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

Archive for September 2008

Far Right Yet Again.

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If there is one constant in politics from the 1930s, it is how we all (and I include myself) tend to underestimate the Far Right.

We often think “how can anyone vote for those xenophobic cranks ?” or “who would trust those dressed up knuckle scrapers ?”, yet people do and the appalling results from Austria bear that out, the Indy reports:

“The Freedom Party, led by Heinz-Christian Strache, gained more than 18 per cent of the vote – nearly doubling its share of support – after running a vitriolic campaign against “foreign criminals” and “asylum cheats” and pledging to take Austria out of the EU.

A second right-wing party, the Alliance for the Future of Austria, headed by the veteran far-right populist Jörg Haider upped its support from 4 to 11.5 per cent. A spokesman for Mr Haider’s party described the result as a ” historic success” yesterday. “It will completely change the political landscape in Austria,” he said.

A triumphant Mr Haider went on Austrian television last night and insisted that both right-wing parties should now work together. “Voters now expect us to do something for Austria. They do not want us steeped in animosity and fighting each other,” he said. Mr Haider broke with the Freedom Party in 2005 after a row and subsequently formed his breakaway Alliance.

The combined vote of both rightist parties equalled that obtained by Austria’s Social Democrats, who picked up just over 29 per cent of the vote. The conservatives won some 26 per cent. However, final results are not expected to be known until the beginning of October, after postal ballots have all been counted. “

Written by modernityblog

29/09/2008 at 01:34

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John Wight: Bang To Rights.

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Fresh is Grass has a superb post on the Kitsch British anti-imperialism and John Wight’s strange interpretation of the US/Israel relationship:

“John Wight is prone to compare Israel to various fearsome beasts. The “hydra-headed monster” was a good one. This time Israel is a “vicious bulldog” towing its master along on its leash. Idley contemplating the sort of creature John Wight reminds me of has been quite interesting.”

Read the rest.

Written by modernityblog

28/09/2008 at 01:09

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More Internationalism, Viva!

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Surprisingly in the age of globalisation I find that a lot of blogs are rather parochial and overtly concerned with national matters, so it was a pleasant surprise when I found out that Andrew Coates, renowned internationalist and Francophile, had started up Tendance Coatesy.

Andrew is a fervent secularist, is very knowledgeable on France and has a good sense of humour.

Viva la Revolution at Tendance Coatesy.

I am not much for national anthems, but topically I have a certain weakness for La Marseillaise. It is a very nice tune and the history behind the music is intriguing, according to Internet Modern History Sourcebook:

“La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, was composed in one night during the French Revolution (April 24, 1792) by Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle, a captain of the engineers and amateur musician stationed in Strasbourg in 1792. It was played at a patriotic banquet at Marseilles, and printed copies were given to the revolutionary forces then marching on Paris. They entered Paris singing this song, and to it they marched to the Tuileries on August 10th.

Ironically, Rouget de Lisle was himself a royalist and refused to take the oath of allegiance to the new constitution. He was imprisoned and barely escaped the guillotine.. Originally entitled Chant de guerre de l’armeé du Rhin (War Song of the Army of the Rhine), the anthem became called La Marseillaise because of its popularity with volunteer army units from Marseilles.”

Anyways, this is the version that I like:

Update 2: Andrew suggests this site,

I preferred the Russian version of Le Chant des Partisans, just sounds a bit more nature:

Written by modernityblog

24/09/2008 at 19:36

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Engage Down and Up, Again.

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The Engage web site is an indispensable resource for antiracists, antifascists and those interested in an intelligent discussion on the problems of antisemitism.

Sadly, it is down at the moment due to a server problem. Regular readers shouldn’t worry, or think that it has been attacked as with Harry’s Place, it hasn’t.

Once the particular server problem is resolved Engage will resume service.

They are up again.

Written by modernityblog

23/09/2008 at 22:32

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Palin and the Moose?

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I can’t comment much on the American Presidental election, but Lefthawk’s use of a cartoon made me laugh.

Unrelated, but I wish that WordPress would create a widget to copy Blogger’s BlogList thingie. It is smart and handy, come on WP, more widgets.

Written by modernityblog

22/09/2008 at 03:03

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What About Ethiopia?

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According to reports, the Ethiopian government is deliberately manipulating food aid to use against separatist rebels in the Ogaden region, which results in mass starvation and famine, The Times has more details:

“Ethiopia has been accused of deliberately underestimating the scale of a deadly drought facing millions of its people, some of whom are being deprived of emergency food aid by the country’s military.

The humanitarian crisis, caused by three years of failed rains, currently affects about 4.6 million people, though the official number could jump to as high as 6.7 million this week.

United Nations agencies say that the real number at risk is above 8 million, an estimate disputed hotly by Addis Ababa, which is insisting on publishing a much lower figure.

“The figure has risen very substantially, maybe even doubled,” said Sir John Holmes, the UN’s emergency relief co-ordinator, who visited Ethiopia earlier this month. “Any government doesn’t want to be perceived as always in the position of receiving aid.”

Nomadic tribes there are resorting to eating dead leaves and cactus fruit to survive the worst drought since the famines of 1984-85, when an estimated one million Ethiopians died.

A twenty-mile trek on foot into the bush revealed mediaeval mud-hut villages, where ethnic Somali herdsmen say that their children have died after eating poisonous buds from trees, for lack of anything else to eat. Others say that they depend on camel milk and meat because cattle, sheep and goats have perished in their thousands.

“I am ill and hungry,” said one man, removing his shirt to reveal his rib cage visible through taut skin. “Because of the drought we have nothing to eat. The only people who receive food are the military forces.”

The UN has raised about 60 per cent of $325 million (£181 million) it is seeking in emergency relief for Ethiopia and says that it is suffering a shortfall of about 300,000 tonnes of aid.

The WFP has told donors that it blames Ethiopia’s “delays in recognising the extent of need” for causing the rapid depletion of existing food stocks. But a Channel 4 News investigation tonight claims that the army has withheld food from villages in the Ogaden deliberately as part of a “scorched earth” policy against separatist rebels of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF)

Written by modernityblog

21/09/2008 at 02:28

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Naughtie but Nice and What a Palin?

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James Naughtie presents an informative series called American Dreams on BBC World Service, Part One’s audio is here at WMV or Real Audio.

It starkly contrasts with the coverage of Sarah Palin’s hacked Yahoo account at Gawkers, which leads to valleywag’s story on Did Sarah Palin destroy Yahoo Mail evidence? and that brought me to an amusing story on Wonkette, Todd Palin Interview Sharply Lowers World’s Collective IQ

Personally, I thought Naughtie did a better job of portraying the American people.

Written by modernityblog

18/09/2008 at 03:37

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Decline in Antifascism and the Consequences.

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In the past 30 years there has been a steep decline in antifascist activity in Britain, recently matched by an increase of Far Right activism on the web.

The Far right often run “outreach” programmes with slightly modified propaganda, toned down, aimed at broadening their influence. They often re-hash their ideas in a mixture of post modernist waddle, 9/11 scepticism and crude anti-capitalism. Some are fooled by this filth as the Jenna Delich case and the Tikkun magazine debacle show.

So I am glad to report that the AVPS has news of “September 20th: Stoke Anti-Fascist Activity”.

If you’re in that neck of the woods, why not pop along.

Written by modernityblog

17/09/2008 at 20:01

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Free Raja Petra Kamaruddin.

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Governments and politicians hate criticism, and when they can they will use the law to suppress that criticism, so it is in Malaysia, as the BBC points out:

“Late on Tuesday night, I spoke to Raja Petra Kamarudin. We were supposed to meet face-to-face earlier in the day, but Malaysia’s most vociferous anti-government campaigner could not make it. He was in hiding.

Three days later, he was detained.

The ostensible reason for the blogger’s arrest was that he published a blasphemous article about Islam on his website, Malaysia Today. In the predominantly Muslim country, such an offence can carry a jail sentence.

But several weeks ago, the campaigner had also made allegations against one of Malaysia’s most powerful men, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Mr Petra suggested the minister may have been involved in the 2007 murder of a Mongolian model. Mr Najib denied any involvement.

Shortly afterwards, the government ordered internet service providers to block access to Malaysia Today. The ban was lifted the day before Mr Petra was arrested. “

Free Raja Petra Kamaruddin.

Written by modernityblog

15/09/2008 at 20:22

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Technology News: Wine

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As a break, some technology news:

Wine is now at 1.1.4, development version and overall very useful. If you’re stuck with Windows XP or that chronically slow Vista then you should think about switching over to Linux.

The method is fairly simple:

1. Compile a list of the applications that you use most and either find suitable Linux versions (there’s 1000’s out there) or check the Wine AppDB to see if it runs trouble free under Wine.

2. Having done that, get a spare machine, so it doesn’t matter if you scramble the disk (not too likely, but best be safe).

3. Pick a major distro and migrate your files over either by burning a CD/DVD or using a cheap USB stick.

4. Keep the original files safe, for months, no matter what, then experiment with Linux, see if you like that (I don’t have to reboot every few hours) feeling.

Some major distributions that I like are: Mandriva, MEPIS, Kubuntu and PCLinuxos, but don’t take my word for it, there’s a positive feast at Distrowatch. Polish Linux is also worth a visit.

Slow machines tend to benefit from Antix, Zenwalk, Damn Small, GoblinX and SliTaz.

Also, if you’re stuck with a useless but serviceable machine try GParted and SystemRescue.

If you’ve decided to switch over, think about it, what applications are must haves, others nice but you can find an alternative, etc.

Invest some time and effort to document your test installations and what you found out. Play around, read informative blogs, tinker until you’re happy.

Linux can seem a bit fiddly to setup but once you’re done, then it can be rock solid, just take the time to do the job properly.

Written by modernityblog

14/09/2008 at 11:59

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Academic Nuance Or Fanaticism?

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I managed to scrape together another guest post at HP, not one of my finest efforts, but I thought it managed to draw out some interesting remarks from the commentors.

News just in, Ben at Z-Word takes Antony Lerman to task.

Written by modernityblog

12/09/2008 at 18:52

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Don’t Exclude Mike Cushman.

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Shocking news from Engage, the confidentiality of the UCU activist list has been broken by Mike Cushman.

Readers will remember that Dr. David Hirsh has been excluded from the UCU activist list after he exposed the border-line racism which permeated it.

In the spirit of freedom of political expression Mr. Cushman should not be excluded from the UCU activist list, and this blog will support Mr. Cushman if he’s attacked by UCU bureaucrats. Let’s stop this nonsense, open up the UCU activist list!

Readers will remember that Mr. Cushman stoked up the flames when HP exposed Ms. Delich’s silly actions, and he may have (I am not 100% sure) been responsible for closing down Harry’s Place for a couple of days.

But leave that aside, support Mr. Cushman, open up the UCU activist list!

Written by modernityblog

08/09/2008 at 20:45

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Support Freedom of Political Expression.

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HP has an excellent post on the curtailment of civil liberties in Liverpool, I had been reading an article on the arrest of Tony Aitman earlier at SU blog and it made me think about the parallels with the recent outage at HP.

It is easy to support those we agree with, but much harder when we have major political differences with them. So the wide range of support for HP showed that sometimes principle is slightly more important than short term bitterness towards political adversaries, and this issue is a case in point.

A very dangerous precedence has been set by Liverpool Council, they are trying to clear away political activism from the street. They recently harassed some Socialist Party members in Liverpool and eventually arrested one member.

This matter has much wider implications for civil liberties, freedom of expression and political pluralism.

If SP members wish to have a small stall putting forward their point of view then they should be entitled to, otherwise, it is the thin end of the wedge, which leads to the restriction of political expression in the streets, all on the say so and whim of a local Council.

And that is not something that anyone should welcome.

I urge readers to support the SP and Tony Aitman in this matter.

Written by modernityblog

05/09/2008 at 19:44

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[Sobs…sobs] Thanks Dear Reader.

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When I started this blog I didn’t expect more than 2 readers a year, but I got more than 5 a week so I am more than happy. In truth, the blog was more part of my regime to remain tolerably sane rather than any wish to expound my views on a waiting public.

So I am all the more surprised that I got #78 in the Total Politics poll, ahead I should say of people that do this blogging for a living, which is a bit funny.

Now, it is probably obvious that I am none too keen on the Tories, but as every aspiring politician or party whip knows flattery goes along way.

So thank you Iain Dale, thanks Total Politics and thank you dear Reader [sob….sob….walks away with bunch of flowers….trips over high heels….]


Written by modernityblog

04/09/2008 at 00:01

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I forget if I’ve posted on this, but Pauline Levis passed this to me ages ago:

Please support.


Behnam, an outstanding BA Hons Fine Art student at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, University of the Arts London, his younger brother, an A level student at Quintin Kynaston School, and their mother, are in urgent need of asylum in the UK.

What Behnam and his mother face is deportation to prison, torture and likely death.

As a former teacher at the boys’ school and now a close family friend, I have known Behnam since his arrival at the school in 2003. I vouch for the family’s complete integrity and for the authenticity of their asylum claim.

Behnam is a delightful, popular young man and an excellent role model for young people. In recognition of his achievements under adversity he was Highly Commended at the Anne Frank Awards in 2007. He was recently made an Ambassador for Refugees and Arts by the Refugees & the Arts Initiative.

Behnam is an exceptionally talented visual artist, much of whose artwork reflects his open-minded approach to matters such as politics and religion and his strong opposition to the current regime. This, alone, would place him in great danger in today’s Iran.

Aged just 21, Behnam recently held an exhibition “Visions of Freedom” at the Watermans Arts Centre, Brentford, his fifth solo art exhibition in London . He has also exhibited alongside other artists including at the Human Rights Centre of Amnesty International and at Portsmouth University. He and his family are an enormous asset to our society.

The image included is “Hope for Freedom” by Behnam, aged 16, depicting the view of a political prisoner looking out towards freedom. The doves and the Statue of Liberty are outlined in the colours of the Iranian flag. Around the image are representaions of the ancient Persian Human Rights Codes of Cyrus.

In April 2005 two of Behnam’s friends were arrested at Behnam’s family’s home in Iran for allegedly printing and distributing anti-regime literature.

Three days later Behnam’s father was arrested on arrival at Tehran Airport. Beaten and interrogated about the whereabouts of his wife and older son, Behnam’s father was released following the payment of money.

He warned his wife in London, that she and Behnam were wanted by the authorities and could not return to Iran. He was subsequently re-arrested and held in the notorious Evin Prison for 15 months until he was conditionally released.

The family claimed asylum in the UK, but their claim was rejected. It again failed on appeal and upheld at a reconsideration hearing. Shortly after receiving this news the boys’ mother collapsed and was taken to hospital. This has happened on a number of occasions since this situation arose and is clearly stress-related.

The family sought to take the case to the Court of Appeal, especially as there is evidence which was not available at the earlier hearing, but their application was rejected.

A fresh asylum claim based on additional evidence was been submitted in April 2008.

Their position is one of great danger. Both Behnam and his mother have been tried and sentenced in absentia by a court in Iran on political charges. Behnam has been sentenced prison for 5 years, his mother to 7 years.

Even more shocking is that they have been warned that they will receive lashes, 70 in Behnam’s case and 100 in the mother’s. Knowing the people concerned we cannot see how they could survive such a brutal ordeal.

The Iranian regime has an appalling, and deteriorating, Human Rights record – including executions of minors, floggings and other forms of torture.

We are completely dismayed and outraged by the suffering this delightful family are going through.

The family is at real risk of deportation to Iran. This petition is part of a campaign to stop this.

Please sign the onlne petition if you have not signed the paper one. In all, almost 10,000 people have now signed the petition, demonstrating the enormous concern there is for this much loved vulnerable family in such danger.


If you would like to get involved in the campaign please let me know.

On behalf of the family, thanks for your support.

Pauline Levis
Coordinator, Behnam & Family Must Stay Campaign”

Written by modernityblog

02/09/2008 at 15:10

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