Archive for the 'Politics' Category

Human Rights in Argentina and the 2×1 Decision

A few thoughts on the  big demonstrations yesterday against the Argentine Supreme Courts’s #2×1 judgement.

The judgement held that a now repealed law which meant that time spent on remand should count double when computing the time  to be served on conviction should apply to those serving sentences for crimes against humanity during the 1976-83 dictatorship. There is some excellent legal analysis of the decision here  by  Gustavo Arballo    and more here by  Roberto Gargarella. What interests me here though aren’t the de/merits of the judgement or why the SC judges may have taken it into their heads to rule on this at all  but rather the overwhelming public and political reaction to the judgement. As well as the huge demonstrations yesterday Congress has near unanimously  passed an insta-law which will supposedly stop the judgement from being implemented.

 I  think it’s the result of a number of factors…

A) An inherited feeling of societal guilt, when the dictatorship was killing and torturing  the bulk of the population either quietly approved or decided to keep its trap shut,  now that it’s all long in the past  there’s a tendency to act out chest-thumping public rejection of it all. Anyone would think that the dictatorship was about to be restored.  What was repressed keeps  bubbling back up.

B) The 12 years of Kirchnerismo during which the 76-83 dictatorship was reinvented as an attack on Argentine society by the military with help from the media and some business sectors; in effect as society attacked by entities extraneous to it.

C) A more recent attempt equate 76-83 dictatorship with the Holocaust, complete with talk of “deniers” and “denialism”, a more effective way to hamper reflection on what happened,  why it happened,  and how it happened  in Argentina  between the early 70s and early 80s would be hard to imagine.

D) The fact that being in favourof human rights in Argentina has largely come to mean   the channelling of an atavistic urge to get even with the surviving murderers and torturers and a reimagining of the armed revolutionary groups active in the period as a saintly army of human rights operatives. As well as being false that’s a travesty of their memory.

And finally E),   the current government isn’t peronist, the peronists now hold the copyright on human rights in Argentina and even the fact that the previous administration appointed an army chief who cut his teeth disappearing dissidents and the 100 other complicities of parts of the movement with the dictatorship will change that; the current government is therefore seen as an affront to human rights in itself, regardless of what it does or fails to do.

Finally, for personal reasons  I share the atavistic desire to get even with those who  seized control of the state to murder torture and enrich themselves between 1976 and 1983 in Argentina and I’ll not be sorry if the Supreme Court #2×1 decision is blocked or reversed. But that’s got nothing to do with human rights


Kamikaze Brexit

The kind of UK that will result from May‘s diamond-hard Brexit will not be kind to poor British people and British people perceived to be masquerading as British while really being something else. British Jews will not be immune from this. And the level of unkindness will ramp up as the economic shit hits the fan because it’s the actual or perceived non-British who will be blamed. And the EU will continue to be blamed too, for not conceding to Britain all the benefits of membership with none of the costs. And it looks like Sinn Féin’s decision to withdraw from the Northern Ireland Executive was predicated on this. What would have been the point of their struggling on with the DUP in the context of the UK going full nativist? And all for what?  #kamikazebrexit

The Future of Brexit Britain

  1. A considerable part of the UK press is attacking the judiciary in the vilest terms possible. The first edition of one of those attacks contained an anti-gay slur
  2. The leader of a party that got millions of votes at the last election is organizing a mass protest designed to intimidate the Supreme Court and  warning (i.e., threatening) violence if the Court hands down a decision he disagrees with.
  3. The government has only made the most tepid noises to defend the judiciary and has been flying anti-foreigner policy kites. Some of the PM’s comments at the last Conservative conference wouldn’t have looked out of place in a BNP manifesto a few years ago
  4. Blaming the presence of immigrants for the supposed ills of the country has long been popular of the right; now some parts of the Labour party have decided that it would be best to  more openly pander to voters’ prejudices in this regard. Some clever leftist writers have started writing columns which, their exquisitely careful wording notwithstanding, carry essentially the same message as the Daily Mail; there are too many foreigners among us and they lack essential moral qualities present in abundance among the native population.
  5. There is currently no effective opposition to the government in parliament. The leadership of the Labour party thinks liberal democracy is largely a sham.
  6. No one in government seems interested in the possible effects on the peace and government of NI of Brexit.
  7. The government seems determined to sharply reduce  the number of foreign students in UK universities
  8. So you’re not a judge, not gay, have a UK passport and don’t look foreign. Well don’t think that will  necessarily protect you. Do you perhaps have a non-British name? Be prepared for more careful checks on your identity. Are you Jewish? Well, the hard left has long had it in for you and the nativist right may soon feel able to start letting you know what it thinks your real identity is and just how much it values your “Leave” vote? Are you a first generation Brit? At this rate how long do you think you think you’ll continue to be regarded as “truly British”?
  9. When subsidies to keep multinationals in the country post-Brexit mean there’s even less money than now for social spending and the NHS, who do you think those affected are probably going to blame? When those at the bottom end of the labour market are even more lumpenised and atomised than they are now, who do you think they’ll vote for?
  10. It looks like generations of social liberalisation and economic progress is in danger. There’s currently no one on the left-liberal side of politics to defend it

The Wrong Reactions to the Slaughter in Paris

After the horror of Paris on Friday night some very mistaken ideas have been going around on social media and the public prints. An attempt to rebut a few of them:

  1. “The French are refusing are refusing to call the problem by its real name, and that name is Islamist extremism”. Valls and Hollande have been referring to “jihadism” for some considerable time. Hollande did so in his speech yesterday. Valls refuses to let the word Islamophobia pass his lips except to say the idea is nonsense. It’s pretty clear to what one is referring when one talks of jihadism, no? What would be the added value of saying that Islam is the problem?  None, as far as I can see and  doing so would bring with it the risk of alienating law-abiding Muslims in France to  no good purpose.  I am a cultural Roman Catholic –  indeed despite my atheism I don’t consider myself less Roman Catholic than any cardinal or bishop – and when I hear criticisms of Catholicism from non-Catholics they often cause me to bristle, even when I agree with their content. Quite irrational,  I know, but hey, humans. I imagine a similar effect being produced on law-abiding French Muslims when lectured at by diverse members of other faiths, agnostics and atheists on the ways in which their religion sucks. The only people who can solve the problems of Islam are Muslims themselves.
  2. “The French have no guts for a fight, they don’t really want to get stuck in to the problem”. First, allow me to quote something I said a few days ago here: “Just a quick reminder for the “France is all mouth and no trousers” types; were it not for the actions of the present government of France Mali would now be an Islamist state and there would likely have been a flood of non-Muslim Malians seeking refuge in neighbouring states. And, furthermore, it has thousands of troops deployed overseas, mainly in Francophone Africa, holding states together that would otherwise be tempting targets for Islamists. Also, its Air Force was poised to strike the Syrian regime in retaliation for its use of chemical weapons when clever clogs in the White House thought better of it at the last minute.” Secondly, what are the obvious and indeed qausi-magical measures that the French should be taking that would deal with the Islamist terrorism and that their lack of moral fiber prevents them from taking? Since Friday they have suspended the rights to free speech and free assembly and given the security forces the right to carry out warrantless searches. Hollande yesterday also announced the suspension of cuts in the size of the armed forces, more money for intelligence services and more recruitment for the cops and judiciary. These may or may not be the right measures but they do suggest that the situation is being taken with an appropriate level of seriousness.
  3. “France should follow Israel’s example, Israel knows how to deal with terrorism”. This is perhaps the dumbest criticism of all. Israel did indeed manage to crush the Second Intifada but there are one or two relevant differences. Palestinian residents of the West Bank are not Israeli citizens and don’t enjoy the protection of its laws (yes I know, they can eventually appeal to Israel’s courts against the actions of the IDF but it’s not the same as having the inalienable rights of citizens). Furthermore France doesn’t have the option of building a security fence around problematic residential areas. And in any case even in Israel terrorism continues to be a grave, ongoing problem that costs lives. Don’t get me started on the supposed special insight into the “Arab mind” possessed by Israelis.  A variant of this criticism is  that “Unit XYX of the Israeli military/police would have dealt with the situation in Paris on Friday night so much better than the French”. Well maybe but there’s really no way of knowing. I’m sure there’s things the French could learn from the Israelis on a technical level but the opposite is likely true as well and there’s no clever answer to four heavily armed suicide teams on the loose in your capital city on a Friday night. And Israel’s history isn’t exactly free of security force cock ups when dealing with terrorism. So good for Israel but let’s be realistic; assuming that what works for Israel will work everywhere else, well that’s just balls.

I’m growing increasingly convinced by the idea that European civilization may not be mentally  well equipped to deal with the rise of militant Islamism but to the extent that’s true there’s not much the present government of France can do about it.  Its efforts to fight terrorism deserve our support, our critical support for sure, but the bottom line has to be support.

Freedom and Human Rights in Argentina in 2014

So I arrive at Ezeiza this morning after a thirteen and a half hour flight from Frankfurt, a lengthy layover there and a previous flight from the UK. I get to the head of the immigration queue; the Stasi apprentice in the booth scans my passport and national ID document. He looks at the address on the latter and says “Do you live there?”, “Of course”, I lied shamelessly, if you are not an Argentine national it’s a shocking pain in the arse to change your legal address and, in any case, what need has the state to know where I live? After all, its paid intellectual corps de ballet never tires of defending Assange and Snowden and freedom from government snooping, in other countries of course, but still.

“Which barrio is it?” asks the Heydrich wannabee. I tell him. Then he reads out the address and asks “Between what street and what other street?” I haven’t lived there for ages but I nailed the first one easily, the second took a few agonising seconds to come up from the depths of my stress, tiredness and clonazepam addled mind but come it did.

Satisfied, the would-be Mielke indicated where I should look to have my iris scanned and where I should lay my thumb to have its pattern recorded, a performance that is now repeated every time you enter and leave the country. Enter and LEAVE, every motherfucking person, EVERY motherfucking time, regardless of nationality or anything else. Your thumbprint taken and your iris scanned. And we go along with this like sheep. And when the government boasts of Argentina being a beacon of human rights we kind of believe it, even though we don’t support the government, it’s against a long departed dictatorship after all.

What is done with that information? Officially we have no idea but anyone who is not an idiot knows that it is swept up into the maw of the SIDE and the intelligence branches of the numerous other security forces. To do exactly what the fuck they like with it. And to share it with their pals in the private security “security” sector, of course.

And no, it doesn’t seem relevant to me that they may do the same or similar in the USA or wherever. I don’t give a tinker’s fuck about what they do there. I live HERE. And it ill behooves the “anti-imperialist” hordes to use what the USA does or doesn’t do as an example for us to follow.

This is freedom. This is human rights in Argentina in 2014.

Footnote: When I left the UK the previous morning I was only asked for my passport by Lufthansa employees.

Luis Suárez the Racist

As a person who favours a belt and braces, stitch in time, spare the rod and spoil the child approach to dealing with racism I am glad Luis Suárez was punished for whatever he might have said to Evra. However, the drumbeat of “Suárez the racist” over the last few hours on social media is getting on my tits.

1.“Negro” in Rioplatense Spanish is so not the equivalent of “nigger” in English.
2.It may be used to form part of a racial insult but it doesn’t have to be.
3.My wife’s family uses it to refer to her late father; “en la época del Negro..”, “el Negro alguna vez dijo..” etc. Are they racists?
4.You don’t even have to be black to be “un negro”. Those who want an example of a “negro rosarino” should look no further than Gerardo Martino.
5.“But you would never say that if he had, for example, referred to a Jewish player as a ‘kike’.” Indeed I would not; ‘kike’ has only one clear and racially insulting meaning.
6. So am I sure Suárez was not trying to racially insult Evra? Of course not, I wasn’t there. It was his word against Evra’s. But I am glad, to be on the safe side, he was punished. I can think of other cases I wish the FA had taken a similarly firm approach to.
7. Apart from his own recklessness, Suárez gets this treatment not because he is a new Himmler but because he fits the uppity dago stereotype: not quite white, cheeky, always looking for a shortcut, indifferent to gentlemanly customs, better at his job than he is perceived to have a right to be etc. And as – thank God – we have to treat black players with proper respect these days, some find it necessary to look elsewhere to display their moral superiority, in some cases even their racial superiority. All in the name of anti-racism, of course.

ISIS in Mosul, Iraq in 2003 And Iraq Now


The early years of the occupation of Iraq by the US and its allies were appallingly fucked up at every level. The responsibility for that is mainly political but some of it also falls to the senior military leaders, especially Sánchez and Casey.

The Americans eventually got a grip. Competent military leaders were put in place. The Sunni gunmen were put on the payroll. Fairish and freeish elections were held. Things improved quite a bit.
I forgot to mention that all this time the Kurds were also consolidating their proto-state in the north. Yes, it had been developing prior to the invasion under cover of the no fly zone but its continued existence was always threatened as long as Saddam was in power.
BO came to power thinking, “Not my circus, not my monkeys, how do we get out of here fast?”. While they remained the Yanks put some kind of brake on Al Maliki’s sectarianism but when they high tailed it, then it all went tits up again.
And the situation was aggravated by the war in Syria. Almost any determined course of action by the US government, fully supporting the status quo, fully supporting the secular opposition before they were all killed, or nearly all, or even supporting and disciplining some kind of Islamist resistance. Any one of those courses of action could have kept some of the pressure off the Iraqi state.
Instead we got tacit cooperation with Iran (mustn’t endanger the nuclear talks) and the use of a wide range of admonitory adjectives.
Now it’s “all options are on the table” again. Ha! Ha! Ha!
So, it’s a clusterfuck of giant proportions. Plenty of blame to go around, a good deal of it to the present US administration.
If you opposed the 2003 invasion, good for you. There were clear reasons to think the occupation might be fucked up. But you had no way of knowing how things would turn out 11 years later. So back the fuck off with the “I told you so” line as your 2003 position committed you to the survival of Baathism in Iraq, a concentration camp more than a country at the time. You can’t avoid some responsibility for the horrors Saddam and his family would have gone on to commit.

“But that’s ridiculous, you are saying I am responsible for all the human rights abuses in all the countries we don’t invade”. No, I am not. There is no plan to/call for the overthrow of the Khartoum regime, for example, so there is no need to take a stand on it one way or the other.

And in the case of some countries, no matter how bestially they act, nothing can be done. If China starts regular barbecues of live Tibetan babies in Tianmen square, there is nothing we can do about it.

Each case has to be judged on its merits.
If you were in favor of the 2003 invasion, good for you too. The Saddam regime was a genocide committing, neighboring country invading non-stop horror show. But there was good reason to suppose the occupation would be monumentally fucked up and that might lead to terrible consequences. And it has. So you have some of the responsibility for that.
So whatever stand you took on the invasion of 2003, you are not innocent.

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