Archive for June 2007
I recommend that other bloggers publicise Blackwell’s threats against freedom of speech and her willingness to invoked the pernicious British libel laws.
The spectacle of age old Tories and political dinosaurs, such as Quentin Davies, joining the Labour Party should be slightly amusing, if it didn’t indicate how far to the right that Labour has shifted. Over the years, some four Tories MPs have joined Labour, none of them seemed particularly bothered by existing Labour Party policies, which is a bit surprising but then none of them have really broken with their Tory upbringing.
That noise in the background is Clement Attlee, spinning in his grave.
In the past, the Labour Party has had its fair share of ex-aristocrats, Oxbridge graduates and the odd military type, but the fact that these Tory reptiles can sliver a cross the floor of the House of Commons without a hostile comment is all the more remarkable. Well, it would have been until ten years ago, that is.
Years ago, on the Labour side, there would have been many heated objections into accepting these Tory odd fellows but under Blair’s rule that hardly matters.
Most of these Tories have joined for purely mercenary reasons, keeping their nice rural seats (or being parachuted into new ones), closeness to political power and nor forgetting the plus of their index-linked pensions.
Still, not that such concerns will unduly worry Tony Blair, and I would suspect that within a year or so Tony Blair will become Lord Blair of Dodgy Peerages. He will be able to strut across the international stage like the aimless and vacant individual that he’s proven to be in the past ten years.
One legacy of Tony Blair is to make the Labour Party a retirement home for Tory snakes and chancers.
The Labour Party, created by the trade unions and the force behind much of the modern Welfare State, has become the refuge of City bankers, Tory spivs and the embodiment of privatisation, a fitting tribute to Tony Blair.
“NAIROBI, 26 June 2007 (IRIN) – Violence in Sudan and Chad has placed at risk hundreds of thousands of civilians in northern neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR), Amnesty International has warned.
“The northern areas [of CAR] have become a free-for-all – a hunting ground for the region’s various armed opposition forces, government troops, and even armed bandits – some of whom come from as far away as West Africa to kidnap and loot in local villages,” the human rights watchdog said in a statement on 26 June.
In these areas, it noted, armed CAR opposition forces kill civilians who do not support or refuse to join them, while government troops kill civilians they accuse of colluding with the armed groups and burn down entire villages during reprisal attacks.
Preliminary findings of a recent study in the area, AI said, indicated a near complete vacuum of authority to protect civilians – allowing free rein to a host of armed actors.
“The entire area has become a cauldron of violence and fear – threatening to destabilise even further what is already one of the most unstable and dangerous areas in the world,” AI researcher Godfrey Byaruhanga said.
“Civilians are trapped in a lose-lose situation, with many so afraid that they are actually fleeing into Sudan, Cameroon and southern Chad – effectively moving from the frying pan into the fire out of sheer desperation,” he added.
According to AI, it met families whose children – some as young as three years old – had been kidnapped and held for ransom by armed bandits known as Zaraguinas or ‘coupeurs de routes’. “Some parents have had to pay a ransom of up to two million CFA Francs (US$4,000) for a child,” it noted.
“This situation is too dangerous and simply cannot wait,” said Byaruhanga. “The people of the CAR should not be left to live or die at the whim of the Sudanese or Chadian governments, especially when the government has agreed to the deployment of an international force.” “
The political and moral lethargy over these crises in Africa is truly unbelievable, humanity can send probes to Mars, land people on the moon and yet do very little, except expert hand wringing over the catastrophes in Africa.
Linux continues to steam on a pace, and the next alpha/beta release of Gutsy Gibbon (Ubuntu 7.10) should be out by the end of the week. This is the Gutsy Gibbon release schedule.
Whilst keeping an eye on new releases and distribution at DistroWatch, I have been astonished at the frequency of localised versions of Linux not least recently by a Nepalese, Vietnamese, Turkish and Persian.
Far too often do native English language speakers take for granted that software will be released in their language, first. We don’t appreciate the time delay, the lag, between a new piece of software coming out (say Office xxxx) and when that particular software is localised for the developing world, with Microsoft that can take months, if not years.
So it is excellent that the developing world is able to use the latest localised Linux software, free from constraints imposed by Microsoft.
The debate to boycott Israel rolls on, and Dave Osler recently covered the issue and made some genuinely pertinent points. Readers might care to see from the comments (some 237) that the proponents of the boycott had difficulties making a logical and reasoned case for their own strongly held views. This was all the more surprising given that many of the most vocal and active pro-boycotters apparently have had years of political experience, expensive Oxbridge education’s and are well versed in marshalling an argument.
There are many stimulating points within the comment box, not least the asinine defence of China’s conquest of Tibet, but I hope to return to some of those issues later.
One frequent accusation is that the anti-boycotters are trying to smear or imply that the pro-boycotters support anti-Jewish racism or are in someway connected to antisemitism.
I have to admit that I’ve change my mind on this issue and now I think that there is little purpose trying to determine from afar the motives of the pro-boycotters, other than asking them very pointed questions and hoping that they will be honest about their true intent.
But that point set me thinking:
I wondered how hard would it be to find some “inadvertently” links between pro-boycott web sites and nutjob neo-Nazis.
If we’re to believe critics of the anti-boycott case, it should be very hard to find any linkage.
After all, we are led to believe that nearly all of the pro-boycotters are antiracist, and the reason for boycotting Israel is to help the Palestinians, not to attack Israelis, and certainly not to attack Jews.
So testing out that hypothesis, was it be hard to find any linkage between pro-boycott web sites and barmy neo-Nazis?
Surprisingly, it wasn’t.
Using google and a few clicks, it was fairly easy to find a pro-boycott web site which linked to some spaced out neo-Nazi propaganda.
Scroll down to 16. Campaign resources and that leads to http://anti-tout.mylinea.com/anti-imperialisme/anti-israel/
Looking down that list of sites:
Against Israeli judicial despotism petition
No war for Israel.com
Stop the wall immediately petition
StopUSmilitary aid to Israel.net
On the surface a fairly innocuous list, until you look out for No War for Israel, which is one of David Duke’s web sites as the whois records proves, and reading the contents of the web sites should also indicate its racial nature.
As if any more proof was required, the technical contact details for No War for Israel are “Duke, David firstname.lastname@example.org, PO Box 188, Mandeville, LA 70470, US…“
So with this particular boycott web site, you’re only four click away from neo-Nazi racist filth
Obviously, this is unscientific and there may be plenty of pro-boycott web sites which have carefully filtered out any connection to racist or neo-Nazi web sites, but nevertheless I was surprised how quickly I found the linkage, in this particular instance.
Having said all that, do I believe that all pro-boycotters are antisemites or neo-Nazis? Certainly not, however, I think, the boycott clouds these issues and allows real antisemites and neo-Nazis to put over their propaganda.
If so many of the pro-boycotters are genuinely antiracist, then they should be concerned about those connections.
No doubt these web links are inadvertent, genuine mistakes, but there is a greater onus on pro-boycotters to take extra care, given the sensitivity of this issue. There are already documented instances of the extreme right trying to make mileage out of Palestinian Solidarity campaign’s, so there is little excuse for ignorance on this topic, or the need for extra care.
I wonder if the constant stream of almost Soviet anti-Zionism has made some people so insensitive to anti-Jewish racism that looking at these links, they can’t tell the difference between the genuine ones and those of racist neo-Nazis.
Therefore, I would suggest to pro-boycotters show your commitment to antiracism and take the trouble to filter out the racist and neo-Nazi filth that is often linked to pro-boycott campaign.
Remember it is the responsibility of the pro-boycotters to prove their sincerity in this matter.
Despite the best efforts of humanitarian organisations and the vacant platitudes of politicians the world still suffers from unnecessary and unwanted refugees.
Too often these refugees are fleeing civil strife, military dictators or murdering gangs of thugs. The “international community’s” ability to assist and stop the root causes of these ongoing refugee crises hasn’t really come that far in 80+ years, as Darfur indicates:
“KHARTOUM, Sudan: The British aid group Oxfam said Sunday it was permanently closing down its operation in Darfur’s largest refugee camp because of insecurity.
With some 130,000 refugees, the South Darfur camp of Gereida is among the largest in the world. The compounds of several aid groups in the camp were attacked in a raid last December during which a female French aid worker was raped and several others endured mock executions while some Sudanese aid workers were severely beaten up.”
The 20th June 2007 is the UN World Refugee Day.
A nameless scholar drew my attention to a book which deals with Israel’s recent war in Lebanon, “Shvuyim belevanon: ha’emet al milkhemet levanon hashniya” (“Captives in Lebanon”) by Ofer Shelah and Yoav Limor, published by Yedioth Books.
“The Winograd Committee to has a problem. After previous wars, the reports of the commissions of inquiry, or at least the main points, were made public before important books about the war were published. This was the case for the Agranat Commission, whose investigation of the Yom Kippur War predated by four years the appearance of Hanoch Bartov’s book about David Elazar, the chief of staff during that war. It was also the case for the Kahan Commission, which probed the events in Sabra and Chatila, and published its major findings over a year before Ze’ev Schiff and Ehud Ya’ari came out with their book about the first Lebanon War. On these occasions, the public did not have an alternative narrative that posed a challenge to the official one.”
I haven’t found an English language copy yet but it should be a good read when it comes out.
Ex-nazi, Kurt Waldheim, ex-UN Secretary-General and onetime President of Austria has died, the Guardian reports:
“The World Jewish Congress published supporting documents, some of which bore Waldheim’s signature or initials. But he insisted that his job was merely to verify their authenticity, not to act on the information or give orders.
As pressure mounted from all sides, Yugoslav newspapers published a facsimile of a 1947 document showing Waldheim’s name on a list of German officers who took part in the infamous Mount Kozara operation. According to some Yugoslav versions, 68,000 people – including 23,000 children – died in the offensive.”
China’s desire to become a fully fledged capitalist power is well-known, and her support for dubious regimes is equally well documented, but even China’s harshest critics would have hoped that she could avoid barbaric forms of pre-capitalistic slavery, but alas no, as reported by the BBC:
“Thirty-one dirty and disorientated workers have been rescued from a brickwork factory in China, where they were being held as virtual slaves.
Eight workers were so traumatised by their experiences that they were only able to remember their names.”
Apparently, this is happened at least once before in 2001:
“An article by Bruce Gilley published in this week’s Far Eastern Economic Review (16 August 2001) recounts how 27 men were forced to work as slaves, for 12 hours a day and no pay, in a brick factory in Dingzhou, China.
The key passage is:
“China still has not ratified the International Labour Organization’s Convention on Forced Labour 1930 No.29) or the Convention on the Abolition of Forced Labour 1957 (No.105)”
The first releases of (Gutsy Gibbon) Tribe-1, an alpha which will eventually evolve into 7.10 is out.
And it’s anything like 7.04, then it should be excellent, not recommended for production systems just yet but as a play around.
And whilst you are waiting for Ubuntu 7.10, I can heartily recommend Zenwalk 4.6.1
The Yorkshire Post covers some of the issues in this article:
“It is four years since violence erupted in Sudan’s western region of Darfur, when rebels from black African tribes took up arms, complaining of decades of neglect and discrimination by Sudan’s Arab-dominated government.
Since then, more than 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes, with the government accused of unleashing Arab tribal militia, known as the Janjaweed, against civilians in a systematic campaign of terror.
The continuing violence has spilled into neighbouring Chad, and the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an alliance of humanitarian agencies, has launched a desperate appeal to raise money and save lives.
“The urgency before the rainy season, expected in the next few weeks, is massive,” says Linda Edwards, who leads medical charity Merlin’s programme in Darfur, and warns the situation is deteriorating.
“The more of an impact we can have in advance the better. Sometimes in some of the camps we are only scraping the surface.”
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is one of the aid organisations working on the frontline.
Project co-ordinator Jonathan Henry has just returned home after spending 18 months based in Muhajariya, a rebel stronghold in the south of the region.
The 30 year-old, from Leeds, says the situation has worsened since he arrived in 2005.
“It is still a massive humanitarian disaster and the level of suffering has become dramatically worse.
“We were the only agency in Muhajariya when I left because the other organisation had evacuated because of security.”
The town has come under heavy attack from government-backed forces. But as is so often the case in times of war, it is the innocent who suffer most.
“When I left, 90 per cent of the patients in our 60-bed hospital were women and children under five,” says Henry.
Gunshot wounds are a major cause of injury but if the bullets don’t get you, disease probably will.
“There’s a lot of severe malnutrition, with children having lost nearly half their body weight because they can’t access food, and they can’t go and farm the land because it’s too dangerous.
“We are seeing an increase in water-borne diseases like diarrhoea and respiratory infections. Malaria is endemic in Darfur, we saw outbreaks of meningitis and measles, and mortality rates are increasing.”
One of the main problems is a lack of access to the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled their home.
Henry says that the chain of command between different factions on both sides has broken down, which has intensified the level of ethnic violence.
MSF’s charter is to provide basic health care, including child vaccinations and clean water, but medics face increasingly hazardous conditions.
“Over 120 humanitarian agency vehicles were stolen last year, and we had two vehicles taken at gunpoint.
“We had staff abducted and seven were beaten despite them all wearing the MSF T-shirts.”
When Muhajariya was attacked last October, its population was about 47,000, but this has dwindled to 13,000.
It is a situation mirrored throughout Darfur where the number of indiscriminate attacks has escalated.
“These so-called militia on camels with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades go into towns and torch them shooting men, women and children.”
Henry’s MSF team consisted of nine medics, doctors and logisticians from all over the world, as well as more than 200 local Sudanese staff.
During attacks they took refuge in an underground bomb shelter.
“Afterwards, we would rush down to the hospital and set up drips, the surgeons would be operating for 48 hours virtually non-stop on these gunshot wounds.”
His team also provided mobile medical clinics that took them to the frontline where they would treat the wounded and transport the more seriously injured back to the town’s hospital.
“We would have a huge influx of gunshot wound victims, usually at night because it was safer to travel when it was dark.
“About seven weeks ago, we had 60 victims brought in – this was women and children as well as soldiers.”
Henry warns the situation is becoming increasingly chaotic with many refugees flooding into already over-populated areas.
Many of the camps, some spread over a 15-mile radius, consist of nothing more than a sea of makeshift tents, with no protection from the elements or local militia.
“Many of these refugees are dispersed among bushes in the middle of the desert. They drink muddy water from pools full of bacteria that carry water-borne diseases.
“They have no food because they’ve had to abandon their land, they have no shelter in 50 degree heat and no health care.”
MSF’s political independence allows them to be “doctors without borders”, as Henry puts it. But aid agencies say they are being increasingly hampered by local military leaders and behind-the-scenes politics.
“You see the same people being displaced and you see the same gunshot wounds which can be incredibly frustrating,” he admits.”
My brief post on a Hamas leader’s racist comments seems to have provoked more comment than this blog is usually accustomed to, so I thought that I would deal with the comments of TheIrie, a HP regular.
I think there are major three points:
- the acceptability of some forms of racism;
- and Western dual standards.
The acceptability of some forms of racism
Whilst I accept that there is brutality in the occupied territories and Israel’s conduct is not beyond reproach, that does not justify open racist sentiments as so often pour out from some leaders in the Middle East.
I should say from the outset and I don’t normally document all these outbursts otherwise they would be little else on this rather feeble blog. There are plenty of web sites, which document racism in the Middle East, the indoctrination of children and the appalling conditions that many Palestinians live under.
My previous point was to re-emphasise the fact that many in Britain are in denial about the counterproductive racism articulated by some Palestinian “leaders”, and that a resolution to the conflict will not be achieved by wasting vast sums on rockets, rifles or bullets (on either side).
Taking TheIrie’s points concerning Ireland and South Africa. As far as I know there were no political movements in Ireland which called for the eradication of the English, nor was there any longstanding racism towards the English which threatened to wipe all of them out.
The dispute in Ireland was a political one and one of self-determination, and has been largely resolved in the South. Where sectarian poison persisted in Ireland (mostly in the North), violence has continued. So the political lesson of Ireland is avoid sectarianism (racism) and lower the political temperature, which might allow these disputes to be resolved peacefully.
Despite Ireland being occupied by the English from 1170, you will find 100,000s of Irish who make a conscious choice to live in Britain and you would be hard put to hear any significant Irish political leader, etc say that “they hate the English” or wish to kill all of the English, wholesale.
Turning to South Africa, as far as I know, the ANC did not advocate racist attitudes towards whites, even though whites may have been perceived by some as “oppressors” (rather simplistic view as many of the most vocal critics of apartheid and activists against apartheid were in fact “white”) .
So I don’t think that those parallels work, nevertheless, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if people directly involved in a conflict held heated views about the opposing side, with varying degrees of hostility.
I believe that people in the West should not try to excuse away the utterances of political leaders in the Middle East. Bearing in mind that most of leaders haven’t really suffered much, are probably part of a ruling elite who simply use anti-Jewish racism for their own political ends.
So there is a difference between a stupid racist comment and a document which details how some leaders in the Middle East would like to eradicate all Jews in the world.
Hence, there is a quantifiable difference between Anglophobia or a few minor remarks made against whites in southern Africa, and that of political leaders in the Middle East expressing clear antisemitic statements, who might, if they actually had the means would carry out their murderous intent.
Antisemitism is not just anti-Jewish racism, antisemitism has a long and nasty history going back over 2,500 plus years and it comes in many forms, many shapes and many intensities, so it can not always be treated in the same simplistic fashion as other forms of racism.
Oppression doesn’t justify racism, it is always the wrong answer to the wrong question.
In the circumstances of the Middle East, racism only makes the situation worse that is why it is so poisonous for the any Palestinian or Middle Eastern leader to indulge in it.
If you’re in any doubt of the parallel, ask yourself the question:
I would say that sectarian violence in Ireland prolong the conflict, and brought untold suffering to so many.
In parts of the West, there is an idea that some forms of racism become more acceptable, or even excusable simply because of some grievance. That is utter nonsense, either you’re opposed to all forms of racism, we are not really opposed to racism at all.
No, of course, not.
If people wouldn’t accept expression of racism and violence, in say Wigan, then why are such sentiments somehow more acceptable in the Middle East?
They are not. Not, if you apply universal values, that is.
So the speeches and words of an active political leader, such Nizar Rayyan, have a great deal more significance than a throwaway comment or an expression of annoyance from people in the street.
I don’t think that a resolution to the conflict in the Middle East will be achieved by wasting vast sums on rockets, rifles or bullets (on either side).
Taking up this point closer to home, many people in the West rightly condemn the immoral arms industry in Britain and how British arms are often used to fuel conflict around the world. Correctly, they point to the utter immorality of wasting millions of pounds on useless armaments, when such resources could be focused on poverty relief, providing sanitation or basic education in developing countries.
So it seems to me that it is a bit ridiculous for some people in the West to condemn the arms industry in Britain, and then go on to support Hamas and other violent militia who spend an inordinate amount of money on armaments, explosives and rockets. Particularly when such money could be used to relieve the suffering of many of people in the Middle East.
It’s as if there are two standards, on the one hand, it is not acceptable to waste vast sums of money on armaments in Britain and yet somehow people justify sordidly needed money being used to purchase AK47s in Gaza, instead of food and medical supplies.
If butter before guns is a good policy in most countries, then why should we exclude the Middle East from such a principle?
I think these issues arise because many in the West don’t treat the occupants of the Middle East as if they were adults, but rather as children or someone to be pitied.
There seems to be the expectation that racism, violence and weaponry are accepted in parts of the Middle East and therefore somehow understandable, and I frankly don’t think they are.
If universal values apply to people in the West, the people in the Middle East are no less deserving and should be treated as human beings rather than some “noble savages”.
I hope that clarifies why I think the racism (combined with a political ideology and weaponry) articulated by groups in the Middle East should be exposed, and why people in the West should not excuse such conduct.
PS: that’s a long longer than I had intended, Jim Denham explains the matter much more succinctly in the comments.
Here are some snippets of news that I heard about:
Gay pride in Riga.
There was a successful gay pride march in the Latvian capital of Riga, under strong police protection, according to reports:
“Linda Freimane, a board member of Mozaika, Latvia’s foremost gay rights group, said the parade was an important step for the gay community in the Baltic states, which joined the European Union in 2004.
“If we don’t do it again this year then we give in to the illegal, violent forces who can limit other people’s rights just by smothering them,” the Associated Press news agency quoted her as saying.”
The Times provides some background to the issue of gay rights in Eastern Europe.
Threat to Palestinian TV presenters.
The Independent reports that “‘Wear a veil or we will behead you,’ radicals tell TV women” and continues with “[t]he Righteous Swords of Islam warned that it would strike the women with “an iron fist and swords” for refusing to wear a veil on camera.
“It is disgraceful that the women working for the official Palestinian media are competing with each other to display their charms,” it said in a leaflet distributed in Gaza at the weekend. “We will destroy their homes. We will blow up their work places. We have a lot of information about their addresses and we are following their movements.”
Ethiopia wants the spoils back.
The Ethiopian government wants the remains of a King returned to his own country, and hopefully this is a prelude to reclaiming the the vast amounts of treasure which were stolen by the British in 1868 after the battle of Magdala.
Apparently after the battle “… soldiers stormed the Emperor’s mountain fortress of Magdala to free the captives. After the battle, they loaded 200 mules and 15 elephants with gold crowns, swords, altar slabs and manuscripts before burning Magdala to the ground.
The bulk of the plunder made its way into institutions such as the British Museum and Oxford’s Bodleian Library.”
I hope that they get back all of the loot plundered by British imperialists.
A rather nice and fast distribution, Zenwalk, has released its newest version 4.6. I used the Beta and found it a very competent piece of software.
Here’s a surprise, oh yeah: “Half of UK IT managers say they have no plans to migrate to Microsoft’s Windows Vista within the next three years, with just 3% intending to introduce the operating system immediately”