Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Round-em-up Rawhide

SIAW have a couple of excellent posts:
  • On Hitchen's on culture and universalism
  • On definitions of socialism and ethics
    Yes, world peace, world stability and even a strategy for the change of enslaved societies may well counsel normalisation of relations with all of these murderous regimes. We should do this, however, with eyes open, and do everything possible for the victims. In addition, there must be moral lines that we will not cross.
    And as SIAW add "If you disagree with any of that, just what kind of moral cretin are you?"
Go read. And don't be like terrible Tim.


Just found this wonderful site. Devoted to the works of Alasdair Gray.

I first read Lanark a long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away). It's a boom to read, read and read again.

Lanark defies description. Like Slaughterhouse Five it is both outlandish science-fiction and obvious autobiography, like The Third Policeman it makes use of lengthy footnotes that say absolutely nothing, it begins with book three, has a prologue halfway through, and it includes a long index of plagiarisms in the middle of a discussion between the author and his lead character. Like many difficult books it is probably better appreciated on subsequent readings, but it is likely to grab you from the off. Books 3 and 4 (which you read first and last) are about Lanark, a man who arrives by train in a strange town. Having no name, he takes one from a sepia-tinted tourist-photograph he saw on the compartment wall. The city has no daylight and the inhabitants do no work, living off subsistence-level grants from an unseen power. Many people suffer from oddly symbolic diseases. Lanark develops 'dragonhide', a physical manifestation of Wilhelm Reich's emotional armouring, which smothers his arm in thick heavy scales and claws where his fingers were, one of his friends develops 'mouths' the symptoms of which involves mouths opening like wounds over the body which then speak independently of the sufferer. Lanark commits suicide and comes round in 'The Institute'. The Institute is devoted to curing those it can, but uses the hopeless cases as fuel (dragonhide sufferers eventually 'go nova' if uncured, when their pent-up emotions cause their bodies to explode, which energy is harnessed to power generators) or as food (the glutinous 'softs' are turned into a processed blancmange-like substance which Lanark refuses to eat when he discovers its source). This is only part of the opening book. The novel later trips back to Glasgow just after the war, where we meet Thaw (who it would appear is Lanark in a previous incarnation) for books 2 and 3. I will stop the description here, because it cannot do the book justice.
Or as it says here

Lanark is one of the great novels of our time, a surreal mural of unsettling images and ideas vigorously coloured with anarchic humour, an epic fable that subverts submission to hypocritical social codes.
Time spent reading Lanark is time well spent.

Here's an exhibtion of Gray's preliminary work on Lanark.

Here's an interview with the man.

Here's the end of this Alasdair Gray fest. But I forgot to tell you where to get Lanark.

Here's the fancy box set. And here's the other one.

A New Internationalism

This piece in today's Grauniad by Brian Brivati makes a case for intervention.
Beyond borders, beyond passports, beyond nationalist conceptions of citizenship, there must be a notion of a global citizen who will be protected by all the nation states of the world if their own state sets out to kill them for who they are, what they believe or where they live. Let us take at least this minimal idea of global citizenship and back it with the deterrence of inevitable intervention should governments set out to solve their political problems with mass murder. Such a policy, adopted by the Labour government, enacted through Gordon Brown's war powers/genocide convention act, would signal more clearly than anything else that the root of a truly ethical foreign policy is in actions that save life, destroy tyranny and spread democracy.
We need a debate beyond national sovereignty. We need a global citizenship. We need a United Nations that works. A United Nations to "save life, destroy tyranny and spread democracy".

Thursday, May 19, 2005


This is not some patriotic post on Albion's shores but on an account of last Saturday at the Hawthorns. Pooter Geek caught this on the motley fool bulletin board (usually a source of some well rum financial advice). As Pooter says "[it] is sexist, sentimental, and completely charming".

So now you want to go and read it don't you? Or maybe not. Okay then. here it is. Don't say I didn't warn you.

This post is coming from a soi-disant Wolverhampton Wanderers fan.

Ssssh - I've got a nice little bridge

Hitchens reports on Galloway
But he looks so much like what he is: a thug and a demagogue, the type of working-class-wideboy-and-proud-of-it who is too used to the expenses account, the cars and the hotels " all cigars and back-slapping. He is a very cheap character and a short-arse like a lot of them are, puffed up like a turkey. He has managed to fuse being a Baathist with being a Muslim sectarian and a carpet bagger in the East End " as well as a front for a creepy sub-Leninist sect, the Socialist Workers' Party. He's got the venomous riff-raff at one end and your one-God fanatics on the other. Wonderful. Just what we need.

This is pretty sordid. The media are there to ask the difficult questions, not to act as an echo chamber for frauds like Galloway.

Also on the indefatigable one Shuggy points out
where, exactly, do you imagine that Galloway learned the street-fighting methods he used to such devastating effect in the election? Some people really need to get out more. Or, I should say, out of London more because the answer to the preceding question is...the Scottish Labour Party of course, where the hell do you think?

Galloway was the youngest ever chairman-thingy of the Scottish party - and you simply cannot get on in the Labour Party up here if you don't do a bit of communal politics. Here we have corruption, dodgy accounting, dirty tricks and the politics of the tribe that would put Tony Soprano to shame.
Some people have remarked that the Scottish Labour Party bore a strong kinship to Tammany Hall. So there are aspects of politics in the U.S.A Galloway should feel at home with.
Now, about that bridge.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

10 things I've never done

Rullsenberg passed this onto me. Here goes:
  1. Played the trumpet
  2. Played baseball
  3. Voted for the Conservative Party
  4. Read any Harry Potter
  5. Had a letter published in the Grauniad (yet)
  6. Run a 10K
  7. Been on a rollercoaster with Rullsenberg
  8. Been to New Zealand (yet but need to go some time soon as all my family either has emigrated or is emigrating)
  9. Made a film
  10. Stopped being a sex object
  11. Played the piano
  12. Been arrested
  13. Bought a made to measure suit
That's 3 extra for you. Most of those are things I'd like to do (apart from 3, 4, 10 and 12). (Hope I got the numbering right).

Veni, Vidi

and Vici? Na. Galloway made it to the Hill. He gave a theatrical performace to a committee acting like a group of purring pussies flat on their backs wanting their bellies rubbed. As Eric said
Could any visiting Americans please explain how the only remaining superpower in the world can produce such weak and ineffective politicians? It was like watching Godzilla savage lightly-armed Tellytubbies.
Hitchens comments
The member for Bethnal Green and Bow showed the clear superiority of a parliamentary training (and a soapbox training) over a senatorial one. As Americans like to say, he got his retaliation in first.
There's more, much more, over at Harry's Place. Harry refers to the Scotsman which tells
Under repeated questioning, Mr Galloway conceded that Mr Zureikat did have extensive business dealings with the Saddam regime but, challenged over whether his friend’s generous contributions to the Mariam Appeal - £900,000 by his own previous assessments - could have come from the sale of oil, he stonewalled.

Urged to say if he would repay the cash if it could be proved to have come from such a source, he again ducked the question. Mr Galloway first met Mr Zureikat, a Jordanian businessman, through his now-estranged wife Amineh Abu-Zayyad, who had attended the same university in Jordan. The men became friends and set up the Mariam Appeal in 1998.
There still lie unanswered Harry's questions about the Mariam Appeal:
  • Why did Galloway move the Mariam Appeal documents out of the country?

  • Why will Galloway not make the financial statements of the Mariam Appeal available despite promising to do so two years ago?

So it goes. So it goes.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Protect Darfur

Here's an excellent report of yesterday's excellent demo calling on
the Government to end the inaction and meet its promise to protect groups vulnerable to genocide.
Survivors from the Holocaust, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur will present a detailed dossier to 10 Downing St setting out the need for the British Government to table a UN resolution giving the AU mission in Darfur the authority it needs to protect the African population from genocide.

The rally coincides with similar action in France, where a group of organisations known as the 'Collectif Urgence Darfour' will hold the first ever Paris demonstration about the crisis.

Funeral Hearse

A coffin, symbolising the loss of the Black Africans being murdered in Darfur's genocide at the rate of one every three minutes, will be taken by hearse to Downing Street.

Aid is not enough

400,000 black Africans have been murdered in Darfur in the last two years, with 500 more being killed every day - simply because of who they are. The genocide is being carried out by Arab militias known as the 'Janjaweed', supported by Sudanese Government forces. African Union troops are on the ground, but Britain is doing nothing to secure the UN mandate they need to protect the population effectively.

"Right at the start of its third term, we want to highlight to the Government that aid for Darfur is not enough. Securing a UN mandate for protection of people facing genocide in Darfur has to be a priority," says Dr James Smith, Chief Executive of the Aegis Trust, which coordinates the Protect Darfur campaign.

Government promise to protect

"Signing the Stockholm Declaration on genocide prevention last year, Britain pledged to protect 'groups identified as potential victims of genocide, mass murder or ethnic cleansing.' We are asking the Government to honour that promise.

Lessons from the Holocaust

"We will also be there to show solidarity with Darfur's survivors. When genocide happens, we cannot leave its victims to protest their fate alone - unless we have learned nothing from the Holocaust, Bosnia, Armenia and Rwanda. We urge anyone who cares about humanity to join us. If you want 'Never Again' to mean something, it's time to stand up and be counted."

(Thanks: Harry's Place)

Friday, May 13, 2005


Last summer Rullsenberg and me got lost in Dumfries and Galloway on our way to England from Glasgow. Ah, remembrance of things past. Now to the present. It appears that the indefatigable one is being called to the Hill.
There is more, much more information available at Harry's Place. See why this matters, stop_picking_on_galloway, the_end_of_a_beautiful_friendship,
another trip abroad,
the frequent flyer,
the mariam appeal, and oil of Uday.
So may questions. As Harry asks
Why did Galloway move the Mariam Appeal documents out of the country?
Why will Galloway not make the financial statements of the Mariam Appeal available despite promising to do so two years ago?
So it's up to a Senate Committee to ask questions of a lickspittle apologist for Fascism that should have been asked by various UK bodies.

On being right

There is currently a debate around customer choice in public services like the NHS.

Here's a tale of what happens when you let customers have what they want.

(Thanks to Joel Spolsky)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Su Doku

The world's gone Su Doku mad. (Okay not the world but British newspapers. A little hyperbole never hurt anyone. If it did I'm sorry.)

There's The Times arguing that its puzzles are the original and best. The Independent now offers three puzzles everyday. And the Grauniad offers a hand crafted puzzle (as contrasted with the computer constructed others).

At least it's a reason to still buy the Grauniad now Aaronovitch is leaving.


15th May 2005. Rally outside Downing Street. 12:30pm.

Further details from here.

Darfur Protest

(Thanks Hak Mao)

Friday, May 06, 2005

Now is the time for Iraq

Abdullah Muhsin of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions has a letter in today's Grauniad (copied on Labour Friends of Iraq). Here's a taster:
We want the same things as British people do and are trying - through political pressure, as part of the democratic process being supervised by the UN, negotiations with employers and strike action, where necessary - to improve workers' pay and conditions, as part of a new civil society that is determined to build a united, federal, secular and democratic Iraq and end military and economic occupation.

We are the real democratic resistance, not those who seek to foment sectarian civil war and who target trade unionists for murder and intimidation. With solidarity from the British and international labour movement, our free unions can help isolate them and unite Iraqis for social justice in a sovereign Iraq.
This is a real view from Iraq as opposed to those of the indefatigable member for Bethnal Green and Bow.

That's the pseudo-left supported indefatigable member who supports those who "foment sectarian civil war and who target trade unionists for murder and intimidation" (see here).

Interview with the Indefatigable

Via Rullsenberg I found this Paxman interview with the victorious, indefatigable George G. Here's an extract
JP: We're joined now from his count in Bethnal Green and Bow by George Galloway. Mr Galloway, are you proud of having got rid of one of the very few black women in Parliament?
GG: What a preposterous question. I know it's very late in the night, but wouldn't you be better starting by congratulating me for one of the most sensational election results in modern history?
What did George want?

Would he have been happy with "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability"?


It's in.

The election result for Broxtowe: Nick Palmer (Labour) won with a majority of 2,296 over the Tory candidate.

Turnout increased by about 1004 but Labour lost 1469 votes. These appear to have largely gone Green (896 votes) and to isolationist Europhobes. The Tories only gained 90 votes and the LibDems 108.

(These figures are based on my arithmetic from the BBCs percentages so may be up or down a vote).

Awoke this morning to chants of "Four more years" coming from the radio. Perhaps it's me but this triumphalism evokes the 80s, the Federation of Conservative Students with their "Hang Mandela" t-shirts and Thatcherite rallies. But I'll let that go.

So, four more years it is. What do we do with it? That's what matters.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Today's the Day

A reminder: Vote early and vote often.*

*Where often is defined as more than zero times and not more than one time.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Red Jacket She Wore Once.

Over the weekend Rullsenberg almost bought a gorgeous jacket. It fitted her like something that fits very well indeed (she'd have been found guilty by Johnny Cochrane's adage).

For a fashion tale go read the story.

It's Cool for Cats

Tired of emptying the kitty litter?

In Australia Jo Lapidge has come up with a toilet training technique for cats.

She's not the first. Someone with a greater claim to fame produced a system about 30 years ago.

And he taught his cat to flush.

Cat business

Ah Um. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. And all that.

Now that's what I call cricket

The Stoa picks up on The Corridor of Uncertainty - an interesting cricket blog - which shows this amazing image of Denis Lillee bowling to 9 slips.

Denis Lillee bowling to 9 slips

This is playing cricket in the spirit it was intended to be played. This is playing cricket like politics should be played:
Our ground game isn't working. We're going to put the ball in the air. If we're going to walk into walls, I want us running into 'em full speed. We're going to lose some of these battles. We might even lose the White House. But we're not going to be threatened by issues. We're going to put them front and center. We're going to raise the level of public debate in this country. And let that be our legacy.
If that seems familiar it's because it is. That's because some quotes are just too good to not use again, and again.

Voting Intentions

As ever SIAW come up with something good with their reasons to vote:
provided that:
  • you have no objection in principle to taking part in the liberal-democratic electoral process (and we have a lot more respect for those who enact such objections, peacefully and respectfully, than for those who hypocritically take part while aiming to replace liberal democracy with something even worse);
  • you are serious about taking part in the choice of a government for Britain, in the awareness that an election is not a referendum (just as a referendum is not an election);
  • you would rather vote for a party that has demonstrated a minimal commitment to social reform than for a party that opposes social reform, or one that is utterly confused about what social reform might involve and nowhere near gaining the power to effect it;
  • you live in a marginal seat where your vote might make a difference; and
    your voting Labour carries no risk of letting a Tory, a Liberal Democrat or a nationalist into the Commons -
    vote Labour. If not, not.

    Now how's that for a ringing endorsement?
Hear, hear.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Late Post

This has been blogged everywhere and probably even other places but, hey, this blog is never anything but playful with the bourgeoise concept of time. So here's Christopher Hitchens on the election:
On May 5, 40 years after I first took out a membership card, it will be possible, for the first time since the 1945 Labor victory that threw out the Churchill Tories, to vote Labor on a point of principle. Sixty years is a long time to wait, but the struggle for Iraq has decided the matter.
He concludes with
There are things to dislike about Tony Blair. His rather sickly piety is one, and his liberal authoritarianism, on matters such as smoking and fox-hunting, is another. I can't forgive him for calling Diana Spencer "the People's Princess," or for seeking the approval of the Fleet Street rags, and he is one of those politicians who seems to think that staying "on message" is an achievement in itself. Nonetheless, he took a bold stand against the establishment and against a sullen public opinion and did so on a major issue of principle. It is absolutely necessary that his right-wing and clerical enemies be humiliated at the polls.
There's nothing perfect with Blair and the Labour Party but they offer more hope than anything else on offer.

As the man used to say "Vote early and vote often" (where "often" is defined as more than zero times and not more than one time).

Iraq and the Pro-Forma Article

Alan Johnson does a splendid guest post at Harry's Place, "Iraq and the Missing Social Democratic Narrative". In it he discussess the The Single Transferable Article about Iraq (STAI).
The STAI has three points: Blair is a liar, Iraq is worse off, vote Respect or Lib Dem. The columnistas (Robert and Yasmin, Seamus and George, but also Peter and Simon, for the STAI comes in a right-wing version) have been writing the STAI for two years now.

There are three simple steps to writing the STAI. Step 1: bracket out every single positive development in Iraq. That’s right, just ignore every one. Pretend they have not happened. Close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and hum loudly. After all it’s not your job to set out a real-world policy for Iraq. Step 2: play up every single error, set-back, crime, and cock-up you can find. Step 3: treat every set-back as the fault of Bush and Blair and ‘the war’ [admitting you are inwardly glad when an outrage occurs in Iraq because you think it is a poke in the eye for Bush is optional: only Yasmin has taken that option so far].

The STAI reduces the political complexity of Iraq to a simple story of cowboys, poodles and freedom fighters. Mood music for your real interest: the attack on Bush-Blair. [Definition of irony: columnistas who daily ‘sex up’ Iraq in this way complaining about spin! In truth they have been the most disciplined on-message spinners, dicing and slicing Iraq to fit their ‘project’].
He then spots the missing date from all articles: January 30 2005.
the day eight and a half million Iraqis, most very poor, voted for a democratic future after thirty years of totalitarianism, war and misery, and danced with joy, purple fingers held aloft in pride. You see the STAI doesn’t do January 30 2005. It would spoil a good story.
Johnson then calls for
This same social democratic narrative is the basis for a critique of events in post-war Iraq: an anti-fascist discourse about the so-called ‘resistance’ (‘They Shall Not Pass!), a social –democratic demand for a Marshall Plan for Iraq and social justice in the new economy (Sennian ‘Development as Freedom!’), democratic socialist solidarity with the third camp in Iraq: free trade unions (‘The Union Makes Us Strong!’), democratic political parties, progressive civil society (‘Solidarity Forever!’).
as the only real "end to terrorism".

He then refers to The West Wing episode "Let Bartlet be Bartlet" in which Leo, the Chief of Staff is asked
"You have a strategy for all this?"
"I have the beginning of one."
Leo writes out on a legal pad, "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet".

Leo then talks to his staff:
"Listen up. Our ground game isn't working. We're going to put the ball in the air. If we're going to walk into walls, I want us running into 'em full speed. We're going to lose some of these battles. We might even lose the White House. But we're not going to be threatened by issues. We're going to put them front and center. We're going to raise the level of public debate in this country. And let that be our legacy."
That's how this election campaign should be played. Ignore the "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet" but putting issues "front and centre" and "rais[ing] the level of public debate" beyond the moronic "Blair is a liar, Iraq is worse off, vote Respect or Lib Dem".

Raise the level of discourse. That's what we want. And we want it now.