Archive for November, 2007

Perchance to dream

We spend one-third of our lives asleep. Imagine the possibilities if we could do without it.

We spend two-thirds of our lives awake, having to put up with shite like this. Imagine the possibilities etc.

The Point of Information as Free Kick

People often say to me, in the course of generally pointless meetings:

Your point is well taken.

To which I feel an urge to reply: my compliments on your capacity for comprehension, but don’t go getting a big head about it.

Margin of Fervour

Quite a lot of Turkish people believe in God, and at least one does not believe in the evidence of his own experience:

“Only 2% of the people we interviewed said they didn’t believe in God”, says Ali Carkoglu, co-author of a 2006 study of religious attitudes.

“Given that we had a 2% margin of error that could mean nobody“, he added.

No it couldn’t, and you are an idiot.

Lest Ye Be Judged

In an otherwise fairly sensible piece on the teddy bear uproar, Soumaya Ghannoushi observes the following:

But even if we were dealing with a freedom of thought and speech case, even if this were a writer or an artist airing views objectionable to a section of Muslims, this still does not grant the state or judiciary the right to intervene. Rulers are not entitled to sit in judgment over individuals’ minds, what they believe, say, or write, so long as these do not harm others, or disrupt peace and stability in the land.

But rulers should not be entitled full stop. It is in the very nature of being a ruler to sit in judgment over individuals’ minds and what they believe, say, or write. A ruler who did not do such a thing would not be a ruler.

In fact the writer concedes this point: the ruler can sit in judgment over others – when others are being harmed, or are disrupting peace and stability in the land. So: how does a ruler judge whether or not a belief, saying or writing is harmful or disrupting peace and stability in the land? Why, by using his/her own judgement, of course!

And this in fact means that all beliefs, sayings and writings are  judged by the ruler. He/she just has to apply a more detailed judgment on specific instances, normally on the question whether or not they should be prohibited.

‘A Much Cleaner Struggle, A More Popular Struggle’

In the Middle East, the search for a two-state solution is becoming more urgent.

Ehud Olmert:

Drawing a parallel with the last days of the apartheid regime in South Africa he warned: “If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (with Palestinians) … then, as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished.”


Minister of Strategic Affairs MK Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday called an exchange of territories the only viable solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

“Only a territory exchange can prevent a situation where we have a half a state for one people and a half a state for another. It will allow us to attain a two state solution,” the minister and head of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party said.

What Lieberman means is that it is necessary to expel Israel’s Arabs from the land where they were born in order to maintain a Jewish state.

Lieberman told Blair, now serving as the Middle East envoy for the Quartet of Mideast peace brokers, that any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “must include Israel’s Arab citizens as well, when the basis for an agreement should be a land swap and a population transfer.”

Population transfer is an alternative term for ethnic cleansing.

Above is Saree Makdisi on the implications for the Palestinians of Olmert’s argument when he previously made it in November 2003.

Quote: ‘the mere idea that a democratic and secular state, which is generally thought to be the ideal state form in the 21st century, is thought of as a nightmare for Israel, that in and of itself speaks volumes.’

Parche Adanes

I’ve been looking at different things in relation to Venezuela recently, but this was the oddest so far: Patch Adams on a Venezuelan evening TV show talking about the Bolivarian Revolution.

The show is in Spanish, but he speaks in English.

The Talented Mr Shoebat

Malachi O’Doherty encounters Walid Shoebat:

The venue was Belfast synagogue. Three-quarters of the audience was made up of Christian evangelicals and about one-quarter Jews. The speaker was Walid Shoebat who claims he is a former PLO bomber who has discovered the literal truth of the Bible. Shoebat says Islam is the creation of Satan, the antithesis of Christianity. He says there is trouble in the Middle East only because Muslims hate Jews and that there is no point in conciliation.

He also claims to have killed 200-odd people, two thirds by dagger. Even by Northern Ireland’s standards, that is seriously impressive, and likely to win hands-down any game of ‘Do you know how much of a sinner I was before the Lorrrd found me?’ in Cornmarket on a Saturday morning.

A video on GodTube says that his parents sent him to America to get an education because they were ‘sick of his terrorist activities’. Goddamit Walid, I’m just sick to the back teeth of you stabbing people to death! Why that’s the 25th victim this week! Your mother and I have both agreed that the best thing for you is to go and get a proper education in the US! And get a haircut while you’re at it!

That’s the great thing about certain strains of evangelical Christianity. Jesus says that God’s love for a repented sinner is like a father’s love for the prodigal son. But it often seems as though the magnitude of God’s love (which many evangelicals experience as ecstasy) is directly proportionate to the magnitude of the previous sins. So whilst a father might rejoice at the return of the son who’s been out spending all his savings and whoring about, he’ll rejoice even more at the return of the son who’s been out blowing up airliners and organising international sex trafficking. Hence part of the appeal of Walid Shoebat. That, and the fact that there’s always a market niche for the native informant who’ll confirm the image of the natives as bloodthirsty savages.

The Lilt Man Don’t Give A Fuck

To get an impression of how poor some of our public services are, take the last train to Sligo on a Friday night. The loo is a place to start. Ten minutes into the journey, the bowl is clogged. Fag butts floated in the lilting urine and tobacco-coloured viscous slime. The door is jammed, so, quite apart from a lack of privacy, the trickling tributaries of commuters’ piss flow unimpeded into the carriage, soaking the rucksacks and coats of the people who sit on the floor. They only realise what’s happening when they felt unexpectedly damp. One sudden lurch or wobbly track and the piss levies would break. No one seems to care. There is no staff anywhere.

This is a very serious matter, and David McWilliams is right to highlight it. ‘Lilting urine’, however, is a problematic image: is it urine the colour of Lilt, or urine that smells so bad it speaks with a Kerry accent or sings a jaunty tune? Also, ‘piss levies’ seems like one (dis?)charge too many: a piss levee would be more appropriate here.

This is spot on, I think:

We stand, as the tiny four-carriage “commuter” train (the average Dart train is considerably bigger), trundled trough Maynooth, Kilcock, Enfield disgorging the victims of our property boom who have been forced — by the “land cabal” that runs this country — to buy ridiculously overpriced shoe-boxes miles away from work. These young workers are now picking up the tab for the faltering property market and will suffer negative equity for years to come. And as if that betrayal of a generation wasn’t bad enough, they are being given a large two fingers by the State every time they part with their cash to avail of the Sligo cattle train.

Miserable, miserable stuff. But people affected by it are too exhausted by the burden of work, family and travel to organise any sort of popular campaign for decent public transport, or anything else. On the plus side, the debt burden faced by these workers will mean that their fresh-faced south Dublin-based bosses can exploit them even further for the purpose of their own pay rises.

Life and death matters best left out of politics

Although the Opposition did its constitutional duty in challenging the Dail’s confidence in the Minister for Health, one local TD made an interesting observation. Sean Fleming, the local Fianna Fail TD, said yesterday he didn’t receive a single angry phone call about the breast cancer scandal in Portlaoise.

“I was inundated with calls when Noel Dempsey did his thing on the holders of provisional driving licences but not a single call about breast cancer diagnosis,” said Fleming.

“People knew the driving licence business was a political c**k-up but they also knew the breast cancer scare was a medical problem.”

Apparently one can gauge the real gravity of an issue by the amount of calls a TD receives about it.

It probably did not occur to Sean Fleming that the public are smart enough to know that whilst calling for a U-turn on provisional licenses is precisely the sort of clientelist exercise at which TDs excel, because it is not a political problem but a managerial one, they are worse than useless when it comes to resolving severe deficiencies in the health service -of which the breast cancer is a direct result. They are worse than useless in this regard precisely because it is a political problem, and one that many have no particular interest in solving, since failure will enable the expansion of a bountiful two-tier system.

Our Man in Caracas

The Guardian continues with its stellar news reporting on Venezuela:

A survey for Datanalisis, a polling company, said 49% of likely voters would vote no and 39% would vote yes. A tracking poll by the opposition-linked Hinterlaces pollster predicted a technical tie.

Looks like Chávez is in trouble. But!:

It is difficult to make an electoral projections because the numbers of abstentions and undecided voters are high, the perfect ground for a surprise. The most probable is that there will be no surprise and Chavez will win 60 percent against 40 percent, but technically there is a possibility that it could happen, which is something that has not existed before.

That’s Luis Vicente Leon, pollster with local Venezuelan polling firm Datanalisis, yesterday.

To lend the Datanalisis poll additional credibility, Rory Carroll has compared it with the ‘opposition-linked’ poll Hinterlaces. As though Datanalisis were a more reliable source of statistical objectivity. Well, Datanalisis’s owner, Jose Antonio Gil Yepes is publicly anti-Chávez and has called for his assassination.

Carroll does include a caveat in his report:

Since his election in 1998, however, Chávez has never lost a vote and polls have a record of underestimating his support.

In the absence of any other information, you would think that the reason polls underestimated his support in previous elections is because, oh, I dunno, their sampling methodology just isn’t refined enough or maybe the country is too hot-bloodedly Latin to deliver meaningful statistics, rather than the real reason, which is that the polls are often big fat smelly fakes:

The international media has not always exercised due diligence in its reporting on polling data and elections in Venezuela,” said Weisbrot, who has authored papers on previous elections there.

“This opens up the possibility for the use of fake polling, as was done in the last (2004) referendum, to cast doubt on the results if the proposed constitutional reforms are approved,” he said.

In 2004, the influential U.S. polling firm Penn, Schoen, and Berland published fake exit polls on the day of the Presidential recall referendum, showing President Hugo Chávez losing by a 59-41 margin.(1) The actual results, which were certified by observer missions from the Organization of American States and the Atlanta-based Carter Center, showed the opposite, with Chávez winning by a margin of 58 to 41 percent.(2)

The fake exit polls were not the only dubious polls that plagued the last referendum. Most of the pre-election polls in 2004 showed the race “too close to call.” Although these were conducted by opposition pollsters, most of the international media accepted them in their reporting. As CEPR demonstrated at the time, it is extremely unlikely that a properly conducted poll could have shown a result that was “too close to call.”

I can certainly understand why Rory Carroll might report in this way. What I don’t understand is why he needs to be in Caracas to do it. You could sit in a cublicle in Swindon and write this stuff.

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November 2007