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Total number of comments: 11 (since 2013-11-28 16:32:39)

David Graeber

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  • American Writers are Self-Censoring to Avoid NSA Scrutiny (McCauley)
    • probably the majority of those 5 in 6 never even thought to write something that might get them into trouble in the first place. Either because they weren't political, or because they've so internalized the repression it doesn't even occur to them to write about dangerous topics

      incidentally, I find it VERY interesting that OWS is on the list of topics writers were afraid to write about.

  • America's Secret 4th Branch of Government: The NSA kept even Obama in the Dark
    • It might seem outrageous to suggest the NSA is holding blackmail information on elected officials as a way of maintaining it's own funding, power, and legal advantages, or even to pursue particular right-wing political agendas. But it would not be unprecedented. J. Edgar Hoover notoriously did so for decades, using his command the surveillance and information-gathering technologies available in his day. Is it really that unthinkable that practices commonplace under the Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations would be unthinkable today, when in fact government secrecy has dramatically increased since then, rather than decreasing? In fact, from a sheerly sociological perspective, it would be more surprising if a bureaucracy with this kind of power did not use to pursue it's institutional interests, and if those running it never used it to pursue personal agendas of any kind.

  • Top Five Objections to the White House's Drone Killing Memo
  • FBI Violated Constitution by Branding Peaceful Occupy Wall Street as Terrorist threat
    • I must admit that - while as an anarchist I don't expect much of liberals - even I was shocked by the casualness with which those groups and institutions which claim to be the guardians of our civil liberties just shrugged their shoulders at the government's basically shredding the First Amendment in this way. Not just the FBI involvement, but across the board: the systematic attacks on the camps, extreme violent tactics, destruction of libraries and personal possessions, attacks on and arrests of onlookers with cameras filming illegal actions by cops, all followed by systematic policies of arbitrary and illegal arrest of peaceful protestors to make sure no new camps were established, opening fire with tear gas and plastic bullets even on marches and rallies that involved no civil disobedience at all. In the face of all this, the liberal establishment has basically said nothing, or - even more ridiculously - create an hysterical furor over two or three broken windows by people who might have been associated with protestors months before, as if this was somehow the reason for police repression - or anyway, the only issue really worth talking about. As a result, most readers even of the left press have heard all about a couple coffee shop windows broken in Oakland in October by someone who may or may not have been part of a Black Bloc, and remain entirely unaware of the first store window broken in the course of OWS protests in New York on March 17 - even though it was broken by a police officer, using a protest medic's head.

      One could even argue this marks a kind of turning point in US history. Not that there isn't a long history of the US government using violent means to suppress social movements, from the IWW to the Panthers. But just in about every case the violence was directed against either working class people, or people of color - not middle class white people. When any sort of repression is directed against middle class white people, even relatively minor in comparison like the McCarthy blacklists or Kent State, it tended to be followed by a national moral crisis. Now it seems different. OWS was hardly exclusively a middle class white movement but there were lots of middle class white people involved, and systematic militarized violence was directed at them in direct defiance of basic principles of freedom of assembly, and so far, the outrage has hardly materialized at all.

      I think Juan hits the nail on the head when he notes that on the right, there is an institutional culture which is absolutely an unceasingly dedicated to defending the aspect of the Bill of Rights they traditionally care about - the second amendment - where the institutional Left has nothing like the same degree of dedication to the ones that have traditionally mattered to those interested in greater democracy, and the issues they claim to support. Instead, our experience in OWS was that insofar as that institutional structure exists, they first tried to co-opt us and turn us into some kind of left version of the Tea Party; then, when they realized we were serious about our directly democratic principles and didn't want to enter a formal political process we saw as inherently corrupt, shrugged their shoulders when the attacks began.

      Maybe, just maybe, such evidence might help change things a little. But at the moment I'm not holding my breath.

  • Blaming Gen. Petraeus for the Wrong Mistakes: Remembering Afghanistan (Cook)
    • Has anyone noticed what this piece is actually saying? It's only slightly encoded. It's saying Petraeus violated his sacred trust by laying down rules of engagement that put American soldiers at risk because he told them not to fire if there was a likelihood of killing innocent noncombatants, old people, women and children. (You know, in order to "win hearts and minds" because people don't like it when you kill their wives, grandparents or infant children.) The author seems to think this was a terrible, terrible thing to do because it's much more important to protect the lives of volunteer soldiers in an invading army than innocent civilians in a country they invaded.

      Huh?

  • Putin, Pussy Riot, Hooliganism and the Syrian Bloodbath
    • No, actually it happened during a student protest about the tripling of tuition fees. If I recall the only physical assaults taking place on that occasion were by police on horseback charging into the crowd of protestors with batons.

  • Lemurs are the Species most threatened with Extinction
    • Thanks, JPL, yes, I was trying to do exactly that: a sort of Juan Cole-style exposition of the situation in Madagascar. (I do speak the language, that helps.) Glad you think it worked.

      I do wish we could do something about the sanctions. People are dying.

    • You might want to bring to your readers' attention the role of economic sanctions in all this. Whats happening is not taking place in a political vacuum.

      In fact humans have lived alongside lemurs in Madagascar for more than a thousand years and never been a threat to their existence. The problem now is widespread hunger, with increasingly desperately people reduced to turning to anything they can get their hands on to feed their families, including animals that had often traditionally been fady (taboo).

      The sanctions were imposed after the "coup d'etat" of 2009. It's not really clear if this event should really be called a coup at all: what happened was, in the wake of a mass protest movement, and a massacre of protestors by the Presidential guard, army officers called in by then-President Marc Ravalomanana (who was accused of stealing his reelection and privatizing the state's assets to his personal friends, and trying to sell a substantial chunk of the country's agricultural land in the west to a Korean transnational) to take temporary power to suppress the protests instead turned over power to the protest leader, Andry Rajoelina, the mayor of the capital Antananarivo. Whatever happened at the time, though, it has turned into a de facto military regime as Rajoelina shed many of his earlier leftist allies and relied increasingly on military officers for support, and for key ministers, and the battle between him and the now exiled former President has essentially turned into a covert power struggle between French and American economic and political interests, with a great deal of potential future mineral wealth at stake. (Among other things Madagascar is sitting on large deposits of rare earth and about 80% of its subsurface by some estimates contain tar sands.) As a result we've seen three years of stalled negotiations over the terms of endlessly-postponed elections.

      Economic sanctions against the "coup" government are part of this game but they have done almost nothing to harm the ruling coterie, while causing unimaginable suffering among an already struggling population. I was in Madagascar the summer before last and while many of my friends were ardent Ravalomanana supporters and detested the new government, I did not meet a single one who did not equally denounce the sanctions.

      If a threat to lemurs is the only thing that will wake the world up to the human suffering imposed on millions of innocent human beings who simply had the bad luck to be caught in the middle during a nasty little international power struggle, well, it's better than their never waking up at all. At any rate I really do hope that information like this helps people realize just how horribly destructive these sanctions are, and that must be put to an end. Most of all I should emphasize: This is not a clear moral issue like sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Both sides in Madagascar have mass popular support, both sides have played fast and loose with the constitution, and, ironically, it's the old government that the sanctions are meant to restore that is accused of massacring protestors, not the current one. Even more critical, aside from a few members of the political elite, virtually no one who supports the old government wishes to see the sanctions continue.

  • Libya Seeking Qaddafi Assets Abroad: Mathiason & Serle
    • Isn't that the place that anarchists squatted a year ago in solidarity with the Libyan Revolution? I'm pretty sure. A bunch of us London activists were all very enthusiastic at first, when we thought it was Muamar's place, about the idea of running down to check out the wardrobe ("hey we can reconstruct the cover of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band!") then we learned it was Saadi's with his stupid track suits. Anyway by then the original occupiers were only letting anti-government Libyans in.

  • White Christian Fundamentalist Terrorism in Norway
    • Wait - by the standards Interpol seems to be applying to Europe, isn't almost all current "terrorism" in Egypt and Syria being carried out by pro-democracy protestors? Since pro-democracy advocates do (like, say, Mediterranean anarchists) sometimes throw rocks and damage, and even occasionally set fire to, buildings, and since by the standards Interpol applies, no action carried out by police or other security forces, no matter how arbitrarily violent, can ever be defined as "terrorism." So the only "terrorists" by their definition would seem to be the protestors - or, perhaps, units of the Syrian army who defect to help protect them.

      It seems to me before we can say that "left-wingers" carry out more acts of terrorism than "right-wingers" we might want to consider what these actions are. When was the last time a European left-winger massacred dozens of people like that? Like, ever? I am not sure I can think of any examples even of someone killed by intentional violent acts by a left-winger in recent years (by "intentional violent acts" I mean "acts of violence intended to kill someone") in Europe. Last year three people died in Athens when some protestors set fire to what they thought was an empty bank - but it turned out they were employees who'd been locked in an upper room so they couldn't join the protest. Afterwards, there were barely any protests at all for months, and certainly no attacks on banks, despite the economic crisis because everyone felt so terrible about the death of innocents. Anarchists and other leftists in Greece do regularly engage in pitched battles with police, but I am not aware of attacks intended to kill, maim, or terrorize civilians - which is the usual definition of terrorism.

      Anyway it seems odd to apply standards that make it sound like leftists are blowing up bombs on crowded street corners or crowded office buildings and opening fire on vacationing children when in fact nothing of the kind seems ever to take place. And even more odd to uncritically site figures that, if applied to the Middle East, would make it sound like Syrian democracy advocates were that country's only terrorists.

  • Million-Person Marches and the Army Backs Off
    • I'm no authority on Egypt, but it seems to me that the Mubarak regime tried the expedient so often appealed to by authoritarian governments when faced with a broad popular uprising: try to encourage "anarchy and chaos" to scare the middle class away, then try to move in and reimpose "order" with their at least tacit acquiescence. Under such regimes, where there is a large and omnipresent police force who see the political opposition (real or potential) as their primary enemy, there is often a sort of tacit alliance between police and not only fascists or their equivalents, but also gangsters and certain elements of the criminal classes, with all three of whom the personnel often overlap. I heard a lot about this when I was in Greece this spring: one of the most telling government reactions to the insurrectionary stirrings of January 2010, when there was a spate of school and even factory occupations, and some neighborhoods began holding public assemblies to begin to take over certain functions of government, was to redouble police presence in those neighborhoods where that was happening, often teaming up with right-wing thugs to do things like trash anarchist cafes and whatnot, and effectively withdrawing police presence from those immigrant neighborhoods seen to be full of drug-dealers, pimps, and various sorts of petty criminals, so as give people a sense that the breakdown of state authority would necessarily lead to Hobbesian chaos. In Greece this was clearly a long-term strategy but it seems like in Egypt, they tried an extreme version of something like that in a hurry; and we won't know until much later, for instance, how many of the people running amok were criminals intentionally released by the cops, gangsters and thugs taking advantage of the absence of cops, or actually _were_ cops.

      The obvious danger (from the point of view of the authorities) with this strategy is: if you intentionally foment chaos, there is the possibility that some elements of the "security forces" that actually do see their role as guaranteeing security might then feel they have little choice but to begin cooperating with the protestors, thus creating a dual power situation. The most telling quote I've seen from news reports was from a few days ago:

      In one part of Tahrir Square, soldiers working with civilian protester volunteers were even checking IDs and bags of people arriving at the square, saying they were searching for weapons and making sure plainclothes police did not enter the square.
      "The army is protecting us, they won't let police infiltrators sneak in!" one volunteer shouted.

      Which indicates that even the army suspected that cops out of uniform were a main source of random violence and general trouble. Anyway, that's exactly a dual power situation and when that sort of thing starts happening, elites usually panic and are terrified and start frantically trying to figure out a way to prevent this from going any further. In fact, I find it startling that Mubarak is still there even a few days after things like that - it's more typical for the sitting president to be whisked away the moment there is any sign that the army might be making common cause with protestors (I always remember the example of Sanchez del Losada in Bolivia who in 2003 was forced to step down almost instantly after the first soldier was shot by a superior for refusing to obey an order to fire on demonstrators. When things like that happen, the rest of the ruling class usually decides to cut their losses and at the very least, change the immediate face of power.) Mubarak must either have a very determined faction of powerful supporters who are being enormously stubborn, or, alternately, the US is exerting a great deal of pressure behind the scenes to ensure the obvious doesn't happen.

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