Tuesday, 30 November 2010

i note the wiki for the Scottish painter Peter Howson (an artist who, among other pursuits, cranks out enjoyably large canvases with visceral gusto, and does some corking album covers, as my flatmate and i were saying to each other) refers to his time as an official war artist during the "Bosnian Civil War".

this precise phrase, civil war, is actually used twice in the wiki (at time of posting).

it's almost certainly an innocent tag but the word civil really needs to be dropped from the description.

the Bosnian war was a war of federal Yugoslav and Serb aggression; 'civil' could imply an attempt to get into moral equivalences.

there should be absolutely no room for anything remotely resembling equivalency when discussing the murderous assault on Bosnian Muslim society that was the major part of this war (that obviously tragically affected all communities in Bosnia), and to deliberately say otherwise is a rank piece of ethical bankruptcy that must be met with continuous contempt.

no room at all.

if you know about the subject, you'll be familiar with the name (and probably this forthcoming hat tip), and no apologies for linking again to the Marko Hoare article 'What do the figures for the Bosnian war-dead tell us ?'

Monday, 29 November 2010

in a shop the other day and their stereo was playing Do they know it's Christmas (yes that time of the year is looming), which reminded me of two things (by bloggers i occasionally link to anyway) i wanted to excerpt a bit and link to.

both articles are by the Barders.

Brian Barder was the British ambassador to Ethiopia during the mid-1980s when famine struck Ethiopia and the international community responded with famine relief aid; five years ago he wrote this letter to the Guardian in protest at a David Rieff article then doing the rounds (i remember a few blogging peers finding Rieff's line sympathetic; i was personally ambiguous).

the BBC has recently apologised for broadcasting a load of old turkey about the international famine relief effort in a stupidly misleading World Service documentary broadcast this past spring, in March.

Barder has blogged more than once on his site about this, but it's worth reading in full his excellent account from late March taking the BBC to task. it's here, and i want to quote in full the summary at the start of his piece (it's a fairly long article overall).

the final two sentences of Barder's summary are really, really important, and, i fear, may well be prescient. (even with the BBC apologising - after Brian wrote this particular article, it must be said - the damage has been at least partly done, for sure.)

A BBC World Service documentary programme broadcast in early March 2010, and the advance publicity for it, gave the impression that a huge proportion of the famine relief aid given by the international community to Ethiopia in the 1980s was diverted from starving people to buy arms and ammunition for use in the civil war then raging in northern parts of the country. The specific allegations made by the BBC about the diversion of aid related only to the tiny proportion that was supplied by some NGOs to rebel-held areas, a distinct and very small part of the total relief effort in Ethiopia at the time. The incorrect inference has been drawn that a substantial part of the total aid to Ethiopia, including the much larger sums provided to the government-ruled parts of Ethiopia, were diverted for military use, including the aid raised and managed by Band Aid. While the programme did not make this claim explicitly (just as well, since it would certainly have been exposed as false), either deliberately or negligently the BBC has allowed, and to some extent encouraged, this misunderstanding of its findings, and has failed to point out (other than sotto voce) that its allegations related to a quite separate, and very small, part of the aid. As a result, there is now a widely held and completely false perception that a substantial proportion of the aid given to Ethiopia in the 1980s was diverted for military use. This has potentially disastrous implications for public attitudes to future emergency relief appeals, and to development aid generally.

Brian's son Owen is a development and aid specialist who lives in Addis.

earlier this month, on November 4th, at his blog, Owen posted this piece.

the introduction gives a good flavour of his feelings.

It has entered our collective consciousness that a large part – perhaps as much as 95 per cent – of the aid given to Ethiopia during the 1980s famine was diverted for military use. This misapprehension was caused by a misleading programme on 4th March, compounded by the BBC’s publicity for the programme on television and radio and online.

As Mark Twain remarked, “a lie will fly around the whole world while the truth is getting its boots on”.

Today the BBC has apologised. The apology is abject, and rightly so

Friday, 19 November 2010

PLEASE go away Canadian Tories

Graeme: "Seriously, fuck this government sideways in the ass with a broken bottle."

true - this one is genuinely disturbing, a shocking attack on democratically willed efforts to combat climate change from unelected Tory senators

see also - er, so's this.


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Now the Tories are pouring out money in propaganda of all sorts and are hoping by this organised sustained mass suggestion to eradicate from our minds all memory of what we went through. But, I warn you young men and women, do not listen to what they are saying now. Do not listen to the seductions of Lord Woolton. He is a very good salesman. If you are selling shoddy stuff you have to be a good salesman. But I warn you they have not changed, or if they have they are slightly worse than they were.

- Aneurin Bevan, 3 July 1948

That's a sin

- Iain Duncan Smith, 11 November 2010

Mr Duncan Smith's defenders (including Nick Clegg in this paper on Wednesday) like to compare the scale and intention of his plans with the Beveridge report of 1942. They forget there was a second Beveridge report, in 1944: Full Employment in a Free Society. He knew that without jobs, the welfare state wouldn't work.

- The Guardian, 12 November 2010

There are at least 18 millionaires in the cabinet...Though few people seemed to notice, on 3 November, a Treasury minister named Lord Sassoon served notice that the coalition's work on City bonuses was done: "The government has taken action to tackle unacceptable bonuses in the banking sector," he said, and that seemed to be that. Six days later, Barclays announced that its latest bonus pot would total £1.6bn – which is about a third of what the government currently spends each year on university teaching. The annual season of big executive payouts is about to commence once again

- John Harris, 12 November 2010

The latest wheeze is the welfare reforms being proposed. I haven't read them in detail, but the language is clear enough; penalties for refusing a job, compulsory community work, and the idea of unemployment as a lifestyle choice. Underpinning it all is the dreadful notion of dependency culture. I hate this concept. I can find little in the way of empirical grounding and even less of empathy and understanding. In many ways, and I intend to cover this in a subsequent post, it is anti-liberal and even authoritarian in its import. It brings no great insights, it is simply a regurgitation of the worst prejudices of the Philosophic Radicals of the early 19th Century. Its attraction lies in it being a neat way of making punitive policies sound compassionate - 'tough love' in the revolting parlance of the Clinton era. Government as Victorian father. Spare the rod and spoil the child.

I want to make a stand for dependency. What is wrong with it? Why should some people not be dependent? After all, we are all dependent at some time or other in our lives. When we are children, ill or old are obvious examples of times when we cannot function without support. And though we prize our independence, it is a sign of a civilised society that those who fall dependent at any one time are cared for in whatever way they can be. Even more, like it or not, we cannot escape the ties of emotional dependence. Actually, we treasure them and those that don't have them long for them. We are all dependent. Love is not tough.

Dependency is not a stigma, it is an inescapable part of human life. We need dignity in dependence.

- Peter Ryley, 12 November 2010