Thursday, May 31, 2007

World music/Jewish music

Just had a look at Daniel's recommendations from the BBC World Music Awards line-up. Here's a couple of them:
Ghada Shbeir
Lebanese female artist singing in Andaluz / Ladino tradition. She also wrote several books on this style. A must for all people of Andalusian traditional culture. Transcended borders and transcends borders. Yasmyn Levy and Ghada Shbeir should have a gig on the Lebanese/Israeli border. Half the orchestra and audience in Israel, the other in Lebanon.

Maurice El Medioni and Roberto Rodriguez
Link on BBC
A 79 year old grand pianist, who learned boogy woogy from American GI in the 2nd world war and who is Algerian Jewish living in Marsaille and always shared a passion for Cuban music, and an Afro Cuban Percussionist interested in Jewish music. Superb!
Bob adds: Read more about him at the wonderful Benn loxu de taccu (1 & 2). And there's an MP3 or two at the bottom of this post.

More links: SoundRoots on violence, hybrid musics and Yiddish brass; on the sound of a Mediterranean without borders; and on K'naan(all include mp3s).

G8 podcasts

Get yer live G8 podcasts here.

UCU boycott: the bad news in in

I've just gotten the bad news that yesterday my union's conference voted to boycott Israeli higher education institutions, although an earlier motion holds the union to a complex and sensible procedure that means that, at worst, the boycott will not take effect for a while and, at best, the boycott may not actually be implemented at all if branch members are opposed to it (which is almost certainly the case).

Here is the press release from the union. Please check back later for more comment.
UCU response to boycott vote

30 May 2007

Delegates at the inaugural UCU congress voted this afternoon in favour of a motion calling for 'the full text of the Palestinian boycott call to all branches for information and discussion'.

The delegates earlier overwhelmingly (just one vote against) voted to accept the recommendations of a report from a body set up in the fallout of the 2005 decision by AUT to impose an academic boycott of Israel.

That interim report accepted by the union this afternoon says: 'The commission believes, after careful consideration, and noting that we are not capable of policing the academic world in a pro-active way, that triggers for actions leading to greylisting and boycott can only result from a request from a legitimate organisation within the state, or within the occupied territory or institution in question. Legitimate organisations would include a trade union movement, a recognised higher
education union or other representative organisation. Exceptionally, a decision to impose greylisting or boycotting might be taken following consultation with Education International in circumstances where legitimate organisations cannot be lawfully established within the state or institutions in question, or in circumstances where institutions or branches of institutions, are established in territories under unlawful occupation as defined by UN resolutions.

'It is recognised that this is a difficult area. We are aware of great wrongs being committed throughout the world against colleagues in other countries. But there is always a balance to be drawn between boycotting and damaging those colleagues in the hope that the state will address the harm that it is inflicting on academia, and the harm that the boycott itself inflicts on academia.'

Responding to the votes this afternoon, UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'As I have made clear in the past, and as I reiterated on the floor of congress this morning, I do not believe a boycott is supported by the majority of UCU members, nor do I believe that members see it is a priority for the union.

'Today's motion on boycott means all branches now have a responsibility to consulate [sic] all of their members on the issue and I believe that every member should have the opportunity to have their say. The earlier motion means that any future calls for a boycott must pass key tests before a boycott can implemented.'

More links (I'll add through the day)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The assassination of Khalil al-Zahawi

Another guest post by Jogo

The assassination of Khalil al-Zahawi was reported on BBC. If you google the man's name you will find pages upon pages of results, all containing the words "world's most revered Islamic calligrapher shot dead."

A few interesting observations:

* I tried to find -- beyond the news that he had been killed -- SOMETHING about HIM (you know, such as websites about him, as you'd think there would be about a man of his stature). I scanned a hundred google-returns. Result: NOTHING. It is as though his death made news, but not his life. You will find plenty on the Internet about other Islamic calligraphers ... but not about this gentle and harmless man, presumed to be the greatest of them. To me, that's inexplicable and weird. Was he so modest that he worked completely in a hermetic spiritual realm that never crossed over into secular realms -- even sec-scholarly or sec-calligraphic realms? ..... or what?

* As I say, dozens of Internet sources reported (or recycled the same story of) al-Zahawi's death -- even islamonline, and a Tunisian guy's blog that I read. But there was nothing about it in the Guardian, the NY Times, the Washington Post or the Times UK. Not one word. Not even on a back page. I searched and searched. This is weird, too.

* Someone posted the story on, a widely read far-left netroots blog of dailykos/Cindy Sheehan ilk. The "reader comments" were vile and disheartening. For the majority (almost all, actually), the death of Khalil al-Zahawi was not something to mourn. None expressed the slightest grief for him. None raised the remote possibility that this "insurgency" in Iraq might be a vicious and primitive anti-cultural and evil force, like Red Guards or Khmer Rouge, and that Leftists ought to be condemning it furiously. Some even joked about the matter.
No, the fixation of the posters was almost entirely on Amerika and Bush. As though BUSH had caused this to happen. Again, no AGENCY, no such thing as human wickedness, only the sinister tentacles of Bush. Brown (even Olive) people have no Agency -- they are but puppet-agents of the world's most sinister evil agent, Bush.

Well, you know how I feel about this kind of thing. There is a deep and strong current within the activist American Left that is (if you're looking for equivalencies) the moral and intellectual equivalent of anything on the dreaded Christian Right (barring the reverse-iconic clown Fred Phelps, of course).

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Clarification 1: the boycott of Israel

(Following comments by Renegade Eye and Brockley Nick, I'm clarifying my position on the boycotting of Israel.)

A boycott is indeed a difficult thing to pull off. Economic boycotts - not buying Israeli products - or divestment campaigns - don't invest in Israeli firms - are complex enough. But cultural boycotts, academic boycotts, humanitarian boycotts (effectively what the anti-Zionist doctors are proposing) and news embargoes (effectively what the NUJ anti-Zionists are proposing) are even more complicated, and arguably are extremely counter-productive in that they target the places where hopes for peace are located.

I do not think that the Israeli state has an admirable human rights record, and if my union had a consistent international policy that said we will boycott all states that commit a certain set of clearly defined humanitarian abuses, and Israel happened to be one of them, then I’d probably support the boycott.

But Israel has been singled out wrongly here. Look at any one of its crimes, and they have been committed by other states too. Including, as Nick points out, the US, not to mention the UK. And when one state in the world is singled out as the source of all evil, you have to ask why.

Religion and the American right

A guest post from Jogo

From an op-ed review of the Hobsbawm lecture at Barclay's:
The discussion [between Simon Schama and Eric Hobsbawm] moved onto religion. Schama said that the collusion between the American right and fundamentalist Christianity was "not much more frightening than Islamic fundamentalism, but not much less frightening either." Hobsbawm said he thought the Persian Revolution of 1978/9 was probably comparable with the French revolution in terms of lasting significance.
Schama is nuts. The Am-Right/Christian axis is obnoxious, but it's not permanent. It is overturnable by elections -- and very likely will be overturned. Not only that, at least 50% of American people don't agree with it, and aren't afraid to say so. Christian-Mockery is almost an industry in this country. There is no Am-Right/Christian police force. We don't have Brixton Mosques here, we don't have Izzadeens running around.

Well, I mean, we do have Brixton Mosques and Izzadeens, but not the Christian equivalents of them. Jerry Falwell was NOT an Izzadeen. Anyone who thinks that he was, doesn't have the right to call himself a social observer of depth, quality and subtlety.

Not only that, the Am-Right is not entirely on the Christian program. McCain isn't. Giuliani isn't. The National Review and Weekly Standard aren't. Horowitz isn't. Lot's of 'em aren't. There is a Secular Right, too, don't forget.

Schama, for all his erudition, is one of those Jewish secularists whose fear of Christianity blinds his reason. With their shallow Christian/Islamist equivalencies, he and his fellow liberals/jews/commieprofs, etc, will get us all killed.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Israel boycott continued

More links for yer (slight update 29 May, on the eve of the UCU conference)

Journalists boycott

The NUJ boycott: where it's at

Medical boycott

Doctors' voices against boycott

Academic boycott

Less than a week until my trade union, the University and Colleges Union (UCU), will be debating a boycott of Israel at its national congress.

Sensible Israeli academics get shouted down at UEL by pro-boycotters
Professor Miriam Schlesinger of Bar Ilan University, a former head of the Israeli branch of Amnesty International, said the atmosphere was "very extreme". It was clear, she said, that the UCU members had not come to listen to the arguments, but to make speeches condemning Israel.

The professor, who in 2002 was removed from the editorial advisory board of an academic journal at the University of Manchester’s Institute of Science and Technology because of her nationality, said: "A boycott against Israel will achieve no useful purpose." Dr Jonathan Rynhold, a lecturer in politics, said that the meeting at East London had an undercurrent of hostility.
Here's a report of the visit by the same delegation to Brighton university, another boycott stronghhold. And here's the anti-boycott material they have prepared.

Extra link: slightly hyperbolic editorial in Ha'aretz

The Rolling Stones

One final boycott target: the Rolling Stones.

More resources

(Hat tips: Arieh, also Keith)

Heroines of freedom: Haleh Esfandiari, Malalai Joya, Nilofar Bakhtiar

Haleh Esfandiari
As I reported last week, Haleh Esfandiari, Iranian dissident, is in detention in Iran. Her crime? Interogators say she has taken money from the George Soros Institute, to lead a "soft revolution" in Iran. According to The Guardian,
The accusations against Mrs Esfandiari, whose husband is Jewish, follow claims by the hardline Kayhan newspaper - thought to be close to the Iranian leadership - that she belonged to the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby group.
Her support is pretty widespread: Juan Cole, Noam Chomsky, Joe Lieberman, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama.

More from Free Haleh, OpenDemocracy, Kash Kheirkhah, Washington Post, Michael Kraig, Chapati Mystery.
Other Iran links: Marjane Satrapi the next target (from Laila Lalami); LabourStart Iran.

Malalai Joya
Malalai Joya is a member of parliament in Afghanistan, and a thorn in the side of clerical partiarchy there. She was suspended after describing the atmosphere in the Afghan parliament as "worse than a stable". Apparently, insulting politicians is illegal - although that did not stop MPs throwing water bottles at her across the floor last year and threatening to rape her, after she described some as warlords.

More from Human Rights Watch, Alas, Global Voices, Jack Layton.

Nilofar Bakhtiar
Nilofar Bakhtiar is Pakistan's tourism minister, forced to resign after a fatwa from Islamist clerics, who called her "obscene" for hugging a man in public (at a charity event for victims of the October 2005 earthquake). Apparently, and happily, either she withdrew her resignation or it was not accepted by the prime minister.

More from Sehar Time, Charlie Pottins, Sugiero,

The new Stalinism

Chavez shuts down critical media outlets - and is defended in this by paragon of civil liberties, Tariq Ali. (See TWP at Shiraz Socialist for more.) Ali makes a comparison with Death on The Rock, which essentially lost Thames TV its franchise. "Controversial, but a legal decision", says Tariq. But I remember that time well, and lefties like Ali (and me) saw that as outrageous.

Meanwhile, in Communist Vietnam, independent unions are illegal. Farm workers union leaders are in jail. Of course, veteran lefties like Ali (and me) have long stood up in solidarity with the farm workers of America, boycotting grapes when asked to. But where is the left for the Vietnamese farm workers? (Actually, of course, I'm not old enough to have boycotted grapes, but hopefully you get my meaning.)

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Three books I intend to read:

Martha Nussbaum The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future

Martha Nussbaum is one of the most thoughtful of political theorists today. Here's some tastes: 1, 2, 3. (Added: here's Nussbaum on Israel, which you can read all of if you're a Nation subscriber. Thanks to Arieh.)

Paul Mason Live Working or Die Fighting

The most important story to be told today.

Khaled Hosseini A Thousand Splendid Suns

I know this book is getting huge amounts of hype, after the runaway word of mouth success of The Kite Runner. But The Kite Runner was simply a wonderful book.

One book I have no intention of reading:

Christopher Hitchens God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

Frankly, much as I love the Hitch, I can't be bothered to read this. Hitchens is always at his most tedious when he talks about religion. (Excerpts here for my militant atheist friends).

Axis of Bob

I haven't updated my blogroll for ages, and have a bigger and bigger backlog of stuff to add. Today's special mention to A Toaster Talks, top class music blog. Currently featuring "North American Scum" by LCD Soundsystem, a nice riposte to all that hip European anti-Americanism out there!

And another for Confessions of a Closet Republican, currently piercing John Edwards' hypocrisy.

Added: and a hat tip to Nourishing Obscurity for this.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Google insanity

A bumper crop for odd google referrals lately. (As usual, hyperlinks go to posts that the search takes you to, to keep that search engine juice flowing.)

Bad blog day

I don’t know what was wrong with me on Monday. In the post I wrote about Start the Week I managed to call Clive JamesClive Anderson”, and in the post I wrote about Tony Blair’s legacy I managed to delete the paragraph that made the post make sense, turning into a grumpy, incoherent splutter. I have rewritten both, reposting and redating the Blair one – if you read it on Monday and scratched your head, please read it again - and added links to the Start the Week one.

Blah blah blah

"With Iraq inevitably casting a shadow over his legacy after a decade in Downing Street..." Daily Torygraph
With Iraq inevitably casting a shadow over his legacy after a decade in Downing Street..." - Sky News
Iraq will cast shadow on Blair's legacy" - USA Today
"Iraq war casts long shadow over Blair's tenure" - St Petersburg Times
"How Iraq cast a shadow over Blair’s foreign policy" - FT

Blah blah blah blah blah.

Two million people lifted out of of poverty? Overshadowed. Half a million children lifted out of child poverty? Overshadowed. 20% cut in unemployment? Overshadowed.

The question is: for whom are these achievements overshadowed by the war? I believe that it is not the proverbial citizen on the Clapham omnibus, but the cosseted denizens of the media village and the middle class chatterers who set their life by them. For most people, if Blair’s legacy is overshadowed by something, it is the fact that our schools and our hospitals are still fucked – the sort of day to day concerns that actually make a difference to our lives. It is only for a narrow elite that guilt about distant, abstract suffering trumps the tangible suffering of those nearby. In other words, if Iraq is Blair’s shadow, it is largely Blair’s shadow because the BBC and the broadsheets constantly tell us it is.

It is probably vain to hope that in the long run the removal of the Taliban and the Ba’athists might be seen as the high point if Blair’s legacy, but it is instrucitve that in the week that the West’s liberal press considers this his worst mistake, the democratically mandated government of Iraq calls for Gordon Brown to keep our troops in Iraq.

(And what, by the way, is Jimmy Carter's presidency remembered for?)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Without a road map

A propos of this, thanks to ModernityBlog for introducing me to this blog: Without a Road Map.

Google fights

Thanks to Will (in a Shiraz Socialist comment thread) I have discovered the joy of google fights. In the world of google fights, Bob thrashs Islamism effortlessly.

(More of this sort of thing here.)

The horror

Film reviews from Jim Jay: Spiderman, Fast Food Nation, 28 Weeks Later

The perfidy of intellectuals

An excellent Start the Week on BBC Radio 4 this morning. Clive James on intellectuals, especially French intellectuals during the Occupation, and the few intellectuals who were right about fascism and right about Stalinism (the good guys: Albert Camus, Raymond Aron, Nadezhda Mandelstam). Also Jacqueline Rose, the most interesting and thoughtful of anti-Zionists, on intellectuals in Israel/Palestine.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Free Haleh Esfandiari

Free Haleh Esfandiari

No to an academic boycott! (from HP/Norm)

Mud-slinging Zionist

Ralph Seliger does a very good job of taking apart Efraim Karsh's negative review of Sari Nusseibeh's Once Upon a Country .

I'm a half-hearted supporter, by the way, of a one-state solution. I don't see it as equivelent to destroying the Jewish state, simply absorbing it in a liberal democracy that is not exclusive to one ethnicity alone. But I realise that this aspiration is rather meaningless in the shorter term...

Nusseibeh, incidentally, is an opponent of the academic boycott of Israel.


Weintraub on Sarkoszy

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mad Maddy and the Muslims

Madeleine Bunting on Ed Husain in the Guardian at the weekend - more sensible than her usual stuff, in my view.

Jim takes her apart, though.

Take a walk with Ed here. And here's his book, The Islamist, from Amazon.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Google and Intel kill Cornish town

Apparently, the Cornish town of Penryn is dissappearing from the (virtual) world due to the evil genius of Intel (see here). In solidarity, I urge you to join me in hyperlinking to it to coax it back to life. So here we are: Penryn (and Penryn).

The bikini versus the Jew

One of the google search strings that brings people to this site, probably more than any other site, is some variation on "Segolene Royal bikini pictures" (which I've hyperlinked to the post where they go, just to keep that google juice flowing). What that says about the web and the world is quite obvious and quite banal.

Slightly odder is the large number of hits I get from google searchs along the lines of "Segolene Royal and Jews". I've noted on this sort of thing before, but it continues to strike me. The Jew, or Jews, remain an object of fascination, to Jews and non-Jews alike, that disturbs me.

It turns out, the Economist's blog notices the same thing, and that search terms that go with Sarkoszy (not having been pictured in a bikini, as far as I know) are "jew" and "juif" . Their conclusion:

More of this stuff here.

Dick Dale at 70

(This one is nothing to do with the UK election results.)

The magnificent Dick Dale is seventy today. Listen to some of his music:

Election "analysis": citizen journalists around the country

Dave Osler has a good round-up of leftie and other results.

The Daily (Maybe) has a good round-up of Green, leftie and Cambridge results.

The Bristol Blogger has the Bristol results, with some nice graphic commentary.

Matt_C has a Kidderminster result.

Luke Young has some Welsh results, from a Labour perspetive, including the dope on Trish Law, ex-Labour.

Still awaiting comment from our comrades in Brighton.

More to come. Maybe.

All my election posts: local results, villains, heroes, socialists
Last year's elections: start here
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Election "analysis": some villains

Some bad election news: Ray Mallon has won a second term as Mayor of Middlesborough. (A good advert for the directly elected mayor system eh?)

Moving on to the real villains, the BNP so far seem to have a mixed night. They've done well in Wales and in Windsor & Maidenhead, but not in the West Midlands. Unfortunately, they did win both Hugglescote and Whitick - the first seats to be won by the party in Leicestershire. Fortunately, they lost their council member on Broxbourne Borough Council in Hertfordshire.

Back to milder forms of villainry, Ken Livingstone has been confirmed as Labour's Mayoral candidate for London... (via Andrew)

And Respect kept their Preston councillor and won one in Birminghham. Full results for Respect are here, SWP analysis here. (Respect due: Respect seem to be the party with the best result reportage on their webpage.) Respect winners are: Michael Lavalette (SWP hack) in Preston, Mohammed Ishtiaq in Birmingham and Ray Holmes in Bolsover.

All my election posts: local results, villains, heroes, socialists
Last year's elections: start here
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Election "analysis": Dave Rowntree

I'm still awaiting the results for Dave Rowntree, best known to most as Blur's drummer, standing for Labour in his local ward, which has been Tory for decades. He came across really well in this Time Out interview:
‘I do local politics, not to be confused with parliamentary politics... It’s not politics for people who want a demonstration, it’s politics for people who have a problem and want to do something about it. It’s neither Blair or Brown.’

'My girlfriend’s mother was a nurse who was arrested by Saddam Hussein. My girlfriend flew round the Middle East and got her mother released. She met all the people involved – Saddam and his sons. So I got a different perspective of what was going on. My take on the war was that Saddam was a horrendous murdering dictator and thought nothing of killing his own people and at that time he had to go. I’m not a pacifist, I do believe that some things are worth fighting for, and dying for. I understand that that’s easier to say, I’m not being the one who’s asked to die, but Saddam was such an illegal ruthless bastard I didn’t shed any tears for it [the war].'

'anyone who supports Labour gets flak at the moment, but you have to take it on the chin. What I do believe in is Labour core values: social justice, richer people in society helping the poorer people in society, again all the nerdy stuff to do with what it means to be a socialist rings true for me.'
(Of course, there's also a SE London connection: he went to Goldsmiths College in New Cross.)

Update: the news is in; he didn't make it. Oh well.

All my election posts: local results, villains, heroes, socialists
Last year's elections: start here

Election "analysis": how the socialists have fared

First piece of election news to warm my heart this morning: Tommy Sheridan has lost his seat.
(Unfortunately to the SNP, but you can't, as they say, win 'em all.)

I'm less happy that Rosie Kane, of the Scottish Socialist Party, lost her seat.

Wikipedia already has the results for Scotland (thanks to one Thunderwing.)

More to come. Maybe.

All my election posts: local results, villains, heroes, socialists
Last year's elections: start here
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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Out there

Here are some of the things I've enjoyed in the last couple of days.
Added at the end of a long Friday afternoon:
  • Chris D re-assures us that mid-life crises are the beginnings of true knowledge (with quotes from Adam Smith to prove it). So that's OK then. Have a good weekend

Boycott, boycott, boycott

Here are yet more links on the various formal and proposed boycotts of Israel

  • The Stop the NUJ Boycott blog has been set up to co-ordinate the campaign against the official NUJ boycott.
  • Engage has all the latest on the NUJ boycott, including moves by ITN and BBC reporters to combat it.
  • Here's some blog comment from the excellent Bristol Blogger.
  • The Fair Play Campaign Group, set up by the Board of Deputies to combat boycott proposals, has initiated a campaign against a medical boycott, reports Something Jewish.
  • The Jewish Chronicle reports that key anti-Israel activists have been invited to a seminar with UCU leaders to formulate policy on Israel/Palestine. However, Jon Pike, who was also invited to the seminar, writes at Engage that the policy to be formulated is on developing positive, concrete solidarity with Israeli and Palestinian academics, not boycott. In other words, this is a fairly positive rather than negative development.
All my boycott posts here.

Thanks to Arieh for some of the links.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May Day post no.3: soundtrack

Here are some May Day songs:

Previous soundtracks: Marxism (Palle Carlberg), Brockleyism (Chris Inperspective), Pinochet (Victor Jara, The Clash, Songs for Katrina (Springsteen, Planxty, Willie Nelson, Randie Newman). All mp3 blogposts.

May Day post no.2: May Day around the world

Prompted by Will, I checked in with LabourStart for some Mayday news.

In Zimbabwe, the Mugabe regime is clamping down on celebrations. The trade unions remain one of the best hopes for a post-dictatorship civil society for Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, food prices rise and rise. (Mugabe, of course, is still seen as an anti-imperialist hero by some...)

In Egypt, May Day marchers are fighting the authoritarian government's continued neo-liberal drive, but also the state-controlled union leaderships.

In Nigeria, another "democratatorship", there is little to celebrate, and the police are coming down heavily on them.

In Burma, May Day is banned.

In Turkey, May Day marches have turned violent. This was the first time that workers have been allowed to march since the 1980 coup that turned Turkey into a semi-fascist state.

In Palestine, teachers are on strike, not having been paid in months, putting the continuation of the unity government in doubt.

In Macau, in the "People's" Republic of China, marchers are shot at by police.

In Iran, Tehran's workers are marching, showing great courage.

In Cambodia, the trade union movement's three main leaders have been murdered in recent months.

Bonus links: The story of May Day, Wikipedia's May day, May Day mayhem

Previous: St George's Day, Labour history: Sacco and Venzetti

Mayday post no.1: Long live Class War

Via Red Left Review, I just discovered that Ian Bone, ex of Class War, has a blog. Very entertaining stuff. For example, what have Nick Griffin, David Cameron and George Monbiot got in common?, Was Paul Foot a class traitor?, plus revelations of plenty of other Trot toffs, Labour toffs and Tory toffs.

Previous: Middle Class Kid, HezBollocks and IsRabies (London Class War),