Tuesday, December 30, 2008

There ain't no "just war", there's just war.

A very strange Aaro column on Gaza, one which has taken much time and rumination to Watch, and which has been the subject of widely diverging views in our comments boxes. It's a disgraceful piece of apologism! It's a level-headed assessment! It's constructive! It's repulsive! It's realistic! It's pie-in-the-sky! In fact it is all these things at once, which is why it's taken so much time ... In the end, I decided that there are so many different and seemingly contradictory things going on here, the only possible way to tackle this piece is to take a Straussian reading - the true meaning of Aaro's column is to be established by looking not at his literal words, but at precisely the opposite of what he appears to be saying[1]. But before we can do even this, we have to chuck away a good third of the column as being basically useless dreck.

There is, as ever, a clue in the conversational hed; "That's enough pointless outrage about Gaza"[2]. We established last time round with this that Aaro doesn't usually write these headlines and thinks the conversational ones are overused, but nonetheless, the sofa rule applies and the conversational headline is almost always an indicator that the sub didn't understand the point, or didn't think it was interesting. And who can blame the poor bugger in this case, when, the taste of brandy butter still in the back of his throat, he had to come up with something to describe "Aaronovitch on proportionality".

Aaro begins the thing raging and kicking shit out of strawmen and "Gallowegian" MPs (oh please, my sides), while talking such a line of rubbish about proportionality that he ought to have known (and surely would, if he'd stopped to think for even a second) that he was doing so. These paragraphs are not to be read, however, they have a different function, which is not unlike the function of a big black cloud of ink emmmitted by a squid. That is, they serve to obfuscate an important matter, in order to allow the ink-chucker to make his escape.

The thing is that, with respect to Israel as with so much else, where you stand depends to a very great extent upon where you sit. Aaro wants to write a column about the current situation in Israel and Gaza, and he wants to mention what the facts of the matter are. However, any simple factual recitation of what's happened is going to end up looking like a criticism of Israel. This is because Israel's actions with respect to the Palestinians have been very very morally wrong for a long time, and any even remotely objective historical account is going to end up making this very obvious.

And so, if you have lots and lots of friends who are strong partisans of Israel, write a column for the Jewish Chronicle which has a new editor who is a violent partisan of Israel, and your main gig is writing for the Times comment section, whose editor is also a fairly strident partisan of Israel[3], then writing a reasonably objective column about Israel is going to be personally and perhaps even economically uncomfortable, unless you make sure to say, up front and loud, which side you're on. And in doing these things, as in flattering royalty, the trowel is probably a better instrument than the mouse-whisker brush. That's the point of the "proportionate" thing - the fact that it's a recycled talking point actually makes it better for its true purpose, as it shows the writer to still be a reliable party man, whereas an original idea wouldn't. You can, as we say, take the man out of the Communist Party, but ...

So anyway, begin reading the column at "Will the Israeli action ..." in para 6, and continue. It doesn't seem particularly mean-spirited or nasty from this point on, but it doesn't make sense either. Time for the Straussian reading mentioned above; I'll take key passages (italicised below), assume that their true meaning is the opposite of the exoteric one and it will all gradually become clear:

"The message that has been given out to Palestinians, time and again, is that there is no clear advantage to be gained from being moderate. It has been all stick and no carrot"

On the face of it, this looks like normal AaronoBlairBirtist liberal imperialism - it's the analytical step beyond the "Where is the Palestinian Gandhi Gambit" into asking; how can we dissolve the Palestinian people and elect another get a government we like elected? Usually either involving some vague plan for moulding Fatah into such a government (obvious mark of a non-starter) or starting up such a popular movement from scratch. Which is also pretty much a non-starter. But look deeper, Leo Strauss says. How about if we assume that when Aaro writes the italicised passage above, what he means to say is something like "The message that has been given out to Israelis, time and again, is that there is no clear disadvantage to be incurred from being violent. It has been all carrot and no stick"?

This would fit in with a Straussian reading of the conclusion, where below I have not only italicised but bolded the four words (best considered combinatorially in pairs) I consider to be key to the whole article:

"If we are to do this then the friends of the Palestinians would be best advised to put pressure on Hamas never to launch another of its bloody rockets and to stop its death-laden rhetoric, and the friends of Israel well placed to cajole it into making a settlement seem worthwhile. All else is verbiage."

The most obvious binary here is (pressure, cajole). Palestinians[5] get "pressure", while the State of Israel has to be "cajoled". Just swapping these two about and considering the consequences is good for hours of Straussian fun. But these are more fertile fields ...

How about (pressure, rhetoric)? Aaro's here expressing a distressingly common view in regional politics; that it's OK to use military and economic force (and when I say "economic force", I'm talking about blockades here - in other words, the kind of "pressure" that kills people) to achieve wholly rhetorical ends. How many dead or ill people is is worth to get some nasty words changed in a document? Personally I think the answer is "none", but I'm in the minority here it appears. If we're taking a Straussian reading here, then the interesting question is; what purely rhetorical goals would justify the shooting of rockets into Israeli towns? My answer is again "none", but it's interesting to consider what taking the opposite position commits you too.

There's also (cajoled, verbiage). If we friends of Israel don't starting cajoling them right away, then the rest is just verbiage? Strip this clause of its, well, verbiage, and you can see right away how daft it is. Cajoling is right next to verbiage, except in the thesaurus. When Aaro says "cajoling", it's obvious that he means the opposite.

Now, this Leo Strauss thing is a bit of a joke, but I actually think that this is the direction in which Aaro's reasoning is going, and the reason this column's so convoluted is that it's largely being written by his psychological self-defence mechanisms against his conclusion. I mean, when you look at a passage like:

This is the great lacuna in our conversation about Gaza and Palestine. We simply have no idea what the arguments inside Hamas are, and how they are affected by Israeli actions.

then your first thought is surely - but on the other hand, we have a great deal of knowledge about what the arguments inside the Israeli political community, and we don't use this knowledge at all. We just assume that the most right-wing factions are the most popular, that their most obvious war-mongering electioneering is sensible policy and that the idiot airpower faction in their army are (despite the number of occasions on which they've proved themselves to be neither) good soldiers and honourable men. Why and when did the brand "Zionist" (which used to be wildly popular on the left, ask Eric Lee or somebody) get taken over by these right wing nuts and dragged through the dirt, and who let it happen? Not a comfortable line of thinking to start going down if you want to keep on good terms with Stephen Pollard ...

But in the end, go down this line we must, particularly if Aaro is to achieve his laudable ambition:

"Will it, in the long term, relieve Israeli citizens from the threat of arbitrary extinction?"

By which he of course means, "relieve Israeli and Palestianian citizens" doesn't he? I'm sure he does.

Best wishes to all our readers for a Happy New Year.

[1] A family relation of this tactic is Peter Dale Scott's "negative template" strategy for getting clues in official coverups; when someone like Dick Cheney is absent from the official record of 9/11 at a number of points where one would really have expected him to be at the centre of things, that's interesting. Note also that there is textual support for the use of such a reading with Aaro - his Rule of Reversal (in discussing statistics) is a concept he's quite proud of.

[2] Although even this is not without interest; how much outrage about Gaza would be the right amount, and would it matter if it was pointless or not? I seem to remember that Aaro did actually think that there was a certain amount of compassion that it was correct to feel about Madeleine McCann and her family, but that anything beyond this was unseemly.

[3] Don't even bother, David Hirsh and his wannabes. It's simply a fact. If Lindsey German were to write an article about Hamas which stuck remotely close to the facts, she'd lose most of her friends[4]. Both Pollard and Finkelstein have written numerous and passionate articles about their political views about Israel and I don't see why I should do them the insult of pretending to be unaware of them.

[4] Just to make this clear; any reasonably objective history is going to leave the Palestinians looking pretty bad too, but Aaro doesn't have a weekly column on Al-Jazeera and he does in the Times and JC.

[5] Another binary opposition that might interest a literary critic here would be (Hamas, Israel). These are both seemingly taken as unitary blocks which have no internal politics of their own (a fairly standard feature of Decent politics), but note that the Palestinians are rhetorically represented in Aaro's prose by their most violent and extreme faction, while vice versa, the most violent and extreme faction in Israeli politics is referred to using the name of the country itself. Two ways of obscuring the moderates.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Palestinian Decents?

Hmmm, check this guy out ... viz:

Cushy position at a US university, far away from the sharp end? Check.

Bellicose, sloganeering rhetorical style? Check.

Strong belief that it's someone else's job to solve own political problems? Check.

Seeming belief that it's only the moral turpitude and corruption of international institutions that stop them providing said deus ex machina solution? Check.

Specific phrase "never again"? Check.

This is a very worrying development; the Alan Kuperman strategic victimhood thesis meets the Decent style of politics, in the crucible of the world's worst national liberation movement. I think we can all see how this is going to metastatize. One, two, many thousands of Decentisms! Sheesh.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

He Won't Be Laughing Now

I CAN'T REMEMBER where Saddam Hussein was when the USA invaded Grenada in 1983 and Panama in 1989 but he probably made a note of both escapades in his diary and kept them up his sleeve for a rainy day. The International Court of Justice in The Hague, however, was quite explicit in its judgement in 1986 on America military and paramilitary activities in Nicaragua. It stated that the USA had breached its obligations under international law not to intervene in the affairs of another state, demanded that it refrained from all such acts and make reparation for all injury caused. The USA laughingly dismissed this judgement, declaring, in so many words, that its actions were none of the business of any damn International Court of Justice, and that anyway they were inspired by a determination to kept the world clean for democracy. The death toll in Nicaragua went on to reach 30,000. President Bush's "outrage" at the Iraqi breach of this very same international law is good for a pretty short laugh. (The only people who won't be laughing, of course are the dead.) What the US is doing is perfectly simple. It's asserting what it conceives to be its spiritual destiny: "I am God: get out of my fucking way." This stink is with us forever.

Harold Pinter letter to the Observer 3/2/91.

I was going to write a quick post on Pinter when I heard he had kicked the bucket, perhaps reproducing American Football, but I thought it was a bit too off-topic. However, former watchee Nick Cohen has added his tuppeny worth, David T fed the trolls, and Oliver Kamm sounded off in the Times. The last of those links is by far the best, although I think Kamm is wrong about 'the unrelentingly scatological language of the lavatory wall.' Pinter didn't offer sexual services, did he?

What Pinter is clearly doing in American Football is satirising, through language that is deliberately violent, obscene, sexual and celebratory, the military triumphalism that followed the Gulf War and, at the same time, counteracting the stage-managed euphemisms through which it was projected on television. General Schwarzkopf talked of 'surgical bombing' and 'collateral damage'.

Michael Billington on American Football.

Flying Rodent/Malky Muscular is fighting a brave but hopeless battle with various trolls and Marko Hoare on Harry's Place. Best not to read any of it.

I hope with his dying breath he blamed the Jews. You know he wanted to. Sizzle in Hell, Harold.

Comment by Hot Dog carts on the Moon 25 December 2008, 9:54 pm. Er, see Clive Davis on The Spectator.

H.P. sat silent throughout. My only experience of his losing his famous cool was when I asked him about the Arab-Israeli war. He grew excited and said that the Arabs had asked for a bloody good thrashing and had got one.

From Frederic Raphael, "Personal Terms".

Pinter related comments here, please.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Brian Brivati, Movie Critic

Or the Decent War on Drama, part whatever. Dr Brivati gives a five-shoe review (that is, he hated it) review to HBO's The House of Saddam.

Hold it, he can't criticize HBO! HBO is the sole producer of good and decent drama, unlike all the filth that contaminates British screens. Ah, it was produced with the BBC. As you were.

I haven't seen the series, and it's possible that HBO are guilty of mis-selling with the poster image on their site, the one that says above the title, He built an empire on the blood of a nation. (Now, if Saddam smiled, he'd have looked like this.) Brivati:

The series shows Saddam Hussein as a naive diplomat trying to defend his country from the aggression of others, a leader who misread signs and pursued wars which he lost but then declared he won. It shows him as a tough politician capable of murdering his best friend with his own hand to demonstrate his desire for power. It managed to portray him as a man whose only demand was complete loyalty and whose only concern was for his family and his country (though it also showed him as an unfaithful husband living a life of material luxury while his people suffered from sanctions).

Not having seen it, I can't imagine how Saddam's "only concern was for his family" while he was being unfaithful. In fact, I'd argue that a contradiction can't be shown.

Shorter Brivati: why didn't they show Saddam's horns? Why must they show him as human?

Historical note: "Only then do we see Iraq attack Iran. When Iraq loses that war, Saddam declared a victory and went after Kuwait after ruining his own country." The Iran-Iraq war "ended when Iran accepted United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 598, leading to a 20 August 1988 cease-fire." From the same page: "In the fall of 1988, the Iraqis displayed in Baghdad captured Iranian weapons amounting to more than three-quarters of the Iranian armor inventory and almost half of its artillery pieces and armored personnel carriers." "The threat of rocketing the Iranian capital with missiles capable of carrying chemical warheads is cited as a significant reason why Iran accepted a disadvantageous peace agreement." Iraq started the war and didn't make an useful gains from it; but it's a stretch to claim that they 'lost' it. Brivati is a history professor and should know better.

Thanks to Malky Muscular for finding this.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Ghost of Aaro Past

Aaro on Iraq once more, on the general subject of how the dog ate his homework and how when he said "I, and everyone else, will never believe them again", he was being ironic or something.

Pretty dreadful stuff - quite where he gets his "reasonable" estimate of 100,000 deaths from I am not sure, since the Iraq Body Count figure is 89-98,000 at present. Facts never really were Aaro's strong point - I am guessing that he picked on a number some time in 2005 and hasn't updated it. Frankly I regard this as a culpable mistake, though. Whether he's intentionally misleading his readers or just not bothering to do the research, he is misleading his readers and the Times ought to print a correction. I bet they won't. Aaro's col also appears to have gone to press before the news came out that the shoe-throwing journalist was actually badly beaten. (I'd also note that having thousands of people marching on the street saying that they hate you is also a sign of dishonour in Arab cultures; Aaro is also misleading his readers when he claims it was only Sadrists who were marching in support of Zaidi).

But the general atmosphere is the old "spread the blame" tactic. Why don't we have an inquiry into whether Yasmin Alibhai Brown had a consistent view on WMDs over the last five years, eh? That's the really interesting historical question, isn't it? Aaro appears to be going march-blind, doesn't he - he seems to think that everyone basically thought that invading Iraq was going to turn out all right, rather ignoring the fact that several million of us actually went on a march to say that we didn't. And blah blah what about the consequences of non-intervention, eh, eh? Imagine what those jihadis might have done if they'd "the message of the international community's inability and unwillingness to act"? Perhaps they'd have carried out suicide bombings in London, mightn't they? Or those "failed states"? One thing you have to say about interventionism is that it's certainly stabilised things in Somalia and Pakistan. It really says something when the Decent Left don't even come out of their own counterfactuals looking well.

A Merry Christmas to all Aaro Watch readers (or a similar greeting based on whatever holidays our readers celebrate), and God bless us all.

Update: Dear Santa, what I would like this Christmas is Michael White's retirement, love Bruschettaboy.

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Our new man in town to fight political correctness" bows the knee?

Via BorisWatch, Nick's new mate, the previously watched immigration crank Anthony Browne (one of the Anthony Browne twins, as noted by Matthew) has done a big letter about how deep down, where it counts, he doesn't really think that Britain is being swamped by TB-carrying immigrants who want to re-establish the Caliphate. Or something. This is how we do local politics down in Borisland, by the way - we keep it trivial and keep it stupid. Ask me about what we're doing with those fucking Routemaster buses.

But Nick must be feeling a right mug today, with Browne basically walking away from all the articles he praised him for. Anthony Browne, Andrwe Gilligan, Nick Cohen - they were the Associated Newspapers/Policy Exchange Posse, all giving it large with the right wing platitudes and then fainting away with "But I am a laydeee liberal!!!" together. Now Browne has left that doughty crew. Or is it just the case that the PC Mafia have got to him? Has the hold Browne finally been bullied and intimidated into giving up on The Greatest Intellectual Struggle Of Our Time? I will read Nick's Sunday col with baited breath!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Aaro, with a slight delay

Most of what needs to be said about Aaro's shitehouse of an article about the Menezes inquiry has been done in comments, but I do have one thing to add. The Menezes jury presumably had their own reasons for deciding who to believe on a number of crucial points of evidence, but I have to say that if I was on that jury, one thing which would motivate me to "choose not to believe the police" was the fact that they bloody well lied. The police misled their own Superintendent and allowed him to give a number of entirely false statements in public about Menezes being a terror suspect; they didn't actually admit he was an innocent man for a few days. The log book of the C19 team was falsified in all probability[1]. Menezes himself was smeared as a cokehead, a sex offender and an illegal immigrant, after his death. The Met published Photoshopped pictures of Menezes, cropped to make them look more like the terrorist they were hunting. And oddly enough, if you are repeatedly caught out in untruths about a subject, it tends to go badly for your reputation for honesty about that subject.

This is another example of Aaro's most obvious blind spot, memorialised in our sidebar as "That Bloody Prediction". Quite famously, he once said that if the British authorities were found to have been lying, "I, and everyone else, will never believe them again". Then it turned out that those weapons were not, in fact, there, and Aaro not only went on believing them, but turned really quite arsey in his assertions that they weren't really lying. It's the same thing at work here; Aaro works on the basis that the jury have a presumptive duty to trust the police, and the fact that the Met repeatedly betrayed that trust in the Menezes case doesn't seem to have any effect at all on his assessment of their credibility.

On the other hand, his economics piece is actually quite good, much better than Aaro's usual ventures onto the territory. Where's he been learning economics? I doubt it's from Kamm given the fairly orthodox Keynesianism and lack of neoliberal bollocks[2], but it might be. Bonus Times subeditor watch; in the same sentence where Aaro chides the NY Times for spelling "Steinbrueck" rather than using the umlaut, they manage to fuck it up.

[1] The CPS forensic experts couldn't agree on the actual charge of falsification to the required standard, but it was definitely altered.

[2] Bonus Kamm watch: "And a Tobin tax on securities or foreign exchange transactions is a near-certain way of driving trading off the exchanges and into OTC derivatives - which will increase systemic risk rather than control it" A Tobin tax might or might not be a good idea, but the global forex market is definitely an OTC market.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What the fuck is a "sex bistro"?

Much important stuff going on in the world of Watching - something on Aaro's shitting the bed re: Menezes inquiry later today I hope. But in the meantime, some light relief (no, not that kind of relief).

By the way, why was Nick "working in Soho kitchens" in 2007? I am pretty sure that no journalistic output resulted from it. (nope, it did, although the Gay Hussar appears to have become pluralised).

PS: It is 1936 and Michael Gove is Churchill (scroll down)

Friday, December 12, 2008


AKA "Speaking Truth To Power." I saw [Jacqui] Smith warns of Zimbabwe 'influx' this morning, but I thought I'd play fair and give our watchees with blogs time to react. Personally, I think Mugabe is a 'modern-day Hitler' should be filed with all the other "X is like Hitler" claims. (This has been noticed by Harry's Place - and taken seriously. Bishops add great moral impact when they agree with you.) But Mugabe is really awful and I think it's really shocking that a minister in a Labour government should worry about an influx of people escaping tyranny/mass murder/disease on false papers. I voted for this lot once. This makes me sick.

I'll say one thing for Professor Geras; he pretty much bears out Michael Ignatieff's claims about academics ignoring the real world. You won't see any condemnations from him regarding actual politicians in power. (Hands up who voted for Ms Smith. Ah, but she was appointed by the Prime Minister. Hands up who voted for Gordon Brown as PM. Thus, democracy in action. The US system, where people actually pull a lever for the Presidential candidate of their preference really does have a lot going for it.)

One thing has always struck me about the loose grouping we call the 'Decents'. It's all student politics. It's just posturing and ostentatious piety. Practicalities don't matter - orators and their audiences are several removes from the actual controls of government. And this lot never, ever condemn power: the blame is with 'Stoppers' (how dare the Plebs voice their 'opinions' when these clash with St Tony?) or 'Guardianistas' or 'liberals'. Some vaporous cabal or other which one citation will nail.

Let me recommend Auden (in the Guardian). We can't do much; we can at least let those who get away in.

The Capsule Decentiya, once more

As a service to our readers, Democratiya Winter 2008, summarised.

Editor's page. Usually used by Alan NTM to write a love letter to himself, this time round it just summarises what's in the mag. Minor note:" The Editor wishes to thank Dave Cundliffe and Michael Johnson for their help in putting this issue together." Suspect that one of these two will be up for the job. Don't know anything about them; google searching reveals that Dave Cundliffe hasn't really made a mark on the political internet much, and Michael Johnson is obviously famous for breaking the 200m world record but hitherto hasn't had much impact on Decent politics.

Letters to the Editor: Once more, Martin "Are you sure he's not Bodie from the Professionals, he certainly kicks arse" Shaw gives another heckler (this time, Menachem Kellner of Haifa University) his head in his hands. Kudos to Democratiya for giving Shaw right of reply; kudos withdrawn, however, for printing Kellner's ill-thought-out and borderline libellous crap in the first place. Oh yes, and Marko Attila Hoare (a member of the Aaronovitch Watch extended family) picks up David Hirsh on the meaning of "Ustasha"; I suspect that there's something in there about it being the Serbs' fault (there usually is) but it was too long so I didn't read it all (Update Phil, in comments did. There's apparently a rare admission on the part of MAH that someone other than the Serbs committed war crimes in former Yugoslavia, which as Phil correctly says, "shouldn't go unnoticed").

Terry Glavin: Afghanistan: A choice of comrades. One of the Drink-Soaked Trots goes to Afghanistan, speaks to some pro-Western middle-class political activists and then goes "How dare The Left betray these wonderful people?". Lots of blah about various Canadian left-wing and/or antiwar groups who are, apparently, bastards.

Irfan Khawaja: The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After The Taliban. Irfan is a reader and commenter of AW, albeit not a very careful reader (he thinks that "just war theory" is "beloved" round here) and something of a Mr Angry. Here, he reviews a book by someone living up the sharp end in Kandahar who is hot as mustard for war with Pakistan. My advice is to start reading the review at section 4 - Khawaja is actually quite sensible in his analysis, and starting half-way through you miss the slightly patronising and annoying tone of the first half.

Lawrence J Haas Letter from Washington: Obama's Playing Field. Lawrence "Kiss My" Haas was last seen in Democratiya pooh-poohing Obama's chances. Here he is, back again, more or less the only Clinton administration official who hasn't been offered a job. Funny that. At mind-boggling length, he tells us all that Obama will face a number of challenges as President, not least the condition of the economy. Thanks Larry. He can't spell "populace" either.

Will Marshall: Barack Obama and the New Internationalism. " This is an expanded and updated version of an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on November 7". I suspect it was better in unexpanded form. Truth in advertising here; it's basically the same waffly "a new President faces new challenges" article which more or less every opinion writer in the world wrote between the 5th and 10th of November 2008. Talking up the prospects of Obama being an "internationalist" (which in context means "Decent"). I maintain my previously stated view on this one - it's probably true that Obama has somewhat hawkish instincts on American foreign policy, but he's also a chap who can recognise a fucking lemon when he sees one, so for the purposes of the Euston Manifesto crowd he might as well be George Galloway.

Thomas Hale: Barack Obama and the Deepening of Democracy Much, much blah here. Basically a proposal to reinvent every political institution in the USA, and most international institutions, rather transparently hung on the peg of Obama's being elected. We must "reclaim the idea of freedom for the left", apparently by taking the same set of stuff that's on every centre-left American's Christmas list and calling it "freedom". Not bad stuff really, but I mean, who cares? If you like this sort of progressive thinkery, you'll like this article. Me, I think meh.

Eric Lee: Obama, the unions and labour law reform: Ensuring the future of the new Democratic majority. More "back in nineteen dickety two!" Grandpa Simpson stuff from Democratiya's resident old fart. A reasonable six paragraph summary of the Employee Free Choice Act, preceded by about a million words about who did what in the New Deal.

"Progress" (ie Brian Brivati) Progressive Multilateralism: The truly global society. Oh fucking hell, they've got another manifesto out. And it is long, and it is windy. A billion pounds to eliminate female genital multilation, apparently. Is that too much or not enough? I don't have a clue and I suspect nor do they. The failure of Kyoto shows that we need ... a global agreement on climate change, thanks guys. And on ... ahhh, here's the meat, presumably: "When do states forfeit the right to be sovereign?" .... nope, more wind. The answer to the question is apparently "we need international public opinion to rally behind a progressive view of what we can achieve as a global community". A concert of democracies (a notorious bad idea that won't go away). Apparently they think that sanctions haven't been imposed on Zimbabwe, and can't spell "schlorosis". A "civilian security force", for the UK (this would differ from the Army in that it would have a different name). The good news is that Brivati has now finally, after something like three years of being told by Conor Foley that there is no such thing as a "declaration of genocide" which triggers all sorts of invasions and such like, got the message. So he wants to invent one.

Seriously, non-rhetorically, can anyone explain to me why these people bother? Is there any historical example of any of these fucking Manifestoes having any impact on the world at all, since the Communist one? One of my first published works was described by the Daily Telegraph as "hitting the financial markets with all the bone-shuddering impact of a feather coming to rest on a blancmange". But even "Remuneration and Risk" (Bank of England Financial Stability Review, 1996) had more of a point to it than any manifesto I've ever read. Anyway, on with Decentiya.

Maajid Nawaz: The Roots of Violent Islamist Extremism and Efforts to Counter it. The Quilliam Foundation does its funding pitch. The general message of "you should all listen to me because of my past as a violent halfwit" has been roundly mocked in these pages on many occasions, but here it is again. Contains a not bad summary of the history of Islam since 1928, if you had never heard of the thing, but most of our readers have.

Maryam Namazie and a cast of thousands including Nick Cohen One law for all: the campaign against Sharia law in Britain. Does what it says on the tin. I've actually got quite a bit of time for Maryam Namazie - this is basically the WCPI anti-religionist line.

Elisabeth Porter: Feminisms in Development: Contradictions, Contestations and Challenges. Bit of a book report (NB: this is the first book review so far, in what's meant to be a journal of book reviews. Mission creep much, Alan?). Looks like a quite interesting book.

Peter Tatchell: Edward Carpenter: A life of liberty and love. Book report. (Update. Numerous commenters have chimed in with favourable assessments of both this book and Edward Carpenter the person. Although I maintain my view that Tatchell's review is wholly uninformative and not very interesting, he and Democratiya ought to be given credit where due for bringing the subject to my awareness).

Fred Siegel: On Bernard-Henri Lévy on 'the Right-Wing Left'. Democratiya's biggest bore and idiot takes on France's. Apparently, "France's statist economy makes it almost impossible to create jobs for the unemployed beurs, who have plenty of time to fester on welfare". Perhaps Siegel doesn't realise that "beur" is a nasty racial epithet, but given that the context is a sentence referring to the French nonwhite poor as "festering on welfare", the benefit of the doubt does not seem appropriate. What is it with the Decents and talking crap about Virginia Woolf, by the way? Another Decentiya piece, by the way which "appeared in a shorter version" somewhere else; it is fast becoming the house journal for people who have a bee in their bonnet about having their stuff copyedited.

Gabriel Noah Brahm: The concept of the "Post Left": A defense. Execrable. Would have been an embarrassment to the Harry's Place "Your View" section. Much rending of strawmen (those leftisses! Always standing up for terrorists! People like ... Oliver Stone! And ... Judith Butler in a laughably out-of-context quote!). Also; an incomprehensible blogspat with Norman Geras over the "post-Left" concept, and much jockriding of Mart, Hitch and the gang. Money quote " The post-left can't write for shit. The fighting liberals can. And the quality of their prose is an indication of the quality of their thought, in each case". Given that the context is Democratiya, perhaps unfortunate.

Lyn Julius: On Weinstock on dhimmitude and the Jews. Sorry guys; I have an iron rule that I stop reading when I come across the words "Bat Ye'Or" in a favourable and nonironic context.

Ina Tysoe: Inside the Israel Lobby. Presumably the author of this review thinks it's funny (Douglas Adams used to complain about the practice of including the best jokes from the book in the review in such a manner as to make it appear that the reviewer thought of them; it's very much at work here). Based on a fundamentally fucked premise - that Mearsheimer and Walt's "Israel Lobby" is a lobby controlled by the government of Israel, which is not what M&W say.

Vivien Pertusot: On Hubert Védrine. Book report.

Mark Hannam: Human Rights: Natural or Political?. Technical review of a philosophy book - doesn't look all that bad as an example of the genre.

Various sorts and Sidney Hook: The arts coverage and some archive material. Not The Minister is doing the Alastair Cook Masterpiece Theatre bit with poor old Sid here, introducing his 1950 New York Times article (which is presumably still in copyright, and I wonder if NTM sorted that out) with a couple of paragraphs of his own, pointing out where the old boy got it wrong.

Interview with Alan Bostom: . If you read only one thing in this month's Democratiya, this should be it. OK, I'm going to struggle through the Bat Ye'Or reference here because I want to know exactly what Alan Johnson thinks he is fucking playing at, giving airtime to this nutter (thanks to Tom Griffin, in comments, for giving the heads up that this is the same guy who was designated "a bit too much of an Islamophobe headbanger" by Little Green Footballs). I am presuming that Oor Alan met him through Phyllis "Tales of Horror in the Harem" Chesler (he wasn't at that dinner, but his mate Ibn Warraq was). It's a truly stunning (in the bad sense) piece; Bostom rants at length about the intrinsic corruption of Islam, endorses that Osama bin Laden view that the only true Muslims are jihadis, produces apologetics for the British Empire. While Alan Johnson chucks up penetrating questions like "And how about the denial of intellectuals in the West?" Unbelievable, and certainly something to be filed away for the next time any of these buggers decide to accuse anyone else of fellow-travelling with conspiracists.

And so, we are done. Cheers until next time.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Zimbabwe Question

Further to B2's post on Andrew Anthony, Norman Geras applauds calls for intervention in Zimbabwe. (He was born there; I'm not questioning his knowledge of Zimbabwe or its politics.)

Or one could follow the Guardian and conclude that since threats of intervention are empty, '[n]egotiation remains the best hope'. Note that this means the Guardian is against intervention, period, not just because it looks unlikely right now.

I don't see any support for the second sentence above from the Guardian editorial. (Noted in passing: the Guardian dissents from an emerging consensus in the other former broadsheets. The perfidy!) 'Negotiation remains the best hope' came after the alternatives had been ruled out, thus:

Indicting Mugabe in the international criminal court may be justified but it might postpone rather than hasten the end. Threats of military intervention are empty, since western countries have never seriously contemplated it, still less African states, who in any case lack the means. South Africa could certainly make things worse in Zimbabwe, by cutting off or reducing fuel supplies or by closing the border, perhaps on the basis that it must guard against the spread of cholera. But what if that did not bring about a swift collapse of the regime but only an intensification of the sufferings of ordinary Zimbabweans?

That's a perfectly rational argument. Geras:

The threat [of intervention] wouldn't be empty if it weren't empty, and one way of making it cease to be empty would be to try to build global public pressure to a point where the world's governments felt an obligation to act.

Isn't there still a 'how'? Would South Africa grant the UN/Coalition-of-Michael-Ingnatief-fans military bases? If not, where would an invasion force invade from? 'Act' above clearly means 'do something other than negotiate' which rather supposes that negotiation isn't the quickest (and least lethal) of all possible solutions and that military intervention actually does some good. I don't think the writer of the Guardian leader is "against intervention, period," but she clearly isn't sold on the arguments for it.

Be afraid

It appears that Michael Ignatieff, king of the Decents and savant idiot extraordinaire (as they say over there, in the bits where they speak French), is being given a decent shot at becoming Prime Minister of Canada.

AW(i'WoD') readers who are members of the Canadian armed forces and who do not have the taste for being shipped off at the drop of a hat to a third world country in order to hang around being shot at for no easily explicable reason, are advised to bear this in mind when considering the pros and cons of re-enlistment.

Update: Context

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Clothes for Chaps kicks the living shit out of a strawman in the way only he can

Take that, you strawy bastard! Apparently the ruling ideology of Bashir's Sudan, Mugabe's Zimbabwe and Myanmar/Burma is "anti-imperialism". The British Army totally stopped the civil war in Sierra Leone, despite the best efforts of that shadowy group "some people". The reason that "some people" don't like wars is that they're all feeling guilty about the Empire.

Which isn't to say that Andrew Anthony's in favour of wars, oh no. Only in specific situations and places, like the country of "maybe Rwanda". It takes a pretty stunning gift of ignorance to write an entire column about the fucking Mau Mau, and specifically the influence of the British repression in Kenya on global leftwing politics, without using the phrase "Mau Mauing" or referring to Tom Wolfe's article, but C4C manages it.

It's only when Nick Cohen takes a holiday that one realises how easy he makes it look - I am still sure that churning out 500 words of Decent horseshit a week is not rocket science, but it's clearly a task beyond the abilities of Andrew Anthony.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Democratiya Open Thread

Thanks to BenSix's comment, we learn that there's a new Democratiya.

Honestly, I can't be bothered with any of it. Well, I was impressed that someone named 'Progress' wrote Progressive Multilateralism: The truly global society. Progress turns out to be Brian Brivati and readers won't be surprised to learn that he continues to fight a valiant war on English as we know it.

At the core of everything we do must be a commitment to furthering social justice, enlarging human security, nurturing democracy and protecting human rights. This must infuse all of our foreign policy and, as we move towards a new economic order, it should influence our worldview at every level of policy.

In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.

And I'd like to note Obama, the unions and labour law reform:

Eric Lee is the founding editor of LabourStart, the news and campaigning website of the international trade union movement. He writes ‘Global Labor Notes’ for Democratiya in a personal capacity.

On the home page, the word between 'and' and 'law' is spelled the US way; the UK spelling is used in the article itself. Oddly, the piece ends with the above paragraph, so Alan 'NTM' Johnson can't have just used find and replace to alter spellings in the document. (Umm, second thought before hitting the 'publish post' button: yes he can. The author credit para is from a separate document.) From the Democratiya style sheet:

Please use UK English spelling and double-check all non-English words.

But ‘Global Labor Notes’ is a regular feature?

Private Eye Open Thread

There are (were? - when you read this, it should be past tense[1]) four motives behind this post.

1. To show solidarity with Dave Osler (thanks to Chicken Yoghurt).

2. Because, going by the comments to the last post, some of you have things to say about the Eye, so here's a post just for you.

3. To quote Dave:

As recently as last year, Ms Kaschke put herself forward for the Labour nomination for the winnable seat of Bethnal Green & Bow. After receiving just one vote, she defected to the Respect party of George Galloway, quickly left to join one of Britain's multiple Communist Parties, adhered again to Labour and then switched to the Tories; she now overtly advocates political positions that place her on the hard right of the legitimate Conservative spectrum. Rarely can ideological peregrinations have been so comprehensive in such a short space of time.

On topic for this site, surely.

4. To quote Dave again:

In addition to her action against me, I know for sure that Ms Kaschke is also suing Labourhome founder Alex Hilton, Labour-supporting blogger John Grey,and leading German news magazine Der Spiegel. She has settled out of court with Private Eye, and I also reliably understand that she earlier this year lost a substantial sum in costs in a failed action against the Labour Party. In addition, she is seeking judicial review against a decision on her right to legal aid made by the Legal Services Commission.

Being a journalist, I have had sufficient professional training to put forward a defence of justification and/or fair comment, and I furthermore contend that the doctrine of 'bane and antidote' applies, in that her side of the story was properly set out.

This is sort of 2 again, but what's up with the 'Eye' here? Dave has "sufficient professional training to put forward a defence of justification and/or fair comment" but the Eye (staffed with journalists like Nick Cohen[2], who used to be Mr Civil Liberties and should really be clued up here) caves in.

[1] I've read my Hegel you know.

[2] Who we're not watching, BTW