Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 9, 2012

Do the Greeks get it?

Filed under: black bloc idiots,Greece — louisproyect @ 6:09 pm

One of the main rebuttals to Chris Hedges’s attack on the black bloc centers on his support of the riots in Greece against the austerity drive. For example, “Nihilo Zero” (love those made-up anarchist names!) wrote an article for Anarchist News that stated:

Such a stance also often belies a hypocritical stance in regard to revolutionary self-defense and aggression when it occurs in their own backyards. For example… Chris Hedges in an earlier article about Greece wrote:

Here’s to the Greeks. They know what to do when corporations pillage and loot their country. They know what to do when Goldman Sachs and international bankers collude with their power elite to falsify economic data and then make billions betting that the Greek economy will collapse. They know what to do when they are told their pensions, benefits and jobs have to be cut to pay corporate banks, which screwed them in the first place. Call a general strike. Riot. Shut down the city centers. Toss the bastards out. Do not be afraid of the language of class warfare—the rich versus the poor, the oligarchs versus the citizens, the capitalists versus the proletariat. The Greeks, unlike most of us, get it.

So somehow the reader is invited to make a comparison between hundreds of thousands of Greeks, if not millions, pouring into the streets to fight the cops and destroy property with a couple of dozen people in Oakland spray-painting a Whole Foods window? At the risk of sounding like an instructor in Dialectical Materialism 101 at the University of Leningrad in 1954, I have to raise the question of quantity/quality. The quantitative difference between millions and a couple of dozen becomes qualitative. For example, there are neo-Nazi groups in the U.S. who occasionally hold a White Power rally somewhere. But for Pete’s sake, this is not Germany 1928 (even though some very otherwise reasonable people like Noam Chomsky make this mistake.)

There will very likely come a time in the future in which the attack on the working class in the U.S. will be as draconian as that taking place in Greece. And, as a result, there will be massive violent confrontations with the police. However, one thing is for sure. If we want to achieve victory, it will take a lot more than street fighting as a review of the situation in Greece would indicate. Despite over two years of massive confrontations, at times taking on the character of a civil war, the Greek government continues to make the workers pay for bankster chicanery and exploitation. Today’s N.Y Times reports:

After days of dramatic talks, Greek political leaders reached a deal on Thursday to support a package of harsh austerity measures demanded by Greece’s financial backers in return for the country’s latest bailout.

The deal is expected to unlock the 130 billion euros, or $172 billion, in new loans and save Greece from potentially disastrous default.

Talks between Prime Minister Lucas D. Papademos and the three leaders backing his coalition had stalled overnight over proposed cuts to pensions, but on Thursday leaders said they had found a way of plugging the 300 million euro shortfall by cutting defense spending and other expenditures.

“We have a deal,” a government official said Thursday afternoon. A statement by the prime minister was expected shortly.

At a news conference in Frankfurt, the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, said Mr. Papademos had called him with word that “an agreement has been reached and has been endorsed by the major parties” in Greece.

After more than seven hours, talks had stalled early Thursday between Mr. Papademos and the three political leaders in his government, who agreed on a range of steep wage cuts and public sector layoffs. But the politically unpopular pension cuts had proven most thorny.

Once again turning to the question of quantity and quality, it is significant that this pending victory of a united bourgeoisie takes place against a backdrop of one general strike after another. Unlike the Oakland general strike, whose impact should not be minimized, those that take place in Greece are like something out of the 1930s—including being led by a Communist Party. Alas, that partially explains why the bosses have been successful.

You have to keep in mind that this is a Communist Party that is far to the left of many others, as this polemic with the CPUSA would bear out.  While on record as favoring socialism, the KKE (Greek initials for the CP) has functioned far too long as an electoral party to switch gears and mount a challenge for power. It is hard to break with bad habits, particularly parliamentary cretinism. For example, at a rally in November, the party leader set his horizons low:

Down with the government and the parties which serve the plutocracy, as well as those parties which intentionally foster illusions amongst the people that another government with participation of these parties will solve the problem.

We do not conceal from anyone the fact that the class struggle must be directed towards one single goal, the acquisition of working class power, a power which serves the working class and the other popular strata.

They are lying that the timeline imposes the voting of the loan agreement before the election. We demand a caretaker government and elections in 20 days so that the people will be able to express their will with their vote. The controlled bankruptcy has already been agreed while there exists a serious possibility of an uncontrolled bankruptcy, it has not been cancelled out by the packages agreed with the EU, nor by centre-left or centre-right cooperation.

Somehow “down with the government” does not quite jibe with a demand for a “caretaker government”. Understandably, the counterpart of the American black bloc in Greece will have none of this. And once again, quantity becomes quality. In Greece the people who carry out black bloc tactics number in the tens of thousands not the hundreds. Moreover, they are much more violent than the American counterparts and willing to take on those on the left who stand in their way. One trade unionist in Oakland tackled a black-clad militant in front of a Whole Foods store, but that is like a drop of water in the ocean compared to Greece where the black bloc has declared war on the KKE and PAME, the trade union it leads.

On October 19, 2011 the KKE/PAME organized a rally in front of the parliament building that was attacked by black bloc activists. Two days later the KKE issued a statement:

On this occasion organized groups with specific orders and anarcho-fascists unleashed an attack with Molotov cocktails, teargas, stun grenades and stones, in attempt to disperse the majestic rally of workers and people in Syntagma Square and especially in the area where PAME was concentrated. A result of this attack is the death of the trade unionist of PAME, Dimitris Kotzaridis, 53 years old, secretary of the Viron branch of the Construction Workers’ Union. Dozens more PAME demonstrators were injured.

The hatred of the hooded ones against the labour and popular movement and PAME expresses the fury of the forces which serve the system and bourgeois power. The government has massive responsibilities for this. The operation to intimidate, slander and suppress the labour and people’s movement is rooted in state structures, centres and services. History demonstrates this, today’s barbaric and murderous assault also proves this. The hooded ones, anarcho-autonomists, fascists or whatever they call themselves tried to achieve what the forces of repression, the blackmail and threats failed to do: to intimidate the people so that they submit. It objectively arises that the very same centres executed the provocateur murderous burning down of Marfin the day the Memorandum was voted on, 5 May 2010.

Anarchists have a totally different take on what happened that day. A website called Anarchist Theft wrote:

We all experienced the nightmare that the Greek stalinists in co-operation with other leftist trade unionists and the cops created during the 48-hour strike in Greece on October 19 and 20 and some comrades in the anti-authoritarian milieu are badly wounded. We refer to the policing role of the KKE members: they were stationed in military formation in the area around the parliament, armed with helmets and sticks, facing the demonstrators with the riot squads behind them, preventing anyone from approaching, even asking for reporters’ identities and attacking fiercely later those in the crowd who defied their cordons.

As the clashes started, the riot squads came for their protection attacking people with chemicals and flash-bang grenades evacuating the area. It was revealed later that the stalinists had made an agreement with the police so as to be allowed to police the demo themselves. According to our information, similar agreements were made between the KKE and other left parties’ or groupuscules’ unionists so that each was alloted a special place near the parliament accepting KKE’s hegemony. They later supported fully KKE in its denunciation of the ‘anarcho-fascists’, ‘parastatals’ etc, namely all those who were not part of the deal, not willing to accept it and tried to break their cordons.

Here’s a Youtube clip of what was happening that day, although it is difficult to make much sense out of it as to who is to blame:

You can get some inkling, however, of the dynamics from a report that showed up on the leftcom.org website:

Then blocks of anti-authoritarians arrived, as well as the Anarchists’ Assembly for Social Self-determination. Clashes erupted as protesters tried to reach the Parliament. An anarchist block attacked Stalinist lines. [emphasis added]

The Kasama Project, a group that is openly sympathetic to the Occupy movement and even far more open to black block tactics than me, is hostile to the KKE, describing it as “physically protecting the parliament building” and  “openly defending the state within a growing crisis that seems pregnant with the possibility of revolution” in October. It also conveyed the analysis of a group called the Communist Organization of Greece that shares its hostility to the KKE:

PAME (the KKE organization within the trade union movement) came under to a murderous attack by groups that have nothing to do with any militant ideology and perception. We saw stones, slingshot ammo and Molotov cocktails hurled into the bodies and heads of strikers and protesters.

These actions are characteristic of para-military rightists and fascists. The KKE leadership has been guilty of politically unacceptable stands — defending the parliament building, keeping radical protesters away from union forces and excluding them from political spaces — but such actions do not justify fascist-inspired assassination attempts. The day before this, teachers were also sent to the hospital with their heads split open from this kind of violent attack…

Mass political confrontation is an approach tied to a particular class outlook. Murderous attack and apolitical hooliganism is a quite different class outlook. These groups and their actions receive the support of the government counterinsurgency because they help the government’s counterinsurgency.

It is difficult to figure out whether the perpetrators of this attack were ultrarightists or ultraleftists, since they were all masked, but that points out to a serious problem with political activity of this sort. Relying almost exclusively on nihilistic violence by masked militants, it can be used for malignant ends despite the best intentions of some of the young people who carry it out.

Unfortunately, the anarchist movement in Greece (I use this term advisedly since there is so much of an affinity for black bloc adventurism in its ranks) has had big problems reflecting on its role in the class struggle.

In May 2010 I wrote an article titled “Is firebombing a bank an acceptable tactic?” that considered the consequences of an anarchist fire-bombing of a bank that left three bank workers dead (supposedly the building was empty at the time.) Infoshop.org, one of the primary dispensers of black bloc nonsense in the U.S., published a communiqué just before the tragedy:

We stand opposed to all authoritarian mechanisms and to all snitches that assist their task and we directly take the counter-offensive for now and forever. On the night of 25th of April in Thessaloníki we attacked with fire a news agency delivery truck of “Evropi (Europe)” company in the area of Evosmos and a branch of OTE (National Telecommunications Organization) in Stavroupoli. We continued the next night again with an arson attack on a Eurobank branch in Kalamaria. [emphasis added]

Not long afterwards calmer heads in the anarchist movement did some soul-searching on this kind of nihilistic violence and issued this statement:

What the greek anarchist movement is experiencing at the moment is some total numbness. Because there are pressurising conditions for some tough self-criticism that is going to hurt. Beyond the horror of the fact that people have died who were on “our side”, the side of the workers – workers under extremely difficult conditions who would have quite possibly chosen to march by our side if things were different in their workplace – beyond this, we are hereby also confronted with demonstrator/s who put the lives of people in danger. Even if (and this goes without question) there was no intention to kill, this is a matter of essence that can hold much discussion – some discussion regarding the aims that we set and the means that we chose.

The incident did not happen at night, at some sabotage action. It happened during the largest demonstration in contemporary greek history. And here is where a series of painful questions emerge: Overall, in a demonstration of 150-200,000, unprecedented in the last few years, is there really a need for some “upgraded” violence? When you see thousands shouting “burn, burn Parliament” and swear at the cops, does another burnt bank really have anything more to offer to the movement?

This is the kind of anarchism I embrace, a movement that is capable of self-criticism and growth. One can only hope that it will prevail in Greece and have some influence on its American co-thinkers who in the name of “diversity of tactics” allow vandalistas to run wild and split the movement.

On a concluding note, a word has to be said about the somewhat depressing character of the clash between reformism and ultraleftism in Greece, personified by the KKE and the widespread anarchist movement. Anarchism prides itself on its detachment from state power and from politics, particularly electoral politics. Radical youth might have a natural prejudice against the KKE and PAME because it is so compromised with class-collaborationist coalition building. But instead of trying to figure out a way to win the ranks of the CP to the revolutionary cause, it sees its membership as part of the problem and not part of the solution.

In a very real sense, in countries undergoing a social political crisis of the sort that Greece is experiencing today or Argentina experienced a decade ago, you have massive workers parties that are obstacles to socialist revolution and ultraleft youth who reject building revolutionary parties as a kind of principle whether they are anarchists or autonomists, as was the case in the leadership of Argentina’s piqueteros.

So what you end up with is a bourgeoisie that can continue to push through austerity drives in the absence of a serious revolutionary opposition. What is needed now is the same thing that was needed during the last great period of social and economic crisis in the 20th century—the time of the Great Depression—is a battle-tested leadership that can move the struggle forward to a successful seizure of state power.

Despite the rather dogmatic sound of all this, echoing I suppose something that Trotsky wrote in the mid-30s, I still believe it is true. What I reject, however, is the claim that some “Leninist” groups have to the mantle of this leadership because they have some kind of “continuity” with Marx and Engels through Lenin as if a pedigree dog competing in a Westminster show. Leadership is achieved by actions that produce results, such as the Occupy movement that demonstrated just how ossified the traditional Marxist movement was. One can only hope that these good comrades, whatever their ideology, figure out a way to sustain the momentum of last autumn and draw new forces into the movement. I strongly urge them to put as much distance between themselves and the black bloc as possible since the greater its presence, the smaller and weaker the movement will become.

Chris Hedges and Kristof Lopaur of Occupy Oakland debate black bloc, militancy and tactics

Filed under: black bloc idiots — louisproyect @ 1:13 pm

http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/77663

February 8, 2012

Taking Chris Hedges to task?

Filed under: black bloc idiots — louisproyect @ 5:19 pm

http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/02/08/a-bustle-in-hedges-row/

When a movement decides to ‘self-police,’ that shouldn’t be confused with adopting the same punitive and illogical methods of the state. We can forge agreements and work by consensus, but that cannot be used as a wedge to weed out and expunge those who contravene our best-laid plans. Rather, the aim should be to create processes based on the best practices of restorative justice, peacekeeping, and personal healing in order to promote points of contact and ongoing dialogue among all who find their way to the movement.

(clip)

Written by Randall Amster, described under the article as follows:

Randall Amster, J.D., Ph.D., is the Graduate Chair of Humanities at Prescott College. He serves as Executive Director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association and as Contributing Editor forNew Clear Vision. Among his recent books are Lost in Space: The Criminalization, Globalization, and Urban Ecology of Homelessness (LFB Scholarly, 2008), and the co-edited volume Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

—-

I wrote this:

My only quibble is whether the black bloc is responsible for the “diversity of tactics” mantra as much as the people who are out in the open as coalition-builders. I am afraid that their sense of “diversity” is drawn from the nonprofit world they inhabit in which weekend retreats in Aspen are devoted to examining how some university or foundation can be more “inclusive”. Horsefeathers, I say.

Does anybody have the slightest doubt that people like Randall Amster are exactly the kind of enablers whose “diversity of tactics” muddleheadedness is what makes the vandalistas such a problem?

Anybody who writes a book titled Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action should be taken out and horsewhipped on principle.

February 7, 2012

Anonymous warns black bloc activists

Filed under: black bloc idiots — louisproyect @ 11:25 pm

Chris Hedges and the black bloc

Filed under: black bloc idiots — louisproyect @ 6:29 pm

Yesterday Chris Hedges wrote an attack on the black bloc on Truthdig.com that has gone “viral” in the sense that the Internet is all abuzz about it. Resonating with the sickness metaphor, the appropriately titled article “The Cancer in Occupy” begins:

The Black Bloc anarchists, who have been active on the streets in Oakland and other cities, are the cancer of the Occupy movement. The presence of Black Bloc anarchists—so named because they dress in black, obscure their faces, move as a unified mass, seek physical confrontations with police and destroy property—is a gift from heaven to the security and surveillance state.

As most people realize, the people that Hedges is writing about are not really interested in defending themselves politically. From its inception back in the European autonomist movements of the 1980s, the black-clad activists refuse to answer anybody outside of their ranks. Within the “affinity group”, everything is cool. Outside of it, who gives a shit? Ironically, this kind of elitism is not that different from the “vanguard party” posture which puts the needs of the sect above that of the mass movement.

The European black bloc “autonomy” literally meant that they were not accountable to the rest of the left, particularly the traditional socialist parties and the trade unions that were viewed as the enemy in pretty much the same fashion as “third period” Stalinism. Just a brief history lesson on this. Stalin characterized the period of the late 1920s as the “third period” of capitalism in which communism would be triumphant against both capitalism and a sell-out left that collaborated with it. This led the German CP—infamously—to back a Nazi-initiated referendum to remove a Socialist Party elected official in Saxony.

I would say that trying to persuade a black bloc activist that they are harming the left would be as much of an exercise in futility as persuading a German Stalinist to unite with the SP in the 1920s.

It has been pretty much left up to people outside the “affinity group” to defend its antics against Hedges, who is seen as a liberal sell-out. The defense of the black bloc is mounted in total disregard of whether the tactic is effective and frequently in the most hysterical manner as this comment to my blog:

I identify with the Black Bloc because nuclear power killed my father and made me and my sister sick. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t want to smash something that would stop the madness.

That prompted me to respond:

I would tend to think that mass demonstrations against nuclear power plants would be more effective than spray-painting “Fuck the nuclear energy” on the walls of a Con Edison building. But then again, I am a Marxist and tend to believe in the power of the masses rather than adolescents in black levi jeans acting out.

Some of Hedges’s article is weak. For example, he tries to make the black bloc into some kind of hard-core enemy of the EZLN based on some selective citations, whereas in fact a lot of the black bloc posturing seems to be an idiotic attempt to emulate the Zapatistas, especially the donning of masks. In the 1960s, some of the student left fashioned itself after the Red Guards. Something of the same sort is going on here, I’m afraid.

Perhaps the best part of Hedges’s article is the words of Derrick Jensen, who told him:

Their thinking is not only nonstrategic, but actively opposed to strategy. They are unwilling to think critically about whether one is acting appropriately in the moment. I have no problem with someone violating boundaries [when] that violation is the smart, appropriate thing to do. I have a huge problem with people violating boundaries for the sake of violating boundaries. It is a lot easier to pick up a rock and throw it through the nearest window than it is to organize, or at least figure out which window you should throw a rock through if you are going to throw a rock. A lot of it is laziness.

I wouldn’t change a word of this. I would also concur with Chris Hedges’s take on the psychological dimensions of the black bloc:

The Black Bloc movement is infected with a deeply disturbing hypermasculinity. This hypermasculinity, I expect, is its primary appeal. It taps into the lust that lurks within us to destroy, not only things but human beings. It offers the godlike power that comes with mob violence. Marching as a uniformed mass, all dressed in black to become part of an anonymous bloc, faces covered, temporarily overcomes alienation, feelings of inadequacy, powerlessness and loneliness. It imparts to those in the mob a sense of comradeship.

Some of the angry comments underneath Hedges’s article make the cases that there are plenty of gays and women in the black bloc. One supposes that you have to take them at their word, whether or not that makes the women or gays acting out any less hypermasculine. But more to the point, who knows who is behind the black mask? It is not as if someone put up a Youtube video about the day in the life of a black bloc participant. Can you imagine the intro? “Meet Kenny Goldstein, a web developer by day and a brick thrower by night. Kenny, can you tell us why you got involved with the black bloc?” “Sure, I just came to the conclusion that a spray-painted Whole Foods window is just the thing that can bring capitalism to its knees.”

I also agree with Hedges when he writes:

The Black Bloc’s thought-terminating cliché of “diversity of tactics” in the end opens the way for hundreds or thousands of peaceful marchers to be discredited by a handful of hooligans. The state could not be happier. It is a safe bet that among Black Bloc groups in cities such as Oakland are agents provocateurs spurring them on to more mayhem. But with or without police infiltration the Black Bloc is serving the interests of the 1 percent. These anarchists represent no one but themselves.

My only quibble is whether the black bloc is responsible for the “diversity of tactics” mantra as much as the people who are out in the open as coalition-builders. I am afraid that their sense of “diversity” is drawn from the nonprofit world they inhabit in which weekend retreats in Aspen are devoted to examining how some university or foundation can be more “inclusive”. Horsefeathers, I say.

One of the reasons there has been such a reaction against Hedges from the fellow-travelers of the vandalistas is that he is a highly respected figure. Here is somebody who could have been making millions of dollars a year as a top NY Times reporter or editor and he gave it up because of principle. As someone willing to get arrested for the movement and a good friend of the Occupy movement, he is not easily dismissed. Getting called a cancer by him is something you would prefer to avoid even if you and your posse brag that nobody outside your ranks really matters.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the left has grown terminally weary of these people, whoever they are.

It is also important to understand that other voices, while not as well known as Hedges, have also come down fairly hard against the black bloc.

Whatever problems people have with Counterpunch, the last thing that can be said about it is that it is “liberal” or that it has a fetish over nonviolence. With that in mind, it was of some significance that they chose to publish an article by Osha Neumann, a Berkeley lawyer who is an advocate for the homeless, titled “It’s Okay to Take Off Your Gas Mask — Occupy Oakland: Are We Being Childish?”  Neumann is the son of Frankfurt School luminary Franz Neumann, whose study of Nazism titled “Behemoth” is peerless. In the 1960s, he got involved with a small affinity group called the Motherfuckers that had a certain affinity with the Weathermen. In other words, he knows the ultraleft territory fairly well. This is what he has to say:

How could it have been different? The goal of taking over the Kaiser Center for community use was admirable, even brilliant, but in the end the point of what was billed as “Move-in day” got lost in meaningless rumbles with the police and the trashing of City Hall. (A note of caution here: Since no was arrested in the City Hall trashing, we cannot rule out that it was the work of agents provocateurs. Be that as it may, the failure to obtain our objective and to control the meaning of our actions cannot be blamed on infiltrators.) What if, instead of a group within Occupy picking a target and then calling for a day of action, we had initiated a campaign to make that building available for community use? We could have gone out into the neighborhoods, held meetings, where we would discuss whether people liked the idea of occupying the building and what they would like to see happen in the space. With our numbers swelled and diversified by those we had organized, we could make demands to the mayor and the city council in the name of the people.

Neumann is describing the patient hard work that a genuine revolutionary gets involved with. Going out into the street and spray-painting a Whole Food window does not require any special talents or training unless of course you need to be able to identify the business end of a spray can correctly. After all, no self-respecting black bloc militant wants to ruin a perfectly good mask with red paint.

Now it is entirely possible that Osha Neumann is as fatally compromised as Chris Hedges. I have no way of knowing how the black bloc arrives at its enemy list since they have so little interest in justifying themselves (rather like the police, one might say.)

That is why I found Asad Haider’s article “Building the Red Army: The Death and Forbidden Rebirth of the Oakland Commune” in Viewpoint so compelling in light of the fact that only two months ago he complained:

All over the internet liberals are warning of agents provocateurs who are trying to discredit the movement, or condemning the dangerous anarchist element that seeks confrontation with police. Such positions could be debated if they had any bearing on reality.

From the sounds of that, you’d think he’d be having the black bloc’s back. Not so fast actually. He writes:

It’s understandable that a clash with police has a marked effect on the adrenal glands. But there was nothing resembling a victory in this. The stated goal had not been achieved, and the police are familiar with the aggressiveness of activists in Oakland. They expect it. In fact, the Oakland Police Department is on the verge of federal receivership, an unprecedented move, because the OPD really likes violence, and seeks it out as part of a policy of state-sponsored gang warfare. And the insistence on “Fuck the Police” marches in Oakland leading up to yesterday could only shift the emphasis from the occupation itself to the clash.

He also has a very good assessment of how the black bloc and Moveon.org complement each other (even though he does not refer to the black bloc by name.)

A century later, insurrectionary anarchists and reformists like MoveOn vie for hegemony over the movement, each advancing street-fighting and voting not as tactics, but as the ultimate goals. And we have to be clear that it is an alliance between social democrats and ultra-leftists that has driven this movement, in spite of their public scorn for each other.

Exactly.

Like a lot of the problems on the left, ultra-leftism has been around for a very long time. Lenin’s brother was a Narodnik who chose the “propaganda of the deed” so he had a personal as well as a political stake in convincing idealistic young people in Czarist Russia to choose mass action.

In 1970, when I was 25 years old, my party had its hands full with the same sort of problem. Peter Camejo, who I regard as my greatest mentor, gave a talk titled “Liberalism, ultraleftism or mass action” that had a big impact on our own ranks as well as antiwar activists who had grown wary of SDS type adventures. It is very much worth reading in its entirety but I want to conclude with Peter’s observations about ultraleftism:

There’s another point of view, and that is ultraleftism. This represents a small section of the student movement, but a much larger proportion of those who call themselves radicals or socialists.

Now basically an ultraleft is a liberal that has gone through an evolution. What happens is this. They start out as liberals, and suddenly the war in Vietnam comes along. Now, what does a liberal believe? He believes that the ruling class is basically responsive to his needs. So he demonstrates.

You know, in the beginning when the antiwar movement first started there were very few ultraleftists. Most of the ultraleftist leaders of today were people who were organizing legal, peaceful demonstrations back around 1965.

But after they called a few demonstrations against the war, they noticed something was wrong. The ruling class was not being responsive. Not only that, they understood for the first time that the US was literally massacring the Vietnamese people. This frightened them. It was as if you all of a sudden found out that your father was really the Boston Strangler. That’s what it was like for these people. They were liberals, who believed that Johnson was better than Goldwater, who had worked and voted for him only to find out that he was the Boston Strangler.

February 6, 2012

Paul D’Amato and the Red Condom

Filed under: Lenin,sectarianism — louisproyect @ 6:49 pm

Paul D'Amato

In the latest installment in the ISO’s defense of Tony Cliff against Pham Binh’s critique (the entire exchange can be seen here), Paul D’Amato makes a highly revealing statement in the conclusion of an article titled “The Mangling of Tony Cliff”:

Binh appears to be taking Trotsky’s pre-1917 “conciliationist” line (which Trotsky later repudiated) that the differences were not substantial enough (since both saw Russia’s revolution as “bourgeois”) for a split. After the Prague congress Trotsky attempted to organise the “August Bloc”, an effort to unite all the different factions of the movement. It began to collapse immediately after its first gathering. “The great historical significance of Lenin’s policy”, Trotsky later wrote of his policy of unity at any cost, “was still unclear to me at that time, his policy of irreconcilable ideological demarcation and, when necessary, split, for the purposes of welding and tempering the core of the truly revolutionary party”.

Binh apparently rejects these conclusions. Perhaps his model is the August Bloc. This isn’t a guess. He says in his article “Occupy and the tasks of socialists”:

Out of clouds of pepper spray and phalanxes of riot cops a new generation of revolutionaries is being forged, and it would be a shame if the Peter Camejos, Max Elbaums, Angela Davises, Dave Clines and Huey Newtons of this generation end up in separate “competing” socialist groups as they did in the 1960s. Now is the time to begin seriously discussing the prospect of regroupment, of liquidating outdated boundaries we have inherited, of finding ways to work closely together for our common ends.

Above all else, now is the time to take practical steps towards creating a broad-based radical party that in today’s context could easily have thousands of active members and even more supporters.

First of all, is absurd to compare the sectarian rivalries of the 1960s, in which Maoist and Stalinist sects without [I believe that the comrade editor of the ISO magazine meant “with” rather than “without” here]  practically identical politics railed at each other about who is the “true vanguard”, to the factional disputes in the Russian movement between its revolutionary and reformist wing—organisations that had become mass parties in 1905 with deep roots in the working class. Secondly, a “united” socialist organisation that has in its ranks both those who consider North Korea, China and Vietnam socialist, and those who think that they are bureaucratic despotism; both Stalinists and genuine Marxists; and both supporters and opponents of the Democratic Party would be a still-born project. It is one thing for leftists of different politics to “work together”—this has and will continue to happen. It is another thing to think that simply lumping forces together with diametrically different politics and methods of work will create any kind of functional, practical unity. Certainly that is one lesson of the Bolshevik experience worth preserving. That is not to say that broad socialist party independent and in opposition to the Democratic Party wouldn’t be a great advance if such a thing were possible in the United States today—what Binh proposes, however, would not produce such a result.

You’ll note that D’Amato does not include Cuba alongside the other “bureaucratic despotisms” (a curious term given the ISO’s past insistence on describing such societies as “state capitalist”. Maybe that’s because it would irritate Paul LeBlanc, who despite his enthusiasm for the ISO’s approach, might still consider Cuba an exemplary society despite the onerous conditions it operates under. More to the point, is it really useful to apply the term “socialist” to Cuba, if it is one that can only be satisfied by a powerful industrialized country of the sort that Marx and Engels wrote about in the 19th century as being the first expected to break with capitalism?

One can certainly agree with D’Amato that we cannot build a party with supporters of the Democratic Party but that is something of a red herring since the CPUSA or the Committees of Correspondence would have little interest in a broad based socialist party to begin with.

This is not the only example of wariness about such a project heard from an ISO leader. In 2007 Todd Chretien gave a speech titled “Lenin’s theory of the party” that drew a sharp distinction between Eugene V. Debs and V.I. Lenin. It sounds very much like the sort of thing that would be presented to “newbies”, some of it bordering on the comical–especially the business about Lenin scratching his head:

Lenin developed a very different approach. He began with an idea very similar to Debs’ because that was basically how all socialist parties in the world—from Germany to the United States to France—organized at that time. Lenin started with that broad tent idea that the central issue was for all socialists to form a single, united party. At first they tried at the local level in Petersburg in the early 1890s, forming a group called the League for the Emancipation of Labor—perhaps not the best name anyone ever thought up. Lenin and his friends did have some early success, organizing protests and inspiring strikes or influencing spontaneous ones, and they were able to introduce socialist ideas to an important number of workers. However, this type of organization faced two problems. First, just like in the American Socialist Party, tension began to develop between emerging left and right wings. Compounding that problem in Russia was the question of tsarist repression. A couple of years after forming the league, Lenin and most of the other leaders found themselves in prison. So, after sixteen months in solitary confinement, Lenin scratches his head and says, “Well, that really didn’t work. We can’t just go around handing out leaflets, asking everyone to join us, because the police just send spies to get our membership lists. [missing closed quote in the original]

Even if this was intended to enlighten new-comers to the socialist movement, it is not that far removed from what LeBlanc and other ideological heavyweights stated in response to Lars Lih in a Historical Materialism symposium that I discussed a while back. They gave props to Lih for documenting Lenin’s commitment to building a party modeled on Kautsky’s party in Germany, but insist that Lenin came up with something new under the impact of the betrayal of socialist parliamentarians in 1914, when they voted for war credits. This breach was only a culmination of growing differences over principle that was reflected earlier in 1912 when Lenin broke with the Menshevik “liquidators”.

I summarize all the arguments against Lih here but will include just one example below to give you a sense of their consensus around the idea that Lenin built a party of a “new type” unlike the swamp that Eugene V. Debs presided over, or the Russian social democracy before Lenin wised up and booted the Mensheviks. These are Paul LeBlanc’s words:

The reality of German Social Democracy was certainly more problematic than what Lenin was able to glean from the very best writings of Karl Kautsky. This became clear to Lenin himself in 1914. At that point, it became obvious that Lenin was building a very different party than the actual SPD.

D’Amato feels that Pham Binh wants to destroy all the progress that the left has made since 1912-1914, when Lenin moved inexorably toward purging the Mensheviks from the Russian revolutionary movement. He likens him to Leon Trotsky, whose cardinal sin was trying to keep the party together. Let’s repeat what D’Amato wrote:

Binh appears to be taking Trotsky’s pre-1917 “conciliationist” line (which Trotsky later repudiated) that the differences were not substantial enough (since both saw Russia’s revolution as “bourgeois”) for a split. After the Prague congress Trotsky attempted to organise the “August Bloc”, an effort to unite all the different factions of the movement.

If you want to get the full flavor of what Lenin thought of Trotsky’s efforts, I recommend “The Liquidators Against the Party”:

There is one little lesson to be drawn from this affair by those abroad who are sighing for unity, and who recently hatched the sheet Za Partiyu in Paris. To build up a party, it is not enough to be able to shout “unity”; it is also necessary to have a political programme, a programme of political action. The bloc comprising the liquidators, Trotsky, the Vperyod group, the Poles, the pro-Party Bolsheviks, the Paris Mensheviks, and so on and so forth, was foredoomed to ignominious failure, because it was based on an unprincipled approach, on hypocrisy and hollow phrases. As for those who sigh, it would not be amiss if they finally made up their minds on that extremely complicated and difficult question: With whom do they want to have unity? If it is with the liquidators, why not say so without mincing? But if they are against unity with the liquidators, then what sort of unity are they sighing for?

Gosh, who would want to be a latter-day Leon Trotsky given this searing indictment? As should be obvious from this, there were two parties in Czarist Russia, one was reformist and the other was revolutionary. Trotsky’s sin was trying to mix the two together, coming up with a Debs-type formation that would have certainly been inadequate to overthrowing the capitalist system in 1917. Forming the Bolshevik Party was necessary to keep the workers movement free from class-collaborationist germs—a red condom so to speak.

There’s only one problem with this. When Lenin issued the April Theses in 1917, he was opposed by a majority of the Bolshevik Central Committee. Was there a hole in the condom?

Meanwhile, the promiscuous Trotsky who liked to sleep around with reformists was the only prominent socialist leader who embraced the April Theses, understanding them as consistent with his own theory of permanent revolution. Within the year, Trotsky decided that Lenin was right all along on the “broad” party question and became committed to safe sex, the end-product of which is the various abortions of the Fourth International and parties that grew out of it like Tony Cliff’s international organization. All were committed to the idea that you formulate a “true” program of revolutionary socialism and indoctrinate new members into holding high its banner. Sadly, history has pointed out the similarity between this methodology and that of the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Scientology.

Chris Hedges: the black bloc is a cancer in the Occupy movement

Filed under: black bloc idiots — louisproyect @ 2:01 pm

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_cancer_of_occupy_20120206/

February 5, 2012

Jacques Tati: an appreciation

Filed under: comedy,Film — louisproyect @ 10:27 pm

In late 2010 I watched a screener for an animated film titled “The Illusionist”, an homage to Jacques Tati being submitted to NYFCO for our yearly award ceremony. Not only did the film leave me cold, it also left me with a nagging thought: who was Jacques Tati and why was he so admired? “The Illusionist” certainly did not offer any kind of hint, despite its best intentions.

All I knew about Tati when I was first developing a passion for art movies in the early 60s was that he was some kind of clown beloved by the French, just as Cantinflas was beloved by the Mexicans. Also, like Charlie Chaplin’s tramp, he played a character named Mr. Hulot who kept getting in trouble because he either ignored or flouted social convention. Somehow, I managed to go through life without having seen a single Tati film, despite the fact that Andre Bazin ranked him with Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton as an all-time comic genius.

A couple of months ago, TCM was airing “Mr. Hulot’s Holiday” and I decided to give it a shot to see what all the hoopla was about. I am glad I did since it was an eye-opening experience in more ways than one. For one thing, the limpid cinematography was as beautiful as anything I have ever seen in a black-and-white film, from Ingmar Bergman to Akira Kurosawa. Beyond that, the comedy had much more in common with Buster Keaton than Chaplin. While I am a fan of both masters, it was Keaton’s absurdist, surreal vision that stuck with me even though I was more partial to Chaplin’s politics.

I am not exactly sure why but the Netflix DVD version that I extracted this clip from abbreviated the speech of the pipe-smoking Marxist to his girl friend on top of the rocks. When I watched it on TCM, I am quite sure he went on at some length spouting a bunch of rhetoric. The character makes another appearance in the film along the same lines and it is just as funny. Tati has as much fun with a Colonel Blimp type character that is always going on at length to anybody who will listen about his exploits during WWI. I don’t think there is much going on here ideologically but works on the level of one of your more sophisticated New Yorker Magazine cartoons.

Tati was from an aristocratic Russian family named Tatischeff that settled in France. Born in 1907, Tati developed into a promising athlete in his teens, eventually becoming a semiprofessional rugby player. After launching a modest career as a film actor in the 1930s, his career was interrupted when drafted into the French army. After the war ended, he formed a film company that produced his first three films, all of which incorporated a theme that preoccupied him throughout his artistic career, namely the empty promises of “modernization”.

In “Jour de fête” (The Big Day), his first major motion picture that debuted in 1949, Tati played Francois, the postman in a tiny French farming village that is hosting a yearly fair. As part of the festival, there is a newsreel shown to villagers that demonstrates the prowess of the American postal service. Rising to the challenge, Francois tries to beat the Americans at their own game traveling about the village at a breakneck speed on his bicycle, all the while declaring “rapidité” to all the bemused bystanders. (This clip is from an Italian-dubbed version of the film that I was able to extract, unlike the French version that can be seen here.

Four years later “Mr. Hulot’s Holidary” appeared, introducing the signature character. Some of you might be aware that British comedian Rowan Atkinson appeared in something called “Mr. Bean’s Holiday” that if meant as homage to Tati scarcely does him justice. As Steve Rose put it in the Guardian:

They’re saying this is Mr Bean’s last appearance, but if Rowan Atkinson hasn’t got the heart to kill off the character, I’ll gladly throttle him by his necktie myself. In a post-Borat world, surely there’s no place for Bean’s antiquated fusion of Jacques Tati, Pee-Wee Herman and John Major? Perhaps he’s a version of British masculinity the rest of the world can relate to.

Unlike Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean, Mr. Hulot is not a “wild and crazy” character that is meant to be the butt of the joke. Instead, he is an eminently reasonable and civil character always anxious to please who manages to reveal through unintended consequences the comic idiocy of middle-class life. As Andre Bazin, the legendary editor of Cahiers du Cinema, once put it:

The warmth of Hulot’s characterization, plus the radiant inventiveness of the sight gags, made Les Vacances an international success, yet the film already suggests Tati’s dissatisfaction with the traditional idea of the comic star. Hulot is not a comedian in the sense of being the source and focus of the humor; he is, rather, an attitude, a signpost, a perspective that reveals the humor in the world around him.

I think it is reasonable to state that “Mon Oncle” is Jacques Tati’s crowning achievement. Appearing 5 years after “Mr. Hulot’s Holiday”, it is a comic assault on French society’s infatuation with modernism in all its appalling varieties, from glass houses to the latest kitchen gadgets. It is probably safe to say that Tati’s heart was always with the simple values of the French farming village that served as a location for “Jour de fête” even though—ironically—he was always pushing the envelope of film technology. (“Jour de fête” was, for example, the first French film shot in color, using Thomson-color, an early and untried color film process.)

Mr. Hulot is the brother-in-law of a French industrialist who lives in the glass house and whose wife is devoted to the latest electronic kitchen gadgets, most of which fail to work to great comic effects. Mr. Hulot gets a job at the plastic-pipe making factory, only to find that he and the assembly line were not meant for each other. While I have no way of knowing what Tati’s intentions were, this scene appears to be a perfect blend of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times”:

Nearly a full decade will pass before Tati’s next film “Play Time” debuted in 1967. This is his most ambitious film, costing millions of dollars to erect a soulless city very much in the spirit of Brasilia and other “modern” monstrosities that were found in the Soviet bloc. Without any connections to the past and in utter defiance of the organic ties that make urban life pleasurable, such cities become oppressive to the human spirit. Even though Tati’s intention was to generate laughs, his deeper goal was to decry the sterility of modern society. In this clip, you see Mr. Hulot wandering about a Kafkaesque super-modern workplace, using what appear to be the first cubicles ever seen in a motion picture, even if they are grotesque caricatures:

Tati’s last film was “Trafic”, made in 1971 as a TV movie to be aired in the Netherlands. It featured the Mr. Hulot character in the unlikely role of a car designer and much of the action takes place on the road. I have to admit that I found it kind of tiresome but it does have its moments such as this (the traffic cop is not Tati) Does the VW at the end of the clip remind you of anything? It should—it is very similar to the boat shark in “Mr. Hulot’s Holiday”:

In one of the more unlikely pop culture partnerships that ever existed, Jacques Tati explored the possibility of making a film called “Confusion” with the rock twosome Sparks just before his death in 1982. Like “Play Time”, it was about a sterile super-modern city. While the film was never made, the band did record the theme song for the film:

What makes this remarkable is how at odds it is with the theme of “The Illusionist”, one in which a vaudeville style magician—a Mr. Hulot character—is being forced into involuntary retirement because of the rise of rock-and-roll. The rock musicians in the film are depicted as complete jerks, projecting as it were a cultural predisposition onto Jacques Tati that did not really exist.

Coming back to “The Illusionist”, I can say that whatever it was, it was not in the spirit of Tati’s body of work even though it was based on a script he wrote. Rather than try to unravel the connections or disconnections between the men behind “The Illusionist” and Tati, I would refer you to a letter that his grandson wrote to Roger Ebert that ends:

If the integrity of my grandfather’s work means anything to you then please take into account the wishes of his only three grandchildren who united stand loyally by their adored mother, the daughter he had heartlessly abandoned as a child and later addressed l’Illusionniste to. Together we ask that you please show moral compassion and chose in the future not to participate in the misrepresentation of our family history to suit the parasitic benefit of others. That Sylvain Chomet, Pathe Pictures, Sony Picture Classics and Les Films de Mon Oncle dare to rub my grandfather’s remorse on our doorstep without respectfully acknowledging the facts is intolerable. The truth deserves a voice so that at the very least we do not forget the sacrifices made by others for our liberty.

Looking at Tati’s body of work, it is hard not to feel that the “good old days”, at least when it comes to film, were really better.

In early December, I watched another award screener for our NYFCO meeting that my colleagues voted best picture of the year: “The Artist”. Like “The Illusionist”, it is an homage to an older genre, the silent film. From the torrent of awards this film has garnered, including one likely from the Academy for best picture as well, you would think that it was what the world was waiting for—the first artistically realized silent film since the days of Keaton and Chaplin. Nothing can be further from the truth. It is a tolerably amusing novelty, but nothing else.

The greatest silent films in the modern era were Tati’s. Despite a plentitude of sounds (like birds chirping, or people making small talk), they were about visual interaction between people, or between people and nature, and especially about the miscues between people and machines.

Tati’s greatest films (Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, Mon Oncle, Play Time) are available from Netflix. My suggestion is not to waste your time or money with the “The Artist” but to go to the real thing. Films become classic because they incorporate a superior form of expression, the gift always of an uncommon mind.

In May 1958, Jacques Tati did an interview with André Bazin and François Truffaut for Cahiers du Cinema. At some point, the question of art versus commerce came up. Tati told the two:

I am extremely worried when I see so many good filmmakers who are obliged to submit to all kinds of constraints. Today, all you have are constraints, everywhere. But I was able to make my film where I wanted, in Saint-Maur and I was able to build the house I wanted for Hulot. I think this is important in the end. There aren’t that many countries today where a guy in the movie business can say. ‘”Not only did I make a film, but 1 also made the film that I wanted to make.” Bresson is just such a director, and I love what he does. I find it a shame that he doesn’t make more films.

What is really a shame is that only one door is open to young filmmakers: that of commercial cinema. And this is very dangerous. After Jour de fete, and more so after Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot, I had some offers to go and make a Franco-Italian co-production. It was to be called Toto and Tati. You get the idea! I said to myself: “No! Hulot does not have the obligation to be in Toto and Tati” It’s not that Toto is bad: in fact be is a very good actor; but the simple fact that the picture was going lo be called Toto and Tati already tells you more than you want to know. I believe that one’s artistic independence is a must, and it is up to the individual to defend it in all cases.

And yet, it is difficult to resist commerce when you realize that by making one such film or by accepting one such role, you will earn a sum of money that will enable you to change your life a bit, have more pleasures, have your house repainted, even change houses, in this modern world, people are after all, and no matter what, extremely driven by their material needs: money impresses them and in the end they will make quite a lot of concessions—not only artistic ones, alas—to achieve a more luxurious lifestyle. As for me, it is not courage that makes me resist; commercial considerations simply leave me cold.

Words obviously to live by.

February 4, 2012

Anonymous hacks FBI conference call

Filed under: computers,repression — louisproyect @ 3:43 pm

NY Times February 3, 2012

F.B.I. Admits Hacker Group’s Eavesdropping

By

WASHINGTON — The international hackers group known as Anonymous turned the tables on the F.B.I. by listening in on a conference call last month between the bureau, Scotland Yard and other foreign police agencies about their joint investigation of the group and its allies.

Anonymous posted a 16-minute recording of the call on the Web on Friday and crowed about the episode in via Twitter: “The FBI might be curious how we’re able to continuously read their internal comms for some time now.”

Hours later, the group took responsibility for hacking the Web site of a law firm that had represented Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, who was accused of leading a group of Marines responsible for killing 24 unarmed civilians in Haditha, Iraq, in 2005. The group said it would soon make public “mails, faxes, transcriptions” and other material related to the case, taken from the site of Puckett & Faraj, a Washington-area law firm. A voluminous 2.55 gigabyte file labeled as those files was later posted on a site often used by hackers, Pirate Bay.

Regarding the conference call, an F.B.I. official said Anonymous had not in fact hacked into it or any other bureau facilities. Instead, the official said, the group had simply obtained an e-mail giving the time, telephone number and access code for the call. The e-mail had been sent on Jan. 13 to more than three dozen people at the bureau, Scotland Yard, and agencies in France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden. One recipient, a foreign police official, evidently forwarded the notification to a private account, he said, and it was then intercepted by Anonymous.

“It’s not really that sophisticated,” said the official, who would discuss the episode only on condition of anonymity. He said no Federal Bureau of Investigation system was compromised but noted that communications security was more challenging when agencies in multiple countries were involved.

“We’re always looking at ways to make our communications more secure, and obviously we’ll be taking a look at what happened here,” he said.

The bureau issued a brief statement confirming the intrusion, which was first reported by The Associated Press: “The information was intended for law enforcement officers only and was illegally obtained. A criminal investigation is under way to identify and hold accountable those responsible.”

The breach, clearly an embarrassment for investigators, is the latest chapter in a continuing war of words and contest of technology between hacking groups and their perceived opponents in law enforcement and the corporate world.

The F.B.I. e-mail titled “Anon-Lulz International Coordination Call” — a reference to Anonymous and to an allied group of hackers, Lulz Security — announced a conference call for investigators “to discuss the on-going investigations related to Anonymous, Lulzsec, Antisec, and other associated splinter groups.”

The recording posted on YouTube and elsewhere included American and British voices discussing suspects in the case. The call begins with banter between an American named Bruce and British officials named Stewart or Stuart and Matt, who are joined by another official from F.B.I. headquarters, Timothy F. Lauster Jr., who sent the e-mail announcing the conference call.

The conference call illustrates both the scale of the international police effort to identify and prosecute the hackers, and the striking contrast in age and status of the investigators and their targets: what seem to be middle-aged law enforcement officials on two continents are overheard dissecting the illicit activities of teenagers.

A British official refers to Ryan Cleary and Jake Davis, two British teenagers who have been arrested and are wanted in the United States on suspicion of having ties to Anonymous. The British official describes a 325-page report analyzing Ryan Cleary’s hard drive, and an F.B.I. agent in Los Angeles discusses various suspects and their nicknames.

The investigators also refer to several suspects who had not yet been arrested, including one who calls himself Tehwongz, described by the British official as “a 15-year-old kid who’s basically just doing this all for attention and is a bit of an idiot.”

The conversation was part of an international criminal investigation that began in 2010 after Anonymous championed WikiLeaks by mounting electronic attacks on MasterCard and PayPal and other sites that had stopped collecting donations for the antisecrecy organization.

Last month, Anonymous attacked the Web sites of the Justice Department and major entertainment companies in retaliation for criminal charges against the founders of Megaupload, a popular Internet service used to transfer music and movies anonymously.

The hackers could have penetrated the law-enforcement official’s personal e-mail account by guessing a weak password, sneaking into an unencrypted wireless network, or, most likely, with a common and relatively easy tactic known as a phishing attack, said Keith Ross, a computer science professor at Polytechnic Institute of New York University and a security expert. A phishing attack involves sending an e-mail that looks like it is from a friend or relative and persuading the recipient to click on a link that allows every keystroke entered on that particular computer to be recorded. Recording keystrokes is an efficient way to steal someone’s e-mail username and password.

“The real issue for law-enforcement officials is they need to be better educated about how they handle sensitive data on their e-mails,” Mr. Ross said. “It’s an easy vulnerability to crack. If you’re not careful it’s a very dangerous attack.”

The same methods may have been used to hack the Web site of the lawyers who represented Sergeant Wuterich, Neal Puckett and Haytham Faraj. Their Web site was defaced by the hackers to display a message from Anonymous saying it was exposing “the corruption of the court systems and the brutality of U.S. imperialism,” Gawker.com reported. Later, the site was taken down.

In an interview late Friday, Mr. Faraj said he thought that little of the material stolen from their site related to the Haditha case, though some documents might relate to a polygraph that he said Sergeant Wuterich had passed. He said he feared the documents might include a confidential statement from a rape victim in an unrelated case. “I think in their haste to put stuff out there, they’re going to hurt some people,” he said.

Mr. Faraj said he had represented Guantanamo detainees and had supported and offered to represent Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of providing documents to WikiLeaks, suggesting that the hackers of Anonymous may be inadvertently attacking someone who shares some of their presumed political views. “They got the wrong guy,” he said.

He said the F.B.I. had contacted the law firm and opened an investigation.

Sergeant Wuterich, 31, pleaded guilty last month in a military court in California to dereliction of duty, telling the judge that he regretted ordering his men to “shoot first, ask questions later.” As part of a plea agreement, however, he received no prison time, though his rank was reduced to private. The sentence sparked anger in Iraq and among some human rights advocates, and the Anonymous message complained that Sergeant Wuterich had gotten “only a pay cut” as a penalty.

Somini Sengupta and Nicole Perlroth contributed reporting from San Francisco.

 

February 3, 2012

Toby

Filed under: comedy — louisproyect @ 1:13 pm

Hari Kondabolu discusses an incredible thing he heard a nanny say to a child she was caring for in Brooklyn. Filmed at NYU’s Skirball Center on January 22, 2011 while opening for Wyatt Cenac’s TV special “Comedy Person.”

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