Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Acting As If

How a Green Won, by John Halle / July 28th, 2007

November 6, 2008, from wire services, San Francisco: Addressing a Mark Hopkins ballroom packed with dignitaries, Democratic Party operatives and the international news media, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi conceded defeat to her Green Party challenger, antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan last night. Pelosi’s concession capped a hard fought campaign setting progressives against an increasingly embattled Democratic Party leadership seen as complicit in the Bush administration’s decision to widen the American involvement in the Middle East beyond Iraq into Syria and Iran.

In scoring an unprecedented victory over a sitting speaker, the Sheehan candidacy was bolstered by its early alliance with the Greens. The insurgent party has become a formidable presence in San Francisco politics, holding two seats on the Board of Supervisors and on the School Board. Also notable was the support offered by former Board of Supervisor’s President Matt Gonzalez. Gonzalez’s 2003 mayoral campaign, which fell short by just over 14,000 votes, is widely viewed as having set the stage for Sheehan victory. Gonzalez’s decision to share his database of volunteers and financial supporters in exchange for a commitment on Sheehan’s part to run as a Green is credited with providing the electoral muscle which was key to the electoral landslide.

Also key to Sheehan’s victory was the early support of nationally known progressive journalists who made the campaign a central focus of several columns introducing the campaign to a national audience and attracting their support. One of these, syndicated columnist Norman Solomon waxed effusive on the Sheehan victory: “Many of us were chastened by our failure to support the Mayoral campaign of Matt Gonzalez. We came to recognize the Gonzalez near victory as a major missed opportunity for progressives as this would have provided us a legitimate, electable candidate for the presidency in 2008. We were sure not to duplicate our mistake with Cindy and recognized the importance of her campaign immediately after its announcement in July 2007.”

The success of Sheehan’s challenge was vexing to mainstream liberal publications which were generally lukewarm towards the Sheehan candidacy. Their failure to respond positively angered many progressive readers and as a result some have suffered significant losses in their subscription base. Most notable among these was the Nation magazine, though a contributing factor in the publication’s demise was a grassroots boycott in the wake of its endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign. The periodical is now operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The broad coalition behind Sheehan surprised veteran political observers and Democratic Party strategists in extending well beyond her core supporters in the anti-war movement. Civil rights advocates displeased with Pelosi’s failure to move on impeachment proceedings against an administration it saw as routinely demonstrating contempt for the constitution were forthcoming with substantial donations. Others contributed pro bono legal services necessary to defend the Green Party against harassment from a legal team turned loose by the national Democratic Party. Food and farm advocates, disgusted with Pelosi’s support for the 2007 Farm Bill derided as a sham and an environmental atrocity lavished volunteers with locally produced gourmet meals. San Francisco residents with longer memories who have never forgiven Pelosi for her engineering the delivery of the decommissioned Presidio military base into the hands of cronies of Pelosi’s husband’s real estate empire opened their apartments to out-of-town supporters who put in long hours on the campaign.

While national unions, as expected, endorsed Pelosi’s candidacy and contributed to the Democratic get out the vote effort, this was markedly less successful than in previous years. Unconfirmed reports indicate that union members aware of Pelosi’s key role in ramming through job destroying free trade agreements called in sick, refused to participate or, in some cases, actively sabotaged the campaign operation. Some phone bankers would, according to anonymous sources, substitute endorsements of Sheehan for the script provided by the Pelosi functionaries.

But perhaps most decisive was the intangible factor of personality. Ordinary voters appeared to develop a strong attachment to Sheehan, a divorced working class mother of three, whose entry into politics was precipitated by the death of her son Casey in what is now universally understood to be a the greatest foreign policy disaster in US history. Sheehan’s awkward, unschooled and plain spoken manner stood in stark contrast to the smooth manners, impeccable dress and polished rhetoric of Pelosi. Pelosi’s privileged background, the daughter of a big city mayor and her marriage into a billion dollar real estate empire while not figuring Sheehan campaign materials, appeared to become a serious liability among voters.

Pelosi is only the most visible casualty of a political tidal wave whose repercussions are only beginning to be understood by political analysts.

John Halle is a Professor at the Bard College Conservatory of Music and former Green Party Alderman from New Haven's Ninth Ward. Read other articles by John.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Anarchy made easy by Rich

From: http://dzarkhan.wordpress.com

A young and clever George Orwell knew the significance of a beautiful idea. He left his wife and career in England to fight in the Spanish Civil War in December of 1936, siding with the Anarchists who opposed Hitler-backed Nationalist, Francisco Franco. The upsurge of fascism so frightened the fresh faced idealist that he was willing to die to end it. Orwell recognized the elegance of the Spanish Anarchists’ radically different way of administrating their affairs. As a result of the war, his affection for the new society was inverse to his disgust for totalitarianism, a position that informed his future classics Animal Farm and the prescient 1984.

A society like the Anarchist collectives had never before or since existed, an entirely autonomous community divested of centralized rule. But how would a modern Anarchist system operate? Could there be roads, bridges or sanitation? Who would defend the masses from oppression? If it were sustainable back then would it be more so today? The Principles of Anarchy: An Introduction

An Anarchist is against all categories of authority. The most obvious being government, but in a free society corporations and organized religion would also be relinquished. Modified versions of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, etc. would be acceptable as long as they were personal expressions of faith and not a component of a larger hierarchic structure such as the Catholic Church. These institutions constrict the freedom of their adherents. It is impossible to move unencumbered while under the thumb of any system which asserts control from aloft. Today’s dominant attitudes of helplessness and disenchantment can be linked to this cultural feature. People elect Representatives to govern while citizens play no direct part in legislation. As bureaucracies grow (because that’s what Capitalism does - it expands) they monopolize the lion’s share of wealth and power. It is the goal of Anarchism to bridge this chasm and place people in charge of themselves.

Under Anarchism all property serves as a public resource, therefore it is false to assume nothing is owned in Anarchistic communities. On the contrary, the public owns everything. This is why it is believed, as proprietors, individuals are more inclined to be dutiful stewards of what belongs to them. A timeless example of this principle in action can be taken from the book of Nehemiah. In it Nehemiah must rebuild the walls of Jerusalem after a vicious attack. He assigns laborers to work on restoring, not the sections of the wall farthest from where they live, but sections of the wall nearest to each worker, ensuring a quick and meritorious result.

The story of Nehemiah and the wall of Jerusalem illustrates the underpinnings of the Anarchist’s view of human nature. Everyone is an egotist at heart, selfish and individualistic. But most people are social animals as well capable of compassion and sympathetic toward sufferers. This is why the laborers Nehemiah placed in charge of the construction of the wall cooperated with each other. They wanted protection. Anarchist collectives would work for the same reason. The members of the collective value nourishment, social relationships and creative expression, and would enter into a social contract without the supervision of government. Unfortunately, there is one fatal flaw in this story. To any self-respecting Anarchist Nehemiah must go.

There’s no business like no business

From the perspective of the Anarchist, Capitalism degrades human potential when greed becomes the engine of society. Profits justify all beastly pursuits: theft, murder, deceit. The only unpardonable sin is losing money. Cities, for example, serve as a surplus of available labor for corporations. The design of a city centers around the needs of businesses, clustering employees and their families around factories, providing the employees with food, clothing and entertainment along with modes of control. The aim of Anarchists would be to abolish these inhibiting conditions.

After wresting authority away from their corporate handlers the workers would go on to erect “syndicates”. Each syndicate would be devoted to a specific aspect of production necessary for the continuance of the community. One syndicate would specialize in chairs another in toilets and another in ceiling fans and so on and so forth. The workers in a particular syndicate would have dominion over the policies in their workplace. Each worker has an equal vote in the direction of their co-operative. For the day-to-day decisions required to run a complex syndicate workers would divide the collective into administrative branches through popular vote. At this point it is up to an individual to persuade their fellow workers of their education and skills in order to be placed in the proper administrative branch.

In keeping with the spirit of self-management the community also deserves a say in how their syndicates operate. That is why all the syndicates would be owned by everyone in a commune. A collection of syndicates is called a confederation. Just how workers determine the best methods of how their syndicate produces, the members of the confederation decide what is produced and how much.

It is important to keep in mind that this is the formula of choice when it comes to any Anarchist commune. Hospitals, schools and the military are all organized in this fashion. The reason for this is simple. When a syndicate’s course is no longer navigated by the workers, but by a tiny elite, it reverts back into a corporation.

A worthy aside, the word “labor” has a different meaning in a free society. Within the current system people compliment machines in an assembly line mentality, but self-facilitating communes would use technology to eliminate dangerous, tedious and undesirable work. The result would be an abundance of leisure time with a few hours of intermittent labor resembling art more than drudgery. Those assembly lines would run themselves leaving the workers to decorate the products at the end. And even in cases like the construction of roads and bridges, the hazardous aspects will be automated and workers, free from bosses and arbitrary deadlines, will take pride in what they produce because it will be for their benefit.

When workers manage themselves it is unlikely they would pollute their streams and sky or maintain an unsafe working environment. Today’s corporations have made these practices apart of their culture. Consumption and competition animates Capitalism but in tomorrow’s society producers and consumers will be one in the same.

Welcome to the neighborhood

For all the praise in reference to “the people” it could be wrongfully assumed Anarchists romanticize the masses. Untrue. Anarchists make no illusions about the gullibility of massive groups of people. It is the multitude who allowed the minority, the wealthy oligarchy of policy-makers, to enslave them in the first place. The answer is to transform the majority into well-educated cells.

Communes are structured in exactly this way. While they will communicate with other communes it is important to reach a balance so as not to become bloated with a large population. When free people are taught outside the restrictions of a repressive society it is difficult to imagine this being a problem. Work in an Anarchist society is voluntary so if someone wants to leave a syndicate, or even a commune, he or she may. The end result being a vibrant culture in a constant state of flux.

But even with each individual expressing him or herself freely without the deterrence of laws a few basic needs will remain. Health care will be just as vital as ever. Hospitals would function in the same way as syndicates. The doctors and nurses would organize, split into administrative branches based on their training and abilities, and be available for public use at any time. Doctors would visit the homes of the handicapped and the elderly who cannot care for themselves. The treatment people receive under this system, it could be said, would be superior because they would be cared for as patients and not customers. Additionally, those who entered into the health care profession would not do so for material gain but because of their passion for the work.

Some criminal element could be expected to dwell inside any commune. Plenty of crime would have been extinguished after the socialization of a community’s resources. Still a fraction of criminals would linger. Prisons have never been a popular solution and embodies everything Anarchists abhor about authoritarian rule. Instead the treatment of a criminal would be based upon their specific crime. He or she may be ostracized from the commune through popular vote or, depending upon the crime, given an opportunity to observe the destructive effects they had on the community. Popular opinion also would be used to pressure an injurious individual. A court system, constructed by the people of the commune and served in by everyone via lottery, would determine the guilt or innocence of an individual as well as his or her punishment. For those who need to be removed from society altogether, such as rapists, child molesters and sociopaths, asylums would be built in order to treat the offender without harm to others.

As for protection, a police force could be built if a commune desired. However, it would not patrol neighborhoods in the traditional sense, instead it would be an on-call service, much like a fire department, for anyone who wished to utilize it. And just like any other syndicate in the commune, the people hold sway over the policies of the police force. So if somebody abuses his or her power they can be immediately dismissed.

Anarchy made easy? Because there have been so few examples of functional Anarchist societies in history these suggestions cannot be seen as gospel truth. Many of these ideas are taken either from noteworthy Anarchist thinkers or from the Spanish Civil War where they were put into practice. Freedom requires massive amounts of education on a large scale. It took the people of Spain seventy years to prepare for their revolution all the while overcoming illiteracy and a civil war, but with the internet and relative peace (at least here in the United States) the conditions are markedly better to annunciate the message. Isn’t it time to start thinking like George Orwell and recognize the significance of this beautiful idea?

"Paths Through Utopias" project gets

John Jordan, co-editor of *We are Everywhere: the Irresistible Rise of Global Anticapitalism* (Verso, 2003) and founder of the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army, has embarked on a "Paths Through Utopias" project that will take him and his partner, Isabelle Fremeaux, on a 7 month journey through Europe in search of utopian ways of living despite capitalism. The pair intend the trip to lead to a book (a travelogue), a film (in the form of a "fake" documentary/road movie exploring a fictional period following a global ecological/economic collapse), and a series of workshops. They have also launched a new web site, http://utopias.eu/, where they will blogging the experience as it unfolds. The journey looks set to be very exciting, and the web site is well designed. I recommend it... Laurence

Sunday, July 29, 2007

~Nude With Cat~

Saturday, July 28, 2007

On the 50th Anniversary of the Founding of the Situationist International

"It is vain to want to revive a Situation that was valid 45 years ago. And especially when the people who occupy themselves with this 'restoration' are only chefs who do not know how to cook." -- Raoul Hausmann, letter to Guy Debord, dated 5 April 1963.

"Surrealism is obviously alive. Its creators are still not dead. The new people, more and more mediocre, it is true, claim kinship with it. Surrealism is known to the public as the extreme of modernism and, on the other hand, it has become an object for university studies. It is indeed one of the things that live at the same time that we do, like Catholicism and General de Gaulle. [...] The real question is thus: what is the role of surrealism today?" -- Guy Debord, Supreme Height of the Defenders of Surrealism in Paris and the Revelation of their Real Value (December 1958).

Exactly 50 years ago today -- on 28 July 1957 -- the Situationist International (SI) was founded in Cosio d'Arroscia, a small village in Italy. Is it not senseless to celebrate such an event? The SI disbanded in April 1972, and so is no longer with us. Several of its most important members (Asger Jorn, Constant, and Guy Debord) are dead. When the organization was in existence, it existed both in and against its era;[1] it was never intended to last beyond it.[2] To the extent that the SI's era has passed, so has the SI itself. There is no going back.

Over the course of those 15 years, the SI changed a great deal. It is commonly agreed that the organization went through three distinct stages (and so one might say that there were three Situationist Internationals, without considering the "Second Situationist International," which was formed in 1960 by several people who had been excluded from the "First" SI). Between 1957 and 1961, the SI both theorized and made revolutionary art; between 1962 and 1968, it both produced and disseminated revolutionary theory; and, between 1969 and 1972, it both theorized and participated in the post-1968 revolutionary movement. There were different, even conflicting tendencies within each of these three periods: between 1957 and 1961, there were intense debates between Jorn and Constant, that is to say, between the painters and the architects/urbanists; between 1962 and 1968, there were conflicts of style and tone that pitted Debord against Raoul Vaneigem, that is, dialectical epigrams against narrative exposition; and, between 1969 and 1972, there were splits between those who wanted to the SI to stay small or even shrink in size (most of the French section) and those who wanted it to grow (the American section).

Such was the richness of the SI. This richness -- the group's incredible fertility -- is why one marks and celebrates the anniversary of the organization's founding.

But when one speaks of the SI, one most often has the SI of the 1962-1968 period in mind. Did not Debord himself say that "one can not speak of 'coherence' in the first years of the SI," because coherence was only achieved in "the period begun in 1962 and in large part as a project that was more or less verified later on"?[3] It was, of course, during the SI's "middle" period that Vaneigem wrote and published Treatise on Living for the Younger Generations[4] and Debord wrote and published The Society of the Spectacle. More so than the essays published in Internationale Situationniste, these are the texts -- plus Mustapha Khayati's pamphlet On the Poverty of Student Life (written and published in 1966) -- for which the SI is best known.

Each of these famous books elaborates its own theory: Vaneigem's Treatise elaborates the theory of "everyday life"[5] and Debord's Spectacle elaborates the theory of "the spectacle."[6] But the former was in fact not a theory, but a concept; and, furthermore, it has not changed or been developed since the early 1960s. Everyday life was and remains an empty "terrain" (really, a block of time) that is occupied by and with passionless, joyless and meaningless activities: primarily work and the consumption of commodities. The revolution of everyday life was and remains the quest by individuals for a certain lifestyle, for time freed from the necessity of working and for consumption freed from the necessity of buying commodities.

On the other hand, "the spectacle" was indeed a theory, and Debord changed and developed it twice over the course of twenty-odd years. (One must not forget that the 15 years of the SI's existence is matched by the 15 years of diligent and high-quality activity that Debord personally engaged in between 1973 and 1988.) In 1967, the spectacle -- a stage of capitalist society in which super-abundant wealth is displayed and wasted instead of being used to revolutionize that society -- was defined as a binary opposition (and cooperation) between the diffuse spectacle of the "democratic" West and the concentrated spectacle of the "totalitarian" East. In 1973, in Debord's film The Society of the Spectacle, the spectacle was shown to be a stage that could be and indeed was actually being contested all over the world, in both the West (especially France) and the East (especially Poland).[7] And, in 1988, in Debord's Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, the spectacle[8] was defined as an "integration" of the diffuse and concentrated brands.

And so we are confronted with a troublesome series of observations: though the theory of the spectacle began as an exclusively situationist theory (no one else elaborated it), it ended up as Guy Debord's theory.[9] Unlike both the concept of "everyday life" and the Situationist International itself, the theory of spectacle moved beyond the 1960s and so did not pass away with them. More than that: with the development of the theory of the integrated spectacle, "situationist theory crosses over its disintegration point."[10] That is to say, situationist theory -- purely situationist theory, undeveloped situationist theory, situationist theory that bases itself too heavily or solely upon the revolution of everyday life -- finally became spectacular, finally became "situationism."

* * *
"Is it worth the bother of saying this again? There is no 'situationism.' I am myself only a situationist due to the fact of my participation -- at this moment and in certain conditions -- in a community practically grouped together in view of a task, which this community will or will not know how to accomplish [...] The SI is obviously composed of very diverse individuals and even several discernable tendencies of which the relations of force have sometimes changed. Without doubt, its entire activity is only pre-situationist. We do not in any way defend 'creations' that belong to someone and still less to a single one of us: on the contrary, we find it very positive that the comrades who have joined us have already, by themselves, attained an experimental problematic that blends ours. The surest symptom of idealist delirium is, moreover, the stagnation of individuals, supporting or quarreling for years about the same values, because they are the only ones to recognize them as the rules of a poor game. The situationists leave them to their dust-ups." -- Guy Debord, "Concerning Several Errors of Interpretation."[11]

Such a split -- friends of Guy Debord, on the one hand, and adherents to situationism, on the other, with no situationists to be found on either side -- was clearly visible during the polemic surrounding the Encyclopedia of Nuisances.[12] Unlike Debord and his friends, who were deeply interested in the political events taking place in Spain, Poland and Italy during the 1980s, the Encyclopedists were preoccupied with situationist texts (from the pre-1962 period!) and abstract concepts.[13] Significantly, the bone of contention between the two groups was an event: the French student movement of November-December 1986, in particular, the occupation of the Sorbonne and the erection of barricades in the Latin Quarter on 6 December. While the Encyclopedists were highly critical of these actions for reasons of "theory," Debord and his friends valued these actions for their practical boldness.[14] One might have expected that the reverse would have been the case: the Encyclopedists on the side of "action" and Debord et al on the side of "theory." But the times had changed, and so had Debord.

The same split exists today, even though Guy Debord himself is dead. There are a great many adherents to situationism and, though there are important differences between them, they share several of the preoccupations and limitations of the Encyclopedists. Here is a brief sketch, which excludes writers who do not consider themselves to be either adherents to situationism or friends of Debord and who have written texts about the SI that are openly hostile (Stewart Home, Bob Black, Simon Sadler, etc.):

Ken Knabb. This fellow has spent more than 25 years polishing his translations of the texts published in Internationale Situationniste, and in 2002 he offered yet another translation of Debord's 1967 book The Society of the Spectacle (it had previously been translated by Fredy Perlman and then by Donald Nicholson-Smith). But Knabb seems completely uninterested in (translating) Debord's work after 1972: his collaboration on the "Censor" pamphlet,[15] his Preface to the Fourth Italian Edition of "The Society of the Spectacle,"[16] his virtually unknown 1980 intervention in favor of imprisoned libertarians in Spain,[17] his Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, etc etc. Knabb's interest in (translating) Debord's films, most of which were made and released after 1972, does not undermine the validity of our reproach: these are mostly lyrical-poetic works, redolent of the SI's first period, and not strategic interventions, redolent of its third.

Retort. This is the name taken by a group of Anglo-American academics who are utterly fixated on Debord's 1967 book, and seem to be completely uninterested in Debord's post-1972 work. As we have pointed out,[18] this bias renders their analyses of "September 11th" completely boring and reactionary. Despite their name, this group's members do not dialogue or "engage in polemics" with people who disagree with them.[19] Not surprisingly, Retort's politics are explicitly Leftist, not revolutionary.

Various "Anti-Conspiracy" Pro-Situationists. Like the members of Retort, these are people who -- during their denunciations of what they call "conspiracy theories" concerning September 11th -- demonstrate their lack of knowledge or interest in both Preface to the Fourth Italian Edition of "The Society of the Spectacle" and Comments of the Society of the Spectacle. As if the Italian section of the SI never published Is the Reichstag Burning? such people claim that "conspiracy theories" are either non-situationist or anti-situationist.

Various Neo-Anarchists. Here we have in mind such groups (or participants in such actions as) "Reclaim the Streets," "Carnival Against Capitalism," The Yes-Men, The Rev. Billy, et al -- that is to say, most of what used to be called "the anti-globalization movement." These are Leftists and former-Marxists who are strongly influenced by the pre-1962 situationists, who call themselves "anti-authoritarians" because it is a good marketing strategy, and who are single-mindedly obsessed with defective or toxic commodities, evil corporations and economic globalization, and yet absolutely unconcerned with concentration camps, fascism, the "refugee crisis" and other properly political problems. They are also openly disdainful of September 11th "conspiracy theories."[20]

Jordan Levinson. This is a neo-anarchist who refers to Debord as "de Bore," who gloats about the fact that Debord "offed himself," and excoriates "the impotent rhetoric of dead fools from 40 years ago," and yet uses the email address situationist@email.com and insists on uploading his bad translations of situationist texts to a website that is full of advertisements and that deposits cookies and pop-up windows for commercial products on the hard-drives of the people foolish enough to access it. Levinson is an excellent example of a "Vaneigemist": full of rage and resentment, terrified of being judged or correcting himself, and content with things (virtually anything, of whatever quality) as long as they is free.

Raoul Vaneigem. To the casual observer, or even the moderately well-informed person, Vaneigem resigned from the SI in November 1970 and never looked back, that is to say, pursued his ideas and projects positively and progressively, not negatively or in reaction to (his resignation from) the group to which he belonged and derived whatever notoriety he possesses. Only those who have tracked Vaneigem's collaborations with the virulent anti-Debordist and madman Jean-Pierre Voyer -- and Vaneigem's use of pseudonyms (not "Ratgeb" or "Jules-Francois Dupuis," but "Jean-Pierre Bastid," "Pierre Bree" and "Jacques Vincent") in these collaborations[21] -- would know that his resignation has both determined and ruined much of what he has written since 1970.[22] (We fear that something similar is in play where Donald Nicholson-Smith is concerned.[23])

Though the adherents to situationism are awful and awfully frustrating, it is not at all comfortable being a "friend of Debord." (Note that we realize that we are certainly not Debord's only "friends," who also include Giorgio Agamben, Jean-Francois Martos and all of the various people who wrote articles about the obviously conspiratorial aspects of September 11th from a "situationist" -- that is to say, "Debordist" -- perspective.) The many causes for this discomfort are not all "theoretical"; they all do not have to do with the inappropriateness or counter-revolutionary aspects of the cult of personality, hero-worship, etc., especially where this particular person is concerned. Around 1990 or so -- but not before then, we are sure of it -- Debord became seriously depressed, paranoid, moralizing and very dull. These qualities can certainly be discerned in his letter to Jean-Francois Martos dated 26 December 1990, and they quite simply ruined Son Art et Son Temps, the TV program he made with Brigitte Cornand in 1994, shortly before his suicide. No doubt Volume 7 (1988-1994) of his Correspondance, which will be published in 2008, will show that these were not isolated episodes, but typical of the man's last few years. There will be no point in denying it.

* * *
"For the moment, you must observe all the treatments or regimes that are called for, even the severe ones. We will soon come to Italy, which, I hope, will encourage you. If a culpable indifference to what you can do in the world or a deplorable sense of humor causes you to still play with the idea of suicide, you must consider other alternatives. You know that I have always allowed, with a very great facility and nearly an equal spirit, that life separates me from many friends and several girls whom I have loved. But I tolerate death very poorly." -- Guy Debord, letter to Gianfranco Sanguinetti dated 25 September 1974.

But this does not mean that Debord's theory of the spectacle should be renounced or abandoned: far from it. Never before has it been so clear that "our" society -- the one we are forced to live in and create against our will -- is the society of the spectacle. And so our task should be developing a theory of the spectacle as it is today. A step has already been taken in this direction by McKenzie Wark in his book A Hacker's Manifesto (2004), in which the author speaks of "the vector." Adopting this term, we might speak of "the vectoral spectacle," but this is clearly inadequate: the relation of the vector (a spatial metaphor) to digital technologies is not clear. And so -- drawing upon such easily comprehensible (and relevant) terms as virtual images, virtual memory and virtual reality -- we propose "the virtual spectacle," the spectacle at its point of virtuality.

Following the gestures of Chapter I of the "Censor" pamphlet and Chapter V of Comments on the Society of the Spectacle -- both of which list and briefly discuss five new characteristics of the society of the spectacle -- we end by offering five observations about what is new since 1988.

1) Torture. This is no longer a crime, forbidden by international law and secretly perpetrated on a select few people ("high value" terrorists held in military or CIA prisons, that is to say, people from whom specialized information "needs" to be extracted); it is now an officially approved form of "information gathering" practiced by the agents of the United States government, a "necessary" component of the "war against terrorism." But torture is also becoming the mainstay of the cultural spectacle in all its forms -- "body-centered" performance art, "aggressive" advertising, "adult" entertainment and "extreme" sports -- and so is now inflicted upon a growing number of people.[24] This is generally self-inflicted torture, and so appears different from the torture inflicted by the State. But, to the extent it can be just as painful to watch someone inflict pain upon themselves as it is to watch someone inflict pain upon someone else, self-inflicted torture is part of the same "theatre of cruelty" (should we say, the same "theatre of operations"?) as State torture. Torture is the official art form of the society of the spectacle.

2) Sonorization. Harsh sounds or annoying music can be (is being) used as an instrument of torture designed to extract information, especially if is used to deprive detainees or prisoners of sleep. But, like torture itself, sound is everywhere these days: not just "muzak" in the elevator and the supermarket, but electronic prompts, recorded voices and "sound effects" coming from every single computerized device, and -- of course -- everything is done by or with computers these days. Silence is disappearing, even from "silent movies," which have had soundtracks forced upon them (the auditory equivalent of "colorization"). Worse still, these sounds are not "natural" or recorded by analog recorders: they are digitally created sounds, simulated, and they sound "better" or "more realistic" than the real things. In the society in which the spectacle has reached the stage of virtuality, even sound becomes "spectacularized."

3) Slowness. It is obvious that digital technologies have accelerated the speeds of all kinds of delivery systems: for example, messages or bombs can now be sent 'round the world in a matter of seconds. Time itself seems to be accelerating. And yet some things are not speeding up, but are slowing down. For example: the progress of selecting the ultimate winner on the American Idol TV show now seems to take forever, and the "primary season" in American presidential politics now begins in the summer of the year preceding the actual elections. Surely such a slow pace in both "elections" guarantees greater income (advertising revenue and donations, respectively). But does not this slow pace -- a kind of torture -- threaten to exhaust people's interest? Perhaps this is precisely the intention. In a society in which everything (superficial) must change so that nothing (fundamental) changes, speed is the negation that the spectacle carries within itself.

4) Accidents. Technological development accidentally creates accidents on a large scale: the invention of the automobile was also the invention of the automobile crash; the invention of the airplane was also the invention of the airplane crash, etc. Because capitalist technological renewal is deliberate, the accident becomes easily foreseeable; and because such renewal is incessant, the scope of the foreseeable accident becomes wider and deeper. The "vector" here is clear: spectacular accidents will take place globally: not just anywhere in the world, but all over the world at the same time. Thus, there is a certain symmetry or integration between the technological accident and deliberate acts of terrorism, which can be defined as the interruption of everyday life by acts of war. It will become increasingly impossible to distinguish, say, an "accidental" explosion at a nuclear power plant and a deliberate act of sabotage at such an installation. In the society of the spectacle, terrorism and everyday life become indistinguishable.

5) Refugee camps. People or, rather, masses of people, whole populations, can be forced to become refugees by "man-made" accidents, natural catastrophes, market ("crop") failures, civil wars, invasions, occupations, etc. etc. They flee en masse and are forced to stay in "temporary" camps, which are maintained by friendly hosts. This is a doubly dangerous situation for the refugees: that which is only temporary easily becomes permanent; and refugee camps can easily become hotbeds of "terrorism," which are then turned into concentration camps so as to protect the "security" of their hosts. What happens when the "accident" of mass displacement becomes a global phenomenon? The "vector" of the virtual spectacle points towards a single, giant, transnational concentration camp.[25]

NOT BORED! 28 July 2007

[1] "It is necessary to make it understood how the adventure of the SI was narrowly circumscribed in time; and contrary to many other 'avant-gardes' with pretensions to lead several [subsequent] generations. Literally, the SI existed from 1957 to 1972. And, by counting the period of the 'origins,' it existed from 1952 to '57. And here was the profound meaning of the operation of 'dissolution' that one can say took place between the autumn of 1970 and the first months of 1972." Guy Debord, letter to Jean-Francois Martos dated 14 September 1985.

[2] One wouldn't know this from the way the SI's texts have been translated into English. Take, for example, Ken Knabb's butchery of Michele Bernstein's No Useless Indulgences. Despite the facts that this short text was written by one of the SI's founders and published in the very first issue of the group's journal, Knabb saw fit to remove -- to leave untranslated -- all of this text's references to the people outside the SI who were held up for ridicule (Francoise Giroud, Georges Mathieu and Michel Tapie). Knabb's intentions were obvious: to present to the English-speaking world only those passages that were "timeless," that were not "tied" to France in the 1950s, even if that meant leaving half of this short text untranslated.

[3] See Debord's letter to Juvenal Quillet dated 11 November 1971.

[4] Better known as The Revolution of Everyday Life.

[5] Sources for this theory included Henri Lefebvre's The Critique of Everyday Life, Volume I (published in 1947) and The Critique of Everyday Life, Volume II (published in 1962).

[6] Sources for this theory included Georgs Lukacs' History and Class Consciousness (1926) and Georges Bataille's "The Notion of Expenditure" (1933).

[7] In a letter to Eduardo Rothe dated 21 February 1974, Debord sketched out the differences between the pre-1968 and post-1968 periods as follows: "The epoch no longer simply demands a vague response to the question 'What is to be done? [...] It is now a question, if one wants to remain in the present, of responding to this question almost every week: 'What is happening?' [...] The principle work that, it appears to me, one must engage in -- as the complementary contrary to The Society of the Spectacle, which described frozen alienation (and the negation that is implicit in it) -- is the theory of historical action. One must advance strategic theory in its moment, which has come. At this stage and to speak schematically, the basic theoreticians to retrieve and develop are no longer Hegel, Marx and Lautreamont, but Thucydides, Machiavelli and Clausewitz."

[8] As we have noted in our translation of the Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, Debord uses the word "spectacular" to designate this integrated form and to distinguish it from its constitutive parts.

[9] It is difficult to not refer here to Debordist theory. Surely Debord himself would have said, following Karl Marx's famous declaration "I am not a Marxist," that he was not a Debordist and that "Debordism" did not exist.

[10] See remark attributed to Serge Quadruppani in Jean-Francois Martos' letter to Debord, dated 11 September 1990.

[11] Published in Internationale Situationniste #4, June 1960. For some reason, this text remained untranslated until a few days ago, when we ourselves translated it.

[12] Founded in 1984 -- in the aftermath of the assassination of Debord's publisher, film producer and friend Gerard Lebovici -- by the ex-situationist Christian Sebastiani and Debord's friend Jaime Semprun, the Encyclopedia of Nuisances published many essays of "situationist" inspiration, including three by Debord himself: Abat-Faim, To Abolish and Ab Irato.

[13] Take for example the perfectly awful essay entitled Abundance.

[14] See the essay entitled The Encyclopedia of Powers, which was written by Jean-Francois Martos and Jean-Pierre Baudet, with help from Debord.

[15] Written by the ex-situationist Gianfranco Sanguinetti. See our translation of this important and yet often over-looked work from 1975.

[16] Written and published in 1979, and translated into English shortly thereafter.

[17] Click here for our translation of Aux Libertaires.

[18] See both An Unkind Reply to Retort and its follow-up, Another Unkind to Retort, neither of which the group has seen fit to respond to.

[19] "I think this serious and fundamental relation between struggle and truth, the dimension in which philosophy has developed for centuries and centuries, only dramatizes itself, becomes emaciated, and loses its meaning and effectiveness in polemics within theoretical discourse. So in all of this I will therefore propose only one imperative, but it will be categorical and unconditional: Never engage in polemics." Michel Foucault, lecture notes for 11 January 1978, in Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the College de France, 1977-1978 (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2007), pp. 3-4.

[20] For more on this subject, see A critique of neo-anarchism.

[21] Cf. Protest to the Libertarians of the present and the future on the capitulations of 1980 (1980) and Echecs Situationnistes (1988). In 1976, Vaneigem teamed up with Mustapha Khayati (using the pseudonym "Mustapha Martens") to denounce Gerard Lebovici for reprinting On the Poverty of Student Life. For a taste for their resentment and envy, read the note on this matter falsely attributed to Lebovici.

[22] See our review of Vaneigem's truly awful book called A Declaration of the Rights of Human Beings, published in 2000.

[23] Most well-informed people will known that, in his last film, In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni (1978), Guy Debord included a picture of Donald Nicholson-Smith -- who was excluded from the SI in December 1967 -- among pictures of other ex-situationists whom he remembered fondly (Asger Jorn, Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio and Attila Kotanyi).

In a letter to Jon Horelick and Tony Verlaan dated 28 October 1970, Debord remarked that "Certain [excluded] comrades were very sympatico and had some real capabilities. Their participation could be of great value in certain general circumstances many times described by us. I am thinking, for example, of Donald [Nicholson-Smith] and Eduardo [Rothe]: they were excluded, one and then the other, two years apart, for having totally failed to live up to an accord on a specific problem, an accord that they agreed to after very extended discussions."

In a letter to Nicholson-Smith himself dated 16 February 1978, Debord declared, "But beyond the 'organizational' plane on which this regrettable discord arose, you certainly remember that I always accorded you the greatest confidence in all the qualities that I recognized in you, and not only your intellectual talents. Of course, as everything continues, I find nothing surprising in the fact that you are still in the same historic party." The two men agreed to work together on translations of Debord's texts that would be published by Gerard Lebovici's Editions Champ Libre. After a series of exchanges concerning Nicholson-Smith's rather stiff financial requirements, Debord (and Lebovici, too) soured on the arrangement.

In a letter to Lebovici dated 27 May 1979, Debord wrote: "What you have seen in Donald appears to me to confirm the entire picture: bitter discontent at lacking so much in his life, due to my fault in a certain way. This conclusion is reinforced by his lack of eagerness to telephone me. And when he does so, I will respond that I am absent, and that the moment is not quite suitable, but there is nothing pressing. I leave it to you to manage things the best you can on the purely professional level and still remain prudent. Because he who has not known how to affirm himself by himself, over the course of twelve years, must thus necessarily associate with the most jealous of our enemies." It appears that "the most jealous of our enemies" is a reference to Raoul Vaneigem.

It is certainly true that, in the aftermath of this affair, Nicholson-Smith translated Vaneigem's Treatise of Living for the Younger Generations into English (it was published in 1983 as The Revolution of Everyday Life); and, in 1999, he translated Vaneigem's crappy little book A Cavalier History of Surrealism. In 2002, Nicholson-Smith translated a novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette, a person whom Debord detested. . . . It is in this light that one should remember that Nicholson-Smith's translation of Debord's The Society of the Spectacle (Zone Books, 1993) does not read like Debord, but like Vaneigem. That is to say, it might be an act of revenge.

[24] See Paul Virilio's book on pitiless art.

[25] This is such an important theme that we will need to take it up and develop it in another essay. For the moment, we will limit ourselves to noting that the problems of mass dislocations and huge refugee camps lie outside -- and even render irrelevant -- "traditional" Leftist/neo-anarchist preoccupations with 1) multi-national corporations and 2) either the weakening or the strengthing of boundaries between nations ("globalization"). In refugee camps, the capitalist economy (work and the consumption of commodities) does not exist: food, water and basic services, if they exist at all, are provided by humanitarian aid organizations. And because refugees camps operate under states of exception, in which the law is suspended, one cannot say that the democratic/capitalist State governs such camps. A world of refugee camps is thus not the world turned upside-down: it is the world turned inside-out.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Charles Bukowski and Packer Dulce

From: http://artofstarving.wordpress.com

This is who Art of Starving turns into after 4 beers and approximately 3 shots of Makers Mark:

He was a bastard and a genius. Charles Bukowski. Los Angeles’s greatest writer. More well-known in Europe than his own hometown. Wrote the movie ‘Barfly’. That sometimes gets a response.

I wanted to be him when I was a young writer.

I wrote poems like him. Tried to at least. This was one of them.

Drunk on beer at three in the morning the cat is in the yard talking to the moon and the cars come down the street ten minutes apart with their conical lights piercing the dark and the cat darts and hides in the bushes as I open another beer fart and sigh

Bad… I know.

Starting out I also wrote stories about a character named Packer Dulce. He was sorta my Hank Chinaski. He was a man always causing his own bad luck but finding the meaning to keep on struggling in the most mundane, overlooked miracles.

It’s the little things that allow us to get out of bed in the morning. That was the point of Packer Dulce. A plane flying overhead, leaving a jet trail. Watching children swinging at a pinata. A bird pecking at a french fry.

It took a few years, a small fortune in alcohol, and many wasted nights; it took poem after poem, story after story until I finally wrung the Bukowski out of me. There were countless road trips, and always one more beer that never seemed to end.

From Los Angeles to Boston and towns in between.

One day though I woke up and realized I had lost the Packer Dulce character out there on the road somewhere.

Now: Art of Starving. Tomorrow: who knows?

Writing is a river, I’ve just barely built my canoe.

It was a splendid day in Spring and outside we could hear the birds that hadn’t been killed by the smog – Charles Bukowski

On second thought, I lied. There’s always going to be a little Bukowski in me.


http://www.ipl.org/div/subject/browse/ref00.00.00/ http://infopeople.org/search/index.html

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Depleted Uranium Blasts to Increase At Livermore Lab - Video News Clip

Livermore Laboratory where Depleted Uranium is exploded - SF Bay in background Livermore Laboratory where Depleted Uranium is exploded - SF Bay in background

A recent news clip that discusses Lawrence Livermore Laboratory's permit application to blast 8,000 lbs of contaminants including Depleted Uranium near San Francisco/San Jose area. If you look in the pic out in the distance to your left, you will see the San Francisco Bay.

Following is a news clip out of Sacramento, CA that tells us that in the Greater San Francisco Bay/San Jose, CA area, a federal weapons laboratory has applied to explode up to 8,000 (EIGHT THOUSAND) pounds of toxic and radiological contaminants into California’s air annually. In case you’ve not yet heard? This invisible “gift” to the good folks of California (and wherever else the wind blows) includes a mighty hefty dose of "Depleted” Uranium. This component of nuclear and radiological weapons stays around in the environment for more than 4 billion years and is, in fact, the very same nasty stuff that the military uses on “the enemy” in the Middle East. This new permit that the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory has filed with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is, however, nothing all that new. The only real “news” here is that the 8,000 lbs. is an eight-fold increase of what's already been going on near San Francisco for decades. One thousand pounds (1,000 lbs.) of these contaminants have routinely been exploded at Livermore’s Site 300 each year (since at least 1961) into California's air. This is no joke. The federal government explodes “Depleted” Uranium into the open air INSIDE THE UNITED STATES in order to run “tests”, they tell us, that simulate some kind of new bombs. They certainly must be getting pretty darn good at making all kinds of new bombs by now, as they’ve been “testing” this stuff for the past 45 years in a densely-populated area filled with 10 million people! No, this truly is *not* some diabolically horrid new plot for the next Stephen King movie. This is actually happening, and has happened – apparently below the national radar - for longer than many of us have been around. One wonders then, if it is pure coincidence that in 2003, the greater San Francisco/San Jose area had more reported incidences of cancer than in the entire state of Maryland? One suspects not. http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/uscs/Table.aspx?Group=TableGeo&Year=2003&Display=n Apparently someone at the top must have recently decided that blasting 1,000 pounds of these poisons annually is not nearly enough aerosolized nano-sized particulates to be lodged, quite literally, up to decades inside America’s lungs! With a state dedicated to improving public health and air quality almost with religious zeal, it’s mighty interesting that such an environmentally-conscious state would actually be Okay, Like, Whatevvvvver with regard to adding another 7,000 lbs. of health-destroying contaminants into the atmosphere –on top of the 1,000 lbs. they historically already blast there each year. It’s believed that most Californians do not even know about these radioactive poison gas explosions. Nor do most Americans seem to even have a clue that an illegal war weapon of indiscriminate effects is being used by its own government in the air inhaled by its very own people. http://tinyurl.com/389l89 Below is a short news clip video by Cornell Barnard on the subject of the increase in toxic and radioactive contaminants into open air near the farm lands where a great deal of the produce (think grapes, lettuce, citrus fruits, dairy products, and wine) that winds up on kitchen tables across the nation is grown. As you will see, the dutiful Livermore Laboratory Public Relations worker featured in the news clip is ever the maternal, soothing voice for the Department of Energy (the obedient agency that acts as the War Department’s handmaiden). The poison Lab spokesperson (could be anyone's Mom, Auntie, or next door neighbor) calmingly reassures Californians that there’s “no public threat” and that the feds, the people who put the (contaminated) bread and butter on her table, would never do anything to harm its citizens. Well, as much as I hate to argue with a taxpayer-funded cheerleader for our national bombs and weapons “research and development” program, I have seen the list of roughly 70 contaminants they’re exploding at Site 300 at the Livermore Laboratory in California… and they sure don’t look very innocuous to me! These public health poisons include Depleted Uranium, Lead, Chloroform, Carbon Monoxide, Ammonia, Cyanide, Benzene - and that's just for starters! When you watch the news clip, be sure to watch the Livermore PR spokesperson and her body language carefully. You know, one could even swear that her nose grows a bit longer by the time she’s finished speaking. There are 2 news clips contained within the link below – the Cornell Barnard report is the one to watch. Bomb Blast Test Debate Resumes Near Tracy Written by Dan Adams, Reporter http://www.news10.net/display_story.aspx?storyid=30477 Cathy Garger http://www.mytown.ca/garger

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Presidential Candidate Wants Iraq Vote on Ballots

Stewart A. Alexander for President Peace and Freedom Party July 25, 2007 Many top Congressional Democrats and Republicans are now taking the position that it will be necessary for the US to maintain a military presence in Iraq into 2009. Despite plummeting American support for the Iraq War, Congress continues to support the occupation and American imperialism. Stewart Alexander, a presidential hopeful with Peace and Freedom Party, believes it has become necessary to put the Iraq War vote in the hands of the American voters. Alexander is proposing that state legislative bodies nationwide, or citizen groups, have a referendum on the November 2008 ballots, giving Americans the right to vote up or down to end the American occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan; and to withdraw all US forces no later than December 31, 2008. Alexander says, "Even though Americans have spoken, they still need to be heard." Peace and Freedom Party, a socialist party, has remained completely opposed to the Iraq War and occupation; even before the invasion on March 19, 2003. The party has continuously accused the US government and military leaders for America's role in the war; protecting the interest of American capitalist and the interest of multi-national corporations. The Iraq Civil War has been one of America's greatest failures. The war has claimed 3,636 American lives, and combined with Afghanistan, American casualties now stand at 4,045 according to US military reports. More than 1,000,000 Iraqis have died, and more than 1,500,000 have been seriously injured according to recent scientific data. The war has created over 4,000,000 Iraqi refugees, and has created unrest throughout the entire Middle East. The policy of the Bush administration has been a hopeless failure. Presently, the US military is developing plans to maintain American forces in Iraq into 2009. Within the next few weeks Congress will be required to make decisions on providing additional military funding to continue their support of the war; the war has cost US taxpayer almost $500 billion and it is estimated the war will cost Americans more than $1.5 trillion. Stewart Alexander and Peace and Freedom Party want American forces withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. Alexander supports having several Middle Eastern nations, including Iran and Syria, to provide security in Iraq until peace can be restored. Alexander is opposed to any additional congressional war funding, other than the necessary funds that will be required to bring Americans troops home; a sum that should not exceed $5 billion. Alexander's proposal for the American voters to make the decision regarding the Iraq War may be the only democratic alternative in determining America's destiny; it would also determine if democracy is still alive in America. For more information search the Web for: Stewart Alexander Enters Race for President; Democrats Retreat before Bush; Presidential Candidate- Senator Reid was Right, War is Lost. http://www.salt-g.com http://www.wsws.org/articles/2007/jul2007/bush-j25.shtml http://banderasnews.com/0705/edop-demsretreat.htm http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/viewArticle.asp?articleID=24902 http://www.unknownnews.net/casualties.html

Fired Professor Ward Churchill to Sue University of Colorado

Ward Churchill will file a lawsuit against the University of Colorado Wednesday. He is challenging his dismissal as a professor from the institution.

University of Colorado regents voted 8-1 Tuesday to accept school president Hank Brown's recommendation to fire him. CU Regent Cindy Carlisle had the lone dissenting vote.

Ward Churchill and his attorney, David Lane, plan to file suit in Denver District Court. Churchill is the first tenured professor that the school has ever fired for scholarly fraud.

Lane plans to amend Churchill’s existing lawsuit against the school. It will now seek Churchill’s reinstatement, a financial settlement, and demand that the university pay the attorney’s fees.

Churchill is filing in Denver instead of Boulder because he says they'll get a more diverse jury in Denver, and a speedier trial than if they filed in Boulder.

Churchill was dismissed because an investigation found that he misrepresented the effects of federal laws on American Indians, that he wrongly claimed evidence indicated Capt. John Smith exposed Indians to smallpox in the 1600s, and claimed the work of a Canadian environmental group as his own. After the board of regents' vote, Brown addressed the media saying the university had no choice but to terminate Churchill’s employment after allegations of plagiarism and academic misconduct were deemed valid. COMMENT ON THE FIRING OF CHURCHILL "This case is a very clear example of an effort to falsify history and fabricate history," Brown said “The individual involved did not express regret or apologize…or refrain from this kind of falsification in the future." The announcement of the board of regents' 8-1 vote to fire Churchill came at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. It was greeted with loud boos and shouting from a gathering of Churchill's supporters. The fired professor called the decision a fraud. His attorney said the lawsuit they are filing is based on the First Amendment. It alleges the university is punishing the former professor for controversial speech. The investigation of Churchill began after a 2001 essay surfaced in which Churchill compared workers in New York City's World Trade Center terrorist attacks to Nazi architect Adolf Eichmann. CU said the action against Churchill was not related to that paper, because it was covered under the rights of free speech. But it did touch off a 15-month long investigation into some of Churchill's other work. The investigation started in 2005, and ended with the findings of plagiarism and academic misconduct.. A five-member faculty panel voted 3-2 to punish, but not fire, Churchill. In May, however, CU president Hank Brown recommended that Churchill be fired. Governor Bill Ritter and former Governor Bill Owens both supported Churchill's termination.

Congressman John Conyers Betrays the American People

by Medea Benjamin; CommonDreams.org; July 25, 2007

I remember before the 2006 election being at a fundraiser in Los Angeles for the Democratic Party when one of the featured guests was Rep. John Conyers. The issue of impeachment came up and the crowed roared in approval when Conyers said that if the Democrats took control of Congress, he would become head of the powerful House Judiciary Committee and would initiate impeachment proceedings. That, he said, was one of the reasons why it was so important to go all out to get Democrats elected.

Fast forward to July 23, 2007. About 300 of us gathered at Arlington Cemetery, convened by peace mom Cindy Sheehan, to march to Cong. Conyers office to demand that seven months after coming to power, he fulfill his promise about initiating impeachment proceedings. Shouting “Conyers, Conyers need a reason? Torture, lies, war and treason,” the angry crowd packed the halls outside the Congressman’s office while Cindy, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern and former Conyers’ protégé Reverend Yearwood met with the Congressman inside.

A hour later, they emerged stone-faced and disillusioned. Cindy said that Conyers had told them that “impeachment isn’t going to happen because we don’t have the votes” and that “our only recourse was to work to get a Democrat in the White House.” The crowd booed and 45 people sat down inside and outside Conyers’ office. They were arrested by the Capitol Police as the supporters shouted “Shame on Conyers” and “Arrest Bush and Cheney, not the peacemakers.”

While the arrestees were being booked, about 40 activists visited the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. We know that from the day she became Speaker, the Congresswoman has insisted that impeachment was off the table. She has refused to support H. R. 333, the bill introduced by Cong. Dennis Kucinich to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney for high crimes and misdemeanors. With 13 co-sponsors, the resolution is destined to languish without ever coming to a vote, thanks to both Conyers and Pelosi.

We told Pelosi’s chief of staff, Terry McCullough, that it was totally irresponsible for the Speaker to say that impeachment was off the table. When her chief-of-staff replied that the Speaker’s priority was ending the war, not impeachment, we all insisted that the two were intertwined and certainly not mutually exclusive. We also reminded her that the people of Pelosi’s district were overwhelmingly in favor of impeachment, and that they would start looking to newly announced candidate Cindy Sheehan for representation.

The arrest of impeachment activists and their forcible eviction from Conyers’ office today is proof of the bankruptcy of the two-party system. It is shameful that Conyers and Pelosi are putting their perceived interests of their party above the Constitution, which clearly makes impeachment the remedy for dealing with presidential “high crimes and misdemeanors”. With the Democratic leadership refusing to rein in an administration run amok, it is crystal clear that we, the people, must uphold the Constitution. People’s power, like the kind in evidence today in the normally solemn halls of Congress, is our only hope.

Medea Benjamin (medea@globalexchange.org) is cofounder of Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org) and CODEPINK: Women for Peace (www.codepinkalert.org). * More http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_david_sw_070724_the_conyers_legacy.htm

It's Up to Us, by Cindy Sheehan

Journey for Humanity and Accountability Day 14

by Cindy Sheehan; July 25, 2007

I am lying in my hotel bed at the end of a very busy, productive, yet sad day.

About 300 people gathered today and marched the 3½ miles from the entrance of Arlington Cemetery to Congressman John Conyers' office to demand impeachment and accountability from one of the leading figures in American politics for the last four decades.

We were so thrilled with the turn-out and the energy of the group. There was great media coverage and about one dozen freepers on the opposite corner with signs like: "Traitors go to Hell" and "Cindy Sheehan go to Hell." Nice. I have learned that hell can be on earth and if there is anything worse than burying a child, I don't want to know about it.

At the end of the march, Reverend Lennox Yearwood, President of the Hip Hop Caucus, Ray McGovern (retired CIA analyst) and I met with Congressman John Conyers to implore him to institute impeachment proceedings against the pretenders to the White House who are destroying our democracy, making a mockery out of our rule of law and who are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

This was my third meeting with Congressman Conyers about impeachment. I hold a special place in my heart for him and I revere him for his decades long service to this nation but for the life of me, I cannot understand why he will not go forward with impeachment now.

A year ago he introduced HR635 to impeach George Bush while he was Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee and not even chairman. He wrote the book on impeachment called: The Constitution in Crisis and he readily admits that BushCo have committed impeachable offenses.

It's about partisan politics, pure and simple. The Congressman claims that there is absolutely no way that impeachment can go forward and when I was nearing the end of my hope I cried out: "So, if the people's house won't help us then we the people have no recourse against the executive branch." To which he replied: "Yes you do, vote the enablers out in '08." Firstly, Congressman Conyers told us to put Democrats back in Congress to end the war and impeach BushCo. We did that and instead of ending the war, they gave George Bush more money to wage it and to conduct his deadly and tragic surge. Secondly, '08 will be too late to hold George and Dick accountable. Thirdly, thousands of more people will die in these last months of the worst Presidency in American history and lastly: after Dick proclaimed that he was not part of the executive branch and that his office does not have to comply with requests to turn over documents to the National Archives: 435 Congress Reps should have signed onto H Res 333 to impeach Cheney. Only fourteen have co-signed Congressman Kucinich's bill, so that makes 421 elected Congressional officials enablers of the crimes of the Bush Regime.

At the end of this day, Speaker Pelosi has not supported impeachment and has not upheld her oath of office to "protect and defend" the Constitution. Like Congressman Conyers said almost a year ago, our Constitution is in Crisis and we can't wait for more meetings and more stalling from Reps who think the problem will go away in '08. The Middle East is rapidly falling apart under this regime and our country is sliding rapidly into a state of one-branch tyranny while our "heroes" the Democrats fiddle.

It was with very heavy hearts that Rev. Yearwood, Ray, and I reported back to the media that the Congressman had said that with over one million signatures on petitions and with one phone call coming into his office every 30 seconds supporting impeachment and with 300 activists in the hall to support him, he was still not going to move forward with the most urgent duty of his career. The Rev and I were particularly disheartened and broken because we do love the Congressman so much, but we love our country and the people of Iraq and the Middle East more. The Rev and Ray spent many years serving their country in the military and the CIA and I had a son who gave his life to do what the Congress is supposed to do: protect our freedoms, not hand them over to the mob that runs our country.

It is also with a heavy heart that I announce my candidacy against Nancy Pelosi in California's 8th. If anybody would dare think that I am not serious, I would hope that they would look back at the last three years of my life and everything that I have sacrificed to restore our nation to one that obeys the rule of law and can be looked up to with respect once again in the international community and not as the hated laughingstock on the block.

I am committed to challenging a two party system that has kept us in a state of constant warfare for the last 60 years and has become more and more beholden to special interests and has forgotten the faces of the people whom it represents.

I am committed to using our strength as a country to wage peace and to elevate the status of every citizen in our country by converting the enduring war economy to a prosperous one with lasting peace.

Someone needs to step up to the plate to do this and I challenge other Americans to do the same. Challenge the status quo, because the status quo is no good. We need to become plugged into our government once again as active participants not just passive voters.

It is up to us.

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