the Disillusioned kid: March 2006
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Friday, March 31, 2006

Don't panic, they're hispanic!

While the French have been agitating against new labour laws and the British are striking in defence of their pensions, our American brothers and sisters are keeping themselves busy solidarising with Latino immigrants. There are apparently some 11.5 million living in the US illegally. As you might imagine, this doesn't exactly warm the cockles of the neighbourhood nationalists who are pushing for legislation to crack down on immigration.

At the present time there are practically a plethora of putative pieces of legislation passing through Congress, as Aura Bogado explains in the New Standard:
The most liberal immigration bill in Congress was submitted in the House by Texas Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee. That bill would have allowed for legal permanent residency for undocumented immigrants who have lived in the US for the past 5 years, would have doubled the cap for family visas, and would increase the number of work visas. Jackson-Lee’s bill has been stalled in the Immigration Subcommittee since mid-2005.

Toward the opposite end of the spectrum, H.R. 4437, introduced by James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) and Peter King (R-New York) would make it even harder to ever attain residency status, and would criminalize undocumented immigrants as well as individuals and organizations that aid them.

In the Senate, the Judiciary Committee approved a proposal Monday that borrowed heavily from a bill introduced by John McCain (R-Arizona) and Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts). It allows for permanent residency for those living in the United States for six years or longer, but with stiff penalties to be paid up front. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, unhappy with that bipartisan proposal, is sending his own measure to the Senate floor and urging his colleagues to ignore the Judiciary Committee’s proposal.

Both Frist and the Committee’s bills will be considered on the Senate Floor, and will go to vote next week.

Unfortunately for Frist & Co., the Latino community isn't just going to lie down and be shafted. Setting their sights on HR 4437 they've decided to come out fighting and they don't appear to be doing so on their own.

Last Friday (March 24) saw a wave of massive protests in cities across the US. Many demonstrators wore white shirts to symbolise peace, but they hardly comported themselves like your average lefty radical with some even waving US flags (although it was the waving of Mexican flags which seems to have attracted the greatest controversy). The Latino community also called for a one-day boycott of work and spending. Elsewhere, Republican Senator Chip Rogers, who has been a major proponent of reform, wasn't best pleased when a Spanish language newspaper printed a map showing the approximate location of his home. Following last week's huge show of force, there have been a series of walkouts by school students. Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Superintendent Roy Romer responded to this by by declaring a "lockdown" of all schools in the district on Tuesday, ostensibly to "protect" students. This didn't stop more than 8,500 students walking out in LA County alone, with many more joining them from neighbouring counties. Unfortunately, Wednesday's locdown appears to have been more effective.

Are school kids more radical than they were when I was passing through the education system, or did I just go to the wrong school? In the US, as in France and Britain, they appear to be taking the role once filled by university students, who now seem more interested in all that careers bullshit. It's almost enough to make me forget my general dislike of children and even Mitchell James-Langcaster and his little letter. Almost, but not quite.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Strike while the iron's hot

This blog seems to have taken a real turn for the workerist over the last few days, which I guess isn't going to be to everybody's tastes. The post-leftists amongst you are going to have to put up with this for a while longer, I'm afraid, because I'm back on the pensions bandwagon and by the looks of it, this particular wagon ain't stopping anytime soon.

Disappointingly, but unsurprisingly, the government didn't fall after Tuesday's strike. Indeed, Deputy PM and New Labour funny guy John Prescott vowed yesterday to introduce a regulation setting out the changes to the pension scheme (while at the same time expressing "regret" over the industrial action and calling for "all involved to return to the negotiating table"). Today, he did just that. As you might imagine, this hasn't exactly gone down well with the unions who have responded by calling further action "led by the country’s meat hygiene inspectors - the people who make sure the meat on our plates is safe":
Meat inspectors will be on strike from midnight Sunday 2 April to midnight Friday 7 April, with the result that meat production at major plants throughout the UK will be halted.
This will no doubt delight the vegetarians amongst us, but as the Beeb explains, it won't end there:
Union officials say council staff in the south of England will strike on 25 April and those in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will walk out on 26 April.

Workers in the north of England and the Midlands will strike on 27 April, they say.
This is all well and doubtless I'll be out on the 25th. That said, I have a sneaking suspicion that this might herald a missed opportunity. There had been rumblings about a 48-hour strike would be called to coincide with local elections on May 4, but there's no mention of this prospect in any of the union materials, with the regional strikes taking place barely a week earlier. Labour must already be worried about their chances in the face of a recrudescent Tory Party and industrial action on election day would really put the wind up them. If we're serious about this struggle, let's do it properly. So, has anybody got Dave Prentis' number?

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Anti-BIOT-ics booster

Longtime readers of this blog, if such people exist, may vaguely remember the guys and gals of Lalit, a Mauritian socialist group who's name means "struggle," in Creole. They've been deemed worthy of mention here on a number of occasions for the campaign against the Anglo-American occupation of the Chagos Archipelago. Now, as a handful of the dispossesed islanders prepare for an all too brief visit to the islands from which they were evicted, Lalit have taken the opportunity to update supporters on the campaign. What with Chagos being one of my pet issues, I thought I might pick out some of the highlights.

Central to their analysis is the conviction that the Chagos Archipelago is - or at least should be - part of Mauritius:
In a diplomatic conundrum, the Mauritian State is co-operating with the occupier, supplying its own vessel, "Trochetia", to the British for the trip, so that Mauritian citizens can visit part of Mauritius while it's illegally occupied by the British and US.
This is an idea which I think has a sound basing in international law and has considerable moral weight. That said, the Chagossians themselves - or at least their community leaders - don't give a rat's arse about Mauritian sovereignty. Hardly surprisingly as the Mauritian government don't seem all that concerned about them and indeed have sought to deny their very existence.

This less than comradely relationship helps to contextualise another of Lalit's claims:
Today, the struggle to close the US military base and for reunification of Mauritius, is for the first time becoming a struggle in which the organizations of the Chagossian people are involved to a decreasing degree.
This is a surprising allegation and one which merits elaboration. Lalit assert:
The U.S. and Britain have between them managed, for the meantime, to drive a wedge between the Chagossians' right to return and their rightful struggle for reparations, on the one hand, and the overall struggle against militarism and against the capitalism that drives it, the very realities that robbed the Chagossians of the islands they lived on.
This, they suggest, has been done by offering the islanders small victories in exchange for important concessions:
[T]he case for reparations that the Chagossians have filed in the U.S. against the U.S. government and private companies that run the Base, came up for hearing on 14 February and will be continuing in March. The judges heard arguments as to whether the case can be entered in the US Courts. One interesting aspect of this case is that the U.S. law provides that lawsuits are inadmissable if they put into question U.S. foreign policy. This has, in turn, been a recent pressure on the leaders of the Chagossians and their lawyers to repeat again and again, as a kind of chorus, that they are "not against the military Base", even while ordinary Chagossians criticise the US for using their land for "killing other people" and even as Mauritians scratch their heads to understand what could be behind such unusually servile language.
This would seem to go someway to explaining Olivier Bancoult's curious assertion, "We can agree to co-habit with the Americans" (which I've passed comment on previously).Lalit view the decision by several Chagossians to relocate to the UK in a similar light:
Another tactic of this cornered British State, after it suffered a defeat in 2000 in its own Courts in the initial case on the right to return to Diego Garcia, is to assimilate the Chagossian community into the "metropole". British passports were issued to the Chagossians and their descendants, and the entire community is now in flux. From most families someone has left Mauritius, is leaving or is planning to leave for the U.K., where they believe work will be easier to find and the standard of education and social services is higher. Some then find the going tough in the UK, and return to Mauritius, as yet others are preparing to leave.
There is no question that many of the Chagossians who have decided to come to the UK have done so having given up any hope of returning to the Chagos Archipelago. Indeed, Olivier Bancoult averred, "If Allen Vincatassin [the apparent leader of the Chagossian community in Britian] cared about his fundamental right to return to his homeland, he should have taken up the case against the British government, not come here and settled.” It seems unlikely, however, that "assimilation" is actually government policy. If it were, would they not have tried to make it a tad easier to make the trip? Xavier Siatous, who arrived in Crawley, West Sussex last year, pargues that the 1.5 million spent by the authorities on fighting the Chagossians in court could have paid for their airfares and taught them all English. In any case, Daniel Simpson suggests that it unlikely that anything but a minority of the islanders would make the trip to Britain even if they could.

In contrast to the strategy adopted by many Chagossian, Lalit advocate a more confrontational approach. In the run-up to the World Social Forum which took place in Mumbai in January 2004 they attempted to organise, in conjunction with the Chagos Refugee Group (GRC), a ship to take people back to Diego Garcia as a protest. The idea blossomed from a single yacht into a "Peace Flotilla" which would entail a number of boats making the trip:
What happened inbetween then and now was that the peace flotilla got massive support from people all over the world in peace groups. The flotilla captured the imagination of women's groups, environmental groups, political groups, human rights groups, peace groups and especially anti-military-base groups, and the peace flotilla brought them all together around this amazing shared idea. It was becoming a reality. And the mobilization around the flotilla, in turn, brought journalists from all over the world to make the issue widely known for the first time. And John Pilger's outstanding documentary, STEALING A NATION, then came and brought the issues quite literally centre stage. Thousands of British people reacted in anger at their Government's crimes.

When the peace flotilla gained ground, the British Government aided by the Queen, issued a regulation banning all Chagossians from all the Chagos Islands.

Feeling increasingly exposed, the British State began to negotiate. It offered, itself, to take the Islanders on a visit to all the Chagos Islands including Diego Garcia. It wanted a visit strictly under the control of the British State.
This, they argue, is how the present visit came about. Whether there assesment is accurate is hard to gauge. I'm tempted to dismiss it as braggadocio or trumpet-blowing and others including Nicholas Rainer have come to quite the opposite conclusion: "The visit itself is a great achievement which can be attributed to the Chagos Refugee Group’s (GRC) indefatigable advocacy and its legal victory in the London High Court in November 2000." Nevertheless, the mere fact that the flotilla has attracted absolutely sero coverage in the mainstream media, at least insofar as I can tell, doesn't preclude the fact that it could have been a worry for the British and American governments.

Lalit continue to call for the closure of the base on Diego Garcia, but see this as part of a wider fight against US bases around the world. They urge supporters to throw their weight behind the the first "Conference for the Abolition of all Foreign Military Bases" which is to take place in Ecuador sometime in March 2007 and include an invitation to the event at the end of their update.

While I don't agree with everything in their analysis, I appreciate Lalit's approach to the question of Diego Garcia. They offer a compelling and consistently radical critique of Anglo-American policy and appear to be prepared to do the work to back that up. I hope that the various tactical disagreements outlined above are not indicative of a permanent division between Lalit and the GRC. The movement in defence of Chagossian rights is hardly massive and unity (as any lefty worth their NaCl will tell you) is strength.

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Get off the (picket) fence

My first day on a picket line past relatively uneventfully. I arrived just after nine (about the time I'd normally get to work) to discover a veritable phalanx of council workers arrayed around the entrance, armed with the obligatory placards, flyers, stickers and banners. When somebody asked for volunteers to stand by one of the other entrances I volunteered and before you can say, "Rookie mistake," I was standing by the entrance to the car park ineffectually waving leaflets at passing vehicles. Fortunately, we were soon called back to the front where we remained, leafletting those who tried to leave the building, until about twelve when we all piled into the nearest pub.

Judging the success of the day's action is something of a challenge. It was difficult to escape the impression that most of the employees where I work were more than happy to go about their business as usual. Most were happy enough to take a flyer and many expressed their support, but they apparently saw no disconnect between this and crossing a picket line. In my office, I understand that only three out of seventeen people were on strike, although one of those people didn't want to join the picket line. Fellow picketers suggested that participation from other areas was even lower. That said, even the Local Government Association (LGA), who represent council employers, estimate that more than 400,000 council workers in England participated, while the BBC suggests that there was extensive disruption across much of the country. If nothing else, we managed to piss-off Digby Jones (head of the Confederation of British Industry, the UK's leading union for bosses) which is hardly difficult, but remains strangely satisfying nonetheless.

However many workers may have come out, it was always less than unlikely that we'd win after one strike. The obvious question, therefore, is where we go from here. According to various reports and the word on the picket line, there's talk of selective action over the coming weeks and another strike on May 3 and 4 to coincide with local elections. Which I suppose gives me a month to work on my colleagues...

In France, meanwhile, the campaign against the CPE law (which you may recall we've discussed previously) continues apace. Today's General Strike (rebranded the "General Dream" by some of the more radical participants) has disrupted flights through French airspace and witnessed the largest demonstrations against the legislation thus far. French PM Dominique de Villepin is making the usual noises about standing firm, although his call for "discussions" with students and trade unionistsm (explicitly rejected by the former) sounds increasingly desperate. With the majority of the French population behind demonstrators and his cabinet manouvering around him, it's hard to believe that he isn't going to have to concede sooner or later.

Which all goes to show that the people who like to tell you class struggle is dead don't know what they're talking about.

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Whistling in the wind

According to the Torygraph, when a party of Chagossians are allowed to return briefly to the island homes later this month they will be given whistles "to call for help":
The islanders will be accompanied by doctors, priests, government officials from both Britain and Mauritius and a stonemason who will place memorials on the islands visited by the party.

All will be given whistles to call for help and they will be assisted by a British fisheries patrol vessel and a detachment of Royal Marines, who will operate dinghies.

"Our paramount concern is the safety of the islanders, some of whom are quite elderly," said one British official.

"They will not be able to stay overnight because the islands are infested with mosquitoes."
During their visit, the 100 of the former inhabitants of the archipelago who have been allowed to make the trip "will tend the graves of the dead and pray in the churches but they will not be allowed to stay overnight." Remember, Diego Garcia's a horrific place. You obviously wouldn't want to live there. By making it so interminably difficult for the islanders to return to their homes we're actually helping them. Isn't that nice of us?

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Youth of today

It's no great secret that I don't like children. As far as I'm concerned they're a bunch of loud, objectionable little people who serve no useful function in society. Inexplicably, there are some who disagree. Given this starting point, it shouldn't come as a great surprise that I don't have much nice to say about Mitchell Langcaster-James of Eastfield Primary School, East Yorkshire. The little shit is apparently worried about the effects of tomorrow's strike by local government workers and decided to pen a missive bemoaning its effect on his education:
"I don't think it would be setting a good example," he said in his letter.

"I don't want to miss school on Tuesday for we have double literacy in which I am writing a story that I would like to continue.
Yes that's right. He's disappointed that he's gonna miss "double literacy". It doesn't appear to have occured to Mitchell that in writing his media-friendly epistle he has just demonstrated that he doesn't need to be in school to write and is more than capable of doing it in his own time. Hell, he could even start his own blog if he wanted to. Fuck knows, the blogosphere isn't short of uninteresting, semi-literate fuckwits. Nobody's going to notice another one.

Despite being picked up by the paragon of journalistic integrity that is the Beeb, nobody seems to have done any serious investigation of this story. There aren't - at least so far as I can tell - any interviews with Mitchell or his parents. This lack of anything even vaguely resembling serious journalism is intriguing. Mitchell is eight-years old. He isn't even half-way to his first legal piss-up. Don't you think somebody should at least have asked if his scribblings were encouraged by mummy and daddy? Personally, I'd put money on it.

Long story short: ignore the whingeing; support the strike.

[Cheers Dan C.]

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Friday, March 24, 2006

President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation Cecilia Fire Thunder wasn't exactly ecstatic about the recent decision by legislators (i.e. a bunch of aging white males) in South Dakota to effectively ban abortion:
“To me, it is now a question of sovereignty,” she said to me last week. “I will personally establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on my own land which is within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation where the State of South Dakota has absolutely no jurisdiction.”
Hat-tip: Twisty.

Union dues

Next Tuesday will see what's being billed as the biggest industrial action in the UK since the General Strike of 1926 with perhaps a million public sector workers (including yours truly) coming out in defence of their pensions. Perhaps the most prominent union in the campaign has been Unison. It would have looked pretty strange if on the one hand they had been at the forefront of a camapign against the incumbent Labour government, while on the other they had been campaigning for them in the forthcoming local elections. Strange, but not unexpected given the track record of trade unions and their relationships with Labour. Fortunately, however, somebody has seen sense: the union confirmed today that it had suspended camapaigning for the party until the dispute is resolved.

This is great news. Given the much hyped resurgence of the Tories, Labour have got to be worried about their chances in this election. Losing the support of the country's largest union will hopefully put the wind up them, which after all is surely what unions are for. (Not that you'd believe it from the guff they sent me with my application pack which promised cheap flowers and priority car hire in exchange for membership, as if I was signing up to a loyalty card.)

All being well, this will add even greater distance to the growing chasm between the Labour Party and union bureaucracies. For too long the leadership of the union movement has had its collective head stuffed up Labour's rectum. The last few years have seen glimmers of light and hints of a genuine break, notably the RMT's decision to allow branches to affliate to other political parties. Unfortunately, I think this can only go so far. Modern trade unions, with their emphasis on negotiating as "representatives" of their members can serve as a buffer between workers and their bosses, an effect exacerbated by the tendency for union leaders to become immersed in the same murky waters our political masters swim through. Nevertheless, in lieu of any organisation capable of waging the class war more effectively, I think there is a compelling case for critical engagement. Who else is going to fight to make sure we get to retire before we die?

Hat-tip: Lenny.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

In my humble opinion, the quite understandable focus on the presence of western troops in Iraq has obscured the reality of the subtler corporate invasion they have facilitated. The guys and galls at Corporate Watch have published a new report looking at UK companies operating in Iraq, which suggests that this invasion has progressed much further than even I had realised. On the plus side, our list of potential targets just got a whole lot longer.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ladies and gentleman, please take this opportunity to welcome everybody's favourite random Flemish/Dutch dude to the blogosphere. Don't be put of by the fact he's named his blog after one of the conquerers of Peru. Or the fact he hasn't written anything yet. It's going to be good. I can tell.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Daniel Simpson has penned a quite simply brilliant piece on the plight of the Chagossians. Check it ya'll.
Remember Afghanistan? No, me neither. Apparently it still exists however, which I s'pose a good thing, unless you're Abdul Rahman. Mr Rahman decided to convert from Islam to Christianity and all power to him as far as I'm concerned, my atheist predilections aside. Trouble is, the Afghan legal system isn't so keen on the idea. In fact he faces the death sentence, which strikes me as a tad harsh. Maybe Afghanistan needs liberating again? Second time's the charm I always say.

Smash precarity

While I and a few thousand others were sauntering around London in protest against the occupation of Iraq on Saturday, in France more than one million people took to the streets in protest against the CPE (Contrat Première Embauche, or First Employment Contract) law which is to come into effect in April. Actions against this piece of legislation have exploded over the last six weeks or so. Railways have been blockaded, airports disrupted, roads blocked and universities occupied. In Paris, the Sorbonne university was occupied by students, drawing comparisons with the events of May 1968 which brought France to the brink of revolution.

The CPE was ostensibly introduced to tackle youth unemployment, but proposes to do this by making it easier for employers to sack young employees. Under the new law, any worker under 26 will be subject to a two year probationary period during which they can be fired without reason. A similar law (Contrat Nouvelle Embauche or CNE) was passed last August which applied only to firms with less than 20 paid employees. Apparently this has already been subject to all the kinds of abuses you'd expect. The anger felt towards the CPE can't have been helped by the fact that that it was introduced with minimal democratic debate or discussion.

The indignation which the CPE has generated should hardly be surprising and appears to be wide spread. According to one poll by the right-leaning Le Express, 69% of French people say that the demonstrations are justified, while another published in Libération suggests that some 80% of 15-24 year olds oppose the law. Even Sharon Stone has come out against the new law. Critics within the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire or UMP) have reportedly dubbed the CPE the Comment Perdre une Election, "How To Lose an Election". In several instances the anger engendered by the legislation has boiled over into violence, as happened after Saturday's demo, although eyewitnesses and even this report, from that bastion of radical journalism the Sunday Times, suggest that the clashes were largely a consequence of police provocation.

The big question, of course, is what happens next. If this were the UK, things would now die down until the next national demonstration. Indeed, the Times asserts that French PM Dominique de Villepin "is calculating that the protests will run out of steam and hopeful that the 'silent majority' are behind his plan." However, this being France and all, the burdgeoning anti-CPE movement still has a few tricks up its sleeve. High school students are organising a day of action against the law next Thursday, while union leaders have called a general strike for Tuesday March 28. It goes without saying this isn't just about a new law. It's about the arrogance of government, the exigencies of capitalism, the increasing precarity of daily life and resistance to all of the above. Which is why, this ain't over yet. Not by a long shot.

You can follow developing events at the blog which is helpfully translating material into English.

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

In case anybody gives a damn, I was in London yesterday at the anti-war demo. My almost professional-quality photographs are available online for your delictation. There were protests across the world, but I wasn't at any of them so I'm afraid you'll have to make do with some lesser mortal's record of the event.
I haven't seen film or read the book yet, but I thought this was interesting:
This website is intended to introduce fans of the film/graphic novel V For Vendetta to the history and philosophy of Anarchy. V For Vendetta was originally a comic produced in the mid 1980s by Alan Moore and David Lloyd about a man who destroys the corrupt state he lives in, promoting Anarchy to the masses all the while. This core message of Anarchy has been severely twisted in the film verison.
Hence A For Anarchy.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A date for your diaries:
The largest British strike since 1926 will close local authorities, colleges, school dinner services and some transport systems later this month in a dispute over local government pensions.

More than a million local government workers today voted to strike on March 28 with the threat of further action.

Workers in eight unions voted by an average of four to one to strike over changes to the local government pension scheme which will end the opportunity for many workers to retire early.
Lenny has more.


The Chagossians have been royally shafted by the British government for the last forty-odd years. Now, finally, according to the Scotsman (via) they are to be allowed to return - albeit briefly - to their island homes:
In a concession by the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office, more than 100 Chagossians will be making the journey by boat on March 30. The trip will encompass the islands of Peros Banhos, Salomon and Diego Garcia, the main islands on which the Chagossians lived, and will include visits to their former homes, churches and the graves of their ancestors.
The journey to the island will take four days, with one day on each island. This visit has been promised for years, with various hicchoughs intervening to prevent it.
A spokeswoman for the FCO says the trip, arranged for humanitarian reasons, had been planned since 2003 but delayed on several occasions due to the difficulties in finding a seaworthy vessel and the short window of opportunity when tides make the islands easily accessible.
This time, however, it looks like it might finally take place, much to the islanders' delight:
"I am very excited to go home," says [Rita] Elysee, now 80 and living in Mauritius. "It is my dream to see the grave of my father. He was alive when I left, but died a year after. I have not even been able to pay tribute to him or lay a flower on his grave until now."
Elysee apparently told the Scotsman that "she intends to kneel down and kiss the land of her birth." Other Chagossians, including community leader Olivier Bancoult are similarly enthusiastic:
"This will be a big satisfaction for me," says Bancoult, who was born on Peros Banhos and left at the age of four. "Since 1983 I have been fighting for the right of my people to put their feet on the soil of their birthplace. Now one of my dreams has become a reality. It will feel marvellous to accompany my people, especially my mother and my sister. It has been my dream to go with my family. It will be very historical, very emotional and nostalgic. Everyone will be crying."
The islanders intend to leave several monuments which they have already prepared and two priests will accompany them to bless the graves of their ancestors. Also in the party made up of Chagossians from communities in Mauritius and the Seychelles will be a doctor and nurse, neccesary given the age of many of travellers.

While this return is only a transient one, there are hopes that it will not be the last time the Chagossians are able to stand on the land they once called home:
That the islands are still an agreeable place to live is not in doubt, despite US claims that resettlement is unfeasible. This claim has been refuted by independent environmental analysts and the experience of the Asian tsunami when the 6ft wave that hit Diego Garcia caused no damage to facilities.

Moreover, the islands have already been resettled - by the US military, which has built a library, post office, bank and chapel for the 1,700 troops there, and enough housing for them and an additional 1,500 civilian workers.

And the US navy website assures incoming servicemen that "personal living conditions on the island are excellent". It is observations like this that make native Chagossians such as Bancoult more determined to one day create a permanent settlement and even, perhaps, establish a tourism industry on the islands.

"The battle is not at an end," Bancoult said. "We can agree to co-habit with the Americans."
The co-habitation line, that the Chagossians and the Americans can live alongside each other, seems to be the line being pushed by the Chagossian community. There is no doubt that it is technically true. The two could easily share the island. There is a question mark, however, overs whether the Americans are prepared to do so. Recall (as if you could forget) that it was they who insisted the entire Chagos Archipelago be "swept" and "sanitised" in order that they could set up their base on Diego Garcia. Recall also that they have brought in workers from Mauritius and the Philippines, but never employed any of the exiled inhabitants. One also has to wonder whether the Chagossians want to share their homes with such a key component in the American war machine. As bad neighbours go it's gotta be up there...

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Monday, March 13, 2006

What? You actually expect me to write something?! Geez! Seriously though, I seem to be in something of a rut at the moment. I'm sure I'll have something to say about something sooner or later. Just bear with me.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The top ten things to do at work instead of working. Apart from reading this blog of course.

Sexism bad, blogging good

Today (March 8) is International Women's Day. Twisty has taken the time to survey the celebrations around the world and one gets the distinct impression she isn't exactly ecstatic about what she sees. In the UK, the LibDems have taken the bizarre decision to mark the day by abolishing the post of Shadow Minister for Women, which seems... well, bizarre.

In the blogosphere things are a little more positive. The Tenth Carnival of the Feminists is up over at Indian Writing and Blog Against Sexism Day seems to be well underway. This post is meant to be my small contribution to the latter. Unfortunately, writer's block leaves me with little to say beyond the platitudinous sentiments expressed in the title. Sexism is clearly a bad thing and remains a major problem as even a brief look at the statistics attests. This should I suggest drive people not only to blog about the relevant issues, but to take action to resolve them.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

It says a lot about the state of British democracy that we have to rely on the Lords to fight for our rights.

No nukes is good nukes

Blow me down with a wind turbine:
Building new nuclear plants is not the answer to tackling climate change or securing Britain's energy supply, a government advisory panel has reported.

The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) report says doubling nuclear capacity would make only a small impact on reducing carbon emissions by 2035
Bear in mind that not only would "doubling nuclear capacity" have at best a negligible effect, it would also entail massive cost. Nuclear power stations do not come (or go) cheap and many of the existing stations would need replacing just to maintain current levels of production.

The idea of using nuclear power to "solve" climate change has been bounced around by nuclear executives and governments for the last few years, attracting considerable criticism from environmentalists who dismiss the whole thing as an attempt to greenwash nuclear power, hitherto something of a pariah. What's surprising about this announcement is that it originates from the belly of the beast. Based on past experience I'd be less than surprised if the government ignore the whole thing and go ahead and try to build more plants anyway. If that's the case, no number of reports, adviories and committees are going to stop them. That, as ever, is up to us.

Hat-tip: Meaders.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

This could be interesting:
Liberty Central is not an organisation and it is certainly not a political party. It has no formal membership, no committees, no management, no leaders and no particular structure. The term that has come up most often in discussions about this project has been ‘a coalition of the willing’ and this is perhaps the most apt description that anyone has arrived at as yet – a loose coalition of people who are willing to try to work together in many different way to preserve and secure, in perpetuity, the liberty of the citizens of the United Kingdom.
Frankly nobody ever asked me if I wanted to be a "citizen" but if I really don't have a choice, I figure it's better to have be a citizen freedoms than less. I particularly appreciate the almost anarchistic mode of organising. While its objectives aren't as radical as I might like, we live in dark times and I'm prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt for the timebeing.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Well I never:
Unknownst to many readers, The Lord of the Rings - once thought to be merely a story of archetypal struggle between good and evil - has been found to contain astute prophetic messages about the impending crisis of capitalist modernity. The Fellowship of the Ring of Free Trade includes subtitles of the decoded dialogues in painstaking detail and the true identities that the story's characters represent within the prophecy.
Check it.

Subsequent Update: Part 2 here (via)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Messianic militarism?

The shocked response to Blair's comment that he expects to be judged by God over Iraq seem somewhat bizarre to me. Was there really anybody who wasn't aware of Our Glorious Leader's religious convictions? In Who Runs This Place? Anthony Sampson argues that at university Blair was more interested in religion than politics and even considered going into the Church. He has maintained this faith - occasionally mixing it with New Age spiritualism, at least if Francis Wheen is to be believed - ever since. Is it really such a surprise that somebody with a background in such a belief system would turn to it when making moral decisions?

Don't get me wrong, I'm a sceptical about religious dogmas as the next guy, it's just that this doesn't tell me anything I didn't already know. I also happen think it doesn't has any bearing on the morality of the Iraq War. As a consequentialist I'm less interested in the reasons and justifications people give for their actions than in the likely consequences of those actions. That thousands would die, the threat of terrorism would increase and likely realities of occupation were obvious enough when Blair made the decision to invade (as various official reports attest). That remains the case whether he expects to be judged by God, Allah or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The real problem with Blair's comment is the way it will play in the Middle East. Alongside remarks alleged to have been made by President Bush to Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath during a meeting in 2003 that God told him to invade Iraq and Afghanistan, Blair's exposition on his motivations will give credence to those in the Middle East who talk of a new Crusade by the West against Islam. As dangerous as this perception is, it is worth noting that nobody in the Middle East would give a flying fuck about Tony Blair's religious convictions if Britain weren't currently occupying Afghanistan and Iraq, supporting Israeli actions in the Palestinians territories, allying itself with India regardless of its policy in Kashmir and standing by while Russia continues its war against the Chechens. I don't believe there is a "war against Islam," but given the foregoing assesment of British foreign policy, is it so ridiculous that Muslims might start to think so?

To be fair, Blair didn't say that he expected only to be judged by God:
In the end, there is a judgement that, I think if you have faith about these things, you realise that judgement is made by other people... and if you believe in God, it's made by God as well.
He also expects to be judged by "other people," exactly who he doesn't specify. One assumes, however, that he is referring quite generally: to Cherie, his sons, his coleagues and, of course, to the British public. So what are we waiting for? Let's get judging and then go on with getting rid of him. Clearly Tony expects nothing less.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Anti-Semites are fuckwits

Ilam Halimi was a 23-year old mobile phone salesman who lived in Paris. His apparently normal life was shattered when he was kidnapped by a gang apparently calling themselves "The Barbarians," who held him for 24 days, tortured him before dumping him near a train station in the parisian suburb of Bagneux, leaving him to die. In and of itself this is nasty enough and not to be encouraged. What has given the brutal abduction added potency, however, is the perception that it was motivated by anti-Semitism.

Nicholas Sarkozy told the National Assembly, "The truth is that these crooks acted primarily for sordid and vile motives, to get money, but they were convinced that 'the Jews have money', and if those they kidnapped didn't have money, their family and their community would come up with it. That's called anti-Semitism by amalgam." While not exactly renowned for his contribution to race relations Sarko appears to be on the right lines here, particularly if claims that the woman accused of seducing him for the gang was told to focus her efforts on Jewish men, turn out to be correct.

Encouragingly the whole affair has been greeted by widespread revulsion in France which has been expressed in the time-honoured French fashion of holding a large-scale demonstration. Rather less encouraging is attempts to capitalise on popular concerns on the part of the far-right Mouvement pour la France (MPF) whose leader Philippe de Villiers tried to attend but was greeted by cries of "racist" and had to be removed by what Ha'aretz describes as "guards". Worryingly it also appears that organisers had hoped to invite Jean-Marie Le Pen of the neo-Fascist Front National (FN), only relenting after "sharp opposition" from unnamed lefties.

It might seem strange that a right-wing fucktard like Le Pen who is not averse to dabbling in Judeophobia's murky waters himself and famously dismissed the gas chambers as "a point of detail," should want to have anything to do with a march against anti-Semitism, but if you think about it, it serves his short-term interests. The kidnappers appear to have been immigrants from the suburbs, one suspect even fled to the Ivory Coast. And there have been suggestions that some of them were linked to Muslim and/or Palestinian organisations. These are exactly the group whom the FN have been directing their ire against in recent years, tapping into apparently widespread anti-immigrant sentiment and Islamophobia.

This sort of things isn't without precedent. Recall that during the General Election in the UK the BNP fielded a Jewish candidate. Patricia Richardson who campaigned on an anti-immigration ticket and claimed, "The Jews and the British now share the same enemy — the al-Qaeda terrorists who we know are often hidden in Britain illegally plotting against the West. Both have an interest in the much tougher stand on law and order that we in the BNP are promoting." While the decision caused considerable controversy within the ranks it doesn't appear to have hurt the party terminally (unfortunately).

At the risk of unduly generalising from the specific I wish to suggest that these moves on the part of the French and British branches of the Adolf Hitler fan club serve to illustrate the extent to which anti-Semitism and Islamophobia feed off each other. Over the last few years there have been a series of reports pointing to a rise in one or the other. Recall also that while France is today dealing with concerns about anti-Semitism, only a few months back racism targetted against the immigrant populations - most of them black and Arab - led to rioting accross the country. All too rarely have people drawn the connections.

Clearly the Israel-Palestine conflict plays a part here, but that's an essay in itself (one I may get around to writing someday). While I don't want to get bogged down in the issues surrounding the Israeli occupation here, I will note in passing that accusations of anti-Semitism levelled against anybody with the temerity to criticise Israeli policy has created a situation whereby the Left (such as it is) seems has developed a blindspot around the issue. This is - to put it lightly - unfortunate. Anti-Semitism remains as contemptible, unjustifiable and as dangerous as ever. It is the enemy of the Palestinian solidarity movement and it is the enemy of anybody interested in building a better world.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The latest Blog Against Bad Things Day is coming up on March 8, with the organisers this time encouraging us to Blog Against Sexism (via). The day has been chosen as I'm sure you've already realised, to coincide with International Women's Day and the Global Women's Strike. I'll be participating in some form or other and I encourage those of you with nothing better to do to join me.

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