Archive for August, 2009

Schwarzenegger Fiddles, LA Burns, Afghanistan Bad News, Cheney Rebutted. CIA Baer, Repubs All Deathers Now.

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Its hot here in LA even by the beach it is over 90 degrees at 6:30 in the evening. Where I work in the San Gabriel Valley it was 103 at 5 PM as I headed home. That is hot. There are fires burning all around the city and people are stupid enough to not pay attention to the warnings to leave. Last night a couple decided to hide in a hot tub and were almost boiled alive and today 5 persons are stuck in a ranch in the middle of the fire when they were told to leave. There are 8 fires now in the LA region and the Governor has declared 4 counties in southern California to be disaster areas.

This morning I was listening to reports on Democracy Now about Katrina and the hospital where people were killed by doctors who were performing triage and putting the worst cases out of misery because the government failed to come back for them when the power failed after the hospital was flooded. There was a major article this weekend in the New York Times Magazine on the subject.

This from Democracy Now.
““The Deadly Choices at Memorial”–Investigation of New Orleans Hospital Tells Story of How Medical Staff Euthanized Patients in Katrina Aftermath
On the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a major investigation reveals harrowing new details of one of the many human tragedies that occurred in the aftermath of the storm. Forty-five patients at the New Orleans Memorial Medical Center died in the days after Katrina’s floodwater knocked out the power in the hospital. A 13,000-word article titled “The Deadly Choices at Memorial” tells the full story of what really happened to some of those patients. It’s the cover story of the New York Times Sunday Magazine this weekend and the product of a two-and-a-half-year investigation. We speak with reporter Sheri Fink of ProPublica.”

Tonight on Tavis Smiley is Robert Baer, formerly of the CIA author of ‘The Devil We Know’. He is saying that Cheney put his reputation on the line because he was the one who pushed torture upon the CIA and this simply created more enemies. He took the by any means necessary logic to its extreme conclusion. When you take this to its logical conclusion you end up with concentration camps. Also Baer says it simply didn’t work. We need an independent investigation he says to find out exactly what does and what doesn’t work.
The Administration inherited two wars, neither one of them can be one and the Administration is trying to maintain its credibility in security. The fact is that there are at least 100 people who died in detention between Iraq and Afghanistan. This must be investigated by an independent body. CIA operatives are mostly liberal arts majors. They have no experience in torture and they brought in contractors who knew about survival but not torture. They were learning as they went along and in the mean time many innocent people were tortured.
The CIA is demoralized and this has been going on for a while now. The CIA does not collect information by compulsion. They need to go back to the traditional methods, but in the mean time we have to investigate what happened. By being sent on the wild goose chase in Iraq, the CIA was spread to thin and got off mission. By being told to torture by Cheney the CIA took a walk on the wild side and now the piper has to be paid. We have to go after the people like Cheney, either it is illegal or it is not. We have to go after people for war crimes. We should also go after the people in Wall Street also. As he said we weren’t hit by a meteor for 8 years and that doesn’t mean it was because of anything Cheney did. This was all stated by Baer on Tavis Smiley.
The FBI agent who was there at the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah said when asked under sworn testimony by the Congress that he shut up when tortured. He had been cooperating until the torture methods were begun and then he shut down. This contradicts what Cheney said on Fox Sunday.

Here is an article from Salon on the subject for those who don’t remember or who missed the testimony on CSPAN.

“Soufan: CIA torture actually hindered our intelligence gathering
An FBI agent testifies that an al-Qaeda prisoner provided useful intelligence until the CIA got rough — and casts doubt on Bush’s statements about the effectiveness of harsh interrogations.

By Mark Benjamin
May 14, 2009 | WASHINGTON — The testimony of a key witness at a Senate hearing Wednesday raised serious questions about the truthfulness of former President George W. Bush’s own personal defense of the CIA’s brutal interrogation program. Former FBI agent Ali Soufan also indicated that the harsh interrogation techniques may actually have hindered the collection of intelligence, causing a high-value prisoner to stop cooperating.
In the first congressional hearing on torture since the release of Bush administration memos that provided the legal justification for torture, Soufan told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the CIA’s abusive techniques were “ineffective, slow and unreliable, and as a result harmful to our efforts to defeat al-Qaida.” According to Soufan, his own nonviolent interrogation of an al-Qaida suspect was quickly yielding valuable, actionable intelligence — until the CIA intervened.
Soufan was with the FBI on March 28, 2002, when the United States captured its first suspected al-Qaida operative after 9/11, a man named Abu Zubaydah, held at a secret location overseas. Soufan had investigated terrorism cases dating back to the East Africa embassy bombings in 1998, and he was one of the first experts called after Zubaydah’s capture.
Soufan, who testified at the hearing from behind a partition to hide his identity, worked on a small team of interrogators utilizing tried-and-true techniques that emphasize knowing the detainee’s language, understanding his culture, leveraging known information about a detainee, and sometimes using a bit of trickery. The method is based on rapport and is believed by experienced interrogators to result in the most reliable actionable intelligence. “It is about outwitting the detainee by using a combination of interpersonal, cognitive and emotional strategies to get the information needed,” Soufan said in written testimony, which he paraphrased on Wednesday.
“For example,” Soufan told the committee, “in my first interrogation of the terrorist Abu Zubaydah … I asked him his name. He replied with his alias. I then asked him, ‘How ’bout if I call you Hani?’”
“[Hani] was the name his mother nicknamed him as a child,” recalled Soufan. “He looked at me in shock, said, OK,’ and we started talking.”
“Within the first hour of interrogation,” Soufan said, “we gained actionable intelligence.” Soufan could not say what that information was because it remains classified. Zubaydah had been injured during his capture, and Soufan’s team arranged for medical care and continued talking to the prisoner. Within the next few days, Soufan made one of the most significant intelligence breakthroughs of the so-called war on terror. He learned from Zubaydah that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind behind the attacks on 9/11.
Then, however, a CIA interrogation team from Washington led by a contractor arrived at the secret location. Zubaydah was stripped naked and the contractor began a series of coercive, abusive interrogations, based on Cold War-era communist techniques designed to elicit false confessions. During the Korean War, for example, Chinese interrogators employed the measures to get captured American pilots to make false confessions. “The new techniques did not produce results, as Abu Zubaydah shut down and stopped talking,” Soufan explained. “After a few days of getting no information, and after repeated inquiries from D.C. asking why all of a sudden no information was being transmitted … we again were given control of the interrogation.”
During testimony Wednesday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., asked Soufan if Bradbury’s memo was incorrect. “Yes, sir,” answered Soufan. The former FBI agent also suggested that Bush had been told “half truths” about the CIA. George Little, a CIA spokesman, suggested to Salon in an e-mail that Soufan might be wrong. “Today we heard one account of the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah,” Little said. “There are others.”"

Jeremy Scahill on Keith Olbermann’s show is saying that there is nothing in the reports that shows that torture helped us. He says we don’t have real journalism in this country when it comes to torture. What we are seeing on Fox is infotainment with a war criminal. It is as if Hitler was interviewed by CNN.

The Rendon Group was fired by the military after its monitoring of reporters in Afghanistan was reported in Stars and Stripes Magazine according to MSNBC. I guess they did a bad job of pr for the military.

The Christian Science Monitor has an article about McCrystal’s report on Afghanistan.

“McChrystal says US needs new Afghanistan strategy
The top commander in Afghanistan reportedly likens the US military to a bull charging at a matador and getting weaker with each cut.
By Jonathan Adams
posted August 31, 2009 at 8:17 am EST

The US strategy in Afghanistan is “not working,” the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan has written in a long-anticipated report, according to the BBC.
If the BBC is correct, the report looks likely to lead to more debate and hand-wringing over the US-led mission in Afghanistan, as Western forces endure their deadliest year to date in the war against the Taliban insurgency.
US Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s report was being sent to US Central Command (CentCom), according to media reports, and has not been publicly released. The BBC reported on the contents of the message Monday.
In the report, Gen McChrystal is said to have likened the US military to a bull charging at a matador [the Taliban] - slightly weakened with each “cut” it receives….
The general’s blunt assessment will also say that the Afghan people are undergoing a crisis of confidence because the war against the Taliban has not made their lives better, our correspondent says.
General McChrystal says the aim should be for Afghan forces to take the lead but their army will not be ready to do that for three years and it will take much longer for the police.
And he will warn that villages have to be taken from the Taliban and held, not merely taken.
According to the BBC, the report does not mention increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan. Under President Obama, US troops in Afghanistan are set to rise to nearly 70,000, even as US forces are drawn down in Iraq. Mr. Obama has said the forces are needed to stabilize Afghanistan, and better train the Afghan police and military to take on the Taliban insurgency.
Since taking command, McChrystal has adjusted the focus of Western forces from hunting down insurgents to trying to protect the Afghan population, borrowing in part from U.S. tactics in Iraq developed under CentCom commander General David Petraeus.
His review is expected to suggest concentrating forces in more heavily populated areas, and also stepping up efforts to train Afghan soldiers and police.
McChrystal commands more than 100,000 NATO troops, including 63,000 Americans. About 10,000 reinforcements – including 5,000 more Americans – are set to arrive in Afghanistan by year’s end, according to Reuters.”

Rachel Maddow got it wrong. She claims Soufan was talking about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed but he was speaking about Zubaydah, but the point is made, Cheney was wrong about the effectiveness of torture.

Wackos in Texas hate USA. They want to return being an independent nation, I hope they try and a modern day Santa Anna takes them back to become part of Mexico, wouldn’t that be fun!

Today it became clear that the Republicans are not going to attempt to help pass health care legislation. This on Rachel Maddow’s show. The White House Press Secretary today made that announcement after this weekend one of the Republicans on the Finance Committee, Enzi said that the health care bill will kill old people. Grassley said he was opposed to the health plan all along. SO WHY ARE THEY ON THE COMMITTEE TO REFORM HEALTH CARE?
Bernie Sanders the one Socialist in the Senate agrees with Rachel saying that the Republicans have no intention to help pass health care reform. He says we need to get the 60 votes to cut off the Republican Filibuster. All we need is 50 votes plus the Vice President. Now that the President is beginning to admit there is no chance of getting Republican support. Now it is time to rally the American people and pass the bill.

Israel, Iran & Afghanistan, Battling Feudal Interests Around the World and At Home.

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Today on Ian Masters show talk is of international relations in the middle east and south Asia. His guest Wayne White states support for the peace process has dwindled away in Israel as a result of the second intifada. The majority of Israelis now think the Palestinians are not serious about peace and the extreme right wing is growing in Israel.
The Fatah has been weakened and is seen as collaborationist. Hamas is now fighting off hard line separatist groups on its own right who are advocating total war with Israel. He is not optimistic for positive resuts in the new peace talks.
Regarding Iran he states that the hard line taken by the current regime is not supported by a majority of the clerics and that there could be a weakening of the position of the government. Wayne White is a former member of the Iraq study group.

Karzai in Afghanistan is being accused of massive voter fraud. Karzai has recently pardoned convicted heroin traffickers who had been convicted by the new Afghani judiciary. A credible government that provides security and justice is what is needed in the country. As things stand a run off election may give some legitimacy to this corrupt government.
Dr. Abdullah Abdullah is seen as being a tool of the Indian government even more than Karzai by the Pakistani government. This motivates them to support the Taliban as stated on Ian Masters show today on KPFK.
This is from the Real News Network an article about the Heroin network in Afghanistan.

“Drug lords have friends in high places
Tom Lasseter: Afghan drug trade thrives with help, and neglect, of officials
May 10, 2009

By Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — When it’s harvest time in the poppy fields of Kandahar, dust-covered Taliban fighters pull up on their motorbikes to collect a 10 percent tax on the crop. Afghan police arrive in Ford Ranger pickups — bought with U.S. aid money — and demand their cut of the cash in exchange for promises to skip the farms during annual eradication.
Then, usually late one afternoon, a drug trafficker will roll up in his Toyota Land Cruiser with black-tinted windows and send a footman to pay the farmers in cash. The farmers never see the boss, but they suspect that he’s a local power broker who has ties to the U.S.-backed Afghan government.
“In this country, if someone really tells the truth he will have no place to live,” said Agha Saqeb, who served as the provincial police chief in Kandahar, in the heart of Afghanistan’s opium belt, from 2007 to 2008. Naming Afghan officials who profit from drugs, he said, would get him killed: “They are still in power and they could harm me.”
The embassies of the U.S., Britain and Canada — the countries principally behind counter-narcotics in Afghanistan — declined to comment. A State Department report issued earlier this year flatly noted that: “Many Afghan government officials are believed to profit from the drug trade.”
It also said: “Regrettably, no major drug trafficker has been arrested or convicted in Afghanistan since 2006.”
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials in Kabul also refused to comment. Afghan and Western observers said the DEA had been hampered by inadequate staffing and by the difficulty of cracking down on drug trafficking in a country where local officials were implicated in it.
The corruption allegedly reaches the highest levels of Afghanistan’s political elite. According to multiple Afghan former officials, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of President Hamid Karzai and the head of the provincial council in Kandahar, routinely manipulates judicial and police officials to facilitate shipments of opium and heroin.
According to several Afghan former officials in the region, however, the major drug traffickers in southern Afghanistan don’t worry much about getting caught because they’re working under the protection of Karzai and other powerful government officials.
For example, a former top Afghan intelligence official recounted an incident from about five years ago, when, he said, his men arrested a Taliban commander who was involved with drugs at a key narcotics-trafficking point between Helmand and the Pakistani border.
Late on the evening of the arrest, a local prosecutor dropped by and said that Ahmed Wali Karzai wanted the militant released, according to Dad Mohammed Khan, who was the national intelligence directorate chief of Helmand province for about three years before he became a member of the national parliament.
Khan said he released the Taliban commander, a man known as Haji Abdul Rahim, because he didn’t want to tangle with the president’s brother.
A week after his conversation with McClatchy, Khan — a large man with a bushy black beard who had a reputation for dealing with enemies ruthlessly — was killed by a roadside bomb that most attribute to the Taliban.”

What I don’t understand is what are all these highly educated people doing? Either the situation on the ground is much less clear cut that it seems from these reports, or we are really wasting our time in Afghanistan. So why are American and NATO troops in Afghanistan? The security we are providing is causing large numbers of civilian casualties.

This is from an article about the military vetting reporters allowed into the war zone in Afghanistan.

“New Files Prove Pentagon Is Profiling Reporters

Posted by Amanda Terkel, Think Progress at 6:01 AM on August 28, 2009.
The Pentagon hired a controversial contractor to screen journalists seeking to embed with U.S. forces.
This week, Stars and Stripes revealed that the Pentagon had hired a controversial contractor to screen journalists seeking to embed with U.S. forces. The Rendon Group determines whether reporters’ coverage “was ‘positive,’ ‘negative’ or ‘neutral’ compared to mission objectives.” The Pentagon’s decision was especially shocking in light of Rendon’s sordid past: The group personally set up the Iraqi National Congress and helped install Ahmad Chalabi as leader, whose main goal — “pressure the United States to attack Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein” — Rendon helped facilitate.
Military officials immediately went about furiously refuting the reports. “We have not denied access to anyone because of what may or may not come out of their biography,” said public affairs officer Air Force Capt. Elizabeth Mathias. “It’s so we know with whom we’re working.” Other officials for the Pentagon and Rendon went even further:
“They are not doing that [rating reporters], that’s not been a practice for some time — actually since the creation of U.S. Forces–Afghanistan” in October 2008, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters Monday. “I can tell you that the way in which the Department of Defense evaluates an article is its accuracy. It’s a good article if it’s accurate. It’s a bad article if it’s inaccurate. That’s the only measurement that we use here at the Defense Department.” […]
But new files prove otherwise. Stars and Stripes obtained profiles produced by Rendon. They clearly calculate the percentage of “positive” stories written by a reporter and offer ideas not about how to get the reporter to produce more accurate stories, but how to get more “favorable coverage” for the military. Fox News also obtained a slide from a Rendon PowerPoint presentation, where headlines from major newspapers are rated with “a plus sign, a negative sign or a capital ‘N,’ presumably for neutral.” Images from the profiles and PowerPoint:
Stars and Stripes also notes that one of the profiles looked at a reporter’s work as recently as May, indicating that the ranking did not stop in October 2008, as Whitman claimed.”

T.R.Reid is on Ian Masters show talking about health care. They are discussing how other countries do it. Germany invented a system that was given to everybody via the workplace in the 1880’s. Other countries with private health care have stricter regulations and they are run on a non profit basis. There is no ability to refuse to insure someone because of their health conditions. They also are not allowed to refuse to pay for treatments that have been authorized.
In Australia they use the Canadian model. The providers are private but the insurer is the state. Everyone is covered and the out of pocket expenses are minimal.
22,000 Americans die every year because they cannot afford the medical cost. That does not happen in any other wealthy countries in the world. We have the most expensive system in the world that simply doesn’t work. The rest of the world simply made the commitment for universal coverage and they figured out how to get there. We have never made that commitment in the USA.
Some Americans have the best medical care in the world, but millions don’t have any coverage at all. Many Americans are more concerned about the chance that some illegal immigrant will get health care, than they are about the millions of people who get no health care or have limited coverage. That is a case of penny wise and pound foolish.
It looks like the government will come up with a 1/3rd of the needed plan and the states will come up with plans of their own. When you cover everyone the costs go down. People go to get care here at the last phase when it is most expensive. If we had universal care there would be lower costs overall. Japan has universal care with for profit providers but the insurance plan is not for profit. No country but the USA has a for profit insurance company. If we had the will to provide universal health care, we could learn from other countries.

The author of “The Man Who Sold the World: Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street America”, William Kleinknecht is now on Ian Masters. People see AIG and GM fail and the government bails them out and people blame the government instead of the capitalists who are responcible for the failure. He says the people who know the truth need to speak louder to counter the voices of the Fox News liars. The wealthiest .1% own more than they ever did. Most Americans don’t understand the mechanism by which it happens. Teddy Roosevelt attacked the trusts and so should Obama. He should be telling the truth and not simply giving up and leaving it to Congress. Tax payer should be more concerned about getting value out of their tax dollars and not simply blaming the government.
Reagan-ism is about transferring public moneys to private industry. In 1982 the Reagan Administration stated that it was ending all funding for medical care and giving it to HMOs. They gave money to private industry to compete with the state. It really was a form of theft from the poor to those who don’t need it. Reagan claimed he was cutting taxes but what they did was shift the taxes from the rich to the workers. Under Reagan it was stated that the not for profit medical system was more concerned with providing a social good rather than a return on investment. That was the rationale for switching funding to for profit HMOs.
The Reagan administration was expert at obfuscation. They created simple images of welfare queens to turn people against welfare by playing on peoples racial prejudices. The right used simple distractionary issues like school prayer to get their attention focused on irrelevancies. We won’t make any progress until the system of legalized bribery has been conquered. He was speaking about corporations buying the votes of congress. What we need is a new progressive movement like what we had at the turn of the last century.
Since Obama is the equal of Reagan in his oratorical skills, he should use them to fight for change and not give in to the demands of the right wing.

Here is the column from Paul Krugman in the New York Times.

“Op-Ed Columnist All the President’s Zombies
Published: August 23, 2009
The debate over the “public option” in health care has been dismaying in many ways. Perhaps the most depressing aspect for progressives, however, has been the extent to which opponents of greater choice in health care have gained traction — in Congress, if not with the broader public — simply by repeating, over and over again, that the public option would be, horrors, a government program.
Washington, it seems, is still ruled by Reaganism — by an ideology that says government intervention is always bad, and leaving the private sector to its own devices is always good.
Call me naïve, but I actually hoped that the failure of Reaganism in practice would kill it. It turns out, however, to be a zombie doctrine: even though it should be dead, it keeps on coming.
Let’s talk for a moment about why the age of Reagan should be over.
First of all, even before the current crisis Reaganomics had failed to deliver what it promised. Remember how lower taxes on high incomes and deregulation that unleashed the “magic of the marketplace” were supposed to lead to dramatically better outcomes for everyone? Well, it didn’t happen.
To be sure, the wealthy benefited enormously: the real incomes of the top .01 percent of Americans rose sevenfold between 1980 and 2007. But the real income of the median family rose only 22 percent, less than a third its growth over the previous 27 years.
Moreover, most of whatever gains ordinary Americans achieved came during the Clinton years. President George W. Bush, who had the distinction of being the first Reaganite president to also have a fully Republican Congress, also had the distinction of presiding over the first administration since Herbert Hoover in which the typical family failed to see any significant income gains.
And then there’s the small matter of the worst recession since the 1930s.
There’s a lot to be said about the financial disaster of the last two years, but the short version is simple: politicians in the thrall of Reaganite ideology dismantled the New Deal regulations that had prevented banking crises for half a century, believing that financial markets could take care of themselves. The effect was to make the financial system vulnerable to a 1930s-style crisis — and the crisis came.
“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals,” said Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937. “We know now that it is bad economics.” And last year we learned that lesson all over again.
Or did we? The astonishing thing about the current political scene is the extent to which nothing has changed.
The debate over the public option has, as I said, been depressing in its inanity. Opponents of the option — not just Republicans, but Democrats like Senator Kent Conrad and Senator Ben Nelson — have offered no coherent arguments against it. Mr. Nelson has warned ominously that if the option were available, Americans would choose it over private insurance — which he treats as a self-evidently bad thing, rather than as what should happen if the government plan was, in fact, better than what private insurers offer.
But it’s much the same on other fronts. Efforts to strengthen bank regulation appear to be losing steam, as opponents of reform declare that more regulation would lead to less financial innovation — this just months after the wonders of innovation brought our financial system to the edge of collapse, a collapse that was averted only with huge infusions of taxpayer funds.
So why won’t these zombie ideas die?
Part of the answer is that there’s a lot of money behind them. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something,” said Upton Sinclair, “when his salary” — or, I would add, his campaign contributions — “depend upon his not understanding it.” In particular, vast amounts of insurance industry money have been flowing to obstructionist Democrats like Mr. Nelson and Senator Max Baucus, whose Gang of Six negotiations have been a crucial roadblock to legislation.
But some of the blame also must rest with President Obama, who famously praised Reagan during the Democratic primary, and hasn’t used the bully pulpit to confront government-is-bad fundamentalism. That’s ironic, in a way, since a large part of what made Reagan so effective, for better or for worse, was the fact that he sought to change America’s thinking as well as its tax code.
How will this all work out? I don’t know. But it’s hard to avoid the sense that a crucial opportunity is being missed, that we’re at what should be a turning point but are failing to make the turn.”

Pretty damn straightforward. What is it? Corruption. Pure and simple. Congress is bought out by corporate interests, right wing pundants on the payroll of the corporations are encouraged to rile up their listeners and right wing so called grass roots organizations funded by these corporations and run by PR experts then drive bus loads of these riled up and misinformed citizens to town hall meetings where they make incoherent sounds that are picked up by right wing corporate media and broadcast to the nation as if this was the spontaneous outrage of average Amercians. It is all corrupt and cynical. Then the bought out Congress persons have cover to lie to the people some more and use as an example of the ground swell of the grass roots these sound bites in the media that are orchestrated by the same pr people who are writing the scripts for these Congress persons.
I don’t know if Obama has been able to out flank them. He has been able to buy off some of the pharmaceutical industries money but he has not been able to get to the hard core corporate right wing and as long as they have money and control of some members of Congress they will play their hand for keeps.
They are fighting against the tide of history and the desires of the people. But they have lies and subterfuge and will use every bit of guile at their disposal to defeat any attempt at health care reform or financial reform. We have to encourage the liberal and progressives in government to fight this old guard and beat them. My friend Dean is an optimist and believes this is possible. I am thinking that we are on the right side of history and those forces for the wealthy elite are fighting for a return to feudalism, it won’t happen. Lets make sure it doesn’t.

To The Moon Alice!!! Or Maybe Not. Helium 3 Controversy

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

It seems that the Bush administration was not just playing games with its talk about going to the moon. There was a reason that this oil industry executive president wanted to go there. Black Gold. Not the liquid kind but another Helium 3.
Recently I wrote we should be going to Mars and not to the Moon. I had no idea that the moon trip wasn’t just a cockamamie rerun of the Kennedy administration, this was no nostalgia. This is a hard headed plan to mine the moon for this product that is worth many times its weight in gold. I have gathered a couple of bits from different places. I started out thinking I would check into the Nazi Anti-Gravity experiments in the Wenceslas mine on the Polish Czech border. But I soon got side tracked with reading about the whistle blower who determined that there was a problem with the O-rings on the NASA space ships a year before the Challenger disaster.
This is a quote from Cook’s report to NASA in Wikipedia.
“As a Resource Analyst at NASA’s Comptroller’s Office, Richard C. Cook was responsible for assessing the budgetary implications of the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs), External Tank, and Centaur Upper Stage of the Space Shuttle program. In July 1985, Cook performed background research on the SRBs to determine whether any engineering questions would require additional funding that should be included in NASA’s next budget. After consulting with engineers in the Office of Space Flight in Washington, D.C., Cook wrote a memo to Michael Mann which summarized some problems with the SRB O-rings:
“There is little question, however, that flight safety has been and is still being compromised by potential failure of the seals, and it is acknowledged that failure during launch would certainly be catastrophic. There is also indication that staff personnel knew of this problem sometime in advance of management’s becoming apprised of what was going on.”
NASA officials ignored the memo which detailed engineering concerns and warnings from the shuttle builders at Morton Thiokol regarding a potentially catastrophic flaw in the SRB O-rings On January 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds into its launch, killing all seven of its crew members.”

I read that he was worried about the Reagan administration pushing NASA in the direction of star wars and the militarization of the moon. This was revived by the Bush administration. This is an article from Wired written in the Bush era.

“Race to the Moon for Nuclear Fuel
John Lasker 12.15.06
NASA’s planned moon base announced last week could pave the way for deeper space exploration to Mars, but one of the biggest beneficiaries may be the terrestrial energy industry.
Nestled among the agency’s 200-point mission goals is a proposal to mine the moon for fuel used in fusion reactors — futuristic power plants that have been demonstrated in proof-of-concept but are likely decades away from commercial deployment.
Helium-3 is considered a safe, environmentally friendly fuel candidate for these generators, and while it is scarce on Earth it is plentiful on the moon.
As a result, scientists have begun to consider the practicality of mining lunar Helium-3 as a replacement for fossil fuels.
“After four-and-half-billion years, there should be large amounts of helium-3 on the moon,” said Gerald Kulcinski, a professor who leads the Fusion Technology Institute at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Last year NASA administrator Mike Griffin named Kulcinski to lead a number of committees reporting to NASA’s influential NASA Advisory Council, its preeminent civilian leadership arm.
The Council is chaired by Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Hagan “Jack” Schmitt, a leading proponent of mining the moon for helium 3.
The Council was restructured last year with a new mission: implementing President Bush’s “Vision for Space Exploration,” which targets Mars as its ultimate destination. Other prominent members of the Council include ex-astronaut Neil Armstrong.
Schmitt and Kulcinski are longtime friends and academic partners, and are known as helium-3 fusion’s biggest promoters.
At the Fusion Technology Institute, Kulcinski’s team has produced small-scale helium-3 fusion reactions in the basketball-sized fusion device. The reactor produced one milliwatt of power on a continuous basis.
While still theoretical, nuclear fusion is touted as a safer, more sustainable way to generate nuclear energy: Fusion plants produce much less radioactive waste, especially if powered by helium-3. But experts say commercial-sized fusion reactors are at least 50 years away.
The isotope is extremely rare on Earth but abundant on the moon. Some experts estimate there a millions of tons in lunar soil — and that a single Space-Shuttle load would power the entire United States for a year.
NASA plans to have a permanent moon base by 2024, but America is not the only nation with plans for a moon base. China, India, the European Space Agency, and at least one Russian corporation, Energia, have visions of building manned lunar bases post-2020.
Mining the moon for helium-3 has been discussed widely in space circles and international space conferences. Both China and Russia have stated their nations’ interest in helium-3.
“We will provide the most reliable report on helium-3 to mankind,” Ouyang Ziyuan, the chief scientist of China’s lunar program, told a Chinese newspaper. “Whoever first conquers the moon will benefit first.”"

Ok that is from Wired. Now this is from the San Diego Union in a recent article.

“Mining helium-3 from the moon is possible, but not economical

By Sherry Seethaler
2:00 a.m. August 17, 2009
QUESTION: Why is there more helium-3 on the moon than on Earth? Might helium-3 be valuable enough, possibly for controlled nuclear fusion, to extract it from the moon, as done in the new film “Moon”?
– John Myers, San Diego
ANSWER: Helium-3 – the rare, lightweight relative of the helium-4 we use to fill balloons – is carried by the solar wind. Earth has a strong magnetic field that deflects most of the solar wind particles. In contrast, because the moon lacks a magnetic field and an atmosphere, the elements carried by the solar wind become implanted in the moon’s surface.
Lunar soil samples collected by the Apollo astronauts revealed that helium-3 is more abundant on the moon than on Earth. A recent computer simulation estimated that the relative abundance is approximately 30,000 to 1.
The simulation – which accounted for the solar wind strength, the shielding effect of the Earth’s magnetic field tail on the near side of the moon, and the mineral composition of the lunar soil – also calculated that there is more helium-3 on the lunar near side than the far side due to the distribution of ilmenite – the only lunar mineral that traps helium-3 effectively.
Helium-3 has been touted as an ideal fuel for nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion powers the stars, and it has the potential to be a clean, sustainable source of power for earthlings. The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor is designed to make that potential a reality in the next three decades. However, success is not a given: 50 years ago, practical nuclear fusion was predicted to be five decades off.
The reactor uses the fusion of deuterium – a heavy isotope of hydrogen – into helium-4. An intermediate step in this reaction is the formation of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. This fusion process also forms a high-energy stream of neutrons. Because tritium is radioactive, and because neutrons are highly destructive to the reaction vessel, containment is a considerable challenge.
On the other hand, helium-3 is not radioactive, and the fusion of helium-3 does not produce radioactive intermediates or neutrons. A small helium-3 fusion reactor has demonstrated the feasibility of helium-3 fusion, but as with deuterium fusion, it currently takes a greater input of energy to drive the fusion reaction than is harnessed from the fusion process.
Therefore, creating a prototype fusion power plant is the greatest hurdle to bringing “Moon” out of the realm of science fiction. Mining the moon for helium-3 is theoretically, though not currently economically, feasible. To make fusion a significant source of power, surface rock from enormous swaths of the moon would need to be collected and processed.”

This is from Technology Review from 2007 when the Bush dream was still alive and before the economic collapse led to the current state of imaginary loss.

“Mining the Moon
Lab experiments suggest that future fusion reactors could use helium-3 gathered from the moon.

By Mark Williams
Thursday, August 23, 2007
At the 21st century’s start, few would have predicted that by 2007, a second race for the moon would be under way. Yet the signs are that this is now the case. Furthermore, in today’s moon race, unlike the one that took place between the United States and the U.S.S.R. in the 1960s, a full roster of 21st-century global powers, including China and India, are competing.
Even more surprising is that one reason for much of the interest appears to be plans to mine helium-3–purportedly an ideal fuel for fusion reactors but almost unavailable on Earth–from the moon’s surface. NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration has U.S. astronauts scheduled to be back on the moon in 2020 and permanently staffing a base there by 2024. While the U.S. space agency has neither announced nor denied any desire to mine helium-3, it has nevertheless placed advocates of mining He3 in influential positions. For its part, Russia claims that the aim of any lunar program of its own–for what it’s worth, the rocket corporation Energia recently started blustering, Soviet-style, that it will build a permanent moon base by 2015-2020–will be extracting He3.
The Chinese, too, apparently believe that helium-3 from the moon can enable fusion plants on Earth. This fall, the People’s Republic expects to orbit a satellite around the moon and then land an unmanned vehicle there in 2011.
Nor does India intend to be left out. (See “India’s Space Ambitions Soar.”) This past spring, its president, A.P.J. Kalam, and its prime minister, Manmohan Singh, made major speeches asserting that, besides constructing giant solar collectors in orbit and on the moon, the world’s largest democracy likewise intends to mine He3 from the lunar surface. India’s probe, Chandrayaan-1, will take off next year, and ISRO, the Indian Space Research Organization, is talking about sending Chandrayaan-2, a surface rover, in 2010 or 2011. Simultaneously, Japan and Germany are also making noises about launching their own moon missions at around that time, and talking up the possibility of mining He3 and bringing it back to fuel fusion-based nuclear reactors on Earth.
Could He3 from the moon truly be a feasible solution to our power needs on Earth? Practical nuclear fusion is nowadays projected to be five decades off–the same prediction that was made at the 1958 Atoms for Peace conference in Brussels. If fusion power’s arrival date has remained constantly 50 years away since 1958, why would helium-3 suddenly make fusion power more feasible?
Advocates of He3-based fusion point to the fact that current efforts to develop fusion-based power generation, like the ITER megaproject, use the deuterium-tritium fuel cycle, which is problematical. (See “International Fusion Research.”) Deuterium and tritium are both hydrogen isotopes, and when they’re fused in a superheated plasma, two nuclei come together to create a helium nucleus–consisting of two protons and two neutrons–and a high-energy neutron. A deuterium-tritium fusion reaction releases 80 percent of its energy in a stream of high-energy neutrons, which are highly destructive for anything they hit, including a reactor’s containment vessel. Since tritium is highly radioactive, that makes containment a big problem as structures weaken and need to be replaced. Thus, whatever materials are used in a deuterium-tritium fusion power plant will have to endure serious punishment. And if that’s achievable, when that fusion reactor is eventually decommissioned, there will still be a lot of radioactive waste.
Helium-3 advocates claim that it, conversely, would be nonradioactive, obviating all those problems. But a serious critic has charged that in reality, He3-based fusion isn’t even a feasible option. In the August issue of Physics World, theoretical physicist Frank Close, at Oxford in the UK, has published an article called “Fears Over Factoids” in which, among other things, he summarizes some claims of the “helium aficionados,” then dismisses those claims as essentially fantasy.
Close points out that in a tokamak–a machine that generates a doughnut-shaped magnetic field to confine the superheated plasmas necessary for fusion–deuterium reacts up to 100 times more slowly with helium-3 than it does with tritium. In a plasma contained in a tokamak, Close stresses, all the nuclei in the fuel get mixed together, so what’s most probable is that two deuterium nuclei will rapidly fuse and produce a tritium nucleus and proton. That tritium, in turn, will likely fuse with deuterium and finally yield one helium-4 atom and a neutron. In short, Close says, if helium-3 is mined from the moon and brought to Earth, in a standard tokamak the final result will still be deuterium-tritium fusion.
Second, Close rejects the claim that two helium-3 nuclei could realistically be made to fuse with each other to produce deuterium, an alpha particle and energy. That reaction occurs even more slowly than deuterium-tritium fusion, and the fuel would have to be heated to impractically high temperatures–six times the heat of the sun’s interior, by some calculations–that would be beyond the reach of any tokamak. Hence, Close concludes, “the lunar-helium-3 story is, to my mind, moonshine.”
Close’s objection, however, assumes that deuterium-helium-3 fusion and pure helium-3 fusion would take place in tokamak-based reactors. There might be alternatives: for example, Gerald Kulcinski, a professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has maintained the only helium-3 fusion reactor in the world on an annual budget that’s barely into six figures.
Kulcinski’s He3-based fusion reactor, located in the Fusion Technology Institute at the University of Wisconsin, is very small. When running, it contains a spherical plasma roughly 10 centimeters in diameter that can produce sustained fusion with 200 million reactions per second. To produce a milliwatt of power, unfortunately, the reactor consumes a kilowatt. Close’s response is, therefore, valid enough: “When practical fusion occurs with a demonstrated net power output, I–and the world’s fusion community–can take note.”

And there you have it. The cost of producing one milliwatt of energy from the Helium3 reactor takes a kilowatt of power. So, no deal. The Bush era dreams are still dreams. Perhaps if the government has some secret energy plan that we don’t know about like the Stealth Bomber, a game changing technology that would make it all worth while, then I say whats the big secret? Why not share it? Otherwise I say why go to the moon. I would rather see a Mars trip. Obama has the secret information being laid out with the facts that we all know. What he chooses will have a lot to do with what is realistically possible.

This is the Obama Space plan as reported by the Miami Herald.

NASA’s moon plan too ambitious, Obama panel says
A panel reviewing NASA’s current plans for human space flight will report that there is no realistic way to return to the moon by 2020 — or even 2028.

Washington Post Service
WASHINGTON — NASA doesn’t have nearly enough money to meet its goal of putting astronauts back on the moon by 2020 — and it might be the wrong place to go, anyway. That’s one of the harsh messages emerging from a sweeping review of NASA’s human space flight program.
The Human Space Flight Plans Committee, appointed by President Barack Obama and headed by retired aerospace executive Norman Augustine, has been trying to stitch together some kind of plausible strategy for America’s manned space program. The panel has struggled to find options that stay under the current budget and include missions worthy of the cost and effort.
The committee members will meet with administration officials Friday and will report that there is no realistic way to get Americans back on the moon by the target date of 2020, which has been the agency’s goal since President George W. Bush signed off on the “Vision for Space Exploration” in 2004. Landing on the moon by 2020 would require such drastic budgetary maneuvers as deorbiting the International Space Station — crashing it into the South Pacific — in 2016.
The final list of options being explored by the Augustine group will include some variation of a lunar base down the road. But the committee is most animated by what it calls the “Deep Space” option, a strategy that emphasizes getting astronauts far beyond Low Earth Orbit but not necessarily plunking them down on alien worlds.
Instead, the “Deep Space” strategy would send them to near-Earth asteroids and to gravitationally significant points in space, known as Lagrange points, that are beyond the Earth’s protective magnetosphere. Astronauts might even go all the way to Phobos, a tiny moon of Mars, where the spaceship wouldn’t land so much as rendezvous, in the same way that a spacecraft docks at the International Space Station.
The Earth’s moon would be a possible “off-ramp” of such a strategy but not a central target for exploration. Putting astronauts on the surface of Mars, and then returning them to Earth, would be prohibitively expensive, according to an analysis by the committee, which will send its report to the president by the end of this month.
The “program of record” — NASA’s current strategy — has not fared well in the committee’s review. Former astronaut Sally Ride, a member of the panel, said the gap between NASA’s goals and its current budget totals roughly $50 billion by 2020. If the space station’s life is extended for five years, she said, the current budget would allow for the completion of a heavy-boost moon rocket only in 2028, and that would be without spending money on developing the components of a lunar base.
John Logsdon, the former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, observed the panel’s session and said he wasn’t sure that the Deep Space option, with its emphasis on “fly-bys” rather than landings, would be easy to sell to the public.
The panel is certain to recommend extending the life of the International Space Station. It is also pushing hard for greater commercialization of space, including using private companies to taxi astronauts to Low Earth Orbit.
Some options include pulling the plug on the Ares I rocket that NASA has been building for four years. The Ares I is supposed to replace the space shuttle, the final flight of which is slated for late 2010. Billions have already been spent on the rocket, which is scheduled for an inaugural test flight this month.”

There you have it folks. $50 Billion is peanuts. Not enough to send a man to the Moon or Mars. Maybe we should send chimps.

What about militarization?
Militarization and Weaponization of Outer Space
By Anup Shah Page Last Updated Sunday, January 21, 2007
“US Seeks Militarization of Space
While various militaries around the world have used Space for years, it has largely been for surveillance satellites etc.
However, the Bush Administration in the United States has long made it clear that the US wishes to expand its military capabilities and have weapons in space and therfore also be dominant in this fourth military arena (the other three being sea, land and air). This new “ultimate high ground” would provide further superior military capabilities.
While it would provide additional important defense mechanisms, many worry about the other benefit it would bring—capabilities for offensive purposes to push America’s “national interests” even if they are not in the interests of the international community.
Furthermore, together with its pursuit of missile defense, (which goes against the Anti Ballistic Missile treaty, an important part of global arms control mechanisms), the USA risks starting a wasteful expenditure of an arms race in space.
Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, and the resulting “War on Terror” military-based policies and spending has increased. So too have the policies looking into space-based weapons. The Washington D.C.-based Center for Defence Information (CDI) provides a detailed report suggesting that this should not be a rushed decision:
Unlike in Star Trek, the “final frontier” has yet to become a battlefield. But if the current trends continue, that will change—not in the distance future of science fiction, but within the next several decades. Emerging Bush administration plans and policies are clearly aimed at making the United States the first nation to deploy space-based weapons. There are several drivers behind this goal, including the very real concern about the vulnerability of space assets that are increasingly important to how the US military operates, and the administration’s decision to pursue missile defense.
But because space-based weapons have been on the agenda long before September 11, and the War on Terror, the fight against terrorism is not the sole justification, though it may now add to the reasons. However, long before September 11, the concerns of the US’ motives for pursuing such policies have been questioned. The fear is that by seeking to create a dominant position in space, the US will become more powerful and others may be compelled to join an arms race in space.
The above-mentioned CDI report also points out that “The Bush administration’s views were directly reflected in the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), released Oct. 1, 2001. ‘A key objective … is not only to ensure US ability to exploit space for military purposes, but also as required to deny an adversary’s ability to do so,’ states the QDR.” In this context then, space is no longer seen as the resource available for all of humanity, but another ground from which to fight geopolitical and economic battles.
The New York Times reported (May 18, 2005) that there is a further push by the US Air Force for weapons in space. “Any deployment of space weapons would face financial, technological, political and diplomatic hurdles, although no treaty or law bans Washington from putting weapons in space, barring weapons of mass destruction,” claims the Times. Yet, this news article appears to ignore the Outer Space Treaty mentioned above, or the Prevention of Outer Space Arms Race resolution, adopted by a recorded vote of 163 in favor to none against, with 3 abstentions (the US being one of those three). If technically there are no bans on weapons, then certainly such weaponization would go against the spirit of those treaties.

“The United States considers space capabilities—including the ground and space segments and supporting links—vital to its national interests. Consistent with this policy, the United States will: preserve its rights, capabilities, and freedom of action in space; dissuade or deter others from either impeding those rights or developing capabilities intended to do so; take those actions necessary to protect its space capabilities; respond to interference; and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. national interests;
The United States will oppose the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit U.S. access to or use of space. Proposed arms control agreements or restrictions must not impair the rights of the United States to conduct research, development, testing, and operations or other activities in space for U.S. national interests;”

— Unclassified National Space Policy , Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the US President, October 6, 2006

Despite its commitment to peaceful use of space as stated in its policy, just a few weeks later, the US was the lone vote against such a resolution at the UN General Assembly (and has voted against such a measure in the past), as mentioned futher above. The policy therefore appears to meet the US Air Force’s desire for weapons in space. The fear is that others will take a similar view (using the rhetoric of protecting its own interest in space) and encourage an arms race.”

Putin’s Russia, Krishna-Loka, and Laszlo On Cosmic Memory

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

This is from a site called Open Democracy. It is about the current state of Russia by a Russian Writer. From time to time I check on what is happening in other parts of the world. I take a neo-Hegelian view. In that I do believe there is a spiritual force behind history, but what that may be I am not sure and if it is pushing us to a Marxist utopia or some dystopian hell is yet to be determined. I am more inclined to believe that Hegel had it right, as to the nature of the universe being what he called spirit, as opposed to Marx who said the nature of the universe is material. But I do follow Marx in much of his description of the march of history and the influence of economics on the material course of affairs. I am one who might say that spirit moves through matter and in that sense I am a gnostic. Although I am not so sure spirit is trapped in matter so much as matter is the means by which spirit is expressed.
In other words the physical world is a manifestation of spirit.
Be that as it may, we have no idea what that means and I do not think that sitting on a mountain with a group of Yogis meditating will keep evil out for one second as certain followers of the vedic religions purport. They claim Bharat or India as we call it was protected by Yogis in the Himalayas who provided a psychic shield for humanity for a thousand years and kept the evil of the Kali Yuga, the current age, at bay.
On the other hand a good solid wall might, assuming it could be made out of a material that was impermeable to evil. We then get into an ontological argument on the nature of good and evil. I spent 7 years in a spiritual commune where we were supposedly learning not to pick up the stick of good and evil. As they put it evil was the dirty end of the stick, and good was the other end that we are attracted to. I like the Monkey analogy, better, the monkey reaches into a box to get a banana but he can’t get out of the box with the banana in hand. To get free the monkey has to let go of the banana. Will he do it? Not on your life that is one hungry monkey. On the other hand if you were to offer that monkey another banana that is not in the box, that monkey will be out of the box and into that freely offered banana in a flash. Why don’t they ever add that banana to the story I wonder?
But then we come to the bird in hand vs the bird in the bush. Will the monkey drop the bird in hand and go for the bird in the bush or in this case the other hand? I would say yes based on my experience of monkies in India. At the garden of Seva Kunj in Vrindaban, where supposedly Krishna and his favorite Gopi dallied in their pleasure games, the monkeys are particularly smart and one grabbed the bracelet off the arm of an unsuspecting devotee woman and tried to get my watch at the same time. It dived right down on us while we were sitting before a shrine in the Seva Kunj. A guard had to bribe the monkey with two bananas before he would trade back the woman’s bracelet.
Aren’t I full of interesting tales and if you really were willing to listen to me I would amaze you with my stories of spiritual splendor, but nobody cares about that sort of thing in today’s fast paced world. So I am stuck with cynical tales of monkeys and spiritual tourists in Brahma land or more properly Krishnaloka.
Enough introduction. Without further ado I bring you my tale of today from our Russian friend and my comments.

“The wheels have come off the Putin model
Dmitri Oreshkin, 26 - 08 - 2009

10 years ago this month the State Duma approved Vladimir Putin as Prime Minister. He created a corrupt vertical of power, which once seemed to work, but now with the economic crisis, he has lost control of it, says Dmitri Oreshkin
Putin has been a different man at various stages of his years in power. The changes can be roughly divided into three stages. The first stage was mainly a continuation of the Yeltsin tradition, when his opportunities were still limited and he was accumulating political resources. This lasted until approximately 2003-04. In the second stage he got into his stride and began serious work on monopolising political and economic resources. The third stage began around 2006-2007. By this time he had spread his wings to their full extent and showed his real self. This was a period of prosperity and decline: the oil prices were rising fast and it went to people’s heads.
An overall assessment of the last 10 years would allow that Putin has preserved the market economy, deformed and monopolised though it is. Secondly, he has strengthened the machinery of state. Thirdly, he has turned the results of the natural economic growth in new market conditions and with new incentives to his own advantage. He has also managed to get his name associated with Russians’ rapidly growing economic prosperity.
But we should consider the problems of these 10 years. The concentration and monopolisation of power has led on the one hand to the creation of a fairly powerful centre consolidating the country’s resources. On the other hand it has meant that these resources are unable to develop anywhere but under the lead and control of the centre. In this way Putin eliminated any political opposition and turned himself into a political figure without any rivals. He allowed a group of cronies access to the material resources of the market economy, which were considerable and growing, and he formed a new class which I will call “burness”. “Burness” comes from “bureaucratic business”. This is when bureaucrats are engaged in business and business buys up the bureaucracy. A mutually beneficial economic model is created, guaranteeing them privileges in government and the economy. Putin simultaneously created a corrupt system to buy the loyalty of this burness, on the basis of which he organised what was called the Putin consensus of elites.
The problem is that the Putin consensus of elites is based on false, dysfunctional and unpromising principles of mutual corruption. The Centre allows regional burness representatives to receive corrupt revenue from the growing market economy that depends on it, and they in return guarantee the appearance of political loyalty to the Centre. There is no real economic and political competition and any political renewal is impossible: there can be no adjustments, corrections, fine tuning of policy or innovative economic developments.
This was all very well when the oil price was increasing. Now, when the support of the burness is essential, it’s not working, because there’s no money left to pay for loyalty. If the Centre has run out of money, then regional burness no longer needs it and there is a real crisis of management. The model of Putin’s consensus was supposed to last a long time, but there is no consensus.
This gives rise to a very serious problem. It turns out that the de facto political and economic life was not organised in the way that was claimed on the Putin propaganda banners. There is essentially no vertical of power. What exists is a contractual relationship between the Centre and the regions: we don’t touch you, we let you steal, we even give you federal subsidies and allow you to steal them. You pretend that you are loyal, and ensure falsified, but correct, election results, virtual implementation of orders from the Centre, and say the right things on television.
It is now becoming clear that the rhetoric has nothing to do with reality. We can see that no constitutional order has been established in Chechnya, or in the North Caucasus in general. On the contrary, the Chechen syndrome has spread all over the North Caucasus, at any rate over half of it. The Centre pays Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan: they are all subsidised regions, where federal grants form more than 80% of the budget. In exchange regional burness is unable to control the law-enforcement officers: someone is killed every day. These bandits don’t even bother to take the officials to the john, in Putin’s memorable words, to “stick their heads down the pan”: they deal with them directly at their place of work.
The bureaucracy has become stronger and business weaker. The Yeltsin burness may have actually been more to do with business, but the Putin burness is more about bureaucracy and this is very revealing about both Putin and the role of state in society. Karl Marx said in his youth that the state is the private property of the bureaucracy and that’s exactly what we’ve got. We have private property with many ramifications for a group of burnessmen, who naturally are not about to hand it over amicably to anyone. The horizons of peaceful, calm development in Russia have narrowed, because Putin’s burness controls elections, and will not permit alternative political forces to come to power at these elections. It will not permit powerful competitors in the economy, who might reduce prices for road or housing construction, for example. For the same money that could be spent on building roads in a normal, competitive environment, roads can be built at twice or three times the price. The same applies to housing: for the same price twice as much housing could be built at half the cost. But this is not in the interests of the burness controlling the situation. This is what the Putin management model has achieved.”

The article is longer and has more concrete examples from the Russian economy but you get the point and if you want to read it all it is available on Open Democracy.

While this analysis of the situation in Russia is pretty depressing, what exactly is the author suggesting? Is he recommending western style democratic reforms? That seems to have been tried under Yeltsin. Even in the capitalist west such free market reforms are now looked upon as having failed to produce anything better than a cycle of boom and bust.
What Russia under Putin lacks is a moral and ideological basis to justify his restoration of some of the state institutions that existed under the Soviet Union.
The previous state with its communist rhetoric at least had a theoretical basis and a goal. What does Putin offer the Russian people other than more cynical manipulation of institutions that have no real value in a society that is increasingly coming under strong man rule.
Either the Russian people will insist upon the rule of law and elect leaders who will obey the rule of law or we will increasingly see rulers like Putin in Russia and the former American President Bush who are more concerned with getting things done their own way regardless of what is legal.
This ‘damn the torpedoes’(named after an American naval officer who ordered an attack during the American civil war despite enemy mines in the harbor) approach to government is probably preferable in times of crisis, such as when Hitler was knocking on the doors of Moscow or under conditions of War Communism. But in times of relative normalcy there is no excuse for resorting to these abrogations of the rule of law or whatever you want to call the social contract.
Just as one incident of terrorism in the USA on 9-11 was used as a justification for invading two countries and the imprisoning of tens of thousands of persons around the world in CIA and defense department secret prisons. A rationale that would hardly seem justified in the overall scheme of things. The same can be said of the actions of Putin and his cronies that play havoc with the Russian economy.
Personally I think a reformed and democratic socialism led by an honest communist party might lead to the type of nation that the Russian people deserve. Perhaps if there was some driving force besides nostalgia and an urge to power on the part of Putin, Russia might become again the beacon of hope that it once was for idealists and revolutionaries around the world.
But I don’t see that happening. So you probably had best settle for a western style democracy if you can attain it, or a bureaucratic state with a semi-benign dictator if that is all you can manage where at the very least the laws of the land are followed by those who make them. Good Luck Russia.
Good luck world. Nobody listens to me.

After years as a drug addict, spiritual adventurer, philosophical seeker of truth, working professional, sometimes family guy and anarchist communist activist, I wonder if there is any way out of this mess we have gotten ourselves into. My personal favorite here is the analogy with painting yourself in a corner. When the world all around you is full of wet paint and there is no way out of the corner without stepping in it and making a mess of the whole thing, I have only one suggestion, wait for the paint to dry. Lets just hope it happens in our life time.

I have decided to end on a positive note. This is from Resurgence Magazine a British New Age publication that was the original home of writers like E. M. Schumacher and the concept of Small is Beautiful. This is an excerpt from an article by ErvIn Laszlo the Hungarian scientist and concert pianist.

“Cosmic Memory
ErvIn László reads the information and memory field of the cosmos.
There is more to the universe than bits of matter moving about following the classical laws of mechanistic cause and effect in otherwise empty and passive space. Cutting-edge scientists now understand the ‘non-locality’ of quanta, the coherence of the cosmos, the connection between organisms and environments, and the transpersonal connections between the consciousnesses of different human beings, revealing that there is not only matter and energy configuring and evolving in space and time, but also a more subtle yet real element: active and effective ‘information’. Information connects all things through space and time. Interactions in the domains of Nature as well as of mind are mediated by a fundamental information-field in the universe. This is the new reality.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Nikola Tesla, the father of modern communication technologies, spoke of an “original medium” that fills space and compared it to akasha, the light-carrying ether. He wrote that since this medium fills all of space, everything that takes place in space can be referred to it. Curved space, he said, which was put forward at the time by Einstein, is not the answer. However, physicists adopted Einstein’s mathematically elaborated four-dimensional curved space-time and, with the exception of a few maverick theoreticians, refused to consider any concept of a space-filling ether, medium, or force field. Tesla’s insight fell into oblivion. Today it is revived and a small but growing group of scientists is rediscovering the role of information in Nature, and locating Nature’s information-field in the quantum vacuum – the much discussed if as yet imperfectly understood energy-sea that fills cosmic space.
According to Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell, the quantum vacuum is the holographic information mechanism that records the historical experience of matter. How could the cosmic quantum vacuum convey the “historical experience of matter”? We can illustrate the seemingly complex answer to this question with a simple metaphor.
The sea is a good analogy of the cosmic field that underlies all of space-time: the unified field. The unified field is the integral concept of the quantum vacuum, the concept that emerges in the latest grand-unified and super-grand-unified theories. It is the field that includes not only the mysterious zero-point energies, but all of Nature’s fields and forces. The waves emitted by objects propagate in the unified field, and create complex patterns of interference. These patterns carry information. As the waves merge, the information they carry is not overwritten, for the waves superpose one on the other. As in a hologram, the information carried by the superposing waves is everywhere throughout the recording medium, which in the case of the unified field extends throughout cosmic space. Hence the unified field conveys information and thus interconnects all things with all other things.
The finding that the unified field is not only a superdense field of incessantly fluctuating energies but also a cosmic information-field recalls the ancient concept of akasha. Originally signifying ‘radiation’ or ‘brilliance’, in Indian philosophy akasha was considered the first and most fundamental of the five elements – the others being vata (air), agni (fire), ap (water), and prithivi (earth). Akasha embraces the properties of all five elements: it is the womb from which everything we perceive with our senses has emerged and into which everything will ultimately re-descend. The Akashic Record is the enduring memory of all that happens, and has ever happened, in the whole of the universe.

The Akashic Experience: Science and the Cosmic Memory Field by ErvIn László is published by Inner Traditions.

ErvIn László is a Hungarian philosopher of science, a systems theorist, an integral theorist, and a classical pianist. He has published over seventy-five books and is editor of World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution.”

This guy writes a lot. I wish I had even one book under my belt. Well perhaps I will get something written besides these blog entries.

Some Interesting Stuff - Bourgeois Anarchism

Friday, August 28th, 2009

This is an article on Bourgeois Anarchism. Not sure what it is but since I am tired of watching eulogies of Ted Kennedy, and it is too hot to think, I am just cutting and pasting this article.
We are finally getting our summer in LA. A bit late this year, but it is hot and there are fire storms all around the edges of the city.
The LA Basin is immersed in smoke and burning up in 100 plus temperatures in the day and mid eighties temperature at night, even by the beach where I live. I am not a heat person. When it gets hot I wilt. I just want to sleep. So sleepy minded I watch a National Geographic special on Stonehenge as the city of the dead and let you read this piece. Let me know what you think dear readers. I am thinking about perhaps returning to some modified anarchism myself. As long as it is not the primitive type.

“Bourgeois anarchism and authoritarian democracies
by Felix Stalder
First Monday, Volume 13, Number 7 - 7 July 2008

“Digital communication is profoundly affecting the constitution of (civil) society by drastically lowering the costs to speak across time and space with individuals and groups of any size, and by producing abundant records of all activities conducted through these media. This is accelerating two contradictory trends. On the one hand, a new breed of social organizations based on principles of weak cooperation and peer production is sharply expanding the scope of what can be achieved by civil society. These are voluntary organizations, with flat hierarchies and trust–based principles. They are focused on producing commons–based resources rather than individual property. In general, they are transformative, not revolutionary, in character. This phenomenon is termed “bourgeois anarchism.” On the other hand, the liberal state — in a crisis of legitimacy and under pressure from such new organizations, both peaceful (civil society) and violent (terrorism) — is reorganizing itself around an increasingly authoritarian core, expanding surveillance into the capillary system of society, overriding civil liberties and reducing democratic oversight in exchange for the promise of security. This phenomenon is termed “authoritarian democracy.”

Society is constituted through communication. One way to give meaning to the concept of globalization is to understand it as the capacity of a growing number of people, individually and in organizations, to communicate across the globe in real time. Much of this communication is embedded in digital media, with the Internet providing a growing share of the infrastructure. Digital media, as they have evolved historically, differ profoundly from the previous analogue communication media. I want to focus on two of these differences and draw out some of their consequences for the transformation of civil society [1].

First, it is cheaper, by orders of magnitude, to communicate across time and space with individuals and groups of any size. Recently, the collaborative dimensions of the Internet have moved (again) into the center of attention, under the fashionable label of Web 2.0, an umbrella term for a set of technologies optimized for ease–of–use of publishing and interlinking of multimedia material by individual users [2]. Many components of this emerging infrastructure have been around for as long as the Internet, or at least the World Wide Web, has existed. But as a user–friendly aggregate, they coalesced only within the last couple of years, both in terms of mass adoption and commercial technology development [3]. Today, it is easier than ever for individuals, alone or in collaboration with others, to publish material, often drawing upon material published by others. From a technical point of view, there is no substantial difference between speaking and listening. Universal computers linked via the Internet support all modes of communication equally well. After years of pioneering work, new media have reached the mainstream. Millions of people all over the world are using these expanded possibilities to listen and speak as part of their everyday life [4].

The second deep difference I want to focus upon is that every step that is carried out by the algorithms of the communication media is creating a record that is stored, processed, aggregated, analyzed and acted upon. The creation of records of all internal processes is a technological requirement. This is how computers work and it applies to all of the processes they carry out, whether these lead to speaking or listening, writing or reading, creating, transforming or even deleting. But these records are not only used for technical purposes. They have also become a key element of the emerging sociality, be it that they enable social accountability in open collaborative processes, or that they vastly increase the surveillance capacities of large organizations.

As an overall effect, our social lives through voluntary acts of public communication and through automated acts of record creation and processing, are becoming visible like never before, even if the resulting profiles are necessarily incomplete, and often contain inaccurate information. This visibility is the basis for the expansion of civil society as well as the states’ surveillance capacities and rising authoritarian tendencies centering around the provision of security. I will trace this development on three levels: individuals, groups, and the state.

Three limitations of my analysis are necessary to mention. First, I will only speak about Western liberal democracies, not only because most technologies have emerged from this cultural context, but also because these technologies are, very deliberately, flexible in terms of application and future development. This is not unusual for infrastructures. Thus, it would even more inadequate than usual to adopt a techno–determinist stance and assume that technologies trigger the same social consequences across different contexts [5]. Second, new technologies and their social uses interact with vast number of factors that are not directly dependent on them, both online and off–line. In social life, there are no single causes and technologies are best viewed as interacting with path–dependent developments, rather than creating effects. Third, I will say very little about gender or other forms of social inequality that remain in this area. Empirical research shows that whereas the gap between men and women in using Internet technologies in general is closing (in the U.S.), in the areas of self–publishing the gender imbalance is relatively strong (70 percent men) [6].

On the level of the individual, the widespread use of new technologies extends a generally increasing individualization of society. As many observers have noticed, processes of “self–development” have become central to contemporary societies [7]. Over the last 50 years, the task of identity building has shifted away from relatively stable, hierarchical institutions (family, workplace, church) to the individual and his or her self–selected context. In the 1960s, freedom–oriented social movements challenged a heavily bureaucratized society, rejecting its model of the “organization man” [8] and his “one dimensional” personality [9]. In effect, this amounted to, as Boltanksi and Ciapello put it, an artistic critique of capitalism, aimed at “oppression (market domination, factory discipline), the massification of society, standardization and pervasive commodification, [and vindicating] an ideal of liberation and/or of individual autonomy, singularity and authenticity” [10]. By the turn of the century, this position had been firmly reintegrated into commercial mainstream as creative industries. They instill what cultural critic Marion von Osten calls the “creative imperative”, that is the systemic demand on individuals to be creative and expressive [11].

Through a combination of pull and push processes, a sizable part of the population has acquired substantial cultural capital (the cultural assets at one’s disposal, to use Bourdieu’s definition), developed a heightened desire and need to be unique, found themselves within vastly expanded fields for self–expression and embarked on a search for recognition and reputation. The old division of labor in the field of culture — where a few highly, individualized cultural producers worked for a relatively undifferentiated mass of consumers — is being complemented by a new culture of “prosumerism”, for the want of a better term, created by people who are users and producers at the same time. The DJ selecting and mixing records in a live setting, not the writer struggling alone with the empty page, is the contemporary cultural archetype. Though, perhaps this cliché is already tired and is being supplanted by the image of the blogger offering a personal take, in real time, on whatever slice of the world appears relevant to him or her. To users the new infrastructures offer ways to (re)establish their own link to the world, however they see it, be it the comings and goings of their cat, Scandinavian necro metal, or global warming. The new technologies of self–publishing transform people who used to be spectators into participants. Sometimes, the difference between these roles is so small that it might feel insignificant, but sometimes the consequences of this shift are enormous, bringing down governments or embarrassing corporations. The more spectacular cases show clearly what I would argue is the case everywhere. Building links to the world is not a passive act of observing, but an active intervention into the world, not the least by validating some aspects of the world as important, that is, worthy of attention, while letting others fall out of sight. Yet, at the same time, it is also validating the person through his or her ability to establish those links, as the one capable of establishing meaning of whatever kind in a sea of noise. Yet, since this is done mainly through self–directed volunteer efforts (even if some make money) the meaning established is, first and foremost, a personal one. Thus, it’s a process of co–creation of an individual identity and a world at large.

It seems plausible that this is contributing to a psychological (self)experience very different from the model still dominant where the world inside of us, ourself, is far removed from the world outside of us. The Cartesian a priori “cogito ergo sum”, according to which the only thing we can ultimately be certain of is our individual thinking, has increasingly been found to be inadequate [12]. Rather, we are entering a world of “networked individualism” where individual self–identity — both in terms of the image one has of oneself and the image others have of one — can no longer be separated from one’s position within a relational network. The notion of the networked individual is still quite underdeveloped. For Barry Wellman, who coined the term, the idea reflects simply the changing communication patterns of people, who no longer rely on a small number of localized communities (workplace, home, civic association, etc) for social support, but on a much larger number of networks which are increasingly geographically dispersed. Thus, people are highly individualized in terms of the combination of networks they maintain, yet their individuality evolves within and through these networks [13]. Wellman’s notion remains firmly grounded within a quantitative social network analysis. If we speak about the transformation of subjectivity, this needs to be complemented with a more psychological notion as Kristóf Nyíri argues. To stress this shift, he uses the slightly different term of the “network individual” which he sees as

“the person reintegrated, after centuries of relative isolation induced by the printing press, into the collective thinking of society — the individual whose mind is manifestly mediated, once again, by the minds of those forming his/her smaller or larger community. This mediation is indeed manifest: its patterns can be directly read off the displays of our electronic communications devices.” [14]

Nyíri relates this to theories of the essentially social nature of cognition, particularly the work of Robin Dunbar. Dunbar argues that the social nature of the brain extends all the way to its physiology. The disproportionate size of the human neo–cortex (as compared with other animals) stands in a direct relationship with the cognitive demands of life in groups with complex social relations. Thus, even on the most basic physiological level, individuals cannot be clearly separated from groups [15].

This complements notions of the essentially social process of all forms of cultural expression first expressed by Gabriel Tarde more than 100 years ago [16]. He observed that society is based on different forms of imitation, all of which make it somewhat difficult to clearly ascribe an idea to a specific individual. Even the most seemingly original innovation not only builds on, or imitates, the wider culture in which it is situated, but also gains social relevance only when it is adopted, or imitated, by many others [17]. It is perhaps no coincidence that Tarde, after almost 100 years of near obscurity, is currently being rediscovered in his own discipline.

All of this points to a subtle, but very fundamental shift in the psychological make–up of individuals, obviously not caused by the latest round of technologies, yet most likely accelerated by it. The notions of “networked individualism”, “network individual”, “social cognition” and “imitation” already indicate that individualization does not need to lead to atomization or some other notion of people being isolated behind their computer screens. There is no “terminal condition” [18]. Rather these notions point towards forms of identity situated between the fully autonomous individual, rooted in his or her privacy, and the faceless member of a collective, whose personality is subsumed under the identity of the group. Marshall McLuhan called this (re)emerging form of identity “tribal” but the term with its colonialist undertones is more misleading than illuminating, even if it pointed into the right direction [19]. We can do better now.

In the current wave of collaborative technologies, we can see empirically some of this new balance between individuality and networked sociality in an emerging, distinct pattern of collaboration. People appear to act neither as egoistic individuals, maximizing their resources (homo economicus), nor as selfless contributors to a collective effort (gift economy). Rather there is something in between. Aguiton and Cardon argue that what is specific about “Web 2.0” is its characteristic of “weak cooperation” [20]. Usually, cooperation entails people first specifying a common goal and then working towards achieving it. Specifying the common goal is often a very difficult process, requiring considerable negotiations between all involved parties before the actual work can even begin. Unless some shortcuts are introduced, be it through the market or hierarchical decision–making, these processes do not scale very well. Yet, increasingly we have sometimes very large groups working together online quite productively (according to their own criteria of productivity). These rely neither on the flexible market nor hierarchical organizations (firms, state bureaucracies), rather they belong to the expanding sphere of civil society.

The reason for this new ability to scale cooperation seems to be that it emerges after the fact, not as something planned beforehand. As already mentioned, since much of Web 2.0 is self–directed volunteer work, it means people do it, first and foremost, for themselves. People publish their own works, drawing on works of others. Once these are published, and visible to others, there is a chance, just a chance, to be detected by others whose own works or thoughts complement one’s own ideas in a meaningful way. Thus cooperation can begin on a low–key, ad hoc level. Wikipedia is a good example here. The vast majority of contributors are only concerned with a very small number of articles. They may write something once on a topic they care about. In the process, some of them recognize that others care about the same topic, and they might interact with them on the basis of their shared, mutually proven interest, whatever it is. Such cooperation requires minimal coordination and no planning or prior agreements. Essential to this form of collaboration is the ability of the collaborative system to keep detailed records of each contribution, no matter how minute it is. In Wikipedia, each page has a detailed history section, where all versions of an article since its inception can be viewed and compared. This not only makes it possible to identify people who contribute and thus creates accountability and the potential for sociality, but it also makes it possible to deal effectively with the risks of open collaboration. In the case of Wikipedia, one of the greatest risks is vandalism, the impact of which is minimized by the ability to simply revert to the previous version [21].

This is weak cooperation, based on weak social ties [22]. From that, some very few people might get interested in the project as a whole, and they start working less on their own article, but more on the administration of the system. In the process, they show, through their actions and the records these actions leave, to other administrators that they are committed, and based on that, they might become members of the core team, where weak cooperation slowly gives way to more conventional strong, that is planned, cooperation. In this context weak and strong cooperation complement each other, but the key is that one does not need to become a member and identify with the project as a whole in order to participate. But by exposing oneself, by showing what one cares about, in one’s own time and without payment, users offer themselves as trustworthy for collaboration [23]. Not all of them are interested in that, and the degree of collaboration varies vastly depending on the field of activity. In political blogs, collaboration, that is information sharing and interlinking, is very high [24]. Yet, even in relatively individualistic platforms, such as the photo–sharing site Flickr, about one in five people join some group of shared interest, that is, use some of the collaborative features offered by the site [25].

This offers an indication that people are quite interested in cooperation and sharing information — almost always information about themselves — but to a degree and in a pragmatic fashion. In most cases, commitments are limited and short–term, which, of course, does not mean people do not also make commitments that are much more comprehensive and long–term, but these are rare, for very obvious, pragmatic reasons. It is perhaps particularly this form of weak cooperation that makes people comfortable with making themselves public, assuming that the “public” is limited to the groups they collaborate with and to the narrow context in which they are making information available. All of this indicates that people take the construction of their own identity, and the world, to be a task that cannot be accomplished alone, yet that the big, comprehensive solutions traditionally offered by political parties, churches, etc. to this twin problem are no longer particularly attractive to the majority [26]. Rather, it is addressed through many limited, pragmatic interventions, reacting to ad hoc opportunities and challenges with a high degree of flexibility. Yet, the effects of such weak cooperation can very powerful. Wikipedia is quickly establishing itself has one of the most popular resources online. Free software, with its own peculiar mix of weak and strong cooperation, is providing the core of the Internet’s infrastructure, and the emerging translocal civil society is also relying on such patterns of collaboration (see below). Yochai Benkler goes as far as seeing here the emergence of a third mode of production, distinct from markets or firms, which he calls “commons–based peer production” [27].

From an organizational (not political!) point of view, these new forms of cooperation are best classified as anarchist, in that they are based on voluntary actions, self–motivation and mutual trust. They do not create property (in the sense of objects under the exclusive control of individual owners) but communal resources, available to all members of the community (e.g., everyone who accepts the values codified in an open license) according to their individual needs and abilities [28]. Politically, however, these projects are rarely revolutionary, but usually transformative. Often, as in the case of Wikipedia and open source software, they are supported by, and beneficial to, well–established, powerful actors. In other words, radical organizational change does not need to coincide directly with political change, hence the term “bourgeois anarchism”. There is no technological determinism here.

Yet, this expansion of civil society brought about by these new forms of collaboration not controlled by the state or captured fully by economic interests, has deep political repercussions. For the state, it presents a set of new challenges. First, it accelerates the erosion of the classic public sphere, so critical to the legitimacy of liberal democracy. Second, the state is challenged, both through peaceful means and through violence, by new actors that is has structural difficulties interacting with.

These new forms of communication, collaboration and constitution of society often create new types of publics, in the simple sense that people speak with one another in public about the things they care about, sharing information and forming opinions. Most of these publics are relatively specialized, as already mentioned, not primarily concerned with the public good — res publica — but with individual interests. Since people are part of more than one of these sub–spheres at the same time, and are moving between them, this does not mean the breakdown of social communication, as pessimistic accounts argue [29]. Nevertheless it adds to the crisis of those institutions that require a traditional public sphere to function. Compared with the immediacy and authenticity these new forms of cooperation seem to offer, partly because these limited, focused associations do not need to make difficult compromises, the discourse of the public sphere, particularly around politics, seems increasingly artificial and insincere. This is partly because of the corrosive effects of television–driven media politics, partly due to the fact that politicians need to make difficult compromises to gain majorities and thus offer overall solutions that cannot accommodate the high degree of particularity of the “mix–and–match” lives of many individuals [30]. Politics, and the public sphere around it, appears as the domain of cynics. This only deepens the crisis of the public sphere, which has been analyzed for the last 40 years in terms of the commercial capture of the media and the manipulation of discourse through professional PR [31]. While the public sphere as the discursive, and normative, anchoring of liberal democracy has been eroding for a long time and created a crisis of democracy relatively unrelated to the developments discussed here [32], what is historically new is that people are capable of creating their own “publics” on a local or translocal level. In other words, the old mode of political (mass) communication is not just becoming weaker, but is actively being challenged by a new one.

Perhaps the most unexpected challenge is in the area of international treaty making, the exclusive domain of nation states since the creation of the Westphalian system in the seventeenth century. Since most international treaties are highly specific and technical, mass media, driven by the need to address the broadest possible audience, rarely reported on them in a prominent fashion. Thus, even the negotiations which were legally public were de facto closed and the representatives of states were amongst themselves. Not anymore [33].

One of the new actors challenging the state in this once exclusive territory is the collaborative project (, which bills itself as “a collective effort to share information and stimulate cooperation against bilateral trade and investment agreements that are opening countries to the deepest forms of penetration by transnational corporations” [34]. Through collecting, aggregating and publishing critical information in real time, they create a public in order to challenge the state in an arena — international treaty making — that it has never been challenged in before. But who is One the one hand, some of the people who run the site can be identified with hyper–precision and they are easily accessible via e–mail. On the other hand, they are merely temporarily aggregating information generated by much larger networks, which are very hard to identify with any precision because they are built on open, weak cooperation. As they write “no one owns or controls, [but] a small group of people collaborate informally to keep the site going on a day to day basis.” [35] Yet, this loose organization has the capacity to analyze and digest very large amounts of information and thus create a critical public in an area where there has never been one before, even if the underlying information has, formally, always been public. By networking local and global actors, the organization is not just capable of creating a translocal public, but mobilizing people to take to the streets when state representatives meet and try to discuss the issues behind closed doors. is not an exception. There are thousands of groups like it, advocating the full range of imaginable demands.

What makes it hard for the state to interact with such organizations is not just the difficulty of identifying whose is really responsible. That problem can be solved. What makes it really difficult is that these organizations are not built on the principle of representation, but on the principle of weakly coordinated action. They stake their legitimacy not on formal membership, but on expertise, moral imperatives or informal public support. Here, people, by and large, speak for themselves or for their often very small organizations. They do so on behalf of very large constituencies (the “people”, the “global south”, “developing nations”), but they do not represent them, nor do they have any authority over them [36].

The state and its organizations have a highly developed capacity to deal with homologous organizations — those which are structurally similar to itself — with a small number of representatives with a formal mandate to speak on behalf of many people — such as unions or professional associations. Yet, it poses significant challenges to the state to interface with organizations that are structurally very different as described above. For one, there are simply too many of these networked organizations and taken together, their demands are often contradictory. They filter their demands not in a way that bureaucracies can easily recognize and address them. The lack of representation — which is so characteristic for these networked organizations based on weak cooperation — makes it dangerous for the state to interact with them because the state draws its very legitimization from representation. Thus, in a formal way, incorporating non–representative organizations further undermines the legitimacy of the liberal state.

One of the ways in which the state can react to this development is by trying to withhold certain types of information, thus preventing their being analysed and publicised by networked actors who most likely would be very critical of their actions [37]. The notion of “executive privilege” — that is the right of the government to act outside the realm of public scrutiny — is playing a key role in the governance of the current U.S. administration. But similar tendencies can be observed in Europe as well, which lead, as Saskia Sassen observes, to a general strengthening of the executive organs at the expense of the legislature tasked with overseeing them and interfacing with the public at large [38].

The key argument on which this expanded notion of the executive privilege is established is, of course, security, because weak cooperation — and the creation of new public spheres — is not the only “asymmetric” challenge. Terrorism is mounting, often using similar modes of organization, a very different, very serious challenge to the legitimacy of the state, namely its ability to provide security for its citizens. Noticing a certain, purely morphological similarity between some of the new civil society actors of civil society and some new forms of terrorism, military theorist John Robb has coined the term “open source insurgency” which he sees as equally based on a mix of strong (within cells) and weak (across cells) cooperation [39].

Since acts of terrorism, particularly if they involve the voluntary death of the terrorist himself/herself, cannot be affected by the threat of punishment after the fact, the focus shifts increasingly towards prevention, which involves finding patterns that indicate suspicious activities before such acts are carried out. Yet, since terrorist groups use the same means of communication and transportation as everyone else, surveillance must encompass the entire range of communications media, pushing deeper and deeper into the capillary systems of society [40].

This is made feasible by the fact that, on the level of the infrastructure, every transaction is creating a detailed record. These can be used to track the composition of society in real time in increasingly fine detail. Yet, the resulting visibility is strictly one way. Ordinary users have no way of accessing, or even validating, the knowledge the providers of the infrastructure have of them and have no way of knowing to whom this knowledge may be being made available. As an effect, within this new world of visibility and horizontality, new zones of invisibility and hierarchy are emerging, since this work is handled largely by corporations and secret services, both with limited oversight. These new partnerships enable the expansion of state surveillance — which, of course, is very keen to draw upon this very valuable information held by private companies. The EU, eagerly following the example of the U.S., has been enacting a string of new directives [41] so that communication and mobility data can be readily accessed and analyzed centrally by intelligence agencies.

This contributes to a context where the dissolution of privacy for citizens (both voluntary through self–publishing and involuntary through aggregation and data retention) coincides with the growing secrecy of administrative institutions, be they private or public. In terms of the state, Saskia Sassen speaks about “the executive’s privatizing its own power.” [42] This is, again, a long–term trend related to many different factors and there is, indeed, through numerous initiatives a growing degree of transparency, not just in terms of the amount of data available. Of key importance to this growth of transparency are the processes of real–time analysis and interpretation which are turning this data into politically relevant information; This is being achieved by the networked efforts of civil society, both through formal organizations, such as Transparency International, and examples of weak cooperation online, such as From the point of view of the state, there appears to be, again, an “excess of democracy” as the conservative scholar Samuel Huntington famously called the increased demands for recognition and participation voiced in the late 1960s and 1970s [43]. Today, “adversary intellectuals”, to use again Huntington’s term, are situated on the left and on the right, within and outside the Western discourse, and are armed with rapid publication tools, if not more physically dangerous weapons. Since they do not need to address large publics (as the mass media need to), they can focus in depth on the few issues that are of special interest to them and which have the power to mobilize their particular networks. For the managers of authority, this creates a lose–lose situation, which they address by retreating from the public as much as they can. Normatively, this is justified by stressing the demands of “security” against which the demands of civil liberties and democratic accountability are deemed to be secondary.

Expanded executive privileges, heightened blanket surveillance and state security machinery that increasingly blurs the distinction between the police and the military indicate the emergence of a new, authoritarian core of democratic states, even as the state seeks new forms of participation with citizens in other areas. In a seemingly contradictory development, authoritarianism at the core of the Western democracies is (re)emerging at the same time as the authoritarian personality, as analyzed by Adorno, is less dominant at the individual level [44].

The relationship between the expansion of civil society and rise of authoritarian democracies is intricate and contradictory. From the point of view of the state, it’s not just that transparency can be a nuisance and new forms of secrecy need to be installed. On the level of the patters of communication (which are collected by data retention, the content is discarded) there is very little difference between the new publics of civil society and the forms of organization created by actual terrorists. Thus, even if the data collection could be restricted to fighting the most extreme security threads it would necessarily push deep into the new forms of civil society cooperation.

None of this, of course, is single–handedly caused by new technologies empowering individuals, but I think that these technologies are accelerating and shaping these developments in their own ways, as I have outlined them. The overall effects on the relationship between the civil society and the state are decidedly mixed. The ability to meet strangers and start meaningful exchanges and cooperation is sharply expanding. We may be entering a golden age of voluntary associations, what I called bourgeois anarchism. Yet, at the same time, the ability of these new publics to function as a counterweight to political power cannot (yet?) compensate, despite hopeful incidents [45], for the emptying out of the old public sphere. It is the very emergence of these new publics that contributes to the growing secrecy of some very important elements of the state. Thus, we can witness the flowering of free cooperation taking a situation marked by the emergence of a renewed authoritarianism emerging at the core of Western, liberal democracies.

About the author
Felix Stalder is a researcher and activists in the field of social implications of ICTS. He teaches media economy at the Academy of Art and Design, Zurich and is a co–founder of, an open source R&D firm headquartered in Toronto.
This article is a revised version of paper published first in Italian in the journal Millepiani.

1. I take civil society to be “the arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values” as the Centre for Civil Society at the London School of Economic defines it. See

2. Tim O’Reilly, 2005. “What is Web 2.0?” (30 September), at

3. “Web 2.0: Meet venture capital,” Technology Review (19 October 2005), at Almost all of the most well–known Web 2.0 platforms, such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Flickr, and most blogging companies, were founded well after the turn of the millennium.

4. Lawrence Lessig speaks in this context about the “read/write” society enabled by digital media, contrasting to the read–only society dominated by traditional mass media. Lawrence Lessig, 2006. “The read/write society,” Keynote at WOS4 (15 September), at

5. Merrit Roe Smith and Leo Marx (editors), 1994. Does technology drive history? The dilemma of technological determinism. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

6. Pew Internet and American Life Project, 2007. “A typology of information and communication technology users,” at

7. Anthony Giddens, 1991. Modernity and self–identity: Self and society in the late modern age. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.

8. William H. Whyte, 2002. The organization man. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

9. Herbert Marcuse, 1964. One–dimensional man: Studies in the ideology of advanced industrial society. Boston: Beacon Press.

10. Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, 2002. “The new spirit of capitalism,” paper presented to the Conference of Europeanists (14–16 March), at

11. “Be Creative! Der Kreative Imperativ,” Exhibition at Museum für Gestaltung, Zürich (30 November 2002–2 March 2003), at

12. Simon Lumson, 2002. “Deleuze, Hegel and the transformation of subjectivity,” Philosophical Forum, volume 33, number 2, pp. 143–158.

13. Barry Wellman, 2001. “Physical place and cyberplace: The rise of personalized networking,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, volume 25, number 2, pp. 227–252; see also Manuel Castells, 2001. Internet galaxy: Reflections on the Internet, business, and society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

14. Kristóf Nyíri, 2005. “The networked mind,” Talk given at the workshop “The mediated mind — Rethinking representation” (27–28 May), London Knowledge Lab, Institute of Education, University of London, at

15. Robin Dunbar, 2003. “The social brain: Mind, language, and society in evolutionary perspective,” Annual Review of Anthropology, volume 32, pp. 163–181.

16. Gabriel de Tarde, 1962. The laws of imitation. Translated from the second French edition by Elsie Clews Parsons. Gloucester, Mass.: P. Smith.

17. For an introduction these aspects of Tarde’s thinking, see Maurizio Lazzarato, 2004. “European cultural tradition and the new forms of production and circulation of knowledge,” Multitudes: une revue trimestrielle, politique, artistique et culturelle (16 January), at

18. Jean Baudrillard, 1988. The ecstasy of communication. Translated by Bernard and Caroline Schutze. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Autonomedia.

19. Marshall McLuhan, 1964. Understanding media: The extensions of man. New York: McGraw–Hill.

20. Christophe Aguiton and Dominique Cardon, 2007. “The strength of weak cooperation: An attempt to understand the meaning of Web 2.0,” International Journal of Digital Economics, volume 65, pp. 51–65.

21. Wikipedia is far from perfect and still under active development. All attempts to improve its many shortcomings involve more, rather than less reliance on its internal records. See, for example, the project WikiScanner, which tries to connect technical IP addresses, logged for each entry, to social organizations in order to increase transparency; see

22. The concept of “weak social ties” was developed by Mark Granovetter, who recognized that people received essential information (while looking for jobs) often from casual acquaintances (with whom they are connected by weak ties), rather than from close friends (with whom they share strong ties); see Mark Granovetter, 1973. “The strength of weak ties,” American Journal of Sociology, volume 78, number 6, pp. 1360–1380.

23. It is, perhaps, this need to expose one self, and the greater risk this still entails to women, that explains the gender imbalance in this area.

24. Yochai Benkler, 2006. The wealth of networks: How social production transforms markets and freedom. Mew Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, pp. 212–272.

25. Aguiton and Cardon, op.cit.

26. This does, of course, not preclude a minority from reacting to this challenge by turning to fundamentalism. See Manuel Castells, 2004. The power of identity, The information age: Economy, society and culture, Volume II. Second edition. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell.

27. Yochai Benkler, 2002. “Coase’s penguin, or, Linux and the nature of the firm,” Yale Law Journal, number 112, and at

28. Eben Moglen, 1999. “Anarchism triumphant: Free software and the death of copyright,” First Monday, volume 4, number 8, at

29. See, for example, Andrew L. Shapiro, 1999. The control revolution: How the Internet is putting individuals in charge and changing the world we know. New York: PublicAffairs.

30. Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim, 1994. Riskante freiheiten: Individualisierung in modernen gesellschaften. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

31. Jürgen Habermas, 1989. The structural transformation of the public sphere: An inquiry into a category of bourgeois society. Translated by Thomas Burger with the assistance of Frederick Lawrence. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press; Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, 2002. Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media. New York: Pantheon Books.

32. See Manuel Castells, 2004. The power of identity.

33. Robert O. Keohane, 2002. Power and governance in a partially globalized world. London: Routledge.

34. See

35. Quoted after “Update from” (1 September 2006), at

36. Alan Hudson, 2001. “NGOs’ transnational advocacy networks: From ‘legitimacy’ to ‘political responsibility’,” Global Networks, volume 1, number 4, pp. 331–352.

37. This occurs at the same time as the state, in other areas and usually on a local level, seeks new ways to interface with the citizenry, through citizen panels, public consultations, and similar measures of voluntary engagement.

38. Saskia Sassen, 2006. Territory, authority, rights: From medieval to global assemblages. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

39. John Robb, 2007. Brave new war: The next stage of terrorism and the end of globalization. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley.

40. David Lyon, 2003. Surveillance after September 11. Cambridge: Polity Press.

41. For a critical analysis, see

42. Saskia Sassen, 2006. Territory, authority, rights, pp 179–184.

43. Michel Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington, and Joji Watanuki, 1975. The crisis of democracy: Report on the governability of democracies to the Trilateral Commission. New York: New York University Press, and at

44. See Brian Holmes, 2002. “The flexible personality, parts I & II,” at

45. Yochai Benkler, 2006. The Wealth of Networks, pp. 212–272.

Editorial history
Paper received 30 December 2007; accepted 16 June 2008.
Copyright © 2008, First Monday.
Copyright © 2008, Felix Stalder.”

Pretty lazy of me, and I have only read part of it myself. It is pretty self evident, most of what he says. But then I guess that is what we need.
I finished reading it a day later and it reaffirms my own statements that we are entering a society in which surveillance is total. In other words everything that we utter is now on record somewhere and is accessable to some government agency if not immediately, easily with a court order. I have for years acted on this basis that everything and anything I say or do can be used against me, if not in a court of law, then by the secret hand of the state, or by a private corporate entity that has enough concern with anything I say or do to bother with me.
Rather than silencing me, it has simply allowed me to become fatalistic about an eventual interrogation in a room with a lamp by some thugs and their handlers. The fact that is hasn’t happened means that I am simply not important enough to bother with, or there is some other proviso that is keeping me free, at least free in the sense that I can move about from day to day without having to ask permission. I am as free as the average house slave in the time of the Roman Empire, allowed to move about performing chores for my masters, in this case they are called employers or the state and private employers and as long as I show up when I am expected, nobody is checking too closely on what I do moment to moment. That does not make me a free-man, it only makes me freer than a person who is in shackles or in a prison with obvious bars. A free man gets up in the morning and may do what he may until he or she falls asleep again at which time the subconscious mind takes over and who knows if that is free or not?

Media’s Right Wing Bias. Anarchist Analysis Of Economic Collapse.

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

I was perusing the internet and read a posting from Alternet that sums up my own feelings about the way that the Mainstream Media has covered the events around the Health Care protests vs. the way they covered the Anti-War protests. I wrote about this a week or two ago. Now Eric Boehlert has confirmed my own thoughts. This is an excerpt from his article.

“Why Do Angry, Right-Wing Mobs Get Media Respect?

By Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America. Posted August 25, 2009.

I guess Howard Dean was just ahead of his time.
When the liberal anti-war candidate ran for the White House in 2003 and 2004, the Beltway press was uniformly clear that Dean had an “anger” issue. When Dean launched his campaign and gave voice to the hundreds of thousands of activists who had marched and protested against the Iraq war, the media elites did not approve.
As early as June 2003, The New York Times was fretting over whether Dean’s “angry message” could be his downfall. “All the Rage,” read a Newsweek headline on a Dean profile.
Bad luck for Dean, because back during the Bush years, there was really no worse crime, at least in the eyes of the Beltway press, than being “angry.” (Especially being an angry Democrat.) It was practically a deal breaker. Serious people simply didn’t conduct themselves that way in American politics. They didn’t let their runaway partisan emotions get the best of them.
But oh my, how times have changed! Suddenly this summer, as right-wing mini-mobs turn health care forums into free-for-alls, as unhinged political rage flows in the streets, and as the Nazi and Hitler rhetoric flies, anger is in. Suddenly anger is good. It’s authentic. It’s newsworthy. Reading and watching the mini-mob news coverage, the media message seems clear: Angry speaks to the masses.
And make no mistake, the health care mini-mobs have been showered with a massive amount of media coverage. During the week of August 10-16, the topic of health care, and specifically the politics and the protests of health care, accounted for a staggering 62 percent of all cable news coverage, according to the Pew Research Center’s weekly survey. My guess is that you would be hard-pressed to find a single week during the run-up to the Iraq war when liberal anti-war protests accounted for just 6 percent of the cable news coverage.
Bottom line: Liberal protesters don’t tell us anything about the mood of America. But angry right-wingers do, according to the press.
Now, please compare that defining media elite principle from the Bush era to the mini-mobs and the ugly free-for-alls they unleashed this summer. Judging based on the insight into the Beltway media’s mentality that Ambinder provided, the press dismissed Bush’s liberal critics because they were too emotional, too full of “hatred,” and not paying attention to the facts. You mean sort of like the anti-Obama mini-mob members who hang politicians in effigy, turn town hall forums into fact-free shriek-fests, arrive with loaded guns, wave swastika posters, and yell out “Heil Hitler”?
Sometimes it’s a bit hard to remember just how nutty the world was in those post-9/11 days. Suggesting that Bush was using the terror alert for political purposes would have made you a crazy person, the mere suggestion of it would’ve put you outside the bounds of acceptable discourse.
Sort of like suggesting today that the federal government might soon be in the business of selectively killing the elderly, right? Think again. High-profile conservatives who pushed the “death panel” nonsense, which fired up the mini-mobs, have not been shoved to the sidelines. Instead, they’ve been politely fact-checked on occasion.
Media to liberal war protesters: Go away!
For instance, in October 2002, when more than 100,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C., to oppose the war, The Washington Post put the story not on the front page, but in the Metro section with, as the paper’s ombudsman later lamented, “a couple of ho-hum photographs that captured the protest’s fringe elements.”
For that same 2002 anti-war rally, The New York Times also bungled its reporting. The day after the event, the newspaper published a small article on Page 8, which was accompanied by a photo that was larger than the article itself. And in the article, the Times falsely reported that “fewer people attended than organizers had said they hoped for.”
And remember how some in the mainstream press in 2005 treated anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey had been killed while serving in Iraq? An op-ed writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution claimed that “Cindy Sheehan evidently thinks little of her deceased son.” The piece also attacked her as being “disgraceful” and her actions as “near-treasonous.”
On September 24, 2005, Sheehan helped lead a massive anti-war rally in Washington, D.C., which drew between 100,000 and 200,000 participants, making it the largest U.S. demonstration since the war began. As part of the protest weekend, Sheehan, along with about 370 anti-war protesters, got herself arrested outside the White House. That night, NBC’s Nightly News completely ignored the arrests. (The Post gave the story 600 words on B1.) The evening newscasts on ABC and CBS mentioned the arrests only briefly, and CBS downplayed the numbers involved. It reported that Sheehan was arrested along with “dozens” of others. (What? As in 31 dozen?) And the next morning, ignoring the fact that nearly 400 people chose to be arrested in order to protest the war, CNN reported that “Sheehan and several others were arrested” [emphasis added].”

You tell me is the media biased or are anti war protesters inherently boring and right wing nut protests are really the real Americans? You tell me?

I got an anarchist economic analysis of the recent crisis in the world economy. This is it and my comments on it.
“Britain, Anarchist journal Direct Action #47 - A contradiction at the heart of Chaos: Regulation of global financial markets to solve boom and bust is a non-starter
A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
By, For, and About Anarchists
Send news reports to A-infos-en mailing list
Date: August 26, 2009 11:03:06 PM PDT
To: en
Subject: (en) Britain, Anarchist journal Direct Action #47 - A contradiction at the heart of Chaos: Regulation of global financial markets to solve boom and bust is a non-starter

It appears the world’s governments have stopped capitalism going into total meltdown. But even if it recovers the cost of saving it will be massive and we, the working class, will pay for years to come through job losses, cuts in pay and reductions in public services. Nor is that our only worry. There is every likelihood capitalism will nose dive back into recession at some future point. — The current crisis is portrayed as the fault of greedy bankers, just as the “dot com crisis” was portrayed as the fault of greedy investors.
However, the failure is a symptom of a deeper problem in a system that has become more volatile and prone to crisis in the last 30 years. If the problem can’t be fixed, it is only a matter of time before another crisis. All governments seem aware of this and seem to accept the world economy cannot continue staggering from one debt induced crisis to the next. There’s also broad consensus that the markets cannot be left to their own devices and that the solution is greater regulation. But here lie the problems. Capital-ism is a global system, so avoiding instability requires proper international financial management and a common currency. However, the world’s nation states are anxious to protect their own interests which often run counter to those of global capitalism. Britain is a good example; its economy is heavily dependent on the financial sector, itself heavily dependent on deregulated international financial markets. So the UK government, acting in the interests of the financial sector, will resist any meaningful international regulation
This contradiction isn’t new though. It’s one reason why capitalism is so unstable and why there’s never been sustainable international financial management. Indeed, one of the most stable periods of capitalism, the post world war two boom, only came about partly because the dominance of the USA allowed it to impose global financial regulation. A system of fixed exchange rates, the Bretton Woods system, made the US dollar a de facto global currency. All world trade was denoted in dollars, so each country had to buy dollars in order to trade. As US economic power waned it became harder to defend the price of the dollar. In 1973 it was floated on the international money markets and Bretton Woods collapsed.
The roots of the current crisis lie in this collapse as it opened the way for greater currency speculation. After all, you can’t bet on fluctuations in currency prices if those prices are fixed. Currency trading increased dramatically leading to today’s situation with vast sums of money constantly moving between currencies chasing ever higher returns. The collapse of Bretton Woods had other effects. Companies trading internationally had to operate with currency fluctuations which could wipe out profits. Desperately they turned to derivatives as a means to “hedge” against future currency fluctuations. In effect, they could trade safe in the knowledge that they were insured against profits being eaten up by future currency movements. The problem with derivatives was that they allowed speculators to bet on future currency fluctuations. Soon the money made from currency futures led to new forms of derivatives. The launch in 1973 of a formula allowing speculators to bet on the future prices of assets was followed in 1975 by trading in interest rate futures. Under Bretton Woods trade in derivatives was almost non-existent; by 2006 the global trade had reached a staggering $700 trillion per year. So the collapse of Bretton Woods led to today’s casino culture, a culture that dominates world financial markets, but one that is only a symptom of capitalism’s slack international regulation. Yet, when they talk of more regulation, politicians confine themselves only to dealing with the system rather than with the cause. This is precisely because they know that any attempt to set up a common international regulatory system would soon fall foul of the competing needs of national governments.
Attempts to regulate the derivatives trade proves the point. Just about everyone agrees that the way they are traded is crazy, yet nothing is ever done about it. As mentioned, this trade insures companies against future risk, otherwise they couldn’t operate. So how do you regulate against speculators without damaging companies’ ability to trade? You can’t. The real solution would be to regulate the risk out of the system. For example, a fixed exchange rate system would mean there’s no need for companies to trade in financial derivatives.
There’s another obstacle to any meaningful regulation – the rise of China. The Chinese state exploits its workers to produce vast amounts of cheap exports. It then lends huge sums of money to the west, particularly to the USA and Britain, to buy these goods. Cheap Chinese imports have helped hold down inflation in the west, which in turn has kept interest rates low. On top of this, these low interest rates coupled with the loans from China have kept the price of credit down. And it was the availability of this cheap credit that caused the speculative bubble that brought on the current crisis.
Logic dictates that measures be taken to prevent this happening again. But it is in the national interests of both China and the USA that business as usual is restored as soon as possible. So they will both resist any international regulation that limits the flow of global credit. More regulation, then, is not the easy solution it seems. Tough regulation of global financial markets would mean countries putting aside national interests for the greater good of the world economy. And that’s not about to happen. The only possibility would be for a country to achieve the economic and military power to impose it, as the USA did after world war two. But even this would only be temporary and, in any case, is unlikely in the foreseeable future.
What will happen, then? There’s still a chance the current measures to rescue national financial systems will fail and the world will slide into a long, deep depression. However, what seems more likely is that the massive injection of public funds will slowly pull the global economy out of recession. This will be followed by a prolonged period of public spending cuts as the money borrowed is paid back. However, as public spending is scaled back, the pressure will be on to boost private consumption to fill the gap. At this point all talk of regulation will increasingly be seen for what it is – just talk. In the absence of meaningful regulation it’s likely that the credit tap will be opened again to fund consumer spending, in turn fuelling debt, in turn leading to a speculative bubble and in the long run ending in the tears of another financial crisis.
What can we do as workers? Well, we need to forget about placing our faith in regulation, in politicians or, for that matter, in getting worker directors on to the boards of nationalised banks, as some on the left advocate. Such approaches won’t work. The instability stems from the contradiction between the interests of capitalism as a global system and the interests of nation states. This could only be overcome if nation states were to disappear – don’t hold your breath on that one. We also have to recognise that the period of social democratic consensus, based on the idea of full employment and economic stability, has gone. Capitalism, due to its many contradictions, is returning to type – a system prone to boom and bust with all of the consequences that this holds for the working class. In the short term we have to fight for every job and against every threat to cut pay and public services. This day to day struggle has to be linked to the idea of defeating capitalism and replacing it with a system based on workers’ control and human liberation.
Make capitalism history”

This is my comment.
Not a bad analysis. I am not so sure that Breton Woods was the gold standard for capitalist stability and currency speculation is only part of the picture. This analysis doesn’t provide any evidence to back up its theories and therefore it is as good I guess as any other theory.
It makes a pretty bold statement that Capitalism needs to get rid of the nation state to solve the problem of instability.
“The instability stems from the contradiction between the interests of capitalism as a global system and the interests of nation states. This could only be overcome if nation states were to disappear – don’t hold your breath on that one.”
I don’t exactly get the connection here. As much as I would like to believe getting rid of the state will solve all our problems. I simply don’t buy it. Most Anarchist analysis seems to be Marxist economics with a little bit of “Small is Beautiful” rhetoric thrown in.
The problem to me is one of complex systems needing sophisticated analysis. With computer modeling we now may be able to replace the immediacy of the marketplace in providing a mechanism to indicate to the manufacturing sector what the requirements of the consumer sector are.
It is obvious that a bureaucrat couldn’t do it and I don’t thing an anarchist committee could do it any better. The anarchist might suggest that by getting rid of the state people could express their desires and magically they would come true.
Libertarians simply believe in the invisible hand of the market. They think distortions come from the state and it seems that is what this author is saying. But I am assuming this is a traditional anarchist perspective, in which one would expect some kind of collective solution.
What mechanism does the author suggest? Coops? A free market in which some are in coops and some are in a capitalist system might be an alternative as long as there was no inherent bias in the direction of one or the other. But my belief is that complex systems like states evolve as a response to the needs of people.
If Capitalism is to superseded it has to be replaced with something that satisfies human needs and desires better than capitalism not something that is a step back into a semi primitive state. That can only happen as the result of collapse of complexity, as in a plague or massive war.
That lack of an answer was what I saw happening at the last Anarchist Conference I went to in the Bay Area. Primitivism was at the height of its popularity, or so it seemed.
Where is the Anarchist version of Marx? Or even Bernanke? It isn’t “Post Scarcity Anarchism”. I certainly don’t get that from this article that anarchists have a solution. People want change and they want options. I don’t see that here. As the Beatles said a long time ago “You Say you want a Revolution, well we would love to see the plan.”

Ted Kennedy Dead, Nader Criticizes Obama. Honduras Gets Worse.

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Ted Kennedy is dead and with him ends the classic American liberal tradition of noblesse oblige. From now on folks we are on our own. The rest of the political crew are either enemies, allies or hacks. Kennedy stood for the best that liberalism had to offer with its minimum wage laws and police state surveillance. He failed to give us what he really wanted to give us, Universal health care and if there is any respect for his legacy in the Senate they should pass the health care bill. Obama has lost his best freind in the Senate.

Ralph Nader speaks. I walked out on a fundraiser he was doing last year in Denver, not because I was pissed with him, but because I had to go pick up the Bozo Aron Kay, a Yippie comrade who needed a ride, but then it turned out that he didn’t and I drove all the way from Denver University to downtown Denver only to discover he had another ride. Damn Yippies.
This is what Ralph has to say about health care.

“Published on Monday, August 24, 2009
Between the Rhetoric and the Reality
by Ralph Nader

The Obama White House—full of supposedly smart political advisers led by the President of the “Change You Can Believe In” campaign movement of 2008—is in disarray. Worse, multiple, confusing varieties of disarray provoking public confusion, internal Democratic Party strife, and the slow withdrawal of belief in Mr. Obama by his strongest supporters around the country.
Two of his most steadfast supporters in the media—columnists Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert of the New York Times—are wondering about Mr. Obama’s plans. Krugman repeated his fellow Sunday Times essayist Frank Rich’s observation who wrote about Obama “punking” his supporters with his waffling, reversals and frequent astonishing adoption of Bush’s worst corporatist and military policies.
While Bob Herbert, taking to task his political hero for waffling and vagueness regarding health care, issued this reluctant appraisal:
“I hear almost daily from men and women who voted enthusiastically for Mr. Obama but are feeling disappointed. They feel that the banks made out like bandits in the bailouts, and that the health care initiative could become a boondoggle. Their biggest worry is that Mr. Obama is soft, that he is unwilling or incapable of fighting hard enough to counter the forces responsible for the sorry state the country is in.”
There has rarely been a more auspicious time for a transforming Presidential leadership. Disgraced corporate capitalism has shattered the economy. The living conditions of millions of workers and pensioners whose taxes were taken to bail out these Wall Street crooks and gamblers are dismal.
Rather than expressing remorse, the arrogant corporate lobbyists are working over Congress with ferocious demands, fueled by cash-register politics and paid Astroturf rallies back in the Congressional Districts.
The giant corporations and their trade lobbies want no real health insurance reform that will reduce their monopolies and profiteering. They want no renewable and energy efficient standards interfering with their massive waste, pollution and inefficiency. They want no reductions in the bloated military budget surrounded by the waste, fraud and abuse of what President Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex” in his farewell warning to the American people.
The corporate supremacists want no changes in the deliberately complex and obscure tax laws favoring the corporate evaders and avoiders and the tax havens for the super-wealthy.
In short, the global corporations want Washington, D.C.; to continue being their massive deregulator and cash cow perpetuating the abandoning of American workers, the pillaging of the American taxpayer and the defrauding of the American consumer.
Forget about corporate law and order to restrain the corporate crime wave. The harmony, bipartisan President Obama and his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, have outsmarted themselves. What worked to defeat Hillary Clinton last year has succeeded in splitting the Congressional Democrats into progressives, corporate liberals and Blue Dog Conservatives Republicans can scarcely believe their luck and are busy exploiting these schisms.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, the number two House Democrat, undermines his Speaker, Nancy Pelosi’s “public option” plan for health insurance. Senator Max Baucus—a closet Republican masquerading as the Democratic Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, is working hand-in-glove with right-wing Republicans and the White House to craft a weak “bi-partisan” bill that keeps getting weaker as the corporatist Republicans sniff increasing weakness in the White House.
Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, the more progressive legislators are accusing their former colleague, Committee Chair, Henry Waxman of selling out to the defiant Blue Dog Democrats on his Committee. While Mr. Waxman himself has to be worried that even his compromised “public option” (which Democrats should be calling “public choice”) will be derailed by the bill that the Baucus/Grassley/Obama axis will soon reveal in the Senate.
The Obama voters do not know what they are supposed to support. Obama never did identify with a clear health insurance proposal—not to mention the single payer approach (full Medicare for all) he says he would favor if he was “starting from scratch.” There has been nothing upstanding for his supporters around the country to rally around.
It is sad to say that all this could have been predicted by Obama’s political record as an Illinois and U.S. Senator. He rarely has taken a stand and fought against his adversaries. Even after he cuts a deal with them, they continue to undermine his agenda.
Once again, Bob Herbert senses the disturbing trend: “More and more the president is being seen by his own supporters as someone who would like to please everybody, who is naïve about the prospects for bipartisanship, who believes that his strongest supporters will stay with him because they have nowhere else to go, and who will retreat whenever the Republicans and the corporate crowd come after him.”
Mr. Herbert can speak from authority. He has written many columns over the past 18 months reflecting that “nowhere else to go” attitude. If he is going off the bandwagon, more will follow. Mr. Obama better wake up and pay attention to his base before they either have somewhere else to go or simply stay home. It happened to Clinton in 1994.’

Apparently things are getting worse in Honduras as the coup leaders torture and rape opponents and the Obama administration ignores the human rights abuses just like every other American administration. When it comes to Central America, those countries are left to the dictators and the Marines. There is an open letter published in CounterPunch asking Human Rights Watch why it is silent about Honduras. This is an excerpt.

“Open Letter to Kenneth Roth
Why has Human Rights Watch Fallen Silent on Honduras?
August 21, 2009

Kenneth Roth
Executive Director
Human Rights Watch

Dear Mr. Roth,

We are deeply concerned by the absence of statements and reports from your organization over the serious and systematic human rights abuses that have been committed under the Honduran coup regime over the past six weeks. It is disappointing to see that in the weeks since July 8, when Human Rights Watch issued its most recent press release on Honduras, that it has not raised the alarm over the extra-judicial killings, arbitrary detentions, physical assaults, and attacks on the press – many of which have been thoroughly documented - that have occurred in Honduras, in most cases by the coup regime against the supporters of the democratic and constitutional government of Manuel Zelaya. We call on your organization to fulfill your important role as a guardian of universal human rights and condemn, strongly and forcefully, the ongoing abuses being committed by the illegal regime in Honduras. We also ask that you conduct your own investigation of these crimes.
While Human Rights Watch was quick to condemn the illegal coup d’etat of June 28 and the human rights violations that occurred over the following week, which helped shine the spotlight of international media on these abuses, the absence of statements from your organization since the week following the coup has contributed to the failure of international media to report on subsequent abuses.”

Yesterday I did a rant tonight I am resting. Nothing much has changed, with Kennedy out of the picture the Democrats lose their chance to break a filibuster. I hope they go for the majority vote option and give us something. Write to your Congress persons insist upon health care reform now.

Breaking The Spell In A Hypnotised World. Charmed By Bourgeois Dreams & Reactionary Nightmares.

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

The problem is that the people who listen to the right wing ideologies won’t listen to reason. I think the surrealists had a better grasp on reality. People live in a world of images that were created in their childhood. The more you try to convince them of your version of reality the more they will run to reinforcing illusions. The better you are at reinforcing the delusion the more valid and justified you will seem.
Was it always like this? I don’t think so. I remember people being much more social. There was a time when people communicated in person and not just on the internet. We used to be able to hitchhike across the country without fear and only worrying about the occasional cop telling you to get off the freeway. One person could support an entire family on one job, an 8 hour a day job. No problem. You could go to school on a Pell grant and a small student loan.
The world wasn’t perfect, but we felt like we were moving in a direction. The Nixon regime showed us that we were not entirely right. But Watergate showed us that there was justice.
But how did we get from the world that was moving to a world of peace love and happiness into one where we have such a fearful fragmented nation. What happened to all those flower children and idealists?
Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s we thought we were making progress to a revolutionary new world. Then in the 1980’s a different vision was imposed on us. The foreshadowing that Nixon represented became the reality of Reagan. Some people thought it would be ok. I remember listening to Ben Masel saying that he thought if Reagan was elected president it would be good for us because it would show people how close we were to fascism and that it would result in a revolution. People were going around advocating nobody for president and I was so enamoured with the revolutionary process that I didn’t care who won. I simply thought we would be moving into a revolutionary situation soon.
But what happened was unexpected to us all, there was a cultural shift to the right. At first it was simply a propaganda trick. People were dissatisfied with the inflation and the doom and gloom talk of Carter. He was prophesying a need for conservation, alternative energy and he failed in his attempts to free the hostages in Iran.
Reagan came along with his Morning in America, spoke of making America strong again. He spent money on the military and starting with Grenada began a foreign policy of attacking targets where we couldn’t possibly lose. The Soviet Union was rolled up as the evil empire and we were told we had to attack it. Money went to defense, more and more money went to the military. Although he was surprised by the Iranians in Lebanon with the first real truck bomb experience of a suicide bomber when 300 marines were killed in their barracks and the Congress let him swing with the Contras for a few months.
Reagan showed them that he wasn’t fooling. He told Gorbachev to tear down that wall and threatened a star wars if he didn’t. Gorbachev couldn’t keep up with that mad man from California. Reagan let the CIA use drug money from Colombian Cocaine to fund his war against the Sandinistas. He sent agents to Iran with a birthday cake and missiles for their war against Iraq, if they would help him against the communists. This was after they killed the marines. Reagan was deadly serious. Reagan supported death squads from Argentina going to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to show the rulers how to get tough with leftists. Bush Senior had to clean up the last remnant of that messy business when he shut down Norieaga, his drug courier of a few years prior.
Reagan stood tall and broke the Air Traffic Controllers strike by firing them all. He tricked the Teamsters into backing him. There was a whole generation of Regan Democrats, all of a sudden white males were no longer affraid to be sexist, to express outlandish neanderthalish views. A culture of greed emerged. People were encouraged to consume, to emulate the masters of the universe, Wall Street became a role model. All of a sudden we really had Reagan Youth and they were not all anarchist punk rockers, they were believers in the dream that rugged individualism, returning to so called real American values of an imagined 1950’s would take us back to a better more innocent world. The liberals with a celebration of expensive drugs like cocaine, began to indulge their own version of material excess. The whole culture became cynical and it was no wonder that a conservative back lash of the working people emerged.
The hippies had decided to make it rich, and the religious right took the moral high ground and began to preach an anti decadence line that was popular to the American family man who felt threatened by the left now a festering pit of interest groups intent on gay rights and free abortions. The working man felt that the unions were not helping, Reagan broke them and told the workers to trust the company bosses, not the corrupt union bosses. A variation on Ayn Rand-ism became the ideal with Gordon Gekko leading the charge saying “Greed Is Good”.
Where could they turn, to the mega church of the fundamentalists. That was where the honest working man turned. There would be the preachers saying work hard, stick to the nuclear family, follow the 10 commandments and you will prosper. And some people did, for a while there was a trickle down effect. Double digit inflation disappeared there was a new stock market bubble and the mid eighties were good enough to get Reagan reelected.
Meanwhile changes were happening in the government. Welfare was cut back. Low income housing was cut back and all of a sudden we had homeless people. The media no longer had a fairness doctrine and right wing radio jocks took over the air waves promoting the most heinous racist crap and calling it free speech. Crack cocaine became an epidemic in the cities. I can remember going up to Harlem on some nights in the late 1980’s and it seemed like the entire 125th Street area was smoking rock. People were walking around like zombies.
The culture of resistance was becoming decimated with hard drugs, yuppies were moving into the inner cities where we lived in low rent neighborhoods and the poor, elderly and alternative types were chased out. We were forced to get jobs, became depressed and took hard drugs. Those who resisted became more and more a minority, a subculture in a main stream that was moving in some completely different direction.
So what is my point. It is that there has been a complete shift in reality since the late 1970’s. The country went from a land of people who were building a better world of peace love and happiness into a world of paranoid fanaticism where minds have been closed tightly in self defense because of the invasion of peoples minds by the manipulation of the advertising industry.
There are two streams of reality in this country. There are those who keep hope alive. The Rainbow coalition people, and there are those who want to see the fundamentalist reality become a reality. I see a hijacking of a culture. It is a combination of market capitalism and the advertising industry invading every aspect of our lives with the advent of cell phones and personal computers. We now have the technology to personalize the selling of products to each and every person. We live in a totaly marketed world. People no longer have a factual reality. The education system is battling with the advertising and infotainment industry for the mind of Americans. Most people have a very short attention span. a poor grasp of history and an even vaguer one of geography. Because social studies has become a field in which people are not taught the basics anymore many people have only the vaguest notion of what they are doing here and where they came from in an ontological sense.
History may or may not be progressing in the Marxist sense to a culmination. There may only be a cycle that repeats as Toynbee projected. Personally I see a battle of cultural values being projected on the consciousness of the world and for the last 30 years we have been subjected to a paranoid vision of greed and addiction that a Gollum would be a more appropriate example.
Will we be able to wake up from this nightmarish scenario? Will we awaken from our own Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie? Hard to say. But we have to keep projecting the truth as we understand it so that perhaps the sleeping beauties all around us will awaken to the reality of a world in need of some relief. Does anyone else out there remember how the dream was murdered while we slept fitfully through the 1980’s. It was a nightmare decade for me.

America-Torturers Paradise, War Crimes Investigations Or National Health Care Which Do Republicans Want?

Monday, August 24th, 2009

The CIA report has been released and the word is out. Attorney General Holder said that investigations would be opened in specific cases. Torturers went over the line. The went beyond the nod and a wink standards of the Bush administration. Victims of the CIA torture had their lives threatened with a power drill, guns, had to watch while their mothers were violated and their children were threatened with execution.
With the numerous killings of innocent civilians by Drones and strikes by attack aircraft, that is no idle threat. Hundreds of thousands of women and children have been murdered by the US military. Accidentally for the most part, but it happens almost daily.
There is nothing new about this report. It is 5 years old. Republicans dismissed all accusations of torture when they ran the Attorney Generals office. But now the Democrats have decided to take the gloves off and start to hit back after the Republicans played dirty over the last few weeks. So we will get investigations and the more Republicans obstruct the health plan, the more these investigations will dig up dirt on supporters of torture in the last administration. Cheney wants to make us all think he did the right thing with his torture policy, well now we all will get to see some of the facts. Not all, at least half of the data has been redacted, the really nasty stuff. Once the Republicans realize that they could be facing some serious jail time, then we should expect this opposition to the Health Plan to dwindle.
The next step is a tribunal for those responcible for the financial collapse. Now there we have a lot of fish to fry. We need a little blood letting in Washington. Letting these crooks get off without even a slap on the wrist gives rise to impunity. The progressive Democrats need to grow some balls and do more than sign a few letters. What we need is prosecutions and I mean real prosecutions with real jail time for these crooks. We work our asses off and watch our savings disappear in a puff of smoke and we are told that is the way the ball bounces! Bullshit!! We are not a nation of multimillionaires and we can’t lose a couple of million without sweating. Most of us don’t have a couple of million. Many of us barely have anything beyond our next paycheck.
Chris Dodd was making some noise in the Senate and Barney Frank in the House has rumbled on about getting a little justice. I say we demand it. We should not let the people who listen to Rush Limbaugh get the better of us. He is a shill for industry. He is their puppet and he does what his advertisers and handlers tell him to do. We the people need to use our brains to think about what is happening in this country. We elected a majority of Democrats to make some changes. Now we have to force them to get out there and get off their butts and make the changes we voted them in for.
We want Health care reform with universal care. It would be easy to offer Medicare for all.
We want an end to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We need to pull troops out of the rest of the world.
We want Economic Reform and I mean real reform with money invested in alternative energy and transportation.
Regulate Wall Street. Regulate Derivatives, Regulate and limit how much risk is allowed with other peoples money.
Separate investment Banks from Community Banks again and don’t let any of them get so big that they can’t fail. In fact lets create community Coop banks run by boards of community members would be even better.
We want an end to torture and illegal detention of persons.
Write to your Congressperson. Demonstrate. Go to meetings and make your opinion known. If we can hammer home a few of these points, even one or two of them, we will have made some progress.

This is an excerpt from the AP article on the CIA report.

“‘INHUMANE’ CIA terror tactics spur criminal probe
AP – FILE - In this April 25, 2006, file photo, John Durham speaks to reporters on the steps of U.S. District …
By DEVLIN BARRETT and PAMELA HESS, Associated Press Writers Devlin Barrett And Pamela Hess, Associated Press Writers – 12 mins ago
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration launched a criminal investigation Monday into harsh questioning of detainees during President George W. Bush’s war on terrorism, revealing CIA interrogators’ threats to kill one suspects children and to force another to watch his mother sexually assaulted.
At the same time, President Barack Obama ordered changes in future interrogations, bringing in other agencies besides the CIA under the direction of the FBI and supervised by his own national security adviser. The administration pledged questioning would be controlled by the Army Field Manual, with strict rules on tactics, and said the White House would keep its hands off the professional investigators doing the work.
As the report was released, Attorney General Holder appointed prosecutor John Durham to open a preliminary investigation into the claims of abuse. Durham is already investigating the destruction of CIA interrogation videos and now will examine whether CIA officers or contractors broke laws in the handling of suspects.
Despite the announcement of the criminal probe, several Obama spokesmen declared anew — as the president has repeatedly — that on the subject of detainee interrogation he “wants to look forward, not back” at Bush tactics. They took pains to say decisions on any prosecutions would be up to Attorney General Eric Holder, not the White House.
Monday’s five-year-old report by the CIA’s inspector general, newly declassified and released under a federal court’s orders, described severe tactics used by interrogators on terror suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Seeking information about possible further attacks, interrogators threatened one detainee with a gun and a power drill, choked another and tried to frighten still another with a mock execution of another prisoner.
Attorney General Holder said he had chosen a veteran prosecutor to determine whether any CIA officers or contractors should face criminal charges for crossing the line on rough but permissible tactics.
Obama has said interrogators would not face charges if they followed legal guidelines, but the report by the CIA’s inspector general said they went too far — even beyond what was authorized under Justice Department legal memos that have since been withdrawn and discredited. The report also suggested some questioners knew they were crossing a line.
“Ten years from now we’re going to be sorry we’re doing this (but) it has to be done,” one unidentified CIA officer was quoted as saying, predicting the questioners would someday have to appear in court to answer for such tactics.
Monday’s documents represent the largest single release of information about the Bush administration’s once-secret system of capturing terrorism suspects and interrogating them in overseas prisons.
White House officials said they plan to continue the controversial practice of rendition of suspects to foreign countries, though they said that in future cases they would more carefully check to make sure such suspects are not tortured.
In one instance cited in the new documents, Abd al-Nashiri, the man accused of being behind the 2000 USS Cole bombing, was hooded, handcuffed and threatened with an unloaded gun and a power drill. The unidentified interrogator also threatened al-Nashiri’s mother and family, implying they would be sexually abused in front of him, according to the report.
Another interrogator told alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, “if anything else happens in the United States, ‘We’re going to kill your children,’” one veteran officer said in the report.
Death threats violate anti-torture laws.
In another instance, an interrogator choked off the carotid artery of a detainee until he started to pass out, then shook him awake. He did this three times. The interrogator, a CIA debrief-er accustomed to questioning willing subjects, said he had only recently been trained to conduct interrogations.
Top Republican senators said they were troubled by the decision to begin a new investigation, which they said could weaken U.S. intelligence efforts. Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the revelations showed the Bush administration went down a “dark road of excusing torture.”
The inspector general said it was unclear whether so-called “enhanced interrogation” tactics contributed to that success. Those tactics include water boarding, a simulated drowning technique that the Obama administration says is torture. Measuring the success of such interrogation is “a more subjective process and not without some concern,” the report said.
The report describes at least one mock execution, which would also violate U.S. anti-torture laws. To terrify one detainee, interrogators pretended to execute the prisoner in a nearby room. A senior officer said it was a transparent ruse that yielded no benefit.
Formation of the new interrogation unit for “high-value” detainees does not mean the CIA is out of the business of questioning terror suspects, deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton told reporters covering the vacationing president on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
Burton said the unit will include “all these different elements under one group” and will be located at the FBI headquarters in Washington.
The structure of the new unit the White House is creating would be significantly broader than under the Bush administration, when the CIA had the lead and sometimes exclusive role in questioning al-Qaeda suspects.
Burton said Holder “ultimately is going to make the decisions.”
CIA Director Leon Panetta said in an e-mail message to agency employees Monday that he intended “to stand up for those officers who did what their country asked and who followed the legal guidance they were given. That is the president’s position, too,” he said.
Panetta said some CIA officers have been disciplined for going beyond the methods approved for interrogations by the Bush-era Justice Department. Just one CIA employee — contractor David Passaro_ has been prosecuted for detainee abuse.

Associated Press Writers Matt Apuzzo and Jennifer Loven in Washington and Philip Elliott in Oak Bluffs, Mass., contributed to this story.”

On Chris Mathews show tonight they are quoting Dick Cheney saying we have to go to “the Dark Side”. Bob Baer former CIA officer says that this is not the way the CIA works at least not before the Bush administration. It was to recruit sources and get information from volunteers. The Bush Administration changed the nature of the CIA, they told them to break laws. It was the responsibility at the top to give clear directives and they failed. They gave the green light for torture and it is the Cheney’s of the world that need to be prosecuted. The ultimate question is did Bush authorize it or was he letting Cheney carry the water for him on this. In any case it is a disgrace and criminal and the former administration should be prosecuted for war crimes.

Ruminations On Los Angeles Radical Community, Israel & Palestine

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

I am a member of the Green Party in Long Beach, CA. It is not exactly the most politically active group down here. I find the local anarchists to be more of a presence than the Green Party. Yesterday I went to a protest against the launching of a missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The protest was at the Missile procurement and research center the LA Air Force Base in El Segundo, CA a suburb of Los Angeles.
About 30 people attended. They were mostly from the War Resisters League, Catholic Workers and a representative from the Global Peace March. I was the only self identified anarchist/communist. One guy asked me if the wobblies were still around when he saw my IWW cap. I replied yep and that I didn’t know the War Resisters League was still around until I saw the guy with a war resistors cap.
This year I have made a point of going to events where there would be people I didn’t necessarily know or normally work with. I went to a couple of protests of the Israeli assaults on Gaza, most of the people attending were from the ANSWER coalition and the Party for Socialism and Liberation. I also met a member of Workers World Party there and a member of the News & Letters Group. I met quite a few Palestinians there who were supporters of Hamas with their green flags. It was interesting to see communists and islamic fundamentalists together. Again I was the only self identified anarchist communist. There might have been a thousand people at the event in January but only a few hundred at a rally in April. The RCP made a presence in January but I did not see them at the April event.
I also attended the Anarchist Conference at the People’s Library in South Central LA. This had perhaps a thousand people at last years book fair but only a few hundred at this years conference. It was still a decent turn out and there were representatives from the IWW, RAC, Insane Dialectical Posse and even a Turkish Member of the ICC. This was a crowd where I recognised some of those present. Some old time Food Not Bomb participants from the 90’s were still active but mostly they were new people I didn’t know.
What is my point? Well I am making an effort to survey the current state of the radical community in LA. What we have is a fragmented scene, much like the city. Where as a few years ago communists and anarchists and peace activists and Palestinian activists all went to one an other’s events. Now I find less of that happening. Anarchists seem to be doing their own thing, and are hooked up with struggles in the Latino community such as the immigrant workers rights struggles where some anarchists were among those attacked by the Police on May Day 2007, but in anti militarism events and in Palestinian events there was no Anarchist presence. It could be simply because most Anarchists are opposed to nationalism and many are not pacifist. Catholic Worker was once identified as anarchist back in the 1930’s but now they are more affiliated with the anti-nuke activists than with the current anarchist movement.
Back in the 1990’s and in the build up to the big march against the war in Iraq in 2003 I was involved in an effort to bring people from different groups together. I also had a band of people who came together just for that event. We made banners and marched together in a breakaway demonstration and then we dissolved. That is one kind of anarchist ideal. Temporary autonomous organization for the specific event. It is a structure that works in today’s instant communication email society. You are committed for the moment and when it passes your commitment passes. That may be ok for a demonstration, but is it the structure for a movement?
It may be the best we can expect in our current society. People are bombarded with stimulus. They choose a few sources of information, decide that is what they trust and go with it. It may be good for an event but it also leads to isolation of groups from one another with similar causes but because we have become so fragmented into such specific interests we are not even aware of what others are doing that we might have united with a few years before.
Lets take the example of the Gaza demonstrations. In January I went to the demonstration in Orange County at a mini mall. There were perhaps a thousand people. Many from the community. This area had a large population from the middle east. Members of Communist and Muslim independence groups spoke, from Palestine, and from the Philippines. The crowd included many families and teenagers.
I then drove up to the Federal Building in West LA where there was another demonstration. Here was a different crowd. Students from UCLA, professionals, few children or families. It was a smaller group also it had a much less militant outlook. The crowd in Orange County had many Hamas supporters. The crowd in West LA was more anti militarist and anti war and not as pro Palestinian. There were Jews for Peace here and it would be tough for this crowd to fly green Hamas flags as they did in Orange County. It was the difference between a national liberation crowd and an anti war crowd. What they had in common were communists in both groups.
In Orange County the slogan was “Drive Israel Out of Palestine”. In West LA the Slogan was “Peace Now”. These are quite different demands. There were no Anarchists besides myself to comment on the difference. The Communists seemed to not want to confront the contradiction. Perhaps they were unaware, I doubt it though. Members of the RCP were at both events.
Israel is a bone of contention that divides many in the left.
The differences between the Palestinians and the Israelis, or any other groups that is one where we have to start from the premise of being fair. When the British first took over the land from the Turks in World War One the Arabs and Jews got along. Jews migrated and bought land from the Arabs but in 1929 there was a riot over access to Jerusalem. The British simply mishandled the situation.
This was part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries. The Arabs helped the British kick the Turks out of the middle east and thought they were promised Palestine as part of the deal. Jews thought that they were promised the same land because of the Balfour Accords. The British let Jews move in but in the 1930’s began to restrict the number of Jews who could emigrate. This led to Jewish terrorist attacks on the British. Arabs felt betrayed because the British kept the land after World War One as part of their Protectorate. Finally after increased terror attacks after World War 2 including the bombing of the British Military headquarters the British and the new United Nations came up with a plan to divide the country into two an Arab and Jewish portion.
As soon as the British left war broke out between the new Jewish state of Israel and the Arabs who had thought this land was theirs.
Historically the Ottomans Empire invited the Jews from Spain when they were kicked out by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. The Arabs freed the Jews and non conformists Christians in what was then part of Syria from the Rule of the Roman Church in the 600’s. The Jews were considered to be people of the book and treated like Christians with respect by the Muslims. Islam was considered to be the final revelation of gods word to mankind. To them Jews and Christians were their predecessors.
The problem with the way the situation was handled in the 1940’s was a matter of disrespect. The British were dumping an empire. They had just given up India, the jewel in the crown. They didn’t want to but they had promised. The Labor Party wanted to implement the National Health Service and they could not afford to fund that and a war to keep India part of the empire. Palestine was simply a way station on the road to India, without India there was no need for Palestine and it looked like a nice place to put the Jewish survivors from the Nazi death camps as well as being the Biblical homeland of the Jews.
But the Jews had been forcefully removed by the Babylonians 2500 years ago. They were returned by the Persian king when he conquered Babylon and set the Jews free. Later they were conquered by the Greeks who were in turn conquered by the Romans. The Romans at first let a Jewish King rule, Herod because he had helped the Romans fight the Parthians. Later they implemented direct Roman Rule, the Jews rebelled twice and were exiled from Jerusalem and the vicinity. This was almost 2000 years ago. Many Jews went to live in Babylon where they were protected by the Parthians and Persians.
After the Arabs conquered the region Jews, Christians and Muslims lived there in relative harmony for centuries. The Turks took over the area in the 1500’s and continued their relativly tolerant rule. It wasn’t until the British took over after World War One that things got screwed up. Now we have a royal mess there and in India. Both were situations where the British decided it was easier to simply divide the people Jews and Arabs in Palestine or Muslims and Hindus in India and let things fall where they may.
People let their beliefs in nations based on religious differences be the determining factor but there is no reason why this has to be a determining factor. It is almost simply an easy excuse to use for politicians looking for a way to stir up hatred between peoples. In India the Congress Party was made of Hindus and Muslims. It was only after the Caliphate in Istanbul was destroyed by the victorious allies in World War One that the Muslims in India united to form a movement to restore the Caliphate that evolved into a muslim separatist movement. In the middle east Arabs and Jews had gotten along for centuries it was only when European Jews decided that they needed their own country and that it should be in a land that had not been ruled by Jews for 2000 years that the troubles began with this modern Zionist movement. It was aided and abetted by Christians who had misplaced notions of apocalyptic visions that by giving the Jews back their state they could recreate the conditions for Jesus to return to the planet Earth. This arcane notion is one of the main reasons why there is tension in the middle east.
Really there is no reason why the Jews and Arabs can’t have a united state of Palestine that accepts all religions as equal. It is only the nationalists who stir up differences and then give certain people other people’s land and then protect them, thus creating a constituency and a justification for conflict, that we have these problems. The Middle East crisis could be solved in a couple of weeks with a just peace if there was simply the will. Just like Cypress worked out its differences, between Greeks and Turks, so can the Arabs and Jews in Palestine. There are rich people getting richer over the differences and there are politicians who have created constituencies out of creating an imbalance that will perpetuate conflict until balance is restored.
Capitalism is one of the big reasons behind this, capitalism and the wilful perpetuation of ignorance by elites to control the mass of people who really have better things to do than to become embroiled in politics. The problem is, if you leave it all up the the experts, and don’t pay attention they will steer you off a cliff. So pay attention people.
Not all these differences are simply because of manipulation. Some of them have a basis in historical issues that have to be resolved. Class, and hierarchy, patriarchy and elitism are at the root of most issues. Some are simply matters of misunderstanding but most have a basis in power and control over access to resources. The sooner we all learn to deal with these things in a straightforward not mystified manner and adopt rational methodologies of distribution, the sooner these issues will disappear into the primitive history of the past. We must achieve socialism or we will revert to some form of primitive barbarism.

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