Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Boiling the frog

So, Blair favours arrest without trial for three months on anyone suspected of a crime under terror law.

Now, Police have the power to arrest, IIRC, whenever they have reasonable grounds to believe a crime has been committed and that a person may have committed (the arrestee). Reasonable is defined as relevent to the pursuit of their office, again, IIRC. God knows what that means. I suppose it means does the court find the reasoning suitable. Man on Clapham Omnibus time? Well, that's me, I'm the man on the Clapham Omnibus (the 88 to be exact, though ssometimes the 137).

Now, I heard on the Today programme this morning, that recent legislation removes the distinction between this form of arrest (Statutory arrest for arrestable offences) and non-arrestable offences - now anyone who is arrested can be finger printed and DNA sampled - and anyone can be pretty much arrested for anything.

Back to terror laws, effectively, what they are announcing with this is internment - let's face it, three months without charge means police can pick up anyone they feel like who they might vaguely be connected with terror. i.e. any hinterland support network for the actual hardcore terrorists.

I don't know if it'll be widely used, but it could well be. Why ask for it if not.

Of course, even if it isn't, such laws have a nasty habit of staying on the statute books, and they could be wheeled out in any future emerency without a problem - look what Yanklander courts and police were able to do to the IWW without having recourse to draconian powers. Endless murder charges were enough.

Of course, the state has, and always has had, the power to be draconian when needed, I suppose the only change is ideological: a change of tone, the decline of a narrative of emancipation to one of cringing cowardice in the name of petcting life. We all just have to grin and bear it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Evolution and terrorism

People tend to be risk averse - that is, they will shy away from risks even when the objective odds against something bad happening are quite long. Put another way, we have Sod's law hard-wired into our brains. What can go wrong will go wrong. If something bad can happen, it will happen to me.

Thus, many people are now afraid of being sumarrilly executed by anti-terrorist police. There's 7.5 million people in London, your chances of dying at either the hands of the police or bombers are so slim as to make your chance of life excellent. But, as evolution tells us, million to one shots happen to us. And I can only die once.

Obviously, communities that have experienced racism, or believe themselves to be the target of suspiscion will feel their aversion to risk the more. Something that - I would suggest - will be aggravated by the fact that we are hardwired for face perception - that the threat can be associated with a facial type means that racism could well result.

Again, recognising faces is a strong part of our evolutionary strategy, and may be one reason why racism has been so able to take root. Slight differences in faces convey vast information to humans - when we would be alike to sheep as sheep (who can recognise each others' faces) would be to us.

Upshot, victory for the terrorists.

War is about imposing your will on your opponents. Imposing costs, in terms of terrorists is a first goal.

But, more than that. The home front for any war is a source of violence. Warring powers must coerce and coraal populations, birfurcate and divide their camp from the enemy's - destroy any hope of collaboration.

The terrorists have imposed a wedge, it is getting harder to pull it out, that wedge will, unless care is taken, become a recruiting sergeant. In the meanwhile, risk averse people surrender precious freedoms for the sake of avoiding a slim chance of violent death.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Standing firm

Well - it was inevitable, I suppose.

It didn't stop tears weltering in my eyes. I'd been so hopeful, you see, that it was all over - but no. No, the horror and catastrophe of yesterday will be hard to erase from my memory.

The only consolation I hold onto, and can give you, is that England might well pull out the stops in the second innings.

I mean, 92 for 7! Aweful - still, at least they're less than 100 runs behind Australia.

As for other events, I think more poetry is in order.

Shelley, again, the Mask of Anarchy...
'Let a vast assembly be,
And with great solemnity
Declare with measured words that ye
Are, as God has made ye, free -

'Be your strong and simple words
Keen to wound as sharpened swords,
And wide as targes let them be,
With their shade to cover ye.


'Let the fixèd bayonet
Gleam with sharp desire to wet
Its bright point in English blood
Looking keen as one for food.

'Let the horsemen's scimitars
Wheel and flash, like sphereless stars
Thirsting to eclipse their burning
In a sea of death and mourning.

'Stand ye calm and resolute,
Like a forest close and mute,
With folded arms and looks which are
Weapons of unvanquished war
And just to be transatlantic about it (America, is, after all, the country of The Revolution).
Those corpses of young men,
Those martyrs that hang from the gibbets, those hearts pierc'd by
the gray lead,
Cold and motionless as they seem live elsewhere with unslaughter'd vitality.

They live in other young men O kings!
They live in brothers again ready to defy you,
They were purified by death, they were taught and exalted.

Not a grave of the murder'd for freedom but grows seed for freedom,
in its turn to bear seed,
Which the winds carry afar and re-sow, and the rains and the snows nourish.

Not a disembodied spirit can the weapons of tyrants let loose,
But it stalks invisibly over the earth, whispering, counseling, cautioning.
Liberty, let others despair of you--I never despair of you.

Walt Whitman, Europe.

For the record, then, lets say it loud and clear, so that terrorists and politicians (with potentially stupid ideas): terrorists are prepared to die for their cause, well, so are we. I would rather take teh risk of dying in terrorist atrocity than see people banged up without trial, with suspension of freedom of speech, with endless security and surveillance. If you think we're gonna let either of you get away with it, you've got anotehr think coming.

Anyway, perhaps the next issue of Viz will feature a special strip where the Pathetic Sharks meet the Pathetic Terrorists

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Reading Gore Vidal

OK, I confess - I enjoy reading Gore Vidal - I find his historical writings reasonably Earthy, witty and both contemporary and other - exploring similarities and differences of historical times. I would - as an aside - consider the otehr nature of novels to be quite important, we should be confronted by the new and the different, novels should be read to challenge not confirm, to expand not narrow knowledge.

He is, also, a quintessentially American novellist, in as much as AMERICA! (Fuck yeah!) is his subject: personally placed and born among the ruling élite, vaguely related to Al Gore, etc.

The book I've just finished is his Julian - about Julian the Apostate the Emporer of the Roman Empire.

It's an intreguing book in many aspects. It is a book on ancient history, but that seems to resonate with certain contemporary (to 1964, and onwards, perhaps) American concerns. Julian is presented as a democratic Emporer - assiduous, invovled, passionate, less than formal. In fact, he strikes very much as an American president. This would resonate with the decline motif of the book - Vidal, IIRC, seems to see America in a state of fall from grace. Fallen from democracy - an Empire.

Vidal's Julian is set on restoring the old gods, various in form but unified in substance - set against the emerging organised and ruthless Christian church. This resonates, to me, with the homgenisation and increasing centralisation of America - perhaps.

It is the novel used for its proper purpose - personalising society and history. being invited into the personal life of the powerful, looking at how they cope with their situations and aspirations. Seemignly meticulously researched, there stuff to learn as well as learning to not take it for granted - his history is clearly Partisan, and then filtered through voices of partisan and unreliable narrators.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Workers Control in Venezuela

I researched this post to go as an entry for the carnival of the uncapitalists - but I didn't have life enough and time to complete it before the deadline.

Now, it seems that the Chavez government has been instituting workers control - they have nationalised Venepal - a paper making company. Now, apparently, this is at the bequest of the firm's workers, who occupied the plants and kept them running after it went bankrupt.

This apparently stems itself from a resurgent union movement spearheading demands for workers management.

Apparently the Venepal deal is for co-management. With the stakes being 51-49 (If I'm reading the article right) in the Government's favour. Of course, in these sorts of deals that 1% is actually 100% because it means, presumably, the government officially always gets its way (unless striking workers stop it, that is).

For balance, before striking off to my own conclusions, here is the voice of a critic suggesting that the firm may not be economically viable anyway - it'll be interesting to come back in, say, five years, and find out.

Anyway, my interest in this is that nationalisation under workers control is a regular demand of the left, specially when firms are going under - now it is being put into practice and we will be able to see how well it works, if it does.

But clearly, it brings up the question of what is workers control? Sometimes it's just a suprervisory question, workers deciding how to implement instuctions like a secretary deciding how to layout a letter. Or it can mean the workers own and run the firm and make strategic decisions for themselves. The late Maurice Brinton looks at the question in his Bolsheviks and Workers Control - a pamphlet that seems to never go out of date.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Suicide is painless... brings on many changes. So the song, and presumably the probable suicide bombers, would maintain.

Over at Harry's Place David T has a thoughtful thought piece.

Now, I am peturbed by the news for several reasons:
1) Suicide bombers will almost inevitably aggravate racial tensions - any asian with a backpack might now be a cause for fear. This might not lead to violence, but to a considerable worsening of the quality of life for many asians who'll start getting shifty looks, poorer service, etc. then even before.

2) That it's west Yorkshire is bad - I doubt it would take much to set off a race riot round West Yorks/Lancashire (where it has happened before) and it would seem that these communities may well be a source of recruits. Now, I wouldn't directly blame racism (although that is a factor - and from folks I've known who lived in the West Yorks sprawl, quite significant) I'd blame the unemployment and loss of industries that have blighted these cities for so long. To that extent I'd agree with David T the Bader-Meinhoff parrallel is suggestive, but altered by possible outside backers with money and tech.

3) I think it needs to be emphasised that Suicide attacks are not a purely Islamic thing. Britain is littered with disgusting war memorials to The Glorious Dead. We are supposed to venerate the sacrifice (mark you) soliders' lives for freedom. If the cause is deemed worthy enough.
I supose what I'm angling towards is that it is special powers that are required, but normal politics - that is the politics of anti-poverty campaigning. The politicsn of building unions, of class struggle. Terrorism is political, and even if the terrorirsts themselves do not espouse any discernbable immediate demands, we can always infer the usual reasoning for why people join armies - to be part of something, something bigger than themselves and (bizarrely I know) to feel incontrol (or at least to feel someone is in control).

I think the great risk is state authoritarians are going to prey on the fears of workers, not only a bad thing in itself but ultimately self destructive and self defeating.

We need a revolutionary answer.

p.s. The TUC are holding a vigil I plan to be there.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


Eagle eyed readers may note that I link to Kenyan Broadcasting News - basically as part of my effort to monitor different English speaking national news services. Basically.

Now, you might understand my sheer disbelief when listening to Radio Four this morning, when they do their regular newspapers from around the world slot, that there was an immense massacre in Kenya this week.

I quote:
The government has dispatched a high powered delegation to Marsabit to assess the security situation at the ground.
The team will investigate whether area politicians masterminded the massacre that left over 70 people dead.
Now, the BBC does cover it - but not in anywhere neer the saame way in which the London bomb got splashed over the worlds new headlines.

Worthy and unworthy victims? I don't know. Worth a mention either way.


Friday, July 08, 2005

And so to politics.

Like him or not, Ken Livingstone hit a solid note in his statement yesterday. Loathe him or loathe him, George Galloway had his turn in the House.

Socialist Worker showed why they are a bunch of jerks.

So far as I can see, Galloway's is the only statement to use condemnation - Ken's doesn't condemn but defies, which is probably more sensible in the long run.

Enough of responses, though. I'll expand on Ken's, because I think it fits my theme.

We can never stop this sort of attacks - a scary thought. No amount of addressingbackground causes etc. will ever remove the possibility of some tiny groupuscle deciding that terrorism is a good idea.

So, we have two choices. Eitehr we accept that freedom has been rendered impossible, and retreat to a security state for our own protection - the only way to really even hamper such attacks. Or, we accept the risk as a part of modern living.

The latter means our best defences in the war on terror are not troops on the grounds, not military might or even bellicose language. Our greatest weapon is a civil infrastructure - emergency services - that can cope and deal with any emergency swiftly and effectively (with the fringe benefit to the population at large when major incidents aren't occurring).

I agree with the likes of David T of Harry's place that our weapon must be democracy - the example of a free and open society that doesn't resourse to arms to get its way. That doesn't enforce a world system based primarilly on might and force majeur.

No amount of merely pulling troops out of Afghanistan or Iraq will change that, it requires a solid, immediate political movement of internationalism and solidarity.

Take it away Shelley.
"And that slaughter to the nation
Shall steam up like inspiration,
Eloquent, oracular,
A volcano heard afar:

"And these words shall then become
Like Oppressions thundered doom,
Ringing through each heart and brain,
Heard again--again--again.

Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable NUMBER!
Shake your chains to earth, like dew
Which in sleep had fall'n on you:

Thanks to those who left notes in the comments box.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


I've never heard a bomb blast before - not in real life, at least.

I knew it was a bomb - I'd had an inkling: I'd heard a stream of sirens, going on for minutes at an end - not like one vehicle approaching or departing, nor one stuck in traffic, but a whole series of emergency vehicles. I'd checked the BBC website, and heard about an explosion at Liverpool street.

I was discussing some catalogue records with a colleague when we heard the retort. Load, sharp and short. Not like all the sundry bangs you hear round London all the time - differnt. We guessed King's Cross; and he looked up at the clock in justifiable worry, wondering if his wife would be getting into that station about then.

It was closer though, it was at Tavistock place. The retort we heard was people being torn apart on a bus. You can just about se my workplace - UCL - just a couple of streets away.

At lunchtime, police and ambulances were everywhere - Gower street was closed to help them access.

We left work early - lots of people we're going to have a hard time getting home. It was raining as well - I thought perhaps God really is on their side then. I've never liked God anyway.

As I walked home down Hampstead road, among the strems of people walking that usually empty route, a quote from T.S. Elliott occurred to me.
A crowd flowed over London bridge.
So many - I ahd no idea death had undone so many.
Least, that's how I remmber it. I'm sure a crowd will have flowed over London bridge today. Just now, I've sen people walking down my strets with maps, clearly walking unfamiliar roads home.

The small mercy is not many sem to have died - many have ben maimed, and the fact it happened at all is bad enough.

I've nothing to add - today - now isn't the time for politics. Bastards.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Dream dust

The most impressive thing - as I've been saying at the Park - about Live8 and Make Poverty History is that a handful of celebrity millionaires have whistled a political movement out of no-where. At the least, it shows people care about ending poverty.

Yes, it's strange that they seem to think that poverty only exists in Africa - South America still has crippling poverty (even if the Monroe doctrine says European governments have to keep their noses out of it). Last I checked, South East Asia still contained some horrendous poverty. But no, world poverty and Africa are, apparently synonyms. Even newly prosperous China has something like 24 deaths per 1,000 live births (It is, to be fair, in the mid 60's for Cameroon).

I'll leave why I think Make P{overty History's policies are mistaked to anotehr day, though. The point I'm driving at above, is that a week is a long time in politics, and a lot can change.

This sustains - at least in part - my hope that a conscioous socialist movement can rise over the hill, all sudden like. Past and present absence of support does not mean no future support.

Friday, July 01, 2005


Apparently I do the politics, not the jokes - however, I am capable of transmitting funnies from places where I find amusing material - some of it even appropriate, my own guest villain spot.