Thursday, January 26, 2006

Some loose ends

Slightly re-written 27th January

Three completely unconnected things:

FAIR on the "Chavez is anti-semitic" meme (found via LGFW). Norm raised this issue and dealt with it long before anyone else jumped on the bandwagon. I don't want to defend Chavez - he is a megalomaniac authoritarian whose rule is based on a cult of personality - but he is not the dastardly threat to peace and security that the conservative blogosphere think he is.

Google Blogocoped and Ars Technica on Google's jumping into bed with the totalitarian Chinese regime. China: everything bad about Stalinist dictatorship combined with everything bad about free market capitalism. Those people who are dissappointed in Google are foolish, though - corporations are corporations are corporations, whatever their mission statements are their primary objective is profit, and thinking some are groovier than others is daft.

Harold Meyerson
on Bush the incompetent. I'm getting sick and tired of George Bush - tired of defending him and apologising for him, tired of trying to persuade my friends he's not as stupid as he looks. Despite his correct decisions on some key foreign policy issues, his domestic policies have been probably the worst of any American president ever.

The Hypocrisy of Simon Hughes?

Following the theme and links from my previous post, I learnt via Zefog that Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes has finally come out - in The Sun of all places. (See also Hughes' BBC interview.)

Hmmm. Not the Simon Hughes who allowed and benefited from a devious homophobic election campaign in Bermondsey against Peter Tatchell?

I agree with Guido: "Hughes is an ambitious, lying politician who has lied to everyone for twenty-two years, why should anyone trust him now?"

My choice of Lib Dem leader: Mr Hâf.

Previous: UK elections
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Added link: Jonathan Freedland on Simon Hughes

Two things I read this month

As any regular readers I have will have noted, I have been just too busy to blog this month. Daniel says: "Bob from Brockley has not been issuing any new articles on his blog since Big Brother UK started. Is Bob perhaps Big Brother?"

In fact, I've been too busy even to really surf the web or click any links anyone's e-mailed me. I have, however, been watching Celebrity Big Brother and may some day get around to posting the stuff I've written about that. (In my view, history will reveal that Jodie Marsh was the real winner after all.)

And I've read a few real print newspapers. Here are two articles I particularly liked.

Excellent article by Johann Hari in the Times on David Cameron’s empty green rhetoric and on the mystical quackery of the organic movement. Concluding words: “So far, Cameron has offered environmentalists nothing but a playboy airhead, some worthless New Age farming, and a road-building programme – while the world slowly, fatally warms.” More...

And a great article by Andrew Sullivan in the Sunday Times on Rumsfeld and the war in Iraq. The article helped me clarify my position on the war: a good war, fought for the wrong reasons, probably at the wrong time, which started off being fought in the right way, but has ended up being fought in the wrong way. I can't remember why I took Sullivan out of my link list - maybe I just thought he had enough traffic on his site! Time to put him back in.

While I'm logged on, a welcome to the Axis of Bob for LGFWatch (but is this really a Jewish blog?) and AntzOnline (it's good to share a billing with Drub's Horny Homo Punk Trash Art). I was also touched by this compliment from my nearish-neighbour Slightly Lost. And as this post unexpectedly seems to have a kind of gay theme, here's another post to read at Slightly Lost: US, Iran, Zimbabwe, China, Cameroon and Egypt: The Axis of Evil [ref].

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Previous: Hari the Gay Destroyer, Gitlin on Iraq, Sullivan on the end of gay culture, Aaronovitch on the Tories, Is David Cameron a Jew?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Find your inner celebrity humanitarian

From AlertNet, and presumably not in honour of Celebrity Big Brother, find out who your inner celebrity humanitarian is.
http://www.alertnet.org/quiz/11267816822.htm

(I'm Kofi Annan...)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Cosmetic improvements

I just re-hauled all of the linkage stuff over on the right. Not sure if it works any better. I've finally added the blogs I've been meaning to. I've also created lots of different sections. Some of them seem badly incomplete (e.g. Good Causes) and will need work over time. Hope it improves your surfing life in some small way.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Friday, January 06, 2006

Celebrity Big Brother

I couldn't believe it. Jodie Marsh, Traci Bingham... and George Galloway!

All the other celebrities introduced themselves to each other as if they were real people. "Hi, I'm Preston", etc. But George? "I'm George Galloway, a Member of Parliament."

What a way to serve the people of Bethnal Green and Bow - three weeks hanging out with large-breasted supermodels and transvestite ex-pop stars. Not that he spends much time working for his constituency anyway. This is the man that has turned up to 15% of the votes since he's been in Parliament. Who already 'earns' well over £100K a year for his media tartery.

My prediction: he'll end up with Faria: he likes dark-skinned ladies, she likes boring older power megalomaniacs.

Blog links: Daily Ablution: George in bed, How much is it costing his constituents?, Stumbling: Galloway is psychologically ill
Added: VirtualHana's Pledge, VirtualHana as a constituent
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After Sharon

Sharon may have had all sorts of cynical and wrong reasons to take concrete steps to withdraw from some of the Occupied Territories, but he was right to take them, and brave to take them, and it is surely fair to say that few other politicians could have gotten away with it. While it is true that Sharon's record in 1967, and above all in Lebanon, is a shameful one, we should nevertheless honour this man.



Jogo sent me this great article by Benny Morris.

I don't agree with this: "His defeat, as prime minister, of the second Palestinian intifada will doubtless be carefully studied, once the hysteria and hype die down, as a model of a relatively clean, successful counterinsurgency."

But otherwise, Morris is spot on. Here especially:
One certainty remains. Israel, and especially and paradoxically, its large moderate left and center, is in the grip of a great sadness. Those opposed to peace, in the slums of Rafah and the Jewish settlement compound of downtown Hebron, can be expected to rejoice (as they did when Mr. Sharon suffered his small first stroke, on Dec. 18). The Islamic fundamentalists and the so-called Palestinian secularists who view Israel as a cancer and seek its destruction will honk their horns and hand out candy to the cruelly misled children of Gaza; and those Jews who are unwilling to give up the dream of Greater Israel and, perhaps, of ridding this land of its Arab usurpers, will offer thanks to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Morris is right to question who can continue the steps Sharon took towards peace: surely not Netanyahu, who has no desire for peace, and probably not Amir Peretz, who might want peace but may not be able to defeat the Greater Israel fanatics to get it.



A blog link: Daniel's thoughts on Sharon.

All this and more

First, to reciprocate the hat tip from Andrew at B4L, who commented on the huge volume of posts I generated yesterday. That was a few festive weeks of pent-up blogging energy coming out...

Following, directly or indirectly, some of his other recommendations, these particularly caught my eye:

Jonathan Derbyshire on Peter Beinart on Joseph Lieberman identifying the dilemma of the liberal hawk. As Derbyshire says, "liberal hawk" is a bit of an unsatisfactory phrase (like "muscular liberal") for our corner of the political world (I hate liberalism and was brought up in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament), but the dilemma as summed up here is spot on.

Westminster Village predicting the defection of Labour MPs to the Cameron-ized Tory party - e.g. "Diane Abbott, Hackney South - big mates with a lot of Tories, nominally in the Campaign group but her views are middle of the road Conservative and she now sends her child to private School. Happily goes on TV to oppose Blair policies and agree with Michael Portillo on a regular basis."

BrightonRegencyLabour on David Cameron's empty left-wing posturing.

Also some great things from Stumbling and Mumbling, which I'm going to post about seperately, and on Anthony Browne's critique of multiculturalism in The Retreat of Reason, which I might post about seperately.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Libertarian literature

Ronald Creagh's reading suggestions here. Obviously, I wouldn't endorse the Chomsky suggestion, but would endorse the Kate Sharpley Library suggestions, the other Spanish civil war suggestions, the Rudolf Rocker and the Maurice Brinton. See also this on Valerio Isca, Rocker's friend.

For Samina Altaf

Arieh sent this on Samina Altaf's fight against deportation. Samina is a Pakistani woman, who came to the UK to flee domestic violence and is threatened with getting kicked out, along with her kids.

If you're in the Manchester area, Julie Hesmondhagh (Haley from Coronation Street) is speaking at a meeting in solidarity with Samina on Sunday January 29th 2006 - 2pm at St Sebsatians School, Charlestown, Norfolk Street, off Gerald Rd, off Cromwell Rd, Manchester, M6 6ET.

Steve Cohen in the 2005 version of "That's Funny You Don't Look Anti-Semitic" at Engage looks at the best way to bring fight the virus of left anti-semitism is joint struggles across communal borders, which will often be struggles against communal "leaders".

In this country [the UK] it means joint activity between Jews and Muslims (and socialists) with the Jewish and Muslim communities. And what this boils down to is joint activity against fascism and racism. I suggested above the necessity to start to develop a movement simultaneously based on struggle for Palestinian rights and against anti-Semitism. This is presently an abstraction. However another real movement does exist against racism which can draw the two communities together in struggle. This is the disparate movement against immigration controls—for whom the Jews were the first and Muslims the latest victims. Of course controls need to be challenged in their own right—not just as a device for unity. However the challenge can also forge a unity which presently seems a million miles away. What is more the history of the last thirty years of struggle by migrants, immigrants and refugees against controls shows something that SWP/Respect have utterly missed. This is that real, meaningful, progressive political activity within the Muslim community (and all third world communities) comes from the grassroots either by by-passing or defeating the community machers. Let Engage become involved in these struggles both because of their intrinsic political importance and as part of its commitment to challenging left anti-Semitism by building meaningful alliances!

It could begin by supporting the campaign of Samina Altaf and her two children to fight deportation. Samina's is just one of countless stories—though I guess more immediately poignant. Having fled Pakistan to avoid repeated domestic abuse she was refused asylum here. Like all asylum seekers she is outside of the welfare state and has been forcibly dispersed into Salford by the so-called National Asylum Support Service (NASS—a wing of the Home Office). And now as a failed asylum seeker who is refusing to return "voluntarily" to the country from she fled she is being threatened by NASS with eviction onto the streets. And I forgot to mention this—Samina is disabled with rickets. And her children are crippled with rickets. Get involved with the campaign! Write a letter of support to her constituency MP—Hazel Blears that well known re-labeller of third world identity and warrior against international terrorism (address House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1, reference A1233290). Blears happens to be a Home Office MP—so terrorise her with letters of support. And invite a speaker from the campaign to one of your meetings—whilst sending money to the campaign (address Samina Altaf Defence Campaign, c/o Bury Law Centre, 8 Banks St, Bury BL9 ODL).


Blog links: Grace Golightly, Reality Cafe.

Free speech fundamentalism

Those crazy cats at Spiked (formerly Living Marxism) like to think of themselves as radicals, but are in fact ultra-liberals. They think that the liberal right to free speech is more important than, say, the right to live in Yugoslavia without getting butchered for your ethnicity, or the right not to live in fear of a new Holocaust. (See my critique of another ultra-liberal, Noam Chomsky, on these issues, and scroll down to point 3, as well as the links here.)

Now, Spiked’s Brendan O'Neill defends the free speech of Orhan Pamuk, someone who speaks out against the denial of genocide, as well as that of David Irving, who actively promotes the denial of genocide. My instinct is to take pleasure in
Irving’s incarceration in Austria. O’Neill correctly describes him as
“a racist crank, an historian whom no one outside of small fascist sects takes seriously. He denies the facts of the Holocaust, once claiming that 'more women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz'.”

But I’m afraid that basically Spiked are right: Irving should not be locked up for saying this. Even Deborah Lipstadt agrees. We should not support the liberal anti-fascist strategy of calling on the state to censor any piece of politically incorrect speech.

But why go to any effort to defend this scum?

They are also right to say that, “as someone who uses England's illiberal and undemocratic libel laws to try to punish his critics - including Deborah Lipstadt, author of Denying the Holocaust, in a case he lost in 2000 - Irving is not in a good position to complain about being robbed of his right to free speech.” But this is the thing about liberal free speech fundamentalists – they end up as apologists and useful idiots for the most illiberal of people (as Chomsky was for Faurisson).

On Pamuk, O’Neil asks what gives the British state the moral high ground to criticise Turkey. He quotes New Labour MP Denis MacShane: 'Turkey is on trial', not Pamuk: 'As in past centuries, state authorities or religious fundamentalists have put a writer on trial to stop him or her asking awkward questions, but end up in the dock themselves…Turkey will not join Europe unless Voltaire wins, and the ayatollahs - secular and religious - lose.' Then O’Neil continues: “Who the hell is MacShane to lecture Turkey about free speech, to put the Turkish authorities 'on trial', to decree if and when the Turks can 'join Europe'? His own government has ridden roughshod over free speech, recently introducing a Racial and Religious Hatred Bill that will seriously curb our right to ridicule religious obscurantism; bringing in a law that will make an offence of 'glorifying' or 'condoning' acts of terrorism (or saying other things that might be perceived as 'attacking the values of the West', in the words of Lord Falconer).”

On one level, this is right. The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill and the glorification of terrorism law do make a mockery of any idea of freedom of thought and should be vigorously opposed. But they hardly compare to making it illegal to denigrate Turkishness or to mention the genocide in Armenia – yet another case of silly liberal moral equivalence.


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You will by now have noticed the rhetorical device which characterises the Spiked house style, as the non plus ultra of liberal infoolectualism. Who is Irving to winge about free speech when he uses libel law? Who are New Labour to talk about free speech when they criminalise anti-religious expression? Another Spiked writer uses the same tool against Ken Livingstone: he should expect to become victim of the repressive, politically correct, intolerant climate he has been one of the architects of. Or, as Barbara Amiel put it, Welcome Ken, to the gulag you helped create. (See also Blithering Bunny).

On Iraq

Occasional reader of this website Tony Greenstein has an article in What Next on the pro-war left, The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty: Britain’s Revolutionary Imperialists. The article is mainly a quaint exercise in Trot sect trainspotting, but also smears Democratiya editor Alan Johnson has having supported American atrocities in Iraq. Johnson is given right to reply on the letters page, which he uses admirably (scroll to “War Crimes in Falluja”). Here’s Johnson a year ago, attacking American war crimes. I might read Greestein’s article properly and post about it again…
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LastSuperpower have a pamphlet (slightly incoherent, I think, but on the right lines) called “Kafa! Zero tolerance for racist thugs!”, calling for support for the new Iraq.

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Hitchens is keeping on keeping on: “Are Elections Democratic? Dictatorships are hardly preferable”.

Rednecks and Bluenecks

Craig Aaron reviews Chris Willman’s Rednecks and Bluenecks: The Politics of Country Music in In These Times. Willman’s book describes the complete Republican hegemony in post-9/11 Nashville. “He describes President Bush as "the ultimate hat act," a scion of the establishment made over into a brush-clearin' good-ol'-boy. As alt-country gadfly Robbie Fulks once put it: "You went to Andover / What's the banjo fer?"

Willman also looks at the “blueneck” Democrat current within the country scene, epitomised by Dave "Mudcat" Saunders, “a political consultant who's trying to help Democrats reconnect with Red state voters”. Here’s Mudcat: ‘I'd say to Travis Tritt and Lee Ann Womack and the rest of 'em that the one thing they better understand is that their core constituency is getting fucked out here," says,. "In job loss, health care, everywhere you look, rural America's getting screwed."’

However, Aaron says, “Unfortunately, the protest music of these "Bluenecks" is often just as shrill as that of the right. With a few exceptions--like Steve Earle's "Home to Houston" or James McMurtry's "We Can't Make It Here"--the topical songs too often feel like novelty records, no less ephemeral than reactionary ditties like Ray Stevens' "Osama Yo' Mama (You in a Heap o' Trouble Boy)."

Oddly, the piece is illustrated by a photo of Willie Nelson, not mentioned in the article. A look at the great Willie Nelson’s politics might have revealed a more sophisticated version of country politics. Nelson endorsed Dennis Kucinech and is now fund-raising for his buddy Kinky Friedman. "I am endorsing Dennis Kucinich for president, because he stands up for heartland Americans who are too often overlooked and unheard," Nelson said. "A Kucinich administration will put the interests of America's family farmers, consumers and environment above the greed of industrial agribusiness." [Blog link: Outside the Beltway.]

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In the same issue, Bob Burnett writes on Jimmy Carter:

“Republicans have so relentlessly branded Democrats as secular humanists that it's important to remember that the vast majority of voters who define themselves as "liberal" or "progressive" also say that they are people of faith. Given this, it's interesting that while Democrats are frantically seeking a moral identity, they largely ignore the most prominent Christian in their party, Jimmy Carter.”

Carter’s book, Our Endangered Values, looks interesting. Maybe more on this some other time!

80s, 90s, 00s - Resources for an anti-Stalinist, anti-fascist left

A vintage text: “Fascism and the Left” by Albert Langer 1980. Read it!

A decade old, from Gulf War I: Tom Saunders “The left and the Gulf War”

More recently: Peter Tatchell “What's Wrong With The Left?”

(All from LastSuperpower)

In totalitarian Iran

The mainstream press has given a lot of coverage to Iran lately, the dangers of a nuclear Iran, the dangers of Iran as gas supplier, etc. Not given so much attention is the wave of trade union militancy there, with transport workers taking on the government. (No doubt Lionel Shriver wouldn’t like them doing so.)

Here’s a report from No Sweat (via LabourStart):

“Thousands of workers of Tehran Bus Company (Sherkat e Vahed) called for the immediate release of the detained head of the bus workers’ union, Mansoor Ossanlou. They shouted slogans and held placards saying ‘Mansoor Ossanlou must be released!’ and ‘Having a union is our certain right!’.

The government officials at the event tried to persuade workers to greet the Mayor’s arrival by an Islamic recital and by clapping their hands; but workers refused. Instead, the recently released acting head of the union, Ebrahim Madadi, was rapturously welcomed and carried on workers’ shoulders around the hall.”

Check out the pictures at Iran Focus too.

Anyone looking for regime change in Iran, and a grassroots, democratic movement for it, should look to the trade union movement, not to the “reformist” clerics and the CIA-friendly exile elites.


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Also from
Iran Focus:

Iran’s state-run media gave unusual prominence to a historically confused news report claiming that former Saudi King Abdul-Aziz, the father of the current Saudi monarch, objected to the existence of Israel and told United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt to relocate the Jewish state to Europe.” [More]

“In the latest “acid attack” by radical Islamists on young women accused of ignoring the country’s strict dress regulations, two female university students had acid splashed on their faces in the town of Shahroud, north-eastern Iran.” [More]


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Doug Ireland has a very good article in the great leftist magazine In These Times on Iran’s anti-gay pogrom. He finishes with a plea for the US gay rights movement to take up this issue, which it has (in contrast to its European counterpart) so far failed to do.

Pedro Carmona, on the other hand, writing in What Next, disparages the frenzy about Iranian homophobic repression, seeing Outrage! (and presumably Direland) as being manipulated by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the main exile organisation. Hmmm. Maybe so, but Carmona does’t persuade me Iran deserves to be let off the hook.

Carmona has a problem that the same LGBT groups haven’t been speaking out about Saudi repression, which seems like a non sequitur– surely we need regime change in both Saudi Arabia and Iran?

However, Carmona doesn’t whitewash the Iranian regime, though, and, I think, deserves to be read carefully. Finally, I think he is right to warn people of the NCRI, the Iranian counterpart of the corrupt Iraqi exilarchs, the Iraqi National Congress.

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Genocide in Sudan

Essential reading: Sudanreevens.org.

Right Islam vs. Wrong Islam

Abdurrahman Wahid of the worthy but dreadfully named Libforall in OpinionJournal on the war against the Wahhabi death cult, an “extreme and perverse ideology… fueled by petrodollars”. His recipe for defeating it seems nice but a bit naïve. He suggests 15 resources which can be mobilised against it. These include human dignity, the “power of the feminine spirit” (!?), local traditions in the Islamic world as well as broader traditions within Islam (including Sufism and modern Islamic teaching) as powerful counter-ideologies, and trans-national popular culture disseminated through new technologies. And finally: “the universal human desire for freedom, justice and a better life for oneself and loved ones”.

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Also read Bruce Bawer’s hard-hitting litany of ways in which European elites have bent over to be abused by radical Islam, not only tolerating the most intolerant ideology since Nazism but banning books which “offend” the Islamists.

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Poulet Kentucky - French anti-Americanism

Anti-Americanism – an ancient French neurosis says Jack Straw. In a review of Anti-Americanism by Jean-François Revel, The Economist claims that France quarrels with America not because the pair are so different but because they are so alike. Or at least that French intellectuals hate America so much because most French people love America. Or something.

File under:

Ghetto radical - Jewish leftists

New York:

Judith Maas in the Boston Globe reviews Tony Michels’ A Fire in Their Hearts, on New York’s Yiddish socialists via Norm. Here’s an excerpt from the book, and more from Michels: "Socialism and the Writing of American Jewish History: World of Our Fathers Revisited" (restricted access). [Blog link: Brooklyn Jews.]

Manchester:

[This is from the press release]

Dave Chapple, a Bridgwater postman and strike leader, well known in the town's socialist and trade union circles, has published his first book.

The book, entitled "Henry Suss and the Jewish Working-Class of Manchester and Salford", is Dave's 90th birthday tribute to a remarkable Mancunian, now living at a home for the blind at Burnham on Sea.

Henry Suss, born the son of a Galician Jewish pedlar in 1915, was a life-long clothing worker in Manchester, who became an active socialist against Mosley's Blackshirts in the Cheetham Hill district during the 1930's, when no less than 34 relatives in Europe were being rounded into
concentration camps. Henry in his teens joined the local socialist Theatre of Action, and campaigned for "Aid to Spain" during that country's tragic civil war. Five years in the Army in World War 2 were followed by Henry re-joining the clothing trade, and eventually becoming a militant and well-respected trades unionist for the Tailor and Garment Workers right up
to the 1980's.

Henry joined the Cheetham Hill Branch of the Communist Party in 1936, and remained a member for 50 years. In Pendlebury, near Salford, Henrycampaigned on the issue of rents and slum housing so effectively that in 1964, at the height of the Cold War, he was elected a Communist Party Councillor, and re-elected in 1967.

Paul Robeson, Ewen Macoll, Harry Pollitt, Tommy Jackson, Mick Mcgahey, Abe Moffatt,the Rev Ettienne Watts, Dame Anne Loughlin, Frank Allaun are just a few of the radical personalities Henry encountered during his long active service for his fellow workers.

Henry is still politically active in spite of advanced years and failing sight, in the Sedgemoor Peace Group, which campaigns against the war in Iraq, the International Brigade Association, the Working Class Movement Library in Salford, and, a few years ago, led a fight to save his local Post Office at Burnham.

Because Dave's book on Henry is written in dialogue form, the text is also the record of a friendship between two different generations of socialist activists. Dave Chapple is as well-known in the South West and Henry is in Lancashire, and the book should arouse considerable interest in those localities, and further afield.

The book is a large-format A4 softback, 216 pages, with over 100 historic photographs, maps and illustrations. It can be obtained at the socialist price of £10 waged and £5 unwaged/part-time, plus £2 postage and packing, only from: E-mail: dave@davechapple3.wanadoo.co.uk.


File under:

Wednesday, January 04, 2006