Apr 022012



Source: youtube

Dr. Cornel West speaks at the Riverside Church in NYC, Sunday January 22, 2012 (the same church that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his Beyond Vietnam speech on April 4, 1967) for the Occupy the Mind: Progressive Moral Agenda for the 21st Century panel discussion, which also included Dr. Serene Jones; Rabbi Michael Lerner; Professor Richard D. Wolff; Professor James Vrettos; and Reverend Stephen H. Phelps.

READ @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Os2yZEElePE&feature=youtu.be



Source: youtube

Fault Lines tells the definitive history of Occupy Wall Street from its early days through the movement’s rapid spread up to the brutal crackdown by state authorities.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4VLYGfGDZg&feature=player_embedded



Source: Bill Moyers

VIDEO @ http://player.vimeo.com/video/39343213?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0



Havel believed that under communism and capitalism, people are threatened by what he described in his 1984 essay “Politics and Conscience” as “the irrational momentum of anonymous, impersonal, and inhuman power—the power of ideologies, systems, apparat, bureaucracy, artificial languages, and political slogans.”

By Caleb Crain, The Nation

“A specter is haunting Eastern Europe,” the Czech playwright Václav Havel wrote in 1978, “the specter of what in the West is called ‘dissent.’” In echoing the opening salvo of the Communist Manifesto, Havel was thumbing his nose at the regime he lived under, but his words had an earnest intent as well as a satirical one. Like Marx and Engels, he was trying to call an intellectual force to arms. He hoped to convoke a new kind of human organization, ad hoc and by design temporary, accruing no power in itself, and led not by designated authorities but by individuals who happened to have charisma.

Timely writing often grows stale, especially if it’s about politics. Havel knew this. Many politicians “play a key role at a particular moment,” he wrote in his memoir To the Castle and Back (2007); “a long, dull life can sometimes erase the memory.” Yet Havel’s judgment has been contradicted by his early protest writings, which have gained new relevance as the specter of dissent has returned to haunt much of the planet, from the Chinese town of Wukan to Wall Street, Cairo and Moscow. In addition to being a playwright and a politician, Havel, who died in December, was a philosopher, and his insight into how humans in groups understand themselves still speaks to the way we live in the world.

Havel was born in 1936 into one of the grandest bourgeois families in Czechoslovakia. One of his grandfathers built a movie theater that was to become the first in the country to screen talkies; his other grandfather was ambassador to Austria and Hungary. His father was a Prague real estate magnate, and a gay uncle was a pioneer in the nation’s film industry. The family owned a six-story mansion in downtown Prague on the bank of the Vltava River, as well as a country estate. After World War II, Václav attended prep school, where his dorm’s resident adviser was the future director Milos Forman. After Communists came to power, in 1948, the government appropriated the Havel family’s country estate, cinema, film studio and all but two rooms on the top floor of the urban mansion. Václav was expelled from school because of his class background. Eventually even the family china was nationalized. […]

READ @ http://www.thenation.com/article/166949/havels-specter-vaclav-havel



By Rachael Boothroyd, VenezuelaAnalysis 

During a telephone call from Cuba last Saturday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that the government would carry out an “economic revolution” within the coming years as he approved more funds for the industrial development of the country.

Speaking to a meeting of Vice-ministers in Caracas, Chavez said that his administration would build a “new industrialised model in Venezuela,” capable of satisfying the collective needs of the nation.

Making reference to Marxist intellectual Ivan Meszaros, Chavez spoke of the necessity to make Venezuela’s transition towards socialism “irreversible”, explaining that the country had experienced a political revolution but that the government “now had to make the economic revolution”. […]

READ @ http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/6894



By Robert Brusca, ZeroHedge

Herr VAMPIRE SQUID revisited and affirmed-

Germany is in it for Germany, not for united Europe. When you look at Europe and see that Germay is a success and no one else is, there is a reason for that.

Germany, after ‘trapping’ many countries in the e-Zone ignored their situation while Germany continues to post increasingly lower-than-required rates of inflation as many in EMU ahve run higher rates. As a result of this, there is a huge competitiveness conundrum in the Zone. It seems to have been engineered by Germany-and they are great engineers.

see http://robertbrusca.blogspot.com/ for a previous discussion of this toipic. […]

READ http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2012-13-31/germany-vampire-squid-europe



By Anders Fogh Rasmussen, HuffPo

[…] Activists were originally granted a permit to march past Daley Plaza during the G-8 Summit, one of two international assemblies Chicago was slated to host this summer. When the G-8 Summit was relocated, the group requested the permit be moved from Saturday, May 19 to Sunday, May 20 to coincide with the NATO summit, and the Chicago Transportation Department said no.

“Saturday, eight heads of state would have been fine; Sunday with 50 plus is not,” city law department spokesman Roderick Drew told the Associated Press, citing traffic issues and heightened security required for the much larger NATO Summit.

On Tuesday, activists appealed the ruling after threatening to sue the city for restricting their right to free assembly. Chicago administrative Judge Raymond J. Prosser rejected their appeal, according to NBC Chicago.

The city has pointed to limited peacekeeping resources as an explanation for their rejection of requests for marches and rallies, despite the news this week that on top of a $19 million federal grant to cover security costs, Emanuel’s NATO host committee has raised an additional $36.5 million from corporate donors, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. […]

READ and VIDEOhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/30/nato-protest-permit-shot-_n_1391515.html?ref=chicago



Source: NYTimes

For anyone who still thought legal conservatives are dedicated to judicial restraint, the oral arguments before the Supreme Court on the health care case should put that idea to rest. There has been no court less restrained in signaling its willingness to replace law made by Congress with law made by justices.

This should not be surprising. Republican administrations, spurred by conservative interest groups since the 1980s, handpicked each of the conservative justices to reshape or strike down law that fails to reflect conservative political ideology.

When Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy were selected by the Reagan administration, the goal was to choose judges who would be eager to undo liberal precedents. By the time John Roberts Jr. and Samuel Alito Jr. were selected in the second Bush administration, judicial “restraint” was no longer an aim among conservatives. They were chosen because their professional records showed that they would advance a political ideology that limits government and promotes market freedoms, with less regard to the general welfare. […]

READ @ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/opinion/sunday/the-roberts-court-defines-itself.html?_r=2



Source: AlternateNewsMedia

Farmers like genetically modified (GM) crops because they can plant them, spray them with herbicide and then there is very little maintenance until harvest.  Farmers who plant Monsanto’s GM crops probably don’t realize what they bargain for when they sign the Monsanto Technology Stewardship Agreement contract.  One farmer reportedly ‘went crazy’ when he discovered the scope of the contract because it transfers ALL liability to the farmer or grower.

Here is the paragraph that defines Monsanto’s limit of liability that shifts it to the farmer:


G. Edward Griffin, author of ‘The Creature From Jekyll Island’, and numerous other books and documentary films, and Anthony Patchett, retired assistant Head Deputy District Attorney, Los Angeles County Environmental Crimes/ OSHA Division explain the consequences of the Monsanto contract in the video below. […]

READ and VIDEO @ http://alternatenewsmedia2012.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/monsanto-shifts-all-liability-to-farmers/



By Greg Kaufmann, The Nation

In 2008, the City of Fresno and California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) paid a hefty settlement of $2.3 million for seizing and destroying homeless residents’ personal property and signed an agreement on how to deal with homeless encampments in the future.

But according to nine lawsuits filed last week on behalf of twelve homeless residents, the city and Caltrans have resumed a policy of “demolition and destruction of dwellings and personal property” since October of last year. Central California Legal Services (CCLS) has interviewed over 100 people and more legal action is expected in the coming weeks.

“Starting last September, the city clearly made a decision to try to get rid of all the homeless encampments that there are in Fresno,” says Chris Schneider, director of CCLS, where he has worked for nineteen years. “They started doing what they call ‘cleanups’ but it’s really just destructions of the encampments. The city comes in and says, ‘You’ve got to get out of here.’ Then as soon as people set up somewhere else the police come and tell them to move on from there too. There is just less and less space to go to, while the number of homeless have risen in the bad economy.” […]

READ @ http://www.thenation.com/blog/167132/week-poverty-fresno-homeless-people-get-out



By Josh Sager, The Boston Occupier

A vital but drastically under-reported political fight in the USA today is that of the unprecedented attacks on local democracy by the governor of Michigan. The 2011 expansions of the Michigan “emergency financial manager” law and the powers held by those appointed, by Governor Rick Snyder has led to a near-complete degradation of local democracy in some areas of Michigan. The basic premise of assigning an emergency financial manager is that an appointed specialist can assist a locale in fixing its budget issues more effectively than elected officials; this concept is not new, but it has been drastically expanded by the Snyder administration in Michigan In Michigan, wherever there is a severe budget deficit or “financial emergency”, an emergency manager can be put in charge of a city, town, or school district in order to take control and fix the crisis. In the past, such managers have been appointed over school districts and given broad discretionary powers to control spending. In 2011, the Snyder administration massively expanded the power and reach of emergency managers, while reducing oversight, accountability, and the requirements for a locale to be put under financial martial law.

Under the new financial martial law legislation, an “emergency financial manager” can be appointed over any locale declared to be in a state of “financial emergency,”; a financial emergency is a wide classification, determined entirely by the judgment of the governor, that could be something as simple as a single year where there is a substantial budget deficit. The emergency financial manager has broad powers yet virtually no accountability. He or she has the ability to relieve elected and appointed officials from duty, cut programs, summarily dissolve contracts between the state and other entities (unions, pensions, etc.), and sell off publicly owned goods to private entities.

These managers are appointed by the executive branch of the state, thus are not elected or accountable to the citizens of the state; they have no conflict-of-interest rules, nor are they accountable to any state or federal agency unless they blatantly break certain laws, (such as embezzlement, bribery, etc.). In compensation for their work, emergency managers receive six-figure salaries (Ex. The Pontiac emergency financial manager receives $150,000 annually, with benefits), which is odd, considering the fact that they are paid by “struggling” areas in need of emergency management. […]

READ @ http://bostonoccupier.com/2012/03/21/no-democracy-in-michigan/

Jan 082012



Source: youtube.com

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQaJIls6DgU



With the drum circles mostly gone, the Occupy movement is trying new tactics — and aiming straight at election season.

By Nate Rawlings

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Eduardo Munoz / Reuters

A protester affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement shouts slogans while a small group marches from Grand Central Station to Times Square after a protest in New York on January 3, 2012.

While tens of thousands of people rang in the New Year with the famous ball drop in Times Square, a few miles to the south, members of Occupy Wall Street ended the year of the protester where the movement took off.

After marches through downtown Manhattan, which included a dizzying run through Chinatown, protesters returned to Zuccotti Park. They first occupied the space on Sept. 17, and it served as their main encampment and symbolic home until police evicted them on Nov. 15. On New Year’s, they tore down barricades erected around the park and piled them in the middle. After scuffles with police, more than 60 people were arrested.

Three days later, protesters assembled a “flash mob” at Grand Central Station during rush hour to protest President Obama’s signing of the National Defense Authorization Act, which contained controversial provisions like the potential indefinite detention of terrorism suspects. Protesters demonstrated “black bagging”–simulating scenes from the Abu Gharaib detainee abuse–to draw attention to the detainments the defense act authorizes.

Welcome to Occupy 2.0. Without a single space to use as a platform, protesters have been taking their message throughout the city. As a protest tactic, occupation was highly successful last year, helping to change the national conversation from debt cutting and tax reduction to inequalities of income and opportunity. Every clash with law enforcement–from the arrest of 700 marchers on the Brooklyn Bridge to the stare down over eviction to the final raid on the park–brought more media attention and more allies to planned marches.

Swing by Zuccotti Park on a weekday evening these days and the concrete space, now surrounded by hundreds of metal barricades, lays empty. About a dozen private security guards in bright vests roam the perimeter. Occupiers still use the park for their general assembly meetings, but no one can sleep there anymore. Instead, out of town protesters who chose to stay in New York have shacked up with friends or established commune-style co-ops.

Most of the movement’s planning takes place in an atrium lobby at 60 Wall Street, the U.S. headquarters of Deutsche Bank that’s just a few short blocks from the New York Stock Exchange. Even in Zuccotti Park’s heyday, Occupy’s working groups met inside the building, away from the crowds and cameras and police, to discuss their myriad moving pieces. […]

READ @ http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/01/06/occupy-wall-street-from-zuccotti-tents-to-political-primaries/

VIDEO: SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE WALL STREET PROTESTS @ http://www.time.com/time/video/player/0,32068,1187576300001_2095437,00.html




By Jiri Pehe, Truthout

Prague – Long before Czechoslovakia’s communist regime collapsed in 1989, Václav Havel was one of the most remarkable figures in Czech history – already a successful playwright when he became the unofficial leader of the opposition movement. Though he hoped to return to writing, the revolution catapulted him to the presidency of Czechoslovakia, and, after the country split in 1993, he was elected President of the new Czech Republic, serving until 2003.

A political career rooted in historical coincidence made Havel an unusual politician. Not only did he bring to post-1989 politics a certain distrust of political parties; as a former dissident, he considered it essential to emphasize the moral dimension of politics – a stance that steered him onto a collision course with the pragmatists and technologists of power, whose main representative, Václav Klaus, succeeded him as President.

Havel’s public life could be divided into three distinct periods: artist (1956-1969), dissident (1969-1989), and politician (1989-2003) – except that he always combined all three sensibilities in his public activities. As a promising playwright in the 1960s, he was certainly very “political,” focusing on the absurdity of the regime. He was also one of the most vocal critics of censorship and other human-rights violations, which made him a dissident even during the liberal “Prague Spring” of 1968.

Havel was blacklisted and openly persecuted after the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in August of that year, but he continued to write anti-totalitarian plays. In 1977, he and more than 200 other dissidents founded the human-rights movement Charter 77, which quickly established itself as a leading opposition force. Havel was one of the movement’s first three spokesmen.

The following year, he wrote a seminal essay, “The Power of the Powerless,” in which he described Czechoslovakia’s post-1968 “normalization” regime as a morally bankrupt system based on all-pervasive lying. In 1979, he was sentenced to a five-year prison term for his activities in the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Prosecuted, an offshoot of Charter 77 that monitored human-rights abuses and persecution in Czechoslovakia. He was released near the end of his term after contracting pneumonia (a source of serious health problems for the rest of his life). His Letters to Olga, philosophical essays written from prison and addressed to his wife, quickly became a classic of anti-totalitarian literature.

During his presidencies, Havel continued to combine his political, dissident, and artistic sensibilities. He insisted on writing his own speeches, conceiving many of them as philosophical and literary works, in which he not only criticized the dehumanized technology of modern politics, but also repeatedly appealed to Czechs not to fall prey to consumerism and mindless party politics.

His was a conception of democracy based on a strong civil society and morality. That distinguished him from Klaus, the other leading figure of the post-communist transformation, who advocated a quick transition, stripped, if possible, of inconvenient moral scruples and impediments posed by the rule of law. Their conflict came to a head in 1997, when the Klaus-led government fell after a series of scandals. Havel described the economic system created by Klaus’s post-communist reforms as “mafioso capitalism.”

Although Klaus never returned as Prime Minister, his “pragmatic” approach gained the upper hand in Czech politics, especially after Havel’s departure from presidency in 2003. Indeed, Havel’s greatest defeat may be that most Czechs now view their country as a place where political parties serve as agents of powerful economic groups (many of them created by the often-corrupt privatization process overseen by Klaus).

In the last years of his presidency, Havel’s political opponents ridiculed him as a naïve moralist. Many ordinary Czechs, on the other hand, had come to dislike him not only for what seemed like relentless moralizing, but also because he reflected back to them their own lack of courage during the communist regime. While he continued to enjoy respect and admiration abroad, if only for continuing his fight against human-right abuses around the world, his popularity at home was shaken.

But not anymore. Czechs, given their growing dissatisfaction with the current political system’s omnipresent corruption and other failings, have increasingly come to appreciate the importance of Havel’s moral appeals. In fact, now, after his death, he is well on the way to being lionized as someone who foresaw many current problems, and not only at home: while still President, he repeatedly called attention to the self-destructive forces of industrial civilization and global capitalism.

Many will ask what made Havel exceptional. The answer is simple: decency. He was a decent, principled man. He did not fight against communism because of some hidden personal agenda, but simply because it was, in his view, an indecent, immoral system. When, as president, he supported the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 or the coming invasion of Iraq in 2003, he did not talk about geo-political or strategic objectives but about the need to stop human-rights abuses by brutal dictators.

Acting on such beliefs in his political career made him a politician of the kind that the contemporary world no longer sees. Perhaps that is why, as the world – and Europe in particular – faces a period of profound crisis, the clarity and courageous language that would bring about meaningful change is missing.

The death of Havel, a great believer in European integration, is thus highly symbolic: he was one of the last of a now-extinct breed of politicians who could lead effectively in extraordinary times, because their first commitment was to common decency and the common good, not to holding power. If the world is to make it through its various crises successfully, his legacy must remain alive.

Jiri Pehe was Vaclav Havel’s political adviser from September 1997 to May 1999. He is currently Director of New York University in Prague.

READ @ http://www.truth-out.org/vaclav-havels-life-truth/1325773315



A decade after the prison camp opened, its first warden speaks out against U.S. detention policies in the war on terror and tells Aram Roston the facility should be closed.

By Aram Roston, The Daily Beast

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John Moore / Getty Images

Ten years ago, Army Colonel Terry Carrico watched a C-141 land at Guantánamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba. He had planned for the moment carefully, and he knew very well what the cargo was: 20 detainees sent from Afghanistan. Carrico was the first camp commander of what would become the world’s most famous terrorism prison, and this was its opening day.

He had choreographed, with machinelike precision, how his soldiers would take custody of the shackled, blindfolded detainees as they were led onto the tarmac from the cavernous plane. With 23 years of service as a military police officer, he didn’t let any emotion register in his face that day as he watched, but he was surprised at the appearance of the prisoners.

They were scrawny and malnourished to an alarming degree, hardly appearing like the crazed fanatics that Gen. Richard Myers, then the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, described that day back at a Pentagon press conference. “These are people,” the general said, invoking an alarming image, “that would gnaw through hydraulic lines in the back of a C-17 to bring it down, I mean.”

Carrico recalls that the detainees were actually compliant and docile that first day.

Now a corporate executive in Georgia, he considers the debate that is still raging over U.S. detention policy from a unique perspective, and he has reached conclusions that run counter to the prevailing political trends in Washington. The retired colonel says Guantánamo “should be closed,” though he believes it never will be. He says “very few” of the men held there had valuable intelligence, at least while he ran the camp.

Carrico also says plainly that he believes it is wrong to keep people indefinitely without trial based on secret evidence. He argues that people captured in the war on terror should be arrested and tried in courts of law, not locked up at places like Guantánamo. “It goes against the way I was trained and what I believe,” he tells The Daily Beast, “to hold someone indefinitely with lack of evidence or proof.”

“Due process of law, all the things that we stand for as a country, and being a country of laws, it doesn’t sit well with me that we are going to continue to keep people in Guantánamo,” he said.

Carrico has the unusual credentials for someone making these points, for he was essentially the facility’s first warden.

It was in the final days of December 2001 that then defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld publicly announced that the U.S. military enclave in Cuba was the “least worst place” for a detention facility. The war in Afghanistan was underway, Kabul had fallen to U.S.-led forces, and captured prisoners were beginning to fill a makeshift site in Kandahar in the cold winter.

Carrico got his assignment late in December and landed at Guantánamo 72 hours later. He was shown some outdoor chain-link pens, overgrown by tropical weeds. “They were basically outdoor cages,” Carrico said, “It’s what you would normally find in a veterinarian’s facilities to hold animals.”

He took charge of the effort and worked fast: they were told to expect as many as 300 prisoners.

It was Jan. 11, 2002, less than two weeks after he got to Guantánamo that the first shipment arrived. Remember, this was before the Bush administration had announced that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to these detainees.

It was a different time: The U.S. had not yet adopted controversial secret interrogation rules, or techniques like waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions to induce pain, forced nakedness, and other practices that created discomfort.

Still, Guantánamo was a harsh place even in those early days. Within weeks, as more and more detainees arrived on the flights from Afghanistan, Carrico wondered whether they were really capturing the worst of the worst. The detainees included an obviously mentally disturbed prisoner who was quickly dubbed “Crazy Bob.”

The heads and faces of the detainees, even the elderly ones, had been shaved in Afghanistan before their flight—a final insult to all of them on their departure. The guards back in Kandahar had done it.

Carrico said few seemed like they had valuable intelligence about terrorism. He said in the first few weeks, Rumsfeld arrived, and Carrico walked with him through the chain-link fences, passing the prisoners in orange.

“’I toured Camp X-ray with him and he said, ‘Colonel, what do you think we have here?’ and I said, ‘I think we have a bunch of soldiers there that were being paid.’ And I questioned their intelligence value.”

Rumsfeld’s response, Carrico said, was, “ ‘You know, Colonel, I think you are right.’ ”

Carrico was convinced that Rumsfeld agreed with him. “His impression was that they were not of any great intelligence value,” Carrico told The Daily Beast.

Earlier this year, researchers from the Seton Hall Law School Center for Policy and Research uncovered a 2003 memo from Rumsfeld, which indicated he knew that detainees at Guantánamo had little valuable information. “We need to stop populating Guantánamo Bay (GTMO) with low-level enemy combatants,” Rumsfeld wrote back then.

“Due process of law, all the things that we stand for as a country … It doesn’t sit well with me that we are going to continue to keep people in Guantánamo.”

Rumsfeld’s office said he could not be reached for comment on this story.

Back in 2002, even Carrico himself insisted to reporters that the detainees were a deadly threat. “They are dangerous people,” he said in one interview back then. “Some of these people are directly related or responsible for 9/11.”

Now he explains, “at the time, we didn’t really know who we were receiving in detail.” He said he assumed everyone who was sent there must have been linked to the war on terrorism. “I made the statement,” he acknowledges. “I guess at the time I didn’t give it a second thought that they were not tied to 9/11 directly.”

The alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attacks, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, weren’t transferred to Guantánamo until 2006, five years after the prison opened. They were sent from CIA custody, and they are still housed separately from the other detainees.

Carrico’s job wasn’t to interrogate, it was solely to make sure the detainees were housed, fed, and secured properly. When it came to interrogations, he says, the general who ran the intelligence operations tried to ban military police officers from the rooms.

Carrico says he wouldn’t let that happen, insisting that his MPs always accompany the detainees when they were interrogated. “My MPs were going to ensure that detainees were not assaulted or mistreated in interrogation,” he says.

In February 2002, President Bush famously issued an order announcing that prisoners were not entitled to protections under the Geneva Conventions, although he said they would be treated in a matter “consistent” with the conventions.

Carrico, who had been trained to run prisoner-of-war camps, says the president’s declaration didn’t affect him. “My training was founded in the Geneva Conventions and fair and humane treatment.”

But Carrico left Guantánamo in May 2002, and later that year the facility launched new procedures, where interrogation tactics and inmate treatment became increasingly coercive and unpredictable. By October 2002, Rumsfeld had signed a document authorizing aggressive interrogation techniques that included sleep deprivation, forced standing, the use of hot or cold temperatures, and other approaches. Guantánamo’s practices were later copied in Iraq and Afghanistan, investigations have found. […]

READ @ http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/01/06/terry-carrico-ex-guantanamo-prison-commander-says-facility-should-close.html



By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

Rolling Stone‘s Michael Hastings — whose 2010 article on Gen. Stanley McChrystal ended the Afghanistan War commander’s career by accurately reporting numerous controversial statements made in a series of interviews — embodies the pure journalistic ethos. Some of the most celebrated establishment military reporters in America attacked Hastings for that article on the ground that it violated a sacred trust between Generals and war reporters (The New York Times‘ John Burns), and even baselessly insinuated that he fabricated the quotes and then went on to impugn his patriotism when compared to The Great General (CBS News’ Lara Logan).

Even worse, The Washington Post, ABC News and others irresponsibly published totally anonymous military sources claiming with no basis that Hastings violated ground-rule agreements for the interviews. In the face of that media-military onslaught, it would have been easy for this young reporter to protect his careerist ambitions and back down. Instead, he doubled down, accusing military officials of “lying” and then unapologetically explaining to these lions of American journalism that the role of a journalist is to scrutinize and expose — not protect and glorify– the nation’s most powerful political and military leaders:

Look, I went into journalism to do journalism, not advertising. My views are critical but that shouldn’t be mistaken for hostile – I’m just not a stenographer. There is a body of work that shows how I view these issues but that was hard-earned through experience, not something I learned going to a cocktail party on fucking K Street. That’s what reporters are supposed to do, report the story.

That mindset shapes Hastings’ superb new book on the Afghanistan War: The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in AfghanistanThe bulk of the book is devoted to his experiences in Afghanistan and his examination of how the war has been managed and the propaganda that has been disseminated to sustain it. Because Hastings writes as someone who expressly believes that U.S. should not be in Afghanistan, and (even more rarely) as someone who has no concern whatsoever for whom he offends by reporting the truth, the book provides vital insights about the war and how it has been run that are not available anywhere else.

Hastings’ exposé on the war is what has received the bulk of the attention in book reviews — both positive and negative (The Wall Street Journal amusingly compared him — as though it were a grave insult — to Vietnam War reporters David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan for the crime of reporting the negative aspects of a war and the government deceit behind it). But his discussions of national security journalists and how the Pentagon uses them are at least equally valuable. First, consider how Gen. McChrystal viewed the role the American media played in helping to sell the Iraq War:



When even George Bush’s own Press Secretary and his Pentagon spokesman mock the American media for its mindless subservience to government war propaganda — and when even the war General who is a the subject of a glowing Atlantic profile derides the writer as “totally co-opted by the military” – perhaps that’s a sign that the profession (also known as: The Liberal Media) should take account of the actual function it serves. The other lesson from this passage is, as Hastings put it to me by email: ”Though these big time journalists like to view themselves as ‘peers’ of McChrystal and the generals, the generals often view the big time journalists with a healthy dose of contempt.” People who are easily and eagerly used are often appreciated for the value they provide, but are rarely viewed with respect. […]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2012/01/06/michael_hastings_on_war_journalists/singleton/



By Noam Chomsky, Truthout

On June 15, three months after the NATO bombing of Libya began, the African Union presented to the U.N. Security Council the African position on the attack – in reality, bombing by their traditional imperial aggressors: France and Britain, joined by the U.S., which initially coordinated the assault, and marginally some other nations.

It should be recalled that there were two interventions. The first, under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, adopted on March 17, called for a no-fly zone, a cease-fire and measures to protect civilians. After a few moments, that intervention was cast aside as the imperial triumvirate joined the rebel army, serving as its air force.

At the outset of the bombing, the A.U. called for efforts at diplomacy and negotiations to try to head off a likely humanitarian catastrophe in Libya. Within the month, the A.U. was joined by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and others, including the major regional NATO power Turkey.

In fact, the triumvirate was quite isolated in its attacks – undertaken to eliminate the mercurial tyrant whom they had supported when it was advantageous. The hope was for a regime likelier to be amenable to Western demands for control over Libya’s rich resources and, perhaps, to offer an African base for the U.S. Africa command AFRICOM, so far confined to Stuttgart.

No one can know whether the relatively peaceful efforts called for in U.N. Resolution 1973, and backed by most of the world, might have succeeded in averting the terrible loss of life and the destruction that followed in Libya.

On June 15, the A.U. informed the Security Council that “ignoring the A.U. for three months and going on with the bombings of the sacred land of Africa has been high-handed, arrogant and provocative.” The A.U. went on to present a plan for negotiations and policing within Libya by A.U. forces, along with other measures of reconciliation – to no avail.

The A.U. call to the Security Council also laid out the background for their concerns: “Sovereignty has been a tool of emancipation of the peoples of Africa who are beginning to chart transformational paths for most of the African countries after centuries of predation by the slave trade, colonialism and neocolonialism. Careless assaults on the sovereignty of African countries are, therefore, tantamount to inflicting fresh wounds on the destiny of the African peoples.”

The African appeal can be found in the Indian journal Frontline, but was mostly unheard in the West. That comes as no surprise: Africans are “unpeople,” to adapt George Orwell’s term for those unfit to enter history.

On March 12, the Arab League gained the status of people by supporting U.N. Resolution 1973. But approval soon faded when the League withheld support for the subsequent Western bombardment of Libya.

And on April 10, the Arab League reverted to unpeople by calling on the U.N. also to impose a no-fly zone over Gaza and to lift the Israeli siege, virtually ignored.

That too makes good sense. Palestinians are prototypical unpeople, as we see regularly. Consider the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs, which opened with two articles on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

One, written by Israeli officials Yosef Kuperwasser and Shalom Lipner, blamed the continuing conflict on the Palestinians for refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state (keeping to the diplomatic norm: States are recognized, but not privileged sectors within them).

The second, by American scholar Ronald R. Krebs, attributes the problem to the Israeli occupation; the article is subtitled: “How the Occupation Is Destroying the Nation.” Which nation? Israel, of course, harmed by having its boot on the necks of unpeople.

Another illustration: In October, headlines trumpeted the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who had been captured by Hamas. The article in The New York Times Magazine was devoted to his family’s suffering. Shalit was freed in exchange for hundreds of unpeople, about whom we learned little, apart from sober debate as to whether their release might harm Israel.

We also learned nothing about the hundreds of other detainees held in Israeli prisons for long periods without charge. […]

READ @ http://www.truth-out.org/recognizing-unpeople/1325894936



By Stephen D. Foster Jr., Addicting Information

First, Congress considered the National Defense Authorization Act, sections of which gave the President the authority to use the military to arrest and indefinitely detain Americans without trial or charge. The language was revised because of strong condemnation from the American people. But now a new bill has emerged that poses yet another threat to the American citizenry.

Congress is considering HR 3166 and S. 1698 also known as the Enemy Expatriation Act, sponsored by Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Charles Dent (R-PA). This bill would give the US government the power to strip Americans of their citizenship without being convicted of being “hostile” against the United States. In other words, you can be stripped of your nationality for “engaging in, or purposefully and materially supporting, hostilities against the United States.” Legally, the term “hostilities” means any conflict subject to the laws of war but considering the fact that the War on Terror is a little ambiguous and encompassing, any action could be labeled as supporting terrorism. Since the Occupy movement began, conservatives have been trying to paint the protesters as terrorists.

The new law would change a part of US Code 1481 which can be read in full here. Compare 3166 to 1481 and the change is small. The new section makes no reference to being convicted as it does in section (7). So even though the language of the NDAA has been revised to exclude American citizens, the US government merely has to strip Americans of their citizenship and the NDAA will apply. And they will be able to do so without convicting the accused in a court of law.

I hope I’m wrong, but it sounds to me like this is a loophole for indefinitely detaining Americans. Once again, you just have to be accused of supporting hostilities which could be defined any way the government sees fit. Then the government can strip your citizenship and apply the indefinite detention section of the NDAA without the benefit of a trial. This certainly must be questioned by American citizens. The way these defense obsessed Republicans think, our rights are always in danger of being taken away.

To read the full text of the bill, go here.

READ @ http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/01/06/new-bill-known-as-enemy-expatriation-act-would-allow-government-to-strip-citizenship-without-conviction/



By digby, Hullabaloo

No this isn’t a story from North Korea or Pinochet’s Chile. I swear:

It has been two and half years since 62-year old Nick Christie was tortured and pepper-sprayed to death by police at the Lee County Jail. Although the medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, the law enforcement officers who kept him strapped naked to a chair and then pepper sprayed him until he died have not been charged in his death.

On January 20, 2010, the Injury Board’s National News Desk reported that Nick Christie’s wife, Joyce Christie, and her son, were planning to file a federal lawsuit because the police violated her husband’s constitutional rights. The article describes what allegedly happened when Christie was arrested for trespassing:

 Christie, 62, was arrested last March after traveling from Ohio to Fort Myers while suffering, what his widow describes as a mental breakdown. Arrested twice for disorderly conduct and trespassing, Nick Christie was pepper sprayed ten times over the course of his 43-hour custody.

Suffering from emphysema, COPD, back and heart problems, the jail staff said his medical files were not available or immediately sought at the time of his arrest. But DiCello says Christie gave his medical history and list of medications to the jail days earlier during his first encounter with law enforcement.

His medication list was found in the back pocket of his pants when Christie’s personal effects were returned to his widow.

Sometime between the time he was arrested on March 27, 2009 around 2:00 p.m., and March 31 at1:23 p.m. when he was pronounced dead, Christie had been sprayed with ten blasts of pepper spray, also known as OC (Oleo-resin Capsicum), which is a derivative of cayenne pepper.

The officers involved in the incident say that Christie was “combative, despite the fact he was restrained in a chair so he allegedly wouldn’t spit at his jailers.” However, other inmates on the cell block tell a different story. They say that there was excessive use of pepper spray, his whole head was turning purple, he was gasping for air and was telling the officers that he couldn’t breathe and that he had a heart condition. (source: Injury Board)

According to the medical examiner, the death was a homicide caused by the stress that the restraints and repeated use of pepper spray placed on his heart. However, the State Attorney’s office decided there was no wrongdoing, therefore the officers involved in the incident were never charged in the homicide.

Clearly they tortured the man to death. I just don’t see any other way of looking at this.

But we don’t have a problem with that in our country, particularly when the victims refuse to “stop resisting” the robotic mantra used by cops all over the country to excuse beating, spraying with chemicals and electrocuting citizens. The mentally ill, foreigners and inebriated have a particularly hard time since they can’t immediately absorb their “orders” to immediately comply from the police. Doing it when they are already in custody is unfortunately not all that unprecedented.

Every American had better hope they never get sick, particularly both mentally and physically, and find themselves in the hands of the authorities. There’s a chance they won’t come out of it alive. I’d prefer they just shoot me down immediately rather than pepper spray me to death. But that’s just me. […]

READ @ http://www.digbysblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/dispatch-from-torture-nation-execution.html



Source: RT News

Pasted Graphic 3.tiff

Reuters / Stringer

The Supreme Court will soon weigh in on whether law enforcement agencies can monitor your every move without you knowing — and without a warrant. In Missouri, however, one judge isn’t waiting to find out their word.

US Magistrate Judge David Noce ruled last week in favor of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and determined that the FBI did not need a warrant in order to affix a GPS device to the car of a St. Louis man.

Fred Robinson, 69, was accused of collecting $175,000 in compensation while on the payroll of the St. Louis City Treasurer’s Office. Authorities alleged that Robinson held a position in name only and actually avoided going into the office. To prove this, law enforcement agents didn’t just ask around City Hall or dispatch a few officers to go speak with staffers. Instead, the FBI installed a GPS device on Robinson’s car without ever notifying him or asking permission.

The US Supreme Court will decide later this year if such action is allowable without obtaining a warrant. In the interim, Judge Noce says it is just fine.

In his ruling, Judge Noce cited an earlier call from the Eighth Circuit Court that determined, “’when police have reasonable suspicion that a particular vehicle is transporting drugs, a warrant is not required when, while the vehicle is parked in a public place, they install a non-invasive GPS tracking device on it for a reasonable period of time.” In the case of Robinson, that is exactly what agents did.

Or so they claim.

Robinson’s attorneys insisted that their client’s First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated during the sting, but Judge Noce says that the installation of the tracker “was not a search.” Since the GPS device was installed in a way that the officers insist was non-invasive and planted in plain view of public, placing the monitor on Robinson’s Chevy Cavalier was entirely by-the-books.

“Because installation of the GPS tracker device was non-invasive and because the agents installed the device when the truck was parked in public, installation of the GPS tracker device was not a search,” rules Judge Noce. Specifically, says Noce, “defendant Robinson did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the exterior of his Cavalier. Agents installed the GPS tracker device onto defendant’s Cavalier based on a reasonable suspicion that he was being illegally paid as a ‘ghost’ employee on the payroll of the St. Louis City Treasurer’s Office.”

Even though the device was installed unbeknownst to the subject, the judge says that using magnets to affix the device to the automobile in lieu of screws made it legitimate. The installation and removal of the GPS tracker were both done in public, but during secret operations that Robinson was unaware of. Ergo, until the Supreme Court rules (and perhaps even after then), the FBI is fine to monitor anyone suspected of a crime, says Noce, as long as they don’t dent your Dodge Durgano in the process. […]

READ @ http://rt.com/usa/news/gps-device-court-judge-209/



By Katie Drummond, Wired



Tasers that elicit excruciating spasms in one person at a time? Foam pellets that send an entire crowd fleeing in agony? Pfft. So 2011. Where non-lethal weapons are concerned, the future’s all about sonic microwaves that can make swimmers puke mid-stroke, and aircraft with laser beams that can redirect an entire enemy plane mid-flight.

Or, at least, those are the deepest, darkest wishes of the Pentagon agency responsible for non-lethal weapons.

The military’s Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate’s “Non-Lethal Weapons Reference Book,” leaked online last week by PublicIntelligence.org, is a terrifying treasure trove that describes dozens of ways — some already in-use, others in development or still mere fantasy — for military and law enforcement officials to make you wish they were using the real bullets.

A total of 14 weapons, according to the reference book, are currently being fielded. Some of ‘em, you’ve heard of. Good old tasers, which the guide helpfully reminds us “can penetrate 2 inches of clothing” in order to “totally disable an individual,” and guns that shoot 600 rubber pellets filled with pepper spray to keep rowdy crowds — already used by law enforcement officials, sometimes with very lethal results — subdued.

Most of the guide, however, offers a sneak peak at the military’s dream non-lethal arms cache.

Dozens of the devices are currently in development. There’s an “Impulse Swimmer Gun” that uses “pulsed sound waves” to cause “auditory impairment and/or nausea” among scuba divers engaged in “unauthorized underwater activities”; A system that relies on “high-power microwaves” to block oncoming cars and any (oops) “unintended targets within the target area”; A vehicle-mounted tube launcher that’ll unleash “ocular and auditory impairment” combined with “thermal heating” to utterly devastate a horde of wrongdoers.

And then there are the fantasy projects. The agency want a new and improved taser that can “substantially increase the duration of disabling effects.” They’re also after a high-powered microwave system that can be hooked up to a drone or a ship, and then used to trigger “electrical system malfunction” on enemy boats. Danger Room’s personal favorite, though, is a system of “pulsed laser[s]” on the tip of an airplane, used to “externally control the steering forces” of a foe’s aircraft, in order to “divert [it] from restricted area.”

Of course, the directorate can’t spend all its time dreaming up torturous new toys. They’ve still gotta fix the busted up old ones. […]

READ @ http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/01/non-lethal-weapons/



By Pat Elder, Common Dreams

The invasion of student privacy associated with military testing in U.S. high schools has been well documented by mainstream media sources, like USA Today  and NPR Radio. The practice of mandatory testing, however, continues largely unnoticed.

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB is the military’s entrance exam that is given to fresh recruits to determine their aptitude for various military occupations. The test is also used as a recruiting tool in 12,000 high schools across the country. The 3 hour test is used by military recruiting services to gain sensitive, personal information on more than 660,000 high school students across the country every year, the vast majority of whom are under the age of 18. Students typically are given the test at school without parental knowledge or consent. The school-based ASVAB Career Exploration Program is among the military’s most effective recruiting tools.

In roughly 11,000 high schools where the ASVAB is administered, students are strongly encouraged to take the test for its alleged value as a career exploration tool, but in more than 1,000 schools, according to information received from the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command through a Freedom of Information Act request, tens of thousands of students are required to take it.  It is a particularly egregious violation of civil liberties that has been going on almost entirely unnoticed since the late 1960’s.

Federal laws strictly monitor the release of student information, but the military manages to circumvent these laws with the administration of the ASVAB.  In fact, ASVAB test results are the only student information that leaves U.S. schools without the opportunity provided for  parental consent.

Aside from managing to evade the constraints of federal law, the military may also be violating many state laws on student privacy when it administers the ASVAB in public high schools. Students taking the ASVAB are required to furnish their social security numbers for the tests to be processed, even though many state laws specifically forbid such information being released without parental consent. In addition, the ASVAB requires under-aged students to sign a privacy release statement, a practice that may also be prohibited by many state laws.

A typical school announcement reads, “All Juniors will report to the cafeteria on Monday at 8:10 a.m. to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Whether you’re planning on college, a technical school, or you’re just not sure yet, the ASVAB Career Exploration Program can provide you with important information about your skills, abilities and interests – and help put you on the right course for a satisfying career!”  This announcement or one very similar to it greets students in more than a thousand high schools across the country.  There’s no mention of the military or the primary purpose of the test, which is to find leads for recruiters.

Imagine you’re Captain Eric W. Johnson, United States Navy, Commander, United States Military Entrance Processing Command and you had the complete cooperation of the Arkansas Department of Education to recruit high school students into the U.S. military. The first step you might take is to require juniors in public high schools to take the ASVAB. ASVAB results are good for enlistment purposes for up to two years. The ASVAB offers a treasure trove of information on students and allows the state’s top recruiter to pre-screen the entire crop of incoming potential recruits. “Sit down, shut up, and take this test. That’s an order!”

142 Arkansas high schools forced 10,000 children to take this military test without parental consent in Arkansas alone last year. “We’ve always done it that way and no one has ever complained,” explained one school counselor.

The Army recruiter’s handbook calls for military recruiters to take ownership of schools and this is one way they’re doing it. The U.S. Army Recruiting Command ranks each high school based on how receptive it is to military recruiters. Schools are awarded extra points when they make the ASVAB mandatory. (See page 25 of: USAREC pub. 601-107)

Meanwhile, military recruiting regulations specifically prohibit that the test from being made mandatory.

“Voluntary aspect of the student ASVAB: School and student participation in the Student Testing Program is voluntary. DOD personnel are prohibited from suggesting to school officials or any other influential individual or group that the test be made mandatory. Schools will be encouraged to recommend most students participate in the ASVAB Career Exploration Program. If the school requires all students of a particular group or grade to test, the MEPS will support it.” (See Page 3-1 of USMEPCOM Reg. 601-4) […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/01/04-0



By Staff, Diatribe Media, Truthout

New Hampshire took an early lead this year in the effort to dumb down school students and erode the separation of church and state in the education system by introducing two anti-evolution bills to its state legislature (h/t Mother Jones). The two laws are the first of their kind in the state since the late 90’s. According to the National Center for Science Education, House Bill 1149 would:

“[r]equire evolution to be taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists’ political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism.”

House Bill 1457 would:

“[r]equire science teachers to instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire [sic] results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes.”

State Representative Jerry Bergevin, who introduced HB 1149, believes such legislation is necessary because he thinks evolution is tied to Nazis, communists, and the shooters in the 1999 Columbine massacre. According to Bergevin, the political and ideological views of Darwin and other believers and evolutionary scientists, along with their positions on atheism, must be taught to students as well. The New Hampshire Republican told the Concord Monitor:

“I want the full portrait of evolution and the people who came up with the ideas to be presented. It’s a worldview and it’s godless. Atheism has been tried in various societies, and they’ve been pretty criminal domestically and internationally. The Soviet Union, Cuba, the Nazis, China today: they don’t respect human rights.”

He added “As a general court we should be concerned with criminal ideas like this and how we are teaching it. . . . Columbine, remember that? They were believers in evolution. That’s evidence right there.”

Rep Gary Hopper, who introduced HB1457 said that “science is a creative process, not an absolute thing” and he wants creationism taught in classes “so that kids understand that science doesn’t really have all the answers. They are just guessing.”

The most troubling and ridiculous part of the comments from the legislators introducing these bills is not only the anti science nature of them, but the idea that atheism is on par with murder, totalitarianism, and other “criminal ideas.” The idea that the lack of faith in God by an individual is somehow a violation of human rights shows just how little these Representatives understand of both atheism and human rights. (Full disclosure – I am not an atheist. I have my own faith and religious beliefs and hold them closely and don’t evangelize or prosthelytize)

In a country which touts itself as being the freeist in the world in respect to practicing religion, a representative has no ground to call another person’s spiritual beliefs “criminal.” Furthermore, if anything in the United States violates human rights, it’s the fact that our prison system is out of control, or that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have killed thousands of innocent civilians, or that our President signed legislation making indefinite detention for Americans a real possibility. It’s simply incredible that these elected representatives can turn a blind eye to real human rights violations while inventing others. […]

READ @ http://www.truth-out.org/new-hampshires-new-scopes-trial/1325956418



By David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement

In 2006, Rick Santorum, less than two months before suffering one of the worst losses in Senate history, was named one of three “most corrupt” Senators by CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

“The officials named in this report have chosen to enrich themselves and their families and friends by abusing the power of their office, rather than work for the public good. Their collective corruption affects all Americans,” stated the executive director of CREW, Melanie Sloan.

“Sen. Santorum’s ethics issues stem from the manner in which he funded his children’s education and his misuse of legislative position in exchange for contributions to his political action committee and his re-election campaign,” CREW notes, on page 207 of their exhaustive report (PDF), which delves into deep detail across eleven extensively-footnoted pages.

In February of 2006, CREW had filed an ethics complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee against Senator Santorum, “alleging that Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) violated the Senate Gift Rule by accepting a mortgage from The Philadelphia Trust Company, a bank that serves affluent clients.”

Charging that “ethical trespasses have become the norm for Sen. Santorum,” CREW’s Melanie Sloan cited Santorum’s “contempt for the rules” as “particularly ironic given that Sen. Santorum has long attempted to position himself as the poster child for public morality.”

The following month, CREW filed a complaint with the IRS against a group of Pennsylvania pastors for violating IRS rules demanding separation of church and state.

And later that same year, CREW filed yet another complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), this time against Santorum’s former staffers for setting up a lobbying office in the same building as Santorum’s offices.

Ironically, Santorum has served as a Senior Fellow with the Ethics and Public Policy Center, which claims to be “Washington, D.C.’s premier institute dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy.”

“From the Cold War to the war on terrorism, from disputes over the role of religion in public life to battles over the nature of the family, EPPC and its scholars have consistently sought to defend the great Western ethical imperatives — respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, individual freedom and responsibility, justice, the rule of law, and limited government.” […]

READ @ http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/santorum-named-one-of-three-most-corrupt-senators-in-2006/politics/2012/01/07/32863



By Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund, MyDD

Today the American Petroleum Institute launched its latest attack on our great nation with their “Vote 4 Energy” or “I vote” campaign.

At the campaigns unveiling, API President Jack Gerard explained, “We are doing this because an electorate that is educated on energy issues will demand of all candidates, for every office, a commitment to honest common-sense discussions of how we can achieve energy security…”

I look forward to engaging in that discussion with Gerard and candidates for office because the electorate has been pretty clear what they want:

A Pew poll done last year found that 71 percent of Americans believe “This country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment.”  And 59% believe that “strongly.” The same poll found that 63 percent favored prioritizing clean energy, such as wind and solar. Only 29 percent favored expanding exploration and production of fossil fuels.

A more recent poll from November by the Washington Post and Pew Research Center found that 68 percent favor developing solar, wind, and hydrogen, only 26 percent oppose it. This compares to 58 percent who favor drilling offshore or on federal lands, and 35 percent who oppose it.  Support for nuclear energy is supported by only 39 percent of Americans while 53 percent are still opposed.

Voter support is even stronger when it comes to cleaning up pollution caused by fossil fuels. A poll conducted by Ceres on behalf of a coalition of investors, environmental, and public interest organizations found that 75 percent of voters think the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), not Congress, should determine air pollution standards. 88 percent of Democrats, 85 percent of Independents, and 58 percent of Republicans oppose Congress stopping the EPA from enacting new limits on air pollution from coal-fired power plants.

Mr. Gerard implies that somehow Americans aren’t having an honest discussion about energy but I don’t think Mr. Gerard, with his $4.31 million salary and corporate perks, has any idea what normal people are talking about and how honest or dishonest the conversation is. In fact, API spent almost $6 million last year lobbying Members of Congress to continue their oily ways. […]

READ @ http://mydd.com/users/heather-taylor-miesle/posts/apis-next-sham-campaign



By Dahr Jamail, Aljazeera

BAGHDAD, Iraq – On November 27, 38 months after Royal Dutch Shell announced its pursuit of a massive gas deal in southern Iraq, the oil giant had its contract signed for a $17bn flared gas deal.


Three days later, the US-based energy firm Emerson submitted a bid for a contract to operate at Iraq’s giant Zubair oil field, which reportedly holds some eight million barrels of oil.

Earlier this year, Emerson was awarded a contract to provide crude oil metering systems and other technology for a new oil terminal in Basra, currently under construction in the Persian Gulf, and the company is installing control systems in the power stations in Hilla and Kerbala.

Iraq’s supergiant Rumaila oil field is already being developed by BP, and the other supergiant reserve, Majnoon oil field, is being developed by Royal Dutch Shell. Both fields are in southern Iraq.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), Iraq’s oil reserves of 112 billion barrels ranks second in the world, only behind Saudi Arabia. The EIA also estimates that up to 90 per cent of the country remains unexplored, due to decades of US-led wars and economic sanctions.

“Prior to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, US and other western oil companies were all but completely shut out of Iraq’s oil market,” oil industry analyst Antonia Juhasz told Al Jazeera. “But thanks to the invasion and occupation, the companies are now back inside Iraq and producing oil there for the first time since being forced out of the country in 1973.”

Juhasz, author of the books The Tyranny of Oil and The Bush Agenda, said that while US and other western oil companies have not yet received all they had hoped the US-led invasion of Iraq would bring them, “They’ve certainly done quite well for themselves, landing production contracts for some of the world’s largest remaining oil fields under some of the world’s most lucrative terms.”

Dr Abdulhay Yahya Zalloum, an international oil consultant and economist who has spent nearly 50 years in the oil business in the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, agrees that western oil companies have “obtained concessions in Iraq’s major [oil] fields”, despite “there being a lack of transparency and clarity of vision regarding the legal issues”.

Dr Zalloum added that he believes western oil companies have successfully acquired the lions’ share of Iraq’s oil, “but they gave a little piece of the cake for China and some of the other countries and companies to keep them silent”.

In a speech at Fort Bragg in the wake of the US military withdrawal, US President Barack Obama said the US was leaving behind “a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people”.

Of this prospect, Dr Zalloum was blunt.

“The last thing the US cares about in the Middle East is democracy. It is about oil, full stop.” […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/01/07-3

Dec 232011



By maureen, Electronic Intifada

A year ago yesterday, I got the dreaded house call from the FBI. I was at home working when two agents rang my buzzer and asked to speak with me.

I had been expecting such a visit; on 24 September 2010 the FBI raided the homes of prominent anti-war and international solidarity organizers I have worked with over the years in Chicago, as well as the homes of activists in the Twin Cities and the office of the Anti War Committee there. In the weeks that followed, more Palestine solidarity organizers and Palestinian Americans in Chicago were delivered subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago as part of an investigation into violations of the laws banning material support for foreign terrorist organizations.

I declined to speak with the two agents who visited me; they then gave me a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury on 25 January 2011. I spent last Christmas and New Year convinced that I would soon be in federal prison for civil contempt of court. Even though it meant we risked being jailed, all 23 of us who have been subpoenaed as part of this grand jury fishing expedition have refused to testify. We have asserted that our first amendment rights guaranteed by the US Constitution, protecting free speech and freedom of association, are being trampled on.

A first amendment issue

The grand jury — essentially a secret court in which you’re not allowed to have a lawyer, and there is not even a judge presiding over the proceedings — has been long abused as a tool of inquisition into domestic political movements. Indeed, no specific crime has been identified related to our case.

The FBI’s operations manual for the September raids, discovered last April to have been accidentally left amongst a raided activist’s files, make it clear that they wanted to question activists about associational information — who activists know and work with in the US, Colombia and Palestine, and how activists organize and what they believe. They wanted people to name everyone they know who has ever traveled to the Middle East or South America.

It is also obvious the FBI put up the LA County Sheriff to raid the home of veteran Chicano liberation activist Carlos Montes last May; he faces trumped-up technical firearms violation charges and serious prison time. The FBI was on hand during the raid to question Montes about his political associations (an organizer of the 2008 Republican National Convention protests, he was named in the search warrant used to raid the Anti War Committee office) and took material from his home related to his long history of political organizing. They even took a kuffiyeh — the traditional checkered Palestinian scarf — only one example of many demonstrating how federal agents so arbitrarily confiscated property from activists’ homes.

And while the threat of indictments looms, I am not spending Christmas and new year’s in federal prison for civil contempt of court. This is, I believe, thanks to the vocal protest that countless people around the US and around the world have made in support of the 24 of us and in support of civil liberties. This is a huge victory. But at the same time, civil liberties and constitutional protections have further eroded even in the last year. More protest must be shown before the situation gets even worse. […]

READ @ http://electronicintifada.net/blog/maureen/one-year-after-fbi-subpoena-civil-liberties-protections-us-frighteningly-eroded-even



By The Young Turks


Nineteen months after U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was first arrested, the first pre-trial hearings have finally begun. Manning faces 22 charges, including “aiding the enemy” and the unauthorized release of half a million reports and cables — even though, according to the American government, no one has been proved hurt by Wikileaks publishing the cables, and none were classified as top secret. “He did our soldiers a world of good,” Cenk says. “Time served is plenty enough time. Scooter Libby served no time and he betrayed a CIA agent. That caused real harm. Dick Cheney — no time. Karl Rove — no time. It’s time to free Bradley Manning.”

READ AND VIDEO @ http://mydd.com/users/theyoungturks/posts/its-time-to-free-bradley-manning



By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch

[…] War rises from a black hole in the souls of our enraged youth

Listen to Kalle and White describing the energy driving OWS movement. It comes from deep within the collective soul of a new generation of young Americans who have been disenfranchised by clueless politicians who are trapped deep inside a corrupt two-party political system no longer capable of changing. And our youth are enraged. Listen:

“This primal cry for democracy sprang from young people who could no longer ignore the angst in their gut — the premonition that their future does not compute, that their entire lives will be lived in the apocalyptic shadow of climate-change tipping points, species die-offs, a deadening commercialized culture, a political system perverted by money, precarious employment, a struggle to pay off crippling student loans, and no chance of ever owning a home or living in comfort like their parents. Glimpsing this black hole of ecological, political, financial and spiritual crisis, the youth and the millions of Americans who joined them instinctively knew that unless they stood up and fought nonviolently for a different kind of future, they would have no future at all.”

Yes, America’s youth are the voice of the 99%, Americans inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions. American youth are fueling “the greatest social-justice movement to emerge in the United States since the civil rights era.”

But never lose sight of the real war here. Yes, there’s a war between the richest 1% of Americans who have seen their income grow 265% the past generation while the incomes of the other 99% have stagnated or fallen. Yes, the wealth gap is bigger now than it was in 1929 just before the market crashed.

Super Rich vs. America’s future

But to truly understand how this class war is predicting what lies ahead, know that class war is not just between the Super Rich and the 99%. It is more a generational war between America’s youth and a wealthy entrenched establishment. The young helped elect the president. Expected “change we can believe in.” Unfortunately it got worse, and they’re mad as hell.

Investors especially better watch out: This pent-up energy in America’s youth is building to a critical mass (as happened in Europe and the Arab world, and now in China and Russia), and it will explode across the economic and political landscape in 2012.

In the final analysis, however, you sense that in spite of their accelerating rage against the establishment, America’s youth, our next great generation, also had a sudden epiphany and learned a crucial lesson. Oh yes. Because their enemies didn’t just give them a great gift, but also inadvertently trained them in using a more aggressive special-ops, guerilla, quick-strike strategy. Listen and you’ll see what they learned in one night raid against them:

“Why can’t the American power elite engage with the nation’s young? Instead, they stayed aloof, ignored us and wished us away,” then “attacked us in Zuccotti Park in the dead of the night. Bloomberg’s raid was carried out with military precision. The surprise attack began at 1 a.m. with a media blackout. The encampment was surrounded by riot police, credentialed mainstream journalists who tried to enter were pushed back or arrested, and the airspace was closed to news helicopters. What happened next was a blur of tear gas; a bulldozer; confiscation or destruction of everything in the park, including 5,000 books; upward of 150 arrests; and the deployment of a Long Range Acoustic Device, the infamous ‘sound cannon’ best known for its military use in Iraq. … This kind of military mind-set and violent response to nonviolent protesters makes no sense. It did not work in the Middle East, and it’s not going to work in America either. This is the bottom line: You cannot attack your young and get away with it.”

Repeat that “bottom line: You cannot attack your young and get away with it” And yet, that’s exactly what Wall Street, America’s Super Rich, their lobbyists, and all their bought politicians are doing: “Attacking our young.” Attacking our next generation. Attacking America’s future.

Our leaders are ideologically blind to the need to invest and invest big in jobs before this accelerating rage reaches a critical mass and ignites, triggering another American Revolution and the Second Great Depression.

READ @ http://www.marketwatch.com/Story/story/print?guid=901AE114-2A5C-11E1-B371-002128040CF6



By Barry Ritholtz, The Big Picture 

“Why there hasn’t been more robust prosecution is a mystery.

-Raymond Brescia, visiting professor, Yale Law School

Reuters has an outrageous article detailing the absurdity of the lack of prosecution of financial crimes in modern America. It is a shocking to watch the United States, a nation that once followed the Rule of Law, slip into a banana republic.

“Four years after the banking system nearly collapsed from reckless mortgage lending, federal prosecutors have stayed on the sidelines, even as judges around the country are pointing fingers at possible wrongdoing.

The federal government, as has been widely noted, has pressed few criminal cases against major lenders or senior executives for the events that led to the meltdown of 2007. Finding hard evidence has proved difficult, the Justice Department has said.

The government also hasn’t brought any prosecutions for dubious foreclosure practices deployed since 2007 by big banks and other mortgage-servicing companies.

But this part of the financial system, a Reuters examination shows, is filled with potential leads.

Foreclosure-related case files in just one New York federal bankruptcy court, for example, hold at least a dozen mortgage documents known as promissory notes bearing evidence of recently forged signatures and illegal alterations, according to a judge’s rulings and records reviewed by Reuters. Similarly altered notes have appeared in courts around the country.

And it gets much worse.

• Despite laws against it, banks have foreclosed on active-duty U.S. soldiers who are legally eligible to have foreclosures halted. Attorneys representing service members estimate banks have foreclosed on up to 30,000 ACTIVE military personnel, mostly while they were in Iraq and Afghanistan.

• There has been — literally — “tens of thousands of fraudulent documents filed in tens of thousands of cases.” Sworn affidavits have been filed containing false information. This is easily prosecuted perjury.

• The size and scope of the fraud on the U.S. court system is unprecedented in U.S. history

• NY State court judge Arthur Schack, ruled in 2010 that pleadings by the Baum Law — who handle 40% of NY foreclosures — were “so incredible, outrageous, ludicrous and disingenuous that they should have been authorized by the late Rod Serling, creator of the famous science-fiction television series, The Twilight Zone.“  There has been no fraud prosecution to date.

• Banks have routinely filed falsified mortgage promissory notes — in some cases, six different documents have been filed, all claimed to be the original. At the least 5 must be forgeries — an easy felony to prosecute.

Read the entire article if you want to be outraged and send your blood pressure skyrocketing. […]

READ @ http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/12/unprecedented-fraud-toothless-watchdogs/



By msnbc

[…] Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) has proposed a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United along with Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC).  His proposed amendment declares that spending on elections does not qualify as protected speech under the First Amendment.  It would also give Congress the authority to create a public financing system as the sole source of funding for federal elections and designates a national holiday for the purpose of voting.

“Corporate money equals influence, not free speech,” Rep. Yarmuth said on The Dylan Ratigan Show. “The last thing Congress needs is more corporate candidates who don’t answer to the American people. Until we get big money out of politics, we will never be able to responsibly address the major issues facing American families – and that starts by ensuring our elections and elected officials cannot be bought by the well-off and well-connected.”


Yarmuth said that this is at the heart of the Citizens United decision:

It doesn’t really matter whether corporations are considered people or not if you consider campaign expenditures as free speech. Because then it doesn’t matter who has access to that right. When you deal with just the corporate side of it, you’re still allowing people like the Koch brothers on the right, or even George Soros on the left, to spend millions and millions of dollars in an anonymous way to influence the system. So you need to get at the core of it and “say money spent on elections is not speech.” Therefore the Congress can regulate how much you can spend, if you can spend anything, and who can spend it. If you don’t get at that fundamental question, Congress really can’t regulate.

The second part of his amendment states that “Congress shall have the power to enact a mandatory public financing system to provide funds to qualified candidates in elections for Federal office, which shall be the sole source of funds raised or spent with respect to Federal elections.”

But why not just mandating that Congress must do this?  As Rep. Yarmuth explained, “we would have liked to have done it that way. most of the advice that we got that it would be — that you really can’t tell the Congress to enact a certain policy.”

Section three states “Congress shall set forth a legal public holiday for the purposes of voting in regularly scheduled general elections for Federal office.”  Rep. Yarmuth explained, “we need to have a national commitment to voting and to get out the vote, to make it easier for people to do it. The idea that people have to negotiate work and child care and all of these other logistical things to cast a vote for the most important thing they’ll do as a citizen is nonsense. ”

Rep. Yarmuth said that the Founding Fathers never could have anticipated the millions that would be spent in elections.  ”They wanted the right of the individual to go to the town square and say whatever he or she wanted to say. Everybody still has that right. This whole idea of money is speech is something that be fabricated by those who want to buy influence on the system. And people like my senator, Mitch McConnell, have been pounding this home for 25 years now, and he finally got it institutionalized in a Supreme Court decision. It was very, very tragic for the country,” said Rep. Yarmuth. […]

READ AND VIDEO @ http://www.dylanratigan.com/2011/12/21/rep-john-yarmuth-money-is-speech-was-tragic-for-this-country/



By Alan Grayson, Daily Kos

Yesterday, the European Central Bank (ECB) announced that it will hand out $645,000,000,000 in three-year loans to European banks. Which the ECB printed out of thin air, like Monopoly money! The interest rate will be one percent per year.

The ECB will not be lending this money to the Government of Greece, even though that government is running a budget deficit of just under 10% of GDP – and the Greek GDP dropped by 5% this year.  The Government of Greece is now paying 37% per year on its ten-year bonds, when it can borrow anything at all.

The ECB will not be lending this money to the people of Spain, even though official unemployment in Spain is now at 23%.  Spain’s Economy Minister said recently that “Spain faces its deepest recession in half a century.”  Tough luck; their Christmas tree has nothing under it.

And when the European banks get this $645 billion, to whom will the banks be lending?  Anybody, or nobody.  No strings attached.  They can borrow from the ECB at 1%, lend it back to the German Government at 2%, lock in that profit, and take the next three years off.

I just have one question.


The world continues to face the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.  Unemployment throughout Europe is over ten percent.  Entire national governments are on the verge of going broke.  Why would anyone think that THE THING THAT WE HAVE TO DO RIGHT NOW is to hand out $645 billion in more funny money to the banks?  In Europe or anywhere else?

The ECB is a public institution.  How can it possibly justify yet another bailout for selfish private interests, while the public is sent straight to hell?

If a Martian were to land in Paris today, and just read the headlines of the newspapers today, he could reach only one conclusion.  That there has been a coup in Europe, the banks are now in charge, and they’re grabbing everything that they can get their hands on.

Mark my words:  at some point, people are just not going to take it anymore.


Alan Grayson

READ @ http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/12/22/1048077/-Privatizing-Money?via=siderec



 By Mario Querioz, Common Dreams






A demonstrator holds a banner reading “Do not steal the future” in front of the Finance Ministry during a protest against the government’s austerity measures in Lisbon December 15, 2011. Besides selling off the state’s remaining shares in EDP, a company that brings in major profits, the government must privatise the highly lucrative national airport authority – Aeroportos de Portugal (ANA) – and is to complete the sale of Transportes Aéreos Portugueses (TAP) – the national airline – by the end of 2012. (REUTERS/Rafael Marchante)

The most far-reaching programme of privatisation of state enterprises in the history of Portugal kicked off Thursday with the sale of almost all of the state’s shares in the Energias de Portugal (EDP) utility to China’s Three Gorges Corp.

The Chinese company paid 3.5 billion dollars for a 21 percent stake, beating out Germany’s E.ON and Brazil’s Eletrobras and Cemeg, and making it the largest shareholder. The state was left with less than four percent of the shares in the power company.

Three Gorges’ victory in the bidding for EDP will open Portugal’s doors to Chinese financial institutions, making more credit available in Portugal, as the giant Chinese corporation promised Lisbon.

The privatisation of public enterprises is one of the conditions Portugal agreed to under the 110 billion dollar bailout agreed in May.

The government of conservative Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho has thus begun to sell off state assets under the austerity programme agreed with the “troika” of international creditors: the EU, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.

Besides the massive privatisation plan, the bailout package signed by the government of then socialist prime minister José Socrates and the right, which took power a month later, was conditional on austerity measures like a more flexible labour market making it cheaper and easier to fire workers, major spending cuts, a freeze on wages and pensions, tax hikes, cuts in unemployment benefits and income tax benefits and deductions, and an increase in the value-added tax.

Besides selling off the state’s remaining shares in EDP, a company that brings in major profits, the government must privatise the highly lucrative national airport authority – Aeroportos de Portugal (ANA) – and is to complete the sale of Transportes Aéreos Portugueses (TAP) – the national airline – by the end of 2012. […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/12/23-0



By Washington’s Blog

Nuclear Power Is Unsafe Because the Operators are Pinching Pennies and Cutting Corners

Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen was said in a recent interview that nuclear power can be made safe, but not at a competitive price:

[Interviewer] With air transport, it’s incredibly safe. Could nuclear power ever reach that level of safety?

[Gundersen] I have a friend who says that nuclear can be safe or it can be cheap, but it can’t be both.


It boils down to money. If you want to make nuclear safe, it gets to the point where it’s so costly you don’t want to build the power plant anyway … especially now with plummeting renewable costs.

So can you make a nuclear reactor safe? Yes. Can it also at the same time compete with renewables, which are, of course, higher [priced] than natural gas? And the answer is no.

Wall Street is demanding federal loan guarantees for this and of course we already subsidized Price-Anderson insurance. So Wall Street won’t spend the money to build it, and won’t insure it.

Gundersen is right.

As I noted in April:

Apologists for the nuclear power industry pretend there are no better alternatives, so we just have to suck it up and suffer through the Japanese nuclear crisis.

But this is wholly illogical. The truth is that we can store spent fuel rods in dry cask storage, which is much safer than the spent fuel rod pools used in Fukushima and many American reactors.

As the Nation pointed out:

Short of closing plants, there is a fairly reliable solution to the problem of spent fuel rods. It is called “dry cask storage.”


But there is a problem with dry cask storage: it costs money….

We could build a new, safer generation of nuclear power plants which have inherently safer designs, such as low-temperature reactors and thorium reactors.

But the owners of the nuclear plants can make more money with the ridiculous designs and cost-cutting measures used at Fukushima and elsewhere.

As the Christian Science Monitor notes:

*** Russian nuclear accident specialist Iouli Andreev, who as director of the Soviet Spetsatom clean-up agency helped in the efforts 25 years ago to clean up Chernobyl … said the sequence of events at Japan’s Fukushima I suggested that the plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), may have put profit before safety. The fire that broke out Tuesday in reactor No. 4s fuel storage pond may have been caused by a desire to conserve space and money, he suggested.

“The Japanese were very greedy and they used every square inch of the space. But when you have a dense placing of spent fuel in the basin you have a high possibility of fire if the water is removed from the basin,” Andreev told Reuters….

And this is not limited to Tepco. 


The nuclear accident was largely caused because of Tepco’s penny-pinching, just as the Gulf oil spill was caused by the fact that BP cut every corner in the book ( see this, this, this, this, and this). […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2011/12/nuclear-can-be-safe-or-it-can-be-cheap-but-it-cant-be-both.html



By Iftekhar A. Khan, Information Clearing House

[…] While the western powers are proceeding against Syria overtly, they’re moving against Iran covertly. Unfortunately, the 22-member Arab League is playing a leading role in the hostilities orchestrated by the West against the two Muslim states. When the Saudi King said Assad’s removal was in Saudi Arabia’s interest, the Arab League quickly revoked Syria’s membership and asked Assad to step down. How can the Arab League, consisting of repressive monarchies and dynastic emirates, pronounce one of its member countries in the region tyrannical? SNC and Free Syrian Army are set up under Turkey tutelage. Henceforth Turkey will likely play a dominant role of a proxy in the imperial plan of regime-change in Syria. Turkey has a bit of identity problem. It has always aspired to be recognised as a modern westernised state part of Europe but the Europeans have been reluctant to accept it.

Saudi Arabia not only wants an end to Assad’s rule in Syria, it equally detests President Ahmadinjad’s government in Iran. The imperial powers are successfully using the sectarian card by playing upon religious prejudices of one sect against the other. If Saudi Arabia didn’t consider Iran its archrival, why would it buy 60 billion dollars worth of US military hardware? To add to the suspicion between the two, a treacherous plot to kill Saudi Ambassador in the US was hatched in which an Iranian citizen, a used car dealer, was to hire Mexican hit men to assassinate the Saudi envoy in Washington. The plot was so incredulous that not even the American public, which is generally considered gullible, bought it.

However, it’s confounding why the Muslim rulers allow the West to use them against their own kin. Is there any precedent of Christian nations aggressing against each other at present? None. Why does Saudi Arabia want to isolate Iran and bring down President Ahmedinejad’s government, while undercurrents of public discontent run deep in the kingdom itself? If the CIA has so far failed to instigate an uprising in Iran, despite having poured in millions, why should Saudi Arabia abet in the same against a brother Muslim country is for the House of Saud to answer.

READ @ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30053.htm



By Jillian Rayfield, TPMMuckraker










A secret air show in Houston. An unmanned blimp in Utah. A sovereign citizen arrested in North Dakota.

Each of these is just one small part of the bigger story of the proliferation of unmanned aircraft use within the U.S., and each is likely to become smaller still if the FAA goes through with plans to loosen regulations governing domestic use of drones.

News reports about Predator attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan are common if not always complete, but what’s gotten much less attention is the increase in unarmed drones that are buzzing around within the U.S. itself. Primarily, unarmed Predator B drones are only used by government agents to patrol the borders for illegal immigrants, but there are a (very large) handful of other agencies and companies that use smaller, unarmed drones for a slew of other purposes. And that number is only expected to grow.

The FAA says that as of September 13, 2011, there were 285 active Certificates of Authorization (COA) for 85 different users, covering 82 different unmanned unarmed aircraft types.

Though the exact breakdown of the organizations who have authorization is unclear — and the FAA would not elaborate for “privacy” and “security” reasons — in January the Washington Post reported that as of December 1, 2010, 35% of the permissions were held by the Department of Defense, 11% by NASA, and 5% by the Department of Homeland Security. The FBI and law enforcement agencies also hold some, as do manufacturers and even academic institutions.

Between pressure from trade groups (like the drone manufacturers group the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International), proposed legislation from Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) to expand the number of drone testing sites in the U.S., and petitioning from states like Oklahoma for an approved 80-mile air corridor reserved exclusively for drone development and testing, there is great potential for drone use to expand within the U.S. in the next few years.

Les Dorr, a spokesman for the FAA, says that there are currently two types of authorizations — one for public operations, as in state and local governments, and one for private entities. In each case, the application process involves telling the FAA what type and where and when aircraft will be flown, so the agency can determine if it can ensure the safety of other aircraft. Dorr said that next month the FAA hopes to propose new, looser rules for use of small unarmed Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) because “that’s where the demand is.”

He told TPM that they’re hoping to publish the new regulations in January, which will be followed by a comment period for industry and other interested parties. That usually lasts 60 days, at which point the FAA will take the comments into consideration when drafting the final language of the rule.

So who would use these small drones?

Kevin Lauscher, a Grant Assistance Specialist for the Canada-based manufacturers of the Draganfly drones, couldn’t say how many they’ve sold in the U.S. so far. But he said that aside from law enforcement agencies, they’ve sold drones to companies in real estate, manufacturing, academic institutions and even resorts. He described how some construction companies use drones for safety reasons, in place of a person on top of a crane or scaffolding.

But, the FAA said in a press release in October, though “interest is growing in civil (non-government) uses” for drones, “one of the most promising potential uses for sUAS is in law enforcement.”

“The FAA is working with urban police departments in major metropolitan areas and national public safety organizations on test programs involving unmanned aircraft,” the release says, also noting that members of law enforcement agencies participated in the committee that is drafting the new sUAS rule.

So far, there is a handful of law enforcement agencies that already have authorization to use drones, like sheriff’s departments in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland and Lane County, Oregon and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Police in Arlington, Texas have a drone they acquired to help with security during the February, 2011 Superbowl. The Mayor of Ogden, Utah is working to get an “unmanned blimp” that would fly over the city and serve as “a deterrent to crime.”

But there are some cases that are particularly concerning for civil liberties advocates. In North Dakota, a family of “sovereign citizens” was arrested with the help of a Predator B drone, borrowed from border patrol agents by the local sheriff in an effort to avoid a standoff over missing cows. In the first reported case of a drone being used to aid in the arrest of a U.S. citizen, the drone was able to detect when the family was carrying weapons so officials could move in without fear of a firefight.

There’s also the Houston Police Department, which scrapped a plan to bring on a drone shortly after KPRC-TV filmed local officials participating in a secret air show for drones, about 70 miles outside of the city. The police chief mentioned in a press conference that the drones could be used for issuing traffic tickets, and the backlash was such that the Mayor put the kibosh on the program. But, according to KPRC-TV, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office near Houston still used $300,000 in federal grant money from the DHS to buy a ShadowHawk unmanned helicopter. […]

READ @ http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/12/one_nation_under_the_drone.php?ref=fpa



By Karel Janicek, Independent UK








Czechs and world leaders paid emotional tribute to Vaclav Havel today at a pomp-filled funeral ceremony, ending a week of public grief and nostalgia over the death of the dissident playwright who led the 1989 revolution that toppled four decades of communist rule.

Bells tolled from churches while a wailing siren brought the country to a standstill in a minute of silence for the nation’s first democratically-elected president after the nonviolent “Velvet Revolution.”

Havel’s wife Dagmar, family members, friends and leaders from dozens of countries gathered Friday at the towering, gothic St. Vitus Cathedral which overlooks Prague. Prime Minister David Cameron, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and French President Nicolas Sarkozy and  were among some 1,000 mourners who bowed their heads in front of the coffin draped in the Czech colours.

In a message read at the funeral by the Vatican’s former diplomatic representative in Prague, Pope Benedict XVI praised Havel. “Remembering how courageously Mr Havel defended human rights at a time when these were systematically denied to the people of your country, and paying tribute to his visionary leadership in forging a new democratic polity after the fall of the previous regime, I give thanks to God for the freedom that the people of the Czech Republic now enjoy,” he said.

At the end of the ceremony, Havel’s coffin was to be carried through the cathedral’s Golden Gate to Prague’s Strasnice crematorium for a private family funeral. The urn with Havel’s ashes will be buried at his family’s plot at the city’s Vinohrady cemetery alongside his first wife, Olga, who died in 1996.

Havel, whose final term in office ended in 2003, died Sunday morning in his sleep at his weekend home in the country’s north. The 75-year-old former chain-smoker had a history of chronic respiratory problems dating back to his time in prison.

Since his death, Czechs have gathered spontaneously to lay flowers and light candles at key historic sites such as the monument to the 1989 Velvet Revolution in downtown Prague, and at Wenceslas Square, where Havel once spoke before hundreds of thousands of people to express outrage at the repressive communist regime.

Similar scenes of remembrance played out across the country — in a show of emotion not seen since the 1937 funeral of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, Czechoslovakia’s first president after the nation was founded in 1918.

“Europe owes Vaclav Havel a profound debt,” Cameron said before departing from London. “Havel led the Czech people out of tyranny … and he helped bring freedom and democracy to our entire continent.”

Czechs packed a nearby courtyard at Prague Castle and an adjacent square to watch the funeral ceremony on giant screens.

“He was our star, he gave us democracy,” said Iva Buckova, 51, who had travelled from the western city of Plzen. “He led us through revolution. We came to see him for the last time.”  […]

READ @ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/a/europe/czechs-bid-farewell-to-vaclav-havel-6280952.html



By Renat Kuenzi, swissinfo.ch

Former Czech dissident and playwright Vaclav Havel, whose funeral takes place on Friday, was held in high regard around the world for his courage and moral strength.

Author Helena Kanyar-Becker, who came to Switzerland in 1969 after the repression of the Prague Spring, is among those who admired Havel. But she says his moral authority had begun to diminish during his years as president.

Havel, who played a key role in the democracy movement in communist Czechoslovakia, was elected president at the end of 1989, following the Velvet Revolution. After the breakup of Czechoslovakia, he served as president of the Czech Republic until 2003.

Havel died on December 18 at the age of 75.

swissinfo.ch: You met Vaclav Havel when you were a young student in Prague. What impression did he make on you?

Helena Kanyar-Becker: In the 1960s I regularly visited the Theatre on the Balustrade [in Prague], which was a mecca for us young students. I saw all Vaclav Havel’s plays there. Including “The Garden Party”, an absurd play about functionaries that had a huge impact. I don’t remember how many times I saw it.

swissinfo.ch: Describe the atmosphere at these productions.

H.K-B.: It was a very intimate atmosphere. Just getting hold of a ticket required creativity. The foyer was always full of young people smoking, and Havel stood on the stairs, also smoking, and waved to us. His wife Olga, a beautiful, slim woman, was in charge of the cloakroom. She also smoked constantly.

The theatre, which had about 250 seats was always packed, and there was a real understanding between the actors and the public. We laughed a lot.

“The Garden Party” wasn’t just absurd and full of humour, it was also philosophical. Hugo, the conforming ‘hero’, delivers the line: ‘Conformity is the healthy philosophy of the middle classes, without which there is no future.’ Havel was taking a swipe at people who conform. It was exactly what we wanted to hear and see.

swissinfo.ch: After the performances, did you go to a restaurant to discuss the pieces with Havel?

H.K-B.: No, there was a kind of divide between Havel and us. We only ever saw him smiling and smoking. We didn’t dare address him; we were too young. He was a kind of saint to us, who we really admired… […]

READ @ http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/culture/Havel_s_moral_authority_is_a_thing_of_the_past.html?cid=31817664

Dec 212011



Mourners light candles at the base of a statue of St Wenceslas to commemorate the death of former Czech President Vaclav Havel in Wenceslas Square, Prague. Havel, who led the Velvet Revolution that ended communist rule in Czechoslovakia in 1989, died December 18 in his sleep at the age of 75. Credits: Sean Gallup

READ @ http://www.theweek.co.uk/photos/43736/tributes-vaclav-havel-wenceslas-square#ixzz1hBImPBWH



By Eric Kleefled, TPM

Cracks are already showing in the new policy from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) administration, seeking to charge protesters money in order to get a permit to demonstrate at the state Capitol. On Monday, when the policy was set to go into effect, a large demonstration was indeed held against Walker, with over 250 people turning out in the Capitol — without a permit, and also without anything bad happening to them.

The administration has been holding a series of informational sessions on the policy — which seem to have stirred up only pushback from demonstrators and civil libertarians. But on Friday, the state Department of Administration appeared to back down at least a little, signaling that there would not be arrests.

The Capital Times reports:

The state Department of Administration kept its word and did not make any arrests or issue any fines, a course of action its spokeswoman had indicated Friday it would take.

Some 250 to 300 people showed up at noon Monday without a permit to sing at the daily Solidarity Sing-along in the Capitol rotunda. (The state DOA did not respond to a request for an official crowd estimate Monday.)

“The fact that they aren’t enforcing the policy tells me they know the policy is unconstitutional,” says Nicole Schulte of Madison, a regular attendee of the Solidarity Sing-along. “It seems obvious to me that they (the Walker administration) want to put people in a position to challenge the policy in court.”

Here is a video clip, via Wisconsin Radio Network:


READ @ http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/12/wis-activists-defy-walkers-new-pay-to-protest-rules—-and-nothing-happens.php?ref=fpb



By Aya Batrawy, AP










Burnt pages from a large selection of rare and ancient books and documents housed in the historic Scientific Institute lie in a pile near Tahrir Square on Monday. (Reuters)

CAIRO: Volunteers in white lab coats, surgical gloves and masks were standing on the back of a pickup truck along the banks of the Nile River in Cairo, rummaging through stacks of rare 200-year-old manuscripts that were little more than charcoal debris.

The volunteers, ranging from academic experts to appalled citizens, have spent the past two days trying to salvage what’s left of some 192,000 books, journals and writings, casualties of Egypt’s latest bout of violence.

Institute d’Egypte, a research center set up by Napoleon Bonaparte during France’s invasion in the late 18th century, caught fire during clashes between protesters and Egypt’s military over the weekend. It was home to a treasure trove of writings, most notably the handwritten 24-volume Description de l’Egypte, which began during the 1798-1801 French occupation.

The compilation, which includes 20 years of observations by more than 150 French scholars and scientists, was one of the most comprehensive descriptions of Egypt’s monuments, its ancient civilization and contemporary life at the time.

The Description of Egypt is likely burned beyond repair. Its home, the two-story historic institute near Tahrir Square, is now in danger of collapsing after the roof caved in.

“The burning of such a rich building means a large part of Egyptian history has ended,” the director of the institute, Mohammed Al-Sharbouni, told state television over the weekend. The building was managed by a local non-governmental organization.

Al-Sharbouni said most of the contents were destroyed in the fire that raged for more than 12 hours on Saturday. Firefighters flooded the building with water, adding to the damage.

During the clashes a day earlier, parts of the parliament and a transportation authority office caught fire, but those blazes were put out quickly.

The violence erupted in Cairo Friday, when military forces guarding the Cabinet building, near the institute, cracked down on a 3-week-old sit-in to demand the country’s ruling generals hand power to a civilian authority. At least 14 people have been killed.

Zein Abdel-Hady, who runs the country’s main library, is leading the effort to try and save what’s left of the charred manuscripts.

“This is equal to the burning of Galileo’s books,” Abdel-Hady said, referring to the Italian scientist whose work proposing that the earth revolved around the sun was believed to have been burned in protest in the 17th century. […]

READ @ http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article550955.ece



By Gar Smith, OpEdNews







I don’t know about you, but I’m getting fed up with self-important gangs of masked, black-clad agitators running roughshod over our cities streets. They’ve occupied parks, shut down roadways, vandalized private property, assaulted law-abiding citizens and left entire communities afraid to venture into financially struggling downtown business districts. They’ve wielded spray cans and left behind eyesores that have incensed the community.

I am speaking, of course, about the police.

It’s one thing if a group of political anarchists walks into a bank and spray-paints slogans on vaults and filing cabine

ts. It’s another thing when police march into a peaceful tent encampment brandishing batons and pepper-spray.

Question: What’s the difference between a cop and an anarchist?

Answer: An anarchist defaces files. A cop defiles faces.

During a single Oakland night in early November, the violent misdeeds of these anarchists-with-badges shredded Constitutional rights, amassed a growing body count of innocent victims (including several combat veterans hospitalized with crippling injuries), and turned downtown Oakland into an urban No-Buy Zone.

Meanwhile, in Seattle, a flurry of in-your-face police assaults left an 84-year-old woman blinded by a blast of pepper-spray. At the same time, a 19-year-old woman who screamed at police, “Don’t hurt me! I’m pregnant!” was singled out for another blast of pepper-spray while a police officer took aim and kicked her in the stomach. She was rushed to a hospital where she subsequently suffered a miscarriage. (This appears to be the first police-related death attributable to the nationwide crackdown on the Occupy movement — it was, tragically, a literal “miscarriage of justice.”)

In theory, the police exist to enforce laws. Increasingly, in post-911 America, the police seem to exult in defying laws. In many cities, the police now have more power than mayors, council members and judges. In November, despite a court ruling that Zuccotti Park was to remain open to the Occupy Wall Street campers, the NYPD refused to allow the demonstrators to re-enter the public park — an act of constabulary defiance that constituted obstruction of justice.

In a pattern that has been seen in Occupied cities across the US — from Manhattan to Santa Cruz — local police have tried to stoke social tension and civil unrest by encouraging hungry, homeless, drug-addicted and violent individuals from other parts of their cities to relocate to the nearest “Occupy” site where, the police promise, they can expect free food, shelter and medical assistance. It would appear that the goal is not to improve public safety but to raise the potential for disputes and disruption that might contribute to discrediting the Occupy camps.

Another tactic used in cities across America is for city officials to claim that encampments must be eradicated because they constitute a “health and safety hazard.” This meme is then driven home by orchestrated “photo ops” featuring city workers who are ordered to don full-body hazmat suits and gas-masks before hosing down sidewalks and lawns with blasts of high-pressure steam. […]

Video: Police provocateurs dressed as civilians use violence to overthrow peaceful protests:

Quebec police admit going undercover at Montebello protests

G20 Police spotted in Black Bloc clothing -Toronto G20

Video Report: Tactics, Agent Provocateurs?/Undercover Police

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/printer_friendly.php?content=a&id=143096



By Max Blumenthal, Environmentalists Against War

[…] The Israelification of America’s security apparatus, recently unleashed in full force against the Occupy Wall Street Movement, has taken place at every level of law enforcement, and in areas that have yet to be exposed. The phenomenon has been documented in bits and pieces, through occasional news reports that typically highlight Israel’s national security prowess without examining the problematic nature of working with a country accused of grave human rights abuses. But it has never been the subject of a national discussion. And collaboration between American and Israeli cops is just the tip of the iceberg.

Having been schooled in Israeli tactics perfected during a 63 year experience of controlling, dispossessing, and occupying an indigenous population, local police forces have adapted them to monitor Muslim and immigrant neighborhoods in US cities. Meanwhile, former Israeli military officers have been hired to spearhead security operations at American airports and suburban shopping malls, leading to a wave of disturbing incidents of racial profiling, intimidation, and FBI interrogations of innocent, unsuspecting people.

The New York Police Department’s disclosure that it deployed “counter-terror” measures against Occupy protesters encamped in downtown Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park is just the latest example of the so-called War on Terror creeping into every day life. Revelations like these have raised serious questions about the extent to which Israeli-inspired tactics are being used to suppress the Occupy movement.

The process of Israelification began in the immediate wake of 9/11, when national panic led federal and municipal law enforcement officials to beseech Israeli security honchos for advice and training. America’s Israel lobby exploited the climate of hysteria, providing thousands of top cops with all-expenses paid trips to Israel and stateside training sessions with Israeli military and intelligence officials. By now, police chiefs of major American cities who have not been on junkets to Israel are the exception.

“Israel is the Harvard of antiterrorism,” said former US Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer, who now serves as the US Senate Sergeant-at-Arms. Cathy Lanier, the Chief of the Washington DC Metropolitan Police, remarked, “No experience in my life has had more of an impact on doing my job than going to Israel.” “One would say it is the front line,” Barnett Jones, the police chief of Ann Arbor, Michigan, said of Israel. “We’re in a global war.”

Karen Greenberg, the director of Fordham School of Law’s Center on National Security and a leading expert on terror and civil liberties, said the Israeli influence on American law enforcement is so extensive it has bled into street-level police conduct. “After 9/11 we reached out to the Israelis on many fronts and one of those fronts was torture,” Greenberg told me. “The training in Iraq and Afghanistan on torture was Israeli training. There’s been a huge downside to taking our cue from the Israelis and now we’re going to spread that into the fabric of everyday American life? It’s counter-terrorism creep. And it’s exactly what you could have predicted would have happened.” […]

READ @ http://www.envirosagainstwar.org/know/read.php?itemid=11702%20



By David Cay Johnston, Reuters

Some of the biggest companies in the United States have been firing workers and in some cases lobbying for rules that depress wages at the very time that jobs are needed, pay is low, and the federal budget suffers from a lack of revenue.

Last month Citizens for Tax Justice and an affiliate issued “Corporate Taxpayers and Corporate Tax Dodgers 2008-10″. It showed that 30 brand-name companies paid a federal income tax rate of minus 6.7 percent on $160 billion of profit from 2008 through 2010 compared to a going corporate tax rate of 35 percent. All but one of those 30 companies reported lobbying expenses in Washington.

Another report, by Public Campaign, shows that 29 of those companies spent nearly half a billion dollars over those three years lobbying in Washington for laws and rules that favor their interests. Only Atmos Energy, the 30th company, reported no lobbying.

Public Campaign replaced Atmos with Federal Express, the package delivery company that paid a smidgen of tax — $37 million, or less than one percent of the $4.2 billion in profit it reported in 2008 through 2010.

For the amount spent lobbying, the companies could have hired 3,100 people at $50,000 for wages and benefits to do productive work.

The report – “For Hire: Lobbyists or the 99 percent” – says that while shedding jobs, the 30 companies are “spending millions of dollars on Washington lobbyists to stave off higher taxes or regulations.”

These and other companies have access to lawmakers and regulators that are unavailable to ordinary Americans.


Doubt that? Dial the Capitol switchboard at 1 (202) 224-3121, ask for your representative’s office and request a five-minute audience, in person, at the lawmaker’s convenience back in the home district.

In more than a decade of lectures recommending this, I have yet to have a single person email me (see address to the right) about having scored a private meeting with the representative called. […]

READ @ http://blogs.reuters.com/david-cay-johnston/2011/12/20/the-corporations-that-occupy-congress/



By Stephen D. Foster Jr., Addicting Information


“Banks have done more injury to the religion, morality, tranquility, prosperity, and even wealth of the nation than they can have done or ever will do good.”

~John Adams


“The central bank is an institution of the most deadly hostility existing against the Principles and form of our Constitution. I am an Enemy to all banks discounting bills or notes for anything but Coin. If the American People allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the People of all their Property until their Children will wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered.”

~Thomas Jefferson to Albert Gallatin, 1803.


“History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance.”

~James Madison


“I have had men watching you for a long time and I am convinced that you have used the funds of the bank to speculate in the breadstuffs of the country. When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to the Bank. … You are a den of vipers and thieves.”

~Andrew Jackson, 1834, on closing the Second Bank of the United States


“I have two great enemies, the southern army in front of me and the financial institutions, in the rear. Of the two, the one in the rear is the greatest enemy….. I see in the future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of the war.”

~Abraham Lincoln


“Whosoever controls the volume of money in any country is absolute master of all industry and commerce… And when you realise that the entire system is very easily controlled, one way or another, by a few powerful men at the top, you will not have to be told how periods of inflation and depression originate.”

~James Garfield (assassinated within weeks of release of this statement during first year of his Presidency in 1881)


“Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.”

~Theodore Roosevelt, April 19, 1906


“A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the world– no longer a government of free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of small groups of dominant men.”

~Woodrow Wilson


“We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace-business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hatred for me – and I welcome their hatred. I should like to have it said of my first administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second administration that in it these forces met their master.”

~Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Speech at Madison Square Garden


“All problems, depressions, wars, disasters, assassinations, all of them were planned, caused, instigated, and implemented by the International Bankers and their attempt to establish a central bank in every country in the world, which they have now done, thanks to corrupt politicians who have been bought and paid for. This is all you need to know about the history of the world.”

~John F. Kennedy


READ @ http://www.addictinginfo.org/2011/11/30/what-past-presidents-thought-about-big-banks/


The Secret of OZ – Best Documentary 2010: http://99getsmart.com/?p=1451



By Lila York, OpEdNews

Senators Dianne Feinstein and Mark Udall are co-sponsoring a bill to remedy the damage to the Bill Of Rights done by the National Defense Authorization Act 2012


Immediately following the Senate’s passage of S. 1253, the National Defense Authorization Act 2012 (and upon the defeat of four amendments that would have preserved intact the civil liberties protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights) Senators Dianne Feinstein (CA) and Mark Udall (CO) agreed to co-sponsor a bill to re-instate those protections. The bill, entitled the Due Process Guarantee Act 2011, is being written in committee and will be submitted for a vote in the Senate in January of 2012. According to Senator Udall’s office, the bill will guarantee that no American citizen can be subjected to indefinite detention without charge and will guarantee a trial by jury in a civilian court of justice. The bill is modeled on the amendments to the NDAA originally offered by both senators. A mass phone drive to representatives will be needed to convince Republicans that Americans will not agree to live in a country without guaranteed civil liberties. Stay tuned.

For an understanding of the indefinite detention clauses of the NDAA, see Glenn Greenwald’s detailed explanation here:


READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/printer_friendly.php?content=a&id=143050



By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

Strongly recommend this piece at the Huffington Post by Jeff Connaughton, a former aide to Senator Ted Kaufman. Jeff is one of the smartest guys on the Hill and is particularly strong on issues surrounding Wall Street and the regulatory system. In this piece, he takes apart the oft-stated mantra that what Wall Street firms did during and after the crisis was maybe unethical, but not illegal.

He takes particular aim at Barack Obama, who recently tossed that line out on 60 Minutes in what I thought was one of the real low moments of his presidency. Here’s Jeff’s take:

Speaking in Kansas on December 6, [Obama] said, “Too often, we’ve seen Wall Street firms violating major anti-fraud laws because the penalties are too weak and there’s no price for being a repeat offender.” Just five days later on 60 Minutes, he said, “Some of the least ethical behavior on Wall Street wasn’t illegal.” Which is it? Have there been no prosecutions because Wall Street acted legally (albeit unethically)? Or did Wall Street repeatedly violate major anti-fraud laws (and should thus find itself in the dock)?

The President is confusing “legal” with “difficult to prosecute successfully.”

The notion that what Wall Street firms did was merely unethical and not illegal is not just mistaken but preposterous: most everyone who works in the financial services industry understands that fraud right now is not just pervasive but epidemic, with many of the biggest banks committing entire departments to the routine commission of fraud and perjury – every single one of the major banks, for instance, devotes significant manpower to robosigning affidavits for foreclosures and credit card judgments, acts which are openly and inarguably criminal.

Banks and hedge funds routinely withhold derogatory information about the instruments they sell, they routinely trade on insider information or ahead of their own clients’ orders, and corrupt accounting is so rampant now that industry analysts have begun to figure in estimated levels of fraud in their examinations of the public disclosures of major financial companies.

Beyond that, as Jeff points out, Obama is simply not telling the truth about the supposedly insufficient penalties available to regulators. Employing the famous “mistakes were made” use of the passive tense, Obama copped out in his December 6 speech by saying that “penalties are too weak.” As Jeff points out, what Obama should have said is that “the penalties my own regulators chose to dish out were too weak”:

Moreover, the President is misleading us when he says that Wall Street firms violate anti-fraud law because the penalties are too weak. Repeat financial fraudsters don’t pay relatively paltry — and therefore painless — penalties because of statutory caps on such penalties. Rather, regulatory officials, appointed by Obama, negotiated these comparatively trifling fines. This week, the F.D.I.C. settled a suit against Washington Mutual officials for just $64 million, an amount that will be covered mostly by insurance policies WaMu took out on behalf of executives, who themselves will pay just $400,000. And recently a federal judge rejected the S.E.C.’s latest settlement with Citigroup, an action even the Wall Street Journal called “a rebuke of the cozy relationship between regulators and the regulated that too often leaves justice as an orphan.”

What makes Obama’s statements so dangerous is that they suggest an ongoing strategy of covering up the Wall Street crimewave. There is ample evidence out there that the Obama administration has eased up on prosecutions of Wall Street as part of a conscious strategy to prevent a collapse of confidence in our financial system, with the expected 50-state foreclosure settlement being the landmark effort in the cover-up, intended mainly to bury a generation of fraud. Here’s how Jeff puts it:

In Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men, he quotes Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner as saying, “The confidence in the system is so fragile still… a disclosure of a fraud… could result in a run, just like Lehman.” The Obama Administration is pushing hard for a 50-state settlement with the major banks for their fraudulent foreclosure practices, even though several state attorneys general have rejected this approach because, in their view, it would shield too much wrongdoing. Regrettably, Obama’s top officials and lawyers seem more eager to restore the financial sector to health than establish criminal accountability among the executives who were in charge.

In other words, Geithner and Obama are behaving like Lehman executives before the crash of Lehman, not disclosing the full extent of the internal problem in order to keep investors from fleeing and creditors from calling in their chits. It’s worth noting that this kind of behavior – knowingly hiding the derogatory truth from the outside world in order to prevent a run on the bank – is, itself, fraud! […]

READ @ http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/obama-and-geithner-government-enron-style-20111220

Dec 202011



Agreements to bail out banks happen in days – but despite some good progress at Durban, we still don’t have a legally binding deal to bail out the planet

By George Monibot, Guardian UK








The US and other nations began talking seriously about tackling climate change in 1988 – yet we still don’t have a legally binding global agreement. Photograph: Corbis

[…] That said, the outcome at Durban, after some superhuman feats of traction, was better than most environmentalists expected. After Copenhagen and Cancún, it seemed implausible that rich and poor nations would ever agree that they would one day strike a legally binding treaty, but they have. That doesn’t mean that the outcome was good: even if everything happens as planned, we are still likely to end up with more than 2C of warming, which threatens great harm to many of the world’s people and places.

The clearest account of the negotiations and the outcome of the Durban meeting that I have read so far has been written by Mark Lynas, who attended as an adviser to the president of the Maldives. The byzantine complexity he documents is the result of 20 years of foot-dragging and obstruction. When powerful countries want to do something, they do it swiftly and simply. When they don’t, their agreements with other nations turn into a cat’s cradle.

Here are some of the key points:

• The most important negotiations boiled down to a battle between two groups: the European Union, least developed countries (LDCs) and small island states on one side, which pressed for steeper, faster cuts, and the US, Brazil, South Africa, India and China on the other side, seeking to resist that pressure.

• The first group (EU + LDCs) succeeded in one respect: the other nations agreed to work towards a legally binding deal “applicable to all parties”. In other words, unlike the Kyoto protocol, which governs only the greenhouse gas emissions of a group of rich nations, this will apply to everyone. (It doesn’t necessarily mean that all nations will have to reduce their emissions however).

• The first group failed in its attempt to get this done quickly. The poorest nations wanted a legally binding outcome by the end of next year. But the US-China group held out for 2020, and got it. Unless this changes, it makes limiting the global temperature rise to 2C or less much harder – perhaps impossible.

• The Kyoto protocol, though it will remain in force until either 2017 or 2020, is now a dead letter. In fact, Lynas suggests, unless the loopholes it contains are closed it could be worse than useless, as they could undermine the voluntary commitments that its signatory nations have made.

• The countries agreed to create a green climate fund to help developing nations limit their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of global warming. But, with three exceptions – South Korea, Germany and Denmark – they didn’t agree to put any money into it. The fund is supposed to receive $100bn a year: a lot of money, until you compare it to what the banks got.

• Between now and 2020, all we have to rely on are countries’ voluntary commitments. According to a UN study, these fall short of the cuts required to prevent more than 2C of global warming – by some 6bn tonnes of carbon dioxide.

• But as the Durban agreement conceded, 2C is still too high. It raised the possibility of pledging to keep the rise to no more than 1.5C. This would require a much faster programme of cuts than it envisages. […]

READ @ http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2011/dec/16/durban-banks-climate-change



By Democracy Now!

We speak with constitutional lawyer and Salon.com blogger Glenn Greenwald about the military pretrial hearing now underway for alleged U.S. Army whistleblower Bradley Manning, who has been accused of releasing classified U.S. documents to WikiLeaks. Greenwald comments on the possible strategy being put forth by Manning’s defense. “All the Manning [tribunal] hearings have been shrouded in secrecy,” Greenwald says, noting there may be more transparency in Guantánamo detainee hearings than there has been for the Manning tribunal. “Presumably, his lawyer believes that one of the best ways that they have to keep him out of prison for the next six decades is to argue that he had diminished capacity by virtue of emotional distress over the gender struggles that he had over his sexual orientation being in a military that had a policy of banning those who were openly gay. And so, part of this emotional distress that they’re raising is designed to say that he should be excused from his actions because they were not the byproduct of full choice,” says Greenwald, who is openly gay and has been writing extensively about this aspect of Manning’s case. “He is—and I don’t blame him at all—trying to do whatever he can to avoid having his life destroyed, either being killed by the state or locked up in a cage for the rest of his life.” [includes rush transcript] […]

VIDEO AND TRANSCRIPT @ http://www.democracynow.org/2011/12/19/bradley_manning_faces_life_sentence_while



By Carlos Miller

New York City police officers have apparently become so fed-up with Occupy Wall Street protesters that they are not only arresting activists, photographers and journalists as they have been doing.

They are now attacking fellow cops.

The latest melee took place Saturday, the three-month anniversary of the movement, as hundreds of activists attempted to scale or crawl under a fence to an Episcopal churched-owned lot where they had intended to create an encampment.

NYPD officers arrested about 50 people who had entered the property, attacking several reporters and at least one plainclothes cop in the process.

Ryan Devereaux of Democracy Now – who winded up with a cop’s fist on his throat – reported seeing a senior police officer throw a younger plainclothes cop to the ground, apparently not recognizing him.

The younger officer said he was hurt, according to Devereaux’s tweet.

I saw a senior officer throw a younger plainclothes cop to the ground, not recognizing him. The younger cop said he was hurt.

Devereaux also tweeted the following about himself:

I was just manhandled by massive police officer. I was standing on the sidewalk. He was pushing his fist into my throat.

I repeatedly said I was trying to get back and he wouldn’t let me go. Eventually he pulled me away to arrest me. I kept telling I was press.

My neck is red, my press pass was ripped. I was doing nothing but standing on the sidewalk doing my job.

Devereaux also tweeted that a Democracy Now cameraman was viciously punched by the cop in the photo below as well as struck with batons.

My colleague, a credentialed cameraman, was punched in the kidney three times.

For the second time today my credentialed cameraman was struck by the police. This time with batons. […]

READ AND PHOTOS @ http://www.pixiq.com/article/nypd-continues-its-rampage



By Scott Horton, Harper’s Magazine

In the wake of September 11, Glenn Greenwald emerged as the nation’s premier chronicler of the war that U.S. officials waged on the nation’s civil liberties under the pretext of battling terrorists. Persistent and technically skilled, he played a key role in unmasking shameless betrayals by government attorneys of their oath to uphold the law—exposing those who enabled the torture of prisoners, the introduction of a massive warrantless surveillance system, and the merciless war against loyal Americans who attempted to blow the whistle on such abuses. I put six questions to Greenwald about his new book, With Liberty and Justice for Some, which examines the emerging doctrine of impunity for politically powerful elites in the United States:

1. You start your account of the doctrine of elite immunity in the United States with Gerald Ford’s decision to pardon Richard Nixon. How did this one decision, among the numerous incidents you describe, provide a point of rupture in the nation’s rule-of-law tradition?

American history is suffused with violations of equality before the law. The country was steeped in such violations at its founding. But even when this principle was being violated, its supremacy was also being affirmed: resoundingly and unanimously in the case of the founders. That the rule of law—not the rule of men—would reign supreme was one of the few real points of agreement among all the founders. Arguably it was the primary one.

There’s an obvious element of hypocrisy in this fact; espousing a principle that one simultaneously breaches in action is hypocrisy’s defining attribute. But there’s also a more positive side: the country’s vigorous embrace of the principle of equality before law enshrined it as aspiration. It became the guiding precept for how “progress” was understood, for how the union would be perfected.

And the most significant episodes of progress over the next two centuries—the emancipation of slaves, the ending of Jim Crow, the enfranchisement and liberation of women, vastly improved treatment for Native Americans and gay Americans—were animated by this ideal. That happened because “blind justice”—equality before law—was orthodoxy in American political culture. The principle was sacrosanct even when it was imperfectly applied.

The Ford pardon of Nixon changed that, radically and permanently. When President Ford went on national television to explain to an angry, skeptical citizenry why the most powerful political actor would be fully immunized for the felonies he got caught committing, Ford expressly rejected the rule of law. He paid lip service to its core principle—the “law is no respecter of persons”—but then tacked on a newly concocted amendment designed to gut that principle: “but the law is a respecter of reality.”

In other words, if—in the judgment of political leaders—it’s sufficiently disruptive, divisive, or distracting to hold powerful political officials accountable under the law on equal terms with ordinary Americans, then they should be exempt and the rule of law suspended, all in the name of political harmony, of “moving on.” But of course, it will always be divisive and distracting, by definition, to prosecute the most powerful political leaders, so Ford’s rationale, predictably, created a template for elite immunity.

The rationale for Ford’s pardon of Nixon was subsequently legitimized, and it created a precedent for shielding the most powerful elites from the consequences of their lawbreaking. The arguments Ford offered are the same ones now hauled out over and over whenever it is time to argue why the most powerful among us should not be held accountable: It’s not just for the good of the immunized criminal, but in the common good, to Look Forward, Not Backward. This direct assault on the rule of law was pioneered by the pardon of Richard Nixon. […]

READ @ http://www.harpers.org/archive/2011/12/hbc-90008356



By Washington’s Blog

Banks Got Bailed Out … We Got Sold Out

We voted for Obama because we wanted change.

We voted for Obama because he promised to end Bush’s perpetual wars, clean up the mess which Bush’s financial tzars made, and restore the freedom and liberty which Bush attacked.

Instead, Obama:

  • Has appointed the very Wall Street insiders who helped cause the financial crisis to top posts. See this, this, this and this.

As I pointed out in September, Americans overwhelmingly want:

  • The Federal Reserve to be reined in if not abolished
  • The never-ending, open-ended, goalpost-moving wars to stop and the troops to be brought home
  • Our liberties to be restored, and the martial law indefinite detention idiocy to be reversed

As I pointed out in October:

And as I wrote last month, Obama was heckled by Occupy protesters for allowing police brutality and mass arrests of the peaceful protesters, and because:

Banks got bailed out. We got sold out. […]



By Scarecrow, Firedoglake

The notion that the health insurance exchanges required by the Affordable Care Act would reduce health care costs using “competition” between concentrated health insurers was always one or more unbridgeable chasms away from a plausible theory.

But the myths of competitive markets are so deeply ingrained in our political discourse it was inevitable that a nominal Democratic President not constrained by conceptual coherence and a corrupt Congress would try to sell us the conceit as the only politically feasible model for health care reform.  The economists — not to mention international experience — told us it was gibberish, but nobody cared.

Now, however, the Obama Administration has given up even the pretense of a competitive model for the state-administered private insurance exchanges.  From Saturday’s New York Times (i.e, a Friday night news dump):

In a major surprise on the politically charged new health care law, the Obama administration said Friday that it would not define a single uniform set of “essential health benefits” that must be provided by insurers for tens of millions of Americans. Instead, it will allow each state to specify the benefits within broad categories.

The first thing you note is that this move is one more step towards Mitt Romney, who argues that RomneyCare might be fine for Massachusetts, but each state should be free to decide for itself how best to provide health coverage — or not.  The White House political geniuses who have managed to position their guy as only barely beating or even with the most embarrassing and offensive array of GOP clowns in memory apparently think moving towards Mitt’s incoherent position will leave one less reason to vote against Mr. Obama; others might conclude it’s one less reason to vote for him.

But let’s return to the unproven theory that “competition” between private health insurers will produce better quality and/or lower prices for insurance and hence more affordable quality health care.  Even economists like Paul Krugman who supported the overall ACA package because, among other reasons, it promised through other means to cover tens of millions of the currently uninsured, warned us that private health insurance does not lend itself to the competitive model, but no one — including Democrats — paid attention to that point. […]

READ @ http://my.firedoglake.com/scarecrow/2011/12/17/obama-admin-gives-up-pretense-of-competitive-market-for-aca-health-insurance-exchange/



By Anthony Gucciardi, Blacklisted News

Why has the FDA ignored the fact that mercury, an element that is highly toxic in all forms, was found in a large number of brand-name processed foods?

Specifically, the mercury content was found to be contained in high-fructose corn syrup, which also reportedly contains genetically modified ingredients.

Instead of addressing this major public health concern, the FDA is focusing their time on crushing beneficial supplements through ridiculous NDI regulations that threaten the entire infrastructure of the nutraceuticals industry.

Researchers from two U.S. studies reported that about half of tested samples of high-fructose corn syrup contained mercury. Mercury was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products which listed high-fructose corn syrup as the first-or-second-highest labeled ingredient.

Following the report, organizations like the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy called on the FDA for immediate action:

‘Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high-fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply,”’the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Dr. David Wallinga, a co-author of both studies, said in a prepared statement.

Americans Consumed Over 37 Pounds of Mercury-Laden HFCS in 2008 […]

READ @ http://www.blacklistednews.com/Highly_Toxic_Mercury_Present_in_Processed_Foods%2C_Yet_FDA_Does_Nothing/17061/0/38/38/Y/M.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter



By J.A. Myerson, The Nation

The evening is rainy and quite warm, which is disconcerting since it is almost December. A hundred or so people gather on the east side of what we may safely call Zuccotti Park, for their General Assembly.Nothing about the park feels like Liberty Plaza anymore. Every inch of the perimeter, for instance, is lined with metal barricades, just inside which stand private security guards, husky and rude, dressed in all black, apart from their yellow vests. A massive Christmas tree has been set up in the park and barricaded off. Besides the few protesters, that’s who’s here. The guards and their barricades.There’s no kitchen, no library, no medical tent, no media center. There is no drum circle, no sign-painting station, no welcome table on Broadway, no altar around the meditation tree in the northwest corner. There are only about a hundred people, deliberating democratic minutiae, trying to get through a too-big agenda, packed with yesterday’s unattended business.This would be hard enough to do without the people who keep loudly interrupting the meeting. But every meeting I’ve recently attended—and from what I gather, every recent meeting I have not—has been brought to a grinding halt, the basic ability to debate and consent to proposals crippled by a determined few who will not to let things proceed until their issues are addressed. This is the reason for the backed-up business. The people shouting about their needs over the debate.It’s clear that the primary issue afflicting Occupy right now is the lack of an occupation. In the month since the New York Police Department violently forced the occupiers out of Zuccotti, the people whose residence was Liberty Plaza Park have nowhere to go. Some of them had previously been homeless. Others left their homes to join the movement. But deprived of the food station, the medical tent, the things that once fulfilled their needs for basic survival, they have rapidly lost faith in Occupy Wall Street’s much-vaunted democratic process to provide the supportive community that once existed here.

The Occupy activists have tried to help find shelter for those left homeless by the eviction, sending out urgent bulletins almost nightly to arrange accommodations. Some have been sleeping at a shelter in Far Rockaway, some in churches in Harlem and on the Upper West Side. As with national numbers on the homeless, it is difficult to tell exactly how many occupiers need housing, but it is surely in the hundreds. These include not just experienced urban survivalists like Ghengis Khalid Muhammed, or GKM, who works with the support organization Picture the Homeless, which helps people find food stamps and soup kitchens, but also people who have no idea how to live on the streets and who are freezing, starving and unable to get MetroCards to travel to places where shelter may or may not be available. Lauren, of Occupy’s Housing Committee, tells me that two pregnant women have so far been turned away from churches.

The activist core of the occupation—the people who met over the summer in Tompkins Square Park, who set up and continue to participate in working groups and who spend their days in meetings—sees this as an Empire Strikes Back moment, taking the opportunity to plan actions and events for the winter. In the atrium at 60 Wall Street and in the Occupied Office at 50 Broadway, they are planning important things, chiefly the continuation of the Occupy Our Homes foreclosure resistance project that kicked off last week. They have their eye on the Jedi’s return. […]

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/153495



By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

For those saying that Occupy Wall Street hasn’t had a concrete effect, take a look at this. It’s not much, but it’s a little something. The leaders of the House Financial Services Committee announced yesterday that they will be holding hearings on the SEC’s practice of concluding settlements with Wall Street defendants without forcing the accused to admit to wrongdoing.

This whole thing seems to be the creature of ranking Republican Spencer Bachus. From his site:

“The SEC’s practice of using ‘no-contest settlements’ has raised concerns about accountability and transparency, and I’m pleased the Committee will examine these concerns in a bipartisan manner,” said Chairman Bachus.

If they actually do something about this, then it’ll be time to give them a pat on the back. But in the meantime, we can expect to see a lot of things like this in an election year marked by an absence of a real galvanizing message coming from either party. With OWS and populist anger generally filling that messaging void, there are going to be a lot of politicians who will look to capitalize by doing things like, for instance, beating up on the SEC in a few days of well-publicized but ineffectual hearings.

Spencer Bachus to positioning himself as a champion of Wall Steeet reform is, of course, hilarious. Not only was he one of the leaders of the opposition to even the very mild Dodd-Frank reform, he went out of his way to stall changes to the rules governing derivative trades that would have prevented abuses like JP Morgan Chase’s rape of Jefferson County, Alabama. This was particularly egregious because Bachus, who was the House’s third-biggest recipient of Wall Street money and a heavy beneficiary of donations from Chase, happened to be Jefferson County’s congressman.

So this guy is no enemy of the banks. What yesterday’s move does show, however, is that politicians are listening to the specific complaints of OWS. A year ago, we would never have even seen hearings like this coming from the likes of Bachus and Barney Frank, who also supported them move. But now, everybody is trying to find a way to ride the wave. It’s too early to celebrate any of this, but it can’t be a bad thing. […]

READ @ http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/a-sign-occupy-wall-street-is-having-a-political-impact-20111219



By Ahdaf Soueif, AlterNet







[…] Until 25 January. The Revolution happened and with it came the Age of Chivalry. One of the most noted aspects of behaviour in the streets and squares of the 18 days of the Egyptian Revolution was the total absence of harassment. Women were suddenly free; free to walk alone, to talk to strangers, to cover or uncover, to smoke to laugh to cry to sleep. And the job of every single male present was to facilitate, to protect, to help. The Ethics of the Square, we called it.

Now our revolution is in an endgame struggle with the old regime and the military.The young woman is part of this.Since Friday the military has openly engaged with civilian protesters in the heart of the capital. The protesters have been peacefully conducting a sit-in in Ministries’ Street to signal their rejection of the military’s appointment of Kamal Ganzouri as prime minister.Ganzouri announced that no violence would be used to break up the Cabinet Office sit-in. Moments later the military took on the protesters. For a week Military Police and paratroopers had kidnapped activists from the streets, driven them off in unmarked vehicles, interrogated them and beaten them. On Friday they kidnapped Aboudi – one of the “Ultras” of the Ahli Football Club. They gave him back with his face so beaten and burned that you couldn’t see features – and started the street war that’s been raging round Ministries’ Street for the last three days.The protesters have thrown rocks at the military. The military has shot protesters, and thrown rocks, Molotov cocktails, china embossed with official parliament insignia, chairs, cupboards, filing-cabinets, glass panes and fireworks. They’ve dragged people into parliament and into the Cabinet Office and beaten and electrocuted them – my two nieces were beaten like this.

They beat up a newly elected young member of parliament, jeering: “Let parliament protect you, you son of … “. They took a distinguished older lady who’s become known for giving food to the protesters and slapped her repeatedly about the face till she had to beg and apologise. They killed 10 people, injured more than 200, and they dragged the unconscious young woman in the blue jeans – with her upper half stripped – through the streets.

The message is: everything you rose up against is here, is worse. Don’t put your hopes in the revolution or parliament. We are the regime and we’re back.

What they are not taking into account is that everybody’s grown up – the weapon of shame can no longer be used against women. When they subjected young women to virginity tests one of them got up and sued them. Every young woman they’ve brutalized recently has given video testimony and is totally committed to continuing the struggle against them.

The young woman in the blue jeans has chosen so far to retain her privacy. But her image has already become icon. As the tortured face of Khaled Said broke any credibility the ministry of the interior might have had, so the young woman in the blue jeans has destroyed the military’s reputation.

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/153492



“They are stealing our lives”

By NOËLLE BURGI, CounterPunch

“Who knows what tomorrow will bring?” people ask in Athens, Salonika and right across Greece. There’s a sense of collective imprisonment, individual uncertainty and impending catastrophe. Yet Greece has had a turbulent history, and the Greeks have always seen themselves as a gifted people, sturdy and accustomed to adversity. “There have always been difficult times, and we always made it through. But now, all hope has been taken from us,” said a small business owner.

While the austerity measures are piling up, an avalanche of laws, decrees and edicts is sweeping aside the social, economic and administrative frameworks. Yesterday’s reality is crumbling. As for tomorrow — who knows?

Greek citizens are subject to a Kafkaesque bureaucracy, with its incomprehensible, fluctuating regulations. Addressing colleagues, a civic employee in the Cyclades said: “People want to conform to the law, but we don’t know what to tell them, [the authorities] haven’t given us any details.” A man had to pay € 200 and present 13 papers and proofs of identity to renew his driving license. Salary cuts among public employees have disrupted the public sector. “When you call the police to alert them to a situation, they reply, ‘it’s your problem, you deal with it’,” said a retired engineer officer from the merchant navy. Tensions are rising. Reports show a big increase in domestic violence, theft and murder (1).

Salaries are falling (by 35-40% in some sectors) while new taxes are invented, some backdated to the beginning of the calendar year. Net incomes have fallen drastically, in many cases by 50% or more. Since the summer, a solidarity tax (1-2% of annual income) and an energy tax (calculated on the consumption of petrol and natural gas) have been levied. Further novelties include the lowering of the tax threshold from € 5,000 to € 2,000, and a property tax of € 0.5 to € 20 per square metre levied as part of electricity bills, payable in two or three instalments (failure to pay results in power cuts and penalties).

Since the start of November, pensioners and public and private employees cannot anticipate their monthly earnings. Many workers go without pay altogether. The state is reducing its workforce drastically as part of its restructuring programme. Between now and 2015, 120,000 public employees over the age of 53 have been earmarked for “semi-retirement”, the precursor to full mandatory retirement after 33 years of service, during which employees are obliged to stay at home, and only receive 60% of their basic salaries. Once fully retired, many public employees will be reduced to living on very little. A group of ex-railwaymen, aged 50 and above, said they used to earn between € 1,800 and € 2,000 a month, a relatively comfortable salary in Greece. They have now been posted to jobs as museum guards as part of a “voluntary transition” package (2) and their basic monthly income fluctuates between € 1,100 and € 1,300; semi-retirees are restricted to € 600. All are barred from taking on extra paid work to supplement their income — the penalty, immediate loss of revenue, is enforced.

’Insurance payments have stopped’

The loss of income is tearing society apart. Bills are not paid, consumption is down, stores are closing and unemployment rising. In May the official unemployment rate was 16.6% (10 points higher than in 2008) and 40% among the young. The actual rate is likely to be much higher. The social, economic and political crisis has shaken the national health service. Hospital and public health care centre budgets have been cut by 40% on average. More patients are admitted to the emergency room, others go to Doctors of the World health centres, and many choose to do without medical care altogether. People report being denied access to crucial medicine. One journalist said her father suffers from Parkinson’s disease: “His medication costs € 500 a month. The pharmacy told us it will stop supplying him, because insurance payments have stopped.” […]

READ @ http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/12/19/greece-in-chaos/



By Michael Faulkner, TPJ Magazine

[…] December 10.  The two days that have elapsed since the preceding paragraphs were written have served to render them no more than a preface to the main story.

There is a famous cartoon by David Low which appeared in the Evening Standard on June 18 1940. It depicts a lone British Tommy standing, fist raised and defiant, on the storm-swept channel coast facing darkening clouds from the European continent and approaching Luftwaffe bombers. It carries the caption “VERY WELL, ALONE”. The cartoon appeared just a month after Churchill had replaced Chamberlain as prime minister and ten days after the evacuation from Dunkirk. A week later France capitulated to the Germans and the whole of western Europe lay under the Nazi jackboot. Britain stood alone.

This is the spirit that the Europhobic Tory press and the triumphant gaggle of Tory backbenchers now invoke following David Cameron’s return from Brussels. They seek to present his cheap and specious claim to have defended Britain’s vital interests by vetoing the EU-wide treaty intended to prevent the collapse of the euro, as an act of Churchillian grit and courage in the face of overwhelming adversity. But this is definitely not Britain’s finest hour. In fact it is more like the shabbiest act by a British prime minister in living memory. While still in opposition, Cameron de-coupled the Tory party from the centre-right grouping of EU conservatives, to join up with the most right-wing ultra-nationalists in Eastern Europe. This was to reinforce his Eurosceptic credentials with his own backbenchers. Far from recalling Churchill in 1940, Cameron’s trumpeted defense of Britain’s vital interests is reminiscent of Chamberlain’s return from Munich in 1938, claiming that he had defended Britain’s interests by securing “peace in our time”. He also received a rapturous reception in the House of Commons from an adoring Tory party. But, just as then, the euphoria will not last long once the dust has settled.

The likelihood now is that Cameron will have isolated Britain from the rest of the EU, not just the 17 members of the Eurozone but also the nine that remain outside. They have refused to follow him in vetoing the proposed revision of the Lisbon treaty and seem likely to sign up to whatever procedures may now follow to consolidate tighter fiscal union amongst the seventeen. To have used the veto to protect the City of London from a financial transaction tax in the name of defending Britain’s vital interests, hardly accords with the coalition government’s supposed commitment to tighter regulation of banks. It will be interesting to see whether the Lib. Dems in the cabinet will insist that the government accepts the report by the  Independent Commission on Banking recommending that high street banks be ringfenced from investment banks. But it is doubtful whether Cameron’s action to “protect the City” will succeed. The Association of British Insurers, which lobbied hard against a financial transaction tax, believes that the British veto might not prevent the passage of EU legislation that could still “damage the financial services industry in Britain.”

Cameron went to Brussels determined to veto the proposed treaty revision come what may. He knew that to have acceded to it would have meant a full-scale backbench revolt which would have made it virtually impossible to resist the demand for a referendum. This would have torn the coalition apart.  But whatever satisfaction he may draw from the cheers of his Europhobic supporters is likely to be short-lived. The Europhobes hope and expect that this is the first act in a drama that will end with Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. They also think (and hope) that the present crisis in the EU will end with the collapse of the euro and the break-up of the union. Such an outcome can no longer be dismissed as fanciful. But to imagine that having jumped ship the UK can stand by and watch the European enterprise sink beneath the waves (or to use Tory grandee Michael Heseltine’s metaphor, to imagine that the UK can drift off into the Atlantic) is naïve in the extreme. If the EU breaks up, the UK, whether inside or out, will be irreparably damaged. Notwithstanding the delusions of the little Englander Europhobes, the whole of Europe, including the UK, is sliding into a deep recession. The ruling classes of Europe will, as always, seek to resolve their crisis at the expense of the working people who were not responsible for causing it.

There is little to indicate that the measures contemplated by the EU leaders are likely to be any more effective in dealing with the crisis than those already undertaken. The present disputes reflect conflicts of interest between the ruling classes of the strongest European powers. Germany has the most powerful economy in Europe and as the dominant force in the EU is determined to impose fiscal discipline on its recalcitrant southern subordinates. But the Germans are determined to resist allowing the European Central bank to be used to prop up defaulting and potentially defaulting countries of the “southern periphery”. So far, there is no indication of how, short of allowing the ECB to undertake “quantitative easing” (printing money) on a large scale (which would be in the teeth of German opposition) the European Financial Stability Fund will be able to accumulate the 2 – 3 trillion euros said to be necessary to meet such eventualities. Given that there seems to be no workable solution in sight, all the “crisis summits” appear to be doomed to failure. So, the collapse of the eurozone , and possibly the EU itself, cannot be ruled out.

Whatever happens in coming weeks and months, one thing is certain: the 1% will continue to try to shift the burden of their crisis onto the 99%. Whether they succeed will depend upon how effectively resistance develops. Every effort must be made, everywhere, to ensure that it does.

READ @ http://tpjmagazine.us/20111218faulkner



By Richar RJ Eskow

Václav Havel, playwright and former Czech president speaks at the Forum for Creative Europe.

On a warm evening in 1991, a colleague and I found an out-of-the-way café in the old part of Prague. Two men with blank expressions stood outside. The interior was dim and close, with room for only eight or nine tables. The place was almost empty. Just a sleepy waitress, a bartender polishing glasses, and a single patron who sat alone drinking wine and chain-smoking cigarettes.

The President of Czechoslovakia wasn’t reviewing official papers. He was reading a book, a startlingly un-Presidential act to our American eyes. My companion, a neoconservative State Department official, already admired him for defying and defeating a Communist state. He’d impressed me by bringing a writer’s sensibility and an affinity for true underground culture to his role as head of state.

Václav Havel even tried to appoint Frank Zappa as his Minister of Culture. “We’re not rock musicians,” Zappa told a reporter back in the sixties. “We’re electronic social workers.” The State Department wouldn’t let Zappa assume the post, but Havel had made his point to the Czech public by offering this apparatchik’s position to the composer of songs like “What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body?” (“Some say your nose, some say your toes, but I think it’s your mind.”)

We never spoke to Havel that night. It didn’t seem polite to offer anything more than the curt nod of acknowledgement any café patron gives another at that hour. But Havel spoke to us, to all of us. And on the occasion of his death, the real lessons of his life’s work are in danger of being lost.

Today we’re told that the Occupy movement is too idealistic, too naïve. Naïve? Try Havel’s words if you want naïve: “May truth and love triumph over lies and hatred.”

Think of that as the Velvet Revolution’s “one demand.”

Portrait of the President as a Young Freak

As millions of people know, the underground playwright Havel first made his political mark in Charter 77. That group was formed to defend the Plastic People of the Universe, a banned and imprisoned rock band working in the Zappa mold of musical dissonance and cultural dissidence.

The Occupy movement is not on the cultural fringe, despite what its detractors say. But Havel’s movement began as a Yippie-like creature of the underworld. Charter 77 rarely had more than a thousand members. It was a strange blend of political idealism and the hippie subculture where people proudly labeled themselves “freaks” to the conventional world. Despite its later alignment with economically conservative forces, it was more Allen Ginsburg than Alan Greenspan.

And it was created to defend the Plastic People of the Universe, whose grating music makes Occupy’s drum circles seem like a children’s choir serenading the bored residents of a home for aging veterans.


Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité – what wonderful words! And how terrifying their meaning can be! Freedom in the shirt unbuttoned before execution. Equality in the constant speed of the guillotine’s fall on different necks. Fraternity in some dubious paradise …

Havel addressed the liberal democratic West on words in the 1970s, noting that the suppression of speech can give language enormous power:

I … live in a country where a writers’ congress speech is capable of shaking the system … a manifesto served as one of the pretexts for the invasion of our country one night by five foreign armies … a system in which words are capable of shaking the entire structure of government, where words can prove mightier than ten military divisions.

When a system has become inflexible and is in danger of collapsing, what it fears most is words. Think about that the next time you see a phalanx of cops tear down a tent city on television.

Havel had been burned by language, too:

The same word can at one moment radiate great hope, at another it can emit lethal rays … true at one moment and false the next, at one moment illuminating, at another, deceptive. On one occasion it can open up glorious horizons, on another, it can lay down the tracks to an entire archipelago of concentration camps.

And as we approach an election year that will be filled with the rhetoric of freedom, this observation still resonates:

The same word can at one time be the cornerstone of peace, while at another time machine-gun fire resounds in its every syllable.


In 1975 Havel had the presumption to write directly to Czechoslovakian head of state Gustáv Husák with a few suggestions. There’s more than a passing resemblance between the fear-driven Communist society Havel condemned in that letter and the financial anxiety many Americans endure today:

The technique of existential pressure is … universal. There is no one in our country who is not, in a broad sense, existentially vulnerable. Everyone has something to lose and so everyone has reason to be afraid. The range of things one can lose is broad, extending from the manifold privileges of the ruling caste… down to the mere possibility of living in that limited degree of legal certainty available to other citizens.

Today, one out of two Americans lives in financial insecurity. Even many upper-middle-class citizens live from month to month, just one layoff notice away from medical bankruptcy or home foreclosure.

“Everyone has something to lose,” observed Havel.

Havel’s description of his 20th Century Communist society echoes our own:

The more completely one abandons any hope of general reform, any interest in suprapersonal goals and values, or any chance of exercising influence in an ‘outward’ direction, the more one’s energy is diverted in the direction of least resistance, that is, ‘inwards.'”

People today are preoccupied far more with themselves … They fill their homes with all kinds of appliances and pretty things, they try to improve their accommodations, they try to make life pleasant for themselves, building cottages, looking after their cars, taking more interest in food and clothing and domestic comfort …They turn their main attention to the material aspects of their private lives.

Havel concluded that “Despair leads to apathy, apathy to conformity, and conformity to routine (political) performance – which is then quoted as evidence of ‘mass political involvement.'”


Havel understood the psychology of greed and power, too. From his letter to Husák:

If it is fear which lies behind people’s defensive attempts to preserve what they have, it becomes increasingly apparent that the chief impulses for their aggressive efforts to win what they do not yet possess are selfishness and careerism.

It is not surprising that so many public and influential positions are occupied more than ever before by notorious careerists, opportunists, charlatans, and men of dubious record.

From Prague to Washington, from Moscow to lower Manhattan, the opportunities change. But human nature never does:

Seldom in recent times has a social system offered scope so openly and so brazenly to people willing to support anything as long as it brings them some advantage; to unprincipled and spineless men, prepared to do anything in their craving for power and personal gain; to born lackeys, ready for any humiliation and willing at all times to sacrifice their neighbors’ and their own honor for a chance to ingratiate themselves with those in power.


It’s a historical irony that those who claim they’ll govern with the most efficiency usually wind up governing with the least effectiveness. Today corporate-funded politicians from both parties argue that the country should be led by “technocrats’ who’ll govern without messy “ideologies.”

That’s a false premise Havel knew well. He called it the “process by which power becomes anonymous and depersonalized, reduced to a mere technology of rule and manipulation.”

Washington’s technocratic “bipartisans” dream of a world where, in Havel’s words, the “professional ruler is (seen as) the ‘innocent’ tool of an ‘innocent’ anonymous power … legitimized by science, cybernetics, ideology, law, abstraction, and objectivity – that is, by everything except personal responsibility to human beings as persons and neighbors.” Havel’s Prague is our Beltway:

States grow ever more machinelike; people are transformed into statistical choruses of voters, producers, consumers, patients, tourists, or soldiers, (where) in politics good and evil, categories of the natural world and therefore obsolete remnants of the past, lose all absolute meaning (and where) the sole method of politics is quantifiable success.

Havel condemned a system of state-orchestrated political theater, and the self-perpetuating failures of imagination which mistook the indifferent and pro forma participation of its citizens for genuine democracy. And he saw its universal nature:

(It) has a thousand masks, variants, and expressions. Essentially, though, it is the same universal trend … the essential trait of all modern civilization, growing directly from its spiritual structure, rooted in it by a thousand tangled tendrils and inseparable even in thought from its technological nature, its mass characteristics, and its consumer orientation.

“The contemporary concept of ‘normal’ behavior is,” Havel wrote, “deeply pessimistic.”


“I favor ‘antipolitical politics,'” said Havel, “politics not as the technology of power and manipulation, of cybernetic rule over humans or as the art of the utilitarian, but politics as one of the ways of seeking and achieving meaningful lives, of protecting them and serving them.”

I favor politics as practical morality, as service to the truth, as essentially human and humanly measured care for our fellow humans.

None of us–as an individual–can save the world as a whole, but . . . each of us must behave as though it were in his power to do so.

Decades later he said this to the leaders of Western countries:

Today, more than ever before in the history of mankind, everything is interrelated … Because of this, the future of the United States or the European Union is being decided in suffering Sarajevo or Mostar, in the plundered Brazilian rain forests, in the wretched poverty of Bangladesh or Somalia.

Havel had glaring faults. American neocons offered him small favors during his final rise to power. He reciprocated, consciously or unconsciously, by aiding their destructive military ventures and adopting their foolish economic policies. He succumbed to the politics of personality, both his own and those of the leaders who courted him. But it would be a shame if that’s all the world remembered.

Havel seemed unhappy in the role of leader. It’s possible than he lost sight of his deepest insights, his truest gifts. It was the outsider Havel, the dreamer of the impossible, the surrealist and absurdist, we should remember. That’s the Havel who can and should inspire dissidents everywhere.

“Is the human word truly powerful enough to change the world and influence history?” he once asked. With his life and his words, Václav Havel gave us his answer. He showed us the power in each individual and the responsibility that accompanies that power.

At his best, and above all else, Havel was a dissident outsider who realized his power and used it. Now it’s our turn. […]

READ @ http://crooksandliars.com/richard-rj-eskow/havel-dissident-legacy-worth-clai

Dec 192011


By Václav Havel

To the memory of Jan Patocka

“The Power of the Powerless” (October 1978) was originally written (“quickly,” Havel said later) as a discussion piece for a projected joint Polish Czechoslovak volume of essays on the subject of freedom and power. All the participants were to receive Havel’s essay, and then respond to it in writing. Twenty participants were chosen on both sides, but only the Czechoslovak side was completed. Meanwhile, in May 1979, some of the Czechoslovak contributors who were also members of VONS (the Committee to Defend the Unjustly Prosecuted), including Havel, were arrested, and it was decided to go ahead and “publish” the Czechoslovak contributions separately.

Havel’s essay has had a profound impact on Eastern Europe. Here is what Zbygniew Bujak, a Solidarity activist, told me: “This essay reached us in the Ursus factory in 1979 at a point when we felt we were at the end of the road. Inspired by KOR [the Polish Workers’ Defense Committee], we had been speaking on the shop floor, talking to people, participating in public meetings, trying to speak the truth about the factory, the country, and politics. There came a moment when people thought we were crazy. Why were we doing this? Why were we taking such risks? Not seeing any immediate and tangible results, we began to doubt the purposefulness of what we were doing. Shouldn’t we be coming up with other methods, other ways?

“Then came the essay by Havel. Reading it gave us the theoretical underpinnings for our activity. It maintained our spirits; we did not give up, and a year later-in August 1980 – it became clear that the party apparatus and the factory management were afraid of us. We mattered. And the rank and file saw us as leaders of the movement. When I look at the victories of Solidarity, and of Charter 77, I see in them an astonishing fulfillment of the prophecies and knowledge contained in Havel’s essay.”

Translated by Paul Wilson, “The Power of the Powerless” has appeared several times in English, foremost in The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central-Eastern Europe, edited by John Keane, with an Introduction by Steven Lukes (London: Hutchinson, 1985). That volume includes a selection of nine other essays from the original Czech and Slovak collection.


A SPECTER is haunting Eastern Europe: the specter of what in the West is called “dissent” This sector has not appeared out of thin air. It is a natural and inevitable consequence of the present historical phase of the system it is haunting. It was born at a time when this system, for a thousand reasons, can no longer base itself on the unadulterated, brutal, and arbitrary application of power, eliminating all expressions of nonconformity. What is more, the system has become so ossified politically that there is practically no way for such nonconformity to be implemented within its official structures.

Who are these so-called dissidents? Where does their point of view come from, and what. importance does it have? What is the significance of the “independent initiatives” in which “dissidents” collaborate, and what real chances do such initiatives have of success? Is it appropriate to refer to “dissidents” as an opposition? If so, what exactly is such an opposition within the framework of this system? What does it do? What role does it play in society? What are its hopes and on what are they based? Is it within the power of the “dissidents”-as a category of sub-citizen outside the power establishment-to have any influence at all on society and the social system? Can they actually change anything?

I think that an examination of these questions-an examination of the potential of the “powerless”-can only begin with an examination of the nature of power in the circumstances in which these powerless people operate.


Our system is most frequently characterized as a dictatorship or, more precisely, as the dictatorship of a political bureaucracy over a society which has undergone economic and social leveling. I am afraid that the term “dictatorship,” regardless of how intelligible it may otherwise be, tends to obscure rather than clarify the real nature of power in this system. We usually associate the term with the notion of a small group of people who take over the government of a given country by force; their power is wielded openly, using the direct instruments of power at their disposal, and they are easily distinguished socially from the majority over whom they rule. One of the essential aspects of this traditional or classical notion of dictatorship is the assumption that it is temporary, ephemeral, lacking historical roots. Its existence seems to be bound up with the lives of those who established it. It is usually local in extent and significance, and regardless of the ideology it utilizes to grant itself legitimacy, its power derives ultimately from the numbers and the armed might of its soldiers and police. The principal threat to its existence is felt to be the possibility that someone better equipped in this sense might appear and overthrow it.

Even this very superficial overview should make it clear that the system in which we live has very little in common with a classical dictatorship. In the first place, our system is not limited in a local, geographical sense; rather, it holds sway over a huge power bloc controlled by one of the two superpowers. And although it quite naturally exhibits a number of local and historical variations, the range of these variations is fundamentally circumscribed by a single, unifying framework throughout the power bloc. Not only is the dictatorship everywhere based on the same principles and structured in the same way (that is, in the way evolved by the ruling super power), but each country has been completely penetrated by a network of manipulatory instruments controlled by the superpower center and totally subordinated to its interests. In the stalemated world of nuclear parity, of course, that circumstance endows the system with an unprecedented degree of external stability compared with classical dictatorships. Many local crises which, in an isolated state, would lead to a change in the system, can be resolved through direct intervention by the armed forces of the rest of the bloc.

In the second place, if a feature of classical dictatorships is their lack of historical roots (frequently they appear to be no more than historical freaks, the fortuitous consequence of fortuitous social processes or of human and mob tendencies), the same cannot be said so facilely about our system. For even though our dictatorship has long since alienated itself completely from the social movements that give birth to it, the authenticity of these movements (and I am thinking of the proletarian and socialist movements of the nineteenth century) gives it undeniable historicity. These origins provided a solid foundation of sorts on which it could build until it became the utterly new social and political reality it is today, which has become so inextricably a part of the structure of the modern world. A feature of those historical origins was the “correct” understanding of social conflicts in the period from which those original movements emerged. The fact that at the very core of this “correct” understanding there was a genetic disposition toward the monstrous alienation characteristic of its subsequence development is not essential here. And in any case, this element also grew organically from the climate of that time and therefore can be said to have its origin there as well.

One legacy of that original “correct” understanding is a third peculiarity that makes our systems different from other modern dictatorships: it commands an incomparably more precise, logically structured, generally comprehensible and, in essence, extremely flexible ideology that, in its elaborateness and completeness, is almost a secularized religion. It of fears a ready answer to any question whatsoever; it can scarcely be accepted only in part, and accepting it has profound implications for human life. In an era when metaphysical and existential certainties are in a state of crisis, when people are being uprooted and alienated and are losing their sense of what this world means, this ideology inevitably has a certain hypnotic charm. To wandering humankind it offers an immediately available home: all one has to do is accept it, and suddenly everything becomes clear once more, life takes on new meaning, and all mysteries, unanswered questions, anxiety, and loneliness vanish. Of course, one pays dearly for this low-rent home: the price is abdication of one’ s own reason, conscience, and responsibility, for an essential aspect of this ideology is the consignment of reason and conscience to a higher authority. The principle involved here is that the center of power is identical with the center of truth. (In our case, the connection with Byzantine theocracy is direct: the highest secular authority is identical with the highest spiritual authority.) It is true of course that, all this aside, ideology no longer has any great influence on people, at least within our bloc (with the possible exception of Russia, where the serf mentality, with its blind, fatalistic respect for rulers and its automatic acceptance of all their claims, is still dominant and combined with a superpower patriotism which traditionally places the interests of empire higher than the interests of humanity). But this is not important, because ideology plays its role in our system very well (an issue to which I will return) precisely because it is what it is.

Fourth, the technique of exercising power in traditional dictatorships contains a necessary element of improvisation. The mechanisms for wielding power are for the most part not established firmly, and there is considerable room for accident and for the arbitrary and unregulated application of power. Socially, psychologically, and physically, conditions still exist for the expression of some form of opposition. In short, there are many seams on the surface which can split apart before the entire power structure has managed to stabilize. Our system, on the other hand, has been developing in the Soviet Union for over sixty years, and for approximately thirty years in Eastern Europe; moreover, several of its long-established structural features are derived from Czarist absolutism. In terms of the physical aspects of power, this has led to the creation of such intricate and well-developed mechanisms for the direct and indirect manipulation of the entire population that, as a physical power base, it represents something radically new. At the same time, let us not forget that the system is made significantly more effective by state ownership and central direction of all the means of productionThis gives the power structure an unprecedented and uncontrollable capacity to invest in itself (in the areas of the bureaucracy and the police, for example) and makes it easier for that structure, as the sole employer, to manipulate the day-to-day existence of all citizens.

Finally, if an atmosphere of revolutionary excitement, heroism, dedication, and boisterous violence on all sides characterizes classical dictatorships, then the last traces of such an atmosphere have vanished from the Soviet bloc. For, some time now this bloc has ceased to be a kind of enclave, isolated from the rest of the developed world and immune to processes occurring in it. To the contrary, the Soviet bloc is an integral part of that larger world, and it shares and shapes the world’s destiny. This means in concrete terms that the hierarchy of values existing in the developed countries of the West has, in essence, appeared in our society (the long period of co-existence with the West has only hastened this process)In other words, what we have here is simply another form of the consumer and industrial society, with all its concomitant social, intellectual, and psychological consequences. It is impossible to understand the nature of power in our system properly without taking this into account.

The profound difference between our system-in terms of the nature of power-and what we traditionally understand by dictatorship, a difference I hope is clear even from this quite superficial comparison, has caused me to search for some term appropriate for our system, purely for the purposes of this essay. If I refer to it henceforth as a “post totalitarian” system, I am fully aware that this is perhaps not the most precise term, but I am unable to think of a better one. I do not wish to imply by the prefix “post” that the system is no longer totalitarian; on the contrary, I mean that it is totalitarian in a way fundamentally different from classical dictatorships, different from totalitarianism as we usually understand it.

The circumstances I have mentioned, however, form only a circle of conditional factors and a kind of phenomenal framework for the actual composition of power in the post totalitarian system, several aspects of which I shall now attempt to identify.


The manager of a fruit-and-vegetable shop places in his window, among the onions and carrots, the slogan: “Workers of the world, unite!” Why does he do it? What is he trying to communicate to the world? Is he genuinely enthusiastic about the idea of unity among the workers of the world? Is his enthusiasm so great that he feels an irrepressible impulse to acquaint the public with his ideals? Has he really given more than a moment’s thought to how such a unification might occur and what it would mean?

I think it can safely be assumed that the overwhelming majority of shopkeepers never think about the slogans they put in their windows, nor do they use them to express their real opinions. That poster was delivered to our greengrocer from the enterprise headquarters along with the onions and carrots. He put them all into the window simply because it has been done that way for years, because everyone does it, and because that is the way it has to be. If he were to refuse, there could be trouble. He could be reproached for not having the proper decoration in his window; someone might even accuse him of disloyalty. He does it because these things must be done if one is to get along in life. It is one of the thousands of details that guarantee him a relatively tranquil life “in harmony with society,” as they say.

Obviously the greengrocer is indifferent to the semantic content of the slogan on exhibit; he does not put the slogan in his window from any personal desire to acquaint the public with the ideal it expresses. This, of course, does not mean that his action has no motive or significance at all, or that the slogan communicates nothing to anyone. The slogan is really a sign, and as such it contains a subliminal but very definite message. Verbally, it might be expressed this way: “I, the greengrocer XY, live here and I know what I must do. I behave in the manner expected of me. I can be depended upon and am beyond reproach. I am obedient and therefore I have the right to be left in peace.” This message, of course, has an addressee: it is directed above, to the greengrocer’s superior, and at the same time it is a shield that protects the greengrocer from potential informers. The slogan’s. real meaning, therefore, is rooted firmly in the greengrocer’s existence. It reflects his vital interests. But what are those vital interests?

Let us take note: if the greengrocer had been instructed to display the slogan “I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient; ‘he would not be nearly as indifferent to its semantics, even though the statement would reflect the truth. The greengrocer would be embarrassed and ashamed to put such an unequivocal statement of his own degradation in the shop window, and quite naturally so, for he is a human being and thus has a sense of his own dignity. To overcome this complication, his expression of loyalty must take the form of a sign which, at least on its textual surface, indicates a level of disinterested conviction. It must allow the greengrocer to say, “What’s wrong with the workers of the world uniting?” Thus the sign helps the greengrocer to conceal from himself the low foundations of his obedience, at the same time concealing the low foundations of power. It hides them behind the facade of something high. And that something is ideology.

Ideology is a specious way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, of dignity, and of morality while making it easier for them to part with them. As the repository of something supra personal and objective, it enables people to deceive their conscience and conceal their true position and their inglorious modus vivendi, both from the world and from themselves. It is a very pragmatic but, at the same time, an apparently dignified way of legitimizing what is above, below, and on either side. It is directed toward people and toward God. It is a veil behind which human beings can hide their own fallen existence, their trivialization, and their adaptation to the status quo. It is an excuse that everyone can use, from the greengrocer, who conceals his fear of losing his job behind an alleged interest in the unification of the workers of the world, to the highest functionary, whose interest in staying iu power can be cloaked in phrases about service to the working class. The primary excusatory function of ideology, therefore, is to provide people, both as victims and pillars of the post-totalitarian system, with the illusion that the system is in harmony with the human order and the order of the universe.

The smaller a dictatorship and the less stratified by modernization the society under it, the more directly the will of the dictator can be exercised- In other words, the dictator can employ more or less naked discipline, avoiding the complex processes of relating to the world and of self justification which ideology involves. But the more complex the mechanisms of power become, the larger and more stratified the society they embrace, and the longer they have operated historically, the more individuals must be connected to them from outside, and the greater the importance attached to the ideological excuse. It acts as a kind of bridge between the regime and the people, across which the regime approaches the people and the people approach the regime. This explains why ideology plays such an important role in the post-totalitarian system: that complex machinery of units, hierarchies, transmission belts, and indirect instruments of manipulation which ensure in countless ways the integrity of the regime, leaving nothing to chance, would be quite simply unthinkable without ideology acting as its all-embracing excuse and as the excuse for each of its parts.


Between the aims of the post-totalitarian system and the aims of life there is a yawning abyss: while life, in its essence, moves toward plurality, diversity, independent self-constitution, and self organization, in short, toward the fulfillment of its own freedom, the post-totalitarian system demands conformity, uniformity, and discipline. While life ever strives to create new and improbable structures, the post totalitarian system contrives to force life into its most probable states. The aims of the system reveal its most essential characteristic to be introversion, a movement toward being ever more completely and unreservedly itself, which means that the radius of its influence is continually widening as well. This system serves people only to the extent necessary to ensure that people will serve it. Anything beyond this, that is to say, anything which leads people to overstep their predetermined roles is regarded by the system as an attack upon itself And in this respect it is correct: every instance of such transgression is a genuine denial of the system. It can be said, therefore, that the inner aim of the post-totalitarian system is not mere preservation of power in the hands of a ruling clique, as appears to be the case at first sight. Rather, the social phenomenon of self-preservation is subordinated to something higher, to a kind of blind automatism which drives the system. No matter what position individuals hold in the hierarchy of power, they are not considered by the system to be worth anything in themselves, but only as things intended to fuel and serve this automatism. For this reason, an individual’s desire for power is admissible only in so far as its direction coincides with the direction of the automatism of the system.

Ideology, in creating a bridge of excuses between the system and the individual, spans the abyss between the aims of the system and the aims of life. It pretends that the requirements of the system derive from the requirements of life. It is a world of appearances trying to pass for reality.

The post-totalitarian system touches people at every step, but it does so with its ideological gloves on. This is why life in the system is so thoroughly permeated with hypocrisy and lies: government by bureaucracy is called popular government; the working class is enslaved in the name of the work ing class; the complete degradation of the individual is presented as his ultimate liberation; depriving people of in formation is called making it available; the use of power to manipulate is called the public control of power, and the arbitrary abuse of power is called observing the legal code; the repression of culture is called its development; the expansion of imperial influence is presented as support for the oppressed; the lack of free expression becomes the highest form of freedom; farcical elections become the highest form of democracy; banning independent thought becomes the most scientific of world views; military occupation becomes fraternal assistance. Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past. It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future. It falsifies statistics. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing.

Individuals need not believe all these mystifications, but they must behave as though they did, or they must at least tolerate them in silence, or get along well with those who work with them. For this reason, however, they must live within a lie. They need not accept the lie. It is enough for them to have accepted their life with it and in it. For by this very fact, individuals confirm the system, fulfill the system, make the system, are the system.


We have seen that the real meaning of the greengrocer’s slogan has nothing to do with what the text of the slogan actually says. Even so, this real meaning is quite clear and generally comprehensible because the code is so familiar: the greengrocer declares his loyalty (and he can do no other if his declaration is to be accepted) in the only way the regime is capable of hearing; that is, by accepting the prescribed ritual, by accepting appearances as reality, by accepting the given rules of the game. In doing so, however, he has himself become a player in the game, thus making it possible for the game to go on, for it to exist in the first place.

If ideology was originally a bridge between the system and the individual as an individual, then the moment he steps on to this bridge it becomes at the same time a bridge between the system and the individual as a component of the system. That is, if ideology originally facilitated (by acting outwardly) the constitution of power by serving as a psychological excuse, then from the moment that excuse is accepted, it constitutes power inwardly, becoming an active component of that power. It begins to function as the principal instrument of ritual communication within the system of power.

The whole power structure (and we have already discussed its physical articulation) could not exist at all if there were not a certain metaphysical order binding all its components together, interconnecting them and subordinating them to a uniform method of accountability, supplying the combined operation of all these components with rules of the game, that is, with certain regulations, limitations, and legalities. This metaphysical order is fundamental to, and standard throughout, the entire power structure; it integrates its communication system and makes possible the internal exchange and transfer of information and instructions. It is rather like a collection of traffic signals and directional signs, giving the process shape and structure. This metaphysical order guarantees the inner coherence of the totalitarian power structure. It is the glue holding it together, its binding principle, the instrument of its discipline. Without this glue the structure as a totalitarian structure would vanish; it would disintegrate into individual atoms chaotically colliding with one another in their unregulated particular interests and inclinations. The entire pyramid of totalitarian power, deprived of the element that binds it together, would collapse in upon itself, as it were, in a kind of material implosion.

As the interpretation of reality by the power structure, ideology is always subordinated ultimately to the interests of the structure. Therefore, it has a natural tendency to disengage itself from reality, to create a world of appearances, to become ritual. In societies where there is public competition for power and therefore public control of that power, there also exists quite naturally public control of the way that power legitimates itself ideologically. Consequently, in such conditions there are always certain correctives that effectively prevent ideology from abandoning reality altogether. Under totalitarianism, however, these correctives disappear, and thus there is nothing to prevent ideology from becoming more and more removed from reality, gradually turning into what it has already become in the post-totalitarian system: a world of appearances, a mere ritual, a formalized language deprived of semantic contact with reality and transformed into a system of ritual signs that replace reality with pseudo-reality.

Yet, as we have seen, ideology becomes at the same time an increasingly important component of power, a pillar providing it with both excusatory legitimacy and an inner coherence. As this aspect grows ín importance, and as it gradually loses touch with reality, it acquires a peculiar but very real strength. It becomes reality itself, albeit a reality altogether self-contained, one that on certain levels (chiefly inside the power structure) may have even greater weight than reality as such. Increasingly, the virtuosity of the ritual becomes more important than the reality hidden behind it. The significance of phenomena no longer derives from the phenomena themselves, but from their locus as concepts in the ideological context. Reality does not shape theory, but rather the reverse. Thus power gradually draws closer to ideology than it does to reality; it draws its strength from theory and becomes entirely dependent on it. This inevitably leads, of course, to a paradoxical result: rather than theory, or rather ideology, serving power, power begins to serve ideology. It is as though ideology had appropriated power from power, as though it had become dictator itself. It then appears that theory itself, ritual itself, ideology itself, makes decisions that affect people, and not the other way around.

If ideology is the principal guarantee of the inner consistency of power, it becomes at the same time an increasingly important guarantee of its continuity. Whereas succession to power in classical dictatorship is always a rather complicated affair (the pretenders having nothing to give their claims reasonable legitimacy, thereby forcing them always to resort to confrontations of naked power), in the post-totalitarian system power is passed on from person to person, from clique to clique, and from generation to generation in an essentially more regular fashion. In the selection of pretenders, a new “king-maker” takes part: it is ritual legitimation, the ability to rely on ritual, to fulfill it and use it, to allow oneself, as it were, to be borne aloft by it. Naturally, power struggles exist in the post-totalitarian system as well, and most of them are far more brutal than in an open society, for the struggle is not open, regulated by democratic rules, and subject to public control, but hidden behind the scenes. (It is difficult to recall a single instance in which the First Secretary of a ruling Communist Party has been replaced without the various military and security forces being placed at least on alert.) This struggle, however, can never (as it can in classical dictatorships) threaten the very essence of the system and its continuity. At most it will shake up the power structure, which will recover quickly precisely because the binding substance-ideology remains undisturbed. No matter who is replaced by whom, succession is only possible against the backdrop and within the framework of a common ritual. It can never take place by denying that ritual.

Because of this dictatorship of the ritual, however, power becomes clearly anonymous. Individuals are almost dissolved in the ritual. They allow themselves to be swept along by it and frequently it seems as though ritual alone carries people from obscurity into the light of power. Is it not characteristic of the post-totalitarian system that, on all levels of the power hierarchy, individuals are increasingly being pushed aside by faceless people, puppets, those uniformed flunkeys of the rituals and routines of power?

The automatic operation of a power structure thus dehumanized and made anonymous is a feature of the fundamental automatism of this system. It would seem that it is precisely the diktats of this automatism which select people lacking individual will for the power structure, that it is precisely the diktat of the empty phrase which summons to power people who use empty phrases as the best guarantee that the automatism of the post-totalitarian system will continue.

Western Sovietologists often exaggerate the role of individuals in the post-totalitarian system and overlook the fact that the ruling figures, despite the immense power they possess through the centralized structure of power, are often no more than blind executors of the system’s own internal laws-laws they themselves never can, and never do, reflect upon. In any case, experience has taught us again and again that this automatism is far more powerful than the will of any individual; and should someone possess a more independent will, he must conceal it behind a ritually anonymous mask in order to have an opportunity to enter the power hierarchy at all. And when the individual finally gains a place there and tries to make his will felt within it, that automatism, with its enormous inertia, will triumph sooner or later, and either the individual will be ejected by the power structure like a foreign organism, or he will be compelled to resign his individuality gradually, once again blending with the automatism and becoming its servant, almost indistinguishable from those who preceded him and those who will follow. (Let us recall, for instance, the development of Husák or Gomukka.) The necessity of continually hiding behind and relating to ritual means that even the more enlightened members of the power structure are often obsessed with ideology. They are never able to plunge straight to the bottom of naked reality, and they always confuse it, in the final analysis, with ideological pseudo reality. (In my opinion, one of the reasons the Dubček leadership lost control of the situation in 1968 was precisely because, in extreme situations and in final questions, its members were never capable of extricating themselves completely from the world of appearances.)

It can be said, therefore, that ideology, as that instrument of internal communication which assures the power structure of inner cohesion is, in the post totalitarian system, some thing that transcends the physical aspects of power, something that dominates it to a considerable degree and, therefore, tends to assure its continuity as well. It is one of the pillars of the system’s external stability. This pillar, however, is built on a very unstable foundation. It is built on lies. It works only as long as people are willing to live within the lie.


Why in fact did our greengrocer have to put his loyalty on display in the shop window? Had he not already displayed it sufficiently in various internal or semipublic ways? At trade union meetings, after all, he had always voted as he should. He had always taken part in various competitions. He voted in elections like a good citizen. He had even signed the “antiCharter.” Why, on top of all that, should he have to declare his loyalty publicly? After all, the people who walk past his window will certainly not stop to read that, in the greengrocer’s opinion, the workers of the world ought to unite. The fact of the matter is, they don’t read the slogan at all, and it can be fairly assumed they don’t even see it. If you were to ask a woman who had stopped in front of his shop what she saw in the window, she could certainly tell whether or not they had tomatoes today, but it is highly unlikely that she noticed the slogan at all, let alone what it said.

It seems senseless to require the greengrocer to declare his loyalty publicly. But it makes sense nevertheless. People ignore his slogan, but they do so because such slogans are also found in other shop windows, on lampposts, bulletin boards, in apartment windows, and on buildings; they are everywhere, in fact. They form part of the panorama of everyday life. Of course, while they ignore the details, people are very aware of that panorama as a whole. And what else is the greengrocer’s slogan but a small component in that huge backdrop to daily life?

The greengrocer had to put the slogan in his window, therefore, not in the hope that someone might read it or be persuaded by it, but to contribute, along with thousands of other slogans, to the panorama that everyone is very much aware of. This panorama, of course, has a subliminal meaning as well: it reminds people where they are living and what is expected of them. It tells them what everyone else is doing, and indicates to them what they must do as well, if they don’t want to be excluded, to fall into isolation, alienate themselves from society, break the rules of the game, and risk the loss of their peace and tranquility and security.

The woman who ignored the greengrocer’s slogan may well have hung a similar slogan just an hour before in the corridor of the office where she works. She did it more or less without thinking,just as our greengrocer did, and she could do so precisely because she was doing it against the background of the general panorama and with some awareness of it, that is, against the background of the panorama of which the greengrocer’s shop window forms a part. When the greengrocer visits her office, he will not notice her slogan either, just as she failed to notice his. Nevertheless, their slogans are mutually dependent: both were displayed with some awareness of the general panorama and, we might say, under its diktat. Both, however, assist in the creation of that panorama, and therefore they assist in the creation of that diktat as well. The greengrocer and the office worker have both adapted to the conditions in which they live, but in doing so, they help to create those conditions. They do what is done, what is to be done, what must be done, but at the same time-by that very token-they confirm that it must be done in fact. They conform to a particular requirement and in so doing they themselves perpetuate that requirement. Metaphysically speaking, without the greengrocer’s slogan the office worker’s slogan could not exist, and vice versa. Each proposes to the other that something be repeated and each accepts the other’s proposal. Their mutual indifference to each other’s slogans is only an illusion: in reality, by exhibiting their slogans, each compels the other to accept the rules of the game and to confirm thereby the power that requires the slogans in the first place. Quite simply, each helps the other to be obedient. Both are objects in a system of control, but at the same time they are its subjects as well. They are both victims of the system and its instruments.

If an entire district town is plastered with slogans that no one reads, it is on the one hand a message from the district secretary to the regional secretary, but it is also something more: a small example of the principle of social auto-totality at work. Part of the essence of the post-totalitarian system is that it draws everyone into its sphere of power, not so they may realize themselves as human beings, but so they may surrender their human identity in favor of the identity of the system, that is, so they may become agents of the system’s general automatism and servants of its self-determined goals, so they may participate in the common responsibility for it, so they may be pulled into and ensnared by it, like Faust by Mephistopheles. More than this: so they may create through their involvement a general norm and, thus, bring pressure to bear on their fellow citizens. And further: so they may learn to be comfortable with their involvement, to identify with it as though it were something natural and inevitable and, ultimately, so they may-with no external urging-come to treat any non-involvement as an abnormality, as arrogance, as an attack on themselves, as a form of dropping out of society. By pulling everyone into its power structure, the post totalitarian system makes everyone an instrument of a mutual totality, the auto-totality of society.

Everyone, however, is in fact involved and enslaved, not only the greengrocers but also the prime ministers. Differing positions in the hierarchy merely establish differing degrees of involvement: the greengrocer is involved only to a minor extent, but he also has very little power. The prime minister, naturally, has greater power, but in return he is far more deeply involved. Both, however, are unfree, each merely in a somewhat different way. The real accomplice in this involvement, therefore, is not another person, but the system itself.

Position in the power hierarchy determines the degree of responsibility and guilt, but it gives no one unlimited responsibility and guilt, nor does it completely absolve anyone. Thus the conflict between the aims of life and the aims of the system is not a conflict between two socially defined and separate communities; and only a very generalized view (and even that only approximative) permits us to divide society into the rulers and the ruled. Here, by the way, is one of the most important differences between the post-totalitarian system and classical dictatorships, in which this line of conflict can still be drawn according to social class. In the post-totalitarian system, this line runs de facto through each person, for everyone in his own way is both a victim and a supporter of the system. What we understand by the system is not, therefore, a social order imposed by one group upon another, but rather something which permeates the entire society and is a factor in shaping it, something which may seem impossible to grasp or define (for it is in the nature of a mere principle), but which is expressed by the entire society as an important feature of its life.

The fact that human beings have created, and daily create, this self-directed system through which they divest themselves of their innermost identity is not therefore the result of some incomprehensible misunderstanding of history,. nor is it history somehow gone off its rails. Neither is it the product of some diabolical higher will which has decided, for reasons unknown, to torment a portion of humanity in this way. It can happen and did happen only because there is obviously in modern humanity a certain tendency toward the creation, or at least the toleration, of such a system. There is obviously something in human beings which responds to this system, something they reflect and accommodate, something within them which paralyzes every effort of their better selves to revolt. Human beings are compelled to live within a lie, but they can be compelled to do so only because they are in fact capable of living in this way. Therefore not only does the system alienate humanity, but at the same time alienated humanity supports this system as its own involuntary master plan, as a degenerate image of its own degeneration, as a record of people’s own failure as individuals.

The essential aims of life are present naturally in every person. In everyone there is some longing for humanity’s rightful dignity, for moral integrity, for free expression of being and a sense of transcendence over the world of existence. Yet, at the same time, each person is capable, to a greater or lesser degree, of coming to terms with living within the lie. Each person somehow succumbs to a profane trivialization of his inherent humanity, and to utilitarianism. In everyone there is some willingness to merge with the anonymous crowd and to flow comfortably along with it down the river of pseudo life. This is much more than a simple conflict between two identities. It is something far worse: it is a challenge to the very notion of identity itself.

In highly simplified terms, it could be said that the post totalitarian system has been built on foundations laid by the historical encounter between dictatorship and the consumer society. Is it not true that the far reaching adaptability to living a lie and the effortless spread of social auto-totality have some connection with the general unwillingness of consumption-oriented people to sacrifice some material certainties for the sake of their own spiritual and moral integrity? With their willingness to surrender higher values when faced with the trivializing temptations of modern civilization? With their vulnerability to the attractions of mass indifference? And in the end, is not the grayness and the emptiness of life in the post-totalitarian system only an inflated caricature of modern life in general? And do we not in fact stand (although in the external measures of civilization, we are far behind) as a kind of warning to the West, revealing to its own latent tendencies?


Let us now imagine that one day something in our greengrocer snaps and he stops putting up the slogans merely to ingratiate himself. He stops voting in elections he knows are a farce. He begins to say what he really thinks at political meetings. And he even finds the strength in himself to express solidarity with those whom his conscience commands him to support. In this revolt the greengrocer steps out of living within the lie. He rejects the ritual and breaks the rules of the game. He discovers once more his suppressed identity and dignity. He gives his freedom a concrete significance. His revolt is an attempt to live within the truth.

The bill is not long in coming. He will be relieved of his post as manager of the shop and transferred to the warehouse. His pay will be reduced. His hopes for a holiday in Bulgaria will evaporate. His children’s access to higher education will be threatened. His superiors will harass him and his fellow workers will wonder about him. Most of those who apply these sanctions, however, will not do so from any authentic inner conviction but simply under pressure from conditions, the same conditions that once pressured the greengrocer to display the official slogans. They will persecute the greengrocer either because it is expected of them, or to demonstrate their loyalty, or simply as part of the general panorama, to which belongs an awareness that this is how situations of this sort are dealt with, that this, in fact, is how things are always done, particularly if one is not to become suspect oneself. The executors, therefore, behave essentially like everyone else, to a greater or lesser degree: as components of the post-totalitarian system, as agents of its automatism, as petty instruments of the social auto-totality.

Thus the power structure, through the agency of those who carry out the sanctions, those anonymous components of the system, will spew the greengrocer from its mouth. The system, through its alienating presence in people, will punish him for his rebellion. It must do so because the logic of its automatism and self-defense dictate it. The greengrocer has not committed a simple, individual offense, isolated in its own uniqueness, but something incomparably more serious. By breaking the rules of the game, he has disrupted the game as such. He has exposed it as a mere game. He has shattered the world of appearances, the fundamental pillar of the system. He has upset the power structure by tearing apart what holds it together. He has demonstrated that living a lie is living a lie. He has broken through the exalted facade of the system and exposed the real, base foundations of power. He has said that the emperor is naked. And because the emperor is in fact naked, something extremely dangerous has happened: by his action, the greengrocer has addressed the world. He has enabled everyone to peer behind the curtain. He has shown everyone that it is possible to live within the truth. Living within the lie can constitute the system only if it is universal. The principle must embrace and permeate everything. There are no terms whatsoever on which it can co-exist with living within the truth, and therefore everyone who steps out of line denies it in principle and threatens it in its entirety.

This is understandable: as long as appearance is not confronted with reality, it does not seem to be appearance. As long as living a lie is not confronted with living the truth, the perspective needed to expose its mendacity is lacking. As soon as the alternative appears, however, it threatens the very existence of appearance and living a lie in terms of what they are, both their essence and their all-inclusiveness. And at the same time, it is utterly unimportant how large a space this alternative occupies: its power does not consist in its physical attributes but in the light it casts on those pillars of the system and on its unstable foundations. After all, the greengrocer was a threat to the system not because of any physical or actual power he had, but because his action went beyond itself, because it illuminated its surroundings and, of course, because of the incalculable consequences of that illumination. In the post-totalitarian system, therefore, living within the truth has more than a mere existential dimension (returning humanity to its inherent nature), or a noetic dimension (revealing reality as it is), or a moral dimension (setting an example for others). It also has an unambiguous political dimension. If the main pillar of the system is living a lie, then it is not surprising that the fundamental threat to it is living the truth. This is why it must be suppressed more severely than anything else.

In the post-totalitarian system, truth in the widest sense of the word has a very special import, one unknown in other contexts. In this system, truth plays a far greater (and, above all, a far different) role as a factor of power, or as an outright political force. How does the power of truth operate? How does truth as a factor of power work? How can its power-as power-be realized?


Individuals can be alienated from themselves only because there is something in them to alienate. The terrain of this violation is their authentic existence. Living the truth is thus woven directly into the texture of living a lie. It is the repressed alternative, the authentic aim to which living a lie is an inauthentic response. Only against this background does living a lie make any sense: it exists because of that background. In its excusatory, chimerical rootedness in the human order, it is a response to nothing other than the human predisposition to truth. Under the orderly surface of the life of lies, therefore, there slumbers the hidden sphere of life in its real aims, of its hidden openness to truth.

The singular, explosive, incalculable political power of living within the truth resides in the fact that living openly within the truth has an ally, invisible to be sure, but omnipresent: this hidden sphere. It is from this sphere that life lived openly in the truth grows; it is to this sphere that it speaks, and in it that it finds understanding. This is where the potential for communication exists. But this place is hidden and therefore, from the perspective of power, very dangerous. The complex ferment that takes place within it goes on in semidarkness, and by the time it finally surfaces into the light of day as an assortment of shocking surprises to the system, it is usually too late to cover them up in the usual fashion. Thus they create a situation in which the regime is confounded, invariably causing panic and driving it to react in inappropriate ways.

It seems that the primary breeding ground for what might, in the widest possible sense of the word, be understood as an opposition in the post-totalitarian system is living within the truth. The confrontation between these opposition forces and the powers that be, of course, will obviously take a form essentially different from that typical of an open society or a classical dictatorship. Initially, this confrontation does not take place on the level of real, institutionalized, quantifiable power which relies on the various instruments of power, but on a different level altogether: the level of human consciousness and conscience, the existential level. The effective range of this special power cannot be measured in terms of disciples, voters, or soldiers, because it lies spread out in the fifth column of social consciousness, in the hidden aims of life, in human beings’ repressed longing for dignity and fundamental rights, for the realization of their real social and political interests. Its power, therefore, does not reside in the strength of political or social groups, but chiefly in the strength of a potential, which is hidden throughout the whole of society, including the official power structures of that society. Therefore this power does not.rely on soldiers of its own, but on the soldiers of the enemy as it were-that is to say, on everyone who is living within the lie and who may be struck at any moment (in theory, at least) by the force of truth (or who, out of an instinctive desire to protect their position, may at least adapt to that force). It is a bacteriological weapon, so to speak, utilized when conditions are ripe by a single civilian to disarm an entire division. This power does not participate in any direct struggle for power; rather, it makes its influence felt in the obscure arena of being itself. The hidden movements it gives rise to there, however, can issue forth (when, where, under what circumstances, and to what extent are difficult to predict) in something visible: a real political act or event, a social movement, a sudden explosion of civil unrest, a sharp conflict inside an apparently monolithic power structure, or simply an irrepressible transformation in the social and intellectual climate. And since all genuine problems and matters of critical importance are hidden beneath a thick crust of lies, it is never quite clear when the proverbial last straw will fall, or what that straw will be. This, too, is why the regime prosecutes, almost as a reflex action preventively, even the most modest attempts to live within the truth.

Why was Solzhenitsyn driven out of his own country? Certainly not because he represented a unit of real power, that is, not because any of the regime’s representatives felt he might unseat them and take their place in government. Solzhenitsyn’s expulsion was something else: a desperate attempt to plug up the dreadful wellspring of truth, a truth which might cause incalculable transformations in social consciousness, which in turn might one day produce political debacles unpredictable in their consequences. And so the post totalitarian system behaved in a characteristic way: it defended the integrity of the world of appearances in order to defend itself. For the crust presented by the life of lies is made of strange stuff. As long as it seals off hermetically the entire society, it appears to be made of stone. But the moment someone breaks through in one place, when one person cries out, “The emperor is naked!”-when a single person breaks the rules of the game, thus exposing it as a game-everything suddenly appears in another light and the whole crust seems then to be made of a tissue on the point of tearing and disintegrating uncontrollably.

When I speak of living within the truth, I naturally do not have in mind only products of conceptual thought, such as a protest or a letter written by a group of intellectuals. It can be any means by which a person or a group revolts against manipulation: anything from a letter by intellectuals to a workers’ strike, from a rock concert to a student demonstration, from refusing to vote in the farcical elections to making an open speech at some official congress, or even a hunger strike, for instance. If the suppression of the aims of life is a complex process, and if it is based on the multifaceted manipulation of all expressions of life, then, by the same token, every free expression of life indirectly threatens the post totalitarian system politically, including forms of expression to which, in other social systems, no one would attribute any potential political significance, not to mention explosive power.

The Prague Spring is usually understood as a clash between two groups on the level of real power: those who wanted to maintain the system as it was and those who wanted to reform it. It is frequently forgotten, however, that this encounter was merely the final act and the inevitable consequence of a long drama originally played out chiefly in the theatre of the spirit and the conscience of society. And that somewhere at the beginning of this drama, there were individuals who were willing to live within the truth, even when things were at their worst. These people had no access to real power, nor did they aspire to it. The sphere in which they were living the truth was not necessarily even that of political thought. They could equally have been poets, painters, musicians, or simply ordinary citizens who were able to maintain their human dignity. Today it is naturally difficult to pinpoint when and through which hidden, winding channel a certain action or attitude influenced a given milieu, and to trace the virus of truth as it slowly spread through the tissue of the life of lies, gradually causing it to disintegrate. One thing, however, seems clear: the attempt at political reform was not the cause of’ society’s reawakening, but rather the final outcome of that reawakening.

I think the present also can be better understood in the light of this experience. The confrontation between a thousand Chartists and the post-totalitarian system would appear to be politically hopeless. This is true, of course, if we look at it through the traditional lens of the open political system, in which, quite naturally, every political force is measured chiefly in terms of the positions it holds on the level of real power. Given that perspective, a mini-party like the Charter would certainly not stand a chance. If, however, this confrontation is seen against the background of what we know about power in the post-totalitarian system, it appears in a fundamentally different light. For the time being, it is impossible to say with any precision what impact the appearance of Charter 77, its existence, and its work has had in the hidden sphere, and how the Charter’s attempt to rekindle civic self-awareness and confidence is regarded there. Whether, when, and how this investment will eventually produce dividends in the form of specific political changes is even less possible to predict. But that, of course, is all part of living within the truth. As an existential solution, it takes individuals back to the solid ground of their own identity; as politics, it throws them into a game of chance where the stakes are all or nothing. For this reason it is undertaken only by those for whom the former is worth risking the latter, or who have come to the conclusion that there is no other way to conduct real politics in Czechoslovakia today. Which, by the way, is the same thing: this conclusion can be reached only by someone who is unwilling to sacrifice his own human identity to politics, or rather, who does not believe in a politics that requires such a sacrifice.

The more thoroughly the post totalitarian system frustrates any rival alternative on the level of real power, as well as any form of politics independent of the laws of its own automatism, the more definitively the center of gravity of any potential political threat shifts to the area of the existential and the pre-political: usually without any conscious effort, living within the truth becomes the one natural point of departure for all activities that work against the automatism of the system. And even if such activities ultimately grow beyond the area of living within the truth (which means they are transformed into various parallel structures, movements, institutions, they begin to be regarded as political activity, they bring real pressure to bear on the official structures and begin in fact to have a certain influence on the level of real power), they always carry with them the specific hallmark of their origins. Therefore it seems to me that not even the so-called dissident movements can be properly understood without constantly bearing in mind this special background from which they emerge.


The profound crisis of human identity brought on by living within a lie, a crisis which in turn makes such a life possible, certainly possesses a moral dimension as well; it appears, among other things, as a deep moral crisis in society. A person who has been seduced by the consumer value system, whose identity is dissolved in an amalgam of the accouterments of mass civilization, and who has no roots in the order of being, no sense of responsibility for anything higher than his own personal survival, is a demoralized person. The system depends on this demoralization, deepens it, is in fact a projection of it into society.

Living within the truth, as humanity’s revolt against an enforced position, is, on the contrary, an attempt to regain control over one’s own sense of responsibility. In other words, it is clearly a moral act, not only because one must pay so dearly for it, but principally because it is not self-serving: the risk may bring rewards in the form of a general amelioration in the situation, or it may not. In this regard, as I stated previously, it is an all-or-nothing gamble, and it is difficult to imagine a reasonable person embarking on such a course merely because he reckons that sacrifice today will bring rewards tomorrow, be it only in the form of general gratitude. (By the way, the representatives of power invariably come to terms with those who live within the truth by persistently ascribing utilitarian motivations to them-a lust for power or fame or wealth-and thus they try, at least, to implicate them in their own world, the world of general demoralization.)

If living within the truth in the post-totalitarian system becomes the chief breeding ground for independent, alternative political ideas, then all considerations about the nature and future prospects of these ideas must necessarily reflect this moral dimension as a political phenomenon. (And if the revolutionary Marxist belief about morality as a product of the “superstructure” inhibits any of our friends from realizing the full significance of this diversion and, in one way or another, from including it in their view of the world, it is to their own detriment: an anxious fidelity to the postulates of that world view prevents them from properly understanding the mechanisms of their own political influence, thus paradoxically making them precisely what they, as Marxists, so often suspect others of being-victims of “false consciousness.”) The very special political significance of morality in the post-totalitarian system is a phenomenon that is at the very least unusual in modern political history, a phenomenon that might well have-as I shall soon attempt to show far-reaching consequences.


Undeniably, the most important political event in Czechoslovakia after the advent of the Husák leadership in 1968 was the appearance of Charter 77. The spiritual and intellectual climate surrounding its appearance, however, was not the product of any immediate political event. That climate was created by the trial of some young musicians associated with a rock group called “The Plastic People of the Universe.” Their trial was not a confrontation of two differing political forces or conceptions, but two differing conceptions of life. On the one hand, there was the sterile puritanism of the post totalitarian establishment and, on the other hand, unknown young people who wanted no more than to be able to live within the truth, to play the music they enjoyed, to sing songs that were relevant to their lives, and to live freely in dignity and partnership. These people had no past history of political activity. They were not highly motivated members of the opposition with political ambitions, nor were they former politicians expelled from the power structures. They had been given every opportunity to adapt to the status quo, to accept the principles of living within a lie and thus to enjoy life undisturbed by the authorities. Yet they decided on a different course. Despite this, or perhaps precisely because of it, their case had a very special impact on everyone who had not yet given up hope. Moreover, when the trial took place, a new mood had begun to surface after the years of waiting, of apathy and of skepticism toward various forms of resistance. People were “tired of being tired”; they were fed up with the stagnation, the inactivity, barely hanging on in the hope that things might improve after all. In some ways the trial was the final straw. Many groups of differing tendencies which until then had remained isolated from each other, reluctant to cooperate, or which were committed to forms of action that made cooperation difficult, were suddenly struck with the powerful realization that freedom is indivisible. Everyone understood that an attack on the Czech musical underground was an attack on a most elementary and important thing, something that in fact bound everyone together: it was an attack on the very notion of living within the truth, on the real aims of life. The freedom to play rock music was understood as a human freedom and thus as essentially the same as the freedom to engage in philosophical and political reflection, the freedom to write, the freedom to express and defend the various social and political interests of society. People were inspired to feel a genuine sense of solidarity with the young musicians and they came to realize that not standing up for the freedom of others, regardless of how remote their means of creativity or their attitude to life, meant surrendering one’s own freedom. (There is no freedom without equality before the law, and there is no equality before the law without freedom; Charter 77 has given this ancient notion a new and characteristic dimension, which has immensely important implications for modern Czech history. What Sládeček, the author of the book Sixty-eight, in a brilliant analysis, calls the “principle of exclusion,” lies at the root of all our present-day moral and political misery. This principle was born at the end of the Second World War in that strange collusion of democrats and communists and was subsequently developed further and further, right to the bitter end. For the first time in decades this principle has been overcome, by Charter 77: all those united in the Charter have, for the first time, become equal partners. Charter 77 is not merely a coalition of communists and non communists – that would be nothing historically new and, from the moral and political point of view, nothing revolutionary-but it is a community that is a priori open to anyone, and no one in it is a priori assigned an inferior position.) This was the climate, then, in which Charter 77 was created. Who could have foreseen that the prosecution of one or two obscure rock groups would have such far-reaching consequences?

I think that the origins of Charter 77 illustrate very well what I have already suggested above: that in the post totalitarian system, the real background to the movements that gradually assume political significance does not usually consist of overtly political events or confrontations between different forces or concepts that are openly political. These movements for the most part originate elsewhere, in the far broader area of the “pre-political,” where living within a lie confronts living within the truth, that is, where the demands of the post-totalitarian system conflict with the real aims of life. These real aims can naturally assume a great many forms. Sometimes they appear as the basic material or social interests of a group or an individual; at other times, they may appear as certain intellectual and spiritual interests; at still other times, they may be the most fundamental of existential demands, such as the simple longing of people to live their own lives in dignity. Such a conflict acquires a political character, then, not because of the elementary political nature of the aims demanding to be heard but simply because, given the complex system of manipulation on which the post-totalitarian system is founded and on which it is also dependent, every free human act or expression, every attempt to live within the truth, must necessarily appear as a threat to the system and, thus, as something which is political par excellence. Any eventual political articulation of the movements that grow out of this “pre-political” hinterland is secondary. It develops and matures as a result of a subsequent confrontation with the system, and not because it started off as a political program, project, or impulse.

Once again, the events of 1968 confirm this. The communist politicians who were trying to reform the system came forward with their program not because they had suddenly experienced a mystical enlightenment, but because they were led to do so by continued and increasing pressure from areas of life that had nothing to do with politics in the traditional sense of the word. In fact, they were trying in political ways to solve the social conflicts (which in fact were confrontations between the aims of the system and the aims of life) that almost every level of society had been experiencing daily, and had been thinking about with increasing openness for years. Backed by this living resonance throughout society, scholars and artists had defined the problem in a wide variety of ways and students were demanding solutions.

The genesis of Charter 77 also illustrates the special political significance of the moral aspect of things that I have mentioned. Charter 77 would have been unimaginable without that powerful sense of solidarity among widely differing groups, and without the sudden realization that it was impossible to go on waiting any longer, and that the truth had to be spoken loudly and collectively, regardless of the virtual certainty of sanctions and the uncertainty of any tangible results in the immediate future. “There are some things worth suffering for,” Jan Patočka wrote shortly before his death. I think that Chartists understand this not only as Patočka’s legacy, but also as the best explanation of why they do what they do.

Seen from the outside, and chiefly from the vantage point of the system and its power structure, Charter 77 came as a surprise, as a bolt out of the blue. It was not a bolt out of the blue, of course, but that impression is understandable, since the ferment that led to it took place in the “hidden sphere,” in that semidarkness where things are difficult to chart or analyze. The chances of predicting the appearance of the Charter were just as slight as the chances are now of predicting where it will lead. Once again, it was that shock, so typical of moments when something from the hidden sphere suddenly bursts through the moribund surface of living within a lie. The more one is trapped in the world of appearances, the more surprising it is when something like that happens.


In societies under the post-totalitarian system, all political life in the traditional sense has been eliminated. People have no opportunity to express themselves politically in public, let alone to organize politically. The gap that results is filled by ideological ritual. In such a situation, peoples’ interest in political matters naturally dwindles and independent political thought, insofar as it exists at all, is seen by the majority as unrealistic, farfetched, a kind of self-indulgent game, hopelessly distant from their everyday concerns; something admirable, perhaps, but quite pointless, because it is on the one hand entirely utopian and on the other hand extraordinarily dangerous, in view of the unusual vigor with which any move in that direction is persecuted by the regime.

Yet even in such societies, individuals and groups of people exist who do not abandon politics as a vocation and who, in one way or another, strive to think independently, to express themselves and in some cases even to organize politically, because that is a part of their attempt to live within the truth.

The fact that these people exist and work is in itself immensely important and worthwhile. Even in the worst of times, they maintain the continuity of political thought. If some genuine political impulse emerges from this or that “pre-political” confrontation and is properly articulated early enough, thus increasing its chances of relative success, then this is frequently due to these isolated generals without an army who, because they have maintained the continuity of political thought in the face of enormous difficulties, can at the right moment enrich the new impulse with the fruits of their own political thinking. Once again, there is ample evidence for this process in Czechoslovakia. Almost all those who were political prisoners in the early 1970s, who had apparently been made to suffer in vain because of their quixotic efforts to work politically among an utterly apathetic and demoralized society, belong today-inevitably-among the most active Chartists. In Charter 77, the moral legacy of their earlier sacrifices is valued, and they have enriched this movement with their experience and that element of political thinking.

And yet it seems to me that the thought and activity of those friends who have never given up direct political work and who are always ready to assume direct political responsibility very often suffer from one chronic fault: an insufficient understanding of the historical uniqueness of the post totalitarian system as a social and political reality. They have little understanding of the specific nature of power that is typical for this system and therefore they overestimate the importance of direct political work in the traditional sense. Moreover, they fail to appreciate the political significance of those “pre-political” events and processes that provide the living humus from which genuine political change usually springs. As political actors-or, rather, as people with political ambitions-they frequently try to pick up where natural political life left off. They maintain models of behavior that may have been appropriate in more normal political circumstances and thus, without really being aware of it, they bring an outmoded way of thinking, old habits, conceptions, categories, and notions to bear on circumstances that are quite new and radically different, without first giving adequate thought to the meaning and substance of such things in the new circumstances, to what politics as such means now, to what sort of thing can have political impact and potential, and in what way- Because such people have been excluded from the structures of power and are no longer able to influence those structures directly (and because they remain faithful to traditional notions of politics established in more or less democratic societies or in classical dictatorships) they frequently, in a sense, lose touch with reality. Why make compromises with reality, they say, when none of our proposals will ever be accepted anyway? Thus they found themselves in a world of genuinely utopian thinking.

As I have already tried to indicate, however, genuinely far reaching political events do not emerge from the same sources and in the same way in the post-totalitarian system as they do in a democracy. And’ if a large portion of the public is indifferent to, even skeptical of, alternative political models and programs and the private establishment of opposition political parties, this is not merely because there is a general feeling of apathy toward public affairs and a loss of that sense of higher responsibility; in other words, it is not just a consequence of the general demoralization. There is also a bit of healthy social instinct at work in this attitude. It is as if people sensed intuitively that “nothing is what it seems any longer,” as the saying goes, and that from now on, therefore, things must be done entirely differently as well.

If some of the most important political impulses in Soviet bloc countries in recent years have come initially-that is, before being felt on the level of actual power-from mathematicians, philosophers, physicians, writers, historians, ordinary workers, and so on, more frequently than from politicians, and if the driving force behind the various dissident movements comes from so many people in nonpolitical professions, this is not because these people are more clever than those who see themselves primarily as politicians. It is because those who are not politicians are also not so bound by traditional political thinking and political habits and therefore, paradoxically, they are more aware of genuine political reality and more sensitive to what can and should be done under the circumstances.

There is no way around it: no matter how beautiful an alternative political model can be, it can no longer speak to the “hidden sphere,” inspire people and society, call for real political ferment. The real sphere of potential politics in the post-totalitarian system is elsewhere: in the continuing and cruel tension between the complex demands of that system and the aims of life, that is, the elementary need of human beings to live, to a certain extent at least, in harmony with themselves, that is, to live in a bearable way, not to be humiliated by their superiors and officials, not to be continually watched by the police, to be able to express themselves freely, to find an outlet for their creativity, to enjoy legal security, and so on. Anything that touches this field concretely, anything that relates to this fundamental, omnipresent, and living tension, will inevitably speak to people. Abstract projects for an ideal political or economic order do not interest them to anything like the same extent-and rightly so-not only because everyone knows how little chance they have of succeeding, but also because today people feel that the less political policies are derived from a concrete and human here and now and the more they fix their sights on an abstract “someday,” the more easily they can degenerate into new forms of human enslavement. People who live in the post totalitarian system know only too well that the question of whether one or several political parties are in power, and how these parties define and label themselves, is of far less importance than the question of whether or not it is possible to live like a human being.

To shed the burden of traditional political categories and habits and open oneself up fully to the world of human existence and then to draw political conclusions only after having analyzed it: this is not only politically more realistic but at the same time, from the point of view of an “ideal state of affairs,” politically more promising as well. A genuine, profound, and lasting change for the better-as I shall attempt to show-can no longer result from the victory (were such a victory possible) of any particular traditional political conception, which can ultimately be only external, that is, a structural or systemic conception. More than ever before, such a change will have to derive from human existence, from the fundamental reconstitution of the position of people in the world, their relationships to themselves and to each other, and to the universe. If a better economic and political model is to be created, then perhaps more than ever before it must derive from profound existential and moral changes in society. This is not something that can be designed and introduced like a new car. If it is to be more than just a new variation of the old degeneration, it must above all be an expression of life in the process of transforming itself. A better system will not automatically ensure a better life. In fact, the opposite is true: only by creating a better life can a better system be developed.

Once more I repeat that I am not underestimating the importance oF political thought and conceptual political work. On the contrary, I think that genuine political thought and genuinely political work is precisely what we continually fail to achieve. If I say “genuine,” however, I have in mind the kind oF thought and conceptual work that has freed itself of all the traditional political schemata that have been imported into our circumstances from a world that will never return (and whose return, even were it possible, would provide no permanent solution to the most important problems).

The Second and Fourth Internationals, like many other political powers and organizations, may naturally provide significant political support for various efforts of ours, but neither of them can solve our problems for us. They operate in a different world and are a product of different circumstances. Their theoretical concepts can be interesting and instructive to us, but one thing is certain: we cannot solve our problems simply by identifying with these organizations. And the attempt in our country to place what we do in the context of some of the discussions that dominate political life in democratic societies often seems like sheer folly. For example, is it possible to talk seriously about whether we want to change the system or merely reform it? In the circumstances under which we live, this is a pseudo-problem, since for the time being there is simply no way we can accomplish either goal. We are not even clear about where reform ends and change begins. We know from a number of harsh experiences that neither reform nor change is in itself a guarantee of anything. We know that ultimately it is all the same to us whether or not the system in which we live, in the light of a particular doctrine, appears changed or reformed. Our concern is whether we can live with dignity in such a system, whether it serves people rather than people serving it. We are struggling to achieve this with the means available to us, and the means it makes sense to employ. Western journalists, submerged in the political banalities in which they live, may label our approach as overly legalistic, as too risky, revisionist, counterrevolutionary, bourgeois, communist, or as too right-wing or left-wing. But this is the very last thing that interests us.


One concept that is a constant source of confusion chiefly because it has been imported into our circumstances from circumstances that are entirely different is the concept of an opposition. What exactly is an opposition in the post totalitarian system?

In democratic societies with a traditional parliamentary system of government, political opposition is understood as a political force on the level of actual power (most frequently a party or coalition of parties) which is not a part of the government. It offers an alternative political program, it has ambitions to govern, and it is recognized and respected by the government in power as a natural element in the political life of the country. It seeks to spread its influence by political means, and competes for power on the basis of agreed-upon legal regulations.

In addition to this form of opposition, there exists the phenomenon of the “extra-parliamentary opposition,” which again consists of forces organized more or less on the level of actual power, but which operate outside the rules created by the system, and which employ different means than are usual within that framework.

In classical dictatorships, the term “opposition” is understood to mean the political forces which have also come out with an alternative political program. They operate either legally or on the outer limits of legality, but in any case they cannot compete for power within the limits of some agreed upon regulations. Or the term “opposition” may be applied to forces preparing for a violent confrontation with the ruling power, or who feel themselves to be in this state of confrontation already, such as various guerrilla groups or liberation movements.

An opposition in the post totalitarian system does not exist in any of these senses. In what way, then, can the term be used?

1. Occasionally the term “opposition” is applied, mainly by Western journalists, to persons or groups inside the power structure who find themselves in a state of hidden conflict with the highest authorities. The reasons for this conflict may be certain differences (not very sharp differences, naturally) of a conceptual nature, but more frequently it is quite simply a longing for power or a personal antipathy to others who represent that power.

2. Opposition here can also be understood as everything that does or can have an indirect political effect in the sense already mentioned, that is, everything the post-totalitarian system feels threatened by, which in fact means everything it is threatened by. In this sense, the opposition is every attempt to live within the truth, from the greengrocer’s refusal to put the slogan in his window to a freely written poem; in other words, everything in which the genuine aims of life go beyond the limits placed on them by the aims of the system.

3. More frequently, however, the opposition is usually understood (again, largely by Western journalists) as groups of people who make public their nonconformist stances and critical opinions, who make no secret of their independent thinking and who, to a greater or lesser degree, consider themselves a political force. In this sense, the notion of an opposition more or less overlaps with the notion of dissent, although, of course, there are great differences in the degree to which that label is accepted or rejected. It depends not only on the extent to which these people understand their power as a directly political force, and on whether they have ambitions to participate in actual power, but also on how each of them understands the notion of an opposition.

Again, here is an example: in its original declaration, Charter 77 emphasized that it was not an opposition because it had no intention of presenting an alternative political program. It sees its mission as something quite different, for it has not presented such programs. In fact, if the presenting of an alternative program defines the nature of an opposition in post-totalitarian states, then the Charter cannot be considered an opposition.

The Czechoslovak government, however, has considered Charter 77 as an expressly oppositional association from the very beginning, and has treated it accordingly. This means that the government-and this is only natural-understands the term “opposition” more or less as I defend it in point z, that is, as everything that manages to avoid total manipulation and which therefore denies the principle that the system has an absolute claim on the individual.

If we accept this definition of opposition, then of course we must, along with the government, consider the Charter a genuine opposition, because it represents a serious challenge to the integrity of post-totalitarian power, founded as it is on the universality of living with a lie.

It is a different matter, however, when we look at the extent to which individual signatories of Charter 77 think of themselves as an opposition. My impression is that most base their understanding of the term “opposition” on the traditional meaning of the word as it became established in democratic societies (or in classical dictatorships); therefore, they understand opposition, even in Czechoslovakia, as a politically defined force which, although it does not operate on the level of actual power, and even less within the framework of certain rules respected by the government, would still not reject the opportunity to participate in actual power because it has, in a sense, an alternative political program whose proponents are prepared to accept direct political responsibility for it. Given this notion of an opposition, some Chartists-the great majority-do not see themselves in this way. Others-a minority-do, even though they fully respect the fact that there is no room within Charter 77 for “oppositional” activity in this sense. At the same time, however, perhaps every Chartist is familiar enough with the specific nature of conditions in the post-totalitarian system to realize that it is not only the struggle for human rights that has its own peculiar political power, but incomparably more “innocent” activities as well, and therefore they can be understood as an aspect of opposition. No Chartist can really object to being considered an opposition in this sense.

There is another circumstance, however, that considerably complicates matters. For many decades, the power ruling society in the Soviet bloc has used the label “opposition” as the blackest of indictments, as synonymous with the word “enemy.” To brand someone “a member of the opposition” is tantamount to saying he is trying to overthrow the government and put an end to socialism (naturally in the pay of the imperialists). There have been times when this label led straight to the gallows, and of course this does not encourage people to apply the same label to themselves. Moreover, it is only a word, and what is actually done is more important than how it is labeled.

The final reason why many reject such a term is because there is something negative about the notion of an “opposition.” People who so define themselves do so in relation to a prior “position.” In other words, they relate themselves specifically to the power that rules society and through it, define themselves, deriving their own position from the position of the regime. For people who have simply decided to live within the truth, to say aloud what they think, to express their solidarity with their fellow citizens, to create as they want and simply to live in harmony with their better self, it is naturally disagreeable to feel required to define their own original and positive position negatively, in terms of something else, and to think of themselves primarily as people who are against something, not simply as people who are what they are.

Obviously, the only way to avoid misunderstanding is to say clearly-before one starts using them-in what sense the terms “opposition” and “member of the opposition” are being used and how they are in fact to be understood in our circumstances.


If the term “opposition” has been imported from democratic societies into the post-totalitarian system without general agreement on what the word means in conditions that are so different, then the term “dissident” was, on the contrary, chosen by Western journalists and is now generally accepted as the label for a phenomenon peculiar to the post totalitarian system and almost never occurring-at least not in that form-in democratic societies.

Who are these “dissidents”?

It seems that the term is applied primarily to citizens of the Soviet bloc who have decided to live within the truth and who, in addition, meet the following criteria:

1. They express their nonconformist positions and critical opinions publicly and systematically, within the very strict limits available to them, and because of this, they are known in the West.

2. Despite being unable to publish at home and despite every possible form of persecution by their governments, they have, by virtue of their attitudes, managed to win a certain esteem, both from the public and from their government, and thus they actually enjoy a very limited and very strange degree of indirect, actual power in their own milieu as well. This either protects them from the worst forms of persecution, or at least it ensures that if they are persecuted, it will mean certain political complications for their governments.

3. The horizon of their critical attention and their commitment reaches beyond the narrow context of their immediate surroundings or special interests to embrace more general causes and, thus, their work becomes political in nature, although the degree to which they think of themselves as a directly political force may vary a great deal.

4. They are people who lean toward intellectual pursuits, that is, they are “writing” people, people for whom the written word is the primary-and often the only-political medium they command, and that can gain them attention, particularly from abroad. Other ways in which they seek to live within the truth are either lost to the foreign observer in the elusive local milieu or-if they reach beyond this local framework-they appear to be only somewhat less visible complements to what they have written.

5. Regardless of their actual vocations, these people are talked about in the West more frequently in terms of their activities as committed citizens, or in terms of the critical, political aspects of their work, than in terms of the real work they do in their own fields. From personal experience, I know that there is an invisible line you cross-without even wanting to or becoming aware of it-beyond which they cease to treat you as a writer who happens to be a concerned citizen and begin talking of you as a “dissident” who almost incidentally (in his spare time, perhaps?) happens to write plays as well.

Unquestionably, there are people who meet all of these criteria. What is debatable is whether we should be using a special term for a group defined in such an essentially accidental way, and specifically, whether they should be called “dissidents.” It does happen, however, and there is clearly nothing we can do about it. Sometimes, to facilitate communication, we even use the label ourselves, although it is done with distaste, rather ironically, and almost always in quotation marks.

Perhaps it is now appropriate to outline some of the reasons why “dissidents” themselves are not very happy to be referred to in this way. In the first place, the word is problematic from an etymological point of view. A “dissident,” we are told in our press, means something like “renegade” or “backslider.” But dissidents do not consider themselves renegades for the simple reason that they are not primarily denying or rejecting anything. On the contrary, they have tried to affirm their own human identity, and if they reject anything at all, then it is merely what was false and alienating in their lives, that aspect of living within a lie.

But that is not the most important thing. The term “dissident” frequently implies a special profession, as if, along with the more normal vocations, there were another special one grumbling about the state of things. In fact, a “dissident” is simply a physicist, a sociologist, a worker, a poet, individuals who are doing what they feel they must and, consequently, who find themselves in open conflict with the regime. This conflict has not come about through any conscious intention on their part, but simply through the inner logic of their thinking, behavior, or work (often confronted with external circumstances more or less beyond their control). They have not, in other words, consciously decided to be professional malcontents, rather as one decides to be a tailor or a blacksmith.

In fact, of course, they do not usually discover they are “dissidents” until long after they have actually become one. “Dissent” springs from motivations far different from the desire for titles or fame. In short, they do not decide to become “dissidents,” and even if they were to devote twenty-four hours a day to it, it would still not be a profession, but primarily an existential attitude. Moreover, it is an attitude that is in no way the exclusive property of those who have earned themselves the title of “dissident” just because they happen to fulfill those accidental external conditions already mentioned. There are thousands of nameless people who try to live within the truth and millions who want to but cannot, perhaps only because to do so in the circumstances in which they live, they would need ten times the courage of those who have already taken the first step. If several dozen are randomly chosen from among all these people and put into a special category, this can utterly distort the general picture. It does so in two different ways. Either it suggests that “dissidents” are a group of prominent people, a protected species who are permitted to do things others are not and whom the government may even be cultivating as living proof of its generosity; or it lends support to the illusion that since there is no more than a handful of malcontents to whom not very much is really being done, all the rest are therefore content, for were they not so, they would be “dissidents” too.

But that is not all. This categorization also unintentionally supports the impression that the primary concern of these “dissidents” is some vested interest that they share as a group, as though their entire argument with the government were no more than a rather abstruse conflict between two opposed groups, a conflict that leaves society out of it altogether. But such an impression profoundly contradicts the real importance of the “dissident” attitude, which stands or falls on its interest in others, in what ails society as a whole, in other words, on an interest in all those who do not speak up. If “dissidents” have any kind of authority at all, and if they have not been exterminated long ago like exotic insects that have appeared where they have no business being, then this is not because the government holds this exclusive group and their exclusive ideas in such awe, but because it is perfectly aware of the potential political power of living within the truth rooted in the hidden sphere, and well aware too of the kind of world “dissent” grows out of and the world it addresses: the everyday human world, the world of daily tension between the aims of life and the aims of the system. (Can there be any better evidence of this than the government’s action after Charter 77 appeared, when it launched a campaign to compel the entire nation to declare that Charter q~ was wrong? Those millions of signatures proved, among other things, that just the opposite was true.) The political organs and the police do not lavish such enormous attention on “dissidents”-which may give the impression that the government fears them as they might fear an alternative power clique-because they actually are such a power clique, but because they are ordinary people with ordinary cares, differing from the rest only in that they say aloud what the rest cannot say or are afraid to say. I have already mentioned Solzhenitsyn’s political influence: it does not reside in some exclusive political power he possesses as an individual, but in the experience of those millions of Gulag victims which he simply amplified and communicated to millions of other people of good will.

To institutionalize a select category of well-known or prominent “dissidents” means in fact to deny the most intrinsic moral aspect of their activity. As we have seen, the “dissident” movement grows out of the principle of equality, founded on the notion that human rights and freedoms are indivisible. After all, did no well-known “dissidents” unite in KOR to defend unknown workers? And was it not precisely for this reason that they became “well-known dissidents”? And did not the well-known “dissidents” unite in Charter 77 after they had been brought together in defense of those unknown musicians, and did they not unite in the Charter precisely with them, and did they not become “well-known dissidents” precisely because of that? It is truly a cruel paradox that the more some citizens stand up in defense of other citizens, the more they are labeled with a word that in effect separates them from those “other citizens.”

This explanation, I hope, will make clear the significance of the quotation marks I have put around the word “dissident” throughout this essay.


AT the time when the Czech lands and Slovakia were an integral part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and when there existed neither the historical nor the political, psychological, nor social conditions that would have enabled the Czechs and Slovaks to seek their identity outside the framework of this empire, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk established a Czechoslovak national program based on the notion of “small-scale work” (dro6ncí práce). By that he meant honest and responsible work in widely different areas of life but within the existing social order, work that would stimulate national creativity and national self-confidence. Naturally he placed particular emphasis on intelligent and enlightened upbringing and education, and on the moral and humanitarian aspects of life. Masaryk believed that the only possible starting point for a more dignified national destiny was humanity itself. Humanity’s first task was to create the conditions for a more human life; and in Masaryk’s view, the task of transforming the stature of the nation began with the transformation of human beings.

This notion of “working for the good of the nation” took root in Czechoslovak society and in many ways it was successful and is still alive today. Along with those who exploit the notion as a sophisticated excuse for collaborating with the regime, there are still many, even today, who genuinely uphold the ideal and, in some areas at least, can point to indisputable achievements. It is hard to say how much worse things would be if there were not many hard-working people who simply refuse to give up and try constantly to do the best they can, paying an unavoidable minimum to living within a lie so that they might give their utmost to the authentic needs of society. These people assume, correctly, that every piece of good work is an indirect criticism of bad politics, and that there áre situations where it is worthwhile going this route, even though it means surrendering one’s natural right to make direct criticisms.

Today, however, there are very clear limitations to this attitude, even compared to the situation in the 1960s. More and more frequently, those who attempt to practice the principle of “small-scale work” come up against the post-totalitarian sys tem and flnd themselves facing a dilemma: either one retreats from that position, dilutes the honesty, responsibility, and consistency on which it is based, and simply adapts to circumstances (the approach taken by the majority), or one continues on the way begun and inevitably comes into conflict with the regime (the approach taken by a minority).

If the notion of small-scale work was never intended as an imperative to survive in the existing social and political structure at any cost (in which case individuals who allowed themselves to be excluded from that structure would necessarily appear to have given up “working for the nation”), then today it is even less significant- There is no general model of behavior, that is, no neat, universally valid way of determining the point at which small-scale work ceases to be for the good of the nation and becomes detrimental to the nation. It is more than clear, however, that the danger of such a reversal is becoming more and more acute and that small-scale work, with increasing frequency, is coming up against that limit beyond which avoiding conflict means compromising its very essence.

In 1974, when I was employed in a brewery, my immediate superior was a certain Š, a person well versed in the art of making beer. He was proud of his profession and he wanted our brewery to brew good beer. He spent almost all his time at work, continually thinking up improvements, and he frequently made the rest of us feel uncomfortable because he assumed that we loved brewing as much as he did. In the midst of the slovenly indifference to work that socialism encourages, a more constructive worker would be difficult to imagine.

The brewery itself was managed by people who understood their work less and were less fond of it, but who were politically more influential. They were bringing the brewery to ruin and not only did they fail to react to any of Š’s suggestions, but they actually became increasingly hostile toward him and tried in every way to thwart his efforts to do a good job. Eventually the situation became so bad that S felt compelled to write a lengthy letter to the manager’s superior, in which he attempted to analyze the brewery’s difficulties. He explained why it was the worst in the district and pointed to those responsible.

His voice might have been heard. The manager, who was politically powerful but otherwise ignorant of beer, a man who loathed workers and was given to intrigue, might have been replaced and conditions in the brewery might have been improved on the basis of Š’s suggestions. Had this happened, it would have been a perfect example of small-scale work in action. Unfortunately, the precise opposite occurred: the manager of the brewery, who was a member of the Communist Party’s district committee, had friends in higher places and he saw to it that the situation was resolved in his favor. Š’s analysis was described as a “defamatory document” and S himself was labeled a “political saboteur.” He was thrown out of the brewery and shifted to another one where he was given a job requiring no skill. Here the notion of small-scale work had come up against the wall of the post-totalitarian system. By speaking the truth, Š had stepped out of line, broken the rules, cast himself out, and he ended up as a sub citizen, stigmatized as an enemy. He could now say anything he wanted, but he could never, as a matter of principle, expect to be heard. He had become the “dissident” of the Eastern Bohemian Brewery.

I think this is a model case which, from another point of’ view, illustrates what I have already said in the preceding section: you do. not become a “dissident” just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society. This is why our situation is not comparable to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, when the Czech nation, in the worst period of Bach’s absolutism, had only one real “dissident,” Karel Havlíček, who was imprisoned in Brixen. Today, if we are not to be snobbish about it, we must admit that “dissidents” can be found on every street corner.

To rebuke “dissidents” for having abandoned “small-scale work” is simply absurd. “Dissent” is not an alternative to Masaryk’s notion, it is frequently its one possible outcome. I say “frequently” in order to emphasize that this is not always the case. I am far from believing that the only decent and re~ sponsible people are those who find themselves at odds with the existing social and political structures. After all, the brewmaster Š might have won his battle. To condemn those who have kept their positions simply because they have kept them, in other words, for not being “dissidents,” would be just as absurd as to hold them up as an example to the “dissidents.” In any case, it contradicts the whole “dissident” attitude seen as an attempt to live within the truth-if one judges human behavior not according to what it is and whether it is good or not, but according to the personal circumstances such an attempt has brought one to.


Our greengrocer’s attempt to live within the truth may be confined to not doing certain things. He decides not to put flags in his window when his only motive for putting them there in the first place would have been to avoid being reported by the house warden; he does not vote in elections that he considers false; he does not hide his opinions from his superiors. In other words, he may go no further than “merely” refusing to comply with certain demands made on him by the system (which of course is not an insignificant step to take). This may, however, grow into something more. The greengrocer may begin to do something concrete, something that goes beyond an immediately personal self-defensive reaction against manipulation, something that will manifest his newfound sense of higher responsibility. He may, for example, organize his fellow greengrocers to act together in defense of their interests. He may write letters to various institutions, drawing their attention to instances of disorder and injustice around him. He may seek out unofficial literature, copy it, and lend it to his friends.

If what I have called living within the truth is a basic existential (and of course potentially political) starting point for all those “independent citizens’ initiatives” and “dissident” or “opposition” movements this does not mean that every attempt to live within the truth automatically belongs in this category. On the contrary, in its most original and broadest sense, living within the truth covers a vast territory whose outer limits are vague and difficult to map, a territory full of modest expressions of human volition, the vast majority of which will remain anonymous and whose political impact will probably never be felt or described any more concretely than simply as a part of a social climate or mood. Most of these expressions remain elementary revolts against manipulation: you simply straighten your backbone and live in greater dignity as an individual.

Here and there-thanks to the nature, the assumptions, and the professions of some people, but also thanks to a number of accidental circumstances such as the specific nature of the local milieu, friends, and so on-a more coherent and visible initiative may emerge from this wide and anonymous hinterland, an initiative that transcends “merely” individual revolt and is transformed into more conscious, structured, and purposeful work. The point where living within the truth ceases to be a mere negation of living with a lie and becomes articulate in a particular way is the point at which something is born that might be called the “independent spiritual, social, and political life of society.” This independent life is not separated from the rest of life (“dependent life”) by some sharply defined line. Both types frequently co-exist in the same people. Nevertheless, its most important focus is marked by a relatively high degree of inner emancipation. It sails upon the vast ocean of the manipulated life like little boats, tossed by the waves but always bobbing back as visible messengers of living within the truth, articulating the suppressed aims of life.

What is this independent life of society? The spectrum of its expressions and activities is naturally very wide. It includes everything from self education and thinking about the world, through free creative activity and its communication to others, to the most varied free, civic attitudes, including instances of independent social self-organization. In short, it is an area in which living within the truth becomes articulate and materializes in a visible way.

Thus what will later be referred to as “citizens’ initiatives,” “dissident movements,” or even “oppositions,” emerge, like the proverbial one tenth of the iceberg visible above the water, from that area, from the independent life of society. In other words, just as the independent life of society develops out of living within the truth in the widest sense of the word, as the distinct, articulated expression of that life, so “dissent” gradually emerges from the independent life of society. Yet there is a marked difference: if the independent life of society, externally at least, can be understood as a higher form of living within the truth, it is far less certain that “dissident” movements are necessarily a higher form of the independent life of society. They are simply one manifestation of it and, though they may be the most visible and, at first glance, the most political (and most clearly articulated) expression of it, they are far from necessarily being the most mature or even the most important, not only in the general social sense but even in terms of direct political influence. After all, “dissent” has been artificially removed from its place of birth by having been given a special name. In fact, however, it is not possible to think of it separated from the whole background out of which it develops, of which it is an integral part, and from which it draws all its vital strength. In any case, it follows from what has already been said about the peculiarities of the post-totalitarian system that what appears to be the most political of forces in a given moment, and what thinks of itself in such terms, need not necessarily in fact be such a force. The extent to which it is a real political force is due exclusively to its pre-political context.

What follows from this description? Nothing more and nothing less than this: it is impossible to talk about what in fact “dissidents” do and the effect of their work without first talking about the work of all those who, in one way or an other, take part in the independent life of society and who are not necessarily “dissidents” at all. They may be writers who write as they wish without regard for censorship or official demands and who issue their work-when official publishers refuse to print it-as samizdat. They may be philosophers, historians, sociologists, and all those who practice independent scholarship and, if it is impossible through official or semi-official channels, who also circulate their work in samizdat or who organize private discussions, lectures, and seminars. They may be teachers who privately teach young people things that are kept from them in the state schools; clergymen who either in office or, if they are deprived of their charges, outside it, try to carry on a free religious life; painters, musicians, and singers who practice their work regardless of how it is looked upon by official institutions; everyone who shares this independent culture and helps to spread it; people who, using the means available to them, try to express and defend the actual social interests of workers, to put real meaning back into trade unions or to form independent ones; people who are not afraid to call the attention of officials to cases of injustice and who strive to see that the laws are observed; and the different groups of young people who try to extricate themselves from manipulation and live in their own way, in the spirit of their own hierarchy of values. The list could go on.

Very few would think of calling all these people “dissidents.” And yet are not the well-known “dissidents” simply people like them? Are not all these activities in fact what “dissidents” do as well? Do they not produce scholarly work and publish it in samizdat? Do they not write plays and novels and poems? Do they not lecture to students in private “universities”? Do they not struggle against various forms of injustice and attempt to ascertain and express the genuine social interests of various sectors of the population?

After having tried to indicate the sources, the inner structure, and some aspects of the “dissident” attitude as such, I have clearly shifted my viewpoint from outside, as it were, to an investigation of what these “dissidents” actually do, how their initiatives are manifested, and where they lead.

The first conclusion to be drawn, then, is that the original and most important sphere of activity, one that predetermines all the others, is simply an attempt to create and support the independent life of society as an articulated expression of living within the truth. In other words, serving truth consistently, purposefully, and articulately, and organizing this service. This is only natural, after all: if living within the truth is an elementary starting point for every attempt made by people to oppose the alienating pressure of the system, if it is the only meaningful basis of any independent act of political import, and if, ultimately, it is also the most intrinsic existential source of the “dissident” attitude, then it is difficult to imagine that even manifest “dissent” could have any other basis than the service of truth, the truthful life, and the attempt to make room for the genuine aims of life.


The post-totalitarian system is mounting a total assault on humans and humans stand against it alone, abandoned and isolated. It is therefore entirely natural that all the “dissident” movements are explicitly defensive movements: they exist to defend human beings and the genuine aims of life against the aims of the system.

Today the Polish group KOR is called the “Committee for Social Self-Defense:’ The word “defense” appears in the names of other similar groups in Poland, but even the Soviet Helsinki monitoring group and our own Charter 77 are clearly defensive in nature.

In terms of traditional politics, this program of defense is understandable, even though it may appear minimal, provisional, and ultimately negative. It offers no new conception, model, or ideology, and therefore it is not politics in the proper sense of the word, since politics always assumes a positive program and can scarcely limit itself to defending someone against something.

Such a view, I think, reveals the limitations of the traditionally political way of looking at things- The post-totalitarian system, after all, is not the manifestation of a particular political line followed by a particular government. It is something radically different: it is a complex, profound, and long-term violation of society, or rather the self violation of society. To oppose it merely by establishing a different political line and then striving for a change in government would not only be unrealistic, it would be utterly inadequate, for it would never come near to touching the root of the matter. For some time now, the problem has no longer resided in a political line or program: it is a problem of life itself.

Thus, defending the aims of life, defending humanity, is not only a more realistic approach, since it can begin right now and is potentially more popular because it concerns people’s everyday lives; at the same time (and perhaps precisely because of this) it is also an incomparably more consistent approach because it aims at the very essence of things.

There are times when we must sink to the bottom of our misery to understand truth, just as we must descend to the bottom of a well to see the stars in broad daylight. It seems to me that today, this “provisional,” “minimal,” and “negative” program-the “simple” defense of people-is in a particular sense (and not merely in the circumstances in which we live) an optimal and most positive program because it forces politics to return to its only proper starting point, proper that is, if all the old mistakes are to be avoided: individual people. In the democratic societies, where the violence done to human beings is not nearly so obvious and cruel, this fundamental revolution in politics has yet to happen, and some things will probably have to get worse there before the urgent need for that revolution is reflected in politics. In our world, precisely because of the misery in which we find ourselves, it would seem that politics has already undergone that transformation: the central concern of political thought is no longer abstract visions of a self-redeeming, “positive” model (and of course the opportunistic political practices that are the reverse of the same coin), but rather the people who have so far merely been enslaved by those models and their practices.

Every society, of course, requires some degree of organization. Yet if that organization is to serve people, and not the other way around, then people will have to be liberated and space created so that they may organize themselves in meaningful ways. The depravity of the opposite approach, in which people are first organized in one way or another (by someone who always knows best “what the people need”) so they may then allegedly be liberated, is something we have known on our own skins only too well.

To sum up: most people who are too bound to the traditional political way of thinking see the weaknesses of the “dissident” movements in their purely defensive character. In contrast, I see that as their greatest strength. I believe that this is precisely where these movements supersede the kind of politics from whose point of view their program can seem so inadequate.


In the “dissident” movements of the Soviet bloc, the defense of human beings usually takes the form of a defense of human and civil rights as they are entrenched in various official documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights, the Concluding Act of the Helsinki Agreement, and the constitutions of individual states. These movements set out to defend anyone who is being prosecuted for acting in the spirit of those rights, and they in turn act in the same spirit in their work, by insisting over and over again that the regime recognize and respect human and civil rights, and by drawing attention to the areas of life where this is not the case.

Their work, therefore, is based on the principle of legality: they operate publicly and openly, insisting not only that their activity is in line with the law, but that achieving respect for the law is one of their main aims. This principle of legality, which provides both the point of departure and the framework for their activities, is common to all “dissident” groups in the Soviet bloc, even though individual groups have never worked out any formal agreement on that point. This circumstance raises an important question: Why, in conditions where a widespread and arbitrary abuse of power is the rule, is there such a general and spontaneous acceptance of the principle of legality?

On the primary level, this stress on legality is a natural expression of specific conditions that exist in the posa totalitarian system, and the consequence of an elementary understanding of that specificity. If there are in essence only two ways to struggle for a free society-that is, through legal means and through (armed or unarmed) revolt-then it should be obvious at once how inappropriate the latter alternative is in the post-totalitarian system. Revolt is appropriate when conditions are clearly and openly in motion, during a war, for example, or in situations where social or political conflicts are coming to a head. It is appropriate in a classical dictatorship that is either just setting itself up or is in a state of collapse. In other words, it is appropriate where social forces of comparable strength (for example, a government of occupation versus a nation fighting for its freedom) are confronting each other on the level of actual power, or where there is a clear distinction between the usurpers of power and the subjugated population, or when society finds itself in a state of open crisis. Conditions in the post-totalitarian system-except in extremely explosive situations like the one in Hungary in 1990 – are, of course, precisely the opposite. They are static and stable, and social crises, for the most part, exist only latently (though they run much deeper). Society is not sharply polarized on the level of actual political power, but, as we have seen, the fundamental lines of conflict run right through each person. In this situation, no attempt at revolt could ever hope to set up even a minimum of resonance in the rest of society, because that society is soporific, submerged in a consumer rat race and wholly involved in the post-totalitarian system (that is, participating in it and acting as agents of its automatism), and it would simply find anything like revolt unacceptable. It would interpret the revolt as an attack upon itself and, rather than supporting the revolt, it would very probably react by intensifying its bias toward the system, since, in its view, the system can at least guarantee a certain quasi-legality. Add to this the fact that the post-totalitarian system has at its disposal a complex mechanism of direct and indirect surveillance that has no equal in history and it is clear that not only would any attempt to revolt come to a dead end politically, but it would also be almost technically impossible to carry off. Most probably it would be liquidated before it had a chance to translate its intentions into action. Even if revolt were possible, however, it would remain the solitary gesture of a few isolated individuals and they would be opposed not only by a gigantic apparatus of national (and supranational) power, but also by the very society in whose name they were mounting their revolt in the first place. (This, by the way, is another reason why the regime and its propaganda have been ascribing terroristic aims to the “dissident” movements and accusing them of illegal and conspiratorial methods.)

All of this, however, is not the main reason why the “dissident” movements support the principle of legality. That reason lies deeper, in the innermost structure of the “dissident” attitude. This attitude is and must be fundamentally hostile toward the notion of violent change-simply because it places its faith in violence. (Generally, the “dissident” attitude can only accept violence as a necessary evil in extreme situations, when direct violence can only be met by violence and where remaining passive would in effect mean supporting violence: let us recall, for example, that the blindness of European pacifism was one of the factors that prepared the ground for the Second World War.) As I have already mentioned, “dissidents” tend to be skeptical about political thought based on the faith that profound social changes can only be achieved by bringing about (regardless of the method) changes in the system or in the government, and the belief that such changes-because they are considered “fundamental” justify the sacrifice of “less fundamental” things, in other words, human lives. Respect for a theoretical concept here outweighs respect for human life. Yet this is precisely what threatens to enslave humanity all over again.

“Dissident” movements, as I have tried to indicate, share exactly the opposite view. They understand systemic change as something superficial, something secondary, something that in itself can guarantee nothing. Thus an attitude that turns away from abstract political visions of the future toward concrete human beings and ways of defending them effectively in the here and now is quite naturally accompanied by an intensified antipathy to all forms of violence carried out in the name of a better future, and by a profound belief that a future secured by violence might actually be worse than what exists now; in other words, the future would be fatally stigmatized by the very means used to secure it. At the same time, this attitude is not to be mistaken for political conservatism or political moderation.. The “dissident” movements do not shy away from the idea of violent political overthrow because the idea seems too radical, but on the contrary, because it does not seem radical enough. For them, the problem lies far too deep to be settled through mere systemic changes, either governmental or technological. Some people, faithful to the classical Marxist doctrines of the nineteenth century, understand our system as the hegemony of an exploiting class over an exploited class and, operating from the postulate that exploiters never surrender their power voluntarily, they see the only solution in a revolution to sweep away the exploitersNaturally, they regard such things as the struggle for human rights as something hopelessly legalistic, illusory, opportunistic, and ultimately misleading because it makes the doubtful assumption that you can negotiate in good faith with your exploiters on the basis of a false legality. The problem is that they are unable to find anyone determined enough to carry out this revolution, with the result that they become bitter, skeptical, passive, and ultimately apathetic-in other words, they end up precisely where the system wants them to be. This is one example of how far one can be misled by mechanically applying, in post-totalitarian circumstances, ideological models from another world and another time.

Of course, one need not be an advocate of violent revolution to ask whether an appeal to legality makes any sense at all when the laws-and particularly the general laws concerning human rights-are no more than a facade, an aspect of the world of appearances, a mere game behind which lies total manipulation. “They can ratify anything because they will still go ahead and do whatever they want anyway”-this is an opinion we often encounter. Is it not true that constantly to take them at their word, to appeal to laws every child knows are binding only as long as the government wishes, is in the end just a kind of hypocrisy, a Švejkian obstructionism and, finally, just another way of playing the game, another form of self-delusion? In other words, is the legalistic approach at all compatible with the principle of living within the truth?

This question can only be answered by first looking at the wider implications of how the legal code functions in the post-totalitarian system.

In a classical dictatorship, to a far greater extent than in the post-totalitarian system, the will of the ruler is carried out directly, in an unregulated fashion. A dictatorship has no reason to hide its foundations, nor to conceal the real workings of power, and therefore it need not encumber itself to any great extent with a legal code. The post totalitarian system, on the other hand, is utterly obsessed with the need to bind everything in a single order: life in such a state is thoroughly permeated by a dense network of regulations, proclamations, directives, norms, orders, and rules. (It is not called a bureaucratic system without good reason.) A large proportion of those norms function as direct instruments of the complex manipulation of life that is intrinsic to the post-totalitarian system. Individuals are reduced to little more than tiny cogs in an enormous mechanism and their significance is limited to their function in this mechanism. Their job, housing accommodation, movements, social and cultural expressions, everything, in short, must be cosseted together as firmly as possible, predetermined, regulated, and controlled. Every aberration from the prescribed course of life is treated as error, license, and anarchy. From the cook in the restaurant who, without hard-to-get permission from the bureaucratic apparatus, cannot cook something special for his customers, to the singer who cannot perform his new song at a concert without bureaucratic approval, everyone, in all aspects of their life, is caught in this regulatory tangle of red tape, the inevitable product of the post-totalitarian system. With ever-increasing consistency, it binds all the expressions and aims of life to the spirit of its own aims: the vested interests of its own smooth, automatic operation.

In a narrower sense the legal code serves the post totalitarian system in this direct way as well, that is, it too forms a part of the world of regulations and prohibitions. At the same time, however, it performs the same service in another indirect way, one that brings it remarkably closer-depending on which level of the law is involved-to ideology and in some cases makes it a direct component of that ideology.

1. Like ideology, the legal code functions as an excuse. It wraps the base exercise of power in the noble apparel of the letter of the law; it creates the pleasing illusion that justice is done, society protected, and the exercise of power objectively regulated. All this is done to conceal the real essence of post totalitarian legal practice: the total manipulation of society. If an outside observer who knew nothing at all about life in Czechoslovakia were to study only its laws, he would be utterly incapable of understanding what we were complaining about. The hidden political manipulation of the courts and of public prosecutors, the limitations placed on lawyers’ ability to defend their clients, the closed nature, de facto, of trials, the arbitrary actions of the security forces, their position of authority over the judiciary, the absurdly broad application of several deliberately vague sections of that code, and of course the state’s utter disregard for the positive sections of that code (the rights of citizens): all of this would remain hidden from our outside observer. The only thing he would take away would be the impression that our legal code is not much worse than the legal code of other civilized countries, and not much different either, except perhaps for certain curiosities, such as the entrenchment in the constitution of a single political party’s eternal rule and the state’s love for a neighboring superpower.

But that is not all: if our observer had the opportunity to study the formal side of the policing and judicial procedures and practices, how they look “on paper,” he would discover that for the most part the common rules of criminal procedure are observed: charges are laid within the prescribed period following arrest, and it is the same with detention orders. Indictments are properly delivered, the accused has a lawyer, and so on. In other words, everyone has an excuse: they have all observed the law. In reality, however, they have cruelly and pointlessly ruined a young person’s life, perhaps for no other reason than because he made sa~nizdat copies of a novel written by a banned writer, or because the police deliberately falsified their testimony (as everyone knows, from the judge on down to the defendant). Yet all of this somehow remains in the background. The falsified testimony is not necessarily obvious from the trial documents and the section of the Criminal Code dealing with incitement does not formally exclude the application of that charge to the copying of a banned novel. In other words, the legal code-at least in several areas-is no more than a facade, an aspect of the world of appearances. Then why is it there at all? For exactly the same reason as ideology is there: it provides a bridge of excuses between the system and individuals, making it easier for them to enter the power structure and serve the arbitrary demands of power. The excuse lets individuals fool themselves into thinking they are merely upholding the law and protecting society from criminals. (Without this excuse, how much more difficult it would be to recruit new generations of judges, prosecutors, and interrogators!) As an aspect of the world of appearances, however, the legal code deceives not only the conscience of prosecutors, it deceives the public, it deceives foreign observers, and it even deceives history itself.

s. Like ideology, the legal code is an essential instrument of ritual communication outside the power structure. It is the legal code that gives the exercise of power a form, a framework, a set of rules. It is the legal code that enables all components of the system to communicate, to put themselves in a good light, to establish their own legitimacy. It provides their whole game with its rules and engineers with their technology. Can the exercise of post-totalitarian power be imagined at all without this universal ritual making it all possible, serving as a common language to bind the relevant sectors of the power structure together? The more important the position occupied by the repressive apparatus in the power structure, the more important that it function according to some kind of formal code. How, otherwise, could people be so easily and inconspicuously locked up for copying banned books if there were no judges, prosecutors, interrogators, defense lawyers, court stenographers, and thick files, and if all this were not held together by some firm order? And above all, without that innocent-looking Section room on incitement? This could all be done, of course, without a legal code and its accessories, but only in some ephemeral dictatorship run by a Ugandan bandit, not in a system that embraces such a huge portion of civilized humankind and represents an integral, stable, and respected part of the modern world. That would not only be unthinkable, it would quite simply be technically impossible. Without the legal code functioning as a ritually cohesive force, the post-totalitarian system could not exist.

The entire role of ritual, facades, and excuses appears most eloquently, of course, not in the proscriptive section of the legal code, which sets out what a citizen may not do and what the grounds for prosecution are, but in the section declaring what he may do and what his or her rights are. Here there is truly nothing but “words, words, words.” Yet even that part of the code is of immense importance to the system, for it is here that the system establishes its legitimacy as a whole, before its own citizens, before schoolchildren, before the international public, and before history. The system cannot afford to disregard this because it cannot permit itself to cast doubt upon the fundamental postulates of its ideology, which are so essential to its very existence. (We have already seen how the power structure is enslaved by its own ideology and its ideological prestige.) To do this would be to deny everything it tries to present itself as and, thus, one of the main pillars on which the,system rests would be undermined: the integrity of the world of appearances.

If the exercise of power circulates through the whole power structure as blood flows through veins, then the legal code can be understood as something that reinforces the walls of those veins. Without it, the blood of power could not circulate in an organized way and the body of society would hemorrhage at random. Order would collapse.

A persistent and never-ending appeal to the laws-not just to the laws concerning human rights, but to all laws-does not mean at all that those who do so have succumbed to the illusion that in our system the law is anything other than what it is. They are well aware of the role it plays. But precisely because they know how desperately the system depends on it-on the “noble” version of the law, that is-they also know how enormously significant such appeals are. Because the system cannot do without the law, because it is hopelessly tied down by the necessity of pretending the laws are observed, it is compelled to react in some way to such appeals. Demanding that the laws be upheld is thus an act of living within the truth that threatens the whole mendacious structure at its point of maximum mendacity. Over and over again, such appeals make the purely ritualistic nature of the law clear to society and to those who inhabit its power structures. They draw attention to its real material substance and thus, indirectly, compel all those who take refuge behind the law to affirm and make credible this agency of excuses, this means of communication, this reinforcement of the social arteries outside of which their will could not be made to circulate through society. They are compelled to do so for the sake of their own consciences, for the impression they make on outsiders, to maintain themselves in power (as part of the system’s own mechanism of self-preservation and its principles of cohesion), or simply out of fear that they will be reproached for being clumsy in handling the ritual. They have no other choice: because they cannot discard the rules of their own game, they can only attend more carefully to those rules. Not to react to challenges means to undermine their own excuse and lose control of their mutual communications system. To assume that the laws are a mere facade, that they have no validity, and that therefore it is pointless to appeal to them would mean to go on reinforcing those aspects of the law that create the facade and the ritual. It would mean confirming the law as an aspect of the world of appearances and enabling those who exploit it to rest easy with the cheapest (and therefore the most mendacious) form of their excuse.

I have frequently witnessed policemen, prosecutors, or judges-if they were dealing with an experienced Chartist or a courageous lawyer, and if they were exposed to public attention (as individuals with a name, no longer protected by the anonymity of the apparatus)-suddenly and anxiously begin to take particular care that no cracks appear in the ritual. This does not alter the fact that a despotic power is hiding behind that ritual, but the very existence of the officials’ anxiety necessarily regulates, limits, and slows down the operation of that despotism.

This, of course, is not enough. But an essential part of the “dissident” attitude is that it comes out of the reality of the human here and now. It places more importance on often repeated and consistent concrete action-even though it may be inadequate and though it may ease only insignificantly the suffering of a single insignificant citizen-than it does in some abstract fundamental solution in an uncertain future. In any case, is not this in fact just another form of “small-scale work” in the Masarykian sense, with which the “dissident” attitude seemed at first to be in such sharp contradiction?

This section would be incomplete without stressing certain internal limitations to the policy of taking them at their own word. The point is this: even in the most ideal of cases, the law is only one of several imperfect and more or less external ways of defending what is better in life against what is worse. By itself, the law can never create anything better. Its purpose is to render a service and its meaning does not lie in the law itself. Establishing respect for the law does not automatically ensure a better life for that, after all, is a job for people and not for laws and institutions. It is possible to imagine a society with good laws that are fully respected but in which it is impossible to live. Conversely, one can imagine life being quite bearable even where the laws are imperfect and imperfectly applied. The most important thing is always the quality of that life and whether or not the laws enhance life or repress it, not merely whether they are upheld or not. (Often strict observance of the law could have a disastrous impact on human dignity.) The key to a humane, dignified, rich, and happy life does not lie either in the constitution or in the Criminal Code. These merely establish what may or may not be done and, thus, they can make life easier or more difficult. They limit or permit, they punish, tolerate, or defend, but they can never give life substance or meaning. The struggle for what is called “legality” must constantly keep this legality in perspective against the background of life as it really is. Without keeping one’s eyes open to the real dimensions of life’s beauty and misery, and without a moral relationship to life, this struggle will sooner or later come to grief on the rocks of some self justifying system of scholastics. Without really wanting to, one would thus become more and more like the observer who comes to conclusions about our system only on the basis of trial documents and is satisfied if all the appropriate regulations have been observed.


Is the basic job of the “dissident” movements is to serve truth, that is, to serve the real aims of life, and if that necessarily develops into a defense of individuals and their right to a free and truthful life (that is, a defense of human rights and a struggle to see the laws respected), then another stage of this approach, perhaps the most mature stage so far, is what Václav Benda called the development of “parallel structures.”

When those who have decided to live within the truth have been denied any direct influence on the existing social structures, not to mention the opportunity to participate in them, and when these people begin to create what I have called the independent life of society, this independent life begins, of itself, to become structured in a certain way. Sometimes there are only very embryonic indications of this process of structuring; at other times, the structures are already quite well developed. Their genesis and evolution are inseparable from the phenomenon of “dissent,” even though they reach far beyond the arbitrarily defined area of activity usually indicated by that term.

What are these structures? Ivan Jirous was the first in Czechoslovakia to formulate and apply in practice the concept of a “second culture.” Although at first he was thinking chiefly of nonconformist rock music and only certain literary, artistic, or performance events close to the sensibilities of those nonconformist musical groups, the term second culture very rapidly came to be used for the whole area of independent and repressed culture, that is, not only for art and its various currents but also for the humanities, the social sciences, and philosophical thought. This second culture, quite naturally, has created elementary organizational forms: samizdat editions of books and magazines, private performances and concerts, seminars, exhibitions, and so on. (In Poland all of this is vastly more developed: there are independent publishing houses and many more periodicals, even political periodicals; they have means of proliferation other than carbon copies, and so on. In the Soviet Union, samixdat has a longer tradition and clearly its forms are quite different.) Culture, therefore, is a sphere in which the parallel structures can be observed in their most highly developed form. Benda, of course, gives thought to potential or embryonic forms.of such structures in other spheres as well: from a parallel information network to parallel forms of education (private universities), parallel trade unions, parallel foreign contacts, to a kind of hypothesis on a parallel economy. On the basis of these parallel structures, he then develops the notion of a “parallel polis” or state or, rather, he sees the rudiments of such a polis in these structures.

At a certain stage in its development, the independent life of society and the “dissident” movements cannot avoid a certain amount of organization and institutionalization. This is a natural development, and unless this independent life of society is somehow radically suppressed and eliminated, the tendency will grow. Along with it, a parallel political life will also necessarily evolve, and to a certain extent it exists already in Czechoslovakia. Various groupings of a more or less political nature will continue to define themselves politically, to act and confront each other.

These parallel structures, it may be said, represent the most articulated expressions so far of living within the truth. One of the most important tasks the “dissident” movements have set themselves is to support and develop them. Once again, it confirms the fact that all attempts by society to resist the pressure of the system have their essential beginnings in the “pre-political” area. For what else are parallel structures than an area where a different life can be lived, a life that is in harmony with its own aims and which in turn structures itself in harmony with those aims? What else are those initial attempts at social self organization than the efforts of a certain part of society to live-as a society-within the truth, to rid itself of the self-sustaining aspects of totalitarianism and, thus, to extricate itself radically from its involvement in the post totalitarian system? What else is it but a nonviolent attempt by people to negate the system within themselves and to establish their lives on a new basis, that of their own proper identity? And does this tendency not confirm once more the principle of returning the focus to actual individuals? After all, the parallel structures do not grow a priori out of a theoretical vision of systemic changes (there are no political sects involved), but from the aims of life and the authentic needs of real people. In fact, all eventual changes in the system, . changes we may observe here in their rudimentary forms, have come about as it were de facto, from “below,” because life compelled them to, not because they came before life, somehow directing it or forcing some change on it.

An historical experience teaches us that any genuinely meaningful point of departure in an individual’s life usually has an element of universality about it. In other words, it is not something partial, accessible only to a restricted community, and not transferable to any other. On the contrary, it must be potentially accessible to everyone; it must foreshadow a general solution and, thus, it is not just the expression of an introverted, self contained responsibility that individuals have to and for themselves alone, but responsibility to and for the world. Thus it would be quite wrong to understand the parallel structures and the parallel polis as a retreat into a ghetto and as an act of isolation, addressing itself only to the welfare of those who had decided on such a course, and who are indifferent to the rest. It would be wrong, in short, to consider it an essentially group solution that has nothing to do with the general situation. Such a concept would, from the start, alienate the notion of living within the truth from its proper point of departure, which is concern for others, transforming it ultimately into just another more sophisticated ver sion of living within a lie. In doing so, of course, it would cease to be a genuine point of departure for individuals and groups and would recall the false notion of “dissidents” as an exclusive group with exclusive interests, carrying on their own exclusive dialogue with the powers that be. In any case, even the most highly developed forms of life in the parallel structures, even that most mature form of the parallel polis can only exist-at least in post-totalitarian circumstances-when the individual is at the same time lodged in the “first,” official structure by a thousand different relationships, even though it may only be the fact that one buys what one needs in their stores, uses their money, and obeys their laws. Certainly one can imagine life in its baser aspects flourishing in the parallel polis, but would not such a life, lived deliberately that way, as a program, be merely another version of the schizophrenic life within a lie which everyone else must live in one way or another? Would it not just be further evidence that a point of departure that is not a model solution, that is not applicable to others, cannot be meaningful for an individual either? Patočka used to say that the most interesting thing about responsibility is that we carry it with us everywhere. That means that responsibility is ours, that we must accept it and grasp it here, now, in this place in time and space where the Lord has set us down, and that we cannot lie our way out of it by moving somewhere else, whether it be to an Indian ashram or to a parallel pod is. If Western young people so often discover that retreat to an Indian monastery fails them as an individual or group solution, then this is obviously because, and only because, it lacks that element of universality, since not everyone can retire to an ashram. Christianity is an example of an opposite way out: it is a point of departure for me here and now-but only because anyone, anywhere, at any time, may avail themselves of it.

In other words, the parallel polis points beyond itself and makes sense only as an act of deepening one’s responsibility to and for the whole, as a way of discovering the most appropriate locus for this responsibility, not as an escape from it.


I have already talked about the political potential of living within the truth and of the limitations on predicting whether, how, and when a given expression of that life within the truth can lead to actual changes. I have also mentioned how irrelevant trying to calculate the risks in this regard are, for an essential feature of independent initiatives is that they are always, initially at least, an all-or-nothing gamble.

Nevertheless, this outline of some of the work done by “dissident” movements would be incomplete without considering, if only very generally, some of the different ways this work might actually affect society; in other words, about the ways that responsibility to and for the whole might (without necessarily meaning that it must) be realized in practice.

In the first place, it has to be emphasized that the whole sphere comprising the independent life of society, and even more so the “dissident” movement as such, is naturally far from being the only potential factor that might influence the history of countries living under the post-totalitarian system. The latent social crisis in such societies can at any time, independently of these movements, provoke a wide variety of political changes. It may unsettle the power structure and induce or accelerate various hidden confrontations, resulting in personnel, conceptual, or at least “climactic” changes. It may significantly influence the general atmosphere of life, evoke unexpected and unforeseen social unrest and explosions of discontent. Power shifts at the center of the bloc can influence conditions in the different countries in various ways. Economic factors naturally have an important influence, as do broader trends of global civilization. An extremely important area, which could be a source of radical changes and political upsets, is represented by international politics, the policies adopted by the other superpower and all the other countries, the changing structure of international interests and the positions taken by our bloc. Even the people who end up in the highest positions are not without significance, although as I have already said, one ought not overestimate the importance of leading personalities in the post-totalitarian system. There are many such influences and combinations of influence, and the eventual political impact of the “dissident” movement is thinkable only against this general background and in the context that this background provides. That impact is only one of the many factors (and far from the most important one) that affect political developments, and it differs from the other factors perhaps only in that its essential focus is reflecting upon that political development from the point of view of a defense of people and seeking an immediate application of that reflection.

The primary purpose of the outward direction of these movements is always, as we have seen, to have an impact on society, not to affect the power structure, at least not directly and immediately- Independent initiatives address the hidden sphere; they demonstrate that living within the truth is a human and social alternative and they struggle to expand the space available for that life; they help-even though it is, of course, indirect help-to raise the confidence of citizens; they shatter the world of appearances and unmask the real nature of power. They do not assume a messianic role; they are not a social avant-garde or elite that alone knows best, and whose task it is to “raise the consciousness” of the “unconscious” masses (that arrogant self-projection is, once again, intrinsic to an essentially different way of thinking, the kind that feels it has a patent on some ideal project and therefore that it has the right to impose it on society). Nor do they want to lead anyone. They leave it up to each individual to decide what he will or will not take from their experience and work. (If official Czechoslovak propaganda described the Chartists as “self appointees,” it was not in order to emphasize any real avant garde ambitions on their part, but rather a natural expression of how the regime thinks, its tendency to judge others according to itself, since behind any expression of criticism it automatically sees the desire to cast the mighty from their seats and rule in their places “in the name of the people,” the same pretext the regime itself has used for years.)

These movements, therefore, always affect the power structure as such indirectly, as a part of society as a whole, for they are primarily addressing the hidden spheres of society, since it is not a matter of confronting the regime on the level of actual power.

I have already indicated one of the ways this can work: an awareness of the laws and the responsibility for seeing that they are upheld is indirectly strengthened. That, of course, is only a specific instance of a far broader influence, the indirect pressure felt from living within the truth: the pressure created by free thought, alternative values and alternative behavior, and by independent social self-realization. The power structure, whether it wants to or not, must always react to this pressure to a certain extent. Its response, however, is always limited to two dimensions: repression and adaptation. Sometimes one dominates, sometimes the other. For example, the Polish “flying university” came under increased persecution and the “flying teachers” were detained by the police. At the same time, however, professors in existing official universities tried to enrich their own curricula with several subjects hitherto considered taboo and this was a result of indirect pressure exerted by the “flying university.” The motives for this adaptation may vary from the ideal (the hidden sphere has received the message and conscience and the will to truth are awakened) to the purely utilitarian: the regime’s instinct for survival compels it to notice the changing ideas and the changing mental and social climate and to react flexibly to them. Which of these motives happens to predominate in a given moment is not essential in terms of the final effect.

Adaptation is the positive dimension of the regime’s response, and it can, and usually does, have a wide spectrum of forms and phases. Some circles may try to integrate values of people from the “parallel world” into the official structures, to appropriate them, to become a little like them while trying to make them a little like themselves, and thus to adjust an obvious and untenable imbalance. In the 196os, progressive communists began to “discover” certain unacknowledged cultural values and phenomena. This was a positive step, al~ though not without its dangers, since the “integrated” or “appropriated” values lost something of their independence and originality, and having been given a cloak of officially and conformity, their credibility was somewhat weakened. In a further phase, this adaptation can lead to various attempts on the part of the official structures to reform, both in terms of their ultimate goals and structurally. Such reforms are usually halfway measures; they are attempts to combine and realistically coordinate serving life and serving the post totalitarian automatism. But they cannot be otherwise. They muddy what was originally a clear demarcation line between living within the truth and living with a lie. They cast a smokescreen over the situation, mystify society, and make it difficult for people to keep their bearings. This, of course, does not alter the fact that it is always essentially good when it happens because it opens out new spaces. But it does make it more difficult to distinguish between “admissible” and “inadmissible” compromises.

Another-and higher-phase of adaptation is a process of internal differentiation that takes place in the official structures. These structures open themselves to more or less institutionalized forms of plurality because the real aims of life demand it. (One example: without changing the centralized and institutional basis of cultural life, new publishing houses, group periodicals, artists’ groups, parallel research institutes and workplaces, and so on, may appear under pressure from below. Or another example: the single, monolithic youth organization run by the state as a typical post-totalitarian “transmission belt” disintegrates under the pressure of real needs into a number of more or less independent organizations such as the Union of University Students, the Union of Secondary School Students, the Organization of Working Youth, and so on.) There is a direct relationship between this kind of differentiation, which allows initiatives from below to be felt, and the appearance and constitution of new structures which are already parallel, or rather independent, but which at the same time are respected, or at least tolerated in varying degrees, by official institutions. These new institutions are more than just liberalized official structures adapted to the authentic needs of life; they are a direct expression of those needs, demanding a position in the context of what is already here. In other words, they are genuine expressions of the tendency of society to organize itself. (In Czechoslovakia in 1968 the best-known organizations of this type were KAN, the Club of Committed Non-Communists, and K231, an organization of former political prisoners.)

The ultimate phase of this process is the situation in which the official structures-as agencies of the post-totalitarian system, existing only to serve its automatism and constructed in the spirit of that role-simply begin withering away and dying off, to be replaced by new structures that have evolved from below and are put together in a fundamentally different way.

Certainly many other ways may be imagined in which.the aims of life can bring about political transformations in the general organization of things and weaken on all levels the hold that techniques of manipulation have on society. Here I have mentioned only the way in which the general. organization of things was in fact changed as we experienced it ourselves in Czechoslovakia around 1968. It must be added that all these concrete instances were part of a specific historical process which ought not be thought of as the only alternative, nor as necessarily repeatable (particularly not in our country), a fact which, of course, takes nothing away from the importance of the general lessons which are still sought and found in it to this day.

While on the subject of 1968 in Czechoslovakia, it may be appropriate to point to some of the characteristic aspects of developments at that time. All the transformations, first in the.general mood, then conceptually, and finally structurally, did not occur under pressure from the kind of parallel structures that are taking shape today. Such structures-which are sharply defined antitheses of the official structures-quite simply did not exist at the time, nor were there any “dissidents” in the present sense of the word. The changes that took place were simply a consequence of pressures of the most varied sort, some thoroughgoing, some partial. There were spontaneous attempts at freer forms of thinking, independent creation, and political articulation. There were longterm, spontaneous, and inconspicuous efforts to bring about the interpenetration of the independent life of society with the existing structures, usually beginning with the quiet institutionalization of this life on and around the periphery of the official structures. In other words, it was a gradual process of social awakening, a kind of creeping process in which the hidden spheres gradually opened out. (There is some truth in the official propaganda which talks about a “creeping counterrevolution” in Czechoslovakia, referring to how the aims of life proceed.) The motive force behind this awakening did not have to come exclusively from the independent life of society, considered as a definable social milieu (although of course it did come from there, a fact that has yet to be fully appreciated). It could also simply have come from the fact that people in the official structures who more or less identified with the official ideology came up against reality as it really was and as it gradually became clear to them through latent social crises and their own bitter experiences with the true nature and operations of power. (I am thinking here mainly of the many anti dogmatic reform communists who grew to become, over the years, a force inside the official structures.) Neither the proper conditions nor the raison d’étre existed for those limited, “self-structuring” independent initiatives familiar from the present era of “dissident” movements that stand so sharply outside the official structures and are unrecognized by them en bloc. At that time, the. posb totalitarian system in Czechoslovakia had not yet petrified into the static, sterile, and stable forms that exist today, forms that compel people to fall back on their own organizing capabilities. For many historical and social reasons, the regime in 1968 was more open. The power structure, exhausted by Stalinist despotism and helplessly groping about for painless reform, was inevitably rotting from within, quite incapable of offering any intelligent opposition to changes in the mood, to the way its younger members regarded things and to the thousands of authentic expressions of life on the “pre political” level that sprang up in that vast political terrain between the official and the unofficial.

From the more general point of view, yet another typical circumstance appears to be important: the social ferment that came to a head in 1968 never-in terms of actual structural changes-went any further than the reform, the differentiation, or the replacement of structures that were really only of secondary importance. It did not affect the very essence of the power structure in the post-totalitarian system, which is to say its political model, the fundamental principles of social organization, not even the economic model in which all economic power is subordinated to political power. Nor were any essential structural changes made in the direct instruments of power (the army, the police, the judiciary, etc.). On that level, the issue was never more than a change in the mood, the personnel, the political line and, above all changes in how that power was exercised. Everything else remained at the stage of discussion and planning. The two officially accepted programs that went furthest in this regard were the April 1968 Action Program of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and the proposal for economic reforms. The Action Program-it could not have been otherwise-was full of contradictions and halfway measures that left the physical as pects of power untouched. And the economic proposals, while they went a long way to accommodate the aims of life in the economic sphere (they accepted such notions as a plurality of interests and initiatives, dynamic incentives, restrictions upon the economic command system), left untouched the basic pillar of economic power, that is, the principle of state, rather than genuine social ownership of the means of production. So there is a gap here which no social movement in the post totalitarian system has ever been able to bridge, with the possible exception of those few days during the Hungarian uprising.

What other developmental alternative might emerge in the future? Replying to that question would mean entering the realm of pure speculation. For the time being, it can be said that the latent social crisis in the system has always (and there is no reason to believe it will not continue to do so) resulted in a variety of political and social disturbances. (Germany, Hungary, the U.S.S.R. and Poland in 1956, Czechoslovakia and Poland in 1968, and Poland in 1970 and 1976), all of them very different in their backgrounds, the course of their evolution, and their final consequences. If we look at the enormous complex of different factors that led to such disturbances, and at the impossibility of predicting what accidental accumulation of events will cause that fermentation in the hidden sphere to break through to the light of day (the problem of the “final straw”); and if we consider how impossible it is to guess what the Future holds, given such opposing trends as, on the one hand, the increasingly profound integration of the “bloc” and the expansion of power within it, and on the other hand the prospects of the U.S.S.R. disintegrating under pressure from awakening national consciousness in the non-Russian areas (in this regard the Soviet Union cannot expect to remain forever free of the worldwide struggle For national liberation), when we must see the hopelessness of trying to make long-range predictions.

In any case, I do not believe that this type of speculation has any immediate significance for the “dissident” movements since these movements, after all, do not develop from speculative thinking, and so to establish themselves on that basis would mean alienating themselves from the very source of their identity.

As far as prospects for the “dissident” movements as such go, there seems to be very little likelihood that future developments will lead to a lasting co-existence of two isolated, mutually noninteracting and mutually indifferent bodies the main polis and the parallel poLis. As long as it remains what it is, the practice of living within the truth cannot fail to be a threat to the system. It is quite impossible to imagine it continuing to co-exist with the practice of living within a lie without dramatic tension. The relationship of the post totalitarian system-as long as it remains what it is-and the independent life of society-as long as it remains the locus of a renewed responsibility for the whole and to the whole-will always be one of either latent or open conflict.

In this situation there are only two possibilities: either the post totalitarian system will go on developing (that is, will be able to go on developing), thus inevitably coming closer to some dreadful Orwellian vision of a world of absolute manipulation, while all the more articulate expressions of living within the truth are definitely snuffed out; or the independent life of society (the parallel polis), including the “dissident” movements, will slowly but. surely become a social phenomenon of growing importance, taking a real part in the life of society with increasing clarity and influencing the general situation. Of course this will always be only one of many factors influencing the situation and it will operate rather in the background, in concert with the other factors and in a way appropriate to the background.

Whether it ought to focus on reforming the official structures or on encouraging differentiation, or on replacing them with new structures, whether the intent is to ameliorate the system or, on the contrary, to tear it down: these and similar questions, insofar as they are not pseudo-problems, can be posed by the “dissident” movement only within the context of a particular situation, when the movement is faced with a concrete task. In other words, it must pose questions, as it were, ad hoc, out of a concrete consideration of the authentic needs of life. To reply to such questions abstractly and to formulate a political program in terms of some hypothetical future would mean, I believe, a return to the spirit and methods of traditional politics, and this would limit and alienate the work of “dissent” where it is most intrinsically itself and has the most genuine prospects for the future. I have already emphasized several times that these “dissident” movements do not have their point of departure in the invention of systemic changes but in a real, everyday struggle for a better life here and now. The political and structural systems that life discovers for itself will clearly always be-for some time to come, at least-limited, halfway, unsatisfying, and polluted by debilitating tactics. It cannot be otherwise, and we must expect this and not be demoralized by it. It is of great importance that the main thing-the everyday, thankless, and never ending struggle of human beings to live more freely, truthfully, and in quiet dignity-never impose any limits on itself, never be halfhearted, inconsistent, never trap itself in political tactics, speculating on the outcome of its actions or entertaining fantasies about the future. The purity of this struggle is the best guarantee of optimum results when it comes to actual interaction with the post-totalitarian structures.


The specific nature of post-totalitarian conditions-with their absence of a normal political life and the fact that any far reaching political change is utterly unforeseeable-has one positive aspect: it compels us to examine our situation in terms of its deeper coherences and to consider our future in the context of global, long-range prospects of the world of which we are a part. The fact that the most intrinsic and fundamental confrontation between human beings and the system takes place at a level incomparably more profound than that of traditional politics would seem, at the same time, to determine as well the direction such considerations will take.

Our attention, therefore, inevitably turns to the most essential matter: the crisis of contemporary technological society as a whole, the crisis that Heidegger describes as the ineptitude of humanity face to face with the planetary power of technology. Technology-that child of modern science, which in turn is a child of modern metaphysics-is out of humanity’s control, has ceased to serve us, has enslaved us and compelled us to participate in the preparation of our own destruction. And humanity can find no way out: we have no idea and no faith, and even less do we have a political conception to help us bring things back under human control. We look on helplessly as that coldly functioning machine we have created inevitably engulfs us, tearing us away from our natural affiliations (for instance, from our habitat in the widest sense of that word, including our habitat in the biosphere) just as it removes us from the experience of Being and casts us into the world of “existences.” This situation has already been described from many different angles and many individuals and social groups have sought, often painfully, to find ways out of it (for instance, through oriental thought or by forming communes). The only social, or rather political, at~ tempt to do something about it that contains the necessary element of universality (responsibility to and for the whole) is the desperate and, given the turmoil the world is in, fading voice of the ecological movement, and even there the attempt is limited to a particular notion of how to use technology to oppose the dictatorship of technology.

“Only a God can save us now,” Heidegger says, and he em~phasizes the necessity of “a different way of thinking,” that is, of a departure from what philosophy has been for centuries, and a radical change in the way in which humanity understands itself, the world, and its position in it. He knows no way out and all he can recommend is “preparing expectations.”

Various thinkers and movements feel that this as yet unknown way out might be most generally characterized as a broad “existential revolution:’ I share this view, and I also share the opinion that a solution cannot be sought in some technological sleight of hand, that is, in some external proposal for change, or in a revolution that is merely philosophical, merely social, merely technological, or even merely political. These are all areas where the consequences of an existential revolution can and must be felt; but their most intrinsic locus can only be human existence in the profoundest sense of the word. It is only from that basis that it can become a generally ethical-and, of course, ultimately a political-reconstitution of society.

What we call the consumer and industrial (or postindustrial) society, and Ortega y Gasset once understood as “the revolt of the masses,” as well as the intellectual, moral, political, and social misery in the world today: all of this is perhaps merely an aspect of the deep crisis in which humanity, dragged helplessly along by the automatism of global technological civilization, finds itself.

The post-totalitarian system is only one aspect-a particularly drastic aspect and thus all the more revealing of its real origins-of this general inability of modern humanity to be the master of its own situation. The automatism of the post totalitarian system is merely an extreme version of the global automatism of technological civilization. The human failure that it mirrors is only one variant of the general failure of modern humanity.

This planetary challenge to the position of human beings in the world is, of course, also taking place in the Western world, the only difference being the social and political forms it takes- Heidegger refers expressly to a crisis of democracy. There is no real evidence that Western democracy, that is, democracy of the traditional parliamentary type, can offer solutions that are any more profound. It may even be said that the more room there is in the Western democracies (compared to our world) for the genuine aims of life, the better the crisis is hidden from people and the more deeply do they become immersed in it.

It would appear that the traditional parliamentary democracies can offer no fundamental opposition to the automatism of technological civilization and the industrial consumer society, for they, too, are being dragged helplessly along by it. People are manipulated in ways that are infinitely more subtle and refined than the brutal methods used in the post totalitarian societies. But this static complex of rigid, conceptually sloppy, and politically pragmatic mass political parties run by professional apparatuses and releasing the citizen from all forms of concrete and personal responsibility; and those complex focuses of capital accumulation engaged in secret manipulations and expansion; the omnipresent dictatorship of consumption, production, advertising, commerce, consumer culture, and all that flood of information: all of it, so often analyzed and described, can only with great difficulty be imagined as the source of humanity’s rediscovery of itself In his June 1978 Harvard lecture, Solzhenitsyn describes the illusory nature of freedoms not based on personal responsibility and the chronic inability of the traditional democracies, as a result, to oppose violence and totalitarianism. In a democracy, human beings may enjoy many .personal freedoms and securities that are unknown to us, but in the end they do them no good, for they too are ultimately victims of the same automatism, and are incapable of defending their concerns about their own identity or preventing their superficialization or transcending concerns about their own personal survival to become proud and responsible members of the polis, making a genuine contribution to the creation of its destiny.

Because all our prospects for a significant change for the better are very long range indeed, we are obliged to take note of this deep crisis of traditional democracy. Certainly, if conditions were to be created for democracy in some countries in the Soviet bloc (although this is becoming increasingly improbable), it might be an appropriate transitional solution that would help to restore the devastated series of civic awareness, to renew democratic discussion, to allow for the crystallization of an elementary political plurality, an essential expression of the aims of life. But to cling to the notion of traditional parliamentary democracy as one’s political ideal and to succumb to the illusion that only this tried and true form is capable of guaranteeing human beings enduring dignity and an independent role in society would, in my opinion, be at the very least shortsighted.

I see a renewed focus of politics on real people as something far more profound than merely returning to the everyday mechanisms of Western (or, if you like, bourgeois) democracy. In 1968, I felt that our problem could be solved by forming an opposition party that would compete publicly for power with the Communist Party. I have long since come to realize, however, that it is just not that simple and that no opposition party in and of itself,just as no new electoral laws in and of themselves, could make society proof against some new form of violence. No “dry” organizational measures in themselves can provide that guarantee, and we would be hard pressed to find in them that God who alone can save us.


And now I may properly be asked the question: What then is to be done?

My skepticism toward alternative political models and the ability of systemic reforms or changes to redeem us does not, of course, mean that I am skeptical of political thought altogether. Nor does my emphasis on the importance of focusing concern on real human beings disqualify me from considering the possible structural consequences flowing from it. On the contrary, if A was said, then B should be said as well. Nevertheless, I will offer only a few very general remarks.

Above all, any existential revolution should provide hope of a moral reconstitution of society, which means a radical renewal of the relationship of human beings to what I have called the “human order,” which no political order can replace. A new experience of being, a renewed rootedness iu the universe, a newly grasped sense of higher responsibility, a newfound inner relationship to other people and to the human community-these factors clearly indicate the direction in which we must go.

And the political consequences? Most probably they could be reflected in the constitution of structures that will derive from this new spirit, from human factors rather than from a particular formalization of political relationships and guarantees. In other words, the issue is the rehabilitation of values like trust, openness, responsibility, solidarity, love. I believe in structures that are not aimed at the technical aspect of the execution of power, but at the significance of that execution in structures held together more by a commonly shared feeling of the importance of certain communities than by commonly shared expansionist ambitions directed outward. There can and must be structures that are open, dynamic, and small; beyond a certain point, human ties like personal trust and personal responsibility cannot work. There must be structures that in principle place no limits on the genesis of different structures. Any accumulation of power whatsoever (one of the characteristics of automatism) should be profoundly alien to it. They would be structures not in the sense of organizations or institutions, but like a community. Their authority certainly cannot be based on long-empty traditions, like the tradition of mass political parties, but rather on how, in concrete terms, they enter into a given situation. Rather than a strategic agglomeration of formalized organizations, it is better to have organizations springing up ad hoc, infused with enthusiasm for a particular purpose and disappearing when that purpose has been achieved. The leaders’ authority ought to derive from their personalities and be personally tested in their particular surroundings, and not from their position in any nomenklatura. They should enjoy great personal confidence and even great lawmaking powers based on that confidence. This would appear to be the only way out of the classic impotence of traditional democratic organizations, which frequently seem founded more on mistrust than mutual confidence, and more on collective irresponsibility than on responsibility. It is only with the full existential backing of every member of the community that a permanent bulwark against creeping totalitarianism can be established. These structures should naturally arise from below as a consequence of authentic social self-organization; they should derive vital energy from a living dialogue with the genuine needs from which they arise, and when these needs are gone, the structures should also disappear. The principles of their internal organization should be very diverse, with a minimum of external regulation. The decisive criterion of this self constitution should be the structure’s actual significance, and not just a mere abstract norm.

Both political and economic life ought to be founded on the varied and versatile cooperation of such dynamically appearing and disappearing organizations. As far as the economic life of society goes, I believe in the principle of self management, which is probably the only way of achieving what all the theorists of socialism have dreamed about, that is, the genuine (i.e., informal) participation of workers in economic decision making, leading to a feeling of genuine responsibility for their collective work. The principles of control and discipline ought to be abandoned in favor of self-control and self-discipline.

As is perhaps clear from even so general an outline, the systemic consequences of an existential revolution of this type go significantly beyond the framework of classical parliamentary democracy. Having introduced the term “post totalitarian” for the purposes of this discussion, perhaps I should refer to the notion I have just outlined-purely for the moment-as the prospects for a “post-democratic” system.

Undoubtedly this notion could be developed further, but I think it would be a foolish undertaking, to say the least, because slowly but surely the whole idea would become alienated, separated from itself. After all, the essence of such a “post-democracy” is also that it can only develop via facts, as a process deriving directly from life, from a new atmosphere and a new spirit (political thought, of course, would play a role here, though not as a director, merely as a guide). It would be presumptuous, however, to try to foresee the structural expressions of this new spirit without that spirit actually being present and without knowing its concrete physiognomy.


I would probably have omitted the entire preceding section as a more suitable subject for private meditation were it not for a certain recurring sensation. It may seem rather presumptuous, and therefore I will present it as a question: Does not this vision of “post-democratic” structures in some ways remind one of the “dissident” groups or some of the independent citizens’ initiatives as we already know them from our own surroundings? Do not these small communities, bound together by thousands of shared tribulations, give rise to some of those special humanly meaningful political relationships and ties that we have been talking about? Are not these communities (and they are communities more than organizations)-motivated mainly by a common belief in the profound significance of what they are doing since they have no chance of direct, external success joined together by precisely the kind of atmosphere in which the formalized and ritualized ties common in the official structures are supplanted by a living sense of solidarity and fraternity? Do not these “post-democratic” relationships of immediate personal trust and the informal rights of individuals based on them come out of the background of all those commonly shared difficulties? Do not these groups emerge, live, and disappear under pressure from concrete and authentic needs, unburdened by the ballast of hollow traditions? Is not their attempt to create an articulate form of living within the truth and to renew the feeling of higher responsibility in an apathetic society really a sign of some kind of rudimentary moral reconstitution?

In other words, are not these informed, non bureaucratic, dynamic, and open communities that comprise the “parallel polis” a kind of rudimentary prefiguration, a symbolic model of those more meaningful “post-democratic” political structures that might become the foundation of a better society?

I know from thousands of personal experiences how the mere circumstance of having signed Charter 77 has immediately created a deeper and more open relationship and evoked sudden and powerful feelings of genuine community among people who were all but strangers before. This kind of thing happens only rarely, if at all, even among people who have worked together for long periods in some apathetic official structure. It is as though the mere awareness and acceptance of a common task and a shared experience were enough to transform people and the climate of their lives, as though it gave their public work a more human dimension than is. seldom found elsewhere.

Perhaps all this is only the consequence of a common threat. Perhaps the moment the threat ends or eases, the mood it helped create will begin to dissipate as well. (The aim of those who threaten us, however, is precisely the opposite. Again and again, one is shocked by the energy they devote to contaminating, in various despicable ways, all the human relationships inside the threatened community.)

Yet even if that were so, it would change nothing in the question I have posed.

We do not know the way out of the marasmus of the world, and it would be an expression of unforgivable pride were we to see the little we do as a fundamental solution, or were we to present ourselves, our community, and our solutions to vital problems as the only thing worth doing.

Even so, I think that given all these preceding thoughts on post-totalitarian conditions, and given the circumstances and the inner constitution of the developing efforts to defend human beings and their identity in such conditions, the questions I have posed are appropriate. If nothing else, they are an invitation to reflect concretely on our own experience and to give some thought to whether certain elements of that experience do not-without our really being aware of it-point somewhere further, beyond their apparent limits, and whether right here, in our everyday lives, certain challenges are not already encoded, quietly waiting for the moment when they will be read and grasped.

For the real question is whether the brighter future is really always so distant. What if, on the contrary, it has been here for a long time already, and only our own blindness and weakness has prevented us from seeing it around us and within us, and kept us from developing it?

Dec 182011



VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MFt14ZZ-qw



By The Associated Press

PRAGUE — Vaclav Havel, the dissident playwright who wove theater into politics to peacefully bring down communism in Czechoslovakia and become a hero of the epic struggle that ended the Cold War, has died. He was 75.

Mr. Havel died Sunday morning at his weekend house in the northern Czech Republic, his assistant Sabina Tancecova said said.

Mr. Havel was his country’s first democratically elected president after the nonviolent “Velvet Revolution” that ended four decades of repression by a regime he ridiculed as “Absurdistan.”

As president, he oversaw the country’s bumpy transition to democracy and a free-market economy, as well its peaceful 1993 breakup into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Even out of office, he remained a world figure. He was part of the “new Europe” — in the coinage of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld — of ex-communist countries that stood up for the United States when the democracies of “old Europe” opposed the 2003 Iraq invasion.

A former chain-smoker, Mr. Havel had a history of chronic respiratory problems dating to his years in communist jails. He was hospitalized in Prague on Jan. 12, 2009, with an unspecified inflammation, and had developed breathing difficulties after undergoing minor throat surgery.

Mr. Havel left office in 2003, 10 years after Czechoslovakia broke up and a few months before both nations joined the European Union. He was credited with laying the groundwork that brought his Czech Republic into the 27-nation bloc, and was president when it joined NATO in 1999.

Shy and bookish, with wispy mustache and unkempt hair, Mr. Havel came to symbolize the power of the people to peacefully overcome totalitarian rule.

“Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred,” He famously said. It became his revolutionary motto which he said he strove to live by.

Mr. Havel was nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize, and collected dozens of accolades worldwide for his efforts as a global ambassador of conscience, defended the downtrodden from Darfur to Myanmar.

Among his many honors were Sweden’s prestigious Olof Palme Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest United States civilian award, bestowed on him by President George W. Bush for being “one of liberty’s great heroes.”

An avowed peacenik whose heroes included rockers like Frank Zappa, he never quite shed his flower-child past and often signed his name with a small heart as a flourish.[…]

READ @ http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/19/world/europe/vaclav-havel-dissident-playwright-who-led-czechoslovakia-dead-at-75.html?_r=2&hp=&pagewanted=all



By Philippe Legrain, Project Syndicate

BRUSSELS – Panic is beginning to overwhelm the eurozone. Italy and Spain are caught in the maelstrom. Belgium is slipping into the danger zone. As France is dragged down, the widening gap between its bond yields and Germany’s is severely testing the political partnership that has driven six decades of European integration.

Even strong swimmers such as Finland and the Netherlands are straining against the undertow. Banks are struggling to stay afloat – their capital providing little buoyancy as funds drain away – while businesses that rely on credit are in trouble, too. All signs point to a eurozone recession.

Left unchecked, this panic about sovereign solvency will prove self-fulfilling: just as a healthy bank can fail if it suffers a run, even the most creditworthy government is at risk if the market refuses to refinance its debt. One can scarcely bear imagining the consequences: cascading bank and sovereign defaults, a devastating depression, the collapse of the euro (and perhaps even that of the European Union), global contagion, and potentially tragic political turmoil. So why aren’t policymakers doing whatever it takes to avoid catastrophe?

Ever since Italian bond yields first spiked in early August, I have believed that only an open-ended commitment by the European Central Bank to keep solvent governments’ bond yields at sustainable rates could calm the panic and create the breathing space needed to implement confidence-boosting reforms. Everything that has happened since then has only confirmed this view.

Now that the crisis has reached the “core” of the eurozone, the resources needed to backstop weaker sovereigns exceed the limited fiscal capacity of stronger ones. Financial wizardry cannot disguise that, while throwing a bigger lifeline risks dragging everyone down. Piling everyone on to the same life raft – through Eurobonds backed by joint and several guarantees – is not legally feasible for now, and would be politically toxic if attempted prematurely. Nor can a systemic crisis be resolved by individual governments’ actions – not least because the panic is outpacing politicians’ ability to respond. Only the ECB has the unlimited wherewithal to save Europe from the abyss now.

The ECB has a strong rationale to act: to ensure the smooth transmission of monetary policy, to prevent a depression that would lead to deflation, and to avoid the breakup of the euro. Yet it has so far refused to do so, hiding behind a legal fig leaf.

Granted, Article 123 of the Lisbon Treaty prohibits the ECB from purchasing bonds directly from public bodies, but intervening in the secondary market is permitted. The ECB has long been doing so through its Securities Market Program. Where in the treaty does it say that extending the SMP is prohibited? Indeed, a credible open-ended commitment to contain interest-rate spreads would actually require fewer purchases than the ECB’s current limited and temporary program does. […]

READ @ http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/legrain2/English



By Athens News Web

Each week our editors choose their favourite news photos to share with our readers.
This week’s photos: Sunday October 16th to Saturday October 22nd.
An Indignant stands at Syntagma Square wearing a mask of Guy Fawkes, the Englishman famous for the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, a failed attempt to blow up the House of Lords and assassinate King James I, Sunday 16 October 2011.
Monday 17 October marks the third week of sanitation workers strike as mounds of garbage continue to pile up.
Personnel of Police, Fire Service and Coast Guard hold a vigil outside the Parliament protesting against wage cuts, 17 October 2011.
A passer-by quickly moves away from riot police confronting protesters, Syntagma Square 19 October 2011.
The khaki uniform of a riot police officer turns pink after an engagement with protesters, 19 October 2011.
Tourists watch the ongoing protests from the safety of their hotel’s balcony, 19 October 2011.
Clashes erupt in Syntagma Square as demonstrators of the KKE affiliated labour organisation PAME prevent a group of black-clad hoodies to reach the Parliament, 20 October 2011
A fire extinguisher is set off, part of battle between communist unionists who attempt to hold the ground in front of the Parliament and black clad youths charging against them, 20 October 2011.
A couple kisses amid riot police, clashes and tear gas, 20 October 2011.
READ and PHOTOS @ http://www.athensnews.gr/photo/49433



By Robert Fisk, The Independent

[…] And that is the true parallel in the West. The protest movements are indeed against Big Business – a perfectly justified cause – and against “governments”. What they have really divined, however, albeit a bit late in the day, is that they have for decades bought into a fraudulent democracy: they dutifully vote for political parties – which then hand their democratic mandate and people’s power to the banks and the derivative traders and the rating agencies, all three backed up by the slovenly and dishonest coterie of “experts” from America’s top universities and “think tanks”, who maintain the fiction that this is a crisis of globalisation rather than a massive financial con trick foisted on the voters.

The banks and the rating agencies have become the dictators of the West. Like the Mubaraks and Ben Alis, the banks believed – and still believe – they are owners of their countries. The elections which give them power have – through the gutlessness and collusion of governments – become as false as the polls to which the Arabs were forced to troop decade after decade to anoint their own national property owners. Goldman Sachs and the Royal Bank of Scotland became the Mubaraks and Ben Alis of the US and the UK, each gobbling up the people’s wealth in bogus rewards and bonuses for their vicious bosses on a scale infinitely more rapacious than their greedy Arab dictator-brothers could imagine.

I didn’t need Charles Ferguson’s Inside Job on BBC2 this week – though it helped – to teach me that the ratings agencies and the US banks are interchangeable, that their personnel move seamlessly between agency, bank and US government. The ratings lads (almost always lads, of course) who AAA-rated sub-prime loans and derivatives in America are now – via their poisonous influence on the markets – clawing down the people of Europe by threatening to lower or withdraw the very same ratings from European nations which they lavished upon criminals before the financial crash in the US. I believe that understatement tends to win arguments. But, forgive me, who are these creatures whose ratings agencies now put more fear into the French than Rommel did in 1940?

Why don’t my journalist mates in Wall Street tell me? How come the BBC and CNN and – oh, dear, even al-Jazeera – treat these criminal communities as unquestionable institutions of power? Why no investigations – Inside Job started along the path – into these scandalous double-dealers? It reminds me so much of the equally craven way that so many American reporters cover the Middle East, eerily avoiding any direct criticism of Israel, abetted by an army of pro-Likud lobbyists to explain to viewers why American “peacemaking” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be trusted, why the good guys are “moderates”, the bad guys “terrorists”.

The Arabs have at least begun to shrug off this nonsense. But when the Wall Street protesters do the same, they become “anarchists”, the social “terrorists” of American streets who dare to demand that the Bernankes and Geithners should face the same kind of trial as Hosni Mubarak. We in the West – our governments – have created our dictators. But, unlike the Arabs, we can’t touch them.

The Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, solemnly informed his people this week that they were not responsible for the crisis in which they found themselves. They already knew that, of course. What he did not tell them was who was to blame. Isn’t it time he and his fellow EU prime ministers did tell us? And our reporters, too?

READ @ http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-bankers-are-the-dictators-of-the-west-6275084.html



By Willie Nelson, OpEdNews

Thanks to the Occupy Wall Street movement, there’s a deeper understanding about the power that corporations wield over the great majority of us. It’s not just in the financial sector, but in all facets of our lives. The disparity between the top 1 percent and everyone else has been laid bare – there’s no more denying that those at the top get their share at the expense of the 99 percent. Lobbyists, loopholes, tax breaks… how can ordinary folks expect a fair shake?

No one knows this better than family farmers, whose struggle to make a living on the land has gotten far more difficult since corporations came to dominate our farm and food system. We saw signs of it when Farm Aid started in 1985, but corporate control of our food system has since exploded.

From seed to plate, our food system is now even more concentrated than our banking system. Most economic sectors have concentration ratios hovering around 40 percent, meaning that the top four firms in the industry control 40 percent of the market. Anything beyond this level is considered “highly concentrated,” where experts believe competition is severely threatened and market abuses are likely to occur.

Many key agricultural markets like soybeans and beef exceed the 40 percent threshold, meaning the seeds and inputs that farmers need to grow our crops come from just a handful of companies. Ninety-three percent of soybeans and 80 percent of corn grown in the United States are under the control of just one company. Four companies control up to 90 percent of the global trade in grain. Today, three companies process more than 70 percent of beef in the U.S.; four companies dominate close to 60 percent of the pork and chicken markets. […]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/linkframe.php?linkid=142944



By Alex Pareene, Salon

You can think of these guys as retired from the Hack List (like a Hall of Fame) or as simply to dull to rip into at length for a second time, but these 2010 Hack List veterans did not actually improve their game in 2011.

Pat Caddell (Last year: Number 27.)

The fake Democratic pollster is repeating himself, and somehow it just gets dumber every time.

Jonah Goldberg (Last year: Number 7.)

In March Jonah Goldberg literally wrote “meh” instead of rebutting an argument, in his nationally syndicated political column.

Thomas Friedman (Last year: Number 3.)

Thomas Friedman continued to, domestically, demand a centrist third party that acted exactly like our current centrist Democratic party. But his best work, as always, concerned foreign lands. What other columnist would have the balls to go to the scene of a popular revolution and “quote” a native pleading with the wise American columnist to explain what he thinks is going on in her country?

Marty Peretz (Last year: Number 5.)

Poor Marty lost his New Republic blog and “editor” title, but the magazine still lets him go on at length about middle eastern affairs, despite his lengthy and well-documented history of being an unrepentant anti-Arab racist.

George Will (Last year: Number 11.)

Will got an early start on his traditional election year conflict of interest, trashing Romney and Gingrich on television and in print before being forced to disclose that his wife is a paid Rick Perry advisor. Also, he’s still lying all the time about climate change.

Marc Thiessen (Last year: Number 6.)

The lying torture-defender still has a Post column, and even got to ask questions at a presidential debate! It’s not as morally repulsive as his other work, but the single silliest thing he wrote this year was this bit claiming that “Occupy Wall Street” was to blame for the inevitable failure of the supercommittee.

Bill Kristol (Last year: Number 17.)

Kristol’s Weekly Standard belatedly and bizarrely hopped on the Gingrich bandwagon as the year drew to a close. And why not? Kristol wouldn’t be Kristol if he didn’t endorse and prop up toxic, unelectable Republicans.

Mickey Kaus Number 25.)

The inventor of annoying political blogging moved his blog to the Daily Caller, where I assume he is still complaining about immigrants. His hackiest moment: I’ll say, picking more or less at random, this post, expressing dismay that Arizona nutcase politician Russell Pearce was recalled, because it sent the message that Arizona voters may be going soft on fanatical hatred of immigrants.

Tucker Carlson (Last year: Number 22.)

Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller news site is as inessential as ever. His hackiest moment of the year: Hiring a professional Berman and Company liar to edit the Caller, then printing a rather blatantly untrue story about the EPA.

Tina Brown (Last year: Number 18.)

Tina may be working incredibly hard at salvaging a dying newsweekly, with a clueless boss holding the purse strings, but on the other hand, that Princess Di fanfic cover was unacceptable. (Her actual hackiest moment, though, might be doing a phone interview and a conference call from the Acela’s quiet car.)



1. Mark Halperin

Congratulations to the world’s laziest dispenser of conventional wisdom

2. Jennifer Rubin

The Washington Post blogger is hateful and repetitive

3. Bernard-Henri Levy

The philosopher is a living parody of a blowhard foreign intellectual

4. Erin Burnett

The Wall Street and CNBC veteran’s shtick doesn’t work well on news channels for us little people

5. Katie Poiphe

The date rape-denier discovered the Internet this year, with embarrassing results


READ @ http://www.salon.com/topic/salon_hack_list_2011/