Monday, April 23, 2018

Jordan Peterson & the 13th Rule for Life

I read in Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald mag Good Weekend the feature - Toughen up, snowflake - on professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, Jordan Peterson.

Peterson, apparently, is the latest, trending intellectual guru with all the answers - 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos - for the perplexed (and who isn't these days?), so before rushing out to buy his tome, I thought I'd subject him to the infallible guide for sorting the sheep from the goats, the Palestine/Israel litmus test.

It's really quite simple to administer. Just Google the guru's name + 'Palestine' or 'Israel' or both and check out the result.

So I did, and OMFGx10!

Google took me to a YouTube video, beneath which these words appeared:

"Professor of Psychology Jordan Peterson, Professor Salim Mansur, Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and Ezra Levant, co-founder of The Rebel Media give a spirited talk on the historical significance of the Balfour Declaration (May 18, 2017). The event was hosted by Canadians for Balfour 100, a project of the Speakers Action Group in cooperation with The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow and the Mozuud Freedom Foundation."

The Gatestone Institute? Chaired by John Bolton? That's right! As to the rest... well, life's too damn short.

I proceeded straight to JP's 16-minute contribution, but could barely manage 10. Here's why:

"Maybe even the enemies [ie Arabs] of the Jews [ie Israelis] respect them because they've done so well and it's just annoying."

"Israel's a shining beacon on the hill [in] a God-forsaken part of the world."

"You think about the common complaint that the Western colonialists, say, were responsible for the divisions of the Middle East. I mean, that's one way of looking at it. If you start history at 1917 after the allies won the First World War and took down the Ottoman Empire... you could say, well, England and France had the upper hand and they arbitrarily divided up the Middle East, but you could just as easily say that the Ottoman Empire collapsed and they had to do something with it. It wasn't obvious, and they gave some of it to the Arabs who really didn't have any land to begin with, or not any independent land that's for sure, because they were dominated by the Ottoman Empire, and they decided to give some of it to the Jews. Well, maybe that wasn't the world's best solution either way but they were maybe making the best of a bad lot."

According to our intellectual guru, empires (and presumably, countries too) just collapse - no push, no shove necessary. In the case of the Ottoman Empire, no foreign interference over decades, no foreign interventions, no final British push in Palestine. One minute it's standing, the next it's in a bloody great heap, just begging to be cleared away.

And guess which innocent bystanders just happen to be around at that precise point: 'Blimey, chaps, just look at that! How frightfully messy. OK, duty calls, roll up your sleeves and pitch in! And when we're done, we can give some of it to those Arab blighters, and some to the Jews.' To which latter suggestion said innocent bystanders exclaim as one: 'What a jolly good idea!'

Hey, Jordan, here's a 13th Rule for Life. Put it in your second edition: If you don't know anything about a subject, don't talk about it.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Next War

Ominous drumbeats in Friday's Australian, from its full-page interview with Israel's new ambassador to these shores, Mark Sofer:

"... the insidious beachhead of Iranian military power pushing into Syria, which shares a border with Israel." (A NOTE TO IRAN: GO HOME, Adam Creighton)

"... Iran is 'crossing a red line'."

"'The Iranians are sitting there, threatening our existence... '"

"... an Iranian government so belligerent that even Arab nations - former enemies of Israel - are looking to Israel to help contain it."

If Israel isn't gearing up for a war this year...

Some other highlights:

"Sofer is at pains to draw a distinction between the Iranian people - 'very erudite' - and the 'half-crazed lunatics' running the theocracy in Tehran."

Says the representative of the half-crazed lunatics running the theocracy in Tel Aviv...

(Remember what happened after another half-crazed lunatic, George W. Bush, drew the same distinction between the Iraqi people and their leader? "Iraq's talented people, rich culture, and tremendous potential have been hijacked by Saddam Hussein." (A vision for Iraq & the Iraqi people, 16/3/03))

"The country is more than pulling its weight in humanitarian terms. 'We're accepting into Israel a huge amount [sic] of Syrian wounded into our hospitals. We don't make a song and dance about it,' he says, referring to the tens of thousands of Syrians being treated for wounds in the north of the country."

And the Oscar goes to...

"The ambassador displays his nation's famously coy attitude to its own military capabilities. 'We're not a nuclear power. We have always said so, and will always say so,' he says when asked about his country's nuclear development. Try finding a source that argues Israel doesn't have a sizeable battery of nuclear weapons. Can anyone blame Israel, though?"

Certainly, you can't, Adam - not if you want to keep your job at the Australian.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Circle the Wagons!

The 70th anniversary of the ill-conceived, apartheid state of Israel is looming, and Murdoch's Australian is literally salivating at the prospect.

On Thursday, we had a 6-page supplement -  INNOVATION NATION - "Seventy years ago on May 14, David Ben-Gurion read the Declaration of Independence proclaiming the state of Israel. In an arid landscape, the nation has succeeded through ingenuity in endeavours including agriculture and, more recently, hi-tech centred on Tel Aviv and its Silicon Wadi" (19/4/18) - and a lead article by Bruce Loudon, A miracle shaped from the desert, in which he amusingly confuses Israel's apartheid Law of Return with the Palestinians' international law-backed right of return:

"The 'right of return' has attracted migrants with a commitment to the future of Israel."

"And then there is the upsurge of violence in Gaza. Hamas terrorists are inciting impoverished Gazans into defiant protests under the banner of a 'Great March of Return' aimed at reclaiming Palestine, to coincide with Israel's 70th anniversary."

But for me the highlight of Loudon's leader was his resurrection of the hysterical words of Israel's first ambassador to the UN, Abba Eban (who, btw, once cynically quipped that "Propaganda is the art of persuading others of what one does not believe oneself"):

"Surrounded by hostile armies on all its land frontiers, subjected to savage and relentless hostility, exposed to penetration raids and assaults by day and by night, suffering a constant toll of life among its citizens, bombarded by threats of neighbouring governments to accomplish its extinction by armed force - embattled, blockaded, besieged, Israel alone among the nations faces a battle for its security anew with every approaching nightfall and every rising dawn."

An oldie but a goldie. Made my day.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Iraq: No 'War for Oil'

I watched George Galloway's fine 2017 doco The Killing$ of Tony Blair last night. If you haven't already seen it, I can assure you it's well worth it.

Should you do so, I have only one, albeit rather large, caution: the film has footage of Noam Chomsky parroting his nonsense about the US invasion and destruction of Iraq being a 'war for oil', a line unfortunately repeated by Galloway at the conclusion of the film.

Just to clarify, here are my top authorities, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, on this furphy:

"Saddam was eager to sell his oil to any customer willing to pay for it. Moreover, if the United States wanted to conquer another country to gain control of its oil, Saudi Arabia - with larger reserves and a smaller population - would have been a much more attractive target. Plus, bin Laden was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, and fifteen of the nineteen terrorists who struck the United States on September 11 were Saudis (none were from Iraq). If control of oil were Bush's real objective, 9/11 would have been an ideal pretext to act... There is also hardly any evidence that oil interests were actively pushing the Bush administration to invade Iraq in 2002-03." (The Israel Lobby & US Foreign Policy, 2007, p 254)

Thursday, April 19, 2018


It seems only yesterday that I was writing about how the language of Trump's bizarre 'Get ready, Russia/Gas Killing animal' tweet, signalling his intent to attack Syria, smacked of a b-grade 50s western. Well, it appears Trump's started something of a trend. Still, who'd have thought it'd be echoed on the other side of the pond by a Tory toff:

"The president of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Lord David Howell said the Syrian crisis should prompt the [Commonwealth Heads of Government Movement] summit leaders, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, to stand up for common values including the rule of law... Lord Howell rejected the claims made in Britain by Mr Corbyn and others, that Parliament should have debated or voted on the use of force before Ms May authorised the military strikes. 'When the posse is riding out you have to join the posse,' he said. 'You can't say 'Oh we'll be back next week when we've had a discussion about it'." (CHOGM 'can pressure Syria' on chemicals, David Crowe, Sydney Morning Herald, 18/4/18)

We live in strange times.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Please Explain

Former senator for the Australian Greens, Scott Ludlam, has resurfaced as a Guardian Australia columnist... with mixed results. To deconstruct just these two sentences:

"Syria, and Yemen, and Gaza, each in their own way, are terminal signs that our system of global governance is truly broken." (Syria exposes the broken state of global governance. How do we respond? 16/4/18)

Why Gaza, and not Palestine?

"No party to these bruising conflicts can say with a straight face that they are acting in good faith, or with any regard to the 'international rules-based order' in which post-second world war generations have placed their trust."

To focus here just on Gaza/Palestine, by 'party to the conflict,' does Ludlam mean that neither Israel nor the Palestinians are 'acting in good faith,' or adhering to international law? If so, this statement of equivalence between the two suggests that he has no idea of the underlying settler-colonial nature of the problem. In 2018!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Rubbery Figures

"More than 120,000 civilians have been killed... in Syria since 2011, says the Violations Documentation Centre." (Gas often used on civilians: aid group, Sarah Almukhtar, The Sun-Herald, 15/4/18)

"Assad has killed at least 400,000 of his fellow Syrians in seven years of civil war." (Trump strike futile, but will make him feel better, Peter Hartcher, Sydney Morning Herald, 16/4/18)

"... the US has been silent on the approximately 100,000 civilian deaths." (Missile strikes easy part. What happens next is harder, Denis Dragovic, Sydney Morning Herald, 16/4/18)

"Analysts view the latest retaliatory strike as futile in a war that Assad instigated and won, after seven years of brutal fighting and the deaths of more than 500,000 civilians." (Strikes met with scorn and shrugs, Farid Farid, Sydney Morning Herald, 17/4/18)

"Of the more than 400,000 Syrians killed... " (Despot gets back to work bombing his people, Sune Engel Rasmussen, The Wall Street Journal/The Australian, 17/4/18)