Here in the Netherlands (the country that we write this blog out of), people may be largely oblivious to it, as a dictatorship may take over here tomorrow and all Dutch people will still sit outside on terraces enjoying their drinks. But in the rest of the world, Western and non-Western, mass demonstrations have for months been at the order of the day. These demonstrations – whether it is in Egypt or Madrid – are primarily attended by the young. This is Generation F*cked – a generation already suffering from mass unemployment, that is now also hit by the financial crisis.
It is a grave injustice that, for instance in Europe, massive budget cuts are made and the welfare state is pretty much done away with, to save a capitalist financial system that was wreckaged by a few corporate elites. I’m no socialist, but you can’t ignore the structural wrongness of the current neoliberal political-economic structure that has been in the making for thirty years and now seems to be at its apex. Why, really, should the public at large suffer to save free-for-all financial capitalism? There is something rather wrong with that.
It is therefore heartwarming to see that throughout the Western world, inspired by the Arab Spring, young people have taken to street to semi-permanently occupy public spaces and form something of an alternative, proto-democratic movement. The main examples are the acampadas in Madrid and Barcelona, of course, inspired by Tahrir Square. People here are camping out, debating, discussing, having fun, united by a shared loss of trust in the system. And since two weeks, the global heart of financial capitalism, Wall Street, is also subject to a similar youth movement: that of Occupy Wall Street.
The funny thing is that it’s almost completely being ignored by most established media. Of newspapers, only The Guardian pays serious attention to it. While the goals of the movement aren’t really clear, everybody at least wants to show signs of protest to the system that through sheer irresponsibility and recklessness is causing continuing mass suffering. Wanna know you manages your pension money? Who finances, in the US, every politician that wants to get elected? Who through malpractice has brought the entire Western economy to a halt? Occupy Wall Street.
So here’s how to inform yourself on the movement, that is gathering more crowds everyday (I read this morning that the unions are planning to join in) and keeps demonstrating. These are not only young people, by the way. Check out:
OCCUPYWALST.org, the main site of the movement
Occupy Wall Street, the Facebook event site
Reddit, the Reddit page
Twitter, the Twitter page
Adbusters on the Occupy Wall Street movement
Check out The Guardian‘s live blog. Glenn Greenwald – neither, as far I know, a utopian, “leftist” or radical but like many people in the wake of the financial crisis simply concerned with the structural injustice of the current financial system, and happy that at least someone is sending a message - has the following commentary:
Does anyone really not know what the basic message is of this protest: that Wall Street is oozing corruption and criminality and its unrestrained political power – in the form of crony capitalism and ownership of political institutions — is destroying financial security for everyone else? Beyond that, criticizing protesters for the prominence of police brutality stories is pure victim-blaming (and, independently, having police brutality highlighted is its own benefit).
And before that, about Wall Street’s hold on American (in this case, Democratic) politics:
The very idea that one can effectively battle Wall Street’s corruption and control by working for the Democratic Party is absurd on its face: Wall Street’s favorite candidate in 2008 was Barack Obama, whose administration — led by a Wall Street White House Chief of Staff and Wall-Street-subservient Treasury Secretary and filled to the brim with Goldman Sachs officials — is now working hard to protect bankers from meaningful accountability (and though he’s behind Wall Street’s own Mitt Romney in the Wall Street cash sweepstakes this year, Obama is still doing well); one of Wall Street’s most faithful servants is Chuck Schumer, the money man of the Democratic Party; and the second-ranking Senate Democrat acknowledged — when Democrats controlled the Congress — that the owners of Congress are bankers. There are individuals who impressively rail against the crony capitalism and corporatism that sustains Wall Street’s power, but they’re no match for the party apparatus that remains fully owned and controlled by it.
Check out this raving stock trader on BBC News the other night! As the interviewer says, ‘jaws have collectively dropped’. Either this guy is totally honest and reveals what stock market traders and speculators really do on the financial market; or he’s on cocaine; or it’s a hoax.
Some of the things independent trader Alessio Rastani says include the statement that ‘governments don’t rule the world, Goldman Sachs rules the world’. He’s saying that stock market traders don’t really care about the euro anymore, that the financial crisis is spreading like a ‘cancer’, and that he goes to bed to dream about a new recession. Also he says that people should ‘prepare’ and that the savings of millions of people are gonna vanish into thin air.
So this clip is making rounds on the blogs and headlines at the Washington Post, The Guardian, Reuters, CNBC and Forbes. Now some people suspect this is a hoax, instigated by political satirists the Yes Men, who have previously hoaxed the BBC. The Yes Men, though, have denied all involvement, and Alessio Rastani seems to be a real-life independent stock trader. Over at the Dangerous Minds blog, they have some more proof that this is for real.
Hoax or not, check out this video:
Stuff like this gets the historian in me very excited. The Guardian has a cool, interactive, quasi-3D timeline about the events in the Arab world ever since the Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire on December 20, 2010. Scroll joyfully along everything that happened since then, like on a rollercoaster.
I’m thinking about how to expand this… Moving images, documents, links, connections. And imagine such a thing for other historical events, like the French or Russian revolutions.
Ha, this has been foremost on my mind too. In The Guardian’s live chat interview with Julian Assange a short while ago, a reader asks:
have there ever been documents forwarded to you which deal with the topic of UFOs or extraterrestrials?
And Assange answers:
Many weirdos email us about UFOs or how they discovered that they were the anti-christ whilst talking with their ex-wife at a garden party over a pot-plant. However, as yet they have not satisfied two of our publishing rules.
1) that the documents not be self-authored;
2) that they be original.
However, it is worth noting that in yet-to-be-published parts of the cablegate archive there are indeed references to UFOs.
The whistleblowers’ website WikiLeaks has put 92,000 classified military reports on the war in Afghanistan online. This is the site that earlier this year published a classified CIA document on the manipulation of public opinion in Western Europe, and a video showing the shooting of innocents from an Apache helicopter in Iraq.
The publishing of these classified reports, covering a period from January 2004 to December 2009, constitutes one of the biggest leaks in US military history. According to The Guardian, however, most of the material is no longer militarily sensitive.
Beforehand, the New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel were given insight in the documents, and the websites of all three papers are now extensively reporting on them. According to the NYT, the reports show that the war in Afghanistan is going even worse than what is known from the official picture. The Taliban use heat-seeking missiles like they did in the 1980s, the Afghan army and police are not cooperating, and Pakistani intelligence and military are untrustworthy. There appear to be more secret ops than was known, and drone strikes seem to be pretty ineffective at times.
The Guardian puts the spotlight on the number of civilian casualties, that is way higher than was known, the increasing rate of Taliban attacks on NATO targets, and the support to the insurgence given by Iran and Pakistan. Here again, the conclusion is that the situation in Afghanistan is much worse than suspected. And that Obama’s surge is possibly failing.
See the NYT’s ”war logs” reporting here, and The Guardian’s interactive “war logs” here. Both have a lot of articles.
Here’s the leader of the NYT:
A six-year archive of classified military documents made public on Sunday offers an unvarnished, ground-level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is in many respects more grim than the official portrayal.
The secret documents, released on the Internet by an organization called WikiLeaks, are a daily diary of an American-led force often starved for resources and attention as it struggled against an insurgency that grew larger, better coordinated and more deadly each year.
The New York Times, the British newspaper The Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiegel were given access to the voluminous records several weeks ago on the condition that they not report on the material before Sunday.
The documents — some 92,000 reports spanning parts of two administrations from January 2004 through December 2009 — illustrate in mosaic detail why, after the United States has spent almost $300 billion on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban are stronger than at any time since 2001.
As the new American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, tries to reverse the lagging war effort, the documents sketch a war hamstrung by an Afghan government, police force and army of questionable loyalty and competence, and by a Pakistani military that appears at best uncooperative and at worst to work from the shadows as an unspoken ally of the very insurgent forces the American-led coalition is trying to defeat.
The material comes to light as Congress and the public grow increasingly skeptical of the deepening involvement in Afghanistan and its chances for success as next year’s deadline to begin withdrawing troops looms.
The reports — usually spare summaries but sometimes detailed narratives — shed light on some elements of the war that have been largely hidden from the public eye:
• The Taliban have used portable heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft, a fact that has not been publicly disclosed by the military. This type of weapon helped the Afghan mujahedeen defeat the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.
• Secret commando units like Task Force 373 — a classified group of Army and Navy special operatives — work from a “capture/kill list” of about 70 top insurgent commanders. These missions, which have been stepped up under the Obama administration, claim notable successes, but have sometimes gone wrong, killing civilians and stoking Afghan resentment.
• The military employs more and more drone aircraft to survey the battlefield and strike targets in Afghanistan, although their performance is less impressive than officially portrayed. Some crash or collide, forcing American troops to undertake risky retrieval missions before the Taliban can claim the drone’s weaponry.
• The Central Intelligence Agency has expanded paramilitary operations inside Afghanistan. The units launch ambushes, order airstrikes and conduct night raids. From 2001 to 2008, the C.I.A. paid the budget of Afghanistan’s spy agency and ran it as a virtual subsidiary.
And here’s The Guardian:
A huge cache of secret US military files today provides a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and Nato commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency.
The disclosures come from more than 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports about the conflict obtained by the whistleblowers’ website Wikileaks in one of the biggest leaks in US military history. The files, which were made available to the Guardian, the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel, give a blow-by-blow account of the fighting over the last six years, which has so far cost the lives of more than 320 British and over 1,000 US troops.
Their publication comes amid mounting concern that Barack Obama’s “surge” strategy is failing and as coalition troops hunt for two US navy sailors captured by the Taliban south of Kabul on Friday.
The war logs also detail:
• How a secret “black” unit of special forces hunts down Taliban leaders for “kill or capture” without trial.
• How the US covered up evidence that the Taliban have acquired deadly surface-to-air missiles.
• How the coalition is increasingly using deadly Reaper drones to hunt and kill Taliban targets by remote control from a base in Nevada.
• How the Taliban have caused growing carnage with a massive escalation of its roadside bombing campaign, which has killed more than 2,000 civilians to date.
The Guardian endorses the Liberal Democrats and the cause of proportional representation:
Citizens have votes. Newspapers do not. However, if the Guardian had a vote in the 2010 general election it would be cast enthusiastically for the Liberal Democrats.
After the campaign that the Liberal Democrats have waged over this past month, for which considerable personal credit goes to Nick Clegg, the election presents the British people with a huge opportunity: the reform of the electoral system itself. Though Labour has enjoyed a deathbed conversion to aspects of the cause of reform, it is the Liberal Democrats who have most consistently argued that cause in the round and who, after the exhaustion of the old politics, reflect and lead an overwhelming national mood for real change.
Proportional representation – while not a panacea – would at last give this country what it has lacked for so long: a parliament that is a true mirror of this pluralist nation, not an increasingly unrepresentative two-party distortion of it. The Guardian has supported proportional representation for more than a century. In all that time there has never been a better opportunity than now to put this subject firmly among the nation’s priorities. Only the Liberal Democrats grasp this fully, and only they can be trusted to keep up the pressure to deliver, though others in all parties, large and small, do and should support the cause.
Surveying the wider agenda and the experience of the past decade, however, there is little doubt that in many areas of policy and tone, the Liberal Democrats have for some time most closely matched our own priorities and instincts. On political and constitutional change, they articulate and represent the change which is now so widely wanted. On civil liberty and criminal justice, they have remained true to liberal values and human rights in ways that the other parties, Labour more than the Tories in some respects, have not. They are less tied to reactionary and sectional class interests than either of the other parties.
The Liberal Democrats were green before the other parties and remain so. Their commitment to education is bred in the bone. So is their comfort with a European project which, for all its flaws, remains central to this country’s destiny. They are willing to contemplate a British defence policy without Trident renewal. They were right about Iraq, the biggest foreign policy judgment call of the past half-century, when Labour and the Tories were both catastrophically and stupidly wrong. They have resisted the rush to the overmighty centralised state when others have not. At key moments, when tough issues of press freedom have been at stake, they have been the first to rally in support. Above all, they believe in and stand for full, not semi-skimmed, electoral reform.
The Guardian on Dick Cheney’s appearance at the CPAC:
To wild applause Dick teased the crowd with a little presidential come-on, saying: “A welcome like that is almost enough to make me want to run for office again.” Cue standing ovation. “But I’m not gonna do it.”
For shame Dick Cheney, your country needs you. On CNN, Wolf Blitzer declared he thought Cheney might run in 2012, assuming the Republicans do well in the 2010 midterm elections in November. And who knows? he might be the only man to stop the Sarah Palin bandwagon from driving the Republican party over off the cliff.