Saturday, December 22, 2007

Blair Derangement Syndrome - An example from A.C. Grayling

Jeff Weintraub: Blair Derangement Syndrome - An example from A.C. Grayling:
"Here in the US we have had to contend for a decade and a half with the peculiar phenomenon of Clinton Derangement Syndrome--a pervasive, almost obsessive hatred of Bill & Hillary Clinton that seems to have infected large numbers of people toward the right side of the political spectrum (and not only them). That's not to deny that people might have good reasons to disagree with either or both of the Clintons, or even dislike them. But in a great many cases the intensity of this hatred is not just irrational but, I must confess, inexplicable. Of course, the fact that CDS is irrational and often outright delusional (here is one especially ludicrous recent example) does not prevent it from beng a significant social fact that has had a real impact on US politics and may do so again.

Over in Great Britain, the equivalent phenomenon among wide swathes of the intelligentsia and sectors of the educated middle classes more generally is Blair Derangement Syndrome."
Read the rest.

Lots of good stuff

Lots of good stuff at the New Centrist lately. Check out: Striking guest workers in Jordan, Bangladeshi Muslim stepping up against antisemitism (story from Moderate Voice), Jihadi Rehab, Samuel Gompers' birthday.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

John Pilger on my dartboard

Flesh is Grass writes:
Lily Allen is allowed down - she’s not in the same league as this disgrace of a person.

Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism Cosmopolitan Reflections

30 January 2008

G2 SOAS, 7.00pm
Followed by a reception

Les Back, Professor of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London
Anthony Julius, Visiting Professor of Literature, Birkbeck, University of London
Jon Pike, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Open University
David Hirsh, Lecturer in Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London

Chaired by Charles Small, Director of YIISA and editor of the Working Paper series

Responses to:

Working Paper #1, Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA)
The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism

Tickets are strictly limited. Email

Co-hosted with the Unit for Global Justice by the Centre for Jewish Studies at SOAS and YIISA.

Rush, Hillary and Mitt

A guest post by Jogo

Well, maybe he is not stupider than many others, but when you have his media power you can say stupid things very loudly, and without contradiction. And be read and heard by millions.

Rush Limbaugh is a moron.

Of all the things I have against Hillary Clinton, the fact that she is an aging woman is not one of them.

Actually, Limbaugh may in fact be correct in his premise. But he should use his power to elevate the conversation, not to make it even more stupid.

Why are Rush Limbaugh, Karl Lagerfeld and Liza Minelli alive, while Townes van Zandt, Eva Cassidy and Gram Parsons are not?

There is no God, this should be obvious. We're on our own.


PS: Isn't Mitt Romney FABULOUS looking?

Critical Secularism: A Reintroduction for Perilous Times

Critical Secularism: A Reintroduction for Perilous Times(pdf)
An essay by Aamir Mufti on Edward Said's "secular criticism". Interesting.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ike Turner

Ike Turner was obviously not a nice human being, but what a musician! Jeff Weintraub has a perfectly pitched post about him, and MISB has four fantastic mp3s by Ike and Tina Turner. (I knew Nina Simone’s version of “Funkier Than A Mosquita's Tweeter” but didn’t know the Ike & Tina version).

Bob's beats genre keywords: soul, black music
Bob's beats artist keywords: Ike Turner, Nina Simone

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The best music of 2007

Here is part I of the official Bob From Brockley best albums of 2007. To be completely honest, there's only some of them I've heard all the way through - lots are ones I've heard bits of on the radio or via sundry downloads and streams. I'm planning to buy a bunch of them when I have time off work over the winterval.

4Hero Play With The Changes. Their warmly organic electronic music is sublime when at its best. They often work with great female soul vocalists, but their textured music lifts these singers to levels they often don’t reach in the dreadful world of contemporary soul music. Highlights: “Awakening” (featuring the wonderful Ursula Rucker), “Bed Of Roses” (featuring Jody Watley), “Morning Child” (featuring Carina Andersson). 4Hero’s remix of Nu Yorican Soul’s “Black Gold of the Sun” is part of the soundtrack to my life, and they are a great band for both remixing and being remixed; witness “Morning Child”, versioned by Massive Attack’s Daddy G among others. Analog Giant has another version, and sez: Get Playing with the Changes here. Check out more remixes like from Daddy G (of Massive Attack) here. Listen to tracks off the single here.

The Soundtrack of I'm Not There. I haven’t seen the film yet, but it sounds fascinating, and the soundtrack really makes you listen to Dylan’s music by reinterpreting it quite radically. The really stand-out track, by a mile, is “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”, a song whose covers (Clapton’s, Guns N Roses’) have become classics too, a song which you hear so many times it has been neutralised and rendered banal, like the Beatles’ songs have. Here, Anthony and the Johnsons really make you listen to it afresh, in their heart-rendingly beautiful version. Download the track at mp7. Other good tracks are "Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)" by Willie Nelson and Calexico, "One More Cup of Coffee" by Roger McGuinn and Calexico, “Just Like A Woman” by Charlotte Gainsborough and Calexico, "As I Went Out One Morning" by Mira Billotte and "Ballad of a Thin Man" by Stephen Malkmus and the Million Dollar Bashers. Yes, Calexico are one of my current favourite bands. There are also some weak tracks, like Malkmus’ “Maggie’s Farm” and Karen O’s “Highway 61”.

Herbie Hancock River: The Joni Letters/Joni Mitchell Shine. I haven’t heard these, just a few tracks that I’ve downloaded, so if anyone wants to get them for me for Christmas, feel free. River is a tribute to Joni Mitchell. What I like about it is that it’s not a tribute in the sense of a set of covers, but in the sense of being inspired by her, and thinking about music differently because of her. Unsurprisingly, been Grammy nominated, as it has the “serious, quality” aura that wins awards, that often turns me off music. And Hancock is too slick a fellow for me to really dig him, but he’s a great musician. The track I listen to a lot is the quirky spoken word “The Jungle Line” (featuring Leonard Cohen). Shine is, as far as I can tell, as good as anything Joni Mitchell has done in the last three decades. The title track is fantastic. A Tribute to Joni Mitchell was also released this year, with tracks by interesting artists like Caetano Veloso, Sufjian Stevens, and Cassandra Wilson. Audioblog links: Hero Hill: The River and the Harlem Experiment; Mainstream isn’t so bad (including “The Jungle Line”); Modern Music; Blog Critics, Shameless Complacency. Visit Herbie’s website, his label Verve Records, become his friend on MySpace, and buy the record at

Endless Highway: A Tribute to the Music of The Band. Another tribute thing. This features the Allman Brothers doing “The night they drove Ol’ Dixie Down” – how more perfect does it get than that? (mp3 from Born by the River). Otherwsie, the project is a bit too indie rock for me. Audioblog links: The Rich Girls Are Weeping (spot-on review), The Late Greats. Stream at the album’s website.

Merle Haggard Working Man’s Journey/Bluegrass Sessions. In Working Man’s Journey, one of my favourite country singers revisits his back catalogue, stripped of some of the gimmicky schmaltz that sugarcoated the more well-known versions. “Kern River”, “Are the Good Times Really Over For Good?” and “Workin' Man Blues” are my favourites. In Bluegrass Sessions, he makes a foray into old school bluegrass – but it isn’t bluegrass enough for the Grammy committee. Again, I’ve not heard the whole albums, just downloaded some tracks. Download great play lists including Haggard at Nine Bullets, Radio KGB, This recording, Good Bad and Unknown, Lonesome Music and Blogcritics.

Beastie Boys The Mix Up. The incomparable Beastie Boys purely instrumental. Over the years, as the Beasties “mature”, their instrumental tracks have become their strongest feature, so this is a treat for people like me who love the Beasties but can only listen to so much rap in one go. Great dub track “Electric Worm” and jazz-funk “Freaky Hijiki”. Stream at Brooklyn Vegan, buy from

Bettye Lavette Scene of the Crime. Betty LaVette truly is the Great Lady of Soul. How come I’d never heard of her before this year? I’m ashamed. The year has seen her being cool by pairing up with the Drive-By Truckers, a so-so Americana/rock outfit, who she way outclasses, but works well with. Actually, though, the track by her from 2007 which I really love is her version of Bruce Springsteen’s beautiful “Streets of Philadelphia” (which was itself the best thing about the dire film Philadelphia) on Song Of America. Audioblog links: Stereogum, KEXP, Large-Hearted Boy, KGB, Snuh, Brooklyn Vegan. Visit Bettye’s webpage, be her friend at MySpace, buy Scene of the Crime on

Devendra Banhart Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon. Banhart is a complete nutter, and some of his music is unlistenable, but I love it when he goes all whimsical in Spanish or Portuguese, and becomes the mutant child of Caetano Veloso, as in “Cristobal” or “Samba Vexillographica”.

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings 100 Nights. I’ll leave praising this one to Andrew.

Honourable mentions: Buddy Flett Mississippi Hill, Budos Band The Budos Band II, CéU CéU, Chromatics In the City, The Cinematic Orchestra Ma Fleur, James Blood Ulmer Bad Blood In The City: The Piety Street Sessions (for the song “Katrina”), The Harlem Experiment (see here), Keren Ann Keren Ann (great version of “Hallelujah”), Levon Helm Dirt Farmer (Favourite track: False Hearted Lover Blues. Bob links: Richard Manuel, Three Burials), Mary Chapin Carpenter The Calling, Radio Scotvoid Fae Ecosse, Spanish Harlem Orchestra United We Swing.

Look out for a second instalment of this feature before the end of 2007, featuring Mavis Staples, Oi Va Voi, Porter Wagoner and more!!

Bob's beats genre keywords: jazz, country music, hip hop, rock, soul, electronica,
Bob's beats artist keywords: Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, Sharon Jones, Levon Helm

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The lobby with REAL power

The Bald-Headed Geek asks:"With all of the obsessive focus on the 'power of the Israel Lobby', it's fascinating to me how no one at all talks about the Saudi Lobby?" An excellent question.

More from Noga.

How many social anarchists does it take to change a lightbulb?

Shagya Blog has posted a number of politico jokes, mostly lightbulb ones. Check em out.

Angela Carter/Sarf London

Sarf London « Someday I Will Treat You Good

Great Angela Carter quote. Any of my US/elsewhere readers wonder what my neighbourhood (or my manor, as we like to say) is like, read it!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

ignoblus, for the moment

A new blog for your edification: ignoblus, for the moment

I came across ignoblus on newsvine, but couldn't quite get newsvine (just like I can't quite get LiveJournal). I liked his posts there, and so am glad he is now in my part of the world wide web. Read ignoblus on: double bind antisemitism, the Martin Amis affair, and hate speech on newsvine.

Mini Me

A huge thank you to Lewisham Kate for creating this charming image of Bob From Brockley. Uncannily accurate. Here are the rest of the Lewisham bloggers.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Booze for Jews, South London

I'm feeling dead guilty, as I thought I had done this weeks ago, and looking back I realise I haven't, and have now left it until rather late. As the premier web-based news outlet focusing on both South London and Jewish issues, I have been asked to publicise the BOOZE FOR JEWS event at the Honor Oak THIS THURSDAY (which I suddenly realise is TOMORROW), which I'm hoping to go to. Here is the whole of the finely crafted press release:

An evening full of light, latkas and laughter with Bromley Reform Synagogue's ‘Southwark Triangle Group’. It will give Jews living in south east London the chance to meet informally to socialise, light Chanukah candles and sing Ma’oz Tsur.

Anyone is welcome whether you’re single, in a Jewish couple, have a non-Jewish partner or have a genuine interest in Judaism. The more the merrier!

For more details contact Harriet Posner at

A group of 20 and 30-somethings from Bromley Reform Synagogue have taken it upon themselves to flout the recent ‘lighting-up’ legislation and are arranging a Chanukah candle lighting and socialising evening on Thursday 6th December. It will be the only time you will be able to legitimately light up in a pub this winter.

The evening is the first of its kind arranged by the ‘Southwark Triangle Group’ from Bromley Reform Synagogue. It is aptly named Chanukah Booze for Jews and will take place from 8pm – 10.30pm on Thursday 6th December at the Honor Oak pub, 1 St. German’s Road, SE23. It will give Jews living in south east London the chance to meet informally to socialise, light Chanukah candles and sing Mo’az Tsur.

One of the organisers, Harriet Posner, says, “The event came about as a result of a local night out when we heard about the number of Jews in their 20s and 30s that reportedly live in the Southwark Triangle (Lewisham, Southwark and Lambeth). We thought Chanukah would be a perfect excuse to meet and get together with some fellow South-London Jews outside the usual synagogue setting, regardless of which borough they live in. Who knows, it could be the start of a Jewish social calendar to rival that of our North London neighbours!”

Rabbi Tony Hammond will be attending the event, not only to answer any questions about the Synagogue, but also help with distributing (and eating) valuable chocolate Chanukah gelt. Rabbi Hammond says, “I’m delighted that there are so many Jews in the surrounding area. I’m looking forward to having an informal setting in which to celebrate one of our traditions and to meet some of the local younger members of the Jewish community.”

We’d like to encourage everyone to join us for what we hope will be an evening full of light, latkas and laughter. Anyone is welcome whether you’re single, in a Jewish couple, have a non-Jewish partner or have a genuine interest in Judaism. The more the merrier at Chanukah Booze for Jews!


Meanwhile, the newly formed London Jewish Humanists Group is organising a humanist Hanukkah Seder, this Saturday (8 December 2007) 19:30 - 23:00 at Dizengoff Israeli Kosher Restaurant Golders Green. Phone 07921816101 for more information.

Bromley Reform shul, by the way, have been in the news recently with this moving and interesting case:
A black Jewish family from South London have been forced to delay their aliyah because of unexplained stonewalling by the Israeli authorities.

Carl and Maleka Levy — Reform converts to Judaism from Rastafarianism — had been set to begin a new life with their five daughters in Ashkelon three months ago.

Read the rest at the JC.


On a Hanukah tip (that's a word I really can't spell!), if you want to download some seasonal mp3s, how about: a dreidelicious podcast featuring The Klezmatics, Tom Lehrer and plenty more; Shirim's klezmer nutcracker suite, Woody Guthrie (and some Christmas stuff); Yo La Tengo; Nashville Pussy (not a family-friendly link to click!)*; Brigid Kaelin's "jewgrass" music; and some Ladino hip hop from last year.

*Evidently so family-un-friendly I failed to hyperlink, now rectified.

On attacking Iran (reposted, with the links this time), plus Lewisham blogger stuff

I totally failed to put in the two key hyperlinks on this post, to the publicansdecoy piece, making it slighly incomprehensible

publicansdecoy (who I failed to meet at the Lewisham bloggers meet-up last week, which I couldn't make) on the allegedly imminent US attack on Iran. Good stuff.

Also, go vote in the Arsehole of the Year contest.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Cosmopolitanism or nationalism?

I've been reading David Hirsh's excellent working paper on left anti-semitism (pdf here). At some point, a proper post about it. For the moment, just one thing.

Hirsh, drawing on thinkers like Robert Fine, Hannah Arendt, Hal Draper and Isaac Deutscher, talks of his analysis as a cosmopolitan one, "a framework for doing social theory which disrupts a methodologically nationalist tendency to view the division of the world into nations as being rather more fixed than it is."Fine, he writes, describes the appeal of cosmopolitanism as having to do with the idea that "human beings can belong anywhere, humanity has shared predicaments and … we find our community with others in exploring how these predicaments can be faced in common."

That's certainly a position I would endorse.


Jogo sent me this extaordinary piece on that paranoid delusional megalomaniac George Galloway, calling the police because two journalists who went to see him turned out to be agents of ZOG, the Zionist Entity (that's how he saw it). Listen to the audio clip.

Gorgeous George sets out his vision for what counts as just and understandable suicide bombing (settlers, soldiers) and what counts as unjust (pizza joints). He sees Hamas as a perfectly legitimate national liberation movement. Etc etc.

The thing I want to draw your attention to is in these passages:

Galloway explained Osama bin Laden is a terrorist since the al-Qaida chieftain, whom Galloway claimed was "armed and financed by the U.S." in the 1970s and 1980s, is a "pan-Islamic, nihilistic leader leading a nihilistic organization which seeks to bring about the collapse of national states and re-emergence of the caliphate."
Galloway stated Hamas, by contrast, is not a terror group:
"[Hamas] wants to liberate their country, which has been illegally occupied, and to reassemble their nation, which has been scattered to the four winds. That's an entirely legitimate goal," he said.

I have commented before on Galloway's racial nationalist worldview: a vision of a world divided into nation-states, each ruled by a fuhrer figure like, say, Hugo Chavez or George Galloway. This illustrates it perfectly: national(ist) movements good/global movements bad.

Galloway's nationalist methodology is of course just a slightly more extreme version of the nationally-minded "anti-imperialism" of much of the post-Cold War left: an internationalism which is not cosmopolitan but rather "inter-nationalist".

Within the Marxist left, this sort of "inter-nationalism" gets its authority from Lenin's belief in national self-determination as a fundamental right of nation-states (against Rosa Luxembourg's cosmopolitan view). There were a couple of steps from Lenin's views to Stalin's dogmatic, simplistic version of it, and then another couple of steps to Stalin's WWII embrace of Greater Russian nationalism and increasingly paranoid post-WWII obsession with the scourge of rootless cosmopolitanism. Increasingly, since the end of the Cold War, the "anti-imperialist" worldview has become even more theoretically impoverished, and able to embrace all and any reactionary movement that manages to portray itself as anti-imperialist, whether that is Milosovic's Serbian nationalism, Chavez's authoritarian nationalism or, as in this case, the theocratic-fascist Hamas.

This embrace of the nation-state as the ground for "resistance" to globalized capital, and the consequent demonisation of the figure of the cosmopolitan, serves as a common rallying point for the rococco left, Third Worldists, conservative European anti-Americans (like Jacques Chirac and Rowan Williams), and the far right . Galloway, in all the incoherence of his politics, exemplifies this convergence.


Bonus links: Judeosphere: Galloway's definition of terrorism, Revolutionary Times: Anti-imperialism and Third Worldism, Judeosphere: The anti-imperialism of fools, Flesh is Grass: Mousawi at A World Without War.

Tuesday miscellany: the Israel lobby, conspiracy theories and the left-right convergence

Two nuggets courtesy of Engage:

1. Jan Langehein of Jungle World spells out the Anti-German position for English readers in Shift magazine. Shift, now on issue 1, seems like an interesting venture, with a critical take on the "liberal hardcore" who hi-jacked the climate camp and the use of the anti-G8 movement by the far right. Looks like a similar kind of project to Three-Way Fight. [Actually, having just posted this, I notice that the Rob Augman piece on the G8 movement is the one I linked to a different version of, via Three-Way Fight, back in August.]

2. Frank Furedi on Walt and Mearsheimer: Is Israel the organ-grinder?
I have always loathed Furedi, as I've loathed all his fellow ex-RCPers, but I find myself agreeing with him a lot these days. However, after posting this, I read this by Will and thought twice about leaving it up...

Also, remaining on the theme of Israel lobby conspiracy theories, I was a bit disturbed to read Labour councillor Bob Piper, generally a sensible chap, indulge in this sort of bullshit.

Another Hugo Chavez post

I know this post is no substitute for reasoned commentary on the failure of Chavez's constitutional yes vote, but...

Two items sent in by Jogo:
"1. The Useful Idiots don't care about Los Caracas Nine.
But you might ... if you read this.

2. The Nation has lately been cautious in its writing about Chavez because they cannot quite figure out how to spin him in a truly progressive direction. Certainly you will read nothing in The Nation today anything like this fawning, triumphant shit written a year ago (from "The Land of Chavismo") by Chesa Boudin, the clone-son of homicidal maniac Kathy Boudin, herself the spawn of commie-lawyer Leonard Boudin. A veritable dynasty of wickedness."
And here is Matt Zeitlin: Chavez and history

And here are two more, Terry Glavin and Bald-Headed Geek, via Contentious Centrist.

Three for the blogroll

I am very honoured to be added to the blogroll of Greater Surbiton, a blog I strongly recommend. I half a long, half-written post responding to a couple of things on it, so I'll have to hurry up and finish them...

I also realise that I haven't yet added The Bald-Headed Geek to my link list, which I've been meaning to do for a while. I will do.

I also notice I have made Splintered Sunrise's blogroll, another link I will happliy reciprocate.

It pleases me to be linked to by bloggers from such a range of positions on the political spectrum!

Monday, December 03, 2007

London songs

WFMU's Beware of the Blog: 365 Days #337 - The London Nobody Knows (mp3s)
A couple of Sarf London ones, including Catford's own Spike Milligan, Dick Emery's "Bermondsey" and a dreadful version of Lambeth Walk.

P.S. More from Transpontine.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The ABC of "anti-imperialism"?

My debate with Southpawpunch on British imperialism versus Soviet totalitarianism continues. Clicking around the relevant links, I followed a link from Histomat to Lenin's Tomb, and this post: The ABC of anti-imperialism. The post argues against criticising the oppressiveness of Iran's current regime, because Iran is at risk of attack from America.
When an imperialist country is threatening to attack a less powerful country, anti-imperialists everywhere must focus all their energies on preventing the imperialist country from starting a war by aiming all their political firepower on the imperialist country. This is to recognise the difference in their respective capacities to exploit and oppress people around the world. This is particularly true if you happen to be living in either an imperialist country or a nation that supports an imperialist power. To criticise both the imperialist country and the country they are threatening equally is to re-enforce the inbuilt inequality in the situation and thus to favour the imperialist power. It is always in the interests of anti-imperialists to see the imperialist power defeated. Any defeat for any imperialist power is a blow against imperialism in general.

Thus the defeat of the Israeli Army (IDF) by Hezbollah last year should be seen as a victory for anti-imperialism regardless of any criticisms you may have of Hezbollah. Many of us gave Hezbollah unconditional, but not uncritical, support.
I couldn't disagree with this position more. If my daughter gets beaten up every day on the playground by a large, violent bully, and then one day the bully is beaten up by a larger kid, I am not tempted to rush to the defence of the bully. (In this case, of course, the position of my daughter is occupied by the citizens of Iran, not least the women of Iran and the working class of Iran.) Unconditional support for regional imperial powers like Iran or for fascist rackets like Hizbollah is a dangerous, reactionary, stupid policy.

The ridiculous Leninist "unconditional but not uncritical support" formula should have been thrown away long ago. It is a prime example of the bankruptcy of the movement that calls itself "anti-imperialist".

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Blake day

William Blake is one of my heroes. A great post by V about him here: "Prophet of Freedom".

P.s. More from Jams and Neil.

The demise of Respect as literary effort

Version 1: Madame Miaow, in the style of Milton's Paradise Lost.

Version 2: Splintered Sunrise, in the style of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

George Orwell: state tout or anti-Stalinist hero?

I have added a long comment about George Orwell's fingering of Stalinist fellow travellers to the British state just before he died, to this post, in response to a comment by Southpawpunch accusing me of Stalinist tactics and bad spelling. You might or might not want to read it.

As a Histomatist post inspired the original post, you might care to visit these two other posts there: Deutscher on the importance of class struggle (as we've been talking about Isaac Deutscher here too [talking of bad spelling...]) and a notice about the forthcoming Black Jacobins Conference, as I put CLR James and Orwell in very similar places in my mental filing cabinet. (The Deutcher thing leads on to this piece by Mike Davis, who also cropped up in this post.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Rowan Williams on good and bad imperialism

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has managed to get himself into the headlines again with another inane comment on foreign policy. Here are the controversial comments:
America seems so intrinsically involved in everything. The Archbishop recognises that: “We have only one global hegemonic power at the moment.” But, he propounds, “It is not accumulating territory; it is trying to accumulate influence and control. That’s not working.” Far from seeing this positively, he describes it as “the worst of all worlds,” saying, “it is one thing to take over a territory and then pour energy and resources into administering it and normalising it. Rightly or wrongly that’s what the British Empire did – in India for example. It is another thing to go in on the assumption that a quick burst of violent action will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on and other people will put things back together –Iraq for example.”
His whole interview (in the glossy Muslim "lifestyle" magazine Emel) is worth reading in full (here it is, found via Ekklesia), because the comment on American power and British imperlism is only one small part in an actually fairly far-ranging and thoughtful discussion.

Not suprisingly, though, I am going to focus on the controversial bit.

In particular, the positive depiction of British imperialism is outrageous. The balance sheet of the British empire is incredibly poor. Starting with the plantations in Ireland and mass appropriations of land from Irish farmers, condemning them to generations of poverty, moving on to the role of the Empire in the slave trade (3.5 million African slaves to the Americas, a third of all slaves transported across the Atlantic).

And in India, Williams' model, there was the privatised and unaccountable system of plundering India's wealth under the East India Company, which makes Halliburton and Blackwater and the private contractors in Iraq look like charities. The East India Company habitually used torture against Indian people and forced farmers to convert from subsistence crops to cash crops for export, resulting in horrific starvation. They destroted Indian industry by flooding the market with cheap goods, the market being rigged by a system of duties and subsidies. And this was nothing compared to the thirty or forty million peasants who died in the British-induced famines that Mike Davis describes in his grim highly recommmended Late Victorian Holocausts.

As for the British Empire and Iraq...Well, it was off course the British who, rather than diligently and thoughtfully "pouring energy and resources into administering it and normalising it", Britain invented it out of thin air, combining three Ottoman provinces that had little in common with each other culturally or linguistically. Britain proceded to pump oil and wealth out of the country, through the Turkish Petroleum Company. More seriously, Britain bombed Kurdish and Arab uprisings. (Churchill famously advocated using chemical weapons against the "uncivilised" Kurdish tribes.) [More here.]

So what allows someone of Williams' intellectual stature to be so stupid? I don't have enough knowledge of or interest in the Archbishop to comment (Martin's very good post here gives some explanations). The fact is, Williams is not alone. An insanity has gripped Western elite opinion, rendering it unable to see with any proportion, unable to make moral judgements. America, Israel and Blair are magnified into the worst possible monsters; all other crimes are relatavised away; all good things America does are literally invisible and unthinkable for these people. As Martin points out,
Needless to say, the archbishop had little to say about America's role in liberating Kuwait from Saddam, protecting the Muslims of Bosnia and Kosovo, or rescuing Afghanistan from the repressive grip of the Taliban.
Williams is blind to the inter-imperialist rivalries that mean that America as a "global hegemon" is in active competition with other powers, not least China, Russia and Europe, who severely curtail America's ability to act on the global stage.

This worldview speaks a radical language ("global hegemon"). It is endemic amongst people who like to think of themselves as liberal or even radical. But it is essentially conservative. The Archbishop's idiotic nostalgia for the terrorist regime that was the British Empire is intimately related to his anti-Americanism. As with the likes of Chirac, this is the politics of reaction, not the politics of emancipation. Hence its easy alliances with Islamic theocrats and other reactionary forces.

P.S. Was I wrong to use the word terrorist in the last paragraph? Possibly. See comments at Snoopy's blog.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Cosmopolitan intent: two appeals

1. Az Theatre is showing Life on the Borderline, a play by a young Iraqi Kurdish refugee, at four venues in London 27 November-2 December, including the Albany in Deptford on Wednesday 28th. (Flier pdf)

2. Sam Harris is publicising the launch of the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Security Trust, to protect this brave woman. More here. (Via Snarkmithy. Read more on Hirsi Ali at Greater Surbiton.)

What's in a name: Islam, Islamism, Jihadism

Two related things:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Today's blog is brought to you by the letter B

Moly's Blog gives us the low-down on the best blogs beginning with the letter 'B'. I'm pleased to be included in the list, which I reproduce here:
*The Balkan Anarchist blog has an extensive discussion about the Serbo-Croat language and its dialects. Great for anybody with an interest in languages and the Slavic ones in particular. Entitled 'Divanimo naski' (Don't ask me to translate-but the article is in English). Much of this was way over Molly's head as the only Slavic language that she has a "travelling acquaintance" with is Czech, with a smattering of Russian and Ukrainian. Still, a very informed presentation.
*Balkan Baby has an article entitled (take a deep breath) 'I Wanted Freedom. Bound and Restricted, I Tried to Give You Up, But I'm Addicted'. Whatever it may sound like it's all about the situation in Kosovo and well worth reading.
*Janet Biehl's blog continues the presentation of her graphic novel about the life of Murray Bookchin with an aside into the politics of the 1930s ala Stalin's machinations.
*Bill Bumpus continues to present the latest news about the IWW, along with an ever fresh selection of general labour news. Great site to help you keep up with things wobbly.
*The Blork Blog has an interesting piece about the new Airbus A380 airplane and its overstated claims to "green credentials". A great piece of myth-busting.
*The Blue Voice has an useful links reference to Joschka Fisher's (the ex-leader of the German Greens) more recent writings.
*Bob From Brockley reprints a piece from Venezuelan anarchists critical of the Chavez regime. The title is 'Hallucinating the Bolivarian Revolution'.
*Butt Darling has a report from the recent No-Borders camp on the US-Mexico border entitled 'Lost Patrol'. Find out what went down down there.
That's it for now. See you at the C.
Bob adds: I liked this attack on the word "analysis" at Molly'sBlog. This post at Balkan Baby made losing to Croatia at the football even harder. I loved Janet Biehl's graphic novel series, perfect for the blog format, can't believe I never saw it before. I've also never seen Butt Darling before, but there is some interesting stuff there about Islamo-fascism in Chechnya, and the failure of the statist left to respond.


Meanwhile, Jim Jay asks you to vote for the people's choice of best green blogs of 2007. From my manor, Green Ladywell is a contender.

Does the left learn?

New Centrist has an excellent post, starting from the Mitchell Cohen essay mentioned here, and addressing the same question that Marko Attila H's first couple of blog posts also raises, and the question worried away at in the meme that included this post, namely: is the left worth saving from itself or should it be left to rot?


Transmontanus has a post about a similar issue, prompted by Zizek's recent LRB essay. He (Terry) responds to Hoare's fairwell to the left thus:
Fighting words, so fair play to him, but to be really fair you'd have to concede that there is a "Left" that is anti-capitalist but is still capable of facing the facts Hoare demands we face. For starters, you could read "Against the Anti-Globalization Critiques" or this treatise, "Regional War in the Mid-East Calls for Class Struggle and Solidarity with Israel." Even the "anti-war" movement has clear thinkers: here's an anti-war movement I can really get behind.

The Contentious Centrist has given us links to places she has commented lately, including the above-mentioned post. These are very worth reading.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Who should decide who makes a good Jew?

Another thought-provoking and wonderfully written piece by Noga on what Anne Carson calls "the economy of the unlost" and the shrinking of meaning of terms (complete, of course, with obligatory Arendt quote). The starting point of the piece is the question of whether David Hirsh should or shouldn't be called a "loyal Jew" or an "ultra-Zionist" provoked by the Gilad Atzmon piece referred to here.

I still have to make up my mind about this, because I share Hirsh's distaste for the parade of progressive secular Jews (Klugs, Roses, Finks and so on) denouncing the views of most Jews while "speaking as a Jew".

P.S. Isaac Deutscher's "Non-Jewish Jew" essay is the licence the Klug-Roses use, and some day I may get around to writing up my critique of Deutscher.

P.P.S. I have terrible trouble spelling Deutscher's name, just as most people seem to have terrible trouble with David Hirsh's!

P.P.S. This relates, of course, to the whole Independent Jewish Voices debate, on which read Keith Kahn-Harris at Liberal Conspiracy. (Keith previously featured here - read the comment from the Contentious One.)

Chavez: a shimmering model?

Johann Hari: Chavez must avoid the trap of dictatorship.

Personally, I think Hari is right to be sympathetic towards the Bolivarian revolution; he is right to highlight the positive dimension's of Chavez's rule; he is right to emphasize the forces of reaction arrayed against Hugo. But I think Hari does not give Chavez enough credit for his authoritarian actions. By describing the drift into dictatorship as reaction to his enemies' actions ("is there a danger Chavez will play into the hands of his critics, and become dictatorial after all?"). Hari underestimates Chavez's own megalomania and power-lust.

Finally, the notion of Venezuela as a "shimmering model of pro-poor democratic development" is pure hyperbole, and undermines Hari's claims to be an authoritative commentator on the subject.

Monday miscellany

The incomparable Ella:
  • Jim refuses to compare "spoiled, middle-class brat" Amy Winehouse with the sublime Ella Fitzgerald.

The left that doesn't learn:

Who are the Paulistas?
  • Sultan Knish dishes the dirt on the "Jews for Ron Paul" scamsters. Meanwhile, Roland takes apart the "leftists for Ron Paul" nutjobs.

The heroic resistance targets women:
  • Jim nails the gynophobic barbarity of the Iraqi insurgents.

A beacon to the world:

Another round-up:

Friday, November 16, 2007

Hallucinating the Bolivarian revolution

A truly radical perspective on Hugo Chavez, from some Latin American libertarians:
In this part of the Caribbean we don’t suffer ‘deja vú’ for the CNT-FAI of 1936 nor do we allow ourselves to be confused by the re-semantization of demagoguery. Last year 402 prisoners, coming from the popular classes, died violently in the prisons of the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’. More than 60 leaders of trade union and neighbourhood groups were in court because of their participation in strikes, blockades and demonstrations to demand their rights. As Bakunin said, the people will not feel better to see that the club with which they’re beaten with bears their own name. We, the libertarian creoles, have assumed the attitudes of any consistent anarchist: to confront power and stand side by side with the oppressed, gathering together means and ends, constructing free spaces and refusing to be either victim or tyrant. We leave the ‘tactical alliances’ and ‘critical support’, the smokescreens and mirrors to the politicians, of whom there are so many in Venezuela today, fattening their egos and bank accounts, hallucinating a 21st Century socialism that is both military and imperialist by nature, with its epicentre in Caracas.
Read the whole thing at Divergences.

Theo Bikel

Read this lovely appreciation of Theodore Bikel at Meretz USA.

Images here from:, Hippocampus Music, History Co-op, Dick Rosmini.
Bob's beats genre keywords: folk
See also: Molly Picon, Majer Bogdanski

If it's not the striking postal workers, it's the Jewish lobby

My 12th October issue of the Jewish Chronicle mysteriously arrived through my letterbox yesterday. I read it at 2 this morning suffering from insomnia. I liked Daniel Finkelstein's op-ed on Richard Dawkins' stupid and racist claim that "the Jewish lobby monopolises" US foreign policy, and Gordon Brown's stupid and racist call for "British jobs for British workers". I also found out about this video of Steve Colbert taking on Israel lobby conspiracy theorist John Mearsheimer.

More at Finkelstein's blog on Gordon Brown and the BNP: 1, 2, 3.
More on Walt and Mearsheimer at Engage, Boycotted British Academic, Judeosphere, Jeff Weintraub.

The politics of assimilation

Comment is free: The politics of assimilation
Keith Kahn-Harris' wise words on the Chief Rabbi's attack on multiculturalism.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Atzmon: A Spinoza for our times?

Read this excellent piece at Contentious Centrist about Gilad Atzmon (including obligatory Arendt refrence - a particularly beautiful one).

P.S. As Will noted in the comment, I originally posted this as "Gilad Atzmon: A Spinoza for our times". I've changed it to "Gilad Atzmon: A Spinoza for our times?" Crucial difference!

P.P.S. A good Atzmon post at Judeosphere.


Dablog by DaSLOB: One Track Mind: Randy Newman "Rednecks" (1974)

Read this thoughtful post about one of the greatest songwriters of our time. For me, the post resonates with the recent kerfuffle over Ann Coulter's supposedly (but actually not at all) anti-semitic talkshow comments, which so upset the liberal intellegentsia.

Follow the link to his post on Aaron Neville's version of Randy Newman's greatest song, "Lousiana 1927". (Both versions put in an appearance on my Katrina anniversary post, which has mp3 links if you don't know the song, but I haven't checked if they're still working.)

Bob's beats genre keywords: country music, soul
Bob's beats artist keywords: Aaron Neville, Randy Newman

Lineages of the American anti-Stalinist left

1. The new issue of the American magazine New Leader is out in pdf. Articles on Ahmenijad, Walt & Mearsheimer, Irène Némirovsky, and more. The New Leader (see also here) has its roots in the Socialist Party of America, the anti-Stalinist democratic socialist organisation of which Irving Howe was a member, which (in Trotskyism's "French turn") was entered by Max Shachtman, CLR James and other Trotskyists. It is now thoroughly in the "decent left"/centrist/social democratic section of the spectrum.

2. I know this is old in blog terms, but I've got a backlog to clear, and it follows on from the more current preceding material: Matt Zeitlin has a very interesting post, that takes as its starting point this interesting review of Irving Howe's biography of Leon Trotsky, on why Trotsky was so influential on the American left, and why it matters.

Previous: Bayard Rustin; Orwell's legacy; Wikipedia & the anti-Stalinist left; Seymour Martin Lipset; Leo Strauss; Social democratic New York.

More reading

Some great stuff in the new Dissent:
And a couple of interesting things in WSJ:
The first of those comes from Azure. There you can find:
Cap tips: Arieh and Jogo

A couple more on Chavez

Two more posts on Hugo Chavez, this time on his brutal repression of the Venezuelan pro-democracy movement: Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, writing (in charmingly odd English) at Moderate Voice, and Civatensis, on the hypocrisy of Hugo's use of the word "fascist".

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Chomsky on Chavez

In a similar vein to my shocking realisation that I shared the views of the SWP on Hugo Chavez's Bolivarian revolution, Molly is shocked to find herself agreeing with Chomsky on the same issue. Here's a clip:
>Now Molly has to admit that she doesn't like Noam Chomsky very much. This dates back to a six month exchange in the early 90s when Molly learned exactly what Chomsky was all about in terms of the 'Third World'... All that being said, as one of the few anarchists on earth who has actually had real experience about what Chomsky is like, I have to commend him in his comments in his 78th year about Venezuela. Watching Chomsky over the decades I expected nothing more than cheerleading for Chavez and the usual childish leftist excuse for everything the dictator-to-be wants to do while blaming everything up to Chavez' hemorrhoids on the machinations of the USA. To say the least I was pleasantly surprised by a recent interview with Chomsky on Z-Net.* Yeah, some of the interview was actually quite bizarre, shading into Chomsky's view of the discontent in America today as a "pre-revolutionary" situation. That's fine. Noam hasn't had more than a "street passing" connection with ordinary Americans for almost 40 years, and his opinions are not exactly the best informed in the world. Mostly he's chummy with his academic and leftist friends and very few other people.
Read the rest here.

*16 November: I changed the link to Venezuelaanalysis, where ZNet got the interview, to deny the appalling ZNet any google juice. You can also read the interview at Divergences.

Previous: The President and the supermodel; Pilger & Chomsky on Cambodia; Chavez versus real socialists; The new Stalinism; Saluting dictators; Chavez v Pat Robertson; The Hitch and Cambodia; What's wrong with Chomsky?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Today indexed

Well, it's either feast or famine. After a relative slow period here, I had a bit of a blogging binge today, and there's too much new stuff. Here are the newer posts, plus recently updated ones, for ease of reference:

The left?

Marko Attila Hoare has started blogging, at Greater Surbiton. So far, two long posts on the meaning of the two words "the left" today (1 & 2). I'm not sure I agree with them - need to read them more thoroughly - but well worth reading.

Hugo Chavez/Ron Paul

Today's Jewish music track

I've long played with doing something with the words "Acidic Jew", and it looks like I've been beaten to it. Today's Jewish music track of sorts is Fred Doest's mash-up of Missy Elliot's "Get Your Freak On" with some ecstatic Hasidic melody. You can download the mp3 here (check the cover art) or here (along with a whole album of "ethnic" music mashed up).

Previous: Jewish cowboys etc; Yiddish Beatles; Yael Naim and the Harlem Experiment; Yiddish metal, JAP-hop, etc; Hebrew indie, Jewish exotica, etc; Hava Nagila with Harry Dean Stanton; Hybrid musics; Bagels and Bongos.

Bob's beats genre keywords: electronica

Remembrance Sunday

I am profoundly ambivalent about Remembrance Day. My father's family, like most British families, lost many men in the two world wars. My grandfather served during both wars, in the navy, having lied about his age to join up in 1914 (he was fourteen). Even at my most ultra-left, I always felt it was important to honour the working class people who were sent to die for their country.

Listening to some of the ritual from the centotaph on Sunday, though, I found myself getting angry at what seemed largely to be a celebration of the British royal family, as one after another member of that dyfunctional family was paraded before us, their subjects. (The day before, I had a conversation with Comrade Transpontine about Orwell's famous likening of England to a "family with the wrong members in charge.") I wish that I had - as in most years - just given myself a couple of minutes of private reflection.

Richard listened to the whole ceremony, and reacted very differently; maybe I should have kept the radio on.

A range of perspectives from the Contentious One, Dave Osler, Pickled Politics, Eugene P, Flesh is Grass. Featured link: Aftermath.

P.S. I missed this from Jim.

Last year's post (also linking to Dave Osler's piece), complete with soundtrack, here.

Related: Remembering 7/7, St.George's Day, Walthamstow anarchist honour the war dead.

Deconstructing Che

C/o Jogo, from Frontpage (Source)

Praise for Ahmenijad

Jogo writes:

From this morning:
The hardline president also said that Iran "could not care less" about UN Security Council resolutions aimed at halting Tehran's nuclear drive.
I salute Mahmoud.

Unlike 95% of American people, he has used the expression correctly: "COULD NOT CARE LESS." Most people say "I could care less," which is completely wrong, and the opposite of what they mean.

Bloggers with an appreciation for the finer things of life will note my observation with pleasure.

But lead-sinker, psychically depressed, doomsaying, corpse-channeling, Spectacle-obsessed bloggers might not.

The Scorpions: A Home Movie - snuff films from the war in Yugoslavia

An event worth going to:

The Scorpions: a Home Movie
3.00 pm Wednesday 21 November 2007 Small Hall, Richard Hoggart Building,
Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, London, SE14 6NW

In the summer of 1995, 8000 men and boys were murdered in and around Srebrenica region by Serbian forces. These forces included the Scorpions, a Serbian paramilitary unit active in Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo. The Scorpions filmed their activities, including the murder of six Bosnian Muslim civilians. This footage (and related evidence) was subsequently used in the war crimes trials of the Scorpions unit in The Hague and Serbia.

The Scorpions: A Home Movie uses this footage, together with statements of former members and materials recorded by the unit itself in the course of its campaigns, to explore the functioning of a typical paramilitary unit in the Balkan wars - and in other contemporary wars - and to cast light on the personal, intimate aspect of these crimes.

The first UK screening of the documentary (50 mins) will be followed by a presentation and a Q & A session by leading human rights lawyer, Natasa Kandic, Executive Director, Humanitarian Law Centre, Belgrade and producer of The Scorpions, and the acclaimed film-maker and director of the documentary, Lazar Stojanovic.

No tickets are needed to attend this event, but please reserve a place by contacting Jane Offerman (, as we anticipate high demand for places. Please note that this film contains scenes of violence and killing, and is unsuitable for young audiences. Adults may also find it distressing.

This event is supported by the Humanitarian Law Centre (, in partnership with Manchester Aid to Kosovo and its Fragile State - Art from Kosovo outreach and education programme (, and the Global Justice Unit, Goldsmiths (

For further information about this event, please go to: