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Archive for May 2006

wants to be free

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A terrific passage from Alan Liu’s The Laws of Cool:

Now, perhaps, we can understand the true meaning of the emancipation proclamation of the information age first uttered in 1984 by Stewart Brand, publisher of The Whole Earth Catalog: “information wants tot be free.” In the era of the Whole Earth Corporation, “information wants to be free” is ultimately how we are no longer allowed to say “we” want to be free. “We,” the subject and class of information culture, come fully to know our world only in the blinding moment of illumination when the world network routes around our knowledge – that is, the us in our knowledge that Fukuyama (in the other half of his thesis) terms “the struggle for recognition” and Castells (in the second volume of his Information Age trilogy) calls “the power of identity.” We do not even need the hyperbole of cyberpunk science fiction, with its unerring instinct for the mutilation of subjects (e.g., the silicon-punctured bodies and flat-lined subjectivities of Gibson’s Neuromancer), to grasp the intensity of our loss – nor the uncanny double of that intensity, the blurred anomie of it all. “X” marks the spot where the whole generation of incipient knowledge workers in the United States suceeding the baby boomers – the generation caught in the “pipeline” from education to the corporation – has been deleted from the network. Indeed, we may speculate that the purely generational identity of “Gen X” (and now “Gen Y” after them) looms large at this moment precisely because it is an empty solidarity reflecting – as if in cyberpunk “mirrorshades” – the hollow form of the corporate world’s own generational identity as “workforce 2000.” “We” are no more than this transient moment when we have nothing more in common – as Jean-Luc Nancy might say in his Inoperative Community – than our finitude, our extinction, our “death.” (69)

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May 22, 2006 at 11:43 pm


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Matt Christie’s got an excellent post up over at Long Sunday about an excellent piece in n+1 by Mark Grief. Go check it out. From Grief:

It’s finally become possible to take a better view: not unlimited laissez-faire hubris, and not irrational machine-breaking either. In a country where some portions of development have gone further than anybody would like, because of everyone’s discrete private actions (as in the liquidation of landscape and the lower atmosphere)–while other portions, as in medical insurance and preventive care, have not gone far enough–then intentional de-development might be the best thing that can occur. The eradication of diseases is not something you would like to see end; nor would you want to lose the food supply, transportation, and good order of the law and defense. On the other hand, more cell phones and wireless, an expanded total entertainment environment, more computerization for consumer tracking, greater concentrations of capital and better exploitation of “inefficiencies” in the trading of securities, the final throes of extraction and gas-guzzling and –to hell with it. I’d rather live in a more equal world at a slower pace.

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May 22, 2006 at 12:58 am

Posted in simplicity, socialism

democracy and democratic solutions

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CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday that Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone was planning to film a movie about the 2002 coup in Venezuela that briefly ousted the former army officer.

Just to review, from the NYT, April 17, 2002:

Administration officials vigorously denied today that they had encouraged plotters or had any advance knowledge of plans to oust Mr. Chávez, a populist leader whose leftist policies have long antagonized the United States.

But Mr. Reich’s advice to Mr. Carmona on the very day that military officers took Mr. Chávez into custody at an army base suggests an early and urgent administration interest in seeing Mr. Carmona succeed and maintain the appearance of democratic continuity. It was not clear what time Mr. Reich placed his call on Friday.

Administration officials notified members of Congress on Friday that Mr. Chávez had resigned. The report was erroneous, and he insists that he never relinquished his office. The United States did not condemn the action against Mr. Chávez, a democratically elected leader, until Saturday evening after angry protesters forced Mr. Carmona to resign.

Asked to explain the discrepancy, administration officials have said they were acting on the best information they had during a chaotic situation.

”Those events were not anticipated,” Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said today. ”And once those events took place, the United States did move to condemn it.”

Mr. Carmona, who heads Venezuela’s largest business association, was one of numerous critics of Mr. Chavez to call on administration officials in recent weeks. Officials from the White House, State Department and Pentagon, among others, were hosts to a stream of Chávez opponents, some of them seeking help in removing him from office.

Administration officials insisted today that, despite their disdain for Mr. Chávez, they categorically ruled out an ouster during their conversations with his opponents. But American officials did discuss replacing Mr. Chávez through a referendum or by impeachment, and did not disguise their eagerness to see him gone, officials acknowledged.

”The United States policy is to support democracy and democratic solutions to any type of problems in nations around the world,” Mr. Fleischer said. He added, ”We explicitly told opposition leaders that the United States would not support a coup.”

Oh, and go check out a nice report from Chavez’s recent visit to England.

How enjoyable to escape from the careful political tacking carried on year in and year out by parties dancing around each other in a bloodless political dance devoid of passion and ideology. Whatever one’s political views, it was a shot in the arm to hear a political leader having no difficulty in condemning capitalism and condemning the United States government in terms which no European politician would ever dare to use in public. And in recommending “socialism of the twenty-first century” as part of green platform of care for the environment and of husbanding the earth’s resources for the benefit of future generations.

(Lots of this material via Wolcott…)

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May 21, 2006 at 10:52 pm

Posted in america, socialism


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Always exciting to see Verso’s new list come out.

The ones I’m most interested in, roughly in order of my interest:

Frederic Jameson, The Modernist Papers

Fredric Jameson, one of America’s finest cultural critics, offers his dynamic insight into modernist literature and art. A companion to the classic A Singular Modernity, this stunning tour de force looks at the innovative literary experiments of Joyce and Proust, the poetry of Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams and Gertrude Stein and the writing of Kafka, Mann and Mallarmé, to provide a distinct perspective on the culture of new beginnings and avant-garde endeavors.

Raymond Williams, The Politics of Modernism: Against the New Conformists

Considered to be the founding father of British cultural theory, Williams was concerned throughout his life to apply a materialist and socialist analysis to all forms of culture, defined generously and inclusively as “structures of feeling.” In this major work, Williams applies himself to the problem of modernism. Rejecting stereotypes and simplifications, he is especially preoccupied with the ambivalent relationship between revolutionary socialist politics and the artistic avant-garde. Judiciously assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the modernist project, Williams shifts the framework of discussion from merely formal analysis of artistic techniques to one which grounds these cultural expressions in particular social formations. Animating the whole book is the question which Williams poses and brings us significantly closer to answering: namely, what does it mean to develop a cultural analysis that goes ”beyond the modern” and yet avoids the trap of postmodernism’s “new conformism”?

Raphael Samuel, The Lost World of British Communism

The Lost World of British Communism is a vivid account of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Raphael Samuel, one of post-war Britain’s most notable historians, draws on novels of the period and childhood recollections of London’s East End, as well as memoirs and Party archives. He evokes the world of British Communism in the 1940s, when the movement was at the height of its political and theoretical power, and raises prophetic questions about socialist motivation, collective identity, and historicizing the Communist past

Mao Zedong / Slavoj Zizek, On Practice and Contradiction

These early philosophical writings underpinned the Chinese revolutions and their clarion calls to insurrection remain some of the most stirring of all time. Drawing on a dizzying array of references from contemporary culture and politics, Zizek’s firecracker commentary reaches unsettling conclusions about the place of Mao’s thought in the revolutionary canon.

“Communism is not love. Communism is a hammer, which we use to crush the enemy.” — Mao Zedong

Boaventura De Sousa Santos,Another Knowledge is Possible

This is the third volume of the series Reinventing Social Emancipation: Towards New Manifestoes series. Another Knowledge Is Possible explores the struggles against moral and cultural imperialism and neoliberal globalization that have taken place over the past few decades, and the alternatives that have emerged in countries throughout the developing world from Brazil and Colombia, to India, South Africa and Mozambique. In particular it looks at the issue of biodiversity, the confrontation between scientific and non-scientific knowledges, and the increasing difficulty experienced by great numbers of people in accessing information and scientific-technological knowledge.

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May 21, 2006 at 1:18 am

Posted in socialism


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The list of reasons to be proud to be an American shrinks by the minute.

The list, it’s getting awfully short…

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May 19, 2006 at 2:24 am

Posted in america


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Owen Hatherley, at The Measures Taken (one of the best blogs going, btw), on just what’s so disturbing about the Victoria & Albert Museum’s new exhibition, Modernism: Designing a New World 1914-1939.

Rather, what disturbs here is what Jenkins, quite rightly, calls politics in the guise of art. One scribbled comment in the book asks why the connection between modernism and Nazism wasn’t emphasised (well, that would be because there wasn’t one), others use phrases like ‘cold’ or ‘brutal’…what the detractors have noticed is that much of this essentially comes from, or supports, the possibility of a system other than the one we are perpetually told is the only possible. Whether it’s the photos of militant stronghold siedlung Karl-Marx-Hof in Vienna, a huge model of the Vesnin’s Pravda building, Rodchenko’s oddly alluring workers’ overalls, Corbusier taking a pen and scribbling out the centre of Paris…there are hundreds of possibilities dotted around these Victorian corners.

UPDATE: And today there’s more, complete with a very provocative quotation from Stalin:

“The combination of the Russian revolutionary sweep with American efficency is the essence of Leninism in Party and state work.”

Joseph Stalin, Foundations of Leninism, 1924

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May 17, 2006 at 9:04 pm


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Normally I’d feel a bit bad about stealing a post whole hog from another blog, but this one needs to be stolen I think. From an interview with Greg Palast on Democracy Now via Le Colonel Chabert.

GREG PALAST: Yeah, that’s why I wrote a book, because it does link the whole thing together. I mean, I just got back from meeting with Chavez, as you know, and you showed our interview a few weeks ago. He’s offered the U.S. $50-a-barrel oil. That’s a third off of what we’re paying right now. Now, you would think our president would be down in Caracas kissing Hugo Chavez’s behind and saying, “Thank you, thank you for dropping the price of oil by a third, and let’s make a deal,” because Chavez wants a deal.

But he’s not doing that, our president, even though the high prices are costing about a million jobs right now. And the reason he’s not is that what Chavez will not do is that Chavez will not return the money. It’s not about petroleum, it’s about petrodollars, as I explain in the book. In other words, when George Bush rides around King Abdullah in his little golf cart on the Crawford ranch, he’s not trying to get Abdullah’s oil. Abdullah can’t drink the stuff. He’s got to sell it to us and Japan. But Abdullah takes the money back from the — when you fill up your SUV, you give your money to Saudi Arabia, the big oil companies, Saudi Arabia. But then he returns it the form of petrodollars, and that is what is funding George Bush’s mad spending spree.

We have a president who has racked up $2 trillion in extra debt, you know, stone sober, apparently. And someone’s got to pay for that. And basically we’re paying for it by effectively an oil tax, which is returned to us, because the Gulf states and our other trading partners are now buying up $2 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds and debt. So, in other words, they’re recycling the money back and paying for George Bush’s spending spree on ending inheritance taxes, you know, several wars, etc.

Now, Hugo Chavez says, “I’ll give you cheap oil, not only to the poor, but to everyone. But I’m not giving you back the money. That money is going to stay in Latin America to build our nations.” And he just withdrew $20 billion out of the U.S. Federal Reserve. You have to understand, this is a punch in the face of the U.S. administration, far more than withholding oil, withholding and withdrawing petrodollars, as I explain in the book, and that’s why you have that little nice floater from — balloon thrown out by Reverend Robertson, Pat Robertson, saying “Hugo Chavez thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, and I think we ought to just go and do it,” because they have got to get that — it’s not that they need that oil, they need that oil money. And if they can’t get it, they have to eliminate Hugo Chavez.

AMY GOODMAN: Is the war in Iraq a war for oil?

GREG PALAST: Is the war in Iraq for oil? Yes, it’s about the oil, but not for the oil. In my investigations for Armed Madhouse, I ended up with a story far more fascinating and difficult than I imagined. We didn’t go in to grab the oil. Just the opposite. We went in to control the oil and make sure we didn’t get it. It goes back to 1920, when the oil companies sat in a room in Brussels in a hotel room, drew a red line around Iraq and said, “There’ll be no oil coming out of that nation.” They have to suppress oil coming out of Iraq. Otherwise, the price of oil will collapse, and OPEC and Saudi Arabia will collapse.

And so, what I found, what I discovered that they’re very unhappy about is a 323-page plan, which was written by big oil, which is the secret but official plan of the United States for Iraq’s oil, written by the big oil companies out of the James Baker Institute in coordination with a secret committee of the Council on Foreign Relations. I know it sounds very conspiratorial, but this is exactly how they do it. It’s quite wild. And it’s all about a plan to control Iraq’s oil and make sure that Iraq has a system, which, quote, “enhances its relationship with OPEC.” In other words, the whole idea is to maintain the power of OPEC, which means maintain the power of Saudi Arabia.

And this is one of the reasons they absolutely hate Hugo Chavez. As you’ll see in next week’s Harper’s coming out, which is basically an excerpt from the book, Hugo Chavez on June 1st is going to ask OPEC to officially recognize that he has more oil than Saudi Arabia. This is a geopolitical earthquake. And the inside documents from the U.S. Department of Energy, which we have in the book and in Harper’s, say, yeah, he’s got more oil than Saudi Arabia.

AMY GOODMAN: And is it accessible?

GREG PALAST: That’s the trick. It’s accessible, but the price of oil — it’s heavy oil, which means it costs about — you need oil to be about $30 a barrel, less than half of what it is now. Chavez says, “Cut a deal with me. Oil will never drop below a minimum price, but we’ll get off this insane world-destroying $75 a barrel. I’ll give you cheap oil, but you just put a floor under it.” He shook hands with Bill Clinton on the deal. And Bush came in and spit on his hand, to say the least. He had the guy kidnapped back in 2002. Bush does not — you have to remember, he doesn’t like cheap oil. When we talk about paying $3-a-gallon gasoline, Bush’s benefactors, donors and his own family collects the $3 a gallon.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

GREG PALAST: Well, we’re paying three bucks a gallon. ExxonMobil is collecting $3 a gallon. There’s a chapter called “Trillion-Dollar Babies.” When Bush came in, we had oil as low as $18 a barrel. It was like water. Bush has successfully built up the price of oil from 18 bucks a barrel to over $70 a barrel. That’s the “mission accomplished.” He didn’t make a mistake here. That’s the “mission accomplished.”

ExxonMobil, which after Enron is the biggest lifetime donor to the Bush campaigns, its value of its reserves, of its oil reserves, because of the Bush wars and Bush actions, has gone up by almost exactly $1 trillion in value. Just one company. A trillion-dollar windfall to a single company. That’s the Bush benefactors. And you have to look at where’s Bush make his money.

Go read the whole thing.

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May 16, 2006 at 10:39 pm