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Nov 4

Posted by NT Wrong on November 4, 2008

publicenemyfearofablackplanetCause I’m Black and I’m proud
I’m ready and hyped plus I’m amped
Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps
Sample a look back you look and find
Nothing but rednecks for 400 years if you check

In the end, Obama may just be a little less right-wing than McCain. When people say ‘He’s not the Messiah’ they are correct to this extent. But what is the Messianic but some small, apparently insignificant shift of perspective that, nonetheless, constitutes an event after which nothing is the same again? The problem with the protest ‘He’s not the Messiah’ is not that the protestor is not hopeful enough, but that his level of hope is measured against an unrealistic vision of what we are capable of attaining.

“There is a well-known parable about the kingdom of the Messiah that Walter Benjamin (who heard it from Gershom Scholem) recounted one evening to Ernst Bloch, who in turn transcribed it in Spuren: “A rabbi, a real cabalist, once said that in order to establish the kingdom of peace it is not necessary to destroy everything nor to begin a completely new world. It is sufficient to displace this cup or this bush or this stone just a little, and thus everything. But this displacement is so difficult to achieve and its measure is so difficult to find that, with regard to the world, humans are incapable of it and it is necessary that the messiah come.” Benjamin’s version of the story goes like this: “The Hassidim tell a story about the world to come that says everything there will be just as it is here. Just as our room is now, so it will be in the world to come; where our baby sleeps now, there too it will sleep in the other world. And the clothes we wear in this world, those too we will wear there. Everything will be as it is now, just a little different.””
– Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community (1993): 53.

Posted in Justice, Music, Politics, Violence | Comments Off on Nov 4

Žižek – Why Only an Atheist Can Believe: Politics Between Fear and Trembling

Posted by NT Wrong on October 6, 2008

A lecture delivered at Calvin College, Michigan, on November 10, 2006.

Žižek addresses the complicated relationship between belief, or what we take to be belief, and our desire to see all. The lecture is followed by a brief period of questions and answers.

The video seems to have been removed from YouTube for violation of terms of use. But, it is available as a 1.09GB torrent file-sharing protocol — if you’re into those — at this anarchist site:

“The two films’ [United 93’s and World Trade Centre’s] message – ideological, political message – resides in their very abstention from delivering a message. This abstention is sustained by an implicit trust in one’s government. When the enemy attacks, don’t think, just do your duty. This is what I call ‘Britney Spears’ Theory of Action’, because, effectively, I remember two years ago seeing Britney Spears interviewed on MTV. She was asked “what does she think about Iraq?” and so on. She says, “I don’t quite understand it, all I know is that, at a certain point, we ordinary people should simply trust our President.”
– Slavoj Žižek, Why Only an Atheist Can Believe: Politics Between Fear and Trembling

Also, more accessible is:

Posted in Faith, Politics | Comments Off on Žižek – Why Only an Atheist Can Believe: Politics Between Fear and Trembling

Science versus Religion – Tension if not Incompatibility

Posted by NT Wrong on September 22, 2008

Stephen Weinberg’s essay on the relationship between science and Christianity, ‘Without God’, appears in the September 25, 2008 New York Review of Books. It’s a fine read. Weinberg argues that while science and Christianity are not strictly incompatible, they are in tension at many points. These tensions have led to the weakening of this particular institutional form of religion.

“The first source of tension arises from the fact that religion originally gained much of its strength from the observation of mysterious phenomena—thunder, earthquakes, disease—that seemed to require the intervention of some divine being. There was a nymph in every brook, and a dryad in every tree. But as time passed more and more of these mysteries have been explained in purely natural ways. Explaining this or that about the natural world does not of course rule out religious belief. But if people believe in God because no other explanation seems possible for a whole host of mysteries, and then over the years these mysteries were one by one resolved naturalistically, then a certain weakening of belief can be expected. It is no accident that the advent of widespread atheism and agnosticism among the educated in the eighteenth century followed hard upon the birth of modern science in the previous century.”
– Stephen Weinberg, ‘Without God’

Towards the end of his essay, Weinberg offers a few words of guidance “for those who have already lost their religious beliefs, or who may be losing them, or fear that they will lose their beliefs, about how it is possible to live without God.”

“We who are not zealots can rejoice that when bread and wine are no longer sacraments, they will still be bread and wine.”

(Spotted on Santi Tafarella’s magical blog, which also offers this juxtaposition.)

Posted in God, Politics | Comments Off on Science versus Religion – Tension if not Incompatibility

Pray for Rain upon Obama – And Pray for Diarrhea inside McCain

Posted by NT Wrong on September 8, 2008

About a week before the Democratic Convention began in Denver, rightwing nutjob Stuart Shepard, director of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, issued a video call for prayer in which he asked people to pray for “rain of biblical proportions” during Obama’s acceptance speech:

“Not just rain, abundant rain … urban and small streams advisory rain … umbrella ain’t gonna help ya … swamp the intersections … network cameras can’t see the podium rain.”

The call for rain was subsequently picked up by former Southern Baptist Convention official, Wiley Drake. Said Pastor Drake, “Other prayer warriors are welcome not only to pray for rain but repentance in America as well.”

Stuart Shepard’s prayers weren’t answered by the Almighty; it was a perfect day weather wise. But it must be acknowledged that he was on good scriptural grounds:

    “So Samuel called unto Yahweh; and Yahweh sent thunder and rain that day” (1 Samuel 12.18).

    “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive” (Matthew 21.22).

However, as has often been noted, there’s ‘good scriptural grounds’ in the Bible for almost anything, including praying that your enemies are cursed with diarrhea:

    “As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment, so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones.”
    – Psalm 109.18

… which is why we’re encouraging people to pray for diarrhea during John McCain’s speeches… in the name of Jesus.

“Not just diarrhea, abundant diarrhea … urban and small streams advisory diarrhea … swamp the intersections diarrhea … network cameras can’t see the podium diarrhea.”

Posted in Fundamentalism, Humour, Politics | 2 Comments »

Jeremiah Wright’s Post-9/11 Sermon is Set to Music by Jeff Simmonds

Posted by NT Wrong on September 2, 2008

Next election, you get to choose between right-of-centre, extreme right-of-centre, and ultra right-of-centre. So, don’t bother.

Instead, have a listen to some of the few words of sense spoken by any American Christian since 9/11 — the words of Rev. Jeremiah Wright. And, naturally, begin a revolution.

And now, words from Jeremiah Wright’s post-9/11 sermon have been set to music by Jeff Simmonds, New Zedland’s third-most-popular folk-rock protest singer. This is inspiring stuff. Have a listen:


Wright: ‘Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rocks.’ The people of faith have moved from the hatred of armed enemies … to the hatred of unarmed innocents, the babies, the babies. ‘Blessed are they who dash your baby’s brains against a rock.’ And that my beloved is a dangerous place to be.

So, you say God loves you
That’s why you live in prosperity
God blesses you and wants you wealthy
Somehow I don’t think that’s true
Neither should you

You’re only rich because someone else is poor
Someone has to pay for your luxury
It’s not God’s blessing, it’s inequity
That makes your cup overflow
And the Third World die

Wright: We have moved from the hatred of armed enemies to the hatred of unarmed innocents. We want revenge. We want paybacks and we don’t care who gets hurt in the process…
what Malcolm X said when he got silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, ‘America’s chickens are coming home to roost.’
We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, Arikara, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism.
We took Africans away from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism.
We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel.
We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenages and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard-working fathers.
We bombed Qaddafi’s home, and killed his child. ‘Blessed are they who bash your children’s head against the rock.’

We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back for their attack on our embassy, killed hundreds of hard-working people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day not knowing that they’d never get back home.
We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye.

Kids playing in the playground. Mothers picking up children after school. Civilians, not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day.
We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff that we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. ‘America’s chickens are coming home to roost.’

Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism.

You built your house with slavery
You maintain your household with inequality
One day you’ll fall and I won’t cry for you
Those you’ve robbed will plunder you
They’ll plunder you

Posted in Justice, Music, Politics | 8 Comments »

Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Michael Leunig Unite Against War, on the N. T. Wrong Blog – It’s All the Same, Only the Names Change

Posted by NT Wrong on September 1, 2008

America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb…
America you don’t really want to go to war.
America it’s them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power mad. She wants to take
our cars from out our garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader’s Digest. Her wants our
auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our fillingstations.
That no good. Ugh. Him makes Indians learn read. Him need big black niggers.
Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
America is this correct?
I’d better get right down to the job.
It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts
factories, I’m nearsighted and psychopathic anyway.
America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

– Allen Ginsberg, excerpts from the beginning and end of ‘America’

Mildred Pierce reporting:
I was there. I saw it. I saw women thrown down on Fifth Avenue and raped in their mink coats by blacks and whites and yellows while street urchins stripped the rings from their fingers. A young officer stood nearby. “Aren’t you going to do something?” I demanded.

He looked at me and yawned.

I found Colonel Bradshaw bivouacking at the Ritz. I told him bluntly what was going on. His eyes glinted shamelessly as he said, “Well you have to take a broad general view of things.”

And that’s what I have been doing. Taking a broad general view of American troops raping and murdering helpless civilians while American officers stand around and yawn.

“Been at it a long time, lady. It’s the old army game from here to eternity.”

This license was dictated by considerations taken into account by prudent commanders throughout history. It pays to pay the boys off. Even the noble Brutus did it…

Points with his left hand in catatonic limestone.

“The town is yours soldiers brave.”

Tacitus describes a typical scene… “If a woman or a good looking boy fell into their hands they were torn to pieces in the struggle for possession and the survivors were left to cut each others’ throats.”

“Well, there’s no need to be that messy. Why waste a good-looking boy? Mother loving American Army run by old women, many of them religious, my God; hanging Amercian soldiers for raping and murdering civilians…”

Old Sarge bellows from here to eternity.



– William S. Burroughs, ‘From Here to Eternity’, from Exterminator

    – Michael Leunig

Posted in Justice, Politics | Comments Off on Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Michael Leunig Unite Against War, on the N. T. Wrong Blog – It’s All the Same, Only the Names Change

Burke Lecture 2008: The Challenge of Islamophobia

Posted by NT Wrong on July 4, 2008

On May 5, 2008, Khaled Abou El Fadl examined how preconceptions of the ‘oriental’ Islamic have determined the way in which invading American soldiers have abused, tortured and raped Iraqi civilians. He delivers the 2008 Burke Lecture, provided here on YouTube by the video’s rightful owners, University of California Television (58:30):

Happy 4th of July! Remember, do what we say, or we’ll bring democracy to your country.

Posted in Inter-religious activities, Islam, Justice, Politics, Religion & Society, Video | 3 Comments »

Three out of Five Republicans are Creationists

Posted by NT Wrong on June 29, 2008

… and Two out of Five Democrats:

“Between 43% and 47% of Americans have agreed [between 1982-2008] with the creationist view that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so. Between 35% and 40% have agreed with the alternative explanation that humans evolved, but with God guiding the process, while 9% to 14% have chosen a pure secularist evolution perspective that humans evolved with no guidance by God.”

Posted in Fundamentalism, Politics, Science | 7 Comments »

More Freedom of Expression = Hate Crime

Posted by NT Wrong on June 3, 2008

I spotted this on Jim West’s blog.

“Two Christian preachers were stopped from handing out Bible extracts by police because they were in a Muslim area, it was claimed yesterday. They say they were told by a Muslim police community support officer that they could not preach there and that attempting to convert Muslims to Christianity was a hate crime. The community officer is also said to have told the two men: ‘You have been warned. If you come back here and get beat up, well, you have been warned.'”

The right to free speech has been under attack since September 2001, with an increasing amount of ‘anti-terrorist’, ‘state secrecy’, ‘defamation’, and ‘media censorship’ laws. The police will, on top of this, frequently overstep the power given to them. And this is what occurred here. 

If there are Muslims in the United Kingdom who cannot deal with an American Christian missionary giving out bible tracts on an open street corner, I say send them even more Christian missionaries! Keep sending them until they can recite the Four Spiritual Laws by memory!! The thing about free speech is that, given enough of it, you will find you can just ignore the dumb stuff that you’re not interested in. Easy, huh?

Posted in Islam, Justice, Politics, Religion & Society | 5 Comments »

Academic Norman Finkelstein Detained and Interrogated by Israel Security Forces

Posted by NT Wrong on June 1, 2008

Rebecca Lesses has been right to call for the continued freedom of expression and operation of the Israeli Academy. Her call is in opposition to the recent totalitarian action of the University and College Union’s Congress, which recently passed the motion to boycott Israeli academics. Such a boycott is a stupid and misguided confusion of the people who live in this part of the Levant (and are furthering academic knowledge) with the political hegemony of the modern nationalist State. While I am not so naive as to imagine the Academy is fully independent of the State, I am also firmly against such a blunt instrument as the boycott which has naively equated the two. In a terrible and totalising irony, the University and College Union’s Congress has simply accepted the hegemony of the modern nation-state, rather than recognising the forces which always challenge that hegemony (including, especially, voices within the Academy itself). As such, the actions of the University and College Union’s Congress is nothing less than the method of terrorism and totalitarianism.

For the same reasons, Norman Finkelstein’s detainment, interrogation, and 10-year banning from Palestine (not only Israel) should be loudly opposed. It is another act of totalitarianism by a country which–and it bears repeating–should know better. There is no justification to silence the voices of dissent, whether one agrees with them or not.

US academic Norman Finkelstein denied entry to Israel
By Jean Shaoul
31 May 2008

Professor Norman Finkelstein, an American Jewish scholar known for his trenchant criticism of Israeli policy, was detained and interrogated by Israel’s security forces, Shin Bet, for 24 hours at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport on May 23, denied entry into Israel and deported back to Amsterdam where he had been lecturing.

Finkelstein had been en route to visit a friend in Hebron in the occupied West Bank. His deportation, and a 10-year ban on entering Israel for “security reasons,” is a major attack on the freedom of expression, the right of Israeli citizens to hear alternative viewpoints, and an attempt to intimidate and silence international opposition to Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians.

It also exposes the fraud of any putative Palestinian state where Israel controls the Palestinian borders and thus who may or may not enter.

Finkelstein, a son of Holocaust survivors, is one of a growing number of Jewish scholars who have made valuable contributions to the study of Israeli history and have become known as the “new” or “revisionist” historians. He has consequently been the focus of constant opposition from right-wing professors and the pro-Israeli media for years. He has been targeted in particular for his opposition to the charge of anti-Semitism being employed as a means of suppressing criticism of Israel’s violations of human rights and international law.

The 55-year-old political science professor is best known for his 2000 book, The Holocaust Industry, which argues that the Holocaust has been exploited for ends—support for Israel and calls for reparations—that have nothing to do with historical truth or the victims of the Nazi genocide. Finkelstein has also written critical studies of Daniel Goldhagen’s book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners, which argues that the cause of the Holocaust can be located in the inherent anti-Semitism of the German people as a whole.

His most recent book, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, continues on these themes, as well as documenting in detail the human rights violations of the state of Israel. Among the targets of the book, published by the University of California Press, are Harvard law Professor Alan Dershowitz and others who have used the charge of anti-Semitism to suppress criticism of Israeli policies.

Last year, Finkelstein was denied tenure at Chicago’s DePaul University where he had been lecturing for six years, despite support from his department, his students, and the faculty of the university, following pressure from opponents of his views, including Dershowitz. His classes for his final year in 2007-08 were cancelled and he was denied access to his office, leading him to resign under duress.

After landing in Tel Aviv last Friday, Shin Bet held Finkelstein in an airport cell and interrogated him about contacts with Hezbollah—against whom Israel fought a massive 33-day aerial bombardment in 2006—whether Hezbollah had sent him to Israel, any contacts he had with Al Qaeda and how he intended to finance his stay in Israel.

Earlier this year, Finkelstein had visited Lebanon, where he had been invited to speak at a conference at the American University in Beirut. He also undertook a tour in order to promote his book, accompanied by his Arab publisher and representatives of Hezbollah in the south of Lebanon. He has subsequently published articles about his trip.

Finkelstein’s web site posts excerpts from an interview he gave in January to Lebanese TV, in which he said he was “happy to meet the Hizbollah people because it is a point of view rarely heard in the US.”

Shin Bet’s line of questioning insinuates that Finkelstein is a supporter of Hezbollah, if not in their employ. Moreover to imply he is also connected to Al Qaeda is yet more absurd, particularly since Hezbollah is a a Shiite party while Al-Qaeda is a Sunni Muslim grouping.

The Shin Bet said Finkelstein “is not permitted to enter Israel because of suspicions involving hostile elements in Lebanon” and because he “did not give a full accounting to interrogators with regard to these suspicions.”

Finkelstein denied this in an emailed statement to Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper from Amsterdam. He wrote, “I did my best to provide absolutely candid and comprehensive answers to all the questions put to me. I am confident that I have nothing to hide. Apart from my political views, and the supporting scholarship, there isn’t much more to say for myself: alas, no suicide missions or secret rendezvous with terrorist organizations.” He added, “I support the two-state solution based on the ’67 borders and I told my interrogators I’m not an enemy of Israel.”

He explained that he was “en route to Palestine to see one of my oldest and dearest friends, Musa Abu-Hashhash.”

Finkelstein said he had visited Israel every year for the last 15 years. He added that he was held in a cell and encountered “several unpleasant moments with the guards.” Eventually he used a mobile phone belonging to another detainee and called another friend he had arranged to meet in Israel, the journalist Allan Nairn, who called a lawyer, Michael Sfard. Sfard met with Finkelstein and told him he could appeal the ban. He said that banning Finkelstein from entering the country “recalls the behaviour of the Soviet bloc countries.”

However, Finkelstein said that it was not “his inclination to pursue the matter,” although lawyers in Israel were encouraging him to do so on political grounds.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Finkelstein said he is not “dogmatic or fanatic” and while he believes every country has the right to restrict entry, he does not agree with the criteria. “Just as I would oppose the US not allowing people to enter due to ideological beliefs, I would consistently oppose them in Israel,” he said.

He also denied that he poses any threat to Israel. “I couldn’t be [a risk] because of any security threat I pose,” said Finkelstein. “The US has as stringent anti-terrorism laws in the books as Israel, and Hamas and Hezbollah are on their terrorist list. If I posed a security threat I should be talking to you from jail. Because no authorities have contacted me there are no grounds for it.”

Finkelstein did not intend to visit Israel, but had to pass through Israeli customs “by force of circumstance,” to visit a friend in Hebron. “Israel has the right to restrict who enters its country, but the West Bank is not its country,” said Finkelstein. “One day the Palestinian Authority may restrict my rights, but that’s an issue for the Palestinian Authority,” he continued.

Israel’s Association for Civil Rights called the deportation of Finkelstein an assault on free speech. “The decision to prevent someone from voicing their opinions by arresting and deporting them is typical of a totalitarian regime. A democratic state, where freedom of expression is the highest principle, does not shut out criticism or ideas just because they are uncomfortable for its authorities to hear. It confronts those ideas in public debate,” said the association’s lawyer, Oded Peler.

The decision to deport Finkelstein stands in marked contrast to Israel’s willingness to permit the entry of right-wing fascistic and religious zealots from the US and Russia who have been involved in all manner of provocative, criminal and murderous attacks on Palestinians—into both Israel and the West Bank.

The refusal to allow Finkelstein to enter Israel is particularly telling since Israel legally permits every Jew to exercise his or her right to live in Israel as a citizen of the country, in contrast to the Palestinians who fled their homes in 1948 and 1967 who are refused entry or the right of return, in accordance with the Law of Return that is fundamental to the Zionist state. It demonstrates that the security force reserves to itself the right to interpret the law as it sees fit. Israel is a home to diaspora Jews only providing that they do not criticise its military expansionism and oppression of the Palestinian people.

The ban on an academic critical of Israeli policy is all the more noteworthy because Israel likes to portray itself as a beacon of democracy in the region. In reality Finkelstein is not the first to be barred from entering the country: Israel regularly stops pro-Palestinian academics and peace activists from entering Israel who go to show support for Palestinian activists.

It also demonstrates the degree to which Shin Bet’s operations and decisions are not subject to judicial oversight. Israeli lawyers say that the chances of overturning Shin Bet’s ban on Finkelstein are slim. According to Ha’aretz, the courts do not intervene when Shin Bet decides that someone constitutes a security risk. Immigration authorities can prevent tourists entering the country, without even having to provide an explanation.

A Ha’aretz editorial opined, “Considering his unusual and extremely critical views, one cannot avoid the suspicion that refusing to allow him to enter Israel was a punishment rather than a precaution.”

“The Shin Bet argues that Finkelstein constitutes a security risk. But it is more reasonable to assume that Finkelstein is persona non grata and that the Shin Bet, whose influence has increased to frightening proportions, latched onto his meetings with Hezbollah operatives in order to punish him,” the editorial continued (emphasis added).

The attack on a liberal critic of Israel reflects a degree of desperation on the part of Israel. Faced with international opprobrium and internal dissent due to its brutal treatment of the Palestinians and bellicosity towards Iran, Israel is using its security forces to stifle opposition and to maintain the political hegemony of the financial and corporate elite in Tel Aviv and Washington.

If Israel’s liberal press was moved to express concern about the decision to deport Finkelstein, then that is more than can be said for the press in the West. His treatment went almost unreported in the United States. In particular the New York Times did not mention the exclusion of one of New York’s most well known residents.

In Britain, the Guardian reported it, but without an editorial or op-ed comment. It later published two letters. The first was from Dershowitz, which devoted more space to justifying the decision to deny tenure to Finkelstein because of his lack of scholarship and professionalism than to opposing Israel’s decision to ban him. The second was from the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, which claimed that Israel’s decision was entirely legitimate.

The silence of the liberal press speaks volumes about their attitude to basic democratic rights and the freedom of expression. Silence denotes consent. They do not criticise Israel’s actions because they agree with them.

Posted in Academia, Justice, Modern Israel, Politics | Comments Off on Academic Norman Finkelstein Detained and Interrogated by Israel Security Forces