daily archive: 12/29/2004
Free to Outrage
On the 18th of this month, 1,000 enraged Sikhs stormed the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, throwing eggs, smashing windows, injuring three police officers, attempting to climb onto the stage, and successfully halting the production after it had played for 20 minutes. "Behzti," Punjabi for "dishonor," had aroused the mob's ire because the playwright, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, had placed its rape scene in a Sikh temple. Ms. Bhatti, herself a British-born Sikh, had resisted local pressure to move the incendiary action to a religiously neutral setting like a community center.
The upshot: Score one for yahooism, zero for law. Reluctantly, the Birmingham Rep canceled the run, for neither the theater nor the police could guarantee the safety of audience and staff. Determined to defend free speech, a second Birmingham company volunteered to stage the play instead, only to withdraw the offer at the request of the playwright, now in hiding after receiving several death threats.
Even more distressing than the triumph of shattered plate glass is the rhetoric to which this conflict has given rise--and not only from conservative Sikhs, but from leaders of the Catholic Church. The views of Harmander Singh, spokesman for a Sikh advocacy group, were echoed by numerous British television news guests for days: "We are not against freedom of speech, but there's no right to offend."
Oh, but indeed there is.
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And life goes on...
A trickle of determined tourists have jetted into the devastated Thai resort island of Phuket, arriving in almost-empty planes to the bewilderment of hundreds of survivors fleeing the tsunami disaster area.
"Our friends think we're mad," said Englishman Paul Cunliffe, an engineer from Manchester, as he sipped what looked like a gin and tonic on a short, lonely flight from the Malaysian capital on Wednesday.
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Vatican Opens Mouth, Inserts Foot
The Vatican newspaper has denounced what it called a decision by the IDF to deny emergency help to disaster victims in Sri Lanka. Vatican raps Israel for 'denying disaster'
Calling for "a radical and dramatic change of perspective" among people "too often preoccupied with making war," L'Osservatore Romano singled out Israeli military leaders for declining a request for emergency medical help.
Contrary to the Vatican report, an Israeli plane carrying 80 tons of food and medical supplies worth $100,000 was set to depart for Sri Lanka Wednesday morning. At the request of the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry, a team of some 150 Israeli medical and security personnel aborted their planned trip to the island nation Tuesday night.
The Vatican paper observed that in what "should be a time for unconditional solidarity," some world leaders seem incapable of escaping a "small-minded approach that restricts their horizons."
Via Elms in the Yard
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Ramsey Clark Joins Saddam's Legal Team
Lyndon Baines Johnson's whackjob attorney general is up to some more of his disgustingly antiamerican tricks...
AMMAN - Former US attorney general and left-wing activist Ramsey Clark is to join the defence team of Saddam Hussein, a spokesman for the toppled Iraqi president's lawyers said on Wednesday.
Clark, who held the office of attorney general under US president Lyndon B. Johnson, "is one of the members of the defence team of president Saddam Hussein," Ziad Khassawneh said. "This honours and inspires us."
He has a profound knack for giving aid and comfort to the enemy, doesn't he? Helluva guy.
The former top US justice official, who arrived Tuesday in Jordan where the defence team is based, has become known as a left-wing lawyer and firm critic of US foreign policy since leaving office.
He visited Saddam Hussein in Baghdad in February 2003 just before the US-lead invasion and has also been involved with the defence of former Yugoslav leader Solbodan Milosevic, on trial for war crimes at a UN court in the Hague.
Clark told reporters in the Jordanian capital that his principle concern was protecting the rights of Saddam, who only saw a lawyer for the first time this month, a year after his capture.
"In international law, anyone accused of crime has the right to be tried by a confident, independent and impartial court, and there can be no fair trail without those qualities," said Clark.
"The special court in Iraq was created by the Iraqi governing council, which is nothing more than a creation of the US military occupation and has no authority in law as a criminal court," he said.
The Iraq Special Tribunal was established by the US-led coalition last December to try members of the former regime of Saddam.
Clark also said the United States itself must be tried for the November assault on Fallujah, destruction of houses, torture in prisons and its role in the deaths of thousands of Iraqis in the war.
I put Ramsey Clark on trial and found him guilty of premeditated first degree really sucking.
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The Aid Chart
Along with photographs of the sea waves hitting Thailand, Corey Koberg
has a chart showing how much aid has been given so far.
Europeans are by far the largest group of tourists to frequent the areas affected, but sadly their "stinginess" and hesitation to aid the areas they've enjoyed for years is apparent.
C'mon Europe, do the right thing and donate!
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Private US Citizens' Aid Is 10 Times The UN's Entire Budget
Jonah Goldberg makes some really great points at townhall.com:
Let's review the obvious: The United Nations is an odious institution. Whenever I make this commonsense observation, I am invariably rebutted with questions like, "What about the starving people it feeds?" or "What about the peacekeeping?"
OK, what about them?
The United States supplies more than one-fifth of the United Nations' total budget (and 57 percent, 33 percent and 27 percent of the budgets for the World Food Program, the Refugee Agency, and Department of Peacekeeping Operations, respectively). We've been the United Nations' biggest donor every year since 1945. Taxpayers reluctantly agree to such largess because we're told of the good works the United Nations does. And yet, whenever there's a catastrophe, Uncle Sam is asked to dig deep into his pocket for more money.
This is the global equivalent of when the Interior Department closes down the Washington Monument whenever it faces budget cuts of a few percentage points. Nobody wants the Monument to be closed down, so the bureaucrats make it the department's most vulnerable expenditure.
Nobody objects when the United Nations helps victims of natural disasters, so U.N. defenders always use disaster relief and peacekeeping as their chief tool for fundraising. The problem is that the United Nations is not an impartial philanthropic organization. It is a political institution where a broad coalition of nations hope to curtail the power and influence of the United States. France uses the organization to leverage its relatively meager power by rallying African and Arab nations against us. Kofi Annan uses his megaphone to decry the moral and legal legitimacy of American foreign policy. Its Human Rights Committee is festooned with torture states, but it seems capable of issuing only condemnations inconvenient to the United States. And we foot the bill.
This is the Catch-22 of the United Nations. Politically, it's often reprehensible and inimical to American interests. But we're never asked to pay for that stuff. This comes out of the general budget. It's only when human beings are suffering in vast numbers that we're shamed for being "stingy" - because the United Nations understands how to exploit America's decency. If only we could be shaken down for more money to pay the light bill in the General Assembly when they play whack-a-mole with the United States.
The larger picture Mr. Egeland fails to appreciate is that America's wealth and prosperity - partly sustained by low taxes - is a greater bulwark against human suffering than the United Nations ever has been or likely will be. America guarantees global stability by keeping the sea lanes open, by preventing North Korea from invading South Korea and China from seizing Taiwan. We did it by preventing Saddam from keeping Kuwait. We ignored the United Nations and intervened to stop genocide in Yugoslavia, and we have 150,000 troops in Iraq working to create a democracy - while the United Nations is still too scared of terrorists, and too anti-American, to help.
American citizens, partly thanks to those stingy low taxes, send some $34 billion in private aid around the world every year. That's 10 times the United Nations total budget. America's Christian ministries, private foundations and agencies all do far more in direct charity and aid than the United Nations. But bureaucrats - some who've grown fat on oil-for-food money - measure stinginess in terms of support to the bureaucracy, not to the constituency the bureaucracy was intended to help.
Maybe the UN should be honest and admit that it's nothing but a trade association for executive branches
, and move all the philanthropic and humanitarian work out to a separate organization.
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Bloggers Tortured in Iran
are asking bloggers to spread the word. Gladly, it's the least we can do. Fellow bloggers are being tortured for something we take for granted: freedom of speech.
1- Physical torture, punches and kicks: "he banged my head to the bench that made my recently-operated nose bleed, and later I found out that they broke my nose"; "they punched us"; "we were alone in single cells for months"; and things of this kind...Persian Students in the UK: â€śImprisoned Bloggers were torturedâ€? says ex-VP
2- The classical questions about sexual relationships [to create moral scandals]: "Write down the names of your boy/girl friends"; "tell us about your illegal [= out of marriage] sexual relationships"; "what kind of relationship have that girl/guy had with you?"; "how many times have you been raped, or have you raped?"; and worst of all, they gave the names of 6 reformist activist to one of the girls asking her to confess in writing that she had had illegal sexual relationship with them. And when the girl refused, they brought in a former prisoner (who had turned to their side under torture) who told the girl face to face that he had had sexual relationship with her!
3- The interrogations were managed by a formerly arrested blogger. A few other bloggers who had [given up and] repented before were under less pressure, and were in a way helping the interrogators who had lack of technical knowledge on the subject [of internet and blogs]. This proves that weak people cannot be trusted in politics. However, we understand the situation they're in and can't really blame them for what they've done.
4- Objection to the bloggers right to hire lawyers, ignoring their legal rights.
5- The interrogators lacked technical knowledge [on the subject].
6- The interrogators tried to force bloggers to confess in writing based on the templates given to them in prison, which were along the same line as the Spider's Web conspiracy article published in Kayhan newspaper. The bloggers were told that they would be freed once their confessions were printed in daily newspapers. Some of the bloggers had accepted the terms, but those whom we met today had not given up.
7- The bloggers were individually asked to write lies about the sexual and sometimes political corruptness of a number of different politicians. All of them were asked to write about Mostafa Tajzadeh and myself [Abtahi] amongst others.
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A Tsunami's Effect
Thanks to Throbert McGee
for making this fascinating composite of the same stretch of Sri Lankan coastline before and during the tsunami that was the deadly aftereffect of the monstrous earthquake that struck south of Sumatra, and to lawhawk
for inspiring him to make it.
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Long Distance from Iraq
To a soldier in Iraq, staying in touch with family is priceless...and very expensive. Some smart kids in Boston realized they could help by sending prepaid calling cards to the soldiers.
It all started in April, when the family heard about a Massachusetts soldier who ran up $7,600 in cell phone charges calling home from Iraq.
Cellular provider T-Mobile forgave much of the bill. But Brittany and Robbie figured there must be other soldiers - including their cousin, Donnie Williamson - who are stationed in Iraq and want to call home more often but can't afford it.
With $14 from their piggy banks, she and her 12-year-old brother Robbie started Cell Phones For Soldiers. In less than eight months, the organization has provided $250,000 worth of prepaid calling cards for American soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait.
They raise money by collecting old cellular phones and selling them to companies that refurbish them for resale on the Internet, then use it buy the calling cards.
Not only are these kids helping soldiers, they are helping the environment by recycling. Maybe we should ask them work on world peace as well. Kids on a mission to help soldiers phone home
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Last night Nyeema and I were taken out to dinner by our school's Principal and a couple of Seocho City school board officials. The restaurant was called (in English, at least) "Korean Family Restaurant." But don't let the name fool you; this restaurant was hardly the Korean equivalent of a Denny's. In fact, I think I had the my best meal here yet. We were served dish after dish, perhaps 14 in all. There were shrimp dishes, beef dishes, soups, salad, assorted vegetables, and foods that tasted great even though I have no idea what they were. My rule here is, if other people put something in their mouth and eat it, I do too.
Alcohol was also flowing. There was beer, soju and a red wine. After making a toast over glasses of Cass Beer, we were poured soju. One of the school board officials brought me his cup and filled a huge shot. I gulped it down and then brought his glass over to him and poured (with two hands) a reciprocal. The table applauded my good Korean manners, but of course I learned about that tradition from a previous meal with the male faculty of Banpo Elementary School.
Later the red wine was brought out. The bottle was wrapped in a nice cloth and I was told this was a special wine chosen for us by the restaurant itself. I sipped the wine and noticed its sweetness. I thought it may have been plum wine, but was told it was not. I sipped it again and mentioned that the wine tasted just like Jewish wine, the type we drink on Passover. The Koreans thought that was very well and good. Then I remembered that a few days ago I had spotted Manischevits wine bottles at a grocery store. It struck me as odd that Manischevits wine would have any fans outside of the Jewish community. Come to think about it, I am surprised it has any fans within the Jewish community! Anyway, grabbed a bottle of this sweet mystery wine and removed the obscuring cloth as I said, "This tastes so much like Kosher for Passover wine!" I was sort of shocked when I noticed that the paper around the neck of the bottle red, "Mogen David Kosher For Pesach Wine. America's Finest." Well, no wonder it tasted so familiar. In any event, I think it's hilarious that overly sweet Kosher red wines are apparently popular among some Koreans.
And speaking of beverages, another peculiar thing here is the small sized packages that many beverages come in. I bought a snapple the other day that I finished in a couple of gulps. I've noticed that during meals Koreans often drink very small amounts of liquids, sometimes none at all. Then again, my perception could be a bit skewed coming as I am from the land of the Super Sized.
Well, I have to go now because it's time to teach my last class of the week!
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