Author Archive for keza

Solidarity with the people of Iran

iran students protests in teheran dec 7 2008

Iran students protests in teheran dec 7 2008

I’ve just received the following message from “Where is My Vote? Melbourne”

Subject: HUMAN CHAIN Against Brutality and Execution in IRAN

In the eight months which have passed since the rigged presidential elections, we have witnessed elements within the Iranian regime reacting with brazen brutality against people who seek to have a voice in the country’s government. Many have been killed and hundreds imprisoned and tortured. Protestors have recently been executed or received the death penalty in recent trials

We cannot just stand by mutely, so people around the world are gathering to bear witness. Iranians around the world will stand together on February 12 in solidarity with their brothers and sisters inside Iran to show them that they have not stopped caring.

We in Melbourne on Friday 12/02/10 from 7-8 pm, will form a human chain over Princess Bridge along St. Kilda Rd to take part in this global action against injustice, and to condemn recent executions and unfair trails. We will  hold a 200m-long green scroll with our slogans written on it.

We want you to be there to echo our voice.

I think those of us who are in Melbourne should go along.

China’s empty city

this beggars belief …..

Technology, development and c..c..c..climate change.


Time to Take Sides

Ha!  George Monbiot got one thing (almost) delightfully right in his recent article: The rapacious will not give up without a fight

“Humanity is no longer split between conservatives and liberals, reactionaries and progressives, though both sides are informed by the older politics. Today the battle lines are drawn between expanders and restrainers; those who believe that there should be no impediments and those who believe that we must live within limits.”

I  had to insert ‘almost’ in my introductory sentence above, because the split  is still between reactionaries and progressives.   The ‘expanders’  are the progressives, and the ‘restrainers’  are the reactionaries, doomed to run behind, shouting and gesticulating.

In his article,  Monbiot is clear that economic growth must be curtailed.  In order to Save the Planet, humanity must “redefine itself”  and reject the idea that there will “always be another frontier” because “perpetual growth cannot be accomodated on a finite planet”.

Well,  we still have at least a billion years  before changes in our Sun begin to make the planet uninhabitable.   (And by that time we’ll have spread into other parts of the universe anyway.)   Given that it’s only a few hundred years since all of humanity was dependent on a carbohydrate energy economy (ie  we depended entirely on human manual labour, augmented by animals, such as horses) , and in too many parts of the world that is still the case, it seems very odd to say that we are about to reach some sort of limit.  The reality is that we’ve only just begun.

Industrialization,  and the economic growth made possible by that,  is essential  to human liberation .  For most of human history, life has been brutish, nasty and short. Even at the best of times,  the vast majority  could only just manage to subsist  by spending almost every waking hour engaged in some from of back-breaking toil.   The industrial revolution changed all that and provided opportunities and possibilities which were not even dreamed of in the past.  And we’re still only at the beginning.  A huge part of the planet has yet to industrialise.  Those of us who are already on the way, want to continue.

Continue reading ‘Technology, development and c..c..c..climate change.’

Really crazy …. or someone having a joke???

The video below was shown at the opening session of the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen.    Could it be a parody??????

Yes, Clive, “all that is solid melts into air”, you just don’t get it…

People coming here in response to David’s article in the Australian today (Green Wowser is no Leftie), may also be interested in an article about Hamilton that I wrote for Spiked last year : “Liberal Tyranny on the World Wide Web

Also,   few months ago it was the 40th anniversary of Woodstock so the media was full of articles about it.   Hamilton wrote one which he entitled  “From Free Love to Narcicissm”.  I began drafting a response to it, but as is fairly usual for me, I became  distracted by other stuff before I finished it.   However it seems appropriate to publish what I had written up to the time I stopped, rather than leave it languishing on my hard drive.  It’s not really finished, and should really be edited a bit …. but better to just put it here than wait till I  have the time and inclination to do any more work on it .   So here it is:


The recent anniversary of Woodstock has prompted various public intellectuals to whip up  media pieces on the legacy of the ’60’s era. I was particularly irritated by Clive Hamilton’s piece “From Free Love to Narcissism“, published in Crikey. But I’ve since noticed the similarity between his and several other articles. On some levels they could have been woven from the same cloth.

It’s especially irritating that these people are so ready to describe  Woodstock as a (or even the) defining event of the worldwide upsurge of the  1960s. It clearly wasn’t. Throughout this period, young people around the world fought real battles which actually changed things. The counter-culture which emerged alongside these struggles most certainly had its rebellious side, but it was also heavily influenced by  the ‘turn off, tune in, drop out… ‘all you need is love’  mentality. And that aspect of it was struggled against by the leadership of those groups fighting for serious change. The idea that a mass stone-in at a rock n roll concert could be a world-changing event was not one that was widely embraced.  At best, Woodstock reflected (rather than drove) the general rebellious spirit of the times. It may have been a demonstration that the youth were no longer prepared to accept the old social conventions, but it was not a centre-piece of any particular struggle.

However, 40 years later, it suits both the overt Right and the pseudo-left to look back  on Woodstock as some sort of pivotal event.   The pseudo-left is quite comfortable redefining  the ’60s era as having been all about  peace, love, harmony, tolerance,  while  the Right has fun lampooning the idea that a muddy gathering of half a million drug addled, group-thinky, tie-dyed, incense burning kids, should be viewed as having been of positive significance.

Ayn Rand wrote:

“The hippies are the living demonstration of what it means to give up reason and to rely on one’s primeval “instincts,” “urges,” “intuitions” – and whims. With such tools, they are unable to grasp even what is needed to satisfy their wishes – for example, the wish to have a festival. Where would they be without the charity of the local “squares” who fed them? Where would they be without the fifty doctors, rushed from New York to save their lives – without the automobiles that brought them to the festival – without the soda pop and beer they substituted for water – without the helicopter that brought the entertainers – without all the achievements of the technological civilization they denounce? Left to their own devices, they literally didn’t know enough to come in out of the rain. “

I actually have some sympathy with Rand’s view, although her contempt is far too extreme for me.

Poor old Clive Hamilton wants to have it both ways. In his Crikey article he wrote: “The original  Woodstock festival was imbued with a sense of harmony and  tolerance and was everywhere seen as a ‘victory of peace and love’ “. The rest of his article is a sermon about  the sixties movement more generally in which he explains that it’s time we woke up and realised that in reality  the “rebellion [which] shook the foundations of conservatism in the sixties and seventies  [ has resulted in]  the most materialistic, egocentric and decadent societies the world has ever seen”.

Apparently we were conned, instead of winning we really lost because the main impact of winning more freedom and greater personal autonomy was the unleashing of … da Market Monster!!

Continue reading ‘Yes, Clive, “all that is solid melts into air”, you just don’t get it…’

Who Owns Science??

The Manchester Manifesto (entitled “Who Owns Science?”) was published last week and, as Arthur pointed out in a comment in another thread, (Just too Bizarre) it seems  “…nicely timed to coincide with “Climategate” [having demonstrated]  abuse of  “Intellectual Property” to protect scientific tribalism.”

It’s a moderately worded manifesto, but it’s signed by about 50 scientists and other “experts” and its focus is on the way in which the notion of intellectual property (IP) is a threat to innovation.

“….the current dominant model of innovation and commercialisation of science poses a number of problems. It has potential to encourage innovation and scientific research and development, but also to frustrate innovation and stifle research”

Here’s a longer excerpt from Arthur’s comment as a discussion starter:

“While very moderately worded, it has a suitably extensive list of signatories to stimulate discussion that will inevitably hook up with the more aggressive (and widely supported) Free and Open Source Software movement,  which  confronts the same problem in engineering (and hence in everything), and related “Open Culture” movements (wikipedia etc) etc, that link directly to mass rejection of property rights in music, video and games by file sharing.

I’ve always thought (eg with “Software Liberation” in early 1980s) that this stuff is central to linking communist ideas about capitalist relations of production fettering the productive forces with practical political struggles.

There’s also a possible opening in Australia at the moment with a transparently silly scheme likely to go through against opposition from Nationals, Liberals and Greens – none of whom have the slightest credibility.

How about (seriously) proposing that they should offer an “alternative” of Australia spending as much on science and R&D towards cheaper base load primary energy,  as other countries do on restricting carbon emissions. And with no IP rights, since  that would only hinder our contribution to the common world effort to “do something”  …but  we would prefer to do something “actually useful”.  Spin-offs to Australia,  instead of IP,  are a generally higher tech workforce  – like the spin-off to US from military and (related) space programs.”

And below are some other articles, which may be of interest:

Science in Shackles

Grant system Leads Science Researchers to Play it Safe

Seeking a Shorter Path to New Drugs

just too bizarre….

Please explain….. I just do not understand why a large section of the ruling class is so actively into the promotion of green hysteria.  One could almost begin to suspect some sort of weird science fiction scenario involving alien mind-control, or something….

Just have a look at this ad. produced for children by the British government (at a cost of $10.7 million dollars!)

Note:  I got the video from You Tube, where the person who  posted it has added a plug throughout for the film “Not Evil, Just Wrong” …… this may make you heave a sigh of relief, and think it’s a spoof … but it’s not.

Brendan O’Neil has an article about it in today’s Australian, by the way:  Panic Little Ones,  it’s the Carbon Monster.

Dancing at the station …

I think everyone will enjoy this (especially Arthur!!)

It’s  200 dancers  taking commuters by surprise at the Central Station of Antwerp with a performance of  “Do Re Mi”.  (Apparently they had only rehearsed together twice!)

Guy Rundle’s support for “righteous killing”

Taliban beating women

Taliban beating women

Browsing today’s edition of Crikey just now I came across a little piece from Guy Rundle on Afghanistan.   This paragraph stood out:

The plain fact is that any eight year war in a foreign land has become a war against the people, a little Vietnam. Guerrilla insurgency is about moving like a fish in the water of the wider populace — thus obliging the occupying power to drain the pond (or, in the words of one of Melbourne’s addled pro-war Maoists — burnouts getting their jaded jollies from righteous killing, as usual — “draining the swamps where terror breeds”).

He’s clearly referring to an article by me which was published in The Australian, back in 2006: Drain the Swamps where Terror Breeds. (It’s sort of nice to know that he still feels irritated by it….)

Interestingly Rundle is on the record with an appalling call for a bloodbath in Iraq. These are his words just before the war began  in 2003:

`…it may be best in the long run if  Baghdad . . . resists and there is a slaughter of some duration”

Continue reading ‘Guy Rundle’s support for “righteous killing”’

“Capitalism: Utopian and Scientific”

I recently had a look around the Santa Fe Institute website in order to see whether anyone there was seriously attempting to apply complex systems research to understanding capitalism, and the current economic crisis. ( links below.)

My reason for taking a look  is that SFI is a major centre of cross disciplinary research into complexity, and I was wondering whether anyone there was taking a serious look at capitalism from that perspective. I think that sort of work would have to be valuable, regardless of the fact that it would be commissioned by capitalists wanting to find a way to keep capitalism on its feet, rather than with the intent of demonstrating that the system is mortal.

The reason that “The Austrians” do have a certain appeal, relative to the fundamentally mechanistic approach of the Keynsians, and most of the neo-classical economists is that they have some idea that disequilibrium is an intrinsic part of capitalism. What they just can’t comprehend is the idea that this very disequilibrium (and associated dynamism) can’t help but drive the system to a whole new level   in which the continued ownership of the means of production will become something which very clearly stands in the way of what excites them about capitalism.

However, although we can say this, there is still a large amount of hand waving involved (especially when I say it!).  In order to engage in serious debate with people who are in favour of progress but see capitalism as the best driver of this, we need to be able to engage in detailed argument at a much higher level.

Contrary to  the straw man view of socialism which the Austrians have no great difficult in knocking down,  I think we need to argue that socialism  would not be a  system without disequilibrium . Although I just don’t know enough to be able to produce a coherent account of how a socialist economy would actually work,  philosophically I’m of the view that any system in permanent equilibrium would have to be a stagnating one. That of course is exactly the basis of the economic attack on socialism from the Austrians …. that it wouldn’t work because it would be a clunky top-down system driven by a rigid central plan, rather than a living, dynamic one.

Continue reading ‘“Capitalism: Utopian and Scientific”’

Cheaper books? But what about Snugglepot and Cuddlepie??


Watch out …. the invisible hand might get our precious Snugglepies…. or so they say….(creeping globalization and all that) snugglepot2

Ever wondered why it’s not possible to use a Kindle in Australia or why there is no branch of Amazon here?   It’s because the Australian publishing industry is protected (it’s 70% foreign owned, anyhow … I’ll leave that to one side).  It’s also why the books (especially non fiction and text books) cost so much here, relative to the rest of the world.

Fortuntely a recent Productivity Commission Report has recommended that restrictions on the parallel importing of books  be reduced. books

The restriction  on   “parallel book importing”  is the mechanism which gives Australia  based publishers an effective monopoly on the book market.  In a nutshell, any book which is physically published here cannot be imported by local bookshops.  This includes all  books, not only those  by Australian authors.  So effectively, bookshops are not permitted to purchase books at the cheapest price possible, and of course this means that there is  a severe lack of competition.   (And in any  case  books published here will be more expensive to produce, simply because of smaller print runs).

Naturally the publishing industry is up in arms about it and has managed to recruit a slew of  Australian authors to the cause. The line they’ve swallowed is that this will be the death of  the Australian writer, our kids will never come across Snugglepot and Cuddlepie again, we’ll be swallowed up foreign culture, this is an attack by neo-liberal free-marketism on everything we hold dear.

Continue reading ‘Cheaper books? But what about Snugglepot and Cuddlepie??’

Obama in Cairo (therapy for liberals)

it's all about our new beginning...

In this time of great decision, I have come to Cairo not to talk about the past, but to look to the future — to a future that Egyptians can lead and can define.

Ladies and Gentlemen: In our world today, a growing number of men and women are securing their liberty. And as these people gain the power to choose, they are creating democratic governments in order to protect their natural rights. We should all look to a future when every government respects the will of its citizens — because the ideal of democracy is universal.

For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East — and we achieved neither.  Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.

….. We know these advances will not come easily, or all at once. We know that different societies will find forms of democracy that work for them. When we talk about democracy, though, we are referring to governments that protect
certain basic rights for all their citizens — among these, the right to speak freely. The right to associate.
The right to worship as you wish. The freedom to educate your children — boys and girls. And freedom from the midnight knock of the secret police.

Securing these rights is the hope of every citizen, and the duty of every government. In my own country, the progress of democracy has been long and difficult. And given our history, the United States has no cause for false pride and we have every reason for humility.

After all, America was founded by individuals who knew that all human beings — and the governments they create — are inherently imperfect. And the United States was  born half free and half slave. And it was only in my lifetime that my government guaranteed the right to vote for all of its people.

Whoops, wrong speech!!  That was Condi Rice speaking in Cairo,  back in 2005.   condi2

Obama’s speech was so much more..well,  nuanced.  Whereas Condi chose to focus on the struggle for democracy in the Middle East, Obama preferred to talk about “relationships”and  in particular what he called “the tension between the USA and Muslims around the world”. What is central, according to Obama, is to understand difference, find what we share, discover our common humanity (etc etc..).

As I said in a previous post,  I think that Obama will have to continue what the Bush regime started, no other policy would make any sense..The biggest sign of this was that he spoke quite firmly about the need for a Palestinian State, and was prepared to arouse the wrath of the most militant Zionists.

Continue reading ‘Obama in Cairo (therapy for liberals)’

Obama dragged by history

I’ve been trying to figure out how things will go in the Middle East under Obama, and have half-written a post about his Cairo speech, which I hope to finish very soon…… meanwhile, I’ll post this…


My half-baked view (which I’ll expand upon in my future post)  is that he knows that he has no choice but to continue what was begun under Bush.  Nothing else would make any sense.   I think the main clue to this was in his remarks about the necessity for a Palestinian State.  He was more forceful than I’d expected about this.

However,  the entire tone of his speech suggests that the Obama administration  is utterly lily liver’d when it comes to fighting tyranny and propogating the democratic revolution.    The bulk of what he said  was just  liberal waffle about  ‘understanding difference’,  ‘looking into our hearts’, ‘finding what we have in common’  etc etc.   Relationship counselling  stuff…

Obama wordlet

"The Holy Bible tells us "Blessed are the peacemakers…" ' (or was it 'cheesemakers')..

Continue reading ‘Obama dragged by history’

Fighting back in Tehran

a banned demonstration!

a banned demonstration!

I  have no detailed knowledge of what’s happening in Iran. However it seems fairly clear that the people of Tehran want their freedom and are pushing back hard at the regime.  The fact that Mousavi  is himself just as about reactionary as Ahmadinejad seems to be of little importance right now. The people are on the move.


It’s possible to get a bit of a feel for it by following the minute by minute commentaries on various twitter sites.  eg persiankiwi

With a Shia-based democracy taking root right next door in Iraq, I think the mullahs will be feeling really worried.  This may not be “it” for them, I’m sure there will be many twists and turns, but their days are clearly numbered.

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by pseudo-leftism..”

“Whine” was inspired by Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’, a 1950s Beat poem that, for all its faults, at least had some gutsiness behind it. While howling represents a kind of rage and anger, whining captures what the pseudo-left does best: whining from the sidelines. Endless complaining because ‘things just keep going from bad to worse’ – as all the reactionary conservative old-timers have said since time immemorial. The footage accompanying the video was filmed during a visit to New York, and mostly shows W42nd Street and Upper New York Bay.