Monday, December 21, 2009

How would you like it if I called you bilingual?

After my tussle with Gabriel Ash over Chomsky's genocide denialism, after Martin posted some fantastic Gnome Chomskies, after revelations of Chomsky's capitalist business practices, after Venezualan anarchists have described Uncle Noam as "Chavez's clown"... I felt it was time for a Noam Chomsky post. However, not having the time to write it, let's hand over to Ali G.

Just before I do (because it is related), can I recommend Michael Tomasky's take-down of Michael Moore as a "blowhard"? I got there via Martin's post on the "anti-imperialist reflex" of the "post-left" (that also applies to Chomsky). Another person taking apart the anti-imperialist left, or "Manichean left" as he calls it (and he includes Chomsky), is Michael Bérubé in his new The Left At War - read a free sample here and a review here. Angilee Shah sums up:
Bérubé pits Noam Chomsky against Stuart Hall; the divide lies between what Bérubé calls the “Manichean left,” which did not just oppose the Iraq war but supported resistance to America’s intervention, and the “democratic left,” which maintains that, though U.S. foreign policy is not always guided by virtue, there is still space for the defense of human rights in the international sphere. To put it another way, one side of the left adopted the position that state sovereignty is supreme and another said that the world has a responsibility to protect repressed people. These seemingly irreconcilable principles — both which have become hallmarks of leftist thinking — collided on 9/11. “The left suffered for decades because one branch of the family tree was willing to tolerate a certain degree of tyranny if it advanced the material well-being of the peasants or proletariat,” Bérubé writes. “The left does not now need another branch whose position on tyranny is that tyranny is bad, but tyrants can only be legitimately overthrown by their victims.”

With a Democrat in the office, about to increase troop levels in Afghanistan, this argument leaves the left in an awkward position. Can those on the left support Obama’s position even though Chomsky predicted that the war in Afghanistan would become a “silent genocide”? Bérubé is ultimately optimistic that a middle ground can be found in a “democratic-socialist, internationalist left” that encourages “a capitalism with a human face,” and insists on human rights at home and abroad.

And, finally, Scott McLemee has slaughtered another sacred cow of the post-left, Brother Cornel West. He also responds to his critics here.

So, here we are. Ali G interviews Noam Chomsky, humourless ponce.

Oh, for the sake of fairness, here are two defences of Chomsky, from Slack Andy and from Phil Dickens.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bob's beats

To add to my Hanukka tunes, here's Some Lost, Some Found's seasonal contributions: the Sounds of Raj, Yehuda Ovadya Ftyad & the Ha'Yonah Ensemble, and John Zorn's Masada project. It's all good!

A couple of blips from Flesh is Grass:
I've been regularly reporting on Locust St's wonderful history of the 20th century. 1924 is now out, but I realise I missed 1923. I particularly enjoyed these, having just finished reading the superb 1923-set Carter Beats The Devil (my third huge book in a row, after Hilary Mantel's wonderful Wolf Hall and Ma Jin's Beijing Coma). Here's an extract from 1923 (hyperlinks added to the mp3s - you'll need to be quick to catch them):
I.J. Hochman's Jewish Orchestra offer a version of the "Russian Sher" on disc. A sher is a "scissors dance," basically a type of square dance popular among Eastern European and Russian Jews in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. As with much early klezmer, the melody is carried by fiddle and clarinet, bass by tuba, rhythm by trombones. It's the Yiddish blues, straight from the shetl. This was one of Hochman's rare instrumental cuts--he was mainly an accompanist to singers like Jenny Goldstein. Recorded in December 1922 and released as OKeh 14059 c/w "Kamenetzer Bulgar."(On Klezmer 1910-1942.)

Harold Lloyd, social climber

Fiddlin' is like salvation--free and without price.

Attributed to Fiddlin' John Carson.

Fiddlin' John Carson, born in Fannin County, Georgia, three years after the Civil War ended, was a wildcat fiddler, a one-man song and dance band, a storyteller, a professional hayseed, "a defiler of tradition" (Allen Lowe) who kept 19th Century music alive. He was one of the first professional "hillbilly" musicians to record. A track from his first session, "The Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster's Gonna Crow," is a fine example of his sound--both archaic, with the music broken up by Carson's barn dance calls, and modern (the occasional dissonance when he plays "double stops," holding down two strings at once).

You may recall this story: In 1913, a 14-year-old girl named Mary Phagan was killed at her workplace, an Atlanta pencil factory. Her supervisor, a Northern Jewish man named Leo Frank, was convicted of the murder, mainly due to testimony by janitor Jim Conley (who likely was the real killer--he had been found washing stains off his shirt and he had given a series of contradictory statements). Georgia Gov. John Slaton eventually commuted Frank's death sentence.

So Fiddlin' John Carson wrote "The Ballad of Little Mary Phagan," a story of a poor girl murdered by cruel Leo Frank. He sang it at every Frank-related protest rally in a 30-mile radius of Marietta, which were many. After Frank's sentence was commuted, Carson changed the lyric to suggest that a "New York bank" had paid Gov. Slaton off.

One August day in 1915, an armed mob hauled Frank out of prison, drove him 175 miles to Marietta and lynched him. "For audacity and efficiency, it was unparalleled in southern history," C. Vann Woodward later wrote of the Frank lynching. All the day long, while Frank's corpse hung from an oak tree, Carson stood in front of the Marietta courthouse, playing his "Little Mary Phagan" over and over again, while the assembled crowd "cheered and applauded him lustily," according to a contemporary newspaper account.

Carson cut records throughout the '20s and died a happy old man in 1949.

Recorded in Atlanta ca. 14 June 1923 and released as OKeh 4890 c/w "The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane."
To finish, from the Southside. This is possibly the only song I know to namecheck my postcode (although I imagine Transpontine can tell me otherwise).

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hanukkah music

Note: Not sure why the box below only has a fraction of the songs in it visible. Will try and fix it. However, if you play the tracks, the invisible ones do actually play. Update: If you click Menu in the top left, then Go to, you can see (and play) the whole folder.

I uploaded a Hanukah mix for my virtual friend Schalom Libertad, and thought as I'd taken the trouble I'd share it with my wider on-line family. Not sure of the legality and ethicality of this - let me know if you own this music and want me to remove it. Folks, if you are inspired, try and buy the originals!

Some explanation:

"Dreidel Song" = This is Don Byron from Plays The Music Of Mickey Katz. See here.
Y-Love = African-American convert to strictly Orthodox Judaism, raps in Hebrew/Arabic/Aramaic/English.
"Miserilou" = Middle Eastern folk song made famous by Lebanese surf hero Dick Dale. This is an old Sephardic cantorial version. See here.
Oi-Va-Voi ("Balkanic" and "Yuri") = British klezmer/Balkan/drum & bass. See here. These tracks are from their self-titled second/third album.
"Matovu-Bor'chu" = a recording of a Friday night Jewish prayer ceremony in 1968, set to jazz by Herbie Hancock and Thad Jones. Info here.
"Boee" = Israeli multiculturalist Idan Raichel, here remixed by Diwon, featuring Y-Love.
Boom Pam = Israeli surf rock band.
Hop Hop Hoodios = Ladino rap.
Kutiman, Karolina & Funset = contemporary Israeli funk/soul/reggae. See here.
Soul Messengers ("Saviour...") and Tonistics ("Holding On") = Black Hebrews who migrated from Chicago to Dimona and recorded these in the early 70s. See here.
Musicmarkers Ltd = Italian disco band of the late 1970s. See here.
Kinky Friedman = standing for Governor of Texas in 2010.
Blue Fringe ("Eshet Chayil") = Dov Rosenblatt's American alt.rock band.
"My Yiddishe Mama" = the version here is Connie Francis.
"Der Galter Bulgar" = A Dave Tarras song, here recorded by Japanase klezmer band A-Muzik. See here.
Meshugga Beach Party = Jewish surf rock. See here.
"Kol Nidre" = This is the 1958 Johnny Mathis version. See here.
Rest should be reasonably self-explanatory!
"Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen" = This is the Harlem Experiment version. See here.

Want more? Klezmonauts - Xmas Yiddish; Pudie Tadow and DJ Flack - hip hop and illbient dub; a huge playlist from avante-klezmer hip hop to Christmas forro; a mostly hip hop playlist from Brooklyn Vegan; Neil Diamond; Etienne de Crécy - sacred house; Gods of Fire (for Keith); and all sorts of beautiful, mainly folksky, things from Boogie Woogie Flu.

Finally, Erran Baron Cohen featuring Y-Love (via SoundRoots)

Monday, December 07, 2009

Cut and paste thoughts on Honduras after the election

After The New Centrist (happily back to regular blogging) and Flesh is Grass posted about Honduras from different perspectives, I made some comments that I have linked to in a previous post. The New Centrist took the time to respond to my comments in an update to a second post. I am pasting here my reply to his response, although I think they stand alone, and I have tidied up some typos and added a couple of hyperlinks. Flesh is Grass has also subsequently written another post, which I liked.

I agree that the removal of Zelaya was not a coup d’etat in the classic sense. There were significant differences between the de facto government and earlier right-wing military dictatorships on the continent, although many leftist observers rushed very quickly to impose the same descriptive frame. My instincts, having been formed in the period of Contragate, the American-backed dictatorship in El Salvador, and so on, were similar, but I held them in check, and tried to find out more about the Honduras situation before taking a view. I still cannot claim any specialist knowledge about Honduras, and still do not know which sources to trust, and everything I say here (and in previous comments) should be read as heaviliy caveated.
Nonetheless, it seems to me very clear that the Honduran constitution, like many Latin American constitutions, is a contradictory document, with lots of vague terminology and lots of scope for latitude, in dire need of reform. There is also no doubt that the changes to the constitution which Zelaya proposed might have spelled a drift towards the sort of electoral authoritarianism which we see in Venezuela. On the other hand, what was actually proposed was simply a constituent assembley, and any changes it might have legislated would have occured after Zelaya’s term was over. The present constitution has been amended some two dozen times, most of these in the last decade of democratic rule, so it is not in itself problematic to seek to further reform the constitution.

The removal of Zelaya had elements which were in line with the existing constitution and elements which contradicted it. For example, his forcible expatriation was straightforwardly unconstitutional. The subsequent suspension of constitutional rights for 45 days by the de facto government was technically constitutional, but both unnecessary and against the spirit of democracy.

A formalistic or legalistic interpretation of what counts as democracy or as constutional is, in my view, inadequate. It is inadequate for two reasons. First, the importance of interlocking forms of power and privilege – the role of oligarchy – in Honduras (as in elsewhere in Central America) undermine the integrity of the interpretations of law made by key state actors: the military, judiciary, legislature and media are in the hands of a tiny number of interrelated families. Second, it is perfectly possible to constrain genuine democracy while following the formal rule of law. The many “democratatorships” across the world, from Belorussia to Iran to Venezuela, make that clear. While the problem of Latin America in the 20th century was naked military dictatorship, its problem in the 21st is electoral authoritarianism.
There seems to be an absence of decent news reportage from Honduras. There is a severe lack of international observers. The decision of the OAS and Spain not to send observers because it would have granted legitimacy to the election was a very foolish move. I have put a certain amount of faith in NarcoNews and WW4 Report, although I recognise them as partisan. Amnesty has reported a number of the abuses that these sites mention, altho I know some people see Amnesty as partisan too. See e.g.

For some of the more extreme claims I made, google Roger Iván Bados or Ramón García. I am not claiming that the de facto government directly assassinated these men, but as you know the oligarchy has not just the military and police at its disposal but also paramilitary and organised crime forces.
The lack of decent news makes knowing the turnout problematic – but so does the utter lack of transparency from those in power, who have still, I believe, not released a detailed breakdown of polling station results. When this sort of fudge comes from the Iranian authorities we are suspicious, and we should be here too.

Here are some of the accounts of turnout:
the nonprofit group that the TSE [Honduras' Supreme Electoral Tribunal] contracted to do exit polls, Fundación Hagamos Democracia (FHD), also disagreed with the official turnout projection of 61.3%. The FHD’s projection for turnout was about 47.6%, significantly lower than the 2005 turnout. At the Nov. 29 press conference, TSE magistrate Ortez Sequeira noted that the FHD’s exit polls were close to the TSE’s projections—except on the question of turnout. Skeptics also noted TSE president Saúl Escobar’s admission at the press conference that the electoral results were being delayed because of a technical problem in verifying the digitalized data. (El Tiempo, Nov. 30; Honduras Coup 2009 blog, Nov. 30)
Election officials in Honduras on Friday revised down the participation rate in controversial weekend elections from more than 60 percent to 49 percent.
An independent group of observers estimated that the turnout number was 48 percent. “Because of a lack of serious election observation, it’s difficult to know exactly what the exact numbers are,” Daniel Altschuler, an independent political analyst in Honduras told CNN. However, a CNN calculation based on official figures provided by Supreme Electoral Tribunal spokesman Roberto Reyes Pineda shows that the actual voter turnout is 56.6 percent.

Therefore, it seems that the Frente Nacional’s claims for large-scale abstention have turned out to be false, but the rulers’ claims for increased turnout and therefore secure legitimacy for the results is also false. (The Frente Nacional claim something like 60% turnout in 2005, which appears to be false, as most sources put it at around half, i.e. similar to this election.)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Peruvian fat-stealers, Turkish psych-rock, Chomsky's stocks and bonds, and much more

Peruvian fat stealers: bizarre but fascinating.

TNC's last Sunday round-up (see my comments there and at FiG on the Honduras elections).

Capitalism a love story: on the high finances of Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky.

Tired of the Israel lobby? Meet the oil lobby.

David Miliband: and Yiddishkeit.

Joel Schalit posts a mix of Turkish psychedelia to complement the stuff I posted here. Here it is, about the length of two sides of an old LP (more info here).
TurkishPsychMix by Elders of Zion

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).

Friday, October 30, 2009

When will we be paid?

Post of the week: Terry Glavin "Proximate Cause".

The BNP:
Some more posts, to add to the lists here, here and here. Johnny G: A hollow victory for the goodies. Modernity: Thinking about no platform. LGF: BNP's mask falls off. Duncan: Debating no platform. Dave Hill: Can the BNP define British? Patrick Hayes: Would the BBC give a platform to Hitler (or cut to the money quote here).

No to Shariah law! No to the EDL!

Date: Saturday 21 November 2009
Time: 1200-1400
Venue: North Carriage Drive, in-between Stanhope Place Gate and Albion Gate, Hyde Park, London (Closest underground: Marble Arch)


Confirmed speakers and performers include: Nazanin Afshin-Jam, Mina Ahadi, ‘AK47,’ Fari B, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Roy Brown, Nick Doody, AC Grayling, Goranka Gudelj, Rahila Gupta, Johann Hari, Marieme Helie-Lucas, Mehboob Khan, ‘Lilith,’ Houzan Mahmoud, Maryam Namazie, Taslima Nasrin, David Pollock, Fariborz Pooya, Terry Sanderson, Muriel Seltman, Issam Shukri, Selina aka ‘Jus1Jam,’ Sohaila Sharifi, Bahram Soroush, Hanne Stinson, Peter Tatchell and more...
For more information, contact: Tel: +44 (0) 7719166731 or
Maryam Namazie has been blogging hard, defining the politics of this movement. Read some of these:
Also read Paul Stott.

Strange alliances: I listened to the incredibly articulate Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, on the Today Programme this morning, defending Michal Kaminski, the far right Polish politician with whom David Cameron's Conservative Party is now allied. Schudrich was arguing that, yes, there are some unsavoury aspects to Kaminski, but we need to "understand" him in the round. The key thing is that he is (now) "a strong friend of the State of Israel". I find this position reprehensible. A JC letter writer cleverly compared Kaminski's defenders (such as Stephen Pollard) are the mirror image of Ken Livingstone: Ken would unflinchingly defend any European Jew from right-wing antisemites but turns a blind eye to Islamist antisemitism; Pollard the exact reverse. Would Schudrich ever say we must "understand" Ken in the round, and brush off his alliances with the Muslim Brotherhood because he is a good friend of European Jewry? Of course not. No more than we should "understand" Nick Griffin in the round and let him off the hook for his appalling racism because he is (now) a supporter of Israel. On this issue, read: Schudrich's u-turns. Keith on the Kaminski affair and the neocon-decentist alliance. David Cesarani on Marek Edelman and Michal Kaminski. Miriam Shaviv on the BNP and Kaminski posing as friends of Israel. And Engageniks discuss these issues in a very interesting comment thread. (For more, also read: Jonathan Freedland (plus this and this from a while back), John Mann, JTCam, Martin Bright, Ben Helfgott, Left Foot Forward, Sunder Katwala.)

Gay imperialism? And what are we to make of this? A new low for the Second Campist defenders of the Iranian theocracy. Basically, Peter Tatchell is accused of "gay imperialism" for fighting for the human rights of gay and lesbian people in Iran, Zimbabwe, Jamaica and elsewhere. Essentially, while dressed up as an attack on white privilige, the logic is that brown people don't deserve the same human rights as white people do. Disgusting, and shame on Richard Seymour for disseminating this rubbish. (Incidentally, this is from Yoshie, who you can read more about here, here, here, and here.) [UPDATE: More from Harry here, including Tatchell's defence.]


Cosmopolitan law: Stop Sri Lanka's crimes. Harold Evans on Judge Goldstone. Resistance and repression in Guinea.

Sarf London: Guerrilla gardening Brockley-style. A lens on Deptford. The London nobody sings.

Other stuff: The FCO's whistleblower. Tories telling lies about immigration. The best of Democratiya. Under the pavements of Poland, the Jewish gravestones. Anarchists for Remembrance Day poppies. Muslim terrorists are not the new Jewish anarchists. Robert Bernstein on Human Rights Watch.

Comment trail: At Engage on Kaminski and anti-fascism; at Lenin's Tomb on squadism (update: and a little more); in Brockley on Glenn Beck and Bundism.

Other round-ups: Roland, Poum, Anti-German.

When will we be paid? This week's music is the Staple Singers.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sex trafficking: behind the numbers

Last week, the Guardian published a news article and longer report on sex trafficking in the UK. Both wer by heavyweight journalist Nick Davies, author of Flat Earth News. In the two pieces, Davies exposes the sloppy way newspapers and politicians have used academic research for political ends, and dishonestly spun the results of a criminal investigation. Davies is of course right to expose this. But he is not right to leap from this to deny that sex trafficking is an issue.

The campaigner Rahila Gupta, author of Enslaved: The New British Slavery, has replied forcefully. Denis MacShane, one of the targets of his piece has replied too. As have a number of academics, also followed up by MacShane again. MacShane's other half, Joan Smith, described by Nick Cohen as "The last principled feminist in the British media", also has a piece too, which I reproduce here as her new blog doesn't seem to work very well yet.

Guardian gets its moral panics in a twist
Tuesday 20 October 2009
Joan Smith

Sex trafficking is mostly a myth, says the Guardian, got up by an ‘an unlikely union of evangelical Christians with feminist campaigners’. Rumours that a team of investigative reporters is currently combing archives, searching for pictures of me and Julie Bindel in our Salvation Army uniforms, may be unfounded. But the headline on today’s front page is unequivocal: ‘Inquiry fails to find single trafficker who forced anybody into prostitution’.

Goodness me! Did this inquiry visit British prisons, where they could meet (for instance) Viktoras Larcenko and Luan Plakici, two of the most notorious traffickers ever convicted in this country? Don’t take my word for it: four years ago, the Crown Prosecution Service reported the successful conviction of Larcenko for conspiracy to traffic in prostitution and conspiracy to launder money. It described him as ‘the last member of a gang convicted for smuggling girls from Lithuania in 2003 and forcing them into prostitution with threats and violence’. The five-member gang included his sister Rita, aged 20, and they were sentenced in total to 51 years in prison.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Another week, fascism still undefeated

Just a couple of quick links to BNP-related stuff. Might add through the day, so check back. First, Jim J has added to this list, which I already linked to. From Jim J, I also got to Nick Griffin's bad science. Here's Sunny on the right's response. Sunny links to more science from The Enemies of Reason: 1, 2, 3, and from Channel 4. Alex Massie makes the pro-immigration case here.

For some comment on the QT debacle, here's Coatesy, Voltaire's Priest and Jim D. Meanwhile, Flesh found something far better to do.

Update: How did Question Time affect the BNP vote? A YouGov poll given much publicity suggests that it has, a tiny bit. However, Lancaster Unity reveals YouGov were defrauded by the BNP, undermining the results' credibility. (Summary from Edmund S).

One person who benefited from the show is Baroness Warsi. However, Edmund gives reason to pause (although I disagree with him on immigration...)

Update 2: A number of commentators are making the point that, as Richard Seymour puts it, "Just because antifascists watching this thought Griffin came across as a sleazy dishonest windbag doesn't mean that everyone thought the same." That is completely true. There is a disconnect, I think, between how us here in the activist ghetto, or from non-white backgrounds, or in liberal professions, or in cosmopolitan London,view the world and how most people in wider society view the world.

However, it is the wrong inference to draw from that, as Seymour does in the same post, them out there are "racists", or that politicians (like Straw and Warsi) who say they need listening to are pandering to racists. The labeling of people as "racists" is, in my view, utterly unhelpful. What is important is to expose how the things people say or do act in a racist way or have a racist effect. Racism is not something that afflicts people, like a mental condition; it is something that functions in society. Or, as Jim D puts it much more succinctly: "Don't trust the working class: they're too stupid. Us university-educated lefties will tell you proles what you can and can't be exposed to."

Friday, October 23, 2009

BNP on QT: The morning after

Well, all in all, the affair was not as bad as it could have been. Nick Griffin didn't do a very good job, and his interlocutors did. However, the BNP have managed to completely dominate the news agenda this morning, with the covers of all the papers and a large proportion of the radio news. I haven't checked the blogosphere, but I'm sure it's buzzing. Whether all of that matters in places like Pendle and Charnwood and Barnsely and Thurrock, who knows; I doubt it.

Griffin tried to portray himself as a victim of the liberal elite, and the altered format of the show, turned into a kind of kangaroo court, should have helped that, except the other contestants (I know that's not their proper title, but you know what I mean) on the show behaved pretty well and he came across like a bit of a nutter.

I'm not sure why the BBC gave so much air time to his views on Islam this morning. That was one part of the show where he seemed more coherent. Playing him at length and not playing Baroness Warsi's response gave him quite a platform.

More links: Melanie Phillips - I think she is actually right in most of what she says, except that all of the mainstream parties compete to demonstrate their anti-immigration credentials, and are not averse to stigmatising Muslims from time to time. Also in the Mail, writing in advance of the show, Richard Littlejohn's not bad (update: but see qualifications in the comments below). Nick Lowles was posting on all of Griffin's lies during the show. I'm now working my way through this huge load of links.

Related: Symon Hill on the white working class (via Jim)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Live blogging the BNP on Question Time

I've been so busy this week, I haven't even had time to join in this fascinating mini-discussion on my own blog. However, as an internationally renowned expert on the BNP, I feel obliged to watch Fuehrer Nick Griffin's performance on Question Time tonight, so I thought I'd switch the machine on and type at the same time (even though the actual action is already over). No doubt if I was younger I'd be Twittering it instead, but you can't teach old dogs new tricks, or something.

A few preliminaries, as I get the telly warmed up. I do not approve of bans on the BNP: I am against legalistic solutions to political problems, especially if they have the side effect of making the BNP seem like the victims of some politically correct liberal elite. However, I don't see why the BBC felt obliged to do this. I used to firmly hold to the doctrine of no platform, but the contemporary situation is so far removed from the old days of the NF that it doesn't apply in the same way any more. So, my hope is that Griffin fluffs it, and does the BNP more damage than harm, or that his fellow guests manage to outperform him enough that he comes across poorly. I can't imagine bland non-entity Chris Huhne shining that brightly; Bonnie Greer is always eloquent but frequently inarticulate; I don't have much time for Jack Straw, so I find myself in the unusual position of pinning my hopes on a Muslim Tory peer, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi.

10.40: Actually, I've already turned out wrong. Jack Straw is doing a really good job on the issue of Winston Churchill and World War II. Britain would not have won WWII without the help of people like the Pakistani and Indian soliders who are buried in France. (Interestingly, Straw follows some of David Aaronovitch's advice.) [He could also have mentioned Polish soldiers...]

10.45: And Chris Huhne is also doing a good job on the same topic.

10.51: Hmm. Griffin finally gets to speak, and attempts to deflect attention away from the revelations that Griffin is a Holocaust-denying Hitler-lover by saying that the real fascists hate him because the BNP is the only real pro-Israel party. Just goes to show (note to Stephen Pollard) that not all friends of Israel are friends of the Jews.

10.52: Then Griffin shoots himself in the foot by saying that David Duke leads a non-violent part of the KKK...

11.00: Sayeeda Warsi takes a while to warm up, but does a good job of de-demonising Islam.

11.05: A question about whether the BNP's success can be attributed to Labour's immigration policy. This is Jack Straw's chance to defend immigration as a positive value... and he blames immigration on Enoch Powell as a Tory minister. A point lost.
11.06: Says a few positive things about immigrants, but makes sure to balance that by saying how tough Labour is on people getting in.
11.10: Warsi rightly says that poverty and deprivation is the key driver, not immigration, positioning herself to the left of Straw. She also rightly says that BNP voters are not necessarily racist, and that they deserve respect and to be listened to.
11:14: Huhne joins the bandwagon, seeks to show that the Lib Dems are even tougher on immigration, and particularly targets the scourge of Eastern Europeans. This sort of talk feeds the BNP; it doesn't harm it.

11:20: Warsi says there is no such thing as a "bogus" asylum seeker: asylum seeker is a legal term. This is the first time I've heard a mainstream politician say this. Extra Bob point for Warsi.

11:22: A black questioner pushes the anti-immigration agenda forward and accuses Straw of pandering to the left. (Not pandering hard enough for me.) Dimbleby quotes a disgraceful Frank Field article which you can read here. [As George Eaton says, "By painting a wholly negative picture of immigration, Field and Soames do not challenge the BNP's agenda, they pander to it."]

11:40: All over, and quite a damp squib. I'm sure I could have found something better to do with my time...

Bonus links: Nick Cohen, Nothing British, The real Nick Griffin, Griffin's contortions, Nine questions for the BNP, mainstream fascism, how can the left deal with the BNP.

Bonus bonus link: Gary Younge. Key bit:
New Labour marginalised the white working class, assuming they had nowhere else to go, only to find some of them rush into the arms of the far right.... New Labour extinguished all hope of class solidarity and singularly failed to provide principled anti-racist alternatives, leaving a significant section of the white working class to seek cheap refuge in racism and xenophobia. In their identity they see not the potential for resistance against corruption and injustice, but only a grievance. They don't trust government and don't see any alternatives. The coming election simply provides the choice between two parties that share the intent to slash public spending, after the gift of billions to bankers.
There has always been more to the BNP than racism and always been more to racism than the BNP, which is merely the most vile electoral expression of our degraded racial discourse and political sclerosis. Under such circumstances setting Straw – and the rest of the political class – against Griffin is simply putting the cause against the symptom without any suggestion of an antidote.

Monday, October 19, 2009

This week I have mostly been reading about...

Fascism and anti-fascism: Bob From Brockley transforms the BNP (link of the week, of course). Who are the English Defence League? The looming threat of far right terror. The Ideological Evolution of Horst Mahler: The Far Left-Extreme Right Synthesis.

Alternative histories: Jews versus Stalinists in the Spanish Civil War. The shipwrecked: anti-fascist refugees during WWII. The unknown occupations of the Middle East. Fascinating but overly vituperative comment thread at Terry's post about Marek Edelman. What happens when we talk about the Holocaust. The mask of the Marranos. The search for Srebrenica's dead.

Authoritarianism: Europe's response to Berlusconi has been cowardly. The brutality of the Honduras coup.

UK Politics: Reasons to miss Ken: Boris Johnson's cronyism. The Tory chav tax?

Jew-hatred etc: Alison Weir of CounterPunch continues to promote blood libel. Glenn Beck's softcore Holocaust denialism. Friends of Israel: lavish and over-influential? Chavista antisemitism and the socialism of fools.

Another world is possible: The new contours of imperialism. Code Pink in Iran. Trafigura, Marx and technology.

Sarf London:Blackheath Foot'n'Death Men. Searchlight stigmatise south London.

Zionism/anti-Zionism: The first "anti-Zionist" anti-war movement.

No subtitle would do: A fleshy weekend: Tom Paine, sloe gin and birds. Golf: one topic I agree with Hugo Chavez about!

Bob's beats: Yiddish partisan march with breakbeats (more here). Ethiopian music. Latin music. Finally, if you need chearing up in these dark times, listen to Cornelius Cardew's jolly "Smash The Social Contract", from his Maoist phase (via the wonderful Idiot's Guide to Dreaming).

Bonus: comment trail: on George Galloway at Third Estate (keep scrolling), on Tiananmen Square at Stalinist Unity, on environmental orthodoxy at Third Estate.