the Disillusioned kid: June 2006
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Thursday, June 29, 2006

After the withdrawal...

BBC News:
Israeli military units advanced into southern Gaza on Tuesday night as part of efforts to get the soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, released.

They have carried out further air strikes in Gaza during the day and shelled open areas to prevent retaliation by militant rocket crews.

Much of Gaza has been left without electricity and running water after a power plant was hit by Israeli missiles on Tuesday.

Israel aircraft also destroyed several bridges, preventing travel between the north and south of the 45km (30-mile) Strip.
Dress it up however you like, but this is a textbook example of collective punishment. As the Guardian notes in it's leader (via), the following the Israeli "withdrawal," the Gaza Strip has become a giant open air prison, a situation patently inimicable to a sustainable solution.

The Israeli army, meanwhile, is demonstrating that abducting people to exert political influence is wrong by abducting people. According to a Palestinian Centre for Human Rights press release the IDF has detained twenty-one Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) members, nine cabinet members and a number of Hamas political leaders. To be unduly fair, an Israeli spokesman did claim, "They are not bargaining chips for the return of the soldier. It was simply an operation against a terrorist organisation,"but the timing is at best suspicious.

None of this is to deny that kidnapping is not a legitimate tactic of war nor to pretend that it has any role to play in any serious liberation struggle. Nevertheless, lets keep a sense of perspective here. Useful analogies are difficult to come by, but it should be clear that one doesn't respond to a kidnapping by laying siege to a million people and abducting key members of the democratically elected government.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Frozen out of the new Iraq

Much was made in the build up to the invasion of Iraq about how this was to be a war for freedom and democracy. One would have thought that given the history of US-led interventions around the world such mendacious cant would have been laughed out of the country. Of course, large swathes of the media lapped it all up enthusiastically and continue to promulgate thinly-veiled propaganda to that effect.

Many Iraqis have first hand experience of the cold-hard reality and few have felt the costs of the occupation as harshly as the nascent trade union movement. While the occupiers have sought to rewrite or ignore large swathes of the Iraqi constitution they pointedly left Saddam's 1987 law banning union membership (on the basis that there were no workers, only civil servants!) in place. Apparently deciding that continuing to rely on Ba'athist legislation was either politically untenable or simply inefficacious they introduced a new decree in September of last year declaring all trade union activity illegal. Perhaps the latest measure of how much better the current situation is than life under Saddam should be the number of lawyers it keeps in employment concocting new ways of prohibiting anything threatening the fundamental human right to make money at all and any cost.

Given that the occupiers have even harassed the broadly pro-occupation Iraqi Federation of Workers Trade Unions (IFTU) it shouldn't be particularly surprising that they aren't all that keen on the militantly anti General Union of Oil Employees in Basra. The union has an unequivocal position in opposition to the presence of foreign troops, the privatisation of Iraqi oil reserves and Iraq's odious debts. More to their point their commitment to these demands and the rights of the oil workers they represent has been backed up by effective action. While the GUOE don't seem to have let the various pieces of anti-union legislation bother them, the Iraqi government's decision to freeze all the union's accounts both inside and outside of Iraq may be rather more difficult for them to shrug off.

Monday, June 19, 2006

This would seem to raise an intriguing, if distasteful, question: would you want to give Christopher Hitchens a blowjob!?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

McMinke and fries?

Much has been made this week of the apparent ascendancy of pro-whaling nations within the International Whaling Comission (IWC) which is currently holding it's annual meeting. The Marshall Islands, Guatemala and Cambodia have all joined recently, allegedly at the insistence of Japan. This has helped to tip the balance within the IWC towards the pro-whaling camp, at least on paper. Intriguingly, some of the pro-whaling nations include land-locked states like Mongolia, but then as anti-whaling nations include Hungary and the Czech Republic who are similarly lacking in coastline, one should be cautious about throwing around accusations of hypocrisy too liberally.

The pro-whaling nations would like to overturn the moratorium on commercial whaling that has been in place for some twenty years. This would require the support of three-quarters of the delegates to the IWC which they are still some way from achieving, but a straight majority allows them to tweak the rules and could bring to an end work on issues Japan asserts is beyond the body's remit such welfare, killing methods, whale watching and small cetaceans such as dolphins.

The meeting started yesterday (Friday) and saw the pro-whaling nations defeated on two motions, one dealing with conservation work around propoises and dolphins. These defeats were only narrow, however, one by two votes, the other by three. The balance of power could shift after Togo and Cameroon arrived at the end of the day and paid their subscriptions, entitling them to vote.

The irony of the push for a resumption of commercial whaling is that there is little evidence that anybody is really craving for a McMinke with fries. Research, released this week, shows that demand for whale meat in Japan - the most vociferous opponent of the moratorium - is slumping. At present, whale meat from animals killed for "scientific research," allowed under the moratorium, can be sold. Despite an increase in the numbers of whales killed for such research, however, the demand for the meat is simply not there. While the price for wholesale red whale meat in 2000 was 3,760 yen (£18) per kg, the same amount today is worth 1,900 yen (£9). Traditionally, Japanese whalers prided themselves on using all of the animal, but environmentalists monitoring the cacth report having seen whalers throwing parts of the animal back, apparently because of oversupply.

In many ways, however, whales are lucky. They are large, beautiful creatures who seem have captured the world's heart. Your common all-garden fish has had a somewhat harder job trying to get itself into the media spotlight. Nevertheless, as a report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) demonstrates, they too are in difficulty as a result of the world's seemingly voracious appetite for dead specimens. Apparently, something in the order of 3.5 million fishing boats ply the oceans, enabling global consumption of around 84.5 million tonnes every year, an increase from 20 million tonnes over a 42-year period. Coupled with pollution and other stresses, like those caused by global warming, the world's marine life isn't exactly having an easy time of it.

This, in case you were wondering, is the bit where I extol the virtues of vegetarianism. It's better for the animals (whether mammal bird or fish), it's better for the environment and it's probably better for you. Everyone's a winner, so what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Smackdown the state

Anarchism is not a fashion style or a hair colour or a place to live. It is a living breathing movement with supporters spread accross the world. You could run into an anarchist anytime, anywhere. They can turn up when you least expect it. Even at an Ultimate Fighting Championship which is where you may well find Abu Dhabi Champion fighter and self-described anarchist Jeff Monson (pictured too your right). As you can imagine, Mr Monson isn't the kind of person you'd want to get on the wrong side of. Fortunately, this appears to be an assesment shared by the Boys in Blue.

Of course, what Monson doesn't mention is the debt he owes to me for pioneering the body-building anarchist look. I'll just have to continue toiling in obscurity.

Hat-tips: Nel and Andy.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Voted into the house

Obviously, I'd never vote Tory, but there's something amusing about their increasingly desperate attempts to convince us that they're not bastards. Honest. This week's Cuddly Friendly Tory initiative of the moment is their announcement that their candidate for the Mayor of London in 2008 will be selected by "the people of London."

Quoth David Cameron, "Every Londoner who supports our Party" - that is to say the handful of them who are party members - "will have a chance to become the Conservative candidate. Headhunters will be used to encourage potential candidates to apply. And, later in the year, we will be holding a series of public meetings across the capital so that Londoners can quiz potential candidates face to face."

All sounds very democratic, doesn't it? A genuine attempt to connect with real people. That's certainly the line being pushed by lovable, huggable Dave: "Too many people are fed up and disillusioned with politics. I hope that doing things differently will fire the public's imagination and get them talking and thinking about politics again. Somewhere in London, there's a Mayor in the making. If its you, please consider applying today."

It wasn't till I noticed the final selection method (something the Grauniad remains blissfully unaware of) that I really twigged what was going on. After the hustings and all that jazz - which will doubtless be accompanied by a full-blown propaganda assault - "every Londoner will be able to vote by phone or text on who should be the Conservative candidate for the capital's top job." Which sounds suspiciously like Big Brother.

This is simply the latest implementation of the logic which saw Gorgeous George Galloway making even more of an arse of himself than usual by going into the Big Brother house earlier this year. Politicians, abandoned by a public who increasingly see them as irrelevant, out of touch nobodies, have wet dreams about voting numbers which mirror those for major housemate evictions. As such, it shouldn't be surprising that we're seeing an increasing synergy between the two.

Frankly, however, I doubt whether press-friendly spectacles (which in any case are likely to be manipulated from behind the scenes) are likely to do much to solve the burdgeoning disillusionment with electoral politics. I don't believe people are as stupid as our leaders seem to think. They've noticed that the whole game's a sham from which the real issues are excluded or pushed aside. In any case, would you want Jade running London?

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