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Lost Worlds Year 2009

This page updated 28 January 2017

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NB: Notice for Lost Worlds netsurfers. This website will be shut down from the end of 2009 in terms of any contemporary comment being lodged. There will be no file for the Year 2010. The original intention of the website was to canvas entertaining conundrums of the past, but since 9/11, it has seemed necessary to canvas a re-entry to affairs of the World of Islam, and to consider many sides of many issues, along with news of international discussions. This reportage will now cease, and if the website is updated at all during 2010, it will only be about the longer-term past. This website generally can be regarded as in recess from December 2009 till 2017. - Ed.

We live in days so far beyond satire: We live in days so far beyond satire: We live in days so far beyond satire: We live in days so far beyond satire: We live in days so far beyond satire: We live in days so far beyond satire: We live in days so far beyond satire:  

Year 2016

Website activity in abeyance

Year 2015

Website activity in abeyance

Year 2014

Website activity in abeyance

Year 2013

Website activity in abeyance

18-9-2012: This website, which imagines it has some global/historical scope, wishes to say as little as possible about the multi-country furore which has arisen due to comment about the so-called movie trailer on You Tube of a badly-done movie named Innocence of Muslims. But it does appear that various groups of Muslims around the world have indeed been too-innocent (unsophisticated) and fallen victim to an unscrupulous, but very determined, Internet Troll who has virally foisted awareness of this badly-done movie onto the world stage. Something here has happened with use of the Internet that the Islamic World is simply going to have to catch up with. From Ayatollahs down. Enough said.

It has only been since 1945 that Europeans have stopped killing each other due to religious/ideological differences. Why would Muslims today want to repeat any of the mistakes about religion or anything else that Europeans have made since the ending of The Crusades? Why would they wish to avoid modernity, the Internet, and so many advances in human knowledge? It seems to this website that behind all calls that ¨God is Great¨ stands a great sense of human non-greatness held on the part of the person saying it -- a sense of inferiority. The time has come for humanity here to grow up. Enough said.

Year 2011

Website activity in abeyance

13 February 2010: Muslim fun police alert in Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia's religious police have launched a crackdown on shops selling items that are red or in any other way allude to banned celebrations of Valentine's Day. Red or heart-shaped items can be on sale but not near Valentine's Day. (AP)

Lost Worlds World Stupidity Award 2009

And this year, the winner is ...

The Australian Federal Liberal Party for its leadership farces and its lack of a policy by now on climate change

Australian Liberal Party Update 2009
Classic image from Michaelangelo
The day the Australian Liberal Party
started to take climate change seriously

It's simple, Liberal Party people. If climate change is not as big a risk as many people think, then change the policy. But please, have a policy to start with! Call it risk management, just for the time being.

Let's consider a few remarks about the Liberals just from the Australian newspapers of the weekend of 5-6 December 2009. Do they speak for themselves in the broader context of Liberal stupidity? Do you have to be an Australian to fully plumb the depths?

Commentator David Penberthy, "The Internet has the potential to make life hell for new Opposition Leader Tony Abbott". [And this website sure hopes so!]] "The reason is that cyberspace skews young, it skews left-liberal and also skews much more female than traditional male." [Abbott not exactly being popular with women, except for his wife] (The Weekend Australian, 5-6 December 2009)

Commentator George Megalogenis, "The surprising Liberal partyroom decision this week [to install Abbott as new leader] pits the Coalition's [opposition] inner-city interests against its hopes in the outer suburbs and the bush". "The problem at the end of the Howard era was the largest Liberal bloc across all seats was grey - men and women aged 50-plus. Suddenly the party was old." [Abbott is 52] And, "Any protest vote against the Liberals today can go to the Greens or to the ragtag of independent candidates". "Climate change may be one of the great challenges of the century, but Labor and Liberal are looking at it through completely different frames at the moment". "If the Liberals are remaking themselves in Labor's opposition image,then they risk becoming a party of outsiders in a nation that is booming". (The Weekend Australian 5-6 December 2009)

Sydney Morning Herald columnist Mike Carlton, "Santa returns as Mad Monk and wins control of the nuthouse". Since Abbott, known as the Mad Monk, is a Catholic, Carlton sees him as a throwback to the Catholic spoilers of the Labor Party in the 1950s, who split off pointlessly to form the Democratic Labor Party, particularly the pointless ideologue, who didn't understand Australia at all, B. A. Santamaria. Carlton thinks that the next Liberal prime minister might not yet be in Parliament! (5-6 December 2009))

Sydney Morning Herald's chief political correspondent Phillip Coorey thinks that the Liberals' no-taxing attitude to climate change problems (if and where the Liberals admit they exist) will keep Liberal voters in permanent paradox. A no-taxing attitude (which fails to invoke market forces) leads to government regulation and the use of subsidies, "at odds with Liberal advocacy of small government and free markets ... " (5-6 December 2009)

And so at the end of 2009, we leave the Liberal Party and its rural-based Coalition friend, the National Party, to a 2010 of permanent self-contradiction, afraid of the future and unable to advise anyone about anything related to climate in Australia or anywhere else. This website thinks that rising sea levels and melting glaciers are not respecters of any persons, nor are the reasons that seas rise and glaciers melt. - Ed

Druids lose reputation for solstice accuracy: "It dawns on Druids they're a day early for solstice". Arthur Uther Pendragon (aka John Rothwell) and about 300 Druid-followers got their winter solstice day wrong this year, turning up at a snow-blanketed Stonehenge a day early. The exact time of the winter solstice (shortest day of sunlight hours) varies each year, but occurs mostly on December 21st. The Druids turned up on a Monday at sunrise, instead of a Tuesday. English Heritage, which manages the site, let the Druids in anyway to celebrate as they wished, partly as the weather was excellent for photograpy. (Sydney Morning Herald, 23-24 December 2009)

Naomi Klein Shows You Can Boycott Israel Without Cutting Off Dialogue Over Palestine

By Cecilie Surasky, AlterNet. Posted September 1, 2009
An interview with Klein and Israeli publisher Yael Lerer on why boycotting Israel will pressure the country to live up to international law. Few global-justice campaigns are more polarizing, even explosive, than the effort to use international boycotts, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to end its 42-year occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Just ask Neve Gordon ...

On boycotting Israel

Recently, Gordon, head of the political science department at Ben-Gurion University and a longtime peace activist, published a wrenching op-ed in the Los Angeles Times endorsing the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

After initially opposing the tactic, he became convinced, he wrote, that outside pressure "is the only way that Israel can be saved from itself."

He was braced for a backlash, but nothing like what he has faced over the past few weeks -- members of the Israeli Knesset from a range of political parties called for his immediate sacking, the education minister called his article "repugnant," and his university president threw him under the bus saying, "Academic personalities who feel this way are invited to look for an academic and personal home elsewhere." She then hinted that his statement might have been an act of treason.

Clearly, BDS, part of the so-called South Africa strategy, crosses a line in the sand for many who believe that putting economic pressure on Israel is necessarily anti-Jewish.

But for proponents, BDS is a proven, nonviolent tactic that can pressure Israel to abide by international law, making an impact where various government efforts have failed and failed miserably.

Although Palestinian Civil Society made the BDS call in 2005, it gained momentum after Israel's brutal assault on Gaza this past December and January.

Now it is undeniably growing, particularly in the arts world. Respected writers such as John Berger, Eduardo Galeano and Adrienne Rich have all endorsed it; and Israeli film festivals have faced a string of boycotts.

Most recently, the Toronto International Film Festival's announcement of a special "city-to-city" celebration of Tel Aviv is threatening to turn the second most important film festival in the world (after Cannes) into a site of angry protests.

One of the most high-profile figures to endorse the call for BDS is Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein, who typically enjoys overflow crowds, extensive media coverage and brisk book sales when she goes on international book tours.

When it came to publishing her latest best-seller, The Shock Doctrine, in Hebrew and Arabic, Klein decided the political situation in Israel and Palestine called for an entirely different approach.

In opposition to Israel's occupation, she chose not to sign a traditional book deal with advances and royalties. Instead, she donated the book to Andalus, a publishing house that works actively against the occupation. It is the only Israeli publisher devoted exclusively to translating Arabic writing into Hebrew, something its founder Yael Lerer describes as "publishing as an act of resistance."

Klein and Lerer also set out to craft a book tour that would honor the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel while also showing that boycotts need not cut off much-needed communication and dialogue.

With this in mind, Klein and Lerer, used the tour to draw attention to the boycott and the Palestinian struggle and to spark an internal Israeli dialogue about boycott as a way to pressure Israel to live up to international law.

Last month in Tel Aviv, I sat down with Klein and Lerer to ask about the goals, meaning and nuts and bolts of implementing a cultural boycott, and also why Lerer, a Jewish Israeli, is telling the world, "Please, boycott me."

Here are some excerpts from that interview. -- Cecilie Surasky * * *

Cecilie Surasky: What is the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions? Why are you supporting it?

Naomi Klein: Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions: It's a tactic with a very clear goal, to force Israel to comply with international law.

The call [for BDS] was made in 2005 by an extraordinarily broad range of Palestinian civil society groups, political parties, and trade unions. But it didn't really start to gain an international profile until the Israeli attack on Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

In the midst of the war, the writer John Berger sent out a letter, signed by many prominent artists, mostly European, declaring their support for the boycott strategy. When that letter surfaced, I was in the middle of writing The Shock Doctrine, and I made a personal decision at the time that when the book came out, I wouldn't do what I had done with the Hebrew translations of my previous two books, which was to publish with a fairly traditional commercial publisher.

More: http://www.alternet.org/story/142341/?page=1

US soldiers contradict General McChrystal

PRESS RELEASE: March Forward! veterans speak out against Gen. McChrystal's report, 1 September, 2009

March Forward! veterans speak out against Gen. McChrystal's report "All foreign forces should leave Afghanistan now!"

A national organization of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war will be campaigning against the expected Pentagon proposal to send 20,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

"The war in Afghanistan, like the one we were sent to fight in Iraq, is based on lies and false rationales. Instead of expanding the war, all foreign troops should leave Afghanistan immediately," according to a statement released by March Forward!

The group of war veterans will be organizing and participating in anti-war demonstrations around the United States on October 7, which marks the eighth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan, and October 17. August marked the highest number of U.S. deaths in Afghanistan.

The group stated:

"As active duty service members and veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we stand in firm opposition to General McChrystal's plan to continue and expand the war in Afghanistan."

The report is another case of official double-speak. McChrystal essentially admits that the previous eight-year strategy has been catastrophic and an abysmal failure.

Yet he announced in a statement on Aug. 31 that "success is achievable and [the war] demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort."

As a politician/salesman in uniform, Gen. McChrystal is selling the country a bill of goods. He asks us to genuflect before the war machine and "trust" the generals.

It's worth remembering that it was Gen. McChrystal who stated in April 2003 in a nationally televised Pentagon briefing on the operations in Iraq, "I would anticipate that the major combat engagements are over." The general is either a professional pitchman or a professional liar, or both.

Deciphering McChrystal's real message is important for every member of the armed forces. In short he is saying: all we have to do is be prepared to send several thousand more US service members to their graves while they try to kill tens of thousands more Afghans and then, or perhaps then, the US will have established a stable puppet government in Kabul.

The war in Afghanistan is a colonial-type war. The people in Afghanistan are among the poorest in the world, but the country has always been considered a "prize" by competing colonial world powers. The Bush Administration had its sights on Afghanistan for its resources, its value as a route for oil pipelines and trade, and its geopolitical significance as a cornerstone of U.S. domination in the region. The Pentagon sought to establish military bases not only in Afghanistan but in all of the former Soviet Republics that border it.

There were no Afghans on the planes that struck on September 11, but today, after nearly eight years of aerial bombings, shellings and infantry attacks, tens of thousands of Afghans have been killed. The U.S./NATO assault, if anything, has contributed to the strengthening of the Taliban and other resistance forces.

The Pentagon brass can't honestly define what victory means in Afghanistan. Originally they thought Afghanistan would be easily conquered and made into a semi-colonial extension of American power in Asia. That was a fantasy based on imperial arrogance, just like in Vietnam.

Today, what they are really fighting for—meaning what they are sending us to fight for—is to help them avoid the perception of having "lost" a war in a poor, third-world country in Asia. That's exactly why Nixon and Kissinger kept U.S. forces fighting and dying in Vietnam from 1969-73.

The other reason we are fighting this war is that it is a source of profit for Corporate America. U.S. taxpayers will pay nearly $200 billion this year for the Afghanistan war and much of it goes directly into corporate coffers. On Monday, as McChrystal's report outlining an expansion of the war was revealed, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was at a Lockheed Martin facility pledging to spend $300 billion on new fighter jets like the ones that have been killing scores of Afghan civilians on a daily basis.

The war in Afghanistan only benefits those who can profit from it. It is paid for with billions upon billions of dollars in taxpayers' money while funds for health care, child care, job training and education are slashed. It is paid for with the blood of U.S. soldiers and Afghan civilians; whether it is the loss of limbs, the death of a family member, psychological trauma, forced displacement, or the long list of tragedies associated with war, the occupation of Afghanistan has and will continue to destroy the lives of millions of people.

This is why March Forward! is joining in the call by the ANSWER Coalition and others to participate in actions throughout the country in scores of cities against the war in Afghanistan. We believe that a mass people's movement can be built that forces this atrocity to end.

--- ***Ron Kovic, Vietnam veteran and author of the world renowned memoir and film "Born on the Forth of July," is an enthusiastic supporter of March Forward!, and offered these words in support of this statement: "As a United States Marine Corps Sergeant who served 2 tours of duty in Vietnam, and was shot and paralyzed from my mid-chest down in 1968, I strongly disagree with General McChrystal. The war in Afghanistan is a huge mistake, another Vietnam disaster in the making. I want to encourage every member of our military, every veteran, and citizen, to raise your voices against this war, to protest, to demonstrate, to do all that you can before more lives are lost."

Passed along to this website from www.greenleft.org.au by 7 September 2009

Below is from John Shelby Spong

9 April, 2009

Catholicism: Watching the Demise of a Great Institution by John Shelby Spong

We are watching today the tragedy of the demise of the Roman Catholic Church. It is a sad spectacle, but hopefully not one that cannot be reversed. It is not of recent origin. There was a high-water mark for this church in the middle of the 20th century under the leadership of the great Pope John XXIII. His attempt to call this church out of its medieval cobwebs and into dialogue with the thought forms of the modern world was both moving and impressive. He inspired a generation of young Catholic theologians like Hans Kung to come out of obscurity in order to give academic guidance to the Second Vatican Council that Pope John XXIII convened. It was as if a breath of fresh air had finally begun to blow, and renewed hope was born throughout the Christian world. With these initiatives, however, John XXIII also threatened some entrenched pockets of power in the Catholic hierarchy, and with his premature death they moved to batten down the hatches of reform and to reimpose the weight of authority on the Catholic faithful before they could taste the meaning of religious freedom.

No one can look at the progression of popes from John XXIII to Benedict XVI and not become aware that this is a church walking steadfastly into yesterday. Paul VI, John XXIII's immediate successor, overruled the recommendation of his own theologians to make opposition to birth control one of the identifying hallmarks of modern Catholicism. John Paul I did not live long enough to have much impact, but his successor, John Paul II, began the war on intellectual inquiry and Catholic scholarship in the Roman tradition with his inquisitor, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, silencing, harassing or removing from their positions the most creative Catholic theologians of their century, among them Hans Kung, Edward Schillebeeckx, Charles Curran, Matthew Fox and Leonardo Boff. Contemporary female lay theologians like Elisabeth Schussler-Fiorenza, Rosemary Ruether and Uta Ranke-Heinemann were ostracized. Roman Catholic scholarship almost disappeared under this onslaught, leaving the church with only Catholic propagandists who did not educate but contented themselves simply to defend what they assumed were unchanging divine revelations.

When Cardinal Ratzinger succeeded John Paul II to become Benedict XVI, the takeover by the right wing of this church was all but complete. Pope Benedict XVI, however, has had a very rocky pontificate. On the night before the conclave that elected him was officially convened, he addressed his fellow cardinals on the necessity of denying relativity in truth. Presumably he believed that truth had been captured for all time in the propositions of his Catholic faith. Early in his pontificate he repeated the long-held Catholic view that there was only one true religion, Christianity, and only one true expression of Christianity, namely the Roman Catholic Church. He even cautioned against referring to other Christian bodies as "sister churches," for that implied some tacit recognition of their legitimacy. Later he published a book on Jesus that was so out of touch with current New Testament scholarship as to be embarrassing.

Then, in quick succession, he moved to suggest that the child abuse scandal that had rocked the Catholic churches of the world, but had all but been ignored by the Vatican, was now in the past — a settled issue, when in fact it was little more than a covered-over cesspool. Next he insulted the Muslim world by quoting a very dated Catholic scholar who referred to Muslims as evil. He later apologized. Then, in the name of "unity," he reinstated an ultra-conservative bishop who denied the reality of the Holocaust. Again, he responded to massive criticism with a semi-apology, suggesting that he had not been thorough enough in his examination of the facts, and proceeded to cauterize the offense by forcing the aforementioned bishop to recant publicly.

When he launched a papal visit to turbulent Africa, he seemed totally out of touch. On this continent, where poverty is real; disease is rampant; genocide is common; political corruption reigns in such nations as Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and the Sudan; and where South Africa is reeling both economically and politically, the opportunities for leadership were obvious. Yet none of these issues formed the essence of his message. No, his primary concern was that people were using condoms instead of abstinence to protect themselves from AIDS. It was hardly an inspiring message. He had ignored the essential and elevated the trivial, to which little attention was destined to be given.

Against this background, the New York Times ran a front page story on March 12, 2009, revealing that neither the priestly abuse scandal nor the Roman Catholic Church's constant attempt to cover up this scandal was over. A newly elected Democratic majority in the New York legislature re-introduced a statute that had been defeated on several previous occasions when Republicans held the majority. This proposed law would allow victims of child abuse to bring their charges to the public despite the fact that the statute of limitations had expired.

The former statute had allowed victims only five years after their 18th birthdays to bring their cases to court. The reason for the proposed change was the realization that the trauma of this betrayal is so deep, and the sense of shame so overwhelming, that many victims are not willing or able to discuss their violation until a later time in their lives, when it is too late to have their grievances redressed. A number of other states have previously altered their legal procedures to allow such cases to come forward. The result has been a large number of additional lawsuits and convictions of abusive priests, which the Catholic Church has been forced to settle at a cost of between eight hundred million and a billion dollars. The official response of New York's Catholic leadership to this new threat was revealing. Their concern was not about whether justice prevailed but about the effect this law would have on the church. They attacked this proposal as an anti-Catholic attempt "to bankrupt their church." They did not seem to be aware that the real problem was the illegal behavior of their clergy and the massive attempt at cover-up by the hierarchy.

The article went on to announce that the Catholic legal team had been joined in opposing this proposed change in the statute by the Hassidic and Sephardic Jewish institutions in Brooklyn, which are also facing equally costly abuse claims. That was treated in this article as good news, since it seemed to make their protest an interfaith one. Yet this new partnership was just one more manifestation of the religious sickness of our age. One can hardly be pleased at the image of any religious community trying to use legal means to keep more lawsuits from rising even when obvious crimes have been committed by representatives of that community. Catholic spokespersons even declared that this bill was discriminatory to the Catholic Church. They went on to argue, as if this fact were relevant, that this proposed bill was highly inconvenient, coming up as it does at the time of transition in leadership of the Archdiocese of New York. The Vatican recently announced that Cardinal Edward Egan, the present Catholic leader of New York and one highly compromised on the sexual abuse issues, would be replaced by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee, whose jurisdiction has just been forced to sell its diocesan offices to raise funds to pay off court-ordered abuse settlements. Nothing could reveal more poignantly how systemic the abuse problem is or how desperately the hierarchy has tried to cover it up.

There is a mentality in this religious institution that seems to say that any criticism of the church reflects not truth or reality but only the anti-Catholic bias of the critic. This ploy is constantly used when one does not want to face an embarrassing issue. When I was the Episcopal Bishop of Newark, the Roman Catholic Church's archbishop of Newark was Theodore McCarrick, later the Cardinal Archbishop of Washington. Whenever we would have discussions about any criticism of his church's attitude toward women, including its unwillingness to consider women fit for ordination, its attitude on family planning or that church's outdated and distorted definition of homosexuals as inherently deviant, his response was always to counter that the critics were "anti-Catholic." It was little more than a frustrating dodge. There are many great things about the Roman Catholic Church that I have always appreciated, but I do think that they are wrong on the requirement of celibacy for ordination, wrong on abortion, wrong on their treatment of women, wrong on not allowing options at the end of life, wrong on the way they define and treat gay people and wrong on many of the great theological issues of the day. An unwillingness to discuss these differences means that this institution has identified its point of view with ultimate truth so that any disagreement is interpreted to be an attack on truth itself.

Does anyone doubt the reality of the massive, systemic guilt that the priestly abuse revealed? Does anyone really believe that this church was open to investigating those crimes fully? Does anyone doubt that a massive cover-up was carried out? Cardinal Bernard Law, the architect of the cover-up in Boston, went to an elite position in the Vatican when he should have gone to jail. By being in Rome he was spared from having to testify under oath. When Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, a highly respected Catholic Bishop in Sydney, Australia, was assigned the task of investigating clergy abuse in Australia, he wrote that he got no cooperation from the Vatican and when his report revealed how widespread both abuse and cover-up were in that country, he was quickly ostracized. No moral leadership will ever come from an institution unwilling to be honest about its own pubic behavior, an institution that thinks that the effort to clean up this criminal behavior is nothing but an attempt to hurt the church.

This church's behavior is neither admirable nor trustworthy. Its reputation for honesty is in tatters. Perhaps Benedict XVI will be the last gasp of this sorry chapter in church history. If not, perhaps we are watching the demise of this once great church. Time will tell. Based on current data, I would not bet on a positive result. –
John Shelby Spong


BBC headlines news RSS of April 6 2009

Mecca mosques "wrongly aligned"?

Some 200 mosques in Islam's holiest city, Mecca, point the wrong way for prayers, reports from Saudi Arabia say.

All mosques have a niche showing the direction of the most sacred Islamic site, the Kaaba, an ancient cube-like building in Mecca's Grand Mosque.

But people looking down from recently built high-rises in Mecca found the niches in many older mosques were not pointing directly towards the Kaaba.

Some worshippers are said to be anxious about the validity of their prayers.

There have been suggestions that laser beams could be used to make an exact measurement.

Tawfik al-Sudairy, Islamic affairs ministry deputy secretary, downplayed the problem in remarks quoted by the pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat.

"There are no major errors but corrections have been made for some old mosques, thanks to modern techniques," he said.

"In any case, it does not affect the prayers."

Tibet - part of a rethink

The Dalai Lama's Tibet: now that was hell on earth

This item has been lifted without copyright-remorse from the Australian "news-peek" website crikey.com issue of 11-3-2009 - Ed

Greg Barns writes:

The Dalai Lama knows how to generate publicity for his dubious cause. This time, he is using the 50th anniversary of his failed uprising against the Chinese in Tibet, to tell the world that the years since the events of 1959 have brought "untold suffering and destruction to the land and people of Tibet."

Naturally, the Western media swallows this statement lock, stock and barrel, even though it is simply brazen intellectual and historical dishonesty on the part of the well heeled, formerly CIA funded, Tibetan monk.

The reality of life for Tibetans when the Dalai Lama and his predecessors ruled Tibet was simply ghastly. It was truly "hell on earth", a phrase the Dalai Lama is using to describe the impact of China's presence in Tibet today.

In his 1996 book, The Making of Modern Tibet, Tom Grunfeld describes the feudal system that existed in Tibet in the lead up to 1959. Tibetans, he writes, were ruled by a system of feudal theocracy, and the Dalai Lama was at the pinnacle of that structure. It was a society in which land owners and nobles made life as hellish for peasants as was the case in medieval England. Nobles collected taxes, beat their "serfs", took bribes and ensured that the serfs, who lived in hovels on their estates, starved while their banquet tables heaved with produce grown on the estate.

Serfs, and the vast majority of Tibetans were in this category, had no power. They had to gain permission to attend a monastery or to get married. There was, Grunfeld writes, little class mobility in Tibet. It was a rigid and thoroughly elite driven society in which slavery was tolerated.

Grunfeld's bleak assessment of living conditions in Tibet up to 1959 is not a maverick one. Another scholar, Michael Parenti from the University of California, has researched and written extensively on the issue of Tibetan society prior to the Chinese intervention in 1959.

Parenti, writing in academic journal New Political Science in 2003, observes that in "the Dalai Lama's Tibet, torture and mutilation -- including eye gouging, the pulling out of tongues, hamstringing, and amputation -- were favored punishments inflicted upon runaway serfs and thieves."

Parenti cites the work of one Western observer who in 1929:

... visited an exhibition of torture equipment that had been used by the Tibetan overlords. There were handcuffs of all sizes, including small ones for children, and instruments for cutting off noses and ears, gouging out eyes, and breaking off hands.

There were instruments for slicing off kneecaps and heels, or hamstringing legs. There were hot brands, whips, and special implements for disemboweling.

Sexual abuse in monasteries was rife, and starvation among the serfs a regular occurrence, despite the plentiful conditions for agriculture that existed in Tibet.

The Tibet that the Dalai Lama presided over, until his exile in 1959, was far from the Shangri-la that dewy-eyed supporters of the Free Tibet movement pretend it to be. Unless you were a member of the small elite class, or a monk, life was, in Thomas Hobbes' memorable phrase, "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short".

The Dalai Lama speaks today of "repressive and violent" campaigns by China over the past 50 years. What he has not told you, and nor has any media outlet that has quoted his gibberish today, is that he and the system he represents made life intolerable for millions of Tibetans over hundreds of years.

The history books record this.

(Ends on Tibet)

17 January 2009: More nonsense journalism in The Australian newspaper from its "foreign editor", Greg Sheridan. "From Australia's point of view, the Bush presidency was overwhelmingly successful". This is quite incorrect, Mr Sheridan. Bush was the single worst US president. His presidency was overwhelmingly a disaster for all concerned! Mind you, in the same issue of your newspaper, Gerard Baker comments, p. 10, or is headlined, bush is "No tyrant, but history won't forgive ineptitude". Quite right, too! -Ed (The Australian, w/e 17-18 January, 2009)

17 January 2009: "For all its muscle power and powerful allies, Israel stands diminished in the eyes of the world", after its punishment of the people of the Gaza Strip. In June 1948 (article by Paul McGeough in SMH, w/e 17-18 Jan 2009), one John Troutback said to UK foreign secretary Ernest Bevan, that the US had been responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by "an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders". (See Article on Israel vs Hamas and the people of Gaza Strip by Paul McGeough in Sydney Morning Herald, w/e 17-18 Jan 2009)

A sceptic's mini-book-review

10 January 2009: One of this website's trusty correspondents today reports on his recent holiday readings. (He just might be a member of the Sydney chapter of Australian Sceptics, but be as that may ...)

Dear Lost Worlds,

Today I have been reading an article looking at science, non-science and simply nonsense. Although seemingly just published, it was written and first published back in 1988, and the author has just got it re-published.

Logo as advertisement on Dan Byrnes Word Factory websites


It gives lucid examples of actions/situations that contradict Science alarmingly ...

* Nazis allowed racist ideology to dictate Anthropology, thus six million Jews died. On the other hand, other lives were probably saved, as the Nazis used astrology to set battle dates, and interfered with the work of scientists developing atom bombs.

* In passing he mentions Nancy Reagan consulting astrologers.

* In passing he mentions Peter Brock (Australian racing car driver died 2006) whose career was destroyed by non-scientific beliefs.

* The USSR for Marxist/Leninist ideological reasons rejected Mendelian genetics, leading to crop failures and starvation.

* Jonestown, 1978: Some 900 American "religious believers" committed suicide (and killed their children in so doing) when their Californian quack preacher blurred the boundary between reality and religion.

* Sydney hospitals were currently (1988) treating children whose digestive and metabolic systems have been damaged by fat-free vegetarian diets.

* Lastly, there is this ultra-Australian-oriented quote re Aboriginals ....

" ... and many doubtless well-meaning people are accepting a crackpot anthropology which is based on poor statistics, distorted history, ignorance of linguistics and archaeology, poorly done real anthropology, the "myth of the noble savage", and a good dose of fiction, and which could lead to the establishment of a system of apartheid dividing Australians who happen to be Aborigines from Australians who are not."

Hmmm ... Not bad for 20 years ago! Cheers, Brian

On 9 January 2009 this website felt moved to post the following Blog item (and it got no response from anyone at all for any reason and so was removed on 19 April 2009. Today's feeling/Blog emotion: Question from an Australian citizen for Obama and Hillary Clinton in USA: Obama New Era? Question for former Senator for New York Hillary Clinton as she becomes next Secretary of State USA. Why does USA Federal Government not have a Dept. Foreign Affairs? Would it be a good idea if USA had a Dept. Foreign Affairs? Yes it would, to act as an in-White House buffer against the continued exercise of sheer naked US self interest on the world stage, which is all this website has seen its entire lifetime. Time for a change. If this takes an Amendment to the Constitution of the USA, major or minor, so be it. It's time for change, Ms Clinton. Change that we (the rest of the world) can believe in. (The cost and size of the new US embassy in Baghdad, unbelievable! it's of Bernie Madoff proportions! Real Ponzi-style too, we do fear.) - Ed

Watching Israel suicide-bomb its own international reputation is also not a pretty sight on world TV ...

Israel versus Hamas

How many divisions?

By Uri Avnery, rcvd 10-12 January 2009

NEARLY SEVENTY YEARS ago, in the course of World War II, a heinous crime was committed in the city of Leningrad. For more than a thousand days, a gang of extremists called "the Red Army" held the millions of the town's inhabitants hostage and provoked retaliation from the German Wehrmacht from inside the population centers. The Germans had no alternative but to bomb and shell the population and to impose a total blockade, which caused the death of hundreds of thousands.

Some time before that, a similar crime was committed in England. The Churchill gang hid among the population of London, misusing the millions of citizens as a human shield. The Germans were compelled to send their Luftwaffe and reluctantly reduce the city to ruins. They called it The Blitz.

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This is the description that would now appear in the history books - if the Germans had won the war.

Absurd? No more than the daily descriptions in our media, which are being repeated ad nauseam: the Hamas terrorists use the inhabitants of Gaza as "hostages" and exploit the women and children as "human shields", they leave us no alternative but to carry out massive bombardments, in which, to our deep sorrow, thousands of women, children and unarmed men are killed and injured.

IN THIS WAR, as in any modern war, propaganda plays a major role. The disparity between the forces, between the Israeli army - with its airplanes, gunships, drones, warships, artillery and tanks - and the few thousand lightly armed Hamas fighters, is one to a thousand, perhaps one to a million. In the political arena the gap between them is even wider. But in the propaganda war, the gap is almost infinite.

Almost all the Western media initially repeated the official Israeli propaganda line. They almost entirely ignored the Palestinian side of the story, not to mention the daily demonstrations of the Israeli peace camp. The rationale of the Israeli government ("The state must defend its citizens against the Qassam rockets") has been accepted as the whole truth. The view from the other side, that the Qassams are a retaliation for the siege that starves the one and a half million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, was not mentioned at all.

Only when the horrible scenes from Gaza started to appear on Western TV screens, did world public opinion gradually begin to change.

True, Western and Israeli TV channels showed only a tiny fraction of the dreadful events that appear 24 hours every day on Al-Jazeera's Arabic channel, but one picture of a dead baby in the arms of its terrified father is more powerful than a thousand elegantly constructed sentences from the Israeli army spokesman. And that is what is decisive, in the end.

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War - every war - is the realm of lies. Whether called propaganda or psychological warfare, everybody accepts that it is right to lie for one's country. Anyone who speaks the truth runs the risk of being branded a traitor.

The trouble is that propaganda is most convincing for the propagandist himself. And after you convince yourself that a lie is the truth and falsification reality, you can no longer make rational decisions.

An example of this process surrounds the most shocking atrocity of this war so far: the shelling of the UN Fakhura school in Jabaliya refugee camp.

Immediately after the incident became known throughout the world, the army "revealed" that Hamas fighters had been firing mortars from near the school entrance. As proof they released an aerial photo which indeed showed the school and the mortar. But within a short time the official army liar had to admit that the photo was more than a year old. In brief: a falsification.

Later the official liar claimed that "our soldiers were shot at from inside the school". Barely a day passed before the army had to admit to UN personnel that that was a lie, too. Nobody had shot from inside the school, no Hamas fighters were inside the school, which was full of terrified refugees.

But the admission made hardly any difference anymore. By that time, the Israeli public was completely convinced that "they shot from inside the school", and TV announcers stated this as a simple fact.

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So it went with the other atrocities. Every baby metamorphosed, in the act of dying, into a Hamas terrorist. Every bombed mosque instantly became a Hamas base, every apartment building an arms cache, every school a terror command post, every civilian government building a "symbol of Hamas rule". Thus the Israeli army retained its purity as the "most moral army in the world".

THE TRUTH is that the atrocities are a direct result of the war plan. This reflects the personality of Ehud Barak - a man whose way of thinking and actions are clear evidence of what is called "moral insanity", a sociopathic disorder.

The real aim (apart from gaining seats in the coming elections) is to terminate the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In the imagination of the planners, Hamas is an invader which has gained control of a foreign country. The reality is, of course, entirely different.

The Hamas movement won the majority of the votes in the eminently democratic elections that took place in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. It won because the Palestinians had come to the conclusion that Fatah's peaceful approach had gained precisely nothing from Israel - neither a freeze of the settlements, nor release of the prisoners, nor any significant steps toward ending the occupation and creating the Palestinian state. Hamas is deeply rooted in the population - not only as a resistance movement fighting the foreign occupier, like the Irgun and the Stern Group in the past [on the Israeli side]- but also as a political and religious body that provides social, educational and medical services.

From the point of view of the population, the Hamas fighters are not a foreign body, but the sons of every family in the Strip and the other Palestinian regions. They do not "hide behind the population", the population views them as their only defenders.

Therefore, the whole operation is based on erroneous assumptions. Turning life into living hell does not cause the population to rise up against Hamas, but on the contrary, it unites behind Hamas and reinforces its determination not to surrender. The population of Leningrad did not rise up against Stalin, any more than the Londoners rose up against Churchill.

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He who gives the order for such a war with such methods in a densely populated area knows that it will cause dreadful slaughter of civilians. Apparently that did not touch him. Or he believed that "they will change their ways" and "it will sear their consciousness", so that in future they will not dare to resist Israel.

A top priority for the planners was the need to minimize casualties among the soldiers, knowing that the mood of a large part of the pro- war public would change if reports of such casualties came in. That is what happened in Lebanon Wars I and II.

This consideration played an especially important role because the entire war is a part of the election campaign. Ehud Barak, who gained in the polls in the first days of the war, knew that his ratings would collapse if pictures of dead soldiers filled the TV screens.

Therefore, a new doctrine was applied: to avoid losses among our soldiers by the total destruction of everything in their path. The planners were not only ready to kill 80 Palestinians to save one Israeli soldier, as has happened, but also 800. The avoidance of casualties on our side is the overriding commandment, which is causing record numbers of civilian casualties on the other side.

That means the conscious choice of an especially cruel kind of warfare - and that has been its Achilles heel.

A person without imagination, like Barak (his election slogan: "Not a Nice Guy, but a Leader") cannot imagine how decent people around the world react to actions like the killing of whole extended families the destruction of houses over the heads of their inhabitants, the rows of boys and girls in white shrouds ready for burial, the reports about people bleeding to death over days because ambulances are not allowed to reach them, the killing of doctors and medics on their way to save lives, the killing of UN drivers bringing in food. The pictures of the hospitals, with the dead, the dying and the injured lying together on the floor for lack of space, have shocked the world. No argument has any force next to an image of a wounded little girl lying on the floor, twisting with pain and crying out: "Mama! Mama!"

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The planners thought that they could stop the world from seeing these images by forcibly preventing press coverage. The Israeli journalists, to their shame, agreed to be satisfied with the reports and photos provided by the Army Spokesman, as if they were authentic news, while they themselves remained miles away from the events. Foreign journalists were not allowed in either, until they protested and were taken for quick tours in selected and supervised groups. But in a modern war, such a sterile manufactured view cannot completely exclude all others - the cameras are inside the strip, in the middle of the hell, and cannot be controlled. Al-Jazeera broadcasts the pictures around the clock and reaches every home.

THE BATTLE for the TV screen is one of the decisive battles of the war.

Hundreds of millions of Arabs from Mauritania to Iraq, more than a billion Muslims from Nigeria to Indonesia see the pictures and are horrified. This has a strong impact on the war. Many of the viewers see the rulers of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority as collaborators with Israel in carrying out these atrocities against their Palestinian brothers.

The security services of the Arab regimes are registering a dangerous ferment among the peoples. Hosny Mubarak, the most exposed Arab leader because of his closing of the Rafah crossing in the face of terrified refugees, started to pressure the decision-makers in Washington, who until that time had blocked all calls for a cease- fire. These began to understand the menace to vital American interests in the Arab world and suddenly changed their attitude - causing consternation among the complacent Israeli diplomats.

People with moral insanity cannot really understand the motives of normal people and must guess their reactions. "How many divisions has the Pope?" Stalin sneered. "How many divisions have people of conscience?" Ehud Barak may well be asking.

As it turns out, they do have some. Not numerous. Not very quick to react. Not very strong and organized. But at a certain moment, when the atrocities overflow and masses of protesters come together, that can decide a war.

THE FAILURE to grasp the nature of Hamas has caused a failure to grasp the predictable results. Not only is Israel unable to win the war, Hamas cannot lose it.

Even if the Israeli army were to succeed in killing every Hamas fighter to the last man, even then Hamas would win. The Hamas fighters would be seen as the paragons of the Arab nation, the heroes of the Palestinian people, models for emulation by every youngster in the Arab world. The West Bank would fall into the hands of Hamas like a ripe fruit, Fatah would drown in a sea of contempt, the Arab regimes would be threatened with collapse.

If the war ends with Hamas still standing, bloodied but unvanquished, in the face of the mighty Israeli military machine, it will look like a fantastic victory, a victory of mind over matter.

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What will be seared into the consciousness of the world will be the image of Israel as a blood-stained monster, ready at any moment to commit war crimes and not prepared to abide by any moral restraints. This will have severe consequences for our long-term future, our standing in the world, our chance of achieving peace and quiet.

In the end, this war is a crime against ourselves too, a crime against the State of Israel.

(Finis article by Uri Avnery)

Watching Israel suicide-bomb its own international reputation is also not a pretty sight on world TV...

Watching Israel suicide bomb its own reputation, January 2009
Detail of Guernica by Picasso, 1937
Picture credit: Guernica, 1937 in Spain and 2009 in Gaza Strip: Mucho apologies to Picasso for the incursion here on his time, talent and worry.

Israel bombs Gaza

Watching Israel suicide-bomb its own international reputation is also not a pretty sight on world TV ...

Israel bombs Gaza: And it's not a Happy New Year in that part of the world. And the whole world is watching. And the whole world is concerned. And the propaganda wars also rage about who is right and who is wrong, when all parties except the innocent civilians seem to be wrong, including the hostile (jihadist?) parties in Lebanon who most lately have been trying to open up a second front for Israel to fight. (to 10 January, 2009)

As if you really wanted to know much more in such post-Zionist times ...

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Watching Israel suicide-bomb its own international reputation is also not a pretty sight on world TV ...

Is this just a War of the Chutzpah?

Lebanese rockets fire on Israel: Israel may face the opening of a second war front since rockets have been fired from Lebanon into Israel, after Hezbollah had warned that it had kept "all options open" in light of the so far, 13-day offensive against Hamas by Israel. But Hezbollah denied it was responsible for these particular rockets. Israel anyway replied immediately, since according to TV new reports, it now has a policy of replying immediately to anything. What a non-Middle Easterner wonders here, is, if a good many disgruntled Islamist or Jihadist organisations (presumably non-state entities, but political entities nevertheless) with rockets to hand, join in solidarity and fire into Israel, how can Israel continue to fight with so many neighbours on so many different fronts? Is this simply The War of The Chutzpahs? Jewish/Israeli/Zionist chutzpah versus jihadist chutzpah? All parties ought to be advised that the rest of the world is not at all interested in such exercises in chutzpah, not in the least, and it quite resents seeing the said deadly and preposterous chutzpah outcomes on its living room TV screens. This has got nothing to do with pedantic debates at the UN level about "proportionality" of military response. World-wide, it has got far more to do with plain human disgust at human misbehaviour. It's about as disgusting as a mindless riot in one's own street! And as irrational. -Ed (Australian newspaper, 9 January 2009)

Watching Israel suicide-bomb its own international reputation is also not a pretty sight on world TV ...

Watching Israel suicide bomb its own reputation, January 2009
Israel drops bombs on Gaza Strip, said to be phosphorous (non-legal), January 2008
Israel bombs Gaza Strip, these bombs said to be phosphorous (non-legal munitions), January 2009. News photo by Unknown, sent on by a friend of this website

As if you really wanted to know much more in such post-Zionist times ...

Let's now just try to get it straight (as in above entries here) about Zionism (history of) and "Jewishness" and who-is-really-a-Semite-and-how-and-why that is, and the Israel which in January 2009 is bombing the Gaza Strip (which is about 12x40km with an inadequate road system apart from other depressing aspects of its lack of infrastructure for 1.4 million people), "a concentration camp" as a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church described it in early 2009 (after which the Pope has to utter, well, apologies (?)) ...

This website has lately been talking with a friend who has been carefully cruising the Net for material on History of Zionism, and in due course, we'll be putting the fruit of these conversations into a webpage dedicated to related topics.

Meantime, during early January, one of the news phrases being used was that "Israel is toughening its stance" against Hamas,. etc. Really? (As songwriter Leonard Cohen (once a Jew from Canada) wrote in such sombre and melancholy fashion, "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah".) Let's now take a quick look back at chapters in The Old Testament and see what is reported there of times when Israel (or, the Jews, or, the Hebrews), "toughened their stance" against whomever, about whatever, for one reason or another ... We comment here on alleged incidents and supposedly actual campaigns, as distinct from mere exhortations to "righteousness", with which of course the Old Testament is replete. Some of which exhortations are merely commands to commit genocide upon the enemies of the people who later (c.600BC or later) had their scholars edit the books of what became known as The Old Testament, the so-called Word of God ...

Apparently, Biblical scholar Raymund Schwager found in the Old Testament, 600 passages of explicit violence, 1000 descriptive verses of God's own violent actions of punishment [upon people], and 100 passages where God expressly commands people to kill other people.
Nice one, God. What does God do for an encore? Go on holidays, visit India and encourage Buddha?

See Abraham in Gen: 18:23-25 - re Moses versus the Midianites see Numbers 31:7-18 - Re Destruction of the Amalekites see Exodus 17:8 (re time of Samuel and Saul) - Re The Destruction of Laish see Judges 18:2-10, 27 - Re Jericho [and inheriting the land of milk and honey allegedly donated by "God" - Exodus 3:8] See Joshua 12:7-24 and Joshua 6:21 and Joshua 10:40-41- See - and we do seriously have to note, an uncommon number of matches on Google on this topics are concerned with "The Old Testament and the Genocide in Gaza" - which means a lot of denizens of cyberspace are combing The Old Testament for its genocidal contents and mounting possibly specious propaganda. The frequency of use of the phraseology cannot be an accident, and it's very hard to see what is politically correct here and not from one side or another, versus reliable information. In which case the editor feels moved to mention his basic feeling about human conflict and a good few other things - he is against premature death which happens to any human being for any reason. The editor's view - however quaint it may seem in the light of realpolitik - is that all people should live as long as their health permits, end of story. What people should do, as doctors should do, according to the oath of their profession, is to cause no further harm. - Ed

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