the Disillusioned kid: September 2006
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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Straight from the People's Republic of Mancunia

It's almost a fortnight since I last posted here, but I'm sure you'll all be delighted to hear that I'm still alive. My unplanned blogging break reflects my return to academia, which may also impact upon the frequency of updates in the future. Exactly what form this impact will have and whether it will increase or decrease frequency will become clear in due course.

My absence from the blogosphere has not been mirrored in the real worl where I've actually been quite busy, mixing-up the usual uni social scene by solidarising with an Israeli refusenik (in the time-honoured fashion whereby we and others went and got pissed in a park), demonstrating in Mancunia and conferencing about the war (which included the opportunity to meet the surprisingly funny Craig Murray). I even have photographic evidence of some of it. I'm just not able to put it online yet. You'll just have to wait. Possibly a little while.

It was in the course of my sojourn to Manchester that the subject of this post was suggested to me. In fact I was personally asked by a certain somebody to post on the matter, something which I don't think has ever happened before. That being the case, I could hardly say no. My ego simply wouldn't allow it. In any case, the issue relates to my last post and is likely to be of interest to you, my beloved readership.

Blair decided to force himself (with the delightful Alan Johnson in tow) upon Quintin Kynaston School in North London on September 7. He intended to use the visit to announce plans for "trust schools" - to be run by charities, religious organisations and businesses - of which QK is to be one of the first two in London. Apparently, the head was delighted, but many of the pupils and some of the teachers were less than thrilled and organised a demonstration with support from local branches of Unison and the NUT along with School Students Against the War.

Predictably, the school management didn't see this as an encouraging expression of independent thought and political engagement on the part of their pupils, but instead sought to repress the protest. Subsequently, the apparent initiator of the demonstration, Robin Sivapalan, who is a classroom assistant at the school, was suspended for "insubordination" and "breaching confidentiality" by informing people of Blair's visit. Supporters are organising a statement demanding that Sivapalan be reinstated and the charges against him dropped. This hardly strikes me as an unreasonable demand and the likes of Caroline Lucas (Green MEP), Jeremy Corbyn (old-fashion labour lefty) and Bob Crow (that bald guy from the RMT) suggests I'm not alone in that assesment. If you want to add your support you can do so by adding your name and/or spreading the word in the usual fashion.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Blair's Diary

Thusday, September 7: Quintin Kynaston School, North London.

Monday, September 11: Beirut, Lebanon.

Tuesday September 12: TUC Conference, Brighton.

Wednesday September 13: Downing Street, London.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

It's no great secret that I don't like conspiracy theorists, so I was delighted to stumble across Alexander Cockburn's demolition job on the theories promulgated by "9/11 nuts".
Qursana has an account of a "roundtable" involving Lebanese and Israeli anarchists on the border between the two countries. A conversation which, in her own words, conveys "an anarchist worm-eye view of the latest Israeli war on Lebanon."

American Anniversaries

Monday, September 11, 2006

An Anarchist Travelling Circus?

The appearance of the 42nd Carnival of the Green over at Worsted Witch (which is well worth a gander) got me thinking. There are a plethora of carnivals focussed on issues which I'm interested in: environmentalism, feminism, animal rights, socialism, anti-racism, community campaigns, atheism and British blogging. Inexplicably, however, there doesn't seem to be an anarchist carnival. Why not? There is a nascent anarchist blogosphere out there with probably hundreds of self-described anarchist bloggers. A carnival could conceivably encourage discussion within this milieu, which hitherto has tended to be fairly diffuse.

To be sure, what we get up to in the real world is much more important than a largely self-referential cyberspace shindig, but the fact that those of us who've taken up blogging have done so, suggests that we think it is of some value. If that's the case, why not try to make the most out of it? If you've got any thoughts, let me know. I'd be interested in kicking it off, but there's no point if everybody else thinks it's a waste of time.

Is it really five years since September 11th?

Today's Indy estimates that the "War on Terror" has killed 72,000 civillians, but this is in all likelihood an underestimate. Even if accurate, that's more than 24 times as many people as died on September 11 and we're clearly a long way from being able to declare "victory." The last five years have witnessed terrorist attacks by groups broadly within the Islamist umbrella in Britain, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Pakistan, Russia, Spain and Saudi Arabia, to say nothing of the ongoing insurgency in Iraq, the Palestinian struggle and Israel's conflict with Hezbollah.

To be fair, the "War on Terror" has acheived one of its objectives. In 2001, Afghanistan was widely considered to be the epicentre of Islamic terrorism. That's no longer the case. Not because of the country's "liberation" - which is looking increasingly shaky nowdays anyway - but because of the chaos that resulted from the invasion of Iraq. The New Iraq is almost textbook Holy War territory: a foreign infidel force, invading and occupying a Muslim country. Toss in the occupiers' failure to maintain law and order and the odd war crime and you've got yourself a recruitment boom for Islamic terrorism and the perfect testing ground too boot.

The most depressing thing about this post is that in all likelihood I'll be able to reel off something comparably bleak in a year's time. I only hope things haven't got too much worse.

Purely Coincidental

The UK government spends £322 million a year on "public relations," with the Ministry of Defence apparently the largest recipient of this money (via).

The US Command in Iraq is accepting bids for a two-year, $20 million PR deal that will involve monitoring the tenor of news stories about Iraq submitted by US and foreign media agencies (via).

The Iraqi government has forced the Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV station to close its Baghdad bureau for one month “under the pretext of unprofessional reporting” (via).

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Singing all the way to the Banksy

Banksy, self-described "art terrorist" and scourge of the Keep Britain Tidy campaign, has been at it again. After detourning phoneboxes, the Israeli "security wall" and Claude Monet he's decided to go after the very embodiment of 21st Century culture, Paris Hilton.

Hilton is the heir to the Hilton hotel empire, but remains most famous - some might say infamous - for the video of her screwing her boyfriend, charmingly entitled 1 Night in Paris. While this passes for a highpoint in her career, she's also dabbled in modelling, film, TV and now music.

Banksy has targetted her album, altering their inserts and replacing the CD with an instrumental remix by DJ Danger Mouse (who gained notoriety for producing a mash-up of The Beatles' White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album and is now a member of chart-toppers Gnarlz Barkley). The CD now includes comments on celebrity, such as a picture of her stepping from a luxury car which now features an image of a homeless person and the caption, "90% of success is turning up."

Not content to produce just a handful of these CDs, Banksy made 500 of the things and then replaced them in record stores across the country. Surprisingly the proprietors of these stores don't seem particularly concerned. A spokesman for HMV told the Beeb that they had found seven altered copies in two shops in Brighton, but weren't aware of any other affected locations:
No customers had complained or returned a doctored version, he said.

"It's not the type of behaviour you'd want to see happening very often," he said.

"I guess you can give an individual such as Banksy a little bit of leeway for his own particular brand of artistic engagement.

"Often people might have a view on something but feel they can't always express it, but it's down to the likes of Banksy to say often what people think about things.

"And it might be that there will be some people who agree with his views on the Paris Hilton album."

A spokesman for Virgin Megastores said staff were searching for affected CDs but it was proving hard to find them all.

"I have to take my hat off - it's a very good stunt," he added.
(Ms Hilton herself was presumably unavailable for comment.)

More predictably, copies are already available on eBay and they ain't cheap, which is surely a text-book example of what the Situationists used to call recuperation.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Blood, Honour and Guns

I like Belgium. One of my closest friends hails from there and I had the pleasure of welcoming in the New Year in Brussels. Unfortunately, the country also has a dark side, embodied in apparently widespread support for the far-right. According to polls conducted in 2004, Vlaams Blok (which later changed its name to Vlaams Belang to circumvent a ban), who couple Flemish separatism with xenophobia and holocaust denial, was the most popular party in Flanders. Today VB has representatives in the European Parliament, the Belgian Sentate and Chamer of Representatives and the Flemish and Brussels Parliaments.

Of course, VB is only the tip of the iceberg. It was clear, even during my brief visit, that distrust of the immigrant population, who largely originate from Morocco, is widespread. Those voting for VB, are aware of their policies and it generally felt that isn't their commitment to an independent Flanders people are throwing their support behind. Occasionally such sentiments express themselves violently. In May, a white toddler and her pregnant black babysitter were gunned down in Antwerp.

On Wednesday, Belgian police claimed to have bust a neo-Nazi terrorist plot. What is particularly striking about this report is the fact that arrests followed a raid on five army barracks and included eleven soldiers, not to mention the seizure of "ammunition, pistols, rifles and landmine detonators." The federal prosectutor’s office allege that the group had planned to destabilise the country. Lieve Pellens, a spokeswoman for the office, asserted: "They were extreme right, with anti-Semitic and xenophobic ideals. They were recruiting in military circles with the aim possibly to move to action." The arrests apparently followed a two year investigation into Bloed-Bodem-Eer-Trouw (Blood, Soil, Honour, Loyalty), which the Times describe a "a breakaway faction of the far-right Flemish group Blood and Honour" (presumably they are referring to the Belgian branch of the Blood and Honour network who distribute white power music).

Clearly, in light of anti-terror raids in this country, one should be wary about taking the police's word for anything, but its hard to imagine they'd have wanted to carry out such an operation without considerable evidence. No state wants people to think it doesn't control its own armed forces. Even if the authorities are overstating the significance and effectiveness of the raids, this is a troubling development. The raison d'etre of the army is to prepare people for combat and it's safe to assumes it isn't a huge leap to adapt this training to the context of a nascent race war. The american far-right seem to have worked this out and it looks like their Belgian counterparts aren't far behind.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Should I stay or should I go?

It occurs to me that all the "controversy" surrounding Blair's refusal to set out a timetable for his departure is something of a non-story, essentially reducible to, "He's not going yet." As such, I trust you'll excuse my indifference. The mainstream media, more interested in personality politics than policy are lapping it up, of course. There's obviously nothing important to talk about.
Regular readers will be familiar with the plight of the Chagossian people, forcibly removed from their island homes to make way for a US military base. Clement Siatous was one of those displaced and now lives on the outskirts of Port Louis, Mauritius. Horrified by the British policy (now abandoned) of pretending that there had never been a settled population on the islands, Siatous started painting. He is recording his own memories of life in the Archipelago prior to his forced exile and hopes to complete forty paitings which are to be sold to raise money for Chagossian children growing up in poverty. An assortment of his work can be now be viewed here.

Safe, just & tolerant

The New Iraq is shaping up to be quite the family-friendly holiday destination. Local attractions include a faltering economy, the burdgeoning kidnapping industry, repression of trade unionists, anti-gay death squads, widespread sectarian killings, often violent discrimination against HIV-positive Iraqis, ongoing coalition military operations and, of course, the continuing insurgency. Given how delightful all this sounds, it shouldn't come as a great surprise that John Reid is eager to help Iraqi refugees back their newly liberated homeland.

According to the Grauniad, the Home Secretary "will sanction the forced removal of up to 32 Iraqis today after telling the high court he would ignore any last-minute legal challenge to their deportation... the home secretary has told the high court that today's specially chartered flight will not be stopped by anything short of an injunction."

In a friendly missive to the duty high court judge sent on August 31, the Home Office insisted: "Because of the complexities, practicalities and costs involved in arranging such charters, it is essential that these removals are not disrupted or delayed by large numbers of last-minute claims for permission to seek judicial review." Reid isn't one to allow himself to become entangled in pointless diversions like legal process.

Inexplicably, given the happy-go-lucky atmosphere pervading the New Iraq, those killjoys over at the Foreign Office "strongly advise against all travel to Baghdad and the surrounding area, the provinces of Basra, Maysan, Al Anbar, Salah Ad Din, Diyala, Wasit, Babil and Ninawa" and "advise against all but essential travel to the rest of Iraq." On a previous deportation flight, the Home Office even paid attention to such hand-wringing and decided to avoid flying directly into Iraq, instead travelling via Cyprus.

Predictably, there has been criticism of Reid's selfless statesmanship in this matter. Maeve Sherlock of the Refugee Council moaned: "News reports every day show that Iraq is still a highly volatile and dangerous place. It isn't possible under these circumstances to guarantee the safety of anyone returned there." She added: "Many Iraqis are keen to return to Iraq and will do so as soon as it is safe."

Presumably hoping to placate such bleeding hearts, Ministers have suggested that there may in fact be "security problems" in parts of Iraq, but "do not accept this applies to all areas". One can take it that Kurdistan, whence these refugees originate is one of these areas without security problems. Just in case, "they have decided not to send back women or children or break up family groups for the present." Their humanity truly knows no bounds.

Monday, September 04, 2006

In The Papers...

BRITISH Jews are facing a wave of anti-Semitic attacks prompted by Israel’s conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Synagogues have been daubed with graffiti, Jewish leaders have had hate-mail and ordinary people have been subjected to insults and vandalism.


Mark Gardner, of the Community Security Trust, said: “In July, when the conflict in Lebanon began, we received reports of 92 incidents, which was the third-worst month since records began in 1984.” In 2000 the monthly average was between 10 and 30 incidents.
FAR-RIGHT extremists have adopted the tactics of Islamic jihadists by posting videos on the internet in which they threaten to behead British Muslims.

The films show balaclava-clad white British men brandishing guns, knives and clubs, calling on all Muslims to leave the United Kingdom or be killed. One appears to be a soldier who has served in the Gulf.


The release of the videos on YouTube, an American-based open-access website, coincides with reports of a rise in the number of attacks on mosques.
I've suggested previously that Islamophobia (and/or anti-Muslim sentiment) and anti-Semitism (or Judeophobia if you're so inclined) are more closely linked than discussions about either would normally suggest. The two articles above, which appeared in the Times on succesive days, got me onto thinking about these connections.

One of the favourite cliches of the commentariat is that the Muslim community should do more to "root out extremism," but, the babbling obeisant mass, would no doubt react with outrage were anybody to insist upon comparable requirements for the Jewish community, vis-a-vis Israeli aggression. (Let us ignore, for a moment, the fact that the bulk of the commentariat are enthusiastic cheerleaders for this aggression.) Such suggestions typically receive short shrift, usually being dismissed as anti-Semitic. The hypocrisy here is instructive, but should not blind us to the fact that assigning collective guilt to an entire racial group (I'm using the term here in its very loosest sense) is surely one of the fundamental bases of racism.

Few people would dream of suggesting that I or "the white community" were in any sense "responsible" for the handful of Hitler-wannabe-needledicks who produced the aforementioned moving pictures. Yet we seem happy to make comparable suggestions about other groups. By expecting "them" to follow a stricter standard than we would contemplate for ourselves we are surely advocating a racially discriminatory standard. All of which is to say nothing of the dubious assumption which would seem to underlie both assertions, that all Jews support Israeli aggression (which is demonstrably untrue) or that all Muslims support people blowing themselves up on the tube (ditto).

This is not to deny the obvious: Israel's policy in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank will inevitably fuel anti-Semitism while every terrorist act commited in the name of Islam will fuel the flames of Islamophobia. The key point is that the thinking which leads people from one conclusion (blowing people up isn't very friendly) to another (the Muslims/Jews/Amish are all responsible for this exploding malarkey) is just plain wrong and should be combated.

The anti-war movement has in recent years been very good at challenging the anti-Muslim sentiments which arose in the aftermath of September 11 and has made extensive efforts to solidarise with Muslim communities. If there is a need for similar solidarity with Jewish communities than we should offer it. In the meantime we should do what we can to combat anti-Semitism within the Palestinian solidarity movement. While I don't believe that it is endemic, there is no question that it's there. Allowing it to fester can only strengthen the hands of those who stand to benefit from ethnic strife and more immediately weakens the movement by playing into the hands of those who allege that opposition to Israeli actions is by definition anti-Semitic.
The 43rd Carnival of the Green (including my own post about protests at the Drax power station in Yorkshire) is up over at LA Green Living.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

This week I have been mostly reading...

Janine has tagged me with one of those bloody "memes" which do the rounds on the interweb periodically. As there's obviously nothing more important to write about, I s'pose I'll play along this one time...

1. One book that changed your life.

Noam Chomsky's Deterring Democracy played a major part in shaping the way I view the world. I'd probably be laying it on a bit thick if I suggested that it had changed my life in any meaninful sense.

2. One book that you've read more than once.

George Orwell's 1984. This ought to be a book which requires no introductions. If you haven't read it, do. If you have, do so again.

3. One book that you'd want on a desert island.

I imagine a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica would cover most eventualities.

4. One book that made you laugh.

Mark Steel's Vive la Revolution is bloody hilarious. I read it on the train one day and was struggling to prevent myself laughing out loud. I also learnt a lot reading it. What more could you want from a book?

5. One book that made you cry.

I don't cry. Simple as.

6. One book you wish you had written.

The Bible. Imagine the merchandising revenues.

7. One book you wish had never been written.

Any and/or all of my law textbooks.

8. One book you're currently reading.

The World Turned Upside Down by Christopher Hill. It's an examination of the multitudinous radical movements which emerged around the time of the English Civil War, which I picked up in my local Oxfam bookshop.

9. One book you have been meaning to read.

Tolstoy's War and Peace. My dad got a copy years back and passed it on to me once he'd finished it. I've been meaning to get around to reading it for something like five-years, but haven't yet managed to pluck up the courage. I did once start, but I didn't get beyond the first page.

It's customary at this juncture to "tag" further victims bloggers who are then expected to propagate the meme in a fashion evocative of a nominally intellectual chain-letter. Not one to buck the trend, I nominate Alex, Job, Nella, Pacian and Pranjal.
This (via) is troubling:
Ten years after Pentagon leaders toughened policies on extremist activities by active duty personnel -- a move that came in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing by decorated Gulf War combat veteran Timothy McVeigh and the murder of a black couple by members of a skinhead gang in the elite 82nd Airborne Division -- large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists continue to infiltrate the ranks of the world's best-trained, best-equipped fighting force. Military recruiters and base commanders, under intense pressure from the war in Iraq to fill the ranks, often look the other way.

Neo-Nazis "stretch across all branches of service, they are linking up across the branches once they're inside, and they are hard-core," Department of Defense gang detective Scott Barfield told the Intelligence Report. "We've got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad," he added. "That's a problem."

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