30 January 2015

Regimes, #Torture and #HumanRights

@hjbentham .

Wherever there is a regime guilty of torture, the CIA is there... doing it.

We have to put aside the myth that the US is battling tyrants in the third world. The archetype of the third world dictatorship was always a CIA-backed regime as far back as the 1950s, and remains so today. It is important to talk about this, because the US has even turned a once-stable European country, Ukraine, into a similar third world-styled dictatorship in the name of the scandalous farce of so-called "democratization".

The US State Department's social experiment in "democracy" in Kiev since 2014 has become a dictatorship. It is deeply paranoid of critics, guilty of torture and assassination of media and political opposition, and has zero tolerance for dissent in any form. It is the most tin-plated dictatorship that has existed in Europe since the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Calling the Kiev regime a "democracy" is a disgrace to all political theory and commentary.

The Senate's torture report exposed that the US bears chief responsibility for the torture it has always accused other regimes of committing. It committed its atrocities at "black sites". Where they are located is classified, but we do know enough about them to realize why they are where they are. They are located in poorer countries with poor human rights records. Locating them there serves no other purpose than to escape US jurisdiction and exploit US prejudices against non-Western societies and regimes. The result the CIA must have wanted is that we might fail to recognize the CIA's central role in a number of regimes' inhumane behavior.

It is not a coincidence that the United States created its "black sites" in the very same countries the US accuses of torture and human rights abuses.

The CIA based its black sites in Eastern Europe and the third world because the CIA already bears primary responsibility for all the torture, human rights abuses and despotism in such regions. The CIA is responsible for training, instituting and normalizing the torture committed by the very same regimes opposed and sanctioned by the US administration on "human rights" grounds. CIA thugs and killers invented and supplied the torture techniques, including Saddam Hussein's famed "rape rooms", that the US administration has used as an excuse to attack or sanction other countries. The reigns of terror that the United States pretended to be "freeing" states like Iraq or Cuba from are nothing more than the atrocities of its own henchmen in those countries.

For all these years the US spent lecturing various third world regimes like Cuba, Chile or Iraq on human rights, its very own CIA "trainers" and "interrogators" were there,  organizing and committing all the torture in these countries.

According to other information, the CIA also liked to hand over prisoners obtained in its wars and repressions to various dictators, whose men would torture the prisoners on America's behalf. One of these dictators was Hafez al-Assad, the father of Bashar al-Assad, the current Syrian President.

So, in effect, all the torture currently mentioned by the media as the crime of the Hafez/Bashar regime in Syria wasn't even Bashar's idea in the first place, but the CIA's. Even in its most exaggerated form, the Assad torture atrocity  is only a fruit of the United States' own evil and meddling in the world.

If we look deep enough, we only find that the CIA trained  interrogators under Hafez al-Assad, just as it did under Nasser in Egypt. And when the  State Department points in glee at the "Assad regime" atrocities, it neglects to mention that it is pointing at its own mess -  the long-term consequence of a country's infestation by the CIA.

This is not an exaggeration, or the vitriolic propaganda it sounds like even as I write it. If we take a sober look back on the historical record, the torturers belonging to Nasser's regime in Egypt - the original Baathist government and prototype of the Baathist regimes in Syria and Iraq - were trained and directed by none other than the CIA.

We aren't hearing where the black sites are because it would shatter the myth that the US is fighting tyrants, and prove that the US and its lackeys are the real tyrants over humanity. The CIA built the rape rooms and prisons of the Third World in its so-called black sites, and instituted the practices of torture in all the countries it accuses of human rights abuses. That's the reason it won't enlighten the public any more about its activities than we are allowed to be shown in the public version of the torture report. Contrary to its propaganda about fighting tyrants and terrorists, the United States invented and holds in place the most degenerate forms misery, emaciation and oppression endured by humanity in the present day.

The US regime is the greatest purveyor of dictatorship and torture in the world.

If American soldiers are truly committed to destroying dictators, thugs and torturers, they would be best advised to turn their weapons and training against the sadists and liars running their own "intelligence" agencies. The CIA gleefully trained and backed the thugs and tyrants of the world's most despotic regions. Their black sites are the black hearts of each region beleaguered by human rights abuses today. How can these hangmen play any legitimate part in a battle against tyranny?

If there's something we can learn from the torture report, it's that the professional psychopaths and mad doctors of the CIA need one more lesson in how to use a rope.

Harry J. Bentham | More articles by Harry J. Bentham

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#POTUS, Chelsea Manning Wants a Word

@nickfnord .

Above: a screen associated with the Collateral Murder video that US political prisoner Chelsea Manning has been detained, tortured and persecuted by regime security forces for disclosing

As usual, the State of the Union address was a top to bottom massacre of verbiage. Every year the English language struggles to survive an onslaught of what can only be described as total verbal hangover from a year of rhetorical binge drinking. Somehow, some way, one man manages to stand on a platform (while two other guys sit awkwardly behind him clapping every now and then) and sum up a bunch of nonsense over the course of an hour or more.

The results are never pretty and picking out something objectionable is easier than shooting fish in a barrel. But if I had to pick one of the most egregious quotes from Obama it’s this: “[W]e defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.”

Mr. President, do you know who Chelsea Manning is?

I mean, you seem to know who she is. You’ve said in the past that Manning is guilty of “breaking the law,” thus implying that she deserves her sentence of up to 35 years in prison. And you’ve also commented that the Pentagon assures you that her conditions are “appropriate and are meeting our basic standards” when she was put in solitary confinement.

This, despite the fact that, at the time, she was being “… confined for 23 hours a day to a single cell, measuring around 72 square feet, equipped only with a bed, toilet and sink.” And the fact that it was an illegally lengthy pretrial detention didn’t seem to matter much to Obama either, despite there being pretty good grounds for it being a human rights violation.

As the Center for a Stateless Society’s Nathan Goodman wrote, “UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez investigated the conditions under which Manning was held and concluded ‘that the 11 months under conditions of solitary confinement … constitutes at a minimum cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of article 16 of the convention against torture. If the effects in regards to pain and suffering inflicted on Manning were more severe, they could constitute torture.'”

Given this history of knowing ignorance, how could Obama not know about Chelsea Manning? Obama’s history of protecting other big political dissidents is also abysmal. Just ask Edward Snowden, who had to flee the country to make sure he wasn’t detained like Chelsea Manning, before he released information to the public that the government found embarrassing. Is that a sign of a free society?

I suspect Obama does know who Chelsea Manning is, but for some reason she doesn’t count as someone who has been persecuted for her struggles as someone who is transgender — despite the fact that during her pre-trial hearing Marine Corps Master Sgt. Craig Blenis defended the pretrial detention on the basis of Manning’s gender dysphoria because “that’s not normal, sir.”

So does persecution of transgender people only count when governments aren’t the persecutors? Is Chelsea Manning not a victim of persecution much like the inordinate number of other trans people locked in prison? And what is Manning if not a political prisoner who has been locked away for up to 35 years because she helped an undefined enemy in some nebulous and apparently impossible to argue for way?

At the heart of this is Obama’s ability to both recognize and obfuscate. Sure he knows about Chelsea Manning, but the question is whether or not he cares. With statements like the one he made in his address, we can see the answer before us quite clearly.

Nick Ford | More articles by Nick Ford

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Open Call for #Article #Submissions

@ClubOfINFO_Sale .

ClubOfINFO's audience is growing rapidly and presents an excellent opportunity to establish yourself as a writer on important issues affecting society today.

According to our data, our monthly traffic has been increasingly sharply since we first began publishing in March 2014. As we approach the first anniversary of this newsletter's launch, it is clear that a further year of healthily increasing visitors is likely.

We have created a Facebook Page, a Google+ Page and a Twitter account that is very lively and active. If you have not already followed these accounts, we invite you.

Written an article you'd like to add to our conversation on issues affecting technology on the political sidelines? Or draft notes you'd like us to develop, fully credited to you as a member of our team? The result will be getting your name established and respected at our newsletter, and links back to your site from here.

Please put forward all work using our simple submission form. We look forward to hearing from you, and we advise you to consider us as a destination for your articles in the long-term future as we continue to develop our online reach and influence.

Harry J. Bentham

Web Content Editor at ClubOfINFO Circulation

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27 January 2015

“#Terror” as Victim Rhetoric

@RcLibertine .

The entire purpose of the language of terrorism is to cloak the sentiments of war in a victim rhetoric. You see, France isn’t “at war,” they’re merely responding to “terror” attacks. Those wretched, vile gunmen are not warriors or soldiers, they’re madmen, lone wolf terrorists.

The attack on Charlie Hebdo‘s office on January 7 might otherwise be considered an invasion, an attack from outside forces France has declared war on. But war is far too brutish for the 21st century, where of course violence is on an inevitable downturn and world peace is just around the corner if not for a few meddling terror cells.

Calling such events “terrorism” is just a way of defamiliarizing people with the concept of war. No matter what, an attack on any western nation’s soil is terror, wholly undeserved, never the result of an ongoing worldwide conflict but merely the work of crazed individuals.

Delude yourself no longer with these politically correct terms. There’s a war, many western nations are involved in it, and attacks on your home turf are a result of it. Maybe the neocons would be a little less annoying if they stopped trying to dress this up as something else. Maybe people would be more hesitant to simply pick a side and declare the other side nothing more than barbarous lunatics if we actually talked honestly. It would at least do us all the service of clearing up people’s intentions and allow those around us to judge the situation more accurately.

All acts of war involve terror. The horror of war is not a byproduct, it is the intention. One cannot divorce terror from war anymore than one can divorce pleasure from sex. Treating an entire side of a conflict as the mere triggering of emotions among a geopolitical constituency reinforces that society’s self-righteousness and blinds them to the environment of terror present constantly throughout middle eastern nations that the west has established.

Perhaps this victim rhetoric has been generated by western militaries and media mouthpieces because they know the painful truth: Islamic terrorists are simply more efficient in provoking a feeling of helplessness. While the psychological effects of the west’s war of terror on the Arab world (and beyond) cannot be overstated, it is not difficult to notice just how much more reactive and frightened westerners get when these attacks occur, because they have been sheltered from the results of war for so long.

This is not to say their panic is not without justification. It is perfectly normal to become fearful and aggressive when you realize that no public space is safe, that a group of extremists could, at any moment, decide to make you a target of their violent political agenda. But since theirs is an act of terror and ours an act of defensive war, or more sickeningly twisted, a humanitarian intervention, we as a civilization do not have to come face to face in our discourse on this most horrifying of realities.

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Missing Comma: The Pen and the Sword

@illicitpopsicle .

This morning, there are twelve people who are dead who should not be.

Nine journalists, a maintenance worker and two police officers were killed at the Paris headquarters of French satire newspaper Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday. Eleven more were injured; four are still in critical condition as of this writing.

Here is a list of the dead (source: The Guardian):

Stéphane Charbonnier, 47, cartoonist and publisher of Charlie Hebdo
Jean “Cabu” Cabut, 76, Charlie Hebdo’s lead cartoonist
Georges Wolinski, 80, Tunisian-born artist
Bernard “Tignous” Verlhac, 57, a member of the group Cartoonists for Peace
Bernard Maris – known as “Uncle Bernard”, 68, economist and Charlie Hebdo columnist
Philippe Honoré, AKA Honoré, 73, Charlie Hebdo cartoonist since the paper’s founding in 1992
Michel Renaud, former journalist and political staffer, visiting Charlie Hebdo
Mustapha Ourrad – Algerian copy editor at Charlie Hebdo
Elsa Cayat – Charlie Hebdo analyst and columnist
Frederic Boisseau – building maintenance worker
Franck Brinsolaro – 49-year-old police officer appointed to head security for Charb and father of a one-year-old girl
Ahmed Merabet – 42 and a French Muslim police officer and member of the 11th arrondissement brigade.


This morning you will read countless editorial boards repeating the line about freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Even my local state newspaper, The Oklahoman, has seen fit to take a break from its usual fare to publish an editorial cartoon in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo.

You will also read plenty of pieces of analysis from commentators of all stripes — worrying about the fuel this will add to the fire of French nationalism and anti-Muslim sentiments, incensed that journalism has been attacked, perhaps even adding some of that Islamophobic fuel themselves.

All of these columnists, from the left to the right, from the libertarian to the statist, will miss the point.

For all the talk of Charlie Hebdo’s anti-authoritarianism, commitment to freedom of expression, their courage and bravery in the face of Islamic fundamentalism, their “equal-opportunity” sartorial stance, what everyone seems to fail to recognize is that the attack on Charlie Hebdo had nothing to do with Islam, or indeed, religion to begin with.

The attack on Charlie Hebdo was as political as the statements Presidents Obama and Hollande made condemning the actions.


Vaneigem once wrote: while it flays us alive, power cleverly persuades us that we are flaying each other.

Charlie Hebdo sometimes mocked French heads of state, sometimes laughed at power, but it never openly challenged it. It was, by all accounts, a paper perfectly willing to engage in satire only so long as it could be allowed to blindly fire in any direction. To this end, it was a useful tool of power.

This should not be taken as a showing of disrespect for the dead. Any time a journalist, or an editorial cartoonist, or a photographer is killed, it is a deep, searing tragedy that fills my — and every fellow journalist’s — heart with rage and anguish. This time is no different. We are an industry that takes to heart “An injury to one is an injury to all.” Recognizing that an outlet — that Charlie Hebdo — serves the interests of power does not reduce the pain or lessen the loss. Even, in this instance, are the deaths of the police officers that were on the scene tragic. That does not change the universal purpose of the police: to serve power.

According to the Guardian, one of the primary suspects in the attack, 32-year-old Chérif Kouachi, was imprisoned in 2008 on terrorism charges for “helping funnel fighters to Iraq’s insurgency. He said at the time he was outraged at the torture of Iraqi inmates at the US prison at Abu Ghraib, near Baghdad.”

Eyewitnesses said one of the suspects proclaimed that they were from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. AQAP is based in Yemen, which has, in recent years, been subject to numerous American drone strikes, resulting in the death of numerous men, women and children. If Kouachi and his brother, Said, are in fact the gunmen, and did end up in AQAP, then it is certainly reasonable to surmise that American/coalition foreign policy up to and including drone strikes may have been a motivating factor for them. Of course, this is just an assumption. For now, the gunmen’s motivations are “whatever we write them to be.”


Yesterday Laurent Joffrin, the publishing director of Liberation, a French left-wing paper similar to the Guardian, remarked, “The terrorists have not attacked the ‘Islamophobic’ as the enemies of Muslims, those who constantly cry Islamist wolf. They targeted Charlie.”

And yet, today the reactionaries, the National Front and other right-wing nationalist groups, are making their bid for the highest political offices in France, using the Charlie Hebdo attack as their springboard. Did the paper speak for them?

The latest cover of Charlie Hebdo is a lampoon of French author Michel Houellebecq’s upcoming novel, which imagines a France run by a “Muslim Fraternity.” By all accounts, Charbonnier had been attempting to pull the paper back towards its left roots, especially after the 2011 firebombing of their offices. If this is true, then why would the National Front try to use the attack as an electoral boost?

Because the images that Charlie sometimes published, the ones that many label as Islamophobic and racist, have just as much of an audience as the images that attack the rich, powerful, bigoted. Because when something like this happens, it somehow justifies all the twisted logic of modern-day Nazis.

This attack took place in a country whose last several presidents have signed laws into being that actively ban aspects of Muslim life and freedom of expression. It took place in a Europe that has seen increasingly vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment, and where, as recently as this month, the state has actually ordered pre-school and daycare teachers to spy on Muslim toddlers. It took place in a world that has been at war for the better part of two decades. Charlie’s work was not being done in a vacuum. It served, and continues to serve, power.

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Linus Torvalds: #Facebook #security, AI

@ScottWNesbitt .

In this week's edition of our open source news roundup, we take a look at open data not being so open, Facebook releasing more of its tools as open source, and more!

Open source news for your reading pleasure.

January 17 to January 23, 2015

World Wide Web Foundation releases second open data barometer report

In 2013, leaders of the G8 signed the Open Data Charter. The Charter promised to make government data freely available, at no cost, and in a format that anyone could use. There's still a long way to go, according to the second edition the World Wide Web Foundations Open Data Barometer report published last week.

Who is the most transparent government? The United Kingdom, followed by the United States, Sweden, France, and New Zealand. Some of the least transparent governments include those from Myanmar, Morocco, and the Philippines.

According to the report, "much more needs to be done to support data-enabled democracy around the world." Fewer than 10% of the countries surveyed in the report release open data. However, the the Foundation warns that "the trend is towards steady, but not outstanding, growth in open data readiness and implementation."

Facebook artificial intelligence tools made open source

Whether you like or loathe Facebook, you have to agree that the company is committed to open source. It reaffirmed that commitment last week by releasing some of its artificial intelligence tools as open source. The tools will enable developers to build services "involving everything from speech and image recognition to natural language processing."

The tools include modules that can help process natural languages and do speech recognition as well as algorithms that do deep learning. The latter can guess what users will be interested in by analyzing their past habits. It can also do facial recognition. But, as Facebook's Soumith Chintala points out, having the tools isn't enough. He stresses that "someone has to go and implement the algorithm in a program, and that’s not trivial in general. You have to have a lot of skill to implement it efficiently."

Linus Torvalds: security problems need to be made public

At linux.conf.au last week in Auckland, New Zealand, Linux founder Linus Torvalds offended a number of people with his comments about diversity in the Linux world. That controversy drowned out what Torvalds had to say about security issues in the software world, which was important.

In a Q&A session, Torvalds said, "I think you absolutely need to report security issues, and you need to report them in a reasonable timeframe." He disputed the claim that disclosing problems only helps the so-called black hat hackers. Instead, it spurs developers to fix the problems.

Torvalds said that the Linux kernel mailing list reports security issues within five working days. He added, "In other projects it might be a month, or a couple of months. But that's so much better than the years and years of silence which we used to have."

U.S. digital team shares code and best practices with U.K. counterpart

Strong ties of cooperation between the U.S. and the U.K. date as far back as 1941. That trend is continuing, with the U.S. Digital Service working with the U.K.'s Goverment Digital Service to "work together to share best practices and tackle shared challenges."

Dubbed a digital partnership, the relationship between the two services has deepened as of late with both sides "now sharing open source code they develop as part of their digital projects." The teams also hope to collaborate on improved ways to digital services, to train future experts, and to further open data and open government initiatives.

A second life for out-of-print books

That's the aim of the $1 million Humanities Open Book grant program run by the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The program "will give grants to publishers to identify great humanities books, secure all appropriate rights, and make them available for free, forever, under a Creative Commons license."

The goal of the grant, according to William Adams who heads the NEH, is to "widen access to the important ideas and information they contain and inspire readers, teachers and students to use these books in exciting new ways." The funding will allow publishers to convert worthwhile out-of-print books to EPUB files that anyone can read with an existing eReader.

If you're a publisher, or work for one who may be interested in this program, you can find the application guidelines at the NEH website.

In other news

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23 January 2015

#ISIS: the Envy of NATO

@hjbentham .

When it comes to powerful military alliances, the one grabbing the headlines today is not NATO but what could soon be its new global nemesis, ISIS.

Ironically, both names resemble anagrams of capricious Pagan deities when written in English and French, but let's not be distracted by their games. I am not a friend of the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL, by any means. This is clear in my work with the influential Iranian media station Press TV.

However, I cannot dismiss the political and military performance of the Islamic State. Its survival in the face of the US Air Force and Navy's most powerful weapons has been breathtaking.

Even I am beginning to think the Islamic State will prevail.

We are misled in all the media, including some for whom I write, into believing this is a mere hate group or terrorist band. What we are dealing with is a State - a Caliphate - and it could be one of the major candidates for a future form of government unlike anything ever seen before in modern politics. We must not underestimate its power. Even those of us who would prefer to dismiss it as a rabble and move on with our plans must, at the very least, listen to what I have to say here.

We have lost our way. The liberal democratic model of state, which we are hugging tighter to in our misguided sense of security that we are better than the Islamic State, is militarily and morally stunted and will never overpower the Islamic State. While France could barely muster fifty combatants to fight the Islamic State in Iraq, the Islamic State recruited well over a thousand soldiers from France's own so-called nation.

Our governments cannot save us from the Islamic State because they have lost the ability to wage war, or even conduct politics adequately. Other than occasional air strikes aiming to "influence" or "tip" the outcome of conflicts that are nothing to do with us, the armed forces of so-called Western democracies are now completely emasculated and will never carry out a successful ground war again.

A large part of this is the "ageing" or "greying" of Europe and North America, as our populations are reduced to isolated, frustrated, delusional Daily Mail readers whose future has long since been lost to the growing migrant populations now inhabiting Europe and North America. These migrant populations, who are an integral part of the so-called nation, do not and cannot share the old-fashioned nation-state allegiances that our governments relied on to survive. This is why there is so little will to war, such poor armed forces recruitment levels in Britain and other so-called nations, and now ever more impressive numbers from our own population flocking to join the Islamic State.

That latter point cannot be reiterated enough because it is so important. Our populations are now more prone to travel to Iraq to join the Islamic State than they are to support an overseas war against such a regime. With figures such as this, we must face the fact that we have already lost the so-called war on terror.

These events all correspond EXACTLY with the predictions of US social theorist Immanuel Wallerstein, whose work has been a great influence on me. In works such as Utopistics as early as 1998, he predicted that as the "white" world becomes, "de facto, less white", and borders, security and intellectual property barriers are increasingly circumvented, states will lose what he called their "social cohesion". The result is that the government will cease to function, leaving our rulers open to be slaughtered and a vast power vacuum where the "West" used to stand - possibly as soon as the year 2050. This will not be a pretty period in history. It will be "hell on earth".

We must not obfuscate our understanding of what is beginning to happen. Those of us who profess to have alternatives to the failing state and the unjust destitution of most of the world must not salvage the so-called nation.

We must help the nation die, and part of this revolutionary act of euthanasia is that we should not worry for our nation's reputation, military prowess, or symbols, but urge these to be destroyed and urge our own countries to allow themselves to be defeated.

The Islamic State is no worse than our own governments. If the Islamic State reduces our governments to ashes and slaughters our rulers, we should thank them.

Let us throw open the gates of our decadent countries and allow our old regimes to be crippled and defeated. The existing authorities and elites will have to lose legitimacy in time, so that a more just and rational alternative system can be passed through and take their place.

Image via Twitter user @Umm_Anaas J

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The #Right Didn't Steal Our #Future...

@KevinCarson1 .

A persistent theme in popular culture, when it comes to issues of technological progress and the future, is that the super-rich will be the main beneficiaries of new technology. Billionaires with artificially augmented lifespans will retreat into their gated communities and anarcho-capitalist enclaves; the rest of us will live lives nasty, brutish and short, subject increasingly to technological unemployment and to price gouging by the corporations that buy up the “privatized” crumbling infrastructure.

In this framing, optimism and hope for technological progress are the preserve of right-wing techno-utopians. It’s elitist to focus on new technology, which will surely be available only to the rich folks who can afford it and use it to enrich themselves, rather than directing our efforts to the more equal distribution of the output of existing technology.

That’s the basic assumption behind cyberpunk fiction, including most of William Gibson’s work and the corporate dystopia in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. It’s the basis of the totalitarian regime in Stephen King’s The Running Man, and the alternate hell world that almost happened in Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time. In a debate with Ray Kurzweil (of Singularity fame) back in 2012, economist Richard Freeman stated his fear for the outcome of automation: “We don’t want it to be that there’ll [be] 20 or 30 billionaires controlling everything, and the rest of us struggling for the one or two jobs that are out there.”

My friend Katherine Gallagher (@Zhinxy) countered a recent statement of this fear on Twitter by pointing out the strategic folly of being “really defeatist” about new technology — “that’ll show those simple-minded right libertarian techy types!” This was, she argued, a radical and wrong-headed departure from the Left’s traditional attitude towards technology:
Visions of a future written by socialists, anarchists, etc. were EVERYWHERE and inspired revolution and change. Now it’s “No! We can’t do that! That’s elitism! People have real needs?” Walking and chewing gum, you know? “Social change is possible, technology isn’t something to fear that will only make the old order worse”. 
Technological progress and technologies of abundance were central to the imagined communist futures of socialists and anarchists in the 19th century. Take Marx’s higher stage of communism, in which it becomes possible to “do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.” In Fields, Factories and Workshops, Kropotkin extrapolated from the invention of electrically powered machinery to an economy of small-scale craft shop manufacturing integrated into village economies, in which the distinctions between head and hand work withered away and people could meet their consumption needs with three or four hours of labor a day. Even the bucolic neo-medieval utopia in William Morris’s News From Nowhere had advanced technology in the background: There were “force barges” transporting goods on the Thames, and there were no more factories because any group of neighbors who wanted to work together could set up wherever they wanted to work and bring in electrical power to run their tools.
There’s a parallel shift from the utopian framing of nineteenth century socialism and anarchism, with their emphasis on personal autonomy and reduced work hours, to the 20th century “progressive” agenda centered on what Guy Standing calls “labourism.” The latter, reflected in the agendas of the New Deal, European Social Democracy and the establishment labor unions, takes both large-scale mass production and the wage system as given, and seeks a society with universal employment at forty hours a week guaranteed for everyone. Far from being revolutionary, as Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt argue in Commonwealth, this model of “socialism” actually involves a kind of social and technological stasis. The Social Democratic agenda is basically “to reintegrate the working class within capital.”
It would mean, on the one hand, re-creating the mechanisms by which capital can engage, manage, and organize productive forces and, on the other, resurrecting the welfare structures and social mechanisms necessary for capital to guarantee the social reproduction of the working class.
In other words, basically resurrecting and perpetuating the mid-20th century model of mass-production managerial capitalism, but with an added layer of bureaucrats to redistribute some of the rents and make it more tolerable and sustainable.

Fortunately this technological defeatism and downward adjustment of expectations has not infected the entire Left.

The whole “tech as right-wing trojan horse” trope ignores the existence of a left-wing high-tech community centered on open-source ideas — including people like the autonomists Negri and Hardt, and the German Oekonux group, who see commons-based peer production as the kernel of the future post-scarcity communist society. InCommonwealth, Negri and Hardt argue that means of production are radically cheapening, human capital is replacing physical capital as the primary source of value, and the networked organization of production is causing productive relations to center on the social relationships of the producing classes themselves.
…the trend toward the hegemony or prevalence of immaterial production in the processes of capitalist valorization…. Images, information, knowledge, affects, codes, and social relationships… are coming to outweigh material commodities or the material aspects of commodities in the capitalist valorization process. This means, of course, not that the production of material goods… is disappearing or even declining in quantity but rather that their value is increasingly dependent on and subordinated to immaterial factors and goods…. What is common to these different forms of labor… is best expressed by their biopolitical character…. Living beings as fixed capital are at the center of this transformation, and the production of forms of life is becoming the basis of added value. This is a process in which putting to work human faculties, competences, and knowledges — those acquired on the job but, more important, those accumulated outside work interacting with automated and computerized productive systems — is directly productive of value. One distinctive feature of the work of head and heart, then, is that paradoxically the object of production is really a subject, defined… by a social relationship or a form of life.
This means that we ourselves, cooperating horizontally with one another and using tools within the means of working people to acquire, increasingly are the production process. Capital is becoming increasingly external to production, able to extract rents from it only by relying on legal monopolies like “intellectual property” to enclose the social relationships of workers.

It follows, Negri and Hardt argue, that revolution no longer primarily entails the physical capture of expensive means of production financed and owned by the capitalists. It entails, rather, simply taking the human relationships and tools already in our possession and seceding from the capitalist economy, and setting up a counter-economy of commons-based peer production. Class struggle no longer takes the form of physically storming the factory, but rather of “exodus”: “a process of subtraction from the relationship with capital by means of actualizing the potential autonomy of labor-power.”

The irony is that, at the same time as the horizontal relationships of working people among ourselves become the primary source of value, and capital increasingly depends on “intellectual property” to extract rents from those relationships, the same technological changes are making “intellectual property” itself unenforceable.

It is “intellectual property” and proprietary knowledge that keep new technology expensive and and enables the rich to monopolize its fruits. But this proprietary control of knowledge (corporate-funded university R&D with its results protected by non-disclosure agreements, government-enforced trade secrets and patents, scientific discovery behind journal paywalls, etc.) is fundamentally opposed to the spirit of science. That spirit, as exemplified by the international scientific community of the seventeenth century, centered on shared experimentation and reproducible results. Proprietary “science,” on the other hand, impedes real discovery and progress by erecting toll gates to sharing and building on knowledge.

And it is technology-friendly Leftists, more than anybody else, who oppose proprietary science in favor of do-it-yourself, peer-to-peer science and open source technology.

This is not to say we should be blithe utopians. Social and economic inequality pose real obstacles to achieving our future of universal abundance, and it would be a grave error to minimize them. As Occupy Oakland activist Emily Loftis put it in a Twitter exchange with me back in 2012, the problem with the high-tech approach to counterinstitution-building I advocated was that “people that need these resources and networks the most have no/little access to these forms of tech.”

The unequal diffusion of technical knowledge and skills with regard to race and class is a very real issue, and should be of concern to anyone who cares about social justice. But to me the point is it’s still an improvement that the bottleneck involved in fighting exploitation is shifting from actual ownership of capital to the diffusion of knowledge and technique. So the class war is becoming less about assaulting and capturing the enormous masses of investment capital or the large institutions that control expensive production machinery, and more about equally diffusing knowledge. As material problems go, the second is a much better one to have.

Nevertheless it is a very real problem. Technology cannot remain the province of middle-class white males. There’s no getting around the need for an intersectional approach to promoting the spread of technical knowledge and skill beyond the privileged groups currently possessed of them. But whatever the difficulties, the spread of technological knowledge to technological have-nots, and the construction of a counter-economy centered on technical skill and low-cost production machinery rather than the ownership of expensive machinery, is the only approach with a real future in the long-run.

Classical political economist David Ricardo’s theory of land rent is useful here. According to Ricardo, as land is appropriated and the margin of cultivation expands outward, the increased outlays of capital and labor required to make land usable (and the increased distance produce must be transported to market) increase the unearned rents accruing to the owners of land inside the margin of cultivation.

The implication is that any technology that increases the efficiency of production at the margin, in terms of land-intensiveness or capital-intensiveness (that is, anything that makes more production possible from smaller quantities of land and capital), will reduce the rents on land and capital accruing to incumbent producers with large stockpiles of accumulated land and capital. From this it follows that the profits of rich capitalists depend on things like patent law that criminalize the diffusion of new technologies for cheaper, more efficient production. Technological diffusion is the friend of workers and consumers, and the enemy of capitalists.

And the false egalitarianism of focusing on “more equal distribution of existing technology, rather than developing new technology” is a dead end. It’s the very same monopolies and legal barriers, and the same barriers of social and class privilege, which prevent the equal diffusion of existing technology, that also allow the super-rich to monopolize new technology. So it’s not as if there’s really an either/or choice here. Either we pursue both/and, or we get neither.
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#Education Beyond #Capitalism: potential

@gmincy .

On Friday, January 9, US president Barack Obama traveled to Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee. Here, Obama announced plans to make an associate degree as obtainable as a high school diploma. Deemed “America’s College Promise,” the new plan, according to Obama, will bring community college tuition down to zero for students.

The plan is smart. As Thomas L. Knapp of C4SS.org notes, community college is cheap in terms of infrastructure — no need to pay for student housing, large auditoriums or research facilities. The plan is also past due. There is no reason higher education should exist in the cash nexus of an advanced technological society.

Obama commented, “education helps us be better people. It helps us be better citizens. You came to college to learn about the world and to engage with new ideas and to discover the things you’re passionate about — and maybe have a little fun. And to expand your horizons.” This is of course true.

Unfortunately, this is all he had to say about education.

Obama went on to talk about the economy. He noted time and again that an advanced degree means more money and a chance at the famed middle class. The American economy, we are told, needs the American worker. “We’ve got this incredible bounty, the God-given resources that we enjoy in this country. But our greatest resources are people.” Your labor is what will allow the nation to compete in a global economy.

This is not a proposal for the sake of education, but rather for the health and longevity of the state. Your education, as your labor, is a tool of production for the machine of capitalism.

To the libertarian, however, education is an expression of individualism. If we imagine education without the state, we are left with self-directed learning, initiative, creativity, co-operative/mutual labor and robust competition between academic institutions. Education is re-imagined as a lifelong pursuit of one’s unique interests. It is not something to be done once for a 9 to 5.

Of course, imagining education without the state also means imagining markets liberated of capitalism. Actually existing capitalism is a system of control; it subordinates human labor. One must (as opposed to voluntarily) rent his or her body and time to capitalists to earn a living. To ensure economic growth we must continually work so we can spend our hard earned dollars.

In Strike Magazine, anthropologist David Graeber notes that advanced technological societies could, right now, achieve a 15-hour work week. This would, according to Graeber, “free the population to pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions, and ideas” — the very reason to pursue an education.

Why hasn’t the 15-hour work week been accomplished? Because free, liberated time renders systems of power useless. The powers state-capitalist institutions hold are not justifiable — they must keep us busy or we would provide their services, education included, ourselves and dismantle them.

Education, for life, should be easily accessible and free. We have the technology to accomplish this. Take for example the Massive Open Online Course, or “MOOC” phenomenon. MOOCs are courses offered online, for free, that are open access and boast unlimited participation. They are proof zero-cost, democratic education is attainable.

Liberated of state, and beyond capitalism, education will evolve. Our societies will evolve. We will have more time to invest in learning, community, family and friends. Obama’s proposal is progressive, but unimaginative — the burden of state capitalist power remains. We can imagine more. We can be free people, in a free society.

The creative, innovative potential of such a society is astounding. I’ll see you at school.

Image via C4SS

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20 January 2015

#Violence and #Euphemism: #warcrimes

@dissentingleft .

I hate when people support violence, but claim to advocate non-violence. We see it when a liberal condemns protesters for rioting but then advocates laws that enable armed police officers to arrest and armed guards to cage people for possessing firearms. We see it when presidents who use cluster bombs against civilians condemn violence by protesters and foreign governments.

The plain truth is that many people don’t see the violence they support as violence. Incarceration, though clearly carried out and enforced through violence, is not often discussed as a form of violence in our society. Nor is arrest, though it would be kidnapping if a private citizen carried it out. In most discourse, violence is shrouded in euphemism, to soften its harsh and brutal reality.

The simple fact is most people support violence in some cases. The problem is that it sounds bad to say you advocate violence, particularly in liberal circles, so they use euphemisms to talk about the violence they advocate. I’ve found that in the rare cases when this is called out, many people implicitly (or in some cases explicitly) make the argument, “It’s justified, therefore it’s not violence,” as though violence ceases to be violence when carried out for good reasons. The trouble with making “non-violence” part of your identity is that you start denying the nature of the violence you support, rather than recognizing that some violence may be justified and accepting the burden of proof required to justify your preferred forms of violence.

This is one of the few ways in which I think both conservatives and Marxist-Leninists are better than many liberals. Conservatives and Marxist-Leninists both tend to be fairly upfront and bloodthirsty about the violence they advocate, rather than assuming it away. Many conservatives explicitly and overtly defend and even praise torture, war, police brutality, and violent and abusive prison conditions. Many Marxist-Leninists joke about and glorify gulags, firing squads, and revolutionary combat. I find these views repugnant, but at least the violence is up front for all to see, rather than concealed. When euphemism conceals violence, this prevents honest discussion of violence, and implicitly lowers the burden of proof by concealing costs in any cost vs. benefit calculation.

That said, there are very real dangers in the approach that glorifies violence rather than euphemistically concealing it. By moving away from treating violence as bad and concealing it when you advocate it, you can move towards glorifying the violence you support, and thus become much less careful and cautious in evaluating whether the violence you support is justified. In a society with open and diverse debates, this may not work, as you will likely face challenges from those who see the violence you support as horrible, or at least questionable. But if you form a bubble, if you move towards what Julian Sanchez calls “epistemic closure,” it becomes very easy to escalate your support for violence. You talk with others who openly support this violence, you dehumanize the victims, and the violence ceases to be seen as a necessary evil, instead becoming a form of glory. The war becomes not just the tragic cost of freedom, but the ultimate in heroism. Torture becomes not a necessary evil to stop terrorism, but just desserts for Muslims who you have condemned as barbarians. The gulag and the firing squad become not merely a regrettable but necessary defense from counterrevolution, but glorious and exciting justice against capitalist pigs.

Given how destructive violence is, I think we ought to be very careful about when we consider it justified. My own approach sees violence as ethically constrained by a classical liberal theory of individual rights. In particular, I support the non-aggression principle, which says that violence can only be justified in defense from aggression against persons and property. Furthermore, I think that even when an act of violence isn’t precluded by this principle, we should still be quite cautious on the question of whether it’s desirable. Some acts of aggression may be resolved or prevented by non-violent forms of governance and dispute resolution, such as reputation mechanisms, ostracism, graduated sanctions, or a restorative justice process.

Perhaps my theory is wrong. All supporters of states would reject my theory, as it rejects the existence of states outright. Some anarchists would reject my theory, as it allows for violence in defense of property rights and precludes some forms of revolutionary violence. But in order to evaluate whether it’s wrong we must look at it honestly. We must recognize the violence it permits as violence, and we must then determine whether it’s justified. Distorting language to conceal violence does not help our inquiry. If you support prisons, police, gun control, or even if you’re like me and just support self-defense, you support violence. Own it and argue honestly for it.

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Wallerstein: #world-system self-destructing

@iwallerstein .

Immanuel Wallerstein, possibly the world's most eminent sociologist, has designated the current global unemployment crisis as part of the self-destruction of the historical system that once defined our civilization.

From a commentary published at Wallerstein's website:
The world-system is self-destructing. The world-system is in what the scientists of complexity call a bifurcation. This means that the present system cannot survive, and that the real question is what will replace it. While we cannot predict what kind of new system will emerge, we can affect the choice between the substantive alternatives available. But we can only hope to do this by a realistic analysis of existing chaotic swings and not hide our political efforts behind delusions about reforming the existing system or by deliberate attempts to obfuscate our understanding.
Wallerstein refers to the world-system, a term coined by him in his theoretical works to refer to the world as a single integrated social system with a single historical lifespan. Much of Wallerstein's works, including his 1998 book Utopistics, have predicted the delegitimization and failure of the liberal democratic state and the underlying mechanisms of global stratification and exploitation that have made this type of regime viable.

Recognizing this failure of the current global system of politics and economics, many futurist theorists on the sidelines of politics have attempted to draw up alternatives. These theorists have included Jacque Fresco, who designed an alternative model of civilization under the title of the Venus Project, and M. Amon Twyman, whose theories urge the creation of a Virtual, Distributed, Parallel (VDP) state and the eventual replacement of all national authorities with global authorities modeled on the agencies of the United Nations.

Wallerstein also drew attention to the decline of the United States, arguing that the decline is now "precipitate" as America's failed attempts to reverse the trend with violence have only made the regime even weaker:

Geopolitical alliances are almost as unstable as the market. The United States has lost its unquestioned hegemony of the world-system and we have moved into a multipolar world. U.S. decline started not recently but in 1968. It was for a long time a slow decline, but it became precipitate after 2003 as a result of the disastrous attempt to reverse the decline by the invasion of Iraq. 
Our multipolar world has perhaps 10-12 powers strong enough to pursue relatively autonomous policies. However, ten to twelve is too large a number for any of them to be sure their views can prevail. As a result, these powers are constantly shuffling alliances in order not to be outmaneuvered by the others.
It is suggested here that the US's renewed hostility towards Russia indicates not a revival of US power in Europe but the collapsing status of the United States, as the decadent "superpower" surrenders to stronger regional forces.

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#Education & the "#Progressive" $tate

@KevinCarson1 .

Speaking in Knoxville, Tennessee on January 9 US president Barack Obama unveiled an initiative to provide two years of community college tuition-free, nationwide, to anyone meeting attendance and grade requirements. The idea, inspired by a similar program in Tennessee, aims to make two years of college as universal as high school is now. Obama’s proposal is in keeping, in more ways than one, with traditions going back to the origins of the American corporate state 150 years ago.

Since the mid-19th century, a few hundred large industrial corporations and banks have dominated the American economy. And the American state, functionally, has been closely intertwined with the interests of those corporations. One of its functions is to subsidize the corporate bottom line and artificially prop up the rate of profit by socializing provision of a growing share of inputs — among them the cost of reproducing and training human labor power.

The first statewide public school systems were introduced in New England to meet mill owners’ need for a workforce that was docile, obedient and educated to minimal standards; a function supplemented by education in “100% Americanism” at the turn of the 20th century, and a home economics curriculum in the ’20s and ’30s aimed at processing students into good mass consumers.

As recounted by New Left historian David Noble in America by Design, federal government aid to land grant colleges coincided with the national railroad and industrial corporations’ growing need for trained mechanical and industrial engineers. This trajectory carries through the GI Bill and to Obama’s latest proposal.

These institutional developments were accompanied by the rise of a meritocratic legitimizing ideology which replaced earlier American notions of equality and autonomy. Rather than genuine equality based on widespread economic empowerment and self-employment, the new meritocratic ideology treated step hierarchies of wealth, skill and managerial authority as both normal and necessary, but relied on the ideal of universal education to justify the ideology as “democratic.” With the widespread availability of secondary, higher and technical education, the theory goes, the individual’s rise in the managerial-technical hierarchy is limited only by their own willingness to learn and work. This peculiar American religion combines the existence of deep structural inequalities in wealth and power with the moralistic assumption that everyone gets exactly what they deserve.

The official White House happy talk, predictably, takes the corporate state’s assumptions for granted: “In our growing global economy, Americans need to have more knowledge and more skills to compete — by 2020, an estimated 35 percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree, and 30 percent will require some college or an associate’s degree.” That it’s the place of the “growing global economy” and the corporate HR departments in it to set the “required” qualifications for labor, and the place of the state’s education system to process people to those standards, goes without saying.

Never mind that globalization, concentration of economic power in the hands of a few giant, capital-intensive corporations, and a wage system that separates labor from both ownership and control of work, are none of them natural or inevitable processes. They all result from the deliberate policies of a state in league with capital.

The real irony is that the system of power Obama’s proposal is designed to serve is doomed to extinction. The revolution in cheap small-scale machine tools means an end to the material rationale for the wage system, and to corporate control of production. Coupled with the rise of open-source or pirated textbooks, free online lectures and syllabi and DIY learning networks, it also means an end to control over access to employment by the unholy alliance of big universities and human resources departments. In an economy where a few months’ wages can purchase a garage factory full of open-source tools and the economy is dominated by commons-based peer production and craft production in self-managed shops, credentialing will be largely stackable and ad hoc, negotiated informally to suit the needs of the groups of people working together.

The days of the educational Cult of Moloch and its human sacrifices are numbered.

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16 January 2015

The definition of racism: Robert Wei

. @WeiDeLi14. #racism. #Ukraine. #Nazis. #Zionism.

Recently my wife was asking me questions about what is "racism" and "ethnic awareness." Then memory of lectures long past came to me. My anthropology instructor years ago described "racism" by its original, scientific meaning rather than the widely used socially-inferred definition which is commonly bandied about. However, my own conception of "racism" is related to the idea of a clinging to identification with the material self that does not abide; hence with these competing definitions and connotations in mind I hope that you dear reader can better comprehend the range of my thought.

First let us return to a logical understanding of the phenomena. Racism is inherent in all human beings. It is a complex of traits and preferences that are encoded by an individual in one's formative years, and contributes to an overall sense of identity. (This definition is essentially the same in essence to so-called "ethnic awareness." I'll come back to this.) It also assists in socialisation with a peer group in un-reconstructed societies where most if not all members are biologically related to a much closer degree than someone from a distant community. This element of identity can like all factors of human experience have negative and positive consequences. The modern concept of "racism" in popular usage has honed in on only the negative consequences: discrimination against other individuals based on race, intolerance of racial / cultural differences, and so on. My own concept of "racism" goes further in that I believe BOTH positive (which include personal love of kin and kind, willingness to sacrifice for that in-group and empathy and so on) AND negative aspects of identification with a specific race are ultimately constraining. It interferes with broad compassion with all other living beings and limits individual growth and understanding. In my opinion, eventually any being out grows the needs for identification based upon a material-oriented identity. I believe with absolute certainty that I am what I've done, do, and learned in my life. (Of course there are elements of my experience that remain having impressed themselves upon my being because of the company I kept or was made to keep, etc.) I hope that everyone may well come to appreciate such sensibilities one day. I see ‘race’ as a transitory and ultimately “artificial” construct.

A good example of this is that we can find always a few individuals (or even entire sectors of a society) who for one reason or another have acquired traits that are not based on their biological affinities nor even their original social unit. Specifically I knew a fellow at university. He was an ethnic Chinese whose grandfather was from Macau. That family had immigrated within the Portuguese Empire settling in Mozambique. Later in response to the civil war there they fled first to Oporto and then to "L.A." (Los Angeles). When I met him I naturally related to him as if he is "Chinese" but his expressions and emotional range were Latin in character and his physical habits, African. I have often observed Africans when in conversation they put their hand on their stomach, under their shirts if wearing one, rubbing idly in the way some white guys will play with their beard when in thought. To what race does this "Chinese" belong? So, to me, a sense of race is illusion or at least a lack of varied experience living in diverse societies.

Even an "ethnic awareness" which to my mind is simply an Americanism, or a phenomenon within a highly heterogeneous society -- perhaps Brazil might have a similar phenomenon -- is only a "flavour" of life, it is exceedingly fleeting. That is not to say that there does not exist a deep instinctive leaning toward and understanding of someone of close biological lineage. However to me that is a deeper phenomenon than the popularized version and that is what may have given rise to so-call “ethnic awareness.” Let’s not argue over semantics however. Of course any term can be whatever you as an individual use it as a symbol of. This is a fact of linguistic usage.

The core of my original thought is that a racist is simply someone at a lower level of spiritual development -- who has gotten past individual selfishness and bias, and then expanded his/her circle of "self" to those he associates with himself "genetically" and the traits he worships / admires. Of course, in time that is revealed as illusion. Racism is an unsustainable state of being and an illogical line of thought. It is sterile and though it may offer some pleasure or comfort, it hampers the full extension of one's personal identity.

This can be proven by seeing the attacks of racists on others that are in fact "higher" in racial authenticity vis-à-vis the race they claim to idealise. When this occurs it is rather ironic and certainly educational.  I have found that those who are most racist are maladjusted individuals who have deep issues regarding their self-identity. There is a war inside their head until they chose to embrace a certain idealised identity. (That could be said of other forms of extremism as well.) Those who are actually fully aware of that identity do not feel so compelled to act so extremely. Hence "Racism" in the modern context often is a social disease that results from a deep crisis in identity. Of course there are other kinds of racism that develop as well.

As an example I offer the Ukrainian Fascists. How can they utilise the symbolism of former German Nazism? They are Slavs. By definition (of Nazis) they are "sub-humans." How then can they espouse racially oriented "Nazi" views? {Of course there is a long history lesson to review here too -- but I leave that for another time.} There are no people more similar to them than Russians be it genetically, linguistically or culturally. This means that either they reject their genetic relationship to Slavs or re-orient/redefine it as if they are the "real Slavs" and that Russians are hybridised bastards; laughable logic in either case. I believe that this small segment of that society hate their similarity to other Slavs or at least to Russians, for a complex of reasons that I've discussed elsewhere or will discuss in future, and espouse a Nazi German-oriented identity. Real Nazis would throw them in the ovens with the rest!

Zionism is another case in point. Zionist Jews hatred of, and genocidal attitudes / actions towards Arabs in particular, is it part of their own extreme hatred of part of their own self-suppressed identity? Do they blame such similarities in their own character for their own suffering from discrimination and hatred and violence? Again there are no people more alike to them than Arabs. Fellow Semites, closely related languages -- even a layman can see similarities between "Shalom aleihin" vs. "Salaam aleikum," a long shared cultural and historical heritage that in my view ought to be a bridge of understanding rather than a point of contention.

I believe that if one scratches the surface of any racist and you will find he or she is working hard to maintain a lie within himself, denying some part of his own self in preference for an idealised identity designed to boost abysmal lack of self-esteem. So pathetic, if they were not such a danger to others, even in small numbers, we could easily pity them. "Perish away, O Druj!""

"Perish away to the regions of the north, never more to give unto death the living world of Righteousness!" -- Avesta (translated)

By Robert Wei - More articles by Robert Wei

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High-ranking psychopaths are pushing for a nuclear war with Russia, seemingly intentionally

If the US leaders wanted to wage a thermonuclear war that would destroy America and the world, we would not be here to talk about it. Presid...

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