#23F in Valencia, Spain
- After over a thousands days of imprisonment without trial Bradley Manning pled guilty to ten of the 22 charges against him. From Manning’s statement:
I found several new accounts involving two Reuters employees who were killed during the aerial weapon team engagement… It was clear to me that the event happened because the aerial weapons team mistakenly identified Reuters employees as a potential threat and that the people in the bongo truck were merely attempting to assist the wounded. The people in the van were not a threat but merely ‘good samaritans’. The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemly delightful bloodlust they appeared to have.
The dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as quote “dead bastards” unquote and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers. At one point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety. The individual is seriously wounded. Instead of calling for medical attention to the location, one of the aerial weapons team crew members verbally asks for the wounded person to pick up a weapon so that he can have a reason to engage. For me, this seems similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.
This was all achieved because a then-22-year-old Army Private knowingly risked his liberty in order to inform the world about what he learned. He endured treatment which the top UN torture investigator deemed ”cruel and inhuman”, and he now faces decades in prison if not life. He knew exactly what he was risking, what he was likely subjecting himself to. But he made the choice to do it anyway because of the good he believed he could achieve, because of the evil that he believed needed urgently to be exposed and combated, and because of his conviction that only leaks enable the public to learn the truth about the bad acts their governments are doing in secret.
Heroism is a slippery and ambiguous concept. But whatever it means, it is embodied by Bradley Manning and the acts which he unflinchingly acknowledged today he chose to undertake. The combination of extreme government secrecy, a supine media (see the prior two columns), and a disgracefully subservient judiciary means that the only way we really learn about what our government does is when the Daniel Ellsbergs – and Bradley Mannings – of the world risk their own personal interest and liberty to alert us. Daniel Ellberg is now widely viewed as heroic and noble, and Bradley Manning (as Ellsberg himself has repeatedly said) merits that praise and gratitude every bit as much.
- In your austerity update, Philadelphia demands up to 13% pay cuts of its teachers, while Medicaid is being privatized in Arkansas and Florida. Meanwhile, the “Congressional Progressive Caucus” won’t stand up against cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
- “The corporations have two parties, we need one of our own!” — another look at the Labor Party. Here is some archival footage:
while in Monthly Review, John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff look at the class war and labor’s declining share.
- Michael Yates on Occupy Wall Street and the Significance of Political Slogans:
“We are the 99%” suggests an “us versus them” politics that foreshadows the class perspective so badly needed in the United States. Those who feel unfairly maligned because, although their incomes are high, they are not rich are free to ally themselves with their poorer brethren. And those who are objectively poor are done no harm by being lumped together with those whose incomes are higher. What the slogan does is help nurture a worldview that understands that not only is inequality out of control but that the position of the 1% comes at the expense of the rest of us. To invert and paraphrase the words of Bartolomeo Vanzetti, “their triumph is our agony.” We can build upon this to create a politics that transcends the populism that passes for radicalism in the United States.
- Occupy the SEC sued the U.S. Treasury, Federal Reserve, SEC, and others over their failure to institute the “Volcker Rule” of the Dodd-Frank act.
- Lance Selfa on “comprehensive immigration reform”:
The pattern has been that Democrats, seeking to curry favor with Republican critics, accept more and more “security” proposals, hoping conservatives will agree to some measures for “citizenship.” This has the effect of making immigration reform bills more and more punitive and repressive–while not satisfying the right-wing critics.
The current Gang of Eight “framework” has broached the idea of a mandatory biometric ID card that all immigrants–or all citizens–may be forced to carry. But for many in the Republican Party, not even “a Berlin Wall on the Mexican border,” in the words of Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), will make them support a “path to citizenship.”
In other words, the path of least resistance has been a doubling down on “border security.” Legislation initially sold as an attempt to win justice for immigrants has become little more than pork-barrel projects for the repressive apparatus along the border.
- Beppe Grillo, the Italian comedian turned populist politician (who refers to his “Five Star Movement” as “conservative revolutionaries”) stole the show in this week’s Italian elections. Michael Roberts:
The centre-left party, the Democrats (PD) led by Pier Luigi Bersani (picture), will get the largest vote in the lower house of parliament at about 32%. But Berlusconi’s right wing People of Freedom (PdL) party has got about 27%, much better than was expected when the campaign began. And the euro sceptic anti-politician movement of Beppe Grillo’s Five Star party has got an amazingly high 24%, while Monti has polled just 9%. So the vote against the existing order and policies; against austerity and the Euro leaders; was at least 51%. Italy’s electorate may still be in favour of staying in the euro but they are very much against austerity and the Euro leaders. And much of the centre-left voters would also agree. Italy’s voters have decisively rejected the current pro-capitalist policies.
… Italy is entering a second year of real GDP contraction since the ‘recovery’ from the Great Recession.
Here in Italy, a large proportion of this “indignation” was intercepted and reorganised by Grillo and Casaleggio – two wealthy men in their 60s with a background in the entertainment industry and in marketing. They created a political/economic franchise with its own copyright and trademark, a movement rigidly controlled and mobilised from the top, hijacking slogans and ideas from social movements and mixing them with apologies for an “ethical” capitalism, with superficial statements centred on the honesty of the individual/politician/administrator. They created a confused set of proposals, where neoliberal and anti-capitalist, centralist and federalist, libertarian and reactionary could co-exist.
The majority of Italian voters were clearly against austerity policies. The fact that this was not expressed through an upsurge of votes for the usual suspects on the Left was due to the dominant Left politics conceding the anti-austerity space to the populist rhetoric of Berlusconi and the anti-establishment movement of Grillo.
I do not believe the 5 Star Movement will be able to govern Italy, that is not the point. The important and positive function that the Movement can have is to make the country ungovernable for the anti-European party of Draghi-Merkel-Monti. The Italian electorate has said: we will not pay the debt. Default. Europe’s financial governability has ended.
It is striking to see how Grillo won support by ‘stealing’ so many issues and battles that the alternative left has been fighting for decades. As Lorenzo Zamponi notes, there are three main themes that Grillo appropriated from the movements: global justice issues (opposition to war, GM food, big finance, multinational corporations), environmental issues (especially the battle for water to remain public and the ‘No TAV’ movement against a high speed railway in Piedmont), and participative issues, reacting against the top-down nature of the traditional parties (which in Grillo’s case is translated into an exaltation of internet democracy that hides his strict control over the movement).
- In Spain, hundreds of thousands took the the streets on #F23, the anniversary of the attempted coup El Tejerazo:
- Meanwhile, the death of Arafat Jaradat in Israeli detention has triggered a new round of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers.
- At home, lots of people were outraged by various things that occurred at this year’s gilded Hollywood spectacle. Juan Cole:
“Argo” could have been a moment when Americans come to terms with their Cold War role as villains in places like Iran. It could have been a film about what intelligence analysts call “blowback,” when a covert operation goes awry. Instead it plays into a ‘war on terror’ narrative of innocent Americans victimized by essentially deranged foreign mobs.
Beasts of the Southern Wild stands out also as a pure exemplar of the debasement of the notion of a social cause through absorption into the commercial imperative, the next logical step from fun-run or buy-a-tee-shirt activism. The film’s website, has a “get involved” link, a ploy clearly intended to generate an affective identification and to define watching and liking the film as a form of social engagement. There’s nothing to “get involved” with except propagandizing for the film. But the injunction to get involved pumps the idea that going to see a movie, and spending money to do so, is participating in a social movement. (I happened to be on a flight from Hartford, Connecticut, to Chicago with Oprah’s BFF and my local news anchor, Gayle King, on the premiere weekend of Oprah’s film adaptation of Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Gayle intimated in a stage whisper to the gaggle of gushing Oprah fans seated around her that it was very important to see the film on opening weekend in order to build the all-important box office count. I hadn’t realized theretofore that making yet more money for Oprah ranks as a social responsibility.) In this device Zeitlin repeats a technique employed by Davis Guggenheim’sWaiting for Superman, the corporate school privatization movement’s Triumph of the Will,speaking of Leni Riefenstahl, and its fictional counterpart Daniel Barnz’s Won’t Back Down,that movement’s Birth of a Nation. It is a minor cause for optimism that, to put it mildly, neither of those abominations came anywhere near its predecessor’s commercial or cultural success.
In addition to knee-jerk anti-statism, the objection that the slaves freed themselves, as it shows up in favorable comparison of Django Unchained to Lincoln, stems from a racial pietism that issued from the unholy union of cultural studies and black studies in the university. More than twenty years of “resistance” studies that find again and again, at this point ritualistically, that oppressed people have and express agency have contributed to undermining the idea of politics as a discrete sphere of activity directed toward the outward-looking project of affecting the social order, most effectively through creating, challenging or redefining institutions that anchor collective action with the objective of developing and wielding power. Instead, the notion has been largely evacuated of specific content at all. “Politics” can refer to whatever one wants it to; all that’s required is an act of will in making a claim.
- Odds and ends: A five hundred-year arrest warrant was discovered for one Niccolò Machiavelli; a provocateur infiltrated the Norwegian International Socialists; a university football stadium was named after a for-profit prison company; a prominent anthropologist resigned from the National Academy of Sciences, after its election of Napoleon Chagnon; and someone dug up some Soviet work safety posters that put ours to shame.
- Finally, if you’re looking for something to do on Saturday night, I’ll leave with the six-hour epic of Peter Watkins’ La Commune: