THE IRAQ WRECK TAKES NEW FORMS October 31, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Iraq Policy.
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The politics of the Iraq wreck continues to fascinate and take on new forms, and and more established ones, with the worrying implication of undermining liberal democracy. The BBC has the reports.
A vote in the House of Commons to set a committee to enquire in the issues surrounding the the decision to take part in the Iraq invasion holds the prospect of defeating Blair, so I suspect that will not happen. Blair is suggesting that an inquiry now would be seen by the enemy as a sign of weakness, not democracy, and that such debate would undermine the morale of the soldiers in the field. I suspect their morale does not need undermining. They can see the situation for themselves, including the closing of the British Consulate in Basra.
Across the Atlantic, the insurgency that was in its last throes, has now be mysteriously revitalized to kill American troops with a view to influencing the midterm elections. Similarly the Vice President is calling for an expanded twenty-four news response cycle because the insurgents who were not just on their last legs but on their last throes but are on the internet twenty-four hours a day with a facility in English, which may in fact surprise them. In fairness, I suppose, we should clear this up somewhat. Some of them are of course engaged in staging attacks on Americans and some are engaged in sectarian violence – which may or may not qualify them as insurgents – and others have the time and the leisure to be on the Internet all the time, with a view to influencing the US midterms.
I may be wrong. The invasion and occupation of Iraq has not been characterised by noble lying for an ignoble cause, so much as its proponents then and now live in Wonderland, where Alice went. Alice does not live there any more.
Postscript: 01 November 2006
As expected Blair survived the vote in the House of Commons. The Guardian was less than satisfied by the outcome.
Any doubts about the wreck in Iraq will be blown away by Patrick Cockburn’s piece in The Independent. Perhaps the American occupation army can keep Baghdad open for business, but possibily as continued cost in lives and equipment, and it seems they cannot even lock down Sadr City over the objection of the Prime Minister. The fantasy is all over.
ATTACK ON RELIGIOUS SCHOOL IN PAKISTAN October 30, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Terrorism Issues.
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The BBC, and other media, are covering the attack in Pakistan by three rocket firing helicopters on a religious school suspected of harbouring extremists and claiming to have killed about 60 people. The attack, according to the report was so devastating that most of the bodies could not be identified. There is at least a chance that students may have been at the madrassa, depending I suppose on the time of day.
To me the implication of this attack is to widen the war in Afghanistan and the hence spread the reign of disruption and chaos that is spread across the Middle East. The attackers minimized their casualties, but allowing for the requirements of military tactics and overall circumstances that they would have at least warned people and given them the option to surrender. The fact that this did not happen means the anti has been raised.
The Independent reports:
The raid sparked angry protests in Chingai, Khar and other Bajur towns as local tribesmen and political leaders denounced the military, saying innocent civilians – not terrorists – were killed.
The bodies of 20 tribesmen killed in the attack were lined in a field near the madrassa before an impromptu burial attended by thousands of angry locals, according to an AP reporter at the scene.
At the madrassa, dozens of villagers collected the remains of another 30 bodies from the rubble of the building, placing the mutilated body parts into large plastic bags normally used to hold fertilizer.
Thousands of people traveled from nearby villages to inspect the destroyed madrassa, some crying and others chanting “Long live Islam.” The blast leveled the building, tearing mattresses and scattering Islamic books, including copies of the Quran.
This to me is just another instance of the foolishness of supporting dictators and military dictators in particular.
The BBC has provided follow up reports suggesting widespread protest in Pakistan with an Anti-American tone:
Funerals have been held in Pakistan for people killed in a helicopter strike on an Islamic school which the government says was used by militants.
There were angry scenes as they were buried – with denunciations of Monday’s attack by Islamists, who say most of the 70-80 people who died were pupils.
But officials insist the victims were fighters. The raid occurred in a remote tribal area near the Afghan border.
The region is said to provide refuge for al-Qaeda and Taleban militants.
A local leader with suspected links to al-Qaeda, Faqir Mohammed, addressed a crowd of 10,000 mourners.
“The government attacked and killed our innocent people on orders from America,” he is quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.
“It is an open aggression.”
The attack is alleged to have been either carried out by the Americans, or at their instruction:
Monday’s attack may create a similar controversy, with one media report claiming that the missile attack was launched by a US drone.
awahiri was rumoured to have been in the area in January
An eyewitness interviewed on the telephone by the BBC News website appeared to corroborate that view.
“We heard two blasts at about 4:50 am, whereas the Pakistani helicopters appeared a good 10 minutes later,” the witness, who did not wish to be named, said.
The question is, why would the government risk another controversy at a time when it was close to signing an agreement with the militants?
Also, the law and order situation in the area has not been bad enough to warrant a surgical strike.
If there were any intelligence reports to justify an attack, they have not been shared with the media.
Some circles believe the attack was either conducted by the US, or under their pressure.
Others expect some political repercussions but think President Musharraf will weather this storm as he did the last one over the Damadola attack.
Postscript: 31 October 2006
The management of perceptions is critical. Neither the US or any other Western Governments have condemned the manner in which the raid was conducted. According to the NY Times, the Pakistan Government has accepted responsibility by denying US or other national involvement.
Map via The New York Times
International Law may well apply, if as appears likely innocent people have been slaughtered.
Postscript: 01 November 2006
This report from The Boston Globe does not resolve the issue about US involvement, but it does suggest that there was a drone in the area, and confirm that such aircraft can fire missiles. The Taliban appear to have popular support at least in these tribal areas. For the locals the international boundaries created by Imperialists are not as meaningful as ethnic and tribal identifies.
MIDTERM ELECTIONS October 29, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Global Electoral Politics.
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The midterm elections, we are told, are usually characterized by a lower turnout than is usual for US elections. Perhaps this piece of conventional wisdom may be turned on its head this year, at least in some of the close Senate and House races. The accepted wisdom is that the Republicans are better at turning out the vote than the Democrats.
From the view of an external viewer, the interest will be the effect that Iraq wreck has on the vote. On this matter, Juan Cole believes that Red State religious traditionalists will turn on the Republicans. If he is correct, this will represent a electoral seismic shift in political alignments.
The state of play is suggested here at electoral-vote.com, which has at this moment.(via History Unfolding) Based on various opinion polling, the Republicans ahead by three in the Senate, underlining the importance of the media-based propaganda in Virginia, Missouri and Tennessee, and the Democrats appear set to take the majority in the House of Representatives. These results are supposedly updated daily.
Looking at the map, the significance of the Republicans overturning the Democrat gerrymander in Texas seems apparent.
The paucity of choice with respect to selection of political parties and representation never seems to occur to American commentators.
Postscript: 30 October 2006.
Another striking observation from an Australian perspective is that some States are not holding Senate elections this year. I just took it for granted that each State has two senators and one would be elected in each consecutive election. And yet I am not aware of any States holding elections for two Senate positions.
Of course, we have twelve senators from each State and two from each Territory with half-Senate elections currently synchronized with elections for the House of Representatives. Senators have six year terms.
So you will appreciate why I am slightly confused.
And here is the answer, via Wikipedia:
Senators serve for six-year terms that are staggered so elections are held for approximately one-third of the seats (a “class“) every second year.
I would never had realized that my general knowledge was lacking without seeing the visual presentation of the State Senate races.
TRANSFORMING THE WORLD October 28, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Blogging in general, Modern History.
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Robert J Samuelson in his article in The Washington Post, “Capitalism’s Next Stage” concludes:
Just as John Jacob Astor defined a distinct stage of capitalism, we may now be at the end of what [Alfred D] Chandler perceptively called “managerial capitalism.” Managers, of course, won’t disappear. But the new opportunities and pressures on them and their companies may have altered the way the system operates. Chandler admits as much. Asked about how the corporation might evolve, he confesses ignorance: “All I know is that the commercializing of the Internet is transforming the world.” To fill that void, someone must do for capitalism’s next stage what Chandler did for the last.
I am not sure that “the commercializing of the Internet is transforming the world”, although I have to admit that even I have purchased airline tickets for the next stage, made hotel bookings, and bought opera tickets (not for myself) over the Internet, and have been pleasantly surprised at how convenient it has been. I would expect that the commercializing of the Internet will continue and broaden, as in we ain’ t seen nothing yet.
What I am interested in is the politicizing of the Internet, which it seems to me has simultaneously possibilities for local politics as it does for transnational politics, which may carry with it a possibility of transforming the world.
In either case, we might expect that it will not be business as usual cannot continue, given the state of the planet’s health and the health of democracies, with or without the Internet.
Tom Peters, business guru, is a great advocate of the possibilities corporations, or at least businesses, transforming the world, as witness by his comment here. I wonder whether it might be possible to create truly democratic businesses? If nothing else this is an intriguing thought experiment.
Postscript: 29 October 2006
On broadly the same theme, but with different references, see the modern guise of St George Orwell in the form of Eric Blair at Lavatus Prodeo, “Globalization, Islam and Class”. On this occasion, principally because of the contribution of Katz, the comments make for worthwhile reading.
FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – HEADS OR TAILS October 27, 2006Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -.
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Dogs tails it occurred to me might also be used a means to define space, but if that is a reason it pales by comparison as a means of balance and expression. Dexter’s tail is far more prominent than is Sasha’s, reflecting different breeds.
As usaul we will be aiming to board Friday Ark#108 at Modulator and join in the Carnival of the Dogs at Mickey’s Musings.
It would be nice, if it were possible to enlarge some of these photos by clicking on them. (With fingers crossed, I think it may be working. Miracle.)
KNESSET FACTIONS October 26, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Modern History.
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Jonathan Cook in CounterPunch labels Israeli politics as factious, which arises from the proportional representation electoral system with, at least to my knowledge, no threshold barriers for representation. It is interesting to see how a PR system works in practice, and the minorities in the Knesset always seem to be taking governments further to the right, although the Kadima and Labor parties alliance seems strange to begin with.
I do not really know how the Iraqi involvement will work out over the course of the next ten, twenty, or fifty years, but I am confident that Arab-Israeli war will continue, and in all likelihood intensify in the absence of substantive peace negotiations. As far as I can tell Australia’s two major parties have a one-sided commitment to Israel. On that basis the movements in political alignments in Israel has significance.
The collapse of the Soviet Union had several reprecussions, including a significant migration to Israel. This migration boostered the Jewish population of Israel in relation to indigenous Arab population. Now the leader of the party representing the Russians has joined the government, and the prospects for peace have lessened, rather the liklihood of continued Israeli repression against Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank, and within Israel, has increased.
Avigdor Liebermann is now the Minister for Strategic Threats. The new migrants had it is suggested trouble fitting in to Israeli society and no sympathy for the Palestinians, and now they a voice in making of the present and future Israeli governments.
Israel may well be going to hell in a hand basket, with the immediate consequent of further and intense suffering for the Palestinians. For the next two years of Bush, regardless of the Iraqi wreck, this situation will continue.
I was almost correct about there been no threshold. The threshold is 1.5% for parties in a chamber with 120 members. They encourage diversity of opinion in Israel.
Gary at Public Opinion labels Avigdor Liebermann as a racist, who is now part of the Israeli cabinet.
THE TOLL OF MURDER October 25, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Iraq Policy.
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There is an air of the despicable, the craven and the cowardly created by those in denial of what their actions have wrought in Iraq. In this instance, unlike in other examples, the United States and its dear ally Britain were not merely making money by selling weapons, and allowing others to carry out the killing without saying a word.
No, in this example, they got into the act, burying their elbows in the blood and suffering of Iraqis, such is their death lust, then acting in denial of the consequences and their responsibility while attempting to create myths of noble causes and noble lies. Thankfully such design is unravelling, but as yet there are no war crime tribunals in evidence, but the hope for the residual decency of humankind is not beyond the bound of human possibility.
Tom Engelhardt at TomDispatch notes:
The fact is that the Lancet figures have largely been avoided because most Americans, including most reporters, can’t entertain the possibility that our country might actually be responsible for a situation in which almost 400,000, or around 655,000, or possibly 900,000+ “excess” Iraqis have died. At the top end of that continuum, you would have to think of the recent wars and serial slaughters in the Congo or the Rwandan genocide. At 655,000, you’re talking about slightly more than the dead of the American Civil War. With the bottom figure, you’re already at well over one hundred times the dead of September 11, 2001, almost seven times the American dead of either the Korean or Vietnam Wars, and over three times the dead of atomized Hiroshima. And let’s keep in mind that any of these figures are purely provisional, since George Bush has over two years to go in office and has sworn not to pull American forces out of Iraq before he departs, even if, according to the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, only his wife and dog still back him on the subject.
THE CONSERVATIVE SOUL October 24, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Modern History.
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David Brooks reviews this book written by blogger Andrew Sullivan in The New York Times.
What caught my attention was the aside made by Brooks that “most bloggers get inflamed on a daily basis.” I suppose I read regularly a limited number of blogs, but I have not noticed that they are more or less impassioned than columnists in the MSM, and in my opinion based on my limited consumption, I regard the commentary as superior than that provided by the papers. So much for the argy bargy between the blog world and the media world.
Still, I must say, rather against my predilections David Brooks does not do a bad job of reviewing the book. Andrew Sullivan I interpret to be saying with Bill Clinton something about the importance of reasoning and the importance of ideas. To engage in radical social and institutional change as Bush and Thatcher is surely not conservatism at all.
Conservatism, so it seems to me, is not confined to the right side of the chamber of deputies. It also extends to the left side. Such think for example of the traditions that are important to the Labor Party, for example the struggle by working people for conditions, rights and human dignity. Actually not too far from where I sit in the mid-nineteenth century at the dawn of Australian democracy, there was a rebellion or protest of the ordinary people inflamed by the entry of scab labor. Some real gains were made, and then under the nostrums of economic rationality and the stench of greedy self interest they have been stolen away.
OUR ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT October 24, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Environment.
So we accept the statistics about climate change, or not? Let us suppose as the figures suggest, and what seems to be to eminently reasonable in relation to carbon gas emissions, that the climate is warming. Then let us look at what we might be responsible for, our statistical ecological footprint, which reflects the social consumption patterns that translates on a per capita basis into water shortages and environmental degradation.
Now it is the case, in a very minor way and in joint ownership I am a real property owner, but I think the sense of that is the continuation of the custodianship of the indigenous people of this continent, who through the thousands of years stepped lightly on the earth with the realization that the environment sustained them. We are disconnected. Sitting before our screens we are removed from an actual reality as the water comes through pipes from remote reservoirs and energy is transmitted through lines from sources with side effects that damage the planet.
The ABC reports on the WWF Report that Australians, who are not alone, are stamping an impression on the available resources in a detrimental way, since the rate of use is greater than the rate of renewal. We need to get our consumption into balance, and that will require both changes to our behavior and public policy, which inevitably be confronted by powerful interest groups arguing the case of technological fixes.
The technological fixes are often suggested to be on the macro-scale, such as the “clean and green” nuclear power rather than the “clean and green” solar energy. In recent days, the BBC was requesting suggestions for a shower song that the customers of Energy Australia could sing which would get them out of the shower more quickly so that they did not over-consume electricity. Converting to solar heating is the obvious answer which seems to have escaped the self interest of Energy Australia. And so it goes.
Six years later, Australia still ranks sixth in the world (so the graph for 2002 is still relevant). One factor among others in Australia, similar to Norway, is the high use of private cars – so we need public transport policies that will provide alternatives.
I note in passing the Sweden, where nuclear power has been abandoned, or that course at least considered, has a smaller per capita footprint than Finland, where nuclear power is being developed. Nuclear power represented 45% of Sweden’s power supply in 2005:
This year’s report was launched in Beijing including two major indicators of Planet Earth’s well being, which the report summarizes as:
The first, the Living Planet Index, measures biodiversity, based on trends in more than 3,600 populations of 1,300 vertebrate species around the world. In all, data for 695 terrestrial, 344 freshwater and 274 marine species were analyzed. Terrestrial species declined by 31 per cent, freshwater species by 28 per cent, and marine species by 27 per cent.
The second index, the Ecological Footprint, measures humanity’s demand on the biosphere. Humanity’s footprint has more than tripled between 1961 and 2003. This report shows that our footprint exceeded biocapacity by 25 per cent in 2003. In the previous report (based on data to 2001), this figure was 21 per cent. The carbon dioxide footprint, from the use of fossil fuels, was the fastest growing component of our global footprint, increasing more than ninefold from 1961 to 2003.
Countries of over a million people with the largest footprint, in global hectares per person, are the United Arab Emirates, the United States of America, Finland, Canada, Kuwait, Australia, Estonia, Sweden, New Zealand and Norway. China comes mid-way in world rankings, at number 69, but its growing economy and rapid development mean it has a key role in keeping the world on the path to sustainability.
SPEAKING PORTUGUESE October 23, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Multiculturalism.
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As perhaps is to be expected, given the cognate cases in English, the language they speak in Brazil is somewhat different to that spoken in Portugal. There are eleven million Portuguese in the home of the language. The New York Times reports:
SÃO PAULO, Brazil — More people speak Portuguese as their native language than French, German, Italian or Japanese. So it can rankle the 230 million Portuguese speakers that the rest of the world often views their mother tongue as a minor language and that their novelists, poets and songwriters tend to be overlooked.
An effort is being made here in the largest city in the world’s largest Portuguese-speaking country to remedy that situation. The Museum of the Portuguese Language, with multimedia displays and interactive technology, recently opened here, dedicated to the proposition that Portuguese speakers and their language can benefit from a bit of self-affirmation and self-advertisement.
“We hope this museum is the first step to showing ourselves, our culture and its importance to the world,” said Antônio Carlos Sartini, the museum director. “A strategy to promote the Portuguese language has always been lacking, but from now on, maybe things can take another path.”
REVISITING DAISY, PROMOTING NANCY October 23, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Iraq Policy, Modern History, Terrorism Issues.
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“These are the stakes: to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.”– Lyndon Baines Johnson(1964).
The politics of fear worked forty-two years ago, and will work now, except the Democrats are too principled for this behavior, or so the story goes. George Bush is enough to make any sane person afraid. Still the Republicans seem to have the fear stakes lead, but will that be enough to prevent the loss of their majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives? Along with tearing up ballots, voting machine programs, gerrymandered districts, and whatever else, they should travel well. Apparently it was Joe Stalin, not Leon Trotsky, who said, “it is not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes.”
An opinion poll has 51% of Americans in favor of impreaching George Bush, and thereby making Richard Cheney President. I say impreach both Bush and Cheyney and make Nancy Pelosi president, on the basis she looks nicer, and probably is.
In this thought experiment, if Nancy Pelosi were to become President, who would become Vice President?
UPDATE: 24 October 2006
Pelosi says “impeachment is off the table”, and “making them [Bush and Cheney] lame ducks is good enough for me”.
AFGHANISTAN PROSPECTS October 21, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Terrorism Issues.
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The failure of the American strategic objectives in Iraq is gradually being accepted. The lag between the realization of the significance of an event and its acceptance and then its public acceptance is a wonder to behold whether in Washington, London or Canberra.
There are more participating nations in Afghanistan, and there is now a suggestion with the increase in frequency and range of resistance activity that there is cause for concern. It seems remarkable to a distant observer that the Taliban has re-emerged. The Taliban have been, as far as I know, mostly connected with the Pushtun in the South.
This BBC report, from an embedded journalist, suggests that the Taliban have gained acceptance from the corruption of minor government officials, including among the Army, and can call upon the services of suicide bombers. Furthermore, my sense is the British are struggling to hold their own against them.
To lose Iraq might have been careless. To lose Iraq and Afghanistan would be ineffable.
Jonathan Steele, originally in The Guardian, via Common Dreams, argues that using the foreign military whether under Nato or UN was the wrong way to go. What works, and works best, is a set of agreements as has been demonstrated in the North West Provinces of Pakistan and recently by the British.
A MORE PERFECT UNION October 21, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Modern History.
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Bill Clinton’s speech at his alma mater last Wednesday was given to a domestic audience, and it did not cause much of a stir outside as far as I can tell The Washington Post and The New York Times, which did not amount to much. For example, the NYT report was under the headline:“Clinton Reflects on His 2 Terms and Hits Hard at Republicans” and opening was:
With fewer than three weeks until the midterm elections, former President Bill Clinton resumed his role as chief communicator of the Democratic Party on Wednesday in a speech that wrapped policy objectives in soaring rhetoric about bringing Americans together behind a single purpose.
Under the banner of securing the “common good,” Mr. Clinton reflected on his eight years in office as a time of effective governance and pressed Democrats to fight back against Republican claims of moral superiority.
As a non-American (Yes, an alien, but not from outer space), and I should not talk for everybody, I sometimes just do not fully get it, even in the age of globalization and the internet. The phrase “a more perfect union” Clinton mentioned in his speech comes from what might be described as the purpose statement of the US Constitution:
We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provided for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty, to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
In the speech, Bill Clinton related the notion of the common good to the idea of a more perfect union:
In the context of late 1991, I defined the common good as a new covenant for equal opportunity, shared responsibility, an inclusive community and an aggressive approach to try to create those values throughout the world at the end of the Cold War. It was what I thought America should do to advance the common good, really just a restatement of what our Founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor to, to form a more perfect union.
Given the nature of the political debate today, I think it’s important to point out that that 18th-century construct in 21st- century language meant the following: we are not perfect, we never will be perfect, no one has the whole truth, but we can always do better. That’s what a more perfect union meant. It is a permanent mission for America designed to make America a permanent work in progress.
In Australia, as a derived democracy, we do not have a story of struggle of elites making bargains to avoid revolution, but we do have a long history of the struggle by labor to improve working conditions and the historical echo of “the Commonwealth”.
A search in Google lists quotes from Noam Chomsky’s book entitled, “The Common Good”.
It is good, as Bill Clinton did, to call for vigorous debate, but it pays to remember how narrow the debate has become in the US because of the absence of minor parties. The range of debate wholly attributable to an electoral system in such a parlous state that it cannot be relied upon to validly measure and reflect public opinion in the election of public officials and representatives.
To implement democratic change is more difficult than it appears, and far less difficult than apparently destroying constitutional rights eg. Habeas Corpus, by legislative edict. It seems to me that the legislation signed by Bush is unconstitutional?
FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – TWO DOGS, ONE SMILE October 20, 2006Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -.
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Sasha just keeps on being the same, except when on occasions she has a burst of energy, either shooting off on a tangent or engaging in rough play with Dexter. Dexter does bored from time to time, and makes it known. Out on his walks he is usually just trotting looking contented. Problems could arise when both of them take it into their heads to act together, as when there is another dog. I realize in those situations, if I can remember, it is probably best a strong and authoritative voice without going crazy.
As usual we seek to step aboard the Friday Ark# 109 and join the Carnival of the Dogs.
BILL CLINTON AT GEORGETOWN October 19, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Category to be ascribed.
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Here is Bill Clinton addressing Georgetown University in Washington.
See The Raw Story for a full transcript of his speech. Here is a short extract:
The professors that I had then affected me in ways that continue in my life today. And the most important point I can make about that for the purposes of my remarks today is that I really believed more strongly when I left here than when I came that ideas matter, that evidence matters, that thinking and reasoning matter, that ideas have consequences and that in politics that means ideas lead to policies which have positive or negative effects in people’s lives.
I believed that then, I believe that now.
I believed then, based on the experiences I had here, that not everyone who disagreed with me was my enemy, that I might be wrong; that as forcefully as I pursued anything I believed in and any argument that I embraced, I had to always be willing to listen to others; and that in the interplay, the dialectic, between my position and another, the searching for more facts, the searching for better argument and, frankly, just facing the evidence of what did and didn’t work and what the consequences of various courses were, that I would come to a better place as a public official. I believed that then, I believe that now.
Clinton articulates, I think well, the distinction between holding a philosophy and employing an ideology, and what theat means for the practice and outcomes of politics. Elder Statesman now, or otherwise, I would interpret his remarks in the context of the mid term elections. And yet my sense is that the distincion made is useful. He does not acknowledge that philosophies are more difficult to form, enmeshed as they are in the long-running symposium, which began long before we entered the room, whereas ideology provides the read-made solution. Ideology on this basis is more likely on any question than philosophy. Then there are some of us who never seem to have made up our mind, even with the assistance of ideology.
Let me correct for the record, one of Bill’s book references:
VEILED THREAT October 18, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Multiculturalism.
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Photo via ABC (Reuters)
The Koran apparently requires both men and women to dress modestly, which in the latter case is variously interpreted as requiring the wearing of veils. The dress requirements have varied according to country, culture and social class. For example in Turkey with the modernization of Ataturk, and in Iran under the Shah women were not permitted to wear veils in public.
Recently in Britain, some women have taken to wearing the niqah – the full veil that leaves only the eyes exposed. Jack Straw, former foreign secretary and now leader of the House of Commons declared he would not talk with women wearing the niqah. Then a young women assistant teacher was suspended from teaching at an Anglican School in Yorkshire for wearing the full head gear. The school authorities and the local government educational authorities claimed this attire showing only her eyes prevented her from doing her job. The matter is now before the court.
Then it seems, after beat ups in the newspapers, including a headline including the expression “veiled terrorists”, the prime minister, Blair go into the act with a sequence of Yes, But statements, which we are so pleasantly familiar with coming from the eloquent mouth of John Howard. For example, The Independent reported:
Tony Blair has said that the veil worn by many Muslim women in Britain is a “mark of separation” that makes people from other backgrounds feel uncomfortable.
The Prime Minister came off the fence in the heated debate over Muslim customs by urging them to integrate more fully into British society. His remarks confirmed a significant shift in the Government’s thinking amid fears that its support for multiculturalism may have encouraged the growth of “parallel lives” that never meet.
Al Jazeera quotes Blair as saying:
People want to know the Muslim community in particular, but actually all the minority communities, have got the balance right between integration and multi-culturalism. We need to conduct this debate in a sensitive way, but it needs to be conducted.
The lawyer representing Aishad Azmi, the teaching assistant, declared that the prime minister had through his comments interfered in the case and demanded retractions.
According to The Independent, a candidate for deputy leader of the Labor Party, Jim Cruddles argues that Ministers are playing “fast and loose” with religious tensions. He said:
“The solution does not lie in an ever more muscular bidding war among politicians to demonstrate who can be tougher on migrants, asylum-seekers and minorities. Nor is it in using racial or religious symbols to create controversy. That only makes the situation worse.
“It is not the role of politicians to play fast and loose with symbols of difference, especially when they drive the political centre of gravity to the right as a consequence.”
Jonathan Freedland, commentating in The Guardian observes:
The veil, for example, has found feminists among both its champions and critics, proving that it’s no straightforward matter. There should be nothing automatically anti-Muslim about raising the subject, not least since many Muslim women question the niqab themselves.
Similarly, Ruth Kelly was hardly out of line in suggesting, as she did last week, that the government needs to be careful about which Muslim groups it funds and with whom it engages, ensuring it leans towards those who are actively “tackling extremism”. Other things being equal, that was a perfectly sensible thing to say.
Except other things are not equal. Each one of these perfectly rational subjects, taken together, has created a perfectly irrational mood: a kind of drumbeat of hysteria in which both politicians and media have turned again and again on a single, small minority, first prodding them, then pounding them as if they represented the single biggest problem in national life.
And, of course, these matters, despite the pretense are not being considered in the cool light of day, for as Jonathan Freedland also observes:
In fact, the courageous politician would refuse to join this open season on Muslims and seek to cool things down – beginning with an explanation of how we got here. The elements include many of those that feature in any build-up of hostility to a single, derided group, here or across the world.
The foundation is fear. Many Britons have since 9/11, and especially since July 7, come to fear their Muslim neighbours: they worry that the young man next to them on the train might have more than an extra sweater in his backpack. Next comes ignorance, a simple lack of knowledge about Muslim life which leaves non-Muslims open to all kinds of misconceptions. That feeds into a simple discomfort, personified, in its most extreme form, by a woman whose face we cannot see.
From across the Atlantic, The New York Times takes a broader view including developments in other European countries, the reappraisal of British society following the London Bombings last year, the commitment to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
The reason I find this issue relevant and important is that, I suspect that liberal democracy holds a distinction between the private regime and the public stage, where in my opinion Australia has demonstrated success in tolerance and acceptance of people with different backgrounds, which seems to be undermined by the insistence of the private symbolized by the niqah.
Update: 20 October 2006
The ABC reports that Mrs Azmi won her case for victimization, but lost her case for religious discrimination, which suggests that the court upheld the school’s contention that she could not teach with the niqah. Her statement presents a different side to the issue:
“Muslim women who wear the veil are not aliens and politicians need to recognise that what they say can have a very dangerous impact on the lives of the minorities they treat as outcasts,” she said.
“Integration requires people like me to be in the workplace so that people can see that we are not to be feared or mistrusted.
“Sadly, the intervention of ministers in my case … makes me fearful of the consequences for Muslim women in this country who want to work.”
The BBC report is here, in which it is claimed that children in the class could not hear what was said because of the veil.
Update: 25 October 2006
The LA Times carries this personal report of wearing the niqah in London.
PALESTINE AND SADDAM October 17, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, Terrorism Issues.
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There is apparently a formula held by the major parties in Australian politics, an accepted assumption, which may assume the status of a cultural assumption, that is so embedded as to be unconscious, that Israel is good and Palestine is bad.
Consider this extract from Question Time in the House of Representatives, via ABC’s program PM:
KIM BEAZLEY: Given Australia’s anti-terrorist financing laws has the Foreign Minister asked the Governments of Israel and Jordon to investigate where the money paid by AWB into Saddam Hussein’s bank account, the Rafidain Bank in Iman, was used by the Iraqi dictator to pay the families of Palestinian suicide bombers?
ALEXANDER DOWNER: I don’t need to ask any government, whether getting rid of Saddam Hussein stopped Saddam Hussein funding terrorism, because it did.
But I do know if the Leader of the Opposition’s policy had remained in place, Saddam Hussein would still be funding terrorism and you would have that on your conscience.
Any possible government of Iraq will support the Palestinians. As terrible and as indiscriminate as suicide bombing is, which I believe among other things has had the effect of weakening the voice of protest against Israeli atrocities, such as currently in Gaza, and the invasion and thrashing of Lebanon, there is no prospect of a peaceful settlement in the Israel v Palestine war without justice and forgiveness.
There are other causes, including the invasion of Iraq and the Western support for dictatorial regimes, including that of Saddam, that has fueled local terrorism, and now global terrorism, but a viable solution to Levant conflict would be an important step to make, and for which we should be committed.
I happen to conclude, but I am open to alternative solutions, that the two state solution is unworkable, with the implication that the Jewish people will form a minority within a bi-national, multicultural state which itself as the homeland for both Palestinians and Jews.
I know this is a large step for humankind and that it will require reconciliation – forgiveness. Of course, I do not know how such a proposition might be realized, but if it was the killing would stop.
IDENTITY FRAUD October 16, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Life Experience.
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Among the things we often do not think about include disposing of personal information into our rubbish bins. I do not know with any confidence what happens when I put my bins out in the street.
The Guardian provides a warning with some figures generated by garbageology:
Nearly half of UK households throw away all the information a criminal would need to steal a person’s identity, according to a survey published today.
During the research, the rubbish bins of a street in south London were searched and revealed that 97% of households regularly throw away paper carrying their name and address.. . . In 48% of cases, households had thrown away all the information a fraudster would require to carry out identity theft. One third had binned their full credit or debit card number and 46% had thrown away an item containing their full bank account details.
. . . Tyron Hill, spokesman for document shredder firm Fellowes, which commissioned the report, said: “People spend thousands of pounds protecting their homes against burglary, from top of the range locks to lighting systems and alarms. “However, this research shows that virtually everyone in the country is literally handing over their identity to bin raiders. Your identity is the most important thing you have and people have got to stop being so complacent and must start to put up a fight against identity fraud.”
Meanwhile, a recent report by Which? showed that an ex-partner, a friend or a former flat-mate was just as likely to steal a person’s identity as a stranger.
CONFIDENTIAL COMMENTS October 16, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Duckspeak.
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Kevin Drum bemoans the state of free speech in the world, not just the land of the free, and he surely has a point, but he does not consider what might be seen as offensive, who perhaps are not used to a fulsome debate, the best approach to the pursuit of truth, or simple political advantage.
However, it seems that the White House has fallen prey to the odd comment or two about the sanity of certain supporters of the Bush Administration, according to the BBC. I am not sure whether this tittle-tattle is a breach of confidence, telling the truth, or small demonstration for we of little faith, that the US government is not completely run by religious fundamentalists.
Update: 17 October 2006
In the spirit of fairness and balance, and in emulation of what “our” ABC , via David Tiley,will be from March next year, here is a view of the world which I take to be a Christian fundamentalist perspective seen darkly through the book of revelations. Interesting specualtion, I think. I don’t think they like the Catholic Church much, which is odd when you remember, it was once synonymous with Christendom in Western Europe.
IRAQIS ON THE MOVE October 15, 2006Posted by wmmbb in Iraq.
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Iraqi emigres boarding buses (Photo via BBC)
Should the estimate of the number of casualties of the war be questionable, so also might be the figures for the increasing number of people leaving the country and those that have been internally displaced, perhaps by religious cleansing.
The BBC reports:
Thousands of Iraqis are fleeing the country every day, in what the UN’s refugee agency describes as a steady, silent exodus.
The number of Iraqis claiming asylum in the West is growing, says the UNHCR.
The agency also says the number of internally displaced is growing, with some 365,000 Iraqis uprooted this year.
Earlier this week the Baghdad government estimated that about 300,000 people had been internally displaced since February.
In a telling statistic for those who would claim the situation in Iraq is getting better, not getting worse, the report notes:
The [UNHCR] says that last year about 50,000 Iraqis returned from neighbouring countries. This year only 1,000 did.
And the extraordinary figure is quoted:
There are also increasing numbers of people leaving their homes but staying in Iraq.
“The estimate now is something around 50,000 people per month are joining the growing numbers of internally displaced inside Iraq,”
While Iraqis are seeking refuge in adjoining countries such as Jordan and Iraq they are moving to most Middle Eastern countries, and as well represent the largest group of people seeking access to the EU.
Postscript: 16 October 2006
The actual UNHCR report is here in which the situation in relation to Iraqi refugees, especially the internally displaced is described as a “crisis”. Crisis is defined as a situation in which humanitarian agencies and the government can no longer cope with the situation in which the people affected are subject to considerable deprivation and suffering.
Yes, withdrawal of the occupying forces would help, in that it would make more possible an internal peace between the warring parties. Invasions of militarily weak countries such as Iraq had become under Saddam is always a “cakewalk”, but withdrawal becomes extremely difficult, especially after hanging around for over three years unwelcome. As the song says, “Bring ’em home”, if only to avoid further unnecessary deaths and grevious injuries.