Thursday, 29 July 2010


The John S. Cook & Co. Bank in Rhyolite, Nevada, 1906, rephotographed by Piet Schreuders in 2010. From Piet’s Flickr collection.

Piet has recently put together a new website showcasing his graphic design work and giving a glimpse of his various projects, on composers Raymond Scott and Leroy Shield, paperback painter James Avati, the geography and history of London as seen through Beatles photographs, and many other particular interests. So get out of the heat and visit

Earlier Piet posts here, here, and here.

Image copyright © Piet Schreuders.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

World Service

Here’s some random viewing, listening and reading from the last week or so.

Above: The Ducor Hotel, Monrovia, Liberia. Photographs by Glenna Gordon, words by Jason Margolis, from Rebuilding Liberia, a series of reports on post war reconstruction broadcast by PRI’s The World.

In The Walrus: Where Ghana Went Right, by John Schram.

On the BBC World Service: something I missed when it was broadcast last March, Najieh Ghulami on Afghan Bloggers.

Related to that, something I haven’t listened to yet, Blogs & Bullets: Evaluating the Impact of New Media on Conflict, at the United States Institute of Peace, spotted via Onnik Krikorian’s blog at Frontline. (Reminds me of this!)

Monday, 19 July 2010

Ten stars

“I’ll put them on my boots to light my way.”

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Thanks for last night, Bob

Yesterday evening’s get together with Bob from Brockley and friends was very nice indeed. I’m now able to put voices to the words of Francis, Michael, Jams, Mira, Daniel, MaxJim, Carl and more. Many thanks to our generous host for bringing us together.

I’m not at liberty to relate details of the discussion, but to get a hint of the atmosphere, have a read of Uncle Eddie’s post on The Philosophy Boys.

Monday, 12 July 2010


Last month’s post on Prof. Judith Butler concerned her view of feminism as only valid when tied to a narrowly anti-Western form of anti-imperialism. For her, feminists in places like Afghanistan must be hobbled like an entry for a three-legged race, while running against a murderous opposition burdened with no such restrictions.

Amongst other utterances, the post pointed to her statement on Hamas and Hezbollah in 2006. From the Radical Archives blog, a long extract with video:
This is Judith Butler’s reply to a bundle of four questions asked in Q&A during a 2006 teach-in at UC Berkeley about the war between Israel and Hezbollah. Audience members asked:

1. Since Israel is an imperialist, colonial project, should resistance be based on social movements or the nation-state?

2. What is the power of the Israel Lobby and is questioning it antisemitic?

3. Since the Left hesitates to support Hamas and Hezbollah “just” because of their use of violence, does this hurt Palestinian solidarity?

4. Do Hamas and Hezbollah actually threaten Israel’s existence, as portrayed in some media?

Judith Butler:

“Ok, well, I would just briefly say: I think its imperative to figure out what the mechanisms are of the various lobbies in the US – the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League – how they work to help to formulate US foreign policy toward Israel. I think there’s no question we need an honest, rigorous appraisal. I think there are some versions of it that strike me as perhaps a little too easily subscribing to conspiracy theories, and I think that there can be an antisemitic version, and there can be a really useful, critical version as well. I have no doubt it’s a very powerful lobby – I actually think of it as multifaceted – and I think we need more careful, rigorous analyses of it.

So you know the short answer is: one neither has to dispute the existence of such a lobby, or its power, to prove that one is not antisemitic; but neither does one have to accept every version of that, given that some versions are, I think, problematically bound up with conspiracy theories.

Similarly, I think: Yes, understanding Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left, is extremely important. That does not stop us from being critical of certain dimensions of both movements. It doesn’t stop those of us who are interested in non-violent politics from raising the question of whether there are other options besides violence. So again, a critical, important engagement. I mean, I certainly think it should be entered into the conversation on the Left. I similarly think boycotts and divestment procedures are, again, an essential component of any resistance movement.”

[[ audience claps]]

= = =

Thanks to Camila Bassi for pointing out this video in her essay “The Anti-Imperialism of Fools’: A Cautionary Story on the Revolutionary Socialist Vanguard of England’s Post-9/11 Anti-War Movement”

NOTE: The questions start at 10:30 and Butler starts her answer at 14:55.

Today I read (via here and here) that Prof. Butler is claiming that she has been misrepresented. The following is from an interview this month with AVIVA-Berlin:
AVIVA-Berlin: How do you feel about the accusation that you have perhaps taken an anti-Semitic position concerning your statement about the Hamas and the Hezbollah as progressive social movements? Does that bother you more as a philosopher or on a personal level?

Judith Butler: Unfortunately, that clip was cut short and did not include all of my response. What I actually said was that although groups like Hamas and Hezbollah should be described as left movements, that like all left movements, one has to choose which ones one supports and which ones one refuses. They are "left" in the sense that they oppose colonialism and imperialism, but their tactics are not ones that I would ever condone. I have never supported either group, and my very public affiliation with a politics of non-violence would make it impossible for me to support them. The editing of my response was obviously an effort to distort my view, and I am very sorry that the distortion has been able to circulate as it has. Thank you for giving me the chance to clarify what I actually said and what I have always thought.

It is very strange, but I find it impossible to find any evidence in that clip of the Professor’s comments being edited in any way. What do you think?

Added: The comments of the Professor’s that kicked off my first post were made when she refused a prize at the 2010 Christopher Street Day Parade in Berlin, declaring that the organisers were complicit in racism. It seems difficult to find specifics on what is at the centre of this allegation. In her statement she said that “Some of the organizers explicitly made racist statements or did not dissociate themselves from them,” but I haven’t seen any examples given of these racist statements. In a comment at Bully Bloggers she goes into a little more detail, but without giving sources or references:
I was asked by the organizers to supply evidence for my charge of racism, so I showed them several sites where their members and sponsors referred to the archaic and pre-modern character of “arab cultures” as a way of explaining putatively high rates of attacks on gay people on the part of arab youth. Groups like Maneo have actively sought to institute racial profiling as a police practice. They see this as part of “self-defense” rather than as explicit racism. Their framework assumes that there are queers and there are migrants, which means that they efface migrant queers in their very way of thinking. I suggested in one interview that maybe they should do some studies on the rise of right-wing racism in Germany, its links with homophobia, or indeed concentrate on homophobia in the Catholic Church.
Without knowing what sites and comments she’s talking about, it’s hard to know what to make of it all, other than to note that she isn’t as worried about anti-Catholic sectarianism as she is about racism and anti-Muslim bigotry.

I haven’t yet found any other references online to Maneo advocating racial profiling, so don’t know the truth of it. Maneo did contribute comments to this 2008 Spiegel Online story on migration and homophobia in Germany, and without sounding to my ears like a gang of racist nationalists. I’d be interested in hearing other views, particularly with sources.

Related, via Bob: Gay Imperialism, and Israeli Pinkwashing., and in Gay City News, Berlin based journalist Benjamin Weinthal writes What Drives Gays and Lesbians to Bash Israel?

Added: Meanwhile in Afghanistan . . .

Oranges and bougainvillea


First proof. There are a few changes to be made.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Woodcraft Folk raise children to be objectively pro-fascist shock

Okay, that last part of the headline was untrue, the ‘shock’ bit I mean. But the phrase ‘objectively pro-fascist’ was no mistake.

Via Harry’s Place and Francis Sedgemore comes news that England’s anti-capitalist anti-imperialist anti-war version of the Scouts, the Woodcraft Folk, have passed a resolution to boycott Israel.
An emergency motion, proposed by international secretary Paul Bemrose, condemned the recent killing of nine human rights activists delivering aid to Gaza by sea in defiance of Israel's blockade.

Conference solidly backed the motion, which called for a complete boycott until the blockade is lifted.
Now, when explaining the complexities of the world to children, educators often need to simplify to an extent, to create an easily understood narrative in order that the core facts are understood and retained. It can be hard to keep children’s attention throughout a more complex explanation.

So it may be that in teaching their charges about the dreadful situation in Gaza, Woodcraft Folk leaders felt unable to include all the difficult details, such as the repeated attacks by masked militants on UN sponsored summer camps for Gaza children this year, or the children’s TV shows broadcast by Hamas inciting children to fight Israeli soldiers, TV shows that encourage children towards jihad, suicide bombing, and genocide.

Campaigning for peace has been central to the Woodcraft Folks’ activities since they were formed in the 1920s, and it’s a history they’re proud of. Such as when in 2008 (pdf) and  2009 they encouraged children to campaign against UK military action in Afghanistan. But 2008 reports on the frequent attacks against schoolgirls by the Taliban were perhaps the kind of details too complicated to explain to the Woodchips and Elfins.

Of course while the littlest Folk may not be able to grasp all of the difficult realities, and may need to be protected from learning the true horrors of war at too young an age, it’s to be hoped that as they grow older they will have the curiosity and intelligence to gain greater understanding. In some cases, though, it seems even adults prefer to stay within the confines of children’s stories, attempting to remain innocent of the world’s darker truths.

Take for example Henry Fair, National Organiser in the Woodcraft Folk in the 1930s and ’40s, a man with direct knowledge of the horrors of Nazism, but who nonetheless seemed able after the war to continue to argue for pacifism without addressing in the smallest way the nature of the evil that the Allies had been fighting and the consequent moral problem in refusing to take arms against such a vast industrialised death-cult.

There is a difference between innocence and willful stupidity, and simple is another word for stupid.

Related, from last year on Roland’s blog: CodePink Kids.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

A summer’s day in London

Five years on, Bob writes his own thoughts on today’s anniversary, with links to others, and Martin gives a critical account of rhetoric and remembrance on the anniversary of 7/7.

Dancing on the Moon

Above, from 2007, development designs commissioned for a children’s animation project.

Below, from 1935, the Fleischer Bros. cartoon Dancing on the Moon.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Cheesy crescent (proof)

Oscar finds use for a crescent moon here, with more o’ his moons and many mice here, and there the tail of a star.

Second proof.