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Thursday, 08 November


Its time to go on the offensive against racism "IndyWatch Feed"

Nonviolent direct action campaigns that stay on the offensive can build vision-led movements that win.

This article was first published on Waging Nonviolence.

Black Lives Matter protesters kneel and raise their hands in London's Oxford Street - 8 July 2016. Credit: Flickr/Alasdair Hickson. CC BY-NC 2.0.

When I read this in the morning paper, my heart stopped: Just 40 minutes away from me, the white mother of black children in New Jersey was repeatedly harassed via Facebook by a stranger, who told her that her children should be hung.

Kentucky police arrested the young white man on Oct. 18, as he was backing out of his driveway with weapons, 200 rounds of ammunition and plans for shooting up a nearby school. The authorities thanked the mom  Koeberle Bull of Lumberton, New Jersey for alerting them.

Im the white grandfather of a family of mostly black children. Someone armed and active is so offended by a mixed-race family that he wants to kill children like mine. Supported by my white daughter Ingrid, I allowed the terror to move through me while I raged and cried.

After a while, when the intensity of my feelings lessened, Ingrid asked, Isnt it time to go on the offensive against racism?

I needed to access positive energy. While I was still identifying with the New Jersey mom and immersed in the feelings of fear, the ideas running through my head were all about defense.

Thats the intention of terror, after all, whether its expressed in packages of bombs sent to prominent people or conducting a massacre in a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh. I was gripped by my human programming: When under attack, defend!

When I released enough fear to be able to think again, I could hear Ingrids question and access my strategy brain. Strategy urges the opposite of fears reactivity. Mohandas K. Gandhi, observing Indians reacting against the British Empire, urged his people to go on the offensive. Military generals agree with Gandhi: Wars cant be won by staying on the defense.

For its part, folk wisdom couldnt be clearer: The best defense is a good...


A response to Wolfgang Sperlich on 'The latter day critics of Noam Chomsky' "IndyWatch Feed"

Try reading all of the relevant articles, substituting the name John Smith for the name Noam Chomsky and see if you have the same visceral reaction.

lead Screenshot: Noam Chomsky in his MIT office in the department of Linguistics, 2013. YouTube.

Hello Wolfgang. I wondered where you went after our brief exchange following my articIe. I had just shown how you misrepresented your own book, and was waiting for some kind of response from you. Crickets. Rather, I find you over in another corner of openDemocracy with a brace of new misrepresentations, centring on the claim that I am part of a dogpile on Noam Chomsky, led by Chris Knight and including Frederick J. Newmeyer, David Golumbia, and Lev Levidow.

I won't catalogue all your misrepresentations, but Newmeyer and I explicitly reject Knight's argument to wit, that Chomsky designed his linguistic theories so as to make them unusable by the military for such things as command-and-control missile systems. We both offer plenty of evidence that undermines (in my case) or completely rejects (in Newmeyer's case) Knight's claims. That's the whole point of our commentaries. They were invited as responses to Knight's piece, and they both come out against it. Newmeyer and I are, by the way, behind Chomsky on this, who has firmly rejected Knight's argument.

As for Golumbia, he is at best ambivalent about Knight's major claim. But his position in your reading is equally questionable. In fact, if read correctly his commentary is barely about Chomsky at all, in the sense of his motivations, his biography, his practices, his demeanor, and so on; Golumbia mentions in passing that Cho...


Gaining perspective on Chomskys linguistics "IndyWatch Feed"

Reasons for its success and its appeal must be viewed against the backdrop of deep-going, enduring and extremely widespread traditional doctrines and assumptions about language and humanity in western thought.

lead Location of Lagado in Balnibarbi (original map, Pt III, Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels). Wikicommons. Public domain.

Though the discussion of Noam Chomskys linguistic theory has been conducted at an oblique angle, due to Chris Knights focus on the military funding of Chomskys early research, Knights contribution has provided a long overdue opportunity for public debate over the value of Chomskys linguistics and, perhaps, over the value of linguistics itself more broadly.

This is not to say that the funding issue is unimportant, but that it cannot bear the weight that Knight would like to place on it for an understanding of the sources, direction, significance and influence of Chomskys linguistic work.

While the asocial nature of Chomskys view of language may appear otherwise incomprehensible to an anthropologist of Knights inclination, it is important to recognise that modern linguistics as a separate academic discipline was actually built on asocial assumptions and methods, peculiar to literate cultures, according to which languages were self-contained systems which could be studied independently of communicational context and use.

And indeed, military funding aside, Chomskys own brand of asocial linguistics enjoyed support from the most socially committed quarters, including self-identifying Marxists like Frederick Newmeyer, Alexander Luria (see Jones, forthcoming), one of the most eminent of twentieth century Marxist psychologists, and from the radically inclined philosophers of critical realism.

Considered explanation

Consequently, it is this the credibility and sway, within both elite and popular culture, of a conc...


Debera el juez Moro haber aceptado el cargo de ministro de Justicia? "IndyWatch Feed"

Sergio Moro se ha puesto en un compromiso, tanto a s mismo, como al sistema judicial, del que participa directamente, dada su implicacin directa en actuaciones procedimentales bajo sospecha. 

El juez federal Sergio Moro, participando en un debate sobre la corrupcin en Sao Paolo, el 25 de Julio de 2018. Marcelo Chello/Zuma Press/PA Images. Todos los derechos reservados.

El 2 de noviembre de 2018, en su primera entrevista despus de ser elegido presidente de Brasil, Jair Bolsonaro respondi a una pregunta sobre la poltica de su nuevo gobierno para combatir el crimen afirmando que tena la intencin de aplicar las mismas reglas que las fuerzas armadas brasileas haban usado en la misin de paz de la ONU en Hait. "Los elementos armados son objetivos legtimos", dijo:

Uno no se enfrenta a hombres armados con flores y les pide que entreguen sus armas. Sabemos que, en un entorno urbano, el dao colateral de un intercambio de fuego podra ser desastroso, pero habra que cubrir legalmente a todos los oficiales de polica y soldados involucrados en las operaciones de defensa de la ley y el orden. No deben preocuparse ante una posible condena por cumplir su misin.

El da anterior a esta entrevista, Bolsonaro tambin anunci el nombramiento del juez Sergio Moro, que dirigi la investigacin de la Operacin Lava Jato (de la que hablaremos ms abajo), como nuevo Ministro de Justicia y Seguridad Pblica. Los dos anuncios son indudablemente populares en un pas ahogado de corrupcin y crimen violento, pero ofrecen una visin aterradora del tipo de enfoque sobre los derechos humanos que aplicar el nuevo del mandatario cuando asuma el cargo, en enero del ao que......


The Great War, and how it ended "IndyWatch Feed"

Despite its extensive Remembrance coverage, the BBC hasn't actually tried to explain to its audience how and why Germany lost the war in 1918.

Image: Soldiers of the 11th Battalion on the Western Front. Credit: Imperial War Museum, non commercial license.

November 11th marks the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended (most of) the First World War. I say most of, because fighting continued in various theatres in Europe and the Far East, in some places for years. But that day in 1918, with a cease-fire commencing at 11 am, saw silence at last fall on the Western Front, where the bulk of the wars millions of military casualties had died, been wounded, ingested gas or suffered permanent mental scarring, and where millions of civilians experienced harsh occupation, destruction of property and years of displacement. Much of Belgium and northern France had been turned into churned mud, as offensives surged and ebbed, and hundreds of miles of trenches were dug, captured and re-captured.

The extensive programming devoted to the end of the war, primarily broadcast by BBC television and radio, has understandably emphasised personal experience. We are, after all, in the age of #MeToo. And there is a wealth of personal testimony available, in letters, in diaries, and in interviews with surviving combatants recorded over the last few decades. It is of course much easier to identify with individuals rather than grand strategy; and with particular battles and incidents rather than the sweep of a military campaign.

Four years ago, programmes marking the outbreak of the war had a simpler task. There were, of course, no ordinary people to personalise the sweep of events. And the fact that the entire stampede into war after the assassination at Sarajevo took just 37 days made it easier to tell the full story. I had my criticisms of BBC TVs 3-hour drama 37 Days but at least it tried to cover the ground. Likewise, many other programmes on radio and television dealt with the lead-u...


The end of Catholic Ireland? @ESRCFestivalNI "IndyWatch Feed"

The end of Catholic Ireland? 
by Allan LEONARD
6 November 2018

In what Alan Meban described the event as a symposium (but dont say it was in a bar [The Dark Horse Inn]), Dr Gladys Ganiel, a sociologist of religion from Queens University Belfast, laid out quantitative and qualitative findings about the apparent secularisation process in Ireland. This was discussed by fellow panellists Pdraig Tuama (poet, theologian and leader of Corrymeela) and Professor Margaret OCallaghan (historian, Queens University Belfast). The event was part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science and hosted by Slugger OToole.

Ganiel began by mooting the title of her recently published book, Transforming Post-Catholic Ireland. Is Ireland beyond Catholicism? No, she answered, just a certain type of Catholicism has been displaced that of the high status of clerics. Indeed, Ganiel continued, the position of the Catholic Church in Ireland casts a long shadow, survey respondents regularly citing its importance. The Irish cant quite let it go, she said.

Ganiel delivered a spate of statistics, showing the decline but resilience of both the Catholic Church and being Catholic for an individuals identity (data summarised here; figures are approximate, not exact):

Ireland Late 1970s 2016 Census
Catholic 90% 65-78%


"Tickers of terror" the crisis of Polish media as told by news crawls "IndyWatch Feed"

As Poland prepares for another divisive and violent independence day holiday on March 11 (celebrating "100 years of independence"), we look at the polarising tv coverage of last years event.

lead Screenshot: TVP Info, November 11, 2017. The main ticker says Donald Tusk wanted sanctions for Poland today he was booed in Warsaw.

In the wake of the controversy that surrounded the 2017 Warsaw Independence Day March (which was hailed as "patriotic" by the Polish right wing press but decried as "fascist" and "xenophobic" by the Polish opposition and the international press), Warsaw mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz has just announced that this year she has prohibited the event

This does not seem to have deterred the right-wing organisers of the march however, who are threatening to demonstrate on November 11 despite the ban, while Polands President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki have announced an alternative, government-led independence march. As Poland prepares for another divisive and violent independence day holiday in 2018 (celebrating "100 years of independence"), this may be an opportune moment to reflect on the role of television coverage in the mediation of the unfolding spectacle a year ago.

Since the Polish government took control of state media in 2016, Polish public television has been heavily criticised for its censorship practices and partisan identity. Against a backdrop of pronounced changes to the structure and...


Reflections on the open letter debate: a middle way to approaching the radical right? "IndyWatch Feed"

How should we study, present, and represent the radical right? Some from among the hitherto quiet observers speak up, in the interests of a broader conversation.

lead Screenshot: Twitter.

A few weeks ago, part of the academic community on Twitter got into a heated discussion on the normalisation of radical right discourse. It all started when two much-followed academics announced that they would be taking part in the controversial debate entitled Is Rising Ethnic Diversity a Threat to the West? The title of the event provoked a rebuke from numerous scholars, leading the organisers to change the title to the less inflammatory Immigration and Diversity Politics: A Challenge to Liberal Democracy? It also led to the publication of an open letter outlining what the signatories held was wrong with the initial title, and opposing the tendency to mainstream radical right ideas by selling them as open debate. Amongst the most interesting features of this Twitter exchange has been the conversation that it has sparkedon how researchers, journalists, or political observers, should engage with radical right politicians, themes, and movements.

The debate

This ongoing debate has revealed a polarisation in scholarship that reflects a more general division over how to address the radical right in Europe and beyond. Broadly speaking, we can identify two stylised camps in the online debate: the sympathetic listeners to radical right concerns and on the other hand, the radical right sceptics (for lack of a better term).

The sympathetic listeners to radical right concerns arguably represent a minority position in a field which was, at least initially, largely inhabited by researchers concerned with the rise of new forms of fascism. Those on this side of the d...


#Midterms2018: Lies, women and migrants turn against Trump "IndyWatch Feed"

Tremendous success!, a Great Victory, were the words strewn over Trumps twitter account upon the declaration of the mid-term results. But is this really the case? Espaol

Screen Capture of Donad Trump's Twitter account on November 7, 2018.

The balance of powers that defines liberal democracy is most apparent in the US, and could produce three possible scenarios.

The first is that the same political party dominates the Executive and the Legislature, which was the case before the mid-terms. The second is that parties are split, and one controls the Senate whilst the other controls the House of Representatives which is what has just occurred.

And finally, the last scenario is that in which the opposing party gains control over the entire Legislature whilst the executive remains in other hands, the most desirable for the Democrats, which they failed to achieve. 

This complex system was designed so that its inefficiency stopped the imposition of one body upon another, allowing for controls of the executive to be put in place. Protecting minorities from majorities was also one of the obsessions of the Founding Fathers.

Facilitating partisan equlibriums between these two powers creates a dynamic of bi-partisan negotiation and reinforces democratic consensus, whilst limiting presidential power.

This is of great importance, particularly when the White House is occupied by a figure with authoritarian tendencies. 

In what has been one of the most tense campaigns in electoral history, many issues affecting Latin America have also taken centre stage. That is why we present some of the key factors that influence the election results. 

The lies

Throughout the Republican electoral campaign, Trumps lies only heightened, and became a strategy used without scruples.



The arrested Loughinisland massacre journalists are pawns in a legacy struggle "IndyWatch Feed"

More details have been revealed by the journalist Susan McKay   about the circumstances of the arrest of the two journalists who researched Alex Gibneys  expos documentary No Stone Unturned.  The film gives a compelling account of alleged police negligence and collusion between some police officers and the murderers who committed the Loughinisland massacre in 1994, killing six people and wounding five when they burst into the Heights bar and sprayed it with bullets. The Ombudsman cleared one police commander.   Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey from the film-making arm of The Detail investigative website were arrested by armed police at their homes in August. They face further interrogation at the end of this month. The police inquiry is being conducted by Durham police on behalf of the PSNI, although the local force is heavily involved.

The film was made with the obvious and visible assistance of the Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire and members of his staff who took part in the film.

Nevertheless the journalists were arrested on suspicion that they were in receipt of documents stolen from the Ombudsmans office.

The Ombudsmans report itself was the subject of furious criticism from the police federation and others and legal action on the grounds that it had exceeded its brief.  The film makers were criticised for naming alleged perpetrators identified but not named in the report. Legal action continues.

McKay reveals serious discrepancies between the basic police statements about the arrests and the Ombudsmans reply to  her inquiries.

The motive suggested for the arrests in the story is highly plausible, that the journalists are pawns in a bigger struggle over  the accountability  of  the security forces  in dealing with the past.


The film makes use of, and shows what appears to be, a draft of a Police Ombudsman report from 2011. It was sent anonymously in the post to McCaffrey. As well as the ombudsmans office, the PSNI would also have had access to this material.

At the PSNIs Serious Crimes Unit, the journalists were told that on October 4th, 2017, the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland reported the theft of two secret documents from their offices.

There is plenty that is strange about these events, and strangest of all is this: the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland, Dr Michael Maguire, had never reported the theft of documents from his office.

In a statement to The Irish Times, his office explicitly denied that he had done so. We did not make a complaint of theft. The ombudsmans office said it understood the PSNI had...


Unionist objections to the backstop are more than DUP paranoia and need to be addressed "IndyWatch Feed"

Cabinet approval for Theresa Mays Brexit withdrawal proposals, is again delayed as demands mount from inside the cabinet and without to have sight of the Attorney Generals legal opinion in full. (Im not sure why is meant by legal. What theyre really looking for is  a navigation chart around the treacherous rocks).   The idea of ministers trooping in like junior officers to a secret room in the Cabinet Office like the generals study  to view  a summary of the 95% that was ready a fortnight ago only highlights the glaring absence  of the missing 5%  that is the plan for the  backstop.  It also reveals the inability of ministers to influence the content, short of the nuclear option of throwing it or Theresa May out. Small wonder that Leo Varadkar sees the prospect of agreement by the end of the month receding with each passing day. The intractability of the backstop remains.

Dublin opinion is near unanimous in favour of holding out, save for a word of caution from the economist and former eurocrat Dan OBrien writing in his column in the Sunday Independent. While he endorses the backstop, he questions those aspects of the prevailing  wisdom that discounts unionist opposition.

 The position of the Irish Government and nationalist parties is that Brexit will undermine the two decades old agreement. This view is frequently made. It is correct.

But there is also a case to be made that carving Northern Ireland out of the UK is a breach of the same agreement. Just last week, David Trimble, one of its architects, wrote it is clear to me that the Irish side in the Brexit negotiations is undermining the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, riding roughshod over its terms and violating its spirit. His comments got no coverage in the Republics media. Trimbles view is also the view of the UUP, the party he once led. Again, that position gets no airing.

The reasonable views of this islands minority on such an important matter would be prominent in a truly pluralistic media. That they dont says a great deal.

To repeat: not including reasonable people from the other tribe who have reasonable views is a serious act of exclusion.

If the North were to stay in the EUs single market, it would have implications that can very reasonably be viewed as constitutional. Unionists are not wrong to view it that way. Those who dismiss this view or claim its advocates are making up non-existent problems are wrong.

Consider laws governing the functioning of markets, which account...

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Wednesday, 07 November


The Spirit of Crdoba "IndyWatch Feed"

5061EB38-2936-4119-B8B3-99CCCC4F7ADDHaving so often cited the Umayyad emirate (later caliphate) of Crdoba in my Humanities lectures at SOAS, as an historic example of religious tolerance and the promotion of an independent spirit of enquiry, it is perhaps surprising that I had never been to this Andalusian city myself until last night. Of course, I am 1200 years too late to see the place in its full glory, when it was a centre of civilisation and learning to rival Damascus, populated by Muslims, Christians and Jews, and was probably the biggest human settlement in Europe. But there are still many vestiges of that golden era, not least the pillars and arches of the citys main mosque, now incorporated into the Roman Catholic cathedrals precinct. Many of the courtyards in the old town are reminiscent of the casbahs of North Africa and I was intrigued by how many Moroccan visitors I noticed as I walked round the city today. There are remnants of an even older, Roman, town, not least the splendid (albeit heavily remodelled) bridge that spans the Guadalquivir river. But it was the...


How can Europe survive the extinction of its ruling lite? "IndyWatch Feed"

The problem of Europe is that it is like those Catholic marriages with no divorce clause which had the tendency to become a cage of mutual hypocrisy cheating, if not violent.

lead Still from Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Eclisse.What should Europe do in order to survive its darkest hour ahead of a European Parliamentary election that might deliver a stunning victory for those forces that oppose even the idea of the European Parliament itself? How can progressive intellectuals save ourselves from irrelevance and unearth the ideas that can relaunch values we have taken for granted for too long?

A spectre is, in fact, haunting Europe. Populists and sovereigntists are becoming the nightmare of the traditional European political parties, which are either melting away like the SPD in Germany, the Socialists in France, and the Democratic Party in Italy, or are in great trouble like the CDU in Germany or the Peoples Party in Spain. 

However, the real threat to those establishments are not movements that are too intellectually empty and too wideranging to present a coherent alternative theory to liberalism and to how the world has been governed thus far. The threat is their own intellectual obsolescence. Not one real idea, not even a small piece of strategy has been put forward so far by what used to be the European lites, by their think tanks, and academic circles. Consequently, any western intelligentsias have lost their footing: no longer can they make sense and communicate the complexity of our world, nor do they offer solutions or even visions of a future in which all can thrive.

Yes, Macron arguably the sole product of an Ancien Regime able to convincingly win an election has been talking about a re-foundation of Europe. And yes, the rather widespread, current consensus is that Europe can adapt to the twenty-first century only by radically transforming its nature and institutions.  

Yet where should these reforms begin?

We could probably start by saying that Europe is dying out of a twentieth century rhetoric that needs to be urgently refreshed. For too long European instit...


No way to run the world "IndyWatch Feed"

 A decade after the financial crash, an epic repeat is on course.

lead United States President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, February 20, 1985. Arnie Sachs/ Press Association. All rights reserved.

Two reports by Swiss banks, published within a week of each other, offer further revealing evidence on the growth of a wealthy transnational overclass. Credit Suisse finds that the fortunes of the very wealthiest people in the United Kingdom (those owning over $50 million) have been growing at a much faster rate than the general population.

These ultra-high-net wealth individuals (UHNWI) number 4,670, an increase of 8.5% over the year. In the United States, the number is 70,540, with over 6,000 joining that group, making it the largest such category in the world; the next is in China at 16,510. In global terms the richest 1% own just under half of total assets (see Grinne Gilmore, "The world's super rich populations are growing but where is growth strongest?, KnightFrank, October 2018).

In parallel, a joint UBC-PwC report focuses less on UHNWIs overall than on the seriously super-rich, the worlds dollar billionaires. They now number 2,158 and collectively increased their wealth by $1.4 trillion in the past year. Much of the growth in wealth is taking place in the United States and western Europe, but...


Why healthcare for all is a feminist issue "IndyWatch Feed"

Health charges for migrants are hitting women hardest. Yesterday feminist activists changed the sign on the new Millicent Fawcett statue in Parliament square in protest.

Image: Protestors in parliament square yesterday. Credit: Feminist Fightback

Yesterday dressed as suffragettes, activists from Feminist Fightback changed the sign on the new Millicent Fawcett statue in Parliament Square from Courage calls to Courage Everywhere to Feminists demand healthcare for all, in protest against NHS charges for migrants.

We took this action because universal healthcare, like universal suffrage, is a feminist issue, explained Eleanor Smith, who took part in the action. This year marks 100 years since some women got the vote, but women under thirty and 2 million working-class women who did not meet the property qualification had to wait another 10 years. Today, there are exclusions too. Some people are eligible for free abortion and pregnancy services, which feminists have fought for, while others must pay enormous charges for the care they need.

Migrants who are not considered settled in the UK are now charged for these essential, life-saving services at 150% of the cost. Abortion is charged up front, costing 1,300 in an NHS hospital. Birth, including pre and post-natal care, is charged after the event and costs up to 7,000.

Hospitals may pass debts on to a debt collector who will harass the patient. In fear of debt, deportation or because they are unable to pay, some people do not access the healthcare they need, with devastating consequences. 

Beatrice came to the UK in 2012 from West Africa as a student and was disowned by her family after becoming pregnant. Because she did not have a visa, Beatrice was billed around 6,000 the day after her baby was born, a sum that is totally unaffordable for her. In the months after the birth, she was harassed by calls from debt collectors.

Its just me alone with my child. And theyre telling me you have to pay, when my child was four months. I almost went mad. I almost went crazy, Beatrice said. When they were calling...


From brothels to independence: the neoliberalisation of (sex) work "IndyWatch Feed"

Sex workers in the UK are by now just another part of the online, freelance, customer-reviewed digital economy. Their story of how they got there exposes a dangerous shift.

Sex workers demonstrate in London in July 2018 against a possible prohibition of online advertising for sex work. juno mac/Flickr. (cc by-nc-nd)

On 8 October 2018 we published the BTS Round Table on the Future of Work, in which 12 experts explain recent changes to the nature of work and offer new ideas in labour policy, organising, and activism. This piece has been written in response.

For decades, the British sex industry has straddled both informal and illegal work. This is because while the buying and selling of sex is technically legal in the UK, everything that produces the exchange of sex for money advertising, employing support staff, renting premises, working collectively is criminalised. As a result, our workplaces in flats (small scale brothels), saunas, and hostess clubs have never been stable or safe places.

There has never been any job or income security in the sex industry. You only make money if it is busy, and the house takes a percentage of your earnings sometimes as high as 65-70%. However, up until recently, the way the system usually worked was that the flat manager would cover overheads. Buildings come with rent, utilities, and maintenance costs. Venues also need interior decorating, furniture, bedding, towels, equipment, and cleaning, and in our corner of the service industry also condoms and lube. Bosses would produce and place ads in newspapers and cards in red telephone boxes. They would provide security and often a receptionist, who would screen clients either on the phone or at the door. Similar arrangements existed for escort agencies, although in their case workers were often required to sort out somewhere to receive in-calls.

While we...


Degrowth as a concrete utopia "IndyWatch Feed"

Economic growth cant reduce inequalities; it merely postpones confronting exploitation.

My Visit to the Mountain Homestead. Credit: Flickr/Eli Duke. CC BY 2.0.

The emergence of interest in degrowth can be traced back to the 1st International Degrowth Conference organized in Paris in 2008. At this conference, degrowth was defined as a voluntary transition towards a just, participatory, and ecologically sustainable society, so challenging the dogma of economic growth. Another five international conferences were organized between 2010 and 2018, with the latest in Malmo in August.

This year also saw the publication of Giorgos Kallis landmark book Degrowth, which opens with three bold statements. First, the global economy should slow down to avert the destruction of Earths life support systems, because a higher rate of production and consumption will run parallel to higher rates of damage to the environment. Hence, we should extract, produce and consume less, and we should do it all differently. Since growth-based economies collapse without growth we have to establish a radically different economic system and way of living in order to prosper in the future.

Second, economic growth is no longer desirable. An increasing share of GDP growth is devoted to defensive expenditure, meaning the costs people face as a result of environmental externalities such as pollution. Hence, growth (at least in rich countries) has become un-economic: its benefits no longer exceed its costs.

Third, growth is always based on exploitation, because it is driven by investment that, in turn, depends on surplus. If capitalists or governments paid for the real value of work then they would have no surplus and there would be no growth. Hence, growth cannot reduce inequalitie...

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Tuesday, 06 November


For the sake of British-Irish relations also, the backstop gap must be bridged "IndyWatch Feed"

The urgent task now is to close the gap between Leo Varadkars idea of a review clause for all-UK temporary membership of the customs union and Theresa Mays. The essential first move is to discover what each means.  Both leaders are under domestic pressure for compromising already. Both sides are desperate for a deal, both economies would suffer severely from the chaos of a crash-out no deal. Both leaders would experience the bitter taste of failure affecting their own positions and British-Irish relations.

The importance of getting clarity quickly cannot be overstated.

We learn that the cabinet will take its decision on the proposal for an all UK customs arrangement,on Thursday  leading to the meaningful vote in the Commons on 27th November. Thats the plan.  For the British, the issue is whether they can exercise their independent judgement in deciding when to leave the customs union without triggering the backstop and splitting the Union, or being bound to the customs union  forever and denying the result of the referendum.

At todays cabinet meeting the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox who is the arbiter on these matters assured its members that a unilateral withdrawal mechanism would be no panacea; it would require another body to rule that the talks had broken down and so the UK could exercise its unilateral right. Nor would a mutual consent clause provide the EU with an effective veto. So in this judgement, there is all to play for. As pro- Leave ministers didnt rebel today, the assumption is that they will swallow Mays plan on Thursday, even though final withdrawal may not happen until 2022, the year of the next scheduled general election. For Remainers that opens up the possibility not to withdraw after all.

What about Michel Barnier who negotiated for Ireland and 26 others?  So far hes declined to speculate about what form a review mechanism might take, sticking to his mantra of being willing to consider amendment to the backstop.

In todays post-Troubles world, although each side has buckets of goodwill for the other, residues of ancient grievances remain.  Nationalism is affecting a new found superiority over the old enemy and a touch of schadenfreude at its Brexit  indecision. British unionism has fallen into a bigger sulk with its little friend across the water  for thwarting its will, than seems reasonable.

Two pieces from learned professors of the constitution  epitomise  contrasting  attitudes. The first is from...

Monday, 05 November


Stop and search doesn't solve knife crime, so why not try something new? "IndyWatch Feed"

Stop and Search is to modern policing what bloodletting was to ancient medicine - ineffective, but clung to.

Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Images, all rights reserved.

Stop and Search is to modern policing what bloodletting was to ancient medicine. An ineffective cure, which, in the absence of alternatives, gets tried again and again, despite its propensity to make the situation worse. Each failure causes its proponents to double down and call for more.

This week a sixteen year old boy was killed in Tulse Hill, the fifth in six days, bringing the total number of homicides in London to 119 this year. In response, calls for increased stop and search have become strident. The response from politicians and police has been at best confused.  

As a recent report from police reform campaign StopWatch, drugs charity Release and the LSE has demonstrated, stop and search remains wildly disproportionate, ill-targeted and harmful. Despite a drastic reduction in total levels of stop and search: which have plummeted 75% between 2010/11 and 2016/17, black people were stopped at eight times the rate of white people in 2016/17.

And despite continual concern raised about the prevalence of knife crime, the overwhelming majority of stops were for suspicion of low-level drug offences. Two thirds of all searches were for drugs in 2016/17. Black people were stopped and searched for drugs at nine times the rate of white people, despite the fact that self-reported drug use is lower within the black community than the white. The picture painted by these stats is one of ingrained, and persistent discrimination. Discrimination that harms community trust in the police while doing little to remove knives from the streets.

Evidence s...

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