Top Ten posts last year

Inspired by Cath, who in turn was inspired by Adam, who  in turn was inspired by Darryl, I will list here the top 10 posts that have been read on this blog, last year:

1. Tom Harris, the sacked Christian teacher, violence and bullying

This was posted in December 2009 and is about Tom Harris’ appeal to left wing bloggers to stick up for a Christian teacher who was being sacked, and as Harris explained persecuted for his beliefs.

As it was Christmas I posted a picture of a snowman – it would appear, sadly for me, that it was this that made it my most popular entry for 2010.

2. Heiko Khoo expelled from the International Marxist Tendency

I was witness to some far left gossip as it was happening, within moments of finding out that Heiko Khoo had been expelled from the International Marxist Tendency I was typed up the affair and it became quite popular – it’s also one of the first things to appear on google if you type Khoo’s name, fairly well known for his public speaking.

3. Iranian law and the case of Sakine Mohammadi Ashtani

In this entry I disseminate why the case – still ongoing – of Ashtiani is both wrong generally, but also wrong according to Islamic law specifically.

4. The deportations of unaccompanied asylum seeking children

I had been doing some research on UASC when news emerged that the UK Border Agency was setting up a £4m “reintegration centre” as part of the process of deporting children back to Afghanistan. This chimed in with a debate I had had with Neil Robertson on LibCon about child detention centres, which I anticipated before talk of the reintegration centre would be better than some of the alternatives – I felt vindicated, if saddened, at the time of finding out the governments plans for UASC.

5. Raoul Moat is caught

I was watching the live news as this story was breaking out, so I decided to write a quick post when Moat was caught – some time after it was revealed, however, that he had shot himself and died.

6. Special educational needs and the Daily Mail

I’d written this post addressing a suspiciously written piece in the Daily Mail referring negatively to children who have SEN. What I didn’t realise at the time was that an academic who the Mail quoted would read my piece and leave a comment saying that the Mail had taken something she had said out of context to back up their rancid views. I then wrote a piece about that called The Daily Mail: Even Worse than Flat Earth

7. A Freudian, anti-Cartesian, look at Martin Scorsese’s ‘Shutter Island’

After watching the film Shutter Island I was reminded of some Freudian notions, which I jotted down. I fear that this is in the top 10, not because of my Freudian analysis, but because of the film’s popularity.

8. Christopher Hitchens and prayer

Right after Christopher Hitchens was diagnosed with cancer a large contingent of idiots came out to say they hope now he will repent and look towards prayer as a way to safety. This drove me crazy, so I jotted a little note down here.

9. Daily Mail confused by reality/fiction again

This did the rounds on twitter after being retweeted by a few people; it refers to a byline on the Mail website which makes it appear the writer did not realise the Eastenders plot was fictional: “Young Mother had tried to throw herself from roof before making escape”.

10. Wazhma Frogh and women’s rights in Afghanistan

There had been a surge in debate on women’s rights and certain justifications for war in the Middle East. I used this opportunity to look at the work of Wazhma Frogh, an interesting academic and campaigner, who refers to herself as both feminist and pro-war in Afghanistan.

“Influential left-wing ideas”

Bob has linked me to another meme, this time on good and bad influential left wing ideas, and I’m only too happy to comply. The rules are self-explanatory so away I go:

Good ideas:

Considerate partisanship – You can’t please all the people all of the time, nor can you agree with all the people all of the time, but you can and must work with as many people as you can, disagree and have the punch up later.

Anti-Clericalism – Not to be conflated with anti-religiousness or militant secularism; to be anti-clerical is to do two things: make sure a single denomination church cannot rule indefinitely; curb another way for people with ideas above their stations to control the levers of political power.

Democratic Socialism – The belief in the parliamentary road to socialism without the belief in the capitalist mode of production. Simple. It also anti-Stalinism without being libertarian socialism; socialism from below as opposed to dictatorship of the proletarian.

Marxian Darwinism – The concept, presented in its best form by Dutch Council Marxist Anton Pannekoek in his 1909 essay Marxism And Darwinism, that we are at once social as well as economic animals and therefore the striving for egalitarianism is a duty. For those who say Darwinism is incompatible with left wing politics, it might be remembered that social Darwinists (Capitalist or fascist) are using natural selection as a terse analogy; what Darwin’s theory points out is that we rely on our society and should therefore want the best out of it (to be in for a good chance of benefiting from it).

Anti-Fascism – The left must be opposed to all forms of fascism, be that from the white working class, the black middle class, the Asian upper class, or the unintelligible Aristocracy of all countries.

Bad ideas:

Cultural Relativism – the notion at best smacks of hegemonic patronisation of those who supposedly know no better, at worst it is the attempt to excuse intolerable behaviours on the grounds that cultural difference reaches further than universal concepts of good and bad.

Postmodernism – At best, and like the above, postmodernism attempts to explain away notions without regard for universal concepts of good and bad, at worst denies the existence of an objective reality independent of cultural or subjective appropriation.

Utopianism – “You sir, yes you, the chap with his hands over his eyes, and his head in the clouds, yes you, shut up will you!”

Anarchism – Left wing unity is a problematic term because established knowledge will have you believe that anarchists and socialists share common cause and this should be at least tolerated. But unity on these lines are arbitrary, rather than seemingly common sensical as some would have you believe. It seems obvious to me that common cause can be achieved quicker with a conservative who believes in asset-based egalitarianism than an anarchist who believes it necessarily follows that a state leads to dictatorship and private property protection.

The Chavista Movement – A Bolivarian alternative to NAFTA or other free trade movements that ideologically reduce poor South American workers to the wretched of the earth? Yes. A catch all anti-American policy that incorporates people holocaust denying scum like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, not just as an economic ally, but as a friend? No!

Not influential enough:

Eco-socialism – Evo Morales once said: “The Earth does not have enough for the North to live better and better, but it does have enough for all of us to live well.” Can you imagine these words from a Tory Environmentalist? No. Therefore it is incumbent upon the left wing green movement to distinguish itself from mere environmentalism.

I’m going to leave it there.

Chaps to invite, again (!), are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here

Books of the Year 2010

From this day on, until the 2nd of January, I hope to be too pizzled to blog (is there such a time, I hear you ask – silently), so what better time to do a good ol’ meme (nicked from Paul, who in turn nicked it from Norm – and, well, it’s hardly a new idea is it).

I’m taking on Paul’s rules and format, which you know anyway; 10 favourite non-fiction, 10 favourite fiction, 5 binners, not necessarily published this year, but read by yourself this year.

Here I go:

Top 10 non-fiction

Kenan Malik – From Fatwa to Jihad

David Cesarani – Eichmann: His Life and Crimes

Slavoj Zizek/John Milbank – The Monstrosity of Christ

Ron Rosenburg – Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil

A.C. Grayling – Among the Dead Cities: Was the Allied Bombing of Civilians in WWII a Necessity or a Crime?

Richard Dawkins: Climbing Mount Improbable

Peter Hitchens – The Cameron Delusion

Alain Badiou – St Paul: The Foundation of Universalism

Iain Sinclair – London Orbital

George Ross – The Brink of Despair: A History of Basildon 1915 – 1986

(An eleventh? Well that would have to be the immortal Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton)

Top 10 Fiction

Anais Nin – A Spy in the House of Love

Hermann Hesse – Steppenwolf

Jean Cocteau – Les Enfants Terribles

D H Lawrence – Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Fyodor DostoevskyNotes from Underground

Give it a miss

Mikhail Gorbachev and Daisaku Ikeda – Moral Lessons of the Twentieth Century: Gorbachev and Ikeda on Buddhism and Communism

A.C. Grayling – Against All Gods: Six Polemics on Religion and an Essay

Susan Blackmore – The Meme Machine

Francis Fukuyama – After Neoconservatism

Phillip Blond – Red Tory: How Left and Right Have Broken Britain and How We Can Fix It

 

I’ll then add here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here

Left wing influences

Good influences:

Tony Benn: A hero of the left and socialism to whom the Labour Party, through its creation and trade union voice, will always be the home of democracy – the foremost principle of socialism.

Evo Morales: No pretensions, a leader who applies a principle that no society will be fair until it adopts: you contribute to society according to your means. In so doing, indigenous families living in the Bolivian altiplano are able to enjoy solar powered lighting and roads where they were without before the presidency of Evo.

Slavoj Zizek: Here is someone who makes the case, in popular philosophical and political discourse, against the fashionable postmodern and post-ideological left which has come to saturate leftwing politics in the last few years, as well as all the other shit that it leaves in its tracks (i.e. cultural relativism, nonchalance towards fundo Islam, tolerance of Naomi Klein etc etc). Zizek needs to be taken more seriously.

Gary Younge: A convincing, decent left wing journalist, who cannot be called wet, and fashionable as other writers for the Guardian or the Nation, he sticks to his guns, and his not put off by detractors, hence the title to one of his notorious articles: I hate tories. And yes, it’s tribal.

Bad Influences:

George Galloway: A slippery man who relies too much on dodgy votes. As a debater he is second to none, enter a law court against him and you’ve lost, but he is of the greasy political view that there is a vulnerable group and an oppressive group, and they each have the same skin colour.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: If she spent more time understanding class as she does spend it denigrating the “lazy white working class” then maybe she’d be relevant, but, alas,  she is a pompous bourgeois liberal with a chip on her shoulder (through no good reason).

Naomi Klein: Has spent the work of 1000s of pages and newspaper articles explaining capitalism, but her critique offers little more than environmental capitalism. She’d make a good bedfellow of George Soros and all the other philanthrocapitalists weeping at poverty.

Moazzam Begg: Seen by Marxists and Liberals alike as a symbol of injustice at the hands of Americans, and this is proven by the airtime he is given by amnesty international to the socialist workers party. But just do two things: watch him on BBC Hardtalk squirm and squeeze out of the question of whether he thinks the Taliban’s actions are justified as self-defence. Listen to the interview he conducted with Anwar al Awlaki. Tell me then whether this is someone the left ought to offer a pedestal. Then ask yourself why so many leftists do offer this.

HarpyPhilDaveJamesJim, Bob

Update: I forgot the final part of this meme, which is to include a list of those I feel are not influential enough, they are:

Kenan Malik: I expect with a couple more books under his belt and a regular column or focus on the blogosphere he will be someone with a voice like Nick Cohen’s, Peter Hitchens, and David Aaranovitch, by which I mean an authority who one wants to read again and again.

Dave Osler: This blogger got the above writer to sign my copy of his book at the Orwell Awards – an act I’m ever grateful for. But this is not why he is here; he is a fantastic writer who remians of the left tradition that seems to be dying out in the post-ideological landscape of left wing politics – that is politics of class and anti-fascism. He also levels a cracking argument on the topic of religion, which is by no means a battle between believer and non-believer; it is more than that, it is between those who can see the radical kernel of Christianity and those who cannot – I think Osler recognises this too.

John McDonnell: In the next four years we are likely to have two things: Firstly a Tory led government intent on spending cuts and job losses, an economic model supported by no received wisdom, mass unemployment and depression. Secondly, an opposition led by David Miliband who does not oppose enough of the Tory led programme, and himself wants to cut the deficit drastically by 2014 – against better judgement from within his own party. He might even support the anti-Trade untion laws to which he is heir (in Blair). All the time, it will be a passing thought every night, that John McDonnell is a sadly missed individual in politics.

Alain Badiou: His recognition in this country is owing to Zizek’s obsession with his work, but this is not enough for me. He is not nearly as influential on left wing politics as he should be in this country – though he is in his native France. His concept of the Event, something he attributes to the radical universalism of St Paul on the road to Damascus, is the one philosophical assertion able to question the legitimacy of Marx’ Historical Materialism.

Marx’ assertion of the end of history in Communism was neither mechanical like the earth travelling around the sun, nor was it miraculous like God’s creation of light, but with the force of working men free to create their own history with the lending hand of history entering from economic phases of Feudalism; Capitalism; Socialism and finally Communism.

But for Badiou, the Event is created from conditions neither harnassed by the free will of working men, nor the path of history so told by Marx, rather, it arrives like Damascan conversion, often contradicting the hitherto narrative of history. Subsequently, Badiou has been described as a Communist without being a Marxist.

The ’25 things…’ meme

1)      In school, I was no more a socialist than Kilroy is still a Marxist, but I did wear a badge that said “I hate the Middle Class” which was worn in protest at a family member I took a disliking to.

2)      I first became a socialist after reading Marx at college. Soon after I went to a Socialist Workers’ Party meeting in Southend, where on entry I was asked if I’d read the Communist Manifesto. Having met their criteria – strange as it was – I became a member.

3)      I didn’t join the first anti-war march in London because I hadn’t made up my mind at the time, despite being a cohort of the SWP.

4)      My favourite band is Yes.

5)      I have a wanky taste in film; my favourite film is Jean-Luc Godard’s Bande a Part.

6)      I had something akin to a religious experience when on a bus during the day near St John’s Wood, the sun was beaming in through the window, while I was listening to Wagner’s Overture. A cloud covered the sun and I could see a Jewish wedding was taking place. For some reason this made an impact on me.

7)      I’ve met a fair few bloggers now: Sunny Hundal; Dave Semple; Paul Cotterill; Tim Ireland; Five Chinese Crackers; Left Outside; Pete Bowers; Laurie Penny; Paul Sagar; Jack of Kent; Jamie Sport; Louise Whittle; Splintered Sunrise; Dave Osler; Cath Elliot; Kate Belgrave, to name only a few.

8)      I went through a phase of listening to Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells once a day

9)      I once wore a badge reading “repeal all immigration laws”. I stopped wearing it after a man came up to me to say he liked my badge, and that “there were too many fucking Japs in the country anyway”. I told him the word Japs is as outdated as his stupid opinion.

10)   When I was 17 I attended the Marxist festival in Central London where I requested accommodation. It was space on the floor of a church in Bow with about 50 SWP activists.

11)   I’m pictured on the Redwatch website after attending a demo against the National Front, who themselves were marching in Woolwich after a Caucasian boy was beaten to death by some Asian youths. I saw and recognised the NF activist who photographed me, and knew from then on that the NF is inextricably linked to C18.

12)   The first anti-BNP demo I attended was in Wickford, Essex, which was used as a meeting point for the BNP to get the train to their red, white and blue festival. Before the BNP had arrived a man was stood near the platform wearing his postman uniform and holding a British bulldog by a leash, causing one person to mistake him for a BNP member, whereupon the entire crowd of anti-fascists confronted him. He, very meekly, told us he wasn’t the BNP, and that he hated that lot. Very embarrassing for everyone.

13)   Even though I was a socialist, I used to hang around with an anarchist sect in Essex because they didn’t care for meetings about the old’n days (as I would’ve put it back then). Oddly for an anarchist sect, we effectively acted as security for Labour activists in South East Essex during a by-election campaign where BNP activists were intimidating them.

14)   This lot, and me, also acted as unofficial security when the holocaust survivor Leon Greenman spoke to a small audience in Vange, Essex. The room, which composed of mainly SWP activists and local Labour members, went uncomfortably quiet when Greenman praised Tony Blair and expressed his support for the war in Iraq.

15)   The second May Day march that I attended was with one of the anarchists who went by the name of Austin, and is relatively well known for, among other things, his piercings and large red Mohican. After the main march, we wondered around Hyde Park waiting for the anarchist cricket match to start with a constant police presence – it was then that I learnt of his notoriety. We both had our pictures taken with the police, but they did not leave us until about 3pm.

16)   The Southend division of Unite Against Fascism – which was almost entirely composed of SWPpies – staged a protest outside a pub in 2003 where the BNP were going to meet, but were refused by the pub landlord last minute (it turned out that the BNP had booked the room in the pub under the name “National Trust”). A friend of mine became involved in a fracas with who we later found out was Matthew Single. Single was the individual who released the names and addresses of all BNP members a few years ago – a story I recall here.

17)   I’m a big fan of the writing of Edmund Standing, who has written a report on the far right for the anti-fascist think-tank Centre for Social cohesion, and occasionally writes for Harry’s Place.

18)   I was happy that the BBC put Nick Griffin on Question Time. I don’t think it was ever going to have the effect people feared (giving credibility to an old fascist) – I knew the BBC was simply lending Griffin the rope with which to hang himself with.

19)   My girlfriend once accidentally kicked Walter Wolfgang – the man who was thrown out of the Labour Party conference for heckling – on the leg during an anti-war march.

20)   I spent the day looking for a bank so I could change up dollars in Bolivia while a pro-Evo rally was taking place – I was very jealous.

21)   I was, for a very short period of time, a “Grantite”, which is someone who is a member or supporter of Socialist Appeal. I was attracted to SA because I felt the only way to bring about socialism was through the historical party of the working class – the Labour Party. By this time I had had enough of Trotskyite groups serving little other than creating factions between themselves and dismissing the Labour Party outright.

22)   About a year and half ago, I realised I wasn’t a Trotskyite at all (or at least I wasn’t Trostkyite in the way in which I’d experienced it in the South East of England and London) but rather, my politics are based nearer to British guild socialism. Earlier this year I joined the Labour Party.

23)   People say they hate being pinned down to labels, I love labels, I’ll have to check with Phil, but I think this has something to do with my love of sociology, which also loves labels.

24)   I support a strategic presence of US and UK troops in Afghanistan, but have not always been happy with the strategy. I am in favour of massively reducing armed conflict in the country, but continuing the assistance of building up an Afghan army able to deal with the huge internal problems, which impacts upon global safety.

UK troops leaving Sangin is the beginning of the end of our defeat, which means that fascism will continue to spread across the Middle East by terrorists who will gain an almighty boost similar to that when the Russians left. This is by no means a victory for the anti-war movement, even less so for the anti-fascist movement, and far less so for the Trotskyites who favoured a mass internal rising over UN intervention.

25)   I secretly don’t support any of the candidates for the Labour leadership.

Will tag this person, this person, this person, this person, this person and this person (I just copied Phil tbh) for this reason, apparently.

Letter Template for Sailor Jerry rum

Contact Sailor Jerry

Sailor Jerry Office:

421 N. 7th Street
Suite 416
Philadelphia, PA 19123
United States

P: +1.215.625.2561
F: +1.215.625.2773

Sailor Jerry Store:

116-118 S. 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
United States

P: +1.215.531.6380

Hours:
Mon-Thurs: 11:00 – 7:00
Fri-Sat: 11:00 – 8:00
Sun: 12:00 – 5:00

Email:

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customerservice@sailorjerry.com

Dear Sailor Jerry,

Facebook has had no effect on your decision to return to the original and great taste of Sailor Jerry rum, and was hoping to know the truth about this.  Is this because the original flavour is too delicious, and people were drinking it bottle's at a time and falling down and seriously injuring themselves, others, or both?

We've now all seen your response to the Facebook groups; and now this my response, call it a last ditch attempt. Please offer the original recipe, I love it so, and I'm a reponsible drinker, and know full well that there is nothing else quite like it out there, whereas limey rums are ten-a-penny.

If it is common knowledge that you'll be losing money from this move, by leaving the rummy, limey, vanilla-y market for the already overcrowded 'usual' rum drink market is there a reason that we should know about?  Political pressure, perhaps the mafia are involved, are there publicly unknown side-effects for something as tasty as Jerry?

Please offer some words on this, or else I will only be tasting the saltiness of my tears.

Yours sincerely,

[insert name here]

The Bolivian photofit effect: A new meme that can help with everything of impossibility

I am hoping to start a meme. Unlikely it is, but what the hell. Its called the Bolivian photofit effect. As you may or may not have heard, police in Bolivia aimed to catch a killer by broadcasting the photofit below on the news – and amazingly, they succeeded.

Only the very silly indeed would attribute the finding to this picture alone, it seems obvious to me that the chap would have been caught regardless of this photo’s publication.

The same logic can be applied to much more. For example in local government, certain schemes or pilots use as their samples examples that would work anyway, yet knowing full well that accountability is thin on the ground (let me be clear, not always out of callousness). Say for example a programme to get young adults in to further education, lots of work around how best to do that goes on, and then they test the scheme on a sample to secure funding for it on a wider scale. Let us say that results on this scheme are good, over three-quarters of the sample take on further education, the central government likes what it sees and allows the scheme to be applied on a wider basis. But, we are unable to prove that that scheme was the impetus needed for young people to go back and take further education, or whether they were inclined to do this anyway – unfortunately accountability is small.  We can only assume there will be an amount – possibly sizeable – within that sample who wanted to stay on in education and would’ve done regardless of scheme, which means that part of the funding for that scheme is unfortunately unnecessary, but owing to the impossibility of accountability, is a necessary evil.

Such an occurance I will now call the Bolivian photofit effect, I have tried it out at work and so far it got a laugh. Now I shall try the true home of memetics – the blogosphere.

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