Malaysia - no tsunami aid for Banda Aceh for fear of being suspected of aiding Islamic separatists?

(article published on behalf of guest contributor Anna)

Banda Aceh (pronounced bAnda-aCHeh) - the mainly muslim North-West Indonesian province suffered some of the heaviest losses in the late december tsunami, and was threatened with further losses by it's aftershocks, the latest of which - a 6.2 earthquake on February 9th. For a long time relief work was restricted by GAM (Free Acheh Movement) Rebels, who have been fighting for independence for the last 30 years . [The Aceh region produces about 70% of Indonesia's oil, and they get next to nothing out of it. Click here for full background]. Though it has been said that the tsunami helped step up peace talks between two parties, a complete resolution is far away - the next round of of talks has been scheduled for April 12th of this year.

Until then, the area must depend on the relief work of independent NGOs, because governments like that of Malaysia are reluctant to be associated with aiding Islamic separatists.

One of my few friends who transcend the online/offline barrier had been working with Simple Wisdom, for the past two months. It's a relief agency based in Sri Lanka that in it's own small way helps put the country back on its feet, not via relief supplies that are already in abundance, but by rebuilding the businesses in affected areas. When he told me their project leader is coming down to Malaysia in a few months, I pledged to do everything I can to help them spread their message.

With this in mind, I approached a lecturer in my univeristy who has been involved with Aceh relief work over the holidays, thinking this would be right up his alley.

He was excited. A little too excited:

My university is an small sister campus of about 6 big Australian ones. Our Australian counterparts have been running a widespread programme in tsunami relief, which a specific emphasis on Banda Aceh. [Probably because there is a sizeable community of Indonesian intellectuals residing and teaching in Australia.] There are many ongoing exchange programmes, and scholarships offered to Aceh victims.

The Pro Vice Chancellor of our campus is on the relief committee.

So why didn't anyone on my campus lift a finger these last two months? And how would organizing an awareness campaign about relief in Sri Lanka affect relief in the Aceh region?

Apparently our PVC is reluctant to promote aid on an issue the Malaysian government is undecided on. Which means no one can campaign for the Aceh with university support, but we can and should campaign for the Sri Lankans, and hope that it will get the ball rolling and throw Banda Aceh back into the equation.

Why is there this need for complicated 'politics'?

Because so many of the illegal immigrants in Malaysia are, and for the last two or three decades have been, the Aceh - Malaysia is pretty anxious to get rid of them. But the Malaysian government knows that a state of civil emergency had been declared in Aceh, and it knows the region was devastated by the tsunami, so there's hardly any hope of them returning to their homes. The only way to get them out of the country, it seems, is to help them.

Somewhere in the middle of last year, a small group of us had a semi-formal discussion with a few Acehnese immigrants in Malaysia [still illegal]. "It's not like we don't want to go home," they told us. "It's not like we want to stay here, always afraid the police is going to find our refugee camps and beat us up. It's not like we really wanted to take our small boats [and sometimes flimsy rafts] all the way from Aceh to the Malaysian coast, across the straits of Malacca, through rough weather and bad seas. We didn't have a choice."

They told us, that because of GAM, the rest of the peaceful Aceh had been abused by the Indonesian military for decades: they were mudered and abused, and no longer considered neither true muslims, nor true citizens. Because of a small band of exremists with guns, the Aceh had been personas non grata in Indonesia for the last 30 years.

And with most of their homes wiped out anyway, I can't imagine what kind of choice they would have now.

But Malaysia remains on the fence, refusing to help the Aceh both in their own homes, and living hidden all over this part of Malaysia. The most they have done is encourage the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) and the Islamic development Bank (IDB) to pledge RM551 million (about US120 million) to Aceh children and orphans.

Don't get me wrong, this is a huge amount to be spent, and a very worthy cause. I am GLAD they are finally doing something. The children should have been the first to be helped a long time ago.

But they are not the only ones affected. Like Simple Wisdom in Sri Lanka, things need to be done to help the surviving adults get back on their feet. They need homes, they need jobs, they need safety and security.

So why does Malaysia refuse to get its hands dirty? Why doesn't Malaysia grant the Aceh refugee status, and send out people to help rebuild the infrastructure? Why isn't the OIC the first to aid fellow muslims?

Is the answer really fear? Fear and reluctance to be suspected of helping separatists? Of helping a group of muslims because their uncalled for representatives are dangerously close to being labeled as [yes, I'm using the big bad T word] Terrorists!

What ever happened to common sense? To humanity?

Why the State should provide social services and not private charity

Charity should not need to exist. It should not be left up to the individual. The provision of social services should lay with the government, not the individual. The government can provide for better services than charity can. It is also far more appropriate that the state respond than private individuals.

Charities need money, they must fundraise for this. They need to ask the public for money. They rely on the generosity of people. But when the country hits hard times, such as a depression, then charities are unlikely to be the top priority of people trying to feed their own families. But at the same time, more people need extra help, but the charities cannot provide it. The government though does not have this problem; they have the ability to get money from people (taxation) and can spend their way out of the depression through fiscal deficits. Thus when the country hits hard times it is better for there to be a government providing social services than a charity. Otherwise more people will starve.

Charities provide an inconsistent service throughout different regions. Each charity is reliant on local activists/volunteers providing the help they do. These people though are not going to be located evenly throughout the country; they will be in selected places. A homeless person (someone who does need social services) will not get the same treatment in Auckland as they do in Wellington, it may even vary from bridge to bridge! This variation leads to some people missing out due to the lack of volunteers in their region, a fairly arbitrary reason to miss out on getting services. The government though can provide the guarantee that services will be the same throughout the country. The government has the ability to pay for people to do social services; they can get people into different regions. There is a consistency of service throughout the country if they are provided for by the government, there is not when it is privately provided.

Charities are often based upon spreading an ideal. Usually this is Christian, but not always. This can make people nervous to approach to get charity- would you approach Bishop Tamaki for charity (if he offered any)? Most people would not, why? Because he would force his beliefs down your throat while helping you out. Thus charity can alienate those who are in need. This can happen whether or not the charity actually does force their beliefs onto others; all that is needed is the perception. The state though does not have the same problem. The state is secular and upholds the right of freedom of belief. It cannot, and does not, force a religion down a person’s throat. The state does not scare people off; they have a stake in it already as a citizen, it is already a part of their life.

Ultimately social problems are collectively created and thus need to be collectively solved. Charities ultimately can only alleviate the pains of what has happened, they cannot prevent them from happening. A charity, and thus private individuals, cannot change the lack of jobs in the market; they can only provide soup for those out of work. A charity is ultimately an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, not the fence at the top. The state can be both. They can create the conditions whereby social assistance is not needed through job creation schemes. The state can also provide the ambulance, looking after those that have fallen.

Social problems are, as stated above, collectively created. They problem of unemployment is due to the lack of jobs out there (for the skill level of the unemployed people). Unemployment is a key factor in numerous other social problems (such as domestic violence, rape, murder, bad things in general). The fault, if it is needed to be placed, is within the community. It is not with the individual who has fallen into unemployment. It is for all of us to respond to, as we have all contributed to the problem in some form or another. The state clearly represents us all; we cannot leave it to the individual to choose whether they follow their moral obligation to help. The state can respond, and should do so.

Charities rely upon each individual feeling that they have the responsibility to deal with the problem, but it is a problem that all have a responsibility towards. If social services are left to charities then many people will ignore their responsibilities, the state though can ensure that all take part in carrying out their responsibility. Thus the mantra of the right, personal responsibility, requires that the state ensures social services are provided. The notion of ‘private charity’ is a means of escaping one’s responsibilities to other members of society.

Giving of private charity obviously has a ‘feel good’ factor to it. People want to contribute to society and its members. But they can do this through the state, and at the same time know that others are doing their part as well. The state provides for a more efficient, effective, homogenous and fair delivery of social services than private charity can ever produce. Ultimately the role of charity only exists because the state does not fulfil its role within society.


Saddam's half brother captured in Iraq

Ok great!! yay!!!! So we've captured Saddam, his half-brother, killed his 2 sons and his grandson, and we're hot on the trail of Al-Zarqawi. *applause and whistles here* And we did it all in 2 years!!!! Now, can someone please explain to me how in the name of all that is holy, how we still, after 4 freaking years, have no idea where in the hell Bin-Laden (you know the guy that flew planes into the twin towers) is???? Oh that's right. I almost forgot that we aren't really looking for him, since he has no oil.

The Freedom Legion?

The esteemed I-never-served armchair-general chicken-hawk warmonger, Max Boot, has come up with an answer to America's troop shortage. Follow the link for a full dose. Max Boot is in his 30's and one has to wonder why he's not on the front lines?

The military would do well today to open its ranks not only to legal immigrants but also to illegal ones and, as important, to untold numbers of young men and women who are not here now but would like to come. No doubt many would be willing to serve for some set period in return for one of the world's most precious commodities — U.S. citizenship. Open up recruiting stations from Budapest to Bangkok, Cape Town to Cairo, Montreal to Mexico City. Some might deride those who sign up as mercenaries, but these troops would have significantly different motives than the usual soldier of fortune.

The simplest thing to do would be to sign up foreigners for the regular U.S. military, but it would also make sense to create a unit whose enlisted ranks would be composed entirely of non-Americans, led by U.S. officers and NCOs.

Call it the Freedom Legion. As its name implies, this unit would be modeled on the French Foreign Legion, except, again, U.S. citizenship would be part of the "pay." And rather than fighting for U.S. security writ small — the way the Foreign Legion fights for the glory of France — it would have as its mission defending and advancing freedom across the world. It would be, in effect, a multinational force under U.S. command — but one that wouldn't require the permission of France, Germany or the United Nations to deploy.

I'm sorry but I think there is a huge segment of the US population that has overdosed on science fiction, gore-filled action movies and war games. They're pumped and ready to roll!

Considering that populations around the world demonstrated in mass against the invasion of Iraq I wonder what sort of people he expects to join this 'Freedom Legion?'

Careful boys and girls, you might find yourself shanghaied.


US president reaffirms America's commitment to exhausting all diplomatic options prior to unleashing a righeous thermonukular holocaust

US emperor Bush reaffirms America's commitment to exhausting all diplomatic options prior to unleashing a righeous thermonukular holocaust on UPPITY IRANISTAZI TRASH

Statement by the President

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Please be seated. I'm going to dispense with the usual blabbity-blab and just cut to the chase here – because today's GOP message of the day is just three simple words: "No Nukes for Iran."


That's right. We know they're working on building them, just like Saddam was, and we're not going to stand for it. And trust me, we have indisputable proof – that will actually pan out this time!


That's why today, what with us having no formal diplomatic channels, I want to speak out into the air through these television cameras to tell the Iranistazi moo-lahs that they had damned well better wake up, comb the goat fleas out of their skeezy beards, and listen good:

America (that's me) says "No nukular weapons for you!" Or else. Of course, by "or else," I don't necessarily mean "go ahead with my current plan to launch stealth bombers this summer and bring the entire world to the brink of annihilation." No, no, not that at all. That's right, I actually want to use "diplomacy" to "negotiate." (Snickers.) ...

... more

For those still in a daze about the state of the States

I just surfed onto a blog that is not to be missed. Please do go see just how far the fascist far-right is willing to go. Be sure to leave a comment letting them know you visited. They say they will delete unsanitary language. LOL Killing is ok just don't talk dirty while you do it. This site will join our 'fascist assholes' shortly.

Get your revolution on


Antiwar Movement Gears Up Globally

Put this on your blog or website.

Army Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack, Jr., commander of the 82nd Airborne – also known as "America's Guard of Honor" – brightly told reporters in Baghdad that "we're on a glide-path toward success."

"We have turned the corner, and now we can accelerate down the straight-away," he said in a Jan. 6, 2004 briefing. "There's still a long way to go before the finish line, but the final outcome is known."

Not so fast, say antiwar activists like Lou Plummer, who is helping to organize a mass protest rally near the base in Fayetteville, North Carolina on Mar. 19 to coincide with the second anniversary of the US invasion.

"The message is not 'bring them home after they fix stuff', it's 'bring them home now'," said Lou Plummer, a veteran with a son on active duty. "At least 50 people from Fort Bragg, the largest U.S. army installation in the world and home to the famed 82nd Airborne Division, have been killed in Iraq."

Plummer, an active member of the national peace group Military Families Speak Out, "You have to respect people who oppose the war but are afraid to go public because they have a spouse in the military and could lose their benefits."

Even so, he says that interest in his group – which represents 2,000 military families – and in the March antiwar events has been "overwhelming."
More at AntiWar.com

This year, antiwar actions are also planned in Britain, Greece, Italy, France, Iceland, Germany, Denmark and other European countries, as well as in Brazil, Korea, Japan, South Africa, Bangladesh and Australia, many listed on the Web site of
International Mobilization Against the War and Invasion of Iraq.

French finance minister update - a Revolution is about to break out here

Typing this as I'm listening to the news.

Get a load of this:

Hervé Gaymard, who publicly stated 2 days ago: "I have always lived humbly. I do not have money, Obviously if I wasn't the son of a shoemaker, if I was a member of the bourgeoisie, I wouldn't have any housing problem. I would own my own apartment and we wouldn't have this affair" has now been found to own:

1. A large apartment right in the center of Paris
2. A luxurious house in Savoie (Alpes region near Switzerland)
3. Another luxurious house in Bretagne (region north west in the country)

Add to this the fact he's got a 14,000 euros/month apartment paid by the taxpayers, and anybody can immediately see the man has a HUGE housing problem (as well as being poor and having no money of course).

He further states that:

"when he moved into his 600 square meter apartment on the Champs Elysées, he had no idea of how expensive the rent was."

Right... lemme try get a concept of this:

- Our FINANCE minister, who owns a 200 square meter apartment on Boulevard Saint Germain and rents it out at the modest amount of 2,300 euros/month (which by the way , to give you a sense of figures, is twice the minimum wage), has NO IDEA what an apartment 3 times the size in an area 10 times more expensive would cost.

- Our FINANCE minister, not only has NO CLUE how much rents go for in this country (except of course when it comes down to pocketing the 2,300 euros/month), he does not need to remedy to his total ignorance of financial matters, and naturally does not even ASK how much his palace will cost the taxpayer.

Wow! How much more qualified can one get to become finance minister in France?

Anybody out there who can't read, can't count and can't get a job? Don't worry, you are the perfect candidate for finance minister of the Raffarin government!

Oh man, another revolution is about to hit this country, and I hope it wipes this right wing gov to the last asshole. This is just un-fuckin'-believable.

Gaymard scandal getting juicier by the day

Don't you ppl just LOVE crook politicians? I bet even in the US, you'd be hard pressed to find one who beats this motherfucker.

This is a follow up to an article I posted a few days ago.

Since the pic is already loaded on our FTP site, here is a reminder of where Hervé Gaymard, i.e. our French Finance Minister decided that he and family should be lodged at the small rent of 14,000 euros/month naturally paid by taxpayers - hey “Noblesse Oblige”, right?

“Les Champs Elysées, Paris”.

But it's now getting better still:

Apart from the fact that this outrageously expensive "free" residence on the most expensive avenue in the world is rather.... let's say... of bad taste for a finance minister who only one week before he was dislodged made a speech to "encourage all Fr citizens to tighten our belts in view of the hard economic times", it turns out that the asshole also OWNS his own apartment in nowhere less than Boulevard Saint Michel in Paris' Latin Quarter, and rents it out to the nifty tune of 2,300 euros a month.

But wait, this is just the appetizer, now comes the main course:

The motherfucker had the hide to:

1. Claim on Paris-Match (a national rag about the quality of the Daily Telegraph in England) that he DID NOT own the apartment

2. Claim on National TV that he was the poor son of a shoe maker, had no money, and was in fact as as broke as can be. According to him, he just about has to beg in the street to feed his wife and 8 brats.

3. "Forgot" to mention that the 14,000 euros/month free residence wasn't quite up to his majesty's taste, and thus had it renovated at the small tune of 30,000 euros, once again graciously paid by us suckers the taxpayers.

Thank goodness, “The Canard Enchainé”, ultra-left wing satirical newspaper which has been around for decades has uncovered the asshole and all his lies - not to mention his grand scale rip-off of the nation to fill his pockets.

I managed to find an article in English for your enjoyment, which you can find here. Here are a few gorgeous excerpts:

"On Wednesday the satirical magazine Le Canard Enchainé carried new revelations in the affair, which it exposed a week before with a report that Gaymard was living in a luxury 600 square-metre (6,400 square-foot) flat off the Champs Elysees at a cost to the public purse of 14,000 euros (18,500 dollars) a month"

"But the scandal burst open again with the news that the minister has from the start owned a 200 square-metre apartment (2,150 square-foot) in central Paris which he has been letting out for a rent of 2,300 euros a month."

"I have always lived humbly. I do not have money, Obviously if I wasn't the son of a shoemaker, if I was a member of the bourgeoisie, I wouldn't have any housing problem. I would own my own apartment and we wouldn't have this affair,"

... this in spite of being the poor owner of an apartment rented out at 2,300 euros/month.

I thought we were done with royalty in this country. Can someone please get the old rusty guillotine out of the cupboard? I'll spray some WD40 on it.

Neutrality of the BBC

The BBC has an interesting article on how to create fair and balanced journalism. Prehaps FoxNews need to read it?
There are several key issues:
Giving each political party a 'fair' amount of time. That means the more popular a party is, the more time it gets.
Ensuring that it is usually the mainstream within the party that is heard, but ensuring the dissenters are also given time.
Giving the viewers the best sense of the argument. So if it was mainly crap, then showing the crap rather than the moment of brilliance amongst the crap.
The main point is to be fair and balanced.


East Timor needs UN for at least another year

Kofi Annan is recommending that the UN stay in East Timor for an extra year, although scaled down, so to ensure that stability is cemented. Currently the withdrawal date in May 2005, he is seeking it to be May 2006.
East Timor is a fragile country. It has undergone brutal genocide under the 25 year rule of Indonesia (one-third of the population was killed). It is struggling to ensure that it has enough money from its oil reserves, which it is battling Australia for control. It is also trying to reconcile the different sections of its society, from the Muslims (who identify with Indonesia) and the Catholics (who identify themselves as East Timorese).
The UN needs to ensure that East Timor is capable of being a stable country before it leaves. East Timor is one of the 'feel-good' stories of the world (although not deserved given the west implicitly supported the Indonesian genocide of the East Timorese). East Timor must not fall back into the void of human rights abuses, which it has just come out of.

Canada Staying out of U.S. Missile Defense

Canada has officially announced that they will not join the US Missile Defense Program. I am against Canada joining this program, and I applaud Paul Martin for listening to his citizens on this matter. It’s a good feeling to know that the Prime Minister of this country listens to his people instead of making decisions based on his own personal agenda and emotions.

The U.S. ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, said he couldn't understand why Canada would not want to be involved in missile defence to protect North America.

"We just don't get it," he said. "Why would Canada want to give up its sovereignty?
"...If there's a missile incoming, and it's heading toward Canada, you are going to leave it up to the United States to determine what to do about that missile. We don't think that is in Canada's sovereign interest." "

My question is that why would somebody want to fire a missile at Canada? I hear this time and time again, that Canada is protected by the United States and we’d be overtaken if we didn’t have the US Army to protect us. I think that the United States is one friend and ally of Canada’s many friends and ally’s. If somebody were to attack Canada for whatever inconceivable reason, there would be many friends that would be there for her; including Britain, United States, France, Australia, etc. Canada was there for the United States on September 11th, they were there for France/Britain in 1939, and there are many other examples of Canada’s support for other countries. To suggest that the United States shouldn’t be there for Canada because Canada didn’t support the Iraq war or because Canada isn’t taking part in the missile defense defies all logic. Canadians are peacekeepers, and they are there for the United States when Peacekeeping is needed. Canadians aren’t instigators, hence the relative low chances of Canada being attacked.

Iraqi women on verge of revolution

Women's rights activists are particularly disappointed by the election. "The results are disturbing indeed," offers Naba al-Barrak of New Hope for Women, an Iraq-based group. "People chose to vote for sectarian reasons, which is very sad." Her group had hoped that voters would find the liberal agenda of the more secular parties attractive, while also trying to break the Arab mentality of supporting one's tribe or clan over one's individual rights. Yet the portrait of the country that emerged from the election, she says, "is the face of tribal loyalties."

Perhaps the most outspoken activist is Yanar Mohammed of the Iraqi Communist Party. It's pretty clear why a Shiite ticket, endorsed by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and led by a coalition of religious groups headed by Abdul Hakim Aziz, would not be happy with Mohammed, a woman whose newspaper recently used a sardonic editorial to propose that if Iraqi men are allowed to take multiple wives, then Iraqi women should then opt for multiple husbands.

"Iraqi women can be quite outspoken," Mohammed says. "And there's not as much fear among them as you see in places like Kuwait, Saudi and other Arab countries." Yet she is cynical about the prospect of women gaining equal rights under a new Iraqi government.

"Our position was to boycott the election because the winner was going to be a cleric from Iran -- bred with its version of Islamic fascism -- or Allawi, a Baathist," she says. "Not one of them will do anything to help women. And how can a people in search of a secular state have an election in which [Sistani] mandated participation as a religious duty?"

Women, Mohammed adds, continue to suffer under religious rule. "The moment Saddam's regime closed down, Iraq became infiltrated by [Sunni] Wahhabi extremists, Iranian intelligence and others, who are heavily funded from outside Iraq," she says. "This is what we see all over the world, political Islam imposing religion on politics. It started with sanctions here [in the 1990s] and continues all throughout the Muslim world. When you are isolated from the rest of the world, religion becomes your way out."

"I would like a socialist Iraq free of mention of gender, race, and religion," she says. "Start with a secular government and adopt the Geneva Convention on Human Rights. We want to end the American occupation of Iraq, so the Wahhabis and Iranian intelligence people stop coming here."

When I point out that it seems unlikely that the foreign jihadis and Iraqi Sunni and Shiite radicals will retreat from their battles when the Americans leave, she disagrees. "The American presence gives legitimacy to these radicals in the eyes of the people," she argues. "It's like the Americans are a big hive of honeybees. The bear will leave when the honey is gone."

Racism? Hatred? France? America?

Wow, how I love to read mindless drivels from ppl like HuntMyAnal and LynnKrapper.

It's really interesting to see the constant mentions of "how the French ppl HATE America". In fact, 50% of their prose is dedicated to this. Not just the posts, the comments keep reminding the reader of it (just in case (s)he lost the plot, ya know).

The remaining 50% is dedicated to explaining how they then feel justify to say they hate the French. Like I once got from a lovely fan of mine: "All french ppl are bastards and should be eliminated, so I feel justified in saying so".

Wow, how can you beat that kind of argumentation skills?

Oh, by the way, this is of course NOT racist. Like RedTigress, Gindy, Noguru and others remind us, we all know the French is not a race, and so statements of the LynnKrapper kind like "the entire French civilization should be eradicated" is NOT in the least racist.

Phew!!! Thank goodness we've cleared this out.

Funny thing though, my dictionary defines "racist" as "someone who discriminates, especially on the basis of race, nationality, ethnicity or religion". Duh... why do these intellectuals dudes keep throwing spanners in the works, I ask you?

Anyway, it kind of puzzled me because while I spent most of my life in Australia, I also spent a good few many years in France and the US as well. And to this day, I yet to have heard one French person saying they "hate Americans".

But of course, I haven't met ALL 60-odd million French ppl, so perhaps there are half a dozen nutcase American haters around.

So, I thought I'd google around, you know, to try get some HATE stats, using keywords like "fuck[insert country of your choice]", "[country] sucks", etc.

Guess what? I haven't managed so far to find ONE French website dedicated to the cause of "All Americans suck" (but I'm sure if keep plugging along, there might be a couple out there).

On the other hand, websites dedicated to hatred against the French returned 27,000 hits.

27,000 websites (need I mention they are all US sites?) are out there, dedicated to this lovely pastime. Oh, and that's just on the *suck/country* category. The *fuck/country* category is also fairly impressive.

Here is a chart I found which gives the HATING score of weblogs around, versus the destination hated “sucking” country.

Oh yes, no doubt: the French ppl are the ones spewing racist hatred. I guess they are all out there blogging in a frenzy hating.... err... hating.... mmmm... they're still looking for a target, I guess.

What's gone wrong with America lately? How come 1/2 the population is turning into nazi racist dicks, and then have the gall to accuse other nations of their own repulsive racist urges?

PS: LynnKrapper and HunterAnal, why don't you kindly both drop dead? You're putting a bad name on America, and since I'm an American too, it makes me really embarrassed. Thank goodness, I have multiple citizenships, and even if I'm mainly Australian I'll keep promoting my French one, just to piss you off :-)

Insufficient evidence?!

It is reported that a US marine, who was captured on film killing a wounded Iraqi at point blank range during November's assault on Fallujah, will not be formally charged due to lack of evidence.

The death was broadcast, sparking worldwide outrage.

It has been described by the International Committee of the Red Cross as a demonstration of "utter contempt for humanity".

In the incident, a trooper raised his rifle and shot point blank at an apparently unarmed, wounded Iraqi who was slumped against one of the mosque walls.

The footage was captured by an embedded cameraman working for the NBC network.

Although the insurgents have been found to be unarmed, investigators say the one the marine believed he had seen moving could have been reaching for a weapon.

The rifleman was withdrawn from combat pending the results of the investigation, but the graphic footage enraged many, months after the scandal over US troops' abuse of inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison.

CBS News says it has learned that military investigators have concluded insufficient evidence existed to formally charge the marine.

I'm not sure what kind of evidence they are looking for. The marine was caught on camera along with his words. Maybe someone can clear this up for me?


I can't decide wether this is funny, sad, or possibly even a good thing (think Jesse Ventura)


For possibly the first time in his career, Jerry Springer is acting coy. The famous (and infamous) TV talk-show host is considering a campaign for Governor of Ohio. Though he has yet to announce a decision, he has been spotted in the back rooms of upscale Cleveland restaurants, discussing the idea in hushed meetings with Ohio's few remaining Democratic bigwigs. The party hasn't held a single statewide office since 1994, so Springer is getting a hearing. "I don't care if it makes us look desperate," says Jimmy Dimora, chairman of the Democratic Party in the Cleveland area. "We are desperate."
Springer, of course, is best known for his 14-year-old talk show, which is filled with dueling transsexual lovers and cheating midgets. Before that, he was a city council member in Cincinnati--during which time he was caught paying a prostitute with a personal check--and later mayor. Now that he has set his sights on the Governor's mansion, Springer seems to have embarked on an image makeover. For years, Democratic leaders have urged him to start a radio talk show and distance himself from his TV persona. Springer did just that a month ago. For three hours a day, five days a week, on Cincinnati's WCKY-AM, Springer is talking about the object of his renewed passion: politics. "Republicans get elected on cultural issues," Springer says. "But if they ran on tax cuts for the wealthy or the end of Social Security, which is what they actually stand for, they'd lose."

Just about the only subject Springer avoids these days is his own political plans, though he sounds like a man who is spoiling for a fight. "Unless Democrats start redefining the debate," he says, "it doesn't much matter who runs because they'll continue to lose." --By Chris Maag

In Topeka, Hate Mongering Is a Family Affair

I really don't think I need to put my two cents in on this one:

Residents of Topeka, Kans., accustomed to seeing daily placards with such coarse slogans as GOD HATES FAGS and GOT AIDS YET?, have learned to put up with the family responsible for those signs in the same way some people endure living next to screeching railroad tracks. Now they're enduring the typically grating campaign of a young member of the clan who is trying to unseat the first openly gay member of the city council.
Thanks to the Phelps family, this small, gossipy city can perhaps lay claim to being the homophobia capital of the U.S. Since 1991, the Rev. Fred Phelps, 75, has led his family in campaigns against everyone from "sodomites" and "fag enablers" to victims of 9/11. More recently the Phelpses initiated a referendum on the March 1 ballot that would prohibit laws protecting gay rights. The family is also supporting one of Fred's 53 grandchildren, Jael Phelps, 20, a prim nursing student who once picketed Matthew Shepard's funeral, in her run against city councilwoman Tiffany Muller, 26, who co-sponsored a law late last year that shields gays from discrimination in city hiring. Since there are two other contenders in the race, Jael is given little chance of winning. But the referendum could succeed even though most Topekans, including those who signed the referendum petition, say they oppose the Phelpses' tactics. "A lot of people don't outwardly agree with what Phelps is doing, but behind the scenes they do," says Republican state representative Lana Gordon. --By Eric Roston

Shrek latest 'gay' cartoon character to be outed

(cheers to Ruth for pointing this out)

So the religious right have outed Shrek as being gay. Apparently there are too many subtle messages in the movie.

I'm sorry, but wasn't the movie about Shrek and Princess Fiona getting married?

Someone needs to watch the plot not the 'subtle' messages, which people will only notice as such when they are pointed out.


Bush Drops Town Hall Meeting with Germans

During his trip to Germany on Wednesday, the main highlight of George W. Bush's trip was meant to be a "town hall"-style meeting with average Germans. But with the German government unwilling to permit a scripted event with questions approved in advance, the White House has quietly put the event on ice. Was Bush afraid the event might focus on prickly questions about Iraq and Iran rather than the rosy future he's been touting in Europe this week?...

On Wednesday, that town hall meeting will be nowhere on the agenda -- it's been cancelled. Neither the White House nor the German Foreign Ministry has offered any official explanation, but Foreign Ministry sources say the town hall meeting has been nixed for scheduling reasons -- a typical development for a visit like this with many ideas but very little time. That, at least, is the diplomats' line. Behind the scenes, there appears to be another explanation: the White House got cold feet. Bush's strategists felt an uncontrolled encounter with the German public would be too unpredictable.

To avoid that messy scenario, the White House requested that rules similar to those applied during Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit two weeks ago also be used in Mainz. Before meeting with students at Paris's Institute of Political Sciences, which preens the country's elite youth for future roles in government, Rice's staff insisted on screening and approving any questions to be asked by students. One question rejected was that of Benjamin Barnier, the 24-year-old son of France's foreign minister, who wanted to ask: "George Bush is not particularly well perceived in the world, particularly in the Middle East. Can you do something to change that?" Instead, the only question of Barnier's that got approval was the question of whether Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority might create a theocratic government based on the Iranian model?

As an ersatz for the town hall meeting on Wednesday, Bush will now meet with a well-heeled group of so-called "young leaders."....
In order to guarantee an open exchange, the round has been closed to journalists -- ensuring that any embarrassments will be confined to a small group.
The requirement was that all of the nominees had to be in their twenties or thirties and they must already have been in a leadership position at a young age. In other words: there won't be any butchers or handymen on the elite guest list, but rather young co-workers from blue chip companies like automaker DaimlerChrysler, Deutsche Bank or the consultancy McKinsey. The fact that two American organizations are the ones managing the guest list suggests that the chat won't be overly critical of Bush.

Bush and Schroeder in agreement on Iran, Khatami says never

President Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder insisted Wednesday that Iran must not have nuclear weapons, but remained divided on how to coax Tehran into giving up its suspected ambitions for such an arsenal.

"It's vital that the Iranians hear the world speak with one voice that they shouldn't have a nuclear weapon," Bush said at a news conference with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

"We absolutely agree that Iran must say no to any kind of nuclear weapon, full stop," Schroeder said through an interpreter during a joint news conference. "They must waive any right to the production of them."

Schroeder wants Bush to more actively engage with talks led by Germany, France and Britain that offer incentives to Tehran, such as membership in the World Trade Organization, in return for dropping its nuclear program.

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami reiterated today that giving up his country's nuclear program, which Iran maintains is entirely peaceful, was not an option.

"There are deep differences of opinion between Iran and the Europeans," Khatami said. "We have to give objective guarantees to the (European) gentlemen that we won't divert from the peaceful path. They must also ... give objective guarantees that our rights and security will be protected."

Iran has said it will decide by mid-March whether to continue its suspension, which is monitored by U.N. nuclear inspectors, depending on the progress of the talks for a final agreement.

Europe is trying to use the talks to persuade Iran to turn its temporary suspension of dual-use nuclear activities into a permanent one.

Khatami reiterated Wednesday that no Iranian government would give up nuclear technology.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said that Tehran was determined to press ahead with uranium enrichment, which can be a key step towards developing nuclear weapons.

"We are determined to continue enrichment and others cannot stop us," he told reporters on his return from a trip to India. "They cannot do anything with bullying, threats and pressure."

Kharrazi speaking about Lebanon said Washington was trying to protect its chief ally in the region, Israel.

"The Lebanese must beware of falling into the trap of foreigners who, using beautiful words, pursue their own political objectives," he said.

"To secure the interests of Israel in the region, the Americans are putting pressure on Syria to withdraw its forces," Kharrazi told the official IRNA news agency in Tehran on Wednesday.

Thousands of Lebanese have protested in the streets of Beirut after last week's assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, calling for the withdrawal of Syrian troops.

But Kharrazi said: "It is the Lebanese officials who have to decide about the withdrawal of Syrian forces and America's insistence and that of some European states is interference in Lebanon's internal affairs."

And there you have it...a bloody fucking mess!

What war on terror?

With all of the media and US Government attention focused on Iraq, Iran and Syria, who is following through with the so-called "War on Terror"? How has Iraq become labeled as part of the 'War on terror'? Who's targeting the new al-Qaeda cells that are forming? Does the US Government truly understand the causes of terrorism?

Mike Schueder, a former head of the CIA's Bin Laden unit has sharply criticized the US Government for its lack of understanding on the causes of terrorism. Mr. Scheuder resigned this month from his CIA post. "Bin Laden is attacking us because a specific set of US policies that have been in gear for 30 years and haven't been reviewed, haven't been debated, haven't been questioned," says Mr Scheuer, who has written two books anonymously criticizing government policies. He cited the apparently unquestioning US support for Israel; America's presence on the Arabian Peninsula; and support for regimes perceived as oppressing Muslims and for Muslim "tyrannies".

Mr. Schueder seems to understand some of the reasons for resentment toward the US Government and the causes of terrorism. I think this is something that can’t be viewed using a traditional narrow-minded perspective of using war to solve every issue. A lot of lessons have been learned about war over the last century and I think the world should be civilized enough to realize that war isn’t the answer. You have to look at these issues with a different perspective and an open mind; and until we convince our American friends to speak up loudly enough to oppose their government’s policies, we will be getting ourselves into a bigger mess and more innocent lives will be lost.

Related BBC Article: Link


Scott Ritter Says U.S. Plans June Attack On Iran

Scott Ritter, appearing with journalist Dahr Jamail yesterday in Washington State, dropped two shocking bombshells in a talk delivered to a packed house in Olympia’s Capitol Theater. The ex-Marine turned UNSCOM weapons inspector said that George W. Bush has "signed off" on plans to bomb Iran in June 2005, and claimed the U.S. manipulated the results of the recent Jan. 30 elections in Iraq.

On Iran, Ritter said that President George W. Bush has received and signed off on orders for an aerial attack on Iran planned for June 2005. Its purported goal is the destruction of Iran’s alleged program to develop nuclear weapons, but Ritter said neoconservatives in the administration also expected that the attack would set in motion a chain of events leading to regime change in the oil-rich nation of 70 million -- a possibility Ritter regards with the greatest skepticism.

The former Marine also said that the Jan. 30 elections, which George W. Bush has called "a turning point in the history of Iraq, a milestone in the advance of freedom," were not so free after all. Ritter said that U.S. authorities in Iraq had manipulated the results in order to reduce the percentage of the vote received by the United Iraqi Alliance from 56% to 48%.

Asked by UFPPC's Ted Nation about this shocker, Ritter said an official involved in the manipulation was the source, and that this would soon be reported by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist in a major metropolitan magazine -- an obvious allusion to New Yorker reporter Seymour M. Hersh.

More mixed messages from Bush

In a joint press conference with E.U. officials Bush was asked if the U.S. felt obligated to get approval from the U.N. Security Council before launching and attack on Iran. Bush said, "This notion the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous."

"Having said that all options are on the table," Bush immediately added.

Devastation and grief in Iran

Where have you gone? I had a lot of plans for you," Hossein Golestani sang softly to the lifeless form of his 7-year-old daughter, Fatima, held in his arms. The body of his 8-year-old daughter Mariam lay beside him in the devastated village of Hotkan.

Golestani and his wife were out tending their herd of goats when the quake struck at 5:55 a.m. wrecking their home. Other survivors slapped their faces in grief as they sat next to the dead, wrapped in blankets in hospital morgues or on roadsides.

As nighttime came, temperatures fell and rain turned to snow in parts of the mountains, and survivors huddled around fires to keep warm, covering themselves in blankets and sipping hot soup. Some 1,500 workers from the Iranian Red Crescent fanned out in teams, bringing tents and tarps.

"I lost everything. All my life is gone," sobbed Asghar Owldi, 60, his face bandaged. His wife and two children were killed.

The death toll stands at 420, with some 900 injured.

My heart goes out to them all. What can you say or do to ease their pain? How do you lose your family and all you own but the clothes on your back and remain sane?


Dealing for peace and justice

Indonesian students carry Palestinian flags and shout slogans calling for a free Palestine, Friday, Dec. 10, 2004, in Jakarta, Indonesia. The protestors were part of a group of demonstrators participating in a march to commemorate United Nations Human Rights Day.

I haven't posted on this issue in awhile. I'm not sure why. Perhaps because of hopelessness. I hate that word because there is always hope. But, even in light of Palestinian elections and Abu Mazen's attempts to woo both sides you know it won't work. House built on broken foundation will soon collapse.

Abu Mazen cannot make deals with Sharon that continue to leave the Palestinian people under occupation and essentially no better off than before. I don't fault Mazen for doing whatever he can. One has to try. But, there can be no peace without justice, ever. For the sake of peace people will live under subjugation for a time. A few released prisoners will quiet them down temporarily. An extra bowl of rice will calm the hungry belly until it begins to growl again. Until the Israeli people realize the atrocities committed against the Palestinian people are in essence no different from those committed against them by the Germans there will be no hope, no change and no peace. Thankfully, some do and are working to change things but I'm afraid they are too few.

Two Palestinians were shot and wounded by Israeli soldiers manning the border between the southern Gaza Strip and Egypt on Sunday.

A 16-year-old was also shot in the back in Khan Yunis by troops protecting nearby Israeli settlements.

A 73-year-old Palestinian was wounded in the face when a group of Jewish settlers stoned the car he was driving in near the southern West Bank town of Bethlehem.

Ten Palestinians were wounded on Monday in clashes with Israel Defense Forces troops during a demonstration against the separation fence east of Modi'in.

Vandals deliberately contaminated the Palestinian village of Madama's water supply. It is the only source of water for the village's 1,700 residents.

The Palestine Chronicle

Gay Prostitute Sticks it up G.W. Bush's

“Yum! It hurts so good!”

The flap over the White House allowing James Guckert, the Gay Escort and Conservative Christian White House reporter formerly known as Jeff Gannon, into it’s daily press briefings continues. It will be remembered that reporter really wishes that he was the first webzine to break this story weeks before anyone else, but didn’t have a clue about it until he found it on like, fifty other sources on the web.

At any rate, Mr. Guckert/ Gannon, who apparently was also known by a variety of pseudonyms such as Sergeant Rock (Hard), Corporal Punishment, Captain Cum and Private Parts from his Gay Military Escort days, has spent the last weeks trying to convince anyone who will listen that he’s actually a legitimate reporter and whose presence in the press conference was not only to feed softball questions to White House Press Secretaries Ari Fleischer, Scott Mc Clellen and even President Bush on the behalf of his employer, Talon News Service and GOPUSA.com, both owned by Texas Republican and major Bush supporter Bobby Eberle, but few are brain dead enough to buy it...

... full article here

UN chief resigns

Mr. Ruud Lubbers, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees resigned his post Sunday amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment indicating, the secretary-general had decided it was time for him to go. Lubbers said, "To be frank, and despite all my loyalty, insult has now been added to injury and therefore I resign as high commissioner."
Lubbers said allegations of sexual harassment against him were "made up" and "slander," and said Annan did not ask for his resignation. He maintained his innocence and noted that Annan had closed the case in July after obtaining legal advice.

In fact, United Nations diplomats said, he had been told that "the
status quo was unsustainable" and that if he did not step down,
there would be an official action to remove him. Mr. Annan's office
began building its legal case on Friday evening.

At United Nations headquarters, the unapologetic muscling aside of
Mr. Lubbers was seen as evidence of the forceful action and direct
communication that Mr. Malloch Brown promised on taking office last

A self-described china-breaker, Mr. Malloch Brown, 51, has taken on
the task of helping Mr. Annan in his intention to reform the United
Nations at a time when it is under multiple investigations for
mismanagement and corruption in its oil-for-food program and under
public censure for incidents of sexual abuse of girls and women by
peacekeepers in Congo.

Mr. Annan's failure to discipline Mr. Lubbers in July even though a
United Nations investigation had produced findings supporting the
harassment assertions had a demoralizing effect on staff members and
left Mr. Annan open to criticism that he would not punish misdeeds
in his senior ranks.

Mr. Lubbers had fought the charges in July with high-powered
lawyers, and Mr. Annan was told by outside employment experts that
he would lose a legal test if he tried to exact punishment.

From the Left: Should Tertiary Education be Free?

Tertiary education should be free as a right. Not having free tertiary education is damaging to both society and the individual. Free tertiary education is both desirable and affordable. It would result in a much better society.

Getting a university, polytechnic or apprenticeship qualification means that society, as a whole, is more educated. We all benefit. Everyone benefits in having plumbers that understand the entire pipe system thingy, scientists that understand the problem and can effectively deal with it (whether it is bio-security, nuclear reactions, or finding a cure for AIDS), accountants which can book-keep properly or teachers who can actually teach your children. This is beneficial for everyone. No one benefits from poorly done jobs, it is annoying and costly. Having a highly trained workforce means that no one needs to worry about quality, we become more efficient as a whole.

By giving free tertiary education, the government provides a level-playing field for everyone. Many would argue that the loan scheme achieves this. It does not. People from poorer backgrounds are less likely to burden themselves with debt as, relative to what they have lived their lives of, it is higher. They are frightened away from taking on too much debt (comparative to their parent’s income). They thus do not get a tertiary education. The student loan scheme works to keep poorer people out of university not into it.

Reducing the cost of tertiary education would also reduce unemployment. Many of those who are long-term unemployed are so because the skills they previously used working in state-subsidised industries are no longer desirable or useful in this ‘information age’. Retraining former railway staff to be able to work in a 21st century workplace would be beneficial to all. By providing free education, many more people will up-skill and unemployment will be able to fall even further. There is currently a skills shortage in a number of sectors, but there are also numerous people unemployed who do not have the skills for these positions. Giving these people free tertiary education is a good thing for everyone as GDP will grow, there will be less unemployment benefits, and the newly employed person will of course have more money and move out of poverty.

By making tertiary education cost money, thousands of New Zealanders have been driven overseas. As thousands leave, the 70% investment that the government currently provides (in subsidising fees), is wasted. For slightly more money from the government, they would get the full return on their investment as less people would leave overseas. It would also relieve the debt burden from New Zealanders. These people are delaying house ownership, they are delaying having children, they are delaying saving for their retirement to get out of their student loan debt. This is obviously not helping the general population.

The liberal belief in the market should not be the centre of policy making. The decision to let ‘market forces’ control fees has not worked. The theory was that the market would force fees down, it has not; the market has failed. The creation of a ‘tertiary education market’ has resulted in students being ‘consumers’ and institutions ‘providers’. There is no quality control, indeed it is the lowest price, and thus most probably the worst, that wins out. As Garth Morgan points out (http://nbr.infometrics.co.nz/column.php?id=214), tertiary education in New Zealand has been ‘dumbing down’ since the market reforms of the 1990s. Anyone can get a ‘degree’ for a price, there is no attempt to ensure that there is quality within the market. There is no academic rigour within the ‘market’, tertiary institutions have become more focused on money instead of research and the quality of their degree. Only when the two overlap will they try to improve their quality, but often it does not.

Free tertiary education is affordable. The government could afford to fund it. While this may result in higher taxes, it is worth it. Those paying the highest taxes will be those with the highest education (usually). Thus we will return to paying for tertiary education throughout one’s lifecycle rather than through the loan scheme. They will not be burdened with debt, but instead will pay for it through normal taxes.

The government already funds pre-school, primary and secondary education for free. There is no logical reason as to why it should stop there. All three provide for people to be educated and to be able to get a job. Tertiary education is no different. It provides an education, it provides for people to be able to get a job, it just does it at a higher level. If tertiary education, the highest level of education, charges fees then why not the others? Simply because you cannot deny children the right of education, and so to can you not deny it to adults.

If everyone has a tertiary education then as a whole we will move forward. The better trained our workforce is, the better output we have. The more educated we become, the more innovative we become. The more knowledgeable we are, the better we live, argue and communicate. New Zealand as a whole would be better off given a free tertiary education system.

(Greg Stephens, "Should Tertiary Education be Free?: From the Left" in Salient, issue 1, 21 Feb 2005, p.20)


What did he say?

George W Bush has refused to rule out military action against Iran.

Bush said: "First of all I hear all these rumours about military attacks and it's just not the truth. We want diplomacy to work. And I believe diplomacy can work so long as the Iranians don't divide Europe and the United States. And the common goal is for them not to have a nuclear weapon."

Translation anyone?


My complaint about Mr George W Bush

A fellow tblogger has disovered a website that generates long-winded, big-worded complaint letters that are very similar to the comments we are used to recieving from a certain other tblogger. I went to this site, typed in the name George W Bush just for fun and here's what it gave me:

Why does Mr. George W Bush cure the evil of discrimination with more discrimination? Anger? Fear? Stupidity? Some deep jackbooted urging of his soul? The answer cannot easily be found, but the downward spiral of society and the concomitant growing threat of factionalism are the natural results of his impetuous commentaries. To start, lackluster vermin suffer from a collective self-image that prefers victimization to success and imposes a suffocating group conformity that ostracizes nonconformists. Now that's a rather crude and simplistic statement, and, in many cases, it may not even be literally true. But there is a sense in which it is generally true, a sense in which it sincerely expresses how he should not destroy everything beautiful and good. Not now, not ever.

I challenge him to point out any text in this letter that proposes that the federal government should take more and more of our hard-earned money and more and more of our hard-won rights. It isn't there. There's neither a hint nor a suggestion of such a thing. George says he's not callow, but he's undoubtedly untoward, and that's essentially the same thing.

Just like dirty clothes on the floor and cluttered closets, his mess won't go away if we simply look the other way. Since I have promised to be candid, I will tell you candidly that he spouts a lot of numbers whenever he wants to make a point. He then subjectively interprets those numbers to support his magic-bullet explanations while ignoring the fact that he may give expression to that which is most destructive and most harmful to society right after he reads this letter. Let him. When you least expect it, I will punish those who lie or connive at half-truths. The bulk of flagitious segregationists are at least marginally tolerable, but not George. It really shouldn't be necessary to have to say such things, but narcissism is dangerous. His scurrilous version of it is doubly so. What is the milieu in which incorrigible personæ non gratæ deny us the opportunity to take a proactive, rather than a reactive, stance? It is the underworld of conspiracy theory, a subculture in which intellectually challenged pikers share fantasies of fighting heroically against a huge conspiracy that will pit the haves against the have-nots sooner than you think. And there you have it. Even Mr. George W Bush's horoscope says he's dirty.

Sound familiar lol???

To generate your own complaint go to this site:

Latin America Considers New US Intelligence Chief a Terrorist

Latin America is shocked with the appointment of John Dimitri Negroponte as director of intelligence, a man that helped write the worst pages of US imperial diplomacy with his support to governments charged with gross human right abuses.

Nicaragua"s El Nuevo Diario recalled this week that as Ambassador to Tegucigalpa (1981-1985) during the Reagan Administration he turned Honduras into one of the most important military bases and counterintelligence during the Cold War to topple Sandinism.

National Security Archives Analyst Peter Kornbluh said that declassified information on the Iran-Contras scandal indicate that Negroponte was involved in seeking more weaponry for the contras "the role that normally would be reserved for the (CIA) station chief."

The journal even quoted Commander Tomas Borge, a member of the former Nicaraguan Sandinista government, who called Negroponte "the most efficient and ideal representative for the Bush administration"s primitive international security policy."

Also well known is his involvement in the creation of the sinister death squads that swept through Central America, and particularly in El Salvador and Guatemala, to neutralize the left-wing movement. Those squads even killed US citizens.

And the New York Times recalls that a both him and the CIA were accused at a Congressional hearing of overlooking the gross human right abuses committed against the civilian population all through the region delayed his appointment as US ambassador to the UN.

The appointment by President Bush signals White House decision to seek control of what the US has long considered "its backyard". Even Mexican analysts fear Negorponte"s knowledge of the Mexican government"s disorders will encourage his meddling vocation.

But the story does not end here, since this man was the US top authority in Iraq one year after the March, 2003 invasion of the Middle East country began.

Coincidentally, he was the US ambassador in Saigon in the 60s.

Further reading:

Renewed Scrutiny on Human Rights

John Negroponte

Who is John Negroponte?

Iran-Contra gangsters resurface in Bush administration


Without a Trace in Iraq

I read this today in Time magazine. Lets start taking bets on how long it will take before someone is punished shall we?

The army has launched a fraud investigation into the mysterious disappearance of an American contractor in Iraq and the killing of a co-worker shortly afterward, Defense officials tell TIME. On Oct. 9, 2003, Kirk von Ackermann, 37, was driving alone in northern Iraq when he pulled off the road with a flat tire and phoned the Kirkuk office of his employer--Ultra Services, based in Winters, Calif.--for help. A colleague arrived and found the car but not Von Ackermann. There were no bloodstains or bullet holes in the vehicle. And Von Ackermann didn't seem to be the victim of bandits because his computer, satellite phone and a briefcase containing $40,000 in cash were left in the car.

Two months later, north of Baghdad, gunmen in an SUV shot and killed Ryan Manelick, 31, another Ultra Services employee, and an Iraqi traveling with him by car. Manelick's father claims that his son had e-mailed him saying he suspected that colleagues at Ultra Services--whose website says it has done $14 million worth of business with the Pentagon--were involved in fraudulent activities with U.S. Army contracting officers. The Army's Criminal Investigation Command has confirmed that Manelick met with its investigators in Iraq but won't say what was discussed. TIME, however, has obtained an e-mail written by an Army investigator, who says Manelick visited her days before he died and said he was "fearful for his life." The e-mail doesn't say why.

Ultra Services executives couldn't be reached for comment, and it's unclear whether the construction firm is still in business. Suspecting that Von Ackermann and Manelick weren't the victims of random violence, the investigative command turned the cases over to its Major Procurement Fraud Unit. Spokesman Chris Grey says the probe has been slowed because of the "complexities of this case" and the difficulties of collecting evidence in a war zone. --By Douglas Waller

Bush = War

Maybe I'm reading things wrong but the language I'm hearing used by the Bush administration and from the neo-con blogs leads me to believe they have decided, in interest of the US, they must create democracy in the middle east and they are willing to do it militarily. They in fact think it's God's will for them to do so. The attack on muslims in the states has already begun with the likes of Ann Coulter as their mascot.

Coulter wrote in a syndicated column on September 12 that in responding to terrorists "we should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."

The problem with Ms. Coulter's words is she thinks 'all' muslims are terrorist as do the neo-cons or at the very least they can't be trusted 'because' they are muslim. There's more than one problem actually. She's a bigoted nationalist. Let's get that straight from the getgo.
The following was found in the comments of Cao's blog (found in the Neo-con links on the left).

"Unfortunately, the imams and holy men of Islam are calling for all muslims–especially the “moderates” to pick up the sword–in the United States. It appears to me as though that’s begun. It already happened elsewhere–in Canada, in Britain, in the Netherlands with the murder of Van Gogh…it was only a matter of time that it would happen here."

The true face of Islam is showing. They disregard all laws and freedoms people possess and make sure that people know that they will enforce their Sharia law in the lands of the infidel.Comment by Cao — 2/14/2005 @ 5:42 am

Bush say's yesterday that Syria is out of step with democracy in the middle east. Who is Mr. Bush to tell a 'middle east' country they are out of step?

"We've recalled our ambassador, which indicates that the relationship is not moving forward, that Syria is out of step with the progress being made in the greater Middle East, that democracy is on the move, and this is a country that isn't moving with the democratic movement."

As many of us were saying before his re-election Mr. Bush has a much bigger war plan than Iraq. He makes it seem he's doing everything he can to avoid it. Of course, he is now trying to mend fences with those he scorned before the Iraq invasion. Taking on Syria and Iran with the US military stretched thin already will take 'allies.' I for one will be in the streets day and night marching against any move of the french government to align itself with a US invasion plan.

"Iran is different from Iraq, very different," the president said. "There's more diplomacy, in my judgment, to be done. And we'll work very closely with our European friends and other nations."

After days of escalating US-Syria tensions following the assassination of Lebanese former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, Bush emphasized a multilateral approach as he pushed Damascus to withdraw its 14,000 troops from Lebanon.

"My first goal is to remind both Americans and Europeans that the trans-Atlantic relationship is very important for our mutual security and for peace, and that we have differences sometimes, but we don't differ on values, that we share this great love and respect for freedom," Bush said.

"I look forward to working with our European friends on my upcoming trip to talk about how we can work together to convince the Syrians to make rational decisions," he said.

This kind of language doesn't work here in Europe. We know all too well Mr. Bush's idea of 'values, love, respect and freedom.' Our neo-con buddies will let you know they don't expect help from 'old europe' and don't want it either.

Vice President Dick Cheney raised the possibility in a radio interview last month that Israel might attack Iran if evidence materialized of a successful nuclear weapons program.

One questioner at yesterday's news conference raised that possibility, but Bush sidestepped the issue, saying: "Iran has made it clear . . . they don't like Israel, to put it bluntly. And Israelis are concerned about whether or not Iran develops a nuclear weapon, as are we, as should everybody."

He did declare that the United States would support Israelis "if their security is threatened."

I'm more concerned about US and Israeli nuclear weapons as they are the only ones who seem to be intent on using them on other people.

It looks like Russia is lining up with Iran at least for the moment.

"Iran's latest actions convince us that Iran indeed does not intend to produce nuclear weapons, and it means that we will continue our cooperation in all areas, including in nuclear power generation," Putin said. "Of course we hope, dear Mr. Rowhani, that Iran will strictly adhere to all of its obligations."

Deja vu anyone?

Ah well, nothing like a little war mongering and hate to start out the day. I wonder who's going to getted nuked first? I'm sure if the US has anything to do with it, they will cast the first stone.

Americans who want peace better get out there and say so, plus sign any impeachment petitions you can find. Mediation doesn't work with Bush. It's his way or the highway.

Abused prisoners not abused enough?

You'll have to follow the links to get the full story. This piece is just to point out a couple of paragraphs that raised my cynicism level, caused me to shake my head and wonder why in the hell do we bother. I don't really mean this. I do know why we bother but my frustration and anger grows daily. You ask, "Why do they hate us?" You must be kidding!

Documents released Friday disclosed previously unpublicized allegations of prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, including mock executions and beatings, that were investigated by the US Army but in some cases dismissed for lack of evidence.
The documents from the army's Criminal Investigation Division were the latest in a series of such documents obtained through a court order by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

One probe was triggered by the discovery of a compact disk in Afghanistan in July 2004 that contained digital images of soldiers pointing pistols and M-4 rifles at the heads and backs of bound and hooded detainees at Fire Base Tyscze in Dae Rahwood.

Probable cause, in the case, was found to charge one soldier with assault for hitting a prisoner in the back of the head, and dereliction of duty on the part of eight soldiers. But more serious charges of aggravated assault were not substantiated.

"Investigation did not establish credible information to indicate an intent on behalf of these individuals to harm the PUC's (prisoners under control), and no evidence (was) identified to indicate the bound detainees were in fear of their lives, or of grievous bodily harm, or even aware weapons were being pointed at them as depicted in the images," the investigation found.

What! I have read this paragraph several times and do not believe what I'm reading. So, you have soldiers pointing weapons at the heads of bound and hooded prisoners but there was no threat? The prisoners weren't in fear of their lives?

Yea right, we're the good guys and they hate us because of it. I understand...

Fancy a free apartment on the Champs Elysées?

No problem! All you need to do is become Finance Minister in Raffarin's government. 14,000 euros of monthly rent graciously paid for you by the French tax payers. Plus you get a cook, a butler, a nanny and 2 housekeepers thrown in.

Don't believe me? Get a load of this:

(first a little piccie to get your appetite going)

“Les Champs Elysées, Paris”.

PARIS, Feb 16 (AFP) - French Finance Minister Herve Gaymard, under pressure after a report revealed he and his family were living in a posh state-funded apartment off the Champs-Elysées in Paris, said Wednesday he would give up the luxurious flat. (my eyes are watering in anticipation. Poor guy, don't you feel sorry for him?).

Le Canard Enchainé, a weekly newspaper specialising in political exposés, said Gaymard, his wife and their eight children were lodging in a vast two-storey, 600-square-metre (6,500-square-foot) flat in one of the French capital's most expensive neighbourhoods, along with a butler, a cook, a nanny and two housekeepers. (hey it takes staff to take care of all this space, ya know).

At EUR 14,000 (USD 18,000) a month, the newspaper reported, the rent - paid out of state coffers - was equal to Gaymard's monthly ministerial salary. (small aside note here for the peasants like you and I: 14,000 euros is what you get for an entire year of work on minimum wage).

Also noted were Gaymard's frequent exhortations for France to adhere to an austere budget to bring its public deficit back under 3 percent of output as required under the Stability and Growth Pact, which underpins the euro. (LOL, don't you just love politicians?).

The report prompted radio stations and other publications, including the popular Le Parisien newspaper, to scrutinise the living arrangements, which are well beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest of Paris residents.

In a statement released late Wednesday, Gaymard's ministry said his decision was solely based on "putting an end to a debate that has developed in the past few hours and protecting his family". (poor thing, what a sad story, I'm about to cry).

But the statement noted that Gaymard's rental of the apartment fulfilled conditions imposed on ministerial lodgings.

Soon thereafter, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin announced that the lodging rules would be changed, with 80 square metres the maximum size for a state-funded minister's flat, with an additional 20 square metres per child.

Any additional surface area must be paid for by the ministers themselves, Raffarin's office said.

Under those rules, Gaymard would have the right to a 240-square-metre apartment. (yes, Mr Raffarin, but where is that gonna be? Still on the Champs Elysées? So it will only cost the French tax payers 5000 euros a month?).
Can you believe the hide of those right wing assholes? They really think they are back in royalty days. Motherfuckers.


Where does US Stand on UN Proposal to End World Poverty?

On January 17, a 3,000-page report from the Millennium Project -- researched by 265 scientists, economists, academics, and development experts from around the globe -- was handed to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. It outlined in detail how the UN can eliminate extreme poverty throughout the world by 2015.

Headed by Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs, the Millennium Project aims to make the world a safer place for all its inhabitants through poverty elimination and education. Citizen's for Global Solutions reports on their web site that "the Millennium Goals are considered crucial to the success of international efforts to reign in terrorism and violent instabilities within and between countries." They quote Sachs, who says, "breaking the poverty trap of the poorest countries is a matter of extreme urgency for our security. When people lack access to food, medical care, safe drinking water, and a chance at a better future, their societies are likely to experience instability and unrest that spills over to the rest of the world."

The Millennium Project's web site points out that providing world citizens living in poverty with infrastructure, access to health care, and an education will make them less vulnerable to disasters, hunger, and environmental degradation. For instance, "every year, 300 to 500 million cases of illness worldwide are due to malaria," something that could be eliminated by giving people living in susceptible areas mosquito nets for their beds.

Because the plan's financial structure is front-loaded, one of the UN's biggest obstacles will be convincing G-8 countries to double their foreign aid. The United States and other UN countries pledged to give 0.7% of their GDP to global development at the Millennium Summit in 2000. Currently, the actual international development funding average for UN countries is .25%, with the United States giving only 0.15%.

The Millennium Project lists 13 international governments on its web site that have voiced supported for the Millennium Project since the release of its report one month ago. The US has yet to make the list. Don Kraus, executive vice president for Citizens for Global Solutions, points out that, unlike President Clinton, President Bush does not have an ambassador to the UN on his cabinet, which has been "problematic" when dealing with the international community. He also notes that while Bush has vowed "to defend our security and spread freedom by building effective multinational and multilateral institutions," relations between the US and the UN have not been strong in the past few years; a situation made worse when Sen. Norm Coleman called for the resignation of Kofi Annan over the Oil for Food scandal.

Does Syria control Lebanon and why?

Daniel Engber at Slate shares his views.

The Lebanese president invited them. In 1976, a little more than a year after the start of Lebanon's bloody civil war, the Maronite Christian president, Suleiman Franjieh, requested military aid from Syria. The war was a struggle among religious and ethnic groups in Lebanon—the ruling Christians wanted to maintain power over the Sunnis, Shiites, and Druzes, and to evict the large population of Palestinians that had just been expelled from Jordan. Syrian troops entered the country on June 1, 1976, and beat back both Palestinian forces and Soviet-backed Muslim militias. A few months later, the Arab League attempted to enforce a cease-fire by creating the Arab Deterrent Force, a Syrian-dominated military presence in Lebanon. Read More

David Peterson at ZNet Blogs with another viewpoint.
UN Security Council Res. 1559 is an artifact of America’s dominance in the world. Nothing more. Passed by the narrowest of margins possible last September 2, resolutions like 1559 are crafted with the intent of letting them sit on the shelf and gather dust indefinitely---or at least until an event such as the Hariri assassination occurs. Then, the Americans snatch them back down again, maneuvering from behind the curtain of the Security Council and its lawmaking powers on questions of war and peace and international security to make imperious demands upon targets of opportunity. Namely: Beirut, Damascus---and any other state or non-state agent they can get their filthy hands on.

“Israel cannot be forgiven for the blood of Hariri,” the Damascus-based newspaper Tishrin editorialzed this morning, “nor for the blood of the Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian people, because [the country that] commits murder in the streets of Damascus, Beirut, Tunis, Paris and Rome is fully capable, with the technological means it possesses, to commit the attack.”

“Who profits?” AFP reports that the Tishrin editorial asked. According to the state-media nexus that backs the regime in Washington, it is the regime in Damascus that benefits. But according to Tishrin, “The losers are Lebanon, Syria and the Arab nation, while the big winner is Israel.” ("Syria under glare of suspicion as US takes action over Hariri killing,” Agence France Presse, Feb. 16.) Read More

Amy Goodman at Democracy Now interviews Robert Fisk.

AMY GOODMAN: Robert Fisk, what about President Bush recalling the U.S. ambassador in Syria following the killing of the former Lebanese prime minister, and condemning the foreign occupation of Lebanon?

ROBERT FISK: Well, Bush is lining up Syria in his sites. You know, at this moment of all moments, America probably -- the United States probably needs an ambassador in Syria.

....I'm not saying that the Syrians were not involved. The Syrians know everything that goes on in Lebanon. Therefore, did they not know that this huge bombing was going to take place? Important question.
....I think Hariri had a lot of enemies, as well as a lot of friends. Enemies in the business world. Quite a few businessmen were bitterly, bitterly hostile towards him, because they believed that their own property and wealth had been diminished to the point of zero by the extraordinary tornado of Hariri's business acumen. Now, these are Lebanese, not Syrian.
....add to that a political dislike within Lebanon, or add to that factions in a foreign country, let's say Syria, and you can see that you reach a point where the oven gets white hot, at which point there's a detonation. Now maybe that’s what happened yesterday. Read More

US President Pat Robertson?

Evangelist Pat Robertson indicated Tuesday that if Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist expects backing of religious conservatives for a possible 2008 presidential bid, he had better get President Bush's judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate, or at least voted on.

"It is the ultimate test," Robertson said at the National Press Club. "He cannot be a leader and allow Democrats to do what they did in the last session."

Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition and head of the Christian Broadcasting Network, said he's also worried about Middle East peace efforts.

"I do not believe the state of Israel will be secure if it has a Palestinian state in its heart," Robertson said. A Palestinian state, he said, would have the ability to import weapons to groups in the country that have not agreed to the peace process.

The right to free tertiary education

Recently I attended a public speech given by the Prime Minister of Sweden Goran Persson, at the end there was a question and answer section, here is a transcript of the question I asked him. This was (wonderfully) provided by (the poorest paid member of the New Zealand press gallery) Keith Ng (of Salient). Many thanks Keith.

Greg Stephens: Prime Minister, you said that you aimed to get 1-in-2 people into tertiary education, how key is the 'no tuition fees' policy to that? And how key is it to long-term economic growth for Sweden?

Goran Persson (Prime Minister of Sweden): You asked about the tuition fees?

GS: ...for tertiary education.

Helen Clark (Prime Minister of New Zealand): [I take it that's for students.]

Chair: How important is it that there's no fees?

HC: They all take out a loan.


GP: It's extremely important, it's a question about if we should be able to have 50% of the cohort leaving the secondary level and going to universities, we must be able to reach everyone of those who are capable to do so.

And the capacity doesn't always link to the parents' income, to be honest. And many of us have a completely different background. And our experience is also that we can do something in the university system. But if we don't have generous support, economically, we will not enter.
Or we will stop and try to finance it on our own, and most of us will fail. Some will be successful, but we can't afford losing those young men and women. We need them, and therefore, they should have economic support that doesn't make it necessary to have rich parents.
So, looking from the society's perspective, it is extremely (inaudible) to have young men or women fulfilling their university degree. That's the best thing you can have today. And to lose those who cannot afford the tuition fee [for] education is very short-sighted.

So for us, this is an investment, and we have been able to create a revolving system of having had it for many many years, so it's a relatively small burden on the public finances. The older generation who have had fulfilled their exam, have a good job, they pay for their debts, and the young generation, they have generous loans with little interest rates, and that system is financed by the older generation's payment. [It's] a revolving system. And on top of that, we also add a contribution that you don't need to pay back.

In Australian dollars, it is around $1500 per month that you have when you go for university studies. Of those $1500 you borrow, you have to pay back $1100. $400 is contribution that you don't need to pay back. But you need to know about Swedish level of costs also to be able to (inaudible) about it. But it's relatively generous.

And the social problems... you inherit your parents' social behaviour, no doubt, and very few of us are strong enough, on our own, to break with the old pattern. And it's obvious we still have a problem where we don't see many enough from ordinary working-class homes going to the universities, even if we can see now that it is going in the right direction quite quickly, not least the immigrants, who belong to those who are most vulnerable on the labour market. Their daughters and sons are coming to the universities. That might be the crucial advantage for Sweden in the coming years.

That was the question about tuition. You had one more?

GS: [Uh, you covered it already].


Middle East Peace or War?

Fury at al-Hariri's funeral

Former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri was laid to rest in central Beirut on Wednesday amid scenes of anger as thousands of mourners poured into the streets chanting anti-Syrian slogans.

"Syria get out, Syria get out," yelled the crowds. A woman in black shouted hysterically, "Syria messed up Lebanon. Let them get out of here. I don't want to see a Syrian face."

Others called on the government to resign. "We don't recognise the current government. They are ruling us by force," Radwan Itani, 45, said. Aljazeera

U.S. and France puts pressure on Syria

The U.S. and France, partners in the pressure on Syria to implement UN Security Resolution 1559, which calls for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, have now pulled the Hariri assassination from the domestic Lebanese arena and made it an international issue.

The U.S. offered the Lebanese government its assistance in the inquiry, offering to send FBI investigators. But the goal apparently was much more far-reaching: with the assumption being that the current situation in Lebanon with regard to its relationship with Syria cannot go on, even if it turns out that Syria was not involved in the assassination, and the assassination should be used to accelerate the Syrian departure from Lebanon. Haaretz

Russia to Sell Advanced Missiles to Syria

Russia said on Wednesday it wanted to supply Syria with advanced missile systems, a move certain to anger the United States which accuses Syria of having links to terrorism.

Iran to aid Syria against threats

Iran has vowed to back Syria against "challenges and threats" as both countries face strong US pressure.
"We are ready to help Syria on all grounds to confront threats," Iranian Vice-President Mohammad Reza Aref said after meeting Syrian PM Naji al-Otari. BBC

Iran, Syria Missles Can Target U.S. Interest

A senior U.S. official said Iran and Syria have developed ballistic missiles that can destroy U.S. targets in Iraq as well as in nations aligned with Washington. The official said both countries have received significant assistance from North Korea, which has sought to sell complete missile systems to the Middle East.

"Iran and Syria can currently reach the territory of U.S. friends and allies with their ballistic missiles," Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker said.
Middle East Newsline

Iran Explosion Sets Off Fears of Attack

An explosion in a southern city prompted instant fears Wednesday of a missile attack in an area where Iran has a nuclear facility, and Iranian authorities gave conflicting explanations for the blast including Iranian friendly fire in a military area and construction work.

The explosion came hours after the country's intelligence chief confirmed U.S. drones have been flying over Iran for months to spy on nuclear and military facilities. ABC

Sweet dreams, folks.

Neo-Con Free Speech

effigy Steve and Virginia Pearcy, a couple in Sacremento, placed a large doll of a US soldier on their house and wrote:

"Bush Lied, I died."

Over a quarter of World Net Daily readers believe that the couple should be arrested for treason because this "aids and abets the enemy."

What's your take on the U.S. soldier hanged in effigy?

  • The couple can do this, but they should be aware of the consequences of their statement 36.13% (1805)

  • This is treason – aiding and abetting the enemy – so arrest the couple 26.68% (1333)

  • The protest is clearly in bad taste, but the couple has a right to do this on their property 16.55% (827)

  • The couple that posted this should be hanged in effigy 8.69% (434)

  • Though I'm for this military action, I agree the couple should have the right to protest like this 2.84% (142)

  • This is how free speech is supposed to work 2.68% (134)

  • Other 1.68% (84)

  • I agree with the couple's anti-war sentiments and their protest 1.62% (81)

  • I'm against the war, but this protest dishonors American troops 1.58% (79)

  • The protest doesn't go far enough against Bush's policies 1.54% (77)


Rich EU member states under fire for being stingy

“Several EU member states are not
putting their money where their mouths
are (Photo: EU Commission)”

14.02.2005 - 17:36 CET | By Honor Mahony

A number of EU member states - some of them among the richest in the world - have been strongly criticised by development agencies for being tight-fisted.

A report published on Monday (14 February) by leading development NGOs, OXFAM, Eurodad and Action Aid, say that EU countries are not doing enough to meet a United Nations target to reduce poverty by 2015.

A commitment agreed by rich donor countries in 1970 to spend 0.7 percent of gross national income (GNI) on aid has been met by just four of the 25 EU member states - Luxembourg, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark - which the report describes as "inexcusable".

The report says that rich countries "give half as much aid, as a proportion of their income as they did in the 1960s" and notes that the EU "will be absolutely key" to making sure the world sticks to its promises.

At the top of the expenditure league are Denmark (0.84% of GNI) and the Netherlands (0.81% of GNI) but the report expresses concern about a slackening off in both countries - in 2001, Copenhagen gave 1.03 percent.

Germany and Italy come in for particular criticism at the other end of the table.

Rome spends just 0.17 per cent of its GNI while Berlin, on its current course, is only likely to fulfil the commitment by 2087.

Meanwhile, other member states, such as Portugal, Greece, Austria and Ireland, have set no date for reaching this goal or some, like the UK, have set 2013 - just two years before the UN deadline.

"That's far too late", said Louise Hilditch of Action Aid who says that much poorer new member states, such as the Czech Republic and Slovenia, are "hot on the heels of some of those laggards".

Naming and shaming

She also criticised member states for not making aid data easily available and suggested that the European Commission should "really publicise" information that national governments send in in its yearly report on development aims.

For the other strands of the report, easing unsustainable debt and making the rules of world trade fairer, the EU also does not stand up under scrutiny.

Luis Morago from Oxfam pointed out that the impact of the EU's much-lauded 'Everything but arms' initiative - which gives the world's poorest countries duty-free access for all products except arms - is "negligible".

"More than 99 per cent of products from the poorest countries were already theoretically eligible for duty-free access to Europe's markets", says the report.

Similarly, the EU's action in giving debt relief to developing countries has been slow.

Of the 295bn euro owed by 52 poor countries, only 36bn euro has been cancelled.

"European countries have the opportunity to show leadership in consigning poor countries' debt to a thing of the past. Instead, they are dragging their heels, said Alex Wilks of Eurodad, a European network on debt.

The UN Millennium Development Goals are a commitment by global leaders to halve poverty and hunger and improve standards of health by 2015.