C'est nous qui brisons les barreaux des prisons, pour nos frères, La haine à nos trousses, et la faim qui nous pousse, la misère. Il y a des pays où les gens aux creux des lits font des rêves, Ici, nous, vois-tu, nous on marche et nous on tue nous on crève.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Backpedalling of the Beclowned

Last week, Beck was all, like, the science on DDT is 'not a sturdy cornerstone of scientific truth but rather an elaborate tissue of exaggerations and lies.'

This week, Beck is all 'Where did I say that DDT is harmless?'. He's also muttering something about bald eagles, and denies having been shown any links to scientific research, despite being directed to links on this blog, to those at Lambert and Darrell, and to those of his friends at Pure Poison. As Tobias Ziegler noted on the latter blog, all of this could have been ascertained with about 5 minutes googling. Beck must have been too busy googling the latest on Jeremy Sear's grooming habits.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Beclowning Continues

My recent post looking briefly at J. F. Beck's article on DDT and Carson seems to have gotten Beck a little upset.

To recap, Beck claimed that 'In making her case against DDT Carson constructs not a sturdy cornerstone of scientific truth but rather an elaborate tissue of exaggerations and lies.'

Unfortunately for Beck, he attempts to make his case by citing two passages from Carson that don't actually have anything to do with DDT. He then goes to claim that 'no amount of DDT can cause leukemia or any other form of cancer to develop in a matter of months, if ever', and that if DDT is toxic, it is not 'acutely' so. He calls to his aid one researcher named Ames, who apparently says that 'a single cup of coffee contains more potential natural carcinogens than a human will consume of potentially carcinogenic synthetic pesticide residues in a year'.

Beck was called on this stupidity, and began backpedalling and qualifying his inane comments. He also accuses me of stupidity and relies on ad hom arguments to make his clumsy points.

Beck's obfuscation notwithstanding, the facts are clear. Beck has repeatedly lied in order to misrepresent Carson, in order for he followers to be able to demonise an environmentalist.

DDT has been linked, repeatedly, with a range of medical conditions, including forms of cancer. Evidence for this can be found in the links and comments for the previous post, all of which have been duly ignored by Beck. Over time, governments around the world have decided that the costs of DDT outweigh the benefits. (It may comfort Beck to know that its use is allowed in North Korea). The benefits are themselves over-rated, given that insects can be become resistant to the pesticide. Furthermore, concerns about DDT arose long before Carson ever wrote her book, as can be seen from this article from 1945. The article on Marxist-controlled Wikipedia has plenty of detail on the dangers and problems associated with DDT. Like his US-based namesake on Fox, Beck will no doubt prefer conspiracy theorists and smear tactics to anything like evidence.

The Ames Test, whilst legitimate, has been implicated in secret testing by tobacco companies, and is not the 'bullshit' that Beck claims. (Quiggin has links regarding other connections between DDT and Big Tobacco).

Beck tries a bait-and-switch with some irrelevant trivia about Bendiocrab. He then claims that 'No chemical insecticide is without risk – it's a matter of weighing the risks against the benefits'. It's nice for Beck to say this, but nowhere does he explain that DDT has been repeatedly shown to pose many risks. Instead, he lies and dissembles, like many of his fellow 'conservatives' on this issue, in order to smear Carson and environmentalists more generally. As I indicated earlier, it's evident that these people couldn't care less how many people in developed countries develop medical conditions through massive exposure of DDT. All that matters is scoring a cheap political point.

Finally, and bizarrely, Beck invoked one Tim Blair in his little tirade. I can't imagine why, unless, perhaps, like his comrade, Beck has been so intellectually out-gunned that he's feeling immeasurably hurt.


It turns out that Bendi... was misspelt. Beck, true to form, has been big on smear and name-calling in his responses to my posting, but very light on when it comes to actual argument. He doesn't seem to realise the extent of his backpedalling.

Beck in Quadrant:

[A] single cup of coffee contains more potential natural carcinogens than a human will consume of potentially carcinogenic synthetic pesticide residues in a year.

Beck now:

I didn't say "that a splash of ddt is safer than a morning coffee", and neither did Bruce Ames. Ames' point is that the danger to human health from pesticide residues in food is overstated.

Pathetic. Stay tuned.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Beck Beclowned

J. F. Beck, a keen stalker observer of the left, with a penchant for attacking minor publications, gets himself printed in a minor publication. (Well, not actually printed, as Quadrant probably couldn't spare the ink).

In any case, it seems that early environmentalist Rachel Carson was, like all her Green comrades, responsible for malaria deaths, and exhibited a Luddite fear of chemicals. (According to Beck, coffee is worse for you than pesticide).

Or maybe not.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Misconstruing Power

The libertarians and conservatives continue to push for 'small government', seeking minimal encroachment by authorities in individuals' personal affairs. The co-called 'anarcho-capitalists' even propose that no government exist at all. To the extent that state coercion and idiotic bureaucracy are to be avoided, people across the political sphere may agree with this push.

In the case of libertarians and conservatives, this push arises from a complete misunderstanding of power. It appears to be viewed in somewhat medieval terms, wherein power is localised within members of a hierarchy, such as a monarch, or legislature.

Another way to understand power - a more philosophical, and more French reading (I'm think of Foucault and Deleuze, ignored and/or despised by the right) is that power is dispersed throughout a system or society. It has no center. Therefore, even in the case of an idealised 'small government', or even in the case of no government altogether, power and coercion would simply be transferred from agents of the state to private actors. In others words, the overall system would not be one iota less oppressive or coercive; you would merely have different agents calling the shots. The 'hard' forms of coercion (police, military, prisons) would almost certainly remain as is. The soft forms of coercion (education, mental health, etc) would be privatised, but would be no less coercive for all of that. You would still have a judicial system, and you would still have exploitation and domination in the workplace.

Consequently, when attempting to think a small government, we ought to completely reject the infantile notions of conservatism and libertarianism as the medieval misunderstandings that they are.

Here's some music:

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Possible Turning Point?

Of all the state ALP governments, Victoria's is the most adept at spin. Given this, and given the huge majority the ALP has in the lower house (notwithstanding a few lost seats in 2006), I figured they'd be a show-in for the 2006 election.

It may not be so simple. This week, we've seen public servants complaining about poor working conditions, the public complaining about poor quality from the public service, and everybody blaming the government.

Today, intensive care paramedics have resigned in the face of years of poor pay, and dangerously unsafe working conditions:

INTENSIVE care paramedics have resigned en masse outside the Premier's office, warning any resulting deaths are on his head.

The state's mobile intensive care ambulance paramedics are in a deadlock with the State Government over pay and have invited John Brumby to join them for a shift to experience life on the streets.

After months of negotiations, the state's 300 MICA paramedics have taken the unprecedented step of leaving hundreds of their resignation letters and shoulder insignias outside the Premier's office in the city this morning.

The resignations will take effect from early September with MICA paramedics returning to normal ambulance duties - unable to perform intensive care services for heart attack or car crash victims on site.

MICA paramedics face a $6000 fine for talking to the media, but one officer said the Brumby government had treated MICA workers with contempt and that its false promises were putting lives at risk. (source)

Curiously, the union are nowhere to be seen in the media on this issue, and the Herald Sun has deferred to the shadow health minister.

This comes in the wake of almost daily storied in relation to the state's child protection crisis:

The Premier today said at-risk children were being forced to wait because the government could not attract and retain staff.

But he denies any child is left uncared for while waiting to be assigned to a permanent child protection worker.

A whistleblower claims 2000 Victorian children alerted to the Department of Human Services (DHS) do not have case workers. (source)

So, it would seem that Brumby, and the government more generally, have been caught out lying by this whistleblower. It has been rare, over the years, to see the Herald Sun directly attack premiers. They've attacked particular ministers, or departments, but have used the kid gloves approach with Kennett, Bracks, and now Brumby. This could mark an interesting turning point in the run up to the 2010 election. The unions need to pull their finger out, as the Brumby government has treated them with contempt in recent times. Secondly, the Greens need to work on some grass-roots campaigning. There are plenty of (mostly) inner-city areas where the Greens could have a serious chance, if they work hard, and there's plenty of disillusionment in Melbourne's suburbs, where the working masses are fed up with labor, but don't necessarily want to get fucked in the ear by the Tories.

Monday, 3 August 2009

RIP Grods

Best wishes to all concerned on a great blog, and hope to see you all on the internets still.

Friday, 17 July 2009


The title here doesn't refer to the excellent book (and film) of the same name, but rather, some stupidity from yesterday's Herald Sun:

THE mother of Daniel Valerio has broken 16 years of silence to condemn the State Government for failing to stop systemic child abuse.

Cheryle Butcher was 26 when her youngest son Daniel, 2, was fatally bashed by her de facto husband, Paul Aiton, in one of the most notorious child abuse cases in Australian history.

The case led to the introduction in Victoria of laws requiring police and health and teaching professionals to report suspected child abuse...

Ms Butcher, who said she had had counselling for years, said she blamed herself for Daniel's death.

But she believes she was also failed by an incompetent and poorly resourced child protection authority - a system she said was still failing children today.

"Yes, it was happening in my own house. I am the one who has to live with that knowledge for the rest of my life," she said.

"Unless you are me in that situation, I can't explain it. I had no help, no support...

"Nothing is being done, and kids are still dying. Don't let Daniel die in vain. Get some support systems, make counselling available, build refuges for women. As long as the Government keeps screwing up, it will keep happening."

So let's be clear here. If you're a woman with cow dung for brains, and partnered to a psychopath who is systematically abusing your child, it's the governments responsibility to magically become aware of this and fix everything. Right.

I don't like beating people with the stick of 'personal responsibility' - the concept is bunkum to somebody nurtured on Nietzsche and psychoanalysis - but this mother was complicit in the murder of her son. Governments cannot raise children - only parents, families, and communities can. To expect otherwise is itself a disgrace.

The resources Ms Butcher mentions - counselling, refuges - certainly exist. Any woman in Victoria can be provided with emergency accommodation if it helps her and her kids flee a violent situation. Yes, the resources are limited, and not necessarily brilliant. Yes, there are also some basic things expected of the woman (i.e. don't get shitfaced and assault staff, don't bring your psychopathic ex-partner into the refuge, etc). But the resources are there.

Finally, by way of clarification, I should be clear that I think the Victorian State Government, under both Bracks and Brumby, absolutely pathetic on issues of child protection, health, mental health, disability services, housing, and a range of other things. A large number of politicians and senior public servants ought to be sacked, if not shot, for their criminal neglect of Victoria's most vulnerable. Systems need to be rebuilt without the cronyism and backside-covering that infect Victoria's public service to its core. It does not follow from this, however, that the government can or should miraculously solve everything when you are turning a blind eye to the abuse of children.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Support terrorism

Your happy revolutionary has suffered great personal tragedy, and is in mourning.

But he hasn't given up.

Here's a couple of ditties to rouse yer:

Friday, 3 July 2009


Asked if Israel had targeted unarmed civilians, Chris Cobb-Smith, an artillery expert engaged by Amnesty, said it was "very difficult to come to any other conclusion".
Israeli troops forced Palestinians to stay in one room of their home while turning the rest of the house into a base and sniper position, "effectively using the families, both adults and children, as human shields and putting them at risk", Amnesty said.

Israeli forces killed hundreds of unarmed Palestinian civilians and destroyed thousands of homes in Gaza in attacks which breached the laws of war, Amnesty International concluded in a new 117-page report published today - the first comprehensive report to be published on the 22-day conflict earlier this year...“Israel’s failure to properly investigate its forces’ conduct in Gaza, including war crimes, and its continuing refusal to cooperate with the UN international independent fact-finding mission headed by Richard Goldstone, is evidence of its intention to avoid public scrutiny and accountability,” said Donatella Rovera, who headed a field research mission to Gaza and southern Israel during and after the conflict. (source)

Iran and the Left

A theme has developed in the wingnut media, namely, that 'the left' has neglected Iran. This is presumed to indicate either hypocrisy and double standard ('They always criticise Israel!') or tacit sympathy for Ahmedinejad, the Ayatollah, and the mad mullahs who run the regime.

The evidence for this charge lies solely in the claim that leftists have been mute on Iran. They probably have been mute in the News Ltd media, since they don't exist at all within Murdoch empire, but a quick click on the links of my blog, and about thirty seconds googling revealed anything other than silence or complicity when it comes to the Iranian autocracy:

Lenin's Tomb is probably the foremost socialist blog in the UK, if not the world, excluding the large group blogs. Bloggers Richard Seymour and Yoshie have repeatedly tackled the issue of Iran, the elections, and the uprisings. Significantly, this extensive coverage has also encompassed critique of the deceits and conceits perpetuated regarding this crisis by the ruling elites in the Anglophone media.

Slavoj Žižek has published a widely-circulated text supporting the protestors in Iran, and calling for the downfall of the current regime. From a rather different leftist perspective, Chomsky has given this interview on the subject.

In Australia, Mark Bahnisch made some cautious remarks in support of the dissenters. Quiggin looked at things with reference to Obama. Slack @ndy has compiled pro-protestor links, anti-regime, and has criticised a presumed concordance between Ahmedinejad and Chavez. Green Left Weekly expressed solidarity with the dissenters of Iran.

In the US and beyond, there has also been plenty of critical comment on the topic of Iran's sham elections and their aftermath. Minnesota-based Trot Renegade Eye lent his voice of solidarity. Counterpunch has been providing almost daily coverage, including these two pieces. AlterNet had provided a number of pieces on this topic, particularly attacking the lack of freedom of speech. Marxism.com has published multiple pieces int he past week or so - see the link here. Zmag has sharply attacked the democratic pretensions of the regime, as has Socialist Worker.

Now for some general remarks. The above pieces are all well worth reading. Many are sceptical about the possibility of the protestors effecting lasting change. Even greater scepticism is reserved for Ahmedinjad's opponent, Moussavi, whose 'reformist' credentials are regarding by many commenters as dubious, at best. (Interestingly, Žižek is an exception here). All the same, each and every piece is concerned with the welfare of the protestors, and none supports the existing regime in any respect whatsoever.

Another point worth noting is that, roughly speaking, the further left you go, the more decisive the statements you are likely to find in relation to Iraq. Centre-leftists and social democrats such as Bahnisch and Quiggin are far more equivocal than are the socialist and anarchist commenters above.

It goes without saying that everybody of value in the left supports the opverthrow of the existing Iranian regime, and wishes the demonstrators success in their task of liberating Iran.

Finally, the attempt by rightists to pretend that the left are somehow opposed or indifferent to the uprisings in Iran is sheer chutzpah, occasioned by years of controlling both politics and the mainstream press. Not only do these clowns attempt to falsify the past, they are now, increasingly, it seems, trying to distort history as it happens. They must presume that leftist audiences are as stupid and apathetic as their own. It is an ongoing fight to ensure that these deceptions are rectified.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Another Central American Coup

The military of Honduras has reportedly seized power, exiling president Zelaya at gunpoint yesterday. This follows the recent murder by the military of a leftist presidential candidate.

Obama and Hilary have reportedly been tut-tutting the coup, but given that the US has a military base in Honduras, and directly funds the pro-US parties, it is highly unlikely the coup could have occurred with prior US approval, if not direct assistance. Some things never change, regardless of who is in the White House.

At this time, the State Dept has officially condemned the right-wing military coup, and there is no clear evidence that the US has conspired to oust the legitimate president. We shall see what unfolds in the next few days.

'Mission Accomplished'

Despite being immensely unpopular, the Iraqi Government is throwing open the nation's oil fields to foreign investors. As we have seen, oil was the last thing to be economically 'liberalised' by the occupiers and Vichy Government:

Domestic firms, including SOC, are furious, however, that contracts are being awarded to their foreign counterparts.

Jaber Khalifa Jaber, head of the Iraqi parliament's oil and gas committee and a Fadhila MP, said Iraq is under threat from an "economic occupation".

"The companies will just share the oil between the Americans, the French, the British and the Japanese ... just like the Sykes-Picot agreement," he told AFP, referring to the Anglo-French accord that divided up influence in the Middle East in 1916.

The 'Good' War

Simon Jenkins of the Guardian has an article on Afghanistan, with which I find myself largely agreeing:

Vietnam began with President Kennedy's 1963 intervention to keep the communist menace at bay and make the world safe for democracy. That is what George Bush and Tony Blair said of terrorism and Afghanistan. By 1965, despite Congress scepticism, American advisers, then planes, then ground forces were deployed. Allies were begged to join but few agreed.

The presence of Americans on Asian soil turned a local insurgency into a regional crusade. The hard-pressed Americans resorted to ever more extensive bombing, deep inside neighbouring countries, despite evidence it was ineffective and counterproductive.

No amount of superior firepower could quell a peasant army that came and went by night and could terrorise or merge into the population. Tales of American atrocities rolled in. The army counted success in enemy dead. A desperate attempt to "train and equip" a new Vietnamese army made it as corrupt as it was unreliable. Billions of dollars were wasted.

Every one of these steps is being re-enacted in Afghanistan. Every sane observer, even serving generals and diplomats, admits that "we are not winning" and show no sign of doing so.

History is not a forte for most in the mainstream media. As history is occurring now in Iran, for instance, the conservative MSM is attempting to spin the protests as somehow being analogous to the 'colour' revolutions of the former Soviet bloc, protests that the left don't support as the left allegedly admires the Iranian regime's 'anti-Americanism'.

It's not merely the Tory shysters who are to blame, however. Jenkins hits the nail on the head when he says that 'a heavier guilt lies with liberal apologists for this war who continue to invent excuses for its failure and offer glib preconditions for victory.'

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Neoliberal Iraq

"Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, promulgated four orders that included 'the full privatisation of public enterprises, full ownership rights by foreign firms of Iraqi businesses, full repatriation of foreign profits...the opening of Iraq's banks to foreign control, national treatment for foreign companies and...the elimination of nearly all trade barriers'. The orders were to apply to all areas of the economy, including public services, the media, manufacturing, services, transportation, finance, and construction. Only oil was exempt (presumably because of its special status as revenue producer to pay for the war and its geopolitical significance). The labour market, on the other hand, was to be strictly regulated. Strikes were effectively forbidden in key sectors and the right to unionise restricted. A highly regressive 'flat tax' (an ambitious tax-reform plan long advocated for implementation by conservatives in the US) was also imposed.

These orders were, some argued, in violation of the Geneva and Hague Conventions, since an occupying power is mandated to guard the assets of an occupied country and not sell them off."

(p. 6)

Harvey, D. (2007). A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

They're not quite lying...

...But they're hardly telling the truth.

Recently, I've had occasion to raise some concerns about what is arguably one of Australia's leading conservative blogs. The author of said blog is not an idiot, but holds some views that seem to me to be rather off the mark, particularly as regards modernism, feminism, and racism.

On this latter topic, I noticed these comments recently, in an apparent attempt to inflame white resentment:

Again we have the double standard. Whites are held to have wealth solely on the basis of inherited privilege...

The other problem with all the claims about white males being privileged is that it hides an underlying trend in which the real wages of white working class men have been falling since the 1970s.

It's a double whammy: you get paid less in real terms than your father did and at the same time you're told that you should be punished for being privileged - even though there are other groups doing better than you.

This is a deceptive bit of 'reframing', and both the far-right, and the more mainstream ruling elites do it all the time.

Let's take a look at the main substantive claim here, namely, that the wages of 'white working class men' have declined since the 1970s. Whilst it's technically true, it's extremely misleading. The author does not specify his source, but I presume he is referring to this data from the US, where 'real', inflation-adjusted wages peaked in 1972, only to enter steady decline thereafter, with a feeble, if temporary improvement in the late 1990s.

From this chart, we can conclude that it is not only the 'white working class' that has suffered, but all non-farm workers in the US, on average. We might just as easily claim that Black or Hispanic workers' wages have also gone down.

Now, many of the problems that conservatives note in society are genuine. There are plenty of things for people to be aggrieved about. The problem for conservatives is that they can't implicate capitalism in their grievances. This means that they are doomed to misunderstand our wages chart above. Our chart tells us that wages began to decline in the US in the wake of stagflation of the economy, the oil crisis, and the gradual abandonment of Keynesian welfarism for neoliberal economic policies.

We can see further that wages continued their decline under that cherished conservative, Reagan, whose assault on organised labour, and whose transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich has since been known as Reaganomics. By the early 1980s in the US, the seeds were basically sown for the immiseration of workers thereafter, by way of the 'reforms' implemented by Reagan. No mention of this by the conservatives, however.

Furthermore, when wages peaked in 1972, union membership in the private sector was 28%. Today it is 8%. A quarter of all workers in the US earn wages that place them below the poverty line. The minimum wage in the US has repeatedly been attacked as a supposed barrier to employment. Today, it stands a third lower than it did in 1968. (source)

Meanwhile, the pay of CEOs was 26 times that of the average worker in 1965. In 1980, it was 40 times greater. By 2004, it grew to being 500 times greater (source). Clearly, as Mark Richardson said, 'some groups' are doing vastly better than others, however, this is on the basis of class, not race.

It's a shame, really, that rather than form a broad coalition seeking better rights for all, conservatives are all-too-often content to remain silent about their counterparts in power, and choose instead to scapegoat mythical 'liberals', or to indulge in the worst sort of race-baiting. Nonetheless, it has ever been thus, and this is why a better deal for all workers, white or otherwise, will never derive from the dead-end of conservatism.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

A response to AWH

Brett at AWH has a particularly stupid post here, indicating that all differences between right and left are reducible to economics. Further, Brett claims that anarchism is 'extreme right'. Because I'm banned at AWH, and because my attempts at sockpuppeting under various Russian monikers were unsuccessful, I'll include my brief response here:

If economics is the sole means by which you establish a person's politics, you end up with all kinds of stupidity, as you see in this post. Britain's economy under Churchill had an enormous amount of planning, particularly during WWII. Churchill even nationalised the banks, so by your logic, he is therefore a leftist. Ditto Dubya. Reagen greatly increased state control over the economy by means of regulating labour. He must be a lefty too.

Meanwhile, the most noted anarchists in history - Proudhon, Kropotkin, the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists, Chomsky - are all firmly on the left.

I presume this post was just another pathetic attempt to claim Hitler was a lefty. Attempt failed.

Damn these guys are stupid.

'Socialism' under Obama

Some people are saying that the GFC has plunged Obama's US into socialism.

But then, some people are morons.

(Chart taken from here).

Conservatism and Fascism

The following has been taken from Paxton's The Anatomy of Fascism:

Italian and German conservatives had not created Mussolini and Hitler, of course, though they had too often let their law breaking go unpunished. After the Fascists and the Nazis made themselves too important to ignore, by the somewhat different mixtures of electoral appeal and violent intimidation...the conservatives had to decide what to do with them.

In particular, conservative leaders had to decide whether to try to coopt fascism or force it back to the margins. One crucial decision was whether the police and the courts would compel the fascists to obey the law. German chancellor Brüning attempted to curb Nazi violence in 1931-32. He banned uniformed actions by the SA (Sturmabteilung, i.e. brownshirts - THR) on April 14, 1932. When Franz von Papen succeeded Brüning as chancellor in July 1932, however, he lifted the ban...and the Nazis, excited by the vindication, set off the most violent period in the whole 1930-1932 constitutional crisis. In Italy, although a few prefects tried to restrain Fascist lawlessness, the national leaders preferred, at crucial moments, as we already know, to try to "transform" Mussolini rather than to discipline him. Conservative national leaders in both countries decided that what the fascists had to offer outweighed the disadvantages of allowing these ruffians to capture public space from the Left by violence. The nationalist press and conservative leaders in both countries consistently applied a double standard to judging fascist and left-wing violence.


Conservative complicites in the fascism's arrival in power were of several types. First of all, there was complicity in fascist violence against the Left...Mussolini's squadristi would have been powerless with the closed eyes and even the outright aid of the Italian police and army. Another form of complicity was the gift of respectability...Alfred Hugenberg, Krupp executive of the party that competed with Hitler most directly, the German National Party (DNVP), alternately attacked the Nazi upstart and appeared at political rallies with him...But while Hugenberg helped make Hitler look more acceptable, his DNVP membership drained away to the more exciting Nazis.

We saw...that the Nazis received less direct financial help from business than many have assumed. Before the final deal that put Hitler in power, German big business greatly preferred a solid reassuring conservative...to the unknown Hitler with his crackpot economic advisors...[B]usiness contributions did not become a major resource for Hitler until after he attained power. Then, of course, the game changed. Businessmen contributed hugely to the new Nazi authorities and set about accommodating themselves to a regime that would reward many of them richly with armaments contracts, and all of them by breaking the back of organized labour in Germany. (pp. 99-100).

On the 'socialist' misnomer:

Fascists had also found a magic formula for weaning workers away from Marxism. Long after Marx asserted that the working class had no homeland, conservatives had been unable to find any way to refute him. None of their nineteenth-century nostrums - deference, religion, schooling - had worked. On the eve of WWI, the Action Française had enjoyed some success recruiting a few industrial workers to nationalism, and the unexpectedly wide acceptance by workers of their patriotic duty to fight for their homelands when WWI began foretold that in the twentieth century Nation was going to be stronger than Class.

Fascists everywhere have built on that revelation...As for the Nazi Party, its very name proclaimed that it was a workers' party...Mussolini expected to recruit his old socialist colleagues. Their results were not overwhelmingly successful. Every analysis of the social composition of the early fascist parties agrees: although some workers were attracted, their share of party membership was always well below their share in the general population. (p. 103).

Also, Wikipedia has some reasonable information about the Nazi's attempt to position themselves as a workers party that aimed to include the middle class, and which utterly rejected Marxism.

And whilst I haven't quoted the relevant passages at length, the final power grabs of both Hitler and Mussolini came courtesy of conservatives attempting to form coalitions. We can conclude that whilst conservative and fascism are not the same thing, neither has anything remotely to do with leftism, and leftism is not implicated in the rise to power of fascists in Italy and Germany.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Some reflections on ideology, Zionism, and fascism

In response to an excellent and timely piece by Richard Seymour, debunking the myth that fascism was a leftist political movement, I provided some brief thoughts of my own, when the subject turned to Zionism. I've done a little reading in this area of late, and this are my current thoughts, ever provisional:

I think there's a tendency to simplify Zionism. Zionism came in many different forms - left and right, religious and secular. The ruling ideology of Israel is probably best understood as simply violent national chauvinism, perhaps with a few Zionist features thrown in, but not strictly identifiable with Zionism.

I think also that the tendency for the lunar right to support Israel is tactical, in many cases. Paxton makes the point that if fascism were to come to the US, it would steer clear of the repugnant symbols of the fascism of old (i.e. jackboots, swastikas, etc). It makes sense that budding fascist groups would view Muslims as the enemy, and would therefore support the IDF's efforts against 'terrorism'.


Maybe the ruling powers in Israel have some fascist tendencies. However, when we look at the most belligerant of Israeli hawks, look at their rhetoric and, more importantly, their actions, there's little that's specifically 'Zionist' about it. They might as well be chauvinist thugs from Russia or anywhere else.
Obviously, we cannot ever accept Zionism as a legitimate solution if we are universalist and internationalist. That goes without saying. But I wonder if Zionism is to the ruling Israeli elite what German Romanticism was to the Nazis - a necessary, but hardly sufficient condition.

Human trafficking

Here is a great resource for anybody interested in the sex trade, and human trafficking.

Courtesy of Hossam.

GFC hits Ireland

Shane MacGowan forced to get teeth.

From this:
Shane MacGowan

To this:

Shane MacGowan and his new teeth

Let's remember the good old days, of lilting folk songs:

And, for your patience, for those of you of my generation, you'll remember tolerating Mr Valentine's antics in order to hear this unzud classic:

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

'The fashionable ideas of the left'

I've had previous occasion to disagree with Mark Richardson, self-identified 'traditional conservative'. He's at it again today in a post on racism:

There's a fashionable idea on the left that whites invented the concept of race in order to gain an unearned privilege by oppressing others. Therefore, whites are held to be uniquely guilty of preventing the emergence of human equality.

It's hard to know if Richardson is being disingenuous here, or if he's just plain ignorant. Anyway, for his enlightenment, I left him the following response:

Firstly, the notion of race did emerge in its most elaborate form in Europe. This wasn't done to obtain 'privilege' or other such nonsense, but to justify brutality at the expense of colonised peoples. It's a recurring pattern you can find in relation to England, Nazi Germany, imperialist France, fascist Italy, etc. There's overwhelming evidence that this was the case, and I am quite happy to point you to numerous references if you think otherwise.

Secondly, whilst it's quite possible to find examples of various kinds of non-white racism, there is no historical precedent for the racism exhibited by Europe toward the rest of the world. Remember, by the 19th century, pretty much the entire world (with a couple of notable exceptions) was the property of one European power or another. This might give you some idea as to why the ideologies underpinning European racism are of somewhat more interest than racism by Inuits or Khmers.

Finally, as you know full well, 'diversity' has always been evident in Australia, from the time of the Aboriginals onwards. It cannot be got rid of. What we are seeing today, albeit, in the form of limited, localised examples (Cronulla, Camden), are thick-headed would-be brownshirts trying to impinge on the rights of those they see as the enemy (typically Muslims or middle-easterners). There people, whilst on the margins, have nonetheless formed organised groups to further their cause. Can you point us to any nascent fascist groups run by Vietnamese or Somalians that are promoting racist hate, or is post yet another ugly exercise in quashing strawmen and pinning moral responsibility exclusively to minorities?

Looking at the output of Richardson and his followers, 'traditional conservatives', I'm struck by the preoccupation with themes of racial and cultural purity homogeneity, the need to restore patriarchal arrangements, the reduction of relations between the sexes (and the nations) to biology, the strident opposition to both leftism and liberalism, the niggling sense of grievance and resentment, as if White Australian Males were the most oppressed group on the planet...
Let me be very clear - I'm not suggesting Mr Richardson is a fascist. But take these precise views, add the slightest hint of radicalism to them, and what you'd end up with is a creed that is formally indistinguishable from the brownshirts of old.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Tell Me Lies about Vietnam

Where else but in The Australian do we see a shameless attempt to re-fight old culture wars, and bring back to life the long-since discredited spectre of the 'domino theory'? A fellow named Colebatch has decided that the domino theory was 'largely borne out' in events in South East Asia and Eastern Europe. Colebatch avers that we cannot allow 'Western military defeat' in Afghanistan, whatever this means, as Europe, having a large minority of Muslims, would be in strife - 'jihadist elements would be encouraged everywhere.'

This is the sort of imperialist bullshit that one expects to find on the stupidest of right-wing blogs (or in The Australian). There are lies and distortions from almost the first line. Take the claim that the domino theory was demonstrated in 1975, because 'Cambodia and Laos fell as, and plainly because, Saigon fell'. Putting aside the mass carnage wrought by US forces on all three Indochinese countries in this period, (strengthening support for the Khmer Rouge in particular), Cambodia went down the revolutionary path in spite of the Communists winning the war in Vietnam. It was actually the latter who eventually liberated Cambodia in 1979. Opposition between Vietnam and Cambodia was itself sympomatic of the Sino-Soviet split, wherein Cambodia was backed by China (and armed by Western Europe and the US), whilst the Vietnamese were backed by the Soviets. Hardly an example of 'domino theory'.

This shoddy, dishonest logic is at work throughout the piece, where Colebatch makes vague and sinister claims that defeat in Afghanistan (a campaign largely concerned with aerial bombings these days) will have 'consequences' for the West, because of the latter's supposedly latent radical Muslim population. In addition to the shameless bigotry, Colebatch insists that this scenario 'puts Australia's commitment of an additional 450 troops there into perspective'.

Indeed it does, but not in the way that Colebatch thinks. Once the 'good war' to Iraq's fiasco, Afghanistan has, for a long time, been a 'quagmire', where Coalition forces have supported all manner of butchers, warlords, and (despite official rhetoric) Islamists, for reasons that were dubious in the beginning, and utterly unjustifiable now. Casuistry such as the domino theory aside, there can be no military solutions to what are longstanding political problems.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Chomsky on 2009

Here's a wide-ranging interview transcript with the indefatigable Noam Chomsky. Some highlights:

On the economy:

In fact, if you look today, it's quite striking to see the advice that the Western powers are following, the programs that they're following, and compare them to the instructions given to the third world.

So, say, take Indonesia again. Indonesia had a huge financial crisis about ten years ago, and the instructions were the standard ones: "Here is what you have to do. First, pay off your debts to us. Second, privatize, so that we can then pick up your assets on the cheap. Third, raise interest rates to slow down the economy and force the population to suffer, you know, to pay us back." Those are the regular instructions the IMF is still giving them.

What do we do? Exactly the opposite. We forget about the debt, let it explode. We reduce interest rates to zero to stimulate the economy. We pour money into the economy to get even bigger debts. We don't privatize; we nationalize, except we don't call it nationalization. We give it some other name, like "bailout" or something. It's essentially nationalization without control. So we pour money into the institutions. We lectured the third world that they must accept free trade, though we accept protectionism.

On party politics in the US:

I mean, we basically are a kind of a one-party state. I think C. Wright Mills must have pointed this out fifty years ago. It's a business party, but it has factions—Democrats and Republicans—and they're different. They have somewhat different constituencies and different policies. And if you look over the years, the population has—the majority of the population has tended to make out better under Democrats than Republicans; the very wealthy have tended to make out better under Republicans than Democrats. So they're business parties, but they're somewhat different, and the differences can have an effect. However, fundamentally, they're pretty much along the same lines.

On healthcare in the US:

I mean, for decades, the healthcare issue has been right at the top of domestic concerns, for very good reasons. The US has the most dysfunctional healthcare system in the industrial world, has about twice the per capita costs and some of the worst outcomes. It's also the only privatized system. And if you look closely, those two things are related. And the privatized system is highly inefficient: a huge amount of administration, bureaucracy, supervision, you know, all kinds of things. It's been studied pretty carefully.

On the potential for a rise in fascism:

Now, if you listen to early Nazi propaganda, you know, end of the Weimar Republic and so on, and you listen to talk radio in the United States, which I often do—it's interesting—there's a resemblance. And in both cases, you have a lot of demagogues appealing to people with real grievances.

Grievances aren't invented. I mean, for the American population, the last thirty years have been some of the worst in economic history. It's a rich country, but real wages have stagnated or declined, working hours have shot up, benefits have gone down, and people are in real trouble and now in very real trouble after the bubbles burst. And they're angry. And they want to know, "What happened to me? You know, I'm a hard-working, white, God-fearing American. You know, how come this is happening to me?"

That's pretty much the Nazi appeal. The grievances were real. And one of the possibilities is what Rush Limbaugh tells you: "Well, it's happening to you because of those bad guys out there." OK, in the Nazi case, it was the Jews and the Bolsheviks. Here, it's the rich Democrats who run Wall Street and run the media and give everything away to illegal immigrants, and so on and so forth. It sort of peaked during the Sarah Palin period. And it's kind of interesting. It's been pointed out that of all the candidates, Sarah Palin is the only one who used the phrase "working class." She was talking to the working people. And yeah, they're the ones who are suffering. So, there are models that are not very attractive.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The Bubble

This post is largely unreferenced, though I've been reading a number of sources in recent days, including Business Spectator, and the highly recommended Bubblepedia, and these are my reflections.

Banks, property developers and governments, State and Federal, have been colluding to keep the housing market inflated. This has failed in the top end of the market, where housing prices have already dropped significantly (good news for those who need a bargain house in Toorak), but has kept the lower end of the market (often defined as reaching $400 or $500k!), dominated by first home buyers, in a bubble.

Everybody, from real estate spruikers, to government ministers, has been saying that now is the time for first home buyers to jump into the housing market, as the market has hit its 'bottom', and will only be going up.

The behaviour of these people belies their words. For instance, the government has struck an agreement with banks to guarantee mortgages for 12 months, in the instance of the borrower being unemployed. Banks themselves appear to be tightening their lending criteria. The first home buyers grant has been extended until June 2009, and lobbyists are campaigning for it to be continued, and even extended to other parts of the market.

So why are first home buyers being asked to sign themselves up for a mortgage now? The answer is greed. With all other home buyers and investors slowing down their purchasing activity, first home buyers are being asked to play the patsy for property developers and banks, perpetuating the housing bubble.

All this would be one thing if we held to the belief that housing prices will rise forever. If they continued to rise at about 8% per year, as they have, until recently, then nobody would have anything to lose. The borrower would have no negative equity, and the banks would not be exposed to any great risk in the event of a default, as the house would have risen in price anyway.

Despite the Pollyanna attitude of some industry spruikers, there are some good reasons to believe that the market will not continue to magically inflate.

For starters, the RBA has already dropped the cash rate to 3.25%, a discount which the banks are not passing on in any case. Whilst in theory, the RBA can go even lower than this, it is difficult to see the use of monetary policy if the RBA is at odds with the banks.

Secondly, the much-mooted housing shortage is, at least in part, a fabrication. Yes, there is a dire shortage of housing for those sleeping rough, or couch-surfing, or living in caravans, or on the years-long government waiting lists. These people, however, are not like to be purchasing a home in the near future, and the shortage of housing for them is not pushing up housing prices for everybody else. A recent stat in the Age's Good Weekend stated that 77$ of Australian homes have a spare bedroom. I'll believe there is a genuine housing shortage when I see shanty towns on the outskirts of Melbourne.

Unemployment rose half a per cent in March 2009, to hit 5.7%. This doesn't take into account under-employment. For years, governments have considered you 'employed' if you didn't receive benefits, or if you worked an hour a fortnight. Unemployment is tipped by many forecasters to hit around 7.5% by the end of the year. Some have said it will double from current levels. All of this will eat into demand.

The first home owner's grant is due to expire, and arguably, has not actually increased demand at all, but rather, brought it forward by placing an end-date on the handouts. Even if this waste of money is extended, it is unlikely to be able to keep house prices afloat indefinitely. Housing in Australia is among the least affordable in the world, when considered in relation to income. Virtually every developed nation has suffered massive drops in housing prices since the GFC. It is difficult to see how Australia can escape the same outcome.

In view of this, first home buyers who purchase now are exposing themselves to enormous risk, and are propping up the housing bubble at their own expense. Many of them will be among the most vulnerable to unemployment in the coming recession.

It is in the interest of banks, therefore, to pretend that the bubble cannot burst, and to keep the housing market inflated. Should you have deflation in the market, coupled with rising unemployment and defaulting borrowers, the housing market will crash even further. Banks will face severe losses, mortgage guarantee or no. This is especially so when we look at the risks some of the big banks have been taking. I read recently that about 20% of all first homeowners have a loan-to-value-ratio (or LVR) of between 95-100%. Anotyher 25% have a LVR of between 90-95%.

In short, Australian banks have been gambling, and have exposed themselves to something akin to the sub-prime fiasco in the US. (Of course, the big banks in Australia have fewer 'toxic assets', as I understand it, because they have been less inclined than their US counterparts to bundle loans into securities). If it were simply a matter of a few banks failing, most people would allow their passing to go unlamented. After all, the deregulation of the Keating era, supposed to bring greater competition, and therefore better prices and service, has failed. The punter on the street knows that if you walk into a bank and blink, you get hit with 17 different kinds of fees.

The problem is that, by now, we know how this tune goes. If banks go bust, the Australian economy will be held to ransom. Government and taxpayers will become a utility of the banks, rather than the reverse. Banks will have gambled, and lost badly, and the taxpayer will be left to foot the bill.

So whatever happens, there are no winners. Either we have the rather unlikely outcome of the housing bubble continuing, in which low-income earners are barred from ever owning a home. Alternatively, we have a crash, and the greed of banks and others will be paid for by ordinary Australians. Naturally, this is an over-simplification, and there are some other complexities, but these are the basic parameters of the current situation. And yes, the speculation on the part of banks, and the greed of develops and investors, acting as parasites on first home buyers by gamlbing on assets is part and parcel of neoliberalism.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Direct Democracy

Some 'populist' responses to the GFC:

Wall Street, according to one banking executive, is on red alert. "We are worried about a mob mentality. People are angry about the economy. And Wall Street is an obvious target."

Yes, it is.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Demographic Warfare and IDF 'self defence'

'Every successful joke indicates a victory against the inhibition that critical reason imposes on thought in the normal waking psychic state. Unlike dreams, there is no need for secondary elaboration or disguise to escape censorship. ' (source)

'Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children's graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques - these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty...

There are also plenty of shirts with blatant sexual messages. For example, the Lavi battalion produced a shirt featuring a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises, and the slogan, "Bet you got raped!" A few of the images underscore actions whose existence the army officially denies - such as "confirming the kill" (shooting a bullet into an enemy victim's head from close range, to ensure he is dead), or harming religious sites, or female or child non-combatants.' (source, and here)

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Conservatives and the GFC

Conservatives seem to have major problems when it comes to admitting the dangers of capitalism. They're quick to criticise the perceived decline of society, but utterly unable to acknowledge that consumer capitalism may have at least something to do with this. Some of them seem to hate immigration, but just don't get that immigration, in Australia, at least, has been necessary for the economy.

This ducking and weaving has morphed into full-blown lying with the advent of the global financial crisis (GFC). The race has been on to find a way to spin this crisis as being firstly, the fault of the US Democratic Party, and secondly, to blame the GFC more generally on government intervention, 'socialism', etc.

Now, unless you're a complete half-wit, it should be clear that the GFC had multiple causes. It was, (to use a Freudianism) 'over-determined'. Not for John Ray, who insists that the GFC was caused by Dems and poor people:

[T]he financial meltdown was caused by worthless mortgages -- mortgages that were forced on banks by such Democrat-sponsored laws as the "Community reinvestment act" and harassment of bank officials by such hard-Left organizations as ACORN. The fact of the matter is that "the cause of all this misery was the market suppression that they [Democrats] promoted so messianically".

This refrain is becoming increasingly familiar.

What Ray doesn't tell you is that the Community Reinvestment Act has been in place since 1977, and has survived several Republican administrations. Obviously, the claim that the GFC is attributable to a single political party is therefore bullshit.

Moreover, as recently as 2007, Ben Bernanke was recommending that the Act be extended by way of expansion of Fannie Mae and co. The GFC was not the by-product of excessive regulation, but rather, under-regulation. Analysts have noted that the banks may have had a whole series of reasons for engaging in 'predatory' lending practices, and the said practices were not effectively monitored by any regulatory agency. We can conclude, therefore, that simplistic claims of the nature 'regulation=GFC' are also bullshit.

I've often suspected that lefties could benefit from more knowledge on economic matters, but it appears that conservatives are outdoing everybody else when it comes to ignorance. Then again, interventions such as Ray's are not so much about economics as they are class-warfare.

A number of hard-right characters have noted, perhaps correctly, that a crisis such as the present is the ideal time to engage in bare-knuckle class warfare, and recruit a few budding fascists to the cause. See the recent BNP opportunism in England, where the latter party rode on the coat-tails of striking workers to promote their cause.

But back to the GFC. Not only did regulation not cause the crisis, the low-income US borrowers - holders of 'worthless mortgages' according to Ray - also did not cause the crisis. The poor did not securitise the loans, and sell them for profit. The poor were not speculating in the derivatives market, or allowing China to purchase US debt whilst exporting cheap goods. The poor did not instigate a range of incentives for executives to oversee sub-prime loans in the first place. The poor did not globalise the economy and financial markets. And, finally, it was not the poor who, in the wake of the dotcom collapse early in the noughties, lowered the US interest rate to stimulate growth.

I encourage others to read up on this topic. Nonsense such as Ray's will be repeated ad infinitum in the coming years. We should combat it with facts, before it sediments into 'history'. Information on this is widely available, and the views of Ray et. al. easily discredited.

And finally, for those who are genuinely concerned about the poor, and the GFC, do the right thing, and kick a lying 'conservative' in the head.

Monday, 19 January 2009

News in Brief

As we saw in the previous post, the wages of low-paid workers have often not kept up with inflation.

Adding insult to injury is a report that found that 41& of employers surveyed had cheated workers out of their wages. Most of the workers in question were young and low-paid.

Back to the Gaza Strip - Crikey has a decent wrap for a change. Note in particular the story about the doctor.

Finally, those well-known neo-Nazis at the Jerusalem Post have suggested that the Israeli Government should make the most of recent bloodshed, and grab a '$4 billion opportunity' by seizing control of gas reserves off the coast of Gaza. The ostensible reason for the proposed gas grab is to prevent any royalties being given to Hamas, apparently becuase in 'June 2007...Hamas violently ousted Fatah from power in the Gaza Strip, claiming ownership of the gas fields off the coast and the proceeds from the sale of the gas.'!

Ousted, voted in, who can tell these days?

Wading Through Economic Filth

On the political Ozblogosphere, Queensland seems to throw up some fairly degenerate characters. From illiterate stalkers, to ex-Nazis obsessed with 'race theory', the Sunshine state appears to be struggling to produce non-idiotic 'conservative' opinion.

The latest such case is Leon Bretard, who claims to have 'pwned' me. Unfortunately for Leon, he's shot his pwning wad a little prematurely, and now has something of a mess on his hands.

Economic Filth
The crux of Leon's claim revolved around an economic argument, or, more precisely, two economic propositions.

The first proposition concerns what Leon calls the 'pseudo-economic left wing union theories about higher wages helping the economy'. Bear in mind that this article was pilfered from economist Harry Clarke, and Leon appears to have completely misunderstood it. In response to claims that higher wages can help an economy in recession, I said:

His [Harry Clark's] argument is that with reduced demand for labour, increased wages will contribute to unemployment. Fair enough. The other side of the coin is that reducing wages contributes to a decline in aggregate demand. Note that Harry himself does not reject this assumption. Consequently, wage cuts/freezes are no magic bullet to solving the economic crisis, particularly since, being in a global economy, no amount of wage cuts will bring labour costs in line with SE Asian levels, for instance.

This is one of the problems with capitalism. Whilst higher wages might, in theory, produce a higher aggregate demand, the potential for unemployment would offset this. I agree with Harry on this point, and nothng I've said points to the contrary.

However, it doesn't follow from this first proposition that a second proposition, (namely, cutting wages will help an economy is recession), is true. This is equivalent to saying that putting a leg of lamb in the fridge will give you a better slow roast. The myth that cutting wages will fix recession is comprehensively debunked here:

Reducing real wages–and thus reducing the capacity of workers to purchase output–may boost profits in real terms by skewing the distribution of real income further in favour of capital. But it will undoubtedly impact on some capitalists badly–not makers of sports cars perhaps, but certainly those who run supermarket chains–and the aggregate effect is a toss-up.

That is to say, cutting, or freezing wages (which during periods of inflation amounts to the same thing) leads to less spending, which in turn can create deflationary pressures. Furthermore, it is by no means guaranteed that cheaper labour costs will automatically result in an increase demand in labour, since the hiring of staff generally hinges on a range of differrent factors. For every worker or family who falls into poverty as a result of lost wages, additional burden is placed for supports onto either the Government (i.e. taxpayers) or NGOs (who are funded by a combination or private fundraising and taxpayers).

Issues of social justice aside, it is perfectly clear that you cannot 'fix' a recession by the wholsesale cutting of wages. Leon calls this argument 'stupidity', but is apparently unable to provide a single counter-argument in response. Evidently, even he doesn't believe his own bullshit.

The Myth of Prosperity

Imbecility is added upon imbecility when Leon claims that the Howard years in Australia were a period of unbridled prosperity, that all workers are better off, etc. This is nonsense. I've written before that the data suggests that many Australians have actually become worse off during the 'boom', through increased casualisation, additional working hours, increased 'mortgage stress', higher rates of poverty, etc.

Let's take a look at the claim the 'real wage growth' was increased for all Australians. Firstly, recent wage growth has been vastly higher in particular states and particular industries. It should be no surprise that wage increases are almost double in the mining state of WA compared to states such as Victoria and NSW. Miners were clearly the group with the highest wage increases, whilst industries such as communication, hospitality, accommodation, retail, health and community services were either 'very weak' or smallish in terms of wage increases.

One conclusion that we can draw from this is that overall figures for wage growth must be interpreted in view of the fact that wage growth varies widely across industries. A figure showing wage growth overall can mask the fact that negligible wage growth in some sectors is masked by periods of boom in others.

Secondly, to discuss 'real' wage growth, we need to look at the figures for inflation, to be found here. Remember that these figures also conceal some important details, as inflation is calculated by excluding 'volatile' elements, such as the increase in petrol prices during the boom years, and the multiple increases in interest rates under Howard's watch. These figures for inflation minimise the extent to which prices have increased.

Now, if we look at the figures above, we see that the inflation for the year 2008 was consistently well above 4%. In particular, inflation increased by almost 1.5% for the quarter between late 2007 and early 2008. (Inflation continued to rise for the rest of the year, getting as high as 4.9%). During this same period, according to the ANZ data, only the mining and education sectors had wage increases above or around this level, which is to say that the workers of every other industry lost wages in real terms, as any pay increases they received did not keep up with the rate of inflation.

Whilst the RBA attempts to keep inflation with the rang of 2-3%, it has often been outside this range during the Howard years, peaking at 6% during 2000 and 2001. Since 2000, there have been 4 years when the annual rate of inflation was above the RBA's 3% boundary. Leon the Lamentable seems to ignore the fact that anyone whose wages did not increase above and beyond this rate of inflation did not experience real wage growth. Whilst this clearly wasn't the case in a small number of highly prosperous industry sectors (such as mining), growth was hardly universal across the board.

The Case for Wage Claims

Some unions in Australia have argued for wage increases for their members. In this, such unions are only acting in accordance with their member's wishes. We should remember that it was only very recently that workers were asked for 'wage restraint' for fear of alleged inflationary pressures. (NB: Whilst inflation has decreased in Australia as a result of the GFC, it hasn't disappeared altogether).

This is particularly pertinent as '1.2 million workers reliant on award wages have experienced a decline in the real value of their wages in the three years since the introduction of the Howard Government’s new minimum wage setting arrangements.' (i.e. since 2005). 96% of low paid workers actually experienced a loss of real wages in 2007, contrary to the claims of the Orwellian-named 'Fair Pay Commission'.

The thesis that Australia's lowest-paid workers have lost wages in real terms is supported by data from Catholic Social Services, who say that at best, wages for low-paid workers have merely kept up with inflation, and in many (if not most) cases, they have failed to achieve even that.

Once again, we have further evidence of Bretard's economic illiteracy. Not only do low-paid workers have, at the very least, an argument for wage increases, but many other industries have not kept pace with inflation. The Victorian public service, for instance, has not had wage increases higher than 3% at any time over the past few years, meaning that in high inflation years, real wages were actually lost. Calls for workers in these industries to cut wages is therefore a clear example of class warfare, and there is no evidence that any such cuts would miracously lift Australia out of impending recession in any case.

And the rest

Leon makes a variety of other nonsense claims against, most of which are so peurile and inaccurate as to be not even worth acknowledging. He asked why 'the Left' have staged demonstrations in response to Israel's demolition of Gaza. I indicated that this was, among other reasons, to influence Australian Government policy. In turn, he says:

What a lame excuse! Does anyone believe that far-left protests make any difference to Israel's actions? Many people think Israel must be doing something right when extreme lefties are foaming in the mouth over its actions.

Leon can add 'English' to his list of illiteracies, since I never made the claim that protests in Melbourne or elsewhere would directly influence IDF policy. Grassroots politics has many forms, and many functions. One is to influence the positions of one's own government; another is to draw attention to alleged injustice. Bretard must have mistaken blogging for activism if he thinks that such grassroots activism makes no difference. Workchoices was, in large part, overturned by activism, since parliamentary measures were utterly ineffective (given the Coalition's Senate majority). The widespread unpopularity for Australia's invasion of Iraq did not actually prevent the war, but it may well have influenced the use to which Australian troops were put, and the manner in which war policy was handled (i.e. troops were used in training rather than combat roles, conscription for the war was virtually unthinkable, etc).

Leon claimed that leftist criticism of IDF policy is 'undoubtedly' a consequence of anti-Semitism. I asked him for evidence of this claim, and he provided only links to his other posts, all of which are equally lacking in evidence. He must live in a room full of mirrors.

I mentioned, mockingly, in view of Bretard's supposed legal credentials, that maybe 'the Left' had been defamed by Leon tarring them with the brush of anti-Semitism. With his characteristic lack of irony, Leon responds:

THR, there's no such thing as defamation inside a court. Duh!

Another self-pwning. You are having a really bad year, 'comrade'.

If you feel you have a case against me in defamation, you are more than welcome to sue me.

The stupidity here is breathtaking, as if I (or anybody else) would seriously be proposing that 'teh Left' would initiate a class action against blogger, whose only tools are smear, and whose only sources are right-wing talking points. He probably thinks Springsteen's 'Born in the USA' and Neil Young's 'Rocking in the Free World' are pro-US anthems.

Anyway, I've wasted enough time and space on this cretin. When he can mount an honest and intelligent argument grounded in evidence, I'll be happy to engage with him further. Until then, he is merely a troll, and his cartoonish 'arguments' have been refuted again, for the umpteenth time.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

The world's laziest reading group...

...is back in action, here.

A few thoughts on Israel and Palestine

I've been wanting to write something about this earlier, but I'm a little lost as to what to say. Again, Israel are committing atrocities against the Palestinians, and again, their apologists use every bit of sophistry at their disposal to justify it.

Let us be clear - it is Israel that broke the truce. On November 4, 2008, Israel entered Gaze and killed 6 members of Hamas.

Yes, Israel has a right to self-defence. The concept of 'self-defence' has clearly been stretched by Israel to the point of meaningless. Context is important. For an occupied people, battling blockade, ethnic cleansing, and colonial expansion to resist by way of rocket fire is not the same as say, Iran attacking Israel. The only way to make Israel look legitimate in this conflict is to airbrush away its history of brutality.

Israel may very well fail, both militarily and politically. Hamas rockets are still firing, and Israel has largely failed to draw Hamas into open areas of conflict thus far. Should the IDF enter built-up urban zones, both they and the Palestinians will likely suffer massive casualties.

Should Israel fail in its latest military adventure, it is likely that the rightists will take over at the next election. In addition, Hamas will probably see a rise in domestic support, and Iran may well vote in the conservatives. The only possible political victory that may emerge from this conflict is if the people of Egypt use it as a catalyst to oust the US-proxy neoliberal dictatorship in Egypt.

Israel have clearly been targeting civilians and civilian areas, as they did in Lebanon in 2006. Naturally, IDF spokespeople justify the carnage by alleging that every dead civilian is a terrorist.

Israel could have negotiated with Hamas, and have done so before. The alleged failure of Hamas to 'recognise' the state of Israel is purely symbolic. There is no recognition of Palestinian statehood by the Israeli government, so any lack of reciprocal recognition by Hamas is a moot point.

When I have debated these issues on rightist sites, I have very quickly been accused of 'anti-Semitism', as if Arabs were not also Semites. This smear is fairly common on the right. The recent Melbourne demonstration can be viewed on You Tube, for instance. I saw no evidence of anti-Semitism at this demo, yet the right-wing blog Little Green Footballs pieced together a slideshow of alleged anti-Semitism at the event.

Obviously, the charge of anti-Semitism is baseless, particularly when plenty of Israelis, and Jews worldwide, oppose the current slaughter.

For what it is worth, the IDF's latest actions are to be condemned as yet further collective punishment against one of the world's most oppressed peoples. When Israel's relationship to the Palestinians is one of oppressor-oppressed, claims of 'self-defence' are utterly disingenuous. On one point, at least, the rightists are correct - there can be no moral equivalence in this war, given that one side is starving, bombing, shooting, colonising and blockading the other.

Universal moral principles seemingly do not apply when commentators discuss the Palestinians. As per a previous post, it is as if the rightist defenders of Zionism have appropriated postmodern discourses on identity politics to justify Israel's moral exceptionalism. I have wondered aloud elsewhere whether these apologists would be so quick to defend the actions of, for example, a homosexual or Roma state.

None of this should be interpreted as 'support' for Hamas, though Hamas, like everybody else, has the right to defend itself. Religion can be incidental to liberation politics, but I see no reason to believe that religion alone, in the absence of a liberation agenda, can free the Palestinians in a political sense.

There is a wealth of information available on the internet, and the links are coming too quickly for me to list all of them. I personally recommend that all interested readers take a look at the writings of Richard Seymour and the much-maligned Robert Fisk.

On a positive note, the level of protest around the world has been heartening. The first goal must be an immediate ceasefire, preferably not on Israel's terms. Secondly, there must be negotiations between the Israeli government and Hamas, at least insofar as this latter group are still the elected representatives of Gazans. Finally, a universalist one-state solution is the terminus ad quem to which efforts should be directed. I realise that this is a long way off, but, short of purging the Middle East of Palestinians, Israel will have to contemplate this solution as some stage.

May there be peace and freedom for Palestinians soon, and may all honest men and women from all sides of political discourse express their solidarity with an oppressed and brutalised peoples.

UPDATE: Serial stalker and Australia's dumbest blogger Iain Hall has attempted to critique the above post. Moreover, his purpose in writing seems to be to label me 'anti-Semitic'. His post is full of lies and inaccuracies, and not worth much space here, other than to make a couple of points.

He says:

I don’t know about anyone else but I read his paragraph as saying that Israel does not have a right to respond to the many thousands of rockets fired out of Gaza.

The guff about ethnic cleansing and occupation are just your typical Marxist nonsense. I can only conclude that in Haps eyes the people of Israel are in some sense lesser human beings if they are not entitled to fight back when so constantly attacked and he thinks that they are lesser people because they are Jewish.

In fact, I explicitly said that Israel, like everybody else, has the right to self-defence. I added that this right didn't extend to colonisation, occupation, etc. Pretty straightforward, except to an illiterate like Hall.


1300 dead are claimed but there is some suggestion that this number has been grossly inflated
There is in fact one suggestion of that, appearing in an Italian daily. The Israeli press has consistently reported the higher figure, and one assumes that they have no reason to lie.

Hall then splurts this garbled mess onto the screen:
firstly there is nothing to be gained by Israel targeting those who are actual civilians , the propaganda negatives alone are evident enough from the reactions when the IDF accidentally kills Palestinian civilians . Secondly if the IDF really wanted to massacre the Palestinian people it has more than enough capability to do just that and the death toll from military actions would be in the hundreds of thousands, not somewhere between 5 and 13 hundred.Finally if the IDF were “targeting civilians” the why do we here the reports about the IDF dropping leaflets and the sending of sms Messages warning of impending attacks on Hamas targets. There can only be one reason that Hap runs this line and that is to blacken the Jewish side of this conflict.

Well, it's already been documented that the IDF left vast numbers of cluster bombs in civilian areas in Lebanon, 2006. Various aid organisations have alleged abuses against civilians in the most recent conflict, and the IDF is itself investigating claims, such as the 'inappropriate' (i.e. murderous) use of white phosphorous. Again, all of these claims can be verified by a quick look at the Israeli dailies, such as Ha'aretz.

Hap wants to pretend that none of the dead are Hamas fighters because then it is easier to portray the IDF as “evil” which is consistent with his views about the Jews in general.
Hall is engaged in his usual conjecture and speculation. In any case, hundreds of the dead Gazans were clearly not Hamas fighters. Naturally, Hall doesn't demonstrate how my views on the IDF are 'consistent' with those about the Jews 'in general'. He doesn't do this because he cannot, as it isn't true. Evidence counts, El Stalko, not mindless assertion.


How so is [the Hamas charter] it “purely symbolic”? because Hamas ’s Charter not only fails to recognise the existence of Israel but calls for its destruction…

1. Because all charters are by definition symbolic.

2. Because recognition is itself symbolic, particularly given that the Palestinian terroritories do not have State status as of yet.

3. Because the lack of recognition is reciprocated by the Israeli Government.

4. Because not all of Hamas endorse the Charter, let alone all Palestinians.

Hall then mentions a clearly anti-Semitic poster at a recent Melbourne rally. He claims this shows I was 'one eyed' about the demo I reporter above. Again, Hall demonstrates his room temperature IQ, as the rally I discussed above (also discussed on LGF) was not the same as the one reported by Nilk on AWH. But don't let the facts get in the way...


There is NO balance at all in his commentary here not one concession that the Palestinians in general or Hamas in particular have acted in an unacceptable manner in they way that they have prosecuted their “struggle”.
So unless one condemns all and sundry human rights abuses before criticising the IDF, one is anti-Semitic? Logic FAIL.

The rest is more of the same. It's classic, illiterate gibberish from Hall at his most petty. In defence of his claims that I am anti-Semitic, he fails to produce a single piece of evidence. He makes the following claims:

In short Hap is an anti Semite because:

(in no particular order)

He refuses to acknowledge that Jews in Israel should not be subject to attack from Hamas rockets. In fact he supports such attacks.

No, I explicitly said that Israelis had a right to self-defence.

He calls for the destruction of the state of Israel which would mean that the Jews there would either be killed or “driven into the sea”.

Hall gives no evidence of this. Calling for Israeli to become democratic and secular, as I have done, is the opposition of calling for its 'destruction'.

He hides behind semantics of the term “Semite”

I noted, correctly, that Arabs are also Semites. Since Hall cannot produce a single instance of anti-Jewish bigotry on my part, you'd think he'd welcome the broadest definition possible. In any case, Hall seems to misunderstand the notion of 'semantics', and the fact that it has no relation to anti-Semitism, real, alleged, or otherwise.

He unquestionably accepts the worst case examples in all sources when it comes to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. he does not even have the semblance of a balanced consideration of the issues.

No, I accept substantiated examples. In any case, not being 'balanced' does not demonstrate racism or bigotry.

He creates the ridiculous straw man argument that an ‘anti- Semite” has to “deny the holocaust” just so the definition excludes him.

There's no definition of anti-Semite that includes me, and Hall knows this well. He's expended many words on the matter without providing a single bit of evidence to the contrary.

Finally given the fact that Hap hacked my email and blogging accounts last year for the most malicious reasons it is the hight of hypocrisy for him to seek to justify his rancour on the basis of my internet behaviour when his own is nothing short of despicable.

Forgive him comrades, because he is but a poor deluded Marxist who believes that the ends justifies the means.

Again, Hall makes assertions that he cannot substantiate. Don't expect a retraction any time soon, folks. Just expect more attack blogs to pop up, like this one:

Finally, whilst Iain; Hall claims to be a 'moral' blogger, we should note that he has considerable form when it comes to hurling false allegations of anti-Semitism. It's a tactic he's used with bloggers before, having attempted to discredit opponents by way of identity theft. This site has plenty more information about Hall's long history of similar behaviour. Some morality.