Monthly Archives: May 2010

No one does propaganda like Israel…and that’s a fact.

For a country that likes to claim it is a ‘beacon of democracy’ in the Middle East, Israel is heavily reliant on its repressive apparatuses to close down debate, hijack discourse and spread lies. Make no mistake, propaganda is an effective weapon. This Ha’aretz article makes for interesting reading.

Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, kept repeating how the intent of the aid flotilla was ‘violence’.  According to him, the workers had ties to ‘radical Islamist groups’.  But I would ask, “where the hell is your evidence”?  It seems anyone wanting to provide aid to Gaza is a ‘terrorist’ in the mind of the Israeli state. Our favourite liar, Mark Regev was characteristic, painting the entire mission as some sort of hapless attack on Israel.

“Unfortunately this group were dead-set on confrontation,” Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told the BBC.

“Live fire was used against our forces. They initiated the violence, that’s 100% clear,” he said.

Yeah, Mark, lucky your boys had access to better weapons – eh?


Filed under Middle East

Israelis attack aid convoy and then lie about the events.

Not known for their love of humanity or their tolerance of other people, the Israeli state has done it again. A convoy carrying aid to the beleaguered people of Gaza was intercepted and attacked by the IDF yesterday. According to the BBC, there have been 10 deaths, all of them civilian (earlier the BBC had said 16 deaths, other reports say 20). The IDF claim that one of their soldiers had been injured.

I’m just watching BBC news now and there is an IDF spokeswoman on, talking about how the aid workers were violent and some opened fire on the Israeli marines but given the history of Israeli violence and their penchant for lies and spin (remember Mark Regev last year?); I take these words with 200 tonnes of salt.

The Guardian

However, the Israelis said they only opened fire after being attacked by activists with sticks, knives and live fire. An IDF statment said the operation turned deadly after one of the activists grabbed a weapon from one of the commandos, which was then discharged.

According to tweets from activists on board the ships, Israeli forces dropped from helicopters on to the deck of the Turkish passenger ship, the Marvi Mamara, at around 4.30am, and immediately opened fire. The ship was surrounded by navy vessels.

This is Haim Bresheeth’s blog before the IDF intercepted the flotilla.

Meanwhile the people of Gaza are being starved to death in what must be the world’s largest refugee camp and Israel shows no signs to giving in to international pressure. The constant claim from Israel that Gaza is a nest of vipers that constantly fires rockets into Israel misses the point that the rockets fired from Gaza are woefully inferior to Israeli firepower. few Israelis have actually been killed by these rudimentary rockets, while hundreds, if not thousands, have been killed by US and UK supplied weaponry that is operated by Israeli troops.

Only Israel thinks that it can get away with killing, maiming and injuring humanitarian  aid workers, because its leadership sees itself as ‘God’s chosen people’. This is revealing because it demonstrates that the state of Israel is not only racist but dismissive of anyone who is not the right kind of Jew, that is to say, a Zionist Jew. Indeed, any Israeli or Jew who speaks out against the murderous intentions of Israel is labelled as “self-hating”. Those gentiles who do the same are called “anti-Semitic”. The continual use of tropes is an essential part of Israel’s propaganda mission:  ‘the world is out to get us and those who are out to get us must be anti-Semitic…we are a poor downtrodden people’.  Regev and others are steeped in the traditions of PR and rely on the technique of repetition in the hope that if the ‘message’ is repeated often enough it will be believed.

The revisionists have been in power n Israel for some considerable time and it should not be forgotten that many revisionists, including Jabotinsky, were admirers of Mussolini. In fact, the Revisionist Maximalists went one step further and embraced fascism. Some of these revisionists, like Menachem Begin, went on to form the Likud Party which, along with other extreme right wing parties, forms the current coalition. But whether its Labour or Likud or Karimah who are in power, the revisionist thread runs deep in Israeli politics.

The only real solution currently on offer to most of us is a total and complete boycott of Israeli products. This boycott should also be extended to sport. Like apartheid-era South Africa, Israel is a pariah state and needs to be treated as such.


Filed under Middle East

But who is Danny Alexander?

Well, who is he? He’s only been an MP for 5 years and he was one of the Lib Dems coalition negotiators. But how on earth has he managed to land such an important cabinet position without holding the right qualifications? I’m not one for conspiracy theories but when someone pops up from nowhere, you have to ask questions. David Laws wasn’t a mystery to me;  I’d seen him on television and thought that he looked and sounded like a Tory. I always thought that his rise through the party ranks was pretty rapid, presumably because he held the right kind of qualifications: he was a city banker with JP Morgan and Barclays.  Prima facie, he should have been a Tory. The Tories liked him so much they tried to persuade him to join. Laws apparently told them that he was a “Liberal”.  Ah, but what kind of liberal? I suspect the only reason Laws didn’t join the Tories was because of Section 28…though that never stopped Alan Duncan, who became a Conservative MP in 1992.

Oh Danny Boy, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is calling…

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Filed under Government & politics

The problem with David Laws…

…was that he refused to come out. He lacked the guts and the honesty to tell the world that he is a TORY.

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David Laws’ only crime…

…is to wear a green tie with a blue suit and shirt…oh, and he’s a rabid free-marketer. I don’t care a jot about the man’s sexuality; his axe-wielding is what really bothers me.  Laws is a millionaire and like most millionaires, he’s out of touch with reality.

Laws was concerned about his and his partner’s privacy, which is why, he says, he kept schtum. But he fiddled his expenses and should pay the price like everyone else.  Why would a man like Laws want to fiddle his expenses when he has money pouring out of his ears?

Laws was educated at an independent Catholic school, perhaps this accounts for his lack of candour over his sexuality. Catholicism really screws people’s heads up and it seems it has screwed up David Laws too.

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Quiet Man (Part 2)

What does IDS propose to do about all those people who are working but are so badly paid that they have no choice but to live in poverty? The notion that work will magically solve all your problems doesn’t stand up to serious scrutiny as this Guardian article reminds us.

The way the DWP reports this statistic, six in every 10 children in poverty now belong to a working household. This proportion is broadly similar for the 7.8 million working-age adults in poverty. The increase in this number over 10 years, of 1.1 million, would be seen as a huge policy failure had the previous government ever shown the slightest interest in adults without children.

Tax credits will never be the answer. People must be paid a living wage.

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The Quiet Man is back and he’s talking a lot of rubbish

Iain Duncan-Smith has forever saddled himself with the soubriquet, “Quiet Man”. How he must rue the day he uttered those words. David Cameron has recycled all the former failed leaders of the Tory party from 1997 to 2007 with the exception of Michael Howard, who retired and is presumably now waiting to be ‘kicked upstairs’…but his chance will come, of this I am certain.

Tories have always been out of touch with what is happening in the world outside the Westminster ‘bubble’ and the shires.  None of the Tory MPs have ever been unemployed, most of them have worked for the City or in financial houses. Some of them have never had to work: living off inheritances or daddy’s generous allowance. Therefore the ignominy of the dole queue has eluded them.  But every now and again, Tory politicians pretend they know how the unemployed feel when they live on benefits for a week. A week is never long enough to form a judgement on the situation many unemployed find themselves in.

For too long, those on benefits have been a soft target for politicians wanting to make their mark. IDS, now newly installed as the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, has never been unemployed; he doesn’t know anyone who is unemployed and can only regard them from the safe distance of his ivory tower. Now he’s talking about welfare to work and forcing invalids and the long-term sick into work. This is odd for someone who claims to be a Christian but then the director of his think tank, the Centre for Social Justice (yes, I still find that name hard to swallow), Philippa Stroud is a self-confessed Christian who claims that she can ‘cure’ gays and lesbians by “driving out their demons” (sic). Stroud got a the consolation prize of being named as IDS’s special advisor for losing in her bid to take a seat from the Lib Dems in Sutton and Cheam.

So what has IDS and his team of hatchet men got in store for benefit claimants? Will he make them work in chain gangs? Or will he get Philippa Stroud to exorcise their ‘demons’? How can he create jobs in regions that are virtual work deserts? You can’t make people take jobs that don’t exist, or maybe that’s where Stroud comes in…maybe she can conjure up a few thousand jobs by just praying for them.

I wonder if The Quiet Man is prepared to accept the fact that the biggest recipients of state handouts are private interests like major corporations? Probably not because they’re all batting for the same side. It’s much easier to engage in class war against those who have nothing than against those who supply your party with funds.

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Filed under Conservative Party, Government & politics, Society & culture, Welfare 'reform'

Supermarkets, schools and Daniel Hannan

For me, Daniel Hannan is an easy target. He lives in a rarefied world of privilege and sees the world through the distorted lens of ‘libertarian’ self-interest.  It is instructive how he uses supermarkets to illustrate how Gove’s education proposals are a good thing; how they will produce ‘winners’. Here’s Hannan in his Daily Telegraph blog.

Think of, say, supermarkets. No LEAs regulate them, no one sets their prices. And yet a Tesco in Northampton sells roughly the same things, at roughly the same prices, as a Tesco in Southampton. Why? Because competition ensures standards, in a way that legislation can’t. Shoppers like me, who have little idea of what they should be buying, and only the haziest notion of prices, are guaranteed a certain level of service by the discernment of more demanding customers.

Hannan seems to be on another planet here; schools aren’t supermarkets nor can they really be compared in any way to supermarkets. If schools are like supermarkets, then Hannan went to Fortnum and Mason or Harrods Food Hall.  Like most politicians of his type, he sees only private sector solutions to public sector problems; some of those problems are phantasms. The key questions of Britain’s education system are sidestepped by Hannan and his chums. For instance, what is school for? Is there a better and more effective way to assess students that doesn’t subject them to constant testing?

The way in which mainstream politicians – that is to say, politicians from the capitalist parties – will reach for the word “choice” as though it was some sort of word of power in order to gain access to the hidden quarters of our psyches – this is dog whistle’ politics, but “Chasmodai”  it isn’t. Choice is a myth and as Dick Hebdige reminds us in his book Subculture: The Meaning of Style, “you can only want what is available” (1989).

So some schools will fail, opines Hannan. So what will happen to those pupils who find themselves at a failed school that has been closed? What is this ‘survival of the fittest’ nonsense? Blaming the failure on the LEA is a little too one-dimensional. There are many reasons why some schools perform worse than others, yet this is presented as the failure of local government (this is just a coded way of claiming it’s the fault of the ‘other’ party who controls the council).

No system is perfect. Freedom includes the freedom to fail. But at least, under Michael Gove’s proposals, parents could do something about it. A failed school would be allowed to close. Perhaps a visionary deputy head from nearby, or a Toby Young-style parental posse, might take over the premises. But it is surely better that poor schools should be allowed to fold than that they should remain open, blighting the life chances of successive generations.

Toby Young in charge of a school? Young is not, to my knowledge, a professional educator and there is a substantive difference between a concerned parent and a teacher: the parent knows the child (or claims to) and the teacher is the one who often has to pick up the pieces when the effects of a turbulent domestic life impact on the pupil’s performance and behaviour at school. Young, Hannan notes, was educated at a comprehensive school but what Hannan failed to mention was the fact that Young went to Oxford.

Hannan crows:

There will be winners, Ed. Lots and lots of winners.

Maybe but there will lots of losers too; loads of them, in fact.

Hannan once praised Iceland’s ‘economic miracle’….then Iceland’s banks went down the khazi and took billions of people’s money with them. His Spectator blog from 2004 is here.

Even when it was clear that all wasn’t going according to plan in Iceland, Hannan was steadfast; framing his discourse in terms of ‘independence’ and ‘freedom’ (another illusion).

Iceland would be mad to join the EU? Anyone would be mad to take you seriously, Daniel!

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Filed under Education, Government & politics, Journalism, Media, Society & culture

Best medicine?

They call it ‘medicine’; they say it will cause ‘pain’ but is it good for you? They also say that the medicine that tastes terrible is the best medicine but do these medicinal allusions mean anything at all?

‘Cuts’ is the word that they’re looking for and so we have them, in all their glory. The package of Whitehall cuts was announced by Treasury hatchet-man, David Laws. His boss, the heir to the Baronetcy of Ballintaylor, had hinted at something and nothing on the BBC Breakfast sofa this morning but all Boy George kept talking about was ‘debt’. Is this the national debt or the budget deficit, Georgie?

People are going to lose their jobs and all of those jobs will be lost in the public sector – the civil service to be precise. Benefits will be cut (you will have to work, even if you are dead) and the working tax credit will disappear – gone,  as though it never existed.  The child trust fund will go too leaving a lot of envious kids in the wake of its demise. Universities will be forced to cut deals with Tesco or Asda to survive…but this is medicine – right? Squeeze, David, squeeze until the pips squeak! By the way, the MOD isn’t facing cuts but they don’t talk about the war(s).  Don’t mention the war(s)!

Bring on the soup kitchens! Arise the shanty towns! A new politics is born!

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Kant and Coronation Street

I was  in Heythrop College library the other day trying to get my head around Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. After reading a chapter I put it down thinking that none of it had entered my brain.

That evening, as I’m watching Coronation Street, Kirk comes out with a line about not wanting something that he had no a priori knowledge of. It was pure Kant!

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Filed under Adventures in doctoral research