Friday, March 31, 2006

Power politics: Thatcher and Pol Pot

These days Indymedia makes me want to scream more than anything else. It epitomises the mire in which the contemporary 'anarchist' movement has become embedded. Most days Indymedia is home to animal liberationists, conspiracy theorists, post-modernists embroiled in identity politics and apologists for Islamists and other authoritarians (but it's OK so long as they hail from a minority group). Criticism of any of these is likely to get you labelled a fascist or a racist (which is pretty rich given my ethnic background...).

Anyway, for the first time in ages there's a post worth reading. It's angry, amusing, humane and pointed. Worth reading.

Frank Ellis and free speech

Just seen an excellent article about Frank Ellis - the Leeds University lecturer with the race and IQ fixation. Written by one of his former students, it makes the obvious but important point that views which are regarded as repugnant should be criticised and debated, not silenced and attacked. Free speech means so little to many 'liberals' and 'leftists' that they want to stifle debate rather than encourage it. Free speech is only free when we are prepared to engage with those we disagree with - from Frank Ellis to Holocaust deniers like David Irving to Islamic fundamentalists.

The End of Oil

Interesting review of the End of Oil,by Paul Roberts, over at the London Book Review . To quote from the review:

Here the positive spin that some green politicians put on things is exposed for what it is. There are some solid alternative technologies available, from solar to wind to hydrogen fuel cells, but the task of slotting these in as direct replacements to oil is next to impossible. There's little doubt that hydrogen is the economy of the future, but how we get to that future is not certain. Roberts proposes that natural gas is the bridge between the current fossil fuels and the next energy economy

Of course given the recent issues with natural gas, it looks like the transition period has already started, and it's going to get rockier...

Thursday, March 30, 2006

IT disasters and ID cards

Interesting to read more about the latest in a long line of government IT disasters - this time it's the £6.2billion NHS system. I can remember talking to people in the NHS who work in IT and they were predicting disaster a couple of years ago.

It's all the more worrying when you think that the government pretty much got what it wanted on ID cards. Despite talk of 'compromise' the government has finally got it's own way again. All this despite not having any real justification of why we need ID cards. And of course there's going to be a huge - and costly - IT disaster waiting in the wings for this too.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Peter Tatchell and free expression

There have been more verbal attacks on the Freedom of Expression march, mainly from so-called left-wingers and Islamists. Despite the efforts of the organisers to distance themselves from racists like the BNP, there's no satisfying the 'left'. It's increasingly clear that they have no interest in freedom of speech.

Peter Tatchell has written a good defence of his involvement with the demonstration on his web-site. Predictably his integrity is being questioned on places like indymedia...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

New Labour - budget and strategy

The latest UK budget shows no sign that Labour's statism is being tempered in any way. A huge expansion of the state bureaucracy is a typical feature of many developing countries. In part it's a legacy of statist thinking from ex-Marxists, and more importantly, it allows corrupt governments to hand out favours, to build up constituencies of support from those who come to depend on the bureaucracy for jobs and support.

It's not about delivering services to the public. If it were then we'd not be creating non-jobs, handing out huge contracts to consultants and forever expanding the layers of management and control. The first rule of any bureaucracy is to defend it's existence and to expand as much as it can. That's what the state does. Despite Lenin's catchy slogan the state does not 'wither away' - ever.

Labour have got themselves a win-win strategy. If they expand the public sector then they hope that will buy them votes. If they lose the next election then any new government that tries to slim down the bureaucracy can be attacked for slashing public services. Either way, Labour come off as the defenders of public services. The unions and what remains of the Left will fall into line like sheep. No doubt the 'vote Labour with no illusions' slogan will be dusted off again...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A small victory

Shabina Begum has lost her appeal to the Lords against the ruling that her school was right to demand that she wear approved uniformed rather than the jilbab. This fight had little to do with religious freedom - her school has a uniform policy that clearly meets the needs of all the other Muslim pupils. Begum was pushing things to the extreme and quite rightly the school won.

The most interesting aspect of the whole story is the degree to which leading members of the establishment, including Cherie Blair, supported Begum. Again it just prompts the question, where is this Islamophobia that's supposed to be sweeping the country?

March For Free Expression

Interesting to see that some people people on Indymedia have condemned the forthcoming March For Free Expression (London, Saturday 25th), as racist and islamophobic. It seems that they've chosen to forget libertarianism and secularism - both corner stones of 'classical' anarchism - rather than risk offending Islamistsm or face the accusation of being Islamophobic. Personally I see little difference between their attitude and that of the reptiles in the SWP/Respect.

Thankfully civil libertarians like Peter Tatchell take liberty and free expression much more seriously.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Religious tolerance?

I suppose one shouldn't be surprised that the next British monarch completely fails to mention freedom of speech. Instead we have another insipid plea for religious tolerance. Sickening. We have so much tolerance in the West that none of our so-called leaders dares to actually stand up and make a vigorous defence of free speech and thought. This doesn't foster tolerance, it fosters resentment against those who attack our freedoms.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Paper recycling?

Why recycle paper? Is this a policy that now needs looking at again? Paper can be pelleted and turned into a fuel with a good calorific value. Surely we should be using these pellets with clean burn technology as a power generating source.

And planting fast-growing trees for paper makes sense for CO2 absortion, particularly if we can use the wood waste for ethanol production as well.

Africa - Shackled Continent

Almost finished reading 'Shackled Continent', by former Economist Africa correspondent Robert Guest. It's a lively, readable but depressing account of the state of sub-Saharan Africa. The usual litany of war, disease, poverty and corruption are detailed throughout the book. There are vivid accounts from different countries, from South Africa to Cameroon to Rwanda and Zimbabwe.

Guest doesn't take the easy way out and pin the blame squarely on rapacious Western coporates and governments. Nor does he paint Africa as a continent full of victims waiting to be rescued from poverty by enlightened Westerners. What he does make clear is that Africa's curse is a surfeit of statism. The African peoples have been saddled with governments that were as bad, and often much worse, than the colonial powers that were there before. Corruption, rampant bureaucracies run as personal fiefdoms, tribalism encouraged by venal politicians, and endless wars have kept Africa poor, sick and barely limping along.

As an antidote to the guilt-ridden breast-beating of many Western liberals, the book makes a clear case that development and freedom go hand in hand. And, just as importantly, freedom means economic as well as political freedom. Without the freedom to trade, to work and to kick out corrupt regimes, Africas peaoples are doomed to life support in perpetuity.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

George Monbiot, ethanol and new fuels

George Monbiot was on the radio a day or so ago discussing the increasing use of ethanol and bio-diesel. As an environmentalist was he pleased at the prospect of replacing fossil fuels with renewables? Absolutely not. He went into great details about the problems that might possibly occur when we grow crops for fuel – even though the prospects for cellulosic ethanol (which uses waste bio matter, such as corn stalks, wood chips etc) are looking very positive.

In the course of the interview it became clear that nothing would satisfy Monbiot except for us to cut back on the use of energy. New forms of energy seem to be of no interest, only getting people to stop travelling would work. Any sane person would agree that developing new sources of energy is essential, and that energy use has to go up if we want people across the world to share the benefits that we have in the west. Is there any better way to characterise Monbiot than to call him and his like reactionary and anti-human?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Hello. Some content will arrive shortly. In the mean time, here's a tune...