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Axver

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Furious election-time tl;dr rant [20 August 2010|01:02 pm]
Axver
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[Current Mood |irateirate]
[Current Music |'Hall Of The Dead' by Isis]

I knew it would probably take something big to get me back to blogging, and of course, it turns out to be politics - more to the point, my absolute inability to tolerate any longer the infuriating Australian political scene in the lead-up to the federal election.

I don't even know where to begin. It seems that with each passing campaign, things manage to deteriorate further - 2007 was all kinds of dreadful, but 2010 has just kept on digging deeper. The campaign is utterly hollow; the coverage is dire; the parties themselves are miserable, clutching desperately at straws to capture marginal seats rather than providing anything resembling political vision or comprehensive ideology. Of course, the Senate is a battleground where everybody's ballots matter, but as far as the House goes, if you're not in a marginal seat, your contribution means precious little. Here I am, in one of the safest Labour seats in the country. It makes no difference who I vote for, because a duck could run instead of Kelvin Thomson and still win.

The knowledge that my vote might as well not count just makes it all the more sour how much rage this election provokes in me. I can rage all I want, and it makes no difference, since I don't have the luck to be voting in a marginal seat. Meanwhile, the candidates are vying desperately for the votes of politically ignorant bogans who'll just decide on the day that "oh I don't like that ranga's voice" or "my Daddy always voted Labour so I will". I really don't know how anybody with two braincells to rub together could possibly be undecided at this point in the campaign, or could have possibly been undecided ever since Tony Abbott was inexplicably elevated to Liberal leadership.

I'm sorry, I don't normally try to ridicule people who vote a different way to me. Democracy is all about difference of opinion. But in this case, what am I meant to say? A vote for Tony Abbott is fucking stupid. There is no more polite way to put it without sacrificing intellectual honesty. I'm not at all a fan of the ALP either, especially given how far they have drifted towards the right, but at least they aren't actually reprehensible to anybody who sits down for a minute and thinks about it.

The Liberal campaign strategy has been staggeringly effective in deflecting the campaign from the real issues or hiding just how reprehensible Tony Abbott and his policies are. We've had a campaign that's been all about Julia Gillard, when it should have always been about Tony Abbott. It should always have been about how he doesn't understand or even pretend to care what it is like to be disabled, or to be a single mother, or to be a working family stuck below the poverty line. It should always have been about how he thinks everybody on welfare is a miserable bludger and doesn't deserve it. It should always have been about his xenophobia and the way he plays on latent community racism to create a fictitious threat in a paltry amount of desperate refugees that Australia can handle with ease. It should always have been about how he is so lacking in compassion and empathy that he thinks most homeless people choose their plight and that social work is not a virtuous or commendable occupation.

It should always have been about how he is going to drastically cut funding for education, starting with the poorest and most disadvantaged students and schools. It should always have been about his complete ignorance of broadband technology, the most significant infrastructural development facing this country. It should always have been about how he is so staggeringly tied to his car that he cannot comprehend the major economic, environmental, and social importance of public transport and rail freight in making our communities and our industries more efficient and sustainable. It should always have been about his unwillingness to learn, his unwillingness to overcome his ignorance, and his anti-intellectualism. It should always have been about how he cannot seem to separate his personal religious convictions from secular public governance, to the point that he is oblivious to the fact he is doing it.

It should always have been about how this man is a relic of a past age, a relic from 1910, a relic that should never have even been put in this position, let alone realistically able to win government.

I don't like the ALP either, but at least they're trying to move into the 21st century, excluding their backwards attitude to gay rights. Of course, anybody who actually believes in improving our society, in human rights and Aboriginal affairs, in protecting our environment, and in helping the least fortunate and most marginalised amongst us, would be voting for the Greens, the Socialists, the Sex Party, the Secular Party, and similar parties. What a shame we don't live in a multiparty country or somewhere with mixed representation that would allow forward-thinking parties more of a shot at entering parliament. For now, what matters is keeping Tony Abbott out of office.

I think the hilarious post-script to all of this is that the majority of Liberal voters would actually be burned if Tony Abbott's pet policies were enacted. It's testament to the spin of the Liberals, like the Republicans in the US and the Tories in the UK, that they can convince anybody who isn't already well-off that they will benefit from Liberal policies that favour the wealthy for no good reason and punish the poor for things beyond their control.
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Keep left [22 April 2010|08:51 pm]
Axver
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[Current Music |'Song For Mountains' by Les Discrets]

I have been following with increasing agitation the moves being made by the right wing parties in Australia and New Zealand to cut back social welfare. In New Zealand, the governing National Party unveiled a raft of changes in March, while in Australia, the leader of the opposition Liberal Party, Tony Abbott, has been mouthing off about restricting the dole so that only those over 30 can receive it. National's proposals remind me all too much of Ruthanasia in the early 1990s, which is one of the main reasons why I do not live in New Zealand any more.

If ever you need proof that the right wing completely misses the point on how to look after the poor in society and is totally out of touch with daily realities in the working class, this is it.

Some thoughts.Collapse )
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A rant on New Zealand politics and National's inadequacy [8 November 2008|03:07 am]
Axver
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[Current Music |'Last Train To Satansville' by Swervedriver]

So, it's now the wee hours of the eighth of November. Election day in New Zealand. I cast my vote yesterday, and I am disappointed that my last permanent address in New Zealand falls three properties within the Mana electorate. Mana is safe Labour, while Otaki, the electorate on the other side of the Wharemauku Stream, is the most marginal seat in the country, and I wish I could have done my part to help Labour retain it. I live in dread and expectation of a National victory. The polling doesn't look good, and Labour will be astonishingly lucky if they can form government - it will be a minority government and is dependent on enough friendly minor parties getting into parliament that they can counteract the Nationals, ACT, and likely United Future. Unfortunately, if some of the more disturbing polls prove true, National could in fact form government in their own right, without even needing the neoliberal ACT morons.

The outcome of this election will essentially determine my future. Indeed, every Kiwi election held while I live in Australia determines what options I have open to me. While I am not petty enough to leave a country just because an election result goes against me, I am also not stupid enough to move to a country with a government that I think is useless. Therefore, if National form government, it closes the option of moving back to New Zealand for at least three years. If Labour are in power, I have the option of moving back, but I will never return home if a National government is in power.

Why? Because National governments are consistently a fucking disaster. Plain and simple. National, and to a lesser extent their Reform and United predecessors, have been terrible for New Zealand and held it back in just about every regard. Political hyperbole, you say? Hardly. The first National government, that of Sidney Holland, got things off to a brilliant start by attempting to roll back some measures of the welfare state crafted by Michael Savage and Peter Fraser. Furthermore, to deal with the 1951 waterfront strike, Holland suspended the freedom of the press. Then there is Keith Holyoake, whose wonderfully astute government made its first act the cancellation of the Blenheim to Nelson railway that Walter Nash's Labour government had just begun, because what country needs infrastructure in the long term? Then, oh dear, we get to Robert Muldoon. Think Big? Think Bankruptcy! We come to the governments of Jim Bolger and Jenny Shipley in the nineties, and this is where it gets personal; one of the main reasons I no longer live in New Zealand is because the mid-nineties National policies simply made it impossible for a single mother like my own to rise above the poverty line, no matter how intelligent, educated, or qualified she was or how many jobs she took on. And now New Zealand looks set to elect Key? With a pedigree like this, who the hell would vote for a National government? It's madness.

Lest I look like a partisan hack, I also think the Labour government of David Lange (and subsequently Geoffrey Palmer and Mike Moore) was utterly catastrophic. Now, I quite respect Lange, but in economic terms, his government was hijacked by Roger Douglas and his "Rogernomics", a programme of neoliberalisation and privatisation that did very little good and its negative ramifications echo to the present day. I have disdain for the Bolger government privatising the railways, for instance, but that ball was seriously helped on its way during the Lange era. Economically, the Lange/Douglas government was much more a National government than a Labour government - I see a complete disconnect with the party of Michael Savage.

I'm not particularly taken by Helen Clark either, really, but I'd much rather her over a National government, a government that I wouldn't dare trust even half as far as I could throw it. I am sick of Labour governments tending towards a wishy-washy mediocre centrist stance and losing touch with their social democrat, leftist roots. I am sick of politics being an uninspiring mess. At the end of the day, I want to see some fucking change, and most importantly, some social progress. I want to see some social liberalisation, something to put the bigots and the sluggish stuck-in-the-past conservatives in their place. I want to see some economic systems that DON'T marginalise the poor, the minorities, the single mothers, etc. I want to see a redefinition of relations between Pakeha and Maori so that Maori space is not made subservient to Pakeha space or forced to function and conform to Pakeha norms. I want to see massive investment in education and healthcare; an intelligent and healthy society is worth higher taxes and even a small budget deficit. I want to see the road lobby and its millions of dollars told to fuck off and ruin another planet, because we should have some policies that protect the environment and promote sustainable public transport.

And I don't want to wait until it's too goddamn fucking late.
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SuperWin [5 November 2008|10:46 pm]
Axver
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[Current Mood |excitedexcited]
[Current Music |'Cuyahoga' by REM]

BARACK OBAMA IS THE FORTY-FOURTH MOTHERFUCKING PRESIDENT OF THE USA.

Remember this day, people. Holy shit. Words cannot describe. I've been on such a high pretty much ever since Pennsylvania and Ohio started looking like they were going to Obama. I spent all day following the election in the Superthread on Interference. Good times, good company, good food, and an absolutely sensational, decisive result.

I can't help but feel like the world has changed just a little bit. The sheer fact of Obama's election will positively change global opinion of the USA and do something to restore its shattered reputation. International Relations will now chart a more positive course, with the neocons of Cheney, et al. no longer able to wield quite so much power. Even those of you who voted for McCain can surely appreciate the value of this (at least partial) restoration of the US's global standing. It's not for nothing that the world has roughly 90% support for Obama - higher in practically every Western democracy.

There is so much damage to be undone, domestically and internationally. There is still more damage being done, in fact - the bigots look like they're going to have their way on Prop 8 in California, with Yes leading 52.4% to 47.6% with 63% of the vote counted. But this is a massive shift all the same. I am a political pessimist, I do not expect all to start coming up roses, but Obama's win nonetheless changes the political landscape. The US is now travelling in a fairer and safer political direction. And given Obama's credentials, he is undoubtedly one of the most intelligent and qualified people to ever hold the Presidency.

So many thoughts are swirling through my head. It's hard to quite put them in a logical and coherent order. Perhaps the fact I am about to start on my fourth glass of celebratory cabernet sauvignon is part of the reason! I'm impressed. I'm delighted. I'm excited. I'm wondering what the history books will make on Bush and Obama being consecutive presidents. God, today really has had a sense of being a major historical moment. Well done, America. For the first time in a long time, you've positively defied my expectations.

Now let's just hope Helen Clark pulls off a miracle in New Zealand on Saturday.
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Outside it's America [4 November 2008|11:27 pm]
Axver
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[Current Mood |optimisticcautiously optimistic]
[Current Music |'Fall On Me' by REM]

Wow, it's finally here. America votes. It's kind of ridiculous how much I care, really, and kind of ridiculous that I almost feel disenfranchised by the fact I cannot vote, being a New Zealander and all. It comes from how intently I have followed the campaign, and the fact that I study Political Science - the election has simply been inescapable in every PolSci course I've done (and some of the History ones!) for the last year. Indeed, the last two years. It also comes from the fact that the outcome of this election will affect me and my part of the world too.

Those of you in America are probably oblivious to the fact that New Zealand's general election is just a few days later, on Saturday (and likely to be a clusterfuck ending in a disastrous National victory). After all, it's just little New Zealand, and although we've stood up to you before and told you precisely what you can and can't do in what I consider one of our finest moments (not to mention one of the precious few worthwhile post-Kirk moments; RIP David Lange), the vast majority of things we do are going to have precious little impact on the US. Or, for that matter, precious little impact even on its neighbour and my own current country of residence, Australia. About the only countries that New Zealand's political decisions will impact are small Pacific Island states.

In contrast, those of us around the globe are very conscious of the American election. Now, I know a number of Americans who wonder why all of us care so much, and the simple reason is that the decisions taken by the US are going to affect us as well. I don't just mean foreign policy either. The US is presently the lone world superpower, and even its domestic economic policies and legal moves are going to have ramifications that echo globally. I have said before that Americans who don't like this should start praying for isolationism, but let's be honest: the world economy is so interconnected and successive US governments have so considerably worked the US into the central position of global politics that true isolationism is impossible, and even a significant degree of isolationism is impractical without causing complete domestic economic collapse. So the rest of us not only care about the outcome of this election, but we aren't going to stop caring in a terrible hurry. And let's be frank - I'm not telling anybody how to vote, but if you don't want your country to be a global laughingstock, only one of the two major candidates has even half a chance of restoring America's shattered reputation. Mercifully enough, it seems that the polling on Five Thirty Eight (definitely some of the best analysis I've seen) indicates an extremely high probability of an Obama win. 98.35% on the popular vote, in fact.

So here I am, about to go to bed so that I can rise early and follow the vote as only a PolSci nerd can, complete with wine and appropriate snacks. After such a lengthy build-up, it's amazing that the election is finally here; this is one of the biggest events of the year for me, and it will feel weird once it's all over. I can't believe how much I care. I am perhaps more keenly interested in this election than my own. I have tried - unsuccessfully, but I nonetheless tried - to keep this entry non-partisan. I could make more of a show of trying to not express my sympathies, but that would be dishonest as it would still be obvious to anyone who can read between the lines. No doubt tomorrow's entry, whatever the result, will be extremely partisan. I'm a leftist and fucking proud of it. Come Saturday (well, Friday, since I'll vote then), I'll do my best to hold up the cause of progressive, forward-thinking, inclusive politics at this end of the world. Good luck holding up your end, America.
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Fuck Sarah Palin [1 November 2008|05:59 pm]
Axver
[Tags|, , , , , , , ]
[Current Mood |irritatedirritated]
[Current Music |'Not Unlike The Waves' by Agalloch]

I have long since made it apparent that I think Sarah Palin has the intellectual abilities and mental capacity of a rotting turnip. But now I think I have been tipped sufficiently far enough over the edge and past the point of frustration that a rant is in order. Sarah Palin is doing her best to lead an anti-intellectual crusade by a wing of the Republican Party. Put simply, if you are an educated, intelligent, intellectual individual, you are part of the "elite". And while nobody can tell me why being part of the elite is in fact a bad thing, it is apparently enough to require that you be viewed with suspicion, as a possible threat to America, and it is every bumfuck hick's sworn duty to campaign against this educated scourge.

My absolute distaste and disdain for Palin was already strong. I ranted last month about her complete lack of debating ability. She has demonstrated a complete lack of scientific understanding by deriding fruit fly research. She can't name a newspaper that she reads. She struggles to demonstrate an awareness of Supreme Court cases outside of the fundamentalist favourite, Roe v. Wade. But now she's gone after one of my own, a fellow historian.

It was one thing when McCain and Palin decided to make an issue out of Obama's supposed connection with Bill Ayers. I mean, Ayers was actually a terrorist - once, many decades ago. But apparently guilt-by-association claims are really in vogue right now. Palin has now gone after a man whose name she can't even correctly pronounce and whose work she probably can't even comprehend. From CNN:

"It seems that there is yet another radical professor from the neighborhood who spent a lot of time with Barack Obama going back several years," Palin said at an event in Bowling Green, Ohio.

"This is important because his associate, Rashid Khalidi ... in addition to being a political ally of Barack Obama, he's a former spokesperson for the Palestinian Liberation Organization."


RASHID KHALIDI? The leading Middle Eastern scholar, THAT Rashid Khalidi? Really? Khalidi the historian?

Let's get some things straight here, Sarah. You like straight talk, don't you? I'm going to try to word this as simply as possible so that you and your dribbling supporters can understand. Just for you, I'm going to try to avoid big or difficult words that show off my elitist education. Firstly, Khalidi was never a spokesperson for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. At least have the decency to check the facts before you spout off with wild claims about people. Secondly, just because Khalidi has been a strong critic of American policy in the Middle East, that does not make him a "radical" or dangerous or whatever you wish to insinuate about him. That means he is able to think critically about information and form his own views rather than swallowing party lines whole. You should try it sometime. Thirdly, Khalidi has decades of professional experience in this field while you have demonstrated you know utterly nothing, and you think being able to see (the most barren, isolated part of) Russia from Alaska gives you foreign policy qualification. Please, SIT DOWN, SHUT THE FUCK UP, AND STOP TRYING TO UNJUSTIFIABLY SLANDER YOUR INTELLECTUAL BETTERS. Sarah, I don't even trust you to be able to find Palestine on a fucking map.

I just don't trust that you are qualified for the job you are running for. You are staggeringly ignorant of the world. You are staggeringly ignorant of education. You are staggeringly ignorant of the vice presidential role. You are staggeringly ignorant, full fucking stop. And your latest act of staggering ignorance just proves my point. Now, it's reasonable to expect that somebody running for American vice president would have a grasp on the American constitution, right? Yeah, I thought so. Oh wait, YOU DON'T, SARAH. From the ABC (the American one):

Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin said she fears her First Amendment rights may be threatened by "attacks" from reporters who suggest she is engaging in a negative campaign against Barack Obama.

Palin told WMAL-AM that her criticism of Obama's associations, like those with 1960s radical Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, should not be considered negative attacks. Rather, for reporters or columnists to suggest that it is going negative may constitute an attack that threatens a candidate's free speech rights under the Constitution, Palin said.

"If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations," Palin told host Chris Plante, "then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media."


Do I need to point out how absurd this is? I am sure the text of the First Amendment is quite enough to show how utterly desperate Palin's paranoid claims are. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." I think I'm about done with you and your complete and utter nonsense, lack of logic, and bullshit claims, Sarah. Fuck off back to Wasilla and bother those of us with brains no more.

Intelligent American conservatives, do you see how little your party cares about you? At this election, you don't exactly have much of a choice. McCain/Palin represent you about as little as they represent me, for god's sake. If you're not willing to jump aboard the Obama bandwagon, you better hope your state allows you to write in a vote for some conservative who doesn't think you're a braindead drone. The Republican Party, once upon a time, didn't presume that its supporters are stupid. Conservatism has a rich intellectual history. Need I mention names such as Michael Oakeshott? But lately, it has been hijacked by far right extremists, free market fundamentalists, neocons, and their ilk. Need I mention statistics such as how recent Democrat presidents have controlled spending and achieved smaller government more than their supposedly pro-small government Republican counterparts? I personally do not consider small government a virtue, but since American conservatives go on about it so much, I think they urgently need to address this issue and realise that the so-called "tax and spend" Democrats are doing much more to achieve the small government goal than the Republican Party. The reduction of conservatism's electioneering persona to fear tactics of false boogeymen and First Amendment abuse should be completely unacceptable.

There, I think I'm done with taking Palin to task, and now I have a link for you that even more emphatically takes McCain to task. I'm not sure how many people will really read all of the following, but then again, if you've made it to the end of this entry, you just might. Hopefully you will enjoy it. Fuck John McCain.
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The US vice presidential mismatch [3 October 2008|01:44 pm]
Axver
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[Current Music |'Blue Pedal' by Kitchens Of Distinction]

Well, I just tuned into the American vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. I think the conclusion is pretty bloody clear: Biden steamrollered Palin. By any standard of politics or debating that you wish to apply, Palin was quite simply incompetent. Let's assess them individually.

Joe Biden debated well. He demonstrated a clear breadth and depth of knowledge, and when he was discussing issues, he backed up his points well. Put simply, he adhered to the first principle of debating: substantiate your argumentation with evidence. He pretty much took a sledgehammer to the claims of the McCain campaign, and not just with rhetoric but with actual facts and analysis. The kind of stuff you can go and check for yourself to make an informed decision. Fundamentally, he showed that he knows what he is on about, that he has an awareness of the important contemporary issues, and that he knows what the job demands. Lest I sound like an Obama campaign shill, all of these points stand regardless of your stance on the positions Biden himself took. You don't need to agree with him to be able to say that he presented clear arguments in favour of Obama/himself and against McCain/Palin, and sustained this argumentation with evidence. You could come back and say that he misinterprets or misrepresents the evidence, but he undeniably performed well; he debated the actual issues and represented his side articulately and with substance.

Sarah Palin didn't debate. There are thousands of inept and unqualified politicians out there, but Palin is surely at the very top of the heap. Quite simply, Palin is completely out of her depth. Regardless of the issue, she seemed completely incapable of sustaining an argumeent through evidence. Regardless of the issue, she seemed to considerably lack knowledge, awareness, or expertise. She even showed a stark lack of understanding of the position she is running for, in how the vice presidential position relates to the executive and the legislature, or for that matter what the executive actually does. At times, she even admitted to her ignorance and tried to distort this into a virtue as a "Washington outsider"; she is much less a Washington outsider and much more a competence outsider. Basic concepts of governance elude her. Basic concepts of debating are lost on her. She thunderously demonstrated that even when she is not making hilarious gaffes, she is thoroughly inept and incapable. She is dangerously unqualified. The best she can muster is irrelevant "folksy" rambling devoid of substance. She cannot address a topic, she cannot support her positions, she cannot refute the claims of the Obama campaign - again, regardless of whether or not you agree with her (though it is hard to agree with somebody seemingly unable to articulate and substantiate a clear stance on anything), these points stand independently. Sarah Palin is grossly unqualified and ignorant.

The debate was a mismatch and a complete walkover. Sure, Palin didn't gift the world another hilarious gaffe, but her best was not even faintly good enough and she resoundingly lost.
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From Westphalia to South Ossetia [29 August 2008|11:46 pm]
Axver
[Tags|, , , , , , , , , ]
[Current Music |'Offcell' by Pinback]

Good old state sovereignty. As soon as you get any sort of international dispute, sure as anything you'll get diplomats and commentators alike prattling on about "territorial integrity" and the like. After all, the inviolability of state sovereignty and the principle of non-intervention in a state's domestic affairs are accepted norms within mainstream International Relations; a government and its people have a right to be secure within their own borders. So, of course, you can guess what has inevitably arisen in the discourse/bickering regarding the conflict between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia.

The thing is, it sometimes feels like it's on the wrong side of relevance.

State sovereignty's defining moment is said to be the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, and although that's over-stating things, the notion of the Westphalian international order (i.e. ordering the world into territorial states) has been naturalised globally in less than 400 years. We take the state system for granted, completely oblivious to the fact that four centuries ago, it existed nowhere in its modern form, and even 150 years ago, it was totally foreign to large swathes of the world. It spread pretty damn quickly out of Europe.

The crucial point I wish to make by saying this is that the Westphalian system has pretty much no connection whatsoever to the socio-political context and history of the Caucasus region. It should not be the defining point upon which rights and wrongs are hung, since it is a political structure divorced from the ethnic politics that shape the dispute. Essentially, whether or not we accept the inviolability of sovereignty, the problem in South Ossetia will still be there. It doesn't matter whether or not Georgia has a legitimate claim to territorial integrity, because it does not address the problem. The merits of Georgia's assertions of authority, Russia's intervention, and South Ossetia's claim to autonomy/independence should be judged against the social and ethnic relations that define the history and politics of the area, as they are at the core of the problem. Obviously, the universality of the Westphalian system means that any final outcome will have to fit within this framework, but to use it to define the debate, identify antagonists, and force solutions lacks relevance and is perhaps a bit of a laugh.

Another point I wish to make is that appealling to territorial integrity can be grossly misleading. Territorial integrity is essentially meaningless if a government is incapable of wielding effective power throughout the country. Hence places such as Somalia are considered failed states; whoever's in power in Khartoum sure as hell doesn't have any control over Somaliland in the north, and probably struggles to enforce their rule just 100km outside the central city. Defending territorial integrity simply for its own sake seems monumentally useless when part of a territory is de facto sovereign and an authority other than the central government has gained local legitimacy. I see absolutely no beneficial outcome for states to keep clinging to territory they really do not control, inhabited by people who do not recognise their authority.

Accordingly, although Russia has rather disingeniously dragged Abkhazia into the dispute, I fully support - and have always fully supported - Abkhazian independence. I have not, however, decided my stance on South Ossetia, since the issue of its rule is so hopelessly bogged down in complexities I am not terribly familiar with. Furthermore, while Abkhazia has always expressed a will to be independent, the claims of pro-Russian South Ossetians to independence as opposed to union with Russia or being a Russian puppet state seem far less certain or solid. Russia is monumentally hypocritical here, happily acknowledging Abkhazia and South Ossetia while overlooking the likes of Chechnya-Ingushetia within. Of course, it's just trying to throw its weight around and assert its status as a regional power. This does not bode well for actually settling the dispute on the grounds I emphasis, i.e. the core issues that have brought people into conflict. Georgia and its allies will continue to appeal to territorial integrity, Russia will pursue any outcome that enhances its might, while the people actually tied up in the conflict who have to live with the outcomes become lost and ignored. In the midst of International Relations power politics and as a consequence of the failure of conflict management to address the root causes at play, the people disappear.

To summarise, I don't mean to say that we should abandon or ignore the Westphalian system; I can't think of a better form of international order in the absence of global governance (though the supranationalism of the European Union is promising). What I do mean to say is that we shouldn't rush so quickly to "territorial integrity!" and "state sovereignty!" as talking points the minute an international conflict arises. It obscures the complexities and nuances of the issue and is not necessarily the most appropriate or useful response. If it is not at the heart of the claims and grievances of the disputing parties - like in this case - then it should not be treated as if it were.
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Bringing New Zealand back on track, III: The South Island, rolling stock, and concluding thoughts [9 July 2008|01:58 am]
Axver
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[Current Music |'Shallow' by Catherine Wheel]

After the interlude of my previous entry and a week or so of inactivity, I’d now like to return to this series, focusing on the potential for serious and substantial rail transport revitalisation in New Zealand. My first two entries focused on the upper and lower North Island. This entry shall look at the South Island, with Christchurch and Dunedin as operational hubs. The east coast of the South Island has a number of markets where air and road are doing a rather inefficient job of handling traffic that really falls within the sphere of rail. There is precious little traffic over on the west coast, and Nelson is rather out of luck due to the complete absence of a railway, but the corridor from Blenheim to Invercargill has plenty of opportunity.

My South Island solutions.Collapse )

The matter of rolling stock.Collapse )

Concluding thoughts: a look to the future.Collapse )

Anyway, I hope these ideas have been interesting and thought-provoking to at least somebody out there. I may return with a series on commuter services at some point; I have already made it clear, either explicitly or implicitly, that there should be commuter trains from Christchurch to Rangiora/Kaiapoi, Lyttelton, and Rolleston, from Dunedin to Mosgiel and Port Chalmers, from Auckland to the North Shore and Hibiscus Coast, and between Hastings and Napier. I would also support the partial relaying of the Southbridge branch to enable Christchurch – Lincoln commuter trains. So we’ll see. I suppose it could be a project for next semester when I feel like procrastinating!
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Bringing New Zealand back on track, II: The lower North Island [28 June 2008|11:41 pm]
Axver
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[Current Music |'Matadjem Yinmixan' by Tinariwen]

Welcome back to the 2008 Shit Boring Entry Series, addressing the urgent need to fundamentally rethink transport planning, with specific focus upon New Zealand. Yesterday's entry introduced the series and discussed the potential of rail transport in the upper North Island. Today's entry shall bring those considerations to the lower North Island, with Wellington as an operational hub. Again, drawing upon the idea that transport modes have spheres to which they are uniquely suited and that these spheres are complementary, it shall identify the spheres that are suited to interurban and intercity rail but for the most part are inefficiently run by road and air transport. As a note of clarification, although the current extent of electrification of the Wellington commuter network is Paraparaumu, it is being extended to Waikanae, so in this entry, I shall make all references to Waikanae rather than to Paraparaumu.

So let's bring the lower North Island back on track.Collapse )

Well, I did ramble on too much to really fit in rolling stock considerations. Well, stay tuned. Tomorrow will likely see a different entry to break up the series, but stay tuned for the third installment in a couple of days, addressing the South Island.
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