Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Auditions For "Man On The Street"

The only "evidence" that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons is mere assertion by members of the Bush administration and the neoconsevative press. Iran says it is not pursuing nuclear weapons, and the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors say there is no evidence of a weapons program.

Iran is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Under the treaty, signatories have the right to develop nuclear energy. All they are required to do is to make reports to the IAEA and keep their facilities open to inspection. Iran complies with these requirements.

There is no Iranian "defiance." When news media report "defiance," they purvey disinformation. The "seals" on Iranian facilities were placed there voluntarily by the Iranians while they attempted to resolve the false charges brought by the Bush administration. The "Iran crisis" is entirely the product of the Bush administration's determination to deprive Iran of its rights as a signatory of the non-proliferation treaty. It is just another demonstration of President Bush's opinion that his word overrules fact, law and international treaties.

Despite the clear and unambiguous facts, the Fox/Opinion Dynamics poll reports that 60% of Republicans, 41% of Independents, and 36% of Democrats support using air strikes and ground troops against Iran in order to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. This poll indicates an appalling extent of ignorance and misinformation among the American public.

Sure, why wouldn't they 'fall' for the same con twice? It's even more convincing for being familiar...like television. Indeed a widespread American assumption is that only things that happen repeatedly and predictably are strictly possible. A perfectly normal, intelligent commentor at Lenin's Tomb not long ago argued that the Katrina Kaper couldn't have been planned because no agent of ethnic cleansing had ever used a 'natural disaster' for these precise purposes before. What is not familiar is impossible (for being, that is, foreign to the television genre in which the Katrina Show was broadcast. Something unknown to the formula in which spectacular history takes place).

One doesn't really believe Iran is building nuclear weapons; it's just a story (and "true" - worthy of disbelief suspension - because familiar and generic). It's not entirely clear that tens of millions of Americans really believe Iran even exists. One is simply peforming a rôle; one knows how to respond, how to play audience, whom to root for, how to answer the pollster's questions.

July 1921

That which the Nation has feared since the start of the month is now a fait accompli. The League of Nations has ratified in principle a Mandate over Palestine, and the Great Powers have obtained what they desired, against all right, taking account of nothing but their own material interests.

The Executive Committee of the Palestinian Congress had made known through a manifesto that the decision these Great Powers have taken which would be contrary to the rights of the Palestinian Nation would do nothing but augment our attachment to those rights, from which we will not stir a hair's breadth, and to our national claims, which are the defence of our moral patrimony, of our properties, and of our individual liberties as well as our national existence.

This same Committee assures you now, again today, of this same attachment and publicly expresses its categorical refusal to accept the imposition of any Mandate imposed upon the Palestinian nation. We are determined to continue the political battle with improved organization, andwith a passion and a will even more firm than before. The Committee takes its decision knowing that it is supported by the Nation, of which the patriotic sentiments are manifest in everything that is most beautiful and pure, in all the classes of society, men as well as women and children, inherited from our fathers.

Every member of this Nation feels, individually, to the very bottom of his heart, a horror of leading a life of shame and abjection.

The Zionist organizations in agreement with the British government have deployed all their efforts with a view to seeing the Mandate over Palestine ratified as quickly as possible, thinking to weaken, divide and even kill any nationalist movement and to avail itself of our discord.

It is for the Nation to show the world the error these organizations have made in this, by reaffirming our solidarity and unity, by organizing, and by steeling our will to self-defence.


No danger, no Zionist base, not even the Mandate can be applied against out will while national feeling beats in our hearts and while the goal of each of us is the jealous protection of the public interest.

With faith in God, we march onward.

Long Live Arab Palestine, free and autonomous.

- Fourth Arab Congress, July 1921

Some Of Today's Bad News

(By no means all.)

Senate Democrats failed to halt [Alito's] nomination on Monday after 19 Democrats voted against a filibuster.

In news on Iran - the U.S. and the four other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council have agreed that the Security Council should directly deal with Iran's nuclear program.

The stock value of Halliburton reached a new all-time high on Monday following the report that Halliburton had its most successful year in its 86 year history.

Oil giant ExxonMobil reported Monday it made a record $36 billion last year - a sum larger than the economies of 125 countries. Exxon became the first company to ever make more than $10 billion in a financial quarter. During the last three months of 2005 the oil giant made over $1,300 every second or nearly $5 million every hour.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Break For A Little Nosh

Delight: from Pomegranate Queen:

1 large ripe pomegranate
2 cups chilled plain yogurt
2 green onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
fresh mint sprigs, for garnish
Cut the pomegranate in half crosswise and lift out the seeds in sections, then pull the seeds off the membranes. In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, scallions, and cilantro. Gently fold in all but 2 tablespoons of the pomegranate seeds. Garnish with mint sprigs and the reserved pomegranate seeds. Serve with warm pita bread or steamed vegetables.

There is an important pomegranate in Peter Greenaway's The Draughtsman's Contract.

Mr. Neville the draughtsman's "appreciation of nature is strictly material."

In our sensuality and creativity, we remember the commons.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


"Bungling" Armies, "Hurried" Journalists, a whole world run by Inspectors Clouseau:

Before dawn on January 15th, an Israeli special forces unit killed a Palestinian mother and her 24-year-old son in their home. The mother had three bullets in her; the son 15. The Israeli soldiers also shot and wounded the woman's husband and four other family members: young women were shot in the pelvis and chest, young men in the foot, chest, torso, liver. The firing lasted over an hour. Then the Israeli squad shot at an arriving ambulance and prevented it for 45 minutes from tending to the dying, bleeding family.

It was all the result of a "misunderstanding," as the Israeli press put it.

The LA Times mentioned it in two sentences in the next to the last paragraph of a 20-paragraph story titled "Israel Eases Curbs on Palestinian Election" (and got the facts wrong); the New York Times reported it in the last two paragraphs of a 24 paragraph story. The Washington Post and Newsday reported it in their briefs columns. Not one reported the raid correctly.
The LA Times had a headline on an Israeli soldier who had been slightly wounded by Jewish settlers in the West Bank (the 150 to 200 rampaging settlers had also torched a Palestinian family home and destroyed numerous Palestinian shops, but the Israeli soldier's injury was the headline).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who apparently had no space for a report on Israeli soldiers killing Palestinians, carried a headline story about "Anti-Jewish acts" on the rise, and included a report of a person "hit on the head with a plastic bottle." The victim "suffered a cut and a black eye." The article mentions that some incidents had been perpetrated by people "who hold a specific grudge against Israel." Why anyone should hold such a grudge remained a mystery for its readers.

The New York Times had a long news report entitled "Anger in the West Bank Helps Hamas Win Hearts," but nowhere in this extensive article does the Times mention the Israeli killing of a mother and son the day before, an incident that might conceivably contribute to anger at Israel. A few days later the Times ran another long story from Nablus. This one again leaves out any mention of the killings. In approximately a dozen stories about Israel-Palestine, many of them lengthy, the killing of a mother and son were given a total of three sentences at the very end of an extremely long report on something else.


On the "Associated Press Worldstream" wire, AP sent out a story headlined "Israeli troops kill Palestinian mother and son in apparent mistake, Palestinians say."

Monday, January 23, 2006

Why Iran?

Mike Whitney, January 23, 2006: Iran’s Oil Exchange threatens the Greenback

The Bush administration will never allow the Iranian government to open an oil exchange (bourse) that trades petroleum in euros. If that were to happen, hundreds of billions of dollars would come flooding back to the United States crushing the greenback and destroying the economy. This is why Bush and Co. are planning to lead the nation to war against Iran. It is straightforward defense of the current global system and the continuing dominance of the reserve currency, the dollar.

The claim that Iran is developing nuclear weapons is a mere pretext for war. (...)

There are peaceful solutions to this dilemma, but not if the Bush administration insists on hiding behind the moronic deception of terrorism or imaginary nuclear weapons programs. Bush needs to come clean with the American people about the real nature of the global energy crisis and stop invoking Bin Laden and WMD to defend American aggression.

Conspiracy Practice (V): Diebold in Florida - "I Saw It Hacked"

Susan Pynchon, in Counterpunch, January 23, 2006:

I was one of ten people present at the "hack" of the Leon County, Florida voting system, which took place on Tuesday, December 13, 2005 around 4:30 in the afternoon at the county elections warehouse. Leon County's voting system is the Diebold Accu-Vote OS 1.94w (optical scan). The Leon County Supervisor of Elections, Ion Sancho, authorized a "test" of his Diebold voting system to see if election results could be altered using only a memory card. Harri Hursti, a computer programmer from Finland facilitated the test, and it has come to be known as the "Harri Hursti Hack."


And there, on the central tabulator screen, appeared the altered results: Seven "Yes" votes and one "No" vote, with absolutely no evidence that anything had been altered.

It was a powerful moment and, I will admit, it had the unexpected result for me personally of causing me to break down and cry. Why did I cry? It was the last thing I thought I would do, but it happened for so many reasons. I cried because it was so clear that Diebold had been lying. I cried because there was proof, before my very eyes, that these machines were every bit as bad as we all had feared. I cried because we have been so unjustly attacked as "conspiracy theorists" and "technophobes" when Diebold knew full well that its voting system could alter election results. More than that, that Diebold planned to have a voting system that could alter results. And I cried because it suddenly hit me, like a Mack truck, that this was proof positive that our democracy is and has been, as we have all feared, truly at the mercy of unscrupulous vendors who are producing electronic voting machines that can change election results without detection.

Beyond this, however, what is the real significance of the "Harri Hursti hack?" There are several answers to that question...

(See also: Beyond Belief: Black "Overvotes" and Election Theft)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

That List

Ahriman Who's Who (at American Samizdat):

Abdullah Azzam fought for the CIA in Afghanistan.

Abu Abdel Aziz 'Barbaros' fought for the CIA in Afghanistan & Bosnia.

Osama bin Laden fought for the CIA in Afghanistan

Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman fought for the CIA in Afghanistan

Gulbaddin Hekmatyar fought for the CIA in Afghanistan

Abdurrab Rasul Sayyaf fought for the CIA in Afghanistan

Muhammad Jamal Khalifa fought for the CIA in Afghanistan

Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hamzi fought for the CIA in Bosnia

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and his three brothers, Zahed, Abed, and Aref fought for the CIA in Afghanistan

Ayman Zawahiri
Ayman Zawahiri's brother fought for the CIA in Kosovo.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed also fought for the CIA in Bosnia

Hambali fought for the CIA in Afghanistan

Wali Khan fought for the CIA in Afghanistan

Ramzi Ahmed Yousef fought for the CIA in Afghanistan

Mohammed Haydar Zammar from Hamburg, fought for the CIA in Afghanistan & Bosnia

Abu Omar, aka Hassan Osama Nasr fought for the CIA in Afghanistan & Bosnia

Abu Hamza al-Masri fought for the CIA in Afghanistan & Bosnia

Ahmed Said Khadr fought for the CIA in Afghanistan

Jose Padilla & Mohamed Hesham Youssef fought for the CIA in Kosovo

Friday, January 20, 2006

Extremely Fucking Nigh

- the end, that is, of some things most of us have taken for granted since the 1950s (life, liberty, TV, etc.). What Haitians are experiencing right now is what our children will be facing in the very near future.

No exaggeration. And it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore:

What they don't want you to know about the coming oil crisis
- Jeremy Leggett in the Independent, January 20, 2006

"Before this century is over, billions of us will die... The worst will happen and survivors will have to adapt to a hell of a climate."
- James Lovelock in the Independent, January 16, 2006

Capitalism is at war not just with humanity, but with life per se. Stan Goff borrows a term from Edward Thompson - "exterminism" - to describe the system that is currently ruling the world to death:

The biosphere is collateral damage.

The philosophy of exterminism is après moi, le deluge (“after me, the flood”). This declaration of aristocratic nihilism – allegedly uttered by Louis XV – seems particularly fitting in the wake of the US state’s response to post-Katrina New Orleans. It is – as Jeffrey St. Clair calls it in Grand Theft Pentagon – “capitalism’s last utopia.” Exterminism, in fact, marks a nihilist utopia. This is not a general utopia wrought by capitalism, as it turns out, but a kind of financial-military bacchanalia before the end, which is – as the graffiti said in the biological-apocalypse film, 28 Days Later – “extremely fucking nigh.” This utopia is the utopia of the few, perched in their redoubt, surrounded by the furious unwashed in the final days… an après moi, le deluge variety of utopia in which the rich devour everything then let future generations suffer “the flood.”

"Exterminism and the World in the Wake of Katrina"

Inventing Osama: Lies, Damned Lies and Conveniently Incompetent Translations

Lex Luthor didn't exist, so he had to be invented. How else would they have sold the comics?

A rare piece of investigative journalism was broadcast to 100 million German-speaking TV viewers in December 2001. Craig Morris's accurate account of that investigation appeared online in English only three days later. Today, to the best of my knowledge, the story has still never been picked up by anyone in the British or US media; nor has a single journalist or producer seen fit to repeat the experiment, using other independent translators.

Why not?

Why not, exactly?

Mistranslated Osama bin Laden Video - the German Press Investigates

by Craig Morris 7:16am Sun Dec 23 '01 (Modified on 8:19pm Sun Dec 30 '01)

A German TV show found that the White House's translation of the "confession" video was not only inaccurate, but even "manipulative".

Mistranslated OBL video - Germany’s Channel One investigates

On 20 December 2001, German TV channel “Das Erste” broadcast its analysis of the White House’s translation of the OBL video that George Bush has called a “confession of guilt”. On the show “Monitor”, two independent translators and an expert on oriental studies found the White House’s translation not only to be inaccurate, but “manipulative”.

Arabist Dr. Abdel El M. Husseini, one of the translators, states, “I have carefully examined the Pentagon’s translation. This translation is very problematic. At the most important places where it is held to prove the guilt of Bin Laden, it is not identical with the Arabic.”

Whereas the White House would have us believe that OBL admits that “We calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy…”, translator Dr. Murad Alami finds that: “‘In advance’ is not said. The translation is wrong. At least when we look at the original Arabic, and there are no misunderstandings to allow us to read it into the original.”

At another point, the White House translation reads: “We had notification since the previous Thursday that the event would take place that day.” Dr. Murad Alami: “‘Previous’ is never said. The subsequent statement that this event would take place on that day cannot be heard in the original Arabic version.”

The White House’s version also included the sentence “we asked each of them to go to America”, but Alami says the original formulation is in the passive along the lines of “they were required to go”. He also say that the sentence afterwards - “they didn’t know anything about the operation” - cannot be understood.

Prof. Gernot Rotter, professor of Islamic and Arabic Studies at the Asia-Africa Institute at the University of Hamburg sums it up: “The American translators who listened to the tapes and transcribed them apparently wrote a lot of things in that they wanted to hear but that cannot be heard on the tape no matter how many times you listen to it.”

Meanwhile the US press has not picked up on this story at all, reporting instead that a new translation has revealed that OBL even mentions the names of some of those involved. But the item is all over the German press, from Germany’s Channel One (“Das Erste” - the ones who broke the story, equivalent to NBC or the BBC) to ZDF (Channel Two) to Der Spiegel (the equivalent of TIME or the Economist - visit


if you can read German). More surprisingly, as I write the following site appears on Lycos in German:


- but nothing under lycos.com in English.

Instead, we read in the Washington Post of Friday, December 21, 2001 (the day after the German TV show was broadcast) that a new translation done in the US “also indicates bin Laden had even more knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon than was apparent in the original Defense Department translation.... Although the expanded version does not change the substance of what was released, it provides added details and color to what has been disclosed.”

I’ll say. Aren’t there any reporters in the US who speak German (or Arabic, for that matter)? An article in USA Today of 20 December 2001 sheds some light on why the original translation might not be accurate: “the first translation was rushed in 12 hours, in a room in the Pentagon”. So why didn’t the new US translation find the same discrepancies as the German translators did? Read the article in USA Today against the grain: “Michael, who is originally Lebanese, translated the tape with Kassem Wahba, an Egyptian. Both men had difficulties with the Saudi dialect bin Laden and his guest use in the tape, Michael said.” Why can a Saudi translator not be found in a multicultural country like the US, especially with the close business relations between the US and Saudi Arabia? Bush Sr. probably knows any number of them himself. [...]

Craig Morris is a translator living in Europe. The original broadcast of the German show can be viewed in German here
A transcript of the programme is available here.

Why does this story matter? Because it amounts to a sensation: proof positive that the White House has been forging evidence to justify the War on Terror. It is now January 2006; Afghanistan and Iraq have already been invaded and occupied; Iran and Syria are currently being lined up. Even if the Bush Gang claim, implausibly, that the mistranslation was just another fuck-up (the Incompetence Excuse, Vol. 358), they cannot deny that they have never corrected those useful errors since the tape was released. And that conveniently untruthful translation from the Arabic was what convinced most people that Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks. In fact, the notorious Home Video is practically the only evidence ever presented that Bin Laden did what he is alleged to have done. As demonstrated by two veteran journalists on Germany's longest-running TV current-affairs programme, that "evidence" is a shoddy fake.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Robot Apocalypse

US Refuses to Apologize For CIA Bombing in Pakistan
In other news, the US government has refused to express regret over last week’s CIA bombing in Pakistan. The attack killed a reported 17 people, including women and children. The U.S. has said little about the bombing but it is believed to have been carried out by a CIA Predator drone. On Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack told reporters only: "The United States clearly values innocent human life. And that is why we're fighting the war on terror." Meanwhile, Pakistani officials said Tuesday the strike had killed up to 5 suspected militants.
- DemocracyNow

Monday, January 16, 2006

Fall Guys

In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.

-Franklin D. Roosevelt

New AntiSemitism? No thanks, our old one's still running fine.

The President's Rhetoric displays another convenience the servant provides the master (a surrogate guilty Other - creature, client and instrument - to absorb all responsibility and culpability and leave the Master as stainless as ever):

IN ONE of the stream of speeches in which George W. Bush is now trying to defend his ill-fated invasion of Iraq, this week he let loose a sentence that should light all the red lights. In this sentence he castigated his opponents for asserting that he had attacked Iraq "for the oil and for Israel". He thus brought to the surface an assertion that had until then been openly voiced only by anti-Semitic marginal groups. They have put together three facts: (a) that the people who most aggressively pushed for the war were the neo-cons who play a major role in the Bush administration, (b) that almost all the important members of this group are Jews, and (c) that the occupation of Iraq has freed Israel from a significant military threat. Up to now, the American media have treated this allegation with contempt, as a ridiculous "conspiracy theory". Now that the President himself has spoken about it, it may become part of the legitimate public discourse in the United States and throughout the world.


BY SHEER CHANCE, this week saw the appearance of a book about the Iraq war that touches on the same subject - "State of War" by James Risen. Among other things, the book says that the Secretary of Defense and the neo-cons who dominate Washington did not listen to the American intelligence analysts, who advised caution when it came to Iraq, but to the Israeli intelligence people who flooded Washington and briefed high- ranking officials. According to Risen, it was the hard-line Israelis that Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, were listening to, not the cautious CIA. "CIA analysts were often skeptical of Israeli intelligence reports, knowing that Mossad had very strong - even obvious - biases about the Arab world." After their visits, CIA officials would generally discount much of what the Israeli intelligence officers supplied, "Wolfowitz and other conservatives at the Pentagon became enraged by this practice," Risen writes. Wolfowitz is, of course, a very Jewish name.


The obvious conclusion: it was the Israelis and their allies, the Washington Jews, who pushed the US into the war.

AS IF that was not enough, Washington is now rocked by a big scandal that has a close connection with Israel. At its center stands a person called Jack Abramoff - again a name that discloses the Jewish identity of its owner. This Jack is a super-lobbyist, a symbol of the phenomenon that has turned American politics into a dirty stable of corruption, which even the mighty Hercules would have had trouble cleaning up. He skimmed the money of his clients, mostly Native Americans, put some of it into his own pocket and used the rest to bribe establishment figures, senators and congressmen. He gave them generous gifts, junkets around the world, suites in luxury hotels and other perks.


What is special about Abramoff is that he is a fanatical Zionist. According to the stories published in the States, some of the money that he diverted was transferred to extreme settlers in the West Bank. Abramoff sent them military equipment for use against the Palestinians, and perhaps against the Israeli government. Among other items, he bought them camouflage uniforms, telescopic sights for snipers, night-vision binoculars and a thermal imager. American publications mention a settler named Shmuel Ben- Zvi from the Betar Illit settlement, a high-school buddy of Abramoff, who received this equipment. Ben-Zvi denied it, but the Senate committee has obtained e-mail messages from him lauding Abramoff for sending him "reinforcement", while Abramoff wrote him that "if only there were another dozen of you, the dirty rats would be finished." Abramoff himself claims that he is simply an idealist, who uses the money "put into his hands by God" in order to help Israel. He also financed a - probably fictitious - outfit of Syrian exiles, supported by Israel. One of the American publications mentions in this context the biblical Mossad motto: "By way of deception thou shalt make war" (Proverbs 24,6 - that's how it sounds in modern Hebrew, but the actual meaning of the words is in doubt. The English Bible renders it thus: "For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war".)


It may be remembered that Binyamin Netanyahu, our then Prime Minister, went to America in 1998 to meet President Bill Clinton. In those days, Clinton was trying to exert pressure on Israel in order to promote peace. Netanyahu was invited for this purpose. On the eve of his meeting with Clinton, Netanyahu met publicly with Falwell of all people, in front of a crowd of hundreds. Falwell, a sworn enemy of Clinton, reveals now that the meeting was deliberately planned as an affront to the President.

Some days before that, another friend of Netanyahu's, William Kristol, one of the Jewish neo-con power-brokers, had publicly hinted that a huge White House sex-scandal was about to break. Immediately afterwards, the Monica Lewinsky scandal was unleashed and the public was informed that the President had had sex in the White House with the young intern with the very Jewish-sounding name.

Two weeks before the Netanyahu visit, an American Jewish paper had published an ad demanding that the President abstain from pressuring Israel. The ad included a photo of Clinton taken from the back - the very shot of Clinton embracing Monica that was later published all around the world.

Falwell practically brags that he helped Netanyahu to blackmail Clinton.

(Chertoff was also perhaps a better face and name to put on the Katrina crime against humanity than his predecessor.)


$ [subject-barred] has a great post on the fictitious dubyaemdee in the latest sequel of the thriller spectacle of history, and other thoughts regarding Iran:

"Well, then that's not a MacGuffin, is it?"
- President George W Bush, September 2003

Watch any film by world-renowned Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, and you see a filmmaker railing against an oppressive, fundamentalist theocracy, its inherent subjugation of women, the dehumanizing effect of the hatreds it foments and the futilities of a patriarchal system mired in its own rhetoric and hypocrisy. No wonder the Bush administration wants to keep him out of the country [Kiarostami
was refused a US visa in 2002 to attend the New York Film Festival


Interesting that, of all the countries in the world, Iran is today the cyberspace capital of blogging; whereas Iraq has a mere few dozen bloggers reporting on the US invasion, Iran has a few hundred thousand bloggers, the otherwise repressive Iranian regime covertly permitting virtual freedom to the country's vast population of educated youth (60 per cent of Iran's university places are occupied by women, while less than 2 per cent of Iran's population regularly attends a Mosque ...).


It's the mother of all protection rackets:

Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, sat on the board of a company which three years ago sold two light water nuclear reactors to North Korea - a country he now regards as part of the "axis of evil" and which has been targeted for regime change by Washington because of its efforts to build nuclear weapons.

Mr Rumsfeld was a non-executive director of ABB, a European engineering giant based in Zurich, when it won a $200m (£125m) contract to provide the design and key components for the reactors. The current defence secretary sat on the board from 1990 to 2001, earning $190,000 a year. He left to join the Bush administration.


Less than three months after registering as a lobbyist, former Attorney General John Ashcroft has banked at least $269,000 from just four clients and appears to be developing a practice centered on firms that want to capitalize on a government demand for homeland security technology that boomed under sometimes controversial policies he promoted while in office.

Three clients of Ashcroft’s lobbying firm want his help in selling data or software with homeland security applications, according to government filings.
A fourth, Israel Aircraft Industries International, is competing with Chicago’s Boeing Co. to sell the government of South Korea a billion-dollar airborne early warning system.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


There's basically two principles that define the Bush administration policies: stuff the pockets of your rich friends with dollars, and increase your control over the world. Almost everything follows from that. If you happen to blow up the world, well, you know, it's somebody else's business. Stuff happens, as Rumsfeld said...We're not allowed to concede that our leaders have rational imperial interests. We have to assume that they're good-hearted and bumbling. But they're not. They're perfectly sensible. They can understand what anybody else can understand. So the first step in talk about withdrawal is: consider the actual situation, not some dream situation, where Bush is pursuing a vision of democracy or something. If we can enter the real world we can begin to talk about it. And yes, I think there should be withdrawal, but we have to talk about it in the real world and know what the White House is thinking. They're not willing to live in a dream world.

Dream Americans

A desperate and strained sounding rhetoric as Bush dreams up, addresses and speaks for spectral Americans:
The American people know the difference between responsible and irresponsible debate when they see it. They know the difference between honest critics who question the way the war is being prosecuted and partisan critics who claim that we acted in Iraq because of oil, or because of Israel, or because we misled the American people. And they know the difference between a loyal opposition that points out what is wrong, and defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right.

When our soldiers hear politicians in Washington question the mission they are risking their lives to accomplish, it hurts their morale. In a time ofwar, we have a responsibility to show that whatever our political differences at home, our nation is united and determined to prevail. And wehave a responsibility to our men and women in uniform who deserve to know that once our politicians vote to send them into harm's way, our supportwill be with them in good days and in bad days and we will settle fornothing less than complete victory. (Applause.)

We also have an opportunity this year to show the Iraqi people what responsible debate in a democracy looks like. In a free society, there is only one check on political speech and that's the judgment of the people. So I ask all Americans to hold their elected leaders to account, and demand adebate that brings credit to our democracy not comfort to our adversaries.

It's not going to be a successful hypnotism, but it scarcely matters. A mere formality at this point. The spectral citizenry can be made to speak back. Robot soliders, robot voters:

New York is in danger of being sued by the federal government over continuing delays in bringing new voting machines to the state and complying with other requirements of the Help America Vote Act, officials said Thursday.

And a spokesman for the state Board of Elections said New York is so far behind in meeting the federal requirements that localities across the state may have to trot out their old lever-action voting machines this year for at least one more election cycle.

The HAVA legislation was adopted by Congress in the wake of the vote-counting fiasco in Florida during the 2000 presidential election. The legislation requires states to modernize voting systems and provides funding for such things as new voting machines. New York has trailed behind all other states in meeting HAVA deadlines.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Genies In The Bottles

Who built the seven gates of Thebes?
The books are filled with names of kings.
Was it kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?...
In the evening when the Chinese wall was finished
Where did the masons go? Imperial Rome
Is full of arcs of triumph. Who reared them up?...

Young Alexander conquered India.
He alone?
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Was there not even a cook in his army?...

Each page a victory.
At whose expense the victory ball?
Every ten years a great man,
Who paid the piper?

- Brecht, A Worker Reads History

I began the lesson with a beat-up soccer ball.

The ball sat balanced in a plastic container on a stool in the middle of the circle of student desks. "I'd like you to write a description of this soccer ball," I told my high school Global Studies class. "Feel free to get up and look at it. There is no right or wrong. Just describe the ball however you'd like."

Looks of puzzlement and annoyance greeted me. "It's just a soccer ball," someone said.

Students must have wondered what this had to do with Global Studies. "I'm not asking for an essay," I said, "just a paragraph or two."

As I'd anticipated, their accounts were straightforward -- accurate if uninspired. Few students accepted the offer to examine the ball up close. A soccer ball is a soccer ball. They sat and wrote. Afterwards, a few students read their descriptions aloud. Brian's is typical:

The ball is a sphere which has white hexagons and black pentagons. The black pentagons contain red stars, sloppily outlined in silver... One of the hexagons contains a green rabbit wearing a soccer uniform with "Euro 88" written parallel to the rabbit's body. This hexagon seems to be cracking. Another hexagon has the number 32 in green standing for the number of patches that the ball contains.

But something was missing. There was a deeper social reality associated with this ball -- a reality that advertising and the consumption-oriented rhythms of U.S. daily life discouraged students from considering. "Made in Pakistan" was stenciled in small print on the ball, but very few students thought that significant enough to include in their descriptions. However, these three tiny words offered the most important clue to the human lives hidden in "just a soccer ball" -- a clue to the invisible Pakistanis whose hands crafted the ball sitting in the middle of the classroom.

The Official Story

Luis Puenzo's 1985 film, "The Official Story," tells the tale of Alicia, a conservative high school history teacher and wife of a wealthy business or government functionary. Alicia attends a high school reunion where a former classmate remarks that another acquaintance raised nothing but "subversives". Someone asks, "how do you know they were?" The woman replies, "they went to prison, they must have done something!" After the reunion, Alicia's high school friend Anna, recently returned after seven years abroad, reveals that she was held in captivity and tortured for 36 days because her ex-husband was "a subversive".

After this encounter Alicia gradually comes to believe her adopted daughter is the child of someone murdered in captivity by Argentina's military dictatorship. Worse still, she suspects her husband knowingly purchased the child and may have had a hand in dictatorship's activities. Alicia's life begins to unravel at every seam.

Early in the film Alicia tells her students "no one can live without memory, and history is the memory of a people." Later one of her students shouts at her "history is written by murderers!" She reprimands him for indiscipline, and the next day arrives to find someone has covered the classroom bulletin board with news reports about corruption, scandal, disappearances, murders. In conversation with a fellow teacher afterward, as she unwittingly drives him to a demonstration, Alicia asks if what the students say can really be true. The other teacher, Benitez, incensed at her doubt, angrily demands "why should you care? why is it your problem?" As he collects his things from the car he adds, "It's easier to believe it's impossible, isn't it? Because if it's possible that would require complicity."

This conversation will someday be had about - or, more accurately, is now being had in places left outside of the official stories of the world and which as such not is likely to be recorded except within engaged fictions in the future - the present actions of the murderers and robber barons bound up with the triune god of state-capital-spectacle today. No one can live without memory, but what memory? Some can not live with certain memories, not least the memories of their atrocities. And so they seek to produce a different memory, using techniques including distortion, falsification, nontransparent criteria for selection, distraction, and a host of categories - criminal, subversive, insane, homeland etc - used to say, should atrocities come to light, that these acts were for the best and were, at worst, unpleasantries forced upon the noble perpetrators by misfortune or by less humans. It is in this sense that Walter Benjamin wrote "even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious."

Along these same lines one should read experiences like that of the Edelweiss Pirates (via), a youth group in Germany who fought with the nazis in the second world war, and several of whom were executed by the Gestapo. As of 2004, the group were still considered criminals. Some have argued that they be reconfigured as resistance fighters. Jennifer Macey writes, "The rehabilitation of the Edelweiss pirates has once again touched upon the sense of collective post war guilt in Germany. While many argue that it’s important to regain a stronger sense of self consciousness by acknowledging that there was a resistance against the Nazis, others caution against a tendency to focus on those exceptions at the risk of forgetting the greater proportion of the population who did nothing."

This is of course a false opposition, that between complicity and resistance, and one that appears most within a nationalist framework: if the debate is over the national consciousness of Germany then let the prevailing attitude be one of guilt, that is far better than having resistance fighters be made use of by the state. But in a remembering that has no loyalty to state, capital, and spectacle, this opposition falls apart and offers potential resources for dismantling the present.

No one can live without memory. And yet, living is always living in a certain way. A certain way of living requires a certain type of memory. Changing that way of living is not dependent upon a different memory, but a different memory may be a tool for aiding that change. As Nico von Glasow, director of a film about the Edelweiss pirates writes, "I wanted to know why I had not heard about them and I asked my friend Jean Jülich and he said something very interesting. He said that if there is one hero in the country then the rest of the country could say they knew nothing about what was going on. But if there is one hero on every street, then it looks bad for the rest of the street."

Along these same lines, Benjamin praised the materialist historian who
"will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past," which requires precisely a sensitivity to both complicity and resistance, posing the kinds of problems for the present that Jülich, himself a surviving member of the Edelweiss Pirates, so ably describes. Just as importantly, Benjamin continues "if one asks with whom the adherents of historicism actually empathize. The answer is inevitable: with the victor. And all rulers are the heirs of those who conquered before them. Hence, empathy with the victor invariably benefits the rulers. Historical materialists know what that means. Whoever has emerged victorious participates to this day in the triumphal procession in which the present rulers step over those who are lying prostrate. According to traditional practice, the spoils are carried along in the procession. They are called cultural treasures". Even more, they are oftentimes the very categories by which history is written, which serve as safeguards to defend that history from attack.

Of course, those neglected or repudiated by the historian who writes for the victors - the subversive, the criminal - should not be simply and uncritically valorized. There are, after all, varying degrees of victory. The victors in conflicts of succession within parties and unions, for example, have themselves had to step over some who were rendered prostrate, and these prostrated were not always the class enemy. A simple celebration of the so-called underside of history, in the spirit of 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend,' does not help in a critical evaluation of the history of working class movements.

Nevertheless, those written out of history or written into it as enemies to be remembered only as forgettable or one-dimensional (a flattening that is itself a form of forgetting) must be the point of departure for critical history. This history must start from a relationship between the past and this present that needs abolishing. This history's best results will shatter elements of prevailing history into shards like broken glass that cut all those who try to appropriate them. The soft hands of the bourgeousie will then be less likely to be able take hold, though they will of course try. Failing that, they will turn, as always, to attempts at distraction.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Man is the pie that bakes and eats itself

"Who did the council fight?"

"It split in two and fought itself."

"That's suicide!"

"No, ordinary behaviour. The efficient half eats the less efficient half and grows stronger. War is just a violent way of doing what half the people do calmly in peacetime: using the other half for food, heat, machinery and sexual pleasure. Man is the pie that bakes and eats itself, and the recipe is separation."

"I refuse to believe men kill each other just to make their enemies rich."

"How can men recognize their real enemies when their family, schools and work teach them to struggle with each other and to believe law and decency come from the teachers?"

"My son won't be taught that," said Lanark firmly.

"You have a son?"

"Not yet."

- from Alasdair Gray's Lanark: A Life in Four Books


City workers set for £7.5 billion bonus

2006 was a good year for the City of London

Financial workers in the City of London are set to earn £7,500,000,000 in bonuses this winter, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research. The figure is a record, 16% up on the £6.4bn it estimated was paid last year.

The CEBR said that the average worker will receive £23,000, while some reports estimate that 3,000 people will get a windfall of £1m or more.

It said a 10% rise in stock market activity and 20% increase in mergers and acquisitions were responsible. Previous research from the group found that around half of City bonuses end up in the higher end of the property market. It said bonuses were also spent on cars, shopping and plastic surgery.

Liposuction is a popular treatment for male City workers

“For everything that lives is holy, life delights in life”

Can I see another's woe, and not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another's grief, and not seek for kind relief?

He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars: general Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer, for Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars.

Embraces are cominglings from the head even to the feet, and not a pompous high priest entering by a secret place.

The Angel that presided o'er my birth
Said, Little creature form'd of Joy & Mirth
Go love without the help of any King on Earth.


The voice of the Devil.

All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following Errors:

1. That Man has two real existing principles Viz: a Body & a Soul.
2. That Energy, call'd Evil, is alone from the Body, & that Reason, call'd Good, is alone from the Soul.
3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.

But the following Contraries to these are True:

1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that call'd Body is a portion of Soul discern'd by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age
2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
3 Energy is Eternal Delight


"Pray, Mr. Taylor, did you ever find yourself as it were, standing close beside the vast and luminous orb of the Moon?"

"Not that I remember, Mr. Blake: did you ever?"

"Yes, frequently; and I have felt an almost irresistible desire to throw myself into it headlong."

"I think, Mr. Blake, you had better not; for if you were to do so, you most probably would never come out of it again."

Paul Foot:

In London in the 1790s, like in London today, it was commonplace to see a woman being beaten up in the street, and equally common for embarrassed or irritated bystanders to pass by on the other side. William Blake had a short temper and often lost it. Walking in the St Giles area, and seeing a woman attacked, he launched himself on the scene with such ferocity that the assailant 'recoiled and collapsed'. When the abuser recovered, he told a bystander that he thought he had been attacked by the 'devil himself'. At around the same time Blake was standing at his window looking over the yard of his neighbour when he saw a boy 'hobbling along with a log tied to his foot'. Immediately he stormed across and demanded in the most violent terms that the boy should be freed. The neighbour replied hotly that Blake was trespassing and had no business interfering in other people's property (which included, of course, other people's child labour). The furious argument which followed was only resolved when the boy was released.

Some years later, in 1803, Blake was living in a country cottage in Sussex when he came across a soldier lounging in his garden. Blake greeted the soldier with a volley of abuse, and frogmarched him to the local pub where he was billeted. The soldier later testified that as they went, Blake muttered repeatedly, 'Damn the King. The soldiers are all slaves.' In the south of England in 1803, when soldiers were billeted in every village for fear of a Napoleonic invasion, such a statement was criminal treachery. The soldier promptly sneaked to his superiors. Blake was tried for sedition, and escaped deportation and even possibly a death sentence largely because the soldier made a mess of his evidence and because no one in court knew anything about Blake's revolutionary views which had been openly expressed ten years previously. He was found not guilty, and went on writing for another 23 years until his death. He never once swerved from his intense loathing of king, soldiers and slavery.

These are two of the hundreds of anecdotes in Peter Ackroyd's glorious biography which will warmly commend Blake to any reader even remotely committed to reform. This warmth enthuses the whole book. Ackroyd revels in Blake's 'exuberant hopefulness' which grew out of his passionate rage at the world he saw around him.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Lautreamont once wrote "Plagiarism is necessary. Progress demands it." Given that plagiarism only makes sense within a regime of ideas as property, this is self evident. The fact that the category exists adds to the mountain of evidences for the lack of progress in history. The practice of plagiarism must be approached dialectically, however, and not simply uncritically celebrated.

Among the general separation that the spectacle produces, one key product is a puerile servility. The spectacle produces the weak minded and weak kneed subjects required by both liberalism and fascism. The movie American Beauty is only one among many demonstrations of this: the ostensible protagonist, Lester Burnham, and his nazi neighbor Colonel Fitz, are united less by the Colonel's sexual interest in Burnham than they are by their mirroring of each others' alienated selves. Stunted by the ensemble of the spectacle that they face - suburban architecture, the advertising industry, war movies, etc - the two wrap themselves tightly in their fear of acting, while nervously considering if that is indeed what they should do.

These figures in their fear and weakness are, of course, capable of serving as tinder for the internal combustion occasionally required by the spectacle. The fearful atomized subject can be activate in inverted forms of collective action such as rallying around the flag, around the troops, around the latest spectacular commodity. Both Burnham and Fitz undergo a type of explosion, though of course as a moment of the spectacle the movie reduces these to examples of individual pathology rather than mass systemic outcome.

The spectacle instills a craving to be mastered, a love of mastery. (It is in the context of combating the recuperation of Debord, and to a less degree the Situationist International generally, that the otherwise mediocre books The Tribe and The Consul have a use. These books, while full of the type of trivia and banalities that characterize the spectacular commodity that is pop biography, help undermine the attempts to turn Debord into a master figure by showing his loutish moments as well, and the general effervescence of the historical moment which is not reducible to an effect of Debord's ascerbic pen.) Hence the requirement of a critical dialectical use of plagiarism. Just as the political bureaucrats of the happily extinct so-called Communist countries merely changed one group of people (sic) for another at the helm of spectacle, state, and capital, some practices of plagiarism are attempts not to undermine mastery but to become new masters. One example is the plagiarized 'intelligence' report by the United Kingdom about Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction. Another practice of plagiarism is the proliferation of knock offs of commodities such as the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Chronicles of Narnia books. These are also of no use, as they are merely an internecine squabble within the spectacle, a cultural parallel to the fundamental agreement that existed between the USA and USSR, and exists today between Bush and Bin Laden. The ruling classes may well hate each other, but it is the masses who they hate most and they happily unite when necessary when the masses threaten.

The type of plagiarism needed is taking up, a making one's own of ideas. Just as in the best experiences of drugs, riots, music, sex, and perhaps others - the boundaries of where one begins and another ends become blurred, but not erased - plagiarism must do the same. Plagiarism as detournement, but directed less at changing the original than at producing the new.

Detecting this beneficial plagiarism is tremendously difficult, which frequently imposes a requirement to re-invent the wheel, to start again from scratch in regard to how best plagiarize. It would be of some use to carry out a conversation on how plagiarist techniques can best be performed - a Plagiarist International, though it could likely not publicly name itself so. It be less so to converse on specific plagiarized works, though it is easy to turn to that issue immediately, bound up as it is with the urges of the gossip column and the scandal that fuel important segments of the spectacle. One immediate proposal, though of course not the only possible, would be to make use of various forms of electronic reproducibility to disseminate goods for free under different - or without - names. The remix and the mashup in music and in film offer gestures toward this, but on the terms of the spectacle and thus of recuperation, as they preserve the name of the original. The initial distribution of such goods, as when the Yippies distributed free money, would feed into spectacle induced hunger for further consumption. Carried out correctly, however, and enough times, the activity might help loosen the ties that bind spectacular commodities to the names that they fall under, the names of authors and pop groups. That untying would threaten the current spectacle, as well as undo, or, at a minimum, prevent the further instilling of the desire to be mastered.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Beyond Belief: Black "Overvotes" and Election Theft 2000

Professor Lance de Haven Smith, author of The Battle for Florida(University Press of Florida, 2005):

It’s an embarrassing outcome for George Bush because it showed that Gore had gotten more votes. Everybody had thought that the chads were where all the bad ballots were, but it turned out that the ones that were the most decisive were write-in ballots where people would check Gore and write Gore in, and the machine kicked those out. There were 175,000 votes overall that were so-called "spoiled ballots." About two-thirds of the spoiled ballots were over-votes; many or most of them would have been write-in over-votes, where people had punched and written in a candidate's name. And nobody looked at this, not even the Florida Supreme Court in the last decision it made requiring a statewide recount...The write-in over-votes have really not gotten much attention.

Those votes are not ambiguous. When you see Gore picked and then Gore written in, there's not a question in your mind who this person was voting for. When you go through those, they're unambiguous: Bush got some of those votes, but they were overwhelmingly for Gore. For example, in an analysis of the 2.7 million votes that had been cast in Florida's eight largest counties, The Washington Post found that Gore's name was punched on 46,000 of the over-vote ballots it, while Bush's name was marked on only 17,000.

One of the things I found that hadn't been reported anywhere is, if you look at where those votes occurred, they were in predominantly black precincts. And (when you look at) the history of black voting in Florida, these are people that have been disenfranchised, intimidated. In the history of the early 20th century, black votes would be thrown out on technicalities, like they would use an X instead of a check mark.

So you can understand why African Americans would be so careful, checking off Gore's name on the list of candidates and also writing Gore's name in the space for write-in votes. But because of the way the vote-counting machines work, this had the opposite effect: the machines threw out their ballots.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

qlip qlip qlip

fascinated by the hills of hebden and halifax, it was inevitable that i'd stumble across the legacy of the calder valley coiners: a huge network of coin forgers and counterfeiters who, some 200 years ago, cost the government dear and shared out their profits among the poor of the region. this was too good to be true: a thousand robin hoods virtually on my own doorstep. i'd seen an advertisement for a fell race up n down x country called "the coiner's seven" - a seve mile slog around the coiners' eighteenth century haunts - and began looking for any writings on the coiners. precious little is left: the history of these coin clippers is writ small, usually by wet liberal historians who fail to understand the radical nature of coining. what little there is led me to heptonstall church graveyard where "king" david hartley, one of the leading coiners is buried. finding his rainswept tombstone, one desperately stormy sunday afternoon, was as exciting as child - hood annual visit to backpool pleasure beach it was up in the tiny village of heptonstall, to (i later read) that a local woman called mary newall had killed an informer by putting hot coal down his trousers a flame for your pants, a poker for your eyes in a local inn. great stuff. as coincidence had it, the summer of 1991 saw a spate of forged tenners and fivers hitting the street of england, with shopkeepers and bankers across the country discovering they'd been conned by counterfeit notes. respect due to mickey thomas, wrexham footballer ha! well madam how'd you like it, maybe plenty off the back? i heard the coiners took the snippers to the union, jack with a snipper and a clipper and a bloody close shavemaking fivers, tenners, twenties, change. what's your size? what's the houres? tufnelspeak no, you don't need the hassle- take the new short cut to the old clippy castle with the ramblers and the scramblers and the loiners and the tykes and the punks and the hippies living by the pike. skyline dominating stoodley pike, built to commemorate the end of napoleonic wars, now a phallic haven for twolegs and fourlegs pick a coin, any coin, and with a snip snip snip you turn a portuguese guinea to a threepenny bit; and every last watermark just curled up and died, haircut sir? and now the king and the queen got a bit on the side. don't be bloody silly- keep away from bloody billy notorious government informer- cause he's shooping all the chooping going down along the valley, and supergrassing catches like a plague, to be sure: but it's nothing that a bullet in the belly couldn't cure. please to put a penny in the old man's hat, then roll'em over! roll'em over! lay 'em out flat! just deliver us kicking from our pokes and sacks to the hills of hebden, hell and halifax. and the next bugger blabs is the next bugger dies, got a flame for your pants and a poker for your eyes... where every hot guinea is another hot dinner, with the weavers and the spinners and the reverends aye, even the reverends were involved! and the sinners.
- Chumbawamba "Snip Snip Snip"

Chumbawamba's encomium to coining appeared on their 1992 album Shhh, which recycled what they could recover from their legally unreleasable Jesus H. Christ. JHC was not allowed out because it made use of copyrighted material in ways that the copyright holders would not allow. Years later, after the shutdown of Napster and the ridiculousnes of multimillionaire popstars claiming filesharing would hurt them, Chumbawamba released an MP3-only single made up almost entirely of samples from "artists" speaking out against filesharing.

The coin clipping and filesharing parallel bears further research. While the term "pirate" is the term of choice for discussing filesharing, clipping may be a more apt analogy. Coins made from precious metals were subject to having small amounts of the metal shaved off. These amounts, accumulated, could be melted down and sold on the precious metal market. The clipping of coins, in turn, led to coins that were worth more by their denomination than the metal that bore that denomination. This amounted effectively to a monetary policy from below, such that the state was not the sole arbiter of currency debasement. Clipping produced new wealth by extracting it from existing wealth in a way that resulted in a greater aggregate quantity of wealth available, and in a fashion that is difficult to regulate. The practice of clipping is the origin of the common practice of milling the edges of coins to make clipping more immediately detectable.

Filesharing allows the same process. Electronic duplication of goods, either entirely, in pieces, or reworked into components of other goods, produces new wealth without any significant loss and in a fashion that is difficult to regulate. This is why responses to file sharing are so draconian. If filesharing can not be directly stopped, perhaps fear will impede the process. For these same reasons, 17th century colonies in America made use of the pillory as punishment for coining: the sight of an individual immobilized and publicly brutalized was designed to evoke a cost/benefit analysis on the part of would-be criminals as to whether the wealth gained was worth the possible harm inflicted should they be caught. The response to filesharing is similar. Practice and plans now to produce CDs and DVDs that can not be copied, software that requires online challenge-and-response are analogies for the milled edges of coins.

A few questions open outward from the issues sketched here. Historically, what cases were there of deliberate organizations of coin clippers, and actions in defense of coin clipping? If so, what were the conditions of their successes and failures? And, what impact did coin clipping have on economic trends, both directly and indirectly via changes in monetary policy in response? In the present, what impacts do filesharing having on economic trends? Certainly trade associations for industries involved are paying a great deal of attention to the issue. They believe their profits are at stake. Given that their profits are only their concern, not ours, what impacts might filesharing have upon us? In what ways might industry seek to pass impacts on to us, and how might this trickle down be fought?

Additionally, what means might there be for the collective organization of the defense of filesharing? It is likely that real wages in the US will continue to decline, providing one among many reasons it is likely that filesharing will continue to remain attractive to many people. Defending this activity will require creativity and tenacity. It will not be easy, not least because it is a semi-private activity. Coin clipping and file sharing are intersubjective activities, in that each involve exchanges with other people, but they do not necessarily involve deliberate collective organization or coordination with other people. This is one of the reasons why the pirate metaphor is less apt for file sharing. Piracy necessarily entails cooperative organization with others. While file sharing is often a planned and coordinated activity, a large part of it happens in the home in a relatively individualized setting.

Collective acts of filesharing, perhaps coordinated via entities such as hacklabs, may be useful for helping to create, for lack of a better term, a class consciousness amongst file sharers. Other needed activities are the analysis of trends in the mechanisms for prevention, detection, and punishment of file sharing. One goal should be elaborating techniques for evading and jamming the works of those mechanisms, and the more publicly the better. Another goal should analysis of who are the leading actors in the crusade against file sharing, so that they can be made the target of acts of retaliatory protest. A third goal should be the production of memes and of subvertising that helps foster the aims here advanced. Perhaps historical research into figures such as the Cragg Vale coiners can be useful to this project, as can perhaps works such as "Snip Snip Snip."

Friday, January 06, 2006

Norman Finkelstein: Haunted House

[Excerpt from a political memoir in progress. Last edited 06.01.2005.]

Every night as we watched the news on television my mother would avert her eyes and raise her hand to block the screen when scenes from Vietnam flashed across it. After a few moments the question would invariably come: "Is it over yet?" Not at all given to self-dramatization, she simply couldn't endure the scenes of destruction and death. Whereas most of my friends and their parents eventually came to be against the Vietnam War, the moral urgency of opposition sounded at a different decibel in my home. The war wasn't a subject of intellectual or political argument, even vehement argument. My mother's whole being revolted against it. I wouldn't say she was emotional about the war; she was hysterical. Although knowledgeable about the facts, she detested any intellectualizing of it. Even to engage in debate about Vietnam constituted a moral travesty. It manifested a lack of genuine outrage at, and comprehension of, the unfolding horror: no one who had actually experienced war could or would calmly discuss it. For related reasons she disdained my joining the high school forensics team. The art of debate was to argue with equal passion and skill both sides of a given question. To her mind, it nurtured duplicity, the amoral manipulation of words.

My mother would often exclaim that the United States was "worse than Hitler." Admittedly, in my home many things were alleged to be "worse than Hitler," including on occasion my siblings and me, or "worse than Auschwitz," including my mother's cooking. I'm not sure whether my mother meant literally the comparison between the U.S. and Hitler or she was simply straining to convey the magnitude of the Vietnam War's criminality. Having internalized my mother's indignation I became nearly insufferable whenever the subject of Vietnam would come up. After forcing my high school economics class to listen to passages from a book graphically depicting U.S. atrocities in Vietnam, I remember my shock and disgust that nobody else was physically wrenched. To this day I still cringe at the memory of publicly breaking down at a college teach-in on the war. In retrospect I regret my holier-than-thou posture but, if it's any mitigation, the war did profoundly affect me. I couldn't comprehend how people compartmentalized the carnage and went on with business as usual: at this very moment, I thought, Vietnamese are being murdered. It was only many years later after reading Noam Chomsky that I learned it was possible to unite exacting scholarly rigor with scathing moral outrage; that an intelligent argument didn't have to be an intellectualizing one.

It was no mystery from whence my mother's impassioned response sprang. The devastating firepower of the Americans, on the one hand, and the utter defenselessness of the Vietnamese, on the other; the indifference or, at any rate, scandalously incommensurate response, of the rest of humanity to the ongoing genocide: it was the Nazi holocaust all over again. And such was her exceptional humanity that my mother literally couldn't bear for anyone to suffer as she had. Neither of my parents ever let go of "the war." They couldn't, and were it even possible, wouldn't have wanted to. Never to forget, Never to forgive – this was how they lived, and died. It wasn't just bitterness over what had befallen them, although there was plenty of that; not forgetting or forgiving was the minimum they owed to those who had perished. I once had dinner with two Unitarian friends, both married to German-born women who had been in the Hitler Youth. The subject eventually came around to the Nazi holocaust, and one of the wives whined, "How much longer must we keep hearing about it?" "My parents lived with the Nazi holocaust until the last day of their lives," I coldly thought, "so you can live with it until the last day of yours."

- continues here.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Men And Women Of Peace

On April 15, 2002, a quarter-page ad appeared in the New York Times. It was entitled "To Our Fellow Americans" and it detailed what its sponsors clearly felt to the urgent, self-evident truths:

We affirm our love for the State of Israel, the hope of the Jewish people. Our gratitude goes out to the citizen-soldiers of Israel who protect one another from their would-be destroyers. We embrace the resolve of the Israeli citizens who suffer ongoing merciless terror in the streets, busses, restaurants and synagogues.

We declare that it is past time for the governments and leaders of all Arab and Muslim nations to recognize - unconditionally and unequivocally - The State of Israel, a democracy that has flourished honorably for fifty-four years despite repeated Arab attempts to annihilate it. We justly expect Arab and Muslim countries, as members of the family of nations and claimants of numerous lands and extensive territories, to respect the sovereign right of the Jewish people to its one historic homeland.

We invite all people of conscience to join us in condemning the murderous suicide attacks on our fellow Jews in Israel, and in asserting the incontrovertible necessity of self-defense in a war that Israel neithyer sought nor initiated - a war begun 18 months ago by the Palestinian leadership as an attack upon constructive diplomacy. Civilization chooses the credo of life, not the worship of death.

We confirm our confidence in the President"s adherence to principle and our gratitude to our fellow Americans for their recognition of Israel's bravery and resiliency. Confronting the storm of Islamist terrorism that assaulted these shores on September 11, 2001, we are reminded that the State of Israel has been the fighting front line of democracy since its founding in 1948. In this hour of peril and anguish, we call upon the continuing support of America for our Israeli allies.

The list of signatories to this declaration could not have been more illustrious, including some of the most prominent names in Jewish-American literature and intellectual life: Robert Alter, Saul Bellow, Harold Bloom, Allegra Goodman, Jerome Groopman, Mark Helprin, Neal Kozodoy, David Mamet, Leonard Michaels, Cynthia Ozick, Martin Peretz, Norman Podhoretz, Chaim Potok, Elie Wiesel, Leon Wieseltier, and Ruth Wisse.

In March 2002, before the ad appeared, a series of sixteen bombs, most of them carried by suicide bombers, had killed 100 Israeli citizens. Israel's response to this slaughter, Operation Defensive Sheild, was to reoccupy the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Rage and grief over the death of so many Israelis must have been a catalyst for the decision by these prominent Jewish Americans to make public their absolute and uncritical support for Israel, and their demand that the world understand Israel's military response as nothing more than self-defense in a war against a murderous foe.

It is remarkable that these eminent people decided that a successful defense of Israel's actions must feature a refusal to let slip one syllable of concern for the non-Jewish, non-Israeli civilians caught up in the carnage, or even to mention that these people exist. The word "Palestinian" does not appear at any point in the declaration. It is useful, as we note this silence, to remember what was happening to Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories, reported around the world, while these Jewish American leaders composed their ad copy.


The authors of the New York Times ad fail to express the merest concern for a civilian population under such fearsome duress (perhaps the signatories were too busy "confirm[ing]" their "confidence" in George W. Bush's "adherence to principle.") They fail to recognize even the existence of the Palestinian people.

- Tony Kushner, Alisa Solomon, from their Introduction to Wrestling With Zion



Will our children have children? Will they be shoppers?

Will they take holidays? If so, where?

Can't we change the subject?

We can, yes.

"There are things too terrible to consider. If you acknowledged their reality, you would be unable to function. And where would we be, if we couldn't function?

The news has actually been coming in for decades -- from the field, from eyewitnesses, from relief organizations. We can even see the evidence ourselves -- it's happening near us, wherever we are -- but we don't believe these accounts, even our own. We don't want to, because they are too terrible to consider. We're afraid we won't be able to function. The more tremendous a threat is, the harder it is to comprehend. As Raphael Lemkin said in 1944, ''. . . reports which slip out from behind the frontiers . . . are very often labelled as untrustworthy atrocity stories, because they are so gruesome that people simply refuse to believe them." What we're hearing is too frightening to believe.

The evidence is still growing, and growing worse, but we're still resisting it. When the scientists grew more serious and more impassioned about the situation, when they began giving numbers, offering proof, asking for action, we decided that we no longer believed in science. We distanced ourselves; we hoped we wouldn't be affected. The population at risk is not our population, at least not right now, so we needn't do anything right now. We might do something later. The government can do something if there's a real crisis. We trust the government to take care of us, to act responsibly. Believing this is easier than taking drastic steps to stop what's happening, particularly since this government is very much opposed to stopping what's happening. This government is very much intent on pursuing its present course, which results, as a side effect -- though the government would not acknowledge this, or even comment on the fact that it is taking place -- in the complete destruction of the affected population. The affected population is one-half of all the species presently living on earth.

Fanaticism is a driving force here, as it often is behind great crimes. This is a crime against nature, and this fanaticism is economic -- the belief that money and profit should outweigh all other considerations, including survival of the species. If we maintain our current rates of consumption and environmental strategies, by the end of this century, one-half of the species now alive on earth may be extinct. We don't know what the specific effects will be, but we know they'll be extreme. We're presiding over the greatest extermination of living species since the end of the dinosaurs. We're eliminating habitat, reliable climate, fresh water, clean air, and nourishment. We're imposing intolerable living conditions on thousands of species. The current rate of extinctions is thought to be at least 1,000 times higher than the natural level. Right now, one-quarter of all mammals are endangered with extinction; one-third of all species, animal and vegetable, may be gone by 2050.


We know what we're doing. We hear the reports, the gruesome stories, but we've decided just to wait and see. We think the scientists -- all of them -- could be wrong. Maybe we'll just do nothing. Short-term self-interest suggests that we do nothing right now. Why should we drive slower cars because of the Scottish crossbill?

Cutting fossil fuels and reducing greenhouse gases would save many species from vanishing, but we're not committing ourselves to that strategy. One hundred eighty-two nations ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity; the United States -- largest producer of greenhouse gases -- is the only industrial country that refused. We didn't want to be subject to any regulation over our destruction of the air, the water, the habitat, and the voiceless inhabitants of the earth. Others agree. Many developing countries wanted nothing in the treaty that might limit their freedom to exploit -- and destroy -- their natural resources. So the treaty is neither very powerful or effective, since almost everyone involved places short-term economic goals ahead of the long-term health of the planet. Similar issues affect the Kyoto Agreement. It seems we're all in this together, this destruction of species. This is an international effort.

Do we not think we need a healthy planet? Do we think that the animals dying all around us means nothing? That this wholesale destruction won't affect us? Where are the birds, most common and vivid form of wildlife? Intensive agriculture destroys hedges, woods, and wetlands that birds need for feeding and nesting; toxic chemicals poison the pests and the seed-bearing wild plants they need for food. Logging destroys whole regions of habitat; industry pollutes air around the globe. The birds can't build nests, they can't find food, they can't feed their young. They're dying off. Migrating birds used to move in flocks of thousands. Now they straggle past in groups of 20 or 30. Remember the passenger pigeons? Once they darkened the entire sky, across the prairies; we wiped them out in a few decades. We're watching life being extinguished all around us.

The use of fossil fuels, and the resulting climate change, is wreaking havoc everywhere. Monster storms, temperature spikes, and erratic, destructive weather all take their toll on agriculture, construction, transportation, and communication, as well as wildlife. Do we still think we don't belong to the affected population? What if the group we're destroying turns out to include our own? Don't we remember the canary in the coal mine? The canaries are dropping like flies. Why are we standing here, holding the cage?

Whom will we believe, if not these scientists -- experts in the field -- with their gruesome and alarmist facts? How long will we keep denying the evidence? What will we say to our children, and their children [sic], when they learn about the beautiful, rich, and varied life on earth that we were privileged to know?"

- Roxana Robinson: "Watching as the world vanishes", Boston Globe, January 1, 2006

Wednesday, January 04, 2006