Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Another lesson in truth from the Mail

A story from yesterday's edition of the Daily Mail:
Lessons about gays will be compulsory from age of 11

Pupils as young as 11 will be taught about homosexuality and civil partnerships in compulsory sex education classes.

All secondary schools - including faith schools - will have to teach children about same-sex relationships as well as traditional families.

Previously, heads could decide to opt out of teaching the controversial subject. (1)
Contained within the article is a little table, below, which gives the actual details of the new curriculum:

You'll notice that the section on "Different types of relationships including same sex and civil partnerships," falls in the 11-14 bracket. So the headline "Lessons about gays will be compulsory from age 11," is immediately misleading. They won't be.

Further down there is a quote from a representative of a Christian values lobby group, which encapsulates every thing I dislike about politicised religionous groups:
Simon Calvert, of the Christian Institute, said that 'pressing the virtues of homosexuality' could lead to more experimentation, which could be 'harmful' to children. (2)
The bit about "Pressing the virtues of homosexuality"? He just made that up. That isn't anywhere. They have to be described, not endorsed. Description is not endorsement Unless telling people that drugs exist is "Pressing the virtue of drugs," or describing the Holocaust is "Pressing the virtues of Nazism."

Though in fairness, he might not have been talking about the specifics of the new curiculum, and have been a victim of a misrepresentation by the Mail - as that is what the Mail does, without scruple.
1 - "Lessons about gays will be compulsory from age of 11," by Sarah Harris, published in The Daily Mail, 28yth of April, 2009. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1173919/Lessons-gays-compulsory-age-11.html)
2 - ibid.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

How the Mail does truth

Another example of yellow journalism from the Daily Mail. This time, pathetically amatreurish in its attempt to drag the spectre of Muslims and Sharia into the story:

EU judges want Sharia law applied in British courts

Judges could be forced to bow to Sharia law in some divorce cases heard in Britain.

An EU plan calls for family courts across Europe to hear cases using the laws of whichever country the couple involved have close links to.

That could mean a court in England handling a case within the French legal framework, or even applying the laws of Saudi Arabia to a husband and wife living in Britain.

The Centre for Social Justice think tank today attacked the so-called Rome III reform as ludicrous. (1)
A nano-bleedin'-second of research proves the Daily Wail's take on this to be rubbish.

I checked the website of the Centre for Social Justice, the think tank cited in the Wail story. This is what I found:
Moves by Brussels to force UK courts to apply foreign laws in divorce cases are condemned today (Sunday) by a major new report from a leading think-tank. The study published by the Centre for Social Justice reveals that EU officials are seeking to tear up 200 years of legal precedent and to require English and Welsh courts to follow foreign jurisdictions where the divorcing couple comes from another EU country. (2)
My emphasis, obviously. This extract is not from the report itself - it is from the summary of the report given on the organisation's website. I could have understood - though not excused - a journalist not bothering to read the whole report, but this degree of innacuracy is pathetic. There is no mention of Sharia, Saudi Arabia, or slam anywhere in that summary, which makes it clear that the proposed law change would only apply between members of the European Union.

Saudi Arabia is not an EU country, as far as I am aware, and I am struggling to compile a
list of EU countries where Sharia is enforced. I have emailed the Mail to help me with this project, but I do not expect a meaningful reply any time soon. The Mail gave up on reporting the truth in an accurate manner a long time ago, and it seems likely that the inaccuracy of the report is deliberate - and editorial fatwa was probably issued that negative references Muslims and Islam have to be made at ever possible (or in this case, impossible) opportunity.

No wonder the journalist who composed the story opted to remain anonymous. It is nice to see they had some sort of sense that what they were doing was shameful, but a great pity they didn't allow their scuples to stop them doing it. Perhaps they should let their conscience speak more freely, and think about whether they want to be associated with a dishonest rag that is little more than a semi-repectable mouth piece for the BNP.
1 - "EU judges want Sharia law applied in British courts," story credited to Daily Mail Reporter, published in The Daily Mail, 27th of April, 2009. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1173779/EU-judges-want-Sharia-law-applied-British-courts.html)
2 - The quotation is from a briefing issued by the Centre for Social Policy, a think tank set up by Tory MP and former party leader Iain Duncan Smith. The report in question was summarised under the heading "EU family law: faster divorce and foreign law." No author was identified. The full report is available through the Centre for Social Policy website.The webpage was viewed on the 28th of April, 2009. (http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/default.asp?pageRef=37)

Monday, 27 April 2009

Iranian ship sunk off Sudanese coast

An unconfirmed and sketchy account of ominous events in the Middle East:
An Egyptian weekly reported Sunday that an Iranian ship carrying weapons traveling en route to the Gaza Strip has been sunk in the Red Sea, off the coast of Sudan.

Al-Usbua's report quotes sources from Sudan's capitol Khartoum, who say missiles were fired towards the ship from "an unidentified boat, which may be Israeli or American."

The report says the Iranian ship was headed for Sudan in order to unload the weapons, which would then travel by land to the Gaza Strip. But the ship was sunk by the missiles, along with its crew. (1)
Oh. Shit.

This could be bad, as it could be interpreted, by Iran, as an act of war. One of their ships has bene sunk, lives, presumably, lost, in a hostile act by a foreign power. If Israel was less armed and funded by the USA formidable then the act would almost certainly lead to a direct military response.

As it stands, it would be suicidally stupid of Iran to attack Israel, even in the face of this obscene provokation. But that doesn't mean the Israel is free do do as it pleases. The response will be indirect, but just as bloody as a full invasion. There will be more Muslims who are willing to step forward to attack Israel by terrorism, and and Ahmadinejad is more likely to be re-elected - for the same reason that Bush was given a second term.

Which, a shadowy and suspicious part of my mind suggests, is exactly what Netanyahu wants. Keeping the fool of Tehran in power and in the public eye will keep tensions high in the region and justify his own strident rhetoric in response.

What will Obama do? Show some leadership, cuff the 51st (rogue) state into line, or let it go carry on doigng what it likes?
1 - "Iranian arms ship sunk of Sudan coast," unattributed news article published on Ynet, 26th of Arpil, 2009. (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3706989,00.html)

UPDATE [29/4/09]


Looks like a false alarm:
Iran rejects a report that an Iranian navy vessel has been targeted by "Israeli or American missiles" and was ultimately sunk in the Red Sea.

The report "about a missile attack by the US or Israel against an Iranian navy ship" is false, an informed source speaking on condition of anonymity told Press TV on Tuesday.

An Egyptian magazine had published a report, claiming that the Iranian vessel had been targeted by missiles near Sudan.

The unnamed source dismissed the report as the product of a propaganda machine against the Tehran government.
Thankfully.
1 - "Iran denies 'US-Israeli' assault on navy ship," unattributed MD/HGH story, published on presstv.ir, 29th of April, 2009. (http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=92820&sectionid=351020101)

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Torture doesn't work, says someone who would know

Courtesy of Patrick Cockburn at the Indie:
"The reason why foreign fighters joined al-Qa'ida in Iraq was overwhelmingly because of abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and not Islamic ideology," says Major Matthew Alexander, who personally conducted 300 interrogations of prisoners in Iraq. It was the team led by Major Alexander [a named assumed for security reasons] that obtained the information that led to the US military being able to locate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qa'ida in Iraq. Zarqawi was then killed by bombs dropped by two US aircraft on the farm where he was hiding outside Baghdad on 7 June 2006. Major Alexander said that he learnt where Zarqawi was during a six-hour interrogation of a prisoner with whom he established relations of trust.

Major Alexander's attitude to torture by the US is a combination of moral outrage and professional contempt. "It plays into the hands of al-Qa'ida in Iraq because it shows us up as hypocrites when we talk about human rights," he says. An eloquent and highly intelligent man with experience as a criminal investigator within the US military, he says that torture is ineffective, as well as counter-productive. "People will only tell you the minimum to make the pain stop," he says. "They might tell you the location of a house used by insurgents but not that it is booby-trapped."

In his compelling book How to Break a Terrorist, Major Alexander explains that prisoners subjected to abuse usually clam up, say nothing, or provide misleading information. In an interview he was particularly dismissive of the "ticking bomb" argument often used in the justification of torture. This supposes that there is a bomb timed to explode on a bus or in the street which will kill many civilians. The authorities hold a prisoner who knows where the bomb is. Should they not torture him to find out in time where the bomb is before it explodes?

Major Alexander says he faced the "ticking time bomb" every day in Iraq because "we held people who knew about future suicide bombings". Leaving aside the moral arguments, he says torture simply does not work. "It hardens their resolve. They shut up." He points out that the FBI uses normal methods of interrogation to build up trust even when they are investigating a kidnapping and time is of the essence. He would do the same, he says, "even if my mother was on a bus" with a hypothetical ticking bomb on board. It is quite untrue to imagine that torture is the fastest way of obtaining information, he says. (1)
So there. Morally repugnant, ineffective and likely to create more problems than it would solve. Which is pretty much what the namby-pamby, human right obssessed, limp-wristed left said, back when Bush was having prisoners of war reclassified as 'unlawful combatants' so they weren't protected by conventions against torture.

This part is also interesting:
He refused to take part in torture and abuse, and forbade the team he commanded to use such methods. Instead, he says, he used normal US police interrogation techniques which are "based on relationship building and a degree of deception". He adds that the deception was often of a simple kind such as saying untruthfully that another prisoner has already told all.

Before he started interrogating insurgent prisoners in Iraq, he had been told that they were highly ideological and committed to establishing an Islamic caliphate in Iraq, Major Alexander says. In the course of the hundreds of interrogations carried out by himself, as well as more than 1,000 that he supervised, he found that the motives of both foreign fighters joining al-Qa'ida in Iraq and Iraqi-born members were very different from the official stereotype.

In the case of foreign fighters – recruited mostly from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and North Africa – the reason cited by the great majority for coming to Iraq was what they had heard of the torture in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. These abuses, not fundamentalist Islam, had provoked so many of the foreign fighters volunteering to become suicide bombers. (2)
This tallies with somethings I remember reading in Robert Fisk's book, The Great War for Civilisation - the 11th of September murderers weren't fanatics. Mohammed Atta was a drunkard, many of the others were westernised, maintained girlfriends - non-Muslim - and none of them were Koran thumping roll-eyed ideologues. Ditto the London tube bombers - none of them attended Islamic schools, and the impression I've gathered of them is that they were not particularly devout. I'd suspect they were recruited because they were suggestable and easily led, rather than because they were hardline fanatics hungry for martyrdom.
1 - "Torture? It probably killed more Americans than 9/11" by Patrick Cockburn, published in The Independent, 26th of April, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/torture-it-probably-killed-more-americans-than-911-1674396.html)
2-
ibid.

BNP Bigwigs Battle Burnout Blues

Apparently, the strain of preparing for the 2010 election is starting to tell on the leadership, candidates and activists of the BNP, according to a leaked memo considered by The Independent.

I feel very sad for the poor little tykes. Must be very hard. Maybe they should admit that Brits - for all their faults - aren't too interested in a nasty little bunch of NuNazis with a patina of Daily Mail respectablity about them.
Senior members of the British National Party are "burning out", a leaked document drawn up by leaders of the far-right organisation has revealed.

Long-serving activists are prone to fits of depression, picking fights with other members and "irrational or erratic behaviour", the BNP party manual says. It tells members how to spot someone with signs of "burn-out" and reveals that the BNP is dogged by in-fighting.

The details will come as some comfort to MPs who have cautioned that the BNP poses its biggest electoral threat for years as it attempts to capitalise on economic hardship. (1)
All together now, awwww. Diddums.

This is the best bit, however:
The booklet also warns activists not to set up official party blogs because "they can't write proper English" and describes some members as "oddballs". (2)
Hmmm. The party that supposeldy champions English identity and values is full of loons who can't write a coherent sentence in their own language.
1 - "Fighting, burn-out and depression: life as a BNP activist," by Jane Merrick, published in The Independent, 26th of April, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/fighting-burnout-and-depression-life-as-a-bnp-activist-1674377.html)
2 - ibid.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

A remarkable woman


I am not a Christian, I have no faith of any sort. I do, however, admire the genuine, dignified faith and courage shown by some - but by no means all - who do. These are people to whom their faith is far more than just a vague mantra and some buzz words that they were taught as a child but has ceased to influence themin any significant, conscious way.

Magdeline Makola, who was bound and gagged and left to die in the boot of her car during the Scottish winter, surviving for nine days before she was rescued, is an example of such a person. Not just for surviving, but forgiving:

... on Boxing Day, it was only by chance that two police officers were walking through the car park at Drumgelloch railway station.

They heard what they thought was a woman's muffled voice coming from inside the boot of the Y-registration Astra. When they broke it open, they found Miss Makola in a state of profound distress.

Her wrists and ankles had been so tightly bound that they could only be released very slowly because of her pain. When officers offered her water, she screamed in agony because she was too cold to swallow.

Despite the removal of her blindfold, it took another 20 minutes before her eyesight returned.

Some 10 days after she had been first assaulted and at least nine days after being locked in her car, Miss Makola's prayers for freedom had been answered just in time.

Doctors subsequently found she was in renal failure and would not have survived another 48 hours in the car. Yesterday, the nurse, who is a British citizen, added to her extraordinary feat of survival with another remarkable act.

Minutes after sitting in Edinburgh's High Court to hear Ngema admit 14 charges of assault, theft and abduction, Miss Makola said she had forgiven her attacker and felt "no anger" towards him. In a statement read outside the court, she said: "When I was taken I did not think I was going to survive and the experience of being trapped is one that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

"While I was in the boot of the car, it was difficult for me to work out how long I had been there, but one of my strongest memories is realising that it was Christmas Day because it was so quiet outside.

"I have a strong faith in God and I spent a lot of time praying someone would find me. I am pleased Justice Ngema has pleaded guilty and I want people to know I feel no anger towards him, only pity. I wish him well in the future." (1)
Nowadays, this attitude is uncommon because we're actively encouraged to respond basely to baseness. People hurt us, we think we are entitled to hurt them. This is the sort of attitude that makes a grown man think he is justified to kill a child for tagging his fence (2). The Old Testament's "An eye for an eye" is more popular than Jesus's order than we forgive seven and seventy times. We want revenge, and we're encouraged to vent our rage whenever we can, in lack of self control, foul language, rudeness, aggression and violence.

This is the result of the culture of self-indulgence and snivelling individualism - it is all about us, we want everything, we want it on our terms and we want it now. The idea of a dignified and deeply held faith - one that actually affects how one acts and one's attitude - is so outlandish as to appear frightening.
1 - " The nurse held prisoner in her car for nine days," by Cahal Milmo, published in The Independent, 25th of Appril, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/the-nurse-held-prisoner-in-her-car-for-nine-days-1673978.html) Photograph courtesy of PA, reproduced by The Independent.
2 - "Emery jailed for killing tagger," by Kim Ruscoe, published on stuff.co.nz, 14th of February, 2009. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/1399650)

ANZAC day

When I was groweing up back in Scotland, I recall being set a school assignment where we had to write a ballad on a topic of our choice. Most of the other students wrote about a birthday part or Christmas, but, being me, I wrote about the Gallipoli landings.

I don't think I actually knew what ANZAC stood for, or why they were fighting in Turkey. For historical detail, I relied on a big compendium called 'The World's Greatest Mistakes,' though I would emphasize that the Churchill quote in the first stanza is nearly authentic - he really did plot how to "slit the Turk's soft underbelly."

Most of the ballad is lost to the world. I can remember three verses of about a dozen. The whole botched invasion was recounted from beginning to end, and I even managed to include death tolls in the final stanza.

Here's what I remember:
On the 25th of April it happened,
Churchill gave out the command:
"Slit the Turk's soft underbelly,
And sweep them from the sand!

"We must get through to Russia!
We'll take the Black Sea way.
The Germans won't expect it,
And we'll free France in a day."
Of the subsequent verses, I can only remember this:
So the ANZAC boys dug trenches,
With holes the beach was filled,
And in these pits they cowered,
And waited to be killed.

Lurgee's Paradigm V: "Water vapour is ..."

The claim here is that a variation on the standard line that human activity is negligible.

In this case, we are told something like, 'The largest greenhouse gas out there isn't CO2, it is water vapour."

Though fundamentally true, this is disingenuous, because it is designed to miselad the reader or listener. The implication is that our activity is making a trivial contribution, and that climatologists' fixation on CO2 is misplaced.

First of all, the true bit: water vapour is the largest contributor to the greenhous effect (1). Bear in mind, however, that no credible scientist has tried to deny this is the case. It is a straw man argument. The mention it is a signal that something murky is afoot. Several further points need to kept in mind, which the denier will neglect to mention:
  • First of all, the presence of water vapour in the atmosphere is natural (2). It is water evaporating from oceans, sea, rivers. Human activity does not significantly contribute to it. It is a natural process, with water evaporating, hanging about in the troposphere for a while, and then returning to Earth. If we didn't have this process, we wouldn't have rain, or rivers, and all the water in the world would have flowed to to the lowest point it could have reached. Where it would have frozen, because ...
  • The presence of water vapour in the atmosphere is essential. As the predominant greenhouse gas, it is responsible for life as we know it. Without the water vapour, and the other naturally occurring greenhouse gases, the planet would be too cold for us to live on. We're not worried about the natural process that keeps us warm, we're worried about about the change being wrought on top of that, which may make the planet less pleasant to live on.
  • Third, water vapour has a very short life span (3), returning to earth through condensation and rain. CO2, N2O and NF3 and other greenhouse gases resulting from human activity have a very long atmospheric lifespan (4) - hundreds to thousands of years - so continuing to produce them results in a build up that simply can't happen with water vapour.
  • Fourth, the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere may increase as a result of global warming (5), creating a positive feedback loop. If we warm the planet, it will increase the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere, adding to the greenhouse effect. Which may kick off a feedback loop which leads to more water vapour, and so on. There is a possibility it will cool the planet, through increasing cloud cover, but we aren't sure which way it would go.
So as soon as someone points out that water vapoour is the major greenhouse gas, you know you're in the presence of a denier, not a genuine sceptic.
1 - 'Greenhouse effect: greenhouse gases,' wikipedia article, viewed 25th of April, 2009. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_effect#Greenhouse_gases)
2 - 'Greenhouse gas: role of water vapour,' viewed 25th of April, 2009. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas#Role_of_water_vapor)
3 - 'Water vapour: water vapour in Earth's atmosphere,' wikipedia article, viewed 25th of April, 2009. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_vapor#Water_vapor_in_Earth.27s_atmosphere)
4 - 'Greenhouse gas: global warming potential,' wikipedia article, viewed 25th of April, 2009. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas#Global_warming_potential)
5 - 'Water vapour: water vapour in Earth's atmosphere,' wikipedia article, viewed 25th of April, 2009. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_vapor#Water_vapor_in_Earth.27s_atmosphere)

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Unbelieveable II

Suicide bombings and roadside bombs are indiscriminate and bloody, slaughtering the innocent, right? And, in contrast, our 'surgical' methods minimize civilian deaths, right?

Wrong, apparently:

Air strikes and artillery barrages have taken a heavy toll among the most vulnerable of the Iraqi people, with children and women forming a disproportionate number of the dead.

Analysis carried out for the research group Iraq Body Count (IBC) found that 39 per cent of those killed in air raids by the US-led coalition were children and 46 per cent were women. Fatalities caused by mortars, used by American and Iraqi government forces as well as insurgents, were 42 per cent children and 44 per cent women.

Twelve per cent of those killed by suicide bombings, mainly the tool of militant Sunni groups, were children and 16 per cent were females. One in five (21 per cent) of those killed by car bombs, used by both Shia and Sunni fighters, was a child; one in four (28 per cent) was a woman. (1)

This is not about excusing the brutal tactics employed by terrorists in Iraq or elsewhere - it is about shredding the comforting myths put out that we're, somehow, better. It is an interesting concept - "Let's fight extremism and hatred by blowing up women and children. That'll surely reduce extremism and hatred." I think we really need to admit that there's no military solution to these problems and the war agaisnt terror has to be carried on by other means.

And consider this:
From 2004 to 2007, the overall tonnage of munition dropped from planes in the Afghan conflict rose from 163 tonnes a year to 1,956 tonnes, an increase of 1,100 per cent. Since 2001 the US air force has dropped 14,049 tonnes of bombs in Afghanistan and 18,858 in Iraq. (2)
That's an awful lot of slaughtered and maimed women and children.

I suppose the explanation is that the suicide bombers are targeting military or quasi-military sites, and civilians are less likely to be hurt in the process - whereas the military are pursuing insurgents/terrorists/whatever into civilian areas and fighting them there. I accept that argument, but the figures are still jaw dropping. It underlines the urgency of finding different ways to combat extremists and fanatics, because slaying women and children isn't going to solve that problem, only make it worse.

No wonder they hate us.
1 - " Iraq air raids hit mostly women and children," by Kim Sengupta, published in The Independent, 16th of April, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/iraq-air-raids-hit-mostly-women-and-children-1669282.html)
2 - ibid.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Unbelieveable

Remember Jessica Lynch? Remember the hysterical speculation (1) that she might be abused or raped by the Iraqis?

Turns out, she was in as much danger from her own side, on that count. From the BBC:

Between 2006 and 2008, some 40 women who served in the Iraq War spoke to me of their experiences at war. Twenty-eight of them had been sexually harassed, assaulted or raped while serving.

They were not exceptions. According to several studies of the US military funded by the Department of Veteran Affairs, 30% of military women are raped while serving, 71% are sexually assaulted, and 90% are sexually harassed.

The Department of Defense acknowledges the problem, estimating in its 2009 annual report on sexual assault (issued last month) that some 90% of military sexual assaults are never reported. (2)

It is sickening - though not very surprising - that the soldiers are so ill-disciplined and misogynistic that they do this, or allow this to happen. But it beggars belief that the USA military can not protect female soldiers from violence and harrassment with in its own ranks.

1 - "Lynch book tells of rape by captors," by Rick Hampson, published by USA Today, 6th of November, 2003. (http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2003-11-06-lynch_x.htm)
2 - "Women at war face sexual violence," unattributed BBC article, 17th of April, 2009. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8005198.stm)

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Tomlinson's death NOT a heart attack?

A second autopsy suggests that Iain Tomlinson's death during the G20 protests was NOT caused by a heart attack, as originally thought. Instead, it seems to have been caused by abdominal bleeding:
... a fresh post-mortem examination has found he died of abdominal bleeding, not a heart attack, as first thought.

Lawyers for the family said the new post-mortem test raised the likelihood of a manslaughter charge.

In its statement, the Coroner's Court said the inquest had looked at the first post-mortem examination carried out after Mr Tomlinson collapsed and died on the evening of 1 April.

That examination, carried out by Dr Freddy Patel, concluded Mr Tomlinson had diseased heart and liver and a substantial amount of blood in the abdominal cavity.

"His provisional interpretation of his findings was that the cause of death was coronary artery disease," said the statement.

"A subsequent post-mortem examination was conducted by another consultant forensic pathologist, Dr Nat Cary, instructed by the IPCC and by solicitors acting for the family of the late Mr Tomlinson.

"Dr Cary's opinion is that the cause of death was abdominal haemorrhage. The cause of the haemorrhage remains to be ascertained.

"Dr Cary accepts that there is evidence of coronary atherosclerosis but states that in his opinion its nature and extent is unlikely to have contributed to the cause of death."

The statement concluded that both the opinions remained provisional and subject to further investigations and tests. (1)

I've emphasised the last line as I want to be clear this is not conclusive yet. I don't automatically assume that the police are wrong or villianous in every case, though I suppose the indymedia / anarchist goons will be shrilling about 'state sanctioned murder' or something. We'll see. Lets get the evicencce, and if it stands up, nail the bastard who killed Tomlinson to the wall.

On the subject of evidence, the pathologist who performed the first - now suspect - post mortem, has delivered questionable decisions before:

Dr Patel, who is on a Home Office register of accredited forensic pathologists, has had his handling of suspicious deaths questioned twice.

He was reprimanded about his professional conduct by the General Medical Council in 1999 after he released medical details of 30-year-old Roger Sylvester, a black man who died in police custody.

Dr Patel told reporters outside an inquest: "I am aware from the medical records held at Whittington hospital that Mr Sylvester was a user of crack cocaine."

Sylvester's distraught family disputed the allegation.

When asked about the reprimand last week, Dr Patel said: "That is right. It happened a long time ago."

In another case in 2002, Dr Patel concluded that Sally White, 38, died of natural causes from heart disease. Her body was discovered in a house belonging to Anthony Hardy, a 52-year-old mentally disturbed alcoholic, in Camden, London. Hardy later killed Elizabeth Valad, 29, and Brigette MacClennan, 34.

White's death had been treated as suspicious until Dr Patel's findings. (2)

Again, in iteslf, this proves nothing, but it is starting to look very bad for the police officer who struck Mr Tomlinson, and for the Met in general. Again.

1 - "G20 officer quizzed over death," unattributed BBC article, 17th of April, 2009. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8004222.stm)
2 - "Tomlinson Pathologist's Decisions Questioned," by Amy Fallon, published in The Independent, 18th of April, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/tomlinson-pathologists-decisions-questioned-1670412.html)

Friday, 17 April 2009

Piracy is not Jihad, explaining it is not excusing it

Johan Hari puts his finger on the real story behind the hijackings and subsequent spectacular rescue of American sailors off the Horn of Africa (1).

And like all truth tellers, he gets excoriated for it. After all, we can’t allow that there might be reasons why people act in ways that we don’t like, because that suggests our behaviour might be, in someways, unreasonable. That there might be a link between what we do, and what happens to us.

Let’s be clear about one thing first of all – explanation is not exculpation. Somali pirates are criminals trying to extort ransom through theft and violence. The hijackers who destroyed the twin towers on the 11th of Spetember, 2001, were evil, murderous terrorists.

But the point is that these people didn’t do it just for the Hell of it. The Somali pirates, at least initially, didn’t even do it for the money. And they certainly didn’t do it because they are part of some global jihad. They did it for the same reason that anyone in their position would have done it – to stay alive.

They live in a failed state, where career options are limited to being a victim or a victimizer. By, on the one hand, stealing their fish stocks, and on the other, poisoning what was left by dumping toxic waste into the water off the Horn, the first world robbed the dirt poor coastal Somalis of the former choice- they couldn’t subsist on what they could catch, because we stole it, or poisoned it. So they had to become victimizers. Which, in Somalia, means either joining a warlord’s retinue, or preying on the spectacularly rich pickings of the world’s key shipping routes.

Just like their 17th century European forebears, the current crop of Somali pirates are responding to economic necessity. They resorted to piracy because they weren't able to make their living - even by Somali standards - by traditional fishing, because all the fish were being taken by foreign fleets, or poisoned by dumping, again by foreigners. Then they dscovered there was a Hell of a lot of money to be made through piracy - a lot of attendant risk, of course, but given the choice was between starvation, joining some warlord's army or turning pirate, no worse than that involved in any of the alternatives. Given the profitability of preying on first world shipping, it might be rather difficult to persuade them that it isn't a good idea, now that the practice is established.

Again, this is not excusing their action.

It is an attempt to explain why it happened, because a gaggle of Somali fishermen wake up one morning and decide they’d had enough harvesting the ocean’s bounty, and would rather risk their lives storming ships and invoking the wrath of the world’s navies. Fundamentally, it's about economics. The pirate kings get to live like monarchs, the actual foot soldiers get a living, and the security of being part of an armed force in a Hellish sort of place where there aren't many alternatives.

This pattern is repeated all across the Muslim world from Somalia, to Palestine, Kasmir, Afghanistan, the Uighir territories contained within the PRC. In all these places, people are responding to circumstances. Because, generally, they are desperate, or facing violence, their responses shock us in the west. We refuse to admit our own culpability, or the indifference that has lead to these situations. We don’t care. We’ve let the chickens flap about, and now they are coming home to roost.

And we can’t accept that, so we accept the suggestion that this is all part of some fantastical global Jihad – the Uighir separatists in China, the Cechyens, the Palestinains, the Somalis, the Jangaweed in Darfur. Because admitting that these disparate struggles might not be part of some global war against anything non-Islamic forces us to face up to something pretty intolerable – that the worlds a hideous mess, and our greed and indifference and venality and cruelty are what has allowed it to become this way. We could have created a world which was, if not perfect, at least a lot more tolerable for a much greater number of people, and where people weren’t reduced to piracy and terrorism because no one really give a fuck about them until they do.

While we ignore these conflicts, Al Queada do not. They colonise them and exploit them. Hence the murderers who blew themselves to pieces on the London underground mouthed some banalities about doing it for Palestine, Kasmir and the like. Future terrorists who target the west will be Chechyen, Uighir - because we're blithely ignoring their sufferring and oppression, and Al Queada are far more capable and willing to exploit it than we are at dealing with it.
1 - 'You Are Being Lied to About Pirates,' by Johann Hari, posted on The Huffington Post, 13th of Apri, 2009. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/you-are-being-lied-to-abo_b_155147.html)

Quote of the day (?)

Courtesy of Karl Kautsky:
... if in former days men worked with the intention of building for eternity with all the devotedness that flows from such a consciousness, so to-day one works for the fleeting effect of a moment with all the frivolity of this consciousness. So that the creation of to-day is within a short time not simply unfashionable but also useless. (1)
Why is this quote interesting? Kautsky was a rather dry writer, lacking Marx's flair and fury, and a lot of his pondering on the conflict between social evolution versus social revolution seems niave - especially as he didn't really believe in the latter, though he did come out in favour of it - in theory - in The Social Revolution.

In particular, of course, he was subsumed by events - he wrote the above in 1902, and everything between Capital and 1917 tends to get forgotten about.

But that quotation seems to me entirely modern, and describes the phenomenum of late capitalism perfectly. We live at a time when disposability is still regarded as a virtue. Things don't need to be built to last, or fixed when they break. They are relaced. Usually, they aren't designed to last, because - hey - you'll want something newer and better in a couple of years anyway. Remember Personal CD players? Personal stereos? Cassettes and vinyl? The life span of each new innovation is shorter than that which preceded it. Vinyl held sway for decades. CDs are already looking shekey, and their half-brother, the DVD, having just seen of VHS a few years back, is now challenged by Blu Ray.

Why? Because capitalism relies on change. Simply providing the same commodity is a sure way to business failure. Markets saturate, and there aren't enough people on the planet to keep selling the same line of products . So the market has to be re-invented, shaken up. New products replace the old, and the consumer is beguiled into buying what he already has, essentially. And this happens faster and faster. The cycle is not constant - it is accelaerating, as Kautsky pointed out.

The uncomfortable truth that is obvious immediately following, that the resources to produce the commodities are equally finite, is usually ignored. Frivilous is too polite a term for this suicidal urge to develop and consume, to thrive as conspicuously and as ferociously as possible.

This fecklessness moves beyond the consumption, to the level of social consciousness. Of course, we all know we need to reign in our consumption and, particularly, our greenhouse gas emmissions. But do we? Democracy, unfortunately, has the effect of limiting forward thinking to three or four years at a time. Can we even get organised to plant the trees today that will be a vital part of our carbon sink in two decades time? It seems unlikely.

So why? The ability to manufacture commodities and create - albeit based on slave labour in trannical despotisms - a high standard of living in the west has brought with it a continual need to consume and reconsume. Partly, it is because our continual consumption is essential to keeping the economic wheels turning. We have to buy so the capitalists can make money. Commodities have to be produced in ever new and fascinating forms to entice us into buying. But there is another level, I think - the frenzy of consumption is replacing something that has been lost, the sense of purpose or eternity that Kautsky used as his comparison - "in former days men worked with the intention of building for eternity with all the devotedness that flows from such a consciousness." That consciousness derived from a specific social situation, and religion was used to cover over the cracks and contradictions in it. We lost that religious or spiritual impluse - no money in it, basically - and haven't found anything to replace it with other than the hording of bright and shiny objects. The one with most toys when they die wins. It's a rotten way of looking at the world - as rotten as doing what you're told because of the terror of Hellfire, but it is the one that has been in vogue of late.

It is the attitude which cartwheeled us into the current financial crisis. The rush to get wealthy, the heady thrill of the bubbles still bursting around us was a result of the feverish obssession of late capitalism with the continually new. As Kautsky remarked a few lines before the quote I opened this piece with:
The idea of the old, of the past, ceases to be equivalent to the tested, to the honorable, to the inviolable. It becomes synonymous with the imperfect and the outgrown. (2)
It was, until a few months ago, fashionable to smirk at the old ideas of restraint, caution, thrift and sustainability. Now people - the same people who were smirking hardest a few months ago - have discovered a new rhetoric and are claiming we live in a post-capitalist, post consumerist society, where the good times can no longer roll.

It remains to be seen if this is a genuine change of heart, or merely another example of how ideas, like everything else in the marketplace of late capitalism, rapidly become unfashionable.
1 - The quotation is drawn from Kautsky's 1902 essay, The Social Revoultionhttp://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1902/socrev/index.htm), specifically the chapter '' (http://www.marxists.org/archive/kautsky/1902/socrev/pt1-1.htm#s4). Available through the good graces of marxists.org.
2 - ibid.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Trotter out does his previous out doing

So now we know why Tortter's Fiji Agonistes piece was deleted - Trotter explains it had to go because he "... wrote it badly. Because it was unfair to Lew over at Kiwipolitico. And because, politically speaking, it was crap" (1).

To err is human, Chris, and speaking on behalf of the whole of the leftish bloglands of New Zealand, I forgive you ... almost.

Chris can't contain his ire at the upbraiding he has received, however, and spoils the contrite act by bemoaning the precious "sensibilities of some blogosphere purists" who complained about his deletion of the post.

Rather than complain, Chris, you should be grateful. Lets be honest - if the "blogoshpere purists" had not taken you to task, the post would still be there, in all likelihood, and besmirching you "portfolio." You wouldn't have been alerted to its fundamental stylistic badness, unfairness or political crapness.

(Note that Chris can't quite bring himself to admit that he was also wrong, about Fiji Frank and the Wanganui 'H' and his absurd attempt to draw a parallel between the two - a sort of Reductio ad absurdum in reverse, where Chris exposed his own foolishness, not someone else's.)

Rather than frothing at the moustache, Chris should eat his 'umble pie with better grace, and get on with exposing the lies and hypocrisies of the right, and helping to rebuild theNew Zealand's social democratic left, otherwise I'm sure there will be a second serving soon enough.
1 - All indicated quotations in this post are drawn from the post, "READER ADVISORY," posted by Chris Trotter on Bowalley Road, on the 15th of April, 2009. (http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com/2009/04/reader-advisory.html)

We need to be more equal

According to Johan Hari - and some fusty academics somewhere, who actually did the study he reports on in The Independent:

The need for us to return to this, our best and most basic instinct, is spelled out in a new book by Professor Richard Wilkinson and Dr Kate Pickett called The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better. It is the culmination of 25 years of scientific research. The truths it contains provide us with a compass to rebuild our societies, and a reason to be optimistic. There is a way we can make our societies dramatically better – and the impulse to do it is hard-wired into each of our brains.

For millennia, there was one obvious and necessary way to improve human life: raise material living standards. If you are hungry, you will be made a lot happier by food. If you are thirsty, you will be made a lot happier by water. The human impulse for self-improvement was simple: give us more, and give it to us now. But we now know from reams of studies that once your basic needs are met – once you pass the magic number of $25,000 a year – something changes.

We carry on accumulating and accumulating, because it's what we've grown to think will give us happiness, but it works less and less. And, after a while, this unhindered chasing of more, more, more by the very richest begins to make us miserable – and corrodes some of the other basics we need as humans.

One of our most basic psychological needs is for status – to feel that we are a valued member of our tribe. We evolved in small, very egalitarian tribes of hunter-gatherers, and have only lived outside them for a few minutes in evolutionary terms. So when we feel our status is threatened – or there is no way of becoming respected by the rest of the tribe – we begin to malfunction in all sorts of ways. (1)

To an extent, this is old potatoes, though it is always worth re-iterating.

There are two different sorts of poverty - there is basic, fundamental, 'can't get enough to eat' poverty, which is largely - though not exclusively - a privilege enjoyed by the Third World - and then there is relative poverty, which afflicts the developed world.

Having enough to eat is fine and dandy, but feeling the feeling of inferiority engendered by not being on the same level, materially, as those around you is alienating and depressing to a lot of people. Rather than face up to the 9myth) that success or failure is doewwn to the quality of of the individual, it is easier to turn away from mainstream society and seek alternate status and means to success. Hence crime florishes and gangs or other sub-cultures form hermetically sealed little worlds where people who feel they aren't part of the wider community - and they are right to think that, though for the wrong reasons, it isn't their failure but the pernicious cult of individualism that is to blame - can find the self worth and sense of success that has been denied them.

The imbalance of wealth in society is a strong index for virtually every other negative factor - the ills bemoaned by people who wail even more loudly at the measures needed to heal them:

Yet we have built our societies on exaggerating this status panic, and we have been ratcheting it up over the past 30 years. The more unequal a society is, the more intense it becomes. Even if you slip to the bottom in Sweden, it's not so very different from the top. But when there is a long social ladder, and the bottom rung means humiliation and poverty, everyone at every rung feels a sweatier need to cling to their place – and the society starts to go wrong. This isn't left-wing speculation: it is an empirical fact.

Japan and Sweden are very different societies, but they are consistently at the top of the charts for every indicator of social success. They have low violence, low mental illness, low teenage pregnancy, low drug addiction, low obesity, low prison populations, high life expectancy, and high levels of friendship and trust. They are economically highly equal societies. (2)

Who wouldn't want to live in a society where there is little violence, mental illness, little teenage pregnancy, drug addiction, obesity, low prison population, high life expectancy and where people tend to like and trust each other? The problem is that the means to the end are generally unacceptable to the small but influential group at the top. After all, they don't need any of these things -they already have them. Why should they worry about everyone else?

The stress point is the lumpen-bourgeois, the increasingly worried and pecarious middleclass, who are smart enough to see what is going on and desperate enough to try to avoid facing up to the truth. Hell, they want to join that little clique of oligarchs, fanntasize about being incredibly wealthy, living in some paradisicla community where the only paupers are their obedient servants. In the mean time, they install locks on the windows and pay or an alarm monitoring service. They don't mind doing this, and try not to think how the monthly costs of alarm monitoring, the insurance premiums and what-not are making the dream of secure luxury ever more obviously impossible. Incidentally, if you suggested they paid a similar amount in tax to alleviate the problems that necessitate these defensive measures, they'd scream and kick ACT into a parliamentary majority.

(Incidentally, this is where ACT have been very clever - though totally cynical and amoral - hammering home two simple measures that appeal to this group - "Low Tax!" and 'Tough on Crime!" They have prospered, and will continue to as long as they continue to play on the mental drivers of the middleclass mind - aspiration to attain the luxury of the upper classes, and terror of the lower classes.)

It should be obvious that the tendency of New Zealand - and the developed world as a whole - has been to move away from egalitarianism. Individualism, and the desperate accretion of commodities, is the preferred choice, and will continue to be so until people actually make the connection between the social model and the social ills attendant to it.

The truth, as Hari points out, is very simple. You don't need to construct some worker's paradise, you simply have to create a society which is characterised by equality, not inequality. George Orwell put his finger on it half a century ago, when he outlined his proposals for a post-war, socialist Britain. He suggested a limitation of incomes, where "the highest tax-free income in Britain does not exceed the lowest by more than ten to one" (3).

As Joseph Stiglitz pointed out, Japan is one of the countries which approaches this Orwellian ideal (4).

On point of disagreement with Hari's article. He rounds it off by stating that claims that:
The obvious exception to this rule is Communist societies. They were incredibly miserable: if equality is imposed by crazed tyrants, at the expense of freedom, then it has none of these positive effects. (5)
I suspect that he is engaging in a little bit of Commie-bashing to soothe the more reactionary readers.

There is, of course, no equality in the self proclaimed communist world. The socialism that they espouse would not be recognised as such by Orwell, or even Marx. The PRC is is a grossly unequal as any capitalist nation (6). It is probably only the fact that many are contending with real, risk-of-starvation poverty, that they haven'd dragged their corrupt, hypocritical leaders out into the streets to suffer revolutionary justice.

That, and the fact the leaders have lots of guns to shoot anyone stupid enough to try, and a good track record of doing just that.
1 - 'The one lesson of this crisis is the need for a more equal society,' by Johann Hari, published in The Independent, 15th of April, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-the-one-lesson-of-this-crisis-is-the-need-for-a-more-equal-society-1668814.html)
2 - ibid.
3 - The whole can be read here: http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/lion/english/. The quotation comes from the third chapter of the essay, 'The English Revolution,' (http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/lion/english/e_ter) section two. I find it very od that the top site on google for this essay is Russian.
4 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2007/12/interesting.html
5 - Hari, op. cit.
6 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/04/communism-chinese-style.html

Monday, 13 April 2009

Goffism

Interviewed by Paul 'The Rottweiller' Holme son Q&A, Phil Goff was given a chance to tell us exactly what he - and by extension Labour - are offerring New Zealand. This is what he had to say:
Well, my vision for New Zealand is it starts with a decent society. I grew up on my grandmother’s knee, her husband a war veteran from the first war died in 1934 right in the middle of the Depression, they lost their job, they lost their home, for me Labour was about a decent society that looks after all of its people, that treats people fairly that treats people with dignity and respect. So that’s the core of my political beliefs, and that could well become very relevant again in the next few months as more New Zealanders the Treasury say another 60,000 New Zealanders lose their jobs, people lose their homes and so on.

But it’s about more than that, as Minister of Trade it was about having an economy that was innovative, efficient, competitive in the world. As Foreign Minister it was about being proud of your national identity, not kowtowing to any other country but standing up for the things that you believe in, believing that New Zealand is a country of 4.3 million people can still make a difference, and we did, and finally I think it’s about the environment, a sustainable environment, living up to that brand of clean green 100% pure New Zealand. (1)
Goodness, is that sort of vapid rhetoric the best Labour can come up with? Change the nouns and it could be John Key, which is the problem - they're trying to out-piffle Key, and that's not a very enthralling spectacle, nor is it one likely to bring back the votes. Rather than sentimental clap-trap and cliche about Grandma's knees and decent societies and (Gag! Vomit!) clean green 100% pure New Zealand, can we have a proper, honest party that's going to tell us truth and admit there are tough choices to be made and we can't have it both ways? In two years time, people will be sick of Keyism and want something with substance - Goffism, which on current evidence appears to be Keyism without the slick image or the rampant popularity, won't do. The man needs to start stating the plain bald and often unpleasant facts now, otherwise he'll be stuck on 6% for the remainder of his (brief) stint as Labour leader.

Don't get me wrong - I want Goff to succeed, because if he doesn't it will be another term in opposition for Labour. But if he's going to have a chance, he needs to ditch the nicey-nicey stuff right now, and actually go after it.

[Hat tip: The Standard, though my take is rather different to theirs (2)]
1 - 'Paul Holmes Interviews Phil Goff,' Broadcast as part of Q & A, on the 12th of April, 2009. (http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a-news/april-12-paul-holmes-interviews-phil-goff-2637846/video)
2 - 'Good to hear it, Phil,' posted by Eddie on The Standard, 13th of April, 2009. (http://www.thestandard.org.nz/good-to-hear-it-phil/)

Sunday, 12 April 2009

A 'traditional enemy' and proud of it!

I'm delighted to learn that my little blog has been judged a 'traditional enemy' by no lesser person that David Irving, who obviously found my comments on his mental health unhelpful (1).

The way Irving tells it
Johann Hari's article gets under a lot of skins - traditional enemies hint that Mr Irving invented the famous quote from Hitler's doctor's diary. (2)
The links provided are to a short notification about the Hari profile, by Daniel Finkelstein, and to my response to it, posted here back in January. Finkelstein's piece is just a recommendation to read the Hari's article. Obviously, I must be the scurrilous dropper of hints Irving refers to.

(Actually Mr Irving, you are wrong, s youso ofte are. I don't hint that you invented Dr Giesing's diary entry. I have no evidence to suggest that such a fabrication took place. I'm willing to accept your claim as to its contents until contrary evidence emerges. Frankly, I thin it is too ludicrous for you - even you - to have invented it.)

A 'traditional enemy.' To be thus described, by a Holocaust denier with a shaky grasp on the real world, is praise indeed.
1 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/01/david-irving-absolutely-stark-staring.html
2 - From David Irving's Focal Point website, an index of miscellaneous items, listing such essential things as higgh resolution pictures of Mr Irving going about his business. The references to Finkelstein and lefthandpalm are included in a list detailig "David Irving in person': http://fpp.co.uk/Irving/index.html. Viewed on 12th of April, 2009

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Pompous Chris out does himself

Obviously keen to distract us all from his previous championing of Phil "6%" Goff as a potential saviour for Labour, Chris Trotter treats us to not one but two of his tiresome religious wafflings on Bowalley Road (here and here (1)).

Better still, he then lays into Kiwipolitico, with a passing swipe at No Right Turn, deploring both as morally smug (um ... Chris ... didn't your Nazarene friend say something about he who is without sin ...?). This is amusing stuff, because there's nothing more fun than watching lefties turn on each other, and, lets be honest, there isn't much else for us to do at the moment. Nor for the foreseeable future as almost two thirds of New Zealanders seem to want John Key to lead the country forever more.

The problem is, that Trotter is rather bad at laying into things. First of all, his language is apalling, and I don't mean that there are lots of four letter words. It would be better if there were. He favours words or many syllables, though at least he has restrained his urge to use the horrid 'infelicitous,' which at one time he seemed compelled to include in every paragraph he wrote. Small steps, Chris.

The main problem isn't stylisitc, however. It is intellectual. His entire rant is based on exposing the supposed hypocrisy of, on the one hand, opposing the Bainimarama regime's coup and subsequent supression of free speech and association, freedom of the press and vicious assault on political opponents, real or imagined, and on the other, supporting the reinsertion of a 'h' into Wanganui. Um ... Chris ... slight difference of scale there, to the point of making your whole argument absurd. You're suggesting a comparison between a militaristic regime that overthrew a government which was - no matter how corrupt or ineffectual - democratically elected and which could be disposed of democratically, and a change in spelling. And you don't seem to realise how silly that is.

(Please don't interpret the above as an endorsement of the Qarase regime ousted by Bainimaram. Qarase is a corrupt, homophobic, fundamentalist jerk, but he was, none the less, duly elected. Twice. Obviously, those are the qualities that Fijians look for in their leaders. If so, they'll probably not be too unhappy under the guidance of Bainimarama, who brings a differenent but similarly unappealing set of qualities to the job.)

So, Chris, do some growing up. You have, for all your faults and fondness for pretentious styling, some good qualities. Rather than wasting your time trying to establish yourself as the alpha-male of the leftish bloglands, why not turn your attention to the more important task of rebuilding the shattered social-democratic movement in New Zealand?
1 - 'The choice (an Easter story),' posted by Chris Trotter on Bowalley Road, on the 10th of April, 2009. (http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com/2009/04/choice-easter-story.html) and 'Simon the Cyrenian (an Easter song),' also posted by Chris Trotter on Bowalley Road on the 11th of April, 2009. (http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com/2009/04/simon-cyrenian-easter-song.html)
2 - 'Figi Agonistes,' posted by Chris Trotter on Bowalley Road, on the 11th of April, 2009. (http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com/2009/04/fiji-agonistes.html)

UPDATE (12th of April, 2009)


For whatever reason, Trotter has decided to remove the post from his blog. In the interests of the historical record, I reproduce it here, so avid future readers of lefthandpalm can know what the Hell I was witterring about. The following was posted on Bowalley Road, by Chris Trotter, on the 11th of April, 2009, under the title 'Fiji Agonistes.' The picture of the rugged Fiji Frank, which headed the piece, I omit:
Fiji Agonistes

ONE can only admire the intellectual consistency of "Lew" at Kiwipolitico. His condemnation of Fiji's military rulers' entirely predictable response to the neo-colonialist diktat of the all-white (and Australian to boot!) judges of the Fijian Court of Appeal, is all of a piece with his energetic defence of the equally disconnected judgements of the NZ Geographic Board.

"Lew" is, after all, the same man who sneeringly refers to his fellow countrymen as "settlers" - happily echoing the ideas of the kupapa pakeha responsible for allowing the politically reactionary agenda of Maori nationalism to gain such firm purchase in this country's key institutions.

When the most progressive elements of the Fijian people, having been prevented from modernising their country by democratic means, resort to the force majeure of military intervention to achieve their goals, one might have hoped the likes of "Lew" would offer their solidarity and support.

Especially when the government overthrown by Commodore Frank Bainimarama was itself the product of a coup d'etat staged by para-military forces bought-and-paid-for by external commercial interests, and facilitated by a reactionary gaggle of self-serving hereditary chiefs and right-wing Methodist fundamentalists.

But of course they have not.

Clearly, "Lew" prefers these sort of indigenes to the patriotic officers of the Republic of Fiji's Armed Forces. The great foe of "settler" culture in New Zealand, is apparently a fan of the corrupt kleptocracy that has ruled Fiji since the granting of independence nearly forty years ago. "Lew", like the New Zealand and Australian Governments, sees nothing amiss with bestowing swift diplomatic forgiveness upon the brutal interventions of Rabuka and Speight. The latters' violent restoration of the corrupt status quo ante, which the democratic modernisers, Bavadra and Chaudhry, had so courageously challenged, certainly suited the Anglo-Saxon powers' neo-colonialist ambitions in the South Pacific - and, seemingly, "Lew's" too.

However, "Lew's" moral smugness (a condition he shares with "Idiot Savant" at No Right Turn) prevents him for seeing the glaring inconsistencies in what passes for his political thought processes.

To right a 170-year-old "wrong" in the spelling of Wanganui, "Lew" is willing to completely set aside the fundamental principles of democracy. In Fiji, however, the letter of the democratic law must be upheld - even at the cost of restoring the corrupt, quasi-feudal, and blatantly racist former regime.

As John Key wings his way to Thailand, a nation ruled by a thoroughly undemocratic and constitutionally illegitimate government, whose flagrant flouting of the most basic civil and political rights our Prime Minister is, for the purposes of consolidating our trading links, willing to overlook, "Lew" is only too happy to lend his support to the punitive and self-defeating anti-Fijian policies of Murray McCully.

The desperately poor Fijian population - victims of the diplomatic and economic sanctions already in force - should now, in the lofty opinion of "Lew" and his ilk, be further afflicted by the complete cessation of all diplomatic relations and all international aid. Instead of calling upon our government to lend its support to Commodore Bainimarama's campaign to rid the Fijian polity of its endemic racism and corrupt practices, "Lew" and McCully have siezed upon this latest crisis to give full and unrestrained expression to their neo-colonialist hypocrisy.

It will, of course, only make things worse. Soldiers have never been the most reliable custodians of the democratic flame. Putting them under further pressure is unlikely to improve its chances of remaining alight.

What we've being treated to in "Lew's" latest posting at Kiwipolitico, is a startling, but all-too-typical example of the indefatigable hauteur of the New Zealand intellectual, whose crowning conceit - that knowledge equals wisdom - has for far too long contributed to the moral weakness and political unreliability of New Zealand's intelligentsia in the struggle to preserve what remains of this country's progressive heritage.
Why Chris felt it necessary to delete this, but deemed the earlier Christianish wibbling worthy of retention, is beyond my meagre ability to understand.

UPDATE (15th or maybe - just - 16th of April, 2009)

Some trifling spelling and grammar corrections. It is quite embarrassing to see other bloggers being forced to clarifiy what I meant to say. Post in haste and wince at leisure. Chris, I suspect, knows what I mean.

Phil Who?

A few days old, but I've been away from the keyboard until now. The latest One News/Colmar Brunton poll makes depressing reading for Labour, and especially for Phil Goff:
It is still sky high in the polls with 57%. Labour is well back on 31%, the Greens are on seven percent and the Maori Party and ACT both hovering around two percent.

...

John Key is on the top shelf as preferred Prime Minister with 51% of the vote and surprisingly Helen Clark, even though she has a new job at the UN, is still featured on the poll with nine percent of the people wanting her back as PM.

Just six percent believe Phil Goff, the new Labour Party leader, is the man for the top post.

Crazy numbers, huh? Even most of the 31% of people who would vote Labour don't want Goff as PM. It looks suspiciously like a considerable number of the pollees are terminally confused, and want John Key to lead a Labour government. And, tragically, more people want Helen Clark - the loser who lost, and who's off to the UN to do More Important Things - to be prime minister than the man who actually would be, if national would only mislay a dozen seats or so.

Which makes for wryly amusing reading, if you recall Pompous Chris's attempts to install Goff as Labour leader BEFORE the 2008 election (here and here (2)).

Poor old Phil is an affable, hapless fellow who doesn't deserve this. He probably doesn't deserve to be Labour leader either, but since he put his hand up for the job - and no-one else hasd the balls to do it - he deserves a lot more loyalty than he will probably receive once the full horror of these figures sink in.

So what do Labour have to do? First of all, be patient. Key's riding a big wave at the moment, but there's no reason to believe he'll manage to ride it all the way to victory in 2011. If the recession continues to drag on, he'll start to pick up the blame for it - especially since his only policy for dealing with it seems to be to piss on employee rights (4), reduce wages (5) and build a cycle path whilst trying to avoid actually paying for it (6).

Twiddling their thumbs and waiting for voters to wise up won't get Goff et al very far, of course. Nor will pretending to be Just Like John Key. Because when the wheels come off the Keymobile, the electorate are not going to be casting about for more of the same.

Labour need to look at what the party actually stands for and rediscover its principles. These need to form the basis of a body of policy that will appeal to voters - the majority of whom are generally well disposed to well articulated social-democratic policy and progressive ideas. The main problem of Clark's third term was that it was seen as dithering and reactive. There was no clear program, and certainly no sense that whatever vague policy ideas were linked to principles. The main exceptions - Kiwibank and Kiwisaver - werhave been embraced by New Zealanders, which shows there is an appetite for this sort of stuff. The other good things that were done - buying back the railways, for example - were either ad hoc responses to circumstances the government not only appeared to have no control over, but didn't even seem aware of until it was too late. If a clear, socialist programme had been laid out before the elction, something that Key couldn't simply mimic and smirk and say, "Yes, we'll do that to," then perhaps Labour wouldn't be staring hungry at the seat of power from the opposition benches.

Key is wildly popular just now, but he's in hock to some pretty unlikeable types whom the majority of New Zealanders do not like very much - Rodney Hide and Garth McVicar. Once people start to reject their ideological savagery, they'll want to hear more from Labour than a weak echo of John Key.

Time for courage. Time to lay out some principles, and leave some hostages to fortune. Afterall, things can't get much worse, can they?

1 - 'National, Key popular despite recession,' unattributed One News article, reproduced on TVNZ, 5th of April, 2009. (http://tvnz.co.nz/politics-news/national-key-popular-despite-recession-2619454)
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm:
http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/02/pompous-chris-seeking-sucessional.html and http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/03/trotter-struts-frets.html.
3 - '90-day probation legislation comes into effect,' by unattributed NZPA article, 1st of March, 2009. (http://www.3news.co.nz/90-day-probation-legislation-comes-into-effect/tabid/423/articleID/93354/cat/64/Default.aspx)
4 - '90-day probation legislation comes into effect,' by unattributed NZPA article, 1st of March, 2009. (http://www.3news.co.nz/90-day-probation-legislation-comes-into-effect/tabid/423/articleID/93354/cat/64/Default.aspx)
5 - '9-day work plan tipped to begin this month,
' by Claire Trevelt, published in The New Zealand Herald, 10th of March, (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10560815)
6 - 'PM, deputy disagree on timing of recovery,' by Audrey Young, published in The New Zealand Herald, 6th of April, 2009. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10565395)

A model for Fiji Frank

Now that Commodore Commodore Frank Bainimarama has decided to abolish the constitution and make himself Prime Minister (1) in defiance of the legal decision saying he had no right to do so, he should study Robert Fisk's recent piece on the electoral victory of Abdul Aziz Bouteflika in Algeria, and the splendid examples of political popularity found accross the Middle East. Fisk, in the Independent, explains:

At a supposed vote in his favour of 90.24 per cent, Abdul Aziz Bouteflika, the 72-year-old Algerian leader, anointed himself President for an unprecedented – and quite possibly unconstitutional – third term yesterday, provoking riots in the Berber region of Kabilye east of Algiers and the scepticism of all but the entire Arab world. The Algerian parliament had been rail-roaded into giving Bouteflika the chance of a third term so that the old boy could sail on the waves of his allegedly democratic mandate into 2012 when – who knows – he may engineer a fourth term. For a President whose French hospitalisation not long ago raised fears for his longevity, success may provide him with the elixir of life.

He certainly follows in the spirit of the Arab electioneering process. In 1993, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt "won" 96.3 per cent of the vote for his third six-year term in office – his fourth victory, in 1999, brought him only 93.79 per cent, bringing him closer to Bouteflika's humble 90.24 per cent. It should be remembered, however, that the Algerian President only claimed a modest 73.8 per cent victory in 1999 – no wonder his Interior Minister was so pleased at yesterday's increased vote.

Of course, few could match Anwar Sadat's extraordinary 99.95 per cent victory in a 1974 Egyptian referendum. Yet Saddam Hussein claimed a 99.96 per cent vote for his Iraqi presidency in 1993 (we still do not know who the treacherous 0.04 per cent were) but scored a crushing 100 per cent in 2002 elections – which surely puts Bouteflika to shame.

In 2005, Mahmoud Abbas scored 62.3 per cent as Palestinian President – which is almost believable – though few can beat Hafez al-Assad's 99.98 per cent for a new seven-year term in the Syrian presidential office in 1999. A mere 219 citizens were foolish enough to vote against him (or cast blank votes). (2)

After all, if you are going to rule without paying heed to law, you might as well do it properly. Simply declaring yourself Supreme Hool isn't enough. We need to know that The People support you, and anything less than a 95% vote of confidence is not convincing.
1 - 'Bainimarama re-appointment 'a sham',' unattributed NZPA article, reproduced on stuff.co.nz, 11th of April, 2009. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/2329765/Bainimarama-re-appointment-a-sham)
2 - 'Another win that's too good to be true,' by Robert Fisk, published in The Independent, 11th of APril, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-another-win-thats-too-good-to-be-true-1667298.html)

Mathius Rath - supremely evil

The 'missing chapter' from Ben Goldacre's book, Bad Science, is now available online (1). Goldacre was not able to include it when the book was published last year, as the main subject of the chapter, German pill peddler Mathius Rath, was busy suing him to prevent his fraudulent and murderous lies about HIV and AIDS being exposed.

Rath isn't alone, of course. He wouldn't have been able to kill anywhere near the number of people he did without the willing help of people willing to make his crackpot theories practice.

He found a ready audience in the denierist fools that control South Africa, where his berserk advocacy of multi-vitamin pills as an alternative to anti-retroviral drugs and condoms suited the lunatic delusions of the Mbeki administration and the crazy beliefs of the heath minister, Manto Tshabalala Msimang, ho though fruit a sound means of avoiding HIV infection:
The remedies she advocates for AIDS are beetroot, garlic, lemons and African potatoes. A fairly typical quote, from the Health Minister in a country where eight hundred people die every day from AIDS, is this: ‘Raw garlic and a skin of the lemon – not only do they give you a beautiful face and skin but they also protect you from disease.’ South Africa’s stand at the 2006 World AIDS Conference in Toronto was described by delegates as the ‘salad stall’. It consisted of some garlic, some beetroot, the African potato, and assorted other vegetables. (2)
These people are responsibel for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, including neo-natal infants who were infected fromt heir mothers, even though a simple course of antiretroviral drugs is proven to cut mother to child transmission rates by half.

This was evil on a scale that requires comparison to the Nazis, the Khamer Rouge or the murderous thugs of Rwanda. Ray, Mbeki, Tshabalala Msimang, deliberately ignored obvious truth for their own inscrutable purposes.

(Ray at least can be exonerated on the charge of inscrutability - he just wanted to make money - who cares if people died. They were only Africans. African children.)

What makes this in some ways worse than ther Pfizer trials described previously is the wilful denial of fact (3). Pfizer, at least, could argue that they were trying to do some good - thought it would have been a false and hypocritical argument, based on a racist view of Africans as less important than Europeans or Americans - whereas Rath and his fellow conspirators could only operate by consciously refusing to acknowledge truth, by lying, exaggerating and misleading.

And this isn't about over-privilkeged westerners getting conned by dippy practioneers of pseudoscience, but the deliberate and ruthless exploitation of the poorest, most helpless and vulnerable people on the planet - those facing a lingering death from a pitiless disease, without the means to check the claims made about the trweatments being offerred to them.

This is what HIV and AIDS has wrought in Africa:
Twenty-five million people have died from it already, three million in the last year alone, and 500,000 of those deaths were children. In South Africa it kills 300,000 people every year: that’s eight hundred people every day, or one every two minutes. This one country has 6.3 million people who are HIV positive, including 30 per cent of all pregnant women. There are 1.2 million AIDS orphans under the age of seventeen. (4)
Rath, Mbeki, Tshabalala Msimang, Anthony Brink, Peter Duesberg and David Rasnick are contributed to these deaths through the lies they told, the myths they did not challenge and the wilful ignorance they pepetuated. I hope these bastards all burn in Hell.
1 - The link leads to a webpage from which you can download 'The Doctor Will Sue You Now,' by Ben Goldacre. It is avaialble in PDF and Word formats. Active asof 11th of April, 2009. (http://www.badscience.net/2009/04/matthias-rath-steal-this-chapter/)
2 - ibid.
3 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/04/pfizer-supremely-evil.html
4 - Goldacre, op. cit.

Friday, 10 April 2009

The killing of Ian Tomlinson - truth will out

I couldn't actually believe this, when I saw this (1):



The Guardian is to be commended for its willingness to pursue this story, instead of buying into the police lies, put out to cover up the brutal, unprovoked assault on an innocent, law abiding man, which lead to his death.

A second video is available, showing the events after the assault - when, supposedly, the poloce were being menaced by a seething mass of protestors, and under bombardment as they tried to help Mr Tomlinson. The video can be viewed here (2).

Amongst other important points revealed in footage filmed around the crucial seconds following the assault on Mr Tomlinson:
  • The police shoved and pushed peaceable protestors in the area, some of whom were trying to help Mr Tomlinson, or calling for help. While it might be argued they were ttrrying to create space around him, it looks more like they were over-reacting in a situation where there was no control or co-ordination, just a bunch of armed and angry thugs with their blood up. Who happened to be in police uniforms.
  • The 'barrage' of missiles the police acocunts described was a single object, which can be seen at 19 seconds into the clip, which does not go anywhere near the officers. Protesters audibly shouting for people to back up and not to throw things. At 32 seconds, a protestor can be seen using his mobile phone - this is not a crowd seeking confrontation.
  • Three of the four officers had pulled their face masks up, concealing their identity.
The police have a duty to act as our protectors. As such, they are granted special privileges. Tis does not make them unaccountable, however, nor does it give them the right to carry out vicious, unprovoked assaults with impunity. The officers in question are a disgrace to the British police force, and must be prosecuted.
1 - 'New G20 footage shows Ian Tomlinson being hit by a policeman,' video clip hosted on You Tube, originally from a Guardian article by Paul Lewis, 'G20 protests video shows aftermath of police assault on Ian Tomlinson,' published on the 8th of April, 2009. The video is available through the Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/video/2009/apr/09/g20-police-assault-ian-tomlinson) and You Tube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNwOWb50APU)
2 - 'New G20 video compounds doubts over police account of Ian Tomlinson's death,' by Paul Lewis and Peter Walker, published in The Guardian., 9th of April, 2009. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/apr/09/g20-video-ian-tomlinson-death)

Pfizer - supremely evil

Drugs company Pfizer has just reached an out-of-court settlement, rumoured to be worth US$75 million, following the deaths of several Nigerian children used as human guineau pigs in an illegal drugs trial. Pfizer took advantage of people's fear and ignorance, during a meningitis epidemic, to persuade them to take part in their evil scheme.

From The Independent:
A team of Pfizer doctors reached the Nigerian camp just as the outbreak, which killed at least 11,000 people, was peaking. They set themselves up within metres of a medical station run by the aid group Médecins Sans Frontières, which was dispensing proven treatments to ease the epidemic.

From the crowd that had gathered at the Kano Infectious Diseases Hospital, 200 sick children were picked. Half were given doses of the experimental Pfizer drug called Trovan and the others were treated with a proven antibiotic from a rival company.

Eleven of the children died and many more, it is alleged, later suffered serious side-effects ranging from organ failure to brain damage. But with meningitis, cholera and measles still raging and crowds still queueing at the fence of the camp, the Pfizer team packed up after two weeks and left.

That would probably have been an end to the story if it weren't for Pfizer employee, Juan Walterspiel. About 18 months after the medical trial he wrote a letter to the then chief executive of the company, William Steere, saying that the trial had "violated ethical rules". Mr Walterspiel was fired a day later for reasons "unrelated" to the letter, insists Pfizer.

The company claims only five children died after taking Trovan and six died after receiving injections of the certified drug Rocephin. The pharmaceutical giant says it was the meningitis that harmed the children and not their drug trial. But did the parents know that they were offering their children up for an experimental medical trial?

"No," Nigerian parent Malam Musa Zango said. He claims his son Sumaila, who was then 12 years old, was left deaf and mute after taking part in the trial. But Pfizer has denied this and says consent had been given by the Nigerian state and the families of those treated. It produced a letter of permission from a Kano ethics committee. The letter turned out to have been backdated and the committee set up a year after the original medical trial. (1)
What utter scum, using Nigerian children to test their poson on. While it is good that they were sued, US$75 million is nothing to a company the size of Pfizer and hardly likely to deter them from similarly vicious 'testing.'

The Nazis did the same sort of thing on Jews. I don't think the comparison is hysterical or inappropriate. Pfizer treated African children in a way they would never, ever have dared to treat American children - they decided that the Africans weren't as human or as important. Which is how the Nazis viewed Jews.

The usual justification for this sort of racist exploitation is that it is 'for their own good.' It benefits the people of Nigeria to have dubious pharmaceuticals offerred to them, just as it benefits the people of China to be inveigled into making footballs and DVD players for western consumers.

Of course, the real beneficiaries are, in all cases, us lucky bastards in the west, who get danger free drugs (who cares about a few dead Nigerian brats?) and cheap commodities (who cares about the rampant abuse of the workers who made them?), but the appearance of decency has been maintained and we get to feel benevolent, or - even better - don't have to think about it at all.

This logic has a fine pedigree. It was deployed in the 1800s to justify the slave trade. Robert E. Lee - often identified as an opponent of slavery (for all that he lead the Confederate armies) claimed that while it was "a moral and political evil," he went on to proclaim that "it is a greater evil to the white than to the colored race ... The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, physically, and socially. The painful discipline they are undergoing is necessary for their further instruction as a race, and will prepare them, I hope, for better things" (2).

Now, as then. Don't you understand we're doing all this for their own good? We plunder their country and poison their children for their own good? Really, we do. We're the victims here.
1 - ' Pfizer to pay £50m after deaths of Nigerian children in drug trial experiment,' by Daniel Howden, published in The Independent, 6th of April 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/pfizer-to-pay-16350m-after-deaths-of-nigerian-children-in-drug-trial-experiment-1663402.html)
2 - From a letter written by Robert E. Lee, dated December 27, 1856 (http://www.civilwarhome.com/leepierce.htm)