A sort of blog, but without any claims to regularity - and all back-to-front
(Continued fromLetters to the editor, comments, etc (1))
|2 July 2006.
Sera le genre humaine !
4 July 2006.
- On the occasion of the 230th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Professor emeritus of History at Boston Universtity Howard Zinn has published an article entitled Patriotism and the Fourth of July on AlterNet, in which he points out the distinction between patriotism as loyalty to a country embodying a certain set of ideals, and patriotism as loyalty to whatever government may be in power in that country. As he notes - and indeed, that is one of the main thrusts of his argument - Professor Zinn is not, of course, the first resident of what is now the United States to point out this distinction, embodied as it is in that very document which is the (putative) occasion for today's celebration. Below, my response to Professor Zinn's article, as posted to StumbleUpon :
- The gospel of the monarchical patriotism is: 'The King can do no wrong.' We have adopted it with all its servility, with an unimportant change in the wording: 'Our country, right or wrong!' We have thrown away the most valuable asset we had -- the individual's right to oppose both flag and country when he believed them to be in the wrong. We have thrown it away; and with it, all that was really respectable about that grotesque and laughable word, Patriotism.
6 July 2006.
- In a commentary entitled Muslims need to stop behaving like victims in today's Independent, Professor Tariq Ramadan addresses the tasks incumbent upon Muslims residing in European countries. Below, my posting in response to StumbleUpon :
- But all of us, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, have a duty to address the flawed discourse that perpetuates the notion of 'us' and "them'. Our societies are awaiting the emergence of a new 'we'. A 'we' that would bring together men and women of all religions and those without religion, who would undertake to resolve the contradictions of their societies. This coming together of citizens who seek to struggle together for their future, is also the best hope for isolating the extremists.» ...
- In the commentisfree section of today's Guardian, Jonathan Steele has published a commentary entitled Europe's response to the siege of gaza is shameful, in which he points out at the very beginning the truth that has so long and so consistently been stood on its head by apologists for and supporters of the Israeli state, i e, that «[t]he Palestinians have no partner for peace. Below, my response, as posted to the commentisfree thread and to StumbleUpon :
- Under the title Starshade may help to find Earth-like planets, in the science section of the same issue of the paper, Alok Jha writes of a proposal to add a gigantic sunflower-like starshade to the project to build a replacement for the Hubble telescope that would, it is estimated, allow astronomers to resolve details as small as 100 km across on the planets of 10000 stars in our immediate vicinity. Although the article is not explicit here, the telescope-starshade system would probably be placed at one of the La Grange points about 1500000 km from Earth and, with the two components some 24000 km apart. Below, my reflection as posted to StumbleUpon :
8 July 2006.
- Yesterday, John Esposito, introduced as professor of religion and international affairs at Georgetown University, Washington, a Gallup senior scientist, and a former adviser to the US state department on Muslim affairs, published a commentary entitled Out of a cycle of ignorance in the commentisfree section of the Guardian. The article's subtitle, Anti-western feeling in the Muslim world isn't about our values and way of life, but what we do seemed to promise an examination of just what it is «we» do that leads large numbers of people in Muslim countries (and, of course, not only in Muslim countries) to feel fear, frustration, and rage when confronted with the foreign policies of such countries as the US, the UK, and Israel (which, of course, they are on a daily basis, as these policies are very much «in your face»). Unfortunately, that promise, if it was given, was not fulfilled. Below, the response I posted to the commentisfree thread and to StumbleUpon :
- «Mickey Z» has published an article with the provocative title Why I Support the 'War on Terror' on the CounterBias site (also available on Mickey Z's own eponymous site, which sports the subtitle Cool Observer and a warning text to the effect that «This blog has not been approved by the Department of Homeland Security»). Below, my response, as posted to StumbleUpon :
11 July 2006.
- Writing from Berlin three months ago in an article entitled Mozart more of a prince than a pauper, which I missed at the time of its publication, Guardian correspondent Luke Harding cites documents then on exhibition at Wien's Musikverein which indicate that it was hardly for lack of income that the composer had to scrounge off friends during his stay in the city where he died at the age of 35. Gaming debts are suspected to be the reason for his economic difficulties - in other words, the cash flow was good, but it flowed even more quickly out that it did in. Below my response, as posted to StumbleUpon :
- US says Guantánamo inmates have Geneva rights is not perhaps the headline I expected to see when the special bulletin from the Guardian's online edition appeared on my monitor, but there it was ! Below my first reaction as posted to StumbleUpon :
- A couple of weeks ago, on 28 June, Physorg.com published an article with the intriguing title, The beginnings of the thinking brain, which describes how the first neurones appear in the embryonic cerebral cortex in humans as early as 31 days after fertilisation. Such articles provide food for thought, some of which is likely to transcend the boundaries of the disciplines of neurology and embryology ; below the brief response I posted to StumbleUpon :
12 July 2006.
- In a late afternoon update entitled NatWest three 'witness' found dead in today's Guardian, we are informed that the body of Neil Coulbeck, identified for the reader as «[a]former colleague of one of the 'NatWest three' bankers due to be extradited to the US tomorrow» was found in parklands next to Newgate Street in Woodford Green. And who are the 'NatWest three' ? The paper informs us that the three men are «accused of involvement in a complex fraud involving several Cayman Islands companies that US prosecutors claim was used to hide the scale of Enron's debt». Below, my reaction to the story, as posted to StumbleUpon :
17 July 2006.
- Kaveh L Afrasiabi has published another perceptive commentary in the latest number of the Asia Times under the telling title Israel's path to total war. Below my response, as posted both to the A-Times and to StumbleUpon :
20 July 2006.
- In today’s Asia Times, Gareth Porter has published an article entitled US plays a double game in which he sketches the negotiations the US administration has had with Sunni resistant leaders (Mr Gareth refers to them, inaccurately to my mind, as «insurgents»), in which, he writes, the administration «has explicitly accepted the principle that an eventual peace agreement will include a timetable for US withdrawal». My response, as posted first to the Asia Times and then in the slightly revised version below to StumbleUpon :
23 July 2006.
- Earlier this week, Tom Hayden published a report on Truthdig entitled Things come 'round in Mideast which describes in some detail what the editors of that publication refer to as «his own rude political awakening to the realities of Israeli and Middle East [i e, Southwest AsiaMHD] politics during the 1980s». Below, my response, as posted to StumbleUpon (I have also posted a couple of times to the Truthdig forum) :
24 July 2006.
- Under the title Israel in Lebanon: Pushing Out Arabs, Kurt Nimmo has published an important article on Uruknet which reminds us of one of the determining factors that lies behind all of Israel's wars in the region - the goal of territorial expansion and the replacement of the present population of the territories seized by one more to the liking of the those running the Israeli government and their sponsors in the United States (never underestimate the attraction of theories of racial supremacy, especially if these can be used to attain other strategic objectives). This aspect of Israeli ( and US) policy is, for reasons that become more clear for those who also read the posting immediately above, rarely discussed in the polite society that the so-called mainstream media in the United States and its cultural, military, and economic colony Europe. This, however, does not make it any the less important - on the contrary. Below, my response to Mr Nimmo's article, as posted to StumbleUpon :
- James K Galbraith has published a commentary under the title Crime and protection in the commentisfree section of today's Guardian. Below, my brief response, as posted to the thread and then to StumbleUpon :
- In an OpEd entitled He who cast the first stone probably didn't in today's New York Times, psychology professor Daniel Gilbert acquaints readers with recent research that shows that we are better at remembering the antecedents to our own actions than to the actions of others, but less good at remembering the consequences of our actions than those of the actions of others. Thus, we tend to believe, our own actions were caused by preceding events, while those of others are the cause of succeeding events. Below, my response to this insightful article, as posted to StumbleUpon (alas, I no longer post to the Times, which seems to have narrowed the range of permissible thought to exclude views like my own) :
- Our position is that whatever grievances a nation may have, however objectionable it finds the status quo, aggressive warfare is not a legal means for settling those grievances or for altering those conditions. [Emphasis addedMHD]
If we do not return to these principles, then the adventure of H sapiens sapiens on this planet is likely to come to an end sooner, perhaps, than many of us desire....
25 July 2006.
- Stand up to US, voters tell Blair is the title of the report of a poll published in today's Guardian. Mr Blair, who is much less inclined to listen to what the ordinary people of Britain, whose representative he is said to be (but for whom, I fear, he has only contempt), than to his masters among the wealthy and powerful, will ignore this clear call for a revision of policy. But, of course, the UK's foreign policy is a matter which has deeper roots than Mr Blair's predilections ; here below is my posting to StumbleUpon :
- Under the title The humanitarian urge is morphing into thirst for war, Simon Jenkins argues in today's Guardian that «Calls to send troops back into Lebanon beggar belief. We should dispatch the Red Cross, not the aircraft carriers». But, alas, he tells only half the story. Below, the response to Mr Jenkins' commentary I posted to the Guardian's commentisfree section (and to StumbleUpon)* :
27 July 2006.
- Anticipating its publication in the 14/21 August issue of the Nation, yesterday Tom Engelhardt published Jonathan Schell's Too late for empire on his indispensible TomDispatch website*. While more could perhaps be said about the recent US presidential elections than Mr Schell finds space for in his article, his point that
- It's one thing to oppose an illegitimate concentration of power in the name of a repressed majority, another to oppose power [that appears to beMHD] backed and legitimated by a majority. In the first case, it will be enough to speak truth to power; in the second, the main need is to speak truth to one's fellow citizens.
- Peter Dale Scott's Review of 'The One Percent Doctrine', published today on Robert Parry's Consortiumnews makes some vital points in dealing with a criticism of the workings of the Bush (or Cheney-Rumsfeld, if one prefers) administration from the point of view of the CIA. Certain people are so eager to obtain material with which to demonstrate the incompetence of the administration that they tend not to inquire too closely for what purposes this material is put forward and by whom. Mr Scott's review is a vital corrective to that kind of enthusiasm. Below, the response I posted to StumbleUpon :
28 July 2006.
- In an article entitled The long and warming road on his always thought-provoking workingforchange website, Geov Parrish recounts his experiences on a recent 5300 km journey across the northern tier of the United States (his fourth such) and illustrates the palpable climatic changes that have taken places during the last twelve years, as seen from the windows of the family car. Mr Parrish points to the lack of response on the part of both the present US administration and its predecessor to the clear and present danger that global warming represents to humanity, saying that the US «has gone backward while the rest of the world has started to move forward» and that «[i]t is by far the greatest of the Bush White House's many crimes against humanity»....
Much more could be said, of course, about the efforts that have been made - or not - by both the United States and the rest of the world to deal with global warming, but it was rather another matter which here seized my attention : the juxtapostion of the phrase «the Bush White House» and the term «humanity». Below, my reflexion on seeing the terms used together in the same sentence, as posted to StumbleUpon :
29 July 2006.
- On ZNet yesterday, Eduardo Galeano posed the obvious question : How much longer ? (it's been going on for nearly sixty years) and discussed the relations obtaining between Israel and its closest neighbour, the Palestinians and the Lebanese, on the one hand, and between that state and its sponsor, the US, on the other. Below, my brief answer to the question, as posted to StumbleUpon :
- With his customary sagacity, Tom Engelhardt punctures the soft and complacent - but O so resilient and tough-skinned - balloon of «Western» self-righteousness in an incisive examination of our contribution to man's inhumanity to man entitled Degrading Behavior The Middle East and the Barbarism of War from the Air, published yesterday on his TomDispatch website. Below, my response, slightly modified, as posted in a letter to Tom and copied to StumbleUpon :
- As elsewhere, there has been a great deal of discussion on Rob Kall's OpEdNews site concerning the present Israeli war on Lebanon. Rob, who proclaims what he calls his «loyalty» to Israel (Rob is a US citizen, born and bred there), has earlier stated that he will not permit what he refers to as «Israel bashing» on his site ; at the same time he has issued a call to US Jews to give Israel «tough love» to force the US to rein the former state's excesses in Lebanon, and he has been willing to publish articles which question Israeli actions there and the nature of the Israeli regimes cooperation with the United States. I have submitted an earlier version of the text below to the site as an article for publication - it will be interesting to see into which category, the «Israeli-bashing» or the «tough-love», Rob will place it, and whether it will be accepted at all*.... * 30 July 2006 :I was not too terribly surprised to receive a message from Rob saying that his site would not publish the article, as «[w]e've had enough articles reviewing the history of the middle east». So can it go !...
30 July 2006.
- Truthdig has opened a so-called «dig», led by Chris Hedges, former New York Times Middle East Bureau chief, under the title Israel's barrier to peace, which details the effects of the Israeli governments policies on the lives of the Palestinians who suffer the consequences. This article, which shows the fate in store for the people of southern Lebanon should Israel be successful in its endeavours there, should be read in conjunction with mine on Israel's strategy in Lebanon immediately above, which has been posted to the OpEd News (still no word on whether it has been accepted for publication), and to that on the the US military's treatment of people in Iraq by Nir Rosen, my comment upon which immediately precedes the latter. Below, the letter I forwarded to the thread devoted to Chris Hedges' shocking, but hardly (for those who have taken the trouble to follow events in the region) surprising article, and, as is my custom, copied to StumbleUpon, as well :
31 July 2006.
- Today, basic background information on Hizballah, not quite the sort of thing that one is likely to find in one's local rag - and still less on the idiot box - has been published by Lara Deeb, a cultural anthropologist and assistant professor of women’s studies at the University of California-Irvine, on Middle East Report Online, under the title Hizballah: A Primer. Below my response to her informative article, as posted to StumbleUpon :
1 August 2006.
- The Independent has today, mirabile dictu, made available to all online readers a Robert Fisk article, entitled A Nato-led force would be in Israel's interests, but not Lebanon's (how long it will be available is, of course, another matter). Given that the troops would be placed on the Lebanese side of the border, not the Israeli, despite the fact that Israel is responsible for a majority of the border violations that take place here and, as we have seen, again and again, the vast majority of the deaths and injuries which take place as a consequence, it would seem unnecessary to point this obvious fact out, but alas, is not - indeed, not even Mr Fisk mentions it. Rather, he concentrates himself on the more strategic aspect of what the establishment of such a force would mean, and makes some predictions, based upon prior experience, on the outcome of stationing it in southern Lebanon. Below, my brief response, which also deals with some of these strategic aspects, as posted to StumbleUpon :
- It [i e, a NATO military force to patrol southern LebanonMHD] will come because the Israelis and the Americans want it there to help reshape the Middle East.
The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضبFar from the slaughter in Southwest Asia that once again is contributing to the sale of the afternoon dailies here in Stockholm, I was inspired to write the article below by reading The American Left and the Middle East: the case of Paul Krugman. by Professor As'ad AbuKhalil, which, while it well expressed the frustration that even I, though neither Arab nor citizen of the US, feel upon reading what even the best of the so-called «liberal» columnists (and their cartoonist counterparts !) in the US corporate media have had to say on the latest of Israel's many wars, to my mind leftsome things unsaid which require saying. I first encountered this brief article on UrukNet, but The Angry Arab News Service. Below, my reflections on the article, which I hope to forward the author asap. I have discovered that Professor AbuKhalil and I have, in fact, something in common, over and above our anger over and our disgust for the manner in which the state of Israel treats its neighbours (and a large proportion of its own citizens - those with the «wrong» ethnic and religious background) - a fondness for aubergines (even though I should perhaps not go quite so far as to call them my favourite food)....
2 August 2006.
- Yesterday, Robert Scheer published a «report» entitled Israel’s Dependency on the Drug of Militarism which to my mind well exemplifies the limits of US mainstream «liberalism» when it comes to critiquing the state of Israel (and, not so incidentally, supports the thesis of Professor AbuKhalil, referred to in the posting immediately above). Thus, Mr Scheer informs us that
- The alternative to such excessive violence—an authentic peace process—had been supported by every American president since Harry Truman. Yet it was abruptly abandoned, indeed ridiculed, by the Bush administration, which bizarrely believes it can re-create the Middle East in a more U.S.-friendly form. The president has framed this process with a simplistic good-versus-evil template, which has the Christian West and Jewish Israel on an unnecessary collision course with the Muslim world. Israel foolishly jumped at the tempting opportunity presented by Bush, who believes all the complex issues dividing the Middle East can be neatly summarized as the choosing of sides in a playground game called 'the post-9/11 war on terror.'
- The Israeli state's «dependency on the drug of militarism» is no accident, and did not begin with King George, although the latter must be held responsible for the manner in which his court has encouraged this, for weapons manufacturers extremely profitable addiction. The point is that from the very establishment of the state of Israel, its leaders regarded the 78 % of Mandate Palestine they had managed to conquer in the 1947-48 war as a mere starting point for the establishment of a «Greater Israel», whose boundaries were left vague and ill-defined, and varied with speaker, time, and situation, but always encompassed vital water resources, like the Jordan and Litani Rivers, as a starting point. Thus the apartheit-like domestic policies of the state, which condemn non-Jewish, in particular Arab residents to the status of third-class citizens and the still worse treatment meted out to the non-citizen (despite that it will soon be 40 years (!) since their land was occupied - during which Israel has been in continual violation of UN Security Council resolution 242 (22 November 1967), which, «emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war», calls for the «[w]ithdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict») residents in the territories captured in the 1967 war, with road blocks, house demolitions, land confiscations, roads built on their territory on which they are not allowed to travel, and the whole sad, humiliating litany, designed to empty the land of its people, that Chris Hedges* has detailed in all its poignancy. Thus the militarism and the continual wars, larger and smaller, to which the Israeli state has subjected its neighbours - who remembers whether the present war on Lebanon is the fourth or the fifth or the sixth time that Israel has invaded that land ? The reason that Israeli governments of all colours have been and are unwilling to accept that «compromise from a position of strength is more effective than seeking a pyrrhic total victory» is due to the simple fact that that «total victory», i e, the expansion of the territory controlled by the state and inhabited by its «chosen people» is the state's basic strategic objective. Not until that objective is changed will the Israeli state become weaned of its addiction to militarism, nor will there be any durable and lasting peace in Southwest Asia....
- Karma Nabulsi, who teaches politics and international relations at Oxford, has published an essay entitled The refugees' fury will be felt for generations to come, with the following sub text : «Israel is seeking to cast itself as the victim even as it expels the people of Lebanon and Gaza from their homes». She describes the refugees trodding the dusty roads, always at the mercy of Israeli air attacks, away from their homes, either destroyed or about to be destroyed as the Israeli state methodically goes about its work of cleansing southern Lebanon of its inhabitants. In addition to portraying the fate of the refugees, Ms Nabulsi also describes the consequences, albeit at a longer term, for the state of Israel itself :
- Israel has failed to understand that it cannot expel a people and call itself the victim; that it cannot conquer its neighbours and treat any and all resistance to that conquest as terrorism; that it cannot arm itself as a regional superpower and annihilate the institutional fabric of two peoples without incurring the fury of their children in the years that follow.
3 August 2006.
- Mark Fiore has published a new animation, entitled Smarty Bombsalot on his website. I found the cartoon deeply problematic, despite its obvious good points, for reasons which I hope are made clear by the following posting to StumbleUpon :
- What do you do when a militant islamic group lobs rockets into your country & grabs a few of your soldiers ?
- In yesterday's Washington Post, R Jeffrey Smith published an article entitled White House proposal would expand authority of military courts, which shows how far down the slippery slope the present Imperial administration has come - or rather would like to come, as the proposal is a draught which has not, fortunately, yet been enacted into law. But given the subservience that the US Congress has exhibited with respect to the pretensions of the «Unitary Executive» and its disinclination to protect the rights of the people against ever greater incroachment at the hands of the government,the worst can be feared. The present situation in the United States not only exhibits traits reminiscent of the period of the US war on Indochina, but the gradual but seemingly inexorable erosion of liberty - first, of course, limited to those whom the government authorities claim represent a special danger, also brings to the nose a whiff of the 1930s in Germany. Here is what Mr Smith, in his carefully balanced prose, writes about the administration draught :
- The draft proposed legislation, set to be discussed at two Senate hearings today, is controversial inside and outside the administration because defendants would be denied many protections guaranteed by the civilian and traditional military criminal justice systems.
| Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten, |
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Kommunist. Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat. Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter. Als sie die Juden holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Jude. Als sie mich holten,
gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.
|When the Nazis arrested the Communists,|
I was silent ;
For I was not a Communist. When they gaoled the Social-Democrats,
I was silent ;
For I was not a Social-Democrat. When they arrested the trade-unionists,
I didn't protest ;
For I was not a trade-unionist. When they came for the Jews,
I did not protest ;
For I was not a Jew. When they came for me,
There was no one left to protest.
5 August 2006.
- Under the title It's about annexation, stupid!, Dr Kaveh L Afrasiabi has once again published an article an article which cuts through the fog of deception produced for our disenlightenment by the mainstream media (alas, not only in the United States, but here in Europe as well) at the behest (which need not even be explicitly stated) of their corporate masters. Researchers like Professors Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman have documented the manner in which this media abuses it audience by distorting the nature of the events it presents as news or background ; that this distortion is due merely to naiveté and ignorance, rather than venality and fear, strikes me as extremely implausible. Below my response to Dr Afrasiabi's article, as posted to both the Asian Times and StumbleUpon :
6 August 2006.
- Obviously no one to wait to get to the essential, Professor and journalist Anders Strindberg begins his article, Hizbullah's attacks stem from Israeli incursions into Lebanon, published in the Christian Science Monitor of 1 August, as follows :
- As pundits and policymakers scramble to explain events in Lebanon, their conclusions are virtually unanimous: Hizbullah created this crisis. Israel is defending itself. The underlying problem is Arab extremism.
Sadly, this is pure analytical nonsense. Hizbullah's capture of two Israeli soldiers on July 12 was a direct result of Israel's silent but unrelenting aggression against Lebanon, which in turn is part of a six-decades long Arab-Israeli conflict.
- In the process of its violations, Israel has terrorized the general population, destroyed private property, and killed numerous civilians. This past February, for instance, 15-year-old shepherd Yusuf Rahil was killed by unprovoked Israeli cross-border fire as he tended his flock in southern Lebanon. Israel has assassinated its enemies in the streets of Lebanese cities and continues to occupy Lebanon's Shebaa Farms area, while refusing to hand over the maps of mine fields that continue to kill and cripple civilians in southern Lebanon more than six years after the war supposedly ended. What peace did Hizbullah shatter?
Hizbullah's capture of the soldiers took place in the context of this ongoing conflict, which in turn is fundamentally shaped by realities in the Palestinian territories. To the vexation of Israel and its allies, Hizbullah - easily the most popular political movement in the Middle East - unflinchingly stands with the Palestinians.
Since June 25, when Palestinian fighters captured one Israeli soldier and demanded a prisoner exchange, Israel has killed more than 140 Palestinians. Like the Lebanese situation, that flare-up was detached from its wider context and was said to be "manufactured" by the enemies of Israel; more nonsense proffered in order to distract from the apparently unthinkable reality that it is the manner in which Israel was created, and the ideological premises that have sustained it for almost 60 years, that are the core of the entire Arab-Israeli conflict.
Once the Arabs had rejected the UN's right to give away their land and to force them to pay the price for European pogroms and the Holocaust, the creation of Israel in 1948 was made possible only by ethnic cleansing and annexation. This is historical fact and has been documented by Israeli historians, such as Benny Morris. Yet Israel continues to contend that it had nothing to do with the Palestinian exodus, and consequently has no moral duty to offer redress.
19 August 2006.
- Yesterday, an article on the consequences of removing a single key species - in this case a fish called the flannelmouth characin (Prochilodus mariae) - from an environment, in this case a river in Venezuela. The lead author of the study, research associate in the department of biological sciences at Dartmouth Brad Taylor, published in Science describes the impact as «astounding» not least on carbon flow, an important measure of ecosystem function. Below, my reaction to the article, as posted to StumbleUpon :
Will we, before it is utterly too late, realise the need for prudence in dealing with our environment ? The last couple of centuries don't exactly inspire confidence....
22 August 2006.
- Under the titillating title Mass murder in the skies : Was the plot feasible ? the Register's Thomas C Greene, reporting from Washington, walks us through the chemistry. The conclusion : rather unlikely. Or, in Mr Greene's own words :
Now for the fun part. Take your hydrogen peroxide, acetone, and sulfuric acid, measure them very carefully, and put them into drinks bottles for convenient smuggling onto a plane. It's all right to mix the peroxide and acetone in one container, so long as it remains cool. Don't forget to bring several frozen gel-packs (preferably in a Styrofoam chiller deceptively marked "perishable foods"), a thermometer, a large beaker, a stirring rod, and a medicine dropper. You're going to need them. It's best to fly first class and order Champagne. The bucket full of ice water, which the airline ought to supply, might possibly be adequate - especially if you have those cold gel-packs handy to supplement the ice, and the Styrofoam chiller handy for insulation - to get you through the cookery without starting a fire in the lavvie. ... Once the plane is over the ocean, very discreetly bring all of your gear into the toilet. You might need to make several trips to avoid drawing attention. Once your kit is in place, put a beaker containing the peroxide / acetone mixture into the ice water bath (Champagne bucket), and start adding the acid, drop by drop, while stirring constantly. Watch the reaction temperature carefully. The mixture will heat, and if it gets too hot, you'll end up with a weak explosive. In fact, if it gets really hot, you'll get a premature explosion possibly sufficient to kill you, but probably no one else. After a few hours - assuming, by some miracle, that the fumes haven't overcome you or alerted passengers or the flight crew to your activities - you'll have a quantity of TATP with which to carry out your mission. Now all you need to do is dry it for an hour or two. The genius of this scheme is that TATP is relatively easy to detonate. But you must make enough of it to crash the plane, and you must make it with care to assure potency. One needs quality stuff to commit "mass murder on an unimaginable scale," as Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson put it. While it's true that a slapdash concoction will explode, it's unlikely to do more than blow out a few windows. At best, an infidel or two might be killed by the blast, and one or two others by flying debris as the cabin suddenly depressurizes, but that's about all you're likely to manage under the most favorable conditions possible.
25 August 2006.
- Idag har ESA publicerat en artikel med titel Är det en stjärna? En planet? Nej en planemo! på sin webbsida, där man utifrån en tidigare oupptäckt configuration, där två kroppar av planetär storlek roterar kring varandra utan närvaro av en stjärna, berättar om en ny kategori himlakroppar, s k »planemos« eller »Planetary Mass Objects. Tillsammans med den senaste tidens diskussion om hur Pluto och liknande Kuiperbältskroppar ska kategoriseras föranledde artikeln mig att skicka några reflektioner till StumbleUpon :
- In the latest issue of eSkeptic, Peter Kassan has published a enlightening article on the failure of so-called Artificial Intelligence to live up to the hype with has accompanied it during the last fifty years under the title A.I. Gone Awry The Futile Quest for Artificial Intelligence. Below, my reflections on the article, as posted to StumbleUpon :
3 September 2006.
- Yesterday, Global Research published an article entitled Behind the plan to bomb Iran by Professor Ismael Hossein-zadeh. As befits an economics professor, his analysis of a US foreign policy which on the surface seems so counter-productive (how much more democracy have you seen in Southwest Asia lately ?) is based upon tracing who they are that enjoy the profits which accrue from a policy of continual warfare. A better system for transferring wealth from the public domain to (certain) private pockets than scaring the Hell out of people and convincing them that to remain safe, they require an ever more powerful military and ever better (dearer) armaments has, of course, never been devised. And the nice thing about this particular device is that it doesn't seem to be limited by any negative feedback. Beyond a certain point, people learn that despite an inbuilt physiological need for food, eating more is not going to increase their well being, but even with a military budget (referred to, of course, as «defense») that far exceeds that of the rest of the world combined (and which is held artificially low by the use of such incredible tricks as not including the cost of on-going wars in the budget, but financing them separately by means of special appropriations), more security, which means a still larger military budget, is always needed. Below, my reflections on the article, as posted to StumbleUpon :
6 September 2006.
- Remember the UK «red mercury» scare of 2004 ? Remember the fact that the three men arrested in September 2004 and accused of, inter alia «having an article (a highly dangerous mercury based substance) for terrorism» were all acquitted in July 2006, after having been detained for nearly two years for a non-extant crime ? No ? But you are worried about dastardly terrorists coming over dangerous substances like «red mercury» ? Well, an article by Robert Matthews entitled The red peril that doesn’t even exist in today's The First Post provides a little background to those inchoate fears. Below, my reflections upon reading the article, as posted to StumbleUpon :
7 September 2006.
- Ever since St Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Marquis W Childs published his Sweden, the Middle Way in the 1930s, Scandinavia, and in particular Sweden has held a special place in the heart of liberals in North America and Western Europe, people who feared and abhorred Communists, but who worried that the cruelty and excesses of capitalism could lead to a Communist revolution, which could not be suppressed simply by calling out the police or the troops. That something of this attitude survives, 70-odd years later, is shown by Professor Joseph Stiglitz' commentary in the commentisfree section of today's Guardian, entitled Making globalisation work, and which discusses what needs to be done to make globalisation work for everybody, rather than just a privileged few. Whether or not this will happen depends upon whether that privileged few see to their long-term, rather than their short-term interests (but, citing Keynes, Professor Stiglitz points out that «in the long run, we are all dead»). In the US and the UK, of course, it is the short-term interests - not least of those who profit from (others) waging war, that have won the day, with the result that, in Stiglitz' words «the US and others following its example are becoming rich countries with poor people». Thus, once again, as in the 1930s when the Great Depression harried world economy (with one notable exception, the Soviet Union), liberals in the «West» look to the Scandinavian example to save the day. Alas, they rarely seem to note how contested this example is in the Scandinavian countries themselves, and to what a slight shift in the balance of power between the two blocs could lead. Below, my response to Professor Stiglitz' commentary, as posted to commentisfree :
8 September 2006.
- Jonathan Cook, a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, has published an article, entitled How Human Rights Watch lost its way in Lebanon and which one can't help wishing that all those whose views on the Israeli war on Lebanon's population would read with the attention it deserves - fat chance ! - on Information Clearing House, in which he not only details the intellectual summersaults which Human Rights Watch has been forced to perform in its reporting on that war, but also who the lion tamers are that have put the organisation through its paces. Inevitably, the influence of the Israeli lobby is discussed and its attack on Human Rights Watch when the latter's report pointed out the Israeli targeting of civilians, which led directly to the acrobatics, as in the following example :
- Rather than concentrating on HRW’s findings of war crimes in Lebanon -- the focus of the research -- Bouckaert [senior HRW researcher, Peter Bouckaert in a New York Times interview made after the organisation's recent report «Fatal Strikes» was released] digresses: «I mean, it's perfectly clear that Hezbollah is directly targeting civilians, and that their aim is to kill Israeli civilians. We don't accuse the Israeli army of deliberately trying to kill civilians. Our accusation, clearly stated in the report, is that the Israeli army is not taking the necessary precautions to distinguish between civilian and military targets. So, there is a difference in intent between the two sides. At the same time, they are both violating the Geneva Convention.»
First, how does Bouckaert know that Israel’s failure to distinguish between civilian and military targets was simply a technical failure, a failure to take precautions, and not intentional? Was he or another HRW researcher sitting in one of the military bunkers in northern Israel when army planners pressed the button to unleash the missiles from their spy drones? Was he sitting alongside the air force pilots as they circled over Lebanon dropping their US-made bombs or tens of thousands of “cluster munitions”, tiny land mines that are now sprinkled over a vast area of south Lebanon? Did he have intimate conversations with the Israeli chiefs of staff about their war strategy?
Of course not. He has no more idea than you or I what Israel’s military planners and its politicians decided was necessary to achieve their war goals. In fact, he does not even know what those goals were. So why make a statement suggesting he does?
Similarly, just as Bouckaert is apparently sure that he can divine Israel’s intentions in the war, and that they were essentially benign, he is equally convinced that he knows Hizbullah’s intentions, and that they were malign. Whatever the evidence suggests -- in a war in which Israel overwhelmingly killed Lebanese civilians and is still doing so, and in which Hizbullah overwhelmingly killed Israeli soldiers -- Bouckaert knows better. He admits that both violated the Geneva Conventions, a failure he makes sound little more than a technicality, but apparently only Hizbullah had evil designs.
How is it “perfectly clear” to Bouckaert that Hizbullah was “directly” targeting Israeli civilians? It is most certainly not clear from the casualty figures.
It is also not clear, as I tried to document during the war, from the geographical locations where Hizbullah’s rockets struck. My ability to discuss those locations was limited because all journalists based in Israel are subject to the rules of the military censor. We cannot divulge information useful to the “enemy” about Israel’s myriad military installations -- its army camps, military airfields, intelligence posts, arms stores and Rafael weapons factories.
What I did try to alert readers to was the fact that many, if not most, of those military sites are located next to or inside Israeli communities, including Arab towns and villages.
At least it is now possible, because some army positions were temporary, to reveal that many communities in the north had artillery batteries stationed next to them firing into Lebanon and that from Haifa Bay warships continually launched warheads at Lebanon. That information is now publicly available in Israel, and other examples are regularly coming to light.
I reported, for example, the other day that the Haaretz newspaper referred to legal documents to be presented in a compensation suit which show that the Arab village of Fassouta, close to the border with Lebanon, had an artiller battery stationed next to it throughout much of the war. A press release this week from a Nazareth-based welfare organisation, the Laborers’ Voice, reveals that another battery was positioned by an Arab town, Majd al-Krum, during the war. Arab member of Knesset Abbas Zakour has also gone publicly on the record: "During a short visit to offer condolences to the families of victims killed in Hizbullah's rocket attacks, I saw Israeli tanks shelling Lebanon from the two towns of Arab Al-Aramisha and Tarshiha."
In other Arab communities, including Jish, Shaghour, and Kfar Manda, the Israeli army requisitioned areas to train their troops for the ground invasion of south Lebanon. According to the Human Rights Association, based in Nazareth, army officials justified their decision on the following grounds: "The landscape of Arab towns [in Israel] is similar to Arab towns in Lebanon."
Aside from the fact that this effective use of Israeli civilians as human shields by the army outdoes any "cowardly blending" (in the words of Jan Egeland of the United Nations) by Hizbullah in Lebanon, it also makes any attempt at second-guessing the targets of the Shiite militia’s rockets futile. Unless Bouckaert was given a private audience with Hizbullah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, or drove around with a Katyusha rocket team, his talk is pure hot air.
13 September 2006.
- Under the title An inconvenient truth: beware the politician in fleece clothing, Jonathan Freedland reviews Al Gore's recently released film An Inconvenient Truth in a lengthy comment in the commentisfree section of today's Guardian. Essentially, Mr Freedland is both sobered and aroused by the film :
- I am ashamed to say it took a movie to make me realise what, above all others, is surely the greatest political question of our time. An hour and 40 minutes in the cinema watching Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, which opens in Britain this weekend, is what finally did it. Sure, I had heard the warnings and read the reports: for two decades environmental activists have been sounding the alarm. But, I confess, none of it had really sunk in the way it did after seeing An Inconvenient Truth. I can think of few films of greater political power.
- The film leaves a more direct political thought. You watch and you curse the single vote on the US supreme court that denied this man - passionate, well-informed and right - the presidency of the United States in favour of George W Bush. You realise what a different world we would live in now if just a few hundred votes had gone to Al Gore (rather than, say, Ralph Nader) that fateful day. But you also remember what that election turned on. The conventional wisdom held that Gore and Bush were so similar on policy - Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, the pundits said - that the election was about personality. On that measure, Bush had the edge. Sure, he couldn't name any world leader, but the polls gave him a higher likeability rating. If you had to have a beer with one of them, who would you choose? Americans said Bush, every time. Even that was not enough to give Bush a greater number of votes: remember, Gore got more of those. But it got him closer than he should have been. And the world has been living with the consequences ever since.
Yesterday, David Wearing published an article entitled Britain's role in the Israeli-Hezbollah war on Information Clearing House. The title is unfortunate, as it strengthens the erroneous perceptions which the general public has gained from the best efforts of the mainstream media, that the state of Israel was making war on an organisation known as «God's Party», or Hezbollah, in order to protect its long-suffering citizens from terrorist attacks on the part of the latter. But the article itself, in which Mr Wearing details how the UK leadership has provided both material and immaterial aid which was of the greatest importance in enabling the Israeli state to carry out its brutal war upon the population of Lebanon in general and southern Lebanon in particular, deserves the widest possible readership.Below, my response to the article, as posted to StumbleUpon and to the Information Clearing House website :
In a famous leaked internal memo, Tony Blair called for "eye-catching initiatives" with which he "should be personally associated". The Israel-Hezbollah war no doubt falls squarely into this category. But as Westminster gossip over the diverting subject of the Prime Minister's retirement continues, no one should assume that any substantial change from the policies highlighted here will be forthcoming after Blair's departure. As polls revealed strong popular opposition to Britain's handling of the conflict, media reports informed the public of "unease", even "serious concerns" amongst members of Blair's cabinet. Yet at no point during or after the thirty-four day bloodbath did this purported "unease" move a single senior member of the British government to resign their position rather than continue their complicity in war crimes and acts of terrorism. To them, none of the horrors visited by Britain's ally on innocent Lebanese civilians represented a moral concern of greater magnitude than keeping their own job.Can anyone imagine Mr Brown being less ready and willing to obey the slightest wink from the regent in the White House than Mr Blair ? Perhaps he will do it less obsequiously, but do it he will, happily wagging his tail behind him....
- Kathleen Christison has just published a vitally important article in Alexander Cockburn and Jeffry St Clair's Counterpunch, in which she develops the thesis that in the latest war on Lebanon's population, the Israeli state has overreached itself to the degree that the unquestioning support it has enjoyed in North America and Europe will now begin to fade, as more and more people in these regions begin to take a closer look at the racist nature of the state they have supported for nigh on sixty years. This in turn, the theory goes, will force the same sort of change in Israeli policies that a similar loss of support forced upon the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Ms Christison recognises that such a development is by no means inevitable, but she maintains it is possible, and by addressing the racist nature of the Israeli state and the difficulties such a state inevitably faces in the world, as she puts it, «on the other side» of that moral crossroads to which she insists we have now come, she addresses the core problem in a way that most analysts have been unwilling to do. In doing so, she has performed a great service to us all, not least to the residents of Israel - for it is only from waking from our racist dreams that we can cross over to a world in which the Nürnberg Principles reign, and the wars of aggression that have so marred the latter half of the 20th century and have maintained their hold on the beginning of the 21st, can be brought to an end. Here below the response to the article that I posted to StumbleUpon :
17 September 2006.
- A few days ago, Science Daily published a brief account, entitled General relativity survives gruelling pulsar test: Einstein at least 99.95 percent right, in which work carried out under the leadership of Professor Michael Kramer of the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory, UK, has shown that the predictions of the general theory of relativity agree with recent observations of the behaviour of a (hitherto) unique double pulsar system, consisting of two neutron stars, PSR J0737-3039A and B, respectively, with regard to three critical parametres - gravitational redshift, Shapiro delay, and gravitational radiation and orbital decay. Accoring to the review, the parametre which provides the most precise result is the time delay, known as the Shapiro Delay, suffered by the signals as they pass through the curved space-time surrounding the two neutron stars. At approximately 90 microseconds, the ratio of the observed and predicted values is 1.0001 +/- 0.0005 - a precision of 0.05%. Not bad by anybody's standards ! Think - if the majority of the funding and not least, the intelligence devoted to scientific research were employed in furthering this kind of work, rather than weapons development, how much more we, as a species, should know about the world in which we live, and how much greater a chance of living in it a bit longer we should have ! Here below, in any event, the response I posted to StumbleUpon after reading the article :
18 September 2006.
- In today's Independent, Patrick Cockburn has written an article entitled Deadly harvest: The Lebanese fields sown with cluster bombs, which in some 1100 words effectively gives the lie to the claims of the Israeli state and its supporters and bagmen that the former was waging a war of self-defence, not against Lebanon, but against Hezbollah. Mr Cockburn cites a report in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz :
Some Israeli officers are protesting at the use of cluster bombs, each containing 644 small but lethal bomblets, against civilian targets in Lebanon. A commander in the MLRS (multiple launch rocket systems) unit told the Israeli daily Haaretz that the army had fired 1,800 cluster rockets, spraying 1.2 million bomblets over houses and fields. 'In Lebanon, we covered entire villages with cluster bombs,' he said. 'What we did there was crazy and monstrous.' What makes the cluster bombs so dangerous is that 30 per cent of the bomblets do not detonate on impact. They can lie for years - often difficult to see because of their small size, on roofs, in gardens, in trees, beside roads or in rubbish - waiting to explode when disturbed.The consequences of this kind of warfare ? Aside from the individual tragedies - according to Cockburn some four people a day have been killed and many more wounded since (the overt) hostilities ceased, note the effect on the economic life of the villages affected :
... Villagers said that they were most worried by the cluster bombs still infesting their gardens, roofs and fruit trees. In the village street, were the white vehicles of the Manchester-based Mines Advisory Group (MAG), whose teams are trying to clear the bomblets. It is not an easy job. Whenever members of one of the MAG teams finds and removes a bomblet, they put a stick, painted red on top and then yellow, in the ground. There are so many of these sticks that it looks as if some sinister plant had taken root and is flourishing in the village. 'The cluster bombs all landed in the last days of the war,' said Nuhar Hejazi, a surprisingly cheerful 65-year-old woman. 'There were 35 on the roof of our house and 200 in our garden so we can't visit our olive trees.' People in Yohmor depend on their olive trees and the harvest should begin now before the rains, but the trees are still full of bomblets. 'My husband and I make 20 cans of oil a year which we need to sell,' Mrs Hejazi says. 'Now we don't know what to do.' The sheer number of the bomblets makes it almost impossible to remove them all.The strategic consequences are obvious, and just as the destruction of olive trees, roads and fields (with bulldozers, mainly, not as yet with cluster bombs) in the 22 % of Mandate Palestine which is supposed to become the territory of a Palestinian state has nothing to do with fighting Hamas, so the destruction of the basis for the livelihoods of the Lebanese has nothing to do with fighting Hezbollah. Here the sea in which the guerrillas swim, the population of southern Lebanon, is not being drained in order to get rid of the guerrillas (Hezbollah) - although that would certainly be a most welcome by-product of the strategy, were it to succeed - but rather just in order to drain the sea, so that one population can be replaced by another, more to the liking of the Israeli state's strategists. Here below the response I posted to StumbleUpon after reading Mr Cockburn's article :
20 September 2006.
- Robert Parry has just published an article entitled Bush's empty words to the UN on his invaluable Consortiumnews, which analyses the discrepancy (surprise ! surprise !) between the words uttered by George W Bush in his recent speech at the United Nation's Organisation (where, perhaps to the surprise of his ambassador - appointed without the advice and consent of the US Senate - the top ten floors have not yet disappeared) and his actions during his reign. In closing, Parry inquires as to the reasons for the discrepancy and attempts to answer his own question :
So, why would Bush invoke the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when he is flouting many of its core principles? There would seem to be two possible explanations for Bush’s chutzpah: either he’s just reading a script without regard to the words or he’s confident that he can speak the opposite of the truth knowing that few people of consequence will call him on it. Either way, Bush’s cavalier attitude in hailing human rights while simultaneously trashing human rights represents another classic case of Bush’s hubris, which is becoming the defining characteristic of his presidency.Whether Bush's attitude is better characterised as «chutzpah» or as «hubris» is perhaps a moot point (I vote for the former), but here below, at any rate, the response I posted to StumbleUpon after reading Mr Parry's article :
29 September 2006.
- In a perceptive and informed article entitled War in October, Geov Parrish published an analysis yesterday on his Working for Change website of the US regime's latest moves in the burgeoning «Iran crisis» which it has worked so hard to manufacture. In addition to exposing the falsity of the rhetoric that King George's speech writers have brought to bear on the issue :
Bush purportedly spoke "directly" to the Iranian people, another favorite rhetorical device of war-conscious American presidents. Bush, in this case, assured all Iranians that their leader was betraying their trust by pursuing weapons of mass destruction, and, like them, all Bush wants is peace and democracy and freedom blah blah blah. It all sounded dreadfully familiar. (How's that peace and democracy and freedom workin' out for ya, Iraqis?) Iranians, of course, generally don't share the religious fundamentalism of Ahmadinejad and the other hardliners now running things in Tehran, but they are wildly supportive of the country's nuclear program. So Bush's real audience was not Iranians (or Iraqis or Afghans, who he also "addressed"), but us. You and me. Americans. And his message to us: when I launch this war, it is only to give Iranians what they all crave. Iranians, apparently, have a unique affection for having cluster bombs dropped on them. Bush also, in his U.N. speech, pledged himself as determined to find a negotiated way to end the problem. That's actually another bad sign. When Bush gets around to talking about negotiations, it usually means he's arrived at the point where the formality of intentionally futile diplomatic gestures must be deployed prior to attack. That message was exactly what Bush was saying for months in 2002-03, well after he'd determined to invade Iraq. It was a lie then, and, judging by the actions of his own military, it's a lie now.Mr Parrish also points out concrete measures which indicate, behind the rhetoric, what the court may really be planning : The second, disturbing report to surface last week is that, as Dave Lindorff of The Nation writes,
- "...the Bush Administration and the Pentagon have moved up the deployment of a major "strike group" of ships, including the nuclear aircraft carrier Eisenhower as well as a cruiser, destroyer, frigate, submarine escort and supply ship, to head for the Persian Gulf, just off Iran's western coast. This information follows a report in the current issue of Time magazine, both online and in print, that a group of ships capable of mining harbors has received orders to be ready to sail for the Persian Gulf by October 1."