Archive for October, 2009

First As Tragedy, Then As Farce by Slavoj Žižek

October 31, 2009

Nicholas Lezard: Something rotten in society? Time to revive communism

I remember when, in this paper’s excellent Weekend magazine’s Q & A, Slavoj Žižek was asked to “tell us a secret”, he replied: “Communism will win.” I don’t think anyone familiar with Žižek’s writings will think he was joking, but just in case you thought the matter needed clarification, here it is, in book form. We know something is rotten with society, as the financial crisis shows, but what to do with it? The answer, he says at the close of his book, is simple: revive communism.

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‘Wahhabi terrorism helps West achieve goals’

October 31, 2009,  Sat, 31 Oct 2009 11:22:47 GMT
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Major General Hassan Firouzabadi
A top Iranian army commander says the West is using ‘Wahhabi terrorism’ to sow seeds of discord among Muslims around the world.Chief-of-Staff of Iran’s Joint Armed Forces, Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, says Wahhabi terrorists are helping arrogant powers achieve their goals in the region.


“Today Wahhabi thought is paving the way to legitimize the presence of US and NATO forces [in the region] but the United States and NATO will be burnt in this plot,” Mehr news agency quoted Firouzabadi as saying.

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Omar Khayyam, poet, philosopher of Persia

October 31, 2009

Omar Khayyam of Persia,

In his his lifetime, Omar Khayyam (1048-1131) achieved great fame as a master of philosophy, jurisprudence, history, medicine, astronomy, and mathematics. The Great Seljuq Empire owed the reform of its calendar to him. The result was the Jalali era (named after Jalal-ud-din, one of the kings)-‘a computation of time,’ wrote Gibbon, ‘which surpasses the Julian, and approaches the accuracy of the Gregorian [calendar].’ He measured the length of the year as 365.24219858156 days, a number improved to 365.242196 days only in the 19th century and the current measure is 365.242190 days.


He not only discovered a general method of extracting roots of an arbitrary high degree, but his Algebra contains the first complete treatment of the solution of cubic equations which he did by means of conic sections. He was also part of the Islamic tradition of investigating Euclid and his parallel postulate. Arguing that ratios should be regarded as ‘ideal numbers,’ he conceived a much broader system of numbers than used since Greek antiquity, that of the positive real numbers. In many such areas, he furthered the remarkable work of al-Beruni. Commissioned to build an observatory in the city of Esfahan, he led a team of astronomers to do so.

Omar Khayyam (‘Tentmaker’, possibly his father’s profession) was not only a top-notch mathematician but also a major poet. The world today knows him for his quatrains, the Rubaiyat. Besides the social attitudes of the times, they reveal a sensitive, intelligent, humble, gently-mocking yet good-humored man, skeptical of divine providence and certainty of truth, wistful of an ever-present evanescence, mystical in one, lamenting human ignorance in another. Many of his 500 or so quatrains celebrate wine, exhorting all those who take themselves too seriously to partake of it while time permits. He “chooses to put his faith in a joyful appreciation of the fleeting and sensuous beauties of the material world. The idyllic nature of the modest pleasures he celebrates, however, cannot dispel his honest and straightforward brooding over fundamental metaphysical questions.”

Khayyam was attached to the court of the Seljuks-of Khorasan, later of Baghdad, Samarkand and Esfahan as well-and lived amidst political turbulence interspersed with quiet periods. His ideas frequently attracted flak from the growing religious conservatism of Sunni Turks. According to Professor Iraj Bashiri, Khayyam—synthesizing the thoughts of Plato, Aristotle, the neo-Platonian al-Farabi, and Ibn Sina (Avicenna)—believed that

“God had created the world but . [it] had been a necessity for God and, therefore, inevitable. The stages leading to the creation of matter followed each other as night follows day . This ascription of limits to the power of the Almighty is the most startling notion in Khayyam’s Quatrains. It jolts the unwary reader out of the routine of orthodox thinking and places him or her in the uncomfortable position of the unwilling blasphemer. Yet, Khayyam’s God is more real and approachable than the fearful Creator of orthodoxy . [he] formally rejects the Creator/creature relationship for a cause and effect relationship . God becomes the cause of a necessary creation . that develops of its own accord, and at its own pace. A number of Khayyam’s quatrains concentrate on what religion teaches about the powers of the Almighty and  the limitations of that power.”

Here are ten sample quatrains (translated by EH Whinfield).

O unenlightened race of humankind,
Ye are a nothing, built on empty wind!
Yea, a mere nothing, hovering in the abyss,
A void before you, and a void behind!

All my companions, one by one died
With Angel of Death they now reside
In the banquette of life same wine we tried
A few cups back, they fell to the side.

Some are thoughtful on their way
Some are doubtful, so they pray.
I hear the hidden voice that may
Shout, “Both paths lead astray.”

The secrets eternal neither you know nor !
And answers to the riddle neither you know nor !
Behind the veil there is much talk about us, why
When the veil falls, neither you remain nor !

Drinking wine is my travail
Till my body is dead and stale
At my grave site all shall hail
Odor of wine shall prevail.

Heed not the Sunna, nor the law divine;
If to the poor his portion you assign,
And never injure one, nor yet abuse,
I guarantee you heaven, and now some wine!

Slaves of vain wisdom and philosophy,
Who toil at Being and Nonentity,
Parching your brains till they are like dry grapes,
Be wise in time, and drink grapejuice like me!

You, who in carnal lusts your time employ,
Wearing your precious spirit with annoy,
Know that these things you set your heart upon
Sooner or later must the soul destroy!

Never in this false world on friends rely,
(I give this counsel confidentially);
Put up with pain, and seek no antidote;
Endure your grief, and ask no sympathy!

You know all secrets of this earthly sphere,
Why then remain a prey to empty fear?
You can not bend things to your will, but yet
Cheer up for the few moments you are here!

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Clinton Faces Pakistani Anger At Predator Drone Attacks

October 31, 2009

by Robert Burns,, Oct 30, 2009

ISLAMABAD – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton came face-to-face Friday with Pakistani anger over U.S. aerial drone attacks in tribal areas along the Afghan border, a strategy that U.S. officials say has succeeded in killing key terrorist leaders.

[Students protest against the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009. Clinton is on a three-day state visit to Pakistan. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)]
Students protest against the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009. Clinton is on a three-day state visit to Pakistan. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

In a series of public appearances on the final day of a three-day visit marked by blunt talk, Clinton refused to discuss the subject, which involves highly classified CIA operations. She would say only that “there is a war going on,” and the Obama administration is committed to helping Pakistan defeat the insurgents and terrorists who threaten the stability of a nuclear-armed nation.

Clinton said she could not comment on “any particular tactic or technology” used in the war against extremist groups in the area.
The use of Predator drone aircraft, armed with guided missiles, is credited by U.S. officials with eliminating a growing number of senior terrorist group leaders this year who had used the tribal lands of Pakistan as a haven beyond the reach of U.S. ground forces in Afghanistan.

During an interview broadcast live in Pakistan with several prominent female TV anchors, before a predominantly female audience of several hundred, one member of the audience said the Predator attacks amount to “executions without trial” for those killed.

Another asked Clinton how she would define terrorism.

“Is it the killing of people in drone attacks?” she asked. That woman then asked if Clinton considers drone attacks and bombings like the one that killed more than 100 civilians in the city of Peshawar earlier this week to both be acts of terrorism.

“No, I do not,” Clinton replied.

The Return of Howard Zinn, and Company

October 30, 2009
A packed house hears a left-wing critique of Obama


by Seth Rolbein, BU Today, Oct 29, 2009

BOSTON UNIVERSITY – With the Tsai Performance Center filled to its 500-seat capacity, many in the audience remembered when that hall was named Hayden, the University was in turmoil, and Howard Zinn was both lightning rod and radical catalyst.

Much has changed. The Howard Zinn Lecture Series, kicking off Alumni Weekend on October 22, now celebrates Boston University’s distinguished professor emeritus of political science. As Virginia Sapiro, dean of Arts & Sciences, welcomed all and introduced three intriguing writers gathered around the man of the night, cordiality rather than conflict ruled.

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Student expelled to Gaza Strip by force

October 30, 2009

Palestinian’s involuntary return is the sixth in 10 days, says human rights group

By Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem, The Independent/UK, Oct 30, 2009

Berlanty Azzam, 21,was handcuffed and blindfolded
Berlanty Azzam, 21,was handcuffed and blindfolded


Berlanty Azzam, 21, who was studying for a business degree at Bethlehem University, said she was coming home in a shared taxi from a job interview in Ramallah on Wednesday when soldiers at the “Container” checkpoint took her identity card and that of another passenger with a Gaza address.

After six hours of waiting, soldiers told her she would be taken to a detention centre in the southern West Bank, and she was handcuffed and blindfolded, she said.

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Who Governs the World?

October 30, 2009

By Patrick Seale, Agence Global, Oct, 30, 2009

Rarely in modern times has the planet been as ungovernable as it is today. Global problems assail us on all sides, but no global solutions are forthcoming.

Instead, what do we see? Wars, massacres, unprecedented financial crises, unresolved conflicts, over-population, food and water insecurity, pitiful mass migrations, the ravages of climate change — and, in many parts of the globe, a rash of cruel and corrupt regimes.

Long gone are the days – such as after the first and second world wars — when a handful of allied statesmen could lay down the law, draw frontiers, reward and punish, and impose a victors’ peace. Gone, too, is the bi-polar world of the Cold War, when the United States and the Soviet Union established an uneasy equilibrium.

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American and NATO dependence on Afghan warlords

October 30, 2009
Written by Gareth Porter,, Oct. 30, 2009


October 29, 2009  — WASHINGTON, Oct 29 (IPS) – The revelation by the New York Times Wednesday that Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, has long been on the payroll of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is only the tip of a much bigger iceberg of heavy dependence by U.S. and NATO counterinsurgency forces on Afghan warlords for security, according to a recently published report and investigations by Australian and Canadian journalists.

U.S. and other NATO military contingents operating in the provinces of Afghanistan’s predominantly Pashtun south and east have been hiring private militias controlled by Afghan warlords, according to these sources, to provide security for their forward operating bases and other bases and to guard convoys.

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Who speaks for Islam?

October 30, 2009

Everyone, it seems, has a party line about who the good Muslims and bad Muslims are. Sadly, many of the dichotomies distort as much as they reveal, and use simple labels based on superficial preconceptions and over-simplifications, says Meena Sharify-Funk.

Middle East Online, Oct 30, 2009


Waterloo, Canada – Ever since the tragic events of 9/11, the diverse voices claiming to speak with authority about Islam have become increasingly cacophonous. Few contemporary topics are more controversial than that of how to interpret Islamic practices and beliefs.

In the West as well as in the Muslim world, interpreting Islam has become a virtual cottage industry. The ranks of interpreters are incredibly diverse, including counter-terrorism experts, policymakers and journalists, as well as religious studies academics, political scientists, Muslim ulama (Islamic legal scholars), Muslim feminists in the West, and people speaking on behalf of various religious groups. Interest in how Islam is understood and practiced has expanded dramatically in recent years, and it’s not always clear whom to listen to amongst the din.

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Israel levels Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem

October 29, 2009
Al Jazeera, Oct 28, 2009

Israeli authorities have torn down several Palestinian houses in occupied east Jerusalem, defying international calls to halt the demolitions in the disputed city.

Gidi Schmerling, a Jerusalem municipality spokesman, said the houses in the Shuafat, Zur Baher, Silwan and Jabel Mukabar neighbourhoods were pulled down on Tuesday because they had been built illegally.

“All the houses were demolished in accordance with a court order,” he said in a statement to the AFP news agency.

Palestinians say that the municipality discriminates against them, making it virtually impossible for them to get legal permits for new homes or extensions to existing ones.

As a result, thousands of effectively illegal structures have been built in recent decades with Israel responding by destroying dozens of houses each year.

Construction crackdown

Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, had vowed to crack down on illegal construction in the city, including east Jerusalem, whose fate is one of the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

in depth
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But the United Nations on Tuesday called for an immediate halt to all forced evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes in the area, which was seized by Israel in the 1967 war.

“Such actions run counter to international law and have a serious and long-term negative impact on Palestinian families and communities,” the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement.”The UN reiterates its call for an immediate and unconditional halt to such actions and urges the state of Israel to protect the civilian population in OPT [occupied Palestinian Territories] from further displacement and dispossession.”

At least 600 Palestinians ave been displaced by eveictions and demolitions since the beginning of the year, according to OCHA, and many thousands more may be at risk.

The United States, which is seeking to revive peace talks in the long-standing dispute, called the latest demolitions “unhelpful”.

The forced evictions and demolitions have raised tensions in the eastern half of the city, which Palestinians see as the capital of any future independent state.

The situation has prompted a number of protests and Palestinians have attempted to challenge the municipality’s actions in the courts.

‘Irresponsible step’

An Israeli rights group, Ir Amim, said the demolitions were “an irresponsible step that could escalate the situation in the city and bring it to a new boiling point”.

Palestinians and human rights groups have condemned Israel’s demolition policy, accusing it of using the demolitions to shift east Jerusalem’s demographic balance.

“International bodies and the United Nations Security Council should intervene to stop Israeli authorities from carrying out these criminal actions,” Adnan al-Husseini, the Palestinian-appointed governor of Jerusalem, said.

A UN report in May showed that 1,500 demolition orders issued by the Jerusalem municipality were pending for illegal Palestinian dwellings.

The report said that if the orders were implemented, about 9,000 Palestinians would be displaced.

There are about 200,000 Jews living in East Jerusalem, alongside an estimated 250,000 Palestinians.

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