Well, here we go again. Iraqi cleric Sheikh Ahmad Al-Kubeisi:
Who bears responsibility for what has happened in Iraq? he's asked.
His reply will astonish you...
Sunday's BBC4 documentary Tom Waits: Tales from a Cracked Jukebox made me reconsider my views.
I'd always had Waits down as, basically, a poseur: a middle-class son of teachers who adopted the world-weary persona of a down-and-out drunk, singing of hard times and urban desolation with an absurdly mannered over-the-top gravel voice, chain-smoking the while and adopting suitably anguished expressions: a barfly exploring the underside of LA like Charles Bukowski, without - unlike Bukowski - actually living the life.
I wrote about him a while back, quoting Stewart Lee:
Waits is just an actor pedalling a watered-down, glammed-up, version of the genuinely avant-garde artists that he’s co-opted, such as Captain Beefheart, but in a vaudevillian form that places his invented persona in inverted commas and ensures, rather than marginal cult status, commissions from arts houses and the adulation of thrill-seeking squares who’d be scared by the real thing.
Well....now I'd say that's a little unfair. Waits can't really be accused of selling out or popularising. He's hardly a household name; he's not playing Vegas. Yes, his Way Down in the Hole was featured as a theme in The Wire, but he's always refused to let his songs be used in commercials, even going to the courts to protect his image - "Apparently, the highest compliment our culture grants artists nowadays is to be in an ad—ideally, naked and purring on the hood of a new car...I have adamantly and repeatedly refused this dubious honor."
And he writes and performs some fine songs - even if, as here, he owes a lot to Brecht/Weill:
But, mainly, I'm no longer bothered about this poseur business. So what if he wants to adopt the persona of an LA beat hipster? If it works for him - and it clearly does - then good luck. We British have a particular horror of people pretending to be who they're not; especially the unforgivable sin of middle class people trying to make out they're working class ("mockney" etc.). Americans, bless 'em, aren't so hung up on such things. People can invent themselves.
Besides, it's all an act. He's a performer. And it's a performance he's grown into. What might have seemed forced in his twenties is much less so as he hits late middle-age.
In case we didn't get the Netanyahu=Hitler message, see the swastika at the lower right there.
Pro-Palestinian and antisemitic, as we see here with the PSC, are increasingly synonymous.
A man who received death threats after renouncing his faith wants to reach out to other people like him.
Imtiaz Shams grew up in a Muslim family in Ilford in the late 1990s and early 2000s, going to school in Hainault and Seven Kings.
The 28-year-old says he was “very religious” as a youngster, always reading books about Islam and going to the mosque.
But as he approached his twenties, Mr Shams started to question things.
He said: “Every Muslim has questions about their faith when they they’re growing up, and that’s totally fine.
“But as I got older and my critical thinking developed, I started to doubt whether the answers I was getting really made sense anymore.”
Despite having doubts, Mr Shams did not actually consider leaving his faith until several years later.
He said: “Even though I wanted to leave, I had absolutely no idea how.
“I didn’t know anyone who had left Islam, I didn’t even know it was something people did.
“But in reality, lots of people feel the same as I did, they’re just not out to their families and the community.
“A lot of non-Muslims aren’t out because they think it’s not worth the abuse they’d face.”
He added: “I’ve had two death threats in the past three months – but it’s not just extreme stuff like that, it’s how people’s interactions with you change too.
“They ignore you, try to keep their children away from you..."
London, in the 21st century.
[Photos: Guido van Helten]
Important work by David Collier, who finds - to no one's surprise - that the PSC is riddled with antisemitism:
I have just concluded an in-depth investigation into antisemitism inside The Palestine Solidarity Campaign that has spanned months but drew on several years of underlying research. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) claims to be “the biggest organisation in the UK dedicated to securing Palestinian human rights.” The PSC patrons include: Jeremy Corbyn MP, Pat Gaffney, Rev Garth, Ken Loach, Dr Ilan Pappe, Hilary & Steven Rose, Alexi Sayle, Baroness Tonge of Kew, and Betty Hunter. It partners with many of the largest unions in the UK.
The result of this research is an eighty-page report, that focuses on seventeen separate PSC branches across England and Wales, and culminated with an in-depth case study of a mass demonstration in London. The full report can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.
In truth, I stopped the detailed analysis at seventeen branches simply because I was inundated with material....
When I refer to antisemitism within this study, I avoided *all references to the conflict*. We all know the trick is to deflect accusations of antisemitism with a false cry about criticism of Israeli policy. I set out to avoid this. I was only interested in those pushing conspiracy theory, holocaust denial or classic antisemitic tropes. The argument that antisemitism is about legitimate criticism of Israel simply has no weight against this research. The bar for antisemitism that was used is unnaturally high. As an example, if the worst I found was an activist suggesting Israel should be destroyed, is committing genocide and Zionists are all Nazis, that activist *would not* have made the grade for this research. Let that fact sink in.
The ‘antisemitism’ referred to here is *ONLY* ‘hard core’ antisemitism. Examples include: USA controlled by Zionists; Jews responsible for 9/11; the Paris Bataclan massacre was a ‘false flag’ to increase support for Israel; Ashkenazi Jews are fake; Zionist Jews support ISIS; Jewish Zionists stir up fake antisemitism; many varieties of Holocaust Denial; Israel harvests organs from the dead; Israel harvests organs from the living; Mossad wanted to assassinate Obama; the BBC is ‘the Zionist Broadcasting Corporation’, ‘Zionist tentacles’ controlling Parliament; Mossad did 7/7/2005 in London; Kristallnacht instigated by Communist and Freemason Jews to promote War against Germany; Babylonian Talmud advocates sex with child age three; Goyim bloodshed ritual by the Talmudic worshipers [sic] of Moloch, the children holocaust bloodthirsty monster…..
Paul Berman - Homage to the Mexicans in the Time of Trump:
The Mexicans were not the first people to fall under the shadow of Donald Trump’s political slanders (an honor belonging to Barack Obama, object of the birther mania), and they may be not his target at this very moment. But the slanders against them may, even so, have outdone everything else in generating the American political atmosphere right now. It was vilification of Mexicans that led to Trump’s decisive triumph over his many rivals in the Republican primaries of 2016. He shocked everyone with his insults about rapists and criminals, and shocked everyone anew with his refusal to apologize for the original shock, and shocked everyone yet again with his disparagement of Judge Gonzalo Curiel in the Trump University fraud case. And the repeated shocks aroused a popular excitement. Masses of Americans not only cheered, they chanted, such that “Build the wall!” became a main slogan of Trump’s campaign, more insistently even than “Lock her up!”
He will, of course, build it, and there is reason to believe that, once he has done so, his public will cheer and chant still more lustily, thrilled to discover that here, at last, is a leader who fulfills his promises, and thrilled at the wall itself, and thrilled at the chilly message his wall will send to Muslims and any number of other people, not excluding the half of America that did not vote for Donald Trump. The wall in these respects will turn out to be a national monument, dedicated to the promotion of civic values, in its fashion. It will be the anti-Statue of Liberty. It will engrave vilification of Mexicans into the national landscape. And all of this, the blossoming of the new national mood, requires a response, which ought to be, above all, a defense of Mexicans, not just on narrow political or economic grounds, but culturally, as well—a defense that bears on American civilization.
James Kirchick reviews Edward Jay Epstein's How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft:
That there are still people who seriously deny Snowden has any untoward relationship with Russia’s security services and that his settling in Moscow is just a matter of happenstance is an indicator not just of widespread credulity but of growing hostility to traditional notions of patriotism. During the Cold War, an American intelligence worker who stole his country’s secrets, disappeared, and then resurfaced in Moscow—establishing himself there as a critic of the American national-security state—would almost uniformly be condemned as a traitor. Yet Snowden is still lauded by the great and the good as a courageous “whistle-blower.” A hagiographic documentary film about him, directed by one of his journalistic collaborators, won the Academy Award....
Snowden was a disgruntled, immature narcissist with delusions of grandeur who walked into Russia’s arms not fully understanding what exactly he was getting into. His defection was facilitated by a “false flag” operation in which an intelligence “cut-out,” or middle-man in the form of WikiLeaks, manipulated his actions and movements, assisted by ideologically friendly journalists. Between the nihilistic Glenn Greenwald, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and the Russian government, a convergence of interests exists, and all three formed an opportunistic alliance to target their shared enemy: the United States and its intelligence agencies....
Snowden’s revelations have, over the years, contributed to a general sense of paranoia and distrust of the United States, serving a broader Kremlin agenda of discrediting liberal democracy in general and America in particular. “Snowden did not create this new age of distrust,” Epstein writes, “but his disclosures greatly contributed to it, as well as to the worldwide distrust of the U.S. government.”
Some of those on the left who hailed Snowden back in 2013 must now look back upon their old enthusiasm with a fair degree of regret, comprehending the unholy alliance into which the former NSA contractor enlisted himself by partnering with Wikileaks and worming his way to Moscow, both of which made no effort to disguise their campaign against Hillary Clinton.
Worth a read - Michael Totten interviews Claire Berlinski:
Donald Trump won last year’s Republican civil war and most of the losers surrendered.
A buffoonish and narcisistic reality TV star who spent his entire life as a boorish Democrat and who had nothing but contempt for the Republican Party and traditional American conservatism has managed, like a conquering warlord, to rally the vanquished around him.
There are exceptions, however, and Claire Berlinski is one of them. She and I spent the last decade covering foreign affairs in the Middle East and Europe and are alarmed by the new president’s contempt for the American-made trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific security architecture and at how whimsically American conservatives are willing to reverse their own party’s longstanding positions on everything from Vladimir Putin to NATO.
She and I spoke last week.
MJT: I want to start with a quote from retired general and former CIA director David Petraeus.
"Americans should not take the current international order for granted. It did not will itself into existence. We created it. Likewise, it is not naturally self-sustaining. We have sustained it. If we stop doing so, it will fray and, eventually, collapse.”
That is an excellent rebuttal to the Obama administration’s limp foreign policy of managed American decline overseas, and we heard a version of Petraeus’ critique from conservatives for eight years during the previous president’s term. But Petraeus said that two weeks ago while chastising the Trump administration. Donald Trump doing worse than doubling-down on Obamaism rather than reversing it as John McCain or Mitt Romney would have done. He seems to be willing to set the entire American-made international order on fire, as if everything from 1945 onward is suddenly on the table, not just NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership but even Japan’s demilitarization and NATO. He is consistently friendlier to Vladimir Putin’s Russia than he is to Europe. The Republican Party would have a stress-induced heart attack if a Democratic president were doing these things, wouldn’t it?
Claire Berlinski: Yeah, on Twitter David Frum wrote, "It’s as if a hostile foreign power has seized the US government and is by remote control steering it toward the maximum possible catastrophe.” Which it really is. I mean, what more would you do?
Did you see that CNN piece about what happened at a Mar-a-Lago dinner party after they got news of the North Korean missile launch? “Trump and [Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe’s evening meal quickly morphed into a strategy session, the decision-making on full view to fellow diners, who described it in detail to CNN.”
You’re there, I’m not—I can’t tell if people are slowly beginning to realize just what an insane catastrophe we’ve got ourselves into, as in, we could all die from this kind of incompetence and from his species of mental illness—or are the people who voted for him still mostly stuck in cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias, minimizing reports like that as, yeah, overwrought, pearl-clutchers' Lügenpresse?
I’m scared. Trouble sleeping, scared....
As we've heard, the North Koreans have been celebrating the birthday of Kim Jong-il, despite his death over six years ago.
Both he and his father, Great Leader Kim Il-sung, are embalmed, Lenin-like, in the huge Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in north-east Pyongyang:
The palace was built in 1976 as the Kumsusan Assembly Hall and served as Kim Il-sung's official residence. Following the elder Kim's death in 1994, Kim Jong-il had the building renovated and transformed into his father's mausoleum. It is believed that the conversion cost at least $100 million. Some sources put the figure as high as $900 million. Inside the palace, Kim Il-sung's embalmed body lies inside a clear glass sarcophagus. His head rests on a Korean-style pillow and he is covered by the flag of the Workers' Party of Korea. Kim Jong-il is now on display in a room close to and very similar to his father's.
Kumsusan is the largest mausoleum dedicated to a Communist leader and the only one to house the remains of multiple people. It is fronted by a large square, approximately 500 metres (1,600 ft) in length. It is bordered on its northern and eastern sides by a moat.
Foreign visitors can access the palace only on Thursdays and Sundays. They must be on an official government tour. Photography, videotaping, smoking and talking are not permitted anywhere inside the palace. The palace plaza, though, is open all week, and is the venue for national rallies.
The building is accessed via an underpass adjacent to a tram stop across the road. Upon entering the building, visitors (both foreigners and North Korean tourists) are asked to check all personal belongings except their wallets in a cloak room, and are given a numbered ticket to claim their belongings when leaving. Visitors proceed along a series of long travelators. Photography is also not permitted anywhere in the palace.
Until 2015, visitors had to emerge in a long hall with two white stone statues of the Kims bathed in soft red light, this was replaced by a 3d-styled portrait of the Kims with Mount Paektu in the background, with national and party flags flanking them. Marble arched columns line the hall. Visitors are told to stop at a yellow line on the floor and, after a few moments of contemplation, beckoned into another room. Here, they are given small speaker devices that play a narration of the Korean people's grief when Kim Il-sung died. The room features bronze-like busts of people grieving. Finally, visitors go in a lift to the top floor in the white and grey marble walled building. They are filed through a dust blowing machine and enter the room with the preserved remains of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il lying in state. A red rope barrier runs around the transparent crystal sarcophagi. Visitors are sent in groups of four and are told to bow at the Kim's feet, to his left, and then right side.
The appropriate display of emotion is required on being in the presence of the embalmed corpses.
From the Daily NK: