Saturday, 28 February 2009

Location of Anti-Christ's Birth Discovered

Serendipity, divine intervention, epiphany, call it what you will, but I have clearly been Chosen by a Higher Power to reveal to you the epicentre of evil in the modern world.

It will come as no surprise to most of you to learn that this place is in Yorkshire. My suspicions were first aroused many years ago, when as a teenager I learnt that the cheatcode to the game 'Worms' was the same as the place where the developers were based.

Worms, as you will doubtless recall, is a game in which you control teams of worms and command them to do barbaric deeds with vicious, indiscriminate weapons like exploding sheep, Holy Hand Grenades, and even blowtorches. Who were you required to do this to? Why, worms of course. Because that is how Satanists see us! Oh, there are none so blind as those who will not see!

Then my suspicions were given weight this very day when I read of the birthplace of David Peace, author of the Red Riding Quartet, The Damned Utd and GB84. Clearly the atmosphere of this place has a disturbing effect on all young minds whom it comes into contact with. The sleep of reason produces monsters indeed.

A quick Googlemapping confirmed everything I had feared:
An inverted pentagram with it's base right in the centre of the village! 'Nuff said, I think.

I attempted to interview a local resident about this terrifying threat to mankind, but he simply replied "I'll tell me mam on thee," adding cryptically "Eeh, I'll go to foot of our stairs" and hopping away.
A local resident of Ossett yesterday.

Brilliant Headlines, Vol 16

'Drinking Problems Rife in Orchestras'

Rarely has a headline seemed so mysterious, so seedy, and yet at once so ripe with promise...

Class Struggle 101, with Professors Zellweger and Connick

On every protest there's someone who earnestly believes that if they can just get everyone to come with them they can storm the palace RIGHT NOW! Regardless of whether the Queen is at home, the protest is in London, or they're talking to a cat at the time.

For some reason, a class warrior from the other side of the divide has been allowed to make a movie that shares similar wild optimism and grasp of the political reality of the situation.

Lucy Hill (Renee Zellweger) is a high achiever shooting to become a Vice President. To show the President that she has the ability, she takes an assignment to restructure one of their small manufacturing plants in Minnesota. From the high life in Miami to the bitter cold, snow, and icy roads, Lucy must endure these hardships to succeed. Lucy is treated as an outsider when she arrives, and the locals give her a week before she leaves. Lucy is a fighter and wants to win. She meets Ted Mitchell (Harry Connick, Jr.) who is the union representative. At first, she has some conflicts with the workers, but soon they begin to accept her. The new product line is a bust, and she is ordered to close the plant and fire everyone. However, she has a better idea of making money for the company and saving everybody's job. Along the way, she finds something she didn't know she was looking for - "Love".

Honestly, who is going to watch this and come out saying 'why can't we all just get along, like lovely Renee and Mr Connick?'

Anyone able to give a detailed answer to the above question is requested to avail themselves of a boltgun, locate the necessary residences and do the right thing.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Would You Adam and Eve It

Continuing my short series of reflections on religious stories caused by sudden exposure to them.

I've had to teach the Adam and Eve story recently. This has meant trying to look at the story from a palatable angle, whilst still making it comprehensible to the younglings.

The result of my musings was thus:

Of course, that means leaving God out of it, which does undermine the idea somewhat (since the loss of innocence first stems from disobedience to Him) but the basic idea seems sound. From a folk point of view you are seeking to resolve two unavoidable facts: you know what good behaviour should be, but you do not always adhere to it. How to explain this apparent contradiction? This way: the tree of knowledge produces fruit (i.e. your own moral awareness) but there is a selfishness, a desire, that counters one's own best instincts. Now, the knowledge of good and evil must be closely related, and it is not immediately clear that one must be prior to the other: the knowledge of good and evil must be present for temptation to be meaningful, but if temptation is tempting one away from that which is good, it implies that temptation must also be a post-good artefact, like the knowledge of the difference.

Interestingly, the addition of a God to the mix is not required here. But if you assume that the myth was devised in a mythologically/theologically predisposed society it does not seem unreasonable to demand a place for a deity i n this scheme. Of course, this is not a historical argument but an ideological one. The structure and content of the story is the key issue here and so it does not matter particularly if this was a myth created by a monotheistic society of an adaptation/translation of earlier myths. Once a supernatural being of any kind is proposed, by it's nature it supercedes the natural order expressed in the physicalities of trees, serpents, apples and talking ribs. The interesting features of the Biblical creator-God are that it is (a) uniquely powerful and (b) benevolent. So if you take the benevolence of the instigator of conscience and temptation as given, it is beyond self-evident that the prior state of conscience and temptation is benevolent. Hence the doctrine of original sin.

But it is equally clear that the main thrust of the argument is not disobedience to God. This is an effect of the introduction of the benevolent creator-God hypothesis. The real key of the story is to highlight a co-relation between conscience and temptation. The existence of good and evil is in fact a given, and the real issue is to explain how, if we know that there are good things and bad we still choose the bad.

Now of course to modern eyes what is absolutely fascinating about this story is its absoluteness. There is no room for context - and I don't just mean that there is no sociological account of the construction of morality. Rather what I mean is that there is a cast-iron assumption that we do, or at least should, know right from wrong; that one cannot be prevented from carrying out an immoral act, and that evil comes from temptation, since temptation would indicate any form of desire, regardless of how apparently harmless or even noble, judging from Genesis 3:4-6:
4. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5. For God doeth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
6. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

It's practically Buddhist. Still, the moral of the story that seems to be both the most unavoidable and generally useful is this: conscience and temptation are closely related, even entangled, and alongside conscience, evil is an inevitable feature of human nature.

Or, as Solzhenitsyn once put it...

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Pebbles, Landslides

Thanks to this, I'm going to be watching this over the next few days. Might be fun. Miiiiiiight be one of them interweb phenomenononons you hear so much about.

Wouldn't want to miss that...

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Is Maturity an Imperialist Notion?

I attended a course last week to learn about delivering lessons designed to encourage children to critically engage with ideas. It's called Philosophy For Children. As is often the way with these things part of the course involved taking part in a session in order to get a sense of how one would work.

In a session, a group will debate a question that has arisen from some kind of stimulus (the exact process doesn't matter here). The question that the group had chosen was 'When do you become a grown up?'

It was interesting because most of the group had not had any formal philosophical training and it was clear that a lot of them enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the kind of questions that they wouldn't normally have an opportunity to go into. It was interesting how much trouble the group generally had coming to a concrete definition of the term and how much it would revolve around a perceived 'maturity' in behaviour and the idea of 'taking responsibility' or being 'responsible' for themselves, and a recognition of how hard it is to draw a firm line based on age: some people in their mid-20s behave irresponsibly, some young people are very serious etc.

It set me thinking, watching all this, about why the notion of 'maturity' might be so hard to get a clear idea about, and the following is the line I started to follow.

In our society, rights are accorded to individuals based on age, and there doesn't always appear to be a clear line of reasoning as to why. Criminal responsibility for example is determined to be 10 years old, in Scotland at least. Voting on the other hand is set at 18. You can buy a lottery ticket at 16, but can no longer buy cigarettes until 18.

The underlying reason for this of course is that we live in a society whose legal foundations are the notion of autonomy. In order for our legal system – and I'm not here talking about specifically criminal law, but contract law, employment law, marriage, property, mental health etc – to function at all the individual must be assumed, at some point, to be able to make free decisions for which they can be held responsible. The age limits that abound are therefore set according to the imperatives of these systems: if a crime is committed the need to hold the accused accountable for their actions is very pressing; however the public health agenda to try and reduce smoking favours holding off the age at which an individual's decision to be fully autonomous to as late a date as possible.

This arrangement therefore reflects the fact that the system requires the legal notion of autonomy in order to function in the context of a series of social relations determined by a system predicated on private property, wealth and production. Hence, this notion of autonomy is one extended over a far more amorphous period of human development (at least as regards the notions of apprehending one's own responsibility for one's actions and ability to determine their own best interests that 'grown up' appears to encompass) by a system not owned by the majority of the people who must accede to it. Insofar therefore as it is an imposed system it is an imperialist notion instigated in the interests of one class over another, demanding a universality that conceals its real peculiarism.

This was my line of thought, and although I haven't done a great deal to develop it so far, it seemed worth sharing. Any input, feedback, criticism etc gratefully received.

Guns, Germs and Steel

I was a very big fan of the book Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, a sort of history of civilisation and how the West came to have the global dominance it had achieved by the end of nineteenth century. It's a story of anthropology, hunting, farming, urbanisation, industry, war and energy exploitation and is endlessly fascinating.

It's been made into a three-part documentary, and since More 4 are not going to repeat the first part I went looking for it on the Interwebs and found parts One and Two here and here. If you want to catch up with it on the tellybox, More 4 will presumably be showing the second part next Saturday at 9 of the evening clock. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Lowkey Rather Good

A while ago I had a grand day out in central London. It was just me, some placards, some chants, quite a bit of snow and about 100,000 comrades.

Anyway at the time I remarked on a particularly good rapper who had done a piece without any backing track and got the crowd to shout Free Free Gaza at the end of every verse.

Thanks to a Complex System of Pipes I can post Lowkey's vid of that song here, for me to find again later for you to enjoy.

My Evil Terrorist Ways

A long time ago, in a blog far far away, I speculated that under current anti-terror legislation I might be considered a terrorist.

I'm having to revisit that issue again with the new anti-terror code that we are reportedly to be shortly subjected to.

The Guardian says that this code would 'alienate most muslims', but since it apparently defines as an extremist

They believe in jihad, or armed resistance, anywhere in the world. This would include armed resistance by Palestinians against the Israeli military.

then this atheist here would be one too.

I am therefore a clear and present danger to HMG, apparently. Presumably only made worse if this happens:

Contest 2 would widen the definition of extremists to those who hold views that clash with what the government defines as shared British values.

Frankly I don't know if I hold 'shared British values' or not (cue joke about queueing or something). I certainly don't hold with 28, 42 or 90 day detention without charge, or nuclear weapons renewal, or invading foreign countries, or lying to parliament, or privatising national assets, or attacking workers whilst bailing out capital, or the monarchy, or first-past-the-post parliamentary systems, or neoliberalism, or an economy divided between finance and arms production and dealing, or a third runway at Heathrow, or the existence of a capitalist class and a bourgeoisie, or cutting funding for academic research to pay for an overblown sports day, or blaming asylum seekers and refugees for social problems, or dispensing mob justice on suspected 'peedos', or Hollyoaks, or Radio 4 'sitcoms' or Woman's Hour, or the deification of Princess Di, or lapdancing, or completely disproportionate pseudo-moral 'outrage' aimed at public servants and DJs, or whipping up fear about innoculations against childhood diseases, or an nunelected House of Lords, or that football is 'the beautiful game,' or that polygon counts are enough to make me want to buy a console, or that Tom Sharpe is witty, or the return of capital punishment, or that Jeremy Paxman is a particularly good journalist, or that Julia Hartley Brewer isn't a complete fucking moron, or selling arms to the Israeli government, or supporting dictators who boil their opponents alive, or that feminism's gone too far...

I mean, I could go on, but I wouldn't want to bore you.

I searched the interweb for what these shared values might be. The Graun offered me one potential answer:

These include the tradition of free speech; the contested view that Britain was founded on freedom, democracy and liberty; and the contribution of different communities to building a modern, successful country.

So it's a combination of wishful historical thinking and vagueness. That's nice. If these are what we're expected to adhere to, then sorry, but I don't.

Free speech is, thankfully, restricted in cases where it is intended to cause or constitute racial harrassment, and somewhat more controversially where it may "threaten community harmony and therefore public safety". I don't believe in unconditional freedom of speech and neither does the government.

I also don't believe that Britain was founded on freedom, democracy and liberty. The country was founded on conquest, empire and the gradual and grudging extent of the franchise from monarchy to nobility to capitalist to bougeoisie to men and to women. Liberty in Britain has for most of its existence meant liberty to exploit others.

The last 'value' is of course so vague it could mean absolutely anything. What's a modern country? How is it more modern than other countries? Is Iran less modern than us because of its Islamic character? Is it as modern as us because they can launch a satelite? Still it seems to be vaguely about being co-operative and obviously that's hard to disagree with. It's just that it is also almost entirely meaningless, so it's hard to support as well.

Frankly, as an internationalist, I would consider any values that should be shared amongst the British people as values that the whole world could or should share. I don't see why my values should have to be so parochial as to be British.

Hence, I'm an extremist and a terrorist. Such is the way of the world...

Who the Fuck is Patricia Morgan?

Via the Daily Quail, I read this piece of Fail journalism hackery depressingly deplorable column-inch filling:

Teachers should tell boys the joys of teen fatherhood, government advice reveals

So far, so yawnsome made-up anti-Labour bullshit. The weird bit is the 'researcher on teenage parenthood' they wheel out later in the piece for the following rent-a-quote:

'Fatherhood before the age of 16 should be a matter for the police.

'The parents of teenagers involved should be charged with neglect for allowing them to sleep together under their roof.

'This is child abuse. After 16, fathers who want to help bring their children up should be given one piece of advice: Get a job.'*

I have to ask, who would accept someone's description of themselves as a 'researcher' if this is the level of commentary that they're offering? It's the equivalent of calling the inventor of the Q-Link pendant a 'research scientist'.

Oh, wait, I've found her. There's a press release of her 'paper' Family Policy, Family Changes fon way-uber-there-on-the-right-wing whinge think tank Civitas, with the fantastically sensible title 'Family does best when governments don't try to nationalise child-rearing'.

Does anyone else think this sounds a mite tautological? Surely it could be rewritten as 'Families are the only providers of child-rearing if there are no social services to intervene in problem cases'?

But anyway the release is quite hilarious, finding as she does sensational and completely unexpected facts like 'where marriage rates are the percentage of children born into married families is lower'. Thank the gods she brought that one to my attention.

Plus this inspired quote:

Sweden is famous for its comprehensive, top-down, social engineering, which makes it difficult for people to live in any other way than that prescribed by the state.
Geenius, as Barry Shitpeas would say.

*I've decided to help the Mail out by including the speechmark at the beginning of the second paragraph that they missed out. I figure that they've already got it hard enough hitting ctrl-c and ctrl-v with whatever website/press release they got that from, what with the article already including the interesting sentence:

'The advice, produced six years agopregnancy unit'.

More Gaza-Related Worthiness. With Added Cyclists!

There's a petition to ask the EU to break off it's trading relations with Israel until they agree to abide by human rights law.

It's being backed by such worthies as Alexei Sayle, Mordechai Vanunu and Clare Short. Yes, really. Anyway, link here:

The petition will be physically delivered to the parliament in Brussels by some enthusiastic cyclists. No, really.

Sign it for the oddity alone, why dontcha?

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

World Ends

Today, around the world, were heard the cries of anguish as democracy was quite literally snuffed out of existence.*

Chavez becomes 'President Unstoppable' after Venezuela votes to scrap term limits

Cried the Daily Fail, as they pointed out to a foolish electorate that

President Chavez, who has said he must stay in office beyond the end of his second term in 2012 to secure Venezuela's 'socialist revolution', pledged to remain in power for another decade.

Opponents accepted defeat - but gave a warning that Chavez was becoming a dictator.

The Torygraph meanwhile was disappointingly sober in its reportage, merely noting that

He is blamed by a vocal opposition for rising crime, corruption and inflation and will now have to tackle the effects of the global downturn on Venezuela's oil-based economy.**

Intriguingly, the Scum has obviously been so upset by this expunging of the will of the people that it has failed to cover it at all.

Luckily, it's sister paper has spotted the true problem with this seemingly innocent 'referendum':

Changes to Venezuela constitution could keep Hugo Chavez in power for years***

Admittedly, this is an article from January, but beggars can't be choosers (why is News International's coverage on this so poor I wonder? Probably not a big enough organisation to report on something happening far away. Something like that, I'll be bound).

Obviously the main gag here is the British press presuming to criticise another country for deciding to allow their head of state to stand for a third term, i.e. to be elected by the will of the people and all that democratic stuff.****


*Actually, although I plan to take some amusement from the right-wing's annoyance at Chavez's referendum victory, what's remarkable is how toned down a lot of the coverage has been, as compared to this sort of nonsense from The Economist back in 2007:

WHEN Simón Bolívar, South America's Venezuelan-born independence hero, wrote a constitution for the brand new country of Bolivia, it featured a lifetime president. So it should come as no surprise that Hugo Chávez, who claims to be a latter-day Bolívar, is proposing to let himself be re-elected indefinitely to his country's presidency.
Update: Atheo News has pointed out this utterly sane Indie editorial:

Leading article: A perilous new twist in the Venezuelan revolution

Two terms of office ought to be enough, even for Hugo Chavez

**The obvious hilarity that comes from likening the Venezuelan situation to a dictatorship has a slight edge over this gag. It relies on you knowing something about the Christian Democratic party and the corruption in Venezuela prior to Chavez's government. Like attempted coup (with US support) against Chavez a while back, and the huge kickback mechanism that is the state oil company.

***The Times does take the referendum as a jumping off point to do this though:

World Agenda: Hugo Chavez can no longer rely on petrodollars to buy support

He has always bought support through oil revenues and anti-US populism. The Venezuelan leader faces a harsh new world

I always find it amusing that this is the way the right thinks: if desperately poor people are given bricks to build their houses, milk subsidies for their children and schooling and medical aid for the first time in their lives, this is the dastardly Chavez 'buying support'. It never seems to occur to them that this is a good thing for any government to be doing. Greg Palast reports a similar attitude from Venezuela's own ruling elite, with an upper-class chica complaining that:

"Chavez gives them (the poor) bricks and bread!" - how dare he! - so, they vote for him.

****I don't want it to be thought that I'm some kind of utopian about Venezuela. I'm not - I'm fully aware of the problems in the country and with the 'Bolivarian revolution'. Having said that, Chavez is a damn sight more progressive than his opponents and the period of his government has seen real improvements in the majority of people's lives.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Condemned Sight Unseen

As I've said before, I don't like romcoms. I don't like them for a variety of reasons, but you can check out the link if you want to know why. No time to go into all that now!

Because, you see, there's a new one out that looks like a new low. Even the posters look half-arsed: everyone, down to the PR boys, seems to know that this is desperately Tab A to Slot B.

I was first alerted to its existence by an advert on the side of a bus. There is a school of thought that says that anything advertised on the side of a bus is by definition going to be cack, but I don't hold to it: Hot Fuzz was advertised on the side of a bus, if my memory hasn't become completely corrupted.

However, the composition was a dead giveaway. It looked like it deserved to be on Photoshop Disasters for no other reason than its laziness. It used the Rom Com font (the only genre to still use Times New Roman in italics), the Rom Com colour scheme (pink and white) and the simpering photos of the stars - looking like they'd just phoned it in. It probably speaks volumes that those were the best publicity shots they could coax out of Jennifer Aniston.

Anyway, I notice that someone called Tanya Gold has written a rather spiffing piece tearing the original source book a new rear waste disposal point (yes, today is 'Grauniad Column Lazy Blogging Inspiration Day).

She points out some aspects of it which not only confirm my expectations of it to a startling degree (not to mention my prejudices), but confirmed the prejudices of Sidney Lumet from 1976.


This is dating for little girls. Anything less than the childish fantasy of the perfect ever-loving father should be shunned and, because we are indeed those little girls, Greg sets us some homework. "Write down five reasons you have a good reason to call him ... Now put your dialling finger away," he says. And never be cross when it's over. "Always be classy, never be crazy," says Greg. He really means - never be angry. Because angry isn't hot.

Max Schumacher (about Diana Christensen): I'm not sure she's capable of any real feelings. She's television generation. She learned life from Bugs Bunny.

Max Shcumacher (to Diana):
It's too late, Diana. There's nothing left in you that I can live with. You're one of Howard's humanoids. If I stay with you, I'll be destroyed. Like Howard Beale was destroyed. Like Laureen Hobbs was destroyed. Like everything you and the institution of television touch is destroyed. You're television incarnate, Diana: Indifferent to suffering; insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality. War, murder, death are all the same to you as bottles of beer. And the daily business of life is a corrupt comedy. You even shatter the sensations of time and space into split seconds and instant replays. You're madness, Diana. Virulent madness. And everything you touch dies with you. But not me. Not as long as I can feel pleasure, and pain... and love.

George Monbiot: Magnificent

Last week there was some awful flannelly cant by Hazel Blears in the Graun having a go at Monbiot for a previous column.

Rebellion is not the basis for a progressive political outlook. Progressive
politics is about trying to solve the problem, not complaining that someone else
has failed to. It is about coming forward with practical ideas, in the knowledge
that cynics will try to dismiss them. It is about being a participant, not
merely an observer. It is about, in Eleanor Roosevelt's words, "lighting the
candle rather than cursing the dark". By simply cursing the dark, Monbiot
contributes to the very cynicism and disengagement from politics that he makes
his living writing about.

I remember at the time thinking that it was laughable but I long ago stopped paying attention to anything coming from a Labour minister on the grounds that it will tick one of the following 3 boxes
(b)Morally bankrubpt
(c)All of the above.

George however, has decided not to take it lying down and has devoted his entire column today to a good old bitchslap.

I believe there is a vast public appetite for re-engagement, but your
government, aware of the electoral consequences, has shut us out. It has reneged
on its promise to hold a referendum on electoral reform. It has blocked a
referendum on the European treaty, ditched the regional assemblies, used
Scottish MPs to swing English votes, sustained an unelected House of Lords,
eliminated almost all the differences between itself and the opposition. You
create an impenetrable political monoculture, then moan that people don't engage
in politics.
It is precisely because I can picture something better that I
have become such a cynical old git. William Hazlitt remarked that: "Man is the
only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with
the difference between what things are and what they ought to be." You, Hazel,
have helped to reduce our political choices to a single question: whether to
laugh through our tears or weep through our laughter.

Good old George.

Monday, 9 February 2009


There's something that's been bugging me about Twitter, but I couldn't put my finger on it. I realise that it's a full-blown social phenomenon these days, since J showed it me and mere days later Stephen Fry got stuck in a lift. Even Richard Herring's on it now, so it is probably time for me to acknowledge it as lord and master of all.

But something about it was bothering me. First I thought it was because it seemed to be yet another step towards the near-total narcissism that began with blogging and accelerated with social networking sites. I realise I'm utterly compromised by this, but there's always a small part of me that wishes I had some of that English reserve that we used to have back in the fifties. I can only assume it got given out with the ration books, given how far into ourselves we've managed to retreat to today. God I hate us. As a race I mean. I can't wait for Skynet to come online so I can salute our new murderous cyborg masters and get it over and done with.

But that wasn't it. It was something else. Then I remembered Armando Iannucci. In paticular a scene in the Armando Iannucci Shows where a group of TV creatives try and think of a new hit series.

They start with 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?' then progress through various versions of the show, like 'the best of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?' and 'the making of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?' before finally arriving at a whole series comprising entirel of 'The Best Bits of Chris Tarrant Holding a Cheque and Saying "But we Don't Want to Give You That" on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?' - which they then begin to congratulate themselves for having thought of, with shouts of "we're so good at television".

And that's what I think microblogging amounts to.

This probably means I'm about a week away from getting an account of my own.

I couldn't find a clip of the sketch I'm referring to, unfortunately, but this is probably my favourite Iannucci sketch so you'll have to make do with it instead.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Klaatu, Barata N-*COUGH COUGH*

The Man, the Myth*, the Boom-Stick, Bruce Campbell is interviewed by Mayo and Kermode here.

Well, what are you primitives waiting for? Do you want to kiil me or kiss me? Blow.

Update: having had a listen now, I can confirm that you should hear about the inspiration for a particular scene involving a disabled man in the upcoming movie My Name is Bruce

Oh, and there's an interview with Terry Gilliam too.

*Not 'the chin' because it's too obvious.

How Brilliant is Roy Chaderton Matos?

I was just catching up with Jews Sans Frontieres and found this link to an article by the Venezuelan ambassador to the Organisation of American States.


None shall ever be permitted to use the recurrent crimes against humanity committed by the mediocre and murderous militarist elite of the State of Israel as justification for twisting the just rebellion of the Palestinians and solidarity with them nto anti-Semitic aberrations.

No leftist has the right to forget that the Jews -- historically persecuted, not by the Muslims who for centuries opened their doors for them, but by first the Christian crusaders, then the inquisitors, and finally the Nazis -- have a historical tradition of pioneering solidarity with social rebellions and progressive thought. Never forget such illustrious Jews as Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, and Bob Dylan. Never forget the participation of Jews, even at the cost of their lives, in civil, labor, social, and anti-war struggles in the United States or struggles against the ultra-Catholic military dictatorships in the Southern Cone. Never overlook the fact that, in the United States, against the organized anti-Chavista campaign supported by the "Israel lobby" in that country, American Jewish intellectuals have spoken up: the most famous intellectual in the world, Noam Chomsky, so often cited by President Chávez, and Joseph Stiglitz, a winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, who has supported us in our struggles against the dictatorship of neoliberalism.

Read the whole thing, it's great.

The Chavista government. I think I love them a bit more every day, if that's possible.

You see, in response to Freedman again, I don't think it's the left part of his equation that's the problem here.

Nick Clegg, Israeli Style

Current polls, according to t'Graun, place Avigdor Lieberman's party as 3rd largest in the Knesset after the election.

Have you heard of this guy? Sample quotes:

To Wasil Taha, an Arab Israeli MP, in the Knesset:

"You are a representative of terrorist organisations in the parliament of Israel. It's too bad the Hamas doesn't take care of you. They would do it right. In any other country they would have already indicted you in a military court for treachery."

On Arab Israeli MPs who talk to Hamas:

"The second world war ended with the Nuremberg trials and the execution of the Nazi leadership. Not only them, but also those who collaborated with them. I hope that will also be the fate of the collaborators in this house."

On Israel's Arab minority:

"Israel is under a dual terrorist attack, from within and from without. And terrorism from within is always more dangerous than terrorism from without."

On the two-state solution:

"Israel needs to explain that the demand for a Palestinian state and the refugees' right of return is a cover for radical Islam's attempt to destroy the State of Israel."

Now, as he'll be head of a third party that in the event of a general election that leaves neither of the main parties in direct control, and hence in a position to harness his popularity as a means of gaining influence with the two figures with the largest single shares of the vote, the obvious comparison would be to the Lib Dems. Obviously. I mean, I assume that next year both Cameron and Brown will be seeking to 'ride the Cleggy tiger'.

I wouldn't want to compare this situation to any other place or time. That would be anti-semitic apparently.*

*Once again: I think the best historical analogy for Israel is apartheid South Africa. However, the Israeli government does keep inviting more unfortunate comparisons.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

South African Solidarity with Gaza

This story has been doing the rounds for a couple of days now, but it's still cool so I include below some info what i done got sent*:

COSATU and PSC (South Africa) launch Week of Action for Palestine supported by YCL and other progressive organisations Media Conference, COSATU House, 3 February 2009, 11am

In a historic development for South Africa, South African dock workers have announced their determination not to offload a ship from Israel that is scheduled to dock in Durban on Sunday, 8 February 2009. This follows the decision by COSATU to strengthen the campaign in South Africa for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Apartheid Israel.

The pledge by SATAWU members in Durban reflects the commitment by South African workers to refuse to support oppression and exploitation across
the globe. Last year, Durban dock workers had refused to offload a shipment of arms that had arrived from China and was destined for Zimbabwe to prop up the Mugabe regime and to intensify the repression against the Zimbabwean people. Now, says SATAWU’s General Secretary Randall Howard, the union’s members are committing themselves to not handling Israeli goods.

SATAWU’s action on Sunday will be part of a proud history of worker resistance against apartheid. In 1963, just four years after the Anti-Apartheid Movement was formed, Danish dock workers refused to offload a ship with South African goods. When the ship docked in Sweden, Swedish workers followed suit. Dock workers in Liverpool and, later, in the San Francisco Bay Area also refused to offload South African goods.

South Africans, and the South African working class in particular, will remain forever grateful to those workers who determinedly opposed apartheid and decided that they would support the anti-apartheid struggle with their actions. Last week, Western Australian members of the Maritime Union of Australia resolved to support the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and have called for a boycott of all Israeli vessels and all vessels bearing goods arriving from or going to Israel.

This is the legacy and the tradition that South African dock workers have inherited, and it is a legacy they are determined to honour, by ensuring that South African ports of entry will not be used as transit points for goods bound for or emanating from certain dictatorial and oppressive states such as Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Israel.

COSATU, the Palestine Solidarity Committee, the Young Communist League and a range of other organisations salute the principled position taken by these workers. We also take this opportunity to salute the millions of workers all over the world who have openly condemned and taken decisive steps to isolate apartheid Israel, a step that should send shockwaves to its arrogant patrons in the United States who foot the bill for Israel’s killing machine. We call on other workers and unions to follow suit and to do all that is necessary to ensure that they boycott all goods to and from Israel until Palestine is free.

We also welcome statements by various South African Jews of conscience who have dissociated themselves from the genocide in Gaza. We call on all South Africans to ensure that none of our family members are allowed to join the Israeli Occupation Forces’ killing machine.

In celebration of the actions of SATAWU members with regard to the ship from Israel, and in pursuance of the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and our call on the South African government to sever diplomatic and trade relations with Israel, this coalition of organisations has declared a week of action beginning on Friday, 6 February 2009.
*Although, I don't think that the situation in Gaza amounts to genocide, in the same way that Apartheid didn't.

My Very Own SYB

Nelson doesn't seem to want it, so I'm using it myself. Besides, I think it's quite a good one. Oddly it comes from the Guardian's Media Section this week. I say oddly because the Graun's usual correspondents are either preposterous senior figures in the media or the kind of pricks who have been the subject of previous rants (see passim). This guy is a prick in a quite different league.

Aside from the media pundits' handwringing opinions concerning Channel 4, what about the customer (viewer) choice? And opportunities for original freelance contributor/producers? (If there are any left.) Up until now the argument seems to be almost entirely lumped together with the future of public service broadcasting.

Frankly, in this context, who cares? Isn't the BBC enough? Because, by "public service broadcasting", what is actually meant is the same old turgid, leftwing torrent, as shown in the outrageously biased Channel 4 News. Thank God for Sky (apart from its obsession with football). And, to a lesser extent, ITV, for presentation not hidebound by political correctness and endless banging on about global warming, carbon footprints and how women can do no wrong.
Richard Rapkins Calne, Wiltshire

Wednesday, 4 February 2009


Turns out there's a Keep Metro Public meeting tonight and Bob Crow (General Secretary of the RMT) is speaking.

I really wish I'd got my act together earlier, he's supposed to be a blinding speaker and I'd love to know what he's got to say.



In a followup from last week's rant in which I slagged off a couple of indescribably annoying idiots who had got themselves into the Guardian's weekend magazine letters page, it got worse this week, as the other half of the partnership decided to write in.

My boyfriend Jon Berryman misrepresented me badly when he said I call the Guardian a "Trotsky paper" (Letters, 24 January). Everyone knows it's a Stalinist rag.
Torygirl (aka Claire Allison)Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire

Now, I accused this bunch of chromosomal aberrations of being 'a fucking idiot' and 'technically in a coma'. But it didn't keep the reprehensible imbecile away. So:

Just. Fuck. Off.

Christ, I know Tories probably think this sort of thing is terribly witty, but I have to assume this is a side-effect from having their soul removed at birth. YOU AREN'T FUNNY. YOU AREN'T CHARMING. THIS ISN'T QUIRKY. YOU ARE BOTH FUCKING IDIOTS. FUCK. OFF.



I think I may send this in to the letters page myself...

Just A Quickie

Did anyone else laugh out loud at today's xkcd?

Jonathan Freedland: Pillock

A quite astonishingly patronising pillock at that. Today's CiF fartpiece in the Graun:

As British Jews come under attack, the liberal left must not remain silent
It should be perfectly possible to condemn Israel's brutal
action in Gaza while taking a stand against antisemitism

No shit, really?

To be fair we were just waiting for him to turn up before we got started. I mean, in no way are the people involved in the PSC or Stop The War likely to be involved with the UAF as well. Gods no.

Let's have a look at what he's got to say, shall we (humour me a moment).

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks on September 11 2001 and July 7 2005, a noble impulse seized the British liberal left. Politicians, commentators and activists united to say to their fellow citizens that, no matter how outraged they felt at the loss of civilian life they had just witnessed, they should under no circumstances take out that anger on the Muslim community. Progressive voices insisted that Muslims were not to be branded as guilty by association, just because the killers of 9/11 and 7/7 had been Muslims and had claimed to act in the name of all Muslims.

Yes, some people stated the bleeding obvious. Other people didn't. But tell you what, why don't you get on with the backslapping? I mean, what bad things have the liberal left ever done? They've never tried to justify a manifestly illegal and immoral war or anything after all...

Anyway, back to Jonathan:

Blah blah blah blah bet you can see where this is going blah blah blah

Ah yes, here we are:

It's worth stating the obvious - that Operation Cast Lead is not 9/11 or 7/7, that Israel is not al-Qaida - and noting that the silence has not been absolute. In a very welcome move, a group of leading Muslims wrote an open letter condemning apparent Gaza-related attacks on Jews. Meanwhile, Labour's Denis MacShane, in a passionate article for Progress magazine, urged those on the left not "to turn criticism of Israel into a condemnation of Jews".

The silence has not been absolute? Operation Cast Lead is not 9/11 or 7/7? Well, the death toll was slightly higher for 9/11, I'll grant you that. Although notably the office workers of the WTC had not spent the last 2 years cut off from jobs, food, water, electricity and their own country; neither had they been herded into refugee camps for 50 years. But to suggest that Cast Lead was not as bad as 7/7? There's a word for this: Chauvinism.

And 'silence not absolute'? Seriously? When every demo I've been on has been attended by speakers pointing out that the protests are not anti-semitic and/or 'Jews for Peace'? What, did he take a wrong turn in the TARDIS and end up in a parallel world this morning?

According to the Community Security Trust, the body that monitors anti-Jewish racism, the four weeks after Cast Lead began saw an eightfold increase in antisemitic incidents in Britain compared with the same period a year earlier. It reports 250 incidents - nearly 10 a day - the highest number since it began its work 25 years ago. Among them are attacks on synagogues, including arson, and physical assaults on Jews. One man was set upon in Golders Green, north London, by two men who shouted, "This is for Gaza", as they punched and kicked him to the ground.
Blood-curding graffiti has appeared in Jewish areas across the country, slogans ranging from "Slay the Jewish pigs", and "Kill the Jews", to "Jewish bastardz." Jewish schools have been advised to be on high alert against attack. Most now have security guards on the door; some have a police presence.

Hmm. Leaving aside the Community Security Trust issue, let's mention the unmentionable: it turns out that despite the valiant efforts of the liberal left and their battalions, the last few years haven't been rosy for Muslims in Britan. We even have a new adjective to describe it: Islamophobia. Of course, the liberal left also gave us a new adjective of their own: Islamofascism.

Hmm. Anyway, Jonathan's still bleating:

Blah blah blah I have no sense of my own ridiculousness blah blah blah I get given money for this blah blah blah

At the London events, there were multiple placards deploying what has now become a commonplace image: the Jewish Star of David equated with the swastika. From the podium George Galloway declared: "Today, the Palestinian people in Gaza are the new Warsaw ghetto, and those who are murdering them are the equivalent of those who murdered the Jews in Warsaw in 1943."

You're right! He's a racist! You've got the smoking gun here Jonathan, I can't believe he compared the sealed off Gaza Strip, which Israel controls all access to, enters with their military at a whim, commits massacres at a whim, etc etc, to a ghetto! And there was one of those semi-mythical Star of David/Swastika placards! Oh noes! They probably want to take Ehud Olmert to Nuremburg and hang him in a bunker or something! On no account must the uniqueness of the holocaust be threatened. On no account must people be tempted to draw parallels with previous events. If you do, you might as well be burning down a synagogue, because we all know that the Israeli government and All Teh Jews are not separate people.*

Blah blah Christ this guy can go on blah blah blah blah is he being paid by the word blah blah blah please just make it stop blah blah blah

I know that some will say that even raising this is an attempt to divert attention from the real and larger issue, Israel's brutality in Gaza and the colossal number of civilian deaths that entailed. I won't accept that. Regular readers know that I denounced Cast Lead from the beginning. But I shouldn't have to say that. These two matters are separate. It is perfectly possible to condemn Israel's current conduct and to stand firmly against anti-Jewish prejudice. And it's about time liberals and the left said so.

Oh, good. Jonathan's capable of telling the difference between Teh Jews and Teh Israeli Government. But no one else is, and unless you YES YOU say that you do in a loud voice at all times, day and night, as opposed to what the Palestinian solidarity movement has been doing, i.e. putting it in leaflets, papers, rallies, marches and speeches, then you are personally responsible for any anti-Semitic violence meted out in Britain.

Luckily, Jonathan's decided to save the day now, so let's all get behind him. Actually, thinking about it, he seems like precisely the sort of person I want to go round telling anti-Semitic thugs his position on Operation Cast Lead.

I have to ask, who exactly does he think he's speaking for?

*For the record, as I have said before, I don't think that the Nazis are a good comparison for Israel. I think Apartheid South Africa fits the bill better. But people are bound to draw comparisons between aspects of Nazi treatment of Jews and Israeli treatment of Palestinians. Because sometimes they're unavoidable.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

'Intelligence' Services

The United States spends around $6,000,000,000 dollars a year on the FBI.

Here's what one of their agents said to Moazzam Begg, a British aid worker building wells in Afghanistan abducted into their custody from Pakistan in 2001, during an interrogation at Bagram Airbase (also in Afghanistan) in 2002:

If anything happens to the Pope, and I find out you were involved, I swear I'll break every finger in your hands. I'm a Catholic too.

I think the taxpayers should demand their money back, frankly.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Bad Vibes: Most Quotable Book Evar

J lent me Luke Haines' memoir Bad Vibes: Britpop and My Part in its Downfall yesterday.

Absolutely top class, an outstanding Hainesian pearl of venom dropped into almost every sentence. I include below a few choice ones.

On being thrown out of art college:
I am thrown out - asked to leave as I have 'a bad attitude to further education'. Not true. I have a great attitude.

On being dubbed the Saviour of Rock:
Why would I want to save rock? The damn thing has been stumbling around like a wounded donkey since 1981. The only thing I want to do with rock is kick the fucker to death and put it out of its misery.

On James Banbury*:
I have trouble getting down to a few of the low notes. The Cellist demonstrates that he can reach them and kindly offers his services. 'Hey, tough guy, bit keen aren't you? says Phil to the swot, visibly irritated.
I'm watching you, I think to myself. I'm watching.

On James Banbury again:
The Cellist reveals himself to be something of a bon viveur in search of an onion pastry called pissal-adiere. As a non viveur, I find his quest rather disappointing on any number of levels.

On Alan McGee:
'You. You're Tom Verlaine.' He is of course referring to the buzz-saw blitzkrieg maverick lead guitarist of seminal symbolist New York City art rockers Television. Maybe some people would be happy with this introduction. Not I. I am a stickler for manners and would have preferred a 'How do you do?' or even a simple 'Hello.' The 80s were plagued by these small-time indie Svengalis, wannabe Brian Epsteins or mini-Malcolms. Forever proclaiming some poor bugger to be a genius. Of course hype is fundamental to pop music. But it often says more about the hyper than the hyped. The start of the cursed holy bestowals.
'You. You're Tom Verlaine,' it says, utterly unbecoming. I fix the fool with a dead-eyed stare. Say nothing, say nothing. You, Alan McGee, will pay for this transgression. You will pay.
On the music press:
The first music press front covers of the year are traditionally a bold prediction of who is going to dazzle like no one else has dazzled before, reaping unimaginable rewards for themselves, and for the rest of us change the way we perceive the dimensions of time and space. For their first issue of the year NME stick Elastica on the front cover. During the first week of the new year Blobby is still number one. Time and space remain unaltered.

The full verdict on Chris Evans is probably a bit long to include here, but it does include the phrases 'the only thing I want right now is for the lifeblood to drain out of you' and 'jumped-up kissogram-turned-light-entertainment-colossus'.

On fans' criticism:
The 'spare' guitarist is crestfallen.
'It's the fans,' I console, 'who can be the harshest of critics. John Lennon found that out.'
Anyway, there's plenty more, but you'll have to buy it to get it.

To finish up, in a kind of lazy tribute, here's some relevant material. It's a bit Jillian Becker for my liking, but still worth seeing.

*Thanks to J for showing me this also.

Ways to Amuse Yourself, Vol. 1

Riding on a bus from South Tyneside into Gateshead, watching the world of suburbia give way to the urban dystopia of central Gateshead whilst listening to the theme tune from The Sopranos. If Tony Soprano was English, and not a gangster, and didn't have a car, this is what his life would be like.

Man that was cool. I might do it again tonight, just for kicks.

Brilliant Headlines Vol 15

Otter tours Scotland in postbag

Sorry to do a cute creature-feature, but it is a great headline, surely?