Archive | November, 2005

Support the Iranian Bloggers

30 Nov

As a libertarian blogger it is disheartening to read about the curtailment of free speech in repressive regions around the world.  I was alerted to this article by learned blogger Norman Geras is his excellent normblog.

It always surprises me how silent the Anti-American left are to abuses within oppressive regimes that stand against the US. 

Such is the Anti-American left’s delight in any nation that sticks two fingers up at Uncle Sam, they are prepared to forgive cruelties that would have them spitting feathers if they were committed by the US.

Libertarians, and those of a lucid liberal disposition, should champion those who seek to subvert the autocracy of the Tehran regime.  Iran has the potential to be a beacon of opportunity within Central Asia, with an intelligent and informed middle class, the country – if released from its fundamentalist shackles – could embrace the modern global economy and deliver prosperity to its people.

From the Telegraph: –

Over the last year, however, Iranian authorities have arrested and beaten dozens of bloggers, charged with crimes such as espionage and insulting leaders of the Islamic Republic. Among them is Omid Sheikhan, who last month was sentenced to one year in prison and 124 lashes of the whip for writing a blog that featured satirical cartoons of Iranian politicians.

The press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders last week named Iran as one of 15 countries who were “enemies of the internet”.

“These new measures point to an ideological hardening in the Iranian government and a desire by the new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to centralise authority,” its report said.

There is no legislation against blogging itself but the writers can be charged by authorities in the hardline theocracy with “morality violations” for the content of their websites.

Nevertheless, Iranians are increasingly turning to blogs and those who can publish their words in English hope they will reach a wider international audience and alert them to the problems facing free-thinkers within Iran.

Book Review: Al Qaeda and What it Means to be Modern

30 Nov

Al Qaeda and What it Means to be Modern
By John Gray.

‘The suicide warriors who attacked Washington and New York on September 11, 2001, did more than kill thousands of civilians and demolish the World Trade Centre. They destroyed the West’s ruling myth.’ John Gray 2003

As the US were plotting the invasion of Iraq British political philosopher John Gray was publishing his short book Al Qaeda and What it Means to be Modern, a work which challenges the common perception that al Qaeda is a product of the past, not as Gray argues, the present.

A compelling read the book transcends the usual philosophical lexicon for a language decipherable to most readers. It’s useful that Gray has ensured this ‘arresting’ book is assessable to non-philosophy major’s, as his argument deserves widespread attention.

Do not be fooled into thinking that the book is an analysis of AQ, it merely uses the terrorist group to convey a greater message about human reaction to modernity and the global free-market. Gray argues that AQ is an entirely modern phenomenon and links the emergence of Islamic Fundamentalism with the Enlightenment notion of the utopia and man’s perceived ability to change the world. Gray maintains that the Positivist movement of the Enlightenment resulted in the human endeavour to rationalise all existence including the economic model. Post-Enlightenment (or Neo-Liberal) economists such as Milton Friedman, Gray writes, dislocated free-market economics from the human experience in an attempt to simplify economics to a simple equation that would answer all human problems.

Economists Friedman and [Francis] Fukuyama believe that the ‘price mechanism’ of ‘supply and demand’ will resolve all economic conundrums. Take natural resource scarcity such as the pending Oil Crisis, neo-liberal economics suggests that an increase in price will lead to technological advances and/or further successful oilfield exploration. In theory this makes sense, but as Gray points out, this forgets the human element. Will resource scarcity lead to conflict (as history suggests it will) and will the possible development of new oilfields lead to environmental disaster?

Gray devastatingly unravels the American belief that its model of free-market economics and democratic governance can be exported and implemented across the world regardless of culture and history. The writer scrutinizes the current American economic hypocrisies on protectionism and financial solvency to debunk this myth, and states that there are few if any examples of neo-liberal economic success.

Left-leaning readers should be careful in following the author’s argument, it’s easy to swallow anything if the line of reasoning is favourable to ones own beliefs, and readers should be prepared to disagree with some of the more tenuous assertions. In fact The Guardian’s Martin Bright flatly refutes a core premise that AQ is a product of the modern world:

His analysis of al-Qaeda as modernist is quite simply wrong. Bin Laden is a millionaire businessman who runs his organisation as the chairman of the board. It is self-evident that al-Qaeda is a phenomenon of the twenty-first century, but it is essentially anti-modernist. It is a psychotic fantasy parading as a philosophy. Al-Qaeda is devoted to the halting of time, the reversal of history and the recreation of an Islamic caliphate based on the seventh-century Arab empire.

I disagree with Bright, as regardless of the strategic and moral aims of Bin Laden’s group, they are wholly modern in their operation and structure. Imperialism, be it implicit or explicit, will always be resisted, and in a echo of America’s own founding fathers; AQ seek self-determination for the Islamic World, not Western imposed democracy or puppet dictators.

Personally I believe that the ‘Caliphate’ would operate as little more than a dictatorship anyway, and the regions Muslims would be under a theocratic yoke. However it is the polarisation of the Whitehouse’s policy that is driving Islam into itself. Take Iran. Just as young Iranians were testing the boundaries of the Mullah’s rule Bush unified the nation – behind the theocracy – by declaring it a ‘terror state’.

I have no doubt that only democratic capitalism can bring stability to the world. People need opportunity, freedom, and reward, and only the market system (with some social security) can deliver these virtues. Rather than using our military might to forcefully subjugate the Islamic world, we should use our culture and prosperity to convey to Muslims that only open lines of trade, peace, and opportunity, will usher in growth and stability.

John Gray is Professor of European thought at the London School of Economics.

Cameron proposes school leaver programme

28 Nov

This has to one of the most interesting proposals of the year, a sort of citizen national service. I think Cameron should have the courage of his convictions and suggest a compulsory presence, and put the idea to a public referendum.

What do you think?


Give peace (corps) a chance

Tory heir apparent David Cameron believes that a programme for school leavers based on JFK’s Peace Corps could be just the thing to make Britain ‘more cohesive’, says Ros Taylor

Monday November 28, 2005

With little more than a week to go before he is expected to take over the Conservative leadership, David Cameron promised an “exciting” programme for school leavers that would help to tackle the “ghettoisation” of Britain’s inner cities.
The scheme could be compulsory and would recruit school leavers regardless of whether they intended to go to university. Mr Cameron said he believed that, like President Kennedy’s Peace Corps in the 1960s, it was “an idea whose time has come”.

He added that he hoped the voluntary sector would play a “key part” in delivering the programme and announced that 12 organisations, including the Princes’ Trust, the National Union of Teachers, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme and the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, would be examining the proposal in the New Year.
“This is not bringing back National Service,” Mr Cameron told the Political Studies Association’s conference on Britishness, though he added that he “would not rule out getting members of the armed services involved”. Lord Guthrie, the president of the National Youth Clubs Federation and a former chief of defence staff, will help to evaluate the idea.

Mr Cameron said that 18 year olds “could be building hospitals in Rwanda, or could be working with social services in Stepney”. He is also keen to involve business: “If we truly want to have a country which is more cohesive, there seems to me nothing stronger than asking people to do things together.”

I’m sorry I really am…

26 Nov

I have no excuse for this flagrant Mickey-taking but everyone can be childish occasionally….

   

Vladimir Putin (left) with Dobby the House Elf.

I’m sorry I really am…

26 Nov

I have no excuse for this flagrant Mickey-taking but everyone can be childish occasionally….

   

Vladimir Putin (left) with Dobby the House Elf.

Putin wants a banana…

26 Nov

There is an excellent blog by a guy called Konstantin called Russian Blog, I usually dip in every few days and it’s always a good read.  However last Thursday Konstantin posted this hilarious picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin and I just had to show it to you: –

Putin wants a banana…

26 Nov

There is an excellent blog by a guy called Konstantin called Russian Blog, I usually dip in every few days and it’s always a good read.  However last Thursday Konstantin posted this hilarious picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin and I just had to show it to you: –