DAY 40

April 26th, 2013 § 0 comments



These posts haven’t had enough ‘high art’ lately, readers have been complaining – maybe rightly. This painting by the Master of the Jug and Bottle was prompted by a ride on the 271 bus today, passing – you know it? – the Estorick Gallery in Canonbury, which is just ending a show of some of the great man’s little etchings. Better hurry… You can sit in the Islington calm and meditate on the assorted pots and views of Bologna; and then have a coffee outside in the garden. And do the crossword and forget the six junk good cause appeals, from forcing Amazon to pay tax to saving bees, who have been flooding the inbox demanding that you should click and save.

But I’ve ranted enough on this subject before. In case you haven’t heard, Samer Issawi has ended his hunger strike – see his letter.


Samer Issawi (from the Morning Star)

On the other hand, that tragic driven heroine Theresa May (I think of Captain Ahab) is still trying to find a way of sending Abu Qatada back to be tortured in Jordan. You’ll certainly have been wishing, as I have, to locate the latest on repressive minister v. radical cleric, or ‘Omar Othman AKA Abu Qatada v. SSHD’ – it’s been going on for the best part of ten years. The online judgment by the Master of the Rolls – about 15 pages – is here, for other immigration law addicts (hi guys!).

In an appeal in a different medium, I asked my readers to get out on the streets; and, as good as my word, I’ve found something for you to do which will involve some discomfort unless you live in Lincoln (maybe even so). War on Want is organizing an action for my favourite cause, protesting drones; for what to do and where to go see here

Join us on 27 April at RAF Waddington

War on Want’s report  The Great Game: The reality of Britain’s war in Afghanistan accused the government of engaging in a dirty war in Afghanistan, using drones – equipped with 500lb laser-guided bombs, and Hellfire missiles turning the country into one of the most militarized places on earth.

Drones have become the latest weapon of choice in the so-called war on terror. Operated far away from conflict zones, drones make it much easier for politicians to launch military strikes and order extrajudicial assassinations without democratic oversight or accountability to the public.

Britain initially deployed unarmed drones in Afghanistan, but they were quickly equipped with 500lb laser-guided bombs and Hellfire missiles.  Today, Britain has several different types of armed and surveillance drones in Iraq and Afghanistan and others in the production or development stage. The government is developing drones at BAE Systems and using Reaper drones bought from the US. It is also leasing Israeli drones for use in Afghanistan while awaiting completion of a new British surveillance drone called Watchkeeper. Contract for the Watchkeeper was awarded to Israeli company Elbit and its partner company Thales UK.

Drones are indiscriminate weapons of war that have been responsible for thousands of civilian deaths. Rather than expanding the UK’s arsenal, drones should be banned, just as landmines and cluster munitions were banned. Now is the time to stop the rise of drone warfare – before it is too late.

Returning to the subject of ranting, if I’d ever left it, I was upset when a friend (well, he used to be a friend) accused me of intolerance the other day. I went through an introspective moment and asked myself how many things I really couldn’t stand. Having owned up to Wagner, Rubens, dogs, neoliberalism and Marmite, I found myself getting sidetracked down a long list of foods other than Marmite which we could really do without from tinned tuna to Granny Smiths to most tomatoes particularly the hard English ones. I tried to counterbalance this defect with a fondness for brains, tripe, haggis, rollmops and that delicious Greek way of cooking sheep’s intestines on a spit called kokoretsi;
kokoretsibut it would be illogical to suppose that there’s a calculus of tolerance that works in that sort of Benthamite way. I’ll have to go back to AA’s Step 4 – the searching fearless moral inventory – add the intolerance in, and make amends.

More for the Home Office: it’s good to see Jackie Kay has written a poem for asylum-seekers. I’ve taken it from an article in the Scotsman, in full here.


You were found in the snow in Glasgow

Outside the entrance to Central Station.

Your journey took you from an Ethiopian prison

To the forests in France where luck and chance

Showed you not all white men are like the men

In Roots – a film you watched once.

The people smugglers didn’t treat you like Kizzy

Or Kunta Kinte, brought you food and water by day,

Offered you shelter in a tent, and it was sanctuary.

And you breathed deep the forest air, freely.


But when you were sent here, Glasgow,

In the dead winter: below zero, no place to go,

You rode the buses to keep warm: X4M, Toryglen,

Castlemilk, Croftfoot, Carbrain, Easterhouse

Moodiesburn, Red Road flats, Springburn,

No public fund, no benefit, no home, no sanctum,

No haven, no safe port, no support,

No safety net, no sanctuary, no nothing.

Until a girl found you in the snow, frozen,

And took you under her wing, singing.


Oh… would that the Home Office show

The kindness of that stranger in the winter snow!

Would they grant you asylum, sanctum,

For your twenty-seventh birthday?

On March 8th, two thousand and thirteen,

You could become, not another figure, sum, unseen,

Another woman sent home to danger, dumb, afraid,

At the mercy of strangers, no crib, no bed,

All worry: next meal, getting fed, fetching up dead.

And at last, this winter, you might lay down your

sweet head.

To maintain the highbrow tone: here is that lovely madrigal by Carlo Gesualdo, Italian ‘nobleman, lutenist, composer, and murderer’ (Wiki), ‘Moro, lasso al mio duolo’.

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