Author Archive for keza

July 4 : Long live the revolution!

Bunker Hill

 

 

 

 

Happy birthday America!

 

 

 

 

 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

 

 

Pretty good stuff, I’ve always thought.

During the Vietnam war it was in the spirit of 1776 to celebrate July 4 by taking to the streets in support of the revolutionary struggle of the Vietnamese people.

Now it’s in the spirit of 1776, to demand that the US and its allies stay in Afghanistan, that they continue to back the revolution in Libya, and that they get serious about outlawing dictatorship everywhere.

UN adopts “the freedom agenda”!

The UN Security Council has voted for military intervention to facilitate regime change in Libya!

When Bush was president this was illegal

UN Resolution 1973 which authorizes “all necessary measures” to protect the Libyan people from being crushed by Gaddafi’s army is an historic event. It’s been put in terms of a humanitarian intervention aimed at preventing atrocities against civilians (which it is, on one level), but in reality it goes far further than that. It’s actually a resolution aimed at ensuring the success of the democratic revolution in Libya.

No way is it just a No Fly Zone, already the new COW has begun destroying Gaddafi’s military infrastructure, and the resolution has clearly been worded to allow attacks on ground troops, if required. And although it rules out occupation, it doesn’t specifically rule out on-the-ground operations.

About time!!

As I write this I’m listening to interviews with Egyptians who are at this very moment casting their votes in a referendum on constitutional reform. The euphoria is palpable. Democratic revolution really is sweeping the Middle East . The tyrants and autocrats of the region are all under threat now.

With the passing of UN resolution 1970, suddenly “regime change” is ok , is becoming legitimate. So far in all the interviews I’ve heard, the question “Is this really about regime change”? has been dodged. Instead the talk is all about Gaddafi “killing his own people” and the need to stop this. But it’s pretty easy to join the dots.

And it was France which spearheaded the push in the UN. What a change from 2003!

Alain Juppe’s speech prior to the resolution talked of “a wave of great revolutions that would change the course of history” .

But it was under the dreaded Bush regime that the “democracy agenda” was actually launched.

Continue reading ‘UN adopts “the freedom agenda”!’

Dictatorship on the way to becoming illegal

Today’s New York Times’ article: Libyan Rebels Said to Debate Seeking UN Airstrikes has this issue lurking in the background.

It seems to me that ever so slowly we’re on the way to a world in which outright, naked tyranny is unnaceptable. There’s a clear parallel here with the stages in the long struggle to outlaw chattel slavery.

Continue reading ‘Dictatorship on the way to becoming illegal’

Videos from Monthly Argument debate on Iraq and Afghanistan

(I’ve been told that a transcript of this debate will soon be available at the Monthly Argument website. That could kickstart a useful discussion here, so I’ll post it , once it appears)

Debate Topic: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: Can our participation be justified?

A Monthly Argument debate held in Melbourne, Australia. December, 9 2010.

Speakers:

Major General Jim Molan
Retired senior officer in the Australian Army, author of Running the War in Iraq, Chief of Operations, Headquarters Multinational Force in Iraq (MNF-I) 2004-2005

Adam Bandt MP
Greens member for Melbourne in the House of Representatives

Professor Richard Tanter
Director of the Nautilus Institute at RMIT

Jeff Sparrow
Editor of Overland magazine

Arthur Dent (previously known as Albert Langer)

Chaired by Darce Cassidy

For more info about The Monthly Argument go to: themonthlyargument.wordpress.com/​

Iraq/Afghanistan debate (part 1of 2) from Monthly Argument on Vimeo.

Iraq/ Afghanistan debate (part 2 of 2) from Monthly Argument on Vimeo.

Iraq/Afghanistan debate (10 minutes of highlights) from Monthly Argument on Vimeo.

Email from China

I just received this from a friend who is in Shanghai at the moment:

Hi Kez,  Reading of Mike’s experience** in Shanghai during the CR and being here now brought a wry smile to my face. Mao can now only be seen at the trash/back street markets. All reference to the revolution (ie 1949 – 1970’s) has been wiped. This is particularly noticeable in any formal presentation – museums/histories of Shanghai’s development etc – of Shanghai’s progress from village/city/ from the distant past through the 19th and 20th centuries. The revisionists are not just wiping the CR and Mao, but the revolution itself. The myth being created is one of gradual continuity from the past (poverty, albeit very harmonious poverty, where people  live without stuff, to now where stuff is becoming available in ever increasing amounts and where harmony makes even more sense) through to the future. There is something of Tory conservatism to it; Mao is being replaced by Burke. Will be back in a week – Sunday I think so I’ll fill youse in then.

I did a quick google  for stuff about New Year in Shanghai,  and found that there’s a place called The Mao Club. The blurb for the New Year party there reads as follows:

The biggest countdown party lands at Club Mao Friday Dec 31st 2010 on the

one day where Mao will be packed in the early hours!!Sexy mash up hip

hop/Electro by DJ Razor, and House by DJ Liam who is specially flying in

all the way from Australia.

Full 10 quality drinks deal from 10pm til 2:30am! 2 floors full and banging! Countdown with us hard style and

usher in 2011 December 31st 10pm only …@ MAO

(I don’t think Mao would have had any problems with a bit of  “sexy mash up hip hop” !  )

It’s not surprising  that the authorities are working so hard to push the “harmony theme” and delete the whole idea of revolution from the historical record, but it contradicts reality.   In 1949, Mao said “the Chinese people have stood up”, and they had!   I can’t see the Chinese people forgetting that.   They’re now undergoing a tumultuous and painful  transition toward modernity, under an authoritarian, oppressive “communist party”,  nothing harmonious about it.

It’s often thought that The Left is all about harmony –  more so,  nowadays.   But even in the past, I think that many on the Left had the idea that “once we had socialism” there would no longer be any fierce struggle – or that the struggle would be limited to a struggle with nature, rather than struggle between people/different social forces.  Bogdanov proposed something like that in his science fiction novel “Red Star – the first Bolshevik Utopia” ( first published in 1908) .

Continue reading ‘Email from China’

Climate Change: Is Nuclear Power the Answer?

Videos from the November Monthly Argument Debate, held in Melbourne, Australia. Visit the Monthly Argument website for more information about the speakers, links to relevant reading etc.

It’s also worth visiting Barry Brook’s site Brave New Climate which contains several really interesting, and informative threads in which Brook and others discussed the issues with Arthur Dent (aka Albert Langer) in the week leading up to the debate: Here are links to two of those threads: Two Nuclear-Solar Dialogues in Melbourne Next Week and Electricity Costs Exhibits

Climate Change: Is nuclear the answer? (excerpts – 8 minutes) from Monthly Argument on Vimeo.

Part 1: Climate Change: Is Nuclear power the answer? from Monthly Argument on Vimeo.

Part 2. Climate Change: Is Nuclear Power the Answer from Monthly Argument on Vimeo.

no pressure …..mmm ….

How out of touch … how nutty …. how arrogant and stupid have these people become ?

The video below (entitled “No Pressure”) depicts kids being blown up for not agreeing to take action to reduce their carbon emissions. It was produced by the 10:10 organisation which has since apologised (sort of) and taken it down.

According to Forbes Magazine it “was underwritten by a number of major corporations as well as the UK government”. It’s definitely not a spoof.

Just posting it here because it’s so extraordinary. While it’s true that the reaction from nearly all climate change organisations has been that it was a “mistake”, “tasteless” and “only feeds the denialists” , it’s also true that those who produced it are not regarded as part of the lunatic fringe of the green movement. It was actually put together by Richard Curtis (writer of Four Weddings an a Funeral, Notting Hill, Love Actually, and the Mr. Bean sitcom). Frannie Armstrong (known for her film “Age of Stupid” and the person behind the the 10:10 organisation) said of the video :”We ‘killed’ five people to make No Pressure – a mere blip compared to the 300,000 fictional people who now die in my imagination each year from climate change.”

And by the way, these two articles by Warren Meyer at Forbes Magazine are quite sensible and interesting:

denying the catstrophe:the science of the-climate skeptics position

why blowing up-kids seemed like a good-idea

Monthly Argument debate

The next Melbourne “Monthly Argument” debate is today (September 9, 2010).  Apologies for the late notice!  Full details below (you will need to scroll down!)

The debate topic is:  “Renewable Energy: should we make the switch?”

It won’t be a debate about climate change (whether it’s happening), but about what should be done about it.    In this context, it’s worth taking a look at a recent post at Skeptic Lawyer : Climate change, scepticism and elitism (also read the comments) and perhaps drop over to Larvatas Prodeo to read Robert Merkel’s extraordinary reaction to it:  The Intellectual laziness of climate skepticism.

I really want to write more about this, but it’s too late at night now.   Suffice it to say that the post at Skeptic Lawyer (which was written by Legal Eagle) was not in fact an attempt to make a case against the scientific argument for climate change.  It was much more about the anxiety associated with not wanting to just go along with the majority voices on the matter,  the pressure to conform,   and the concerns of the author that any rapid attempt  to slash carbon emissions will hit the poorer sections  of  society very hard.  It was a long and thoughtful post – but it hit a raw nerve among the LP people.   I think it was remarks like this which did it:

Further, ordinary people should not be criticised for being sceptical. If you are asking people to change the way in which they live fundamentally, in ways that could impact them greatly, you should not ask them to be unquestioning. There is a real arrogance on the part of the likes of Hamilton and Monbiot which makes me recoil from their agenda.

******

One of the participants in the Insight program made an interesting observation to me beforehand. He said, “I’ve noticed that scepticism tends to be class-based. Middle-class, university educated people are far more likely to accept that climate change is happening. Working-class people are far more likely to be sceptical and concerned.” There is a deep elitism at the heart of the writings of some who suggest the shape of the policy responding to climate change (eg, Clive Hamilton, George Monbiot). The sly inference is that working-class people are stupid bogans who don’t know any better, and that they should let their betters guide them in what is to be done.

********

When an issue gets politicised like that I get very worried. I must confess that I don’t really understand why the Left has decided that it will swallow climate change policy whole (which is distinguishable from the question of science). I know that one of the ideas of climate change policy is the idea that we should consume less and be a less capitalist society (which clearly fits into many leftist ideas). But surely another concern of left-wing people should be the perpetuation of the class system and the deepening of the divide between rich and poor. To me, it seems that anyone who is left-wing or progressive should also be concerned about potential effects of some suggested climate change policies on less privileged members of society, and that they should be concerned about the possibility of an elitist society if we institute the suggestions of commentators such as Clive Hamilton or George Monbiot. If we implement any policy, I believe we have to be really careful that it doesn’t create a more unequal society.

*************

One of the audience members of the Insight program said her worry was that climate change science is being used by some to stifle development in poor countries so that they are kept “carbon neutral”. It’s a form of elitism, perhaps even an environmental neo-colonialism – “We know what’s best for you poor brown people, you have to stay in mud huts because it is a carbon neutral way of existence.” It buys into the whole myth of the “Noble Savage“. That’s not a fault of climate change scientists, as Professor Schneider pointed out in response.


Some sceptics are concerned about the way in which science is being used to push various political barrows in ways that might disadvantage those who are less economically secure or vulnerable. That is a progressive concern.

Further, ordinary people should not be criticised for being sceptical. If you are asking people to change the way in which they live fundamentally, in ways that could impact them greatly, you should not ask them to be unquestioning. There is a real arrogance on the part of the likes of Hamilton and Monbiot which makes me recoil from their agenda.
One of the participants in the Insight program made an interesting observation to me beforehand. He said, “I’ve noticed that scepticism tends to be class-based. Middle-class, university educated people are far more likely to accept that climate change is happening. Working-class people are far more likely to be sceptical and concerned.” There is a deep elitism at the heart of the writings of some who suggest the shape of the policy responding to climate change (eg, Clive Hamilton, George Monbiot). The sly inference is that working-class people are stupid bogans who don’t know any better, and that they should let their betters guide them in what is to be done.
When an issue gets politicised like that I get very worried. I must confess that I don’t really understand why the Left has decided that it will swallow climate change policy whole (which is distinguishable from the question of science). I know that one of the ideas of climate change policy is the idea that we should consume less and be a less capitalist society (which clearly fits into many leftist ideas). But surely another concern of left-wing people should be the perpetuation of the class system and the deepening of the divide between rich and poor. To me, it seems that anyone who is left-wing or progressive should also be concerned about potential effects of some suggested climate change policies on less privileged members of society, and that they should be concerned about the possibility of an elitist society if we institute the suggestions of commentators such as Clive Hamilton or George Monbiot. If we implement any policy, I believe we have to be really careful that it doesn’t create a more unequal society.
One of the audience members of the Insight program said her worry was that climate change science is being used by some to stifle development in poor countries so that they are kept “carbon neutral”. It’s a form of elitism, perhaps even an environmental neo-colonialism – “We know what’s best for you poor brown people, you have to stay in mud huts because it is a carbon neutral way of existence.” It buys into the whole myth of the “Noble Savage“. That’s not a fault of climate change scientists, as Professor Schneider pointed out in response.
Some sceptics are concerned about the way in which science is being used to push various political barrows in ways that might disadvantage those who are less economically secure or vulnerable. That is a progressive concern.

*****************

Tonight’s Monthly Argument will be around the issue of the cost of  slashing carbon emissions by attempting to move to renewables in the near future.   The fact is that you can “believe in” climate change (ie  accept that there seems scientific to be evidence of AGW ) , without also believing that the best thing to do is to take measure to reduce carbon emissions right now.   The latter belief does not automatically follow from the former.  But this has been obscured  by all the shouting about “deniers”  and also by the underlying ideological stance of that section of the green movement which is anti-development, and sees humanity as needing to atone for its hubris in thinking  it could conquer nature.

( btw  Sceptic Lawyer also has a post about today’s “The Monthly Argument” which ties it in with the attack on Legal Eagle by  Robert Merkel:  The Monthly Argument strikes again)

Copy of mail-out from “The Monthly Argument”

Announcing our September Debate!

Renewable Energy: should we make the switch?

Thursday September 9, 6:30 pm for a 7pm start. Dan O’Connel Hotel, 225 Canning Street, Carlton.

(http://themonthlyargument.wordpress.com/ )

Have a look at our speaker line up!

Lead speakers:

John Daley (from the Grattan Institute) (“yes, we should switch”)

versus

Alan  Moran (from the Institute of Public Affairs) (“no, we shouldn’t switch”)

Battle of the think-tanks predicted! It should be fun!

Panellists:

Arthur Dent (aka Albert Langer)

Matthew Wright (Beyond Zero Emissions)

Austin Williams (Director of the Future Cities Project, (UK) )

Cam Walker (Friends of the Earth)

On this topic it would be difficult to put together a better line up (we can’t resist a bit of a boast!)

It should be a great evening. The debate begins at 7pm sharp and will conclude at around 8:15pm. There will be an opportunity during the debate itself for questions from the floor, and afterwards it will be possible to stay on to socialise and continue the argument informally with members of the audience, and with at least some of the speakers.

The aim of the Monthly Argument is to promote political liveliness, lift the level, raise the temperature and  create something very different from both the “ABC conversation” events, and from the repetitive discussions which occur within the various political tribes

We’re attempting to bring back something of the spirit of the ’60’s “Teach-Ins”.

Hope to see you there.

Time and location details:

Date: Thursday September 9

Time: 6.30 for 7.00pm. The debate will end around 8.15pm.

Venue: The Function Room of the Dan O’Connell Hotel 225 Canning Street (cnr Princes St) Carlton (Melway 2B J4).

Free admission. No need to book.

The Monthly Argument – raising the political temperature

(Second Thursday of the month at the Dan O’Connell)

0488 532 559

http://themonthlyargument.wordpress.com

Monthly Argument debate on immigration (videos)

Two videos of the first Monthly Argument debate are now available. The topic for this first debate was “Immigration: Should we apply the brakes?”

The first video is short (just 6 minutes of excerpts).  The second one is the entire debate (almost 90 minutes).

Both videos can also be watched and/or downloaded from the Vimeo website.  (Debate Excerpts:  here . The entire debate  here.)  I’ve embedded them both here but I think that some people will find that the longer video loads much faster at the Vimeo site.

Immigration debate: exerpts from Monthly Argument on Vimeo.

Immigration: should we apply the brakes? from Monthly Argument on Vimeo.

More numb and more dumb

I wanted to call this post “number and dumber”, but to my great frustration,  I just saw digits after I’d typed “number” into the title feed  And I was already frustrated because I was about to  eke out an election comment – this is supposed to be a political site after all, so we should be able to say something.   But I’m not interested in the election!  I don’t care who wins.

A woman came knocking on my front door a week or so.   She wanted me to vote for the ALP.   I told her that I’d be voting informally because I have no desire to vote for either, and that even if I happened to support one of the minor parties,  I knew that by the end of the count,  my vote would end up with one of the major parties, due  to the  fact that the electoral act defines a   formal vote as one in which the voter indicates a “preference” for every candidate on the list.

The woman at the door just looked at me and said “but it will be horrendous if Tony Abbot wins”.   Apparently,  I was supposed to vote Labor in order to do my bit in the fight against the forces of darkness or something.   She didn’t even attempt to give me any positive reason for voting Labor.  The only other thing she  mentioned was that the candidate is  a very nice woman – cares about the community, has an “open door”, and so on.

Continue reading ‘More numb and more dumb’

First Melbourne “Monthly Argument” debate this Thursday

Details in brief:

Topic : “Immigration: should we apply the brakes?”    Monthly Argument logo1

Speakers:

Sinclair Davidson (Institute of Public Affairs)

Chuck Berger (Australian Conservation Foundation)

Panel:

Date: Thursday,  August 12

Continue reading ‘First Melbourne “Monthly Argument” debate this Thursday’

“All I know is that I am not a Marxist.” (Karl Marx)

A few days ago Arthur, David Mc. and I went along to a Socialist Alternative event at Trades Hall.  It had been advertised as a panel discussion on “Australian militarism

The general position  was that WW1, WW11, the Vietnam War, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan were/are all pretty much the same war.  Not much to think about really. It’s all just imperialism and racism, capitalists grabbing resources , expanding markets, seizing territory, seeking strategic superiority.  I was initially surprised about the attitude to WW2, but realised after a while that it was necessary for consistency.  They have a simple theory about how the world works, and everything must fit it. No need to analyse any particular world event, the position is just given.
(For the record though, I should mention that Harry Van Moorst  (who was on the panel) actually gave an interesting talk about his experience in the anti-Vietnam war movement, and although he didn’t mention WW2, I’d say that he’d be unlikely to agree that it was just another imperialist war. His talk was lively and lacked the contrived tone of the other talks. )
I don’t usually pay much attention to the various revolutionary sects which continue to exist on the fringes of the pseudo-left because they are largely politically irrelevant. However it’s worth popping in to one of their “events” once in a while, just to remind oneself of what can happen when “Marxism” is embraced as a religion.  (I hesitated to use the word “Marxism” in that last sentence, but I couldn’t quickly think of a better way to put it. Clearly, calling oneself a Marxist  and peppering everything one says with references to  “class struggle”, “imperialism” , “capitalist crisis” and so on, has very little to do with  Marxism.  It brings to mind what Marx apparently said (to Lafargue) in frustration  about the French “Marxists”:   “All I know is that I am not a Marxist“.

No, he’s not joking…

(15/4/10 … have replaced video with one which works. The previous version stopped working and would only display a notice reading “Taken down due to terms of use violation” ,  hopefully the one below will remain available)

Here is a US Congressman (Hank Johnson) questioning a Navy admiral about putting more military on the island of Guam.   He suggests that the island could become so populated that it could ..ah …. capsize.

Iraqis vote in Shepparton

Nice little video of Iraqis voting in Shepparton (Victoria, Australia).

Fukuyama treading carefully

An article that’s worth discussing is Fukuyama’s  What Became of the Freedom Agenda?.  It’s based on a United States Institute of Peace working paper which was released on January 21.

Fukuyama withdrew his support for the war in Iraq as soon as things became difficult,  yet at the same time he continues to  acknowledge  the reality that the  US can’t afford to keep cozying up to the autocratic regimes   in the Middle East.

He manages to quote Bush (2003) with approval:

“Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom . . . did nothing to make us safe. . . . As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment and violence ready for export.”

But he continues to oppose what he calls ” return(ing) to the loud trumpeting of promises for support of regional democracy that we cannot keep” and    ignores the fact that in Iraq, the US has kept exactly that promise. Instead  he tries to argue that the overhrow of Baathism in Iraq can only be seen as a setback for “democracy promotion”  because it “undercut (the) credibility” of that policy, and in his view increased Arab hostility toward America.

He rightly points to the way in which the autocrats of the region continue to get away with justifying the repression of opposition groups by saying that this is necessary to keep militant Islamists out of power and then goes on to call on Obama to “recommit the United States to peaceful democratic change”

What he wants the US to do now is to follow a policy of  “working quietly behind the scenes to push friendly authoritarians towards a genuine broadening of political space in their countries through the repeal of countless exceptional laws, defamation codes, party registration statutes and the like that hinder the emergence of real democratic contestation.”

The article is quite extraordinary in the way it makes no attempt to analyse the impact of the changes in Iraq, apart from maintaining that it damaged US credibility in the region.  I don’t know how anyone can purport to be writing a serious article about the prospects for democratic change in the Middle East, without writing in some detail about the one country in which democratic change has actually happened!  The thing which will do most to force (not gently “push”) the autocrats of the region out of power, is the move from fascism to democracy in Iraq. Fukuyama may disagree with that, but he doesn’t even address the issue.

Continue reading ‘Fukuyama treading carefully’