Thinking a few steps ahead

posted by Kaihsu Tai on April 27th, 2010

(To appear in Issue 2 of the Oxford Left Review.)

‘One of the most encouraging developments in the emergent intellectual space […] has been a new willingness to advocate the Necessary rather than the merely Practical.’ – Mike Davis, Who will build the ark? New Left Review 61 (January/February 2010)

Political events since mid-2009, especially the parliamentary expenses scandal, accentuated long-standing symptoms in the British body politic, eliciting predictions of doom (in the form of further voter disengagement, among others) and calls for reform. Among these, many an opinion poll suggested the possibility of a hung Parliament, and many a campaign group called for a referendum on reforming the electoral system of first-past-the-post (FPTP). Peter Tatchell outlined the case for electoral reform in the inaugural issue of this Review. Beyond this, the wide Left ought also to think a few more steps ahead. Read the rest of this entry »

Just another manic Monday

posted by Kaihsu Tai on February 1st, 2010

At one o’clock Monday morning, I counted the votes to select a parliamentary candidate for the Green Party in the Oxford East constituency, to replace Peter Tatchell who had to stand down due to health reasons. Announcement to follow in due course, soon.

From one o’clock to three in the afternoon, I attended the Green group of councillors to discuss budget proposals for Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council, and election strategies.

From seven to about nine o’clock in the evening, I was glad to be at the launch of the inaugural issue of the Oxford Left Review. There I talked with three journalists (among other radical right-on comrades), from Aamulehti of Tampere, Corriere della Sera of Italy, and Samoa’s Environment Weekly. Very nice people they were.

Here is the table of contents for the inaugural issue of the Oxford Left Review (Issue 1, February 2010):

  • Samual Burt: Equality and Republican Ideals
  • Peter Tatchell: Voter Reform and the Left
  • Stuart White: An End to Labourism
  • Cailean Gallagher: Call to Scottish Labour
  • Matthew Kennedy: The Putney Debates
  • Jeremy Cliffe: A Fourth Way for Labour?
  • Brian Melican: Germany’s Fragmented Left
  • Christopher Jackson: The Return of Keynes
  • George Irvin: Time for a Tobin Tax
  • Kaihsu Tai: The Science of Copenhagen
  • Sophie Lewis: COP15 – Activist’s Perspective
  • Matthew Kennedy: Žižek review
  • Roberta Klimt: Bennett review
  • Noel Hatch: Today’s Lost Generation

Pace Radford, it was typeset in Palatino, to good effect dare I so say. All references to non-L——r party affiliation were cautiously scrubbed, for which I am (to be frank) a bit miffed. Despite that, it was an excellent effort by the editorial team in setting off this worthy initiative.

Near midnight, I refined my letter to the Oxford Times about public ownership of assets, after email-shots to follow up all the interesting discussions I had for the last 24 hours of politicking.

It is amazing that I am not getting paid to do any of this, but certainly it has been more fun than staring at molecules on the computer. Citizenship is a full-time job, and the work of a citizen is never done….

Religious figures address the European Parliament

posted by Kaihsu Tai on December 7th, 2008

I mentioned in these pages that the “green” Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, His All Holiness Bartholomew I, addressed the European Parliament earlier this year. This was as part of a series during the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue. The other speakers were His Eminence Sheikh Ahmad Badr El Din El Hassoun, Grand Mufti of Syria; Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth; and most recently His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Thanks to the intervention by the Liberals and the Greens, Dr Asma Jahangir, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, were also invited to speak. (Sophia in ’t Veld: “I would like to know why the Conference of Presidents has chosen to interpret intercultural dialogue exclusively as an interreligious monologue and whether it feels a part-session is an appropriate platform for religious messages.” and Sarah Ludford: “it seems that you [the President(s)] have made the Grand Mufti comparable to the Pope and the UK Chief Rabbi as a European representative of his particular religion.”)

Here are some highlights from each the speakers, with links to their texts for the gentle readers’ perusal over Christmastime: Read the rest of this entry »

posted by Kaihsu Tai in Catechism, China, Christmas, Green Party, Heresy, New Left Review, Orthodoxy, The Papacy | on December 7th, 2008 | Permanent Link to “Religious figures address the European Parliament” | Comments Off on Religious figures address the European Parliament

Far-out ideas in practical economics

posted by Kaihsu Tai on December 15th, 2007

Will the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali this week give us Contraction and Convergence? Then, will it be implemented as carbon rationing or personal carbon trading? Will the decresing annual ration give a form of demurrage (negative interest; with thanks to Cllr Dr Rupert Read)? By the way, the Joint Public Issues Team of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, and the United Reformed Church urges Britons to write their Members of Parliament about the Climate Change Bill.

Following Clive Lord et al.’s idea about citizen’s income, in this issue of New Left Review, Robin Blackburn proposes a universal pension of 1 USD per day. Can we have a universal ‘human rights’ income, on the strength of Article 25.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? (Dream on.)

In this week, as European Union heads of governments signed the Lisbon Treaty, I read the draft constitution of Corsica by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (with thanks to Dr Bob Purdie).

‘Home economics’ is a redundant phrase.

posted by Kaihsu Tai in Advent, Environment, New Left Review | on December 15th, 2007 | Permanent Link to “Far-out ideas in practical economics” | Comments Off on Far-out ideas in practical economics

Neo-Marxists on Christianity

posted by Kaihsu Tai on October 26th, 2007

Recent books from Verso:

Slavoj Žižek (2000) The Fragile Absolute: Or, Why Is the Christian Legacy Is Worth Fighting For? ISBN 978-1-85984-770-1.

Terry Eagleton introduces the Gospels Terry Eagleton (2007) Jesus Christ: The Gospels. ISBN 978-1-84467-176-2. This is the New Revised Standard Version of the Gospels introduced by Eagleton and edited by radical cleric Giles Fraser. It is pretty cool that Verso is following the Gideons. On this note, I might mention that recently, I bought the Revised English Bible and the New Revised Standard Version. My copies of both of these are with the Apocrypha (though the collection there is different), and the NRSV is the ‘Anglicized’ text; both are published by the Oxford University Press. I thought each of these represented very wide (as wide as allowed in the current climate) ecumenical English-language translation work in either side of the Atlantic.

Brodsky on the Sermon on the Mount

posted by Kaihsu Tai on August 7th, 2007

Twenty years ago the following scene took place in one of the numerous prison yards of northern Russia. At seven o’clock in the morning the door of a cell was flung open and on its threshold stood a prison guard, who addressed its inmates: “Citizens! The collective of this prison’s guard challenges you, the inmates, to socialist competition in chopping the lumber in the yard.” In those parts there is no central heating, and the local police, in a manner of speaking, tax all the nearby lumber companies for one-tenth of its produce. By the time I am describing, the prison yard looked like a veritable lumberyard: the piles were two to three stories high, dwarfing the one-storied quadrangle of the prison itself. The need for chopping was evident, although socialist competitions of this sort had happened before. “And what if I refuse to take part in this?” inquired one of the inmates. “Well, in that case no meals for you,” replied the guard.

Then axes were issued to inmates, and the cutting started. Both prisoners and guards worked in earnest, and by noon all of them, especially the always underfed prisoners, were exhausted. A break was announced and people sat down to eat: except the fellow who asked the question. He kept swinging his ax. Both prisoners and guards exchanged jokes about him, something about Jews being normally regarded as smart people whereas this man … and so forth. After the break they resumed the work, although in a somewhat more flagging manner. By four o’clock the guards quit, since for them it was the end of their shift; a bit later the inmates stopped too. The man’s ax still kept swinging. Several times he was urged to stop, by both parties, but he paid no attention. It seemed as though he had acquired a certain rhythm he was unwilling to break; or was it a rhythm that possessed him? Read the rest of this entry »

Highlights from New Left Review 44

posted by Kaihsu Tai on May 6th, 2007

I am assuming that the gentle readers of Pie and Coffee also get their news from the BBC and the Guardian so we don’t have to alert you to anything already reported there. Gentle readers might also already be subscribed to the free publications OSCE Magazine, and Finance and Development from the IMF.

But then gentle readers may want to spend some money and start receiving “the most intelligent political journal in the world”, the New Left Review, whose 160 punch-packed pages arrive neatly every two months. From this issue 44:

Sven Lütticken, Idolatry and its discontents:

[T]he veil has been hijacked by right-wing mouthpieces who routinely invoke the Enlightenment in a way that reduces critique to neatly packaged dogma for the age of the soundbite. One such Enlightenment fundamentalist is Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who during her years in Holland—she has since moved on to the US, to work at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute—wrote the script for a short film on the role of women in Islam. […] Turning women wearing veils into the faceless face of otherness allows Hirsi Ali and her allies to ignore the questions raised by the rise of the veil in Europe—questions that can be uncomfortable for the heroic defenders of western liberal values. […] Is the veil not effectively being used to unmask and lay bare the limits of Western liberalism—to reveal it as a sham, an ideology in the service of capitalist powers?

Stephen Graham, War and the city:

A hidden archipelago of mini-cities is now being constructed across the US sunbelt, presenting a jarring contrast to the surrounding strip-mall suburbia; other Third World cityscapes are rising out of the deserts of Kuwait and Israel, the downs of Southern England, the plains of Germany and the islands of Singapore. […] In a mirror-image reversal of the more familiar global marketing contests in which cities parade their gentrification, cultural planning and boosterism, here the marks of success are decay and an architecture of collapse. Col. James Cashwell, a US squadron commander, reported after an exercise in an urban-warfare training city at George Air Force base in California that ‘the advantage of the base is that it is ugly, torn up, all the windows are broken [and trees] have fallen down in the street. It’s perfect for the replication of a war-torn city.’ […] The ‘military–industrial–entertainment–media complex’ has played a central role in naturalizing the idea that American and allied forces should be pitched in battle against the inhabitants of Arab and Third World cities. The two most popular video game franchises in 2005 were Full Spectrum Warrior and America’s Army, developed respectively by the US Marines and the Army. Both games centre overwhelmingly on the task of occupying stylized Arab cities. Their immersive simulations work powerfully to equate these environments with ‘terrorism’ and to stress that they need ‘pacification’ or ‘cleansing’ by military means.

Happy Martin Luther King Day; God Bless the Labor Movement

posted by Kaihsu Tai on January 15th, 2007

I have not read MLK‘s autobiography; nor have I read M. K. Gandhi‘s The Story of My Experiments with Truth or Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom.

New Left Review 42 (November/December 2006) is out. Au Loong-Yu of Globalization Monitor said therein: “Chinese peasants can endure a tremendous amount. If they do become violent and burn your property, it is nearly always your fault.”; “Filipinos and Indonesians working in Hong Kong can mobilize in far greater numbers than local Chinese, which is rather shameful.”; and

In my view, supposed gains such as in the case of Wal-Mart are largely meaningless. The All-China Federation of Trade Unions pockets union dues without providing the workforce with any bargaining power. It presents a very convincing façade to organizations such as the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, but does not permit workers to speak freely to foreign delegates. The official unions are not run for the benefit of the workers. Their Western counterparts should really oppose recognition of the ACFTU, and refuse to talk to them unless they allow people independent trade union rights.

JoAnn Wypijewski’s review on Louis Uchitelle’s book Disposable Americans is one of the many articles worth reading, as readers can expect from any issue of NLR.

All this (and today’s committee meeting of the local of my trade union, the University and College Union) reminded me: Our esteemed regular contributor, Adam Neil Maximilian Villani, was in a band that wrote the hymn “God Bless the Labor Movement”. I wonder if I should get permission to reprint it here. I am not praying for the Movement nearly enough!

Various Articles

posted by Adam (Southern California) on March 26th, 2006

The L.A. Times today is chock-full of articles relevant to P&C.

  • The lead story is on the massive demonstrations against proposed draconian laws against illegal immigration. They say it’s the biggest demonstration of any kind in L.A.’s history.
  • Steve Lopez continues to write compelling columns about life on Skid Row and the issues surrounding it. Today he writes of single mother Elizabeth Brown and her two children and their struggle to find affordable housing. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of opposition to putting homeless shelters anywhere besides Skid Row.
  • A obituary of the remarkable Desmond Doss, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor in WWII as a conscientious objector.
  • A look at the controversy around erecting fields of crosses as war memorials/protests.
  • The Hospital Association of Southern California is urging its members to revamp their policies for dealing with homeless patients in the wake of allegations of “dumping” the homeless on Skid Row.

Some of those links may require you to register for free at their site.

posted by Adam (Southern California) in General, Items, New Left Review | on March 26th, 2006 | Permanent Link to “Various Articles” | 3 Comments »

What keeps me awake at night

posted by Kaihsu Tai on January 4th, 2006

We are pretty rubbish as a species. We are not very good at passing on our genes or our bits (digital information). The longest-living legacy of ours is likely to be our crap, in the form of radioactive waste.
Read the rest of this entry »