Thursday, April 30, 2009

No-one likes us we don't care

Another little item of Sarf Londonism:
Ian Bone: MILLWALL GAME LEAFLETTED OVER TOMLINSON DEATH
Chris Knight and the family of Sean Rigg - who died in police custody in Brixton last year - leafletted Millwall’s home game on Saturday over the police murder of Millwall fan Ian Tomlinson. This took some bottle which is conspicuously absent in some of our armchair bound comrades. Sean’s sister and brother said they’d had a couple of racist comments but the overwhelming response was very positive with the leaflets flying out to the sound of Chris Knight in the background bellowing ‘ Don’t let the police bastards get away with murder’. Bob Crow came out of the ground and took the banner inside advertising the march on May23rd against police violence.
Related, at Transpontine: The G20 Brockley connection; Local movements.
Previous: Local/global; Policing the protests; Millwall/Big Brother.

Three big compliments, two defences

Three big compliments:

1. Tendence Coatesy, as an alternative to the Carnival of Socialism, offers a Carnival of Contrarians. I'm very pleased to be included, in the fine company of Voltaire's Priest, Red Maria, Charlie Mc, Stroppy, Mick Hall, Pouminista, Social Republic, Soul of Man Under Capitalism, Ian Bone, Dave Osler, Modernity and Rosie Bell. Oh, and Tony Greenstein...

2. Andy Newman says: "Bob seems like a reasonable sort, and I regret having offended him." (Here's where he offended me.)

3. Perhaps best of all, lenin says: "Don’t be a moron. Bob From Brockley should have his ankles severed."

(Added, a fourth one: Jim adds: Seymour ("Lenin") "is a reactionary idiot whose windpipe should be severed, in the interests of coherent discussion on the left. The man is a buffoon and an ignoramus, not fit to wipe the boots of Bob from Brockley.")

Two defences:

1. Following Andy's denunciation of my Tamil post, Modernity provided the truth about arms sales to Sri Lanka.

2. And here are the facts at Anti-German Translation.

Thanks everyone.

Now all I need to feel really loved is Hak Mao, Scribbles, Daniel, Richard and Transpontine, to join Graeme and George in following up this meme.

Yes it is you Tory scum

Hak Mao on the Tories' crocodile tears for the Gurkhas and the pleasure of Woolas' humiliation.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Strangers into Citizens May 4th

Strangers into Citizens is holding a National Rally on the May Bank Holiday (Monday 4th of May) in Trafalgar Square in Central London. We are expecting thousands!

SiC will be needing stewards on the day - get involved!

11:30

Meeting point for Walk to Trafalgar Square
Tothill Street SW1

12:00 Strangers into Citizens Rally’ at Trafalgar Square

Live acts include:

Asian Dub Foundation

and ThePETEBOX, Ukrainian folksinger Ludwig, and many others.

Religious services confirmed for May 4th

10.00

Free Church Gospel Service
Methodist; Baptist; Salvation Army; Pentecostal
Central Hall Westminster, Storey’s Gate, London SW1H 9NH
map of location | download flyer

10.30

Roman Catholic
“Mass for Migrants”
Westminster Cathedral, London SW1P 1QW
map of location
|

10.15

Chinese Service
Soho Outreach Centre,
166A Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8JB
map of location | download flyers

11.00

Strangers into Citizens Anglican service
Anglican service
Preacher: Bishop Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark
St. Margaret’s Church, Parliament Square, London SW1P 3PA
map of location | download flyer (290KB)

10.00

Latin American Service
Christian Church London, Fusion Centre,
22 Elephant & Castle, London SE1 6S
map of location


Blog links: Strangers into Citizens, SU, Third Estate, Ekklesia.

In Spanish, from Encuentros Latinoamericanos:

LATINOS EN LA MARCHA DEL 4 DE MAYO

Numerosos grupos de latinos se darán cita este 4 de mayo para marchar por la regularización de todos los indocumentados. Como se sabe, en este país unos 700, 000 o quizas más se hallan en condición de irregulares, por lo que se hace perentorio pedir y exigir su regularización con un acto de justicia hacia aquellos que contribuyen a la economía de este país pero no ejercen sus derechos.

Habrán diversos puntos de concentración, Elephant and Castle y Westminster entre otros. Iglesias y grupo s de la comunidad se congregaran en esta manifestación que impulsa y organiza el CITIZENS INTO STRANGERS junto muchas otras comunidades e iglesias de diversos países que forman parte del conglomerado cultural que es la ciudad de Londres.

Entre los grupos latinos que estan llamando a plegarse a esta marcha está la Coordinadora Latinoamericana. Los latinos dirán presente.

El siguiente es el llamado de Strangers into Citizens:

"Día Nacional de Celebración y de acción"

Día Feriado Lunes 4 de mayo
ÚNASE A LA MAS GRANDE CONVOCATORIA DE JUSTICIA PARA LOS INMIGRANTES
11:30 am: Tothill Street SW1

Punto de encuentro para marchar a Trafalgar Square 12 horas: Manifestación "De migrantes a ciudadanos” en Trafalgar SquareNos apoyan: muchas organizaciones."De migrantes a ciudadanos” es una campaña de laOrganización de la Fundación Ciudadana, la mayor alianza de las instituciones cívicas del Reino Unido.

STRANGERS INTO CITIZENS
(DE MIGRANTES A CIUDADANOS)

Es una coordinadora donde confluyen diversas organizaciones religiosas y comunitarias que hace una campaña por el status legal de migrantes de larga estadía en el Reino Unido.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Local/global

Two issues local to me but of wider significance:

1. The occupation of Lewisham Bridge Primary School. See Transpontine (interesting comment thread, including cllr Sue and Ross from the roof), Defend Education in Lewisham, LibCom, Infantile & Disorderly, Phil at Socialist Unity, Harpy. ADDED: Joe Thorne at The Commune.

2. Lewisham Greens handing petition to Mayor for Sri Lanka ceasefire. See Sue.

Related, at Transpontine: Local movements.
Previous: The Bleeding of Sri Lanka; Jim Callaghan, New Labour and secondary education; Half-term thoughts - consuming education; Neo-liberalism and education "choice".

Guca

Some cool Serbian brass music, from the 47th Trumpet Festival in Guca, Serbia:


About 3 minutes in, on the Serb-Gypsy relationship. "They enjoy together now, they celebrate together now, and they feel the pain together now."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Music of the Intifada

From CyberInsekt. Good post, good mp3.

Also, Steve Bernstein's Hasidic free jazz on Tzadik here.

Stangers into Citizens

Transpontine reports on bank holiday Monday (May 4th), Strangers into Citizens are holding a big Justice for Migrants' rally in Trafalgar Square (Asian Dub Foundation will be playing at the rally). SiC is campaigning for a 'one-off regularisation' (or 'amnesty') for long-term migrants.

A South London feeder march, organised by Latin American community organisations, will be leaving from the Fusion Centre [A on this map] in Elephant & Castle from 10am.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Seven spring songs, 2009

The other day I was luxuriating in the sunshine in Peckham Park, and my heart was lifted further by the sight and sound of a host of little green parrots (or parakeets? Daniel would know). In the last few days, I've taken to running in Ladywell Fields, a public space which has been greatly improved over the last couple of years, and is now full of life. (Yep, any local readers, that's me: the sweaty, unfit, balding guy in the sneakers that look "retro" but actually have been mouldering in some cupboard since the distant time I last did any running.) Yes, it's that time of year again.

Here's TNC. Here's the rules:
List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.

I tried not to put too much thought into it, but chose some of the things that have enhanced my Ladywell runs and my drives to and fro the park.

Dean Martin "Volare"

What's not to love?

Asiko Rock Group "Lagos City"
Funky rocking Nigerian post-highlife from the 1970s. Supercool.
From Nigeria Disco Funk Special: The Sound Of The Underground Lagos Dancefloor 1974-79. Listen at Last.fm or at 8106.tv.








Astrud Gilberto "Brazilian Tapestry"


Dreamy, heavenly. Stanley Turrentine on tenor. Buy at Amazon.

The Clash "The Magificent Seven"/"The Magnificent Dance"
"The Magnificent 7" was Mick Jones at the end of the 1970s discovering the joys of black New York, of hip hop, electro and pirate radio. "The Magnificent Dance" was the stretched out, even cooler version. Download [mp3] at CubikMusic. There fantastic covers out there by Kokolo and The Black Kids if you care to find them.


The Neptunes Remix of The Rolling Stones "Sympathy for the Devil"
My favourite Stones song, but lately I've been digging this remix. Go watch the YouTube at Martin's place. Here's The Neptunes homepage.

Rod Stewart "What Made Milwaukee Famous"
Rod Stewart is one my guilty pleasures (if not as guilty as fried chicken), and has been since I was a kid. For British readers, what made Milwaukee famous is beer. A great maudlin country got soul drinking song, by the great Glenn Sutton. Listen at last.fm.

Scott H. Biram "The Long Fingernail"
Dirty, sultry, dark, gospel-soaked hillbilly rock. This live YouTube is too fuzzy soundwise, but gives you the idea. From Graveyard Shift.
Last.fm. MySpace. Homepage. Bloodshot Records. Nine Bullets.


I'm tagging:
Hak Mao, Ms Scribbles, George S, Daniel Z (even though too busy to blog these days), Richard S, Transpontine, Graeme.

By the way, last year I tagged Jams, Roland, Noga, Martin in the Margins, Darren (who I'm never tagging again!), Richard, and Incognito (the weak link, unless I missed it). Here's the musical journey we took.

The bleeding of Sri Lanka

The part of South London where I live has a small but significant Tamil community, particularly in the Lewisham arc from Loampit Vale to Lee High Road to Ladywell and down into Bellingham. In this area, a very large number of fried chicken joints are Tamil-run. Fried chicken, I'm afraid, is one of the worst of my guilty addictions. So I was in one the other day, and there was a small sign up saying something like "Stop the genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka".

It struck me then very forcefully the point that keeps on coming into my mind these past few months: why do so few people seem to care about Sri Lanka? The conflict is complex for the simplistic Western mind, but no more complex than the situations in Iraq or Palestine, which people do seem to care about. For those not too knowledgeable, it is hard to identify a goodie and a baddie in Sri Lanka - but, for anyone, it should be crystal clear that the Tamil civilian population is suffering terribly badly, and that the worst of this suffering could be stopped with some political will from those in power.

Look at the numbers: in the Israel-Palestine conflict, there have been about 10,000 deaths since the start of the First Intifada in the 1980s (which coincides more or less with the start of the current civil war in Sri Lanka). These deaths - 10,000 too many, to be sure, and mainly afflicting the Palestinian population - included some 6000 in the bloody Second Intifada and up to 1500 in the recent horrible war in Gaza. In Sri Lanka in the same period, there have been over 70,000 officially listed as dead. Over 70,000, despite a period of relative peace in the early 1990s. The UN reckons well over 6000 Tamil civilians to have died since February, plus around 2000 killed in the intense period of fighting at the start of the year, while the world's eyes were fixated on Gaza.

If you google image the demonstrations in London, you will see an overwhelmingly Tamil presence on the march, with no banners of placards of UK organisations apart from Tamil groups, no left-wing parties, no union branches, no papersellers. Although there are plenty of honourable exceptions, the left blogosphere has been fairly quiet. Socialist Unity, fairly representative of UK hard left opinion, has had a total of two posts on Sri Lanka in 2009, while posts on Gaza have been more or less daily. Shamefully, I can't claim to be among the honourable exceptions: I have not felt that I have had much to add, from my little corner of the world.

So, is the question: why our shameful silence on this issue? Or, is the question: why our obsession with the region between Gaza and Afghanistan? And, what should we be doing about it?

P.S. Terry says it better here.
P.P.S. See comments for more: the Socialist Party as honourable exception? Have I been too sweeping? Any thoughts folks?

Israel, Jews, Muslims, antisemitism, pro-Hamas leftists, that sort of thing

P.S. I have updated some of my recent posts, including the one on Durban II, the one on practical support for Israel's Palestinian workers (comments solicited on that), and the one on Ron Paul and the tea parties.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Klezmer at the Telegraph

I'm sure Transpontine guessed I'd link to this, as it has that perfect combination of South London and Jewishness:

TONIGHT - Thursday 23rd - at the Telegraph pub (Dennetts Road, London SE14) there's live klezmer from the band Oi Sauce. It starts at 7:30 pm.

Marianne Faithfull, Derek Jarman and Lewisham '77

...at Transpontine.

Human stain

Max Dunbar on ID cards, with a wonderful Philip Roth quote. (It seems everybody is reading Roth these days. Quite rightly.)

Terry Glavin, prize winner

From Noga. (Meanwhile, here's Terry on a former Orwell Prize winner bemoaning this year's lot.)

Antisemitism, Holocaust revisionism, Ron Paul and the tea party movement

Two items from Roland: Stay Classy Protesters (on those who fill the void left by the Bush-haters), a Paulista flier (on the darker side of right-wing populism).

Added: more from Snoop - recommended.
Also: I missed this earlier post by Roland. (Found via TNC's round-up.)
And two interesting leftist views on the tea parties: Stumbling and Mumbling, Though Cowards Flinch.
More links. From LGF: Ron Paul & John Birch; Crazy Uncle Ron and the tea parties; Mainstreaming Alex Jones' madness. Also: InfokriegWatch: Lunatic fringe still lunatic fringe.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Goodbye bland affluence

Via Jogo, a great piece by Peggy Noonan, my kind of conservative.

(Jogo sez: "Wonderful observations by Peggy Noonan, a decent person and one of my favorite public intellectuals." Bob adds: I always see Noonan as C.J. from West Wing.)

Practical solidarity with Israel's Palestinian workers

Two campaigns for equal rights from Palestinian workers in Israel, both of which deserve your support:
Note: Terminology changed, due to e-mail from Daniel, which said:
"Hi B I am sending this privately regarding a blog entry you posted. Here some experience from my work with Wahat al Salam ~ Neve Shalom.

The term Israeli Arab is out of date... Most people to whom this term applies will refer to themselves as Palestinians with Israeli citizenship or Palestinian Israelis.

The BBC still refers to Arab villages in Israel because using the words Palestinians with Israeli citizenship is obviously upsetting some quarters... Palestinians say the words Arab Israeli denies them their identity as being part of the Palestinian people, which surely is part of the wider Israeli agenda to distinguish between the two.

In WaSNS sessions the issue often emerges and surprises Jewish Israelis who initially call this a betrayal of being a proper citizen of the state. They say if you want to be a Palestinian cross the border, and denounce your Israeli citizenship, Palestinians say they can be both, and have the right to be.

If you want you can publish this as a comment, so that others can learn the point, but I felt it appropriate to write it in a private email first.

The Clowning of Ahmadinejad

There's plenty in the blogosphere, I imagine, about Ahmadinejad's killing of the UN "Durban II" anti-racist conference in Geneva, but Jogo sent me this dispatch from PJM's Roger Simon, which I'd recommend.

MORE:
Elie Wiesel a ZioNazi?; Geneva 2009/Evian 1938 (via Philo)
AND:
Max Dunbar. Ami Isseroff (via Snoop). Some more links from CC. Michael Totten. P David Hornik. Daniel. Brian Klug.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday miscellany

In the big time
The great Jim Denham, of Shiraz Socialist, has included me in his favourite three blogs (the token male in the elevated company of Hak Mao and Stroppyblog) in his Normblog profile. Jim's answers to every question are impeccable, apart from I wouldn't want those dinner party guests round my place. To keep the link love flowing, here are some recent Shiraz Socialist posts I liked: Betty Boop and Cab Calloway (Jim); In defence of Jazz Record Requests (Jim); No2EU is desperate, useless and reactionary (Charlie).

Late Pesach links
A freedom sedar, 1969, from Graeme. Edie Friedman of JCORE in the JC about the signifiance of Passover for refugees. (Follow the story here and here.)

Political Islam and clerical fascism
Two from Coatesy: Afghan Women's Protests Stoned; Debating Islamism.

Fascism, and other things
Will on Hillsborough 20 years on. Jim J: academics as immigration snoops? Phil AVPS: the BNP's "populist" politics. David T's enviable list of people who hate him.

Miscellanies elsewhere
More randomness from Airforce Amazons and Poumista. (By the way, Jim, as your cultural heroes are Louis Armstrong, George Orwell and Pablo Picasso, you'll like this Poumista post too.)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Reading Hannah Arendt in Cafe Crema

The Cafe Crema issue has been noticed by the redoubtable Brockley Central Blog - part of a Brockley bites post under the heading "Bob From Brockley v Cafe Crema v Israel", with some back and forth in the comments. I started entering into debate sparked by this issue at Jews sans Frontiers, but was just insulted again and again, so am probably not going to continue. Matt made reference to that non-debate at a very interesting comments thread about a post at Racialicious about Defiance, the recent Daniel Craig film about WW2 partisans.


On the topic of comments threads, Noga kicked off an interesting one about Hannah Arendt here. George Szertes, whose post sparked it, has more here and here. For those non-veteran readers of this blog, loads more on Arendt here. (This post, on Alice Walker's love for the people, sets out my view of the Scholem-Arendt debate Mingreli references; this is also pertinent.)

(
Image above is of Hannah Arendt in a Parisian cafe in 1935, stolen from The New Yorker, where it illustrates a fine article by Adam Kirsch.)

Anti-imperialism
We did
Nadine Rosa-Rosso here. Snoopy has more, and on Jose Saramago.

The idiotic nationalism of the likes of Nadine was already nailed in 1935 by the SPGB's Edgar Hardcastle, in this interesting article about Indian nationalism and British imperialism. (H/t Ent.)

Fascism and anti-fascism
Nick Lowles in Searchlight on the European elections. | David T on how to beat the BNP and the Islamic far right. | Hitchens on the Armenian genocide. | Norm on the Nazi/Israel comparison. | Hak Mao on Italian fascism today. | David Aaronovitch on Moussawi and Wilders. (And, from back in January, on the "respectability" of the BNP.) |

Jews
Abroad: Lyn Julius in the Guardian on the "myth of the Mizrahim", plus interesting discussion at ZWord. | The Last Jew in Kabul, a video at NYT.* | RIP Janet Jagan.* | Obama's rabbi.*
At home: David Hirsh on those who like to keep Jews on the couch. | Lewisham Israeli artist made homeless by squatters, and then sees his paintings for sale in Deptford market.

Falling under no particular heading.
Paris at end of WW2 liberation "whites only". | A letter to the great professor Chomsky. | IWCA on the criminal "renegades". | Louis Proyect on my hero, Harvey Pekar.*

Soundtrack to this post
The late Bud Shank, RIP (nb: including "Nature Boy", see here/here), Paulo Conte (h/t Jogo, who points out klezmer flavour of this song), Cote de Pablo (covering Tom Waits, very sexily).

And finally
To those of you celebrating Passover, Chag sameach, as Barack Obama might say. That's me until next week.

*H/t Jogo.

Policing the G20 protests

I did not go to the G20 protests last week, but I spent a lot of time in the late 1980s and through the 1990s at various comparable events, including Reclaim The Streets events, other road protests, squat parties, free festivals, an attempted levitation of Parliament, carnivals against capitalism, guerrilla gardening actions, Mayday events and anti-fascist mobilisations, as well as a few more trad protests. My overwhelming sense of the police was of a tooled up army, relishing confrontation, snearing, provocative, pleased at having the opportunity to actually hurt people.

During this period, there were a number of high profile incidents that discredited British policing: the revelations of a series of shocking miscarriages of justice that led to men who were utterly innocent of any crime other than Irishness languishing behind bars for years (I saw Paddy Hill speak a few times, which affected me greatly), the total failure of the Met to investigate the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, literally dozens of unexplained deaths in police custody, the shooting of Harry Stanley.

I had no doubt, during that time, that I was not on the same side as the police. If I saw police officers stopping someone on the street, my presumption was that he was in the right and they were in the wrong.

Around the turn of the century, a number of good and bad reasons led me to being less active in demonstrations - time, energy, kids, political doubts. I came to see demonstrations like those against the G20 summit in a more jaundiced light - as gestural acts that do more for the psyches of activists than they do to make the world a better place.

In the noughties, I was also affected by a number of crime incidents: a series of horrible incidents my sister experienced on the council estate in Southwark where she lived, the repeated burgalry of a close friend of mine. At a certain point, if I saw police officers on the street, they were no longer the enemy and, at times, they even made me feel reassured.

I don't think I exactly turned to the right because of this stuff. (Who was it said "A conservative is a liberal who has been mugged"?). The people who most experience street crime and burglary are the most vulnerable in our society, and my rage against social injustice increased rather than decreased as I became more aware of this sort of crime. (In fact, some of the most radical groups of the 1980s and 1990s - Class War, Red Action, the Independent Working Class Association - were distinguished from the insipid left precisely in taking seriously the anti-social crime which liberals ignore or seek to explain away.) But this sort of thing led to something of a reappraisal of some of my most deeply held attitudes, and part of that reappraisal was not having any motivation to be in the City of London on April 1 2009.

Last week, though, hearing a very senior police officer anticipate the violence at the 1 April actions with the phrase "We're up for it" brought it all back. I once had a long conversation in a pub with a very smart police officer who had policed many of the demonstrations I had been on in the 1990s. He described the sense of becoming part of something bigger than yourself, of becoming part of a military machine. Of course, I think something of this dissolving of the self happens with protesters too. I guess this is a small, pale reflection of how soldiers feel in war-time. You can see it, though, in the bodily disposition and on the faces of the police officers in the now notorious video of Ian Tomlinson's last moments.

Ian Tomlinson, walking home from work, showing by keeping his hands in his pockets that he is not causing trouble, walking in the direction the police want him to walk, struck by at least one officer, for no reason. His head hits the pavement, and he dies minutes later. The police then lie about his death. Disgraceful, but not, alas, shocking.


Blogging/commentary: Anglo-Buddhist Combine, Alex Massie, Tom Freeman, Newer Labour, Martin in the Margins, Anti-German, Ian Tomlinson's family, Anna Racoon, Sam Leith.

HarpyMarx draws a comparison with the brutal policing of the Tamil demonstators in London yesterday, an outrage which (rather like the Sri Lankan government's massive assualt on Tamil citizens) seems not to interest so many people.

ADDED LINKS: Rachel from North London, Stumbling 1 & 2, Shuggy, Mod.
AND MORE: SlackBastard. Transpontine with the Brockley connection, History is Made at Night.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Shylock moment

I was away while the comments thread here was unfolding, but am going back to it now. One of the topics was Eric Lee's "Shylock moment", described here. He is talking about speaking in support of Israel at debates like this one in my neighbourhood.

“The questioner will speak softly. Their face will show real concern, even pain. And what you’ll hear is not an accusation, but a real question, because the person is genuinely confused.
They will say something like this: “I’ve been watching the scenes from Gaza on TV. I’ve seen small children standing in front of the ruins of their homes. I’ve seen parents weeping over the loss of their children. And I can’t understand how you can see all this and still support Israel.”
Noga, who blogs here, wrote this long comment, which I thought deserved some space of its own:
This is what Eric Lee calls “the Shylock moment”. An impossibility to break through an impenetrable barrier.. A moment when he suddenly realizes that it’s not his politics that are being questioned but his very humanity. According to Lee, he succumbs to it. He pleads for recognition of his humanity.

From whom?

Shylock’s words are probably the most famous speech in the Merchant of Venice. But we tend to overlook the situation in which it is made. In the play, Shylock addresses them to Salanio and Salarino, two very minor characters who were accessories to Jessica's elopement. They mock Shylock, ridiculing him for speaking of his daughter as his "flesh and blood". Jessica, they say, is no more like Shylock than ivory is to jet, or Rhenish wine is to red wine. Jessica had renounced her ancestral home, robbed her own father and married one of his enemy’s most loyal friends. That is what makes Jessica human in Salanio and Salarino’s eyes. Her only path to human respectability. Only by these acts of betrayal did she reinstate her claim to humanity, according to these two.

It’s a humiliating scene.

We should not allow people to abdicate their elementary responsibility to question their own premises, their own knowledge, and their own ethics. These people should be challenged as to why they think like they do, why their pity is so exclusive, lopsided, so uni-directional, so devoid of genuine understanding and human compassion.

These people must be forced to confront the question of why they are so impervious to the pro-Israel arguments and facts.

My husband calls it “the coffee machine syndrome'”. It has to do with the story of an automatic coffee machine which he had bought for me a few years ago. It suddenly stopped working, the display instructing me to: “check water level”. As if there was not enough water in the water tank. The only problem was, the tank was full to brim. It was the sensor that failed. And the malfunctioning sensor prevented the machine from producing my espresso. The faulty sensor acted as the ultimate arbiter in this matter and the machine, quite healthy in all other respects, obeyed its decree. There was no built-in manual alternative to the sensor. So the ruling of the sensor could not be circumvented. I could see the water level, and knew the problem was in the sensor, but I could not communicate this to the machine. So the damn machine refused to prepare the coffee.

Presumably, the person who asked Lee a question that seemed to distrust Lee’s very humanity is in the same spot as my coffee-making machine. His trust in the sensor to relay the information is so complete, that he never so much as considers the possibility that the problem might not lie with the actual level of the water. In other words, the asker completely forgets his own responsibility, independently- thinking agency and, yes, his own humanity, implicit in which are vulnerability, proneness to misjudge, and a keenness to believe the worst about others, that is, to believe sensors even when they are so obviously malfunctioning.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Nothing to do with the G20 summit

Archie Green, a mentsh:
Archie Green, a shipwright turned folklorist whose interest in union workers and their culture transformed the study of American folklore and who single-handedly persuaded Congress to create the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, died last Sunday at his home in San Francisco. He was 91.

 
Archie Green in 1962 with Dock Walsh, a banjoist he interviewed for a study of “hillbilly” music.

Mr. Green, a shipwright and carpenter by trade, drew on a childhood enthusiasm for cowboy songs and a devotion to the union movement to construct a singular academic career. Returning to college at 40, he began studying what he called laborlore: the work songs, slang, craft techniques and tales that helped to define the trade unions and create a sense of group identity.[...]
[h/t Jogo]

Miscellaneous other things

Four from the AWL: an obituary for Steve Cohen, challenging Israeli militarism and absolute anti-Zionism, Cathy Nugent on Jade Goody - defying anti-working class prejudice, and looking left - on UAF's populist bungling. Also relevant to that last one: Darren on the SWP's numbers game.

Also: George Szirtes on Hannah Arendt and refugees. Freeborn John and Islamo-fascism (the punchline is about right: "So while I defend totally the right of those scumbags to publish and demonstrate, if they try to come into my house to do so I'm going to remove them, by force if necessary.") Max Dunbar on Kenan Malik on Salman Rushdie. Ophelia Benson on communitythink.

Soundtrack to this post: Skip James, Doris Day, Dub Syndicate.