Monday, September 29, 2008

I've been quiet too long...

So, I'll just quote the CIA World Fact book:

The US has the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a per capita GDP of $46,000. In this market-oriented economy, private individuals and business firms make most of the decisions, and the federal and state governments buy needed goods and services predominantly in the private marketplace. US business firms enjoy greater flexibility than their counterparts in Western Europe and Japan in decisions to expand capital plant, to lay off surplus workers, and to develop new products. At the same time, they face higher barriers to enter their rivals' home markets than foreign firms face entering US markets. US firms are at or near the forefront in technological advances, especially in computers and in medical, aerospace, and military equipment; their advantage has narrowed since the end of World War II. The onrush of technology largely explains the gradual development of a "two-tier labor market" in which those at the bottom lack the education and the professional/technical skills of those at the top and, more and more, fail to get
comparable pay raises, health insurance coverage, and other benefits. Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20% of households. The response to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 showed the remarkable resilience of the economy. The war in March-April 2003 between a US-led coalition and Iraq, and the subsequent occupation of Iraq, required major shifts in national resources to the military. The rise in GDP in 2004-07 was undergirded by substantial gains in labor productivity. Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage in the Gulf Coast region in August 2005, but had a small impact on overall GDP growth for the year. Soaring oil prices in 2005-2007 threatened inflation and unemployment, yet the economy continued to grow through year-end 2007. Imported oil accounts for about two-thirds of US consumption. Long-term problems include inadequate investment in economic infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, sizable trade and budget deficits, and stagnation of family income in the lower economic groups. The merchandise trade deficit reached a record $847 billion in 2007. Together, these problems caused a marked reduction in the value and status of the dollar worldwide in 2007.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

The path of democracy

In Bolivia democracy isn't going down a smooth path, regional cessesionists are trying to thwart the will of the overall majority - will the US back any breakaways there? After all, Russia has made the precedents...

Anyway, Zimbabwe's democracy seems to be just about holding up. To their immense credit, the MDC never turned to guerilla warfare, and put the safety of its supporters high up its agenda - high enough to back away from the violence of the state. Today's power sharing deal could see Tsvangirai just turn shit pol with his feet under the table, or it could see Zimbabwe finally emerge as a stable democracy.

To be clear, in both cases, it is democracy and not street violence that must prevail - as the MDC has shown, plugging away can and does work. The conquest of democracy is an essential tool in the worker's hands for self defence and revolution. These events knock the sterility of the neo-con/cruise missile left's perspectives into a cocked hat. This is the way democracy spreads. This will do more good than the Iraq war or the Afghan campaign.

Now, we have to wait and see what will happen to Chavez in Venezuela, he needs to go for the good of democracy...

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Et tu quoque

Sharp eyed readers may have noticed an addition to the blog roll, an anarchist of my acquaintance (and prolific writer on the subject) here.

Going to his blog reminded me of why I am not an fuckinganarchist, and why I may not be the best person to chair a forum involving the Socialist Party and Ian Bone from class war (I'll put up a proper notice later). Suffice to say that I'm firmly of the opinion that fuckinganarchist is a compound noun that is now indivisible.

Especially so after reading the AFAQ for the first time in a while. Especially the stuff trying to claim that Anarchists aren't anti-democratic. After a string of tu quoque justifications, and talk of collective free association and federated delegates, we get this gem:
As a general rule-of-thumb, anarchists have little problem with the minority accepting the decisions of the majority (!!!) after a process of free debate and discussion. As we argue in section A.2.11, such collective decision making is compatible with anarchist principles -- indeed, is based on them. By governing ourselves directly, we exclude others governing us. However, we do not make a fetish of this, recognising that, in certain circumstances, the minority must and should ignore majority decisions. For example, if the majority of an organisation decide on a policy which the minority thinks is disastrous then why should they follow the majority? Equally, if the majority make a decision which harms the liberty and equality of a non-oppressive and non-exploitative minority, then that minority has the right to reject the "authority" of the majority
Now, there are only two choices in collective life, the dictatorship of the minority, or the dictatorship of the majority - this is an inescapable fact. Anarchists do not make a fetish (what others might dare to call a principle) of democracy. hence why they talk of small collectives federated so that everyone can join in the heated debates, rather than wider scale polities in which decisions may be delegated to some specific body covering a wider area, and all embracing solidarity. What if, to reverse their own example, one small collective began to implement racist policies, surely it would be for the majority to impose upon it and, by force if necessary, prevent such behaviour? (I'll note, racism might not be oppressive, if, say, the form was simply that of excluding certain types of people from community X, and thus wouldn't fall within the qualificatiosn given above).

Finally, I'll just point out the standard Socialist Party view, that anarchists, by denegrating democracy as an organisational principle and fetishising insurrection and revolt give grist to the mill of other totalitarian creeds, like fascism, and make the slaughter of workers in civil war more likely than less.

That is why I'm not an anarchist. That is why I oppose anarchism.

Update: While I'm here I note that AFAQ on Bakunin's criticism of Marx doesn't mention Marx wrote a reply to Bakunin's Statism & Anarchy - which directly rebuts some of the contents of that section of the AFAQ...

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Hull FC v. St. Helens

So, the Challenge Cup final. Webley.

never been to Wembley before, so i must record just how impressed I was. Massive, with a capital Massive. the crowd control measures funnel you in, and funnel you out, public order by design. Very clever. I came out of Wembley Park tube station to see the crowd flowing down the concrete causeway from the station to the Stadium (this is a stadium). I went with the flow. I'd chosen to wear a black and white shirt to show sympathy with the Yorkshire team. I remained unmoletsted, save for a crack about "Why don't you shave, what are you, Taleban?" from a Merseysider.

Once I got in, bizzarrely, I was asked to remove the cap from my water bottle, which meant I threw it away, coz I couldn't leave it in my bag open. I then mounted the ten flights of stairs to the fifth level, and my seat in block 550, row 32. That is a long way up.

In the heat and the height and the noise, the stadium was amazing. A crowd of what turned out to be around eighty two thousand made a continual roar, simply by breathing, it seemed. the weather, which I had expected to be gloomy and muggy, was bright and warm. perfect for playing.

the match itself looked like it was going to be one sided. teh guy next to me thought Hull looked disorganised. I thought it was just that Saint's werebloody brilliant. or, rather, that they got the basics right, and thus forced the Humbersiders into trying riskier, fancier play - that they never quite pulled off. Like the Quinns' game, Saints sped the play along terrically. They scored back to back tries, unanswered.

I knew when Hull scored their fans (who seemed to edge the majority) would errupt, as indeed, they did, as Hull bravely fought back, with some amazing tries, run in from great distance.

Saints, though, showed mettle, running in opportunistic tries with extra zeal. No quarter was given, every advantage taken. Both teams turned in an excellent technical game, and Saint's continued their fair play league habit - which is a good one - of giving away very few technical panalties (the rest of Rugbydom should learn a lesson from this, penalties are bad, avoiding them makes your game so much better).

The worthy winners, then, after a second half fightb ack from Hull proved not to be enough (and a very temporary lead to boot).

Hull 16-28 St Helens

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London Skolars v. Keighly Cougars

Well, Friday night lights for the last Co-op Division Two match of Skolars' season. Kick off in the falling dusk, a capacity attendance, 1,427, from visiting rugby fans down in the smoke for the Challenge cup next day (So that'll have been about £130K in the bank for the club).

The match itself was excellent - Skolar's pulled their socks up and really played beter than I've seen them all season. But, the omens were not good: their line was fast, they defended like demons but they had to do it again and again and again. Keighly struck through the centre, taking every advantage - Skolars were driven out to the wings to make their tries.

A sin binning was the most disappointing moment of the match for for the Londoners, but they're play remaine resolute even down one man. Although behind in points and play, they kept on catching up, and kept the game competetive to the end, even holding the lead for somewhile.

When the end came, it was a scrappy chase, which Skolars could have won with a touch more skill. Throughout loose hands let them down, and giving away unnecessary technical penalties.

In many ways, it summed up Skolar's season.

On my way out I ehard some of the Yorkshire fans complaining that this was the worst stadium they'd ever visited, other than Saints'. I don't think I've ever described the New River Stadium. First, the New River isn't new, nor is it a river - it's an old canal. The stadium isn't really a stadium, it's one stand. it looks out over an athletics track and to an attractive park beyond, on a warm summer's day it can be highly pleasant to sit there. Off to the left (when sitting in the stand) Alxandra Palace can be seen rising over the trees. It isn't the greatest ground in the world, but it will do for now.

The worst problem was the lights. they lit themselves, but not the ground. The clue was, the players on the pitch weren't casting shadows.

Skolars have officially come second from bottom, they had every chance of coming a little higher, and may do so next year. But, at the end, Friday's match was:

London Skolars 14-18 Keighley

Finally, a little note, Skolars has a group of fans, henceforth to bne known as the ironic singers. Their chants of "The referee is Elvis" and other such surreal offerings normally make up most of the crowd noise, but with a bigger crowd cowed them tonight. Lets hope their in full voice next year. On the stairs though, I heard them, ever hopeful chanting "We got a bonus point!"

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