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Tuesday, March 18th, 2008
11:42 am - Blogs, bloggers and comments
I have been a regular reader of left-leaning blogs for some time and it is rare that the comments are as good as the posts, but this caught my eye recently - it is attributed to dd, no relation to d² :

However, as has become plainer in the current period of profound political dis- and re-orientation on the Western left over the past five years or so, one of the main functions of comedy is not to subvert conventional mores, but to bolster them for unself-assured insiders, for the waverers, to keep them in line: in this case, the fragile moral consciences of those who share the approximate default political outlook, the unthoughtout thought, of the mainstream soft-left establishment, to reassure them that their position of self-regarding isolationism was basically correct—something that they themselves must doubt if they require such assurance.

For more evidence of the truth of the above check out the works of Bremner, Rowson, Bell, Morris etc etc

The comment was issued in response to a commenter who calls himself Flying Rodent, presumably in an attempt to smear the blogger of the same name whose own blog is usually well worth reading but whose cretinous mimic pops up now and then to embarrass the poor guy on other blogs' comment pages. The UK left blogosphere is a small and bizzarre world.

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Tuesday, February 12th, 2008
3:36 pm - Archbishops
There has been a lot of talk recently about the Archbishop of Canterbury and his attempt to argue above his own intellectual weight.

To the calls for him to resign, I would like to add a new demand - not that he resign, but he be mandated to have Ophelia Benson accompany him whenever he makes a speech, as his interpreter.

Her commentary in the Notes & Queries section of B&W is excellent and reminds me that I should read her first and the commenters on blogs such as HP second, if at all.

The following quotes really need to be read in the context of the piece - so go there and read them, but here is a flavour (the quotes in italics are from the ABofC:

"he keeps suggesting we need to think about these things, as if no one had been thinking about them until now! Where's he been? We've been thinking about them, for months and years - we don't need the head of the Church of England to suggest that we do what we're already doing! And we don't need his help with the thinking, either.

So the second objection to an increased legal recognition of communal religious identities can be met if we are prepared to think about the basic ground rules that might organise the relationship between jurisdictions, making sure that we do not collude with unexamined systems that have oppressive effect or allow shared public liberties to be decisively taken away by a supplementary jurisdiction.

We are prepared to think, more prepared than the archbishop is, by the looks of it; but the only way to make sure we don't collude with these unexamined systems (there it is again - what makes him think they're unexamined? unexamined by whom? him?) is to decline to give them any 'supplementary jurisdiction"

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Tuesday, January 29th, 2008
7:36 pm - Test Results
It was an MBTI test and I am an INTP.

erm, if that is okay with everyone else.

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7:21 pm - Just so you know
A lot has happened in the time since I was blogging more regularly. I have a son now and I have found that two kids is a lot more than just one more child. A friend said to me that one child was a hobby and two a family - an exaggeration, but the workload has more than doubled.

Extremely rewarding though it all is, it does not leave so much time for other pursuits.

Additionally, I am working on another project - one which sees me travelling to Bilbao every two weeks. Disclaimer - I love Bilbao and the Basque people generally. I have a great time when I am here and would probably consider moving but for the fact that I would probably double in weight within a few days - the food here is so great - a brit living in Belgium has possibly not experienced the whole spectrum of great eating possibilities, but some of the restaurants here are as good as any I have been in.

Beyond that - I would like to blog a bit more - one blog I read recently said that blogging was becoming very unfashionable, so it seemed like the right time to start - so that I can become seriously entrenched by the time it becomes fashionable again and I can bathe in the glory that has eluded me thus far.

One great feature of all of this travelling has been that I can read twice the amount that I managed in the period immediately after my son's birth - this week alone I have finished Lolita and The Good Terrorist and am currently eyeing up Niall Ferguson's latest and the Nemesis the Warlock collection. And I cannot stop listening to the new British Sea Power album.

Politically, I am as confused as ever I was. I like to read Michael Totten's site for good news and just about anywhere else for bad. Gordon Brown is really fecking up, isn't he - I see people commenting that not only is a Tory government likely after the next election, but maybe that wouldn't be so bad. My what short memories we have. And Hain going seems like a loss - I was a member of the AAM for years in the 80s and the biggest march I was on was in about 86 or 87 when half a million marched for South African freedom through London and I came back on the train and drunkenly insulted my Tory uncle when I arrived home.

Finally, I can't help but express utter disdain for the fools that run the football club I love - though I just heard we have hired Gary McAllister as manager, so maybe things will improve again - one season, just one season without courts, money problems, managers thinking they could be better off elsewhere, players taking the coin and showing total disregard for actually earning it - just one season of football matches and support and the crying and laughing that comes with it - please?

current mood: chipper

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Thursday, January 24th, 2008
2:01 pm - test

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Thursday, June 28th, 2007
9:03 pm - Just a quickie
I am in something aproaching a state of shock.

Being a political nerd, I have been reading various blogs today and rying to gauge the consensus of opinion on the change of Prime Ministers.

The thing is, I keep hearing two disturbing rumours and I can't concentrate. If there is any truth in the gossip that both Shirley Williams and Malcolm Rifkind were, in some way, sounded out as potential cabinet members or members of the government in any capacity whatsoever, then the queue to start begging Blair to come back starts here.

Perhaps Douglas Hurd and Henry Kissinger were busy?

For fuck's sake.

current mood: distressed

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Thursday, May 10th, 2007
8:44 pm - On Blair
There is a debate over at Harry's about Blair leaving. As ever, the meat is in the comments and this gem by regular commenter mettaculture just has to be repeated.

The fact that large numbers of newly boosted lower middle class people who have benefitted immensely from the longest sustained period of growth in British History are likely to vote Tory in an act of ladder hauling selfishness and greed while feeling morally superior because of Iraq is their shame not Tony's
Posted by: Mettaculture at May 10, 2007 06:47 PM

I love that!

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Friday, March 2nd, 2007
1:43 pm - Working my way back to you babe
Having decided to begin blogging again, I find myself with nothing much of interest to say.

I am back at work after a period of paternal leave due to the birth of my son which went well. He is a big fat bouncing baby, of 3 months age now and is happily learning to aim his pee in unusual directions.

I read a lot of books while I was off - couple of Houellebecqs, Palahniuks, Amsterdam by McEwan, Arthur and George by Julian Sands and the Dawkins. Enjoyed each and every one and could happily never put a finger on a PC keyboard again if left with a stack of similar books. Still trying to track down Cohen's What's Left - not easy to do here in Belgium for some reason - I made a pledge to keep off the Amazon habit for as long as I can, but I can feel my resolve weakening already.

Music has been the Long Blondes, Skream, Ghostface Killah, the Jarvis CD, and of course the new Fall album. Over Xmas, I was given CDs by Amy Winehouse, Gnarls Barkley and The Raconteurs and, to my surprise, found myself loving them all. It is a great time for those of us that like a bit of indie and the fringes of popular music. Still undecided on Isobell Campbell's folk stuff...

Lastly, here is a great link to a great rant that I agree with, and let's face it, you can't say fairer than that.


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Thursday, November 30th, 2006
8:12 pm - Sing Happy
Sometimes I read something and it just makes me happy and renews a certain faith in my fellow man. This conversation over at Harry's Place has all of the usual suspects rabbiting on, but gradually, among the credible commentators, a consensus emerges and it reminded me of why I read that site and why I still feel a part of a "left".

The topic was apologies for past misdeeds, in particular for slavery. The consensus that seemed to me to emerge was that apologies were unnecessary but that the development work that has been suggested as reparations should instead be given out of sense of current responsibility for our fellow human beings - just not associated with guilt. Responsibility and not guilt. Fantastic - so simple, so true and so obvious. This is the root of socialism for me - a feeling of being responsible for others that comes not from God or the threat of hellfire, but from one's humanity.

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3:34 pm - Next Left
I wanted to comment on a couple of articles on the state of the left and the discussions that are going on.

I thought that Harry's baiting of Dave Osler was fun and had the right result in that it prompted Osler to reply and to state his views. Read the whole piece as it is interesting and the comments good and certain to grow. FWIW, I was a supporter of the Militant Tendency in the 80s and had a long and drawn-out move away from ultra-leftism in the 90s despite a brief dalliance with the RCP.

I have always thought of myself as a leftist, indeed until recently a Trotskyist. I would not call myself one any longer for the simple reason that I think it a fairly necessary tenet of Trotskyism that the revomution is "at hand". It isn't.

Another aspect of the debate that intrigued me is the description of a trotskyist as a revolutionary socialist who is not a Stalinist. I might have signed up to this one relatively recently, but now I am not a revolutionary. I have too many Polish and Cuban friends to consider myself a revolutionary socialist in that sense - even when stressing the non/anti-stalinist part of that rubric. I just see no evidence that a revolution helps the people whereas I see many small increments helping people even if they fail to address the root cause of their problems. For the rest, I am broadly in agreement with Dave and am getting to be a fan of his writing. I like a leftist that thinks stuff like trade unions and worker's rights are more important than scoring points against the Great Satan.

So, not a Trot then alas. Still a leftist. I am intrigued by the debates referred to by matgb in a previous comment concerning the uselessness of terms like left & right for the modern debate. I am sure that such a debate works for those involved, but I am an aging exile and like to know where I came from as well as where I am going and from that perspective, do feel a need to proclaim and reclaim my leftiness.

Over at Shiraz, jim Denham talks about a meeting he attended during which one Stephen Wilkinson from the Cuba Solidarity Campaign claimed he had never heard anyone "claiming to be from the left" who argued that "Fidel Castro is not a friend of the workers...it's just irrational, and I'm not prepared to listen to anyone who says that"

Which made me laugh out loud this morning, but did at least remind me to call a friend of mine who I have not seen since his last visit home. Jim goes on to say: "The important point about Castroite Cuba, from a Marxist point of view, is the lack of genuine trade unions and the repression of working class democracy." Which is to the point. He also links to an article on pseudo-left deification of big men in Latin America - an excellent article as it happens - http://www.workersliberty.org/node/7322

The article is a review of D.L. Raby, Democracy and Revolution: Latin America and Socialism Today, Pluto 2006 - this is to me, the money-shot:

"Raby opts for populism essentially because of a lack of confidence in the democratic and organisational potential of the working class. She hints at this, with the comment that “social revolutions will continue to occur – at least in the global South” – effectively writing off workers in the “North”. (2006 p.65) "

which is the crux of my alienation from the majority of those falsely calling themselves socialists now - yes, SWP I am looking at you.

If I were a joining type of bloke, I might look further into the AWL who have consistently spoken sense re Iraq and Israel while others soil themselves.

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Tuesday, November 28th, 2006
12:34 pm - Not sure what I like the best
Sometimes I just like to point and laugh. The drink-soaked trots are on fine form currently.

Greens Are Fucking Hippies

Lowering debate or boggling mind

Best in Class

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10:43 am
You Are Surrealism

Dreamy and idealistic, you've created a world that is all your own.
It's very likely that you've either dabbled in drugs or are naturally trippy.
You are always trying to push beyond the boundaries of your culture and society.
You believe that art, love, and freedom can change the world.

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Thursday, November 23rd, 2006
2:26 pm - Going Dutch
I was going to post on the kerr-azy Dutch elections, but the article by Dennis McShane over at CiF pretty well summarises trhe situation.

The piece in the article that most attracted my attention was the following excerpt:

Austria has yet to form a government after the messy election result two months ago. There is even talk in Vienna of the Austrian Socialist party entering into an alliance with the extreme right breakaway party from Jorg Haider's Freedom party. This will plunge Europe's democratic left into a crisis. The Party of European Socialists has suspended its Slovakian member party, SMER, because of its coalition with an ultra-nationalist party.

This, coupled with the Red-Brown alliances in the UK (RESPECT) and here in Belgium (RESIST), coupled with the co-opting of the left-ish alternative scene by the far right in France, and you are left with a scary picture. With the RCP and it's slime trail still identifying as part of the left and supporting fascists, it would seem that the ages-old cliché that left and right meet at the edges is genuinely being shown to be true. There will be a lot more of this to come.

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Thursday, November 16th, 2006
11:33 am
Go here for the latest news from DPRK.

Not sure whether the blog is funnier than the comments, to be honest, but both made me laugh a lot.

Hat tip - Attila - see below.

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10:35 am - Link
Thanks to Darren, The Inveresk Street Ingrate, I have found Attila The Stockbrokers myspace page - anyone vaguely leftish and who went to gigs in the 80s will know Attila and his myspace blog seems to be recounting his life from 1981 - very amusing and not just to those of us who have thrown out 4 meter-high piles of old NMEs in the last few years.

The link is somewhat related to your own myspace status etc, so just go over to http://www.myspace.com/attilastockbroker and have a look around.

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Wednesday, November 15th, 2006
5:07 pm - Music
I don't post much about music.

But I have been bowled over by The Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs. I have not bought any new music for a while and so was investigating some older stuff that I never quite got into. I love this album - the range, the clever-clever lyrics are never too much, just enough to make me giggle, the cheery melodies and so on - I cannot think of a single friend that I have ever had that could not find at least one track that would not make them smile.

I have also been listening to Electrelane a hell of a lot. They really are the best new band in the UK since Stereolab (not a sign of not having heard anything newer, just nothing quite this good). Their (Electrelane's) second album is the best, IMHO, as it contains the most tracks with vocals on and I am a sucker for vocals - even on a bit of a "motorik workout". I would place this album as being as good as any other in my collection. Think Neu! meets Stereolab and have a good old jam! Check out some of their live gigs from the internet archive - they are a bit more experimental and improv live and they make a hell of a noise.

Also, this article is probably true, but I am as guilty as the next man of continuing the orthodoxy with my Dylan books and so on - invariable own more than half of any "best albums ever" list and so on. It would be a good experiment (throwing away all music from the last fifty years) - it would probably be the final motivation to learn to play the guitar properly.

Finally, I saw this on a comments board over at HP and wished I was in london:

The guitarist on Raindogs, Big Time and Mule Variations (Marc Ribot) is doing a free gig with his new band outside the Queen Elisabeth Hall on Saturday evening as part of the London Jazz Festival


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4:23 pm - Atheism and Theo
There is an article up at CiF demonstrating Theo Hobson's inability to understand words.

This was a response to AC Grayling writing previously. There is a kind of musical chairs going on while the Guardian works out which brand of contrarianism will sell most a l'express.

Still, it got me thinking and browsing and so forth and this from the excellent Butterflies and wheels' notes section seemed to me to be the final word:

""But atheism is perfectly compatible with agnosticism, may indeed be the same thing. I (still) don't see why not being a theist necessarily proceeds from any beliefs about the cosmos. Not being a socialist or a Friedmanite doesn't necessarily proceed from any beliefs about economics; and so on. Are you claiming that theist belief is so natural that its absence requires prior beliefs?"

I would call it an epiphany were I that way inclined, but this is exactly the point - to a theist, theism is that natural that there is some horror that others cannot see their truth. I can only assume that this is why a Christian would resort to lying and re-defining words to illustrate his prejudice - if you see Hobson's reply in the comments to his piece:

"I am defining 'hard-core atheism' - as belief that history improves when religion is ditched. "

To which Ophelia Benson's prior retort:

"Yes, certainly. And cucumbers are heavy orange rectangular things that are useful for building walls or heaving through atheists' windows, and sailboats are fiercely hot little green things you can put in beans or stew or atheists' eyes, and winter is that very stocky bald guy in the red jumpsuit over there who might be an atheist by the looks of him. In other words, what a ridiculous display of free-association. All those things fit the description of some atheists and agnostics, no doubt, but they're certainly not part of the meanings of the words. Back to argument school for Theo Hobson."

seems even more apposite.

That a theologian argues against anti-clericalism is quaint but uninteresting (a tad weird for the Guardian, but not entirely inappropriate), but that he then inflates this group to encompass all atheists is precisely the argument that is used against Dawkins.

every time I see Grayling or Dawkins poke their heads above the parapets, I sit and hope that it is to people like Hobson that the papers turn to for a refutation.

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Wednesday, November 8th, 2006
2:14 pm - Socialism sure ain't what it used to be
From Dave's Part (best socialist blog in the UK?):

‘Saturday's conference was called to primarily agree a constitution and finalise the name of the new party. However, it was clear in the run-up to conference there was going to be a very important debate on the character and type of organisation that Solidarity should be.

‘The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) used the conference to strongly argue against Solidarity being a socialist party. Instead, they advocated that Solidarity should be a “movement of the movements”, a home for those fighting Islamophobia, for the anti-war movement and for those opposing climate change.

‘During the debate on the name of the party, one SWP member said, “socialism should not be in the name, if we remove it people will join us“. The SWP voted for the name to be "Solidarity", dropping the reference to "Scotland's Socialist Movement".

‘One SWP speaker, after another, emphasised that if Solidarity was socialist it would put off people joining. They argued that Islamophobia was the “main political issue” in society, today, and that Solidarity has to prioritise winning more Muslims into its ranks.’

And from the Solidarity site, the following:

Solidarity Statement on Saddam Verdict
Monday, 06 November 2006
In 46 BC the captured Gallic leader, Vercingetorix, on the way to his execution, was paraded through the streets of Rome by Caesar to mark the fifth anniversary of his victorious campaign to quell revolt in Gaul and Germania, a campaign which secured the Roman Empire’s European possessions for many years to come.

On Sunday, November 5, 2006, pictures of Saddam Hussein in the dock receiving the death sentence at the end of a nine month 'show trial' were beamed around the world - a world increasingly controlled by a new Roman Empire with Washington DC its centre of power.

Over two thousand years separate the ignominious end of Vercingetorix and Saddam Hussein at the hands of an imperial behemoth, yet the parallels are striking. Simply put, both men stood up to the prevailing global power and both were destroyed.

That Saddam Hussein was a dictator who murdered and tortured many of his own people is undeniable. However, the death and carnage visited on the Iraqi people in three years of a brutal, illegal and immoral occupation, engineered by US plutocrats as a project to smash their way into the heart of the Middle East in order to control the regions vast energy reserves, is a crime against humanity for which those responsible should be held to account in an international criminal court.

Hat Tip: Shiraz Socialist

How to end this posting?

You couldn't make it up?

Hmm, these days it would seem you don't need to. Can't wait for this.

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10:54 am - Cleaning Out The Closet
I have been so busy this last week that I have not blogged at all. Couple that with the fact that I was off sick with a chest infection the week before and this has been a bit of a desert.

Don't think it will get any better for a while, either. I only blog from work. I work as a technical architect and am consequently staring at my laptop screen for 8-10 hours of every day. When I go home, I read books, play with my daughter, and stay away from anything more technical than playing a dvd.

My wife will give birth to our son in 3 weeks and I will then take the rest of the year off to look after them both - ie keep the house clean and stare nostalgicly at my wife's breasts. When I return to work in the new year, I will be working for a new company and eventually be on a new contract.

What all of this means is that my current position will be disrupted a number of times over the next few months and I can honestly say that I do no know whether this will result in my ever blogging again. I enjoy blogging, but it does not feel necessary, any more than offering an opinion on some subject over a pint is necessary. Despite this, my browsing habits have changed from mainly news-sites to mainly blogs. I regard blogs as the equivalent of the comment pieces in newspapers (though minus the envious "Why are they being paid millions to spout off when I am not" reaction).

A quandary, then. I feel that my blogging is the least of my life, but that others' can be most interesting. I am sure that I will log on to the pc to read some blogs, so perhaps I shall document my life while I am on parental leave - should be a blog as full of interest as this has been the last few weeks - ?

Anyway, I shall put up a few posts over the next few weeks, which may be summary pieces and may just be thoughtful, but will not be saliva-speckled rants against folk I agree with.

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Wednesday, October 18th, 2006
11:07 am - Final blog today
Oliver Kamm on Geras.

Geras says that:

"Sometimes there is a justification for opposing tyranny and barbarism whatever the cost. Had I been of mature years during that time, I hope I would have supported the war against Nazism come what may, and not been one of the others, the nay-sayers. The same impulse was at work in my support for the Iraq war. Even so, I am bound to acknowledge that,though I never expected an easy sequelin Iraq, much less a 'cakewalk', I did not anticipate a failure on this scale, and had I done so, I would have withheld support for the war without giving my voice to the opposition to it."

Read the whole piece. It is genuinely moving and is far from an apology, though i suspect it will be spun as such. It is not one the same level as the facile Johann Hari's face-and-job-saving grovel.

Kamm says he disagrees with Geras but will not say why.

For myself, I did not support the war, but I was persuaded of the rightness of the cause of removing Saddam during the early offensive. I had been reading Chomsky, Moore et al and found that their analysis (I know) did not adequately explain the situation I was watching unfold. I wanted a left-wing analysis that did not insult my intelligence and I found it over at Harry's Place.

So where do I stand now?

No regrets. I think that based on the evidence at the time, it was right to support the US attempt to remove Saddam. No-one could have predicted the almighty mess that has evolved. Those that say that they did predict this, did so largely on the basis of an idea that the US could not possibly do anything right. I do not think that the evidence at the time was there for that prediction to be made in an unbiased manner.

However, if I had had a foolproof method of divination and could have seen the results, I think I would have argued against support for the war, though pace Geras, I would have fallen far short of support for the opposition that has so shamed the anti-war movement, a once-proud and now disgraced grouping.

Oh, and read Shuggy on secularism in schools.

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