"All things are wearisome, more than one can say." - Ecclesiastes 1:8

Friday, February 25, 2005

Manasarovar

I received an e-mail from Anup Kurian, the writer/director of Manasarovar (click on the link, it looks cool) asking to plug his film, which I'm more than happy to do.

Manasarovar was made for about £20 000 on a 16MM camera bought
from E-Bay and has won many awards and participated/selected in
prestigious festivals.

- Aravindan Puraskaram for Best Debut Director in India
- Gollapudi Srinivas National Award for Best Debut Director in India
- Official Selection - London Film Festival 2004
- Opening Film, Indian Panorama, International Film Festival of India, Goa, 2004
- Best Film and Special Jury Prize, International Film Festival of Mumbai, 2005
- Fukuoka International Film Festival, Fukuoka, Japan, 2005

The film is showing at the GFT on Sunday February 27, 2PM and on Monday February 28, 8.45PM.

If the Glasgow screening attracts a good crowd, it'll help get extra bookings in the UK so if you're free either Sunday afternoon or Monday night, check it out.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Legality of the Iraq war

The Guardian carries again today more on the legal case for the invasion of Iraq and specifically the role No. 10 had in it. Like Norman Geras, UN-based legalism was not the decisive issue for me when choosing whether to support the war but as he points out, in a situation where legal opinion was divided, the argument that says "unless you agree with our side about what's legal, it must be illegal" is dubious to say the least.

Also dubious was the way in which the UN argument was picked up by some critics of the war, as they were/are clearly being disingenuous. In my mind, there are two front-runners in the "most hypocritical position" prize in relation to this issue - and I can't quite decide who should win.

A strong contender would be the Stop the War Coalition, which in Scotland had its position articulated by, among others, Tommy Sheridan of the SSP - the Scottish left's answer to Kilroy-Silk's impressive sun-tanning achievements. With eyes shining with the burnish that only comes from moral certainty, Mr. Sheridan appeared on Scottish TV news several times condemning the war on the grounds of its illegality.

So, if a second resolution had been forthcoming, he would have supported it?

Er, no - the time before that, Mr. Sheridan took to the streets with the usual suspects to demand that the Taliban should be spared - despite the fact that this action had been blessed by the hallowed Security Council.

However, the UN bit notwithstanding, at least he's consistent when it comes to military action: the rule is, it's always bad if the US and/or the British government are involved - and even when they aren't, it's our fault anyway.

The position of the Liberal Democrats is more difficult to follow. Charlie Kennedy said voters should use the European elections as a referendum on the government's handling of Iraq. The Lib Dems - Charlie explained - should be the beneficiaries here because of their "principled opposition to the war".

The principle being, you might think, that the Security Council hadn't given its blessing?

But no - neither did the Kosovo campaign, and they backed that. They then tried to capitalise on Iraq after Abu Ghraib - conveniently forgetting that Afghanistan hasn't been exactly a blemish-free occupation.

Perhaps we can look forward to the self-righteous Menzies Campbell perform a self-criticism for backing the overthrow of the Taliban - after he explains what was the principle on which the Liberal Democrats opposed the invasion of Iraq?

Marches may be banned in Glasgow

Glasgow City Council is considering plans to either ban or re-route sectarian marches in the city if they've been "the focus of public disorder in the past".

Hmmm, there's the libertarian argument - and then there's the aesthetic one, the latter being more persuasive to me.

Last summer, I was walking through the city centre on a rare sunny day and saw the Orange walk pass through Buchanan Street on one of their practice runs.

An uglier outfit I have never seen.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Fascism, totalitarianism and theocracy

The late Isaiah Berlin, in his Two Concepts of Liberty, made the point that “liberty” is a concept that has become so “porous” that it seemed there was no meaning that it couldn’t bear. This was due to the positive connotations of the word; regardless of how actually illiberal a measure advocated by theorists, politicians and activists – it is presented as representing “real” liberty. (Nowadays, New Labour prefers to call its various illiberal measures “progressive”.)

The use of the above three terms is, I think, exactly like this – in reverse. For the polemicist, they are perennially attractive as a means of discrediting your opponent without having to engage fully with the arguments.

There has, as everyone knows, a long and ignoble tradition on the left of using the epithet “fascist” in this context. Having spread like a semantic virus, the inflation of this concept apparently knows no bounds: sometimes it would be used accurately, sometimes used to describe any undemocratic regime that was capitalist and sometimes simply used as a synonym for anyone or any regime even marginally to the right of Mao.

Regrettably, a new strain of the virus has appeared amongst those on the left who supported regime-change in Iraq. Regrettable because while I do think the Ba’athist regime was accurately described as fascist, it shouldn’t, in my view, be used to describe those who opposed the war; that didn’t make them “objectively pro-fascist” any more than supporting it makes me an “objectively pro-neocon, Republican oil-driller for Jesus”. You’re entitled to disagree but if so, do try to be consistent.

A contemporary example of concept inflation can also be found in the use of “totalitarian”, which in some cases seems to have become a synonym for regimes and movements that are merely authoritarian. Properly understood, this concept – developed by, amongst others – Hannah Arendt, holds that fascism and communism, rather than representing authoritarian regimes at the polar opposites of the political spectrum, have in reality more in common than separates them.

There are a number of reasons to be suspicious of the idea as it was originally presented: it was a Cold War concept designed partly to identify Soviet Communism as belonging to the same species as German National Socialism – the appeal of this to those on the American right being fairly obvious. Other criticisms include the notion that it is too static - practically useless, for instance, for the analysing the Breshnev-era stagnation.

There is some merit in this first point: being old-fashioned, I would argue that fascism is and was worse both qualitatively and quantitatively than communism. Historical examples, I think, show fascism to be intrinsically more unstable and is, therefore, much more likely to be territorially expansionist. Every believer in the totalitarian thesis knows – ironically in a Chomsky-esque fashion – that more souls died under Stalinism than German National Socialism. Well, yes – but Stalin was at it for that much longer, and the “body-count” approach usually fails to factor in the obvious point that, unlike WW1, who was responsible for the outbreak of hostilities in 1939 isn’t questioned by any serious historian. Fascism is also qualitatively more wicked; surely everyone agrees that the fascist utopia – in the German case, a world free from Jewry – is intrinsically more repulsive than the objectives conceived by Stalin in the first five-year plans?

However, while resisting the complete conflation of the two, the concept is not without its uses - for communism and fascism do indeed share a number of features and describing these as “totalitarian” is as good a word as any. In any event, it was never solely a right-wing concept: although I’m not sure if he ever used the actual term, George Orwell developed the idea most famously in 1984 in which he identifies some of the most crucial features of totalitarian regimes. We have the party, a feature of totalitarianism everywhere, which is above all institution of the state and whose task it is to mobilise the population – rather than ensure their passivity, as in traditional authoritarian regimes. It’s not enough to obey Big Brother, O’Brien tells Winston; you have to love him. For the totalitarian, the citizen must believe – and it’s here that the relationship with religion is interesting. Everyone knows Orwell’s targets were Nazism and Stalinism; less that the Catholic Church was for him the third great totalitarian institution of world history.

Which brings us to theocracy. Like the first two, this concept has suffered from a great deal of inflation recently and tends to be used to describe any situation where organised religion has any significant input into the political life of a state. But properly understood (as the rulership of priests), there is something intrinsically totalitarian about theocracy because just like 1984, in these states one is required to believe.

I’m not sure if I entirely agree with Orwell’s use of the Catholic Church. Its rule, while obviously stifling and reactionary, has often been characterised by the compromise and passivity that one normally associates with traditional authoritarian regimes. Although perhaps risky to say so in this part of the country, a much better candidate would be the rule of the Calvinists, as experienced in Geneva and, I regret to say, Scotland – at one time the most Calvinist country on the face of the planet bar none.

The rule of the Church of Scotland was proto-totalitarian in the way that the attempt to build the Holy Community was similar to other totalitarian experiments in that it atomised individuals and then reformed them into a community of believers, whose fidelity to the Faith is monitored as closely as possible with the best technology available. As T.C. Smout said, the innovation of the Reformation in Scotland was the novel idea that everyone was to be a religious virtuoso.

The history of the Church of Scotland is a good example of the ways in which religion, and politicised religion can be misunderstood. A number of features of the Calvinist tradition can be seen as “progressive”: the Church of Scotland was, for example, impressively democratic sometime before the British Parliament was elected by universal suffrage and it is very egalitarian in its government. It has no bishops or cardinals and it has had women ministers for many years.

But while I’d agree with the redoubtable Lenin that one shouldn’t consider all religion reactionary, I’d argue that when it expresses itself theocratically, it always is. And I’d argue further that this is always a danger because religion expresses itself this way as one of the three ways that salvation religions adjust to the fact that the world is evil: from Max Weber we have the idea that religion can either retreat from the world in a monastic, quietist sort of way; engage with it ascetically; or try and take it over theocratically. In the case of the Calvinists – option 1 was impossible because the Reformation abolished it; option 2 was attempted but failed - leaving only option 3, which it did, although was by that time succumbing to the forces of secularisation anyway. In all its historical incarnations, the Church of Scotland may have been relatively egalitarian but liberal it has never been and life in 17th century Scotland must have been absolutely intolerable. (I like the phrase I read somewhere that said "one could be forgiven for thinking that the purpose of the Reformation in Scotland was to eliminate purgatory by getting it over while they were still alive".)

Theocracy and religion need to be kept separate; the relationship with power is the crucial one and it should be understood from history how often religion has appealed to the powerless. Critics of religion and religious political movements like to dredge up blood-curdling verses from the Old Testament and the Koran in an attempt to expose the inner, oppressive nature of religion. But while differences in religious doctrine can be significant, I think this approach misses the point of theocracy for here power lies not with the oracle but with the priesthood and the scholars – who are the custodians of orthodoxy. The significance of theocracy lies in the social and political reality of being governed by those who make a claim to cognitive infallibility, rather – as some suppose – what the texts actually say.

And the crucial point which I think needs to be understood is that the basis on which people make this claim is not necessarily decisive. Whether your ruler does so because he thinks he’s in mystical communication with God, or the Volk, or the proletariat; or whether he thinks he has a unique understanding of Marx, or the Bible, or the Koran – the net result is much the same: tyranny, oppression, and a pile of corpses that stand as a monument to the attempt to build paradise with human material.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Skool Discipline part 2

The Scotsman carries this today, with the teachers' unions warning that Scotland's schools are facing "breakdown" after the Executive's own figures showed a shortage of almost 800 teachers, with around 335 posts remaining vacant for over three months. The problem is set to get worse : over 50% of Scotland's teachers are set to retire in the next ten years. If you consider that someone like me - replete with the grey hair, the alcoholism, and the distressed wardrobe - is inaccurately, but routinely, described as a "young man", you'll begin to appreciate the gravity of the situation.

Now, what could possibly be putting people off this wonderful and fulfilling profession? Perhaps it's this; not only are teachers apparently too knackered to pursue romantic liasons - it seems that our profession is a distinct disadvatage in the mating game, with 1 in ten women and 15% of men saying that their jobs have scared off potential partners.

More likely it's the actual conditions of the job. The Scotsman piece quotes James Douglas-Hamilton, the Tories’ education spokesman, as saying "the Executive will fail to retain teacher numbers while a school staff member is attacked every 12 minutes in Scotland".

Hmmm, the problem with these discussions is that they focus too much on the extreme end of the discipline scale. The rising incidence of teachers being assualted is of course a serious issue, which I'll return to in a mo' - but I think most teachers would agree it's all the low-level nonsense that we have to put up with on a day to day, period by period basis - this is what wears you down. Too much is taken up every day arguing about the basics. I mean, barring attendance, one could be forgiven for thinking that nothing - excepting obvious infractions of the rules, such as arson, murder etc. - is compulsory when it comes to education these days.

One of the most frustrating things about this job is the failure, so often, for teachers and their unions to make a left-wing case about some of this garbage we have to put up with. On the question of assaults against staff, for instance, although I don't have the data available I bet a majority of them have been perpetuated against female teachers. Although unscientific, that's certainly been my experience; of the seven teachers who have told me recently that they've been victims of assault, six of them have been women. The reason, as most observant teachers will tell you, is pretty straightforward: with so little in the way of formal sanctions, teacher discipline lies largely in the perception of the pupils towards them - and this is where sexist stereotypes can become self-fufilling; female teachers often have more problems because a significant number of their charges perceive them to be less disciplinarian before they've even walked in the classroom for the first time.

Now, if this has been raised by the EiS or SSTA formally, I apologise in advance but in my experience - at staff and union meetings convened to address this and the general problem of discipline - what one tends to get instead is the vocal contributions of the "he's alright when he's with me" brigade. For those of you who aren't teachers, I think you'd be unpleasantly surprised at just how many of my fellow professionals prefer to make themselves or their departments look good at someone else's expense, rather than stand by their comrades who might be struggling at the chalk face.

I don't hesitate in describing such people as part of the problem, particularly if they're in management positions - which they so often are. They're part of the problem because those who profess never to have any problems with a given class or pupil are often macho dickheads who are so thick that they don't realise their "techniques" can't be employed by the nearly 60% of our secondary staff who are women; because they are also often obsequious, ass-kissing functionaries who profess to care about the children when the only thing they care about is career-building; because those they pick on to make themselves look good are invariably those in the weakest positions - supply-teachers, probationers, students and so forth.

These people should be ashamed of themselves and desperately need to be challenged. It really gets up my nose when apologists for the on-going Lord of the Flies situation in our schools do so in the name of "equality" or "socialism". As far as I've been able to see, the policy of allowing a handful of badly-behaved pupils to routinely disrupt the learning process and paying a bunch of bureaucrats and wannabe social workers to spout low-grade management-speak to justify this in the name of "social inclusion" is at best a force for the status-quo; at worst it's actually exacerbating the situation.

Schadenfreude

When it was led by Ken Livingstone, the GLC got up the Thatcher government's nose with impressive regularity. For one, their high spending policies were anathema to Thatcher and her promise of Britain as a low tax paradise. Also, their attitude to personal and social education in London school was right out of some Daily Mail nightmare as their efforts to make education free from racism, sexism and homophobia earned them lurid headlines in that paper, as well as the Evening Standard and the Sun - the last of which dubbed him "Red Ken", a fully paid-up member of the "looney left".

The GLC was unquestionably a victim of Thatcher's wider war on local councils - and this period saw a number of measures which would be impossible in countries with constitutions that entrench local and regional government : the introduction of rate-capping, which imposed a financial straight-jacket on councils regardless of the wishes of the local electorate; Section 28, a homophobic central government intrusion into the classroom; the "right-to-buy" policy, popular certainly, but again an unwarranted incursion into the right of councils to manage their housing stock; and the abolition of the GLC itself, an event that demonstrates the elasticity of the British constitution to the astonishment of American and Continental observers who have to live with those pesky written constitution things.



But none of this means I have any sympathy for Newt-boy; he's a prat - always has been, is now and always will be and although it may not reflect well on me, I'm rather enjoying his present discomfort. Much has been written about his embrace of Al-Qarawadi. I've no interest in discussing further an issue that's been done to death elsewhere but I have to say that I'm quite sure that had Al-Qarawadi been a fundamentalist Christian, such was the atmosphere in the 1980s - Ken and his ilk would have been amongst the first to (noisily) denounce a meeting with someone with views like Al-Qarawadi's.

And now there's his unbelievably crass comments to a Jewish reporter of the Evening Standard. His excuse - that he was responding to the years of racism promulgated by the paper just doesn't wash. If he felt so strongly about it, perhaps he could explain how he came to be their restaurant critic for four years? (He also had a column in the Sun for a while, if I remember rightly - another paper not exactly renowned for celebrating the cultural diversity of Britain.)

But - while he should of course apologise - I certainly don't want to see him resign. I rather agreed with Simon Jenkins that our Ken adds to the entertainment value of political life in this country and if the presence of holocaust survivors at the meeting where Livingstone was called upon to apologise was an over-reaction, it's exactly the sort of treatment that Ken and his type were dishing out to anyone whom they decided fell short of their impeccably high standards of "tolerance" in local government and the voluntary sector during the 1980s.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

French scrap 35-hour week

As the living antithesis of the work ethic, I have to say that I'm disappointed by this news. I'd always drawn a certain amount of satisfaction that France - along with Germany and the USA - have consistently been near the top of the OECD's competitiveness index, without sacrificing their long lunches and holidays.

However, it isn't - as I've no doubt free-marketeers will argue - a resounding defeat for the so-called "European model". French workers, when they're not at lunch, are actually more productive on an hourly basis than the Americans or the British. While there are a number of possible reasons for this, I reckon it has a lot to do with what economists refer to as the "law of diminishing returns to the variable factor" and occurs when ever at least one other variable in the productive process is fixed. So, for example, adding ever increasing amounts of fertilizer to a field will eventually produce zero returns because at some point, what you need is more land.

Working hours are surely like this? I don't know if the average French man-hour is more productive because they have better technology than the Americans but surely part of the reason must be because the tenth hour in a working day is less productive than the second? This is certainly true in my case : second period, I'll smile sweetly, greet my class and say, "class - as you know, I see you as my 'internal customers'; what can I do to raise your attainment and socially include you?" - whereas, at the end of the day I'm more likely to say, "begone, disagreeable cretins - you are responsible for the decline of Western civilization".

Bad attitude? To this, I'd cheerfully confess. My defence? Lunchtime's too short, dammit!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The economics of Independence

Over at Independence, there is a discussion about the lethargic condition of the Scottish economy (bottom of the OECD ranking for competitiveness it seems) - and given that by "independence", we're talking Scottish nationalism, there's no prizes for guessing who the culprit is : Scotland's poor economic performance is all their fault - the omnipotent masters of economic destruction, the English.

I'm going to throw away all my old economic history textbooks because now I've seen the light; in this, and this post we have the revelation that economic performance is, apparently, solely a function of political independence.

All my life, I've been listening and reading arguments favouring a given political outcome, justified in the name of economic growth; proportional representation, devolution, strong local government, a large state, a small state, high levels of welfare, slashing welfare, membership of the EU and withdrawing from the EU have all been advocated in the name of higher economic growth - so I don't suppose one can blame the nationalists for doing the same. But these sorts of choices should be primarily civilisational - not economic.

Moreover, even if this argument isn't accepted, the simplistic equation of independence with economic success is, in any event, complete bollocks. It just takes two of the countries on the list here to demonstrate this : Hong Kong is number 6 on the list; when - pray tell - was Hong Kong independent? Or Ireland - Mr. Salmond's favoured example - it stands at number ten. Stuart Dickson has helpfully put the dates when various countries were made independent in brackets for the reader to draw the inference that the economic success of Ireland is due to the fact that she is independent where Scotland is not.

But you don't need to know too much about either economics or history to immediately spot the flaw here. Ireland gained its independence in 1921; does that mark the point at which the Irish economy - freed from colonialism - started to take off? Er, no : Ireland's relative economic success is dated much later, with growth particularly strong in the 1990s - so I think other factors have to be considered. (The same fallacy is used as an argument for joining the single-currency but, as with the independence argument, the dates simply don't fit.)

That Alec Salmond et al speak of the "Emerald Tiger" economy of Ireland should set off alarm bells because it was drawn from an expression used about economies such as Korea, Singapore, Japan etc. These examples were used by the right to argue for a range of reactionary measures such as privatizing welfare, draconian policing and, that perennial tory favourite, family values.

I argue for the union not on economic grounds but because, apart from anything else, I prefer belonging to a polity based on civility rather than ethnicity. Making arguments like these in this part of the world inevitably draw the accusation that you're suffering from the "Scottish cringe" from the more-Scottish-than-thou brigade.

The only sense in which I'm any less Scottish than anyone else is genetically; being as I am half-Scottish, quarter English and quarter Welsh. To use this against me would be a bit dodgy - and if you think that those cuddly non-racist, forward-looking, civic nationalists would never do such a thing, I regret to inform you that you'd be quite wrong...

Monday, February 07, 2005

Drugs are a class issue

There's been lots of stuff in the press recently about the use of illegal narcotics. Most commentators dismissed Sir Ian Blair's remarks about getting tough with middle-class cocaine users as impractical and silly but, while largely agreeing with this, his remarks were refreshing in one respect: drugs are too often like pornography, gambling, cars, and government money - the middle-classes only get worked up into a lather over these when the working class get their hands on them.

This can be seen, I think, in the reaction to the research published by the "Cally" recently, which showed what all of us with even a passing acquaintance with the drug culture knew already; not all heroin users become destitute house-breakers with HIV but that "results also showed that some heroin users can maintain occupations and achieve educational qualifications, which are comparable with the general UK population".

Shona Robinson of the SNP criticised the research - not on the grounds of its veracity - but because it was published at all. It seems here that it's just too risky to give the plebs information because quicker than you can say "moral panic", deranged neds from our housing estates - armed with the Cally's latest research - will then rush out to buy a half gramme bag and promptly kill themselves.

The patronising approach is done for the best of motives no doubt - but I agree with Matthew Parris, who argued that while drugs are certainly dangerous - so is the mendacious piety of so many politicians and pundits, and I speak - not as some naive libertarian - but as someone who has seen two of his contemporaries die as a result of the heroin explosion that hit Glasgow in the 1980s.

Both conservatives and libertarians need to grow up: the former have to accept that all societies from time immemorial have had consciousness-altering substances in some form; the latter that all societies have felt the need to control the use of these in some form or other. We're talking harm-reduction here - and the harm that needs to be reduced is not so much to do with the impact of the particular chemical on the health of the consumer but it's social effect. For example, following the Caledonian University's research, a number of people have pointed to the link between drugs and crime but depressingly, they tend to focus on how this affects middle-class neighbourhoods, rather than those Glasgow estates where the rule of law is but a faint rumour. I'm not one of those who pretends to know the solution but it has to be understood that the most significant criminal activity associated with drugs has to do with the fact that it's a multi-million pound illegal industry - rather than junkies stealing cars or shoplifting.

I'll close with a lyric from the great John Martyn (who's done a considerable amount of personal research of his own) that kept floating around in my head from the song Dealer while I was writing this: whether you're rich or poor, if you take any kind of drugs, "you're just the spit and polish on a fat man's shiny shoe. I believe they hate me for it; I believe I hate them too".

Friday, February 04, 2005

Iraqi trade union leader kidnapped

Got this e-mail from Gary Kent from Labour Friends of Iraq; the main content is as follows:


"The Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) denounced yesterday further attacks on one of its key leading elected officials. At 9:30am on Thursday 27 January 2005 a group of six gunmen using two cars broke into the main building of the Carton Board Manufacturing Company in Al Zafarania District of Baghdad and kidnapped Mr. Talib Khadim Al Tayee, President of the Iraqi Mechanics, Metalworkers & Printworkers Union(IMM&PU), after attacking him violently in front of workers.

Mr Talib Khadim was on union business with workers of the company when the gunmen attacked him, hitting him repeatedly on the head using the butts of their guns. They tied his hands and legs and kidnapped him, taking him to an unknown location. All this happened in front of workers, after locking away the company security guards in an office.

Mr Talib Khadim lives in Al Zafarania district. He is very well known there as a good community activist and a champion of workers' rights. Mr Talib is a brave patriotic Iraqi who put himself forward and was elected as President of the IMM&PU at the union's first open Conference on 31 May 2004 in Baghdad.

This latest criminal act, which targets trade union leaders and especially leading figures of the IFTU, was instigated by extremists who want to stop Iraq moving forward to embrace a new politics of tolerance, peace and democracy.

This criminal act is closely linked in its methods and its intentions to the recent brutal assassination of Hadi Saleh, the IFTU International Secretary.

The Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) declares that this criminal attack will not intimidate our workers' federation continuing its struggle to build an independent, democratic and open trade union movement.


The IFTU Executive Committee condemned the attack on a trade union official, declaring: "Disgrace and shame on the terrorists! Glory to the Iraqi working class!" and demanded the release of Talib Khadim and an end to terrorism against those brave patriotic working class fighters who are working to organise Iraqi workers.


The IFTU calls on all legal and labour movement bodies to urgently use all their means to demand the release of Talib Khadim our comrade."


Whether a trade unionist or not, ask yourself whose side are you on - then, if you want to send a message in support, click here.

Third Avenue

Can I heartily recommend this blog from an eminently civilised and gracious ex-pat in New York? For those of you familiar with the pro-war, anti-war ding-dong will find this a rare life-raft of reasonableness on the sea of invenctive that sloshes around the blogsphere - and those teaching the USA will find useful articles and links salient to that section of the course.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Iraqi Elections

In my previous post, I wrote: "I'm not overly optimistic but I'll dispense with my customary agnosticism and pray to god that on Sunday, more goes right with this election than not." Praise god - but I'm still agnostic, so I'll keep my fingers crossed as well.

The trashing of the election by the opponents of the war have been entirely predictable: turnout low; process not entirely free and fair etc. I've been off ill for a few days and, frankly, I'm too weary to deal with such tired cynicism in any detail. They do, of course, entirely miss the significance of this: despite opposing the occupation and in many cases, opposing the invasion; despite the chaos that is the post-war situation; despite the chillingly simple slogans, "you vote - you die" - it seems clear a majority of Iraqis have said no to the insurgency and yes to the possibility of democracy. With no such dangers, only a pathetic 59% turned out at the last election here and I won't even tell you what it was in the last elections for the Scottish Parliament because, frankly, I'm embarrassed.

Do you think George Galloway et al will drop their "support the resistance" line now that it's clear their rosy view of the "resistance" isn't shared by the Iraqi people?

Neither do I.
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