Friday, December 23, 2005

Well, that was the year, that was...

Probably to the profound relief of the blogosphere, the probligo is making his last post for 2005.

Over the past three weeks posting has been somewhat limited - for reasons not requiring debate but involving a very sick and elderly computer at home and the need to surreptitiously (I LUV that word) sneak the odd post out under the nose of my boss...

In a few hours time, then, I am heading home to celebrate Christmas with my wife, our two children, their partners, and our one (thus far) grandchild. Note that I am celebrating Christmas despite professing to be atheist. There is a reason for this - and it has nothing to do with the religious connotations of the festival. My daughter could give you at least three different names for the winter solstice celebration and when they were used in Britain and the Celtic part of Europe. It is a label. Far more importantly for me it is a time when we can "gather the clan" and renew the family bonds. To that end, wife and I are travelling north to the Hokianga and there will visit my sister and any other hangers-on that may be about. Among them I was hoping would be my step-mother who has decided to shift down to Whangarei. So, IF we are able to see her, it will be one of those "we are passing through" visits rather than a liesurely afternoon under their oak and chestnut and pohutukawa trees with the accompaniament of a couple of bottles of good communion wine. Why communion wine? She is an Anglican Minister, retired, re-employed and soon to be retired again. At the age of 75 she deserves to be retired.

There is another reason why I want to see my step-mother. She is a link to an Anglican retreat just south of the Hokianga. It is maintained by three nuns and a monk. She has told me of the "unique" stations of the Cross that they celebrate and I am hoping that I will be allowed to attend and record (photograph) the Stations and the celebrants. As I recollect, one of the stations is a tree that has been struck by lightning at some time in the past and has survived, a small waterfall (a "rill" in old English), and a standing stone.

But that is for the future...

Iraq - who did not see the results from the beginning? Riven in three on "racial" and "religious" divisions. Remarkable lack of foresight there on someone's part.

When will Bush be impeached? What grounds will the Senate use if he is? How much damage will be done to the Repubs if he is?

How much longer will Tony Blair last as Leader of the British Labour Party?

Will the NZ economy crash? Probably. How hard? It is not going to be easy, that is for sure.

For myself, I have had a good year. I have met many to whom I would never have "spoken" without the marvels of this technology. There is much in this world that exists only as shadows on the edge of my imagination. Between me and that shadowness are the many people whose paths have crossed mine. Some are close to me and I see them clearly, some are further off and some are almost part of the shadows. For this year I hope (if I can turn my computer into a modern-day Lazarus) to try and put some shape to the unknown.

So, to any who pass this way -

You all have a very happy Christmas. Celebrate the festival in your own ways. Most of all enjoy your families while you may, and never let them become part of the shadows.

Then have yourselves a most prosperous and enjoyable 2006.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Merry Christmas, Mr Bush!!

Well, it is the Christmas present that George has been wishing for. He has prayed for it. He has spoken to God about it on many occasions.

George has achieved democracy in Iraq.

Instead, the opposite has occurred. The Iraq War and occupation has brought Iran and Iraq together. Indeed, the effects of the American push for democracy in other parts of the Arab Middle East are also hurting Israel. In Egypt, the anti-Western Muslim Brotherhood have increased their presence in the Egyptian parliament. On the West Bank the anti-Israeli Hamas organization has won control of several major towns in local elections there and is expected to win at least 40 percent in the coming parliamentary vote. Israeli officials, who are not great fans of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, have warned the Americans that their drive toward "regime change" in Damascus could end up bringing to power radical anti-American (and anti-Israeli) Islamic groups.

Finally, Iraq is adding to U.S. security problems, Patrick Cockburn writes “Islamic fundamentalist movements are ever more powerful in both the Sunni and Shia communities. Ghassan Attiyah, an Iraqi commentator, said: 'In two and a half years Bush has succeeded in creating two new Talibans in Iraq.'” Just what we need! And, if the Shia with their electoral victory consolidate their hold over the military and police and direct their attacks on Sunnis, and the Sunnis respond – we can expect the magnetic effect of Iraq – pulling anti-US terrorists to the county and the opportunity for training in terrorism to increase. A decade from now U.S. citizens should expect someone whose family or friends were killed in the U.S. occupation to strike back. Every day the U.S. remains an occupying force more people who hate Americans and more danger in the world are created.

One piece of good news from the vote: Ahmad Chalabi, the former Bush Administration favorite who was critical to misleading the United States into war, won less than a half of 1 percent of the vote in Baghdad, very likely denying him a seat in the Council of Representatives. Of course, there are still the votes to count from Iraqis in the United States but in Iraq he does not seem to have much support.

Now what, I wonder, is George going to do now that those ungrateful Iraqis have abused that golden opportunity for true democracy and elected a largely Shi’a government; sorry, make that a government riven and divided on largely religious and tribal grounds?

Worst of all, what is George going to be dreaming tonight, now that Mustaq al Sadr has been elected to the Iraqi government. What action will he have to take tomorrow or the next day given that al Sadr’s Mahdi forces are likely to become the backbone of a new “Police Force”.


ALL, I mean ALL of the “PTL for democracy” posts at Jersey Wing Nut have mysteriously disappeared. Very strange. Very strange indeed. I think I am one of the few leaving comments over there.

More importantly, how many of the rabid right-whingers are still lauding George’s Iraq democracy this morning…?

I wonder...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Am I an anti-Semite II ...

I (quite improperly) posted the following as a comment over at Dave Justus's place. I have repented and asked him to delete it.

Greg is the person who accused me of being "anti-Semitic" because I described Israel as "a nation founded on terror".

Note too, that the following information has been taken from a post dated 13 December, I made my comment on 8 December.

So to it, this is what I stuck into Dave's place (quite wrongly)...

Greg, you might want to take an objective look at this page.

A sample -

So while it is undeniably terrible that the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades would deliberately target civilian passengers on an Israeli bus, the men who murdered Lior Azulai, Nathaniel Havshush, Bnayahu Jonathan Zuckerman, Rahamiam Rami Duga, Yaffa Ben-Shimol, Ilan Avisedris, Yehuda Haim and Yuval Ozana in that attack are not a different “kind of people” from you or me or the soon-to-be-Israelis who unloaded Ibrahim Mohammed Ahmed El Haj, Mahmoud Hassan Attieh, Saleh Mohammed Suleiman, Abdul Fattah Hussein, Mahmoud Mustafa Khalil, Mohammed Ali Eissa, and Hassan Mohammed Eissa from a Palestinian truck in February 1948, lined them up in an orange grove and murdered them:


And the members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad who killed five innocent Israeli shoppers in an attack on a mall just last week committed a terrible murder, but they’re not different in kind from the members of the Irgun who committed a terrible murder in blowing up the shoppers at Ramle Market:

and the sources…

(1) Source CO 537/3855: Confidential reports from the British Criminal Investigation Dept (C.I.D.) to the U.K. Colonial Office on Outrages in Palestine, 1947-48. Now declassified and open to the public at the U.K. National Archives in Kew, London.
(2) Source CO 537/3856: Confidential reports from the British Criminal Investigation Dept (C.I.D.) to the U.K. Colonial Office on Outrages in Palestine, Feb-Mar 1948. Now declassified and open to the public at the U.K. National Archives in Kew, London.

(3) Source WO 261/573: Confidential quarterly reports from British Army H.Q. in Palestine to the U.K. War Office, Jan-Mar 1948. Now declassified and open to the public at the U.K. National Archives in Kew, London.

(4) Source WO 275/64: Confidential fortnightly newsletters from the H.Q. of the British Sixth Airborne Division in Palestine to the U.K. War Office, Mar 1947-May 1948. Now declassified and open to the public at the U.K. National Archives in Kew, London.

(5) Source CO 537/3857: Confidential reports from the British Criminal Investigation Dept (C.I.D.) to the U.K. Colonial Office on Outrages in Palestine, Mar-Apr 1948. Now declassified and open to the public at the U.K. National Archives in Kew, London.

(6) From United Nations Security Council Official Records, Supplements for 1948 - Palestine
But then, I guess, that is the kind of FACT that you just dont read…


OK, so there it be.

On reflection, and whilst putting this together, I want to thank Lawrence of Cyberia for his very timely post.

There is much there on the nature and purpose of terrorism which ties to the Tanaka piece I wrote on the other day. For example -
Palestinian terrorists do not attack civilian buses because they are a different species to the rest of us, they attack civilians because Israel enjoys overwhelming military superiority over them, and choose buses in particular because buses are uniquely vulnerable: they are numerous and therefore difficult to defend individually; they carry a large number of people in a small enclosed space which maximizes casualties; and they run on a published timetable, which makes them easy to ambush. In short, Palestinian militants choose to attack civilian buses for the same reasons that militants with a political agenda target civilian buses in Sri Lanka, and in Iraq, and in Colombia, and in Kosovo, and for the same reasons that Zionist militants targetted Palestinian civilian buses in British Palestine, which they did, by the way, with a regularity that makes Hamas et al look like a bunch of slackers.

But it would be unfair of me to say this much and not give Lawrence's conclusion...
Blowing up a bus for political ends is a criminal act, not an ontological insight into how Zionist Jews were in 1948 or how Palestinian Muslims are in 2004. As awful as it is, this is simply how sub-national groups – Zionists, Islamists or anyone else - fight an unconventional war. It’s “a way people wage war when they don't have F-16's or armored divisions”, as William Pfaff put it. You can only claim otherwise by consigning all the inconvenient atrocities committed by your own side down the memory hole. And the fact that A.H. would pick a bus bombing as proof that Palestinians are a kind of people you can't negotiate with – apparently totally unaware of the popularity of that very tactic among Zionists in Mandate Palestine - shows just how effectively we have done just that in the case of Israel and the terrorist campaign that helped to establish it. (I can't count how many times I have heard discussion of terrorism in Mandate Palestine reduced to "Ah yes, the King David...).

I’m not dredging all this up as some kind of academic historical exercise, or as an opportunity to say “yes but other people do it too”. It matters that we remember what we would rather forget, because it is only our deliberate forgetfulness over our own atrocities that allows us to pretend that the I/P conflict is a zero sum game of good versus evil, rather than a political conflict over land that is capable of a compromise solution.

If we remember that “our” side committed terrorism, not because they were morally defective, but as a tactic in support of political goals in an unconventional war, then we will be able to appreciate that just maybe the same is true of “their” side today. So get off your high horse, A.H., admit that nobody has clean hands, and stop looking for reasons not to negotiate.

All the emphasis is unashamedly mine. I stand by my comment that Israel is a nation founded in terrorism. If that makes me anti-JEWISH so be it.

Final note - in the papers this past week

Christ was not a Jew. His first tongue (and his last words) were Aramaic. That, I am told, would make him a Palestinian.

The tail end...

...of the elections has just come to a close in Parliament.

The High Court was hearing a petition by Winnie the Pooh that the Left Testicle had in fact jumped higher than the right and consequently had exceeded fair play and expenditure limits.

The ruling has been announced that the Left Testicle had in fact been below the bar, and that he can have a beer on his way home tonight to celebrate.

National MP Bob Clarkson has kept his Tauranga seat after two judges found he did not overspend on his election campaign.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, who Mr Clarkson ousted from the seat in the September 17 election, had lodged an electoral petition alleging he breached electoral law by knowingly spending more than $20,000 during the campaign.

Chief High Court Judge Tony Randerson, with Justices Lowell Goddard and Graham Panckhurst, heard the petition in the High Court at Tauranga late last month and Parliament's Speaker, Margaret Wilson, today delivered their findings.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I have been called "anti-Semite"...

before, most recently by "Greg" over at Dave Justus' place. (BTW no criticism of Dave, he handled it very well).

OK, so here I go being anti-Semitic again.

This here, just stinks. It is as rank, nay more so than trying to get false NZ passports for Mossad agents.
Maori politicians and health advocates are outraged that a tobacco company named a brand of cigarettes Maori Mix.

The Maori Smokefree Coalition (Te Reo Marama) said Philip Morris was marketing a brand of cigarettes called Maori Mix in Israel. The box featured a quasi Maori design and a map of New Zealand.

Te Reo Marama spokesman Shane Bradbrook said the use of the Maori name and the image was a defilement and unbelievable considering the high smoking rate among Maori.

"Would we have them here and call them Jewish Mix? It would be as offensive to the people in Israel as it is offensive for Maori."

Philip Morris said the cigarettes were a short-term special edition and were no longer available anywhere in the world, Newstalk ZB reported this morning. The company said the packs were intended to "communicate open-minded acceptance of cultural diversity".

Te Reo Marama was notified about the brand by a Pakeha New Zealander living in Israel who bought a packet home with her.

Now if someone wants my respect, it is freely given when deserved.

If anyone wonders why I have little respect for the state of Israel, remember this and the little fracas over fraud to obtain a NZ passport just for two.

And a note to Phillip Morris, I just hope that someone, somewhere, puts a light to the end of your product... "end" there being the operative word. As in "finish".

Typical F***ing Americans.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The future? - Vanuatu IV

I wrote in Vanuatu III about the changes that we noticed from eleven years back and commented upon the increasing overseas investment in the tourism infrastructure.

Along the same lines, there is another change in that same sector which I want to look at in this post.

Talking with resort staff, taxi drivers, even stall holders in the Vila Market, we were struck by the number of people from outlying islands. The greatest numbers seemed to be from Melaluca and Tanna, with a smaller number from Santo in particular.

That of itself should not be a major worry, until we asked one Tannese taxi driver how often he saw his family. “Once a year, at Christmastime, for three or four days.” He had two children, aged three and two months. He is hoping to save enough that he can bring his family to Vila. I hope that he can as well.

But there are two other factors developing at the same time. Both of these are of far greater concern looking forward.

The first of these is the development of three (that we saw and noted) separate “residential estates”. Sounds quite grand said like that. The problem is that the buildings that are being erected are long, concrete, barrack like lines of very small flats. We asked about one and was told that they are intended as “single mens’ accomodation”. They looked for all the world like the “kamps” built in South Africa during the apartheidt years to form the accomodation suburbs of Pretoria and Jo’burg.

The second was a comment made to us by two people, one Melanesian the other white, that there was never any trouble in Vila. Well, not until all those men started arriving from Tanna looking for work.

That brought me up very short. It is exactly the same kind of feeling that brought the “trouble” in the Solomon Islands with the exodus of the Melaita peoples to Honiara. That exodus started with the twin pressures of seeking a working income and the sale of Melaita land to foreign interests – for tourist resorts. The compound effect of the latter was that it displaced far more people than could be employed by the resorts.

The recent volcanic eruption, and the displacement of people that will cause on Ambae is not going to help in the short term. In the longer term there are three islands where just that one factor could play a major part in the population drift to the main island of Efate.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A rough guide to NZ politics

I have been meaning to post this since the elections. It has been getting too heavy around here so perhaps the time is right.

Helen Clark - Auntie Helen
Cullen - Wol
Jim Anderton - Comrade Jim
Steve Maharey - The Dean
Phil Goff - Dean of Invisible Runes; Ponder Stibbons
Annette King - Nursey
Pete Hodgson - Eeyore
Mark Burton - Gonefora
Ruth Dyson - Kanga
Chris Carter - Christopher Robin
Nanaia Mahuta - Nanny
Horomia - Heffalump
Benson Pope - Bunsen, Tennisey
Trevor Mallard - Blackadder
David Cunnliffe - Piglet

Brash - Brash Donnie
John Key - Jonkey
Lockwood Smith - Quizmaster; The Joker
Bill English - The Bursar; Invisible
Gerry Brownlee - The Archchancellor
Wayne Mappe - Baldrick
Bob Clarkeson - Left Testicle, Bob the Builder
Katherine Rich - Blondie; Marilyn
Judith Collins - Joanie
Murray McCully - Conspiracy

Rodney Hide - Rinohide

Winston Peters - Winnie the Pooh

Jeanette Fitzsimons - Too nice to name
Nandor Tanzcos - THC

Peter Dunn P-Dunney

There are no prizes for guessing the sources. Or the rationale behind my choice of knickname.

They may change from time to time. Depends upon what might happen... For example, Benson Pope might be up for revision, given the fact that he is becoming something of a pariah among his own fraternity.

Suicide pilots - Terrorist and kamikaze

I came across this paper through the good folks at ALD.

The author, Yuki Tanaka, begins with an examination of the principle psychological themes found in the records of the Japanese kamikaze pilots of WW2. The headings -

1) Rationalizing one’s own death to defend one’s country and its people

2) The belief that to die for the “country” was show filial piety to one’s own parents, particularly to one’s mother:

3) Strong solidarity with their flight-mates who shared their fate as Kamikaze pilots:

4) A strong sense of responsibility and contempt for cowardice:

5) A lack of an image of the enemy:

Read the whole paper. It is an interesting insight.

His conclusion -

In my view, religious or ideological indoctrination is not the decisive factor in turning a young person into a suicide attacker. Rather religion and ideology are used to justify and formalize their cause of self-sacrifice and to rationalize the killing enemies, whether military or civilians. In so doing, they mirror the strategies of their oppressors who likewise, in practice, make no distinction between military and civilian targets. Ritualising killing makes it psychologically easier not only to annihilate enemies but also to terminate one’s own life.

Ritualized violence and brutality as exemplified by suicide attack may constitute the most negative manifestations of a human being’s desire to let one’s own people live by sacrificing one’s own life. However, war and violent conflict inevitably brutalize not only suicide attackers, but all human beings. Undoubtedly war is an act of madness, its absurdity clearly shown in the paired (but imbalanced) actions and reactions of World War II: as Japan adopted kamikaze-style suicide attacks, the US used “strategic bombing” to indiscriminately kill hundreds of thousands of civilians, and finally engaged in atomic bombing attacks. Yet, to a great extent, it is the former acts that have borne the opprobrium of history while the latter would come to shape the strategic horizons of subsequent wars. Thus terrorist suicide bombing, which is occurring more and more frequently throughout the world, bears the opprobrium of “lunatic actions by fanatics,” while the bombing of civilians, such as those executed by the U.S. and British forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, are widely regarded as “legitimate military operations.” It is crucial that we find effective ways to break the vicious cycle of these two types of terrorism.

OK, to be very clear, his statement "... in practice, make no distinction between military and civilian targets..." carries an emotional charge that is not going to lead to reasoned debate.

I think I would have said, in order to be more accurate, " effect, make no distinction between military and civilian targets...".

That would be closer to the truth, in any and all of the possible examples that might be raised. It has to be said that the US euphemism "colateral damage" applicable in these military operations is a blunt acceptance that civilian casualties are inevitable if unintended. Why else would you drop an HE / incendiary mix if it were not to spread the fire as far and as wide as possible?

It also takes nothing away from Tanaka's conclusions.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

'Net trails...

Sometimes, moving from one thing to another on the ‘Net can result in some almost astounding things.

This little trail of thought starts with my old friends at ALD. I dropped in there in search of something to read over my lunch, and right at the top of the list was this article making a comparison between Japan’s kamikaze pilots of WW2 and the modern day suicide bombers. I want to return to that as it deserves a sleep or two to digest.

But in the side bar to that article was this
- a fascinating discussion on the “last words” of General Yamashita Tomoyuki including a translation of the document he left.

If we leave out the history that must go with his execution, his “four things” are in retrospect equally applicable today as then (with the possible exhortations in favour of what is now the international La Leche League). So I shall leave out the last of the four…

Facing death, I have four things to say to you, the people of the nation of Japan as it resurrects.

First, is about carrying out one's duty. From ancient times, this topic has repeatedly been discussed by scholars, yet it remains most difficult to achieve. Without a sense of duty, a democratic and cooperative society cannot exist. Duty has to be fulfilled as a result of self-regulating and naturally motivated action. I feel some misgivings in thinking about this, considering that you are suddenly to be liberated from the social restraints under which you have long lived.

I often discussed this with my junior officers. The moral decay of our military was so grave that the Imperial Code of Military Conduct as well as the Field Service Code were simply dead letters. Therefore, we had to remind people of this all the time, even in the military where obedience was strongly demanded and defying orders was not allowed at all. In this war, it was far from true that officers under my command carried out their duties satisfactorily.

They were unable to fulfill even the duties that were imposed upon them. Therefore I have some concern over your ability to fulfill your duty voluntarily and independently, after being released from long-standing social restraints. I wonder if you'll be dazzled by suddenly bestowed freedom, and whether some may fail to carry out your duty as required in relations with others, as you've received basically the same education as military men. In a free society, you should nurture your own ability to make moral judgments in order to carry out your duties. Duties can only be carried out correctly by a socially mature person with an independent mind and with culture and dignity.

The fundamental reason why the world has lost confidence in our nation, and why we have so many war-crime suspects who left ugly scars on our history, was this lack of morals. I would like you to cultivate and accept the common moral judgment of the world, and become a people who fulfill duties on your own responsibility. You are expected to be independent and carve out your own future. No one can avoid this responsibility and choose an easy way. Only through that path can eternal peace be attained in the world.

Second, I would like you to promote education in science. No one can deny that the level of Japan's modern science, apart from certain minor areas, is well below world standards. If you travel outside Japan, the first thing you notice is the unscientific way of life of the Japanese. To search for truth with Japan's irrational and cliquish mentality is like searching for fish among the trees.

We soldiers had great difficulties in securing the necessary materials to fight and to make up for the lack of scientific knowledge. We tried to fight against the superior forces of the United States and to win the war by throwing away the priceless lives of our nation as substitutes for bullets and bombs. Various methods of horrendous suicide attack were invented. We exposed our pilots to danger by stripping vital equipment from the planes in order to just slightly improve their mobility. This shows how little knowledge we had for conducting war. We made the greatest mistake -- unprecedented in world history -- by trying to make up for the lack of materials and scientific knowledge with human bodies.

My present state of mind is quite different from that at the time of surrender. In the car on the way to Baguio from Kiangan, Mr. Robert MacMillan, a journalist of the magazine Youth asked, what I thought was the fundamental reason for Japan's defeat. Something suppressed for a long time in my sub-consciousness suddenly burst out and I instantly responded "science," before referring to other important issues. This was because my long-lasting frustration and intense anger were loosened all at once when the war was over.

I am not saying that this is the only reason, but it was clearly one important reason for Japan's defeat. If there will be another war somewhere in the world (although I hope there won't be), it is expected end in a short time through the use of horrific scientific weapons. The foolish methods of war that Japan adopted will be regarded as the illusions of an idiot. Human beings throughout the world, I presume, will make efforts to prevent such a terrible war -- not just the Japanese who thoroughly endured the horror of this war. This is the task that is given to humanity.

The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were horrendous weapons. Never before have so many people been killed instantly in the long history of slaughtering human beings. As I have been in prison, I have not had enough time to study the A-bomb, but I think that no weapon will be invented to defend against atomic weapons. It used to be said that it would always be possible to fight against a new method of attack. This is still true. If there is any method to defend against atomic bombs -- the weapon that has made obsolete all past warfare -- it would simply be to create nations all over the world that would never contemplate the use of such weapons.

A defeated officer like me reflects sadly that if we had had superior scientific knowledge and sufficient scientific weapons, we would not have killed so many of our own men. Instead we could have sent them back home to use the knowledge as the foundation to rebuild a glorious and peaceful country. However, the science that I mean is not science that leads mankind to destruction. It is science that will develop natural resources still to be tapped, that will make human life rich, and will be used for peaceful purposes to free human beings from misery and poverty.

Third, I want to mention the education of women.
I have heard that Japanese women have been liberated from the feudal state authorities and been given the privilege of suffrage. From my experience of living in foreign countries for a long time, I can say that the position of modern Japanese women is inferior to that of women in the west.

I am slightly apprehensive about the fact that freedom for Japanese women is a generous gift from the Occupation Forces, not one that they struggled to acquire themselves. A gift is often enjoyed as an object of appreciation and not actually put to direct use. The highest virtues for Japanese women used to be "obedience" and "fidelity." That was no different from "obedient allegiance" in the military. A person who respects such castrated and slave-like virtues has been called a "chaste woman" or praised as a "loyal and brave soldier." In such values, there is no freedom of action or freedom of thought, and they are not the virtues by which one can self-examine autonomously. My hope is that you will break out of your old shell, enrich your education, and become new active Japanese women, while maintaining only the good elements of existing values. The driving force for peace is the heart of women. Please utilize your newly gained freedom effectively and appropriately. Your freedom should not be violated or taken away by anyone. As free women, you should be united with women throughout the world and give full play to your unique abilities as women. If not, you will be squandering all the privileges that you have been given.

I am not going to do any kind of analysis. I admire (leaving aside all of the history) his foresight. The parts of his memo that I have highlighted should stand today, as a clear commentary to all of us on our part in this world and its history.

Just(us) for Dave - Just war...

Dave, it took about 15 seconds to get this.

Just War theory is the attempt to distinguish between justifiable and unjustifiable uses of organized armed forces. Just War theories attempt to conceive of how the use of arms might be restrained, made more humane, and ultimately directed towards the aim of establishing lasting peace and justice. (Source:

Just War tradition addresses the morality of the use of force in two parts: when it is right to resort to armed force (the concern of jus ad bellum) and what it is right to do in using such force (the concern of jus in bello). (Source: [1] Just Cause Revisited])

In more recent years, a third category - Jus post bellum - has been added, which governs the justice of war termination and peace agreements, as well as the trying of war criminals.

Just War theory has ancient roots. The so-called Song of Deborah in the 5th chapter of the Hebrew Bible's Book of Judges discusses late Bronze Age conceptions of what distinguishes a "just" holy war. Cicero discussed this idea and its applications. Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas and Hugo Grotius later codified a set of rules for a just war, which today still encompass the points commonly debated, with some modifications.

So, there is the answer to the first bit - the principle of "Just War" does go back a long way. Korea was not the first by a long shot.

WW2 - Definitely.

WW1 - Hmm, probable though not certain.

Boer - No

Crimea - Probable no.

Maori Wars - Definite no.

That is as far back as I go...

There ain't nothin' sacred...

... and there ain't nothin' like bullying the small guy.

If you are looking for a good NZ wine, especially in Europe, then be very careful in your choice and reject ANYTHING with the name "kiwi" on it.


For the simple reason that it is probably French.

Huh? Run that past me again? French?

OK so cast your mind back a few years. Remember the French making the name "champagne" a registered brand, and limiting its use to wines only from the Champagne region?

Read this -
A French winemaker's threat of legal action against a Nelson vineyard for using the word kiwi in its branding has sparked a warning to other exporters not to take the rights to their national symbol for granted.

Kahurangi Estate owner Greg Day said he would no longer be able to sell his "Kiwi White" label in Sweden or anywhere else in Europe for fear of being sued.

"We can't use something that is an icon and only associated with a New Zealand bird in Europe because some French company has registered the name," he said.

LaCheteau has registered the brand name, Kiwi Cuvee, in Europe, effectively prohibiting its use elsewhere..

Now that, in all honesty, is exactly the situation that the French prevented with their champagne ban.

So, buyer beware. If you buy a French "Kiwi Cuvee", I hope it burns your throat. And while you are recovering just remember where it came from - NOT New Zealand.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Courage and judgement

It is under this heading that the reknowned Reverend Donald Sensing has "critiqued" the kidnapping of four people, members of a CPT team.

Samples of his commentary...
“Christian Peacemakers” abducted in Iraq have the former, lack the latter.
The organization was founded by joint efforts of Mennonites, Brethren and Quakers. Unsurprisingly, it has a clear Leftward tilt:

[He quotes from the CPT website]-
Iraq – a Baghdad-based presence since October 2002. Team members accompanied the Iraqi people through the U.S.-led 2003 war and continue during the post-war occupation to expose abusive acts by U.S. Armed Forces and support Iraqis committed to nonviolent resistance.

Note well that the “resistance” CPT endorses in Iraq is not resistance against al Qaeda or Baathist terrorists, but exclusively against Coalition forces and the democratic Iraqi government. According to The Independent, CPT “cites the removal of coalition forces from Iraq as one of its aims…” CPT’s home page says of the abductions,

"We are angry because what has happened to our teammates is the result of the actions of the U.S. and U.K. governments due to the illegal attack on Iraq and the continuing occupation and oppression of its people."

The Portsmouth Herald reported after the abductions,

[DS quotes -]
"A group spokeswoman said Christian Peacemaker Teams strongly opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and does not consider itself a fundamentalist organization.

“We are very strict about this: We do not do any evangelism, we are not missionaries,” said Jessica Phillips. “Our interest is to bring an end to the violence and destruction of civilian life in Iraq.”

Its first activists went to Iraq in 2002, six months before the U.S.-led invasion, Phillips said, adding that a main mission since the invasion has been documenting alleged human rights abuses by U.S. forces. "

“We do not do any evangelism, we are not missionaries.” Pray, then: in what way are you Christian peacemakers? Do the people in Iraq, on whose behalf you claim to be working, know that your are driven by specifically Christian conviction, a faith that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is alone the redeemer of humankind? Or are they actually more aware of your actions to protect the mass murdering Saddam Hussein from removal?

Its presence there [Iraq] dates to November, 2002, during the tense run-up to the overthrow of Mr. Hussein’s government. CPT was part of an influx of foreign peace-group volunteers who were welcomed by the Baathist regime. Many were deployed around the country as “human shields,” protecting strategic buildings and military installations likely to be targeted by U.S. bombs. CPT took the role of protecting electrical plants, Ms. Buyers said.

Prof. Bender, I hope you are rescued or released alive and well, but you need to confront just what and whom CPT allied itself with:

[DS has this as a quote - unsourced]
The killers of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party showed up at the barley field at 9 AM, with backhoes and three buses filled with blindfolded men, women and children as young as one year old. The backhoes dug a trench. Fifty people were led to the edge of the hole and shot, one by one, in the head. The backhoes covered them with dirt, then dug another hole for the next group. At 5 PM, the killers went home. This went on without a break for 35 days in March and April of 1991, during the crackdown on the Shiite Muslim uprising that followed the first Gulf War.

This was the regime you tried to protect, and incredibly, you claimed to do so in the name of our Lord. Is Christian Peacemaker Teams really a Christian organization? It does not evangelize or do missionary work. It befriends and supports mass murders and tyrants for no apparent reason other than the United States opposes them. Perhaps you will call that “Christian” works, but I do not. Are they peacemakers? It seems the only peace they work to preserve is the peace of the grave.

The opening statement sets the tone. He is criticising their judgement, not their courage. Bravo Reverend.

The first obvious "mis-judgement" in the good Reverend's view is their politics. So, apparently are the politics of all Mennonites, Brethren and Quakers because they have "a clear Leftward tilt".

That obviously is the first death-knell to any semblance of credibility that CPT has in the good Reverend's opinion - having any relationship with the "left". Mind you, how this should affect the judgement of this group in their visit to Iraq, their direct contact with Iraqis, and their attempts to distill some truth from the morass of information and misinformation defies logic.

The good Reverend then quotes from the CPT website, including -
to expose abusive acts by U.S. Armed Forces and support Iraqis committed to nonviolent resistance.

which he "rephrases" as -
the “resistance” CPT endorses in Iraq is not resistance against al Qaeda or Baathist terrorists, but exclusively against Coalition forces and the democratic Iraqi government

Note the subtlety of the phrasing; "...expose abusive acts..." becomes "“resistance” ... exclusively against Coalition forces", and; "support Iraqis committed to nonviolent resistance" somehow translates in the good Reverend's mind as "against Coalition forces and the democratic Iraqi government".

Yes, one could say that is an honest analysis, but I am not.

The report from the Portsmouth Herald I accept as factual, so too I imagine does the Reverend. The Reverend's rationale behind the quotation is fascinating - like watching a hungry snake.

How else can one describe the blatant equate of “We do not do any evangelism, we are not missionaries.” with "...Or are they actually more aware of your actions to protect the mass murdering Saddam Hussein from removal?"

Now I know that removing Saddam was [probably] the most reasonable of all of the various justifications for Iraq2 that the US trotted out to the rest of the world. That is not in debate, and to forestall any accusation from the good Reverend any others who follow his line of reasoning I am very much in favour of removing the likes of Saddam, and bin Laden, and Mugabe, and all of the other petty tyrants around the world.

But, good Reverend, a person's opposition to the methods or rationale, or even the lies that were used as partial justification for an action does not mean ipso facto opposition to the objective. The fact that I support the removal of tyrants and war criminals does not imply that I support the subjection of a nation to invasion or the imposition of a system of government that might be inappropriate to its culture. Neither does my support for the objective permit total carte blanche in the methods to be used.

No, there has to be a reason why "Iraq 2 - 100" is so prevalent and hearing the good Reverend use it in this context brings the answer home.

Having made this equate between CPT and support for Saddam, here comes the king hit - there is no way that the CPT can be a Christian organisation. Reverend, that is an astounding leap of logic. It rivals David Irving and his very learned opinions on the Holocaust.

Now, why does the Reverend want this dissociation between the Church he serves (I accept probably with distinction) and the Church represented by CPT and like organisations.

It would be easy to point to his military service and connections. He is a street and a half at least ahead of me there as well. It would be too simplistic by half to make a connect between his religion and the "Crusader" ethic.

No, I have another alternative, another fundamental behind this.

It is fear.

Now what on earth might a good Marine, a good Reverend with the greatest military on earth at his back and the greatest God on earth at his side have to fear.

Simple. Being wrong.

Being wrong about so many of the "justifications" given by his good and great leader for going to war. Being wrong about the consequences of the war (and that might be 20 years off yet - who knows?).

Being wrong through misrepresenting his faith as "the religion of peace" while at the same time using (or abusing?) it in promoting a war. Or have I got it all wrong, and Christianity is in fact the religion of war? What a crisis of conscience that could create!

But most of all Reverend, I think I believe that you might be afraid to admit that you have blindly followed where you should have had your eyes open.

CPT have the courage to judge events and people by the measure of their own beliefs. They have the courage to follow that to the extent of seeing with their own eyes.

You, sir ( with all your military training and the great attributes that brings ) are more prepared to see and follow others before seeing and judging for yourself. No criticism; it is what makes a good military man. It is why I would be nothing more than a poor military man destined to be cannon fodder.

Think of it this way - if you saw someone being tortured, would you stop it as a humanitarian or just report it because that was the order?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

...and a little justice.

Those with better memories than mine will remember my comments here on the two bright little sparks who thought a bit of paint and desecration was warranted on Auckland's three mosques.

Well here, at last, is the outcome.

Jason Paul Molloy, 19, and Ross Mark Baumgarten, 18, were yesterday each sentenced to one year's imprisonment for seven counts of intentional damage on mosque and cultural centres.

They have been given leave to apply for home detention and will have to pay reparation of $5000 each at a minimum rate of $20 a week once they are released from jail.

To put that sentence into context, compare it with this -

Karen Jolly in her Honda Accord, Travis Green in his Mazda 323 and Kok Kie driving his Toyota MRS were strangers on May 7 this year.

Green threw down the gauntlet on Great North Rd about 6.30pm, Kie grabbed it at speeds of up to 130km/h and Mrs Jolly sat at the Waikumete Hill intersection in Glen Eden oblivious.

The 44-year-old was waiting to turn from Awaroa Rd, near the cemetery, on to Great North Road when they met, Kie's car slamming into hers, Green allegedly speeding off.

She died in hospital three days later.

Green, 20, has pleaded not guilty to street racing causing Mrs Jolly's death, failing to stop and failing to render assistance.

In the Waitakere District Court yesterday Kie, 38, was sentenced to two years in prison.

...flying children...

A quick note on Air New Zealand's (and apparently QANTAS and many other airlines) seating policy...

Qantas and Air New Zealand's ban on men sitting next to unaccompanied children on flights may breach the Human Rights Act.

Acting Chief Human Rights Commissioner Joris de Bres told the Herald the policy was "clearly discrimination" because it treated people differently on the basis of gender, which is prohibited under the act

On Flying Indians...

Last night, yesterday being my birthday, I was taken to see "The World's Fastest Indian" and I must say it is a most enjoyable filum. That is not just 'cos it is a local yarn or 'cos it happens to be true or 'cos Anthony Hopkins does a very good job of getting into the skin of a good Kiwi joker - even if he doesn't quite get the Southland burr on his "rr"'s.

Now this might be a bit difficult to get a Yankee head around, but NZ takes some pride in what we call "No 8 wire technology". Essentially, that is the story of Bert Munro, a 1920 Indian Scout Twin, and a world speed record set in 1967 for Motorcycles, Streamlined, Under 1000cc. From making his own pistons (2/3 Chevvy, 1/3 Ford is a good mix) to pursuading recalcitrant Americans that he did not come half way round the bleedin' world to fill in a bunch of paper and piss away the day just watching the locals having fun.

So, if you see the name at a theatre anywhere within 50 miles, and irrespective of whether you like Motorsickles or not, GO SEE IT!!! It deserves at least to become Cult Film of the Year.

Oh, and speaking of flying Indians, Commander John Herrington was last night guest speaker at the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Inside Iraq...

I unashamedly post this direct and in full from Baghdad Burning.

I post it as a message to Mr Republican, Robertopia, Right Wingnut, and all of those others who believe that the Iraq of today is better than it was under Saddam.

We woke up yesterday morning to this news: Sunni tribal leader and his sons shot dead.

“Gunmen in Iraqi army uniforms shot dead an aging Sunni tribal leader and three of his sons in their beds on Wednesday, relatives said…”

Except when you read it on the internet, it’s nothing like seeing scenes of it on television. They showed the corpses and the family members- an elderly woman wailing and clawing at her face and hair and screaming that soldiers from the Ministry of Interior had killed her sons. They shot them in front of their mother, wives and children… Even when they slaughter sheep, they take them away from the fold so that the other sheep aren’t terrorized by the scene.

In war, you think the unthinkable. You imagine the unimaginable. When you can’t get to sleep at night, your mind wanders to cover various possibilities. Trying to guess and determine the future of a war-torn nation is nearly impossible, so your mind focuses on the more tangible- friends… Near and distant relations. I think that during these last two and a half years, every single Iraqi inside of Iraq has considered the possibility of losing one or more people in the family. I try to imagine losing the people I love most in the world- whether it’s the possibility of having them buried under the rubble… or the possibility of having them brutally murdered by extremists… or blown to bits by a car bomb… or abducted for ransom… or brutally shot at a checkpoint. All disturbing possibilities.

I try to imagine what would happen to me, personally, should this occur. How long would it take for the need for revenge to settle in? How long would it take to be recruited by someone who looks for people who have nothing to lose? People who lost it all to one blow. What I think the world doesn’t understand is that people don’t become suicide bombers because- like the world is told- they get seventy or however many virgins in paradise. People become suicide bombers because it is a vengeful end to a life no longer worth living- a life probably violently stripped of its humanity by a local terrorist- or a foreign soldier.

I hate suicide bombers. I hate the way my heart beats chaotically every time I pass by a suspicious-looking car- and every car looks suspicious these days. I hate the way Sunni mosques and Shia mosques are being targeted right and left. I hate seeing the bodies pile up in hospitals, teeth clenched in pain, wailing men and women…

But I completely understand how people get there.

One victim was holding his daughter. "The gunmen told the girl to move then shot the father," said a relative.

Would anyone be surprised if the abovementioned daughter grew up with a hate so vicious and a need for revenge so large, it dominated everything else in her life?

Or three days ago when American and Iraqi troops fired at a family traveling from one city to another, killing five members of the family.

"They are all children. They are not terrorists," shouted one relative. "Look at the children," he said as a morgue official carried a small dead child into a refrigeration room.

Who needs Al-Qaeda to recruit 'terrorists' when you have Da’awa, SCIRI and an American occupation?

The Iraqi Ministry of Interior is denying it all, of course. Just like they’ve been denying the whole Jadriya torture house incident and all of their other assassinations and killing sprees. They've gone so far as to claim that the Americans are lying about the Jadriya torture house.

In the last three weeks, at least six different prominent doctors/professors have been assassinated. Some of them were Shia and some of them were Sunni- some were former Ba’athists and others weren’t. The only thing they have in common is the fact that each of them played a prominent role in Iraqi universities prior to the war: Dr. Haykal Al-Musawi, Dr. Ra'ad Al-Mawla (biologist), Dr. Sa'ad Al-Ansari, Dr. Mustafa Al-Heeti (pediatrician), Dr. Amir Al-Khazraji, and Dr.Mohammed Al-Jaza'eri (surgeon).

I don’t know the details of all the slayings. I knew Dr. Ra’ad Al-Mawla- he was a former professor and department head in the science college of Baghdad University- Shia. He was a quiet man- a gentleman one could always approach with a problem. He was gunned down in his office, off campus. What a terrible loss.

Another professor killed earlier this month was the head of the pharmacy college. He had problems with Da’awa students earlier in the year. After Ja’afari et al. won in the elections, their followers in the college wanted to have a celebration in the college. Sensing it would lead to trouble, he wouldn’t allow any festivities besides the usual banners. He told them it was a college for studying and learning and to leave politics out of it. Some students threatened him- there were minor clashes in the college. He was killed around a week ago- maybe more.

Whoever is behind the assassinations, Iraq is quickly losing its educated people. More and more doctors and professors are moving to leave the country.

The problem with this situation is not just major brain drain- it's the fact that this diminishing educated class is also Iraq's secular class…

I have opined in the past that Iraq will likely move toward a Shi'a state closely allied in both politics and religion to Iran. Quite apart from the politic of the present Iraq Administration, the background, the history of its leading players all point in that direction.

But then I started reading this

If I may, I want to quote the last couple paragraphs...
Add to the above mentioned kind of terror the death squads of Badr and SCIRI (Adil’s party), the Wolf Brigade and the Scorpion Brigades of Al-Shahwani (whose salary is paid directly by the CIA), and Adnan Thabit's Special Police Commandos that have led to extensive torture and extrajudicial killings in Iraq.

Adil 'diplomatically' states: "There is terrorism on only one side," he said. "Inappropriate acts by the other side, by the police—this is something else. This is a reaction.", and, "You can't fight terrorism without attacking some popular areas."

The fury of what is unleashed by the "reaction" of these terror squads is best captured by the eloquent Iraqi young lady Riverbend, with which I totally and humbly concur:

... [Here he has insterted the passage I quote above]

When it is a matter of a war crime being committed against my country and many tens of thousands of Iraqis "wasted", yes, it is white and black.

Now I want to make the point.

These people (Riverbend, Imad and his correspondents) are intelligent. They are experts at expressing their emotions and the facts as their history develops. It is immaterial to me what their religion is. They are Iraqis. They are Moslems. They are moderates.

But this is what they see -

But I completely understand how people get there.

One victim was holding his daughter. "The gunmen told the girl to move then shot the father," said a relative.

Would anyone be surprised if the abovementioned daughter grew up with a hate so vicious and a need for revenge so large, it dominated everything else in her life?

Sorry, Auntie Helen...

Imposing a death sentence for drug smuggling in Singapore might not be moral, but this aint gonna change anything.

Prime Minister Helen Clark has registered with Singapore's Prime Minister New Zealand's concerns about the planned execution of Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van.

She talked to Lee Hsieng Loong in Malta at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

"She raised the matter informally, making her concerns known to him and her views on capital punishment," a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said.

As I have said to a number of people on the American side, if I were to go to Texas and then to shoot someone I would deserve to be punished in accordance with their laws. The morality does not count. I should comply with the law of Texas. Failure to so do brings the corresponding punishment whether capital murder or a parking ticket.

Nguyen probably new the risk he ran.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

On international labour exchange - Vanuatu III

Vanuatu III –

I mentioned an op-ed piece that appeared in the Daily Post in Vila while we were there.

The same topic, reportage and conclusions were this morning (Sunday 20 Nov) broadcast in a radio op-ed programme back here at home.

A lengthy report from Danny Lui “Where next on labour mobility?” covers the discussions on the South Pacific Forum meeting held in PNG. Now this is not a Vanuatu issue, it is one which is important to most of the Pacific Islands, and to the small nations in particular. Danny notes right at the start that the representatives of these nations – from Kiribati to Palau and including Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu – had attended the Forum with the intent of making some break-through in this area of “labour export”.

Australia and New Zealand – being the “big brothers” of the Forum – had the intent of signing all of the island nations to “The Pacific Plan”. This is described by Lui as a “new vision for regional integration which includes everything from opening up trade to information technology, to qualifications, and even movement of labour between the Pacific Islands themselves... In the end the though, it seems that the Plan includes everything except a labour scheme between the Pacific and Australia and New Zealand. [Emphasis mine]

So, what happened at the meeting?

Sadly the two ANZ countries had not read the script. While Pacific nations asked the questions, the answers they heard in Madang were not very encouraging... for all the talk of a Pacific community and regional integration, the meeting showed that there is still a big difference in power between the region’s developed countries and its small islands – and it is the “big brothers” who are still definitely the boss...

Well, for a starter I guess I have to concede that the big brother power is universal. We cop it from those with greater power than ourselves, and we give it to those smaller. Law of the jungle yet!

It goes a bit further as well.

Tonga has been applying for membership of the WTO apparently. I have seen nothing of this in the news until just this past week.

Then it was reported that in order to “qualify” for membership, Tonga must meet two (at least) primary requirements –

First, removal of all import tariffs.

Second, to “deregulate” all of its service industry to allow overseas competition.

The import tariffs is the Tongan government’s primary source of income. There is little to no “income tax” as most of the economy is barter, uncontrolled, and subsistence. There is little to no corporate tax, by choice, to attract employment prospects to the islands. Take away the import tariffs and what is the Government going to use as income?

Secondly, given the nature of the Tongan economy – very much a third world model – there is no way that the informal and barter systems could compete against external competition. Equally difficult is the idea of "de-regulation". How does one “de-regulate” a market system that operates on the street corner.

The truth is that the WTO members (the “big brothers” again) in fact want to lay their hands on two things. Prime Tongan land – for the recreation of the rich and famous – and most particularly the infrastructure and resources of Tonga’s tourist industry.

And at that point my mind goes straight back to Vila.

I have been trying, over the ten days that we were there and since, to put my finger on just what has changed in the eleven years since our first visit to Vanuatu. The answer was there in a conversation I had with an Australian who owns a tourist resort about 18km outside Vila.

The major resorts in Vila were all foreign owned first time we visited. There were also a number of smaller motels and similar sized guest accomodations being run by Vanuatu people (I include those Europeans who stayed on after Independence). More importantly the tourist services – tours, fishing, and so on – were predominantly run and staffed by ni-Vanuatu. That is changing. That is where the difference lies. That makes me sad as it takes the investment and the return away from the ni-Vanuatu.


This to hand following a search for another source...

Ni-Vanuatu may be able to find employment soon in the tourism, medical and seasonal work in Australia and New Zealand or even Europe, thanks to the endorsement of a Melanesian Spearhead Group proposal to boost labour mobility.

A proposal to include World Trade Organisation (WTO) Mode 4 Services Agreement by the Vanuatu delegation to the 2004 MSG Senior Officials Meeting has now been taken forward and accepted by the special Trade Expert Advisory Group (TEAC) in their meeting in Fiji last month.

Mode 4 Proposal specifically relates to labour and human resource mobility between one market and access to other competitive markets, for example in the case of the MSG both Australia and New Zealand on the PACER Proposal and with the European Union on the proposed EPA.

and at the end -
The Vanuatu delegation submitted this proposal to the MSG Senior officials meeting which was subsequently accepted and endorsed by the recent meeting of the Trade Expert Advisory Group, a special high level committee advising the Forum Island Countries on the progress of the forthcoming ACP/EU EPA which will be concluded by the end of 2007.

For Vanuatu, important policy decisions at the highest political level are yet to be done to facilitate the implementation of this important proposal.

As I implied, and in the absence of direct access to Lui's op/ed the quotes are not direct, neither Australia nor NZ were particularly impressed by the idea at Madang. In Australia's case, Howard came out with a flat "No." Auntie Helen was a bit more pragmatic about it pointing out the "difficulties" that would be associated with such a programme.

It seems that others are recognising the same thing.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Decision making at the highest level...

Irrespective of the validity of the memo behind this; irrespective of who is trying to do what to whom; irrespective of anything else; there are two very important lessons being learned here.

The first is being learned by Joe Public. Here we have an absolute illustration of how far one government is prepared to go to protect itself and others.

If the record is accurate and factual, and the remark intended as stated, then the diplomatic and political fallout will obviously be immense. There are so many people who will want to follow that particular line on both sides I will leave it be.

If the statement was “a throwaway” as has been stated, then there is a NZ example which illustrates exactly how embarrassing these can be, and how quickly the hooha dies after.

There was a meeting, some months back – I may even have commented on it at the time – at which Brash Donnie and his then FA sidekick Quizmaster Lockwood Smith were meeting and greeting with US highups in Wellington. The question of ANZUS and the anti-nuclear legislation was raised. Brash Donnie was recorded by a MFAT official as stating that “it would be gone by lunchtime” if the National Party were to win the elections. To say the least, the fallout of that little exchange could have changed the course and outcome of the election. Certainly it resulted in some extremely red faces, from both rage and embarrassment. But there was a very valuable lesson learned by a comparatively novice politician – none other than Brash Donnie himself.

That brings us to the second lesson to be learned. It is the benefit of honesty in politics. Now to me (and probably most of you) that is a prime oxymoron. The two are (usually) mutually exclusive.

And that, dear readers, is why the occasional injection of candid honesty into an embarrassing situation can work wonders. It more often than not can turn a minor “oops” into a political plus. A simple “I stuffed up, and have learned the lesson” can work a miracle or two. Obviously, it does not pay to make the same mistake twice, nor to make too many too often.

Also as obvious is that the scale of the “oops” is important.

Being frank and open about a sexual peccadillo in the Oval Office might get you off dining at that particular feast of consequences.

There is no way that I can imagine America (the rest of the world can butt out for a moment) thinking kindly of a Presidential Statement announcing that the war in Iraq (for example) was a misjudgement and mistake. But to be frank about an aside to the effect that “I wish I could bomb the shit out of al Jazheera” and saying that it should never have been thought let alone said might, just might, make Joe American Public feel a little easier about things.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Naah! Of course it wasn't about the oil...

Yep, ok, so this is a book promo, right?

How about this then?

Iraq expects oil exports to rise by about 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) daily by January, when a new government is elected with authority to decide on foreign involvement in the sector, the head of Iraq's Energy Council said recently.

Ahmad Chalabi, who has emerged as a key player in a transition government formed earlier this year despite falling out with Washington, said he still favoured giving priority to the US and British firms in developing Iraq's oil reserves, the world's third-largest after Saudi Arabia and Canada. “We expect 1.8 million bpd by January,” he said...

Funny that name should crop up...

Chalabi has previously said that Iraq’s political leaders realised that they could not afford to politicise the oil industry, and that production decisions had to involve the central government, although regional governments would autonomously negotiate with foreign companies.

“The oil sector will stay out of political disputes, (because) Iraqi officials recognise that it is the lifeline of the economy. The cabinet has already decided to allow foreign majority share ownership of Iraqi banks and foreign investment and ownership in downstream oil, including refineries,” he said.


Here is another -
Thamir al-Ghadban, in an interview to the state-run daily al-Sabah published Tuesday, pointed to the "necessity of privatising the Iraqi oil sector, particularly in the area of services such as transport, laying pipelines, building facilities and supplying equipment".

Ghadban, who was minister of oil in the transitional Iraqi government that was replaced after the January elections, also urged his country "to enter into partnerships with foreign companies in the investment sector and for building refineries and importing petroleum derivatives".

...however you might interpret that!
Zebari said that huge oil exploration contracts lost by Russia in Iraq during Saddam Hussein's rule might be reviewed.

"Naturally the Iraqi leadership carries responsibility for contracts signed in the time of Saddam Hussein," he told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

In 1997, the Russian oil company Lukoil won the rights to explore oil deposits at the West Qurna-2 field, one of Iraq's most promising fields.

The contracts were later annulled by Iraq...

Now, there IS a thorn in the foot for Halliburton. I wonder what will become of that little idea. I think not a great deal. Someone will be told to sit down and shuddup if he wants to keep his job.

This observation deserves an acknowledgement as well -
Leonard Doyle, Foreign Editor

On the eve of the war in Iraq, there was a shocking moment of clarity in the Commons when Jack Straw revealed that when it was all over, France and Germany would not be allowed to "get their snouts in the trough".

This public slap in the face to Britain's biggest EU partners gave an insight into what was really concentrating US and British minds. Having constructed a tortuous case for war over Iraq's lack of co-operation with the UN security Council, plans were being laid for post-Saddam Iraq excluding non-coalition countries.

Straw's remarks revealed the focused on Iraqs oil. The World's four oil giants (BP, Exxon, Chevron and Shell) , have been desperate to get back into Iraq, since being booted out in the nationalisation of 1972.
Iraq's new constitution - practically written by US and Foreign office advisors, guarantees a major role for foreign companies. Production Sharing Agreements would hand over control of dozens of oil fields, like the gian Majnoon .

After next month's elections, when a new Iraqi government takes over and contracts are signed it will become clearer how much oil was part of London and Washington's pre-war plans.

Well, we will see about that, but there is a seam still running...

Final few stitches
...For months, the State Department denied the existence of this 323-page document ...


...The switch to an OPEC-friendly policy for Iraq was driven by Dick Cheney himself. "The person who is most influential in running American energy policy is the Vice President," who, said the insider, "thinks that security begins by . . . letting prices follow wherever they may."

TWO AND A HALF YEARS AND $202 BILLION into the war in Iraq, the United States has at least one significant new asset to show for it: effective membership, through our control of Iraq's energy policy, in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the Arab-dominated oil cartel.

The US, a proxy member of OPEC?

I gotta go think this through...

Monday, November 21, 2005

"Let the Revolution begin!"

This, perhaps more than anything that the US has done in the Middle East, might be the first signs of change.

Earlier, Leftist Labour's central committee, encouraged by fiery new leader Amir Peretz, voted overwhelmingly to leave the government it had joined to help Sharon counter rightist Likud rebels who opposed his withdrawal from the occupied Gaza Strip.

"Let the revolution begin," said party official Eitan Cabel as he announced the result of the vote in a show of hands.

Sunday's events were the expected first step in a week that will reshape Israeli politics, thrown into turmoil since union leader Peretz defeated veteran peacemaker Shimon Peres in a surprise leadership vote.

I will wait on the reaction from the Palestinians, and the rest of the Arab world with interest.

I shall also wait on the results of the coming elections - is there the desire for peace in the Israeli electorate? I most certainly hope so.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

On the nature of International Aid – Vanuatu II

In the course of trying to get on-line data for this post, I unearthed this particular page which gives a good concise description of international aid definition.

One of the hot street topics (otherwise known as “talk to the taxi drivers”) in Vila was the “fish famine”, in particular the deep sea species. Principal cause (at least as perceived) of the famine tracks back some four years.

In 2000, a fairly severe hurricane struck the northern islands. The damage was generally “no more than usual”. On the main island of Efate the “ring road” was broken in two places and two bridges were washed out. This ring road is important for the locals, but particularly so for the tourist industry.

The Japanese very generously offered to chip in some USD2.5 million to effect repairs. There was, however, an expected quid pro quo. That was signed up in 2001. There was literally a hook in the agreement.

The Japanese, and registered contractors, were given an unlimited catch, unlimited time, right to long-line fish Vanuatu waters. Eighteen months later the Vanuatu government was expressing concern. Early this year the commercial fishing of Vanuatu waters was closed. Totally.

Try going for the sport fishing – both the Tanna and Ambrym grounds are closed. In Tanna that also includes closure of what in NZ would be called the “customary fishing”. The Tannese administration (as far as I could gather, a kind of Council of Chiefs) had closed ALL fishing some three months back in the hope that there would be some preservation of existing stocks and eventual recovery. How long will that take? Any guesses under a year?

Sport fishing is now limited to two day plus cruise charters. Most of the fishing time is outside of twelve miles. Compare that with eleven years back; cruising the outer Vila Harbour to pick up wahoo and skipjack with the occasional small marlin.

There are no tuna left, even skipjack is a comparative rarity, around Vanuatu. The ubiquitous poulet fish (a bream) is scarce. A serving of fish in the top restaurants is now about 150 grams or 5 ozs. Instead of the dominant restaurant main course selections being fish, Santo beef now figures prominently (and I can highly recommend it too).

Quite a good deal, as far as “aid” is concerned, but only for the donor.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Bumper sticker of the week -

The kids are running wild.
The dog is at obedience school.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Vanuatu notes - I

Visiting another country always interests me.

Quite apart from the usual touristi things; sight-seeing, spending money, lying in the sun, spending money, eating, spending money… I really enjoy getting into the local media and finding out what is going on locally as well as how much of the international news is being reported and the sources and slant it is given.

Well, for me one of the true joys of Vanuatu is that the international news can, to most intents and purposes, be ignored. Yes, there is satellite tv. I could if I wanted watch the likes of CNN, or Fox, or even TVNZ if I were in Fiji or the Cooks. But to be honest, where would the fun be in that?

So, on our daily jaunts into Vila I could pick up the local Daily Post for a quick catch-up.

Total length – 8 pages max, take out perhaps three for advertising.

What does disappoint me just a little is that two stories and an op-ed that tweaked my fancy have not been included in the e-editions of the paper. I can only speculate at the reasons why this might be.

The first, an item on Australian gun laws, came from an Australian paper so there might have been rights issues involved.

The second, an article on the outcome of the municipal elections and the political maneuverings involved was published in Bislama. That might have been the reason for limiting the distribution of that to the wider world.

The op-ed was one which I was hoping to quote extensively. It was a report from the South Pacific Forum meeting held in PNG while we were away. It was a very interesting read indeed as it gave an intelligent and very perceptive view of the impact of Australia and NZ on the region. I came away after reading it with the realisation that the same actions and attitudes I complain of in relation to the US are on a smaller scale present in the impact that Aus and NZ have on the small Pacific nations.

There is a third story, referenced in the Letters to the Editor. The letter spells out most of the story. And it is written in Bislama which makes the reading just a little more to think about... :D

So, in the meantime take a quiet jaunt through the Daily Post. There are issues that you might note as having a more than passing similarity to events in Auckland, Sydney, El Paso or even Washington…

It is not just Islam...

There has been a bit of a hiatus here, hasn’t there!

The reason will become apparent over the next week or three.

In the meantime I want to pick up on a matter which was forefront of the news in late October, and which is still hitting the headlines and the right whinge blogspots, that of the continuing riots in France. There is an excellent report and comment through Random Fate on the (smaller) riot in Grenoble.

I am sitting here, Sunday 9 a.m., listening to a radio doco/op-ed on Auckland’s own version of the same problem.

Being presented in the South Auckland case are some “simple” explanations – the “gangsta” culture, the hip-hop, rasta mix, racial tension between Maori and various Pacific peoples... and so the list goes on. Yes, it is possible for there to be racial (and it is very definitely racial) conflict between Samoan and Tongan in particular. It tracks back in part to long-standing historical wars between the islands.

There is the influence of the worst of American culture; the “colours”, the street gangs, the rumbles, the finger languages, and the uniforms.

There is the mix of Polynesian culture; the “patu” honour (of scoring a hit against an opponent, the greater the hit the higher the score) and the tradition of tribal loyalties to reinforce the gang culture.

There is also the lawyer who spends Monday morning in Manukau Court as one of 15 duty solicitors. Her clients are entirely PI, Maori or immigrant. Her clients are, most frequently, functionally illiterate. They are aged between 16 and 25. They have never been employed. They are most often still living at home with their parents. Most of those families do not have a telephone. The only car takes dad to work at 5.30 in the morning and he returns at 7 in the evening. There is not enough money to buy a newspaper regularly. Getting to the unemployment office is difficult, to apply for a job is difficult, to get to an interview close to impossible.

For these kids, an evening’s entertainment is stealing a car, thrashing it until it stops, then burning it. Or it is pushing the boundaries of the next gang in the hope of provoking an attack. Hanging out in the local shopping centre will provoke the law. More serious is the utu (revenge) for prior wrongs – the equivalent of the “rumble” in America. Weapons of choice are knives, hammers and broken bottles.

The parallel with France?

There are several –


Unemployment, particularly long term and inter-generational unemployment.

Perceived if not actual racial discrimination.

Ghetto style agglomerations of poverty.

The solutions are not simple. I will return to this theme as well as part of a planned series of reports coming out of the hiatus just broken.

UPDATE - 15 Nov

There is an interesting op-ed in the Herald this morning. As it is a contract columnist, Herald does not put it on its e-edition which is a shame.

Essentially, the comparison is made between France and the current riots with Britain and the Brixton riots of some years back.

The conclusion, and this for me is the most interesting aspect, is a matter of cultural difference.

Britain is a nation with a population that includes peoples from many different cultures, a result of its colonial power in the past. Britain has changed, culturally in particular, to include and allow the introduced cultures to create a "multi-cultural" society.

France on the other hand had a far less extensive "colonial empire". Most of that it had was in western Africa. France accepted the same immigration from the colonies to homeland in the same way as did Britain.

The very big difference, as pointed out in the op-ed piece, is that France is trying very hard to remain mono-cultural. You are either French or you are not.

To add my comment, that argument is supported by the fact that France prohibits any of these "ex-pat colonials" to hold French citizenship. That prohibition applies even if you were born in France.

At least Britain has had the courage to learn from past mistakes. Brixton was certainly a turning point in their cultural outlook and attitudes. It is noted that those changes did not prevent or divert the underground bombings.

There is a very interesting parallel to this line of argument in the South Pacific at the moment. I will return to this point later...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Rod Donald -

He deserves a longer and better recognition than I will give here.

Rod was co-leader of the Green Party, Green activist, politician, and generally very thoughtful guy.

I might not agree with much of his politic, but I do recognise what he has achieved with respect.

Rod died on Sunday last at the age of 48 from viral myocarditis.

This morning's cartoon had Rod reporting back that he had met up with huia, Haast's eagle, moa and other extinct NZ flora and fauna.

Rest well, Rod.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Jeez Wayne!

I have alluded to, but not written of, the National Party's "shadow Cabinet".

It has all of the usual culprits. Obviously Brash Donny is Numbero Uno, I think the fortunately invisible Bill (Catholic) English is in two and Jonkey is number three. Georgina Te Heu Heu is their Honarary Maori, or is it Honarary Pakeha?

Somewhere down toward the bottom is the name Wayne Mapp. Alongside is a new portfolio - "Spokesman for the removal of political correctness.

Keith Ng sets out his reasons for remaining vocally "liberal".

My mind goes back to Jon Gadsby, David McPhail, and "Jeez Wayne!".

MTC over the next three years...

Added later -

Kip in front of the box (A1 Racing on it couldn't keep me awake...) does wonders for the brain.

I am letting the usual culprits off just a bit too easy.

Jeez Wayne goes back to a speech during the election campaign. I have not heard nor seen more than third hand reports, but apparently he was trying to pull Brash Donnies 2005 Orewa speech back into the news.

As I understand it, he has defined (re-defined) Political Correctness, spoken strongly against it, and has his post of PC Eradicator as a result. It is that funny au!

His definition (I don't have the exact wording here) connected "mainstream NZ" to policies and government sponsorship of "minorities".

When Brash Donnie opened the NP campaign with the "mainstream NZ" tag, everyone began wondering just who he was meaning. Please leave suggestions in comments Not only that, everyone began fearing that they might falloutside of "mainstream NZ" for some reason, some "thing" that would make them in a minority that they did not know about.

So, to start -


Saturday, October 29, 2005

A quick look back -

A short while back, I posted on the attempts a father was making to "save" his son from a death penalty imposed for drug trafficking.

Dave Justus took some exception to the stance I had taken, and now that I am on leave I have a few minutes to reply...

Dave's comment...

I don't think that the death penalty is appropriate for selling drugs.

I don't think it would be appropriate in the U.S. I don't think it would be appropriate in New Zealand and I don't think it is appropriate in Indonesia.

You seem happy that he is being killed because he is a drug dealer. I am not happy about that.

I am for some legalization of drugs, but I am unsure if that should apply to all drugs or not. However, that doesn't really enter into this particular question. I think a society does have a right to choose whether to legalize this sort of thing or not. If they choose for it to be legal there are a range of penalties that would be appropriate to punish those who break the law. The Death Penalty is not in that range for this crime.

I don't have any opinion on whether the AFP should have intervened or not. They certainly had no responsibility to do so.

You seem to feel that if something is legal (death penalty for drug trafficing in Indonesia) it is also moral, I strongly disagree with that premise.

There was a splash in the news recently about gays being executed in Iran for being gay. Based upon your logic I presume you approve of that, since the maximum penalty for being gay in Iran is death and presumably these men knew that and were warned. Obviously they deserve every lump. That is just part of the risk.

It is more a matter of realities, rather than trying to rationalise the morality.

Obviously, from what Dave says, it is not a good thing to be homosexual in Iran. While the death penalty does not apply in the US, I suspect that there are likely a good number of devout Christians in America who would fully approve of adopting the same law in their country. That might still not make it moral. It would not in my book.

No, the reality is this...

If I were to visit the US, and if I were to murder a Texan in downtown Dallas, it is probable that I would be sentenced to death. I know that. It is the reality of the situation. Should I as a NZer escape that process of law? No.

If I smuggle drugs in Indonesia, the legal penalty is death. It might not be "moral". But the lack of morality does not remove the reality.

We agree that the death penalty is immoral. In my mind there is no crime that justifies it. That does not stop other nations having it and justifying its use.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Well its been an interesting couple of weeks - but better is coming...

Well I know without being told that it is a while since I contributed anything to the world wide fund of misinformation, rumour and bigotry. So it is time I remedied that...

It is not the outcome of our elections – Auntie Helen “won”; there has been a bigamous marriage (or is it civil union) between Winnie the Pooh, Uncle Peter (Piglet) Dunne and Auntie Helen. Winnie has said he is being consistent and is not going to sleep in the marital bed, and ignores the fact that he has already achieved his major promise to his electorate – of having the toll road to Mount Maunganui paid for by the government. Peter the Piglet has his cuddle in the form of Transmission Gully motorway funding. I wonder if he owns property on the Kapiti Coast – the prices there are rocketing already.

The full Cabinet has been announced - and there have been the obvious prognostications of doom and despondancy with Winnie the Pooh being given the Very Important Job of Foreign Affairs. Given his “refusal” to be part of the merry threesome in the marital bed one can but wonder at the subtlety of Auntie Helen’s hint.

Interesting that one of his first ambitions is “to build bridges with the US”. Good luck Winnie. Given your success with the Mount expressway, a bridge should be a piss in the wind. Just make sure of which way the wind is blowing.

There is a report that NZ is the third least corrupt place after Iceland and Finland. Well I guess that is good to know. I might dispute its restriction to financial corruption – there are other aspects that I might take issue with. That is not the foremost in my mind either. The Truth Laid Bear had better take a look at the pork barrels wandering around Wellington to see where his attention might be better focussed.

The news today that Taranaki (otherwise known as Mt Egmont but I prefer Taranaki because it is more “personable”) is overdue for eruption by some 200 years and when (not if) it does it would potentially cover the whole of the North Island with ash. Start swimming if that gets the bowels moving. There was another report at the same time that “fear” triggers more heart attacks than high blood pressure. Mostly (apparently) it is the fear of having a heart attack that causes the problem. Taranaki just adds another dimension.

No. The news of the day, and in my opinion it will be NOTD for some time to come, revolves around a kiwi doctor serving with the RAF.

Michael Kendall-Smith has already served two tours of duty in Iraq. He was posted to a third tour in Basra. He has refused to comply with the order on the grounds that the war is not legal.

Now there is one heck of a lot of water to flow under this bridge. There is one very log floating downstream at the moment – one which I shall be trying to track in the next few days. It is a report from the British Attorney General to the effect that Britain has never declared war on Iraq. From there onward the initial news items become a little confused, such as the report that appeared in the Sunday Star Times -

Effectively this has the potential to put Tony Blair and the whole process associated with Britain’s support of the Bush expedition to Iraq under the legal microscope.

In my opinion the charges will not proceed. Kendall-Smith will get a discharge. It might be “without comment” on his service to avoid counter-suit but is unlikely to be “honourable”.

Why is this most likely? Simply because the British Government can not afford to have the Attorney General being produced in Court to effectively prosecute the Government. Not even in a military court – where a charge like this will most likely be heard. The rights of Kendall Smith to call the A-G as a witness will take some while to unravel for a start.

It might also lead to the A-G having to go back to his day job. His position on the Iraq war is almost certainly giving Blair the taste of raw alum in his mouth, and a similarly strong alum enema as well. Having the ultimate in pursed lips dragged out into public would not add to Blair’s current popularity.

But before that happens – what prospect there be for the interplay between accused, prosecution, civil and military law, and the politics involved...

Can the British government permit Kendall Smith to go without challenge? No. Probably not. For the simple reason that it will allow far too many other servicemen to “opt out” of Iraq service on the grounds that “war has not been declared”.

Can that be remedied? It will look a bit more than funny if Britain declares war against a country that it “defeated” two years ago... As Jeff da Maori would say, “Not even au”.

What a delicious dilemma.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

What price a human life?

Can I present you all with a problem, actually a small series of questions.

First the background -

A couple set off in a 9m yacht, well founded, well fitted, for Cook Islands. Some 5 days out of harbour they strike extremely heavy weather. It is not unusual for this time of year, but was not forecast at all on the long range weather until two days before it crossed NZ, three days before it got to where the yacht was. During the five or six days of continuous 40knot plus gales and very heavy seas (up to 14m when the first rescue was attempted) one of them is badly hurt, the other unable to handle the yacht alone. They send out a distress signal and are subsequently rescued.

The latest news is that the rescue - spread over some three days - has cost over $1 million.

That cost is paid by the taxpayer of NZ. It would be irrespective of the nationality of the sailors. In this instance they are NZers.

Right, questions -

Do you believe that every nation should have the responsibility of rescuing those in distress at sea? At the moment that universal responsibility comes from the International Law of the Sea.

Do you believe that that responsibility should come with the right to recover that cost from the people who have been rescued?

At what point should it be decided that rescue is "not economic"? Remember here that some years back the Australians rescued a solo yachtsman from deep southern waters in an exercise involving at least three flights (long range) by Orion aircraft to locate him, drop supplies, a four day emergency dash by a RAN frigate, three flights from the helicopter to effect the rescue and a five day return voyage, plus intensive medical treatment.

Would you consider such a cost a "fair payment" to be made from the taxes that you pay?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Not suitable for Children...

Hat tip to Truth Laid Bear under the heading of "Gargamel Is Going to Be Pissed "for this

This is what does need to be done.

A father's loyalty and devotion...

From here

… papers presented to the Federal Court in Darwin claim the father of one of the accused, 19-year-old Scott Rush, had told Australian Federal Police of his son’s intentions before he entered Indonesia in a bid to prevent his involvement in a crime punishable by death.

The papers follow widespread criticism of Australian help provided for an investigation of a crime likely to involve execution, in contravention of official Australian policy.

Indonesian prosecutors have said they intend to seek the death penalty for all nine accused.

They say evidence not only links them all to the alleged heroin shipment, but also ties several to two earlier smuggling conspiracies through Bali.

In the papers handed to the Federal Court, Lee Rush claims police gave assurances through his lawyer that Scott would be warned he was under surveillance.

The papers say that despite these assurances, no approach was made to Scott Rush before he flew to Bali.

Rush and another alleged mule, Renae Lawrence, 27, are suing the AFP for the denial of judicial fairness and for what they allege was its illegal conduct in providing assistance to the Indonesian police.

The Government has consistently defended the AFP’s involvement.

In a statement, the AFP said it had acted appropriately at all times and in accordance with policy.

Brisbane’s Courier-Mail said [Indonesian] police evidence would also claim Chan, Sukumaran and Lawrence had smuggled an earlier shipment of heroin to Sydney in October last year, and Chan, Lawrence, Norman and another five people had planned, then aborted, a further shipment in December.

Well now, it has to be said.

Goodonyer Dad, for trying to save your son’s hide. No one can blame you for that. How much notice did you honestly expect that he would take? And honestly, was that why you told the AFP what your son was up to? In the hope that they might stop him from leaving town? And the next time after that?

In fact I can even feel sorry for you. There is a good probability that you will lose your son to the judicial processes of another country. I have no doubt that you would have told him time and again of the risks he was taking, and of the possible consequences.

I can understand and appreciate the grief that losing your son will cause.

It has to be said.

Dad, what about the people who bought his drugs? Is it sufficient to rationalise his activities as “supplying a commercial demand”? Is it sufficient to dismiss his part in what seems to be a large and highly active illegal importation business as “of little consequence”? After all, he did not start his customers on the road to heroine addiction, did he? All your son was doing was providing them with what they needed. They were just the druggies, the marks, the punters and scores.

It has to be said.

How many of them died, Dad?