Thursday, 23 September 2010

What have the Unions ever done for us?

Ton actually. This new video by the TUC is a very well put together comprehensive list of the some of their most important campaign successes and a summary of all the privileges and opportunities that I and many others have come to enjoy and depend on, all thanks to are ancestors hard work and sacrifices.

Thank you to all the working men and women throughout the decades whose dedication made it all possible.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Journey into the heart of darkness

"A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength- life itself is a will to power."

Morning all, will be moving back to continue my studies next week so I've been stuck in limbo for a bit what with much of my possessions (books, dvds etc) are in boxes so I've been spending my free time with my cousins video games. The one I've been most taken with of late is Far Cry 2 (pictured).

Its a first person Shooter that takes place in the Democratic Republic of something something, they manage to make a game that lasts dozens of hours entirely set in side a country without actually naming it. Well there are two regions called Leboa-Sako in the North and Bowa-Seko in the south, so for the sake of clarity I will refer to the North as Leboa and the Southern region as Bowa.

The main character is selected from about a dozen mercenaries sorry private security contractors from around the globe each of which is a thoroughly bleak and callous human being. For some reason despite there being a couple of female mercenaries you can't select them. Why were they worried that a female character committing all these violent acts? that can't be it the game is played from a first person perspective all you see is your fore arms and your knees and feet when performing first aid, so I really don't know why you can't choose them. I mean its not like any of the women are your potential romantic interest which I frankly found to be quite refreshing.

Anyway the main plot of the game is that the country you're deployed to is teetering on the brink of a full scale civil war, the President is dead, the government and the wealthy have fled and the power vacuum is being filled by two bitterly rival factions the United Front for Liberation and Labour (UFLL) headed by the former leader of opposition Mbantuwe and the Alliance for Popular Resistance (APR) lead by the former head of military Major Tambossa. Both groups are brutal power hungry and whose ranks are full of mercs with no concept of morality and are inly in it for the pay offs from the diamond mines and because it amuses them. Currently the only thing keeping the two sides from coming to blows is the lack of a stable supply of arms. And thats were the games main target enters the picture, The Jackal and internationally reviled arms dealer begins selling to both sides and its just a matter of time before the shooting starts.

Its not long before entering the country that your character (lets call him Jack for simplicities sake) Jack first encounters the Jackal, unfortunately due to contracting a very serious case of malaria (which will continually flare up through out the games duration so keep an eye on your malaria pill count) and so just has to sit there while Mr Jackal.... quotes Nietzsche's philosophical works at you (something of a hobby of his) in fact much of the games intellectual content is viewed from the Jackal's "humanist" ideology. In between quoting Will to power he gloats a bit by pointing out that since your mission was to prevent the Jackal from kick starting the conflict with his merchandise Jack has already failed thats right you fail before the ten minute mark is reached. Surprisingly he doesn't kill and instead leaves you clapped out on the bed in the hotel. You wake up to the sound of gunfire and screaming and is not long before your left high and dry in the middle of a war zone.

Since Jack's one and only chance to leave this country is to find and kill the Jackal and hope your benefactors will still make arrangements for your exit, crossing the border is out of the question as the African Union have sealed all the borders. However since you have absolutely no idea where he is and the unemployment office was closed down by men with Kalashnikovs Jack has no choice but to go working for the local factions which one doesn't matter once there out of jobs you just march down the street to the other side and see what they want blown up.

And speaking of those jobs unlike in other games the missions in Far Cry 2 make it absolutely clear that you and your merc "buddies" are not hero's, your every bit the villains that the Jackal, the UFLL and APR are. Your missions often involve going to whats left of the infrastructure that the innocent people of this once proud nation depend on and wrecking it because the other side have a slight advantage by possessing it. And your merc buddies will help you "subvert" the mission which usually means bringing more pain and suffering to the populace. Rather then take the easy way out and make the guys and gals who go around the world killing people they don't know for money into some sort of tragic heroes, they and Jack are depicted as the socio paths they undoubtedly would be in real life.

Hell at some points in the game a Cease fire appears to be on the table as both faction heads have had enough, but since that would put you and your colleagues out of a job and potentially have them facing war crimes tribunals or worse and so take it upon themselves to sabotage the peace process.

What made Far Cry 2 stand out for me amongst the legions of muscle-bound space marines fighting for the planet earth whilst looking for there "wives" is its horrible cynicism. Everyone and everything that appears in this game with the exception of the Journalist and blogger Reuben is shown to be horribly corrupt and well brutal. The two factions ideologies only exist as slogans on there posters and have no qualms about bringing suffering to the people they both claim to serve if it means they profit. The mercs smuggle and murder at the drop of a hat, the Jackal deliberately manipulates the conflict to prolong and expand it. NGO's peace keepers and foriegn companies don't fair much better either.

This game goes along way to disprove the notion that games are "just for kids". Anyway for further reading I recommend the PDF. playthrough Permanent Death by Ben Abraham warning will contain spoilers.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Top cat returns to the alley

You've more than likely already heard that Former Respect Mp George Galloway has got his Talksport gig back The Mother of All Talk Shows at its usual slot of 10-1am Friday though not saturday. Looks like that Facebook group really pulled through for the old Scottish teetotaller eh?

Anyway after listening to the first broadcast after an hiatus of several months does he come up to scratch? as he been rejuvenated by his holiday and now graces us listeners with renewed passion humour and insight?

Well yes and no the start of the new George series was mixed for me. The beginning was all about the Popes visit and while it did have a good interview with Peter Tatchell below.

I have to say I was pretty disappointed with George here. His argument that the Vatican is a state in the post Age of Reason world doesn't hold up. And his continued insistance it is without explaining why comes across as dogmatic.

In this contemporary world you and I live in state hood is ultimately left to the UN to decide, though that certainly doesn't stop other Nations from picking and choosing who to invite to the diplomatic club, see Kosovo, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Tibet, Kurdistan, and the whole Peoples Republic of China versus Republic of China etc. The Vatican on the other hand doesn't really fit the model of what we would know regard as a state. It was created out of a deal between the Catholic church and Mussolini's Fascist party, a deal that saw the Papal states that at its height could easily have been eligible for modern statehood as it once owned the territory of Central Italy including Rome and whose governing was placed under the direct control of the Catholic church was officially dissolved and reformed into the modern Vatican that has no government nor services nor territory not a direct and active part of the Catholic church.

At best the Vatican is another Grand Duchy or theocratic style Principality like Monaco. At worst its a large micro nation in the vein of Sea Land and does Roy Bates get a red carpet reception every time he gets tired of hanging out on that concrete bunker in the sea and goes back home to Spain? I think not.

Furthermore the UK doesn't even deal with the Pope as if he is the head of state for anything. How many Embassies are in the Vatican? zero how many does the Vatican have in the UK and the world? Zero. How many trade agreements exist? none apart from between the Vatican and Italy and they kind of have to given that the Vatican is inside there own capitol. And unlike all are other disputed territories that aspire to nationhood in the world like say Kosovo, the Vatican has absolutely no chance of becoming a state. What is the ultimate pillar that all states regardless of ideology economy and geography rest upon? the monopoly on the use of Organised force. Thats how they maintain what territory they have and how they usually expand it. To quote a man whose name escapes at the moment "how many divisions does the Pope have?" the answer is again zero unless you count those Swiss Mercs and there plentiful armouries of Axes and Halberds.Truly Italian statesmen must quake in fear at this great dagger pointing directly at the heart of there nation just waiting to be unsheathed.

He also ignored Tatchell's comment that since its the Catholic population that want him here they should foot the bill you know like they did the last time one of them showed up.

But I digress, I also found his other argument that the Pope is the head of the Catholic church therefore every Catholic should automatically bend there knee to him on every thing he says line quite insulting. As a man of Irish (among others) descent I've lost count of the times I've heard my Nan and Aunts say "If the Pope wants me to have a hundred kids he can pay for them" variations there of. Sorry George but I thought you believed everyone should practice reasonable thinking and try to reach conclusion based on that, not you know blindly following what someone else tells you. Look just because the Pope or any other Religious leader tells you something thats wrong it doesn't magically become right. When the Pope says contraceptives actually aid the spread of HIV in Africa when all the evidence says otherwise he is still wrong in saying that.

Anyway as I said this was just the first hour, and it did get better as it progressed. There were too very good and very interesting interviews with a couple of September the 11th survivors. And even the interview (below) with the conspiracy theorist was reasonable and coherent throughout.

But just one last thing though what ever happened to that "Radical Radio network" George said he was organising, the one that was and I quote just "over the rainbow" (scroll down a bit). Looks like that ain't happening. Thats a shame as George himself has pointed out he is quite a solitary figure in the right wing hang em and deport em world of Talk radio. Which seems set to increase given his reduction in air time. To me George's idea of a grouping of prominent Left wing and Progressive commentators is a missed opportunity given that he would be uniquely placed to plug the thing to a wider audience then most internet radio shows get. Oh well.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Never Forget

Its that time of year again the eleventh of September where people around the world stop and remember the great tragedy that occurred on this date. Thats right today is the anniversary of the beginning of the 1973 coup against President Allende of Chile and the coming to power of General Augusto Pinochet.

In contrast to Allende's peaceful redistributive measures, Pinochet set up a brutal regime that combined the bitter repression of political freedoms with Milton Friedmans economic theories making a mockery of the Neo-Liberal claim that free markets and free people go hand in hand. Highlights of Pinochet's rule include a 26% unemployment rate due to the massive cuts in services and the preferences for military spending. Money which was often spent of weapons used against his own people. The turning of a lovely sailing ship the Esmeralda BE-43 in to a floating torture chamber one of many including football pitches. And operation Condor which on the face of it was a regional security policy against Guerilla's, but due to the wording of the agreement also legalised the targeting of "sympathisers" of banned groups throughout Latin America, leading to the harassment imprisonment and even murder of hundreds of problem peoples for the local Junta in the 1980's.

All of this was made possible thanks to some generous contributions by the US government of Richard Nixon and the support of Henry Kissinger. The CIA operation to topple Allende was given 10 Million at day one with the promise of more if and when it proved necessary.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Fatah vs Hamas part II

Good day all, been checking out the new blogger stats feature and it seems that the page about the Fatah and Hamas conflict is my most popular by quite a large margin so I felt a quick post highlighting an interview by the Real News Network with Palestinian Activist Omar Barghouti (pictured) that discusses the split would be welcome to some of you.

It also contains a brief update on the current successes of the Boycott of Israeli movement within the European Union Israel's largest trading partner though that isn't really surprising given that the EU is the largest trading partner to everyone else in the world including its self, In fact the only country that has bigger trade connections with non EU nations that I can think of is North Korea with China and South Korea beating the EU into third place.

I also came across a piece in Monday's Morning Star by Israeli peace activist and former Knesset (Parliament) member Uri Avnery about the growing anti occupation movement especially the growing Boycott movement.

I disagree with a number of his points and will be dissecting them below, but for the sake of fairness you can find his entire article here.

The first part of the article is an analysis of the national psyche of Israel which is not only very interesting and revealing but also depressing its own way. Given that Uri is an Israeli and lived in Israel and I have not I will defer to his greater wisdom and move on though I will include his quote from former Israeli Golda Meir for emphasis "Deputy Avnery thinks that they hate us because of what we do. He does not know the Goyim. The Goyim love the Jews when they are beaten and miserable. They hate the Jews when they are victorious and successful." Lovely.

In regards to the protests and boycotts Uri is much more sceptical and negative then I am. "These aims can be achieved only through peace between Palestine and Israel. And such a peace can come about only if the majority of Palestinians and the majority of Israelis support it. Outside pressure will not suffice."

This is a major theme of his argument, that the majority of Israeli's agreeing with him and like minded peace groups in Israel is the only way to end the occupation and give the Palestinians the space they need to build up the institutions necessary to achieve full state hood and bring stability to the region. And yes if it happened it would be great that would be by far the best way to achieve what we all want. However he argues as if that is the only way that could be achieved. Which is actually somewhat disingenuous, you see Israel is not and can not be completely close off from the world and self sufficient it is neither resource rich territorially large or populous enough to say to the world in the spirit of the old Israeli folk song says "go to hell". Further exacerbating its dependence on trade and aid is the legacy of almost constant warfare its geopolitical position forced it into (the 1948 war, the Sinai war,the six day war, the Yom Kippur war, the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the 2006 invasion of Lebanon etc.) have left Israel with an entrenched technological and expensive military apparatus putting great strains on its economy.

All of this makes outside pressure a much more viable and realistic tactic then Uri is making it out to be.

Compare this with another nation that found itself in a similar position to Israel, Apartheid South Africa.South Africa's non Jewish white oligarchy found itself having to suppress a large domestic population and often resorted to violence, it alos had a colonising and occupation project occurring in Namibia, was surrounded by neighbours (Angola, Mozambique etc.) who while not continuously hostile to it clearly didn't approve of its policies and ideology. And often intervened in its regional neighbours affairs. And while the Africaans population had a number of brave activists and groups who opposed Apartheid at great risk to themselves including imprisonment the idea that the majority Africaans would just decide to end Apartheid on there own is ludicrous.

"Anyone who understands this must be interested in a worldwide protest that does not push the Israeli population into the arms of the settlers, but, on the contrary, isolates the settlers and turns the general public against them".

Ok Good where getting closer to same page now,but how do we do that Uri?

"The first thing is to clearly differentiate between the boycott of the settlements and a general boycott of Israel. The TV report suggested that many of the protesters do not see the border between the two."

Oh dear, the problem with this tactic of only boycotting settlement goods is two fold, first the settlements and the settlers have a strong hold on the Israeli right wing whom usually have no problem cobbling together a majority in the Knesset and thus form government. Even Israel's all weather friend the USA is getting sick of these settlements and yet there still being built. At best Israel has placed temporary freezes on settlement expansion (not including East Jerusalem) which quickly expire so what exactly will stop the Israeli government from stepping in and financially supporting the settlements since they already spend so much guarding them?

And second were exactly do you draw the line? this important as despite constantly reiterating that we must draw a clear line Uri fails to do so himself. For example what about the IDF and its military companies, should they be boycotted? the settlements depend on them to safe them from Palestinian backlashes but there also a key part of Israel as a whole. And what about Israel banks, pension schemes and insurance companies that serve clients in the settlements, a boycott on these companies international businesses would affect both settler and Israeli proper wouldn't? and what about construction Uri does concede that Caterpillar the company that supplies Israel with bulldozers that mostly see service levelling Palestinian homes during forced evictions, but since they to have a legitimate purpose in Israel that just muddies the water even further.

Anyway moving on.

"Today a large majority of Israelis say that they want peace and are ready to pay the price, but that unfortunately the Arabs don't want peace."

I think we've all heard this one before. The insincerity of it astounds me. What if any price have the Israelis paid to show they want peace? nothing. The Arabs on the other hand? well Fatah has been cooperating with Washington and Tel Aviv has not actively supported armed struggle for several years and is participating fully in the Palestinian Authority and supports the Two state deal, Egypt under Mubarak has effectively allied with Israel to the point that the two now regularly engage in joint military operations in the form of the blockade of Gaza and reaffirmed its acknowledgement of Israel's existence. Lebanon has a history of given government support to Israel (even when the latter is ending its military into the former)and Beirut is now a close ally of Washington with the only sticking point being the popularity of Hezbollah which the Israel sort of help with there 2006 invasion. So whose done more for peace here? well Uri doesn't say.

"The mainstream peace camp, which could once bring hundreds of thousands onto the streets, is in a state of depression. It feels isolated.

Among other things, its once close connection with the Palestinians, which was established at the time of Yasser Arafat after Oslo, has withered. So have relations with protest forces abroad.

If people of goodwill want to speed up the end of the occupation, they must support Israeli peace activists."

Err why? you said so yourself Uri not only have you lost the support of your own people as this report shows well as isolated yourselves form the global movement what good would concentrating are efforts into supporting you guys do? Especially when we take into consideration that back when you were a political force in Israel you were completely impotent and achieved little. Over the period your talking about Israel continued to expand the occupation as well as shift further and further to right and antagonise its neighbours through military clashes and disputes what if anything did your peace movement achieve? or was that the fault of the outside world not being clear in there distinction as well?

"They should build close links with them, break the conspiracy of silence against them in the world media and publicise their courageous actions, and organise more and more international events at which Palestinian and Israeli peace activists are present side by side."

Err we have time and again I can't think of a single Palestinian solidarity group or campaign that hasn't boasted of its ties with or support for a group in Israel. But again it hasn't achieved anything of substance your continually becoming more marginalised. Also doesn't this contradict your first points? if the average Israeli is close minded to the rest of the world then how is the global movement getting even more buddy buddy with there Israeli counter parts supposed to raise there esteem in the eyes of there fellow countrymen?

I'm sorry Uri but I'm not convinced.

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