Archive for May 2011
Normally, you can’t shut up Noam Chomsky. He pops up in the media. An article here, a video clip there. Whatever else you say about him, he is indefatigable.
But surprisingly he’s been rather silent on the arrest of Ratko Mladic and Srebrenica, as far as I can tell.
Presumably, some time in the future he will inflict upon us some tortured piece, which exculpates Radovan Karadžić, Ratko Mladic and blames it all on the UN or ICTY. It is just a matter of time, and Chomsky is such a creature of habit.
James Bloodworth has written a good post on this very topic, ably summing up Chomsky’s method:
“The behaviour of Chomsky in this instance should be put into the context of the wider reaction of certain sections of the left to all Western intervention – no matter that intervention in this case happened altogether too late. The method of Chomsky and his acolytes is straightforward: select an action taken by the West – whether in Kosovo, Rwanda, or Libya (or in this case belatedly in Bosnia and Herzegovina) – invert the role of perpetrator and victim, before forming a conclusion which lays the blame for every atrocity at the door of Western intervention or a Western ally in the region. If this means denying or downplaying genocide committed by those opposed to Western forces, then so be it. “
Update 1: I should remind those genocide deniers, fans of Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladic that this blog has a zero tolerance for neo-fascists, their mates and deniers, so go away. Stop spamming my threads and if you can, slowly read my comment’s policy.
“The cooperation between Julian Assange and the Swedish antisemite Israel Shamir is closer than has previously been reported. Expo revieved e-mail correspondence revealing that Shamir was actively involved in shaping Wikileaks’ Swedish network.
According to WikiLeak’s spokesperson, Kristinn Hrafnsson, the role of Israel Shamir has been that of a freelance writer working with a “a project that came and went”.
– We have not been scanning all the thousands of journalists that we have been associated with in some way, he tells Expo.
However, e-mails between Shamir and Assange that Expo have gotten hold of reveal that the two have cooperated for several years. In 2008 Shamir was asked to recommend potential associates in Sweden.
Shamir answered by recommending his son, Johannes Wahlström, without mentioning anything about their kinship:
”He is Swedish citizen, and lives in Sweden. Probably he’ll be able to give advice about press freedom”
In an e-mail dated June 2010 shows that Shamir at that point still played a part in the Swedish WikiLeaks-network. Shamir wrote:
”I have a lot of good guys who can help to analyse the treasure, and it would be good to start spreading the news. I am now in Paris, and people want to know more! Tuesday I go to Sweden, and there is a whole operation for your benefit!”
”There certainly is! Tell the team to get ready; Give them my best; We have a lot of work to do.”
Israel Shamir and his son Johannes Wahlström have both been criticized for antisemitic writings. Shamir has said that ”every person who adheres to God should deny the Holocaust”. Wahlström wrote an article in 2005 with claims that ”Israel’s regime controls Swedish media”. Wahlström has repeatedly defended his father and he is presented on Shamir’s website as a ”distinguished contributor”. “
I want to post on the truly appalling events at yesterday’s UCU congress, but time is short and others express themselves much better than I could:
“Quite simply, the claim that the Working Definition – when properly used – shuts down debate on Israel does not stand up to scrutiny.
The UCU, however, cannot claim to be in any doubt about the purpose of the Working Definition. The proposers of the motion have clearly read it very carefully and they know full well that it is intended to be a working guide. They just don’t agree with the content – that’s why they have dismissed it entirely, making “no use” of it, not even in “educating members”.
If the UCU were merely guilty of ignorance, that could be understood and – through education and dialogue – resolved. If someone had proposed that the UCU adopt the Working Definition, and Congress were to reject it, that would be the result of ignorance. Regrettable, but understandable.
However, the UCU has never used the Working Definition, and nobody proposed that it should start doing so. Instead, UCU has decided, apropos of nothing, to condemn the Working Definition whilst offering no serious alternative. In doing so, they have singled out antisemitism from other forms of prejudice as something only they, and not the victims, have the right to identify.
That’s where this goes beyond ignorance into genuine malice. One is left wondering what occupies the thoughts of those who are so keen to lecture Jews on what constitutes antisemitism. Jewish students are left wondering whether their lecturers’ commitment to “combat all forms of racial or religious discrimination” is anything other than hollow rhetoric. “
West Dunbartonshire Council and the man, that made a critical amendment of the motion to boycott all Israeli goods, has now released a video on the matter.
Why the deputy leader of West Dunbartonshire Council, Councillor Jonathan McColl, decided to make this video is a mystery to me.
I would have thought that Cllr McColl and West Dunbartonshire Council might have learnt the expression, when in a hole stop digging, but alas, no.
I suppose, being charitable, that Cllr McColl wants to get his point across, but from my brief viewing it doesn’t do them any favours.
The tone and content of the video suggest that West Dunbartonshire Council and Cllr McColl didn’t understand or appreciate the sensitivity of the term “boycott” when applied to Israelis or Jews. Moreover, there is an attempt within the video to play the victim, to gain pity and say that people have said terrible things to them.
It is quite possible that members of the public vented their understandable anger at Cllr McColl or West Dunbartonshire Council, presumably the lesson to learn is, don’t go posturing about issues that you barely understand and sensitivities that you couldn’t.
The sight of politicians whining about how people have said nasty things to them, in this instance, is unedifying. They might do well to remember that Israelis and Jews have faced far, far worse things than a bit of name-calling.
I think that they could have spent their time more profitably by reading, thinking and understanding that Europeans posturing about the Middle East is both condescending and decidedly unnecessary, it achieves little and potentially aggravates many.
I would suggest that the councillors of West Dunbartonshire Council make an effort to read up on antisemitism, in depth, and the history of Poland and Germany in the 1920s/1930s in particular. If the libraries in West Dunbartonshire Council don’t have books on the topics I am happy to provide a reading list for said councillors.
The situation in Syria is still very serious, yet in the West comparatively little is heard of Syrian’s dire circumstances or the true level of State organised murder.
In the Western media, the regime’s violent is under reported and not given the prominence that it should have.
This is another example of how the dictatorship in Syria treats people:
“BEIRUT — The boy’s head was swollen, purple and disfigured. His body was a mess of welts, cigarette burns and wounds from bullets fired to injure, not kill. His kneecaps had been smashed, his neck broken, his jaw shattered and his penis cut off.
What finally killed him was not clear, but it appeared painfully, shockingly clear that he had suffered terribly during the month he spent in Syrian custody.
Hamza Ali al-Khateeb was 13 years old.
And since a video portraying the torture inflicted upon him was broadcast on the al-Jazeera television network Friday, he has rapidly emerged as the new symbol of the protest movement in Syria. His childish features have put a face to the largely faceless and leaderless opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime that has roiled the country for nine weeks, reinvigorating a movement that had seemed in danger of drifting.
It is too early to tell whether the boy’s death will trigger the kind of critical mass that brought down the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia earlier this year and that the Syrian protests have lacked. But it would not be the first time that the suffering of an individual had motivated ordinary people who might not otherwise have taken to the streets to rise against their governments. “
They have information showing that Julian Assange’s links to the Far Rightist, Israel Shamir, are much closer and more extensive than had been first thought.
Readers will remember how the BBC had a confidential email exchange between the two, which indicated a friendly relationship, with Assange suggesting Shamir might use an alias to hide his connection to Wikileaks.
Wikileaks’ subsequent statement on Israel Shamir was decidedly unsatisfactory. Basically, they said he was just another journalist and they treated him as such.
However, it is clear from the Expose.se article that Wikileaks’ response was very far from the truth.
Below is an extract taken from the Expo magazine and a Google translation from the original Swedish, which is not perfect but sufficient to explain the issues:
“Cooperation between Julian Assange and the Swedish anti-Semite Israel Shamir is denser than previously stated. Expo has taken note of several emails that show that Assange Shamir asked for help to build Wikileaks Swedish network.
According to Wikileaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson traded contacts between Julian Assange and Israel Shamir on a project.
- We have not checked the political and personal views of the thousands of journalists we worked with, “he told the Expo.
But e-mails as part of the Expo has shown that cooperation lasted for years. Back in 2008, Shamir was asked to provide proposals to potential partners in Sweden.
Shamir responds by proposing his son, John Wahl, without mentioning anything about their relationship:
“He is a Swedish citizen, living in Sweden. Probably he will be able to advise you on press freedom – in the journal [tornado / red.anm.] Is startling revelations about the media assaults.”
In an email dated June 2010 shows that Shamir and Assange still had a role in Wikileaks Swedish network .. “Tell the team to be prepared; Health them from me: We have much work to do,” writes Assange in response to Shamir. “
Again, the points are:
The EDL were in Blackpool today, stirring up hatred as usual.
Anyone tempted to comment should first read the comments policy.
The University and College Union should be in the vanguard of dealing with racism within Higher Education in Britain, yet its own institutionalised racism and unhealthy preoccupation with boycotting Israelis seems to detract from that very necessary task.
Only recently did the UCU NEC try to redefine anti-Jewish racism as a method of extricating itself from the many problems brought about by its own actions.
The Guardian reports on passive racism within Higher Education:
“The HESA figures show black British professors make up just 0.4% of all British professors – 50 out of 14,385.
This is despite the fact that 2.8% of the population of England and Wales is Black African or Black Caribbean, according to the Office for National Statistics. Only 10 of the 50 black British professors are women.
The figures reflect professors in post in December 2009. When black professors from overseas were included, the figure rose to 75. This is still 0.4%of all 17,375 professors at UK universities. The six universities with more than two black professors from the UK or overseas include London Metropolitan, Nottingham, and Brunel universities. Some 94.3% of British professors are white, and 3.7% are Asian. Some 1.2% of all academics – not just professors – are black. There are no black vice-chancellorsin the UK.
Harry Goulbourne, professor of sociology at London South Bank University, said that while the crude racism of the past had gone, universities were riddled with “passive racism”. He said that, as a black man aspiring to be a professor, he had had to publish twice as many academic papers as his white peers. He said he had switched out of the field of politics, because it was not one that promoted minorities. He called for a “cultural shift” inside the most prestigious universities.
Mirza said UK universities were “nepotistic and cliquey”. “It is all about who you know,” she said. “
Update 1: I wonder if the topic will be discussed at the UCU Congress 2011 currently going on? I suppose so, now the Guardian has mentioned it.
Update 2: From what I can see, the motion from UCU NEC’s abdicating on anti-Jewish racism will take place at the UCU Congress 2011 on Monday 30 May, between 14:45-16.45, under the Business of the equality committee. Not sure that is 100%, as times can often change at Union congresses as business is shifted around, if anyone hears more please let me know.
Update 3: The UCU Congress can be followed live on Twitter via UCU’s web site.
Am posting this AP story in full:
“TOKYO (AP) — Japanese nuclear regulators trusted that the reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex were safe from the worst waves an earthquake could muster based on a single-page memo from the plant operator nearly a decade ago.
In the Dec. 19, 2001, document — one double-sized page obtained by The Associated Press under Japan’s public records law — Tokyo Electric Power Co. rules out the possibility of a tsunami large enough to knock the plant offline and gives scant details to justify this conclusion, which proved to be wildly optimistic.
Regulators at the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, or NISA, had asked plant operators for assessments of their earthquake and tsunami preparedness. They didn’t mind the brevity of TEPCO’s response, and apparently made no moves to verify its calculations or ask for supporting documents.
“This is all we saw,” said Masaru Kobayashi, who now heads NISA’s quake-safety section. “We did not look into the validity of the content.”
The memo has Japanese text, boxes and numbers. It also has a tiny map of Japan indicating where historical earthquakes are believed to have struck. TEPCO considered five quakes, ranging from 8.0 to 8.6 magnitude, in northeastern Japan, and a 9.5 magnitude across the Pacific near Chile, as examples of possible tsunami-causing temblors.
In the next nine years, despite advances in earthquake and tsunami science, the document gathered dust and was never updated.
When TEPCO finally did revisit tsunami preparedness last year, it was the most cursory of checks. And the conclusion was the same: The facility would remain dry under every scenario the utility envisioned.
“There was an attitude of disrespecting nature,” said Kobe University professor emeritus Katsuhiko Ishibashi, who has sat on government nuclear safety advisory panels.
The towering waves unleashed by the magnitude-9.0 earthquake on March 11 destroyed backup generators for several reactors’ cooling systems, and nuclear fuel in three reactors melted in the worst such crisis since Chernobyl. Workers have yet to bring the plant under control more than two months later.
Ishibashi said the problem with the plant’s tsunami preparedness didn’t lie with the limitations of science back in 2001. The problem was that TEPCO and regulators didn’t look at risk factors more carefully.
“It is critical to be prepared for what might happen even if the possibilities are small,” he said.
NISA’s request for tsunami risk assessments did not have the force of law and thus the operators’ responses technically were voluntary, but in Japan’s often-informal regulatory structure, regulators would expect such a request to be obeyed.
TEPCO’s memo was titled “The Assessment of Effects Related to the Japan Society of Civil Engineers’ ‘Guidelines on Tsunami Assessment for Nuclear Power Plants’ — Fukushima Dai-ichi and Daini Nuclear Power Plants.”
The company said it used measures for expected earthquakes and other “parameters” to calculate that water would not surpass 5.7 meters (18.7 feet) at Fukushima Dai-ichi.
The waters set off by the March tsunami reached 14 meters (46 feet) above sea level, according to TEPCO.
One big reason for the underestimate: TEPCO’s experts asserted that the biggest earthquake that the nearest fault could produce was 8.6 magnitude. At a 9.0 magnitude, the quake that struck was four times more powerful than that.
“The results of the study show the assessment for the maximum levels of tsunami at each site,” says one line in the report’s typically sparse, matter-of-fact language.
The document relied on guidelines for tsunami assessments written by the Japan Society of Civil Engineers. Those guidelines were not published until 2002, but were made available in advance to TEPCO.
In the nearly 10 years since the memo, advances in science have exposed the potential — and precedent — for huge tsunamis hitting Japan’s northeast coast. Several studies showed that the Jogan tsunami of A.D. 869 went far inland in the area near Fukushima Dai-ichi. Other studies showed that the fault that erupted so violently was “stuck” and could produce the kind of truly massive quake it did.
Through the years, TEPCO never changed the maximum tsunami heights expected at Fukushima Dai-ichi, which was built in 1971.
“We assessed and confirmed the safety of the nuclear plants,” TEPCO civil engineer Makoto Takao asserted as recently as a November seismic safety conference in Japan.
Kobayashi, of NISA, said his agency began getting serious about scrutinizing tsunami dangers only late last year, but that this process was still in its infancy when the March 11 disaster struck.
Ishibashi noted that coastal nuclear plants need to be prepared for major typhoons and other potential disasters, and backup generators at Fukushima Dai-ichi should have been elevated and protected, not stored in basements prone to flooding, as most of them were.
The generators were critical for maintaining cooling systems for reactor cores during the power outages that followed the quake. The flood that swept through the plant grounds destroyed the generators. The cores, reaching up to 2,000 degrees Celsius (3,600 degrees Fahrenheit) without power, melted, spewing radiation into the sea and air.
TEPCO spokesman Naoyuki Matsumoto defended the 2001 report as relying on what the company saw as the best data available, although he acknowledged that the size of March 11 tsunami had been “outside the imagination.”
“We had done our utmost in designing the plant, using various historical data,” he said.
The utility now plans to build additional tsunami guards in waters near Fukushima Dai-ichi by the end of June, but has not decided how high they should be, he said.
Outrage is growing among the media, politicians and residents forced to evacuate near the plant that regulators and TEPCO had not adequately assessed tsunami risks.
Some criticism has focused on how the civil engineers’ committee that wrote the guidelines was dominated by people with strong ties to the nuclear power industry, or 22 of the 35 committee members.
In a statement this month, the Japan Society of Civil Engineers defended the guidelines as objective and scientific, relying on experts for unbiased knowledge.
Nobuo Shuto, chief architect of the guidelines and the dean of tsunami research in Japan, acknowledged he did not check how exactly TEPCO applied the guidelines to Fukushima Dai-ichi. But he stuck by his work.
“It’s easy to complain that it was an underestimate,” Shuto, honorary professor at Tohoku University, said in a March telephone interview from Miyagi Prefecture, a disaster-struck area. “The honest truth is: We just don’t know.” “
Firstly, thanks to Engage for pointing me towards Ben Gidley’s piece at Dissent, The Politics of Defining Racism: The Case of Anti-Semitism in the University and College Union. Clearly, Dr. Gidley is very knowledgeable on this topic and a pleasure to read, here’s a snippet:
“Racism is mercurial. It mutates over time. Pseudoscientific racial theories are now spouted only by marginal cranks. Notions that different races are different species have come and gone; eugenics has come and gone; words like “Aryan” and “Semitic” are starting to sound quaint. The period since the 1980s has seen the rise of cultural racism, or racism that focuses on cultural differences rather than biological ones.”
In class related matters, the Guardian asked its staff, who’d been educated at Oxbridge and had it helped them in their career. Hmm, not a hard question to answer. Next, they’ll be saying old Etonians dominate the British establishment.
The New York Times on Ratko Mladić, chocolates and genocide. I expect that Ed Herman and Diana Johnstone will be up in arms shortly. Balkan Witness has a good page on Herman and other’s denial. NPR is worth a read.
Time has an informative piece on the psychology of dictators, and I suspect that its findings apply more broadly than many would care to admit.
Dave Rich at the CST takes the trouble to read it carefully, and he doesn’t like what he finds:
“Hasan clearly understands the pitfalls of writing on this subject, and he has genuinely tried to avoid producing an antisemitic article. The problem is that his article is basically just another conspiracy theory. It offers a simplistic argument that completely ignores the hopes, fears, needs and goals of Israelis and Palestinians themselves, or of any other actors in the region, and imagines that the whole problem could be solved by a wave of America’s magic wand (or a shake of its big stick).”
Whilst we are at it we shouldn’t forget this one from 2010, The New Statesman Praises Iran’s President For Not Denying the Holocaust.
Saudi troops in Bahrain were probably trained by the British or so the Torygraph says.
IAEA worried about Iran’s enrichment programme and the past goings-on in Syria.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s activities have focused the limelight on politicians and with reason.
Are their strains within the Hamas leadership? Reuters seems to think so.
Ahmadinejad going shortly? Not before time.
Insider trading? Members of Congress, strangely do very well in their dealings.
Netanyahu, a diplomatic failure? He’s very popular, all of 37% !
Saudi’s rulers try to stop revolutions in the Middle East.
One time radical and firebrand, Hassan Nasrallah, has gone with the money.
He is backing the murderous President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. Not too surprising, because if he didn’t, he would lose the support of the Iranian regime and their money.
Since the uprising against the Syrian dictators some 1100 people have been killed by the regime and their thugs, according to Sawasiah, ABC News reports:
“Human rights activists in Syria say the two-month crackdown by security forces on anti-government protesters has cost the lives of at least 1,100 people.
The Syrian human rights organisation Sawasiah says it has the names of 1,100 people reportedly killed during the unrest that broke out in mid-March.
Most were from southern areas in Hauran Plain – including the city of Deraa where the protests first began two months ago.
The human rights group says it in fact has heard reports of another 200 civilian deaths but has no names to base the figures on.
The death toll in Syria rose sharply after the protests spread from Deraa to other parts of the country.”
Yahoo News has more on Nasrallah’s speech:
” “We call on all Syrians to preserve their country as well as the ruling regime, a regime of resistance, and to give their leaders a chance to cooperate with all Syria’s communities in order to implement the necessary reforms,” he said in the speech broadcast by his party’s Al-Manar television.
The speech, marking the 11th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon after a 22-year occupation, was broadcast on a giant screen to thousands of Hezbollah supporters in the village of Nabi Sheet, a Shiite stronghold in the eastern Bekaa Valley.
It was the first time the reclusive Hezbollah chief commented on the protests in Syria, which along with Iran is a major backer of his Shiite militant party.
“The difference between the Arab uprisings and Syria… is that President Assad is convinced that reforms are necessary, unlike Bahrain and other Arab countries,” said Nasrallah, who has not appeared in public since 2008.
Eve Garrard at Norm’s examines the issue of racism within UCU:
“The UCU (the academics’ union) is now trying to change the definition of anti-Semitism in order to maintain a policy which discriminates against Jews, without having to acknowledge that it is indeed discriminatory. The policy in question is the proposed boycott of Israel: the UCU singles out Israel, and Israel alone, for special condemnation and punitive treatment. The Union has form in this matter: I resigned from it three years ago when it displayed that same intense desire to select Israel, and no other country in the world, for boycott, even in the face of legal advice that such a practice would fall foul of anti-discrimination law in this country. Now it is so determined to maintain its stance, and so cocksure about its own moral and political superiority, that its Executive proposes to reject the EU definition of anti-Semitism, since according to that definition the UCU’s singular and selective hostility to Israel may indeed be anti-Semitic.
Those of us who took part in some of the debates about Israel on the Union activists’ list will recall with misery the readiness of people on that list to compare Israel to the Nazis, to claim that Gaza was equivalent to the Warsaw ghetto, to denounce Israel as an apartheid state, and to praise boycotters’ sterling courage in bravely ignoring the worries of Jewish UCU members who felt that we were seeing a resurgence of anti-Semitism under the thin disguise of an anti-Zionist figleaf. Such worries were standardly discredited by claiming that they were merely dishonest attempts to distract attention from Israel’s crimes. This discrediting manoeuvre doesn’t seem to have been entirely successful, since the UCU now feels the need to rebut charges of anti-Semitism by definitional fiat: if a definition of racism shows up our practices as racist, then… change the definition! Words mean whatever we want them to mean, whatever we say they mean. You might think that academics would be able to find a better political role model than Humpty-Dumpty, but they’re under a hard drive here: if the UCU were to accept that singling out the world’s only Jewish state for uniquely hostile treatment, or spreading innuendos about the sinister global power of its supporters, or telling lies about it being a practitioner of apartheid, or making a disgusting equivalence between Zionists and Nazis – if the Union were to accept that all or even any of these activities might be anti-Semitic practices, then some influential members of the UCU might show up as endorsing anti-Semitism. But that would be intolerable – better to announce that the word ‘anti-Semitism’ needs to be given a different definition. ” [My emphasis.]