ModernityBlog

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Archive for June 2011

Another Member Resigns Over Institutional Racism In UCU.

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Over at Engage.

Blogs in June 2011.

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I thought I should see what others are doing:

Flesh is Grass has an important post on how the EDL managed to march, unescorted, from Redbridge to Dagenham.

Yaacov Lozowick has given up blogging. Pity, I didn’t agree with him, much, but he has a thoughtful way and articulates many intelligent ideas.

Johnny Guitar thinks about the Troubles, the Good Friday Agreement and the need for a South Africa-style truth commission, just not at the moment.

Weggis on the case against biofuels. Completely agree, it seems so questionable to use food stuff or related material as fuel for the internal combustion engine.

Harry Barnes on Sorting Out The Labour Party, which I think is very optimistic. In the short term they could ditch Ed Miliband, try to be a bit radical, really, seriously distance themselves from the skeleton of New Labour. Chance would be a fine thing.

In related news, I am not surprised that Ed Miliband is less popular than Iain Duncan Smith or William Hague, when they were in a similar position. Frankly, Miliband’s inarticulate, has the charisma of a saucer and he’s politically useless.

Jams looks at an evil cat, great photos.

Mark Gardner at the CST has a reflective post on the situation at UCU and its wider implications, From UCU to MEMO and “Israel’s British hirelings”.

Ten minutes hate on the ‘miracle villages’.

Chris Dillow considers Miliband’s power blindness.

Nick Lowles provides a photo and details of the EDL thugs racial attack in Dagenham.

Sorrel Moseley-Williams ponders Journalists’ Day in Argentina.

Not a blog, but worthwhile all the same. Searchlight on the BNP’s use of Facebook and Twitter.

Rosie looks at Fact and Fiction.

James Bloodworth has a couple of cracking posts, Will the Defence Secretary’s links with Sri Lanka compromise British calls for an enquiry? and Isn’t it time for an apology, Mr Chomsky?

Rebecca provides an update on the Gaza flotilla. Personally, I think the Israeli Government should allow them into Gaza with minimum fuss or hassle. I think Gazans should get as much as they can, after all living under Hamas must be terrible.

Jack of Kent looks at the arrest of blogger Jacqui Thompson and the many unanswered questions.

Greens Engage on Cynthia and Jello.

At Greater Surbiton, a guest post by David Pettigrew, Justice in Bosnia after Mladic.

Eric Reeves has a piece in the Washington Post, In Sudan, genocide anew?

Engage has an abundance of posts which should be read, just a small selection: Open antisemitism doesn’t harm your reputation, Sally Hunt pretends not to understand the term “institutional racism” and Richard Kuper on the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism (by Eve Garrard)

Enjoy!

Women in Saudi.

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Readers might remember the case of Manal al-Sherif, a young Saudi woman arrested for driving in Saudi Arabia?

Well, more women are fighting back against petty restrictions and the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, France 24 reports:

“Several Saudi women got behind the wheel on Friday in a “Suffragette-level” protest against rules that ban them from driving cars in the conservative, male-dominated country.

A Facebook campaign page titled “Women2Drive”, as well as the reactions from thousands of Twitter users, have helped push this small act of civil disobedience onto the international stage.

The campaign was inspired by the arrest last month of 32-year-old Manal al-Sherif, who posted a video of herself driving on YouTube.

On Friday there were reports of “several” women driving. But in an ultraconservative country where such behaviour is virtually unknown, it was still a significant act of defiance – even if all the reports were of women driving with a male relative. Saudi women are required by law to be accompanied by a male relative when they venture out.

Microblogging site Twitter was flooded with messages of support on Friday and triumphant comments on those staging these acts of defiance.

Times of London columnist Janice Turner tweeted: “Today, women in Saudi will challenge the driving ban, risking arrest, loss of jobs & children. This [is] Suffragette-level bravery.”

Dr. Mohammed Al-Qahtan, a Saudi rights activist, said he had been driven by his wife Maha through the streets of Riyadh.

“My wife, Maha, and I have just come from a 45-minute drive, she was the driver through Riyadh’s streets,” he tweeted, adding later that she “has taken her necessary belongings, ready to go to prison without fear!” “

Update 1: Time covers it too:

“The beginning of the trip was uneventful. I tried to keep my camera discreetly in my lap and shoot the occasional frame, so as to not draw attention to us. We rode through Friday afternoon traffic, attracting some double takes and a few stares, but overall much less reaction than I would have anticipated. Her eyes, all that could be seen from underneath her all-encompassing hijab, darted in and out of the rear view mirror.

We coasted along King Fahd Road in Riyadh. The traffic seemed to grow more dense by the minute. She was nervous and her husband was giving her directions. “Don’t change lanes, slow down, you are going too fast!” he said. Then, turning to me in the back seat, he declared proudly, “She’s a good driver!”

The backseat driving made me smile—so universal between husbands and wives, no matter where in the world you are.

Given the longstanding prohibition against women drivers, I wondered if the police would stop us. I flashed back to the cramped prison cell in Sirte, where I was held by the Libyan government in March along with three male colleagues from the New York Times. There we were splayed out on soiled foam mattresses, a bottle of urine in the corner of the cell, a box of dates on the floor. I was sure the Saudi prison would be cleaner.

I took the discs out of my camera, hid them in my bra, and put the camera back into my backpack. “

Update 2: This is the Facebook page of Women2Drive.

Chen Guangcheng, A Blind Lawyer Beaten Up.

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We often think we have it hard in the West, but the reality is different. Particularly when you consider what happens to you in China if you step out of line. You get beaten up or jailed. That’s what happened to Chen Guangcheng, AFP reports:

“WASHINGTON — A blind Chinese activist who exposed abuses in Beijing’s population control policy was beaten unconscious by dozens of men led by a communist party official, his wife said in a letter released Thursday.

Human rights groups earlier reported an attack on activist Chen Guangcheng in February, but the account from his wife — who said she was also severely abused and remains under house arrest — offered graphic new details.

Wife Yuan Weijing said that 70 to 80 men stormed their home in February. She said around 10 beat her husband for more than two hours while the others trashed the place, taking away a computer, video-camera and even flashlights.

“Some of them twisted his arms forcefully while the others were pushing his head down and lifting his collar up tightly. Given his poor health condition of long-time diarrhea, Guangcheng was not able to resist and passed out after more than two hours of torture,” she wrote.

The letter was released by ChinaAid, a US-based rights group. It said it received the letter on Wednesday.

Yuan said the couple was not allowed medical treatment. She said she was covered with a blanket and beaten, which she believed caused her broken ribs. She said she could not see for five to six days and still cannot stand up straight.

Yuan said that the assailants were led by a local communist party vice secretary and included policemen, although they did not wear uniforms or show legal documents.

Yuan said that authorities have stepped up pressure on them since the beating, with their five-year-old daughter also under house arrest and Chen’s mother followed constantly by three men.

Previous attempts to verify the couple’s condition independently were unsuccessful. Reporters from Western news organizations said they were roughed up in February when they tried to reach Chen’s home in the city of Linyi.

Chen, a self-taught lawyer blind since childhood, served more than four years in prison after he exposed widespread late-term abortions and forced sterilizations under China’s policy of restricting most families to one child.

He was released in September and put under house arrest. He later made a daring video, also released by ChinaAid, in which he said police threatened to beat him or throw him back in jail if he spoke up.

No Update On Khaled al-Johani.

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Been asked to produce an update on Khaled al-Johani, but sadly I can find very little on the web that is current, the best is BBC News from 24 May 2011:

“The only man to protest on Saudi Arabia’s day of rage has suffered in prison, his family say.

Khaled al-Johani was arrested minutes after going to the courthouse in Riyadh and giving a BBC interview in which he called for democracy and described the country as a big jail.

His family have now told the BBC that they were not allowed to see him for the first 58 days of his incarceration. And when they did see him, says his brother, Abdullah al-Johani, their concerns increased.

“He has lost a lot of weight. The situation is sad and he is depressed. He doesn’t have any of his own clothes and we can’t give him food or money.”

Khaled al-Johani is one of more than 160 dissidents who have been arrested by the Saudi authorities since February, according to Human Rights Watch.

On Tuesday a judge in Jeddah sent 40 people, charged with instigation and calling for protests against the ruler, to face a court that specialises in security and terrorism cases.

The interior ministry spokesman, General Mansour Sultan al-Turki is unapologetic.

“Saudis…do not have anything to demonstrate for. The Grand Mufti has talked about this and [protesting] is un-Islamic behaviour.” “

UN Hands Over Protesters To Bahrain.

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Officials at the UN offices in Manama, the capital city of Bahrain, have handed over human rights protesters to the Bahraini security forces according to information coming out of Twitter and Demotix:

“Three Bahrain women, Asma Darwish,Sawsan Jawad and Zainab Alkhawaja have been arrested as they began a hunger strike calling for immediate action to be taken by the UN, on political prisoners in Bahrain. “

So instead of helping the women, the UN officials hand them over to the very people they should be protecting them from. Despicable.

George Monbiot On Genocide Belittlers.

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George Monbiot has written a fine piece in the Guardian, Left and libertarian right cohabit in the weird world of the genocide belittlers:

“But genocide denial is just as embarrassing to the left as it is to the libertarian right. Last week Edward Herman, an American professor of finance best known for co-authoring Manufacturing Consent with Noam Chomsky, published a new book called The Srebrenica Massacre. It claims that the 8,000 deaths at Srebrenica are “an unsupportable exaggeration. The true figure may be closer to 800.”

Like Karadzic, the book claims that the market massacres in Sarajevo were carried out by Bosnian Muslim provocateurs. It maintains that the Serb forces’ reburial of Bosnian corpses is “implausible and lack[s] any evidential support” (an astonishing statement in view of the ICMP’s findings). It insists that the witnesses to the killings are “not credible” and suggests that the Bosnian Muslim soldiers retreated from Srebrenica to ensure that more Bosnians were killed, in order to provoke US intervention.

These are not the first such claims that Herman has made. Last year, with David Peterson, he published a book called The Politics of Genocide. Mis-citing a tribunal judgment, he maintains that the Serb forces “incontestably had not killed any but ‘Bosnian Muslim men of military age’.” Worse still, he places the Rwandan genocide in inverted commas throughout the text and maintains that “the great majority of deaths were Hutu, with some estimates as high as two million”, and that the story of 800,000 “largely Tutsi deaths” caused by genocide “appears to have no basis in any facts”. It’s as straightforward an instance of revisionism as I’ve ever seen, comparable in this case only to the claims of the genocidaires themselves.

But here’s where it gets really weird. The cover carries the following endorsement by John Pilger. “In this brilliant exposé of great power’s lethal industry of lies, Edward Herman and David Peterson defend the right of us all to a truthful historical memory.” The foreword was written by Noam Chomsky. He doesn’t mention the specific claims the book makes, but the fact that he wrote it surely looks like an endorsement of the contents. The leftwing website Media Lens maintained that Herman and Peterson were “perfectly entitled” to talk down the numbers killed at Srebrenica. What makes this all the more remarkable is that Media Lens has waged a long and fierce campaign against Iraq Body Count for underestimating the number killed in that country.

Why is this happening? Both the LM network and Herman’s supporters oppose western intervention in the affairs of other nations. Herman rightly maintains that far more attention is paid to atrocities committed by US enemies than to those committed by the US and its allies. But both groups then take the unwarranted step of belittling the acts of genocide committed by opponents of the western powers.

The rest of us should stand up for the victims, whoever they are, and confront those trying to make them disappear.”

The original post with full references can be seen at Monbiot’s site.

Update 1: In a hole, stop digging, but Media Lens carry on:

“One initial thought. Monbiot writes:

‘The leftwing website Media Lens maintained that Herman and Peterson were “perfectly entitled” to talk down the numbers killed at Srebrenica.’

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/13/left-and-libertarian-right

What does ‘talk down’ really mean here? Downplay? Underestimate? Deliberately underestimate? Dishonestly underestimate?

In fact, last week we spelled out our position to Monbiot on Twitter:

‘We’re saying +everyone+ is entitled to debate facts. Who are we, or you, to say they are not? Do you possess Absolute Truth?’

Imagine how it would have looked for him, if he had honestly represented our position:

‘The leftwing website Media Lens maintained that Herman and Peterson were “perfectly entitled” to debate the numbers killed at Srebrenica.’

As Monbiot also knows (we sent him a link to what follows), this is also what we wrote in 2009:

‘It is certainly true that we have posted articles by Herman and Peterson discussing the massacre on our website. But it is simply false to suggest that they have argued that “the genocide at Srebrenica was all a hoax”. Herman and Peterson have written:

‘”The Srebrenica massacre took place in the month before Operation Storm, Croatia’s devastating attack and ethnic cleansing of some 250,000 Serbs from the Krajina, with over 1,000 civilians killed, including over 500 women and children…” (Edward Herman and David Peterson, ‘The Dismantling of Yugoslavia,’ Monthly Review, October 2007; http://www.monthlyreview.org/1007herman-peterson1.php)

‘Their very rational concern is to discuss the “asymmetry in how the Srebrenica massacre and Operation Storm have entered the Western canon”. (Ibid) Their interest, then, is in precisely +comparing+ how these two horrific massacres were treated by Western politics and media. Herman and Peterson have also written:

‘”There is a good case to be made that, while there were surely hundreds of executions, and possibly as many as a thousand or more, the 8,000 figure is a political construct and eminently challengeable.” (Herman and Peterson, ‘Milosevic’s Death in the Propaganda System,’ ZNet, May 14, 2006; http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/3884)

‘Herman and Peterson, then, are +not+ denying that mass killings took place at Srebrenica. They also do not accept the figure cited by Kamm and others, but that they are perfectly entitled to do. The point is that while critics are free to take issue with their facts, sources and arguments, it is nonsense to accuse them of sins that are the “moral equivalent of Holocaust denial”. And to associate us with Holocaust denial on the grounds that we publish their material is desperate indeed.’

http://www.medialens.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=585:dancing-on-a-mass-grave-oliver-kamm-of-the-times-smears-media-lens&catid=23:alerts-2009&Itemid=9

Notice that Monbiot has smeared us in a national newspaper on a subject we have never written about beyond the above explanation of why we posted, or linked to, articles by Herman and Peterson on the subject on our website. We have not ourselves ever written about the Srebrenica massacre other than to affirm that it took place. For this, according to Monbiot, we are guilty of the thought crime of ‘genocide denial’.”

[My emphasis.]

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