issuing registered warrants...commonly referred to as IOUs...to individuals and entities in lieu of regular payments."

~ more... ~

The death of the gods: Crisis shatters the myths of the market

In 1950, at the start of the Cold War and toward the end of Stalin's rein in the Soviet Union, six leftist writers -- André Gide, Richard Wright, Ignazio Silone, Stephen Spender, Arthur Koestler and Louis Fischer -- collaborated on a book (The God that Failed) in which they related their conversion to and disillusion with communism.

“The God that Failed” would be an equally apt title for a work that would describe events of the last few months in the global economy. For, in a matter of a few weeks, a major deity has bit the dust, the myth of the Market as an infallible engine of wealth creation and economic allocation to be interfered with at one's own peril.

Never mind that the state (and not God's invisible hand) always has been the essential element underpinning and supporting this alleged divinity, the Market. It's too bad, mere collateral damage, if the implacable laws of laissez-faire mean that the many who work for their money will earn little while the few whose money works for them will make out like bandits.

~ more... ~

A better way of making a living for humanity

The obvious being eliminated, that we are not going to make a living as fossil fuel consumers nor as hunter-gatherers, how are we going to make a living in the future? What if I told you I had a way to make a living that has worked for 150,000 generations and it does not involve running into the forest?

The answer is tribalism, or, as I describe in my book Culturequake: The Fall of Modern Culture and the Rise of Earth Culture, tribal communities.

Tribalism is misunderstood by Homo modern as “living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.” Hunting and gathering is only one way of making a living; there are a million other ways to make a living. The important point is not “what” you do to make a living, but “how” you make a living. Make a living doing what ever you are best at, whether it is on a permaculture farm or fixing bicycles, it makes no difference.

Tribalism has over three million years been the evolutionarily proven form of human social organization. Bees make a living in hives, deer in herds, whales in pods, birds in flocks, and humans in tribes. There is no getting around it. If you think that civilization is the new answer, you are deeply mistaken. In the mere blink of an eye, 500 generations, civilization has brought the world the point of mass extinction. It might be working for a wealthy westerner, but it is not working for the other 95 percent of the human population nor the 30 million other species on the planet.

Tribalism has two primary components that enable the average person to make a living from generation to generation without being stressed out or exploited. First, a tribe is simply a group of people making a living together. Everyone in the tribe does not even have to have the same beliefs; they just have to want to make a living together.

Second, tribe members have a strong incentive to share what they have made or found with other tribal members. This gives everyone else a strong incentive to share as well. There is no one leader or boss as in our hierarchic agricultural revolution culture. Being the main scheduler, for example, is just another job. When food is scarce everyone goes hungry; no one keeps a surplus to him/herself.

~ more... ~

The High Weirdness Project - Psychic Predictions from 2008

November 25, 2007:

* Brazilian psychic predicts earthquake in Indonesia on December 23, 2007: link (Okay, this is actually a 2007 prediction, but still...)

December 15

* Here's a message board that encourages people to post their own psychic predictions: link
* A psychic actually sent me a link to her site as part of our "Psychic Predictions" project! link "I have two pages on my website you would be interested in for your predictions project. ''Psychic Predictions for 2006'' and ''Psychic Predictions for 2007;'' they both have predictions for 2007 and 2008. In January, I'll put up the January 2008 newsletter with the new predictions."

December 17

* God calls up the ''Coast to Coast'' radio show: link (Well, okay, he used a proxy speaker...)

December 18

* Barbara Garcia predicts a Democratic Presidential victory and a lot of natural disasters: link

December 19

* Astrologer Michelle Avanti predicts "some natural disaster" in the first quarter of 2008: link

December 21

* Psychic Insights predicts bird flu will spread more easily to humans: link

December 28

* The Psychic Detective claims to have predicted the assassination of Benazir Bhutto: link
* Psychic Nikki, Psychic to the Stars, says Miami will be wiped out in a hurricane and terrorists will attack the 2008 Beijing Olympics: link

~ more... ~

Google
 

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