Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Silk Road, Iron Horse, Copper Wire

. . . or connectivity in Afghanistan.

Having read today’s New York Times article about China’s copper mining project in Afghanistan, a project to develop not just a copper mine, but a power station, a coal mine, and a railway line from the country’s northern border with Uzbekistan to its southeastern border with Pakistan, I had an appetite for more background, and found Railways of Afghanistan. What ever did I waste my time on before the internet?

Will China build the railway? Maybe. Will they be first to build a moon base? That might be just as likely.

Sunday, 27 December 2009


Some posts on the continuing violent suppression of opposition in Iran.

Tehran Bureau: Ashura 101


The New York Times News Blog: Updates on Protests and Clashes in Iran
Andrew Sullivan: The Day of Ashura

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas No.1

Here at Amazons H.Q. the top hit of the season is John Dog
singing It Could Be Christmas Outside (I Don’t Know).

Bells are ringing, or so somebody said,
Angels are singing alright, in my head,
Manhattan could be a mountain of snow,
It could be Christmas outside, I don’t know.

I’ve got all I need, I don’t have to check twice,
You may wonder indeed, if she’s naughty or nice,
Wrapped now in neither a ribbon nor bow,
It could be Christmas outside, I don't know.

I suppose we could go for a walk in the park
And watch as 5th Avenue twinkles and glows
But I’d rather stay here where it’s warm and it’s dark
And replay that night where you stepped on my toes
On Amsterdam Avenue . . .

Hear the song on John Dog’s MySpace page.

Lyrics copyright © John Dog.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Dan Turèll and Donald Duck

Donald Duck and the Ghost of the Grotto
An excerpt from a Danmarks Radio interview with Dan Turèll, for the TV programme Rubrik, 1976:

You have written an essay about Donald Duck, and a poem to Uncle Scrooge.

Yes, Donald Duck is a great man. I have said it with the words that in these times where so many offer gurus, and where so many of my own generation suddenly sit on street corners and chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, or run joyous and happy after the plump Maharaji, or go for tests with Scientology, in these times the only anti-guru that we can sensibly use to vaccinate ourselves against all that guru devilry, that must be my great guru, the man who taught me all I know and can do, my personal Maharaji Ji, Donald Duck.

I think Donald Duck is the best example we can take in our everyday lives today, where so many sigh after new and fresh inspiration, because what characterises Donald Duck, and it has characterised him since he came to Denmark in the late ’40s, that is that Donald Duck is always ready every tuesday.

Donald Duck is always being beaten down, Donald Duck gets knocked down by The Beagle Boys, his nephews laugh at him, Gladstone Gander always wins the old sofa at auction where there’s a treasure map hidden away, Uncle Scrooge just orders him about, and tells him that now he has to go over and check on some old railway or other, long derelict and far out in the desert, which hasn’t paid a dividend on its shares in more than thirty years, Daisy Duck laughs at him and is always on the lookout for another better duck, and all the same, despite all this, Donald Duck is ready, and comes down the road, merrily whistling a fresh tune, every tuesday. This time he knows, this time everything will work out, this time he’ll manage it, Uncle Scrooge will admire him, appoint him as sole heir, Daisy will say “Oh, Donald,” and the nephews will look at him with eyes wide with wonder, and tell their friends just what a fantastic uncle they have.

And it doesn’t work out that way, and we all know that it won’t, because by now we’ve known Donald long enough, we know quite well that it will go in the usual way. He gets a job in a bakery and what happens, he happens to mix concrete in the dough ... he gets a job in the zoo as a night watchman, and all the animals escape, and we know it, and he ends up in the Foreign Legion again, and the nephews get a postcard in the final panel, and all the same there he is again next tuesday.

And that’s why I think that Donald Duck is a magnificent example for people of today, who also must be ready to start over with the same indomitability every morning, even though the day before has been so full of violence and loathing, as practically everyone’s days are.

My Translation. Original film copyright © DR.

For more along these lines, read Michael Barrier on The Mystery of Donald Duck, and see his follow up, and to hear Dan Turèll preach the duck faith in Danish, listen to Anders And Evangeliet.

Image: Cover art by Mike Royer, based on an oil painting by Carl Barks. It illustrates the Carl Barks story Donald Duck and the Ghost of the Grotto, first published in 1947. Copyright © The Walt Disney Company.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The cultural levelling of modernity

space colony
This 1995 drawing was for a book review in the Times Higher Education Supplement, where Ivan Tolstoy and Mary Midgley laid into Marshall T Savage’s The Millenial Project: Colonising the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps. The drawing tried to make a point separate from the review, one that my friend John Dog picked up on in a song. Here’s Space is so Expensive:

Of course, despite all the kvetching, both Mr Dog and I would be on that flight if only we could afford the ticket.

Wake up, Kitty Admiral!

Another drawing of the Kitty Admiral for Bo.

Our young cat comes from a long line of admirals. Here for example is Admiral Purry, who appears in one of the illustrations from Little Golden Book No. 1, Three Little Kittens, from 1942, with art by Masha.

Three Little Kittens art copyright © 1942 by Simon and Schuster, Inc., and Artists and Writers Guild, Inc.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Code Pink’s misfire on Afghan women

That’s the headline on a piece by Wazhma Frogh And Lauryn Oates. An excerpt:
In October, the women's antiwar organization, Code Pink, went to Afghanistan. The Christian Science Monitor reported that the pink T-shirted women were surprised to learn the overwhelming majority of women do not support a withdrawal of foreign troops from their country. Expecting their counterparts - Afghan activists fighting for peace and gender equality - to support their demands, they were confronted with the problem that perhaps their position has been counterproductive to the Afghan women's movement, or even wrong.


Code Pink's modus operandi is symptomatic of a western feminism that is not rooted in values of global solidarity, but is self-interested, insular and shamefully relativist. It is based on tribalism and rejects internationalist values. In this feminism, emancipation is only for western women - not for women in places like Afghanistan.

On Oct. 12, the New York Times reported that Code Pink would stick to its position of calling for troop withdrawal. Even when the shrillest "antiwar" pseudo-feminists are caught in a direct confrontation with facts exposing the moral bankruptcy of their demands, they recoil from the duty of solidarity with Afghan women in struggle.
Read the rest. Via Terry Glavin, who has much more on the topic.

And here’s an account from Sara Davidson who joined the Code Pink trip to Afghanistan.

We were a group of eight women and one man organized by Code Pink, Women for Peace, and we arrived in Kabul believing the U.S. should withdraw its troops and spend more money on development.

After eight days, our presumptions were turned upside down, splitting us into camps with conflicting opinions. Some still wanted an exit strategy, but one woman who’s spent 40 years in non-violent peace work reversed her lifelong stand, believing the military should stay and more troops might be helpful. “It shocks me to admit this,” she said.
The UN director has to stop to compose herself. “Her husband called his neighbors to hold his wife down while he chopped off the tips of all her fingers. Then he told his son to punch her in the eyes. When we found her, she was unable to see.” The director shakes her head. “If your neighbors witness something like that, they’ll think twice about going to a hospital.”

We’re subdued as we ride away from the UN office. We’re hearing numerous stories like this, which makes us probe and question our assumptions. Ann Wright, 63, a former army colonel and State Department officer who has kind blue eyes and speaks with a Southern lilt, says, “I have changed a little bit. Before this trip I was leaning toward: let’s get the hell out! Accept the inevitable! Now I feel we have a responsibility—to be part of a security strategy and help provide education and jobs. That’s a far better way to deal with terrorism.”
One of the guests, Anand Gopal of the Wall Street Journal, says the party is the equivalent of “hanging out with Jeb Bush during the Bush years.” He’s not surprised that we’re hearing people say they want U.S. troops to stay. He says there are two Afghanistans: Kabul, with 5 million people, and the provinces with 25 million. In Kabul, people enjoy more freedom than they did under the Taliban and want the U.S. here as a buffer. But in the south, where shooting and bombing are destroying homes and killing civilians, they want the troops out. “Under the Taliban, they had order and peace,” Anand says.

A woman reporter cuts in, “It was the peace of the oppressed.”
Norine adds, “I’d like to see the troops go into Pakistan and rout out the insurgents.” There’s silence at the table. (After the meeting, Ann would say, “Norine lives here and that’s reality. We represent the ideal, and somebody has to hold that.”)

Norine continues, “Here’s another controversial proposal but you’ll like it better: Give all the aid and development money to Afghan women. It will empower them. The men will have to go to them if they want a new well.”

Jodie says, “That’s what we fight for, but we want to do it without troops.”

“You need both,” Norine says.

“If you had to choose between troops and development?” Jodie asks.

“Had to choose? I’d put money on development.”

“Yay!” Jodie says.

This kind of questioning divides our group. Some are upset that the Code Pink leaders are leading people to get the answers they want instead of listening without bias.
Medea and Jodie say the soldiers they talked with want out of Afghanistan fast. “They told us, ‘We hate them and they hate us.’”

I say I didn’t hear anyone speak like that.

“Must be the way we ask questions,” Medea says.

“Must be.”

The death of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri

Robert F. Worth writes in The New York Times: Ayatollah Montazeri, Iranian Cleric, Dies at 87
Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the plain-spoken senior Shiite cleric who helped forge Iran’s system of religious government and went on to become a fierce critic of its hard-line rulers, died Sunday morning at the age of 87. He died of heart failure while sleeping in his home in Qum, his son Ahmad told Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

The ayatollah, who was once designated to succeed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as Iran’s supreme leader, stepped away from the country’s hard-line path in the 1980s. He later embraced the reform movement, which has come to view him as the spiritual father of its cause.

In the months since Iran’s disputed June presidential elections, he has issued stinging denunciations of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government, saying the Islamic Republic is neither Islamic nor a republic, and that its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has lost his legitimacy. Only two weeks ago, he warned that the Basij militia - which has brutally suppressed opposition street rallies - was forsaking the “path of God” for the “path of Satan.”
Read more.

From BBC News: Crowds gather to mourn reformist Iran cleric Montazeri
Crowds of mourners are gathering in the Iranian city of Qom following the death of leading reformist cleric Grand Ayatollah Hoseyn Ali Montazeri at 87.

Some pro-reform websites say thousands of people are travelling to the city ahead of Monday’s funeral.

Other unverified reports say opposition supporters are also gathering in some squares in Tehran, fuelling government concern of increased political tension.

Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, one of Shia Islam’s most respected figures and a leading critic of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, himself said in August that the turmoil following the election “could lead to the fall of the regime”.

He said Iran’s clerical leadership was a dictatorship and issued a fatwa condemning the government after the election.

This is a loss the Greens will mourn in all their courageous glories ... And this is perhaps a death that Khamenei and his ilk should fear most ... without people like Montazeri, the entire religious establishment becomes vulnerable to the Greens fed-upness with clerical rule.
Read more.

More updates from Tehran Bureau.

Background from Pedestrian: Ayatollah Street.

Background from the BBC Radio 4 series, Analysis, October 25th: Ayatollogy
The programme contains an exclusive email interview with one of Shia Islam’s most senior and respected clerics, Grand Ayatollah Hoseyn Ali Montazeri, who calls on Iran’s clerics to work with political activists to bring about reform and “be in step with the people”.

Background from The New York Times, November 21st: Cleric Wields Religion to Challenge Iran’s Theocracy.

Background at Khordaad 88:

Earlier related post: Iran’s dissenting clerics.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Iranian opposition embrace headscarves

. . . headscarves for men that is. More at Neo-Resistance, Azarmehr, and The Poor Mouth.

Friday, 11 December 2009

In the pink

ice skating robin redbreast
A painting for Pat and Piper.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Monday, 7 December 2009

Friday, 4 December 2009

Paw prints

Much as I’d like to, I’ve no time to ramble on about great issues of the day, such as that speech on which I’ve read this and that complaint, but am myself satisfied. I might say why later, or I might not.

So instead you can listen to John Dog sing Fabulous Girl, watch Oscar Grillo with Rolf Harris, or read Unemployed Dad’s comics. For love, see Pedestrian.

And now back to painting.