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

Lebanon, What’s Going On?

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It seems like ages since I touched upon issues in the Middle East but the collapse of the Lebanese government is rather worrying, yet there’s not much significant coverage in the Western media, as far as I can see.

I gather that the assassination of Rafik Harir is at the heart of matters.

According to Reuters there may soon be an indictment of those guilty for Rafik Harir’s murder, and it looks as if Hezbollah are in the frame for it (along with the Syrian government), here’s more:

“(Reuters) – The prosecutor of the U.N.-backed Lebanon tribunal will “imminently” send a draft indictment over the 2005 killing of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri to the pre-trial judge, sources familiar with the case said on Friday.

Tension in Lebanon ahead of the indictment boiled over this week as the country’s government collapsed when ministers from Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hezbollah group walked out of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s coalition, testing political faultlines across the Middle East.

Speculation had been mounting that investigators at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will indict Hezbollah members over the assassination, a prospect Lebanese politicians had already feared could spark a crisis and possible violence.

Sources told Reuters that the indictment will be sent to tribunal pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen for confirmation “imminently, saying it could “perhaps come as early as next week.” It is now expected that the court will make an announcement when it has been filed.

Hezbollah has repeatedly denied any involvement in the killing. Its leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said last year he will not allow the arrest of any of the group’s members. “

I worry that Hezbollah will be tempted to use their considerable military muscle to resolve the crisis, either internally or by provoking a conflict with Israel. Not good.

This is the web site of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

Written by modernityblog

14/01/2011 at 17:23

The Oldham By-Election.

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I don’t normally cover British by-elections but yesterday’s one in Oldham East and Saddleworth is somewhat noteworthy as a barometer of political contentment.

Obviously Labour won, as you would expect them to, with an increased majority, but that’s not the full story.

This is my breakdown of the result:

The useless (Labour): 14,718 (42.14%, +10.27%)

The unprincipled scumbags (LibDems): 11,160 (31.95%, +0.32%)

The slash and burn party (Tories): 4,481 (12.83%, -13.62%)

The “we hate Europe, but like the gravy train” party (UKIP): 2,029 (5.81%, +1.95%)

The Neofascist nucklescrapers (BNP): 1,560 (4.47%, -1.25%)

Plus others. Electorate 72,788; Turnout 34,930 (47.99%, -13.19%)

Previously, 2010: Lab maj 103 (0.23%) – Turnout 44,520 (61.18%)
Woolas (Lab) 14,186 (31.86%); Watkins (LD) 14,083 (31.63%); Ali (C)
11,773 (26.44%); Stott (BNP) 2,546 (5.72%); Bentley (UKIP) 1,720
(3.86%); Nazir (Ch P) 212 (0.48%)

I think what is notable is how the LibDems have still kept a large chunk of their votes, which shows you how gullible some people are.

The Tories did badly, but not as bad as they should have.

The useless Labour Party should have swept the floor with all of them, yet under the pitiful leadership of Ed Miliband they can’t even do that.

The dregs of New Labour which are running that party now must go down as some of the biggest political incompetents in the last 111 years.

When the voters look between the Tories, Lib Dems and the Labour Party they don’t see much difference, rather grey men in suits, echoing similar arguments and certainly nothing moderately radical coming from the Labour Party. They can’t even muster weak-willed social democracy or a competent defence of the welfare state, that’s how pathetic they are.

Surprisingly, the BNP, although their vote is down, achieved over 10% of the Labour polled votes which is deeply depressing, and a bit worrying.

Still, on the bright side that bigot and racist, Phil Woolas was kicked out, some consolation.

Update 1: My previous stuff on Woolas.

Written by modernityblog

14/01/2011 at 04:00

Professor Gibbs, Failure To Address The Issues.

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I finally got around to reading all of the 339+ comments on David Gibbs’ guest post and I must say I am disappointed.

I like academic discussions normally.

I appreciate clever people making intelligent points and I confess to being a fan of Engage, where some witty or informative exchanges are to be found. I had hoped that this guest post would be equally sharp and illuminating, sadly it is not.

Professor Gibbs seems to have made a conscious choice not to address the criticism of his work in any significant way.
Read the rest of this entry »

Stupid Palin And The Meaning Of Words.

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We tend to expect politicians to be conversant with words. To know of their usage, to be aware of their affect, yet not unsurprisingly Sarah Palin’s continued ignorance precludes that literate self-awareness.

Frankly, we shouldn’t be surprised at anything that Sarah Palin says, despite the fact she was almost one heart beat away from being President of the United States. She makes George W. Bush seem like a Shakespearean scholar.

You would be hard put to find a bigger ignoramus on the American political scene at the moment and there’s a lot of competition.

Still, you would hope that her advisers (who presumably can walk and chew gum at the same time) will be capable of looking up a reference to blood libel after they written her speech, and appreciate its sensitivity.

But no, they couldn’t even do that.

It is frightening to think that she could have been Vice President of the USA.

If she or her aides read this, then try this link it might help to explain exactly what the Blood Libel is.

Next time, she should follow Samuel Clemen’s advice:

“It is best to keep your mouth shut and be presumed ignorant than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Update 1: Rebecca has a good piece on this issue, including Pat Buchanan’s intervention, but I particularly liked this:

“Far be it from me to disagree with the distinguished Professor Dershowitz, but the fact that he used it in the case of his criticism of the Goldstone Report hardly validates the use of the term outside of the proper historical context. At various times when I’ve been living in Israel I’ve heard Israeli politicians use the phrase to protest against other people’s (usually correct) criticisms of their (often corrupt) behavior. This metaphorical use has always struck me as an absurdly exaggerated attempt to play on the sympathies of the audience.

I would prefer to use the phrase “blood libel” to refer to actual blood libels.

The first recorded blood libel was the accusation in 1144 that 12-year-old William of Norwich had been murdered by Jews for ritual purposes before Passover. The Medieval Sourcebook has published the first written account, from 1173, by Thomas of Monmouth, of the supposed torture and death of William at the hands of local Jews. [Warning: not for the faint of heart]. Accusations of ritual murder by Jews for religious purposes have been made since then, including up to the present in the Arab world.

Not a phrase to use lightly.”

Written by modernityblog

13/01/2011 at 02:08

Apologies To Marko.

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I made a mistake by allowing David Gibbs a guest post.

At the time I thought he was a reasonable academic who deserved a right of reply, however, subsequently I have had time to reflect on my poor judgement.

I could excuse it away by saying I was rushed and I often tend to give people the benefit of the doubt in such matters. I could say I thought it would be informative to see these issues thrashed out, but that’s not good enough.

It was very poor timing, inconvenient for everyone except seemingly Professor Gibbs, and at the very least it should have been put off for another time.

In truth, I should have probably said “use someone else’s blog or create your own”. But that’s not good enough

So my sincere apologies to Marko Attila Hoare, who was stuck in Germany when this first came about, by the excessive snow and blocked airports. I can appreciate how difficult it was for him.

Dr. Hoare was rightly annoyed at matters, but made a conscious effort to put all that behind him and deal with Gibbs’ arguments.

I haven’t reviewed the thread with any real attention to detail, and will probably cover its contents in a future post.

Dr. Hoare deserved better, I am very sorry for the hassle and inconvenience that I caused him.

In the future, should Professor Gibbs want a “right of reply” then he can use the able services of his friend and fan, Louis Proyect or post in the comments boxes, like everyone else.

I won’t make the same mistake twice!

4 Years on, Still Obsessed With Boycotting Israelis.

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Engage covers another staged debate on the boycotting of Israelis, to be held at the LSE, on Thursday 13th January 2011.

Looking at the participants, one of them seemed familiar to me, John Chalcraft.

I haven’t heard Dr. Chalcraft speak, but I vaguely remember an argument he posed before on boycotting Israelis.

Norm covered it, 4 years ago:

“Like the AUT boycott decision that came before it (see the links at the end of this post), the vote yesterday at the Bournemouth conference of UCU disgraces a union representing British academics, and it will stain its reputation and moral standing so long as the decision is allowed to stand. Arguing for the boycott position yesterday, John Chalcraft wrote:

The movement for boycott is in no way anti-semitic. It includes Jews and non-Jews…

Well, whether the policy of boycotting Israeli academics is anti-Semitic or not, the fact that the movement in favour of it includes some Jews is neither here nor there. This can’t establish its ‘clean’ credentials, as will be quickly seen from the following simple thought experiment.

Imagine a policy that you’re certain would be anti-Semitic: say, just for example, a law requiring all Jewish academics to wear insignia of identity when at their place of work. Now, suppose some Jews who support this law, for whatever reason. End of thought experiment.**

The anti-Semitic or non-anti-Semitic character of any policy depends on its overall shape and effects and not on whether or not it has some Jewish supporters – even though, in the nature of things, most Jews will pass up the opportunity of supporting anti-Semitic policies. But most is just most; it isn’t all”

[My emphasis.]

**In my view Norm’s argument here is a bit too subtle.

He’s basically reminding his readers that some Jews went along and agreed with the wearing of an antisemitic symbol. But that didn’t make it any less antisemitic.

So it is with Dr. Chalcraft’s arguments and he’s been going on about boycotting Israelis (and no one else) for years and years.

Still, I suppose it provides an outlet for him and others, a bit like that bloke down the Pub who rants when certain topics come up. Its something a kin to the equivalent of Middle Class football hooliganism, something to let frustrations out on, a useful whipping boy for Western angst and alienation.

Now I am a great believer in argumentation, but it seems unlikely that ANY argument would sway or deflect these anti-Israeli obsessives, as we’ve seen before with the institutionalised racism in UCU.

I wonder if these words will be used by pro-boycotters at the LSE debate “Of course, some of my best friends are…..”?

Update 1: The LSE’s cartography has been lacking recently, as the JPost relates:

“LONDON – A prestigious British university apologized on Thursday for using a map of the Middle East without Israel in an article in one of its publications.

The alumni magazine of the London School of Economics, LSE Connect, published a story about the school’s new Middle East research center with a map of the Middle East that had Beirut and the Gaza Strip but no Israel.

In the article, it said that the creation of the center was made possible because of the support of two organizations from the United Arab Emirates. The Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy and the Aman Trust contributed £9.2 million. “

Sorry To My Female Readers.

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I have had time to reflect and I wish to say sorry to my female readers, who I may have inadvertently offended in the discussions around Julian Assange’s Arrest And The Broken Condom.

I feel I was often too caustic, and not sufficiently attuned to the issues, as seen from a different perspective.

Regrettably, I tend to focus on political matters, sometimes to the exclusion of more intricate points.

So my apologies, particularly to any of my female readers who were rightly offended by my unnecessary and direct comments.