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Sunday, November 23, 2003

Fun actually

To recover from a hard day of following sport yesterday, in the evening I ambled out with WotN and we got a bus to our local multiplex, there to take in Richard Curtis's new film Love Actually. According to Ben Walters in the December issue of Sight and Sound (no online version of the actual review) the movie is 'a shallow, saccharine distillation of the romantic sentimentalism of [Curtis's] previous screenplays', '130-odd minutes of superficial viewing', marked by 'pat dialogue and situations [that] make engagement a real challenge'; 'the conclusion... has the unwelcome tinge of sentimental porn'. I don't think he liked it. The Guardian reviewer Peter Bradshaw was somewhat more favourably inclined, but for him, too, in the end it's a no-no. The good news, he says, lies in one particular performance, that of Bill Nighy, and...
The bad news is that everything else is rubbish. Well, not all of it, and not total rubbish, but none of the little plots is all that funny or humanly convincing and none has room to breathe or develop.
Well, you can believe these guys and stay away, or you can be guided by me and WotN and go and have a bloody good time.

In favour of the movie is: a stellar cast, with Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, Alan Rickman and Rowan Atkinson all as good as the best British (and, not forgetting Liam, Irish) actors can be; much laugh-out loud stuff, situations and lines; and a load of heart-warming fantasy - this, for the most part, being what the film is, fantasy about love - but not without a shot of worldly realism here and there. It's not King Lear. It's not Twelve Angry Men. And it does have its problems: a child who's a serious casting error, intended as cute but in fact creepy, being major; and a barely-coded briefly-stated view on the current UK-US nexus, which is... er, the wrong view, being minor. Still, to all appearances, a cinema-full of Mancunians thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and in the right mood you might also - you know, if you like this sort of thing. Gene should probably give it a miss.


posted by norm at 11:25 pm | link


Jackie has moved

She is now here - and so is au currant.


posted by norm at 10:55 pm | link


Home Office?

Is this why it's called that?
Asylum seekers could have their children taken into care under Home Office plans to persuade them to go home, it emerged tonight.

Parents whose asylum claims have been rejected would be told to take a "voluntary" flight home or lose their benefits.

They could then have their children taken from them as they would not be able to afford to support them.

It is thought up to 2,000 children could be affected by the clampdown to be announced in the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday.

A Home Office spokesman insisted the proposal was designed to protect children. He said the Government did not want children to suffer from action taken against their parents.
Or you could think of it as legalized kidnapping.


posted by norm at 9:05 pm | link


EU body shelves anti-Semitism report

I would have posted about this yesterday but was otherwise engaged. It's been flagged by a number of big American blogs, but is worrying enough to justify giving it further mileage. According to this report in the Financial Times:
The European Union's racism watchdog has shelved a report on anti-semitism because the study concluded Muslims and pro-Palestinian groups were behind many of the incidents it examined.
..........
When the researchers submitted their work in October last year... the centre's senior staff and management board objected to their definition of anti-semitism, which included some anti-Israel acts. The focus on Muslim and pro-Palestinian perpetrators, meanwhile, was judged inflammatory.
You need to read the rest. Eugene Volokh comments:
If the objections were simply that "anti-Semitism" was defined too broadly, to include anti-Israeli sentiment that wasn't anti-Semitic, then I wouldn't be troubled; likewise if the problem really was that the report was limited in its timeframe... But if it's really true that the data wasn't released because the facts that it uncovers - that there really seems to be a problem with Muslim anti-Semitism, a problem that I would think would need to be exposed to be properly addressed - are seen as politically unpalatable, that surely seems quite wrong.
The report should be made available for public scrutiny to allow informed judgement about the whole matter. (Thanks to Eve Garrard for the tip-off. Updated at 9.00 PM to correct acknowledgement.)


posted by norm at 5:35 pm | link


The sounds of silence

Having linked on Friday to one of two excellent posts by Chris Bertram, today I want to discuss the other. As he took some flak for it in the comments box at Crooked Timber, I start by saying that I found Chris's explanation for why he didn't participate in Thursday's march entirely reasonable - as won't surprise anyone, given my own view about it - and, more specifically, I would defend his argument that anti-Bush protestors should not be using the swastika on their banners; defend it against the criticism that this is an acceptable symbol of political agitation in the circumstances. I don't think it is. I think it indicates, on the part of some of those demonstrating, the lack of any sense of even the approximate, let alone the true, dimensions of the political and moral evils that the swastika has come to represent.

I disagree with Chris on one point, however: this is his taking to task of 'liberal hawks [who] are asking rhetorically why there were no demonstrations against Saddam Hussein, or against other tyrannies'. Chris goes on to say the following:
I think that last question is pretty easy to answer: people usually demonstrate because they are angry at their own government (or its associates) rather than at someone else's. Even anger at yesterday's bombings in Turkey wouldn't translate into demonstrations because there would be no point in marching against Al Quaida.
Strictly, Chris is covered by the 'usually' here. He doesn't actually deny the unusual or less usual kind of case: of demonstrations and protests that aren't against one's own government. But then why make no more of such cases in the present context? They seem entirely relevant to it. As one CT reader writes in the comments on Chris's post, there were many demonstrations against apartheid and the South African government. I went on one here in 1970, against a visit of the Springbok rugby team. Even more to the point in view of some of what I shall go on to argue, I recall going on a march of many thousands - this, again, in Manchester, not London (I'm guessing in the early 1980s) - against the National Front and racism, and organized, I would imagine, by the Anti-Nazi League. This was a march, consequently, and part of a much wider campaign, not aimed primarily against any government, but against what was rightly seen as an ugly political and social threat.

How different the global climate of opinion might be today if the international left and the 'peace' movement, instead of acting in a way which, had it been successful, would have rescued a truly monstrous dictatorship from its impending demise, had made some equally public and massive showing against the activities of that regime. And how different things might now be if there were mass demonstrations in London, Washington, Paris, etc, against the disease of global terrorism. Pointless, it will be said, because terrorist organisations and networks, al-Qaida in particular, are not responsive to public opinion. Chris himself doesn't explicitly argue this, but he allows it as a possible inference and it's a view which has been put to me in an email I received after I'd invoked the possibility of demonstrations of such a kind. Well, the beginning of my answer to it is: Oh really? For it's no more than a quick and unconvincing get-out. To know, and be frequently reminded, that they were opposed and heartily despised by all the peoples of the world, rather than being constantly 'understood' and sympathetically explained as men and women made desperate by legitimate grievances, part of an inevitable (or 'roiling' or 'crazed') backlash - this might not stop the purveyors of terror immediately in their tracks, but in what looks like being a long business, a long war (without scare-quotes), the different climate of opinion it would contribute to creating could be of great importance.

It is, after all, the opponents of Bush and Blair who are so insistent that combating terrorism doesn't, or doesn't only, come down to a matter of military might. They could put their money where their mouths are in a double sense by staging forms of protest which show both how much they really do (as they say they do) oppose tyrants and terrorists, and how they really do understand that the battle against such political enemies must be more than just a military one, embracing economic, political and moral initiatives and forms of confrontation as well.

I'm also not persuaded, in this connection, by some otherwise compelling remarks of my blog friend across at the Stoa. Chris Brooke says:
Surely the key point about "outrage" and demonstrations is that big demonstrations are not (or, rather, almost never) spontaneous public displays of outrage at all, but the product of great investment of time and energy on the parts of event organisers.
And he goes on to provide supporting detail for this thesis. In some contexts it would be a persuasive counter-argument against people challenging a certain set of demonstrators as to why they weren't demonstrating against something else. So, for example, if we were marching against a US-supported effort to (shall we say) overthrow a democratically elected Latin American government, it wouldn't be to the point, and a valid criticism of us, for someone to ask why we weren't also campaigning against (shall we say) the cruelty involved in bullfighting. There's an unfathomable amount of injustice and pain in the world, and no one is reasonably subject to condemnation if they focus their efforts on trying to oppose or limit some of it. Still, the reason I don't think the considerations Chris adduces are applicable in the current case may be derived via some observations of Harry's on the same subject, even though these are framed initially as an endorsement of what Chris says.

Harry sees it as 'a weak bit of rhetoric from supporters of the war' to raise the question 'why the anti-war people don't protest about other matters'; but he then goes on to focus on the one-sided content of the anti-war and anti-Bush protests:
For example the Alliance for Workers Liberty marched under the slogan "No to War, No to Saddam"... I happen to think there is a basic contradiction in that position but nonetheless I can respect them for realising there was a need to say No to Saddam. The SWP, CPB, MAB and the overwhelming majority of protestors chose not to make any clear statement about Saddam. If pressed they would mutter that of course, they didn't support Saddam but..... [Harry's ellipsis] However they never felt the need to tell the world they opposed the dictator.

Likewise on Thursday, was it unreasonable to expect the British left to respond in the way the Turkish and Italian left has done this week and combine peace protests with a strong anti-terrorism message?
As this makes clear enough, the anti-war demonstrations are not at all like my hypothetical Latin American government/cruelty of bullfighting case. The issues of the war and opposition to it just were about the Saddam Hussein regime as well. This large monster of an issue wasn't another issue, or at least it wasn't a totally distinct one. It was squatting there, and shrieking out, from the very same location where the issues of the war and opposition to it had set up camp. And if there was anyone who didn't see this immediately, there were enough others, supporters of the war, who kept pointing it out to them. As Harry's argument indicates, no special extra effort of mobilization, no large investment of additional energy, would have been needed by any of those involved, in order to have made a relevant protest about the 'other matters' here. If they couldn't see their way to absenting themselves from the anti-war marches - morally speaking, the best stance, and the most logical one, for those with feelings of solidarity for the Iraqi people but such serious misgivings about a US-led invasion as to have felt unable to support it - they should have made it clear on their banners and in their slogans where they stood vis-à-vis the Baathist regime. They didn't and still don't. Likewise vis-à-vis the war on terror. Of course, that one doesn't protest about a thing doesn't necessarily imply endorsement of it. But in certain contexts the balance of what one says and what one omits to say is significant, and it can have important public effects.

Meanwhile, in Italy and in Turkey there have been public manifestations precisely about these matters. Would that the Italian and Turkish examples might be a pointer to the future without this having to be on account of further episodes of wanton murder across the cities and other living and working and recreation spaces of the world. But it's not easy to be optimistic on that score.

[Updated at 9.00 PM: Harry now has a long follow-up post which I urge you to read.]


posted by norm at 4:15 pm | link


Saturday, November 22, 2003

Spirit of sport 2: Springbok disgrace

If even half of what's reported here is true, South African rugby is still in need of a clean-up:
A photograph of Springbok players huddled naked in a lake shook South African rugby yesterday and loosened Rudolph Straeuli's already weakened hold on his job as head coach. The Star in Johannesburg devoted more than half its front page to a photo of at least 10 naked Springbok players packed tightly together, apparently exhausted and freezing, holding rugby balls or billy cans to preserve their modesty.

It is the latest revelation to come out of the Springboks' pre-World Cup team-building camp in the Limpopo bush two hours' drive north of Pretoria, where players underwent gruelling ordeals intended to build mental strength.

Allegations of psychological torture and physical threats, including being held at gun point, have been levelled against the coach and his right-hand man Adriaan Heijns who is a former special services operative from the apartheid era.
There's more.


posted by norm at 7:33 pm | link


Spirit of sport 1: England's cup

I can't put it any better than this email I received from Jim Nolan:
aussie aussie aussie ouch ouch ouch! but what a gaaaaaame!!!
Yup, and England deserved to win it; and what an ending - fairy tale stuff.

My friend Ian Holliday - and our Hong Kong correspondent - has won the normblog comp, and this means that not only does he carry off the honours, but 'I will also donate to a charity of [his] choice... thirty pounds sterling or an amount equal to the total number of points scored in the final, whichever is the greater' - therefore 37 pounds, call it 40. Ian has nominated the Child Welfare Scheme which 'works with local communities in Nepal to help improve the lives of young people in poverty'; and that's where I'll be sending his donation. As losing finalist I'll send the same amount to the Kay Mason Foundation, featured yesterday, a few posts down. (Click here for the site and then check out 'KMF scholars'.)

Well done, England. Well done, Australia. A great finale to the competition.


posted by norm at 6:49 pm | link


It's rugby and it's football

It's gotta be till later, people. I have two important fixtures to attend today. But just to give you something in the general area, here, courtesy of an Australian friend, is an important story.

A video tape has been released on which Osama bin Laden speaks to camera and says that he saw the Liverpool game and it was boring. The CIA have issued a statement saying the tape could have been made at any time in the last four years.


posted by norm at 8:55 am | link


ABR – last call

The poll for the Alternative Big Read closes tomorrow midnight and I now need only one more entry to reach the hundred. If you could enter but haven't... what, have you a heart of stone? Please, your top 3 from here and here.


posted by norm at 8:53 am | link


Friday, November 21, 2003

Liberation

From a report that has only just reached me:
(2003-11-20) -- Citizens of London streamed into the streets, filling the air with cheers and celebratory gunfire as a crowd toppled a statue of the infamous tyrant George Bush.

The exuberant mob gave vent to the long suppressed hopes of a people who had suffered for almost three years without freedom under the iron fist of Mr. Bush and his puppet, British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"I can now speak freely," said one Londoner through tears. "It is like a great darkness has been lifted from us."

The search now begins for the British torture chambers and mass graves which the Bush-Blair regime kept full during their reign of terror.
This is from the ScrappleFace agency (thanks to Franco Aleman).


posted by norm at 8:29 pm | link


First that, now this

One minute there's someone claiming I've been a town since 1928, then I discover I'm Condoleezza Rice. (Via Stephen Pollard who, not long after being nominated for Prime Minister by Oliver Kamm finds out that he's George Bush.)


posted by norm at 8:03 pm | link


The elected President of the United States

There's a piece in today's Spectator in which Gerald Kaufman gives out, amongst other not too clever observations and questions - like 'The world is full of horrible governments. Would it not be a good idea to make a clean sweep of them?' - this one:
And does it [the US] not have a president who was never elected, but appointed by the Supreme Court after electoral finagling in the electorally clinching state which just happens to be governed by that president's brother?
My friend Steve de Wijze writes in an email:
Kaufman descends into 1st-year-essay-writing mode: that is, pose suggestive questions in place of an argument and hope this does the trick of persuading your reader. A president who was never elected? Does Kaufman really believe this? Does he think that because there was a legal challenge and it was decided by the Supreme Court in a particular way (one I didn't agree with, I might add), this means that Bush wasn't properly elected? When a dispute arises over electoral matters, does Kaufman actually think that following accepted procedures through the courts renders the decision invalid? I doubt it. He must know, however, what he's implying.
Like Steve I was dismayed at the time by the decision of the US Supreme Court. But it has become so general a theme in certain quarters that Bush, though President, wasn't elected to the office and therefore has no democratic legitimacy, it must be worth pointing out to those who say this that they thereby reveal, out of their own mouths, their lack of genuine identification with constitutional and democratic procedures. It's like those who think Britain shouldn't have gone to war in Iraq because of the demo on February 15.


posted by norm at 5:53 pm | link


Geras

I deny all claims made here as being completely and utterly without foundation.


posted by norm at 4:42 pm | link


The Kay Mason Foundation

Susan Hill has drawn my attention to the Kay Mason Foundation, which '[w]orking closely with educators and families... awards scholarships to exceptional high-school-aged children from disadvantaged backgrounds.'

The Foundation provides money to educate black children in South Africa, sending youngsters who are bright to the top schools, which used to be for whites only. It was founded by a novelist called Richard Mason and is named after his sister who died when she was 20. Richard himself pays for the admin and expenses, so that all money from donations goes to paying the children's fees. At the moment there are 36 KMF Scholars going through.

Susan writes:
It is a very good thing: one boy, aged 11, heard that Richard was in Cape Town at a primary school, interviewing candidates for scholarships to top schools. He walked three miles to a train, which he had never done in his life - then a bus, another walk, asked about and asked about till he found the school, found Richard and walked in and said "Here I am. Interview me." When Richard asked why he should, the boy said, "Because I am a future Prime Minister of my country." By the time he had finished talking to him, Richard thought he was probably right.
If Australia beat England for the Rugby World Cup tomorrow and I therefore get to be the one who decides which charity I'm making a donation to, it'll be the Kay Mason Foundation - to encourage readers to think of doing likewise. If I don't and my friend Ian gets to decide which charity I'm making a donation to, I'll try to nobble him.


posted by norm at 4:25 pm | link


Boulder to Birmingham

At the end of my report on the Emmylou gig the other night, I raised the question of the precise distance between these two places. Chris Brooke provided me with the answer - 1,115 miles - and, better still, with the link to a site where you find out such things. So I fed in Bulawayo to Manchester, but they don't do Bulawayo, only Harare - always preferred Bulawayo myself - so I have to get by with that: 5,294 miles. Manchester to Nashville? 4,064 miles. Hmmm. Walking 15-minute miles, that's a little over 1,000 hours, say 125 days. But then there's the problem of the Atlantic Ocean. Good about my CDs.


posted by norm at 3:47 pm | link


The Great Eastern Islamic Raiders Front and the EU

According to DEBKAfile:
Last month, the European Union turned down a Turkish request to list the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders Front - IBDA-C - as a terrorist organization. This is the group that claimed the Istanbul synagogue bombings. The EU rejected Ankara's request on the grounds of "human rights."
I'm unable to find any more on the story. Thanks to Anthony Cox.


posted by norm at 12:33 pm | link


Those who just KNOW the Istanbul bombings are because of the Iraq war

I was meaning to post something about the Guardian leader today and Polly Toynbee's contribution in the same newspaper, but Chris Bertram and Marcus Laughton have saved me the trouble and I direct you to them.

What I can add, as belonging in the same general domain, is a link to an interview this morning on the Today programme, between John Humphrys and the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw. Straw carefully explains to Humphrys some of the same points made by Chris and Marcus. The version of the interview available on the BBC site is strangely truncated. Could there have been an 'incident' which the Beeb wants to protect us from? The interview is here - scroll down to 0810 where it begins 9 minutes in. (Thanks to Dena Wardah.)


posted by norm at 11:57 am | link


The normblog profile 9: Oliver Kamm

Oliver Kamm was born in 1963 and studied at Oxford and London universities. He began his career at the Bank of England and has since worked in the securities industry. He is part of the management of a pan-European investment bank that he helped set up in 1997. He served as adviser to the Independent MP Martin Bell from 1997 to the 2001 general election. He blogs at Oliver Kamm.

Why do you blog? > To express a militant liberalism that I feel ought to be part of public debate but which isn't often articulated, or at least not where I can find it, in the communications media that I read or listen to.

What has been your best blogging experience? > Receiving messages from writers I had no idea sympathized with this general outlook.

What has been your worst blogging experience? > Remonstrating fruitlessly with another blogger who had posted sympathetic remarks about a German terrorist group.

What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Know how to write grammatical prose.

Who are your intellectual heroes? > David Hume, Isaiah Berlin, Sidney Hook.

What are you reading at the moment? > Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, and David Gilmour's biography of Rudyard Kipling, The Long Recessional.

Who are your cultural heroes? > E.T.A. Hoffmann, George Eliot, Emily Dickinson.

What is the best novel you've ever read? > Vanity Fair by W.M. Thackeray.

What is your favourite poem? > Yeats's 'Sailing to Byzantium'.

What is your favourite movie? > The Third Man.

What is your favourite song? > Schubert's 'Der Hirt auf dem Felsen'.

Who is your favourite composer? > Schubert.

Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > Realising that the crucial distinction in politics is not between Left and Right, as I had once tribally thought, but between the defenders and the enemies of an open society.

What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Value pluralism.

What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Rousseau’s General Will.

Who are your political heroes? > Alexander Herzen, Henry 'Scoop' Jackson, Conor Cruise O'Brien.

What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > 'Everything is what it is: liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or culture, or human happiness or a quiet conscience.' - Isaiah Berlin.

If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Recognizing same-sex marriage.

If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be Prime Minister who would you choose? > It has to be Stephen Pollard.

What do you like doing in your spare time? > The opera.

What is your most treasured possession? > A 1927 limited edition of the collected poems of G.K.Chesterton inscribed by the author.

What talent would you most like to have? > The ability in adulthood to pick up a foreign language as easily as a child does.

Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > P.G. Wodehouse.

Who are your sporting heroes? > My father, a former Middlesex wicketkeeper.

Which English Premiership football team do you support? > Wholly uninterested in football, but I'm quite tolerant of those who don't share my eccentricity.

[Previous profiles: Ophelia Benson (Nov 7); Chris Bertram (Sep 26); Alan Brain (Oct 10); Jackie D (Oct 17); Harry Hatchet (Oct 24); Saddam Hussein (Nov 14); Roger L. Simon (Oct 31); Michael J. Totten (Oct 3). The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature.]


posted by norm at 10:24 am | link


Thursday, November 20, 2003

'They can't be resistance...'

Between the latest outrage in Istanbul and the march in London today, it's possible many will have missed this story from Iraq. The devil, as it is sometimes said, is in the detail, and on another day of infamy this could be an overlooked detail:
Kirkuk - Bloodied schoolbooks lay strewn on the ground in the heart of Iraq's northern oil centre on Thursday after a suicide bomber blew up a truck packed with explosives, killing four and wounding 37, most of them pupils.

The bomber struck just 180m from a compound containing both primary and secondary schools, leaving a schoolmistress among the dead.

Doctors at the city's main hospital said many of the wounded were also youngsters.

"Is this what God wants? Is this Islam?" screamed the mother of 16-year-old Nozad Ahmed who died in the explosion, making clear she held Islamic militants responsible.
..........
"It's unbelievable. No-one would have imagined someone could do such a thing right by the city's schools," he [Ali Hussein, 19, a final year student] said.
..........
"Even if they call themselves resistance, they can't be resistance because this is clearly a terrorist act," he [a witness, Khashwan Osman] said.
(See also here and here.) It is with such forces that a sector of the left marching against George Bush today urge our solidarity.


posted by norm at 9:46 pm | link


Jews Against Zionism

Now consider this letter in today's Guardian. It's from Roland Rance of Jews Against Zionism:
Once again, innocent Jews have been the target of militants purportedly acting in support of the Palestinian struggle. The attack in Istanbul demonstrates a deplorable confusion between the state of Israel and Jewish communities around the world. Such criminal attacks can never advance the Palestinian cause.
So he's against the deplorable confusion. However, observe:
But this confusion can hardly be a surprise. When Israel's apologists describe even verbal attacks on Israel as anti-semitic, when the state of Israel claims to act in the name of all Jews, and Jewish community leaders identify their interest with that of Israel, some Islamist militants will draw the same mistaken conclusion and regard Jewish worshippers as agents of the oppression of the Palestinians.
You see who it is that has gone and confused these poor Islamist... er, militants? Why, it's other Jews and their friends. Please don't anyone write in to admonish me that these various confusions are indeed perpetrated. My point is that the 'militants' bear the moral responsibility for their own confusions.


posted by norm at 5:35 pm | link


Arguments for Israel

Read Michael Walzer and Yair Sheleg, two different sorts of response to attempts to delegitimize the existence of the state of Israel, but both drawing attention to the unique treatment Israel is subject to in this regard. (Thanks to Jeff Abramowitz for the Sheleg tip-off.)


posted by norm at 5:32 pm | link


Amnesty condemns Istanbul bombings

A public statement issued by Amnesty International today:
Amnesty International condemns in the strongest terms the 15 November bombings of Neve Shalom and Beth Israel synagogues in Istanbul and the further bombings today apparently targeting the British Consulate and the HSBC Bank headquarters in Istanbul. Twenty-five people died and many others were injured in the bomb attacks on the two synagogues and today's bombings have resulted in dozens of deaths and multiple injuries.

"The deliberate killing of civilians has no justification and violates fundamental principles of international law," Amnesty International stressed.

Governments have a duty to bring to justice people within their jurisdiction who order and facilitate bombings. In doing so they must act strictly in accordance with international human rights standards.
Thanks to Chris Brooke for the tip-off.


posted by norm at 4:26 pm | link


My Bush visit protest

This is my protest. It's not against the visit of President George Bush to the UK; it's against those who are protesting against his visit by marching in London today. And just to clear red herrings out of the way since I don't want to have to talk fish here, no, I don't deny anyone's right to protest, I just regret the way they're choosing to exercise it on this occasion. Like I don't have to deny your right to divorce your spouse if I think you're making a mistake in doing so, and you don't have to deny your uncle's right to his beliefs or deny the freedom of association if you think he's wrong-headed for belonging to a certain political organization.

I protest against this protest, because of what it means and in the name of the values which the majority of those participating in it claim to subscribe to. Events, of course, don't only mean one thing. They can carry various meanings, and in the heads of the many participants today this one doubtless will. But there are also some contextual givens which constrain what it's sensible to think an event can mean. As I argued recently (November 10) in relation to George Galloway's lamentable display before The Great Leader (seemingly excused today in a dnoc-letter from John Roberts suggesting coercion), 'Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability', in the context in which it was uttered, is not a tribute to the Iraqi people whatever the utterer may now claim in his defence. Similarly, if I participate in a welcoming dinner for George Bush, in which many adulatory speeches are made to much applause and in which I join, then I've participated in welcoming George Bush – as in fact I do, though without having been to such a dinner - even if I'm sitting there thinking 'Oh gawd'.

Here is what I suggest today's protest against Bush's visit means. I repeat: it's not everything it means, but it's one of the things, and if you're part of the event then you're part of this meaning unless you take care to distinguish yourself from it. The revelatory symptom is the planned and much-publicized toppling of the mock statue of Bush, based, as everyone is all too well aware, on the toppling of the Saddam statue the day Baghdad fell. What else can the toppling planned for today mean but that the organizers of it are wanting to set up a parallel in people's minds between Bush and Saddam, and hence to suggest a rough moral equivalence - an equivalence between a known butcher of his own people, who presided over decades of atrocities, and the President of a democracy who presided over the freeing of the Iraqi people from that man's regime? Well, the equivalence thing is old hat by now, expressions of it being two-a-penny. Go back to those Guardian letters to (actually about) George Bush. Pinter: 'war criminal'; Imran Khan: 'world's leading terrorist fundamentalist'. People who think like this won't only be participating in today's demo. They are at the heart of organizing it, and if there's a platform anywhere with keynote speakers, bet your bottom dollar and even dime that such people will be prominent on that platform.

But it's actually much worse than moral equivalence and here is why. Because not only is Bush to be toppled, as Saddam was by jubilant Iraqis, but there has never been any similar great public showing, by the forces of 'peace party' liberalism and the socialist, anti-globalist left, of any joy, or even relief, or solidarity with the joy and relief of most Iraqis, over the original toppling. In so far as this is ever expressed at all, by individual 'peace'-niks, it's side-of-the-mouth, get-it-over-with-quickly stuff. But as for public rituals, leave alone clear and forthright individual statements, it's the great big zero. So the wished-for demise of President George W. Bush, this is a matter for public enactment and celebration; but the actual demise of one of the world's worst dictators, that is a dirty little piece of private shame for people who should have been out there shouting their elation, should have been some time for heaven's sake - if not on that day, then later, today even - shouting their joy that one national prison had been prised open, that one foul symbol of the crushing of humanity had been toppled, echoing the relief of Iraqis. But they never did and they still won't. What a scale, what a relativity, of values. Naturally, you can demonstrate against Bush's visit today and not feel yourself part of this meaning. But you are unless you aren't, and you aren't only if you make that clear somehow. The most visible public face of the event - in the fake toppling, in the organization and leadership of this anti-war movement, in some of its most prominent spokespeople - says to the world today, as it has been saying for many months: Bush, no; Saddam, mumble, cough (or worse).

As I said yesterday about language (two posts down), symbolic meanings aren't everything. But there's very little that doesn't have its cost. What will be the cost of these symbolic betrayals of the values of liberalism and democratic socialism? Hard to know. The best way for it to go would be for Bush and Blair to be vindicated by the eventual outcome in Iraq, so that the cost is born by the 'peace party' itself - with its confusions, its conduct, its slogans discredited. But a less happy outcome will be if the Coalition ultimately fails in Iraq, especially through a loss of will influenced by such protests, as many of the aforesaid party hope it will. Who knows what the cost will then be, to the democracies and peoples of the world, of these repeated demonstrations of the moral failure of a whole swathe of left-liberal opinion?


posted by norm at 12:24 pm | link


Wednesday, November 19, 2003

The Emmylou Review #3 - live in Manchester

I've been wanting to get to this all day but the other world kept blocking my way. So, to the devil with that world for as long as it now takes me to compose and post this. It isn't in the normal run of the Emmylou Reviews at this site; it's not a continuation of the discography I've begun. It's just a report of the outing by me and Wife of the Norm to the Bridgewater Hall last night, where the divine Emmylou Harris held her fans in thrall yet one more time.

There are nice reviews of her London gig here and here - and as an incidental curiosity, for which thanks to Michael Greenspan, there's also this reference to Emmylou by John Derbyshire (scroll down to 'Hankomania', about an item interesting in its own right), who plainly rates her, though he's got her down as so young at 42 that her great early albums would have been recorded when she was in her mid-teens. But the actual thing of it is that we went, and the opening by Buddy Miller was OK but not especially remarkable, except for a final number before the interval - which was sensational. It centred on the drummer, Brady Blade, a man so evidently happy in his work that he is a joy to look upon just in himself. Whether this is because he is (as we were told) newly married, or because this is how he just is, his wife will be the beneficiary, and so were we. Along with Buddy Miller, Brady continued on after the interval as part of the Emmylou band. By the interval we were ready.

Then on comes Emmylou Harris with the ease and naturalness of a grand old lady of the music, and wearing it without any trace of arrogance or show. She just sings her stuff, both new and old, like it's forever. And that voice, with its distinctive purity; not thin exactly but kind of slender, and coming from somewhere higher up. I don't mean this in a religious sense, not being so inclined. But in a metaphysical sense, maybe. For Emmy stands on stage and she sings at you; it's plain, that's where the voice is coming from. But it sounds like from somewhere higher, as though sliding down from between two very closely aligned forms. Of the Emmylou Harris classics, we heard a marvellous Hickory Wind; and Together Again, and Wheels, and Wayfaring Stranger. And then to finish - in the encore - possibly her two greatest songs: (Townes Van Zandt's) Pancho and Lefty, and Boulder to Birmingham, written by her in memory of Gram Parsons.

Live music, there's nothing to touch it. And though I don't know exactly how far it is from Boulder to Birmingham - Colorado to Alabama, right?, and Emmylou sings it like it's further - that's how far I'd go if it was the only way of getting live music of such quality.


posted by norm at 11:16 pm | link


Wherever it is found

From George Bush's speech today:
Your nation and mine, in the past, have been willing to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. Longstanding ties often led us to overlook the faults of local elites. Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe. It merely bought time, while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold.

As recent history has shown, we cannot turn a blind eye to oppression just because the oppression is not in our own backyard. No longer should we think tyranny is benign because it is temporarily convenient. Tyranny is never benign to its victims, and our great democracies should oppose tyranny wherever it is found.
Repeat - George Bush's speech. Language isn't everything, of course, but it's not nothing either. And this is a language which certain members of the 'peace' party no longer know how to speak.


posted by norm at 9:22 pm | link


The look of cut and run

An interesting piece by Eliot Cohen in today's Washington post. (Thanks to Matt Kramer for the tip-off.)


posted by norm at 9:03 pm | link


Amnesty International follow-up

I've had this email from James Hamilton:
I'm still on the emergency response team, but left Amnesty earlier in the year after... their disgraceful complaints about their material being used by the US and the UK to justify action against Iraq. I thought then, and think now, that Amnesty left both their founding spirit and the people who need them behind. Publicising the truth about human rights violations is the whole point of Amnesty and its only weapon. They may not like the idea of the US/UK invasion, but one wonders what Amnesty imagined was going to bring that regime down if not western armies. And if the regime remained, what future for the real, breathing humans whose stories throng Amnesty's records on Iraq? I'm tempted to phone them as you suggest... but my own feeling is that they are already lost to the far-left thought-world that sees the US as the only 'threat' to (what) peace.
Prompted by another couple of emails I've received, I'd like to make it clear that I was raising what I took and - having re-read Kate Allen's article - still take to be wholly legitimate concerns in light of what Amnesty claims to stand for (see five posts down). There are serious ambiguites in Allen's article, to put it no more strongly than this, especially given the context of its publication just before George Bush's visit. All the same, the following statement of mine was, and was meant to be, hypothetical:
If Amnesty becomes politicized in a sense that betrays the generality and neutrality of its mission, then it also betrays many of its supporters who back that mission and want to continue doing so, but have no desire to be associated with a campaign of the kind they judge the anti-Bush mobilization to be.
I wrote 'If' at the beginning of this sentence because I meant it, and to express a worry. I have withdrawn my support from two other charities which opposed the war to free Iraq from Saddam Hussein, but in both cases there are other charities doing similar work and to which I can transfer the same support. Members and supporters of Amnesty - as I have been for so many years now that I don't remember since when exactly - don't have anywhere else to go in that sense. So what I wrote was motivated by a desire to see a tendency arrested if it's developing, not a desire to discredit an organization I've supported over so many years.

Today I've had a second telephone conversation with someone at Amnesty, and his responses to my worries were reassuring - as were the ones I received yesterday. But these are reassurances one-to-one on the phone, and they don't undo the damage of an article in a national newspaper. The email from James Hamilton suggests my own doubts are not wholly eccentric. So, once again, I urge others who care about AI and the work it does to phone in with these concerns, in order to show that a section of Amnesty's support would like a public clarification of the issues in question.


posted by norm at 8:41 pm | link


Dear George

I got to some of the Guardian letters to George Bush only late last night after returning from a gig (of which more in due course). I particularly liked the first part of what Aaron Barschak had to say:
Dear George,

It is a universal truth that those born with democratic spoons in their mouths will rail against the ruthless removal of a barbaric tyranny. Most of the people demonstrating against you will be the latte-rati - people whose experience of oppression is having to wait four hours for the cable guy to come round. I am the child of two refugees from totalitarian regimes; for this reason, you need not fear a comedy terrorist attack against your intervention in Iraq.

I don't care why you got rid of Saddam, and neither does any Iraqi I know. He's just thankful the Hussein dynasty is gone; a dynasty that, under Saddam's sons, would have carried on mass-murdering and asphyxiating natural freedoms for a few more decades.
Still pertinent even today (see the three posts below).


posted by norm at 12:31 pm | link


In the country of Robert Mugabe

Here's a place where it's a serious problem to protest:
More than 100 leading trade unionists and civic leaders in Zimbabwe were arrested yesterday when riot police broke up groups countrywide who were peacefully demonstrating against Robert Mugabe's increasingly autocratic rule.

Hundreds of officers, many armed with automatic rifles, took up positions across the capital, Harare, in anticipation of the protest, which was organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZTCU) ahead of the government's budget tomorrow.

Police arrested eight union leaders yesterday morning in a pre-emptive strike to try to stop the demonstrations. But more than 100 people gathered in Harare's city centre and took off their shirts to reveal ZCTU T-shirts. Police immediately arrested them before they could march more than a few metres.

In Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, an estimated 50 trade union members were arrested and many were assaulted by police, according to witnesses. Labour movement protesters were also arrested in the industrial city of Gweru, in Zimbabwe's midlands, as well as in the eastern border city of Mutare, and at Victoria Falls in the west.
See also here:
Jenni Williams, chairperson of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) said: "They were forcing us to run by beating us so they could set the dogs on us..."
And here.


posted by norm at 12:06 pm | link


In the country of Primo Levi

In Italy yesterday there was a rather different kind of public symbolism than the one we're about to witness on the streets of London:
A normally fractious nation joins grieving relatives to honour and remember the 19 who died in Nasiriyah attack, reports Bruce Johnston in Rome

From Sicily to the Alps, Italy came to a halt yesterday as the nation honoured the 19 Italians killed in Iraq last week with a state funeral in Rome and a national day of mourning.

An estimated 250,000 mourners flocked to the sprawling Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls by the Tiber to watch the service on huge screens outside, packing the streets in a display of unity rarely seen in the normally fractious country.
See also here:
Italy... buried its 19 victims of the bomb attack on Nasiriya last week, amid displays of public grief and solidarity across the country.

National flags fluttered from balconies in Rome, and millions across the country stood in silence as the service began. "We shall not flee in the face of the terrorists," said Cardinal Camillo Ruini in a funeral sermon. "Rather, we shall face up to them with all the courage, vigour and determination of which we are capable."
Millions standing in silence to remember those murdered by the enemies of democracy in Iraq. Think of their example as you protest tomorrow, if there is anyone passing here who intends to be protesting against George Bush tomorrow.


posted by norm at 10:53 am | link


After Istanbul 2

Christopher Hitchens updates his Slate essay on 'Understanding the Istanbul synagogue bombings' (see four posts down).
I wrote yesterday that, concerning the murders at the synagogues in Istanbul, I had "not yet read any article explaining how the frustrations of the oppressed Muslims of the world are alleviated by this deed, or how the wickedness of American policy has brought these chickens home to roost, or how such slaughters are symptoms of 'despair.'..."
..........
[He then quotes from the Fiachra Gibbons piece.]

In a way, this effort doesn't quite meet the standard of moral cretinism that I had suggested. It actually fails to make any link at all between the actions of the murderers and the policy of Bush and Blair. Rather, it simply assumes that the victims are to have their deaths attributed in this fashion. The prevalence of this assumption, along with its facile appearance in the pages of a great liberal newspaper, is something worth noting.

As the author undoubtedly knows—she elsewhere demonstrates some knowledge of Turkish Jewry—and as I reminded readers yesterday, the Neve Shalom synagogue has been lethally attacked before. The last occasion was in the late 1980s. At that time, the Reagan-Bush-Thatcher governments had for some years taken a pro-Saddam Hussein "tilt" in the Iran-Iraq war. I can't remember what the excuse of the Jew-killers was on that previous occasion, but it most certainly wasn't their hatred for regime change. Maybe they didn't come up with an excuse, imagining that the action spoke for itself. Anyway, why bother with a justification when there are so many peace-loving and progressive types willing to volunteer to make the excuses for you?
(Updated by extending the excerpt at 9.55 AM).


posted by norm at 9:41 am | link


Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Amnesty International UK

There is an article in today's Mirror (via InstaPundit) by Kate Allen, UK Director of Amnesty International. The article gives cause for worry to supporters of Amnesty - or it does to this supporter, anyway. Much of it is addressed to the proper concerns of the organization, raising questions about human rights issues in the war on terror. However, there are important ambiguities arising from the context of Kate Allen's remarks. For these are a call to protest during the Bush visit.

First, therefore, it needs to be clear that those protesting on behalf of Amnesty are protesting exclusively over the human rights issues and not as part of any more general effort to show George Bush that he is unwelcome here. And this is not made clear.

Second, it needs to be clear that Kate Allen is not stating a political view, on behalf of Amnesty, in opposition to the Iraq war or the war on terror. This is not made clear either. On the contary, three times Allen puts 'war on terror' in scare-quotes (though, unaccountably, once she does not). She also writes as follows:
The journey from the Twin Towers to Guantanamo Bay has been a disastrous one - from an international atrocity to an international disgrace. It is a massive own goal in the war on terror and its sinister consequences are likely to haunt the world for years.
Third, if human rights are the focus, then it wouldn't come amiss for the Director of Amnesty International in this country, in a public statement on these matters, to give some significant weight to Amnesty's concerns about the way terrorists violate human rights. And Allen doesn't do that.

These shortcomings in her article are unacceptable. If Amnesty becomes politicized in a sense that betrays the generality and neutrality of its mission, then it also betrays many of its supporters who back that mission and want to continue doing so, but have no desire to be associated with a campaign of the kind they judge the anti-Bush mobilization to be.

I telephoned AIUK this afternoon and was assured by a helpful guy there that on all the matters about which I expressed my worries Amnesty's positions were as they should be and that he would endeavour to have this clarified on their website. I urge other Amnesty members and supporters who aren't marching, and haven't marched, against the liberation of Afghanistan or Iraq to phone to express their concern as well.


posted by norm at 5:46 pm | link


Welcoming George Bush

Departing from his normal rule that he doesn't post on politics, Anthony Cox, down the motorway at Blacktriangle, welcomes the visit of George Bush and in doing so proposes a fine analogy:
If there is any link to the subject matter of this site, it is that I like decisions to be based on evidence. Bush should be judged by the outcomes for the Iraqi people. By any rational measure Iraq is better off now than it was, and the future could be even better - despite the short-term difficulties. Pulling troops out now, is akin to rescuing a man from a car crash, placing him in intensive care and then throwing him out into the night, half sedated and injured, to take his chances. Hatred of Bush is no excuse for not supporting freedom. Throwing away the chance for an Iraq based on liberty and democracy is not a fitting memorial to those coalition soldiers, Iraqis, UN workers and Red Cross workers who have died in the past few months.
Then there is the mix of Guardian letters addressed to Bush, some of which do welcome him and others of which don't. I highlight just one, Julie Burchill's, and leave you to sample the Pinter filth for yourself since I don't want it here:
George, Great job, keep it up!
There are, too, some more qualified welcomes than Burchill's, but I'm with her. Not because there's nothing at all to be said in criticism of George Bush, but because, overall, he should be welcomed, and that's what you do when you welcome someone, you welcome them.

Everyone else, and their chicken, has already linked to this, so I won't elaborate on it, but it shows that, whatever display 'the war we could not stoppers' make in the next few days, it is not true that Bush is generally unwelcome in this country and it is not true that the WWCNSers speak for a majority on the war.


posted by norm at 12:40 pm | link


Correction

I need to correct myself on something. Yesterday I wrote, 'Sometimes a sentence says it all', when I should strictly have written 'Sometimes part of a sentence says it all' - for part of one was all I quoted, and needed to, from Gary Younge. I repeat the exercise today with George Monbiot:
While I was speaking, the words died in my mouth...
Terrific idea, George.


posted by norm at 12:34 pm | link


After Istanbul

Christopher Hitchens offers a contrasting way of Understanding the Istanbul synagogue bombings to the one by Fiachra Gibbons criticized here yesterday - though it seems from this paragraph that he hasn't come across that piece:
I have not yet read any article explaining how the frustrations of the oppressed Muslims of the world are alleviated by this deed, or how the wickedness of American foreign policy has brought these chickens home to roost, or how such slaughters are symptoms of "despair." Perhaps somebody is at work on such an article and hasn't quite finished it yet.
In any case, The Dude is, as usual, speaking in the authentic voice of the liberal left against those who would misappropriate it:
The worshippers at the Neve Shalom were not killed for building a settlement in the West Bank: They were members of a very old and honorable community who were murdered for being Jews. Their Turkish neighbors were casually murdered as "collateral damage."

This is in the nature and essence of the foe that we face. Try and bear it in mind, even as the networks speak so lazily of the same foe for "targeting Americans." Understanding why this is lazy is the whole justification of the war, just as it is the real reason why this war will be won.
Relatedly, the Guardian has a decent leader on anti-Semitism, which says, amongst other things:
A new anti-semitism is on the march across the globe.
..........
[W]hy is the liberal left not sufficiently concerned about the growth of anti-semitism? On this year's anti-war march in Paris, Jewish peace activists were beaten up by other demonstrators. There were less dramatic confrontations on London's million-strong march.
..........
Could not the liberal left, which in an earlier era vigilantly sought to protect Jews from prejudice and bigotry, rediscover its old values?
A good question, with a more general application. (The Hitchens article via Harry’s Place).


posted by norm at 11:35 am | link


Monday, November 17, 2003

Italian anti-war group raises money for the Iraqi so-called resistance

Tamsin Smith reports:
A group of Italian anti-war militants is raising funds to support the armed Iraqi resistance, the BBC has learned.

The discovery comes as Italy mourns 19 men killed in a suicide attack in Iraq last week.

The "Antiimperialista" organisation's internet campaign asks people to send "10 Euros to the Iraqi resistance".

They say they have collected 12,000 euros ($14,165) in the past eight weeks and admit the money used could be used to buy weapons.

The Antiimperialistas are a group of European anti-war and anti-globalisation supporters.

They are currently organising an anti-war demonstration in Italy next month, and it remains to be seen whether news of the fund-raising activities will deter more moderate anti-war activists from attending.

The organisation's Italian branch says the money will be given to an Iraqi resistance group known as the Iraqi Patriotic Opposition.

Independent Iraqi sources in London say the leaders of this group have a long history of association with the Baath party and are now back in Iraq supporting the armed resistance.
..........
The Italian spokesman of the antiimperialistas, Moreno Pasquinelli, says the money collected so far is in an Italian bank account.

Mr Pasquinelli said it would be taken to Iraq in January. He was candid when asked about raising money for the Iraqi Patriotic Opposition which says it actively supports military resistance.

"Its not our affair how they use this money. If they want to use it to print papers for example, or to buy weapons in order to fight for the Iraqi independence," he said.

"We support the armed struggle in Iraq. our money is to help them, it doesn't matter to us if they use it buy weapons, Kalashnikovs, or medicines for people."

When asked to confirm if the money raised could be used to buy weapons he admitted: "Yes they could, and why not?"
In the country of Primo Levi - weep. (Thanks to Daniel Aronstein for the link.)


posted by norm at 7:52 pm | link


Bush's visit: ten recommendations

On the Socialist Worker website, tips are being offered as to what people might do in mobilizing against George Bush's visit. There are ten of these (scroll down to 'What you can do'). I offer an alternative for each, just in case any supporter or reader of Socialist Worker - or just intending demonstrator - should happen to pass this way.

'Ask all your friends and family to join Thursday's national demonstration and the local protests. Make sure you have coach tickets to sell.' > No, ask all your friends and family to think about those Iraqis who saw friends and members of their families disappearing into torture chambers and mass graves, and who welcomed the defeat of the Baathist regime.

'Tell workmates and people in your union branch about the protests. Many people are booking leave. Some workplaces have discussed taking action to join the protests.' > No, tell workmates and people in your union branch that the conditions have now begun to emerge for the development of genuine trade unionism in Iraq.

'If you're in London and can't get out of work for 2pm on Thursday, mass protests will continue around Trafalgar Square well into the evening, so you can still get there.' > Wherever you are, think about the fact that you have the freedom to stage mass protests, and the Iraqis also now do.

'Plaster your college or school with posters and leaflets. It's not too late to follow the example of many groups of school and university students by organising a walkout or occupation.' > Yes, plaster your college or school with posters and leaflets telling them about what Iraqi children used to have to learn about their 'Great Leader' and the changes that are now being made to their textbooks and curricula.

'Contact other people you know who are angry about Bush's visit. As the media coverage builds up many people will want to know about details of protests and coaches at the last minute.' > No, ask yourself if you know any people who are less angry about George Bush's visit than they were about the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, and if the answer is negative, consider why it is you are so unfortunate.

'Leaflet everywhere you can: colleges, workplaces, community centres, mosques and churches, schools, your local area, etc.' > No, ponder for a moment the significance here of the couple 'mosques and churches'.

'Get together with other people to set up stalls in shopping centres, rail stations and colleges.' > Yes, do that and try to think of something reasonably benign you could do on these stalls.

'Drop banners at strategic locations to advertise the protests and the fact that Bush is not welcome here.' > Ponder why it is that the leader of one the world's great democracies is more repugnant to the organizers of this demonstration than... well, than anybody. As some of you may have read Trotsky and even rate him as an important influence, try to recall what he thought about would-be leftists who regarded fascists as a lesser enemy than social democrats, and fascism as less of a threat than (as it used to be said, bourgeois) democracy. Think of the price that was paid for ignoring his warnings.

'Don't forget to tell your local papers and radio stations what is planned where you live.' > No, reflect on the fact that there is a burgeoning press in Iraq under conditions of press freedom that did not exist before the Coalition arrived.

'People have already come up with a huge range of imaginative protest ideas. Let's have a festival of resistance to Bush which comes together as we flood the streets of London next Thursday.' > No, if the streets are to be flooded, let this be a festival, long overdue, celebrating the fall of Saddam, and rejoining socialists and liberals with the values so many of them have lately betrayed. Let it be a festival of solidarity with the Iraqi people, rather than - as it will be - with those who would return them to a new oppression by fomenting mayhem and civil war.


posted by norm at 7:23 pm | link


Are you an Austrian?

Find out by taking the economics quiz of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Via Francois Brutsch, who comments critically on it.


posted by norm at 4:13 pm | link


The dialectics of Rugby Union

Want to know why New Zealand lost to Australia on Saturday? Chris Brooke has the answer and the link.


posted by norm at 1:29 pm | link


Thought for the Day

As an antidote to the article by Fiachra Gibbons featured two posts down, listen to this Thought for the Day by Clifford Longley. Money quote:
As an English Christian, it is my obligation to speak out, not so much on their [Jewish leaders'] behalf, but on behalf of truth; otherwise we too will share some responsibility before God for the evils that will surely follow our silence.
Listen also to what the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, has to say here (scroll down to 0709). Thanks to Matt Kramer for the tip-off and Steve de Wijze for the link.


posted by norm at 12:11 pm | link


The enemy whom is Bush

Sometimes a sentence says it all. Gary Younge, speaking for the American anti-war movement: 'For there is little confusion in the American anti-war movement about whom the enemy is...'


posted by norm at 11:22 am | link


The usual apportionment

Fiachra Gibbons contributes a piece today to the Seumas Milne pages of my daily newspaper of choice, and it goes under the cover 'The attack on Istanbul Jews is an attack on hope itself'. It has the appearance of a lament for those murdered in Istanbul a few days ago, but anyone thinking - as I initially did - to welcome this as a Guardian voice finally saying what needs to be said about anti-Semitism today, and about those engaged in implementing it, will be disappointed. For see how the blame falls and see how it doesn't:
The Jews of Turkey, and the survival of their precious and unique culture, are one of the few enduring examples of tolerance through the ages that humanity has left to cling to.

So when six die, as they did on Saturday morning when their blood mingled with that of their Muslim neighbours blown to bits by a suicide bomber outside the Neve Shalom synagogue, the heart should miss a beat and the world weep. For we are mourning the loss of souls who had learned to span a supposedly unbridgeable gulf that is being daily widened by George Bush and our own dear, deluded leader.

The 17,000 or so remaining Jews of Istanbul are living proof that Jews and Muslims can coexist in harmony. It is a bond that has endured more than 1,300 years of trials and tribulations and held fast every time. Theirs is one of the great anomalies of Jewish history - a happy story. The work of more than a millennium of patience and restraint, this truer picture of what Jewish-Muslim relations can be has been obscured and all but erased in the handful of decades since the creation of Israel.
Got that so far? George Bush; deluded Tony Blair; 'creation of Israel'. Anything on – well, you know – people who may be directly responsible for the bombing? Yes, actually. Quite a bit:
Yet the very existence of Jews in the streets around the Galata tower, in the boutiques of Tesvikiye or in middle-class Sisli where the second bomb exploded, gives hope elsewhere. Which is maybe why they became targets for angry and desperate men determined to prove otherwise.

It matters little who did the deeds - even if, as the Turks dread, it turns out to be one of their own tiny fundamentalist groups. Such headbangers are as peculiar in the great swell of Turkish tolerance as Ian Paisley would be at a C of E tombola. My fear is that the finger will point at the poor, hunted and brutalised Chechens you sometimes see in Istanbul. It is not hard to see how, in the absence of any kind of hope of returning to their homeland, they might give their souls to global jihad.
In this concentrated passage of left-liberal moral abdication I draw your attention to the following:

> 'targets for angry and desperate men': angry's not so bad now, is it, if it's desperate.

> 'It matters little who did the deeds': no, they're just the perpetrators of murder and, if they belong to an organized group, of a crime against humanity. In fact, to those many who now think like dear, deluded Fiachra, it does seem to matter little who did the deeds. For we know who is always-already to blame.

> 'Such headbangers...': this one beggars belief - racist murderers characterized as though they'd simply spent too much time mouthing off on street corners about the Euro or the end of the world.

> 'poor, hunted and brutalised Chechens... It is not hard to see how, in the absence of any kind of hope of returning to their homeland, they might give their souls to global jihad.' The usual story for the nth time. To explain is not to excuse, huh? Well, to fail to explain is not to persuade. Why haven't other movements in a putatively just cause used terror? Silence.

The attack on hope, here, is a double one. There's not just the revival of an old and lethal hatred which there had been reason to think might have been banished to the margins of civilized politics, if not altogether eliminated. There is also the sickness that has lately infected so much progressive opinion in the way it relates to this. If it weren't impolite to say it, I would say that Fiachra Gibbons's article stinks.


posted by norm at 10:33 am | link

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