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Yellow Vest Movement Struggles to Reinvent Democracy as Macron Cranks Up Propaganda and Repression

Yellow Vest Movement Struggles to Reinvent Democracy as Macron Cranks Up Propaganda and Repression

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

After five months of constant presence at traffic circles, toll-booths and hazardous Saturday marches,  the massive, self-organized social movement known as the Yellow Vests has just held its second nationwide “Assembly of Assemblies.” Hundreds of autonomous Yellow Vest activist groups from all over France each chose two delegates (one woman, one man) to gather in the port city of St. Nazaire for weekend of deliberation (April 5-7).

After weeks of skirmishing with the municipal authorities, the local Yellow Vests were able to host 700 delegates at the St. Nazaire “House of the People,” and the three-day series of general meetings and working groups went off without a hitch in an atmosphere of good-fellowship. A sign on the wall proclaimed: “No one has the solution, but everybody has a piece of it.”

Their project: mobilize their “collective intelligence” to reorganize, strategize, and prolong their struggle. Their aim: achieve the immediate goals of livable wages and retirements, restoration of social benefits and public services like schools, transportation, post offices, hospitals, taxing the rich and ending fiscal fraud to pay for preserving the environment, and, most ambitious of all, reinventing democracy in the process. Their Declaration ends with the phrase “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” I often wonder if they know who coined it.

Yellow and Green Unite and Fight

Particular attention was paid to the issue of the environment, reaffirming the popular slogan: “End of the week. End of the world. Same logic, same struggle.” (It rhymes in French.) The Assembly went further and called on “All persons who wish to put an end to the expropriation of the living to take up a conflictual stance against the present system in order to create, together, a new ecological, popular social movement.”

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Spectacular Violence as a Weapon of War Against the Yellow Vests

Spectacular Violence as a Weapon of War Against the Yellow Vests

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

Violence is a spectacular weapon deployed by the ruling class to discredit movements from below and justify their repression. It is spectacular in the sense of being a great and powerful political tool for governing the masses, and keeping them in their place. In order to do this, however, the weapon of violence is spectacularin a second sense: it creates a carefully orchestrated mise en scène that seeks to render ruling class violence invisible, while simultaneously transforming acts of resistance into prodigious spectacles of criminal violence.

This is how Act 18 of the Yellow Vests is currently being presented by the mass media: at the precise moment at which the government was concluding its democratic consultation of the people via Emmanuel Macron’s “Grand Débat,” the Yellow Vests have unleashed an inordinate amount of violence that now needs to be repressed in the strongest possible terms. The president of the Champs-Elysées Committee, Jean-Noël Reinhardt, declared in an interview in which he is surrounded by the microphones of many of the major press outlets, that the movement is no longer one of the Yellow Vests, but rather of Black Vests that simply “express hatred and the will to destroy.” Proclaiming that this situation cannot be allowed to continue because of its impact on commercial and tourist activity, as well as its defamation of the global symbol of the Champs-Élysées, his statement bleeds seamlessly into the declaration made by the Prime Minster, Édouard Philippe: new measures will be put in place to prohibit protests in certain locations and allow for even more aggressive police crackdowns.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests

Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests

A State of Emergency That Does Not Say His Name

According to Vincent Brengarth, a lawyer at the Paris Bar, in recent years we have been witnessing a disturbing drift in police repression in France, more specifically since November 2015 when the state of emergency was pronounced and extended several times, before being integrated into common law. We would henceforth be under “a state of emergency that does not say its name,” with preventive arrests only based on suspicion, without concrete evidence of an offence.

Figures from the Ministry of Law Enforcement

On Saturday, 8th December, the “Yellow Vests” movement maintained its progress as it gathered a total of 136,000 demonstrators throughout the country (including nearly 10,000 in Paris), a comparable level on Saturday the 1stof December while 106,301 people were counted during the previous weekend, according to the, regularly underestimated, figures of the Ministry of the Interior. In the wake of the mobilisation on the 1st of December, the Minister Christophe Castaner was quick to review the figures of the 24th of November, as he re-evaluated the number of protesters to 166,000 people instead of the previously announced 106,000. We may notice this jump of nearly 60,000 people that suddenly appeared in the Department’s own numbers, an accounting manipulation that allows to say that the movement is decreasing…

Paris on insurgent alert

For this fourth Saturday of demonstrations for the Yellow Vests, 89,000 members of the so-called “law” enforcement authorities were mobilised, including 8,000 in Paris, supported by 14 “VBRG” (Véhicules Blindés à Roues de la Gendarmerie – Wheeled Armoured Vehicles of the Gendarmerie).

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

#ShutdownStories: Americans Become Intimately Familiar with U.S. Government Form of Repression

#ShutdownStories: Americans Become Intimately Familiar with U.S. Government Form of Repression

As the #shutdownstories pour in, a different picture of America emerges than the one commonly seen in the TV news. This America lives paycheck to paycheck, worries about how to juggle debt and bills, and feels a deep insecurity about their well-being. Many of the #shutdownstories speak about “elitist” politicians who are out of touch with the reality of common people, of being “held hostage” to political games that they don’t even support, and of realizing that their well-being is not their government’s priority.

The tactics being used in this circumstance have been used by the American government against many common people in other countries. Whenever we hear the U.S. government “threatening to withhold aid” or threatening “to stop funding major agencies” abroad, now our antennas will be tuned into another frequency.

Just as the President and other officials make misleading statements about federal workers being “on strike,” or “supporting the shutdown,” or how they will “definitely be paid their back pay,” we can be assured that the statements they make while using these tactics on other countries’ people are likely just as misleading.

Perhaps some may feel that the government “giving money” to other countries and then withholding it is not a similar situation because they “shouldn’t give that money away” in the first place. However, a closer examination of one highly misunderstood situation will show the complexities of these related international events.

In January of 2006, the Palestinian people overwhelmingly supported Hamas candidates, who won 74 of 132 seats in parliamentary elections that were lauded by many as being fair. Former President Carter stated: “It seemed obvious to us and other observers that the election was orderly and peaceful and that there was a clear preference for Hamas candidates even in historically strong Fatah communities.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington

A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington

It’s a classic narrative: the foreign dignitary of a US ally visits Washington, the Pentagon and State Department are intent on selling him a large weapons package, a munitions maker seeks to capitalize on the visit, some senators resist and point to how US weapons are being used by that ally to kill civilians, and the administration answers that the US is not “a party” to the hostilities and must show good faith to the ally or risk losing its favor.

This is the Saudi Arabia story as its new leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, comes to Washington. His country, as I have reported more than a few times, is valued by the Trump administration for several reasons, none of them compelling: a “bulwark” against Iran’s Shiite regime, thus an unofficial partner to Israel in a nonexistent peace process; a major oil producer; a longtime customer for US weapons, in the billions of dollars (recall last year’s $110-billion arms package); the senior partner to the US in the bloody war in Yemen (an estimated 10,000 civilian casualties); and, perhaps most importantly these days, a good friend to private investors, starting with the Real-Estate-Agents-in-Chief, Donald Trump and Jared Kushner.

Now this Saudi leader, hailed as a modernizer and reformer in some media, expects a warm welcome—and the chance to purchase another $1 billion in weapons, including Raytheon Corporation’s precision-guided munitions. He will thus gain US endorsement to more efficiently carry out war crimes in Yemen, a country in collapse and in the midst of cholera and malnutrition epidemics. All this largesse to maintain US “influence” and help make the Middle East more “stable.”

Back in the day, the Obama administration came, belatedly to be sure, to the conclusion that constant support of the Saudis had been mistaken and should no longer be allowed to get in the way of other US interests. One of those was pursuing a nuclear agreement with Iran. (The full story is in Trita Parsi’s Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy.) Under Trump, however, that direction has been reversed. Not only is Saudi Arabia very much in favor; it benefits from the administration’s determination early on to loosen restrictions on arms sales abroad in order to make US arms manufacturer’s more competitive.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

The Exponent Problem

The Exponent Problem

2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192…

Most people find managing their own affairs sufficiently challenging. Earning a living, establishing a family, rearing children, saving for college and retirement, and dealing with illness and aging fill the days and leave little time, attention, or energy to manage someone else’s affairs.

A hypothesis: the effort required to run other people’s lives is an exponential function. If X is the sum total of everything required to run your life; running two lives is X squared; three lives is X cubed, and so on. Call it the exponent problem. For partial verification, try running someone else’s life for a day or two. See it how it works out for you and the other person.

Why do governments fail? Government is someone imposing rules on someone else, and backing them up with repression, fraud, and violence when necessary. The governed always outnumber those governing, which means the latter face the exponent problem. In the US, there are around 22 million employed by the government, and let’s add in another million who actively influence it. The US population is around 323 million, so there are 23 million rulers to 300 million ruled, or about 13 ruled per ruler. How fitting, like the 13 original colonies!

Whatever amount X of time, energy, money, attention, and other resources the rulers expend on their own lives, they must expend that X to the thirteenth power to “govern” the ruled. If X could actually be quantified and it was only 2, it would still take 8192 times the effort to rule the US as it does for the rulers to govern their own lives. Those are just illustrative numbers, but you get the picture.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fed Up With The Corruption: Mexico on Brink of Revolution

Anti-government sentiment is mounting after police forces opened fire on a teacher protest in Oaxaca on Sunday, killing at least eight.

Since then, two high level government officials from that state, Oaxaca Minister of Indigenous Affairs Adelfo Regino Montes and Secretary of Labor Daniel Gutierrez, have resigned in protest of the “authoritarian actions that repress and kill Oaxacan people who defend their rights and the government’s negligence to any possibility of dialogue,” as Gutierrez put it.

On Wednesday, members of the medical organization Yo Soy Medico 17 from 32 states joined the ongoing strike, stating their opposition to Peña Nieto’s health reforms, which they say are a “disguised way of privatizing health in Mexico,” according to TeleSUR.

Further, the group —which translates to “I’m a Doctor”—has vocally condemned the killings and what they describe as intimidation and repression by authorities and organized crime. “According to doctors,” TeleSUR explains, “as violence has increased in Mexico they have suffered the consequences of crimes like kidnappings, enforced disappearances and killings that have gone unpunished by authorities.”

The dissident Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE) teacher’s union—which largely represents educators in Mexico’s predominantly rural and Indigenous southern states—has been staging dramatic demonstrations and road blockades against new mandated teacher evaluations, which they say ignore the challenges of their region while enabling mass layoffs.

These protests have been met with violent government repression, including the recent arrest of two of the union’s leaders. But members explain that the government’s opposition to the teacher’s union runs far deeper.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Do Ongoing Global Events Prove the World Is Ready for Revolution?

(ANTIMEDIA) Earth — Paralleling the increasingly draconian policies marking a worldwide descent into fascism, are massive protests — born in the Arab Spring, but arguably an angrier, more potent extension of the Occupy movement — indicative of an unprecedented tipping point.

We, the people of this planet, now stand together, gazing over the precipice whose murky depths of State repression demand we ask one imperative question: have we finally had enough?

“[W]e have lost the way,” Charlie Chaplin implores us to consider in his renowned and timeless monologue from The Great Dictator, because “Greed has poisoned men’s souls — has barricaded the world with hate; has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.”

And now, 76 years after Chaplin cautioned us to scrutinize our collective humanity, that avarice — evidenced in imperialism championed by the U.S. government — has ossified a lazy apathy in the populace, of seeming impenetrable resolve. Until now.

Chaplin revolution

Though sparks of revolution have sporadically ignited people’s movements countless times before, our present tipping point most likely began with the self-immolation of a young fruit cart vendor in Tunisia in 2011. So incensed by an unjust law and a policewoman’s disrespectful public slap as she attempted to confiscate his only means of supporting a large family, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in front of a government building  — and set off the tremendous wave of protests for democracy and human rights, which came to be monikered the Arab Spring.

Occupy followed shortly afterward in a moment many believed with certainty would force an unparalleled shift toward freedom. But the government, keen to maintain its maniacal chokehold of control, also knew this — and infiltrated the movement to impart divisive infighting and confusion to effectively quash the threat.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Did Saudi Arabia Just Clear The Way For An Invasion Of Syria And Iraq?

Did Saudi Arabia Just Clear The Way For An Invasion Of Syria And Iraq?

And now, a further turn for the absurd…

While it’s still far from common knowledge among the Western public that Washington’s closest allies in the Mid-East are funding, arming, and otherwise enabling the Sunni extremists (including ISIS) battling for control of Syria and working to destabilize Iraq, the massacre that unfolded earlier this month in San Bernardino has managed to focus some much needed attention on the role Saudi Arabia plays in promoting extremism.

As we noted in the immediate aftermath of the California mass shooting, the fact that Tashfeen Malik spent 25 years in Saudi Arabia living with a father who, according to family members who spoke to Reuters, adopted an increasingly hardline ideology as time went on, underscores the fact that the puritanical, ultra orthodox belief system promoted by the Saudis is poisonous. That’s not a critique of Islam. It’s a critique of Wahhabism and the effect it has on the minds of those who are inculcated by Saudi culture.

 Here’s an excerpt from “Saudi Arabia Is Underwriting Terrorism. Let’s Start Making It Pay,” by Charles Kenny:
For years since 9/11, U.S. and Western officials have mostly looked the other way at all this ideological support for extremism: Saudi oil was just too important to the global economy, even though many of these Saudi petro-dollars were underwriting repression at home and the growth of Salafist fundamentalism abroad. 

This support for radicalism abroad should come as little surprise given that Islamic State is an ideological cousin of Saudi Arabia’s own state-sponsored extremist Wahhabi sect—which the country has spent more than $10 billion to promote worldwide through charitable organizations like the World Assembly of Muslim Youth. The country will continue to export extremism as long as it practices the same policies at home. 

More, from “Saudi Arabia: An ISIS That Has Made It,” by Kamel Daoud:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

War, Repression and International Gangsterism: U.S. State Policy From Benghazi to Baltimore

War, Repression and International Gangsterism: U.S. State Policy From Benghazi to Baltimore

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A mere two months after clashes between black youth and police in Baltimore following the murder of Freddie Gray while in police custody, President Obama’s Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the indictment of twenty-four year old Raymon Carter for his alleged involvement in the torching of a CVS pharmacy. The national government’s intervention into the case had an unmistakable message – if you engage in “unauthorized” forms of resistance – in this case, crimes against property – expect to confront the full power of the national government.

U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein made it even clearer: “Anyone in the future who participates in a ‘riot’ should know that police, prosecutors and citizens will track them down and send them to prison.”

This aggressive and speedy move on the part of the DOJ to criminalize poor, black kids in Baltimore differed sharply from the DOJ approach to high government officials, armed servants of the state at the local level and the big banks and investment firms. For the officials involved in torture under the Bush Administration, the financial gangsters who engineered the 2008 economic crisis, and the killer cops across the country who have yet to experience one indictment from Obama’s DOJ after months of “investigations,” DOJ-granted impunity has been the operative principle in practice.

But Obama’s DOJ has not been the only state institution involved in providing cover and impunity for repression and criminality in the service of the capitalist oligarchy.

Impunity for State Terrorism: the Real Story of Benghazi 

What might seem oppositional and important in the game of U.S. politics is usually insignificant and diversionary. Hillary Clinton’s appearance before the House Select Committee, ostensibly established to conduct a bi-partisan investigation into the events that led to the death of Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. citizens on September 11, 2012, was a case in point.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Energy, the repressed: Paging Dr. Freud

Energy, the repressed: Paging Dr. Freud

Jeremy Rifkin announced the end of work in a book by that title in 1995. Today, we are once again being told that the end of work is nigh. The Atlantic Monthly tells us so in a piece entitled, “A World Without Work.” Automation and computer technology will bring unimaginable change and prosperity–and result in the loss of millions of jobs that will not be replaced.

I heard this before when I was young. In the 1960s there was talk of a three-day workweek for similar reasons. Obviously, it didn’t work out.

My purpose here is not to provide a detailed critique of such prognostications. Rather, I ask the same question I ask when I see a science-fiction film depicting widespread space travel and planetary colonization. Where are they getting all the energy to do these things?

In the Atlantic piece–a clever and rather more subtle discussion of the post-work world than I’ve seen elsewhere–the word “energy” appears exactly zero times. It is assumed that humans will somehow extract enough energy to run all the new machines that will serve (or run?) us. It is assumed that climate change will not be so disruptive as to make our current technical civilization crumble or at least falter significantly. It is assumed that the modeled effects of climate change on the world’s major grain growing areas–lots of drought–won’t change our priorities drastically toward growing more food in more places. In short, the future is just the past with a lot more energy-guzzling gadgets and apparently a lot more playtime.

Victorian culture repressed sex, not the act itself–population rose briskly in 19th century Britain–but discussion of sex, examination of it. Today, one can walk into any decent-sized bookstore and get an illustrated manual on sexual positions. Today, people get therapy to improve their sex lives, brag openly about their sexual conquests, and have frank discussions with one another about each other’s sexual preferences. That repression is over–to the dismay of some and to the delight of others.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Freedom or the Slaughterhouse? American Police State From A to Z

Freedom or the Slaughterhouse? American Police State From A to Z

“Who needs direct repression when one can convince the chicken to walk freely into the slaughterhouse?”—Philosopher Slavoj Žižek

Despite the best efforts of some to sound the alarm, the nation is being locked down into a militarized, mechanized, hypersensitive, legalistic, self-righteous, goose-stepping antithesis of every principle upon which this nation was founded.

All the while, the nation’s citizens seem content to buy into a carefully constructed, benevolent vision of life in America that bears little resemblance to the gritty, pain-etched reality that plagues those unfortunate enough to not belong to the rarefied elite.

For those whose minds have been short-circuited into believing the candy-coated propaganda peddled by the politicians, here is an A-to-Z, back-to-the-basics primer of what life in the United States of America is really all about.

A is for the AMERICAN POLICE STATE. As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, a police state “is characterized by bureaucracy, secrecy, perpetual wars, a nation of suspects, militarization, surveillance, widespread police presence, and a citizenry with little recourse against police actions.”

B is for our battered BILL OF RIGHTS. In the cop culture that is America today, where you can be kicked, punched, tasered, shot, intimidated, harassed, stripped, searched, brutalized, terrorized, wrongfully arrested, and even killed by a police officer, and that officer is rarely held accountable for violating your rights, the Bill of Rights doesn’t amount to much.

C is for CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE. The latest governmental scheme to deprive Americans of their liberties—namely, the right to property—is being carried out under the guise of civil asset forfeiture, a government practice wherein government agents (usually the police) seize private property they “suspect” may be connected to criminal activity. Then, whether or not any crime is actually proven to have taken place, the government keeps the citizen’s property.

– See more at: http://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/john_whiteheads_commentary/freedom_or_the_slaughterhouse_the_american_police_state_from_a_to_z#sthash.Gq2qqeQr.dpuf

 

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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