Sunday, August 23, 2009

Conventional wisdom about the distant or quite recent past was seldom conventional wisdom at the time. The perceptive commentators (Trotsky and Churchill on Hitler, for instance, not to mention those who opposed the Iraq war before it began, those who initially said that British exams were being devalued, those who warned against university expansion, those who refused to accept that Gordon Brown was a competent Chancellor, I could go on) were in small minorities when it mattered, and only became recognised as wise when it was far too late. Mr O'Brien must have heard the story of the Emperor's New Clothes. Most people who hear this story think they would have realised the little boy was right. Experience tells me that most of them would have sided with the crowd, and believed the fake tailors. The curse of Cassandra was to be always right, and never believed.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Legal and judicial reform is one barometer of social change, but so is popular culture and Bryant must have been extremely sensitive to it. A quick scan through 1970s popular culture reveals how its ideas about sexuality, gender, and relationships were a radical break from the past.
IF anyone thinks that someone is obliged to produce scientific proof of God's existence for him or anyone else, he overestimates human capacities. No-one has ever suggested that such proof was available, and I don't know why anyone would look for such a thing in such a place. All the arguments about the existence or non-existence of God are very old, and none of them has ever persuaded anyone who didn't want to be convinced in the first place. What I'm interested in is the motives people have for belief - and unbelief.
Anyone violating the sanctity of the Holy month of Ramadan will be arrested under the Jordanian Penal Code number 16, article 247 from 1960, the police department in Ramallah said Wednesday.
"The only man convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 arrived in Libya today after he was released by the Scottish government -- drawing ire from heartbroken family members of the 270 victims who felt they had to relive the searing pain of loss all over again." Drawing ire? The families (through their association) sold their loved ones for cash payments from Qadhdhafi. (To be fair: there were families who were opposed to the deal, but the majority prevailed).

Monday, August 10, 2009

NATO should be more involved in protecting its members' energy resources, the alliance's top diplomat said Thursday amid concerns that fuel supplies face threats ranging from terrorism to supply cuts by disgruntled exporters.

NATO has a "role to play in this field," Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told a gathering of ministers and senior diplomats from almost 50 allied and partner nations.

Some NATO allies want it to consider a military role in protecting pipelines, oil platforms and sea routes bringing oil and gas to Europe and North America. Poland, which is heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas imports, has suggested a pact to support allies whose supplies are

Friday, August 07, 2009

If you’re a deskbound general continually demanding more men, more weapons and more money to subdue Afghanistan, you get endless air time, a peerage and a gold-plated pension.

If you’re a humble squaddie with service in theatre, whose doubts about the war are so serious you go Awol for two years, you face disgrace, a court martial and possibly jail.

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, 27, of the Royal Logistic Corps, has been charged with desertion for refusing to return to Afghanistan, and faces extra charges for speaking out about a war he (and plenty of his mates) say is unwinnable.

When MoD top brass say the same thing it makes headlines, not a charge sheet.

Rarely has the class distinction between officers and men been so clearly defined.
Nobody - but nobody not the Queen, not the so-called captains of industry, not the bosses of the BBC or any other public body, not the brain free footballers of the Premier League, not the so-called celebrities on our TV screens and most emphatically not the pigswill brigade who run the privatised utilities, deserves more than the Prime Minister's salary of £195,000 a year.

If you can't live on that - and millions of people have to get by on much less than a 10th of that - then quite frankly you deserve to die.
When on his recent visit to Turkey President Obama called for Turkish entry into the European Union, he put his finger on a strategic and cultural sore spot. The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, speaking for the majority position in Europe, was quick to respond: Turkey may one day enjoy a privileged relationship with the EU, but full membership is out of the question. Turkey is not European – geographically or culturally.

Interpretations of the US stance are numerous and contradictory, but they highlight deep tensions within Europe on the issue. Some believe the US is concerned primarily with securing access to the energy reserves of the Caspian basin; others suspect Washington of using Turkish alignment with American policy (by way of Nato) to exert pressure on its European allies; still others see an attempt to weaken Europe by placing a Turkish economic, demographic and cultural millstone around its neck.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Considering events inside Iran from June 12 on, it seems highly likely that many of Iran's more affluent, urban-activist and technologically savvy youth had concluded that they could achieve their political objectives best, not at the ballot box in June 2009, and not by arguing their case before the rigid bodies of Iran's executive branch, but by tailoring their messages of dissent to foreign audiences, taking to the streets to provoke repressive responses by state authorities, with every action of the state serving to delegitimize it in the eyes of the West's metropolitan centers, whose recognition and validation the protestors have sought above all.

Indeed, the West is where we find the real streets the demonstrators want to control. Not "from Engelob Square to Azadi Square," as Robert Fisk reported it, but how Engelob Square and Azadi Square, Evin Prison and the Basij militia, play in the United States and other Western powers, where 98% of the "internationalists" wouldn't blog, "tweet," text-message, or take to their own streets to stop a single NATO missile from striking a wedding or funeral party in Afghanistan, however much they cheer Iran's dissidents.