Month: October 2011

In The News

Whilst I am thinking about posts and things here are some items that caught my attention:

Peter Preston blames Twitter.

Andrew Rawnsley goes to St. Paul’s and comes out almost converted.

Polly Toynbee is critical of the disparity in wealth and the Labour Party’s inability to opposed the Tories head on.

Dov Weissglas doesn’t think much of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government’s approach.

Chris Dillow on Boss’s pay.

Finally, Jeff Goldberg’s A Special Report: Is Peace Possible?

New Statesman, Examples Of Racism

Rob Marchant’s article at the New Statesman certainly stirred up the bigots.

The comments box there is stuffed full of very questionable reasoning and praise for the racist, Gilad Atzmon.

Elsewhere I found one of Rob’s old posts at Labour List, Our tolerance of extremism will do for us.

The warnings in that post have been born out by the rejection of Raed Salah’s appeal.

The CST has more:

“The tribunal considered five pieces of evidence against Salah: a poem he had authored which we argued could incite hatred of Jews, but which Salah argued was not antisemitic; a speech in which he made a ‘blood libel’ slur against Jews, but which Salah claimed was not about Jews; Salah’s inflammatory claims that Israel intends to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque; the outstanding charges he currently faces in Israel for incitement to violence and to antisemitism; and Salah’s conviction for funding organisations linked to Hamas.

When these allegations were first aired, Salah denied having written the poem; denied making the blood libel comment; denied facing any charges in Israel; and denied any links to Hamas. Only after CST provided evidence to the contrary, did Salah admit to having written the poem and making the blood libel comment, and argued instead that CST’s interpretation of those texts was wrong. He also admitted his conviction for funding organisations linked to Hamas, but claimed this was for “charitable and humanitarian purposes.””

This is Salah’s poem:

“You Jews are criminal bombers of mosques,
Slaughterers of pregnant women and babies.
Robbers and germs in all times,
The Creator sentenced you to be loser monkeys,
Victory belongs to Muslims, from the Nile to the Euphrates.”

I think most considered people would see the racism there, but as Rob points out, that’s not enough.

Not A Single Post

I had intended to separate out a few different posts on various subjects, but now is as good as any time to put them all together.

Left Foot Forward covers how the ill named, English Democrats, are happy to take ex-BNP racists as members.

Liverpool antifascists remind us how neo-Nazis still pose a real threat.

Foreign Policy has an amusing post on the peculiar habits of dictators, and what they hoard.

David Allen Green at the New Statesman shreds St Paul’s Cathedral’s feeble excuse for closing.

In more religious news, a Catholic Archbishop indulges in a bit of Jew baiting.

Earlier this month, the convicted Holocaust denying reactionary Bishop Richard Williamson took another swing at Jews, although from the Guardian’s rather anodyne coverage you wouldn’t know that. The Vatican insider explains the background in more detail, but you get the impression they themselves are ambivalent remarking that Williamson’s “positions are extreme even within the traditionalist world, they are certainly not isolated even within the Lefebvrist community itself. “

Meanwhile in Germany, the Catholic Church has apparently been profiting from pornography according to an article at Worldcrunch. Who would have thought it? First, antisemitism, now pornography, whatever next?

In the JC, David Aaronovitch deals with some nasty subconscious thinking by his fellow journalist, Deborah Orr.

Rob Marchant writes, Anti-Semitism is the new black, showing the worrying level of denial of anti-Jewish racism in the trade union movement.

The comments box at the New Statesman confirms how timely Rob’s article was. I can’t help remembering how many once loyal trade unionists resigned from UCU over institutionalised racism in that union, Engage has more.

Norm on Orr’s an apology of sorts. I really liked his first piece on it, opening with “You may think you’ve plumbed the depths of human stupidity and blind prejudice, but you never have.”

Finally, my own word of advice to those Westerners “interested” in Middle Eastern topics.

If you don’t want to be thought of as a bigot or racist then try and avoid using Far Right terminology such as “Chosen”, etc.

Better still, educate yourself on how the Far and Extreme Right use these topics and take extra, extra care.

Margaret Thatcher Rakes It In.

We live in difficult times. Often it is hard to make ends meet, so I don’t begrudge someone making a few quid on the side, normally.

But the sight of ex-Prime Ministers, who are already on a tidy pension, getting their noses in the trough is a little annoying.

Margaret Thatcher despite her supposed free market principles is happy to take taxpayers money, when she can, BBC News reports:

“Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has claimed £535,000 of taxpayers’ money over the last five years, government records have shown.

Baroness Thatcher, 86, who makes rare public appearances and suffers poor health, was paid from the public duties cost allowance available to ex-PMs.”

That’s on top of her cosy government pension, investments and allowances as a Peer.

I am almost lost for words.

B53, Good Riddance

The dismantling of the world’s biggest bomb in the US is good news:

“AMARILLO, Texas (AP) — The last of the nation’s most powerful nuclear bombs — a weapon hundreds of times stronger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima — is being disassembled nearly half a century after it was put into service at the height of the Cold War.

The final components of the B53 bomb will be broken down Tuesday at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, the nation’s only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility. The completion of the dismantling program is a year ahead of schedule, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, and aligns with President Barack Obama’s goal of reducing the number of nuclear weapons.

Thomas D’Agostino, the nuclear administration’s chief, called the bomb’s elimination a “significant milestone.”

Put into service in 1962, when Cold War tensions peaked during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the B53 weighed 10,000 pounds and was the size of a minivan. According to the American Federation of Scientists, it was 600 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, killing as many as 140,000 people and helping end World War II.

The B53 was designed to destroy facilities deep underground, and it was carried by B-52 bombers.

With its destruction, the next largest bomb in operation will be the B83, said Hans Kristensen, a spokesman for the Federation of American Scientists. It’s 1.2 megatons, while the B53 was 9 megatons.”

Peculiarly Western

I enjoy reading Terry Glavin’s writing on Afghanistan and his comments in this article by Eva Sajoo are compelling, if too close to the bone for many:

“We also meet Malalai Ishaqzai, an MP from Kandahar whose views differ sharply from those of the famous Malalai Joya. Joya has become famous in Europe and North America for claiming that international troops have made no difference to Afghan women and should leave immediately.

Many other female MPs, including Ishaqzai, disagree. The mother of seven children, she has been winning male votes in a province considered the Taliban heartland. This is surely progress.

Aware of the fading Canadian commitment, she and other Afghans ask why. Glavin’s answer to that question is complicated. He points to a disturbing tendency to see human rights as a peculiarly Western set of values. This belief has the benefit both of allowing us a sense of superiority while simultaneously distancing ourselves from the struggles of others in the name of respecting their cultural customs. As if people in other societies somehow find oppression more agreeable.

(H/T: Norm)

Workers in Iran

Workers across the world face austerity, poor wages and worse conditions, and workers in Iran have it very hard, BBC News has more:

“Iran’s labour union has been pressing for several years for the country’s labour law to be re-written.

In its current form, employers can fire workers on the spot so long as they provide them with a written notice.

Some 40% of the country’s manual workers are hired without contracts and are paid by the day.”

Labourstart has good coverage of events in Iran.

The Guardian’s Soft Racism and Deborah Orr

The Guardian newspaper is considered to be one of the quality periodicals in Britain, yet if you ever wanted to find the tell-tale smell of anti-Jewish racism then look no further.

Comment is Free, the Guardian’s on-line presence, is stuffed full of snide articles and remarks in the comments boxes that would not seem out of place in Far Right forums.

Even the home coming of Gilad Shalit was seen as another vehicle for expressing contempt for Jews, evidenced by Deborah Orr’s article with its disdainful conclusion.

Eve Garrard, over at Engage, pulls it apart with commendable logic:

“Things are different now, and this trope has been resurrected for the same old use: to denigrate Jews and stir up dislike, or worse, against them. In fact it’s very effective for that purpose: most people (very understandably) dislike anyone who claims to be inherently superior to everyone else; and so to attribute such a claim to Jews is a very economical way of making people dislike and distrust them. By referring to the Chosen People you can, without saying another word, tell your listener that Jews are an arrogant supercilious bunch who despise the rest of the human race, and that you yourself don’t much like that kind of thing; and indeed your listener (or reader, as the case may be) probably doesn’t much like that kind of thing either, being a decent honest person; and so you and she together can enjoyably agree that there’s something pretty obnoxious about Jews, or they wouldn’t be claiming to be ‘chosen’, would they, or insisting that one Jew is worth 1,000 other people, which of course they must believe, since Gilad Shalit was exchanged for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, and there’s no other possible explanation of that ratio, is there, eh?

All that hostile implication from just two well-chosen (so to speak) words, or even in Orr’s case one word alone – she writes with casual familiarity about ‘the chosen’, apparently assuming that her Guardian readers use the term so readily that no misunderstanding can arise from the informal contraction. This is indeed real economy of effort in the business of producing Jew-hatred. Orr herself may not, of course, have intended to stir up dislike of Jews; but the language which she chose to use did all the work that was needed for that unlovely task. “

Reflecting On Gaddafi, His Toupee and Last Days

There’s a great deal of coverage of Gaddafi’s death, but not so much on how Libyans view him, Ted Anthony considers those issues:

“Whatever ultimately happens with Gadhafi’s body, the impact of its visibility will endure. Christopher Hitchens, writing in Slate about his objections to the Libyan leader’s end, nevertheless acknowledged the sentiment of many in the Arab world: “At the close of an obscene regime,” he wrote, “it is natural for people to hope for something like an exorcism. It is satisfying to see the cadaver of the monster and be sure that he can’t come back.”

That’s the very definition of “habeas corpus” – “you have the body.” And now, in an age when a device we keep in our pockets can reveal a dictator’s demise, it has never been more relevant. Whether it’s Saddam hanging from a rope, Nicolae Ceausescu dead in his suit and tie, or Gadhafi beaten and confused and then dead and gone, the sight of the body is one of the most powerful political and emotional totems of all.

Gadhafi’s former subjects attested to that in the city of Misrata this weekend. In long lines curling around corners and into the street, they waited to enter a produce locker in a run-down shopping plaza. There, upon that blood-stained mattress, they saw a man they held responsible for years of misery and ruined lives.

They looked down upon his shirtless remains, his toupee gone, his slight pot belly visible, his oft-facelifted visage sagging. They smiled and they ogled and they wept. They were the ones who had the power now. The man who had carefully built himself into a curious myth was rendered unto those he once ruled as something diminished and frail, hurtling toward impermanence and irrelevance.

Great and terrible in life, in death these mythologized despots and masterminds are revealed at last as the much smaller men behind the curtain – shorn of the outsized facades that frightened and mesmerized so many for so long. The stars, in the end, are just like us.”

A cousin of Colonel Gaddafi adds to the story:

“MISURATA, Libya — After 42 years of absolute power in Libya, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi spent his last days hovering between defiance and delusion, surviving on rice and pasta his guards scrounged from the emptied civilian houses he moved between every few days, according to a senior security official captured with him.

Under siege by the former rebels for weeks, Colonel Qaddafi grew impatient with life on the run in the city of Surt, said the official, Mansour Dhao Ibrahim, the leader of the feared People’s Guard, a network of loyalists, volunteers and informants. “He would say: ‘Why is there no electricity? Why is there no water?’ ”

Mr. Dhao, who stayed close to Colonel Qaddafi throughout the siege, said that he and other aides repeatedly counseled the colonel to leave power or the country, but that the colonel and one of his sons, Muatassim, would not even consider the option. “

Colonel Gaddafi, A Hidden Billionaire

When most of us think of billionaires our minds turn to the likes of Warren Buffett, Bill Gates or those running Facebook.

But they are poor by comparison.

Compared that is, to Colonel Gaddafi, who according to the LA Times had hidden away billions, and billions:

“During his 42 years in power, Kadafi steered aid and investment to benefit his own family and tribe, but denied support for much of the country, especially the eastern region that historically resisted his family’s despotic grip on power.

Obama administration officials were stunned last spring when they found $37 billion in Libyan regime accounts and investments in the United States, and they quickly froze the assets before Kadafi or his aides could move them.

Governments in France, Italy, England and Germany seized control of another $30 billion or so. Investigators estimated that Kadafi had stashed perhaps another $30 billion elsewhere in the world, for a total of about $100 billion.

But subsequent investigations by American, European and Libyan authorities determined that Kadafi secretly sent tens of billions more abroad over the years and made sometimes lucrative investments in nearly every major country, including much of the Middle East and Southeast Asia, officials said Friday.

Most of the money was under the name of government institutions such as the Central Bank of Libya, the Libyan Investment Authority, the Libyan Foreign Bank, the Libyan National Oil Corp. and the Libya African Investment Portfolio. But investigators said Kadafi and his family members could access any of the money if they chose to.

The new $200 billion figure is about double the prewar annual economic output of Libya, which has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa. “

Even supposing that the final figures come to half of that, say, $100 billion, it would mean that Colonel Gaddafi was wealthier than Bill Gates ($59 billion) and towers over Warren Buffet ($39 billion).

Far from the Green Book and its socialistic slogans Colonel Gaddafi was more concerned with stuffing his pockets full of the Libyan people’s money.

Just what you would expect from a dictator that’s been in power for 42 years, stealing every day of the week.

Update 1: Kevin Connolly’s piece is good:

“Gaddafi made you wonder if dictatorship attracts the mad, or maddens those attracted to it.

He was an old-fashioned, theatrical sort of tyrant, whose lineage you can trace from the bombastic ravings of Mussolini, through the kilted debauchery of Idi Amin, to the platform-heeled kleptocracy of Omar Bongo of Gabon.

He recruited a corps of Amazonian female bodyguards, drove a golf buggy and permanently closed every cinema in the country – apparently in case movie-goers plotted against him.

With Gaddafi, though, with all of them, the darkness was always there. He sponsored terrorism overseas and in Libya, at his behest, fingernails were ripped out and eyes were gouged; homes and hearts were broken.

He corrupted the soul of the nation. Everyone wondered if everyone else was an informer.

One middle-aged woman told me, at the beginning of this last revolution in the battered centre of the city of Benghazi, that she thought the worst thing about living under a dictatorship was that it made you ashamed that you did not resist, that you were not a hero.

“You pass the habit of fear on to your children,” she said.

She could remember the leaders of a previous student rising in Benghazi being hanged from lamp-posts in the city centre.

Hands behind their backs, their bodies dangled on long stretches of electrical cable with their feet just a metre or so off the ground.

Life choked out of them slowly and agonisingly. And when they were close to death, a well-known sidekick of Gaddafi’s finished them off by hugging them around the knees and tugging down on their helpless bodies. “

Rush Limbaugh And Africa.

Rush Limbaugh is, apparently, very popular in parts of North America.

Now I fully appreciate that he has had his problems, with substance abuse, but his recent comments relating to Africa seemed to take the biscuit, Blake Hounshell illuminates the issues:

“Yesterday, when President Obama announced that the United States would be sending 100 special operations forces to help Uganda battle the Lord’s Resistance Army, a notorious and brutal death cult led by Joseph Kony, a joke went around on Twitter that Michele Bachmann would soon be attacking the president for “targeting Christians.”

Of course, to call the LRA “Christians” is to abase the English language. As the Atlantic’s Graeme Wood put it in a profile of Kony last year, “An American diplomat in Bangui compared the group to the Manson family, but given that the LRA has killed 12,000 people, the comparison is self-evidently unfair to Manson.” “

That Plot

The more I read about the supposed plot in the US to kill the Saudi ambassador the less clear it becomes, a piece by Gareth Porter:

“On May 24, when Arbabsiar first met with the DEA informant he thought was part of a Mexican drug cartel, it was not to hire a hit squad to kill the ambassador. Rather, there is reason to believe that the main purpose was to arrange a deal to sell large amounts of opium from Afghanistan.

In the complaint, the closest to a semblance of evidence that Arbabsiar sought help during that first meeting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador is the allegation, attributed to the DEA informant, that Arbabsiar said he was “interested in, among other things, attacking an embassy of Saudi Arabia”.

Among the “other things” was almost certainly a deal on heroin controlled by officers in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Three Bloomberg reporters, citing a “federal law enforcement official”, wrote that Arbabsiar told the DEA informant he represented Iranians who “controlled drug smuggling and could provide tons of opium”.

Because of opium entering Iran from Afghanistan, Iranian authorities hold 85 percent of the world’s opium seizures, according to Iran’s Fars News Agency. Iranian security personnel, including those in the IRGC and its Quds Force, then have the opportunity to sell the opium to traffickers in the Middle East, Europe and now Mexico.

Mexican drug cartels have begun connecting with Middle Eastern drug traffickers, in many cases stationing operatives in Middle East locations to facilitate heroin production and sales, according to a report last January in Borderland Beat.

But the FBI account of the contacts between Arbabsiar and the DEA informant does not reference any discussions of drugs. “

57 Racists And John Tyndall.

If any reminder was needed on what type of people inhabit the fringes in the BNP then Hope not hate has it:

“Fifty seven hard line racists gathered in Preston last weekend to commemorate the life of John Tyndall, the Nazi uniform wearing founder of the British National Party.

It was the sixth time that a collection of Nazis and Anti-Semites no longer welcomed or favoured in Nick Griffin’s new version of the party, have gathered to remember their mentor.

Tyndall was the eloquent writer of such immortal lines as “the Jew is like a maggot feeding off the corpse of the write race”. He died in 2005 while facing charges of behaviour likely to incite racial hatred, surprisingly. “

Talking Of That Plot

There is a lot in the press and blogosphere about the plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in the US. Much of it doesn’t make sense, but this is a thoughtful piece on the issue:

“Given the Quds Force’s modus operandi, it is odd that its commanders would entrust an unprecedentedly brazen attack against a foreign diplomat on U.S. soil to a former used-car salesman and Mexican drug-cartel hit men. Manssor Arbabsiar, the Iranian expatriate at the center of the plot, bears no resemblance to a covert operative, and any personal or familial connections he may have with Quds Force commanders does not explain his apparent role in facilitating the operation. The Quds Force also has no known connections with Mexican drug cartels, and enlisting them to carry out the terrorist attack runs counter to the Quds Force’s established pattern of working with long-standing, trusted contacts.

Finally, and perhaps most puzzlingly, the plot does not seem to fit Iran’s larger strategic objectives, whether regarding its relations with the United States, its relations with Saudi Arabia, or its relations with the international community. It makes little sense that Iranian authorities would choose such a drastic, extreme measure at this time, especially when such an act would do little to advance Iran’s prevailing goals, would assuredly provoke a harsh response by the United States, and would further tarnish Iran’s already poor global reputation. No matter how one looks at it, it is difficult to imagine how such an act would not severely jeopardize the security of the Iranian regime. If maintaining power and stability is what is driving Iran’s current leadership, such an attack would be of no apparent value.”

Antifascists Need Your Help.

I am indebted to Liverpool Antifascists for this piece:

“The six antifascists imprisoned in the first trial were originally held in Wormwood Scrubs prison in London, but five have now been moved to other jails in southern and central England.

Please send them letters of support at the addresses given below.

We expect Thomas Blak to be moved this week and his new address will be published on the Leeds ABC website when that happens. Thomas, who is Danish and has lived and worked in England for 15 years, is also under threat of deportation.

The prisoners may each receive postage stamps and Postal Orders (made payable to ‘The Governor’ and with the prisoner’s name and prison number written on the back). For advice on writing to prisoners please see the Leeds ABC website. “

Don’t Forget The English Defence League

Others have shown how the EDL is stuffed full of ex-British National Party members or odd ball neo-Nazis, but we shouldn’t forget how their members like violence.

EDLers like fantasizing about attacking ethnic minorities as their entries on Facebook show.

More recently, at least two of their followers were involved in a racial attack as the Sunderland Echo reports:

“TWO former English Defence League members are beginning year-long jail sentences after racist attacks at a mosque and two Asian-run businesses.

Steven James Vasey and Anthony Donald Smith launched their offensive after incidents at a war memorial in Luton on Armistice Day last November, where poppies were burnt by extreme Islamic groups.

On the eve of Muslim festival Eid, the masked men, along with an accomplice, climbed a fence at the Nasir mosque in Hartlepool.

The letters “EDL” and “NEI”, for the North East Infidels, were sprayed along with “no surrender” and images of poppies and the St George flag.

Prosecutor Chris Baker told Durham Crown Court that a taxi seen in the area at the time was similar to a vehicle spotted later in Potto Street in Shotton Colliery, where an upstairs window of the Milco store was smashed with a brick.

Similar graffiti to that left on the mosque was sprayed on the shop and the nearby Albert Guest House, which are both owned by an Asian businessman.

Mr Baker told Recorder William Lowe there was an irony that the store was selling poppies when the attack was carried out.

He said taxi driver Smith, 24, of Rydale Court, Trimdon, previously of Neptune Way, Easington Colliery, was arrested the next day.

Messages on his mobile showed planning with then-girlfriend Charlotte Christina Davies and Vasey and included claims they were going “Muzzy bashing” and were going to give the mosque a “makeover”. “

Channel 4 on the British National Party

I had forgotten that Channel 4 had produced a fine documentary on the BNP in 2002.

It is still relevant, Young, Nazi and Proud, isn’t available on their site at the moment, but can be found across the web, including here.

Mark Collett was a chairman of the Young BNP and Director of Publicity for the BNP, so he was not on the fringes of the party rather at its very heart.

Searchlight had a good piece on Collett and the BNP:

“The man tipped to become the next leader of the British National Party has admitted he is a nazi sympathiser and is inspired by images of German nazis “sieg heiling” in the streets.

Mark Collett, leader of the Young BNP and a member of the party’s ruling Advisory Council, made the admission to Channel Four last month. In a revealing documentary, he boasted of his support for Hitler’s Germany, said he would prefer to live in 1930s Germany than in many cities of northern England today and declared that he could not understand why people should find images of German soldiers giving nazi salutes upsetting.”

In the BNP, he’s not alone.