“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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