The Partisan
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 31 December 2008


There's an interesting footnote to Australia's culture wars happening in the Australian today.

A couple of academics have written a book arguing that Howard's brand of 'conservatism' actually incorporates some elements of postmodernism, such as social constructivism:

Howard's battler, melded from largely left-wing folk stories, but with the anti-imperialist strain omitted to suit Howard's vision, is a classic example of such social constructivism. (source)

Cue predictable gnashing of teeth from the right.

Saturday 6 December 2008


Welfare and related industries in Australia routinely shaft their employees, in terms of pay, workload and working conditions, and occupational health and safety. There are many reasons why I think this occurs, and I may save those for a later post. There are also reasons why I think such workers constitute a kind of proletariat, despite this term traditionally being associated with workers on the factory floor.

In any case, Jesuit Social Services have apparently victimised a union and OHS rep, a matter you can read about here. The most 'progressive' or radical thing that all workers can do is to seek more control in the workplace. To that end, union reps and OHS reps are essential, and it is vital that they be permitted to do their work. For a worker in a 'caring profession', protecting oneself and one's colleagues is every bit as important as assisting one's 'clients'. It is disgraceful that a purportedly Catholic service believes otherwise.

The Bias Police

The Australian Senate has just completed its report on allegations of radical leftist bias in universities:

The committee heard from the Liberal Students' organisation Make Australia
Fair a description of the link between the radical philosophies and teaching practices
in vogue in university education faculties and schools of education, and the likely
application of those ideas in the classroom. Make Australia Fair tabled a 'dossier'
listing academics in education faculties who, it was claimed, share a commitment to
radical activism and who view politics and education to be' different perspectives of
the same reality'. They quoted from another submission to this inquiry to describe
activist methods of teaching as a:

… radical orthodoxy is composed to an almost slavish adherence to various
theories and political commitments associated with neo-Marxism,
postmodernism, deconstructionism, the theories of Michel Foucault, poststructuralism,
discourse theory, feminism, neo-Rousseauianism, radical
environmentalism, anti-Americanism, anti-Christianity, and related

3.29 Make Australia Fair argued that where ideological activism is entrenched in
the academia of education faculties, there is crossover into school teaching. 'After all,
universities provide the theoretical underpinning for school curricula and teaching and
training of future school teachers.'

3.30 The committee has no way of assessing the veracity of this claim, particularly
in regard to what is taught to B.Ed and other trainee teachers, but it suspects that it is
wildly exaggerated. Such content would be beyond the comprehension of many
students for whom it would have no practical use. Such comments as these neither
enlighten the committee nor persuade it of a case to be made. Indeed, the committee
believes that the case That Make Australia Fair makes for the existence of a leftist
conspiracy in education faculties and schools borders on the farcical.

Farcical indeed. Having spent many years - too many, if truth be told - in tertiary institutions, I've seen little evidence of systematic political bias. Academics, like everybody else, do fall victim to fashionable trends, but these trends are not necessarily political, and, if political, are not necessarily related to the 'activist' left.

Indeed, academia is inherently conservative, for most academics are busily defending the status quo that constitutes their little theoretical patch. When students come armed with new approaches that challenge dominant paradigms, they face a far greater burden of proof than those students who merely repeat accepted disciplinary truisms. Throwing down the gauntlet to a large body of work within a paradigm, or challenging academic consensus on a particular topic is always much more difficult than simply taking the line of least resistance, and conservatively endorsing the opinions of one's lecturers.

Now, when will the bias police be called off the ABC?

Tuesday 2 December 2008

Lazy blogging

Uncle Noam has a bit to say on the president-elect:

By usual indicators, the opposition party should have had a landslide victory during a severe economic crisis, after eight years of disastrous policies on all fronts including the worst record on job growth of any post-war president and a rare decline in median wealth, an incumbent so unpopular that his own party had to disavow him, and a dramatic collapse in US standing in world opinion. The Democrats did win, barely. If the financial crisis had been slightly delayed, they might not have.

You can find the article here.

Monday 18 August 2008


This blog will be doing very little for the next three months, as I'll be doing some travel.
Whilst I won't be writing very much, I will be checking in frequently, and keeping an eye on other people's blogs whenever possible. Please feel free to continue leaving comments/suggestions/witty abuse in the comments, or at my email address,

Wednesday 13 August 2008

The Myth of Prosperity

Almost a month ago, I wrote briefly of the need for the environmental movement to be united with workers' movements, particularly in the current context of possible economic downturn. Lo and behold, like Piers Akerman at a table of hors d'oeuvres, I have a fanatic repeatedly popping up at my blog. This fanatic is thrashing about like a fish out of water, gasping for air, and claiming to have 'pwned' me.
The said fanatic claims that the past few years, namely, the Howard years, could not possibly be viewed as anything but prosperous. This narrative is pretty common, particularly in the News Ltd cheersquad. So we see a series of fairly blunt statements in the comments thread, as follows:

[L]iving standards in Australia will continue to rise. If they fall, it will be due to a Greens-model carbon trading scheme.

Inflation isn't that high, particularly when compares to rising wages. As I pointed out on my blog recently, Australians tend to be a bunch of whiners when it comes to prices.

Like most lefties, your economic illiteracy speaks volumes. Go read about 'real growth' over at Wikipedia.

Whiners, eh?

Any discussion of wage rises and 'real growth' ought really to make mention of a well-established fact, namely, that Australians work a very high number of hours compared to other countries; the 40-hour working week is 'dead'. Furthermore, Australia's labour force has become casualised (a whopping 1 in 3 workers are employed as casuals), meaning that more Australian households suffer from uncertainty in terms of future income, as well as no sick or recreational leave, and difficulties in securing credit.

With this in mind, there are two areas I'd like to touch on where the prosperity narrative has been clearly undermined, to all but the most ardent of true believers.

Firstly, as a result of a number of factors, we have seen the emergence of widespread 'mortgage stress'. This latter notion is determined by the number of households for whom 30-35% of income is spent on mortgage repayments.

In 2001, the term mortgage stress applied to about 1 in 10 Australians. According to the ABS, in 2007, this figure was 47% for Australians below the median wage of about $53,000. Or take this (June 2008) article, for instance:

‘The number of households struggling to meet mortgage repayments jumped 15% to 784,000 in May and is likely to reach 923,000 by September, Martin North, head of Fujitsu Consulting, predicted.’

This is in the context of broader economic difficulties for Australians:

‘…The new figures were released as the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that household wealth fell by 15%, or $7500 per person, in the three months to March and the debt-to-asset ratio surged to a record 138%.

"The ratio shows that households do not have sufficient readily liquid assets to cover outstanding debt, highlighting a degree of vulnerability to an economic downturn," said Craig James, CommSec's chief equities economist.’

As one can see, 'prosperity' has been selective in terms of who has received its blessings. Despite Australia's much-vaunted growth during the Howard years, and despite rising wages, many Australians, particularly the most vulnerable, are clearly and significantly disadvantage by the cost of housing.

In addition to increased mortgage stress during the allegedly prosperous years, poverty has also increased. Between 1994 and 2004, the number of Australians living in poverty rose from 7.6% to 9.9% of the population. If a lower threshold is used to define 'poverty' (i.e. if it is defined as living on 60% of the median income), then poverty levels increased from 15.9% in 1994 to 20.4% in 2004, a clear indicator of growing inequality in both relative terms. In absolute terms, Australia's most poverty stricken and vulnerable have been demonised by the Howard government, and their financial lot has not improved.

Despite calls by Rudd for 'wage restraint', and the hand-wringing of the business community, the modest rise in wages for Australia's lowest-paid workers are insufficient to lift anybody out of poverty, particularly given that recent wage increases were below the rate of inflation (i.e. constituted a wage decrease in 'real' terms). This article also contains many useful references on this topic.

In sum, let the fanatics bray with fawning imbecility for 'fiscal conservatism' and Howard. Mortgage stress and rising poverty undermine their thesis, and this is before we have examined inflation, and the soaring cost of fuel and food. Whiners, indeed.

Thursday 7 August 2008

Hayek versus Brezhnev

The libertarians picked up on a recent speech by Rudd, in which he had the temerity to question one of the foremost 'philosophers' of liberalism:

We simply don’t have to choose between Hayek and (former Soviet president Leonid) Brezhnev,” Mr Rudd said.

Of course, the Russians had a poll last year to assess which leader (of the past century) was the best, and which was the preferred era in which to live. The Hayekians might have hypothesised that free market, anti-communist, fire salesman Yeltsin would have got over the line. On the contrary, he was overwhelmingly trounced in popularity by Brezhnev (preferred by 31% as opposed to Yelstin's 1%). Hell, even Stalin got 6%.

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Terrorist Document Found

In the Middle East, a document has been found, threatening violence against British 'occupiers':

A pamphlet warning Britons to leave the Middle East or face death has come to light in a stash of illicit propaganda... It adds: “Most of you have been in this country for quite a long time. You have learned what the word ‘terrorist’ means, some of you may even have come into direct contact with them (and heartily desire not to repeat the experience). But what do you know about them?

Which 'terrorist' group penned this piece? Hamas? Hezbollah? Or somebody else?

Wednesday 16 July 2008


The Age, Melbourne's leading broadsheet newspaper, has an undeserved reputation for leaning to the left. In reality, the paper adopts a series of often meaningless causes in a tokenistic fashion (such as its support for 'Earth Day'). It is harder to find articles on class struggle, or imperialism, or with an anti-corporate message, or anything else that is recognisably 'left'. On the contrary - if we examine the glossier sections of the paper (particularly the lift-outs and magazines) - the paper is filled with expensive consumer items (and not merely as ads) presumably pitched to well-heeled, middle-aged bourgeois types who are happy to regard themselves as 'progressive'.

It was therefore pleasing to note an article included in yesterday's columns, re-printed from the Washington Post. Its author, Dionne, argued that we are presently at an economic juncture equivalent to the Great Depression of the 1930s, or the stagflation of the 1970s, and that we can therefore expect to see significant challenges to neoliberal economic orthodoxy. Dionne doesn't advocate anything too radical, merely additional 'regulation'.

Let us briefly consider the context of this economic moment. In Australia, inflation is higher than it has been for some years. An ailing labour movement has failed to assert itself in the face of this inflation, and some have argued that wages for workers have stalled, in spite of the economy having 'rocketed along'.

In the meantime, we are seeing an unprecedented focus on addressing issues of environmental concern. Or course, the politicians who are discussing carbon-trading schemes and the like are unwilling to consider the possibility that environmental destruction is a symptom of capitalism, and is not going to be cured by this latter economic system. The focus on the climate change pseudo-debate as the centre of environmental concerns is misleading. We do not require complex modelling to note the appalling pollution of many of the world's cities, or the fact of the Mongolian desert, the Gobi, expanding inexorably toward Beijing, or the massive deforestation that continues in developing countries. That industrial capitalism could fail to be implicated in these problems speaks volumes about the dishonesty of our politicians and media.

These problems, economic and environmental, provide a challenge and an opportunity to the left. In Australia, as elsewhere, electoral politics has almost entirely failed to provide left-leaning individuals with genuine representation. Yet almost never before have leftist politics and the critique of capitalism been more relevant or more urgent.

Naturally, a moment of crisis can also be seized upon by the lunatic elements of the right, whose constituent feels the effects of economic calamity just as keenly as anybody else. In addition, perfectly legitimate concerns about globalisation are displaced onto minority ethnic and religious groups. Hence, we see the (re-)birth of 'protectionist parties'.

Our tasks are becoming clearer - to develop a genuine worker's movement, which may mean unshackling trade unions from fat bureaucrats and other careerists, as well as the ALP machinery. Environmental problems are well-explained by a critical, Marxist viewpoint - just like the expropriation of surplus value by capitalists, environmental destruction is absolutely not the raison d'etre of capital. It is, however, its logical and inevitable consequence. This link, between the economic and the environmental, must be made explicitly and repeatedly. Finally, Green movements and parties need to appeal to an economic, class-based constituent, and not merely those who profess 'progressive' views on the environment and other matters. A Greens party whose sole focus is on elections, which cannot muster sufficient votes in working class areas to achieve anything of note, and whose modus operandi is merely to serve as an ideological chorus on the margins of parliamentary politics is a party that is stillborn before it could ever really take off.

Monday 7 July 2008

Ideas - Online Reading Group

I'll be missing in action for the latter months of 2008. When I return, I'd like to set up an online reading group. I envisage that this would be set up on another blog, and would possibly be a group blog. The idea would be for a group of us (and a small group is fine) to work through some meaty texts. Debate and discussion of the text would be encouraged (though not idiotic trolling unrelated to the text), individuals from different backgrounds would be welcome to contribute.

Does anybody have any interest in this sort of idea? If the answer is yes, do you have any proposals as to what it might look like?

Some areas of interest to me are philosophy, politics, history, psychoanalysis, and literature. It seems more worthwhile to me to attempt to work through difficult texts rather than straightforward ones. Having said that, novices are welcome. The aim of all this would be to create a shared online resource, and raise the level of discourse on the blogosphere up a notch or two.

Now whilst I have grand plans of returning late this year to launch into a reading group that looks at Marx's Grundrisse or Lacan's Seminar VII, for instance, I'd like to trial this idea with something much smaller, to see how it works. If it inspires a few dedicated readers in Melbourne, the discussion could also relocate off-line to somewhere suitably scholarly, like a bar. There's also a possibility that discussions could be filmed or audio-taped.

The format I have in mind is that each chapter/passage/few pages would be scheduled in advanced. One reader (probably me in the first instance) could then provide a brief bit of background and response to said chapter/few pages. Everyone else could then respond as they see fit.

Anyway, here are some suggestions for the trial run:

Politics - Maybe a short paper by Marx, or Lenin, or maybe Trotsky's paper on fascism. There are many online resources in this area, which is helpful, as it means people can access the texts for free. Hardt and Negri are also good for a laugh.

Philosophy - Badious and Zizek keep churning out interesting papers on a regular basis, though something a little less contemporary could be an option if people are interested. Some of this stuff is also available online.

Psychoanalysis - Since this area links up with the above two in many ways, as well as a plethora of other areas (sexual politics, anthropology, etc), I think it could be quite interesting if people arrive with an open mind. Some suggestions - Freud's Mourning and Melancholia, for instance, or Lacan's paper on the Mirror Stage.

Literature - I'm less inclined to delve into fiction as the blogosphere (and real world) have lots of reading groups that discuss the latest bestsellers. However, maybe as a trial, we could look at one of Nam Le's recently-published short stories, for instance.

Anyways, I'm very open to suggestions, and I encourage one and all to comment here or email me. A reading group of one is just going to be me taking notes (which I do already), and it's going to be a little sad to broadcast that over the blogosphere. So find something you like, and spare me blushes of embarrassment.

Until then, I'm off to Sydney in a couple of days to spread subversion for a short while. I might check out that bookshop belonging to that Gould chap. I hope to hear from you all in the near-future.

Lies and the Lying Liars who Lie Them

Here are a couple of examples of self-declared conservative Christians peddling sleaze and grossly dishonest propaganda.

Over at AWH, the Crusading Rodent has the scoop on 'Hussein Obama', citing Obama's 'own words', allegedly taken from his book, Audacity of Hope. The quotes include these:

"I found a solace in nursing a pervasive sense of grievance and animosity against my mother's race."

"It remained necessary to prove which side you were on, to show your loyalty to the black masses, to strike out and name names."

"I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction."

Incriminating quotes for rabid rightist who are fearful of blacks and Muslims, no? Except it turns out that these quotes are totally fabricated. This fact was pointed out to Mr Rodent, who not only did not retract any of the post, but kept up the pretence over at his own private blog, where his half-wit readers accept this chain email as gospel. A quick google search tells us that rightist fruitcakes the world over are peddling the above smears as factual. Pathetic.

The same goes for the serial liars over at TMS, who are trying to get us to take seriously the idea that a takeover by union thugs is imminent. Oh, those bad old days (1980s and '90s) of union activism:

That was an age when arrogant young union officials would storm into a job site, kick up a floor board and declare a job site closed.

Much better when arrogant old employers had carte blanche with respect to their employers, eh? We see more lies in this post, even ones that have been pointed out on TMS previously:

Kevin Rudd is a Chavez-loving socialist.

The link providing the 'reference' doesn't work, so I guess we'll never know if this ever-so plausible statement is true.

(He once named Chavez as his mentor).
Really? That'd be news to most people, Rudd included.

Unions are natural communists who hate business and the dynamic market.
No, unions require business and markets, otherwise their members would be out of a job. Actual communists (such as Lenin) frequently criticised trade unionism as a completely inadequate response to the crises of capitalism.

They almost destroyed us back in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
So the unions were to blame for the recession 'we had to have'? Forget macroeconomics or the global market, and blame the ACTU...

In practice, a Labor government under Mr. Rudd would re-regulate economic life. Over the past year he has promised to set up no fewer than 68 new bureaucracies and establish 96 reviews if elected.
None of which has anything directly to do with the 'regulation' of economic life.

He promises to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and commit Australia to a costly program of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to 60% of 2000 levels by 2050.
Er, Kyoto happened several months ago.

His proposed industry policy—constructed by Kim Carr, a declared socialist—would create an uberbureaucracy of 12 Industry Innovation Councils.
Socialists! Uberbureaucracies! I'm feeling faint!

Kevin Rudd is no ‘Mr Innocent’. Don’t be fooled. He is the whitewashed figurehead of an evil socialist regime with the big heavies sitting on his cabinet waiting to do all the dirty work for him and the party.
Take that, Kevin Josip Il Rudd! Thou art now vanquished, o apparatchiks, Politburo denizens, and purveyors of the dreaded gulag!

Liars. Though I had to chuckle when I read what one poor deluded commenter had to say in response:
many believe rudd is a socialist, despite his efforts to distance himself from the communist party.

Which communist party? Russia's? Nepal's? The Freemason and Illuminati Party?

Maybe this one:


Wednesday 2 July 2008


Rick Shenkman asks just how stupid and ignorant are his fellow Americans. Whilst Shenkman unveils a few embarrassing stats demonstrating that US citizens are far more knowledgeable about pop culture than world affairs, I suspect his argument doesn't fly. The picture he paints is not clear evidence of ignorance, still less, stupidity, (though frustrated agitators may interpret it as such). Rather, Shenkman seems to depict an abysmal disconnect between representatives and the represented, and a profound disengagement with politics on the part of the populace. These problems are not limited to the US - things differ here in Australia only in terms of degree, and we delude ourselves if we believe otherwise.

Speaking of politics - a majority of people surveyed in the US (and most other countries) believed that their nation should 'not take either side' in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the US, 71% of respondents adopted this position, a result that is hardly indicative of a dullard population in thrall to Christian Zionist lobbyists and other right-wing cranks. Incidentally, most nations apparently believed that both Israelis and Palestinians did themselves no favours in terms of resolving the conflict.

Now this position is not a 'leftist' position per se - for most leftists, it is perfectly clear who is oppressor and who is oppressed in this 'conflict'. Yes, neutrality is inherently conservative, in so far as it supports and rationalises the status quo. Nonetheless, these results show a US population that maintains rather different political perspectives compared to its elite political class. So much for representative democracy (to say nothing of at least $3 billion per annum in aid siphoned off to a militaristic Israel).

Finally, next to the US is a little country much-derided by the world's policeman. Nonetheless, in news you probably won't be reading in the mainstream media, researchers within this country claim to have developed a vaccine for lung cancer. Clinical trials were yet to be complete, but the vaccine itself will be made available to both locals and foreigners.

Tuesday 1 July 2008

Neoliberalism: FAIL

We have seen before that capitalism, particularly in its neoliberal version, is a thoroughly discredited doctrine.

We have more evidence of this today:

[T]o imagine the IMF investigating the US financial system is unthinkable, or was. But, at the weekend, Der Spiegel reported that the IMF would conduct a full investigation into virtually every aspect of it...
The fact that the IMF is knocking on the very doors of its parents and waving legal papers about who lost the house, the car and the kids will, if the past is anything to go by, be buried in the US by pom-pom waving on CNBC telling all what a great time it is to buy.

But the news that the US Fed has now lost its last vestige of credibility did not end with the German report.
Part of the problem is the US media, which has for so long pretended that all is or soon will be well, a bottom is near, a recovery awaits in the second half of the financial year that will sweep away all problems, sown over decades, in a new expansion, a cycle that is ordained to come. The latest fantasy is that with the quarter's end, new profit figures will invigorate the bull, which will seed fertility.

The next President will be handed at least two wars gone horrible wrong and, by then, an economy in similar shape. The bull will have to be a particularly fertile beast. (source)

It is not for nothing that, in the US, the self-declared most powerful of nations, 36.5 million people were living in poverty as of 2006. The triumphalist flag-bearers of capitalism may some day come to realise that the 'end of history' has arrived at the door just yet.

Thursday 26 June 2008

It's all about who you know

'Who is still standing with the regime in Harare?' asked Jeremy Sear the other day. The short answer - not too many people. For years the Mugabe regime has been brutalising its citizens - this has been well-publicised in the media, across the world. As a 'failed state', we are now permitted to seriously look at a range of options, and engage in the typical hand-wringing: multilateralism versus unilateralism, sanctions, humanitarian intervention, 'surgical' military strikes, the imposition of democracy from above, and so on.

That we are even asking these questions suggests something relatively unique about the Mugabe regime. We should not merely ask who is standing with Harare, but note who isn't. For there are a great many regimes across the world who are more or less brutal to their people. There are many dictators who routinely display their contempt for democracy and its trappings, yet we do not see them on our news.

Why are we not called upon to debate possible 'interventions' for Mubarak, for instance, instead of Mugabe? What about Israel - the analogy of 'apartheid' to describe the occupation is limited - the IDF's actions with respect to Palestinians are indistinguishable from those of Mugabe towards the opposition, Israel's superior technology notwithstanding. Why are we permitted to condemn atrocities in the Sudan, but not the rampant bloodshed in the Congo, or the crushing of the democracy movement in Uzbekistan? Why is Chavez denounced as a 'thug' and 'dictator', when, in the very next country, Colombian trade unionists are murdered on a regular basis?

The only reasonable hypothesis that I can see for this phenomena, whereby the suffering of some victims is noted, and others ignored, is that our media and governments are distinguishing between victims based on the client status of their governments. Brutality in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Central Asia and elsewhere is not merely tolerated, but largely ignored by our foreign affairs politicians and our media. Meanwhile, thuggish regimes who are outside of US hegemony or control are fodder for condemnathons - this category includes Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela (!), Sudan, 'terrorist' Somalia (but not Ethiopia), and, of course, Zimbabwe.

In all of this, I am not suggesting that Mugabe and his cronies are anything other than murderous. Nonetheless, even if such a thing as 'humanitarian' sanctions or military involvement were possible, I would still think it essential to point out that most of the world's 'failed states' are propped up by the US, or some other would-be imperialist (increasingly China and Russia, occasionally still Europe). South Africa is no more morally obliged to 'pressure' Mugabe than are we Australians when it comes to 'pressuring' the US government for its contempt for human rights and human life.

Some interesting polls

I'm reluctant to place too much faith in polls purporting to represent anything as abstruse as 'world opinion', but I've been forwarded a few interesting ones lately that I feel are worth sharing.

Firstly, one poll showed that in 17 of 18 nations surveyed, a majority of participants opposed the criminalisation of abortion. (The exception was Indonesia). This poll included countries whose current laws criminal abortion:

Contrary to their public's preferences, there are criminal penalties for abortion in Egypt, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, the Palestinian Territories, Poland and South Korea.

A second poll has shown that a majority reject the use of torture, even in the mythical 'but it's to prevent terrorism' scenario:

A poll of 19 nations finds that in 14 of them most people favor an unequivocal rule against torture, even in the case of terrorists who have information that could save innocent lives. Four nations lean toward favoring an exception in the case of terrorists.

Support for the unequivocal position was highest in Spain (82%), Great Britain (82%) and France (82%), followed by Mexico (73%), China (66%), the Palestinian territories (66%), Poland (62%), Indonesia (61%), and the Ukraine (59%).

Since the 'strategic' use of torture against terrorists is likely to be 'exceedingly rare', according to this report, it is reasonable to conclude that a majority of people reject the use of torture by their government. These are interesting results in a decade that has seen the decline of liberalism, and should (but won't) give the US government pause for thought with respect to its policies of extraordinary rendition and the like.

Saturday 21 June 2008

More lazy blogging

Here are some search terms that took people to The Partisan:

  • 'nuffers' (x 8)
  • 'get thee behind me satan' (x 7)
  • 'muslims taking over europe' (x 5)
  • 'molto bene' (x 2)
  • 'don't know much bout anything' (x 2)
  • 'underbelly roberta toejam'
  • 'the trouble with libertarians'
  • 'background history of the "russian male"'
  • 'Hegelians 1842 satanic interests'
  • 'the truth at last by john ray'
  • 'Non molto bene'
  • 'roberta williams turns to islam'
  • 'liquidate President Sukarno, depending upon the situation and available opportunities'
  • 'Nous Somme Tous Americains'
  • 'sycophant grodscorp'
  • 'gangster yarmulkes'
  • 'marxism in scarface'
  • 'berlusconi bugger'
  • 'How to be tactful & charming'
  • 'norse pornography'
  • 'rand intellectual poverty'
  • 'partisan de satan'
  • 'splinter in his'
  • 'why fukuyama is an idiot'

And many more relating to psychoanalysis, self-harm and the term 'projection'.

Wednesday 18 June 2008

Chomsky and the Middle East

It is next to inconceivable, within the mainstream of Western intellectual culture, that one might give a principled critique of the war – that is, the kind of critique we give reflexively, and properly, when some enemy state commits aggression: for example, when Russia invaded Czechoslovakia, or Afghanistan, or Chechnya. We do not criticize those actions on grounds of cost, error, blunder, quagmire. Rather, we condemn the actions as horrendous war crimes, whether they succeed or not.

This is taken from a recent interview, to be found here. Lazy blogging, I know, but I'm very busy.

Tuesday 27 May 2008

Mal Brough is a Joke

And not just to me, either. According to Chris Graham in today's Crikey, Brough has turned 'developer'. Remember those Aboriginal land rights that Brough assured us needed to be abolished to somehow 'save the children'? The rationale for these had little to do with child protection. Rather, according to Brough -

The idea is to make a profit in joint-venture partnerships.
This from a man who, when in charge of Indigenous Affairs at a Federal level, underspent the budget by about one-fifth, that is, $600 million.

In spite of all of this, Graham is correct to point out that our toothless media refused to criticise Brough's 'intervention', despite the fact it rested on little more than tough-talking rhetoric, and a shrill appeal to 'think of the children'. As Graham points out:

It all makes for a great spectacle. But the problem is Aboriginal Australia doesn't need another showman, it needs solutions. Brough doesn't have any now, and he didn't have any in office.
I said much the same thing about the media at the time:

A long-standing, genuinely tragic, but opportunely 'urgent' situation has to entail that all disagreement to the Government's proposal must be shouted down. One of the most authoritarian and hastily-conceived interventions in Australian history is to be imposed upon our most vulnerable people, without a whimper.

Noel Pearson was the most prominent 'bipartisan' (snigger) supporter of the NT intervention. He too has revealed himself completely politically inept, if not equally useless as a 'community leader'. In the May edition of The Monthly, Pearson attributes Obama's popularity in the US to little more than 'white guilt', a familiar trope with which he tried to chastise the left in Australia. Not only is this offensively patronising, it ignores that fact that the majority of whites in Australia undoubtedly feel no such 'guilt'. Australia's arid centre is far from the urban sprawl of the coasts, and on the basis of all available evidence, few citizens in the latter region know of care of the plight of desert-dwelling Aboriginals. Some know, however, that it is not Aboriginals who are the main source of child protection concerns (though they are over-represented), or the much-vilified Muslims or Sudanese. Rather, most child abuse in Australia, at least as far as official statistics report, relates to dirt-poor children of Anglo-Australian origins.

And what did Aboriginals think of the intervention? If the 2007 Federal election is any guide, they didn't think much. Several remote areas recorded 2PP results in favour of the ALP that were well into the 90% range.

Hopefully we can finally put to rest the destructive myth that these clowns, architects of an intervention in which genuinely informed opinion was eschewed in favour of media sensationalism, ever had anything other than their own wheelbarrows at heart.

Wednesday 21 May 2008

Smackdown, one lunatic at a time

Since the phony war on terror, we've heard plenty of nutters and propagandists invoke the ghost of WWII to justify otherwise indefensible policy by the US. But WWII rhetoric I mean the constant references to 'appeasement', or to 'Islamofascism', intended to conflate to radically different historical situations. In any case, it's nice to see one such winged monkey humiliated for such stupidity:

Thursday 15 May 2008

The trouble with libertarians...

...Is that they are seldom 'libertarian' enough. We read once screed after another from angry Hayekians contending that taxation is theft. The welfare state, the public broadcaster, virtually all publically owned and funded assets are an affront to 'liberty', evidence of a society heading down the road to surfdom.

It is curious, then, that the libertarians do not apply the same analysis to precisely those insitutions that actuall can and do deprive people of their liberty, and are paid by the public purse, namely, the police and the army. How could these self-proclaimed defenders of freedom have missed so elementary a point?

History tells us that welfare states are not at all the same as police states, the latter often functioning as model capitalist economies. Fascism requires the population be disciplined by the local constabulary, not government funded schools or art galleries. Should a coup ever occur (and this is unlikely in Australia's near future), do our libertarians think it will arise from the military, who are in possession of genuine force, or by Tony Jones and Red Kerry on the 'tax-eating' ABC network?

The libertarians inevitably (and hypocritically) stop short of this radical juncture, preferring to dismantle the welfare functions of the state rather than erode the state's ability to enforce, brutally if need be, its dictates.

Ironically, it was Lenin who called for the abolition of a standing army.

Meanwhile, the citizens of Australia, Britain and the US continue to fund bloodshed in the Middle East, and the enforcement of unpopular laws, something that would likely go unchanged in the (extremely unlikely) event of a libertarian government.

Friday 9 May 2008

Sixty Years

Like all his predecessors, Ehud Olmert constantly invokes spurious security arguments in order to defend policies that are indefensible. The Palestinians do not pose a threat to Israel's basic security; it is the other way round. The contest is an unequal one between a vulnerable Palestinian David on the one hand and a heavily armed and heavy-handed Israeli Goliath on the other. (source)

The Kibbutz where we put up our little bivouac tents that day has become an economic enterprise, like any other. The social solidarity, of which we were so proud, has collapsed. Masses of adults and children live below the poverty line, old people, the sick and the unemployed are left to fend for themselves. The gap between rich and poor is one of the widest in the developed world. And our society, that once raised the banner of equality and justice, just clucks its collective tongue and moves on to other matters. (source)

One of the first laws passed by the Israeli state was the so-called Law of Return, which permitted any person of Jewish background from anywhere in the world to immediately become an Israeli citizen. Yet Palestinians, who now constitute the largest refugee population in the world, are still denied the right to return to their homes and lands from which they were expelled. The campaign against Israeli apartheid is fundamentally centered upon the right of Palestinian refugees to return. (source)

What started as a small and peaceful demonstration on the boardwalk of Tel-Aviv, ended with clashes with a large and violent police force. The demonstration was against an Etzel reunion convention held nearby at the Etzel Museum. Prior to Israel's declaration of independence, Etzel was one of the Zionist terrorist groups which was used by the Zionists to terrorise the Arab population into leaving their homes and lands. The convention was held to commemorate Etzel's contribution to the "liberation" of the city of Jaffa. By "liberation" the Zionists mean the expulsion of the Arab population from Jaffa by means of military and terrorist attacks with the generous aid of British imperialism. (source)

In 1973 Ariel Sharon boasted that Israel would "make a pastrami sandwich" of the Palestinians by building strips of settlements throughout the West Bank. In 1983 the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Professor Yehoshafat Harkabi warned that Israel's continued colonisation of the occupied territories would lead to the transformation of Israel into an Arab-Jewish state and the consequent "Belfastisation" of the area. (source)

They are filled with dread here, these people, my friends, the Israelis and the Palestinians both. Part of the dread is the realization that, no matter what direction the conflict takes, the result will in no way justify the violent deaths since 1948 of more than 24,000 Israelis and uncounted thousands of Palestinians. (source)

Thursday 8 May 2008

We should all get the vote...

As I've said before.

As revisionist as communism

Bolt has plumbed new depths of ignorance today with an attempt to draw parallels between the Federal ALP's new 'alcopop' tax, and Soviet Russia. Apparently, since the tax was introduced, there has been a 'surge' in thefts of the alcopops, leading Bolt to deduce that the ALP policy 'not only fails to stop the boozers, but drives some into thievery.'

Clearly, there are many reasons to be sceptical about a tax curbing a purported binge-drinking epidemic. That aside, however, Bolt has done a remarkable volte-face here for a vulgar Tory, and has gone so far as to attribute criminal behaviour to social conditions. Gone is the moralising rhetoric of 'responsibility', favoured by Bolt and other hacks and shock jocks. Apparently, social conditions and government policy are to blame for crime when this is ideologically convenient.

Let's see how long it takes for Bolt to back-pedal from this position in a future post. I cannot recall Bolt ever displaying such 'understanding' when it comes to the property crimes of Aboriginals, for instance. When drug users feel compelled to steal to support their habit, does anybody seriously expect the likes of Bolt to attribute this to the government policies that keep such drugs illegal (and expensive)?

Finally, in a kind of inverse-Godwin piece of stupidity, Bolt invokes the spectre of Soviet Russia to dramatise his hypocritical observations. This might have been well and good if it didn't directly undermine Bolt's point, and betray his profound ignorance of some basic facts.

Since the fall of communism (1991), consumption of alcohol by Russian men has tripled, making Russians the highest drinkers of spirits in the world. Since Putin was in power, and capitalism was embraced, the rising cost of vodka in Russia has led some impoverished citizens to resort to cleaning fluids, and other dangerous alcoholic material. Since the Iron Curtain was lifted, alcoholism is the primary reason why the life-expectancy for the average Russian male has dropped to just 58 years.

The lesson of all this is to get your lackeys to acquaint you with some basic logical and historical facts before launching into overblown, melodramatic comparisons.

Wednesday 7 May 2008

Crises in Neoliberalism

Neoliberalism is another name for free marker economic policies. The 'freedom' in question is not one for citizens, but for corporations, as neoliberalism has three fundamental aims, all convenient to business: lower taxes, lower input costs, and lower wages.

The other major pillar of neoliberal policy is deregulation. Again, this deregulation is more for capital than for citizens, and aims to remove barriers and restrictions on the way businesses operate. In this way, the 'invisible hand' of the market comes to the fore.

However, even the stooges of neoliberal, such as Thomas Friedman, have said that 'The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist'.

Different kinds of fists are being brought to bear behind different kinds of markets, both in Australia and across the world.

In Bolivia, the country's elite are threatening to take their bat and ball and go home, as the nation's wealthy seek autonomy from the rest of Bolivia. Money is not the only issue in this instance - the wealthy do not wish to be dominated by 'the Indians'.

The neoliberal policies of yet another US-backed dictatorial stooge, Mubarak, have led to ongoing strikes and protests for months in Egypt, ably reported by this blogger. In addition to strikes, Egypt has recently seen food riots, during which pictures of Mubarak were torn down by protesters. Sadly, free markets do not only provide no guarantee of affordable food, they provide no assurances of a free press: a broadcaster who televised the images of the torn posters is being charged.

In Australia, matters are far less dramatic, but important nonetheless.

In opposition to members, unions, and, most probably, much of NSW, the ALP Government is pushing ahead with plans to privatise electricity. Every ALP leader in the country, and every ALP leader since Hawke has been strongly in favour of neoliberal economic policies, despite the notional displays of support for social democracy brandished on the party's website. Carr and Keating have been vocal in their support of Iemma and the privatisation move. Keating clearly still has a sense of humour, referring to Iemma and Costa as a 'pair of honest souls'.

Meanwhile, in Victoria, the Government is headed for a larger-than-expected budget surplus, of $827.5 million according to George Megalogenis. This is despite a slowing economy, a huge population boom in Melbourne, and the ruinous neglect of the state's public services, which has seen industrial action from nurses, police, teachers, and now disability services workers, in just the last 6 months.

Business as usual, in other words.

Spot the Unfortunate Headline

Friday 2 May 2008

Collective Identity and the Left

It is true that as a black-hearted blogger allegedly of the 'hard left' I sometimes mock some of the more inane right-leaning bloggers in Australia. God knows there are more than a few embarrassments among them. One blogger with whom I will attempt to engage in this post, rather than mock, is Mark R. of Oz Conservative, in this post on collective identity. Mark took issue with a statement of Ted Ballieu's, leader of Victoria's Liberal Opposition, namely that 'our diversity is at the heart of our collective identity - different people, different views, different lifestyles.'

Mark highlights a 'radical element' in Ballieu's position:

Baillieu has no problem using the term "collective identity", but consider carefully what he means by this concept. It is not a "positive" identity, in the sense that it represents a set of positive characteristics shared by a community of people. Instead, it is a negative identity, in which people identify with the absence of shared characteristics.

In this, I agree, on the proviso that, at a philosophical level, at least, we acknowledge that 'identity' always presumes 'difference', in the Spinozan sense that 'Omnis determinatio est negatio' ('All determination is negation').

Mark appears to be arguing that in loosening, or even negativising the definition of that which constitutes 'our' collective identity, 'we' (i.e. Australian society) risk losing that identity altogether. This is important because, according to Mark:

We gain much as individuals from a strong collective identity in which we enjoy a sense of shared history, of a common culture, of closely understood manners and mores, of a widely shared calendar of festivals and celebrations, of a distinct tradition linking generations to each other, and of art and architecture expressing the character of our own community.

Mark correctly (in my view) places Ballieu's statement within the context of a 'liberal position', but condemns it , as we might expect of a conservative, as 'it represents the mindset of the rootless, modernist individual who has become disconnected from his own communal tradition.'

I happen to think the claims of Australia ever having had a 'common culture' to be incorrect. 'Diversity' existed even among Aboriginal peoples. The first settlers, Irish and English, would have had sharp differences in beliefs in many cases (not that there exists an homogeneous 'English' or 'Irish' in the first place), and the amount and degree of intra-societal differences would only have been greater during the many decades of immigration to Australia, by people from all continents. Diversity was always already there with respect to every aspect of identity, and claims of a 'common culture' seem to me a bad fiction, designed to smooth over historical and societal fact.

On the other hand, Mark has a genuine point when he criticises the 'negative identity' implied by Ballieu, and by many other liberals who are lazy when it comes to metaphysics. We appear to see in the Lib leader's statement a kind of ready-made, philistine version of the Derridean-Levinasian coming to grips with the other, with the outcome being defined by absence and lack. For a conservative, therefore, this approach to collective identity seems to lead to a society that, in terms of 'values', at least, is held together by nothing. Liberal individualism would possibly see society as being held together by (liberal) individuals.

Since I insist on the old 19th Century distinction between 'liberals' and 'radicals' (a distinction sometimes lost when political discourse is collapsed into the left-right spectrum), I think it appropriate to ask what this third perspective might have to say about collective identity. On what might this 'identity' be founded?

Let us put aside, for the time being, the arguments from psychoanalysis and social psychology linking 'personal' identity with the cultural sphere. The ego-ideal is, among other things, an insertion of the 'cultural' into the personal, an appropriation by the self of the other, and it derives chiefly from the strictures and injunctions of one's parents. Still, these parents are themselves embedded in a broader cultural context.

If his tags are any guide, Mark seems to hint that national or ethnic identity is the means to securing a stable collective identity. I happen to think this utterly mistaken. For starters, in the case of Australia, the prevailing 'identity' was made possible only on the basis of the most brutal displacement of the Aboriginal people.

The first white settlers in Australia were from Europe's then-power, Britain, and from Europe's oldest colony, Ireland. The two differed in religion and many other respects; as I said above, 'diversity' existed from the beginning. Sure, we can fabricate some kind of collective 'Anglo-Celtic' identity, as distinct from the next major group of European migrants (Greeks and Italians). Following that, we can construct a 'Western European' or 'Christian' identity as opposed to the Chinese and Vietnamese who still followed. We can even incorporate the Asians into our 'collective', and simply posit Muslims as the out-group. The point is, however, that all of these groupings are ultimately arbitrary, do not remove 'diversity', and require or imply a demonised out-group, excluded from the set, but defining the set's very identity. This is not 'social cohesion', this is, in psychoanalytic terms, collective psychosis.

On what then, can identity be founded? Clearly, ethnic and religious groupings are insufficient. I argue that a 'positive' from which a collective identity can arise is the category of worker, that is, one who does not control the means of production. Further to this, I mean a worker who is self-consciously a worker, and who is self-consciously politicised as a worker, that is, a worker who is a member of the proletariat. As Orwell mused (and as his rightist would-be heirs have apparently forgotten), 'If there is hope, it lies in the proles'.

This category, as the French philosopher Badiou says, 'consolidate[s] what is universal in identities', and is capable of uniting mean and women of different ethnic and religious backgrounds. As Badiou puts it in his paper, it is not about me, the individual, abandoning my pre-existing identity for the sake of some authoritarian cultural norm, but rather, of adapting and enlarging my identity, 'in a creative fashion', to the place in which I find myself. As one of the many for whom value accrues by its expropriation from my labour, my place is with the workers. As Badiou said elsewhere, '"militant" is a category without borders'.

Of course, this solution to the problem is no what the conservatives want to hear, and represents a challenge to the muddy arena of 'identity politics' into which liberal individualism often lapses. Sceptics will not doubt scoff at the suggestion that 'proletariat' remains a valid category. The Left is presumed by media pundits not to consist of the working classes, but of 'luvvies' and 'bleeding hearts', with hand-wringing affectations and pet causes, who munch on hilariously ethnic foodstuffs. In other words, popular political discourse in Australia has only conceived of a leftism that is 'left-liberal', not 'radical left', that dismisses the very possibility of a politicised working class.

Does such a class exist, rather than the effete, inner city class caricatured in our press? I answer that it does. Let us take, for example, Melbourne's outer Northern and North-Western suburbs:

Those familiar with Melbourne will recognise that is a 'diverse' area. There is a strong Aboriginal community in the area. There are many Christians, mostly Catholic and Orthodox, as well as several mosques. A Buddhist temple can be found in the suburb of Reservoir, owing to the significant number of Buddhist Asians in the area. Observers will note that this is a genuinely working class area - peak hour traffic is generally earlier here than elsewhere, owing to the types of occupations often done here.
Take the State Electorate of Thomastown for instance. This area encompasses a number of suburbs. The three most common occupations are as a sales worker in retail, and a machine operator/driver or labourer in manufacturing. Workers are unlikely to work in the city, given the heavy industrialisation of the area. Whilst here, as elsewhere, Australian-born people are a majority, there are plenty of others - Italians are next, with large numbers of Greeks, Macedonians, Lebanese, Vietnamese, and even Iraqis. In short, this is the very model of a poor, working-class neighbourhood, with a high proportion of immigrants.
So how does this area vote? At the last State election, the result was a massive 81% to the ALP, on a two-party preferred basis. If we look at this area Federally, we see the ALP with a 70% two-party preferred vote, which is enormous considering the relative wealth and cultural homogeneity in the north-east outskirts of this electorate. No doubt similar such areas can be found throughout the country.
Obviously, Australia's Labor party stands for labour in name only, but the message is clear - the much-despised Howard Haters are not chardonnay-swilling elites. They may well be latte drinkers, if only for the fact that they hail from a country that values coffee in the first place. They are poor, and 'diverse', and they do not vote Tory - it is little wonder that conservatives are scared of them, and are trying to keep them out of the country, or have them radically 'assimilate'. They have all the makings of a politicised working class.
It is these people who are being let down by the ALP, and who, as far as I can see, have failed to be integrated into the Greens. And it is precisely these people who offer a bright future for the Left in this country, and for this country itself, if only that opportunity can be seized.

Thursday 1 May 2008

More Blatant Racism from the Radical Right

Local zealot on the topic of Islam:

I’m seeing more and more filthy keffiyehs in the streets than ever.

Nice. Had this good Christian lived in 1930s Germany, we would no doubt have read comments about 'filthy

Conservatives tend to enjoy a good round of condemn-a-thon, so I'll wait for the moderates to rush over and denounce the above trash.

Tuesday 29 April 2008

The Failure of International Law

Professor Quiggin asks why charges of war crimes cannot be brought against Bush and friends.

This piece of legislation is one reason.

A few thoughts on gangland wars...

Like just about everybody else who has seen it, (and there are plenty in Victoria), I enjoyed Underbelly. The character of Roberta Williams stole the show, of course. There's nothing more charming than a strong, female character who utters such niceties as 'Suck my toe-jam!'. Many of the backdrops would be familiar to Melbournians, as would many of the characters and events which, among certain crowds, and in certain neighbourhoods, became the stuff of minor myth.

I has some minor quibbles - some of the characters were brilliantly cast, but occasionally I detected a misfire, particularly as regards the police. The lack of 'gentrification' of some of the criminal characters was good to see. Predictably, almost every murder was preceded by scenes of the soon-to-be-victim farewelling loved ones. The Victorian police were portrayed rather fawningly, with scant mention of the entrenched police corruption that allowed the underworld to function in the first place. Yes, there was a single, moustache-wearing villainous cop, but he was promptly caught in order to showcase the virtue of the others. In fairness, I can think of few precedents in Australian drama where police have been portrayed realistically.

Whilst the local detail is no doubt interesting to Victorians, the show has found popularity Australia-wide. This is not entirely surprising, given the success of the gangster genre. Like the most successful gangster flicks, Underbelly combined depictions of the criminal underworld with psychological explorations (extremely brief, in this case, but to be expected) and family scenes. This is a tried-and -true formula in this genre: consider the fact that The Godfather begins with a wedding, The Godfather II begins with a first communion, and Goodfellas focuses at length on the downward spiral of Liotta and Bracco's marriage.

There is thus a sense of universality depicted, even among these extreme characters. Perhaps, in the po-mo era, the brutal violence of the gangster genre is the closest thing we have to tragedy.

Two powerful (and sometimes, controversial) means of analysing some of these universalities in drama and literature come in the form of what can be broadly termed psychoanalytic and Marxist criticism.

Psychoanalytic themes are in abundance in Underbelly. We see characters with ever-shifting allegiances and identifications, we see primal fathers and Oedipal sons, the swapping of women, and the desperate, narcissistic need to confirm to a violent ideal ego, spurred on by an equally violent superego. Nonetheless, in this post, I'll restrict my comments to a few of the political themes of Underbelly.

All of the characters form part of what Marx termed the Lumpenproletariat, a class that is both excluded, and reactionary. The essence of Melbourne's infamous gangland wars, as depicted here, revolves around a dispute between two factions within the criminal wing of this class. One is an impoverished but 'up-and-coming' class, led by the character of Carl Williams, and ably revealed in the crass, vengeful consumerism of his Lady Macbeth, Roberta. The other faction consists of wealthy 'establishment' criminal criminals, the irony being that these characters were themselves once the impoverished sons of (mostly) Italian and Irish immigrants, with origins in the notorious Painters and Dockers Union. The complacency of this latter group, who live in gentrified neighbourhoods, drive expensive cars, and send their children to private schools, eventually explodes into violence when their supremacy is challenged by the up-and-comers.

In the actions of Williams and his crew, we see in microcosm what we have witnessed on the world stage for many years. The twin pillars of capitalism and imperialism are seen in Underbelly in miniature, and Williams and his proxies kill to maintain strategic supremacy, their control of trade, and, rather like the US, their 'prestige'.

Toward the end of the series, we see Williams' disingenuous attempts to exonerate his role in the gangland wars. When we see him tell a media scrum that he an innocent, a 'business man', merely defending the interests of his family, we hear an echo of Bush's justifications for the ongoing war on terror, and for pre-emptive strikes. When Williams callously dismisses the trauma of the children witnessing a murder he has commissioned against their fathers ('They'll get over it'), we are reminded of Rumsfeld's famous bon mot regarding Iraq ('Stuff happens').

After all, all capitalism is, at bottom, 'gangster capitalism'. A shadow market ruled by underworld figures is not an anomaly within a consumer capitalist society, but its logical extension. A worker, a sole individual, can never 'take on' an industry or state in the manner in which these entities can do to the former. And, in the last resort, these entities have force at their disposal, in order to prosecute laws and industrial edicts. (Flouting unfair laws has, however, brought at least one recent success). We need only see how entrenched, and how easily accommodated gangsterism is in some societies (such as Southern Italy, for one) to see how coextensive are the two worlds of legitimate and illegitimate business.

When we see this imperialism played out in dramas on the screen, we recognise it as crime. When we see it unfold on the daily news, we dignify it with the name of 'war', or, even more euphemistically, as 'peace-keeping' or 'nation-building'. It is as if relieving a long-suffering gangster's moll of her husband, by way of a few bullet wounds is a 'humanitarian liberation'. After all, our leaders are just good businessmen, protecting the interests of their (elite) families.

The Politics of Imbecility in Blogging

I thought this would be a good time to lay to rest the ongoing dispute between myself and Hall, at least on this blog. No doubt a veteran cyber-stalker like himself will continue his vendetta, but I don't intend to waste any space on my blog on low-lifes like him.

As a final laugh, I thought it would be amusing to take a brief look at his attempt at a kind of 'not guilty' plea, with respect to his own actions. It can be found on his blog of shame here. Rather than issue a mea culpa for his most recent acts of stalking, as well as his newest attack blogs, Hall continues to drive his Noddy Car down the road of no return.

Hall points out that there are many different bloggers in the world - 'All are to be found when you brose the blogs that are out there'. He tries to persuade us that, for ethical reasons, those who blog under their own name have more 'gravitas' than those who use a pseudonym:

Put simply If an author is willing to affix their name to their opinion they have to be honest and truthful because there are penalties if they are not.

Hall omits any mention of the fact that, being unemployed (and possibly unemployable), there are precisely no consequences for him to be hosting the most virulent bigots on his site, or using his time stalking other bloggers. This is not the case for those with employers. Hall himself knows that vulnerable position that working bloggers face, which is precisely why he has tried (or threatened) to contact the employers of at least three bloggers with whom he disagrees.

Hall then drivels on for a bit about the evils of anonymous bloggers with different political beliefs to his own. Disagreement, and legitimate mockery are rebaptised as 'character assassination' in Hall's deluded dramaturgy. So what's a deranged blogger with wounded pride to do?

A blogger, who writes in their own name, who has been the subject of such behaviour, has no real recourse unless they can discover the identity of their attackers.

A blogger could always respond to the mockery with counter-mockery, or construct decent sentences (and better yet, arguments) in retaliation. Since, for Hall, these are not options, stalking and 'outing' is the only 'real recourse'.

Hall complains that slander and libel laws are not enforced on the blogosphere, but is unable to cite a single instance of where these laws might ever have applied to him. Different political opinions, and spirited criticism are not, after all, illegal. Hall continues to attempt to justify his profound contempt for others' privacy and, by extension, free speech:

Write about politics, religion or current events and you have to be just as ruthless as the anonymous attackers that will inevitably take you on and you have to find a currency that they will respect.

In Hallworld, this currency involves bribing individuals for information that may lead to the 'outing' of an enemy blogger. How very ethical of our respected conservative. He continues:

Once their name is known they will have to carry the chains that they have forged and those chains will clank about their person forever. Then again there are individuals who genuinely realise the error of their ways and take a real shot at redemption I for one am happy to forgive those that admit their error and apologise to those that they have wronged.

Hall himself has never once apologised for his own 'errors', and they are many, and great. These include 'outing' a blogger in 2006 who had made no personal attacks against him. This 'outing' extended to Hall spamming random blogs with his perceived enemy's details. By his own standards, redemption is a long, long distance away for Hall.

Rather helpfully, Hall has compiled a list of rules that he thinks all bloggers should follow, pseudonymous or not:

1. Always write about others as if you were known to them, even if you are using a pseudonym .

For Hall, this includes telling another blogger that he should have a 'hot shot' (i.e. overdose on heroin).

2. Be generous to those you debate with in blogs and respect the blog owner as if you are a guest in their home.

This includes telling a blogger with depression that he is just a 'sad lefty', at his own site, no less.

3. Always remember that the persons you are talking to are real people even if they have the most bizarre pseudonyms they can be offended and hurt by things that are said about them, just as much as you can be hurt.

Hall has created fake blogs under his enemies' pseudonyms, and tried to smear them with such charming labels as 'stinking pieces of shit' and 'lesbian nazis'. Then there is this piece of brilliance:

If you do have a dispute with a fellow blogger, in the first instance try to settle your differences privately via email (if they have one available) because once your dispute is being played out in public all sorts of malicious non-entities will try to butt into the argument often making a settlement all but impossible. But if that fails, be happy to walk away. There are millions of bloggers out there and you can’t expect a warm reception from all of them.

This is possibly the funniest thing Hall has ever written, and this from a man who once said that 'This is a woeful idea , mainly because UHT milk always tastes so bad. Not it is impossible to drink this stuff bad, but burnt and very processed bad'.

Firstly, Hall has spammed various left-leaning bloggers with unsolicited emails, and has invariably published any responses on one of his 78 blogs.

Secondly, Hall is yet to walk away from a single major dispute. He still writes regularly about people he agreed to leave alone, and who have long-since forgotten his demented blog of shame.

Clearly, Hall knows what the 'right thing' is when it comes to internet etiquette. It is just as evident that Hall himself refuses to abide by this etiquette, as he continues to be the saddest, creepiest and most deluded blogger in Australia. Hoisted by his own petard, Hall is, by his own criteria, the most contemptible of hypocrites. Not that this is news to anyone sufficiently unfortunate to have read his semi-literate drivel.

In the spirit of bloggerly goodwill, however, I am very happy to recommend Hall to a suitable psychiatric service in his area and cease to mock him again, upon production of an apology, a withdrawal of his hate-blogs, and verification of his bona fides. He lives to stalk, so I'm not holding my breath.

UPDATE: I don't know who wrote this, but here is another view on the matter. Oh where oh where is Mr Bourbon?

Sunday 27 April 2008

Why Wingnuts and Philosophy Don't Mix...

I know I should resist the temptation to see how the other half lives (or mouth-breathes, as it were). But some habits are hard to break, and I've relapsed from time to time.

I tried, at least, not to make these relapses public. To that end, I resisted the urge to ridicule this 'world government' conspiracy theory, of the sort embraced by anti-Semitic bigots and cranks:

The same crowd also believe that 'reptilian bloodlines' rule the world. I figured that the authors of this stuff couldn't possibly believe in all of it.

My resolve was then sorely tested when I saw this post claiming that intellectuals were more or less part of a treasonous alliance between Marxism and Islam. It's nutty, and the author doesn't forward a shred of evidence to support his ridiculous claims, but it's not vastly different to the drivel peddled by more skilled propagandists.

I even bit my tongue when I saw this shameless attempt to besmirch an apparent detractor of Winston Churchill, a great hero to some conservatives. Naturally, the post doesn't deal with some of the many factual criticisms that one might extend to Churchill. This is the same Churchill, Nobel Laureate, who gave us such pearls of wisdom as:

“I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes. The moral effect should be good… and it would spread a lively terror…”


"I do not admit... that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia... by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race... has come in and taken its place."

Unsurprisingly, he championed Zionism, as opposed to 'the schemes of the International Jews' (i.e. Bolshevism). He was not altogether unsympathetic to fascism, either. To quote a comrade blogger, who supplied the above references:

Benito Mussolini had "rendered a service to the whole world", showing "a way to combat subversive forces". Even Hitler received some Churchillian approbation: "One may dislike Hitler's system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as admirable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations."

All this I passed by, politely as it were, thinking it unworthy to bring facts to bear against deranged wingnuts. Being stupid, ignorant, or plain delusional is not a moral flaw, however irritating (or unintentionally hilarious) the consequences.

Dishonesty, on the other hand, is a different matter, so I simply couldn't resist this woefully inaccurate, and thoroughly mendacious attack on the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (whose name, incidentally, is misspelled for most of the post).

The author claims that Nietzsche was 'Hitler's hero'. Whilst Hitler read and admired Nietzsche (Nietzsche's sister had edited a posthumous volume of his writings, removing references that condemned Germany's rising anti-Semitism) Hitler had plenty of 'heroes'. Among them were Schopenhauer, for instance, and plenty of other perfectly respectable and bourgeois figures within the West's literary, musical and artistic canon.

Hitler's 'philosophy', if it could even be called as much, does not resemble Nietzsche's in any significant respect. There are innumerable passages in Nietzsche's work that condemn 'mob rule', that condemn German (and other) nationalism, that oppose anti-Semitism, and that attack politics of all stripes: conservative, liberal, and radical. It is perfectly clear that our wingnut author here hasn't read a page of Nietzsche, still less understood any of his philosophy, when she blathers:

The views of Hitler, and his idol, Neitzsche, could be seen as a revealing forerunner for today’s globalizing, centralizing European government as a whole. Neitzsche espoused some views which could come straight out of any Rhodes school or Common Purpose training camp.

Actually, 'globalisation' is the fruit of neoliberal capitalism, and it's difficult to see Nietzsche rallying to its cause. Anybody with even a passing familiarity with Nietzsche's views would know he wouldn't waste his spittle on a 'Rhodes school' or 'Common Purpose training camp'.

So why do we see this wilfully dishonest attempt to smear mad Freddy, rather than to come to terms with his philosophy? So that the author can reach this equally disingenuous conclusion about Hitler:

Adolf was, in actuality, an internationalist and a globalist.

Really? Nothing about Hitler's invasion of other European nations, or persecution of Jews, Gypsies, and communists demonstrated an 'internationalist' perspective. The author concludes:

Neitzsche has been the darling of the Left for decades now. In the current age of globalism and internationalism, is there going to be a surge in Nazism whether overt or tacit? I would say, the surge has already started.

Nietzsche has been the 'darling' of a lot of people, from all sides of politics, and with no discernible political views at all. In many respects (and I am not a technical philosopher), I would have thought Nietzsche's influence was starting to wane. The Nietzschean impetus behind 'deconstruction' (Derrida) or the unravelling of power and discourse (Foucault) is decades-old now, and many of the more prominent Continental philosophers are not Nietzschean in the least. So when our good author warns us of a 'surge', once can only assume she is referring to a growth is crude propaganda, wilful ignorance, and deliberate and blatant lying.

Wednesday 23 April 2008

A poster I once saw...

Politics, propaganda and posters have a long history of being bedfellows. See here for a Soviet example. Other countries have their own examples - maybe somebody out there has some old Australian wartime posters.
In any case, fellow blogger Toaf posted about anti-Beijing posters, of the sort that may be useful for a protest. This is one that I snapped on my travels a couple of years ago:

Monday 21 April 2008

The Lukewarm Contented Revolutionary

Due to incessant personal attacks, I may have to give blogging away.

In the meantime, however, I thought I'd share some revolutionary recipes! There are some things rural QLD just doesn't have. Taste is one such thing.

This recipe is ubiquitous throughout Southern Italy. Southern Italians rarely eat out, but when they do, it's pretty good. They'll tend to have multiple courses, and if you're in Sicily, Calabria, or Naples, in particular, you can bet that this will be one of the courses. It involves mussels, which I know many of you are scared of, but they cost only $5 a kilo (at the Queen Vic market), are tasty, and dead easy to cook.

Zuppa di Cozze

You need:

200g ripe tomatoes
1 kg black mussels
Olive oil
40g Butter
I leek, finely chopped (white part only!)
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
Flat-leafed parsley
1 Small fresh chili, finely chopped
2/3 cup dry white wine (cask wine will suffice)

1. Score a cross in the base of each tomato. Place in a bowl, and cover with boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain, and peel away from the cross. Cut tomatoes in half, remove seeds (if possible - they won't kill you, but purists insist on removing them) and finely chop.

2. Scrub the mussels with a scrubbing brush or old toothbrush. Remove the hairy bits - these will be pretty obvious. Discard broken mussels.

3. Heat a little oil and the butter in a large saucepan, and cook leek and garlic over low heat until the leek is soft and not brown. (If unused to leek - it's like a real fancy, damn sexy onion, so use onion as a guide). Add saffron and parsley and chili, and cook whilst stirring for 1-2 minutes. Increase the heat and add the wine. Bring to the boil and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the chopped tomato and 1 cup of water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

4. Add the mussels to the pot and cook, covered, until open. After 4-5 minutes, discard any unopened mussels. If the soup is too crowded with shells, remove about one third of the remaining mussels, and take the mussel meat from the shell and place it back in the pot. Season to tase with salt and pepper, and consider some crusty bread.

This is a very easy to prepare meal, and is reasonably healthy. It has almost no carbs, so the Atkinsonians shouldn't complain. Buon apetito!