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A SOFT FOCUS ON WAR - THE OIL SPILL - GUERRILLA BLOGGING - RUSTBELT RAGE - SMEARING ISRAEL'S CRITICS - THE MYTH OF MARKET FUNDAMENTALISM - RAZING ARIZONA - UNVEIL THE TRUTH - KEYS TO BEAT THE SYSTEM

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In its very invisibility, ideology is here, more than ever: We are there, with our boys, instead of questioning what they are doing at war in the first place.

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hen Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker won all the big Oscars over James Cameron’s Avatar, the victory was perceived as a good sign of the state of things in Hollywood: A modest production meant for independent festivals clearly overran a superproduction whose technical brilliance cannot cover up the flat simplicity of its story. Did this mean that Hollywood is not just a blockbuster machine, but still knows how to appreciate marginal creative efforts? Maybe—but that’s a big maybe. For all its mystifications, Avatar clearly sides with those who oppose the global MilitaryIndustrial Complex, portraying the superpower army as a force of brutal destruction serving big corporate interests. The Hurt Locker, on the other hand, presents the U.S. Army in a way that is much more finely attuned to its own public image in our time of humanitarian interventions and militaristic pacifism. The film largely ignores the big debate about the U.S. military intervention in Iraq, and instead focuses on the daily ordeals of ordinary soldiers who are forced to deal with danger and destruction. In pseudo-documentary style, it tells the story—or rather, presents a series of vignettes—of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) squad and their potentially deadly work of disarming planted bombs. This choice is deeply symptomatic: Although soldiers, they do not kill, but daily risk their lives dismantling terrorist bombs that are destined to kill civilians. Can there be anything more sympathetic to our liberal sensibilities? Are our armies in the ongoing War on Terror (aka The Long War), even when they bomb and destroy, ultimately not just like EOD squads, patiently dismantling terrorist networks in order to make the lives of civilians safer?

But there is more to the film. The Hurt Locker brought to Hollywood the trend that accounts for the success of two recent Israeli films about the 1982 Lebanon war, Ari Folman’s animated documentary Waltz With Bashir and Samuel Maoz’s Lebanon. Lebanon draws on Maoz’s own memories as a young soldier, rendering the war’s fear and claustrophobia by shooting most of the action from inside a tank. The movie follows four inexperienced soldiers dispatched in a tank to “mop up” enemies in a Lebanese town that has already been bombarded by the Israeli air force. Interviewed at the 2009 Venice Film Festival, Yoav Donat, the actor who plays the soldier Maoz from a quarter of a century ago, said: “This is not a movie that makes you think ‘I’ve just been to a movie.’ This is a movie that makes you feel like you’ve been to war.” In a similar way, Waltz With Bashir, renders the horrors of the 1982 conflict from the point of view of Israeli soldiers. Maoz said his film is not a condemnation of Israel’s policies, but a personal account of what he went through. “The mistake I made is to call the film Lebanon because the Lebanon War is no different in its essence from any other war and for me any attempt to be political would have flattened the film.” This is ideology at its purest: The re-focus on the perpetrator’s traumatic experience enables us to obliterate the entire ethicopolitical background of the conflict: What was the Israeli army doing deep in Lebanon? Such a “humanization” thus serves to obfuscate the key point: the need for a ruthless analysis of what we are doing in our political-military activity and what is at stake. Our political-military struggles are not an opaque history that brutally disrupts our intimate personal lives—they are something in which we fully participate.

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More generally, such a “humanization” of the soldier (in the direction of the proverbial wisdom “it is human to err”) is a key constituent of the ideological (self-)presentation of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The Israeli media loves to dwell on the imperfections and psychic traumas of Israeli soldiers, presenting them neither as perfect military machines nor as super-human heroes, but as ordinary people who, caught into the traumas of history and warfare, commit errors and can get lost as all normal people can. For example, in January 2003, the IDF demolished the house of the family of a suspected terrorist. They did it with accentuated kindness, even helping the family to move the furniture out before destroying the house with a bulldozer. A similar incident was reported a little bit earlier in the Israeli press. When an Israeli soldier was searching a Palestinian house for suspects, the mother of the family called her daughter by her name in order to calm her down, and the surprised soldier learned that the frightened girl’s name was the same as his own daughter’s. In a sentimental upsurge, he pulled out his wallet and showed her picture to the Palestinian mother. It is easy to discern the falsity of such a gesture of empathy: The notion that, in spite of political differences, we are all human beings with the same loves and worries, neutralizes the impact of what the soldier is effectively doing at that moment. The only proper reply of the mother should be to de-

mand that the soldier address this question: “If you really are human like me, why are you doing what you are doing now?” The soldier can then only take refuge in reified duty: “I don’t like it, but these are my orders,” thus avoiding any responsibility for his actions. The message of such humanization is to emphasize the gap between the person’s complex reality and the role they are forced—against their true nature—to play. “In my family, the military is not genetic,” says one of the interviewed soldiers who is surprised to find himself a career officer, in Claude Lanzmann’s documentary on the IDF, Tsahal. And this brings us back to The Hurt Locker. Its depiction of the daily horror and traumatic impact of serving in a war zone seems to put it miles apart from sentimental celebrations of the U.S. Army’s humanitarian role, like in John Wayne’s infamous Green Berets. However, we should always bear in mind that the terserealistic presentation of the absurdities of war in The Hurt Locker obfuscates and thus renders acceptable the fact that its heroes are doing exactly the same job as the heroes of Green Berets. In its very invisibility, ideology is here, more than ever: We are there, with our boys, identifying with their fears and anguishes instead of questioning what they are doing at war in the first place.

IT IS EASY TO DISCERN THE FALSITY OF SUCH A GESTURE OF EMPATHY

Are the number of major U.S. bases in posted permantley in Iraq.

U.S. Spending per Second (per Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on May 5, 2008)

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While most of the big oil and gas companies operate their own lobbying shops in Washington, the industry also farmed out a substantial amount of its work to some of Washington’s largest and most influential lobbying firms.

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s oil threatens the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico, the rationalizations, dubious information and spin about the Gulf blowout flow.In insisting that the blowout at BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig should not deter off-shore oil drilling, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana said on the Senate floor Friday: “I don’t believe we should retreat.” Ten days before the blowout occurred and, as she spoke, it was threatening massive environmental and economic damage including to her home state.She gave the huge oil slick in the Gulf a rainbow hue. “What’s important about this sheen is that 97% of it is a rainbow sheen,” she said in the Senate. “Only 3% contains emulsified crude…So it is important to understand that, while this is an unprecedented disaster—the oil slick is wide and covers a large section of ocean—97% of it is an extremely thin sheen of relatively light oil on the surface.” She repeated her call that there be no “retreat” on offshore oil drilling in media appearances.

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Host Bob Schieffer might have asked Senator Landrieu whether her position had anything to do with the hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions she receives annually from the oil industry.If a Face the Nation producer had done a Google search, reports would be found such as on SourceWatch: “Mary Landrieu has received $252,950 in oil contributions during the 110th Congress. $163,000 of those were from industry PACS. In total, Landrieu has accepted $574,000 from oil companies from 2000 to 2008, which makes her one of the highest recipients {in Congress] of oil money.”She did acknowledge in her Senate speech that she is “an unabashed proponent of the [oil] industry.” She just didn’t explain the financial arrangement.As to the claim of the situation being “unprecedented,” which has been widely asserted— in terms of the depth of the sea in which the rig was positioned and also the volume of oil gushing from a mile down, it is unprecedented. But blowouts and consequent spills from offshore oil rigs—including those in the Gulf of Mexico—are not uncommon. Indeed, last year there was a blowout, strikingly similar to what just happened in the Gulf, involving the West Atlas drilling rig in the Timor Sea off northwest Australia. The oil slick formed extended for more than 100 miles; it took 10 weeks for the blow-out to be brought under control; marine life was impacted and shores blackened. “If anything like the Australian blowout ever takes places off of the Southeast U.S. beaches or in Florida waters, the economic and environmental consequences will last for decades,” said Richard Charter speaking for Washington-based Defenders of Wildlife at the time. Of that spill, he said: “A global-scale environmental catastrophe so large that it is visible from space is unfolding in one of the earth’s last marine wilderness areas.” The West Atlas rig was in water 260-feet deep. It took five attempts before heavy mud pumped down a relief well was able to move into the well that underwent the blowout on August 21 and cork the leak. The reality is that wherever there’s oil drilling, there’s spilling. U.S. Department of Interior figures reflect 3 million gallons of oil spilled from 1980 to 1999 in the U.S. outer continental shelf offshore drilling program. As to blowouts, there were 18 in wells in the Gulf of Mexico from 1983 up to the eruption at the Deepwater Horizon rig. President Obama led those who would claim offshore drilling can be conducted safely when, Friday, he rejected calls from environmentalists to cancel planned lease sales by the Department of Interior for drilling in the Mid-Atlantic, eastern Gulf of Mexico and off northern Alaska but said he wanted to see new “safeguards.” The notion of new “safeguards” in a process that always results in spilled oil is a pipe dream. As the late Red Adair, who specialized in trying to cap oil well blow-outs, said: “You can take all the precautions in the world” and spills “still happen.” An especially sunny view of the Gulf spill came from a U.S. Coast Guard officer quoted in a LiveScience.com article on April 29.: “As for what happens to the ‘dispersed oil’ that doesn’t get skimmed off or burned off or otherwise collected, ‘We’re told it disperses naturally. It eventually breaks up and evaporates. There are different ways, but we’re told it just kind of goes away.’” the officer said. Really?Meanwhile, there is the spin that despite the damage it causes, we just “need” to do offshore oil drilling. “The Spill Vs. a Need to Drill,” was the lead story of the “Week in Review” section of the New York Times Sunday. The blowout at an offshore drilling rig off Santa Barbara, California “marked a turning point in the oil industry’s ex-

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pansion shelving any chance for drilling along most of the nation’s coastlines,” wrote reporter Jad Mouawad. “Is history about to repeat itself in the Gulf of Mexico?” “It may seem so this weekend,” he stated. “Emotions are running high as an oil slick washes over the Gulf Coast’s fragile ecosystem, threatening fisheries, shrimp farmers and perhaps even Florida’s tourism industry.” “But whatever the magnitude of the spill at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig,” reported Mouawad, “it is unlikely to seriously impede offshore drilling in the Gulf. This country needs the oil—and the jobs.”His article ended with a quote from Samuel Thernstrom of the right-wing, staunchly probusiness American Enterprise Institute: “A fossil-fuel free future isn’t inconceivable but it is decades away. ”Who says? There have been numerous studies concluding that if the United States put the resources into implementing clean, safe—and fossilfuel free—energy technologies available today, in relatively short order we would drastically reduce oil consumption. For the oil industry—and its supporters—accepting the inextricable link between offshore oil drilling and spillage and its consequent environmental damage “is a way of doing business,” explains Long Island University environmental Studies Professor Ralph Herbert. “They know accidents are going to happen. They just rationalize that away. They say, ‘It never happened before, it’s unprecedented, it’s unique,’ and, meantime, they know it’s an ongoing situation. With a big disaster like this, they’re

“EMOTIONS ARE RUNNING HIGH AS AN OIL SLICK WASHES OVER THE GULF COAST’S FRAGILE ECOSYSTEM, THREATENING FISHERIES, SHRIMP FARMERS AND PERHAPS EVEN FLORIDA’S TOURISM INDUSTRY.”

caught with their pants down. It’s a failure of the market system to incorporate the real costs of oil and use of fossils fuels. This doesn’t happen and wouldn’t happen with wind and solar.” Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, issued a statement over the weekend saying that Obama is “correct” in saying BP “is responsible for this spill. But the government bears responsibility, too, as it failed to protect U.S. waters and the people who depend on them. Offshore oil drilling is inherently dirty and dangerous. In order to fulfill its responsibility to protect its citizens and territory, the government must establish a permanent moratorium on offshore drilling.” With the oil industry spending many millions of dollars a year on lobbying and political contributions—see the Center for Public Integrity’s “Big Oil Protects Its Interests” -- can this happen? In the face of the devastation in the Gulf, it should.

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With Internet access in Cuba restricted to the very few, the nation’s bloggers function as a kind of guerrilla underground. By Orlando Pardo Lazo

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n the Island, the blogosphere is an incipient media and, outside of Havana, all but invisible. Though their work generates controversies and awards worldwide, Cuban bloggers are largely unknown here. With Internet access in Cuba restricted to the very few, the nation’s bloggers function as a kind of guerrilla underground. They work as independent agents whose existence heralds a civic re-activation that will modulate the Revolution’s Realpolitik—or is that Raúlpolitik?. Blogs Sobre Cuba, an online database founded in 2007, lists more than

1,000 blogs on Cuban topics, both on and off the island. The State monopoly of the printed word, which continues to be the media most read, doesn’t seem interested in acknowledging the 21st century’s cursed tetragrammatron: BLOG. So when a State journalist needs to quote from some foreign (never domestic) blog in his article, he does it with sterilized surgical gloves, never explaining the format of his source. Curiously, these same State newspapers have their own digital replicas that are a lot less orthodox than their print counterparts. They’re on State cyber-portals that celebrate the government’s achievements in

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health, sports, technology, education, tourism, culture, etc. As a counteroffensive in the “War of Ideas,” dozens of official journalists are also allowed to hang blogs on sites such as Bloggers Cuba and Blogueros y Corresponsales de la Revolucion . In both cases, the vast majority of these writers are male and white—not exactly reflecting the country’s population or the rest of the world’s multi-culti blogosphere. Even Fidel Castro has become a blogger with the publication of his reflections in Cubadebate. Anidelys Rodriguez, a communications professor at the University of Havana, has studied the blogs in the State-sponsored Cuban blogosphere.


According to Rodriguez, the majority reflect “professional ideologies and traditional news values” and “a self-imposed commitment to re-affirm national identity.” In other words, these are not personal blogs but appendices to the State media in which the writers already work.

Perilous connections

But for a Cuban blogger to get to the mythical Ithaca that is the Internet, they must first navigate an odyssey of obstacles. First, there is the scandalous cost of connecting, which in just a couple of hours can swallow an average monthly salary ($15 to $20 U.S.). Then there are the Paleolithic browsing speeds (usually less than 50 Kbps). And finally, of course, there is the ministry-level apartheid that prohibits Cuban nationals from opening a web account with ETECSA, the national telephone company—whereas any foreign resident can do so with a simple bureaucratic application accompanied by hard currency. Nonetheless, whether through tricks or under-the-table payments, information in Cuba today travels with unprecedented speed. Some people use online computers at diplomatic compounds, like the U.S. Special Interest Section, and thus are attacked as “dissidents” by official spokespersons. Many occasionally log on from hotels to upload and download all their material for the week—or the month. (Sometimes Cuban nationals are allowed to do this openly, other times they’re banned from the cyber cafes at hotels that cater to foreigners; it’s always a mystery what will happen at any given hotel on any given day.) Others don’t upload or download their texts and images themselves, but send them instead, as e-mail attachments, to a collaborator who will do them the favor from abroad. This is also how many blogs publish in different languages. According to the National Office of Statistics (which doesn’t count anything outside of formal channels), out of a Cuban population of more

than 11 million, only 1.5 million use the Internet. Online connections made through student or work centers ban “pornographic and counter-revolutionary” sites, creating an incriminating nexus between those two words, and denying access to almost everything published by Cubans abroad. Domestic connections authorized for individual government officials are, in practice, also domesticated: portals such as Cubanet and Cuba Encuentro, both exile news services, are blocked by the Cuban government, as are various proxy servers. Cuban national servers, such as Infomed and Cubarte only allow browsing on “.cu” domains, which are exclusively Cuban State pages and as such are a kind of cyber chastity belt euphemistically referred to as the “Intranet.” In practice what this means is that most of the few Cubans who have online access don’t, in fact, have access to the Worldwide Web at all—only to e-mail. Users on these restricted networks assume that their e-mails are monitored, or even erased if they contain politically incorrect words. To violate State sensibility can mean having the service suspended, or worse.

one anonymous writer as saying he/ she had agreed to go to Mexico because of the “proper meals, daily clean sheets, CNN and hot water for showers.” Following that blog post, Santiesteban was called in by an official with the Instituto del Libro. The tiff with the functionary inspired more blogs and an assault on the street that left Santiesteban with a broken arm, but still able to write. Since his blog isn’t available in Cuba, it was presumed that his assailants, who called him “counterrevolutionary,” were sent by State security. Santiesteban filed complaints with both the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba and the Ministry of Culture, which have promised to investigate. Then there is the story of Erasmo Calzadilla, a former university professor who writes for Havana Times, an English-language portal that was originally run from Cuba by a State-employed, foreign-born interpreter. (The site is now operated from Nicaragua, where the owner lives after losing employment in Cuba.) Calzadilla, 34, was fired from his university, Instec, after posting a series of entries on controversial topics, such

“BUT FOR A CUBAN BLOGGER TO GET TO THE MYTHICAL ITHACA THAT IS THE INTERNET, THEY MUST FIRST NAVIGATE AN ODYSSEY OF OBSTACLES” Take the case of Ángel Santiesteban, who writes a blog called Los hijos que nadie quiso (The Children Nobody Wanted). Santiesteban, a much-lauded writer who has won most of Cuba’s top literary prizes, wrote about the shameful behavior at a minor Mexican book fair of a delegation of Cuban writers In essence, he chided these writers “who never question government management” for opportunism, and for demanding abroad what they would never ask for at home. He quoted

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as the naïveté of foreigners when it comes to Cuba, or how gay Cuban couples have nowhere to go to have sex. He detailed his dismissal from the faculty in his blog as well and, now teaching at another school, continues to write for Havana Times. In spite of this panoptic attempt to control a medium as emancipating as the web, Cuba has one of the most popular blogs in the world: Yoani Sánchez’s Generacion Y. Sánchez is a 34-year-old philologist who doesn’t write for a newspaper or have access


to too many interactive tools, but she’s at the cutting edge of Cuba’s digital revolution. (The name of her blog stems from the curious predilection of Cubans in the ’70s and ’80s to name their children with Russian sounding names.) Like a lot of sites from the Island, including many official ones, Sánchez uses a foreign-based server to guarantee the integrity and security of her material. In a gesture of solidarity that serves as an example of the Cuba’s independent blogosphere, she shares her site, Voces Cubanas , for free and without hierarchies, conditions or political sectarianism, with any Cuban national who wants to create a blog. On a government site, Cambios en Cuba, which seems practically dedicated to slamming Sánchez, authorities have added to the Generaci—n Y logo a swastika and letters reading “CIA.” Because of the stigma now attached to Generacion Y many people interested in blogging are cautious about actually doing so just yet. But the diversity on Voces Cubanas is already well-known, including popular blogs like Sin Evasion and Desde Aqui ; the very dramaticVoz Tras las Rejas, written by the journalist Pablo Pacheco, who’s actually in prison at an undisclosed location and whose work is produced completely in defiance of the authorities; the irreverent Octavo Cerco; a replica of Sánchez’s blog, given that the original continues to be blocked in Cuba by the authorities vocescubanas.com/

generaciony and my own photo-blog, Boring Home Utopics. Due to the high cost of connection in Cuba, those who can connect rarely read online, so the distribution of blog materials on the island itself happens through other means, particularly memory sticks and CDs. Unquestionably, immediacy and feedback are affected by these secondand third-hand reading experiences, which sometimes disconnect the bloggers from their natural audience. In addition, Sánchez has organized Itinerario Blogger 2009, which facilitates theoretical and technical exchanges about the blogosphere and its repercussions worldwide. This past summer, Kelly van der Kwast , a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post, participated in an underground workshop in the provinces for future bloggers. Though the Cuban blogosphere is still emerging and can only be read in its entirety from outside (of course, on the Island, State security apparatchiks follow every little millimeter of progress, every update), today there’s a certain optimism among local participants. The State has not yet passed specific laws against a phenomenon as new as blogging, although the habit of accusing critical voices of being “capitalism’s useful idiots” or “mercenaries of enemy propaganda” can serve as a brake on free expression.

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“It’s secret work and neo-colonial journalism,” Fidel Castro said of Sánchez in 2008. But the attacks on and persecution of bloggers like Santiesteban and Calzadilla are, of course, frightening. There are also legal warnings issued for “peligrosidad predelictiva,” or “dangerous pre-criminality,” which has been used to arrest and harass, but not yet convict. Some well-known Cuban opposition figures have just recently begun to experiment with this form of instant publication, and they consider the bloggers possible allies in their efforts toward a democratic transition. But there’s a generational conflict because the bloggers’ infamy has practically taken traditional dissidents out of the media spotlight. For now, the Cuban blogosphere perseveres, on and off the island, with a broad, chaotic diversity of opinion on all sides—a virtual democracy, against all odds.


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By Noam Chomsky

An acute sense of betrayal comes readily to people who believed they had fulfilled their duty to society in a moral compact with business and government.

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n Feb. 18, Joe Stack, a 53-year-old computer engineer, crashed his small plane into a building in Austin, Texas, hitting an IRS office, committing suicide, killing one other person and injuring others. Stack left an anti-government manifesto explaining his actions. The story begins when he was a teenager living on a pittance in Harrisburg, Pa., near the heart of what was once a great industrial center. His neighbor, in her ’80s and surviving on cat food, was the “widowed wife of a retired steel worker. Her husband had worked all his life in the steel mills of central Pennsylvania with promises from big business and the union that, for his 30 years of service, he would have a pension and medical care to look forward to in his retirement. “Instead he was one of the thousands who got nothing because the incompetent mill management and corrupt union (not to mention the government) raided their pension funds and stole their retirement. All she had was Social Security to live on.”

He could have added that the super-rich and their political allies continue to try to take away Social Security, too. Stack decided that he couldn’t trust big business and would strike out on his own, only to discover that he also couldn’t trust a government that cared nothing about people like him but only about the rich and privileged; or a legal system in which “there are two `interpretations’ for every law, one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us.” The government leaves us with “the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies (that) are murdering tens of thousands of people a year,” with care rationed largely by wealth, not need. Stack traces these ills to a social order in which “a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities—and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours.” Stack’s

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manifesto ends with two evocative sentences: “The communist creed: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The capitalist creed: from each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.” Poignant studies of the U.S. rustbelt reveal comparable outrage among individuals who have been cast aside as state-corporate programs close plants and destroy families and communities. An acute sense of betrayal comes readily to people who believed they had fulfilled their duty to society in a moral compact with business and government, only to discover they had been only instruments of profit and power. Striking similarities exist in China, the world’s second largest economy, investigated by UCLA scholar Ching Kwan Lee. Lee has compared working-class outrage and desperation in the discarded industrial sectors of the U.S. and in what she calls China’s rustbelt—the state socialist industrial center in the Northeast, now abandoned for state capitalist development of the southeast sunbelt.

In both regions Lee found massive labor protests, but different in character. In the rustbelt, workers express the same sense of betrayal as their U.S. counterparts—in their case, the betrayal of the Maoist principles of solidarity and dedication to development of the society that they thought had been a moral compact, only to discover that whatever it was, it is now bitter fraud. Around the country, scores of millions of workers dropped from work units “are plagued by a profound sense of insecurity,” arousing “rage and desperation,” Lee writes. Lee’s work and studies of the U.S. rustbelt make clear that we should not underestimate the depth of moral indignation that lies behind the furious, often self-destructive bitterness about government and business power. In the U.S., the Tea Party movement—and even more so the broader circles it reaches—reflect the spirit of disenchantment. The Tea Party’s anti-tax extremism is not as immediately suicidal as Joe Stack’s protest, but it is suicidal nonetheless.

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California today is a dramatic illustration. The world’s greatest public system of higher education is being dismantled. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he’ll have to eliminate state health and welfare programs unless the federal government forks over some $7 billion. Other governors are joining in. Meanwhile a newly powerful states’ rights movement is demanding that the federal government not intrude into our affairs—a nice illustration of what Orwell called “doublethink”: the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in mind while believing both of them, practically a motto for our times. California’s plight results in large part from antitax fanaticism. It’s much the same elsewhere, even in affluent suburbs. Encouraging anti-tax sentiment has long been a staple of business propaganda. People must be indoctrinated to hate and fear the government, for good reasons: Of the existing power systems, the government is the one that in principle, and sometimes in fact, answers to the public and can constrain the depredations of private power. However, anti-government propaganda must be nuanced. Business of course favors a power-

ful state that works for multinationals and financial institutions—and even bails them out when they destroy the economy. But in a brilliant exercise in doublethink, people are led to hate and fear the deficit. That way, business’s cohorts in Washington may agree to cut benefits and entitlements like Social Security (but not bailouts). At the same time, people should not oppose what is largely creating the deficit—the growing military budget and the hopelessly inefficient privatized healthcare system. It is easy to ridicule how Joe Stack and others like him articulate their concerns, but it’s far more appropriate to understand what lies behind their perceptions and actions at a time when people with real grievances are being mobilized in ways that pose no slight danger to themselves and to others. Extremism is not as immediately suicidal as Joe Stack’s protest, but it is suicidal nonetheless. California today is a dramatic illustration. The world’s greatest public system of higher education is being dismantled. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he’ll have to eliminate state health and welfare programs unless

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the federal government forks over some $7 billion. Other governors are joining in. Meanwhile a newly powerful states’ rights movement is demanding that the federal government not intrude into our affairs—a nice illustration of what Orwell called “doublethink”: the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in mind while believing both of them, practically a motto for our times. California’s plight results in large part from antitax fanaticism. It’s much the same elsewhere, even in affluent suburbs. Encouraging anti-tax sentiment has long been a staple of business propaganda. People must be indoctrinated to hate and fear the government, for good reasons: Of the existing power systems, the government is the one that in principle, and sometimes in fact, answers to the public and can constrain the depredations of private power. However, anti-government propaganda must be nuanced. Business of course favors a powerful state that works for multinationals and financial institutions—and even bails them out when they destroy the economy. But in a brilliant exercise in doublethink, people are led to hate and fear the deficit. That way, busi-

ness’s cohorts in Washington may agree to cut benefits and entitlements like Social Security (but not bailouts). At the same time, people should not oppose what is largely creating the deficit—the growing military budget and the hopelessly inefficient privatized healthcare system. It is easy to ridicule how Joe Stack and others like him articulate their concerns, but it’s far more appropriate to understand what lies behind their perceptions and actions at a time when people with real grievances are being mobilized in ways that pose no slight danger to themselves and to others.

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Is the money that the US stimulus package granted to the financial institutions


By Salim Muwakkil

Former DePaul professor Finkelstein joins a growing list of academics censored for criticizing the Holy Land’s foreign policy

D

ePaul University canceled courses taught by Norman Finkelstein, the controversial political science professor known for his forthright criticism of Israel, just a week before classes resumed in June. Finkelstein, who taught at DePaul for six years, was denied tenure at the Chicago school but permitted to teach for the one year remaining on his contract. In late August, however, the university decided to axe him and pulled his required books from the school’s bookstore. This was a break from the academic tradition that grants a faculty member who is denied tenure one last year (the “terminal year”) in the classroom. Finkelstein initially vowed to protest his suspension, but later reached an agreement (including a monetary settlement) with DePaul to end his fight. However, even as he announced the agreement, Finkelstein charged his tenure denial was due “to external pressure resulting in a national hysteria.” Finkelstein’s rough treatment followed a vigorous national campaign

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initiated by right-wing supporters of Israel to taint his name. They attacked Finkelstein for his scholarship, which has consistently excoriated the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and the deceitful arguments of the Jewish state’s uncritical supporters. And Finkelstein is just one of many public figures currently under attack for contesting the conventional wisdom about Israel. Harvard law professor and avid Zionist Alan Dershowitz mounted a relentless public campaign to have Finkelstein dismissed. Surely it is no coincidence that Finkelstein’s recent book, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, is a sustained, wellresearched attack on Dershowitz and his ilk for their lurid distortions of history on behalf of Israel. DePaul’s political science department and a college-wide faculty committee overwhelmingly backed Finkelstein’s tenure bid. Yet that was not enough to shield him from the national campaign to punish him for his acerbic criticism of Israel. An influential dean persuaded the tenure panel to reject him for the style and tone of his scholarship rather than its content. Finkelstein’s boosters argue that right-wing supporters of Israel are persecuting him for his strident opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and for his criticism that they are unscrupulously exploiting the horror of the Holocaust to justify Israeli excesses. Finkelstein’s previous book, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, makes the case that many Holocaust scholars use the tragedy to justify Israel’s existence and continue to utilize it to extort guilt money from various sources. Finkelstein also provokes ire from Jewish groups because he is the son of two Holocaust survivors, which gives his critiques more credence. The AntiDefamation League (ADL) has repeatedly accused Finkelstein of being a Holocaust denier, a baseless charge. The former DePaul professor’s sup-


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porters claim his tenure denial is completely unjustified and that his suspension violates academic ethics. The Chicago Tribune reported that the American Association of University Professors would soon launch a protest of Finkelstein’s treatment as a violation of normal academic procedure. Finkelstein thus joins former president Jimmy Carter, NYU historian Tony Judt, Harvard University professor Stephen Walt and University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer (the latter two are co-authors of a new book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy) whose forthright criticism of Israel have earned them accusations of antiSemitism. Jimmy Carter is facing a firestorm of criticism from right-wing American Jewish organizations for his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, which mildly condemned the Jewish state’s occupation policies in the Palestinian territories. Judt, a descendant of Holocaust victims who argues that power in Israel has

"Jimmy Carter is facing a firestorm of criticism from rightwing American Jewish organizations for his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid"

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tragically shifted to religious fundamentalists and territorial zealots, is another victim of this pressure. The history professor, who also speaks out against American Jewish groups’ attempts to stifle honest discussion on Israel’s policies, has been forced to cancel many speaking engagements because of pressure from Jewish organizations. Similar reactions have greeted Professors Walt and Mearsheimer, who have co-authored a book arguing that the American-Israel lobby has pushed policies that are not in the United States’ best interests and encourage Israel to engage in self-destructive behavior. The two respected scholars have been denounced as anti-Semites by ADL Director Abraham Foxman, among others. These scholars are victims of a national campaign to punish scholarship that challenges media-made myths about Israel. This grave threat to academic freedom should concern American progressives, who often remain eerily silent.


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By Dean Baker

The Rules are Written to protect the Wealthy and the Powerful

P

rogressives have wailed against “market fundamentalism” for the last quarter-century. They complain that conservatives want to eliminate the government and leave everything to the market. This is nonsense. The Right has every bit as much interest in government involvement in the economy as progressives. The difference is that conservatives want the government to intervene in ways that redistribute income upward. The other difference is that the Right is smart enough to hide its interventions, implying that the structures that redistribute income upward are just the natural working of the market. Progressives help the Right’s cause when we accuse them of being “market fundamentalists,” effectively implying that the conservatives’ structuring of the economy is its natural state. This is not just a question of framing; although the framing is important. Economic outcomes that appear to be the result of the natural workings of the market will always sound more appealing than the machinations of government bureaucrats, especially

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in the political culture of the United States. If we label the Right’s interventions as nothing more than the free market left to itself, then we place progressive policies at an enormous political disadvantage. But the confusion that this misguided war against market fundamentalism creates in designing policy is even more serious than the political damage. Progressives have no reason to look to government to reverse market outcomes. Rather, like our conservative opponents, we should look for ways in which we can structure market rules so that markets have better outcomes from a progressive perspective. The most obvious recent government intervention to redistribute income upward has been the bailout of the financial industry. Faced with complete collapse in the fall of 2008, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and the rest did not yell that they wanted the government to leave them alone. No, these financial behemoths insisted that the government lend them money at below-market interest rates and guarantee their assets. Firms like Goldman Sachs even insisted that the government make good on the debts of bankrupt business partners, such as AIG. Deregulation also increases profitability and has nothing to do with the free market. In other words, the

financial industry wants the government to provide “insurance” through the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and various ad hoc channels, but it doesn’t want to pay for it. It also doesn’t want the insurance to come with any restrictions. In effect, the financial industry wants to run an explosives factory out of its home and pay only the standard residential insurance premium. That’s not the free market. The demands of the financial industry on government are not qualitatively different from what other sectors get as a result of government interventions in structuring the market. To take another example, the government grants pharmaceutical companies patent monopolies that allow them to mark up the price of prescription drugs by several hundred percent or even several thousand percent above what the same drugs would sell for in a competitive market. As a result of patent protection, many drugs sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars per prescription. By contrast, if all drugs were sold as generics in a competitive market, the overwhelming majority could be bought for $4 or $5 per prescription. Patent monopolies do serve an important economic function—they provide an incentive for researching new drugs—but they clearly are not the only way to finance research.

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The government spends more than $30 billion a year financing biomedical research through the National Institutes of Health, an amount comparable to what the industry spends on research. In principle, we could replace the industry-funded research through direct, publicly funded research. Or, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Joe Stiglitz has suggested, research could be carried on in its current manner, but new patents could be bought out through a prize system. Under this system, a committee would assess the value of new patents and pay this amount to patent holders. This would allow the drugs based on new patents to be sold as generics in a competitive market. We can debate whether these alternative mechanisms are better for supporting prescription-drug research than the patent system, but the patent system is clearly not the free market, and it is not essential for financing prescription drug research. The proponents of drug patents cannot claim to support a free market.

There is real money at stake. The country spent $250 billion last year on prescription drugs. In a competitive market, the cost likely would have been closer to $25 billion. The difference of more than $200 billion swamps the size


of the payments to such programs as Food Stamps, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) or Head Start. Furthermore, the drain from this patent monopoly is projected to grow rapidly through time. Prescription drug spending is the most rapidly rising component of health care costs. In 2019 the country is projected to spend almost $500 billion on prescription drugs. Over the course of the next decade, expenditures are projected to exceed $3.5 trillion, implying excess payments to the drug industry of more than $3 trillion, more than three times as much as will be spent on the health care reform proposed in Congress at this writing in early winter. A similar story can be told about copyrights. Bill Gates is an incredibly rich man because the U.S. government gives him a monopoly on Windows, threatening to arrest anyone who sells it or even gives it away without Gates’s permission. Without the monopoly created by copyright protection anyone would be able to instantly download Microsoft software anywhere in the world at no cost. As with drug patents, copyrights serve an important economic function. They provide an incentive for creative and innovative work, like developing new and better software or producing good movies and music, but we already have alternative mechanisms for supporting this work and can develop new ones. Copyright monopolies lead to an enormous transfer of income to software and entertainment companies. Microsoft alone pockets more than $60 billion a year in revenue, almost all of which would not be possible without copyright protection. The industry association claims that, taken together, copyright industries accounted for 6.6 percent of GDP. This is more than one-third of the tax revenue collected by the federal government. I could list more mechanisms and beneficiaries, but the point should be clear. The idea that a “free market” is

allowing some people to get incredibly rich and causing other people to be poor or financially insecure is nonsense. The distribution of income is determined by government policies that favor some groups and work against others. If progressives accept the structures put in place by conservatives as the free market and then look to use tax and transfer policy to redress the inequities, we have given ourselves a hopeless task. We must instead focus on altering the rules that redistribute income upward. There are many different ways to structure markets. We must be as opportunistic and creative as the Right in finding rules that both produce efficient outcomes and lead to better distributions of income. The health care bill illustrates the need for a fundamentally different approach. It does a good job of meeting the important goal of extending coverage to most of the uninsured. However, it does very little to address the problem of exploding cost growth. As a result, we will have created a system that we know will be unaffordable over the long run. The idea that we can somehow pay for this system in future decades with progressive taxes is absurd on its face. It will almost certainly not be possible politically to raise taxes high enough to cover public-sector health care costs. We will eventually either have to ratchet back the extent of coverage and/or the quality of care or impose substantial taxes on the middle class. The alternative route is to directly attack the structure of the health care system that leads to such bloated costs. In this context, it is important to remember that we pay more than twice as much per person for care as people in other wealthy countries. As any number of studies have shown, the reason for higher costs in the United States is not the better quality or greater volume of services but rather the higher cost of the services that we get. This can

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be addressed by changing the markets for these services. Let’s return to prescription drugs. The current system leads to enormous inefficiencies from any perspective and leaves us with absurd choices that would disappear with a more rational system of financing prescription drug research.

Consider the situation of an 80-year-old woman, in generally good health, who develops a form of cancer. Suppose that the only treatment likely to be successfully is a new, bioengineered drug that would cost $250,000 a year. Should the government be willing to pay this expense?

As our moral philosophers labor over this problem, consider that the drug would probably cost $200 a year in the absence of patent protection. That would be the marginal cost of manufacturing and distributing the drug. Although the drug company may have spent a huge amount of money developing the drug, this is money out the door. We have already paid the research cost (ideally through one of the mechanisms discussed above.) The relevant question is, what does it cost to produce the next dose. In the world where the year’s dosage costs $200 we won’t have to spend too much time debating the treatment. This is not the only problem with the patent system. When the government intervenes to artificially inflate prices, it creates unexpected perverse incentives. As a result of the enormous profits on its drugs, the pharmaceutical industry spends a fortune marketing them. This causes them to court and even bribe doctors to get them to prescribe drugs. It leads to expensive


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direct-to-consumer marketing campaigns. It leads the industry to buy politicians to ensure that Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs pay for the drugs. And, it gives the industry an enormous incentive to conceal research results that call into question the effectiveness and safety of its drugs.

Progressives should have been pushing these “free market” arguments in discussing prescription drugs. The amount of money at stake dwarfs the sums at issue with either the “Cadillac” plan tax or the millionaires’ surtax in the health care plans approved by the Senate and the House.

Similarly, we could use a little free trade in health care. Trade policy has been quite explicitly designed to place our manufacturing workers in direct competition with low-paid workers in the developing world. Progressives often point to the loss of manufacturing jobs in the United States and the depression of wages for non-college educated workers as evidence that free trade doesn’t work. This is completely wrong. These outcomes are exactly what the trade models predicted would be the result of the trade policies that the United States has pursued. I would be surprised if there were any other outcome. However, we can design “free trade” policies that produce different outcomes. In the case of health care, we can start by allowing Medicare beneficiaries to buy into the health care systems of other wealthy countries. Because health care costs are so much lower in Germany, Canada and everywhere else, if beneficiaries opted to move to another country

to receive their care, there would be enormous savings that could be split between the U.S. government and the beneficiaries. We recently did calculations showing that a few decades out the projected savings would be tens of thousands per beneficiary each year. This was even after allowing for a substantial premium above costs to the receiving country of treating elderly patients, to ensure that they also benefited from the deal. In fact, since these countries would be getting a premium above their cost of care, this could be a major source of growth for these countries. The fact is that everyone has a huge comparative advantage in health care relative to the United States. Our health care industry only survives because of the extraordinary protectionist measures that restrict foreign competition. It is easy to devise mechanisms through which foreign countries could provide care for U.S. citizens and use the profits to provide better care for their own populations. An international Medicare voucher system could allow retirees to enjoy a much higher standard of living than would otherwise be the case, while at the same time saving the U.S. government tens of trillions of dollars in Medicare costs over the long term. By reducing demand for health care in the United States, it would also lead to downward pressure on domestic medical costs more generally. There are other ways in which the government can promote trade in medical services. For example, it can license facilities in other countries to ensure high standards and also standardize rules on legal liability to ensure that people who go overseas for treatment can be assured of reasonable legal redress in the case of malpractice. Given the enormous gap in costs for health care services between the United States and Europe, not to mention high-quality facilities in places like India and Thailand, there would likely be a huge flow

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of patients for treatment outside the country, if we created the proper institutional structure. Of course, it would be much better to reform the system in the United States so that people did not have to leave the country to get decent affordable care. But, if we lack the political power to reform the domestic system, as is obviously the case now, it is absurd to hold patients here as hostages of a broken system. After the forces of market competition have worked their magic, we will be much better able to discuss reform with the domestic health care industry. It is far more productive to talk about ways to use market mechanisms to fundamentally restructure the health care system than to try to scrape together nickels and dimes in tax revenue to pay to maintain a broken health care system for a few more years. The same approach can be applied to almost any social problems. We can and should push for progressive taxation, but it is even better to change the institutional structures that lead to gross inequality. CEOs in the United States get paid tens of millions of dollars a year because we have created a corporate governance structure that allows top managers to plunder the corporation for their own ends. This corporate governance structure was created by the government, it did not develop through the free market. No other country allows for the same sort of plundering. Changing the rules in ways that return control to shareholders is not government interfering with the market; it is simply repairing a dysfunctional system. Europe and Japan both have dynamic capitalist economies, but they do not have the huge executive compensation packages of the United States. This is not due to legal restrictions on pay, it is due to the fact that they have governance structures that don’t allow the top executives to pilfer the corporations that they ostensibly work for.


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Immigrant bashing, like baseball, has become a favorite American pastime. The draconian, anti immigrant bill (SB 1070) in Arizona only adds credence to this reality.

By David Sirola

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I

mmigrant bashing, like baseball, has become a favorite American pastime. The draconian, anti immigrant bill (SB 1070) in Arizona only adds credence to this reality. This pernicious bill not only targets undocumented immigrants in this desert state, but also punishes Latinos in general, both legal residents and citizens. Apart from criminalizing undocumented immigrants with misdemeanor and felony charges, not to mention imposing monetary fines and imprisonment for deportation purposes, the bill allows for the police and other authorities to stop and interrogate individuals “suspected” of lacking legal documents in this country.In other words, the bill, if upheld on constitutional grounds, allows for the police to single out individuals of Mexican decent, along with other Latinos, and interrogate them due to the color of their skin.  Apart from skin color, what will prevent the police from randomly questioning the legal of brown-skinned individuals sim-

ply for speaking Spanish in public? Apart from skin color and language, what about clothing? Will the police question individuals for wearing a soccer jersey from the Major Soccer League or El Tricolor, the Mexican national team?  This seems to fall under “reasonable suspicion” since “everyone knows” that immigrants love soccer.  Don’t they? This very broad concept of “reasonable suspicion” provides the police and others with too much power to make subjective judgments against individuals based on phenotype, linguistic and clothing characteristics. Where are the national Republican leaders, who argue vehemently against government intrusion on individual rights, when we need them?  Or do individual rights only apply for Americans of European descent? This statewide bill—which undermines federal jurisdiction of immigration regulation, commonly enforced by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—inev-

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By Salim Muwakkil

The French government is now discussing a proposal to ban the wearing of the burqa in various public spaces, including on public transport.

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I

f you are Amish and accustomed to seeing women only in long-sleeve, floor-length dresses with bonnets covering their hair, it must be uncomfortable to visit a non-Amish town and confront women in miniskirts, girls in tank tops, and females of every size and shape in form-fitting garments cut down to here and up to there. But that’s life in a free society. Any Amish who object to provocatively dressed females have the option of staying away or averting their gaze. Any non-Amish who are annoyed by the sight of “Little House on the Prairie” fashions can do likewise. The mutual tolerance approach works well in this country. But some nations that require ultraconservative Muslims to accept constant exposure to immodest attire think modern Westerners should not have to put up with the clothing choices of ultra-conservative Muslims. These governments want to forbid women to venture into public wearing the niqab, the black dress that covers everything but the eyes, and the burqa, which covers the eyes as well. Belgium has banned them, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to do the same. Never mind that faceless women are not exactly rampant in the West. The Belgium Muslim Council says that of the country’s 500,000 Muslims, only two dozen or so keep their faces covered. Among France’s 5 million Muslims, those in veils number just 2,000. So why are some people so riled? Muslims suspect the motive is religious bigotry, but the opponents insist they are safeguarding the values of a democratic society as well as the rights of women. The veil, we are told, is a symbol of oppression imposed on women by husbands and other male relatives. Could be. But how do the critics know? The same thing can be said about surgically enhanced breasts in Europe and the United States. Just because a few adults may be coerced into doing something doesn’t mean others should not be allowed to do it of their own free will. If men are employing violence to control wives and daughters, the reasonable response is to punish them sternly while encouraging women to report the crimes. But outlawing the burqa merely trades one form of compulsion (you must wear this) for

another (you may not wear this). Besides, it is bound to backfire: If brutal men can no longer prevent women from wearing veils when they leave the house, they can prevent them from leaving the house at all. It may be difficult to interact with someone whose face you can’t see. But lots of things that are difficult when unfamiliar soon become tolerable or irrelevant. When I first met someone I knew was gay, many years ago, I was very ill at ease. The first time I conversed with someone wearing a safety pin through her eyebrow, likewise. In both cases, I got over it. I suspect that if they had no choice, the anti-burqa crowd would adapt as well. A more imaginative argument is that covering the face is an attack on civilized norms. “The niqab and the burqa represent a refusal to exist as a person in the eyes of others,” says French parliamentary leader Jean-Francois Cope. Journalist Christopher Hitchens calls them “the most aggressive sign of a refusal to integrate or accommodate.” But in a free society, none of us is obligated to integrate. The Amish don’t. Neither do the Hare Krishnas. Or Trappist monks. Wearing a suicide bomb around your waist is aggressive. Concealing your face is peaceable. Veiled women are not refusing to exist in the eyes of others. They, like all the rest of us, are merely deciding on what terms to make their existence visible. It’s also claimed that covered faces are a security threat, since criminals have donned burqas in a handful of instances. Veils can be put to sinister uses—just as scarves, ski masks and sunglasses are often worn by camera-shy bank robbers. We don’t ban those, and absent compelling evidence of an epidemic of burqa-enabled felonies, we shouldn’t ban veils. Contrary to the prohibitionists, being deprived of an option is not liberation, and choosing your own clothing is not aggression. The few Muslims who take cover behind the burqa should be tolerated as long as they observe the first axiom of a free society: Live and let live. Maybe someday their opponents will learn to do the same.

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By David Graeber

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A

narchism is not kids throwing rocks through windows and causing chaos. Neither is it impractical, utopian or contrary to human nature. There have been hundreds of thousands of Anarchist societies throughout history - including most indigenous societies. Compared to hierarchical militarist societies they typically were and are much more stable and afford their members dramatically higher standards of living. Anarchism is self-organization and direct democracy, created by consent and without coercion. It is the opposite of mob rule, statism, and tyranny.

Educate yourself !!! Decide whether or not you want to be an anarchist. This means studying it! Reading What Is Property? by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon is the first step. Familiarize yourself with the works of some of the other most important anarchist theorists and writers such as Peter Kropotkin, Emma Goldman, Daniel De Leon, Mikhail Bakunin and Noam Chomsky.

2

Peace not rocks

Understand that no one responds well to violence, when the revolution comes be the voice of reason and peace, only then will people actually listen. As a “professed� anarchist you run the risk of being misunderstood by an unprepared populace. The movement towards our goals must be characterized by peace at all costs.

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3

Frank and yours?

5

Fuck the power!!!

Set up meetings with like-minded individuals. Openly oppose government and stand for Pass out fliers and speak to people about your rights to freedom of speech, thought and action! ideals. Learn to be persuasive, not argumenIf you are secretly an anarchist and are only tative. Remember that we all want the same open in chat rooms you’re not helping the strugthings (peace, prosperity, et cetera), so start gle for an anarchist society. If want to change with points you can agree on and work from the world we have to do it ourselves. there. Democracy.

4

Hell no, we won’t go!

6

Wear it with pride

Participate in protests, direct action, and grassBe proud of being an anarchist and of our roots organizing against laws that limit your basic movement and our history. We have made liberties or propagate injustice. But remember, mistakes, but Anarchism is still the single Protest changes nothing if there is no movement best shot that our species has of stopping behind it. Reality is consensus-based. Governthe ongoing capitalist ecocide that threatment is a social construct & the world is the ens all life on earth. Spread the facts and way it is because we all believe it is. debunk the misconceptions.

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SUBMISSION ORDER

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MACHETE  

A political themed magazine that deals with the more important issues of our society

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