• Books: Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild, Endless War: Hidden Functions of the "war on terror" by David Keen, Capital Vol. 1, Tin Drum by Günter Grass, What is Islam? by Shahab Ahmed, Desiring Arabs by Joseph Massad, Spies, Soldiers and Statesmen by Hazem Kandil, La Condition Humaine by André Malraux, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, Imagined Community by Benedict Anderson, Culture and Imperialism by Edward Said, The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon, The Richness of Life by Stephen Jay Gould, Children of the Alley by Naguib Mahfouz, The Mass Psychology of Fascism by Wilhelm Reich, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 by George Orwell, Noli me Tangere by José Rizal, Age of Extremes by Eric Hobsbawm, ذهنية التحريم لصادق جلال العظم, Karl Marx by Francis Wheen, وليمة لأعشاب البحر لحيدر حيدر, Candide by Voltaire, النزعات المادية في الفلسفة العربية الإسلامية لحسين مروة, Listen Little Man by Wilhelm Reich ..
  • Films: Alexanderplatz by Rainer Fassbinder, Clockwork Orange, Apocalypse Now, The Battle of Algiers, films by P. P. Passolini, Persepolis, Midnight Express, 1984, Papillion, Gangs of New York, Sophie Scholl, Life of Brian, Ivan the Terrble, Battleship Potemkine ...

Thursday, March 31, 2016

"Majority of Americans now agree with banning all non-citizen Muslims from the United States, according to a new poll..."
Congratulations!
Chicago, US.

"The strike will only last a day, but it’s the kind of mass political action that rarely seen in American labor history. It’s also one that isn’t without risks; CPS has declared the strike illegal."
Profit and Balance of Forces

The Obama administration is paralyzed over whether to sell dozens of advanced U.S. fighter jets to the tiny kingdom of Qatar, a Persian Gulf ally that houses a strategic American air base but has alarmed Washington by maintaining ties to an array of Islamist militant groups.

The potential deal for up to 73 F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jets, worth billions of dollars, has been on the table for more than two years. The White House has come under fire for the unusual delay from some U.S. lawmakers, who accuse the administration of dithering and breaking its promise to speed up arms sales to Gulf allies anxious about the threat posed by their regional rival Iran — especially as Tehran emerges from economic sanctions and inks arms deals with countries like Russia.

Israel has privately expressed reservations about the deal because of Qatar’s relationships with Islamist groups like the Taliban and Hamas and because of concerns that Israel’s military superiority in the region could be undercut by the sale, congressional aides and former U.S. officials said. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other Gulf nations have voiced similar concerns about Qatar’s ties to terrorist groups and its increasingly warm relationship with Tehran.

Qatar, for its part, says that it wants the jets to assert itself as a military power in a region plagued by conflict and instability. Its current air force is tiny, with just a dozen aging French Mirage jets, so the proposed deal would represent a six-fold increase in its military strength. The Qatari government hopes to leverage the help it has provided Washington — from hosting the air base the United States uses to stage strikes against the Islamic State to negotiating the release of captive American soldier Bowe Bergdahl — to secure the aircraft deal






Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Creating the “Land of Israel”: Agitprop in the Cause of Nation-Building

"[...]Zionist propaganda had to rally European Jewry to immigrate to Palestine in the name of “redemption” and then indenture the Jewish settler community, the Yishuv, to lay the groundwork for an eventual state. Its colorful posters presented a hardy people tilling the soil (“making the desert bloom”) and encouraged a self-sufficient economy of so-called “Hebrew labor” and “Hebrew produce” necessary for constructing a proto-state that was independent of the Palestinians and eventually confident enough to subjugate them. Anchored in a powerful story, Zionism enlisted Western benefactors and molded a discrete community whose only commonality was a shared faith tradition into a linguistically and culturally unified nation capable of establishing a cogent state."

Sunday, March 27, 2016

 .كل ما في الأمر إنني إنسان غير مندمج كثيرا -
تصب القهوة. زنداها عاريان. زغب أصفر ينام هناك على مسيل الزند المعصفر. كانت ترتدي «الغندورة» الشعبية الملونة - 
 ولكن ما معنى غير مندمج؟ -   
 لا اجتماعي. أشعر بالقصور عن الاندماج مع الآخرين - 
 هل سألت نفسك لماذا؟ - 
 .بلى. دائما أسأل - 
 وهل حاولت الاندماج؟ - 
. حياتي كلها محاولات - 
 والنتيجة؟ - 
 .الإحباط - 
 ومن الممتنع؟ - 
لست أدري. أحيانا أفكر أنني ربما كنت أحمل أفكارا ضارة. أفكار متطرفة، قاسية، صعبة التحقيق. إنهم يقولون: عليك أن  تكون واقعيا. لماذا لا تجري مع التيار؟ وأسأل نفسي إن كنت حقا أسبح ضد التيار؟ ولكن إذا اندفعت مع التيار إلى أين سأصل؟ فيقولون: إذا بقيت هكذا عليك أن تقبل العزلة. أحد ما ليس معك. لكي تحيا مع الآخرين عليك أن تتنازل. أمي كانت تقول: يا بني الأرض الواطئة تشرب ماءها وماء غيرها من الأراضي العالية. وكنت أرد عليها وأنا صغير: ولكنني أكره الأراضي الواطئة لأن الناس جميعا يطؤونها يا أمي وأنا لا أريد أن أشرب إلا مائي. وتقول أمي يائسة: ستموت وحيدا ولن تجد من يكفِّنك ويمشي وراء جنازتك. أريد أن أموت عاريا تحت الشمس في غابة أو صحراء، تأكل جثتي الصقور ووحوش البر. هذا أفضل وأهدأ لنفسي من صلوات الدجالين وقبور المسلمين المظلمة.
  
حيدر حيدر، وليمة لأعشاب البحر، ص 77  

Saturday, March 26, 2016

How a gangster, imperialist, criminal regime works

"In truth, the Libyan intervention was about regime change from the very start. The threat posed by the Libyan regime’s military and paramilitary forces to civilian-populated areas was diminished by NATO airstrikes and rebel ground movements within the first 10 days. Afterward, NATO began providing direct close-air support for advancing rebel forces by attacking government troops that were actually in retreat and had abandoned their vehicles. Fittingly, on Oct. 20, 2011, it was a U.S. Predator drone and French fighter aircraft that attacked a convoy of regime loyalists trying to flee Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte. The dictator was injured in the attack, captured alive, and then extrajudicially murdered by rebel forces.

The intervention in Libya shows that the slippery slope of allegedly limited interventions is most steep when there’s a significant gap between what policymakers say their objectives are and the orders they issue for the battlefield. Unfortunately, duplicity of this sort is a common practice in the U.S. military. Civilian and military officials are often instructed to use specific talking points to suggest the scope of particular operations is minimal relative to large-scale ground wars or that there is no war going on at all. Note that it took 14 months before the Pentagon even admitted, “Of course it’s combat,” for U.S. soldiers involved in the ongoing mission against the Islamic State in Iraq. 

During the theatrical and exhaustive Benghazi hearing in October 2015, Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) asked Clinton about a video clip that read, “‘We came, we saw, he died [meaning Qaddafi].’ Is that the Clinton doctrine?” Clinton replied, “No, that was an expression of relief that the military mission undertaken by NATO and our other partners had achieved its end.” Yet, this was never the military mission that the Obama administration repeatedly told the world it had set out to achieve. It misled the American public, because while presidents attempt to frame their wars as narrow, limited, and essential, admitting to the honest objective in Libya — regime change — would have brought about more scrutiny and diminished public support. The conclusion is clear: While we should listen to what U.S. and Western officials claim are their military objectives, all that matters is what they authorize their militaries to actually do.

From The Big Lie about the Libyan War on foreignpolicy.com


In depth: 

Who said Gaddafi had to go?

Friday, March 25, 2016

"... Neoliberalism, which has characterized much of the left-centre Hungarian opposition’s rhetoric, is not a winning ticket in Hungary.
The second half of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s second, consecutive term in office may be significantly more difficult for him than the first."
"Certainly, many of those who joined IS from the area did not come from particularly religious backgrounds.
There is certainly a sense of disaffection among many in Molenbeek. I spent an evening on a street corner talking to one young Muslim man who had been accused of attempting to travel to Syria. 
He alternated between fixing me with an intense stare, and refusing to make any eye contact - exuding an air of slight volatility. Initially when I told him I wanted to understand why someone would commit an attack like the one in Paris - he told me I should travel to Raqqa, and ask people there. For him Western air strikes against IS were the answer. 
But then he changed his mind. It was the fault of domestic conditions. He railed against the Belgian government - against white Belgians, who hated those of Arab descent, he said. And he would repeat "there is no democracy here" - a feeling that you can't express any view dissenting from the mainstream without being labelled extreme.
Salah Abdeslam and his elder brother Brahim - who blew himself up in the Paris attacks - used to run a cafe in Molenbeek that sold alcohol and was closed down for drug offences. One friend of the brothers who used to hang out there told me he would regularly see Brahim Abdeslam "watching IS videos, with a joint in one hand, and a beer in another". He said Brahim would spout off radical statements but that no-one took him seriously. 
Another friend showed me a video from a Brussels nightclub of the two Abdeslam brothers on a night out with girls, drinking and dancing - this was February 2015, just months before they started to plan the attacks in Paris.
Sheikh Bassam Ayachi used to be considered a leading radical preacher in Molenbeek.
Over Skype I asked him why he thought so many young people from his old neighbourhood in Molenbeek were joining IS - a group he believes "sully the name of Islam, and sully the name of the Syrian revolution".
He put it down to the lack of action against the Assad regime on the one hand, and domestic factors on the other.
"The young people from Molenbeek feel frustrated because they were marginalised by the Belgian government. They have never tried to give them work, education, social help in order to get them integrated into society," he said.
The endless war of who gets what
[Note: there is some inaccurate figures on the South Korean War and the massacre]



Thursday, March 24, 2016

Eros and Civilization for a Jobless Future: Herbert Marcuse and the Abolition of Work

"Surplus-repression and the performance principle compel people to internalize the constant drive to work, compete, and produce. They are also evident in the vehement hostility directed against individuals who refuse to work, appear to be lazy or unproductive, or seem generally free of social constraint. Surplus-repression and the performance principle are most apparent in conservative attacks on the welfare state, and they are well known to protesters who have been yelled at by passersby to “GET A JOB!” Social anxieties about pleasure and freedom proliferate, demanding submission to authoritarian forces of repression: “As the reality principle takes root, even in its most primitive and most brutally enforced form, the pleasure principle becomes something frightful and terrifying; the impulses for free gratification meet with anxiety, and this anxiety calls for protection against them” (Marcuse, 1966; p. 67)."
"This is the country where toddlers shoot their mothers and the police wage a murderous war against black Americans. This is the country that has attacked and sought to overthrow more than 50 governments, many of them democracies, and bombed from Asia to the Middle East, causing the deaths and dispossession of millions of people. 

No country can equal this systemic record of violence. Most of America's wars (almost all of them against defenseless countries) have been launched not by Republican presidents but by liberal Democrats: Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama."

In 1947, a series of National Security Council directives described the paramount aim of American foreign policy as a world substantially made over in America's own image. The ideology was messianic Americanism. We were all Americans. Or else. Heretics would be converted, subverted, bribed, smeared or crushed.

Donald Trump is a symptom of this, but he is also a maverick. He says the invasion of Iraq was a crime; he doesn't want to go to war with Russia and China. The danger to the rest of us is not Trump, but Hillary Clinton. She is no maverick. She embodies the resilience and violence of a system whose vaunted exceptionalism is totalitarian with an occasional liberal face." 


an article by John Pilger

Again, yes, that's Western imperialism, but there is no mention of Russian crimes and the Syrian regime's crimes.

Left and libertarian right cohabit in the weird world of the genocide belittlers


Scenario for a Wonderful Tomorrow


What about Europe? And why dwell so long on the refugee crisis when I’m supposed to be discussing a book on the euro crisis? The answer is that Merkel’s immigration policy offers an object lesson in what other countries can expect from Germany acting European. Just as the United States sees the world as an extended playing field for its domestic political economy, Germany has come to consider the European Union as an extension of itself, where what is right for Germany is by definition right for all others. There is nothing particularly immoral about this; indeed Germans think it is supremely moral, as they identify their control of Europe with a post-nationalism understood as anti-nationalism, which in turn is understood as the quintessential lesson of German history. Very much like the US, German elites project what they collectively regard as self-evident, natural and reasonable onto their outside world, and are puzzled that anyone could possibly fail to see things the way they do. Perhaps the dissenters suffer from cognitive deficits and require education by Schäuble in the Eurogroup classroom?
One problem with hegemonic self-righteousness is that it prevents the self-righteous from seeing that what they consider morally self-evident is informed by self-interest. The self-interest of German export industries, for example, underlies Germany’s identification of the ‘European idea’ with the single European currency. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the national interest that is mistakenly seen as identical to the interest of all reasonable human beings, in Europe and beyond, is necessarily shaped by the political interest of the government and its dominant social bloc in preserving their power. This puts peripheral countries at the mercy of the national power games and the moral and semantic ethnocentrisms of countries at the centre, which are hard to decipher for outsiders – especially with a postmodern leader like Merkel who, free from substantive commitments and constitutional constraints, has perfected the art of staying in power by means of unpredictable changes of course."
A headline on foreignpolicy.com


"THE ROTTEN HEART OF EUROPE: Belgium’s political dysfunction and economic marginalization of Muslim communities put us all in danger, FP’s Leela Jacinto writes."

What a surprise!


"But while Europe offered the sort of economic opportunities for which the 1960s generation of migrants was grateful, their children have been not so lucky. The economic downturn since the late 1970s saw the closure of Belgian coal mines and heavy industries, leaving areas of urban blight. Belgium’s national unemployment rate, hovering around 8 percent, climbs to more than 20 percent among the youth population. Among Belgians of Moroccan or Turkish origin, that figure can double to around 40 percent. Add high unemployment to the mix of poor policing, fuddled administration and services, and you have the perfect breeding grounds for marginalization and radicalization. Tiny Belgium today has the dubious distinction of being the country with the highest per capita numbers of nationals or residents who have traveled to the Islamic State-held Syria-Iraq badlands.

To be sure the bulk of Belgium’s Muslims want nothing to do with the Islamic State. But for those unemployed youths with few job opportunities and easy access to drugs and arms-dealing rackets, places like Molenbeek are a home away from home, where old, idealized codes of conduct from the rural heartlands their parents left behind can be transplanted to a cold, dreary Brussels hood."

Yet there are other factors which draw these people to engage in individual terrorism.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Here’s What a Man Who Studied Every Suicide Attack in the World Says About ISIS’ Motives

This is a partial take on the issue... One needs to delve into the cities and neighbourhoods ( see, for example the study on Jihadism in Daouar Hicher in Tunis) to identify sociological and psychological motives.
In addition, there is a bigger picture: local and Western state terrorism, repression, economic and financial terrorism by local and international agents, decades of marginalizations and humuliation...

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Contradiction, Systemic Crisis and the Direction for Change: An Interview with Wang Hui


"The transition in China’s form of development is currently framed in terms of “upgrading and updating” and industrial transfer. From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, many people—from the standpoint of very different political aspirations—have predicted that a similar situation would occur and even encouraged one to occur in China. But, disappointingly for these people, this expected “revolution” has not yet appeared in China, while street revolution is already widespread in Euro-America. Why? It is not because social contradictions and conflicts do not exist in China or because there are no problems with China’s mode of development. It is rather due to two reasons: First, the fact that China is vast and regions are unevenly developed has ironically acted as a buffer in the context of the financial crisis. Regional disparity, rural–urban disparity, disparity between the rich and poor and so forth have all provided room for adjustment in China. Second, China has actually been in a constant process of adjustment during the past ten years. This adjustment results from a range of social practices, including internal jockeying, social struggle, public discussion, policy changes, local experiments and so forth. Social experiments and debates about different modes of development still continue in Chinese society. This indicates that there is still the possibility of self-directed, autonomous reform. But because the situation is changing so quickly, if action in this direction is not taken immediately, this possibility may be fleeting and quickly disappear. But introducing something resembling a “color revolution” from the outside, it seems to me, can only induce turmoil and can hardly produce a positive result."

Monday, March 21, 2016

From Illusion to Empire: Chuang on the Creation of the Chinese Economy

“China” was very much a product of the Occidental imagination. The people Pereira asked had trouble even understanding the question of what “country” they were from, as there were no clear indigenous correlates to the concept. Ultimately they explained that there was one ruler, but many countries, which still used their ancient names. The combination of these countries composed the “Great Ming,” but each retained much of its local specificity. This detail was a mere curiosity when the account was published in Europe, which had established “China” as its arcane, ancient counterpart—less the name for a country than a designation for the external limits to early capitalist expansion and colonization. Such projects tended to run aground on the East Asian mainland, which proved capable of massive trade in goods and silver but resistant to true incorporation into the new global economy. China designated an obstruction of sorts, an ominous exception to the new rules being established in the west. [2]

Today, in a crisis-stricken global economy, China is again defined by its exceptions. Its staggering ascent seems to promise an almost messianic escape from decades of declining growth: the mirage of a new America, complete with a “Chinese Dream” and the moral zeal of its Puritanical CCP-Confucianism. For the Western economist, this takes the form of a steady-handed Sino-Keynesianism, as new infrastructure projects are initiated by more charitable global financial institutions such as the China Development Bank, promising the salvation of the world’s final far-flung hinterlands. In the official discourse of the Chinese state, this represents nothing more than the slow transition to communism, with a long layover in the stage of “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” wherein capitalist mechanisms are used to develop the productive forces until general wealth is possible.

In both narratives, China remains an obscure, somewhat ominous exception, despite its complete incorporation into the global economy. Somehow it seems exempt from the rules, with a vague intuition that, with such a large population, such a powerful government, such a massive concentration of fixed capital, etc., the Chinese thereby hold some sort of deus ex machina for the drama of our current global economic decline. The problem in this reading is the same as that confronted by Pereira centuries ago: the very object of inquiry proves illusory. The mercenary enters the heart of the empire only to discover that the empire does not exist.


One of our primary aims in Chuang is to disperse this mirage..."
Obama's imperialist view

In 1881, the British journalist Edward Dicey wrote of the great democratic revolt in Egypt, led by Ahmed 'Urabi against the British Empire and its puppet regime of the Khedivate:

"In Egypt - as, for that matter, in any Mussulman country -parliamentary government is an impossibility, as incomprehensible to the Oriental mind as the differential calculus would be to a ploughboy."


In an interview with The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, Obama made the following comments regarding "the Middle East":


"You have countries that are failing to provide prosperity and opportunity for their people. You've got extremist… ideologies. You've got countries that have few civic traditions, so as autocratic regimes start fraying, the only organising principles are sectarian.  


"Contrast that with Southeast Asia, which still has huge problems… but is filled with… ambitious, energetic people who are every single day clawing to build businesses… and build infrastructure - they're not thinking about how to kill Americans… What they're thinking about is 'how do I get a job?'"


Obama's comments are nothing more than the self-justification of an arrogant imperialist who has presided over and/or materially aided - from Cairo to Manama - the triumph of vicious sectarian counter-revolution in a region that is crying out for change and for the necessary aid to bring down the old autocratic order.  
— Sam Hamad


Primo Levi's Heartbreaking, Heroic Answers to the Most Common Questions He Was Asked About "Survival in Auschwitz"


"And yet varied sources of information were available to most Germans. Knowing and making things known was one way of keeping one’s distance from Nazism. But most Germans didn’t know because they didn’t want to know. Because, indeed, they wanted not to know. It is certainly true that the German people, as a whole, did not even try to resist. In Hitler’s Germany a particular code was widespread—those who knew did not talk; those who did not know did not ask questions; those who did ask questions received no answers. Shutting his mouth, his eyes, and his ears, the typical German citizen built for himself the illusion of not knowing, hence of not being an accomplice to the things taking place in front of his very door...

"... Everybody must know, or remember, that Hitler and Mussolini, when they spoke in public, were believed, applauded, admired, adored like gods. They were “charismatic leaders”; they possessed a secret power of seduction that did not proceed from the credibility or the soundness of the things they said, but from the suggestive way in which they said them. And we must remember that their faithful followers, among them the diligent executors of inhuman orders, were not born torturers, were not (with a few exceptions) monsters: they were ordinary men. Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous; more dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions."


Here is also a book the revolutionized my outlook of social life:
The Mass Psychology of Fascism

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Saving capitalism from Donald Trump and the extreme left

"The imminent triumph of Donald Trump as the Republican candidate in the upcoming US presidential election is really worrying mainstream economists. Adair Turner was head of the UK’s financial regulation authority where he was a great success in stopping UK banks engaging in reckless speculation (joke!). He is a former vice-chairman of Merrill Lynch Europe and lectures at the London School of Economics.


He has now published a book, Between Debt and the Devil, in which he argues that to get the global economy going, central banks and governments must opt for ‘helicopter money’ i.e. central banks should credit every household bank account with several thousand dollars, euros or pounds, so that they can directly spend the cash and restore aggregate demand, boost output and encourage companies to invest for higher growth.
I have discussed before the nature of helicopter money and its likely success in meeting Adair Turner’s aspirations – not much is the short answer. But nevertheless, action is needed by the ruling economic authorities, says Turner, because political extremism, as represented by Trump and other extreme left and right parties in Europe is an “inevitable consequence of a breakdown in capitalism". At a conference on market economies in London, Turner said "I think it's a huge issue for those of us who believe in a free-market economy and that free-market capitalism delivers for everybody. The blunt fact is that it is breaking down." He did not say exactly when it ever worked for the majority."
The "free-market" fundamentalists who create a fertile ground for other fundamentalists.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Hasan Al-Turabi

"Turabi’s concepts of an Islamic state have aroused significant criticism, not because of  his concepts but rather, because of his practices as a political activist working with military dictators. When he described the nature of an Islamic State, he argued that such a state could take different forms, depending on the specific conditions of particular time and place. However, in accord with the principle of tawhid, the state would not be secular – separating religion from public life. In whatever form the Islamic state took, it would emphasize justice and avoid oppression. The criticism of Turabi comes from the fact that, in practice, he supported oppressive military dictatorships that claimed to be implementing Shariʻa."
"Reconciliation no longer a taboo?"
Sooner or later, and this did happen before, the two reactionary forces, will sit and work together to maintain the status quo, to absorb parts of the crisis.

"... Capitalism for the 150 or so years [sic] of it's existence was based on production of material goods from which surplus value derives that in turn was divided between industry profits, interest payments and rent...The  heyday of this economy in terms of its employment of labor forces in manufacturing (production centered) activities was between 1940 and 1980. Today production centered economies have been dissembled with manufacturing in the US employing at best 10 percent of the workforce...Japan and Germany around 20 percent...top Asian tigers like South Korea about the same...even China overall has never seen manufacturing employment rise above 25 percent of employment. And the rest of the world is experiencing what has been dubbed "premature deindustrialization". 



The current economy, if you want to call it that, is based on money games, Himalayan sized debt, leverage, and extraction of "pounds of flesh" from the bones of humanity. It operates more like a "Merchant of Venice" than capitalism. That is why authoritarianism is so prevalent.  Capitalists without capitalism can summarily dispense with bourgeois polities because the bourgeois economy is largely gone except for ideologies of both Right and Left that support it. The Right because neoclassical economic voodoo states capitalism is forever because natural. The Left because gurus like Zizek need it to survive (even figuratively) so their heroic working class revolution can dismount it...
DKLNG, fr.com, a comment on Zizek's article.

Brazil on Edge

"In spite of a founding platform that emphasizes ethics in politics, the party has engaged in the same appalling behavior as the country’s other capitalist parties. From phony contracts and mob connections in PT-ruled cities in the 1990s to bribes for votes at the federal level in the 2000s, the party has been transformed into a business-as-usual operation...
However, "the treatment the PT has received is hypocritical and unfair, even by capitalist democracy’s shallow standards."

Friday, March 18, 2016

"Europe’s silence in the face of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hostile takeover of two of his country’s independent newspapers over the last weeks is being chalked up to the need to avoid jeopardizing Ankara’s finger in the dike of even more massive waves of Middle Eastern migration into the continent. But Europe’s cavalier attitude toward this kind of rising authoritarianism on its eastern border is more than just strategic indifference — it’s symptomatic of a steady erosion of core civil liberties within the EU itself.

Government encroachments on free speech are an attempt to tighten control and consolidate power in the face of political stress and rising dissent. Absent an underlying sense of threat or insecurity in the system, even the most revolutionary speech is only words, scarcely menacing and unworthy of a reaction that would attest to its significance. Restrictions on speech meet with least resistance when populations at large feel buffeted by the same angst that torments policymakers. Citizens are often willing to trade away liberties if they are convinced doing so will keep threats at bay.

In Spain, a two-man puppet show performed in Esperanto about a squatter, a witch, and a landlord, with themes touching on Basque separatism and terrorism, led to the arrest of the puppet masters after a Madrid show last month. The marionette operators were charged with incitement to hatred or violence and “glorifying terrorism” and sent to prison without bail in a ruling defended by Madrid’s mayor. They now face up to four years in prison. This assault on cultural freedom is not an isolated incident. Spanish rap musicians and poets have been similarly targeted as of late for offensive and supposedly incendiary speech.

In addition to expanded powers that now include conducting house raids, imposing house arrests, and stripping away the citizenship of dual-nationality terrorism convicts, newly enacted laws also extend the government’s reach into the realm of personal data, allowing powerful algorithms to sift through reams of metadata to identify suspicious contacts and patterns. Although this provision was dropped in the most recent extension, the original three-month emergency law (imposed directly after the November attack) empowered the government to “control the press,” including radio, films, and plays. According to Mother Jones, in those first few days, French police also barred journalists from interviewing witnesses and asked social media networks to censor photos of the killings.

Drawing from the playbook of repressive governments including Iran’s, the law authorizes measures including keystroke logging and requirements that service providers install “black boxes” that alert authorities directly of suspicious online activity. Those measures have been repudiated by independent rights groups, as well as the U.N.’s prestigious 18-member Human Rights Committee.

Responding to such pressure, Google, Facebook, and Twitter announced in December that they would work to delete anti-migrant sentiments voiced on their networks within 24 hours of request, imposing a level of control over ideas and viewpoints that goes far beyond what the companies’ own corporate content policies would allow. Two German lawyers are now pressing for a criminal action to fine Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg $163 million for failing to prevent users from posting anti-Semitic screeds including Nazi symbolism, as well as other hate speech.
Suzanne Nossel, foreignpolicy.com, 17 March 2016


Amilcar Cabral, Imperialism and Neo-colonialism

"The postcolony is an illusion, reinforced and spurred by native elements controlling political or state power. The postcolony is an illusion because this class is subjected to the whims and impulse of imperialists (Fanon 1961; Cabral 1979). This pseudo bourgeoisie, however, strongly nationalist, cannot fulfil a historical function; ‘it cannot freely guide the development of productive forces, and in short cannot be a national bourgeoisie’. (Cabral 1979:129)."
George Tarabishi (Aleppo 1939 - Paris 2016)
The Syrian thinker George Tarabishi passes away today.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Crisis in Brazil - centre left government could fall

"Brazil was teetering on the brink of a constitutional crisis on Thursday after a judge blocked President Dilma Rousseff’s appointment of her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, to her cabinet, prompting clashes in Congress and on the streets.

Just as Mr Lula da Silva’s swearing-in ceremony drew to a close, a federal judge issued an injunction, suspending the ex-president’s appointment on the grounds that it prevented "the free exercise of justice" in corruption investigations.

Opposition politicians hailed the decision as a triumph for Brazilian democracy, while the government vowed to appeal, lambasting the order as part of a “coup” by the country’s elite, reminiscent of Brazil’s period of military rule. Brazilian assets rallied as investors bet on the government’s collapse.

“Since the end of the dictatorship and the transition to democracy over recent years, this is our most dramatic political moment — we have no idea what tomorrow will even look like,” said Gabriel Petrus, analyst at the consultancy Barral M Jorge Associates in Brasília.

State prosecutors requested Mr Lula da Silva’s arrest last week over charges of money laundering and fraud, accusing the former president of secretly owning a beachside penthouse at the centre of investigations into corruption at state oil company Petrobras." (FT.com)

For why Brazil has reached this crisis, see Michael Roberts' post.
Optimism about a revolution aside ...

Speakers' Corner, London



Surnames and Social Mobility: England 1230-2012

"The relative constancy of the intergenerational correlation of underlying social status across very different social environments in England from 1800 to 2012 suggests that it stems from the nature of inheritance of characteristics within families. Strong forces of familial culture, social connections, and genetics must connect the generations. There really are quasi-physical “Laws of Inheritance.” This interpretation is reinforced by the finding of Clark in work with other co-authors that all societies observed – including the USA, Sweden, India, China and Japan - have similar low rates of social mobility when surnames are used to identify elites and underclasses, despite an even wider range of social institutions (Clark et al. 2014)."
"It’s important when discussing counterrevolution to understand what exactly we are talking about. The role played by the Muslim Brotherhood towards the Egyptian Revolution was one of betrayal, was a classical betrayal by a reformist, non-revolutionary movement. It attempted to broker a deal with the old regime to get a place at the table and to share power with the old regime. Yet it failed to do so.
The Muslim Brotherhood was not a central part of the counterrevolution. You could say that it was understandably the first beneficiary of the revolution, in the sense that it was the first freely elected political force that came to power — in formal terms, at least — in the wake of the revolution.
But it was also the first victim of the counterrevolution. It’s important to understand this because some people blithely talk about “two wings” of the counterrevolution — the Muslim Brotherhood being the religious wing and the army being the military wing — as if this was a fight between two sides of a counterrevolution.
This is an extremely reductionist view of the process of revolution and counterrevolution. People did not go out and vote in the millions for the Muslim Brotherhood because they were voting for a counterrevolution. No, they voted for the Muslim Brotherhood to carry out the demands of the revolution. It was only when the Muslim Brotherhood betrayed the revolution that we begin to see a movement against them.
The Brotherhood lost support because first, it generally continued the policies of the Mubarak regime, particularly neoliberalism; second, it refused to carry out any serious investigations into the military’s role in the violence during the revolutionary upsurge; third, it refused to try the police brass for their role in the deaths of Egyptian revolutionaries; and fourth, it refused to change Egyptian foreign policy with respect to the US and Israel."
“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” 
–Assata Shakur
On the Violence of Politics

"'Violence has no place in politics.’ People might have legitimate grievances, but they can only be resolved by legitimate means. It is never acceptable to start attacking other people. I want to suggest something different: that in the end, it’s precisely this impulse, the horrified rejection of any violence within politics, the keening appeal to legitimacy in all things, which is ultimately capable of bringing about the most horrific forms of repression."

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Foreign Policy, foreignpolicy.com, sometimes publishes good analyses, but they can be funny as well: 
"Obama is right to engage with Cuba — as long as he doesn't leave human rights behind, Christopher Sabatini writes." (14 March 2016) 
The biggest violator of "human rights" at home and abroad should lecture poor, little Cuba about "human rights".

Marxism, the Arab spring, and Islamic fundamentalism