Bahraini activists face brutal repression

28 04 2011

This just in from the BBC

Hundreds of people have been detained for taking part in protests, many unable to communicate with family.

The seven defendants were reportedly tried behind closed doors on charges of premeditated murder of government employees – allegedly running two police officers over in a car.

They pleaded not guilty to the charges, reports said.

The trial was the first publicly announced since the Gulf state was put under martial law in mid-March.

Who’s got odds that the charges have been falsified to give a legal veneer to the proceedings and an excuse to execute some “meddlesome kids”?

Al Jazeera has some more details…

The seven defendants were tried behind closed doors on charges of premeditated murder of government employees, which their lawyers have denied.

A Shia opposition official named those sentenced to death as Ali Abdullah Hasan, Qasim Hassan Mattar, Saeed Abdul Jalil Saeed, and Abdul Aziz Abdullah Ibrahim.

He told the AFP news agency that Issa Abdullah Kazem, Sadiq Ali Mahdi, and Hussein Jaafar Abdul Karim were
sentenced to life in prison.

Sheikh Ali Salman,  president of Bahrain’s Al Wefaq, the largest Shia political group in the country, told Al Jazeera that the punishments did not fit the crime.

“I believe that these sentences should be revised and the international community must intervene to stop this,” he said.

He added that the proceedings were “unprecedented” and that question marks remain over the conditions the detainees are living in.

Drifting left with every step

25 04 2011

An essay has appeared by a self-described Libertarian offering some constructive criticism of “Libertarianism” as a movement.  It seems the message that Anarcho-Capitalism/Paleo-Libertarianism/Right-Libertarian and similar offshoots exist largely to defend the interests of the privileged is getting through.  Although the author does not go to such an extreme, the issues highlighted lay out a signficant part of the reason why I repudiate my past association with Anarcho-Capitalism and the broader American “Libertarianism” without excuse.  As far as I am concerned, I was wrong and naive.

I just spent a couple days at a libertarian conference. It is an experience that I find increasingly dismaying and disappointing because there has been a clear rightward shift in the libertarian movement toward some clearly anti-libertarian viewpoints, if not toward some pure nonsense from the fringe right. It is as if no libertarian today can critique the Federal Reserve without appealing to the pseudo-history conspiracy theories of G. Edward Griffin of the John Birch Society.

But what is interesting is listening to libertarians dismiss issues that are important to people who aren’t like them. Let us be truthful: the typical libertarian, and certainly the typical attendee at this conference, is a middle-aged, white, straight male. And they seem utterly incapable of seeing freedom through the lenses of anyone who isn’t the same.

Mention equal marriage rights for gay people and they simply dismiss it as unimportant. If they aren’t actively opposed—and some were—they see it as inconsequential. If you talk about guns they often are interested since so many of them own firearms. If you talk about pornography they are interested. But when it comes to the barriers to immigration they don’t give a damn since they aren’t immigrants. They hate tax laws but then they pay taxes.

Unfortunately for the author, rejecting “Me libertarianism” also leads to questioning other dogmas that get passed around with the Libertarian doctrine, and if a person follows their anti-authoritarian instincts, they are likely to find themselves heading further Left then they ever imagined.

The world remade

21 04 2011

Care of Pambazuka News

To choose democracy is not to choose Europe and it is certainly not to choose the United States of America, which has overthrown democratically elected governments around the world when electorates have had the temerity to elect the ‘wrong’ leaders. In fact, any serious commitment to democracy has to reject the moral and political authority of Europe and the United States of America. Any commitment to democracy has to assert, very clearly, that all people everywhere have the right to govern themselves according to their own will.

We cannot know the trajectories of the uprisings that have swept North Africa and the Middle East. But one thing is for sure. Whatever pompous claims to the contrary come out of Washington and Brussels, these are not revolts for American or European values. On the contrary they are a direct challenge to those values. They are revolts against a global power structure that is formed by an international alliance of elites with one of its key principles being the idea, the racist idea, that Arabs are ‘not yet ready’ for democracy. This, of course, is an echo of one of the common justifications for apartheid. But the plain fact of the matter is that anyone who says that anyone else isn’t yet ready for democracy is no democrat.

Ben Ali and Mubarak were little more than co-opted Bantustan leaders in a system of global apartheid. Gadaffi’s oil funded cruelty, megalomania and opportunism has taken him in many directions in his 42-year reign but have, in recent years, been leading him in the same direction. Democratising a Bantustan is progress. But democratising a Bantustan is not enough. The whole global system needs to be democratised.

Barry Cohen, barking mad

14 04 2011

For those of you who haven’t already had your dose of ultra-conservative bigotry in the time since you first logged onto the net this morning, check out this article published by The Australian which attempts to justify discrimination against gay couples by comparing them to pedophiles and those engaged in bestiality.

A lot has happened in the past 40 years that has been of benefit to the gay community. Some I agreed with, others went too far, but marriage between people of the same sex giving them equal status with heterosexual couples, in my view, goes way beyond the pale. They argue that the present law discriminates against them. It does. And it’s the same reason why I can’t marry Jamie or Hamish.

And how about the discrimination against pedophiles, prohibiting sexual relations with children? Why do we discriminate against 15-year-old girls and boys for what used to be called carnal knowledge? Why do we ban men from entering women’s toilets or vice versa? I could go on but I’m sure you discern my drift. We discriminate because society believes it is the right and moral thing to do.

Marriage was considered, until recently, sacrosanct. Bigamy and polygamy are banned. Why should we discriminate against men who want more than one wife, or wives who want more than one husband?

I probably don’t need to point out all the rhetorical deviousness, but I’m going to anyway.  Mostly for sport.  Between appeals to emotion there’s an assumption that “everyone thinks the same way” the author does.  Then there’s an attempt by the author to prove that they’re “not homophobic but…”  There’s the use of gay jokes when discussing LGBT issues in a failed attempt at humour.

Oh, yeah, and let’s not forget the tired old assumption that everyone who is critical of what you have to say is either a “lefty” or “politically correct”.

The whole thing is dominated enitrely by the authoritarian position that groups outside “the norm” should be happy with whatever concessions the “mainstream” throws their way and shut up.  If they get too uppity in their demands for equal treatment, it’s okay to resort to ridicule and slander in order to ignore, invalidate and deny them equal treatment.  Then again, you can expect little else from a former Australian politician


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