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Another World is Possible

Bye bye to social blogging and livejournal

Posted on 2007.06.09 at 17:45
Adios amigos,

I no longer feel the compulsion to divulge my life stories on "live journals". I guess just really can't be arsed, but also i never really got into the swing of things and i mainly posted updates from travelling or political tid-bits.

So to re-align my blogging energy with what what im interested in i have decided to cease using this site and set-up a new blog using blogspot (cos it kicks pants off livejournal).

My new blog focusses on the climate crises, and the type of solutions we need to overcome the problem. If you are interested check it out @ http://inhabitable-earth.blogspot.com/

I may maintain this site for the purpose of updates during travelling or perhaps if i feel the need to publish rants not soo relevant for the blogspot blog.

Yep thats all.

Do the laws of nature last forever? The universe might make more sense if they don't, argues leading theorist Lee Smolin

IN SCIENCE we aim for a picture of nature as it really is, unencumbered by any philosophical or theological prejudice. Some see the search for scientific truth as a search for an unchanging reality behind the ever-changing spectacle we observe with our senses. The ultimate prize in that search would be to grasp a law of nature - a part of a transcendent reality that governs all change, but itself never changes.

The idea of eternally true laws of nature is a beautiful vision, but is it really an escape from philosophy and theology? For, as philosophers have argued, we can test the predictions of a law of nature and see if they are verified or contradicted, but we can never prove a law must always be true. So if we believe a law of nature is eternally true, we are believing in something that logic and evidence cannot establish.

Of course, laws of nature are very useful, and we have in fact been able to discover good candidates for them. But to believe a law is useful and reliable is not the same thing as to believe it is eternally true. We could just as easily believe there is nothing but an infinite succession of approximate laws. Or that laws are generalisations about nature that are not unchanging, but change so slowly that until now we have imagined them as eternal.

These are disturbing thoughts for a theoretical physicist like myself. I chose to go into science because the search for eternal, transcendent laws of nature seemed a lofty goal. However, the possibility that laws evolve in time is one that recent developments in theoretical and experimental physics have forced me, and others, to consider.

The biggest reason to consider that the laws of nature might evolve is the discovery that the universe itself is evolving. When we believed that the universe was eternal it made more sense to believe that the laws that governed it were also eternal. But the evidence we have now isthat the universe-or at least the part of it we observe - has been around for only a few billion years.

We know that the universe has been expanding for about 14 billion years and that as we go back in time it gets hotter and denser. We have good evidence that there was a moment when the cosmos was as hot as the centre of a star. If we use the laws that we know apply to space-time and matter today, we can deduce that a few minutes earlier the universe must have been infinitely dense and hot. Many cosmologists take this moment as the birth of the universe and indeed as the birth of space and time. Before this big bang there was nothing, not even time.

Why these laws?

So what could it mean to say that a universe only 14 billion years old is governed by laws that are eternally true? What were the laws doing before time and space? How did the universe know, at that moment of beginning, what laws to follow?

Perhaps the solution to this is that the big bang was not the first instant of time. However, this raises a new question, which has been championed by the great theoretical physicist John Wheeler. Even if we believe the universe evolved from something that existed before the big bang, we have no reason to believe the laws ofthat previous universe were the same as those we observe in our universe. Might the laws have changed when our universe, or region of the universe, was created?

This question came to the fore in 1973, when physicists first developed a theory of elementary particle physics called the standard model. This theory has successfully accounted for every experiment in particle physics before and since that time, apart from those that involve gravity. It only required a small modification to incorporate the later discovery that neutrinos have mass. As for gravity, all experiments support the general theory of relativity, which Einstein published in 1915. There may be further laws to discover, to do with the unification of gravity with quantum theory and with the other forces of nature. But in a certain sense, we have for the first time in history a set of laws sufficient to explain the result of every experiment that has ever been done.

As a result, in the past three decades the attention of physicists has shifted from seeking to know the laws of nature to a new question: why these laws? Why do these laws, and not others, hold in our universe?

Confronting this question while working on string theory in the 1980's, a few of us began to wonder whether the laws might have changed at the big bang, just as Wheeler had suggested. It was obvious that we could make a connection to biology. I wondered whether there might be an evolutionary mechanism that would allow us to answer the question of "why these laws?" in the same way that biology answers questions like "why these species?". Perhaps the mechanism that makes laws evolve also picks out certain laws and makes them more probable than others. I found such a mechanism, modelled on natural selection, which I called cosmological natural selection.

This is possible because string theory is actually a collection of theories: it has a vast number of distinct versions, each of which gives rise to different collections of elementary particles and forces. We can think of the different versions of string theory as analogous to the different phases of water - ice, liquid and steam. When the universe is squeezed down to such tremendous densities and temperatures that the quantum properties of space-time become important, a phase transition can take place - like water turning to steam - leading from one version of the theory to another.

The many different phases of string theory can also be seen as analogous to a variety of species governed by different DNA sequences. They can be imagined as making up a vast space, which I called the "landscape", to bring out the analogy to a "fitness landscape" in biology that represents all possible ways genes can be arranged.

Cosmological natural selection makes a few predictions that could easily he falsified, and while it is too soon to claim strong evidence for it, those predictions have held up (New Scientist, 24 May 1997, p 38). At the very least, it opened my eyes to the possibility that a theory in which the laws changed in time could still make testable predictions.

It turns out that I had been beaten to the punch: some philosophers had confronted these issues over a century ago. In 1891 the philosopher Charles Pierce wrote that it was hardly justifiable to suppose that universal laws of nature have no reason for their special form. "The only possible way of accounting for the laws of nature, and for uniformity in general, is to suppose them results of evolution,"he added.

Pierce went much further than I have done, asserting that the question "Why these laws?" has to be answered by a cosmological scenario analogous to evolution. But was he right?

Let us start with an obvious objection: if laws evolve, what governs how they evolve? Does there not have to be some deeper law that guides the evolution of the laws? For example, when water turns into ice, more general laws continue to hold and govern how this phase transition happens - the laws of atomic physics. So perhaps, even if a law turns out to evolve in time, there is always a deeper, unchanging law behind that evolution.

Shapes of things to come

Another example concerns the geometry of space. We used to think that space always followed the perfectly flat Euclidean geometry that we all learn in high school. This was considered one of the laws of nature, but Einstein's general theory of relativity asserts that this is wrong. The geometry of space can be anything it wants tobe: any of an infinite number of curved geometries is possible. So what picks out the geometry we see?

General relativity asserts that the geometry of space evolves in the course of time according to some deeper law. Today's geometry is what it is because it evolved from a different geometry in the past, following that definite law.

However, there is a big problem with this kind ol explanation, which has to do with the fact that the laws that govern the evolution of geometry are deterministic. They share this feature with most laws studied in physics, including Newton's laws and quantum mechanics. Consider Newton's law of motion for an object. If we know where the object is now and how it is moving, and we know the laws that govern the forces it encounters, we can predict where it will be and has been for all time, past as well as future. General relativity is the same. If we know the geometry of space at a particular time, and how it is changing, we can predict the whole history of space-time. To apply these deterministic laws, however, we have to give a description of the system at one point in time. This is called the initial condition. If we do not specify an initial condition, the laws cannot describe anything.

This is why Einstein's equations do not fully explain why the geometry of space is what it is. They require an initial condition - the geometry at an earlier time. This brings us back to the dilemma about the big bang. Either the universe had no beginning, in which case the chain of causes goes further into the past, before the big bang; or the big bang was the beginning, and we require some explanation as to why it started and with what geometry.

So we have arrived at a conundrum. It appears that if laws evolve, other laws are required to guide their evolution. But then, the evolution of a law is just like the evolution of any other system under a deterministic law. We cannot explain why something is true in the present without knowing its initial state. Applied to laws, this means we cannot explain what the laws are now if we do not specify what the laws were in the past. So the idea of laws evolving by following a deeper rule does not seem to lead to an explanation of "why these laws?"

To avoid this we need an evolutionary mechanism that will allow us to deduce features of the present without having to know the past in detail. This is where Pierce's statement, which appears to invoke biological evolution, comes into its own.

In biology, many features of living organisms can be explained by natural selection, even if one doesn't know details about the past. As the process is partly random, we cannot predict exactly what mix of species will evolve in a given ecosystem, but we can predict that the species that survive will be litter than those that don't. This is, I believe, why Pierce insisted that any explanation of "why these laws?" involves evolution. And using this kind of logic, cosmological natural selection makes some predictions without detailed information about previous stages of the universe.

But even this is unsatisfactory: it doesn't address the question of how a law that guides the evolution of matter in time could also change in time. For that, we have to examine the way we think about time.

There are big problems with time, even before we start thinking about the evolution of laws of nature. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the field of quantum gravity, which attempts to pull quantum theory and general relativity together into one consistent framework. This is because the two theories each use a different notion of time. In quantum theory, time is defined by a clock sitting outside the system being modelled. In general relativity, time is measured by a clock that is part of the universe that the theory describes. Many of the successes and failures of different approaches to quantum gravity rest on how they reconcile this conflict between time as an external parameter versus time as a physical property of the universe.

However these questions are eventually resolved, there are still deeper issues with time. These arise in any theory in which the laws are taken as being eternal. To illustrate this, we can take a simple example, such as Newton's description of a system of particles. To formulate the theory we invent a mathematical space, consisting of all the positions that all the particles might have. Each point in the space is a possible configuration of the system of particles, so the whole space is called the configuration space. As the system evolves over time, it traces out a curve in configuration space called a history. The laws of physics then pick out which histories are possible and which are not.

The problem with this description is that time has disappeared. The system is represented not by its state at a moment of time but by a history taking it through all time. This description of reality seems timeless. What has disappeared from it is any sense of the present moment, which divides our experience of the flow of time into past, present and future. This problem became particularly acute when it emerged in Einstein's theory of general relativity. Solving the theory gives a four-dimensional spacetime history and no indication of "now".

Some, looking at this picture, have been tempted to say that reality is the whole timeless history and that any sense we have of a present moment is some kind of illusion. Even if we don't believe this, the fact that one could believe it means that there is nothing in this description of nature that corresponds to our common-sense experience of past, present and future. This is called the problem of transience. The sense of the universe unfolding or becoming in time, of "now", has no representation in general relativity. But in truth the problem was always there in Newton's physics and it is there in any theory in which some part of nature is described by a state that evolves deterministically in time, governed by a law that dictates change, but never changes.

The illusion of now

The philosopher Roberto linger of Harvard University calls this the "poisoned gift of mathematics to physics". Many believe that mathematics represents truth in terms of timeless relationships, based on logic. It allows us to formulate physical laws precisely: this is the gift. By doing so, however, mathematics represents paths in configuration space unfolding in time by logic, and this logic exists outside of time. The poison in the gift is the disappearance of any notion of the present or of becoming.

Physicists and their predecessors have been eliminating time like this since the days of Descartes and Galileo at least. But is it the wrong thing to do? Is there a way to represent change through time in a way that represents our sense of becoming, or of time unfolding?

I don't know the answer, but I suspect this question is connected to that of whether laws can evolve in time. One can only draw the curve representing a history in time by assuming that the laws which govern how the history evolves never change. Without a fixed, unchanging law, one could not draw the curve.

Here is the question that keeps me awake these days: is there a way to represent the laws of physics mathematically that retains the notions of the present moment and the continual unfolding of time? And would this allow us - or even require us - to formulate laws that also evolve in time?

Again, I don't know the answer, but I know of a few hints. One comes from theoretical biology. The configuration space for an evolutionary theorist is vast, consisting of all the possible sequences of DNA. At present, there is a particular collection representing all the species that exist. Evolution will produce new ones, while others will disappear. The interesting thing is that natural selection operates in such a way that biologists have little use for the entire configuration space. Instead, they need study only a much smaller space, which is those collections of genes that could he reached from the present one by a few evolutionary steps. The theoretical biologist Stuart Kauffman of the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, calls this the "adjacent possible".

This scheme allows laws to change. Consider the laws that govern sexual selection. They do not make sense for any old biosphere, as they only come into play when there are creatures with two sexes. So in evolutionary theory there is no need for eternal laws, and it makes sense to speak of a law coming into existence at some time to govern possibilities that did not exist before. Furthermore, there is such a vast array of possible mechanisms of natural selection that it would not make any sense to list them all and treat them as timeless. Better to think of laws coming into existence as the new creatures that evolve in each step require.

Of course, one might reply that natural selection itself never changes. But natural selection is a fact of logic, not a contingent law of nature. Every real law in biology depends on some aspect of the creatures that exist at a given time, which means the laws are also time-bound.

It is not impossible to achieve time-bound laws in physics. There are logicians who have proposed alternative systems of logic that incorporate a notion of time unfolding. In these logics, what is true and false is assigned for a particular moment, not for all time. For a given moment some propositions are true, others false, but there remains an infinite list of propositions that are yet to become either true or false. Once a proposition is true or false, it remains so, but at each moment new propositions become decided. These are called intuitionalist logics and they underlie a branch of mathematics called topos theory.

Some of my colleagues have studied these logics as a model for physics. Fotini Markopoulou of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, has shown that aspects of space-time geometry can be described in terms of these logics. Chris Isham of Imperial College London and others propose to reformulate physics completely in terms of them.

It is interesting that some physicists now propose that the universe is some kind of computer, because similar questions are being asked in computer science. In the standard architecture all computers now use, invented by the mathematician John von Neumann, the operating system never changes. It governs the flow of information through a computer just as an eternal law of nature is thought to guide physics. But some visionary computer scientists such as Jaron Lanier wonder whether there could be other kinds of architectures and operating systems that themselves evolve in time.

Looking at biology, it seems there are advantages to what are, essentially, time-bound laws. Evolving laws might make computer systems similarly robust and less likely to do what the laws of natural selection, it seems, never do: crash. The universe, too, seems to function rather well, operating without glitches and fatal errors. Perhaps that's because natural selection is hard at work in the laws of nature.

Another World is Possible

Venezuela: A place of contradictions

Posted on 2006.12.08 at 07:07
Well yesterday was the last day of the Brigade... so sad! Have said goodbye to a number of people, a lot of whom i made great friends with in such a short period of time. Now i have had time to reflect on it, its amazing how quickly the time passed.

We saw some many different groups and people who are all a part of this revolution in some manner.
Every single thing we did left us with more questions than answers, as we sought to grasp more and more about the intricacies of Venezuelan politics and the necessary steps for this revolution.

Yesterday was amazingly useful to hear from Michael Liebowitz, a Canadian socialist and partner to Marta Harnecka - a major adivisor to Chavez. He was very clear on the possible directions for the revolutions, the roots of the corruption and opportunism that is rife within the old and new republic structures. He also gave his thoughts about the election campaign that didnt involve community groups in the process, like in 2004 around the recall referendum. This reflected the internal politics within the groups representing the revolution. A division that has a lot to do with the old style of politics, clientalism. The oil industry created a system, whereby if you wanted to obtain any position of power, you spoke the right words to the right people in PDVSA and the Government. Now they have a big task of creating a new kind of culture within the developing parallel socialist state structures.

Mike also made the point that you cant learn anything from history, but then you have to learn everything from history. In reality Venezuela´s revolution is a unique one, as are every other revolution. You cant pull out your check list and hope to prove Venezuela´s socialism. Rather it´s something that is a real developing entity, that could end up at any destination, if its not for the conscious activity of its revolutionary leaders - principally Chavez at this moment.

We went afterwards to speak to the youth group Frente Francisco De Miranda afterwards, who have over 20,000 members... social fighters as they call themselves. They do a lot of work in implementing misions, particularly the education ones, and direct themselves to mobolising people to participate in the Bolivarian Revolution. It was a very interesting talk and we received a complete run down on the, rather militaristic, organisational structure of the organisation. Despite it being horribly undemocratic, there are possibilities for change, as they seek to overcome its limitations on their activity. But like with everything in Venezuela, we will have to see where it goes. Anyway it was great to hear from them again and to get a feel for the work they are doing.

Now we have something to give back to Venezuela, and thats our solidarity in Australia. We have to combat the lies and misinformation that exists about this revolution, and show people just how democratic, participatory AND inspiring it is. Now we are all armed and ready to do this and talk to as many groups and people as possible in Australia.

I think it´s interesting just how rapidly things are changing here, its a country in which everything is in transit. The opposition are consolidating themselves around Rosales, who is now looking towards a long term approach to undermining the revolution. They are even trying to out Chavez Chavez in public, which represents an interesting shift. They are talking about fighting for social democracy and are going to continue pushing for a Mi Negra card, and "democratic" constitutional ammendments. But this may draw to it the opportunists in Chavez´s government and political parties, while strengthening the socialism of Chavez. The possibilities for a united revolutionary party could either set back the process of developing a new revolutionary leadership from the community base, or see the conservative section of the pro Chavez forces challenged and the formation of a truly revolutionary party that is independent of the Government.

But i guess today i saw the objective contradictions inherent in this country. We took a cable car all the way to the top of one of the biggest mountains around Caracas, which has the ocean on one side. At the very top of the mountain it was a different world. It was all covered with Coca Cola sponsered Christmas posters, and even had a Christmas tree with a Coca Cola star on top. Inside the complex there is an ice rink, which im sure very few Venezuelans would know about. Here they had Nescafe posters with European faces on it and all sorts of out of place things.

It´s almost as if when we entered the clouds around the mountain on the cable car, we entered a parallel universe. On the one side of the mountain a chaotic, ramshackle city in which a revolution is challenging every aspect of life, on the other side was beautiful greenary and tranquility, with a rich playground on top. We walked 30 minutes down a deep slope to end up in this amazing small town, and saw the mountains spill out into the ocean. Here the rich have the holiday homes, and the poor live off the only tourist industry in Caracas.

It was so beautiful i almost forgot about the world on the other side, which im not thrown back into. Most Venezuelans can barely afford to catch an 800 Bolivar bus ride (1 aus dollar = 1600 Bolivares) let alone a 30,000 Bs cable car, so to them this probably is a different world. Apparently the Government´s plan is to buy the cable car and hopefully they will rebuild the section that goes all the way over to the ocean. Hopefully then it will be free/affordable and then the people can get to see this amazing world.

Anyway im off to dinner.


Victory for the oppressed

Posted on 2006.12.05 at 00:49
Tags: ,
Some updates

Firstly the demonstration planned by Rosales supporters has been moved to tomorrow (or today by the time you read it). This indicates that the opposition will not try to initiate any coup or aggressions - they are probably pretty demoralised by now given that most of them thought they could win?!

Secondly today the Chavistas are having Fiesta´s not rallies.
In Catia our brigade has been invited to a street party, which im sure will be huge. We went through there yesterday as part of our day as unofficial election observers. We stopped at a party in process at around 3pm of Chavista´s who were already celebrating their president´s win. One person told us of how life has improved so much as a consequence of the revolution and Chavez´s leadership. He said that for the first time he has some savings in his bank. He told us he cried when he saw Chavez announce he would be sending cheap oil to benefit poor people throughout the Americas. This was amazing given Rosales statements about Chavez sending the oil overseas so that no one could use it here. The sense of growing internationalism amongst the mass of Venezuelans is an indication of how far things have progressed.

Yesterday in the absolute pooring rain thousands poured into Mira Flores to see Chavez give Venezuela´s victory speech. No one cared about the rain and as soon as everyone realised Chavez had one, they all came out of the woodwork. An extraordinary sense of love and solidarity existed amongst most of the crowd, although alcohol and the Mira Flores courtyard reaching its capacity saw a few angry confrontations. A young woman gave me her hat (which has lights that flashes on the hands of Diez Milliones) and said that i will always be in her heart, another women was telling me how she loved her President, and an elderly man protected us Gringos in the crowd/moshpit who then hugged us and thanked us.

Apparently during the celebration a black car drove in through the crowd with a coffin on top. The coffin had something on it about death to Mi Negra and death to the mad dog Bush. The Mi Negra card was Rosales populist attempt to get poor Venezuelans on side by throwing money at those who signed up to support him.

Everyone is aware that this is an important step in Venezuela´s history, Chavez was able to surpass the important figure of 60% of the vote; is looking at winning 7 million votes; has won in every single state, including Zulia; and the opposition where not able to find any proof of election fraud. In fact the only thing they did was send heaps of people into one election booth to demand entrance as public observers, then complain about fraud when they weren´t all let in. From here the possibility of actually building Socialism in the 21st Century can move from an idea to reality, with the first step reforming the constitution to make it more revolutionary. Particularly this could be an opportunity for them to tackle key issues relating to women and queer rights, which has suffered after decades of machismo.

As Chavez said last night, this wasn´t a victory for him it was a victory for all oppressed. "Long live the pre-ordained popular victory. Long live the reign of socialism, the future of Venezuela … Another defeat for the North American empire. Another defeat for the devil. Down with imperialism."

Another World is Possible

Vote Against the Devil! Vote Against the Empire!

Posted on 2006.12.03 at 06:30
Current Location: Caracas
"We have to teach Chavez what democracy is"

These were the words of Manuela Rosales, the lead opposition candidate to Chavez in tomorrow´s up-coming Presidential elections in Venezuela. It is well known that Rosales was involved in the 2002 coup that saw Chavez, who is facing is 11th straight electoral win, kidnapped and the National Assembly dissolved. Chavez has repeatedly suggested that the US administration is pulling the strings for the opposition in the election campaign, and has called for this election to be a vote against US imperialism. So far everything is on course for a clear election win to Chavez, with all polls showing Chavez having around 60% support and Rosales between 20 and 30%. Chavez said yesterday "We've already won this battle. So the day after the election, on 4 December, I will convene a special commission to reform the constitution". Its expected he will also announce a three day holiday and there is a demonstration in favour of the revolution planned for Nov 4.

Despite some claims that Chavez will secure his win through intimidation amongst public servants and oil workers, and "theatrical warnings", it´s clearly obvious that Chavez win will reflect the mass support that Chavez has among the poor. But also because this election campaign has been very much an ideological campaign to raise the revolutionary consciousness among Venezuelans and their need to be active participants in the process. We met with a representative of the PCV (Venezuelan Communist Party) who is part of the campaign leadership. He described how the first stage of the process involved community consultations, partly through the Consejo Communales, to discuss what the, old, 4th Republic was like, what has been the important gains of the revolution and what their thoughts were on the future stages of the revolution. Despite this not being undertaken to the extent desired by the campaign coordinators, its clear that this obtained large support among the social movements.

This was evident last Sunday when 2.5 million Venezuelan´s head the streets of Caracas to create a wave of Rojo Rojito (red, very red) Chavista´s. This rally was called in the space of two days, and dwarfed the Rosales end of campaign demonstration by 4-5 times. I spoke to a Venezuelan involved in the Hands of Venezuela campaign here, who said that it would have been bigger as lots of poor in the Barrios had no means transport. The extent of the demonstration can be seen at http://www.aporrea.org/oposicion/n87069.html. 4 main streets long and many side streets were filled making it an awe inspiring indication of the level of support for Chavez. By all accounts this is the biggest demonstration in favour of Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution. Many groups were represented and the people clamboured to hear Chavez speak only 2 hours after the demonstration officially began.

It has been suggested that Chavez threw Government funds into the election campaign, on Sunday there was so much MVR/Chavez material - CDs, posters, hats and shirts etc. But from what i can gather the money was donated a few months ago, by millions of Venezuelans to ensure there would be no opportunities for the opposition. But despite this the Electoral Council (CNE) has recently handed both sides a notice of the number of breaches of the law in there campaign. Both sides were equally responsible, which indicates that the process is being well monitored and democratic. Furthermore the opposition-aligned El Nacional newspaper reported that Sunday's election had more safeguards than a 2004 recall referendum. The other amazing thing is the extent to which the CNE and the Government has sought to maximise the participation of Venezuelans. Almost every day i get handed some new leaflet explaining the electoral system and an explanation about how to cast your vote. They have also coordinated the voting process in the Barrios to ensure that voting doesn´t drag on for hours into the night. In the 2004 Recall Referendum the opposition claimed that Chavez was trying to wear people out of voting (as a rain storm forced the voting to go on until 3am in the morning).

In reality if anyone has been responsible for undermining democracy and people´s participation it has been the Rosales - Bush (as it is affectionately known) team. They have created a climate of fear in an attempt to destabilise the election and potentially turn people away from voting. They have called for mass demonstrations from 5pm tomorrow and have suggested that there will be bloodshed in the streets. A steady campaign of lies and misinformation has been fostered in the media. Some examples are: They said that 5 million Cubans would be coming to vote to ensure that Chavez reached the 10 million supporters he is seeking; claims that the sugar supply will be cut; that 5 million people attended the Caracas end of campaign rally for Rosales (in a city of 6 million).

The opposition have also been signing up people who will commit to voting for Rosales to a debit card called "Mi Negra". This apparently will be given to all Venezuelan´s if Rosales is elected and would tap oil revenues to give 600,000 Bs a month in cash to Venezuelans. "That deceitful offer of money without working — that Negra card — it's shameless populism that can't be compared to the benefits we're currently receiving," said Jesus Sanchez, 62, who is an industrial mechanic (from TIME.com).

They have also suggested that this election is a choice between democracy and Cuban style authoritarianism. To that Chavez has responded saying "The Cuban model is Cuban and the Venezuelan model is Venezuelan," in a television interview.

Even TIME.com is forced to concede that the Bolivarian Revolution has benefited the poor: Yris Machado, 41, a widow, could only feed her four children one meal a day until a Chavez-backed program began supplying her with food staples. Now, she and her children eat three times a day. She is also beginning to benefit from a government program called "Mothers of the Barrio," which gives stipends to poor mothers with handicapped children. She will use the extra funds to help pay for anti-convulsive drugs and a new mattress for her daughter, who has Down syndrome. "Thanks to my president, now I can say that I'm going to buy a new mattress for my daughter and I'm going to give her a better way of living," Machado said.

In reality this election will be won easily by Chavez because it has represented an amazing effort to consolidate his support among the poor and actively engage them in the revolution. Next year Chavez will embark on an ambitious plan (perhaps a little to ambitious), which will see education massively expanded, with 50 Universities built; a big housing and public transport campaign to reverse huge migration into Caracas; 100,000 Community Councils developed; 200 000 new doctors trained in next 5 years; among many many more advances. But also this election has been very important in defying the attempts by the US backed opposition forces to undermine the election and an attemp another coup. Clearly the opposition is not in the same position they were in 2002, and any attempt at violence or aggression will succeed in their further isolation.

I guess we will know tomorrow if the slogan "No Volveran" (No return to the old) is fulfilled.

Another World is Possible

Hola Argentina

Posted on 2006.11.24 at 19:38
Current Location: Buenos Aires
Buenos Dias Todo,

Well im in the middle of a brief, una dia, stopover in lovely Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Things have gone reasonably smooth so for (no muggings etc)... about the hardest part was trying to get correct currency and change for the omnibus to the city. Fucking glad we got the bus, cos the taxis are over $60 pesos, compared to $1.35 via the bus

The one and a half hour bus ride gave us a chance to acquiant ourselves with Latin America, and put some Español in practice - ¿cuánto cuesta?

On the bus ride we saw three demonstrations (they could have been linked), at least one was for the MST - Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores and looked pretty sizeable. Its amazing how much demonstrations, rallies etc are a way of life in this place - not quite the same as in Perth.

The hostel we stayed at was a great recommendation from LP, with agua calinte (hot water - fucking necessity after being on a plane for several days), and a comfy bed.

WE fly out to Caracas tonight, about 5.00pm and arrive in 11.20pm. Very much looking forward to the brigade and seeing the bolivarian revolution with my own eyes. The right wing opposition are gearing up in Venezuela to disrupt the electoral process and cause havoc post elections in an attempt to undermine the Chavez leadership and hopefully topple the revolution. This could make for an interesting time, particularly given our hotel is across the road from Mira Flores - presidential palace. One can only suspect that the US are making a last ditch effort to lay the basis for some sort of intervention. A coup is a possibility, but the majority of the military is on the side of Chavez (he came from the military) and the Venezuelan poor defeated one in 2002 in a far worse situation. They may try to import paramilitary assistance from neighbours Columbia and get the corrupt police on side, but even then they will have to rely on support from the middle class in Venezuela - of which a chunk supportChavez too.

The polls show a wide ranging deviation between support for Chavez and support for Rosales (main opposition candidate from opposition state Zulia). But despite this it has been shown clearly over the last 7 years that Chavez has the support of the majority of people in Venezuela, particularly the poor. See p://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1884 and www.venezuelasolidarity for more info.

Hopefully things don´t get out of hand too much, but with the US involved, you never know.

Hasta Luego

Walk Away

Oh no- here comes that sun again.
And (that) means another day without you my friend.
And it hurts me to look into the mirror at myself.
And it hurts even more to have to be with somebody else.

And it's so hard to do and so easy to say.
But sometimes - sometimes,
you just have to walk away - walk away.

With so many people to love in my life, why do I worry about one?
But you put the happy in my ness, you put the good times into my fun.

And it's so hard to do and so easy to say.
But sometimes - sometimes,
you just have to walk away - walk away and head for the door.

We've tried the goodbye so many days.
We walk in the same direction so that we could never stray.
They say if you love somebody than you have got to set them free,
but I would rather be locked to you than live in this pain and misery.
They say time will make all this go away,
but it's time that has taken my tomorrows and turned them into yesterdays.
And once again that rising sun is droppin' on down
And once again, you my friend, are nowhere to be found.

And it's so hard to do and so easy to say.
But sometimes, sometimes you just have to walk away, walk away and head for the door.
You just walk away - walk away - walk away.
You just walk away, walk on, turn and head for the door.

Trent, Elections

Don't Believe the Lies

Posted on 2006.11.09 at 22:54
Well i saw Major Michael D. Mori speak two days in a row, and i can tell you im still horrified by the reality of what he was saying.

To have someone locked up for 5 years, with 2 of those in isolation - isolation including complete darkness for several months and now in his cell in Camp 5 the lights are left on 24hrs a day - is not merely an injustice, its the tip of an iceberg.

It kind of shits me off too that a layer of people who attended the event will go home and concern themselves with all the proper legal aspects of David Hicks' case and try to grapple with the deep moral question of preserving civil liberties while continue the 'necessary' fight against terrorism. You know when someone goes into the event and sort laughs you off for selling a progressive news source, ya think what the fuck are these people doing actually going to these events. To hear that at least someone is fighting these horrible injustices?

Anyway nuff biatchin...

The worst thing about David Hicks' case isn't just the fact that there is a man who is suffering for absolutely no crime (let alone war crime or for a terrorist act), but that when you scratch the surface even just a little the whole thing falls apart. I mean just look at some of the facts: 700 people have been chucked in Guantanamo Bay and only 10 in total have ever been charged. Furthermore the charges that David is up for are being surpassed every single day by the so called axis of good under the guise of the war on terror.

David was supposedly charged with things like conspiracy, shooting at soldiers, aiding the enemy, and a few other things, all in a country that the US government had absolutely no problem with until some stooges decided to fly a couple of planes into the world trade centres. Apparently the key spokesperson in the Taliban was given a job at Yale University in America after the US invasion, rather than taken to Guantanamo Bay.

I realise that Governments lie, corporations lie, bureaucrats lie etc, but in the past that was more about just simply covering their tracks when they clearly fucked up. But nowadays it seems that lies are being more and more used as the basis for ideological and political offensives. And they are becoming more and more blatant.

Unfortunately it seems that the more you repeat the lies, or perhaps the more lies surrounding the central lie you concoct, the more people are willing to accept the overall premise.

The truth is that David Hicks is actually one of the more lucky ones. He has for one a good dedicated lawyer, and he comes from a country in which it's (mildly) easier to disseminate information to the public and build a strong campaign to bring him home. But what about the people of Afghanistan, the people of Iraq, the people of Palestine and Lebanon, what about all those who have become collateral damage in the struggle to 'bring justice' to those killed on September 11, 01. Most never had the luxury of actually being arrested, or if they are in Guantanamo Bay their government will never act.

I think its interesting that the counterposition of socialism or barbarism is becoming more and more apparent. On the one hand in this world the centres of capitalism, US, UK, and our own country are acting in a more and more inevitably destructive manner. Their actions are merely aimed at preserving their positions of power, but all that flows from it is devastation. Take for example the environmental crises that is rapidly approaching. What has been the Liberal Party's response, 1. That Labor is appealing to Late sippers by concerning itself with the issue, and 2. If there is a problem the only way to solve it is with Nuclear Power. When we have 10 years to act (see Stern Report) and we need something like 2000 new Nuclear Power stations to adequately replace the coal fired power stations and Ziggy says it will economically viable in 15 years, then we have a problem.

But the only problem that exists for Howard, Ziggy and their mates in big business, is convincing everyone that increasing Uranium mining is in everyone's interest and is good for the environment.

You see we live in a world bent on creating more and more surplus to be wielded by fewer and fewer people.

On the other hand we see the capabilities inherent in a world organised democratically, and in the interests of people and the environment proving ever continously that it is the only solution to cleaning up the chaos generated by capitalism. Cuba has more doctors abroad than the WHO, they are the only country with Sustainable Development and they have a GDP thats equivalent to some of the poorest countries in the world. Venezuela taught 1.5 million people how to read and write in the space of couple of years and now it has qualitatively improved the lives of millions of poor.

Perhaps the strongest glue that is holding together the decaying system is the reality that people are to scared to scratch that surface for fear of what they might find underneath. Too much in the way of hatred and destruction exists and there is very little positives on offer. The task of those who have become aware of the root of the lies is to be the engineers for the construction of a world based on love and meeting the needs of people and the environment. If we are even a little bit successful in this process then its likely that it will give hope to millions and give them cause for consideration beyond their own lives and those of their immediate family and friends.

Hasta La Victoria Siempre, Comrades


Interesting times

Posted on 2006.10.25 at 17:44
Current Location: workin
Current Music: Welcome to the Cruel World
Wow i do exist!

You know sometimes you get that feeling that things are just plowing along and you don't have a heap of input. Not that it's necessarily bad, ive just gotten used to having control over my life and making my own decisions. But its true that i may have had (or sought) a little too much control in the past, which was the cause of my anxiety issues.

Nonetheless in the last two week:

My sister has gotten engaged. Still bit freaked out by it all, i made a note on the card wishing her an "equality based marriage". Actually i told Shane (Queer res dude) on sunday and he responded by saying "eewww".

I have had to deal with too many sectarian and unpleasant dickheads

Being dumped with way to much work to handle... things are starting to work out better now, but still i haven't had a day off in about 3 weeks.

And now i may potentially be going to Venezuela for two weeks from Nov 25. Fucking out of the blue i know, but then again at the start of the year i flagged the possibility of going and participating in the presidential elections brigade. check out www.venezuelasolidarity.org. It will be a great chance to see the revolución en proceso, and hopefully help out with the presidential elections.

Unfortunately im not heaps prepared, but then again going to Germany for the Weltmeistershaft means i am almost there. Besides ablo español um poco, if at all. In fact im more likely to kick into a bit of "ich mochte ein wiessbeir" if im not careful. Like when i was in Paris and i asked for je voudrais ein kaffee... maybe i threw in a few english words as well, stooge!

Soooooo well what dya reckon. The only downside would be the possibility of US invasion/financing of hostile and insane opposition elements/ mass slaughter ala Salvadore Allende in Chile September 11, 1972.

Anyway if i do go this blog will be getting a whole lot more activity!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well once again as seems to be the case this year, lets just go for it and see what happens.

Aqui se queda la clara
la entranable transparencia
de tu quereda presencia
Commandante Hugo Chavez



Posted on 2006.06.15 at 23:09
Current Location: München
Current Music: Stadium arcadium
Wow what a blast ive been having in Germany

In reality it's only just set in, that im in the country and watching the fuckin world cup. Currently im in München after having stayed at the commerce centre of Germany - Frankfurt, which has some huge buildings and a lot of money floating around.

All in all the people have been wonderful, always willing to help and fond of Australian tourists. I have to admit that the most annoying people around have actually been my fellow aussies, whose chauvinism is getting to me a little. Whenever i good looking walks by, there always seems to be some "get your tits" out style remark.

Anyway the game against Brasil is on Sunday and Saturday night we will be going to Samba party with the brasilien fans - will have to brush up on my portugese.

Ive been so amazed at how beautiful the country side has been, traveling in trains gives a great chance to get a real feel for the country. You can really see the remnants of feudal society with the endless plains/hills of farms and grass. There are something like 80 million people in germany but i think a lot of them live away from the cities. I took a lot of photos and will hopefully put it up on the web soon.

No-one can really comprehend how much fußball means to the rest of the world, until you see 100,000+ fans converge on massive screens built in the middle of a river and go nuts when their team scores. There is definitely something about the game that cant be found in AFL or rugby. Just absolute love people have for the game, not just their team.

Here is an interesting article sent to me from a friend http://www.zmag.org/content/print_article.cfm?itemID=10392§ionID=105

Funny thing - this dude on the train towards München walked by, we both looked at each other and realised we knew each other. Its a dude called Dom from Brisbane who i was on the nominations commission for Resistance at the 04 conference in Melbourne. How fucking crazy is that.

Anyway there are about a million more things i could talk about, like the incident in Frankfurt's red light district - er its okay nothing happened gus :) but for now i have to go and sleep.

fucking miss friends and ressies, and most of all gussy. hope yall going well, cya soon.

auf wiedersehen.

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