Edinburgh 2 November: A Day to Stretch the Intellect 136

There is a good double header of events in Edinburgh on 2 November, at venues 5 minutes walk from one another. At 2pm at the National Library of Scotland on George IV Bridge I shall be giving a talk on Alexander Burnes, followed by a book signing.

After retiring to Sandy Bell’s for a brief refreshment, at 6pm the W. M. Watt Annual Lecture is being delivered by Professor Nur Masalha at the Playfair Library, Old College, South Bridge. The Lecture is entitled Powerful Symbols and the British-Zionist Alliance: From Balfour to the Nakba . You need to book a place via the link.

This sounds very interesting and I hope gets a good turnout. It is excellent to see an official Edinburgh University function tackling this subject, when there have been so many attempts within other universities to repress free speech around it.

On a related note, I am delighted to say that I have received the first peer review of Sikunder Burnes, in Central Asian Survey, which is the accepted academic journal of note in this area. This is very important to me as, while Murder in Samarkand/Dirty Diplomacy is to my certain knowledge taught on university courses from Moscow to Rio De Janeiro and many points inbetween, it was shunned by British and US academia; an example of the systematic marginalisation of whistleblowers. Part of the plan of Sikunder Burnes was to produce such a volume of important original research it would be impossible for academia to ignore it.

Furthermore, Alexander Morrison of New College, Oxford is one of the few academics qualified in this precise area to pass judgement. Naturally his review is far from uncritical, but I would not have wished it to be. As stated in the preface, Alexander is one of the academics with whom I cooperated in the limited sense of swapping transcriptions, and I look forward to publishing a reply to some of the points in his review in a spirit of friendly discussion. I am sorry you can’t see the entire review unless you have access to academic library login credentials.

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136 thoughts on “Edinburgh 2 November: A Day to Stretch the Intellect

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  • SA

    I don’t usually watch BBC propaganda programmes but last night for some reason did. It was a film plugging the British army and how we must spend more money to protect ourselves. Most of the protection appears to be against Russia which has shown expansionist tendencies in 2008 in Georgia, and in 2014 in Ukraine. Of course there was no context to this and no mention of how many wars this peaceful nations has been involved in during these years.
    The film focused on a posting of 800 troops to Estonia, to show Russia our resolve to defend our friends. Now why would Russia want to invade Estonia/ This of course was a given, there was just the assurance that this was the case. Several thousand troops from UK, France and other NATO countries, travelled hundreds of miles to fight mock battles with invading hordes of Russians, who had the audacity to be on the other side of the border.
    Of course the danger is really not Russia but the ethnic Russians in the Baltic states. Although this was sort of hinted at, it was not contextualised. Also the fact that most Russian origin citizens in Latvia are labelled as no-citizens and not allowed a vote, is rarely mentioned or discussed.
    All in all this was blatant propaganda.

    • Laguerre

      Yes, quite why it is that the Russians would want to “recover” the Baltic states is never explained. The Russians gave them up voluntarily in 1991. Why would they want to get them back now?

        • SA

          Russia has vast territories and vast resources. Their major concern is to defend these vast territories from the encircling US and NATO bases. There is no strategic advantage for them to invade Estonia, you surely know that . In the case of Georgia and Ukraine these were answers to provocations and you also know that.

          • Kempe

            You have to wonder why they bothered in 1944. If only Stalin had been able to consult you.

            Estonia occupies a strategically important position on the Baltic, during the Soviet era much of the coastal areas were closed off and the Soviet Navy had an important base and training facility for nuclear submarines in the country (think Faslane on steroids). Post occupation 10% of the population was deported, mostly to Soviet labour camps from which half did not return.

          • SA

            1944 is not 2017. Putin is not Stalin.
            Both you and Bal continue to say the same thing. There is no proof that Russia has displayed any interest in the Baltic states other than the fact that they have invited NATO to their doorstep.
            The situation is now so illogical that the Baltic tail is wagging the NATO dog.

        • laguerre

          Yes, sure the Russians gave up the Soviet Union voluntarily. The Balts of course like to have a different nationalist narrative. they are paranoid in the Baltic states, aren’t they, Kempe? (I have personal experience). The Finns managed to avoid the problem, but the Balts are raving nutters. Whom for no reason evident to me we have committed ourselves to defending.

          • SA

            about 15% of Latvians are non-citizens with no voting rights, thier sin being that they are of Russian origin. Maybe in post Brexit Britain we should adopt this policy and convert 15% of the undesirables to non-citizens.

      • Ba'al Zevul

        Reasons might include:
        1. A desire to establish a buffer zone between NATO and the RF.
        2. More than quarter of the population of Estonia and Latvia is ethnic Russian (which is not to say they all yearn to be restored to the tender care of Putin)
        3. Even the pretence of movement on the Baltic state borders complicates NATO responses elsewhere

        I doubt this list is exhaustive.

        • SA

          Wouldn’t the simplest answer be that the Baltic republics declare neutrality from the two blocs and be like Finland. That would be advantageous for them and for NATO, using your own logic.

          • Ba'al Zevul

            Finland (then nominally neutral) had to put up quite a fight the last time the Russians came calling. I wonder how binding their subsequent agreement with the USSR would have been in the absence of NATO? I don’t really see the logic of declaring neutrality: the vast majority of Balts don’t want to be a fiefdom of Mother Russia again – there’s nothing neutral about that.

    • Salford Lad

      Contrary to Western propaganda ,Russia did not invade Georgia, the true facts are polar opposite. Georgia supported by Western and Israeli forces invaded Ossetia and Abkhazia. both protectorates of Russia.This was a ‘feeler’ operation by the West to ascertain Russian resolve to protect it borders,
      The President of Georgia at the time was Mikael Sakkashvilli, now operating in Ukraine, previously as Mayor of Odessa and now as a front man for Yulia Timoshenko, in her attempt to overthrow Poroshenko.
      Saakasvili is wanted in Georgia on fraud charges and has had his Georgian and Ukrainian passporst revoked, entered Ukraine by forcing his way past immigration control from Poland.
      Russia did not invade Ukraine.There was a coup,supported by the West, The Eastern ethnic Russian Donbass,declared UDI, becasue of repressive anti-Russian measures by the coup regime.
      Crimea had a Internationally recognised referendum,in which 96% of the populace voted to rejoin Russia.

      • SA

        Salford Lad
        You and Sharp ears and I, amongst others in this blog are well aware of these facts, but the myth created by the establishment, persists that Russia, unprovoked, invaded Georgia. As to Ukraine, I could see the coup on TV especially RT, the snipers, the police being driven back by molotov cocktail throwing, balaclava wearing ‘peaceful protestors’.

  • SA

    Singing for Syria is a group of events aimed at increasing awareness of the Syrian tragedy and offering medical and other help to Syrians. All very admirable. The sponsors are the Hands up foundation. Some of thier collaborators are Syrian American Medical Society and National Syrian Project for Prosthetic Limbs. The first organisation was very active at the time of the siege by the SAA and eventual liberation of East Aleppo from Al Qaeda supporters and repeatedly called for humanitarian bombing of the Syrian army.
    The second one is involved in finding prostheses for amputees and is highly recommendable, operating mainly in Idlib and rebel controlled areas.
    Meanwhile Syria is under very severe sanctions by the Western world. It appears that we salve our conscience by indulging in selective charitable work and in that some of us would very much welcome humanitarian bombing. But I have not heard a single establishment or charitable organisation calling for lifting of economic sanctions against Syrian Government despite the very serious consequences of these sanctions.

    • Laguerre

      The latest anti-Asad trick is kids dying of hunger in the Syrian besieged areas. disappeared now from the Guardian web-site. Frankly, if the kids are suffering, they should make a deal with Asad. he’s quite open to that.

      • SA

        What is so underreported or maybe unreported in our western media is the fact that not only has Russia and Damascus set a national reconciliation organisation, deconflicting areas and even bussing besieged terrorists out of conflict areas to minimise civilian casualties. These actions do not fit in with the picture of the blood thirsty dictator, who kills for the sake of killing ‘his own people’ supported by a cynical expansionist Russia.
        The political analysis of the war in Syria has deliberately been extremely stunted. No one in the west analyses the fact that the opposition is now led by Al Qaeda who still continue to receive a lot of backing and are supported by many of the ‘humanitarian’ NGOs. In fact Western Governments and Media have been involved in a massive whitewash of terrorism in Syria. More recently, the US in recognition of the fact that this game is wearing thin have instead decided to support the Kurds and the so called SDF in Syria in a race with the SAA to capture the oil fields in eastern Syria on the Iraq border.
        None of this makes the BBC or Guardian, instead we keep getting the rehashed story about Sarin in Khan Sheikhun .

  • Sharp Ears

    Crunch time approaching

    Catalan crisis: Regional MPs debate Spain takeover bid
    29 minutes ago
    Media caption – Students with Catalan flags chanted “independence”.

    Backers and opponents of independence in Catalonia have clashed in parliament over the way forward as the Spanish government is set to reassert control.

    The debate came a day before Spain’s Senate is expected to approve a plan to curtail some of the region’s autonomous powers following October’s referendum.

    These include removing leader Carles Puigdemont and curtailing the parliament’s powers.

    It was decided under Article 155 of the constitution, which allows direct rule.

    Mr Puigdemont declared independence after the 1 October referendum, which was ruled illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court. But the Catalan leader immediately suspended implementation, calling for talks.

    The Catalan government said that of the 43% who took part in the referendum, 90% were in favour of independence.

    • giyane

      “The Catalan government said that of the 43% who took part in the referendum, 90% were in favour of independence.”

      Those who 67 % who refused to vote, even though they probably desire Catalan independence, may have not voted because they could see no benefit in stirring up a political hornet’s nest in their own region. Those 38.7 % who voted for, in an un-monitored referendum, represent just over half the number of those who refused to vote. Put like that it is in fact more like the Brexit referendum in which a tiny majority of leavers are dragging the rest of the country into High Tory wet dream territory. if it was me, I’d settle for EFTA terms, i.e. keep free movement of trade and people and get out of the federal EU. But nobody asked me , particularly not Theresa May, and maybe she should by now have asked at least my MP.

        • giyane

          Sums done in pencil in the dark. Sorry.
          57% x 43% = 25% voted for Catalan independence, while 57% abstained. If a certain number stayed away out of fear rather than lethargy there are still double the numbers who thought it wasn’t a good idea to try to become independent at this particular junction than those who agreed.
          My subliminal calculator was better than I thought. This referendum was against independence. Manyana people want manyana. Soros wants now. In the Scottish referendum Cameron applied
          soap and falsification to the voting totals. Much more effective than Rajoy’s way. But the essence of 4th generation warfare, viz announcing your enemy’s defeat before it happens, has put the wind up Rajoy. he should even now organise a proper, official, referendum and the figures show that only 25% of the electorate want to break away.

          • reel guid


            If 43% of the Catalan electorate voted and 90% of that 43% voted Yes, that means about 39% of the overall electorate voted Yes. Which means the independence camp would only need about one fifth support from the 57% who didn’t vote to get a majority for independence.

            Many Yes voters were intimidated into not voting or were prevented from entering the polling stations by paramilitary thugs. Also many ballot boxes were confiscated before Yes voters got the chance to vote. Not to mention that many undecided or soft No voters will have changed their minds after witnessing the thuggery and fascism of the Madrid government.

            It would be unlikely that Yes doesn’t have majority support in Catalonia. If Rajoy thought there was still a No majority then he wouldn’t be imposing direct rule.

          • giyane

            90% x 43% = 38.7 % wanted independence while 57% abstained.
            Even if a half of the abstainers stayed away because they thought the time wasn’t right,
            the total of remainers is 32.8%
            The referendum was not properly supervised, in fact it was sabotaged by violence, the Soros side predicting accurately the reaction of Rajoy.
            They should go away and do a civilised referendum in which it is clearly understood that the choice is between old conservatism and new conservatism as in Turkey, UK, France. Since there is no left-wing majority, Spain is simply doing an internal Tory wobbly like May .

          • SA

            You are correct in your assessment. I am not sure that any of this is about real people led democracy, it is about one ruling class wanting to replace another one.

  • SA

    Would the Balfour talk be recorded and published subsequently? That would be interesting.
    On a separate matter there are now accusations that Russia has interfered with the Brexit vote!

        • SA

          Why do the BBC not do an in depth investigation on which side we are backing in Syria? Because the answer will not shine a good light on us. And as Fallon recently said, criticising Saudi Arabia is not good for our arms sales, or words to that effect.

  • Anon7

    Yesterday’s BBC Breakfast headline:

    Crackpot conspiracy theorist Donald Trump to unnecessarily open thousands of files into JFK assassination.

    Today’s BBC Breakfast headline:

    Donald Trump blocks access to thousands of files about JFK assassination, denying the American people the right to know what happened.


    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. You simply cannot win with a liberal media who are determined to make sure the Trump presidency does not succeed at any cost. No wonder he bypasses them completely.

    • reel guid

      The Trump presidency is succeeding to a remarkable degree.

      Succeeding in making the USA an international laughing stock.

      • Anon7

        He’s doing a superb job, not only with the economy and jobs, but in having brought about the greatest collective pant-wetting of the left in political history. The breakdown after Trump 2020 is going to be spectacular.

  • reel guid

    Douglas Ross has announced he won’t accept appointment to officiate at matches while Parliament is sitting. So he will miss out on the chance to go to the World Cup next summer.

    Bad cybernats. Look what we’ve done.

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