2005/03/31

This Site has Moved...


We have moved...
...


HERE!!!


(please update your site's link to the new address: http://dianne.free.fr/)

I should say we are in the process of moving and as moving goes it's a bit messy.

There will be no new postings to this site but comments will stay enabled until we are settled in our new address. Our first attempt at importing Blogger post and comments to the new site failed so for now we will ask each member to re-post their most recent articles to the new site. This hasn't been done yet but should happen within the next 24 hours. In the meantime feel free to comment here at least until we are settled at the new address. For a time we will keep this site up although at some point we will shut down commenting before the spam merchants find it.

Our decision to move was based on Blogger's many problems and our desire to be hosted by a European country rather than the US (we didn't like the idea of being under US jurisdiction... fancy that... I wonder why!).

The new site is going to be bigger and better (not to mention 100 times faster) and we hope to see you all there. Lots of things need to be implemented and refined but for now, it's useable as it is. Certainly more so than Blogger :-)

2005/03/28

Can you Christians stop controlling me?

Easter, a time when someone who lived 2000 years ago apparently rose from his grave. Sorry, I don't believe in it. I'm an Atheist.

So can I have the right to buy alcohol this weekend? No, apparently it violates Christian beliefs. Excuse me, but Jesus drank WINE at the last supper.
Furthermore, do Christians have the right to tell me what I can and cannot do? Do they respect the Muslim holy days and follow those practises? No, then why am I expected to follow theirs?

I agree that people should get holy days off. But ones holy to them, not to others. People should be given say 5 holy days a year in which they can decide what days they want off. If they have to work them (like many people do at Easter), then they get paid time and a half with a day in lieu. That would allow Muslims to take days off special to them, Jews to take days off special to them, Christians to take days off special to them etc. etc. And us Atheists? Well I'm going to extend my hangover recovery time from New Years and take my birthday off, thank you.

Rabbi convicted of blocking West Bank bulldozers



Rabbi Arik Ascherman has spent years planting himself atop doomed Palestinian homes, reading extracts of international law to Israeli forces as they demolish the buildings beneath his feet.

Along the way he has been a persistent embarrassment to the Israeli government as a fervent Zionist who claims to reflect the true soul of the Jewish state by resisting its oppression of Palestinians. He has been arrested many times but this week, for the first time, the 45-year-old director of Rabbis for Human Rights was convicted for his form of resistance.

The rabbi was arrested when he objected to the Israeli security forces tying a Palestinian to the front of a jeep as a human shield against stone throwers. On other occasions he has been attacked by club-wielding Jewish settlers.

The prosecution has asked the court to sentence Rabbi Ascherman to do community service after he was convicted of obstructing the demolition of illegally built Arab homes in East Jerusalem by standing in front of the bulldozers. It is a dangerous business; an American peace activist, Rachel Corrie, was killed doing the same in the Gaza Strip.

There are people in the world that bring hope. I am thankful for the hearts of those like Rabbi Ascherman.

2005/03/27

A thought about democracy

"Anatole ... says the business of throwing pebbles into bowls with the most pebbles winning an election — that was Belgium’s idea of fair play, but to people here [in the Congo] it was peculiar. To the Congolese (including Anatole himself, he confessed) it seems odd that if one man gets fifty votes and the other gets forty-nine, the first one wins altogether and the second one plumb loses. That means almost half the people will be unhappy, and according to Anatole, in a village that’s left halfway unhappy you haven’t heard the end of it. There is sure to be trouble somewhere down the line.

The way it seems to work here is that you need a hundred percent. It takes a good while to get there. They talk and make deals and argue until they are pretty much all in agreement ..."

— Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible (London: Faber and Faber, 1999), p. 265.

2005/03/26

US Dollar Hegemony and the Iranian Threat

The costs of sustaining the US's new 'Empire' will become apparent to its public only when these costs directly accrue to them. This will happen, as this article suggests, only when other nations stop subsidising the US's imperial adventures by colluding in them and the dollar loses its role as the world's reserve currency.

This article argues that if the US’s ability to undertake imperial conquests like that of Iraq depends on its obvious military supremacy, this in turn is ultimately based on the use of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. It is the dominance of the dollar that underpins US financial dominance as a whole as well as the apparently limitless spending power that allows it to keep hundreds of thousands of troops stationed all over the world. Destroy US dollar hegemony, and ‘Empire’ will collapse.
The Soft Underbelly of Empire

Iran does not pose a threat to the United State because of its nuclear projects, its WMD, or its support to “terrorists organizations” as the American administration is claiming, but in its attempt to re-shape the global economical system by converting it from a petrodollar to a petroeuro system. Such conversion is looked upon as a flagrant declaration of economical war against the US that would flatten the revenues of the American corporations and eventually might cause an economic collapse.
The Iranian Threat: The Bomb or the Euro?

Both of these articles are very interesting. Even if you have nothing to say about them I recommend the reading.

European Commission should not be over zealous

Here is an interesting article by Peter Sain ley Berry, editor of EuropaWorld, about the current struggle in the EU regarding the adoption of an EU constitution and the many nation-specific issues which get in the way.

For those who are not aware, each of the 25 EU member States is going to one by one say "yes" or "no" through national referendums. But acceptance of the EU constitution is not a "majority" thing, it has to be "absolute", i.e. every single member must have had a national "yes". If only one member rejects it, then it all falls through.

Spain has already voted, and it was a "yes". France is to come soon, and is one of the more problematic ones, along with UK, Poland, Sweden, and Denmark - the rest is nearly certain to vote "yes".

I agree with Peter that the EU commission should tread softly. Most of the ppl here in France have little idea of what's going on, and tend to confuse (and assimilate and even blame) the EU concept with our nation's economic problems and our government gross ineptitude. Only last night on TV, I saw something about right wing parties talks mentioning that maybe Rafarrin should retire because "his failing to achieve any of the promised results, together with his call for a "yes" vote to the EU constitution results in a great fear and discredit of the latter because of the former".

Anyway, this is quite a long article, which I'm sure will bore our American friends to tears, so I'll only quote the first 4 paragraphs + a link to the original for the brave ones :-)



"If the Commission brought forward
not a single new economic initiative
for the next two years it is unlikely
that any voter would complain, or
even notice" (Photo: EuropaWorld)

25.03.2005 - 12:07 CET | By Peter Sain ley Berry
EUOBSERVER / COMMENT

A story that did the rounds some years ago concerned a young woman whose car had stalled at a road junction. In vain, she tried to restart the engine while the line of vehicles grew longer behind her. When one particularly impatient and choleric man started blowing his horn and shouting abuse, the woman suggested that if he would only have the kindness to attempt to start her car, she would sit in his and manage the horn blowing operations. Thus could they best make progress satisfactory to both parties.

I was reminded of this story by the recent ill-tempered exchanges between the President of the European Commission and the President of France on the eve of this week's European Council. The latter finds himself with a stalled car, or rather a stalled referendum campaign, or rather still a referendum campaign that is now rolling backwards. For after a progressively steady decline in support for the 'yes' camp, the two latest polls have suggested that French voters will actually reject the European Constitution on 29th May.

The reasons for this haemorrhage of support - only a few weeks ago many were expecting a 60-40 vote in favour - have been well rehearsed and need not detain us: the Constitution is seen as being overly Anglo-Saxon in tone; the French have fears about accommodating Turkey and other potential candidates within the Union and latterly the Commission's proposal to resurrect the plan to liberalise the services market is seen as a threat to social protection. Of these, only the first is strictly a constitutional matter, as the horn-blowing Mr Barroso was quick to point out.

"If there's total confusion in the minds of the French public between the Constitution, Turkey and the Services Directive, it is not the Commission's fault," he thundered. "It's up to French politicians to explain what's involved in this vote, to clear up the misunderstanding. The Commission…….can't do the job of French politicians. It's for them to take responsibility."

... full article here

Insurance Companies: “Forget Antibiotics, use Shrimp instead”

Since it's the weekend, here is some light hearted fun (satire I found on The Spoof). Enjoy :-)



Take Three Shrimp in Cocktail Sauce
and Don't Call Me in the Morning

Minnetonka, Minneapolis -- Led by managed care giant United Healthcare (NASDAQ code: X$%^&*$#%^$^ subscribers), all major HMOS in the United States have removed all antibiotics from their formularies due to rising pharmaceutical prices and the necessity of keeping executives' salaries high.

This decision follows last year's decision to eliminate all mental health coverage and replace it with a cassette of pop music and pithy saying that subscribers can play at stressful times, provided they purchase the "dedicated" cassette player (only $49!) needed to play the relaxation tape.

"We have found that much of the shrimp imported from Asia is an excellent source of choramphenicol, which is a very very powerful antibiotic," said a spokesperson for United. "Accordingly, we don't feel that we need to pay for antibiotics when our subscribers have a bacterial infection. They can just eat shrimp according to our peer-reviewed and credentialed guidelines."

Here's how it works: a patient who suspects an infection in himself/herself or a family member calls a 900 number (only 49 cents a minute!) and provides a few relevant facts to the TeleNurso such as fever, weight, age, and symptoms such as pain, coughing, sneezing, ear pressure, or runny nose. The TeleNurso will then calculate the amount of shrimp required to cure the infection and, free of charge, provide a recipe.

... here is the full article

2005/03/25

Our Little Osamas

David Neiwert (of Orincus) had a great article published at the American Street recently. In it, he makes several very good points concerning the War on Terror:

What I am arguing is that any serious war on terror will of its own encompass the domestic-terror threat and deal with it appropriately. The current war on terror is predicated on a symmetrical military response, which is exactly the wrong approach to an asymmetrical threat.

It’s not that domestic terrorism should be given the focus of our approach; rather, it’s that the failure to focus on it at all leaves us vulnerable in a way that also reveals the incoherence of our antiterrorism policy. The reason I keep stressing our handling of domestic terrorism is that it gives us a prism for understanding what’s wrong with our ongoing response to the broader phenomenon of terrorism.


This is something I've been saying since the Oklahoma City bombing, but 9/11 has blinded people to what was actually going on in the "Homeland," sending their focus (and efforts) halfway across the world. Meanwhile, everyone knows about the anthrax letters but few know about Texan William Krar and his colleciton of cyanide gas and small armory. Similarly, time is actually given to the bolster the fantasy that the OKC bombing was NOT actually committed by domestic terrorists, but was actually the fault of Saddam Hussein or some other unnamed Islamic group. These theories are clearly smokescreens, fantastical visions and wishful thinking that would put the enemy where he belongs, in a desert country far away, as opposed to where he actually is: in our backyards and in our heartland.

Neiwert also briefly confronts the myth that repeatedly pops up in places like Freeperville and Powerlineland concerning the idea that the Fundamentalist Islamic groups are somehow related to the Left. As if liberalism is the basis (and the scapegoats) for the existence of these terrorist groups:

Allying themselves with “real” terrorists [i.e. Al Qaeda, Hizzbollah] as always been something of a fantasy of the extremist right. And the history of such gestures is that they have always been refused with scorn, for good reason.

Nonetheless, such gestures do underscore the reality that Islamist radicalism is a form of right-wing extremism, and its most natural allies in America are not — as people like David Horowitz and Powerline are fond of suggesting — on the left, but on the far right. The claims to the contrary are just another instance of the “up is down” kind of Newspeak that has become pervasive in conservative discourse.

But that’s not to say that the response to American neo-Nazi “lone wolf” terrorists and white-supremacist terror cells should be the same as that to Al Qaeda. For all their occasional similarities, there are important differences between them, and the response has to reflect that as well.


Meanwhile, as the dust starts to settle from the tragedy in Minnesota, we're seeing the usual suspects coming out of the woodwork blaming guns, violent video games, or prozac. What's more insidious, however, is that this finger-pointing ignores the young man's obsession with nazism and his postings from nazi websites. Another Little Osama in our midst and nothing was done until it was too late. I'm starting to sense a trend here.

What is happening in Kyrgyzstan?



Regional separatism? Ethnic upheaval? Revolt against state corruption? A popular upsurge in support of democracy? Claims of government election-rigging in recent parliamentary polls have set off a wide array of emotions and demands in this small Central Asian country, and all centers on the removal of President Askar Akayev.

At the February parliamentary election, opposition leaders were barred from participating, while two of Mr Akayev's children were elected, prompting speculation he intended to create a ruling dynasty - an idea seemingly entertained by all post-Soviet Central Asian leaders.

Mr Akayev accuses Washington of orchestrating the opposition protests and complains bitterly about the US ambassador being unable to see a difference between his government and regimes in other Central Asian states.

The president and the government of the former Soviet republic were toppled on Thursday and Kyrgyzstan is at the moment in opposition hands.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it was too soon to know where events in Kyrgyzstan were leading.

"This is a process that's just beginning," she said, adding that the US would seek to "move this process of democracy forward".

Russia's reaction was more sceptical.

"I think that the so-called opposition... should have the brains to find enough strength to calm down and bring the situation to the plane of political dialogue and not a dialogue of screams, shattering windows, destroying buildings and freeing prisons of criminals," Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said.

Kyrgyzstan is of strategic importance to Russia and the United States, both of which have military bases in the country.

U.S. officials say the U.S. military amounts to 2,000 troops and private contractors at an air base outside Bishkek.

It has been Central Asia's unhappy fate over the years to get swept up in rivalries among major powers - initially Russia and Britain; now Russia, China and the United States. That pattern was reinforced after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when the Bush administration began courting the region's rulers and minimizing their dictatorial abuses to secure air bases near Afghanistan. One particularly useful base is located in Kyrgyzstan, just outside Bishkek. That may explain why the State Department voiced only mild criticism of this month's election fraud, while taking the opposition to task for taking over and trashing government buildings. What a contrast with Washington's forthright support for huge antigovernment protests in Kiev last year and in Beirut earlier this month. NY Times

The Kyrgyz Republic has been a sovereign, independent and democratic state since 1991. It is situated in the north-east of Central Asia and borders with Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan and China. Kyrgyzstan is close to Afghanistan - an area with a history of inter-ethnic conflicts lying on one of the world's drug trafficking routes.

According to the latest data the population of Kyrgyzstan is 4.7 million people and more than 80 ethnic groups. The indigenous people of the country are Kyrgyz, they are descedants of one of the most ancient inhabitants of Central Asia and make up 58% of the population. The first historical data about Kyrgyz people refer back to 201 A.D.

Many observers believe the Kyrgyz are keen on democracy because personal freedom has been at the heart of their nomadic culture. With Islam not as deeply embedded here as in the rest of Central Asia, the Kyrgyz seem to be closer to the Buddhist Mongols than to Muslim Uzbeks or Tajiks.

Read Analysis: Why Kyrgyzstan matters

BBC
Kerala

2005/03/24

SPAM

I hate SPAM mail. I truly do. I wish it would go away. But it won't. Why?
Because TEN PERCENT of people have bought stuff of spam emails, and one third of clicked through from spam.
Can you idiots out there please stop doing it? You are only encouraging them!
"If no-one responded to junk e-mail and didn't buy products sold in this way, then spam would be as extinct as the dinosaurs" - Graham Cluley

2005/03/23

The Corporation: the pathological pursuit of profit and power

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

http://www.thecorporation.com/

Given the recent conversation on government and business on this blog I thought this documentary would be an excellent topic of discussion.

"Since Rachel Carson's Silent Spring began to expose the abuses of the modern industrial system, there has been a growing awareness that profit at the expense of Earth--of individuals, society, and the environment--is unsustainable. Joel Bakan has performed a valuable service to corporations everywhere by holding up a mirror for them to see their destructive selves as others see them. The clarion call for change is here for all who would listen." -Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface, a multi-billion dollar company.


What this book and documentary does basically comes from the premise that governments have granted corporations “personhood”. From that, what kind of “person” is a coporation? After examination by psychologists Bakan concludes that the entity is fundamentally psychopathic. How is a corporation’s personality psychopathic? Consider the following:

DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for psychopathy that the Corporation fits:

The operational principles of the corporation give it a highly anti-social “personality”:It is self-interested, inherently amoral, callous and deceitful; it breaches social and legal standards to get its way; it does not suffer from guilt, yet it can mimic the human qualities of empathy, caring and altruism.

The first assertion should be obvious, self-interest is what corporations are all about. As a matter of fact, its custodians are legally mandated to maximize profit to the company or face legal action. That is their job, As Sam Gibara, Chairman of Goodyear Tire, explains, “If you really had a free hand, if you really did what you wanted to do that suited your personal thoughts and your personal priorities, you’d act differently.“ the CEO and the Board Of Directors have a single-minded goal to make money for the shareholders, at any expense.

Which brings us to the second assertion, inherently amoral, callous and deceitful. There are too many examples of harm to the workers and society at large to mention here. One prime example of the absolutely disgusting practice of “dead peasant’s insurance”. I could not believe that companies do this. Large corporations will put out life insurance policies on Average Joe Worker, usually without consent, claim it as a tax write off then collect when you die. Think Walmart, Nestle, Proctor & Gamble are good companies? Good corporate “citizens”? They will profit off your death. Your poor family can’t afford a funeral for you because you made slave-wage earnings at Walmart, sorry, the beneficiary is “Walmart”. Wether or not this practice is legal, I can not think of anything more “inherently amoral, callous and deceitful”. I think that ties nicely to the next assertion that the corporate person breaches social and legal standards to get its way. Its way is to externalize any possible cost, to anyone else, regardless of its effect on anything (except profit, of course). You don’t have to look much farther than the EPA to see this coming. The worst offenders are huge corporations that externalize costs onto the environment and the relative fines are miniscule. To them it is just the “cost of doing business” makes perfect sense financially, very poor sense for everyone that has to live within the constraints of our limited environment.

Guilt? Non existent within corporate culture. As I stated before, the top officials are mandated by law to make decisions for the corporation on behalf of the stockholders: profit. To do otherwise is to shirk your corporate responsibility to the company. Yet these same individuals are mostly shielded from prosecution. Enron, anyone?

What is really scary is the public face that corporations put on in order to keep the goodwill of the populace. They spend billions on advertising and PR in order to put you at ease, McDonalds commercials with athletic people working out in them, promoting a healthy lifestyle. Giving money to various charities that give them further tax breaks, etc. These are “good deeds” by corporations to win your trust, if anything actually cost them on the bottom line they would be yanked in a minute.

So what am I saying? Dismantle the corporate form and lets all be communists and work on the collective farms and such? Hardly. I believe in free-enterprise. Reform and regulation is needed. You have been hearing (probably since childhood, if you live in the US) that government regulation is “bad for business”. Anyone who speaks out is a “godless communist”. Corporations have spent billions feeding this to all of us. Do you know by now why that is?


This form of business has risen in the last 150 years to become the dominant form on this planet. There power now rivals that of government, without regulation this power will increase to overshadow the entities that created them, governments. Want to see what will happen to the average person’s quality of life when this happens and as environmental protections disappear and workers die? Just do nothing, and see what happens.

Which is it to be, futile care or presumption in favor of life?

"In cases like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life."

The above quote was made by George Bush as an excuse to overide US rule of law and seperation of powers. I could not read it and not think about the case of Iraq.

Then I read about a Texas law that authorizes health care providers to remove their patients from life support. Guess who signed it into law?

The Sun Hudson and Spiro Nikolous cases fall under the Texas Futile Care Law, which was signed into law by then-governor George W. Bush.

The fact that President Bush signed into law in Texas a bill that gives health care providers the right to end human life is then certainly relevant, given his decision to sign the Schiavo legislation and his rhetoric concerning a "presumption in favor of life. CJR Daily

Hypocrisy: Insincerity by virtue of pretending to have qualities or beliefs that you do not really have.

This sad saga reinforces my personal belief that the courts — though their involvement is sometimes necessary — are the last place one wants to be when working through these complex dilemmas. Although I have not examined her, from the data I have reviewed, I have no doubt that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state and that her cognitive and neurologic functions are unfortunately not going to improve. Her life can be further prolonged with artificial hydration and nutrition, and there is some solace in knowing that she is not consciously suffering. I also believe that both her husband and her family, while seeing the situation in radically different ways, are trying to do what is right for her. If and when her feeding tube is permanently removed, her family may be reassured that dying in this way can be a natural, humane process (humans died in this way for thousands of years before the advent of feeding tubes).(4)
4. Ganzini L, Goy ER, Miller LL, Harvath TA, Jackson A, Delorit MA.
Nurses’ experiences with hospice patients who refuse food and fluids
to hasten death. N Engl J Med 2003;349:359-65. Timothy E. Quill, M.D.

As a personal note let me say I am only posting about this issue as a way to show once again what a hypocrite George Bush is. He continues to provide the ammunition and I use it every chance I get.

2005/03/22

Re-writing history

(By Guest Contributor Anna)



This was initially a comment on Preemptive karma, and her post "Those who cannot learn from history are bound to repeat it":


Earlier today on American Street,
I commented that one of the reasons so many Americans have such
disjointed and misinformed views on the state of our nation and the
direction it's going is due to a fundamental lack of solid history
teaching in school.

but it grew rather long, the issue deserving slightly more space than that.



I may not know all that much about American history, but since what concerns America pretty much concerns the rest of the world, I'm learning a lot.


And I'm starting to see trends: like policy makers attempting to re-write, and re-interpret history, so that history can then in turn be used to further their aims.


My favorite example of history distorted is here in Malaysia, perhaps we will be able to draw some parallels.


There was a racial clash on May 13th 1969 that resulted from the strong opposition to the preferential treatment of one of the three races that make up the country. Preferential treatment for the Malays was written into the constitution because the policy makers of the time, Malaysia's "founding fathers" if you like, believed nothing short of a law would be able to even out the balance between the more successful Chinese and Indian, and the less successful Malays.


Whether that was right or wrong is the topic of another discussion, but it caused a great amount of unrest, and a total of about 200-300 people died in the demonstration (no one is really sure of the actual figure, it depends on whether you listen to pro- or anti-government sources).


The government declared a state of emergency, and since that day has been using the "terrible, and infinitely sad" may 13th '69 as an excuse to keep the nation from protesting against similar ridiculous policies. And there have been plenty such policies: like the Printing and Publications Act that essentially controls the media via a license system given out by the government, and the Internal Security Act, that is very similar to your Patriot Act, and is generally used to get rid of influential people who might be able to change things around here. End of last year they used it on three bloggers (On a side, Bush was very happy with the Malaysian ISA, I wonder why).


What's interesting is the riot was localized to a few districts in the capital, but for the last three decades the death toll had "risen" to thousands and it had been blown into something that has apparently rocked the nation to its core. All other methods of promoting unity between East and West Malaysia (that are separated by an ocean) failing, the government started to use the "great riot" to unite the nation on mourning, and give the different people a (false) sense of common history.


May 13th had become a taboo subject, fit for discussion only in hushed voices with the letters C and M to signify the parties in the conflict, lest we be inciting racial hatred by even bringing the matter up.


The best part of all of this is the change had infiltrated the school system, intentionally or otherwise, I don't know. For more than 10 years I studied the names of the Rajah's and Sultans, their offspring and all the useless things they did. And then in my final year of school I got a crash course in modern history - the glory of the triumph against the British, and the formation of the new and perfect Malaysia.


It's almost as if no one wanted to teach me what really happened. All we were taught in school was that some people died, and no one said why, leaving it ambiguous enough for the government to use whatever interpretation they want.


Years later in University I found out that the very same big bad communists that are being denied entry to their country now to visit the graves of their relatives, were the driving force behind that revolution and not the people drafting the Constitution, and most certainly NOT the coalition in power. That's just one of the things the history books chose to leave out.


The reason I'm using an obscure Asian country as an example is because it started out as the perfect democracy - the initial aims of the Constitution are (for the most part) noble and modern. Written in are all of the fundamental rights, including the freedom of peaceful assembly, but things have been twisted  so much that no one really remembers this anymore. We are now told that speaking out against the government is unMalaysian, unpatriotic.


The nation has been scared into shutting up with a series of laws that directly contradict the rights guaranteed by the constitution. But a much bigger chunk of the problem today is apathy. People have been coerced into thinking this is the way things should be. And THAT is the work of the school system, and the "recommended and approved" history books.


Because what better way is there to have a complete control over the nation, than by starting from small and teaching a new generation that their opinions don't matter, that the Daddy government knows everything better than they do, and that they should not question it because everything is done for their own benefit. And what better way to do that, than by teaching them a fragmented version of history which tells them that things have always been like this, and they worked, so why change now?


Here is an example, from a publication that calls itself independent. They are indeed generally known as a rather progressive on-line publication, that breaches certain taboo subjects, and that is (for now) free from censorship because it is an Internet resource. But even here we see the after-effects of the brain-washing:


"To [former Malaysian Prime Minister] Mahathir, everything and everyone was of great value to him. He employed and honed to perfection the very tools left behind by the colonial master to silence those who disagreed with him, for eg. the ISA, the OSA and the Printing and Publications Act."

[full article]


That's about as blatant as historical inaccuracies promoted by the educational system (and now the media) get. The colonial powers did not make those laws, as we have been led to believe, and the Printing and Publications Act came into force in 1984 toward the end of the emergency. Does no one remember that just 20 years ago this very same Government had been hailing the Act as a means to prevent further "disasters" like May 13th, and further racial clashes?


But of course, now that the legislation no longer holds the faith of the people, we will revise the history books and write it off onto the British.


The rather long winded point I was hoping to make is that history is at the mercy of the policy makers, and just like the "landowners" (and the big bad corporations) that Carla brought up, they have their own agendas, that don't necessarily (if at all) coincide with the needs of the people.

Destroying a complaint from the Right

A common complaint I hear from the Right is that beneficiaries "livelihood is being paid for by hard working everyday [insert nationality here]" (from Brendan Jarvis).

Well, hang on. I can say the same thing about the bosses. The bosses don't create the wealth they live off, the workers do. So if the Right are going to complain about beneficiaries relying on other people, then why not complain about the bosses who do it as well?
That isn't to say that they didn't work their way up. Of course they did. But they do not create the wealth they now live off. It is Joe Blogg on the factory floor.

Some consistency from the Right please.

2005/03/21

Fair Trade Not Free Trade

No Sweat Apparel.com

Ok people, listen up. Eponymous pointed us to an excellent site "No Sweat Apparel.com within our discussion on sweatshops. I had a look around and saw they have a way you can support both them and us. We have now put their graphic link in our lefthand column. It's not a click for pay link. We only make a profit if you buy something. So visit, have a good look around especially at the sources they use to make their products and for goodness sakes, buy something! Support the working class! The above graphic link will work as well.

Our union made apparel promotes the cause while supporting existing hard pressed union shops and their workers. By helping build up a viable competitor you are helping to create what the big brands fear most--a real alternative and a vigorous trade union movement in the developing world.

All products may be returned for exchange or full refund for any reason whatsoever within 45 days of receipt.
Bargain Flat Rate Shipping! Order as many items as you want and only pay a flat $4.00 shipping & handling fee for all domestic orders!

* terrorist organizations, the NRA & GOP affiliates need not apply!

Save Canada's ancient Boreal Forest

One of Greenpeace's current major campaigns is to stop the destruction of Canada's Boreal forest. Many tissue products like toilet paper, facial tissue, paper towels and napkins are produced from Boreal trees.

Although this campaign is happening in Canada, I think it's a global issue that should receive attention from not just inside Canada, but also in other countries that use these products wastefully without considering the consequences.

One thing we can all do to help is to purchase eco-friendly alternatives to tissue products made from ancient forests. Tissue products made from 100% recycled paper already exist. These are of equal quality value, and price and can be bought at most major grocery, health food, and corner stores. Although some products may be "Greenwashed", you can selectively purchase tissues based on this Greenpeace Shopper's Guide to Ancient Forest Friendly Tissue Products.

Here are a few facts about tissue paper:
1. Over 700,000 tonnes of tissue products are used each year in Canada.
2. Over 7.4 millions tonnes of tissue products are used each year in the US.
3. The per capita consumption of tissue products in Canada is 22kg/year.
4. The per capita consumption of tissue products worldwide is 3.4 kg/year
5. The average Canadian uses about 100 rolls of toilet paper each year. This is equal to approximately 4.6 km of paper.
6. Canada exports 300,000 tonnes of tissue products to the US each year
7. Canada imports 240,000 tonnes of tissue products from the US each year

North American consumption of tissue products is substantially higher than the average throughout the world, so to keep our "way of life", we should be mindful of the potential consequences of our consumption and do as much as we can to minimize the negative impact.

"Greenpeace believes that it is simply wrong that one-time use products, disposable products, are being produced out of ancient forests. The Boreal forest is literally being flushed down the toilet every day by millions of consumers across Canada. This needs to stop."


An aerial view of boreal forest in the Temagami region of Ontario

Other related links:
Greenpeace: Tissue Products: Flushing the ancient Boreal forest down the toilet
Greenpeace Kleercut campaign
What is the Boreal forest?
Why should we care?
The threats to the Boreal forest
 

2005/03/20

Why we should boycott sweatshop labour

Sweatshop labour is a cruel way to earn a living. It is demeaning, alienating, illegal, and is virtually slavery. Products created using sweatshop labour must be boycotted if we are to ever stop this practise.

Companies operate along a profit motive. They always seek to make a buck. There are two ways to increase profits; either raise the price of the product, and risk driving customers away; or decrease the cost of manufacture, and the easiest way to do that is to pay staff peanuts. Risk assessment will tell bosses to do the second, as they need sales.

So multi-national corporations (MNCs) set up a sweatshop factory in a third world country. They pay the workers next to nothing in wages, they set the factory up with no ventilation, they do not provide for breaks during the 12 hour shift, they hire young children. And if a worker complains, or seeks something to be improved? Fired. If all the workers begin to unionise? They find another third world country. In other words, this is a ‘take it or leave it’ situation for these people. And that is unacceptable. The countries they set up in have been torn apart by civil war, taken over by MNCs, or are only beginning to develop. The people are removed from their traditional ways of living, and given no hope. They need to work to feed their family, but there is little available, so they take anything they can.

Is it right that you can improve your lifestyle by ripping someone off and treating them like dirt? Is it fair that you can wear nice clothing while the person who made it cannot feed their children? If you answered ‘no’ (like all smart people would have), then protest against it. Don’t buy from the MNCs that rely upon sweatshops to make their goods.

By boycotting the products, people can show that they care about these people. You can stand up and say that this is unacceptable. You can say “I do not exploit others, just so that I can be better off”. Boycotting is making a statement that you do not value yourself as being superior to others, that workers are also people and deserve to be treated as such.

Boycotting the products of sweatshop labour is not the sole action to be taken though. If the MNC does not know why people are avoiding their products, then this will not change anything, they will assume it because trends or fashion has changed. Protesting, marching, civil disobedience must be used as well to inform MNCs as to why they are having a drop in sales.

Once a MNC begins to realise that they can make it a selling point of their product that they do not use sweatshop labour, they will be able to make money out of it. That is the profit-motive at work again. It benefits the MNC as well if they learn to avoid using sweatshop labour, and we, the consumers, reward them for that. MNCs must learn that it is wrong, and we can teach them.

Sweatshop labour breaks a number of laws. The UN’s International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), articles seven, eight and ten (point three) are all broken by sweatshop labour. So boycotting sweatshop labour also means standing up for the rule of the law, and for the rule of international human rights.

So MNCs break the law to bring you cheaper products. Isn’t that itself illegal then? You have effectively signalled your approval of breaking human rights law by purchasing a sweatshop produced good. You have destroyed these people’s humanity. Does that make you feel good?

But surely this would then deny these people of their livelihood? No, it doesn’t. The MNCs will begin to realise that unless they raise wages, they will not make sales. But the factory and materials are still in the country, and so to are workers. The MNC then begins to pay those staff better, as it is still cheaper than building a new factory in New York. So the boycott will benefit the workers within the sweatshop factory.

So if enough people rally around and stop a MNC from selling any sweatshop product, they will change as they seek to make money. And at the same time, many millions of people will be moved out of poverty. There is nothing wrong with helping out millions of people.

Sweatshop labour is wrong, and it must be stopped. Multi-national corporations must learn to be socially responsible, they cannot treat humans as though they are animals, they must treat people as such. And the consumer can force them to do so, thus people should boycott products made with sweatshop labour. A list can be found at http://www.accd.edu/pac/philosop/phil1301/boycott.htm , or you can do all your shopping at Trade Aid (on Cuba Mall).

Why First-Past-the-Post is stupid

One of my personal loves in the study of politics is electoral systems.
This is why I think First-past-the-post is the most stupid system*:

Lesotho 1998 Legislative Election

PartyVotesseats (of 80)
Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD)60.7%78
Basotho National Party (BNP)24.5%1

With one seat left vacant.

Why are there still countries out there using that system? That is not a fair election. Lesotho consequently changed their electoral system to Proportional Representation.

USA, Canada, UK- will you follow that example?


* Okay so the block vote is worst, but that is a form of FPP.

2005/03/19

New Undeclared Arms Race

The Pentagon has released the summary of a top secret Pentagon document, which sketches America's agenda for global military domination.

This redirection of America's military strategy seems to have passed virtually unnoticed. With the exception of The Wall Street Journal , not a word has been mentioned in the US media.

There has been no press coverage concerning this mysterious military blueprint. The latter outlines, according to the Wall Street Journal, America's global military design which consists in "enhancing U.S. influence around the world", through increased troop deployments and a massive buildup of America's advanced weapons systems.

While the document follows in the footsteps of the administration's "preemptive" war doctrine as detailed by the Neocons' Project of the New American Century (PNAC), it goes much further in setting the contours of Washington's global military agenda.

It calls for a more "proactive" approach to warfare, beyond the weaker notion of "preemptive" and defensive actions, where military operations are launched against a "declared enemy" with a view to "preserving the peace" and "defending America".

The document explicitly acknowledges America's global military mandate, beyond regional war theaters. This mandate also includes military operations directed against countries, which are not hostile to America, but which are considered strategic from the point of view of US interests.

From a broad military and foreign policy perspective, the March 2005 Pentagon document constitutes an imperial design, which supports US corporate interests Worldwide.

While the "war on terrorism" and the containment of "rogue states" still constitute the official justification and driving force, China and Russia are explicitly identified in the classified March document as potential enemies.

"... the U.S. military ... is seeking to dissuade rising powers, such as China, from challenging U.S. military dominance. Although weapons systems designed to fight guerrillas tend to be fairly cheap and low-tech, the review makes clear that to dissuade those countries from trying to compete, the U.S. military must retain its dominance in key high-tech areas, such as stealth technology, precision weaponry and manned and unmanned surveillance systems." (Ibid)

While the European Union is not mentioned, the stated objective is to shunt the development of all potential military rivals.

I'm not sure what part of Europe he's speaking of in the following paragraphs but here in France I have seen no sign of public opinion supporting the "war on terrorism" as Bush defines it. It may certainly be true of the right-wing government.

European public opinion is now galvanized into supporting the "war on terrorism", which broadly benefits the European military industrial complex and the oil companies. In turn, the "war on terrorism" also provides a shaky legitimacy to the EU security agenda under the European Constitution. The latter is increasingly viewed with disbelief, as a pretext to implement police-state measures, while also dismantling labor legislation and the European welfare state.

In turn, the European media has also become a partner in the disinformation campaign. The "outside enemy" presented ad nauseam on network TV, on both sides of the Atlantic, is Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. In other words, the propaganda campaign serves to usefully camouflage the ongoing militarisation of civilian institutions, which is occurring simultaneously in Europe and America.

It may be time for me to begin concentrating on European news.

Read Michel Chossudovsky's article America's Agenda for Global Military Domination.

The Wall Street Journal article 'Rumsfeld details big military shift in new document' by Greg Jaffe follows it.

Protect the sacred land where life begins



The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the Sacred Place Where Life Begins, the calving and nursery grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd. Desecration of the Arctic Refuge would cause serious detriment to caribou and the people of the Gwich’in Nation who have depended on the caribou since time immemorial. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge must remain off limits to any oil or gas development and must be put in permanent protection status as Wilderness.

No matter how many times the administration tries to advance this plan, the facts haven't changed: drilling in the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge would ruin one of America’s last wild places for what the U.S. Geological Survey and oil company executives concede is only a few months’ worth of oil, oil that would not be available for a decade. The American people don’t want that, and they’ve made that clear. But proponents of drilling in the Arctic Refuge have a much broader agenda. Just last year, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) told a group of high-ranking Republicans that the controversy over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a "symbolic" debate about whether or not oil and gas drilling should be allowed in pristine wild areas across the country.

The Bush-backed plan to allow oil drilling in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would ruin that narrow stretch of tundra between the Brooks Range and the Arctic Ocean and run off the Porcupine caribou herd that use the area for birthing its young, said Donna Carroll, administrative director of the Gwich'in Steering Committee.

That would mean dire consequences for her people, the 8,000 Gwich'in Athabaskan Indians of northeastern Alaska and northwestern Canada, who live on the southern and eastern edges of the refuge and hunt caribou for food and hides to make clothing, shelter and even sleds.

The voices of the Arctic refuge are often boiled down to two groups of people--the Inupiat Eskimos, who say oil drilling would provide jobs and financial security and the Native Gwich’in people, who say drilling will destroy their way of life and the caribou that roam the land.

But now that voice is expanding. The Gwich’in are gathering support from Native and Indian leaders across Alaska and the nation.

"Now you got the Gwich’in, the last of the last of the indigenous people of the United States of America. The last of the last. And you all are going to eradicate them. It's called genocide," Russell Means with the International Indian Treaty Council-New Mexico, said.

"We're next if places like the Gwich’in territory, the calving grounds of the caribou is taken away. Then other places that have energy resources in them will be taken as well," said Dune Lankard with the Eyak Preservation Council, Prince William Sound. Native groups debate drilling in ANWR


Beauty

Photograph by Subhankar Banerjee

and

the Beast


For many years public-spirited citizens (from groups like Ducks Unlimited, The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Green Peace, and the Sierra Club) throughout the country have been working for the conservation of the natural resources, realizing their vital importance to America's heritage and the Nation as a whole.

Apparently, their hard-won progress is to be wiped out, as a politically minded administration returns us to the dark ages of unrestrained exploitation and destruction. It is one of the ironies of our time that while concentrating on the defense of America against enemies from without, we should be heedless of those that would destroy it from within.

But it's not over yet. Below you will find information and assistance in preventing the damage of one of the last beautiful and unspoiled places on the earth.

Key facts about ANWR's land, oil, wildlife

What you can do to help

Send your Senators and Representatives a message

2005/03/18

Tonga elects new Parliament

Tonga has elected its new Parliament. The Parliament consists of 30 members, 9 are elected by the people; 33 nobles elect nine members, and 12 are appointed by the King. The Cabinet then consists of 12 MPs, with two of them coming from the people's representatives. Tonga's king appoints the Cabinet.

Of the nine seats the people have a say in, seven are from the Tongan Human Rights and Democracy Movement. The THRDM advocates for democratic reform, and the end to monarchial rule. Thus it is fair to say, the Tongan people do not like the king's power to rule.

The Crown Prince has stated that he will move towards democracy once he comes into power.

The Tongan people should be given support from the region's democracies in their bid for democratic governance. The spread of democracy is from the ground up, and the Tongan people are doing just that.

Salvador Allende's last words



This is the audio that I am posting by suggestion of Eponymous. The sole thought that these were the last words of a man who would die soon after this audio message reminds me that there are still people willing to sacrifice to set an example. He is not someone begging for his life, he is a corageous man with a calm tone of voice in the middle of a fascist coup. The best thing I can do is to contribute to his wish to be heard in the future by people who have truly decided to fight against the ones who believe in an unequal society.

As per a previous suggestion made by Whynot, the best thing to do is to right click with the mouse and download the audio so that you can play it afterwards.

2005/03/17

US to open Alaskan oil well drilling



This is a disaster and one that cannot be undone. The unmitigated gall of the US government takes my breath away. How did your Senator vote yesterday? Are you part of the future destruction of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? America you break my heart over and over again.

ANWR covers 7.7 million hectares and is home to polar bears and 160 species of migratory birds. But, those are inconsequential to the need for the estimated 10 billion to 16 billion barrels of crude.

Watch Oil On Ice and if you care get to work online and in your communities and for God's sake get new representation.

Oil will destroy this planet. It caused the war in Iraq and attempts to destroy anything in the path of profit. Stop them!

Ownership Society Heading the World Bank?



Could someone please explain to this ole' country girl what in the hell a member of the 'Ownership Society' is doing even thinking about heading the World Bank? I keep remembering comments of neocons we've had visit this site and poverty was not one of their priorities. I can hear Wolfie now telling poverty stricken nations their poverty is a result of their own mistakes.

The World Bank is the prime mover in international development with an annual budget of nine billion dollars consecrated to improving the lives of the world's poorest people.

Outgoing World Bank president James Wolfensohn said his successor should be "passionate" about fighting poverty.

Wolfie passionate about fighting poverty? I'm trying to imagine it. Nope, can't do it. Wolfie could care less about the impoverished. So, why I wonder has George Bush nominated him? Anyone care to hazard a guess.

Njoki Njoroge Njehu, director of the 50 Years Is Enough Network, which campaigns for economic fairness, said,

"As the most prominent advocate of imposing the US's will on the world, this appointment signals to developing countries that the US is just as serious about imposing its will on borrowers from the World Bank as on the countries of the Middle East," he said.

Is this why Bush and Condi have been playing footsie with Europe?

I lost the link to the following comment but it's so appropriate.

Having nominated John Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations and now Paul Wolfowitz to the World Bank, it can only be a matter of time before President Bush proposes Dick Cheney to be the next pope.

Will they invade delinquent nations?

2005/03/16

Some Good News About That Other 9/11

I don't care how much you talk up your human rights record, Mr. Bush, and I don't care how many "National Human Rights" Days you authorize. When you continually rain hell down upon civilians, no one is going to take you seriously for your human rights record.

This is a victory for human rights:

On February 25, Riggs Bank agreed to pay $9 million into a fund for victims of Augusto Pinochet to settle a case over the bank’s role in hiding the former Chilean dictator’s ill-gotten gains. This latest development in the decades-long fight to hold Pinochet accountable for his crimes stands in stark contrast to the twisted human rights rhetoric-and record-of the U.S. government....

The settlement with Riggs grew out of a Spanish investigation launched in the mid-1990s into violations by Pinochet of international laws on torture, genocide, and terrorism. These include his role in the September 21, 1976 assassination of Orlando Letelier in Washington, DC.


These are not:

But here is a number you won’t hear from this government: 16,389. That is the number of verifiable civilian deaths reported by at least two independent news sources and recorded in the “Iraq Body Count” project, a volunteer, not-for-profit effort to record civilian casualties. That is the number today.

Those 16,389 include Bahaar Ali Kadem, two years old, killed on March 20th, 2003 by a missile in Helaa Al-Kefell. They include Ali Shaker Abed Al-Hassan, aged four, killed two days later also by a missile in Al-Bassra - two among the thousands of children killed.

Those 16,389 include Zahara Khalid, aged 60, killed by a mortar in Baghdad on 19th April 2004, and 59 year old Muhammad Kahdum al Jurani, killed on 24th October 2003 when his family car was struck head on by a US armoured personnel carrier on the highway west of Baghdad.


When you start doing things like this, Mr. Bush, maybe someone might start lauding your human rights record.

Thanks to Saul Landau.

Of Plowshares and Swords

Many people recall President Dwight D. Eisenhower's prescient warning concerning the "Military Industrial Complex," but few remember the content nor the context of that speech. In it, he warns that for the first time in US history, arms manufacture has leapt to the forefront and become a force unto itself:

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.


Ike's warning, it seems, has come to pass in this day as our military budget truly is "a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed." That a man who once oversaw the largest military venture in the history of mankind, warns against the very forces he directed says something. And that he is already proving to be right is just downright terrifying to me.

Meanwhile, paralleling the development of this alliance, an ideology has developed that sees no threat in this rise of military-corporate power and indeed believes that it can be exploited by those in power, along with the fears of the people who the powerful are supposed to serve, to return the West to some sort of mythical golden age "moral correctness." A "golden age" before the travesties of liberalism eroded the moral foundations of society, that is. I'm talking about the neo-conservatives and other followers of a little-known professor at the University of Chicago named Leo Strauss. Of Strauss, I can say much, but I prefer instead that you consider the transcript of the BBC Programme "The Power of Nightmares" for some truly chilling bedtime reading. I highly recommend you pick up the videos, and for those who are interested, I may be convinced to make more copies of the versions that I have.

The melding of these Defense Contractors, sympathetic law-makers and a small, ideologically motivated group of extremists with the will to deceive is what has brought us to this point today. I cannot find a better example of this than this excellent flash movie entitled "What Barry Says."

Italian troops begin pullout from Iraq in September



Italy, one of Washington’s most stalwart allies in Iraq, announced it could begin pulling its troops out in September, an acknowledgment by Premier Silvio Berlusconi that Italian public opinion is heavily against the war.

Word from one of President Bush’s closest allies that some of Italy’s 3,300 troops would start leaving Iraq within year’s end came as the Italian leader confirmed he is running to keep the premiership in general elections in spring 2006.

"We will begin to withdraw our contingent in Iraq before the end of the year," the newspaper La Repubblica quoted him as saying."The first reduction will begin by September."

Italy's center-left opposition, which was strongly opposed to war in Iraq, on Wednesday welcomed Berlusconi's announcement.

"About time, better late than never," said opposition leader Romano Prodi, a former premier and former EU commission president who is expected to be Berlusconi's opponent in political elections next year.

"It's the logical consequence of a wrong decision," Prodi was quoted as saying in daily La Repubblica on Wednesday. "This long-awaited news confirms our stance."

Hours earlier, Italy suffered its latest casualty in Iraq, the 21st military member killed since it sent in some 3,000 troops after the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

Italy is also still grappling with the shock and outrage over the killing of an Italian intelligence agent earlier this month as he was accompanying a just-freed Italian hostage to Baghdad airport.

This is the first time Berlusconi has given a timetable for troop withdrawal and although Scott McClellan says the death of Nicola Calipari has nothing to do with it I can't help but believe it does. The incident has no doubt heightened the Italian outcry against the war and Mr. Berlusconi will be seeking re-election. Like Bush he enjoys being President.

Programmed upchucking... right on cue

Good Evening Boys and Girls.

Last night I watched the Daily Show with John Stewart. The guest was Harry Frankfurt, Professor Emeritus in Psychology from Princeton. An essay he wrote 20 years ago called "On Bullshit" has been released as a tiny little book.

It's probably completely silly of me to write about a book I haven't even read yet, but just listening to the interview and having this fellow differentiate between "lies" and "bullshit" was so interesting and disturbing I wanted to throw in my two cents.

Professor Frankfort defines lying as the act of telling an untruth when you know the real facts to be different.

Bullshit, (the more pervasive and scarier problem, in his opinion, practiced by more and more individuals, people representing organizations, and governments) is when you say something not really even knowing or caring whether it's true or not. A good example that which comes immediately to mind is Rush Limbaugh and most of the statistics he uses to back up his opinions, which in far too many cases, he pulls out of his ass*. They are usually very easy to check, which many people do, and when confronted by the real facts he always sloughs it off by saying it didn't make his point any less valid - whatever that point happened to be.

Yeah I know Rush is old news, but he came to mind the instant I'd started to understand what Professor Frankfurt was saying...and it leads to my point.

As I said, I haven't read the good professor's essay so I don't know whether he addresses a third category that concerns me a great deal. A category, in fact that has become a huge problem in these here U-ni-ted States of A-mer-reee-ka. That third category, rather than being an act exactly, instead are people. I'm talking about the millions of people who listen to liars and bullshitters, believe them, and then go on telling what they now believe to be "the truth" in earnest and frank ways to the people over whom THEY have influence.

They're not lying or bullshitting really, because they believe what they are saying is true, often fervently - which is what makes it so very infuriating to try to talk with them about anything substantially meaningful. It's pointless. And every time I discover that someone I've respected has ingested any one of the Jim Jones Brand Kool-Aid products out there in the land, I am saddened beyond all understanding. Dare I get specific? Nah. It would be preaching to the choir.

These folks, "the regurgitators" I'll call them, not only swing elections, but represent the stock pond from which the next generation of fanatics and religious zealots will be fished, the hook having been already set.

Be good to everybody.

*thanks to Al Franken and his radio show for that term regarding Rush.

2005/03/15

More Guns in America to reduce crime?

I came across a blog entry today, and it's likely the most ridiculous posting I've seen in a very long time. This blogger says he's been a broadcast journalist for more than 32 years: "I've held every job there is in a radio or television station. I've lived and worked all over the world and am presently writing for an international news agency based in Washington, DC."

He quotes in his article that "More guns result in less crime. Yet liberals can't see it. They are totally blind to the facts and no matter how much evidence is laid at their feet, they stick their fingers in their ears, squeeze their eyes shut and scream. Sometimes they stamp their feet."

Apparently he hasn't check any stats on how many accidental gun deaths there are every year. Surely you must consider the side effects of having more guns when you're claiming that more guns will make the world safer. He doesn't realize that if more people in the US are carrying around guns, more criminals will get their hands on guns, and the chances of someone losing their temper and using a gun will also be increased. His article states that if "law abiding citizens are allowed to arm themselves, violent crimes go down about 24 percent over the following 5 years". If everyone in the US was "law abiding" and carried a gun, obviously there wouldn't be any crime, because everyone abides by the law.

He also states that "Blacks benefit more from gun ownership than whites", "gun control is sexist", it's "a waste of government money" and it's "dishonest".

I urge you to view his opinion and tell me what you think. Link

This is the first time I've heard someone suggest that the US needs to eliminate gun control in order to reduce its gun murders and violent crimes.
 

Understanding South American politics. A superficial review



In order to better understand what goes on in the mentioned region we have to know some parts of the recent history.

I decided to go back to the sixties, because there is still a direct link between the events that happened at that time with the events that we witness nowadays. During the sixties, inspired by the Cuban revolution and by a good number of left wing thinkers, many movements that tried to solve “the problems of society” emerged. One of these unresolved issues was the property of the land.

Since the times of the Spanish Conquistadores, the land had been property of people of Spanish/European descent. This situation created a lot of stress between the Indian/Mestizo people and the ruling elites, specially in countries with large Indian populations like Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. After witnessing the victory of Fidel Castro in New Year’s Eve of 1959, some of these movements opted for the violent revolution .

The Colombian FARC had its origin in the fight for land reform of those times. These movements failed to achieve their goals. Che Guevara was killed in Bolivia, the movements faded away in 1965 in Peru. The FARC continues until now, but I do not know if with its original goals.

After that, different countries had different evolutions. In Bolivia and Ecuador, land reform never happened. In Peru, the left wing military government of Velasco declared the land reform in 1969. In 1970 Salvador Allende was elected president in Chile. Socialist ideas were thriving. The USA thought that it would lose the region to the Soviet sphere of influence. In most countries, pressure from the US was felt.

In 1973, Allende’s government fell and Pinochet seized power. In 1975, Velasco’s government in Peru fell, leading to a pro US government by Morales-Bermudez, in 1976 Videla obtained power in Argentina, initiating a fierce hunt of socialist and communists, not only in Argentina, but in Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Paraguay. The military governments of all those countries formed an association called AAA (Alianza Anticomunista Americana), with approval of the CIA. The executed a plan called “Condor” to wipe out the left wing ideology from South America.

At the same time, countries like Colombia (in spite of the FARC) and Venezuela remained more stable and were enjoying better economic times associated with the high oil prices in the international market. Human right concerns and the external debt crisis put pressure on the military governments and a democratic (and progressive) wave disseminated through the region. In 1982 Siles in the Bolivia, in 1983 Alfonsin in Argentina, in 1985 Garcia in Peru, in 1990 Aylwin in Chile obtained power by democratic means.

However, this wave of progressiveness did not last long since the economic models failed and led the countries into hyperinflation. A new wave of right wing governments, with more democratic manners emerged in Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay. Chile followed a stable pathway, Venezuela experienced the economic crisis for the first time and led to Chavez attempted coup in 1992. In Peru, Fujimori instituted an autocratic regime in 1992.

With the new millennium, the pendulum started to swing to the left again. Venezuela elected Chavez in 1999, Argentina elected Kirchner in 2002, Chile elected Lagos also in 2002, Brazil elected Lula in 2003, Ecuador elected Gutierrez in 2003 and Uruguay elected Vasquez in 2005. They are all left wing politicians. The case of Peru and Colombia is interesting. The Shining Path and the FARC, respectively, have created certain fear in the population towards the left wing movements.

The relationships with Cuba have changed based on the left or right wing orientation of the governments.

The actions of the US in South America have been felt ever since the cold war. The US is obviously interested in having control of the whole continent and uses their influences in order to achieve that goal. For this topic, I recommend strongly a CNN special called “The Cold War” available in VHS. One of its chapters is called “Backyard” and it refers specifically about the actions of the US in Latin America.

China passes Taiwan secession law

Despite President Bush's opposition, China has passed a law giving it the right to use force against Taiwan if the island declares independence. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States objected to the resolution both because it was an attempt to solve the problem unilaterally and because it threatened non-peaceful means. Does anyone else find Boucher's statement to be hypocritical?

With China's People's Liberation Army at 2.5 million strong, a rocky relationship between China and the US would be detrimental and a threat to world peace. China's investment in their military over the last few years is a serious subject and is a major concern for the US. Thankfully for the rest of the world, China isn't attacking other countries and a war with Taiwan would almost be a civil war; although Taiwan would have my support, and the US has indicated they would defend Taiwan if China were to attack. This would be an extremely difficult situation for the United States to deal with; hence the Bush Administration's opposition to China passing the law.

On Sunday, Chinese President Hu Jintao stated that he would put national defense "above all else". "We shall step up preparations for possible military struggle and enhance our capabilities to cope with crises, safeguard peace, prevent wars and win the wars if any".

2005/03/14

Darfur Mortality Update & Impending Famine

Building on eleven previous assessments of global mortality in Darfur, this analysis finds that approximately 380,000 human beings have died as a result of the conflict that erupted in February 2003, and that the current conflict-related mortality rate in the larger humanitarian theater is approximately 15,000 deaths per month. This monthly rate is poised to grow rapidly in light of famine conditions now obtaining in various parts of rural Darfur and threatening the entire region. Badly weakened populations are increasingly vulnerable to the effects of disease and malnutrition, ensuring that a recent decline in mortality rates within more accessible camp areas will not continue. Indeed, the huge disparity between humanitarian need and humanitarian capacity strongly suggests that gross mortality in the coming "hunger gap" (April/May through September) and its aftermath will be measured in the hundreds of thousands lives lost, disproportionately children under five.

Hunger gap: The period of time between spring/early summer planting and fall harvest. This period also largely coincides with the rainy season that paralyzes transport for much of Darfur, cutting off large parts of the population, as was the case during the rainy season of last year. A more realistic assessment of the food crisis suggests that between 3 million and 4 million people will be affected by Khartoum’s engineered famine. Hundreds of thousands of people will starve to death.

The situation on the ground shows a number of negative trends, which have been developing since the last quarter of 2004: deteriorating security; a credible threat of famine; mounting civilian casualties; the ceasefire in shambles; the negotiation process at a standstill; the rebel movements beginning to splinter, and new armed movements appearing in Darfur and neighbouring states. Chaos and a culture of impunity are taking root in the region.

Within this "chaos" and "culture of impunity," Khartoum's relentlessly efficient engine of human destruction continues to race. It daily becomes more likely that the final toll from genocide in Darfur will eventually exceed the 800,000 who died in Rwanda's genocide of 1994..

In addition to the clear indications of impending famine (see "Engineered Famine: Khartoum's Weapon of Genocidal Mass Destruction" there are a number of deeply ominous signs that mortality from disease and malnutrition is set to increase dramatically.

Although the early stages of the Darfur situation received more news coverage than the Rwanda genocide did, at some level the Western governments are still approaching it with the same lack of priority. In the end, it receives the same intuitive reaction: "What's in it for us? Is it in our 'national' interest?"

The United Nations, emasculated by the self-interested maneuverings of the five permanent members of the Security Council, fails to intervene. Powerful nations like the United States and Britain have lost much of their credibility because of the quagmire of Iraq.

Sudan is a huge country with a harsh terrain and a population unlikely to welcome outside intervention. Still, I believe that a mixture of mobile African Union troops supported by NATO soldiers equipped with helicopters, remotely piloted vehicles, night-vision devices and long-range special forces could protect Darfur's displaced people in their camps and remaining villages, and eliminate or incarcerate the Janjaweed.

If NATO is unable to act adequately, manpower could perhaps come individually from the so-called middle nations - countries like Germany and Canada that have more political leeway and often more credibility in the developing world than the Security Council members. Romeo Dallaire


Sudan on Monday rejected international pressure over its strife-torn Darfur region at a meeting of the UN Commission on human rights, warning any move to criticise it at its annual session here could backfire.

"Unmeasured, uneven and unbalanced pressure and signals have exacerbated the already volatile situation in Darfur," Sudan's Justice Minister Ali Yassine said in a speech to the 53-strong committee which began its 61st annual session here on Monday.
"Any undue pressure on the government of national unity will retard its ability to implement the comprehensive peace agreement. This in turn will impede the benefits of peace from reaching the Sudanese people. Let us give peace in the Sudan a positive environment in which to take root".

How in the hell do you deal with someone like this? What kind of statement is that? When men have no heart you must reach them another way. I fear nothing at all is going to be done and people are just waiting for it to be over so they don't have to think about it anymore. Who cares about these people anyway? I mean really?

The Sudanese government has an english version of their website here. At the bottom of the page in tiny print is an email address if you think you can get through to someone. ministers@sudanmail.net

Human Rights Watch Emergency Appeal
Darfur: A Genocide We Can Stop

2005/03/13

Israel's security fence, an unjustified obstacle to peace

The Israel ‘security wall’ does nothing to achieve peace, indeed it puts peace further and further away with every metre covered. The wall is also going to fail to protect the Israeli settlers for whom it is trying to protect from suicide bombers. The wall will only serve to recreate the dire position of the Palestinians and further the desire of some to strike back at Israel. It is an unjustified pile of concrete with dire consequences for peace in the Middle-East.

The wall apparently aims to protect Israeli citizens from being killed in a suicide attack by a Palestinian. There are many other ways in which Palestinian freedom fighters can strike within Israel. The wall does not prevent lives from being lost. Rather it is a psychological barrier. It aims to separate Palestinians from their land. The wall aims to remove the connection they have to the land, they goal is to make the Palestinians give up their land altogether.

The wall forces Palestinian people further into their dire economic position. The wall goes through olive tree plantations; it separates one of the few economic resources of the Palestinian people from them. Although legally the farmer still owns the land on the other side of the wall there is no way which they can access it (without being shot). The farmer must then decide whether to try to live off the few remaining trees he/she has, or to go to a refugee camp. Not surprisingly many leave in hope of a better life elsewhere.

The wall has another nasty trick for further forcing the Palestinian people into economic oblivion. The wall sneaks in as much of each river as it can. Think of the climate in that region, it is hot, dry and there is little water around. Israel is taking as much water as it can from the Palestinian people, leaving them with no drinking water, no cleaning water, no irrigation water, no water full-stop. Suddenly the people are thirsty, their crops fail, and they smell. All because Israelis want the water for their flash little green gardens.

The wall also separates many Palestinians from their jobs and families. The separation of a person from their job causes financial harm; they have to find a new job, which is not easy in a community with over 60 percent unemployment. And yet again, Palestinian people are rightly pissed off about that. And yet again many people are forced to move from land that has been in their family hands for generations.

But even more aggravating is the separation of families by the barrier. The same thing happened with the Berlin Wall. People loss contact with their family, they live in a sense of unease, not knowing whether they are dead or alive, pregnant or imprisoned, etc etc. The sense of loss of finding out one’s relative is dead is added on to when one does not find out for months or even years. The barrier forces families apart.

The wall further damages any chance for a long lasting peace. Peace will require both sides to understand one another and to have no anger ready to explode. The barrier has caused much anger. It treats the Palestinian people like animals, locked up in a zoo; to be ignored, maltreated and caged in. But the barrier also destroys the chance of that understanding from coming through.

For Israeli and Palestinian peoples to understand each other, they must interact. The best solution to the conflict is one in which the Israeli/Palestinian divide is similar to that of Māori/Pakeha, one of two people under one state working together for progress.

The wall though forces them apart. The separation allows each side to demonise the other. They do not have it in their faces that the other is human, that the other has feelings, that the other seeks justice and peace. Rather than recognising each other, making friendships across the divide, they are separated, told to stay away, and thus can deny the humanity of the other.

The wall will also fail to do what it is apparently designed to do: stop the ‘terrorists’ (or freedom fighters). Consider this: these people want to die fighting the Israelis, they want to become shahids (matyrs). They are willing to die for their cause. Now that is a pretty hardcore thing to do for a cause. If you are that committed, then is a wall going to be enough to stop you? Sure it may mean more planning, but it is not going to impact upon your decision or ultimately the execution of the plan. So the wall fails to even achieve its given aim.

So, the wall fails to actually do what it is meant to, takes more land of the Palestinian people, and forces them further into poverty. The net result: more attacks on Israel, more anger at Israel, more obstacles to peace. The wall achieves the absolute reverse of what is needed within the area. That being an understanding of each other, and recognising that the other has a right to that land. This is the contemporary Berlin Wall; this is another barrier to a joint humanity that must be torn down.

Discount Airline Strands Passengers

Canada's 3rd largest airline Jetsgo is seeking court protection from its creditors after announcing that it is ceasing operations. 17,000 passengers are stranded at one of the busiest travel times of the year. Passengers entered the airport only to find that the kiosks were abandoned, the computers were removed, and the www.JetsGo.com website wasn't responding.

Full Story: Link

What better way to go down then to take in as much money as you can, then clandestinely remove your computers and shut down your operations in the middle of the night; forcing thousands of people to buy tickets from other airlines to get to their destinations.


 

Israel plans air and ground attack on Iran

London's Sunday Times reported on Sunday that Ariel Sharon gave "initial authorization" in February for an attack on Iran to deal a devastating blow to Iran's nuclear program.

Israeli forces have used a mock-up of Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant in the desert to practice destroying it. Their tactics include raids by Israel’s elite Shaldag (Kingfisher) commando unit and airstrikes by F-15 jets from 69 Squadron, using bunker-busting bombs to penetrate underground facilities.

The plans have been discussed with American officials who are said to have indicated provisionally that they would not stand in Israel’s way if all international efforts to halt Iranian nuclear projects failed.

Dick Cheney, the American vice-president, emphasized on Friday that Iran would face “stronger action” if it failed to respond. But yesterday Iran rejected the initiative, which provides for entry to the World Trade Organisation and a supply of spare parts for airliners if it co-operates.

And from another Times Online article:

The news that Israel is planning unilateral action to end what it considers an imminent Iranian nuclear threat comes as American and European diplomats are announcing new initiatives for negotiation with Tehran.

Although publicly committed to the diplomatic effort, Ariel Sharon’s inner cabinet has decided to act alone if the impasse is not broken.

“If all efforts to persuade Iran to drop its plans to produce nuclear weapons should fail, the U.S. administration will authorize Israel to attack,” said one Israeli security source.

“The preservation of a nuclear monopoly in the Middle East is the cornerstone of Israel’s security policy,” says John Pike, a weapons specialist with Globalsecurity.org. “Iran is behind most of Israel’s torments.”

The announcement last week of new, U.S.-backed incentives for Iran -- including civilian aircraft parts and support for Iranian membership of the World Trade Organisation -- is designed to break the impasse by peaceful means. If Iran fails to respond, the issue is expected to go to the U.N. security council later this year where it is likely to become deadlocked, freeing Israel to take unilateral action.

It is equally clear that a number of hurdles stand in the way.

“Yes, of course you can do a bit of bombing,” said a senior Washington official. “But are you sure you can hit everything? No. And when you’ve done it, what’s the reaction? The Iranians close ranks, there’s international uproar and they’ve still got their weapons program. What did you achieve by this?”

Not the least of the reasons Bush has become so accommodating to European diplomacy is that the Pentagon has told him it can’t be sure it has located the entire Iranian nuclear structure.

Reporter's FOIA Request Dates to 1981

By MARTHA MENDOZA, AP National Writer
SAN FRANCISCO - Twenty-four years after a young and optimistic journalist-in-the-making typed up a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI, Seth Rosenfeld — now an award-winning muckraker with a few gray hairs — is still waiting for the records.

"I'm very disappointed that the Justice Department and the FBI have failed to comply with the law, with court orders and with their own legal agreement to release these public records," Rosenfeld says.
An investigative and legal affairs reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, Rosenfeld holds the dubious record of "longest pending FOIA request," according to the National Security Archive, a nonprofit research center on declassified documents.

When he made his request, Rosenfeld was researching Cold War FBI activities at the University of California. Well, actually, he's still researching it.
To date, his saga has included three lawsuits and orders to release the records from five federal judges. It's cost the FBI more than $1 million and prompted the release of more than 200,000 pages of documents — though more records are still being held.
Despite a settlement agreement signed by the FBI in 1996 to release the requested material, the agency has acknowledged that it has yet to turn over an estimated 17,000 pages.
In 2002, Rosenfeld used the documents to write an award-winning package of stories describing how the FBI campaigned in the 1950s and '60s to curb the Free Speech Movement at the University of California-Berkeley and plotted to oust UC President Clark Kerr.

FBI spokeswoman Megan Baroska told The Associated Press that the agency cannot discuss other people's FOIA requests.
"Basically, the FOIA is a matter between the FBI and Mr. Rosenfeld," she said. "Mr. Rosenfeld could file a request to get further information about his request."
Rosenfeld's case has drawn broad public interest. Attorneys have worked on it for free, and public-record groups have advocated on his behalf.
"The (FOIA) statute says 20 days," said Barbara Elias, the FOIA coordinator at the National Security Archive, who surveyed federal agencies to find the oldest pending request. "There is no excuse that could extend search and review to 24 years." She said she'd urge Rosenfeld not to get frustrated and give up.
He's not about to.
"I still want to see what these records say," he said. "They concern the nation's largest law enforcement agency's activities at the nation's largest public university at a crucial time in U.S. history. I'm more curious than ever."

Gore Vidal 2003 on Syria etc...

The following is an excerpt from an interview by Monica Attard, ABC (Australia) on December 24, 2003 with Gore Vidal.

MONICA ATTARD: Do you think that Tony Blair's zeal will eventually see him falling in behind Washington if Washington makes a decision to extend this war and go after Syria? He says he won't, but do you think that's possible?

GORE VIDAL: Well, I'm sure he says that, but what he will do is a different thing. I think he's got himself in pretty deep and I don't think he's worked out enough of an exit to get out of it because they are going to go into Syria.

MONICA ATTARD: You believe that?

GORE VIDAL: I know that, and also Iran has been marked too. I hope it isn't going to happen, I hope that the American people will wake up and stop the junta.

MONICA ATTARD: How do you know that they're going to go into Syria or Iran? Why do you say you know that?

GORE VIDAL: I have connections in Washington and I know that this is a decision that has been made. Things do go wrong and things don't happen.

MONICA ATTARD: So, but you don't think that Washington is just sabre-rattling? Isn't it possible that having just demonstrated having this capacity and willingness to act in terms of Iraq, that the Bush administration can actually achieve its aims through fear and threat?

GORE VIDAL: It has no aims other than more oil and gas because Cheney had a study done about a year ago, that by the year 2020 the entire world would be practically out of fossil fuels. They're going to grab all of it and the biggest supply is in the Caspian area and all those countries whose names end in 'stan'. That's what our eye is on.

MONICA ATTARD: You describe a three-stage process that you observed the US Government employing against its enemies, abroad and at home. First there's harassment, then there's demonisation, then there's attack. Is Syria now at the harassment stage?

GORE VIDAL: You should read the New York Times this morning. There were four major stories about the crimes of Syria, how it was really in with they found the terrorists there, and so it means that Iraq had been supporting terrorism and this and that, mostly stories are made up or totally distorted. But the New York Times is a voice of the regime and a voice with really a sort of desire for war and expansion in that part of the world.

MONICA ATTARD: And so on your account then, the terrorist link would just be extended add infinitum, and all of this on the back of one event, September 11, which looks, on this account, as though it might have been a gift for Bush – a truly massive, widely-perceived direct external threat needed in order to secure American global and oil interests.

GORE VIDAL: That is one way of looking at it.

MONICA ATTARD: You believe there's no plan to deliver democracy via regime change throughout the Middle East?

GORE VIDAL: I don't believe it's our business to make the regime changes in the Middle East, particularly when we're under no threat from anybody.

MONICA ATTARD: But is there a plan? Is the American administration interested at all in delivering democracy to the Middle East?

GORE VIDAL: Are you crazy? We don't have it here, for God's sake. Why would we export it? We talk a lot about it.

Our founding fathers feared two things – one was majority rule, or democracy, and the other is tyranny, which they called monarchy in those days, that's all.

Read the entire transcript here.