Archive for the 'war on terror' Category

One Hundred Things Norman Geras and I Corresponded About Over the Last Decade

October 18th, 2013
Country music (including but not limited to Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Allison Krauss, and its relationship to suicide) -- Marxism -- The war in Iraq -- The case the British government made for the war in Iraq -- Media coverage of the war in Iraq -- Differences between British and American media coverage of the war in Iraq -- Dead socialists (including the question of whether or not Paul Sweezy was in fact dead: he wasn’t when we began corresponding on the question, but later he was) -- Favourite novels -- University admissions -- Boycotts of Israelis -- Blog technology issues -- The paradox of democracy -- Paul “The Thinker” Richards -- Defamation law -- French headscarves laws -- International rugby partisanship -- New Zealand and whether it is a dull country -- Amnesty International -- Italian anti-war demonstrations -- Christopher Hitchens -- The precise distance from Boulder, CO to Birmingham, AL -- My Normblog Profile -- The number of Red Sox supporters who have Normblog profiles -- Where the Wild Things Are -- Bob Dylan -- Favourite films -- A Mighty Wind -- Nashville -- Joan Baez -- George W. Bush -- The Hutton Inquiry -- Lucio Colletti -- Why the film Life is Beautiful is so terrible -- The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -- Mobile telephones -- Cricket -- The various ways in which my students used to pronounce the name “Geras” -- Rock stars -- Exam marking -- Arnold Lobel and his Mouse Tales -- The Butler report -- The Campo de' Fiori in Rome -- Shakespeare plays -- Obnoxious right-wing writers (including Mark Steyn and Andrew Bolt) -- American airport security checks -- Terrorist threats -- Socialist Register -- The 2004 US Presidential election -- Baseball -- Visiting Oxford -- Thomas Hobbes -- Roman libraries -- Classical composers (especially Schubert) -- Jokes about rational choice theorists -- The Tour de France -- Etienne Balibar -- Favourite actors -- The excellence of kittens (and, more generally, cats) -- American street names -- Wendy Cope -- Footnotes in Capital -- Umpiring -- Passport applications -- Margaret Thatcher’s resignation -- Margaret Thatcher's poetry --  Jews for Justice for Palestinians -- Chavez and anti-Semitism -- Academic plagiarism -- David Aaronovitch as marathon runner -- x-RCP front organisations -- Robert Wokler -- Academic jobs -- Musicals -- Australia -- The rubbish-collection regime in Oxford -- Tony Judt -- Whether or not the Euston Manifesto was part of a “common, hysterical defense of the Anglo-Dutch financial system, and their permanent right to loot the economies of the world” -- American practices of memorialization on campus -- Flooding in Oxford -- The Beatles -- Jerry Cohen’s valedictory lecture -- The New Left Review -- Loyalty oaths -- A Dance to the Music of Time -- Merton College, Oxford -- Visiting Manchester -- Critical opinions about America -- Puzzles involving marbles -- Traffic robots -- The Beach Boys -- Tony Blair’s relationship with God -- Bernard-Henri Levy looking funny in photographs -- Authorisations to use military force -- John Stuart Mill on international intervention -- The Eurovision Song Contest  -- Adam Smith -- Nick Cohen's views about torture -- Alfred Hitchcock films -- The thorny question of whether seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong was on drugs -- The problems of travelling between Oxford and Cambridge. Biggest regret? In July 2004, Norm wrote, "Might you have an interest in watching a Test or some part of one with me?", and I never took him up on the suggestion. His final words of the correspondence, from the start of this month: "My own care from the NHS has been exemplary."

The Internet Hasn’t Yet Made Up Its Mind Where It Was, Exactly

May 2nd, 2011

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November 5th, 2007

Traffic has recently gone through the roof at the ironically-named Socialist Unity Blog Order Diges Tea online no prescription, , as Andy Newman has been giving us all invaluable blow-by-blow coverage of the split in the Respect coalition [now here and here]. Where can i order Diges Tea without prescription, And having built up a huge readership for the blog, it can finally turn its attention to the issues that matter -- so Tawfiq Chahboune has been brooding on the issue that bugged me here and here, rx free Diges Tea, Real brand Diges Tea online, concerning Martin Amis, camels and wheels, purchase Diges Tea. Online buy Diges Tea without a prescription, Continue over the fold for the relevant portion, or visit the original over here, order Diges Tea from United States pharmacy. Diges Tea samples,

Amis the historian of ideas: “The stout self-sufficiency or, if you prefer, Diges Tea gel, ointment, cream, pill, spray, continuous-release, extended-release, Buy Diges Tea without a prescription, the extreme incuriosity of Islamic culture has been much remarked. Present-day Spain translates as many books into Spanish, buy Diges Tea without prescription, Order Diges Tea no prescription, annually, as the Arab world has translated into Arabic in the past 1, purchase Diges Tea online no prescription, Canada, mexico, india, 100 years. And the late-medieval Islamic powers barely noticed the existence of the West until it started losing battles to it, order Diges Tea online no prescription. The tradition of intellectual autarky was so robust that Islam remained indifferent even to readily available and obviously useful innovations, comprar en línea Diges Tea, comprar Diges Tea baratos, Order Diges Tea online overnight delivery no prescription, including, incredibly, buy Diges Tea from mexico, Fast shipping Diges Tea, the wheel. The wheel, japan, craiglist, ebay, overseas, paypal, Diges Tea for sale, as we know, makes things easier to roll; Bernard Lewis, buy cheap Diges Tea no rx, Diges Tea from canadian pharmacy, in What Went Wrong?, sagely notes that it also makes things easier to steal.” Amis, Diges Tea trusted pharmacy reviews, Ordering Diges Tea online, obviously, means the “extreme incuriosity of Islamic culture” as represented by the totalitarian regimes of today, buy Diges Tea no prescription, Purchase Diges Tea online, not the glorious and curious cultures of yesteryear. This is no mere pedantry on my part; this is taking history seriously, order Diges Tea online c.o.d. Australia, uk, us, usa, The use of the wheel did indeed decline – but in pre-Islamic Arabia, not, where to buy Diges Tea, Buy Diges Tea from canada, as Amis insinuates, after Islam’s triumph of the peninsula.I have recently corresponded with Professor Richard W, where to buy Diges Tea. Order Diges Tea online no prescription, Bulliet, the world’s pre-eminent scholar in this field (author of the groundbreaking “The Wheel and the Camel”). Online buying Diges Tea hcl, He affirms that “wheels disappeared in the first half of the common era before the rise of Islam” and that preference of the camel over the wheel was simply due to the “intrinsic economy of raising immensely strong animals on low quality desert grazing” and that “camel caravans had the advantage of not requiring much in the way of road upkeep.” That is to say, it was a question of economics, buy no prescription Diges Tea online. Buy Diges Tea online no prescription, Bulliet replies that Amis’s argument is “silly” and that “it should be easy to show that Islam has nothing do with any of this. Muslims used wheeled vehicles in Central Asia, order Diges Tea online c.o.d, Buy no prescription Diges Tea online, India, and China; and the Muslim ladies of Istanbul commonly went on picnics outside of town in parties carried by covered wagons drawn by usually four oxen, order Diges Tea from United States pharmacy. Where can i buy Diges Tea online, This, of course, ordering Diges Tea online, Online buy Diges Tea without a prescription, was a matter of comfort, not of economic efficiency, buy Diges Tea without prescription. In temperate climes where cheap camel labour was not so readily available, wheeled vehicles did not disappear.”

Moreover, Bulliet writes: “If Amis had wanted to explore intellectual blinders in this arena, he might instead have noticed that everywhere in the world for the two millennia that preceded the nineteenth century, the two-wheeled vehicles were so much preferred over four-wheeled vehicles that the latter were practically non-existent, order Diges Tea online no prescription. Purchase Diges Tea online no prescription, . , where to buy Diges Tea. Japan, craiglist, ebay, overseas, paypal, except in Europe. Europeans have used four-wheeled vehicles for some 5000 years despite obvious and severe inefficiencies in friction, Diges Tea over the counter, Order Diges Tea online overnight delivery no prescription, harnessing, steering, braking, and road requirements. ‘The tradition of intellectual autarky was so robust’ in Europe, I guess, that they failed to notice that everyone outside of Europe realized that four-wheeled transport really sucked before about 1500.” Bulliet ends with the inspiring, “Good luck on rapping Amis-Lewis knuckles. Their sort of foolishness is so widespread these days that it’s an uphill battle.” Well, I hope I haven’t done too badly, Professor Bulliet. You’ve certainly kicked Amis’s teeth in - or what’s famously left of them.


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Ironies of History

July 1st, 2007
Back when I was a student some time in the early 1990s, I remember discussing with a friend our impatience with the transformations then underway in the economic policies of the Labour Party, then led by John Smith and with Gordon Brown as the Shadow Chancellor. And we joked that we wouldn't mind the shift to the right so much if the substance of the new policies could be presented to the electorate in properly Marxist language, labour theory of value, declining rate of profit, calculations of relative surplus value and all the rest. And, as so very often, be careful for what you wish for, just in case it comes to pass. The very same Gordon Brown, freshly arrived at the top of the greasy pole, has just been calling for "vigilance". So, see over the fold for the entry on "Revolutionary Vigilance" from R. N. Carew Hunt's indispensable Guide to Communist Jargon (1957), pp.143-5... The necessity for vigilance, or revolutionary vigilance as it is generally called, is continually stressed in communist propaganda. As good a formulation as any of the reason for it is contained in a circular letter issued by the Central Committee on the occasion of the murder of the Leningrad party chief, S. M. Kirov, in 1934, and quoted in Chpater 11, Section 3 of the Short History of the C.P.S.U. (b):
"We must put an end to the opportunist complacency engendered by the erroneous assumption that as we grow stronger the enemy will become tamer and more inoffensive. This assumption is an utter fallacy. It is a recrudescence of the Right deviation, which assured all and sundry that our enemies would little by little creep into Socialism and in the end become real Socialists. The Bolsheviks have no business to rest on their laurels: they have no business to sleep at their posts. What we need is not complacency, but vigilance, real Bolshevik revolutionary vigilance. It should be remembered that the more hopeless the position of the enemies, the more eagerly will they clutch at 'extreme measures' as the only recourse of the doomed in their struggle against the Soviet power. We must remember this, and be vigilant."
Revolutionary vigilance is thus related to a number of Marxist-Leninist concepts. First, that the Soviet State and any others modelled upon it are surrounded by enemies who will use every means to destroy them, e.g., by employing spies and saboteurs, and by using bourgeois ideology to suborn individuals (see "capitalist encirclement"). Secondly, that the class struggle becomes intensified in the transition period into Socialism, because the doomed capitalist world will intensify its resistance, so that it will be responsible for the eventual revolution and not the proletariat, which is simply fulfilling its historic mission. Thirdly, that in defending its class interests, the bourgeoisie is only doing what is to be expected, and the real enemies of the revolution are the Socialists, since it is their alleged alliance with the bourgeoisie that is keeping the capitalist system alive. Thus the sharpening of the class struggle is invariably stressed when the party line moves to the left, as this carries with it the corollary that the struggle against the Socialists must be intensified; while, conversely, it is played down when the line shifts to the right, as it did at the Twentieth Congress, which insisted that it was now the duty of Communist Parties to form Popular Fronts with other left-wing political groups. But whoever is the class enemy, and he may very well be found in the ranks of the Party itself, it is the duty of every Communist Party and its members to recognize and destroy him. As usual, the C.P.S.U. sets an example in this regard, and thus an article in the Cominform Journal of November 23 1951 pointed out that it was owing to its revolutionary vigilance that "the aggressive designs of the Fascist-Tito gang were exposed". An article in the same periodical of February 27th 1953 cited "the exposure of the group of doctor-killers, agents of the American and British imperialists", as a further illustration of this devotion to duty. The belief that the capitalist world is forever seeking to corrupt Communists in order to carry out its designs makes it incumbent upon every Party to exercise the utmost vigilance in the conduct of its affairs; and one lapse from this, to which reference is constantly made, is the appointment of "cadres" (q.v.) without sufficient enquiry into their antecedents, with the result that politically unreliable persons are placed in positions where they can act as "betrayers of the people". The same emphasis upon revolutionary vigilance is reflected in the Penal Code of communist countries, according to which the disclosure of any item of political or economic information which has not been officially released becomes a criminal offence.

“The most likely outcome of these mid-term elections is another major terror attack on America”

November 9th, 2006
More post-election analysis from Mel P, over here.

Spanish Elections [cont.]

March 20th, 2004
Helena Puig Larrauri, who's the President of the Student Union here in Oxford, went back home to Spain last week to be with her family in the aftermath of the Madrid bombings and to vote in the general election. She wrote an account of four very hectic days on Monday, which I've just published over at The Voice of the Turtle. It's very interesting. Go and read it.

Let the Barking Begin…

March 15th, 2004
(Actually, the barking's been going on for quite a while now, and the echo-chamber's becoming quite oppressive.) Over on the other side of the Atlantic, MaxSpeak reads drivel so you don't have to. Below are a few links to some of the more diverse contributions from the right-wing Brit-bloggers... Leading the way, Andrew Sullivan: "BIN LADEN'S VICTORY IN SPAIN: It's a spectacular result for Islamist terrorism, and a chilling portent of Europe's future..." Laban Tall, by contrast, reckons it was a "Victory for Murder": "Whether or not the Madrid bombings turn out to have been the work of Islamic terrorists, the results of the Spanish elections will undoubtedly be seen by Al Quaeda as a sign that Western democracies don't have the stomach for the fight". For Peter Cuthbertson, on the other hand, it was "A terrible day for democracy" Why? Because "The aftermath of mass murder ought to be a time when ordinary, decent people recover their inherent sense of moral absolutism and feel an unshakeable determination for the ruthless assertion of justice." OK. And what does that make the Spanish electorate? They are "selfish, myopic dupes". And, finally, Melanie Phillips, of course, is a commentator who is well-known for her balanced, nuanced judgements. She calls it a "Victory for terror". "The Spanish general election result is a disaster. The Spanish have reacted to the atrocity in Madrid by dumping a government that was committed to fight terror and replacing it by a government that will appease it. Eleven million Spaniards took to the streets last weekend to show their solidarity in the face of terror, and two days later voted to abase themselves before it. Al Q'aeda could not have more perfectly choreographed a result that serves its cause..." Perhaps Chris Lightfoot or the guy who wrote the Daily Mail headline generator could write a useful Rightwing-Bloggerage Generator to save us all time in the future? UPDATE [10.30pm]: Graham (see comments) points us all towards this very useful site which might one day replace Sullivan, Tall, Cuthbertson, Phillips et al. Thanks, Graham. UPDATE [16.3.2004]: Peter Cuthbertson rightly notes in the comments that he only ever said that those "who let the events of 3/11 swing their vote in favour of the party they thought would antagonise Bin Laden less" were SMDs, not the entire electorate. Apologies.

Interpreting Spain

March 15th, 2004
Isn't the simplest explanation for what happened in Spain just that the splendid response of the population -- with eight million on the streets in protest against last week's bombings and in defence of Spanish democracy -- had the effect of raising the electoral turnout; and that when turnout rates rise in the context of a general democratic mobilisation, Left parties are more likely to benefit, given that it's the poor, the unemployed, the working class, the less well educated and so on who are, other things being equal, those who are less likely to cast a ballot? And that all the witterings about whether the Socialists are craven defeatists in the struggle against terrorism (they probably aren't) or whether Mr. Aznar was opportunistic in attempting to pin the blame on Eta for short-term electoral reasons (he probably was) pale into relative insignificance beside this fact? I conclude that yesterday was a great day for Spanish democracy. UPDATE [2pm]: Via SIAW, I see that there's a much better treatment of the PSOE vote over at AFOE... UPDATE [17.3.2004]: Chris Lightfoot has crunched a few numbers, and the provisional conclusion to draw is that I'm barking up the wrong tree here. The data's very imperfect, however. On the other hand, as Harry is pointing out, there's some evidence that the PSOE was moving ahead of the PP even before the bombs went off.

War on Terror

November 24th, 2003
From the Melbourne Age:
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark was frisked at Sydney Airport for explosives in an incident that has embarrassed the Australian Government.Despite having a NZ security officer with her, Miss Clark was pulled out of a queue on October 28 and given a body scan with a new explosives detection device to make sure she was not a bomb-carrying terrorist, The Age has learned. Senior Australian Government sources said the incident was an embarrassment. It was not regarded as the right way to treat the leader of Australia's close ally, they said "You won't be surprised to hear the New Zealand Prime Minister was not found to be carrying any explosives," a spokesman for Transport Minister John Anderson said.
One of the odder political organisations I've ever belonged to is the London branch of the New Zealand Labour Party, which was basically run out of Austin Mitchell's office at the House of Commons, and its infrequent meetings usually took place to coincide with Helen Clark's visits to London.Happily, she didn't blow us up on those occasions, either.

Yes, But

September 11th, 2003
[A few words in defence of the "Yes, but..." reaction to the events of 11 September 2001 follow. If you think that no defence is possible, you may want to stop reading now.] The second anniversary of the atrocities of 11 September 2001 has come around, and there has, of course, been a lot of media coverage. There's also been a bit of coverage in the media I read (other people's blogs, really) critical of what we might call, because it has often been called, the "Yes, but..." response to the attack on the World Trade Center from many on the liberal and left end of the political spectrum, at home and abroad. Many people, it is charged, said things like this, that "Yes, the attacks were awful, but we shouldn't forget that the Americans have done bad things in the world before then". And it is often contended that saying things like this has the effect of mitigating the atrocity, explaining it away, excusing the perpetrators, blaming nobody, blaming the victims, and other bad things. These attacks on the "Yes, but..." crowd are often - not always - meant by those who make them to constitute an indictment of what is sometimes called "the Left", by drawing attention to its moral blindness, relativism, postmodernism, pathological anti-Americanism, and so on (fill in various other failings here). Amid the more polemical contributions on this subject, there's some reasonably temperate discussion of the matter today over at the Crooked Timber blog, in response to one of Chris Bertram's characteristically thoughtful posts, and it is reading this that has prompted me to write this. (His new Rousseau book, by the way, is a fine piece of work: I've read a little bit more than half of it, and I'll have more to say on this subject, probably, soon). For it seems to me that if we're to pick over the contextualising "Yes, but..." language that was around -- and it was around -- in the aftermath of 11 September 2001 (some of it, I am sure, falling from my own lips) we need to do some work in turn to remember the context in which that kind of language was itself used. In the days following the Twin Towers atrocity, there was an awful lot of talk in the press and from the politicians which had the effect of decontextualising the shocking events of that day: "The planes came out of a clear blue sky", we were told, repeatedly, as if the attacks themselves came out of the blue; there was a press discourse of America's "innocence" being shattered by the violent destruction and loss of life; commentators were quick, too quick, to say that "everything changed" on September 11, and so on. This kind of discourse was politically highly useful to a White House which decided very quickly to reverse its hitherto reasonably isolationist policy and adopt a new and highly interventionist foreign policy stance -- one which has brought us the War Against Terrorism, the attack on Afghanistan and, more recently, the war against Iraq (as well as the US Patriot Act, etc.), and all of whose effects, for good and ill, are yet to be felt. The President, furthermore, had his own explanation for why what had happened had happened: "They hate our freedom; they hate our democracy", he told us, in his speeches which set out and sought to justify this new American foreign policy. Thus it was only to be expected that those who contested the policy -- and there were lots of reasons for contesting the policy, as we all know -- also sought to contest the underlying series of claims and justifications underpinning that policy, which included already-politicised claims about the causes of the events of 11 September. Against a President who rested content with over-simplistic (if not entirely stupid) public explanations for what happened, his critics had to explain that things were, as they saw it, a bit more complicated than that. But, in the circumstances, that was something which was very hard to do without saying things that could, either at the time or subsequently, be considered a piece of "Yes, buttery...", for the "but" marked, as it were, the moment when the speaker began to set out at least part of the grounds of his or her political disagreement with the Administration's view of things. And that's how, it seems to me, that troublesome "but" needs to be understood in most cases: not as the product of a morally defective desire to excuse atrocity, but as part of an (as it turned out) politically ineffective attempt to resist the drumbeat of war. Of course, in the circumstances, some people on both left and right did say some pretty stupid things, and some people, both for and against the Bush administration, said some things which some of those who heard them found offensive. But that's what happens in a politics of high stakes, and the stakes were extraordinarily high in September and October 2001. UPDATE: Marc Mulholland has some sensible words on Yes Buttery, too, over at his Daily Moiders.