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

Archive for March 2007

Darfur Denial on Tape

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The denial over Darfur is shocking and the complacency of the UN is highlighted in this video clip, where Sudan’s allies tried to block any meaningful UN report on the catastrophe going on in Darfur.
(Hat tip: Gene)

Written by modernityblog

29/03/2007 at 01:57

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Arab Peace Plan on CiF

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Jonathan Freedland beat me too it. I had intended to write a small piece on Arab League peace plan but Jonathan Freedland got there before me. Whilst I don’t agree with many of his sentiments he has started some debate on the issue which is good.

What I found more interesting and somewhat predictable was the discussion on Comment is Free. You might imagine that as CiF is connected to The Guardian, Britain’s leading liberal newspaper, that the debate would be informed, pluralistic, considered and even a bit “liberal”?

Well no, that’s not how it turned out.

When CiF articles discuss Israel it seems that some of the commenters stop off at BNP HQ for inspiration first, as the discussions are invariably heated, bigoted and often express a barely concealed loathing for the existence of Jews. Of course nowadays CiF commenters habitually use the word “Zionist” when they mean “Jew”, but that just tells us how low the debate has sunk.

The problem is illuminated by EnglishroG’s comment (March 28, 2007 1:13 PM):

“Israel “always says it wants peace.”

The reality is that Israel wants land at a reasonable price in blood and treasure.

Palestinians supply the blood, the United States provides the treasure.

Until Israel has ethnically cleansed the entire West Bank it won’t agree to peace, just whine about anti-semitism and the holocaust blah blah blah.

It is fairly typical of the filth now found on CiF, which seems required reading amongst aged Mosleyites and BNPers.

I am glad the HOPE not hate, the Anti-Fascist Fortnight, has started.

However, next time I wish that they would extend it to an anti-fascist month of activities at The Guardian.

Chance would be a fine thing?

Written by modernityblog

28/03/2007 at 13:16

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Sudan Blocks the UN again.

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The UN and the Sudanese government have a strange relationship: almost supplicant and master.

You might think that the constant contempt expressed by Sudan’s political elite for the UN might just sink in? But no. 

A few months back, the UN had to grovel to the Sudanese government to accept a UN force in Darfur and even that was rejected out of hand. Instead a rather feeble and over stretched African Union contingent provides what limited support they can to the Darfurians.

A further expression of the Sudanese government’s disregard for the UN and humanitarian work is reported by the BBC:

“The UN’s new emergency relief coordinator John Holmes has been turned away from a camp in Darfur for those fleeing the Sudanese conflict.

The UN envoy was refused entry by Sudanese soldiers to Kassab camp in northern Darfur, says the BBC’s Karen Allen, who is travelling with him.

In the past six months the BBC has reported on mass rapes of women and young girls at the camp.

Mr Holmes is on a tour of Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic.

It was the former British diplomat’s first visit to Darfur since taking over from Jan Egeland as UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs on 1 March.

The Kassab camp is in northern Darfur, the region of western Sudan in the grip of a conflict which has seen 200,000 people killed and more than 2.5 million people displaced.


Within hours of arriving in Darfur, Mr Holmes was stopped at a checkpoint. His convoy was sent back and television groups covering the visit had their video tapes confiscated, our correspondent says.

The UN envoy told journalists travelling with him that the soldiers’ actions illustrated the difficulties the UN is facing working in the area.

The Kassab camp, a few miles outside Kutum, is sanctuary to more than 20,000 people.

Our correspondent says that the camp has increasingly found itself cut off from the humanitarian community, which, she says, has effectively been forced out of the area.

Last week, Mr Holmes held talks with senior Sudanese officials in Khartoum and stressed the need for the government not to interfere with the humanitarian work, according to reports.

Aid agencies are trying to help some two-and-a-half million people who have fled from their homes after attacks from pro-government militia – the Janjaweed.

Our correspondent says that the fact that humanitarian access is being to denied to one of the UN’s most senior envoys will do little to ease the diplomatic pressure to impose tough sanctions on Sudan.

After leaving Sudan, the UN envoy will travel to Chad and the Central African Republic, countries where tens of thousands of refugees from Darfur have fled, to escape the violence.”

Written by modernityblog

25/03/2007 at 00:54

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Fresh Coat of Ubuntu?

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The first betas of Ubuntu 7.04 have just been released.

I have been testing most of the alpha releases (the first rough codings) of Ubuntu and Xubuntu for weeks now.

I can say without a doubt that, if Microsoft’s, operating systems were half as good as Ubuntu Linux then the world would be a different place.

As it is M$’s, crappy and fully paid for, software is full of bugs and liable to crash at a moment’s notice, unlike Ubuntu.

During the complete testing period for Ubuntu I never encountered one, not one crash.

There were a few very minor setup issues, but once they were fixed nothing else needed sorting out. Ubuntu ran and ran and ran, without crashing, which is testament to how solid the alpha code was.

Recommended, but as always, do a complete backup before playing with any operating system!

Written by modernityblog

24/03/2007 at 01:55

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No Dissent?

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In an age when there seems a premium on political cretinism and vulgar “anti-imperialist” thinking, it is nice to have a fresh humanist, secular and dissenting point of view, so I look forward to reading the rest of the latest Dissent, a magazine.
There are many online articles at Dissent, but in particular Fred Halliday’s The Jihadism of Fools is worth a second read.

I have highlighted some of the points that he raised:

“Over the last few years, and especially since the American invasion of Iraq in March 2003, there have been indications across the world of a growing convergence between the forces of Islamist militancy, on the one hand, and the “anti-imperialist” left on the other. Leaving aside widespread, if usually unarticulated, sympathy for the attacks of September 11, 2001, justified on the grounds that “the Americans deserved it,” we have seen since 2003 an overt coincidence of policies, with considerable support for the Iraqi “resistance,” which includes strong Islamist elements, and, more recently and even more explicitly, support for Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the Middle East itself, and on parts of the European far left, an overt alliance with Islamists has been established, going back at least to the mass demonstrations in early 2003 that preceded the Iraq War, but also including a convergence of slogans on Palestine—supporting suicide bombings and denying the legitimacy of the Israeli state.


More important, of course, and separate from support for Islamist guerrilla groups, has been alignment at the state level: Iran, for example, has received increasing support from Venezuela. Hugo Chávez has been to Tehran no less than five times. This partnership has been made all the easier by the shift noticeable over the past two decades whereby solidarity based, at least formally, on class or socialist grounds has been replaced by identity politics as the basis for political activism. Inchoately perhaps, a new international united front is being created.

Even more relevant to the situation today is the early record of Hezbollah, which, in its bid to establish itself as the dominant force within the Lebanese Shiite community, not only engaged in a fierce attack on a rival, more moderate group, Amal, but also assassinated a number of left-wing Lebanese politicians and writers who stood in its way.

To this history of jihad against the left, over many decades, must be added one further fact, namely the deep differences that should separate any conceivable program of the radical left from that of Islamist parties. Whether on the rights of women, on secularism, or on free speech, the two political currents are radically opposed; they espouse what should be incompatible positions. So too are they opposed on another issue: the complete absence from the Islamist program of any inclusive internationalism. Instead, while appealing to the community or umma of Muslims, the Islamists, be they al-Qaeda or Hezbollah, appeal only to particular communities and pour out the venom of an unrelenting chauvinism toward nonbelievers, Jews, and even toward Muslims of a different sect than their own. Their rhetoric against Jews far exceeds anything of which the earlier generation of secular Palestinian nationalists was capable. Few today seem to recall the remark of the German socialist leader August Bebel, that anti-Semitism “is the socialism of fools.” Presumably those on the left today who ally with Islamists do so by reference to some concept of false consciousness. It is open to question, however, whose consciousness is the most mistaken.”

Well said Fred!

Written by modernityblog

21/03/2007 at 02:35

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Have You Got the University Gene?

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Paul Anderson pointed me towards Rod Liddle’s article on the proposed “change” to University admission policy.

Now leaving aside the fact I noticed that nearly all of the aggrieved comments on the issues went across the traditional Right-Left divide, pointing to the fact that the agitated Middle Classes seem united irrespective of some supposed political differences.

I don’t want to get into an argument as to whether the Middle Classes, or large chunks of them, make a conscious effort to pull up the ladder behind them or just apply more grease to the already greasy pole, no, instead what took my eye was a comment by Rod Liddle, which seemed to sum up a subconscious middle-class belief:

“It’s a sad fact that raw intelligence is largely inherited. Penalise those whose parents got themselves into university and you are probably penalising Britain’s brightest young people.”

Which seems to suggest, not too subtly, that Britain’s brightest people only ever go to University and always have?

But does going to University mean that people are intelligent or the brightest ? Have they intelligence in raw amounts? And do they even inherit it genetically from their, presumably, intelligent parents? Is it part social, cultural, a lot of training and pushy parents? Or is the financial capacity to go to University crucial?

I think the answer to that is obvious.

It seems like a dangerous way of thinking and it reminded me of the Bell Curve, the notion that IQ is primarily genetic, and following Rod Liddle’s argument, is it the case that people that haven’t attended University are somehow lacking in raw intelligence or somthing else?

I wonder if Rod Liddle has considered that intelligence is randomly distributed across a population and that the opportunity to go to University is generally proportional to the ability to pay for it. In the age of loans, successful undergraduates tend to come* from wealthier backgrounds**, but not necessarily one’s possessing more raw intelligence.

So Rod Liddle’s comment sounds like one of those subconscious middle-class prejudice that seeps out when you least expect it, although I could imagine that most of the chattering classes would be nodding their heads in agreement with his point, irrespective of some supposed egalitarianism or sense of equality on their part.

It is that ugly spectre of class and wealth raising its head again, surprise, surprise: “quick grease the pole before the proles get here!”

*[The study also found that the rapid expansion of higher education during the late 80s and 90s had not benefited the worst off. During that time the proportion of people from the poorest 20% of society getting a degree rose from 6% to 9%, but for the wealthiest 20% it rose from 20% to 47%.]

**[Young people from middle-class homes are now six times  more likely to go to university than students from working-class backgrounds, the gathering of MPs, headteachers, university leaders and education experts heard. Poor students would not have a fair chance to attend university until there was a radical reform of the school system to ensure that poor children got better access to good schools.”]

Written by modernityblog

20/03/2007 at 00:57

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Site(s) of the Week/Month 21

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A bit of a cheat, not just web sites but free software:

I recommend the following freebies:

Orbit – the download manager – in a word – bril

SystemRescue – need to fix a disk or an XP crash – this will do it

Belarc’s Advisor – need to audit a PC or just get the serial numbers?

Written by modernityblog

18/03/2007 at 23:52

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What Is Really Happening in Iran

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No, I don’t mean their nuclear projects or Russia’s recent decision, I mean what is happening inside Iran?

There is a revealing article in Le Monde, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the big brother of the people. In the original French and an online translation.

It points to the dire state of the Iranian economy, which seem strange to outsiders given Iran’s vast oil wealth, educated population and resources.

Apparently, Iran has the second largest oil reserves in the Middle East and natural gas reserves second only to that of Russia, and yet Iran imports refined petroleum, which is strange.

Although according to some sources the state of poverty in Iran is improving, but it is surprisingly still prevalent in many areas, as the Le Monde article outlines:

“In the quietude of its small apartment, Maziar Mehr Poor, which collects signatures to obtain the right of free association for the workmen, also speaks about a promise, that which made to the workers forever: a regular employment. Workers who, behind the official snap, accomodated the president with saying Racht with panels: “Nobody deals with us!” Among them, there had been those of the coal mine of Sangrood, which have not been paid for seventeen months, or those of the electric Company Iran, without wages for two years. Here, 70% of the workmen are with unemployment or fight for temporary contracts with 150 dollars per month.”


“The petrodollars…created a class of new rich person. There are much selfishness and corruption. One resembles the Soviet system with his absurd choices and his bad planning.”

“Also the demonstrations multiply and criticisms rain at the Parliament. The daily newspaper Teheran Times fustigated, last week, in a leading article, this “economic policy made by amateurs”, explaining why, “this year, much from money was withdrawn from the funds of stabilization of oil and was injected into the economy, creating a very high inflation, with the detriment of poorest and those which have fixed incomes”. “The world is directed on our so-called nuclear bomb, concluded Said Leylaz, but the only bomb about to explode, here, it is that of our economy.”

So a cynic might suggest that the Iranian ruling classes and elites are using the conflict over nuclear technology to distract attention away from their mismanagement of Iran’s economy and to whip up nationalist feelings.

A very old tactic.

Written by modernityblog

15/03/2007 at 13:45

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Jewish Book Week’s Audio Archive

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One of Harry’s Place’s most sensible commentators, ami, pointed me towards the Jewish Book Week’s audio archive.

There are some fascinating discussions and topics, here’s a selection of some that I intend to listen to:


Karl Marx for the 21st Century

The People on the Street

The Art of Authorised Biography

Composing a Nation

Passions: Vasily Grossman


Freud, Psychoanalysis and Anti-Semitism

The Jewish Question

Apprehending Eichmann

Genes and Genesis

The Lie that Wouldn’t Die

Enjoy the Archive

Update: it seems that the MP3 archive is active from 2006 onwards, not 100% sure but that’s what I found 😦

Written by modernityblog

11/03/2007 at 18:19

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The ADSL is Dead, Long Live the ADSL Router

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My ancient but previously reliable USR Sureconnect 9003 died on me after 5-7 years of service (I forget) and was replaced by a Netgear DG834G v3.

I was pleasantly surprised how trivial the configuring of ADSL was, although the combined Firewall and Wireless function was a teeny weenie bit fiddly until I engaged my mind (which doesn’t happen much nowadays).

I just wonder how long will it last?

Note to self: always add minicom after a Linux install, just in case.

Written by modernityblog

10/03/2007 at 23:14

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Lackey Of Imperialism Killed Off By Allies

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Throughout the world anti-imperialists are about to rejoice and it looks like the first crack in the edifice of imperialism has started, and not any imperialism but the American kind, which we are told is the worst, ever, ever to exist, which could eventually lead to its demise.

Anti-imperialists are ecstatic because one of the most significant tools of American hegemony is about to be killed off.

Captain America will soon die, as reported by USA Today:

“Marvel Comics is insisting the original Captain America — Steve Rogers who debuted in 1941 and fought Nazis and Communists into the 1950s before being revived in the 1960s — is indeed dead.


Written by modernityblog

09/03/2007 at 01:30

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Not a Happy Carnival?

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I probably take too much of an interest in politics and political discussions, but there are two web sites that I find entertaining and informative on the subject, Dave Osler and Shiraz Socialist, that is the wine, not the “Islamic” legal system.

Shiraz Socialist’s blogger Voltaire’s priest is hosting the 13th Carnival of Socialism, under the topic of “Why is the left obsessed with the Middle East?”

An interesting question and I shall try to have my two pence worth on this topic later on.

Written by modernityblog

07/03/2007 at 16:29

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Libby, Cheney or Rove

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The Scooter Libby case seems to be the political talk of North America, it is probable that Libby is taking the fall for the release of the CIA agent’s name instead of someone much higher, either Dick Cheney or Karl Rove.

I suspect that they are worried that if Libby has to serve any significant time in prison that he will break with his former political masters and spill the beans. Thus bringing federal proceedings against them and effectively killing their political/corporate careers.

Irrespective of the sentencing I would imagine that Scooter Libby will serve very little time in jail, allowing for the appeals process which should drag out the case, even if he goes to jail for a period of time, then George Bush will probably issue him with a Presidential pardon as one of his last tasks in office.

So the issue for Cheney, Rove and Libby is to drag out the proceedings until near the end of George Bush’s term in office, then Libby can go free and probably to some nice well paid job connected with a Cheney associate or corporation.

But we shall see how it pans out, politics in DC is dark and murky.

Written by modernityblog

07/03/2007 at 01:18

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Back to Technology

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It has been pointed out by a commenter that Ubuntu had some issues with wireless networking, and I did have some minor problem with my ancient Sitecom WL 113 dongle.

However, I think it’s much easier to deal with these issues in Ubuntu, provided it’s done methodically.

In the first instance, we need to determine if the issue is related to a configuration problem or unsupported hardware.

By scanning and googling the hardware concerned (network card, etc) it should be easy to determine if the device is supported and has been made to work under Linux.

If it isn’t, and some more esoteric pieces of hardware won’t be supported then it is best to change it out for another piece of kit.

If it is supported, then the issue may simply be one of configuration, or that Linux has not fully recognised the hardware concerned, which is more probable in most cases.

Before getting your hands dirty and trying to resolve the wireless issues, firstly I would suggest that you do a clean installation, link the PC up to a wired network and fully update the software, making sure that you have the latest patches, etc:

1) connect to a wired network
2) run the Update Manager (System ->Administration->Update Manager)
3) Reboot and re-run Update Manager until it indicates that there are no more patches to download.

This approach has the additional benefit of verifying that the overall network setup is working, but that the wireless connection may just need some work on it.

Secondly, find out precisely the name and chipset of your wireless adapter (the easy way is to use another OS [XP, Win98, etc] and look at the driver direct from the Device Manager or similar, and in my case it is ZD1211 – that’s the chipset)

Thirdly, scan the Linux kernel postings and Forums to see if it is supported directly or via the Ndiswrapper.

Fourthly, open a terminal window and look at the boot process, has the wireless adapter been recognised in any way? Use dmesg, lspci, lsusb and the contents of /var/logs/messages.

If in doubt, check out Ubuntu’s wireless resources below.

Assuming number three and four are affirmative, then invoke ifconfig and iwconfig to see if the card is partly recognised, but yet not fully configured.

In my case, it was the ESSID that wasn’t set, and after that I just had to set the speed of the link.

So my simple solution was to edit /etc/rc.local then add iwconfig eth0 essid xxx and iwconfig rate 54M, not pretty but it did the job.

So to summarise:

1) Update the system
2) determine the precise hardware
3) see if it is supported directly by kernel
4) verify the boot process
5) check the Ubuntu resources, think about the issue, don’t jump to premature conclusions
6) try to determine which particular portion of the setup procedure is not working, and look for existing solutions.
7) If no joy, at all, borrow an alternative wireless card and see how that is setup, and then return to fixing the original.

As for resources in this process, try the trouble shooting guide and the Ubuntu wireless setup guide.

Above all remember that Ubuntu is changing and growing, so progressively most hardware recognition issues are being solved directly during the installation of newer versions, and because something didn’t work in the past doesn’t mean it won’t work now.

Written by modernityblog

06/03/2007 at 20:31

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Keeping Track of Antisemitism in Venezuela

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The issue of statistical information and the rise of antisemitism in Venezuela came up recently at Harry’s Place, so I have summarised some of the available information, if anyone knows of any other good reputable sources, then I will include them in an update.

The annual Antisemitism World Reports covering Venezuela can be found at the Stephen Roth Institute, these are the most recent on-line copies:

1997-1998 report
1998-1999 report – seems missing
1999-2000 report
2001-2002 report
2002-2003 report
2003-2004 report
2004-2005 report

Additionally it is possible to view various statistical breakdowns

For graphical presentations

View the reports on a country by country basis

Written by modernityblog

02/03/2007 at 04:13

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