Sunday, 28 February 2010

Sarah on 2'58"


de Waal: "Evelyne’s discussion of the status of peacekeepers under IHL reminds me of an episode in Mogadishu in July 1993. At that time, UNOSOM was conducting military operations against the USC of General Mohamed Farah Aideed. In this conflict, both parties were, according to my investigations, using excessive force, and quite probably committing war crimes. I went to see the UN military attorney in Mogadishu with a dossier of cases I had collected, including UN forces attacking a hospital, opening fire on unarmed civilians, etc., along with a marked up copy of the Geneva Conventions. To my surprise, the attorney told me that the Geneva Conventions did not apply in this situation, as the UN was not a contracting party. I was dumbfounded and asked to see his superior. He asked me to come back the next day — and in the meantime the UN issued instructions that if I entered the compound I should be arrested and detained. (I didn’t go.) This was no anomaly. Spokesmen for the Mission said that “the normal rules do not apply” and “there are no spectator seats.” Subsequently, the UN has established rules for peace support operations that become involved in armed engagements, but at that time it appeared that they wanted to consider themselves above the law."

Saturday, 27 February 2010


yammering about this elsewhere of late i admit, yammering all day long, but i do love Stormin on here, 2'50" in or so, after Bruza (who is no slouch himself)

see me


or Stoke Newington

NY hat

Geneva's Nite Spot

331 Wick Road, E9


Monday, 22 February 2010

bought the Wire the other day for the first time in years: wanted to see their review of Geeta's book (on Eno's Another Green World, mine's on order).

Geeta has scanned the review anyway, by one Sam Davies. i'm very happy to say it's a good one.

you can read it here.

got the wrong issue anyway. the review is from February but by the time i got to the newsstand, March was out (this was several days ago incidentally - ?!)

Wire the old, broken-in brogues/favourite view, sort of, dear friend.

pleasures in the March issue including, but not limited to : -

- yes that is Alan Moore of V for Vendetta fame discussing John Clare

Robert Earl Davis, Jr.

July 20, 1971 – November 16, 2000

a very interesting Global Ear column from David Keenan (who reviews a Harry Smith book too, this one) about engaging with screwed and chopped in Houston.
it's clear folkie-rocker-jazz cat-industrial head Keenan has never been a big rap fan, apparently, and he got converted recently, so it seems quite nice and appropriate that they would publish a column about his new-found, retrospective passion for DJ Screw.

that said, this is not the first time they have covered Screw & co. there.

who can forget lovely Dave's primer from the December 2006 issue?

(it was also Stelfox that started a thread five years ago [first time i'd heard of the entire show, despite Screw then being five years gone].
Matt's summer '04 piece did tip the hat to the late, great TufLuv's Sleazenation piece from winter '03, too.)

- a super Yabby You obit from Derek

Taken whole, his work is worlds away from the social sphere of dance music, evoking a slowly shuffling column of devotional monks rather than the carefree movement of a dancehall crowd...sheer grinding reiteration of the themes transforms listening into an act of profound worship.


As with any seriously spiritual music, it's reasonable to ask what non-believers can take from a devout, and in his case decidedly esoteric, world view. But Yabby You's music goes beyond mere Christian platitude. The themes of internal conflict and hard-won resolution are of universal relevance, and the codes of retribution and revelation he created in his songs are his own, highly peculiar way of making sense of the unstable chaos of 1970s Jamaica.

- the usual Savage Pencil cartoon

- Joseph Stannard has a thoughtful review of the new Joanna Newsom

- a fascinating Joe Muggs interview of Nottingham head Kamal Joory, under his Geiom name [myspace].

Joory - who has youth worker experience - sounds like a sensible, inspirational, passionate, informed big-picture bloke, and there's a lot of interest in the interview, and some smart views about bringing new music to the region, thinking about the business, and so on.

something he said at the start struck me and is worth quoting.

Joory was born in North London to parents who came to Britain from Mauritius as part of the 1960s NHS recruitment drive; their grandparents had come in turn from India as indentured labour. "I find it interesting to think," he says, "that if it wasn't for two epic sea journeys, right now I would probably be raising crops in Uttar Pradesh."

- the age-old Wire tic of inappropriate capitalising - usually certain genre names - in the middle of sentences. like "Nottingham's Grime underground" from the above interview, or the N in 'North London' from same. makes me amusingly bemused, grumpy man style, which is nice and invigorating.

- Rob Young's cover article.

- David Toop, sounding like David Toop (a good thing), on the new Fenn O'Berg.

the accompanying picture of Peter Rehberg, Jim O'Rourke and Fennesz shows O'Rourke wearing some sort of green cardigan, not sure it suits him quite frankly, there again, with that long hair, it probably does, so who i am to sling brickbats, Jim O'Rourke, the eternal indie fashion dress cliche it seems

- god are the Red Krayola still going?

i guess so.

fair play to that.

- Peter Shapiro. legend.

(incidentally, he sure knows how to cut into the new Scott-Heron.)

- Philip Sherburne's Critical Beats column in rude health

- ditto Steve Barker on dub, Barker another absolute legend, not least because of this

- the Global column, done by Julian Cowley this month (often by Clive 'Japanese reeds' Bell, of course: i'm a big fan), all good

oh and the original In C is getting re-released on Sony CD: check this splendid Robert Carl piece at Fanfare magazine ("anguished striving" as a sort of straw man at other unnamed, admittedly possibly hypothetical pieces, seems a tad harsh mind)

oh, and apparently Straight out the Jungle is is getting the handsome remastered CD treatment.

it, and their second album, are both essential, as anyone who knows owt at all about rap would rightly say.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

"Veined octopuses from Indonesia have been observed stacking coconut shells thrown away by humans and then transporting them across the sea floor, using them as portable armour to protect against predators...His colleague Mark Norman said the “stilt-walking” with coconut shells was a clear example of tool use, which is widely known among birds and primates but extremely rare in invertebrates such as octopuses.

“There is a fundamental difference between picking up a nearby object and putting it over your head as protection versus collecting, arranging, transporting — awkwardly — and assembling portable armour as required,” he said.

The octopuses’ behaviour, details of which are described in the journal Current Biology, was observed during 500 hours of diving in Indonesia, during which the researchers watched 20 veined octopuses, of the species Amphioctopus marginatus.

On four occasions, the scientists saw an octopus gather up several coconut shells, stack them, and then drape itself over them to pick them up. It would then extend its arms around the bulky cargo, and walk up to 20 metres with its load.

The shells, which had reached the sea floor as discarded human rubbish, were then employed as a shelter that could be carried around from place to place. It is qualitatively different from using rocks or empty shells as an impromptu hiding place, the scientists said."

'Amphioctopus marginatus, also known as the coconut octopus and veined octopus, is a medium-sized cephalopod belonging to the genus Amphioctopus. It is found in tropical waters of the western Pacific Ocean. It commonly preys upon shrimp, crabs, and clams, and displays unusual behaviour, including bipedal walking and gathering and using coconut shells and seashells for shelter.'
Matt has always been able to make me laugh; the late, lamented Crumbling Loaf (here on Žižek), and the very much alive Emerald Bile, are the two other blogs that just happen to hit the funny bone perhaps the most.

anyway, this self-indulgent, autobiographical aside is by way of preamble to contextualise what i think is probably my funniest blogging post to date. (you know, aside from, i guess, actual comic strips, like, and such.)

bit geeky, sure, but the asterisk and footnote combo whilst discussing J-Lo (i love Jenny from the Block myself, i must admit), that drops down and ends with "That was a joke all you Merzbow fans" still absolutely hammers me.
Amp Fiddler on keys, some friends on the mic

(photograph by Arjen van de Merwe)
current listening: Kalli's Detroit and Bass Mix

nicely exuberant jacket from Dekker.


so that's what Headey had under her coat...
the following post of course comes attached w the caveat that a blog that chats reductive, crude shite about politics and music is now taking itself far too seriously and being all severe about where to buy individual coffees in a traditional nation of tea drinkers, blah blah blah, yes i know all that, very good.

an extremely dear mate told me of the Indie and their 50 best UK coffee shops.

well worth a read.

nice it goes outside London for some recognised small-town and rural stars, and a decent covering in south Wales was a particular pleasure for me. i am sure it could have made up an at least equally strong list just covering London, frankly (i had a coffee recently from some cart type joint at one of the Clapham railway stations, and it was fucking superb), such is the capital's superiority in so many (though far from all) food and drink areas, and sometimes actually out of proportion even to its larger size.

no complaints at all.


only three - naturally highly personal - complaints.

(i) wot, no Troubadour?

granted, i know very little about coffee, but i do like to drink both espresso and espresso-based drinks, and filter coffee, and certainly i think the best coffee i've had in the UK (cynics based in other nations may scoff at that qualifying) is here. it's a really lovely place in general.
(incidentally i really do think the next best coffee i can recall having in the UK is from a little joint by suburban Carshalton's railway station, when i was cat-sitting for another extremely dear mate; it is a good little set-up, must say.)

(ii) Vandross told me last summer the best espresso in London is at some Algerian gaff in Leytonstone.
and Vandross has coffee chops, so, that, too.

(iii) there is actually one entry for Manchester (the city i am most qualified to discuss).

let me state at the outset that Mcr currently doesn't deserve any entries in this list (although there are some very nice ones).

the entry is for the sainted Eighth Day, a healthy co-op veggie shop on the outskirts of downtown. you can certainly get a coffee in the attached cafe (plus full meals and snacks), so maybe i am being too fussy. but not quite just a coffee shop. more than a coffee shop, to be fair, if i may praise them, but, still, i wouldn't have included them. it certainly enriches its home town, but, eh.

(for the record, i think the best espresso i've had in Mcr centre recently is at An Outlet, near Piccadilly rail. quick scan of the independents * in the city centre reveals the likes of Titchy, Java and Drip Coffee all doing admirable work, but no cigar. obviously food and drink quality is not the be all and end all, it's the whole package innit, a certain quirkiness or style is part of it, but even with all these caveats, still no cigar. the charm of the Oklahoma cafe downtown is something, admittedly. and here i repeat myself from elsewhere: noticing an increasing number of Matthew Algie machines in pubs and caffs across Mcr and Salford is a pleasure.)

i would imagine a top 100 or so might see a bit more of Edinburgh popping up.

a top 50 of Britain and our close friends the Irish, incidentally, would see quite a lot packed in from Dublin and Cork i think, in my experience.

actually, one other thing, hasn't little Caffe Vergnano on the Charing Cross Road, on what would be the other side of the street to Foyles (another nice, cramped caff space), probably about halfway between TCR and Trafalgar Square, hasn't that got some fairly meaningful props?

well, this bod here is clearly quite hardcore wrt their coffee appreciation, and gives a tough run-down.

* of course you can always just find somewhere serving illy, not that to be independent is a sign of being better in quality terms as a given or anything.

and think of all the Fairtrade Costa and Starbucks now shift, fair play to em, wonderful stuff!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

(l-r) Thomas Dekker, Summer Glau, Lena Headey, Richard T. Jones
the first in an occasional series - like the footballer series - where an image is posted of 'Soul Jazz records formally out of print which is a shame their being out of print' (sure you can still get hold of them, granted, but Soul Jazz themselves don't print them at the moment).

numero uno

must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea

'O sole mio

street fighting man

Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity

(l-r) Shirley Manson, Lena Headey, unknown male (though could well be Richard T. Jones)
The Lead Belly Library of Congress series

Volume One: Midnight Special

Volume Two: Gwine Dig a Hole to Put the Devil In

Volume Three: Let It Shine on Me

Volume Four: The Titanic

Volume Five: Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen

Volume Six: Go Down Old Hannah
"Why, for example, are the systematic rapes of German women by the Red Army as they advanced towards Berlin largely ignored?"

"If you destroy a landscape of 160 cities, most of medieval origin, you do something to the cultural identity of a people. All I do is describe it," he said.

reading through the archives at Graeme's excellent blog (impressed he's managed to migrate all posts from Anna and himself over from the old one when they changed URL), these "provisional thoughts on the remembrance of war" (including typically sensitive links) reminded me of a thoughtful review i read recently, from Mike McCahill in the Sunday Telegraph.

below is the review in full (not online).

'ANONYMA: A Woman in Berlin, the latest celluloid examination of German history, derives from a diary kept by a married journalist working in Berlin as the Red Army arrived in 1945, and published, to considerable controversy, a decade later. What the diary came to document was the mass rape of German women by Soviet troops, taken by some to be symbolic payback: as one of the author's neighbours noted, 'If the Russians do to us one quarter of what we've spent the last few years doing to them, no German will be left alive.' Anonyma took up with a Russian major to ensure her protection, but many others weren't so practically inclined.

A companion piece of sorts to 2005's Downfall - laying out the horrors unfolding on the streets above Adolf's bunker - Max Färberböck's film effectively rethinks the war movie from the inside out. The conflict centres on lead actress Nina Hoss's face, with its unusual ability to both register everything and give nothing much away; it's these flickers of intuition with which the women sought to combat a constant, masculine threat.

Anonyma's feminist credentials are impeccable, but it's the rare psychological and emotional weight that grabs you: the palpable sense of what it is to find one's self under siege long after the fighting has ceased.'

anyway, all the above sits with the ending of the following quote, which is from page 12 of de Waal and Flint's original (2005 edition) short history of Darfur.

describing the particularly violent history of Sudan between the 1880s and the teens of the last century, they write

Thus ended four decades which, even by the sanguinary standards of Sudanese and Sahelian history, stand out, in Sultan Ali's own words, as an age of 'turmoil and bloodshed'. It was a period of exceptional dislocation and hunger, of unparalleled forced migration and wanton destruction. The only authority that survived was that which was able to wield unremitting force. The forced displacement of that era leaves many land claims disputed to this day, notably from Arab groups (including the Um Jalul) who were relocated to Omdurman or fled to Chad. Much is missing from the written and oral histories. The social historian Lidwien Kapteijns describes how one army marauding across western Darfur 'ate, drank, wore or stole' everything in its path. One assumes that gender-based violence - rape - is absent from the record only because of the sensibilities of the (male) transmitters of oral archive.
tentative good news: here.

Darfur's rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said on Saturday it was ready to sign a temporary ceasefire with Sudan's government, saying a "framework agreement" on the terms of future peace talks could be imminent...there has been a flurry of activity between the two sides in recent days, some analysts say, against a background of thawing relations between Sudan and neighbouring Chad.

Sudan and Chad, both preparing for elections, agreed earlier this month to end their long-running proxy war, fought by arming rebels on each other's territory.


JEM officials said the framework agreement would include a list of areas for negotiation, including compensation for Darfuris, humanitarian access and the broad topics of "power sharing" and "wealth sharing"...Khartoum has agreed to the principle of compensation and giving Darfuris better representation and a greater share of resources in previous failed agreements.

"The difference this time is the political will and determination. We want to see the end of our people's suffering," said JEM spokesman Ahmed Hussein Adam.
One banner said: "'Teesside the infant Hercules': PM William Gladstone 1860. 'Where? Who cares?': PM Gordon Brown."

in 1850 iron ore was found in the Cleveland Hills.

a year later Teesside had its first blast furnace.

yesterday, up to one thousand, six hundred people had it definitively confirmed that they will lose their jobs when the Redcar furnace - the largest blast furnace in Europe - was closed by owners Corus.
Corus say they cannot afford to run it.

unions say up to eight thousand more jobs will be lost in the area as a knock-on effect of the Corus plant losses.

Friday, 19 February 2010


ages ago, i sold all my vinyl and virtually all my compact discs.

one day i was in Manchester city centre, opposite the John Rylands Library, in a MOJO friendly shop that has since closed.

i'd flogged a few CDs in there and was heading over to Bridge Street, to go to the now-shuttered branch of the celebrated Manc gaff Vinyl Exchange; their larger Oldham Street location is still trading in town.
i've not been in there for ages either, but i walked past recently, and there were some nice looking disco records in the window.

(my barber, a very fine funk, rap and soul DJ from Cheetham, says he still goes in occasionally.)

anyway, i went to the Bridge Street branch and saw Rae, who was to all intents and purposes the top bod across their shops at the time as far as i was aware.

one of the discs i had with me that Rae was glad to get - if very incredulous that i wanted to get rid - was this one.

needless to say, he was right to be.

until recently (i said as much on this page in December) i stupidly thought the British Library Topic label - they sell the odd CD of field recordings - was different from the large British folkie label Topic, those ones with the venerable heritage and big reach.

hey, as they say on their website, Topic's impressive catalogue includes some of the classic folk albums of all time, recorded by the likes of Martin Carthy, The Waterson family, June Tabor, John Tams, Dick Gaughan, Nic Jones, Anne Briggs, Brass Monkey, John Kirkpatrick, Martin Simpson, Eliza Carthy, The Copper Family, Linda Thompson, Shirley Collins, Ewan MacColl, A.L. Lloyd and many more.

turns out they are the same, dearie me. the dedicated world music section of (big) Topic's website confirms this.

you can see the menu bar on the left hand side of their homepage.

there's all sorts, including the legendary set, Music in the World of Islam.

other favourites of mine from the output include

this one is the business

meanwhile, dig the cover art of this one

Thursday, 18 February 2010

(a) Sunny Hundal corrects a few recent outbreaks of nonsense in the British press wrt climate change. while it's no surprise to see the woeful Daily Mail in the thick of it, spouting uninformed bollocks, i have a couple of personal notes to add.

(i) it's also no great surprise to see Richard North mentioned. off-topic but i must note that North's similarly euro sceptic colleague of the Telegraph, Christopher Booker, joins him on the denialist jamboree as often as time allows.

Booker, of course, in a truly soft-headed display of 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' (quite a lot of western politicians join him here, granted), cannot even grasp basic points about the history and nature of the MEK/MKO leadership (scroll down to Dismantling the MKO).

(ii) the Express is another developmentally challenged organ that has recently made a big noise about splashing the "no global warming since 1995" hullabaloo. that the Express would peddle bullshit is, naturally, a given.

(b) David Osler looks at the small print in the Conservative Party's recent ideas about co-operatives.
some people who don't know any better - the political editors of the Express, for instance - are naturally going to fall for any amount of disingenuous old cobblers off the caring, progressive new Tories.

(the reader comments from somebody calling themselves 'whoever' at 17:55 and 18:05 yesterday are well worth a read at the bottom of Dave's page, incidentally.)

(c) Bob has some reflections on attacks against Romani communities and people here, sparked by his reading about Nazi genocide.

also of note is Adam LeBor. his title says it all: Slovakian council in Ostrovany funds wall to isolate Roma community.

(d) Peter Ryley writes "Colin Ward has died."

(e) as part of his latest trip to Afghanistan, there's incredibly powerful reportage from Terry Glavin here about a visit he made to one Marefat High School.

(f) old story (7 years), but obviously - tragically - timeless: Italy's sex slaves

(g) you read shit, and you have to weep inwardly.

The survey of more than 1,000 people in London marked the 10th anniversary of the Haven service for rape victims.

More than half of those of both sexes questioned said there were some circumstances when a rape victim should accept responsibility for an attack.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

here's looking at you kid

now you are two

Gëzuar Ditëlindjen

(some timely reading: naturally the rights of minorities, and community relations, are fundamental)

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Dresden has stood up to the neo-Nazis

"Thousands of left-wing, anti-Nazi demonstrators successfully blocked the streets around the train station in Dresden's Neustadt district where the neo-Nazis had been given permission to start their march.

Meanwhile, across the river in Dresden's Baroque historical city center, more than 10,000 residents created a human chain in protest against right-wing extremism and neo-Nazis."

Dresden doesn't want them and these groups do not belong here

- Mayor Helma Orosz

Monday, 15 February 2010

in a bar earlier today i put three of my favourite songs on the juker - Roxy's Virginia Plain (corker) and More Than This (i was thinking of the karaoke scene in Lost in Translation), and America by Simon & Garfunkel (i adore it)

here is another one (look out for the famous black-clad fan near the end of the clip)

best opening line ever?
Lenny decent here about David Cameron (including linking to that thorough Economist piece that has rightly been getting a lot of play: the one where the sober and respected centre-right newspaper demolishes current Tory nonsense about broken Britain- naturally, if Britain were in any meaningful way 'broken' anyway, that is the fault of Thatcher and her mob).

an ally of the most ferociously reactionary forces in Europe...His shadow chancellor is an unreformed Thatcherite and union-basher...his front bench is stuffed with venal millionaires. And he's basing his campaign on a line about a "broken Britain" which channels the most socially authoritarian Victorian moralising


How did 'progress' as a discourse become a byword for reaction? The obvious answer is that New Labour made this possible. On every theme I've mentioned above, every objectionable facet of Tory policy, there is a New Labour counterpart - not exact, and not necessarily as extreme, but very real nonetheless.


i can't find it online but i once saw a photograph in the British free sheet Metro (week day paper given away free to commuters in the larger cities) of the time American showman David Blaine did his Above the Below stunt (44 days suspended 30 feet in the air inside a fairly small Plexiglas box, in central London, by the river).

a leonine effort in itself (if to be filed under 'why, you strangely admirable if loony man?'), Blaine drank water, but took no food (he lost weight by the time he came out, unsurprisingly, and was carted off to hospital* ).

anyway, Amnesty used the media opportunity to put up a generic protest. they had a couple of people or one bod, IIRC, nearby every day (or some days, or at least one day, i don't know), mocked up in a small enclosed environment, like a cage or such, and their logo was around and about.

and they had a slogan nearby on a poster or something, and it said something like NOT EVERYBODY HAS A CHOICE

which is probably still the smartest piece of organisational advertising i've ever seen

* probably why he did it in England; i don't suppose they let magicians get health insurance in his native land, so best to let the superior socialised medical system take the strain afterward...
the Gita Sahgal/Amnesty hoo-hah has been debated all over the show.

this from Conor Foley is good (via Harry's Place).

it's a typically sensible piece from Foley - the bit about his friend voluntarily leaving the Indonesia research section of Amnesty due to falling in love with a Timorese fighter was fascinating - and the final seven or so paragraphs are pretty masterly.

the Uganda paragraph, everything he writes is extremely important and, it seems to me, accurate.
really great that Matt has ironed out his old blogs into the new space at Cybore; fully searchable, and everything, it means cracking posts of yore are but a click away.

the AvantYob or Beatnik binary was always one favourite of mine (one among many), with that final paragraph, and hilarious concluding sentence, wrapping everything up with a great pay-off

Which brings me to my final point. What are you, are you a Beatnik or an AvantYob? Like me I imagine you're a Beatnik, with your face pressed tightly against the glass. Because if you were a true AvantYob you wouldn't be reading this bollocks.

it really is a treasure trove.

oh look! there's that epic pictorial jazz post, with Phil Sherburne shout at the end.

here's a post on Rammellzee, with a shout to Jim.

Matt's first ever Burns Night!

Dulwich Picture Gallery has a new Paul Nash show, as Andrew Graham-Dixon explains.

The Second World War roused Nash to create the masterpiece of his later career: Totes Meer (Dead Sea), of 1940, which was inspired by the sight of the wreckage of German warplanes at a dump in Cowley...When Nash painted it, he knew that little time was left to him. He had never recovered from having been gassed during the First World War. His lungs barely functioned. The tangled aeroplane wings and fuselage officially proclaimed the defeat of the German aggressor, but in Nash’s own private symbolism they signalled his own impending death.
Sri Lankan religious leaders step up to the plate.

in formally protesting the detention of Fonseka, they say

They said it is unacceptable to arrest a gallant officer “due to petty political differences.”

“The government has embraced individuals such as Karuna Amman (Eastern Province chief minister who was once part of LTTE) and Pilleyan who mercilessly attacked civilians and military personnel.
And so it surely can overlook the alleged offences committed by a man who made enormous sacrifices to unite and safeguard the territorial integrity of the country,” they said in the letter.

this AP report has an interesting flourish toward the end.

Waturuwila Siri Sujatha, a monk who lead the prayers, said he hopes Rajapaksa will hear their voices and release Fonseka.

"Fonseka is a man who brought 30 years of bloodshed to an end," Sujatha said. "Whoever loves the country cannot jail him."

that is clearly the best, most tactically sensible thing to say. (though it does leave unsaid a great many things about the manner in which the conflict was ended, prospects for communal reconciliation, and so on. if only there was some way to nimbly hold together all this in a soundbite as well, but that is far easier said than done.)

granted, it is easy from my armchair to note all this; my brackets are, sadly, irrelevant really. it is a clever statement from the praying monk there, going right for the jugular in protesting this.
This country's based on migratory patterns.

- Linda Ronstadt

Sunday, 14 February 2010

- see no evil hear no evil speak trash to the weary

i'm very grateful to Agustín Velloso for that piece about lobbying for Obiang because it throws up the following pearl of a number (plus some interesting thoughts).

Cassidy & Associates represents Obiang in the US. In 2008, the firm billed US$23 million. Since 2004, the Obiang portfolio has been worth US$120,000 per month – this according to the US Department of Justice.

we all know lobbying is one of those things, part of the game, it's reasonable to expect people to want to manage their message (this goes for giant chemicals companies or agricultural interest groups, or smaller green organisations or whatever), and that this regime is fairly slick, but that figure above is enough for a grim laugh.
(i am being deliberately diplomatic in writing this, naturally.)

the Cassidy and Associates website is a good laugh too.

on the front page, you are greeted with

For over 30 years, Cassidy & Associates has set the standard for public policy consulting in Washington.

Cassidy & Associates guides clients through the intimidating maze of public policy through targeted, fully-integrated and interactive solutions. By successfully anticipating the next political, regulatory or policy move, the C&A Team manages and protects its clients' public affairs risk around the world.

We successfully deploy our public policy expertise in areas such as government relations, international strategy, federal marketing and strategic communications — all with a global reach and in any political environment. As the world increasingly becomes smaller through online technologies, one undeniable fact grows clearer by the minute, who represents your interests matters more today than ever before.

i hope Obiang isn't getting billed by word count.
a thoughtful review, as ever, from Noel Malcolm of a new Koestler biog: with the caveat i do not know anything about Koestler and women, though from what you read there, it is enough to condemn him in the strongest terms.

when Koestler did see clearly, he was capable of unerring precision. Compare Victor Gollancz’s comment on the typescript of Orwell’s Animal Farm: 'I could not possibly publish a general attack of this nature’, with Koestler’s: 'Envious congratulations. This is a glorious and heart-breaking allegory; it has the poesy of a fairy tale and the precision of a chess problem. Reviewers will say that it ranks with Swift, and I shall agree with them.’

(this post should ideally be read in conjunction with Anna's thoughts here, 'Why do progressive men hate women so much?')
Kung Hei Fat Choi and that

Saturday, 13 February 2010

i watched the Super Bowl but i didn't see any of the commercials.

i'm glad i didn't.

what a load of rubbish.

having YouTubed it, i can safely say the Dodge advert is a disgrace.

Watched by millions, the Super Bowl's commercial breaks were filled with explicit mockery and derision of women

(via lots of fab north american women)


a guest post at Greater Surbiton, 'Interview with Nihada Hodzic, survivor of the Zaklopaca massacre'.

the pre-amble gives a good indication.

One of the myths most frequently used in attempts at justifying the Srebrenica massacre of 1995 is the myth that the fighting in the Srebrenica region was started by the Bosnian side, and that the massacre was therefore an act of ‘retaliation’ or ‘revenge’. In this interview Nihada Hodzic, a survivor of the Zaklopaca massacre of 16 May 1992, tells Daniel Toljaga of the Institute for the Research of Genocide, Canada how Bosniaks in the Srebrenica region were persecuted and killed from the first weeks of the Bosnian war in the spring of 1992 – months before Naser Oric’s oft-cited raids against the local Serb villages.
- local news

to change tack entirely, Shlurp! soup bar in Manchester city centre continues to kick it.

open for breakfasts (good coffee, i read an ex-pat Aussie once declare: if it's good enough for someone from Melbourne, then it's good enough for me), followed by salads, sandwiches and the like at lunch; the main draw for me is the six daily soups.

they tend to stick to making the same six five days a week (closed weekends) for one week, then change up recipes the next week. every weekend they email subscribers the details of the forthcoming menu for the new week.

the soups are in two sizes and range in price from £1.70 to £3.95, as shown below.
eat in and takeaway prices are the same, which is quite rare these days.

just this morning i got the new email, so here are next week's soups.

- roasted butternut squash soup…(v)170p/195p

- red lentil and country vegetable soup…(v)170p/195p

- cauliflower & chickpea jalfrezi with fresh spinach…(v)270p/295p

- smoked haddock & corn chowder…370p/395p

- chicken pot pie with a pastry crust…370p/395p

- boeuf bourguignon…370p/395p

- fish ‘n’ chips in a thick mushy pea soup with tartare sauce…370p/395p

i like the sound of the squash and the curried one particularly.

the chowder is genuinely excellent, and an award-winning recipe of theirs they tend to use a fair bit in the colder months.
(those other three meat ones all sound good, too. the crust on the pot pie could be a winner. pot pies do rule.)

i would urge any visitors to the (British) rainy city to seek out that chowder and eat it.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Chaminda Jayanetti dissects "Sri Lanka's imperilled democracy".

whilst watching any of the very few documentaries i've seen about the Sri Lankan conflict, one feature - among others - that hits the viewer in the face was the longevity of the conflict, and how hugely destructive this was, and is, to a traumatised country.

(a quarter of a century is considerably longer than, say, the tragedies that consumed the Balkans from the early 90s onwards, for instance. and that is not even taking into account the pre-1983 history of the island.)

so many damaged people, who have lived through so much, for so long, leaving such deep scars.

you would hope if you were a Sri Lankan voter, you would offer the hand of friendship across communal divides, and try to oppose the sort of trends Jayanetti traces, but who can know?

Thursday, 11 February 2010

my god

"Burmese government troops have stepped up their attacks on Karen civilians, burning down dozens of houses and a clinic and forcing schools to close and around 2,000 Karen villagers to flee into the jungle, according to Karen relief groups...
Eleven schools—four nursery schools, four primary schools and three middle schools—were forced to close and children are hiding in the jungle due to the military activities"

rest here
extremely sad re Alexander McQueen.

no age.
another corking post from Foust, about "Charlie Wilson and the Death of Idealism".

and naturally, RIP, as Foust says. (Wilson passed away yesterday, aged 76, in Lufkin, TX: RIP Charles Wilson.)

the first four comments, from RJS, Baildog, and AJK, are all very sharp too.

The Inhumanity of the Mujahidin and The Relative Good of Soviet Rule are particularly smart bits; also, nice Avatar the movie reference...
also bang on money, this older piece by Lee Solomons and Patrick Mair is another humdinger from the SSRC's Making Sense of Sudan group blog. (very eloquent on 'guilt and shame' and the 'mobilization of shame'.)

the more one reads into the whole ICC goes after Khartoum and her proxies thing, the more apparent it becomes just how wrong one was to complacently assume a position in the middle of the road (guilty as charged, here).

by middle of the road, i mean taking a casual view that was both aware of the potential costs to throwing charges around but also optimistic (overly so) about what could be achieved whilst being grateful an international body was observing accurately who the chief criminals in Darfur were (observing accurately more or less, with caveats about the difficulty of proving genocidal intent and so on).

the optimism would perhaps occur with a note, in good faith for sure, that Darfurians themselves (ie, the victims and survivors of crimes no less serious than genocide that occurred there in the first half of the last decade, crimes that Khartoum and her proxies are responsible for) were cheered by efforts to throw charges around at the likes of al-Bashir.

it is understandable that one might want to be clear about most of the culpability for Darfurian agonies, certainly when writing in the wealthy world, because there are some partisans, who, for their own reasons - usually due to viewing every aspect of world affairs through an anti-American, or anti-imperialist prism *, which is of course stupid and incorrect as a blanket reflex - seek to fudge even this basic truth.

which, granted, has nothing to do with Darfur.

from the piece above (my italics, obvious italics i know, but it's all 101 stuff):

it is only fair that those who lament the consequences of the warrant appraise realistically those of deferral. The international justice project would be discredited in the eyes of many. There is no mechanism for the warrant to be permanently expunged by the Security Council – renewals would have to occur annually, with all the accompanying diplomatic activity and potential reruns of threats and bargaining on the ground. Still, deferral may be the best of bad options, though the political risks to states such as the USA of being seen as soft on Darfur make it an unlikely one. Noticing both the risks and remoteness of this move draws attention back to the original referral of Darfur to the ICC. That is when the juggernaut was put in motion, and the last time the ignominy of indictment and potential reactions could really be avoided. The fact Khartoum initially called for deferral but now rejects the warrant outright is a case in point. Perhaps the last chance for those with concerns about peace is before the juggernaut leaves the station.


What is certain is that al-Bashir now has little choice but to contest, and ensure that he wins, the forthcoming national elections — defeat would severely jeopardise the immunity and protection he currently seems to possess.

Far from marginalising the President, the indictment’s aftermath has strengthened his grip on power in less obvious, but no less significant ways. The warrant has served to further restrict the already narrow space for political dissent and activism by opposition parties and civil society groups. It is not only the international NGOs that are facing harassment and closure but also Sudanese civil society groups working in important areas such as human rights, gender equality and — particularly pertinent right now — raising awareness on electoral issues. Natsios concludes that ‘So long as the threat of the order loomed, it probably did help to restrain the Sudanese government. With the threat now realized, the regime has far less to lose.’

But what about Messrs. Taylor and Milošević, asks HRW? Both were indicted as serving leaders, both ended up in international cells. There have been no convincing responses to an earlier post on this blog, arguing that both were in far weaker positions near the end of their rule, running ‘one-man dictatorships which crumbled when they were removed’. Al-Bashir is instead a front-man for a rotten and entrenched regime.


Many are equally if not more concerned about the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which is at a critical junction. This process needs every bit of support it can get — including from international actors — if Sudan is to avoid relapse into one of the bloodiest conflicts since WWII.

there's also an interesting bit at the end about (main rebel group) JEM, which has pretty much changed my mind about something posted on this blog recently.

* anti-imperialism means resisting nasty ol' uncle 'Bama; the fact that the Khartoum riverine elite might be projecting their own imperialism, of a sort, in their own backyard, appears almost to be of little or no concern to some people
Peter Tatchell, as usual, bang on the money.

I am stunned that such sexist and moralistic thinking still exists in our courts in the 21st century...When a person does not consent to sex, it is rape...No means no, always.

depressing, horrible, and yet also - tragically - predictable, for this day and age, that Tatchell has to literally spell out what is right (when i say that him being forced to remind us of such elementary truths as above, is predictable for this day and age, i mean given recent, new attitudes to discussing sexual assault that seem, anecdotally, to be backsliding horrifically toward the wicked old days of 'she was asking for it').

and of course, for many people, those attitudes never went away.
Representative John Murtha

1932 - 2010

- forceful friend of Pennsylvania

a direct, tall man; patriot, king of pork,
loyal to military and farming families, common folk and the hinterland,
(if regrettable on abortion)

- American politics is made smaller

ETA Apparently I wrote this. Oh dear.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

1. "Leaderless Sri Lankan opposition faces uphill task...civil society groups are saying that this is increasingly a government that brooks no dissent."


2. 'Ahead of a major NATO offensive due to begin soon (some are guessing tomorrow), Taliban fighters in the town of Marjah are helping local families leave the area, even going as far as lending local farmers their vehicles for transport. “These are our people; they’re not the enemy and they shouldn’t get hurt,” said one fighter as he helped a small boy into a truck laden with the possessions of several fleeing families.

Oh, wait. Sorry, that’s precisely the opposite of what’s going on.'

rest here. (via.)


also from Una Moore, at her wonderful UN Dispatch blog, she writes 'War Not Cause of Self-Immolation Suicides in Afghanistan'

The current situation in Afghanistan --the foreign troops, the insurgency, the Afghan government, roll it all in together-- doesn't affect all Afghan women exactly the same way. Women in the south and east certainly suffer a great deal in the fighting between the Taliban and NATO forces, as do all civilians caught in the crossfire. Women elsewhere in the country have benefited from the removal of Taliban era restrictions on education, movement, and speech and from an influx of foreign assistance to women's initiatives.
But life is still very, very grim for many women, even in peaceful areas, as the self-immolation suicides in Herat testify to.

3. 'Whatever happens in Marja, Afghan civilians will suffer' - here.

4. "This 122-page report documents widespread and serious abuses by successor groups to the paramilitary coalition known as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, AUC). The successor groups regularly commit massacres, killings, forced displacement, rape, and extortion, and create a threatening atmosphere in the communities they control. Often, they target human rights defenders, trade unionists, victims of the paramilitaries who are seeking justice, and community members who do not follow their orders. The report is accompanied by a multimedia presentation that includes photos and audio of some of the Colombians targeted by the successor groups."

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Within the first hour, the defenders had “collapsed their perimeter” to the immediate area around the command post, which became “their final fighting position.”

from Foust, a good overview on US army reflections wrt the attack on the American base Keating in Kamdesh last autumn, in which at least eight American soldiers and two Afghan soldiers were killed, and i presume though do not know the details, that some civilian Afghan guards were killed, and more people wounded, during an extremely effective sustained assault, likely by HiG fighters.

(a lot of the attackers were killed but the level of casualties sustained by the defenders of the base was severely high, even in context. apparently at about 3 in the morning just before the attack commenced, insurgents ordered all residents of the nearby village to leave the area.)

the first two comments at Foust's piece (one from the author himself) are both worth noting. interesting how Foust uses Voltaire's 'perfect is the enemy of the good' aphorism. such an elementary and blindingly correct rule of thumb about judging international relations should probably be more widely disseminated.

also via Foust, there's a link here describing the depressingly, tragically predictable shitstorm that badly designed American military assistance to Colombia is fueling: horrific, grim stuff.

In this working paper, post-doctoral fellow Oeindrila Dube and co-author Suresh Naidu offer new research on the links between military assistance and political violence. They find that increased U.S. military aid to Colombia, a haven for narcotics trafficking long-plagued by guerrilla warfare, increases paramilitary violence but has no effect on guerilla violence. With significant implications for U.S. policy in weak and conflict-ridden states, the evidence indicates that the effectiveness of military aid, which is intended to bolster the weak state against violent groups, is undercut by collusion between the military and illegal armed groups.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

the band Two Gallants

Goodnight, my Andalucia
Don't buy all the lies that they feed you
And though you're heading slowly
To some place I can't respect
I'll keep you in my collection of regret

Friday, 5 February 2010

on August 18th last year, somebody called Nick K. put up a readers' opinion piece, entitled 'Should the left call for Taliban victory?', at SocialistWorker, an American website.

Nick's petty and despicable concluding thoughts vie with the disgraceful Neil Clark (and perhaps a few other politically illiterate no marks, who shall remain nameless) for the worst, most appalling thing i have ever read on the internet masquerading as an attempt at morally serious internationalist thinking:

Every U.S. and NATO tank that the Taliban destroy, every Karzai-appointed stooge they assassinate and every town or village they liberate is a victory for our side and a grievous blow to U.S. imperialism--we would do well to remember that and to offer our solidarity and support for a Taliban victory in Afghanistan.

(to be clear, SocialistWorker respondent Avery Wear of Lemon Grove, CA, rightly slapped down Nick on this most egregious point of theirs, whilst still getting a few things wrong, not least doing a huge disservice to Afghan feminists by omitting to mention their crucial role in successfully opposing the proposed 'rape law' that one of Tehran's shills in Kabul was largely responsible for *.)

nearly three weeks ago, the Taliban launched an attack on the area around Kabul's Central Bank (lower down this very page there should be a link to a report by Dexter Filkins in the NYT of January 18th). among those killed or wounded at the scene were two police officers.

i was just thinking of Nick K.'s concluding paragraph when i read this. (via.)

One young policeman from Nangarhar, Hafizullah, who like many Afghans uses only one name, was killed. He was 21 years old, married and had three children. The family breadwinner because his father had died, he left behind an extended family of 13...The other officer honored for his death during the fighting was Shir Agha, 27, a first lieutenant from a family of policemen in Parwan, a province northeast of Kabul. He had gone to officer school and was serving in Kabul. His father, Mohammed Rajed, a tall, thin man and a former member of the mujahedeen who fought the Russians during the Soviet occupation, stood very straight when his son’s name was read; nearby stood three of his nephews, also police officers, their faces somber.

Nick K. is a SocialistWorker reader.

* the indefatigable Malalai Joya and her brave RAWA comrades are always the progressive, if unrepresentative, Afghans cited - in the Independent, occasionally The Guardian (though not always, as one of my links below makes clear) and within SWP circles - for views about international troops pulling out of Afghanistan sooner than would, sadly, be necessary: in those sorts of places, you tend to hear far less about the much, much greater spread of equally indefatigable ("Resolution passed by 200 Women’s Rights and Afghan Civil Society Organizations"), courageous, progressive Afghans who take precisely the opposite view on such matters.

in the Pech valley, Kunar Province, 24th January, 2010

Thursday, 4 February 2010

RIP Boa Sr

Several of the foremen reporting to the PPS had crowded around the post, and one, a youngish man, ex-Hero of the Soviet Union, had shinned up and was rubbing the frost off the thermometer.

Advice reached him from down below.

"Don't breathe on it, man, or it'll go up."

"Go up? In a pig's ear. That doesn't make any difference."

Shukhov's foreman, Tyurin, was not among them. He put his bucket down, worked his hands into opposite sleeves, and watched curiously.

The man up the pole said hoarsely: "Twenty-seven and a half below, the bastard."

He looked harder to make sure, and jumped down.

"Bullshit. It doesn't work properly," somebody said. "Think they'd hang it where we can see it if it did?"
'Budapest, Feb 4 (PTI) India is hopeful of concluding a comprehensive trade opening pact with the European Union by the end of the year, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma has said'
1. 'These letters written by Tolya (probably not his real name), a private in the Russian army, were published on our partner site'

The officers got their hands on half the food boxes we’d been issued with. But there was quite a lot left! And someone managed to have some money on them, so we’ve had gingerbread, waffles, biscuits AND mayonnaise!
When they asked how much money there was in my family, I told them that we have enough to live on, but not to throw around. Their immediate response was «don't try and fuck us about, you're from Moscow and have money coming out of your arse». I didn't try and convince them of anything different, as there'd have been absolutely no point. Oh, bugger it! I really think that I'm going to get well and truly screwed here.

2. Cahal Milmo on Kyrgyz nationals (mostly males) abroad, desperate, desperate consequences {second most popular piece at the Indie}

(obligatory tangential Registan link when central Asia is mentioned? try them on This is now the second post-Soviet ally whose abuses the U.S. has remained officially silent about in the last few months)

3. It is hard to be optimistic when confronted by the stark reality of how Brussels bureaucrats heap scorn on everything other than the protection of corporate profits (incidentally, this may be inappropriate, but the first two responses made me laugh, black humour style)

4. what he said [good responses also, from Flint and her co-author de Waal]

(though not to lose sight of) "A spokesmen for one of Darfur's most powerful rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem), welcomed the ruling in The Hague, with one saying the Jem might reconsider taking part in peace talks"

[to be stark: probably it is just regime apologists and those who appear to think something only slightly less laughable than 'most charges are magnified and part of politically motivated plots that have been aided by the American Christian right' or such, who would quibble with the actual facts in Darfur and Khartoum's role there. however, mentioning fresh legal news like this says nothing about the implications of this wrt the situation on the ground today in a very imperfect Sudan.]

5. wrt to 2. and remittances being dispersed unequally (Attempts to counteract the corrosive effects of migration are at a fledgling stage. The government last month added an extra 200 som (£2.80) to pensions to help offset a proposed tripling in electricity prices, and 400 per cent rise in electricity costs. There are plans to increase tourism to bolster what remains an agrarian economy. But the elders of Temir Kanat and the surrounding area are resigned to the ebbs and flows of global capitalism and seek merely to survive.

Rosa Konobyava, 70, a Russian Tartar who cares of her four grandchildren and has not heard from her two sons in Kazakhstan since they left six months ago, said: "I love them. I can hug them and kiss them. They bring only good things. But our way of life has changed and we are losing things that were once certain. There is an old Russian proverb, 'Old age is not happiness and youth is not life'. There are many who feel that way."
), there is this: 'top recipients in terms of the share of remittances in GDP'-

in 2007

forty five

half per cent


Tajikistan's GDP

came from remittances

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Daily Express Monday February 1 2010

We asked in our poll on Friday:

Should we pull troops out of Afghanistan?

YES: 96% NO: 4%

Terry Glavin Monday, January 11, 2010

'This latest poll...the 14th survey of which I am aware that wholly defies the received wisdom (which is to say the fashionable delusions and popular frenzies) abroad in the rich countries of the world about Afghanistan, and about "what Afghans think."'
Caracas cancelling Haiti's debt is magnificent, and deserves loud and constant applause, especially when backed up with the pointed comments of Chávez about how Venezuela has a historic debt to Haiti (a reference to support the then-recently independent Haiti extended to the Bolívarian struggle in the early nineteenth century for a south America freed from Spain).

the IMF appears to be sticking to its guns, for now, with its disgraceful conditions that have correctly been getting it such bad press in recent weeks.

from the link above, "Britain backs the IMF's view that the priority is to get cash to survivors, shelving the question of debt relief for later", would technically be a fair point - in terms of just getting the dough out - if it were the case that loan money was being given out now with no strings (because you could always argue later, i suppose, about retrospectively turning the loan into a grant).

however, the above cash is being parachuted in with the most impoverishing small print, which is awful.

"We are concerned that the conditions of Haiti's current IMF debts continue to apply," said Nick Dearden of Jubilee. "These conditions undemocratically force Haiti, amongst other things, to raise electricity tariffs and freeze public-sector pay."


with all the treasure France and the USA have unjustly and super-criminally extracted from Haiti over the decades, you would think the masters of the universe at the IMF might pause for a moment and consider the Haitian public sector.

perhaps not.

it is all very well - and worth lauding in the strongest terms, naturally - that the IMF is saying in future they want to see comprehensive debt relief for Haiti, and all their loans to the country to end, but why can't they take a lead on doing this now? if the first load of debt is not due to be repaid for two years (by which time political goodwill to cancel may have lessened among creditor nations, as the above piece argues), what's to stop the IMF from putting down an admirable marker and stepping up to the plate now on this vital issue?

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

tact-thriving-in-local-journalism news

The teenage daughter of former Manchester City star Antoine Sibierski has been found dead in her apartment.

The body of Sibylle Sibierski, 18, was discovered by police when they forced their way into the property in Altrincham.

Police do not believe there are any suspicious circumstances.

"Mr Sibierski was too upset to talk when contacted by the M.E.N at his Cheshire home"

- really?

hmm, wonder why.
to return to the subject of The Week news magazine (see here and here) it was with no surprise whatsoever i read the issue of about last week or the week before talking the worst sort of decontextualised utter nonsense re Italian xenophobia.

discussing the recent evacuation of migrant workers (for their own safety) to immigrant detention centres from a southern Italian town following the racially-motivated unrest there last month (five migrants shot, two beaten with iron bars, a protest march by some of the immigrants in reply that turned violent and then further clashes between the indigenous locals and some of the immigrants), The Week (approvingly?) quoted various sources that were content to essentially lay all the blame at the feet of the local mob, who pay low wages (true) to migrants in an area that, like much of the developed world, is hurting more now than it did ten years ago, say (with the implication being that indigenous locals may perhaps be more willing to get stuck in now to this sort of work). and with my caveat that of all the stereotypes that the Mezzogiorno has attracted down the years, it is still surely one of the poorest regions in western Europe today (certainly in parts, anyway).

The disturbances in Calabria have brought home the fact that the wretched migrants who arrive from Africa off Italy's coastline do not disappear once they are taken ashore. Thousands end up in a transient workforce of crop-pickers that finds work in the south.

Some of the Africans who rebelled after the shooting in Rosarno will have been helping with the wine harvest in Sicily in the early autumn or picking olives in Puglia in the late autumn. Some will be intending to drift up to Campania, around Naples, next spring.

On the Gioia Tauro plain which encompasses Rosarno, they are collected each morning by overseers and driven into citrus groves for work that can last from dawn to dusk.

"They earn €25 a day", said Father Ennio Stamile of the Roman Catholic charity Caritas. "They have to send money to their countries to maintain their families and also live here. Not much is left for them. The economic crisis has exacerbated their situation."

"On the plain, there are about 2,000 African immigrants who sleep the night crowded together in a former paper mill and another large building, said Monsignor Pino de Masi, the vicar-general of the Oppido-Palmi diocese. "If anyone from central government were to see the conditions in which they live, without sanitation, electricity, water or heating, they would not be surprised by what has happened."

The Week had no mention of another reason that can help explain this unrest, which is, of course, the steady drip-feed of provocative anti-foreigner poison that those in power (a neo-fascist mayor in Rome, the separatist Northern League in rude and murky health, the dangerously populist Berlusconi and his terrible interior minister Maroni, and so on) have been letting trickle out for years; deliberate strategies that set the entire tone of the national conversation on immigration, skin colour, what it means to 'be "Italian"', and so on.

the 'Ndrangheta exploit migrant workers in Italy and pay them a slave-like pittance for back-breaking manual work that keeps Italian agriculture functioning, and some of their personnel may get involved in robbing or physically attacking individual migrants and groups of migrants (quite apart from the ever present threat of violence to keep people in line, granted) but it's actually the case that even organised crime doesn't shaft immigrants in quite the same way as Silvio and his legally above-board chums do.
i'd never heard this version before yesterday. i really like it.

ooh! another nice one at that darkmatter special:

The Politics of Brisket: Jews and The Wire
a recent 'Joint Statement on Nigeria By the US and EU'


also via that same Twitter feed - Andrew Stroehlein, the communications chief for the International Crisis Group - is this FT editorial, 'Leaderless Nigeria could spin out of control'.

First, the leadership crisis created by Mr Yar’Adua’s absence is deepening Nigeria’s north/south political rivalry. The conflict between constitutional provisions that make Mr Jonathan, a southerner, the successor in the event of the president’s incapacitation, and the political agreement that brought Mr Yar’Adua, a northerner, to power, carry the risk of escalating tensions along the country’s chief political faultline.

Second, the Niger delta peace process is in danger of unravelling. The government’s programme for rehabilitating and retraining delta militants has stalled. Attacks on oil installations have resumed after a long break and criminal gangs are once again seizing foreign oil workers for ransom. On Saturday the main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, announced an end to a three-month ceasefire. The signs could not be more ominous.

Third, accountability has taken a holiday. Because it is not formally answerable to the vice-president, the Federal Executive Council – the cabinet of federal ministers – is acting without supervision and possibly bending the rules. State spending continues under a dubiously signed supplementary budget that runs counter to previous presidential pledges.

The growing public perception that corruption has accelerated and that nobody can call anybody to order leads to the fourth threat: if the constitutional confusion deepens, ambitious military officers have a pretext to stage a coup, erasing the country’s democratic gains.

Fifth, the lack of Nigerian leadership in the region, in particular through the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), has slowed efforts at resolving the problems in Guinea and Niger. Failure to sustain peace and democracy efforts could lead to a deterioration of the political and security situations in both countries.

Sixth, mass protests initiated by opposition leaders and civil society organisations on January 12 could degenerate into violence and state repression. Though demonstrators and police have co-operated to an admirable and almost unprecedented degree to keep protests peaceful, the longer these mass events continue the greater the risk of a clash with security forces...The next days and weeks will determine whether Nigeria’s politicians are able to restore constitutional order. For the sake of the country – and the whole of West Africa – Nigeria’s friends must insist that all parties, including the military, respect the constitution and its provisions for managing this kind of crisis. In the longer term, the Nigerian people must, through the constitutional review process, decide for themselves what succession arrangements truly reflect their political sensitivities, in order to avoid unhealthy tensions in the future.

finally, Stroehlein himself had the provocative, sensible 'Why the media prefer natural disasters' up; a rare mention of Thailand's south as one example of a forgotten recent war.


Civilian deaths in Somalia fall in 2009: group
By Abdi Sheikh
December 31, 2009

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - A fall in street battles in the capital Mogadishu led to significantly fewer civilians being killed in Somalia this year, a human rights group said on Wednesday.

The Mogadishu-based Elman Peace and Human Rights Organisation said 1,739 civilians were killed in fighting in Somalia this year, down from 7,574 in 2008 and 8,636 in 2007.

[ie that is 17,949 civilian deaths in the fighting in that period, by Elman's count.]

"The death toll was lower this year because there was no serious face-to-face fighting in Mogadishu, but beheadings and the exchange of shells in a hit-and-run war," said Ali Yasin Gedi, Elman's vice chairman....He said at least 4,911 civilians were wounded and some 3,900 families were displaced by clashes this year...While the 2009 civilian death toll was lower than the previous two years, Mogadishu residents fear there could be a resurgence of violence soon.

The government said this month it was planning to drive the insurgent groups out of the capital after a suicide bombing at a graduation ceremony killed three ministers.

Residents said the rebel group al Shabaab...has been forcibly recruiting youths in readiness for an attack.

wrt the insurgency since Ethiopia toppled the Islamic Courts Union (continuing a long history), the above evokes Martin Fletcher discussing the Haiti earthquake as a springboard to make some general points.


i like the Wire special at darkmatter journal (telly show, not magazine!), particularly 'The Subversion of Heteronormative Assumptions in HBO’s The Wire'.

Monday, 1 February 2010

contractor Tim Lynch is appropriately sour about a very poor sounding CBS broadcast last night about US Special Forces in Afghanistan (my emphases).

'Of course the segment has all the annoying crap one associates with Special Forces – only using first names, wearing sunglasses to “protect their identity,” and digitizing all who do not have sunglasses on, as if the Taliban has an arm in America which is going to hunt these guys down some day. The Taliban do hunt down ANA Commandos in their home villages and kill them, but none of the ANA commandos have their faces digitized or identities hidden.'

this is very accurate.

But as Casey points out, the amoral and duplicitous character of US policy under the Reagan administration had its counterpart among reflexive critics of US foreign policy later. In opposing the campaign to reverse Saddam's annexation (not merely occupation) of Kuwait in 1990-91, Edward Said wrote in the London Review of Books (7 March 1991) that the claim that Saddam had gassed the Kurds at Halabja was "uncertain" - citing, of all things, the DIA report...Congressman Ron Paul, later a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and regarded by some people who ought to know better as "an excellent man", did the same...Let's call this for what it is: the denial of documented war crimes for the sake of domestic political advantage.
KABUL, Jan. 7 (Xinhua)...A roadside bomb apparently targeted a convoy of Afghan and NATO-led troops in Rodat district on the same day Wednesday, said the spokesman for the provincial administration Ahmad Zia Abdulza, left five people including two children dead and injured over two dozen others with majority of them school children.

Meanwhile, angry locals who staged a protest said some 80 civilians, mostly school children, sustained injuries in the blast and called for the government to protect the lives of citizens.

However, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in a statement disputed the claim, noting that two civilians were killed and several others including four Afghan policemen and nine ISAF service members were injured in the blast that rocked Rodat district.

"ISAF service members evacuated the wounded to a nearby medical facility and are investigating the circumstances of the blast and its aftermath," the ISAF statement added.

"The blast is believed to have been caused by the detonation of unexploded ordnance," said the statement.


Published: January 7, 2010
KABUL, Afghanistan
— A suicide bomber attacking a pro-government militia commander detonated his bomb-laden vest in a southeastern provincial capital, Gardez, on Thursday, and witnesses said he killed 10 people and wounded 27, most of them civilians. Also on Thursday, the governor of a neighboring province survived a bomb attack...Dawoud Ali Najafi, an official with the Afghan Electoral Commission, said at a news conference that he hoped that security would be sufficient to allow voting to proceed in all parts of the country. But he said the commission would probably refrain from holding voting in areas where the violence was especially bad.

In the presidential election last August, some of the main allegations of fraud were directed at fictitious voting centers in Taliban-heavy areas where there were few or no police officers or soldiers. Investigators said much of the fraud was orchestrated in these fake ballot centers.

“We are not going to send ballot papers to areas where there is no security,” Mr. Najafi said.


Published: January 18, 2010
KABUL, Afghanistan
...The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Reached by telephone, a spokesman said the group had sent 20 suicide bombers for the operation. That was an exaggeration.

“Some of our suicide bombers have blown themselves up, bringing heavy casualties to government officials,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesman.

At the height of the battle, women and men, some of them clutching babies, ran down the streets, some bleeding, some sobbing. Even a stray dog, frightened by one of the blasts, dashed wildly down a street.

A second Taliban representative, also reached by telephone, said the attack was intended to answer American and Afghan proposals to “reconcile” with and “reintegrate” Taliban fighters into mainstream society. The plan is a central part of the United States-backed campaign to turn the tide of the war, and it will be showcased this month at an international conference in London.

“We are ready to fight, and we have the strength to fight, and nobody from the Taliban side is ready to make any kind of deal,” Mr. Mujahid said.


Petraeus and McChrystal Drink Major Gant’s Snake Oil
Posted by: Christian | January 18, 2010
...Afghanistan is not constituted of tribes, no matter what wikipedia or your local friends tell you. The decisions of individuals and of men who are not identified as tribal leaders have always had, and still have a huge amount of relevance. Examples, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar of Hizb-i Islami is a Kharoti Pashtun. But he is no tribal leader. Communist-era President Najibullah was an Ahmadzai Pashtun. But he is no tribal leader. Mullah Omar is a Hotak Pashtun. But he is no tribal leader. All of these men recruited from a broad spectrum of Pashtuns and even non-Pashtuns (Omar less successfully). At times they used tribal networks. But mostly they totally disregarded them. These men need to be considered individuals, not prisoners of a tribal system that dictates their moves. The insurgents have members from every tribe, the government has members from every tribe. These people often made decisions independently.
get up

get off

come back
He must clear off

- Emmanuel Adebayor

the appalling Caf decision to fine the beleaguered Togo football team - two of their own killed *, more injured, in that militant attack - for withdrawing from the Africa Cup of Nations, and, even worse, ban them from the next two tournaments as well, is rightly attracting a lot of attention.

so far, so outrageous and desperately unfair.

but this is pure dumbstruck stuff.

what planet is he on?

When I asked Caf President Issa Hayatou earlier this month whether he regretted bringing the Nations Cup to Angola following the Togolese tragedy, his answer was enlightening.

For the Cameroonian proceeded to explain that there was no real problem having only three teams in Group B after Togo's withdrawal as it had happened before (when Nigeria withdrew from South Africa in 1996).

At that point, an aide came over to explain that the question had actually been about the deaths - whereupon Hayatou addressed the attack with little empathy.

* i still don't know if the Angolan bus driver died, as was initially reported, as there were all those follow up reports saying he had survived the attack; the poor chap remains nameless to me
sometimes bitchiness rubs me the wrong way, and sometimes it makes me piss my pants.

the following is one of the latter occasions.

previewing Britain's Northern Art prize, Guardian vis arts crit Alfred Hickling (he calls it wrong: Pavel Büchler did indeed win, although to be fair Hickling is clearly sketching the panel impulses with a deliberate cynicism) discusses the entrants early last month.

this bit is fucking brilliant, talk about faint praise! (my italics.)

"Rachel Goodyear's drawings are discussed alongside Darwin's Origin of Species as "one of the great acts of reordering our world". What Goodyear actually does is make small, competent self-portraits in pencil that depict her enacting fantasies such as concealing a baby rhino beneath her skirt or having her bottom fondled by a weasel."