Monday, May 30, 2005

"One of the tiny number of people in Uzbekistan they can't shoot"

I have lost count of the number of journalists who have asked me "Do you feel vindicated about what has been happening in Uzbekistan?" My replies to that one have been unprintable. How can you feel vindicated by several hundred dead people? Mostly I just feel miserable. I think we are in a real sense culpable. It is western support for Karimov that gives him such arrogant assurance in gunning down his opponents.

Craig Murray in the Financial Times, 28 May here.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Telling Lies for God

Richard Dawkins on good form here:

The standard methodology of creationists is to find some phenomenon in nature which Darwinism cannot readily explain. Darwin said: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” Creationists mine ignorance and uncertainty in order to abuse his challenge. “Bet you can’t tell me how the elbow joint of the lesser spotted weasel frog evolved by slow gradual degrees?” If the scientist fails to give an immediate and comprehensive answer, a default conclusion is drawn: “Right, then, the alternative theory; ‘intelligent design’ wins by default.”

Notice the biased logic: if theory A fails in some particular, theory B must be right! Notice, too, how the creationist ploy undermines the scientist’s rejoicing in uncertainty. Today’s scientist in America dare not say: “Hm, interesting point. I wonder how the weasel frog’s ancestors did evolve their elbow joint. I’ll have to go to the university library and take a look.” No, the moment a scientist said something like that the default conclusion would become a headline in a creationist pamphlet: “Weasel frog could only have been designed by God.”
( full text, from The Times 21 May, here)

I am seeking a reference to an article I read about a month ago on the philosopher or scientist who thinks that the anger and frustration expressed by Dawkins and a few others towards creationists may damage the cause because it alienates the uninformed. That's a fine judgement.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

A couple of biggies

No connection to each other, but both worth careful thought.

Stephen Fidler, posting Why nuclear containment is breaking down, late on 22 May on the FT site

It is premature to pronounce the 35-year-old nuclear non-proliferation treaty dead. Yet, even if global bureaucrats do manage to repair the NPT and restore its relevance to the modern world, they may take years to do it. In the meantime, events could render it irrelevant. Nuclear weapons, until now limited to a handful of powers, could become available to dozens more. If this happens, it will be even harder to keep such weapons out of the hands of terrorists.

and George Steiner (still not dead, then) in Sign and Sight (the punning site title still tickles) on Schiller:

In 1938, when the Nazis took over Vienna, the 72-year-old collector Max Berger reported to the Office for Jewish Emigration. As a ransom, he brought with him one of Schiller’s letters, a valuable manuscript. The letter was taken from him, and then the old man was beaten to death. I am not capable of thinking through the ontological and formal involvements of this event. I only know that greatness is always dangerous, that it always tests us. But what would the continued existence of human intellect be without such danger?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Hari and Hitchens on Galloway

"It is not the allegations that he was being paid by Saddam Hussein...that will destroy George Galloway. No, it is this book. In this strange, repetitive little manifesto - marketed as an autobiography by in fact a short and incoherent rant - Galloway does not just shoot himself in the foot; he machine-guns his own legs to pieces." (whole article here)

Thanks to Danny Postel for reminding us of this.

Hitchens is even better:

There came a time, in the late 1970s, when the Iraqi Communist party realized the horrific mistake it had made in joining the Baath party's Revolutionary Command Council. The Communists in Baghdad, as I can testify from personal experience and interviews at the time, began to protest--too late--at the unbelievable cruelty of Saddam's purge of the army and the state: a prelude to his seizure of total power in a full-blown fascist coup. The consequence of this, in Britain, was the setting-up of a group named CARDRI: the Campaign Against Repression and for Democratic Rights in Iraq. Many democratic socialists and liberals supported this organization, but there was no doubting that its letterhead and its active staff were Communist volunteers. And Galloway joined it. At the time, it is at least half true to say, the United States distinctly preferred Saddam's Iraq to Khomeini's Iran, and acted accordingly. Thus a leftist could attack Saddam for being, among other things, an American client. We ought not to forget the shame of American policy at that time, because the preference for Saddam outlived the war with Iran, and continued into the postwar Anfal campaign to exterminate the Kurds. In today's "antiwar" movement, you may still hear the echoes of that filthy compromise, in the pseudo-ironic jibe that "we" used to be Saddam's ally.

But mark the sequel. It must have been in full knowledge, then, of that repression, and that genocide, and of the invasion of Kuwait and all that ensued from it, that George Galloway shifted his position and became an outright partisan of the Iraqi Baath. There can be only two explanations for this, and they do not by any means exclude one another. The first explanation, which would apply to many leftists of different stripes, is that anti-Americanism simply trumps everything, and that once Saddam Hussein became an official enemy of Washington the whole case was altered. Given what Galloway has said at other times, in defense of Slobodan Milosevic for example, it is fair to assume that he would have taken such a position for nothing: without, in other words, the hope of remuneration. (whole article here)