Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Western anti-imperialists go home!




Above: animation by Noureddin Zarrinkelk for UNICEF. Here’s an earlier film by him. And a short item on his recent visit to Dartmouth College, New Hampshire.
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On Iran and the Kitsch Left, this is my favourite of the posts I’ve read recently: The Eighteenth Brumaire of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by Dave Osler.

More on that theme by Bob From Brockley: Iran and the left, continued, and Iran, drawing clear lines. See also Norman GerasPeter RyleyTerry Glavin and Francis Sedgemore.

In contrast, UCU does something right, from Martin, and a declaration of support for the protesters signed by Noam Chomsky even, along with very many others. (Via Bob.)
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Another recent item that stood out was by former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, on the prescience of protest. (Via Norm.) An excerpt:
People in free societies watching massive military parades or vociferous displays of love for the leaders of totalitarian regimes often conclude, "Well, that's their mentality; there's nothing we can do about it." Thus they and their leaders miss what is readily grasped by local dissidents attuned to what is happening on the ground: the spectacle of a nation of double-thinkers slowly or rapidly approaching a condition of open dissent.

To see the telltale signs, sometimes it helps to have experienced totalitarianism firsthand. More than once in recent years, former Soviet citizens returning from a visit to Iran have told me how much Iranian society reminded them of the final stages of Soviet communism. Their testimony was what persuaded me to write almost five years ago that Iran was extraordinary for the speed with which, in the span of a single generation, a citizenry had made the transition from true belief in the revolutionary promise into disaffection and double-thinking. Could dissent be far behind?
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A lot has been written on the leading role of women in the protests, see for example links provided by Norm and Martin. See also Roger Cohen in The New York Times: Iran’s second sex. The closing paragraph:
I asked one woman about her fears. She said sometimes she imagines an earthquake in Tehran. She dashes out but forgets her hijab. She stands in the ruins, hair loose and paralyzed, awaiting her punishment. And she looked at me wide-eyed as if to say: do you understand, does the world understand our desperation?
And here’s Roger Cohen answering questions on his reporting from Iran, including criticism of his writings prior to the stealing of the election. For myself I find that criticism overdone.
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Background: from The New Yorker, February 2nd 2009, The Rationalist by Laura Secor, on a dissident economist’s attempts to reform the Iranian revolution.

See also her most recent New Yorker news blog contribution, Burning silence in Iran, on how events are being driven not by the splits at the top, but by momentum from below.
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Updates at The New York Times news blog from yesterday and today.

Stone City


I recently produced a bit of Flash animation and other art for the website of Stone City Films. The redesign was timed to coincide with the broadcast of their latest production, Casualty 1909. (The first episode aired on BBC 1 on the 14th, but distracted as I’ve been, this post comes a couple of weeks late.) The series is set in the Royal London Hospital, sketched here

This was my first attempt at Flash. I don’t even have an up to date version of the program, so the animation was created in Illustrator instead.

Related posts here.

Update April 2012: The Stone City Films website has since been redesigned, but you can still see the animated pigeons here.

Friday, 26 June 2009

In fear of the people - 13

More on the aftermath of Iran’s stolen election.

Today there is a protest at the Iranian Embassy in London organised by the Trades Uunion Congress and Amnesty International, as part of an international day of action in solidarity with the people of Iran.

Friday 26 June, 12.30 -1.30pm, Iranian embassy, 16 Prince’s Gate, London SW7 1PT.


Some of the other events around the world are listed by the International Transport Workers’ Federation.

See also Jams and Bob.


The above illustration is by Brian Stauffer, created for the NYT Week in Review. You can read more on how it came about at his Drawger blog.

Image copyright © Brian Stauffer.

The Guardian News Blog has not posted on Iran today. The New York Times blog has updates, but much less than previous days. On BBC News, Jeremy Bowen reports on the eerie calm in Tehran. His closing paragraph:
When you ask Iranians about the way this might go, a phrase keeps cropping up. They say it might seem quiet to an outsider, but there is fire below the ashes.


Thursday, 25 June 2009

In fear of the people - 12


At DSTPFW: Slavoj Žižek on Iran.

Also from that corner, Shuggy writes on Iran and the power of democracy. He has two reasons for believing that “the turmoil in Iran demonstrates the power of democracy.” The first is that he thinks “all the talk of 'sham-elections' that provide a facade for dictatorship omits an important question: why do dictatorships feel the need to provide such a cloak of legitimacy to their rule in the first place?” The second is that “sham elections and emasculated parliaments have a habit of gaining a life and assuming a role that exceeds the intention of their creators. Consider the Duma, created as a fig-leaf for Romanov imperial power but which outlived not only them but the USSR itself.”

Read the whole argument. As mentioned earlier, others have had similar thoughts.

Moving on from the Soaks, Flesh is Grass: Ich bin ein Iranian.

Global Dashboard reads GQ on Tehran’s party scene.

Liars


These are from a set of faux tarot cards created in 2000 for a documentary The Science of Lying, directed by Ian Barnes.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

In fear of the people - 11

Normblog: Iran x 9.




On that last one, I have no idea if the use of Mossadeq’s image by protesters that he describes is widespread, and while his reading of its meaning is probably correct as far as it goes, it also seems rather narrow. The invocation of Mossadeq seems more likely a signal directed internally rather than externally, as a claiming of national history by the protesters rather than a message to Obama on intervention.

Other signals clearly are directed externally, namely the flood of english language messages, via the net, and displayed by marching protesters. These people obviously do want engagement, though as the population in Iran are showing themselves to be the centre of ultimate power, so the greatest power for supporting their fight internationally is probably not in the hands of international political leaders, but in the hands of the people at large. Still, leaders do have a role to play, in not recognising the election, and in the clear declaration of principles that go beyond partisanship.

Today’s updates at The Guardian and The New York Times.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

In fear of the people - 10

Updates on the aftermath of the stolen election in Iran from The Guardian, The New York TimesRaye Man Kojast and Andrew Sullivan.

Harry’s Place tracks reaction on the Kitsch Left. See also Bob’s post from last week on why the left gets it wrong. Back to Tendance Coatesy on how to get it right.

Al Giordano on the Left in Iran: Strike at Iran Khodro, and Iranian Bus Workers Join the Resistance. More from LabourStart.

Shipbuilding


This is from about seven years ago, one of my first attempts at painting in Photoshop. It’s a concept image for a musical of Noah’s Ark that Jim Henson’s Creature Shop were developing with Leslie Bricusse. The pitch book contained work by about five different artists.

I’d earlier drawn another ship for the Creature Shop, a pirate brig for a show of Peter Pan staged in Australia. That vessel was designed to be built in forced perspective, looming over the audience as it sailed onstage. I’ve never seen any good photos of how it worked out, though a glimpse can be caught at the bottom of this page.

A talk by David Kilcullen


Part of the Authors@Google series, this is an hour long, so too much to summarise, but to encourage you to listen here’s some of what he covers:

He gives a clear explanation of the main theme of his book, The Accidental Guerilla, on how the wrong war-fighting strategies make insurgencies worse. He talks about recent American and British mistakes in counter-insurgency, at one point paying particular attention to the British experience in Basra. He praises the Danish military in Afghanistan, which is nice to hear. He also talks of how aid projects need to be informed by counter-insurgency thinking in order to be effective. And he talks about Pakistan, and the insurgency there that scares him much more than Iraq or Afghanistan.

Now your essay topic for this week: what would a proper counter-insurgency approach to Gaza look like? Hint: containing the population together with the enemy, thus allowing the enemy to consolidate its control of the population, that is not it.

Via Abu Muqawama. Also at Abu Muqawama, Sleepwalking into Helmand, on recent British experience in Afghanistan.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Pity the poor Stalinists . . .

 . . . as they hollow out the meanings of words, their cynicism hollows out what’s left of their humanity.

The Nazis had it easy. No inherent contradiction between word and deed for them. They held the majority of the human race to be less than fully human, and acted accordingly. Even lies were honest enough once they had openly declared their total contempt for others, for by what right then could anyone expect anything other than contemptuous lies? Ah, the simple life of a Nazi.

But pity the poor Stalinists, who had to maintain that their suppression of the masses was for the good of the masses. The deepest cynicism must have been necessary for them to function, with all their powers of reason devoted to a dishonest justification of the unjustifiable. What damage that cynicism must have done to individual minds.

Perhaps in some that cynicism took on a life of its own. Perhaps that’s why when making excuses for the USSR fell out of fashion, some moved on to making excuses for other tyrannies, other murderous organisations.

Perhaps that’s why some felt compelled to justify the IRA’s deliberate targeting of civilians, in a campaign that went against the will of all but a minority within a minority within a minority. 

Perhaps that’s why some have so much to say about American bombers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and so little about suicide bombers.

Perhaps that’s why some wish to look the other way when a tyrant who talks the talk of anti-imperialism is revealed as a fraud.

Perhaps that’s why some prefer to denigrate and smear a people who risk their own lives in pursuit of their democratic rights.

And perhaps that’s why some can’t speak of democracy without disparaging it. Oh, certainly, democracy has none of the perfection of their long-ago promised utopias, but that is democracy’s strength: it is not utopian. It is designed to fail, to correct, to fail again, to correct again. That’s why a phrase like ‘democratic fundamentalism’ is nonsense. Democracy is inherently incrementalist, designed for imperfection. Utopia is inhuman. But of course, they knew that already, the cynics.

In fear of the people - 9

Azarmehr: The myth of Ahmadinejad working class supporters.

At least the rabbit looks happy



A couple of illustrations for the Times Education Supplement, from seven or eight years ago. So many grumpy faces!

Sunday, 21 June 2009

In fear of the people - 8

I haven’t been able to follow much today, but there are valuable updates from The New York Times, The GuardianAndrew Sullivan, Jeff Weintraub, and Martin, amongst others.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

In fear of the people - 7

Updates on the Iranian regime’s attacks upon their people today:
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Today I heard two unconnected friends in London say they thought Ahmadinejad probably had the support of the majority in Iran, though perhaps not to the degree claimed in the official results. However the suggestion that the protests are just by a well-to-do urban elite, and that there’s an unseen rural majority supporting the regime, has been repeatedly debunked. Some of these articles have been linked to on other blogs, but for anyone who missed them here they are again:

On monday The Washington Post published an article arguing that telephone poll data showed the election results might actually reflect the will of the Iranian people, in  The Iranian People Speak by Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty. But Gary Langer, Director of Polling at ABC News demonstrates why their conclusions weren’t supported by the poll data, and points to the fact that they had earlier reached conflicting conclusions based on the very same poll.

The same flaws in the Post article are highlighted by Juan Cole, professor of modern Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan and author of  “Engaging the Muslim World.”

Iran’s Rural Vote and Election Fraud by Eric Hooglund, professor of politics at Bates College, Lewiston, Maine, and editor of the journal Middle East Critique. An expert on Iran, his most recent publication is “Thirty Years of Islamic Revolution in Rural Iran” in Middle East Report, no. 250, Spring 2009.

Ahmadinejad’s Rural Votes by Nate Silver, a statistician whose predictions during the 2008 US campaign outperformed every established pollster. He demonstrates that Ahmadinejad’s core support in the 2005 election was urban, not rural. For more graphs comparing the 2005 and 2009 results, see The Guardian News Blog (scroll down).

Why Tehran Matters by Laura Secor of The New Yorker. An excerpt:
It is true that the movements of American reporters in Iran are controlled and curtailed to the point where Tehran is the main, if not the only, point of access, apart from the hard-line holy city of Qom. I cannot speak for all American journalists who report from Iran, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who is acutely aware of, and frustrated by, the lack of insight into the rural heartland this affords us. The best that we can do is to familiarize ourselves with the full spectrum of urban life, across class and cultural boundaries. Most Iranians, after all, live in cities, of which Tehran is only the most gigantic.

It is from this reporting that I have written, in this magazine and elsewhere, that the urban poor had ceased to be a reliable constituency for Ahmadinejad. They were in 2005. But by 2006, it was hard to find a South Tehrani who was pleased with the outcome of that vote or prepared to vote for him again. Why? Because under Ahmadinejad, the country’s economic crisis deepened in ways that hit urban populations—both the poor and the middle class—harder than anyone.

Ahmadinejad’s 2005 mandate was an economic one. Those who wish to argue that Western reporters, in their narcissism, have simply overlooked the widespread enthusiasm for the incumbent, need to explain the outcome of the 2008 parliamentary elections, which were carried by conservatives who were fiercely critical of Ahmadinejad’s economic policies and worked hard to distance themselves from him. These were elections that did not even include any reformist candidates, let alone lure a large North Tehrani vote.
Read the rest here. Again Juan Cole covers similar territory, with additional detail, here.

Friday, 19 June 2009

In fear of the people - 6


An illustration in the New York Times earlier this week. On his Drawger blog, artist Edel Rodriguez shows some of the work process behind the image.

Art copyright © Edel Rodriguez 2009.

Today’s updates from The New York TimesThe Guardian, Raye Man Kojast, and Andrew Sullivan, and a press roundup from the SWJ.


UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband yesterday: “A proud people wants to decide its own future. We should defend that.”

Background:
Via Global Dashboard, the BBC documentary Iran and the West.
Episode 1, The Man Who Changed the World,
clips onetwothreefourfive, and six.
Episode 2, The Pariah State, 
clips one, two, three, four, five, and six.
Episode 3, Nuclear Confrontation,
clips onetwothreefourfive, and six
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As the regime threatens a more extreme crackdown, Harry’s Place reports on the UK government’s forced deportation to Iran of a convert. This concerns an Iranian accused of apostasy, a ‘crime’ punishable by death in Iran. The UK Government had first attempted to deport him on a commercial flight to Tehran on June 9th, but the pilot refused to take him.

Here is Melvyn Kohn’s account of how he sought help from Brian Iddon, Labour Member of Parliament for Bolton South East:
So he will not be emailing MP Brian Iddon anymore with his desperate pleas. What we thought would be a good move turned out to be a waste of time. Iddon, in emails sent to a colleague, rather than getting the young man released, spent his time speculating on his motives - and went so far as to reply to one reader of this site that the young man was not doing much to help himself. I had to go over the case point by point to undo the damage. Let me reply to Iddon’s nonsense here as well: the man was a genuine Christian and had entered the country legally. Iddon, you had a duty to help him, not ask inane questions. Precious time was wasted. Why were you so unhelpful? You eventually put a caseworker on to it, who did call Harmondsworth, but why stop there? The buck stops way above Harmondsworth. There was no mention of any attempt to contact Phil Woolas - a step other MPs are on record as having taken (John McDonnell for instance, in regards the case posted to this site on 6 June). Your caseworker was asked this quesion earlier this afternoon in an email.

It may well be a rhetorical question. The young man is gone. You are still here. And I hope that soon you too are gone. Thanks for nothing.
Here’s more on Brian Iddon MP and friends.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

In fear of the people - 5




Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Marjane Satrapi speaking on Wednesday at the European Parliament in Brussels on behalf of the Moussavi campaign. More details at The New York Times.
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In the previous post I noted that The Guardian was the only UK national paper to lead on Iran yesterday. The paper’s news blog has also been excellent at providing rolling coverage. See here for today’s updates.

However, as Norm points out, the paper’s leading Stalin apologist Seumas Milne has proved as reliably wrong as ever. Like Galloway, it seems Milne never met an ‘anti-imperialist’ he didn’t like, no matter how murderous. Milne was The Guardian’s comment editor from 2001 to ’07 and is currently an associate editor. A paper that pays Milne’s salary is a paper I would be embarrassed to spend money on.
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More from today:
From ModernityBlog, Not just rich kids in Iran.
Today’s updates from The New York Times.
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On the broader implications of events in Iran:

The Poor Mouth points to an article from AP on reaction in the Arab world.

Andrew Sullivan on making the Russian connection, follow up here, and here.

Talking of Russia and Caspian Sea oil and gas, if relations between Iran and the West change considerably, it would make the Russian threat to the Caucasus fuel route via Georgia much less critical.

Michael Totten on the view from Beirut.

A lot of focus has been put on what these events might mean for Israel regarding the Iranian regime’s support for Hamas and Hizbollah, its threats regarding Israel’s existence, its promotion of Holocaust denial, and its nuclear weapons programme. However another aspect to consider is the lesson that it is not Iran’s population that is the problem, in fact they are showing themselves to be the solution. There might be something to learn here regarding how security is to be achieved for Israel closer to home.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

In fear of the people - 4

Via Martin, Raye Man Kojast? 
More today from Azarmehr

At Harry’s Place, from the people who brought you photoshopped missiles, here come photoshopped Ahmadinejad supporters! And more posts today from Harry’s Place tagged Iran.

Michael J Totten points to Galloway’s propaganda, and to a debunking of it: A Regime Propagandist in Great Britain’s Parliament. More posts from Michael J Totten at Commentary.

At the news stand this morning, the only UK national paper leading on Iran was The Guardian. Incredible.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

In fear of the people - 3

More on Iran’s stolen election:
Harry’s Place: A pernicious cliché, and Iran on the Edge.

Elsewhere

Some reading not on Iran:

Your friend in the North on thinking outside the sectarian box.

But I am a Liberal dissects the issue of whether one particular racist murderer (so many to choose from) is politically left or right.

NormBlog on UK demands for a witch hunt rather than an inquiry over Iraq.

At Harry’s place, yet more Sean Wallis. The story of Israel boycotters, neo-Nazi conspiracy nuts, and the Senior Research Fellow, Survey of English Usage at UCL, who doesn’t know the difference between ‘refute’ and ‘deny’. If you want to read from the beginning, start here, then here, then here, then here, then here.

Monday, 15 June 2009

In fear of the people - 2

More on the stolen election in Iran:

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Imposing democracy

I fell into an argument with friends and acquaintances on Iraq and Afghanistan this afternoon. The word which lit the fuse was democracy. As in, it’s wrong to ‘impose democracy’. This phrase seems obviously nonsense to me. On whom is democracy being imposed? The people who voted in Iraq’s January 2005 legislative and governorate elections? Iraq’s October 2005 constitutional referendum? Iraq’s December 2005 legislative election? Iraq’s January 2009 governorate elections? Or perhaps has it been imposed on the people who voted in Afghanistan’s 2004 presidential election? Or Afghanistan’s 2005 parliamentary election?

Those voters were not forced to vote. They voted despite genuine threats of attacks at polling stations. Democracy was not imposed upon them, it was claimed by them in defiance of deadly terrorists.

The only people on whom democracy is imposed are the murdering thugs who would prefer to rule by force.

My apologies to anyone who finds this question a bit stale. It’s on such a kindergarten level I was surprised to still be faced with it. There are much more complicated and challenging issues in both wars. And yet, this kindergarten concept of ‘imposing democracy’ turned up in the news very recently, out of the mouth of one famed for his mastery of rhetoric. In his Cairo speech President Obama said, explicitly in reference to Iraq, “let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed on one nation by any other.” Which is a red herring. Iraq’s system of government was approved in a referendum by 79% of voters on a 63% turnout, in a ballot supervised by the UN. It was the choice of the Iraqi nation.

There is reason to welcome Obama’s statement, however, because it’s not that long ago that his proposals on Iraq sounded an awful lot like a plan to, erm, impose a different system of government.
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Related reading: Peter Baker on Obama and democracy, NYT June 8th, a sequel to his February 22nd piece on the same subject. He provides the curious spectacle of an administration anxious that the notion of democracy promotion will associate them with the Bush presidency. I don’t get it. Obama seems globally to be the most popular American president in history. Democracy is an idea millenia older than Bush, an idea that gives courage to millions. What is the White House worried about?

Democracy is central to Obama’s appeal. He should embrace it unambiguously. What I liked about The New Yorker’s inauguration cover by Drew Friedman was that it placed Obama’s election as part of the continuity of America’s unfinished revolution. Unfinished, because democracy means a never-ending revolution, the strongest political system yet known in this universe of constant change.

In fear of the people

On the stolen election in Iran:ModernityBlog

Friday, 12 June 2009

In a nutshell

ladybird

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Lean times

piggy bank

Humans vs. Robots

At Harry’s Place, the story of BMI flight BD 931 from Heathrow to Tehran, of a young Iranian Christian under threat of deportation into the hands of a regime which accuses him of apostasy, a ‘crime’ punishable by death in Iran. Read if you will about the several Labour politicians and their staff intent on evading responsibility, and about the pilot who did take responsibility, refusing to do the dirty work of the UK government.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Exactly wrong

The xenophobes and protectionists who argue that immigrants cost jobs have it exactly wrong. Newcomers create jobs and they always have. A report by the Center for an Urban Future recently described immigrants as “entrepreneurial sparkplugs,” and the reason is obvious. If they weren't risk-takers, they wouldn't be here.
Steven V Roberts writing in The Washington Post, via TPM Barnett’s blog. However the main subject of the piece is not economic migrants but refugees, as he’s reviewing Outcasts United by Warren St John, a book about a soccer team in Clarkston, Georgia, made up of refugees from a dozen different countries.
Beatrice Ziaty and her children (three sons played for the Fugees) fled out the back door of their house in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, as her husband was being killed in the front room. Most immigrants to America come eagerly, after years of saving and scheming; they stay in touch with kinfolk back home via cell phones and e-mail and retain a sense of connection and community. The refugees of Clarkston were uprooted against their will. “There's no point in thinking about where to go back to,” said Paula Balegamire, whose husband languished in a Congolese prison, “because there's nowhere to go back to.”

Back in the UK: related from Mick Hartley. Reminds me of . . .


Woody’s focus is firmly on kinetic operations. Such tactics sometimes have a place, but only as part of a more comprehensive strategy. Here’s an extract from Principles of Modern American Counterinsurgency: Evolution and Debate, a paper by Janine Davidson at The Brookings Institution. It seems an earlier draft of this may have played a role in the evolution of the successful candidate last year.

First principle of a successful COIN campaign:
(I) A long-term political strategy focused on creating a viable, sustainable stability – through building or enhancing local government effectiveness and legitimacy – while marginalizing insurgents and winning over their sympathizers. Building the political legitimacy and effectiveness of the government, in the eyes of its people and the international community, is fundamental. Political reform and development represent the hard core of any counterinsurgency strategy, and provides a framework for programs and initiatives. In parallel, the political strategy is designed to undermine support for insurgents, win over their sympathizers to the government side, and co-opt local community leaders to ally themselves with the government.
This seems highly relevant to current challenges in the UK.

Update: Kilcullen on tackling extremism in Europe. He’s talking about one flavour, but surely the principles are the same for dealing with more familiar forms of fascism. Also, Your Friend in the North on how not to do it.

For Ray

Update: another scribblier one.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Monday, 8 June 2009

Hangover monday

(With added links throughout the day.)

European elections:
 miserable results in the UK, and comparison figures from last time.


Your Friend in the North tells how he cast his vote.

Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland are using the Single Transferable Vote system rather than a list system like Denmark or most of the UK, so counting is still going on. I miss the Irish system, it’s the most fun you can have with a ballot paper.

Danish results, gains for Socialists and far right Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People’s Party) at the expense of Social Democrats and Radikale Venstre (Social Liberal).  Here’s Politiken’s short english language report.

Lebanese elections: positive news, and comment from Abu Muqawama.

Iranian elections: further to the post below, here’s Norm: Stirrings in Iran.

Not elections: Martin marks the bicentennial of Thomas Paine’s death. See also a substantial item on the BBC News site.

More not elections: Americans for Bosnia continues a series of posts on “Washington’s War” by Michael Rose: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.

The author of the book in question is General Sir Michael Rose, commander of United Nations forces in Bosnia from January 1994 to January 1995. Below is a depiction of him from Joe Sacco’s outstanding piece of journalism in comics form, Safe Area Goražde.

Click to enlarge.

Copyright © 2000 Joe Sacco.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Voting in Lebanon

A report from Sietske in Beirut, who didn’t take to the hills after all.

Liberal incrementalism

An incrementalist is someone who thinks that putting one foot in front of the other is the better approach if they want to go out for a drink, rather than staying in and waiting for the invention of a teleportation machine.

It seems a number of those commenting on this HP post would prefer to stay indoors with the curtains closed, arguing that the impossibility of teleportation means venturing out is out of the question.

Myself, I’m a signed-up member of Hasek’s Party of Moderate Progress within the Bounds of the Law, politics with a purpose.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

A few links re. Tiananmen Square

At The Big Picture, photos from then and now, via Mick Hartley.

From BBC News, Brian Hanrahan on Tiananmen Square in relation to Gorbachev and the collapse of communism in Europe.


Also at Informaion Dissemination, Feng on LiuSi.

Extra: Edel Rodriguez, with links and illustrations related to the anniversary.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Faking it again

Aristotle had some interesting advice for tyrants on how to prolong their rule. He described two basic approaches: the first was the familiar path of force, surveillance, and censorship, treating the population as hostile and seeking to prevent them from being able to revolt, but the second approach was to imitate as near as possible a just and benevolent ruler, to keep the population content enough not to revolt.

In reality most tyrannies feature a mixture of the two approaches.

In the comments to this post at Azarmehr’s blog on the upcoming elections in Iran, there is consensus that these elections, like the previous ones under the current theocratic regime, will be neither free nor fair, that they are an imitation of democracy staged to keep the population content. However, one of the commenters argues that in order to succeed, this imitation of democracy must in every election cycle provide a closer and closer approximation of the real thing, gradually escaping the control of the regime.

The only constant is change. Eventually, then, the transformation to democracy must come. That, or the regime must turn back to the first approach described by Aristotle, undisguised force.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Faking it


In progress, a studio version of this, with added messing about in Photoshop.

I have my reasons . . .

The Hard Life

Filboid Studge compares the drawings of late 19th century Life cartoonist Michael Angelo Woolf with photographs by Jacob Riis documenting poverty in New York in the same period.

David Apatoff on Gilbert Bundy, Esquire cartoonist and artist-journalist in the Second World War.

Ger Apeldoorn on cartoonist Paul Coker visiting Cuba, and cartoonist Arnold Roth visiting East and West Berlin, early 1960s.

Cartoonist Robert Crumb in Bulgaria, one and two, 1960s.

Cartoonist Oscar Grillo with another tale from the Tube.