Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Why I refuse

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I'm not a Member of NATFHE - but even if I were I would not partake of their boycott of Israelis who don't dissociate themselves from the occupation.

Even though the motion is without sanction and will not in itself be put into effect (due to Union merger) I consider it to be wrong and ill-headed.

I work in a university library, with a large Jewish studies collection - I regularly purchase books from Israel for that (and for archaeology as well). We use an Israeli based company to run our library catalogue and management system. I routinely contact Israeli universities for purchases.

Anyone who thinks harming Jewish Studies will help the situation is wrong - the study and understanding of a place is an essential tool - indeed weapon - in assisting moral action towards it. Without engagement and community there can be no moral discourse, merely posturing and misunderstanding. Boycotts go against what academe is about - the positive creation of ideas and culture.

This isn't the first time it's reared it's head - recall the debate I attended many moons ago.


I should add that Norm hath spoken.

Friday, May 26, 2006

..without exception


The Ingrate continues to discuss fitba and some lower league team called Selltick - or something like that. Of course, impossiblists really support The Boro - for that deferred world domination sensation.

Hoever, Der Spiegel brings us an interesting story about football production - to drag this blog back to materialism:
People flock to [Sialkot] from far and wide; 60 percent of the world's footballs are made here, by more than 200 producers. They sport names like "Laser," "Estrella International," "Ali Trading Company" and "Fox & Associates." Some are one-room setups equipped with a telephone and a few files. Others are headquartered in towers of glittering glass and concrete that would slot smoothly into European cityscapes. As a rule these companies ship their output overseas. They are integrated in the global economy, links in the international value chain. The owners are subcontractors for Nike, Adidas and other corporations marketing "lifestyle" products. Their earnings have transformed the region into Pakistan's El Dorado. People here make about $1,000 a year, nearly twice the national average.
I don't want to focus on the gruelling labour that make up other people's fun - instead on the simple phrase - 60% of the world's footballs are made in one city in Pakistan. Please contemplate the full meaning of that phrase.

Science fiction now

From the Beeb news:
Researchers in the US and Britain have unveiled their blueprints for building a cloaking device.
Yep, invisibility is on its way - or at least, radar invisbility - although the scientists keep trying to suggest non-miltary applicantions (stopping buildings blocking mobile phone masts) we all know the advantage will be in super stealth bombers and hiding military installations and submarines and the like.

Marvel we must, though - if they achieve it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Born in abundance?

In the light of Stuart's talk I've been ruminating on some of the upshots. The story so far is that having heard and discussed Knight's theories (relayed in the link) I'm not convinced but I don't think they are beyond the pale and at least need treating seriously. That's by the by.

In another piece, I recall, Stuart discussed the costs of communication - that animals can compete symbollically by investing energy and effort into communication - and so all communication requires, if you like, a gold standard of cost to back up its worth. For example, biologists define altruiism as not attacking forst, humans are a species where we greet with a handshake - not only are we not attacking first, but deliberately revealing our weaponlessness and leaving ourselves open to attack. That requires a great deal of trust.

However - the cost theory of communication is based on the malthusian (non-derogatory) underpinnings of Darwinism - that all beings everywhere are scraping by in subsistence because all species will breed to the limits of their niche (and beyond) - if a species doesn't, another one will.

If, though, we suppose a species that found itself in a new niche - possibly a unique niche where others couldn't follow - and one where it biologically could not breed to fill (because, say, it was a slowly maturing species that produced few babies) then we can posit a species existing not in scarcity, but in abundance.

If it is unable to breed to fill the niche, all it can do is consume more and improve the chances of its small numbers of surviving.

Perhaps, much like physics has problems where it's laws break down at the begining, the Darwinian account of human evolution must break the underlying Malthusian premises - humans are not subject to Malthus now (I'd argue), perhaps we were born in that escape.

Briefly, you could model this as humans as scavengers - the best in the game chasing other scavengers away with stones (hand axes?) - a low investment reward rich startegy in which the immense surplus energy could go to feeding brains and social symbollic pressure to develop coalition consciousness. Which in turn could be teh basis for a meme explosion.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Qui custodiat ipso custodes

From today's Gruaniad:
Rank and file police officers yesterday launched a pre-emptive strike against radical plans to reform their service by claiming that up to 25,000 full-time officers would be lost in the change...
According to the claims, forces would take on cheaper police community support officers, under plans being drawn up by the Association of Chief Police Officers...
"We would end up with a paramilitary force only dealing with confrontational situations. That would be a tragedy for British policing. If disaster happens and we don't have the response, we are going to take the blame ... the public will be put at risk. This is cheaper policing not better policing."
More than that, as a lawyer acquaintance tells me, the legal status of constable is significant, constitutionally, these community support officers (who amount to a parrallel police force controled, in some instances, by local councils not police authorities) do not have the same legal standing - they have no more power than you or I (a good thing in my opinion, a democratic principle is at the very least that police should not have powers of arrest distinct from Joe Citizen).

The problem is that the loyalty of the police has been bought for decades through terms and conditions and pay increases, raising the cost of a copper means that it is very expensive to get full coverage to put police on the beat, rather than in vans swooping out of nowhere to grab what they see as offenders. A review I saw yesterday of this book
The Making of a Policeman: The Social History of a Labour Force in Metropolitan London, 1829-1914 / Haia Shpayer-Makov. - ISBN: 0754603377
suggests this isn't a new phenomenon:
Strikes were rare and harshly dealt with, but concessions soon followed — in 1872, and again in 1890 — in the form of pay increases and heightened pension provision. Thus, major concessions at moments of strife helped to preserve a paternalistic regime and paved the way for a growing feeling of professional identity and the ‘crystallisation of an espirit de corps’ (p. 266) within the ‘Met’
(Labour History Review, 70.2)

Labour have backed themselves into a corner - in an effort of sound and fury to make themselves appear tough on crime and to lower the perception of crime they have committed themselves to massive extension of the police and policing powers - police powers of arrest have been dramatically broadened under Labour - as have on the spot fines (i.e. extra judicial punishment). They can appear no tougher without effectively declaring martial law (and plenty of folks would welcome that).

The megaphone of security is drowing out any discourse of liberty of of social advancement - the anti-social will always be with us, and only a boot stamping on a yobbos face forever will save us.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Eye of Sauron

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According to Der Spiegel:
Bush is convinced that he is truly waging a war, and in times of war the president, as commander-in-chief, should enjoy practically unlimited powers. The Bush administration has used this supposedly unlimited authority to its fullest extent, sending terror suspects to countries known to torture their prisoners and developing and approving interrogation methods that led to human rights violations in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. The administration, it seems, has reserved the right to break the law in the name of its own holy war.


Bush has made great use of so-called presidential signing statements, which are issued when the president signs a bill into law, to push his imperial agenda. In a signing statement, the president explains his interpretation of a law approved by Congress and how he intends to apply that law.
Of course, Machiavelli advised that the wise Prince would always be at war - and the framers of the American constitution did always intend the President to be more like a Roman Consul than a General Secretary of the American Union.

This is part and pacel of his decision to monitor all phone calls on a mass trawling exercise - perhaps they've never seen Six Degrees of Separation the idea of looking at anyone who talked to anyone who was suspiscious becomes rapidly ridiculous. Nonetheless, the database is a monolith to surveillance.

The strapline for the recent V for Vendetta was that the people shouldn't be afraid of the government, the government should be afraid of its people - it is afraid, oh so afraid.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The fruits of Repec'

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OK, this may turn into a longer article, but George Galloway has secured an adjournment debate in the House of COmmons.

Did he discuss poverty? Welfare? Civil Liberties? Union rights?


The Tribune of the oppressed called for a debate on press regulation:
What is to be done? Should we allow 40 per cent. of newspaper circulation in Britain to be in Rupert Murdoch's grubby hands—from the streetwalkers of the News of the World to the higher class of courtesan at The Times? Will we allow our local press to be subject, as it is through takeover, to increasing monopolisation?

For almost 20 years in the House I have opposed state regulation of the press, and I oppose it still. I believe that freedom and democracy in this country would lose more than they would gain from such regulation, but part of the answer to those questions lies in the Government's hands: first, through modifying their relations with those media magnates and, secondly, through caps on media ownership, especially ownership by foreign billionaires whose loyalty is certainly not to this country.
Every Hufton Bufton Tory worth his name could support those sentiments. Any time serving backbench Labour MP with sententious views of his own importance could support those sentiments.

Galloway had the floor of the House for 15 minutes, and aside from bragging about getting a minority of councillors on Tower Hamlets, he wasted it on his ego and ludicrous patriotic twaddle.

Strikes me the Respect that Galloway wants, is for himself.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I admit it - it's me...

Monday, May 08, 2006

Why I am not in the Labour party

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Sorry for the absence.

Anyway, I was contesting Clapham Town ward in Lambeth for the Socialist Party over the last couple of weeks - part of an experiment to see if we could establish a base through a bit of persistance - I actually trebled my vote to 39 this time, so perhaps there is an effect. [/irony]

The count was cliche central - the Tories were 'orrible creasy overly clean shaven and plummy accented - the greens all wore green and beige, and the lib-dems had horns, tails and smelled of sulpher, and kept munching on boil in the bag babies.

I've already discussed here the amount of time and effort that goes into the election count, and it is a massive process to behold. Interesting also is the number of bloc voters. We'd contested a full slate to see how many people would plump entirely for us - we counted 11 before we left at two in the morning (I've been struggling with a dreaded lurgi that's left me speechless for most of the weekend). The bloc voters for the Labour and Tories, though, streamed in by the hundred.

To reiterate a point I've made here before, we must never underestimate the persistant, consistant, clear and conscious support that so many people give to the main parties and capitalism, we cannot simply brush it aside as false consciousness.

Anyway, back to the title of this post - I was reminded that basically I got on better by just a way of fond memory, perhaps, with the Labour candidates. Just as the Despairate duo have announced why they are not in the SWP, I thought I should explain why I'm not in Labour.

After all, when I survey the landscape of parties outside the SPGB, it's the only one I could ever think of going (back) to. The argument that it is where the bulk of the working class are is persuasive. That at least under machiavellian guise it has advanced a few working class causes whilst in power is too. That it is a broad church and I'd be able to argue my case there, likewise.

The decision, it seems to me, rests on whether I privilege ideological agreement over a sort of social alignment. The fruits of joining and not joining are, at the moment, the same, I wouldn't get any of the policies I want. I might be able to work my way into a position of being able to practically help - in the here and now - but only by comprimising heavilly.

I am not of the utter No reforms! of the SPGB - I joined for its emphasis on inetrnal democracy and because of my lingering Bennite belief that unless you address the fundamental balaance of social power any changes Labour makes will be merely insergent raids on the bastion of entrenched plutocracy.

Being able to make a clear distinction and position suggests I should continue to prefer ideological agreement over practical alignment - but I am not a sectarian drone, I am simply throwing my political energy behind the best available means I can see of advancing my politics.