13 February 2007

January 2007 Comments

Guantanemo, Blair and torture 2007.01.08

The key points are simple. The torture of prisoners, physical or mental, is wrong. Holding people for years without form of legal address or trial is wrong. It’s wrong if you do these things directly (the US) or if you facilitate or apologise for them (the UK).Mr Blair and all his government in London are stained with this filth.

Religion and anti-gay discrimination 2007.01.09
The moral/legal issue is this: people who are gay should not face discrimination because of their sexuality.The protesting religious groups are using their civic freedom to try to persuade Parliament to take away somebody else’s right to equality. They should not be allowed to succeed.

Debate on the Labour Party leadership 2007.01.10

In the last couple of decades the Labour Party has been turned into a top-down shell organisation choreographed by Mr Blair and company. Government policy is now actively hostile both to social democratic and liberal causes; and most progressive people have long disengaged from the Labour Party apparatus.Sadly, in these circumstances the kind of debate Tony Benn would like to have simply won’t happen outside a powerless fringe of people.

Ruth Kelly 2006.01.10

Ruth Kelly presumably sent her son to a private school because she believes she can use her money to buy better for family. Most families in Britain do not have this option.Mrs Kelly, a cabinet minister in Blair’s government, is doing her bit to reinforce Britain’s class divided society.Why is person like this responsible in equality legislation in a supposedly centre left government?

Blair and Iraq 2007.01.11

Bush is a president who serves a fixed term of four years. Blair, by contrast, is a prime minister who holds office so long as a parliamentary majority has confidence in him.What I find remarkable is that Mr Blair could take Britain to war in 2003 for reasons that proved wholly false, and yet remain in office. More odd still, when his ‘after-the-event’ justification for the invasion (i.e. bettering the lot of Iraqis) is unrealised, he can still stay on as prime minister. Does democracy in Britain work?

Bush and Blair on war 2007.01.12

Until recently Bush has been able to win considerable support in America among the ignorant by being uncompromising and violent with the US’s perceived or created enemies. At least in part US aggression against Somalia and Iran is due to Bush’s need to find or exacerbate conflict, so he can portray himself as the unflinching military defender of America. Wars tend to make unpopular leaders popular (Cf. Mrs Thatcher and the Falklands) What needs explaining, though, is Tony Blair’s unconditional position as a junior partner in this enterprise, and the Labour Party’s toleration of Blair’s policy, irrespective of the killing, destruction and suffering the policy causes.

Raising school leaving age to eighteen 2007.01.15

I think young people should stay at school or college until they are eighteen, but it is mistake to force them. They would learn little and disturb the learning of those in the class who wish to learn. At sixteen a young person should start making decisions for him/herself; and whether to stay at school is one such decision.Far better would be to channel the money into adult education, so that when people feel the need for education and value it, they can opt in again.

Attacking Iran 2007.01.15

Any US attack on Iran would be the most insane act by a major power since Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Millions would die in the region-wide conflagration; and it would be hard to see how American interests would be advanced.Bush’s apocalyptic visions of confronting ‘evil’ (shared it would seem by Tony Blair) are delusional. It goes without saying that every effort should be made to prevent such a murderous insanity ever happening.

Prostitution 2007.01.16

The right of one person to pay another for sexual services is a basic freedom. The state should regulate the practice so that the seller is not coerced (through poverty, drug addiction or violence) into the contract. In the performance of the contract, both the buyer and seller need health and safety protection as consumer and service provider.What ever the moralist thinks about prostitution may rightly govern the behaviour of the moralist but should not be imposed on the choices other persons.The Swedish Model of criminalising prostitution only criminalises the clinent punter.The issue is not whether the Swedish model ‘works’ or not; it simply offends the principles of justice and equality.If two people agree to do XZY sexual activity, there is no crime. If one party then suggests the other pay money to make it happen, there is no crime. The only crime occurs when the other party agrees to pay.The principle is absurd. It treats prostitute like a person below the age of criminal responsibility, and treats the client as if he were having sex with a minor.

England and Scotland 2007.01.17

Political associations with two members which develop divergent opinions tend not to last long. With two constituents, the politics of building alliances is denied, and at the end of the day, in the absence of a compromise, one party has to get its way. If London imposes its will, devolved Scotland is affronted, and support for independence grows. If Edinburgh gets what it wants the steps to independence have already started. Does anyone remember the history of Czechoslovakia?

Super ASBOs 2007.01.18

The Guardian wrote: “The new crime-prevention orders, for example, would dilute the presumption of innocence by curtailing the liberty of people not proved to have committed a crime. That erosion of freedom needs to be balanced against a theoretical cut in crime.” I argued, no, the punishment of people who have not been convicted by a judicial authority is axiomatically wrong in a liberal society; even if such measures were to cut crime levels.These criminal justice acts are designed for their publicity affect, and to outflank (triangulate) the Conservatives and tabloid press. If the government were serious in wanting to tackle organised crime it would beef up detection agencies which would have the resources and powers to gather evidence and then prosecute the criminals in courts.

Anti Asian remarks on Big Brother 2007.01.19

What we saw on the programme were several anti-Asian remarks springing from ignorance, hostility and stupidity. Such views are, unfortunately, widely held across society and it is obvious that banning them from television will not cause the bigots to stop holding these attitudes. This idiotic Big Brother programme has highlighted the need to do more to combat such racially motivated prejudice in society. Advocates of greater censorship are merely attempting to push the problem under the carpet.

Three questions for socialist historians 2007.01.23

Any socialist historian of Britain will in future years have to answer three fundamental questions. First, how did someone like Tony Blair become leader of the Labour Party; second, why, even after the Iraq fiasco, was the Labour Party unable to get rid of him; and third, given Blair’s policies why didn’t a serious party emerge to Labour’s left. Why, in short, has social democracy in Britain been killed and political liberalism been serious wounded.It is not that I cannot furnish answers to these questions, but it is only by writing full answers, and discovering and articulating all the evidence that would support answers to these questions, that we will come to understand the neo-Liberal consensus in Britain. Who is doing that work?

Scotland and Wales 2007.01.24

British identity was very much sustained in last couple of centuries by the prize of Empire. The Anglo-Indian, the colonial civil servant, the commercial bank clerk and Australian emigrant were as likely to Scottish or Welsh as English. Imperial contracts went as easily to Glasgow as they did to Birmingham. With empire consigned to the history books, what reason is there for these small nations to subordinate their affairs to England? And from the 1960s Scottish and Welsh nationalism has been edging forward, helped by a vision of being part of the confederal structures of the European Union as independent states. Future individual membership of the EU for Scotland and Wales would provide more room for flexibility than any greater grudgingly granted devolution from a dictatorial London.

Gay adoptions 2007.01.25

The issue of exempting the church from anti-discrimination laws concerning the adoption of children by gay would-be parents is off track. The church should have nothing to do with adoption – or education for that matter. These things are properly part of the secular domain.If the churches were divorced from all social and education provisions in society, it would not matter a damn what the church thought about gay adoptions or anything else. People could just see such religious groups for what they were – an irrelevant and bigoted minority.

American support for democracy 2007.01.25

Yes, the US supports democracy when the people vote for leaders who are amenable to US interests.The US has a long history of sabotaging democracy in Latin America, even as late as 2002 backing a coup against Chavez. Democracy has to be smashed in the Palestinian territories because the voters elected Hamas. Brutal anti-democratic regimes in Egypt, Saudi and Pakistan have strong US backing.The US may prefer democratic regimes abroad, but the political and economic interests of the US come first. Is anyone still surprised by this conclusion?

Britishness 2007.01.25

One result of the politically induced panic about Muslim fundamentalist ideas and violence has been the demand for ‘Britishness’ to be taught in schools. ‘Britishness’, if it means anything at all, is a variety of diverse traditions and thinking, but Education minister Alan Johnson has simplified it to ‘the values that we hold very dear in Britain which is free speech, which is tolerance, which is respect for the rule of law," It is, of course, sheer arrogance to suppose that these are not universal values held across Europe and the world. To suggest that they are uniquely British is to compound prejudice rather than reduce it. Another difficulty seems to arise too. If it is to be claimed that these values are the bedrock of British society, surely the first line of educational enquiry is to ascertain the extent to which contemporary Britain manifests them. And I’m sure any serious enquiry would not give Mr Johnson the conclusions he wanted. In short, this whole sordid exercise in corrupting education is about America emulation. Blair, Kelly and these other neo-conservatives in New Labour clothing merely wish to emulate the catch-all totalitarian ‘crime’ of ‘anti-Americanism’ by creating a British equivalent. In future any dissent or protest will be dismissed as ‘anti-British.’

Fascists in the European Parliament 2007.01.29

Hatred of fascists is a correct attitude, and it is right to draw attention to this poisonous influence both in so-called old and new Europe. Two points should be made. First, the emergence of fascists in democratic polities provides a warning, (e.g. that class inequality and uneven capitalist development is driving the ignorant into blaming other ethnic groups for their woes.) Second, it is hard to see these people - driven by national chauvinism - forming a cohesive Euro-wide unit, when each nationalism has the others as enemies. Though not all represented in the European Parliament, the Hungarian far-right MIEP party won’t get bed easily with the Greater Romanians and the Slovak National Party to take but one example.

Afghanistan 2007.01.30

The current US assault on Afghanistan (backed to the hilt by the pillion passenger of American Imperialism, Britain) is devoid of sense other than in one aspect.The occupation and decision to kill as many Taliban fighters (real or potential) as possible in Afghanistan is based on a contorted chain of reasoning: ‘without NATO intervention the Taliban might take over the country and they might in turn support Islamic terrorism against the US.’ Even acknowledging this hypothetical possibility - which does not in itself justify the war - the killing of the Taliban gives them no incentive not to support terrorism against the West, and their ability to support terrorism is hardly altered whether they control two or ninety percent of the country. Thus, as in Iraq, the war is increasing the motivation for terrorist acts, not reducing it.The only sense in which the war makes sense is that defeat would be psychologically painful for the US. However a reason such as this can never justify war.

My enemy’s enemy 2007.01.31

Events in history, the 2003 invasion of Iraq included, are complex in terms of their facts, and the application of ‘left wing principles can become an even more muddled affair. One particular principle, which often pollutes strategy, is the devil’s alliance principle – my enemy’s enemy is my friend. And two prominent instances appear in the Iraq debate.For a cohort of slippery neo-con ex-left renegades (Mssrs Aaronvitch, Cohen, Geras, Hitchens) the argument is that because Saddam’s regime was so utterly dreadful, the Bush administration (enemy Saddam’s enemy since 1990) are the ‘good guys.’ Whatever else these men may have said in their lives, their current identification is their pro-Bush image.Leading members of the anti-war coalition, on the other hand, reverse the parties in this mistake. For them US imperialism is enemy number one, so Saddam and now the Iraqi resistance (enemy Bush’s enemies) are the ‘good guys.’ The left’s identification with dictators and jihadists (albeit a minority of the left) undermines the left’s core value structure. (Ironically this is Cohen’s main argument, all the more outrageous because he deploys the same mistaken reasoning himself.) Until the bipolar schema, of which the ‘my-enemy’s-enemy-is-my-friend’ is a constituent’ is dispensed with, much socialist thought will be disabled by this logical flaw.

Respect 2007.01.31

Echoing developments in the US, the political concept ‘respect’ and its correlative ‘no-offence’ has now entered British politics. Respecting the cultural practices of other social categories, but particularly ethnic ones, is set to replace social equality as the guiding goal of many so-called progressives. The vision of the respect brigade is of a multicultural apartheid in which each community respects the norms of the others. If a film it offensive to Muslim sensitivities it is not shown; if one community practises genital mutilation, then the others respect it.What has this agenda got to do with socialism and liberalism? Precisely nothing. We should assert that nobody has a right to have his/her beliefs and values (as opposed to their person and material interests) respected by others. Liberals rightly demand individual freedom; socialists need space for the propaganda of struggle within and across ethnic boundaries.Respect is properly an individual moral matter; e.g. not using four letter words when sitting next to granny on the bus. As the Trojan horse of conservative political values, the doctrine of respect is poison.

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