Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Battle of Algiers

I just watched The Battle of Algiers with my mother. After it ended, I asked her what she thought.

"Do you just try to pick the longest movies?"

"It was two fucking hours!"

"God, it seemed a lot longer!"

Here I'm trying to watch classic movies, and all I hear is that they're long. Even when they're not. Given, my appreciation of everything is limited, but at least my philistinism isn't intentional.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Confronting hopeless inadequacy

When I read lenin or Duncan Mitchel or any of the people I cited in the series about people I am inferior to on the DepressionJournal, I am always struck by the vast amount I don't know because I haven't read the relevant things. But my comprehension is shoddy, too, so that when I did read Tariq Ali's The Clash of Fundamentalisms or William Blum's Killing Hope, I retained almost none of it. So I prove incapable of bettering myself. This constant rediscovery of my own inferiority is wearying and maddening, and another of the things that makes me want to check out early.

I don't seem to be able to keep up with my blogroll every day, let alone the hundreds of books I've put on my list of things to read. On my hard drive I also have at least a half-dozen PDFs of books I'd hoped to read, but I'm still trying to follow the news and opinions of today. So I will never progress in knowledge — as if I retained any of it anyway.

The other thing I've noticed about myself is my orthodoxy. Since I have no self-esteem, I am constantly questioning my own opinions. And where that may lead some people to improved opinions, it leads me nowhere. Because I'm not confident to come up with my own opinions on things anymore; I've been wrong so often in the past about so many things that I don't have faith in my own reactions. Best to see what someone on my blogroll says first. I'm perpetually stymied by the belief that I'm missing something that other people are seeing, that I'm making some elementary mistake that makes me wrong vis-à-vis my own beliefs. I first noticed this in blog comments, when my statements were always simplistic things about two sentences long that added very little to wide-ranging discussions that sometimes were quite valuable. This feeling has leeched from politics into (what's left of) the rest of my life as well. I don't know what can be done about it; it seems to just be part of the familiar downward spiral.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Too dumb

I don't get this criticism of Chris Hedges and his newest book. It was cited in comments here, and John Caruso replied that it was basically self-refuting, referring to the criticism, I think. But when Shivani cites twenty-odd philosophers and cultural critics of the mid-20th century in arguing that Hedges' argument is half a century old, I don't know enough to keep up, so I sort of half-nod and don't know what he means.

I go into it assuming Shivani, like this critique from SMBIVA, is attacking Hedges, one of the few public liberals I actually like, from the left. Indeed, he hits the essential incoherence of the "liberal class" idea, and attacks the idea that at some point, this agglomeration was a responsible part of the citizenry, on the side of the working class, not crackpot realists for endless war, or something. But he goes off twice on Hedges for not supporting globalization, which he maintains is vastly improving the economic situation of South to East Asia. And suddenly I have to recalibrate my conceptual apparatus (where I handily box in commentators because classifying things is great). Shivani claims globalization and the theory of comparative advantage as one of the great victories of liberalism, and I realize two things (or think I do).

1. Shivani is here using "liberal" in the original sense, still prevalent outside the US, not the sense of "social democracy."

2. Shivani is not the socialist I expected, but a social democrat of some stripe with an unusual faith in the efficacy and justice of the "free market."

To me, globalization has resulted in convenient new ways to distribute wealth upward, and contributed to the exploitation of workers on six continents. I would expect that the evidence he would adduce for the beneficial effects of neoliberalism would not actually establish a causal connection — some of most of the advances in the standard of living would be in spite of, not because of, capitalism. He advocates "the free movement of capital and people," but in reality, it is only the capital that moves freely; the people cannot. To me, this part of "globalization" is a lie. And my understanding is that many economies, notably South Korea's and that of the US, were built up by protectionism.

But I am not convinced that I could defend these views of mine at any greater length than I just have. I could not give an opinion on whether Hedges has gotten it utterly wrong about American art. Nor could I say in what way Hedges' views follow those of the people Shivani claims in various parts of the article:
Reinhold Niebuhr, Theodor Adorno, Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Umberto Eco, Neal Gabler, Aldous Huxley, Walter Lippmann, C. Wright Mills, Ortega y Gassett, George Orwell, Neil Postman, David Riesman, William H. Whyte, Noam Chomsky, Sheldon Wolin, Dennis Kucinich, Edward Bernays, Dwight MacDonald, James Howard Kunstler, Nouriel Roubini, Naomi Klein, Paul Krugman, Jared Diamond, Malthus, Neal Gabler, Russell Jacoby, Mark Helprin, Jaron Lanier, and Arthur Schlesinger.
In short, I know nothing and rely on others to provide me my opinions.

Surprisingly, Shivani thinks that Hedges' views should instead be informed by Immanuel Wallerstein, Tzvetan Todorov, David Harvey, Ulrich Beck, or Slavoj Žižek," at least three of whom I know to be Marxists, and assume not to be huge fans of globalization. Finally, I admit that I don't know where this author is coming from, nor can I debate him. I can merely, stubbornly and without justification, disagree.

Letting down the beleaguered people of El Salvador

Two emails, to and from, cross-posted from my DepressionJournal, telling part of the story of my failure. I spent a long time on the email, debating what was or wasn't TMI and did or didn't make me sound like a PoS, but I never got a response, so I assume I came off as vapid, self-pitying, and useless as I feel. I really didn't deserve a response, and I respect the decision not to reply.

Hey Jeff,

How are you doing? Great to meet you at the action with Miguel Rivera. I just wanted to give you a reminder about the El Salvador movie night that we're having tonight at Encuentro 5 - it's from 7-9pm, and if you're on facebook the invite is here: [omitted]

If you can't make it, would you be interested in having coffee and talking more about our anti-mining/anti-CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement) campaign? We've got some cool stuff coming up - we're targeting shareholders of Pacific Rim Mining, trying to get meeting with Rep. McGovern to ask him to sponsor a letter about renegotiating free trade agreements, and planning a party next month to celebrate CISPES' 30th anniversary. Would you be interested in getting involved in any of those things in particular?

Take care & hope to talk to you soon,

Hey [redacted],

Thanks for remembering me! It was nice to meet you too.

I'm in Rhode Island now, probably until next year; I've gone on medical leave from grad school due to severe depression... part of which is a crippling doubt about my own abilities that makes me think I can't contribute to causes or society in any meaningful way. That in turn makes me feel very guilty, because I've become aware of vast injustices but don't feel able to help combat them.

(That's probably too much information, but I feel like it's fair warning.)

Anyway, I'm unsure how much or what I can do (I'm trained in math, so I don't have many real-world skills), but I *would* like to help in any way I can.

Take care,

News break

I took a three-weak break from reading the news, and it made me feel like a self-centered asshole out of touch with the world. Not coincidentally, that's what I felt like before the news break, but the feeling worsened. The problem, or at least part of it, is that I used to read my blogs for several hours a day, four or more, and finish the day with ten tabs open I promised to myself I would read the next day. And this would repeat for weeks. And Firefox would crash, and I would archive those links and feel guilty I wasn't able to read more, and feel terribly stupid and ignorant.

I'm typing this in Safari, because if I try to restore my Firefox session my computer will hang and I'll just have to force quit it, but I'm not ready to give up on those articles and admit I'll never read them. I don't understand how other people do it. What it is it they have that I don't, and how can I get it? The depth of understanding the bloggers I read seem to exhibit is something I lack, and my incapacity pains me. Part of the point of this blog was to be proactive about it. But I can't think for myself or remember what I read.

I would like to be the sort of person who convinces other people of my views, and thereby makes the world a better place, sort of, but it turns out I'm bad at that. I tried that on Facebook, and I just wound up tired and frustrated, leaving many comments unanswered, feeling that the people I was responding to were making fundamental, simple mistakes, but not calling them on it because every time they answered, I felt like I had to answer again, and there was another hour gone when I tried to assemble my thoughts into coherent form. And I realized, yes, that's the nature of political debate, but I'm not up for it.

In summary, I am not the kind of person I want to be.

I also would like to be the sort of person who reads a lot of books, Chomsky and Bakunin and Shakespeare and Virgil and and and and... and learns a lot (retention is a problem), but my news hobby was such that it was all I was doing. Yet I was still behind, never able to catch up with the events of the day.

And ultimately, the point wouldn't be to analyze the news, but to do something about it, and there I've fallen far shorter than anywhere else. I cannot contribute to society in any way.

My problem

Arthur summarizes my problem well here, not with reference to me, in addressing people's concerns about WikiLeaks. Briefly, the post he is responding to worries that WikiLeaks could be used by the State Department, etc., to leak information, true or false, supporting USGov policies. Arthur's response is that the point of WikiLeaks is to put the choice into each of our hands, to make the information available to every one of us and make us the ultimate arbiters of its meaning. In other words, it's a democratizing force that destroys appeals to authority by vesting authority in all of us.

And as a libertarian socialist, I think that's great, however I've come to believe I'm incapable of making my own decisions and need some sort of external authority. I've definitely made some choices in what kind of arguments appeal to me and what kind of ideals are important, but in the end, I feel like I'm always agreeing with someone else's argument, not making my own. I started really noticing this with respect to politics in 2008, and that's part of the reason why I erected this (failed) blog. The effort hasn't been successful; instead I've become ever more reliant on authority, at least the kind that agrees with me, and unable to think for myself. I don't have the time or the energy to go through the latest WikiLeaks dumps or any of so many other things I would have liked to have done. I can't rely on my own judgment, because frankly I suck.

Letters to and from my Congressman

Sending an email to a Congressman is like spitting in the wind... or something, but here goes.

Dear Jeffrey:

Thank you for contacting me regarding Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I appreciate your sharing your thoughts with me.

Congress, President Obama, and U.S. diplomats continue to work towards peace and stability between Israelis and Palestinians. I believe negotiations are necessary for comprehensive peace and our own national security. I support the principles of the Oslo Accords and the "road map" for peace. I applaud the President and Secretary Clinton's efforts to continue talks. I am confident that negotiations can lead to the parties agreeing on an outcome that reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent state, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders.

I believe that the United States needs to continue to support Israel as an international ally. The Administration has requested $3 billion in Foreign Military Financing for Israel for next year, an increase from $2.22 billion in the previous year. I voted for this financing and plan to continue supporting Israel's ability to defend itself.

The security of Israel and the entire international community are endangered by Iran's nuclear proliferation threats. The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, H.R. 2194, imposed sanctions to put pressure on Iran to comply with international regulations regarding its nuclear program. I voted in favor of this bill on the House floor on June 24, 2010, where it passed 408 – 8. President Obama signed this legislation into law on July 1, 2010.

I chose not to sign onto House Resolution 1553, which expresses support for Israel to use any means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by Iran. This resolution was introduced to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on July 22, 2010. Like all nations, Israel has the right to defend its sovereignty, but I was concerned that this resolution might encourage Israel to pursue a more military policy with respect to Iran which could lead to even greater instability in the region.
On May 31, 2010, a flotilla attempted to break the Israeli and Egyptian blockade to Gaza. This blockade prevents terrorists from bringing weapons into Gaza. Israel has been unfairly condemned as the aggressor in this incident. I signed the Poe-Peters letter sent to President Obama on June 29, 2010. This letter expressed support for Israel's right to stop the importation of weapons and other materials that can be used to launch attacks against its citizens.

Since 2009, President Obama has called on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to halt the expansion of settlements in the Palestinian territories. As both a strong supporter of Israel and a champion of human rights all around the world, I find these settlements to be a particularly important issue. I know that a compromise between the Israeli and Palestinian governments on the issue of settlements is necessary for stability in the region. As a longstanding and committed friend to Israel, I believe that a compromise on this issue is necessary to resolve the ongoing conflict.

I wish nothing more than to see Israelis and Palestinians living together peacefully. With the United States once again playing a strong and active role to building peace, under the leadership of President Obama, we have an opportunity to create a lasting peace in the region to which all parties can agree.

Thank you again for sharing your views with me. Please feel free to contact me again on this or any other issue. If you would like to receive periodic policy updates, please signup for my e-newsletter at


Ed Markey
Member of Congress

Representative Markey,

Congress, President Obama, and U.S. diplomats continue to work towards peace and stability between Israelis and Palestinians.
Just like they've been working on it for twenty years, with billions of dollars of financial aid and fighter jets to one side, in exchange for a temporary freeze in settlement building in East Jerusalem.
I believe negotiations are necessary for comprehensive peace and our own national security.
The security of the U.S is not and has never been at issue.
I support the principles of the Oslo Accords and the "road map" for peace.
The Oslo Accords aren't principled, and the "road map" was a publicity ploy. The land grab goes on, as new "reality on the ground" is achieved.
I am confident that negotiations can lead to the parties agreeing on an outcome that reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent state,
What has ever happened in the past that would make you confident of such a thing?
and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders.
A Jewish state is one with Ashkenazi ethnic supremacy, and a "Jewish and democratic" state is a transparent oxymoron. A multiethnic state designed for the benefit of one of its constituent ethnic groups (now complete with loyalty oath) will always be racist. Zionism is racism.
I believe that the United States needs to continue to support Israel as an international ally.
Or what? Will it be driven into the sea?
The Administration has requested $3 billion in Foreign Military Financing for Israel for next year, an increase from $2.22 billion in the previous year. I voted for this financing and plan to continue supporting Israel's ability to defend itself.
Poor little Israel, unable to defend herself without billions of dollars of aid. That's what all the wars have shown, is it? Is that what the bombardment of Gaza in January of 2009 that killed hundreds of civilians showed? The 2006 war on Lebanon? Is there anything so disgusting Israel's military could do that you wouldn't see fit to finance it?
The security of Israel and the entire international community are endangered by Iran's nuclear proliferation threats.
The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate found no evidence that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons. Despite politicians having found it inconvenient, no evidence has been produced superseding its judgment.
The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, H.R. 2194, imposed sanctions to put pressure on Iran to comply with international regulations regarding its nuclear program. I voted in favor of this bill on the House floor on June 24, 2010, where it passed 408 – 8. President Obama signed this legislation into law on July 1, 2010.
Iran has the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, which it has signed, unlike India, Pakistan, and Israel. But we don't hear about the danger their nuclear arsenals pose, or, of course, that of the US. I don't want anyone to have nuclear weapons, but the only thing specifically unacceptable about Iran having them is that they are an Official Enemy of the U.S. and Israel. We give the Iranians nothing but incentives to gain nuclear weapons. On the "Axis of Evil," simply compare North Korea to Iraq.
On May 31, 2010, a flotilla attempted to break the Israeli and Egyptian blockade to Gaza. This blockade prevents terrorists from bringing weapons into Gaza.
The blockade prevents building material and various arbitrarily-chosen food items from entering. Dov Weisglass said its mission was to put the Palestinians "on a diet," and the result has been an epidemic of malnutrition.
Israel has been unfairly condemned as the aggressor in this incident.
Yes, because commandoes with guns rappelling down via helicopter onto a ship bearing aid isn't aggressive. Because shooting people, in the back in many cases, isn't aggressive. Murdering nine people armed with found poles and utility knives isn't aggressive. And because deliberately starving a captive civilian population isn't aggressive.
I signed the Poe-Peters letter sent to President Obama on June 29, 2010. This letter expressed support for Israel's right to stop the importation of weapons and other materials that can be used to launch attacks against its citizens.
Yes, like concrete, tomatoes, and coriander. See , for example. How can anyone call that defensive?
Since 2009, President Obama has called on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to halt the expansion of settlements in the Palestinian territories.
Obama has genuflected to Netanyahu at every turn and Netanyahu has thumbed his nose at him, Biden, and the world. The rest of the world watches in horror the crimes you glibly justify.
As both a strong supporter of Israel and a champion of human rights all around the world,
There is no such thing. A strong supporter of Israeli policy is a champion of apartheid, dispossession, racism, and seemingly endless cruelty. A supporter of the Israeli people, on the other hand, wouldn't make excuses for the behavior that makes their state an insane pariah state.
I find these settlements to be a particularly important issue. I know that a compromise between the Israeli and Palestinian governments on the issue of settlements is necessary for stability in the region.
The settlements are illegal under international law. They always have been. They are built on occupied territory, stolen from the people who were already dispossessed during the Nakba. The settlers are bigots with a messianic streak, often violent who throw their garbage down on the people whose villages they occupy, who are protected by the military of a country that officially disavows any responsibility for their actions, who are given their own special roads in occupied territory that they have colonized. A compromise is indefensible.
As a longstanding and committed friend to Israel, I believe that a compromise on this issue is necessary to resolve the ongoing conflict.
In this very statement, you name one party as a friend, and neglect to mention the other. Inevitably, the party you are not a committed and longstanding friend of will be called on to compromise what little they have left.
I wish nothing more than to see Israelis and Palestinians living together peacefully.
From what you've said above, you wish for nothing more than the status quo.
With the United States once again playing a strong and active role to building peace,
This is a delusion or a lie. Obama is no better than Bush in this regard. If America wanted peace, there would be peace by now.
under the leadership of President Obama, we have an opportunity to create a lasting peace in the region to which all parties can agree.
We honestly could, if the US wanted it.

I find this letter very disappointing.

Jeffrey Carlson

Monday, October 11, 2010

A kindler, gentler killing program

Liberal thought on government assassination programs: they need to be somewhat better regulated. Luckily, the only abuses so far have been unserious.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Email response to the last entry

I think I already got this message once, somehow.

My intention is not to be harsh, but I'm going to go ahead with a screed (and in the process tell you how to do your job).

Aerial surveillance technology, in the hands of the US government, is not likely to have peaceful applications--insofar as the explicitly claimed goal of "preventing the spread and/or use of weapons of mass destruction" has ever been pursued by peaceful means. They have a proven track record on "WMD" that includes very little honesty. Realistically, I think it's more likely be used with the Predator drones. The handout talks about using your neurons to solve way cool problems rather than the strategic value of bombing Afghan wedding parties (and oh, how patronizingly written it is), but then they probably don't want to narrow the applicant pool to outright sociopaths.

You should know that you aren't absolutely obligated to pass this sort of thing on. On the one hand, it certainly is a job opportunity for students, but that must be balanced against the greater good. I'm sure there's no shortage of amoral technical minds clambering for the opportunity, but every person counts. That is, every person we can get not to do this work counts. The fewer bright young minds there are working on helping the gentle men and women of our government with their aerial surveillance, the safer we all are (the more so if we have the misfortune to live in what's left of central Asia).

I'm conflicted about sending this, but I'm doing it, in the hopes that not keeping my opinions to myself will in this instance be appreciated.


Jesus Christ: forwarded to me from our chair

A recruiting letter from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to all the students in my department...

Warning: This opportunity is not for everyone, but rather focused on passionate, super-smart computer scientists looking to solve massive and challenging problems. Problems both technical in nature and global in scope. Still interested?
If “Yes” then ask yourself these questions, then keep reading:
Are you an expert in video imaging? Would you rather think about applications for digital signal processes than watch the clock tick? Are you able to make high-performance code? If so we'd like to talk to you about an opportunity in Silicon Valley - and relocation is available if you're the right fit.
The Global Security Computing Applications Division provides computing expertise and technology to aid in preventing the spread and/or use of weapons of mass destruction. We also provide high-quality information system solutions that contribute to prevention, detection, and response with respect to the capabilities and intentions of potential proliferators.
The Mission: If you Choose to Engage
The Global Security Computing Applications Division within the Computing Applications and Research Department has openings for computer scientists to work on the Embedded Computing Program’s “Persistics” project team to develop algorithms and software tools for their scalable aerial surveillance video processing pipeline.
What is the Persistics Program All About?
It is a collaborative effort involving multiple Department of Defense partners that leverages the brightest minds in research to solve problems and put research into practice. Some of the areas you will explore include advanced image stabilization, high fidelity moving object segmentation, representation and compression, and efficient large format data processing utilizing the most advanced techniques in efficient out-of-core stream based computation.
If you are added to the team, you will develop expertise with respect to heterogeneous multi-core processing on Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) and cell-based clusters. Sounds cool, right? It is, and it will support your interest in harnessing your brainpower to leave your legacy and make the planet safer. Expect to work closely with external research and engineering teams; internal interactions will be with team members, peers, project leadership, and program management, and more as this is not to a role involving confinement to a cubicle.
That said, there will be plenty of time to work independently, solve complex issues people have not even identified yet.
What We Expect:
The ability to design, implement, and deploy prototype systems that demonstrate the application of the Scalable Persistent Surveillance processing pipeline to problems of Laboratory interest. It’s hard to believe we would actually pay you for this, right? Then again you didn’t get your MS or PhD to not execute. Remain current on the state of the art in image and video processing, 3D extraction from video, Geospatial Validation and Verification, out-of-core stream-based computation, and heterogeneous multi-core processing. Present detailed analyses of pipeline performance relative to final data products and processing both within LLNL and to external communities. Transition prototypes to use in customer applications in collaboration with the customers.
Perform all assignments in accordance with ES&H, Security, and business practice requirements and policies.
Skills We Need to Tap Into in Addition to your Raw Brainpower (I bet your brain synapses are firing like crazy)
B.S. in Computer Science, Engineering, or Mathematics, or equivalent level of demonstrated knowledge. Experience in algorithm development for signal, image, and video processing applications. Familiarity with developing software applications in Linux, UNIX, and Windows environments. Experience with distributed and parallel computing.
Experience developing and documenting software designs, implement code, develop and document test plans, and disseminate results. Familiarity Knowledge of a wide variety of programming languages such as C++, C, Python, Lua, Matlab, IDL, and Perl.
Effective verbal and written communication skills along with strong analytical, organizational, and interpersonal skills. Demonstrated ability to work independently and implement research concepts in a multi- disciplinary team environment, where commitments and deadlines are important to project success.
Demonstrated ability to effectively communicate technical information, document work, and prepare and present research papers.
The Following would be really nice:
M.S./Ph.D. in Computer Science, Engineering, Mathematics, or related discipline. Familiarity with 3D extraction from video, optical flow and object motion tracking, wavelet compression and entropy coding, progressive hierarchy data layout and out-of-core stream processing, heterogeneous multi-core processing, machine learning, machine vision, and
computational statistics. Visualization experience for large-scale imagery.
Real-time image processing experience. Experience programming on commodity architectures such as GPUs or Cell Broadband Engines (CBE).
Experience working with customers to define, refine, and implement programmatic requirements and milestones. - Experience developing complex software solutions. - Experience with Systems Engineering.
- Familiarity with data management systems. - Ability to travel to sponsor sites.
SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS: Pre-Placement Medical Exam: A job-related pre-placement medical examination may be required. Pre-Employment Drug Test: External applicant(s) selected for this position will be required to pass a post-offer, pre-employment drug test. Anticipated Clearance Level: Q, SCI. (Position will be cleared to this level). Applicants selected will be subject to a federal background investigation and must meet eligibility requirements for access to classified information or matter. In addition, all L or Q cleared employees are subject to random drug testing.
LLNL offers a challenging environment and a competitive salary/benefits package. To view and apply for this job, go to and search by job #009365. When applying and prompted please mention where you saw this ad. LLNL is operated by the Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC, for the U.S. Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration. We are proud to be an equal opportunity employer with a commitment to workforce diversity.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


There was a poster up in the student coffee house for an event showing a 1950s propaganda film about the great heroism of Israeli fighters in 1948. I scrawled "ETHNIC CLEANSING HURRAY!" on it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


"Due to circumstances beyond the control of the sponsoring organizations (1199/SEIU, NAACP, Jobs With Justice and others) most of the 72 buses scheduled to go to Washington were not able to go. The bus company canceled buses just as we were scheduled to leave. We have had buses break down, not show etc, but never have we seen this happened to us on such a large scale. Still, more than 1,500 people from Massachusetts were able to attend the historic rally of which we will have more news soon. We apologize for any inconvenience and will be pursuing action against the bus company."

Friday, October 1, 2010

An impressive new low

Obama asks the court to dismiss a lawsuit by Anwar al-Awlaki's father enjoining the government not to assassinate his son, on the grounds that the assassination program constitutes a "state secret." So not only can the government declare it is going to murder you, they want it to be impossible to review the reasons why they want to kill you. "If the President does it, it's legal." I wish I could say this was shocking in some way, but it's just what I've come to expect from Obama, a ratcheting up of the unaccountable power that Bush wanted. You have to imagine Bush being envious, thinking "I wish I could have thought of that." But only a Democrat could get away with it with so little complaint. It's as if people think that if Obama wants to kill you, you really must deserve to die.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

On dreams

I would have liked to have been a novelist.
I would have liked to have been a journalist.
I would have liked to have been a historian.
I would have liked to have been a composer.
I would have liked to have been a real mathematician.

I am filled with admiration for people who create things, yet I keep seeming to find myself empty of the effort and the talent.


Via lenin, a penetrating analysis of conservatism, attacking the myth that it stands for the status quo, both in modern terms and in historical context. Talks about its preference for outsiders, its appropriation of the language of the left, its strange brand of populism, and the centrality of its feeling of loss.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Boycott Israel

The organization that sponsored this protest, CAPJPO Europpalestine,, is being prosecuted for "offense of incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence against a group of people on account of their belonging to the Israeli nation," believe it or not. I'm putting up this video in solidarity.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The American Jewish Committee and Islamophobia

Children visiting a mosque in Roxbury stop of their own volition to pray, and "Jewish advocates" are outraged. They call for "further guidelines."
The [teachers on the trip] and or the superintendent should be fired or at a minimum they should be suspended. This is act a provocation by those officials at that mosque probably with the dimwitted acquiescence of the school officials who just went along with it.
What does it say about someone's personal insecurity that they feel threatened by such a little thing? I feel personally ashamed that these people are supposed to represent organized Jewry. Don't you? You don't have to identify as Jewish; the shame radiates to all sensible people. It reminds me of "You must banish this evil from among you." How far we've failed to come as human beings.

Email to a Chinese friend, on the movie "The Stoning of Soraya M"

Overly didactic?

Iran's democracy was overthrown in 1953 by the US CIA with some aid from the British. It was done partly for the benefit of BP. We installed the Shah, who ruled with a brutal secret police force until he was overthrown in 1979. The forces that eventually took power were religious fundamentalists, holding to a very archaic and inflexible version of Islam.

(The religion is Islam; a person who believes in Islam is a Muslim.)

Islam does hold that a woman should have her head "covered" in some way, but the method is widely open to interpretation. Some interpret it as a scarf. Some interpret it as meaning that the woman should be completely covered so she can't be seen at all. The latter view isn't
well supported by the actual scripture, but different societies have come to believe in it, and it has become ingrained in some of them over time. I think it is deeply unfair.

All religion means superstition, but there are different views within all religions as well. The official Iranian Islam is extreme. Nothing inherent in Islam, however, makes it worse than Judaism or Christianity.

Stoning as a method of killing is found in the Christian bible as well; you may remember it from The Brick Testament as a punishment for adultresses (like they claimed Soraya M. was) and children who disrespect their parents. The difference is that there isn't a Christian society that actually listens to that part of the Bible anymore, so far as I know; it's ignored. I think that gradually happens with all religions, that the more terrible parts are slowly
stripped away.

Women are still something in Iran, but barbaric ancient punishments for adultery still exist, and they don't have equal rights. You might be surprised, on the other hand, to learn that a significant majority of university students in Iran are women. I don't know why that is.

I despise the Iranian penal system, and think Iran needs a new government. On the other hand, I also admire Iran's resistance to US hegemony, and support it in that. I think you're right to admire their resistance. I would like to see the current regime in Iran end, but I DON'T want Washington to do it (you had better believe there are parts of the US government working on it), and I don't want to see a new regime subservient to the US emerge in its stead. I don't like the
Iranian government, but I support the integrity of Iran against US intervention.

You have to remember that the US opposition to Iran has little to do with its legal system and everything to do with its understandable failure to serve or bow down to Washington. Saudi Arabia has a similarly brutal regime of religious law, but it is a US ally, so Washington is very quiet about its atrocities. In fact, we are about to ship $60 billion worth of weapons there.

Islam has nonetheless come in for especial demonization in the US, for essentially the same reason that Judaism used to before the Holocaust: racism and xenophobia. Muslims are a disadvantaged minority in the US, discriminated against by fearful bigots. My criticism of Islam as a religion is tempered by the use that militarists, warmongers, and racists make of it to justify discrimination and war.

In short:
  • The US only cares about human rights violations of its enemies.
  • Religions are stupid, but there are differing views within all religions.
  • Most Muslims don't hold the views of the Iranian government.
  • I support the Iranian people both against their own government and against the US.
  • The worst possible situation for them is the US declaring war and destroying yet another country.

These are just my views, but I hope they make some sense.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Tea Party candidate winning the primary in Delaware somehow doesn't bother me so much as amuse me. I know there are those in my cohort, perhaps most, who will be horrified, but for some reason I'm not. It's not that I think Christine O'Donnell is sane, and it's not that I'm pleased that it makes a Democratic victory more likely. It just boggles the mind to think of a declining empire so filled with rage, economic insecurity, ostentatious religiosity, and sheer madness that this is its candidate for national office. On some level it seems like laughing at it is the only thing for it. It's not that I've given up faith in the left, but it's clear I am not able to be much help in organizing the forces of Good. And it's good to see the Republicans at war with their own base.

As everybody I've read has pointed out numerous times, it doesn't on average matter whether a (D) or an (R) wins the senate. Before the Dems protested they needed sixty seats to do anything their base wanted; when Obama craps out in 2012 they'll say they needed fifty. If they had sixty, they'd need seventy. As for having someone not like Bush in the presidency, I've been appalled by Obama so far. It strains the imagination to think how McCain could have been worse. Would he really have "bomb, bomb, bomb bombed Iran"? I guess it's possible. At this point I couldn't put it past anyone.

I do like this dump Obama idea as an a idea to channel disenchantment, disenchantment that must be spread on a much broader scale. As pointed out in the comments, it doesn't have much chance of meeting its stated goal, but as a slogan, as an idea, it's wonderful.
I envy the Republican base its energy, its influence over at least one party. The Dem base and those further left are in the wilderness. I find it difficult to imagine a situation in which there were people in control I felt represented me. Here's to the end of systems of control, then.

On not writing

I find myself with less and less to say as time goes on, unable to offer informed opinion or argument. I read my blogs for usually a few hours a day, and yet I find myself devoid of content to produce on my own, a situation I find most disturbing. I find that I have been stroking my own prejudices rather than informing myself, because I don't remember what I read and I am unable to pass intelligent comment on it. (I find that all my sentences begin with "I.")

I just don't apparently have much to say.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


I know it's not much that I was taking a break from, but there you have it. Coping with what I'm told is rather severe depression, although there haven't been any psychotic breaks yet. I created this blog to get better at reading and analyzing things, despite unfortunately not having anything original to say, special analytic talent, etc. It only makes sense that it would join the long list of projects I've half-started and abandoned in the course of my life.

I'll get back to doing this; that's what I'm telling myself.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Oh my God, we're going to die!

The headline in this article from the Times of London is "Tehran has enough material for two nuclear bombs, IAEA says."

Terrifying! A few days is all that stands between America and nuclear destruction! ...assuming of course, that the Iranians are crazy, and nuclear weapons are permissible, but only when held by the US and its friends.

In the NYT about a week ago, for example, you find the US possesses 5,113 nuclear weapons. The military strategists who write the article say, in a fit of astounding noncomformity, that "That is exactly 4,802 more than we need." This, they say, is enough to annihilate a population and its industrial capacity, or "should we want to hit an enemy without destroying its society, the 311 weapons would be adequate for taking out a wide range of 'hardened targets' like missile silos or command-and-control bunkers." Just a thought, you know, that you might not want to destroy a society. They advocate distributing a hundred in ICBMs scattered throughout the US, giving nineteen to B-2 stealth bombers, which, along with nuclear submarines carrying around 192 missiles at any given time, should allow us to project the threat of atomic annihilation anywhere around the globe.

That what these thinkers advocate, far beyond anything Obama has proposed or is likely to accept, is something like the dovish option in today's military climate, is unneeded further evidence of our collective insanity. But how many nuclear warheads are too many for Iran to have? One. And apparently they have two, or will in the very near future.

Or not. When you read the article, you find "Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium stands at two tonnes, enough to arm two nuclear warheads if enriched further." (emphasis added) Do these three words change the meaning of the headline? Let's consider analogies.

"I could have drowned if there were water in the pool."
"Put your hands where I can see them! We are prepared to use deadly force, or would be if our firearms were loaded!"
"Iraq's WMD could have deterred a US invasion if they existed."

Iran doesn't have fissile material enriched to the level necessary for weaponization and won't for years. So what this article is breathlessly warning us is that the situation is actually unchanged

Saturday, May 29, 2010

As an aid fleet approaches Gaza, Israel vows to block it. Laila el-Haddad writes movingly about what Gaza suffers under the siege, the Weisglass "diet" that is simultaneously supposed to make non-cooperation intolerable for Palestinians, but not be a humanitarian disaster. As The Wall Street Journal puts it, "Israel Prepares to Fend Off Ships Heading to Gaza." Yes, "the only democracy in the Middle East" is also the only country that has to "fend off" humanitarian aid. Results: 70% of the population survives on under a dollar a day, and 65% of babies are anemic. As this page points out, Gaza has in fact been blockaded since 1967.

In Israeli media, working with the flotilla tars MK Hanin Zuabi as associated with Hamas. This is a convenient way to discredit anyone working for the relief of Gaza.

Ameer Makhoul, director of Ittijah, a union of Palestinian-Israeli community organizations, on the other hand, was arrested without charge four weeks ago and tortured. Thursday, he was indicted for recruiting for Hizballah and providing information on military facilities, based on information obtained under the torture. Torture of Israel's prisoners has been illegal since 1999, but is not prosecuted, and continues apace. Makhoul's lawyers have been denied access to his medical reports.

Makhoul has supported the international boycott of Israel and Amnesty says the charges are "pure harassment" of a political dissident.

Hatoyama reneges on moving the Futenma air base off Okinawa; his poll numbers have fallen to twenty percent. I've seen it suggested that this decision has to do with South Korea's determination that the Cheonam was indeed sunk by a North Korean torpedo, but think it reflects what he wanted to do anyway.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Nukes, oil, and black holes.

From SMBIVA, a brief video about the legal black hole that is Bagram.

This post has way more about the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico than I've seen in any of the news stories I've read.

You'll have heard by now about Israel's offer to give nukes to apartheid-era South Africa.

Did you also know Israel at one point considered nuclear terrorism against the Soviet Union? I didn't, but Jonathan Schwarz and Seymour Hersh did:
Moshe Dayan's mission in late 1967 and early 1968 was to convince his fellow cabinet members that if the Soviets could be persuaded that the Israeli threat was credible, they might decide that there was no Middle East war worth fighting... when Israel developed its first bomb in a suit case, Moscow would be told -- and reminded that there was no way to stop Mossad from smuggling a nuclear weapon across the border by automobile or into a Soviet port by boat.

Friday, May 21, 2010

News of Yesterday

Inspired by the Danish far right, non-Muslims in America united yesterday to make a hated minority even more uncomfortable, in the name of free speech. For a brilliant overview of why "free speech" isn't an excuse for Jyllands-Posten, see Lawrence of Cyberia. The "Lets Draw Mohammed" Facebook page crows that it's about free speech and not anti-Muslim, and demonstrates this even-handedness by choosing as its user avatar the J-P picture with Mohammed's turban replaced with a lit bomb. Many of the submissions are worse.

People will ask you to compare this with the "Piss Christ" photograph, a shot of a crucifix standing in a jar of urine, and saw that if one is acceptable, then so is the other. To my mind, an analysis failing to take into account surrounding social dynamics is useless. "Piss Christ" offended the beliefs of the dominant religion in the US in the name of freedom of speech, whereas the Mohammed cartoons were commissioned by Danish bigots to deliberately offend an embattled minority. The Facebook cartoons piggyback on this effort. There seem to be a few different groups of people involved:
  1. Hardcore racists. They want to offend Muslims, who they may believe to all be terrorists.
  2. The totally clueless. They believe they are fighting terrorists, and don't realize or don't care that they offend a billion other people.
  3. People who believe that they are defending free speech. They mistakenly believe that someone is actually trying to curtail their ability to draw things. They fail to distinguish between "can't" and "shouldn't," which is strange because they surely have other rights that they fail to exercise. Just because I have the legal right to draw Mohammed, or protest at a soldier's funeral with a sign saying "Thank God for dead soldiers," it doesn't make it the right thing to do. Yet the existence of a "cultural" enemy leads them to piss people off to defend a right they aren't in danger of losing.
The person running the page seems to see it as a new front in the War on Terror: "Al Qa'eda has put a $50,000 price tag on the heads of ANYONE caught drawing pictures of Muhammad, lets see how high we can get the bounty!" Surely al-Qa'ida will take especial interest in the brave people circulating drawings on the Internet.

The results are things like; e.g., Pakistan temporarily banning Facebook.

Freedom marches on.

On the anti-Muslim, Rima Fakih, a Michigan woman of Lebanese descent, has won Miss USA, giving Americans an opportunity to more vividly get their crazy on. Hero-scholar for Western Civilization Daniel Pipes believes there's an insidious kind of affirmative action going on recently, allowing Muslim women to win American beauty pageants. Debbie Schlussel informs us that Hamas and Hizballah have been backing her... why? Perhaps to infiltrate the American psyche with her shapely breasts. This seems to be the depth of the theory, although Schlussel claims several relatives and backers of Fakih are associated with Hizballah. Yes, Donald Trump is in cahoots with them as well.

Some people are happy with the victory, seeing it as representing a normalization and acceptance of the existence of Arab-Americans. Assimilation is not always a good thing (to understate), and I have trouble seeing immigrants cheering on the commodification of their own daughters, in the American fashion, as progress.

Also, there's this awesome video of Dan Fanelli the guy who's running against Alan Grayson in Florida. His campaign strategy, in the words of the page I found the video on: XTREME RACISM.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Thailand in quotes:
  • An overnight curfew was initially imposed on Bangkok, but later extended to 24 provinces, with security forces authorized to shoot looters and arsonists.
  • A news blackout was imposed, with local TV running programs of dancing and flag-waving Thais, periodically interrupting them for government statements.
  • Troops in armored vehicles and firing semi-automatic weapons advanced on the protesters' camp on Wednesday morning, breaking through the protesters' three-meter-high (10 feet) barricades of tires and bamboo.
  • "I am confident and determined to end the problems and return the country to peace and order once again," Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in a televised address on Wednesday night.
  • "The situation is worse than expected now and it's very difficult to stop," said Kavee Chukitsakem, head of research at Kasikorn Securities. "After the red shirt leaders surrendered, things were out of control. It's like insects flying around from one place to another, causing irritation. We don't know who they are and why they are doing this."
So far seventy irritating insects have been successfully squashed, with another two thousand injured, their irresponsible behavior totally inexplicable.
  • Analysts said some investors bought on news the military had moved in to disperse protesters who have paralyzed a central commercial district for more than six weeks.
  • "For investors, it is going to take years to bring credibility back to the country. The market fundamentals are just not the same any more," said Kongkiat Opaswongkarn, head of Asia Plus Securities.
Watch for the stock market to rebound once the protesters have been completely crushed.

For the other side, read the comments, which seem to reflect disparity in internet access and English language education among Thais. The red shirts are terrorists, dupes, paid off, and need spankings they didn't get as children. My favorite is that anyone who sets fire to private property deserves what's coming to them. Defending the status quo often requires putting a low premium on human life.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sure you've seen this, but just in case...
"Russia and China, which have close ties to Iran, joined fellow permanent council members Britain, France and the United States as well as non-member Germany in supporting the sanctions proposal, ignoring a deal that Tehran agreed to a day earlier to try to stave off the penalties." For a moment I was worried that the eminently sensible enrichment deal would somehow preclude the drive to war.

Peter Hart of FAIR, with aid from Chomsky (who seems to pop up here every day), here points out what I did yesterday, but better, highlighting the difference between US media's version of the "international consensus" and the actual positions of most people and countries. Chompers:

To take another illustration of the depth of the imperial mentality, New York Times correspondent Elaine Sciolino writes that "Iran's intransigence [about nuclear enrichment] appears to be defeating attempts by the rest of the world to curtail Tehran's nuclear ambitions." The rest of the world happens to exclude the large majority of the world: the non-aligned movement, which forcefully endorses Iran's right to enrich Uranium, in accord with the non-proliferation treaty (NPT). But they are not part of the world, since they do not reflexively accept U.S. orders.

We might tarry for a moment to ask whether there is any solution to the U.S./Iran confrontation over nuclear weapons. Here is one idea: (1) Iran should have the right to develop nuclear energy, but not weapons, in accord with the NPT. (2) A nuclear weapons-free zone should be established in the region, including Iran, Israel and U.S. forces deployed there. (3) The U.S. should accept the NPT. (4) The U.S. should end threats against Iran, and turn to diplomacy.

The proposals are not original. These are the preferences of the overwhelming majority of Americans, and also Iranians, in polls by World Public Opinion, which found that Americans and Iranians agree on basic issues. At a forum at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies when the polls were released a year ago, Joseph Cirincione, senior vice president for national security and international policy at the Center for American Progress, said the polls showed "the common sense of both the American people and the Iranian people, [who] seem to be able to rise above the rhetoric of their own leaders to find common sense solutions to some of the most crucial questions" facing the two nations, favoring pragmatic, diplomatic solutions to their differences. The results suggest that if the U.S. and Iran were functioning democratic societies, this very dangerous confrontation could probably be resolved peaceably.

This text is in fact from 2008, but could be written now with no amendment. Strong echoes of Iraq... "the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce."

So what's the plan for Iran? Apparently there are about 70,000 soldiers in Afghanistan but there will be soon be something like 250,000 DoD outside contractors there, in line with the ideology of privatization in general and further removing "our troops" and mercenaries from oversight. A sane observer might note that the US can't pay for a war, but where there's a will, there's a way. We've overthrown Iran's government before. Our politicians watched the Green Revolution and salivated last year, and our publicly touted new military strategy relies on training the natives of the countries we need to control to quell unrest, a sort of delegation of war. Are these things connected?

I should also link Richard Estes on the planned reconfiguration of NATO. That sort of entry (and some of the comments to it) are the exact sort of thing I wish I could do here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Have Turkey and Brazil temporarily prevented a US war on Iran? The deal involves shipping low-enriched uranium to Turkey to be exchanged for 20%-enriched uranium from Europe.

The WaPo hews disgustingly to the US line; in an article titled "Iran creates illusion of progress in nuclear negotiations," the journo admits "The best hope for U.S. officials is Iranian intransigence... Iran now must present a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna explaining the details of the transaction, which U.S. officials privately hope will begin the process of unraveling it." Well isn't that we all hope for? Heaven forbid the US failed to escalate sanctions or start a war.

Would Obama accept such a thing? "Obama administration officials reacted coolly[.]"

Chomsky denied entry to Israel/OPT. He was to speak at Bir Zeit University.
The New York Times is portraying old cold warrior Robert Gates as a military budget-cutting maverick today, fighting against Congressional corruption and the bloated defense corporations for the sake of the common American! He bravely fends off irate calls from the Capitol and K Street! F-22s have been cancelled, and threatening noises made about aircraft carriers and the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. What's his game? It is true that an increasingly large proportion of US imperial murder is conducted via unmanned, sky-borne death machine. Maybe this is a practical move.

The NYT's concern with military cost-cutting extends to the health care of retirees: "Active-duty military and their families rightly do not pay for health care. But what retirees pay — $460 annually per family — has not risen in 15 years. Mr. Gates said that many retirees earn full-time salaries on top of their military retirement pay and could get coverage through their employer. We owe our fighting forces excellent care, but this is a time when everyone must share the burden." As we know, NYT editorialists are the type of people who like to share burdens.

USAID has been paying to build the Apartheid road in Israel and the Occupied territories, despite US promises six years earlier not to.

Jonathan Cook says, with obvious irony, "The US agency’s involvement in building a segregated West Bank road infrastructure would run counter to Washington’s oft-stated goal, including as it launched 'proximity talks' last week, to establish a viable Palestinian state with territorial contiguity. "

Mr Khalilieh said the PA was being effectively bullied into conceding the road infrastructure wanted by Israel.

"What happens is that USAid presents a package deal of donations for infrastructure projects in the West Bank and the Palestinians are faced with a choice of take it or leave it. That way the PA is cornered into accepting roads it does not want."

He said some roads were also being approved because of a lack of oversight by the PA. An inter-ministerial committee to vet proposed roads to ensure they did not contribute to the Israeli plan had been inactive since 2006, he said, following the split between Fatah and Hamas in the Palestinian elections.

The Palestinian Authority is now scrambling to look like it's paying attention.

"Tropical" diseases are apparently also common in poor (especially minority) communities in the US, and apparently could be cheaply dealt with: "Mass distributions could control or eliminate most neglected tropical diseases from the Caribbean at an estimated cost of $20 million per year for five years." The extent of the problem in the US is not fully known. Meanwhile, the war on AIDS is falling apart. Donors are focusing their money on cheaper diseases to treat.

Japanese people are not generally thrilled with the American bases, which they may associate with approximately 200,000 accidents and crimes involving U.S. soldiers, in which 1,076 Japanese civilians have died since 1952. Okinawans are anxious to remove one of several bases, Futenma Air Force Base, from their island, which they associate with fatal car crashes and rapes, but prime minister Yukio Hatayama is having trouble living up to his promises to do so. 59% of Japanese voters say he should resign if he can't work it out. (If you want to see some real ugly Americans, look at the comments on that one.) The beginning of this interview with Chalmers Johnson has a little more background on the bases in Okinawa. "After research, you discover that the rate of sexually violent crimes committed by our troops in Okinawa leading to court-martial is two per month!"

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Jeremy Scahill has obtained a tape of a speech Erik Prince gave (and demanded it not be recorded) detailing Blackwater's plans.

Eitan Bronstein of Zochrot has a message for Palestinians on Nakba Day: don't give up on the right of return.

While we're on Palestine, I recently finished a pretty long article by Gabriel Ash of Jews sans frontieres on boycott, divestment, and sanctions, spelling out in detail a few things I'd long felt but couldn't have pieced together as coherently. Putting aside that boycotting Israel is morally the right thing to do, he places Israeli state violence in the context of the development of neoconservative dogma and neoliberal economic hegemony.

In broad strokes, the elite in Europe and the US, as usual, want to destroy the welfare state and accrue maximum profits to themselves. (Beautiful description of the welfare state: "After WWII, the specter that used to haunt Europe was invited to sit at the table and given a small plate in return for no longer moving furniture at night.") To propose doing this straight out is a dangerous tactical mistake, but to cut back on services and civil liberties in the context of a war on terror/immigrants/Muslims is much easier. These useful fictions are propped up by acceptance of Huntington's "clash of civilizations" thesis. This in turn is a liberalized instance of one of the Nazi political philosopher Carl Schmitt's theories, the essentiality for a ruler to have an existential enemy in order to mobilize the state against and create a "state of exception" in which normal parliamentary procedures can be abrogated and power grasped directly. To advocate a general hatred of Muslims is too reactionary a view to gain mainstream acceptance, but to voice concern that these people, being ever so different, can be absorbed into and coexist outside of liberal democracy allows one to capitalize on racist fears under the cover of humanist language.

Thus besides the profit that accrues from business relations with Israel and the original appeal to the British of a sort of "Western" advance base against the barbarian hordes of Asia, the continued European defense of the indefensible and collaboration with the siege is part of a wider ideological agreement. This is a continuation of a similar strategy that the capitalist elite used in the early twentieth century, when eastern European Jews were supposedly the Trojan horse bringing Bolshevism to the West.

I had a number of further things I wanted to talk about, but this window has been open for a while, so I should just post.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Inaugural post

I hope to use this blog to improve my thinking and my writing, and to do more than function as a link repository for things I read; that may be harder than it sounds. It may turn out that reading my blogroll will be more efficient that coming here. We'll see.

The Obama administration is defending the Bush administration today, as it has so often in the past, arguing that the people who arranged for the rendition and torture of Canadian citizen Maher Arar do not need to be held to account. I wish this were surprising.

Jonathan Schwarz of A Tiny Revolution has just seen Food, Inc.: "[I]t definitely reinforced my impression that factory meat farms are basically concentration camps where the Nazis eat the prisoners." The comments are filled with additional horror about the way what we eat is produced.

lenin has a post on the Tory–LibDem coalition and what it means for British workers. Hint: massive cut in education, welfare, and transportation. NHS, however, is safe for now. It seems Trident will survive, despite the LibDems' former demands, but elections for Parliament will now come every five years, rather than at the whim of the Prime Minister. Alternative Vote (AV), which is far weaker than proportional representation, may be implemented in the future. UK involvement in the war in Afghanistan will continue, as will privatization. Workfare schemes will probably be implemented, without minimum wage or protections for those hounded into work. The lie that the Liberal Democrats are a "progressive" party should at least be squashed for now, and voters who voted LibDem to keep out the Tories will be furious. The best possible thing would probably be for this government to fall or fracture as soon as possible, but there's no guarantee that Labour is going to improve any as a party in opposition. I can imagine something similar happening to the "ratchet effect" in US politics, where whenever the Democrats don't win they use it as an argument that they need to move further right. There is popular anger, but the labor movement is nowhere near as strong as it was twenty years ago and the near future looks grim.

In Thailand, the military has finally been set on the red-shirt protesters again, following a period without shooting after the last crackdown, killing eight and wounding over one hundred. The major-general advising the protestors, Khattiya Sawasdipol, was shot in the head by a sniper (but apparently not killed), forecasting the government's future intentions for those who fail to comply. Presumably Abhisit won't be made to look ineffectual any longer. The commercial district where the protesters have been camped out is under siege, with electricity cut. Emergency law has been declared in seventeen provinces.

Chomsky has a new book coming out soon. Here's an interview with some fairly basic questions.

Here's an event I never heard about. Eleven days after the Kent State shootings, and forty years ago today, two men were shot and killed at Jackson State University, and twelve others injured, by police during a protest. Phillip Gibbs was a 21-year-old law student, married with an eleven-month-old child. James Green was a seventeen-year-old high school student, just passing through. Jackson State is a historically black school, and relatedly, I'd never heard of this massacre until now.

From commenter Emma at ATR, I've just heard learned about the Orangeburg massacre: "What about the Orangeburg massacre at South Carolina State, which preceded Kent State by several months. Three students murdered by local police firing into a crowd of peaceful protestors, a pregnant person beaten until her baby died, and 31 injured. It was pretty much ignored by the national media at the time and I guess it still is."

I've been reading for a few hours now, and am tired, but I'm not nearly done.