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10 March 2007

Help Kucinich Raise $50m in Small Donations

Let's face it: Kucinich is the only candidate who has even the slightest chance of making the changes necessary to restore the Republic. I hear lots of potential supporters mouth Conventional Wisdom and say, "Oh, he's great, but he has no chance."

Oh, no, you mean the
New York Times doesn't like him? Do not be sheep or you'll be shorn.

I just gave $50; why don't you? Money talks in this country -- give enough and he'll at minimum ask the necessary questions and raise the necessary issues that neither Obama nor (god forbid) Hillary will bother to raise. And he could win: who the fuck was Clinton in 1991? The guy who made the worst speech ever at the '88 convention; governor of some tiny state? C'mon. Who was Dean in 2001? And so on.

Difference is: Kucinich has the best chance of not being coopted like Clinton and Dean. No guarantees, but he's the real deal -- as real as we're gonna get. Give money; shift the debate!


Contribute to electing a president with "no strings attached", no ties to corporations - Dennis Kucinich. For 40 years, Kucinich has only been bound to the best interests of the American people. So, he has unique plans for Peace & Prosperity:

• Only Kucinich has a plan for Peace and Security that can be implemented today. [Read it here.]

His plan for Healthcare will provide affordable Healthcare to all because only Kucinich proposes cutting out the fat, the middlemen - the insurance companies. [Read it here.]

• Kucinich is the only candidate that has a plan to create more jobs in the U.S. because he is seeking to protect the rights of American workers.

Help raise $50 million. Be a part of electing a president with "no strings attached" - Dennis Kucinich.

kucinich.us - 877-41-DENNIS (877-413-3664)

In Debt We Trust

Atlantic Free Press - Hard Truths for Hard Times - Subpoena Dick Cheney

A good list of all the reasons why, as if they were needed, as well as pithy and accurate retorts to all the rodentian fears about impeachment.

09 March 2007

John Entwhistle Is God

"Activism, Anarchism, and Power," 3/22/02

Noam Chomsky on "Conversations with History."

Chomsky in Ireland, 2/06

Is Israel Falling Apart?

A good question, and it won't be pretty if it is.

Another excellent, not all-too-unrelated article, by the excellent Chris Floyd.

Fascism. Jews are not immune, here, in England, or anywhere. Why? Because they are just as human as anyone else. We are all capable of terrible things. That's what "not being anti-Semitic" actually means: you judge people by their words and actions, not by their group characteristics.

Thank god many other people, Jews and otherwise, are fighting the rising fascist tide. I only hope it's enough.

Independent Online Edition > Middle East > Olmert 'planned Lebanon war before soldiers' kidnap'

File this under, "No shit."

The Ha'aretz article mentioned above.

Of course, the war was on, waiting only for an "excuse." This is how much "leaders" care about their people -- let alone their soldiers.

SouthCoastToday.com - News - Immigration Raid in New Bedford

Local paper's coverage of this inhumane, ICE-cold raid (coincidentally, just prior to immigration debates in the Congress).

This page will update day-by-day. It's mostly on-the-money and sympathetic to the undocumented workers. Who couldn't be? Don't answer that.

To help go here or here. Since mothers have been separated from their babies, what's most needed is baby products: diapers, formula, and so on. Canned or "pantry" foods are also desperately needed.

"A predator becomes more dangerous when wounded," Noam Chomsky

Washington's escalation of threats against Iran is driven by a determination to secure control of the region's energy resources

Noam Chomsky
Friday March 9, 2007
The Guardian

In the energy-rich Middle East, only two countries have failed to subordinate themselves to Washington's basic demands: Iran and Syria. Accordingly both are enemies, Iran by far the more important. As was the norm during the cold war, resort to violence is regularly justified as a reaction to the malign influence of the main enemy, often on the flimsiest of pretexts.

Unsurprisingly, as Bush sends more troops to Iraq, tales surface of Iranian interference in the internal affairs of Iraq - a country otherwise free from any foreign interference - on the tacit assumption that Washington rules the world.

In the cold war-like mentality in Washington, Tehran is portrayed as the pinnacle in the so-called Shia crescent that stretches from Iran to Hizbullah in Lebanon, through Shia southern Iraq and Syria. And again unsurprisingly, the "surge" in Iraq and escalation of threats and accusations against Iran is accompanied by grudging willingness to attend a conference of regional powers, with the agenda limited to Iraq.

Presumably this minimal gesture toward diplomacy is intended to allay the growing fears and anger elicited by Washington's heightened aggressiveness. These concerns are given new substance in a detailed study of "the Iraq effect" by terrorism experts Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, revealing that the Iraq war "has increased terrorism sevenfold worldwide". An "Iran effect" could be even more severe.

For the US, the primary issue in the Middle East has been, and remains, effective control of its unparalleled energy resources. Access is a secondary matter. Once the oil is on the seas it goes anywhere. Control is understood to be an instrument of global dominance. Iranian influence in the "crescent" challenges US control. By an accident of geography, the world's major oil resources are in largely Shia areas of the Middle East: southern Iraq, adjacent regions of Saudi Arabia and Iran, with some of the major reserves of natural gas as well. Washington's worst nightmare would be a loose Shia alliance controlling most of the world's oil and independent of the US.

Such a bloc, if it emerges, might even join the Asian Energy Security Grid based in China. Iran could be a lynchpin. If the Bush planners bring that about, they will have seriously undermined the US position of power in the world.

To Washington, Tehran's principal offence has been its defiance, going back to the overthrow of the Shah in 1979 and the hostage crisis at the US embassy. In retribution, Washington turned to support Saddam Hussein's aggression against Iran, which left hundreds of thousands dead. Then came murderous sanctions and, under Bush, rejection of Iranian diplomatic efforts.

Last July, Israel invaded Lebanon, the fifth invasion since 1978. As before, US support was a critical factor, the pretexts quickly collapse on inspection, and the consequences for the people of Lebanon are severe. Among the reasons for the US-Israel invasion is that Hizbullah's rockets could be a deterrent to a US-Israeli attack on Iran. Despite the sabre-rattling it is, I suspect, unlikely that the Bush administration will attack Iran. Public opinion in the US and around the world is overwhelmingly opposed. It appears that the US military and intelligence community is also opposed. Iran cannot defend itself against US attack, but it can respond in other ways, among them by inciting even more havoc in Iraq. Some issue warnings that are far more grave, among them the British military historian Corelli Barnett, who writes that "an attack on Iran would effectively launch world war three".

Then again, a predator becomes even more dangerous, and less predictable, when wounded. In desperation to salvage something, the administration might risk even greater disasters. The Bush administration has created an unimaginable catastrophe in Iraq. It has been unable to establish a reliable client state within, and cannot withdraw without facing the possible loss of control of the Middle East's energy resources.

Meanwhile Washington may be seeking to destabilise Iran from within. The ethnic mix in Iran is complex; much of the population isn't Persian. There are secessionist tendencies and it is likely that Washington is trying to stir them up - in Khuzestan on the Gulf, for example, where Iran's oil is concentrated, a region that is largely Arab, not Persian.

Threat escalation also serves to pressure others to join US efforts to strangle Iran economically, with predictable success in Europe. Another predictable consequence, presumably intended, is to induce the Iranian leadership to be as repressive as possible, fomenting disorder while undermining reformers.

It is also necessary to demonise the leadership. In the west, any wild statement by President Ahmadinejad is circulated in headlines, dubiously translated. But Ahmadinejad has no control over foreign policy, which is in the hands of his superior, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The US media tend to ignore Khamenei's statements, especially if they are conciliatory. It's widely reported when Ahmadinejad says Israel shouldn't exist - but there is silence when Khamenei says that Iran supports the Arab League position on Israel-Palestine, calling for normalisation of relations with Israel if it accepts the international consensus of a two-state settlement.

The US invasion of Iraq virtually instructed Iran to develop a nuclear deterrent. The message was that the US attacks at will, as long as the target is defenceless. Now Iran is ringed by US forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey and the Persian Gulf, and close by are nuclear-armed Pakistan and Israel, the regional superpower, thanks to US support.

In 2003, Iran offered negotiations on all outstanding issues, including nuclear policies and Israel-Palestine relations. Washington's response was to censure the Swiss diplomat who brought the offer. The following year, the EU and Iran reached an agreement that Iran would suspend enriching uranium; in return the EU would provide "firm guarantees on security issues" - code for US-Israeli threats to bomb Iran.

Apparently under US pressure, Europe did not live up to the bargain. Iran then resumed uranium enrichment. A genuine interest in preventing the development of nuclear weapons in Iran would lead Washington to implement the EU bargain, agree to meaningful negotiations and join with others to move toward integrating Iran into the international economic system.

© Noam Chomsky, New York Times Syndicate

· Noam Chomsky is co-author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East and US Foreign Policy

08 March 2007

B'Tselem - Human Shields - 8 March 07: Israeli soldiers use two Palestinian minors as human shields

Of course, this Israeli human-rights organization is anti-Semitic, self-hating, and anti-Israel. By definition.

What I've Learned About U.S. Foreign Policy:The War Against the Third World

CIA covert operations and US military interventions since World War II. A video compilation of footage and speeches recorded in the 1980s and 1990s. What you didn't learn in school and don't hear on the mainstream media. Featuring:
  • a speech by Martin Luther King junior,
  • a speech by John Stockwell,
  • "Coverup: Behind the Iran Contra Affair",
  • "School of Assassins",
  • "Genocide by Sanctions" (about Iraq),
  • a speech by Philip Agee,
  • a speech by Amy Goodman about the genocide and ethnic cleansing in East Timor,
  • "The Panama Deception",
  • a speech by Ramsey Clark, and
  • a speech by S. Brian Willson.

A Barack-star no more

Some sense, as the Democrats, the "opposition party," gets set to pound Iran with sanctions, trumping the Security Council, and, yes, even the Bush administration.

Some "opposition, anti-war party." Of course, the Demz were more than happy to kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in the '90s with sanctions; why not do it again?

"Rudy & McCain Grow Hymens," by Tom Gilroy

A world-class, dead-on rant that upholds the deep connection between accurate use of language that accurately describes reality and democracy of any kind.

The death of realism is the birth of totalitarianism, as Orwell laid out for us 60 years ago. Ya'd think we'd've learned by now, no?

No, I don't, either.

What Did Israel Know in Advance of the 9/11 Attacks? High-Fivers and Art Student Spies

Before you go bonkers, this story was broken by The Forward, since removed, apparently, but you can read the original here. (Every non-Forward site gives the same URL for this original story.)

More on this story here. Also published in Counterpunch, with some supplementary articles. Recent coverage on Democracy Now.

07 March 2007

The Conservative Nanny State

Subtitle: "How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer"

By Dean Baker; free, complete e-book (PDF or HTML).

Save a tree and learn sumthin'.

Update: Dig this great article on the Plunge Protection Team and its likely intervention into the pure market (sic) to hold the bear at bay. It's a lotta bull, if you'll forgive a second awful pun.

"Before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment."

Chuck Hagel on Bush, from Esquire.

"WPost's Editorial Fantasyland," by Robert Parry

Absolutely right on the money.

Donald Graham is no Katherine Graham, I can tell you that. He's turning the meat grinder (for those of you who know the reference to a feature of Katie Graham's anatomy that was metaphorically threatened by the Nixon White House).

Could the fact that The Washington Post Company also owns Kaplan, which is, reportedly, the largest piece of that company's revenue pie (if not profit pie), and which has skyrocketed in the wake of NCLB, have anything to do with this?

Chomsky | Kicking Away The Ladder: Corporate Economics vs Democracy

12/01/06; 10 minutes per part.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6:

Part 7 (Q&A from here on...):

Part 8:

Part 9:

What Is the Only (Military) Radiological Threat Against Americans That Has Come to Pass?

Depleted uranium dust, created by us. This is how our admin "supports the troops."


"When Does Opposition to Israel or the Israel Lobby Indicate Anti-Semitism?," by Walter C. Uhler

Some info on the author.

06 March 2007

Last Sunday: Liberal icons and the problem of bipartisan empire-building, By Robert Jensen

[This hits the nail on the head. The Democrats will not save us unless we force them to.]

In a political culture defined by a centrist-to-reactionary political spectrum, Paul Wellstone was a breath of fresh air when he brought his progressive politics to the U.S. Senate in 1991. His death in 2002 robbed the country of a humane voice on the national political stage.

I lived for a time in Minnesota and followed Wellstone's career closely. The last time I saw him speak was December 1998 when I was part of a peace group that conducted a sit-in at his office to protest his support for a U.S. attack on Iraq and force a meeting to challenge the former anti-war activist's hawkish turn. Yes, that's right -- a group sat in at Wellstone's St. Paul office when he supported Bill Clinton's illegal 1998 cruise missile attack on Iraq, which was the culmination of a brutal and belligerent U.S. policy during that Democratic administration.

It might seem odd to recall such a small part of contemporary history when the United States is mired in a full-scale occupation of Iraq, but there's an important lesson in this little bit of history -- one that's is often difficult for many liberals and Democrats to face:

Illegal and immoral U.S. aggression is, and always has been, a bipartisan affair. Democrats and liberals are responsible for their share of the death, destruction, and misery caused by U.S. empire-building along with Republicans and conservatives. I mention the Wellstone incident not to suggest he and George W. Bush are equally culpable, but to make the point that even politicians with Wellstone's progressive politics can be twisted by the pathology of power and privilege.

Precisely because we face such crucial policy choices in Iraq, the Middle East, and the world, we must remember that while W. and the neocons are a problem, they are not the problem. Sweep this particular gang of thugs and thieves out of office, and … what? A kindler-and-gentler imperial policy designed by Democrats is still an imperial policy, and imperial policies always have the same result: The suffering of millions -- others that are too often invisible to us -- in support of policies that protect the affluence of … us.

Name a politician at the national level today who has even come close to acknowledging that painful reality. Go ahead, think about it for a minute -- I can wait.

I'm reminded of a meeting that a group of Austin activists had with our congressman, liberal Democrat Lloyd Doggett, as part of a national grassroots organizing effort in the late 1990s to end the punishing embargo on Iraq that the Clinton administration imposed for eight long years. Those economic sanctions were killing an estimated 5,000 Iraqi children a month, and it's likely that as many as a million people died during the Clinton years as a result of this aspect of the U.S. policy of dominating the politics of the region. We asked Doggett -- who had courageously spoken out against U.S. aggression in the past -- to challenge this policy of his Democratic leadership, which he declined to do. One of us mentioned our opposition to this in the context of a larger critique of U.S. empire. Doggett's response: "That was never my analysis."

In other words, even though the United States has been pursuing imperial policies since it was founded -- first on the continent it eventually conquered and later around the world -- that wasn't his analysis. In other words, his analysis was apparently to deny the reality of how the United States became the most powerful nation-state in the history of the world. In other words, his analysis required obscuring difficult truths, which might be called a … I'll leave that sentence for you to complete.

Again, my purpose in pointing this out is not to suggest that there is no difference in the policies of Doggett and Bush, but rather to point out the disease at the heart of conventional politics in the United States: The willingness to lie about the history and contemporary policies that have made us the most affluent society in the history of the world.

The political elites of the United States of America are united in their acceptance of these historical fabrications and contemporary obfuscations. Whatever their particular policy proposals, they all lie about the nature of the system that has produced U.S. power and affluence. They all invoke mythical notions of the fundamental decency of the United States. And because of that, they all are part of the problem.

Here's a gentle corrective: People can be decent, and many in the United States -- just as everywhere in the world -- are incredibly decent, but no imperial nation-state has ever had any fundamental decency. The rich First World nations of this world got rich through violence and theft. That doesn't mean there's nothing positive about the U.S. system, but is simply a reminder that if we start with a lie, we end up telling lots of lies and doing lots of damage.

So, let's tell the truth, not only about our political opponents but about our alleged allies. Let's tell the truth about the so-called "human rights" president, Jimmy Carter, a man who has accomplished some good things since leaving office and lately has been brave in standing up to critics who denounce him for telling part of the truth about the Israel/Palestine conflict (the part that ignores his own contributions while in office to the entrenchment of Israeli power and control, and hence to contemporary policy failures).

But Jimmy Carter as president -- the person he was when he held power -- was a person who backed the brutal rule of the Shah of Iran and, after the Iranian people has overthrown that dictatorship, allowed the shah to come to the United States. Carter continued to support and arm the military dictatorship of Indonesia through the worst of the genocidal atrocities in its illegal occupation of East Timor. Not exactly human-rights kinds of policies.

Nor was a concern for human rights in evidence in Carter's policy toward El Salvador. By coincidence, yesterday (February 17) was the 27th anniversary of a letter that Archbishop Oscar Romero wrote to Carter, pleading with him to support human rights by ending U.S. funding and arms transfers to the authoritarian government of El Salvador. Romero wrote to Carter that "instead of favoring greater justice and peace in El Salvador, your government's contribution will undoubtedly sharpen the injustice and the repression inflicted on the organized people, whose struggle has often been for respect for their most basic human rights." Carter's response was to continue support for the brutal military dictatorship that put guns in the hands of death squads, including one that would assassinate Romero a month later.

And then there is the famous "Carter Doctrine" proclaimed in his 1980 State of the Union address, in which he made "absolutely clear" his position on the oil-rich region: "An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force."

In other words: Control over the flow of Middle East oil must remain in U.S. hands. Hmm, does that seem familiar? There was, of course, no outside force attempting to gain control of the region. But plenty of forces within the region -- then and now -- have wanted to break decades of U.S. domination, and those forces have been the real targets of the doctrine of Carter, and every other post-WWII president before and since. While the primary responsibility for the mess we have created in Iraq should be laid on the doorstep of Bush and the neocons, there's a lot of responsibility left to go around.

Let me be clear one more time: I am not saying that there is no difference between Paul Wellstone, Lloyd Doggett, Jimmy Carter on one hand, and George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell on the other. There is, and sometimes those differences make a difference.

But ask yourself: Are the victims of these bipartisan policies around the world likely to be so concerned about the differences? When Lloyd Doggett and many other Democrats in Congress were supporting Clinton's sanctions policy -- fully aware that children in Iraq were dying by the thousands due to a lack of clean water, medical supplies, and adequate nutrition -- should we have expected those children to be grateful that the Democrats had a better record on the minimum wage? When Jimmy Carter shipped weapons for death squads in El Salvador, should the campesinos murdered with those weapons have been grateful that Carter wasn't as reactionary as the Reagan gang that would come next?

Yes, Paul Wellstone was in many ways an inspirational progressive figure at a time of right-wing backlash, and he often was politically courageous. But if we ignore the ways that politicians -- even the best of them -- can come to accept the illusions of the powerful that so often lead to pathological delusions and disastrous policies, how can a peace-and-justice movement hope to hold power accountable?

I'm not arguing for a holier-than-thou purism on all doctrine at all times; we have to be strategic in offering support to politicians with whom we inevitably will have some disagreements. Instead, I'm arguing for an honest assessment of politicians, and of ourselves. If we are willing to excuse so quickly the pro-imperial policies of our so-called progressive leaders, might that be in part because we haven't broken with the imperial mindset ourselves?

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan crumble under the weight of this imperial madness, we owe it to the people there not only to critique the policies of the psychotically self-righteous madmen of the Bush administration, and not only to point out that the current Democratic leadership is too timid in its opposition to these wars. We owe it to Iraqis and Afghans -- and to all the people living in places that our empire targets -- to critique the allegedly more humane and liberal face of empire.

If we look in the mirror, whose face is that?

[Remarks to the fourth "Last Sunday" community gathering in Austin, TX, February 18, 2007.]

Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. His latest book is Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007). Jensen is also the author of The Heart of Whiteness: Race, Racism, and White Privilege and Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (both from City Lights Books); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang). He can be reached at rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu and his articles can be found online [here].

Obama Does Obeisance to AIPAC

A progressive antiwar candidate? A taste:

Obama: US should never dictate what's best for Israel

In speech delivered before AIPAC lobbyists in Chicago, US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama reveals strongly pro-Israel platform: US must preserve ‘total commitment to unique defense relationship with Israel’, work to stop Iran’s nuclear program even if military action is necessary

* * *

Obama stressed that “when Israel is attacked, we must stand up for Israel's legitimate right to defend itself.” To illustrate his point, the Illinois senator used the example of last summer’s war in Lebanon, and reiterated the United States’ commitment to press for the full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resoultion 1701. [And full implementation of UNR 242? Or the fact that Israel has completely flouted the ceasefire with nonstop flyovers of Lebanon? Or the fact that Israel has flouted UNSC and ICJ condemnation of the Wall? What a courageous fighter for justice!]

“In moments like these, true allies do not walk away. [Unless it's Lebanon, in which case, they're on their own.] For six years, the administration has missed opportunities to increase the United States' influence in the region and help Israel achieve the peace she wants and the security she needs. The time has come for us to seize those opportunities,” Obama noted.

* * *

“But in the end,” he added, “we also know that we should never seek to dictate what is best for the Israelis and their security interests. [Heaven forbid.] No Israeli prime minister should ever feel dragged to or blocked from the negotiating table by the United States.” [That is: you have a blank check.]
Full remarks available in here (PDF). Nothing about illegal settlements, 242, targeted assassinations, the starving of Gazans, and so on. Pure ipecac.

05 March 2007

Good Discussions of the True Nature of the Bush Junta

1. America on its Knees Before Tyranny, by Richard Mynick

On being the subjects of a military economy, by Matt Taibbi

Robert Fisk on Democracy Now!

RealPlayer linked above; other options here.

Looks Like We're Replacing Our H-Bombs...

Exactly the wrong thing to do.

Note the language of this article: are we all living in a fucking dreamworld, or what? More like a necropolis, under continual, apparently unstoppable construction. Yay! I can't wait for death to kindly stop for us!

Compare headline, "subtitle," and first half of article to the second half. What should have been the headline, in a sane world? Why didn't the obvious criticisms come first? Why is there a direct relationship between criticism of replacing our nukes with how far down the article such criticism appears? And who gives a flying fuck about a rivalry between Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore on nuclear-weapons design? Why don't the Congressional Demz and the reporter note that the test-ban treaty is essentially moribund (obviously)?

Yes, these are all rhetorical questions.

We ought to engrave this article on a plaque and shoot it into space, just in case anyone out there would like to know why we're no longer around.

Could Congress End the War? If So, How?

Excellent piece by David Swanson, via TomDispatch.

Scott Ritter: "It Doesn't Matter If Hillary Apologizes for Her Iraq War Vote"


More from Amy Goodman.

04 March 2007

Jewish Americans Most Strongly Oppose Iraq War | Christianpost.com

Good! This is known as "the difference between elite and non-elite views." At least I hope so. This was done by Gallup.

Even better: Poll: Attachment of U.S. Jews To Israel Falls in Past 2 Years. From the Jewish Daily Forward.

I'm looking for the actual poll at jewishagency.org; not sure if it's accurate or not...


The Forward-reported poll was done by Steven M. Cohen, who seems like a respectable sociologist to me, if an interested one (and who isn't?). In fact, since his interests seem to lie against the trend he's noted -- especially given his status with UJC, I'd give them more credence. Or less, if this is part of a funding drive! Judge for yourself -- all I know is, in 2003, he noted that younger American Jews tended to be more conservative. Now, the same cohort is more conservative but less supportive of Israel (in the "identification" sense)? Could be, could be.

An Interview with Norbert Elias

A person worth listening to.

Note: if you watch it, there will be varying "black" gaps, during which questions were asked. Up to then, chill or fast-forward, according to the process by which you were civilized. ;) When you reach 10:42 and it goes black, it's done. I think it's meant to be much longer, but the streaming was messed up.

What's there is great, anyway, especially the points about adopting or creating a value system based on flux, not stasis -- on reality, that is, not on desire (neo-Epicurianism, anyone?) -- and the notion that the increasing emancipation of women as a central (I would say, the central) issue in modern global society.

I think Twain (and Darwin) would disagree with the "born animal/become human (maybe)" construct, but I think it holds if you grant his distinction in a nonbiological sense. The sense of what it means to be human is more like what it means to be humane. That's fine with me; hard enough to get there without having a needless argument over old-fashioned, terminological holdovers from a time when humanity was seen as "not animal" in some sense.

The other notion I had a slight problem with was that we are a less violent society. I think "we" means "realtively wealthy people in the West and wealthy people outside the West" -- or something like that. "We" is a dangerous pronoun to use. But I take his point that daily life for an increasing proportion of humanity (at least relative to most, if not all, other times on the planet) is less violent.

The problem is that in a very real sense, that safety, as Elias points out partially, is based on violence to others, whether through increased state control or through the maintenance of material advantage. And outbursts of violence are, due to increasing mastery over nature, obviously far more violent than anything thinkable in other times and places. Which is kind of a problem.

However, I take his point, with all the caveats above.

* * *

You can find (most of) the questions below (insert your own sic's):

Rob Trip: Professor Elias, you are the man of the civilisation theory. We've been talking about it all evening. Everybody seems to be preoccupied with this subject., even our prime minister Balkenende who is looking for shared values and norms. How do we do that?

Elias: There is no greater task, no other task really, than, before destroying ourselves, to find out how we can arrange our lifes in such a way that we do not constantly hurt ourselves and also gain as much pleasurable excitement and satisfaction as we can.You will rightly say, how do we do that? Right.

Rob Trip: Nowadays, everybody thinks the old days used to be better. We respected each other, listened to each other and government officials had some authority. All that seems to have changed and we all seem to be confused about it. What is your view on that?

Elias: Most of the present ways of orienting oneself are based on the wish of getting away from the continuous change in which we live. One wants to find the permanent behind all changes, whether one wants to find it in the laws of God, or in the laws of nature, or in the eternity of human existence. Our whole thinking is informed by this intense wish for permanence, for that which is unchanging. I think that as long as this is the value system which dominates our thinking we shall not be able to orientate ourselves realisticly, and I very advisedly use the term realisticly, in our world. Because we live in a world of continuous change.

Rob Trip: So you are saying that we want to keep things the way they were, while the circumstances are continuously changing and repostioning each and every one of us.

Elias: And the problem with which I from now on will deal most is the problem of increasing affect control. Because that this too is one of the elementary sources of the dynamics of societies. It revolves around the question in what way the elementary, animalic impulses of men in a society are controlled either through external control or controls to be believed external or through self controls. (And with that problem I'm going to deal now). I think the most obvious example which I can give you at the moment is the control which men have exercised for a very long time over the emotional and libidonal satisfactions of women. For a very long time parents were intent on the virginaty of their daughters as a means of control, as a means of preserving their own interest because the daughter was a valuable property in a sense, she could make a better marriage if she was a virgin and so far as the husband was concerned it was in his interest to have the monopoly of the enjoyment of her body but also he wanted to be quite sure that this property would go to his own blood as we call it. So the balance of power between the sexes found expression in the balance of power in restrains as men were very much more powerful than women. But if the balance tilts and becomes more equal the whole relationship becomes more difficult. Do not be misled by this desire for greater equality which we all share, do see that this means a much more difficult relationship, greater equality, lesser unevenness and greater restrains on all sides.

Rob Trip: That was mentioned earlier this evening: how men restrained themselves towards women in 1919. Now, if we talk about restriction and self-control: many people think that society has become tougher and more violent. Is this due to a lack of self-control?

Elias: We think it's quite terrible and we are one of the most violent times there ever were. But this is not the case. We are one of the least violent times there ever were.

Rob Trip: But professor, have you witnessed the present events? We've witnessed two political assasinations, outbursts of 'senseless' violence, as we call it, vandalism directed towards religious institutions, racist juveniles, a general fear for terror attacks. Is that your notion of one of a quiet era?

Elias: We are not aware of the fact how much more we are sheltered against violence than most previous centuries. The whole police force is engaged in trying to find the murderer. In former days probably there was neither such a police force available there was the ... and crying of the local village at the most, perhaps a century and a half ago. Today it is the whole police force. And allthough we have the feeling, and not entirely wrongly that violence and .... has a little increased as indeed it has, compared to these previous centuries I think we lead a very secure life and we are not quite conscious of that.

Rob Trip: Professor Elias, are we in fact as civilised as we tend to think?

Elias: If we speak of a civilising process one does not mean that we are civilised. Far from it. One means a change in the direction which I have just outlined. Where one is able to find satisfaction for one's emotional urges and needs in such a way that one gains from the pleasurable excitement, which they promise to give us, without hurting eachother, without doing violence to eachother and without losing control over oneself and losing one's dignity, one's own human dignity or on the other side, without falling into boredom. This is a problem which we have not yet solved.

Rob Trip: Thank you very much, Professor Elias.

Elias: I wish you all the pleasurable excitement one can have without hurting others and one's own dignity.


Norbert Elias, portret van een socioloog
Abram de Swaan en Paul van den Bos
Adviezen: prof. J. Goudsblom
© VPRO - 23 april 1975/ 2005

"True Cost Economics"

At least attempts to deal with those pesky "externalities."

Pentagon Whistle-Blower on the Coming War With Iran | Truthdig

mp3 audio in link above; transcript here.

Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski (ret.), a veteran of the Pentagon with firsthand experience of the administration’s cherry-picking of intelligence, reveals why Bush thinks he can win a war with Iran, why few politicians are serious about withdrawal and why “when they call Iraq a success, they mean it.”

The US Is at least Indirectly Funding Al-Qaeda Allies

In case you missed it in the newest Hersh article.