Sunday, April 23, 2006

Pastures New

All Change.

Blogging at the new place.

Seriously Golmal –

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Seriously Moved

Normal service will resume on Seriously Golmal

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Happy Easter

Hope you all had a great Easter. All of you. But especially you.

Newman's History of Oil

Robert Newman used to make me laugh in the 90s as half of Newman and Baddiel. Baddiel went on to scratch his arse on Frank Skinner’s sofa faster than you can say “Ben Elton Sells Out” three times. Newman disappeared from the scene but has been very busy as his writings will attest. On Saturday night he was back on TV screens with the History Of Oil on More4. His Guardian interview can be heard here (MP3).


Get off at Euston

The Euston Manifesto has created a storm. What is essentially a Muscular Liberal’s charter that has been published by “30 journalists, bloggers and thinkers” who assert that they represent the true democratic traditions of the Left by supporting the War on Iraq.

I found it to be a document of two halfs. The first half was brilliant. A clear and modulated call for alignment with the Universal Declaration. Human rights for all, Equality, Development for freedom, No apology for tyranny. Nothing a sensible intelligent person can fault. I loved the inclusion of ‘Open Source’. I’m even willing to forgive the insertion of ‘Opposing anti-Americanism’ for its incongruity, in spite of which this can be the mandate for any Liberal movement within any country. And it is trully Internationalist in that respect.

The second half of the document reads like a proviso to the Universal Principles that have just been brilliantly elucidated in the first. This is the “Elaborations” section which is the bit that gets bitchy, mean-spirited and distinctly non-universal. After months of reading this kind of sneering, snarky pap on pro War blogs none of this was new shit. This is the esposition of the Harry’s Place, ProWar Left, Non-Stopper call them what you will. They also claim to be the “intellectual vanguard of the Left”. Well, I believed them!

The publication has no doubt cooked up a torrent of blog activity from the antWar Left who have been struck dumb for months. The Moral Quicksand of the Moral High Ground by Mark Marqusee has so far been the clearest response to the EM.

In the first place, there's the dishonesty of treating the Socialist Workers' party and Respect as the totality of the left or the anti-war movement. One of the problems with the "line" they wish to draw is that it obliterates the existence of much of the actual left: which is diverse and predominantly anti-authoritarian. Huge numbers of people found no difficulty in opposing the war and the regime of Saddam Hussein; they didn't hesitate to condemn either the atrocities of 9/11 or those committed by the US, the UK and Israel; they want an end to the occupation but do not support actions that target Iraqi civilians. In fact, this latter category also comprises the vast majority of Iraqi opinion. It's telling that this is a constituency whose existence the manifesto authors refuse to acknowledge. Likewise, it's telling that among left secular activists across the developing world - the people in the front line of the struggles against fundamentalism, obscurantism, and repression - there is almost no support for the manifesto perpsective.

Marqusee then proceeds to lay into the Manifesto with a clinical efficiency that brought water to my eyes. When I read it I stood up and applauded the monitor.

Its somewhat depressing that the theoreticians of the Mainfesto finds it necessary to hold up a caricature of the Left: Anti-American, Anti-Israeli, Anti-Semitic, Islamists, Apologists, Gallowavians etc and say that is the actual Left, all of it, every last one of you. It wants freedom of expression but non-critical consumption of American and Israel policy as a fundamental tenet. This critique of the Manifesto by Dave Osler makes a great point in regard to the point of Anti-Americanism:

Of course the Islamists are reactionary theocrats that should be opposed implacably by the thinking left. But so are the US imperialist ruling class. Both sides in this dispute are wrong.

Perhaps the AntiWar Left should be joyously happy that the Euston Manifesto has been launched. Now everyone is talking about the Iraq War and the AntiWar camp looks like it has found a voice against the ideas put forth in the Euston Manifesto.

I see the two War camps as two insurmountable ethical moutains. Somewhere between the AntiWar ethical mountain: “How can you be anti-Saddam Hussein and not support a war to oust him?” and the ProWar ethical mountain, “How can you put your hand on your heart and say that the situation in Iraq is any better for Iraqis than it was under Saddam?” lies the answer. But one thing is for sure – its not in Euston.

And, just in case you’re curious, I shall not be signing it.

Update: The Euston Manifesto have a theme song.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The migrant worker's plight

I am a Canadian living in Kuwait. Before I came to Kuwait I used to be the very quiet type who minds his own business. However, after my arrival it all changed. I had been witnessing and reading about so many human rights violations against those who can’t and/or aren’t allowed to defend themselves, the impunity enjoyed by the offenders because of the corruption and a system turning against the victims rather than protecting them. Eventually, I could no longer contain my outrage and decided to take a stand. I do not consider myself as a human rights freak but I do care a great deal about the issue. I believe every human being, men and women, deserve to be treated as equal. I despise those who abuse their power to force others into servitude. I admire anyone who has the courage to stand up for the weakest simply because it’s the right thing to no matter what the risks are.

Those are the words of blogger Ben Rivard who writes the Kuwait - fighting corruption, terrorism and human rights violations blog. His blog performs the fine but thankless task of uncovering some of the horrendous Human Rights violations that happen and continue to happen, mostly to South and South East Asians migrant workers in Kuwait. These crimes usually range from non compliance of contactual obligations, which usually means unpaid work, to horrific incidents of mental and physical abuse. This area is a human rights nightmare that affects the lives of the lowest of the low of the Globalisation model: the South Asian migrant worker. There is a human interest story that has gone largely undocumented and unreported. Anyone who has been to or has worked in the Middle East has had some exposure to the widespread nature of this problem. A cursory read of the local press in any Gulf stare will yield dozens of incidents involving abuse of domestic workers. This however is only the thin edge of the magnitude of the offences. Kuwait seems to be particularly bad if the freqency of reports of rape, murders and plain human violence that that surface to the police and the press are anything to go by.

What makes things worse is the total lack of legal and basic human rights support provided by the workers’ own consulates and governments to their citizens working in these, mostly Gulf States. Its almost as if they are compelled to take the backfoot with these Arab countries in relations concerning human and workers rightst to individuals who are often working in menial and low paid jobs. As long as foreign exchange is flowing back into their countries as a result of these workers remittances, they could care less about their individual tragedies and grievances. The incident that threw this into relief was this story of 700 desperate Bangladeshi workers who ransacked their embassy last year in Kuwait because of the total lack of support offered by the consulate against the actions of non-compliance by Kuwaiti employees.

Sunny H has been highlighting the issue as well, and has pointed out Abdullah Al-Mutairi article in the Arab News on the culture of cruelty towards migrant workers in Saudi Arabia. 

Another blogger who writes on related human rights issues around the Middle East has surfaced in the shape of Chan’ad Bahraini.

Worth mentioning this open letter by the Human Right Watch to the President of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn in 2003:

As the World Bank recognized in its April 2003 report on Global Development Finance, remittances sent home by migrant workers reached $80 billion in 2002, up from $60 billion in 1998. These payments have become more important and stable sources of finance for developing countries than private lending or official development assistance.

Countries receiving large remittances include Bangladesh ($2.1 billion in 2001), Egypt ($2.9 billion), India ($10 billion), Indonesia ($1 billion), Jordan ($2 billion), Lebanon ($2.3 billion), Morocco ($3.3 billion), Pakistan ($1.5 billion), the Philippines ($6.4 billion), Sri Lanka ($1.1 billion) and Yemen ($1.5 billion).

Read the letter in full.