Archive for March 22, 2009

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Los Angeles – Flickr image by Pacha Mama Photography

Capitalism has failed: Face the facts

Saul Landau’s ZSpace Page / ZSpace

When the Soviet Union and its state socialism collapsed, the promoters of capitalism kvelled. But ten years later, in the early Bush years, ENRON, a super giant corporation got caught cooking its books to disguise the real state of its operations. It defrauded its stockholders and bilked California taxpayers by planning for an energy shortage at peak times and then jacking up prices. In doing its hanky panky ENRON colluded with a major accounting firm, Arthur Anderson. WorldCom and Adelphia went through similar versions of this corporate hanky panky — pre-dating the later banking and insurance horrors.

house-of-cardsThe monster-sized companies stole billions. Some of the thieves went to prison. Until then, they had been role models for Republicans and even some Democrats. Business, not government, should run the economy became the mantra of the 1980s, 90s and first eight years of the 21st Century. Business did run the economy — right into the ground. The men — and a couple of women — who directed the scandalous companies came from a culture in which large-scale theft masqueraded as solid business practice. Bernie Madoff and his imitators were only extreme examples. Create a fa?e. That’s the premise from which grand corporate theft derives. Dress well (expensively), rent a high priced office and promise easy money. The public (suckers) will come like flies to honey.

When the house of cards collapses — the U.S. economy among many other economies — a few of the more obvious (super greedy) thieves get caught and even go to prison. The conservative bankers and Wall Street moguls turned out to be reckless radicals who played fast and loose with other people’s money. The rest of the country is paying a terrible price.

The scandals should teach us lessons at a time of economic — dare I say it? — depression. Driving through Oakland, California, one doesn’t have to explain how giant banks suckered poor people into buying home mortgages they couldn’t afford. I wonder if one added up the salaries, bonuses and stock options of the former masters of the universe together with the money they spent on vacations, parties, mistresses and yachts, and if we could somehow rematerialize it, could we then use it toward bringing some of the public and private buildings up to modern standards! Slums have reemerged along with the expression “poor people.” Drive through Newark, New Jersey, Wilmington, Delaware, or Pontiac, Michigan — or dozens more cities throughout the country whose governments have not invested in their poor or in infrastructural repair for decades. Capitalism has failed — again!

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I haven’t listened to Bruce Springsteen for years, but I have to say it’s a moving song. I’m not American and certainly no admirer at all of that nation (while acknowledging it does have some great people living there). But apart from the fact that this beautiful Woody Guthrie anthem is not glorifying the US (as the last verse makes it patently clear), this song actually also has a universal message: our country is our land! We tend to forget that in our submissive relationships to our governments and our delusional consumer embrace of corporate globalisation. By the way: my attention to this video clip was drawn by a response by Pine Belt Progressive to a Woody Guthrie post I wrote a long time ago. h/t!

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3,477 cars parked by their colour

Posted: March 22, 2009 in creativity
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Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Urban Prankster“, posted with vodpod

On a lighter note than the previous posts: this is a mashup of social experiment and art, and by the sounds of it, it was a great success. This one happened in the mid-nineties – 1994 to be exact. Artist Mark Tribe explains::

“Nina Katchadourian, Steven Matheson and Mark Tribe were invited to work collaboratively on a site-specific project at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California for inSite ‘94, a binational art exhibition that takes place at various locations throughout San Diego and Tijuana.

Southwestern College is surrounded by a moat-like ring of parking lots. You can’t enter the campus without crossing a sea of concrete. Each day, Southwestern’s 3,477 parking spaces fill and empty several times with the cars of the students, faculty and staff who commute to Southwestern from all over the San Diego and Tijuana area.

On August 31, 1994 from 6am to noon, a team of 50 professional and volunteer parking attendants directed the arriving cars to predetermined lots according to car color. Each of the fourteen lots was filled with cars of a different color: dark blue, blue, light metallic blue, silver & gray, black, beige, brown, metallic raspberry, yellow, electric blue, white, aqua, green and red.”

Via Urban Prankster

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A mural in Gaza City commemorating Palestinian prisoners day (Eóin Murray)

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A mural in Gaza that depicts scenes of horror and despair intimately wrapped up in the issue of the occupation and that of prisoners (Eóin Murray)

These murals most likely aren’t new, but they nevertheless seem to evoke very similar impressions and feelings arising when looking at pictures from the other holocaust, the one in which millions of Jews died. This time though Jews are the perpetrators, the KZ (concentration camp) guards, the executioners.

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‘A third Intifada .. could provide the platform for the Palestinians to reclaim their unity.’

By Ramzy Baroud
The Palestine Chronicle


Though the dust has settled in Gaza, the rubble from the untold number of demolished buildings, homes and mosques is far from being cleared away. Graves continue to receive victims, young and old alike, from Israel’s most recent offensive. And in the midst of this, with the hopes of some respite and recovery on the horizon, rumors of a third Intifada swell among politicians, scholars and everyday people alike.

While the first and second Palestinian uprisings were spontaneous and natural responses to institutionalized injustice, and while they fostered a great sense of community and brotherhood among Palestinians everywhere, the many years of uprisings mark some of the most painful years in Palestinian history.

It’s not easy to isolate specific dates and events that spark popular revolutions. Genuine collective rebellion cannot be rationalized through a coherent line of logic that elapses time and space; it’s rather a culmination of experiences that unite the individual to the collective, their conscious and subconscious, their relationships with their immediate surroundings and with that which is not so immediate, all colliding and exploding into a fury that cannot be suppressed.

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By Gideon Levy
Hareetz

What shock, what consternation. Haaretz revealed grave accounts by officers and soldiers describing the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians during the war in Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces Spokesman was quick to respond that the IDF had no prior or supporting information about the events in question, the defense minister was quick to respond that “the IDF is the most moral army in the world,” and the military advocate general said the IDF would investigate.

All these propagandistic and ridiculous responses are meant not only to deceive the public, but also to offer shameless lies. The IDF knew very well what its soldiers did in Gaza. It has long ceased to be the most moral army in the world. Far from it – it will not seriously investigate anything.

The testimonies from the graduates of the Oranim pre-military course were a bolt from the blue – accounts of soldiers butchering a woman and two of her children, shooting and killing an elderly Palestinian woman, how they felt when they murdered in cold blood, how they destroyed property and how there was not even fighting in this war that was not a war.

But this is neither a bolt nor blue skies. Everything has long been known by those who wanted to know, those who, for example, read Amira Hass’s dispatches from Gaza in this paper. Everything started long before the assault on Gaza.

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By Uri Blau
Hareetz

ishot2killsThe office at the Adiv fabric-printing shop in south Tel Aviv handles a constant stream of customers, many of them soldiers in uniform, who come to order custom clothing featuring their unit’s insignia, usually accompanied by a slogan and drawing of their choosing. Elsewhere on the premises, the sketches are turned into plates used for imprinting the ordered items, mainly T-shirts and baseball caps, but also hoodies, fleece jackets and pants. A young Arab man from Jaffa supervises the workers who imprint the words and pictures, and afterward hands over the finished product.

Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children’s graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques – these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty. The slogans accompanying the drawings are not exactly anemic either: A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription “Better use Durex,” next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter’s T-shirt from the Givati Brigade‘s Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull’s-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, “1 shot, 2 kills.” A “graduation” shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, “No matter how it begins, we’ll put an end to it.”

There are also plenty of shirts with blatant sexual messages. For example, the Lavi battalion produced a shirt featuring a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises, and the slogan, “Bet you got raped!” A few of the images underscore actions whose existence the army officially denies – such as “confirming the kill” (shooting a bullet into an enemy victim’s head from close range, to ensure he is dead), or harming religious sites, or female or child non-combatants.

In many cases, the content is submitted for approval to one of the unit’s commanders. The latter, however, do not always have control over what gets printed, because the artwork is a private initiative of soldiers that they never hear about. Drawings or slogans previously banned in certain units have been approved for distribution elsewhere. For example, shirts declaring, “We won’t chill ’til we confirm the kill” were banned in the past (the IDF claims that the practice doesn’t exist), yet the Haruv battalion printed some last year.

The slogan “Let every Arab mother know that her son’s fate is in my hands!” had previously been banned for use on another infantry unit’s shirt. A Givati soldier said this week, however, that at the end of last year, his platoon printed up dozens of shirts, fleece jackets and pants bearing this slogan.

“It has a drawing depicting a soldier as the Angel of Death, next to a gun and an Arab town,” he explains. “The text was very powerful. The funniest part was that when our soldier came to get the shirts, the man who printed them was an Arab, and the soldier felt so bad that he told the girl at the counter to bring them to him.”

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