August 9th, 2006


George Galloway rips into Britain's Sky news.

Now, I'm not saying that George Galloway isn't a fairly manipulative politician, who has, in the past, kissed up to some pretty nasty dictators...  (as opposed, for instance, to kissing up to the butcher of Sabra and Shatila, as so many other politicians have.) 

He plays fast and loose with his crippling invective, and relies upon terms and language which are every bit as biased and wrongheaded as that used by his opponents. For this reason alone, I absolutely wouldn't want him running my country. I couldn't count on him to be both fair and civil.

But at the same time, he's absolutely invaluable to a healthy discourse of such topics in Britain, in that he helps to establish something close to actual balance in every forum he's a part of. He is a powerful and gifted orator who doesn't back down, and backs his words -- however slanted -- with strong factual arguments. He appears to have been falsely accused of being on Saddam's payroll and threatened with imprisonment in the U.S., and has been branded as a potential subject to apply Britain's potentially oppressive new antiterrorist laws to, and yet he's consistantly brave and defiant, refusing to bend to popular opinion. 

And, of course, he's absolutely right, in that Israel is an occupier and, in the case of Lebanon, a repeat invader, ignoring binding rules of international law against such acts. He's right that Israel still holds prisoners for a war which was supposed to have long since ended. He's right that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, even if he doesn't choose to spend his time in front of the camera addressing the Messianic, Islamofascist tendencies of Hezbollah. 

But you know, why should he, when there are hundreds of rabidly pro-Israel talking heads out there in the Western media who regularly take on that duty, and who often get to air their views without a truely opposing view being presented. The United States literally does not have any speaker of national authority capable of doing what George Galloway does for the British media, and although you might feel soiled by his approach, he plays an absolutely vital role.

It seems wrong that we, a nation supposedly based on the rule of law, routinely try and convict other nations for their supposed crimes, without anything close to an actual defence in the court of public opinion. I, for one, want and welcome those who are brave enough to defend those who cannot speak for themselves, whether they are in Iraq, in Lebanon, or in Iran. In all of the above cases, these people may want to live under different conditions, or with different leaders, but they would all, no doubt, prefer to achieve these goals without war.  

Above all, Galway was right when he said that we don't know the name of any of the Palestinians whose lives were snuffed out by the Israeli military during a family visit to a beach in Gaza. Even I, who pride myself on my research of such issues, don't know their names. I didn't see footage from their funerals. I didn't see their families and relatives asked for statements on the attack. I didn't see them invited on to western news broadcasts to say their peace. I wish I had, because I have seen the same of family members of those Israelis who were kidnapped in this conflict, and who will, with any luck, return home to their families one day. 

It seems odd to ask whether we, as a nation, are biased on these issues, when over 1000 Lebanese are dead and over 750,000 homeless refugees as a result of a military mission supposedly designed to bring about the freedom of two captured prisoners, presumably with the goal of obtaining their release without the necessity of freeing any of the thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners currently being detained, many without having ever been charged with any offense.

Would those 1000 Lebanese be dead today and those 750,000 refugees have to live on charity in a strange land, if only Hezbollah had chosen to kill the Israeli prisoners in question, rather than sparing their lives? It's hard to say how much an attempt to trade prisoners with Israel has cost Lebanon. What's obvious, however, is that any sign of balance and proportionality amongst those conflicts that our nations consider worthwhile and justified has long since flown out the window.   

Voto por Voto.

Mexico's partial recount of the votes cast at 11,839 polling booths -- about 9 percent of the total -- has begun, and appear to be turning up some irregularities:

Party representatives and six soldiers watched as officials spent nearly 90 minutes counting ballots from the first of 28 packages they were ordered to review. The end result: One less vote for Calderon and one more for Lopez Obrador, a total of 11 votes more all together than what workers reported immediately after the election, and five null votes instead of the initially reported seven. - Lisa J. Adams, Associated Press

At the offices of a Mexico City election district, they complained that three ballot boxes held in storage were lying open and many others had not been sealed properly. . . At one electoral district, early counts found 21 ballots had gone missing . . . Across town, Lopez Obrador gained two votes at one station and seven votes initially marked as invalid were missing at another. - Kieran Murray, Reuters

So, there are irregularities, which are perhaps to be expected. There are also serious issues of ballot boxes that aren't properly sealed, which may have been tampered with. The question is, how widespread are these problems?

Specifically of interest to me is whether in the process of tallying the votes at the nearly 12,000 polling booths in question, there is a statistical abnormality as to the variance. In other words, you'd expect any irregularities in those ballot boxes to be natural ones that tended to be evenly distributed amongst each candidate. If, however, recounts discover that Obrador's votes were the ones being undercounted in a noticeable majority of these incidents, that to me would be grounds for a complete recount.

It will be interesting to see how all this plays out over the next few days, as the recount progresses. I fear that the final result might not be conclusive, leaving Mexico in a state of polarized limbo. I guess we'll see. For now, patience is advised, as things should be a lot clearer after the votes are counted.

Lebanon United.

I wanted to point out some of the replies to a recent post of mine by communistmonkey, aka Din, an 18-year-old female art student who lives in Beirut, Lebanon. She has a rather interesting and nuanced point of view on the current conflict for someone her age, so I thought I would share some of the excerpts, cleaned and edited for public display and widespread Western consumption, and copiously linked to relevant supporting articles.

"I'm still in Lebanon, and couldn't get out if I wanted to. (They've bombed all the roads to Syria...) and numbers wise, one quarter of my people are now refugees. That's something over 950,000 human lives.

Yesterday, Israeli leaflets were dropped over
the coastal city of Tyre, threatning and assuring that ANY CIVILIAN VEHICLE that may be circulating south of the Litani River will be deemed "suspicious" and bombed immediately, trapping countless families in Tyre, which is constantly bombarded. If this isn't civilian intimidation and an overuse of "psychological" warfare, I don't know what it is. I have friends down there, they're going insane, there's no electricity nor much water left, and humanitarian aid can't get there, because, well, the roads are cut and they're afraid. (a Red Cross ambulance was bombed on the road not so long ago.)

I'm sure "Western" media censors the footage they get, which is just as well, because frankly if I see another mutilated corpse of a child or men picking up fuming pieces of human bodies off the last building bombing site, I'm gonna puke. I hate Hezbollah and the Israeli warfare equally for this, because the people paying the highest price are actually the Lebanese and Israeli civilians. May those murdered by war rest in peace.

Sorry I've rambled on for so long, but I've been caged at home for 3 weeks and if I don't tell people the horrors that are happening, I'll blow up. Try going to sleep with the sound of jets rumbling over your house, and bombs shaking said house every few minutes... it's time for peace for good, both parties must learn to compromise. Give us our land and prisoners back, You'll get yours and Hizbollah will be disarmed. It's really as simple as that. Why are politics always so complicated??"

I then asked her about how she felt about Hezbollah when they are fighting Israelis on Lebanese soil, and about the Lebanese army, other potential resistance or paramiliary groups, and whether others were opposing the invasion, to which she responded:

"As long as Hezbollah fight soldiers trying to invade my country, I must admit I am very grateful. But the firing rockets AT CIVILIANS has got to stop. On both sides. Even though we're getting a lot more than they ever will.

Hm, well, as an answer to your questions: Nasrallah
 is a very smart man, though I do not support him, I admit to that. Hezbollah aren't a simple militia, they're a powerful high-tech army. Don't let the beards and heated "Allah w Akbar" chants fool you. They have impeccable strategy, weaponry, paramedics and doctors accompanying their troops. They are a fully fledged army and intelligence agency, with hospitals, orphanages, retirement homes, and a TV station, with better chances to stand up to Israel than our measly army will ever have. why?

After our civil war ended, the USA sold the Lebanese army the only weapons it *allowed* them to yield -- mostly M-16, basic anti-aircraft weapons (useless against Israel's supersonics) and some tanks. . . It's common knowledge that if that part is damaged, you might as well throw the tank away. This is our Lebanese army, a crippled old man, unable to fight off anything. If it tries to re-arm, the international community and UN (not to mention Israel) will quickly "condemn" it. and we, unlike the USA / Israel axis, *have* to obey the UN.

The only ones capable of resisting Israel are the Hezbollah, although I must say, they have monopolized and capitalized on resisting Israel. Even if someone else wanted to help, they'd have to either join hezbollah or forget it. (I'm mainly refering the communist resistance that once existed and was quite effective in Lebanon.)

About civilians, i should tell you that Lebanon is made of 40% Christians and 60% Muslims. Half of those Muslims are Shi'ites, and an overwhelming majority of them support Hezbollah. (They are located mainly in the south and Dahieh.) By support, I mean "are directly helping them" as in hiding weapons for them in their houses, taking care of the soldiers, providing intelligence, food, helping them dig up the huge underground web of tunnels and facilities they use to surprise Israeli troops, etc. A lot of Shi'ite families are proud to say their sons are part of Hezbollah, so they have a HUGE following of civilians who would follow Nasrallah to the grave. Right now, because of the war, all of the lebanese people support Hezbollah, but it hasn't always been this way. Before the conflict started, the government was in constant "dialog" with its different parties to convince Hezbollah to disarm, but they said they will only do so "when all of Lebanese territory is free of occupation" (they refer here to Chebaa). so it was really going nowhere.

As for the Israeli-dictated peace, the Lebanese goverment has already unanimously rejected it. Until the conditions of the cease-fire stop depicting Israel as the poor helpless victim and Lebanon as the evil bloodthirsty terrorists, there will be no cease fire, which is exactly what the USA and the Israeli government want, as they are now planning to further their invasion of Lebanon, which might take, according to Israeli newspapers "at least a month". Long enough for the international community to get bored of us. Just so you know . . . Israel is the one who wanted the Lebanese army to take possession of the south so they could pull out, but now that the Lebanese government (including Hezbollah) is ready to send in their troops to secure the south, suddenly the Israeli government deems them "not strong enough" to contain Hezbollah. I'll remind you why they arent so strong thoough *points upward* as I said before, because this how strong the USA will allow them to be..."

I then mentioned that I felt that the people of Lebanon need to find ways to resist the Israelis, without becoming the puppets of Hezbollah, to which Din replied:

"I basically agree with you, we should resist without falling into Hezbollah's hands, but the Lebanese balance is very fragile and so the government has decided to back up Hezbollah all the way now as some kind of "united" resistance, and also, I believe, in order not to trigger another civil war because of parties vehemently throwing the responsibility of this conflict at each other and building up hatred between the Lebanese. So for now, backing up Hezbollah is the only way out. When it's all over it will be time for expressing differences of opinion again, but right now the words on every Lebanese's lips are "united" and "resisting".

So, there you have it. Spoken by an eighteen-year-old art student, but spoken like a true patriot.