Archive for August, 2011

LOOTING: peeling off layers of meaning on the crossroad of wanton destruction and instantaneous greed…

Images of Tripoli and London blur on my inner eye…

Fire burning social constraints.

For a short moment only.

Property remains the fundament of societies through all times.

Ownership resurfaces like a phoenix from fire.

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What will be the last view of Gaddafi of this world?

which way up?

which way down?

what will be our last view of him?

the anti-colonial guerilla fighter hero he associated with Omar al Mukhtar – Lion of the Desert – hung in 1931 by the Italian fascist colonial regime under Benito Mussolini
(Gaddafi wore the last photograph of Mukhtar alive just before his execution as a badge on his military uniform when visiting Berlusconi in Italy in 2009)


the ruthless dictator Benito Mussolini, as captured by Italian Partisans in 1945, when he tried to flee to Switzerland and executed on the spot, hung by his feet

the flag of his copy cat green revolution waved four decades

the regime he helped create repressed as many people as it did bind, to its peculiar form of common wealth

despised and embraced at the same time, by other leaders from other countries
who drew their plans for his removal while celebrating their meetings with him

those from his own camp, who now leave him to face up to his last days
will trample on his face to hide their own past

will his court be in the streets or in The Hague?

there will be no singular view of Gaddafi

as with all dictators both his face
and the way we see it
are split.

see also “The disembodied Leviathan of Libya” on this blog.

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THIS IS MY FIRST QR-CODED tableau try it:

Bonnet d’âne pour le FMI” (dunce’s cap for the IMF; literary ‘donkey’s cap’) I read in Le Monde Diplomatique of August 2011, with a sarcastic comment by Pierre Rimbert on how the arrest of Dominique Strauss Kahn for sexual assault of a hotel worker on May 15th overshadowed a self-critical report of the International Monetary Fund by its own “Independent Evaluation Office” (IEO) published on May 20. The report itself is on-line and worthwhile reading, because the ‘economic assault of international banks’ on all of us is too easily overlooked as we all like daily scandal better…

These are some harsh findings in the report of the Independent Evaluation Office of the IMF:

“…the relevance of research to authorities and its utilization were hampered by the lack of early consultation with country authorities on research themes and by a lack of country and institutional context.” [page 27; paragraph 75]

“…there is a widely held perception that IMF research is message driven. About half of the authorities held this view, and more than half of the staff indicated that they felt pressure to align their conclusions with IMF policies and positions. Policy recommendations provided in some research publications did not follow from the research results, and a number of country authorities and researchers noted that IMF research tended to follow a pre-set view with predictable conclusions that did not allow for alternative perspectives. This detracted from the quality and credibility of studies and reduced their utilization.” [page 28; paragraph 77]

“…there was no IMF-wide leadership of research. Research activities were highly decentralized, and there was very limited coordination across departments. There was no mechanism to set IMF-wide priorities or quality standards. Collaboration among staff across departments was limited and mostly based on personal relationships.” [page 28; paragraph 79]

Click picture for bigger version and test the QR-code: tested with iPad 2 and 4 QR-code apps: QR HD, Scan, QRdeCode, Qrafter (the last one is the best as it zooms automatically and is a free app) It should bring you directly to the report of IEO "Research at the IMF: relevance and utilization."

Reading the self-critic report of the IMF made me check its reception and how it was related to the impact of Strauss Kahn and his short lived IMF reign. It lead me to the English language Turkish newspaper ‘Today’s Zaman’ (said to be close to the Turkish Justice and Development Party) and a long comment by their columnist Asim Erdilek, from which I took this citation:

What both IEO reports omit, however, is that since 2008 the IMF’s official views have been moving away from the Washington Consensus. This began under the former IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a former socialist French finance minister, who chose his compatriot MIT macroeconomist Olivier Blanchard to be the IMF economic counselor and research department director (see my columns “The IMF’s evolving policy makeover” (1) and (2), published on Feb. 22 and March 1, 2010, respectively). In several recent publications the IMF has demonstrated its tilting to the left in economic policies by calling for higher inflation rates as well as greater financial regulation in developed countries and for capital controls in developing countries. We have to wait and see whether this tilting to the left will continue, creating an opposite research bias, under the IMF’s controversial new managing director, also from France.

 Christine Lagarde one of the few ministers in the cabinet of Sarkozy’s UMP party that survived the frequent reshuffles of  France’s president (“Le joker de Sarkozy”; Le Figaro; 2009), is a lawyer by profession and not an economist, she is known for publicly denying bad news and proposing her view of  “la vie en rose.“:

Christine Lagarde estime que “le gros de la crise est derrière nous” Le Nouvel Observateur 20/8/2007 (Christine Lagarde estimates that the main part of the crisis is behind us)

Christine Lagarde: conférence de presse “L’économie française repose sur des fondamentaux qui sont solides […] Je ne conçois pas aujourd’hui de contamination à l’économie mondiale” Le Monde Blogs 17/8/2007 (Christine Lagrande during [an often cited] press conference: “French economy  is put on solid fundaments […] I do not conceive today a contamination of it by  world economy”)

Lagarde : “Il n’y aura pas d’éclatement de la zone euro” Le Figaro 18/11/2010 (Lagarde “the Euro zone will not be blown up”)

If she will be anything more than a mouthpiece for the international banking world is doubtful, if her method of public broadcasted optimism is enough to quell the financial crisis is most unlikely.

The conspiracy theories that have been circulating with Dominique Strauss Kahn as a supposed leftist belonging to the French Socialist Party, to be discredited by a schemed sexual intervention, leading to the appointment of another French director of the IMF from the right wing  UMP party of Sarkozy, are grotesque. DSK is a man finding apparently pleasure in risky violent sexual behaviour. The coming-out of the lady he assaulted, did also put an end to any Hollywood movie inspired conspiracy story, with high class  call girls on secret missions. It was indeed just a lady doing hotel work who befell the outrageous assault. Sarkozy may even not have been comfortable with the demise of DSK, as with DSK  the interest of France in an international organisation, was some how manifest, at a level beyond national politics.  That a politician like Sarkozy grabs the occasion delivered to him by DSK’s fall, is obvious, but this was first of all a improvised emergency measure. And so Christine Lagarde, promoted by France,  added this “personal touch to her pitch  to lead this global institution” for the board of IMF directors on on June 22, 2011:

 “I stand here as a woman, hoping to add to the diversity and balance of this institution. I stand here as former head of an international law firm with a dedication to integrity, to the highest moral standards and a belief in participative management. I stand here as a Finance minister who has been tested in times of crisis. I would like to put these skills and experience at work to serve the International Monetary Fund”

‘Rue 89’ a daily platform for commenting the news has a comment on a radio interview with Lagarde still as the French minister of finance with ‘France Inter’ on April 11th this year, where she also has to answer questions by listeners. A pensioned lady comes in the broadcast and explains how she tries to live on 800 Euros a month and succeeds only to cover 15 days with this amount. Comes the answer of Lagrande:

“Le gouvernement a tout a fait conscience de votre problème et c’est pour cela qu’il a décidé d’augmenter de 2% les pensions de minimum vieillesse.” (The government has been completely conscious of your problem and has therefore decided to augment with 2% the minimum elderly pensions)

The commentator on ‘Rue 89’, the economist Jean Matouk, precises in his article (*) the actual government measures, 4,7% augmentation for the minimum elderly income and 2% for the pensions. Matouk tells us in a sarcastic tone also to what it boils down: “16 Euros more pro month. What is she moaning about?”  The next question to Finance Minister Lagarde from radio listeners make her jumps from tens of Euros to milliards, as the support for Greece and other “weak economies” in Europe and its financial consequences are brought in. I will not cite the whole interview here, details are on-line in French, but what is striking, is the correlation between the way the poor pension lady is helped by Lagarde and her world of high finances and the way ‘global economy’ is handled by the same forces.

Christine Lagarde riding the Euro bull in front of the European Parliament Building in Strassbourg while the New York Wall Street bull is waiting her, a symbol of the recovery of the American people from the stock market crash of 1987 by the Italian-American artist Arturo Di Monica, who placed the sculpture on his own initiative at first, later integrated as a city highlight. The charging bull shows in Di Monica's words: "the energy, strength, and unpredictability of the stock market." (**)

“I stand here as a Finance minister who has been tested in times of crisis.” The pitch from Lagarde for the board of directors of the IMF and she did get the job. “Been tested” seems to be the ability of politicians to remain in the saddle during an economic rodeo, which does not mean that the bull she has been riding has been tamed. Alternative forms of domestication are needed and there seem to be no ‘alternative views’ possible with the IMF, neither with the board of directors, nor with their new head Lagarde, let me cite again IMF’s Internal Evaluation Office May 2011 report:

 “researchers noted that IMF research tended to follow a pre-set view with predictable conclusions that did not allow for alternative perspectives.”

It is ‘alternative perspectives’ on economy we need to put an end to orchestrated ‘economic assaults’ that are at the basis of the legal system of our societies and remain thus – most of the times – unpunished

(*) Vivre avec 800 € par mois quand les banques enfument le monde (‘Living on 800 Euros a month while the banks smokes up the world’; there is a double meaning here in ‘enfumer’, one of a smoke screen, the other of something being fucked).

(**) For details on the Wall Street bull of Di Monica see Wikipedia.

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(*) splurge (as in “ostentation”) n. : an ostentatious display (of effort or extravagance etc.) splurge (as in “squander”) v. : indulge oneself; “I splurged on a new TV” splurge (as in “flaunt”) v. : be showy or ostentatious
(**) ostentation (as in “display”) n. : a showy outward display ostentation (as in “inelegance”) n. : lack of elegance as a consequence of pomposity ostentation (as in “pretentiousness”) n. : pretentious or showy or vulgar display

Following the news of the rioting and looting in the UK (Tuesday August 9 2011) I found a Google map and database produced by the Guardian, that keeps track of riot events as they become known. The data is also provided for download for further exploration by the public . I downloaded the file and made a small script to interpret the data, because I want to understand what is happening and I have many questions:

Frustrated (unemployed) youth educated as a consumptive generation without having the means? Lack of educational opportunities? Street gangs? Enraged youngsters fed up with discrimination? Spontaneous associations of  troublemakers from all over town? Combinations of window smashers and bystanders that (also) grab the opportunity of unpaid shopping? Many more options could be thought of. As we do see several examples of local shopkeepers and entrepreneurs, who are part of the local community, that fall victim to arson, smashing and looting, one wonders about the motivation and background of the perpetrators.

The GoogleMap in the Guardian that indicates the riot spots, shows both concentration points in poor suburbs and also notes a few bashings of high street shops in more affluent areas. Oxford Street and the West End are hardly touched though. So, how class conscious is this series of riots and lootings of the last days? In the incident list of  The Guardian I find only one example that associates with class differences and direct confrontation, suddenly coming to an outburst. The target is a kind of chique restaurant (two Michelin stars), attacked on Monday , “The Ledbury” in Kensington. The Guardian database record for this one reads: “Gang broke into the Michelin-star restaurant wearing hoodies, masks, and with random weapons. The rioters smashed up the place and diners were forced to hide in the cellar as rioters targeted them for theft.”

To give myself some understanding of the settings of this awkward disruption of an evening outing, I check out the web on this particular restaurant and  find the following description, that curious enough, also points to the recent ‘class shift’ the of the neighbourhood where the assault took place – Nothing Hill:

 Don’t be fooled by the name [“The Ledbury”, named after the street; Tj.] , which should belong to an unassuming gastropub. Nigel Platts-Martin and Philip Howard’s venture is a very serious restaurant. This is the kind of food that aims to draw a round of applause before it’s even been tasted, where sauces are poured in complex geometries, where slender towers of ingredients appear more like architects’ models than food, and where familiar-sounding ingredients have foamed, crushed and pureed beyond any hope of recognition. Before gentrification, this part of Notting Hill used to be known as ‘crack square’. The Ledbury has replaced this trade with food that’s better than any drug, but at prices that will bankrupt you faster than the most ferocious addiction.

For the rest I can see very few examples of a possible low class versus high class rebellion. The old bastion of high class shopping Harrods – “Luxury beauty and fragrance, fashion accessories, gifts” – in Regent Street has – as far as I can ascertain – not been looted. Seeing the burnt out local shopping streets and hearing the fate of those who could flee in time their homes, those that had their shops or workplaces smashed, makes it hard to explain away the riots just on the wide class divide the UK always had and has not been able to level or soften. Social discontent finds its way of expression here in extreme a-social and life threatening deeds.

The imagination of a possible future change of power relations seems mostly absent within the circle of rioters. It is all ‘here and now’. The classical pattern of first smashing goods and property in a furry and next trying to take possession of them, was present here. Goods that can be carried away changed owner, property that is unmovable was set on fire. A ‘jacquerie à l’anglaise’, spontaneous, violent and politically unconscious. An unstructured rise of the lower classes, fed by vengeance and want. Hitting around you and hurting your neighbour. The nearest by – half a step higher – class on the long British social ladder, singled out as target. Neighbourhood stores and community facilities fell victim first. The idea of some sort of minimal solidarity within a neighbourhood  of similar social content, drowned by a single incident:  “A young man shot at Warrington Road, Croydon junction with Dupass Hill” (the first line in the Guardian 2011 Riot database). A young man, of 27 years, named Mark Duggan, a father of four children, killed in Tottenham – North East London – by a police officer who halted and wanted to control him, who is said to have felt threatened, and fired.

The  subsequent confrontation with the police during a demonstration protesting this killing by a police man, ignited the smoldering discontent in this North London neighbourhood. The series of riots that sprang from there on, were mostly outside of  Central London. One may recall the very different street violence when half a million protesters marched through Central London in March 2011 during the London Anti-Cuts Protest. At that time there were a few  violent actions aside of the main peaceful demonstration, a phenomenon that can often been seen in the margin of any big demonstration. That violence was different from the August riots now. In March unruly more political oriented groups targeted ‘symbols of the capitalist system’, located in the West End of London. Window panes in Oxfords street were smashed, Banks graffitied , the Ritz Hotel hurled with firework and a bonfire was started in the heart of the London shopping district at Oxford Circus.

Splurge with Londons High Class Shopping Scene
, one can read when searching for shopping fun in the world:  “Without much question, London ranks as one of the most famous in the world as a high-class shopping destination. Tourists never fail to miss this city in their itineraries upon having a tour or vacation in England or in Europe. Shops and goods in this city are all lovely, spectacular, and really worth buying and keeping.”

Overview zoom from interactive GoogleMap on the 2011 summer riots by The Guardian as published 9. August 2011; the central parts of London are hardly effected.

The list of London’s low class riot shopping as can be curled from The Guardian’s UK Riot Locations database, is less spectacular than what the tourist board of London promises to affluent tourists from abroad. It is the regular high street shop chains with sport shoes, cheap clothing, mobile phones, house electronics and the like that were favoured by the looters. The class-devide reigns so strong in the UK that the imagination of revolting youth did not even led them venture in the more classy central districts where the luxurious shops and high end brands of  London can be found. It is very similar to what in the year 2005 could be observed during the suburban risings in France and especially the ones around the centre – the banlieu – of Paris. The violence  was – at that time – confined to the suburbs proper. No window smashing or car burning at the most exclusive shopping areas of Paris at Place de Vendôme or Saint Sulpice.

Map of suburban riots around Paris in November 2005 as published by Wikipedia. The inner town of Paris is not effected by the lower class risings and car burning.

The Guardian  map of all the incidents shows that it was not only suburban low income areas, where the looting takes place. There have been some examples of ‘high street’s with shops in more affluent areas, like for example in the City of Westminster near  St. John’s Wood. But in general it is the poorer areas that are most effected.

Stripping the data in alphabetical order, here is my first raw list of ‘places’ which are often shops where incidents took place. The number of occurrences with the same place name are indicated by my small script. Now there are not so many shops that have been targeted more than once, let me list them first.

Argos 6 x
Boots 2 x
Currys 3 x
Foot Locker 3 x
H&M 2 x
Halfords 2 x
JD Sports 6 x
Jessops 2 x
McDonalds 2 x
O2 2 x
Primark 2 x
Sainsburys 2 x
Tesco Express 2 x

This is the list of all places (171 in total including the beginning of the riots with a shooting incident, some mention of fire (brigade) facilities, police stations and so on:

A young man shot at Warrington Road, Croydon junction with Dupass Hill 1 x

Abbotsford Dr 1 x

Adidas store 1 x

Admiral Street Police Station 1 x

Aldi supermarket 1 x
Boots 2 x

Arena Shopping Park 1 x

Argos 6 x

Ashley Road 1 x

Austin Reed 1 x

Barclays 1 x

Betfred 1 x

Big Green Bookshop 1 x

Bishop Street 1 x

Blockbuster 1 x

Bookies 1 x

Boots 2 x

Brazas Restaurant 1 x

Brent 1 x

Bromley South rail station 1 x

Bullring shopping centre 1 x

Burger King 1 x

Bus 2 x

Bus and police cars 1 x

Cabot Circus 1 x

Cabot Circus shopping centre 1 x

Camden Lock 1 x

Carpetright shop 1 x

Carphone Warehouse 3 x

Cash Converters 1 x

Catford 1 x

Chalk Farm 2 x

Chatham 1 x

Church Street 1 x

Clarence convenience store 1 x

Clarks shoe shop 1 x

Colmore Row 1 x

Comet 1 x

Cornwall street 1 x

Currys 3 x

Cyber Candy 1 x

Dalston Kingsland Centre 1 x

Dean Street 1 x

Debenhams 1 x

Design studio 1 x

Duppas Hill Road 1 x

Ealing Broadway station 1 x

Eldon Street, Chatham 1 x

Fire engine 3 x

Foot Locker 3 x

Game 1 x

Gas main 1 x

Gay’s The Word 1 x

Gillingham 1 x

Gloucester Road 1 x

Gowthorne Street, New Basford 1 x

Grove Street 1 x

H&M 2 x

Hackney Town Hall 1 x

Halfords 2 x

Haringey Magistrates Court 1 x

Harringay Arena Shopping centre 1 x

Harveys 1 x

Haven Green 1 x

High Street

London E17 7JS 1 x

HMV 1 x

Independent phone shop 1 x

Independent Sports shop 1 x

Jamaica Inn 1 x

Jamie’s Italian 1 x

JD Sports 6 x

Jessops 2 x

Kelham Green 1 x

Kelmscott secondary school 1 x

Kilburn High Road 2 x

Kings College Hospital 1 x

Ladbrokes 1 x

Lavender Hill 1 x

Lewisham Town Centre 1 x

London Road 1 x

Luther Close 1 x

Maidstone Road Chatham 1 x

Mare Street 1 x

McDonalds 2 x

Minicab 1 x

Miss Selfridge 1 x

Montacute road 1 x

Monument Way 1 x

Mothercare 1 x

Myrtle Parade 1 x

National Express Bus 1 x

New Street, Chatham 1 x

Norwood Road 1 x

O2 2 x

Old Kent Road 1 x

Orange shop 1 x

Oxford Circus 1 x

Pallasades Shopping Centre 1 x

Pawn shop 1 x

PC World 1 x

Pembury Estate 1 x

Phones4U 1 x

Police car 2 x

Portland Square 1 x

Post Office 1 x

Primark 2 x

Princes Road, Princes Avenue 1 x

Pure Gym 1 x

Pym Street 1 x

Rainham 1 x

Reeves furniture store 1 x

Richer Sounds 1 x

Ripple Road 1 x

Rye Lane 1 x

Sainsburys 2 x

Salford 1 x

Savers 1 x

Shopkeepers 1 x

Smithdown Road, junction with Lodge Lane 1 x

Sony Distribution Centre 1 x

Square Peg pub 1 x

St Anns Police Station 1 x

Station Road 1 x

T-Mobile 1 x

T-Mobile London – Palmers Green 1 x

Tandem Centre retail park 1 x

Tesco 2 x

Tesco Express 2 x

The Broadway 1 x

The Ledbury 1 x

Thomas Sabo jewellers 1 x

Topshop 1 x

Tottenham Hotspur Football Club 1 x

Tottenham Police Station 2 x

Upper Parliament Street 1 x

Vodafone shop 1 x

West Bromwich High Street 1 x

WH Smith 1 x

Wolverhampton 1 x

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Gay Pride 2012, who is next to come out?  The Dutch army and the National Bank (DNB) are only a few official institutions that participate with a boat of their own in the yearly Canal Parade of Gay Pride Amsterdam. The museum and cultural sector is presented with their own boat (Amsterdam Museum | Bijbels Museum | De Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam | EYE/Filmmuseum | FOAM | Hermitage Amsterdam | Het Concertgebouw | Het Nationale Ballet | Joods Historisch Museum | Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest | Museum Van Loon | Nationaal Historisch Museum | Nederlands Bureau voor Toerisme en Congressen | Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest | Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder | Rijksmuseum | Scheepvaartmuseum | Stedelijk Museum | Tassenmuseum Hendrikje | Tropenmuseum | Van Gogh Museum) a never ending list. Even the government has their own (contested) boat – though the prime minister – Rutte – choose to profile himself at a more straight mass party around the corner on the same day as the Canal Parade: ‘Dance Valley’ . A Dutch Hindu boat was a newcomer this year following the trend of Christian, Islam and Jewish gay representation, during an event that seems to aim at embracing ‘the whole’ of Dutch society. But certain key sectors of the Netherlands keep ‘missing the emancipation boat’, fail the institutionalised ‘coming out’: Dutch football business, the Dutch Royal House of Orange (and they have several nice boats ready to take part) and a boat of a section of this society that is thought to consist mainly of macho heteros, the Dutch Mafia. Here is an underworld that should be targeted, stimulated to ‘come out of their closets’. One can already enjoy the vision of a ‘parade of sails’ of hash and cocaine boats chaperoned by armoured speedboats, with the crew dressed in proper t-shirts and sunglassed criminals with their water-pistols doing ‘bang, bang, bang’.

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Iustitiae Languor/Justice Falls Down:
Indictment for Gaddafi but not (yet) for Assad makes one wonder and the symbol of Justitia as an impartial being came to mind and it made me  search in one of the emblemata databases for the word ‘justice’, this one popped up and though made in the 17th century it is still fitting four centuries later, where the geo-political situation in the world often gets out of control, like an unbridled horse.The emblem book (*) has the old German text on the facing page and it reads:

motto (de)
Gerechtigkeit gehet zu Grundt.
subscriptio (de)

GLeich wie ein wildes/ freches Pferdt
Stelt sich die Welt jetzundt auff Erdt/
Das wildt Pferdt leydet kein Gebiß/
Die welt die leydet kein Verdrieß/
Doch haßts vnd scheucht insonderheit/
Der Gesetz Recht vnd Gerechtigkeit.

A quick rendering of the somewhat obscure German – with an eye to the Latin – could read in English:

Like an untamed horse
The world puts itself on earth
A wild horse not bridled by a bit
A world not guided by remorse
But hating and dossing off especially
Law, righteousness and judiciary.


(*) Proscenium vitæ humanæ siue Emblematvm Secvlarivm, Ivcvndissima, & artificiosissima varietate Vitæ Hvmanæ & seculi huius deprauati mores, ac studia peruersissima. Versibvs Latinis, Germanicis, Gallicis & Belgicis ita adumbrantium … (1627, Frankfurt)

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