Thursday, July 31, 2008

"Unintentionally" Aiding The Sudanese Regime?

That's definitely the case, in some respects, but perhaps too fair, in light of other postures.

An excellent, well-argued an informative analysis, by the human rights activist and journalist Michelle Sieff, points out "the absurdity and pernicious nature" of commonplace pseudo-left discourses, where one encounters "a Zionist and Jewish conspiracy" at work, along with claims that "the violence in Darfur is a Zionist plot to annex the region to become a part of Israel, to control Sudanese oil, minerals, and other natural resources, and so forth."

Read it all at the always excellent Z-Word.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Just noticed this. Thought it was funny:

1. "The 'New' in New Democrat No Longer Cuts It," in which Mike Byers, contemplating Jack Layton, admits to a suppressed desire which we shall call Obama Envy, and 2. "It's Time To Put The 'New' Back In New Democrat," in which former Tennessee congressman Harold Ford Jr. contemplates the state of the Democratic Party and admits to a suppressed desire that his party wasn't so flaky.

I'm starting to miss The Rhinos.

Monday, July 28, 2008

How Very Inspiring.

This: Female bombers struck Kurdish political protesters in Kirkuk and Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad on Monday morning, leaving at least 48 people dead and 249 wounded in one of the bloodiest sequences of attacks in Iraq this year.

. . reminded me of a certain pledge uttered at the mutual-admiration meeting of "anti-war" activists and the well-known pacifist groups Hezbollah and Hamas in Cairo last year: James Clark of the Canadian Peace Alliance vowed that the Canadian peace movement, inspired by the Arab resistance in Lebanon and Iraq, would work with Muslims to defeat imperialism.

Vows of that sort also explain this past weekend's gatherings of anti-semites, 911 Truthers, and Taliban supporters among the Khadr family and their hangers-on. To read the press, you'd think the slogan-shouting parties were organized to protest Ottawa's lack of enthusiasm for the return of Omar Khadr to Canada - which, as the Khadrs themselves admit, is a place that serves merely as a way station, "a country of money and business," a "false civilization," and a "dirty swamp." But the demonstrations' main purpose was, as is always the case with these events, a propaganda exercise, because "you can use such incidents to educate and mobilise people" in the struggle against "Zionism" and "imperialism."

In broad terms, on the question of Omar and his return to Canada, I'm in generally agreement with these sentiments. But as for attending any rally organized by these manipulative and reactionary louts, I'd sooner put pins in my eyes.

I'm with this guy:

For a proper Marxist perspective on these sorts of issues - a perspective you don't have to agree with to respect - see today's essay by Sean Matgamna of the Alliance for Workers Liberty, which is against "homicidal religious lunatics," and against "duff 'anti-imperialism' . . . pacifism and hysterical appeals." Indeed: "International socialists should have no truck with it."

Elsewhere, AWL asks: "How many miles, exactly, separate the clerical-fascists in Tehran and the Bolivarian ‘revolutionaries’?"

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Just Sublime Is What

There are three reels in play here - Crowley's, Trim the Velvet and the Roscommon Reel. The ensemble is Black Velvet, which is to say the Israelis Shani Kombelis on flute (I'm sorry, but I can't help noticing what an absolute stunner she is), Michael Greilsammer on fiddle, Ehud Nathan on bouzouki, Itay Abramovitz on keyboards, Nitzan Shachar on bodhran and whatnot, and John McSherry from the other Holy Land comes in part way through on uillean pipes.

The performance is from a music festival in Tel Aviv a while back, convened in tribute to the bold Donal Lunny.

And here's a bit more of McSherry:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Inevitable: Either The Crowbar Hotel At The Hague, Or The Sweatlodge At Hollyhock

Green party activist, sensitive poet, a brief interregnum as the Butcher of Bosnia, and then Radovan Karadzic changed his name to Dragan Dabic (his website is here - or maybe it isn't, but his amulets are for sale here), indulged his weakness for low-fat yoghurt and specialized in meditation, spiritual cleansing, Yoga, bioenergy and macrobiotics.

He could have got one of these gigs. Turns out he'll be on trial instead.

It is widely believed our senses and mind can recognise only one per cent of whatever exists around us. Three per cent we understand with our hearts. All that remains is shrouded in secrecy, out of the reach of our five senses; however, it is within our reach in the extrasensory manner. - Dragan Dabic.

Like Paulie always says: Never Trust a Hippy.

Shiraz Socialist promises to keep an eye out for the inevitable histrionics from Karadzic's apologists, whose first cousins at Spiked, I see, are already out of the paddock.

UPDATE: This is a reliable analysis. Also by Marko, a sobering view across the broad horizon, in Standpoint.

Monday, July 21, 2008

"Hats Off To The Canadians" - In the Journal of UK Labour Progressives

The Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee earns an approving review today in Progress, a journal of the UK Labour Party's principled left-wing writers and thinkers. In his "Progressive Internationalism" column, Alan Johnson, editor of the journal Democratiya and co-author of Hadi Never Died: Hadi Saleh and the Iraqi Trade Unions, poses the question: "Well, perhaps after we have tipped our hats to the Canadians we might learn from them. Why not a British committee?"

A British counterpart to CASC would be tremendous, and would likely catch on even faster than CASC has in this country.

While Alan's perspectives and the sort of analyses that you find in Progress reflect a robust and healthy liberal-left political culture in the UK, it's a sad commentary on the state of left-wing politics in Canada that the default position on Afghanistan - indeed the official position of the New Democratic Party, though certainly not of all New Democrats - more closely resembles the posture of that extreme-right co-founder of Pat Buchanan's American Conservative magazine, Eric Margolis.

For all the woolly sort of anti-Americanism afoot within the Canadian liberal-left, it is also true, and not the tiniest bit pathetic, that to formulate a position on the Afghanistan question the Canadian left has in the main simply adopted holus-bolus the American counterculture polemics on Iraq, and changed some names. That's sophistication at the level of a cargo cult. No surprise, then, that it is considered innovative to the point of avant-garde to propose turning the once-socialist NDP into a soft-liberal Canadian brand and rhetorical branch plant of the U.S Democratic Party.

So, it's encouraging to know that there is at large in the English-speaking world, and beyond, a range of liberal-left thinking that is more firmly anchored, and for ideas and arguments from that expansive milieu there is no better source than Johnson's

Paul Berman, author of Power and the Idealists, calls Democratiya "the liveliest and most stimulating new intellectual journal on political themes in the English-speaking world." The Iraqi intellectual and anti-Baathist partisan Kanan Makiya, author of Republic of Fear, says: "Democratiya is the only voice coming out of the left that is attempting to find responsible solutions for the twin scourges of our age: terrorism and dictatorship emanating from the failed and failing political systems of the Arab and Muslim world."

Here's another good column Johnson wrote recently, in Progress, on Afghanistan and "fourth generation warfare." And from Democratiya, here's Anja Havedal's blistering critique of certain commonplace leftish views of Afghan women.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Now in Dooney's: Der Andere Fluss (The Other River)

About "ES gibt den Fluß, den wir kennen, und noch einen anderen Fluß," which I noted here, I decided, hey, why wait? My pal Stan Persky wanted the English version for Dooney's Cafe, so I reckoned, why not? It's Dooney's. It's Stan. The essay's a work-in-progress anyway.

So here ye go.

Who's All Hezbollah Now?

Linda Grant, over at Norm's place, points out certain things about Hezbollah hero Samir Kuntar:

Kuntar came from a wealthy family and was educated at private schools. He is not Palestinian, he is Druze. Despite or perhaps because of his bourgeois background, he became involved in the Marxist-Leninist organizations of that period.

Kuntar fits no model of the impoverished refugee driven to despair by occupation. Nor can he be seen within the context of Iranian-backed Islamism. When he emerged from prison last week it was as a relic of a bygone age: of that era of self-appointed middle-class revolutionaries, like the Weather Underground and Baader-Meinhof Gang.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

In the current Lettre International: Der Andere Fluss

Indianer – ein Tupfen Kartographie zwischen lauter weißen Flecken.

An excerpt from the opening bits of my contribution to a breathtakingly gorgeous and ambitious 250-page edition of Lettre Internationale, with Slavoj Zizek, Martin Rees, Shirin Neshat, Elizabeth Rubin, Philip Rantzer, Michail Ryklin, Rafael Sanchez Ferlosio, and a whole whack more big-forehead types from around the globe in whose mere company I am honoured to the point of being intimidated, being not so big-foreheaded myself.

ES gibt den Fluß, den wir kennen, und noch einen anderen Fluß.

Das wurde mir schon als kleiner Junge klar, als ich am Unterlauf des Fraser River zwischen den Sägemühlen und den Fischerhütten aufwuchs, unter den Brücken und in den Hinterhöfen von Burnaby, einem im Herzen von Greater Vancouver, an Kanadas Westküste gelegenen Ort. Diese Erkenntnis ist etwas, was mich in letzter Zeit stark beschäftigt.

Sie fällt mir jedes Mal ein, wenn ich die Frontberichte von jenem notwendigen Krieg gegen den Obskurantismus und die tödliche Irrationalität des Gottesglaubens lese, den Leute wie Richard Dawkins und Christopher Hitchens führen. Auch kommt sie mir in den Sinn, wenn ich mich mit den Philosophen Charles Taylor und Elliott Sober und mit dem Werk von E. O. Wilson, dem berühmten Erforscher der Evolutionsbiologie, befasse.

Vor mehr als einem Jahrzehnt schrieb Wilson: „Der Kampf um die Seelen der Menschen wird sich im nächsten Jahrhundert auf die Entscheidung zwischen Transzendentalismus und Empirismus fokussieren.“ Obwohl dieses Jahrhundert erst wenige Jahre alt ist, läßt sich feststellen, daß wir bereits knietief in diesem blutigen Kampf stecken.

Which is to say:

'There is the river we know, and there is also another river.

'This is something I came to understand when I was a boy, growing up among the sawmills and net lofts along the Lower Fraser River, and under the bridges and in the backstreets of Burnaby, which lies in the middle of Greater Vancouver, on Canada's west coast. It's something I've been thinking about quite a bit lately.

'It comes up whenever I read the dispatches from the front lines of that necessary war against obscurantism and the lethal irrationality of God-belief, from the likes of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. It also comes up when I read the philosophers Charles Taylor and Eliott Sober, and when I read the work of that great explorer in the science of evolutionary biology, E. O. Wilson.

'More than a decade ago, Wilson wrote: "The choice between transcendentalism and empiricism will be the coming century's version of the struggle for men's souls." We are only a few years into that century, and you could say we are already kneedeep in that bloody struggle. . .'

On it goes like that for a few thousand words and it all may find a home in an English-language publication sometime in the next few months. It's memoirish, but an "essay" in the old-fashioned meaning of the term - an attempt, a try. Writing it all down helps me sort out my ideas about these things.

I get a kick out of the way that for different reasons, the excerpt italicizes rather than translates certain English-language words and terms - Labour Temple, The Red Flag, Army of the Common Good, lulus, Jubilee Pool Hall - and in so doing, allows non-German speakers a tiny clue about the flavour of the piece.

At your better newstands now!

UPDATE: Why wait? It's up at Dooney's Cafe.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Gaping Holes In Naomi Klein's Grand Conspiracy Theory

Right-wing critics tend to go easy on Naomi Klein. But in the latest New Republic, senior editor Jonathan Chait - who is, if anything, to Klein's left - presents the most withering and convincing critique of Klein's Shock Doctrine, and of the leftish politics that Klein champions, that I've yet read:

"What makes Klein's thesis so odd, and so awful, is that in fact there is an unlimited supply of raw material, an abundant basis in reality, for the sorts of arguments that she wants to make. The last two decades certainly have seen the global spread of absolutist free-market ideology. Many of the newest adherents of this creed are dictators who have learned that they can harness the riches of capitalism without permitting the freedoms once thought to flow automatically from it. . . All these things are true. And all these things are enormous outrages and significant problems. It's just that they are not the same outrage or the same problem. And Naomi Klein's relentless lumping together of all her ideological adversaries in the service of a monocausal theory of the world ultimately renders her analysis perfect nonsense."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Memo to South Africans: There's No Halo On You

"The record of South Africa’s government over neighboring Zimbabwe, where Mugabe has turned torture and political murder into a grizzly routine, has been a disgrace. . . . South Africa voted against a UN Security Council resolution toughening sanctions against Mugabe and his cronies. In the last 40 days, in defiance of the UN’s main refugee agency, South Africa has sent a breathtaking 17,000 Zimbabwean refugees back to Mugabe’s hell on earth. And that’s not even mentioning the anti-foreigner pogroms which erupted across the country in May, leaving scores dead and injured.

"Imagine if, during this unspeakable violence, a group of Israelis, solemnly invoking the persecution, ghettoization, murder and genocide which have indelibly marked the Jewish experience, had landed in Johannesburg on a fact-finding mission. Such a delegation would have been - to say the least - mocked and reviled."

- from a wee essay by Ben Cohen, at the indispensable Z-Word.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tony Allwright in the Irish Times: Capture Mugabe, or Kill Him

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Day In The Life of Tylere Couture: Soldier, Activist, And Fellow CASC Member

I was up until about 1 a.m. the night before, chatting with my wife and daughter over one of the two webcams our camp provides, and was hoping to relax for a little longer this morning, but it wasn’t meant to be.

I threw on my boots and headed to his office. An officer from another Canadian unit in the area was visiting the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (KPRT) and had some questions about a project I had initiated.

About a month after arriving on the ground, it became clear to me that Kandahar University’s greatest need was a perimeter security wall. Although there were many other potential projects, a common theme I ran into was that without the security or even more significant, the perception of security that a wall would provide, few other projects would get off the ground.

If they did, they would likely be wasted, just as the two recently-built female dormitories sit empty.

As the chancellor so passionately put it, the university should be a centre of progressive thought, but what women in their right mind would make themselves a target within the view of the Taliban’s prying eyes?

That's Tylere on the top right of this post. More about Tylere and the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee here. More about Kandahar University and Tylere's project in this Globe and Mail article, where KU's faculty head Roshaan Wolusmal observes: “It would be a great achievement if a Canadian university would partner with us.”

Is it possible that there isn't a single post-secondary institution in this country that could be arsed to show some solidarity with Kandahar University? Where are all our "progressive" campus activists, student unions, faculty unions, and national university associations?