Monday, August 30, 2010

The only lving boy in Crofton Park

Congratulations Jim on keeping the spot in the Total Politics green list, and to Flesh for zooming into the higher echelons. Flesh has a fantastic post on how to be a top blogger, in which I get some undeserved compliments.Like Weggis, I offer my commiserations to the downwardly mobile, including Green Ladywell and Anglo-Buddhist Combine.

Some Bob recommendations: Chris Dillow on motives and consequences in Afghanistan; Flying Rodent on the Furedi cult; JP Pagano's Normblog profile; Max Dunbar on the illusion of realism; A machine with a single spring - on Hegal and Pol Pot; Carl on The Labour club in the age of austerity; Hans Kundnani on the new left and the neocons; Robert S Wistrich on Trotsky's Jewish question; Ze'ev Avrami on when Leonard Cohen sings; China - trouble in the world's sweatshops; Harpy sez Keep Libraries PublicA Kurdish village governed by none; Phil Dickens on anarchism and the middle class; Oona King in conversation with David Aaronovitch (from Oona's "cringe-making" blog).

Some on the English Defence League: Modernity imagines being a British neo-fascist (explained here); "Malatesta" on the EDL, Bradford and anti-Asianism; Phil Dickens on Hope not Hate; AWL on the EDL threat; Street fighting for the establishment.

More Jogo recommendations: Terry Teachout on David Mamet; Rich man needed to save Yiddish

And here's a different Bob, Jim Bob, originally of Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, singing "The Only Living Boy in New Cross" acoustically. Not great sound quality, alas. (Via comments at a post on this song at Transpontine.)

Jim Bob cooking the Only Living Boy from Jonathan Main on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Triangulating Bobism 1: Harryism and indecency

“Bob seems like a reasonable sort” - Andy Newman.

This post is the first of three planned oblique attempts to address the core contradictions at the heart of the Bob project, as well as to respond to some of the discussions at my more heated comment threads, such as this one, this one and this one. It starts with a report on a recent and not particularly important spat amongst the leftover remains of the British anti-racist movement carried out in the courts and in the blogosphere, amongst three of the heavier hitters of the UK-based but internationally read left bloggers, Harry’s Place, Andy Newman’s Socialist Unity and Richard Seymour’s Lenin’s Tomb. This spat is a good occasion to reflect on the meaning of “decency” and “indecency” in politics. In reflecting on this, the post touches on three areas: the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, the war on terror, and the etiquette of debate, with a kind of footnote on the anti-racist movement. All of these are illustrated with examples from British fringe politics of the 1990s and thus have a slightly autobiographical element, although I’ve done my best to keep self-indulgence to a minimum. I realise that the coherence of these elements might not be immediately apparent, but I would genuinely appreciate your responses, even if you only read part of it.

Hitch, Fitz and Harry
Let’s begin, though, with Christopher Hitchens, a key figure in the issues to be raised in what follows. The next two paragraphs are extracted from Poumista. [Carl P has] a piece on Christopher Hitchens and prayer and Andrew Coates has a long and very good review of Christopher Hitchens’ Hitch 22. This provokes quite a long comment thread, involving our comrades Mick Hall and Mike Ezra, who recounts the debate in a post at Harry’s Place entitled A Debate with the Indecent Left. The Coatesy comment thread, unlike more or less any at Harry’s Place, is well worth reading.

Meanwhile, as Carl informs me, a furore has raged in the pokier corners of the leftiesphere about said Place, specifically the association with it of one Terry FitzPatrick, street-fighting man, veteran anti-racist and, erm, bon viveur, recently arrested for racism in relation to statements made to Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote and Lee Jasper, black liberation tsar. (When I lived in Brixton, Jasper’s names featured prominently in local graffiti, which described him as a police informer, on which I will not pass comment). Here‘s Andrew again, but more relevant are posts by Richard SeymourLee Jasper and especially this series at Socialist Unity: 1234Here are the charges against Fitz, to which he is pleading not guilty. I won’t weigh in on this debate... except to note that Woolley and Jasper’s faith in bourgeois law as a tool to punish alleged racists is rather in contradiction to their disregard for due process in making a big deal of this before the court rules – in contrast, say, to Paul Stott, an anarchist who prefers not to upset the legal proceedings.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

From Bob's archive: Bono is a pajero

This is the last item from my archive which I'm scheduling while I'm away. It's from May 2006 - seems an age away. Back soon.

The appalling singer Bono has made the news this week for giving George Bush an IPod and a Bible and has turned campaigning journalist. Here's Reuters AlertNet's newblog:

He jumped from music to political activism and then advertising - Bono's latest career move is into the editor's seat of British daily newspaper The Independent.
Lots of good stuff putting Africa's issues at the top of the agenda. But cut to the end:

There's a feature on mobile phones in Africa, but then you might also notice an article about the RED phone which raises a few questions about the lines between political campaigning, advertising and corporate profit. The RED phone is part of Bono's campaign to enlist global business in the fight against HIV/AIDS. So if you pay $280 for a new RED phone, $19 plus 5 percent of call revenues will go to the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria. And the other $261? I'd rather not give the companies extra advertising by mentioning them here.
The Alertnet blog took up the issue the next day, linking to a great piece in the Telegraph Newsblog, nicely entitled "putting journalistic integrity in the red":

Reading the finished newspaper this morning, I have to say that it looks worse than a mere publicity stunt; it's a sales pitch for Red, the organisation set up by Bono and others to provide money for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria..
As Red's website points out, it is not a charity but a "commercial initiative" and as such it is associated with some pretty high profile brands... the Independent has sold out its editorial to push Bono's aims and, by extension, his commercial partners.
If you don't have time to read the whole thing, here's the final coup de grace:

It looks to me like the big winners are, in order, Bono's ego, Bono's corporate sponsors, Bono's op-ed writing mates and, just possibly, the charities these forces are backing.
So far, I haven't seen anyone making te connection between Bono's corporate buddies and the deaths in the Congo caused by the voracious mineral mining needs of the mobile phone industry. This is from, ironically, an Independent article (cited here):

The trade in coltan, a rare mineral used in computers and mobile phones, had social effects “akin to slavery”, the panel said. But no Western government had investigated the companies alleged to have links with such abuses. Some, including ones from the UK, US, Belgium and Germany, had lobbied to have their companies' names cleared from the “list of shame”.
(See also herehere.)

Back to AlertNet:

Moving on to another commercial partnership, the car company which has built its image around safety is teaming up with a group of humanitarian agencies who focus on road safety in the aid world. Volvo is planning to help the Fleet Forum analyse traffic accidents and make recommendations for action. It all sounds logical - Volvo has been conducting accident research since 1969 - but you can't help wondering if someone at the company is hoping this might be a way into the aid vehicle market. Most of the aid world's ubiquitous white four-wheel drives seem to be Toyotas or the hilariously named Mitsubishi Pajero. Ask a Spanish-speaker what "pajero" means.
Pajero, for those not in the know, means wanker, "from paja meaning ‘wank’ (literally, ‘straw’), in the expression hacerse una paja, (literally ‘to do oneself a straw’)" (ref).

A comment by Himalayan Bamboo on a Winds of Change blog post about Afghanistan's "Toyota Taliban" says:

Same s**t here in Nepal. The 4WD Mitsubishi Pajero even gave name to a political/aid-people clas: PAJEROBAD (Rule of the Pajero). The Nepalis are good at this: already in 1991 they enriched the world's vocabulary withDEMOCRAZY.
My blood boils when I see the HUGE white SUVs driving by (living on a road to Nagarkot, popular resort E of KTM), with diff. logos: WFP, UNDP, UNICEF (yeah, the children' fond: the car full of children, yeah, the bureaucrats' own!). I always suspected 90% of the foreign aid doesn't get past Ring Road. I was wrong - there is a new study by a nepali researcher: it's only 80%!!!
Abolish and rebuild UN, so the price of admission is democracy, we cannot sit in the same Assembly with canibals and butchers.
(See also my previous posts on this sort of thing: Live8/G8/Black Bloc, and Coldplay, Gwyneth Paltrow, the glitz-based community and the axis of edginess (these are probably two of the better posts on this blog, if I may say so.))

Monday, August 09, 2010

From Bob's archive: Sylvia Pankhurst and the House of Lords

I am continuing to post stuff from my archive while I'm away. This was from March 2006. Comments, as always, welcome. I believe the campaign for the memorial remains unsuccessful. 

There is a campaign to put a statue of Sylvia Pankhurst, the great suffragette leader and radical campaigner, on College Green in Westminster, outside the House of Lords. This is being resisted by the reactionary old codgers in the Lords.

Here’s the Guardian report:
‘The words "Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee" do not have a ring of militant fervor, and yet to achieve its aims, members may need to adopt some of the tactics of its namesake. The Lords Administration and Works Committee - a bunch of hereditary male peers - has refused to allow a statue of the pioneering suffragette to be erected in Westminster. For those who believe that Pankhurst was the greatest feminist of her generation, this is an insult to the sisterhood.’
Sylvia is someone I massively admire (when I added the “heroes” section to my link list over to the right [now over to the left!] earlier this year, I made sure to include her), so you might expect me to support this campaign.

New Labour MP Vera Baird says
”Sylvia was the greatest democrat of all the suffragettes... "The statue should stand near to the parliament she worked and suffered for. It is a disgrace that these unelected peers fail to see what pride and inspiration women would get from such a great memorial."
In fact, I think that it is an insult to a woman who had nothing but scorn for the parliamentary system.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

From Bob's archive: Folk Marxism and American political culture

This is another one from the archive while I'm away. It got zero comments when I posted it in February 2006, so I would appreciate feedback. I have added a conclusion, which hopefully makes it more coherent, although I have my doubts.

Economist Arnold Kling has written an interesting two-part piece in TCS Daily on how thinkers influence us through the folk versions of their beliefs. Jogo sent me the second part with the simple instruction “blog this”. I’m going to comply with that instruction, because I found the piece wrong on so many levels.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Gnome Chomsky 9: Psychadelic

Scheduling this post to continue the series while I'm away.

From A Love For Art:

You'll be pleased to hear we're nearing the end of the series now.