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

Archive for November 2009

CST’s Got SIOE’s Mark.

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Over at JC is an article warning how people should not be taken in by the bigotry and xenophobia pushed by the Stop the Islamisation of Europe group, and CST are rightly critical:

The CST has drawn attention to the Islamaphobic comments on SIOE’s website, and compared the group to the English Defence League, and the BNP’s Nick Griffin, who have attempted to gain support from Jews through pro-Israel and anti-Muslim statements.

The blog singled out an central image on the SIOE’s website, which shows a skull with blood dripping from its mouth on the front of a mosque, where the minaret and crescent moon and star symbol is also covered in blood.

On its blog, the CST says: “This image tells us everything we need to know about SIOE and Islamophobia.

“If a Jew cannot understand why the image is racist, or hateful, or bigoted then they should try imagining it as a synagogue: with blood dripping from a Star of David; with blood dripping down the rabbi’s pulpit; and with blood dripping from the mouth of a skull that wears an Israeli army helmet.”

The CST emphasises that while the Jewish community should be concerned about extreme Islamist groups. Jews had a duty to stand up to prejudice and hatred

“The fact that Muslims are the current target simply means that it is Muslims who should be the recipients of anti-racist solidarity.

Hatred, division, cycles of inter-communal violence, intimidation and polarisation feed the extremists on every side. They encourage social division and leave all minorities vulnerable. Anti-Muslim bigotry is a vital recruiting sergeant for both the far right, and its Islamist extremist counterparts.

“It generates votes for the BNP and, at the furthest ends of this political spectrum, it even provides the fuel for terrorism. British Jews should have no part of it.”

Written by modernityblog

30/11/2009 at 19:49

More On German “anti-Zionists”.

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Here’s more to the post concerning those Hamburg “anti-Zionists”, who felt comfortable shouting “Jewish pigs” at those attending a film presentation.

Die Linke were quick to disassociate themselves from the racist “anti-Zionists”, but the evidence of their unfortunate link to this group is shown by a bit of hunting around on their web site. [Perhaps, I’ll upload a screen dump later on.]

The Kommunistische Assoziation Hamburg (KAH) is less than shy about events, but seem to put their own spin on it, the German original is here and a Google translation.

Reading it is hard, I suspect that even if my German was top notch that it wouldn’t make a lot of sense, as it comes over as a political rant. Still, they don’t deny that it took place.

Oh, here it is just in case it vanishes, once the penny has dropped:
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by modernityblog

30/11/2009 at 16:23

Hot Fox?

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Netbooks and Firefox. Simpler solution: switch off plug-ins.

Phoronix news.

Broken IMacs, Apple loses fans.

Avoid M$ Office, try the newer KOffice.

Air Force and toys, as Super Computers.

Robots for oldies.

Even a GCHQ supplier don’t like the new British government’s approach to the web.

Free labour quits, Wiki losing people.

The Why?

I’m not sure I would agree with the Guardian’s journalist as to the causes of Wikipedia’s previous decline, but deleting articles after someone (or many) have laboured hours and hours over them is one of the surest ways to cheesed people off. How often have you looked up a link within an interesting Wikipedia article only to find that it’s been deleted? It is an ultimately counter productive process, there are better ways to manage referenced articles and keep up the quality of contributions.

Finally, the appalling Alan Johnson, the British Home Secretary has thrown Gary McKinnon to the whims of the US Justice system. What a terrible fate for this “hacker”, at worst he should have been given a slapped wrist, not bunged into an American jail, simply because the managers of the DoD computer systems weren’t doing their job properly, managing security.

Written by modernityblog

30/11/2009 at 14:16

Muslim Baiting, Swiss Style.

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The petty and unnecessary ban on minarets is just one measure taken by the right wing Swiss People’s Party in a deliberate attempt to stoke up xenophobia, which many Muslims already face in Switzerland.

Apparently religious freedom is enshrined in the Swiss constitution and the targeting of Muslims is deliberate and provocative.

Readers will probably remember the sheep posters from 2007, and the SVP are continuing down the same path, whipping up resentment against Muslims and alienating them in Switzerland.

This populist form of xenophobia has been common enough over the past 150 years and it leads to a very bitter place.

No one, who believes in religious freedom, should welcome this vote or the longer-term consequences of division and distrust within a society, deliberately provoked by a rightwing political party for their own cheap ends.

Update 1: Anyone interested should read the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance’s report on Switzerland,[PDF download] here’s a small extract:

“117. In its third report ECRI recommended that the authorities take steps to combat prejudice and discrimination against Muslim communities, particularly as regards practical issues connected with the practice of their religion.

118. Muslims, who are estimated to number between 350 000 and 400 000 in Switzerland, encounter manifestations of racism and intolerance, which are described in several parts of this report. The Swiss authorities themselves consider that there was a significant increase in acts of intolerance with regard to members of Switzerland’s Muslim communities between 2002 and 2006.

119. In particular, ECRI is concerned to learn that, in recent years, some political parties, including the UDC, have considerably exploited and encouraged prejudice and racist stereotypes concerning Muslims within the majority population, not only in their rhetoric but also in political campaign posters. As a result some parts of public opinion may equate the entire Muslim population with terrorists and religious extremists. The fear of seeing Switzerland “swamped by Muslims” is also exploited. In some cases, this prejudice apparently leads to discrimination, notably in employment, since Muslims are refused jobs because of the suspicion surrounding them. In particular, women who wear the Islamic headscarf encounter difficulties of access to jobs, housing and goods and services for the public. Muslims are also vulnerable to discrimination in matters of naturalisation.”

Written by modernityblog

30/11/2009 at 02:39

Broadsheet Racism.

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Overt racism in the British broadsheet media is a comparatively modern phenomenon, but whatever they lacked in the past they have more than made up in the present.

The Guardian and Comment Is Free is a prize example, their comments threads are littered with anti-Jewish racism to the extent that they even have their own Watch site, CiF Watch.

It would be easy to dismiss any criticism of the Guardian and Comment Is Free as politically motivated spite, but that wouldn’t explain away the volumes, the mountains and vista of anti-Jewish racism which are documented on CiF Watch.

An excellent recent example was to compare comments found on the neo-Nazi forums of Stormfront, with those found within Comment Is Free.

As Comment Is Free’s parent is the Guardian and the bastion of British liberalism, there should be no similarity yet it is striking how hard it is to differentiate between which comments come from the neo-Nazis and which are from CiF.

Read it yourself and decide, the Parallel Universe of “Comment is Free” and Stormfront.

Update 1: Racism is not only to be found amongst the comments at CiF, rather the Independent has it own problems with resident bigot, Richard Ingrams. However, I wasn’t interested in his warp observations rather the comments box below showed just how much anti-Jewish racism has found a home in the broadsheet media.

Here’s a few scattered examples:

“tonypowell wrote:
Saturday, 28 November 2009 at 10:31 am (UTC)
Is it true that the owner of the Times – one Rupert Murdoch is himself Jewish?

slaveweknow wrote:
Some of the recommended books and other material to understand the true background of Zionism, are:

1. Zionism in the Age of Dictators, by Lenni Brenner, a Jewish historian.

2. A Jewish Defector Warns America, by Benjamin Freedman.

3. The Hidden History of Zionism, by Ralph Shoenman, a Jewish historian.

4. A Self-hating Jew, website of Norman Finkelstein PhD.

5. When and How Was Jewish People Invented, Professor Shlomo Sand, Tel Aviv University

6. Hitler: Founder of Israel


The latter reads like a booklist from a neo-Nazi web site, why it is to be found on a web site of a broadsheet I can’t say.

(H/T: Engage)

Written by modernityblog

29/11/2009 at 21:02

Labour’s Achilles Heel.

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Politicians and politicos often live in a bubble, of their own making, where outside perceptions are frequently disregarded and they begin to believe their own spin.

I think it is partly a problem of incumbency and in part the arrogance of power, so it is with new Labour and the NHS.

Mike O’Brien, health Minister, has been keen to disregard and poo poo a new report on health safety in the NHS. But even if he were telling the truth the perception of the British population of the NHS has changed in the past 12 years, new Labour saw to that.

The implementation of market reforms, taken over from the previous Tory administration and management by top-down statistics, have altered the NHS, hospitals and the public’s perception of it. This is evidenced by the MRSA scandal and the inability to keep hospitals clean after in-house services were privatised and when cack handed managerial targets become the norm.

More from the authors of the report:

“However less positively the Guide found that 12 trusts significantly underperformed across these safety measures, seven trusts are not compliant with National Patient Safety Agency alerts and that 5024 people admitted with low risk conditions died in hospital last year (848 under the age of 65). Although it is inevitable that some patients with these conditions will die during or after treatment, comparing rates between hospitals and investigating those deaths that do occur are useful ways of identifying failings in patient safety.”

And when new Labour loses the next General Election, and that ushers in a nasty and vicious Tory government, then new Labour will have only themselves to blame, only themselves and their spin and BS.

Update 1: The Guardian has more on the NHS lottery:

“For Adrian Underwood, it began with a terrifying loss of movement down the left side of his body. A hospital scan in Nottingham identified a benign tumour that if untreated would eventually crush his brain. Yet no one told him about it.

More than 50 miles away in Solihull, Jenny Morgan sat in A&E for 90 minutes after suffering a stroke, before deciding to leave so she could “die at home”. Half-blinded and in excruciating pain, she later returned, only to be told the stroke unit was full. And on a ward in Essex, Gillian Flack found her severely disabled son drenched in urine and no nurses in sight. That night Kyle Flack, 20, suffocated after getting his head wedged in the metal bars of the hospital bed. “You think hospitals are safe,” said his 54-year-old mother, her voice trembling. “But if I had never taken Kyle to hospital he would have been alive.”

Her son died at Basildon University Hospital, where a report last week revealed evidence of dozens of patients dying needlessly in filthy conditions.”

Written by modernityblog

29/11/2009 at 14:53

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Why The EU Is An Ass.

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Unbelievable, the Guardian reports:

“Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National party, is to represent the European parliament at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, which opens next week.

Last night politicians and scientists reacted furiously to news that the far-right politician and climate change denier should be attending the summit on behalf of the EU.

Griffin, who was elected to the European parliament in June, confirmed last night that he would attend as the representative of the parliament’s environmental committee. World leaders, including Barack Obama and Gordon Brown, are hoping to forge a new global agreement to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.

Without such a deal, scientists warn that world temperatures will increase by more than 2C by the end of the century, triggering ice cap melting, sea-level rises, widespread flooding, the spread of deserts and devastating storms.

In a speech in the parliament last week, Griffin denounced those who warn of the consequences of climate change as “cranks”. He said they had reached “an Orwellian consensus” that was “based not on scientific agreement, but on bullying, censorship and fraudulent statistics”. “

Written by modernityblog

29/11/2009 at 03:07

Antifascist Action.

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AFA has uploaded a documentary on antifascism, they are posted on YouTube.

I have only seen two so far, but seeing Mickey Fenn again brought back old memories.

There’s a lot of good reminiscences and plenty of sound antifascist common sense. One of the clips has an astute piece of advice, which I wish modern day antifascists, of all shades of opinion, would bear in mind (I paraphrase) “Shouting Nazis at them is of no use, they already know they are Nazis.”

Certainly, we need to move beyond the slogans of the late 1970s, which might have worked with NF but are showing their age now. I think we need to take on the BNP is a generalised neofascist phenomena, make that the point and raise the level of debate beyond merely shouting “Nazi, Nazi”

Unquestionably, many of the leaders of the BNP have neo-Nazi connections and you only need to see the tattoos on the back of Nick Griffin’s bodyguard to appreciate that.

However, it seems certainly possible, if not immediately likely, that the BNP could transform themselves into a “Le Pen” type of generalised neo-fascist movement, so combating them with shouts of “Nazi, Nazi” won’t work.

Rather the whole history of fascism needs bringing up, its barbarism and their quest for a xenophobic dystopia, and in doing so raise the conscious understanding of the threat of neofascism and how the BNP might fit into that framework and what it all means.

There is a potential for a massive increase in support for neofascism and so its opponents must think, rethink, their strategies to guarantee success, because failure and its consequences are not worth thinking about. The advent of the EDL and the BNP’s electoral gains requires us to reconsider the situation anew.

(H/T: Ross)

Update 1: The CST has details of an “alleged” BNP member and suspected would-be bomb maker, Terry Gavan and his recent arrest.

Written by modernityblog

28/11/2009 at 16:10

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This is a marvellous (or slightly depressing, depends how you look at it) way of representing figures, the Billion Dollar Gram by David McCandless, more at the Beeb.

It certainly puts things in perspective.

Written by modernityblog

28/11/2009 at 15:46

Not My View.

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This post from Left Foot Forward is not my view, but as there is a poverty of anything meaningful elsewhere, it will have to do:

“President Barack Obama will announce his plan for Afghanistan in a national address to the US next Tuesday, and it is reported that the plan will include sending as many as 30,000 additional troops to the region.

From the beginning of his now weeks-old consultation process with his diplomatic and military advisors, Mr Obama has made it clear that he was looking for a solution beyond the one requested and recommended by the top US regional commander, Stanley McChrystal, which called for an additional 40,000 US troops and increased focus on population-protection based counterinsurgency.

Later on it discusses the various options, I’d suggest that a decentralised government might be more workable. The problem I have with many of these articles is that they look at Afghanistan almost purely from a Western point of view, whereas I, as an anti-Taliban type, think that the defeat of the Taliban should be the end goal, if possible, as that will ensure better conditions for the majority of Afghans. Any way plenty to think about.

Update 1: Terry Gavin often has good stuff on Afghanistan, he’s well worth a read.

Update 2: Some related links, The Afghanistan Analyst’s list of links.

Update 3: The Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

Update 4: The Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee.

Update 5: Afghan women and what would happen if the Taliban return to power:

“Like many of her female colleagues, Wazhma believes women will be the first victims of the chaos and civil war that will ensue if troops withdraw in the near future. And they are in no doubt as to who will fill the power vacuum. ”Look at all the international troops in Afghanistan, and yet still the Taliban is getting stronger ever day,” Hamida says.

The greatest fear about a return to Taliban control – be they ”old”, ”new” or ”moderate” Taliban – is that women will inevitably be thrust back into the dark ages, again forced to submit to the most draconian rules and human rights abuses ever imposed on women anywhere in the world. It was only eight years ago when Afghan women couldn’t work, go to school, or leave their homes without permission and a male escort.

Right now it’s not only women’s rights and freedoms that are at stake. It’s their lives.

Until 2001 women like Hamida and Wazhma kept their activism well hidden. But the post-Taliban freedom has given rise to a growing movement of women who are politically active and visible. As such they are sitting ducks if there is a return to lawless patriarchy. ”They will not leave me alive for a minute,” Wazhma says. Most of the women I talk to know they are on assassination lists.”

Written by modernityblog

27/11/2009 at 06:13

Not Sure.

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I am not sure what to make of this, I read it earlier on in the week at Jpost, but I didn’t pay it much attention until re-reading again at schalom libertad, Anti-Zionist Attack on Film Showing.

Contested Terrain has a lot more:

“At the end of October, a coalition around the “Internationalist Center B5″ blockaded a theater in their direct vicinity, the Independent Cinema B Movie. With physical blows and wild remarks, [ed. multiple sources reported that the B5 activists shouted “Jewish pigs” and “fairies” (“Shuchteln”) at those seeking to enter the theater, and had physically assaulted some of them] the activists made clear that, the causing of injuries to a few people was worth it to them to prevent an engagement with the theme “Why Israel.”

In left antisemitism in this part of the world, Jews are represented as “capitalists,” cosmopolitans or even as “zionist agents,” that is, as enemy of the people. While with the establishment of Israel, the efforts to construct a Jewish nation could actually be realized, the State would however be reduced solely to an “imperialist bridgehead” and its population reduced to mere occupiers. Out of this ascription, in which Jews are treated as lacking a belonging in a home country on the one hand, and illegitimately establishing a State on the other hand, the resulting placelessness belongs to the fundamental semantics of antisemitism, and is always advanced from the same circles as essential components of their politics. In view of their growing isolation, the Hamburg antizionists rely on the increasing use of physical violence as the last field in which they can assert themselves.”

Here’s the original German.

Now you’d think that “anti-Zionists” and in particular those in Germany would know better than to shout “Jewish pigs” at people?

Update 1: entdinglichung points us to a link on Die Linke’s site condemning the actions of the “anti-Zionists” from the International Centre B5, but frankly the text is less than clear. That could be Google’s translation’s fault or the writer who might have used language or syntax which is a bit cryptic, as politicos often do, either way I’ll leave it to readers to decide.

Written by modernityblog

27/11/2009 at 02:32

Never Really Mentioned.

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We have reached the first year anniversary of the killing spree that took place in Mumbai, India in 2008.

I remember following it avidly as I suspect many people did. The smoke billowing out of the plush hotel, the pictures of scattered belongings and bloodstains in the railway station, and the siege at Chabad House.

Like most people at the time I was mystified as to how this could happen and who would carry it out, but one thing struck me about the news coverage, how they never asked why Chabad House was attacked, in the first place.

Why was it attacked?

I am not sure if there was some set of unwritten assumptions at play, or it just didn’t occur to the collective journalists that this was more than a curiosity.

By that I mean, Mumbai is a massive city, comprising some 13 million inhabitants, twice the size of London, five times the size of Paris, in terms of population.

The extended city of Mumbai has about 19 million inhabitants, enormous by any standards.

Therefore, finding that very small community of Jews in that city would be a serious endeavour. It would not be a trivial task. Locating a dozen or so people of a certain ethnicity amongst 13 million people is exceedingly difficult.

Yet that point wasn’t covered in any detail, as far as I remember, by the Western media.

I suppose that if a particular group of murderers decided to hunt out any natives of Tuvalu, living in London and kill them then surely that would be odd and the reasons behind it worthy of attention?

That is the parallel, searching for a minute community in a massive city, torturing them and finally murdering them in the most brutal way.

But it was not really mentioned by the Western media. As far as I can work out the killings at Chabad House doesn’t seem to have been seen as worthy of consideration, with no significant coverage or questions being asked by the media. Curious and, in many ways, a bit disturbing as to what it tells us about certain Western attitudes.

[Tuvalu (and all that comprises it) is one of the smallest nation in world]

Written by modernityblog

26/11/2009 at 20:29

Comments And Blogging.

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Bob is hosting an informative discussion on the merits and de-merits of comments policies on blogs. Also see Flesh’s Bloggers are responsible for the comments they attract.

My own comments policy (such as it is).

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26/11/2009 at 15:18

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Nike Justice?

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Anti-German has an amusing post on Fighting for global justice while wearing Nike.

I am not sure that the ever so smug students at Sussex University Student Union will get the point about Nike, certainly not about Adidas and Puma.

(H/T: Bob)

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25/11/2009 at 16:53

The Curious Case Of Rupert And Gilad.

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I have been waiting for Dr Rupert Read to comment on his blog without success, and I am not sure quite what to make of Dr Read’s recent conduct. I could, of course, be very critical, it is hard to see how anyone could read the racism embedded in Gilad Atzmon’s work and not be alarmed.

But Dr Read did apologise, he said sorry, which should be an end to it, and it would be, if he hadn’t compounded the problem by making some quite curious and absurd claims afterwards :

Dr. Read: “I think that the influence of ‘the Israel lobby’ in this country as in many others is nefarious.” [My emphasis.]

Nefarious, readers will remember is defined in Webster’s 1913 edition as:

”Wicked in the extreme; abominable; iniquitous; atrociously, villainous; execrable; detestably vile. ”

Further, Dr. Read went on to praise the recent Dispatches programme which has received questionable reviews, still more disappointing is Dr. Read’s inability to explain himself in a lucid and considered fashion.

Normally, we should try to be charitable to those caught up in these mistakes and if they make amends quickly then that should be it. However, from his comments Dr Read doesn’t appear to have learnt anything in the process, anything meaningful. He might well have learnt to be more careful or hide his opinion’s concerning “Israelis”, he might have learnt how to give out a quick apology. Yet it all comes over as rather unsatisfactory.

Unsatisfactory coming from a professional academic, who is one step away from a professorship, someone who in normal circumstances would be considered a critical thinker, an intellectual, someone who could balance in his head numerous arguments and counter arguments in a trice, except that is not what comes over in his statements on this topic.

This is the difficulty, imagine you know someone highly intelligent, articulate and otherwise well balanced yet they hold a strong negative opinion against a particular group of people, and are incapable of articulating why they hold such an opinion in a rational fashion.

In such circumstances the natural conclusion to draw, is not that their views are based on reason, but some bias or prejudice. Let me make it clear I am not accusing Dr. Read of being an antisemite or anywhere close, but his inability to look at these issues rationally and objectively is somewhat mystifying and rather inadequate.

I know the simple answer would be to assume prejudice on Dr. Read’s part, but I am not entirely convinced as I have run across many politicos and a few academics, who were loath to ever admit they were wrong, could not rethink their positions and often showed a striking lack of self-awareness, the recent British MPs’ expenses scandals showed that.

The same could be true for Dr Read’s attitude, that it is more of a character flaw than an active prejudice? I am not really sure. Either way it is rather peculiar that a professional philosopher cannot defend his own views, strongly held views, by clear-cut and comprehensive argumentation.

Written by modernityblog

24/11/2009 at 12:09