Francis Vierboom's Blog

A blog about things. Mostly news, ideas, and Sydney

Archive for June 2010

Tuesday linkage

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– James Murphy, aka LCD Soundsystem, is retiring the band following the latest (incredibly good) album, This Is Happening. What will he do now? Pitchfork interviews him:

I want to do music for the subway– I want to make music so that when you go through the turnstile it doesn’t just go “eeeh!”. Make them all separate tones that are in key. So like during rush hour in big subway stations it would make this kind of harmonic music. Just bad ideas. The only reason to get semi-successful is so you can do that shit.

Star Wars characters wear haute couture (see right).

– Dutch council is trying to save €400,000 on welfare payments by encouraging unemployed women to find rich husbands. (via chris blattman)

XKCD surveyed people to get them to give names to colours. Stephen von Worley made a pretty sweet graphic of the results.

The Orwell Diaries continue. In George Orwell’s liveblog of WWII it is June 22nd, 1940, and France has just surrendered. Earlier in the month, during the Dunkirk evacuation, he was in a rather dark mood, considering he was a veteran of the Spanish Civil War himself:

Always, as I walk through the Underground stations, sickened by the advertisements, the silly staring faces and strident colours, the general frantic struggle to induce people to waste labour and material by consuming useless luxuries or harmful drugs. How much rubbish this war will sweep away, if only we can hang on throughout the summer. War is simply a reversal of civilised life, its motto is “Evil be thou my good”, and so much of the good of modern life is actually evil that it is questionable whether on balance war does harm.

– Finally, are you in the mood to get happy weepy? Check out this video of a baby who was born deaf, and has just had his cochlear implant turned on so that he can hear his mother’s voice for the first time:


Written by Francis

June 22, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Gaza thing

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I don’t think there’s that much to say about the Israel boarding of the flotilla that isn’t out there. I think it’s tragic and despicable on its own, but depressingly consistent with trends in Israel’s political demographics, which are increasingly reactionary, short sighted and sometimes outright racist:

an ultra-Orthodox population that is increasing dramatically, a settler movement that is growing more radical and more entrenched in the Israeli bureaucracy and army, and a Russian immigrant community that is particularly prone to anti-Arab racism. In 2009, a poll by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 53 percent of Jewish Israelis (and 77 percent of recent immigrants from the former USSR) support encouraging Arabs to leave the country. Attitudes are worst among Israel’s young….This March, a poll found that 56 percent of Jewish Israeli high school students — and more than 80 percent of religious Jewish high school students — would deny Israeli Arabs the right to be elected to the Knesset.

It’s also shockingly unprofessional work by the IDF, as discussed over at the Interpreter.

I will solemnly say that at least these nine people killed won’t have died in vain, unlike so many thousands of others – mostly Palestinians – in the last ten years of this conflict. Their deaths may in fact bring about serious change in international opinion and real change on the ground for the 1.5 million people of Gaza.

I have read a few other interesting things that I can’t help but re-post here. From the Independent, an excellent article worth reading in full, with a strikingly good but totally not-going-to-happen idea:

Ideally Israel would now rethink a policy which there is every reason for thinking is not only catastrophic for Gaza’s people, but also not in its own long-term interests. But if not, there may be ways in which the international community can shake off its passivity in the face of this unfolding tragedy. For if broadly friendly governments – preferably within the Quartet but if not outside it – were to confront Israel with the prospect of mounting their own, much more official and internationally sanctioned official maritime relief operation, it would be exponentially more difficult for the Netanyhau government to see it off than it has, however messily and lethally, this week’s flotilla.

Implausible as it may seem at first sight, the idea has been discussed at a high level in international diplomatic circles. The only senior UN figure brave enough to float the idea publicly, however, is Unrwa’s Gaza director of operations, John Ging, who mentioned sea access when he argued in an interview more than a month before Monday’s fiasco, that it was time for the international community “physically” to do something about “rescuing” Gaza. While the Israeli claim that an unchecked activist flotilla entering Gaza compromises its security may be understandable, it could hardly say the same about allied or UN ships.

Israel has made the claim that the action was legal because of the well established law of the sea permitting attacks on neutral vessels that are running a maritime blockade. One commentator suggests that might be legally wrong because that rule only applies to ‘international armed conflict’, and this is not an international conflict. But that’s a bit of a technicality. With a more substantive point, albeit one that won’t get much of a hearing in Israeli courts, Ben Saul at the Drum points out the argument relies on the far shakier grounds that the blockade itself is legal:

the San Remo Manual also contains rules governing the lawfulness of the blockade itself, and there can be no authority under international law to enforce a blockade which is unlawful. Paragraph 102 of the Manual prohibits a blockade if “the damage to the civilian population is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade”.

Finally, the most succinct point made so far is by military insurgency commentator Abu Muqawama:

Written by Francis

June 3, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized