Thursday, June 30, 2005


Found this interesting essay in-progress. Here's a taster
Cretino-Leftism is a persistent stream of radical Left thought which, I argue here, is characterized by opposition - explicit or implied - to the Enlightenment project tout court: sometimes to liberal democracy, sometimes to the rationalist outlook, and sometimes to both. In its most extreme and virulent form, Cretino-Leftism is Left-Fascism. The analysis given here is by no means original. In fact, the analysis given here is little but a restatement of that was given long ago by F.A. Hayek, Karl Popper, Bertrand Russell and George Orwell in classic anti-totalitarian works in the 1940s, around the end of the second world war. A similar argument has been set out recently, in Richard Wolin’s The Seduction of Unreason (2004) and, somewhat more mockingly, in Francis Wheen’s How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World (2004).

The Cretino-Left terrain is complex. I propose a classification into two main sub-variants: a political form and an epistemological form. These variants of Cretino-Leftism are importantly different, though there are important commonalities. Some political Cretino-Leftists have, in fact, been consistent critics of the epistemological variant. A well-known example is Noam Chomsky’s long-standing criticisms of postmodernism. There are also the usual internecine struggles, which require no further analysis.
The author is making a stand for liberalism and has criticisms of Marx and Marxism but makes the point
despite my disagreements with the theories of Marx and the practices of virtually all followers of Marxism, I think it important to stress the fact that a number of important recent defenders of the Enlightenment Left are Marxists: in particular, Christopher Hitchens, Norman Geras and Francis Wheen.
It's well worth reading the whole piece.

Interestingly the author spent some time in various Smiths-esque indie bands.

Hmm. How soon is now?

Monday, June 27, 2005

Unison and Iraqi Trade Unions

Hak Mao reports on the welcome of the Unison conference to Iraqi Trade Union delegates. The coverage on the Iraqi Trade Union website is a tad ambivalent
Delegates then called for international aid for the reconstruction of Iraq to be provided unconditionally and for the early withdrawal of troops by no later than the end of this year.

They also committed to work with all legitimate, independent and democratic trade unions in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan.

UNISON deputy general secretary, Keith Sonnet, said that although conference recognises the rights of the Iraqi people to resist the occupation it cannot support the indiscriminate targeting of civilians and the murder of trade unionists.

“We condemn the continuing violence in Iraq and salute the courage of the Iraqi and Kurdish people,” he said.

He also pointed out that in the Iraqi election campaign most political parties campaigned on the basis that the occupation must end.
Those words legitimate, independent are laden with meaning. The objectively fascist Stoppers do not see the IFTU as a legitimate, independent and democratic trade union so can claim Unison supports their wrong position.

Others, like me, use them to support organisations like the IFTU. It's a compromise motion that everybody agrees to, thinking they have done something towards their own standpoint.

Instead of leaving every objectively fascist sect to decide which organisations are supported by their union let's have a statement that mentions which legitimate, independent and democratic trade unions Unison do support.

Things Can Only ...

Here's a new blog that may be of interest.

Over the weekend had to get a stereo system. With the addition of an inherited turntable I can now play my old vinyl lps. Whoopee. Last night was reading this excellent book whilst listening to the splendid The Drum is Everything by Carmel.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Johnny, remember me

Last night Rullsenberg and I listened to American IV: The Man Comes Around by the man.

I'd forgotten how awe-inspring it is. His cover of Hurt is worth the price of admission alone.


Thursday, June 16, 2005

Meat is Murder

Let me confess. For many years I was a vegetarian. Then I went over to the dark side. Bacon butties. But that's just an occasional treat. I still regularly cook, and eat, a splendid vegan bolognese sauce.

But yesterday's Grauniad made me think. It carried a front page story saying Meat is Bad for You. Essentially, eating red meat increases the risk of bowel cancer.

The, obviously totally independent and objective, organisation British Meat said
"If you eat meat, you are not going to get cancer."
Amazingly no other news media reported on such a scientific breakthrough. Perhaps that was because there are several ways of interpreting that statement:
  1. If you eat meat today you are not going to get cancer tomorrow as a direct cause.
  2. No one is going to get cancer.
  3. Only vegetarians get cancer.
  4. This statement is total injustifed lokshen (lokshen not meant as a food).
It was reported in the Guardian so it must be true.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Burns on Galloway

In looking across my poetry bookshelf I came across an old Songs by Burns. This is so old it has no date. The publisher is Walter Scott of 22 Warwick Lane London. It has a leather spine and a polished wooden back and front with illustrations of Barmouth. Yes, Barmouth in Wales. That place with strong connections with Robbie Burns. Flicking through I came across a short set of pomes that may amuse some people. Here they are.

  • On Seeing The Beautiful Seat of Lord Galloway

  • What dost thou in that mansion fair? -
    Flit, Galloway, and find
    Some narrow, dirty, dungeon cave,
    The picture of thy mind!

  • On The Same

  • No Stewart art thou, Galloway
    The Stewarts all were brave;
    Besides, the Stewarts were but fools,
    Not one of them a knave.

  • On The Same

  • Bright ran thy line, O Galloway,
    Through many a far-famed sire!
    So ran the far-famed Roman way,
    So ended in a mire!

  • To The Same

  • On the Author's Being Threatened With His Resentment

    Spare me thy vengeance, Galloway.
    In quiet let me live:
    I ask no kindness at thy hand,
    For thou hast none to give.

What could Burns have meant?

Book Meme

John at Counago and Spaves passed this on to me.

  1. Total Number Of Books I Have Owned.

  2. Must be about 2500. Some have been read and passed on, either to friends or to charidee shops. Some have been kept. Why do I keep books? As the man (Anthony Powell - thanks SIAW) said "books do furnish a room", and because I like having books around. Books to read. Books to browse.

  3. Last Book I Bought.

  4. Last Saturday I bought three books on a 3 for 2 offer in H2O-Boulders. One was Faster than the Speed of Light by Joao Maguejo and another was Critical Mass - how one thing leads to another by Philip Ball. The third book was for Rullsenberg.
    I'm claiming Critical Mass as my book. At this stage I can but quote from the frontispiece
    being an enquiry into the interplay of chance and neccessity in the way that human culture, customs, institutions, cooperation and conflict arise.
    I think that subtitle echoes the book subtitles of Adam Smith's the Wealth of Nations. The blurb suggests that it moves from the prediction and analysis of the action of individuals and looks at the impact of decisions taken by millions of people.

  5. Last Book I Read.

  6. The Big Blowdown by George P Pelecanos. Late 1940s gangland Washington D.C. Hard boiled southern fiction. Written in the 1990s. Southern noir. Reminds me of Walter Mosley. If you like that sort of thing give it a go. This came to me via Rullsenberg via a recommendation from Reidski.

  7. 5 Books That Mean A Lot To Me

    1. Leaves of Grass (1) and Democratic Vistas by Walt Whitman.

    2. It's an early Everyman edition from the 1920s. I picked it up for 50p in the early 1980s. It's been seduction poetry and end of relationship poetry. It's been there with me. It's for when I'm feeling up and for when I'm feeling down. Every satchel should have one.

    3. How to Make Verse by Valdimir Mayakovsky (translated by Valentina Coe).

    4. The introduction ends with an extract from In at the top of my voice from January 1930 (just before Mayakovsky killed himself).

      When I appear
      before the CCC*
      of the coming
      bright years,
      by way of my Bolshevik party card,
      I'll raise
      above the heads
      of a gang of self seeking
      poets and rogues
      all the hundred volumes
      of my
      communist committed books

      * Central Committee of the CP.

      The book itself is a manifesto for poets. And is a little book that can be carried anywhere. Everyone should have a copy of The little book of Mayakovsky.

    5. The Poetical Works of Shelley

    6. I actually have two versions of this. One I bought way back in the 1980s from a second-hand bookshop in Bridgnorth, Shropshire. That's the black (or green) leather bound Oxford edition from 1917. Well read it is, too. Last summer I picked up a Macmillan edition from 1890. The selections are essentially the same but there are some differences. I had made a note of some important differences but I can't remember where I put the bloody thing. In a better world everyone should have a complete Shelley.

    7. Vineland by Thomas Pynchon.

    8. It's about the most accessible of his works and it's funny. About the 60's dream turning into the nightmare of Reagan's America.

    9. Decline of the English Murder and Other Essays or Inside the Whale and Other Essays by George Orwell.

    10. I can remember going on holiday and buying several black covered Penguins of Orwell's. Both of these volumes are inspirational in style and in content. English Murder contains the essays How the Poor Die and Why I Write. Inside the Whale contains England Your England and Politics and the English Language. I was going to call them classic but they're almost beyond that stage. George Orwell was the Christopher Hitchens of his day (said with a smile).

  8. Five people to pass it on to

That's three. The other people I was thinking of have already done it. That's sad.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Moving Pictures and the People who Appear Therein

In response to this here's my list of favourite film stars (in no particular order):
  1. Cary Grant
  2. Humphrey Bogart
  3. Rod Steiger
  4. Marlon Brando
  5. Al Pacino
  6. Jeff Bridges
  7. Orson Welles
  8. Walter Matthau
  9. Eve-Marie Saint
  10. Katherine Hepburn

It's so difficult to come up with a ten without omitting many others who could just as easily make it. Perhaps there should be more of an equal gender split, but that's the way it is.

Some choices need no explanation. But here's a partial justification:

Rod Steiger for his essence, his zest in In the Heat of the Night, On the Waterfront and his magnificent portrayal of Napoleon in Waterloo. When I was 8 I was passionate about three things: war gaming, anything about Napoleon Bonaparte, and cricket. I dragged my mother and brother to the cinema to see Waterloo. It stayed with me.

Walter Matthau for being a role model. And for The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.

Eve Marie Saint for On The Waterfront (and for Rattlesnakes).

Today, that's my perfect ten. Tomorrow, that's another day.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Will writes on
[t]he Brushetta Brigade: purely sentimental motivations, speculation without class premises, so-called 'fresh ideas' with no programmatic base. All this is the antithesis of what it means to be a socialist-materialist.
And I thought it was all toast.

Permanent Revolution

A splendid meeting of revolutionary democratic youth in Albania gets in the Grauniad and onto Harry's Place:
hundreds of young revolutionaries ... gathered in Tirana at the weekend to celebrate the downfall of several rotten regimes and plot the overthrow of current dictatorships.
The Tirana gathering heard about the launch of Bolga (The Hammer), a small group of Uzbek students at home and in the diaspora inspired by the Georgians and the Ukrainians.

Bolga's organisers declare: "What is our task? To take actions to disperse fear and silence in our society.

"What is our goal? To hold free elections, create a free society.

"What is the Bolga movement? It is a democratic and leaderless movement of Uzbek youth. We throw away the trash of totalitarianism from our minds. We are street cleaners, so we wear orange clothes."

Energised by their first networking experience, the youth leaders declared themselves all for one and one for all, aping the Nato treaty's stipulation that an attack on one organisation will be taken as an attack on all of them. There was a touch of the evangelising of the born-again congregation.

"Turn to your neighbour, look them in the eye and say to them, 'You are not alone,'" Mr Veliaj urged the gathering. A common declaration adopted yesterday stated that "each fight is our fight".
The new musketeers of liberation politics have spoken.

The overthrow of a tyrannical regime is always only a start to a better life. The revolution has to continue beyond the overthrow of corrupt, tyrannical leaders and into becoming a revolution of everyday life.

With that platitude I'll sign off.


Norm has a splendid post by Francis Wheen on Marx's Capital:
While all that is solid still melts into air, Capital's vivid portrayal of the forces that govern our lives - and of the instability, alienation and exploitation they produce - will never lose its resonance, or its power to bring the world into focus. As that New Yorker article concluded in 1997: 'His books will be worth reading as long as capitalism endures.' Far from being buried under the debris of all those toppled Stalinist icons and statues, Marx may only now be emerging in his true significance. He could yet become the most influential thinker of the twenty-first century.
Go and read Wheen's piece and then go and read Capital.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Film time

Over the bank holiday watched, for the umpteenth time, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.

With the inimitable Walter Matthau and Jerry Stiller (father to Ben and also to George Costanza).

If you've never seen it go see it. Enjoyable heist movie with some cracking dialogue. The mayor, fearing he'll be shot by the hostage takers, and being told "they have no reason to shoot you" retorts "are they from out of town".

Well, it made me laugh.