Monday, October 31, 2005
"Two important implications can be drawn from Finkelstein's study, one political and the other academic. Politically, Beyond Chutzpah reveals how Israel has defied the rule of law in the Occupied Territories by providing a condensed and precise summation of literally thousands of pages of human rights reports. In this way, Finkelstein does a great service for those who long for a better Israel, since one is left with the conclusion that the only way of putting an end to the violations of Palestinian rights is by ending the occupation. There is no other option.
Academically, the section discussing Israel's human rights record raises serious questions about intellectual honesty and the ideological bias of our cultural institutions, since it reveals how a prominent professor holding an endowed chair at a leading university can publish a book whose major claims are false. The significant point is not simply that the claims cannot be corroborated by the facts on the ground--anyone can make mistakes--but that any first-year student who takes the time to read the human rights reports would quickly realize that while The Case for Israel has rhetorical style and structure, it is, for the most part, fiction passing as fact.
...The major irony informing this saga is that [Norman] Finkelstein's book, not [Alan] Dershowitz's, constitutes the real case for Israel--that is, for a moral Israel".
So writes Neve Gordon in a useful review of Beyond Chutzpah.
A question for Gordon and others: can Israel ever be a normal country (one in which people screw up big time as well as do amazing things), or will myth bury the values of Enlightenment liberalism on which the best hopes of some Zionists, like some other European thinkers, were based?
(P.S. Jon Wiener also had a useful piece on Finkelstein/Derschowitz in The Nation back in July)
"There are nearly $2,000bn of foreign exchange transactions every day, double the level of just five years ago. The daily value of financial derivatives transactions has risen from nearly zero in 1990 to well over $1,000bn. Foreign investors control 40-50 per cent of the capitalisation of most European equity markets and the
Jeffrey Garten: Crisis-management skills will be needed at the Fed.
'Look,' says Chomsky, 'there was a hysterical fanaticism about
They didn't 'think' it was false; it was proven to be so in a court of law.
But Chomsky insists that 'LM was probably correct' and that, in any case, it is irrelevant. 'It had nothing to do with whether LM or Diane Johnstone were right or wrong.' It is a question, he says, of freedom of speech. 'And if they were wrong, sure; but don't just scream well, if you say you're in favour of that you're in favour of putting Jews in gas chambers.'
Eh? Not everyone who disagrees with him is a 'fanatic', I say. These are serious, trustworthy people.
'Like my colleague, Ed Vulliamy.'
Vulliamy's reporting for the Guardian from the war in
'Ed Vulliamy is a very good journalist, but he happened to be caught up in a story which is probably not true.'
"When we inFrom Orhan Pamuk's As Others See Us, an acceptance speech for the 2005 Friedenpreis.
Turkeydiscuss the east-west question, when we talk of the tensions between tradition and modernity (which, to my mind, is what the east-west question is really all about), or when we prevaricate over our country's relations with Europe, the question of shame is always lurking between the lines.
...The novel, like orchestral music and post-Renaissance painting, is in my opinion one of the cornerstones of European civilisation...The great novelists I read as a child and a young man did not define
Europeby its Christian faith but by its individuals. It was because they described Europethrough heroes who were struggling to free themselves, express their creativity and make their dreams come true, that their novels spoke to my heart... If Europe's soul is enlightenment, equality and democracy, if it is to be a union predicated on peace, then has a place in it". Turkey
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Friday, October 28, 2005
(John Dunn, in a useful article published 20 Oct, only takes three paragraphs to get to conceptual confusion at the heart of Barnett and Hilton's piece that I pointed out here on 14 Oct.)
Thursday, October 27, 2005
The split personality has continued with regard to climate change, with the latest example being a reasonably straight report in the news pages about the so-called hockey stick controversy: Global Warming Skeptics Under Fire by Antonio Regalado.
And so they wait. And they sniff the royal throne. They tell the Beloved Leader he's the victim of a partisan plot...They assure him all is well. But all is not well. People are looking over their shoulders. The smart ones have stopped taking notes in meetings. The very smart ones have stopped using email for all but the most pedestrian communications. And the smartest ones have already obtained outside counsel".
From Paul Begala's What it's like (see responses #26 and #43, among others)
"God has not been so merciful with the rest of his family. One of his brothers and a nephew have died fighting the Americans; another brother was killed a month ago as he was setting an IED on the side of the road. But Abu Theeb's faith remains strong" - Ghaith Abdul Ahad We Don't Need Al-Qaida, 27 Oct
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
"Iraqis are trying their former rulers in the middle of an insurgency that is sliding toward civil war. This is what makes the trial in
...[the Trial] has elicited criticism from human-rights organizations that should have been helping to collect new evidence of Saddam’s crimes. It has brought out the worst in
George Packer - Saddam on Trial, 24 Oct
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Monday, October 24, 2005
One of the most telling lines from Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman, the star soldier and quarterback, is "Don't they have those people [who do nation-building] at the State Department?"
Well, yes, exactly.
(see also Leadership Failure, from Human Rights Watch)
Sunday, October 23, 2005
There is...plenty of evidence that other species of bee... played a much greater role in the origin of the apple [than the honey bee]...[solitary bees such as] Leaf cutter and mason bees (including Osmia)...[are] much better evolved for the transfer of pollen in an apple flower.
Osmia starts work earlier in the season [than honey bees], gets up earlier, does not take lunch breaks...and, it is estimated, one red mason bee (Osmia rufa a [UK] native) can do the work of 120 honey-bees".
Barrie Juniper author of The Story of the Apple (Timber Press, Oregon, forthcoming), writing in the Marcher Apple Network Newsletter no. 11, Summer 2005
...The guerrilla movement destroys infrastructure deliberately. Electricity facilities, petroleum pipelines, rail transport. And it deliberately baits the U.S. military in the cities, basing its fighters in civilian neighborhoods in hopes that a riposte will cause damage, because Iraqis, even urban ones, are organized by clan. Clan vendettas are still an important part of people's sense of honor. So when the American military kills an Iraqi, I figure they've made enemies of five siblings and twenty-five first cousins who feel honor-bound to get revenge. The Sunni Arab guerrilla movement has taken advantage of that sense of clan honor gradually to turn the population against the United States. Many more Sunni Arabs are die-hard opposed to the U.S. presence in Iraq now than was the case a year ago, and there were more a year ago than the year before that".
- Juan Cole, speaking to Tom Englehardt (interview, part one)
"People say the most amazing things. Like, 'Well, Iraq is already in civil war, so why would it matter if we left?' No! No! No! This is the stage before proper civil war. The difference is a matter of scale. You have hundreds of people a week being killed by guerrilla violence in Iraq. That's different from thousands of people, or tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands. I mean we've seen it in other countries -- Cambodia, Afghanistan, Congo -- you can lose a fifth of the population in this kind of struggle. I think it's outrageous that people would say, 'Let's just up and leave and let what happens happen.' I know the Bush administration has mismanaged this thing so badly that one's tempted to say, let's get them away from this before they do any more damage, but do we want a genocide on our conscience?
...I know one person who said, 'Well, once we're out, whatever happens is not our responsibility.' Is it really true? You can invade a country, overthrow its government, dissolve its military, and then walk away, and a million people die, and that's not your problem? I don't understand this way of thinking".
- Juan Cole, speaking to Tom Englehardt (interview, part two)
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Friday, October 21, 2005
"Philip Green has banked £1.2bn (approx US$2.1bn)…the biggest pay cheque in British corporate history…and more than four times the [
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Could the current situation in Malawi be seen as a test case for this? There may be a danger of looking through the wrong end of a telescope in the sense that the terms may be too abstract and remote. In Malawi, as elsewhere, one would need to break down what one really means by "democracy" - the strengths and weaknesses of formal institutions, media, civil society and so on - not to speak of the role of unelected international organisations.
Matthew Lockwood argues that de facto one-party states in Africa offer the best chance to contain patronage and create developmental states.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
...Amid the mutual congratulation, it is worth taking a moment to compare the impressive-sounding numbers with another figure that originates in
Monday, October 17, 2005
An unstated question, but ones that presumably occupies Schelling's fellow prize winner and others, is whether uncertainty about the use of nuclear weapons in the Middle East enhances or reduces stability.
Harford also notes:
"Schelling has involved himself in the debate on climate change. Often painted as a straightforward sceptic, his views are far more subtle. A short essay he wrote in 2002 for Foreign Policy argued for immediate action ..., but he also – as always – looked at the problem with fresh eyes, emphasising the fact that the climate change debate was fundamentally an argument about sharing costs and benefits."
Ray Kurzweil and Bill Joy on the publication of the full genome of the 1918 influenza virus on the Internet in the GenBank database by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
They are just part of the range of fruits recorded in the Herefordshire Pomona, and brought to prominence by the Marcher Apple Network.
As you can see from the lower photograph, the members of this sinister network are fomenting a conspiracy to undermine the Western way of life by nibbling away at the profits of leading corporations - and hence our very sense of what we are. If ever there was a case for preventive action , this is it.
The daughter of conservative Republicans who...voted 'ardently' for Barry Goldwater in 1964 [describes] the abduction of American democracy by a permanent political class, an oligarchy consisting of not only the best candidates big money can buy, their focus groups, advance teams, donor bases, and consultants, but also the journalists who cover the prefab story, the pundit caste of smogball sermonizers, the spayed creatures of the talkshow ether, and aparatchiks in it for career advancement, agenda enhancement, a book contract, or a coup d'etat".
- John Leonard, The Black Album.
Friday, October 14, 2005
"Ray Kurzweil's vision of the future strikes me as very sad. We will live forever, we will adopt new gadgets mere moments after they are invented, and we will have nanotech solar panels that are, well, really awesome.
You know what? I don't care. TV, cellphones, email, nanotech, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering: are any of us made happier by all this? I think the opposite is true - we are increasingly isolated, alienated and neurotic.
While we draw ever-closer to Kurzweil's singularity, the horrors of the world continue unabated, and Kurzweil seems to have next to nothing to say about that. His vision of the future is devoid of humanity, even as he insists that being human is defined by 'going beyond our limitations'. The tragic point that escapes him is that our most important limitations, the ones we really need to go beyond if we are ever really to be happy, have nothing whatsoever to do with technology".
Ben Haller, Menlo Park, California - Letter to New Scientist magazine, 15 October
"... It makes a stone of the heart, as WB Yeats wrote. Where it becomes a dominant element in a person’s political expression, it corrodes the ability to think, to make judgments, to connect to the true reality of things, to persuade. As a result, it cannot produce a serious, humane politics. This was part of Karl Kraus’s truth when he wrote: 'Hatred must make a person productive; otherwise, you might as well love'.
It is fortunate that Pinter’s profound dramas come from a different place than his shallow, vulgar and myopic political views. But insofar as his award will be celebrated for his politics as much as for his art, these two giant figures are closer than they know – trapped in a shrill, polarising language that does a disservice to democratic public discourse. This is not just Margaret Thatcher’s or Harold Pinter’s tragedy, but of many of their political opponents. In short, of modern Britain itself".
David Hayes on Harold Pinter and Margaret Thatcher.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
He thinks the what has happened under the PT is of a different order from previous scandals. The party still has a massive grass roots support base, but it has been significantly weakened, and a defeat for Lula in the presidential election of 2006 - once unthinkable - is a real possibility now that "he has lost the urban middle class irrevocably".
It would be great to see a version of Bethell's talk published and easily accessible.
A Brazilian analyst whose name I didn't catch said she feared a turn by Lula towards populism. Bethell agreed that "on some days" Lula was deeply impressed by Hugo Chavez and that this was "worrying", as was the murder of [name?] that some had linked to Lula's private secretary.
So much to get to grips with here. What else helps towards understanding of background, context and present? How about, for example, Peter Robb's A Death in Brazil?
Is this right? Israel only seems to be getting stronger, as - for example - Jonathan Freedland points out in The canny Sharon's one and threequarter state solution (12 Oct).
[P.S. Avnery told the pupils: "Listen carefully to what [the settler] says and ask yourself: what is he offering you - except kill and be killed, be killed and kill, from here to eternity"]
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Monday, October 10, 2005
- from Be my guest, a useful piece in The Economist (6 Oct), which says the most consequential of 33 recommendations from Kofi Annan's Global Commission on International Migration is a call for more temporary migration from poor countries to rich ones.
Can it work? Reportedly, the Commission argues that the interests of rich and poor countries can be aligned. Rich countries want migrants' labour, but do not want to look after these newcomers when they grow old, never mind other political issues. 'Temporary and circular migration' is also better for poor countries because it brings more in remittances. "The longer an immigrant stays away from home, the smaller the share of his wages he sends back".
It sounds promising, in theory. Would Dani Rodrik's proposed limit - up to 3% of host country workforce - be about right? And would even the very best temporary migration schemes - assuming they're truly feasible - make sufficient or any difference to the pressures bringing people across the Sahara towards Europe?
"Predictions vary from the catastrophic to the cataclysmic" (Earth - melting in the heat?) .
from Fault Line - Can the Los Angeles Times survive its owners? by Ken Auletta, The New Yorker, 10 October
The more you look, the more similarities between humans and other apes there are.
The idea De Waal champions that humanity has “two inner apes” – the aggressive chimp and the peaceful bonobo – may well help us think about what’s going on, but only to a limited extent. Humans are neither chimps nor bonobos.
Similarly, Grandin’s conclusion that “De Waal's most hopeful message is that peaceful behavior can be learned” looks just great; but – strictly from the evidence cited – that conclusion can only be applied to juvenile rhesus and stumptail monkeys in the study.
There may well be evidence from historical, political, cultural and other studies of humans that peaceful behaviour can be learned, but one should be cautious about a “message” from even the most careful study of other animals.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Having, back in 1988-90, studied the nature of Saddam's regime, I was, in 2002 and early 2003, still in a grey area not too far from the fringes of what George Packer reportedly calls "the tiny, insignificant camp of ambivalently prowar liberals" (see That Global Emotion). So I’m looking forward to reading Packer’s new book The Assassin's Gate, noting the following reviews among other so far.
Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times (Grand Theories, Ignored Realities) welcomes it warmly and finishes with a direct quote with which Kakutani presumably agrees:
If his assessment in these pages of the Bush administration is scorching, it is because [Packer] writes as one who shared its hopes of seeing a functioning democracy established in
"Swaddled in abstract ideas," [Packer] writes, "convinced of their own righteousness, incapable of self-criticism, indifferent to accountability, [the
Adam Kirsch in the
Michael Hirsch in the Washington Monthly (Confessions of a Humvee Liberal) is tougher on Packer, concluding:
Wars are always deadly, no matter how perfectly planned. That's why one tries so hard to avoid them—and why the whole idea of a "war of choice" is a sin in itself. George Packer, one of the very best chroniclers of
David Glenn in the Columbia Journalism Review (Unfinished Wars) notes:
Packer remains as committed as ever to the principle of liberal interventionism, even if in a highly chastened form. "You can’t lose that impulse entirely," he says, "or else you become Henry Kissinger."
..."I took almost a pleasure in watching my preconceptions start to crumble,” [Packer] says. “I knew that, even though personally and politically that’s a painful thing, as a writer it’s where the action would be."
Anthony Barnett, who was against the war, says:
"Packer's qualities as a writer and observer mean that you can draw different conclusions from the evidence he reports than he himself might wish, and this makes him a true journalist in the very best sense" (personal communication).
And the larger context – the
Al-Qaida’s current status as an apparently free-floating and stateless group, it must be recalled, is for Osama bin Laden and his cohorts very much a second best. Al-Qaida began life and long continued its operations with the support of states:
- 1980s, phase one: activity in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United States
- 1990-96, phase two: work alongside the Islamist revolutionary regime in Sudan to export revolution to Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Eritrea
- 1996-2001, phase three: operations from Afghanistan, as an ally of the Taliban government
Al-Qaida is a state-centred group in a further, highly important, sense: its goal is to take power in specific Islamic states and establish a new form of authoritarian government, a caliphate.
Fred Halliday: A transnational umma - reality or myth?
Friday, October 07, 2005
Both Rogers and Godfrey Hodgson (3 Oct) concur with my response to Mark Danner (11 Sep) that Iraq is too important for US forces to leave.
Rogers concludes, as you would expect, that a continued US presence in the region will be a fundamental strategic mistake:
"For those dedicated radicals who expect it to take several decades to establish their caliphate, the prospect of a few more years of opportunity to train and harden thousands of young jihadists is almost too good to be true. On current trends, it is also exactly what they are likely to get".
But will the US, British and Israeli governments up the ante - going as far as the use of nuclear weapons against Iran sooner rather than later? Or will they settle for a diminished sphere of influence, centred on a Kurdish entity (ideally in a pragmatic non-confrontational stance towards EU-looking Turkey) in uneasy co-habitation with a Shi'ite dominated government in Baghdad that plays both (Iranian and Western) sides and does just enough to keep the Saudis onside? Will neither of these options be open?
Thursday, October 06, 2005
The book looks really good, and I recommend it to anyone. Troth Wells and designer Ian Nixon have done a great job. Only two small quibbles. One, the use of "fragile" in the title. As James Lovelock (who calls the book "splendid") has frequently emphasized: "Nature is not fragile. We [humans] are". Two, the quote at the top from Chief Seattle is bogus. It was written by a screenwriter in the seventies.
One of the things that comes across in the book (in, for example, an image of a tree full of colourful plastic bags) and which David Woodfall's picture also shows is that there can be a kind of beauty in the ugliness humans create. Sometimes, as Charlie Devereux (currently working at openDemocracy) observed of fields of rubbish in Morocco, there can be an otherworldly fascination to it.
(note: "more than 150 nature photographers from around the world are in Anchorage, Alaska, this week to discuss various conservational initiatives" as a side event at the eighth World Wilderness Congress).
At the beginning of the book Darwin quotes Francois Pyrard de Laval from 1605: "C'est une merueille de voir chacun de ces atollons, enuironne d'un grand banc de pierre tout autour, n'y ayant point d'artifice humain".
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
23% of Americans view storms like Katrina and Rita as "deliberate acts of God" (Washington Post, 2 Oct)
"One of the great failures of
'Somehow or other, we've got to find a commercial answer that makes us money and makes our customers' lives better by them consuming less energy', says Skillings. 'If I knew the answer, I could go away and collect my Nobel prize right now'."
Monday, October 03, 2005
"...environmentalists need to be less preachy. Mark Katz, a humorist and former speech writer for President Bill Clinton, said Americans might be more willing to take up conservation if they could first laugh at their own consumption. His suggestion is a bumper sticker for S.U.V.'s that reads, 'My third car is a Prius,' a reference to
Being cool, not a cardigan-wearer, may help:
"According to advertising executives, environmentalists and cultural critics, conservation can become a movement large enough to influence world energy markets only if it becomes hip, fashionable, something that teenagers, chief executives and celebrities from
British celebrities associated with climate change campaigns are few and far between. The only one I can think of doesn't make me laugh. How about engaging someone like Mr Cool himself, Ricky Gervais? His recent spot for The Prostate Cancer Charity is a good, if squelchy, place to start.
"Moving the discussion of what happened to Armenians out of the realm of politics and back into history will certainly demolish some hallowed nationalist myths. We will learn how it came about that many hundreds of thousands of Armenian civilians were killed and who planned and carried out the crime. We will also learn more about the war during which those events took place and in particular about the part played by the great powers, especially
As important, it may offer a precedent for how to deal with the most neuralgic aspects of one’s past that not a few European countries could learn from. Democratisation and glasnost need not be a one-way street".
-Mark Mazower: Europe can learn from
Saturday, October 01, 2005
But the bigger picture across Indonesia is not necessarily altogether bad. Among the things to watch will be the consequences of SBY's dramatic cuts in fuel subsidies, which will hugely improve the government's fiscal situation but, among other things, triple the price of kerosene, the primary cooking fuel the poor.
If - and it's a big if - the government can spend the substantial savings wisely, and the monthly Rp100,000 (approx $9.50) payments to 15.6m poor families for the rest of this year actually work and are sufficient, then the reforms could contribute to better allocation of resources. But it's a high stakes game (see also Easing the Chocks, The Economist, 29 Sep).