Monday, February 28, 2011

From Larry Gambone's blog -
I have long thought that much of the trolling that goes on in progressive blogs was part of an organized campaign. For the simple reason, it would be easy enough to do. Just hire a bunch of people to write disruptive comments in blog comment sections. It seems there is even a term to describe it “internet astroturfing” See George Monbiot's article on this:

Gotcha, fleming.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

From the Angry Arab -
"What are the origins of the name of Qadhdhafi or Qadhdhaf Ad-Dam (his special envoy, Ahmad Qadhdhaf Ad-Dam who resigned from his post two days ago and defected). Apparently, the legend of the family is that they were pious Sufis who kept invoking God and qur'anic citations until blood came out of their mouths, hence the name: Qadhdhafi (spitter or emitter) or Qadhdhaf Ad-Dam (spitter of blood)."

So the legend goes. Gadhafi's tribe, the Qadhadhfa, claim descent from a marabout (missionary) named Sidi Musa Qadhaf-ad-dam (fl. early 17th century). However the name is said to be Berber in origin, Kathathfa*. The explanation of the arabised name is probably folk etymology.
The number of Muslim kindreds/population groups claiming descent from the Prophet (ashraf, saadat), or from Sufi mystics, awliya (saints) and Hijazi missionaries is legion.

*Earlier misspelling corrected.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Want to see a general with more brains and less gold braid and medals?"

Funny thing; the supreme commander of the victorious allied forces in Europe in World War II has so few medals compared to a press liaison officer.
Just imagine, if that joker went on parade wearing the actual medals instead of just the ribbons he'd be bent double.
"They keep showing that picture of Tony Blair shaking hands with Gadhafi. Gadhafi's never going to live that down."
Sandi Toksvig on "The News Quiz", BBC4.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Well if we didn't do it somebody else would, as they used to say at the Auschwitz staff meetings -
It turns out that, in 2009, we British sold 25.5 million euros' worth of military equipment to Gadhafi's Libya. Or at least we applied for the licences to export it.
This gear included 210,795 euros' worth of "chemical, biological weapons, tear gas, radioactive materials".

But that was in the bad old days of Labour government. Our current Prime Minister wants nothing to do with dictators. Unless, that is, they bear the additional title 'king', as in Sa'udi Arabia and Jordan. Emir is OK too, because Dave thinks it's Arabic for 'democrat'.

(via Angry Arab)
How to woo and win back your disaffected people - promise to turn their homeland into "a burning hell". Let's see if it works for Colonel President Gadhafi.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

We know that none of the “real money” hoarded by organized wealth will trickle down to us. That’s not the point. By taking away our rights to bargain, to negotiate, to discuss our working conditions, to fight for our jobs, to retain our dignity and to bestow hope on our children, organized wealth has left the post-union working class without pride or aspirations. We envy, revere, ogle and parrot the rich but harbor no illusions of ever becoming rich ourselves. We have become — as we were three centuries ago — peasants, beholden totally to the commands and caprices of “lords” who have no concept of how we live, who often wonder why we even bother to live.
We want you to give up. We know your defeat will not better our hopeless lives. We know that whatever shreds of wealth accrue to your destruction will go straight up the pipe to the lobbyists of K Street and the deposit boxes of Zurich. We know that you will get less, and we will get nothing. We know that, after promises by organized wealth that your sacrifices will save your jobs, you’ll lose your jobs — just as we before you were promised security and screwed the next morning… before breakfast.

From "An Open Letter to Public Employees and Their Unions, From Formerly Unionized Private-Sector Workers" by David Benjamin
From the Angry Arab -

Arming the Libyan Tyrant
"It is time when Western media cover Qadhdhafi's butchery that they produce a list of the last Western governments that signed arms deals with Qadhdhafi. These countries also have blood on their hand."


Monday, February 21, 2011

The revolving door again -
Lord "Poll Tax" Patten, former minister in the extremist Thatcher government, former chairman of the Conservative Party, is to become chairman of the BBC Trust.

Soon, Mr. Murdoch, soon.
Mu'ammar Gadhafi (Qadhdhafi, Gadafi, Ghadhafi, etc.) has decided that civil war is an option preferable to resignation.
Meanwhile, reading between the lines, it seems that the western establishments are hoping for a palace revolution, i.e., a murdering gangster they can do business with. British Intelligence people have in the past cultivated members of Mad Gad's inner circle, but such 'assets' are not likely to have a long shelf life.
The Libyan people may get rid of Gadhafi, but all that lovely oil will ensure that they are never rid of the influence of the advocates of 'stability'.
David (call me Da'ud) Cameron has flown out to Egypt carrying orders from the White House (one assumes). Or maybe he has heard about the Egyptian version of the 'Big Society', and he's going to learn.
First lesson, kick out the crooks who are running the country.
Second lesson, show how to get things done without the crooks.
Will Dave take the hint and resign, or do we need a beige revolution?

Update: since posting the above I've learned that the original purpose of Dave's Middle East trip was to lead a trade delegation of British arms mongers. What an opportunity! All those nervous dictators chewing their nails in their well guarded palaces.
Then Dave spotted another opportunity, a photo-op. Off to Cairo (not on the itinerary) and Tahrir Square where he was filmed shaking hands and producing soundbites involving the words freedom and democracy. Or was it progress towards democracy? Better not upset the army, potential customers.
Let's hope that Tantawi, who Dave was filmed cosying up to, doesn't order a massacre in the near future, but does order some of that tear-gas that Bahrain is not getting.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

He should have stuck to singing.
♫ Breaking up (organised labour) is so very hard to do ♫

I don't know - will it ever replace "E pluribus unum"?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Trying to sort out the Bahraini royal family and its rival factions. It seems that most of the government ministers belong to the Al Khalifa ('al-Khalifa', which I'm tempted to write is incorrect, it seems). This from an insider corresponding with As'ad, the Angry Arab -
"There is a split within the royal family. Khalid bin Ahmed and Khalifa bin Ahmed are on one side and the King and Shaikh Salman on the other. The extreme violence are Khalid Bin Ahmed (head of the royal court - sectarian and racist responsible for political naturalization scheme) and Khalifa Bin Ahmed (minister of defense). Sources are saying that the King no longer has full control. There are outside forces (I'm guessing Saudi Arabia) pushing for these two to take over and for Nasir Bin Hamed (one of kings sons) to take over position of crown prince."

So the king, Hamad bin Isa, and the Crown Prince, Salman bin Hamad, lead one faction, but "no longer have full control". However, since these details were aired the Crown Prince has ordered the army off the street and called for a day of mourning for its victims. Perhaps a sign of a shift in control of the situation. Perhaps the hawks have gone too far and been called to heel by Washington.
The "political naturalization scheme" is a policy of large-scale naturalisation of foreigners who are Sunnis in order to alter the ratio of Shia Bahrainis (70%) to Sunnis. By some accounts these foreigners are disproportionally represented in the rampaging army.
So the Sa'udis are grooming a younger son, by Hamad's second wife, to succeed Hamad and blow out Prince Salman. But as the House of Sa'ud is equally riven by factionalism it may be the Prince has allies there who make friends of their enemy's enemy.
One commentator has pointed out that this is not so much a revolt of oppressed Shia, as a revolt of the oppressed poor, who are overwhelmingly Shia. But the enemies of freedom will no doubt insist on depicting Bahrain's Shias as Iran's fifth column.

Afterthought (20th February): " ... hawks ... called to heel" - mixed metaphor there. How are hawks recalled? There's sure to be a term in falconry. Calling attack dogs to heel might be better in this instance. Who knows?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What he said -
"Global food prices are rising to dangerous levels and threaten tens of millions of poor people around the world."
(Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank)

What he didn't say -
"... though personally I couldn't give a toss."

Or perhaps I malign the fellow. He is on record as saying that rising food prices are "a threat to growth and stability". Now stability is paramount to bureaucrats and their paymasters. "Every stable government in history has depended on the resignation of the poor to being poor" (Félicité Robert de Lamennais). Growth, of course, is always good, promising prosperity for all - promising but never delivering. "Jam tomorrow" or maybe the day after. The oft repeated saying of the navvies in Patrick McGill's 'Moleskin Joe', "There's a better world a-coming, but we won't live to see it."

"Equally science-fictional is the belief that capitalism will finally get round to feeding the world. If the political left had promulgated such a transparent absurdity for as long as its opponents have peddled this lie, it would have been howled down without mercy."
(Terry Eagleton, 'The Gatekeeper')

Growth that seems to produce no benefits for the majority; stability that condemns that majority to economic insecurity. These are the priorities of Herr Kommandeur Zoellick and his World Bank.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Battle for Britain: Resisting the Privatization of the NHS and the Loss of 100,000 Jobs.
NEW TO ME (no.11)
Corporatocracy, used by one Barry Ritholtz on The Keiser Report (Russia Today) to describe the way in which the United States of America is (are?) governed. I've never heard it before, but the word has a wikipedia entry.
I don't favour Latin-Greek hybrids, but is there an all-Greek alternative? Syssomatomenocracy? Hardly rolls off the tongue, and probably doesn't have the same meaning anyway.
Bueaucracy, OK; corporatocracy too, I suppose.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services (CTUWS)- Honored the French Republic’s Human Rights Prize- is an Egyptian non-governmental organization established in March 1990 by some labor leaders and activists guided by their experience in the Egyptian labor movement. They vowed to meet the urgent need to form an independent organization that advances and supports the needs of workers in a democratic manner, provide direct support and services to the workers and fill the void created by the “official” trade union organization which failed to achieve its fundamental obligations.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"The Higher Military Council will also ban meetings by labor unions or professional syndicates effectively forbidding strikes, and tell all Egyptians to get back to work after the unrest that toppled Hosni Mubarak."

By their dealings with the organised working class shall you know them. Start where Hitler started, Global Capital will approve. The "liberal democracies" and their media mouthpieces will not demur.
Peace (sic) envoy and all-round huckster Tony Blair appeared on BBC 24 Hour News this morning to declare smugly that the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel is safe. Apparently he and some unnamed Egyptians have settled this. Three cheers for democracy.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Is Omar the Butcher really out of the picture? As'ad the Angry Arab thinks so -

Reflections on the (Possible) Revolution in Egypt
This is big: very big. I was talking to a friend earlier: this is possibly the biggest strategic shift in the Middle East since the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The beauty of it for dreamers (and its alarm for enemies like Israel) is that it is unpredictable. The biggest victory is that `Umar Sulaman is out of the picture now. Israel/US/Saudi Arabia were hoping that he would be the extension of Mubarak until some other clone of Mubarak is found. That was not meant to be. Don't get me wrong: US and Saudi Arabia will now rush with bags of gold and cash to influence all members of the military command council. The beauty of that is that there is no one person: it is a collective leadership (even if this rules for a transitional period) and the momentum of the Egyptian people will restrict their powers, notwithstanding wishes to the contrary by US/Israel/Saudi Arabia. One person in the council will emerge; we don't know who: and there will be leaks and back stabbing and plots and conspiracies. There will be chaos in Egypt: which is good. People will come from nowhere: don't memorize the news names of this developing news story: you will hear of new names soon. This is a big strategic development: if Tunisia affected Egypt: Egypt is destined to affect the entire region (unless you believe that the announcement of cash bonuses from the Bahraini King this morning was a pure act of charity. Israel is in deep trouble, as is the US; Egypt was an intelligence and sabotage center. The entire country and its dyamics are now unleashed on the word. There will be new ideas and new current and trends. Certainly, the freer the Arabs are, the more trouble for the US/Israel/Saudi Arabia. Read the statement of the Saudi foreign minister: he just yesterday remembered the justice of the Palestinian cause. There is panic in Arab ruling circles. I spoke to a dear Jordanian friend this morning: he was calling to congratulate me. I told him: I now think that I will finally see your farm in Jordan. Those who stood by the Egyptian uprising (the Arab people and Hizbullah--Hamas was too afraid to speak a word--and Aljazeera and Arab nationalists everywhere) will be in the good grace of the Egyptian uprising. And those who were opposed: the Wahhabi Arab liberals, Israel, House of Saud and its propaganda outlets will be in trouble. Let me put it this way: Saudi princes will not feel comfortable in returning to the brothels of Cairo anytime soon. The shock for Israel and US is double: not only is Mubarak gone, but so is Sulayman. The ouster of Sulayman ran against their scheme. I believe that Mubarak arranged for that (although the people insisted on it) to get back at the US. Leaving them to scramble. The good thing is that Minister of Defense Tantawi has the leadership skills of Joe (six pack) Biden. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 11, 2011

"Out in the Middle East
You can have a lot of fun"
(George Formby)

"Walk like an Egyptian"
(Liam Sternberg)

"The Kaiser goes, the generals remain"
(Theodor Plivier)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Now and again when online I take a look at the calendar at Daily Bleed. I should do it every day for my education and edification, and learn who was born, who died, who published, who rebelled, on this day; a sometimes useful, always entertaining source.
Today, I learn, Bertholt Brecht was born (1898), as was Alex Comfort (1920). This day in 1837 the immortal Alexander Pushkin proved that he was mortal by dying of his wounds - defending his wife's honour, explain's the Bleed. Too late, Sashenka, too late. And in 1354 the good citizens of Oxford made plain their opinion of students by killing some.
There's a bit of poetry too, Langston Hughes, Comfort.

I think I'll take a sneak preview of tomorrow's anniversaries.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Phil Ochs: There but for Fortune
I'm looking forward to seeing this film. I've been a fan for many years. I first heard the music of Phil Ochs 40-some years ago in a sly grog shop where the ale flowed freely, and the occasional drop of poitín was sampled. The taste for Phil's music outlasted the hangovers, and continues to this day.
Although he's best known for his anti-war and anti-racism songs my personal favourite from his work is "Changes".

Monday, February 07, 2011

I read that some Tahrir Square protesters who have returned to their homes have since disappeared.
Figures I heard over the weekend; the US Superbowl on TV comprises 60 minutes of 'football' and 47 minutes of advertising. I was thinking, what a relief that the Yanks have never taken to real football, the world game. But reading here, I learn that our game's unsuitability to commercial break overkill is the main reason vested interests have shut it out.
I remember hearing that, when football (non-American) was first broadcast on US TV (early seventies?), the players were under orders to kick the ball into touch every five minutes or so, so the station could slip in a quick commercial. That must have been compulsive viewing.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The revolution in Egypt erupted like all revolutions do, from the bottom up. It was unemployment and high food prices that propelled working and poor people into action. Now, the media reports that the "opposition" in Egypt is a group of well-to-do folks who have very little in common with the poor of Egypt.
This top down takeover of the revolution is being engineered with the support of the U.S. and European nations, the same "allies" of the dictatorship that lasted three decades. If this elite group of Egyptians manages to gain power, they'll soon find themselves confronted with the real opposition of Egypt, the overwhelming majority of working and poor people.
The only opposition group that is expressing the economic demands of the people seems to be the newly-formed Egyptian Federation for Independent Unions, which broke away from the government dominated unions to demand that a "... a minimum wage no less than 1200 LE, with a yearly raise proportionate to inflation; guarantee workers rights to bonuses and benefits according to work value, especially work compensation for those facing work hazards."
The right for all Egyptian citizens to fair social security including the right to health care, housing, education 'ensuring free education and syllabus development to cope with science and technology evolution,’ the right for all retired to decent pensions and benefits.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

An American official here said the hope was that Mr. Mubarak’s ultimate replacement would be someone who maintains the same historical appreciation for peace and relations with Washington. In other words, Mubarak’s successor must be, like him, an American stooge.
A Suleiman government would have an out-and-out criminal at its head. The Egyptian vice president—appointed to that post only last week by Mubarak—is better known as the chief of Egypt’s notoriously brutal security apparatus. He is directly responsible for the torture of thousands of political prisoners, a role for which he was especially prized by the CIA, which regularly shipped prisoners to Egypt for treatment that could not be administered in Guantanamo Bay or the agency’s own network of secret prisons.
If Mubarak is replaced by a caretaker regime based on the military, both the Obama administration and the American media will swing behind the new rulers, vilifying all popular opposition as "terrorism" and endorsing the bloodiest measures of state repression.
Far from representing a concession to the democratic demands of the masses, such a regime would represent a carefully constructed roadblock. It would cement the role of the Egyptian government as a servant of US imperialism, collaborator with Israel, and enemy of the Palestinian people and the oppressed masses of Egypt itself.
"Multiculturism has failed, so I'm backing the English Defence League. These Muslims, or terrorists as I prefer to call them, must learn our British ways; binge-drinking, bad manners, snobbery. A real touch of class involves trashing restaurants, but that level of Britishness may take time.
"Well that's my take on multiculturalism, now for culture proper. When I hear the c-word I reach for my Purdy. So I'm going to close all libraries, places in which oiks get ideas above their station. I'm going to dispense with universal education, which is no longer needed. We can leave the narcotising and indoctrination of the masses to Simon Cowell and Rupert Murdoch, whom God preserve."

Not quite what David "no longer Dave" Cameron said, but he's a politician and his speeches have to be decoded.
Craig Oliver, Cameron's new bullshit disseminator, replacing the fugitive from "justice", Andy Coulson.
So the revolving door connecting the BBC and the Conservative Party is still revolving.

Friday, February 04, 2011

It looks like Globocop has has settled for Omar "the Torturer" Suleiman as the next brutaliser of the Egyptian people, sidelining Mohammed "Who?" el Baradi'i. This brings them in line with the Israelis and Mubarak himself. So all that is needed for completion of the "orderly transition" is a stick of dynamite under Mubarak's tochus (literally or metaphorically), and a restoration of order, i.e., a small scale bloodbath and a round-up and disappearance of the more vocal dissidents.
Then Washington will be happy, Tel Aviv will be happy, and the Egyptian people will fall silent. Their silence will be interpreted as contentment.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A fellow worker has just drawn attention to an article by Professor Keith Ewing which had escaped my notice -
Last week Vince Cable, the secretary of state for business, innovation and skills, produced a disgraceful document entitled "The employer's charter", proudly published on his departmental website.
In the same week that the governor of the Bank of England told us inflation-adjusted wages were falling in a manner unseen since the 1920s, Vince Cable is inciting bosses to take advantage of workers' vulnerability, by telling them in his charter that they have the right to ask their workers to take a pay cut, and to contact women on maternity leave about when they are planning to return.
Apart from the unnecessary nastiness of this initiative, it does provoke thought about what a corresponding workers' charter would look like, in a country where employers are constantly moaning about the great regulatory burden they face.

Vince Cable, what a piece of work! I think 'work' was the word I was looking for.

The Employer's Charter
(AKA Vince's Vindictive Vomitus) -

As an employer - as long as you act fairly and reasonably - you are entitled to:

ask an employee to take their annual leave at a time that suits your business

contact a woman on maternity leave and ask when she plans to return

make an employee redundant if your business takes a downward turn

ask an employee to take a pay cut

withhold pay from an employee when they are on strike

ask an employee whether they would be willing to opt-out from the 48 hour limit in the Working Time Regulations

reject an employee’s request to work flexibly if you have a legitimate business reason

talk to your employees about their performance and how they can improve

dismiss an employee for poor performance

stop providing work to an agency worker (as long as they are not employed by you)

ask an employee about their future career plans, including retirement

Of course this is just a bit of self-promotion by the Vile Vince. There can't be many employers in the UK who don't know all this already, who don't put all the above into practice. Why, many employers in this country wipe their arses on employment law on a regular basis, knowing that they won't be prosecuted.
All Vince is doing here is saying, "Just because I'm called a Liberal-Democrat don't think that I have a conscience. I despise the working class as much as any power-mad manager or gaffer."
A brief explanation from the Angry Arab.

Baltaji: etymology of a Mubarak goon
The standards word used by Egyptian (and Arab) media for the armed goons of Mubarak is the word "baltaji" (بلطجي)
The word is one of those structured during Ottoman times where an Arabic word is mixed with a Turkish form: as in Qahwaji (for coffee person) or `Arbaji (a cart operator or sais--the latter is from the Arabic sa'is, probably borrowed from Crusades' times), etc. Balta is a small ax, so a baltaji (or baltachi in the Turkish pronunciation) is somebody who wields a small ax.

My dictionaries tell me that fas (or fa's?) is the Arabic for axe, that balta is the Turkish. So the word baltaji looks like pure Turkish (spelt 'baltaci' in Turkish). That -ci (or -ji) suffix is very handy - demir, 'iron', demirci, 'blacksmith'; ekmek, 'bread', ekmekçi, 'baker'.

Addendum, 4th Feb:
It appears from this posting on TGIA's blog that the plural of baltaji is baltajiyyah, Arab style, though the Egyptians do their J to G pronunciation. I believe that the Turkish plural would be baltacilar.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

So now we know the gameplan. Obama calls on Mubarak to organise an "orderly transition" (no hurry, Hoss). Mubarak recognises the hint to cling on to power, and declares his intention to do so.
Then he sends in the heavy mob. Welcome back, runaway cops - civilian dress, a nice touch. The army turns its back on the people who put their trust in it. Now only the strong man Mubarak can restore order. Order sí, transition NO.

From As'ad AbuKhalil -
"As soon as I saw the defiant tone and substance of Mubarak's speech, I realized that he is not speaking for himself but for the US/Israeli sponsors. . . . I just read the speech by Obama: it confirmed my suspicion, that basically Mubarak was permitted by the US to do with the Egyptian people as he would like. Every drop of blood that is spilled in Egypt from this day onwards should be blamed on Obama because he has embraced this new strategy of letting Mubarak defy the popular will of the Egyptian people. I don't trust the Egyptian army: the top brass is handpicked by the US/Israel and can be easily bought off by a combination of bribes, gadgets, and perks. . . . The speech by Obama was a not-so-coded language that let Mubarak do what he wish: the talk about transition means that he was basically told to stay in power, because Israel really freaked out at the prospect of Egypt without Mubarak. . . . Make no mistake about it: this could be like the 1953 Operation Ajax in Iran. The US is now arranging for a coup against the will of the Egyptian people."