Back on the air…

August 27, 2010 at 5:43 pm (BBC, blogging, comedy, Jim D)

Thanks to those marvellous chaps (there may be chapesses, but I haven’t encountered any)  at PC World’s “Tech Guys” service, I’m back on the air! They told me that my flange attachment was out of line with the oval-shaped Thing at the back of the screen, which could then be re-activated by pressing F8 over and over again. Then the centrifuge would start working and everything would be back to normal. Simple, really.

So I’m back in touch with my friends! Friends from all over the world! None in this country, but all over the world:

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Assange: not a rapist, but an arrogant creep

August 26, 2010 at 4:54 pm (Afghanistan, cyberspace, Guardian, Jim D, media, twat)

The rape charges against  Wikileaks boss Julian Assange have been dropped by the Swedish authorities, though a charge of “molestation” of a woman remains. Both the women who brough the claims of sexual assault against Assange have denied being part of a Pentagon plot to smear him (a claim that Assange and his supporters have, of course, been trumpeting), one of them telling Aftonbladet, “the charges against Assange are, of course, not orchestrated by the Pentagon. The responsibility for what happened to me and the other girl lies with a man who has a twisted attitude to women and a problem taking ‘no’ for an answer.”

So he’s not a rapist. But he is a vile, arrogant creep who  doesn’t appear to give a damn about putting the lives of Afghan civilians at risk at the hands of the Taliban:

“If there are innocent Afghans being revealed, which was our concern, which was why we kept back 15,000 files, then of course we take that seriously.”

But what if it’s too late?

“Well, we will review our procedures.”

Too late for the individuals, I say. Dead.

“Well, anything might happen but nothing has happened. And we are not about to leave the field of doing good simply because harm might happen … In our four-year publishing history no one has ever come to physical harm that we are aware of or that anyone has alleged. On the other hand, we have changed governments and constitutions and had tremendous positive outcomes.” (Observer interview by Carole Cadwalladr, 1st Aug 2010 – link above)

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Normal service will be resumed…

August 26, 2010 at 4:15 pm (blogging, Jim D)

Readers will have noticed an absence of postings on Shiraz  for several days. The reason is that my computer is on the blink (to use a technical term) and probably won’t be repaired until next week. Rosie and Max are less frequent contributors and haven’t (yet) been able to step into the breach.

Comments on existing posts have, of course,  contined and are (in the majority – bearing in mind Rosie’s last posting), most welcome.

So, apologies to all: keep checking in and (hopefully) normal service will be resumed within the next few days. I may even knock something up while I’m in this internet “cafe” place…

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Comments Policy Proposal

August 22, 2010 at 9:32 am (blogging, bloggocks, blogosphere, Rosie B)

Some of the commenters have complained that we do not adhere to our stated comments policy. The policy and the complaints can be read here.

I would suggest that we enlarge on this policy, and before laying down some ground rules, would ask the contributors here, both bloggers and commenters, to read this draft position paper and suggest some amendments and improvements.

The data is mostly drawn from this site, though I have been influenced by other tendencies I have observed in the blogosphere.

Broadly, I would keep to a liberal comments policy, but would note that there are objectionable commenters that have to be dealt with by deletion, editing, abuse or mockery.


“Trolls” are a well-known type of commenter, and can be left out of this paper. But there are other kinds of objectionable commenters, who commit offences against the intellect, manners or morals. For methodological convenience, I shall divide them into the following categories:- “Cunts”, “Arses” and “Shits”.

Cunts (Intellect)

Cunts are so defined for their intellectual dishonesty. They argue in bad faith, ignore any counter arguments, pile up straw men by the barnload, make stuff up, put words in your mouth that you not only have not said but would never dream of saying, make wild accusations eg if you write about the same topic as another blog, you therefore agree with that blog in every comma, full stop and hyperlink, and if you don’t write on a particular topic that for them is big news, you are creating a deliberate diversion and your non-coverage is a sinister ploy . (For an example of this kind of Cuntishness see here from comment 10 on.) If you quote from writer X, you therefore agree with writer X’s every utterance. If you quote from a reputable source, they will google mine that source until they find something discreditable it published back in 1973. They fill the thread with irrelevant matter, hoping to use tanks of verbiage to crush what they failed to shoot down with counter argument. They adopt a patronising and/or jeering tone. They will never answer a direct question, either weaselling out of it or ignoring it or saying that the reason you asked this question was another diversion. They are Poundstretcher Alastair Campbells, intellectual loudmouths who are absolutely incapable of admitting that an opponent may have made a telling point, or has any motive other than the lowest form of partisanship.

The chief Cunt on this site (and many others) is johng.

Arses (Manners)

With Arses it’s not a question of their political opinions, which may be perfectly acceptable, but of manner of expression. Arses shout and swear and scream diatribes against all those who have annoyed them in some way, whether it’s the Pope, the Labour Party, the bloggers on this site and other sites, or fellow commenters, even inoffensive ones. They post pointless abuse, insults and violent fantasies in comment after comment so that reading through the thread is like picking your way between the pools of vomit along Lothian Road/Sauchiehall Street [insert your local street famed for drunken debauchery] on a Sunday morning. Arses are better people than Cunts or Shits (see below) but they are a nuisance and put off other commenters, just as any guy ranting impotent violent threats while holding a can of Carlsberg is probably a better person than George Galloway, but you would still rather not share space with him.

The chief Arse on this site (and many others) is Will.

Shits (Morals)

With Shits it’s morals rather than manners or standard of debate. In the society outside the blogosphere, Shits two-time their partners, betray their friends, play politics in their jobs instead of getting on with the work, neglect their children and aged parents and are rude to people who are forced by their position to be polite (waiters, airline stewardesses and the like). There’s only a limited capacity for Shittiness on blogs, which are built out of words rather than actions and it is primarily implemented by “outing” someone who wants to stay anonymous or writing comments in their name expressing racist, sexist or otherwise disgraceful views. Chasing commenters around blogs to shout abuse at them on different sites or insulting tentative or daffy but harmless commenters crosses over from Arsiness to Shittiness.

Our last Shit was a BNP creep called Curious Freedom, who “outed” another commenter, one Willywipples or some such stupid name. The most famous blog Shit is Orlando Figes who used sock-puppetry to savage his rivals’ history books and praise his own and then set lawyers on the rivals when they rumbled him. Threats of litigation, though they can certainly be defended in some cases, are usually a sign of Shittiness. Andy Newman has started to dabble his feet in this kind of turdery in the Galloway/Viva Palestina case and now is threatening more litigation against another blogger who “made clearly libellous and derogatory remarks of an explicit sexual nature about [Newman], and two respected academics and bloggers“, so though I wouldn’t call him a Cunt or an Arse as a rule, he’s in danger of turning into a Shit.

I would therefore suggest the following blogging policy:-

Cunts:- given that they reveal their own Cuntishness with every lousy argument and lie they produce and in that way damage their own cause and reputations they should be allowed to comment but should be taken to task and ridiculed and abused.

Arses:- should have their comments edited or deleted. The unarsey comments they make should be allowed to remain.

Shits:- should be banned immediately.

There are also reasonable folk, the ones who disagree with the blog post and other commenters but who do so honestly, make a case for their disagreement, and can write with wit, cleverness, information or common humanity. They should be welcomed and engaged with.


There was a flurry of comments in the comments box for this post, a good chunk of which have been deleted. Most of them came from two commenters – one who used his real name (Daniel Hoffman-Gill) and the other who was coy about using their real name or even the moniker that they’re usually known by, instead using Ghengis Khan, Spaniel and other disguises. However, I recognised the jeering tone, surly aggressiveness and scatology which I’ve seen around the blogosphere for years and guessed it was them. The IP address bore that out. Ghengis, among remarks that I didn’t note and which have now been trashed (Ghengis is anally, in fact colonally obsessed), pointed out that we could not have a policy of abusing one set of commenters “Cunts” and then deleting the “Arses‘” posts that abuse them. That is a reasonable point, so instead of stating that Cunts should be “ridiculed and abused” I would change that to “taken to task and ridiculed” for their non-sequiturs, bad logic, problems of comprehension (see Comment 6 for an example of that) and so on.

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A little quiz

August 22, 2010 at 12:18 am (jazz, Jim D, music)

What do these performers have in common?

No prize this time, I’m afraid: just the prestige of having got the right answer. You must explain your answer with reference to each one of the three.

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9/11 “Ground Zero”: always remember, Muslims also died

August 21, 2010 at 7:37 pm (Anti-Racism, Human rights, Islam, Jim D, United States)

Watch this before making up your mind:

Chris Hitchens also talks a lot of sense on this issue, even if he’s rather less inclined to be charitable to the Sufis behind this project.

And – just for the record – US (and, for sure, most other) Muslims are not insensitive to people’s feelings:

The Islamic Circle of North America decided against holding its Muslim family day on September 11 out of respect for victims and families. Founder Tariq Amanullah worked in the World Trade Centre and died in the attacks.

An ICNA spokesman, Naeem Baig, said: “We took the decision not to have it on September 11 because it is not a day to celebrate. We will be mourning the deaths of all those who perished.

“We wish it to be as close to Eid as possible. But we don’t want it on 9/11. That would be insensitive, we had to think of that.”

That should (but won’t) put enemies of the US consitution like  Sarah “refudiate” Palin and Rudy Giuliani to shame.

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Stop Basildon evicting Roma and Travellers!

August 21, 2010 at 6:52 pm (Anti-Racism, Civil liberties, Human rights, Jim D, travellers)

URGENT: Stop the evictions from Dale Farm!

Dear Friends,

More than 20 families living in chalets, mobile-homes and caravans at Hovefields Drive, nearby the largest Romani Gypsy and Irish Traveller community in the United Kingdom, Dale Farm, Essex County, are facing imminent forced eviction. The families received a 28-day notice issued by Basildon District Council to vacate their pitches and leave by 31 August or otherwise face eviction by the bailiff Company Constant and Co. Six families were evicted from Hovefields Drive community on 29 June, when the bailiff company, acting as agents of the Basildon Council, arrived at the site in the early hours of the day accompanied by Essex police officers and gave occupants one hour to pack up and leave. Heavy digger machines dig up the six plots where there was no-one living at the time as the families were travelling.

No previous notice of this work had been given and a utility unit used as a lavatory was demolished. Children were able to move freely about the sites shortly before the utility was demolished by a heavy digger. Health and safety regulations were totally ignored during the eviction operation and the police did nothing to guarantee compliance with human rights law although a meeting between senior police officers, the Dale Farm Housing Association and the Essex Human Rights Clinic had taken days before the eviction. Those families who were travelling cannot return to their plots because Basildon District Council obtained a court injunction that prevent them to do so. No alternative accommodation was offered, no compensation for the destruction of utilities was paid, and these families are now homeless.

In the case of Dale Farm, approximately 1,000 people have been residing on the estate for more than seven years, including many children. The community has been resisting forced evictions attempts by Basildon District Council since May 2005 when it voted to clear a large part of the settlement. Although all residents hold land ownership titles, sections of the site had no planning permission and Basildon Council has subsequently refused all attempts to regularise the situation, preferring the enforcement option.

In March 2010 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) issued a letter urging the UK Government and its institutions to consider suspending any planned eviction until an adequate solution is achieved, with the meaningful participation of the community to guarantee protection of their housing rights, including the provision of adequate alternative accommodation (

Basildon Council has offered nothing but brick and mortar houses or apartments, which are unsuitable for Gypsies and Travellers. Furthermore, the Council has refused to engage in conversations with the community.

The new UK Coalition Government has cancelled the central funding of much-needed new caravan parks for nomadic Gypsies and Travellers and removed the requirement to designate land for their accommodation. Many thousands of Gypsy families are thus forced to live illegally on land they have purchased but where they have been denied through strict planning laws to set up permanent homes. Thus another generation of Gypsies and Travellers are in danger of losing the chance of a regular education, while the old and the sick are deprived of the care and medical attention.

The wishes of the residents are to remain where it is and not to be split up. There is a strong communal ethic, with the elderly being cared for by the younger generation and small children protected. Gypsies and Travellers feel that having lost the possibility to follow the old nomadic life-style, it is essential to the preservation of their culture and ethnicity to keep Dale Farm and Hovefields communities intact. In line with the Housing Act 1996, it is incumbent on the BDC to consider the claim of the occupants to not be evicted as the families threatened with forced removal have no place to go.

The community is therefore seeking your support to urge the Basildon Council to:

● Put on hold the imminent forced eviction of Hovefields community and the planned eviction of Dale Farm, and engage in meaningful consultation discussions with the residents and their representatives for the purpose of seeking to achieve an amicable solution;

● Consider both the possibility of a) issuing planning permission to allow their permanent residence on their present properties; or b) utilising the € 4 million set aside for the eviction to provide an alternative area to which the residents can relocate;

● Respect and protect the housing, property and family rights of the Gypsy and Traveller communities, in particular the rights of the children.

Suggested action

Please send an appeal letter by e-mail or fax to the addresses listed below requesting the Basildon Council to stop the eviction. Sample letters and further background here.

Basildon District Council

Mr. Bala Mahendran, Chief Executive

Basildon Centre

St. Martins Sq, Basildon, SS14 1DL, UK

Tel:+44 1268 533333



Department for Communities and Local Government

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles

Zone 7/J9

Eland House

Bressenden Place

London SW1E 5DU

Commission for Equalities and Human Rights

Mr. Sean Risdale

Policy Advisor,

3 More London, Riverside Tooley Street

London, SE1 2RG

Tel: +44.20 3117 0235


Essex Human Rights Clinic


Dale Farm Housing Association

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Worth a Thousand Words

August 21, 2010 at 11:45 am (Max Dunbar, Pakistan)

This, according to How Big Really?, is how Pakistan’s floods would look if they covered the UK:


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Unite election: “Hicks can win!” But if he doesn’t, I supported McCluskey…

August 21, 2010 at 12:25 am (Jim D, unions, workers)

In the election for General Secretary of  Unite, the serious left has agreed upon a candidate: Len McCluskey.

Some people on the left are backing the egotistical and incoherent Jerry Hicks.

But some other, opportunist,  people want to have their cake and eat it (presumably hoping to stay in with whoever wins), proclaiming “Hicks can win!” but going on to hedge their bets thus:

“Now I don’t agree with everything that Jerry Hicks says. Personally I don’t see what is gained by electing officials. Some of the changes that Jerry,  would like to see in the unon are beyond the power of a General Secretary to bring about, although obviously he could use the position to campaign for rule changes over the longer term. But equally, I don’t agree with everything that Len McCluskey says either. They would both be good General Secretaries, but they would be good in very different ways, UNITE members have a genuine choice.”

Extraordinary, isn’t it, that a Hicks supporter  (albeit one who wants to keep his options open and not burn bridges) doesn’t actually agree with his central slogan: the election of officials?

Read here the rest of what must be the most pusillanimous statement about a union election ever put out, by anyone.

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Useful idiots…and Galloway

August 20, 2010 at 10:59 pm (fascism, Galloway, grovelling, intellectuals, Iran, Jim D, Respect, stalinism, terror)

Dan Katz, of Workers Liberty, caught a BBC World Service programme I missed:

The question that John Sweeney’s programme posed was interesting: why have so many seemingly intelligent people turned themselves into apologists for terrible, brutal, murderous regimes?

Harold Pinter defended Slobodan Milosevic. Noam Chomsky sided with Pol Pot’s Cambodian regime. Tony Benn doubted Solidarnosc’s trade union credentials. Jean-Paul Sartre refused to back an investigation into Russian slave labour camps. Vanessa Redgrave’s WRP took Libyan money. The SWP explained away the Taleban’s policy on women. George Galloway prostrated himself in front of Saddam.

There is a long list of “useful idiots” — prominent people who either directly, or effectively, place themselves at the disposal of monsters, and use their reputations as cover for brutality.

But even before Sweeney’s radio programme starts there is irony. The BBC’s blurb attributes the term “useful idiots” to Lenin. They say it is, “supposedly Lenin’s [phrase]”. In fact there is no evidence that Lenin ever said or used the term “useful idiots”.

The blurb says that the term “refers to Westerners duped into saying good things about bad regimes.” Which implies Lenin “duped people” into supporting a “regime” — the early Soviet Russian state — which he knew to be bad.

Hence the BBC’s listings writer has turned his or herself into a “useful idiot” of all those who want to make Lenin a Stalinist. In fact cultivating useful idiots was a project of the Stalinist states and their outposts in the West, the “Communist” parties, not Lenin. “Useful idiot” implies cynicism, contempt and manipulation, and has Stalinist roots.

Self-confessed former “useful idiot” Jonathan Mirsky described a visit to Mao’s China and being shown “Potemkin” schools during the Cultural Revolution. Apparently all schools were shut in China, except for these model schools, open to show gullible Westerners how good life was. He says he was told that there was no crime in China — and dutifully he and other (highly educated) journalists wrote it down and believed (or at least regurgitated) the lie. A guide from that tour later admitted that the state had wanted to “put rings in your noses, and you helped us.”

So the question is: why would intelligent people allow themselves to become propaganda tools of a state which allowed at least 30 million people to starve to death during the “Great Leap Forward”? Clearly part of the answer is that some “useful idiots” have wanted to believe the lies they are told. Which begs a further question: why would someone want to believe that the deranged Mao regime, for example, deserved their complicit silence or support from direct lies? Sweeney’s programme suggests that left-influenced intellectuals who see imperfections in their own societies find comfort in the belief that something better exists elsewhere.

Sweeney claims useful idiots are not just from the left. Ted Heath, Tory Prime Minister, enjoyed the flattery of the Chinese state enough to become their useful idiot in the 1970s. Listening, I am vaguely reminded of the obsequiousness, bag carrying and platform-providing that Socialist Action use to manipulate labour movement figures in the UK.

Sweeney is less convincing when he presents right-wing commentator Bruce Anderson as a useful idiot for Pinochet’s Chilean fascist regime. What Anderson says is genuinely shocking: that the overthrow of democracy and murder of “less than 4000” people (including some who “were innocent”) was a price worth paying to stop the spread of Communism. Nevertheless Anderson is neither naive nor in anyway conflicted — two things that might mark out a real “useful idiot” — he just is a nasty, rational right-winger.

Tony Benn provides a crystal-clear example of the verbal method of the bog-standard useful idiot when he praises Mao and his economic/social policy for developing China. Leaving aside the fact that this is laughable jibberish (for example, the Cultural Revolution destroyed the Chinese education system), Benn only offers mealy-mouthed criticism when pushed hard (Wasn’t Mao a mass murderer? It turns out Benn did not approve of everything Mao did).

In another category of useful idiot is George Galloway. Galloway is different because of the way self-interest and self-promotion is bound up with his toadying. Sweeney considers his relationship with Press TV, the English-language voice of the barbaric Iranian state (Galloway has a programme on Press TV). An Iranian journalist explained how he was tortured in jail and how Press TV collaborated with his interrogators inside the prison. A former Press TV worker stated that the station only presents the regime’s viewpoint.

Galloway refused to appear on the programme, as did Galloway’s comrade, Yvonne Ridley. In a written statement Ridley used an argument that is often heard on the British left: that the BBC’s Director General has turned himself into a useful idiot for the British state and its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a defence of Press TV it is pretty stupid (because it admits Press TV is a voice of the Iranian state, simply alleging that the BBC is just as bad). As John Sweeney points out as he ends the programme, the BBC does not only give the government’s point of view, and does not collaborate with torturers. One-nil to Sweeney.


Galloway asks:

Final question Mr President, every so often an issue comes along, which is seized upon by the enemies of Iran, and magnified, and it becomes a heavy problem. One such is the punishment, scheduled originally against a woman convicted of adultery. The so called stoning case. I see that president Lula from Brazil has asked Iran if he can take this woman into exile there, to solve this problem. Can Iran agree to this?

Ahmadinejad answers by saying little more that the courts are separate, he hopes to see the matter resolved soon, and on the point of whether President Lula of Brazil – who along with President Erdogen of Turkey recently – should offer asylum to Ashtiani, Ahmadinejad says he would prefer to export technology, not such people to Brazil.

The interview finishes there, no more is said, and Galloway in his closing comments back in the studio has the cheek to say “The president gave me the indication that this matter would be resolved” (transcription from ‘Though Cowards Flinch’).

Whether the creature Galloway can properly be called a “useful idiot” is open to question. I tend to think the word “collaborator” is nearer the mark. But, for sure, he ‘s never seen a jackboot that he didn’t want to kiss.

H/t: Will and Raincoat Optimist

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