Beyond Stereotypes of 'Conservative' and 'Liberal' Christianity Reply

Article by John Backman.
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In the middle of a two-hour chat about matters of faith, my conservative Christian friend told me she had no problem with evolution.

So much for that stereotype.

Amid all the hostility among people of faith, many of us reserve our most potent venom for people of our own faith: those who disagree with us, that is. “Conservatives,” “moderates” and “liberals” within most faith traditions often find themselves at odds. (Words like these are fraught with trouble, so I am using them loosely.) Put together two devout Catholics on opposite sides of the abortion debate, or two Baptists with different views of scripture, and the conversation has the potential to get long, loud and angry.

If there is a conversation. In fact, precious few people actively seek out those who disagree with them. Unfortunately, that leads to a vicious cycle. The longer we avoid “them,” the more space we create for caricatures and stereotypes to arise. Seeing our adversaries through the filter of those stereotypes — which usually include the qualities we loathe about them — just increases our anger, and so we avoid them even more.

Worst of all, the whole cycle runs counter to the Divine imperative at the core of most religions: compassion. Small wonder that people of no particular faith hear our words, watch our actions and give up on us.

What’s a person of faith to do?

We can start by removing the stereotypes.

Trade union red-faced as official joins National Front 4

By RFI.
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France’s largest trade union, the CGT, is threatening to close a local branch whose secretary is to represent the far-right Front National (FN) in upcoming elections. The man at the centre of the row, Fabien Engelmann, on Tuesday declared that dozens of CGT members would “come out” as FN members in the near future.

Engelmann declared that he was standing for the FN in next month’s cantonal elections in an interview published by Riposte Laïque, the group which last year tried to organise a wine and sausage street party in a largely Muslim Paris neighbourhood.

After asking Engelmann to resign, the union told its 25-strong branch of council workers in the western Moselle region that he could not be both a union official and a candidate for the FN. But the majority of members said they stood by their secretary, leading to the threat to suspend the branch.

In an interview with a right-wing newsletter on Tuesday, Engelmann hit back, saying he is a “free spirit” and declaring, “In one, maybe two weeks dozens of CGT members will come out” as FN members.

The controversial candidate has a chequered political history – he has previously been a member of two Trotskyist groups, Lutte Ouvrière and the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA).

He says he resigned from the NPA because one of its candidates in last year’s regional elections wore Islamic head cover and joined the far-right party because he finds that new leader Marine Le Pen is the “only one defending secularism” in France today.

The CGT’s constitution bans racist and xenophobic statements. Officials argue that rules out support for Le Pen, who has recently launched a number of much-publicised attacks on Islam.

German grandchildren of Nazis delve into past 2

Article by Kirsten Grieshaber.
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BERLIN – Rainer Hoess was 12 years old when he found out his grandfather was one of the worst mass murderers in history.

The gardener at his boarding school, an Auschwitz survivor, beat him black and blue after hearing he was the grandson of Rudolf Hoess, commandant of the death camp synonymous with the Holocaust.

“He beat me, because he projected on me all the horror he went through,” Rainer Hoess said, with a shrug and a helpless smile. “Once a Hoess, always a Hoess. Whether you’re the grandfather or the grandson — guilty is guilty.”

Germans have for decades confronted the Nazi era head-on, paying billions in compensation, meticulously teaching Third Reich history in school, and building memorials to victims. The conviction Thursday in Munich of retired Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk on charges he was a guard at the Sobibor Nazi death camp drives home how the Holocaust is still very much at the forefront of the German psyche.

But most Germans have skirted their own possible family involvement in Nazi atrocities. Now, more than 65 years after the end of Hitler’s regime, an increasing number of Germans are trying to pierce the family secrets.

Some, like Hoess, have launched an obsessive solitary search. Others seek help from seminars and workshops that have sprung up across Germany to provide research guidance and psychological support.

“From the outside, the third generation has had it all — prosperity, access to education, peace and stability,” said Sabine Bode, who has written books on how the Holocaust weighs on German families today. “Yet they grew up with a lot of unspoken secrets, felt the silent burdens in their families that were often paired with a lack of emotional warmth and vague anxieties.”

Like others, Hoess had to overcome fierce resistance within his own family, who preferred that he “not poke around in the past.” Undeterred, he spent lonely hours at archives and on the Internet researching his grandfather.

Rudolf Hoess was in charge of Auschwitz from May 1940 to November 1943. He came back to Auschwitz for a short stint in 1944, to oversee the murder of some 400,000 Hungarian Jews in the camp’s gas chambers within less than two months.

The commandant lived in a luxurious mansion at Auschwitz with his wife and five children — among them Hans-Rudolf, the father of Rainer. Only 150 meters (yards) away the crematories’ chimneys were blowing out the ashes of the dead day and night.

After the war, Hoess went into hiding on a farm in northern Germany; he was eventually captured and hanged in 1947, in front of his former home on the grounds of Auschwitz.

“When I investigate and read about my grandfather’s crimes, it tears me apart every single time,” Hoess said during a recent interview at his home in a little Black Forest village.

As a young man, he said, he tried twice to kill himself. He has suffered three heart attacks in recent years as well as asthma, which he says gets worse when he digs into his family’s Nazi past.

Today, Hoess says, he no longer feels guilty, but the burden of the past weighs on him at all times.

A Rite of Torture for Girls Reply

Article by Nicholas Kristof.
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People usually torture those whom they fear or despise. But one of the most common forms of torture in the modern world, incomparably more widespread than waterboarding or electric shocks, is inflicted by mothers on daughters they love.

It’s female genital mutilation — sometimes called female circumcision — and it is prevalent across a broad swath of Africa and chunks of Asia as well. Mothers take their daughters at about age 10 to cutters like Maryan Hirsi Ibrahim, a middle-aged Somali woman who says she wields her razor blade on up to a dozen girls a day.

“This tradition is for keeping our girls chaste, for lowering the sex drive of our daughters,” Ms. Ibrahim told me. “This is our culture.”

Ms. Ibrahim prefers the most extreme form of genital mutilation, called infibulation or Pharaonic circumcision. And let’s not be dainty or euphemistic. This is a grotesque human rights abuse that doesn’t get much attention because it involves private parts and is awkward to talk about. So pardon the bluntness about what infibulation entails.

The girls’ genitals are carved out, including the clitoris and labia, often with no anesthetic. What’s left of the flesh is sewn together with three to six stitches — wild thorns in rural areas, or needle and thread in the cities. The cutter leaves a tiny opening to permit urination and menstruation. Then the girls’ legs are tied together, and she is kept immobile for 10 days until the flesh fuses together.

When the girl is married and ready for sex, she must be cut open by her husband or by a respected woman in the community.

All this is, of course, excruciating. It also leads to infections and urinary difficulties, and scar tissue can make childbirth more dangerous, increasing maternal mortality and injuries such as fistulas.

This is one of the most pervasive human rights abuses worldwide, with three million girls mutilated each year in Africa alone, according to United Nations estimates. A hospital here in Somaliland found that 96 percent of women it surveyed had undergone infibulation. The challenge is that this is a form of oppression that women themselves embrace and perpetuate.

A Man Dies After Being Tasered 34 Times, But The State Rules Police Officers Involved Aren't Responsible For His Death Reply

Article by Gregory B. Hladky.
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A Waterbury man died earlier this month after being hit with a police stun gun. In Middletown, a state investigation recently exonerated police in the May 2010 death of a man who died following 34 shocks by a Taser weapon.

State lawmakers had been considering legislation to require standardized police training in the use of stun guns and restrictions on when and how they should be used. Opposed by the Connecticut Chiefs of Police Association (pdf), the bill has been watered down to a study of police use of Tasers by a state law enforcement training panel. The study legislation is awaiting General Assembly action.

“We were disappointed,” David McGuire, a lawyer with the Connecticut chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, says of the much weakened legislation. “But this is a step in the right direction, and we believe a study will show the need for comprehensive Taser regulation, including training and public accountability.”

McGuire spoke Monday about the Taser issue during an appearance at a Hamden rally by activists protesting what they say is police brutality in their community.

Taser International, maker of the electronic weapon that has become a police mainstay, is ferociously opposed to any suggestion that these stun guns can be lethal. Their spokesmen insist that when someone dies after being Tased, the actual cause of death is some other condition such as drug use, psychiatric- or obesity-related diseases.

Marcus Brown was 26 when he started acting strange in the emergency room of Waterbury’s Saint Mary’s Hospital during the early morning hours of May 1. Police were called and Brown was restrained and put in the back of a police cruiser.

The cops say Brown attempted to kick out the window and door of the police car, and that’s when he was hit with the Taser, went unconscious and was declared dead after being carried back into the hospital. Authorities say it could take up to six weeks to determine the cause of death.

Brown’s death brings this state’s body count for people who died in police-Taser-related incidents to at least 10 since 2005, according to official reports, interviews and news stories.

According to the Connecticut Medical Examiner’s office, the cause of death for Efrain Carrion (the Middletown guy who died after being hit 34 times by police Tasers) was “excited delirium.” (The examiner’s office has ruled at least three times in recent years that excited delirium was the cause of death in cases involving police use of Tasers.)

That’s a controversial ruling because excited delirium isn’t recognized as a medical condition by authorities such as the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association or the American Psychological Association. Taser International spokesman Steve Tuttle points out that other medical authorities, including the American College of Emergency Physicians and the National Association of Medical Examiners, consider it a legitimate cause of death.

Those who see excited delirium as a specific medical condition say it often occurs when the victim has been high on cocaine or other drugs, has a history of mental illness, is obese and sweating heavily, or is the subject of a combination of those problems. Taser critics charge that excited delirium is nothing more than a cover for police misuse of stun guns.

The Connecticut State Police ruled in March that the five Middletown police officers were not responsible for Carrion’s death, despite using their Tasers on him 34 times. Carrion’s wife called 911 because her husband, who suffered from depression, was having an anxiety attack.

The cops who showed up had a police dog with them. They say Carrion, 35, was a heavily built man who brushed them aside as he fled the apartment and ran into the woods behind the complex. They say they repeatedly used the stun guns because Carrion was violent, even attempting to choke the police dog. Carrion’s wife insists her husband only became violent and ran because he was being hit with the shock weapons.

Vladimir Putin Worshipped As St. Paul The Apostle By All-Female Russian Sect Reply

From the Huffington Post. Nice, Vlad!
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He’s been a pilot, a singer, a hockey star and even a shirtless beefcake. But now Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has become the ultimate object of veneration for an all-female religious sect whose members believe the premier is the reincarnation of St. Paul the Apostle.

As the Moscow Times is reporting, the sect was founded by a woman calling herself Mother Fotina in the village of Bolshaya Yelnia. Mother Fotina, whose real name is reportedly Svetlana Frolova, teaches her followers that Putin was St. Paul in his past life and that his political career follows in the early Christian missionary’s footsteps. “According to the Bible, Paul the Apostle was a military commander at first,” she is quoted as saying. “In his days in the KGB, Putin also did some rather unrighteous things. But once he became president, he was imbued with the Holy Spirit, and just like the apostle, he started heading his flock.”

Few further details, such as how many members the sect comprises, are currently unknown. But the charismatic politician’s spokesman has expressed surprise at news of the group. “It is impressive that they think so highly of the prime minister’s work,” Dmitry Peskov told the Russian weekly Sobesednik, as quoted by the AFP. “But I would like to recall another of the main commandments: thou shalt not worship false idols.” Religious officials were perhaps less amused. “Her so-called teachings are a nonsensical mixture of Orthodoxy, Catholicism, the occult, Buddhism and political information,” said local priest Father Alexei, according to the Telegraph.

Putin, meanwhile, is reportedly mulling a 2012 presidential run, and has proposed creating a “broad political front” in what is said to be an attempt to solidify support within his political party ahead of next year’s elections.

Court: No right to resist illegal cop entry into home Reply

From the Northwest Indiana Times.
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INDIANAPOLIS | Overturning a common law dating back to the English Magna Carta of 1215, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Hoosiers have no right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes.

In a 3-2 decision, Justice Steven David writing for the court said if a police officer wants to enter a home for any reason or no reason at all, a homeowner cannot do anything to block the officer’s entry.

“We believe … a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence,” David said. “We also find that allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest.”

David said a person arrested following an unlawful entry by police still can be released on bail and has plenty of opportunities to protest the illegal entry through the court system.

The court’s decision stems from a Vanderburgh County case in which police were called to investigate a husband and wife arguing outside their apartment.

When the couple went back inside their apartment, the husband told police they were not needed and blocked the doorway so they could not enter. When an officer entered anyway, the husband shoved the officer against a wall. A second officer then used a stun gun on the husband and arrested him.

Professor Ivan Bodensteiner, of Valparaiso University School of Law, said the court’s decision is consistent with the idea of preventing violence.

“It’s not surprising that they would say there’s no right to beat the hell out of the officer,” Bodensteiner said. “(The court is saying) we would rather opt on the side of saying if the police act wrongfully in entering your house your remedy is under law, to bring a civil action against the officer.”

Justice Robert Rucker, a Gary native, and Justice Brent Dickson, a Hobart native, dissented from the ruling, saying the court’s decision runs afoul of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“In my view the majority sweeps with far too broad a brush by essentially telling Indiana citizens that government agents may now enter their homes illegally — that is, without the necessity of a warrant, consent or exigent circumstances,” Rucker said. “I disagree.”

Rucker and Dickson suggested if the court had limited its permission for police entry to domestic violence situations they would have supported the ruling.

But Dickson said, “The wholesale abrogation of the historic right of a person to reasonably resist unlawful police entry into his dwelling is unwarranted and unnecessarily broad.”

This is the second major Indiana Supreme Court ruling this week involving police entry into a home.

On Tuesday, the court said police serving a warrant may enter a home without knocking if officers decide circumstances justify it. Prior to that ruling, police serving a warrant would have to obtain a judge’s permission to enter without knocking.

125 Year Old Woman Claimed Smoking Pot Everyday Was Her Secret To Long Life Reply

From Shroomery.Org.
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A 125-year-old woman, said to be one of the oldest women in India, died at her home in Orissa, her family said Sunday. Fulla Nayak claimed that smoking cannabis every day was her secret to long life.

Fulla Nayak, a resident of Kanarpur village in the coastal district of Kendrapada, died of old age complications Saturday.

According to her 72-year-old grandson, Fulla was 125. But as per a voter photo identity card issued by the government in 1995 she was 120 years.

The grand old woman lived in a small mud-walled thatched house in Kanarpur, about 25 km from the district headquarters. She is survived by two of her four daughters and around two dozen relatives.

Her eldest daughter, Jamuna, 92, lives in the same village. Her husband died at the age of 50.

Fulla was in the news when her grandson Narayan Nayak claimed last week that she could be the oldest woman living in the world. He had said that he would write to the Guinness book authorities to record the claim.

Fulla was known for her love of smoking ganja and cigars and palm juice. She also loved steaming hot tea.

She had never suffered any debilitating ailment throughout her life. Except for her weak eyesight, Fulla maintained good health and used to walk without support.

Dershowitz vs. Chomsky, Again Reply

Article by Allen Mendenhall.
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For an attorney, Alan Dershowitz doesn’t argue very well, at least not in his recent attempt to take down Noam Chomsky for Chomsky’s recent op-ed, “My Reaction to Osama bin Laden’s Death.” These men have a history. Dershowitz has called Chomsky a “Holocaust denier” and has suggested that Chomsky is so out-of-touch that he lives on “Planet Chomsky.” Chomsky, in turn, has accused Dershowitz of launching a Jihad because of Dershowitz’s seemingly unconditional support for Israel. Regardless of whether one has a dog in this fight—for the record, I don’t—one can see Dershowitz’s “argument” for what it is: a collection of red herrings and other fallacies cloaked in inflammatory and nationalist rhetoric. At a time when the Middle East is in turmoil—well, more turmoil than it’s usually in—the last thing we need is Dershowitz’s loud, self-righteous, and not-so-subtle warmongering to influence public discourse about Osama bin Laden.

The title of Dershowitz’s latest spasm—I almost called it an “article”—is “Bin Laden’s Defender: Noam Chomsky.” Provocative enough. But Dershowitz goes even further. He says that Chomsky “apparently thinks Osama bin Laden is the innocent victim of a cold-blooded murder that is worse than if George W. Bush were to be assassinated in his ‘compound.'” What Chomsky really says is, “We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.” Notice that Chomsky avoids the imperative (“ask yourselves”) and carefully qualifies this sentence with “We might.” The way I see it, this sentence is nothing but a variation of the Atticus Finch cliché: “You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.” Substitute “shoes” for Muslim “sandals” and you get the gist of Chomsky’s remark. This gist is carried over into Chomsky’s assertion, which Dershowitz notes passingly as if to avoid dignifying it with sustained treatment, that Bush’s crimes “vastly exceed bin Laden’s,” an assertion that Chomsky does not elaborate on but that probably—and I emphasize probably—has to do with statistics regarding total kills by the American army as compared to total kills by Islamic terrorists.

Chomsky does call bin Laden an “unarmed victim,” and after an overlong consultation with the Oxford English Dictionary, I must concede that Dershowitz has a point here, at least insofar as bin Laden doesn’t seem, to this writer at least, to qualify as a “living creature killed and offered as a sacrifice to some deity or supernatural power” (although the word might mean that to those who worship at the idol of nationalism). If you’re a Middle-Eastern Muslim, which I most definitely am not, you might consider bin Laden a “person who is put to death or subjected to torture by another,” or who “suffers severely in body or property through cruel or oppressive treatment.” For bin Laden to qualify as a “victim” under this definition, his sufferings would have to be considered along a timeline dating back to the 1980s, and not the few minutes it took to raid his compound to put a bullet into his head. By “victim,” Chomsky might have meant “one who perishes or suffers in health, etc., from some enterprise or pursuit voluntarily undertaken,” for it’s conceivable that Chomsky would classify terrorism as a “pursuit voluntarily undertaken” and that he would cast the United States as an “enterprise.” The OED suggests a weaker signification of “victim” as one “who suffers some injury, hardship, or loss, is badly treated or taken advantage of, etc.” This general understanding of the word lends support to Chomsky’s diction especially because it (the understanding) leaves room for much subjectivity—victimhood is in the eye of the beholder, in other words. None of these definitions implies that “victim” status is forfeited or negated if the person in question suffers or is killed as a result of retaliation. Put another way, one could victimize another and still be the victim of those he victimized. Perhaps Chomsky’s word choice is not inappropriate after all. But that’s not surprising, because Chomsky is only the most renowned linguist alive.

Round Up the Usual Suspects … and Shoot Them Reply

Article by Douglas Lummis.

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The issue is not whether bin Laden was a very bad man (I suppose he was) or for that matter whether Barack Obama is also a very bad man (looking worse all the time), but what happens to the law when states violate it with impunity.  Yes, the fact that bin Laden is believed to have been a terrible man makes it easier for the public to accept his killing, but that’s just the danger.  For years, Hollywood has been thinking up villains so detestable that the audience positively yearns for Dirty Harry and his many clones to blow them away without doing anything so silly as to read them their rights.  People fail to notice that when they blow away the crook, they blow away a piece of the law as well.

Marjorie Cohn’s recent article on this site, Assassinating Bin Laden: Why It Violated International Law, is well-reasoned and informative, and written with the calmness appropriate to discussing matters of law. But I think Cohn has not quite captured the peculiar nature of our situation. Being unprecedented, it is a little hard to grasp.  Until 9/11 states, or anyway, the US and most other constitutional states, had two separate bodies of law under which they could coerce people: criminal law and the laws of war.

Law enforcement agents, operating under the criminal law, had (the Hollywood image to the contrary notwithstanding) no right to execute criminals, though they could shoot people to protect themselves and others or to prevent escape.  My father, who voted Republican from Wendell Willkie to Bob Dole, worked for some thirty years as a federal law enforcement agent, and often went to work with a fat .38 revolver in a leather holster under his jacket, but when I asked him if he had ever shot it at anybody, he considered the question insulting.  His job was to collect evidence, arrest suspects and turn them over for trial. He arrested people by putting his hand on their shoulder.  “I knew one officer who had killed a man,” he told me, “but he was pretty crazy.” He considered the movie The Untouchables an insult to his profession.

Under the criminal law, a person can only be punished for having actually done something prohibited by law.  There is – thank goodness – no law against being a bad person; you have to do something bad.  On the contrary, under the laws of war to be eligible for killing you don’t have to do anything but put on a military uniform; a fresh recruit who has only been on the front lines for ten minutes is fair game, so to speak.

Cohn writes, “Extrajudicial executions are unlawful, even in armed conflict”. This is true, but tautological, as “extrajudicial execution” is already the name of an illegal act.  What is legal in war is the intentional killing of enemy combatants (not called “execution”) and the accidental killing of (hopefully not too many) noncombatants who get in the way (“collateral damage”).

Thus the job of the soldier and that of the police investigator are entirely different.  The soldier is not trained to sift evidence and identify suspects; if the person he faces is an enemy soldier, that’s all he needs to know.  The police investigator, on the other hand, is not trained to shoot on sight, to fire heavy artillery into places where you can’t see who’s there, or to drop bombs into cities.  His or her job is to identify, locate, and arrest suspects.

Before 9/11, terrorism was treated as a crime.  After each incident, suspects were hunted down and, where found, brought to trial.  The process was notoriously slow and frustrating, and the results sometimes disappointing.  But the fabric of the law was preserved.  Two days after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush declared a “war on terror.”  The expression might be harmless enough if it meant, as did “war on poverty” etc., an all-out campaign.  But Bush was not speaking metaphorically; he meant that from that point on the campaign against terrorism would be carried out not under criminal law, but the laws of war.

Hairy-Chested Liberals Exult: Big Question, Who Do We Kill Next? Reply

Article by Alexander Cockburn.
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Pinko terror-symps and the “rule of law” gang  may cavil and whine at the lack of legal propriety in the execution of Osama , but it’s not cutting much ice with liberal America.  For long years what might be called the “progressive” segment of American voters have chafed at Republican gibes that their guy Obama is a wimp, all the more irritably because deep down many of them thought the charge had some merit.

But now the former professor of constitutional law is really and truly an American. He’s flashed his  long, long Cadillac of a birth certificate, not merely the unconvincing shorty going the rounds for years. Better still, he has cojones.  Bigger cojones than those of  George Bush, who said that the capture of Osama was of no interest to him. Obama  didn’t task the Navy SEALs: “if Osama shows no sign of resistance, it is your duty under Rules of Engagement to bring him home alive to face a fair trial.” No. He said “Make sure it’s Osama, then kill him.”

We have Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma to thank for making Obama’s orders clear. In an interview with CNN’s Eliot Spitzer he described the photographs, thus far denied the American people but available to members of Congress.
Inhofe:

“Three of the first 12 pictures were of Osama when he was alive. And they did this for the purpose of being able to look at those and seeing the nose, the eyes and his relationship for positive identification purposes. And that was good.

“One of the shots went through an ear and out through the eye socket, or it went in through the eye socket and out – and then exploded. It was that kind of ordinance that it was. Now that caused the brains to be hanging out of the eye socket, so that was pretty gruesome.

“But the revealing shots really, I thought, the pictures, were the three that were taken on the USS Vinson in the Northern Arabian Sea, and they were the ones that showed him during the cleanup period…they had taken enough blood and material off his face so it was easier to identify who it was.”

So the SEALs grabbed Osama, took the live pics, then shoved his kid to one side and gave him the business,  twice in the head, once in the chest.  Mind you, Inhofe seems to be varying his account of the photos somewhat. In a Fox interview he apparently says that the three photos of Osama alive were old ones, thus denying the brusque live/dead sequence implied by Inhofe to CNN’s Spitzer, whose remarks in the transcript cited above seem to be entirely clear —  particularly with the phrase “And they did this…” I’ve called Inhofe’s office, with no response yet forthcoming “due to high volume of calls” – no doubt from George Monbiot trying to forge an alliance with Big Jim from Oklahoma for expanded nuclear power. If old photos, then how old? Also, if the SEAL’s helmet camera was working, there would have been live/dead images in sequence anyway.

Maureen Dowd holds up the liberal end of the New York Times’ panel of columnists. Many’s the tetchy column she’s written across the past couple of years railing at Obama for selling out to the bankers and being way too submissive  to his Republican assailants.

It’s wondrous what two expanding bullets to the head of an unarmed man will do. Dowd has written no less than three columns back to back, imparting her raptures. Call them spiritually hairy chested. Here’s some of her afterglow.

Jared Taylor’s White Identity 14

Review by Greg Johnson.
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Reading through Jared Taylor’s splendid new book White Identity, I found myself thinking again and again of Allan Bloom’s 1987 book The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students. In content, the books could hardly be more different, even though both take aim at reigning liberal illusions. But The Closing of the American Mind surprised everyone by becoming a best-seller, in spite of its intellectually challenging style and serious, politically incorrect message. White Identity is a similarly weighty and sobering book, and if America has any hope of survival, it should enjoy a similar popularity.

The aim of White Identity is to convince intelligent whites that racial “integration” and “diversity” are not sources of strength and enrichment but of inevitable conflict and suffering, because racial consciousness and preferring one’s own race over others are rooted in human nature. Thus they cannot be eradicated, and they can be ignored only at one’s own risk. Whites, however, have made a cult of ignoring and suppressing their racial consciousness, based on the belief that white “racism” (and only white racism) is the source of racial conflict and the suffering and backwardness of other races. Thus the eradication of white racism (and only white racism) will be sufficient to create a society in which all the different races and cultures can mingle in an atmosphere of tolerance and harmony.

Taylor’s audience and source materials are primarily American, but his lessons apply to all white nations where such notions have become prevalent since the Second World War.

Crisis and Capitalism’s Contradictions Reply

From Infoshop.
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by Anarcho
Anarchist Writers
May 12, 2011

Anarchists have long argued that capitalism is an economic system riddled with contradictions. These express themselves in recurring crisis, when these contradictions expose themselves for all to see in generalised misery they produce.

Some of these contradictions can be seen from the Bank of England’s quarterly inflation report. In Governor Mervyn King briefing on the 11th of May, he said growth would be weaker and inflation higher than the Bank had set out in its last set of forecasts three months ago.

“A year ago, we thought that growth in the fourth quarter of 2010 and the first quarter of 2011 would be 1.5%,” King said. “That hasn’t happened.” He admitted that “the recent pattern of revisions to the projections over the next year – downward to growth and upward to inflation – has continued.” Inflation was a problem in part due to “the increase in the standard rate of VAT” while the Bank had been forced to revise its growth forecasts down sharply over the past year as reality has repeatedly failed to meet the expectations of ideology.

In the latest lowering of the growth forecast by the Bank, this year has been reduced from 2% to 1.7% and 2012 from just under 3% to 2.2%. King admitted he had hoped for growth of 1.5% in the second half of last year but it turned out to be zero (“the level of output appears to have been broadly flat” over the last six months).

So much for Osborne’s budget for growth…

King stated the fiscal clampdown would limit growth in the next two years as “household spending may have further to adjust to the significant squeeze in real incomes.” In short, the reason why growth is expected to “somewhat weaker” is because of “a delayed recovery in consumption and a less pronounced boost from net exports.” The report is more forthcoming – growth will be “weaker” due to reductions in “households’ future real labour incomes and hence consumption.”

Surely, then, we can boost growth by boosting working class income and so consumption? No, for inflation is too high and “resistance to the erosion of real take-home pay” would “put upward pressure on wages and prices.” Happily, though, there were pressures on wages and prices downward with the “most obvious” being “the weak level of activity in the economy.”

So for growth to rise, wages must rise; for inflation to fall, wages must fall.

King failed to explain how that particular contradiction will resolve itself but rest assured “the recent softness in activity will prove temporary” with a recovery “driven by a continuing rise in business investment.” Yet why should firms invest when King admits “the outlook for growth and inflation is likely to remain unusually uncertain”?

And why is it so uncertain? Because of the Tories cuts in benefits, public sector pay, employment and services. This increases uncertainty for, unlike the private sector, state expenditures are steady and so create regular demand for goods during uncertain times. And is industry investing? The Bank’s report admits:

“Private domestic demand growth could be boosted if more of the historically large corporate financial surpluses were spent on capital investment or transferred to households in the form of higher wages or dividends.”

King did not explain why business would invest when consumer growth is so uncertain – business invests in order to meet demand and, as the Bank’s report admits, “consumer spending stagnated as real incomes fell.” Nor did King explain why higher wages could not eat into these “historically large” surpluses rather be passed on as higher prices. Could it be raising the more accurate “profit-price spiral” rather than “wages-price spiral” would send the wrong message?

So the Tory attack on public-sector workers and those on benefits means that growth is suffering and uncertainty is increasing. Both make it harder for the government to repay the deficit, the ostensible rationale for the cuts in the first place.

Still, King expected growth to bounce back later in the year. Why this prediction should be any more accurate than the Bank’s previous ones he did not explain.

Meanwhile, the propaganda war is stepping up a gear. A Policy Exchange report jumped upon with relish by the right-wing media, stated that public sector workers are 40% better off than their private sector counterparts. This dubious claim has now entered the narrative of the right’s attacks on workers and unions although the report is (as would be expected) deeply flawed. It does not compare like with like (as public sector workers are more skilled on average than those in the private sector). Taking into account skill, the pay gap shrinks to a mere 2% for men and 4% for women.

Of course, the real conclusion is not that public sector workers are overpaid. It is that private sector workers are underpaid (as the “historically large corporate financial surpluses” shows). If unionisation and struggle were higher in the private sector then so would be pay. Yet such obvious conclusions are not mentioned. Instead we get a twisted notion of “fairness” based on levelling down (for us, not for the rich obviously!).

Much of the current difference in income between public and private sectors arise because of the slump in the latter due to the recession. While the rich are doing well, the majority of workers have been suffering a fall in income as the Bank’s report notes. This, it admits, is having a negative impact on the economy. It seems incredulous to think more reductions in pay will have a different impact.

This must be stressed. Public sector pay and employment maintains aggregate demand in the face of private sector crisis. Targeting those sectors of the economy that have a counter-cyclical effect on the economy will only make the situation worse.

However, the Tories clearly wish to utilise this crisis to weaken labour and secure rising inequalities in wealth and power. It is being used to ram through their ideological goals (with the Lib-Dems abetting them). The day after King’s briefing, George Osborne proclaimed his desire to “reform” employment law to make it easier to fire workers. We are expected to receive less protection against redundancy, dismissal and workplace discrimination as well as a reduction in the consultation period for collective redundancies from 90 to 30 days. Given the existing laws on balloting for industrial action, this would weaken the ability of trade unions to resist sackings before they happen. Osborne suggested no “reforms” to laws on industrial action although various Tories have argued that strikes have the backing of a majority of all balloted workers rather than a majority of those who vote (heaven forbid they apply that to their elections!).

Osborne attacked the trade unions as “the forces of stagnation” who “will try to stand in the way of the forces of enterprise.” Blaming the workers for capitalism’s contradictions is as old as that system. Proudhon mockingly noted that, for economists, “Political economy — that is, proprietary despotism — can never be in the wrong: it must be the proletariat.”

Presumably, given the downward trajectory of the economy (and King confirmed it is flat-lining), Osborne considers creating stagnation his job and so objects (like all capitalists) to competition. In reality, as the impact of his policies show, by cutting benefits and pay he is the one promoting stagnation, not the unions. For as Proudhon argued in 1846 “though the workers cost you [the capitalist] something, they are your customers: what will you do with your products, when, driven away by you, they shall consume them no longer? . . . if production excludes consumption, it is soon obliged to stop itself.” Osborne seems keen to prove us right.

Only by workers organising and resisting can demand be bolstered and growth protected. Yet while we need to fight the cuts, exposing attempts to divide workers as ideologically driven rubbish to force all wages down and arguing for levelling-upwards, we also need to explain why capitalism remains the contradiction riddled system of exploitation and oppression anarchists have analysed since 1840.

If we fail then we can expect things to get much worse before they get better. Moreover, any eventual recovery will, due to the contradictions within capitalism, just lay the foundations for the next crisis. We will continue to pay the costs for the crisis in their system and, as Proudhon argued, capital will continue to “make the chains of serfdom heavier, render life more and more expensive, and deepen the abyss which separates the class that commands and enjoys from the class that obeys and suffers.”

Ultimately, capitalism’s contradictions can only be solved by ending it once and for all in favour of, to quote Proudhon, “a solution based upon equality, – in other words, the organisation of labour, which involves the negation of political economy and the end of property.”

The Power of Working Class Solidarity Reply

From Infoshop.
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Solidarity Unionism

Before laws were passed in the ‘30s and ‘40s that institutionalized labor unions, the most effective organizing tactics avoided formal union recognition and automatic dues check-off. Unions were less of a faceless service provider and more connected to the shop-floor.

Solidarity unionism affirms the central role of rank-and-file initiative in workplace change. It stands in opposition to what has been termed “business” or “service-provider” unionism: the idea that a worker joins a union to obtain material benefits in exchange for monthly dues payments, much as the worker might buy an insurance policy.

In solidarity unionism, workers carry out their own organizing. There are three fundamental principles: 1. Rank-and-file control (every worker has an equal say in the positions/actions of the union); 2.Direct action; 3. Members carry their union membership with them, regardless of majority status, when they move on to other jobs.

With the end of formal collective bargaining, solidarity unionism may be the only route public sector workers have to address grievances in the workplace. Sit-ins, confronting management in large numbers, slow downs, work-to-rules, pickets, “quickie strikes”; these are all successful tactics that were used by Flint auto workers in the 1930s and continue to be used by Starbucks workers today. These tactics, up to and including a general strike, can help us to rebuild the working-class solidarity that will be necessary for us to eventually defeat the anti-union bills being imposed on us.

Who Should Organize and How

Public-sector workers are the primary targets of Walker’s bill. If we allow him to strip them of their rights, it will destroy the power of one of the last group of workers in the U.S. who have been able to maintain a decent standard of living by resisting cuts during the economic upheaval of the last thirty years. Additionally, the consequences of Walker’s actions will affect anyone who uses public services. That is why we must fight back. The protests in Madison gained significant momentum after the “sick-out” of the Madison teachers. If all public-sector workers take action, they can inspire the rest of the state to move with them. Try to identify people who are sympathetic to the idea of collective action. Form mobilization committees and link up with like-minded groups or individuals. Build a contact list. Discuss strike preparations at your local, but be prepared for opposition from the international. Organize mass meetings with your co-workers, regardless of which union they’re in, so that you can strategize together.

Private-sector workers are being told that our economic problems are a result of ‘greedy public employees’ defending their health care and pensions. These ideas are being pushed in order to divide us; with workers pitted against each other, we are all weaker, and Walker knows it. Instead of blaming each other, we should be united by our common interests. We should all have decent health care, living wages, and a dignified retirement – and we can, if we fight together for these demands. Unionized workers can mobilize at their local to support a collective action, and all private-sector workers should begin meeting with their co-workers to discuss their own demands and strategy. With all of the public discussion of unions and workers’ rights, non-unionized workers have a perfect opportunity to organize at their own jobs – especially if they use the “solidarity unionism” tactics discussed above, rather than the legalistic strategies that have led us to the current mess. This is an important moment in history; let’s seize this opportunity to go on the offensive. Unionized workers can build their power and show that they are a force to be reckoned with. Non-unionized workers from any sector, industry, or company can organize and demand the living wages, rights, and benefits that so far have been denied to them.

Students can play a vital role in mobilizing for working-class solidarity. The economic crisis is shortening the gap between students and workers — many students are also workers, and prospects for graduates are becoming bleaker. Already, Wisconsin students have taken direct action across the state. Students must continue their support in order to protect our teachers, our university staff, our families, and our futures. Our tuition and tax dollars fund the universities, so let’s reclaim the campus for ourselves! We should begin organizing for student strikes, build connections with co-workers where we hold jobs, and prepare to walk picket lines in solidarity. It is us, the young people, who have to live with the future consequences of today’s cuts, and for that reason alone, we MUST step up with all workers.

Unemployed workers will be targeted by Scott Walker and his allies as potential scabs during any strike. Unemployed workers should prepare for this: there is a lot to lose if the bill passes, and a lot to gain if we defeat it together. During the Great Depression unemployed workers in Toledo organized themselves to support factory workers who were striking against overtime, forcing the company to hire more workers. Unemployed workers and public employees could fight together for things that would reduce unemployment and benefit everyone, for example to double the number of teachers in Wisconsin, or for a campaign to repair Milwaukee’s infrastructure.

Agricultural communities have much to lose under Walker’s proposals, as many farmers and farmworkers now stand to lose the BadgerCare that they rely on. Similarly, slashing state education funding will destroy many smaller schools that are the very heart of rural life. Wisconsin farmers have a history of collective action, such as the 1933 milk strike, and they have already shown their solidarity with Wisconsin workers through the Tractorcade at the Wisconsin Capitol on March 12. We must continue our work to bridge the gap between the urban and rural workforce.

Everyone – union and non-union workers, students, unemployed, farmers, retirees — is affected by Walker’s budget, and we can all begin preparing to support collective action in other ways. Religious communities can prepare plans for “Freedom Schools” in the event of a teachers’ strike or kitchens to feed strikers. The skills that many people learned during the Capitol occupation can be shared widely. People should also begin organizing mobilization committees within their communities and make plans to support eventual picket lines, in order to show any scabs or police that strikers have community support.

Uhuru Solidarity Movement Convention: No phony antiwar movement! 2

From Uhuru News.
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After George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in the U.S. in protest.

Although his successor Barack Obama has brutally expanded U.S. wars of occupation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and elsewhere, with U.S. forces stationed at more than 800 military bases around the world, there is deafening silence from the predominately white so-called “peace” movement.

Glen Ford, Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report and member of the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations (BIBC) — one of the key presenters at the upcoming Uhuru Solidarity Movement Convention “Resistance is the Future,” — recently addressed the white “anti-war” movement in his May 3, 2011 commentary called “The Phony Anti-war Movement.”

“Two university researchers have proven, by the numbers,” Ford writes, “what the real antiwar movement has known for years: that many of the folks who turned out in such large numbers to demonstrate against America’s wars when George Bush was president, were really only opposed to Republican wars. Thus, when Barack Obama captured the White House, the so-called antiwar movement largely collapsed.”

Ford goes on to cite a new study by University of Michigan and Indiana University researchers, that the majority of the antiwar movement were Democrats who were motivated by their dislike of Bush rather than genuine opposition to US wars of occupation.

Noting that while Obama has expanded Bush’s wars, Ford quotes one of the authors of the report as saying the, “antiwar movement should have been furious at Obama’s ‘betrayal’ and reinvigorated its protest activity. Instead ‘attendance at antiwar rallies declined precipitously and financial resources available to the movement have dissipated.’”

The Black is Back Coalition held a conference in March of this year in Washington, DC, bringing together activists, leaders and others from the African community and their allies challenging the white left and galvanizing an African-led movement in opposition to Obama’s “other wars.”

The other wars include not only the continuing US wars against the people of Iraq and the expanded war against the people of Afghanistan, but also the US backed war against the people of Congo, the US/UN occupation of Haiti, the bombing of Pakistan, and the long-ignored devastating war against the African community inside the US, which has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of victims of police murder and brutality over the past 20 years.

America’s war against black people in this country—a war never acknowledged by the white left—has rounded up millions of African men and women and locked them away for most of their lives in a deadly prison system, based on discriminatory arrest, prosecution and sentencing laws.

The Democratic party-loving white antiwar movement, which has historically walked over the besieged African community right here to get to a peace rally, prefers a Democrat, especially Barack Obama, to carry out the U.S. wars of plunder and occupation inside this country and around the world.

The Uhuru Solidarity Movement unites with the criticism of the white left and peace movement by Glen Ford and by the Black is Back Coalition. We recognize that the white peace movement is only interested in an imperialist peace, not liberation for oppressed and colonized peoples struggling against US war not only around the world but in the inner cities of this country.

We are white people, organized under the leadership of the African People’s Socialist Party, which leads the Uhuru Movement. We are tired of the talk fests and the ideological imperialism of a white left that struggles to perpetuate white power in a kinder, gentler form rather than recognize that the only force that has ever changed the world is African and other colonized peoples in the struggle against US imperial domination.

The Politics of Hunger Reply

Article by David D’Amato.
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Spotlighting China as an example, BBC News reports that “[t]he Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index is at its highest level since being created in 1990. As food prices rise,” the story adds, “so does poverty.” In just the first few months of this year, some Asian markets have witnesses as much as a 10 percent increase in local food prices, a shift that could potentially plunge almost 65 million people in poverty, according to some estimates.

Though observers and commentators are quick to importune governments to act, making all the usual allegations of “market failure,” the worldwide food problem is a feature of statist intervention. As law professor Siva Vaidhyanathan observed (regarding intellectual property laws), “Content industries have an interest in creating artificial scarcity by whatever legal and technological means they have at their disposal.”

And the same is true of commodity providers whose interest it is to ensure that the nutrition we need to survive comes through them. If a few giant, state-subsidized and -protected farms, and wholesalers, and retailers can unilaterally command supply, they can demand in payment whatever capricious price they determine. This propensity — ever more cartelized industry with ever fewer “competitors” — is endemic to state capitalism, but it is not a feature of genuine free markets.

Free markets, on the contrary, divide and moderate market power by denying special protection and privilege and opening competition to a wide assortment of both entrants and methods. Only where potential threats to corporate monopolization are precluded by force of law — through, among other impediments, “safety” and “consumer protection” standards — can today’s “captains of industry” ascend to market dominance.

It is too often assumed that the behemoth conglomerates populating the landscape of corporate capitalism wince at regulations supposedly aimed at health and safety. These rules, however, routinely function to outlaw the farm stand down the street, the small, local producer who can’t afford to jump through the arbitrary and unjustified hoops put up by the political class.

Powerful elites lobby for and welcome new laws that will further constrain consumers’ options, preventing you from “taking your business elsewhere.” Today, what we pay for food is quite detached from the actual costs of producing it. Where the natural pressures of a legitimately free market would push prices downward to reflect a product’s true value, state capitalism’s restrictions on competition allow big business to squeeze out monopoly profits.

In still another departure from real market discipline, taxpayer subsidized transportation means that most people get their food from hundreds or thousands of miles away instead of hundreds or thousands of yards. When the price of oil rises, then, so too does the price of food. With so few alternatives to the mass-produced garbage of state-fortified big agribusiness, there’s no real reason to give the powerless consumer anything like a good product at a good price. So much for “consumer protection.”

In places like China and Southeast Asia, governments have dealt away to rich companies land that was cultivated by farmers for thousands of years, land that fed their families and their community. The state and its favorites have no justifiable claim to these lands under any well-founded standard of property, but the ethic of the state has never amounted to much more than might makes right.

The rising costs and shortages of food, a growing crisis all around the world, are a creation of the state, a phenomenon that exists completely apart from anything that could, with a straight face, be called “market forces.” Market anarchists would remove the constraints and coercion from food production and allowed voluntary exchange to feed the world.

Rather than painting some utopian paradise, market anarchists argue that, without state-created scarcities for rich rent-seekers, people around the world be able to provide good food for their families with a fraction of their labor today. We can look to elite members of the political class to “fix” a problem that they created, or we can allow cooperation and genuine free trade on a human scale to fulfill people’s needs.

We’ve seen the way that political solutions work. Now it’s time for society to get out from under the stranglehold of the state.

No States, No Borders, Part II Reply

Article by David D’Amato.
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“Detentions of undocumented immigrants,” reports Fox News Latino, “have become big business for private companies operating prisons in states like Arizona … .” The story goes on to observe that “[c]ontractors come to Arizona attracted by the increase in militarization and the criminalization of immigrants.”

Whatever one thinks about the substance of the immigration debate, it’s not hard to see why massive prison companies like Geo Group and Corrections Corp. of America (who contract with the federal government) support making criminals of desperate people crossing an arbitrary line on a map. If you’re anti-immigration for some other, less mercenary and arguably more philosophical reason, you might wonder whether some corporate exec is having a chuckle at your expense.

Part of the reason why market anarchists reject the state altogether is the understanding that the political process is not “broken” in the sense that word is used by “reasonable,” “moderate” commentators. Rather, the empty shifts that do take place within politics are only those that are permissible to the ruling class—to the small group ultimately served by the aggregate of state actions.

As an incident of the fundamental right of self-ownership, each individual has a right to move freely wherever she’d like, provided that, on her way, she gives due regard to the rights of all others. Taking away that right, however, is a money machine for the powerful. In a way, then, the immigration issue is a good microcosm for the arithmetic that provides the basis for every policy that the political class undertakes to effect.

The state is a parasitic, predatory, antisocial device. It is a utensil of the ruling class not inherent in society or organization, but superimposed on human relationships from without. Even given the dialogues within market anarchist thought — differences as to the meaning of aggression and to what self-ownership implicates in the world of scarcity and tangible things — the opposition to authority and hierarchy is a constant.

Once one accepts the individual, her agency and sovereignty, the state is precluded as a matter of course, ruled out as a “solution” to societal problems. Since the state is, in Benjamin Tucker’s familiar formulation, “the subjection of the non-invasive individual to an external will,” it cannot be reconciled with the most basics notions of human autonomy.

Neither can it be squared with the requirements of social justice. Many of the forms of privilege that are so pervasive in — and so defining of — state capitalism are wrongly considered features of a free market, their coercive character either underestimated or ignored completely.

Kevin Carson’s examinations of taxpayer subsidies to transportation — propping up American capitalism’s “warehouse-on-wheels” system — are a revealing example of the kind of intervention that goes so unremarked upon in mainstream “debate.” Similarly, the cable news version of the immigration question isn’t as simple as they’d have us believe.

Market anarchists have demonstrated time and again that, without the economic suffocation of force and privilege, there would be more than enough “seats at the table,” that constraints are instituted by elites to squeeze more out of and give less to those of us who don’t have Washington lobbyists.

The idea that immigrants are “stealing jobs” or that they’re putting a strain on government budgets are intended to mislead. The current substance of the debate works just great for Geo Group and CCA; a market freed from the violent, plutocratic interventions of the state, though, would include neither of them.

Favoritism and venality are not things that can be fixed through “good government” reforms or anti-corruption slogans, but are the essential and indelible characteristics of the state. Market anarchists seek to replace its borders and restraints with free movement, free exchange, and free collaboration.

Limitations on the movement of people through immigration laws are like those on the movement of goods, profiting the few at the expense of the many. When society is purged of the state and its sponging class, so too will it be purged of the infirmities they thrust onto it.

The Battle of Athens Reply

Article by Dimitrios Papageorgiou.
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A murder stirred up the trouble.

For the past three days, Athens has been rocked by violence. It all began on Tuesday morning, when a 44-year-old man, Manolis Kantaris, was killed by three Mahgrebs (Morrocan or Algerian according to the police), as they tried to rob him of a video camera he was carrying. The most shocking part, and that which infuriated Greek citizenry, was the fact that the victim carried the video camera because he was going to take his wife to the hospital where she was to give birth to their second child. It was five in the morning, and he was heading to pick up his car so he could transport his wife and mother-in-law. When they saw he was late, they searched for him and found him in a pool of blood. The security cameras of a nearby store showed three dark colored men attacking him and stabbing him in the body and neck as he tried to resist.

Neighbors and angry citizens started to gather around the killing spot after a few hours and used thrash bins to stop the traffic. Hundreds of them gathered. Then the first clashes began. At neighboring streets and plazas in the area, which is the most heavily populated by immigrants, various Africans and South Asians were attacked and beaten. There were also attacks on anarchist squats with the police intervening to protect them.

The next day, we had two more incidents. During a demonstration (organized by leftist parties and anarchists) a demonstrator was heavily injured, allegedly by the police, and moved to the hospital in a coma. Later in the night, an Asian man was attack and killed allegedly by three men talking Greek and wearing in hoods. The police are investigating “racist” motives for the attack (read: “hate crime”).

Those incidents led us to two simultaneous demonstration in the centre of Athens on Thursday, May 12.

The one earlier in the afternoon was called by residents of the area where Kantaris was killed. Somewhere around 4,000 people gathered. After the police did not let them march towards certain squares with a heavy immigrant population, they went towards the city hall of Athens. The police did not anticipate such a crowd, and having to deal with a second demonstration but as well with a football match between two major Athens clubs did not have the numbers to contain it.

Numerous immigrant-owned shops were smashed; there were a lot of clashes between black-clad youth and immigrants as well as with the police. There were also waves of attacks against anarchist-owned squats. About 50 people were taken in police custody.

At the same time, 3,000 leftists and anarchists were gathering in the centre of Athens. Molotov cocktails were tossed were thrown at banks and at the police. But these ended quite early. Up until the morning, the center of Athens was described as being a free for all situation with clashes everywhere, mainly attacks on immigrants.

The morning of Friday 13th, came with another Greek pensioner stabbed, possibly by immigrants, again after he withdrew some money from a bank. The tension is still building up, as the first murder spot has become vigil, with people there almost 24 hours a day; the police describe it as a rallying point for attacks on immigrants.

Greece is a country that has had to deal with immigrants only in the last 20 years. The first wave of immigrants were Europeans, mainly Albanians and other Eastern Europeans; they generally caused an increase in crime, but did not create major social clashes. The second wave of African and South Asian immigration has caused a great deal of tension, especially in the centre of Athens, which is sometimes described as a huge ghetto. For the past three years though, civilians in certain areas of the center have refused to move out, as so many have done; they have organized themselves into “committees” and actively resisted the “takeover of their neighborhoods,” as they call it.

What has happened over the last days was a precursor of what we can expect in the future in many European cities—that is, urban warfare.

Goldman's Game Reply

Article by Richard Spencer.
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Matt Taibbi has emerged as one of the country’s most compelling writers on financial malfeasance, an achievement that is not limited to his legendary depiction of Goldman Sach as the “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

In his latest piece, Taibbi returns to familiar themes:

By the end of 2006, Goldman was sitting atop a $6 billion bet on American home loans. The bet was a byproduct of Goldman having helped create a new trading index called the ABX, through which it accumulated huge holdings in mortgage-related securities. But in December 2006, a series of top Goldman executives — including [David] Viniar, mortgage chief Daniel Sparks and senior executive Thomas Montag — came to the conclusion that Goldman was overexposed to mortgages and should get out from under its huge bet as quickly as possible. Internal memos indicate that the executives soon became aware of the host of scams that would crater the global economy: home loans awarded with no documentation, loans with little or no equity in them. On December 14th, Viniar met with Sparks and other executives, and stressed the need to get “closer to home” — i.e., to reduce the bank’s giant bet on mortgages.

Sparks followed up that meeting with a seven-point memo laying out how to unload the bank’s mortgages. Entry No. 2 is particularly noteworthy. “Distribute as much as possible on bonds created from new loan securitizations,” Sparks wrote, “and clean previous positions.” In other words, the bank needed to find suckers to buy as much of its risky inventory as possible. Goldman was like a car dealership that realized it had a whole lot full of cars with faulty brakes. Instead of announcing a recall, it surged ahead with a two-fold plan to make a fortune: first, by dumping the dangerous products on other people, and second, by taking out life insurance against the fools who bought the deadly cars.

The day he received the Sparks memo, Viniar seconded the plan in a gleeful cheerleading e-mail. “Let’s be aggressive distributing things,” he wrote, “because there will be very good opportunities as the markets [go] into what is likely to be even greater distress, and we want to be in a position to take advantage of them.” Translation: Let’s find as many suckers as we can as fast as we can, because we’ll only make more money as more and more shit hits the fan.

By February 2007, two months after the Sparks memo, Goldman had gone from betting $6 billion on mortgages to betting $10 billion against them — a shift of $16 billion. Even CEO Lloyd “I’m doing God’s work” Blankfein wondered aloud about the bank’s progress in “cleaning” its crap. “Could/should we have cleaned up these books before,” Blankfein wrote in one e-mail, “and are we doing enough right now to sell off cats and dogs in other books throughout the division?”

How did Goldman sell off its “cats and dogs”? Easy: It assembled new batches of risky mortgage bonds and dumped them on their clients, who took Goldman’s word that they were buying a product the bank believed in. The names of the deals Goldman used to “clean” its books — chief among them Hudson and Timberwolf — are now notorious on Wall Street. Each of the deals appears to represent a different and innovative brand of shamelessness and deceit.

In the marketing materials for the Hudson deal, Goldman claimed that its interests were “aligned” with its clients because it bought a tiny, $6 million slice of the riskiest portion of the offering. But what it left out is that it had shorted the entire deal, to the tune of a $2 billion bet against its own clients. The bank, in fact, had specifically designed Hudson to reduce its exposure to the very types of mortgages it was selling — one of its creators, trading chief Michael Swenson, later bragged about the “extraordinary profits” he made shorting the housing market. All told, Goldman dumped $1.2 billion of its own crappy “cats and dogs” into the deal — and then told clients that the assets in Hudson had come not from its own inventory, but had been “sourced from the Street.”

Hilariously, when Senate investigators asked Goldman to explain how it could claim it had bought the Hudson assets from “the Street” when in fact it had taken them from its own inventory, the bank’s head of CDO trading, David Lehman, claimed it was accurate to say the assets came from “the Street” because Goldman was part of the Street. “They were like, ‘We are the Street,'” laughs one investigator.

Hudson lost massive amounts of money almost immediately after the sale was completed. Goldman’s biggest client, Morgan Stanley, begged it to liquidate the investment and get out while they could still salvage some value. But Goldman refused, stalling for months as its clients roasted to death in a raging conflagration of losses. At one point, John Pearce, the Morgan Stanley rep dealing with Goldman, lost his temper at the bank’s refusal to sell, breaking his phone in frustration. “One day I hope I get the real reason why you are doing this to me,” he told a Goldman broker.

Goldman insists it was only required to liquidate the assets “in an orderly fashion.” But the bank had an incentive to drag its feet: Goldman’s huge bet against the deal meant that the worse Hudson performed, the more money Goldman made. After all, the entire point of the transaction was to screw its own clients so Goldman could “clean its books.” The crime was far from victimless: Morgan Stanley alone lost nearly $960 million on the Hudson deal, which admittedly doesn’t do much to tug the heartstrings. Except that quickly after Goldman dumped this near-billion-dollar loss on Morgan Stanley, Morgan Stanley turned around and dumped it on taxpayers, who within a year were spending $10 billion bailing out the sucker bank through the TARP program.

Still, the allegation that Goldman has been ripping off some of its clients is hardly the most damaging: the firm is, after all, in the business of market-making. And it has also, no doubt, made many of its clients fabulously wealthy. What instead deserves more scrutiny is the ways in which Goldman enriched itself during the chaotic bailout era of the fall and winter of ’08-’09, when so many genuinely thought the world was about to end and weren’t asking questions when the Fed and Treasury doled out billions upon billions.