Monday, November 30, 2009

How come nobody is allowed to talk about immigration?

How come nobody is allowed to talk about immigration? This is the question constantly asked by the right-wing press and mainstream politicians of all parties in the UK. And, yet, it seems to me, no subject is covered more by the right-wing press and mainstream media in the UK.

This is from Left Foot Forward:

Evidence of the week

The Office for National Statistics released the latest immigration figures yesterday, which showed that overall net migration had fallen by more than a third to 163,000 last year, while net migration from the A8 European Union 2004 accession states had fallen 88 per cent to just 9,000 in 2008 – a figure unearthed by Left Foot Forward. The Daily Express, surprise surprise, failed to mention the number of emigrants leaving the country – a record 427,000 – in a patently misleading headline which screamed “Immigration: 590,000 new arrivals in Britain a year”.

Full story here. For more along those lines, read The Truth About Immigration, parts 1 and 2.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Continuing our conversations 4

First, a huge thank you to Roland, for naming me as one of his favourite blogs in his Normblog profile. He's on the same wave length as me, as demonstrated by this:
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Hannah Arendt, Fredrich Engels, George Orwell.
Over at his music blog, some recent highlights include The First Rock 'n' Roll Song; Paul Whiteman, the jazz era and the Hungarian suicide song; early London calypso blues; and the great Don Covay.


Relevant to Chomsky, Bosnia and Pol Pot: The Fat Man on the responsibility to protect.

Relevant to Peter Oborne and the 'Israel lobby': Geoffrey Alderman on Disraeli, Gladstone and Lerman.

Relevant to the 'Israel lobby', and to the friends of Israel who are not friends of the Jews: Snoopy on Lee Barnes, anti-Zionist.

On the journey back from Islamism: Johann Hari, plus further observations from Eric Martin (via, ahem, AaroWatch).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Note on comments policy

After this experience, and then reading this post, this post, and this post and this post, and especially this comment thread, and especially this comment (from Sarah, whose wonderful blog, Cafe Turco, I was surprised to find was not already on my blogroll)...
The fact is that, by banning bullies, I have created an environment where people who [are] usually very reticent to express themselves feel comfortable enough to participate.
...I have decided to formulate a very simple comment policy. Basically, from now on, I will delete from now on all personal comments about other commenters. If you call someone a "douchebag", for example, then your comment will just be deleted, so all the effort you have gone to, if any, to formulate your thoughts will be wasted. (I will tolerate such comments aimed at me, unless they are made persistently and repetitively, in which case I will consider it harassment.)

I will also delete comments that link to fascist or racist websites, although on occasion I might ct and paste these comments without the links.

Basically, much as I have ambitions to one day be a superstar blogger (?), I want this blog to be a space of conversation and debate, among people who respect each other. I want to be persuaded to think differently, as I want others to be persuaded by me. I want to make connections. I started blogging as a means of making a very small political intervention (and this remains a goal), but I have found that one of the pleasures of blogging has been the sense of a community, of new acquaintances. The word "friend" is cheapened in the age of Facebook, but I have come to consider at least some of my virtual acquaintences as friends, and I value that more than I value winning an argument.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Continuing our conversations 3

Some day I'll go back to blogging properly. In the meantime, some odds and ends. (Note: Wednesday morning: some links repaired.)

Chomsky, Bosnia and free speech:
David Campbell's Chomsky correspondence. (If the link doesn't work, read it at Standpoint. Very important.)

Radical support for murder:
Evan Daniel: Pathology and Ideology: Major Nidal Malik Hasan and the Case of Leon Czolgosz.

The MNS, India's BNP? The right's confusion on challenging the BNP.

Khaled Abu Toameh: What does "Pro-Palestinian" really mean? (via Terry). Fighting for Palestinian freedom while wearing Nike. Guess whose building a wall now. Blockade of Claude Lanzmann’s film “Why Israel?”. Eyes Closed and Covered (more on the anti-Zionists' blockade of Lanzmann). Karl Pfeifer blood libelled.

Civility in blogging:
Harryism and internet toxicity (my comment here).

Fauxialism and left/right convergence:
Conservatives against war and for Stalinism. The hurt of no longer being. Alexander Cockburn: Reaching Out to the Right. Democratic Green Stalinism?

Shoot them like partridges. Terry Eagleton on Walter Benjamin on history. Understanding poverty. Something Smells Different in Cuba.

Music and resistance:
Iran: In protest against the theocratic regime, the popular Iranian singer and composer Mohammad Reza Shajarian has asked that state radio and television stop broadcasting his work. Here are some mp3s of this great man's music: Zabane Atash, Bebar ey abre bahar, Maleka, Morgh e Sahar. (Mostly from EasyPersian.) And also check out Ata Ebtekar and the Iranian Orchestra For New Music Performing Works of Alireza Mashayekhi, and some Raks and roll from 1960s Iran.
A great new music blog, from some of our mutual friends: Some Lost, Some Found. Cool Turkish psychedelia. 1970s Turkish prog rock. Choubi Choubi: folk and pop from Iraq.

More odds and ends from Roland. TNC rejoins the fray, with some great music and some recommendations. From the archive of struggle, including Yivo arcana.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Continuing our conversations 2

After being provoked by anti-Zionist excess: Planting trees in Israel/Palestine.

On friends of Israel who are not friends of the Jews: Raincoat Optimist (who I thought I added to my blogroll, but didn't, but now will).

On the BNP: The BNP, Racism, and Contemporary Europe (original, no hyperlinks, here). The Mail and Sun doing Griffin's work for him. Antifa England statement.

On sex trafficking: Facts and fictions.

On Roman Polanski: Even old men should pay.

On David Wiffen: The Cowboy Junkies Sydenham connection.

On boycotts: Low-paid growers and pickers versus Nike-clad students.

On the invention of the Jewish people: Sand in the eye of Jewry. The Khazar hypothesis and far right logic. Jewish in Uganda.

My comment trail: Gert says "Broccoli Bob: Leftist? Attacks on the LRB really are the preserve of the intellectual part of Daily Mail readers, Mad Mellians etc." I eventually respond, and then get into a debate with Gabriel Ash, who blogs as "Evildoer". And then Mark Elf says "Bob you're full of fucking shit". I eventually respond. That's probably enough immersion in the Jews sans Frontieres waters for me for another year.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Continuing our conversations

"Gay imperialism": More from Shiraz, Mod, Andrew C.

The BNP: Funded by a Suffolk toff. Also, I spent some time at Lenin's Tomb debating responses to the BNP and found it a less unpleasant experience than last time I was there. 1 & 2 I already linked to. Continue after the conversation turns to Islam4UK at 3, 4, 5, 6. Suprise conclusion: me and JohnG actually agree on something.

Not all "friends" of Israel are friends of the Jews: Shockingly, I agree with Mehdi Hasan on something too, specifically that the row over Kaminski should not obscure the hideousness of the Tories' other Euro-allies. Meanwhile, the BNP's new-found pro-Israelism should not obscure the hideousness of the Israeli right.

Stalinism's posthumous survival: Jim on Neil Clark on the GDR.

Of different kinds of walls: Shiraz Maher on some walls we should all know a bit more about.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live?

'But that music is a language by whose means messages are elaborated, that such messages can be understood by the many but sent out only by few, and that it alone of all the languages unites the contradictory attributes of being at once intelligible and untranslatable - these facts make the creator of music a being like the gods and make music itself the supreme mystery of human knowledge' (Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Raw and the Cooked, 1969, via History is Made at Night)
After listening to "Clara, Clara" from Porgy and Bess at Flesh is Grass, I dived into and listened to some great songs. Here's some (press play once or twice, then wait a moment): Zero7 "The Waiting Line"; Sufjan Stevens "Jacksonville"; Sarah McLachlan with Robbie Robertson "World On Fire"; Etta James "Damn Your Eyes". And some anonymous Soviet jazz-funk from 1974.

Talking of which, we did Iranian jazz-funk from the Shah's time here. Now here's some cool Iranian garage rock and psychedelia from the 1960s. Go to Honest Jon's to listen to some mp3s. Or try some Iranian loungey garage exotica.

NPR also has a show on Harvey Averne, the great Jewish Nu Yorican Latin bandmaster. And talking of Jewish Nu Yorican Latin music, here's some Larry Harlow boogaloo, featuring

Staying global, I was sad to read of the death of Claude Levi-Strauss, aged 101. Doesn't he look like Uncle Junior from the Sopranos in the picture above? Listen to this great playlist for him, while you read Poumista's account of his escape from Vichy France. I enjoyed the Nubian oud music of Hamza El Din and I love Omara Portuondo, but the standout track at Undomundo's playlist is "Wakare no ippon-sugi" by Club Nisei, the music of second generation Japanese migrant workers in Hawaii just after WWII. It reminded me on the one hand of some of the Ethiopiques stuff and on the other of Greek rebetika. You can listen to and buy more here.

Trying to find more about Club Nisei, I stopped off at the great Excavated Shellac, where I got sidetracked by Felix Mendelssohn & His Hawaiian Serenaders. Yes, you read that right. Felix Bartholdy Mendelssohn was apparently a direct descendant of the great composer, born at Brondesbury Park, London. After a stint in the stock exchange, he joined the Navy, then acted, then opened Club Felix in London which became the haunt of stage personalities in the early 1930s. In the late 1930s, he discovered Hawaiian music, and he became very successful: pure escapism in an age of war and austerity. Pathe has some antique footage of his Serenaders accompanied by decidedly un-Hawaiian looking ladies swaying snakily. To complicate His lovely "Tristesse" (with one Roland Peachey on steel guitar) would make the perfect elegy for Claude Levi-Strauss. To further complicate the interculturality, has some of his sultry tiki versions of Scotch and Irish waltzes. Mendelssohn died prematurely in Charing Cross Hospital in 1952.

Talking of transplanted Londoners, I'd never heard of David Wiffen until I read this lovely post and listened to Never Make A Dollar That Way. Turns out, he was born in South London, down the road from me in Sydenham. Sticking with folk music, here's some Utah Phillips and Ani DiFranco, tributes to Joe Hill and Mother Jones. And, on the subject of radicals and music, did Karl Marx dance?

I'm finishing (via Rustbelt Radical) with Ry Cooder, live in 1987, accompanied by the wonderful Flaco Jimenez on accordion and a first rate vocal team including Bobby King, Terry Evans and Willie Green Jr. As the man says, "This is a great, epic, working class song. And how many of those do you know?"

Thursday, November 05, 2009

In Pol Pot time

LRB subscribers, please read this excellent piece by Joshua Kurlantzick on the trials in Cambodia of the some of the former Khmer Rouge genocidaires. The piece is marred slightly by this minor Chomskyism:
"it's unlikely the tribunal will provide much of an answer, so narrow is its scope... the trial focuses only on the years 1975-79 themselves; the American bombings of Cambodia, beginning in 1969, which devastated the countryside and created the instability that helped the Khmer Rouge seize power, is not mentioned."
Now, it is true the bombings helped create the conditions for genocide. And it is also true that the bombings were evil, and that there is a case to be made that they were war crimes, for which the US ought to be prosecuted, and indeed that the US involvement in Vietnam of which these bombings form a part was marked by a series of other air-borne atrocities of which the US ought to be deeply ashamed. However, America in carrying out those bombings is not responsible for the genocide which Pol Pot and his regime carried out, namely the slaughter by hand (mainly by bashing in the skulls of the victims, as Kurlantzick notes), of over a fifth of Cambodia's population.

To widen the tribunal to include the American bombings would deflect moral and political attention away from the actual crime at hand. To insist on contextualising genocide in this way, on explaining it away, is ethically and intellectually reprehensible, akin to the conservative revisionists of German history attempt to explain away the Holocaust by reference to the shameful terms of Versailles.

(On the other hand, America, with its ally China, did aid and abet these crimes by supporting the Khmer Rouge regime during the 1975-1979 period. This disgraceful fact is compounded by its spiteful refusal to recognise the People's Republic of Kampuchea, and insistence instead on recognising the Khmer Rouge and its allies as the legitimate government.)

Other things you should read in the LRB: ‘I am not a speck of dirt, I am a retired teacher’ - Ervand Abrahamian writes about the protests in Iran; Rape-rape - Jenny Diski; On Being a Social Worker - Hilary Mantel; Back to school - Jenny Diski.

Previous: The hitch and Cambodia; Genocidal stalinism in Cambodia, apologists in the west; What's wrong with Chomsky?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


The Brockley Jack Film Club, I am belatedly announcing, now has its own website. The next event is Steve McQueen's Hunger on the Troubles, plus Lewisham artist Dryden Goodwin in conversation. However, the real treat of the season will be the screening of the rare London silent movie from 1929, Piccadilly, with live accompaniment. The film moves between the low life and high life, the club scene of Soho and Limehouse's Chinatown, and features prostitution, drug addiction and gangsterism. It is based on some of the true stories told in this post at the wonderful Another Nickel: The Cafe de Paris, the Trial of Elvira Barney and the death of Snakehips Johnson.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Six out of ten ain't bad

Following the fat man, I found my review on Like the fat man, I get six out of ten, and this review, which to quote Jane Austen, damns me with faint praise:

Bob from Brockley writes clearly and in a very articulate way. Whether you agree with his views or not he puts them forward in an intelligent manner.

The blog has a clean design with a reasonable level of interactivity. However, this blog ranks as OK rather than outstanding although we're not quite able to put our finger on why.

Despite being ranked no.23 in the Total Politics list of Labour blogs for 2009, as the author himself admits, he's not entirely sure why as he doesn't consider himself a pro-Labour blog.

Note: Flesh also gets 6, Duncan only 5, and Modernity a whopping 7.

Update: I notice SU gets the magic 6 too, Paulie ("not quite as much of a reactionary as his bio suggests"??) is up there with Mod at 7, while Chris Dillow is ahead of the pack with 8 (probably because of all the soft porn).