Thursday, December 30, 2010

Books of the Year 2010

Carl nicked this off Paul who nicked it off Norm, and he tagged me along with about a hundred others, and as he obliged me I'll oblige him. I haven't read 10 in any category, at least not that I'd recommend, so my lists trail off.

Top 10 non-fiction
  1. Bertrand M Patenaude Stalin's Nemesis 
  2. James Horrox A Living Revolution: Anarchism in the Kibbutz Movement [which I will review at Contested Terrain in the new year]
  3. Roger Hewitt White Backlash and the Politics of Multiculturalism [not finished it yet, but strongly recommend it]
  4. Benny Morris Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict
  5. Gillian Evans Educational Failure and Working Class White Children in Britain [a lot better than it sounds from the title!]
Top 10 Fiction
  1. Javier Cercas Soldiers of Salamis [thanks Richard]
  2. Barbara Kingsolver The Lacuna [thanks Ruth]
  3. Jose Saramago Baltasar and Blimunda [thanks Francisco]
  4. Sebastian Barry A Long, Long Way
  5. Jonathan Wilson The Hiding Room
  6. George Pelecanos Drama City
Give it a miss
  1. Milan Kundera Immortality
  2. JG Ballard Millenium People
  3. Daniel Pennac The Scapegoat
There is no established rule about who to tag, and the year is fast drawing to a close, and Carl tagged millions of us, so I'll tag a whole lot of you and see what happens: Martin, Noga, Darren, Flesh, Kellie, Matt, Peter, George.  

Update: Noga's list (and other discussion points!) here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Balkan notes

Modernity has published a guest post by David N Gibbs in which he defends himself against allegations made against him by Marko Attila Hoare here and here. I have commented on it here, and I also strongly recommend the comments by Sarah Correia. [UPDATE: Marko responds here, and the debate continues to rage at Mod's place.]

Marko also has a short piece on the Guardian once again flirting with Balkan atrocity denialism. The same Guardian article is picked up at CiFWatch, where the Guardian's use of the word "massacre" with or without scare quotes is compared when talking about Racak and Jenin. Incidentally, who is one of the key vectors of denialism about Racak? Diana Johnstone, on whom see below.

James Thomas Snyder has a really interesting book review at Dissent of two books published by Sarajevo's Connectum publishing house, Black Soul by Ahmet M. Rahmanovic and Sarajevo: Exodus of a City by Dzevad Karahasan.

Andrew Murphy has a powerful guest post at Harry's Place on Diana Johnstone's "Chomskyite" falsification of history in Counterpunch (the scandal rag that also publishes Israel Shamir, Gilad Atzmon, Alison Weir and, er, David N Gibbs). The comments thread has a number of comments by "Hasan Pristina" which, although I am not qualified to endorse, are well written and seem to deserve more than the automatic deletion that HP now consigns its comments to after awhile, so I reproduce some of them here below the fold:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Influential left-wing ideas"

Some weeks ago, provoked by a poll in LFF, I posted on “influential leftists”, listing five good influences, five bad influences and five who I wished were more influential. Flesh is Grass rightly noted that it might be better to think of influential ideas. I’ve been thinking about it ever since, and decided it’s an impossible task.

What are “ideas”? Inventive solutions to society’s problems (anathema to someone who sees the whole of capitalism as fundamentally flawed)? Big ideas, isms like socialism (or is that too abstract and utopian)? Something in between?

Well, having been mulling it over, I’ve come up with my lists, even though looking at them they seem a bit ridiculous. Some of them are meant to be provocative, some are heart-felt, but I’m not going to tell you which are which.


Social justice – This is probably the idea that I hold most dear, and which ultimately influences more or less the whole left, but as I write it down, it seems pathetic, a platitude rather than an idea, and one that has been bent and abused by everyone from Bill Ayers to Iain Duncan Smith. Still, surely worth defending?

Internationalism – Arguably another platitude, and one that most of the left lays claim to. But I wish it was a little more influential, that people who pay it lip service actually worked out how to put it into practice, actually applied it, say, to the Tamils languishing in refugee camps in Sri Lanka’s interior, to the Chinese workers who make all the plastic tat we put in our kids’ party bags, to the women who are stoned for adultery in western Asia.

The one state solution – Many of my friends on the anti-anti-Zionist left think that the one state solution is essentially equivalent to the genocidal destruction of the Jewish nation. They argue that the Arabs (who have demography on their side, and formidable military allies in the form of the Saudis, Iran and so on) have proven themselves unable to share space with Jews. I reject this fatalistic view, and having recently been in Northern Ireland am more confident than ever that we can forge our own futures if we unshackle our imaginations. It feels to me that the idea of the one state solution is steadily gaining ground, not just among the hardcore advocates of a “free Palestine”, but among younger Jews in both Israel and the diaspora. This slow awakening comes with a growing sense that another Zionism is possible, and a recovery of the memory of pre-1948 Zionism, the Zionism of Ahad Ha’am, Martin Buber, Gershom Scholem, Joseph Trumpledor, AD Gordon and Judah Magnes, which called for a “national home” for the Jews and not necessarily a nation-state. By the way, I have at various other times in my life called for a one state solution also for South Africa, Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Ireland and Cyprus. 

Open source – I remember thinking it was one of the sillier elements of the Euston Manifesto that it filled a whole clause (no.14 if you're interested) with open source software: a complete distraction, I thought, from the real issues. But since then I’ve changed my mind as I’ve watched the rise of creative commons licensing, free and open source software, participatory media, citizen journalism and citizen scholarship. If you use Firefox or Wikipedia, for example, you will have experienced small-c communism in practice: voluntary co-operation and mutual aid on a massive scale, at the most sophisticated level possible, to achieve, well, not a common goal, but an endless multiplicity of projects, completely outside the logic of the market or the state.

Strangers into citizens – I think this idea is influential, as it has managed to mobilise thousands of church-goers, as well as both Red Ken and Mayor Boris. Although some of my comrades think it doesn’t go far enough, surely its influence is a good thing in itself?


National sovereignty – What is a nation? How can a nation have a “self”? How is that “self” supposed to determine itself? Why should that self-determination take the shape of a state? Why should we respect the systems of rule that history has randomly bestowed on other nations? Why should we go to war, for example, out of respect for some Kuwaiti hereditary monarch’s right to use his kingdom as a personal bank account? Equally, why should we “stop” a war out of respect for some national socialist or clerical-fascist’s right to use his country as a personal fiefdom?

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions – It is now common sense in the liberal world to see Israel as a pariah state, the worst possible state in the world, as bad as apartheid South Africa, as bad as the Nazis already. The boycott, divestment, sanctions idea has zero chance of contributing positively to peace or justice in Palestine; its only role is to give liberals an outlet for their moral ejaculations and to engrave in indelible letters the idea that Israel is the last word in evil.

Blood for oil/the Israel lobby/the shock doctrine – These ideas are probably incompatible at some level, although that doesn’t stop them from being held equally true by the same people. They are examples of vulgar or arrested materialism. They are attempts to explain the world through its underlying material/economic forces, but fall short. They fall short because they have no way of explaining the link between material interests and political or geopolitical effects, so end up as versions of conspiracy theory

Foreigners are stealing our jobs – this sounds like a right-wing idea, but it has been repeated over and over again on the left by Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians, from Ed Balls to Phil Woolas to Ed MiIliband. And the left has so far failed to respond to this, except in the form of moralistic hand-wringing.

Second Campism – Imperialism was one of the great evils of the last few centuries, so it is to its credit that the left has historically opposed it. But nowadays, the power cartography of the world has been so re-calibrated that the whole notion of imperialism makes little or no sense, and the concept of anti-imperialism becomes more and more attenuated. It seems to me that most self-proclaimed anti-imperialism these days is better described as Second Campism – that is, supporting the other camp over one’s own. Thus leftists once flocked to Cuba and the Viet Cong as the enemies of Amerikkka; now they flock to “anti-imperialist” dictators who have even less connection to the left’s core values, simply because they are the enemies of Amerikkka.


Mutualism, co-operatives, self-management – It is bizarre to see Conservatives talking about mutualism and workers’ co-ops, as these are historically very much a part of the heritage of the left, and especially the British left. The co-operative movement is intimately tied up with the history of the labour movement. Both express, if in different ways, human desire for autonomy and self-management. It is tragic that the left has vacated that territory and left it for the right to claim. In the year that Ken Coates and Colin Ward died, it is time for these ideas, the legacy of people like William Morris, Murray Bookchin and Daniel Guerin, to be influential again. (See also Will Davies on this.)

Small government – The Tory claiming of mutualism is a symptom of a bigger failure of the left: its abandonment of the larger ideal of liberty. For the last century, the century of the Bolsheviks and the Fabians, non-state socialism has been eclipsed, and the right has claimed the mantle of the party of the small state. Time to take it back.

No borders – The abolition of borders is, of course, an impossibilist demand, a utopian dream. There is no way a single country can abandon its borders: the call for no borders is immediately a call for a totally transformed world, a world with no borders. This is not something we can work towards in a practical way, but rather a way of imagining the world, and thus making our world different. 

Class analysis – This used to be one of the most influential ideas on the left. Far too influential, arguably, as the trad left was blind to anything other than class: blind to sex and sexuality, to culture and morality, to psychology, to the sacred, to other axes of identity like gender and race, to patriotism and kinship... But the post-1968, has gone too far the other way. Only the most tedious and dogmatic of leftists talk about class these days. But without that anchor, the value of social justice goes adrift, and the left just surfs every passing wave, from Third Worldism to identity politics, from Gaia to Wahhabism.

Agnosticism – I don't mean agnosticism about God (although that seems the only sensible option to me) but rather agnosticism about religion. The chattering classes seem increasingly encamped in the culture wars over evolution and God, the Eaglefish versus the Hitchkins, each equally narrow-minded and obsessive. It seems to me that religion has a track record of contributing an enormous amount of good to the world, and an enormous amount of evil – and the same can be said of atheism. Enough already; let’s just get on with it.

Despite the signal lack of success of my last memething, I am tagging, if they feel up to it, the following: Flesh, Modernity, Norm, Carl again, Darren (because of this) and Sarah. Any ideas? P.S. please don't feel obliged to stick with the 5-5-5 formula or to write overlong essays at each bullet point like I did.

UPDATE: A rejoinder from Eamonn on the one state solution, and a response from Norm on national sovereignty, class analysis and one state.

Update 2: Sarah serialises her responses: 1, 2, 3. Flesh responds here. And Waterloo Sunset on what's wrong with the liberal left.
Update 3: Carl's entry.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What is the trad left?

Maurice Brinton, 1969:
Here goes (briefly for shortage of space prevents full treatment of each proposition): 
a) Among the identifying features of the trad left (whether Fabian or Bolshevik) are an ingrained belief in man's incapacity to manage his own affairs without an elite or leadership of some kind (themselves!). In this, both reflect the typically bourgeois concept of "masters and men".

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Snow, stones, trains, cuts, bullocks, etc

Apologies for my long absence (not that you minded). Here are some jottings that don't quite add up to anything much, to hold the fort until I have more time.

Why I still read the Guardian
Simon Hoggart:
Many of the tabloids printed the dreadful pictures of the woman who was flogged in Sudan for wearing trousers under her outer clothes. You might have seen the film on TV. It is horrifying: the man with the whip following her looking for the most painful spot to hit, her screams of agony, the overseer laughing at her pain.
The same papers, on the same day, appeared to be equally outraged by the appearance of Christina Aguilera and dancers performing in their underwear during the X-Factor final. Thousands of people complained on the grounds that this came before the watershed. Maybe so, and I can understand why some parents were annoyed. But I know which society I would prefer to live in.
 I bet you wish your Big Society was a freak like mine

I was pleased my post on neo-liberalism and my “Kosovo-style social cleansing” post elicited a healthy blast of debate. I’ve been meaning to follow up with another post on the cuts and a post on the Big Society, but I’ve just not had time. I enjoyed Flesh is Grass on the Big Society, staking out what her Big Society would be like. My Big Society would be very like hers, except I would also emphasise that one area where citizens and communities should be given more control over their lives would be the economic sphere, and especially the world of work. My Big Society, that is, would include a little more economic democracy.

On a related theme, from the centre-left, Paul Richards has written about the ways in which localism and small government are historically very much a part of the heritage of the labour movement.
This approach is true to Labour's own roots in working-class culture and organisations such as the chapel, co-op, union and friendly society. Working-class communities ran their own health insurance schemes, adult education, and social clubs. They didn't rely on the state. This is what inspired the Guild Socialists such as GDH Cole, who wanted political and industrial power to reside at the local level. The Guild Socialists wanted full-blown industrial democracy in the work-place, political democracy through local councils, and consumer democracy through cooperatives. The role of the state would be strategic, not all-encompassing. You could almost call it a ‘big society'.
 A local blog for local people

I have neglected Lewisham, Brockley and South London generally in my recent blog posts. It’s all been happening down here lately, with protests against the cuts in Lewisham reaching fever pitch, and on the other hand two bouts of intense snowfalls and travel nightmares that threaten to turn the revolutionary anger against Southeastern trains. On the former issue, see Hangbitch, Transpontine, Adam B and Darryl. On the latter, see Darryl and our local Twitterati. My neglect of Lewisham issues, incidentally, has included my neglect of Andrew Brown’s blog, Someday I Will Treat You Good, where I plan to start spending more time.

Local politics in a time of austerity

The Lewisham anti-cuts battles dramatise some of the political dilemmas of our moment. In this borough, we have a Labour government implementing the Tory cuts. While councillor Michael Harris suggests our cuts are left-wing ones not right-wing ones, others are not so sure. The various different anti-cuts groups locally, are taking different lines on Labour. In some ways, this is reminiscent of the poll tax moment 20 years ago, when Thatcher’s deeply unjust tax system also served the purpose of de-legitimating municipal government and forcing Labour councils into the role of the tangible face of the class enemy for the less well off who suffered as a result of the central government policy.

For my part, I want to participate in fighting the cuts, but, like most ordinary people, am not sure how to navigate through the Trots’ astroturf opportunists front organisations, and through the futile posturing and gesture politics. I found, from very different perspectives, posts by Phil Dickens and Andrew Coates useful in thinking about this. I liked Andrew’s point that “one thing we need now is a real ‘reformist strategy’, that is, a way of making things better now for ordinary people.” UPDATE: Whereas on my less reformist days I feel like Darren does here.


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Commenter of the year

Note: I wrote most of this last week, but ran out of time. It is now a little overdue!

I've been meaning to post about this for ages (sorry, folks, about the long hiatus, if any of you noticed) and fortuitously, or not, the competition opened yesterday. Paul in Lancashire (not Lincolnshire, as my ignorant Southern fingers once typed) has opened a competition that not even he can boycott. It's about blog commenters.

This is a subject I've written about before, but has been on my mind with some of my recentish posts getting a fair amount of comment traffic, such as this one (still going on) on left antisemitism, this one on Vietnam, this one on the Propagandist, and this one on decentism. Though Cowards Flinch has always been a blog worth visiting for the discussion, and exemplary in the tone of the debate there. I'm less optimistic than I used to be about the potential of blogs to create genuine interactivity and dialogue, but I like to think that we have a bit of it here. Certainly, I feel like I have made friends in the comment boxes, and have gone on to meet some of them in the meat world. I think of myself as existing in an unusual political space, so it is nice to find other people occupying that space.

Paul writes:
Other blogs where you get this really good, respectful but not toadying author-commenter engagement include Bob from BrockleyHarpymarx (a little intermittently), 21st Century Fix (though sparsely), Duncan’s Economic Blog (often mind-bendingly), The Third Estate and Paul Sagar’s Bad Conscience, though Paul’s exponentially increasing popularity (well-deserved) may make that difficult to maintain.
That point about Paul's popularity is crucial. There is an optimum size for good commenting: too many readers means too many trolls and oddballs.Three blogs I visit and stay for the comments are Shiraz Socialist, where the tone is not always as polite as I (being overly decent) like but is always interesting; Engage, where comments are heavily moderated, but this allows for some, er, engagement among discussants (I particularly like Brian Goldfarb's intelligent thoughts); and Dave Osler's place, which should by law be too big for healthy discussion but isn't (despite the best, and often enjoyable disruptive efforts of Jimmy Glesga).

I'm going to nominate ten commenters from this blog, although I realise most are also bloggers, which mean they don't count. Use the comment thread to vote, and then I'll submit the results to the jury in Bickerstaffe.
  1. Waterloo Sunset: a heavy commenter at Osler's place, Socialist Unity and elswhere, WS went and spoiled it by finally getting a blog of his own. I feel, given the overlap between our political pasts (AFA, levitating the houses of parliament, etc), we might recognise each other on sight.
  2. Noga, the Contentious Centrist: more or less Waterloo's polar opposite tempermentalyl and politically, Noga is a fine blogger, but a far more prolific commenter, here, at Mick Hartley's, at TNR and elsewhere.
  3. Modernity: also a blogger (or should that be a Wordpresser?), but my best ally in my harshest battles in my comment threads, with the Elfs and Games and our other common enemies. I feel a certain kinship because we were both added to the Drink-Soaked Trot blogroll on the same day, but he was ex-communicated quicker.
  4. Entdinglichung: rarely actually comments in his comments, but provides fascinating links to things I'd never know about, in a very non-sectarian way. Which is also his MO as a blogger.
  5. Renegade Eye: Stylistically almost the exact opposite of Ent as a commenter. He tends not to actually argue anything out, but simply drops assertions and opinions in and leaves. But these assertions and opinions are generally fresh and unpredictable in a nice way. Jams once told me that Renegade Eye was one of the bloggers who really encouraged him in the early days, and I too have found him a generous presence in the blogosphere, despite obvious political differences. Renegade Eyet blogs here.
  6. Jams himself: who blogs here is also a generous presence in the 'sphere, and 
  7. Snoopy the Goon: funny and to the point. Blogs here.
  8. Migreli: our residentJabotinsky-ite, who I appreciate even more having just read a John Le Carre novel set in Migrelia.
  9. Morbid Symptoms: always says very concisely things I wish I'd thought to say myself.
  10. Will Rubbish: for old time's sake.
Honourable mentions for: Les Wade, James Bloodworth, Marko Attila and the Social Republican. And in the where are they now file: Ross from Catford and Courtney from the RCP. And an un-nomination for Jogo, who I wish would comment more.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Wikileaks And The Conspiracy Theory Of History

A post by me at Contested Terrain on whether Wikileaks proves that geopolitcs is driven by good old fashioned material forces (e.g. that it is the Arab oil lobby, not the neocon/Israel axis, pushing military aggression against Iran – small-imperialist power politics, not Jewish conspiracy) or in fact whether the leaks are a Soros/Mossad/CIA/neocon false flag operation as part of the ZOG world government.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Final Gnome Chomsky: For Christmas

Talk about flogging a dead horse. This is the last in the series.

From Deedtheinky:

While I'm here... There is a fascinating interview with Chomsky (whose 82nd birthday it will be on Tuesday) in Jewish mag the Tablet. Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic extracts an interesting bit, about when he was a Zionist youth. But it is worth reading the whole thing. First, he talks of the influence of Ahad Ha'am in his household; in my view, Ha'am is a really neglected figure in the history of Jewish political thought.
Ahad Ha’am was an early advocate of the idea that later became famous with [the Marxist political scientist] Ben Anderson, when he wrote his books about how nations are imagined communities. He said there’s an imagined—I don’t think he used the term—but there’s an imagined Jewish community, in which Moses plays a central role, and it really doesn’t matter if there was a historical Moses or not. That’s part of the national myth, which is a sophisticated version of what Shlomo Sand was trying to get at. Sand debunks the historical Moses, but from Ha’am’s point of view, it makes no difference.
Then comes a really cringey bit:

Did you read Nivi’im, the prophets, with your father in Hebrew?
The word “prophet” is a very bad translation of an obscure Hebrew word, navi. Nobody knows what it means. But today they’d be called dissident intellectuals. They were giving geopolitical analysis, arguing that the acts of the rulers were going to destroy society. And they condemned the acts of evil kings. They called for justice and mercy to orphans and widows and so on.
Is it just me, or is that Chomsky (who is constantly called a "dissident intellectual" by stupid pseudo-intellectuals) likening himself to the Nivi'im? Anyway, Chomsky is famous for "speaking truth to power", but a little later we get a bit of economy with the truth:
Remember that Hezbollah happens to be the majority party.
Hezbollah is not the majority party in Lebanon.
It’s part of a coalition. They won the last election with 53 percent of the vote. Because of the method of distributing seats, they don’t get the majority of parliament. So we’re talking about basically a majority coalition, which runs the south almost entirely. You can like it or not like it.
Now, a less well-informed interviewer than David Samuels would have let the claim that Hezbollah is the majority party go by. The fact of the matter is that Chomsky is right that the electoral system in Lebanon is complicated, so (as in the UK or US) share of the popular vote does not translate into seats, and the March 8 Alliance coalition of which Hezbollah is a part did get 55% of the popular vote, but Hezbollah is in fact the second largest of nine parties in that coalition. Samuels continues to challenge him:
Hezbollah is a highly militarized organization that runs South Lebanon in a way that is hardly reflective of secular democratic ideals.
It’s interesting that secular Lebanese would not take that attitude.
Most of them see Hezbollah as an extension of Iran.
No, they don’t.
­They believe that the Iranians are trying to rip up their state.
Ultra-right-wing Lebanese think that.

Again, Chomsky is being uneconomical with the truth. For Chomsky, a couple of "dissident" (lefty) intellectuals speak for secular society. I am sure, for example, you wouldn't find many secular Armenians sharing Chomsky's views, or the members of the Democratic Left Movement, probably the only party in Lebanon that can genuinely be classed as on the secular left.

I also feel Chomsky is less than honest about the Faurisson affair. This was, of course, the 1979 controversy when Chomsky signed a petition circulated by the ex-leftist Serge Thion defending the "respected" Robert Faurisson and his "findings" about the Holocaust, which "fearful officials" allegedly tried to suppress. Chomsky claims the key word ("findings") "is absolutely neutral" - an absurd claim.

Moving on to more contemporary issues, Chomsky reiterates his (in my view correct) critique of the "Israel lobby" theory of right-wing foreign policy wonks Mearsheimer and Walt:
Realists have a doctrine that says that states are the actors in international affairs and follow something called the “national interest,” which is some abstract ideal which is independent of the interests of the corporate sector. What they see from that point of view is that the United States is supposed to be pursuing its national interest, and they know what the national interest is. The fact that Intel and Lockheed Martin and Goldman Sachs don’t agree with them is irrelevant.
However, I think what continues from there is bizarre: the notion that realists like Walt and Mearsheimer exhibit the desire to salvage the Wilsonian idea of American innocence. I'm not sure I get this, as I understand them to be directly criticising Wilsonian idealism in favour of a realpolitik of state interests, and "American innocence" is neither here nor there in their account.

Finally, how comes I've only just discovered that there is a band called Gnome Chomsky? An punky indie band from Houston with a cool logo and Mexican roots.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

From the Vaults: American Speech, December 1961

This is a guest post by Michael Ezra

Surely not everything has to be about politics? Below I copy a letter published in the journal American Speech in 1961 that provides some academic credibility to the all important “Shm.”


American Speech, Vol. 36, No. 4 (December, 1961), pp. 302-303.

A decade ago, Leo Spitzer recorded some popular manifestations of the Yiddish shm- formula of derogation (fancy-shmancy, Plato-Shmato, and so on), in speech, comic strip, magazine, book, and movie.[1] Several years later the present writer added specimens from television and from magazine-quoted speech of official Washington.[2]

The usage has clearly become more widespread. In one issue of the New Yorker (Dec. 1, 1956, pp. 232 and 189), two different advertisements made use of the formula. One was by the conservative book publisher Macmillan, crying: ‘Sibling Schmibling! You need Baby Makes Four.’ The other was by a Philadelphia camera company (Konica) that declaimed a tongue-twisting: ‘Gadgets, Schmadgets ... as Long as It Takes Pictures!’ Another example is in a recent advertisement of the Berlitz Schools, inHarper’s, May, 1961, p. I5, headed ‘French-Schmench/It's All Greek to Me.’ The second of these three examples is, of course, a derivative of the old ‘Cancer, shmancer, abi gezunt’- ‘Cancer, shmancer, as long as you're healthy’ -which, as I have noted earlier,[3] was utilized in a Herblock cartoon on the Atomic Energy Commission: ‘Mutations, Shmutations-Long as You’re Healthy.’

Indeed, even greeting cards have ‘gotten into the act’: ‘Freud, Schmoid, as Long as It’s Enjoyed-Happy Anniversary.’

The recent animated film, ‘1001 Arabian Nights,’ featuring the nearsighted Mr. Magoo, contained the line: 'Magoo, Mashmoo, I'll kill the miserable wretch!’[4]

Even the toy market has been invaded. A construction set named ‘Krazy Ikes’ (Whitman Publishing Co., Racine, Wis.) provides a brochure illustrating many human and animal figures to be made with its plastic pieces, the models being given humorous names like ‘Crocodike,’ ‘Ikestrich,’ ‘Hunter- Ike,’ and so on, including ‘Shmike,’ a pathetic little creature without arms.

As I have noted before,[5] the formula has been applied with different punctuation, sometimes with a hyphen (fancy-shmancy), sometimes with a comma (pretty, shmetty) and sometimes, as in the example from the Macmillan advertisement quoted above, with no punctuation at all. In the New Yorker’s comment ‘Oh confusion schmooshun,’ quoted by Spitzer in his first cited work, we have not only the unpunctuated form, but one which is both shortened and changed in spelling. (The ‘classical’version would have been:confusion, conshmusion.)

A basically similar (unpunctuated and truncated) form recently appeared in my local Pennsylvania newspaper, the Easton Express, Feb. 18, 1960, p. 5, col. 2, in a letter disputing David Susskind’s evaluation of television’s Jack Paar: ‘“Deliciously Irreverent?” Irreverent Schmeverent!’ Still another version occurred in a communication to the New York Times (March 1, 1959, Section X, p. 3), in which the sh was retained and the m changed to fit the letter in the first half (Gwen, Schwen in place of Gwen, Shmen): ‘My husband spotted Gwen Verdon as a potential star ... so we have followed her career with interest, but Gwen, Schwen, the play’s the thing, and “Redhead” is an obvious, silly little story.’

This last may have been a printer’s error. Whether it is or not, we probably should expect additional variations on the ‘twin-form’ theme, which has been dealt with in scholarly detail by Spitzer. It is safe to surmise that these further usages, like the examples already quoted, will be offered with little awareness of the suggestive element in the shm- cluster. This element has been accorded definitive discussion in the cited article by Roback.[6]

Easton, Pennsylvania

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hitchens, with poppy and rumpled hat

Christopher Hitchens 
I was moved by the portrait by Jamie James Medina of Christopher Hitchens, at home in DC, with red poppy, no hair and rumpled hat, accompanying Andrew Anthony’s Observer interview with the great man. The sad likely possibility of the Hitch’s coming death pushes interviewers towards his so-called “New Athiesm” (a term he rejects in the interview). As a paid-up Old Agnostic, I find this topic the most boring imaginable: while Hitchens is interesting on absolutely everything else (apart, perhaps, from his sex life and his schoolboy japes with his literary pals), he is tedious when talking about God.

Far more interesting when talking about the 1991 Gulf War:
"I said that Bush [senior] may have used the rhetoric of anti-fascism but he didn't mean it. And then I said, yeah, but what if he had meant it? Would I therefore be obliged by my own argument to be in favour? The answer was 'yes'. And then I said, well what do you care how they argue? You should be arguing it yourself. And I found I couldn't get out of that."
And about not criticising Robert Mugabe early on:
"That makes me wince. More than wince. I'd met him a couple of times and I knew that he had in him a terrible capacity for fanaticism, absolutism, and I didn't say as much about that as I could have done. If I asked myself about why I didn't, I'm sure the answer is because I didn't want to give ammunition to the other side."
And about how Chinese capitalism and human rights:
"Darfur, Zimbabwe, Burma, North Korea, anywhere that the concept of human rights doesn't exist, it's always the Chinese at backstop. And always for reasons that you could write down in three words: blood for oil."
And about Hezbollah:
"I was at a Hezbollah rally in Beirut about two and a half years ago," he says. "Very striking. Everyone should go. But of the many things that impressed me about it, having the mushroom cloud as the party flag in an election campaign was the main one. You wouldn't want to look back and think, I wish I'd noticed that being run up. Now I can give you all the reasons that it's bombast on their part. Still, I know which regret I'd rather have."

I read a copy of the Independent that I found on the train the other day, a day or two after the big HE demo in London. I was interested in the juxtaposition on the same page of two articles. The first, given prominent position, was by Hitchens’ good friend, the journalist Patrick Cockburn, "The United States is facing a decisive political defeat in Iraq over the formation of a new government, as its influence in the country sinks lower than at any time since the invasion of 2003". The second, also by Cockburn, tucked below it, was entitled: "Iraqi Christians living in fear as 11 bombs explode in Baghdad, killing five". Although Cockburn, who in some ways is a fine reporter, does not exactly gloat in the first article, it’s hard not to read it between the lines, as Cockburn has been predicting disaster, hoping for disaster, exaggerating the negatives, since the war began. He seems (as are, I imagine, both the editors and readers of the Indy) unable to see the relationship between the two articles: American failure, in this case, means the genocidal cleansing of Christians from a theocraticised Iraq.

Hitchens again, in the National Post, writes with savage clarity on this issue:
The continuing bloodbath is chiefly the result of an obscene alliance between the goons of the previous dictatorship and the goons of a would-be-future theocratic one. From the very first day after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, without ever issuing so much as a manifesto or a bill of grievances, this criminal gang awarded itself permission to use high explosives, assassination, torture, and rape against a population that was given no moment of breathing space after three decades of war and fascism.
Now, unless you can make yourself believe that the doomed, imploding Saddam regime would somehow have managed a peaceful transition from itself to something else in a society that it had already maimed and ruined and traumatized, you have to consider expressing a bit of gratitude to the coalition soldiers who were able to provide some elements of that breathing space and to prevent the next regime from being worse even than the preceding one. At a time when it seemed to many people that Baghdad had already become worse than Beirut and Rwanda combined, I tentatively wrote of the coalition forces as “the militia for those who have no militia,” a description that I claim the U.S. troop surge partially vindicated.
I am not 100% convinced by that, and welcome Hitchens’ qualifications: partially vindicated, some elements. But I was thinking something similar when reflecting on the higher education march on November 10. I was struck on the march by the number of students with banners condemning the Liberal Democrats for betraying them. “I want my vote back Clegg” was one example. I wished I had a banner saying, “You stupid students, why did you vote Liberal Democrat? What on earth made you think they were ‘progressive’? Thanks for giving us this mess.”  When I mentioned this at home to Babs from Brockley, she agreed, noting that all the people who didn't vote Labour because of The War had to take the blame for the new government’s cuts. She saw this as the reaction of people too comfortable in life, looking for distant victims to get agitated about. I hope those people, many of them of course Independent readers, feel some sense of guilt at cheerleading for American’s withdrawal when they read about the slaughter of Christians in Iraq, but I doubt they will. Martin had a similar response to William Dalrymple, in this superb post.


Finally, this National Post article by the Hitch is a superb read, on Barack Obama’s glacial elitism, ethnic pandering and political clumsiness, but mainly on slopping poll and lazy reporting. Here is a sample sentence: “Elitism and populism, as we have painfully learned this fall, are too often found in the same person. The simultaneous aggregating and dividing of people by race and ethnicity turns out to be the cheapest and easiest outcome of supposedly democratic measurement.”

Saturday, November 06, 2010


Two posts on British Israel and Palestine solidarity well worth reading. The first is by a Green leftist, Aled-Dilwyn Fisher (who blogs here) on "who does the solving". The second is by Lawrence Shaw at AVPS, where I left a comment or two (actually, four so far) on trade union solidarity with Israel, and the difference between a yashmak and a yashmagh.

There are a few news items I've been following in South Asia, which I'm not sure if I've blogged about or not. One is the extraordinary strike wave in Tamil Nadu, including the casualised workers of the Neyveli Lignite Corporation and the workers at Foxconn, who probably make your mobile phone. Then there is the shameful repression by Hindutva fascists of superb novel, Such A Long Journey, by the great Indian novelist Rohinton Mistry. Two other items are covered in exclusives for the new website The Gabber. Veteran Indian leftist Jarius Banaji has a long and informative piece on Maoism in India. The first part gives a historical account of the Naxalite movement, while the second part carefully sets out some of the critiques of it. From slightly further back, Rohini Hensman has an article on one of the latest twists in the degeneration of the genocidal Sri Lankan state, the passing of the eighteenth amendment to the constitution, effectively making it a dictatorship.

On the other hand, I've been completely failing to keep up with East End politics lately. Jessica Asato reports from the Tower Hamlets frontline, rather depressingly. Francis is even more depressing. Kellie has more links, and Ted Jeory has plenty more.

More on the EDL: Phil Dickens: The EDL threaten Christmas mayhem over recycled tabloid myths, and on the EDL and Loyalism. "Malatesta" on the EDL in Holland.

RCPWatch: Phil on Brendan O'Neil and austerity.

Balkans: I've finally got around to reading Marko on the Chetniks and the Jews - highly recommended.

Anti-fascist history: Mickey Fenn on anti-fascist history - originally via Kevin Blowe.

Finally, as ever, lots more great links from Roland..

Thursday, November 04, 2010

"Kosovo style social cleansing"

Bob says bollocks to the cuts
"The last thing we want to have in our city is a situation such as Paris where the less well-off are pushed out to the suburbs. I'll emphatically resist any attempt to recreate a London where the rich and poor cannot live together.

We will not accept any kind of Kosovo-style social cleansing of London. On my watch, you are not going to see thousands of families evicted from the place where they have been living and have put down roots."

I once responded to a meme about what one would never do by saying I would never vote Tory. However, if I was forced to vote between Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson as mayor of London, I’d be severely tested.

Ken Livingstone seems to me to be a despicable human being, arrogant, self-aggrandising, unable to apologise for his errors. The whiff of corruption, cronyism and nepotism around him his overwhelming. His palling about with fascist, theocratic, antisemitic Islamists is hard to stomach. Everything I’ve heard about his personal practice, including from people that worked with him back in the GLC glory days, reflects very badly, and I have evidence of him being incredibly abusive and offensive to close friends of mine. Most recently, his stirring of the murky waters of Tower Hamlets politics places him clearly in the Bad Guys camp.

On the other hand, he was an extremely effective mayor of London, with generally very good policies on more or less all the issues that actually matter to me, as a London resident, on a day to day basis: creating a transport infrastructure that is actually able to move masses of people around the capital every day, making our streets safer, making some contribution to alleviating the crisis of affordable housing, promoting economic development.

Boris Johnson, in contrast, seems like a very pleasant person: charming, witty, intelligent, fun, self-deprecating, erudite. But he has been a very ineffective mayor, and his policies have been far weaker than Ken’s. He has some policy strengths (on immigration, for instance, he is extremely positive), but most of his successes have been where he has continued Ken’s work rather than where he has changed it.

How are we to view Boris’ recent “Kosovo style social cleansing” comments about the Coalition government's housing benefit reform plans? Obviously, his choice of words is deeply offensive. The Serb nationalist forces didn’t move ethnic Albanians to B&Bs in Hastings (although Boris’ pals at Spiked probably think they did); they murdered them on a massive scale. The gaffe generated a fair bit of political capital for the government (witness their aging and increasingly desperate errand boy Vince Cable seizing on it, possibly the taste of cold vengeance to get over the taste of humble pie Nick and David made Vince, but not Boris, eat over the ridiculous immigration cap policy). But was what Boris saying fundamentally right?

I think that, yes, it more or less was. A policy that will drive a large amount of the poor people out of the richest boroughs of London at risk of homelessness will undoubtedly seriously intensify the drift towards social segregation that the capital’s insane housing market has been driving for a couple of decades.

On the other hand, and I admit this is a heretical statement in the company I keep, the government’s housing benefit reforms put their finger on a gross inequity in the current welfare system. It simply cannot be right that the public purse is paying for a handful of families to live in properties that most of us cannot dream of affording. There are only 139 families to whom we are paying over £50,000 in rent a year – but that’s a tiny number of families taking an awful lot of tax bills. And there are plenty more in the £25,000 a year bracket. I am also not convinced of the arguments for richer families getting universal child benefit, although the arbitrary way the government has drawn the line is clearly unfair. And I have a great deal of sympathy for the cap on the maximum benefits non-disabled families can claim – again, it quite simply cannot be right that some claimants (again, a small number) should get significantly more than the average working family. Further, and this is even more heretical in the company I keep, the main victims of these particular changes will be those with excessively large families, and I don’t see why people should breed on such an extravagant scale if they are not able to support their progeny.

However, these arguments for reform miss a number of things. First, by focusing on the claimants, we deflect attention away from those who profit from their claims. Thus my earlier statement that there are 139 families to whom we are paying over £50,000 in rent a year was an inaccurate one: they hand that rent over to private landlords, and it is the private landlords we are actually subsidising. The housing benefit system drives the most unscrupulous landlords (and unscrupulous people, in my experience, seem to me disproportionately represented in the population of landlords) to charge the highest rents they can get away with, and more to the point the current scale is based on a market rate that is grossly inflated by property speculators, corporate landlords and all the other afflictions that have made London's housing situation so unjust in the last couple of decades. If housing benefit reform will exacerbate social cleansing from inner London, it will only intensify what the market is already doing.

Second, focusing on the claimants points to the insanity of a fiscal and political climate in which the building of affordable, and in particular social, housing has been so constrained, starting with the Thatcher government’s ideological assault on social housing, including the prevention of councils from borrowing on their capital assets and the promotion of a Right To Buy policy that decimated the affordable housing stock, but continuing through Labour’s failure to address those issues. For each of the 139 landlords’ £50,000, you could build a house in London.

Third, by concentrating taxpayers’ anger on the relatively small number of abusers of the welfare system, the government is deflecting attention from the many, many more households, including working families, who are being thrown into destitution by their austerity measures, the thousands of people being cast into unemployment by their assault on the public and voluntary sectors, while they burn away what safety net that the less fortunate rely on.

I am also worried at the back-of-a-fag-packet way the government seems to be proceeding with its welfare reforms. If they were genuinely concerned about fixing the injustices in the welfare system and in creating a system that incentives work and de-incentivises dependency (the type of reforms the Tory thinktank the Centre for Social Justice has been proposing), that’d be one thing. But instead we seem to have policies launched by fiat from Cameron’s office without any consultation or thought, one after another, totally contradicting each other. One week (with universal benefits) we are told that the justification is that those with the broadest shoulders must take on a greater share of the pain; the next week (with housing benefit) we are told that it’s because the feckless over-breeding poor people need to be social engineered into better citizens. One week we are told it’s all about “fairness”; the next we are told these are difficult decisions that need to be made to avoid public debt.

So, on reflection, I will probably not be voting Tory any time soon. 

Further reading: Phil Dickens: Quote of the day [I read that after I wrote this, and although Phil would radically disagree with a lot of what I've said, some of the things we say are strikingly similar.] History is Made at Night on the back to the 1980s vibe.

Local campaigns against the cuts: Transpontine on Lewisham's libraries and on the impact of the cuts in South London, including on higher education.

[Image via Sabcat, of a different Bob.]

Monday, November 01, 2010

From Bob's archive: Neo-liberalism’s assault on civic culture

I have not had time for blogging recently, and am a bit embarrassed that my top of the page post is advertising an event in Brockley that happened over a week ago, so I am re-publishing here something from my archive. It is from July 2006, the time of the Tony Blair presidency, when David Cameron and Nick Clegg were barely a twinkle in their respective party’s eyes. However, it seems to me more relevant than ever, in light of Con-Dem Coalition’s radical shrinking of the social functions of the British state, with their deepening of Blair’s disastrous academy schools project, and with Michael Gove’s attempts at creating Free” Schools across Britain. Meanwhile, in America, conservatives like Pat Buchanan are pointing to Cameron’s policies as an inspiration for the Tea Party movement, while Tea Party Republicans are doubting the constitutional imperative to separate church and state.

I have some sympathy for some of the philosophies in the “B
ig Society” mix; I believe in a small state, self-help, mutual aid, decentralisation and active citizenship. BigSoc ideologues like David Willetts and Phillip Blonde talk eloquently of exactly the kind of thick civic culture that I refer to in this post. But I remain unconvinced that the Big Society in reality is anything more than an alibi for fiscal ultra-conservatism, or that Cameron’s attempts to imagine it into existence will do anything to mitigate the social devastation that is already being caused by his government’s slash and burn social policies. 

Ken Livingstone a couple of years ago made one of his typically pugnacious and offensive comments to the effect that global capitalism had killed far more people than terrorism. Of course, capitalists do not set out to kill people, so cannot be judged against the same moral calculus as terrorists, who do set out to kill people. But the substantive point is undoubtedly correct. Neo-liberalism – that is, the abdication (whether forced by unaccountable institutions like the IMF and World Bank, or chosen by tax-cutting politicians) by the state of its duty to provide basic care for its citizens – kills.

In this post, though, I want to focus on one very small aspect of the evil of neo-liberalism: the assault on civic culture through decimating the universal services provided by the state. I believe that the foundation of a civic culture is universal entitlement to certain key services, equitably delivered according to universalist values. Inequality of provision implies inequality of civic status, while equality of provision provides for a shared experience of the state that can be the basis of a shared citizenship, an equal stake in a community of citizens.

Neo-liberalism is the rolling back of the state in its care for the citizenry. We are now not citizens but consumers, faced with a ‘choice’ of providers in the marketplace. Sometimes, of course, the new provider can be a community enterprise, deeply rooted in a neighbourhood, empowering local citizens through its provision of services. The state is not necessarily the best provider of services.

More often than not, of course, providers enter the marketplace to make a profit, and the best service consumers can choose is likely to be the one few can afford – either because few have enough money, or because few have enough resources (‘social capital’ in the jargon of today) to navigate the obstacles to accessing it. For example, the Roman Catholic London Oratory School, where Blair’s offspring were sent, interviews prospective students and their parents to test their piety – and their middle class dispositions.

It is into this vacuum that faith-based initiatives, as Bush called them, have stepped. In India, the neo-liberal abdication of the state’s responsibility to provide decent education has meant some 30,000 madrassas teach Muslim children who live below the poverty line. But what do they teach them? A curriculum – Dars-e-Nizami – that has remained unchanged for three centuries. Even more poor children go to schools run by voluntary sector organisations which are part of the Hindutva machine – the ‘saffron fascist’ Hindu right. Here, according to various investigations, “the texts taught… are exclusivist, even violent, distort history, and are driven by prejudice and rancour against particular sections of the population.” (Setalvad).

Europe and America don’t face exactly that challenge – though the Blair government’s neo-liberal Academy programme gives control of curriculum to the philanthropists who buy the Academies, such as Peter Vardy, the Creationist second hand car salesman who runs several schools in the North East of England. Faith schools thrive in Britain’s cities because the so-called choice of a secular state school is an under-resourced disaster that parents will do anything to avoid their kids going to. If everyone had access to a decent neighbourhood school, hardly anyone in Britain would choose a faith school – just as the Indian poor would not send their children to madrassas or their Hindu nationalist equivalents.

Like Bush and Blair, and unlike most of my fellow ‘muscular liberals’, I have great respect for religious faith and the sacrifices people of faith will make to contribute to the communities. I am not against faith-based initiatives as such.

But my worry is that the universal values of public culture – values such as free inquiry and tolerance for different faiths – are under threat from the marketisation of public services. While the rich can choose quality, the children of the less than rich are segregated along lines of faith or community, and many placed in the hands of the some of the most reactionary, authoritarian, bigoted people imaginable, to the detriment of a culture of common citizenship.

Gnome Chomsky 12: Chomsky's adventures in the capitalist heartland

I can't believe I didn't know there is a blog with a Gnome Photo of the Week feature. Some time ago, they featured Chomsky in Cheese Land. It comes from a whole series, Chomsky Domovoi Djedoesjka, by the intriguingly named Capital I. So, here we are: Ham, Chomsky, and eggs; Saturday with Chomsky and Smirnoff; and Chomsky in giant condiment land.

Ham, Chomsky, and eggs. by Capital I
Saturday with Chomsky and Smirnoff by Capital I
Chomsky in giant condiment land by Capital I

Friday, October 22, 2010

Eyes Wide Open in Brockley

This is slightly late in the day, but the Brockley Jack Film Club is screening Eyes Wide Open on Monday night. Details are here.

Aaron a married orthodox Jew in his thirties gives an enigmatic young man (Ezri) a job in his Jerusalem butcher’s shop.   Working alongside Ezri unlocks long repressed desires and the two men embark on a sexual relationship.  Slowly the community begins to suspect what is happening, and so begins Aaron’s conflict between his faith, community and desire.  With a restrained pace and muted colours Tabakman’s film captures the  oppressive atmosphere of a closed society and the cost of breaking a great taboo.
“‘A gripping tale of a man fighting with himself, his community and religion’
Time Out
“Tabakman manages to break taboos without resorting to a heavy-handed attack on religion. His film is sparse, sombre and curiously compelling.” ****
Sunday Times
Watch the trailer
Haim Tabakman / Israel 2009 / 90 min / Hebrew & Yiddish with subtitles / Cert: 12

Queer haredim on screen in SE4! I am told this is one of the real gems of the current Israeli cinema, under-going something of a renaissance with films like Samuel Maoz's Lebanon, Eran Riklis' The Lemon Tree, Ari Folman's awesome Waltz With Bashir, Tatia Rosenthal's $9.99, Joseph Cedar's Beaufort, Eran Kolirin's The Band's Visit and Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani's Ajami.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Anti-fascism in a new era

Waterloo Sunset has published a very helpful critique of Searchlight’s announcement of a brave new era for anti-fascism. Like WS, I agree that there is some truth in the analysis of the changing situation put forward by Nick Lowles and Paul Meszaros, and like WS I am far from convinced of either the newness or the wisdom of the new course they chart. I differ from WS in being less sure of what the right course is.

As WS points out, the aspects of the new Searchlight analysis which are correct were actually set out very clearly a decade and a half ago by London Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) in its Filling the Vacuum document, which led eventually to the self-dissolution of AFA and a turn to community politics. In short, the battle against the BNP on the streets had been won by the early 1990s, but the BNP were winning a cultural war in the communities where white working class people felt let down and abandoned by mainstream society, and in particular by the left and the Labour movement.

But, as WS also points out, the way to engage those communities is not to enter the political mainstream, or to do the Labour Party’s business and re-connect the electorate in those communities with the political machine which abandoned them. That only further sacrifices our credibility.

The way to fill the vacuum, instead,

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Suburban stupidity

First, Coatesy’s latest blog round-up gives me (and some of my favourites) a namecheck.
Other Blogs worth noting: Shiraz Socialist – for its against-the-grain attacks and good sense about Islamism. Rosie Bell, raising the cultural tone. Bob From Brockley offers an indispensable round-up of left Blogging, and recently wrote a superb history of the RCP/Living Marxism. Poumista covers with rigour the kind of left the Tendance comes from. The Spanish Prisoner does great film reviews, and – a real source of new information – explains life on the Dole as an American leftist. Entdinglichung covers such a range of European leftist news, history and theory, that one wonders how he manages it. Beyond the Transition is essential reading on the former Eastern Bloc.

Among those, Rosie has a post on the RCP, which also kindly links to mine, but says it a lot more succinctly and wittily.

Phil, A Very Public Sociologist, has taken up my “Influential left-wingers” meme, except he’d done it in the style of my “political influences” series, which is far more interesting. In his lovely post, he celebrates his Nana, a working class Tory and a fine woman. Thank you Phil.

Modernity’s “A Few Things” is chock-a-block with tasty morsels, such as Yaacov Lozowick’s review of Shlomo Sand’s The Invention of the Jewish People, and a report on Gazans fighting back against Hamas by brewing their own wine! His subsequent roll-around is even more replete. I’m still digesting it, but have so far gotten to Flesh on fairness, Martin admitting to stealing my template, SAFA on the Scottish Defence League, Mira on Tony Greenstein’s antisemitism (because of comment moderation, I didn’t see until now that Tony calls me “Bob from boring Bromley” – how low can a man go?), and Max on Liu Xiaobo.

Just quickly, a few other things. A shockingly good article published at Counterpunch on American activists admiring Ahmadinejad by Bitta Mostofi (hat tip Rob). A post on the EDL in Leicester from a militant anti-fascist (hat tip WS). WS himself on the resignation of a prominent EDL activist over far right infiltration.

And this week’s new favourite blogger is Ross Wolfe of The charnel-house, among whose posts are this one on Columbus Day, this one on what Lenin would say about the leftists who say Hamas are anti-imperialist, and this one on regressive activism at the G20 summit. But my favourite post of the week is not from Ross, but from Nick at Just Opinions, on Jewishness.

More round-ups at Poumista: Poumelated and Poumicity. And one more from Barkingside21.

Note: title of this post taken from Tony Greenstein's description of me at Greens Engage. To celebrate suburban stupidity, here's Bromley's own David Bowie, soundtracking Bromley's own Hanif Kureishi: