Tuesday, 30 November 2010

WikiLeaks and Cablegate

I've been a bit underwhelmed by Cablegate. I thought there were going to be revelations that would shake the US government to its core. Are people genuinely surprised that:
  • Iran is considered a menace to the region and the world?
  • Prince Andrew is an utter arse ?
  • There are fears about Pakistan's nuclear materials getting into the wrong hands?
  • China considers North Korea to be an embarrassing burden rather than a valued strategic partner?
There's more to come but so far I haven't read anything that has particularly amazed me. Of course these are the sort of conversations that take place in the diplomatic world - I'd be more amazed if they didn't. The really startling thing about the leak, the truly embarrassing aspect, is the leak itself. The leak itself is the story - how could such vast quantities of sensitive information be so easily exported and distributed?

I'm not convinced that WikiLeaks's motives are always so pure, either. There seems to be a persistent anti-American strain. First the Afghanistan war logs, then the Iraq files, now Cablegate. Their next big dump of data, due in early 2011, will apparently unleash "devastating" revelations against a "major American bank" (Goldman Sachs? It must be). There only ever seems to be one geographical target. As David Aaronovitch said on Twitter on Sunday:
Imagine that, for once, the #wikileaks treasure trove contained hundreds of thousands of Iranian, Chinese or even French documents.
Or Russian. Or Saudi Arabian. That would be very interesting. Then, I suspect, we really would see some murky information. But, like David, I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Fisking Galloway

And what better reason for coming out of the blogging cave than to froth and rant at an old foe: Mr George Galloway.

I was most surprised to read this piece by him in the Daily Record. Not for the content of the article you understand; I was just staggered that there is still a publication happy to publish his work and, presumably, pay him for it.

Galloway was writing about the debate that took place in Toronto last week between Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair on the subject of faith. The motion was "Religion is a force for good in the world" and, by all accounts, Hitch (arguing against the motion, naturally) won. I would have loved to have seen it but will have to settle for the YouTube installments or, alternatively, catch it on BBC News on New Year's Day.

It's difficult to know where to begin with Galloway's comments so it'll have to be a good, old-fashioned Fisking of some of the most pertinent sections.

"I have no faith in this hellish twosome of Blair and Hitchens" roars the headline. Such erudition. Now, I know that this would have most likely have been written by a sub-editor rather than the author but you can easily picture Galloway's snarling face saying this with his customary bellicosity, self-important wind-bag that he is.
Tony was debating in Canada at the same time as me last week, with my old adversary Christopher Hitchens on the subject of God.
Might I suggest you replace "adversary" with intellectual superior?
Blair backs God, even though if there is a hell he's surely bound for the Blair inferno and Hitchens ridicules the very idea of God, despite the fact he is now stricken with cancer of the oesophagus with an extremely poor prognosis.
Despite the fact he is now stricken with cancer of the oesophagus with an extremely poor prognosis. This is amazing. The implication being that, despite a lifetime of principled, reasoned and intellectually vigorous anti-theism, because Hitch is now battling stage four cancer he should forget all about that and embrace "god". The very god that allows cancers to exist, or, to pursue this perverted logic, the very god that inflicted him with the illness in the first place. Galloway would not be the first "believer" to have speculated such a contemptible hypothesis, that this is somehow "god's revenge" for Hitch's "blasphemy".
And though I once denounced Hitchens as a bloated, drinksoaked former Trotskyist popinjay, I am religiously precluded from wishing him a premature death.
Again, a very telling choice of words. I am religiously precluded from wishing him a premature death. So it is only because your faith instructs you otherwise that you hold back from wishing him dead? If it wasn't for the fact that your religion forbids such a sentiment you would openly say it? Whereas, instead, you secretly wish it? This unwittingly demonstrates one of Hitch's most common examples in his arguments against faith: the idea that religious code makes people behave in a certain manner not from an inherent understanding of what is right or wrong but out of blind adherence to a mystical rule book.
My own debate with Hitchens - available on YouTube - five years ago in the Big Apple drew a considerably larger crowd than this latest double-apostasy. And a considerably more clear-cut result.
Indeed, it was a big event at the time and I enjoyed it. And you're right, George, it DID produce a considerably more clear-cut result: Hitch won in whichever way you choose to measure it. What you lacked in cogent argument you made up with characteristically bombastic chest-beating rhetoric. Don't mistake being the loudest with being the winner.
I hope Hitchens sticks around for a rematch. Which means I hope he pulls through. In fact, I shall pray for it.
Well, I can't disagree with you on that point. I, along with many others, hope he makes a full recovery. But as for the prayers... well, earlier in the article you did rather clearly hint that you wish him a premature death. So I hope for your sake that, when you are saying your prayers, god excuses your blatant hypocrisy. I wouldn't hold out much hope for a rematch though. In the event Hitch does recover I very much doubt he's going to want to spend valuable hours of his life in your company.

The challenge: a blog a day every day

So. A blog a day every day until the end of the year. This is quite an undertaking for someone who currently averages one post every couple of months at best but this is the challenge I have decided to set myself.

As for honouring the commitment, that's something else entirely. But damn it I'm going to try. It's not like there's any shortage of things to write about.