Thursday, 30 September 2004

some depressingly idiotic commentary at this BBC message board.

via The Rambler, Obsidian Wings asks everyone to post a link to their take on attempts by Republican lawmakers in the USA to, essentially, legalise torture.

The provision Rep. Markey referred to is contained in Section 3032 and 3033 of H.R. 10, the "9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act of 2004," introduced by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL). The provision would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue new regulations to exclude from the protection of the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, any suspected terrorist - thereby allowing them to be deported or transferred to a country that may engage in torture.

absolutely incredible.

Amnesty International, Anti-Slavery International, and over 68 others: Europe must do more about people trafficking.

some days ago, it was reported that a deal had been made between the Italian and Libyan governments on curbing flows of migrants into Italy (Libya being a common staging post for many, mostly African, migrants attempting to reach Italy).

i wonder if Silvio Berlusconi has read this op-ed, written by Kenneth Roth and Julia Hall of HRW, which raises many pressing issues around the 'Fortress Europe' debate.
the part about Libya's continued deportation of Eritrean nationals was especially interesting.

meanwhile Herr Schily, the German Interior Minister, is bringing a new, energised and decidedly unwholesome approach to the already dubious off-shore 'processing centre' proposal.
interesting Telegraph article from the 26th of the month, by Tom Parfitt:

It was just after 5pm on Saturday two weeks ago when Anzor Machiev, Alikhan Vitaev and a third friend from their Chechen town approached a junction with the main Grozny road in their battered Lada.

At the crossroads, several vehicles with blacked-out windows were waiting. As the Lada braked, six figures in camouflage and masks got out and unleashed a hail of automatic gunfire into the car. Then they calmly walked up to the wreck and fired a "control shot" into the head of each of the unarmed victims to ensure that he was dead.

A handful of stunned taxi drivers watched as the attackers - thought to be security forces loyal to Moscow - lingered for a moment before driving away, leaving the bodies sprawled on the road.

A month after the Beslan school siege in North Ossetia, in which more than 340 people died at the hands of mostly Chechen militants, Russia's reign of terror appears to be continuing in neighbouring Chechnya.

The people of Sernovodsk - a ramshackle former spa town of 15,000 inhabitants, 25 miles west of the Chechen capital, Grozny - say that execution, torture and kidnap are a familiar part of their lives.

Since the Beslan attack, they have noticed a military build-up in the once prosperous holiday destination for Soviet functionaries. Less than a week after the siege ended in a bloodbath, a unit of 100 Omon (police special forces) troops was dispatched from Perm, in western Russia.

President Vladimir Putin came to power with a promise to resolve the Chechnya problem by force. After the 1994-96 war with Moscow, Chechen rebels made a fresh bid for independence in 1999 - a campaign quashed by Mr Putin to popular acclaim.

Although Moscow insists that its activities in Chechnya are part of a continuing "anti-terror operation", many locals say that the reverse is true. The Russian forces' brutal treatment of civilians is a driving force behind young men and women's decision to seek revenge by joining separatist terrorist groups.

Criminal cases are sometimes opened into the raids but the investigations rarely yield results. In the chaos that has engulfed the republic since its Moscow-backed leader, Akhmad Kadyrov, was assassinated in May, nobody knows which of Chechnya's many fragmented security forces are to blame.

Several units of Mr Kadyrov's personal guard are believed to be working independently as rogue militia. Compounding the chaos, soldiers and police officers - many of them local men, in line with Mr Putin's policy of "Chechenizing" the conflict - often act with impunity.

At the funeral of Mr Vitaev - a 24-year-old construction worker who had been hitching a lift with his two friends - his father summed up Chechens' feelings of desperation.

"If only they just told us why they did it - a criminal act, a blood feud, something," he said. "Then maybe we would be able to accept it with dignity. Like this, we have no idea why he was killed."

His murder on September 11 was more brazen than most. Locals claim that the masked men in uniform usually come under cover of darkness, driving military or police vehicles without registration plates. They rarely say who they are, or give details of their victims' alleged crimes.

In the past year, 17 people have disappeared without trace from Sernovodsk. Security has been stepped up this month in spite of the fact that there has been no heavy fighting in the area for more than four years.

Many local people expect a turn for the worse. "We are sitting on a powder keg," said Dano Gubanova, a lawyer investigating several suspected abductions in the area. Last week a full-scale "cleansing operation" was in progress in the neighbouring village of Assinovskaya, a sign of a fresh crackdown since Beslan.

Troops blocked all roads to the village and young men were taken to a police checkpoint for questioning. Previously, detainees have been hit or tortured during questioning, villagers say. One favoured technique involves forcing a man to drink large amounts of water before beating him around the kidneys.

Rather than deterring Chechens from joining the guerrillas, such treatment often has the opposite effect. "They are only breeding resistance and terrorism," said Baudi Magomaev, the deputy director of the Sernovodsk agricultural college.

His brother Khamidi, a 48-year-old farmer, was dragged from his fields last month by masked men and has not been heard of since. His younger brother, Shadit, disappeared in similar circumstances two years ago. "If someone is accused of something, the security forces could arrest him, charge him, take him to court," said Mr Magomaev, 55, who denies that his brothers were linked to the militants. "Instead, they kidnap men, who are never seen again."

He added: "I was sorry about what happened in Beslan; the way children got treated. But here we also live in fear."

Malika Saidullaeva, 28, a housewife who lives with her extended family in Sernovodsk, still has a scar on her hand where she was shot by a man wearing military fatigues during a night raid by an armed gang last month. Her brother, Imran, did not survive.

During the raid he was shot in the leg, and allegedly responded by stabbing one of his assailants, although the family denies he had a knife. Miss Saidullaeva said that as Imran was being treated later at the local hospital, the armed men - whose leader said he was a senior police officer - came to the ward and killed him.

"He was trying to lift himself up between two beds and one of them just put a Kalashnikov to his chest and fired," said Miss Saidullaeva. Police returned her brother's corpse after 600 people protested at their HQ.

Sultan Irbayev, the Sernovodsk director of the human rights group Memorial said: "Putin is talking of increased security measures but all that will mean is more repression."

At a conference in Chechnya on Friday, pro-Russian Chechen officials made an unprecendented attack on the widespread abuses against civilians. Taus Jabrailov, a senior member of Grozny's pro-Moscow government, denounced "10 years of war which destroyed 80 per cent of the infrastructure, killed thousands of people and trampled on Chechens' rights.

Separatist fighters are accused of assassinating a series of pro-Moscow officials in Chechnya. The more radical rebels have long since switched their energies to launching terror attacks across Russia.
well the Daily Express deserves applause for its part in this necessary and just campaign; let's hope the words of Tikendradal Dewan are heeded too

Tuesday, 28 September 2004

Mark Danner discusses the Schlesinger and Fay investigations into American abuses at Abu Ghraib, whilst Human Rights Watch accuses Indonesian security services of "systematically torturing" Acehnese detainees.
hail the Welsh
a dance with the body

Monday, 27 September 2004

it's not very often that even a Sunday broadsheet will carry an in-depth story about violence in the Niger Delta, so here's - cut and paste due to log-ins - an article from yesterday's Telegraph by Katharine Houreld in Port Harcourt.

incidentally here is the International Maritime Bureau's piracy centre.

On the widescreen television in front of me, Sylvester Stallone is fondling a semi-naked blonde. Sitting to my left on a sofa, staring at the screen, is Alhaji Dobuko Asari - a rebel leader and oil robber baron whose gang violence has turned Port Harcourt, Nigeria's oil-producing capital, into a war zone.

Asari, an Islamic convert who admires Osama bin Laden, has been denouncing the decadence of Western society but in truth his rhetoric is as passionless as Stallone's performance. Only the subject of oil rouses him.

His gang, the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force, is among the rival armed militias who steal and smuggle oil from the pipelines criss-crossing the mangrove swamps in southern Nigeria.

The country is the sixth largest oil producer within Opec and its light, sweet, "bonny" crude is in high demand worldwide. The Nigerian government, however, estimates that £5.5 million-worth of its crude is tapped by the gangs each week, and sold to international grey marketeers.

In recent weeks, the oil supply has been further jeopardised by vicious fighting between the feuding militias. The government, fearing disruption to the lucrative trade, has retaliated with helicopter gunship attacks on the rebel camps. In all, an estimated 500 people have died in the internecine fighting in the past month alone.

After government troops were sent into Port Harcourt - traditionally a peaceful refuge - on Thursday, the oil giant Shell evacuated more than 250 non-essential members of staff from two facilities in the Niger Delta.

The company, which produces about half Nigeria's daily output of two million barrels of crude, said that output had not yet been affected. But Asari's men vowed to target wells and pipelines unless the government offensive was halted. The threat contributed to oil prices closing at a record high in New York on Friday of $48.88 a barrel.

"We are fighting the government for resource control," explains Asari, who trained in Libya. "The government steals the oil revenues and gives nothing to the people. We give something back, and that's why we have local support." Nigeria's oil revenues will top £15 billion this year but corruption has robbed the country of the money to develop. Life expectancy barely tops 50 and 70 per cent of the population survives on less than 55p a day. Gang membership provides a rare sense of motivation and employment for bored and frustrated youths. "It is like prohibition-era Chicago, except they are smuggling oil instead of alcohol," said one oil industry executive. "If this trend continues, the Niger Delta will be a war zone during elections."

Asari used to be an ally of the local state governor, Peter Odili, and still styles himself as a political leader. He claims that his purloined oil is sent to a crude refinery deep in the mangrove swamps of the Niger Delta and then sold off at a discount to poverty-stricken local people. While they live in rundown shacks around his militia camp, an hour's ride in a speedboat from Port Harcourt, the house in which we meet Asari has all the signs of warlord-luxe.

The camp is teeming with heavily armed men, but weapons are left at the door of the house. There is no running water, but the sitting-room boasts an aquarium of terrapins - the goldfish, Asari tells me, died of over-eating - a cocktail bar in the corner equipped with an extensive range of spirits, and a home cinema system with impressive surround-sound powered by a generator.

Throughout the interview, his six mobile telephones ring in sequence with a funky hip-hop ring tone: on the other end are state and military officials, calling to warn him of an impending government attack. "These are the people I went to school with," Asari explains. Local campaigners against the violence believe that the bonds are even stronger than childhood friendship. Asari's men have received funds from the local government, said one campaigner, Anyakwee Nsirimovu, and many militias originally had political backing.

"Many of the gangs were formed to intimidate political opposition during last year's elections," he said. "But once you give someone a gun, you cannot take it back. After the elections were won, the men turned to crime. The government created this monster and now they must control it."

Asari, who is in his forties, has two wives and six children but has not seen them since he fell out with Mr Odili last year and took up leadership of the volunteer force. The pair squabbled after Asari publicly criticised Nigeria"s president, Olusegun Obasanjo.

His men are polite, well-disciplined and - unusually for Nigeria - did not ask The Sunday Telegraph for money. His speedboat picked us up at a jetty after we had made contact on one of his mobile telephones. Asari does not drink, or allow drugs at any of his camps.

The camp's peaceful atmosphere is in contrast to the violence that has flared across the Niger Delta. Asari claims that helicopter gunships from the country's air force attacked three of his camps south of Port Harcourt last weekend, firing rockets at sites where they believed the militia leader was hiding.

In the fighting between the rival gangs, meanwhile, rockets, grenades and dynamite have been used to destroy ramshackle dwellings. One long-standing feud with a rival militia leader, "Godfather" Ateke Tom, who is said to be funded by the government, left seven dead in a restaurant massacre on September 1. Mr Odili responded by setting up a joint task force involving the navy, army and police, with orders to patrol the waterways 24 hours a day. Still, the violence has worsened.

Asari has responded to the air strikes on his militia camps by declaring 21 "days of rage" against rival gangs and the Rivers State government. Government spokesmen insist that the situation is under control, but residents report that their streets still echo to the sound of gunfire.

A recent report by the International Maritime Bureau says that the gang violence has already made the Niger Delta waterways the most deadly in the world. Further violence threatens to push the oil price - which is nudging towards record levels owing to unrest in the Middle East - even higher.

On the ground, some of the rebel fighters have lost their appetite for battle. "I came from Okrika [Ateke Tom's stronghold] before all this fighting began," said one young recruit. "I just want to go home." His prayers are not likely to be answered.

meanwhile, on Friday, it was reported that security forces had killed 27 militants in Nigeria's north-east.
over the weekend, the death toll may have been revised upwards/
The Rambler goes Warsaw {he's as good away as his beloved Carlisle United, it's true}

Saturday, 25 September 2004

Ali Hamed, 91, does not understand why no one stopped the Janjaweed from driving him from the village he had not left for 80 years.
“I supported all people who have ruled Sudan since the English left, but this regime is full of criminals,” he said. “I hear there is a big government that can attack Omar Bashir. Can you ask them to come and help me?”

Thursday, 23 September 2004

NYLPM gets slashed [sunfair is, of course, the l.c.]

Wednesday, 15 September 2004

Scousers beware

- god help 'em, poor sods; Yoko Ono's at the Biennial, plying her trade~
Racism increasing in Europe: rising anti-Semitism, rising hostility towards Muslims, Gypsies discriminated against, asylum seekers beaten “for sport” in Scotland.

see more from the IHF-HR here.

just a couple of reasons why the USA was completely right to withold aid to the Uzbek government (and, indeed, to be applauded over that - albeit long overdue - decision)~
Mona is Lisa?

Tuesday, 14 September 2004

Jazz at Over The Top,
(78 Kingfield Road, Nether Edge, Sheffield)
(Buses 22 and 8, near Union Pub)

Thursday 16th September
8PM (prompt start)

Mick Beck Presents
A new Trio featuring
Pietro Lusvardi (double bass), Phil Marks (drums), and Mick Beck (tenor sax and bassoon).

Pietro Lusvardi is a Swiss-born, classically trained double bassist who is spending some time in England. He is well established in European and US West Coast jazz circles.

Phillip Marks and Mick Beck are better known in Sheffield as players of free music, but when they combined with two jazz players at the Lescar 18 months ago, their performances of jazz standards and original compositions was a great success. This is their first performance with Pietro (himself a composer).

Come and enjoy yourselves.

£5 waged, £3 unwaged.

For further information, phone Mick Beck on Sheffield 258 4999
Harm unpicks who he'd plump for in the upcoming American presidential elections.

as he notes, it's just a shame he can't legally vote...
thanks for your blog, Luka.

it was great while it lasted and will be sorely missed.

'cohere like a magazine' - oh cool
get y' (basic) facts right, Mr Laughland

Monday, 13 September 2004

i love the Baroque, ambitious, and expansive styles of Bill ‘Be Bop Deluxe’ Nelson.
‘The October Man’ is an especial favourite currently.
Authoritarian? Moi?
not one but two utter bits of gorgeousness at graun arts this morning that simply deserve a link.

firstly, Salgado photographs the Galápagos (i was lucky enough to catch his fine Exodus show [Barbican minisite], in tow with the l.c., at the glorious Chicago Cultural Center last year).

and, also, here's a piece on the Stirling prize nominees (Britain's foremost award for architecture).
i love the story about the Bexley school and the news that the Graz Kunsthaus is an art gallery (works of art inside that!) is just about enough to make one want to move to Graz. granted the relief on the building is a bit modish maybe but all told that's a wonderful design.

Cov's Phoenix Initiative looks quite sparkling too.

hopefully if (when?) the Gherkin wins it will gain some international recognition. i don't know about the global profile of 30 St Mary Axe but it seems finer than any new 'scrapers in, certainly, North America {OK, Asia's where it's at these days but still} and some acknowledgment would be nice (perhaps it is already internationally lauded and i am ignorant, but the green credentials of the building alone are quite cool)

my other blog's a Merc

started this a few weeks ago, following an off-the-cuff SR aside about the micro-scene (well Marcello and Todd B, anyhow) of blogs named for painters.

started solely for the awful title and as a possible space to make observations about food and drink, Publog style, i've only gone and forgotten the password so blogger may as well delete it now (the sidebar linkage is already inaccurate).

oh well oh well.

Sunday, 12 September 2004

foolish and inadequate think piece in the local listing magazine, concerning a discussion of bling.
the ideas and concept behind the term are looked at, with the main thrust of the piece being an argument that many people would possibly buy into, that the exaggerated stance of the most rabidly bling is a turn off.

the garishness of bling now means there’s been a “hoodwinking” of bling, a move away from its origins, from its supposed genesis with “young, black British” (er, late 1990’s New Orleans, anybody?), to the stage where bling is in danger of ossifying into this rather vulgar house of cards.
this is a summary of the piece but right at the end there’s the bemoaning of bling being all aspirational signifiers (and doesn’t this contradict something written seconds earlier?).
given the article was clearly labelled as a think piece-type report, a missed opportunity to seriously debate the economics of this, perhaps?

the fashion pages of the magazine in question, incidentally, are usually rather quirkier alternative and TopShop retro, than urban, but perhaps that’s me being paranoid.
truly superb ‘Letter from Malabo’ [Equatorial Guinea] in a recent edition of the Eye.

their correspondent, rightly, has some harsh words for Riggs Bank of Washington, D.C., ExxonMobil, British law firm Penningtons (Henry Page from Penningtons is supposed to have said, absurdly, that suspects receive fair trials under Obiang’s vicious dictatorship) and, of course, Westminster.

There was only one European country to come out and declare our last election, won by Obiang supporters with the traditional 98 out of 100 seats, to have been free and fair. The same country flew out ballot boxes at the cost of tens of thousands of pounds.
Thanks be to the UK!

interesting piece - under the heading The BBC is the IRA's useful idiot - from (angry Dublin scribe) Kevin Myers in today's Telegraph, reproduced in full below.

I watched BBC television's Silent Witness in weary disbelief last week. In it, our intrepid bone-sleuth Sam Ryan solved a 30-year-old double-murder in Northern Ireland. Needless to say, the secret killings were by RUC men. Better still, the killers had also murdered a colleague - as it happens, Sam's father, Sgt Ryan - because he was about to blow the whistle on them.

Naturally, there were all the improbabilities and implausibilities one might expect from a modern BBC fol-de-rol - for example, when the killers discovered that Sgt Ryan was on their trail, they instantly booby-trapped his car. Of course, day one in the RUC training-course: booby-trapping cars.

The mendacious fatuities of Silent Witness followed hard upon the comparable falsehoods of Waking the Dead, in which the Northern Ireland security forces had been similarly engaged in secret murder.

We really shouldn't be too surprised by anything the BBC does these days: the Dyke legacy has taken a terrible toll, and so there is no point in being angered by what we see on our screens. After all, it's only television, isn't it? Except it's not.

One of the central and abiding problems of Northern Ireland is the role of perception in influencing politics. For the BBC to be subsidising a Sinn Fein version of the history of the Troubles isn't merely wrong in itself, but is profoundly irresponsible, a kind of down payment on further conflict in the future.

Of course, Sinn Fein-IRA would welcome any unsought assistance from that useful idiot, the uncomplaining British licence-payer, and those even more useful idiots, television producers. What happens when Tarquin meets Jolyon in the BBC canteen and they decide to make a really riveting programme about Northern Ireland? Do they think about their duty to history, to the truth, and to the future? Apparently not.

They seem to think their obligation is merely to entertain, even if the result is a Sinn Fein-friendly confabulation which inverts the truth, dishonours the dead, and further adds to the lava-rock of Northern Ireland mythology. That the BBC showed two such programmes so close together suggests either that BBC controllers are not paying attention to what is being broadcast, or they simply don't care.

Northern Ireland was not Chile or Argentina. No one was murdered in custody by the security forces. No one. It just didn't happen. The only "disappeared" of the Irish Troubles were the dozen or so victims of the IRA, the remains of half of whom are still undiscovered. More than 300 RUC men and women were murdered by terrorists in the course of their duties: yet they held the line.

Their reward? Their force has been disbanded, while the IRA remains intact; and now RUC widows and orphans from a long and terrible ordeal must watch as Sinn Fein's propaganda assault on the bravest police force in Europe is reinforced by the BBC.

But, Jolyon and Tarquin might simper: it's only drama. My dears, nothing in Northern Ireland is ever "only"; everything has an impact, incrementally or otherwise. Moreover, how far would you sweeties be prepared to stretch the truth the other way? Would you have the IRA raping Protestant women or deliberately bombing Protestant schools? You squeal, of course not. Why not? Because such things never happened, you trill. Good. So why is it acceptable to tell comparable untruths about the RUC?

We have been here before. After the Troubles of 1916-22, a fictional narrative (as we now say) about those events was eagerly promulgated by Sinn Fein and assisted by the England-hating English Tarquins and Jolyons of their day. This work of fiction abolished IRA atrocities - the murders of alleged informers, of ex-servicemen, of Protestants, and the booby-trapping of dead bodies - and instead painted a picture of the Black and Tans as the sole villains of the time. This has become such a coercively powerful myth that it is now beyond all dissection or analysis.

By Kevin Myers
(Filed: 12/09/2004)
Philip@It's all in your mind on Portsmouth's Tricorn Centre and 'Lost in Translation'.

It's all in your mind is a quite incredible blog, it really is, isn't it?

the last line that Phil writes on the 'LIT'/MBV piece is actually perfect.
A journalist who fled to Britain from Pakistan after exposing corruption could be sent home within weeks despite death threats.
Mansoor Hassan, 40, his wife Aqila, 39, and their four children came to Britain two years ago seeking asylum after their house was burned down and he was warned he would be killed.
They have been living in Openshaw for 14 months, but claim they are virtual prisoners in their own home due to racial abuse from youths.
Mr Hassan’s application for asylum was refused and in January he lost an appeal. The Home Office said the appeal adjudicator was satisfied he would not be in danger if he returned to Pakistan.
But Mr Hassan said: “I believe that if we go back to Pakistan I will be held by the authorities as soon as we arrive and we will be in danger.”
The National Union of Journalists is campaigning to try to get the Home Office to let the family remain and is lobbying Manchester Central MP Tony Lloyd. It has also alerted police about the racist abuse.
perhaps Home Office lawyers felt, since Hassan was warned he might be killed, that’s alright then/

the Daily Express’ laudable campaign supporting retired Gurkhas in their quest to attain British citizenship (the govt is guilty of utterly appalling treatment to a group that has repeatedly been prepared to die for British interests in far-away fields of which we know little) has been marred just a little by the nasty phrasing and wrong-headed politics of the other the Express continues to play in its editorials whilst discussing the issue.
a couple of days ago, one leader contained the magic words
The Government…welcomes economic migrants who have contributed nothing to this country but still take much.
can one have their cake and eat it?

in the press on Wednesday 8th September 2004 (i.e., some time last week) was
At precisely 6.44 pm, 60 years ago today, the first of Hitler’s deadly V2 rockets smashed into British soil. The rocket, with 1 tonne of explosives, hit Staveley Road, in Chiswick, South London, killing three people, injuring 22 and destroying six houses. By the end of World War II 1,300 had been fired at Britain, killing more than 2,700 people.

Saturday, 11 September 2004

the proms

this isn't really my cup of tea although a close mate was singing with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in Abertawe (in fact i saw the boi Thaxo on the telly just now, looking considerably slimmer and younger than some of his peers, it must be said).

some Yank bloke conducting in London cracked a bad joke about a Czech composer and namechecked the wondrous Smetana {Ma vlast hurrah!} so it can't be all bad.

i suppose it's a bit like going up the match for posh people.

Friday, 10 September 2004


enjoy yourself here momma
lubbin you!
there again i don't think i'm one for all these theories about the omniscient knowledge of the Ancients blah blah blah being unlocked with a system of far-flung quartz skulls etc

Tony Oursler's talking crystal one is great mind
a bloke at work has pointed out he thinks the signatures on that Buddy Holly picture don't look too faded, given they're dated '58.

interesting one.
Buddy Holly and the Crickets

could be a nice little earner
Dear Ankara,

no, never do that

yr fellow Europeans [Commission progress report due October 6th]

Thursday, 9 September 2004

respect - as they say - is due

- Simon silverdollarcircle on grime at Stylus {"love it like cooked food" _ brilliant}

- The Rambler on sampling~
there again, Peter Dobbie in the Mail on Sunday.

i mean, fuck me, he thinks David Blunkett's too left-wing.

somewhat regrettable headline in the Daily Mail today, re. an issue (British soliders appearing in civilian courts about their getting up to alleged mischief in Iraq) that needs a more complex and nuanced approach than the Mail would allow.

excuse me, perhaps i should gather my toys back into my pram.

but, i mean, the Mail.
RIP Munir [more here]
Pakistan attacks militants in South Waziristan
Initial investigations show this was a car bomb. We do not know whether anyone was in the car
yesterday it was reported that the UK ambassador to the Saudis directly accused Saudi security forces of colluding with terrorists, in an incident in which 22 people were slaughtered.

if you want to be further disturbed, the Beeb has more here.
Tim Judah's family left Baghdad in the late nineteenth century. When Saddam Hussein's regime fell he was the first member of his family back in Baghdad for over a century. He decided to find what is left of the Iraqi Jewish community: 'According to those that remain, their numbers add up to the grand total of thirty-four people.'

'Passover in Baghdad'
and in today's Guardian, the eloquent Anna Politkovskaya is able to convincingly disprove one embarrassing thrust of John Laughland's ill-advised and clumsy article from yesterday.

Wednesday, 8 September 2004

you surely have to be distrustful of someone bandying around the term fashionable as Laughland does.

to the Bosnian village of Kozarac, May 24th 1992:

"Mind you," he adds, pensively, "it's difficult to enjoy yourself in a place where 7,000 people are missing from a population of 25,000."

that's what i call fashion, clearly.
Oliver C would doubtless be interested in the roll-call of the great and the good in today's John Laughland piece.

-those other fashionable "Muslim" causes, Bosnia and Kosovo
no really Mr Laughland, it's quite alright, we got new double-glazing last winter, no really!
what i want to know is, are clothing labels such as Armani, Diesel or Bench (say) more fashionable than these Muslim causes, or less so?
is Mr Laughland just engaged in a titanic, possibly aeons-old struggle with Geoffrey Wheatcroft for the coveted title of Britain's Most Curmudgeonly Columnist?
do i know what i'm on about? is the moon made of green cheese? am i chatting out of my arse? why is the beer in Bournemouth so expensive?
i like how he compares CNN to Russian television and then concludes that Russian television is superior covering a crisis in its own backyard... would hope it is (although this, from the same site he's writing on, might give one pause).
are independent MPs in the Russian Federation complaining about (increasing, they fear) media censorship in that country merely stooges of the BBC or CNN then?

negotiation with terrorists should not be pursued, no (no we don't want to pay too much attention to Ledeen, granted), and some of the things he outlines in his admirably investigative article are a serious cause for concern, but does Mr Laughland need reminding of Sunday's measured and succinct Telegraph leader?

is it me, or is there actually nothing wrong with
Although the White House issued a condemnation of the Beslan hostage-takers, its official view remains that the Chechen conflict must be solved politically?
= finding it hard to work out if there's an implication here that this may be a bad thing.

perhaps i'm inferring like a child, and applying too little nuance&flexibility in my reading; maybe i'm misreading, or just plain misunderstanding.

Allegations are even being made in Russia that the west itself is somehow behind the Chechen rebellion, and that the purpose of such support is to weaken Russia, and to drive her out of the Caucasus


as usual, you start off seeing Laughland, you catch his eye across the crowded pub and think to yourself 'eh, there's old John, haven't seen him for awhile, i'll go over, buy him a drink, and say hello' and of course before you know it you're shouting at each other, again.

i apologise for my tone in this simplistic and brief post (and if i were to discuss these issues like an adult with Mr Laughland i am sure i would be far more mature about it) but i find Laughland perverse sometimes.

i found the one report on Russia in the website following Laughland's name [here] fascinating and instructive (bit of character assassination on the old Lithuanians though?), but for recent NGO reports in the English language on Russia, Amnesty's "Normalization" in whose eyes? is more sobering.

Tuesday, 7 September 2004

a suspect in last year's assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic {obituary}, (the trial resumed yesterday, with the chief suspect returning to court, along with 12 other men), has said that Djindjic had problems with the [Hague] tribunal.

{see here for an interview w' Misha Glenny}

"If anyone thinks that they will stop the rule of law and implementation of reform by eliminating me, then they are badly mistaken."
four simple Polish side dish recipes
two saturdays ago was Byrd, Tallis and Bax, saturday before last was the Stones, Talking Book-era Stevie Wonder, and 'Sweet like chocolate', last saturday was a dancefloor hugging along to Sinatra a potlatch of warm fuzzy emotions, goose-stepping/pogoing to Madness (what is that jogging on the spot thing called?), and singing along (should probably be ashamed to admit this, but am not for some reason) to early Oasis
Royal Trux once sang about having strawberries for breakfast and chocolate for lunch.

a banana for breakfast and sandwiches and pieces of fruit for lunch would probably be healthier, although perhaps less fun.
caressing them after bathing

tenderly fellating one another
Silje Nergaard flipping eggs in a Sarasota diner.

would Diana Krall take kindly to wallpaper paste?

Diana Krall and some old Victrola sides, Elvis Costello could write an article for Rolling Stone about it all.

i am looking at a self-professed bog-eyed girl with a picture of Ali G on her desk.
a boy has a can of cream of chicken soup on his desk.

i told the lovely companion about that.
London's Wandsworth prison getting worse, announces the Chief Inspector of Prisons
helix nebula
Michael Holroyd on Gwen and Augustus John
k-punk on some middle class lessons and the Ccru on Rev Bergman {dig the usage of Bacon on the k-p link!}
where in time and space is David Davis?

one in the eye for the watching Steve Moxon

of course Paki isn't necessarily derogatory, i've seen Mark Steyn [e.g.: but that's OK because he's probably not spent much time in the UK (he only writes for the Telegraph/Spectator/Lord Black's Cookery Column, from Vermont or wherever, after all, and was most likely being amusing w' shortened 'Brit', common in N America after all, yeah that'll be it)] use it in columns previously!
Israel strikes suspected Hamas camp _no messing, eh

Monday, 6 September 2004

i want
to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.
the wonderful Oliver is intrigued ["gorgeous" - far too kind, although i'll take it happily] but, no, nothing like that i'm afraid {nor was it an election reference}: i admit the 16th of that month is a key date, however.

there was a good leader in yesterday's Telegraph, reproduced below

The tragic events that unfolded in southern Russia this week have evoked sympathy, horror and compassion around the world. From the moment masked men stormed a school in Beslan on Wednesday, the opening day of the Russian school year, deadly barbarity has alternated with equally deadly incompetence.

The gunmen, described as "inhuman" by those who survived, held hundreds of children and their parents hostage for more than two days without allowing them food or water. They shot at those who tried to escape, threatened to set off explosives - and ultimately did.

The Russian authorities who stormed the school on Friday had no clear plan. The result was chaos on an almost apocalyptic scale: bloody children, piles of corpses, collapsed walls and roofs, wild rumours, terror and panic. There are no words sufficient to condemn the killers who launched this extraordinarily merciless attack on children, but their relatives' horror was further amplified by the almost total lack of information and apparent bureaucratic indifference to their suffering.

It is quite possible that no one will ever know how many people died as a result of this week's events. It is quite possible that no complete account of what happened will ever be made public.

The Russians are entitled, in the wake of this attack, to feel justified in redoubling their efforts to destroy the terrorist rings that carried out a series of attacks across their country last week, bringing down two airliners and bombing an underground station in Moscow as well as seizing the school and, two years ago, a Moscow theatre. It is important, in the wake of these events, that the British Government and other Western governments reiterate their sympathy, and offer technical and intelligence help in what looks set to be a long and bloody "war on terror" in Russia.

At the same time, it is also important to remember that this attack is not an isolated event, rather it is part of a cycle of violence that began 10 years ago, when Boris Yeltsin, the former Russian president, invaded Chechnya. Although his officials said, at the time, that they were counting on a "small victorious war" which would quell a separatist rebellion in what had been an autonomous republic in Russia, the invasion "accomplished" much more than that.

On Mr Yeltsin's watch, the Russian army turned Grozny, the Chechen capital, into a ghost town of corpses and rubble. Tens of thousands of Chechens fled the country and are now living in refugee camps around the region. Since Vladimir Putin took over as president, though, the situation has worsened. He launched a second invasion, and indeed rode to power partly as a result. Since then, he has cut the region off from aid groups and journalists, refused to conduct any negotiations, and allowed Russian troops to continue torturing and tormenting Chechen civilians.

The constant violence has corrupted the Chechen population as well as the Russian kontraktniki, the professional soldiers who rape, pillage and sell weapons with impunity. Indirectly, the war has also helped to degrade democratic institutions and free speech in Russia itself. While there may now be al-Qa'eda support for the Chechen extremists, it cannot be denied that the Russian government helped to create an atmosphere in which it was all too easy for al-Qa'eda to flourish. The female Chechen suicide bombers who are known as "black widows" are often literally that: the wives, mothers and sisters of men who have been killed by the Russian army.

The situation is not helped by the Russian government's mendacious attitude to the war, which President Putin declared "over" long ago. Yet not only is it not over, its underlying causes have never been addressed. Instead of carrying out negotiations with genuine, moderate Chechen leaders - some admittedly separatist - the Russian authorities have preferred to impose a series of puppet leaders on Chechnya, none of whom have had the authority or the public support needed to destroy the extremists. On the contrary, three of Chechnya's four previous presidents have died violent deaths, the last one in May. The current president, like his predecessor, holds his job thanks to a rigged election, and may not last long either.

Difficult though it may be for President Putin to admit, it is useless to pretend that Chechen terror can be defeated without the achievement of a comprehensive peace settlement in Chechnya. It is equally useless to pretend that a comprehensive peace settlement can be achieved if the Russians refuse to negotiate with any Chechens other than the ones they have appointed themselves.

Thanks to the failed policies of the past decade, the Russians now have a zone of utter lawlessness right on their border. Unless the rule of law is returned to Chechnya, and some form of accommodation is reached, no amount of bravado or tough talk from the Russian president will prevent tragedies such as the school siege in Beslan from happening again.
David Aaronovitch

Wednesday, 1 September 2004

not next month, but the one after.