Monday, January 31, 2005

Gang of Four

Counago and Spaves links to a review on the Grauniad of the reunion gig at Manchester Academy.

Here's a link to the reunion gig at Bristol Fiddlers.

Towards a New Left

Hak Mao quotes Alan Johnson who quotes George Orwell As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents’ (George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, 1937).

Johnson then gives examples of statements from "socialists" like Alex Callinicos, Terry Eagleton and Edward Herman followed by contradictory quotes from Iraqis.

Then he makes the case for a new left
Much of the left has backed itself into an incoherent and negativist ‘anti-imperialist’ corner. It has lost touch with democratic, egalitarian and humane values long-held on the democratic socialist left. This has come about because the ‘anti-imperialist’ left – guided by the likes of Callinicos - has reduced the complexity of the post-cold-war world to a single Great Contest: ‘Imperialism’ or ‘Empire’ versus ‘the resistance’ or ‘the multitude’. Today’s ‘anti-imperialist’ left is griped by the same manichean world-view and the same habits of mind that dominated mush of the left in the Stalinist period (from apologia to denial, from cynicism to grossly simplifying tendencies of thought, from the belief that ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ to the abandonment of workers who get on the wrong side of the ‘anti-imperialists’). The consequence of this Manichaeism, in the Stalinist period and again today, is political and moral disorientation and a Grand Dumbing-Down of the left. At the extremes the ‘anti-imperialist’ left actually lends its support to vicious sub-imperialisms such as Milosevic and Saddam.

For the post Communist world cannot be reduced to a manichean struggle between “Imperialism” and “Anti-Imperialism.” There is no “anti-imperialist camp” in which the working class and the democrats merge their forces with General Galtieri, the Mullahs of Iran, the Serb chauvinism of Slobodan Milosevic, Ba’athists, or Islamic fundamentalist forces. The latter, especially, can indeed become a magnet for the poor and oppressed, as a reaction to Great Power imperialism, but so, in its day, could Stalinism. Socialists cancel themselves out if they support such forces. Politics involves more than just putting a plus sign where the U.S. State Department puts a negative, to paraphrase Trotsky.

If “anti-imperialism” is defined as whatever, at any given moment, is in conflict with the U.S., then one’s politics are defined negatively, but decisively, by the actions of the U.S. An independent democratic socialist judgement on events is impossible.
We need a left based on "democratic, egalitarian and humane values" like we need clean air to breathe. It's that important.

As Michael Ignatieff put it in yesterday's Observer
Liberals can't bring themselves to support freedom in Iraq lest they seem to collude with neo-conservative bombast. Anti-war ideologues can't support the Iraqis because that would require admitting that positive outcomes can result from bad policies. And then there are the ideological fools in the Arab world, and even a few in the West, who think the 'insurgents' are fighting a just war against US imperialism. This makes you wonder when the left forgot the proper name for people who bomb polling stations, kill election workers and assassinate candidates - fascists.

This is a dispute between "democratic, egalitarian and humane values" and Fascism. Some of us like to think we are on the side that is fundamentally opposed to Fascism. What side are you on?

Elections in Iraq

For an Iraqi perspective on the elections see here.

There is also excellent coverage at Norm's Place: see here and here.

And also at Hak Mao: see here.

And also at SIAW: see here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Suicide Bombing (**Updated**)

In today's Grauniad Terry Eagleton gives a justification of suicide bombers.
The piece is criticized well by Norm. As has been mentioned before most suicide bombers are not "laying violent hands on [themselves]" but allowing others to lay violent hands on them. Most suicide bombers are used as a tool by people who would not want, and actively prohibit their family from wanting, to be so used.* Eagleton makes the point that
the bomber forces a contrast between the extreme kind of self-determination involved in taking his own life and the lack of such self-determination in his everyday existence.
What self-determination would that be when most suicide bombers are encouraged, supported and directed by people who want to benefit from the suicide bomber's actions?

Not an authoritative source but a very good telling of the tale of a suicide bomber is in the small comic by Ron Rege Jr included in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern 13 edited by Chris Ware. Read it and weep.

Also see the responses of Scott Burgess, Harry's Place and Eric Unred.

*Gene, at Harry's Place, makes the point with a reference
Before his timely but non-suicidal death last year, Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi scoffed when his own son, a medical student, said he would be honored to be a "martyr." Rantisi said his son didn't know what he was saying "because of his youth."

Then: "Some men must grow up to become doctors. But for that to happen, others have to sacrifice themselves and become martyrs."

With few exceptions, Palestinian suicide bombers come from among the deluded and the desperate. They do not come from among the leaders, organizers and propagandists of the organizations which claim responsibility for the bombings, or from among their children.

Suicide bombers are invariably pawns in someone else's game.


January 27th 1945 saw the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp by the Red Army.

Here's a couple of links: I and II.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Do Nothing

That seems to be the advice from Eric Hobsbawm in saturday's Grauniad.
"Spreading democracy" aggravated ethnic conflict and produced the disintegration of states in multinational and multicommunal regions after both 1918 and 1989.
As David Aaronovitch argues in the next day's Observer
When Bush orated that, 'America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies', I could feel sceptical, but I preferred it - both emotionally and intellectually - to the idea that, somehow, what happens far away is either none of our business, or that anything we might choose to do about it would make things worse.

An illustration of the nature of the choice was afforded by a characteristically lucid article in yesterday's Guardian from the historian Eric Hobsbawm. He dismissed the notion that democracy was applicable everywhere 'in a standardised (western) form', that it could succeed everywhere, or that it could 'bring peace, rather than sow disorder'. The conditions for democracy, he wrote, were rare. Then came the historian's judgment. Spreading democracy 'aggravated ethnic conflict and produced the disintegration of states in multinational and multicommunal regions after both 1918 and 1989'. Far better, it was implied, not to do it.

This is a dismal prospect. Where once socialism could be spread, now not even democracy either can or should be. But would it really have been better, as Eric half implies, had the Habsburg Empire survived the First World War, or had the Ukraine continued to be part of a Russian hegemony after 1989? What are we supposed to do with such an analysis?

In a world of poverty and tyranny is it right to sit back and take a conservative approach of doing nothing for fear of doing wrong? As the Man said "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it."

The New Poor

Last sunday's Observer started a campaign against inheritance tax (IHT). The accompanying comment piece by Jill Insley contains some specious reasoning.

It claims the Tax is "distorting family life" and "undermining the property market"? And if it was, would that be such a bad thing?

The example given in Jill Insley's piece of a nurse who wanted "something to leave to the kids" is specious. Even though the house is valued at over the IHT threshold "the kids" still get a substantial inheritance. The comment that "[the kids] will have to hand over thousands of pounds , which she scrimped to save" is as fallacious as it is misleading. Those thousands of pounds (if that is the size of the IHT bill) come purely from house price inflation.

Is the Observer really arguing that those with an inheritance of over a quarter of a million pounds are not rich? Woe to this new poor. What of those who have an inheritance of several hundred pounds? Are these the old poor?

In a world where billions live on less than 2 US dollars a day a major UK newspaper is arguing that having an inheritance of a quarter of a million pounds does not make you rich.

Monday, January 24, 2005

George Galloway

Labour Friends of Iraq have a splendid piece by Alan Johnson on George Galloway and Iraq. He mentions watching GG on Newsnight last week.
John Harris: "Do you think there is a moral equivalence between Hitler's Nazi occupation of Europe and the British and American Occupation of Iraq?"

George Galloway: "…There is no difference at all."

George Galloway offers a Brechtian solution to the agony of Iraq. Support the resistance, he says, for the resistance 'does not target its own civilians'. Notice how odd Galloway's formulation is – 'its own civilians'. Orwell would have loved that. Galloway is not claiming that the 'resistance' does not target civilians. He is claiming that the 'resistance' does not target 'its own' civilians. Only those 'working for the occupation' are 'fought' (ie killed, AJ). But who is 'working for the occupation' according to the resistance? Ah, there's the rub. It turns out to be the vast majority of Iraqi people.

First, the Shia are 'working for the occupation'. The Shia support the election and the UN-backed political process. The Shia have representatives in the Interim Government. As such they are 'working for the occupation' and are legitimate targets. The 'resistance' has massacred the Shia since the first days of the war. The Shia, it seems, are not 'its own' civilians. They may constitute 60% of the Iraqi people but that will not save them. They are not 'the Iraqi people'.

Second, the Kurds are 'working for the occupation'. The Kurds weigh in at around 18% of the Iraqi people but this does them no good as – supporting the elections - they too are not part of 'the Iraqi people'. Kurds don't qualify as 'their own' civilians.

Third, all democrats – Sunni included - and all who would participate in the UN-backed elections and political process are 'working for the occupation'. Men like Hadi Saleh, the trade union leader who on January 4 was tortured and murdered by the 'resistance' because he seeks a sovereign Iraq via the route of elections, politics and building the workers movement. For this crime he had his face beaten to a pulp, was tied to a radiator and strangled.

This third group - the democrats - is large indeed. Heroic election workers helping Iraqi to their first poll in thirty years are 'working for the occupation' (I think those election workers are the glory of democracy and should have trees planted in their name after the election, stretching along a boulevard leading to the Transitional Assembly building). Members of the Iraqi Communist Party who fight for social justice and Iraqi sovereignty by political means not suicide bombings are 'working for the occupation'. Men and women who work in schools that are to be used as polling stations are 'working for the occupation'.

Polls reported on Al Jezeera show an average of 81% of Iraqis support the elections and 19% oppose the elections. No matter, the 81% are 'working for the occupation'.

Don't forget the humanitarian aid workers who are 'working for the occupation'. Nor the engineers and the brickies rebuilding the electricity substation, the rail workers taking consumer goods to Mosul, the guard protecting the oil pipeline, and the labourer rebuilding the water-treatment plant and the hospital. Each and every one of them, 'working for the occupation'. And anyone seeking to join the Iraqi police force and protect the Iraqi people from the small minority who murder define themselves them by that very act as enemies of the Iraqi 'People'. As for the burned-out Christian churches, do these targeted Christians not count for the 'resistance' as 'its own' civilians?
Go on. Read the whole piece.

Apologies for quoting so much of the piece but I think it is worth reading and distributing far and wide.

(Hat Tip: SIAW)


Norm blogs on the damaging and worrying rise of ant-semitism.

Mick Hartley mentions a planned boycott of this week’s commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz, by the Muslim Council of Britain, because they claim it is not racially inclusive and does not commemorate the victims of the Palestinian conflict.
He quotes Khalid Mahmood, the MP for Birmingham Perry Barr:
People who were exterminated in the Holocaust were not just Jews. There were Romany gypsies as well. Anybody who is interested in human rights should support this remembrance.”
Does not the phrase "not just Jews" make you want to scream?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Sex, Science and Larry

That's got your interest. Here's an example of old sexist ideas living on under the cloak of respectable academic inquiry. Larry Summers, president of Harvard University, made a speech last Friday saying that
the under-representation of female scientists at elite universities may stem in part from “innate" differences between men and women, although two Harvard professors who heard the speech said the remarks have been taken out of context in an ensuing national media frenzy.
Summers referred repeatedly to the work of University of Michigan sociologist Yu Xie and his University of California-Davis colleague Kimberlee A. Shauman, who have found that women make up 35 percent of faculty at universities across the country, but only 20 percent of professors in science and engineering.

Their analysis of achievement test results shows a higher degree of variance in scores among men than among women. According to Ascherman Professor of Economics Richard Freeman, an organizer of the conference, the research found that “there are more men who are at the top and more men who are utter failures.”

Summers suggested that behavioral genetics could partially explain this phenomenon.

[Two attendees at the conference] both said that after Summers’ mentioned the “innate differences” hypothesis, he explicitly told the audience: “I’d like to be proven wrong on this one.”
Much of the ensuing media coverage came from someone who left before Summers made this statement. Many women scientists have rightly attacked his position.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Manchester United and Me

This post and this post remind me of when I was innocent of the ways of the world.

Bored of supporting the local first division team, the one described by Inveresk Street as the great Wolves team of the late fifties managed by Stan Cullis. Not that this was the fifties but the early 70s but everyone still talked about Billy Wright, Bert Williams, Peter Broadbent, Bill Slater, Johnny Hancocks, Jimmy Mullen, Roy Swinbourne, Jesse Pye, Dennis Wilshaw, Ron Flowers, Eddie Clamp, Norman Deeley and Eddie Stuart.

I needed something else to support. There was George Best with his Soccer School on tv, not that I ever saw any of it. I remember being excited all day at school. Coming home. No power because of the miners strike and the ensuing three day week. Then seeing them relegated made me more convinced. I was about the only person to start supporting Manchester United when they were sent down to the second division. But Manchester United was where my fickle eight year old self found a home. Got the shop address and a postal order and sent away for a knitted hat and scarf. Wore them all the time. A couple of years later went to see Wolves play Manchester United in the Central League. About the match all I remember is that Manchester United definitely had Arthur Albiston playing. Then came a big traumatic experience. Someone ran past me and stole my much loved Red (with black and white stripes) hat off my head.

That's something I have never told anyone before. For four years I was a Manchester United supporter. There. That's now out in the open. Now, do I feel better for sharing?

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht

Today in 1919 Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were murdered by a right wing militia. SIAW quote from her last article, published 14th January 1919.
The whole road of socialism - so far as revolutionary struggles are concerned - is paved with nothing but thunderous defeats. Yet, at the same time, history marches inexorably, step by step, toward final victory. Where would we be today without those “defeats”, from which we draw historical experience, understanding, power and idealism? Today, as we advance into the final battle of the proletarian class war, we stand on the foundation of those very defeats; and we cannot do without any of them, because each one contributes to our strength and understanding.
The leadership failed, but a new leadership can and must be created by the masses and from the masses. The masses are the crucial factor. They are the rock on which the ultimate victory of the revolution will be built. The masses were up to the challenge, and out of this “defeat” they have forged a link in the chain of historic defeats that is the pride and strength of international socialism. That is why future victories will spring from this “defeat”.
“‘Order prevails in Berlin!’” You foolish lackeys! Your “order” is built on sand. Tomorrow the revolution will “rise up again, clashing its weapons”, and, to your horror, it will proclaim with trumpets blazing: I was, I am, I shall be!

This is also commented on by Hak Mao.

I have just noticed that a search on Google for "Rosa Luxemberg" pulls up a scummy anti-semitic site as the first hit. This must change. I know it's spelt wrong but change it must. So here goes Rosa Luxemberg and
Rosa Luxemberg and Rosa Luxemberg and Rosa Luxemberg and Rosa Luxemberg and Rosa Luxemberg and Rosa Luxemberg and Rosa Luxemberg and Rosa Luxemberg and Rosa Luxemberg and Rosa Luxemberg and Rosa Luxemberg and Rosa Luxemberg.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


Nick Barlow hits the nail on the head with these ignorant bigots.

(Hat Tip: Virtual Stoa)

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Reasons to read the Grauniad

This week the Grauniad has been running a splendid series on the plight of migrant workers in the UK. Here's a taster:
the flexible labour market is so dominated by illegal activity that many of the new EU migrants have fallen into the same trap of unlawful wages and squalid living conditions despite their legal status.

The [Poles] were not employed directly by the factory that supplied Sainsbury's but subcontracted in a complex chain through a series of labour agencies. Extensive interviewing by the Guardian in other parts of the UK suggests that the case of these Poles is not particularly unusual. This is how many migrant workers find themselves when they come to England, whatever their legal status.

The house the Poles had been taken to, in an anonymously respectable cul-de-sac in a quiet Exeter suburb that forms part of the Labour minister Ben Bradshaw's constituency, was unremarkable outside. Inside there was no furniture, just mountains of rubbish, piles of syringes, soiled mattresses on the floor, and a terrible smell. They slept on the bare mattresses that night and were taken by the minivan to their 2-10pm shift the next day.

Twenty Poles were in the house the night the Guardian visited, 10 of whom were sleeping there, three and four to a small room, with the other 10 in another small house nearby. It was after 11pm and they had just been driven back from their late shift putting Sainsbury's chicken portions on plastic trays at the state-of-the-art Lloyd Maunder meat factory near Tiverton.

They said they had been threatened with eviction and loss of two weeks' wages by their gangmasters if they dared to tell anyone about their conditions. They had also been told they must be very quiet and not go out in groups or the police would come. They said they felt intimidated.
They had promised the minimum wage, £4.50, good accommodation for £25 per person per week, and lots of hours of overtime. But the Poles said it had gone wrong almost as soon as it started.

There had been no work and no wages in their first week in Southampton. They were told they would have to pay £40 rent each, although they were sleeping on the floor in the kitchen and in the sitting room. Then suddenly they had all been taken to Exeter in the night and left there. Their payslips showed that £40 was being deducted from each of their pay packets each week for rent although the legal maximum for those on the minimum wage is just under £25.

Even a cursory glance showed that there was something seriously wrong with their national insurance numbers - several of them had the same one. They were having tax deducted at the high emergency rate, though the tax office said it had not yet received payments for them.

After deductions their payslips showed they were getting just £115 a week for 40 hours. But this was not what the runners who brought their cash were actually giving them, they said. Another £15 was disappearing along the line without explanation.

Most of them had not registered with the Home Office because the £50 required to do so seemed an impossible amount when they were trying to survive and support families at home on so little money. By failing to do so, they had put themselves the on wrong side of the law.

Tadeusz had been a farrier in Poland, and had wanted to better himself, so he had given up his life-long job, never thinking he might regret it. Now he wanted to go home but could not yet afford the return fare.

Read the whole series of articles 1, 2, 3. Protest. Write to your MP.

  • Educate

  • Agitate

  • Organize

  • Inside the Boundary

    The famous tree inside Kent's cricket ground has fallen.
    TWO centuries of cricketing folklore crashed to the ground at St Lawrence when Friday's gales felled the world-famous lime tree at Kent's Canterbury headquarters.

    Estimated to be at least 190-years-old when last surveyed, the lime has provided the back drop for cricket since the game was first played there in 1847 - some 23 years before the formation of the county club. The only tree positioned within the boundary ropes of a first-class cricket ground anywhere in the world, the lime became renowned throughout the game as a quirky sporting icon of Kent.

    Down the decades numerous Kent supporters have scattered the ashes of loved ones at the foot of the tree, and poignantly, a single red rose still lay at its base on the day the lime finally came to rest.
    "The replacement is a little on the small side right now and would have to be protected, as they do with the base of rugby posts, just in case a fielder ran into it.

    "But I feel we need to keep such traditions going as people came here from all over the world, even when there was no cricket being played, to have their picture taken next to the Canterbury lime."

    Though often well within the boundary ropes only three batsmen have 'officially' hit sixes over the Canterbury lime in first-class play - though many others have laid claim to the feat.

    West Indies' all-rounder Learie Constantine first cleared the lime from a delivery by Kent leg-spinner C.S. 'Father' Mariott in 1928. Constantine's countryman and former Kent overseas professional, Carl Hooper, did likewise in 1992, while batsman Jim Smith also hit over it for Middlesex in 1939.

    Important questions of our time: as the replacement tree is smaller than its predecessor is it still a six over the tree?

    The Lights are Going Out

    Will comments on offensive opinions coming from the Islamic fringe saying the Tsunami is the wrath of God. Will quotes memri:
    These great tragedies and collective punishments that are wiping out villages, towns, cities, and even entire countries, are Allah's punishments of the people of these countries, even if they are Muslims.
    Some of our forefathers said that if there is usury and fornication in a certain village, Allah permits its destruction. We know that at these resorts, which unfortunately exist in Islamic and other countries in South Asia, and especially at Christmas, fornication and sexual perversion of all kinds are rampant. The fact that it happened at this particular time is a sign from Allah.

    Similar opinions are also current on the Christian fringe. The likeable (not) Fred Phelps has written
    The tsunami was an adumbration of the wrath of God, a harbinger of things to come: that Great Day of Judgment. Amos 3:6 "Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?" That word translated "evil" there is means distress, misery, injury, calamity. The answer, of course, to the rhetorical question posed in this verse is a resounding "NO!" See also Romans 1:18 "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;" And you wonder if this is the wrath of God? The lands affected by this judgment from God aren’t just full of idolatry;
    Do you realize that among the dead and missing are 3,500 Swedes and over 3,000 Americans? Sweden, who recently jailed a Gospel preacher for a month because he preached Bible verses and sentiments about the abomination that is the homosexual lifestyle from his own pulpit to his own congregation. America, who is awash in diseased fag feces & semen, and is an apostate land of the sodomite damned. And you wonder if this is the wrath of God?
    I have not given the address for Phelps's comments because they come from his website which has a vile URL (act of editorial censorship) but a discussion of the comments can be found at snopes. Search down for "The tsunami was an adumbration of the wrath of God".

    This sentiment about the tsunami is common to those who have a belief in an omnipotent God who is the cause of everything. What religion they claim to espouse is fairly irrelevant.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2005

    Song Poll

    It's time for the Norm Blog Song Poll. Do enter. Here's my list:

  • Surf's Up - David Thomas and Two Pale Boys (an amazing version of the Beach Boys song)

  • It's Alright Ma - Bob Dylan

  • Sign O' The Times - Prince

  • Transmission - Joy Division

  • This Charming Man - The Smiths

  • Wrecking Ball - Emmylou Harris (an excellent version of the Neil Young song)

  • Shipbuilding - Robert Wyatt

  • Kashmir - Led Zeppelin

  • Monkey's Gone to Heaven - Pixies

  • Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick - Ian Dury and the Blockheads

  • Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't Have) - The Buzzcocks

  • Never Stop - Echo and the Bunnymen

  • Perfect Day - Lou Reed

  • RoadRunner - Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers

  • Sympathy for the Devil - The Rolling Stones

  • The Message - Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

  • Reward - Teardrop Explodes

  • Once In a Lifetime - Talking Heads

  • A New England - Billy Bragg

  • London Calling - The Clash

  • I Kill Therefore I Am - Phil Ochs

  • American Without Tears - Elvis Costello

  • Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen

  • Blitzkrieg Bop - The Ramones

  • Move On Up - Curtis Mayfield

  • Holiday In Cambodia - The Dead Kennedys

  • Miss Otis Regrets - Ella Fitzgerald

  • That's a list that can be expanded. Songs that should go on but didn't (because I didn't think of them until now) include:

  • Hurt - Johnny Cash (Wow!)

  • Fairy Tale In New York - The Pogues and Kirsty McColl

  • You Really Got Me - The Kinks

  • Just do it. You know you want to.

    Monday, January 10, 2005


    Found this dialectical haiku.
    the dialectics
    of opposites: you found much
    but this, you did not.
    Via Pooter Geek.

    Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

    After the Ramones, Rullsenberg and I grabbed coffee and cake and went to Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Rullsenberg reports
    it was worth the price of admission just to see the closing credit sequence (some wonderful Svankmajeresque animation and drawings that call to mind all those wonderful Polish/Czech animations that would litter the UK television screens over summer holidays in past times). Sadly, many had left by then - what is it with the 'leave immediately the credits role' thang? - and only Cloud, me and three other 30-something adults were left gawping and giggling at the fantastic closing titles.
    Yes, it's true, the closing titles were brilliant. If you do intend going, do stop all the way to the end of the credits.

    The Ramones on film.

    This weekend went with Rullsenberg to see End of The Century: The Story of the Ramones. What better way to spend an afternoon? For a review see Rullsenberg.

    Hey! Ho! Let's Go!

    Friday, January 07, 2005

    On the Murder of Trade Unionists

    Harry's Place has a post by Labour Friends of Iraq on the murder of Hadi Salih, International Officer of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions.
    He was tied and blindfolded and severely tortured before being forced to kneel and strangled by electric cord and shot. Our condolences and thoughts are with his family, friends and comrades. His killers were men loyal to the old regime of Saddam Hussein.
    They go on to accuse the Stop the War Coalition of
    putting the lives of foreign trade unionists at risk.
    And end with the question
    Any British trade union funding the Stop the War Coalition now has questions to answer: why fund an organisation that is – according to an ex-union leader and left-winger like Mick Rix – putting the lives of foreign trade unionists at risk? Do you stand with Mick Rix and the heroic Iraqi free trade unionists or Andrew Murray, StWC and their fascistic ‘resistance’? Which side are you on?

    The lives of Iraqi trade unionists are at stake.
    Put simply, murdering trade unionists is what fascists do. Any organisation or individual supporting those who murder trade unionists is supporting fascism. Do you want to belong to any organisation that supports fascism?

    On Being Closer

    This interview/profile with Natalie Portman reveals next season's must-have, the Roland Barthes action figure.
    This is a girl who, we are told, gave Roberts and Law copies of the French structuralist Roland Barthes as mementoes

  • Watch! As He Writes.
  • See! him analyse contemporary culture
  • Watch! As he kills the author

  • Action figure available from Foucault Enterprises for 19.99 Euros plus p&p.

    Ramones are 5 years too late or 95 too early

    End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones comes out this weekend in the UK. The Grauniad writes
    I can't remember a rockumentary, or if you will documentary, that I sat through beaming with as much sheer pleasure as this celluloid love letter to the Ramones, heroes of punk.
    the Ramones rocketed into rock legend, with their leather jackets and mop hair, crashing through 100mph songs and doing more than anyone to take a sledgehammer to prog-rock complacency.
    For 20 years, the Ramones did their thing, never changing, never looking or sounding any different, and sadly never making it into the big league, despite being an acknowledged influence on so many bands that came later. The pseudo-surname "Ramone" seems to have encouraged a family-type dysfunction; Johnny stole Joey's girlfriend, an act that sowed the seed of much pain, and Johnny's martinet insistence on hard work and touring, together with his robustly conservative political views, wound everyone up no end.
    That's definitely on the must see list this month. Hey! Ho! Let's Go!

    Tuesday, January 04, 2005


    After a break from blogging I have loads to catch up on. Spent the break watching movies: Dr Strangelove Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb.

    Reading books: Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke. As an example read the letter of April 23, 1903.
    Finally, as to my own books, I wish I could send you any of them that might give you pleasure. But I am very poor, and my books, as soon as they are published, no longer belong to me. I can't even afford them myself – and, as I would so often like to, give them to those who would be kind to them.

    So I am writing for you, on another slip of paper, the titles (and publishers) of my most recent books (the newest ones – all together I have published perhaps 12 or 13), and must leave it to you, dear Sir, to order one or two of them when you can.

    I am glad that my books will be in your good hands.

    With best wishes,

    Rainer Marie Rilke
    The Tale of the Starving Poet is not dead. Not all writers make a living writing. There are those who get much publicised advances and then there are those who write.

    For light(er) reading I am reading The Crash of Hennington by Patrick Ness. Think Messianic soap-opera. Fate. Destiny. Eminently fun. Not-to-be-taken-too-seriously.