Author Archive for youngmarxist

Current protest by UC Davis students in Sacramento including police beatings being reported live on Twitter @californiaaggie

The California Aggie Twitter account, from the student newspaper at the University of California’s Davis campus in Sacramento, is reporting live news from a protest by University students. The account has already included reports of beatings and taser usetear gas, and bean bag pellets.

Bean bag pellets on Twitpic

Police are ready with batons, tasers, shooting rubber pellets... on Twitpic

A very tense moment on Twitpic

The protests are part of a wider day of action against likely cuts and fee rises in US universities.


A YouTube video from a local news station reporting on the protest can be seen here, and more live details on the UC Davis protest can be seen using the Twitter Search site

1009 AM AEST

The same Twitter account says the protest disbanded about 9 minutes ago, 4PM California time.

Whaling hypocrisy to end? Details and links to sources on the IWC’s proposal to re-authorise whaling

Reports are hitting the media about draft amendments to international whaling rules that are meant to bring Japan, and other whaling nations, back under the rule of the International Whaling Commission. The amendments in effect will allow nations that are already killing whales to keep on doing so with the approval of the IWC, provided that they limit the numbers of whales they catch. The exact limits are yet to be decided, and of course will only apply if the draft amendments pass.

The legal structure is this:

The International Whaling Commission is established under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. There is a Schedule to the Convention – that Schedule is where the current rules about whaling are written down.

The draft amendments were written by the Support Group to the “Small Working Group” of the IWC. The “Small Working Group” meets from March 2-4 2010 in Florida, where the changes will be discussed. The exact changes that are proposed can be downloaded here (pdf file). The Small Working Group’s report will be discussed at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the IWC to be held in Morocco from May 27 – June 25 2010. The full Annual Meeting would need to approve any changes to the Schedule.

The proposed changes add a new chapter to the Schedule, Chapter VII. While the ban on commercial whaling in Chapter III of the Convention is not explicitly overturned, the proposed Chapter VII will allow whaling by countries that caught whales in 2009. The key is the proposal for paragraph 33:

In order to improve the conservation of whales, the number of whales taken for each of the years indicated above shall not exceed the catch limits shown in Table 4.

[Table 4 hasn’t had figures added yet – presumably these figures will be negotiated if and when the IWC meeting next week agrees to the general principles in the draft plan]

No Contracting Government will unilaterally authorize any whaling in excess of the limits shown in Table 4 or outside the provisions of chapter VII.

[Meaning that countries agree to no longer carry out “scientific whaling”, which is carried out under Article VIII of the Convention]

If the results of the established management procedures indicate that a catch limit should be lower than the number in Table 4, or if there is a significant event that negatively affects the status of any population, the Commission shall reduce the number of whales taken for each subsequent whaling season during the currency of this chapter, in accordance with the advice of the Scientific Committee.

Catches from the stocks included in Table 4 shall not be authorized by Contracting Governments that did not authorize whaling operations in those areas in 2009.

[So only countries that caught whales in 2009 will be able to catch whales under the new quotas]

Table 4 allows whaling to happen in the Southern Ocean. The Australian Government has rejected this already, and issued a counter-proposal which calls for whaling to end in the Southern Ocean in five years’ time.

It seems that the proposed changes to the Schedule are a temporary fix. The changes are planned to end in 2020 and the Report containing the changes says:

This would provide a period of stability during which the Commission will be able to undertake a review of other matters and further work on the reform of the organisation. These matters would include, inter alia, research under special permit [that is, “scientific” whaling], the commercial whaling moratorium and objections and reservations.

If this plan ends the ridiculous hypocrisy that is “scientific” whaling, so much the better. There is no reason that whales should be treated any differently to any other resource. Whales should be managed properly, so they aren’t recklessly driven extinct, but there’s no good moral reason to privilege the “rights” of whales over the right of humans to hunt them.

Global Warming – the real debate is about politics, not science @clim8resistance

The Climate Resistance blog, despite its rather odd-sounding name, is one of the better anti-climate-alarmism sites around. Instead of diving into the nuttier depths of the “It’s a UN conspiracy to take over the world and hand it over to the Jews bankers” arguments, it tackles the real issue in the climate debate head on.

A recent post there, “It’s all in the Head…lines” points out the shallowness of the alarmists’ position:

Sachs and Corner, like many alarmists, are continuing to hide behind the idea that the climate debate divides on a single point of difference: “Climate change is happening” versus “climate change isn’t happening”


The argument is really about how climate ‘science’ turns into ethical imperatives and politics. Our argument here is that ‘catastrophe’ is the premise of climate politics, not the conclusion of climate science.

The post also criticsises some people skeptical of the idea that drastic slowing of human activity is the only way to deal with global warming:

With arguments like this emerging from academia, it is no surprise that people sense the snake oil, and head for the science as the object of the debate. We’ve said before that this is a mistake that sceptics make. They mirror their counterparts such as Sachs and Corner, who believe that the debate begins and ends in “the science”. As we point out, probably too often, the politics is prior. It is Sachs and Corner’s politics which stinks. “The science” is an afterthought.

It’s been argued here before that this is the most important factor about the global warming debate. Even if humans are causing the climate to warm – even if that is an undisputed scientific fact – that fact doesn’t mean that the “science” can tell us what political decisions we need to make. The response to global warming is a political one, not a scientific one, and once the scientists have described what is happening, they have no more authority than any other reasonably well-informed citizen.

New Blog @savotes2010 to defy South Australian laws banning anonymous political speech at election time

A new blog, SA Votes 2010 Uncensored, will defy new South Australian laws banning anonymous political speech at election time. The blog will mainly post links to stories about the SA election but will allow anonymous comments on the election, without forcing commenters to publish real names or postcodes, and without forcing commenters to provide their address to the blog publisher.

The new law means that anyone commenting on a “journal”, including journals published on the Internet, must leave their real name and postcode, and the journal must collect and hold for six months their name and address. This law is so easily defied that it can easily be made unworkable, which is the point of the new blog.

“The Guardian” links anti-Western terrorism to the West’s support of dictators

Writing in the The Guardian last Thursday, Seamus Milne explicitly linked the rise of anti-Western terrorism to US policy in South-West Asia:

Decades of oil-hungry backing for despots, from Iran to Oman, Egypt to Saudi Arabia, along with the failure of Arab nationalism to complete the decolonisation of the region, fuelled first the rise of Islamism and then the eruption of al-Qaida-style terror more than a decade ago.

The article was based on the Egyptian Government’s continued co-operation with Israel to keep the people of the Gaza strip oppressed.

From the wider international perspective, it is precisely this western embrace of repressive and unrepresentative regimes such as Egypt’s, along with unwavering backing for Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land, that is at the heart of the crisis in the Middle East and Muslim world.

Of course, The Guardian can’t break away from its oppostion to the overthrow of the fascist dictator Sadaam Hussein, even though that overthrow has led to a representative democracy being set up in Iraq:

the disastrous US-led response was to expand the western presence still further, with new and yet more destructive invasions and occupations, in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

However, this might not be important. Milne immediately goes on to say:

the Bush administration’s brief flirtation with democratisation in client states such as Egypt was quickly abandoned once it became clear who was likely to be elected.

The fact that plenty of pseudo-left liberals adopted Kissingerite language and attitudes, claiming that Bush’s destabilisation of Iraq was a shameful failure of US policy, means that it’s not just Bush who’s to blame here. However, if liberals are now going to start demanding democracy in places like Egypt, there’s a chance to agitate for democratic revolutions again. If the liberals can get over the fact that this means – as Milne points out – that the Islamic Brotherhood would almost certainly win a free election in Egypt, then maybe some progress can be made in getting Westerners to support democracy again.

Does being anti-whaling mean you’re an imperialist?

Australian Trotskiyist blogger John Passant thinks so. In an article published today on his blog, “Should the left oppose whaling?“, he argues “There is nothing about whales that means humanity shouldn’t eat them.”

Passant argues that the actions of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society are elitist reformism:

There is one truth and that is that killing even one whale is evil and the Sea Shepherd will do anything to prevent that.

Well not quite anything. Their activity does not extend to agitating among Japanese or Australian workers as workers, in particular those in the ports and on the boats. They have contempt for workers.

Their approach involves substituting themselves for the mass of people.  This is reformism on a grand scale. Leave it to us; we know better than you; we’ll solve the situation by harassing, attacking and even sinking boats.

Passant also argues that the Australian Government’s opposition to whaling appears to be linked to Australia’s imperialist claims over the Australian Antarctic Territory and its adjacent sea waters. I’m not so sure about that (although the imperialism seems clear). It seems to me that the Government’s anti-whaling stand is more opportunistic pandering to majority opinion than it is a scheme to reinforce its Antarctic claims.

Sea Shepherd boat NOT sunk – ABC covers up its wrong reportDIT

EDIT: Since this report was written, there are new reports that the Sea Shepherd boat has in fact sunk. These reports are as yet uncomfirmed, and if they turn out to be true they still come two days after the ABC reported unconfirmed facts as if they were confirmed, and after Sea Shepherd attempted to salvage the still-afloat boat.


Yesterday, the Australian ABC reported that the Sea Shepherd boat Adi Gil was “sunk” by a Japanese whaling vessel.

Today, it emerges that the Adi Gil has not in fact been sunk, but seems likely to be salvaged. Did they ABC note on its report that the facts had changed, that they had got the story wrong by accepting Sea Shepherd’s word at face value, and apologise?

Hell no! They just changed the headline on their report!

Here’s a screenshot I took yesterday afternoon of the ABC report showing the headline reporting, as fact, that the Sea Shepherd boat had been sunk. The headline reads “Whalers sink Sea Shepherd boat”.

And here’s a link to the same ABC News report as it currently stands. As you can see, the headline now reads “Whalers hit Sea Shepherd boat”. Here’s a screenshot of the story as it stands at 1215 AEST. No acknowlegement that they got it wrong or that the story has been changed.

This confirms the bias of the ABC towards the Sea Shepherd and the unwillingness of their reporter and/or editorial team to give the Australian public the full facts of this story

BREAKING: Video of collision between Sea Shepherd’s Adi Gil and Japanese whaling boat

The Australian ABC has reported, as fact, allegations by the anti-whaling organisation Sea Shepherd that a Japanese whaling boat, the Shonan Maru 2, today deliberately sunk the Sea Shepherd vessel the Adi Gil.

The headline of the story reads “Whalers sink Sea Shepherd boat”, and a caption of a file picture of the Adi Gil in the story reads “The Ady Gil was at a standstill in Australian waters when the Japanese whaling ship rammed into it”.

The article contains five quotes or assertions attributed to Sea Shepherd, including this statement from Sea Shepherd spokesman Chris Aultman:

“The vessel was dead in the water. It was completely and absolutely a wilful act,” he said.

and one statement from the Japanese Fisheries Agency. The article contains not a single word of the statement made by the Institute of Cetacean Research (pdf file), a pro-whaling organisation, which claims that the Adi Gil attacked the Japanese whaling vessel the Nisshin Maru for two hours today:

In a manner similar to their 23 December attack on the Shonan Maru No. 2, at about 0300JST [Japanese Standard Time, 2 hours behind Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time and 9 hours ahead of Universal Time] the Ady Gil came to collision distance directly in front of the Nisshin Maru bow repeatedly deploying and towing a rope from its stern with the intent to entangle the Japanese vessel’s rudder and propeller. Further, the activists onboard the Ady Gil recurrently shoot a green laser device aiming at the Nisshin Maru crew and fired butyric acid-containing ball-like projectiles with a launching device. One of these projectiles landed in the Nisshin Maru’s deck.

Links to the Institute of Cetacean Research’s videos and media releases about alleged attacks on it by Sea Shepherd vessels can be seen here.

A far more balanced report is on the SBS News website, although it still appears to report the sinking of the Adi Gil as fact without independent verification.

A statement on the Sea Shepherd website claims that the Japanese boat’s attack on them was unprovoked and captured on film. As of the time of writing no video substantiating this claim was present on the Sea Shepherd site’s main video page, or on the video page documenting their current operations against Japanese whaling vessels in 2009-10. Such video will be posted here or linked to if it is later posted on the Sea Shepherd site.

UPDATE: This video, provided by Sea Shepherd and shot from the Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker, shows the collision:


The next two videos were released by the Institute of Cetacean Research. The first video shows the Adi Gil trailing a rope:

The second video shows a collision between a whaling ship and the Adi Gil:

EDIT – You can read the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea here. The rules have come up in comments on this video. – END EDIT

The Sea Shepherd statement says the alleged sinking took place at 64 degrees 3 minutes South and 143 degrees 9 Minutes East – click here for a Google Map.

This video, also released by the Institute for Cetacean Research, shows the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin colliding with a Japanese whaling vessel in February 2009:

It’s clear that the ABC has failed to report both sides of this story and is acting in this case as Sea Shepherd’s propaganda arm, rather than seeking out the statements presented in this post and giving people the information they need to start making their own conclusions.

UPDATE: The Ambit Gambit blog also criticises the media coverage of the story, while anti-whaler Andrew Bartlett blogs about the history of Australian public and government attitudes towards whaling.


A screenshot of the ABC story, taken at 1747 hrs, Australian Eastern Standard Time on January 6 2010 can be seen here.

“spiked” writes in support of striking British Airways cabin crew

British online magazine “spiked” has published an article by Tim Black supporting striking British Airways cabin crew. The strike was announced last Monday by Unite, the union of which the striking cabin crew are members.

The article makes a very good point about how strikes are seen and reported these days: this is not seen by people as workers standing up for themselves, but as a mere inconvenience to passengers:

However, to say there’s been little in the way of public sympathy for the actions of the cabin crew would be an understatement. Much like the London Tube strike earlier this year, the reaction from the hundreds of thousands of passengers likely to be affected has been largely hostile. Only 10 times more so, given that it’s not just a case of getting to work late, but of not getting home for Christmas. As far as many affected are concerned, this is atrocious customer service.

In fact, the public discussion of the planned cabin crew strike has been framed almost entirely in terms of the individual consumer. It seems to be the only perspective available. The BBC News website doesn’t offer an analysis of the conflicting interests at stake; it offers advice on ‘how else to get around this Christmas’. The Times doesn’t address the concerns of businessmen; it addresses the worries of the disgruntled customer – ‘Don’t rush to buy another flight, just wait and see’, a column urges. Throughout the coverage and public discussion, the only relationship one can seemingly have with the strike is that of a consumer to a disrupted service.

I also noticed this in the reaction to complaints about last week’s bus strike in Brisbane. There was almost universal disgust with the bus drivers and the union and very little sympathy for their right to stand up for themselves via striking. I don’t know how to convince more people to automatically, or at least generally, see the point of view of striking workers.

Australian Government moves closer to Internet censorship – what to do? #nocensorship #nocleanfeed

Via ZDNet News Editor Renai LeMay comes news that the Australian Government has received a report of its trial of systems to censor the Internet. Amusingly, as I type, the Government’s website announcing the report is down, presumably because of the amount of people visiting

The crucial finding is:

Filtering Refused Classification (RC) content

The pilot demonstrated that ISPs can effectively filter a list of URLs such as the ACMA blacklist with a very high degree of accuracy and a negligible impact on internet speed.

While it’s possible for technical people to argue about whether this is true or not, the political reality is that it will give the Government a good technical argument to go ahead with its plans to censor the internet. Therefore the plan will need to be defeated on political grounds.

At the moment, the Australian Greens and the Liberal/National Coalition still oppose the censorship plan, despite the Greens recently choosing to run Clive Hamilton, the moral architect of the censorship plan, as their candidate in the recent Higgins by-election. If this remains the same, it is likely that the plan will fail in the Senate as the Government is unlikely to ever have enough votes to pass the censorship plan without the support of one of those groups.

After the discussions we had here a year or so ago about this issue, I think we need to spread the idea that Australians need to take responsibility for their own viewing habits and not expect the Government to nanny them, and we need “maximum freedom for the maximum amount of people”. There was also a good discussion about laying a political cost on the Government by painting THEM as the creepy weird ones who are obsessed with people looking at nude pictures of children.


Interview with Bus Drivers’ Union secretary about Wednesday’s Brisbane bus strike

Last Wednesday, Brisbane bus drivers at the Toowong depot went on strike after a driver was stood down. The driver was stood down following this report on Channel 9 TV News showing a young girl getting her foot caught in the door of a bus. While Channel 9 said the driver “showed little remorse”, the footage shows him walking past the TV crew (who did nothing to help the girl) and going straight to the back door of the bus to make sure everything was OK. You’ll notice that the TV report doesn’t show anything of what he said or did when he got to where the girl was.

Looking at the footage shown in the Channel 9 report, it looks very dodgy that the driver was stood down (he was a casual so unless the union can win a case for him, he wouldn’t have got paid for being stood down). I kept an open mind until I saw the footage, but now I think he was being unfairly blamed by the his management. If someone in a place I worked at was stood down on such flimsy evidence, I hope my fellow workers would strike to defend not only my rights, but their own.

I talked with David Matters, Assistant Secretary of the Queensland Branch of the Rail Tram and Bus Union about the incident. Mr Matters explains that this has been an ongoing safety issue, that Brisbane Transport management may have been upset that bus drivers and the union have been challenging management on safety issues, and also talks about just how stressful a bus driver’s job is.

Click on this link to listen to the interview – if your browser won’t play the interview, clicking here will download it so you can listen on your own computer: 091210 David Matters RTBU

It’s important to note that even though this strike was clearly about unfair treatment of a worker, the strike was declared illegal within hours. This is as a result of workplace laws brought in by the Rudd Labor Government, the worst anti-union laws ever brought in by an Australian Labor Goverment.

On Friday morning I sent the following email to Councillor Jane Prentice, the chair of Brisbane City Council’s public transport committee – in effect, she is Brisbane City Council’s “Minister for Buses”:

Dear Ms Prentice,

I am writing a story, to be published on Saturday afternoon December 12 2009, on Brisbane’s bus strike last Wednesday. I am emailing you to ask you to clarify some issues and to give you a chance to say anything you think the public should know about the story.

1) Media reports suggest the driver shown on Channel Nine TV News on Monday who had a passenger’s foot caught in the back door of his bus was stood down from duty before any enquiry had had the chance to report on the full facts of the incident. Is this so?

2) Media reports suggest that the driver was a casual employee. If so, and if it is true that he was stood down before any enquiry had reported, does this mean that he would have received no pay during the enquiry?

3) If the driver was stood down before any enquiry had examined the full facts of the case, why was that so?

4) What complaints or suggestions have been received formally or informally by Brisbane Transport management from employees about safety issues related to back-door sensors in buses designed to stop the doors closing while passengers might be caught in them?

5) Do you have any comments or observations you’d like the public to know about regarding this issue?

Greens really think they’re Left – we’ve a long way to go

Ben Raue, a fairly senior New South Wales Greens member, has a post on his blog discussing the Higgins and Bradfield by-elections and the Greens results there. It’s a fairly standard sort of post, spinning the results as good for the Greens and not so good for the Liberals, but the interesting thing is that Raue labels the Greens as the “left-wing” party in those seats.

The Greens achieved a strong result in a right-wing heartland seat while running an explicitly left-wing campaign.

Raue is of course not being merely dishonest, even though calling Clive Hamilton, (the Greens’ candidate in Higgins), a left-winger is utterly laughable. Rather, left-wing politics has degenerated to such a degree that people who are suspicious of modern industrial civilisation and want to slow it down are considered Left, merely because they dislike capitalism.

This article in The Spectator attacks that idea, pointing out that many Green ideas come from the right-wing position of Thomas Malthus, whose arguments Marx and Engels rejected.

However the Greens are the only even semi-major political force talking about things like the rights of unions, freedom from internet censorship (even despite Hamilton’s appalling position) and the right to gay marriage, it’s easy for them to be seen as left-wing, and to attract support from many who could be won over to a real left-wing position. Such a left-wing position would include confidence in modernism and humanity, a belief that humans are more important than the Earth for it’s own sake, and a belief that people shouldn’t just demand a “fair day’s pay” but should take over society and run it themselves. Clearly there’s a lot of agitation to be done to spread these ideas.

Class War Isn’t Just Sneering at the Rich – Jason Walsh in @goforthmag

Jason Walsh has an article in forth magazine about “the phoney reconstruction of class politics” in the UK.

The article comments on UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s attacks on the privileged backgrounds of Conservative Party figures, which have been mislabelled “class war” in the UK media.

Walsh says:

The Daily Mail reported last week that the British Labour party leader Gordon Brown plans on besting the Conservatives by launching a “class war”. The Mail’s faux middle-class outrage aside, this is a rather strange development. Why, now, would Labour decide to indulge in a spate of political cross-dressing? Also, how on earth can a party that has been in government for twelve years cast itself in the role of radical opposition?

Of course it transpires that, rather than encouraging the self-organisation of workers, the fat controller’s idea of class war is not much more than pointing out that prominent Tories tend to be the privately educated scions of the wealthy. Who knew?

Save Solar Systems public meeting – photos and recorded speeches

Some Strange Timers went to a public meeting last night about Victorian solar energy company Solar Systems, which may go into receivership after failing to attract investment for a planned solar electricity plant in Mildura, Victoria.

The meeting featured several speakers including the Greens candidate for tomorrow’s by-election in the seat of Higgins, Clive Hamilton, who distinguished himself by calling me a “prick” after he demanded (and I refused) that I stop taking photos of him, a public figure at a public meeting. This photo shows Hamilton just before he confronted me.

Clive Hamilton at Save Solar Systems public meeting, Fitzroy Town Hall, Napier St, Fitzroy Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 091203-19

Continue reading ‘Save Solar Systems public meeting — photos and recorded speeches’

Why Clive Hamilton isn’t a leftist – article in The Australian @australian

I’ve got an article published today in The Australian attacking Clive Hamilton, the Green candidate for the by-election in the seat of Higgins that is happening tomorrow.

My article says that left-wingers should reject Hamilton’s politics as they are further to the right than the Liberal Party is:

It’s a sign of the decline of Left politics that a reactionary, pro-censorship sexual moraliser who hates the idea of working people enjoying a higher material standard of living could ever be considered left-wing.

If you find this article interesting, you might also want to have a look at this article published about Hamilton in forth magazine, a new Irish current affairs website. It talks about Hamilton’s pseudo-left politics:

Until now, the voice of Australian opposition to global-warming moralism and scaremongering by the likes of Hamilton has only come to the political right, such as the rather nasty populist Andrew Bolt, writing in Melbourne’s Herald-Sun. (10) It is crucial that more leftists move into the global warming debate and defend the vision of a left that supports the modern world, including industrial development. If we don’t, the argument for a modern world will be left to the capitalists.