Friday, June 30, 2006

GMB Win!

The GMB have beaten the anti-union Walmart!

National recognnition has been won:
see here
GMB Shop Stewards from the Asda Wal-Mart distribution depots yesterday met in London to consider the outcome of the talks hosted by the TUC between Asda Chief Executive Andy Bond and GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny. Following lengthy consideration of the attached agreement and following over night contacts between the parties GMB are able to confirm that the agreement has been
accepted and the five day strike has been called off.
29 Jun 2006

Paul Kenny GMB General Secretary said, "This new agreement which GMB and Asda Wal-Mart have worked very hard to achieve heralds a new fresh approach to representation and bargaining between the company and GMB. It is the clear intention of this new agreement that issues beneficial to the growth of the company and the economic benefit of its employees will be dealt with through the new National Joint Council."
If we have to strike, we're losing,t he best victories come without a fight but merely a threat.

OK< so national bargaining isn't all that great, yes its bvureaucratic, but it slows the buggers down and does provide protection for quite a lot of otehrwise weak staff.

This is great news, perhaps the poison could spread...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Hamas are boneheaded twats


So, Israel has invaded again, destroying civilian infrastructure of roads and powerplants - lets leave alone how many will die from loss of medical care and water purification plants due to this war crime. Probably only a handful, forgotten by the world. Who cares in the era of megadeaths?

Hamas, or some similar group that Hamas seems to be backing, kidnapped an Israeli soldier - what on Earth were they expecting to the heavilly armed power next door to do?

Of course, it's what they want - a strategy of tension in which Israeli crimes help mobilise support aborad for the Palestineans and which test the will and nerve of the Israeli public.

In the meanwhile the workers of Palestine get used as human punchbags in this wankfest war of nationalist tossers.

Sport the war, war support
The sport is war, total war
When victory's a massacre
The final swing is not a drill
It's how many people I can kill

Slayer - War ensemble

Friday, June 23, 2006

Common sense


Toleration is not the opposite of Intolerance, but is the counterfeit of it. Both are despotisms. The one assumes to itself the right of withholding Liberty of Conscience, and the other of granting it. The one is the Pope armed with fire and faggot, and the other is the Pope selling or granting indulgences. The former is church and state, and the latter is church and traffic

Tom Paine - The rights of man.

I've been trying to track this quote down for months - it's a startling rejoinder to multi-culturalism and it's opponents - multicultuyralism is not the answer - state recognition of minorities and opinions - but liberty, universal and undiluted.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Attack of the Killer Robots


Interesting article in Newspartsman last week - America's coming robot army:
In just a few years, US forces will be able to deal out death, not at the squeeze of a trigger or even the push of a button, but with no human intervention whatsoever. Many fighting soldiers - those GIs in tin hats who are dying two a day in Iraq - will be replaced by machines backed up by surveillance technology so penetrating and pervasive that it is referred to as "military omniscience". Any Americans involved will be less likely to carry rifles than PlayStation-style consoles and monitors that display simulated streetscapes of the kind familiar to players of Grand Theft Auto - and they may be miles from where the killing takes place.
Now, this is interesting, if only in terms of if they can do that abroad, they can do it here - but I think the article misses something.

I'l explain. In one of his letters, I recall, uncle Charlie Marx discusses how mercenary soldiers were the first real proeltarians - people who had nothing but their ability to fight, working purely for the money. In that sense we can seen ancient war with it's overwhelming need for labour/manpower as one of the conduits for the development of capitalism.

This development has continued, as with real capitalism, to a situation in which the rewards of warfare go according to the capital invested. The US has overwhelming superiority in the means of warfare - it is a hugely capitalised firm, if you like. According to the MOD:
The UK Defence budget in 2005/06 is some £30.1Bn. In terms of monetary expenditure, this puts us second in the world on defence spending, although we are a long way behind the United States whose base Defence budget is some $400Bn.
That last figure, from other charts I've seen, is more, almost, than the rest of the world put together.

Although China is beginning to flex it's muscles, and presents a very real force with massive manpower (i.e. it's a labour intensive competitor) the US is still well ahead. The business of occupying and pacifying (rather than just destroying) urban concentrations remains a labour intensive task, though - the US can handle anyone in the world in an open shooting match, but, much like the US War of Independence, they have trouble when the buggers won't just stand and fight.

These robots would be a qualitative breakthrough that would mean the US could wage war anywhere on Earth - out of its pocket change.

Except, and here I return to my point - this is capitalism - the price and availability of such military hardware means competitors can buy in - imagine a terrorist getting their hands on a killer remote robot. New lines proliferate, driving the rate of rpofit down, and the faster the organic composition of capital falls, the harder and harder it is to stay ahead in the game.

On the one hand, this could be a good thing - restoring a rough equivilance of force to the world (see Frank Herbert's Committee of the Whole short story for a take on such a contingency) - on the other hand, it could lead to catastrophic waves of destruction from nukes in your bedroom.

PS Stross has a fun take on this (also see his more recent post on Guantanamo suicides).

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Jewish Cunt


Long-term readers may know that my attempted Puritan Look (Black Hat, White SHirt, unshaven with long hair) has led me to being mistaken for being Amish or occasionally Jewish.

Well, last night I was on the wrong end of some racist abuse as a consequence - walking along Clapham High Street at about ten o'clock some blokes sitting outside a bar started shouting Yisrael! - I ignored them and walked on by, after I was passed one shouted Jewish cunt! - that did provoke me to look round, to their general hilarity.

Now, these were drunk fellers, having a laugh - nothing serious or threatening and no I don't think a sign of impending fascism. They were laughing at someone who to them looked odd - I'd suggest.

Still, I'm not Jewish, so perhaps I can afford insouciance...

Update: And as if by magic - on Saturday I was going to Sainsbury's in Camden Town, and someone indeed did shout Amish after me - which reinforces my opinion that it's a feature of difference rather than some sort of bubbling racism I encountered in Clapham.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Back to politics


More on the Bolivarian Revolution - Venezuela.
Where the mainstream media in this country portrays President Hugo Chavez as the next Fidel Castro, busily turning Venezuela into a Communist (or at least anti-US) dictatorship, the US left in general has welcomed Chavez uncritically as the new face of progressive struggle in Latin America.

Read it all, key point I want to take up:
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Venezuela was the enthusiasm shown by nearly everyone we met, regardless of their political outlook (or lack thereof, in some cases). Wherever we turned, people not only wanted to show us their favorite parts of town, they also wanted to share their analysis of the political situation. Whether they thought of themselves as pro-Chavez or anti-Chavez (or somewhere in between), people displayed no trepidation about sharing their opinions with us. This openness stood in stark contrast to our experiences in other Latin American countries, where much of the population is reserved, especially in discussing political matters. It was unclear to us how much of this enthusiasm was a result of the changes wrought by Chavismo, and to what extent it pre-dated his rise to power; many people claimed the openness was a new phenomenon, while others argued that it has long been part of the “national character.”

Regardless, it seemed to us that these unique circumstances presented an amazing opportunity for anarchists in Venezuela. In the US, it often seems that the biggest impediment to anarchist organizing is the sort of cynicism and irony that characterized the presidential election of 2004: how can people be convinced of the possibility of revolution if a majority think that everything revolves around picking the lesser of two evils? The situation in Venezuela is refreshingly different, because a massive section of the population is not only open to the possibility of radical change, but seems actively interested in comparing alternative visions and strategies. It remains to be seen whether the anarchists in Venezuela have the numbers, the resources, the skill and the fortitude necessary to have a noticeable impact on the ground. Nonetheless, through both propaganda efforts like “El Libertario” and grassroots projects like the Centro, anarchists have a real chance to change the political trajectory of Venezuela, and possibly even the continent.
I'll second that sentiment - although the SPGB roundly condemned reformism, the height of reformism - 1945-1950 (or thereabouts) saw the height of the SPGB (about 1,000 members). The current politics of fear ann managerialism relies on passivity - consumer voters rather thaan active citizens.

Hat tip:the Mutualist

Thursday, June 01, 2006

I may regret this...

A book came across my desk yesterday, containing the following paragraph:
Mating consortships are also sometimes seen in chimpanzees and are particularly common in bonobo. In fact, a male and female bonobo may spend several weeks primarilly in each other's company. During this time, they mate often, even when the female isn't in estrus. But these relationships of longer duration aren't typical of chimpanzee [...] males and females.
Esentials of physical anthropology / Robert Jurmain, Lynn Kilgore [and] Wendy Trevathan. 6th. ed. Belmont, CA : Thomson Wadsworth, 2006. ISBN 0495030619.

I only loked at it coz of the cute chimps on the cover. Anyway - that paragraph jumped out at me because of my recent discussions with Stuart. Basically, it suggested something that seems to me to drive a coach and horses through Knight's theories.

If consortship/pair bonding type relationships are imminent within our nearest evolutionary cousins, then we could well infer that such a practise was in existence within human evolution at some point - bonobo style relationships. If then we further consider that all it would take would be selective pressures (and benefits) to extend this kind of relationship, then we can begin to see modern human sexual relations emerging through a simple evolutionary process quite easilly.

The lack of oestrus Knight notes could in fact just be a consequence of bonobo sex - if oestrus stops being important we may simply have stopped selecting for it.

That is, I'd suggest, there is no need for a sex strikle theory to account for observable features.

Stuart asked for a rival theory - there's one. Hominids were engaging in consortships, those who had more solid consortships which lasted longer produce more succesful offspring, passing on the tendency for consortship and long term relationships we see in human history.