Air strikes against ISIS in Syria: what should the left say?

July 3, 2015 at 3:24 pm (fascism, iraq, islamism, kurdistan, left, Middle East, posted by JD, Stop The War, Syria, terror, war)

Two Tornado GR4 jets took off from a British military base in Cyprus to commence the UK's campaign against Isis in Iraq. An RAF Tornado GR4 jet at a British military base in Cyprus during the UK’s present campaign against ISIS in Iraq

How should the left respond to the possibility of air strikes against ISIS/Daesh (who cares what they’re called?) in Syria? – asks Comrade Coatesy. And, in particular, he asks, where does the Stop The War Coalition (StWC) stand?

An interesting reply comes from one John R, in a BTL comment:

“Where does the StWC stand?”

I’m assuming this is a rhetorical question, Andrew as the stance of the StWC will be opposition to any Western attack on Isis – no matter the cost to the Kurds and others.

In your article, you put two points of view which, to my mind, are contradictory.

“Another foreign intervention in Syria and Iraq is a bad idea, ethically and in terms of Realpolitik.”

… (and) …

“There is little we can do in this tumult, but we are must use all the resources we can to help our Kurdish sisters and brothers who are fighting for dear life.”

If “we” must use all our resources to help the Kurds, surely we should not rule out the possibility of air strikes?

Here is a report from the Independent (Feb 2015) –

“An important aspect of the Kurdish offensive by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) is that it is receiving air cover with US Central |Command recording 21 airstrikes in two days against Isis ground positions and vehicles. This means that the US is now cooperating militarily with the YPG…

Now for the first time there is evidence that this military cooperation between the Syrian Kurds and the US is continuing in offensive operations. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that Isis has lost 132 fighters killed in this area in Hasaka province since 21 February while only seven YPG fighters have been killed, including one foreigner. The disparity in casualties can only be explained by the extensive use of US airpower.

“This is an important development,” says veteran Syrian Kurdish leader Omar Sheikhmous. “It means that the PYD [the political arm of YPG] has reached an understanding with the US about cooperation.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-in-syria-aided-by-us-air-strikes-kurds-cut-terrorists-supply-line-linking-syria-and-iraq-10070691.html

I think the crux of the matter should be what do those [who are fighting ISIS/Daesh on the ground], especially the Kurds, say they want and need to fight Isis? If they believe that British air strikes can help to beat back Isis, then good.

Who knows, though? Maybe John Rees and the StWC will come up with the kind of imaginative idea they had last year when they were calling on Hamas, the ANC and Venezuela to “arm the Kurds.” Except this time, perhaps Mr Rees will have a press conference with CAGE and Moazzam Begg to call on Al-Qaeda to help them.

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Mackney of Greece Solidarity denounces Morning Star

July 2, 2015 at 7:23 pm (Europe, Greece, internationalism, posted by JD, sectarianism, stalinism)

Well-respected Labour movement activist Paul Mackney, former general secretary of the UCU and currently secretary of the Greece Solidarity Campaign, has written this sharp letter to the Morning Star which was published in today’s edition:

Image result for morning star logo

I am in Greece, where the people are preparing, more or less on class lines, to vote in the referendum on EU austerity demands next Sunday.

I was appalled to read your editorial mirroring the position of the KKE which voted in parliament not to have a referendum.

After years of reporting which ignores the realities of the new social and political movements in Greece, with regret, I have decided to cancel my daily copy of the Star.

The facts are that the KKE got 5 per cent of the vote in the last election and that Syriza got 36 per cent.

Syriza was clear with the people, who were overwhelmingly pro-EU and pro-euro, that it would try initially to find a solution within the Eurozone, which has involved negotiations which have been transparent.

We have to stand with the Greek people.

As the Greece Solidarity Campaign slogan has it: “In or out of the Eurozone, Greeks will never fight alone.”

PAUL MACKNEY London N22

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‘Stop The War’ protest in Donetsk ignored by ‘Stop The War’ in the UK

July 2, 2015 at 6:59 pm (Paul Canning, Russia, stalinism, Stop The War, Ukraine, war)

By Paul Canning

An anti-war protest has taken place in the heart of Donetsk.  Unsurprisingly it was not reported on Russia Today or by the Stalinists.

ukraine-anti-war_DONETSK

There has been increased fighting in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts in Eastern Ukraine.  This has been most notable in the Ukrainian city of Pisky, a city five kilometers from Donetsk held by Russian forces.  The OSCE has criticised the shelling in contravention of the Minsk Agreement which  set a demarcation line where heavy weapons were to be withdrawn.

This escalation has provoked unrest inside the self-styled ‘Donetsk Peoples Republic’ where there has been very little public protest since early 2014.

On 15th June 500 residents of the Oktyabrskoe district of Donetsk took part in a stop the war protest.  The anti-war protesters demanded that the Russian forces should stop shelling and using civilian buildings as cover.  shouting: “Stop the war!”, “Give us back our houses, our homes are broken!”, “Get out of here!”

This was a concern raised on numerous occasions previously including  by the independent miners unions as using buildings in this way was increasing civilian casualties when counter-fire was returned.   The head of the regime in Donetsk – Zalarchenko came out and met the protesters insisting the fighting would continue.

One protester said: “People were lost when we voted for the rebels, but they screwed us, simply screwed us!”

A video with English translation is available here: Donetsk Residents Stage Rare Anti-War Protest

Russian journalist Pavel Kanygin, working for Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia’s independent and opposition media, filmed the demonstration.  A day after the anti-war rally, Kanygin was detained and beaten, and deported back to Russia.  There has since been an increased military presence next to the government building where the protest took place.

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RIP Nicholas Winton

July 1, 2015 at 11:21 pm (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, good people, history, humanism, posted by JD)

 

Nicholas Winton with one of the children he rescued during the second world war.

Gene (of Harry’s Place) writes:

I hope the life and achievements of Nicholas Winton, who died at the age of 106, are getting full recognition in the British media.

Winton was belatedly recognized for his role in helping to rescue and find families for at least 669 Jewish children from Nazi-controlled Czechoslovakia in the months before the outbreak of World War II.

“I called myself Honorary Secretary of the Children’s Section of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia,” Mr. Winton told The Washington Post in 1989. “The other people,” he added, referring to government bureaucrats and others confronted with his doggedness, “they just called me a bloody nuisance.”

…He wrote letters to government leaders around the world, including in the United States. Nearly all of them turned down his requests for assistance. “If America had only agreed to take them, too,” he said, “I could have saved at least 2,000 more.”

Sweden agreed to take in some of the young refugees, as did Britain — provided that Mr. Winton could identify families willing to care for the children until they were 17 years old. The government also required that he secure the staggering sum of 50 pounds per child for their eventual return home.

Many of the children would lose their parents in the Nazi death camps and had no home to return to after the war.

While holding down his job at the stock exchange and with help from assistants, including his mother, Mr. Winton gathered or forged travel documents for the children, raised the necessary funds and recruited host families through newspaper advertisements and other means.

I was especially touched to learn that one of the children he rescued was Karel Reisz, who grew up to direct two of my very favorite movies: Who’ll Stop the Rain and Sweet Dreams.

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Enemy Intelligence: Bruno Waterfield of ‘The Times’ on the Greek crisis

July 1, 2015 at 10:56 pm (capitalist crisis, Europe, Greece)

We reproduce this, from today’s (London) Times, because it seems to be well-informed, and it’s only otherwise available from behind Murdoch’s pay-wall. We do not know whom the “senior German conservative” is, but it might well be finance minister Wolfgang Schaeubl

‘No new bailout unless Tsipras goes’

Greece will not get a cent in new euro-zone bailout loans while Alexis Tsipras and Yanis Varoukaris remain in power, because Germany will block any such deal, one of Europe’s most influential politicians has told The Times.

“Today there is the question of do we trust Tsipras and Varoufakis? The answer is clear to all parties, no,” the senior German conservative said.

He also lifted the mild on a European Union attempt to push Mr Tsipras’s left-wing Syriza out of power regardless of the vote on July 5.

If Greece’s prime minister and finance minister remained in office, even after a “yes” vote in Sunday’s referendum, then Athens would stand no chance of a new bailout, he indicated.

Under the rules of the European Stability Mechanism, the euro’s bailout fund, the German parliament, or Bundestag, has a veto or blocking vote over any new programme such as that requested by Greece at the 11th hour.

The senior German conservative said that Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrat Union (CDU) and its Baverian allies the Christian Social Union (CSU) would block any request made while the pair, described as “communists” remained in power.

“In my party the CDU/CSU there would be a lot of colleagues who would vote ‘no’ if Varoufakis and Tsipras are asking. For sure. Because there is simply no trust any more. They say, I am not going to give taxpayers’ money to Greece without a reliable partner,” he said. Referring to Syrezia, he added: “We need a reliable partner who wants to do the job.”

The EU’s plan is to back a “yes” vote strongly by posing it as an in/out question on membership of the euro rather than austerity measures and then, in the event of a victory, to oust Syriza after the expected resignation of Mr Tsipras. “We will do anything to get a ‘yes’. Then we will need a new government, then we have to implement measures” he said.

The politician revealed that the socialist Martin Schulz, the president of the European parliament, was involved in secret talks, possibly involving Mr Tsipras -m whom he sees as a moderate – to “split the Syriza movement” as a precondition for a new EU bailout, incorporating moderate MPs in Syriza to avoid new elections.

In the event of a “no” vote and Syriza continuing to hold the reigns of power, the German conservative said, “It’s over” and Greece would have to leave the euro after defaulting on ECB loans on July 20. “We will talk about a humanitarian rescue programme but not an additional [bailout],” he said.

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Glastonbury drivel and pseudery from John Harris of the ‘Graun’

July 1, 2015 at 9:58 pm (Guardian, Guest post, middle class, posted by JD, wankers)

By Robert Greenwood:

If, when I go to Hell, I do not wake up in the VIP buttery at Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club, I will come to post-mortem consciousness sitting on a waterless toilet in a prayer tent at the Glastonbury Pop Music Festival. John Harris, the floppy-haired pseud who used to be on Newsnight Review and who now writes drivel for the Guardian, has written some drivel for the Guardian about how “political” Glastonbury is:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/28/glastonbury-fields-politics-podemos

Read the last paragraph for an abstract of the rest: N.B.: Older readers may be forgiven for thinking that this was written by the late Michael Wharton, “Peter Simple” of the Daily Telegraph’s “Way of the World” column.

 ” I went out into the crowd and chatted to Francesca Scanlon, an 18-year-old sixth former from Whitley Bay. This was not just her first Glastonbury but her first festival. “I think it’s brilliant,” she said, before telling me she had seen the Vaccines, the Courteeners and Florence + the Machine. But then she talked about the festival’s political aspect. “You get a real kind of leftwing, liberal feeling here,” she said. “It’s really free. Where I’m from isn’t like that: it’s quite right wing.” What came next underlined what old-school socialists would call fellowship: the feeling of being among like minds, and taking inspiration from them. “I feel at home,” she said.”

But if where Miss Scanlon comes from is “quite right wing,” how can she feel “at home” at Glastonbury if, at Glastonbury, she gets “a real kind of leftwing, liberal feeling?” Surely where she is “from” is “home”, and “home” is where she is “from?” Also, the buffoon Harris describes exactly what is, and always was, wrong about “old-school socialists” and what they would call “fellowship”: “[T]he feeling of being among like minds, and taking inspiration from them.” “Like minds” do not “inspire.” Only challenging and contrary minds inspire. Whoever had a mind like Marx or Engels? Who has a mind like an 18-year old sixth-former? John Harris, of course

“At good old Glastonbury the new politics finds a home by John Harris…”

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Stiglitz and Guzman on Greece and the crisis in Europe

June 29, 2015 at 11:21 pm (capitalist crisis, Europe, Greece)

From Social Europe:

Joseph Stiglitz

Governments sometimes need to restructure their debts. Otherwise, a country’s economic and political stability may be threatened. But, in the absence of an international rule of law for resolving sovereign defaults, the world pays a higher price than it should for such restructurings. The result is a poorly functioning sovereign-debt market, marked by unnecessary strife and costly delays in addressing problems when they arise.

We are reminded of this time and again. In Argentina, the authorities’ battles with a small number of “investors” (so-called vulture funds) jeopardized an entire debt restructuring agreed to – voluntarily – by an overwhelming majority of the country’s creditors. In Greece, most of the “rescue” funds in the temporary “assistance” programs are allocated for payments to existing creditors, while the country is forced into austerity policies that have contributed mightily to a 25% decline in GDP and have left its population worse off. In Ukraine, the potential political ramifications of sovereign-debt distress are enormous.

So the question of how to manage sovereign-debt restructuring – to reduce debt to levels that are sustainable – is more pressing than ever. The current system puts excessive faith in the “virtues” of markets. Disputes are generally resolved not on the basis of rules that ensure fair resolution, but by bargaining among unequals, with the rich and powerful usually imposing their will on others. The resulting outcomes are generally not only inequitable, but also inefficient.

Those who claim that the system works well frame cases like Argentina as exceptions. Most of the time, they claim, the system does a good job. What they mean, of course, is that weak countries usually knuckle under. But at what cost to their citizens? How well do the restructurings work? Has the country been put on a sustainable debt path? Too often, because the defenders of the status quo do not ask these questions, one debt crisis is followed by another.

Greece’s debt restructuring in 2012 is a case in point. The country played according to the “rules” of financial markets and managed to finalize the restructuring rapidly; but the agreement was a bad one and did not help the economy recover. Three years later, Greece is in desperate need of a new restructuring.

Distressed debtors need a fresh start. Excessive penalties lead to negative-sum games, in which the debtor cannot recover and creditors do not benefit from the larger repayment capacity that recovery would entail.

The absence of a rule of law for debt restructuring delays fresh starts and can lead to chaos. That is why no government leaves it to market forces to restructure domestic debts. All have concluded that “contractual remedies” simply do not suffice. Instead, they enact bankruptcy laws to provide the ground rules for creditor-debtor bargaining, thereby promoting efficiency and fairness.

Sovereign-debt restructurings are even more complicated than domestic bankruptcy, plagued as they are by problems of multiple jurisdictions, implicit as well as explicit claimants, and ill-defined assets upon which claimants can draw. That is why we find the claim by some – including the US Treasury – that there is no need for an international rule of law so incredible.

To be sure, it may not be possible to establish a full international bankruptcy code; but a consensus could be reached on many issues. For example, a new framework should include clauses providing for stays of litigation while the restructuring is being carried out, thus limiting the scope for disruptive behavior by vulture funds.

It should also contain provisions for lending into arrears: lenders willing to provide credit to a country going through a restructuring would receive priority treatment. Such lenders would thus have an incentive to provide fresh resources to countries when they need them the most.

There should be agreement, too, that no country can sign away its basic rights. There can be no voluntary renunciation of sovereign immunity, just as no person can sell himself into slavery. There also should be limits on the extent to which one democratic government can bind its successors.

This is particularly important because of the tendency of financial markets to induce short-sighted politicians to loosen today’s budget constraints, or to lend to flagrantly corrupt governments such as the fallen Yanukovych regime in Ukraine, at the expense of future generations. Such a constraint would improve the functioning of sovereign-debt markets by inducing greater due diligence in lending.

A “soft law” framework containing these features, implemented through an oversight commission that acted as a mediator and supervisor of the restructuring process, could resolve some of today’s inefficiencies and inequities. But, if the framework is to be consensual, its implementation should not be based at an institution that is too closely associated with one side of the market or the other.

This means that regulation of sovereign-debt restructuring cannot be based at the International Monetary Fund, which is too closely affiliated with creditors (and is a creditor itself). To minimize the potential for conflicts of interest, the framework could be implemented by the United Nations, a more representative institution that is taking the lead on the matter, or by a new global institution, as already suggested in the 2009 Stiglitz Report on reforming the international monetary and financial system.

The crisis in Europe is just the latest example of the high costs – for creditors and debtors alike – entailed by the absence of an international rule of law for resolving sovereign-debt crises. Such crises will continue to occur. If globalization is to work for all countries, the rules of sovereign lending must change. The modest reforms we propose are the right place to start.

© Project Syndicate

About Joseph E. Stiglitz and Martin Guzman

Joseph Stiglitz is University Professor at Columbia University and a Nobel laureate in Economics. Martin Guzman is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Economics and Finance at Columbia University Business School.

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Labour Leadership Hustings

June 29, 2015 at 8:49 am (elections, labour party, posted by JD, reblogged, reformism)

Phil at All That Is Solid reports from the West Midlands hustings yesterday:

It might be a building site, but already New Street Station looks better than the soulless vault it previously was. Something else was also better than preceding iterations. When I trekked down to Birmingham yesterday for the Labour leadership and deputy leadership hustings, my hopes were not high. After all, members and supporters were invited to submit their questions before proceedings began. A manifestation of control-freakery? Actually, no. The range of questions were broad, and so the audience got a much better discussion than I was hoping for. Speaking of the people in the hall, around a thousand turned up to Brum’s New Bingley Hall – much more than previous regional events I’ve attended these last five years. Then again, when you’ve put on 50,000 members since the general election how could it be otherwise?

Sky’s Sophy Ridge moderated proceedings. There was an hour for leader candidates followed by another hour for the would-be deputies (the latter will be covered in a separate post). Each candidate was expected to stick to a strict time limit and at the end of questions gave a concluding stump speech. The questions and answers were …

Read the rest of this entry »

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WTF? ISIS flag at London Gay Pride!

June 28, 2015 at 11:01 am (comedy, Guest post, LGBT, London, media, satire, strange situations, TV)

Paul Canning reports:

When CNN International reporter Lucy Pawle stepped out of a store in London’s West End she could not believe what she was seeing. As a dutiful journo, she got out her phone and snapped away then placed a call to her station. Shortly after she was on the air breathlessly reporting her find; a black ISIS flag was on the London Gay Pride Parade! And no one seemed to have noticed!

Not being a mug, not at all, Pawle wondered if it might be that British sense of humour she’d heard so much about as the lettering appeared to be “gobbledygook”.

The CNN anchor then brought on the ‘security expert’ Peter Bergen who pondered why an ISIS flag would be there when the group hurls gays off buildings.

Pawle should have looked closer. No, scratch that, she should have used her brain. No, scratch that, her editor and the anchor and the ‘security expert’ all need eye tests.

The flag is a parody with the ‘lettering’ being images of dildos and other sex toys. I have no idea who made it and what they were trying to say (will update if I find out) but I can guess. I think they were trying to say FU to ISIS.

About an hour after the report went out and Pawle had started to get laughed at on Twitter the video got taken down by CNN, but Mediate have a copy.

Personally I think the flag parody looks hilarious and I guess that those who saw it did too since no one appears to be complaining. But I can see how some might think it disrespectful or something.

What do you think?

************************************
Edit: The artist behind the flag has now been tracked down. The non-anonymous Paul Coombes told PinkNews “the flag of ‘Dildosis’, a conceptual organisation he has set up as a counterpoint to ISIS, established for the advancement of an ecstatic state”.

More about the very brave Coombes at his website http://www.paulcoombs.co.uk/

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Louis Armstrong and ‘La Vie En Rose’

June 26, 2015 at 8:40 pm (France, good people, jazz, love, music, poetry, posted by JD, song)

My good friend Ricky Ricardi, archivist of the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens, NYC, commemorates the 65th anniversary of Louis’ recording of ‘La Vie En Rose’ (from Ricky’s blog ‘The Wonderful World Of Louis Armstrong’):

65 Years of “La Vie En Rose”

Louis Armstrong with Sy Oliver’s Orchestra
Recorded June 26, 1950
Track Time 3: 26
Written by Mack David, Edith Piaf and Louiguy (Louis Gugliemi)
Recorded in New York City
Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocal; Melvin Solomon, Bernie Privin, Paul Webster, trumpet; Morton Bullman, trombone; Hymie Schertzer, Milt Yaner, alto saxophone; Art Drelinger, Bill Holcombe, tenor saxohpne; Earl Hines, piano; Everett Barksdale, guitar; George Duvivier, bass; Johnny Blowers, drums; Sy Oliver, arranger, conductor
Originally released on Decca 37113
Currently available on CD: It’s on “Satchmo Serenades” and about a thousand compilations.
Available on Itunes? Yes.

65 years ago today, Louis Armstrong tapped into his French side by recording two songs he’d perform for the rest of his career: “La Vie En Rose” and “C’est Si Bon.” What follows is a slightly updated version of my original 2010 posting on “La Vie En Rose” and I’ll be back in a few days with a fresh look at “C’est Si Bon.” Enjoy!

*************************
For the last couple of decades, “What a Wonderful World” easily wins the title of the most ubiquitous Louis Armstrong recording, being used in a countless amount of films, television commercials and high school reports (just check YouTube). But “La Vie En Rose” is definitely a close second. According to Imdb.com, it’s been used in at least eight major motion pictures since 1994, most notably in the Pixar classic “Wall-E,” as well as television shows, commercials, you name it. And anyone who has spent three minutes and 26 seconds in its presence can easily understand the phenomenon. You’d have to have the heart of the Tin Man (pre-Oz) to not be moved by it.

Of course, the song truly belongs to Edith Piaf, the legendary French singer who co-wrote it and made it famous to the point where a documentary and a feature film about her life each bear the title “La Vie En Rose.” Piaf apparently wrote the song in 1946 and sat on it for a while before she finally gave it a go in public, where it was received tremendously. In 1948, she sang her original French lyrics on a recording that was picked up in the United States by George Avakian of Columbia Records. I’ll let George tell the story, as he eloquently did in the liner notes to an Armstrong boxed set on the Hip-O label, “An American Original”:

“That same year, Edith Piaf took New York by storm an me by surprise. I was doubling as International and Pop Album director at Columbia in those days, and when Piaf’s manager told me she was coming back to New York despite a cool reception the first time ’round, I asked our Paris affiliate to send me samples of her interim releases so that I could try to choose something which might appeal to the American public. I recognized one melody as ‘You’re Too Dangerous, Cheire,’ a failed pop tune I had liked a couple of years earlier. The label said ‘La Vie En Rose,’ and the impassioned French lyric was far superior to wishy-washy English words I knew. We gave it a shot and to everyone’s astonishment but ‘Ay-deet’s,’ it sold a million copies.”

For those who aren’t familiar with it, hear’s Piaf’s original French version, courtesy of YouTube:

As of today, multiple YouTube versions have amassed over 20 million views, a testament to the lasting power of Piaf and that song in particular. But who is in second place? Ol’ Pops with just over 19 million views himself. As Avakian added, “Of the countless cover versions that followed, Louis’ was easily the best, and he never stopped singing it.” Read the rest of this entry »

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