23 December 2010

Asking for a kiss

There is something wrong in my mind with the response the author is advocating - at least where the situation does not threaten violence.

Man: "Hey, give me a kiss it’s Christmas." And the woman calls the police to report a crime.

I would like to see a society in which young women felt empowered rather than be treated as helpless victims of male predation who need state support to walk down the street.

Unless an interaction comes to direct physical assault, the inferior position of the woman is purely psycho-social. It can be overcome. She can choose what to do: a relatively mild but firm, “Leave me alone.” to a stronger “Fuck off!”

That works with most men. And for those who continue to hassle the woman, yes then involve the police.

After all, few want a society in which men can’t flirt with women because of fear of prosecution and because of gender equality considerations woman couldn’t flirt with men either. The good intentions of the article writer pave the road to Hell.

14 December 2010

The student protesters are not just yobs

It is true that among the demonstrators there are yobs who disfigure the movement and cause pointless pain and damage. But in facing the destruction of their education and accelerated levels of police violence, many young people are not inclined to receive pain without payback. And that payback, mostly in the form of petty and symbolic vandalism, is dwarfed by the level of state violence deployed against them.
What leaves me wondering is why a prominent Swedish lawyer and politician, Claes Borgstrom, and then a state persecutor, Marianne Ny, should go to so much trouble to re-open a case which, as far a sex crimes go, is a relatively minor one, even if true – and more than that is almost impossible to prove.

The facts of the case suggest little chance of a successful prosecution if only because the case can only revolve around his word against hers about events occurring during what started out as consensual sex in bed in a private place. Moreover, the subsequent behaviour of the two women point in the direction of malicious accusations.

Some might argue that Claes Borgstrom and his compliant prosecutor want to score points for gender politics by focussing on a prominent but vulnerable individual like Assange. But that hardly makes sense. Across the world the charges levelled against Assange make Sweden look ridiculous.

Added to that, it needs to be explained why Sweden issued a “most wanted” notice to Interpol for the arrest of Assange. Higher authority than Ny must have been involved.

In short, it seems as if the women are not honey-trap agents, but became somebody’s useful idiots after the event. What needs explanation is why the case is pursued by Sweden with such vigour, when Sweden’s best interest would seemly be served by being rid of the man

The nonsense in Sweden's case against Assange

The Swedes say they haven’t charged him, and they just want to question him. Assange says he is prepared to answer their questions; and Swedish prosecutors are in the court hearing today.

Why are Swedish prosecutors prepared to travel to Britain to attempt to get him extradited to Sweden but not to question him in Britain?

Why is it so important that these questions can only be answered in Sweden?

11 December 2010

Kettling: what it means

What we are a seeing is the normalisation of police brutality; and police brutality being used as an instrument of public policy.

Kettling is the process of mass arbitrary arrest by means of detention in street holding pens; incarceration lasts for several hours without food, water, shelter, toilet facilities or medical attention. Often those subject to detention suffer baton beatings and other assaults.

Precisely because this assault on personal and civic liberty has become normal, it is no longer newsworthy.

Kettling is a form of collective punishment in order to intimidate demonstrators and anybody else thinking of protesting in the future. Police now prefer collective punishment through kettling to attempting to apprehend wrong-doers.

9 December 2010

Can the state wither away?

The nation is an imagined community; the state is not illusory at all.

I agree that both Stalinism and social-democracy seek to enhance the role of the state: the former wishes to replace the market and build up state repression; the latter wishes to substitute the market to some degree and expand social welfare. In both cases the instrument is the state.

Marx’s notion of the “withering away of the state” is largely nonsensical. The state, an entity confined by history and geography, is an amalgam of law, administration and coercive violence in which each element is dependent on the other two. To imagine society in the absence of these institutions is fanciful.

The question is not whether the state, but what kind of state.

8 December 2010

For flat rate universal entitlements

Welfare benefits for those with no income should be based on flat rate universal entitlements.

The problem of once better-off workers falling on hard times when they lose their jobs should be dealt with differently. While in work, a proportion of salary should be held in compulsory savings, which becomes available to supplement other benefits in the event of unemployment, sickness or old age. (Sums left in the pot on death would be inheritable).

Some may argue, not without justification, that British salaries are not enough to sustain compulsory savings. That is an argument for higher salaries which would make it possible for people to sustain themselves throughout their working lives.

7 December 2010

Is the British state a threat to socialists?

To what extent could the British state become a threat to socialists? The simple answer is that I don’t know.

My rough guess would be this: the security apparatus monitors anybody who either in opinion or deed questions the existing power structure in Britain. Monitoring of the internet is ubiquitous; and no doubt all our names along with other details are logged.

Yet the number of people who roughly agree with what we say could be counted in the millions, but only very occasionally do they articulate their thoughts on the net or elsewhere. But that still leaves a few thousands of people who do comment or act regularly and who also urge others to do so. It is these people who are identified on security lists.

Britain, though, is not about to throw liberal democracy overboard wholesale and cull its left-wing critics, as per Indonesia 1965 or Chile 1973. Therefore, I see little personal danger. The only adverse consequence might occur in the unlikely event of anybody getting near a ‘sensitive’ position in the British state; they would be blacklisted immediately. I for one can live with that.

4 December 2010

The Meaning of the Wikileaks leaks

The US embassy cables put into the public domain by Wikileaks do not contain any top secret intelligence and hardly tell us anything that we did not already suspect. Nevertheless, they are important in two ways: first, they are highly embarrassing to the US, so those who oppose US imperial power around the world can enjoy the Schadenfreude; and second – and more importantly – they provide evidence for much of what the left has previously believed to be true.

For me the most interesting is the confirmation of the utter subservience of the British government (both New Labour and the Coalition) to US interests. The constant and repeated mendacity of Blair-Brown government is well illustrated; for instance in deceiving the electorate and parliament on matters such as the outlawing of cluster bombs for PR purposes while clandestinely allowing the US to continue to hold them on British soil.

That Liam Fox gave full details of planned military procurement to the US Embassy hardly raises as eyebrow. Yet it is interesting to note that when the cables revealed that a FDP official had given details of the coalition negotiations in Germany to US diplomats, he lost his job within hours.

Will the publication of these cables do long term harm to the US? I don’t think so. If three million Americans with security clearance had access to this data base, we can be sure the information therein was already common knowledge in Paris, Moscow and Peking. Certainly, publication will force those wanting to cooperate with the US to think twice before opening their mouths to US diplomats, but overall the cables prove something very favourable to the US: for the most part US embassies function properly and orderly in promoting US interests around the world.