Monday, 31 May 2010

RIP Louise Bourgeois

Sunday, 30 May 2010

If it suffices to arm oneself with a revolver in order to reach our goal, then to what end are the goals of the class struggle? If a pinch of powder and a slug of lead are enough to destroy the enemy, what need is there for a class organisation? If there is rhyme or reason in scaring titled personages with the noise of an explosion, what need is there for a party?

- Trotsky.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Patrick O'Flynn has an op-ed in today's Daily Express.

he opens

THE personality of governments can often be divined from their first Queen’s Speech.

Tony Blair’s focused on political positioning and was full of anodyne observations about creating “One Nation” and “governing for the benefit of the whole country” – the implication being that previous administrations deliberately set out to further the interests of a privileged minority.

"deliberately" or otherwise, it may have escaped O'Flynn's attention that the immediate predecessor administrations of Blair's (Thatcher and Major) were very, very good at neoliberalism, which entrenched disparity, effectively furthering the interests of certain groups, business classes, etc, against the interests of the poorest members of British society, who suffer from very real and raw structural economic inequality.

(not that New Labour administration was some model of benevolent redistributionist social democracy, of course, but it was far better than what came immediately before it.)

there will be plenty more overly, slavishly pro-market, overly small state boosting and selling in the pages of this paper, and w a renewed vigour, since its party of choice is now back in office.

i want to quote a recent post from Vimothy again, who makes a tangential point.

Let’s get this straight: we had a regime where the regulators were in hock to a defunct ideology that says that the market will always produce the most optimal outcome, and that therefore regulators should stand off. These guys are really smart, you know? They wouldn’t act in ways that are against their firm’s best interest.

When the smoke eventually clears, hawkers of said ideology claim that we shouldn’t start trying to regulate these guys or reform regulation because they had regulators before the crisis and, you know, look how that turned out.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

arguably political Islam is simply more frank than liberal political theory in recognising the centrality of violence to political process.

Abdel Salam and de Waal (2004)

Monday, 24 May 2010

"Three quotes."

&hearts Geeta
Oliver Kamm has another sensible article on an occasional topic of his.

under the heading Serbia's demons, he writes

This post may appear to pursue old political arguments, but it's important to establish an accurate accounting of terrible crimes and those who obfuscate them.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

out to Dissensian four_five_one, who has been both posting on-thread and tweeting like a leonine Trojan mofo.

incidentally, from the TIME story was able to retweet from him about The Sad Plight of the Rohingya

Muzaffar was part of the most recent exodus. According to the transcript of his interview with the Arakan Project, Muzaffar claimed that after he and his companions had sailed for 12 days in a contingent of two boats, the Thai navy picked them up and moved them to a barren isle off the Thai mainland — NGO sources suspect this is Koh Sai Daeng, or Red Sand Island — alongside Rohingya detainees captured from other refugee expeditions. They were 412 in total. For eight days, Muzaffar said, they were kept in the open and given little more than "two mouthfuls of rice" per meal. Thai soldiers, he said, "beat us up whenever they felt like it."
Then, Muzaffar said, they were all taken aboard a navy vessel, which towed an empty, open-deck barge behind it. The ship, he said in the transcript, sailed for a day and a half into international waters, at which point it stopped and the navy men allegedly ordered the refugees to board the barge. "First, they pointed their guns at us but we still refused to move," Muzaffar said. "Our hands were already tied on the Navy ship, but this time they also tied the legs of some people and threw four of them into the sea." Those people, he said, drowned. The rest of the refugees, mostly Rohingya, boarded the barge. It had no motor or sail. According to Zaw Win, another Rohingya detainee interviewed by the Arakan Project, the Thais gave the refugees four bags of rice and two drums of water, a woefully insufficient supply for over 400 people with nowhere to go. Then they allegedly cut the rope between the barge and the navy ship and left.
The boat drifted for 10 days and 10 nights. During the daytime, Muzaffar said, he saw "large fish swimming along the boat that looked like sharks." His account went on to say that at night they would see a light, perhaps from a passing ship or a nearby island, and many on board attempted to swim for it lest their boat drift in the wrong direction. "We saw many drowning, one by one, as the current was carrying them away and none of them had any energy left to swim," Muzaffar told his Arakan Project interviewer.
Eventually, the Indian coast guard picked up the surviving refugees and immediately noticed their abject state. The coast guard's report stated that there was a significant amount of water flooding the barge; Indian ships reportedly attempted to search for the 300 missing but were able to rescue only nine refugees from the sea. The survivors have been fed and given medical treatment. They are being housed in relief camps, where they were reached by phone calls from the Arakan Project as well as a reporter from the BBC. The Thai government has yet to return TIME's calls on the matter of the treatment of these refugees, but the country's Foreign Ministry released a statement on Jan. 16 saying that officials were investigating the "facts and surrounding circumstances" of the incident.
Other reports from around the region suggest that Muzaffar's experience was not an isolated incident. A Jan. 14 story in the Jakarta Post said 193 Rohingya were rescued by Acehnese fishermen on Jan. 7 and are now being housed at an Indonesian naval base. The refugees there claim Thai marines also cut them adrift after destroying the engines on their boats, and they managed to stay afloat by erecting sails made of plastic tarpaulin. Survivors from a second wave of refugees "pushed back" from Thailand — a contingent of some 580 — have also made their way to India's Andaman Islands. It is not known whether those who landed at Aceh were part of this same group. The front page of the Hong Kong daily South China Morning Post on Jan. 15 displayed pictures snapped by an Australian tourist in Thailand of Thai troops whipping recently detained Rohingya on the beach of an Andaman island popular for snorkeling — in full view of sunbathing tourists. What happened to this particular set of migrants remains unclear.

that story was published in January. it mentioned hopes of progress at February's ASEAN summit.

a quick sample of some of the headlines from the, say, five most recent headlines for 'Rohingya' searched on Google News (at time of posting: ten to four in the afternoon British, Saturday 22nd May) includes

Bangladesh Increases Pressure on Rohingya Refugees‎
As the plight of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh continues to worsen, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni is insisting on their return

No obstacle to Rohingya repatriation‎
US Ambassador to Bangladesh James F Moriarty yesterday said there is no obstacle to repatriation of Rohingya refugees to their homeland in Myanmar
the tahaan prahn, "literally 'hunter-killer'"

Despite the protests of activists, the campaign had been highly popular. At the height of the killing in late February, the Suan Dusit poll of a ten-thousand-person sample showed 90 per cent in favour of the campaign (The Nation, 24 February 2003). In a smaller Rangsit Poll taken at the same time, over two-thirds explicitly urged government to continue with its violent approach. Even a survey of monks found 70 per cent in favour (Jaran, 2003).

Phongpaichit, Baker (2004).

if someone came up to you and said massacres on the streets of a large world city are being virtually minimised, and in some cases, cheer led outright, by a combination of middle and higher income citizens, well-off international expats, and the like, you might say oh! 'that can't possibly be true'.

then you would read about Bangkok and realise that it is true.

apparently Thaksin Shinawatra's reign and crimes (let us of course not forget the most repugnant of all, the 'war on drugs', had widespread support throughout Thailand at the time), and, er waffle waffle LOOK AWAY OVER THERE! "competing patronage networks" * blah blah conflate blah blah black shirt goons waffle waffle populism blah blah burnt down a shopping mall waffle waffle bloody bought farmers from the north blah blah Giles Ungpakorn is associated w the SWP WHICH MEANS WE CAN DISREGARD ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING HE SAYS blah bleh means, oh, er, where was i?

(* that 'competing networks' line is particularly disgraceful if you actually work through its implications.)

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Yangon, September 2007

Tehran, June 2009

Conakry, September 2009

Bangkok, April 2010

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

there was an employment lawyer on the TV news here in Britain last night giving it out to some tune about how the law has to be respected in terms of technicalities that have recently outlawed strongly endorsed strike action proposals from plane cabin crew, railway workers (see here), and so on.


in this case, the law really is an ass.

to quote Jim D

Strange, isn’t it, how BA boss Willie Walsh thinks that restrictions on flying through dangerous ash-clouds is an “over-reaction“, but outlawing a strike that’s been democratically endorsed in a ballot by the vast majority of employees is OK because 11 (that’s right: 11 out of 11,000) spoiled ballot papers were not announced by the union. And that court ruling is not an “over-reaction.”

We have to now consider: is it possible to have a legal strike in Britain?


A commenter on The Times website says this:

william cleo wrote:
Numerically overwhelming and morally legitimate strike ballots are now constantly being overriden by the Courts on technical grounds.
If the same stringent rules were applied to General Election ballots as appear to be applied to election strike ballots we should have no government at all.

there's an advert from Unite union in today's press. part of its text below

BA'S bullies are
keeping me grounded

I would rather be doing the job I love, looking after the passengers who keep British Airways in business. Instead, I am fighting for my future. I want to tell you why.

I know airlines are in difficulties. That is why my union, Unite, has agreed to tens of millions of pounds worth of savings to help our company through hard times.

But having got all the cuts and changes required, British Airways is victimising and persecuting loyal and long-serving cabin crew for taking lawful strike action. More than 50 of my colleagues have been suspended or sacked, some with over 30 years of loyal service. Thousands of cabin crew and their families have had long-established travel arrangements scrapped for the rest of their working lives. And we are not allowed to speak to you about any of this on pain of dismissal.

British Airways represents a great British tradition. But there is another great British tradition which the company doesn't get - standing up to bullies. We have voted three times by overwhelming majorities to tell the bully to back off.

Treating cabin crew decently wouldn't cost the company an extra penny. Instead, it is blowing millions on trying to crush and humiliate me, when it has the savings it needs.

as the Brutish Airways website explains

There are around 12,000 cabin crew represented by Unite; over 70 per cent of them are women; many are single mothers and most have worked for BA for at least 13 years, some with over 30 years loyal service. They will typically earn between £18k - £26k per year.
The cabin crew are very proud of their association with BA - they take pride in being the 'face' of their company, they approach their roles in serving customers in a friendly and professional manner.

Unite and BA were close to a deal that could have been recommended to crew which would have brought down costs and allowed BA to restructure its business. But while Unite negotiated in good faith to come to an agreement that both sides could live with, BA carried on a campaign of bullying and victimisation against cabin crew.
BA is taking disciplinary action against more than 50 crew members who have been suspended on spurious charges arising from the dispute. Seven crew have already been dismissed.


there was a desperately sad story from southeast England in this morning's Metro newspaper (can't find it online) that was written as follows

The death of a suspected shoplifter in a police cell is being investigated. The 32-year-old woman was found unconscious at Worthing custody centre in West Sussex about 24 hours after she had been arrested in the town. Paramedics were called but could not help the suspect, who was pronounced dead within minutes. 'The coroner's officer and the Independent Police Complaints Commission were informed as a matter of standard policy,' said Sussex Police.
'[The woman's] family have been informed and our thoughts are with them at this distressing time.'
Police would not comment on the cause of the Worthing woman's death on Sunday.

there may be a very reasonable explanation but 24 hours after being arrested for shoplifting seems an extremely long time to be in custody for. as i say, there may be a reasonable explanation for that. the last time i was arrested for shoplifting i was in and out in several hours, and i have no knowledge of the circumstances of the arrest here, but it does seem a very long time.

Monday, 17 May 2010

episode of the BBC travel documentary Tropic of Cancer, where broadcaster Simon Reeve spends six episodes of TV travelling around places along there.

in Bangladesh, India and then Burma, guided by a courageous, India-based ex-pat, he hears first-hand tales of Myanmar's troops roughing up - and worse - Chin minority ethnic communities, and meets roving missionaries who wander villages at great personal risk doling out medicine on the sly.

whilst in Bangladesh, as well as meeting villagers who know all too well how global warming is causing the erosion of riverbanks and therefore the erosion of their very land and villages, playing in a kabaddi match, and enjoying getting from A to B on water, Reeve meets many remarkable children in Dhaka when he checks out a UNICEF drop-in centre in the city.

talking to one urchin who came from the countryside to try to make money any way he can (the boy was about ten, i think) Reeve asks him why he came to town.

'Hunger', the boy says.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

(more insular ranting on UK politics)

I'm not an opponent of coalitions or coalition politics.

well said, Mehdi Hasan.

Mehdi, all bull in a china shop (takes one to know one, tbf) on the last Question Time (great telly), has a post up clarifying some of his admittedly wide-eyed, wild-eyed punch-up fare w the likes of Simon Hughes.

(i thought Mehdi was fucking marvelous tbh, even when he cocked up and said he thinks this new coalition will fall, and even when he cocked up and made one or two of his more unsupportable digs at Simon Hughes, who is, after all, in the Beveridge wing of the liberals, and therefore on their left, which surely makes him preferable to David Laws on the most fundamental structural matters. a lot of what he said to Hughes was spot on, in fairness.)

he's got to be wrong about Labour tribalists and Lib Dem power-seekers betraying some (frankly potentially mythical) anti-Tory progressive majority of British opinion (see Shuggy cited below, for a more in-the-round assessment; i certainly wouldn't blame either Labour "tribalists", especially them in fact, or Lib Dem "power-seekers" for the UK coalition govt, it is what it is and it was what was always more on the cards, though i didn't know Labour had opted to drop ID cards in their negotiations w the Lib Dems), but he is very, very right w his first two points (point 3 is good too), especially point one, which some people still seem to be confused about, even though it is an incredibly elementary point.

so it's worth quoting him in full on these.

1) Simon Hughes kept pointing to the Tory/Lib dem proposal to raise the income tax threshold to £10,000 threshold. He seems to believe this is a perfectly progressive policy. But he knows, as the IFS and others have pointed out, such a policy will cost £17 billion of which only £1 billion will go to the lowest-earners. He also knows that the poorest people in Britain will not get a penny from this policy because they tend to be out of work and not paying any income tax to begin with. Oh, and as the Fabians' Tim Horton has pointed out, this policy is no longer funded by redistributive measures like the mansion tax and the scrapping of higher-rate pension relief.

2) Hughes could not address the main issue: why did the Lib Dems agree to Tory cuts in spending this year, despite campaigning against such cuts? Aren't such cuts, to quote Vince Cable, a "smokescreen" for public-sector job losses? This is an unforgivable concession, in my view.
congratulations to the liberal democrats in the new UK coalition govt for getting in the proposal "we will end the detention of children for immigration purposes". always right to hope in itself but obviously i was guardedly sceptical about hoping for change happening in this particular case.

illustrates the depths to which New Labour disfigured the party and country that we have to reverse a wholly unnecessary and disgraceful measure to begin w, a gross scar on the UK's body politic.

of course the liberals folded w Tory demands over their illegal immigrant amnesty and other important matters in this area (thus shoring up - w the annual cap commitment, far more than anything New Labour have ever done in policy terms on immigration - the narrative beloved of the populist tabloids of the UK that misrepresent and distort facts in key debates about immigration*), but we always knew these two parties would be far better than Labour on civil libs in general so this child detention pledge is of a piece w the one definitive, unambiguous area of laudable improvements we knew we could expect of this govt moving on from its predecessor.
(oh and the third runway at Heathrow being scrapped isn't going to cause too many sleepless nights.)

(* is the cap to be set each, say, February, for that year, after consultation w the ONS? or will they wait until say a September and make a decision about what numbers can be allowed until that December? will it vary year on year what time of the year they take the decision to definitively cap things?

they will take account of inflows and outflows - the professional civil servants designing the machinery for the politicians are not stupid, after all - but the symbolism of a definitive cap as a Middle England sweetener is just so much rank bollocks and can only in the end further marginalise anyone trying to fight what you might call Fortress Europe narratives.)

let us hope that, on the other hand, the new coalition talk less shit and play to the gallery less about asylum. of course as they are in a stronger position w most of the media on their side, they may well be able to get away w this ** (in fact i am expecting exactly this, tbf; when the media is on your side you can afford it, and when you don't have to prove your bona fides you do not feel you have to win people over by concessions and the use of language you should have never uttered in the first place).

The Daily Express, whilst optimistic about two wealthy public school boys w strong pro-market credentials from the Home Counties running the UK, has already noted "sadly" any coalition w the liberal democrats in is likely to be soft on immigration.

given this was editorialised in the days after it was announced about a cap, it shows up the old adage about not giving anything up to these sort of toxic media buffoons as they will only continue to shift the goalposts ever rightwards, and who knows what they will be clamouring for next time.

(** this is something like thinking Sharon would redeem himself to an extent because he could make unpopular decisions about getting rid of settlements being so hard and w such a brutal reputation personally. though now he's in a coma and a far worse Israeli leader is wreaking havoc, so i guess we shouldn't put too much store in these analogies...)


AQ in Iraq promises to cover the land w the blood of the Shia menace. something like that.

Friday, 14 May 2010

I did not appreciate what I considered to be a ridiculous spectacle during the congressional hearings into this matter.

You had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else. The American people could not have been impressed with that display, and I certainly was not.

you carry on, Mr President.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

via Peter (who has a reading list about the Greek crisis: he lives in Pelion for some of the year), just saw Larry Elliott (the first, and shorter, of two Elliott articles Peter links to).

Elliott writes

The International Monetary Fund has a clear idea about what is wrong with Greece. The eurozone's weakest link has a serious fiscal problem, with excessive budget deficits leading to ballooning national debt. And it has a competitiveness problem caused by its costs being higher than those of fellow members of monetary union.

It is also clear that the bailout orchestrated by the IMF, the European commission and the European Central Bank will merely be a short-term fix unless it can help get Greece moving again. If it can't, it will be worse than useless.


What does that mean? It means that while demand is going to be sucked out of the Greek economy through a three-year pay and pension freeze, together with a big jump in VAT, there is unlikely to be a pick-up in exports to compensate. Instead, the slump will deepen. Greece, without the benefit of stronger growth, will be unable to meet its ambitious targets for reducing the deficit, which in turn will lead to demands for even deeper budgetary cuts, which will weaken demand still further.

That is not a recovery plan. It is an economic death spiral.
it's not hard to understand

Robin Cook was always fond of hailing Tony Blair's Labour government as the most redistributive since Lloyd George, and now here's the data to prove it.

i am sorry (no i'm not) to keep banging this drum that i have been repeating elsewhere (in fact!) but it's worth repeating when there seems to be some confusion on basic issues.

so i'll just have to quote Lane Kenworthy in full (again).

In a Financial Times op-ed, Matthew Engel says

This month, it was revealed that the UK’s Gini coefficient, measuring inequality between rich and poor, had reached its highest level on record — after the longest period of Labour government ever. You do not have to be a Labour voter to wonder what, then, has been the point of it all.

I wouldn’t want to offer a full-scale defense of the Labour governments’ strategy (see ch.11 of this book for my views), but there is a reasonable response to this particular challenge. Inequality of market incomes has been increasing almost everywhere. Arguably, it has risen less, and government has done more to mitigate its impact, under Labour than would have been the case under the Conservatives. It’s impossible to know that for certain, of course, but the following data on inflation-adjusted income growth during the most recent periods of Conservative and Labour rule are consistent with this assertion.

Christian, ex-Ghosts of Alexander, etc, is building an online research portal for Tajikistan.

he writes "It’s sure to bring me fame, money and widespread international praise"
'If you’re so smart, how come you ain’t rich?'

i also want to quote Vim from the other week in full too, as he is also hitting it all over the park.
(i've nicked the graphs about cross-European comparisons and Estonian unemployment from the pages he linked from.)

“Fiscal responsibility” in the New Europe

Estonia is the poster child for austerity in Europe. In response to the crisis it has been “internally devaluing” and deflating its economy, heavily cutting government spending: its deficit went from 14% of GDP in 2008 to 2% in 2009. Estonia’s currency is pegged to the euro in anticipation of future membership. Its national debt is around 6% of GDP. 6%! (Its foreign currency reserves are half as big again). Estonia is Europe’s fiscal golden child. The market certainly thinks so: CDS on its sovereign debt are trading at about 90 bps; Greek CDS, by comparison are trading well over 300 bps. It must be a very rich country, then, to have saved all that wealth.


i am going to have quote Shuggy in full here, as he is so on the money in his latest post.

I'll write something sensible in due course. For now a couple of observations. First up, the sage that is Polly Toynbee. I'm working on the theory that the hot air she generates may be a major factor behind climate change. She repeats, in her latest pile of shite, this notion floating about that Labour didn't go for the 'progressive alliance' option because too many prefer the 'comfort of opposition'.

How comfortable or otherwise Labour feels in opposition is irrelevant. Labour is going into opposition because it lost the General Election. A pretty obvious point that you might have thought wouldn't need making - but apparently it does. The 'progressive alliance' was a stupid fantasy that bore no relation to reality. Not being very good at the predicting thing, I can't say whether Labour will be out of power for a generation but it is a fate that would have been more likely had they attempted this ridiculous coalition of losers option suggested by writers of a paper that advocated this mess in the first place.

So here we have it: the Liberals do a deal with the Tories and, true to form, various fuckwits whom I won't link to have the audacity to blame the Labour party for this? Because it was their outrageous connection with reality wot scuppered the 'rainbow alliance' where everyone would celebrate the gorgeous mosaic of their political diversity under PR. You know - the system that would have never won a majority in Parliament? (Turkeys, Christmas: fill in the spaces - I don't have time for remedial education.) So we'll get, on an optimistic prognosis, a return to some kind of Gladstonian liberalism - with added flip-charts. It takes a special kind of chutzpah to describe this as 'progressive'.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

re-upping again

love these boys

8'14" in, quality, the guy is a legend
adoring Idris Elba and Indira Varma and Ruth Wilson and Saskia Reeves and Warren Brown and Steven Mackintosh and Paul McGann in this

Do I look like I give a damn?
I didn't vote 'progressive' on Thursday, I voted Labour.

Shuggy, who has been characteristically sensible on the British election, makes a very good point about the Liberal Democrats here.

it is also good he gets in a dig at the often laudable LibCon site.

Ian Burtis at Shiraz says the most to-the-point thing i have seen all election here w his concluding two sentences (of course certain decent local liberals such as Tom Brake in Carshalton - which does not quite live up to the image of leafy Surrey we have up north - are, as a rule, exempt from any criticisms). Johann Hari, whose sober anti-Tory article from Hammersmith about the reality of Tory governance was probably the single best pre-election read in British journalism *, makes this same sort of mistake as the LibCon guy in terms of 'anti-Tory vote equals progressive'.

good that British and American troops are marching w Russian and French troops in Moscow in order to commemorate the defeat of Nazism.

also good that there are now three MPs in Britain who are women from Muslim backgrounds.

it's almost painful watching Gordon Brown fanny around.

* i am unsure if there were many articles about liberal eagerness to shaft the poorest sections of our society in places like Leeds, Ipswich and Birmingham.

(interesting statistic from Glasgow, btw. Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland, the third largest city in the United Kingdom and Ireland in overall terms, and one of the six largest conurbations in Britain and Ireland, alongside Leeds, London, Birmingham, Dublin and Manchester.)

Friday, 7 May 2010

disturbing claims from the AU in Mogadishu that militants are planning a wave of bombings.

Last weekend 40 people were killed in two attacks on mosques in Mogadishu and the southern port city of Kismayu.
Osler has a typically sensible article about the predictable failures of the small, left parties to do anything in last night's British general election.

There is a final warning on offer in last night’s voting statistics. The British National Party now has a palpable base several hundred strong in every working class area in Britain, something that need not have happened if the radical left had been able to articulate discontent at the base of society.

meanwhile, A Very Public Sociologist accurately dissects the results from one of those key BNP targets.

What did surprise me is the BNP vote. 7.7% is a lot but clearly out of step with the booming influence the fascists have enjoyed in The Potteries in recent years. I've just heard the BNP have lost one councillor in Bentilee to Labour, and the rumour mill has it their other sitting councillor will be dumped out too. Happy times. But again, the real action will take place at the all-out council elections next year. Whoever goes on to form the next government, the BNP could pick up disaffected votes and resume its ascendency. The only force capable of stopping the fascists is, with all its imperfections, the Labour party.

and finally, Peter Ryley's two comments here in reply to George Szirtes contain more elementary common sense - and, natch, human warmth, which you always get from Peter - than you will find in a month of MSM Sundays.

(in addition, the final, hopeful paragraph in Peter's actual post is clearly something to cross all crossables for.)

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Fuck the working man. Fuck his kids, that shit don't count.

Detective William "Bunk" Moreland.

Fuck the Greek working man. Fuck his kids, that shit don't count.

The IMF?
BBC: A statement from the militant group The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said it considered Mr Yar'Adua "a genuine peacemaker whose initiatives, humility and respect began to bring confidence to the peace process".
"His death may leave a vacuum that may not be filled," the statement added.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

shall we have a fucking tune?

yeah, why not

i was browsing the archives at silverdollarcircle and note on Tuesday the 10th of June, 2003, he writes (my emphasis in the quote; you'll have to scroll down a little bit i think w this link to the relevant date, as it doesn't seem to be too precise on the URLs- Blogger in can't run a bath shock, there's a surprise)

in fact, listening to ex-DHR artist Shizuo's 'Fuckstep' 1998 album the other day i was really struck by its similarities with the current london sound- the stripped down jungle elements, the monolithic, swarming bass, the off key stabbed-in orchestral samples. HOWEVER, i can't see an aphex/squarepusher/snares-esque strain of 'gutter garage' emerging simply due to the fact that the human voice, and more specifically the voice, accent and slang of london's working class youth, is such an important element in this music, which presents an immediate obstacle to any bedroom electronica musos wanting to offer their versions of the sound. of course, its likely that the electronica scene will start putting out instrumental tracks highly influenced by Grime in the next few years

bear in mind, i don't know anything about dubstep *, but that sounds like prescience to me (bearing in mind what i understand as that scene's origins had been plugging away a year or three before 2003, but didn't really break out massively until quite a bit later than June 2003, and certainly in any mainstream, or relatively mainstream, sense.)

silverdollar, legend, i salute you.

* i was listening to people like Jay Da Flex (especially) in the early 00's, who i gather is one artist that was involved in the early coalescing of the sound, but i genuinely think as to what you can call as a discrete genre, "dubstep", the first time i was really aware of dubstep (though granted, this is saying nothing w my background, which is less than dilettante where this sort of sound is concerned) was w 2006's debut album from Burial...

in the interests of completeness (what do you mean, the anal boy's got OCD?!), i want to correct something i wrote in the previous post here. i'll italicise what was wrong of me

i said "examples of the municipal councils across Britain where Liberal Democrats have come into coalition with the Tories (after both parties unseated their local Labour predecessors) and the remorselessly predictable demonstration from council after council showing that, where this has happened, Lib Dems have eagerly colluded in hard-nosed Tory strategies"

this could be read as saying that areas where this happens have seen Labour melt away to the third strongest party in raw numbers.

i was thinking of Ipswich and the UK's largest council by a country mile, Birmingham, in particular, when i wrote the above, though TBH i don't know if Labour were the third party in Ipswich or the Lib Dems just decided to side with the Tories anyway and sideline Labour. (i am pretty sure that was the case in Brum, to be fair, that Labour capitulated, crumpling into the third most popular party across that fine city, though i may be wrong there too, and it could be the case that the Lib Dems, say, had the third place but chose to leap-frog Labour to saddle up with the Conservatives. i will fact check on that aspect of Birmingham ward politics later.)

anyway, something Seumas Milne said corrects me (Stalinist schmuck i know, but even a stopped clock etc and he does pay far more attention to domestic British politics than i do, if only for professional reasons).

Milne noted the Lib Dems are more independent in foreign policy, and progressive on civil liberties, than New Labour. But in a dozen councils across England the party has opted to ally with the Conservatives – even when Labour is the largest party – and voted through cuts, closures and privatisations.

so clearly his detail about "even when Labour is the largest party" is a direct riposte to the sloppiness of my earlier post.
(and is, in truth, harsher on local Lib Dems than i was, though he is obviously right to be.)

Saturday, 1 May 2010

i mentioned Alex Morrison earlier and his two Guardian articles (one of which was about the Chagos Islands). the other is also good *, and it's about just another aspect of the slow drum-beat of utter wrongness that has typified asylum policy in the UK under New Labour (by which Labour and their main Conservative opposition attempt to play to the coarsest, most populist gallery available about immigration and asylum, by respectively enacting ever more draconian, petty and mean measures, or in the Tory case egging them on still further, piping up with base suggestions and opinions).

Using terrifying dawn raids to capture and imprison children is indefensible, especially given the remarkable scarcity of cases where families abscond. Whatever the arguments, imprisoning children is disproportionate, counterproductive and wrong. Freeing them with their families (thankfully, lone children are rarely detained in the UK) would be infinitely better and is easily achievable. A few "illegal" families free in the UK is a price worth paying. Freeing children also makes financial sense – the meagre benefits paid to asylum seekers amount to far less than the £130 a day it costs for each detainee in our multimillion-pound detention centres.

anyway, because i figure there's not enough links here today to oD articles (!), this is a neat excuse to throw out to Clare Sambrook explaining something genuinely disturbing about the failed asylum seeker {obligatory sic, to be blunt} removals mechanisms in the UK, and what truly distressing changes take place to some of this machinery in the run-up to a British general election.

When terrified men, women and children are being shunted off to countries where they face real and imminent risk of rape, torture, genital mutilation or death, an MP’s urgent appeal to government may tip the balance, stalling removal directions, making time to get legal advice.

But not during a general election campaign, when MPs lose their right to represent constituents' grievances. ‘We will not be able to respond to former MPs, or prospective parliamentary candidates on individual cases,’ says the UK Border Agency, ‘unless there is a signed letter of authority from the individual they are representing.’

For an asylum seeker banged up unexpectedly in a detention centre, isolated from help and support, with little English, no legal advice, restricted access to a fax machine, and facing a dawn deportation flight, the effect until May 6th is likely to be: no representation.


Two years ago, in a shaming indictment of UK asylum policy, Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed deep concern about, among other things, the ‘serious reduction of legal aid provided to asylum seekers’ — which leaves vulnerable people, who may have been tortured and raped, defending themselves in court against the Home Office’s experienced presenting officers. Hardly the ‘equality of arms’ enshrined in European law.

Hammarberg said the law should ‘expressly proscribe’ the ‘fast-tracking’ of especially vulnerable people, and strongly opposed the British practice of trusting diplomatic assurances from ‘countries with long-standing, proven records of torture and ill-treatment.’

‘Celerity and quality of decision-making in the complex field of refugee law and protection are rarely a matching pair,’ he said, urging the government to consider the risks to the quality of asylum decision-making before speeding up the process any further.

Giving Hammarberg the finger — ‘We deport someone every eight minutes,’ boasted home office minister Meg Hillier, out campaigning in Barking and Dagenham — the government has made asylum seekers more than ever reliant upon last-ditch interventions from MPs.

Since MPs’ appeals can and do make a difference to asylum-seekers facing removal, I asked the Border Agency whether arrangements had been made to counterbalance their loss during the election campaign.

A spokesman replied: ‘We only remove people that we and the independent courts deem to have no prospect of persecution. An MP’s appeal is not part of the process.’

After months of fearful uncertainty, the Sudanese woman and her three young daughters were granted refugee status earlier this year. But for MP Alistair Burt’s urgent and relentless interventions, they would have been returned last summer to the Sudan.

‘Who knows what becomes of them?’ Chris Mullin MP has said of children dispatched to places such as Congo, Angola or southern Sudan. ‘On rare occasions there is a letter or a phone call about what happened next. Sometimes the news is good; at other times it is not. Usually, however, there is only silence.’

i appreciate the way general elections work in the UK that, formally, the incumbent representative has to become - temporarily at least (or permanently if they fail to get re-elected) - a non-MP, and as Sambrook points out, last-minute interventions have become more common as New Labour have hollowed out more and more other avenues for protesting planned removals, increasingly forcing representatives and asylum seeker supporters on the back foot, but, still.

blow me. the election campaign cycle before voting day in the UK ain't that long, just a few weeks in earnest. let's hope the next government thinks of ways to address this glaring problem.
(the chances of them ameliorating the need for so many last-gasp, unsatisfactory late interventions are, sadly, obviously extremely slim. realistically, it will just get worse overall.)

* though the examples of the municipal councils across Britain where Liberal Democrats have come into coalition with the Tories (after both parties unseated their local Labour predecessors) and the remorselessly predictable demonstration from council after council showing that, where this has happened, Lib Dems have eagerly colluded in hard-nosed Tory strategies, is surely enough to indicate one should be wary of placing too much faith in Nick Clegg (who has joined the other two major British party leaders in recent televised debates in swaggering on immigration like any saloon yob) and Chris Huhne (who is obviously to be strongly applauded for speaking common sense in the story above, but had no reservations about showing a tough side re EU nationals working in the UK, during a BBC Question Time appearance not too long ago) on this most important of domestic British issues.

(still, hope springs eternal, eh.)
Alex Morrison details the debate within the Chagossian diaspora over the recent decision of Miliband to make a Marine Protected Area (a conservation area) around Chagos.

a Mauritius-based group oppose this MPA, seeing ulterior motives (and who can blame them for edginess, given the history of Britain and the Chagos Islands).

on the other hand, about half of the total diaspora, two thousand people or so, are resident in the UK these days, and the main UK-based group support a MPA, noting

“We are interested in the preservation of our homeland and we are backing the British Government on this,” said Allen Vincatassin, chairman of the Crawley-based Diego Garcian Society, the main islanders’ group in the UK. “We support the MPA and we believe the issue is separate from resettlement.”

After all, David Miliband has made it clear the establishment of the MPA is “without prejudice” to the current European Court of Human Rights case where islanders are fighting the British Government over their right to return.

“Without protection, Diego Garcia (the largest Chagos Island and home of the US military base) and the outer islands would have continued to be vulnerable to the effects of commercial fishing and the island’s natural resources would be threatened,” Mr Vincatassin said. “Not only will protection benefit Diego Garcians and other islanders should we win the right to return, but it will help us maintain our cultural and ancestral heritage, as well as benefiting millions of people who rely on the western Indian Ocean for their daily needs.”

The MPA is intended to protect the ocean environment from commercial damage, not a few subsistence fishermen, so there is no reason why it should prevent islanders returning one day.

i googled Alex Morrison and he is a Sussex-based journalist and freelancer. he has two articles at the Guardian, one of which is about the Chagossian future, written earlier this year (his above piece for openDemocracy reuses some of the phrases from this older Guardian piece, in discussing the options open for resettlement back in part of the island group).

in wanting to give the islands to Mauritius (excepting the elephant-in-room main island which the USA will take ownership of in 2016 in a military deal*), it seems like Britain's proposals will compound (certainly in the eyes of many of the diaspora) an already monstrous historical injustice. Morrison explains

The problem is the same as the one so callously ignored in the 1960s – the islanders. Despite Britain's appalling treatment, which meant decades of desperate poverty in Mauritius for many, Diego Garcians now living in the UK want the islands to remain British. "We were second-class citizens in Mauritius and if they govern the islands, we will be second-class citizens in our own land," says Allen Vincatassin, the man who champions islanders' rights in the UK.

From a small office in Crawley, West Sussex, a town where around 2,000 islanders and their descendents (about half the worldwide population) now live, he is fighting a desperate battle. "The British government has signalled its intention to cede the territory to Mauritius when Diego Garcia ceases to be a military base, whenever that may be," he says. "Our community does not want this. Mauritius would use these islands for financial gain, for business or as a military base, which would ignore the people.

"We want to be given our right to self-determination. That right is being suspended. Falkland Islanders had their rights protected by this country. The people of Gibraltar were given the right to decide on their future. We want the same right."

Vincatassin, head of the Diego Garcian Society, says Britain must listen to his people: "We are British Indian Ocean Territory citizens, which we are proud to be. We believe we are part of this country. In a normal situation the people would come first but it seems the state of Mauritius comes before the rights of our people."

Vincatassin, who was a small child when he left Diego Garcia, knows his people were wronged by Britain but says some of the damage was repaired when many islanders were given UK citizenship in 2002. "We want the right to return to our homeland, even though many people could not return to that life after so many years in a different world. It's so important to us because the islands are the only ancestral and cultural heritage we have. Without them, I think we are non-existent as a people."

There is no sensible reason why the outer islands, all of which are at least 140 miles from the US base on Diego Garcia, should not be resettled. The only question is who will support this minute island nation – London or Port Louis. It is time we listened to the exiled people of the Chagos Islands. Their answer is clear.

mentioning diaspora opinions reminds of the time Fred Halliday noted diaspora knowledge and opinions about trouble spots and injustices should not necessarily be privileged over the opinions of others, and their views should not be accorded more respect than a (relatively neutral) disinterested non-aligned onlooker.
(or words to that effect, i forget.)

worth mentioning in light of Halliday's sad recent passing. if it's an argument to (extreme example but!) ignore the next Ahmed Chalabi (so to speak) then fair enough. i can't remember what it was exactly and it was at a talk he gave at SOAS in 2007 for the Euston Manifesto 'conference' we attended (remember them?! hah), and i am doing his phrasing a disservice, but my ineffably lovely friend Ollie and myself were certainly a bit taken aback by that point of his talk.

* insert whatever editorialising you like, in the strongest language you can muster, about the absurd situation where a wealthy and very strong power takes 'ownership' of land nowhere near them after their client has ethnically cleansed all the original inhabitants- it is what it is, tragically
Meenakshi Ganguly writes here of the seemingly slim prospects for post-war accountability in Sri Lanka.

the article will be of no surprise to anyone who knows the subject.

An approach based on semi-private polite persuasion, often referred to as the “Asian way of diplomacy”, has been unable to convince President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Colombo government to respond to widespread international concern...The Rajapaksa administration reacted with characteristic venom...Furthermore, Sri Lanka is bound by international humanitarian law, according to which states are obligated to investigate allegations of war crimes committed by their citizens or on their territory and ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted. The Geneva conventions make clear that justice for war crimes is not solely a matter of a country’s “internal affairs”.


Both New Delhi and Tokyo often contend that their efforts at polite persuasion are more effective than the public condemnation they describe as the “western way”. There is a time and place for private diplomacy, but for years now the Sri Lankan government has ignored such behind-the-scenes advice.