ModernityBlog

“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)

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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.

Difficulties

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.”]

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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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