Thursday, September 30, 2004

Further to the loss of The Sciolist...

benzene 4

Now you got to scroll down somewhat, and there are now breaks at topic headings that I can tap, but this is a very interesting perspective - one journalist to another.

Makes me fully appreciate just what has been lost with the close down of Doug's outlet.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Grandpa John gets me going again...

Once again, grandpajohn has kicked off one of those debates that I just LOVE…

found this on my regular stroll

It started fairly innocuously enough with Lance picking up on an ex-Saddam nuclear engineer making authoritative pronouncements about Iraq’s ability to produce WMD, and nuclear weapons in particular.
Found this on my regular stroll through the internet today. It's an op-ed by one of Saddam's former nuclear engineers, who states unequivocably that Saddam would have had nukes soon if not for the first Gulf War, and could have reinstated the program at any time.Here's a key passage:

"Was Iraq a potential threat to the United States and the world? Threat is always a matter of perception, but our nuclear program could have been reinstituted at the snap of Saddam Hussein's fingers. The sanctions and the lucrative oil-for-food program had served as powerful deterrents, but world events - like Iran's current efforts to step up its nuclear ambitions - might well have changed the situation. Iraqi scientists had the knowledge and the designs needed to jumpstart the program if necessary. And there is no question that we could have done so very quickly. In the late 1980's, we put together the most efficient covert nuclear program the world has ever seen. In about three years, we gained the ability to enrich uranium and nearly become a nuclear threat; we built an effective centrifuge from scratch, even though we started with no knowledge of centrifuge technology. Had Saddam Hussein ordered it and the world looked the other way, we might have shaved months if not years off our previous efforts."

What do those who continue to make the "there were no WMD" argument say about this?

Now I have no issue with this provided that we remember two things…

The first is that this guy is now living in the USA. He is there, for what reason I don’t know for sure but I can guess that one is to keep him out of circulation as far as possible.

The second that we should remember is that the guy is trying to sell his book.

But then Lance continues with this…
I'm also going to link to this previous post of mine on a very similar subject. Probligo will like it. I call the UN incompetent.

So that I am not accused of selective editing, here are all of the comments that appear to date…

At 6:04 PM, The probligo said…
No more incompetent than all of the kings men who still have not been able to produce verifiable evidence of Hussein's WMD programmes, despite the very effective demolition job that has been done on Iraq. In fact, even the neo-cons like Cheney have "sort of" admitted that perhaps the call was wrong. They can't say it outright of course because that would go against the concept of "open government" and they might have to shoot all the poeple who heard them...but I jest.The fact remains that documents like the one you quote have been floating in and out of the 'Net ever since 3/02 or thereabouts. In most instances the authors have been identified as individuals with personal axes to grind, or the content has been shown to be totally false.I just can not help recalling "the reliable and impeachable sources" that the CIA and the US administration were using to justify the war in Iraq.

At 9:31 AM, Lance Burri said…
True, we have to take what this guy says with a grain of salt. But click over to the UNSCOM website - the link is provided in the post above. Read what they had to say. They have verified that Saddam had WMD.

Both of those comments were posted prior to Tony Blair’s keynote speech to the British Labour Party.
What follows is after that speech had hit the news…

At 3:16 PM, The probligo said…
Put this alongside of PM Blair's keynote speech to the Labour Party Conference last night.Essentially what he said..."I can apologise for the fact that most of the information what we used to justify attacking Iraq was wrong.I will never apologise for removing Saddam."

Straight man, plain speaking.

Others should learn.

Iraqi "nuclear engineers"? Look at your link again...the man is trying to sell his book.
At 3:32 PM, The probligo said…
And just a quiet hint about presentation for you as well...If you are going to take a source such as SIPRI, or the UN, take a look at the report dates and then put those reports into the context of the date they were originally published.

So, I note that the SIPRI report is dated 1998.

The UNSCOM report that it quotes is dated 1992.

When was the Iraq2 war? 2002? Ten years after the UNSCOM report.

By 1992, UNSCOM were reporting that they had supervised the destruction of...weapons and the means of manufacturing...

The UNSCOM report is dated the year after Desert Storm. I could imply (but do not) that the US and international forces were totally ineffective in destroying anything in Iraq during Desert Storm...incompetent even.

The international science, trade and economic sanctions against Iraq had been in place since 1990. Are you saying that those sanctions were totally ineffective? Yes they leaked, but enough to allow Hussein to continue a WMD program at the level that you and others suggest?

No, I just hear someone trying to sell a book.
At 4:27 PM, Lance Burri said…
I can't understand these arguments, Probligo. Sure, I'll bite and agree that we blew a chance to destroy Saddam's stockpiles in 1992.

But we barely went into Iraq in 1992, remember? Our UN mandate didn't allow it.And what difference does it make, whether that report is from 1992 or 1998?

The UN confirmed that Iraq had huge stockpiles of weapons, some of which were destroyed, others of which weren't.

Yet the anti-war side continues to claim that there were never any WMD in Iraq. This is my point.
At 5:41 PM, The probligo said…
No, my issue is with the presentation of 10 plus year old "news" as supporting detail for a specious argument.

You argue that the UN is incompetent.

You supply as support for that argument reports that date from 1998 and 1992.

You imply that it is only now, 2004, that UNSCOM is beginning to find the WMD that were supposed to be there and to have them destroyed.

Yes, UNSCOM supervised the destruction of missiles and parts of delivery 1992 after Desert Storm.

Yes, UNSCOM supervised the destruction of 1992 after Desert Storm.NOT AS YOU HAVE IMPLIED, since the invasion of Iraq2.

The argument that you present is erroneous and false.Take a look at the news from the British Labour Party conference. Tony Blair has been straight about it. Nothing to do with the colour of his politics.

I think that the truth is obscured by a very large number of people in the US who are too well indoctrinated (euphemism for "brainwashed") by their administration, or their administration is self deceiving to the point of being able to convince a very large slice of their electorate that belief is fact (euphemism for "self-serving bigotry and lies").

If Bush had come out last year and said what Tony Blair has said last night, I would vote for him in an instant...if I could.

As it is, I can only think that he believes still that the "intelligence" (BIG pun that...but let it pass) of 2001/2 is fact.

That is self delusion at its best...tell a big lie often enough and people will believe it...tell it too often and YOU will believe it.

AND, so that there is no mistake... my personal position on Iraq2 HAS ALWAYS BEEN that it was the right thing done for totally the wrong reasons. It was the right thing done at totally the wrong time. It was the right thing done by totally the wrong people/nations.

Iraq2 should never have happened, should never have had to happen.

Desert Storm should have been SET UP INTITALLY as a military intervention to remove Saddam from Kuwait...THEN TO CONTINUE as a "police / evidence gathering" (euphemisms galore there) investigation through the whole of Iraq.

One of the problems of course is that they would have found WMD supplied by (not complete list) US, Russia, France, Germany, Italy... How embarrassing.

The final point which Lance loses sight of and which has not yet been discussed, is the scientific evidence given by a number of people specialist in the field, including US scientists, that biological weapons have a “shelf life” of only a few short years.

As for “nuclear weapons”, the “evidence” presented by the US administration was that the “yellowcake purchase” was a fraud. Therefore no Uranium.

THE ONLY unresolved fear is that somehow, at some stage, Saddam succeeded in getting hold of nuclear material from Russia, out of the confusion following the collapse of the Soviet regime. He certainly had sufficient money to buy anyone or anything that was necessary.

But, as has been pointed out so many times before, Saddam was an expert at the “pea and shell” game. He was most certainly much better at it than Bush, Clinton, or Bush.

The conclusion was the equivalent of the card game in a saloon taken from a Duke Wayne western, when someone produces a hand of five aces or kings.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Always an interesting debate -

Grandpa John has picked me up on the points I made regarding the influence of the US in world affairs and the fact that despite that influence I am not empowered to vote in their elections.

The full debate is here I thought this deserved front page... .

I have replied, but regrettably the format is not too good so, without any other reason, I repeat it here... I confess to changing formats to making it clearer (one of the drawbacks of Haloscan Lance, sorry...) and some judicious editing of my replies to the points made.

First, I dispute your suggestion that GWB has "global ambitions." His campaign platform in 2000 was that the U.S. should be less involved - not more - in the affairs of other nations.

Yes, and then there is the argument that “other nations involved themselves in the affairs of the US.

Well, that does not entirely wash with me. A bunch of armed religious thugs involved themselves in affairs of the US; the leaders of one nation were harbouring the leaders of those religious thugs; but then the US administration in its wisdom decided that the moment was opportune to take out another thorny problem in the Middle East region.

Irrespective of the “justification” that might be the current favourite, the truth is that that action against Iraq by the “coalition of the brave” had as much validity in international law as did Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.

As I said in my original comment, what was one of the very first actions taken by GWB as President; why did he take that action?

Ans – he withdrew, no sorry he impugned the US signature on the ICCJ documents. He said that it was to prevent any US serviceman from being charged with war crimes.

It just happens that any serviceman (or woman) taking part in an illegal war MAY be guilty of war crime…

Then, what is the US going to do next, after Bush is re-elected…invade Iran? That has already been signalled. North Korea? Well there is a problem there now that SOUTH Korea has admitted having intensive research into Pu extraction.

Also, I don't accept any criticism from Kofi Annan. He is the hypocritical leader of an insignificant, corrupt, and hypocritical organization. It was the UNSC's own resolution which gave any member nation the authority to use military force against Iraq, if Iraq did not comply with UN demands. For him to call the war "illegal" is beyond contemptible, particularly considering UN corruption in the Food for Oil scandal, and their apparent indifference to genocide and slavery in Sudan, not to mention the atrocities against the Iraqi Kurdish population that their own inspectors confirmed.

Well now, I have not yet seen any direct evidence that Kofi Annan has profitted personally from illegal activity within the UN.

I know that kicking the UN is a favourite US pasttime; has been for some while, and probably will be for as long as other nations try and pass resolutions criticising Israel for breaches of the Geneva Conventions, and the illegal occupation of “foreign territory”.

The only “corruption” that has been anywhere near “proved” is that Hussein and his henchmen were not only black marketing oil into Russia and other nations, but that they were sucking the Oil for Food tit dry as well.

Yes, I have seen the accusations against one of Annan’s family. To my knowledge, those are still only accusations. I am waiting for the various enquiries to be completed.

While on the subject, recall the reasons given to the international community for undertaking Iraq2. Not once did the subject of internal genocide, the Kurds, or any of those topics come up. Why?

Because the US knew and knows that would be pictured as interference in the affairs of a sovreign nation. The only justification that the international community might wear (and they did not) was the "direct threat posed by WMD" and that is where GWB hung his hat.

Added as an afterthought.... The other aspect to the "humanitarian justification" is the fact that many of the events used as examples took place some years prior to GWB trying to find reasons to get rid of Hussein.

As for Sudan, there is no difference between the US’s attempts to promote UNSC resolutions on Sudan on the one hand, and Jordan, Egypt, France, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran trying to have resolutions placed before UNSC regarding Israel.

I think you are being somewhat parochial in view of the fact that the UN has passed now several resolutions on Sudan, and that one of the major stumbling blocks is now the funding of a pan-African force. The only opposition to those resolutions came, I believe, from China.

Your criticism of the UN ignores one very important fact. Any Organisation is only as good as its members. Are you a golfer? Or a member of a club of any kind? If things go wrong, who is the first person everyone blames? Themselves? NEVER!!! It is always that poor B*******d at the top. Doing the job that no one else would want.

What should you do in order to be an effective member of the club? SUPPORT the club. MAKE SURE that the truth is told. BE CERTAIN that you comply with the club rules. PAY your dues. Think on't...

Now: you are absolutely correct that military power is only part of the U.S. influence over the rest of the world: there are economic and cultural aspects to it, too. I'm sure it would be bothersome to me, if I were a native New Zealander, just as it's bothersome to me as a Wisconsin native that East and West Coast culture has so much influence on the Midwest.But I think you would feel the same way that I do, if we were talking about letting Australia and Indonesia vote in New Zealand's elections. I wouldn't let that happen, any more than I would let my neighbor down the block tell me my kids have to be in bed at 8 instead of 9.

If you were regulating what time your neighbours’ kids were going to bed through the imposition of an illegal curfew and at the same time letting your kids operate the neighbourhood crime ring then there would be a parallel in your final point.

As it is, NZ is not illegally invading Australia or Indonesia. NZ is not allowing the Nauru government to murder the refugees that are being housed there for the Australian government.

The only economic aspects of US policy that I object to are, once again, the hypocritical and illegal. For example, banning NZ lamb imports “to protect US sheep farmers” on the grounds that the NZ product is heavily subsidised, Well, take the time, look it up. OECD publishes statistics on such matters. You will find that the NZ subsidy on ALL agricultural production amounts to some US2 million on border controls. Work out the percentage of USD60odd BILLION in total agricultural exports. Really significant, eh!! Same thing for the “chip” ban against Japan. Steel imports from Japan and Europe, cars from Japan, Korea and Europe… the list goes on. All of these found by WTO to be illegal.

Oh and remember too that the US was pivotal in promoting the formation of WTO, not an unwilling partner.

It will be interesting, real interesting, to see just how much the US does not get involved in the affairs of other nations during the next four years.

And yes, Kerry does come over as a total ponce. But that would not make me feel comfortable voting for Bush.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Food for thought...

National Business Review
Mike Moore: Poverty and corruption fuel terrorism

Column: Global order by Mike Moore

Recently we remembered and relived the chilling moments of September 11, 2001. The horror of that occasion changed everything. Leaders at the time said the terrorists would not win, that the democratic process would continue, life would go on.

All true. But the terrorists have won in the sense that they and their agenda dominate the electoral process, and leaders and politicians are judged by nervous voters on how they meet this terrible challenge.

The general election in Spain was decided on the conservative government's response to the Madrid bombings when that government dishonestly blamed the attack on ETA, a violent domestic separatist movement.

Just when our capacity to understand the grotesque inhumanity of it all is exhausted, we have a ring-side seat watching the mesmerising obscenity of terrorists holding school children in Russia hostage and then killing them. President Vladimir Putin's popularity and authority is now threatened. The public demands action and revenge.

Three years ago, the Howard government in Australia was returned, despite lagging in the polls, on the sole issue of security. Prime Minister John Howard was in Washington DC during 9/11. Refugees desperately trying to escape tyrants who were harbouring terrorists became an issue and Mr Howard unexpectedly won another term in office.

Now, in election month, the terrorist attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta has knocked all other issues off the front page during this very tight campaign. Labour was looking good with its leader, Mark Latham, taking the lead on some of the toughest social issues, such as encouraging welfare beneficiaries to work. The Jakarta bombing will also affect the Indonesian presidential election being fought out now.

Fragile democracies are vulnerable to those with the strongman theory of leadership who, with the support of powerful elites and the military, swear to ruthlessly restore law and order.

Meanwhile in the US, President George Bush holds a commanding lead on only one issue, the war against terrorism. That may well be enough.

The terrorists have succeeded in putting their presence on the agenda and lips of every politician in every democracy of substance.

I read a chilling report that there were only about 250 armed, dedicated members of the IRA in Ireland. This small group tied down a third of the British Army for over 20 years and helped force a negotiated settlement.

To defeat an enemy who doesn't fear death, even welcomes it and is prepared to kill children, to do anything, is beyond the moral comprehension of most of us.

What to do? Rooting out and killing their leadership is a popular and worthy tactic. But it's a tactic, not a strategy. Denying the terrorists safe places to plan and organise is also a vital tactic and strategy. Enlisting those moderate nations and their leaders in the coalition for peace is central to success.

Moderate Muslim leaders are also targets of the extremists who are waging war against what they see as impious sellouts. From Turkey to Egypt to Indonesia, secular democratic values are under assault.

Perhaps we should also begin to listen to what more successful Muslim leaders are saying to us. Southeast Asian Islam has traditionally been more tolerant and inclusive but under pressure by more radical influences. The struggle for the soul of Islam is a struggle for the future security of our region.

At the recent general election in Malaysia, Prime Minister Dato Seri Abdullah Badawi won a stunning victory over the opposition, PAS, an Islamic party. The battle was not over whether Malaysia was an Islamic nation but what kind of Islamic society it would become. Malaysia is possibly the only nation recently to have pushed back radical Islam via the ballot box.

It's significant that all the major presidential candidates in Indonesia are progressive Nationalists yet they found it necessary to promote vice-presidential candidates with serious Muslim credentials. A tolerant Indonesia is under pressure.

Progressive leaders in Thailand and the Philippines, with large Muslim minorities, are holding their ground; their eventual success at winning those hearts and minds will depend on their countries' economic success.

Here's where the west can be more generous: by ensuring that the development aspects of world trade are advanced and by a real commitment to implement the long-promised UN millennium goals to attack poverty and corruption to build sustainable democracy and functioning civil societies.

As always, poverty and helplessness are fertile ground for recruitment to extreme causes. It's always been so. Tsarist Russia imploded because of its arrogance, its unfair distribution of wealth and the cruel indifference of the ruling elites to the needs of the people.

Revolution nearly always delivers the opposite of its promise. When hope and respect are denied, anything can happen and does.

Mike Moore is a former director-general of the World Trade Organisation and a columnist for the Australian Financial Review

Nowhere else have I seen the comment that the US Presidential election is being influenced by the terrorist organisations, and their indirect threat of action.

But, when you think about it, it does make sense.

If it were not for Iraq, what would be the major debate topics be? Education? Health services? The deficit?

If it were not for AlQaeda, would the debate on “internal security” focus on the gun laws?

If it were not for Yusuf Islam, would the debate on immigration centre on illegals from Mexico?

Thursday, September 23, 2004

The paranoia strikes deep...

Noted with dismay more than anything else is the deportation of Yusuf Islam aka Cat Stevens from the US "on the grounds that he has terrorist connections".

What chance is there for a simple atheist like the probligo to find HIS way into the US? None. I would not even step outside the gate...

Yusuf, you are welcome down this way any time...

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Suddenly I am in mourning...

From Doug Harper...

"Got this in my work mailbox today. Hand delivered.

----- Newspaper policy on personal Web sites and Web logs (blogs)Editorial staffers (editors, reporters, and photographers) may operate personal Web sites, Web logs (blogs) or chat rooms only with the prior approval of their editor. Such Web sites, blogs and chat rooms may not contain content dealing in any way with the subject areas that the employees cover or reasonably might be expected to cover. The editor may withdraw approval of an editorial staffer's operation of a Web site, blog or chat room at any time.It is especially important that editorial staffers do not express personal opinions - on their Web sites or in their blogs or chat rooms - on news subjects or issues that they cover. Such publication of personal opinion casts doubt on their impartiality, ultimately calling into question the newspaper's commitment to fairness.Editorial staffers who operate their own Web sites, blogs or chat rooms may not use ----- Newspaper computers or other office facilities for that purpose. They may not work on their Web sites, blogs or chat rooms during office work hours.Editorial staffers who operate their own Web sites, blogs or chat rooms are not permitted to trade on their newspaper positions. They may not lingk their personal sites, blogs or chat rooms to the ----- Newspapers' Web site nor to ------ Newspapers' articles. Personal Web sites, blogs or chat rooms may not use column names or any other identifying information or wording that connects the writer to ----- Newspapers.Editorial staffers who have their own Web sites, blogs or chat rooms must notify their newspaper editor of the existence and the address of these Web publications. Staff members and correspondents agree that ----- Newspapers can access and review these personal Web sites, blogs or chat rooms at any time. Editorial staffers will, when requested to do so, provide reasonable assistance to ----- Newspapers in retrieving any archived or deleted materials from such Web sites, blogs or chat rooms.An editorial staffer who violates this policy will face disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.

Well, that's the end of the line for me. Since I often sit at the wire desk and make decisions about which national and international news stories get published in the next day's edition of the ------ ------, the line about "may not contain content dealing in any way with the subject areas that the employees cover or reasonably might be expected to cover" precludes me from writing about current events in any form.It's been nice knowing you all."

So, the end of the line for one of the better bloggers around.

Doug, you have at least one of my e-m addys, stay in touch.

For the old whig.

This is what "sweet young daughters" can turn into. Take care, and watch those weapons!!

Posted by Hello

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Ahh, that's better...

It has been nagging away in the back of my mind for some time. It is one of those thoughts that is not quite "firm" or "formed". It is annoying because I know its there but it will just not show its face to me.

Until now...

I have said this before in other fora (forums?);

that given the events of the past four years, given the position that he has gotten the USofA into, that in view of the qualifications of the opposing candidate, and for probably many other little reasons...


And may god preserve the rest of us.

The probligo shows his "anti-semitism"...

This morning, granny Herald has presented two of the best international news analysis articles that I have seen in quite a long time. Both are quite parochial in their focus, being as they are on the same topic of the Mossad attempt to fraudulently obtain New Zealand passports, and NZ’s relationship with Israel since that event.

The following quote is taken out of context intentionally, and the emphasis is unashamedly mine.

Israel considers...
An English translation of the Knesset session obtained by the Herald is revealing for the frankly expressed views of MPs.
Shaul Yahalom, of the Mafdal Party which represents the religious Zionist movement, said of the Israeli Foreign Ministry's public response: "The fact that these things were carried out in the legal way, only while denying everything even though they probably had recordings - as was at least made public - only caused more anger, diplomatic anger with the New Zealand Government that could have been avoided.
"There is no doubt that an effective intelligence service of the state of Israel, which is supposed to penetrate countries that are hostile to Israel, should be there. It cannot be done with an Israeli passport.
"I think the Israeli intelligence services can find solutions with the help of friendly intelligence services and have it done in a friendlier manner than the way it has been done so far."
Said Abd-Elmalek, of the Ra'am Party (United Arab List): "The state of Israel has its own ways. It wants to do killings, it wants to hurt leaders, and this is obviously opposed to any international legitimacy and it hurts especially countries that are friendly.
"There was no problem in obtaining American passports. Israel could get them very easily. It gets them. It probably would not serve their purpose in this case. Just as in order to live in Amman and kill a Palestinian leader it was necessary to use Canadian passports.
"Somebody was supposed to be in another Arab country and kill somebody over there, and having a New Zealand passport was considered to be the best."
"Americans are now under suspicion in the Arab world. They are not liked. Anybody knows that. The British are not liked either, not even regular Europeans who, following the invasion of Iraq, already have a negative image in the Arab work, and this is why they looked for a country that does not have this kind of image."
Hemi Doron, from the right-wing Shinui party, claimed that two months before the Israeli passports incident, a Russian intelligence agent was caught in New Zealand.
"The Russian Government apologised. This man was deported from New Zealand and that story was over.
"They did not intent to hurt us and treat us differently than they did with that Russian agent. All we have to do is learn some humility and admit mistake."

An MP from the ruling Likud faction, Magli Vahaba, said he would not take advantage of an "operational mishap" - if indeed it had taken place - to criticise Israeli intelligence. But he wanted a Knesset committee to study the issue.
Other MPs implored Foreign Minister Shalom to own up and apologise for Israel's actions.

Hmmm, “All we have to do is learn some humility and admit mistake”. Now I might expect words like that from a left of centre NZer, but an extreme right wing Israeli? NEVER! Hemi Doran, I admire your honesty and thank you.

The second is the first of three written by Herald’s Editor. Fran O’Sullivan is an “ex” politician. Her stakes as both journalist and Editor are tops with me given the picture that she writes here…

Fran O'Sullivan's point of view...

OK, so it is more the kind of writing that one might expect to see in a blog or personal website.

One of the questions that always surfaces whenever one is critical of the Israeli state is that of anti-semitism. There have been occasions when this label has been thrown in my direction (quite falsely I think but TIJMHO) for saying things like “Israelis are as much terrorists as the Palestinians.” At the time of the original incident, the label was given to the NZ Government. In the first of the two quoted articles, it is pointed out that – for example the last resolution concerning Israel’s “wall” had NZ voting as one of some 150, against 16 in Israel’s favour.

Again, as that article points out, only two nations have consistently voted on Israel’s side – Israel of course, and the United States of America.

Cut now to a different source – the little debate over in The Sciolist’s corner - The Sciolist "matter of fact" mood
Irrespective of the validity of bin Laden’s “Letter to America”, there is no doubt about the link between U.S. – Israel support and the messianic hatred of extreme Islam for the United States.

You know, I can not help wondering what might happen should the U.S. vote in the U.N. once, just once, across the floor from Israel on a matter pertaining to that country…

Hemi Doran, you rock!!

Monday, September 20, 2004

In the aftermath of Ivan...

To any and all in the southeast states, Alabama and Florida in particular, my personal note of sympathy and support following the storms of the past month. Having been through the equivalent of a Category 2 storm myself I know a little of their experience.

On the radio this morning they had a three or four minute item describing the scene at a supermarket carpark with a large number of people waiting for the delivery of ice and water. There was the long wait -some had been queueing for five hours or more. There was the dispute over late arrivals starting "their own queue" instead of joining on the end.

At the end of the item, recorded some two hours later, the ice and water had still not arrived.

But an icecream street vendor in his truck had...

This is the reason why we have our little place in Opononi. This is the view from the lounge. The montage is not quite all of the 180* from Heads to the Mungamuka Ranges. The full photo is over 2MB so take care ... Posted by Hello

Sunday, September 19, 2004

The problems of history... and ignorance

On The Sciolist, I made the following comment in passing, and was pulled up on it by someone signing himself "mdl" -

A large part of the fault here lies at the feet of the British. They by themselves were responsible for the "installation" of "royal families" in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran during the late 1800s and prior to WW1.

He replied thusly...

Probligo, you are wrong on almost every point here. None of the four monarchies were active in the late 1800s, and none were independently established until after WW I. The British did install the Hashemite monarchies in Iraq and Jordan, but not the Sau'di nor Pahlavi (Iran). For the latter two, to claim even that the British were the primary influence is dubious; to say they were "by themselves" responsible is absurd

Right mdl, I apologise for being about 20 years early with my recollection of the history of British Petroleum, or (if I know it right) the Anglo Persian Oil Company.

Now for a history lesson...

Saudi Arabia
Nationmaster - Saudi Arabia
In 1902 Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud captured Riyadh, the Al-Saud dynasty's ancestral capital, from the rival Al-Rashid family. Continuing his conquests, Abdul Aziz subdued Al-Hasa, the rest of Nejd, and the Hijaz between 1913 and 1926. On January 8, 1926 Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud became the King of Hijaz. On January 29, 1927 he took the title King of Nejd (his previous Nejdi title was Sultan). By the Treaty of Jedda, signed on May 20, 1927, the United Kingdom recognized the independence of Abdul Aziz's realm (then known as the Kingdom of Hijaz and Nejd). In 1932, these regions were unified as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

cias - Saudi Arabia
1902: Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud retakes Riyadh.
1906: The Saudis have once again control over Najd.
1913: Conquering of Hasa, the region east of Najd.
1921: Conquering of Jabal Shammar, the region northwest of Najd.
1923: Britain stops transferring money to both Abdul Aziz and the Hashimite king of Hijaz, the Sharif. This tilts the power balance in favour of Abdul Aziz.
1924: The Sharif declares himself Caliph.
- October 13: Mecca is conquered bloodlessly, and Abdul Aziz declares himself guardian of the Holy Places.

Encyclopaedia - Iran
The discovery of oil in the early 1900s intensified the rivalry of Great Britain and Russia for power over the nation. Internally, the early 20th cent. saw the rise of the constitutional movement and a constitution establishing a parliament was accepted by the shah in 1906. Meanwhile, the British-Russian rivalry continued and in 1907 resulted in an Anglo-Russian agreement (annulled after World War I) that divided Iran into spheres of influence. The period preceding World War I was one of political and financial difficulty. During the war, Iran was occupied by the British and Russians but remained neutral; after the war, Iran was admitted to the League of Nations as an original member.

In 1919, Iran made a trade agreement with Great Britain in which Britain formally reaffirmed Iran's independence but actually attempted to establish a complete protectorate over it.

1906: The constitutional revolution.
1907: Russia and Britain divides Persia into protecting zones.
1914-18: Persia is neutral in World War 1, but becomes nonetheless a battle ground, where the oil of the country was the goal.
1919-21: Due to the threat from Bolshevik Russia, Persia becomes British protectorate for a period.

Encyclopeadia - Iraq

In World War I the British invaded Iraq in their war against the Ottoman Empire; Britain declared then that it intended to return to Iraq some control of its own affairs. Nationalist elements, impatient over delay in gaining independence, revolted in 1920 but were suppressed by the British. Late that year the Treaty of Sèvres established Iraq as a mandate of the League of Nations under British administration, and in 1921 the country was made a kingdom headed by Faisal I.Yes, from the same family as was installed in Saudi Arabia, brothers I believe . With strong reluctance an elected Iraqi assembly agreed in 1924 to a treaty with Great Britain providing for the maintenance of British military bases and for a British right of veto over legislation. By 1926 an Iraqi parliament and administration were governing the country. The treaty of 1930 provided for a 25-year alliance with Britain. The British mandate was terminated in 1932, and Iraq was admitted to the League of Nations.

cias - Iraq
1914: As a part of World War 1, British forces invade southern Iraq.
1917: British occupation of Baghdad begins.
1920: Arabs of southern Iraq starts military actions towards the British, who did not fulfill their promises to leave the area to the locals after the Turks were defeated. The British responded military in the beginning, but soon realized that it would be impossible to control the area.
1921: Prince Faisal of Hijaz (now: southwestern Saudi Arabia) wins a popular election, with 96% of the ballots, and is declared king of Iraq August 23. The new state did not get an easy birth, as the Shi'is in the south and the Kurds in the north fought for their independence. And outer forces, like Arabia in the south and Turkey in the north, tried to destabilize Iraq, and the cooperated with the Kurds to take control over the Mawsil area in the north. British forces stayed in the country, much because of a request from king Faisal. Hands up those who think there are no lessons to be learned from history...
1922 October 10: Alliance with Britain is signed.

Are you seeing anything of a common thread here yet?


Encyclopaedia - Jordan
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the region came under (1919) the government of Faisal I Not the same family again!!, surely , centered at Damascus. When Faisal was ejected by French troops in July, 1920, Transjordan (as Jordan was then known) was made (1920) part of the British League of Nations mandate of Palestine. In 1921, Abdullah I (Abdullah ibn Husayn), a member of the Hashemite dynasty and the brother of Faisal, was made emir of Transjordan, which was administered separately from Palestine and was specifically exempted from being part of a Jewish national home. A Jordanian army, called the Arab Legion, was created by the British, largely through the work of Sir John Bagot Glubb .

In a treaty signed with Great Britain in 1928, Transjordan became a constitutional state ruled by a king, to be hereditary in the family of Abdullah I, who was placed on the throne by the British.

cias - Jordan
1920: Jordan was established under the name of Transjordania, in 1920, as a British mandate.
1921: Abdullah, one of the fighters of power in the later Saudi Arabia, is made king.

Well, that is fairly "potted", sussinct, and I confess would leave out most of the nuances that "historians" like to write into sequences of events.

One of the factors that is not mentioned above, and which is a second common string in many of the events across the region is the role of the Anglo Persian Oil Company. That name might not ring a bell, but British Petroleum should.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

A simple, one question, general knowledge test...

For those who think that they know their "terrorism history"... and following on from my link to the granny Herald's article on terrorism, here is a quick self-analysis test for you...

Who, or what, is/was Irgun?

No, I do not need or want the answers posted as comments.

I had not heard specifically of this group before. Nor did I know what one of their prominent leaders became... but this certainly filled a couple of gaps in what I knew.

Monday, September 13, 2004

In memorium...

There are probably thousands of articles, blogs, analyses, films, documentaries, editorials, on 9/11 published in the past few days, and Saturday in particular.

Beyond drawing attention to two articles from granny Herald, there is no more from me...

First this brief history of "terrorism"...

Terror on our mind ,

Then just a couple pages on in the edition we bought in Dargaville...

The Irish Experience,

Lessons from violence

If former Irish Prime Minister Dr Garret FitzGerald learned anything about terrorism from his years dealing with the Irish Republican Army it is this:
"There are only two ways to handle terrorists. You don't negotiate with terrorists unless they want to settle. But at the same time you don't deal with them in a way that alienates the people they come from unnecessarily."

During his time in Ireland's top seat, from 1981 to 1987, FitzGerald, as Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) dealt constantly with terrorist threats and bombs.

The danger was omnipresent and very real. Since 1969, more than 3500 people have died in the Irish Republican Army (IRA) struggle to expel Britain from Northern Ireland. Thousands of others have been wounded.

Under FitzGerald's leadership, for example, Ireland managed to head off an assassination attempt on Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, at a London theatre in 1983.

At 78, FitzGerald's memories draw on decades. But his experience remains as relevant to the modern world as ever, as the tragedies in Beslan and Jakarta have shown.

FitzGerald, in New Zealand on a lecture tour, says the basic lessons for dealing with terrorists apply anywhere in the world. "Over-reaction brings support for even extreme terrorism. Anti-terrorist action is often very indiscriminatory, and the population who don't really support the terrorists at the beginning end up supporting them. You don't want to lose the support of the ordinary people."

FitzGerald is all too familiar with the consequences of over-reaction. Just over two decades ago, terrorism brought Ireland closer to civil war than most people realise, he says.

In 1981, there was a public outcry after several imprisoned IRA paramilitaries died during a hunger strike. More than 10,000 marched in Dublin in support of the strikers and a crowd of 500 turned on police at the British Embassy. The police managed to hold the protesters at bay, but 200 people needed hospital treatment.

It was a "very nervous time" for FitzGerald, then a new prime minister. If the protesters had broken past the police, the Army would have stopped them. But the outcome, had the Army opened fire on civilians, is unthinkable. "Our state has been much more vulnerable to the IRA than most think - certainly much more vulnerable than Britain," FitzGerald says.

He is scathing about the British administration's handling of the 1981 hunger strikes. MI6 - which dealt directly with the IRA in a failed bid to end the strikes - should never have become involved, he says. "They should have avoided the strikes and they should never have handled them the way they did.
"I'm not saying they should have given in to them. You should never give in to hunger strikes. Nonetheless, they could have handled it better."

In the months after the hunger strikes began, support grew for Sinn Fein - a republican political movement linked to the IRA.

It was a potentially disastrous situation, FitzGerald says. If Sinn Fein had gained sufficient support, the IRA might conceivably have decided to raise their violence to a civil war level.

To avert a crisis, FitzGerald was forced to relinquish his preferred policy of negotiating with the pro-British "unionists" in Northern Island. Instead, he moved towards dealing directly with the British Government.

The irony is all too clear. "The IRA has brought Ireland and Britain closer together than ever seemed possible in the past, in search of a common solution to the problem."
History, FitzGerald says with a smile, sometimes has some very surprising twists.

In 1985, Britain and Ireland signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement - arguably the most important development in relations between the two countries in half a century. In effect, the British Government conceded that the Irish Government had a special role in Northern Ireland - less than joint authority but stronger than a mere right to consultation.

FitzGerald says he was never tempted to negotiate with the IRA, even in his darkest moments. No Irish government has ever had anything to do with the IRA, he says. "We took a very tough line. We'd had the IRA for a very long time ... and we knew how to deal with them."

FitzGerald has spoken to the IRA only once - and that was after he left Parliament. It was at a commemoration ceremony following the 1998 Omagh bombing. Because of a mix-up, there was no car for him. So he jumped on a bus - to find it was full of IRA members.

One of the enforcers came and sat next to him. "He said: 'You know, I used to know as much about train timetables as you know about air timetables'. And that's the only contact I had with the IRA."
The British did not take such a strong stance. "The British in the 1970s kept on talking to them, raising their hopes that if they went on murdering people they might get more out of the British."

FitzGerald never feared for his life during his time in office. Nobody would have gained anything from killing him, he says. He remembers, however, that his wife became upset when IRA members demonstrated outside their family home.

There were threats, but he took them in his stride, he says. At one point, a breakaway IRA member threatened to kidnap a wife or child of an MP. But even at that level, there was to be no budging. "We decided in Government that in the event of any minister's wife or child being kidnapped that the minister in question would leave the cabinet and have no role and we would refuse to give in. We had formally agreed that." Eventually the man did kidnap somebody, but not a politician.
In Ireland, the politicians have tended to take a tougher approach than the general population, FitzGerald says. In the south the population tends to be uninterested and rather fearful of the events in Northern Ireland. "We've had bombings by the unionists, we've had murders by the IRA and police and so on, so it's an understandable fear," FitzGerald says. "But that's never said. Nobody says it openly."

Since 1972, Governments have worked doggedly with the British to convince them to modify their approach and swing support away from the IRA. In this respect, FitzGerald says, the politicians have been better than the people.

Today, terrorism in Northern Ireland is abating somewhat, but managing tensions remains difficult. FitzGerald says the British eventually made some smart moves - cleaning up the police force and stamping out discrimination. But Belfast, in particular, remains a tense political climate.
Even today, amid talk of disarmament, FitzGerald finds it difficult to accept the rising popularity of Sinn Fein and the IRA.

Don't ask him to explain why most nationalists in Northern Ireland support Sinn Fein, he says. He can't understand it. In the south, the party's support remains more limited and is mainly concentrated in border towns and deprived areas.

Over time, FitzGerald suggests, Sinn Fein may move from being an extreme republican group to concentrating their efforts on the disadvantaged.

"By putting pressure on the bourgeois parties to do a bit more, they could even be playing a constructive role in society in 10 years' time," FitzGerald says.

A victory in his personal war on terrorism, perhaps?
FitzGerald shrugs: "Using the word 'war' is a mistake," he says. "They think it's a war. Why on earth concede to them it's a war? It licenses it."

So there you have it.

Perhaps there are some other people, some very important national leaders, who (urgently in view of his age) should go talk to FitzGerald urgently and at great length.

If it is not too late already...

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Food for thought...

It seems that there is a community in blogland that I keep stepping into seemingly quite by accident.
One that I have enjoyed following in the past few weeks is this one - from Doug Harper aka The Sciolist

In a recent post he draws attention to the following post...
in a "military" post board

I've been mulling this over for the last few hours.I am both personally and professionally dissapointed in some of my peers (not many on SOCNET, though), who have turned into Monday morning Generals, with regard to the Russians.

The outcome would have been the same if it took place in Texas.If that had been CAG and the Rangers surrounding the school, the friendly bodycount might have been lower. I doubt it. Fucked-in-the-head fanatics, armed to the teeth and wired to blow, are unlikely to allow the situation to come to an acceptable finish.Facts, as I understand them:

Enemy had prepostioned weapons, ordance, ammo and equipment. 1200+ civilians as hostages. Poorest part of Russia (i.e. little in the way of a sophisticated Security infrastructure).

Enemy has history of suicide troops and little in the way of regard for Russian civs. Security cordon compromised by agitated, HEAVILY ARMED, civilians (relatives/friends of hostages).

Fucked up Chain of Command, with several Security Force organizations present, from local Militia/Police to the Army. Leadership who sought to distance themselves from what was rightly regarded as the inevitable catastrophe.The only Leader to step up was the CG of the 58th Tank Division. Anyone know -any- Armor General who is an expert in Hostage Negotiation/Rescue?

Three possible outcomes:

1)All hostages die, when the enemy blows up and/or AK's them.
2)Appease the Enemy and hope to get hostages released.
3)MANY, but not all, hostages die, when the OMON troops storm the building.

From all reports, the Russian Government chose Option 02. Too risky to storm, and public opinion was against it, after the Moscow Theater fiasco.Someone -inside- the school, meaning Enemy personnel, fucked up. A detonation, reason unkown, collapsed part of the gym on top of many of the hostages. A bunch of kids made a break. Civilians broke the cordon from outside, to aid the kids.Enemy personnel engaged both fleeing children and civilian rescuers, some of whom were armed. Russian Security Forces (MVD/OMON types) were forced to storm the school, in order to prevent a -complete- massacre.Enemy personnel used confusion, caused by outgoing kids and incoming civilians, to attempt to break contact. Regular Army and MVD troops, using Armor and Gunship support, run them down.

It's easy to say "Ivan the duck, you're all fucked up". But the only thing you can really lay on the Russians is that they didnt control their perimeter. I understand that there were reasons for that, due to agitated locals not wishing to be moved away from their kids. Armed agitated locals.The Russian troops arent trained for this sort of thing. Their SF-equivalent, Spetsnaz, is more along the lines of 1970's era Ranger teams, than SEALs or Special Forces. Mostly conscripts. No real NCO corps. The ALFA unit, the KGB/FSB version of CAG, which -is- trained for this, arrived 15 minutes into the battle.MVD (Interior Army) has OMON-units. These are essentially SWAT/riot forces. Nowhere near the breadth of skill to handle something like this.

My opinion, as a combat veteran and Paratrooper NCO, is that the situation, once that bomb went off, could not have turned out any other way. Storming the building was not an option, until it became the only option. Saying that it happened because Russians are incompetent is bullshit. We probably couldnt have done any better. The scale of the situation would have rendered our technical/tactical superiority moot.Just something I had to get off my chest.

Now I know absolutely zero of this poster and his qualifications to comment in the way that he does. I believe that there is, irrespective of that defect, a very great truth in what he says.
Which is why I left the following comment with
I know which of the posts in that thread I am closest to, and it is not one of those posting "how well it might have otherwise been handled". Just recall the Branch Davidian sect if you want a direct parallel of US "forces" in a similar situation.
I agree with the general tenor - those on the ground did their best given the circumstances.
It leads, at that point to the post of yours DH that follows this. The media presentation of events such as these, and more importantly our ability as "consumers" of that news to fully comprehend the magnitude of events; 9/11 brought that home to me, as did the loss of the space shuttle, and in our own small corner the sinking of Rainbow Warrior all those years back.
I have no truck with terrorists and war criminals of any shape or form. They are (or should be) outside of all religion, all politics, all nations, all cultures; outlaws in every and all senses of the word.
We, all of us, have the responsibility to ensure that OUR leaders do not join the ranks of "de facto" terrorists and war criminals.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

The "Cult Newsmaker"...

One of the highest, no THE highest rating tv programme in NZ ( after the six o'clock news ) is a so-called "current affairs" programme run by a man by name of Paul Holmes.

It is a programme that I have watched only very occasionally and then under duress from SWMBO. For that reason alone I must resist the temptation to go into too much opinions would not be fair and impartial, and in fact could result in the probligo being charged with all manner of civil crimes of which libel and slander would be the least. As a comparatively poor man, and with Paul Holmes a very rich man - at least three wives at different times and several million dollar plus mansions later testify to his wealth - my chances of pleading "fair comment" as a defence would be slight indeed.

So, why this rant now?

For those in the US, think Rush Limbaugh. Take equal portions of Dopey and Doc, from the seven dwarfs; and a good slice of Elmer Fudd. Add a small measure of Gollum and mix well. There, you have Paul Holmes.
In this past week, one of his nightly programmes was devoted to a South Auckland family who, through circumstances partly beyond their control, had been living in a totally substandard and dilapidated house. Descriptions of it included "foundations floating in sewage", damp, rotting and worse. Holmes, bless his little cotton sox, picked up on this story and undertook the role of benefactor. After seven months the family had a new home and the time came for the "grand opening". This, a "one hour special", has created more than just a ripple with the local tv reviews.
Some samples, from this morning's Herald...
"But this was no plain reporting of a happy outcome. There was something more, something unsavoury and disagreeable, in the tone and substance of Monday night's Holmes. Here, essentially, were the givers not only wanting to be seen to be giving.
Here were the givers demanding that the beneficiaries make payment through a very public homage to their patrons."
"And Holmes might have been right when he said those who had helped gave purely through generosity - although I'm sure that having their businesses promoted heavily during the show was hardly an unexpected reward.
But it is not they, the donors, but Holmes who was stage-managing the episode's greatest prize - publicity.
It leaves me sickened and speechless..."

Both of those quotes from Greg Dixon.
Gordon McLaughlan, professional journalist and past editor of Listener, suggests that had another of Holmes' shows been a job interview then he would never have got the job.

The interview in question was with the two leading mayoral candidates in the coming local body elections. One, the incumbent mayor, has in the past year or so made some rather unfortunate (to say the least) comments on quite a number of subjects. Two in particular head the list. The first was a comment regarding the mayor of NorthShore City ( a bit like San Francisco and Bay ). The second about "immigrants spitting in the streets". He sums up by saying;
"Almost everyone I know with professional media experience - in fact almost every intelligent, educated person I am associated with - despises Holmes' cheap tabloid style of subject and treatment. It is a travesty of current affairs.
Why can't we have a daily programme run by professional journalists proud of their craft, and backed up by intelligent briefing and quality information? An informed, thoughtful population is the bedrock of democracy..."

There is nothing in either of those critiques that I can disagree with. The pity is that for some reason a very large number of people every night think otherwise. For as long as the ratings continue to pay Holmes' salary the programme will, regrettably, stay.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The "forgotten" Olympics...

Come Saturday, the "forgotten" Olympics open in Athens at the same stadia as those that have just finished.

Will the Paralympics get the same coverage?

Are the competitors any less "sportsmen" because of their disabilities?