Meme on a theme

Bob‘s invited me in on a bloggers’ thing where you choose a theme for your blog (it’s worth following that link over to his blog and listening to Oi Va Voi’s S’Brent).

For this blog, two songs come to mind, revealing a state of arrested development despite all efforts to the contrary.

We dance – Pavement

Can’t be sure – The Sundays

Let’s see if I can (I bet I can’t) pique the interest of Peggy, Mr P, Dr G, ChChCherryBomb (nee Intellectual Blackout), Papa, Barkingside 21, Mod and Foxed.

PS – lyrics

Can’t be sure – The Sundays

give me a story and give me a bed
give me possessions
oh love luck and money they go to my head like wildfire
it’s good to have something to live for you’ll find
live for tomorrow
live for a job and a perfect behind, high time
England my country the home of the free, such miserable weather
but England’s as happy as England can be
why cry

and did you know desire’s a terrible thing
the worst that I could find
and did you know desire’s a terrible thing
but I rely on mine, a-ah

England my country the home of the free, such miserable weather
but England’s as happy as England can be
why cry

and did you know desire’s a terrible thing
the worst that I could find
and did you know desire’s a terrible thing
but I rely on mine
did you know desire’s a terrible thing
it makes the world go blind
but if desire, desire’s a terrible thing
you know that I really don’t mind

and it’s my life
and though I can’t be sure what I want any more
it will come to me later
well it’s my life…. and it’s my life
and though I can’t be sure if I want any more
it will come to me later… ah, yeah

~~~

We dance – Pavement

The genius of Pavement lyrics is not enhanced by reading.

More on Farzad Kamangar and the political dissidents executed in Iran

Maryam Namazie is a member of the Central Committee member of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran. This group is generally foresaken by British communists with the exception of the Alliance for Worker’s Liberty, because it sits uneasily with the mainstream (if I may call it that) far left’s position on Islamist Iran as resistance to Western imperialist hegemony. (Sorry no links to sources for that – soon I will lose all confidence of my readership).

Today on May 12th she posted an update on the May 9th executions:

“Four days after the heinous executions of Farzad Kamangar, Ali Heydarian, Farhad Vakili, Shirin Alam-Houli and Mehdi Eslamian, five political prisoners, by the Islamic Republic of Iran their families have still not succeeded in getting the bodies of their loved ones back for burial. The families remain in Tehran going from office to office and building to building in order to get a response. The regime is demanding that the families of the executed give guarantees that there will not be any ‘troubles’ when the bodies are released to them.

Today 12 May, the families of the executed have been standing in front of the Islamic Assembly (Majlis) from early morning. Farzad Kamangar’s lawyer and relatives have informed us that they are still waiting.

Yesterday, in Maku, Shirin’s mother and sister were arrested and subsequently released. In Tehran and in front of Tehran University where protestors had gathered the regime brought out its security in full force and in Iranian Kurdistan it has imposed an unofficial military rule.

There is news from Iranian Kurdistan that tensions have heightened there. Thousands of leaflets calling for a general strike on May 13 have been distributed in various cities. Many of the schools in which Farzad was a teacher and in villages around Kamyaran are closed.

According to the latest news from Evin prison, the executed were told of their execution the night before and immediately taken to special cells. Shirin was studying when they came for her. Other prisoners said they heard her shouting and asking for permission to call and say goodbye to her mother, which was not granted. Others in her unit waited for her until morning when the guards came to collect her things and were then told that she had been executed.

On Saturday 8 May at 4pm Farzad spoke to his family though unaware that he was to be executed early May 9.

The regime brutally executed them and now refuses to hand over their bodies. It has even issued arrest warrants for Farzad’s mother and other relatives.

The International Committee against Executions and Iran Solidarity calls on people everywhere to step up their protests against executions and the Islamic regime of Iran and join the May 13 general strike in Kurdistan and elsewhere.”

Her previous posts:

For Farsi speakers, there is a commemorative video, including interview with Farzad Kamangar’s mother, which I don’t understand.

Dissident teacher Farzad Kamangar hanged by the Iranian government

It’s been many years that the Iranian government has been targetting teacher trade unionists.

Farzad Kamangar was one of five Kurdish dissidents – Shirin Alam-Houli, Ali Heydarian, Mahdi Islamian, Farzad Kamangar, and Farhad Vakili – hanged today by the Iranian government. Iran Focus reports this as the reason:

“They were convicted of ‘Moharebeh’, or ‘waging war on God’, in 2008 for membership in opposition Kurdish groups, including PJAK, and acting against State security.”

Amnesty (from 2008):

“Farzad Kamangar, a 32 year old teacher, was arrested by officers from the Ministry of Intelligence in Tehran in 2006. He was initially held incommunicado at a series of locations, including in the cities of Kermanshah, Sanandaj and Tehran, where he was tortured, including by being beaten, flogged and electrocuted. He was sentenced to death in February 2008 after conviction of “enmity against God” – a charge levelled against those accused of taking up arms against the state – apparently in connection with his alleged membership of the armed group, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which carries out attacks in Turkey, after traces of explosive powder and a gun were found in a house he stayed in with his two co-accused and in a car that they had used. Farzad Kamangar denies any such membership. His trial was grossly flawed. Farzad Kamangar has been prohibited, on several occasions and for prolonged periods of time, from seeing his lawyer and family members. The two other men were also sentenced to death and to 10 years’ imprisonment, apparently for forging documents. Under Iranian law, they must serve their prison sentences before being executed. On 11 July 2008, Farzad Kamangar’s death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court. However, his lawyer has submitted his case to a judicial review panel in an effort to have his death sentence overturned. Under Iranian law, death sentences cannot be carried out while under review. He is currently held in Reja’i Shahr Prison, in Karaj, west of Tehran.”

PJAK, the Party for Free Life of Kurdistan, is indeed in opposition to the ayatollas, and is outlawed by them. There are allegations that members carried out reprisal killings against the Iranian authorities. There are also allegations of PKK connections. However, to be held guilty of murder by association is a travesty of justice.

It’s reported that the Iranian authorities offered Shirin Alam-Houli a reprieve on condition that she publicly renounced her previous activities. Her response to that proposition culminated in her execution today.

Kamangar, political activist, teacher, social worker, human rights campaigner, died younger than me, and I feel young. His lawyer Khalil Bahramian told a radio station that he had been sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Court during a five-minute, closed-door trial and denied the due process of law.

His was one of the causes taken up by trade unionists in education all over the world. It was representative of the repression enacted on these people by the Iranian regime. Tortured, deprived of food, water, and sleep, you wonder whether death may have seemed like a release.

Street Journalist has an account of the final few years of Kamangar’s life, which makes grim reading. Stroppy has a piece.

People are dying on government whim in Iran:

“Amnesty International has documented repeatedly how vaguely worded legislation is being used to silence the most active sectors of the Iranian population. Charges such as “acting against state security”, “spreading lies”,“propaganda against the system”, “creating unease in the public mind”, “insulting the holy sanctities” and “defamation of state officials” are used to target members of Iran’s religious and ethnic minorities as well as human rights and other civil society activists. Such laws and practices violate Iran’s obligations under Articles 18, 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights regarding freedom of belief, expression, assembly and association.”

Write to MPs and (given the current state of affairs) PPCs to remind them.

Rest in peace, dead activists.

Update: nothing mentioned on the benighted University and College Union Activists List, although my branch is currently supposed to go all out for an imprisoned Columbian; “No results found” for Kamangar Archer on the Iranian propaganda organ masquerading as free media, Press TV. Imagine being Iranian, being safe in Britain, having media skills, and still not speaking out against your deathly repressive government, but even accepting its lucre. Shudder.

  1. Farzad Kamangar, a 32 year old teacher, was arrested by officers from the Ministry of Intelligence in Tehran in 2006. He was initially held incommunicado at a series of locations, including in the cities of Kermanshah, Sanandaj and Tehran, where he was tortured, including by being beaten, flogged and electrocuted. He was sentenced to death in February 2008 after conviction of “enmity against God” – a charge levelled against those accused of taking up arms against the state – apparently in connection with his alleged membership of the armed group, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which carries out attacks in Turkey, after traces of explosive powder and a gun were found in a house he stayed in with his two co-accused and in a car that they had used. Farzad Kamangar denies any such membership. His trial was grossly flawed. Farzad Kamangar has been prohibited, on several occasions and for prolonged periods of time, from seeing his lawyer and family members. The two other men were also sentenced to death and to 10 years’ imprisonment, apparently for forging documents. Under Iranian law, they must serve their prison sentences before being executed. On 11 July 2008, Farzad Kamangar’s death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court. However, his lawyer has submitted his case to a judicial review panel in an effort to have his death sentence overturned. Under Iranian law, death sentences cannot be carried out while under review. He is currently held in Reja’i Shahr Prison, in Karaj, west of Tehran.

Why Nick Griffin and the BNP lost

I woke up this morning to unwelcome news of a Conservative MP with an increased majority and a modest increase in the BNP vote share in Ilford North.

But there was a consolation which made me feel happy all day – the BNP lost every single place they contested in Barking and Dagenham, including their existing 12 seats. They lost because the weren’t wanted by voters, who never had the heart to make Barking and Dagenham the “race hate capital of Britain“. They lost because they are awful politicians, because they appeal to the worst in voters, and because they undermine each other. They also lost because the Daily Mirror took a risk. I hope they also lost because their political opponents began taking their electorate’s needs seriously. Margaret Hodge and John Cruddas are fine MPs. But the BNP also lost because of the unstinting efforts of Hope Not Hate.  I’m a Hope Not Hate donor and leafleter and I’m so proud of their part in this.

Nick Lowles asking Nick Griffin about Bob Bailey’s attack on a young Asian man, a good illustration of why the BNP lost:

No wins for BNP Council candidates in Redbridge, either. Goodbye Julian Leppert.

BNP candidate Bob Bailey kicks and hits Asian man until he bleeds

Even though the entire BNP project is an ideological assault on humanity, nobody has any business getting physical with the BNP (including missiles and gobbing) unless the BNP attacks them first. This has to be a war of words and non-violent opposition. If you can’t manage that then you can fuck off – you’re a liability the rest of us, particularly Hope Not Hate.

But for the love of god, somebody prosecute BNP candidate Bob Bailey. He is dangerous.

BBC News has a piece that tells us (in case we were in any doubt) that Nick Griffin doesn’t give a shit.

Nick Lowles of Hope Not Hate says:

“The man shouldn’t have spat on Bailey. But it’s clear this moment unleashed the streak of violence that underpins the BNP’s entire political agenda.

Just look at the pleasure Bailey took at attacking this lad – and continuing to pummel him as he lay on the ground, defenceless and bloodied.

Bailey and his thugs could be running Barking & Dagenham by this weekend.”

My borough-next-door.

Lancaster UAF on Bailey, concluding “unstable, abusive, foul-mouthed, a liar and stupid”.

Update: ‘Vote No To The BNP‘ – keeping up with the BNP.

Update 2: clearly the question “Who started it?” is far less important than asking “Is the BNP really expecting me to put up with violence on the street from an existing Councillor who wants to become an MP?” Sack him now.

Update 3: The Daily Mail (which has stills) and the Barking and Dagenham Post are unbelievably soft on Bailey. They seem unperturbed that an elected extreme right wing representative to refers to Asian men going about their business as “robbers” and kicks the shit out of a young man, with the enthusiasm you might expect an avid racist to exhibit when his victim had dark skin. With a press and elected representatives like these, no wonder Barking and Dagenham is where it is.

The Mirror reports that nobody is pursuing allegations, but there’s news to the contrary. Somebody needs to explain to those young men that they would be doing an immense service to their local community and to the country in general if they would take it further. Bailey has got to go. He is a social menace.

On the blogs, Mod, Norfolk Unity, John Understood, East of Dulwich has a great post.  I’ve been reading some blogs with names like Islamic Awakening and Pakistan Defence. Don’t spit on the BNP – get your arses down to the polling station and vote, says Araz:

“I am sorry to hear your remarks.These are not the remarks of a wise man. Stop being emotional and think this one out. BNP has a vote base because of deteriorating economic conditions in UK. Most of their supporters are ones who have lived their lives on DOLE and now think that immigrants are the root of all the ills facing Britain. However, for the most part British society and its people are peace loving and VERY TOLERANT, and they should be commended for that. By responding violently to these hate mongers you are playing into their hands by giving an impression that the BNP is important enough for you to care and be afraid of.
The place to defeat them is by ballot and on the debating floor. You have to firstly conduct your self in a manner to gain respect. Secondly, their arguments need to be countered by words rather than by physical actions. Mostly by ignoring them, you are denying them the publicity that they crave.
But by stupid actions like fighting with them, you indirectly prove them right.
Araz”

On the BNP more generally Rumbold on Pickled Politics and Hope Not Hate on Harry’s Pace.

Update 4 – Bob Bailey lost the 2010 election in Romford but that 2.5% increase in share is a worry. BNP in Barking and Dagenham: losers in every seat they contested, including the 12 they already had.

Voting Labour in Ilford North – Jewish, uncomfortable

My strategic vote belongs to Labour in the constituency of Ilford North, #35 on Labour’s target list. Labour’s Linda Perham polled 1,600 votes behind incumbent Conservative Lee Scott last time. This time there’s a different Labour candidate.

I was struck by a post by Anwar Akhtar at the Samosa, about certain Muslim community leaders issuing edicts that Muslims should vote solely on foreign policy grounds such as Palestine.

I came across this the other day from a US site dedicated to the continuity of Jewish life after the Holocaust, which began:

“So let’s have a look at the personalities that are running for the premiership and make a sober assessment on who best represents Jewish interests. Of course the best candidate should be privy to Jewish support from around the world.”

and ended:

“For Jews in Britain that are concerned with Jewish issues and British influence on Israeli affairs, Cameron is undoubtedly the man to back, with Brown, just more of the same and Clegg a total disaster.

Let us rally behind out brothers across the Atlantic and show our support for their campaigns and efforts in securing a better future for the Jews of Britain and ultimately all the citizens of the UK.”

I’m not falling for these narrow interests. But below is a selection of circumstances that Jews who refuse to vote as Jews on single issues of self-interest or solidarity  are obliged to put aside. I’m getting them down for the record here.

Frankie Boyle is a recent example of people not bothering to distinguish between Jew and Israeli – the antisemitic death threats against Lee Scott are another. I didn’t think much of the Labour candidate’s inappropriate response, which was to warn against Islamophobia in the same (quoted) breath as condemning antisemitism. Politically responsible Lee Scott emphasised the difference between Muslims and murderers by noting that he’d received a lot of support from the Muslim community. Meanwhile Bert Jones, a Labour Councillor correspondent to the Ilford Recorder insists that the Conservatives don’t have any ethnic minority Council candidates. I wonder, does that count Jews, or only darker-skinned Jews?

When it comes to views about Israel and the Palestinians, and views about Jews and Muslims which become tangled with this issue, my constituency isn’t blessed with good parliamentary candidates. We know how badly wrong campaigning about the conflict can go. Hearing and reading my candidates I may be entitled to ask, along with others, “Is it good for the Jews?”

The Conservative candidate is a Friend of Israel. He was very defensive and inadequate in response about a distinctly rhetorical question about ‘apartheid Israel’ (that’s Islamist talk) at the hustings. Any Palestinian in the audience would have felt abandoned. Moreover, he’s on religious right of the party and I object to the ‘traditional family’ values of the Cornerstone group to which he (along with Nadine Dorries – the only woman – and Andrew Rosindell) belongs. Anti-abortion, anti-gay. Awful company.

The Labour candidate is playing with the Stop the War Coalition and supports sanctions against Israel. She has not kept her distance from extremists – her supporter MPAC-UK also likes violent jihad. If elected, she’s pledged to vote with her conscience and not the whip. But presumably it was conscience which led her to the Stop the War (No! Not that one!) Coalition. Conscience counts for little when the judgement is off. I tell myself she’s simply behaving like any other marginal candidate with desperate stereotyping appeals to notional floating voters. This is the candidate I’m voting for.

The Liberal Democrat candidate is a little zany. He thinks that you shouldn’t be called a terrorist if you are fighting for your freedom.

I share a lot of values with the Green candidate, but her party has deep-rooted problems with and ignorance about antisemitism it is unable or unwilling to address. Its policy is to boycott Israel, and it tore the guts out of a motion against antisemitism at its 2008 conference.

The Christian People’s Alliance candidate particularly blames Arabs for the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Those of us who are not Christian would exist on sufferance as long as we conceded that the land of Britain is Christian.  He believes that law and government makes us weak. He was utterly terrible, Enoch Powell without the gravitas.

Under UKIP, my family probably wouldn’t have been permitted to immigrate here. The parts of the family which didn’t leave Europe were killed in the Holocaust.

Ditto the BNP which, neutral by policy to international conflict, is broadly supportive of Israel’s existence because it’s somewhere they can push Jews ‘back’ to.

So what’s best for the Jews? Well, if left alone, what’s best for the Jews is the same as any other group. A good start in life for children in disadvantaged families. Plenty of social housing will undercut support for the BNP in the hard times ahead. A balanced and clean economy. The dignity of good paid work. Reducing the gap between the poor and the middle, and ending the existence of a rich will be good for our emotional well-being and the environment. A universalist and ethical foreign policy. The NHS, particularly preventative health care. An older age which is as free of care as possible. Education for innovation, the best ballast in times of change. Renewable energy. Public transport. Conservation and a diverse ecosystem. Equal opportunities for minorities. The freedom and disappearing borders of the EU. A well-funded and free-thinking higher education sector. Avoiding a Conservative government.

So, better vote Labour in Ilford North. And hope that the Jews are left alone whoever gets in – Jews don’t deserve to feel uncomfortable for being Jewish in Ilford North.

Vote Labour. More from Ed – very respectable on climate change, Nick – a great piece, Bob who knows, Norm who’s wise, and Kellie who’s right.

Update: in fact I’m kind of getting it wrong. It is pretty significant that there’s no candidate in Ilford North who is, by my reckoning, ‘good for the Jews’. ‘Good for the Jews’ is a canary, I think.

Identity economics – why James Chartrand wears knickers

I’ve started accepting public speaking invitations. These are sufficiently few and tame that I can do this pretty much indiscriminately. I dislike and fear public speaking but I accept offers dutifully and solely because I myself love to hear from and read people, and I want those people to reflect the reality of the world I live in. And currently I am pissed off at the dominance of white men. The rest of us (and women make up the biggest group) are frequently omitted from panels, conference programmes, group blogs, and election night comedy specials alike. In my world, anyway. There are attempts to shift this intractable situation – The Bubble has unprecedented numbers of women comedians. The Guardian group. The Green Party.

Role models are important. (Having said that, I know a charismatic academic who is practically deaf and practically blind. He told me once how he turned down a request from a charity to be a sort of ambassador for young people with similar impairments. He said he didn’t want to perform as a role model. That is also fine.) Fortunately I have enough money; fortunately my milieu is benign to women even if it often forgets about us. I don’t have to fake masculinity to get a modicum of attention I can work with. James Chartrand of Men With Pens, on the other hand felt unable to out herself. Here’s her story (via Jennifer Brown Banks, via somebody else I can’t seem to find now…) and from it:

“I had high-quality skills and a good education. I was fast on turnaround and very professional. I hustled and I delivered on my promises, every single time. I worked hard and built the business, putting in long hours and reinvesting a lot of the money I made.

I really, really wanted to make this work.

But I was still having a hard time landing jobs. I was being turned down for gigs I should’ve gotten, for reasons I couldn’t put a finger on.

My pay rate had hit a plateau, too. I knew I should be earning more. Others were, and I soaked up everything they could teach me, but still, there was something strange about it . . .

It wasn’t my skills, it wasn’t my work. So what were those others doing that I wasn’t?

One day, I tossed out a pen name, because I didn’t want to be associated with my current business, the one that was still struggling to grow. I picked a name that sounded to me like it might convey a good business image. Like it might command respect.

My life changed that day

Instantly, jobs became easier to get.

There was no haggling. There were compliments, there was respect. Clients hired me quickly, and when they received their work, they liked it just as quickly. There were fewer requests for revisions — often none at all.

Customer satisfaction shot through the roof. So did my pay rate.

And I was thankful. I finally stopped worrying about how I would feed my girls. We were warm. Well-fed. Safe. No one at school would ever tease my kids about being poor.

I was still bringing in work with the other business, the one I ran under my real name. I was still marketing it. I was still applying for jobs — sometimes for the same jobs that I applied for using my pen name.

I landed clients and got work under both names. But it was much easier to do when I used my pen name.”

Read on. Anybody familiar with the work of the economist Tim Harford knows that this is a common-place state of affairs. We do it to each other and, as Adyita Chakrabortty describes in a Guardian piece ‘Is it impossible to end racism and sexism?‘, having internalised stereotypes to a frightening extent, we do it to ourselves.

But (and I note in myself these days an increasing Thought for the Day tone to my posts which must be tedious, reader, I’m sorry) it doesn’t have to be like this. At the very least we could get into the habit of thinking of ourselves as well-meaning individuals who subconsciously tend towards discrimination, and check ourselves when it comes to decision-making. That would include trying to avoid inviting (or voting for, reading, listening to)  women, darker skinned people etc because they are women or darker skinned. That a different kind of discrimination.

Separate to the discrimination faced by James Chartrand, a note on praise. Some people are dependent approval but it doesn’t help them improve or become independent. Other people will be so far gone that they suspect praise and attribute their successes to positive discrimination or political instrumentalisation, rather than to anything they can take credit for. Personally though, I am in favour of looking for reasons and opportunities to give a voice to people in social groups without much of a voice, so I consider this something to manage as an issue of self-esteem. Self-esteem isn’t quite what it seems though. What I know of the research literature on feedback suggests that compliments and praise can divert attention away from the task and onto the self. For somebody to improve at what they do, it’s usually the case that they need to focus on growth – on the task at hand – rather than their own personal attributes. So it’s good to give very specific analysis of the work, or performance, and not to make it personal. It may help to benchmark progress by comparing one’s current work with one’s work last month, or last year – an excellent piece of wisdom from Susan Greenfield which involves drawing on one’s own critical faculties rather than depending wholly on external validation.