Saturday, December 30, 2006


A few good things about 2006

Tom Waits Orphans
What a wonderful record. This is Tom Waits at his best. Very little of that over-wrought, over-mannered Kurt Weil avant-gardism that has marked his recent output, just pure emotion, wonderful music and fantastic lyrics. And even some explicitly political comment – first time as far as I know – with the great, ambivalent “Road to peace”.

BBC Radio 2
Radio 2 has added cheer to my festive season with the extraordinary Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio shows that they’ve brought across the Atlantic, as well as their exclusive gigs, including the great Bruce Springsteen doing a version of his Pete Seeger sessions. (Although he has a tendency to rock out a bit too much live. Less is more with The Boss.)

Lily Allen
Although she came across a little irritating on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Lily Allen’s records have been just superb. Fantastic samples, lovely tunes, and lyrics that capture the London experience as well as Paul Weller in his prime did.

New music
Other new music that has filtered into my ears, mostly via the blogosphere, has included Joanna Newsome, Neko Case, Jolie Holland, Micah P Hinson and Ani Di Franco.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and Children of Men
These were my top two movies of the year. Three Burials [IMDB] was great story-telling, beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, and had superb music. I liked the way the high art fragmented multiple perspective narrative cut against the nostalgic rendering of the John Wayne style purer than pure cowboy hero that Tommy Lee Jones played. Also a fantastic cameo by Levon Helm, one of my heroes. Children of Men [IMDB] had an extraordinary look, a collage of Banksy graffiti and Pink Floyd album art, Hamas funerals and the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. I liked the fact that it didn’t bother elaborately explaining the dystopian future it conjured up, just presented it – and in a terrifyingly plausible way. Michael Caine was lovely, too, as the twinkly-eyed lumpenbohemian hashhead survivalist.

Life On Mars and Lost
Life On Mars was the best TV of 2006. Why isn’t there more of that sort of stuff? Non-formulaic genre drama with good stories and good acting. I’m one of the few people I know that has stuck by Lost, and now fucking Rupert Murdoch has bought series 3, stealing it from Channel 4, so I may never know what happens next, unless I fork out lots of dosh. Grrr.

The Save Ladywell Pool Campaign
The success of the campaign to save Ladywell Pool in Lewisham proves that democracy can still work. Unfortunately, Mayor Steve Bullock’s obstinacy on the issue (well, that and Blair’s unpopular war in Iraq) cost the Labour Party control of the borough in the May local elections, but he finally gave in after an amazing grassroots campaign that managed to harness the power of all the political parties in the borough, without letting any of them set the agenda. Restored my faith in the possibility of politics.

Some crap things about 2006

Deaths of good peoples
Clifford Geertz, Murray Bookchin, Iris Marion Young, Pierre Vidal Naquet, Hugh Thompson, Ahmet Ertugen

The Middle East situation
Kind of goes without saying doesn’t it? Too depressing to write about here.

The onward march of the crap-celebrity religion
Wives and girlfriends of footballers, endless reality TV game shows, Endemol, Paris Hilton’s pussy, Lindsay Lohan’s nipples, etc etc etc. I can’t fucking stand it. Maybe 2007 will be the year that talent and integrity come back into fashion as the basis for public esteem.

The Respect gains in Tower Hamlets
Fucking George Galloway.

I’ve been an EastEnders fan for like two decades now, but this year I’ve given up. I can’t be bothered any more. It’s just crap.

Some overrated things from 2006

The Arctic Monkeys
They kind of define overrated as far as I’m concerned. And, despite saying that, I don’t think I’d actually recognise one of their songs if I heard it now, so maybe I should retract it.

Hidden (Caché) and Volver
My God but Hidden [IMDB] was mind- (and arse-) numbingly boring. Not sure why all the intellectual types raved about it. And I wanted to like Volver [IMDB], but it was just not in the Almodovar premier league. Although Penelope Cruz, with her prosthetic voluptuous buttocks, was very sexy, and probably put in one of the best performances of her career, so maybe I should retract that too.

The veil
I can’t manage to get excited about the veil issue. I just can’t see why it’s such a big deal.

Saddam's execution

Scribbles got there first, and said it well.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

For now...

That's probably it for me for 2006, as I'm going off to hybernate in the bosom of my proverbial, where there is little or no internet access. Have a good one.

Shane MacGowan on Kirsty MacColl

Shane's a guest blogger at The Guardian, and pretty articulate, considering. Here's his seasonal post about the late, wonderful Kirsty MacColl. Extract:
Today [Monday] is the anniversary of Kirsty's passing. Six years on, and her killers still haven't been brought to justice. Her mother, Jean, is keeping up the Justice For Kirsty campaign to see that they are, so check out her website for the latest news, and make sure you donate something while you're there. Anyone who has ever voted for Fairytale of New York in one of those umpteen lists of Greatest Christmas Songs: great, thank you, but please put your appreciation to good use by donating to Jean's campaign.
Well said Shane.

Bonus links:

For the record...

I will continue to link with great pleasure to Drink-Soaked and General Theory. I will continue to link to Harry's Place and Wardytron. I will eventually get around to adding Pub Philosopher to the blogroll, and put Sprit of 1976 back on it. Inviting accusations as a centrist, and possibly far, far worse. However, I will not be adding a link to the BNP.

P.S. completely unrelated, but I will also eventually add Lewkip to the blogroll.

Apologies to any readers in the real world who are baffled by this post.

Trial by tabloid

I couldn't believe the fact that the BBC is giving the names of the two suspects in the Ispwich murder case. Surely this is deeply irresponsible? But this, of course, is nothing compared to the liberties taken by the print press. Read Select Privacy for more.

(Sound track to this post: Sheila by Jamie T (mp3 via The Blue Walrus)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

It worked...

Mansour Osanloo is free! Details here.

[Previous: Solidarity with Iran, Mansour re-arrested]


Why I don't say never

I said I wasn't going to blog about Christmas, but already have once, and am going to now again. Cunt of the week this week? Father Christmas.

Wikipedia and political blogging

This is from the UK section of Wikipedia's entry on political blogs:

Many political blogs in the United Kingdom frequently publish articles, rumours and news from various angles, or with a general anti-establishment bias. Two of the most influential bloggers are Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes.

Anyone think that should be challenged? What would be good other examples of influential political blogs? (I'm going to tag Bloggers4Labour on this question, as I'm sure the folks there would have an opinion!)

[Previous: the anti-Stalinist left on wikipedia]

The anti-Stalinist left and the politics of wikipedia

A while back, I created a wikipedia entry on the anti-Stalinist left. Now a Stalinist wikipedia editor, Soman, has nominated it for deletion. So far, the weight of opinion seems to be to keep the article, but I'm pasting it here, as subsequently edited by other wikipedia editors, as a kind of archiving. If you're a wikipedician, feel free to go and edit it or go and vote on whether to delete it or not. (And, if you're not a wikipedian, maybe you should be!)

The politics of wikipedia are kind of interesting. Obviously, I think it's important that the things I care for (the Arbayter Fraynd, Anti-Fascist Action, Yiddishkeit) are kept safe from what Marx called "the gnawing criticism of the mice", so that motivates me in working on these sorts of articles. But I do it in a scholarly, decent type of way (contrasting, perhaps to my blogging style?).

Anyway, here's the article(below the fold)


So, I'm finally getting around to fulfilling my meme task set by Paulie: a list of 10 things you wouldn't do. I don't really believe in saying never, and am sure that now I've commited to these I will find myself doing all of them, and thus jinxing myself into becoming the person I hate.

So, I would never:

1. vote Tory (sorry James)
2. watch another Lord of the Rings related film without getting paid a lot of money
3. read a book about surviving incest, being called "It" or raising an autistic child
4. buy to let
5. switch from The Guardian to The Independent
6. go for a drink with John Gaunt
7. forward an e-mail because it says "if you don't forward this, bad luck will befall you"
8. let the bastards grind me down
9. tell myself I'm only doing my job

I know that's nine not ten, but I ran dry.

So, I'm supposed to tag (ten?) more people, but it's taken me so long to do this that most people in my corner of t' blogosphere have already gone. So, here's some: Richard, Snoopy, Jew 90. I'll try and add some more later today!

Update: quick response from Richard here.

Sarf Londonism

Andrew has done another Lewisham blog round-up. My personal favourites would be this poem by the Marlboro Poet and Lewishambornlewishambred's in your face variety of South London grime and techno.

And here's one more: A Hangover in SE8, by Samuel J McCready
I hate mobile phones.
You can't walk down deptford high street listening to Leonard Cohen without all the ring modulater style distraction, I had only got as far as "One Pound, You Choose!" before I had to give up and turn the Sisters Of Mercy off. Walking past the Sally Army charity shop I saw it, a big floppy mother-in-law-at-a-registry-office-wedding hat. It would be mine, oh yes, it would be mine. I walked into the shop. This is when the bad thing happened...
And, finally, although Wimbledon is not really my idea of South London, I've recently found Jamie T, post-Mike Skinner bard of London suburbia. You can download MP3s from one of the following blogs: Indietastic, Wolf Notes, Sound Gymnastics (in Spanish - the blog, not the tracks), The Daily Growl, myselfmyself, My Old Kentucky Blog, or Music Like Dirt.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My imam

Sheikh Shakeel Begg is the Iman of Lewisham and Kent Mosque, in Ladywell, South London, just down the road from me, and Muslim chaplain of Goldsmiths College in New Cross, South London. Here are four facts about him:

1. He is reported as urging '
students to wage jihad in Palestine. In a clandestinely recorded speech, Begg said to students: "You want to make jihad? Very good...Take some money and go to Palestine and fight, fight the terrorists, fight the Zionists."' (source) This has been strongly denied by the Federation of Student Islamic Societies:
“Some of the comments that have been attributed within the article, have been deliberately taken out of context to push a certain viewpoint, rather than present a balanced picture. An example of this was the misquotation of Imam Shakeel Begg who was actually delivering a talk on the illegitimate nature of terrorist activites that have taken place in recent years, which was overlooked by the article."
2. He says the veil is not a subject for free speech within the Muslim community.
The veil, irrespective of its specific juristic rulings, is an Islamic practice and not a cultural or a customary one as is agreed by the consensus of Muslim scholars; it is not open to debate...
We recognise the fact that Muslims hold different views regarding the veil, but we urge all members of the Muslim community to keep this debate within the realms of scholarly discussion amongst the people of knowledge and authority in the Muslim community. (emphasis added. source)
3. On the other hand, he thinks the fascist Hizb ut-Tahrir are entitled to free speech, their "extremism" simply an unhelpful, emotive pejorative term; their support for "terrorism" simply support for "the right of people anywhere in the world to resist invasion and occupation". (source)

4. He endorses the Tayyibun Institute, dedicated to the spread of Islamic ultra-orthodoxy, which in turn endorses the (alleged) terrorist fundraising group Interpal, favourite charity of George Galloway (of "Celebrity Big Brother" infamy).

[UPDATE May 24 2013: I have written more about the Lewisham Islamic Centre here, talking the story up to 2013, in light of alleged link of Michael Adebolajo to the Centre.]

Monday, December 18, 2006

For Ahmet Ertugen

The great Ahmet Ertugen, one of the most important figures in the music of the last few decades, has died, and was buried in his native land, Turkey, today.

A nice appreciation at Moistworks.

It's political correctness gorn mad...

I said I wouldn't blog about the banning of Christmas, but...

From Western Resistance comes this great round-up of squeemish white liberals banning Christian stuff so as not to offend efnic minorities and "faith groups", only to find that the Muslims, Jews and others thought to be offended don't actually care that much. The liberals' excessive, pedantic approach to multiculturalism makes it easier for their mirror opposites, the wingnuts and Daily Mail blimps, to think that the Muslims etc are intolerant extremists, when (I believe) the real truth is most people of most faiths don't really give a shit about this sort of thing.

To balance that, though, some great Hannukah music from Los Amigos de Durruti, by The Klezmatics, Frank London and the great Woodie Guthrie, plus more great Christmas and Hanukah music here (scroll down for hip hop Hanukah and kung fu Xmas). Plus, more from I Am Fuel and Moistworks [Tags: mp3, music]

Bonus links: Chanukah with the Velveteen Rabbi, Christmas in Catford

Friday, December 15, 2006

Don't cha wish...

Great post from the British Bullshit Foundation on politics today.


The two faces of Grauniad liberalism

Both Timonthy Garton Ash and Jonathan Steele use the Baker-Hamilton report to agree that team Bush has fucked up in Iraq. But contrast the tones and the conclusions. Ash's piece says Baker-Hamilton is wrong to try and get the West out so quickly and abandon the Iraqis to the mess we have helped make. Steele says Baker-Hamilton doesn't extricate us quickly enough. Ash delivers a great peice of writing. Steele oozes smarmy self-righteousness and intellectual dishonesty.

The ZLeft

Talking of Steele, here are two great attacks from But I Am A Liberal on those two bastions of left-liberal visciousness, Huffington Post and Counterpunch (part of what I call the ZLeft, the juvenile Chomskyite left) and its complicity with hardcore anti-semitism.

The end of the neoliberal nirvana or the dawn of the conservative age?

Also from the Guardian, John Harris lays into neo-liberalism. I don't like the brief moment of snidey anti-Americanism, but apart from that, I agree.

This interesting peice from blog Potlatch, "Is this how you became a conservative?", analyses the drift to conservatism of the younger generations. But ends on a hopeful note:
a bright new political dawn around 2020, in which a young fresh-faced child of Thatcher marches down Downing Street in a hoodie, swigging from an alco-pop, and announcing in faux-cockney tones that he's a pretty straight guy who used to be into 50 Cent.
On a more serious note, I liked this piece from the same blog about the market.


I have a longer post up my sleave about this, but for the moment, English Republican argues against identity politics and for an inclusive Englishness, challenging the liberal orthodoxy that the English (read the English working class) are a bunch of racists. And Pub Philosopher takes up the issue, with the CRE's great anti-PC Christmas card, taken to task by humourless bourgeois black nationalists.

By the way, I have decided to not blog at all about the so-called killing of Christmas, especially as Hanukah is more or less upon us. But if you want some of that, go to An Insomniac or The Poor Mouth.

And, going off the subject a bit, here's Courtney on reparations, at Wall of Speech.

tags: Bush

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Solidarity with Iran

This comes from Eric Lee via the LabourStart list:
We have good news and bad news from Iran.

The good news first: several of the activists from the bus workers' union who had been arrested in recent days have been released from jail. These included Seyyed Davoud Razavi and Abdolreza Taraazi, members of the union's Executive Board, and Gholamreza Gholam-Hosseini.

Now the bad news: the union leader, Mansour Osanloo, who was arrested on 19 November, is still locked up.

Oslanloo is the focus of a huge international campaign involving global union federations, national unions, the newly-formed International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and, of course, LabourStart.

Our own online campaign has already generated over 4,500 messages of protest which have been sent to the Iranian government. 1,300 of those messages have come from the USA, 839 from Canada, 638 each from the U.K. and Australia, 226 from Norway, 106 each from Ireland and New Zealand, 57 from Sweden, 56 from Germany, and 39 from the Netherlands. Surely we can do better than that.

Over 40,000 of you who are reading this message have not yet sent out a message. I'm not talking to the wider world out there, the millions of trade unionists who may not know about this case. I'm talking to you -- to the 40,000 who have gotten these emails and have not yet taken the time to respond.

Please do not ignore this appeal.

We know that these campaigns work. We know that the more messages sent from around the world, the greater the likelihood that our brother, Mansour Osanloo, will be released.

Right now, the Iranian government is feeling the pressure. They have released three activists in the last few days.

And as you may have heard, on Sunday, hundreds of Iranian students risked their lives to shout out messages of protest at a speech given by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Imagine the courage it takes to shout out "Death to the dictator!" in the face of a real dictator.

Imagine the courage being shown by Mansour Osanloo and family as they try to cope with brutal police repression.

It doesn't take courage for us to send off messages -- in fact, all it takes is about 30 seconds of your time.

Our campaign is now working in an unprecedented six languages -- English, French, Spanish, German, Norwegian and Polish. We know that you understand at least one of these languages.

Please click here now:

Please pass on this message -- spread the word. Workers rights are human rights!

Thank you.

Eric Lee

Dershowitz versus Finkelstein

Norman Finkelstein, a man who has made it his mission to give comfort to anti-semites and Holocaust deniers, appears to have commissioned a deeply offensive cartoon by Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff. (Latuff, incidentally, came second in the Iranian Holocaust cartoon competition, with a cartoon that does not deny the Holocaust - unlike the winner - but which suggests that Palestinians are the victims of a contemporary Shoah.) Latuff's cartoon illustrating a Finkelstein article showed Alan Dershowitz jerking off while Israelis kill Lebanese people. This has led to a war of words between Norman and Alan that you can follow at their respective websites.

Now, Dersh has upped the ante, noting that Finkelstein has been on attendence lists of the Iranian holocaust denial conference. His name seems to have dissappeared from the lists, but it wouldn't suprise me if he popped up there. Dershowitz writes:
It is unclear whether Finkelstein actually attended the conference, since the identity of many of the attendees has been kept secret, and the media office at DePaul says it doesn’t know. But Finkelstein certainly fits comfortably into the hate club, since he has allied himself closely with the Holocaust denial movement by trivializing the suffering of its victims and denying that many of them were victims at all. It would be natural for the rulers of Iran to have invited this Jew-hater to their hatefest. I don’t know if they did, or if Finkelstein accepted any such invitation. But the burden is now on him to explain why his name appears in the schedule and to produce all correspondence with the sponsors of the conference. It should make interesting reading.
Hat tip: Jogo

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

And another couple more

1. Slightly Lost has included me in his list of "Jolly Good Blogs", which is nice. (Makes up for doing so badly in the B4L Awards.)

2. This is a good post from Richard: Michael Gove on punk versus hippy (Question: is Bob from Brockley punk or hippy?) and the meaning of Eltham...

3. Pic above us from Lewisham Kate.

Also, to aviod the proliferation of posts, I've been fleshing out already existing ones, like this one on the anti-Zionist students of Leeds, and now this one on Pinochet, which also reminds me I keep meaning to add a link to Max's blog next time I do my blogroll again.

And one more thing, Cunt of the Week appears to be the most popular outgoing link from my page now, beating the Polish porn site some spammer linked to on one of my comment pages, that I don't bother to remove because it generates hits from presumably baffled Polish porn addicts. What does that say about my readers?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Pinochet: good riddance

I'm not normally one to rejoice at any deaths. But Augusto Pinochet's death is an exception.

Listening to Norman Lamont on the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning made me seethe a bit. He repeated the old right-wing canard that Pinochet saved Chile - and thus the world - from Communism, and therefore wasn't so bad. (An argument as disingenuous as the one that Stalinism saved Eastern Europe from ethnic infra-nationalist strife, or Saddam saved Iraq from theocratic communalism, and therefore we should have tolerated those regimes.)

Lamont also said that if we start going and arresting heads of state, then no head of state could travel anywhere - mentioning Ariel Sharon as his example. The Sharon mention is also disingenuous, as Sharon is a war criminal, who should be tried at Hague, whereas Pinochet's extradition request was from Spain, for crimes against Spanish citizens. I say, if heads of state commit crimes, bring them to justice, don't give them impunity.

More from Marc Cooper, Cunt of the Week*, and Marcus and Wardy at HP.

(*On the politics of the C-word, see Shiraz Socialist and the comments there.)

Added links: Marc Parent on the death of Jeane Kirkpatrick, Poliblogger on Pinochet and Castro
Another added link: Getting away with murder, by Max Calo
Yet another added link: David Frum "No Tears"
A little more: Oliver Kamm (via Courtney) and The Hitch

"a curtain political stand"

Engage reports a motion passed at Leeds University Student Union (LUU) against the Jewish Society (JSoc) there. The money quote from the motion is right near the end:
This union resolves: "3. To formally advise the LUU Jewish Society that promoting and defending Israel in its activities indicate that JSoc is taking and advocating a curtain [sic] political stand in behalf of the Jewish students on campus. Therefore JSoc is expected to expect and accept having other parties declaring and promoting opposing stands in the University, as long as Judaism as a faith is not offended."
I've read this over again, and can't quite fathom it. Basically, the body of the motion says that JSoc again and again objects to Palestinian Solidarity Group (PSG) activities on campus as anti-semitic, but that it should cease to do so unless these activities specifically criticise Jewish religion. No other society or ethnic group is singled out in LUU policy as being ordered to expect criticism.

Sometimes I think that I'm getting hysterical about the current situation, then something like this happens...


[Added 12 Dec]
Some Engage-niks think the motion is fine (see comments on this post). Which of course illustrates the gap between us nice sensible Engageniks and the kneejerk Israel-lovers. And, on the surface, the motion isn't that objectionable (apart from the fact that university students can't spell the word "certain").

The JSoc response to the PSG "Peace Wall" stunt was disproportionate: there was nothing racist about the PSG action.* The Balfour Declaration incident is different, as it is a bit dodgy to put up a banner saying Balfour gave Palestine "to the Zionist Jews". But the JSoc response was a bit weird too: getting the student union to make them change it to "to the Zionists". (In fact, of course, Balfour declared Palestine a national home for the Jews; he didn't give it to anyone, and certainly not "the Zionists". In other words, the change was a bit of a shot in the foot for JSoc.) So, I kind of don't blame the PSG and its bien-pensant supporters for thinking the JSoc is trying to stop free speach with its false Anti-Zionism=Anti-Semitism equasion.

So, why am I upset at the motion?
(a) I don't like the idea that criticizing religion is wrong, but that criticizing ethnic groups is OK, which is the implication of the motion.
(b) I don't like the way the motion seeks to define the identity of the Jewish students for them, saying that they can be religious and not anything else. As one Engage commentor, says: "If Jewish students believe that Israel is connected to their identities as Jews then that is their business. But now the Leeds Union knows better how to define the identity of Jewish students than the Jewish students themselves."
(c) I don't like the fact that it is now the union's official policy that Apartheid South Africa was a picnic, at least compared to the Occupation of Palestine.
(d) I don't like the idea (contained in the motion's "This union believes" no.2) that complaints about anti-semitism should not be treated seriously.
(e) Most of all, I don't like the idea that the union passed a motion demanding that one socieity, and one society only, the Jewish Society, should expect criticism. Imagine the outcry at a motion saying that, because of the Jack Straw hijab debate, the Islamic society should expect criticism. Of course the JSoc should expect criticism, but to pass a motion saying this, and not telling any other ethnic group to expect it, is racist.

And if you still think I'm overreacting, read the Leeds Palestinian Solidarity Group blog from which the above image links come from, Bonsoir:
it wasn't the PSG committee who achieved this victory, WE DID IT ALL TOGETHER! Yes, it was the fact that we all (PSG, ISoc, Respect, Socialist Workers, Stop the War, PSC, Saudi Society, Omani Society, and many others) worked in unity, shoulder to shoulder, which made this a reality. This is proof that when we join hands together no one can stop us from achieving our noble aims. (source)

Finally this is a message to Leeds University's Zionist J-Soc, to the Zionist UJS, and to all advocates of the racist illegal Zionist regime called "Israel", nothing on earth would stop us from fighting for the Justice and freedom of not only the Palestinian nation (in Palestine and in Diaspora) but also for all victims of the evil Zionist virus anywhere in the world. If you think that Leeds motions are our biggest victory you are very mistaken; this victory is so little for us and we haven't even started yet. If you decide to keep defending and advocating the Devil then don't blame us for being offended every time we expose your beloved Zionists' crimes, because "Israel" itself is the biggest offence to humanity. (source)
*UPDATE: Please read the comment box for a clarification, by a Jewish student at Leeds

(Previous: Atzmon in Scotland)

Tags: , , , ,

Human rights and the failings of the Israeli state (Or, I had a shower with a serial rapist)

Read this long, thoughtful and nuanced piece by Daniel about serial rapist Benny Sela, with whom Daniel went to school. The piece concludes with the argument that so long as Israel is a war state, so long as the war and Occupation continue to take up so much of the budget, it will not fulfill its mission to create a secure and peaceful home for Jews, based on (Jewish) social values.

A couple more

Two more blogs for you: The Provisional BBC (found via Neil) and Three Score Years and Ten.

(Yes, I will get down to some more substantive blogging rather than these little nuggety things sooner or later, when I clear the decks a but at work...)

While I'm here, you may care to vote for Norman or Harry for Best UK Blog in the 2006 Weblog Awards.

And, on the same topic, I guess I should report that I didn't do very well in the Bloggers4Labour awards. However, Dave's Part and Stumbling & Mumbling certainly deserved to beat me in my category, and I didn't deserve to beat Oliver Kamm.

Talking of Kamm, by the way, I have to agree with Courtney that he (Kamm) talks shit when it comes to the nuclear deterent issue. (An issue well summed up by Scribbles. Prompting a nice link from Andrew to this piece about chocolate teapots.)

Finally, I've updated my most recent Sarf London blog line-up post here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


1. Just found these Brockley nature photos at Rob's raw food blog.

2. Two from Slightly Lost: Things to do in Brockley when you're dead and Homophobia on the buses.

3. New brockley blogger: Green councillor Dean Walton. (Found via the ever-non-partisan Andrew.)

ADDED 11 December:

Andrew is starting a kind of local version of Tim Worstall's Britblog line-up.

One blogger I've not come across before cropped up: Dr Lurca. I can't get my head around LiveJournal (otherwise I'd hang out much more at Richard's page). Here's some Sarf London LiveJournal folks I found while trying to find my way around: Sarf Londoners, SE10, Slappers (South London Alternative People), No one likes we don't care, CamberwellArts, Mo ('In the future, when people ask me why I prefer South London to North London, my new stock response will be, "Because in South London, when you're standing at the station waiting for a train, you don't sometimes look down onto the track and see a dead fox."'), and Dr Bob (South Londoner exiled in Scotland).

ADDED 12 December:

And if you read Italian, check London SE4's South London posts.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

This 'n' that

* That's a Colorblind James Experience reference, for those of the right/wrong generation. (Mp3 link here.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ordinary Muslims against the Newham mega-mosque

[Links fixed Nov 30]

Check this: Islamophobia Watch - Home - 'Muslims oppose building of huge mosque' - A report on the opposition by the Sunni Friends of Newham to the building of the so-called Mega-Mosque in the Olympic zone proposed by the far-right Islamists Tablighi Jamaat.

Martin Sullivan, believe it or not, thinks the petitioners are the irresponsible ones, not the mosque-builders.
"It's not the business of this site to intervene in disputes within the Muslim communities. However, in the current circumstances, if anyone has indeed circulated a petition suggesting that the proposed Abbey Mills Islamic centre could provide a recruiting ground for terrorists, the irresponsibility of that action beggars belief. We also wonder whether the Asif Shakoor who appears to be behind this campaign has any connection with Minhaj-ul-Quran International, an organisation which is linked to a political party called Pakistan Awami Tehrik and is an organisational and ideological opponent of Tablighi Jamaat." [hyperlinks added -B]
Er, so it is irresponsible for ordinary Muslims to distance themselves from supporters of suicide bombing...

More from Western Resistance and A Tangled Web. Of course, what neither the war-on-Islam folks at Western Resistance nor the Islamist fellow travellers at IslamophobiaWatch point out that the Mega-Mosque plans have not even been submitted for planning permission yet. (I think I'm right about that - please correct me in the comments if I'm wrong.)

Asghar Bukhari: Playing the Anti-Semitism Card

MPACUK - Asghar Bukhari: Playing the Anti-Semitism Card

This is very interesting. Need to read it a couple more times.

(Via JsF, using it as more fuel for the anti-Zionist fire)

(This post follows up mention at bottom of this one.)

Hitch the leftist

Shiraz Socialist: Hitch in "rediscovers soul" shocker!

Voltaire's Priest on Christopher Hitchens' article in The Liberal about Ann Coulter's Godless.

(I've written a comment you can read there, assuming it gets past the moderator.)

Liberal anaemia, etc

This is a nice piece at International Rooksbyism, about what is wrong with liberalism, from a socialist perspective: Liberal Anaemia

Here is a provocative question from Stumbling & Mumbling: Why reduce immigration and not birth rate?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Nadia Eweida and the Adams Family

Michelle Idrees was returning from a July 7th commemoration in Hyde Park when she was attacked by three men, the Adams Family, on a train. They called her a "f*cking Muslim slag" and a "Paki-loving whore". "Mrs Idrees had travelled into London with her 15-year-old nephew, a neighbour, her wheelchair-bound partner and their two children."

The main protagonist has been jailed for 15 months. Because Mrs Idrees is white, they could not be done for a racially aggravated crime, but only for a religiously aggravated crime. I think this was racism and these men are racist pieces of scum. They had earlier called a black woman on the train a "nigger", but this is a new form of racism, not attached to skin colour but instead to culture or "religion". Some reports have described her as wearing a burkha, others as wearing a headscarf. This was surely a key feature, even though the attack pre-dated the major media feeding frenzy around veils later in the summer.

This is why I agree to some extent with those who criticise this government for creating a climate of anti-Islamic hatred. This is dangerous shit to play with. However much Islamism represents a terrible threat to our society, playing fast and lose with glib generalisations about Muslims contributes to this sort of violence.

This is not the only viscious attack on vaguely Asian or Muslim looking people recently. This horrible incident is in court now in Leeds.

Interesting that the Dhimmi-watching websites I occassionally link to in my criticisms of Islamism have been pretty much silent on this court case. Plenty of fascist blogs have actually described the Adams men as free speech heroes. I won't link to them as I don't like to link to fascists. Just a shade away from them you have people like this American blogger and this Conservative blogger, who have celebrated the fact that Mrs Idrees now plans to leave the country.

Meanwhile, a Lib Dem councillor thinks it's OK to use the work "Paki", claiming "only one or two people" find it offensive. "Are we going to ban 'golliwog' and 'blackboard' too?" he continued.


So, some people think that the UK and its government is creeping towards fascism, others think we are in thrall to Islam. The latter see the decision of BA to stop Nadia Eweida from wearing a crucifix at work as more example of special treatment for Muslims and other efniks, bad treatment for the white Christian majority. Her colleagues of other faiths, she says, are free to wear their "religious attire" at work.

Whatever petty-minded supervisor noticed Ms Eweida's cross and told her to take it off is a stupid, anal idiot. (Blair is right to say some battles are not worth fighting. Applies to both sides here.)

But of course Eweida does not have the right to wear a cross. For a start, unlike Orthodox Jewish men in yarmulkes or certain types of Muslim women in hijabs, Christians are not commanded by their faith to glorify Christ by displaying a cross. It is not equivalent.

And, asks Ophelia (commenting on this Times article), why should we "respect" this sort of commandment anyway?
What is this idea that people 'expect' 'respect' and that therefore everyone else 'needs' to give it to them? Why hasn't that imbecilic and tiresome idea been nipped in the bud yet? People can expect anything and everything they like; that doesn't oblige the rest of us to give it to them. I can sashay around the place announcing that I 'expect' everyone to fall down and knock their foreheads against the ground when I pass, but that doesn't oblige them to oblige, does it. Expect away, 'people of faith', I don't have to respect you unless you do something I consider respect-worthy. So get busy.
And now fucking Jack Straw has weighed in supporting her, giving grist to the mill of those who think Blair's government is at war with Islam...

And it looks like BA might give in too, as the Church of England has a lot of financial clout. (See this Christian blogger, who notes that when God fails try Mammon.)

Blog links: Jenna Says No; Oh, Nadia, Shut Up

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Dubious Connections of the Anti-war movement

[Corrected 25 Nov.]

Highly recommended:
ModernityBlog: "Anti-War" and Dubious Connections

And for more of this stuff:
Judeospere: Crushing fascism

The New Generation

More on the rebellion against theocratic domination and conservative "representation":
Butterflies and Wheels and Pickled Politics (1 & 2)

(This post follows up this one.)

B4L Blog Awards 2006

Exciting stuff:
Bloggers4Labour: B4L Blog Awards 2006

(Feel free to nominate me, of course.)

Update 1st December: Thanks to whoever did nominate me! Now you've all got to go back and vote for me.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

OneVoice: Healing the scars

OneVoice in London:

At a time when every British newspaper is filled with stories of divisions and extremism within and between communities and campuses, OneVoice is launching an enormous program to build coalitions behind its work to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Muslim, Palestinian, Jewish, Israeli and Christian groups are coming together in support of OneVoice's work. Events are scheduled from LSE to SOAS, City Circle to St. John's Wood Synagogue, UCL, City, UEL, Goldsmiths, Friends of the Arab World and more...

Flyer here. [Update: from Shiraz Socialist]
[Via Mira]

And this story is heartening too: Palestinians train with Israeli doctors

[Via Arieh]

Monday, November 20, 2006

Anti-semitism and anti-Zionism in Scotland

The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who have already managed to derail the Edinburgh International Film Festival, have invited Gilad Atzmon to play and talk at a public meeting.

Gilad Atzmon is brilliantly taken apart in this open letter from Jim Denham, concluding:
You are free, of course, to bait Israel and to spout your anti-semitic propaganda. The degenerate ex-Marxists of the SWP are free to promote you and your band (though why, exactly, they should allow you to speak on the politics of the Middle East, remains a mystery).

But, as a jazz-lover, I have to say that I hate your racism. Jazz is the music of integration, of humanity and equality. Your anti-semitism has no place in our music.
The Scottish PSC are out of step with even the most hardcore anti-Zionists from Jews sans Frontieres:
Atzmon is primarily an attention seeking buffoon who has invoked antisemitism to draw attention to himself.
Similarly, the anti-Zionist Jewish Socialist Group has written an open letter to Scottish PSC protesting their invite to Atzmon.

Meanwhile, SPSC publish articles that think Robert Fisk, of all people, is too pro-Israeli in his Lebanon coverage.

[Update: more from Judeosphere and from Jews sans Frontieres.]


Also in Scotland, last year we had Stirling University's student union motion to boycott Israel - a ban that extended to the Scottish Socialist Party, because it organised debates about Zionism. (This issue might have flared up again this year - post a comment if you know more about this.)

This year, we've got Strathclyde University students union voting on Thursday on a boycott motion which also goes so far as to apply no platform principles to some Zionists:
7. To refuse to provide a platform to organisations, groups, bands etc that have
supported, implied support or still actively support:
7.1 Israel’s campaign of genocide against the Palestinian people
7.2 Israel’s theft of land from the Palestinians and other countries in the region

And I've run out of energy to deal with the cancelling of Israeli Ambassador Zvi Heifetz's first visit to Scotland.

Israelis and those who even want to debate Zionism = not welcome in Scotland.
Those who consort with Holocaust deniers = welcome in Scotland.
Tell me I'm wrong.

Tags: , , israel, zionism, palestine, boycott, jews,

All you need to say about the hijab issue

Ian Buruma in The Sunday Times:

"Let people wear headscarves if they wish. Islam as such is not incompatible with citizenship of a liberal democracy. The violent imposition of a revolutionary faith is, but it will only be contained... if mainstream Muslims feel accepted as fellow citizens. The single demand we should make on immigrants and their offspring is respect for the law, including laws that guarantee the right to free speech. This is not a surrender to the Islamist revolution. On the contrary, it is the only way to combat it.

That pretty much says it: freedom - which includes freedom to be different - within the law, within well-established liberal limits concerning not doing harm to others, and not suppressing their freedoms of opinion and belief.

Mansoor Osanloo is re-arrested

Mansoor Osanloo is arrested

Yesterday, "Mansour Osanloo, the President of the Syndicate of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, the first independent union in Iran after over 20 years and an affiliate of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), was arrested by plain clothes agents who refused to show any identification or arrest warrants."

The struggle of the bus company workers is one of the key fronts in the fight against Iran's brutal theocratic regime.

Other labour news: LabourStart Iran, Workers' rights in China, the outsourcing of journalists

New Generation

Thirty years since the passing of the Race Relations Act, Britain faces a crisis of discourse around race and faith. These have always been sensitive topics, but the debate has hit new lows of simplicity and hysteria in the past few years. People want to talk. They need to talk. But how do they engage in a discussion which has been manipulated by recent governments to demonise minority groups, while being increasingly hijacked by self-appointed "community leaders"?
Today sees the launch of the New Generation Network, with a manifesto published at CiF and an and an editorial by Sunny Hundal. This is fantastic.

I have written extensively on this before - read these articles to see why I'm excited:

Sunny's Pickled Politics is tracking media coverage.

Other news: MPAC's 'grave error' over David Irving (Telegraph) /(Observer)
See also: Martin Bright on the British ramifications of Bangladeshi politics.

No Music Day

Tomorrow, the 21st, is No Music Day.

No Music Day is an aspiration, an idea, an impossible dream, a nightmare.

There are as many reasons for marking No Music Day as there are people willing to observe it - or reject it.

No Music Day is on the 21st of November this and every year.
No Music Day is on the 21st of November because the 22nd of November is Saint Cecilia's day. Saint Cecilia is the patron saint of music. In many countries the 22nd of November was the day chosen to give thanks for and to celebrate the existence of music.

No Music Day has nothing to sell.
There is no mission statement.

Our Richard is taking part. Resonance FM are on board. It is, of course, a Bill Drummond production.

This morning, sitting on the 171 bus*, I really understood why we need such a day. I'd left my personal IPod cocoon behind. The man in front of me had a walkman with poor quality headphones, emitting a house music ttt-ttt-ttt. Two seats behind me a teenager was playing some grime music on his mobile phone. I was trying to read some of Mitch Duneier's beautiful prose in Slim's Table and just couldn't concentrate.

By the way, while writing this, I have been listening to John Zorn's "The Ghosts of Thelema" (mp3 available from Le Blogotheque) and Orchestre Boabab's "Kelen Ati Len" (mp3
via Webjay). But if you read this tomorrow, don't download them!

*Added 171 bus links: Jon Worth, Wonderland.

Tags: , , ,

Right outcome, wrong process

Human Right Watch have published their report into Saddam Hussein's trial, finding it "flawed and unsound". The trial was, of course, deeply flawed and unsound. Anyone who denies that lives in an alternate reality.

But the trial did reveal the horror of Saddam's regime. It revealed beyond any reasonable doubt that his rule was a reign of terror that we were right to bring to an end.

The unsoundness of the trial is, therefore, doubly regrettable, because it undermines the legitimacy of the sentence. Hopefully, he will live to see through the next trial - ideally, trial after trial after trial, for all his crimes - and fewer people will be able to deny the truth of his evil.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Fascism and its faces

  • Deborah Fink, an activist with Just Peace UK and Jews for Justice for Palestians, writes on Mark Elf's blog: "Israel does not deserve to be called 'The Jewish state'. It should be called 'The Satanic state', (as should some other countries I can think of). It is indeed, a 'shitty little country'. I really don't see the point doing anything else other than boycott it in every possble way. All Jews should disassociate themselves from it." Time for JfJfP to disassociate themselves from her I think.

Remembrance Sunday

OK, a day late, but this is a great post:

Dave's Part: Remembrance Sunday

Musical accompaniment from the truly wonderful Keep the Coffee Coming:
  • Brothers Under the Bridge: Bruce Springsteen MP3 File
  • Traveling Soldier: The Dixie Chicks MP3 File
  • Cruel War: Peter, Paul and Mary MP3 File
  • The Ballad of Ira Hayes: Johnny Cash MP3 File

Salah Choudhury's death penalty trial begins today

Keep up the pressure

That nasty George Galloway swearing

A couple of weeks ago, the Popinjays picked up a bit of nwes about Galloway swearing at some nice students. Now, Dave's Part (via Ian Dale) posts the audio footage.

Dave thinks it's a bit un-shocking. Listening to it, I kind of think, actually George, I wouldn't give a fuck about what some earnest Oxbridge students think either. Possibly the first sympathetic thought I've ever had about George. But then, on second thoughts, I'm not egotistical enough to go and talk to Oxbridge students to publicise my book. Especially if the tax-payer was paying me to occassionally turn up in Parliament.

Friday, November 10, 2006

New Cross events

Anarchist film night//Di-Orienting Rhythms//South London radical history group//Elephant and Castle//The empire of denial//Lewisham bloggers drink

Anarchist film night, Wednesday 15 November
Presents a double bill of cinematic delights plus yummy food

The Free Voice of Labor: The Jewish Anarchists
A film by Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher, Pacific Street Films
Anarchism, which rejected government in all its forms, was the largest radical movement among Jewish immigrants in the 1880s and 1890s in the USA and continued to attract fervent supporters in the early decades of the 20th century.
In 1977, as the Jewish anarchist newspaper Freie Arbeiter Stimme was about to close down after 87 years of publication.
Narrated by [the late] anarchist historian Paul Avrich, the story is mostly told by the newspaper's now elderly, but decidedly unbowed staff. They talk about the conditions that led them to join, their fight to build trade unions, differences with the Communists, attitudes toward violence, Yiddish culture, and loyalty to one another.
[Buy the film here. More: The Suitcase: The Legacy of Emma Goldman, Anarchism in America]

AN INJURY TO ONE, chronicles the mysterious death of Wobbly organizer Frank Little, a story whose grisly details have taken on a legendary status. Much of the extant evidence is inscribed upon the landscape of Butte and its surroundings. Thus, a connection is drawn between the unsolved murder of Little, and the attempted murder of the town itself. Butte's history was entirely shaped by its exploitation by the Anaconda Mining Company.
War profiteering and the company's extreme indifference to the safety of its employees (mortality rates in the mines were higher than in the trenches of Europe) led to Little's arrival. "The agitator" found in the desperate, agonized miners overwhelming support for his ideas, which included the abolishment of the wage system and the establishment of a socialist commonwealth.
Archival footage mixes with deftly deployed titles, while the lyrics to traditional mining songs are accompanied by music from Will Oldham, Jim O'Rourke, and The Low, producing an appropriately moody, effulgent, and strangely out-of-time soundtrack. The result is a unique film/video hybrid that combines painterly images, incisive writing, and a bold graphic sensibility to produce an articulate example of the aesthetic and political possibilities offered by filmmaking.
Wednesday 15th November, 7.30 for food, 8.00pm for film. Only £4 including delicous veggie food at The Café Crema 306 New Cross Rd SE15
Bus: 53, 453, 177, 225,171, 172,136, 321, Train and Tube: New Cross or New Cross Gate, DLR Deptford Bridge (10 min walk)

Dis-Orient X, Friday 17 November [link]

Ten years after the book Dis-Orienting Rhythms: the Politics of the New Asian Dance Music (Zed books 1996) we've decided to have a party (or a wake) and discuss, and dance, about the new world disorder.

Workshop Goldsmiths Cinema - 3pm - 6pm

speakers - Sonia from ADFED, Anamik Saha of Goldsmiths, Sanjay Sharma, John Hutnyk, Aki Nawaz showing the new Fun-da-mental video, & panel discussion chaired by Ash Sharma...
finish 6pm


From 7.30pm (after hungry folks have eaten at a local diner):

Dis-Orient X club night New Cross Inn 7.30 - 12.

New Cross Inn is on New Cross Rd next to "the venue"
with Aki Nawaz from Fun-da-mental and SPARK! on the decks

- a benefit for the 1857 Indian war of Independence Commemoration Committee
(donation at the door)

All welcome
(special discount offer on the controversial F-D-M album "ALL IS WAR" on the night)

South London Radical History Group cross the river

'The roving South London Radical History Groupies are going to walk along the south end of North London's New River and do a bit of sightseeing, and politico-historical chattering along the way... the idea is to meet up at Turnpike Lane tube at 2pm on Sunday 26th November and work our way down the river, stopping at Clissold Park cafe for a cup of tea, and then on to Sadlers Wells. After that we can wander back to Angel or Chapel Market to hang out in a pub and maybe try one of the "eat as much as you like" buffets... bring umbrellas, gossip and chat about historical spots we pass...'

For further information, or to be added to the SLRHG mailing list, contact

Elephant and Castle: A Presentation of Work-in-Progress on a Lyric Theatre Piece, 16 November
A Thursday Club event with Tim Hopkins [link]

Starts: 18:00 - 16 November 2006 | Ends: 20:00 - 16 November 2006

Location: Ben Pimlott Building, Goldsmiths College, New Cross

Tim Hopkins is an opera and multimedia lyric theatre director and a NESTA Fellow.

E-mail: Maria X Web: Thursday Club web site

Empire of Denial, 16 November

Governance and Democracy public lecture [link]

Starts: 17:00 - 16 November 2006 | Ends: 19:00 - 16 November 2006 | Location: Room 309, Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths College, New Cross | Cost: Free

Speaker: Professor David Chandler forms of international intervention and regulation,... projected in the therapeutic language of ethical foreign policy, the rule of law, human security, empowerment, democratization, state capacity-building, human rights, civil society development, anti-corruption and transparency, country 'ownership', post-conditionality, and 'pro-poor' development...

E-mail: George Lawson | Telephone: 020 7919 7750

Lewisham Bloggers Drink

We’ll be in the Jolly Farmers from 8:30 on 18 November. More from Andrew.


Friday, November 03, 2006

Khatami: Iran's Pinochet (British police arrest the wrong man)

Azarmehr: British Police Try to Arrest the Plaintiff Against Khatami

Backstory: Peter Tatchell at CiF

Clifford Geertz (1926-2006)

The great Clifford Geertz died this week at 80. Geertz has been an inspiration for me. His lucid writing and rigorous scholarship are both less common than they should be in academia today. Geertz is most known for The Interpretation of Cultures, but I particularly like Available Light.

Although it sounds more jargon-y than his other terms, his idea of "anti-anti-relativism", is very important, I think.

A scholar can hardly be better employed than in destroying a fear. The one I want to go after is cultural relativism. Not the thing itself, which I think merely there, like Transylvania, but the dread of it, which I think unfounded. It is unfounded because the moral and intellectual consequences that are commonly supposed to flow from relativism—subjectivism, nihilism, incoherence, Machiavellianism, ethical idiocy, esthetic blindness, and so on—do not in fact do so and the promised rewards of escaping its clutches, mostly having to do with pasteurized knowledge, are illusory.

To be more specific, I want not to defend relativism, which is a drained term anyway, yesterday's battle cry, but to attack anti-relativism, which seems to me broadly on the rise and to represent a streamlined version of an antique mistake. Whatever cultural relativism may be or originally have been (and there is not one of its critics in a hundred who has got that right), it serves these days largely as a specter to scare us away from certain ways of thinking and toward others. And, as the ways of thinking away from which we are being driven seem to me to be more cogent than those toward which we are being propelled, and to lie at the heart of the anthropological heritage, I would like to do something about this. Casting out demons is a praxis we should practice as well as study.

In this age when cultural relatavism has so much power, Geertz's message is crucial.

Oddly, I blogged about Geertz the very first day I blogged.

Other links: WP obit; Two minutes on YouTube; Jeff W; Savage Minds (includes audio and video); Prod & Ponder; Concurring Opinions; Post-PhD Blues; Rakesh Khurana.

Previous: Pierre Vidal-Naquet; Brian Morris on academics and scholars; Les Back on the identitarian politics of multiculturalism; Whales, native Americans, environmentalists and cultural relativism.