DAY 105: Why not?

October 27th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

I finished my article on proportionality this evening – took much longer than the ten hours I’d promised, but I had to get in the references to Agamben and Aristotle. I don’t think I’ll post it here today, though, better send it out to my contacts in the human rights biz for vetting. You don’t want to have said something was a grave breach when it was only a minor infraction. » Read the rest of this entry «

DAY 104

October 22nd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

I was mulling over the old ‘Targeted Killings’ case, (you know, HCJ 769/02, The Public Committee against Torture in Israel et al. v. The Government of Israel et al., 14 December 2004); in which the always predictable Israeli Supreme Court decided that the policy of targeted killings was not criminal per se, but only if it broke certain rules limiting collateral damage


‘Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge’, El Lissitzky

And President Barak’s words are worth quoting at this time – (§46, if you’ve got a copy to hand):

‘Take the usual case of a combatant, or of a terrorist sniper shooting at soldiers or civilians from his porch.  Shooting at him is proportionate even if as a result, an innocent civilian neighbor or passerby is harmed.  That is not the case if the building is bombed from the air and scores of its residents and passersby are harmed .’

(It’s interesting that terrorists shooting from porches are ‘usual’ in President Barak’s experience – they aren’t that common around Archway.)

What has been commented on ever since is that what Barak said was not ‘proportionate’ – and so, prima facie, a war crime, was bombing from the air and harming, or indeed killing scores of passersby. Which is of course what the IDF has been doing ever since, particularly in 2009 and this summer. There’s a good case, if you come across any of the current Israeli government, for performing a citizen’s arrest on him/her and initiating proceedings for gross breaches of the Rome Statute (or something). I don’t recommend doing it in Israel, where they might lock you up for good; but in the good old UK you’d only risk a couple of weeks for disturbing the peace. There are worse ways of spending your time.

On a related topic, it seems – although figures are hard to come by – that there are more deaths annually in Israel from drunk driving than from the rather amateurish Hamas Qassam rockets. (See Jaffe, D. et al., ‘Alcohol and driver fatalities in Israel: an examination of the current problem’, IMAJ 11 (2009), p. 725.)

justin bieber arrested for dui (6)Recent bust of one Bieber for driving under the influence shocks fans

Which suggests that honestly the IDF would be better employed in (rather than arousing hostility abroad by bombing Gaza) directing its targeted killings at drunk drivers – say, zeroing in on a Tel Aviv party where there was a high level of alcohol consumption and demolishing the flat with a drone strike. There might be collateral damage, but most of the dead would likely be drunks or drivers or both – I’m sure the IDF lawyers could make a case for the legality of the strike, and just a few deaths would act as a deterrent and bring down the number of road casualties.


Departing (and why not?) from the standard format, i.e. breaking a ‘rule’ which is of my own making, this seems the right place to include today’s poem, Rafeef Ziadah’s ‘We Teach Life, Sir‘. I’m inserting it as a video, as she’s a performance poet and the bare text doesn’t convey anything compared with the performed breaths and pauses.

Your Questions

A reader from Thebes, Ancient Greece, asks ‘Is it OK to have sex with my mom?’ Family Law doesn’t give us much guidance on this, provided both parties are consenting adults. I found the question, with more detail than I have space for about what I, my mom, and indeed my sis are getting up to on Yahoo! Answers (‘I just wanna know if I could go further without being looked upon as a weirdo. I think having sex with my mom might be fun since we can do it often with no strings attached’. Oh and ‘BTW my father is deceased so its just the three of us living together’)

oedipus-and-jocastaOedipus and his mom

Yahoo!’s answers are rather a mishmash from the outraged to the sweetly liberal (‘Honestly given your situation it seems okay, it’s not disgusting, it’s someone that you trust and she trusts’). Maybe the Delphic Oracle would be a better search engine. One could all the same ask how the reader’s father met his end.

Facebook pages you might like

After my recent success with Heidegger, I searched for a page devoted to Lobachevsky – it seemed to me that the Copernicus of geometry surely deserved any number of friends. There are a number of candidates, including one ‘Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky’ who seems to be a pseudonym for a guy who hangs out in Portobello Road and Swiss Cottage, with no obvious link to non-euclidean geometry. Much more promising is the 31-member group ‘LoBaChEvSkY’; the main problem is reading their posts, for example: ‘haha LOVES OMG parang ndi ko ata aLam un’ and



‘si maam pag umarte tayo gusto ko ikaw bida ako kontra bida hahah. wag kana nga maam mag paka stress saming mga lobachesky lahat na story may happy ending yan ang paka tandaan mo maam good night mhua mhua. atok na si ako. haaaah zzzzzz’. Google Translate tells me that the group’s members are Filipinos, communicating in Cebuano (or Binisaya). (Or Filipino? Perhaps some reader could help.) Once again the link to Kazan’ seems tenuous. Pity about the stress, but at least there’s a happy ending, and a good night zzzzzz.


Fat Hen Quiche. A lot of requests for this from vegetarian readers who have noticed the familiar weeds sprouting in neglected corners of their council estates. (I suppose if you’re a vegan you can make a quiche without breaking eggs, but frankly that’s not my business.) Begin by gathering absolutely heaps (say 350 g.) of young leaves. Bring them back home – I never overestimate my readers’ intelligence  – and wash them scrupulously about three times – they’ll likely be covered in dogshit and cigarette ends or even needles if your estate is anything like mine. Cook them like spinach – gently in the water you’ve washed them in. Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Now get some pastry (shortcrust), roll it out, make a case, line a dish. Don’t do that stuff about baking it blind full of beans and that, so that you have to throw some hard baked beans away – too much trouble. Put in a bowl: the fat hen, three eggs, 150 g. creme fraiche, some thyme, nutmeg, ground cumin, chili (why not?), salt, pepper, and so on. Beat, and pour into the pastry case. Glaze the edges with some beaten egg which you will of course have reserved.

Pop the quiche in the oven for 40 minutes, then take it out and don’t forget to turn off the oven. (No, I don’t only think you’re stupid, sometimes I forget it myself.) Serve with Iranian ‘Istak’ non-alcoholic beer.


I’ve already tweeted the delights of hearing Camerounian singer Coco Mbassi at the Dalston Vortex; and she did me the favour of favouriting my tweet. (So incestuous is the world of world music.) Anyway, here she is with ‘Iwiye’.


Day 103: Michael

October 10th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Taking the customary moment to remember a friend: Michael Wolfers, who translated Angolan poems, befriended Africans, 61-wyY4MwBL._UY250_

travelled, wrote, and late in life wrote a biography of my father, died this week. He’ll be missed.When I was in Accra (see much earlier) being bitten by scorpions and that, it was Michael who took care of me. As it’s vaguely relevant, let’s here insert a memorial poem by Chinua Achebe for the Angolan poet and militant Agostinho Neto:
Agostinho, were you no more
Than the middle one favored by fortune
In children’s riddle; Kwame
Striding ahead to accost
Demons; behind you a laggard third
As yet unnamed, of twisted fingers?

No! Your secure strides
Were hard earned. Your feet
Learned their fierce balance
In violent slopes of humiliation;
Your delicate hands, patiently
Groomed for finest incisions,
Were commandeered brusquely to kill,
Your gentle voice to battle-cry.

Perhaps your family and friends
Knew a merry flash cracking the gloom
We see in pictures but I prefer
And will keep that sorrowful legend.
For I have seen how
Half a millennium of alien rape
And murder can stamp a smile
On the vacant face of the fool,
The sinister grin of Africa’s idiot-kings
Who oversee in obscene palaces of gold
The butchery of their own people.

Neto, I sing your passing, I,
Timid requisitioner of your vast
Armory’s most congenial supply.
What shall I sing? A dirge answering
The gloom? No, I will sing tearful songs
Of joy; I will celebrate
The man who rode a trinity
Of awesome fates to the cause
Of our trampled race!
Thou Healer, Soldier and Poet!

Saving Wadi Foquin

 or, changing the subject slightly: When I first visited Bethlehem ten years ago, we were shown the nearby village of Wadi Foqin (there are various spellings). The village was already under threat, with settlements encroaching and discharging raw sewage onto agricultural land. But they were resisting; our tour group in particular engaged to sponsor a teacher for the World Vision kindergarten.

wadi-fukin-campaign-photo-300x184Well, ten years have passed, and of course everything is much worse. The threat is now that the village will be impacted by the Israeli annexation of 1000 acres of land announced at the end of August. And so it goes on. The United Methodist Church, bless them, give details here along with suggestions for contacting your Congressman. Given Congress’ rock-solid support of Israel in the recent war, I don’t give much hope for the prospects of success.

graduationGraduation ceremony in Gaza: graduates hold up photos of dead classmates. Here, courtesy of ‘Jewish Voice for Peace’, is – I think – the latest naming of the dead.

(A friend has observed that normally on the internet if you post any remark on Israel or Palestine, e.g. ‘It’s a shame the IDF have dropped a bomb on my favourite ice-cream parlour’, you are instantly deluged with illiterate trash from racists of all descriptions – islamophobic, antisemitic, even Ukip. Why is this blog, which never pulls its punches, immune to attack from these people? Too low profile, I’m afraid.)

Global Capitalism and Pesto

I expect you thought it was time for a bit of light relief, a few words of comfort. Is that my job? As Brecht says, ‘he who laughs has not yet heard the terrible news.’ Searching for some information about the nutritive value of pine-kernels (to justify sprinkling them on everything), I found that recently the supply went down 90%, and by the inexorable laws of economics the price shot up accordingly. Some more well-known facts:

1. Most of the world’s pine kernels come from China.

2. There are six (at least) varieties – of course some are better than others.

3. So inevitably, as supply dwindled, the Chinese (or some capitalists) decided to rely on the inferior varieties.

4. Unfortunately, these cause PNS, or ‘pine nut syndrome’ a nasty metallic taste in the mouth which has spread like wildfire through pesto aficionados. You may say this isn’t worth moaning about compared with toxic shock, say, or PTSD or Ebola virus. I say that human suffering has to be taken seriously in all its forms, particularly if it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.. Here is Slovene Lacanian Alenka Zupancic with a riff on the ‘Human Animal’ which should clarify that question. Or read Montaigne, see previous post.

Some are advocating, in desperation, making pesto with walnuts. Tfoo, as they say in Russia. Cheddar for parmesan? Parsley for basil? I think EU law would have something to say about it.

You asked:

1. Is the Earth hurtling towards an environmental catastrophe?

A. Thanks to some folks in Stockholm, I can provide you with a handy picture under the title ‘Planetary Boundaries’:


What colours! What drama! Scary stuff, particularly on the left, a region which is well known to be associated with anxiety. Red means, we’ve already gone too far; green means, take it easy; white is either ‘carry on polluting’ or ‘the data isn’t in yet’.
2. If you’re on the far side of Mars (I assume you’re a spacecraft or something), how do you get information back to NASA?
A. If I understand my sources at Wired it’s just like a mobile phone. NASA has two satellites orbiting Mars – what a lot of junk they have around our solar system, and no celestial dustmen to clear it up.
velaMessage from Apollo to Vulcan about Mars and Venus (Velasquez, Prado)
Called Odyssey and Mars Global Surveyor, if you want to know. Your computer works out when one of the satellites is going to be overhead, sends up a message (e.g. ‘I have a bad feeling about this mission’) at 250 Kbps – a bit slow, surely. When the satellite gets back to the other side of Mars, it sends it back to NASA at the speed of light, presumably with a header to say who it’s from. This, says Wired, takes ten minutes. By which time the aliens may have turned the bad feeling into something worse.
Last night to a superb performance by the Galilee Quartet (conscientious objectors from Israel) – in Amnesty’s postmodern building which sits uneasily in the middle of romantic Hoxton. It was a revelation to hear (among much else, classic, Palestinian, and so on), the tango La Paloma which seems to sound particularly declarative on a string quartet.
And for Michael, here’s Steve Earle’s ‘Jerusalem‘ (well, it probably wouldn’t have been his choice).





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