onsdag den 29. april 2009

Nyt web-tv show - Dangerous Minds.

Kunne godt gå hen og blive interessant. Check det ud.

Althusser - Den Stalin-apologetiske svindler.

Tony Judt, som jeg personligt kun kender fra hans særdeles hårde men retfærdige kritik af Israels undertrykkelsesdoktrin, har skrevet en artikel om Louis Althusser, som åbenbart fortsat tages seriøst i akademia, til trods for at manden selv har indrømmet at han var en svindler.

Louis Althusser, The Paris Strangler

by Tony Judt

I was brought up a Marxist. Nowadays that is not much of a boast, but it had its advantages. Parents and grandparents were imbued with all of the assumptions and some of the faith that shaped the European Socialist movement in its heyday. Coming from that branch of East European Jewry that had embraced Social Democracy and the Bund (the Jewish Labor organization of early twentieth- century Russia and Poland), my own family was viscerally anti-Communist. In its eyes, Bolshevism was not only a dictatorship, it was also--and this, too, was a serious charge--a travesty of Marxism. By the time I went to university, I had been thoroughly inoculated with all the classical nineteenth-century texts; and as a result I was immune to the wide-eyed enthusiasm with which Marxist revelations were greeted by those of my freshmen peers who were discovering them for the first time.

Thus, when I arrived in Paris as a graduate student in the late '60s, I was skeptically curious to see and to hear Louis Althusser. In charge of the teaching of philosophy at the Ecole Normale Superieure, the French elite academy for future teachers and leaders, Althusser was touted by everyone I met as a man of extraordinary gifts, who was transforming our understanding of Marx and reshaping revolutionary theory. His name, his ideas, his books were everywhere. Sitting in on his crowded and sycophantic seminar, I was utterly bemused. For Althusser's account of Marxism, to the extent that I could make any sense of it, bore no relation to anything I had ever heard. It chopped Marx into little bits, selected those texts or parts of texts that suited the master's interpretation and then proceeded to construct the most astonishingly abstruse, self-regarding and ahistorical version of Marxist philosophy imaginable. The exercise bore no discernible relationship to Marxism, to philosophy or to pedagogy. After a couple of painful attempts to adapt myself to the experience and to derive some benefit from it, I abandoned the seminar and never went back.

Returning to the subject many years later, and constrained for professional reasons to read Althusser's mercifully few published works, I understood a little better what had been going on, intellectually and sociologically. Althusser was engaged in what he and his acolytes called a " symptomatic reading" of Marx, which is to say that they took from him what they needed and ignored the rest. Where they wished Marx to have said or meant something that they could not find in his writings, they interpreted the " silences," thereby constructing an entity of their own imagination. This thing they called a science, one that Marx was said to have invented and that could be applied, gridlike, to all social phenomena.

Why invent a Marxist "science" when so much was already at hand, the Marxist "theory of history," "historical materialism," "dialectical materialism" and the rest? The answer is that Althusser, like so many others in the '60s, was trying to save Marxism from the two major threats to its credibility: the grim record of Stalinism and the failure of Marx's revolutionary forecasts. Althusser's special contribution was to remove Marxism altogether from the realm of history, politics and experience, and thereby to render it invulnerable to any criticism of the empirical sort.

In Althusser-speak, Marxism was a theory of structural practices: economic, ideological, political, theoretical. It had nothing to do with human volition or agency, and thus it was unaffected by human frailty or inadequacy. These "practices" determined history. Their respective importance, and their relationship to one another, varied with circumstances; the "dominant structure" was sometimes "economic practice" and sometimes "political practice," and so on. Of particular significance was the notion of "theoretical practice." This oxymoronic phrase, which came to be chanted, mantralike, all over Europe in those years, had the special charm of placing intellectuals and intellectual activity on the same plane as the economic organizations and the political strategies that had preoccupied earlier generations of Marxists.

This subjectless theory of everything had a further virtue. By emphasizing the importance of theory, it diverted attention from the embarrassing defects of recent practice. In such an account, Stalin's crime was not that he had murdered millions of human beings, it was that he had perverted the self- understanding of Marxism. Stalinism, in short, was just another mistake in theory, albeit an especially egregious one, whose major sin consisted of its refusal to acknowledge its own errors. This was important to Althusser, who was a member of the French Communist Party and who sought to admit the embarrassing history of that organization without undermining whatever remained of its claim to revolutionary omniscience. The Party's leadership itself had responded to this conundrum by belatedly treating Stalin as an unfortunate but parenthetical episode in the otherwise unblemished record of communism. His crimes were a mere deviation born of the cult of personality. But Althusser went one better by showing that "Stalin" and his works constituted only a collective analytical error. This performed the double service of keeping personalities out of the matter and reiterating the centrality of concepts.

It is hard, now, to recapture the mood of the '60s in which this absurd dialectical joust seemed appealing. But Althusser unquestionably filled a crucial niche. He gave young Maoists an impressively high-flown language in which to be "anti-humanist" Communists, dismissive of the "Italian road" to socialism. At the time this was a matter of some importance: the early works of Marx, notably the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, had only recently entered the canon, having for many years languished unknown and untranslated. Placed alongside his other youthful writings, they suggested a rather different Marx from the conventional image passed down from Engels via the popularizers of the early European Socialist movements; a man more interested in Romantic- era philosophy than in classical economics, an idealist whose agenda was not simply social revolution but the moral transformation of mankind. The interest in this "humanist" Marx had been aroused both by the recent French rediscovery of Hegel and by a new generation of radical intellectuals seeking to locate Marx in something other than the lineage imposed upon the European left by the doctrinaire positivism of Leninism.

Taking his cue from the growing fashion for "structuralism" (initially confined to linguistics and anthropology, but by the early '60s seeping into sociology and philosophy), Althusser worked hard to excommunicate this humanist and understandably more appealing Marx as "unscientific." In his view, to emphasize the moral condition and responsibilities of individual men was to detract from an appreciation of the larger, impersonal forces at work in history, and thus to delude the workers, or anyone else, into believing they could act on their own behalf, instead of accepting the authority of those who spoke and thought for them. In his words, "only theoretical anti-humanism justifies general practical humanism."

To flesh out his structuralist account, Althusser invented something that he and his followers called "Ideological State Apparatuses." In his heyday these were confined to the public and political world. In his memoirs, however, his attention was diverted to more personal matters. Althusser informs us that " it is an irrefutable fact that the Family is the most powerful State Ideological Apparatus" (obligatory capitals), and in reflecting upon his experience in the mental hospital he wonders "what can now be done to free the mentally ill from the Hell created for them by the combined operations of all the Ideological State Apparatuses." In Althusserian dogma the presence of these repressive and all-embracing ogres was held particularly responsible for the inconvenient stability and durability of liberal democracy. Of special note was the announcement that the university was, of all of these, the dominant one for our era. "Theoretical practice" in the academic arena was thus the site of ideological battle; and philosophy was absolutely vital as the "class struggle in theory." Scholars in their seminars were on the front line, and need feel guilty no more.

Althusser borrowed a term from the philosopher Gaston Bachelard and announced that an "epistemological break" in Marx's writings had occurred somewhere in the mid-1840s. Everything he wrote before the break was neo- Hegelian humanist flannel and could be ignored. Henceforth left-wing students and lecturers were free to jettison those bits of (the early) Marx that seemed to speak of alienation, reconciliation, human agency and moral judgment. This was hard for many people in the '60s to swallow. In Italy and in the English- speaking world, most young left-wingers were more attracted to the idea of a gentler, kinder Marx. In France, however, where the sordid political compromises of the Socialists and Communists during the battle over decolonization had left a sour taste among some of their younger supporters, this static, structuralist Marx sounded analytically pure and politically uncompromising.

By the end of the '70s, however, Althusser's star was on the wane. He had been absent during the events of May 1968, and had showed little interest in the political developments of that year. His only direct comment on the "failed revolution" of 1968 was characteristic and revealing: "When revolt ends in defeat without the workers being massacred, it is not necessarily a good thing for the working class which has no martyrs to mourn or commemorate." Even his erstwhile followers admitted that he had nothing new to offer, and his rigid stance in defense of Marxism, communism and "the revolution" made him appear irrelevant in a decade that saw the publication in France of The Gulag Archipelago, the tragedy in Cambodia, the eclipse of Mao and the steady loss of radical faith among a generation of French intellectuals. Had matters been left there, Althusser could have looked forward to a peaceful and obscure old age, a curious relic of a bizarre but forgotten era.

But then, on November 16, 1980, he murdered his wife Helene in their apartment at the Ecole Normale. Or, as the jacket copy of The New Press's translation of his memoir coyly puts it, "while massaging his wife's neck [he] discovered he had strangled her." (To be fair, this is how Althusser himself explained the event; but it is curious to find the claim reproduced unattributed on the book.) Althusser was examined by doctors, found to be mentally unfit to stand trial and locked away in a psychiatric hospital. Three years later he was released and spent his last years in a dreary flat in north Paris, emerging occasionally to startle passers-by with "Je suis le grand Althusser!" It was in these years that he drafted two versions of an autobiography. They were found after his death in 1990, and first published in French, as a single book, in 1992.

These "memoirs" are curious. Althusser would have us read them as Rousseau- like confessions, but that is hard to do, and the comparison is embarrassingly unflattering to their author. They are clearly an attempt on Althusser's part to make sense of his madness, and to that extent they are indeed revealing; by his own account he wrote them "to free myself from the murder and above all from the dubious effects of having been declared unfit to plead" (it is ironic that their posthumous impact on any unprejudiced reader will surely be to confirm the original forensic diagnosis). As a genre, however, they really come closer to magical realism. The book, especially a short early draft incongruously titled "The Facts," is full of fantasies and imagined achievements, so much so that it is sometimes hard to disentangle the fictive Althusser from the rather mundane creature whose sad story emerges in these pages.

That story is soon told. Althusser was born in 1918, the eldest child of middle-class French parents in Algeria. His father was a banker whose career took him back to Marseilles in Louis's adolescent years. The young Althusser had an utterly uneventful early career. Academically promising, he was sent to the lycee in Lyons to prepare for the entrance exam to the Ecole Normale. He passed the exam, but had to postpone his higher education when he was drafted into the army in 1939. Like many French soldiers, he had a futile war; his company was rounded up by the Germans in 1940, and he spent the next five years in a prisoner of war camp. About the only interesting thing that seems to have happened to him there was that he learned, somewhat belatedly, the pleasures of masturbation. (He was not to make love for the first time until he was 29.)

Finally admitted to the Ecole upon his return to France, Althusser did well there, coming second in the national philosophy examinations. Having spent his adolescence and his youth as an active young Catholic, he discovered left- wing politics at the Ecole and joined the Communist Party in 1948, which was about the time when other young intellectuals, nauseated and shocked by its Stalinist culture and tactics, were beginning to leave it. Shortly after graduating, Althusser obtained a teaching post at the Ecole and settled into the quiet, secure life of an academic philosopher. He was to stay in the same post until being forcibly retired in the aftermath of the scandal that ended his career.

It was during his student years that Althusser met his future wife, Helene Legotien (she had abandoned her family name, Rytmann, during the war), a woman nine years his senior who had played an active part in the Communist Resistance. As he acknowledges in his memoir, it was a troubled, even tormented relationship. They were held together by bonds of mutual destructiveness. By 1980, he writes, "the two of us were shut up together in our own private hell." Helene seems to have been an unhappy woman, insecure, tormented and bitter--and with good reason. The Communist Party abandoned her after the war, falsely accusing her of some obscure act of betrayal during the Resistance. Uneasy with her own immigrant Jewish background, and desperate for the love and attention of her husband, she put up with his moods, his women-friends and his colleagues, most of whom looked down on her from the very great height of their own vaunted intellectual standing. She was clearly not a person comfortable with herself or others; and Althusser's own bizarre personality can only have made matters worse.

For what emerges clearly from his own account is that Althusser was always a deeply troubled person. This memoir is warped and curdled by his morbid self- pity, by his insecurity and the repeated invocation of Lacanian cliches to account for his troubles. Indeed, the book's main theme is his own psychological and social inadequacy, a defect for which he naturally holds his parents responsible, in equal parts. His mother's insistence on naming him for a dead uncle is blamed for his lifelong sense of "not existing": Louis being homonymic with the word "lui," meaning "him," the young Althusser's name rendered him impersonal and anonymous. (He seems not to have given much thought to the millions of happy Louis among his fellow countrymen.) According to Althusser, his mother "castrated" him with her excessive care and attention; hence his belated discovery of women and his inability to form satisfactory relations with them. And so it goes, for page after page. Small wonder that when Louis does away with his wife, after forty years of manic-depressive bouts, hospitalization, treatment and analysis, we learn that he was taking his revenge on the older woman who not only brought him to Communism but substituted, as he admits, for mother and father alike.

There is a human tragedy here, but it is presented in a breathtakingly narcissistic key. Althusser wrote this memoir not in order to comprehend why he killed his wife, but to show himself and others that he was sane. He had been, as he puts it, "deprived of his status as a philosopher" by being declared unfit to plead, and this final loss of identity, this fear that once again he would "not exist," seems to have been the driving compulsion behind his autobiography. (Other, less exalted murderers have suffered rather greater deprivations, of course, but this, too, our author overlooks.) If we take him at his word, this fear of "not existing" was the very engine that propelled his life's work. By elaborating a doctrine in which human volition and human action counted for nought, in which theoretical speculation was the supreme practice, Althusser could compensate for a life of gloomy, introspective inaction by asserting and legitimizing his existence in the arena of the text. As he says, " I ... emerged as the victor, in the realm of pure thought."

This much, at least, we can learn from the memoir, and it casts interesting new light on the otherwise inexplicably murky and self-referential quality of the earlier philosophical writings. Althusser was reconstructing Marx to give his own life a shape with which he could live, and one that could stand respectable comparison with those of his father (a successful banker) and his wife (a Resistance fighter). We thus learn from this book that Althusser was conscious, in every sphere of his life, of "having practiced a great deception," though it never seems to have occurred to him that this insight bodes ill for the credibility of his intellectual legacy. Unfortunately for its author, however, the book reveals much more. We are presented not only with a man who is on the edge of insanity, obsessed with sexual imagery (a stick of asparagus is "stiff as a man's penis" and so on), dreams of grandeur and his own psychoanalytical history, but also with a man who is quite remarkably ignorant.

He seems to know nothing of recent history. (Among his howlers is an indictment of the "Polish fascist" Pilsudski for starting the Second World War. ) He seems only late in life to have discovered Machiavelli and other classics of Western philosophy, and he even admits to a skimpy and partial acquaintance with Marx's texts (something one might have inferred from his published work). He is also unsophisticated to the point of crudity in his political analysis. He seems to have learned nothing and to have forgotten nothing in the last twenty years of his life. Thus there is much talk of "the hegemony of bourgeois, imperialist capitalism"; and he is dismissive of the dissidents of the Soviet bloc ("cut off from their own people") and contemptuous of writers like Andre Glucksmann for "putting around unbelievable horror stories of the Gulag." Those words were written in 1985!

One puts down this depressing book with an overwhelming sense of bewilderment. How could it be that so many intelligent and educated people were taken in by this man? Even if we allow that his manic fancies met some widespread need in the '60s, how are we to account for the continuing fascination that he exercises in certain circles today? In France he is largely forgotten, though the jacket blurb by Didier Eribon describes the autobiography as "magnificent" and explains that "madness [is] the inevitable price of philosophy." It is a conclusion whose deductive logic and historical accuracy are truly in the Althusserian tradition; but Eribon is a French journalist who has made a career of playing the fawning hyena to the preening lions of Parisian intellectual life, and he is not representative.

In the United States, however, there are still university research centers that devote time and money to the study of Althusser's thought, and mount expensive conferences at which professors lecture one another earnestly about " Althusserianism" in everything from linguistics to hermeneutics. Meanwhile respectable English-language publishers continue to market books with titles like The Althusserian Legacy, Althusser and the Detour of Theory, Reading Althusser, Althusser and the Renewal of Marxist Social Theory and, inevitably, Althusser and Feminism, most of them unreadable excursions into the Higher Drivel.

Althusser was not a charlatan. He himself really believed that he had discovered something significant--or was about to discover something significant--when his illness struck. It is not because he was mad that he was a mediocre philosopher; indeed, the recognition of his own intellectual mediocrity may have contributed to his depressions, and thence to his loss of sanity. If there is something humiliating about the Althusserian episode in intellectual history, then, the humiliation is not his alone. He was a guru, complete with texts, a cult and true believers; and he showed occasional insight into the pathos of his followers, noting that they imitated his " smallest gestures and inflections."

Althusser's work and his life, with his drugs, his analysts, his self-pity, his illusions and his moods, take on a curiously hermetic quality. He comes to resemble some minor medieval scholastic, desperately scrabbling around in categories of his own imagining. But even the most obscure theological speculation usually had as its goal something of significance. From Althusser's musings, however, nothing followed. They were not subject to proof and they had no intelligible worldly application, except as abstruse political apologetics. What does it say about modern academic life that such a figure can have trapped teachers and students for so long in the cage of his insane fictions, and traps them still?

"Louis Althusser, The Paris Strangler," by Tony Judt Vol. 210, New Republic, 03-07-1994, pp 33.

Tony Judt is Professor of European Studies at New York University and the author of Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals 1944-1956 (University of California Press).

I include a few passages from Althusser's memoir where he discussed his scholarship:

"I obtained my diploma having written a thesis for Bachelard on Hegel's notion of content, using the false quotation, 'One content is better than two', whose author I did not know.... I do not think Bachelard read my thesis as he was very busy. One of the major themes I discussed was the 'circularity of content.' He simply objected that it might have been better to use the tem 'circulation' instead, but I disagreed. That was all he said...." (p. 161)

"I should point out that in both the written and oral exams I knew very little about most of the topics I dealt with. But I did know how to 'construct' an essay and suitably disguise my ignorance by arguing a priori whatever the subject. I also structured my arguments the way one should in a good university essay suspending theoretical judgement where appropriate, as had been instilled into me by Jean Guitton." (p. 162)

Althusser eventually became a Professor of Philosophy at the elite "Ecole normal superier" where he had originally been a student.

"What did the Ecole mean to me? Very quickly, in fact, from the outset, it was really a 'womblike' place, where I felt warm and at home and was protected from the outside world. I had no reason to leave it in order to meet people as they dropped by or came to see me, especially when I became well-known. In essence it had a maternal ambiance, was like an amniotic fluid." (p.163)

"Anyway, I carried out my duties as a philosophy teacher and felt more and more that I was a philosopher, despite all my misgivings. In fact, my philosophical knowledge of texts was rather limited. I was very familiar with Descartes and Malebranche, knew a little Spinoza, nothing about Aristotle, the Sophists and the Stoics, quite a lot about Plato and Pascal, nothing about Kant, a bit about Hegel, and finally a few passages of Marx which I had studied closely. My way of picking up and then really getting to know philosophy was legendary: I used to enjoy saying that it was all done by 'heresay' (the first confused form of knowledge according to Spinoza). I learned from Jacques Martin, who was cleverer than me, by gleaning certain phrases in passing from my friends, and lastly from the seminar papers and essays of my own students. In the end I naturally made it a point of honor, and boasted that 'I learnt by hearsay." This distinguished me quite markedly from all my university friends who were much better informed than me, to arouse astonishment, incredulity, and admiration in other people."

"I had another particular ability. Starting from a simple turn of phrase, I thought I could work out (what an illusion!), if not the specific ideas of an author or a book I had not read, at least their general drift or direction. I obviously had certain intuitive powers as well as a definite ability for seeing connections, or a capacity for establishing theoretical oppositions, which enabled me to reconstruct what I took to be an author's ideas on the basis of the authors to whom he was opposed. I proceeded spontaneously by drawing contrasts and distinctions, subsequently elaborating a theory to support this." (pp. 165-166).

From Louis Althusser, The Future Lasts Forever, A Memoir. New York: The New Press, 1994.

tirsdag den 28. april 2009

GEORGE ORWELL: Politics and the English Language

Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the
English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we
cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is
decadent, and our language--so the argument runs--must inevitably share
in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse
of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to
electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the
half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an
instrument which we shape for our own purposes.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have
political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence
of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause,
reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an
intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because
he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely
because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the
English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are
foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to
have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible.
Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which
spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take
the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more
clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political
regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and
is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to
this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have
said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of
the English language as it is now habitually written.

These five passages have not been picked out because they are especially
bad--I could have quoted far worse if I had chosen--but because they
illustrate various of the mental vices from which we now suffer. They are
a little below the average, but are fairly representative samples. I
number them so that I can refer back to them when necessary:

(1) I am not, indeed, sure whether it is not true to say that the Milton
who once seemed not unlike a seventeenth-century Shelley had not become,
out of an experience ever more bitter in each year, more alien (sic) to
the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could induce him to

PROFESSOR HAROLD LASKI (Essay in Freedom of Expression)

(2) Above all, we cannot play ducks and drakes with a native battery of
idioms which prescribes such egregious collocations of vocables as the
Basic put up with or tolerate or put at a loss or bewilder.


(3) On the one side we have the free personality; by definition it is not
neurotic, for it has neither conflict nor dream. Its desires, such as
they are, are transparent, for they are just what institutional approval
keeps in the forefront of consciousness; another institutional pattern
would alter their number and intensity; there is little in them that is
natural, irreducible, or culturally dangerous. But on the other side, the
social bond itself is nothing but the mutual reflection of these
self-secure integrities. Recall the definition of love. Is not this the
very picture of a small academic? Where is there a place in this hall of
mirrors for either personality or fraternity?

ESSAY ON PSYCHOLOGY in Politics (New York)

(4) All the "best people" from the gentlemen's clubs, and all the frantic
fascist captains, united in common hatred of Socialism and bestial horror
of the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement, have turned to
acts of provocation, to foul incendiarism, to medieval legends of
poisoned wells, to legalize their own destruction of proletarian
organizations, and rouse the agitated petty-bourgeoisie to chauvinistic
fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary way out of the


(5) If a new spirit is to be infused into this old country, there is one
thorny and contentious reform which must be tackled, and that is the
humanization and galvanization of the B.B.C. Timidity here will bespeak
canker and atrophy of the soul. The heart of Britain may lee sound and of
strong beat, for instance, but the British lion's roar at present is like
that of Bottom in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream--as gentle as any
sucking dove. A virile new Britain cannot continue indefinitely to be
traduced in the eyes, or rather ears, of the world by the effete languors
of Langham Place, brazenly masquerading as "standard English." When the
Voice of Britain is heard at nine o'clock, better far and infinitely less
ludicrous to hear aitches honestly dropped than the present priggish,
inflated, inhibited, school-ma'am-ish arch braying of blameless bashful
mewing maidens.


Each of these passages has faults of its own, but quite apart from
avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is
staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either
has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something
else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything
or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most
marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind
of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete
melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech
that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for
the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together
like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house. I list below, with notes
and examples, various of the tricks by means of which the work of
prose-construction is habitually dodged:

Dying metaphors. A newly-invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a
visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically
"dead" (e.g., iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an
ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in
between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors
which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save
people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are:
Ring the changes on, take up the cudgels for, toe the line, ride
roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of,
an axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the
order of the day, Achilles' heel, swan song, hotbed. Many of these are
used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a "rift," for
instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign
that the writer is not interested in what he is saying. Some metaphors
now current have been twisted out of their original meaning without those
who use them even being aware of the fact. For example, toe the line is
sometimes written tow the line. Another example is the hammer and the
anvil, now always used with the implication that the anvil gets the worst
of it. In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never
the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying
would be aware of this, and would avoid perverting the original phrase.

Operators, or verbal false limbs. These save the trouble of picking out
appropriate verbs and nouns, and at the same time pad each sentence with
extra syllables which give it an appearance of symmetry. Characteristic
phrases are: render inoperative, militate against, prove unacceptable,
make contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for,
having the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt,
take effect, exhibit a tendency to, serve the purpose of, etc., etc. The
keynote is the elimination of simple verbs. Instead of being a single
word, such as break, stop, spoil, mend, kill, a verb becomes a phrase,
made up of a noun or adjective tacked on to some general-purposes verb as
prove, serve, form, play, render. In addition, the passive voice is
wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun
constructions are used instead of gerunds (by examination of instead of
by examining). The range of verbs is further cut down by means of the
'-ize' and 'de-' formations, and banal statements are given an appearance of
profundity by means of the not 'un-' formation. Simple conjunctions and
prepositions are replaced by such phrases as with respect to, having
regard to, the fact that, by dint of, in view of, in the interests of, on
the hypothesis that; and the ends of sentences are saved from anti-climax
by such resounding commonplaces as greatly to be desired, cannot be left
out of account, a development to be expected in the near future,
deserving of serious consideration, brought to a satisfactory conclusion,
and so on and so forth.

Pretentious diction. Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as
noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basis, primary,
promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate, are
used to dress up simple statements and give an air of scientific
impartiality to biased judgments. Adjectives like epoch-making, epic,
historic, unforgettable, triumphant, age-old, inevitable, inexorable,
veritable, are used to dignify the sordid processes of international
politics, while writing that aims at glorifying war usually takes on an
archaic color, its characteristic words being: realm, throne, chariot,
mailed fist, trident, sword, shield, buckler, banner, jackboot, clarion.
Foreign words and expressions such as cul de sac, ancien regime, deus ex
machina, mutatis mutandis, status quo, gleichschaltung, weltanschauung,
are used to give an air of culture and elegance. Except for the useful
abbreviations i.e., e.g., and etc., there is no real need for any of the
hundreds of foreign phrases now current in English. Bad writers, and
especially scientific, political and sociological writers, are nearly
always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than
Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict,
extraneous, deracinated, clandestine, subaqueous and hundreds of others
constantly gain ground from their Anglo-Saxon opposite numbers. The
jargon peculiar to Marxist writing (hyena, hangman, cannibal, petty
bourgeois, these gentry, lackey, flunkey, mad dog, White Guard, etc.)
consists largely of words and phrases translated from Russian, German or
French; but the normal way of coining a new word is to use a Latin or
Greek root with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, the '-ize'
formation. It is often easier to make up words of this kind
(de-regionalize, impermissible, extramarital, non-fragmentary and so
forth) than to think up the English words that will cover one's meaning.
The result, in general, is an increase in slovenliness and vagueness.

1. An interesting illustration of this is the way in which the English
flower names which were in use till very recently are being ousted by
Greek ones, snap-dragon becoming antirrhinum, forget-me-not becoming
myosotis, etc. It is hard to see any practical reason for this change of
fashion: it is probably due to an instinctive turning-away from the more
homely word and a vague feeling that the Greek word is scientific.

Meaningless words. In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art
criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long
passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.2 Words like
romantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality,
as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in the sense that
they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly
even expected to do so by the reader. When one critic writes, "The
outstanding feature of Mr. X's work is its living quality," while another
writes, "The immediately striking thing about Mr. X's work is its
peculiar deadness," the reader accepts this as a simple difference of
opinion If words like black and white were involved, instead of the
jargon words dead and living, he would see at once that language was
being used in an improper way. Many political words are similarly abused.
The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies
"something not desirable." The words democracy, socialism, freedom,
patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different
meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a
word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the
attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally
felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it:
consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a
democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it
were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a
consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own
private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something
quite different. Statements like Marshal Petain was a true patriot, The
Soviet Press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed
to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other
words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly,
are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary bourgeois,

2. Example: "Comfort's catholicity of perception and image, strangely
Whitmanesque in range, almost the exact opposite in aesthetic compulsion,
continues to evoke that trembling atmospheric accumulative hinting at a
cruel, an inexorably serene timelessness . . . Wrey Gardiner scores by
aiming at simple bullseyes with precision. Only they are not so simple,
and through this contented sadness runs more than the surface bittersweet
of resignation." (Poetry Quarterly.)

Now that I have made this catalogue of swindles and perversions, let me
give another example of the kind of writing that they lead to. This time
it must of its nature be an imaginary one. I am going to translate a
passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a
well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor
the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches
to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and
chance happeneth

Here it is in modern English:

Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion
that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to
be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of
the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

This is a parody, but not a very gross one. Exhibit (3), above, for
instance, contains several patches of the same kind of English. It will
be seen that I have not made a full translation. The beginning and ending
of the sentence follow the original meaning fairly closely, but in the
middle the concrete illustrations--race, battle, bread--dissolve into the
vague phrase "success or failure in competitive activities." This had to
be so, because no modern writer of the kind I am discussing--no one
capable of using phrases like "objective consideration of contemporary
phenomena"--would ever tabulate his thoughts in that precise and detailed
way. The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness. Now
analyze these two sentences a little more closely. The first contains 49
words but only 60 syllables, and all its words are those of everyday
life. The second contains 38 words of 90 syllables: 18 of its words are
from Latin roots, and one from Greek. The first sentence contains six
vivid images, and only one phrase ("time and chance") that could be
called vague. The second contains not a single fresh, arresting phrase,
and in spite of its 90 syllables it gives only a shortened version of the
meaning contained in the first. Yet without a doubt it is the second kind
of sentence that is gaining ground in modern English. I do not want to
exaggerate. This kind of writing is not yet universal, and outcrops of
simplicity will occur here and there in the worst-written page. Still, if
you or I were told to write a few lines on the uncertainty of human
fortunes, we should probably come much nearer to my imaginary sentence
than to the one from Ecclesiastes.

As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in
picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in
order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long
strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and
making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this
way of writing, is that it is easy. It is easier--even quicker, once you
have the habit--to say In my opinion it is a not unjustifiable assumption
that than to say I think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only
don't have to hunt about for words; you also don't have to bother with
the rhythms of your sentences, since these phrases are generally so
arranged as to be more or less euphonious. When you are composing in a
hurry--when you are dictating to a stenographer, for instance, or making
a public speech--it is natural to fall into a pretentious, Latinized
style. Tags like a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind
or a conclusion to which all of us would readily assent will save many a
sentence from coming down with a bump. By using stale metaphors, similes
and idioms, you save much mental effort at the cost of leaving your
meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself. This is the
significance of mixed metaphors. The sole aim of a metaphor is to call up
a visual image. When these images clash--as in The Fascist octopus has
sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown into the melting pot--it can
be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the
objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking. Look
again at the examples I gave at the beginning of this essay. Professor
Laski (1) uses five negatives in 53 words. One of these is superfluous,
making nonsense of the whole passage, and in addition there is the slip
alien for akin, making further nonsense, and several avoidable pieces of
clumsiness which increase the general vagueness. Professor Hogben (2)
plays ducks and drakes with a battery which is able to write
prescriptions, and, while disapproving of the everyday phrase put up
with, is unwilling to look egregious up in the dictionary and see what it
means. (3), if one takes an uncharitable attitude towards it, is simply
meaningless: probably one could work out its intended meaning by reading
the whole of the article in which it occurs. In (4), the writer knows
more or less what he wants to say, but an accumulation of stale phrases
chokes him like tea leaves blocking a sink. In (5), words and meaning
have almost parted company. People who write in this manner usually have
a general emotional meaning--they dislike one thing and want to express
solidarity with another--but they are not interested in the detail of
what they are saying. A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he
writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying
to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it
clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will
probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said
anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all
this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and
letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your
sentences for you--even think your thoughts for you, to a certain
extent-and at need they will perform the important service of partially
concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the
special connection between politics and the debasement of language
becomes clear.

In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing.
Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some
kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a "party line."
Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative
style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles,
manifestoes, White Papers and the speeches of under-secretaries do, of
course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one
almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, home-made turn of speech. When
one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the
familiar phrases--bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny,
free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder--one often has a
curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind
of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the
light catches the speaker's spectacles and turns them into blank discs
which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether
fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some
distance towards turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises
are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would
be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making
is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be
almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the
responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not
indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the
indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the
Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan,
can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for
most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of
political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of
euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless
villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the
countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with
incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are
robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than
they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of
frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the
back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is
called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if
one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.
Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending
Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe in killing
off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so." Probably,
therefore, he will say something like this:

While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features
which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think,
agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is
an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors
which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply
justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.

The inflated style is itself a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words
falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outlines and covering
up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.
When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one
turns, as it were instinctively, to long words and exhausted idioms, like
a cuttlefish squirting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as
"keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues, and politics
itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia. When
the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to
find--this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to
verify--that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all
deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years as a result of

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A
bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation, even among people who
should and do know better. The debased language that I have been
discussing is in some ways very convenient. Phrases like a not
unjustifiable assumption, leaves much to be desired, would serve no good
purpose, a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind, are a
continuous temptation, a packet of aspirins always at one's elbow. Look
back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again
and again committed the very faults I am protesting against. By this
morning's post I have received a pamphlet dealing with conditions in
Germany. The author tells me that he "felt impelled" to write it. I open
it at random, and here is almost the first sentence that I see: "[The
Allies] have an opportunity not only of achieving a radical
transformation of Germany's social and political structure in such a way
as to avoid a nationalistic reaction in Germany itself, but at the same
time of laying the foundations of a cooperative and unified Europe." You
see, he "feels impelled" to write--feels, presumably, that he has
something new to say--and yet his words, like cavalry horses answering
the bugle, group themselves automatically into the familiar dreary
pattern. This invasion of one's mind by ready-made phrases (lay the
foundations, achieve a radical transformation) can only be prevented if
one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase
anesthetizes a portion of one's brain.

I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable.
Those who deny this would argue, if they produced an argument at all,
that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we
cannot influence its development by any direct tinkering with words and
constructions. So far as the general tone or spirit of a language goes,
this may be true, but it is not true in detail. Silly words and
expressions have often disappeared, not through any evolutionary process
but owing to the conscious action of a minority. Two recent examples were
explore every avenue and leave no stone unturned, which were killed by
the jeers of a few journalists. There is a long list of fly-blown
metaphors which could similarly be got rid of if enough people would
interest themselves in the job; and it should also be possible to laugh
the not 'un-' formation out of existence,3 to reduce the amount of Latin
and Greek in the average sentence, to drive out foreign phrases and

strayed scientific words, and, in general, to make pretentiousness
unfashionable. But all these are minor points. The defense of the English
language implies more than this, and perhaps it is best to start by
saying what it does not imply.

3. One can cure oneself of the not 'un-' formation by memorizing this
sentence: A not unblack dog was chasing a not unsmall rabbit across a not
ungreen field.

To begin with, it has nothing to do with archaism, with the salvaging of
obsolete words and turns of speech, or with the setting-up of a
"standard-English" which must never be departed from. On the contrary, it
is especially concerned with the scrapping of every word or idiom which
has outworn its usefulness. It has nothing to do with correct grammar and
syntax, which are of no importance so long as one makes one's meaning
clear, or with the avoidance of Americanisms, or with having what is
called a "good prose style." On the other hand it is not concerned with
fake simplicity and the attempt to make written English colloquial. Nor
does it even imply in every case preferring the Saxon word to the Latin
one, though it does imply using the fewest and shortest words that will
cover one's meaning. What is above all needed is to let the meaning
choose the word, and not the other way about. In prose, the worst thing
one can do with words is to surrender them. When you think of a concrete
object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing
you have been visualizing, you probably hunt about till you find the
exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you
are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a
conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in
and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your
meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible
and get one's meaning as clear as one can through pictures or sensations.
Afterwards one can choose--not simply accept--the phrases that will best
cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impressions
one's words are likely to make on another person. This last effort of the
mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all prefabricated phrases,
needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness generally. But one can
often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs
rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following
rules will cover most cases:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are
used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you
can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous.

These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep
change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style
now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad English,
but one could not write the kind of stuff that I quoted in these five
specimens at the beginning of this article.

I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely
language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or
preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming
that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext
for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don't know what
Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow
such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognize that the present
political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can
probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If
you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of
orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you
make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself.
Political language-and with variations this is true of all political
parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists--is designed to make lies sound
truthful and murder respectable. and to give an appearance of solidity to
pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least
change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers
loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase--some jackboot,
Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno or
other lump of verbal refuse--into the dustbin where it belongs.

lørdag den 25. april 2009

Obama-administrations retspolitik

"I want you to hold our government accountable, I want you to hold me accountable."


Glen Greenwald (Salon.com): Obama and Habeus Corpus. Artikel.

Associated Press: Obama legal team wants to limit defendants' rights. Artikel.

CBS NEWS: Obama Rejects Interrogation Commission.Artikel.

AP: UN torture envoy: US must prosecute Bush lawyers.Artikel.

Times Online: Photo evidence bring new claims US abused prisoners in Iraq and AfghanistanArtikel.

torsdag den 23. april 2009

DF kandidat sammenligner islam med satanisme

I en artikel i Information i går kunne man læse, at DFs kandidat til Europa-parlamentet Henrik Ræder Clausen, anser Islam for etisk at være beslægtet med satanismen.

Islam minder om satanisme. Eller, hvis man skal være helt retfærdig over for moderne satanisme, så er etikken i islam faktisk mere problematisk, fordi islam ingen faste regler opstiller for opførsel.

Det er interessant at DF har så travlt med islam, som igen og igen portrætteres som en barbarisk religion, der intet godt har gjort for menneskeheden - og som nu altså er sammenlignelig med den moderne satanisme.

Et meget interessant "argument", for var det ikke netop djævletilbedelse den officielle kristendom brugte som undskyldning for folkemord (katharerne) og tortur og henrettelser af påståede hekse? Heksejagten lever altså videre i bedste velgående i DF regi - skulle nogen nogensinde have været i tvivl.

Endvidere bør det vel fremhæves, at Henrik Ræder Clausen mener, at den kristne etik beror på de syv dødssynder, når han siger "Det interessante er etikken [den muslimske], og når man går igennem de islamiske skrifter, så kan man se, at Muhammed begik ting, der bliver betragtet som en dødssynd i kristendommen,". Hvor var det lige Jesus talte om de syv dødssynder? Svaret er selvfølgelig ingen steder, da de syv dødssynder blev opfundet af den romersk-katolske kirke, som man vel må gå ud fra, det er naturligt for en dansk lutheraner, at tage afstand fra, med Luthers opgør med paven in mente.

....og apropos Luther så er det da også lettere interessant i denne henseende, at Søren Krarups Tidehverv for en ti år siden genudgav Martin Luthers stridskrift "Om Jøderne og Deres Løgne", hvori det anbefales, at man ødelægger jødernes synagoger, tager deres toraher fra dem og jager dem bort fra den kristne jord ved at smide svinelort på dem. Er det ikke netop hvad DF og kumpaner gør idag dvs. nægter muslimer ret til at praktisere deres religion på arbejdspladser og nægter dem tilladelse til at bygge moskeer, helst så deres bøger brændt, samt, at man hele tiden forsøger at jage herboende muslimer væk, ved at kaste demagogiens svinelort på dem?

Hvad der ydermere er ganske interessant er DFs fuldstændig fraværende kritik af rabiate kristne.

Hvor er DFs kritik af Jehovas Vidner der hjernevasker deres børn fra barnsben, som fortæller disse at deres seksualitet er gudsbespottende - onani er fy - og har nogle meget ubehagelige irettesættelsesmetoder af overtrædere af loven foran HELE menigheder? Ingen steder.

Hvor er DFs kritik af Ruth Evens Faderhuset hvor Bibelen bliver inddraget i ALLE fag, også biologi, eller kreationister og intelligente designere der gerne ser Darwins udviklingslære slettet fra menneskets historie? Ingen steder.

Hvor er DFs kritik af amerikanske kristne der bomber abortklinikker, eller paven der siger, at prævention er en dårlig ting, eller den katolske kirke som mener, at en ti-årig pige der er blevet gravid ved sin egen faders voldtægt, ikke har ret til en abort? Ingen steder.

DF vil meget gerne fremstå som moralens vogtere, som jo i mange henseender i praksis er den kristne moral, men kommer i praksis til at fremstå som hyklere, der retter skarp kritik og har hårdt dømmende standarder overfor det fåtal er herboende muslimer som er rabiate, hvilket i DFs optik ekstrapoleres til at være gældende for alle muslimer, mens man ikke anvender denne standard og fører denne kritik mod de rabiate kristne, som i den vestlige verden er langt mere talrige end rabiate muslimer er og nogensinde har været.

tirsdag den 21. april 2009

Finkelsteins vs. Alan Dershowitz debatten.

Dette er en must see debat mellem to af de mest toneangivende amerikanske intellektuelle hvad angår Israel-Palæstina konflikten og den amerikanske udenrigspolitiske historie og praksis som denne konflikt er indlejret i.

Finkelstein kommer i denne med den hårdeste kritik jeg har set en af en anden intellektuel nogensinde.

Læs i øvrigt Finkelsteins dokumentation her.

lørdag den 18. april 2009

Hvor farlige er Taleban egentlig?

Professor i politisk videnskab (det vi herhjemme kalder statskundskab), John Mueller, har i den nye udgave af det anerkendte og indflydelsrige udenrigspolitiske tidsskrift Foreign Affairs en kort vurdering af hvor farlige Taliban egentlig er, herunder om det giver mening, når Obama begrunder udenrigspolitikken i Afghanistan/Pakistan med, at krigen mod Afghanistan er nødvendig for at forhindre, at Afghanistan igen bliver "a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can."

Multiple sources, including Lawrence Wright's book The Looming Tower, make clear that the Taliban was a reluctant host to al Qaeda in the 1990s and felt betrayed when the terrorist group repeatedly violated agreements to refrain from issuing inflammatory statements and fomenting violence abroad. Then the al Qaeda-sponsored 9/11 attacks -- which the Taliban had nothing to do with -- led to the toppling of the Taliban’s regime. Given the Taliban’s limited interest in issues outside the "AfPak" region, if they came to power again now, they would be highly unlikely to host provocative terrorist groups whose actions could lead to another outside intervention. And even if al Qaeda were able to relocate to Afghanistan after a Taliban victory there, it would still have to operate under the same siege situation it presently enjoys in what Obama calls its "safe haven" in Pakistan.

The very notion that al Qaeda needs a secure geographic base to carry out its terrorist operations, moreover, is questionable. After all, the operational base for 9/11 was in Hamburg, Germany. Conspiracies involving small numbers of people require communication, money, and planning -- but not a major protected base camp.

At present, al Qaeda consists [3] of a few hundred people running around in Pakistan, seeking to avoid detection and helping the Taliban when possible. It also has a disjointed network of fellow travelers around the globe who communicate over the Internet. Over the last decade, the group has almost completely discredited [4] itself in the Muslim world due to the fallout from the 9/11 attacks and subsequent counterproductive terrorism, much of it directed against Muslims. No convincing evidence has been offered publicly to show that al Qaeda Central has put together a single full operation anywhere in the world since 9/11. And, outside of war zones, the violence perpetrated by al Qaeda affiliates, wannabes, and lookalikes combined has resulted [5] in the deaths of some 200 to 300 people per year, and may be declining [6]. That is 200 to 300 too many, of course, but it scarcely suggests that "the safety of people around the world is at stake," as Obama dramatically puts it.

In addition, al Qaeda has yet to establish a significant presence in the United States. In 2002, U.S. intelligence reports asserted that the number of trained al Qaeda operatives in the United States was between 2,000 and 5,000, and FBI Director Robert Mueller assured [7] a Senate committee that al Qaeda had "developed a support infrastructure" in the country and achieved both "the ability and the intent to inflict significant casualties in the U.S. with little warning." However, after years of well funded sleuthing, the FBI and other investigative agencies have been unable [8] to uncover a single true al Qaeda sleeper cell or operative within the country. Mueller's rallying cry has now been reduced [9] to a comparatively bland formulation: "We believe al Qaeda is still seeking to infiltrate operatives into the U.S. from overseas."

Even that may not be true. Since 9/11, some two million foreigners have been admitted to the United States legally and many others, of course, have entered illegally. Even if border security has been so effective that 90 percent of al Qaeda’s operatives have been turned away or deterred from entering the United States, some should have made it in -- and some of those, it seems reasonable to suggest, would have been picked up by law enforcement by now. The lack of attacks inside the United States combined with the inability of the FBI to find any potential attackers suggests that the terrorists are either not trying very hard or are far less clever and capable than usually depicted.


onsdag den 15. april 2009

Michel Chussodovsky om Finanskrisen

Forelæsning med økonomiprofessor og leder af Center for Research on Globalization, Michel Chussodovsky om system- og finanskrisen.

tirsdag den 14. april 2009

Reuters-feature om Uzbekistans Karimov - Obamas Allierede.

"The economic situation is getting worse," said Surat Ikramov, a human rights campaigner who says he has been beaten, threatened and poisoned because he opposes the government.

From his cramped Soviet-style apartment, he monitors rights abuses and meticulously documents each one. On his desk lie photographs of him with a disfigured face after an occasion when he says four masked agents abducted him, beat him, tied him in his car and tried to set fire to it.

His life was saved because the fuel tank was empty.He says Karimov "will stay to the end. He has usurped so much power that nobody can challenge him. He is like Stalin, maybe stronger."

Nigora Khidoyatova, an opposition leader, knows what it is to feel the anger of Karimov's government. Her husband was shot dead in 2005 in an attack she blames on the government. Her sister Nodira was locked up for several months in 2006.

She warns against trusting official economic data. "The government numbers are not true," she said. "Every year the president gives Soviet-style figures on the cotton harvest and says the latest plan has been fulfilled."

Two-thirds of Uzbekistan's people are rural and the economy depends on cotton, which human rights bodies allege is harvested with forced child labour. The government says it has eliminated the use of children.

Karimov has said Islamist militancy is on the rise and is a threat, but rights groups say he is using it as an excuse to eliminate dissent and religious freedom.

The most notable example was when troops fired on protesters in the eastern city of Andizhan in May 2005, killing hundreds.

Reuters Artiklen.

Lidt om anarkokapitalismens og ultraliberalismens selvmodsigelser.

Går anarkokapitalismen og ultraliberalismen ind for frihed i andet end økonomisk forstand dvs. for de bedst stillede?

I samfund af en størrelsesorden som den danske, som indrømmet er en komparativt ganske lille samfundsorden, er værdien af ens arbejdskraft for langt de fleste lønmodtagere, direkt proprotionel med graden af uddannelse og/eller erhvervserfaring. Ifølge den liberalistiske ideologi er individets ansvar for egne lykkebestræbelser og egen næring i højsædet, men her kommer problemet ind, for hvis man ikke har rige forældre, eller forældre som gennem et helt liv har valgt at spare op, således at deres børn når de bliver gamle nok, kan gå i gang med en videregående uddannelse, så kan vedkommende ikke tage sig en sådan uddannelse. Det er altså ikke det personlige ansvar hos denne enkelte der er tale om, men at denne enkeltes fremtid afhænger af om hans forældre har været ansvarlige nok til at ligge penge til side, så han eller hun kan få sig en uddannelse, hvis altså de overhovedet har haft penge nok til at ligge nogle til side. Ansvaret er derfor ikke længere et individuelt ansvar men fremtidens muligheder er derimod bundet op på om andre har handlet ansvarligt!!! Hvis forældrene kun lige har kunne skaffe sig penge til dagen og vejen og derfor ikke har haft nogle penge til at ligge til side, har de imidlertid handlet mest ansvarligt indenfor deres økonomiske råderum, da det ville være uansvarligt, at lade være med at spise aftensmad, så der senerehen kan blive råd til at betale for barnets uddannelse.

Liberalisterne prædiker udover det personlige ansvar som bekendt også frihed for den enkelte, og vil måske sige, at den der måtte ønske sig en uddannelse, så må tage sig et lån hos en kreditinstitution, men hvorledes er dette i overenstemmelse med den personlige frihed? Hvis vedkommende skal forgælde sig dybt for overhovedet at kunne træde ind på arbejdsmarkedet, og der finde sig et arbejde der ikke er meningsløst slid, og som ikke står i første række når arbejdspladserne fosvinder til udlandet, hvorledes er denne person så fri? Er det ikke tilfældet, at der nok snarere er tale om en høj grad af ufrihed og usikkerhed, idet vedkommende er bundet op af den dybe forgældelse, og derfor lever i såvel ufrihed som usikkerhed, da vedkommendes solvens er afhængig af om han eller hun kan vedblive med at arbejde? Og skaber dette ikke også som en følgevirkning, at de arbejdstagende parter er langt mindre tilskyndede til gøre oprør mod repressive arbejdsgivere, da de simpelthen ikke har råd til at miste deres arbejde?

Med USA som instruktivt eksempel kan vi endvidere godtgøre, at kvaliteten af uddannelsen og de kontakter der etableres på uddannelsesinstitutionen, er proportional med hvad uddannelsen måtte koste. Hvilket afskærer mange fra overhovedet at komme i betragtning til de bedst betalte jobs, både grundet manglende midler og grundet manglende muligheder for networking. Her kommer det store spørgsmål derfor også på banen, for hvorfor skal ens muligheder på arbejdsmarkedet være betinget af dette, når vi jo i talen om liberalisme simultant hermed må tale individualisme og den personlige frihed til at vælge, idet hverken ens ophavs økonomiske formåen er specielt individualistisk men snarere relationelt betinget, mens friheden til at vælge hvem man bliver født af selvfølgelig er en praktisk umulighed?

Med et liberalistisk system får vi en stærk arbejdsgiver og en svag arbejdstager, og da det ifølge liberalisterne er tvang og tyveri, at beskatte virksomhedsejere, kan disse altså ikke pålægges via skattemidler, at betale for uddannelsen af den arbejdkraft de mener er nødvendig for virksomhedens drift, da denne finansiering så må tilkomme den enkelte arbejdstager. Hvorfor er det retfærdigt? Ville det ikke snarere være mere retfærdigt, at virksomhederne betaler for uddannelsen af den arbejdskraft de behøver, på forhånd, i stedet for først, at betale vedkommende EFTER denne har forgældet sig dybt for overhovedet, at komme i betragtning til arbejdet? Hvorfor skal virksomhedernes beskatningsfrihed komme forud for den enkeltes økonomiske frihed? Hvorledes adskiller betaling for uddannelse af dygtig arbejdskraft sig fra andre driftsudgifter en virksomhed måtte have?

Jeg medgiver gerne at staten er et nødvendigt onde, fremfor et mål i sig selv, da staten er menneskets tjener snarere end omvendt, og statens voldsmonopol bør derfor også mødes af så mange checks and balances initiativer som muligt, indtil det er muligt at skille sig af med statsdannelsen, men at debattere med liberalister på internettet hvor i implicit postulerer, at statsdannelser intet rigtigt kan foretage sig, mens private virksomheder er lykkens eneste retmæssige budbringere, er en praktisk selvmodsigelse, da internettet er skabt af den amerikanske stat. Endvidere er satelliten og rumraketten, utvivlsomt to af de øvrige vigtigste opfindelser i forrige århundrede, skabt af stater, mens dænminger, vejnet, kloaksystemer, ja langt de moderne life supporting systems vi kender til i den rige del af verden, altså er blevet skabt af stater i den overvejende del af tilfældene.

I anarkokapitalister vil meget gerne gøre kapitalismen til udelukkende, at handle om den frie udveksling af varer og tjenesteydelser mellem frit interagerende og rationelt og intentionelt drevede individer med den private ejendomsret som centralt element, men dette maler et glansbillede og undlader fuldstændig at foretage den meget nødvendige instituionelle analyse af kapitalismen som internationalt fænomen, hvor konstant tilskyndelse til biosfærisk skadelig forbrugerisme gennem affektivt marketing, der jo appelerer til følelser snarere end fornuft, er reglen snarere end undtagelsen i profitmaksimeringens hellige navn.

Endvidere er det så som så med markedsoptimismen, for i et ellers meget kapitalistisk land som USA, har man ikke noget problem med statsintervention når den synkende skude skal redes. Det er kun når profitten bevæger sig i en opadgående kurve, at det ikke er en god ting. Endvidere kan man nævne, at selvom USA er et dog eat dog kapitalistisk system på mange områder, så har de frie markedskræfter aldrig rådet, og en stor del af den industri der eksisterer i dag, eksisterer netop fordi stater har tilskyndet vækst i forskellige sektorer, hvorfor man fra dag et har kørt protektionisme.

Ja men, det er så ikke heller rigtig kapitalisme, vil anarkokapitalisten indvende, og fint nok, så lad os sige det, men så har der aldrig eksisteret noget markedskapitalistisk system nogensinde i modernismen og postmodernismen, hvorfor det i ellers plejer at vægte så højt, empiri og fornuft, ikke findes, da i ikke kan pege på nogen historisk konstruktion der har kunnet skabe vækst baseret på jeres ideologi, men udelukkende må ty til at TRO, at det ville forholde sig sådan. Hvornår blev blind tro på markedskapitalismens påståede godhed, blind fordi den er uden historisk belæg og empirisk validerbarhed, lig med god rationel virksomhed?

Det fremhæves af nogle libertarianere, at man ville få et billigere og mere effektivt retssystem, hvis man drev dette i privat regi, men det hænger ikke sammen. For det første ville man i et markedsanarkistisk regi, tale om konkurrerende domstole som altså skal bruge en masse midler på at markedsføre sig selv ift. hinanden og potentielle kunder, og dernæst vil disse være orienterede omkring profitmaksimering, og varer og tjenesteydelser, bliver altså ikke billigere af, at nogen skal profitere på det. Dommere og advokater i det markeds-"anarkistiske" samfund vil endvidere kunne komme hvorsomhelst fra, da det bliver meget vanskeligt, at etablere intersubjektive dvs. overordnede validitetskriterier og retningslinier for god uddannelse. Hvis ingen overordnede regler findes for hvornår en uddannelse er en god uddannelse, hvilket ikke ville være tilfældet i et statsløst samfund, har man som klient ved den private domstol, meget ringe muligheder for at bedømme, hvorvidt man har at gøre med dygtige mennesker, eller med slyngler der blot har betalt sig til et certifikat. Dette er selvfølgelig ikke et problem der begrænser sig til de private domstoles aktører, men omfatter alle arbejdsmarkedets aktører. Endvidere vil anklagede og anklager, som jo begge på mystisk vis skal undersøtte den samme domstol, have to forskellige kvalitetskriterier for om det er god domstol eller ej. Hos førstnævnte vil kvalitetskriteriet være hvor høj en hitrate domstolen har på at få skyldige dømt, mens det for den anklagede vil forholde sig omvendt.
Det må også blive ret vanskeligt at dømme med bevæggrund i jurisk præcedens, da dette kræver et for de konkurrende domstole overordnet organ, som holder styr på alle verserende og afsluttede sager.

I en stat uden en registerlov er der heller ikke grænser for hvad private erhversdrivende kan udveksle af informationer indbyrdes, da ingen lov mod at gøre det eksisterer, hvorfor ingen kan retsforfølges for at gøre det, og derved bliver det ret uigennemskueligt om de data man er registreret med i individuelle virksomheder udveksles med andre virksomheder. Det er de mere praktiske konsekvenser.

De mere teoretiske konsekvenser er langt mere graverende, og undergraver ved nærmere granskning anarkokapitalismens påstand om at ville anarki. Anarchos er græsk og betyder uden styre, men hvorledes er dette manglende styre kompatibelt med anarkokapitalismen der jo ønsker, at ejendomsretten skal være ukrænkelg. Hvis der skal eksistere private domstole, må der selvfølgelig også eksistere lovgivning, men hvem skal udforme denne, når ingen lovgivende forsamling eksisterer? Og skulle en sådan etableres, så er fraværet af styre jo brudt, da en lovgivende forsamling er lig samfundsmæssig styring - og hvem skal udgøre denne lovgivende forsamling, når demokrati er lig med flertalsdiktatur?

Skal lovgivning kun handle om den private akropslige ejendoms ukrænkelighed, eller taler vi hele selvejerskabet (?), hvorfor vi altså dermed også taler om, at ulovliggøre mord, voldtægt, vold, dyremishandling og miljøforurening til skade for såvel nutidige som kommende mennesker? Hvis det er tilfældet begynder vi at tale en ganske omfattende juridisk orden, og har bevæget os væk fri anarki, og har istedet bevæget os henimod aristokratisk kapitalisme.

søndag den 12. april 2009

Om den mulige spanske retssag mod Bush-administrationen

Former President George W. Bush may be indicted for torture.

Far fetched? Not anymore.

In March Baltasar Garzón, a Spanish judge, asked prosecutors to determine whether there is enough evidence to charge six former members of the Bush administration with torturing prisoners. Should they be indicted as now seems likely it will be hard to argue that their superiors up to and including the former President himself should not be indicted as well.

Imagine if that should happen and a trial take place. It would rivet the attention of the world like no legal action since the prosecution of German and Japanese officials after World War II. More importantly, it would provide credence to the concept of universal jurisdiction championed by Judge Garzón.

Universal jurisdiction is the principle that certain crimes are so egregious and/or such a threat to world peace that those who commit them may be arrested and tried in any country of the world. Torture is one of those crimes.


lørdag den 11. april 2009

Interview med Noam Chomsky om NATOs eksistensberettigelse.

Well, I think the first question to ask about NATO is why it exists. We’re now approaching the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, unification of Germany, first steps in the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now, the alleged reason for NATO’s existence was to protect the West against a Russian assault. You can believe what you like about the reason, but that was the reason. By 1989, that reason was gone. So, why is there NATO?

Well, that question did arise. Mikhail Gorbachev offered at that time to the United States, which runs NATO, that he would permit a unified Germany to join NATO, a hostile military alliance aimed at the Soviet Union. Now, that’s a remarkable concession. If you look back at the history of the twentieth century, Germany alone had practically destroyed Russia several times. And now he was offering to let a reunited militarized Germany join a hostile military alliance, backed by the most awesome military power in history.

Well, there was a quid pro quo. George Bush, the first, was then president; James Baker, Secretary of State. And they agreed, in their words, that NATO would not expand one inch to the east, which would at least give Russia some breathing room. Now, Gorbachev also proposed a nuclear weapons-free zone from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, which would have again given some protection and, in fact, security for peace. Well, that was just rejected. I don’t even think it was answered. Well, that’s where things stood in 1989, ’90.

Then Bill Clinton was elected. One of his first acts was to break the promise and expand NATO to the east, which, of course, is a threat to Russian security. Now, the pretext given, for example, by his—Strobe Talbott, who was the Under Secretary of State for Eastern Europe, is that that was necessary to bring the former satellites into the European Union. But that can’t be. There are states inside the European Union that are not part of NATO: Austria, you know, Finland, Sweden. So that’s irrelevant. But it was a threat, and Russia, of course, reacted to the hostile threat. It increased tension.

Well, going up to the present, President Obama’s national security adviser, James Jones, has been a strong advocate of the view that NATO should expand further to the east and to the south and that, in fact, it should—to the east and to the south means to control the energy-producing regions. The head of NATO, Dutch, the Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer, has proposed, advocates that NATO should take the responsibility for protecting energy supplies to the West—pipelines, sea lanes, and so on.

Well, now we’re getting to Afghanistan, which is right in the—has always been of great geostrategic importance because of its location, now more than ever because of its location relative to the energy-producing regions in the Gulf region and in Central Asia. So, yes, that’s what we’re seeing.

Actually, there’s more to say about NATO, about why it exists. So we might look back, say, ten years to the fiftieth anniversary.
Well, the fiftieth anniversary of NATO was a gloomy affair that was—right at that time, NATO was bombing Serbia—illegally, as everyone admitted—claiming it was necessary for humanitarian reasons. At the NATO summit, there was much agonizing about how we cannot tolerate atrocities so near Europe.

Well, that was an interesting comment, since at that time NATO was supporting atrocities right inside NATO. Turkey, for example, was carrying out, with massive US aid, huge atrocities against its Kurdish population, far worse than anything reported in Kosovo. Right at that time, in East Timor—you’re not going to praise yourself, so if you don’t mind, I will—at the time of the Dili massacre, which you and Allan [Nairn] heroically exposed, atrocities continued. And in fact, in early 1999, they were picking up again, with strong US support—again, far beyond anything reported in Kosovo. That’s the US and Britain, you know, the core of NATO.

Right at the same time, in fact, Dennis Blair, President Obama—inside President Obama’s national security circle, he was sent to Indonesia, theoretically to try to get the Indonesian army to stop carrying out the mounting atrocities. But he supported them. He met with the top Indonesian General, General Wiranto, and essentially said, you know, “Go ahead.” And they did.
And in fact, those atrocities could have been stopped at any moment. That was demonstrated in September 1999, when Bill Clinton, under very extensive domestic and international pressure, finally decided to call it off. He didn’t have to bomb Jakarta. He didn’t have to impose an embargo. He just told the Indonesian generals the game’s over, and they immediately withdrew. That goes down in history as a great humanitarian intervention. It’s not exactly the right story. Right up until then, the United States was continuing to support the atrocities. Britain, under its new ethical foreign policy, didn’t quite get in on time, and they kept supporting them even after the Australian-led UN peacekeeping force entered. Well, that’s NATO ten years ago.
That’s even putting aside the claims about Serbia, which maybe a word about those are worthwhile. We know what happened in Serbia. There’s a massive—in Kosovo. There’s massive documentation from the State Department from NATO, European Union observers on the ground. There was a level of atrocity sort of distributed between the guerrillas and the Serbs. But it was expected that the NATO bombing would radically increase the atrocities, which it did, if you look back at the Milosevic indictment in the middle of the bombing, almost entirely, that atrocity—except for one exception, about atrocities, after the NATO bombing. That’s what they anticipated. General Clark, commanding general, had informed Washington weeks early, yes, that would be the consequence. He informed the press of that as the bombing started. That was the humanitarian intervention, while NATO was supporting even worse atrocities right within NATO, in East Timor, and go on in other cases. Well, that’s NATO ten years ago.

And it begins to tell us what NATO is for. Is it for defending Europe from attack? In fact, there is such a pretense now. So when President Bush put—started installing missile defense systems in Eastern Europe, the claim was, well, this is to defend Europe from attack against Iranian nuclear-tipped missiles. The fact that it doesn’t have any doesn’t matter. And the fact that if it had any, it would be total insanity for them to even arm one, because the country would be vaporized in thirty seconds. So, it’s a threat to Russia again, just like Clinton’s expansion of NATO to the east.

Droneangrebene i Pakistan har dræbt hundredevis af civile pakistanere

LAHORE: Of the 60 cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only 10 were able to hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians. The success percentage of the US predator strikes thus comes to not more than six per cent.

Figures compiled by the Pakistani authorities show that a total of 701 people, including 14 al-Qaeda leaders, have been killed since January 2006 in 60 American predator attacks targeting the tribal areas of Pakistan. Two strikes carried out in 2006 had killed 98 civilians while three attacks conducted in 2007 had slain 66 Pakistanis, yet none of the wanted al-Qaeda or Taliban leaders could be hit by the Americans right on target. However, of the 50 drone attacks carried out between January 29, 2008 and April 8, 2009, 10 hit their targets and killed 14 wanted al-Qaeda operatives. Most of these attacks were carried out on the basis of intelligence believed to have been provided by the Pakistani and Afghan tribesmen who had been spying for the US-led allied forces stationed in Afghanistan.

The remaining 50 drone attacks went wrong due to faulty intelligence information, killing hundreds of innocent civilians, including women and children. The number of the Pakistani civilians killed in those 50 attacks stood at 537, in which 385 people lost their lives in 2008 and 152 people were slain in the first 99 days of 2009 (between January 1 and April 8).


Afghanske civile myrdet af amerikansk militær.

The US military has admitted that its troops killed four civilians in Afghanistan, including a child, not fighters as was earlier reported.

The US has also offered an apology for the deaths on Wednesday night and indicated that the family will receive support.

Brigadier-General Michael Ryan said in a statement late on Thursday: "We deeply regret the tragic loss of life in this precious family."

A 13-year-old boy who survived the night-time raid on his home told Al Jazeera that his mother, brother, uncle and another female family member were killed.

A woman who was nine months' pregnant was wounded and lost her baby

Howard Zinn om klassekamp i USA

torsdag den 9. april 2009

Video: Global Financial Collapse

An Argentine opinion on the Global Financial Crisis, describing the whole Global Financial System as one vast Ponzi Scheme. Like a pyramid, it has four sides and is a predictable model. The four sides are: (1) Artificially control the supply of public State-issued Currency, (2) Artificially impose Banking Money as the primary source of funding in the economy, (3) Promote doing everything by Debt and (4) Erect complex channels that allow privatizing profits when the Model is in expansion mode and socialize losses when the model goes into contraction mode.

How will the Global Financial Collapse end? Are we on the way towards global war and world government?