Monday, May 29, 2006

On Successful Revolt in France

Ken Knabb over at Bureau of Public Secrets reflects on the implications and consequences of the latest successful revolt in France:


A new and in some ways unprecedented radical movement has emerged in France. Beginning in February as a protest against the CPE, a law that would have made it easier to fire young workers, it rapidly developed into a widespread and much more general contestation. Over the next two months millions of people took part in demonstrations, universities and high schools were occupied, public buildings were invaded, train stations and freeways were blockaded, and thousands of people were arrested. A compromise offered by President Chirac on March 31 was rejected by just about everyone. On April 10 the government backed down and canceled the CPE.

The American media reacted even more cluelessly than usual, solemnly scolding French youth for "resisting progress" and "modernization", i.e. for not realizing that a "healthy economy" requires us to return to the dog-eat-dog "free market" conditions of the nineteenth century. Behind the commentators' grumblings one senses their uneasy awareness that America's supposedly free-market system is hardly a model of success, and that the United States lags behind France and many other countries when it comes to health care, employment security and other social protections.

But in France as elsewhere those protections have been eroding in recent years, as the owners of society chip away at the reforms they were forced to accept during the last century (social security, unemployment insurance, labor regulations, and other social-democratic or New Deal-type programs). . . .

[long section comparing and contrasting this revolt with May '68 . . .followed by the conclusion below]

It was one of those rare moments when qualitative change really becomes possible; when everything is up in the air and the usual presumptions no longer apply; when people are shaken out of their habitual, spectacle-induced stupor and get a glimpse of real life, life as it could be if we weren't stuck in such an absurd social system. One breakthrough leads to another, and another, and yet another. While it's happening, the participants can hardly believe what they used to put up with in "the old days." Once it's over and they sink back into the "normal" state of mind, they can hardly believe what they dared to do during that magical interlude.

It doesn't last very long -- a few hours, a few days, a few weeks at most. Threatened with destruction, the ruling order brings all its forces into play, not only its obvious forces of physical repression, but also its vast arsenal of more subtle methods for confusing the issues, for diverting and dividing and coopting the opposition. Under such pressure, a revolt cannot stand still. Its only hope is to keep spreading and innovating. The only way to defend it is to extend it.

But even if the present movement goes no further than it has, it has already achieved two victories. The first is its success in forcing the government to back down. The second, far greater one is the experience of the movement itself. Its very existence is a refutation of the snide "conventional wisdom" that has prevailed for so long: "Revolution is obsolete. There is no alternative to the reigning system. There is nothing we can do except humbly beg for a few reforms. Don't be too radical or you'll alienate the general public." The uprising in France has shattered those myths. In the space of a few weeks a whole generation has been politicized. The participants will never again be quite the same, and their creativity and their audacity will be an inspiration to people around the world for years to come.

{whole essay at link above}

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Halliburton Solves Global Warming

SurvivaBalls save managers from abrupt climate change

An advanced new technology will keep corporate managers safe even
when climate change makes life as we know it impossible.

"The SurvivaBall is designed to protect the corporate manager no
matter what Mother Nature throws his or her way," said Fred Wolf, a
Halliburton representative who spoke today at the Catastrophic Loss
conference held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Amelia Island, Florida.
"This technology is the only rational response to abrupt climate
change," he said to an attentive and appreciative audience.

Most scientists believe global warming is certain to cause an
accelerating onslaught of hurricanes, floods, droughts, tornadoes,
etc. and that a world-destroying disaster is increasingly possible.
For example, Arctic melt has slowed the Gulf Stream by 30% in just
the last decade; if the Gulf Stream stops, Europe will suddenly
become just as cold as Alaska. Global heat and flooding events are
also increasingly possible.

In order to head off such catastrophic scenarios, scientists agree we
must reduce our carbon emissions by 70% within the next few years.
Doing that would seriously undermine corporate profits, however, and so
a more forward-thinking solution is needed.

At today's conference, Wolf and a colleague demonstrated three
SurvivaBall mockups, and described how the units will sustainably
protect managers from natural or cultural disturbances of any
intensity or duration. The devices - looking like huge inflatable
orbs - will include sophisticated communications systems, nutrient
gathering capacities, onboard medical facilities, and a daunting
defense infrastructure to ensure that the corporate mission will not
go unfulfilled even when most human life is rendered impossible by
catastrophes or the consequent epidemics and armed conflicts.

"It's essentially a gated community for one," said Wolf. . . .

{article continues at link above...}
--For those of you loyal readers who've been paying attention, yes The Yes Men are at it again.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Election Fraud & Propaganda

Yet another measurement of Fox News propaganda effectiveness and of American disinformation campaigns.

A recent OpEdNews/Zogby People's poll ( of Pennsylvania residents, found that �39% said that the 2004 election was stolen. 54% said it was legitimate. But let�s look at the demographics on this question. Of the people who watch Fox news as their primary source of TV news, one half of one percent believe it was stolen and 99% believe it was legitimate. Among people who watched ANY other news source but FOX, more felt the election was stolen than legitimate. The numbers varied dramatically.�. . .

{continues at link above -- frightening details of extensive security lapses in electronic voting system}

Monday, May 22, 2006

This is not a blog.

Surrealism old and new --

"This is not a pipe" by Magritte.

surreal bush.jpg
"This is not a president" by Ted Rall, 2006.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Rumsfeld Lives in Notorious Home

Heavily scarred back of an American slave. Slavery & sadistic torture in North America existed for 350 years.

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense in the G.W. Bush administration. His vacation house was previously owned by a slaveholding family made infamous by a classic of American letters from 1845: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, mid-19th century American author of that ex-slave autobiography, and lifelong activist and orator for social equality. His autobiography details the street addresses and persons who beat him during his slave years. He was beaten at least 25 times in the house now owned by Rumsfeld.*

This uncanny fact strikes me as a revealing non-coincidence. Some will complain about my tortured logic, nevertheless this is a logic of torture.

*According to Harper's Index: "Minimum number of times that Frederick Douglass was beaten in what is now Donald Rumsfeld’s vacation home: 25."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Thoreau Reincarnated as English Major

{excerpt from a commencement speech}
I thought of these things with the tools with which we English majors graduate into the world - not the tools that enable you to splice genes, cantilever bridges, or make piles of money, but those that enable you to analyze, to see patterns, to acquire a personal philosophy rather than a jumble of unexamined, hand-me-down notions; those that enable you not to make a living but maybe to live. This least utilitarian of educations prepares you to make sense of the world and maybe to make meaning; for one way to describe the great struggle of our time is as the endeavor to become a producer of meanings rather than a consumer of them - in an age when meaning as advertising and marketing, as others' definitions of pleasure and terror, is daily forced down our throats.

To make meaning, to change the world, or just to read it thoughtfully (which can itself be insurrectionary) . . . And never has our world been so overloaded, so rapidly changing, and so full of surprises that require us to change our minds, rethink possibilities, and then do so again; never has it required such careful reading. In my own case, the kind of critical reading I first learned to do with books, then with works of art, turned out to be transferable to national parks, atomic bombs, revolutions, marches, the act of walking - a skill transferred not only to feed my writing but my larger path through the world.

Books themselves sometimes change the world directly: you can talk about nonfiction like Diderot's Encyclopedia, about the Communist Manifesto, The Origin of Species, Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, about an essay that mattered a great deal only a very long time after it was written, Henry David Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience," and about a book in that Thoreauvian vein whose practical impact we might actually be able to measure.

In 1975, Edward Abbey published his novel about a charming bunch of what the Department of Homeland Security would now call domestic terrorists, The Monkey Wrench Gang. . . .
{Rebecca Solnit's commencement address at Berkeley continues at the link above...}

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Da Vinci Dress Code

This man (on the left wearing a fabulous vintage chiffon-lined Dior gold lamé gown over a silk Vera Wang empire waist tulle cocktail dress, accessorized with a 3-foot beaded peaked House of Whoville hat, and the ruby slippers Judy Garland wore in the Wizard of Oz) is worried that The Da Vinci Code might make the Roman Catholic Church look foolish.

--from the Betty Bowers Best Christian website, marvelously continued at link above... and merci beaucoup to Philippe for spotting this one!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

FBI still harrassing artist

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Best Bush Moment

"Analysts found that President George W. Bush had claimed exemption from 750 laws, and Bush said that the best moment of his presidency was when he caught a seven-and-a-half-pound perch."
--from Harper's Weekly

see also:

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Asian Glaciers Turn to Sand

{excerpt . . .}

Ice-capped roof of world turns to desert
Scientists warn of ecological catastrophe across Asia as glaciers melt and continent's great rivers dry up
By Geoffrey Lean

Global warming is rapidly melting the ice-bound roof of the world, and turning it into desert, leading scientists have revealed.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences - the country's top scientific body - has announced that the glaciers of the Tibetan plateau are vanishing so fast that they will be reduced by 50 per cent every decade. Each year enough water permanently melts from them to fill the entire Yellow River.

They added that the vast environmental changes brought about by the process will increase droughts and sandstorms over the rest of the country, and devastate many of the world's greatest rivers, in what experts warn will be an "ecological catastrophe".

The plateau, says the academy, has a staggering 46,298 glaciers, covering almost 60,000 square miles. At an average height of 13,000 feet above sea level, they make up the largest area of ice outside the polar regions, nearly a sixth of the world's total.

The glaciers have been receding over the past four decades, as the world has gradually warmed up, but the process has now accelerated alarmingly.
. . . .

Sandstorms, blowing in from the degraded land, are already plaguing the country. So far this year, 13 of them have hit northern China, including Beijing. Three weeks ago one storm swept across an eighth of the vast country and even reached Korea and Japan. On the way, it dumped a mind-boggling 336,000 tons of dust on the capital, causing dangerous air pollution. . . .

{article continues at link above...}

Monday, May 01, 2006

American Immigrants in Mexico

Mexico just solved the immigration clash in one legislative stroke.
They legalized most drugs for personal recreational use. People can possess small amounts of just about whatever drug you can name, with the exception of peyote which is now allowed in huge quantities (see link above for more detail).

What's the connection? Hardworking, ambitious, immigrant families are moving to America to find jobs doing the work that slacker Americans don't want to do for lower pay. In a reciprocal and symmetrical arrangement, now those slacker Americans can legally get high by slumming around in Mexico. We could begin to measure the cross-border exchange as the laborers move north and the recreational users move south. A global recirculation of of the global division of leisure.

The new global cross-migration in social classes. Drugs cannot legally be shipped over international borders, but now their users can be moved.

And, no, I am not high while writing this sobering view.