Friday, 27 July 2012

Documentary on the Philippines Peoples War

 


The Philippines has a history few would envy. Colonised by the Spanish, then the Americans whom fought an extremely brutal counter insurgency campaign to keep the native population from establishing independent states on the Islands rather then become incorporated into the USA. Estimates of Filipino civilian dead run as high as 1.5 Million and one General Jacob H. Smith issued the order to "Kill everyone over ten". The destruction of homes and settlements suspected of harbouring insurgents was also a common tactic. 

After that bloody episode the Americans left to be replaced by the Japanese, whom somehow despite publicly professing to be building an Asian "CO-Prosperity" alliance managed to treat non Japanese Asians so bad that most Nationalist Guerilla's (Like Ho Chi Minh in Indo-China) ended up allying with the remnants of there American and European oppressors. Then the Americans come back, but after 1945 formal Empires were no longer in style, and its hard to claim with a straight face to be defending the freedom of the globe from Red Tyranny whilst still directly subjugating land masses (apparently Puerto Rico doesn't count). 

Yes the treaty of Manila (1946) gave the Pinoy's and Moro's what they wanted (officially) formal independence. Of course like most Third World former colonies that had there freedom "generously" given to them from there oppressors it wasn't long before they were ensnared in a web of subservience via one sided trade agreements, close relationships between governments, military aide and good old fashioned corruption at the top of the Public and Private sector. The government of Philippines has been consistently two things, Pro-Washington, and corrupt. The last President Arroyo along with many high ranking staff she appointed has been found guilty of corruption. Understandably the ordinary citizens aren't to happy with these events and with the "Democratic" process shut down thanks to big brown envelopes and briefcases changing hands more then a few reached for there pitch forks. Then sold them for money to buy Ak-47's, a Peoples War had begun.

 This People's War has been going on since 1969, like many Communist Guerilla movements it declined as the Cold War ended in the 1990's but seems to have picked up again as the New Peoples Army (NPA) seems to be getting more active in recent years. Of course being an illegal band of rebels its difficult to get any exact information. The NPA have a vested interest in making themselves look stronger then they may be and the Army and Intelligence Agency manhunts for members make it unlikely many members will come out of the jungles and valleys to have a nice face to face interveiw backed up with a snazzy powerpoint demonstration. 

But Ulat ng Digmang Bayan (Report of a People's War)- NPA in Southern Mindanao a very well made short documentary on the NPA does a very good job of presenting some interesting facts. Many of the speakers claims are difficult to verify of course but the actual imagery of Guerilla camps and the level of equipment they can get there hands on does seem to confirm there claims to have liberated small numbers of high end military equipment. And there ability to organise training courses even if on abstract political theory shows they've maintained an impressive level of organisation given the pressure they must be under to maintain secrecy and mobility should government forces discover them and mobilise for an offensive. And it also shows that morale must be pretty high to maintain those levels of sophistication and keep up those "advances" and operations, especially given that the opening skirmishes where all the way back in 69.


And to make matters worse for the Presidential Palace in Manila, the NPA and the Communist Party seem to have been busy making new friends. Both are partners in the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, a very broad and large coalition that includes opposition parties, Unions civil societies and even a church.  And to make matters worse the NPA isn't the only armed group ambushing army trucks and nicking lost rifles. Islamist groups are also in operation mainly in Moro as part of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and with a presence in the Moro National Liberation Front. Sadly I don't have any documentaries detailing those groups but for those who'd like to know more about them I can recommend the Accidental Guerilla.


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Truth About Online Piracy

 
You heard them Comrades, better start bookmarking the Pirate Bay





Well I guess its finally time to talk about Piracy. No not the kind currently popular in Somalia's desperate ex-fishermen off the coast of the African Horn -though I could do something about that in the future- I'm talking about the First world type of piracy, the kind that exists on the Cyber Seas. In the I've not been too bothered about this subject. Catch me on the street with a questionnaire and I'd have given you a list of neutral answers. I'm not a fan of big corporate entities and seeing them lose a 0.5% of a profit margin certainly caused me to lose no sleep.

 But recently I began to stumble upon a few interesting pieces of information. Some of it genuinely sickened me. For example the media especially the internet is absolutely full of information decrying the rise of file sharing sites, P2P, torrents and downloads. And yet curiously we can't go a month without Hollywood boasting about breaking all box office records, or the record labels bragging about there latest talent going Platinum and selling worldwide. Logically if Piracy really were the spectre haunting the producing suites and record studios like were constantly told they are, wouldn't we see a decline in profits and markets? Yes we should, and that decline should increase in proportion to the rise of piracy. So why don't we? in fact even during the global recession the entertainment industry is proving quite secure with most of the bankruptcy and downscaling resulting from internal overspend, dodgy accounting corruption and botched mergers and acquisitions.

The inconsistency of the message put out by the entertainment industry kept nagging away at me so I decided to dig a little deeper that's when I started finding some interesting titbits. For a while I had been hearing a counter argument that piracy was either negligible or actually positively increased sales by increasing exposure to a wider audience, some of which might not have originally been interested in the product but where drawn in either because it was free or they were curious over the  back and forth arguments about it being pirated. The former to me is a poor argument for two reasons, one the numbers while not usually large as a overall proportion, they do represent a significant (if only statistically) share. Two even if its true now its only going to be increasingly undermined as time goes on and piracy becomes more normal. And the latter argument just seemed absurd, but I looked into it and started finding some research that backed up the argument.

For example Anime. I'm sure everyone is at least familiar with what this is, Animation made in Japan, and it looks set to be the latest consumer cultural phenomenon to grip Western society for this Decade (though they've been "translating" and importing the stuff since the late 70's). But its still a bit niche at the moment with most of the stuff for sale being lumped into its own section, and still lags behind in terms of mainstream marketing. Of course there are a number of notable exceptions you're probably thinking of things like Pokemon/Digimon and Dragon Ball Z if you grew up in the 80's/90's or something else that's on now (I only really watch the news and films now so  I don't know what children's shows are popular) but those are just the tip of the Ice Berg, Japan and Korea (both of them) have very large animation industries and churn out hundreds of shows per year in addition to being sub contracted to animate the projects of other countries.

Anyway a January 2011 research paper into the effect sharing online had on DVD sales found that the only area being undermined was the DVD rentals not actual sales a number of which seemed to benefit from wide circulation.

"Whether or not illegal copies circulating on the internet reduce the sales of legal products has been a hot issue in the entertainment industries. Though much empirical research has been conducted on the music industry, research on the movie industry has been very limited. This paper examines the effects of the movie sharing site Youtube and file sharing program Winny on DVD sales and rentals of Japanese TV animation programs. Estimated equations of 105 anime episodes show that (1) Youtube viewing does not negatively affect DVD rentals, and it appears to help raise DVD sales; and (2) although Winny file sharing negatively affects DVD rentals, it does not affect DVD sales. Youtube’s effect of boosting DVD sales can be seen after the TV's broadcasting of the series has concluded, which suggests that not just a few people learned about the program via a Youtube viewing. In other words YouTube can be interpreted as a promotion tool for DVD sales."

The rest of report is only available in Japanese a language I neither speak nor read. English language  translations do exist on this paper and other similar reports on third party sites, however they tend to be Not Safe For Work due to content and advertising and I cannot verify how accurate there translations are.

I have also as you can see been sent another Infographic on this subject. The original is here along with the embed code. Again it mostly focuses on the USA but the arguments made on both sides of the issue can be easily applied globally.

You may be thinking this is all very interesting but does any of this matter? Too which I say yes, despite appearances there's a lot more riding on this then an bitter accounting department sulking over small cuts in surplus profit. Record companies and Film associations are trying to stamp out piracy by lobbying governments to create new far reaching laws, with absurdly disproportionate punishments.

As the graphic to the left shows currently the RIAA has been able to sue pirates for $150,000 per song. That's absurd, I'm not in favour of punishing people for sharing at all but if your going to have laws on the books to do that then surely it should be capped at the value of the product shared. If for example I torrented 10 songs which on I-tunes  sell for £1 that should come to £10 pound since that's the value I've taken. In physical theft punishments are higher then value taken due to additional factors, damage, invasion of privacy, distress and intimidation of victim etc. None of which apply to online piracy. Thats why that anti pirate DVD advert a few years ago saying "You wouldn't steal a handbag" was so stupid, it was comparing apples and oranges.

And many of these new legal frameworks groups like the RIAA advocate often give governments and in some proposed legislation a panel of entertainment companies greater power to censor and monitor information on the web. Ever heard of SOPA, PIPA, ACTA or CISPA? those were all "responses" to Online piracy and all of them plus others had gave authorities a lot of power and a very vague remit which is why a lot of people opposed them and still continue to oppose the rebranded initiatives.



There also completely unnecessary, current laws on this subject already give authorities a lot of lee way as it is, any additions is just overkill.



A touch melodramatic perhaps, but I good indicator of how Serious this issue is
 In essence this whole debate is nothing more then a ham fisted attempt by powerful companies to secure there stranglehold on the marketplace using State power, with worrying implications for privacy and freedom of speech. Deplorable and worthy of resistance but this isn't anything out of the ordinary in a system where a few are capable of accruing more and more economic power. In fact we see the same relationships and strategies across the board, what truly sickened me though was a strategy groups like the RIAA would prefer to keep private but thankfully was not.

“Child pornography is great,” those are the words of Johan Schluter part of the Danish Anti-Piracy Group. Thankfully he elaborates
“It is great because politicians understand child pornography. By playing that card, we can get them to act, and start blocking sites. And once they have done that, we can get them to start blocking file sharing sites”.

What he is in effect saying is by pushing for clampdowns on Child Sex trafficking and Paedophile rings they can get politicians to put in place laws that will target there enemies. He is advocating that companies that make films and music can and should indirectly profit from the abuse of children. And before you dismiss this as the ravings on one contemptible  fringe speaker his strategy has already been deployed in Denmark with several other nations being lobbied to adopt similar measures.

Truly despicable, well I hope you've found this informative, especially the info graphic, any thoughts or ideas feel free to put them in the comments section.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Swazi Police Beat Striking Teachers

Lobamba's finest gearing up for action
It seems people are finally starting to remember Africa's forgotten Despot. It also seems that the events kicked off in Tunisia the opening of the "Arab Spring" also spread South as many African regimes whose political and human rights records have "Must do better" scribbled over them in red ink found the streets to be packed with angry citizens waving placards. Swaziland despite its decades long state of emergency has been no exception. The nation has been hit by waves of public servant strikes and peaceful demonstrations. Recently the Teachers Union joined the strikes and took part in demo's organized by the National Public Service and Allied Workers’ Union (NAPSAWU), the Swaziland Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (STAWU) and the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT).




Naturally the King's patience only stretched so far and it wasn't too long before the riot police were called in.

"While about 500 union members were peacefully gathering in Coronation Park in Mbabane, the police started to disperse the crowd using batons, tear gas canisters and rubber bullets. Eight people were shot, five were seriously beaten up, and twelve workers had to be hospitalised. Furthermore, the President of NAPSAWU, Quinton Dlamini, was arrested right before he tried to join the striking SNAT teachers. All three unions are affiliated to the ITUC-affiliated Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA); their main demand was a 4.5% salary adjustment."
Emphasis my own.

This text will be replaced

The video actually comes from The Times, and whilst the Morning Star has nothing to fear over losing its position as my favourite daily it is nice to see a few more people exposing the brutality of King Mswati III.

He doesn't look happy now does he?






Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Military Contractors Use a Military Base as a Venue for Anti-Union Propaganda

I don't know whom this poster is aimed at, but given the slogan is "Strength on Your side" it clearly isn't aimed at its employees.
It appears that General Dynamics one of those lovely arms contractors, has been caught using a military base to force its employees to watch anti union videos before they were due to take part in a union ballot.

From FSRN
 

"A military contractor and weapons manufacturer with facilities on an army base in Washington State forced employees to watch anti-union videos ahead of an important union vote. That’s according to an investigation from In These Times, which examined the practices of General Dynamics Land Systems at Fort Lewis, Washington. Employees, many of whom are military veterans, also allege the company routinely told them that if they joined the union, they could lose the government contract. The story by In These Times reporter Mike Elk has prompted a Labor Department investigation. Mike Elk joins us now to tell us more about this story. To follow Elk’s coverage in Working In These Times:"

The original article from In These Times. "Jason Croic is a Marine combat veteran who served 28 months in Iraq. When he came home, he found a job working for $18 an hour as a mechanic on Stryker vehicles for General Dynamics Land Systems in Fort Lewis, Washington. Croic now has a new combatant, as his employer is attempting to stop him and his fellow contractors from joining Local 286 of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE)." “We have had these meetings where they provided one side of the story,” says Croic. “The message is we won’t be as employable to the Army as we are now because we won’t be as versatile. Being non-union, they say we are more attractive to the Army because we can be moved around easier.”

Now aside from the outrage  at a very egregious example of work place bullying, what sticks out to me is the implications of immunity big companies must feel in order to get away with stunts like this. Most of the staff subjected to these screenings were Veterans, Vets aren't exactly famous for being timid. The fact that this all took place just before a Union vote is also rather stupid bold as that heavily implies that the staff would at least be aware of things like Labour rights and Labour advocacy groups like  you know Unions whom can give them support if they feel taken advantage of. Then there's the fact this took place on a military base, Americans both in Government and in general are quite proud of there armed forces and really don't like it when others draw them into disrepute. Using one of there bases to influence there labour force does reflect negatively on the services as it implies either the military agrees with the company or is extremely negligent to the point that even its own bases are out of its control. Doing this all on a base is just asking for an investigation (currently under way) and a storm of bad PR (if the media actually bothered to cover work place stories beyond tedious stock market numbers and free advertising for the big wigs). Hell the fact that this was done on at all is troubling, even if the propaganda worked and the vote on joining was a landslide No vote like the company wanted, it only takes one of the staff to raise a fuss like say Jason Croic to start trouble.

 General Dynamics is an military contractor which is the holiest of holies in the Neo-Liberal West, and is thus treated with the appropriate levels of reverence, the obvious fact that entwining Nation States with companies whose sole purpose is to enrich themselves, and whose preferred method for enrichment is producing tools of destruction might lock governments into a war mentality seems not to cause our current generation of rulers. Even Eisenhower a former General and Republican President was aware of just how dangerous the "Military-Industrial Complex" would turn out if it wasn't successfully reigned in.

"Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."


I think General Dynamics exposure is a clear remainder of the dangers of letting corporate entities feel "untouchable". The mess of the world economy shows the devastation they can cause with finances, investment and infrastructure but its actions like these I feel really hammer home the point that the corporate giant may well be Big but its Seldom Friendly.


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Stuff I've Been Doing While Away

Yes I've been away for a bit but instead of another apology post (I really need to get out of the habit) I figured I'd tell you a bit of what I've been doing whilst not updating this blog.  That way at least you can something of interest/use out of here again.

Mobbly

First up I've been writing up a few articles for Mobbly. I said before when I started writting for them that I'd do a few blog posts about articles I thought people who read this blog might be interested in, well obviously its been awhile since I did that, I have a non lazy reason though, given my slump in updates I didn't want this place to turn into a "re-blog" thing you know just advertising with no substance so I held off for a bit hoping to pick up the pace later. That obviously didn't happen so unless you follow my Twitter and not many do you'll have missed on some interesting information. So heres a recap of some of the articles I've written that you'll probably enjoy (not a guarantee).

 Castro: By Reinhard Kleist. Yes its a Comic biography of Fidel Castro, it covers everything from Fidel's childhood to his retirement and is told from the point of view of a West German immigrant journalist whom falls in love with Cuba but not necessarily with the Maximum Leader. Here's what I thought of it.












1948: By Andy Croft. Those whom know me will know I am a massive fan of George Orwell and while I had no idea at the time whom Andy Croft was (his main body of work revolves around sport) the cover and the blurb intrigued me so I picked it up and I did not regret it. Andy Croft was a member of the now defunct Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and he recently published a book about the collapse of the old CPGB that I will be reading up on soon. Review here.






Iron Sky: A film about Moon Nazi's. Actually to be fair whilst it is a modern day 1950's B-Movie complete with flying saucers it is also a very clever and accurate (Minus the living on the moon thing obviously) depiction of Nazi society as well as being coupled with some satire about modern (mostly American but you can still apply the jokes around the world) politics. It also looks amazing for the tiny budget and the cast especially the Germans work well. Click for more.









A Eulogy to Ray Bradbury and a review of Fahrenheit 451: This one combines two articles I did. As I'm sure you're all aware Ray Bradbury has died, naturally as a Science Fiction fan I was saddened and wished to convey why I felt the man was so treasured by genre fans. After doing so I felt it was a good time to review his most famous work Fahrenheit 451 for the benefit of those whom haven't yet had the pleasure and where curious about all the fuss. Read both  here.









Occupy: By Noam Chomsky. Of all the stuff I've written this probably deserved to be posted here the most. I did already blather on about the man and his opinions of the movement here. Anyway I found the book ( a collection of speeches and interviews) to be very informative, hopefully it will lead to more like it as the Occupy Movement progresses. Read about it here.












Free Speech Radio News

As you've probably noticed I've been embedding and sharing a lot of videos by the group Free Speech Radio News (FSRN). Why? well I quite like there coverage and I think its a good way to broaden and elaborate a point so your not just reading my dyslexic ramblings (thank you for spell checker). I'm also the guy who makes most of those videos so its nice to get some extra use out of the stuff you've already done.

Anyway the reason why FSRN has contributed to my tardiness, is because like most independently funded media groups they had a funding shortfall, quite a large one actually at a pretty delicate time. To spare the details the group were in trouble and had to begin aggressively touting for support and donations, readers of the Morning Star will know what I'm talking about. And I helped out as much as I could. You maybe thinking if that's the case then why the hell was this space so quiet? well I was just overwhelmed at the time and didn't get around too it. Still the good news is that FSRN is still on the air and secure for at least a little while.  And those wishing too can still donate and support it.

In fact to make up for my silence here's a few video reminders of the important work FSRN does.

Mumia Abu-Jamal's appeals for support on the behalf of the team. FSRN has been broadcasting his commentaries from Death Row, and now from the prison general population for awhile.

And here we have two reports on the ongoing escalation of violence in the Eastern Kivu (both North and South) provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Including an investigation into allegations that the M23 "Rebellions" receive support from neighbouring Rwanda. All while US and European Mining companies continue to make profits from the war torn areas.





There was also another report about Gold prospecting in Haiti and the dangers to the local population if the widespread corruption and exploitation aren't addressed.




Other Stuff

It may surprise you to learn but I do have a life outside the internet. In the fresh air and daylight I have also been quite busy. I've been undergoing training and become a Regulator of a local Housing Association. I know, those associations shouldn't exist, and the Council should be providing housing for its residents and tenants, but the Council isn't in any state to take back that stock at the moment and this way I might be able to make some difference on behalf of vulnerable tenants.

I've also been hard at work at my local boxing club shedding weight and taking a few steps on the path of the pugilist. Its very efficient way to improve your fitness levels, and it lets you eat all the delicious protein rich foods you want. Oh and I've also been tinkering away at some fiction, don't worry I won't turn this blog into my Live Journal, and if your wondering no I do not have a Live Journal. Its just something I've been working on to see what can do. If I get better at it I might start uploading some of it but that would be a ways off.

So yeah that's what I did with my mid June to early July. How was your time three and a bit weeks? Hope it was good despite the abysmal weather.


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