Thursday, December 15, 2005

Food emergency brewing in Malawi

Excellent reportage from AlertNet here:

SLIDESHOW: Disaster brews in Malawi as food runs short : Why are food prices skyrocketing in Malawi, where aid workers say a full-scale emergency is looming?

TALKING POINT: Malawi food experts question emergency aid system: Aid agencies are stepping up food rations in Southern Africa, but food experts say emergency aid only keeps crises at bay for a year at a time.

ANALYSIS: It's hard to tell a famine from normality in southern Africa

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The sensible anti-war left 2

Bill Weinberg on International ANSWER

See also his good piece on Chomsky.*

(My last Chomsky here. My last ANSWER post here. Sensible Anti-war left 1 here.)

*I lost the link. Check out all of these.

The Tookie Williams Vigil at San Quentin

The Tookie Williams Vigil at San Quentin: I don't know how I feel about Tookie or his execution, but it seems sad that he has become a rallying point for the left in California. The white left that is, apart from a few African-American politicians and their bodyguards. Or should I say that part of the left who have a fuzzy enough notion of what fascism is to think that Arnold is literally a Nazi, that George Bush should be executed, that George Bush's America (rather, 'Amerikkka') is more or less fascist in fact...

Having said that, I prefer them to the (also white) people who turned up with cardboard placards saying 'Hang the Bastard', 'Cook Kookie' and so on...

Is David Cameron a Jew?

"Is David Cameron a Jew?" is my top search referral today. I don't think he is. Anyone?

Protect Darfur: London demo this week

Protect Darfur: demonstrate in London on Friday

Travels to New Cross

Richard Preston's photos of journeys to New Cross

Bye Bye Walworth Road: HelenLC on Flickr


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Madonna and Michael Moore

Clive Davis and Small Town Scribbles on Madonna's "documentary".

David Cameron

Finally the media circus of the Tory "leadership" contest is over, and the posh boy won. Bloggers4Labour reports.

Meanwhile, also from B4L, Jogo likes this rare piece of moral clarity:

"It reminded me of the "How can we think of doing X when there is so much Y in the world?" idea that is so popular with cynics. How dare we ban foxhunting when a million people are on the dole? How could we think of liberating Iraq when the real problem is world hunger? In so doing, almost any practical policy can be blocked, or made to look ridiculous, in comparison to a morally pure policy that may be impractical, or unachievable, and which the cynic may not even genuinely support."

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Beyond McAntiwar: notes on finding our footing in the collapsing stageset of the u.s. empire

also: After Anti-War Movements Win or Lose in Iraq... there's still women

Honouring the war dead

The Walthamstow Anarchist Group committed an act of guerrilla politics the other week: cleaning up a local war memorial, to demonstrate the hypocrisy of politicians who send us off to war, paying lip service to the war dead, but don't really care about honouring their memory. I don't agree with the WAG's actual argument, but I really liked this action.

From around the blogs: queers and Muslims

Kind of a common thread to do with shifting alliances and antagonisms over gay rights and homophobia, Islamofascism and Islamophobia (or, rather, 'Islamofascism' and 'Islamophobia'), and the Galloway/Tatchell battle:

DIRELAND: Galloway v Tatchell, Solidarnosc and homophobia, gay refugees from Iran, etc

Real socialists v Respect 3: The Weekly Worker on the Galloway gang

SEIXON: Galloway Old School Remix

Marc Cooper: Greaseball Gobbler On Doug Ireland plucking Cooper's favorite turkey

Even the anti-war leftists at LGF Watch agree Galloway is anti-gay (see also here and here) Rabbi Yoffie's Nazi Gaffe Vs. Pat Robertson's Gaffes (Who is allowed to call someone a Nazi?) and Bush Bombed Serbia while still governor of Texas On Simon Jenkins' idiocy (To add to liberal infoolectual list?)

keshet: Manifesto for sexual diversity in Judalism

Johann Hari: Why I hate Little Britain [via freedmanslife]

Small Town Scribbles: dialogue on a burka [Follow-up at Talk Politics, plus response from Scribbles]

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Barricaded in Paris

Mereille Sicoff in the National Post on the anti-semitic hell that is France today.

[via Jogo]

Amir Peretz has already won

Eric Lee: Peretz's victory - on the rebirth of class politics in Israel.

Binge drinking all night? Er, no

Casino Avenue on where you could drink in the 24-hour city. Anyone else with a Sarf London continental style drinking experience to report?


Real socialists versus Respect 2

National liberation?

jasonadams: On the Politics of Imagination Benedict Anderson on anarchism and anti-colonialism.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Naked Musharraf, Panther Harry and Norman Britain

Top searchs this week:

Naked musharraf: due to my post on George Bush (not) asking a Pakistani insensitive jerk to strip off his uniform. But who'd want to see what that looks like?

White panther prince harry: apparently, white panther is the name of a cocktail favoured by the Nazi-dressing prince, and not just a radical group of the 1960s...

Norman Britain was different because: this is a bit baffling. I think it's becuse I mention Norman G so often.


By the way, I've been messing around with the stuff over to the right---> What do you reckon?


(Added Monday:) An update on Reality Cafe's google-bombing project: there is some success to report. The saviour of Pakistan is the first hit for the words "insensitive jerk" on Yahoo, Dogpile, Vivisimo, Alltheweb & Metacrawler, and number 4 on MSN. The bad news: 1) nowhere near the top at google. 2) the President's website now has earthquake relief in Pakistan as its title, which makes the google-bombers seem like the insensitive jerks now...

Link Wray

I first read of the sad news of the great Link Wray's death at On the Main Line. The wonderful Spread the Good Word has some Link Wray mp3s; Something I Learned Today has more. And here's an obituary.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Anarchists Against Terrorism

Anarchists Against Terrorism

What's wrong with Chomsky?

This is a preliminary response to Raven’s request (repeated here and here) for an itemised account of what’s wrong with Noam Chomsky. I think that, for me, there are five things I find distasteful about Chomsky.

1. Coldness

To talk about Chomsky’s coldness seems trivial, but I think it is crucially important. What Chomsky demonstrates is common amongst idealists: love of humanity, hatred of humans. The moment this came home to me was when Rage Against the Machine asked Chomsky about his taste in music.

TM: Are you a fan of any particular kind of music, and can we play a request for you? NC: If I told you what my tastes where, it would shock you.
TM: Oh no, you go right ahead. Shock me.
NC: Almost nothing. I am very much restricted to things in my childhood or before. Far before.
TM: Our CD catalog is pretty large, try me.
NC: I wouldn't even know what to say. Beethovens Late Quartets.
TM: Anything in R&B or pop music. Anything that rings a bell?
NC: I am so ignorant, it isn't even worth asking me. I sort of knew something when my kids were around, but that's a lot of years ago.

More well known is his denunciation of sport.

“Sports plays a societal role in engendering jingoist and chauvinist attitudes. They're designed to organize a community to be committed to their gladiators.”[ref]

Sport is “a way of building up irrational attitudes of submission to authority, and group cohesion behind leadership elements -- in fact, it's training in irrational jingoism. That's also a feature of competitive sports. I think if you look closely at these things, I think, typically, they do have functions, and that's why energy is devoted to supporting them and creating a basis for them and advertisers are willing to pay for them and so on.”[ref]

These two prejudices of Chomsky reveal his fundamentally elitist worldview, his distaste for the messy reality of ordinary human beings. You never read human stories in his books. People are just pawns manipulated by the great powers, sponges uncritically absorbing the lies told to them by Fox News, nameless innocentmenwomenandchildren to be mowed down by the evil empire and stacked up anonymously in a bodycount to be compared dispassionately to some other bodycount.

(On Chomsky’s anti-humanism: Compare Lenin. Contrast Orwell or CLR James.)

2. False scholarship and performing intelligence

I do not believe in the notion that the scholar should be impartial, neutral, disengaged, objective. The model of the scholar as white-coated scientist, standing above the hurly-burly of politics, is an illusion. I therefore have no problem with Chomsky using his academic status in order to gain the platform to act politically. In fact, like C Wright Mills or Hannah Arendt, I see political engagement as a far higher value than academic scholarship.

My problem is the way that Chomsky exploits the myth of academic objectivity and expertise. Through his mastery of the codes of academic speech, he has perfected the art of giving his pronouncements a veneer of ‘facticity’. He never uses the first person; he peppers his work with quotations, references and footnotes; he liberally sprinkles his work with numbers and statistics and factoids. This is an elitist rhetorical strategy, designed to bolster his authority as an author. We can call it scholasticism, rather than scholarship.

For those on his side who are unable to think for themselves, he appears to have done the thinking for them. For those who disagree with him, they find themselves up against a sheer glass cliff of fact and argument, impossible to challenge. When someone – like Oliver Kamm – takes the trouble to look up the references, though, or decipher the stats, they often turn out to be far shakier than Chomsky lets on.

Chomsky’s performance of scholarship and his coldness are, I believe, related on a deep level. His disregard for humans in favour of an abstract humanity fits well with his scholastic cultivation of dispassionate, fact- and number-heavy prose in his books.

3. Ultra-liberalism

Chomsky’s linguistic theory, which stresses innate human capacity to acquire language, sits squarely in an Enlightenment rationalist tradition that goes back to Descartes, which stresses the individual's rational capacities, tied to a theory of the innateness of knowledge. This philosophical tradition has flowed into classical liberal political theory, as exemplified in Voltaire’s thought and in the some of the documents of America’s Founders. One of the key elements in this rationalist liberal Enlightenment worldview is the doctrine of Free Speech.

For Free Speech fundamentalists, the right to speak freely is the highest of values. For some critics of Free Speech fundamentalism, free speech is one among many rights, and must be balanced against them, but also against our responsibilities as citizens. Thus Chomsky has fallen foul of anti-fascists and anti-racists who see the right to free speech as balanced against the right to live free of racist or fascist violence. Anti-fascists see Chomsky’s defence of genocide-deniers’ “right” to speak as placing freedom of speech above the lives of those who have died in the genocides denied – and the lives at risk from future acts of violence which denial makes more possible.

(Other critics of Free Speech fundamentalism stress instead the contingency of rights and the social construction of the ways we speak. Thus Chomsky and Foucault’s antagonism to each other. But that’s a different story.)

The liberal free speech doctrine complements Chomsky’s rationalist conception of the role of the intellectual – himself – as exemplar of humanity’s rational capacities. And again, Chomsky’s ultra-liberalism fits well with his moral coldness. To place an abstract morality of free speech above the suffering of real people, which is the essence of Free Speech fundamentalism, is pretty cold.

4. Manicheanism

Increasingly in Chomsky’s writings, we find a manichean worldview – an evil ‘West’ against the innocent rest. ‘The West’, America, Zionism and capitalism have, over time, come to be more or less equivalent terms in Chomsky’s vocabulary. Anything evil you can name, Chomsky will either somehow trace it back to ‘The West’, or else compare it to the crimes of ‘The West’ and find it somehow less evil: “Yes, but we armed him.” “Yes, but that’s not as bad as that massacre we committed.” “Yes, but the real terrorist is America.” “Yes, but this is the chickens coming home to roost.”

This manicheanism means Chomsky is willing to use the language of moral judgment about actions by ‘the West’, but not about actions by the rest. His books talk about the My Lai massacre and “huge terror operations” perpetrated by America in Vietnam, but not about ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. At times, this can amount to pursuing double standards. At worst, it relativises, contextualises away, apologises for and excuses some of the most evil acts our time has seen. It is in this frame that we have to view his minimising away of Pol Pot’s genocide, of Osama’s attacks on New York, of the Serbian violence against Bosnians – and his defence of those who minimise genocide even more radically than he ever does, such as Faurisson or LM.

Once again, we can see this worldview as fundamentally disrespectful to human life, in the name of an abstract humanity. Those killed at Kishinev become a mere footnote – “only 49”; those who died in the Twin Towers become mere collateral damage.

5. Slippage from vulgar materialism to conspiracy theory

The fifth problem I have with Chomsky is the ontology that underlies his work. This used to be a version of what Marxists call “vulgar materialism”: the crude determinism that traces all human events back to economic causes. (The most prevalent version of vulgar materialism these days is the idiotic “blood for oil” psuedo-analysis of the Iraq wars.) This vulgar materialism has animated Chomsky’s truly impressive analyses of the political economy of the mass media and of the political economy of modern warfare. Increasingly, though, this vulgar materialism seems to give way in Chomsky’s writing to the vulgar materialism of fools: conspiracy theory.

When Chomsky portrays a gullible citizenry manipulated by a sophisticated web (I don’t think he’s actually ever used the word “cabal”) of shadowy financiers, media moguls and military strategists, he is sustaining a view of the world based on conspiracy theory. Hence the enthusiastic take-up of his work by people who think 9/11 didn’t happen or was a Mossad plot, the people who think Srebrenica or the massacre of Kosovan Albanians was fabricated, the people who see the Project for a New American Century as the latter-day Elders of Zion.

Again, this vulgar materialist/conspiracy theory mentality reflects his utter lack of respect for ordinary people, who are reduced to pawns in the power games of the mighty.

6. Chomsky as brand

Finally, in addition to these five issues, I am suspicious of Chomsky for the way he has become a star, a brand even. Chomskyites like to think of their guru as an archetype of “dissent”, as voicing something repressed from the “mainstream” media. Yet look in any bookstore, pick up any broadsheet, you will find it remarkably easy to access Chomsky’s views. Chomsky, like Michael Moore, is a hot commodity, and the ease with which capital commodifies and recuperates them for the market makes me suspicious. But that is not a fair criticism, as it is not a criticism of Chomsky, but rather of what is done with Chomsky – it is a problem not of Chomsky but of the culture of celebrity and branding and bullshit in which Chomsky seems to sit so easily.

Further reading: Norman Johnson: Yes, this appeaser was once my hero, Oliver Kamm: Chomsky and that 'correction', MA Hoare: Chomsky's Srebrenica Shame - and The Guardian's..., To the Tooting Station: Ecstasies of predictive despondency

Previous: Chomsky the revisionist?, Chomsky's coldness, The company Chomsky keeps


Trackback: On the Main Line sez: On לא-Noam Chomsky: BobFromBrockley hits it out of the ballpark.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Little Atoms: Make Terrorism History

Following up Richard's comment on my last post , check out the podcasts at Little Atoms on the wonderful Resonance 10.4.4 FM. Norman Geras is going to be interviewed on Friday.

Previous guests you can listen to include:

"Harry" of Harry's Place // Jon Ronson // David Aaronovitch

(Links are to MP3 files)

Oliver Kamm and Johann Hari coming up!


I have added Little Apples to the links list on the right. I'm trying to operate a one in/one out policy on the links list, so it doesn't get too long, so I've removed Dash05, so this is your opportunity to visit them.

Meanwhile, I've added wardyblog to the blogroll, who also has a Resonance FM connection.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Coming out

Guardian Unlimited Technology: The new commentariat - Kamm, Tim Ireland, Norman G, et al actually exist in the flesh. But does David T?

Livingstone the Jew?

Something Jewish seems to be down right now, but I'm looking forward to reading Ken Livingstone in his Jewish roots (via BrightonRegencyLabour)

Previous: Bunting and Livingstone versus the muscular liberals, Livingstone and the left, Ken's anti-semitism, the Mayor's London Plan and Deptford's place in it

Against liberal moralism

Rogue Semiotics: Soap, soap, soap - on Mark Ravenhill (as in Shopping and Fucking)'s attack on the state of TV drama.

Chomsky the revisionist

You may have read Emma Brockes' interview with Noam Chomsky after he perversely won the Prospect intellectual of the year award, or whatever it was called. Brockes rightly called Chomsky on some of his more dubious political position, particularly his apologism for deniers and downgraders of the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia.

The Guardian has issued a craven and highly unnecessary apology and in fact removed the article from their site. Luckily, and oddly, Chomsky keeps it on his site. John-Paul Pagano has an excellent dissection of the apology and why it's so wrong on his blog (as well as a sharp analysis of the original interview, entitled Airbrushing Anti-Semitism), as, of course, does Oliver Kamm.

In case Chomsky takes it down, I'm putting the crucial bits here. Bear in mind that this is only part of the profile, which was largely, I thought, quite affectionate. Also, the hyperlinks are added.

These days, Carol accompanies her husband to most of his public appearances. He is asked to lend his name to all sorts of crackpot causes and she tries to intervene to keep his schedule under control. As some see it, one ill-judged choice of cause was the accusation made by Living Marxism magazine that during the Bosnian war, shots used by ITN of a Serb-run detention camp were faked. The magazine folded after ITN sued, but the controversy flared up again in 2003 when a journalist called Diane Johnstone made similar allegations in a Swedish magazine, Ordfront, taking issue with the official number of victims of the Srebrenica massacre. (She said they were exaggerated.) In the ensuing outcry, Chomsky lent his name to a letter praising Johnstone's "outstanding work". Does he regret signing it?
"No," he says indignantly. "It is outstanding. My only regret is that I didn't do it strongly enough. It may be wrong; but it is very careful and outstanding work."
How, I wonder, can journalism be wrong and still outstanding?
"Look," says Chomsky, "there was a hysterical fanaticism about Bosnia in western culture which was very much like a passionate religious conviction. It was like old-fashioned Stalinism: if you depart a couple of millimetres from the party line, you're a traitor, you're destroyed. It's totally irrational. And Diane Johnstone, whether you like it or not, has done serious, honest work. And in the case of Living Marxism, for a big corporation to put a small newspaper out of business because they think
something they reported was false, is outrageous."
They didn't "think" it was false; it was proven to be so in a court of law. But Chomsky insists that "LM was probably correct" and that, in any case, it is irrelevant. "It had nothing to do with whether LM or Diane Johnstone were right or wrong." It is a question, he says, of freedom of speech. "And if they were wrong, sure; but don't just scream well, if you say you're in favour of that you're in favour of putting Jews in gas chambers."
Eh? Not everyone who disagrees with him is a "fanatic", I say. These are serious, trustworthy people.
"Like who?"
"Like my colleague, Ed Vulliamy."
Vulliamy's reporting for the Guardian from the war in Bosnia won him the international reporter of the year award in 1993 and 1994. He was present when the ITN footage of the Bosnian Serb concentration camp was filmed and supported their case against LM magazine.
"Ed Vulliamy is a very good journalist, but he happened to be caught up in a story which is probably not true."
But Karadic's number two herself [Biljana Plavsic] pleaded guilty to crimes against humanity.
"Well, she certainly did. But if you want critical work on the party line, General Lewis MacKenzie who was the Canadian general in charge, has written that most of the stories were complete nonsense."
And so it goes on, Chomsky fairly vibrating with anger at Vulliamy and co's "tantrums" over his questioning of their account of the war. I suggest that if they are having tantrums it's because they have contact with the survivors of Srebrenica and witness the impact of the downplaying of their experiences. He fairly explodes. "That's such a western European position. We are used to having our jackboot on people's necks, so we don't see our victims. I've seen them: go to Laos, go to Haiti, go to El Salvador. You'll see people who are really suffering brutally. This does not give us the right to lie about that suffering." Which is, I imagine, why ITN went to court in the first place.
You could pick any number of other conflicts over which to have a barney with Chomsky. Seeing as we have entered the bad-tempered part of the interview, I figure we may as well continue and ask if he finds it ironic that, given his views on the capitalist system, he is a beneficiary of it. "Well, what capitalist system? Do you use a computer? Do you use the internet? Do you take an aeroplane? That comes from the state sector of the economy. I'm certainly a beneficiary of this state-based, quasi-market system; does that mean that I shouldn't try to make it a better society?"
OK, let's look at the non-state based, quasi-market system. Does he have a share portfolio? He looks cross. "You'd have to ask my wife about that. I'm sure she does. I don't see any reason why she shouldn't. Would it help people if I went to Montana and lived on a mountain? It's only rich, privileged westerners - who are well educated and therefore deeply irrational - in whose minds this idea could ever arise. When I visit peasants in southern Colombia, they don't ask me these questions."
I suggest that people don't like being told off about their lives by someone they consider a hypocrite. "There's no element of hypocrisy." He suddenly smiles at me, benign again, and we end it there.

More links:
Virtual Security.Net: Atrocity, memory, photography (ITN v LM)
George Monbiot: Invasion of the Entryists
Andy Beckett: Highbrow celebrity gloss
Ed Vulliamy: Poison in the well of history
Nick Cohen: Boardroom Revolutionaries
Chris McGreal: Genocide? What genocide?

Postscript, 2007
This issue has rumbed on, and you can check my ChomskyWatch posts for updates. The best summary, however, comes from Stephen Glover in The Independent.

Catford and other imaginary places

Missed from my recent South London blog round-up:

The Man from Catford
Three goodies in a row: Catford Bus Garage, Woman from Catford and Babyshambes.

Casino Avenue on made-up places. Here's just a couple I liked:

Surrey Quays: No, Rotherhithe. [Actually, Surrey Docks re-branded. An effacement of working class history? --bfb]

Downtown: Pre-Surrey Quays re-brand of Rotherhithe. Now more-or-less obselete. (Wasn't it also a cheesy club?)

South Greenwich: No, Eltham. Or Kidbrooke. Greenwich council's arsewitted idea.


Extremely dangerous

Hannah Baneth

The Deptford Sector police are organising a memorial event for Hannah Baneth (see her obituary here) on Wednesday evening at the Civic Centre.

I recently found a Guardian article from 2001 about Hannah which I managed to miss. "Hannah Baneth's story is sadly typical of the kind of treatment meted out to many council tenants by paternalistic town hall pen-pushers over the past 30 years. A long-standing tenant activist, Ms Baneth had tried to get involved in helping her fellow tenants by attending meetings to improve the service they received." MORE....


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Anti-Anti-Zionists for Hillary in 2008

Hillary Clinton in Israel

South London Blog round-up November 05

Continuing this irregular series with...

lewisham news:
Pics of the newly revamped Venue in New Cross. If only they'd revamp their music policy too. (Fond memories of seeing Gary Clail, Little Annie and African Headcharge there. Now it's all Oasis cover bands playing to drunken Kentish suburbanites. Not that I have any thing against drunken Kentish suburbanites as such, but...) And a little thing on Charlie Richardson from The Scotsman.

Kinuk in Poland:
A lovely photo of a street in the Brockley conservation area in the sunshine and of some Brockley rooftops.

Peter Black AM: Fair comment
On Mark Morris (Liberal Democrat councillor in Lewisham) and his legal victory over the fascist BNP. (Found via Andrew B.)

Chris Brauer Media Project: Sociology of racism in Brockley
This is pretty old, so I don't know how I missed it. A very interesting sketch of gentrification and racial segregation in Brockley.

Skitster on Flickr:
Forteans in Brockley. (Not that Alex Hodson, Brixtonian folk musician and anarchist, is a Fortean.) Other flickristas: 24db: South of the River on Flickr (a rather SE1-centric view of South London -altho' at least better than this twat who thinks Clapham is in the bowels of Sarf London) and Darryl_SE7 (some good Deptford stuff). And here is Skitster's LiveJournal. Parochial tags to check include Telegraph Hill and Greenwich.

The Clive Bull Fanclub:
a correct definition of Sarf London.

Knowhere: Lewisham Local Heroes, Famous Residents
Not a blog, but reader-written: celebrities (sort of) who hail from round here, including Kate Bush (or not -I think it's true. She certainly played here, e.g. in the Rose of Lee, in her early years), Matthew Kelly, Gabrielle, Mica Paris, Tim Roth, Spike Milligan, Linda Barker and Timothy Spall (all Brockley/Honor Oak), Francis Rossi of the Quo (Catford I think), left-wing children's writer Edith Nesbit and right-wing children's writer Henry Williamson (they were going to name the Brockley Barge after Tarka the Otter, until someone told Weatherspoon's he was a fascist), Eleanor Marx (is that true?).

Some other gems: Spike Milligan said "I'd like to go to heaven, but if Jerrfey Archer is there I'd rather stay in Lewisham". "Louise (that singer from Eternal, now more famous for getting her jugs out for FHM) was born in [Lewisham] Hospital." "Former Labour Home Secretary Herbert Morrison (grandfather of Peter Mandelson) was MP for Lewisham East after the war. Sidney Webb (founder of the Fabian Society and Labour's First Trade Secretary) was the member for Deptford on the London County Council in the early 20th century."

Wikipedia adds Natasha Beddingfield among others.

My addition: Raji James aka Ash Ferreira in Eastenders gets his hair cut at George's in Crofton Park. Gabrielle used to get food from the Dutch Pot just along from George's, but that's closed now, to make way for another bloody Chinese.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

Hannah Arendt Quotes

Hannah Arendt Quotes:

• "The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution."

• "No cause is left but the most ancient of all, the one, in fact, that from the beginning of our history has determined the very existence of politics, the cause of freedom versus tyranny."

• "The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be either good or evil."

• "The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together."

• "Economic growth may one day turn out to be a curse rather than a good, and under no conditions can it either lead into freedom or constitute a proof for its existence."

• "When we were told that by freedom we understood free enterprise, we did very little to dispel this monstrous falsehood. Wealth and economic well-being, we have asserted, are the fruits of freedom, while we should have been the first to know that this kind of "happiness" has been an unmixed blessing only in this country, and it is a minor blessing compared with the truly political freedoms, such as freedom of speech and thought, of assembly and association, even under the best conditions."

Previous: Hannah Arendt: Thinking with an open heart, Arendt on Brecht, Hannah Arendt: A great American, Hannah Arendt: An intellectual for everyone, Hannah Arendt: Theorising totalitarianism
File under:

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A Letter from New Orleans

John Clarke, New Orleans anarchist, reflects in the spirit of Reclus
"I was in Dharamsala, India in late August when I heard that a major hurricane was approaching New Orleans. I was there with the Louisiana Himalayan Association (a group I belong to that works with Tibetan refugees), teaching English and making plans for future programs there for my students in New Orleans. Ironically, I soon found out that I was to leave the Tibetan refugee community to return to what had itself become a city of refugees. When I arrived home I found a city of empty streets, fallen trees, debris scattered everywhere, abandoned cars, flood-ravaged houses, and eerie silence. Since then I’ve been working with the cleanup effort in my neighborhood and with several grassroots organizations around the city. Over the past month the city has slowly begun to come back, as symbolized by the “second line” jazz funeral parade that marched through the city Sunday—the first time this has happened since the hurricane.

The following reflections are a bit in the spirit of a jazz funeral—they mourn our collective tragedy but speak out also for our collective hope."
(On Elisée Reclus, see here. On Katrina, see here.)

Gogol Bordello, Sp!el, Yasmin Levy

London residents check out YaD Arts for details of upcoming events like the gorgeous-voiced Ladino singer Yasmin Levy at Momo and David Aaronovitch and Vanessa Feltz at the ICA

A progressive on the Arab street

This is a very good article by one Walid Salem: "Address the 'Jewish question' without resorting to propaganda":
"Personally, as a Palestinian who has worked in positions of responsibility for the last 31 years, including five years spent as a political prisoner, it is very difficult for me to continue as if nothing has happened when hearing a president of an Islamic state returning to the slogans of the 1960s and 1970s calling for the elimination of Israel. At that time, these were the slogans of the Arab nationalist movements (and also the Palestinian armed Marxist organizations). Today, these slogans have become Islamist political propaganda resurrected by the Iranians and different political movements that use Islam as their announced ideology.

The dangers of such slogans lie not only in their role in incitement, but also in the fact that they express a lack of strategic vision about the following issue, which also relates to post-disengagement issues in Palestine, namely: How do we deal with the 'Jewish question' in the Israeli-Palestinian and also in the Israeli-Arab and Islamic contexts?" MORE...
Jogo says:
I think you will want to blog this ..... and you might want to forward it to friends -- and whatever else you can to do to bring it to a wide audience. It's a glimpse into a struggling progressive and humane Arab/Mid-East mentality that is invisible (and not welcome) to the Israel-hating, LRB/Guardian-reading, pro-terror, Zarqawi-appeasing, morally adrift, sick-dreams Left (and also to the MSM that Joe Shithead reads).

And when I write "progressive," I do not mean the word as it has been perverted by the Left. I mean *actually* progressive -- what that word means in English, having to do with progress, or progressing down a path. Or progress in terms of moral evolution.

Previous: Protest Babes in Iraq

Monday, November 07, 2005

Friday, November 04, 2005

Another liberal infoolectual

Nearly as irritating as Madeleine Bunting is fellow grauniad Jonathan Steele. Check out this for liberal logic: Iraq's "constitution will be declared to have passed, because the Bush administration wants it passed. It paves the way for elections in December, which will be spun as further proof of Iraq's gradual democratisation." So, Steele is saying that elections are not a good indicator of democratisation. Presumably, more Ba'athist gulags would be what Steele would need to see before agreeing that Iraq was actually becoming more democratic.

In the same article, by the way, he uses the word "resistance" to talk about the Islamo-Ba'athist insurgency, which, as I have repeatedly argued on this blog, is a good indicator of morally bankrupt anti-democratic thinking.

Go Kinky

Hot news in via Jogo: A reality show on Kinky Friedman's run for Texas governor.

The MP for Bethnal Green & Bow ascertaR

George Galloway: My week. A wonderful piece of satire by Hugo Rifkind in the Times. (Trying to find it on-line, I also came across this: R-e-s-p-e-c-t: what's it mean to me?. Very enjoyable.


Galloway blog links of the day: Reasons to be Impossible: Farce


Previous: Real socialists versus Respect, George Galloway has the most amazing ability to see the best in everyone - even homicidal dictators like Saddam

A hole in time

I just found a pile of things I printed out and meant to blog about from August and September. It seems a bit silly to do it now, but I'll link to them anyway.

1. George Monbiot "How to stop civil war"
Monbiot is hated by most of my fellow B-52 liberals, but I pretty much agree with this.

2. Radical Centrist "Opportunities for Everyone to get it wrong"
Excellent post on Katrina.

3. Johan Hari "The Salsa Revolution"
In defence of Chavez, despite the recent attacks on him from more of my fellow B-52 liberals. [On the other hand, see also Harry's Place: Recommended reading on Venezuela]

4. Victor Davis Hanson "The Paranoid Style"
I had some quibbles with this, but I no longer have the energy to articulate them.

5. Stuart Watkins and Dave Flynn "Ten Blokes that failed to shake the world"
This article resonates with my own political journey around the edges of ultra-leftism. It won't mean a lot to many of my readers who aren't familiar with a quite specific type of Marxism. Key is to understand that communism with a small c for us is completely different from Communism with a big C. Stuart and Davie's blog is From Despair to Where (read, for example, their report from socialist Butlins, on the SWP's Marxism [sic] corporate event).

Liberal gloating at Republican meltdown

I have to confess I share the left's pleasure at the whole Scotter Libby/Dick Cheney/Karl Rove affair, laying bare the cronyism and dishonesty in the Bush inner circle. It is a bit reminiscent of the final years of Tory misrule on this side of the Atlantic, the Major years, from which New Labour surfed to power on the waves of Conservative sleaze. But while the British left in the mid-1990s were busy putting together some sort of credible alternative (not one to my liking admittedly), the American left seems to have nothing better to do than wallow ecstatically in the misery of the Republicans.

Gary Younge nails some of this quite well in a recent article.
[T]he investigation has given us one of the clearest indications to date of how we got to this point. Given the malevolent partisanship of the Republican party it is not surprising that many liberals gloat at the prospect of a full-scale Republican implosion. But such schadenfreude is premature. The wounds of recent weeks have all been self-inflicted - the result of a mixture of hubris, malice, greed and ineptitude. There is no doubt that they have damaged Bush politically...
But the Democrats are not faring much better, with only marginally more support than Republicans, according to a poll taken before the indictments and Miers withdrawal, but after hurricane Katrina and DeLay's arrest... Either unable or unwilling to present a clear agenda of how they would do things differently, they have been effectively mute for several months. With no opposition, popular disenchantment with the Bush Administration's ethical failings is descending into cynicism.

This is related to the point Todd Gitlin made in the summer, in an article I blogged then. Gitlin made the analogy with the the late 1960s, as the American public turned against the Vietnam war, much as many are now turning against the Iraq war: "As the war became less popular, so did the anti-war movement. It was hated, in fact—by the end of the decade, the most hated entity in America."

Time to wake up.

Previous: Feeling good about Iraq, What's wrong with the left?, Lisa Ramaci-Vincent v Juan Cole, Left-right convergence, the radical centre and the new fascism, More roosting chickens, People of the Left.
Tags: rove, PlameGate, fitzgerald, Bush, Cheney, Politics, Karl Rove

Hoodies, haircuts, apathy, gay Lewisham and Harriet Miers

Some of the search terms people have used to reach me recently: anti social behaviour hoodies (fair enough I guess), loveable (kind of nice), muscular apathy (hmmm), Battle of Ideas (I think I'm probably losing), wacky hairdo pictures and Harriet Miers hairdo and wacky hairdo's (this is worrying), and, finally, gay blog lewisham (that's more like it).

Blog housekeeping

First, a welcome to some newer members of the Axis of Bob:

Youth Against Fascism: This is a blog by a young Canadian of the Harryish political tendency. From the first post:

When I was in Grade 12 (that is, 2002-2003), my politics were almost purely negative: anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-capitalist, anti-globalization etc. I would have called myself a socialist, but my actual understanding of the word was limited. In the course of rethinking my position on Iraq, I have been led into rethinking my positions on almost everything, and drawing new conclusions. In order to reach better conclusions, I have tried to become more informed, and I have in many cases returned to the so-called "classic" texts of Marxism.

Rua da Judiaria: I might have mentioned this blog before, a Portuguese langauge Jewish blog. I don't actually speak Portuguese, but I can read enough to know this would have good content if I could understand it, so I'm pleased to be linked to by them.

To the Tooting Station: A blog I've mentioned in the past. Currently featuring a good piece on Chomsky's letter about his Guardian interview.

Myopic Thoughts I've been linking to a while, but I don't think I've formally welcomed them to the Axis of Bob.

Slightly lost in the world I'm adding to the Sarf London section of the links. Check out this cycling soundtrack for South London.


Next up, I've added a couple of other blog links over on the right.

Adloyada is a blog I've been watching for a while, positioned somewhere between the Harry tendency and the Melanie Phillips tendency.

Rachel from North London is a wonderful blog from a survivor of 7/7.
Update: Link reciprocated. Thanks Rachel, and welcome to the Axis of Bob.


I've added the "links to this post" thingy to the site. I might take it off again, depending if it just becomes embarassing in showing how few people link here.

I've finally decided to add word verification for comments. I got sick and tired of all the IPod, investment, viagra, scientology, etc sites using the comments for advertising. Sorry to those who have to put in the extra effort to leave a comment; hope it doesn't discourage anyone.


Talking of comments, there are one or two on this site worth checking out (in my humble proverbial). Andrew Brown left some thoughts on my Blair's Thatcherism post. Andrew's political enemy Max Calo left a great picture of some Ladywell street signage.
I think that's all I wanted to say.

The Third Intifada?

This is a brief comment at a slight tangent to the riots in Paris. Many Americans of the 'muscular' disposition, think that France and its government are aiders and abettors of political Islam, because Chirac is putatively anti-war and most French people are anti-American. In fact, Sarkozy/Chirac France is far more repressive than Patriot Act America, with very aggressive policies towards Muslim youth, far more draconian anti-terrorism legislation than Blair would dream of introducing, and as much racial segregation as pre-Katrina Louisiana. This is the context for the riots.


Oddly, there doesn't seem to be much blog comment on the riots, certainly not in my corner of the blogosphere. Two exceptions are Big Lizards (which I reached via Myopic Thoughts) - see Is Paris Burning? and and Arms for the Poor - and No Pasaran.


Jogo would disagree with my comment the context of the riots, as he would no doubt see this as leftist "root cause" thinking, on which he says:

Who can blame "the youths?" What else can they DO? Forces are operating upon them.

Checking out today's edition of the Voice of the Stockholm Syndrome -- i.e., the BBC News website -- sidebar on the page carrying the story on the riots -- shows that of seven ancillary stories, FIVE are basically editorials of the "root cause" variety:
Anger grips Paris riot suburb
An unequal job market is feeding racial tensions
Deaths that set Clichy ablaze
Headscarf defeat riles Muslims
Ghettos shackle French Muslims

Yup, it's obvious to me there is no choice these people have but to riot.

I get a laugh out of the Root Cause people. You know why?

Because when they're tallying up the root causes, the causes are always THEMSELVES. Root causes never inhere in those other people, the Left's Fanonian suffering saints.

As I have said before in this ...uh, forum: in Leftist vision the white man has Motives and Agency, whereas the dark man is tossed about by Forces. If that's not racist condescension, tell me what is racist condescension.

1. Weapons of Mass Destruction: Riots Getting Worse in France?: "
Bob From Brockley sees chickens coming home to roost for our French friends." (This page is a very good round-up of blog comment on the disturbances, from an angle a little to the right of mine.)
2. My Amusement Park: Paris Is Burning. "It's nice to see the Louisiana comparison. Bob knows what's up."
(This is also a very good round-up of blog comment on the violence, from an angle a little to the left of mine.)

Previous: Preachers of Hatred: an interview with Pierre-Andre Taguieff, Cheese-eating surrender monkeys, After 7/7, London versus the terrorists, London - in defence of the multicultural
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Thursday, November 03, 2005

That's Funny You Don't Look Anti-Semitic

New at Engage: "Steve Cohen's little pale-blue book on left wing antisemitism caused a rumpus in the colleges when it first came out. Helped by the arresting title, which still raises a smile, That's Funny You Don't Look Anti-Semitic appeared in the coffee bars, Labour Clubs and Jewish Societies during the Miners Strike of 1984-85. Back then there were lots of Jewish lefties and the campus battles between Jewish students and the operational antisemites were starting to hot up again..."

Friday, October 28, 2005

Real socialists versus Respect

The latest issue of The Socialist
"The Socialist Party has championed the idea of a new party for more than ten years. In this time we have had the experience of the Socialist Labour Party, set up by Arthur Scargill, heroic leader of the miners in their battle against Thatcher. However, he unfortunately insisted on exclusive conditions for membership and activity in this party. Consequently, it has been sidelined.

That unfortunate experience was repeated in the Socialist Alliance - which Militant Labour (now the Socialist Party) originally helped to set up - when the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP) entered it. Instead of opening up, they actually narrowed the structures of the Alliance, so only those who marched to the drumbeat politically and organisationally of the SWP could remain.

They have, unfortunately, repeated this experience with 'Respect' in alliance with George Galloway. The basis of this party is too narrow, appealing in the main to one section of the population, some Muslims, many of whom have deserted Labour because of the Iraq War and have cast around for an alternative.

At the height of the antiwar movement the Socialist Party discussed with George Galloway and expressed our preparedness to launch with him and other left organisations a broad, left party, so long as it was open, democratic and specifically socialist. Such a party could, at the height of the antiwar movement, have attracted broad swathes of left forces.

In discussions with us George Galloway indicated that he was thinking of the Albert Hall - which holds 6,000 people - for its launch. Nothing came of this project but after his expulsion from the Labour Party, together mainly with the SWP he launched Respect.

Contrary to the impression he has given in some of his public speeches, the Socialist Party did not turn its back immediately on this initiative but waited, as some other leftward-moving workers also did, to see what this formation's political character was and, crucially, what kind of structures would be set up.

Our suggestion, shared by others, for the setting up of a loose federal structure that would allow discussion, debate and action was rejected by Respect. In particular, at the national conference of Respect a proposal to allow 'platforms', as is the case in the Scottish Socialist Party, was also refused when it was suggested by some lefts who looked towards Respect initially.

These are amongst the reasons why Respect is unlikely to make a significant breakthrough amongst broader layers of the working class. "

Previous: Comrade Trotsky's Galloway quiz, Jew hatred in Britain, George Galloway and Oona King, Anti-abortionist go home, What's wrong with the left?
Trackback: Bloggers4Labour (plus interesting debate in the comments)

George Galloway has the most amazing ability to see the best in everyone - even homicidal dictators like Saddam

Anthony Andrews in the Guardian today:
"In his autobiography, I'm Not the Only One, George Galloway closes with a rousing quote from Nikolai Ostrovsky: 'All my life and all my strength I have given/To the finest cause in the world;/ The liberation of humankind.' Galloway introduces Ostrovsky simply as a 'Russian writer'. In fact, he was Ukrainian, but more importantly he was a Soviet propagandist, author of the socialist realist classic How the Steel Was Tempered, and a devoted Stalinist."

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Blair's Thatcherism

It's half-term this week, at least in the borough of Lewisham. (For non-British readers, half-term is when all the schools have a week off.) This means my 171 bus* to work takes half the time it does when school is on to take me there. No bus load of teenagers crossing the whole of the borough to get to school; no SUVs full of parents taking their little 'uns to their schools.

This got me to thinking about Tory Blair's "choice agenda" and his announcement yesterday that every secondary school will be a specialist school in two years - as well as independent, sponsored and free of the chains of democratic accountability. I thought, I don't want my son to have the "choice" between a Catholic school a mile away, a Muslim school two miles away, a science academy four miles away and a music school five miles away; I want my local school to be a decent one. I certainly don't want a "choice" in hospitals; I want my local hospital to be decent.

I am not someone who believes that only the state should be providing services - indeed I welcome the voluntary sector doing more of the things councils often do badly, and I have nothing against the private sector - but surely everything we've seen on the railways and tubes and utilities shows us that the free market in public services doesn't empower "consumers", it gives the haves more and the have nots even less. Grrrrr.

*Blogging the 171 bus: Walky Talky: Random 3, Poetry, Rants, Woman & Power: a walk thru london - part 8 []

Friday, October 21, 2005

Sex and property in Lebanon

Top search refering someone to this site this week AOL Search results for "properties for sale in Labanon", category sex/weblog

(offending text: "Meanwhile the sale of Convoys to a joint venture between two Hong Kong companies, ... South Asia: Gateway Pundit: Pakistani Mixed-Sex Race Protest ...")

It's good to see my site flanked by Miss Lebanon 2002 and Interracial cuckold at Swinger's Vacation...

Whales and leftists

Jogo writes:

This is not exactly the burning issue du jour, but I have been thinking about it:

Mother Jones, champion of an enormous catalogue of "rights," shows its insensitivity to the Makah people's right to hunt the whale.

Here -- from their own mouths -- you can see the inability of most of the Left to conceive of spiritual realities. There is a reason why the cultural/poltical war is taking place along this peculiar faultline. It is not the doing of Karl Rove. Karl Rove did not invent this divide. If anybody "invented" it, Marx is more the culprit than Rove.

Read carefully and see the CONDESCENSION shown by the communist to the Indian. As they put ironic quotes around "terrorism," the communists put implicit ironic quotes around the Makah's "spiritual realities." They even put implicit quote marks around the Makahs' "culture." Yeah, read carefully. You'll see.

It is true, as the article points out, that some Makah are also opposed to the hunt and see it as spiritually void. This is a deep argument, on Makah terms. An important, majestic argument. If the communists understood the terms I could support their taking part in the argument. But they don't understand.

Pathetically, the Left is trying to co-opt spiritual themes, but the religious people see through it. One of my closest leftist friends, who long ago abandoned every shred of the faith he was raised in, and is now hostile to it, and is as close to an absolute dialectical materialist as it's possible to be,
says "I consider myself a person of faith." Well, see, that's exactly what I mean. There is a **meaning** to the term "person of faith." It doesn't just mean what you WANT it to mean (cf Alice in Wonderland).

Bob’s view:

I think that the article is enormously condescending. This was one simple passage that irritated me:
It's estimated that the Makah have lived in Neah Bay for at least 4,000 years, but Alberta Thompson, a Makah elder, says simply that the Makah have been there "forever." Thompson is 74, and these days she feels her age.
IT IS ESTIMATED, passive voice, not by anyone in particular, must be true. Alberta must therefore be wrong - quaint, primitive, foolish. Then, the facetious segue from"forever" to feeling her age.

Is this indicative of leftism? No, the issue deals with two conflicting values WITHIN the broad leftist worldview: environmentalism (or, rather, white liberal environmentalism) and multiculturalism (or, perhaps, cultural relativism or a cultural politics of recognition). The Mother Jones writer, Richard Blow, clearly comes down in favour of the environmentalist side, whereas other leftists wouldn't.

I don't like this sort of white liberal environmentalism, partly because it puts some abstract idea of the planet's needs (an idea which can be generated from either rationalist scientific thinking or from irrationalist mystical thinking) above the needs of humans - so rides roughshod over concerns like justice or cultural recognition. This criticism of environmentalism is, however, a fundamentally leftist criticism, based on older leftist and humanist values of social justice and cultural respect.

Nor do I like relativist forms of multiculturalism, which say that any cultural practice is OK (if it is practised by someone other than white westerners). I don't even agree with the idea that we can talk about 'cultures' as distinct entities to be respected (there are clearly different views among the Makahs, rather than 'a' Makah culture. Again, though, my criticism of this sort of multiculturalism stems from leftist, humanist values.

Sarf London blog round up

Continuing with this occassional series, this week we have:

The wonderful Kirsty MacColl and so f**king Croydon! from slightly lost in the world

A new lewisham news blog

A Charlton-supporting Catford man displaced to Chicago

A filthy Brockley tramp

Tag: sarf london

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Ba Jin - fighter for freedom

LE REVUE GAUCHE has put together an enormous amount of information on Ba Jin, the Chinese anarchist writer who recently died, living on into his second century. (Depending on your browser, you might have to scroll way down the page to get to the content.)
Ba Jin said he wrote ``to expose enemies. They include all the old traditional concepts, the irrational systems that obstruct progress, all the forces that destroy human nature.''

``Since I'm not good at speaking, I have to turn to writing to express my feelings, my love and hatred, and to let out the fire within me,'' he said.

Ba Jin was branded a counterrevolutionary and purged during the 1966-76 ``Cultural Revolution,'' during which many writers and artists were persecuted and art was completely subordinated to politics. He was labeled a class enemy, banned from writing and forced to clean drains.

He did not reappear until 1977.

Later, at a time when writers were just beginning to take chances again and feel some security about their status, he complained, ''Why is it that our writing cannot be at the forefront of world literature? Where else have authors in the world throughout history gone through something so terrifying and ridiculous, so bizarre and agonizing?'' he asked.

Ba Jin proposed that the government create a museum to the Cultural Revolution so that later generations could learn from its horrors and avoid a repetition. The suggestion was ignored.

Previous fighters for freedom: Majer Bogdanski, Hannah Arendt, Alina Pienkowska and Jacek Kuron, Antonio Téllez Solà
Previous China: Jung Chan's Mao, Deptford's new overlord (or, The new Chinese imperialism)
File under:


From Jogo:

Chomsky, like Pinter, is a bad man. It is appalling and shocking that he looms so high -- Christ-like -- in the elites' Pantheon. Commieprofs worship him. As for the young, there is hardly a college student, or indie-musician or fan, or film actor, who doesn't revere Chomsky. One of the things I hate most about Chomsky is his implacable coldness, his seeming lack of humanity, his single-minded pursuit of his intellectual goals, having apparently no other interests in life. A pathetic man ... yet dangerous.

Another very wicked, malicious, horrible man with terrible values who is revered on the Left -- again, Christ-like is not too strong a word -- is Tony Serra, the defense lawyer. Do you know about him? In my opinion, he is such a bad man that I would rather make my own defense of myself in court than have him as my lawyer. I would die of shame if Tony Serra turned out to be my lawyer (say, if I were incompetent, and Leftist friends engaged him on my behalf).

[Trackback: tawdry souvinirs]

Antisemitism? You must be joking!

Check this over at ENGAGE: David Hirsh on the likes of Clare Short, Sue Blackwell and Deborah Fink

Committee to Protect Bloggers

Not sure if I've posted on this before, but here's a recommendation, for anyone who cares about the war between freedom and totalitarianism: Committee to Protect Bloggers. (Current front lines: Iran, Tunisia, India.)

File under:

Jews and Muslims in London

From Metal Jew: Information on a seminar series in London around Muslims and Jews starting tonight.

The kind of foolish thing I shouldn't be doing because I'm too busy

[Inspired by Wilson]

My life has been rated:
Click to find out your rating!
See what your rating is!
Created by bart666

But more seriously, read this post at A Cloud In Trousers, which defines what blogging should be: My Life with Lev Yashin

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Swimming in Ladywell, Fishing in Catford

Supporters of the Ladywell Pool Campaign should check out Flickr: Lewisham, currently featuring some nice photos of the pool at dawn by Polstar.

Lovers of fish should also check it out, for the beautiful Catford parrot fish by ljcybergal.