Archive for the ‘News/Info’ Category

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Boom

August 8, 2009

A letter in the paper today seems to put forth the view that the fact that nation states hold nuclear weapons may be good for world stability. The writer advocates that a “nuclear balance-of-terror may deter big wars”. Of course, this letter has been prompted by the recent passing of yet another anniversary of the catastrophic August 6th 1945 dropping of the atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The letter writer then goes on to remind readers that the Japanese committed horrific war crimes during World War II and that his father was a victim of these crimes, having been held in a POW camp himself for three and half years. There is no denying this of course. It is well documented that the Japanese Imperial Forces committed disgusting and horrific crimes against humanity during World War II, particularly the rape of Nanjing, which the Chinese people will be hard pressed to forgive or forget for, one would think, thousands of years. These atrocities must be remembered and learned from, just like the myriad of other lessons that history teaches us. Furthermore, certain sections of Japanese society need to deal with them and learn from them as well as acknowledge that they happened and that they were atrocious and morally reprehensible in every way. Certain other sections of Japanese society have indeed already acknowledged all this.

However, separate from his first point, there seems a more base level claim and justification for dropping a nuclear bomb on an industrialised, densely populated city that the letter writer espouses. The only problem is he fails to link it to the first point he attempts to make in the letter – that nuclear weapon ownership among nations is a stabilising factor in the international arena of world powers.  Abandoning the pretence that a “nuclear balance-of-terror may deter big wars”, the letter writer then wraps up his ‘point’ by mentioning karma and stating that “what goes around, comes around”.

Now, is it just me or is has this letter writer not learned his lessons from history? I intend to make a few points in response to these claims below. Firstly, I’ll deal with the claim that nuclear weapons are a stabilising factor in the international arena. Then I’ll say a few things on the never ending debate about whether the nuclear bombs should have been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the moral judgements that are bandied about constantly in relation to the decision to drop them. I will then say a few things about my own experience of Hiroshima and make the point that those who think that there can be ‘good’ reasons for the existence of these abominable weapons in the world are misguided, to say the least.

To say that nuclear weapons are a stabilising factor in the international arena is completely ridiculous. It’s akin to saying you can arm a substantial part of the population of a country with guns and the fact that they all own guns will stop them from shooting each other. We have hard evidence that this is not the case.  Furthermore, it creates suspicion and paranoia. Extrapolate this to the international arena. The fact that the United States developed the bomb first and used it set the Soviet Union off on a rapid nuclearisation path that plunged both these nations into the Cold War. This face-off led to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis which perched the world on the brink of nuclear war. This period was anything but stable and the so-called détente which followed it was stable only in relative terms to the period which immediately preceded it. As the Cold War wound on, nations on both sides of the divide fought proxy wars and took steps that aided in the nuclearisation of their perceived allies. Furthermore, other nations less drawn into the overarching conflict of the Cold War have also been successful in their pursuit of possessing nuclear weapons.

This proliferation has eventuated in the following countries possessing these catastrophic devices in addition to the United States and Russia: Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea. While Israel officially says it doesn’t possess any nuclear weapons, it is nonetheless the opinion of many international observers that Israel could be in possession of up to 100 such weapons. That’s an official total of eight countries with the real total probably being nine. On top of this, Iran, Syria and Myanmar are all suspected to be actively pursuing nuclear weapons to varying degrees right now.

The destabilisation and suspicion that this has caused has been so great that the United Nations, no matter how hard it tries, cannot reel it in or devise any workable solutions in regard to stopping the proliferation of these weapons. Probably the most poignant example at the moment of nuclear weapons having a huge destabilising effect does not come from North Korea (as alarming and destabilising as the North Korean regime having them is) but from Pakistan. Pakistan is thought to possess around 200 nuclear weapons and is steadily increasing this arsenal. The destabilising factor, as many have pointed out, does not come from the Pakistani state as it stands at the moment (except from India’s point of view, but that’s a whole other geo-political issue). The nightmare scenario is if the Taliban and their friends are able to mount an effective enough campaign to oust the weakened Pakistani government and arm themselves with the nuclear weapons that Pakistan has attained over the last two decades.

A nuclear armed state in the international arena has proven throughout the 20th century to be a constant threat of war and destruction on a catastrophic scale. A nuclear armed bunch of stateless fanatics who routinely practice beheadings, amputations, appalling sexism and many other lovely little cleansings of the soul in the name of their warped world view is a new threat that will cause untold destabilisation and irreversible damage to the region with ramifications worldwide. There have been recent renewed efforts from Pakistan to deal with this threat, but the political will to do so is fickle and their enemy is a resourceful, powerful and enduring one.

Not only has nuclear proliferation been a major destabilising factor for the world throughout the 20th century, but as the world grows more complex and new types of war are being fought with unconventional forces who renew their tactics constantly and are utterly unpredictable, these weapons have the potential to completely destroy the world as we know it. The idea that nuclear terror will “deter big wars” is absurd. Nuclear weapons are, after all, weapons. They are designed for a purpose and just like in the case of every other weapon, that purpose is waiting to be executed by those who are willing to push the button – and to say that such people don’t exist is naive and silly. Nuclear weapons a stabilising factor? What planet are you on?

A few things about the Hiroshima/Nagasaki debate. Should nuclear weapons have been used on these cities at the conclusion of World War II? Of course not. The war was a war between belligerent armies and Japan was steadily collapsing and being worn down by the overwhelming superiority of the American forces. Of course, some will point out that the Japanese High Command were simply not willing to surrender. This may be so, but it does not justify the dropping of a nuclear weapon on a city which caused somewhere in the vicinity of 70,000 deaths instantly, 50,000 in the following days, thousands more in the following years and a long term mutation effect on many among the local population. The war was between soldiers – and yes, Japan did not respect this and in fact carried out some of the worst atrocities against civilians of the 20th century. However, this does not mean that the Allies should have done the same. It’s like saying that terrorists blow up our cafes and nightclubs with suicide bombers, so we should go to their local communities and do the same. A “what goes around, comes around” attitude is a sadistic retributive justice stance that does not rectify a situation and has the effect of robbing people of their lives and their dignity. Punishing a people collectively for the crimes of their compatriots is ludicrous. America needed to fight in World War II, America needed to be in Europe and the Pacific and do many of the things it did. America DID NOT need to drop those bombs to win that war and doing so has been one of the monumental mistakes of modern history.

Anyone who’s been to Hiroshima will get a sense of why it was the wrong decision to drop those bombs. The Japanese in this city know all too well the devastation that nuclear weapons cause. The museum and peace park underneath where the epicentre of the explosion was are testaments to this. They offer an emotional education of why these weapons are a scourge on our humanity. The museum takes care to mention Japanese atrocities during the war and acknowledges the Japanese military regime’s role in bringing about the war in the Pacific. It also gives an informative overview of nuclear weapons around the world. The last part of the museum takes you through the devastation of the city on August 6th 1945 as well as the following days and months. It’s an emotional walk through that museum. It’s a powerful and sombre reminder and that whatever gripes humans may have with each other over whatever issue, there is no guarantee of a good outcome if nuclear weapons are used – particularly if both parties possess them.

A photo I took in Hiroshima Peace Park earlier this year. The Arch is directly underneath where the epicentre of the explosion was said to be.

A photo I took in Hiroshima Peace Park earlier this year. The Arch is directly underneath where the epicentre of the explosion was said to be.

Anyone who says that nuclear weapons can have some sort of positive effect on the world needs to re-evaluate their thinking and do some serious research before making such an absurd assertion in the future.

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Friedrich, Karl and the perpetual crisis

November 29, 2008

Guess who… And from where…

“The productive forces at our disposal no longer tend to further the development of the relations of bourgeois civilisation; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these relations by which they are encumbered, and so soon as they overcome these encumbrances, they bring into disorder the whole of bourgeois society, then endanger the existence of bourgeois property. The relations of bourgeois society have become too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them. And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand by the enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. And by what means? By preparing the way for more general and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented.”

– Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, published 1848.

Oh dear… So much insight for one small passage. Now, every monopolistic, capitalistic right-wing moron who isn’t smart enough to understand the above passage will insist that the “current economic crisis” is starting to correct itself and that the market will “come good” over the next year. No, no, no! The only reason why some of the largest corporations in the world aren’t in the hands of receivers right now is because the government has bailed them out. Yes, that “old socialistic” visible hand has come in and injected shitloads of money into the very corporations who have misled the masses, handled their money irresponsibly and then (behind closed doors) begged the government (who are indebted to these right wing bourgeois fucks) to bail them out while they walk away without a single scar.

Yes, my friends. The government is always looked at by conservative right-wing economists as the evil entity sticking its nose into the business of business and robbing citizens of their money in the form of taxation. Do I entirely disagree with this assessment? Of course not – they do have a point in certain contexts. But, on the whole, current western government is just a tool and mechanism of the essentially monopolistic capitalist system in which we find ourselves and hence they will bail out those of their ilk before they give a damn about those who have lost out and are about to lose out in this latest “crisis”. That very system that Marx and Engels describe in the depths of their (and I don’t give a shit how old and cliqued it is) brilliantly written Communist Manifesto is the system we find ourselves in. Think about it: On the one hand by the enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces”… hhhmmm, so by war (in every sense of the word) – The Empire has started two obvious ones over the last seven years. On the other by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones” . If you can’t see these, then you’ve been living in a cave forever. This wasn’t really even an insight in 1848, when the manifesto was written. The conquest and exploitation of new markets is evident in China and India, even in an extremely superficial analysis.

If you want to go deeper, look at the effect that this has had on the emerging working classes in places like China and India (where that annoying glitch of trade unions is largely avoided thanks to an overbearing alliance of business and government. Yes, China’s government has never been “Communist” – it is now a fully functioning fascist capitalistic dictatorship). So, there’s your exploitation right there… Then look at the middle classes of those respective countries… Then look at the effect that the outsourcing of jobs from the rich world has had on the working populations of places like, say, Detroit in the good old U S of A.

So, we have the conquest of new markets – China and India’s bourgeoning (oh – I know you’re marvelling at my oh so clever pun! And, yes – there are two correct ways to spell this in English!) middle classes and desperate poorer working classes. Then the “more thorough exploitation of old ones” – the outsourcing of jobs in the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia which (to varying degrees in each of these countries) forces working classes into the position where they need to get more jobs to make enough to get by and/or then become more indebted to the… massive corporations who have created and perpetuated this whole “latest crisis” through their irresponsible investment, their irresponsible lending and their irresponsible borrowing… You see? The so-called “economic cycle” is precisely what Marx and Engles have described above. It is the economic cycle of perpetual crisis – it thrives on crises to survive.

So, who loses out at all of this? Most of us, it seems. The masses (in their various class forms throughout history) endure the suffering, hardship and economic (in the form of increased taxation and various depleted social government programs) cost of each crisis as it is progressively and systematically played out.  Who does well? The few who run the show: the indebted spine-less “representatives” of our respective democracies and dictatorships and the corporations who fund them in many direct and indirect ways. In a word, the bourgeoisie (and the few aristocrats who are left in the world). Call them what you will with the passing of time. They take many more forms than what Marx and Engels envisioned. But the essence of what Marx and Engels envisioned is what matters, if you have a clear enough line of sight to see it.

So, I hear you saying that you fund the government too, right? Well, you are correct madam and sir! But, how do you vote? You vote within the system… As do I… In the words of one of my favourite bands, Propagandhi:

“You can vote however the fuck you want, but power still calls all the shots. And believe it or not, even if (real) democracy broke loose, power could/would just “make the economy scream” until we vote responsibly.”

And, yes, my friends… This is where our right-wing counterparts have a point (refer to what I wrote above). Taxation is exploitation (doesn’t that sound familiar? From a distant lost past perhaps). Our simple right-wing friends get it wrong in how taxation is a problem though. And (don’t you just love artists and musicians for their ability to sprout truth in a simplistic, but beautiful light?) to quote Michael Franti: “Take a look at where your money’s gone… See? … Take a look at what they spend it on. No excuses! No illusions!”

The system is the problem people. What system? Thy name is monopolitisic, government supported, greedy capitalism.

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It’s been a while

November 19, 2008

Damn – who would have thought that life would take over from blogging? Yes, the posts have been few and far between during the last year on tp. But, in what could only be described as one hell of a year (mostly in good ways – including being rushed to hospital and spending three weeks there – yes I did manage to reflect in a positive manner on this and also spending a few weeks in Spain!), I am now beginning to wind down. What an amazing year it has been all over the world. As I gather my thoughts about several issues, I’ll be back here to post them (including my take on Japan as I’ll be spending a month there soon). So, whoever is still visiting here, expect more flowerly, angry and hopefully insightful shit to show up a little more often over the next six months. Still here – just much more busy in the real world these days (don’t worry – it’s all good stuff contributing to the individual revolutionary activity of the masses of this beautiful shithole of a planet). 🙂

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Provocations, Progress (?) and Puns

June 7, 2008

So, the oil price has spiked overnight. So, it’s supposed to be due to a number of factors, such as America’s sharp rise in unemployment, an Israeli official’s comments stating that an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities is a likely possibility and gee, uh, I don’t know… The fact that consumption of and demand for oil is at an all time world-wide high and that oil is a finite resource that we are, well, running out of. The first two factors are no doubt important. But the third factor is the most important thing to remember about the recent feather flurry in rich western nations (such as here in Australia) about the oh so terrible jump in petrol prices. The way the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd and the the Opposition Leader, Brendan Nelson (or is that Malcolm Turnbull) have carried on about it the last few weeks has been a prime example of blubbering politicians simply not being able to grasp the gravity or seriousness of the chief underlying cause of this (political speak) “added pressure to the economy”. Of course, I have neglected to mention the just as serious negative environmental impacts that our consumption and demand for oil have. What’s needed is a shift away from oil to more economically viable and less ecologically damaging means of producing our energy needs. Funding needs to be diverted to science to achieve this and harmful interventions (or silly exemptions from the Australian Rudd government) that are suffocating market activity towards this end need to be stopped. One step foward. Two steps back…

Barack Obama has finally declared victory in the Democratic Primaries and Hillary seems a bit lost in the wilderness. I’ve heard many commentators dissecting it all and assessing whether this whole process has meant progress for the cause of women and/or African Amercians in the modern United States. I’m inclined to say yes to both. Whether the system actually changes or is changed is a completely different issue, but attempted participation in some active way seems to be up at least on the Democrats side. Both Hillary and Obama’s campaigns seem to have energised and activated millions of Americans from both sexes (for both sides), from many different segments of the middle classes and some from the working classes and of course from people from a plethora of different races. I said it early last year about the Australian election, and I guess the same is going to go for the American one this year: It’s going to be a very interesting year in politics.

Oh, and something annoying! With all these damn stories on the TV and on the net about world oil prices at the moment, I’m going crazy with the bad puns ( “Speculation sets world oil price ablaze”, “Oil price fuels inflation”, “Petrol prices fueling flames at the bowser” etc.) – some stories even have several within themselves. Meh! Bah humbug! Go backpedal on CO2 emissions and ride a bike to work!

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Out of Touch…

December 19, 2007

It’s a sign of how out-of-touch the Liberal-National Coalition became before the federal election on November 24: Brendan Nelson (who?) has taken almost a full month after the election to declare that WorkChoices is finally gone and dead. Thanks Brendan, now you’re up to date with what a majority of the electorate thought in early 2005. Keep plugging away, you conservative pratt…

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Shame on you, Channel Ten, You Misogynistic Fucks

December 15, 2007

Tonight, I just finished watching The Importance of Being Earnest and my TV automatically switched over to Channel Ten. It happened to be in the middle of an ad break. An advertisement for the show “America’s Next Top Model” came on saying that it was some sort of Christmas special edition of the show. As the viewer was bombarded with three separate women walking along a catwalk in very revealing clothing, the voice over said “ho, ho, ho”…

It’s bad enough that women and girls are being objectified in subtle ways, but now we as a society are outright not only condoing this fucking bullshit, but promoting it. Bratz dolls, America’s Next Top Model – what the fuck is going on here? I call on anyone who is reading this and seen this ad to call Channel Ten and complain – I have.

I’m not even going to bother explaining why this has outraged me to the point where I am white with anger. If you need to ask, you’re a fucking idiot. I’m a school teacher and I can tell you that this type of shit is having an extremely negative effect on young girls. I over heard some girls in one of my classes talking one day and they were saying how boys weren’t even given an accurate picture of how girls looked because they just see porn or shows like “America’s Next Top Model” portraying an extreme form of un-reality.

When un-realistic and mysogynistic portrayals of women are thrust into young men and women’s faces everyday, it is undoubtedly going to negatively affect the respect that they have for each other as subjective human beings as well as the way they interact. Women, as a man I cannot speak for you and nor should I, but I will say that your battle for equality and independence is far from over… Fuck, I’m angry!

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Yes!

November 25, 2007

The speculation on what Rudd will do in his first term can wait for a few days.

For the moment, let’s just revel in the fact that Howard is gone. He is a spent force in Australian politics, as are the whole conservative bunch of jerks that have led this country for the last 11 and a half years.  He not only got smashed with a massive swing against the government, but he lost his own seat.

A fitting end to a PM that made this country more mean-spirited, more selfish, more un-sympathetic towards their fellow humans and planted fear and loathing in the hearts of well-meaning Australians for too long.

I am one of the many Australians who never liked, respected or trusted the man who has fundamentally changed this country for the worse over the last decade. I am also one of the many Australians who are rejoicing at the end of a dark chapter in our history and am at the very least somewhat hopeful for the years to come.

Many conservative pundits are already trying to put a damper on Rudd’s victory saying that progressives will be disappointed with him. It may be the case that some of the things that Rudd does (or does not do) may disappoint us in the years to come. However, for the moment, I shall indulge in gloating at every conservative arsehole in Australia. Suck shit. Your man is gone. Your time has come and Labor is back in power. Go fuck yourselves you conservative prats. You’re out – you’re gone and after your sweet victory in 2004, you’ve fallen a long way. Ha-fucking-ha!