Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Friday, November 30, 2012

He had it coming, He had it coming, He only had himself to blame.....

You have to love the blatant hypocrisy of the ultra-right. Bonni the Holocaust denier recently posted a big whine about poor Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka "Tommy Robinson") whom she describes as a "political prisoner being persecuted by the British government dhimmis for his anti-Islamization views". Lennon is actually on remand awaiting trial for possessing a forged UK passport and using it to enter the USA illegally. Perhaps "Tommy Robinson" will offer the defence that as he has a fake name he needed a fake passport to go with it.

You'd think that Americans like Bonni, always banging on about illegal immigration and how easy it is for terrorists to slip into the USA with fake papers, would be pleased that someone who had already been banned from the USA for connections with racist violence had been apprehended. You might even think that theyu would be concerned to find out just how the Dept of Homeland Security failed to spot a fake passport or to connect Lennon's picture with their "watch list". But no. Apparently his arrest "had nothing to do with illegal entry". Well, I suppose strictly speaking that's right, as under UK law he's being charged with possession of a fake British passport. (If the USA want to let people in with home-made ID that's their problem, not ours.) However, it seems likely that the US authorities may want to extradite Lennon when he's done his time here so he can experience their own brand of prison hospitality for six months or so.

I think the funniest thing in this "report" though is Lennon's note from prison, where he seem to think he imprisoned in Wanstead rather than Wandsworth. Which when you consider how well-known Wandsworth Prison is (and the fact that Wanstead doesn't have one at all), makes you wonder how English this stalwart of the "English Defence League" really is......

Anyway, poor old Lennon has other things to worry about now that he's been charged with mortgage fraud as part of a money-laundering and drug-running investigation. But I suppose those are "political offences" too?

Of course Lennon is no stranger to prison, having a track record of violent crime and public order offences.

But they can take the guns and bomb-making materials with them when they go

From the BBC:

Israel has authorised the construction of 3,000 more housing units in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, according to Israeli officials.

It is also speeding up the processing of 1,000 planning permissions.

The decision comes a day after a vote at the UN General Assembly upgraded the Palestinians' status at the UN to that of non-member observer state.

The US said the expansion plan was counterproductive and would make it harder to resume peace talks.

"We reiterate our longstanding opposition to settlements and East Jerusalem construction and announcements," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

Earlier Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for an end to settlement building and a return to peace talks.

According to the Israeli Haaretz newspaper, some of the new units will be between Jerusalem and the settlement of Maale Adumim.

Plans to build settlements in the area, known as E1, are strongly opposed by Palestinians, who say the development will cut the West Bank in two, preventing the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state.

I suppose we should thank the kind Israeli government for building all these homes for eventual use by Palestinian families when the illegal settlers have been sent back to the land of Israel they purport to love so much (but just don't want to live in).

Maybe that should be "Wintervals"

Maybe displeasing both sides equally is as good as we'll get

"Vatican Hails UN Palestinian State Vote, Calls For Special Status For Jerusalem."

Which, funnily enough, is what the original partition proposals specified. Still, better late than never.


I rather liked this.

Oh Frabjous Day! Calloo! Callay!

As you will all know from today's Google doodle, it's St Andrew's Day, national day of Scotland.

But it's a far more significant day for Palestine, which has overwhelmingly won the vote in the UN General Assembly to become a "Non-member State". This means it can participate in debates, and has a much better chance of obtaining representation on bodies such as the International Criminal Court.

Imagine: progress in the Middle East that neither Israel nor the USA was able to block. that in itself makes this an historic occasion.

From the Jerusalem Post (which as a good little government propaganda organ puts "Palestine" in quotation marks in the hope that it will go away):

Abbas said that the Palestinians will accept no less than “the independence of the state of Palestine, with east Jerusalem as its capital, on all the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, to live in peace and security alongside the State of Israel, and a solution for the refugee issue on the basis of Resolution 194.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu condemned Abbas’s strong critique of Israel as “hostile and poisonous,” and full of “false propaganda.”

“These are not the words of a man who wants peace,” he said in a statement.

Because obviously expecting Israel to abide by international law and the treaties its own governmane has signed is "poisonous", while threats to unleash a second Holocaust on the people of Gaza are "the words of a man wo wants peace". What universe does Netanyahu live in?

For thos of us living in the real world, I strongly suspect that today may be like that day just over forty-nine years ago when President Kennedy was murdered: people will all remember where they were and what they were doing when we heard the news (I was in my living-room, checking my Facebook wall). (As for Kennedy, I was most likely in bed when the news brok in the mid-evening here, but then I was only eight. So I would have heard it next morning.)

Congratulations to the goverments (both the Fatah and Hamas ones) and people of Palestine. You need some good news once in a while.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cut-throat competition

When you say the words "Poland" and "Jews", what image springs to mind first? This, right? So you'd think that Poland's present lawmakers would be very careful indeed about attracting charges of anti-semitism.

Poland's Constitutional Court has banned ritual animal slaughter (shechita or dhabiha), though it sounds as though the ban will be overturned to bring Poland in line with EU law in the new year.

A few points to note here. One is that for once nobody is claiming that this is just about Muslims: Poland's Jews (and others) are upset about it. Another is that while the rules governing shechita (Jewish) and dhabiya (Islamic) ritual slaughter are identical regarding the procedure itself (the qualifications for carrying it out, and the prayers, are different) several Islamic authorities consider stunning of the animal to be acceptable provided the stunning doesn't kill it. Halal meat in Britain is stunned, though it sounds as though that may niot be te case in Poland. Kosher, meat, however, is never stunned, so this move definitely targets Jews more than Muslims. See my earlier post here.

Thanks to the EDL (English Disco Lovers) for this one

I am very fond of the mashup as a genre, at least when it's done well. This one is done very well indeed.

That's pretty much as good as the Dweezil Zappa/Donny Osmond version which I adore.

English Disco Lovers (EDL) - from whom I got this mashup - is a Facebook group dedicated to taking back the initials "EDL" from the fascist thugs currently using them (with the ultimate goal of getting in among them in Google searches).

The mashup is pretty much as good as the Dweezil Zappa/Donny Osmond version which I adore.

Closing the Benghazigate after the American people have bolted

Well this is good news. But then I never imagined most Americans were as dumb as the Teapublicans pretend. Most of them, remember, voted for Barack Obama.

The Prophet

Here is an Iranian-produced response to "The Innocence of Muslims". It has many differences from that film, most notably the fact that you can watch more than thirty seconds without wincing at the amateurish quality. Most of the film is concerned with pre-Islamic religions and their views on future prophets: it deals very sympathetically with Zoroastrianism and Judaism (both of which are of course well-established religions in Iran), with Christianity, Jainism, Hinduism and even Sikhism (though I was rather amused that all they could find to link Sikhs to Islam was that their holy book Guru Granth Sahib mentions the existence of Muslims!) OK, the Jains and Zoroastrians are still waiting for the prophet after Muhammed, and the whole "Son of God" business is omitted from Christianity, but the point is that the film-makers are out to promote the idea, familiar to Unitarians, that there is a common core to all the great religions. Now for sure there are plenty of Muslims out there who would have no more truck with the idea than the average Bible-belt Christian fundamentalist: but it's interesting to see such an idea being put forward by Iranian Muslims. No religion is being made fun of or attacked, whereas of course in TIOM itself the entire point ofthe film is to attack and ridicule Islam. As one of the Youtube commenters says, it's a pity the subtitles are hard to read. But well worth watching whatever your religion.

Bonni lies, over the ocean

One gets used to Bonni the New York Nazi making up fake stories, or publishing links to reports which donlt actually say what she claims. I only really pay attention if her fakery relates to Britain or, as in this case, India (another country to which i feel strongly attached).

First of all, her "evidence" for "Taliban-style rule" in Madhubani (which is in Bihar, in Northern India) consists solely of a video clip. This turns out not to come from an Indian TV channel, or any other TV channel, but to have been produced by an American blogger called Jas whose blog is called "Halal Porkshop". Uh-huh. Looking at the actual footage, it shows a few seconds of brown-skinned blokes who could be Indian, or Palestinian, or Iranian, or anything really, stripped to the waist and looking cross. That's it. No scneds of violent stripping. No scenes of flogging. (Bear in mind that Bonni just loves to post video of beheadings and flogging, usually with comments hoping that American Jews and "liberals" will suffer the same fate.) So from a cheap fake video which doesn't even rise to the production standards of The Innocence Of Muslims, we have "Taliban-style rule". Uh-huh, again.

The commenters are all talking up how most Indian Hindus hate Muslims, whioch of course is far from true. There is certainly some inter-communal violence, almost all of it Hindu-on-Muslim stoked by right wing Hindu ultranationalists like Shiv Sena or the BJP. However, on the whole the two communities get along pretty well. Muslims have provided three out of twelve Presidents of India as well as the current present Vice-President. Dozens of major Bollywood and cricket stars are Muslims.

Googling "Madhubani with taleban OR taliban OR stripped OR flogged" led to a number of accounts of anti-police riots not associated with religion, concerning a missing youth who was thought to have been arrested but eventually turned up in Delhi with his girlfriend. It also turned up this story, where I can see no indication that anyone involved is a Muslim (though the report is from a secular Indian source). So the only real incident resembling Jas's fake one (Bonni's post is the only reference to it I could find anywhere) was probably carried out by Hindus. ("Pan", incidentally, is pretty much a direct equivalent of chewing tobacco, made from betel leaf.

However, Googling "Bihar AND Hindus AND Muslims" brings up this heartwarming story. So actually, far from Bihar being a stronghold of Taliban-like intolerance, it is a pure and highly successful example of multiculturalism in action.

But lying about brown-skinned people in other countries is always far more fun, eh Bonni?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New York or Bust! (Or, in this case, both.)

At the age of 66, Dolly Parton still looks (and sounds) pretty damned good. The picture was taken on Tuesday when she visited Good Morning America at Times Square in New York.

I suppose the people spreading rumours of a lesbian relationship are scared by the thought of a woman whose lifetime earnings (entirely from her own hard work and talent) could probably fund a space programme. Either that or they imagine that anyone who actually likes LGBT people must be one herself.

And I still can't decide whether the wording on the tickets when we saw her in Glasgow last year was meant to be funny or not. Though it's the kind of joke Dolly herself would definitely appreciate.

Look, I don't wish to be overly melodramatic about this...

Just found this on YouTube and had to share it. The peerless Al Stewart discussing his, er, peers:

Gay-Friendly Mosques

Just found (via a link on another post) this on BareNakedIslam. Let's deal with the main story first, which would seem to have HOAX written all over it. Someone else has already had a couple of goes at it, and while not definitely a fake, it seems to be based on one report, and remarkably lacking in corroboration. Hmmm.

Bonni also states that "NOT ONE SINGLE MOSQUE IN THE US ACCEPTS GAY MUSLIMS", and links to this site. Two points to note first of all: this piece was posted more than three years ago, so maybe Fred from Ottawa and Bonni from New York just don't bother to keep up: and the comment on Fred's blog which responds to his rhetorical question regarding gay-friendly mosques in Canada by linking to this site for LGBYIQ Muslims, where there is a list of "welcoming, inclusive mosques": five in the USA and one in Toronto.

But there's much more than that. This article from March 2012 describes the growth of an organisation of progressive Muslims who promote the roles of both gays and women in Islamic worship. And this one talks about the same organisation, and is interesting because it emphasises that for the most part even the "mainstream" Muslim clerics, while not approving of homosexuality, are happy to live and let live. Funny: if you were foolish enough to believe anything you read in anti-Muslim hate sites you would think that all Muslims (when not busy having sex with children and animals, of course) were consumed by a desire to murder homosexuals.

Curiously, Bonni's list of posts on Muslim hatred of gays includes this one, on Uganda. Now Uganda is generally considered the world's most homophobic country, but what makes its inclusion in Bonni's list rather strange is that it is a Christian country, not a Muslim one (85% Christian, 12% Muslim). There's also this one, where she says "Israel-hating Palestinian-supporters dominate the Gay Pride Parade in Toronto. Let’s see them do this in any Muslim country…including the Palestinian territories." Er, homosexuality was legalised in Jordan (including those parts now in the Palestinian Territories) several years before it was legalised in Israel. But why confuse the issue with facts?

Bits and Pieces

You may remember that a couple of months ago I posted about a visit to Edinburgh's Anatomy Museum, where among the exhibits were the skeletons of various bad lads, including the grave-robbers Burke and Hare) who had been sentenced to be dissected after execution. As Burke and Hare were well aware, in Victorian times there was a great shortage of cadavers for use in medical training - and there still is, hence this campaign.

And here's a post from the new blog by Vic (remember Vic?) on the topics of organ donation and cadaver donation. Interesting reading.

Now go and register as an organ donor, or give your body to science (all the while remembering that unless you have charity it shall profit you nothing).

Wrapped around his finger

And did you notice that President Obama's wedding ring is being described by right-wing loons as "proof" that he is in fact a Muslim? See here.

Of course, Joseph Farah of wnd.com has a track record of making up ludicrous accusations against the President.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Go! West, young man

Further to my post on unindicted war criminal Allen West's attempt to steal the congressional election he lost, the recount that he forced showed that the original results were indeed wrong. The vile clown had actually lost by a greater margin than had originally been shown. And he still wasn't prepared to accept the verdict of the electorate.

Happily for democracy, Congress and Florida, the cretin was eventually persuaded to abide by the will of the people.

Buh-bye, Allen! Don't let the door of the Capitol bang you in the ass on the way out as you clear your desk. Perhaps now you can do what you suggested President Obama (who won his election comfortably, BTW) should do, and "get the hell out of the United States of America". (Gotta love that "Florida is not on the table": which presidential candidate did Florida vote for again? Yup, Barack Obama (D).)

Benghazigate - the Real Story

Let's cut to the chase here. This guy says most of what needs to be said:

Here is a link explaining more on why all the faux-outrage from the far right is a sham for electoral purposes.

This one exposes the lies Fox News used to push its far-right agenda.

John McCain, meanwhile, was so determined to get to the truth of what happened that he blew off an in-depth Congressional briefing on the subject by diplomats, terrorism experts and the military, so he could do something far more important: pose for the cameras.

And this one brings the whole thing back up to date, while making the point so many people seem to have missed, which is that the Republicans' investigation has exposed the fact that the Benghazi "consulate" was basically a support station for CIA field agents, whose work has now been comprehensively outed.

If the Obama Administration ran with the spontaneous protest story in order to run cover for the CIA at the direction of the CIA then it was done for reasons of National Security and likely to save lives as well as to not jeopardize a very important CIA operation.

Republicans lead my Mitt Romney smelled a chance to politicize the tragedy and put their politics ahead of what was best for the country. They completely outed the CIA’s roll in Benghazi, leaked classified information, and continue to bang the drums for more information – classified information – which if made public could threaten National Security. Obviously Republicans could give a damn about what’s best for the country if they think they can gain political ground.

Yeah, well, I think we got that message when the Bush administration exposed Valerie Plame as a working CIA field agent, thereby putting her life at risk, in pursuit of a petty political feud against her husband.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

When a soldier's not engaged in his employement / Or maturing his invasive little plans, His capacity for innocent enjoyment / Is just as great as any honest man's

In all fairness to the author of the Israelly Cool blog whose lies I spent my last post exposing, he also recently posted a link to this video. Which is actually pretty funny.

Compare and contrast by all means, yes indeed

What is wrong with this picture?

Well, during the recent war with Israel (if you can dignify a highly asymmetric act of attempted genocide by calling it a war) Palestinians certainly took a dim view of those who collaborated with Israel by passing intelligence to the enemy. And no, suspected collaborators were not given much of a trial, and yes, their bodies were not treated with respect. In much the same way, Nazi collaborators in France after World War 2 were executed, generally without much of a trial; and in their cases the mistreatment of their bodies began while they were still alive. meanwhile, the Hamas leadership has condemned the execution of the collaborators and demanded that those who carried it out be brought to justice.

Haneen Zoabi, on the other hand, is an elected member of the Israeli Knesset (as the picture shows). For her participation in the Gaza Flotilla (she was on the MV Mavi Marmara when it was attacked in international waters) - which took place at a time when Israel was not, supposedly, at war with Gaza, and which was wholly peaceful, at least until the IDF murdered nine passengers in cold blood - she received numerous death threats. For doing her job as an MK, the Interior Minister requested that she be stripped of her citizenship and her parliamentary immunity. Other MKs demanded that she be prosecuted for "treason". Eventually she was stripped of some of her parliamentary privileges and banned from taking part in discussions in the Knesset and from voting in parliamentary committees (ie from doing the job she was elected to do). So much for Israeli "democracy".

When faced with those it viewed as actual enemy collaborators (rather than elected members with inconvenient political views) the Zionists who were trying to establish a Jewish state were unrepentant about their murder.

I note that I am not alone in observing that Israel actually treats spies in just the same way that Gaza does, though even when the IDF executed someone who turned out to be innocent the punishment doled out was derisory. In more recent times, of course, Israel declared Mordechai Vanunu to be a spy for telling the world about Israel's uninspected and unregulated nuclear weapons. For this, as Israel does not have the death penalty (a fact its leaders conveniently forgot when Adolf Eichmann fell into their clutches) Vanunu was sentenced to eighteen years in prison. (Though it appears that the Israeli state considered simply having him murdered before deciding to kidnap him and put him on trial.) When his sentence was completed in 2004, he was then subjected to house arrest and other forms of harassment which have meant that he has never effectively been freed and was adopted as a prisoner of conscience in 2007 by Amnesty International. So much for "the rule of law" in Israel. The following prohibitions are still in force:

he shall not be able to have contacts with citizens of other countries but Israel
he shall not use phones
he shall not own cellular phones
he shall not have access to the Internet
he shall not approach or enter embassies and consulates
he shall not come within 500 metres of any international border crossing
he shall not visit any port of entry and airport
he shall not leave the State of Israel

So much for Israeli "freedom".

So to return to the stupid photograph with which we began: of course it is barbaric of Hamas supporters to murder suspected spies and drag their bodies around. that sort of thing was barbaric when it was done to Nazi collaborators, many of whom were guilty of no more than friendship with Nazis. It was barbaric when Zionist terrorists did it to Jewish supporters of British rule in Palestine. However, to imply as the picture does that Israel rewards "collaborators" by making them members of the Knesset, when in fact it prevents them from exercising that role and subjects those it actually considers spies to indefinite detention and punishment with no regard to any "sentence" imposed by a court - that's simply Hasbara (lying in the service of the Jewish state), and bad Hasbara at that.

Friday, November 23, 2012

I seem to recall this was the plot of a porn film once....

It would be fun to be on the jury for this case, especially when it came to the part where the weapon used in the murder attempt was massed around for the jurors to see and handle.

I like the way the Mirror makes a point of explaining that the picture it used wasn't actually of Ms Hansen, though. Wonder who it is?

This link at the bottom of that report is quite something too. Not sure whether my favourite (if that's the word) is the crocodile that caused a plane crash or the skydiver who forgot his parachute.

P.S. the film I alluded to in the title was Deadly Weapons. How could I forget?

The Truth That Sticks

Refreshing to see that despite the BBC's generally unremitting pro-Israeli bias in its news coverage (remember this during Operation Cast Lead?), the occasional gleam of truth is allowed through (in this case by one speaker out of an entire Question Time panel, responding to a loaded pro-Israeli question.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gaza Genocide - on hold for now, but so excited Bonni the Holocaust Denier that she absent-mindedly told the truth

Seamus Milne has a lot of sensible things to say about the assault on Gaza here.

And here is a very interesting piece on why, contrary to all expectations, Israel agreed to a ceasefire instead of mounting a massive ground invasion.

Meanwhile, Bonni the New York Nazi claims (wrongly) that no ceasefire was agreed, and is so delighted by the prospect of more dead Muslims AND Jews (win-win for the Holocaust denying Islamophobe) that she talks about Tel Aviv being ready to escalate its offensive, momentarily forgetting that she's supposed to pretend that Israel's capital is Jerusalem. LOL! No paycheck for you this month, Bonni.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Scary guys

Talking of terrorists, remember all the controversy back in 2009 when the US Department of Homeland Security listed domestic rightwing extremists and returning military veterans as among its top concerns when trying to keep of top of terrorism? I see no reason why that wouldn't be true in the USA as it has proved to be true in Europe. Since then we've had Breivik, of course, but also plenty of British nutters building bombs and setting them off, or threatening to do so. Now we've had an ex-Marine jailed for planting bombs which caused explosions in Dundee tenements.

Yet somehow it's Muslims we're all supposed to be terrified of. Aye, right. In your dreams.

And his coffee is sometimes cold

It's hard to believe Anders Breivik isn't a fictional character. Here is a man who massacred 77 people in cold blood, most of them children, simply for having the wrong political opinions. He's moaning about his prison: he has to rush brushing his teeth, has to ask a guard to change his TV channels, his cell has no view and it isn't decorated to hi liking.

Of course if he'd committed his crime in, say, California, he'd be on Death Row where the facilities are somewhat more basic. And while this actual terrorist has 86 square feet of space, a television, access to a library and all the rest of it, the pretend terrorists in Guantanamo, never charged let alone convicted of anything at all, have this, interrupted only by the occasional torture session or exercise in chains and blindfolds:

Zappa Playing Zappa, and Lennon and McCartney, and Barrett

A few sidetracks here. I saw Zappa and the Mothers in 1969 when they first came to Manchester (indeed the only time they came as the Mothers - Frank I believe came back in 1979 after I'd moved to London). I found an online list of tour dates from Melody Maker so now I know it was 1st June 1969; and I also found this article by a journalist who went with them on the tour. The most memorable song from the set was My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama which came out on Weasels Ripped My Flesh about a year later. Here is the band doing it about a month after I saw them: brings it all back. (Though I'd forgotten the "Needles and Pins" quote!)

This is an amazing live set of Beatles parodies: musically and lyrically brilliant, though I can understand whey they didn't get commercially released! I think Jimmy Swaggart, Jimmy Falwell and Apple Records might have set a pack of lawyers on Frank.....

While we're on FZ playing other people's music, here he is jamming with Pink Floyd. There seems to be disagreement over whether FZ ever actually played onstage with Floyd, but the photographic evidence seems clear enough: not just the picture which accompanies the clip, which clearly shows Roger Waters and Frank, but this one showing FZ and Nick Mason. And the sound could only be Floyd, and the guitar only Zappa.

And while I was Googling I encountered this bunch, of whom I had never heard. But damn, they're good.

Zappa Plays Zappa - HMV Picture House Edinburgh 15 November 2012

ZPZ's third visit to Edinburgh, and this time I took my son who is becoming a big Zappa fan. (He's playing The Black Page for his degree recital next year.) As usual, the band were amazing, playing for over two hours with no interval or support, and maintaining a phenomenally high standard of musicianship throughout.

Rather to Ruairidh's disappointment they didn't do The Black Page (it was in their set list not that long ago), though drummer Joe Travers did a pretty amazing solo. Special plaudits also to saxophonist/singer/keyboardist Scheila Gonzalez, and lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ben Thomas. Dweezil brought on a couple of guest musicians whose names I didn't catch, one a "stunt vocalist" for Tryin' To Grow A Chin and the other a clarinettist (female, and really good) for Zomby Woof.

As well as his usual Stratocaster, Dweezil played a replica of his Dad's Roxy guitar (the modified Gibson SG used on Roxy and Elsewhere). Apparently the plan is to market such replicas in a limited edition of 800 or so: guitar buffs take note.

There was a brief glitch with the sound system early on which caused a "magnetic pulse" to be sent through the in-ear monitors of the whole band. it was quickly sorted, but gave Dweezil the perfect opportunity for an intro when they came back on for an encore. A massive wail went up from his guitar system, and he said it was a fault but sounded strangely like some kind of drone. Then he noodled around playing pseudo-bagpipe riffs before saying that he was trying to remember how a bagpipe tune went: could we help him out? At this point his noodling started to include snippets of Scotland The Brave, and we were away, with the audience all singing along. Brilliant.

Here is the set list. It matches the one from last week at the Roundhouse in London almost exactly, apart from the addition of Scotland The Brave and the slow 3/4 time number that followed Who Are the Brain Police? which I haven't been able to identify.

Treacherous Cretins
Hungry Freaks Daddy
Teenage Prostitute
Echidna’s Arf (Of You)
Penguin In Bondage
Pygmy Twylyte
The Idiot Bastard Son
I’m So Cute
Baby Snakes
Tryin’ To Grow A Chin
Harder Than Your Husband
Wind Up Working In A Gas Station
Ride My Face To Chicago
Motherly Love
Oh No
Let’s Make The Water Turn Black (instrumental version)
Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance
Outside Now
Debra Kadabra Who Are the Brain Police?
Instrumental slow waltz
Packard Goose

Scotland the Brave (!)
Peaches En Regalia
Zomby Woof
Strictly Genteel

Something for everyone there. Ruairidh, who prefers the later Zappa albums to the ones with the Mothers, especially enjoyed the numbers from Joe's Garage, while having come to the Mothers first via We're Only In It For The Money I loved hearing Let's Make The Water Turn Black and Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance. And I've always loved Zomby Woof.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Caption Competition

I originally intended to post this picture of Nikola Tesla with a witty caption, but decided it would be more fun to see what my readers could come up with. Any thoughts?

What did the Muslims ever do for us?

Well, if you're Jewish, this.

Sore Loser

Well, Obama won the election fair and square, and won the popular vote as well.

Of course, there are always some who can't handle the idea that free and fair elections mean your guy doesn't always win. Like unindicted war criminal Allen West, who received his ass in a sack down in the Florida 18th. Even though the margin of victory was beyond that which would normally trigger a recount, and despite all question marks over balloting having been ironed out within a few days, Mr West is still whining and trying to steal back in the courts what he lost at the polls.

UPDATE: West was unsuccessful in the court, but has somehow got his recount anyway. I like the way he accuses Patrick Murphy of "pretending to be a Congressman": what else has West been doing for the past two years?

We can only hope that the most malodorous neofascist in the entire Tea Party hasn't found a way to circumvent both the polls and the US courts and reinsert himself into Congress.

Carry Tiger To Car Park

Here is a picture of me last Saturday (10th) at a Taoist Tai Chi international workshop in Edinburgh. (I'm the bearded one in the blue T shirt on the left). In case you're puzzled by the people facing the wrong way, we were split into small groups at this point, each working with an instructor: ours was Sam, right in the middle with her back to the camera, polishing our technique in this picture on a foundation exercise called a Tor Yu.

Here's a picture of us on Sunday morning in the car park doing a full Tai Chi set (I'm near the middle of this one in a red fleece.)

(Photographs from The Tiger's Mouth blog.) A full report on the workshop can be found here, along with more photographs. It was great fun, though pretty tiring: not so much because of the physical efforts, though our joints and spine did get exercised in unfamiliar ways, but because of the need for concentration and constant attention to how we were using our bodies.

Those who have met me (in the summer months at least) will realise that I have a large collection of T-shirts with a wide variety of designs and slogans, ranging from pictures of Frank Zappa and Fidel Castro to unusual variants of the Citroen 2CV. From the indoor picture above (the outdoor one has us all swaddled in fleeces - it may have been sunny but it was November in Scotland) you can see that the Taoist Tai Chi Society produce a wide variety of their own T-shirts (all the ones pictured are TTCS ones). I must have seen at least forty different designs over the course of the weekend, and bought a couple more myself. My favourite - sadly not on sale at the weekend - was the one in this picture.

His politics are no better researched than his science

Well, duh, you say. But some folk don't get it. Take Benjamin Kerstein, whom long-standing readers may remember as the guy who described me as a "pathetic little neo-Nazi cunt" for having the temerity to pick him up on an egregious piece of scientific ignorance in what purported to be an SF story.*** He being a Jew, any such criticism, however well-founded in the Second Law of Thermodynamics or the physical properties of nitrogen, could only arise from neo-Nazi sympathies. Anyway, the self-important fool has left wicked liberal America (where he was so unappreciated he flunked his college degree: more antisemitism!) and lives in Tel Aviv, where the political and racial climate is obviously far more suited to one of his undoubted (by himself) talent. The right-wing Jerusalem Post gave him a platform recently to explain why all criticism of Israel, whatever its source, is anti-semitic.

If anyone can find a single argument in Kerstein's rambling tirade which goes beyond "Because I say so" please explain it in a comment.

*** As the original link to our exchange on the Kesher Talk blog is not longer active, here is a link to the SF story "Josef6" which Kerstein published online. Note the following extract (emphases mine):

The blueprints showed an oblong object in three sections, each divided from the other. The front section, which sat at the top of the sketch, was the cockpit or a variation thereof. The second contained the two micro-singularity generators and the plutonium based power source which was divided from the cockpit section by a lead barrier of considerable width and stamina. The back section was an exhaust chamber or sorts, but rather than venting the radioactive waste from the vessel the chamber apparently stored it in isometric tubes at a temperature of negative 562 degrees Celsius so as to avoid any possible contamination. The notes at the bottom of the image claimed that the vessel’s waste product was slight in comparison to its output and the material was reused when the vessel returned to its initial time period. The entire structure was roughly the size of an average four-door automobile.

The blueprints were, of course, largely unintelligible to the layman and thus caused only a slight consternation among those who were eagerly awaiting new revelations. The possibility of micro-singularity generators and the practical implications of liquid nitrogen storage tubes for plutonium byproducts were issues of interest only to specialists and the professionally skeptical.

When I read that (don't bother with the rest of the story, it really is no better) I suggested to Ben that he might like to make a couple of corrections to the obvious scientific errors therein, to wit:

(1) The absolute zero of temperature (set by the Second Law of Thermodynamics) is -273.15 degrees Celsius, meaning that the temperature at which the radioactive waste in his story was stored is not merely practically impossible but theoretically meaningless.

(2) Liquid nitrogen boils at -196 degrees Celsius, ie some 77 degrees above actual absolute zero. So while thermodynamics would stop his purported cooling system some 289 degrees short of the temperature he claims it reached, the mechanism he proposes in his story would stop it a whole 366 degrees above it.

Apologies to my readers for the wicked neo-Nazi science contained in the foregoing footnote.

On The Path Of Glory

You all remember Petula Clark, right? You know:

Well, Petula was 80 years old last Thursday (happy birthday, Pet!). My wife and I were discussing when her hits had been in relation to Lulu's, and while Googling I discovered that Petula Clark had made television history in the USA in March 1968. While performing on an NBC special with Harry Belafonte (a coloured gentleman) she (whisper it) touched his arm during a song, causing grave concern to the show's sponsor Chrysler. Yes folks, sixteen months before America put a man on the Moon, a white woman could make television history there by putting a hand on a black man's arm. Read all about it in the notes under this Youtube clip.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hitherto, Lords, what your commands imposed / I have performed, as reason was, obeying, / Not without wonder or delight beheld; / Now, of my own accord, such other trial I mean to shew you of my strength yet greater / As with amaze shall strike all who behold

Protests worldwide against "Operation Pillar of Cloud" (the resumption of Gaza genocide):

You might think that when picking a name for their Final Solution the IDF would have had regard to that famous incident in the Old Testament concerning what someone enslaved in Gaza could do when presented with pillars......

Thursday, November 15, 2012


The Brodsky Quartet have had all their music stolen from a car in Haarlem.

I know how much music my amateur quartet has (I can only just carry it in a bag without wheels), and a professional one must have at least twice that, especially one which commissions so much new music. Even if they are sent replacement copies, all the bowings: gone. All the fingerings: gone. All the "turn page for cello" signs: all the "wait for viola" marks: gone, gone, gone.


Oh look, it's Operation Complete The Ethnic Cleansing

The vile Netanyahu starts another Gaza genocide.

Pillar of Cloud, eh? If I believed in a just and vengeful god I would hope that "Pillar of Salt" would be more apt for Netanyahu and his fellow-murderers. Absent such a god, we shall just have to await the final exhaustion of the patience of the rest of the world.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

They're playing my tune

Je Commence Demain

Faudrai que j'me cloture
Faudrai que j'coupe du bois
Que j'me mette en costume
Et que je marche plus droit

Faudrai que j'devienne plus sage
Que j'sois plus raisonnable à mon âge

J'sais bien, j'sais bien, j'sais bien
Je commence demain

Faudrai que j'quitte la route
Et que j'pose ma guitare
Faudrai que j'les écoute
Avant qu'il soit trop tard

Faudrai que j'devienne plus sage
Que j'sois plus raisonnable à mon âge

J'sais bien, j'sais bien, j'sais bien
Je commence demain

Faudrai que j'trouve une femme
Une gentille, une "maman"
Faudrai que j'quitte ces dames
Qui m'font rougir le sang

Faudrai que j'devienne plus sage
Que j'sois plus raisonnable à mon âge

J'sais bien, j'sais bien, j'sais bien
Je commence demain

(Jean-Jacques Goldman)

Death, like life, sometimes imitates art

One of those weird chains of events brought me to this gruesome news story from last year. Somewhat reminiscent of the rather different (though equally heedless of health and safety procedures and thus equally fatal) accident from Series 1 episode 3 of Six Feet Under:

Better late than never

OK. Here are some things I failed to mark on EKN over the past few days because I was busy.

Friday 9 November was International Day Against Fascism and Antisemitism. November 9th (what we in Europe think of as "the real 9/11" as that's the way round we do dates) is the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the big pogrom which is generally taken to mark the beginning of the full horror of the Holocaust.

Saturday 10 November was designated by the United Nations as Malala Day in honour of Malala Yousafzai, the fifteen-year-old Afghan girl who campaigned for the right of Afghan women to an education, was shot in the head by the Taleban for doing so, and is now recovering after surgery in Britain. The day marks the start of a campaign to get as many as possible of the 32 million girls worldwide who are missing out on an education into school.

Sunday 11 November was Remembrance Day, when we remember the victims of war. Some people take it as a commemoration only of those who died in military service, but I prefer to take it as a memorial to all the victims, whether in uniform, killed in "collateral damage", blown up by unexploded ordnance years after the end of the conflict, or whatever: and indeed those who while not killed bear terrible injuries. Why should an Israeli farm worker killed by a Hamas rocket, or a Cambodian child who lost a leg to a landmine, or a Londoner killed in the Blitz, be less worthy of two minutes of our time than someone who died at Arnhem or Dien Bien Phu? Some people get it. Others are perfectly happy to disrespect Remembrance Day in support of their own political ends, like this creep from the British Freedom Party, or Bonni the Nazi, who asked why no Hollywood stars joined the armed forces after 9/11 the way they did during World War Two. (The fact there wasn't a war on probably had something to do with that, but criticising "lefties" is far more important to the America-hating Nazi than honouring those who died fighting.)

Tuesday 13 November was the beginning of the Hindu festival of Diwali. And for all those imbeciles who believe that Muslims hate adherents of all other religions and want to kill them, here is a picture of a Diwali celebration in Lahore, Pakistan. More here. Oh, and Pakistan's Chief Justice is a Hindu, and its Prime Minister hosted a Diwali dinner for a visiting dignitary from India.

Dead Man Singing

And here's another country song. I'll dedicate this one to Reprieve, the organisation which works for those facing the death penalty (and also for those imprisoned without trial in Guantanamo), and to its founder Clive Stafford Smith whose wonderful book Injustice I'm currently reading.

And Lady Mondegreen

Here's a Willie Nelson song I know from the Joan Baez version which my brother had on LP.

I always liked the lyrics, with the very Zen idea of living in the eternal now. But digging out this clip I find that my favourite line was actually a mishearing. Willie Nelson wrote (and Joan Baez sang - I checked) "Yesterday's dead, and tomorrow is blind" but what I heard was "Yesterday's deaf, and tomorrow is blind". Which I modestly suggest may actually be an improvement, not just because of the deaf/blind thing but for the image of people trying to call back an unresponsive yesterday. i can't take any creative credit for that: I genuinely thought it was what Willie Nelson wrote. So maybe in a sense he did.

Anyway: great song.

Four furry faces

Hi. I'm back. Here's a curtain-raiser (so to speak) for my return. These guys are awesome.

J'ai de la barbe, t'as de la barbe,
Nous avons et vous avez de la barbe,
Car un jeune homme qui sort sans sa barbe,
C'est un repas sans vin, un soleil sans rayons,
oh, poil au menton, oh,poil au menton, poil au menton, poil au, poil au, poil au, poil au, poil au menton.
J'ai de la barbe, t'as de la barbe,
Nous avons et vous avez de la barbe,
Nous sommes les barbus, les valeureux barbus, Jamais déçus, jamais vaincus
Poil au, poil au, poil au, poil au, poil au menton.
Vive la barbe,
Grâce à la barbe non jamais rien est perdu,
Vive les barbus!
Vive la barbe,
Grâce à la barbe le pays sera défendu,
Vive les barbus!
Plus de menton, plus de visage glabre,
Il faut des boucs, des pièges et des mentons velus.
Vive la barbe,
Grâce à la barbe non jamais rien est perdu,
Vive les barbus!
Vive la barbe,
Grâce à la barbe le pays sera défendu,
Vive les barbus!
Plus de menton, plus de visage glabre,
Il faut des boucs, des pièges et des mentons velus.
Ah quel plaisir d'avoir une belle barbouse et d's'en servir,
Ah quel plaisir d'avoir une belle barbouse et d's'en servir,
Avec, avec, avec, avec,
Avec, avec, avec, avec,
Avec du poil, avec du poil, du poil touffu,
Vive la barbe et les barbus (*8),
Et les barbus, et les barbus,
Vive la barbe et les barbus,
Vive la barbe et les barbus,

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Two states or no state: make your mind up time.

The video below is from J Street, "the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans". Or as Bonni the Holocaust denier calls them, "left-wing, self-hating Jews". Bonni reckons they don't tell you that the two-state solution will involve Israel's pre-1967 borders (or as the rest of the world calls them, Israel's borders). It's OK, Bonni, Israel will surely be allowed to keep all it own territory: it's only the stolen stuff it has to give up.

Seriously, though, I couldn't put it better myself. Unless a two-state solution is agreed, there will be a one-state solution, and the one state won't be Israel. It must be really easy sitting in Wisconsin or Ohio or Texas shouting "There's no such place as Palestine" when you never actually have to live with the consequences.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


The only sad news of the night is that California's voters failed to take the opportunity to repeal the state's Death Penalty.

I'm currently reading Clive Stafford Smith's book Injustice, about the case of Kris Maharaj, condemned to death for a murder her didn't commit, and the difficulty of having even clear proof of innocence taken into account by the United States judicial system. It makes grim reading: and of course that one case is merely symptomatic of a system which is unfit for purpose (largely, it would seem, through underfunding which encourages both slipshod work and corruption).

Of course, our own system here in Britain is far from perfect, as the case of Sean Hodgson shows. But at least we no longer have the possibility that someone exonerated will have already been executed.

I keep being reminded of the death penalty whenever I see one of those articles about "what was in the news the year you were born", because in 1955 Ruth Ellis became the last woman to be hanged in Britain so I became very familiar with her picture. Her executioner was Albert Pierrepoint, whose own view on the death penalty he kept to himself until his 1974 autobiography (by which time Britain had abolished it):

"If death were a deterrent, I might be expected to know. It is I who have faced them last, young men and girls, working men, grandmothers. I have been amazed to see the courage with which they take that walk into the unknown. It did not deter them then, and it had not deterred them when they committed what they were convicted for. All the men and women whom I have faced at that final moment convince me that in what I have done I have not prevented a single murder. And if death does not work to deter one person, it should not be held to deter any."

I found this interesting short film about executions at Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow. Well worth quarter of an hour of your time.

No comment

"Prediction is very difficult, especially when it is about the future" (Niels Bohr)

I had heard that Nate Silver's predictions had proved scarily accurate in the past, but I have to say that even I wondered about his prediction that the most likely outcome in terms of Electoral College votes would be 332 to Obama (hence 206 to Romney). (See the "Electoral Vote Distribution" graphic here. And yet if Florida calls for Obama, that is exactly what will have come to pass. I am now inclined to predict an Obama win in Florida.......

UPDATE: And that is exactly what happened, meaning that Nate Silver was 100% correct in all his predictions. "Too close to call" my ass: this one was always in the bag for Obama.

As one of Bonni's commenters put it "A blackness has fallen over America". (LOL)

Actually I can add a little to Bonni the Nazi's wails of woe (she has a picture up of the Stars and Stripes at half mast - it must really suck when you don't have the President your neofascist buddies bought and paid for). Along with all the comments about this being a sign of the End Times, the ones wondering where the commenters should flee to (answer: so long as you take your Hitler-loving asses out of the USA, nobody will care) and the ones bemoaning the end of America, there are some rather more sinister ones like these:

From Dawn

BNI – perhaps someone with a gun will go to Washington, D.C. That may be the hope and change we need.

Or this, from Isabella the Crusader:

Barack and his wife have got to go, preferably the way of Ceauşescu.

Then there's this from Don Laird (a Canadian who posts a lot of seriously crazy guff at BNI):

The only avenue now left to patriots is as follows:

Senior members of the military organize a coup ‘d’etat

The President is ****************** and the entirety of the White House administration arrested and imprisoned on charges of treason.

A civil war is commenced to clear the air.

Blimey, all that just because the American people exercised their democratic vote in a way a Canadian fascist doesn't approve of!

Anyway, all far more deserving of the attentions of the Secret Service than Michael Moore's hilarious ad which so annoyed Bonni and her sheep.

LOL! Looks like an Obama landslide. Suck it up, Teafascists.

I can add nothing to the messages of suicidal intentions and hatred of democracy and America as shown by poor old Bonni Benstock Intall and her fellow Nazis.

Except woo-hoo! Unindicted but self-confessed war criminal Allen West has received his marching orders from the American people and won't be polluting the Capitol with his presence any more. Now that's news which would have softened the blow of even a Romney victory.

Now all we have to do is wait and see how big the Obama landslide eventually becomes.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Voter fraud in Ohio: non-whites permitted to vote

As the polls show that an Obama win is much more likely than a Romney one (simply because of the skewing effect of the electoral college process) Republicans continue to try to rig the election (in Oregon, Ohio, and Florida to name just a few instances. Meanwhile, Bonni the Holocaust denier at BareNakedIslam is appalled by what's going on in Ohio. Brown people are being encouraged to vote! And for those whose English isn't adequate for dealing with complex voting instructions, interpreters have been provided to help them!

For Bonni the fact that these folk need interpreters is proof that they are not US citizens. yet according to the website of the Ohio Somali community, 40% of Ohio's 45,000 Somalis are US citizens, while 25% of them (mostly young people) speak English well enough to obtain a job. So there are 15% of 45,000, or 6,750, US citizens who would probably need help with their English when voting. And why is that necessarily a problem? There are perfectly valid reasons why an applicant for US citizenship need not take a language test at all. The test itself does not exactly require you to be Herman Melville. And of course the struggles of immigrants with the English language have been the stuff of comedy for years (though with Bonni's antisemitic attitude and hatred of incomers it's unlikely that she would warm to stories about Jewish immigrants).

In the comments, Bonni's sheeple take up the whole Ohio-for-the-whites theme, referring to President Obama as "the half-breed", a "monkey lover" and a "chip on the shoulder black man", and to voting by Somali Americans as the "overthrow of the US government by foreign powers". They call for a "greeting party with iron pipes and baseball bats" for any Somalis who attempt to vote. Somalis (in the USA or elsewhere) are "self-entitled, spoiled, sub-moronic, cretinous, criminal, sub-primates that the world would be better off without", and "uneducated, uneducatable throwbacks with below-normal IQs and massive health and psych problems from inbreeding".

Whenever Bonni is criticised for being racist, she whines "What race is Islam?" Well, what have any of those comments to do with Islam? And how is calling someone a "sub-primate", a "half-breed", a "monkey lover" or a "throwback" a criticism of their religion rather than their race?

UPDATE: the Maine Republican Party chair believes that blacks voting in Maine is a sure sign of fraud.

The bravery of Allen West

November 6th isn't just about electing a President, of course: there are House and Senate seats up for grabs too. In Florida's 18th Congressional district, the race between Democrat Patrick Murphy and Teapublican Allen West is clearly very close, as there have been recent polls showing resounding wins for both candidates.

Which is why I think Allen West is a very brave man. Look at this ad which he ran, comparing himself to Patrick Murphy:

Why do I think Allen West is very brave indeed to run this ad? Well, the charges against Patrick Murphy referred to in the video were dropped for lack of evidence, and he went on to earn a degree and have an enviable career as an accountant and a company VP. West, on the other hand, as the video states, went to Iraq where he disgraced his country's uniform and flag by torturing a helpless prisoner. Although he freely confessed to this war crime, he was allowed (for reasons not made public) to avoid a court-martial, being punished instead under Article 15. He paid a $5,000 fine and was allowed to resign his commission with full benefits instead of doing jail time.

So I think that running an ad which reminds voters that this worthless POS "served" in Iraq in a uniform which he so comprehensively disgraced is a very brave thing to do. After all, this is a man whose views so embarrass even his own party that the man he defeated in the Republican primary has now endorsed Murphy. A man prepared to alienate the entire state of Wisconsin by declaring that its motto "Forward" shows that the state is pushing a "Soviet Union, Marxist-Socialist theme". OK, he actually made those remarks about the use of the word as a campaign slogan by Barack Obama, but Wisconsin had it first. (Filthy commies the lot of 'em. I mean, John Bradley, the guy in the middle of the picture below with his back to the camera, was born in Wisconsin.

There can obviously be no comparison between John Bradley's devotion to his country and to American values and that of Allen West.

A wicked plot to render Republican voters impotent....

Here is a hilarious video (albeit with a serious message) from Michael Moore.

And here, demonstrating not only a lack of any sense of humour (well, hard to laugh when you're staring a massive electoral defeat in the jaws) but also a self-importance beggaring belief, is the response from the Teapublicans.

Actually, given the religious beliefs of most Teapublicans, I'm surprised that the "threat" to spy on their sex lives from the afterlife didn't get reported to the Secret Service as well. But what I want to know is: if all terrorists are Muslims, why weren't the women in this video wearing veils? And why were they allowed to sit in a room with unrelated men?

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Noam Chomsky on Gaza

Noam Chomsky has written an article about his recent visit to Gaza. I think it deserves reprinting here.

Impressions of Gaza
Noam Chomsky

Even a single night in jail is enough to give a taste of what it means to be under the total control of some external force. And it hardly takes more than a day in Gaza to begin to appreciate what it must be like to try to survive in the world’s largest open-air prison, where a million and a half people, in the most densely populated area of the world, are constantly subject to random and often savage terror and arbitrary punishment, with no purpose other than to humiliate and degrade, and with the further goal of ensuring that Palestinian hopes for a decent future will be crushed and that the overwhelming global support for a diplomatic settlement that will grant these rights will be nullified.

The intensity of this commitment on the part of the Israeli political leadership has been dramatically illustrated just in the past few days, as they warn that they will “go crazy” if Palestinian rights are given limited recognition at the UN. That is not a new departure. The threat to “go crazy” (“nishtagea”) is deeply rooted, back to the Labor governments of the 1950s, along with the related “Samson Complex”: we will bring down the Temple walls if crossed. It was an idle threat then; not today.

The purposeful humiliation is also not new, though it constantly takes new forms. Thirty years ago political leaders, including some of the most noted hawks, submitted to Prime Minister Begin a shocking and detailed account of how settlers regularly abuse Palestinians in the most depraved manner and with total impunity. The prominent military-political analyst Yoram Peri wrote with disgust that the army’s task is not to defend the state, but “to demolish the rights of innocent people just because they are Araboushim (“niggers,” “kikes”) living in territories that God promised to us.”

Gazans have been selected for particularly cruel punishment. It is almost miraculous that people can sustain such an existence. How they do so was described thirty years ago in an eloquent memoir by Raja Shehadeh (The Third Way), based on his work as a lawyer engaged in the hopeless task of trying to protect elementary rights within a legal system designed to ensure failure, and his personal experience as a Samid, “a steadfast one,” who watches his home turned into a prison by brutal occupiers and can do nothing but somehow “endure.”

Since Shehadeh wrote, the situation has become much worse. The Oslo agreements, celebrated with much pomp in 1993, determined that Gaza and the West Bank are a single territorial entity. By then the US and Israel had already initiated their program of separating them fully from one another, so as to block a diplomatic settlement and punish the Araboushim in both territories.

Punishment of Gazans became still more severe in January 2006, when they committed a major crime: they voted the “wrong way” in the first free election in the Arab world, electing Hamas. Demonstrating their passionate “yearning for democracy,” the US and Israel, backed by the timid European Union, at once imposed a brutal siege, along with intensive military attacks. The US also turned at once to standard operating procedure when some disobedient population elects the wrong government: prepare a military coup to restore order.

Gazans committed a still greater crime a year later by blocking the coup attempt, leading to a sharp escalation of the siege and military attacks. These culminated in winter 2008-9, with Operation Cast Lead, one of the most cowardly and vicious exercises of military force in recent memory, as a defenseless civilian population, trapped with no way to escape, was subjected to relentless attack by one of the world’s most advanced military systems relying on US arms and protected by US diplomacy. An unforgettable eyewitness account of the slaughter — “infanticide” in their words — is given by the two courageous Norwegian doctors who worked at Gaza’s main hospital during the merciless assault, Mads Gilbert and Erik Fosse, in their remarkable book Eyes in Gaza.

President-elect Obama was unable to say a word, apart from reiterating his heartfelt sympathy for children under attack — in the Israeli town Sderot. The carefully planned assault was brought to an end right before his inauguration, so that he could then say that now is the time to look forward, not backward, the standard refuge of criminals.

Of course, there were pretexts — there always are. The usual one, trotted out when needed, is “security”: in this case, home-made rockets from Gaza. As is commonly the case, the pretext lacked any credibility. In 2008 a truce was established between Israel and Hamas. The Israeli government formally recognizes that Hamas observed it fully. Not a single Hamas rocket was fired until Israel broke the truce under cover of the US election on November 4 2008, invading Gaza on ludicrous grounds and killing half a dozen Hamas members. The Israeli government was advised by its highest intelligence officials that the truce could be renewed by easing the criminal blockade and ending military attacks. But the government of Ehud Olmert, reputedly a dove, chose to reject these options, preferring to resort to its huge comparative advantage in violence: Operation Cast Lead. The basic facts are reviewed once again by foreign policy analyst Jerome Slater in the current issue of the Harvard-MIT journal International Security.

The pattern of bombing under Cast Lead was carefully analyzed by the highly informed and internationally respected Gazan human rights advocate Raji Sourani. He points out that the bombing was concentrated in the north, targeting defenseless civilians in the most densely populated areas, with no possible military pretext. The goal, he suggests, may have been to drive the intimidated population to the south, near the Egyptian border. But the Samidin stayed put, despite the avalanche of US-Israeli terror.

A further goal might have been to drive them beyond. Back to the earliest days of the Zionist colonization it was argued across much of the spectrum that Arabs have no real reason to be in Palestine; they can be just as happy somewhere else, and should leave — politely “transferred,” the doves suggested. This is surely no small concern in Egypt, and perhaps a reason why Egypt does not open the border freely to civilians or even to desperately needed materials.

Sourani and other knowledgeable sources observe that the discipline of the Samidin conceals a powder keg, which might explode any time, unexpectedly, as the first Intifada did in Gaza in 1989 after years of miserable repression that elicited no notice or concern.

Merely to mention one of innumerable cases, shortly before the outbreak of the Intifada a Palestinian girl, Intissar al-Atar, was shot and killed in a schoolyard by a resident of a nearby Jewish settlement. He was one of the several thousand Israelis settlers brought to Gaza in violation of international law and protected by a huge army presence, taking over much of the land and scarce water of the Strip and living “lavishly in twenty-two settlements in the midst of 1.4 million destitute Palestinians,” as the crime is described by Israeli scholar Avi Raz. The murderer of the schoolgirl, Shimon Yifrah, was arrested, but quickly released on bail when the Court determined that “the offense is not severe enough” to warrant detention. The judge commented that Yifrah only intended to shock the girl by firing his gun at her in a schoolyard, not to kill her, so “this is not a case of a criminal person who has to be punished, deterred, and taught a lesson by imprisoning him.” Yifrah was given a 7-month suspended sentence, while settlers in the courtroom broke out in song and dance. And the usual silence reigned. After all, it is routine.

And so it is. As Yifrah was freed, the Israeli press reported that an army patrol fired into the yard of a school for boys aged 6 to 12 in a West Bank refugee camp, wounding five children, allegedly intending only “to shock them.” There were no charges, and the event again attracted no attention. It was just another episode in the program of “illiteracy as punishment,” the Israeli press reported, including the closing of schools, use of gas bombs, beating of students with rifle butts, barring of medical aid for victims; and beyond the schools a reign of more severe brutality, becoming even more savage during the Intifada, under the orders of Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, another admired dove.

My initial impression, after a visit of several days, was amazement, not only at the ability to go on with life, but also at the vibrancy and vitality among young people, particularly at the university, where I spent much of my time at an international conference. But there too one can detect signs that the pressure may become too hard to bear. Reports indicate that among young men there is simmering frustration, recognition that under the US-Israeli occupation the future holds nothing for them. There is only so much that caged animals can endure, and there may be an eruption, perhaps taking ugly forms — offering an opportunity for Israeli and western apologists to self-righteously condemn the people who are culturally backward, as Mitt Romney insightfully explained.

Gaza has the look of a typical third world society, with pockets of wealth surrounded by hideous poverty. It is not, however, “undeveloped.” Rather it is “de-developed,” and very systematically so, to borrow the terms of Sara Roy, the leading academic specialist on Gaza. The Gaza Strip could have become a prosperous Mediterranean region, with rich agriculture and a flourishing fishing industry, marvelous beaches and, as discovered a decade ago, good prospects for extensive natural gas supplies within its territorial waters.
By coincidence or not, that is when Israel intensified its naval blockade, driving fishing boats toward shore, by now to 3 miles or less.

The favorable prospects were aborted in 1948, when the Strip had to absorb a flood of Palestinian refugees who fled in terror or were forcefully expelled from what became Israel, in some cases expelled months after the formal cease-fire.

In fact, they were being expelled even four years later, as reported in Ha’aretz (25.12.2008), in a thoughtful study by Beni Tziper on the history of Israeli Ashkelon back to the Canaanites. In 1953, he reports, there was a “cool calculation that it was necessary to cleanse the region of Arabs.” The original name, Majdal, had already been “Judaized” to today’s Ashkelon, regular practice.

That was in 1953, when there was no hint of military necessity. Tziper himself was born in 1953, and while walking in the remnants of the old Arab sector, he reflects that “it is really difficult for me, really difficult, to realize that while my parents were celebrating my birth, other people were being loaded on trucks and expelled from their homes.”
Israel’s 1967 conquests and their aftermath administered further blows. Then came the terrible crimes already mentioned, continuing to the present day.

The signs are easy to see, even on a brief visit. Sitting in a hotel near the shore, one can hear the machine gun fire of Israeli gunboats driving fishermen out of Gaza’s territorial waters and towards shore, so they are compelled to fish in waters that are heavily polluted because of US-Israeli refusal to allow reconstruction of the sewage and power systems that they destroyed.

The Oslo Accords laid plans for two desalination plants, a necessity in this arid region. One, an advanced facility, was built: in Israel. The second one is in Khan Yunis, in the south of Gaza. The engineer in charge of trying to obtain potable water for the population explained that this plant was designed so that it cannot use sea water, but must rely on underground water, a cheaper process, which further degrades the meager aquifer, guaranteeing severe problems in the future. Even with that, water is severely limited. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which cares for refugees (but not other Gazans), recently released a report warning that damage to the aquifer may soon become “irreversible,” and that without remedial action quickly, by 2020 Gaza may not be a “liveable place.”

Israel permits concrete to enter for UNRWA projects, but not for Gazans engaged in the huge reconstruction needs. The limited heavy equipment mostly lies idle, since Israel does not permit materials for repair. All of this is part of the general program described by Israeli official Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, after Palestinians failed to follow orders in the 2006 elections: “The idea,” he said, “is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” That would not look good.

And the plan is being scrupulously followed. Sara Roy has provided extensive evidence in her scholarly studies. Recently, after several years of effort, the Israeli human rights organization Gisha succeeded to obtain a court order for the government to release its records detailing plans for the diet, and how they are executed. Israel-based journalist Jonathan Cook summarizes them: “Health officials provided calculations of the minimum number of calories needed by Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants to avoid malnutrition. Those figures were then translated into truckloads of food Israel was supposed to allow in each day ... an average of only 67 trucks — much less than half of the minimum requirement — entered Gaza daily. This compared to more than 400 trucks before the blockade began.” And even this estimate is overly generous, UN relief officials report.

The result of imposing the diet, Mideast scholar Juan Cole observes, is that “[a]bout ten percent of Palestinian children in Gaza under 5 have had their growth stunted by malnutrition ... in addition, anemia is widespread, affecting over two-thirds of infants, 58.6 percent of schoolchildren, and over a third of pregnant mothers.” The US and Israel want to ensure that nothing more than bare survival is possible.

“What has to be kept in mind,” observes Raji Sourani, “is that the occupation and the absolute closure is an ongoing attack on the human dignity of the people in Gaza in particular and all Palestinians generally. It is systematic degradation, humiliation, isolation and fragmentation of the Palestinian people.” The conclusion is confirmed by many other sources. In one of the world’s leading medical journals, The Lancet, a visiting Stanford physician, appalled by what he witnessed, describes Gaza as “something of a laboratory for observing an absence of dignity,” a condition that has “devastating” effects on physical, mental, and social wellbeing. “The constant surveillance from the sky, collective punishment through blockade and isolation, the intrusion into homes and communications, and restrictions on those trying to travel, or marry, or work make it difficult to live a dignified life in Gaza.” The Araboushim must be taught not to raise their heads.

There were hopes that the new Morsi government in Egypt, less in thrall to Israel than the western-backed Mubarak dictatorship, might open the Rafah crossing, the sole access to the outside for trapped Gazans that is not subject to direct Israeli control. There has been slight opening, but not much. Journalist Laila el-Haddad writes that the re-opening under Morsi, “is simply a return to status quo of years past: only Palestinians carrying an Israeli-approved Gaza ID card can use Rafah Crossing,” excluding a great many Palestinians, including el-Haddad’s family, where only one spouse has a card.

Furthermore, she continues, “the crossing does not lead to the West Bank, nor does it allow for the passage of goods, which are restricted to the Israeli-controlled crossings and subject to prohibitions on construction materials and export.” The restricted Rafah crossing does not change the fact that “Gaza remains under tight maritime and aerial siege, and continues to be closed off to the Palestinians’ cultural, economic, and academic capitals in the rest of the [occupied territories], in violation of US-Israeli obligations under the Oslo Accords.”

The effects are painfully evident. In the Khan Yunis hospital, the director, who is also chief of surgery, describes with anger and passion how even medicines are lacking for relief of suffering patients, as well as simple surgical equipment, leaving doctors helpless and patients in agony. Personal stories add vivid texture to the general disgust one feels at the obscenity of the harsh occupation. One example is the testimony of a young woman who despaired that her father, who would have been proud that she was the first woman in the refugee camp to gain an advanced degree, had “passed away after 6 months of fighting cancer aged 60 years. Israeli occupation denied him a permit to go to Israeli hospitals for treatment. I had to suspend my study, work and life and go to set next to his bed. We all sat including my brother the physician and my sister the pharmacist, all powerless and hopeless watching his suffering. He died during the inhumane blockade of Gaza in summer 2006 with very little access to health service. I think feeling powerless and hopeless is the most killing feeling that human can ever have. It kills the spirit and breaks the heart. You can fight occupation but you cannot fight your feeling of being powerless. You can't even dissolve that feeling.”

Disgust at the obscenity, compounded with guilt: it is within our power to bring the suffering to an end and allow the Samidin to enjoy the lives of peace and dignity that they deserve.

Noam Chomsky visited the Gaza Strip on October 25-30, 2012.

Not to be confused with the chain of freezer shops

I went to look at Iceland's wikipedia entry for some reason or other, and the more I read of it the more amazed I became. Pretty much every section (well, once you move beyond Icelandic history) contains jaw-droppers. The only country in the world where filling stations sell hydrogen for your fuel-cell car? Because electricity is so cheap it's easy to make hydrogen? Because the electricity comes from geothermal and hydro power? The most socially, economically and gender equal society there is? The highest proportion of internet users? Most bookshops per head? Oh, and they drink vodka, eat puffin, and have their phone book in first-name order.

Sod heaven: when I die, I want to go to Iceland.

Operation Eroding Freedom

Following on from that condemnation of President Obama's taste for execution without trial, here is a very interesting piece from the Guardian comparing the extent to which Presidents of the USA throughout its history have used war as an excuse to abridge political freedom. Adams, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Bush, Obama.... they all have their claims to worst-ever status examined. I won't spoil the ending for you by giving away the winner.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

The lizard has a point....

Friday, November 02, 2012

This guy obviously didn't listen when the Islamophobes told him that he had to hate Jews because he was a Muslim

It's always nice to see racist stereotypes being shredded. Here a bunch of New York thugs attack a Jewish couple for wishing them "Happy Hanukkah". In a subway car apparently full of Christians and Jews, the only guy to intervene (and get beaten up himself for his trouble) was a Muslim.

If you deliberately tried to do a 21st century updating of Luke 10:29-37 (the Parable of the Good Samaritan) you couldn't better this.

An Unexpected Briefing

Sometimes ads are so good you know they'll be being watched in fifty years' time.

Towards a more diverse Congress

As the election draws closer, American nutters get ever more desperate to "prove" that President Obama is a Muslim. Recently we had the ludicrous suggestion that his wedding ring contained an Islamic inscription. Bonni the Nazi at BareNakedIslam lapped up that hoax, as did her sheeple, though as they all believe the President is a Muslim anyway that was hardly a shock.

Now here (from Loonwatch) is a report on the latest such piece of risible rug-chewing, based on a poem Obama wrote as a student which contains the words "apes" and "figs". No, really: that's it.

While of course Obama is no more Muslim than I am (and I eat pork, have a foreskin and am about to get a top-up of vodka and cranberry juice), am I alone in thinking that having a Muslim as President would be infinitely preferable than having someone whose own supporters can find so little to praise in him that they are reduced to spinning ludicrous webs of lunatic conspiracy theory about his opponent?

In other news, the USA seems likely to get its first Hindu congresswoman. Watch out for all the loons who consider it un-American for Representatives and Senators to be anything other than Christian (or Jewish) to start having nosebleeds.

Me? I'm celebrating by putting on one of my Makaha Sons of Niihau CDs.