November 05, 2006

Catching up with Terry Jones

I hadn't checked Terry Jones' opinion articles in some time. Catching up all at once has been a pleasure I'd like to share with you. Here are links to these articles in the Guardian, along with a small quote to tease you there.

A man-made tsunami

So, are deaths caused by bombs and gunfire less worthy of our pity than deaths caused by a giant wave? Or are Iraqi lives less worth counting than Indonesian, Thai, Indian and Swedish?

Vote Draino

I put it to him that his policy had been a disaster. "You said you were bombing Iraq to make Britain safer," I said, "and yet the only terrorist threat to the UK now comes from those in the Islamic world who object to you bombing Iraq."

God: I've lost faith in Blair

"If Tony Blair thinks his friendship with George W Bush is worth rubbing out a couple of hundred thousand Iraqi men, women and children, then that's something he can talk over with me later," said God. "But when he starts publicly claiming that's the way I do the arithmetic too, it's time I put my foot down!" It is well known that God has a very big foot.

A splendid achievement

Of course, your unstinting efforts to make torture an internationally accepted aspect of human life have surpassed everything we could have ever hoped for. I don't think there is a single member of the league who could have imagined, six short years ago, that our activities in tormenting our fellow creatures would once again be recognised as acceptable, civilised behaviour, as it once was in the middle ages.

Julius Caesar had Gaul; Bush just has gall

It seems that, as commander-in-chief, George W Bush instructed his soldiers not to count the enemy dead. So the fact that he still sticks to an estimate of only 30,000 dead Iraqis, even when a recently published study in the Lancet suggests he's slaughtered at least 655,000, can only be the result of his extraordinary modesty.

Even the comments are good. Here's an example from "A splendid achievement"

As an American, I officially invite all you Brits to cheer us on at our third attempt at democracy in this century!

I'm proud to announce that more than half of our electorate may show up to the polls this year. This is an awesome achievement. Despite all our political infighting, many of us will show up to make another valiant attempt at choosing which of two people we want to represent us. Through our get-out-the-vote efforts, our upper-middle class, conservative turnout may reach a whopping 65%! In 2004, Afghanistan managed to get 69% of its total population to vote, but who can blame them? They're a fledgling, war-torn democracy.

True to our steadfast pioneer roots, even though there's no guarantee our votes will be counted, we will still be there. Despite the fact that experts have expressed doubts about the accuracy of our digital voting machines, we will use them to try to show you who we want to govern ourselves. But if you want proof, you'll have to go elsewhere, because, unlike grocery store cash registers, we're so confident in these machines that we don't need receipts!

Dark humor for dark times....

Now pull yourself together and go vote on Tuesday.

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December 11, 2005

Harold Pinter's acceptance speech

Probably the most impressive piece of writing I've looked at this whole week has been Harold Pinter's acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature this year. If you haven't seen it, read it here.

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October 13, 2005

Evil is a chain, not a single person

I'd like to bring your attention to the sparkling gems that are Bill Maher's New Rules.

New Rule: If you're going to insist on making movies based on crappy, old television shows, then you have to give everyone in the Cineplex a remote so we can see what's playing on the other screens. Let's remember the reason something was a television show in the first place is the idea wasn't good enough to be a movie.
There's no doubt that Bill is observant and very funny. But he's at his intelligent best when there's something important to talk about.
Is George Bush purely evil? Of course not. And that's what's so evil about him. He doesn't twirl a mustache and smirk and cackle. Well, he doesn't twirl a mustache. He's like the Peanuts character Pigpen. Wherever he goes, he stirs up such a humongous mess it can only be cleaned up by Halliburton. But he is not pure evil.

Because evil is a chain. Did any one person doom New Orleans? No, it's a chain. People vote for a corrupt leader; a corrupt leader puts unqualified cronies in high places, and when those cronies fuck up, evil gets done. The devil didn't fly up from hell and knock a hole in that levee. The levee just didn't get built because the money for it went to rich people's tax cuts and pork projects and corporate welfare.

Well said. It's so true and so well put, I read it twice because it was so good the first time.

Want more? Check out his latest entry where he comments on Harriet Meir's nomination to the Supreme Court.

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July 04, 2005

Fourth of July

If I had any doubt we're actively creating the next wave of terrorists and fueling their hatred of America, I choked when I read this New York Times Article.

Here's an excerpt:

The journalist Seymour Hersh wrote last month in the British newspaper The Guardian that a memo addressed to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld shortly after the 2001 invasion reported "800-900 Pakistani boys 13-15 years of age in custody." Juvenile detainees in American facilities like Abu Ghraib and Bagram Air Base have been subject to the same mistreatment as adults. The International Red Cross, Amnesty International and the Pentagon itself have gathered substantial testimony of torture of children, bolstered by accounts from soldiers who witnessed or participated in the abuse.

According to Amnesty International, 13-year-old Mohammed Ismail Agha was arrested in Afghanistan in late 2002 and detained without charge or trial for over a year, first at Bagram and then at Guantánamo Bay. He was held in solitary confinement and subjected to sleep deprivation. "Whenever I started to fall asleep, they would kick at my door and yell at me to wake up," he told an Amnesty researcher. "They made me stand partway, with my knees bent, for one or two hours."

A Canadian, Omar Khadr, was 15 in 2002 when he was captured in Afghanistan and interned at Guantánamo. For 2½ years, he was allowed no contact with a lawyer or with his family. Seventeen-year-old Akhtar Mohammed told Amnesty that he was kept in solitary confinement in a shipping container for eight days in Afghanistan in January 2002.

A Pentagon investigation last year by Maj. Gen. George Fay reported that in January 2004, a leashed but unmuzzled military guard dog was allowed into a cell holding two children. The intention was for the dog to " 'go nuts on the kids,' barking and scaring them." The children were screaming and the smaller one tried to hide behind the larger, the report said, as a soldier allowed the dog to get within about one foot of them. A girl named Juda Hafez Ahmad told Amnesty International that when she was held in Abu Ghraib she "saw one of the guards allow his dog to bite a 14-year-old boy on the leg."

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, formerly in charge of Abu Ghraib, told Maj. General Fay about visiting a weeping 11-year-old detainee in the prison's notorious Cellblock 1B, which housed prisoners designated high risk. "He told me he was almost 12," General Karpinski recalled, and that "he really wanted to see his mother, could he please call his mother."

Children like this 11 year old held at Abu Ghraib have been denied the right to see their parents, a lawyer, or anyone else. They were not told why they were detained, let alone for how long. A Pentagon spokesman told Mr. Hersh that juveniles received some special care, but added, "Age is not a determining factor in detention." The United States has found, the spokesman said, that "age does not necessarily diminish threat potential."

It's true that some of these children may have picked up a stone or a gun. But coalition intelligence officers told the Red Cross that 70 percent to 90 percent of detainees in Iraq are eventually found innocent and released. Many innocent children are swept up with their parents in chaotic nighttime dragnets based on tips from unreliable informants. "We know of children under 15," Clarisa Bencomo of Human Rights Watch told me, " held for over a year at Guantánamo Bay, whom the government later said were not security risks."

I've always thought Democracy means we all share some responsibility for the actions of our country and our elected president - more so than in any monarchy, theocracy, or communist state. Whether you align yourself with the Republican or Democrat party is irrelevant. This kind of tragedy is something I expect to hear about some corrupt tyranny in another hemisphere. After reading this, I'm ashamed and embarrassed for my country and unfortunately this hasn't been the first time I've been so embarrassed recently.

I expect Americans will continue to make excuses about this: ("the military has some loose cannons acting on their own", "these are justifiable casualties in the war on terrorism", "the media spins everything and this is surely exaggerated"), but I'd much prefer that we stop being moral hypocrites, face the fact that we have responsibilities as citizens of this democracy, and act.

Happy Fourth of July. I'm going to celebrate Independence Day by writing my Senator, Representative, Governor, and President and encourage you to do the same. It's probably the best way I can think of to celebrate: by exercising the rights citizens of other countries don't have. I encourage you to be politically active and change things for the better, however you define it.

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