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

Archive for January 2009

Morecambe Bay.

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Societies are global, from the earliest time travellers went from region to region, across the globe in search of better lives, goods and trade. In doing so brought back tales of faraway places, exotic people and strange customs, or so the Romans thought when meeting early Britons.

Britain is, lest we forget, a nation of immigrants, from Celts passing through, Roman settlers, various Germanic tribes and the proto-French conquerors. All that even before the 12th century. Later on the British Empire further expanded globalisation through slaughter, theft, commerce and even slavery.

The English language is an another example of globalisation, peppered with foreign words, complete with peculiar grammar structure, inconsistent spelling and non-phonetic pronunciation.

Britain, along with other European countries is multi-ethnic and whilst some might want to think of themselves as somehow “Anglo-Saxon” and deserving of special treatment, that is an illusion. (Ask yourself where that Saxon comes from? Modern day Germany and Denmark ! How ever so British.)

So the xenophobic slogans employed in the recent strikes are worrying, but worse is our inability to remember those who once harvested cockles in Morecambe Bay, five years ago.

Twenty three of them killed by criminal negligence.

Further compounded by a vague apathy to them, as people, they were immigrants from China, part of globalisation. People seeking work, to better themselves, to live to enjoy life, as we all do.

Dave Tang’s comments at the Speccy are surprisingly good:

“As a Chinese Anglophile, I have recently become incensed by the way in which some of my compatriots, though illegal, are being treated in this country that I love. I am hugely saddened by the fifth anniversary of the Morecambe Bay incident (on 5 February), in which 23 illegal Chinese cockle-pickers drowned. They were forced to do a filthy job and they died a foul death. It has made me think how wrongly complacent the British are about the Chinese population. We Chinese have this reputation of being reticent, rather inscrutable, but minding our own business, excelling in our professions, and beavering away making money. It’s not a bad reputation and so as an ethnic group the Chinese do not cause any worry, still less alarm.”

So remember those deaths on Morecambe Bay, five years ago and ask why such indifference to their fate?

Written by modernityblog

31/01/2009 at 16:25

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Mean While Else Where?

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Wen Jiabao is visiting the UK to deliver a Rede lecture and will surely have an opportunity to glad-hand some of New Labour’s finest, in around of mutually advantageous discussions, one dictatorship’s club to another set of control freaks?

But I doubt the topic of the missing 1,000 Tibetans will come up, Gordon Brown is unlikely to mention the human right’s of poor Tibetans lest he offend China’s PM and ruin business relations.

AI reported in December 2008 that:

“Tibetan former monk Nami Jhaba was detained by police on 19 April 2008, and has been held incommunicado since then. Police recently returned some of his possessions to his family, and he is therefore believed to be in danger of torture and other ill-treatment.”

Widespread protests are expected:

“The UK government has made some critical statements about China, but not as much as campaigners would like.

Last week, it published its four-year strategy on China, which said: “We will be candid and honest should we disagree – on issues such as human rights, for example.”

But activists say the situation within China is not improving.

The Amnesty International website has once again been blocked inside mainland China, as are sites collecting signatures for Charter 08, a petition by academics and human rights activists calling for legal and political reform.

Search terms such as ‘freedom’, ‘human rights’, and ‘Tibet’ are filtered to censor websites.

Internet users have allegedly been imprisoned after unfair trials, often on vaguely defined charges such as subversion or leaking state secrets.

“Chinese people have as much right to free speech and access to information as everyone else, and their government should respect this,” Ms Allen added.

“This includes making up their own minds about what we are saying on the Amnesty website.”

Defence lawyers, journalists, HIV/Aids activists, workers’ rights activists, villagers protesting against land seizures, and relatives of people killed or disabled during the crackdown on the 1989 pro-democracy movement are also regularly imprisoned.

China also retains the questionable distinction of executing more people per year than any other country in the world. In 2007, at least 470 people were killed, although with real figures a closely held secret, that number is liable to be far higher.

2009 sees a resurgent activist movement build on the demonstrations which took place around the world following the torch relay before the Olympic Games last year.

It is the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the Chinese Republic and the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising.

Free Tibet activists, who are organising the vast majority of protests this weekend, say the situation in the region remains grave.

Many areas of Tibet still remain under de facto martial law with an open military presence in many Tibetan towns.

The whereabouts of 1,000 Tibetans detained on charges relating to protests still remain unaccounted for by the Chinese government. “

Go on, be a bit radical or even revolutionary, follow it all at Free Tibet.

Written by modernityblog

31/01/2009 at 01:48

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When He’s Good He’s Great.

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Was reading Bob from Brockley’s demolishment of Henry Siegman’s cheap arguments on Hamas:

“First, for all its failings, Hamas brought Gaza to a level of law and order unknown in recent years, and did so without the large sums of money that donors showered on the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. It eliminated the gangs and warlords who terrorised Gaza under Fatah’s rule. Non-observant Muslims, Christians and other minorities have more religious freedom under Hamas rule than they would have in Saudi Arabia, for example, or under many other Arab regimes.”

[Bob’s reply]:

‘ If we were to accept what Siegman says here as true, the argument would have the same structure as the following argument: “The notion that Germany under Hitler murdered its Jews is a lie because in fact Hitler made the trains run on time and in any event Stalin killed more people.” Or: “The claim that the My Lai massacre was a war crime is a lie because the American occupation made lots of Vietnamese people rich and anyway Pol Pot did some worse things.” Or “A chicken is not a bird because it’s really a farm animal and anyway a duck is more of a bird than a chicken.”

Quite simply, the extent to which Hamas brought Gaza law and order and religious tolerance is irrelevant to the question of whether it used this orderly and tolerant haven as a launching-pad for rockets. The extent to which the Wahhabi monarchy is a theocratic dictatorship is irrelevant to the question of Hamas’ responsibility for the attempted mass slaughter of Israeli citizens. ‘

It is very good (wish I had written it), read on.


Bernard Avishai is worth a read too:

“Palestine is not Hamas and Israel is not its settlers, though the trends are not encouraging. Poll after poll shows that a majority of Palestinians still want a two-state solution with Israel, while surrendering to the logic of violent struggle. Palestinian elites still look forward to cooperation with Israelis on advanced businesses, higher education, construction, and tourism; they may even have some affection for Israelis; they know that their economic dignity and secular life depend on staving off Hamas. And a majority of Israelis still want peace with Palestine, skeptical as they may be of Palestinian political institutions. Israeli elites are raging against Hamas, but are still stirred by globalization and know that West Bank business infrastructure cannot development with 500 checkpoints. They know their own economic growth and cultural vitality depend on peace; their children, many of whom are leaving the country, hate guarding and paying for settlements.

Yet both sides’ leaders, no matter who they are, cannot break out of a now impossible bind. They cannot imagine prompting a near-term fight with their own rejectionists, which means wide-scale civil disobedience, even civil war, for a long-term negotiation that would be hostage to the first atrocity. Peace advocates are exhausted, increasingly cynical, overwhelmed by military professionals and insurgent militias depicting their own actions as preempting the other side in a fight-to-the-finish. Hamas and Israeli rightists do not oppose a peace deal the way Republicans oppose Keynes. They have killed their own leaders to get their way. And this–not just a stalled “peacemaking process”–is where America comes in.

(H/T: Charles Lenchner )

Update 2:
cabalamat’s got a characteristically intelligent grasp of the situation.

Written by modernityblog

27/01/2009 at 20:06

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Support Dave Olser.

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Dave Osler’s blog and livelihood are being threatened by a libel action brought by that Tory crank, Johanna Kaschke.

I urge all readers to support Dave Osler.

For more details see my previous post, Libelled By A Tory

PS: Ms. Kaschke, if you’re annoyed at my coverage of events, Sue Me!

Update: Tendence Coatsey have expressed their support nicely.

Written by modernityblog

27/01/2009 at 18:52

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Move Over Barry Norman.

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Darren presents one of the best films reviews I have read in ages, it cuts through the crap surrounding the new film, Valkyrie.

A must see.

Written by modernityblog

26/01/2009 at 03:58

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BBC – Broadcast It.

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The BBC should broadcast the DEC appeal for Gaza and stop trying to find reasons not to do it. Arse covering is not a pretty sight, particularly when the BBC management try to do it.

BBC – Broadcast it!

Written by modernityblog

24/01/2009 at 20:48

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CiF’s Percentages.

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Whilst for a period of time I read Cif avidly, nowadays I think it is more an exercise for sociology students than those interested in current affairs or politics.

By that I mean, the type of reaction that CiF articles provoke is probably more interesting than the content of those posts themselves.

So it was when I sampled a piece by Uri Dromi, which had some 401 comments yesterday and 46 deletions, around 11%.

I was curious many “This comment has been removed by a moderator. Replies may also be deleted. “ would occur on such an article discussing “Britain’s broadcasters for refusing to air an emergency appeal for Gaza by Britain’s Disasters Emergency Committee.”

Would that too provoke an energetic response? If so, I was guess that anywhere between 10-25% of posts would be “moderated”.

Counting them using Firefox’s search revealed 55 comments, 7 moderated, 12%.

I would have prefer a larger sampling, but no doubt one will appear shortly.

Written by modernityblog

24/01/2009 at 15:47

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Firefox And The Basics.

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Anyone writing programming code makes small mistakes and often those errors go unnoticed for ages, that normally is not a problem with small projects or a quick hack, but it is an issue when that software is released to the public as a viable alternative to Microsoft’s bloatware.

Such is the case of Firefox, the open source adversary of M$’s Internet Explorer.

At one time Firefox even looked like a light weight contender to take IE’s crown, but no longer, recent releases have been comparatively slow and worse still, subject to excessive memory leaks.

Tests showed that Firefox was not the fastest by a long stretch and had stability problems.

I found that out when Firefox 3.0.5 would suddenly consume 98% of processor time and 40% of memory after being left for a few hours with a few tabs open, under several light weight Linux distributions.

That’s not the way it should be. It shows lazy programming and an inability to test to destruction the code. Sloppy.

But there is good news, Firefox seems to be getting its act together the 3.1 beta 2 is great, it uses a lot less memory and has not hung on me yet.

Good job, Firefox, but please try harder.

Written by modernityblog

24/01/2009 at 01:47

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Watching the BNP, Only If You’ve Got a Strong Stomach.

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Those fine people at Unity Anti-fascist Forum have pointed me towards an anti-BNP channel on Youtube, GHDF1.

It contains undercover videos of BNP activities, neo-Nazi skinheads, blood & honour gigs and clear indication that the BNP wish to transform themselves from a bunch of Hitler loving thugs into something with a veneer of respectability.


Watch the clip on Copeland and the BNP, only if you’ve got a strong stomach

Written by modernityblog

23/01/2009 at 17:28

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Johnny on Obama.

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Some shrewd comments on Obama by Johnny Guitar:

“Reihan Salam is not the first person to recognise Obama’s relatively conservative agenda yet hearing such a thing voiced out loud remains something of a rarity, especially on British television where the new President’s policies are conveniently ignored in favour of endless hours of news coverage on the historic nature of him assuming power. There are a lot of people, not all of whom are politically naïve impressionable youngsters, that have over the course of the past year or two been swept away by the Obama bandwagon. The whiff of radicalism created by the mix of their candidate’s race and eight years of the Republicans in power will in the coming months ebb away when it is slowly realised that he is not the revolutionary some seem to have taken him for.”

Written by modernityblog

23/01/2009 at 04:01

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Eric and Press TV.

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Eric Lee was on Press TV’s Debate on Gaza War and they offer a video clip of it.

I haven’t looked at it yet, but what interested me was their insistence on forcing people to use Microsoft’s Silverlight, which a bit of a pain for all LInux users.

Or it was, the Debian Multimedia repository now has a copy of Moonlight which offers basic functionality to support Silverlight under Linux.

As I am currently using AntiX M7.5 and Gnome’s Epiphany browser I haven’t had a chance to play with Moonlight and Firefox just yet, so we’ll see.


Nope, that didn’t work, seems as if the Debian version supports Silverlight 1.0 but not Silverlight 2.0, which I’ll bet Press TV are using. I’ll have to check it out when I am next using Arch Linux, their Repos are nearly always up to date, unlike Debian’s.

Update 2:

There is a way to see the streams and I suppose suck it down that way, needs the bad and very bad Gstreamer codecs, but works under Totem, quality of the video is none too good tho.

Written by modernityblog

22/01/2009 at 04:05

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From Little Rock Nine to DC.

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More than enough will be written of Obama’s inauguration, so I think it is worthwhile to look behind these contemporary events and remember the past, in this particular instance, the Little Rock Nine:

“The Little Rock Nine were the nine African-American students involved in the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. Their entrance into the school in 1957 sparked a nationwide crisis when Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, in defiance of a federal court order, called out the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the Nine from entering. President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded by federalizing the National Guard and sending in units of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division to escort the Nine into the school on September 25, 1957. The military presence remained for the duration of the school year.

Before transferring to Central, the Nine attended segregated schools for black students in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Carlotta Walls, Jefferson Thomas, and Gloria Ray attended Paul Laurence Dunbar Junior High School, while Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Thelma Mothershed, Terrence Roberts, Minnijean Brown, and Melba Pattillo attended Horace Mann High School.

On May 24, 1955, the Little Rock School Board adopted a plan for gradual integration, known as the Blossom Plan (also known as the Little Rock Phase Program). The plan called for desegregation to begin in the fall of 1957 at Central and filter down to the lower grades over the next six years. Under the plan, students would be permitted to transfer from any school where their race was in the minority, thus ensuring that the black schools would remain racially segregated, because many people believed that few, if any, white students would opt to attend predominantly black schools. Federal courts upheld the Blossom Plan in response to a lawsuit by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

On September 4, 1957, the Nine attempted to enter Central but were turned away by Arkansas National Guard troops called out by the governor. When Elizabeth Eckford arrived at the campus at the intersection of 14th and Park Streets, she was confronted by an angry mob of segregationist protestors. She attempted to enter at the front of the school but was directed back out to the street by the guardsmen. Walking alone, surrounded by the crowd, she eventually reached the south end of Park Street and sat down on a bench to wait for a city bus to take her to her mother’s workplace. Of her experience, Eckford later said, “I tried to see a friendly face somewhere in the mob—someone who maybe would help. I looked into the face of an old woman and it seemed a kind face, but when I looked at her again, she spat on me.” Others of the Nine arrived the same day and gathered at the south, or 16th Street, corner where they and an integrated group of local ministers who were there to support them were also turned away by guardsmen.

The Nine remained at home for more than two weeks, trying to keep up with their schoolwork as best they could. When the federal court ordered Gov. Faubus to stop interfering with the court’s order, Faubus removed the guardsmen from in front of the school. On September 23, the Nine entered the school for the first time. The crowd outside chanted, “Two, four, six, eight…We ain’t gonna integrate!” and chased and beat black reporters who were covering the events. The Little Rock police, fearful that they could not control the increasingly unruly mob in front of the school, removed the Nine later that morning. They once again returned home and waited for further information on when they would be able to attend school.

Calling the mob’s actions “disgraceful,” Eisenhower called out 1,200 members of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division—the “Screaming Eagles” of Fort Campbell, Kentucky—and placed the Arkansas National Guard under federal orders. On September 25, 1957, under federal troop escort, the Nine were escorted back into Central for their first full day of classes. Melba Pattillo later wrote, “After three full days inside Central, I know that integration is a much bigger word than I thought.”

After the Nine suffered repeated harassment—such as kicking, shoving, and name calling—the military assigned guards to escort them to classes. The guards, however, could not go everywhere with the students, and harassment continued in places such as the restrooms and locker rooms. After the 101st Airborne soldiers returned to Ft. Campbell in November, leaving the National Guard troops in charge, segregationist students intensified their efforts to compel the Nine to leave Central. The Little Rock Nine did not have any classes together. They were not allowed to participate in extracurricular activities at Central. Nevertheless, they returned to school every day to persist in obtaining an equal education.

Although all of the Nine endured verbal and physical harassment during their year at Central, Minnijean Brown was the only one to respond; she was first suspended and then expelled for retaliating against the daily torment by dropping her lunch tray with a bowl of chili on two white boys and, later, by referring to a white girl who hit her as “white trash.” Of her experience, she later said, “I just can’t take everything they throw at me without fighting back.” Brown moved to New York City and graduated from New Lincoln High School in 1959.

The other eight students remained at Central until the end of the school year. On May 27, 1958, Ernest Green became Central’s first black graduate. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. attended his graduation ceremony. Green later told reporters, “It’s been an interesting year. I’ve had a course in human relations first hand.” The other eight, like their counterparts across the district, were forced to attend other schools or take correspondence classes the next year when voters opted to close all four of Little Rock’s high schools to prevent further desegregation efforts.”

Read more here, here and here.

Written by modernityblog

20/01/2009 at 00:31

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Tony Blair, Hamas and the Western Media.

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David Adams asks the right questions:

“West turned blind eye to Hamas until Israel hit back.

Why did rocket attacks from Gaza not register on the political or media radar screen before the current offensive,? asks David Adams

I AGREE entirely with the anti-Israeli lobby on one point. The invasion of Gaza, and the resultant death, destruction and misery, need never have happened.

Between the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in September 2005 and the start of the offensive last December 27th, Hamas and other Islamic fundamentalist groups launched about 5,600 indiscriminate rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel.

Yet the international community stood by and did nothing. Where was the UN during this time (unfortunately, this is a frequently asked question where that organisation and conflict zones are concerned)? What did it do to try to stop the attacks? Goodness knows it had plenty of bargaining power if it had chosen to use it.

Then there is the western media, the vast majority of which (most particularly, and vitally, in television news and current affairs) hadn’t bothered reporting on the three-year barrage of rockets from Gaza into southern Israel.

Why was this, if, as they rightly tell us, stability in the Middle East is of global importance? After not having informed the public of thousands of Hamas terrorist attacks over the previous years, television news simply continued in the same vein, content from December 27th to present the Israeli offensive as though it had come entirely out of the blue.

It was only towards the end of the first week that the rocket attacks finally did begin to get a mention, but only in the context of a comparative headcount of the dead and injured on either side to stress how “disproportionate” was the Israeli response.

By then it hardly mattered: the damage was done, the Israelis had already been painted as the bloodthirsty villains of the piece.

Written by modernityblog

18/01/2009 at 18:28

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Random Samples.

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More random samples from the Guardian, this time from Elizabeth Wurtzel’s article.

Some 1087 comments of which approximately 159 were deleted, again we can’t be sure as to exactly why they were deleted but the article is essentially questioning the origins of the vitriol aimed at Israel, so it is a fair pick for our sampling.

That’s over 14% of comments deleted, of course we cannot be 100% sure as to why, but I suspect that the theme of the article has something to do with it.

Regrettably, we won’t know until the Guardian openly classifies why they delete particular comments, for example, for racial abuse etc., and we would need to compare these articles to other contentious political issues. That way we could see if a higher percentage of comments gets deleted when the article is perceived to be pro-Israeli, pro-Israel or just not another “bash Israel” screed, which are becoming increasingly common in some broad sheets.

Greater than 14% seems high.

Update: This is very relevant:

“Anglo-Jewry is in the middle of the worst outbreak of antisemitism in Britain since the Community Security Trust started keeping records a quarter of a century ago.

Since the start of the Israeli offensive into Gaza on December 27, more than 150 incidents across the country have been recorded.

CST director of communications Mark Gardner said: “Antisemites are using an overseas conflict as an excuse for their racism, and this should be clearly condemned by all sectors of society. In particular, we are seeing the inevitable antisemitic impact of many years of anti-Israel hysteria, in addition to an enraged response to TV and newspaper images of this conflict.”

Written by modernityblog

18/01/2009 at 01:49

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If Only…If..

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If only…If

Written by modernityblog

16/01/2009 at 18:41

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