ModernityBlog

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

Archive for August 2010

Explaining The EDL And The Guardian.

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My reason for writing the post, Imagine you’re a British neofascist, was to convey the political absurdity of the Guardian’s original photograph.

The implied meaning of the photo was to connect the EDL with Israel, and so in turn to Jews.

It was to imply, in a not too subtle fashion, that Jews could be EDL thugs too, that was the message coming from the Guardian.

This was not the first time that I have run across this (implied) argument and when you consider the politics and history behind it then it doesn’t bear much scrutiny.

However, let us step back and be clear that the EDL leadership are made up of neo-Nazis and their allies.

We know this from circumstantial evidence, video footage, the publication of EDL events on neo-Nazi bulletin boards and above all from the statements of the one-time founder of the EDL, Paul Ray.

Ray admits that neo-Nazis took over the EDL in a video clip, here.

But perhaps we should consider some of the underlying issues and see what comes out.

In this form of arguing by innuendo, what we are meant to believe is that the neo-Nazis and their close associates, who actually run the EDL and decide policy, have suddenly taken a liking to Israelis, and by inference Jews.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Clearly, an alternative line of reasoning is possible, that the neofascists within the EDL are lying about their motives.

It is a simpler and much more straightforward answer because otherwise we have to explain away why neo-Nazis would suddenly take a liking to Israelis, and Jews.

The problem being is that, neo-Nazis don’t like Jews, and in particular Israel as it is seen as the centre of Jewish power. That is something that all neo-Nazis fear the most. A central theme to Nazism is the notion that Jews control and manipulate events around the world from a central location, in this case Israel. [Warning: illustrative links to original Nazi propaganda, nasty racist material.]

It is hardly credible that entrenched neo-Nazis would suddenly wake up one-day and decide “Yes, we like Israelis.”

It seems incongruous, and ever so improbable.

Why people would advance these arguments in one way shape or form I can’t say, they are nonsensical because you have to assume a multiplicity of tenuous assumptions, that just don’t hang together naturally.

For example, firstly, you have to assume that neo-Nazis are honest about their motives. Secondly, that you can take their word as truthful. Thirdly, that they are sincere in their beliefs. Fourthly, that they have changed completely, to now liking Israelis and Jews.

Which is all rather ludicrous and contrary to the evidence.

Possibly the reason that this argument, by innuendo, is pushed is that those people advancing it are completely ill-informed about the nature of the EDL?

Or conceivably they know next to nothing of politics or history? Perhaps they haven’t thought about the issues? Maybe they are prisoners of their own prejudices, they want to believe the worst and so do.

I can’t say one way or the other but what disturbs me is that seemingly highly educated individuals would erroneously jumped to the conclusion that neo-Nazis have suddenly grown a love for all things Israeli, and Jews in particular.

It doesn’t make sense.

Surely, following Occam’s razor, the simpler answer is probably the correct one? And in the case of the EDL that means they are merely putting on a front and lying.

Of course, if you’re going to seriously argue the EDL really like Israelis and Jews then it is incumbent on you to provide some concrete evidence other than a flag.

Also you would have to explain how neo-Nazis have come to this conclusion and why. Above all, you would have to explain how neo-Nazis have dropped their all-consuming hatred of Jews and are now to be taken seriously.

It’s not too surprising that those most keen to advance these arguments are often themselves fierce critics of Israel, but to argue that the neo-Nazis in the EDL leadership should be taken at face value is naive at best.

Some gullible types might be taken in, but that doesn’t change the historical evidence nor the fact that the EDL leadership are neo-Nazis and their allies.

Again, so anyone trying to advance this argument would:

1) have to explain why the EDL leadership are not neo-Nazis
2) need to argue why those neo-Nazis are sincere and should be taken at their word
3) detail precisely why the EDL had taken this position, etc etc

I favour the simplest answer that the neo-Nazis in the EDL are lying and using this as a ploy to wrong foot their opponents.

Seriously, why should we believe the EDL?

What compelling reason is there that we should suspend our natural scepticism of political activists? If we would take the words of mainstream politicians with a pinch of salt, then surely the EDL’s and their assorted neo-Nazis’ deserve more than a handful?

Ultimately, the EDL are not what they say they are, and anyone semi-serious on these issues shouldn’t be fooled by them, and certainly not Guardian journalists.

PS: I am away for a few days, so if you haven’t commented before you’ll get stuck in the moderation queue for the first time, that’s how it works.

Please be patience .

Oh, and any would-be EDL supporters, please read my comments policy, twice.

Update 1: I thought it would make it easier to post the previous instalment, Imagine you’re a British neofascist, below:

This is going to be difficult, but imagine you are a British neofascist:

“Further, imagine, that you long for the days when you can openly worship Nazism, as your forbears in and around the leadership of the British National Front used to do.

Imagine your frustration, you are a British neofascist and yet you can’t be open about it, you can’t express your admiration for David Irving or visit extreme right-wing Japanese groups without someone finding out.

In short you are in a pickle, you want your odious ideology to succeed but realise that most people would sooner eat their own vomit than join you in the Nazi salute.

Then you have a bright idea. Why not hide the extremes of your neofascist ideology? Why not wear a suit? Why not try to pick on the weakest in society as your heroes from Nazi Germany did, but do it with a twist?

Cunningly, as a devious British neofascist, you would not attack the ultimate target: Jews, directly

No, that wouldn’t work, so you have to think of another scheme.

Who to attack? And who to whip up hatred against? Who to use to build a street army?

Then in a flash it occurs to you, you’ll attack immigrants, but stop, that hasn’t been too successful for the BNP. What else can you do?

Ahh, attack Muslims, but not directly, not whilst wearing your suit.

So you infiltrate a new organisation, you make sure that all your neofascist and neo-Nazi pals are in key positions of power, and eventually take it over.

Still you’re worried, as a devious British neofascist, that your political enemies with see through these tactics, and then it hits you, how to throw them off the scent?

Pretend that you like Jews. Get one of your knuckle headed friends to get an Israeli flag or two. And when you walk around wave it a lot. What a laugh!

Your mates think it is funny, they hate Jews with a passion, but it is a big wind-up and people don’t know how to react, many stop and think, others are fooled and some like your natural opponents in the liberal minded Guardian suddenly think that a bunch of neo-Nazi skinheads have converted to Zionism, how wrong could they be!

All the same, as a British neofascist, you don’t mind if the Guardian takes pot-shots at Jews.

In fact, you think it is funny, that highly educated journalists don’t really understand modern neo-Nazism, letting you have your way. And once you’ve whipped up enough hatred against the Muslims then you can turn to other ethnic minorities, and eventually Jews.

Whilst all this is happening you, as a British neofascist, will have an able ally in the Guardian as they don’t much care for Jews or Israelis either. Plus the fact they haven’t worked out that you can’t stand Jews or liberals, but their gullibility blinds them to the fact that neofascists are frequently dishonest about their motives.

The Guardian types don’t know that you will do anything to get power, even tell fibs. But none of that will matter once you’ve grown from a proto-street army to an organised force, all of that will be too late.

But, as a British neofascist, you thank your lucky stars that the Guardian editorial staff seem to know next to nothing of history, care even less and have their own set of prejudices.

Then you trot off to polish your steel capped-boots, ponder a recruitment campaign at the Guardian, all with a smug grin on your face.”

Imagine that.

Actual Guardian article on the EDL, published on August 21, 2010

Guesting At CiF Watch.

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I have a guest post up at CiF Watch, imagine you’re a British neofascist.

Samar And Juwariya Atique.

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I am indebted to Stroppyblog for highlighting the plight of Samar And Juwariya Atique, two sisters who were viciously attacked when a jug of acid was thrown in their faces, Southall Black Sisters has more:

“Donations are desperately needed to finance the medical costs and rehabilitation of Samar (31) and Juwariya (25) Atique whose young lives and hopes were brutally crushed in October 2009 by two men who threw a jug of acid on their faces as the women were returning home from a day’s work in a rickshaw. Their crime – Juwariya had turned down a marriage proposal from one of the men!

They sustained severe burns and injuries to their faces, their eyes and their upper bodies. In acid attack cases, the victims should be hosed down gently with a continuous stream of water immediately to stop the acid continuing to burn into their flesh. But they did not get treatment for five hours after the incident because the woman doctor was threatened with a similar attack by these men and their families. Their eyes were infected and continually pouring out pus. They may be blind for life. They will need to have reconstructive surgery on their noses and lips. Their eyelids were burnt away so they also suffer from itching and dryness in the eyes. Their first operation did not take place till 5 months after the event. To date they have had 3 operations and they will need many, many more. They live in Delhi but they have to travel to a hospital in Chennai, nearly one and a half thousand miles away, where they are getting subsidised treatment. One of the sisters is suicidal, they are both suffering from depression but neither of them has had any counselling sessions as yet. Post-operative care and rehabilitation will take years.

They were independent working women, whose incomes contributed to the expenses of a joint family of 11 people. Samar worked for an IT company and Juwariya, ironically ran her own beauty parlour. One other sister and brother have had to give up their jobs in order to look after them leading to a loss of four incomes. The reduced family income is less than the monthly cost of routine medical expenses like bandages, antibiotics and painkillers, let alone the cost of going to Chennai for surgery, let alone the costs of daily life. So far, they have managed with donations and loans from family and friends. Poverty has compounded the consequences of violence.

This case came to the attention of Southall Black Sisters earlier this year. Although we do not usually have the capacity to run international campaigns, we felt that the horrific nature of this particular attack served as a salutary reminder of the extreme violence that women round the world continue to face should they make the smallest strike for freedom and assert their most basic rights, in this case, the right to choose their own partner/spouse.

The immediate target for fundraising is £21,000 for microsurgery to be carried out on Samar’s eyes. There is some hope that her sight may be saved although Juwariya’s is irretrievable. Of this sum £11,000 has already been raised. However the very rough total estimated costs of all surgery, including longterm rehabilitation, are: £250,000. It is impossible to be precise partly because every decision for futher surgery depends on preceding operations. The following are some examples of costs:

Average monthly cost of care: £1350 (bandages, medicines, nursing, local hospital visits, nutritious food)

Each visit to the Chennai hospital: £12,000 (based on their previous trip)

Every return flight to Chennai costs: £985 (for 3 people)

Counselling: £30 per session”

Donate here.

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23/08/2010 at 18:24

Facebook, Wine And Bits.

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I haven’t posted much on technology for ages, so I thought for those of you more interested in politics that I would briefly outline things.

Facebook has added “location-based services”, but if you want to turn them off here’s how to do it.

A new version of Wine is out, it allows you to run Windows applications under Linux and is first rate.

There is more than one way to execute Windows applications on Linux, using Virtual Box is another method and virtual images are exceedingly flexible, if you have the space.

Perplexed nontechnical readers may be wondering why they would want to run Linux? Basically it’s an alternative to Microsoft’s operating systems, Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7.

Linux does essentially the same, better and often quicker.

Linux will run on comparatively slow hardware and make it usable, it is free and comes with access to thousands of applications, also free. Microsoft operating systems tend to need lots of memory and modern hardware to run at acceptable speeds.

If there’s a job you do under Microsoft Windows then 98% of the time you can find a good as, if not better, Linux alternative, free.

I won’t deny that initially Linux can be a little bit hard to set up, sometimes, but once it is there you’ll find it rocksolid and you won’t need to reboot every couple of hours, as with Microsoft operating systems.

Linux is used extensively in business and a sizeable percentage of Internet service providers will host their pages under Linux, my bet is that WordPress runs on Linux so you are reading these pages courtesy of Linux, either directly or via Google, which extensively uses Linux.

I favour several versions of Linux, (there are lots!) PClinuxos, MEPIS, Antix Linux and Mint. They’ll do for starters.

Basically, you download a big image (called an ISO) burn it to a CD, reboot and install using that, following the defaults, but reading the screens very carefully. Have a spare CD ready.

The alternative is to use Unetbootin. Have a blank USB ready, it will overwrite it completely. Download and execute Unetbootin, it will prompt for which version of Linux you’d like, after which it will download the ISO and burn it to the USB stick. Again, once it has been successful, reboot and install if you wish.

Personally, I would start using a spare machine if you have one, an old one, just to get use to the installation procedure.

These copies of Linux will boot a Live version running from the CD/USB and then give you the option to install on the hard drive if you want. You will need to partition the disk (the hardest part), which makes space for Linux. Then do the install. Easy. Normally takes anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes!

Have a play around on that spare machine and you can’t do much damage.

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23/08/2010 at 14:32

Jack Writes.

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Jack of Kent covers two issues that I had been pondering, the death of Dr. Kelly and the charges laid against the founder of Wikileaks.

I am not sure what to make of Dr. Kelly’s death, there is quite a lot of conflicting opinion.

As for Wikileaks there’s been a number of pieces in the press on how the security services in various countries wanted to clampdown/disassemble/neutralise Wikileaks because of all the embarrassment that they caused, but again I’m not sure.

Written by modernityblog

22/08/2010 at 15:18

More On Irrationality.

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Adam Holland skewers the cranks, bigots and historically illiterates congregating around David Horowitz’s blog.

Elsewhere Jeff Goldberg reminds us:

“In 2003, Imam Rauf was invited to speak at a memorial service for Daniel Pearl, the journalist murdered by Islamist terrorists in Pakistan. The service was held at B’nai Jeshurun, a prominent synagogue in Manhattan, and in the audience was Judea Pearl, Daniel Pearl’s father. In his remarks, Rauf identified absolutely with Pearl, and identified himself absolutely with the ethical tradition of Judaism. “I am a Jew,” he said.

There are those who would argue that these represent mere words, chosen carefully to appease a postentially suspicious audience. I would argue something different: That any Muslim imam who stands before a Jewish congregation and says, “I am a Jew,” is placing his life in danger. Remember, Islamists hate the people they consider apostates even more than they hate Christians and Jews. In other words, the man many commentators on the right assert is a terrorist-sympathizer placed himself in mortal peril in order to identify himself with Christians and Jews, and specifically with the most famous Jewish victim of Islamism. “

Into The Realm Of The Irrational

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Ben Cohen covers the disturbing treatment of Cliona Campbell.

JP reports on very worrying developments in the Netherlands:

“Jewish schoolchildren feel intimidated and the school authorities are either indifferent or unable to assist them. To avoid harassment, some children are obliged to change schools and even hide their Jewish identity.

A few weeks ago a local Jewish TV station (Joodse Omroep) broadcast scenes of anti-Semitic harassment in the streets recorded by a hidden camera which followed a rabbi accompanied by two students. This provided chilling testimony of the intimidation to which Jews are subjected.

In response, the Dutch police announced that they might use “decoy” Jews – police dressed in traditional Jewish garb – to entrap anti-Semitic hooligans. Rabbi Jacobs responded by stating that such initiatives would be futile unless accompanied by greater emphasis on education, stressing that not only Muslims were engaged in anti-Semitic agitation.

“I witness Dutch non-Muslim youngsters also shouting at me in the street” he stated.”

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20/08/2010 at 01:42

Boycott Cancer.

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Let’s hope we can all boycott cancer, and if you ever see it up close you wouldn’t wish it on anyone, even your worst enemy.

So the next time someone tells you to boycott a country which has world-class research into anticancer drugs you will know what to say.

That country is, of course, Israel, the JP has more:

“Tel Aviv University researchers claim to have developed an experimental drug used in a polymer delivery system that may make it possible someday to prevent cancer or turn malignant tumors into a chronic disease with which one could live for years.

The basic scientific discovery – which was carried out in mice and would take years to reach patients, if it reaches them at all – was published in the online edition of the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). It is yet another attempt to use drugs to stop angiogenesis – the production of new blood vessels that in this case nourish a tumor – with new a new polymer delivery system that brings drugs directly to the tumor.

Dr. Ronit Satchi-Fainaro and colleagues at TAU’s Sackler Medical Faculty’s department of physiology and pharmacology and in the Free University of Berlin maintain that the experimental drugs do not harm healthy tissue, and that less chemotherapy is needed and fewer side effects are involved because of direct delivery to the cancerous tissue.

“It’s a breakthrough,” said Satchi-Fainaro on Channel 2 Wednesday.

The drugs are claimed to contain gene silencers of the siRNA type that fought the tumor cells by preventing angiogenesis without being toxic to the healthy cells in the mice. Satchi-Fainaro suggested that people who are not ill with cancer but are at high-risk to contract it because they carry mutant genes could eventually receive prophylactic treatment. “

(H/T:Jook Elshout)

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18/08/2010 at 21:37

Obama Makes Sense.

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For once President Obama agreed with me, which is not surprising.

The issue is, of course, the proposed mosque in New York.

I have followed this issue over weeks and been largely mystified by the angry and thoughtless responses, that is even excluding the lump in the US Constitution which deals with freedom of religion and must be relevant in this situation.

It is not as if these issues have not been debated and who can forget the 10 Commandments controversy in Alabama and Judge Roy Moore?

Often I get the impression that many of these issues are purely seen on an emotional and subjective level, without any reference to history or the US Constitution.

I simply can’t understand the reasoning behind many of the objections. If it is permissible to build a church, synagogue or ashram, etc in New York then surely the same rules apply to a mosque?

That is, if you believe in the universal right to religious beliefs.

Or are the rules changed according to the nature of the religious building?

Which would obviously be inconsistent, bias and suggests that prejudice, not reason, is at work here.

Still, I can’t do all these arguments justice, so Mystical Politics has some delightful and informative posts on the topic of the new New York mosque.

Matt at ignoblus makes some good points too about racialicious and the nature of much of the debate.

Michael Weiss offers his own arguments.

Incidentally I think Abe Foxman is very wrong on this issue, but there is no need to racially abuse him as denizens of racialious do.

Update 1: Things have moved on a bit since I first penned this a few days ago, as Mark Mardell argues:

“Within 24 hours he’d performed the trick that is beginning to frustrate and upset those who should be his most loyal supporters.

In that airport sound bite, he said that he was not commenting and would not comment on the wisdom of building the mosque, merely the right to do so. It may well be that this is “Professor Obama” to the fore again, making a distinction that would be obvious to anyone at Harvard Law School between what the constitution says and what is morally or culturally desirable.

But politicians live and die by crude sound bites and the even cruder caricatures that flow from them and would-be liberal supporters despair that this looks like taking fright and running away. They despair that he is holding too true to campaign promises to stand above petty party politics when the fray is at its height.

To be seen as moderate and judicious might be no bad thing for the president. The trouble is that in these febrile times, there is no chance of that: the right immediately leapt on his remarks and portrayed them as un-American. Those planning the mosque, within an Islamic cultural centre inside a tall building, say it is a monument to peace and they want a memorial to the victims of the attacks inside. No matter. Conservatives compare them to Nazis building near a concentration camp or the Japanese setting up a cultural centre at Pearl Harbour.”

Update 2: The New Times has a piece on it too.

Update 3: Thanks to Adam Holland, Salon covers it too:

“A group of progressive Muslim-Americans plans to build an Islamic community center two and a half blocks from ground zero in lower Manhattan. They have had a mosque in the same neighborhood for many years. There’s another mosque two blocks away from the site. City officials support the project. Muslims have been praying at the Pentagon, the other building hit on Sept. 11, for many years.

In short, there is no good reason that the Cordoba House project should have been a major national news story, let alone controversy. And yet it has become just that, dominating the political conversation for weeks and prompting such a backlash that, according to a new poll, nearly 7 in 10 Americans now say they oppose the project. How did the Cordoba House become so toxic, so fast?

In a story last week, the New York Times, which framed the project in a largely positive, noncontroversial light last December, argued that it was cursed from the start by “public relations missteps.” But this isn’t accurate. To a remarkable extent, a Salon review of the origins of the story found, the controversy was kicked up and driven by Pamela Geller, a right-wing, viciously anti-Muslim, conspiracy-mongering blogger, whose sinister portrayal of the project was embraced by Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post.”

Update 4: I found this web site for stopping the building of the mosque, not sure who or what they are, I’d welcome any background info on the stopthe911mosque.com

Written by modernityblog

18/08/2010 at 13:55

The Taliban’s Approach To Sexual Relations.

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This is what will happen if the Taliban ever take over, again.

AP reports:

“KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban militants in northern Afghanistan stoned a young couple to death for adultery, which a rights group said was the first confirmed use of the punishment here since the hardline Islamist regime was ousted in 2001.

The Taliban-ordered killing comes at a time when international rights groups have raised worries that attempts to negotiate with the Taliban to bring peace to Afghanistan could mean a step backward for human rights in the country. When the Islamist extremists ruled Afghanistan, women were not allowed to leave their houses without a male guardian, and public killings for violations of their harsh interpretation of the Quran were common.

This weekend’s stoning appeared to arise from an affair between a married man and a single woman in Kunduz province’s Dasht-e-Archi district.

The woman, Sadiqa, was 20 years old and engaged to another man, said the Kunduz provincial police chief, Gen. Abdul Raza Yaqoubi. Her lover, 28-year-old Qayum, left his wife to run away with her, and the two had holed up in a friend’s house five days ago, said district government head, Mohammad Ayub Aqyar.

They were discovered by Taliban operatives on Sunday and stoned to death in front a crowd of about 150 men, Aqyar said.

First the woman was brought out and stoned, then the man a half an hour later, Aqyar said. He decried the punishment, which he said was ordered by two local Taliban commanders.”

Update 1: Amnesty International on the Taliban’s actions and how they constitute War Crimes:

“The Taleban and other insurgent groups should be investigated and prosecuted for war crimes, Amnesty International said today, following the release of a United Nations report showing a rise in targeted killings of civilians in Afghanistan by anti-government fighters.

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan leapt by 31% in the first half of 2010, driven largely by the Taleban and other insurgents’ rising use of improvised explosive devices, and their increased targeting of civilians, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Attacks by the Taleban and other anti-government forces accounted for more than 76% of civilian casualties and 72% of deaths. “

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17/08/2010 at 23:30

Hamas and Holocaust Denial.

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Engage highlights Hamas’s Holocaust denial:

“Hamas said it believed UNRWA was about to start using a text for 13-year-olds that included a chapter on the Holocaust.

In an open letter to local UNRWA chief John Ging, the movement’s Popular Committees for Refugees said: “We refuse to let our children study a lie invented by the Zionists.”

UNRWA spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna said: “There is no mention of the Holocaust in the current syllabus.” Asked if UNRWA planned to change that, he declined to comment.”

I wonder what Western sympathisers of Hamas will say to that?

My bet is that they’ll probably cough and change the subject rather quickly.

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15/08/2010 at 19:32

Roma In Europe.

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Racism Review has an informative post on this topic, which I reproduce in full:

Roma people, an ethnic minority group in Europe, suffer from widespread violence, poverty and widespread discrimination in employment, education and housing. Compared to other groups in Europe, Roma people have poorer health, lower life expectancy, less education, lower income and live in worse housing. Roma women are subject to forced sterilization. Although there are no longer anti-Roma laws on the statutes in Europe, the mountain of reports from the Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Commission Against Racism And Intolerance (ECRI), show that virulent anti-Gypsyism not only survives but is growing in many countries.

For decades, the Council of Europe (COE) in particular has worked to fight anti-Gypsyism, through its Dosta! (Enough) Campaign. Increasingly, scholars and activists in Europe are turning to media to help combat this form of racism. This video (28:25) produced by the COE, features a panel of experts, including a number of sociologists, explores the problem and efforts to address it:

This pervasive discrimination have led some to make the case that the Roma people share much with African Americans in the U.S. Among those who draw this parallel is Robert Rustem, from the European Roma and Travellers Forum. He writes:

Rather than recognise the plight of Roma as an urgent social and political issue, too many European governments ignore the application of their own laws, see Roma as primarily the concern of local councillors or the criminal justice system or simply do nothing at all. A similar intransigence served as a call to action for the African-American leadership in the 1950’s. It responded by mobilising support among black and white people and set out to pour shame on America’s political elite. Bus boycotts, sit-ins, marches, demonstrations and the emergence of more militant political forces such as Malcolm X, focussed the international spotlight on the injustice of Jim Crow apartheid and created the political pressure needed for lasting change. There are those in the Roma community who believe that similar non-violent tactics may now be needed in Europe to end the cycle of good intentions, warm words and neglect that has marked the post-war discussion of the ‘Roma Question.’

Rustem concedes that the Roma issue remains “on the fringes of political activism” in Europe. Still, Rustem and others in Europe who are committed to equality for Roma people say they will be looking to the anniversary of Dr. King’s March on Washington August 28th for inspiration.

Written by modernityblog

14/08/2010 at 15:52

The Pope And Politics.

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I don’t think I have ever posted on a religious theme, not that I don’t have opinions but it seems to me that arguments concerning religion tend to go nowhere and shed very little light on the issues. People frequently believe what they choose to believe irrespective of the arguments or the evidence, plus it often creates unnecessary animosity.

Probably slightly surprisingly, as an atheist, I am not particularly concerned if people believe in a Deity, a Guru or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, that is for every individual to decide for themselves, after all there should be no compunction in religion nor any enforcement of atheism.

Still the role of religious organisations in society is not a small one and in my view can often be detrimental, so I think it is perfectly proper to scrutinise religious organisations, their actions and the consequences, as public bodies.

All public bodies, in my view, should be open to scrutiny, from the highest government department to the lowliest quango, and certainly not excluding the actions of the officials. That approach should apply to major religious organisations too.

However, I have noticed during discussions on these issues that the topics of religious belief, organisational structures and the actions of leaders often become confused, unnecessarily.

It should be perfectly possible to accept that people can believe whatever religious belief they choose, but that the actions which follow from them are open to debate, further that religious hierarchies and their activities are not off-limits.

I don’t believe that anyone’s views are naturally privileged by virtue of holding those views, including my own, be that in the field of politics, faith or organised religion.

So it follows that controversial religious organisations may derive criticism from their public actions and statements. Equally, I think it is generally rude, counterproductive and unnecessary to attack sincerely held religious beliefs for no other reason than to start an argument.

If people wish to believe something that is their right, in as much as it does not adversely affect others, or that their organisations do not try to detrimentally influence public policy.

I think it’s very important to make that distinction, between belief and organisation, in much the same way that the idea of the separation of Church and State is instituted in the United States of America.

This was brought home to me whilst reading a post at Socialist Unity, Pope Welcome Here.

Readers can make their own minds up on it, but the visit of the Pope is an important one and worthy of critical comment.

I will post more in the future but for now Peter Tatchell’s words will do, from the Indy:
Read the rest of this entry »

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13/08/2010 at 23:47

Chemical Weapons and Turkey.

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It is not clear yet if these allegations are proven, but either way they are rather alarming, Spiegel reports:

“German experts have confirmed the authenticity of photographs that purport to show PKK fighters killed by chemical weapons. The evidence puts increasing pressure on the Turkish government, which has long been suspected of using such weapons against Kurdish rebels. German politicians are demanding an investigation.

It would be difficult to exceed the horror shown in the photos, which feature burned, maimed and scorched body parts. The victims are scarcely even recognizable as human beings. Turkish-Kurdish human rights activists believe the people in the photos are eight members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) underground movement, who are thought to have been killed in September 2009.

In March, the activists gave the photos to a German human rights delegation comprised of Turkey experts, journalists and politicians from the far-left Left Party, as SPIEGEL reported at the end of July. Now Hans Baumann, a German expert on photo forgeries has confirmed the authenticity of the photos, and a forensics report released by the Hamburg University Hospital has backed the initial suspicion, saying that it is highly probable that the eight Kurds died “due to the use of chemical substances.”

Did the Turkish army in fact use chemical weapons and, by doing so, violate the Chemical Weapons Convention it had ratified?

Repeated ‘Mysterious Incidents’

German politicians and human rights experts are now demanding an investigation into the incident. “The latest findings are so spectacular that the Turkish side urgently needs to explain things,” said Claudia Roth, the co-chair of Germany’s Green Party. “It is impossible to understand why an autopsy of the PKK fighters was ordered but the results kept under seal.”

The politician said there had been repeated “mysterious incidents of this type that are crying out for an independent investigation.” Roth demanded that Turkey issue an official statement on the possible use of chemical weapons “in order to nullify further allegations.”

Ruprecht Polenz, a member of the German parliament with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union and the chairman of the Bundestag’s Foreign Relations Committee, sees it the same way. “Turkey needs to urgently look into these accusations,” he told SPIEGEL ONLINE, adding that an international investigation would be the best approach.

Turkey has been suspected of using chemical weapons for years, points out Gisela Penteker, a Turkey expert with the international medical organization International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. “Local people have said that again and again,” she explained. Finding proof is difficult, however, she said, because bodies were often released so late that it was hardly possible to carry out a thorough autopsy.”

Written by modernityblog

13/08/2010 at 11:08

Ahmadinejad’s Racism.

with one comment

Over the years some strange individuals in the West were arguing essentially that ‘Ahmadinejad is misunderstood, that he really wasn’t a racist’ and that his demagogic speeches were mistranslated.

These excuses became weaker and weaker as Ahmadinejad invited the creme de la creme of the world’s Holocaust denying sewer to Tehran, including the ex-Grand Wizard of the KKK, David Duke.

So now it will be all the more interesting to see how apologists, excusers and obfuscators in the West try to explain away the new Iranian web site, the truly disgusting HoloCartoons.com [Warning: link to an extreme racist site.]

The preface of their Flash booklet starts with:

“This book tends to denounce the conspicuous lie of the “planned murder of 6 million Jews during the Second World War” allegedly called “Holocaust”.

The lie which is so obvious that there is no need for any further explanation.”

I found the rest to be indescribably wretched. Wiki has a small entry on it.

Update 1:

After a bit of digging around it seems that the site is registered to:

”Registrant:
Shahbazi Ins.
Mohamad Mahdi Hemati

No 204, No 32 St., Janbazan e Sharghi St., Nabovvat Sq.
Tehran
Tehran,1649975683
IR
Tel. +98.9123789761
Fax. +98.2177209040

Creation Date: 10-Dec-2008
Expiration Date: 10-Dec-2010”

It goes through the DNS servers at mihannic.com, which is registered to:

”Registrant:
tsit
mihannic sales department

No 167 farhad ave.
mashhad
khorasan,91839
IR
Tel. +98.5117688642
Fax. +98.5117625855

Creation Date: 12-Nov-2005
Expiration Date: 12-Nov-2013”

Written by modernityblog

12/08/2010 at 00:55

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