ModernityBlog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Bashar al-Assad

Bin Laden, More, Odds And Sods.

leave a comment »

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.

Leading “Anti-Imperialist” Hugo Chavez And The Syrian Murderer.

with one comment

You can always trust on the inflated ego of dictators to get the better of them. In this case, the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez expresses his support for the Syrian dictatorship, AFP reports:

“”From here we greet president Bashar al-Assad,” Chavez said, after witnesses reported that Syrian troops backed by tanks had rolled into the town of Daraa, the epicenter of recent anti-regime protests, killing at least 25 people.

“Terrorists are being infiltrated into Syria and producing violence and death — and once again, the guilty one is the (Syrian) president, without anyone investigating anything,” said Chavez.

He gave no further details to support his claims.

Chavez, a close Assad ally in Latin America, criticized the “imperial madness” of the international community which, according to him, seeks to attack Syria under the pretext of defending its people.

“They’re starting to say: ‘Let’s see if we sanction the government, we’re going to freeze their assets, we’ll blockade them, throw bombs on them, in order to defend the people.’

“Wow, what cynicism. But that’s the empire, it’s imperial madness,” he said.

When Chavez talks about “the empire,” he is usually referring to the United States.

While critics say Damascus is using its troops to crush dissent, the Syrian army said that citizens invited the soldiers into Daraa to hunt “extremist terrorist groups.”

Some 390 people have been killed in security crackdowns since the protests erupted in Syria, rights activists and witnesses say. “

This is despite the fact that Bashar al-Assad’s regime has killed about 400 civilians since the start of the revolts in Syria, according to Reuters:

“Syrian security forces have shot dead at least 400 civilians in their campaign to crush month-long pro-democracy protests, the Syrian human rights organization Sawasiah said on Tuesday.”

This is Amnesty International’s page on Syria:

“In 2008, Syria ratified the Arab Charter on Human Rights. However, laws continue to restrict freedom of expression and give the police powers to arrest and detain without trial due to an official state of emergency that was introduced in 1963 after the Ba’th party took power. In 2005, permission was given for the formation of new political parties, but human rights defenders, women and ethnic Kurds face discrimination in law and daily life.

The country retains the death penalty, torture is carried out with impunity and 17,000 disappeared people are unaccounted for. Syria currently hosts around 1.4 million Iraqi refugees and has a 500,000-strong longstanding Palestinian refugee population. “

Hamas, Netanyahu And The Middle East.

with one comment

What to make of the Middle East?

On the one hand, there is the natural desire of people to throw off their dictators.

Then on the other, bloody dictators clinging to power from Libya to Bahrain, using military might as they see fit, murdering willy-nilly. In part the West rightly condemns Gaddafi’s brutality, but then the EU commissioner defends state induced violence in Bahrain.

In Gaza, Islamic Jihad and Hamas deliberately launch mortars and rockets into Israel’s towns, hoping to kill civilians.

In response, the Netanyahu government plays Hamas’s game sending in planes and tanks.

In Jerusalem a bomb deliberately target civilians, ordinary Israelis, killing one and injuring many.

Back in Gaza, Hamas relish an opportunity to literally play the martyr and the stupid Netanyahu government obliges.

Hamas had been side tracked by events around the Middle East, their brutal rule of the Gaza Strip was made all the more obvious as they bludgeoned protesters for the human rights recently.

As a deflection they started poking Israel with a stick, knowing full well that the Netanyahu government would respond with military force and not a moment’s thought for the consequences, either politically or to ordinary Palestinians.

The Netanyahu government has shown itself incredibly inept and it is hard to point to any significant policy achievement that they have had in the last few years, if any. However, Hamas loves the Netanyahu government, for all their predictability, for all their political clumsiness and their diminishing political capital. If Hamas were left to their own devices they would continue to brutalise Palestinians without reproach, human rights within the Gaza Strip are negligible, speak out and you risk imprisonment, torture or worse. Hamas will brook no dissent.

Still, Hamas is full of canny political operatives, they know how to exploit a political situation and are comparatively good at PR, in stark contrast to the Netanyahu government that throws away chances and alienates allies, almost without a care in the world.

Meanwhile, the Bashar al-Assad dictatorship kills another 15+, those trying to demand basic human rights in Syria.

On top of that in Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh clings on to power and invokes emergency powers.

Egyptian women protesters forced to take ‘virginity tests’.

Israel’s Interior Ministry stupidly wants deport Munther Fahmi.

(H/T: Linda Grant)