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Archive for May 7th, 2011

Noam Chomsky, 9/11 And Wiggle Room?

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Pundits and commentators throughout the world are giving their opinions on the demise of Osama bin Laden.

Now one of the world’s leading intellectuals, Noam Chomsky, has seen fit to do the same.

Noam Chomsky: My Reaction to Osama bin Laden’s Death:

“It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects.” In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it “believed” that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan, though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn’t know 8 months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence—which, as we soon learned, Washington didn’t have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.”

Nothing serious has been provided since. There is much talk of bin Laden’s “confession,” but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.”

I feely admit that I find Chomsky’s writings less than clear. His use of compounded clauses in sentences is annoying and for a linguist he doesn’t communicate terribly well, often you are left trying to work out what he was actually getting at.

A cynic would suggest that Chomsky leaves himself wiggle room, lest he completely puts his foot in mouth.

Reading the above you are left wondering if Chomsky thinks that Al Qaeda committed 9/11? Or perhaps something else, when he says:

Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.” “

Does anyone really know what Chomsky is on about concerning 9/11?

Who knows? Frankly, who cares? We know from what he said that Chomsky is not a fan of Obama.

I suspect Chomsky’s tortured prose will end up in the dustbin of history, along with the remnants of his more peculiar views.

Written by modernityblog

07/05/2011 at 15:31

Bin Laden, More, Odds And Sods.

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There is a good podcast from the New Yorker with Steve Coll, Dexter Filkins, and Ryan Lizza on Osama bin Laden and Pakistan as an MP3.

There were elections going on in Britain for some local councils, FT Westminster has a nice quick summary here. I suspect that the reason the Lib Dems lost was disenchantment from ex-Labour/floating voters. Years back, on paper, the Lib Dems looked more radical, more left than the Labour Party and so acquired those displeased with how right wing and distant the British Labour Party had become. The Tory vote held up because Tory voters have a more ingrained class consciousness than many would care to acknowledge. The Greens also benefited from ex-Lib Dem voters.

Labour’s mediocre performance seems in part due to the unappealing and decidedly uncharismatic Ed Miliband, who still hasn’t decided to throw the wreckage of new Labour overboard yet. He’s Labour’s equivalent of Iain Duncan Smith. If the Labour Party could renounce new Labour and its modern refried equivalent then they might have a chance of beating the Tories, the old-fashioned way, but as it is I can’t see the plethora of mediocrities in the shadow cabinet achieving much. They are useless and obviously so.

The Economist’s piece on robots and nuclear disasters makes a very salient point:

“Since March 11th when disaster struck the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear-power plant, it has become clear that most of that effort has gone to waste. Japan’s much-vaunted robots may play violins and build cars, but the only ones now doing emergency work in its biggest-ever nuclear disaster are foreign, such as the PackBot, previously used in Afghanistan, which is made by Massachusetts-based iRobot.

The reasons for this oddity help explain why the nuclear accident, though caused by a tsunami, has been exacerbated by a string of public-policy failures. Despite several low-level nuclear accidents, Japan’s power generators such as Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), owner of the Fukushima plant, have sworn blind that their safety records are exemplary and there is no danger of any meltdowns. This safety mythology has been used by utilities to bypass domestic opposition to nuclear energy and was tacitly endorsed by the government, media, and public at large.

But it meant the government failed to ensure proper disaster preparedness. And the utilities failed to build up expertise in certain areas, such as robotics. So TEPCO was allowed to spurn the rescue robots built with public money. Commercial robot makers such as Tmsuk, based in south-western Japan, say they were shut out too. “

Hundreds of Western “anti-imperialists” must be breathing a sigh of relief, no longer will they have to defend the rantings of the Iranian President. He’s on his way out after a political clash with the Supreme Leader in Iran. We can only hope that Ahmadinejad’s replacement is not such a racist or a fan of neo-Nazis. Not that many in the West would probably notice either way.

Adam Holland on the shenanigans going on at the City University of New York and the proposed honorary degree for Tony Kushner:

“A member of CUNY’s board of trustees, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, has blocked Tony Kushner from receiving that university’s honors. In what is usually a pro-forma vote, the rubber stamp was stolen by a trustee with an ideological agenda and an inflated sense of his own importance. That trustee clearly misunderstands both his own role and that of the university in such matters.

The trustee who blocked Kushner’s honorary degree did so because he disagrees with Kushner’s anti-Israel activism. While he may have an argument to make against Kushner’s views, that argument hardly negates Kushner’s considerable achievements. More importantly, as every other trustee in the history of CUNY has understood, this is not the appropriate forum to make such arguments. By making agreement about politics a litmus test for receiving the university’s honors, the trustee has created a terrible precedent for CUNY. If this is allowed to stand, the university’s trustees will not only be free to dictate that recipients of the university’s honors agree with each trustee’s political views, they can blackball any honoree who offends their sensibilities in any manner. ”

Completely agree, Kushner should be granted that degree.

According to the Beeb, documents covering Britain’s colonial past may be released.

Eamonn on Boron, Bin Laden and the Verkrappt Left.

HuffPost has a pertinent piece, What About The Syrians?

“Osama bin Laden’s death took center stage on global media and rightly so because it was an event of the decade. Five days have passed since that episode and it is about time to look at other, and more important issues. More than 600 people have been killed in just under five weeks in Syria and there has been little, if any, attention being paid to them. This has emboldened the repressive dictatorship in Syria to cement its oppressive hold. “No one is paying attention so why shouldn’t I use the most brutal force?” Bashar al-Assad thought before ordering a new wave of arrests and military crackdowns.

Assad is right in his thinking. American and European governments have paid lip service to the cause of Syrians. United States is even defending its policies regarding Syria, despite the growing concern over massive human rights violations. There have been a few lackluster sanctions from Europe but interestingly none of them has a mention of Bashar. Nothing can be more ridiculous than that. Here is a person who is supervising the massacre but is evading the mildest of censure by the international community.

Assad can’t be any happier. He also has full support of the Iranian regime. Iran’s foreign ministry, which was quick to support uprisings in other Arab states, also swiftly dismissed the Syrian struggle for democracy. “

And the Indy.

SPLC, 40th Anniversary Celebration.

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I had forgotten about this, but the excellent and dedicated Southern Poverty Law Center has just celebrated its 40th Anniversary:

“Since its founding, the SPLC has shut down some of the nation’s most dangerous hate groups by winning multimillion-dollar jury verdicts on behalf of victims of their violence. It has dismantled institutional racism in the South, reformed juvenile justice practices, shattered barriers to equality for women, children and the disabled, and protected low-wage immigrant workers from abuse. It has reached out to the next generation with Teaching Tolerance, a program that provides educators with free classroom materials that teach students to respect others.”

Their on-line resources are great, the Hatewatch Blog, the Intelligence Reports, the Intelligence Files, Publications and finally, the Hate Map.

SPLC’s Ku Klux Klan: A History of Racism is free to download, as a PDF, well worth a read.

Photos of the day.

My best wishes to the SPLC, may they be around for another 40 years. Fine people.

Written by modernityblog

07/05/2011 at 00:51