maandag, januari 31, 2005

Working for the cash machine

Whenever I've spent extended periods in the UK, I've always been aghast at the cost of everything there. Wages are low, and prices are usurous. There's always a gaping hole in my pocket whenever I visit London and I am shocked that that in itself is not a major political issue (the price of things, that is, not the gap in my pocket - which can be useful in other ways).

It is however the subject of a wickedballs single from a new London band, Hard-fi, who have more than a wee bit of a Clash influence - which is certainly no crime in my book. The track, 'Working for the cash machine', gives good expression to this price-induced poverty:

'Go to a cash machine
To get a ticket home
A message on the screen
Says don't make plans you're broke
No, no this can't be right
I know that times is tight
I thought I've just been paid
Three weeks but they say that it's right

'No, oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh

'I scratch a living, it ain't easy
You know with the drag
I'm always paying, never making
But you can't look back
I wonder if I'll ever gets
To where I wants to be
Better believe it
I'm working for the cash machine

'I try to phone a friend
My credit's in the red
I try to skip the fare
Ticket inspector's there
No, no, this can't be right
I live an honest life
It seems like sometimes
You don't cross the line
You don't get by'

You can check the track here, but I'd recommend just listening to the song and ignoring the video. It's one of the worst I've ever seen, and has dick-all to do with the song.

There's a lot of good shit coming out of the UK at the moment, as well as from New York, that's clearly heavily influenced by many of the post-punk/new wave bands of the late seventies and early eighties, which is great to hear - but too many of the bands have adopted the sound while exorcising the hard-left politic that typically went along with it. And this at a time of crushing structural adjustment, privatisation, and imperialist war! Come on musical-type-bandy-people, pull your finger out! Give us an anti-war anthem or two!

The Hard-fi track isn't bad though.

Negotiations with insurgents?

John Simpson's report for the BBC's Panorama programme tonight gave, on the whole, a fairly accurate picture of the situation in Iraq - perhaps the best I've seen from a mainstream news outlet. The programme offered a frank look at the overstretch of US and coalition troops, caught American ambassador John Negroponte out on the issue of civilian casualties, included interviews with Fallujah civilians whose family members were killed by the bombing of their city, conceded that some critics view the attack on Fallujah as a war crime, and managed to offer - for first time as far as I know - an interview with a Ba'athist leader of the insurgency.

There were, of course, problems. Not least of which was Simpson's description of the number of civilian casualties in the Lancet report as 'widely dismissed as too high.' The passive phrasing of the sentence, in which the subject (and I mean here 'subject' in its grammatical sense, as the 'doer' of the action in a sentence) of the sentence is absent, is weasel journalism, as Simpson should know. Indeed he does, arguing as he did in his recent memoir, News from no man's land, to be wary of journalists who use passive sentence construction.

In any case, the estimates in the Lancet report have not been widely dismissed as too high. Doug Ireland, a regular Nation magazine contributor and the author of the Direland weblog, recently posted a thorough discussion of the failure of the mainstream media to cover the Lancet report numbers and debunked the debunkers of the report - in particular the Washington Post's dishonest use of an out-of-context quote from a Human Rights Watch spokesperson to cast doubt on the numbers when in reality the spokesperson himself did not have such doubts.

Others may find further issues with the programme to complain about as well. However, there were two things in particular that made this Panorama a must-see for me.

First of all, there was the inclusion of a clip from the now fairly widely circulated English-language video purporting to be from the resistance, and which name-checks the anti-war and anti-globalisation movements. The reason for its inclusion in the Panorama programme is a bit of a mystery, as there was essentially no commentary on the clip from Simpson, but this is the first time I've seen even part of this video broadcast on television, which is remarkable in itself.

Secondly,we find in one of Simpson's interviews with former acting Iraqi president, Adnan Pachachi, who is now a candidate in the current elections, that Pachachi supports bringing sections of the insurgency into the political process. Echoing this perspective was ambassador Negroponte, who said that in fact such negotiations had already taken place. Simpson also reported that Prime Minister Ayaad Allawi's people were currently in talks in Jordan with elements close to the insurgents' leadership.

At the same time, a leader from the United Iraqi Alliance - the mainly Shiite and fairly unwieldy political coalition backed by Sistani - interviewed by Simpson was adamant that not only there be no negotiations with these insurgents, but that they be crushed militarily.

Now, the Alliance is more or less opposed to the occupation and makes a distinction between the 'patriotic resistance' on the one hand and the Zarqawi-types and Ba'athists on the other. So when they say that they are opposed to negotiations with certain insurgents, they can only be meaning the Sunni Ba'athist insurgents who are opposed to Shiite majority rule. Perhaps they are worried (understandably) that it is this section of the insurgency that the Americans may be inviting back into the political process.

The frankly unsurprising revelations that the Allawi regime (and hence the Americans) are in discussions with elements within the insurgency, together with the document recently leaked to Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation suggesting that Allawi is considering a full restoration of the Ba'ath party in Iraq and the return of leading Ba'athists to government, may just point to the sort of exit strategy the Americans are considering.

zondag, januari 30, 2005

Sections of US establishment beginning to advocate pull-out

Just a few quick Sunday links:

Now that the American presidential election is over, and the publication of critiques of the country's position in Iraq can be taken as read instead of as partisan manoeuvres, more than a few key players in the US establishment, of both major parties, have submitted their opinions for consideration.

In the last few days, a number of Democrats have discovered their spines and actually begun to call for a withdrawal from Iraq. This is certainly to be encouraged, but what is more interesting is the number of Republicans, and/or those in the foreign policy establishment, who are making similar sorts of noises. Most of these voices are, of course, generally associated with the 'realist', non-neo-conservative wing of the GOP, who have never been happy with the PNAC gang's ascendancy, or indeed with the Iraq invasion. However, while their distaste for the neo-conservative position has never been hidden, they certainly haven't been exuberantly vocal about it. The fact that such voices as James Dobbins, a US Special Envoy in Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti, Somalia and Afghanistan; Anthony Cordesman, a former national security advisor for the Department of Defense; Henry Kissinger and others are now offering analyses that range from 'we are on a path that leads to defeat', at their most optimistic, to 'we are already defeated', at their least, is not important so much for the content of their critiques, however brutally realistic they are, but for the fact that they are saying these things so prominently, so publicly. The US establishment is clearly very divided on Iraq.

The US is, however, seriously up the creek of poo sans paddle, as all these analyses acknowledge. To remain in Iraq is to double one's bet when one knows one is holding a weak hand and furthermore knowing that one's opponents know it too. At the same time, to cut and run, however dressed up as a victory it would be in the pliant media, would embolden the enemies of US interests in the region and around the world, and would almost certainly deal a death blow to the Saudi regime and possibly to other US-friendlly governments in the Middle East. Ironically, if it were to pull out of Iraq, in order to prevent this and to protect US interests, the US would actually have to extend itself still further in the region.

They're damned if they do, and damned if they don't, which US realists recognise, and so, absent the idealism of the neo-cons, are counselling the least bad option. The situation could be salvaged, they hope, by a relatively quick pull-out and a dependence on diplomatic miracles from the EU and the UN, as well as, intriguingly and in stark contrast to the neo-con perspective, a dependence on Iran as a stabilising force.

How the neo-cons respond to this will be interesting, as they are not as much an expression of the will of US capital as the Foreign Affairs/Carlyle Group/former consiglieri to Bush Sr. gang are, even though, post-election, they consider themselves untouchable.

Check James Dobbins' piece in Foreign Affairs, 'Winning the unwinnable war', for an example of this sort of thinking; while for a rough but fairly handy progressive analysis of this desertion of sections of the US elite from the war party - in particular Cordesman's arguments, check out the editorial, 'The failure of empire', in the latest edition of the Monthly Review.


Elsewhere, for those needing to be disabused of the idea that the anti-war camp position is devoid of nuance and internal debate, you could do worse than have a read on the International Viewpoint website (also published on Znet) of the snippy exchange between Alex Callinicos, a leader of the UK's Socialist Workers' Party and prominent figure in the Stop the War Coalition, and Gilbert Achar, a leader of the League Communiste Revolutionaire and prominent French commentator whose writings feature regularly in the pages of Le Monde Diplomatique. While the discussion at times seems to get bogged down in the passive-aggressive point-scoring and repetition typical of such colossal academic egos ('My esteemed Alex, while my admiration for your sprightly braininess knows no frontier, you plainly do not recognise that it is imperative that the anti-war movement condemn attacks on civilians.'; 'Ah, but my dear cleverly clever Gilbert, whose writings offer erudite shivers of insight satisfying in ways similar to the shivers one sometimes receives when peeing standing up, what you have not gathered is that it is crucial that attacks on civilians be condemned by the anti-war movement!'; and so on), taken together, the polemics are as good an analysis of the current situation as I have come across, while also an example of how our side is very far from monolithic, whatever the slanders of the pro-slaughter left that our perspective is no more advanced than an automatic 'enemy of my enemy is my friend' amorality.


Relatedly, via the annoyingly prolific Lenin's Tomb, we find on the Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation website a leaked document showing that Allawi's regime is considering a return to Baath-style authoritarianism.

'Signed by General Taleb Al-Hamadani, 'overall coordinator for security matters' for Ayyad Allawi, and addressed to Allawi, he appears to comment on another discussion document circulated within the Ayyad Allawi government and suggesting full restoration of the Baath party in Iraq. While advocating caution to stem "international opposition" to such move, General Al-Hamadani nevertheless supports the return of leading Baathist to government and cites measures to ensure that "those belonging to other parties are excluded from military and security institutions", in effect advocating a dictatorship in Iraq.'

IDAO has a copy of the (Arabic-language) document uploaded to its website.

The proprietor of Lenin's Tomb also reminds us that, while progressives should not necessarily be opposed to the election:

'The 'transitional' government will not exactly govern, any more than the interim government presently 'authorises' US strikes on Fallujah or Mosul. Its role will be to decide on a constitution for Iraq (doubtless with the assistance of that enormous US embassy currently under the management of John Negroponte). That may be ratified, and if it has, Iraqis might get elections for a proper government in December - after the rules of the game have been decided by the US, naturally.'


Finally, I do beat up on Johann Hari a fair bit, so it's only fair to note when he gets something right. A recent fairly decent piece of his for the Independent denudes Bush's talk of spreading freedom for the pack of porky pies that it is, and also does a fairly good job of exposing the structural-adjustment-on-steroids economic programme Iraq's occupiers are imposing on the country.

However, he's still far too young to be having a column in the Independent, a mon avis.

donderdag, januari 27, 2005

Q. What do Buster Bunny, Spongebob Squarepants, Lenny the Shark, Tinky-Winky, Barney the Dinosaur, Bugs Bunny, and Ernie and Bert have in common?

A. They're all homos.

Over Xmas it was Shark Tale's Lenny the Shark, last week it was Spongebob Squarepants, today
Buster Bunny. Homosexualist militants are clearly using animation and puppetry as a secret and dastardly ploy to turn children poofy. Is there nothing the gay mafia won't do to try and convert our youngsters to the pleasures of dirty, dirty bumb sex [clearly here, I'm addicted to the ratings boost I received last week from mentioning bumb sex in the title one of my posts] or, in the case of Buster Bunny, whatever it is lesbians do?

They're on a roll, those loons from the Rapture Right.

Today we find, reading in the New York Times, that this week, PBS decided not to distribute to its 350 stations an episode of the popular children's programme, Postcards From Buster, due to pressure from the US education secretary, Margaret Spellings, who denounced the brief presence of two lesbian mothers on the show.

In the series, a combination of live action and classical animation, Buster Bunny travels around the States, meeting different kids and explores the many sorts of lives children have in different parts of the country.

According to the Times, 'One episode featured a family with five children, living in a trailer in Virginia, all sharing one room. In another, Buster visits a Mormon family in Utah. He has dropped in on fundamentalist Christians and Muslims as well as American Indians and Hmong. He has shown the lives of children who have only one parent, and those who live with grandparents.'

In the episode in question, 'Sugartime!', Buster travels to Vermont to meet a family of maple-syrup tappers. The parents, although they appear only briefly in the show, as the focus is on the kids, are clearly heathen lesbian carpet-munchers, prompting the education secretary to attack the programme for 'exposing children to the lesbian lifestyle'.

The incident, which to my mind exposes how whipped even public broadcasting is in the States to the paranoid homophobic hysteria of the happy-clappies, follows on from last weeks' 'outing' of Spongebob Squarepants by Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family.

At a black-tie inauguration celebration dinner, Dr. Dobson condemned Spongebob Squarepants, the camp, lisping, far-from-sessile poriferan who lives in a pineapple under the sea and holds hands with his best friend, Patrick the (pink - shock, horror!) Starfish, while watching their favourite TV programme, The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, as 'pro-homosexual'.

I must say, I don't know where he gets that idea.

Meanwhile, over Christmas, a film review by the American Family Association inveighed against Disney's film Shark Tale, not for the plasticky computer animation and awkward character design, but because the vegetarian shark hero of the film was 'swishy'.

The film's 'undercurrent of approval for homosexuality' is made plain by 'Lenny's mannerisms and voice [that] tend toward the effeminate…but that's not the worst of it,' wrote the AFA's Ed Vitagliano, '…The pressure of his [meat-eating] father's disapproval is too much for Lenny, and he runs away. Oscar [the fish], who should be his natural prey, becomes his friend. However, that friendship allows Lenny to open up, and he finally confesses to Oscar that he's "different." He admits: "I'm a vegetarian...You're the first fish I ever told. I'm so tired of keeping it all a secret. And my dad - he'll never accept me for who I am! What's wrong with me?"

It gets worse: 'Lenny is more than just a vegetarian. He turns out to enjoy dressing as a dolphin, an obvious allusion to cross-dressing.'

What especially vexes the AFA is the necessarily happy ending where father-shark and son-shark are reconciled: '"What is your problem?" Oscar demands of [Lenny's dad] Don Lino. "So your son likes kelp. So his best friend's a fish. So he likes to dress like a dolphin. So what? Everybody loves him, just the way he is. Why can't you?" Lino's heart softens, and he tells Lenny, "I love you son, no matter what you eat or how you dress."'

Thus the entire film, while never actually even mentioning homosexuality, is, according to the AFA, far too suggestive and, says Vitagliano using a far-too-obvious pun, 'swimming a bit too close to shore for many parents.'

All of which is of a piece with the God Squad's fundamentalist panic in recent years about the sexual orientation of Tinky-Winky the Teletubby, Barney the purple dinosaur, and, of course, the definitive gay rights pioneers, Ernie, Bert and Bugs Bunny.

Of course all of this is quite amusing insofar as it's an example of how feverishly deranged the American right can be, but what is genuinely extraordinarily frightening is that it all comes from a sense of confidence on the right, especially since November, that they can freely force their agenda on broadcasters and publishers, corporately consolidated as they are, petrified of offending an imagined red-state moral majority.

The Petroleum Broadcasting Service, did, after all, pull the Postcards From Buster broadcast, rather than laugh in the face of such bigoted lunacy.

dinsdag, januari 18, 2005

Dynamite walls

One evening, in my first year at university, many years ago now, a pair of friends of mine burst into my residence room and demanded I grab my toothbrush and some toothpaste.

'Put your math text down (this was in the second semester of my first year, when I very briefly entertained delusions that I was to be a physicist [psychotic. I know]). We don't care that you've got a test tomorrow - we have to go. Now!'

'What? Where?'

'Just grab your toothbrush and let's go!'

And so we drove up to the north of Vancouver Island, to some random national park, having bought jelly doughnuts on the way, and sat on a log, watched the stars and listened to the lapping of the Pacific for about fifteen minutes.

The point had been to just drive. To just go.

Then, because it was very cold, we got in the car and drove back, listening to REM's Document on cassette over and over - paying special attention to 'It's the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)'. We arrived back in Victoria at about five the next morning and I failed my test.

I would say that the best album of 2004 was
Hayden's Elk-Lake Serenade, but the Hayden track that makes my heart bother me quite a bit, just brimming with homesickness, is 'Dynamite Walls', from his previous album, Skyscraper National Park. The lyrics go:

Open your eyes, put it in drive, get on the road and just go. City lights turn to tree lines and national park signs. The mountains approach with more winds in the road and the air turns to falling snow miles away. Just up ahead it doesn't matter what any of us is looking for. We'll never find it because it's not even there. High beams showing falling rock warnings and construction work slowings. The engine blazes as the elevation raises but the dynamite walls contain us. Everyone's watching for animals crossing through the part of the glass that's defrosting. Miles away just up ahead it doesn't matter what any of us is looking for. We'll never find it because it's not even there.

'High beams showing falling rock warnings and construction work slowings. The engine blazes as the elevation raises but the dynamite walls contain us. Everyone's watching for animals crossing through the part of the glass that's defrosting.' - My God. That is the alpha and omega of Canada for me. I am no flag-waver in any sense. I do not wear a Maple Leaf flag on my backpack (although the backpack is from Mountain Equipment Co-op - whose logo is the secret sign between Canadians abroad who do not want people to think they are like those Canadians who wear Maple Leaf flags on their backpacks, but still want to nod to each other knowingly on some Shibuya platform station). All patriotisms reduce us to monkeys. And yet…

And yet nothing. The nostalgia I have for this vision of Canada is just silly. It is a nostalgia for rural Canada, which, while breath-catchingly beautiful, is, truthfully, full of bookless idiots. They do not listen to Hayden in rural Canada. They listen to Toby Keith and Shania Twain. It is fey urban hipsters, who ironically decorate their Toronto apartments with Expo 67 kitsch and wear Edmonton Oilers touques from the seventies even though they have never been to a hockey game in their skinny hipper-than-thou lives, who listen to Hayden. I have spent time in rural Canada, and I know some people can hack it, but I cannot. Birch trees in winter are as trancendent as a good beer buzz, but I cannot abide the social conservatism and acceptance of limited horizons. So I don't know what I'm nostalgic for exactly. The Vancouver/Toronto/Montreal urban experience is not markedly different to that of other cities. And even then, the cities are full of bookless idiots too. The majority of them listen to Shania Twain there as well. It is only a minority of city dwellers who listen to Hayden.

In the end, diminishingly, the conclusion must be that the world is full of people who do not listen to Hayden.

Still...'High beams showing falling rock warnings and construction work slowings. The engine blazes as the elevation raises but the dynamite walls contain us. Everyone's watching for animals crossing through the part of the glass that's defrosting.'

No one in Europe can understand this, except through having watched an inexact imitation of it in American road movies. And it's not that I especially enjoy meeting other Canadians overseas. That's almost as bad as meeting them in Canada.

Nonetheless, there is no wilderness here. There are no falling rock warnings and construction work slowings.

There are no dynamite walls here.

maandag, januari 17, 2005

Continental chardonnay under ten euros

Hey kids - some dude from the UK Ministry of Defence cited my blog post about the recent hoo-haw in Ukraine in a paper! Getcha!

I haven't had time to read it yet, but the dude is from the Centre for Conflict Studies, which is part of the Defence Academy, apparently.

Shizzle. The New Statesman turned a version of the flipping piece down, yet the MoD feels comfortable enough about its politics to cite it. I must be doing something wrong.


Trying to find a fucking decent chardonnay under ten euros on the continent is much like decent American comedy: it exists, but damn, you've really, really got to look.


Mildly disconcerting: The Washington Post has issued two editorials in the last week attacking Venezuela. The kids at the 'liberal' WP seem to be paying a lot of attention these days to the scandalous reduction in child mortality/success in combatting adult illiteracy/historic programme of land redistribution going on there. All of which clearly needs to be stamped out. And last year, of course, a number of articles started appearing in the US press suggesting that al-Qaeda had built a base on an island off the coast of Venezuela, ha ha. (A charming fellow and journeyman journo y'all may be familiar with under his real name did manage to have a piece in the Staggers about that one)

The selling of Hugo Chavez as a latter-day, latino Saddam proceeds apace.


Latest Philip Roth, The Plot Against America, received as Crimbo prezzie: Starts off crackingly; but ending doesn't have courage of novel's premise - a faith in basic righteousness of American project undermines the It Can't Happen Here narrative. Furthermore, however bad things get for the Jewish characters in the book, in an imagined fascist America, it was far, far worse for blacks in the all too real America of the period the book covers and afterward.

I don't think Roth intended to diminish the oppression blacks faced mid-century in the States, by imagining American anti-Jewish pogroms in the Forties, but he did nonetheless. Lynching, anyone?

Disappointing. Still - worth picking up just for allegory skewering Bush Junior's 'Mission Accomplished'/Top Gun photo op.

A demain.

PS. Want markedly higher traffic to your blog? Write a post with a title that includes the words dirty and bum and sex.

vrijdag, januari 14, 2005

No Loitering Only

Tonight I've had tons of completely random visitors to the site - most of which are trying to sell something, like Kyleslawnservice, and the most of the rest have been Portuguese, as usual.

But then there's the odd one, which makes me just pause, and think, Jesus, what an amazing thing these blogs can be sometimes. There's someone that came here via one of these random sites,
Extext. The guy just started yesterday, but it's like, wow, I'm looking in on this 59-year-old guy's thoughts, that maybe he's quite confident about, or maybe this is the only thing he's ever spoken to. Whatever. Wow.

He's got a big fungus growing on an elm stump in his front yard. He says 'It changes everyday. Sometimes it seems to be thinking it is so brain-like.'

I'm blown away. The sign is a photograph he took. He writes poetry too.

donderdag, januari 13, 2005

Swedish dirty bum sex

Now, as you might have guessed, I am implacably opposed to the death penalty, but I must say that I am probably for the death penalty for those who are for the death penalty for homosexuals.

Speaking of which, over in the Land of the Free there is, as some of you will undoubtedly have heard, the Westboro Baptist Church (God hates fags dot com [I am not linking to the fucking site]) - the straight-up, clean-living, mighty wholesome folks famous for picketing Matthew Shepherd's funeral. Well, they've moved on, and they're to picket, with their day-glo 'God Hates Fags' placards, Swedish tsunami survivors on the Thai island of Phuket and the Swedish Embassy in Bangkok next week. God hates Sweden now too, apparently.

Why Sweden? The country's anti-hate speech laws have resulted in [hallelujah] the arrest of a Swedish clergyman for preaching homophobic hate from his pulpit. For calling dirty, dirty bum sex between men 'abnormal, a horrible cancerous tumour in the body of society,' and calling gays 'perverts, whose sexual drive the Devil has used as his strongest weapon against God,' Pastor Ake Green was sentenced to a month in prison for his trespasses, and thus, according to that freaky fascist, Reverend Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church, the Asian tsunami was God's revenge for Sweden's degeneracy.

Whatever one's opinion of how much more accurate God could have been (Sweden being quite a long way from Thailand, but, like Finland, not so far from Japan [extra points to those catching the gratuitous pop-cult reference there]), I am with the blond, blue-eyed Sverige authorities on this one, not the Almighty, and, as Paul, of the annoyingly superbly-well-designed australiohomo blog, Buggery.org - who alerted me to Rev. Phelps' latest vile hate pantomime - deftly puts it: 'You don't get exempted from [anti-hate-speech] laws just because you wear a funny collar and deliver your incitement from a church pulpit.'

You know, sometimes, just sometimes, I am with Hitchens and his whole mad thesis that the battle in this world is no longer between capital and labour, but between the enlightenment and the international forces of Talibanism (although, really, as we all should know, that's just vulgar idealism and a lucre-induced rejection of his previously devoutly affirmed materialism).


On a related note, I am very, very disappointed in Prince Harry. I had always hoped he would turn out to be gay. Not because I am remotely interested in the ginger tosser, but for all the republican fun it would cause. Let's hope this latest Nazi-and-a-ciggy brou-ha-ha brews up some fresh republican-with-a-small-R feeling within the Commonwealth. I mean, 'Natives and Colonials'? Please. -- Which should actually be the embarrassing part. A couple of years ago, I turned up to a Hallowe'en party, not knowing it was supposed to be fancy dress, and the hostess opened the door and said I had better come up with a cozzy quick. Well, I was already half-cut, so I asked her for two cardboard boxes, a black marker, two pieces of paper and some sticky tape. Appallingly, five minutes later I was two World Trade Centre towers, with crashing paper airplanes cellotaped to the sides and felt-tipped stick men drawn falling down the sides. People at first didn't know what I was supposed to be, so I would fall over, go 'ahhhhhhh', and then they'd get it. Surprisingly, it went down rather well, although I imagine there are photographs of it somewhere that will quickly extinguish any electoral ambitions should I ever acquire them at some point in the future. Interestingly, a few years earlier, at a Hallowe'en party just weeks after the much-revered Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, had died, I went as the undead late PM, complete with peeling cadaver skin and a dead rose in the lapel, and, despite the fact that the crowd that evening were all to a man Trotskyists and left-wing social democrats, and Trudeau had been a wage-fixing, tanks-into-Montreal-sending, War-Measures-Act-invoking, civil-liberties-suspending fucking Liberal*, all I got the whole night were seriously po-faced variations on the theme of, 'Really, (my real name), no really, that's just not funny.' So having a DIY laugh at the worst act of non-American terrorism in the history of the Western Hemisphere is A-OK, but dressing up as a zombified recently dead Liberal former head of state is a no-no?

Where am I going with this one?

(Too many 8.5% Belgian beers tonight, methinks)

Hmm. Something about how we all get dressed up as embarrassing things in our twenties. However - and this is the key point - we most certainly are not all members of the royal family who go to 'Natives and Colonials' parties. Har har - the colonies. Ooga wooga. Blecks. Rhodesia. What, what, Jeremy, look at my authentic Zulu spear, what, what. Har har.

Reportedly, HRH Gingerfuckwit also said, when questioned about his current girlfriend's father's dodgy connections to Robert Mugabe, 'It's not as if she's black or anything, you know.'

Off with their fucking heads.

There was this great sticker done up by Class War years back. It read 'Queen Mum: Hurry up and die!' Fairly simple, but, in their simple lumpen-anarchist way, fucking brilliant little slogan. Stuck it up in an Exeter University washroom. Should have kept it. Of course, it can't really be used now, as the racist bionic gin-fiend did kick it finally. Could do with something like that again though, regarding the current fracas. Suggestions (from the five of you who read this blog) in the comments box. Winner (picked by me) gets a bottle in the post of this lovely Belgian stuff that's making me feel very squiffy right now. And maybe a mix tape of Kate Bush too, just for shits and giggles.

*Sorry. Just thought - for any Yanks who might be reading this, and I know this may be confusing, but in Canada, the Liberals are conservative - sort of like in Australia, and then we have a Conservative party as well, and they're really fucking conservative. (Although, to be fair, Trudeau was not quite as conservative as the rest, and, it must be said, legalised homosexuality and abortion in Canada in the sixties, and did twirl in front of the cameras and wear capes, hence the bloody mushy-minded reverence the wetter of the lefties have for him back home. My mum just adores him.)

Right. I have to stop buying my NME from Waterstone's (but who else in Brussels sells it?)

I really should stop buying the NME period.

Via Backword Dave, a blog approved by Waterstone's.

Trouble with a capital T, here in River City (well - the Venezuela-Colombia border, actually)

While it cheers this old (twenty-nine and one third [my God - do I really only have nine months left of my twenties? Quick - I must write a novel, some poetry, something!]) Marxist's soul to hear that Chavez has accelerated the country's land redistribution programme and is expropriating the property of absent landlords (and they said shit like that doesn't happen anymore), there is fairly worrying news from Venezuela as well.

It seems that Colombia has actually ventured into Venezuelan territory to kidnap the international public relations officer for the FARC. Now, whatever one thinks of the FARC - and my personal opinion is that, while the Colombian government is without doubt the bloodiest in the hemisphere (barring, well, we know who), the FARC is a hangover from the days of Stalinised leftism in Latin America and the international left best steer clear of any sort of uninformed 'solidarity' with them - for Colombia to enter Venezuelan territory to capture this man, Rodrigo Granda, is a manifest violation of Venezuelan sovereignty. Colombia is throwing its weight around in South America, knowing it has the full backing of the US and its Plan Colombia, and has come to close to blows with Chavez' Venezuela a number of times. If there is ever an American intervention against Venezuela, one can bet that its proxy will be Colombia. While this is hardly the opening salvoes of any sort of conflict, such casual breach of sovereignty does not augur well a peaceful future between the two countries.

From Democracy Now:

Colombia Admits It Seized FARC Member Inside Venezuela
In other news from Latin America, Colombia's defense minister acknowledged Wednesday that the government had paid a bounty hunter to seize a member of FARC while he was in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has described the Dec. 13 as a kidnapping that violated his country's sovereignty. Until now the Colombian government had claimed the man, Rodrigo Granda, was captured inside
Colombia, along the Venezuelan border.

For more detailed info on the situation, Venezuelanalysis.com is always good (and I'm not just saying that because yours truly has had stuff on the site [don't go looking for Victor S - I used my real name there]). Here are two articles that go into more detail. I'll be commenting more thoroughly on the issue in the coming days.

Venezuelan Kidnappers of Colombian Rebel “Foreign Minister” Almost Identified

Chavez: “Colombian Police Lied to its President”

There was also an open letter signed by Noam Chomsky, William Blum, James Petras and others to Chavez about the issue, subsequently published on Counterpunch a few days ago.

dinsdag, januari 11, 2005

Hadi Salih update - Labour Friends of Iraq open letter

Labour Friends of Iraq yesterday posted an open letter, entitled 'The murder of Hadi Saleh – why are you silent?', addressed to the UK Stop the War Coalition, demanding they speak out against the killing of IFTU trade unionist Hadi Salih.

Indeed, this brutal murder must be condemned, as I mentioned below, but again, we must ask of LFoI, and the signatories to the letter - including such noted chickenhawks as David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen - 'WHY ARE YOU SILENT WHEN OVER 100,000 IRAQI CIVILIANS HAVE BEEN BUTCHERED?'

I'm sorry - I'm not one for all-caps normally, but the willful blindness of these so-called liberals is staggering.

Needless to say, the resistance is once again slandered by the signatories of the letter in the typical screeching, ignorant 'They're all Ba'athist Islamofascists' bullshit fashion.

StWC should condemn the killing, but it must not back down in the face of these hypocrites. Let the StWC leaders go on the offensive and demand why such good little liberals support butchery by the US and UK on the scale of the Asian Tsunami.

'Objectively', one might say, LFoI and co. are apologists for war criminals.

100,000 YOU FUCKERS! 100,000 DEAD! And you say NOTHING!

**Update to the update. The Stop the War Coalition has in fact condemned the killing. Placing bets now on how long it takes Labour 'Friends' of Iraq to condemn the proven deaths of 100,000+ Iraqi civilians.

maandag, januari 10, 2005

On Hadi Salih, or, how Johann and Nick give a master-class in slander, elision

There I was thinking that the Independent's Johann Hari was coming around to a decent perspective on the war, having written a half-readable article over Xmas against the neo-liberal economic shock therapy the occupiers are applying to 'Free Iraq'. But now he - and the Observer's frothingly rabid Nick Cohen - goes and has a tantrum over how the left is once again 'objectively' siding with fascists for supposedly having said nothing over the murder of Hadi Salih, the international officer of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions.

Hari writes:

"On Tuesday night, a masked gang broke into Salih's home in Baghdad. They bound him hand and foot and they blindfolded him. They beat and they burned his flesh. Once they had finished torturing him, they strangled him with an electric cord. As a final touch, they riddled his body with bullets…

"The IFTU has reported a pattern of attacks on trade union offices and trade union members. The murder of Salih bears all the hallmarks of Saddam's Mukhabarat - the Baathist KGB. Whatever you thought about the justice of the recent war in Iraq - and there were plenty of good reasons to oppose it - the only decent path now is to stand with a majority of Iraqis against the murderers of Salih and dozens of other Iraqi trade unionists.

"Yet - I can't believe I'm saying this - a significant portion of the left is not standing with them…

"The Stop the War Coalition passed a resolution recently saying the resistance should use 'any means necessary' - which prompted Mick Rix, a decent trade unionist, to resign from the STWC on the grounds that this clearly constituted support for the murder of civilians. George Galloway has attacked the IFTU as 'quislings' and described the tearful descriptions of one of their members of life under Saddam as 'a party trick'."

Then, repeating Hari almost word for word, Cohen writes in the Observer:

"I shouldn't be shocked that there hasn't been a squeak of protest from the anti-war movement at the killing of a brave socialist, but I am.…

"The Stop the War Coalition, which organised one million people to march through the streets of London, told the kidnappers and torturers from the Baath Party and al-Qaeda that the anti-war movement 'recognises once more the legitimacy of the struggle of Iraqis, by whatever means they find necessary'. Its leading figures purport to be on the left, but have cheered on the far-right and betrayed their comrades by denouncing Iraqi trade unionists as 'Quislings' and 'collaborators'."

I must say I am getting a little hot under my boxer-elastic at this repeated elision used by the pro-war left to attack the anti-war movement.

On 3 January, Iraq's national intelligence chief, General Mohammed Abdullah Shahwani, told Agence France Presse that the number of resistance fighters in Iraq has grown to more than 200,000 active fighters and sympathizers: "I think the resistance is bigger than the US military in Iraq." According to the general, the number includes at least 40,000 militants with the rest part-time fighters and volunteers who provide rebels everything from intelligence and logistics to shelter.

So let's be clear here: Cohen and Hari, and others who are pushing this line, are saying that all 200,000 of those fighters are fascists. They are saying that anyone who would pick up a gun to defend his home from occupiers is a fascist. That is what they are saying here.

The repugnant acts such as the murder of Hadi Salih, and that of Margaret Hassan, and dozens of the 'spectacular' beheadings and other assassinations are exactly that: a few dozen. This does not excuse them. I feel quite comfortable denouncing them. I do not even feel the need to note that Salih was a member of the Iraqi Communist Party - collaborators of both the Saddam regime and Allawi's Vichy on the Tigris regime - in order to denounce his murder [but, if you're interested, Sami Ramadani, of Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation has written elsewhere forcefully exploding the myth of IFTU as a free trade union central]. Whether a quisling or not, he did not deserve to die. But the more than 120 attacks on US forces a day easily dwarf in number such sickening deeds.

And I also feel quite comfortable saying to the majority of the insurgents: Yeah - go on! Get some! - which is, according to Evan Wright's impressive new book, Generation Kill, the story of a platoon of US marines of the First Recon battalion during the second invasion of Iraq, what marines say to each other when they attempt to beat a personal fitness best, get laid in a whorehouse in Thailand, or thump a house full of women and children with a burst of .50-calibre machine gun fire.

In supporting the resistance - this huge some-time army that eclipses the US presence in the country - the anti-war movement is supporting those fighting to free their homes from occupation. Supporting the resistance does not mean supporting the murder of trade unionists, collaborationist or not.

The reality is that Cohen, Hari and co. are happy to see war crimes such as the Srebrenica-style forcing of Fallujah's male residents to remain within that city limits while allowing women and children to escape the bombing two months ago.

The reality is that for them the 100,000+ Iraqi civilians killed since the start of the war mean nothing next to the murder of a handful of western aid workers. [At some point here we really do need to begin speaking of the unreconstructed racism of this position] Both are horrific, but at least the anti-war movement has the clarity to say so.

They denounce us for saying nothing when Salih was tortured and murdered. Perhaps they're right. Something should have been said. But where are Hari and Cohen's column inches about our government's murder of hundreds of thousands? They attack the Stop the War Coalition over our apparent quiessence at the murder of one man, but the vast, noiseless vacuum of space could not contain the silence of the pro-war hypocrites in the face of their own governments' devilry.