Sunday Reading

by zunguzungu

Let us observe a juxtaposition: An Activist Stands Her Ground in Bahrain. Meanwhile, the U.S. ‘supercop’ tapped to train Bahraini police. And Why Even Bahrain’s use of ‘Miami model’ policing will not stop the uprising

A Painter’s View of Occupy Wall Street


Congress endorsing military detention, a new authorization of the use of military force (AUMF). As Thoreau points out:

A few weeks ago in the Establishment’s Mouthpiece Washington Post, the ever-popular Unnamed US  Official said:

“We have rendered the organization that brought us 9/11 operationally ineffective,” a senior U.S. counterterrorism official said. Asked what exists of al-Qaeda’s leadership group beyond the top two positions, the official said: “Not very much. Not any of the world-class terrorists they once had.”

So, the  organization that did 9/11 no longer exists in any meaningful sense.  The AUMF was directed at that organization.  Isn’t it time to revoke the AUMF?  Now, yes, I’m aware that there are still terrorists out there, and that is certainly a reason to do, well, something, but probably not what we’ve been doing.  I mean, when the cops raid a drug house, they don’t get to use that search warrant as an open-ended authorization to raid any other suspected drug house anywhere in the city.  No, they have to the hard work of getting another paid informant to perjure himself in another affidavit, so that the judge can pretend that he’s issuing these warrants in good faith.  Likewise, if Our Brave Drone Operators With Joysticks want to rain down missiles on a wedding party in Balochistan, they should at least do the hard work of getting an FBI  informant to hold a loser’s hand so that they can claim the loser was tied to somebody in Waziristan and then get Congressional authorization.

A remarkable and detailed account; take the time. Sung a Lot of Songs: Who Rules Oakland?

In Egypt, Elections in the midst of a revolution:

Many mainstream international media outlets have adopted one variation of this narrative or another: basically boiling the issue at hand down to “Egypt is in crisis and its elections are at risk.” This perspective is problematically limited for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, it assumes that demonstrators who sought to peacefully stage a sit-in in Tahrir have caused the recent violence, rather than the SCAF-sponsored security personnel who have turned the Square into a battlefield so as to clear the area by force. But beyond responsibility for instigating this “crisis,” the “Square versus the elections” narrative misses the site of the battle for transformative change in Egypt, and uncritically takes for granted the notion that elections will necessarily steer the country toward a political system that is more inclusive, competitive, and responsive to the demands of the January 25 Revolution.

To understand the significance of the upcoming vote and its relationship to the ongoing events in Tahrir and beyond, it is important to bear in mind that the January 25 Revolution emerged not only as a revolt against the rule of Hosni Mubarak. It was also an unequivocal rejection of elite-dominated “establishment politics” and all what it encompassed, both the former ruling party and the self-professed opposition parties and groups. During the eighteen-day uprising that ultimately toppled Mubarak, the former president reshuffled the cabinet, pledged not to contest the presidency or present his son as a possible candidate, vowed to advance far-reaching constitutional reform, and opened dialogue with opposition leaders. The demonstrations, however, continued as the protest movements that participated in the uprising rejected all these concessions and stood by its one unified demand: irhal (“go away”).

At the time, their rejection did not only reflect a lack of trust in Mubarak and his associates, but also a lack of faith in the ability of elite opposition leaders to use these proposed reforms to advance the type of transformative change for which people were calling…Mubarak’s ouster and the military’s ascendance to power marked the beginning of a host of new conflicts once again featuring this tension between elite-driven politics and contentious activism that channels and builds on popular pressure. At the heart of these confrontations is a permeating battle between the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and Tahrir Square over the history of the January 25 Revolution—arguably the same battle that we are observing in public squares all over Egypt today.

Is Siri sexist or misogynist? Well, “It’s pretty appalling that programmers thought far ahead enough to know where to send users who needed to remove rodents from their buttholes, but didn’t consider a medical procedure that 1 in 3 American women will have.”

Former Chase Banker Admits His Bank Pushed Minorities Into Subprime Mortgage Loans

Rortybomb, Unemployment Dips, but That Hardly Makes Up for a Lost Year on Economic Recovery:

Today the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that unemployment dropped to 8.6 percent from 9 percent, while the economy added 120,000 new jobs. Is this actually good news? About half of this decline is due to workers giving up looking. We can get a better sense from the employment-to-population ratio, because unemployment doesn’t track people who have stopped looking for work. The employment-to-population ratio did increase slightly to 58.5 percent, but this is still within the range it has been for two years.

In fact, over the past year, employment-to-population has stayed consistently depressed. Every indicator we look at—job openings, the rate at which people quit their jobs for new opportunities, the number of hours worked in the economy—has stayed weak during 2011. With job growth failing to exceed population growth each month, and with no serious increase in the percent of Americans working, 2011 was a lost year for the economy.

Lost years for the economy have major consequences. Beyond the human misery that results, they put the entire project of liberal governance at risk. Choices made early by this administration resulted in no advancement on three fronts that could bolster the struggling economy: fiscal policy (increasing the deficit through spending on investment and temporary tax cuts), monetary policy (increasing the money supply to stimulate growth), and dealing with the problems in the housing market.

Task Farce: “In the wake of Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi’s decision to send in the pepper-spray goon squad, the high administration has resorted to that old stand-by of deferred accountability: the task force.”

As Scott L aggregates:

David Weigel and Kaili Joy Gray have more on the excellent point Paul raised yesterday.   Not only have a lot of Republicans and journalists conflated sexual harassment and consensual affairs into indistinguishable “sex scandals,” the former seem to think that the consensual conduct is actually worse.

On Black Panther Party’s Free Clothing Program:

Occupy Wall Street’s anarchist roots:

How, then, did OWS embody anarchist principles? It might be helpful to go over this point by point:

1)    The refusal to recognise the legitimacy of existing political institutions.

One reason for the much-discussed refusal to issue demands is because issuing demands means recognising the legitimacy – or at least, the power – of those of whom the demands are made. Anarchists often note that this is the difference between protest and direct action: Protest, however militant, is an appeal to the authorities to behave differently; direct action, whether it’s a matter of a community building a well or making salt in defiance of the law (Gandhi’s example again), trying to shut down a meeting or occupy a factory, is a matter of acting as if the existing structure of power does not even exist. Direct action is, ultimately, the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free.

2)    The refusal to accept the legitimacy of the existing legal order.

The second principle, obviously, follows from the first. From the very beginning, when we first started holding planning meetings in Tompkins Square Park in New York, organisers knowingly ignored local ordinances that insisted that any gathering of more than 12 people in a public park is illegal without police permission – simply on the grounds that such laws should not exist. On the same grounds, of course, we chose to occupy a park, inspired by examples from the Middle East and southern Europe, on the grounds that, as the public, we should not need permission to occupy public space. This might have been a very minor form of civil disobedience but it was crucial that we began with a commitment to answer only to a moral order, not a legal one.

3)    The refusal to create an internal hierarchy, but instead to create a form of consensus-based direct democracy.

From the very beginning, too, organisers made the audacious decision to operate not only by direct democracy, without leaders, but by consensus. The first decision ensured that there would be no formal leadership structure that could be co-opted or coerced; the second, that no majority could bend a minority to its will, but that all crucial decisions had to be made by general consent. American anarchists have long considered consensus process (a tradition that has emerged from a confluence of feminism, anarchism and spiritual traditions like the Quakers) crucial for the reason that it is the only form of decision-making that could operate without coercive enforcement – since if a majority does not have the means to compel a minority to obey its dictates, all decisions will, of necessity, have to be made by general consent.

4)    The embrace of prefigurative politics.

As a result, Zuccotti Park, and all subsequent encampments, became spaces of experiment with creating the institutions of a new society – not only democratic General Assemblies but kitchens, libraries, clinics, media centres and a host of other institutions, all operating on anarchist principles of mutual aid and self-organisation – a genuine attempt to create the institutions of a new society in the shell of the old.

The UC has more than a police problem:

[T]he student protesters’ point has never been simply that they don’t want to pay more tuition. They want justice and transparency, just like the rest of the 99%. The faculty’s point is not just that we don’t want Bratton or Edley. It is that we want the people who teach and study at the University of California to govern it themselves. President Yudof and the Board of Regents have cast away their claims to genuine leadership. If anyone is entitled to do the work of Yudof’s commissions, it is faculty representatives elected by the Academic Senate and student representatives elected by students. And a similar principle holds across the University: it needs to be returned to those who use it. Police violence may be the most dramatic representation of what is wrong at the University of California. But President Yudof’s obstruction of an open and democratic discussion of these issues is even more revealing of the hollowing out of a great University.

What we consider sexual body parts and how we cover or expose them in media helps us figure out how to depict sexualized men. Women’s breasts are seen as sexual in many cultures (to varying degrees), and along with that, come laws forbidding women from exposing them in public. If men’s chests and arms evoked the same kind of sexual focus, they would find themselves in a similar situation. We should note, however, that it is legal and often expected that women partially expose their breasts despite their sexual connotation, effectively always leaving themselves on display. This is the launching point for women’s sexualization in general media by emphasizing what is illegal/improper to show in public without crossing a line. Because the only area that is taboo on men is below the belt, men’s chests and arms don’t threaten anyone’s sexuality. Sexualizing men would involve drawing focus and emphasis to their goods in a manner similar to how we currently do with women: by featuring them in low-rise pants and underwear, tight jeans to emphasis their bulge and butt shape, etc. Because it violates the prevailing Male Gaze ingrained in all of us, this can seem like an uncomfortable idea. However, media geared towards gay men already uses and exploits this technique.

A dialogue:

“Stranger: Where are you from? [Translation: You look a bit brown. Why are you brown?]

Me: London.

Stranger: No, where are you really from? [Translation: You are clearly telling me untruths. Brown people do not come from London.]

Me: London.

Stranger (exasperated): No, where are your parents from? [Translation: Now you’re just being obtuse.]

Me: Africa and America.

Stranger (confused): Erm … so where are your family from, like, back in the day? [Translation: People who come from Africa and America do not look like you.]

Me: Iran, India, Africa, America and England.

Stranger (relieved): India and Iran! Do you ever go back?”

Ten years of Guantanamo demands our action and our outrage:

We can quit any time we want:

Law schools have become addicted to federal educational loan money. Under current law, schools can charge whatever they want for tuition, and the federal government will loan 100% of that amount, plus 100% of estimated living expenses, to any admitted student who isn’t in default on an educational loan, no questions asked. You don’t have to have a Ph.D. in economics (something an increasing number of law professors actually have, not that it seems to be doing any good in regard to this particular subject) to realize this is a recipe for reckless financial behavior on the part of everyone — students, schools, and the government — involved in these transactions.

“I’m so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death”:

For twenty or thirty years, Democratic politicians — for their own purposes — have been paying what must amount to billions of dollars by now to consultants, pollsters, and think tank gurus  to tell them how to talk to the public about inequality in some way that might spark sustained public engagement. For twenty or thirty years, they have failed so spectacularly that it’s given rise to a whole subgenre of political commentary, the old “why don’t Americans care about inequality” op-ed grist.

Then the Occupy movement comes along and after two and a half months shifts the national consciousness so palpably that Republican governors are scrambling to ask their Rasputins how capitalism can be defended to their constituents back in Peoria. And the message from so many liberals is: okay, that was nice, but now let’s get back to the real task of hurling Hatfield talking points at the McCoys.

How the LAPD arrests occupiers:

First off, don’t believe the PR bullshit. There was nothing peaceful or professional about the LAPD’s attack on Occupy LA–not unless you think that people peacefully protesting against the power of the financial oligarchy deserve to be treated the way I saw Russian cops treating the protesters in Moscow and St. Petersburg who were demonstrating against the oligarchy under Putin and Yeltsin, before we at The eXiled all got tossed out in 2008. Back then, everyone in the West protested and criticized the way the Russian cops brutally snuffed out dissent, myself included. Now I’m in America, at a demonstration, watching exactly the same brutal crackdown…

While people are now beginning to learn that the police attack on Occupy LA was much more violent than previously reported, few actually realize that much—if not most—of the abuse happened while the protesters were in police custody, completely outside the range of the press and news media. And the disgraceful truth is that a lot of the abuse was police sadism, pure and simple.

On 12/12, we shut down the ports: