Saturday, June 14, 2003

'THE IMPERIALISM OF HUMAN RIGHTS'
Interesting article from Eric Hobsbawm looking at the current American global reach in a historical context.

How is the world to confront - contain - the US? Some people, believing that they have not the power to confront the US, prefer to join it. More dangerous are those who hate the ideology behind the Pentagon, but support the US project on the grounds that it will eliminate some local and regional injustices. This may be called an imperialism of human rights. It has been encouraged by the failure of Europe in the Balkans in the 1990s. The division of opinion over the Iraq war showed there to be a minority of influential intellectuals who were prepared to back US intervention because they believed it necessary to have a force for ordering the world's ills.

There is a genuine case to be made that there are governments so bad that their disappearance will be a net gain for the world. But this can never justify the danger of creating a world power that is not interested in a world it does not understand, but is capable of intervening decisively with armed force whenever anybody does anything that Washington does not like.


There is a lot to say about Hobsbawm's article and it merits a more serious post than I have time for today. He makes some good points about the US's lack of colonial skills in Iraq but there are a number of criticisms I would also make of his arguments. Just for starters - I am not at all sure that America does not understand the world nor that it is not interested in it - Hobsbawm presents no evidence to support this assertion which appears to be contradicted by most recent evidence. If one rejects that assertion, does the imperialism of human rights really sound so bad?

Clearly Hobsbawm is right to note that the departure of the USSR has made it easier for the US to flex its muscles around the world but his analysis fails to make a single mention of the rise of an Islamic terrorism which has a global reach. Given that the US outlook to the world changed radically, fundamentally, as a result of a terrorist atrocity which awoke it to a global threat, this does seem to be a major aspect to ignore.



posted by BA on 8:16 AM link
IT'S STARTED

Iranian students have kick-started a protest in Tehran which has drawn in other sections of society. This is how revolutions start.

the last time I posted on the issue of Iran someone suggested that the planned Iranian general strike had been organised by the CIA. It is entirely possible that US agents are operating in Tehran in a similar way to the Iranian agents are operating in Iraq, but to fail to support the people of Iran as they attempt to bring freedom to their country because you suspect they might be receiving unspecified help from outside would be wrong and shortsighted. Any review of the history of revolution will show that representatives of outside interests are invariably present. The thing to remember is that outside interests can only organise coups. Popular revolutions are a different matter.

Revolutions come about because the ruling class cannot continue to rule in the old way and the ruled class do not want to be ruled in the old way. We will see how things develop in Iran but I am hopeful that a real resistance to the murderers is developing.




posted by marcus on 1:22 AM link
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT 2

Rod Liddle thinks that "Labour wants to keep Jeffrey Archer in jail because he is a hate figure from the days of Tory hegemony"

His evidence for that is "Archer is up for parole pretty soon, but he won't get it if David Blunkett and the Home Office have their way" According to Liddle Blunkett will deny Archer's parole and "an injustice will be perpetrated".

My understanding of the Archer parole issue is that Jeffrey decided to ignore the terms of his day-release conditions and ended up at Gillian Shepherd's cocktail party rather than being at home as he should have been. Liddle dismisses this as a "technicality" and states "choosing to spend it (freedom) drinking martinis with Gillian Shepherd is bizarre and perverse. But I'm not sure it should cost five months of a mans life" At the risk of sounding like a Daily Mail editorial I would like to point out that Archer was in an open prison and allowed to visit his family at home on day-release but seemingly that freedom wasn't enough for him and he decided unilaterally he needed the further freedom to attend parties with other Conservative Party members and decided to do so in contravention of his day-release conditions. In my opinion this sort of arrogance deserves to be rewarded by denying parole.

It also seems appropriate to deny parole when we remember the serious crimes for which Archer was originally jailed - perjury and perverting the course of justice. Ignoring Archer's breach of the day-release conditions, which is really another form of contempt for the law, would allow him to metaphorically thumb his nose at the whole criminal justice system and Blunkett cannot allow that if he is to be seen as a credible home secretary.

If even a small section of the right consider Archer to be either a political prisoner or a poster boy (TM - P. Cuthbertson 2003) they are in bigger trouble than they can imagine.

posted by marcus on 12:52 AM link

Friday, June 13, 2003

STALINISM RETURNS- LIVE AND EXCLUSIVE TONIGHT!

Yes tonight is the big night! The Communist University opens in London with speeches and festivities and fraternal greetings. I'm afraid comrades that I won't be able to make it as the CIA were on the phone and they want me to draft some new ideas on how best to divide the anti-imperialist forces of progress and you know, what can you say when duty calls?

I suspect most readers will be otherwise engaged tonight as well. But if you want a taste of what you are going to miss out on then simply read Stop the War leader Andrew Murray's incredible piece - 'Unity our strength' from the Morning Star - it should give you a perfect flavour of the nostalgia-fest that kicks off tonight. (And for those of you who have heard of a chap by the name of Rajani Palme-Dutt the Murray piece is one for the tribute album).

Comrade Murray sees dark forces ranged against a powerful movement which "almost stopped the imperialist war". These forces of reaction are

1. The Daily Telegraph (of course)
2. Journalist Nick Cohen whose "whining may amount to nothing more than a protracted resignation letter from the left, following in the unsteady footsteps of his hero Christopher Hitchens",
3. The comedian Mark Thomas (who dared to criticise Murray's new friends in the Socialist Workers Party)
4. The New Statesman (who dared to print articles by Thomas and Cohen).

A true axis of evil. But comrade Murray knows what is behind this unprincipled cabal.

All this is predictable. To the politically experienced, it is as transparently the work of imperialists as the direct pro-war propaganda.
But the movement needs to be on guard against this period, when the level of mass mobilisation is inevitably loweer and the millions drawn into protest for the first time in the early part of the year can be disorientated and driven back into apathy. Every opportunity needs to be taken to avoid these provocations, consolidate the breadth of the movement locally and nationally and entrench both the movement and its demands for peace and democracy as a permanent element in political life.


There is only one possible response to this:

Long Live Comrade Murray! Hail the unbreakable alliance of Trotskyism-Stalinism-Islamism!



posted by BA on 7:01 AM link
DEFIANT IN THE FACE OF LOGIC
Excellent article in the New Statesman from Timothy Garton Ash about American-European identity issues.

Thus the lead story in the New Statesman last week was not entitled "How to stop Bush". It was entitled "How to stop America". I don't want to live in a Europe that is trying to build its identity by asking itself how to stop America. It's hopeless, because to define yourself against the US will not unite Europe - it will split it down the middle, as we saw over the Iraq war. It split governments, with France, Germany and Belgium on one side, and most of the rest on the other. It split public opinion, with most people against war and against Bush, but certainly not against America. To be European today is, whether we like it or not (and I do like it), to be deeply intertwined with America - culturally, socially, economically, intellectually, politically. Why cut off your nose to spite your face? Why define yourself by who you are against, rather than by what you are for?

I wonder if the New Statesman will take heed?

On a lighter but still significant note, Garton-Ash points out the interesting contradictions that exist in Europe today:There are two characteristic figures in Europe today: the deeply Europeanised anti-European and the deeply Americanised anti-American. We have all met him, the pinstriped Tory Eurosceptic who has a house in Tuscany, is an expert on French wines and knows a great deal more about Wagner operas than Chancellor Gerhard Schroder does. (This last may, admittedly, not be saying a great deal.) We have all met her, the ageing German anti-American peace campaigner, whose inspirations are Woodstock, Joan Baez and not the German Martin Luther but the American Martin Luther King. Except that each in turn would protest: "I'm not anti-European, I'm just against the Brussels Eurocratic vision of a federal superstate", and "I'm not anti-American, I'm just against the inhuman, warlike policies of that Texan cowboy in the White House."

Which reminds me of an incident that occured a couple of years ago when I was travelling in that complicated corner of Northern Europe where you are not quite sure whether you are in Belgium, the Netherlands or Germany and where France is just down the road.

I had stopped at a service station for a quick cup of coffee but when I saw the Wallace Arnold coach parked in front of the entrance my heart sank and I knew it was going to be a long wait. Sure enough inside the cafe were a coach-party of southern English pensioners touring Europe. I took my place in the queue and in front of me a gentleman from the Home Counties and his wife were struggling to pay for two cups of coffee and two cream cakes. The chap was looking at a till that merely said 7.80 and he was in battle with a pile of shrapnel in his hand that consisted of French Francs, Belgian Francs, Dutch Gilder and German Marks and a few pfennigs.

After a few minutes had passed with whispers of incomprehension from the English customers and impatient yet understanding smiles from the check-out girl (who this being Europe spoke English as one of her three or four languages) and fearing an even longer than expected wait for my coffee, I decided to intervene. We were in the Netherlands after all and so I filtered out the gilders for the gent and handed over his cash. Rather embarassed the couple muttered some thanks to me and turned to head for their seat.

"Not at all," I said, "I suppose I can see why they want the euro," I added. To which the grey-haired gent from the Home Counties turned on his heels, stared at me and barked:"NEVER, NEVER, NEVER!!"

I wonder how many times he voted in the Daily Mail's referendum?

posted by BA on 3:09 AM link
SAY YES TO A FEDERAL SUPERSTATE!

Stephen Pollard makes this observation about the cabinet re-shuffle: Well, here it is - made flesh. John Reid, MP for Hamilton North and Belshill is now Health Secretary. He is unable to have anything to do with health in his own constituency and country. But he is responsible for the NHS in England. The joys, and lunacy, of our devolution structures

It is of course the old West Lothian question rearing its head again. We also have the problem of the position of the Scottish and Welsh secretaries, whose roles appear to have been made redundant by devolving powers to the First Ministers in Scotland and Wales. To add to this we have the presence of Lord Falconer, a London-based lawyer, who appears to have some responsibility for Scottish and Welsh (and English regional?) affairs and who, of course, does not have any constituency at all.

The problem here is that we don't actually have any devolution structures as such. We are quite clearly in a transitional phase where partial power has been devolved to the national assembly in Wales and the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh, where as well as the West Lothian question, we still haven't solved the Northern Ireland conundrum and the 'English question' has not even begun to be dealt with.

Add into yesterday's mix the Milburn resignation in which, according to some reports, the reluctance of his family to move to the capital played a key role. The idea that a Northern politican could play an important role in governing the North is sadly not yet a possibility.

Of course we still have John Prescott's proposals for regional assemblies on the table, which would, at the very least, democratise the already existing regional development agencies but which appear to have little support outside of the North and which are fairly low on the government's list of priorities. The media hardly seem interested in the question of when we are going to have a referendum on constitutional change which may be just as important as the not-yet written European constitution.

It may be very British to bungle along like this and hope that somehow, 20 or 30 years down the line we have reached a point where we have a defined and understood relationship between the component parts of the UK and Westminister and between whatever the UK has become and whatever the EU has become. But I suspect these challenges may require a little more than the usual faith in our unwritten constitution and the ability of common-sense to prevail.

In my mind the logic of this whole process is that Britain should become in effect, if not name, a federal republic, with clearly defined responsibilities for the nations and regions and with a more limited co-ordinating role for the (federal) parliament and (federal) government in London. Conservatives and nationalists would disagree and no doubt so would many other people.

But would it not make sense at this stage, as a basic first step, to create a Constitutional Convention to begin to look at these issues and attempt to find a solution?



posted by BA on 2:26 AM link
SPAM AND SEPTIC TANKS
I get next to no spam in my email inbox during working hours but every time I log on in the morning I am reminded that size matters and that my credit card options are endless. Bizarrely I even get a daily offer of a radical approach to dealing with my septic tank - I kid you not. The fact that all this spam arrives during the night led me to the conclusion that the septic tank factor was important.

Now this has been confirmed, according to this Guardian report: The EU is to introduce laws to curb spamming in October, but the world's 150 most prolific junk mailers are all based around one town in Florida, where there are no anti-spamming laws.




posted by BA on 1:55 AM link

Thursday, June 12, 2003

THE BATTLE OF IDEAS

George Monboit's new book The Age of Consent gets a sympathetic review from Johann Hari in the Independent.

I am looking forward to reading the book and as a taster Monboit himself provides a summary of his ideas on his own website.

Some might be surprised that Hari is broadly positive about Monboit's book but that is because both these commentators are often misunderstood. Hari was a supporter of armed revolution in Iraq and is an advocate of the US exporting of democracy but he has also spent a good deal of time demanding that his friends in the 'anti-globalisation' movement start coming up with some positive suggestions for change and transform themselves into a global justice movement and Hari is a man of the left.

Monboit's melodramatic style in the Guardian and his opposition to the US makes it easy to mistakenly lump him in with the Trotskyists and other ultra-left elements but remember that while he opposed a US-led war to liberate Iraq he was not against the idea of an international military intervention per se. That might make him a little opportunist or possibly naive but unlike many on the radical left he is a thinker. And he has responded directly to Hari's appeal for a constructive approach from the critics of globalisation. Indeed he uses the term global justice movement that Hari has pushed frequently.

I find a lot to disagree with in Monboit's writings but I am keen to read his book because he approaches the fundamental question about globalisation: Our task is not to overthrow globalisation, but to capture it, and to use it as a vehicle for humanity's first global democratic revolution. That makes Monboit a radical minority amongst the 'no-global' crowd and as you might have gathered I like radical minorities on the left.

Hari though does make some keen observations and criticisms in his review:

Firstly, Monbiot does not provide a mechanism for spreading democracy into nations living under totalitarianism. This is a big hole in his theory. His vision is one which is explicitly designed to hem in the USA; but it is an America committed to spreading the values of its own revolution which is the best hope for many peoples on earth to rid themselves of their dictators. A global democracy where most of the world is excluded by their own autocratic rulers is scarcely worth having. His notion that underground elections might be held in countries like Saudi Arabia and North Korea is plainly impractical, and his idea that the exiled community might vote on behalf of their oppressed countrymen is a poor alternative for actually seeking to spread democracy.

Secondly, his notion that class and (ultimately) global identities are superseding nationalism is, I am sure, mistaken. A "species awareness", a sense that, as humans, we are all in it together will inevitably have to overlap with, rather than replace, national identities. Monbiot's contention otherwise is one of the few places where the utopian charge against him will stick. Thirdly, the only point at which Monbiot strikes a false note is when he vaguely predicts that capitalism will ultimately be "destroyed". This smacks of him trying to retain his radical constituency rather than an offer a plausible prescription, especially given the fact that it follows his passionate and persuasive defence of the ability of regulated market-based trade to increase wealth in poor countries.

But these criticisms merely mark the fact that this is a weighty book which must be engaged with. At last, the global justice movement has found a vision as expansive and planet-wide as that of the American neoconservatives. Let the battle of ideas commence.


Indeed, let it commence. But will it?

This summer there are a whole series of left-wing 'schools' and 'universities' in London where the orthodoxies of early 20th century Marxism and Leninism, the dead propaganda of the cold war, will be parroted by the weary ideologues of the ultra-left. But I have yet to find any event for the divergent views of the heretical left, for people like Hari and Monboit and from differing perspectives John Lloyd and Nick Cohen to come face to face and discuss these much more pertinent issues.

Would it really be too difficult to organise? It certainly needs to be done and not just because it would be an entertaining debate. With the dreadful state of orthodox left thinking I am convinced that it is out of the clash of ideas between heretic thinkers that the seeds of a new radical left agenda can emerge - we need some sparks to fly.

.

posted by BA on 4:11 PM link
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

Trupti Patel has been found found not guilty of murdering her three children. Her defence was aided immesurably by expert medical evidence provided by Professor Michael Patten. As is well known in criminal cases the prosecution also call their own expert evidence in an attempt to back up their case.

In my experience it's perfectly possible to prove anything by coming up with an expert opinion. The trouble is science is just much more subjective than scientists like to think. It's also worth remembering that he who pays the piper calls the tune and that in the English courts it's still the norm to have two expert witnesses, each paid by a seperate party to the litigation.

The subjective nature of science when brought to the courtroom is the main reason I can't take seriously those who call for the return of capital punishment. It's just too easy to make mistakes in murder trials and there is no right of appeal when you are dead.

posted by marcus on 1:30 PM link
SPLITTERS !

I don't know if Spectator journalist Aidan rankine has been visiting Harry's Place but his article in this weeks magazine is his own take on the topic du jour, that of the behaviour of the contemporary right aping that of the ultra-left. He dissects various factions of the Tory party and draws some interesting conclusions.

posted by marcus on 1:11 PM link
THE GREATEST AMERICAN IS....

The BBC is running a poll on its website to vote for the Greatest American of all-time as part of an upcoming global debate about the USA's place in the world. And look whose winning?

Call me a humourless bastard, call me a conspiracy theorist, but this smells of one of those co-ordinated attempts to rig a vote with organised block voting - time for a bit of investigating. Still, if Homer wins, should at least be fun to watch the right-wing US bloggers get all het up about the latest BBC slur against their nation.

posted by BA on 8:07 AM link
FAMILY FIRST

Alan Milburn has quit as Health Minister for family reasons.Tom Happold's report on Guardian Unlimited ends like this:

Reacting to the suggestion that political commentators would be looking for ulterior motives behind Mr Milburn's decision, the MP replied: "I understand that and they are wrong. I understand that there will be motives suggested about this. There will be implications and there will be the wildest of conspiracy theories about this."

Mr Milburn added: "But it comes down to a simple thing - a personal choice."

Discussing his future, Mr Milburn said: "You get one shot in life with kids. You get one chance to see them grow up. I have not been there and I want to be there."
Describing the kind of life politicians lead, Mr Milburn added: "I think it's a crazy way of life and a mad way of life. People have different ways of dealing with it - but this was an intensely personal choice."


Knowing our media and our political elite I am sure there will be speculation about the 'real reasons' . But I hope for once Milburn's motives will be taken at face value. He was doing fine as a politician and he was trusted and highly-rated by Tony Blair. The reforms of the NHS may have tested his ability to carry the party with him but they have hardly begun. I don't have the inside story on this but there seems no pressing political reason for Milburn to go.

As a father with a time-consuming career myself I know exactly what Milburn is talking about and I am sure some of you do to - this will be an interesting test of how far Britain has come in accepting the difficulties fathers face in balancing their family commitments with their careers.

It is easy to cynically mock the 'spending more time with my family' explanation, because so many politicians have used it as an excuse in the past. But there is really nothing wrong with spending more time with your family is there? If we want our politicians to be 'in touch with ordinary people' why should we expect them to sacrifice those ordinary, but valuable, family experiences, to the demanding world of politics?


posted by BA on 5:30 AM link

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

THE STALINISTS AND TROTS OF THE NATIONAL REVIEW
A few posts ago I highlighted an interesting article from the National Post by Jeet Heer detailing the captivating journey from Trotskyism of some of the neo-conservatives.

Now, I imagined that a few modern-day 'third camp' Trots, such as these people in London might feel slightly embarassed by the linkage between the followers of Old Leon and their enemy George Bush but it never entered my head that a raving right-winger would be furious about the suggestion.

But Arnold Beichman is absolutely livid in this National Review article where he totally misses the point and blasts: "Now there is little new in conspiracy theories about American politics and politicians. And it's easy to shout "McCarthyism" at the York University academic as he describes pro-war intellectuals, like the historian Paul Berman as having "a Trotsky-tinged past" but there is something more sinister at work here: to rob the Coalition, which destroyed a terrorist haven and an inhuman dictatorship, of the moral victory it represents.

So if ex-Trots agree with you, it robs you of your moral victory? Sounds a familiar line of argument and as Stephen Schwarz, an ex-Trot turned military interventionist himself, points out in a well-argued reply to Beichman: Stalinists loved to describe Trotskyists as "sinister," and here Beichman does not disappoint. The real intent of Jeet Heer, according to him, was "something… sinister…: to rob the Coalition, which destroyed a terrorist haven and an inhuman dictatorship, of the moral victory it represents." This, presumably, was to be effected by associating Donald Rumsfeld with Trotsky at Kronstadt.

Well, I consider Beichman's intent more sinister: to exclude (Christopher) Hitchens and myself from consideration as reliable allies in the struggle against Islamist extremism, because we have yet to apologize for something I, for one, will never consider worthy of apology."


Schwarz's article is well-worth a read in full if you are interested in this whole thing of ex-Trot neo-cons (and I am fascinated by it) but on another level isn't it odd and slightly amusing to read, in one of America's leading conservative journals, people brandishing accusations of Kronstadt guilt and Stalinism around like student union lefties?

Strange times, strange times.



posted by BA on 2:49 PM link
SOUR GRAPE BLOGGERS
Bobbie of PolitX gets stuck into the boasting bloggers and one in particular. And on that note the ban on blogging about blogging is back in force.

posted by BA on 8:18 AM link

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

A RIGHT-WING LIBERTARIAN WRITES...
And while we are on the topic of political labels that people like to throw around as insults (yes it was you Matthew Tempest!) and while this week I am totally trashing my rule about not blogging about blogging, I can't avoid pointing out a brilliant piece from our genuinely libertarian friends at Samizdata.

Committed ideological libertarians, like committed Marxist-Leninists, know that everything, but everything, can be explained through the prism of their ideology. Now when I was a student and the liberatarians of the Federation of Conservative Students were at the peak of the Thatcherite Revolutionary tee-shirt madness, we commies used to have little jokes about how the FCS chaps would manage to explain everything, but everything, in relation to either a market stall or a corner shop.

So while we were demanding subsidised beer in the students union (served by unionised staff being paid a fair wage), they were insisting that the management of the bar given the autonomy to test prices in the market place - if the beer was too expensive, the customers will not come again and the bar staff will have to adjust their prices., they demanded.

But not even those retrospectively hilarious discussions can compete with Perry's piece on Why Blogging is not democratic:

But you, the reader, do not get a vote on what get written in the articles on Samizdata.net. You may agree with what an article says or you may utterly disagree, but what gets written does not depend on how popular those sentiments are. We write what we want to write.

Where you do get to choose is whether or not you decide to come back and read us again. Much as in an open market, I might decide to try and sell my fruits and meats to those who pass by, yet I cannot force them actually purchase any of my goods if they do not wish to. They cannot stop me offering for sale those things I think makes economic sense but if I am wrong about what the market wants or if others make a better offer, then the passers by will choose to shop with someone else......


Can I enter the spirit of this debate for a moment? I consider this blog to be produced by vanguard elements, carefully selected on the basis of their steely and tried and trusted commitment to the movement. It is not a popular, broad, democratic organ, but rather concise propaganda aimed at the level of the advanced worker, that key strata from which the revolutionary cadre will be drawn. Those who read this blog and turn away to more popular sources are rejecting the objective reality that we scientifically present and are in fact suffering from false consciousness........................



posted by BA on 2:57 PM link
A ZIONIST NEO-CON WRITES...
Christopher Hitchens has a point about the demonisation of Paul Wolfowitz in his Slate article today and suggests, in rather uncharacteristically coy fashion, that anti-semitism is at play.

This tendency has been noted here before in the British context, in particular relation to the New Statesman's 'outing' of suppposed British neo-cons and the Tam Dalyell outburst, and there is little doubt that there are sections of the anti-war movement that are playing on the supposedly sinister nature of the 'shadowy neo-con cabal'.

As others have noted there is nothing at all shadowy or secretive about the neo-cons at all. For crying out loud they are one of the most high-profile and successful political factions in the world's most powerful democracy and they are not particularly shy about it at all - in fact if anything they are, to use Stalin's old phrase, "dizzy with success" at the moment.

But I still can't get over the amount of times that supposedly intelligent left-wing anti-war people point to the Project for a New American Century with a knowing look, as though it were some secretive anti-democratic conspiracy that we have all fallen victim to.

Look, they even have their own website and make public all their documents. Read what it says on the label: The Project for the New American Century intends, through issue briefs, research papers, advocacy journalism, conferences, and seminars, to explain what American world leadership entails. It will also strive to rally support for a vigorous and principled policy of American international involvement and to stimulate useful public debate on foreign and defense policy and America's role in the world.

In other words it is what we in the UK would call a think tank. It happens to be one that has been very active and very successful at getting its agenda adopted and there happen to be Jewish people involved in it but so what? Since when has the left taken the view that the presence of Jewish individuals in an organisation makes the organisation Jewish?

The only time until recently that I have heard this sort of view was from drunken East European reactionaries who were trying to convince me that communism was a Jewish invention and so was international capitalism. It is a view that has some history in that part of the world but I never thought I would hear the echoes of that same argument from western left opinion.

I supported the armed overthrow of the Saddam regime but I am not a neo-con. As a socialist I obviously don't see radical free-market policies as the solution to all the world's ills and while I am more supportive of the neo-con international agenda I am wary of the zealotry in their approach. I would have liked to have seen the United Nations do the post-war work in Iraq not the bungling US military and I'd like to see George Bush lose the next election and be replaced by a progressive Democrat - hardly the Wolfowitz agenda.

Yet, purely it seems because of my position on the Iraq war, a British communist told me the other day that I had "swallowed neo-con and Zionist propaganda hook, line and sinker". Given that I have hardly made a comment here or anywhere else on Israel and Palestine, the comrade must be of the view that 'Zionists' were behind the Iraq war. Now either he really means Zionist, in which case some evidence needs to be made of Israel's involvement in the war and their incredible ability to pass legislation in Washington and win votes in the British parliament or in fact, as I suspect, he is simply using the old technique of calling Jews 'Zionists' in order to avoid the charge of anti-semitism.

It is happening all the time and we have even reached the stage where a columnist for the Guardian has to write an article entitled 'Note to the left - there is no all-powerful Jewish lobby' - an article which is full of examples of this worrying trend.

Lets be frank, all this talk about the PNAC conspiracy, people who make Freudien slips about 'Israelis in the US government' and all the things that Hitchens talks about in reference to Wolfowitz and that Aaronovitch recounts, do remind one of those people who babble on about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion don't they?

And lets not pretend that anti-semitism is something which has never had any influence on the left. Stalin's campaigns against the 'rootless cosmopolitians' and the 1950's Polish communist purges of the 'Zionists' were pretty blatant examples and there have always been furtive whisperers and nodders and winkers in all kinds of left organisations.

Yet never, never until these recent months, has such trading in anti-semitic stereotypes been used so frequently on the 'radical left' in western democracies. It remains, thankfully, a minority pass-time, but it is high time it was nipped in the bud.







posted by BA on 12:31 PM link
ARE YOU A WHORE OR A ZEALOT?

James Crabtree of VoxPolitics says that the recently published political map of weblogs tells us more about the linking policies of bloggers than their ideology. Given that the map is based on the kind of links that the blogs pick up he is clearly right.

After all Andrew Sullivan and Instapundit, who would both be on the hard right of the Tory Party are at the centre (!!!) of this map, while Matt Welch, a kind of contrarian liberal, features on the far right. As James says there are two types of linkers - zealots who link to their ideological pals and whores who either link to everyone or to people they like to criticise.

A look at this blog's links would have me clearly in the whore category and it is of course a term I became accustomed to hearing during the pre-war debate. But come to think of it, all British blogs link across the ideological divide so are we all whores now?

Reading Vox Politics also took me to this interesting article by James on the Left and Blogging.

The blogsphere is an example of Willard Quine's coherence theory of truth: that things are true if they agree - or appear to agree - with other things that are held to be true. Right-wing bloggers are thus creating their own world, in which their truth exists often without debate. And the same may be about to happen in the UK. The journalist Stephen Pollard, the only British political blogger on the left, notes: "There are plenty of new British political blogs. And they are all - all - on the right." But political blogging is in its infancy here. It remains up for grabs. Got a computer? Got a view? Get blogging. There is a war to be won.

Indeed. If Pollard is the only major blogger of the left (and he calls himself a neo-conservative remember and names Rumsfeld as his political hero) isn't it about time we lefties did something about this?

Watch this space.......






posted by BA on 8:31 AM link
EVERYONE HAPPY THEN?
So much analysis and comment about the Euro statement that a poor blogger (especially an agnostic on the euro) doesn't know where to start. Well, probably with British Spin, who as usual manages to cut through the crap and get to the nitty gritty:

So why is everyone so happy? Paradoxically, I suspect it's because they've both got what they don't want. The NO campaign don't want a referendum, but secretly they long for it, because they think they'd win. The YES campaign don't want a delay, but secretly the need one so they can get their campaign ready.





posted by BA on 8:10 AM link
THOSE THAT CAN...

Had a chuckle at this email from a reader in response to my post on the US bloggers who are getting carried away with their supposed scalping of the New York Times.

Remember the old jibe about teaching? "Those that can, do. Those that can't, teach"? As far as journalism is concerned perhaps it is a case of: "Those that can, do. Those who would like to, blog".






posted by BA on 4:13 AM link
BLACK IN THE UNION JACK?

ReFlag is a campaign to change the union jack flag by the year 2006 to greater reflect the diversity of the UK by including black in the flag. It has been launched by a chap in London called Nigel Turner.

The UK has come a long way in the last 50 years to creating a true multiracial society. It's time to wave the flag and celebrate the progress that's been made!

A number of countries around the globe have black in their flags to represent the colour of their people. It makes sense for the UK to have black and white in our flag, to represent the different races and cultures which make up the country at the beginning of the third millennium.

We haven't conquered racism, nor many other forms of prejudice, but by changing the nation's main emblem, we can reclaim the union flag from those who have hijacked it for their own ends, so that our flag reflects the diversity of the people of the UK.


The Scotsman gives the idea short shrift in an editorial today There is always a risk of patriotism shading into chauvinism. But Mr Turner is being ridiculously literal. Does anyone suggest that the Stars and Stripes is not representative of black Americans? Or that the new Rwandan flag, with its poignantly golden sun on a light blue background, should be condemned for failing to convey the skin colour of its people?

The spirit of a flag derives from the spirit of a nation. Americans used theirs as a symbol of freedom and defiance after 9/11. Whether the Union flag welcomes all comers has nothing to do with its colour.


Having just spent a few days back in Lancashire where the racist British National Party are making serious ground, I'd like to tell Mr. Turner that his silly idea will do absolutely nothing to tackle real racism. On the contrary it will play straight into the hands of the BNP and other racists.

If Mr.Turner has the time and energy to devote to updating the symbols of state perhaps he might be better served dealing with the appalling excuse for a national anthem we have to put up with?




posted by BA on 3:10 AM link
THE LOOTED TRUTH
David Aaronovitch reviews the lies and reality of the looting of the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad:

Furious, I conclude two things from all this. The first is the credulousness of many western academics and others who cannot conceive that a plausible and intelligent fellow-professional might have been an apparatchiks of a fascist regime and a propagandist for his own past. The second is that - these days - you cannot say anything too bad about the Yanks and not be believed.

Well unless you are the Guardian reporting the words of Paul Wolfowitz perhaps.

posted by BA on 2:47 AM link

Monday, June 09, 2003

IDEAS ABOVE THEIR (TECH CENTRAL) STATION?
Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, likes his buzzwords and loves hyping blogging, so the breathless claims from some commentators that the 'blogosphere' brought down the New York Times editor has not surprisingly sent him and others OTT.

Buzzword of the day - horizontal knowledge. Now that might sound like the title of a porn film to you and me but to Reynolds it means the profound, ground-breaking awareness that: "As the world grows more interconnected, more and more people have access to knowledge and coordination. Yet we continue to underestimate the revolutionary potential of this simple fact."

In other words, we have more information about things and bloggers (hoorah!) have realised this while 'old media' or 'big media' (boo!) have yet to wake up to this radical, nay, revolutionary, change in our societies.

In particular the lefty slackers at the New York Times (boo! boo!) have paid the price of failing to realise that people know stuff now. But fear not, for whoever takes over the helm of the NYT can count on some free advise from the Pundit.

"As I've suggested in more detail here, it would be child's play to take RSS feeds from a number of weblogs, filter them to extract the references to stories in the Times, and then have an ombudsman look at those references to see if correction, amplification, or investigation is called for. A newspaper that did that (and it could just as easily be done by any major paper, not just the Times) would be enlisting a huge (and unpaid!) army of fact-checkers, and could fix mistakes within hours of their appearing, thus turning inside its competition and enhancing its reputation, all at very low cost."

In other words the New York Times and other papers should employ someone to read those very important and revolutionary weblogs (including perhaps Instapundit? You betchya) and then they would hopefully, finally, realise that lots of people now know about lots of things.

What a great job! Sitting around all day reading blogs and getting paid for it by someone else! I wonder where Mr Pundit got that idea from?

But wait a minute. Don't newspapers and other media organistions already get hundreds of emails a day from their readers? In fact I bet some even get letters and phone calls as well. When they make mistakes don't they nearly always find out and find out quickly from their readers?

Hasn't this already been happening for, well, several years now?

In fact here is a revolutionary question - why does someone complaining about a newspaper on a weblog have any more validity or importance than the ordinary reader who phones/writes/emails his complaint to the editorial department?

Whisper it in case he hears but perhaps weblogs that complain about the media all the time are really no more significant than good old Disgruntled of Western-Super-Mare?

posted by BA on 10:03 AM link
THE FIRST BLOGGING MINISTER?
American bloggers may still be basking in the glory of having helped forced a newspaper editor to have resigned but the British blogosphere might be just about to outdo our friends across the Atalantic for once.

According to the cannily informed British Spin (and the Sunday Times among others), our blogging MP could soon be a blogging minister.

posted by BA on 7:01 AM link
TROTTING AROUND THE MIDDLE EAST

Another interesting piece on the Trotskyite roots of some key Washington neo-conservatives in the National Post.

Jeet Heer traces neo-con thinking from the 'Third Camp' position of the revisionist US Trotskyist Max Schactman, who rejected the orthodox position of 'defending' the USSR by the novel method of calling for its overthrow. Instead he opted for outright hostility to the Soviet Union. Schactman ended up a leading figure in the hard-line cold warrior wing of the US labour movement and was a supporter of the Vietnam war.

It is an interesting article but it ommits one key component of Trotskyite thinking which I think is crucially also a central element of the neo-con appraoch.

One of Trotsky's many criticisms of Stalin was that he was not interested in 'exporting the revolution' . It was a view which looked a bit silly after 1945 but that didn't stop British and American Trots from continuing to spout the same line that Stalin was only interested in 'socialism in one country' even after the spread of Soviet state socialism to the whole of Eastern Europe (never mind the small matter of China).

The idea was that it was the responsibility of the revolutionary centre (ie Moscow) to promote and support revolutions globally, possibly it seems with the use of force (old Leon was always a bit vague about this latter part, possibly because he spent his exile living on the grace of capitalist governments).

Now, are the neo-cons not taking the US as the centre of the democratic, global capitalist revolution? And are they not enthusiastically supporting the export of the revolution, on occassions by force? Are they not keenly hoping for strikes and uprisings in places like Iran.

In contrast their enemies on the right are the isolationist conservatives who are more content to follow a policy of 'democratic capitalism in one country' and to settle for a form of 'peaceful coexistence' with anti-democratic regimes?

(thanks to Chris for the link)

posted by BA on 5:17 AM link

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