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Anti-Capitalist Meetup: M@rxist Humanism or “Full-Spectrum Liberalism” – Holy Family, Batman!

By: Anti-Capitalist Meetup Sunday December 28, 2014 4:53 pm

“He who glorifies theory and genius but fails to recognize the limits of a theoretical work, fails likewise to recognize the indispensability of the theoretician. All of history is the history of the struggle for freedom. If, as a theoretician, one’s ears are attuned to the new impulse from the workers, new “categories” will be created, a new way of thinking, a new step forward in philosophic cognition.” – Raya Dunayevskaya

Others say that the reason Sanders has ignited the left in the same way that Warren has is that Sanders is something of a full-spectrum liberal — climate change, campaign-finance reform, inequality, infrastructure spending, worker-run cooperatives, surveillance, genetically modified foods, a humbler foreign policy. Warren is more of a single-note singer — inequality, and the way the economic system is rigged to produce more of it — and it’s a note she sings over and over again. And it is also one that happens to hit the cultural moment exactly, a moment that includes Occupy Wall Street and a best-seller devoted to the subject by a previously obscure French economist.

The ensemble of social relations is far more intense and more connected than ever before in history. Terms like “networked individual” and “transindividual” have entered the language as social being becomes ever more complex and more connected through mobile information technology, and social networking. Alongside the “loss” (or rather negation) of old identities, there is the possibility of a greater and deeper ensemble of relations than before. This has changed what we understand by the self, the world of social being and our relationship to it. – See more at:

Alfred Sohn-Rethel located the origin of philosophical abstraction in the “false conciousness” brought about by the new money economy of Greek Antiquity. In the Enlightenment the conceptual barrier Kant put between phenomenal reality and the “thing-in-itself” expressed, in Sohn-Rethel’s view, the reified consciousness stemming from commodity-exchange and the division of mental and manual labor.

Sohn-Rethel’s lifelong project was the combination of the epistemology of Kant with Marx’s critique of political economy. When people exchange commodities they abstract from the specific goods. Only the value of these goods is important. This abstraction is called ‘real abstraction’ because it takes place without conscious effort; whether or not anyone is aware of it is of no importance. Sohn-Rethel believed this type of abstraction to be the real basis of formal and abstract thinking. All of Kant’s categories such as space, time, quality, substance, accident, movement and so forth are implicit in the act of exchange. Readers of Marx will not be entirely surprised by such a genealogy, since Marx himself suggested that the ideas of freedom and equality, at least as we know them so far, are rooted in the exchange of commodities. Sohn-Rethel’s work on the nature of ‘real abstraction’ has been amplified and extended by the writers of Arena (Australian publishing co-operative), especially the notion that a post-marxist social and historical analysis can be founded on the ‘real abstraction’ principle. An example of using Sohn-Rethel’s idea of commodity occurs in Slavoj Zizek’s work The Sublime Object of Ideology.

It may be that marxist humanism is an oxymoron, given the variety of determinisms (mis-)attributed to it: party discipline, dictatorship of the proletariat, economic in the last instance, barbarism with a human face, etc. The goal here is not to solve that potential contradiction but to show that there are some moments albeit fleeting that make ideological discovery and development useful in developing a reasonable revolutionary anticapitalist discourse. And of course with respect to those who should write their own diaries defending other ideological paths to defining species-being, this will describe a few possibilities and of course not ignoring that history made so many of them go wrong.

This diary discusses some conventional areas in the theory of Marxist humanism that show not unlike the history of Geography in Soviet Russia and the overall failure of pre-Stalinist Marxist humanism exhibited in the decline of abstract official art and the controversies of Russian literary formalism, that ecological thinking in the world of state capitalisms can enrich the larger ecological discourse necessary to combat global warming and degradation.

The first step is to look at (assuming the usual warnings about indulging an inerrant postwar Marxology no less virulent than all those who memorize the King James Bible) whether there is or isn’t a difference between the writings of the “immature” and the mature Marx, often characterized as a difference between humanism and scientism. One example is in the formative pre-stalinist academic period where official art was abstract and disciplines like language and literature as well as social science like geography were not rendered schematic by arbitrary constructions of base and superstructure. A marxist subject was more easily worth the discourse whether it was the Tartu School or its progenitor, the “Bakhtin Circle”(including Valentin Voloshinov) or the psychology of Vygotsky. Early human geography in Russia never truly emerged because of the ultimate triumph of soviet social engineering thought where soviet geography would remain largely physical and of course facilitated the erasure of whole regions for security reasons. This left its development to be influenced by postwar marxist geography. Contemporary economical marxism might have gained much from a more robust marxist humanism, which is for better or worse overdetermined by anthropological and literary marxist thought. It could be argued similarly that the ecological and environmental discourse of marxist thought is Sohn-Rethel’s kind of “real abstraction”

Ecological Marxism shares many common characteristics with traditional Marxism, such as criticizing capitalism, caring for the poor, defending justice, and pursuing the common good. Thus it is possible for traditional Marxists to be open to ecological Marxism and still retain their allegiance to Marxist analysis.

During the period of introduction, the following four theories (from among many Western ideas, schools, and representative figures of ecological Marxism) have attracted the attention of Chinese Marxists:

(1) The ecological crisis theory of William Leiss and Ben Agger, which claims that the Marxist theory of economic crisis is outdated because it not only fails to explain the continuous existence and development of capitalism, but also fails to provide a theoretical guide for the shift from capitalism to socialist society. Hence, it is necessary for Marxists to base their critique of capitalism on the new stage of ecological crisis, which has its source in “alienated consumption.”

(2) James O’Connor’s theory of two contradictions of capitalism. If, as traditional Marxism points out, the first contradiction in capitalism is between capitalist productive forces and production relations, O’Connor argues that the second contradiction is the one between capitalist productive forces, production relations, and production conditions. It is the two contradictions that lead to economic, as well as ecological, crisis.

(3) Joel Kovel’s theory of ecological socialist revolution and construction. For Kovel, in order to solve the ecological crisis of capitalism, we must liberate use values from exchange values, liberate labor from capital, and move toward an eco-socialist society which must meet two conditions: public ownership of the means of production and freely associated producers.

(4) The theories of John Bellamy Foster and Paul Burkett on Marx’s ecology. According to many Chinese Marxists, all three of the preceding theories acknowledge that Marxist theory can provide a guide for solving the ecological crisis of capitalism, but none of them publicly acknowledges (or for that matter denies) that Marxism, including Marx himself, provided the basis for an ecological worldview. It is Foster and Burkett who “commenced to construct Marx’s ecology, which gives ecological Marxism a much greater theoretical value in dealing with the contemporary ecological crisis.”6 Foster finds Marx’s ecology in his theory of metabolism while Burkett finds it in Marx’s theory of labor value.

journal articles

Marxism cannot achieve the logic of a physical science as a certain few orthodox marxists would desire, even as an ecological marxism might even make that more possible and of course there’s no space for a variety of other controversies on this issue, but this is yet another attempt to make some points of view available for the larger anti-capitalist discourse. For example, “Despite Deng’s condemnation, High Culture Fever continued to rise in China, with the work of Fredric Jameson being particularly popular”

Marxist humanism is a branch of Marxism that primarily focuses on Marx’s earlier writings, especially the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 in which Marx espoused his theory of alienation, as opposed to his later works, which are considered to be concerned more with his structural conception of capitalist society. The Praxis School, which called for radical social change in Josip Broz Tito’s Yugoslavia in the 1960s, was one such Marxist humanist movement.
Raya Dunayevskaya (Russian: Ра́я Дунае́вская; 1 May 1910 – 9 June 1987) was the American founder of the philosophy of Marxist Humanism in the United States of America. At one time Leon Trotsky’s secretary, she later split with him and ultimately founded the organization News and Letters Committees and was its leader until her death.

After more than a decade of developing the theory of state capitalism, Dunayevskaya continued her study of the Hegelian dialectic by taking on a task the Johnson-Forest Tendency had set itself: exploring Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind. She advanced an interpretation of Hegel’s Absolutes holding that they involved a dual movement: a movement from practice that is itself a form of theory and a movement from theory reaching to philosophy. She considered these 1953 letters to be “the philosophic moment” from which the whole development of Marxist Humanism flowed.

The totality of Marx’s Marxism, as developed from 1841 to 1883, provides the foundation for working this out. In particular, we stand on the philosophical new beginnings articulated in Marx’s 1844 Humanist Essays, especially the “dialectic of negativity as a moving and creating principle,” as well as on the whole of his critique of political economy and of the value form of production—from the Communist Manifesto (1848), to the Grundrisse (1857-1858), to Capital (1867-1872). We also base ourselves on the multicultural writings of the late Marx on gender and non-European societies, especially the Ethnological Notebooks (1879-1882). We see Marx’s vision of a new society in the Critique of the Gotha Program (1875), Capital and The Civil War in France (1871) as philosophical foundations for the non-statist, liberated society of the future, and as indications of how to get there. Inseparable from this, we consider Marx’s organizational practice and principles, especially in the Critique of the Gotha Program, as important ground for organization today.

In both Britain and the US, the terms “Marxist humanism” and “socialist humanism” were used to describe different aspects of what amounted to one intellectual and political trend. “Marxist humanism” emphasized the roots of this perspective in Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and Marx’s writings on alienation more generally, and pointed to the debate within Marxist theory with Soviet and other structuralist versions of Marxism. “Socialist humanism” emphasized the participation of many non-Marxists – Christian socialists and others – in the critique of Soviet socialism and the effort to construct a democratic version of socialism in which the right to dissent would be protected, and free expression would be encouraged. While the published work of Western Marxist/socialist humanist tended, like that of the Praxis School, toward the theoretical and the philosophical, Western Marxist/socialist humanist circles were much more deeply involved in social movements than their Yugoslavian counterparts. Out of a desire to stress the ecumenical character of their perspective, they tended to use the term “socialist humanism” in preference to “Marxist humanism,” and thus that is the term that will be used here.

Even as “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” of course as an addendum, such a humanism might promote the notion of alternatives to policing:

As we work to eliminate or radically change police institutions we must also work to support and build liberatory alternatives to the police. Since 2003, Rose City Copwatch has promoted discussion about alternatives to the police. In 2007 we spent time learning about historical and ongoing alternatives to the police. In 2008 we drafted the Alternatives to Police booklet based on what we learned. This zine is a compilation of case-studies on alternatives to cops. The booklet focuses on projects that don’t collaborate with the state or court system in any way. A long bibliography for further reading is also included.


Sunday Food: Soup – Vegetable Broth Base

By: msmolly Sunday December 28, 2014 1:12 pm
Vegetable broth base

Vegetable Broth Base

This recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated February 2015 issue. It makes about 1-3/4 cups base, enough for 7 quarts of broth.

For the best balance of flavors, measure the prepped vegetables by weight. Kosher salt aids in grinding the vegetables. The broth base contains enough salt to keep it from freezing solid, making it easy to remove 1 tablespoon at a time, but contains just 399 mg of sodium per 1 cup serving, much less than most commercial broths. To make 1 cup of broth, stir 1 tablespoon of fresh or frozen broth base into 1 cup of boiling water. If particle-free broth is desired, let the broth steep for 5 minutes and then strain it through a fine-mesh strainer.


  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped and washed thoroughly (2-1/2 cups or 5 oz.)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (2/3 cup or 3 oz.)
  • 1/2 small celery root (not celery), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (3/4 cup or 3 oz.)
  • 1/2 cup (1/2 oz.) parsley leaves and thin stems
  • 3 tablespoons freeze-dried minced onions (not fresh onion)
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons tomato paste (not fresh tomato)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce

Process leeks, carrots, celery root, parsley, minced onions, and salt in a food processor, scraping down sides of bowl frequently, until paste is as fine as possible, 3 – 4 minutes. Add tomato paste and process for 1 minute, scraping down sides of bowl every 20 seconds. Add soy sauce and continue to process 1 minute longer. Transfer mixture to airtight container, and tap firmly on the counter a few times to remove air bubbles. Press a small piece of parchment paper flush against the surface of the mixture and cover. Freeze for up to 6 months; reconstitute as needed.

Note: See recipes for chicken broth and chicken noodle soup and rich beef broth and beef vegetable soup from previous Food Sunday posts.

Right-Wing Attempt to Outlaw Election Fails

By: Daniel Marks Saturday December 27, 2014 5:54 pm

Right-wing favorite, Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan, just vetoed an effort to outlaw an election of Delegates to an Article V Convention to propose amendments to the US Constitution. Over the last 50 years there have been efforts to start and resist state applications for an Article V Convention, which requires the states to cross a numerical threshold of two-thirds (34) states that apply for an Article V Convention. Many believe the threshold has been crossed already and Congress refuses to count these applications because they would need to acknowledge their duty to call the convention. To insure passage of an amendment that would not otherwise gain so much support, groups on the right end of the political spectrum, like ALEC and the Goldwater Institute, have sought to restrict and limit the scope of the Convention to their agenda rather than let the Delegates debate and propose freely like any legislators of Congress or states. This week that effort slammed in to a brick wall as a Tea Party favorite vetoed the cancellation of an election of Delegates.

The Governor’s veto letter correctly stated:

Under the federal constitution, the decision how to appoint a constitutional delegation is left to the judgment of the individual states. There are a number of different ways that such a decision could be made, allowing for possibilities such as a direct vote of the people or a vote of the entire legislature. … Because the legislative leaders are not elected by the entire state, but instead by only the voters within their individual districts, a constitutional delegation comprised primarily of persons selected only by the legislative quadrant would not give a full representative voice to all Michiganders. By contrast, selecting delegates by a direct vote of the people or by a vote of the entire legislature would ensure that all Michiganders have a say in defining the constitutional delegation.

However we have seen this same kind of legislation pass in FL, UT, IN, TN and GA in the last year. There is an effort that is hell bent on absolute manipulation of Delegates from state legislatures.

All of the delegates would be required to swear an oath to support the constitutions of both the United States and Florida, and abide by all the instructions of the [State] Legislature. Failing to do to that could mean living life as a convicted felon. If a delegate does not follow those instructions [from state legislatures], their vote would be voided and their appointment to the convention would be forfeited. They also could be charged with a third-degree felony.

Jon Huizer of National Convention, PBC filed a petition with the Federal Elections Commission to include Delegate in the definition of Federal offices in order to insure that those Delegates would be free of that kind of manipulation. They would serve as a freely deliberating representative of the people, searching for solutions without the yoke of the Tea Party agenda hanging around their necks.

The main problem with state applications specifying exact language is the objection that a convention called to consider a predetermined amendment would, in effect, become part of the ratifying process. …an attempt by the various State legislatures to force Congress to call a convention which can only act mechanically to approve or disapprove a specific amendment. The attempt is to make the convention merely an initial step in the ratifying process instead of a deliberative meeting to seek out solutions to a problem. The word ‘propose’ cannot be stretched to mean ‘ratify’. The Congress cannot properly accept and become part of any prepackaged effort to short cut the amendment process.
~ Senator Robert F. Kennedy

Recently the Convention of States group led by Tea Party Patriot founder Mark Meckler and right-wing radio talk show host, Mark Levin stated a petition to oppose the effort of the National Convention, PBC by peddling an online petition to gain support for their opposition to the FEC action by claiming online that Such a measure would bring convention delegates under the control of Washington, D.C.” and completely mischaracterizing the purpose of the rule change. The suggested definition change is about empowering the delegate to act think, deliberate, and propose ideas freely just like the office of a member of Congress or state legislator. It is amazing that the first line of attack is to blame National Convention, PBC for trying to manipulate Delegates, when the goal is to stop anyone from trying to manipulate Delegates. At least the right concedes the point that manipulation is undesirable.

In the past there have been nearly 40 federal amendatory conventions, for the creation of each state Constitution and the reconstruction conventions after the Civil War. You can see the Georgia convention was overseen by the US military as well so this is not a state action, it is indeed federal. When legislatures are participating in the Article V process, it does not require the Governor’s signature because it is not legislation per se, the legislatures (one branch of the state governments) are participating in a federal process. These Delegates were always elected as historical practice. Congress created the oath for that office seen here:

Do you and each of you solemnly swear that you will support the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that you take this obligation freely without any mental reservation of purpose or evasion and that you will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office of Delegate to the Constitutional Convention on which you are about to enter?

The FEC also uses the definitions in Federal Election Law such as:
(2) the term ‘election’ means …
(E) the election of delegates to a constitutional convention for proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States or of any State;”

Why do we see this aggressive push to control the Delegates of an Article V Convention?  Because the states have passed the threshold and we expect to have an official tabulation of state applications completed soon. This month the Assembly of State Legislatures met in Washington DC and their own Judiciary Committee reported they have 36 states (34 required) on record with applications to Congress for a convention. These states include AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, NH, NJ, NM, NC, OH, OK, OR, RI, SC, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WI

Also Michigan has already determined there are enough applications from states to call the convention now.

The Congressional Research Service is also taking the position that they may be enough applications from state legislatures on record if Congress would only count them.

“the legislatures of Ohio, in November 2013, and Michigan, in March 2014, applied to Congress for an Article V Convention to consider a balanced federal budget amendment; these are the first new state applications since 1982 and are also the 33rd and 34th applications for the balanced budget amendment convention. If all 32 previous related state applications are valid, it is arguable that the constitutional requirement for requests from two-thirds of the states has been met, and that Congress should consider calling a convention.”
The Article V Convention to Propose Constitutional Amendments: 
Contemporary Issues for Congress 
Thomas H. Neale 
Specialist in American National Government

The veto by Governor Rick Snyder could not have come at a worse time for those who wish to hijack the process. For those that hoped to get away with it, they must be replaced because they have proven, by their own actions, they are an enemy of democracy and the American way.

Our nation will correct our problems or we will perish, it is that simple.  Be confident that as Americans we will rise to the occasion as we have done so many times before. The choice that is unfolding before us will be a battle of ideas more than candidates. If clean elections means more to the People than a Balanced Budget Amendment, that is the kind of assembly the People will choose. It will seek solutions to various problems and it won’t be confined by an inflexible system.  The assembly can propose a change to the system to accommodate the alteration holistically. The spirit of the “New World” will begin again with a blank sheet of paper. The United States will be the modern standard of democracy in the 21st century that we were at the birth of our nation.

MENA Mashup: The Arab Spring, The I/P and ISIS

By: CTuttle Saturday December 27, 2014 4:00 pm

Dr James Zogby wrote a compelling article recently…

The unravelling of the Arab Spring narrative

Four years ago, Tunisia and the Egypt erupted in broad popular revolts. At first, analysts, Arab and westerners alike, were confounded. When Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria followed, in short order, the upheavals came to be described as the “Arab Spring” — the assumption being that what was occurring in the Middle East would unfold in a manner reminiscent of the rapid transformations that took place in Eastern and Central Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The model envisioned by the term the “Arab Spring” was relatively straightforward. A spark had been ignited in Tunisia that would catch fire across the region bringing fundamental social and political transformation in its wake. It was a simple linear trajectory from dictatorship to democracy. Many experts were certain that this would be the way the Arab Spring would progress. {…}

What we found were universal concern with the continuing war in Syria, concern with the impact that it was having in the broader region (the refugee crisis that is overwhelming Lebanon and Jordan and the growth of sectarian division and radicalism) and fear that Syria might fragment into destabilising sect-based entities. There was no confidence that this conflict would end soon or that way might be found to achieve a negotiated solution to resolve it. In every country but Lebanon, there was rejection of the Assad regime.

There is near universal rejection of ISIL and deep concern about the impact that this movement was having on the region. At the same time, the lack of confidence in the US that we found in our June, 2014 poll and the low favourable ratings Arabs give to US involvement in the region combine to create less than enthusiastic support for a western-led effort to confront ISIL. In fact, only in Egypt and Iraq were slight majorities in favour of a role for the West in this conflict. In Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and UAE majorities were opposed.

After reviewing the results of this study, what emerges is a region deeply conflicted about the developments of the past four years. What had been presented as a simple story-line of progress at the beginning of the Arab Spring has become a troubling tale of more steps backward than forward.

The Middle East Harvests Bitter Imperialist Fruit

From Bahrain…

Moving along to the I/P…

From MEMO… Palestinians stress their right to respond to Israeli escalation

All Palestinian factions hold Israel responsible for the latest escalation in Gaza and regard it as a violation of the Egypt-brokered ceasefire agreement. The groups met on Thursday to discuss the latest Israeli aggression against the enclave, which led to the killing of Tayseer Al-Semari, a member of the military wing of Hamas.

Speaking on behalf of all factions, Shaikh Khaled Al-Batsh, a senior official of Islamic Jihad, said that they reject the notion that Palestinian blood is a price to be paid by electioneering Israeli politicians. “We will not stand idle in front of this repeated escalation so that Netanyahu can be re-elected,” he stressed.

Al-Batsh called on Egypt to resume talks with Israel and put pressure on the Israeli government to stop its latest aggression. He also urged the international community to assume its responsibilities and stop Israel’s repeated attacks on the Gaza Strip in particular and the Palestinian people in general. The blockade should be lifted, the crossings opened and reconstruction materials allowed in, he insisted.

The Islamic Jihad official added that the Palestinian unity government must also assume its responsibility for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.

So naturally, Bibi… Netanyahu warns against PA, Iran

Hamas says it will uphold ceasefire if Israel does

As Dr. Finkelstein mentioned in this great TRNN clip, Is Israel Unfairly Held to a Higher Standard? There has been 10 major Israeli Operations directed against Gaza in the past 14 yrs alone!

Now, Ali Abunimah wrote recently about the deliberate whitewashing by the Grey Lady…

Two recent stories in The New York Times involve violence against Palestinian and Israeli children. But it is striking how differently the stories are treated based on the identity of the victim.

The first, from today, is headlined “Israeli Girl Severely Wounded in Firebomb Attack in West Bank.” The second, from November, is headlined “Palestinian Shot by Israeli Troops at Gaza Border.” Both are by Isabel Kershner. {…}

Note how Kershner says the assailants are “believed to be” Palestinians – belief, not evidence. She also names the girl’s father and says he suffered light injuries, and quotes her mother.

The report then provides this, presumably as context:

There has been an uptick in Palestinian attacks against Israelis in recent weeks, including deadly assaults in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The violence has been fanned in part by a dispute over a revered holy site in Jerusalem.

Nowhere does the report state that there has been relentless violence by Israeli occupation forces and settlers against Palestinians.

The mention of a “revered holy site” also suggests the violence is religious and irrational in nature. It also erases the fact that Palestinians are subject to systematic Israeli violence, including ongoing home demolitions, forced displacement and land theft.

The tension over the “revered holy site” – Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque – is the consequence of incursions by Israeli extremists, backed by the government, whose ultimate goal is to destroy it.

Huge surge in Israeli violence

In fact, though you wouldn’t know it from The New York Times, there has been a huge surge in violence against Palestinians.

“Palestinian civilians across the [occupied Palestinian territories] continue to be subject to various threats to their life, physical safety and liberty,” says the United Nations monitoring group OCHA in a year-end summary(pdf!)

This year “witnessed the highest Palestinian casualty toll since 1967, primarily due to hostilities in Gaza,” OCHA adds.

But in the West Bank, too, there was a huge increase in Israeli violence: this year to date 49 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, almost double the number from last year, OCHA reports.

Ten of those killed in the West Bank were Palestinian children shot with live ammunition by Israeli occupation forces.

A staggering 5,771 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli forces in the West Bank this year, two thousand more than last year.

According to OCHA, Israel carried out an average of 96 “search and arrest” raids every week during the year, up from 75 per week in 2013. These assaults often take the form of night raids on homes, terrorizing entire families and communities.

This huge “uptick” in Israeli violence is invisible to The New York Times.

Israeli forces crush Palestinian protests in West Bank

Interestingly, it seems that the up-coming Israeli elections have become embroiled in corruption probes, from Antiwar…

The campaign for Israel’s March elections is just picking up pace, and a major party, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, is reeling from announcing of a major bribery and corruption scandal involving a number of top officials. {…}

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing probes of his own, within his party, and Likud’s comptroller has disqualified the PM from running for the Likud leadership because of misuse of party funds.

Netanyahu has been facing internal opposition in Likud from the far-right, and assuming the comptroller’s ruling stands, he may well be finished as a top leader in the party.

Some more reports…

Israel Detains Deputy Minister, Dozens More in Corruption Probe

Avigdor Lieberman: Hard-right Israeli minister’s fate in balance after aides arrested for fraud

Moving along to ISIS…

Interestingly… ISIL seizes massive economic resources

Iraqi officials confirmed on Friday that ISIL has seized massive economic resources in several important Iraqi cities during the last six months. They noted this would enable the organisation to resist efforts to impose economic sanctions on it.

ISIL seized warehouses belonging to the Iraqi ministry of agriculture in the governorates of Kirkuk and Ninawa and took massive amounts of corn, in addition to agriculture tools and pesticides.

Member of the Agriculture Committee in the Iraqi parliament Furat al-Tamimi told Anadolu news agency that his committee had asked the ministry of agriculture to calculate all the damage caused by ISIL in order to know the exact stolen amounts.

Al-Tamimi said that some of the agriculture tools were moved to Syria and sold there. “That earned much money for ISIL, who became immunised against any kind of economic embargo,” he pointed out.

Last week, the ministry of agriculture said that around 1.5 million tonnes of wheat were stolen from farms in Ninawa. Last July, ISIL seized a massive amount of military equipment and controlled several oil wells. This strengthened its economy considerably.

Iraqi oil ministry said that oil smuggling by ISIL was partly responsible for the drop of oil prices in global markets. 95 per cent of the Iraqi economy is dependent on oil.

Based on this information about ISIL resources, an official in the Iraqi ministry of planning Falah Hassan expects that confronting the ISIL economy has become very difficult.

Hassan said that ISIL strengthened its economy in Iraq and Syria and undermining its economic base needs massive security efforts in line with the political efforts, stressing that ISIL has safeguarded itself from any attack that targets its agriculture, oil and military abilities.

So as they state in that clip, over a thousand foreign fighters alone, every month, are flocking to IS, how many billion$ will it cost us, moving forward…?

From NPR… U.S. Strikes Have Killed 1,100 ISIS Fighters And Cost $1 Billion

U.S.-led coalition airstrikes on Syria have killed more than 1,100 Islamic State fighters since the bombings began in September, according to a British-based monitoring group.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on its website Tuesday that it documented the deaths of 1,171 people, with at least 800 others wounded. Most of those killed by the international airstrikes that began Sept. 23 were members of ISIS, the website noted. The number of dead included 52 civilians. {…}

In related news, on Monday the Pentagon announced it had spent more than $1 billion fighting ISIS since the airstrikes began.

“As of Dec. 11, 2014, the total cost of operations related to [ISIS] since kinetic operations started on Aug. 8, 2014, is $1.02 billion and the average daily cost is $8.1 million,” Pentagon spokesman Bill Urban said.

The Pentagon had previously stated the average daily cost to be more than $7 million a day. That number rose because of the number of airstrikes and related costs, a defense official told Agence France-Presse.

In wrapping up, Meet the new crew, same as the old…

Boston Bombing News: The Role of the Mainstream Media

By: lauraw Saturday December 27, 2014 7:44 am

Carmen Ortiz has routinely used the media to make her case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. One might think she would wait to do it in the courtroom, and wonder why she doesn’t. The defense is very concerned about these media leaks, especially those channeled by the Islamophobic journalist Michelle McPhee. Judge O’Toole gives lip service to these concerns, while doing nothing to stop the leaks.

Karin Friedemann sums it up nicely: “I don’t want to live in a country where the FBI can … accuse you of a bombing and then, instead of presenting evidence in a court of law, make up TV docudramas about you without even consulting you for your side of the story.”

Why is the media going along with this? Why do they speak as one in assuming the guilt of the Tsarnaev brothers? It’s as if there is an invisible wall in place, which deflects all uncomfortable questions.

I understand that Bostonians need to see justice done. A traumatized city wants and needs to trust that LE is telling them the truth. Americans in general also need reassurance. Are the real bombers still out there, ready to strike again? Is the FBI incapable of protecting us from terrorism? It’s much more comforting for most to believe that the Feds have got it right.

Reassurance is all very nice. But whatever happened to investigative journalism?

At first, this case superficially appeared to be “solved.” No investigative journalism necessary! We were told of a dramatic shootout, a capture, and a hospital-bed confession. What more could you ask for? But no MSM journalist asked the obvious question: “Why didn’t these guys have an escape plan?” Confessions can be coerced; and no videotape of Dzhokhar’s alleged confession exists. Will you hear that on TV? No way.

When we learned about the boat-note and the killing of Ibragim Todashev, a lot of people began to wonder if something funny might be going on here. Did the MSM wonder? Apparently not.  (Although ABC Online did later note that the “blood” on the boat-note looked like paint.)

In July, when Dzhokhar stood up in court and pleaded Not Guilty, did any journalist ask why he would do this, in the face of the supposedly “overwhelming evidence” against him? Nope. No curiosity about it whatsoever. Instead they reported his “smirking” and quoted someone who complained that “He showed absolutely no remorse.” Remorse for what? For being not guilty?

Print and Local Media do deserve some credit. Editorials have appeared in print and online, questioning the un-Mirandized interrogation of Dzhokhar, touting the importance of a fair trial, even calling for a change of venue.

And some investigative work has been done, within the limits imposed by the “invisible wall.” The Boston Globe and Rolling Stone wrote stories which dared to humanize the Tsarnaevs. The Globe, I assume, had honest intentions, and they came up with some interesting info about Tamerlan’s time in Russia. But RS, with its infamous cover highlighting Dzhokhar as a sexy rock star, seemed to be in it simply to increase their circulation numbers.

Recently the invisible wall may be developing a few cracks. The media has given some attention to Elena Teyer and Karin Friedemann, who have courageously made their voices heard at the Boston courthouse. Bruce Gellerman of WBUR is one journalist who actually listened to them.

pbszebra reports two tweets from Gellerman: “Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev left note in boat he hid in, sources say – CBS News Who leaked to Miller??” Followed by: “Boston Marathon Bombing: A Primer – WhoWhatWhy Good Questions” (giving the link to this WWW article).

I wonder if the defense counsel even knows that Teyer and Friedemann are getting through to the Boston media? Sadly, the interference of the “fake bomb nuts” may have derailed this promising dialog.

TV News deserves no credit whatsoever. Do the broadcast media take their orders directly from Big Brother? I don’t know, but this chart of who owns the TV networks may be of interest.

I also think it’s interesting that TV news never, ever criticizes America’s wars against Muslim nations. Fox and MSNBC disagree about lots of things, but they both sing the same song when it comes to the “War on Terror.” Is this an agenda from “higher up”?

One thing is certain: the networks are more interested in their financial bottom line than in responsibly reporting the news. Their goal is to keep ‘em watching at all costs. Hire some “bubble-headed bleached blondes”, clothe them in peekaboo cocktail dresses, and set them loose to stir up maximum anger, fear, confusion, race conflict and xenophobic hatred. Could a dystopian sci-fi novel have come up with anything more insane?

On April 19, 2013, Russ Baker wrote an article about the ways that TV manipulated the BMB story. In “Worry, But Not Too Much,” fear alternated with reassurance, keeping us glued to the TV, and playing to our irrational side. In “Kumbaya,” heart-warming portraits of brave victims substituted for substantive news. In “Double Standard on Tragedy,” Baker notes that other important and even more horrific events were ignored that week, while we all focused on the BMB.

I do disagree with Baker’s dismissal of the “Scoop” reported by CNN’s John King. That may have been a real lead. It evaporated when a bogus bomb threat cancelled the apparent arrest of a man who placed a black bag at the Forum. Something weird happened on that Wednesday (and again on Thursday, when the heavy black bags described by the FBI morphed into a lightweight white one and a not-so-heavy dark gray one). We may never know what really happened, because King, instead of continuing to pursue investigative journalism, abjectly apologized for his “mistake.”

A new low was reached in April 2014. We were treated to a breathless 60 Minutes interview with FBI agents, and a lavish NatGeo docudrama. A docudrama before the end of the story? How crazy is that?

Not only have TV anchor-people assured us of Dzhokhar’s guilt, but one of them expressly instructed us to “have no sympathy for him.” Seriously? By what right do these nitwits tell me who to hate?

In covering Elena Teyer’s comments to the press on December 18, CNN’s resident anchor-blonde offered no empathy or respect for Elena as the bereaved mother-in-law of Ibragim Todashev. Instead, she said (a bit desperately): “Wasn’t the FBI totally cleared in the death of Todashev?”

An exception in TV news is Al Jazeera America. Their tone is calm, their female reporters wear reasonable business attire, and their agenda is global, not U.S.-centered. They defend Muslims and note that Israel has feet of clay. Although AJA has virtually ignored the Marathon bombing, they have recently aired two documentaries which may be back-handed attempts to address it. One, summarized here, examines the FBI’s suspicious role in the Lockerbie bombing investigation. Another addresses how Muslims are coerced into becoming FBI informants. How do they get away with all this? Well, they’re only available in premium packages, so they don’t have a large audience.

In the last year and a half, the cable news people have worked hard to poison the Tsarnaev jury pool. They have also: yanked on America’s chain by intimating that if ISIL doesn’t kill us all, Ebola will;  discredited rape victims by crowing over the Rolling Stone screw-up; helped Sony sell tickets to a lousy movie by hyping an alleged North Korean terror plot; and fomented a virtual race war by irresponsibly televising violent protests and Al Sharpton’s rants.

Good work, guys. Why, I wonder, should we take seriously anything you say?



Saturday Art: The Greatest Year in Movies 75 Years Later

By: dakine01 Saturday December 27, 2014 4:00 am
Stagecoach (1939)

Stagecoach (1939)

I’m taking a break today from my series on personally Influential Authors to talk about movies. Specifically, movies from 1939, a year that I (and many film critics) consider the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time.) This is not a unanimous choice as a couple of links will show. Nevertheless, if you do a Google search of “greatest movie year of all time” the first item is the wiki page for “1939 in film” which opens with:

The year 1939 in motion pictures is widely considered the most outstanding one ever,[1] when it comes to the high quality and high attendance at the large set of the best films that premiered in the year (considered as a percentage of the population in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom at that time).

A few years ago I did an eighteen diary series for Saturday Art on “Essential Movies” as defined by me (the link is to the last diary which has links to the other seventeen diaries). I’m not going to go through all the diaries and list all the 1939 movies I discussed but I can guarantee that there are numerous movies from the year that I covered.

Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz are in the top ten of The American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Movies. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is number twenty-six on the list. All three were nominated for Best Picture from that year’s Academy Awards. There were ten Best Picture nominations that year and the other seven nominees were Dark Victory, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Love Affair, Ninotchka, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach, and Wuthering Heights. Gone with the Wind of course, won the Best Picture award that year.

Thomas Mitchell, winner of the 1939 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Stagecoach also appeared in Gone with the Wind (Gerald O’Hara, Scarlett O’Hara’s father), and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. He also had roles in two other 1939 movies, Only Angels Have Wings (Cary Grant and Jean Arthur) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara).

1939 brought the first movie with Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles. Later that year, the second Rathbone Holmes appears with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The year also brought the first two appearances by George Sanders as The Saint with The Saint Strikes Back and The Saint in London.

I think I have seen all of the movies I have mentioned so far although maybe not Ninotchka but there are a whole lot of other 1939 movies that I have seen besides these. From the list of the Top 20 Grossing films for the year there’s Jesse James with Tyrone Power and Henry Fonda, Dodge City with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Haviland, Gunga Din with Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, Drums Along the Mohawk with Claudette Colbert and Henry Fonda, Another Thin Man with William Powell and Myrna Loy, and Destry Rides Again with Jimmy Stewart and Marlene Dietrich.

A few more movies from 1939 that I know are good are Allegheny Uprising with John Wayne and Claire Trevor, the Marx Brothers in At the Circus, Beau Geste with Gary Cooper, Each Dawn I Die with James Cagney and George Raft, Jamaica Inn another starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara (to go with The Hunchback of Notre Dame), Shirley Temple’s The Little Princess, Louis Hayward in The Man in the Iron Mask, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex with Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, and Olivia de Haviland, W. C. Fields in You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man, and Young Mr. Lincoln with Henry Fonda.

This by no means is any where near an inclusive listing of the movies produced in 1939. Just the great movies from that year that I have seen, often more than once as they are visual tales told well.

The Healing and Transformative Power of the Arts to Build Bridges of Peace

By: patrick devlin Friday December 26, 2014 5:50 pm

As children were being incinerated by Awesome American Ordinance during the sultry days of last summer – while Americans fired up their Kindles on their beach vacations and Palestinians became kindling as Gaza burned, a group of Hollywood artists penned a letter of support for the imperial actions of our favorite recipient of military aid, Israel, noting that their “commitment to peace and justice” compelled them to promise to fully support the savage ethnic cleansing frenzy that IDF forces were daily raining on UN compounds, hospitals and schools.

The signatories of the children bombing support letter made clear their moral obligation to “stand firm against ideologies of hatred and genocide which are reflected in Hamas’ charter.” Absent from the statement of the concerned artists was any mention or recognition of the ideologies of hatred and genocide displayed over the course of Israel’s brutal and illegal 47 year occupation of Palestine.

190 letter-signing artists, movie moguls and movie makers, movie producers and movie stars (including Seth Rogen), all of whom are denizens of America’s dangerously libertine “left coast”, pledged to “join together in support of the democratic values we all cherish and in the hope that the healing and transformative power of the arts can be used to build bridges of peace”.

“The healing and transformative power of the arts to build bridges of peace.”

The Grand Illusion? The Dictator? Paths of Glory? Catch 22? The Deer Hunter?…M*A*S*H?

In mid-December the Daily Beast reported that among the stolen Sony corporation internal emails released by hackers were communications that revealed that “at least two U.S. government officials screened a rough cut of the Kim Jong-Un assassination comedy The Interview in late June and gave the film—including a final scene that sees the dictator’s head explode—their blessing.”

The emails between Sony CEO Michael Lynton, Sony corporate officials and a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation who Sony had hired to consult on Rogen’s film named Bruce Bennett revealed some pre-release discomfort at Sony regarding the gruesome ending of the film where the Kim Jong-Un character’s head melts and explodes as a consequence of an American directed act of political assassination- filmed in slow motion and accompanied by Katy Perry’s song “Firework”. But the cache of mails also included an assessment by Bennett that reveals he believes “that a story that talks about the removal of the Kim family regime and the creation of a new government by the North Korean people (well, at least the elites) will start some real thinking in South Korea and, I believe, in the North once the DVD leaks into the North (which it almost certainly will). So from a personal perspective, I would personally prefer to leave the ending alone.”

According to reports, Lynton responded to Bennett’s geo-strategic movie review on the same day stating that he, “spoke to someone very senior in State (confidentially), and he agreed with everything you have been saying. Everything.”

The hacked mails further revealed that the movie’s writer, director and lead actor Seth Rogen was also aggressive in his push for including the grisly murder scene to end the film, eventually agreeing with Sony, however, to back down a bit;

“We will make it less gory. There are currently four burn marks on his face. We will take out three of them, leaving only one. We reduce the flaming hair by 50 percent…The head explosion can’t be more obscured than it is because we honestly feel that if it’s any more obscured you won’t be able to tell it’s exploding and the joke won’t work. Do you think this will help? Is it enough?”

The US State Department confirmed after the revelations of the internal Sony emails that Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel Russell, had conferred with Sony executives about the film, and the email threads themselves revealed that Sony hired consultants also worked with the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human-rights issues, Robert King, in the development of The Interview.

“The healing and transformative power of the arts to build bridges of peace.”

The Hurt Locker? Zero Dark Thirty?

The Oscar winning film makers who wrote and directed the American military glorifying film called The Hurt Locker came under criticism prior to the release of their follow-up jingoist film about the killing of Osama bin Laden called Zero Dark Thirty (originally given the working title of For God and Country) for receiving exclusive and perhaps disallowed access to CIA information and insiders as they filmed. The activist conservative group Judicial Watch charged before the release of Zero Dark Thirty that the CIA improperly supported the film’s writers and director Katherine Bigelow and Mark Boal.

Although the group’s allegations, that sensitive and restricted government information was passed to the film makers by the CIA in an effort to burnish the president’s image as a tough and decisive commander in chief in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, were viewed widely by critics as no more than a political attack by the conservative organization, the film’s depiction that US torture was indispensable in revealing information that helped US military operatives assassinate bin Laden helped propagate the popular notion in America that torture is not fundamentally immoral and is rather an awesome tool to get terrorist evil-doers and also served to foster the agenda of self-exculpating CIA torturers.

In a profile of Boal from 2013, the Nation reported that internal CIA emails demonstrate that the agency understood the public relations value of Zero Dark Thirty’s depiction of the assassination of bin Laden and the US military’s reliance on the war crime of torture as it protects the homeland;

“A CIA flack promised colleagues that Boal had “agreed to share scripts and details about the movie with us so we’re absolutely comfortable with what he will be showing.” Another e-mail said that “for the intelligence case, they are basically using the WH-approved talking points we used the night of the operation.” The talking points called the raid “a ‘Gutsy Decision’ by the POTUS,” adding that “WH involvement was critical.” The CIA explained its rationale for cooperating with the filmmakers: “Our goal is an accurate portrayal of the men and women of the CIA, their vital mission, and the commitment to public service that defines them.”

A poll conducted recently by the Washington Post found that 59 percent of all Americans support the US military’s use of torture.

“The healing and transformative power of the arts to build bridges of peace.”

The State Department vetted The Interview hit theater screens on Christmas day (after some hedging by Sony after the group that claims to have hacked into Sony’s companywide computer system made threats of harming movie goers and bombing movie theaters) attracting sell out audiences across America.

Many who bought tickets to the film on its opening day (some decked out in red, white and blue outfits), told reporters that they felt it was a patriotic obligation to see The Interview.

A movie goer in Nashville, TN told the local press, “I’m here to support artistic freedom. I’m a drummer, and art is what we do here in Nashville.” Another ticket buyer opined, “They (the North Koreans) think they can change how we live our lives, but we can’t let that happen, I have grandchildren now, and we have to set an example for them to hold on to the things that are so special to us.” Another Tennessean confided, “I’m here to stick it to the man. For real.”

A cinema fan from Lubbock, TX advised, “The movie was certainly a little graphic and the humor was a little crude but I think that’s one of the great things about America, is the freedom of speech. It’s really important that we not allow other nations and dictators like that try to dictate what we put out. I’m really happy that it finally did get put out.” Another audience member in Texas, calling on other citizens to see The Interview, reflected, “Sometimes freedom isn’t really pretty or perfect but it’s a wonderful thing and one of the things that makes this nation great.”

Movie patrons in Austin, TX participated in a sing-along of country music artist Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA (Proud To Be An American)” before the screening of The Interview and in Atlanta, GA audience members stood to sing an impromptu version of “God Bless America” before the film credits rolled.

“Our goal is an accurate portrayal of the men and women of the CIA, their vital mission, and the commitment to public service that defines them.”

It can’t happen Here?

cross posted at the demise

Boxing Day

By: ek hornbeck Friday December 26, 2014 3:50 pm

Boxing Day.

On the day after Christmas…

  • In feudal times the lord of the manor would give boxes of practical goods such as cloth, grains, and tools to the serfs who lived on his land.
  • Many years ago on the day after Christmas servants would carry boxes to their employers when they arrived for their day’s work. Their employers would then put coins in the boxes as special end-of-year gifts.
  • In churches, it was traditional to open the church’s donation box on Christmas Day and distribute it to the poorer or lower class citizens on the next day.

Take your pick.

In the world of retail Boxing Day is the day everyone brings back all the crap they got for gifts that they didn’t want or is the wrong size or the wrong color or that they shoplifted and now want full retail for instead of the 10% that the local fence will give them.

Now fortunately for me I never had to work the counter during this period of long lines and testy, hung over sales people and managers dealing with irate customers who think that making their sob story more pitiful than the last one will get them any treatment more special than what everyone gets.

  1. Is it all there?
  2. Is it undamaged?
  3. Did you buy it here?

Bingo, have some store credit. Go nuts. Have a nice day.

What makes it especially crappy for the clerks is that you don’t normally get a lot of practice with the return procedures because your manager will handle it since it’s easier than training you. Now you have 20 in a row and the first 7 or 8 are slow until you get the hang of things.

As a customer I have to warn you, this is not a swap meet. If they didn’t have a blue size 6 on Christmas Eve, they don’t have it now either EVEN IF THE CUSTOMER RIGHT AHEAD OF YOU IN LINE JUST RETURNED A SIZE 6 IN BLUE!

It has to go back to the warehouse for processing and re-packaging. Really.

So if you braved the surly stares today you have my admiration for your tenacity. If you waited for the rush to pass my respect for your brilliance.

But don’t wait too long. It all has to be out of the store before February inventory so it doesn’t have to be counted.

Cross Posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette and DocuDharma