Fluffer to autocrats

We always knew Tony Blair could exceed the limitations of being George W. Bush’s lapdog. Look at W now; spending his life making crappy paintings that wouldn’t pass muster at a garage sale, yet get fawning media puff pieces and exhibitions in museums. It’s pathetic.

But Tony Blair now…there’s a villain with ambition. He has set up a little business in which he sells off his reputation to dictators, tyrants, and genocidal monsters, doing his best to make them look good. He’s been busy giving Nursultan Nazarbayev advice on how to plaster over the murder of civilians.

Tony Blair gave Kazakhstan’s autocratic president advice on how to manage his image after the slaughter of unarmed civilians protesting against his regime.

In a letter to Nursultan Nazarbayev, obtained by The Telegraph, Mr Blair told the Kazakh president that the deaths of 14 protesters “tragic though they were, should not obscure the enormous progress” his country had made.

Mr Blair, who is paid millions of pounds a year to give advice to Mr Nazarbayev, goes on to suggest key passages to insert into a speech the president was giving at the University of Cambridge, to defend the action.

Millions of pounds? I guess that prices him right out of the range of the Ferguson police department.

Rowdy football games and the Testicle Festival. Sure, right.

The closest major city to me is Fargo, North Dakota — it’s a very pleasant place, quite a bit smaller than Minneapolis, but that’s part of the charm. It also has occasional problems: it’s very flat, and sometimes experiences major flooding, and of course, snow. If you want to invest in community infrastructure, the most useful contributions are sandbags and snowplows.

Sometimes, the kids get a little unruly — there have actually been small riots in Fargo, typically over sports events and rock concerts.

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Fox News models Islamophobia for us

Just watch the escalation in this video: these Fox News people are rightly angry about the murder of a journalist by ISIS, and I entirely agree that that is a movement of destructive barbarians. ISIS is a huge problem, and something needs to be done about them (don’t ask me what…I don’t know), but at the same time, they’re symptomatic of the wreckage our adventures in the Middle East have been left behind. But the discussion evolves from outrage at specific actions by a political/religious movement, to a broad brush hatred of Islam, to an argument that the only way to deal with it is to kill them all.

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Let’s not forget that Nixon was a horrible person

Just a reminder that the president I grew up despising had blood on his hands.

Nixon’s newly revealed records show for certain that in 1968, as a presidential candidate, he ordered Anna Chennault, his liaison to the South Vietnam government, to persuade them refuse a cease-fire being brokered by President Lyndon Johnson. 

He was responsible for the death of American soldiers, as well as Vietnamese civilians.

He paved the way for Reagan to use a hostage situation for political ends, and for Bush to lie and immerse an entire generation into a futile war.

True intellectuals know the power of the passive voice

Yair Lapid, Israel’s minister of finance, has spoken out against the perfidy of treacherous intellectuals who don’t accept the virtue of his country.

Too many American and European intellectuals have taken moral relativism to its absurd extreme, falling back upon the ‘validity of every narrative’ and repeating the mantra that ‘every story has two sides.’ They treat those who have a clear moral stance as primitive. For them, if you take a moral stand or choose a side in a conflict you must lack the necessary tolerance to "see the other side."

Brilliant: many people see your actions as excessive, violent, and oppressive, and so you respond by accusing them of failing to take a moral stand. The only moral failure I see is when people refuse to condemn the use of violence against a whole people.

It seems a distant memory but not long ago intellectuals did the exact opposite. They were the ones who helped us differentiate between good and evil, between right and wrong, between justice and injustice. They didn’t delve into the childhood of Senator McCarthy or ask whether the Germans felt a genuine sense of hardship. The debate wasn’t over feelings but the essence of truth.

Somehow, that’s a familiar refrain. My side is logical, your side is emotional. Quit looking at those dead children! There is a good reason we had to bomb them, and you shouldn’t get all weepy about a few small bits of meat.

The betrayal of the intellectuals was especially noticeable during the days of the operation in Gaza. Ostensibly, there should be no question as to who enlightened people should support; on one side of the conflict stands a western democracy, governed by the rule of law, which warns civilians before striking legitimate terrorist targets. On the other side stands an Islamist terrorist organization, homophobic and misogynistic, committed to killing Jews, which does all in its power to murder innocent civilians and hides behind its own women and children when carrying out its vicious attacks.

But those intellectuals see it differently. For them, the Palestinians are suffering more and so they must be right. Why? Because they have turned suffering into the only measure of justice.

Yes, Israel is on the side of the law…the laws they wrote, that lock Palestinians into a ghetto and refuses to let them out.

But I do have to admire the remarkable passivity of “the Palestinians are suffering”. It’s written as if there is no active agent to oppose. They just happen to be suffering. They’re just standing around, suffering. Don’t ask why they are suffering. The Israeli government and military don’t have anything to do with it.

They just suffer.

The blockade on Gaza has tightened further since last year and this has worsened the toll on Gaza’s population. In Gaza, people suffer from hunger, thirst, pollution, shortage of medicines, electricity, and any means to get an income, not only by being bombed and shelled. Power crisis, gasoline shortage, water and food scarcity, sewage outflow and ever decreasing resources are disasters caused directly and indirectly by the siege.

People in Gaza are resisting this aggression because they want a better and normal life and, even while crying in sorrow, pain, and terror, they reject a temporary truce that does not provide a real chance for a better future. A voice under the attacks in Gaza is that of Um Al Ramlawi who speaks for all in Gaza: “They are killing us all anyway—either a slow death by the siege, or a fast one by military attacks. We have nothing left to lose—we must fight for our rights, or die trying.”

Gaza has been blockaded by sea and land since 2006. Any individual of Gaza, including fishermen venturing beyond 3 nautical miles of the coast of Gaza, face being shot by the Israeli Navy. No one from Gaza can leave from the only two checkpoints, Erez or Rafah, without special permission from the Israelis and the Egyptians, which is hard to come by for many, if not impossible. People in Gaza are unable to go abroad to study, work, visit families, or do business. Wounded and sick people cannot leave easily to get specialised treatment outside Gaza. Entries of food and medicines into Gaza have been restricted and many essential items for survival are prohibited. Before the present assault, medical stock items in Gaza were already at an all time low because of the blockade. They have run out now. Likewise, Gaza is unable to export its produce. Agriculture has been severely impaired by the imposition of a buffer zone, and agricultural products cannot be exported due to the blockade. 80% of Gaza’s population is dependent on food rations from the UN.

Much of Gaza’s buildings and infrastructure had been destroyed during Operation Cast Lead, 2008—09, and building materials have been blockaded so that schools, homes, and institutions cannot be properly rebuilt. Factories destroyed by bombardment have rarely been rebuilt adding unemployment to destitution.

Despite the difficult conditions, the people of Gaza and their political leaders have recently moved to resolve their conflicts “without arms and harm” through the process of reconciliation between factions, their leadership renouncing titles and positions, so that a unity government can be formed abolishing the divisive factional politics operating since 2007. This reconciliation, although accepted by many in the international community, was rejected by Israel. The present Israeli attacks stop this chance of political unity between Gaza and the West Bank and single out a part of the Palestinian society by destroying the lives of people of Gaza. Under the pretext of eliminating terrorism, Israel is trying to destroy the growing Palestinian unity. Among other lies, it is stated that civilians in Gaza are hostages of Hamas whereas the truth is that the Gaza Strip is sealed by the Israelis and Egyptians.

Gaza has been bombed continuously for the past 14 days followed now by invasion on land by tanks and thousands of Israeli troops. More than 60 000 civilians from Northern Gaza were ordered to leave their homes. These internally displaced people have nowhere to go since Central and Southern Gaza are also subjected to heavy artillery bombardment. The whole of Gaza is under attack. The only shelters in Gaza are the schools of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), uncertain shelters already targeted during Cast Lead, killing many.

According to Gaza Ministry of Health and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as of July 21, 149 of the 558 killed in Gaza and 1100 of the 3504 wounded are children. Those buried under the rubble are not counted yet. As we write, the BBC reports of the bombing of another hospital, hitting the intensive care unit and operating theatres, with deaths of patients and staff. There are now fears for the main hospital Al Shifa. Moreover, most people are psychologically traumatised in Gaza. Anyone older than 6 years has already lived through their third military assault by Israel.

The massacre in Gaza spares no one, and includes the disabled and sick in hospitals, children playing on the beach or on the roof top, with a large majority of non-combatants. Hospitals, clinics, ambulances, mosques, schools, and press buildings have all been attacked, with thousands of private homes bombed, clearly directing fire to target whole families killing them within their homes, depriving families of their homes by chasing them out a few minutes before destruction. An entire area was destroyed on July 20, leaving thousands of displaced people homeless, beside wounding hundreds and killing at least 70—this is way beyond the purpose of finding tunnels. None of these are military objectives. These attacks aim to terrorise, wound the soul and the body of the people, and make their life impossible in the future, as well as also demolishing their homes and prohibiting the means to rebuild.

They suffer, and it’s just not fair, because people want to end their suffering, and damn their intolerant eyes, they look at who is holding the other end of the gun.

Hint for Sarah Palin: don’t include Elizabeth Warren in your videos

The contrast is agonizing. Palin tries to dismiss Warren’s comment about supporting fast food workers by claiming liberals think fast food is “of the devil”.

Would you believe she has something called The Sarah Palin Channel, where she babbles like this every day? At least for a few more weeks, until she quits.

One of the many fine moments at #whc2014

Maryam Namazie making a comment at Richard Dawkins’ talk:

I’ve been saying it for years: there are a bunch of adjectives applied to atheists by Christians and Muslims that are just absurd in context. “Aggressive”. “Militant”. “Arrogant”. I don’t understand how people who believe that the Ruler of the Entire Universe cares personally about their diet, their hair styles, and their sex lives can call atheists these things without the small gods of irony striking them dead and calling their shriveled little souls home to Hypocrisy Heaven.

And now, with the Islamic State on the march, murdering people en masse, blowing up art and architecture, and torturing at will, we can see what aggressive, militant, and arrogant really look like. Atheists are merely confident.

Did I ever tell you how much I despise Ronald Reagan?

Here, have a nice comic that explains the situation in Lake Erie.

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When I was a kid, Lake Erie was a joke: it was a polluted cesspool with rivers that caught on fire. Places like Erie and Love Canal were the punchlines of a national sense of disgust with abuse of the environment, and amazingly, people got together and changed things: new tighter regulations, clean up of the worst cases (well, that was begun but never finished), and in general, we saw a reduction in pollution around the country.

Then…fucking Ronald fucking Reagan fucking fucked everything up. Trees cause pollution. Regulation is bad for the economy. And every Republican since has followed the same script, right up to “drill baby drill”. Even the Democrats are getting in the act.

And the end result is that everything is turning to shit again.