Author Archive for

18
Jan
12

(CENSORED)


I love the internet. Everyone else at The Redblog loves the internet. Chances are, you love the internet, too. The badly written ‘Stop Internet Piracy Act’ (or ‘SOPA’), if made law, will cripple it. Stopping piracy is a noble endeavour; prohibiting free speech via an overly broad and imprecise, poorly articulated act, is the opposite. On the day that Wikipedia and other notable, reputable websites go offline in protest, we implore you to support the opposition to such a bill.

Thank you.

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16
Jan
12

On the current drive for Scottish Independence


I’m not going to make the case in favour of the union here. Those arguments should be apparent enough, and have been reiterated ad nauseam recently by men much more qualified than I, as well as by more unsavoury, less qualified ones. If Scotland is to be led to an independence referendum by a nationalist leader, then this individual must truly believe in not just the cause, but also his/her own people’s ability to be decisive, and definitive on the matter. The incumbent First Minister appears to, unfortunately, place faith in neither.

Alex Salmond has, of late, demonstrated that he is willing to manipulate, and ultimately dismiss the will of the Scottish people, merely for his own ends.

This is most evident in the SNP’s newest proposal for the form the referendum should take. Aware that if he were to lose a vote on independence, the consequences would be calamitous for both his party and himself, Salmond is essentially advocating a three-option ballot including, along with the necessary yes and no choices, an additional one for the thus far ill-defined ‘devolution max’. Now, this isn’t just indicative of the fact Mr Salmond is completely unconfident in his ability to win, but of something far more repugnant.

A three-way referendum of this nature may allow the SNP to achieve independence without an outright majority, which is in itself reprehensible. Moreover though, the presence of the ‘devo max’ option would minimise the chance of the nationalists facing a fierce, party-destroying no vote. Perhaps it’d even ensure that result would definitely not occur; the concept of devolution has already proven immensely popular in Scotland. This means that Salmond will effectively be able to walk away with his legacy, party and reputation intact, irrespective of the public’s disposition at the time of the referendum. The issue of independence will have been at best clouded, and at worst belittled, by Salmond’s determination to guarantee his escape from any outcome of the polling with his political survival.

Again and again, we hear the same justification for this referendum format from SNP stalwarts: because a sizeable chunk of the public have expressed a wish for devolution to the fullest extent, falling short of independence, it should be present in any plebiscite. As almost anyone could inform you, however, independence is clearly an altogether isolated and, well, independent issue. Devolution is something that takes place domestically within the United Kingdom as a sovereign state, and cannot be debated directly alongside an alternative to leave it. Such a referendum would appear opportunistic, almost a demand of the UK government – a ‘give us this or we’re off’ – without any real kind of detailed internal UK debate on such further devolution. This does not do people north of the border justice; Scots have never been fair-weather friends.

The SNP are marketing the three-choice referendum as ‘better for Scotland’ – but in reality, they’re promoting it because they fundamentally do not trust the country they claim to be the ‘nationalists’ of, with a truly conclusive question. The only politician I know to have properly pointed this out via mainstream media is Labour’s Douglas Alexander on the Daily Politics, when he referred to it as ‘Salmond’s get out of jail clause’ – so kudos to him. His articulations of the primary unionist arguments on The Telegraph site earlier this week are also worth a read; you can find them here.

The way in which Alex Salmond and his SNP are being deliberately divisive is another reason why these people do not give the impression of being worthy to steer Scotland to, and through, its most important vote ever. They are in essence toying with Westminster over the referendum date and constitutional matters, pretending to dismiss its obvious, unavoidable legal role as a poking of its nose into Scotland’s business, drawing it out into an inevitable conflict. The best case scenario here for Salmond is to succeed in creating such a dichotomy between himself and Cameron so that each become, in the mind of the electorate, Scotland and England incarnate respectively, as they argue. In this way, the SNP could utilise national pride, and ride the wave of animosity it would generate towards the UK, amongst the people of Scotland, to a victory. A very unscrupulous, exploitive way to achieve their favoured result – it doesn’t primarily aim to let Scots consider and focus on the pros and cons at the core of the issue.

The date dispute currently being thrown into the spotlight is twofold in its advantages for Salmond and his party. Not only does it draw Westminster into a debate about Holyrood’s mandate to set it, exacerbating tensions, but if the SNP wins the argument, and the referendum is called later rather than sooner, said tensions will be at their maximum when it finally occurs. Salmond’s thinly veiled justification – that a delay until the Autumn of 2014 will allow Scots more time to decide and evaluate the matter in question – is visibly weak.

The way forward should be clear: the SNP either grant the Scottish people the straightforward, two-option referendum that they deserve as soon as it is possible for them to deliver it, or they stand aside from the matter, letting Scotland face this aspect of its future with a different leader, who is affirmed in purpose, with enough integrity and honesty to let Scots decide directly whether they want independence, or not.

MH

02
Jul
11

We’re Not Dead.

Neither, you may be overjoyed to hear, is RedPlog!

Now that summer is here, expect fresh injections of content once again from the best bloggers you’ve never heard of! We’re currently living in an interesting season- one that has already seen one large (ish, at least I think, but there again I’m at a loss now as to who to believe regarding specific figures) public sector strike, and surely many more interesting events, revelations, and maybe even u-turns, await us in the near future.

In fact, it’s a humdinger of a thing that no one has mentioned this sunny quarter of the year in conjunction with the noun ‘discontent’! Oh wait, they have.

While it’s a certainty posts will not be quotidian (it’s not like they ever were), hopefully, major occurrences will be covered here from time to time, now that we students are on a temporary hiatus from our cruel, gruelling daily grinds.

So be sure to check back periodically, there’ll be stuff to here to read, soon! Yes, soon.

10
Apr
11

Image for the week that was #1

08
Apr
11

Stop the Shutdown: quit the blame game and think of the people


Politics has always been very polarising in the United States. While budgets may pass without hindrance in other countries, at the moment in America, the Federal Government risks total shutdown as an agreement cannot be reached upon one, and if no successful compromise is achieved by midnight tonight, Eastern Time, the administration in Washington will cease operations; this will precipitate a crisis for government workers, the country at large, and indeed, as a result of the US’ extensive influence and various campaigns across the globe, the world as a whole. Although such an event has in fact happened before multiple times, the disruption is normally prevented by an eleventh hour deal, but the sad truth is that, in all probability, that window of time is now either upon us or has passed, and no deal has been negotiated.

The Republican House Speaker John Boehner, notable for being a rather overly emotional individual has stated that, primarily, the cause for such a delay is a disagreement over the level of cuts to be carried out on spending. This is however quite clearly not the overarching case- US politicians are overwhelmingly patriotic, and in order to spare those workers who are at risk of being labelled ‘non-essential’ from the hardship that now looms over them, a discrepancy over figures, while still acting as an instigator for much furious ideology-driven debate, would have not proven such an enduring obstacle to the process. This goes much deeper. In order to discern the true reasons for most recent extended failures in finding a happy medium, one must traverse the complicated and often incomprehensible network of differences in fundamental principle between the Republican dominated House of Representatives and the Obama administration. In this instance however, it is really quite simple to see where the real dispute lies. The quarrel’s source is of an ethical nature. It’s about abortion funding.

This has come to prominence not simply because of what currently constitutes the House but ultimately what constitutes the Republican majority in the house. The (in)famous Tea Party candidates that swept to power during the last midterm elections as a result of the perceived failure of the President on some occasions, and his proposals of vaguely socialist bills in others, see the current circumstances as the optimum time to push their far-right radical agendas and wreak as much havoc as possible by being as uncooperative as is possible- they have made it abundantly clear that the impending shutdown is very much their objective now. This loony wing of the Republican party that has charged its way into congress seeks to exploit the situation to the full for their own philosophical reasons in a narrow-minded fashion, much to the detriment of the people at large.

So while it is doubtful the Tea Party congressmen and women will capitulate to avoid a government closedown, the task is up to more mainstream republicans to think of the results for the government workers in the States and those around the world that are effected by the work they do, that a powering down of the Washington machine would generate. This is however looking increasingly unlikely, as John Boehner has already stated his defiance by saying that while he does, unlike the Tea Party politicians, not wish for a government shutdown, he was not willing to “roll over” to prevent one.

Both sides claim it is the incessant rhetoric and stubbornness of the other that is preventing a completion of a budget; Democratic leader Harry Reid insists that an agreement has been reached on overall spending itself, the Republicans won’t budge on various specific issues, predominantly abortion. Boehner conversely says the Democrats aren’t being flexible enough regarding their own cuts program to get close to a universally accepted settlement. It is plainly obvious that both parties are too preoccupied with holding each other responsible while not thinking about the people they represent.

The consequences will be regrettable should the shutdown come to pass. Not only will world affairs be thrown into chaos by a ceasing of the US government to administer the many areas it is responsible for, but, needless to say, ordinary people will be effected in a terrible way. Not only may 800,000 staff be suspended, many of which will be modestly paid public sector workers– which will be made all the worse by the current economic situation- in which many people are already struggling, but basic services provided that aid those even less well off, such as the unemployed, will in many cases stop functioning. Some of the aforementioned areas the Washington administration controls will surely experience negative effects as a result of troops stationed oversees not receiving their wages. Men and women will be asked to continue risking their lives for no compensation while the predicament continues. In addition to all of this, swathes of people across the USA will be forced to endure hits to their confidence, for as mentioned previously, the government will be forced to decide which workers are classified as ‘essential’ or ‘non-essential’. Those branded as the latter will be told to stay at home, unpaid, and understandably upset.

The negotiating teams must consider all of these fallout effects of a shutdown when undergoing talks. At time of writing, we are entering crunch time, and we can only hope for the benefit of all a resolution is brokered, soon.

MH

EDIT (4:10 BST): With only one hour left before the government arrived at closing point, John Boehner announced that a deal had been reached with the Obama administration, averting the shutdown. Close run thing folks, but we should be grateful that politicians put people before petty politics and formed a compromise.

18
Mar
11

Finally, the UN steps in- but is it too little, too late?

I was, yesterday, poised to construct an article pointing out the absence of US intervention, or at least appetite for intervention, regarding the current crisis in Libya. This time last night however, the Security Council of the United Nations passed a resolution that created a no fly zone over the embattled nation. Does this change anything however? Is it enough? Upon closer analysis of the international decision, would an article such as the one I came close to creating have retained meaning and accuracy?
Stolen in a shameless fashion from leftfootforward

Now is not really the time for musing over the precise effectiveness of such measures- and it’s probably for the best that I give you the short answers to these questions first; yes, the measures do change everything. Yes, the sanctions placed on the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya regime to protect the burgeoning democratic Libyan Republic are, for the moment and for the foreseeable future, enough. Ultimately then, no, my commentary that came ever so close to existence would have been outdated and inaccurate. For the most part.

What, you didn’t think I would admit to being completely presumptuous about an issue this important, did you? Guilty of exaggerated snap judgements I may be; unwarrantedly or impertinently bold I am not.

As for the question regarding any actual change in the situation, an altering in what had become a grim status quo, involving revolutionaries being slaughtered and pushed back by brutal Gaddafi offences, has already occurred- a ceasefire order has recently been issued to all pro-regime forces. For a decision alone to be so instantly respected without initial immediate enforcement is intriguing, and if this is the kind of reaction what is essentially ‘tough talking’ can illicit, sans any supporting foreign exertion, then the UN’s will physically being acted out will be sure to have the desired effect.

You won’t often find me extolling the virtues of our current Prime Minister’s statements, but in this instance, he is quite right- Gaddafi should indeed be judged by ‘his actions, not his words’. At time of writing, the ceasefire is in essence just that, an order. It remains to be seen whether or not regime forces obey it, and whether or not, truthfully, such an order has actually been communicated. As a matter of fact, presently, despite the command, violence appears to be resuming in some areas of the region regardless.

Second question- does the content of the resolution go far enough? When combined with the fact that Gaddafi would lose many of his international funders and supporters if he violates any sort of UN directive (many of which are vital to his continued reign) the knee-jerk instruction to his forces indicates that yes, the Mad Dog of Libya himself considers it to be ‘enough’. The question itself is somewhat redundant now however. US president Barack Obama has delivered an ultimatum to Gaddafi, that, while rather ominous in some regards, blatantly threatens the dictator with force if he does not comply with the UN. The sanction package is rather  nicely both supplemented and exceeded by the president’s wise choice of words.

So the final question I posed- is criticism of the level of US willingness to protect innocents (and my nipped-in-the-bud article) still valid, has partly been answered by this. Obama’s strong declarations represent a reinforcement of American authority and dedication to defending people. Here, though, comes the justification for the aforementioned ‘for the most part’ remark. Irrespective of support for UN demands and powerful warnings made by the head of state, America has yet to properly, passionately, spiritually and materially commit. Numerous unofficial sources out there mention a lack of both public and governmental ‘keenness’ for full scale involvement in the matter on any level. While this may have something to do with the cost of maintaining what the UN plans detail, such reports are disturbing to say the least. They are backed up by a distinct missing USAF element in the collection of international aircraft en route to Libya at time of writing. While the British and French airforces make preparations, despite the Americans maintaining a significant presence at the NATO base of operations on nearby Sicily, no action appears to be in motion. It is a simple fact that without the military might of the USA behind it, a no fly zone or any measure like it is nothing more than a dream. Hopefully this will change in the coming hours.

While the situation is still in a state of flux, it is safe to remain optimistic for the time being, and to put faith in the UN resolution. As long as America, to be blunt, ‘gets its act together’ in supporting the international effort, there is apparently a glimmer of hope for the rebels of Benghazi, and of course, of the entire of the Libyan nation.

I leave you with the official line of our party regarding events as of 18 March 2011 16:54:56 GMT, conveyed by Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander MP.

MH

“As you will have no doubt have seen, last night the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution on Libya.

I wanted to write to you at the earliest opportunity to let you know Labour’s position as Ed Miliband set out in the House of Commons this morning.

Any decision to commit British armed forces is a grave and serious one and must be based on a clear and compelling case.

In this instance it is based on the clear evidence of Colonel Gaddafi brutalising his own people in response to their demand for democratic change.

It is action backed in the region, most importantly in the clear resolution of the Arab League. And it is backed now by a legal mandate from the United Nations.

The resolution aims to prevent the slaughter of the people of Benghazi.

It authorises force to protect the civilian population in Libya and establish a no-fly zone, while at the same time making clear there is no mandate and no appetite for a “foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory”.

Of course the responsibility for this crisis rests squarely with the Gaddafi Regime, but by this Resolution the United Nations has now placed a responsibility on its members to act to protect the Libyan people.

Next week, the House of Commons will vote on the deployment of British military force as our contribution to this international effort.

Labour will support that decision by the Government. No one – not Ed Miliband, Jim Murphy, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, myself as Shadow Foreign Secretary, or the Shadow Cabinet – takes this decision lightly.

We have been ready to criticise the Government when they have been slow off the mark evacuating British nationals from Libya and I have asked tough questions of the Foreign Secretary about the unsuccessful mission to contact opposition forces in Benghazi.

But on the question of military action, Labour has been clear from the outset that all options should be on the table, given the record of the Gaddafi regime.

And today, Ed Miliband said in a debate in the House of Commons “it would be quite wrong given what is happening in Libya for us to stand by and do nothing”.

Already, today the Gaddafi regime have suggested they will implement an immediate ceasefire, but this regime must be judged on its deeds and not simply its words.

Tomorrow in Paris leaders from Europe and across the Arab world will discuss the way ahead in light of the Security Council Resolution.

The situation remains fluid. I will endeavour to provide more information to Labour members who I know will have deep concerns not only for the people of Libya, but for our own armed forces personnel and the future of the wider region. If you would like to read the UN Security Council Resolution, it is available here.

As Ed said in the Commons, in the days ahead, as befits the Official Opposition, we will support this mission to protect civilian lives, while asking the questions of the Government that the British public would expect us to, and making clear our support for the Armed Forces in the difficult days ahead.”

04
Mar
11

The death of the charismatic leader figure

Regarding the recent wave of protests across the Middle East, in addition to the obvious alterations in the way various countries in the region will be run in the future, another change has occurred as a result of these movements that few seem to have noticed or at least voiced opinion on. That is the apparently complete absence of traditional leader figures- men and women who that in days gone by used to spur on action and inspire the people, leading them in revolution- indeed, the kind of individual that Colonel Gaddafi may once have been classified as; the coup d’état he led was bloodless and swift in huge part due to the fact that, at the time, he was seen by the populace as an entity very akin to what his current title proclaims him to be: a ‘Brotherly Leader and Guide’.

Gone are the times of ‘revolutionary drivers’ such as George Washington above. In a bizarre way then, one could construe events in Libya as part of a larger rejection of ‘big personalities’ by the masses- a rebellion against a man who has for most of recent history stood as a lone representative of that nation and its people. That is not the primary point here though. The true way in which these ‘chiefs of change’, regardless of whether or not they maintain an altruistic purpose after the initial seizing of power, or develop into evil dictators, are being made obsolete is not through what the protests (or more accurately, uprisings) are seeking to achieve, but in the way they are being instigated and conducted- in Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya, they are displays proving that the force of the people alone can achieve transformation, and that there is no need for the majority to have one individual form their voice or outlet of opinion and/or emotion, evidenced by the fact that in all of these instances, there simply hasn’t been a singular character that claims to (or actually does) epitomise the outcry.

It’s an interesting development for sure. Are people as a whole more intelligent and capable of expressing themselves? Is it the the ‘Facebook Revolution‘ aspect of these mobilisations, with groups able to more effectively plan, as well as coordinate strategies and techniques independently, that has allowed for the revolts to remain pure and populist, without them being taken by the reigns by a sole person, for better or for worse? Let me emphasise that while men such as Gaddafi and even Hitler have, in being the personal heads of their respective national shifts in administration and power, taken advantage of legitimate unrest and discontent for evil ends, revolutionary leaders need not be an exclusively negative aspect of change. As seen here, Ghandi captured the spirit of the people, conveyed their wishes in a way that the British understood, and made his leadership a story of personal sacrifice that further inspired the masses- quite a difference to the aforementioned familiar stories of exploitation, rising dictatorship and deprivation of freedom that other men of charisma have perpetrated.

Above is a man who freed a part of the world in chains, that was in a very similar position to areas of the Middle East, previous to this slow ascent to freedom that is now progressing. Lech Walesa of Poland was a trade union activist who, together with his own group, ‘Solidarity‘, lead much of Eastern Europe (Poland mainly, inspiring people of other areas in the region) in a form of revolution, out of the darkness of Soviet oppression towards an independent, free rule removed from communism. This situation forms a direct contrast to all of the separate contemporary movements, that are related in no way to any dominant personality, and serves to show how much times have changed. While Mr Walesa, who went on to become President of Poland and continue that country’s conversion into a non-communist state, is to be commended for his actions, the message coming from arab states today is clearly ‘we don’t need people like you anymore’.

While we can be almost certain from recent activity that revolutions themselves have evolved in a way that tells us ‘leaders’ that at least initiate mutiny are, to put it mildly, less important, what we can not be sure of is why. What has in fact changed how people think? What has caused the oppressed to begin defying the human instinct to look to a leader and simply, collectively, ‘do it themselves’? Blanquism is well and truly dead as we bear witness to more frequent and successful revolutions of the style we see today; the Middle East has proved this ‘style’ of fundamental change is possible. Is it necessarily better though? Without a revolutionary leader, we have seen the Egyptian protests conclude with a military junta coming to power- while I won’t condemn the military council that is now running the nation as liars when they say their rule is temporary, while a transition to democracy takes place, one cannot help but feel uneasy when an army in any country has complete control. Perhaps some form of uniting figure would have prevented this ultimate outcome. These questions, those of ‘is it beneficial?’, and ‘why?’ pertaining to the calibre ‘leaderless revolt’ we have seen have not yet been asked, but when the crisis in Libya is resolved, as the dust across the region settles, and there is time for reflection, they will be- and maybe we will get some fascinating answers, explaining a fascinating phenomenon.

MH




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