Monthly Archives: December 2013

Kiev or Cairo? Which John Kerry statement matches which protest?

Date: 02/04/2013 Description: Secretary of State John Kerry displays his first diplomatic passport, while delivering welcome remarks to U.S. Department of State employees in Washington, D.C., February 4, 2013.  - State Dept Image

US Secretary of State John Kerry says something funny?


Compare and contrast US diplomacy on people protesting in the streets in the face of violent assaults by the authorities.

Democracy Now! reports on 15th August 2013 after at least 525 people were killed and more than 3,500 people wounded in government raids on protest encampments filled with supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi in Cairo. Police and troops used bulldozers, tear gas and live ammunition to clear out the two sit-ins.

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the violence, but the Obama administration announced no moves to cut aid to the Egyptian military.

Secretary of State John Kerry: “Today’s events are deplorable, and they run counter to Egyptian aspirations for peace, inclusion and genuine democracy. Egyptians inside and outside of the government need to take a step back. They need to calm the situation and avoid further loss of life. We also strongly oppose a return to a state of emergency law, and we call on the government to respect basic human rights including freedom of peaceful assembly and due process under the law.”

The Guardian reported from Kiev on 11th December 2013 after thousands of riot police carried out a co-ordinated attack on barricades during the dead of night – a determined and unexpected crackdown on protesters who had occupied the centre of Ukraine’s capital for the past fortnight.

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, released a strongly worded statement on the events of the night: “The United States expresses its disgust with the decision of Ukrainian authorities to meet the peaceful protest in Kiev’s Maidan Square with riot police, bulldozers and batons, rather than with respect for democratic rights and human dignity. This response is neither acceptable nor does it befit a democracy.”

My point?

Kerry’s statements are totally out of whack with events on the ground in the two places.

In Egypt, the military slay hundreds of protesters, wound thousands more and arrest who knows how many and Kerry calls on Egyptians inside and outside the government to take a step back. What?

He also “strongly opposes” a return to emergency law. As if that hadn’t already happened.

In Kiev, the US expresses its “disgust” etc. etc.

Now I’m pretty disgusted at what the authorities have done in Kiev. Yet I fail to see how it’s that much different from the state violence protesters have experienced in recent years in capitals and other major cities around the world, including plenty in the United States and the UK. Egypt was a whole different dimension and yet it provokes mealy-mouthed responses from the States in contrast to its “disgust” for authorities in Kiev.

I don’t pretend this to be any great revelation but it bears pointing out. The big difference is that Egypt’s protesters are the wrong ones protesting against authorities who are useful to Washington while Ukraine’s current ones are useful to US interests in undermining the not-nice-at-all Mr Putin.

Taking away the international politicking, you have human beings on the streets in both instances who are sick and tired of the way they are being governed. Having hypocritical politicians applying blatant double standards in their responses doesn’t help anyone.

Our leaders are not fit to govern, we need alternative structures of governance to moderate how our lives are run. Until we get them, expect more mass protests on the streets and more politicians looking to advance their narrow political interests.



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Psychology of human responses to climate change

I recently spoke at, and took part in, a UK event organised by the Climate Psychology called Fertile and Sterile Dialogue in the Climate Change Debate”.

It was a stimulating day, shared with emotionally smart people who think deeply about why we are so slow to respond to gathering evidence of human-induced climate change. I emerged feeling more encouraged than I have in years thinking about climate change issues. Maybe we humans will fashion some sort of workable response, even if it is messy, imperfect and slow.

My presentation focused on personal experiences of reporting on climate change, during global talks in Kyoto and Copenhagen but also plenty of places elsewhere. These are packaged together with my broader critique of media and governance in Fraudcast News – How Bad Journalism Supports Our Bogus Democracies.

Below is a 30-minute video synopsis of the day, put together with great skill by the Hedgerley Wood Channel.

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Dare Scots take heed of Lesley Riddoch?


I wrote this brief review of my chosen book for Green Left Weekly’s annual recommended books of 2013

I went forBlossom : What Scotland Needs To Flourish” by Lesley Riddoch, a gem of a book that had me both laughing and despairing as I raced through its insightful pages about my native land.

This was my review, one in a long list of great books chosen by GLW writers, contributors and others. I’ll be reading well into the new year at this rate.

Lesley Riddoch is the sort of life-long friend everyone needs – the one to warn you against making a total berk of yourself just as you thought you were looking pretty sharp. In Blossom : What Scotland Needs To Flourish, the lucky beneficiary of her advice isn’t a single person but an entire nation.

Riddoch chides her fellow Scots for their timorous beastiness in the face of what is a truly rare moment – the chance for a straight-out vote on regaining independence. Her book channels the Renton character in Trainspotting to tell potential voters they’ve more to fear from themselves than any supposed auld enemy to the South.

Her work stares straight into causes and effects of severe poverty and inequality in Scotland, not least the health statistics so truly awful they’ve earned infamy as “the Scottish effect”. Somehow she’s also truly funny.

Dare Scots pay heed?

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