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|Friday, May 17th, 2013|
METALSTORM and the guns of the Patriots
If you search this blog there should be something on e-ballistics firm ' Metalstorm ' This story is related.
Tierney’s ‘Gun Safety’ Nonsense
By Charles C. W. Cooke
May 16, 2013
The Hill has a story today that leaves one wondering if, when it comes to gun control, there is any line too ridiculous for progressives to cross:
A House Democrat inspired by the last James Bond movie has offered legislation to produce handguns with “personalization technology.”
The idea is to produce guns that can only be used by the gun’s owners. Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) cited the latest James Bond movie, “Skyfall,” as inspiration for the bill.
“In the most recent James Bond film, Bond escapes death when his handgun, which is equipped with technology that recognizes him as its owner, becomes inoperable when it gets into the wrong hands,” Tierney’s office said in a statement introducing the bill. “This technology, however, isn’t just for the movies — it’s a reality.”
Sure, one can already buy guns with this technology — although it’s pretty unreliable. It’s certainly a good idea for a gun safe. If Americans wish to take advantage of it, then good for them. Naturally, though, Tierney doesn’t have that in mind:
Under his bill, guns made in the United States would have to be built with this technology two years after the bill becomes law. Older guns being sold by a business or individual would have to be retrofitted with this technology after three years.
And who will pay for this? The taxpayer, naturally.
The bill says the cost of retrofitting these older guns would be paid out of the Department of Justice’s Asset Forfeiture Fund, where confiscated assets from criminal investigations are placed.
In the Boston Globe, John Rosenthal of Stop Handgun Violence, claimed that, with this technology, “We could reduce the majority of gun deaths in this country.”
This is spectacularly dishonest. According to the anti-gun Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, 606 people were accidentally killed by firearms in 2010. Of course, not all of these people were killed with handguns and many of them were killed when the guns were being held by their primary owners. Moreover, the law would do nothing about the vast majority of those 300 million-plus guns that are already privately owned. But let’s presume for the sake of argument that such a system would prevent some handgun accidents, especially children accidentally shooting themselves or others. Had such a system been around in 2010, we might say that it would have saved between 1 and 606 lives.
And that’s about it. In 2010, 19,392 people killed themselves with firearms. If you’re going to take your own life, that the gun you use only works in your hands is wholly irrelevant.
Meanwhile, 11,078 people were murdered with firearms in 2010. Here it is possible that, by limiting the sharing and theft of guns, a few deaths could be shaved off this number. Still, America would remain a country with 300 million–plus grandfathered weapons. If you’re going to murder somebody with a gun, you’re probably not going to be following the rules that apply to only a few of them.
“We could reduce the majority of gun deaths in this country”? Give me a break, John.
I order to address a small problem — a real and serious and horrible problem, but a small one nonetheless — Tierney wants make sweeping changes to the way in which Americans use firearms, overcomplicating access to what is a primary self-defense weapon for milllions of Americans. The suggestion here is that the law require — require – American citizens to sample distinguishing information — fingerprint, handprint, or what you will — and then have this information tied to any handgun they own. This would be an unprecedented and worrying step. Technology is unreliable and it is quite easily hacked, and I would certainly not want to be in a position in which I had to convince a jury that a murder committed with a gun that could ostensibly only be fired by me was not in fact fired by me. There, we would be getting into Minority Report territory. Worth it? I think not. END
I think its possible to replace existing guns with individually keyed weapons, and NET controlled weapons, and that with a distributed open-source data-base, NOT any govt databank, this is a very worthy reform.
By net controlled I mean that everytime you use your gun an internet 'jury' may override your permission.
Its similar to the argument for turning over all CC TV controls to the net for an up/down vote on which ones to keep and where to place new ones.
So the framing of these questions is important and don't ever worry about being sneered at as 'reformist'.
Thats a good sign you're upsetting the worst nosebleed ' movement cops' around.
|Tuesday, May 14th, 2013|
SYDNEY ANGLO on MACHIAVELLI
Any competent critique is bound to diminish Machiavelli's reputation as a diabolical, original, prescriptive or profound thinker. This first-rate study does much more.
After a sketch of his formative political experience, it reviews the major works and correspondence, demolishing interpretations based solely on the Discourses and The Prince, exhibiting a fresh, intimate understanding of the period as well as the sources and purposes of Machiavelli's writings.
Further chapters analyze style, modes of argument, and key concepts. Anglo succeeds in sorting essential and novel elements from the inessential and conventional; he turns Machiavelli inside out without pedantry or speculative excess. His Machiavelli is neither amoral nor philosophical. An unsystematic thinker who ""obviously"" never formulated a theory of the state, his strength was observation rather than a proto-science of politics.
And despite his refutations of the universal ethical deductions of contemporary ""prince literature,"" he sustained a ""deeply-rooted morality.""
The author, whose Reception of Machiavelli in Tudor England is forthcoming, lectures in intellectual history at Swansea. The book makes delightful reading for a principally academic audience.
|Sunday, May 12th, 2013|
Whats wrong with white, European, males
What's the Matter with Joan Walsh?
By Charles C. W. Cooke
May 11, 2013
Last night on Real Time with Bill Maher, we discussed whether removing Middle Eastern dictators was a good idea. I had this exchange with MSNBC’s Joy Reid:
Charles Cooke: So I think Americans have a problem thinking about this sometimes because — and I include myself, with British people — because the revolution that happened here was great, and very rarely is that the case in the world. You have this revolution in America in which the British fight the British, and then they codify classical liberal values into a constitution — and it’s great. But that’s not how it goes down normally. Normally, there is bloodshed and its horrible. And especially in the Middle East what they want to replace their dictatorships with — if you look at the polling — is Sharia law.
Joy Reid: But the revolution in the US was great unless you were a slave and then there was a war where 600,000 Americans had to die to make it better. Revolution isn’t always great. In the French Revolution there were beheadings. Revolutions are messy. You want people to have democracy it can be messy.
Charles Cooke: The slavery point I think is cheap.
Joy Reid: You mean the revolution in the United States that produced a government that included slaves that included enslaved Africans; it’s a cheap shot to include that in the narrative? I mean, that is part of the narrative.
Charles Cooke: No. The point is that if you are looking for perfection in the 18th century you are not going to find it. What the Americans did was a massive step forward. It wasn’t perfect — it was resolved in a Civil War that was bloody and awful — but if we are going to write off the greatest revolution and the greatest constitution in the world because it was imperfect and it was flawed then we should all go home.
Joy Reid: In the Middle East we are also saying these are imperfect revolutions. Whenever the US goes in and try to impose our vision of democracy in that region we fail.
This exchange prompted Salon’s Joan “What’s the Matter with White People” Walsh — and her many Twitter acolytes — loudly to pretend that I was dismissing slavery as unimportant or claiming that it didn’t matter. This is utterly silly. I was doing no such thing, and Walsh should be ashamed of herself for so recklessly leveling such a serious charge.
Given that the topic was what people in the Arabic world tend do when they are given a chance to overthrow the existing order, Joy Reid’s interruption said made little sense. As I said on air, it was a cheap point contrived for cheap applause. The American revolution didn’t create slavery. Slavery existed before all of America’s founding documents, and it had stained almost the entirety of human history before that. (It continues to do so in many part of the world.) In truth, the American revolution had next to nothing to with slavery. The British allowed slavery at home and in the Empire in 1776, as did many of the colonies that teamed up to fight the Empire. In other words, slavery was a tragic constant, which ran alongside a panoply of other issues.
Now, it was a terrible, terrible thing that slavery was allowed to continue for as long as it did in America, and I object to Walsh’s insinuation that I would think otherwise. Nonetheless, it was better to have the Constitution and slavery than have no constitution and slavery. As I have long argued, the newly free Americans did something quite astonishing in Philadelphia: they abolished monarchy, abolished titles, and formed a republic in which the People were sovereign and could assert unalienable rights against the state. The flaw was to deprive certain people of those rights. Obviously, nobody thinks that was remotely acceptable. But the key point remains that they instituted great values that would eventually be made universal. It was, as I said on the show, a “huge step forward.” By contrast, societies in which the people clamor for Sharia do not institute good values when they get the chance; and, more widely, most revolutions do not yield the codification of good values. (I’m looking at you Russia, China, Cuba, Iran etc.) America’s did. Further, the famous language of the Declaration — an integral if wildly hypocritical part of the founding — helped to bring an end to slavery by setting down philosophical principles by which America might be judged — and would eventually be judged. “American scripture,” George Will calls it.
To expect other insurrections to yield similar charters to the one with which America has been gifted is naïve at best and downright ignorant at worst. To underestimate what happened in Philadelphia in 1787 similarly so. Joan Walsh’s willful silliness be damned. My point stands.
|Saturday, May 11th, 2013|
Lowly IRS Grunts at work
To set up a reasonable analogy, if I'm walking down the canonical "dark alley" and am accosted by a man wielding a knife threatening me with it, it is presumably reasonable for me to pull a gun and threaten back, or possibly take the encounter to the final conclusion of gunfire. Even if I should choose to hold my fire and test to determine whether my actions deterred him, I can't see that this possibility binds me morally. And should he advance, despite the gun, as if to attack, I should feel no remorse in shooting him and taking myself out of danger. If you accept the premises so far, you apparently accept the principle that escalation of the self-defense/retaliation is reasonable as long as if the current level of returned counter-threat is inadequate to stop the aggression initiated by the other party. To believe otherwise is to believe that ultimately, you are obligated to accept a certain high level of aggression simply because you do not have the resources (yet) to resist it. I totally reject this concept, as I hope you would.
So if, hypothetically, I could have an anonymous conversation with a hard-nosed government employee, and asked him, "If I killed one of your agents, would you stop trying to collect that tax from me," his predictable reaction would be, "no, we would continue to try to collect that tax." In fact, he would probably hasten to add that he would try to have me prosecuted for murder, as well! If I were to ask if killing ten agents would stop them, again they would presumably say that this would not change their actions.
The conclusion is, to me, obvious: Clearly, there is no practical limit to the amount of self-defense that I would need to protect my assets from the government tax collector, and to actually stop the theft, so I suggest that logic requires that I be morally and ethically allowed (under libertarian principles) to use whatever level of self-defense I choose.
You raised another objection, that quite frankly I believe is invalid. I believe you implied that until a specific level of escalation is reached ( such as the Feds showing up on your doorstep, etc) then it is not legitimate to defend oneself. Delicately, I must disagree. As we all well know, government ultimately operates primarily not on actual, applied force, but simply the threat of future force if you do not comply. True, there are people who have decided to call the government's bluff and simply drop out, but the reality is that this is not practical for most individuals today. This is no accident: The government makes it difficult to drop out, because they extort the cooperation of banks and potential employers and others with which you would otherwise be able to freely contract. In any case, I fail to see how not "dropping out" makes one somehow morally obligated to pay a tax (or tolerate the collection of one). I trust you did not inadvertently mean to suggest this.
The reason, morally, we are entitled to shoot the mugger if he waves the knife in our face is that he has threatened us with harm, in this case to our lives, but the threat the government represents to the average citizen (loss of one's entire assets) is just as real, albeit somewhat different. Since government is a past reality, and a present reality, and has the immediate prospects of being a future reality as well, I sincerely believe that the average citizen can legitimately consider himself CONTINUOUSLY threatened. The aggression has already occurred, in continuously occurring, and has every prospect of continuing to occur. If anything would justify fighting back, this would.
To continue the analogy, if you've been repeatedly mugged by the same guy down the same dark alley for each day of last month, that DOES NOT mean that you've somehow consented to the situation, or that your rights to your assets have somehow been waived. With my "Assassination Politics" essay, I simply proposed that we (as libertarians as well as being ordinary citizens) begin to treat aggression by government as being essentially equivalent to aggression by muggers, rapists, robbers, and murderers, and view their acts as a continuing series of aggressions. Seen this way, it should not be necessary to wait for their NEXT aggression; they will have always have been aggressing and they will always BE aggressing, again and again, until they are stopped for good.
At that point, the question shifted to one of practicality: Sure, theoretically we might morally have the "right" to protect ourselves with lethal force, but if they have any reputation at all, government agents have a habit of showing up in large numbers when they actually apply direct force. To take a position that you can only defend yourself when they've chosen the "where" and "when" of the confrontation is downright suicidal, and I hope you understand that I would consider any such restriction to be highly unfair and totally impractical. Understand, too, that the reason we're still stuck under the thumb of the government is that to the extent it's true, "we've" been playing by THEIR rules, not by our own. By our own rules, THEY are the aggressors and we should be able to treat them accordingly, on our own terms, at our own convenience, whenever we choose, especially when we feel the odds are on our side.
I understand, obviously, that the "no initiation of aggression" principle is still valid, but please recognize that I simply don't consider it to be a valid counter-argument to "Assassination Politics," at least as applied to targets who happen to be government agents. They've "pre-aggressed," and I don't see any limit to the defenses I should be able to muster to stop that aggression completely and permanently. Not that I don't see a difference between different levels of guilt: I fully recognize that some of them are far worse than others, and I would certainly not treat a lowly Forest Service grunt in the same fashion as an ATF sniper.
|Friday, May 10th, 2013|
Gujarat police news
GANDHINAGAR: The state government is toying with the idea of doing away with wireless radio for police and replace it with one of the latest systems of communication available in the international market.
Although the move is at a nascent stage, officials say Gujarat wants to be the one among Indian states to take a lead in this direction.
A senior official said, "We have been witnessing presentations and there is definitely a move in this direction."
He said modern communication equipment available has distinct advantages over wireless technology. "The biggest advantage is ascription. While a message on the wireless currently used is heard across the board, the latest setups ensure that only the intended recipient gets it. Secondly, police wireless equipment is cumbersome and bulky while newer equipment is handy and easier to use. Some are no bigger than small mobile phones and can be given to investigation officers," the official said.
Sources said that the latest systems available like Tetra ( terrestrial trunked radio), APCO and 4G etc. are particularly handy in times of disasters, as they can be effective when mobile phones do not function. They can be used as walkie talkies, and for one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-many modes of communication.
"We are studying the rules of the defence ministry and the forces, to zero in on the viability of having such a set up in the state," sources said.
However, there still are a couple of hurdles to the project. To begin with, there are very few officials in the state police familiar enough with this kind of technology. Secondly, the equipment comes at a prohibitive cost.
"There is also some skepticism. The equipment was effectively used to provide security during the Commonwealth Games in Delhi recently, but those who procured it are facing investigations and allegations of irregularities. Hence, officials are very guarded when moving in this direction," said an official.
|Thursday, May 9th, 2013|
DANGER of Blanquist pro-dictatorship slogans
“The democrats of ’93, conjuring up a republic with their highschool memories, after devouring one another, set the revolution back by half a century. True, Robespierre could scarcely be held to blame for the ambition and venality of Mirabeau, the hesitancy of La Fayette, the weakness of Péthion, the nonchalance of Vergniaud, the vices of Danton or the fanaticism of Marat. But Robespierre was a Spartan; it was he that triggered the counter-revolution. The democrats of 1848, building the republic on their parliamentary memories, have also set the revolution back by half a century. I am not pointing the finger at their patriotism, their good intentions, their disinterestedness. The sum total of their fault is that they are only imitators; they thought themselves statesmen because they were following the old models! So what is this queer preoccupation which, in time of revolution, bedazzles the most steadfast minds, and, when their burning aspirations carry them forward into the future, has them constantly harking back the past? How does it come about that the People, just when it is making the break with established institutions, takes another plunge and gets further immersed in tradition? Society does not repeat itself: but one would have thought it was walking backwards, like the rope-maker playing out his rope. Could it not turn its gaze in the direction in which it is going?
“This is not the place for a comprehensive exploration of this difficult problem which strikes at the very depths of our nature and relates directly to the most abstract principles of metaphysics. We shall restrict ourselves to stating, in accordance to the recent works of philosophy, that the phenomenon involved has its roots in the make-up of our understanding and can be explained by the law of the sameness of opposites, a law that lies at the bottom of creation, as well as of logic. That said, let us turn back to the issue at hand.
“In order to organise the future, a general rule confirmed by experience, the reformers always start out with their gaze fixed upon the past. Hence the contradiction forever discovered in their actions: hence also the immeasurable danger of revolutions.” (Property is Theft!, 308)
|Saturday, April 27th, 2013|
Laqueur gives Hot Karl a good shellacking
WE ARE told these days that Karl Marx—one of the most influential thinkers of the nineteenth century, if not the single most important one—is enjoying a kind of renaissance. This is attributed by some to the great economic crisis that began in 2008 and destroyed considerable wealth around the world. Given that this crisis is seen widely as a crisis of capitalism, it is natural that many people would think of Marx, who was of course the greatest critic of capitalism in history.
Yet it is a strange renaissance, if indeed it is any kind of renaissance at all. In recent years, there have been many Marxism conferences and countless workshops in places such as Chicago, Boston and Berlin. In London, one Marx “festival” lasted five days under a slogan that cried, “Revolution is in the air.” The invitation read:
Crisis and austerity have exposed the insanity of our global system. Billions have been given to the banks, while billions across the planet face hunger, poverty, climate catastrophes and war. We used to be told capitalism meant prosperity and democracy. Not any more. Now it means austerity for the 99% and rule by the markets.
But is revolution really in the air? France got a socialist government, but it is already in trouble. Britain may follow, but would it fare any better? It seems only natural that, at a time of crisis, public opinion would turn against the party in power. Given the severity of the crisis and the slowness of the recovery, it is not surprising that some people would turn to Marxism. But the fact that the political reaction has been so mild is more astonishing.
And, while some of the conferences and festivals lauding the anticapitalist crusader seem to be motivated by genuine neo-Marxist sentiments, others appear to be using the man as a kind of bandwagon for separate trendy causes and impulses. Consider the agenda at a recent such meeting at the University of Washington. One has to doubt whether these followers of Marx are on the right track when the papers under discussion contain titles such as “Reconsidering Impossible Totalities: Marxist Deployments of the Sublime,” “A Few Thoughts on the Academic Poet as Hobo-Tourist,” “Reading Hip-Hop at the Intersection of Culture and Capitalism,” “Annals of Sexual States” and “The Political Economy of Stranger Intimacy.”
One wonders what Marx’s reaction would be if he sat at his desk in the British Museum’s Reading Room and contemplated such discussions at a gathering dedicated to rethinking his ideas. Would he be impressed, amused or speechless? Perhaps it would remind him of the carnival celebrations each February in his native Trier: wine, funny masks and customs, and pranks—all followed by a hangover of five or six days.
THESE MUSINGS are stirred by the arrival of the latest major Marx biography—Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life ,by Jonathan Sperber (W. W. Norton, 672 pp., $35.00). Sperber is an expert on nineteenth-century Germany, and there is much in his book about Marx’s adolescence there, especially in his native Trier. Sperber also deals with Marx’s political activism and his relations with other German revolutionaries in exile in greater detail than previous biographers. Sperber applauds a new interpretation of Marx that looks at the man in the context of his own nineteenth century rather than as a harbinger or instigator of twentieth-century conflict.
“The view of Marx as a contemporary whose ideas are shaping the modern world has run its course,” he writes, “and it is time for a new understanding of him as a figure of a past historical epoch, one increasingly distant from our own.” Among elements of that past historical epoch, he cites the French Revolution, G. W. F. Hegel’s philosophy, and the early years of English industrialization and the political economy stemming from it. “It might even be,” he adds, “that Marx is more usefully understood as a backward-looking figure, who took the circumstances of the first half of the nineteenth century and projected them into the future, than as a surefooted and foresighted interpreter of historical trends.”
Thus, rather than seeking to illuminate the intellectual clashes of the modern era by bringing Marx into our own time, Sperber attempts to illuminate Marx’s time by transporting his readers back there.
This is not, strictly speaking, a book review but rather an exploration of how history has viewed Karl Marx through various epochs and vogues of thought since he dropped his momentous theories into the Western consciousness a century and a half ago. What can be said about Sperber’s effort, though, is that he tells his story well and should be commended for his competence and reliability. Besides, the publication of a new Marx biography should be welcomed. If people today lack the time or inclination to read Marx—and he isn’t read much these days—one should at least read about him.
One manifestation of the Marx renaissance is that Sperber is not alone. A number of biographies of the man have been published in recent years; one can think of four in English alone. In the decades after World War II, interest in Marx was limited even though Communist and Social Democratic parties were strong at the time. But the basic facts about Marx’s life were pretty well known: his years as a student, his involvement with the young Hegelians, his activity as a left-wing democrat and his discovery of socialism, the years in Paris and Brussels, and eventually his life in London studying capitalism, pondering the class struggle and historical materialism. Information and documents, however marginal, that shed light on Marx’s life were collected in major institutes in Moscow, Amsterdam and London. The Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute in Moscow was the largest and best equipped of these, but it was closed in 1993. The Amsterdam International Institute of Social History, founded in 1935, still exists, as does the Marx Memorial Library located in Clerkenwell Green in London’s East End.
For many years, Franz Mehring’s Karl Marx: The Story of His Life—first published in 1918, and still in print today—was the leading text in the field. Mehring was a “bourgeois” journalist who found his way at midlife to the socialist movement. It is a decent work, very respectful of the master but not entirely uncritical. Orthodox Marxists never forgave Mehring for defending Ferdinand Lassalle and Mikhail Bakunin against often-intemperate attacks by Marx. Lassalle, of German Jewish origin, was the founder of the first German socialist party. He was a very talented and charismatic leader but highly unstable—occasionally given to harebrained schemes and actions. As a theoretician he was not remotely in Marx’s league, but he resided in Germany and was therefore more popular and better known among workers than the distant Marx. Lassalle died young in a duel concerning the good name of a young lady of aristocratic origin. Marx, who had been in close contact with him, later referred to him as that “Jewish nigger,” among other ungracious epithets.
Author of an excellent biography of the Marx family, Mary Gabriel decided not to reveal to her readers such Marx malefaction on the grounds that it might create a mistaken impression. Of course, such language was all too common at the time and should not be measured against today’s higher standards of discourse. Marx, to borrow a phrase coined by Freud, was “badly baptized.” Instead of dissociating himself quietly and more or less elegantly from his tribe, he seemed bothered and self-conscious about his Jewish heritage. But Lassalle wasn’t exactly a proud Jew either; in a letter to his fiancé he wrote that he hated the Jews. But in the end, Gabriel’s sanitation seems misplaced; judgment should be left to readers.
As for the famous Russian anarchist, Bakunin, he too had once been close to Marx but later fell out with him. There developed between them genuine political differences after Bakunin embraced anarchism, but Marx’s deep and unshakable Russophobia played a part as well. Marx was a great believer in conspiracy theories; for many years he insisted that Lord Palmerston, the British prime minister, was a secret Russian agent. On the other hand, Marx trusted the spies that Prussian and German governments had planted in his inner circle. He was not much of a judge of his fellow human beings.
THE MEHRING biography is no longer adequate for our time. It was bound to be incomplete because Marx’s early writings and much of his correspondence became accessible to a wider public only in 1932. Nor was it known outside a very small circle that Marx had fathered a boy with Helene Demuth, the faithful domestic in the Marx London household. Marx’s illegitimate son was the only member of the family to live and witness the victory of socialism (as it was then called) in Russia.
Among other biographies, there is general agreement that David McLellan’s Karl Marx: His Life and Thought is the standard work. It was written in the 1970s, before the breakdown of the Soviet Union, and is now in its fourth edition. But other books have stressed distinctive aspects of Marx’s life and merit attention for that. Francis Wheen’s book, Karl Marx: A Life,is well written and was well received for its emphasis on Marx’s English contemporaries. Wheen deals with Marx’s exchanges with Darwin in greater detail than other authors. Although Wheen takes issue with other biographers, the bones of contention are not fundamental.
Gabriel’s 2011 book, Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution, is also well researched, though more preoccupied with love than capital. She deals primarily with Marx’s wife but also with his children, four of whom died before he did. Marx’s relations with his children seem to have been very good, and his daughters adored him. His wife, born into the aristocratic German von Westphalen family, had an unenviable fate. For most of her marriage, she lived in dire poverty, and her aristocratic background and upbringing had not prepared her for a life in such miserable conditions. Marx himself wrote on more than one occasion that he often felt reluctant to go home to her because of the constant whining and complaining. The only earlier serious and sympathetic study of her life was written by her nephew once removed, the Prussian nobleman Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk, who served as Hitler’s finance minister (though he was not a member of the Nazi Party) and served time in Spandau prison after the war.
Thus, there is no lack of serious and reliable Marx biographies, including relatively recent ones. Sperber’s entry is a worthy addition to the collection. He is to be commended particularly for his warning against the faddish tendency of modern scholars to make Marx’s ideas more relevant to the present by putting them through a Cuisinart along with various bromides of our time such as structuralism, postmodernism, existentialism and the like.
But Sperber’s nineteenth-century focus raises some interesting questions of its own. Marx’s historical importance, it could be argued, is mainly as the man who gave Lenin his ideas, not the polemicist who wrote a book attacking the theories of, for example, Carl Vogt, whose views are almost entirely in eclipse today. Sperber certainly is justified in dismissing various attempts to update Marx, which have ranged from the ridiculous to the absurd. At the same time, he may go too far in dismissing as useless the preoccupation with Marxism, which he calls “Marxology.” After all, Marx’s private life and his interventions in the politics of his time, interesting as they are, aren’t why he is remembered today.
He is remembered—for better or worse—as the man who provided an outline, even if somewhat vague, for a postcapitalist world. Thus, the author of the draft of the future society is remembered primarily by those who lived to witness it. That is probably why Moscow authorities have seriously considered removing from the capital the last remaining statue of Marx (it stands opposite the Bolshoi Theatre). Interest in Marx and Marxism seems to be least robust today in the very countries in which his teachings were once invoked and where schoolchildren were instructed to study him.
But is it fair to blame philosophers for any and every mutilation of their ideas—the concept that a tree is known by its fruits? Francis Wheen, for one, argues that it is not. And it would indeed be wrong to blame Marx for Stalin or Pol Pot, just as Nietzsche cannot be made responsible for Hitler or Eichmann. Still, a lot of civic activity unfolded in the twentieth century in Marx’s name, much of it tragic. And his attack on capitalism, so powerful and sweeping, was destined to find resonance through the decades whenever the faults and limitations of capitalism became most visible and pronounced.
WHICH BRINGS us back to the so-called Marx renaissance and how it happened that he should be enjoying renewed interest, however muted, after so much controversy over so long a time. Some knowledge of Marx’s writing was taken for granted in my generation, between the two world wars. This was not true with regard to the generation of the parents and certainly not the grandparents. But when I was growing up a third of the world was ruled under systems that were, or claimed to be, guided by Marxism. How could people in such a time make sense of current events unless one knew something about the ideology that was the lodestar of these countries?
It should probably be revealed that this knowledge did not extend to Marx’s great opus, Das Kapital. Outside a small circle of specialists, I knew no one who had ever read it to the end. But it was the norm to at least pretend that one had started reading it.
And it is worth noting some anecdotal evidence of Marx’s place in the consciousness of people back then. My little apartment in London is almost literally a stone’s throw from Marx’s grave in Highgate. In days of old, on an afternoon stroll, rain or shine, I was asked at least once for directions to the grave by visitors, often from abroad—students from Germany, middle-aged Americans, on one occasion monks from some Far Eastern country. During the last two decades the stream of those wishing to pay homage to the man has dwindled almost to the vanishing point. There was no great outcry when the gravesite visiting hours were cut.
As for the circulation of Marx’s works, a cursory inquiry shows that there has been a rise of late, with 1,500 copies of Das Kapital sold by one publisher in Germany in 2008, up from the roughly two hundred it previously sold annually. There has also been an increase in China, where in 2009 one of the country’s principal publishing houses reported a fourfold rise in the book’s sales following the onset of the financial crisis. But it isn’t much of an uptick. Marx’s works don’t sell more notably than other political-theory classics—less than Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom, and far less than certain cult books such as those by Ayn Rand. But Marx’s Communist Manifesto, a long essay of sixty to eighty pages, does seem to sell well.
The Marx renaissance seems concentrated mostly on the United States and Germany. The German city Chemnitz, renamed Karl-Marx-Stadt after the Communist takeover of East Germany in 1945, has regained its old name. But a local savings bank there has issued a credit card called the “Marx card,” complete with a rendering of the man, and it proved to be a successful publicity stunt. Leading German movie producer Alex Kluge has made a ten-hour “poetic documentary” (his words) on Das Kapital. The idea was not entirely original to him. The great Soviet movie director Sergei Eisenstein contemplated a similar project decades ago and even tried to persuade James Joyce to collaborate with him on it. Nothing came of it.
But Kluge’s extended work, available on DVD, takes Eisenstein’s concept as a starting point and goes from there. He titled his film News from Ideological Antiquity. And it must be noted that the work serves to justify Sperber’s misgivings about trying to make Marx “more relevant to our time” by reinterpreting him in the light of structuralism, poststructuralism, postmodernism, existentialism or elements of so many other movements that have littered the modern intellectual landscape over the past century or so. Attempts have been made, for example, to meld Marxism with postcolonial criticisms of Western imperialism, but this is a difficult argument to make in light of Marx’s observation that Britain played a progressive role in the development of India.
One sees similar disconnected analysis elsewhere in the Marx renaissance. Terry Eagleton—who wrote Why Marx Was Right and is a leading figure in the revival—is a staunch fighter against Islamophobia and a well-known theoretician in the field of literary theory. Others involved in the revival are students of religion, philosophy, psychoanalysis, postcolonialism, commensality (eating together), identity politics, gender politics, the environment and so on. All may be important subjects, but they are not ones that were particularly close to Marx’s heart and mind.
Some examples of people from various specialties who have jumped on the Marx bandwagon: Etienne Balibar, who wrote on Baruch Spinoza; Alain Badiou, whose specialty is truth and logic; Slavoj Zizek, a scholar of psychoanalysis, film theory and many other subjects; and Jacques Ranciere, a philosopher of education. A distinguished professor of geography and anthropology at the City University of New York, David Harvey, offers a course dedicated to a close reading of Das Kapital.
MISSING FROM this parade of people attempting to bring Marx up to date in our time are professors and scholars whose expertise centers on economics and finance—the subjects to which Marx devoted most of his life and which are at the center of the present global crisis. Historians such as Sperber also are rare in this pantheon. Of course, no one would argue that only economists and actual scholars of Marxism should participate in these debates, but their almost-total absence makes one wonder what this debate is all about.
It is difficult to discern, for example, what creative impulses Marx may have contributed to “Marxist Feminist Notes on the Political Valence of Affect,” the title of a paper given by Rosemary Hennessy of Rice University at the Berlin Marxism conference.
All of which raises a question: If this perceived Marx renaissance has little to do with the actual teachings of Marx, with which the poststructuralists, postmodernists and gender scholars seem only vaguely familiar, how does one explain the renaissance, however modest it may be and however restricted to elite Western universities that have little connection to today’s industrial working class?
The answer, it seems, is that “Marx” has become something like a shortcut or a symbol indicating a predilection for radical change in a wide variety of fields loosely called “cultural studies.” It has little or nothing to do with what Marxism was really all about.
An exploration of this modern phenomenon of Marxism requires that we go back in time. Marx was a genius, but he was not the most reliable of prophets. He provided insights of great importance to the study of economics and of society. Without historical materialism, the importance of the class struggle in history would not have been understood as clearly as it has been. His impact on twentieth-century politics was enormous. But even before the nineteenth century ended, some people closest to him realized that history was not moving in the direction he predicted.
One of these was Eduard Bernstein, a native of Berlin who lived many years in London. He was a friend of the family and, together with Marx’s daughter Eleanor, edited much of the unpublished correspondence and papers of the master after his death. Writing in 1898, he said his intent was not to refute Marx but simply to bring him up to date in light of events. Bernstein saw clearly that pauperization—the process of increasing misery of the proletariat predicted by Marx—was not taking place. Neither was the concentration of capital in a few hands, which Marx saw as an inevitable cause of the collapse of capitalism. Neither did Marx foresee the emergence of the welfare state.
True, there were recurrent crises of capitalism, but they were not those anticipated by Marx. The workers of the world did not unite. The industrial working class did not grow but shrank. Following technological progress, the composition of the working class changed significantly. In Europe, it encompassed many immigrants for whom religion was more important than class-consciousness. And the native working class frequently gravitated to the right—sometimes even to the far right, as in France.
Revolutions did emerge in some countries, but not in the most developed capitalist countries that Marx saw as the spawning ground for revolution. Rather, they occurred in less developed nations whose new revolutionary societies were quite different from what Marx had imagined.
Thus did Marxism rise not on the scientific character of its teaching but on the utopian and romantic idea of revolution. Marx had been contemptuous of the utopian socialists of his time, and his doctrine contained scientific elements. But these elements soon gave way to the general discontent among intellectuals with the status quo, the wish of many to do away with the system’s social and cultural imperfections, and the yen for new cultural values and norms.
What fresh impetus can reasonably be expected from the contemporary Marx renaissance? Expectations should be modest. Marx’s preoccupation was with the inner contradictions of capitalism and the political future of the industrial working class. The renaissance was triggered by the crisis in the developed countries that began in 2008. Marx focused primarily on Britain but also, to a lesser extent, on other European countries that then represented the capitalist vanguard. Yet any serious analysis of capitalism today would focus less on England and more on China.
Among the topics of interest embraced by those involved in the Marx renaissance, in addition to those noted above, are alienation, reification, and other such literary and philosophical pursuits. But such matters have almost nothing to do with today’s crisis of capitalism in Europe and America. It is a debt crisis, raising powerful questions about whether stimulus or austerity is the best medicine to get the economy balanced and moving again. This crisis has almost nothing to do with, say, Marx vs. Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, the Austrian School economist whose views differed from Marx’s in important ways that now seem trivial. Today the more relevant debate is John Maynard Keynes vs. Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.
In this situation, it is likely that the regulatory state will play a greater role than in the past. A great deal of ill will has welled up against the financial system in part because of the greed displayed by some of its leading movers and shakers but also because of their devastating incompetence. Still, no one so far—neither individuals nor political parties—has suggested the wholesale nationalization of key branches of the economy, the means of production or the banks. That’s what a Marxist approach would look like.
THE CHALLENGE facing Europe and America now is that a new economic world order is emerging. Europe—no longer the main exploiter—will have to think and work hard to save the welfare state, and America will have to do the same for its entitlements. How can these societies find a niche that will enable them to keep their standards of living, or at least prevent too rapid a decline?
Where will they find guidance on how to meet such challenges? It isn’t likely to be found in the venerable works of the British classical economist David Ricardo or the later British economist Nassau William Senior. And not even geniuses such as Adam Smith or Marx can really lead us much further in the pursuit of such guidance. History has moved on. The nineteenth century and its industrial fervor are far behind us.
Will America lead the way? Will China? Marx wrote in an 1850 article for a German newspaper, “When our European reactionaries in the flight to Asia . . . come at length to the Great Wall of China . . . who knows if they will not find there the inscription: République Chinoise. Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.” But of course no such inscription is to be found at that wall. At most it symbolizes the observation of the late Giovanni Arrighi, the Italian American economics professor of Marxist persuasion, who once wrote that China had a market economy but not a capitalist one. An interesting point but not particularly helpful in meeting the challenge of the world’s contemporary problems.
And so it appears we shall have to wait a bit longer for some kind of lodestar to emerge. In the meantime, it is clear that the perceived renaissance of Marxism, such as it is (which isn’t much), doesn’t offer anything of value in this search. No doubt it will continue to stir fascination in the breasts of activists in various fields of cultural studies, weary of the status quo and hungry for a revolutionary new ethos. But it has nothing to offer the economists of our day—or the rest of mankind, for that matter.
Walter Laqueur is a historian and political commentator. His most recent book is After the Fall: The End of the European Dream and the Decline of a Continent .
PR the confessor
In the vicinity of the University of Texas, nobody insists on “doctor,” because everybody has a doctorate: From the chancellor of the capital-U University (talk about title inflation!) to the guy bringing you your quesos asados at Fonda San Miguel, Ph.D’s are ubiquitous. What people insist on in Austin is professor — if you are a full-on professor, you let people know. (Until you grow into it, that is: Insisting on a title is like buying a red car with your first $1 million — you get over it.) (One of my all-time favorite expressions originates in Silicon Valley, where they say of a man who has just made his first real money and is eager to show it that he is “having his red-car year.”)
|Friday, April 26th, 2013|
Joining the Foreign Legion
Kerry: Terrorists Lack a Belief System, Jobs Policy
By Katherine Connell
Secretary of State John Kerry delivered some off the cuff remarks about the Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev and terrorism at a press conference in Belgium yesterday, saying that Tsarnaev had “learned something” in Chechnya and returned to the United States with “a willingness to kill people.” A State Department official quickly clarified to the Boston Globe that Kerry “was simply expressing broad concern about radicalism rather than indicating any new information or conclusion about the individuals involved.”
Kerry didn’t actually mention radicalism in his musings on the topic, though he did suggest that terrorists tend to lack a “belief system,” as well as a “policy for jobs,” and “a policy for education”:
We just had a young person who went to Russia, Chechnya, who blew people up in Boston. So he didn’t stay where he went, but he learned something where he went and he came back with a willingness to kill people.
I think the world has had enough of people who have no belief system, no policy for jobs, no policy for education, no policy for rule of law, but who just want to kill people because they don’t like what they see. There’s not room for that.
That’s what we’ve been fighting against after all of the wars of the 20th century. Now we’re in the 21st century, and it’s time for a different organizational principle. And we need to, all of us, do a better job of communicating to people what the options of life are. And we’re open. Democracies are open to people participating in the democracy, not killing people. And so I hope that we can all figure out how we translate these better opportunities more effectively in our politics.
According to the Globe, Kerry was responding to “a question about disillusioned young people in other parts of the world.” The transcript provided by the State Department records the question as: “Sir, with the problem we have that young people go to Syria (inaudible), does that matter also to the U.S., do you have the same problem?”
It’s fairly safe to assume that the questioner was referring to young Belgians such as Brian de Mulder of Antwerp, whose family says that he joined radical Islamist fighters in the conflict in Syria after converting to Islam two years ago:
The family were at first supportive but say he gradually became more radical after getting involved with a group known as Sharia4Belgium. . . .
Brian left in January this year. By then he had changed his name to Abu Qasem Brazili. His 12-year-old sister Ashia was the last family member to see him.
“Brian told her he was saying goodbye. He said: ‘I love you but you will never see me again.’” says Ingrid.
“To leave all your family and not contact your mother anymore. I think he’s in a state of being a soldier. A soldier of Allah,” she says.
Belgian police raided dozens of houses of people linked to Sharia4Belgium last week.
The authorities have accused the group of recruiting more than 30 people to fight in Syria in the last year.
It doesn’t appear that Abu Qasem Brazili lacks a belief system.
|Thursday, April 25th, 2013|
a Salafi sheikh has explained that U.S. aid to Egypt is considered jizya. That is the tax the Koran requires non-Muslims to pay for the privilege of living in a sharia state. As Allah directs in sura 9:29, it is not enough for conquered infidels (usually referred to by the dehumanizing term, kuffar) merely to pay this tribute; they must do so “with willing submission” in a manner that makes them “feel themselves subdued” — the humiliating condition of dhimmitude. The same reasoning applies to social welfare payments — they, too, are jizya.
“Wait a second,” you may say, ”I’m not crazy about foreign aid to countries that hate us and welfare for slackers, but paying it hardly means we’ve been conquered.” Well, as I’ve been trying to stress, to understand what we’re up against, you have to see the world through their eyes. As Ray elaborates, the process of conquering is a gradual humiliation: Islamic supremacists make life as dificult as possible for the sugar daddy kuffar while demanding to be paid for the privilege — and the payment itself is symbolic of the conquest. Ray captures the Salafist’s reasoning:
According to the sheikh, Egypt must be less cooperative with the U.S. and at the same time insist for more monetary aid. If so, the sheikh believes that “America will accept; it will kiss our hands; and it will also increase its aid. And we will consider its aid as jizya, not as aid. But first we must make impositions on it.”
When the host asked the sheikh “Do the Americans owe us jizya?” he responded, “Yes,” adding that it is the price Americans have to pay “so we can leave them alone!” When the host asked the sheikh if he was proclaiming a fatwa, the latter exclaimed, “By Allah of course!” The sheikh added that, to become a truly Islamic state, Egypt must “impose on America to pay aid as jizya, before we allow it to realize its own interests, the ones which we agree to.”
Ray then goes on to show that Anjem Choudary, a notorious Islamic supremacist preacher with a wide following in U.K., instructed British Muslims that they should seek welfare payments as the “Jihad Seeker’s Allowance”:
Just last February, for example, Anjem Choudary, an Islamic cleric and popular preacher in the United Kingdom, was secretly taped telling a Muslim audience to follow his example and get “Jihad Seeker’s Allowance” from the government—a pun on “Job Seeker’s Allowance.” The father of four, who receives more than 25,000 pounds annually in welfare benefits, referred to British taxpayers as “slaves,” adding, “We take the jizya, which is our haq [Arabic for "right"], anyway. The normal situation by the way is to take money from the kafir [infidel], isn’t it? So this is the normal situation. They give us the money—you work, give us the money, Allahu Akhbar ["Allah is Great"]. We take the money. Hopefully there’s no one from the DSS [Department of Social Security] listening to this.”
Gates of Heaven
VATICAN CITY -- In a joint press conference in St. Peter's Square this morning, MICROSOFT Corp. and the Vatican announced that the Redmond, Wash., software Giant will acquire the Roman Catholic Church in exchange for an unspecified number of shares of MICROSOFT common stock. If the deal goes through, it will be the first time a computer software company has acquired a major world religion.
With the acquisition, Pope Francis will become the senior vice-president of the combined company's new Religious Software Division, while MICROSOFT senior vice-presidents Michael Maples and Steven Ballmer will be invested in the College of Cardinals, said MICROSOFT Chairman Bill Gates.
"We expect a lot of growth in the religious market in the next five to 10 years, ," said Gates. "The combined resources of MICROSOFT and the Catholic Church will allow us to make religion easier and more fun for a broader range of people."
Through the MICROSOFT Network, the company's new on-line service, "we will make the sacraments available on-line for the first time" and revive the popular pre-Counter-Reformation practice of selling indulgences, said Gates. "You can get Communion, confess your sins, receive absolution -- even reduce your time in Purgatory -- all without leaving your home."
A new software application, MICROSOFT Church, will include a macro language which you can program to download heavenly graces automatically while you are away from your computer.
An estimated 17,000 people attended the announcement in St. Peter's Square, watching on a 60-foot screen as comedian Don Novello -- In character as Father Guido Sarducci -- hosted the event, which was broadcast by satellite to 700 sites worldwide.
Pope Francis said little during the announcement.
When Novello chided Gates, "Now I guess you get to wear one of these pointy hats," the crowd roared, but the pontiff's smile seemed strained.
The deal grants MICROSOFT exclusive electronic rights to the Bible and the Vatican's prized art collection, which includes works by such masters as Michelangelo and Da Vinci. But critics say MICROSOFT will face stiff challenges if it attempts to limit competitors' access to these key intellectual properties.
"The Jewish people invented the look and feel of the holy scriptures," said Rabbi David Gottaschalk of Philadelphia. "You take the parting of the Red Sea -- we had that thousands of years before the Catholics came on the scene."
But others argue that the Catholic and Jewish faiths both draw on the common Abrahamic heritage.
"The Catholic Church has just been more successful in marketing it to a larger audience," notes Notre Dame theologian Father Kenneth Madigan. Over the last 2,000 years, the Catholic Church's market share has increased dramatically, while Judaism, which was the first to offer many of the concepts now touted by Christianity, lags behind.
Historically, the Church has a reputation as an aggressive competitor, leading crusades to pressure people to upgrade to Catholicism, and entering into exclusive licensing arrangements in various kingdoms whereby all subjects were instilled with Catholicism whether or not they planned to use it. Today Christianity is available from several denominations, but the Catholic version is still the most widely used. The Church's mission is to reach "the four corners of the earth," echoing MICROSOFT's vision of "a computer on every desktop and in every home".
Gates described MICROSOFT's long-term strategy to develop a scalable religious architecture that will support all religions through emulation. A single core religion will be offered with a choice of interfaces according to the religion desired -- "One religion, a couple of different implementations," said Gates.
The MICROSOFT move could spark a wave of mergers and acquisitions, according to Herb Peters, a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, as other churches scramble to strengthen their position in the increasingly competitve religious market."
|Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013|
The death of Mr Big
The End of Government as We Know It
By Ron Fournier | National Journal – Mon, Apr 22, 2013
A year ago, I wrote about the decline of American institutions through the eyes of Johnny Whitmire, an unemployed construction worker, who lost his home due to systematic failures of his bank and employers as well as city, state and federal governments. “You can’t trust anybody or anything anymore,” Whitmire said, standing outside the $40,000 home he ceded to his mortgage company.
In a new book, “The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath,” author Nicco Mele argues that such cynicism is not only warranted, it’s the inevitable result of social and political changes wrought by what he calls “radical connectivity.”
That is, our ability to send vast amounts of data instantly, constantly and globally—breathtaking new tools that “empower the individual at the expense of existing institutions and ancient social structures.” These include government, businesses, entertainment, military, schools, media, religion, and other big institutions designed to protect and sustain people like Whitmire.
“Our institutions have in fact failed us,” writes Mele, a Harvard Kennedy School faculty member and technology expert who worked for both Howard Dean and Barack Obama.
(RELATED: "In Nothinig We Trust")
In a must-read for political and policy junkies as well as futurists, Mele argues that the Democratic and Republican parties must urgently embrace the bottom-up ethos of radical connectivity -- or perish. He also says arguments over the size of government are outdated, because the real question is how we redefine governing for the digital age.
“When big government gets too powerful, we risk authoritarianism and an erosion of individual autonomy. Whittle it away, though, and you get something else—chaos,” Mele writes. “Should present trends go unchecked, it is easy to imagine a nightmare scenario of social breakdown facilitated by radical connectivity.”
Sound extreme? Consider, as does Mele, the harsh lessons of history. After describing the fall of seemingly immutable European monarchies at the turn of the 20th century, Mele writes:
“We’re at the beginning of a similar epochal change in human history. Scan the headlines every morning—through your Facebook and Twitter feeds—and you can feel history shifting under your feet. Every day I find more and more evidence that we are in the twilight of our own age, and that we can’t quite grasp it, even if we sense something is terribly amiss. This transformation transcends any one realm of life—it’s all-encompassing, even if, as we’ve seen, it proceeds unevenly and paradoxically. Our twentieth-century institutions, which seem as foundational or ahistorical as hereditary monarchy, are on the cusp of collapse—or, if not outright collapse, of irrelevancy and anachronism.”
“Something is terribly amiss”—a summation that especially resonates after a week of momentous events that both challenged and exposed ill-equipped institutions of government: The Boston City Marathon; ricin-laced letters sent to Washington; the explosion of a lightly regulated fertilized plant in Texas; and the demise of gun-safety legislation drafted in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. The quick identification of the Boston suspects was a victory for old-school police work, both helped and hindered by social media, smartphones, security cameras, and other assets of a digitally woven world.
Polls consistently show our faith in institutions in steep decline. In particular, trust in Washington is at near-record lows because the current model is a “vending machine government,” a phrase Mele borrows from technologist Tim O’Reilly to describe public frustration. Politicians make promises, we pay taxes, and our participation is limited to “shaking the vending machine.”
Instead, Mele writes, government should be considered a “platform” upon which individuals, organizations, and companies can build services and offerings that suit the times—flexible, transparent, and accountable.
“Essentially, government as a platform presume that government should provide an underlying infrastructure and then let us build on top of that infrastructure in a wide variety of ways,” Mele writes. “It does not necessarily mean smaller government—but it does mean the end of Big Government, with many smaller units of government.”
It also means new a new ethic of leadership. Mele would convene a constitutional convention (Thomas Jefferson imagined one every generation) to struggle with the questions of radical connectivity. “The reality of history has had precious few examples of democracy,” Mele said. “We’re a rarefied category—one that could use some more experimentation if it is to survive the digital age.”
After devoting chapters to specific institutions—media, political parties, the entertainment industry, government, the military, and big business—Mele offers some broad solutions. They include demanding more thoughtful, inspirational leadership.
He praises President Obama’s 2008 campaign for harnessing the power of the individual and radical connectivity to build a bottom-up movement. “Unfortunately, this impressive fusion of top-down leadership and distributed individual action across the network seemed to wilt once Obama actually came to occupy the White House,” he wrote.
“The reason for that is clear: The institutions of Washington, D.C.—namely the executive branch and the Democratic National Committee—are not nearly as flexible and malleable as political campaigns are.”
That assessment made me think of Whitmire who told me a year ago that he had voted for Obama in 2008 but had grown disappointed. “It’s not all his fault. He’s got a lot aligned against him,” Whitmire said at the time. “The system is set up for our leaders to fail."
Coincidentally, while I was writing this book review, Whitmire e-mailed me to say his mortgage company, out of the blue, “gave me my house back and released the lien off it for some reason … after everything they put me through.”
Whitmire is not sure why. Mortgage company paperwork mentions a federal loan-forgiveness program, he said, but Whitmire suspects he got special treatment because of media attention.
He is grateful. But he is skeptical, too: His credit is still a mess, he is still unemployed, and "our government still doesn't much work. Hopefully, there’s other people in my situation who got their houses back after the government and banks did them wrong,” he said in a telephone interview from his new-old home. “But, somehow, these days, you’ve just got to doubt it. Sadly, I doubt it.”
As Mele might say: Until we end big, there will be no end of doubt.
MILITARY PHOTOGRAPHERS READY TO DEPLOY AROUND THE GLOBE
Just as law enforcement relied upon surveillance cameras and personal photography to enable the prompt identification of the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing, U.S. armed forces increasingly look to the collection of still and motion imagery to support military operations.
Combat camera (COMCAM) capabilities support "operational planning, public affairs, information operations, mission assessment, forensic, legal, intelligence and other requirements during crises, contingencies, and exercises around the globe," according to newly updated military doctrine.
COMCAM personnel are "highly trained visual information professionals prepared to deploy to the most austere operational environments at a moment's notice."
COMCAM units "are adaptive and provide fully qualified and equipped personnel to support sustained day or night operations" in-flight, on the ground or undersea, as needed.
"Effectively employed COMCAM assets at the tactical level can potentially achieve national, theater strategic, and operational level objectives in a manner that lessens the requirement for combat in many situations," the new doctrine says. "Their products can counter adversary misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda and help commanders gain situational awareness on operations in a way written or verbal reports cannot."
"The products can also provide historical documentation, public information, or an evidentiary foundation... for forensic documentation of evidence and legal proceedings. They can provide intelligence documentation to include imagery for facial recognition and key leader engagements, and support special reconnaissance."
The newly issued COMCAM doctrine supersedes previous guidance from 2007. See Combat Camera: Multi-Service Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Combat Camera (COMCAM) Operations, April 2013.
|Friday, April 19th, 2013|
|DEATH of the NATION
General Idea of the Revolution: “There will no longer be nationality, no longer fatherland, in the political sense of the words: they will mean only places of birth. Whatever a man’s race or colour, he is really a native of the universe; he has citizen’s rights everywhere.” (Property is Theft!, 597) Thus “nationalities will increasingly disappear under the impact of economic organisation, the decentralisation of States, intermarriage between races and intercontinental communication.” For Proudhon: “Where man finds justice, there is his fatherland” (quoted by Jack Hayward, After the French Revolution: Six Critics of Democracy and Nationalism [Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991], 213)
To conclude, as historian Sharif Gemie summarises, “racism was never the basis of Proudhon’s political thinking” (French Revolutions, 1815–1914: An Introduction [Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999], 200-1) FROMhttp://anarchism.pageabode.com/pjproudhon/proudhon-federalism-slavery
|Monday, April 8th, 2013|
All the lies the NYT likes to print
Walter Duranty writing in the New York Times on April 5, 1933:
MOSCOW – April 5. – In the excitement over the Spring sowing campaign and the reports of an increased food shortage, a fact that has been almost overlooked is that the production of coal, pig iron, steel, oil, automobiles, tractors, automotive parts, locomotives and machine tools has increased by 20 to 35 per cent during recent months.
That is the most effective proof that the food shortage as a whole is less grave than was believed – or, if not, at least distribution has greatly improved, which comes to the same thing for practical purposes.
|Friday, April 5th, 2013|
Trust, but darling verify
The basic idea in accountable algorithms is you want to be able to be sure that some kind of fairness property is maintained, but without needing to know everything about what the overall algorithm is.
So you could be sure that you were being treated the same way as everyone else by, let’s say, the IRS, while not being privy to all the details of exactly what their decision algorithm is. You could imagine doing something like that for a search engine, although I think it would be a lot more difficult.
Wired: At the risk of opening up a really complicated discussion, how do you do that?
Ed Felten: The answer has to do with a lot of cryptography and some formal proof methods. There’s a fair amount of rocket science in it, but the idea is that you can represent the algorithm or computation in a way that is opaque to the user, but then you can prove in a formal sense that the algorithm has certain properties. For example, I can prove that the same algorithm that was used to decide whether to audit me was also used to audit you. That’s an example of the kind of property that you can prove.
Wired: Has that been applied anywhere?
Ed Felten: It hasn’t been applied yet in practice that I know of, but we’re building a prototype of a system that is capable of doing it — at least for small examples.
Wired: And do you see uses other than IRS audits for this?
Ed Felten: There are a bunch of different kinds of public processes: things like credit scoring or mortgage eligibility, eligibility for financial aid or something like that from a university. There are a lot of different cases where you have a public or quasi-public process that involves secrecy and secrecy of data but where you want a guarantee of fairness. And we think that these methods can be applied in principal in a lot of those cases, but we want to see how far the technology can go.
|Darknet 0 Brinworld 1
The project team’s attempts to use encrypted e-mail systems such as PGP (“Pretty Good Privacy”) were abandoned because of complexity and unreliability that slowed down information sharing.
Studies have shown that police and government agents – and even terrorists – also struggle to use secure e-mail systems effectively. Other complex cryptographic systems popular with computer hackers were not considered for the same reasons. While many team members had sophisticated computer knowledge and could use such tools well, many more did not.http://www.icij.org/offshore/how-icijs-project-team-analyzed-offshore-files
|Thursday, April 4th, 2013|
|Sunday, March 31st, 2013|
|Up the Hume
While Hume’s taste for anarchism might be considerably weaker than Rousseau’s, a view like Hume’s, according to which social order ultimately rests on popular opinion rather than governmental force, is nevertheless more congenial to anarchism than a view like Rousseau’s that treats the irretrievable loss of anarchy as the price we must pay for civilisation. Thus even in what might seem his least Humean moment – his anarchism – Godwin draws more decisively on Hume than on Rousseau.http://networkedblogs.com/JOqfR
|Saturday, March 30th, 2013|
|Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui are dead
A 1999 book by two Chinese colonels put it more aggressively (albeit in a sentence as verbose as it is apocalyptic): "If the attacking side secretly musters large amounts of capital without the enemy nations being aware of this at all and launches a sneak attack against its financial markets," wrote A 1999 book by two Chinese colonels put it more aggressively (albeit in a sentence as verbose as it is apocalyptic): "If the attacking side secretly musters large amounts of capital without the enemy nations being aware of this at all and launches a sneak attack against its financial markets," wrote Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, "then, after causing a financial crisis, buries a computer virus and hacker detachment in the opponent's computer system in advance, while at the same time carrying out a network attack against the enemy so that the civilian electricity network, traffic dispatching network, financial transaction network, telephone communications network, and mass media network are completely paralyzed, this will cause the enemy nation to fall into social panic, street riots, and a political crisis." No kidding., "then, after causing a financial crisis, buries a computer virus and hacker detachment in the opponent's computer system in advance, while at the same time carrying out a network attack against the enemy so that the civilian electricity network, traffic dispatching network, financial transaction network, telephone communications network, and mass media network are completely paralyzed, this will cause the enemy nation to fall into social panic, street riots, and a political crisis." No kidding.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323419104578376042379430724.html#printMode