Saturday, March 28, 2009

A treat for all Nick Cohen fans

He's sometimes referred to as the former left-wing journalist Nick Cohen on account of his heresies on notable subjects such as the Iraq War and grammar schools. I think the pugnacious Cohen actually delights in his ability to disgust the comrades. I would say that like Christopher Hitchens on whom he self-consciously models himself, he's always up for an argument. But for all that he enjoys causing controversy he's less inclined than his journalistic hero to debate his views; Cohen usually gets bored with an argument within a minute or so and stalks off back to the comforts of the bar. I don't want to sound too critical of him; when he's on form, Nick Cohen can be damn good company. He's witty, erudite and has an incredible ability to infuse conversations with atmosphere, peppering them with historical references and literary curios. He is, like me, a fan of that master storyteller, Isaac Bashevis Singer. More importantly, despite the carping of his detractors, Cohen remains one of the best columnists in British broadsheets today.
Anyway, here he is, causing a bit of a rumpus at the recent Orwell Prize. Notice, as the camera moves direction, the strategically placed bottle of wine on the table in the foreground. At some point, Peter Hitchens, who's clearly been twitching with annoyance throughout, intervenes from the audience with some cutting remarks. This isn't quite Nick as we all know him and love him; by his standards he's really quite restrained. Enjoy!

Hat Tip: the excellent Splintered Sunrise (there must be something in Ulster water, Norn Iron seems to produce some of the most consistently brilliant writers on the blogosphere).

BTW My fellow left-footers - and yes, that includes you, Joanna Bogle - should check out Splintered Sunrise's elegant post, Department of the Bleeding Obvious

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Diane Abbott's bad szmaty day

What is that thing Diane Abbott is wearing on This Week right now? She's in this ghastly brown trouser suit and the top is so unflattering; it gives her bosom drag and shows up a rolling section of flab around her midriff. She's topped it off with an ill-advised velvet jacket which looks like something from a Cadbury's Christmas special offer. Yeugh! Can someone please get her out of these szmaty, these okropne flaki and put her back in that fabulous black glittery number she was so resplendent in some months back?

A glass of shiraz and summat to puff on

A few weeks ago, the aforementioned Jim Denham posted a spoof apology to Richard Seymour on his blog. Richard Seymour is the author of The Liberal Defense of Murder, a corruscating indictment of the role of the "Decent Left" in the Iraq War. Under his nom de plume, "Lenin", he also happens to be the most brilliant writer on the blogosphere today. I say this particularly to my North American and Polish readers who may well have a few prejudices about concepts such as communism - take a look at Lenin's Tomb. One can only consider oneself a fully-formed radically orthodox Catholic if one has an appreciation of Marxism. Got that?

A glass of shiraz and something to smoke

I hate gossip as you know but speculation is rife that Eccleston Square's very own bĂȘte noire is leading a double life. In public he's the waspish scourge of sandalistas and careerist monsignore everywhere but behind closed doors, so the rumour goes, he transforms himself into the keeper of the true Shachtmanite faith and thundering scourge of Islamofascist reactionaries.
Who does this remind you of? (The reference to Melanie Phillips is a big giveaway).

You may have wondered, at times, whether the Guardian-Islamist entente cordiale was a figment of Melanie Phillips's imagination. Well, wonder no more. Today's Guardian leader on the Government's counter-terrorism strategy is sprinkled with little clues that the multiculturalists have won their battle with the secularists at the newspaper.
The editorial thinks Hazel Blears was wrong to cut ties with the compromised and self-important Muslim Council of Britain. (So do several of Ms Blears's cabinet colleagues, whose views are reflected in the leader.) "It is not up to ministers whom Muslims choose as their spokesmen," says the newspaper. (Actually, it's not up to ordinary Muslims, either.) Also, it's glad that the Government doesn't regard support for Sharia law as an indication of extremism because, as we all know, there's nothing extreme about Sharia, is there? Likewise, it's good that there is no conflation of "Islamism" (note: not Islam) and terrorism - what an absurd notion!
But my favourite phrase from the leader is its reference to the Istanbul Declaration, an anti-Zionist document endorsed by the Muslim Council of Britain. The declaration rants on and on about the "Zionist Jews ... the Zionist Jewish occupiers ... this malicious Jewish Zionist war over Gaza."
The Guardian's judgment? The document made "a slip into racialised language in relation to the Jewish state". Yes, that's right: it must have been a slip of the tongue. These things happen.
Consider the evidence:
They both think the Grauniad has been taken over by the forces of darkness.
They both have strong views on Jihadism.
They both have strong views on the Middle East.
They have both called for Rowan Williams' resignation.
They are both controversial.
They both have links to Max Dunbar.
They both think a good dose of Western Values has never done anyone any harm.
They are both noted bon viveurs.
They both blog best late at night.
There are just too many similarities to be purely coincidental. I mean has anyone ever seen Jim Denham and Damian Thompson in the same place at the same time?

Honeyball Latest

It seems as though she's been called in for a ticking off.

Given that it is all hands to the pump for Labour, the last thing Gordon needed was a religious controversy weeks before a major election. Tony, in office, didn't do religion. Out of office, he does it all the time. Perhaps he was right to observe the distinction. At the centre of this particular disagreement is Mary Honeyball, the London Labour MEP who complained of Tony's "aggressive Christianity" and dubbed the Catholic church "an extreme Christian organisation". Blogging on, she said: "Faith is and should remain exactly that - a personal eccentricity, not something to be forced on others in any way." Which is fair enough for the many secularists, but hasn't gone down well with some of her colleagues and has unnerved higher-ups in the party. "She has no place in the Labour party because she demeans the beliefs of many who selected her and voted for her," says Catholic MP Jim Dobbin. "What Mary Honeyball does not seem to realise is that many people seek to become politicians because of their Catholicity," adds the usually cheery Stephen Pound. She is already contrite, we understand, but no wonder she has been summoned to explain herself at a meeting this week with party chiefs. There are a lot of voting Catholics.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Venomballs (an occasional series ...)

Yes folks, she's back!

(Did you think she'd ever gone away?)

And this time, raving on about - what else? - us pesky left footers again, the old girl's in typically rancid, barking mad form.
By now I think we know her script by heart but here's a quick refresher:
The anti-Catholic bigot in chief's latest salvo against the infernal Roman menace on Labourlist is a workaday remix of the same old fraggle-juiced tunes. You'd know it was written by her even without seeing her blogger byline above it; the banality of her paranoia is perfectly expressed by her characteristic flat, droning, made-for-a-parking-ticket prose style.
In a post entitled Tony Blair's aggressive Christianity (no, you're not imagining it, she really thinks so) Honeyball describes the Roman Catholic Church as an "extreme Christian organisation", objects to it having lobbied against the HFE Bill and implies that by doing so, it has attempted to impose itself on other people.
Back in summer when she stormed the crackpot bigot scene, a diverse array of horrified Labour figures, including MPs Jim Dobbin, Stephen Pound, Peter Kilfoyle and David Taylor, Lord Brennan and councillors Theo Blackwell and Luke Akehurst expressed their dismay at her anti-Catholic antics. Jeremy Corbyn MP also decried her personal attacks on Conor McGinn. Some of us in the Labour Party were of the view that she was unfit for office.
But I might just be changing my mind about that.
Mainstream politics is very virtuous these days. The leaders of all the main political parties are keen to show that how modern, diverse 'n' vibrant they are, how utterly opposed they are to any form of prejudice you care to name.
That's all to the good of course. Most of us plod on with our diverse vibrant lives, feeling personally fulfilled and included in life's rich tapestry. But what about the ordinary, everyday bigot, the kind of person who feels excluded, marginalised and unloved by the major political parties? What about the kind of person who thinks Catholics are alright as navvies but have no damn business getting jumped-up ideas about political engagement? Such people may be few in number, they may be antiquated, they may even be deeply unattractive but my friends, don't they deserve to have someone in public life they can call their own?
That's where Mary Honeyball comes in.
She is their high-pitched voice in the corridors of power, their rotound bulb of hope, their chubby suburban fuzzbomb. Dumpy little Venomballs is the bigots' champion.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Silencing the Islamic nightingale

Interesting piece by William Dalrymple in the Obs on two very different approaches to Islam

Rahman Baba, "the Nightingale of Peshawar," was an 18th-century poet and mystic, a sort of North West Frontier version of Julian of Norwich.
He withdrew from the world and promised his followers that if they also loosened their ties with the world, they could purge their souls of worries and move towards direct experience of God. Rituals and fasting were for the pious, said the saint. What was important was to understand that divinity can best be reached through the gateway of the human heart - that we all have paradise within us, if we know where to look.

At Attock, not far from the shrine of Rahman Baba, stands the Haqqania, one of the most radical madrasas in South Asia. Much of the Taliban leadership, including its leader, Mullah Omar, were trained here, so I asked the madrasa's director, Maulana Sami ul-Haq, about what I had heard at Rahman Baba's tomb. The matter was quite simple." Music is against Islam," he said. "Musical instruments lead men astray and are sinful. They are forbidden, and these musicians are wrongdoers."
Nor were Sami's strictures limited to the shrine's music: "We don't like tomb worship," he continued. "We do not pray to dead men, even the saints. We believe there is no power but God. I invite people who come here to return to the true path of the Qur'an. Do not pray to a corpse: Rahman Baba is dead. Go to the mosque, not to a grave."

I don't want to make too sectarian a point here - no, honestly - but you know what this stark tubthumping version of Islam with its objection to praying to saints, rituals and music reminds me of? Sixteenth Century Calvinism, that's what. There are many people in the west who have expressed a desire for an Islamic reformation. I say they should be careful what they wish for.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

But while we're about it Mr Harris

You sort of have a point but on the whole you don't because you've got it the wrong way up because you're just talking about young women and don't give a thought to the men. And there's nothing necessarily wrong with women having children young either. But Monie Love puts it far better than me, so here she is explaining why we're Born to B.R.E.E.D: Build Relationship where Education and Enlightenment Dominate. Sounds very Nu Labour, so sing along.

So who are you to tell me how to run my family
I can plan it by myself, I need nobody planning me
Cause yeah I might be young, but my stability's correct
Everything about my little one I must protect
What she sees, what she hears, and everything surrounding
A decent state of mind is what my daughter will be found in

This could be the anthem of a hot dang new pro-lifeism.

Just because ...

I really ought to write something in response to Tom Harris's pained piece about Broken Britain and hit him with some pertinent points about just how effing crap the government's Teenage Pregnancy Strategy has been but you know what? I can't be bothered to. Not now anyway.

I don't want to think about neurotic anti-natalists with their twisted vision of bulimic sexuality.

I want curvy sensuous odalisques, I want young women like ripe plums bursting with juice and fecundity, I want the naughty naif balancing precariously on her first pair of stilettoes.

I want some bling.

I want