Month: July 2012

Guy Adams And Twitter

This story deserves greater coverage:

“Here are three things that NBC prevented their public from being able to watch on network television so far this Olympic Games: live footage of the opening ceremony; live footage of Saturday’s swimming showdown between Michael Phelps and Brian Lochte; live footage of the USA men’s basketball “dream team.”

A fourth thing they do not want people to see is the email address of Gary Zenkel, the executive responsible for this shambles. And a fifth thing is my Twitter feed, which over the weekend contained a couple of dozen occasionally uncouth observations about their coverage, several of which were accompanied by the trending hashtag: “#NBCfail.”

As a journalist, you know you are doing your job properly when you manage to upset rich, powerful and entitled people who are used to getting their own way. And you know you’ve really got under their skin when they pursue censorship, the avenue of last resort since time immemorial.

The internet era is meant to be different, though. Thanks to Twitter, and Google and every other medium dedicated to the free exchange of information, the world is supposed to have changed. That’s why the Arab Spring happened; it’s why Justin Bieber happened. And its why, regardless of its comparative frivolity, NBC’s successful attempt to suspend a journalist from a social networking site sets an ugly precedent.

Twitter’s guidelines forbid users from publishing what they call “private” information, including “private email addresses”. There is plenty of sense in this. But I did not Tweet a private email address. I Tweeted a corporate address for Mr Zenkel, which is widely listed online, and is identical in form to that of tens of thousands of those at NBC.

I was not contacted by NBC or Twitter before my account was suspended. If they had dropped me a line, I might – might! – have quietly deleted the offending Tweet. Instead, they wandered into a PR controversy which has resulted in hundreds of thousands more people being made aware of its existence. Like any right thinking-person, I take the issue of online bullying seriously. I would hate for anyone to come to harm as a result of something I uploaded to the internet. But I’m at a loss to see how a bit of forthright correspondence from a disgruntled public could be anything more than a minor annoyance to a power-broker of Mr Zenkel’s lofty status. I’m still awaiting a detailed explanation from Twitter as to why my account was immediately suspended. On the face of it, their reaction seems heavy-handed.

As for Gary Zenkel, he is supposedly a grown-up, with a salary, and ego to match. His TV network has decided to delay broadcasting key Olympic events until Prime Time on the grounds it hopes to make more money from advertising. NBC surely knew viewers would be upset by this. If it now displeases Mr Zenkel to get emails from those rightly-angry customers, then he is surely in the wrong job. “

Racism And First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs

The wedding of Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson at First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs should have been a joyous occasion, instead it shows us how racism still has hold in the USA.

The BBC has an audio clip detailing matters.

The Guardian explains:

“God’s love is colour-blind. Not so, it seems, when it comes to the First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs in Mississippi.

Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson, an African American couple from nearby Jackson, were all set for their big wedding day on Saturday at the 150-year-old church that they have been attending regularly for months. The sanctuary of the church had been arranged, the rehearsal was set for Friday, invitations had been sent out to friends extending a “special thank you to the First Baptist Church and members”.

Then, at about 5.10pm on Thursday evening Te’Andrea received a call. Some of the congregation of the church, which is largely white, had seen a group of black women setting up the sanctuary for the wedding and complained to the pastor.

“If the pastor married her, because they were black then they would vote him out,” Te’Andrea was told. The wedding was off.

“When I got the news I couldn’t believe it at first,” Charles Wilson told the Jackson Clarion-Leader. “This is not a matter of colour for me, it’s about God, and what better place to get married than God’s sanctuary. God’s love is colour blind.”

Wilson confronted the pastor, Stan Weatherford, and asked him what had happened. According to Wilson, he replied that he had “received all sorts of phone calls, text messages, and it was just not going to happen”.

Later, Weatherford told the local channel WLBT News that weddings of black couples had never happened before in the church, “so it was setting a precedent, and there were those who reacted to that”. He added: “I didn’t want to have a controversy within the church, and I didn’t want a controversy to affect the wedding of Charles and Te’Andrea. I wanted to make sure their wedding day was a special day.”

(more…)

Mitt Romney On Twitter

Mitt Romney is being pulled apart by the British media and on Twitter under the hastag #RomneyShambles

There are far too many good contributions, but these struck me as about right:

SheSheGo ‏@SheSheGo

At this point, Mitt Romney is making George W. Bush and Sara Palin look like Rhodes Scholars. #RomneyShambles

Michael Pacholek ‏@MichaelPacholek

When Boris Johnson looks smart and sane by comparison, you know your trip to Britain is in #RomneyShambles.

Organic Democrat ‏@organicdemocrat

#RomneyShambles The sad part is that @MittRomney was up all night learning his lines for his meeting with PM.

DR ‏@pollbuster

#romneyshambles: More Romney fallout: ‘Apparently devoid of charm, warmth, humour or sincerity’ and this was one of the better reactions.”

If readers see any other good ones, please let me know.

Even the America media are getting in on the act.

Update 1: Vanity Fair covers it:

“Mitt Romney’s disaster of a European vacation continues to implode. In an Olympic ceremony in Hyde Park this afternoon, London mayor Boris Johnson mocked Romney’s earlier gaffe—Disconcerting-gate—and Romney’s dumb name. “There’s guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know if we are ready. Are we ready? Yes we are!” Did Johnson make air quotes with his hands when he said “Mitt Romney”? “

Update 2: The NY times touches on his real reason for visiting London:

“Although Mr. Romney hasn’t won over the British Prime Minister or the British Olympic Committee, at least some Londoners seem to have embraced the Republican candidate. The Telegraph reported yesterday that executives at Barclay’s—the bank that paid a huge fine over the Libor scandal–have donated $1 million to Mr. Romney. (All American citizens?) The Guardian said there is a fundraiser for him tonight in Mayfair for between $50,000 and $75,000 a ticket.

Update 3: Time haven’t missed out either.

TPM points to the real issue, money:

“With his London visit mired in controversy, Mitt Romney is also facing criticism for taking money from individuals implicated in an ongoing banking scandal.
Barclays executives have donated over $1 million to Romney’s campaign, according to the Guardian, and many are expected to be in attendance at Thursday’s fundraiser, raising eyebrows on both sides of the pond.”

Update 4: It’s on the BBC too.

Update 5: With the Huff Post picking it up I can’t wait for the YouTube spoofs to appear.

Politicus USA hasn’t missed out the comparison, Romney in Shambles as Britain Proclaims Him Worse than Sarah Palin.

Update 6: Romney and vanity go together rather well, as the Salt Lake City Olympics commemorative badges (pins for American readers) demonstrates.

Update 7: Over at the Atlantic, The Best of #romneyshambles.

Update 8: Romney gaffes in full.

The WSJ’s Romney’s Not-So-Secret Meeting With MI6.

No gold medal for Mitt Romney from British press.

From 2007, Mitt Romney: I won’t let US go the way of UK.

Mitt Romney’s Olympics blunder stuns No 10 and hands gift to Obama.

The New Statesman’s Faulty Cartography

One noticeable aspect of the debate on the Middle East is not the lack of opinions, rather the inability to render history with any competence or accuracy.

I can understand polemics, they might be unhelpful but that’s what people do.

The problem in the West is the shaky grasp of facts that comes out whenever the Middle East is discussed.

One example of that phenomenon is the strikingly poor cartography found recently at the New Statesman, as shown below:

The top left image purports to show Palestine under the British Mandate between 1920-48.

However, it misses off over 32,000 square miles, ceded to Transjordan in the early 1920s.

That is a major omission for a modern publication.

After all it is entitled: Palestine British Mandate.

Missing a few miles might have been acceptable, but losing more than 32,000 sq. miles is incredibly sloppy for the New Statesman.

This Dartmouth College’s map of the region, just prior to division of the British Mandate in 1922:

Jacques Rogge And The IOC

The inability of Jacques Rogge and the IOC to organise a minutes silence for athletes murdered in 1972 at the Munich Games speaks volumes, the JC reports:

“The widows of two of the Israelis murdered at the Munich Olympics emerged distraught and heartbroken following a meeting with IOC President Jacques Rogge this evening.

Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano spent half an hour pleading with Mr Rogge to change his stance on holding a minute’s silence at Friday’s London 2012 opening ceremony.
But their efforts in the private meeting at his Park Lane Hilton suite failed.

The women handed a petition, signed by 105,000 people, to Mr Rogge. When they asked whether the refusal to hold a silence was because the victims were Israeli, Mr Rogge refused answer.

He told them the IOC would consider building a statue at its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, in honour of the 11 Israeli victims.

Mrs Spitzer, whose husband, fencing coach Andrei Spitzer, was killed by Palestinian terrorist group Black September, said Mr Rogge had offered “his little excuses”.

Speaking immediately after the meeting she said: “We continue the fight. We brought everything we had. We gave him a ladder and said if you don’t do a silence at least say that terror is unacceptable.

“We were calm. We told him we were bitterly disappointed. We can’t believe he didn’t take the lead on this. We hope that people will show him up on Friday.

“For one moment I thought he was swaying and I pleaded with him do the right thing, the thing we all ask for.

“I asked him ‘is it because they were Israelis?’ and he didn’t answer.

“We were just about rolling over the table for him. We are outraged. We are so angry. We are sad. We could not believe it but he is not going to do it.

“I was looking him in the eye but he said we had two different opinions. We said ‘you didn’t hear the voice of the world’. He said: ‘Yes I did’.”

Murdered weightlifter Yossef Romano’s wife Ilana said: “Mr Rogge lives in his tower at the IOC and he forgets where he comes from – the Games in 1972. But he plays political correctness.” “

Anti-Muslim Violence Pictured Across The UK

Racism is on the rise in British, again, and TellMamaUK is a great initiative to help combat it.

The graphics below, which covers only a small period of time, shows the sad necessity of Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks):

Faith Matters explains more:

The majority of Muslims being physically attacked, harassed or intimidated because of their faith are women, according to interim results from the UK’s first ever ‘official’ anti-Muslim violence helpline.

Victims have included children as well as pensioners in their 80s. Even Baroness Warsi, the co-chairman of the Conservative Party, and socialite and journalist Jemima Khan, have been subject to online threats picked up and reported to the police by the TELL MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) campaign.

TELL MAMA, which was set up with Government backing at the end of February by interfaith organisation Faith Matters, has chronicled over 140 cases to date and led to the arrests and charging of three far-right English Defence League (EDL) sympathisers, with more cases and arrests likely in the coming months. Approximately 75% of the cases involve female victims, with far-right British National Party (BNP) or EDL sympathisers linked to one-third (33%) of all incidents.

The helpline records a disturbing picture of low-level anti-Muslim harassment: incidents in the workplace, in the street, between neighbours and particularly online, which may not always hit the headlines but have a devastating effect on peoples’ lives.

Alexander Cockburn And Stalin

As a public service, I thought it helpful to remind readers of Alexander Cockburn’s attempt to sanitise Stalin in 1989:

A million here, a million there by Alexander Cockburn

These heady days in Moscow, Soviet intellectuals will do anything to
get their names in the papers, in a kind of bidding frenzy for the
favors of glasnost. At the start of February the tabloid Argumenti i
Fakti reported that the historian Roy Medvedev had proposed that
Stalin’s victims amounted to some 20 million. From Moscow, Bill
Keller relayed this to his editors at the New York Times, who on
February 4 ran a front-page headline announcing, “Major Soviet Paper
Says 20 Million Died As Victims of Stalin,” with the lead paragraph
reiterating Medvedev’s claim that “about 20 million died in labor
camps, forced collectivization, famine and executions.”

My immediate reservation about this was that the total figure seemed
to have an insouciant roundness and also that there seemed to be a
suspect symmetry about the number 20 million, which is the same total
normally reckoned for Soviet losses in the war against Hitler.

Looking through Medvedev’s breakdown, one may rapidly perceive that
the word “million” really means “a lot,” with no substantive
precision beyond this vague imputation of magnitude.
As relayed by
Keller these volumes are expressed as “one million imprisoned or
exiled from 1927 to 1929,” or “nine to 11 million of the more
prosperous peasants driven from their lands,” and so on. In the end
we are left with an overall figure of 40 million who, on Medvedev’s
account, had an awful or terminal time of it between 1927 and 1953,
with 20 million actually killed.

I have been interested to find that well-qualified historians of the
Soviet Union and demographers in the United States who have studied
the period and the enormously contentious numbers regard Medvedev’s
claims as absurd. Sheila Fitzpatrick, professor of history at the
University of Texas in Austin, tells me there is “no serious basis for
his calculations” and that privately some Soviet demographers and
historians find Medvedev’s calculations embarrassingly bad. She gave
a couple of examples to explain why she thought Medvedev’s numbers
were ridiculous.

Medvedev claims that 9 million to 11 million prosperous peasants were
driven from their lands and another 2 million to 3 million arrested or
exiled in the forced collectivization of the early 1930s. But
Fitzpatrick says, Medvedev makes no distinction between those who left
their villages voluntarily and those who left by force. This was the
era of industrialization, and many of Medvedev’s millions were moving
to the towns. Medvedev also bases his figures on the assumption that
the average peasant family in the late 1920s had eight members,
whereas in fact five was the normal size.

Fitzpatrick cited the famous conversation of 1942 between Churchill
and Stalin as another flimsy source often used by some to show that 10
million peasants died in collectivization. In his war memoir “The
Hinge of Fate,” Churchill describes how he raised with Stalin the topic
of collectivization:

“Tell me,” I said, “have the stresses of this war been as bad to you
personally as carrying through the policy of the Collective Farms?”

This subject immediately aroused the Marshall.

“Oh, no,” he said, “the Collective Farm policy was a terrible
struggle.”

“I thought you would have found it bad,” said I, “because you were not
dealing with a few score thousands of aristocrats or big landowners,
but with millions of small men.”

“Ten millions, ” he said, holding up his hands. “It was fearful. Four
years it lasted. It was absolutely necessary for Russia, if we were
to avoid periodic famines.”

It’s clear enough that Stalin was here indicating the number of
peasants he had to deal with, not the number who died. Fitzpatrick
said that in a recent issue of Pravda the Soviet Historian Victor P.
Danilov concurred with several historians in the West that
approximately 3 million to 4 million died in the famine. But where
does that leave us on the matter of the purges?

In 1946 the demographer Frank Lorimer, studying data from the Soviet
census of 1926 and of 1939 and all available information on fertility
and mortality between those dates, calculated in his renowned work
“The Population of the Soviet Union” that the ‘excess’ deaths — that
is, in Lorimer’s case, a comparison of the reported total population
in 1939 with the expected population at that date, given the counting
in 1925 and everything known about fertility, mortality and migration
between the two years — amounted to somewhere between 4.5 million and
5 million, though this total included perhaps several hundred thousand
emigrants, such as those Central Asian nomads moving into Sinkiang to
avoid collectivization. In their 1979 volume, “How the Soviet Union
is Governed,” Jerry Hough and Merle Fainsod generally supported
Lorimer’s calculations and concluded that more extreme Western
estimates “cannot be sustained.” Rather, “a smaller m– but still
horrifying — number” of “maybe some 3.5 million” emerges as the
direct or indirect result of collectivization in the early 1930s.

With respect to the purges of 1937 and 1938, Hough and Fainsod again
criticize excessive Western estimates and report that on the evidence
of extant demographic data “the number of deaths in the purge would
certainly be placed in the hundreds of thousands rather than in the
excess of a million.” Indeed, “a figure in the low hundreds of
thousands seems much more probably than one in the high hundreds of
thousands, and even George Kennan’s estimate of ‘tens of thousands’ is
quite conceivable, maybe even probable.”

At the far end of the spectrum from Hough and Fainsod is the British
chevalier de la guerre foide Robert Conquest, who has counted 20
million excess deaths under Stalin before 1939, this estimate being
cited in “The Stalin Question Since Stalin” by the limber Steven
Cohen. In this essay Cohen informs his readers that Conquest’s 20
million figure and kindred estimates are “conservative,” without
mentioning other counts by scholars which make Conquest’s figure
wildly inflated. He concludes his observation by saying, “Judging by
the number of victims, and leaving aside important differences between
the two regimes, Stalinism created a holocaust greater than Hitler’s.”

In this decade the most significant scholarly battle on the subject
has been waged between Stephen Wheatcroft and Steven Rosefielde, with
the former taking the latter to task for demographic crudities and
sensationalism. In Slavic Review for 1985 Wheatcroft wrote, “All of
these extremely large estimates ignore basic demographic changes in
Soviet society and accept inaccurate and non-comparable population
figures.” Wheatcroft reckons “these wildly unscholarly estimates
serve neither science or morality” and writes, “It is no betrayal of
them [the victims] nor an apologia for Stalin to stat4e that there is
no demographic evidence to indicate a population loss of more than six
million between 1926 and 1939 or more than 3 to 4 million in
the famine. Scholarship must be guided by reason and not by emotion.”

In an essay that has received widespread respect, Barbara Anderson and
Brian Silver supported Wheatcroft. Their “Demographic Analysis and
Population Catastrophes in the USSR,” also in Slavic Review for 1985,
dismisses Rosefielde and estimates excess deaths from 1926 to 1939, to
persons alive in 1926, as anywhere from 0.5 million to 5.5 million,
depending on high, medium or low assumptions about life expectancy,
with the medium figure at 3.5 million. They regard some estimates of
those born between 1927 and 1938 as inflated, and calculations of same
“extremely sensitive to any inaccuracy in the data.”

Conquest, now at the Hoover Institution in Stanford, told my colleague
Rich McKerrow that Medvedev’s numbers are “obviously in the right
range,” though “perhaps he’s spread them wrong” and “I’m not sure
where he gets them from.” He slighted Anderson and Silver’s work as a
product of demography rather than sovietology and derided Hough and
Fainsod’s figures as “improbably.”

From the University of Michigan, Professor Anderson told us that
Conquest “wouldn’t know a number if it bit him” and noted that her
work with Silver had won respect from Soviet demographers and also
from Danilov. Medvedev’s computations she found to be “ludicrous.”

No doubt some will be eager to conclude that the foregoing is somehow
an attempt to exonerate Stalin, dismiss the purges as got up by
Western propaganda. By way of response, the following observation of
Hough and Fainsod is salutary:

“Some persons seem instinctively to object to [our] figures on the
ground that the Great Purge was so horrible that the number of deaths
cannot have been so ‘low.’ We must not become insensitive to the
value of human life, however, what we dismiss tens of thousands of
deaths as insignificant and need to exaggerate the number by ten,
twenty, thirty forty times to touch our feelings of horror.”

The task is obviously to try to arrive at truth, but many such
estimates evidently have a regulatory ideological function, with an
exponential momentum so great that now any computation that does not
soar past 10 million is somehow taken as evidence of being soft on
Stalin. One can find an analogy in current writing on the French
Revolution, where the passionately anti-Jacobean Rene Sedillot has
produced a book addressing the matter of the Revolution’s human cost
in which he boils up, by very questionable means, a casualty figure of
400,000, far in excess of any previous estimate. Professor Charles
Tilly of The New School in New York counts total deaths in the
Revolution, including the Terror, famine and war, at no more than
100,000.

The symmetry that calculations such as Medvedev’s seeks to establish
between Stalin and Hitler performs, in its service to ideology,
similar injury to history. Hitler wanted to exterminate the Jews
and the gypsies, and though accuracy is important, it does not alter
the moral scale of this horror one iota to propose that in pursuit of
his design Hitler may have in reality killed a million less or a
million more than the conventional estimate. Evil though he was,
Stalin did not plan or seek to accomplish genocide, and to say that he
and Hitler had the same project in mind (or, as right-wing German
historians now argue, that Stalin somehow put Hitler up to it) is to
do disservice to history and to truth.”

How Racism Takes Root

This is a very good piece in the Guardian by Joseph Harker:

“While our media continue to exclude minority voices in general, such lazy racial generalisations are likely to continue. Even the story of a single Asian man acting alone in a sex case made the headlines. As in Derby this month, countless similar cases involving white men go unreported.

We have been here before, of course: in the 1950s, West Indian men were labelled pimps, luring innocent young white girls into prostitution. By the 1970s and 80s they were vilified as muggers and looters. And two years ago, Channel 4 ran stories, again based on a tiny set of data, claiming there was an endemic culture of gang rape in black communities. The victims weren’t white, though, so media interest soon faded. It seems that these stories need to strike terror in the heart of white people for them to really take off.

What is also at play here is the inability of people, when learning about a different culture or race, to distinguish between the aberrations of a tiny minority within that group, and the normal behaviour of a significant section. Some examples are small in number but can be the tip of a much wider problem: eg, knife crime, which is literally the sharp end of a host of problems affecting black communities ranging from family breakdown, to poverty, to low school achievement and social exclusion. “

Syria’s Dictatorship Admits Possessing And Biological Chemical Weapons

I suppose we should not be terribly surprised by the latest outburst from the Assad regime:

“The Syrian regime has threatened to use its chemical and biological weapons in case of a foreign attack, in its first-ever acknowledgement that it possesses weapons of mass destruction.

Foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi vowed, however, that Damascus would not use unconventional arms against its own citizens. The announcement on Monday came as Syria faces international isolation, a tenacious rebellion that has left at least 19,000 people dead, and threats by Israel to invade to prevent such weapons from falling into rebel hands.

Syria’s decision to reveal the long-suspected existence of its chemical weapons suggests a desperate regime deeply shaken by an increasingly bold rebellion that has scored a string of successes in the past week, including a bomb attack that killed four high-level security officials, the capture of several border crossings and sustained offensives on the regime strongholds of Damascus and Aleppo.”

It seems to be only a matter of time before the fall of Syria’s dictatorship.

I would give Assad 2-3 weeks, he’ll either be evacuated to a despot-friendly country, like Russia, or end up dead in a ditch.

Israelis, Social Justice And Moshe Siman

I had not heard of Moshe Siman until I read Mystical Politics’ account of his protest.

When reading that what struck me was, how little we hear of the real Israelis’ struggles in the Western media.

Contrast that with the excellent coverage of Greece, the Banks, the economy and more importantly the people, their lives, the daily effort of Greeks to exist and the dire poverty that many suffer, after almost a year without pay.

Whilst Greeks receive subtle and sympathetic coverage, there is barely a word on Moshe Siman’s self immolation and what real Israelis think and do. It is simply not heard in the West.

True enough, if there’s a bombing, shooting or knife attack in Israel there will be a video clip or mention in the news, but not the rest of people’s lives there.

It is a hard life for Israelis, faced with a Right-wing government and pressures on their existence every day. Whatever the reason behind Moshe Siman’s decision to set fire to himself this story should have been covered better in the West.

On Google news there are three stories, but they are Israeli based so you would expect that.

There is nothing on the BBC, but its news site does have a piece on the nonsense about “Yasser Arafat poisoning claims to be investigated”. Paranoid balderdash, as ably demonstrated by Hussein Ibish.

The Indy and Guardian have relegated it to their specialist Middle East sections and it can’t be found via the search function.

I am sure if this terrible event had taken place in any other country in the Middle East then it would have received widespread and proportional coverage.

However, for that to happen the Western media would have to humanises Israelis, understand them, deeply, and treat them as they do everyone else in all other countries.

I doubt that will occur in the Western media any time soon.

The West, Conspiracies and Syria

In the West conspiracies have always been popular. They play to a certain irrational desire to simplify events, to explain away complexities and interactions by reference to some controlling force, outside of our view.

That holds true for the JFK assassination, 9/11 and the Twin Towers, even the 7/7 attacks in London.

Syria has become the latest topic among conspiracy cranks, as Julian Borger ably illustrates:

“Tarpley, who Skelton described as a “Bilderberg expert”, is best known for a conspiracy theory book about the September 11 attacks, called 9/11 Synthetic Terrorism Made in USA, blaming a shadowy American security apparatus.

The affected tone of intrigue in Skelton’s piece is grating but it’s also beside the point. Most of the hated “mainstream media” treat the people he singles out as they should be treated, as the mouthpiece of a sprawling, dysfunctional coalition of strange bedfellows – among which the Muslim Brotherhood are probably far more powerful that these would-be American plants.

I did a search for Bassma Kodmani mentions on the Guardian, and got seven hits for this year. But four of those were pieces by Skelton, and another was a wire agency piece on the infighting inside the SNC.

To appreciate how specious Skelton’s approach is, all you have to do is apply it to other situations. In Kosovo, a lot of fighters in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) were complete rogues, including smugglers and car thieves. But that did not and does not change the fact Serb forces executed thousands of civilians there. To have focused exclusively on the KLA’s shortcomings would have somewhat missed the point.

Likewise in Bosnia, there were also a lot of crooks in the Bosnian army, and the likes of the Reaganite Jeane Kirkpatrick and Margeret Thatcher advocated tough action on the Bosnian Serbs, as did lots of other people who turned out to be unsavoury or nutcases – but to have obsessed about their politics would have meant you would have missed the genocide.

If you are of a conspiratorial turn of mind you could do a bit of research on me after reading this article and find that I spent more than eight years in Washington (aha!) and about 18 months in Jerusalem (the Mossad connection) and you may well find pictures of me with Ratko Mladic, and Radovan Karadzic, where I maintain I was conducting interviews but which could have had a much more underhand connection.

You would be wasting your time. Even if I had been paid or programmed to falsify everything I write about Syria, my controllers would be powerless to alter people’s perceptions of what is going on there. The news is streaming out by Skype, emails and satellite phones, and in the testimony of refugees. We rely heavily on our correspondents on the ground to gather information directly inside Syria. They do not spend much if any time on the phone to SNC spokespeople in Washington. Likewise most of the reports on the latest butchery in Tremseh came not from the SNC, but from rebels and activists in the area, and are treated for the time being as unconfirmed. “

I scanned a few comments, but gave up, not pretty.

Greece’s Far Right Attacks On Immigrants

This NY Times’ piece shows the consequences of a resurgent Far Right, attacks on immigrants:

““We have hundreds of reports from people who are beaten while policemen were standing there doing nothing,” said Thanassis Kourkoulas, the spokesman for Expel Racism, an immigrant support group. He said officers had been accused of assaulting immigrants in police stations and of giving the telephone number of Golden Dawn to citizens who called with complaints about crime and immigrants.

Even a former police union chief, Dimitris Kyriazidis, recently accused police officials of turning “a blind eye to extreme-right groups that are affiliated to Golden Dawn and which are running amok across the country.” A Greek police spokesman, Christos Manouras, strongly denied any official tolerance of attacks on immigrants or any links to or collaboration with Golden Dawn. “It is not even up for discussion,” he said. “Police officers are always on the citizens’ side and make anguished efforts every day to tackle whatever problems may arise and to boost security.”

Still, Golden Dawn’s allure is seeping more into the mainstream amid reports of rising crime in areas where poor illegal migrants are concentrated. In Parliament recently, Golden Dawn’s nominee for a deputy speaker position was backed by 41 lawmakers, an indication of either support or tolerance from major political parties.

Armed with promises to restore jobs and order, the group is increasing its presence even in some middle-class areas. Burly black-clad men who hew to nationalistic and xenophobic slogans offer protection to older people, the poor and Greek business owners. “

Antisemitism In A 100 words Or Less

Mark Gardner’s summary of antisemitism, in a 100 words or less, is worth repeating:

“Here is his answer to why some people are prejudiced against Jews.

“If prejudice is hating someone more than is necessary, then you must consider the anti-Semites’ charge sheet. So, let us be brief:

Allied with the Devil to kill the son of God; lost God’s covenant; fought God’s last prophet; visible rejecters of God; kill children and drink their blood; conspiratorial; money hoarding; greedy; corrupting; mean-spirited; physically grotesque; contemptible; ferocious; ingratiating yet always alien and never authentic; devious, evil, corrupting geniuses; unchanging and unassimilable; racially distinct, self-superior hypocrites; financiers of war; harbingers of revolution; pornographers; hucksters and fraudsters; whiners and liars; imperialists and colonizers; thieves, racists, war-mongering destroyers.

More briefly: scapegoat.”

[My emphasis.]

The Taliban’s Real Attitude

I remember a few years back reading, from Westerners, that the Taliban had changed, moderated its excesses, that it was softer, gentler, etc you can imagine the rest.

I didn’t believe such nonsense then, or now.

Let’s forget not the fate awaiting women and girls under Taliban, arbitrary murder:

“KABUL — A man Afghan officials say is a member of the Taliban shot dead a woman accused of adultery in front of a crowd near Kabul, a video obtained by Reuters showed, a sign that the austere Islamist group dictates law even near the Afghan capital.

In the three-minute video, a turban-clad man approaches a woman kneeling in the dirt and shoots her five times at close range with an automatic rifle, to cheers of jubilation from the 150 or so men watching in a village in Parwan province.

“Allah warns us not to get close to adultery because it’s the wrong way,” another man says as the shooter gets closer to the woman. “It is the order of Allah that she be executed”.

Provincial Governor Basir Salangi said the video, obtained on Saturday, was shot a week ago in the village of Qimchok in Shinwari district, about an hour’s drive from Kabul.

Such rare public punishment was a painful reminder to Afghan authorities of the Taliban’s 1996-2001 period in power, and it raised concern about the treatment of Afghan women 11 years into the NATO-led war against Taliban insurgents. “

Early Day Motion 100 – Munich Olympic Killings

Thanks to one of my readers, Sarah AB, for pointing me towards this Early day motion.

I feel it should be given wider publicity. It is compassionately worded and sums up the issue:

“That this House notes that the London 2012 Olympic Games will be the 40th anniversary of the murder of 11 members of the Israeli team at the Munich Olympics of 1972;

furthernotes that for 40 years their families have asked the International Olympic Committee to observe a minute’s silence in their memory;

believes that it would be a fitting tribute to the memory of the 11 Israeli athletes, coaches and referees to hold a minute’s silence at this year’s and every subsequent Games to promote peace;

and urges the International Olympic Committee to honour the memory of those murdered in 1972 by holding a minute’s silence. ” [My emphasis.]

Pity only 54 MPs (out of 650) could be troubled to sign it and I am not sure it was even debated.

2012 Olympics, A Munich Silence Round-Up

I had hoped to do many more individual posts, particularly on the issue of a minutes silence at the 2012 Olympic games in memory of the athletes that were murdered in Munich 1972, but instead I present another round-up of news and events.

Jonathan Freedland at the JC:

“They sought to resurrect a lost and ancient tradition, at the centre of which was the high ideal known as the Olympic truce.

The official Olympic website traces this back to Greece in the 9th century BCE, when three rival kings agreed to halt hostilities while the Games were under way: “During the Truce period, the athletes… could travel in total safety to participate in or attend the Olympic Games and return afterwards to their respective countries.”

Today’s International Olympic Committee still proclaims that goal, insisting that it is committed to “protecting” all athletes as well as “searching for peaceful and diplomatic solutions to the conflicts around the world”.

Forty years ago, the Olympic truce was violated in direct and brutal fashion. At the Munich Games of 1972, 11 athletes discovered they could not, after all, travel in “total safety” and that they would not, after all, be protected.

For Jews again to be killed on German soil was almost too much to bear.

The 11 were members of the team representing Israel. In their quarters in the Olympic village, they were seized by eight Palestinian gunmen disguised as athletes, taken as hostages, and finally killed in a botched rescue effort at a nearby airport. “

Personally, I would have preferred if Freedland had written it for the Guardian directly, but Jennifer Lipman does that and you can imagine what the comments boxes are full of? Disdain and barely concealed contempt for Jews and Israelis.

Helen Lewis at the New Statesman looks at online harassment and women.

Brown Moses has a fascinating post on Manaf Tlass:

“Hama Echo pointed me in a direction of a couple of picture of Manaf Tlass which may indicate that this defection is more about saving his own skin than any ideological differences with the Assad regime. In August 2011 the French anti-fascist website Reflex posted an article about members of the far right in France, including Frédéric Chatillon, founding a new website, InfoSyrie, to correct what they stated was the gross misrepresentation of facts by the Western media in the pay of the US and Israel.

The article goes on to describe links between the far right in France and the Alawite and Assad regime members in Syria, and describes a visit arranged by Chatillon for his associates, that include Thierry Meyssan, chairman of the Voltaire Network; Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, a anti-Semitic political activist; essayist Alain Soral; Ahmed Moualek, president of La Banlieue S’exprime (LBS); and Marc George to Lebanon, via a 5 day stop over in Syria.

This stop over in Syria is reportedly largely financed by the Tlass family, including hotels, sightseeing and drivers for their far right friends, including this meeting with Manaf Tlass (and other family members) pictured second from the left. “

There is a conspiracy theory doing the rounds concerning Arafat’s death. The NPR asks two key questions and read Hussein Ibish.

There’s another antisemitic attack in France (and I don’t expect BBC News or the Guardian to cover it in any significant way) but events in France are extremely worrying:

“A French Jewish teenager, who attends the Toulouse school where Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah shot dead three children in March, has suffered a violent anti-Semitic attack on a train, French media reports said on Thursday.

The attack on Wednesday took place on a train travelling between Toulouse, which is in the south-west, and the city of Lyon in the south-east, Le Figaro newspaper reported, quoting an interior ministry statement.

“A teenager aged 17 wearing a distinctive religious symbol, who attends Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, was taken to task and insulted by two individuals,” the ministry was quoted as saying.

He was then attacked near the toilets “by the same two individuals, who beat him up,” the statement said, adding that the attack ended when a fellow passenger and train conductors intervened. “

A rather naive Max Blumenthal eventually realises the company that he keeps.

The best and worst places in the world to be a woman.

A rye view of events in Israel.

Jon Stewart Mocks Mitt Romney, not hard, don’t mention Venn diagrams.

Undressing the Underwear Bomb Plot?

I tried to argue with Norm over the hyphen in antisemitism but he’d been there.

EDL activist jailed for 9 years.

Surreal? LBJ and Gordon Brown compared.

And a confused fascist.

Ziad J. Asali has some hard questions for One Staters.

Still, polishing a turd? The Lobbying company trying to help improve Assad’s image.

Meanwhile in the US, Alabama Pastors Conference Invites Only ‘White Christians’:

“A group of pastors in Alabama says that they are not racist even though only “white Christians” were invited to their three-day conference, which will include a cross burning and be attended by Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members.

Residents in Guin, Alabama became outraged earlier this week after they noticed flyers posted around the town that read, “Annual Pastors Conference All White Christians Invited.” The groups Christian Identity Ministries and the Church of God’s Chosen told WIAT that they just didn’t have the “facilities” to accommodate non-whites.

“We’re seldom ever have been invited to black Muslim events and we never have been invited to NAACP events and we never have been invited to join Jewish synagogues events and stuff,” Christian Identity Ministries Pastor William J. Collier explained.

“It has nothing whatsoever to do with any kind of racism or hate or anything like that,” he added. “And anybody who would brand it as that would be a racist and a hater themselves, you know.” “

Finally, if you didn’t know about Higgs Boson then this might help:

John-Paul Pagano Analyses Iranian Vice President Rahimi’s Racism

One of the least reported stories in the media recently was the crazed and racist speech at a event in Tehran, AP explains:

“According to The New York Times, Mr Rahimi blamed Zionists, a term used by some for Jews supporting the state of Israel, for illegal drug trade, and said that Talmud, a Jewish religious book, taught followers that they were a superior race.

He said: “The Islamic Republic of Iran will pay for anybody who can research and find one single Zionist who is an addict.

“They do not exist. This is the proof of their involvement in drugs trade.”

He proceeded to blame the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia on Zionists, and said that they ordered gynaecologists to kill black babies.

Not unsurprisingly, it was not covered by the BBC and barely by the Guardian.

Can’t say I am that shocked, nowadays it is more in the Guardian’s line to give VP Mohammad Reza Rahimi a column than criticize his disgusting racism, but back to the real issue.

John-Paul Pagano has provided a detailed breakdown of Rahimi’s speech:

“He added: Eighty percent of American wealth is in the hands of 6 percent of the Jewish world and a U.S. researcher says that in order to reduce the population of American Indians a Jewish doctor of obstetrics and gynecology rendered 8000 of them sterile — all of these teachings are in the Talmud. “

وي افزود: هشتاد درصد ثروت آمريكا در دست شش درصد از يهوديان دنياست و يك محقق آمريكايي مي‌گويد يك پزشك زنان و زايمان يهود براي كاهش نسل سرخپوستان هشت هزار نفر از آنها را عقيم كرده است و همه اين مباحث در آموزه‌هاي تلموت است.

I wonder if any “anti-Zionists” will ever admit the depth of racism at the heart of the Iranian leadership?

Or perhaps, like the BBC, it really isn’t an issue for them.