Friday, February 25, 2005

Those beautiful blondes...

Long term visitors might recall my posting a series of "girlie pics" starting with Beatrice Faumuina (World Champ Discus), followed by Sarah Adams (World Junior Shotput), and then these two gorgeous blondes whom I did not name.

Well, it is time to put that right. The are Georgina and Caroline Evers-Swindell, World champion Double Scull, Olympic gold meadalists in the same event and as of last night New Zealand Sports Team of 2004.

So, time to present my next blonde...

Sarah Ulmer

How do you reward a woman who has been World Champ, broken the World Record for her event three times and won the Olympic Gold Medal all in the same year. Well, you make her Halberg Supreme Sports Person of the Year 2004.

What happened to the men? Hamish Carter was Sportsman 2004 for his win in the triathlon at the Olympics.

Just to close about Sarah Ulmer though. You could not ever hope to meet a more down to earth and natural person anywhere. One of her favourite expressions is "...wicked". A measure of her mana and personality is that the losing finalist in the Individual Pursuit at the Olympics, Kathy Mactier, was prepared to forgo a competition in Europe so that she could attend at the award ceremony last night.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Well, with the best of intentions - we go back to Iraq...

I was intending this week to post on a New Zealand topic - that of the state of the education system and the Year 13 examination system that has just this year totally flunked its first test. There has been much in the media on the subject, NZ anyway. There has been much comment. There has been political accusation and denial.

If you follow you will get as much as you need and more. The whole debate goes back as far mid January.

My favourite "quote" from the whole raruraru? The University that revealed that they had had complaints from some first time enrollees about being rejected because they did not have three specific "achievement levels". The three credits they were missing?

Essentially they were literacy, comprehension and numeracy.

No, what has grabbed my attention are the juxtapositions presented by three different blogs...

    Free Iraq

    Baghdad Burning

    Glimpse of Iraq.

From the Guardian by way of "Free Iraq" comes this offering

"Sunday, February 20, 2005

Iraqi Oil Workers

"We lived through dark days under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. When the regime fell, people wanted a new life: a life without shackles and terror; a life where we could rebuild our country and enjoy its natural wealth. Instead, our communities have been attacked with chemicals and cluster bombs, and our people tortured, raped and killed in our homes.

Saddam's secret police used to creep over the roofs into our homes at night; occupation troops now break down our doors in broad daylight. The media do not show even a fraction of the devastation that has engulfed Iraq. Journalists who dare to report the truth of what is happening have been kidnapped by terrorists. This serves the agenda of the occupation, which aims to eliminate witnesses to its crimes.

Workers in Iraq's southern oilfields began organising soon after British occupying forces invaded Basra. We founded our union, the Southern Oil Company Union, just 11 days after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003. When the occupation troops stood back and allowed Basra's hospitals, universities and public services to be burned and looted, while they defended only the oil ministry and oilfields, we knew we were dealing with a brutal force prepared to impose its will without regard for human suffering. From the beginning, we were left in no doubt that the US and its allies had come to take control of our oil resources.

The occupation authorities have maintained many of Saddam's repressive laws, including the 1987 order which robbed us of basic union rights, including the right to strike. Today, we still have no official recognition as a trade union, despite having 23,000 members in 10 oil and gas companies in Basra, Amara, Nassiriya, and up to Anbar province. However, we draw our legitimacy from the workers, not the government. We believe unions should operate regardless of the government's wishes, until the people are able finally to elect a genuinely accountable and independent Iraqi government, which represents our interests and not those of American imperialism.

OK, I accept that is a left wing organisation. Labour unions the world over are. I am more interested in the reasoning - what was "protected and secured", what was "left to be looted". Remember this when we get a bit further down as there is a direct connection to one of the future possibilities.

Then let's move on to the next - Baghdad Burning . Look for the heading "Groceries and Election Results"

The important parts from here -

"Did you hear about the election results?" E. asked Abu Ammar. Abu Ammar shook his head in the affirmative and squashed his cigarette with a slippered foot. "Well, we were expecting it." He shrugged his shoulders and continued, "Most Shia voted for list 169. They were blaring it out at the Husseiniya near our house the night of the elections. I was there for evening prayer." A Husseiniya is a sort of mosque for Shia. We had heard that many of them were campaigning for list 169- the Sistani-backed list.

I shook my head and sighed. "So do you still think the Americans want to turn Iraq into another America? You said last year that if we gave them a chance, Baghdad would look like New York." I said in reference to a conversation we had last year. E. gave me a wary look and tried to draw my attention to some onions, "Oh hey- look at the onions- do we have onions?"

Abu Ammar shook his head and sighed, "Well if we're New York or we're Baghdad or we're hell, it's not going to make a difference to me. I'll still sell my vegetables here."

I nodded and handed over the bags to be weighed. "Well… they're going to turn us into another Iran. You know list 169 means we might turn into Iran." Abu Ammar pondered this a moment as he put the bags on the old brass scale and adjusted the weights.

"And is Iran so bad?" He finally asked. Well no, Abu Ammar, I wanted to answer, it's not bad for *you* - you're a man… if anything your right to several temporary marriages, a few permanent ones and the right to subdue females will increase. Why should it be so bad? Instead I was silent. It's not a good thing to criticize Iran these days. I numbly reached for the bags he handed me, trying to rise out of that sinking feeling that overwhelmed me when the results were first made public.

It's not about a Sunni government or a Shia government- it's about the possibility of an Iranian-modeled Iraq. Many Shia are also appalled with the results of the elections. There's talk of Sunnis being marginalized by the elections but that isn't the situation. It's not just Sunnis- it's moderate Shia and secular people in general who have been marginalized.

The list is frightening- Da'awa, SCIRI, Chalabi, Hussein Shahristani and a whole collection of pro-Iran political figures and clerics. They are going to have a primary role in writing the new constitution. There's talk of Shari'a, or Islamic law, having a very primary role in the new constitution. The problem is, whose Shari'a? Shari'a for many Shia differs from that of Sunni Shari'a. And what about all the other religions? What about Christians and Mendiyeen?

Is anyone surprised that the same people who came along with the Americans - the same puppets who all had a go at the presidency last year - are the ones who came out on top in the elections? Jaffari, Talbani, Barazani, Hakim, Allawi, Chalabi… exiles, convicted criminals and war lords. Welcome to the new Iraq.

Ibraheim Al-Jaffari, the head of the pro-Iran Da'awa party gave an interview the other day. He tried very hard to pretend he was open-minded and that he wasn't going to turn the once-secular Iraq into a fundamentalist Shia state but the fact of the matter remains that he is the head of the Da'awa party. The same party that was responsible for some of the most infamous explosions and assassinations in Iraq during the last few decades. This is the same party that calls for an Islamic Republic modeled like Iran. Most of its members have spent a substantial amount of time in Iran.

Jaffari cannot separate himself from the ideology of his party.

Then there's Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). He got to be puppet president for the month of December and what was the first thing he did? He decided overburdened, indebted Iraq owed Iran 100 billion dollars. What was the second thing he did? He tried to have the "personal status" laws that protect individuals (and especially women) eradicated.

They try to give impressive interviews to western press but the situation is wholly different on the inside. Women feel it the most. There's an almost constant pressure in Baghdad from these parties for women to cover up what little they have showing. There's a pressure in many colleges for the segregation of males and females. There are the threats, and the printed and verbal warnings, and sometimes we hear of attacks or insults.

And her conclusion...

" We've also heard of several more abductions and now assassinations. They say Badir's Brigade have come out with a new list of 'wanted'… but dead, not alive. It's a list of mainly Sunni professors, former army generals, doctors, etc. Already there have been three assassinations in Saydiyeh, an area that is a mix of Sunnis and Shia. They say Badir's Brigade people broke into the house and gunned down the families. This assassination spree is, apparently, a celebration of the election results.

It's interesting to watch American politicians talk about how American troops are the one thing standing between Sunnis and Shia killing each other in the streets. It looks more and more these days like that's not true. Right now, during all these assassinations and abductions, the troops are just standing aside and letting Iraqis get at each other. Not only that, but the new army or the National Guard are just around to protect American troops and squelch any resistance.

There was hope of a secular Iraq, even after the occupation. That hope is fading fast

Finally, from Glimpse of Iraq. and look for "Sunni Shi'ite Iraq"

This is a very long and detailed discussion of the relationships and differences between Sunni and Shi'a Muslims.

The conclusion of his post is a brief, accurate (to my research) history of modern Iraq...

How did the Sunnis come to govern modern Iraq?

At the turn of the 20th century, Iraq was part of the Ottoman Empire. The Turks, who came to Iraq several centuries before as conquers from central Asia, were Sunnis. They alternated on invading Iraq with the Shiite Persians. This conflict was a major factor in the modern Shiite-Sunni polarization!

The Ottomans were Sunni and generally bigotry - they usually referred to Shiites as "The Rejectionists"! Naturally they relied on Sunnis for government positions and, towards the end of the 19th century, the military. Young men went to Istanbul to go into military colleges. Shiites were generally shunned.

When the British wanted the Arabs to help them against the Ottomans during WWI, they went to the most prominent figure at the time, Hussein, the Sherif of Mecca. They promised him to free the united Arab world under his leadership. He revolted against the Turks. His army had a number of senior Iraqi officers.

The British campaign succeeded but they couldn't honor their promise to the old man… the region was already divided between France and Britain in the Sykes-Picot Treaty. They put Iraq under direct rule. The Iraqis (both Sunnis and Shiites) revolted. The British then decided to install a "democratic" government. There was a National Congress in 1924 to agree on a Constitution. The Shiites, on the recommendation of senior clergy, boycotted it. [Now I hope you can understand Sistani's eagerness not to be bitten again!]

To pay part of their debt to the Sherif of Mecca, the British installed his son, Faisal I - a Sunni, on the throne of Iraq. The (mostly Sunni) Iraqi officers who assisted the British almost monopolized the top political and military positions for decades. The civil service had to rely on people willing to work with the British and who had the ability to get the job done. Again, Sunnis dominated the civil service.

That combination determined the Sunni face of government in Iraq for the next 80 years.

Shiites, from predominantly Shiite areas, were duly represented in Parliament. They were quite active in the political life of Iraq; there were quite a number of Shiite ministers and prime ministers But those other people had entrenched themselves in senior positions!

Given the tribal element in the Iraqi society and the strong social influence, nepotism and favoritism (and no doubt some bigotry) played a strong role in admission to senior government and military posts… and military colleges. The result was that three decades later, the top brass were mostly Sunnis.

In 1958 there was a military coup. The people involved were mostly Sunni. The strongman of the junta, Qassim, in fact came from a mixed area and there was no evidence whatsoever that he practiced any form of preferential treatment between Shiites and Sunnis. There were two other military coups that led to the final one in 1968 which ultimately brought the Baath Party and Saddam Hussein to power. Due to the reasons outlined above, all those coups were dominated by Sunni military officers.


The Baath party is secular in origin and basic doctrine. In the rank and file of the party (that claimed some 3 million members) there were more Shiites than Sunnis - reflecting the make-up of the country. There were many senior Shiite figures. There were also numerous Kurds and Christians! However, for the same reasons outlined above, the Baath Party's key positions were dominated by Sunnis. But the "Law Giver" was Saddam and he tightly held the reigns.

Saddam and his inner circle (who were his relatives) were Sunni in name. The same social forces outlined above were also at play throughout his reign. Saddam's true religion was "Power"… his sect was "Brutal Oppression". Most people knew that if you as much as uttered something against him, you were gone. It didn't matter what your religion was.


As you can see, Shiite grievances are genuine but Sunni dominance of government was not through armed Sunni-Shiite conflict as has been repeatedly suggested. It was mostly foreign interference and influence first and then power and politics and power-politics throughout the past century of modern Iraqi history.

The connection that drew these three themes together was not "Iraq", that certainly is common to all three.

The connection is the political picture painted between the three people. We have, in order, -

    The militant left wing labour union, secular and nationalistic.

    The woman, outlining the cultural shift that she sees presaging the move from secular to theocratic State and the impact that will have on her life.

    The impact of history and religious belief on the longer term future of Iraq.

The first group at first seems out of step with the other two, given that their hatred is at present focussed against the "invader". I submit, however, that will become the source of future internal strife rather than a core for the new "democracy". There is a unity of purpose - get rid of the invader - that crosses all social and religious boundaries. The problem that poses is the direction the hatred and anger will be directed as events unfold over the next few years. It is likely, in my view, that the feelings will turn inward to fuel the (by then) developing conflict between social and religious groups.

Add to that the fact that the present situation is one that Putin in particular will continue to foster. Whether that "support" will extend to the provision of arms and training is at present problematic, but I again submit is increasingly likely. There is a precedent - in Afghanistan. Oh! Not the Russian occupation. I was thinking more in terms of the US support for the insurgency by war lords and the Taleban.

The very big pity in all of this, and to some it was a totally foreseeable consequence of the US action against Iraq, is the fact that that poor country is going to be suffering for many years yet the consequences of this experiment in "imported democracy". There are parallels that can be drawn in between this instance and quite a few others in the Middle East - not as you might have expected me to say, with Vietnam.

The first parallel is with Israel/Palestine. The religious differences are less distinct, as are the racial and cultural differences. But in that is also the bigger problem. Because there is "less difference" between Shi'a and Sunni, there will be the tendancy that Riverbend referred to of marginalising the moderate Shi'a in order to strengthen the hold of the Shi'a state.

The second parallel is with Israel/Jordan back in the bad ol' days when that border was the hotbed of the conflict between Arab and Jew. It took the 1967 and Yom Kippur wars to solve that and create the buffer from the West Bank. A theocratic state of Iraq will not have that luxury. The danger, the conflict will not come from the east. Iran will be an implacable ally of the thecracy. The conflict will be fed from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in the west and south, and from Turkey in the north.

The third parallel is with Afghanistan, the genesis of which I have already discussed.

The last parallel I can see coming from this is the conflict between the US and militant Islam. I find it ironic that the primary focus of the "war against terror" has shifted from the terrorist groups spawned by AlQaeda to the "importation of democracy" to a Nation that was suffering under the heel of a tyrant but at the same time was - because of the players and the secular nature of the government - an implacable enemy of the supporters of Islamic theocracy in general and the leadership of AlQaeda in particular. The failure of the "experiment" in Iraq can only, if the US wants to maintain the control it has created, drag the US involvement out for a very long time to come. There is no question that this is no longer just a possibility as far as President Bush is concerned. His approach to the European Community this week is almost "cap in hand". Bush knows, as do Chirac and the other Euro leaders, that he has gotten the US into a considerable bind. He knows already, although he will never admit it, that his adventure in Iraq will never have the happy ending he promised during his last term in office.

That fact, that sequence of events, is also apparent to many in Iraq.

    That is why the Sunni will continue to maintain their insurgency against a Shi'a dominated government.

    That is why the Kurd factions will continue to support the Shi'a majority. The daily mounting debt to the Kurds will be repaid in oil or blood at some future time by the remainder of Iraq when the Kurds call for the establishment of their own nation claiming the south and east of Turkey as well as the oil-rich Kirkut region of Iraq.

    That is the basis for the very real fear of the moderate Shi'a as expressed by Riverbend. Remember as you read her words that the election had some very fundamental flaws. The major of these was the fact that very few of the candidates were prepared to declare themselves for fear of reprisal from the losers - a scenario that is all too real at the present.

Late edit - from the BBC comes the news that Jaafari is the nominated candidate for the position of Prime Minister...

Ibraheim Al-Jaffari, the head of the pro-Iran Da'awa party gave an interview the other day. He tried very hard to pretend he was open-minded and that he wasn't going to turn the once-secular Iraq into a fundamentalist Shia state but the fact of the matter remains that he is the head of the Da'awa party. The same party that was responsible for some of the most infamous explosions and assassinations in Iraq during the last few decades. This is the same party that calls for an Islamic Republic modeled like Iran. Most of its members have spent a substantial amount of time in Iran.

Jaffari cannot separate himself from the ideology of his party.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The art of propaganda...

Once again through the hoops we go...

This post relates to this post from Donald Sensing.

As far as I am concerned, the real debate started with this para - Sensing said;

What Cicero seems not to realize is that the Left does not support democracy and in fact is inimical to it. So right off the bat the question assumes that the Left and the rest of us have a common regard for democracy that is not actually there.

That was followed immediately by these three paras, which while explanatory to some extent merely dig the hole a bit deeper...Sensing again;

In the months before the war began, the Left proved its sole purpose was to foil American policy, not to save the Iraqi people from Saddam. Asking the Left how it would have freed the Iraqi people is like asking the NFL how its going to save the rest of the hockey season. The NFL doesn't care whether hockey is played or not, and the Left didn't care whether Saddam was thrown down. If anything, the Left preferred for Saddam to stay in power.

Mass graves, torture rooms, rape as a state punishment, child executions, maimings - the Left simply is not bothered by these things when what is at stake in their minds is an expansive United States (or Great Britain, to a lesser extent).

Because the rest of Cicero's questions basically depend on this one, the Left will be equally unengaged by them, too. All depend on a basic mistake: that the Left is pro-democracy. But it isn't.

The rest of that debate, as far as it went you can read here and the comments that follow.

As I see it, the original statement ( a part of a commentary on a post else where by one "Cicero" ) accused "the Left" of "not support[ing] democracy and in fact [being] inimical to it. The question was raised by a few of just what was meant by "the Left" in the context of his statement.

Well, it seems that we now move a little closer to an answer with the latest post. Donald Sensing, puts it this way -

I will again point out, though, that I continue to make a distinction between the Left and liberals, a point I have made a couple of times before. So does, for example, Michael Totten, who says he is a liberal/progressive. Christopher Hitchens, certainly not a member of the VRWC, has distinguished between liberals/progressives and the Left, going so far as to say that today the Left has swung to the status of reactionary, not progressive or forward thinking. As I concluded, along with others who have addressed, the topic, "In a nutshell, liberals affirm while the Left despises the idea of America."

OK, so it seems that "the Left" does not include liberals. Well, I guess that is a change for the better. Usually, in the lexicon of conservative America the two terms are interchangeable epithets for the same group - those who oppose any policies that the Right try to implement. So, let's move along a little further, past all of the learned quotations...

I am not going to argue the to's and fro's of "Joseph's" comments, but the reaction in the light of what comes next is interesting... Sensing wades in;

Joseph Marshall objected to my claim that the Left opposes democracy in Iraq and the non-left opponents of the Iraq war (not all of whom are liberals) are indifferent to it...


But Joseph missed the point in any event. It is not a liberal's devotion to democracy at home that is the issue. It is their indifference to it in Iraq.

OK, so now we get somewhere. Donald, that is ABSOLUTELY NOT what you said in your first post. The remainder of your first statement comprised almost entirely a rehash of the old hoes of the "justification" (or otherwise) of the war in Iraq. You were talking about "the Left's" opposition " even in the months prior to the war. You rant about all of the sins of Saddam against humanity being of little account in "the lefts" opposition.

Having clarified that point, that what Donald had said in his first post was somehow being misconstrued, we move to the next. It is about as close to an acknowledgement as I might get seeing that the reference is to my series of posts...

Then we come to a commenter who decides that I am Joseph Geobbels reincarnated, charging that I, "as an apparent man of the cloth, to use and promote the same manner of techniques so beloved of the likes of Goebbels is despicable indeed." Ah, yes, the old canard: "How can you as a minister ... ?" (And not just politics; I was asked the same kind of question about my non-support of the "theory" of Intelligent Design.) Well, friend, it's called speaking truth to power, and power almost never likes it. The implication here is, of course, that as an ordained minister of a generally liberal denomination I should be liberal, too. I don't expect this commenter to provide any actual credentials to qualify him to attack my ministerial faithfulness - funny how he can say I'm the one "tarring" others when all I've done is describe their positions. Well, as we used to say down on the farm, "hit cats howl."

But my charge stands and I make it more strongly now than before: The Left is anti-American and is anti-democratic. Yes, I, like Michael Totten and Richard Baehr, admit that the term, "the Left," is less than precise. After all, Prof. Norman Geras, an English Marxist, supports the Iraq war . (But how surprising is it, really, that a Marxist supports the overthrow of a fascist?)

Bear in mind here, please, that the definition of "the Left" as used by Sensing in the first post has a far wider scope than how he has now "left" it. The heart of my statement was this -

Or are you using the old communist states as the example, and using the inference, the euphemism, the unstated lie to denigrate the left of America.

I suspect that this last is closest to the truth, and I am not expecting an admission that it is so.

But, I must point out that the political technique you are using is one of those very frequently used by the far right government of a European country some seventyfive years back and less, to create the climate of mistrust and racial hatred against sections of their community that they needed to further their parties policies.

Sensing's reaction is about as much as I expected. Well, Mr Sensing, I made no charge against your ability or faithfulness as a Minister. I did express suprise and consternation that from a straight-forward read of the words you wrote I could get to my conclusion. I repeat "Or are you using the old communist states as the example, and using the inference, the euphemism, the unstated lie to denigrate the left of America.
". My conclusion that "... for you, as an apparent man of the cloth, to use and promote the same manner of techniques so beloved of the likes of Goebbels is despicable indeed.

I stand by that statement. The subsequent explanation and clarification is in fact a contradiction of the original post. Your "backtrack", Mr Sensing, only compounds the lie of the first post. Was it intentional? I do not know. I leave that to your conscience.

The remainder of this latest post from Mr Sensing starts with -

Regarding the Iraq war and the subsequent democratization in progress there, there are only five possible positions from which it can be opposed: Ideological, Strategic, Partisan political, Isolationist, Moral/religious.

From there it returns to a long and very learned exposition on the rights of the invasion of Iraq with very little weight given to - not the wrongs, though there can be many depending on your point of view - the very many inconsistencies of the US position prior to the invasion.

Well, I have heard those arguments before, from a great many people, and they all follow the same logic. I am not going to repeat or even try to debate the matter - it is so cliched on both sides that it is like a Hollywood film script, and almost as pointless.

Can I please try again, Mr Sensing...

Your latest post includes this little gem -

Well, friend, it's called speaking truth to power, and power almost never likes it.

What a fascinating little sentence it is. It says much, but has little meaning either in context (as earlier quoted) or out of context (as here). I can hear the preacher coming through in the admonishing "Well, friend...".

Who is "speaking truth to power"? I have no power at the scale of the debate at hand, but I can accept that I speak truth. You claim to be on the side of power, and you seem not to like the truth that I have spoken.

Or is it intended the other way round? Am I the one with power? Hardly! If you maintain that you are the one speaking truth then there is a real problem. If this is the case then there is one error and another untruth in the sentence. Not a good continuance at all.

No, Mr Sensing. Can I draw a parallel for you. It centres on a word that you have not used to my knowledge and I am not making the accusation that you have. I use it as illustration of the process that my argument is based upon.


The word is "Islamofascist". I have posted earlier how I see the meaning of the word. Here I want to talk a little about how and why it has suddenly appeared in the lexicon of American politics.

The first reaction I had on seeing it was the immediate connection between Islam and the Italian Fascisti of Benito Mussolini. The "mind picture" of someone of my age is immediate - jackboots, brown shirts, totalitarian government, despotism...

Then comes the application of the term. Those fighting directly against the occupation of Iraq have been given the term "Insurgent" with its implication (for those who don't use their dictionary to know that insurgency is in fact rising in opposition to established authority) of someone from outside coming in to create trouble. So, it can not be that group.

The Baathist remnants and the Sunni? Not likely that they could be wanting to establish authoritarian government. Yes I know that is what Hussein was doing. Give them credit for learning one lesson out of this chapter in their history.

The Shi'a? That is truly closer to home but for as long as al Sistani can moderate the radicals such as Sadr the appelation would not be that a propos.

No, the immediate application is across the border, to the theocracy of Iran. There is a wider application as well, but it is still centred on the idea of theocratic government (government by a religion) as espoused by the many "radical" imams in other parts of the Islam world. (Note here, that due to the time taken to complete and moderate this post to my satisfaction, it has been pointed out in comment to the "islamofascist" post that Taliban and alQaeda also fall in the category. A point I had missed.)

The term , Islamofascist, then would seem to have an appropriate base, a meaning that has proper construction and application - as much as I might not like it. It extends from there back into Iraq via the proven and well documented connections between the Teheran theocracy and the likes of Sadr and the Mahdi Army

But, when it is used in the course of discussing Iraq it is used on a global basis. There is no limit placed on its application. It is used in the same way as Mr Sensing's use of the word "left" in the post that began the debate. From there comes the implication that those fighting against the occupying forces in Iraq are in some way supporting the "islamofascism" of the Teheran government. (and indirectly Taliban and alQaeda)

To appreciate the next step, think for a moment how "islamofascist" sounds. Repeat it out loud several times and see how it rolls from the tongue so easily. It is a GREAT word. It can be used as a cuss word, it can be applied to someone whose religion you hate, it can applied with great feeling to those who oppose the ideas with which you are most comfortable. It is a GREAT word. It has power. It has presence. And its spits venom in all its syllables. And we have the euphemism. The term that denigrates and belittles a potential enemy.

A word such as this, a word of power, gains stature with repetition. People like the sound. They might not appreciate the niceties of its exact meaning, but they understand that it has much to do with the opposition in Iraq. The word gains a following, a currency in its own society. The use now has lost the exact meaning. It has much wider coinage than was originally intended. Or has it? The anonymous birth of a word such as "islamofascist" is not accident. Someone, somewhere, for reasons of their own has seen the possibilities. There is the birth of the lie.

But we still need to be careful with this word. It has a flaw, a weakness, in its global application. It has outgrown its base. It has become top heavy. But for those that use the word, it can also use that frailty as a strength. It can be denied. "Oh, friend, you misunderstand me. As I have said so many times before I was actually meaning..."

Does that sound familiar, Mr Sensing?

Subsequent edit - sorry about the links, I seem to keep burrowing to his Haloscan files rather than the original posts. I will try again...this time with the right (not political right, but correct right) permalinks. How stupid of me...

Friday, February 11, 2005

Recommended Reading -

The Bart Simpson Defence

This is scary stuff - truly.

It brings to mind the Israeli government's continuing tacit denial of the two Mossad agents caught here in Auckland while trying to "steal" the identity of a paraplegic man. Latest news on that front has a senior (suspected No2 or No3) diplomat from the Israeli embassy in Sydney being sent home. Name and reason as usual not revealed.

But that piece from Lawrence of Cyberia is very scarey stuff.

Nga kupu o te ra

Whakarongo, tamariki ma!

ISLAMOFASCIST - Islam'o'fascist n. A follower of the Islam faith with right-wing totalitarian politics.

OK, it is far from perfect but the word fascinates me.

I first heard it (is this mere coincidence) shortly after the Iraq 2005 election when it became apparent (to all those who did not foresee such an outcome) that the leading parties in that election were the Shi'a supporters of a Shi'a State in Iraq.

It is another of those "sweet little propaganda terms" intended to denigrate, dehumanise and demonise those people - and particularly Iraqis - who are seen as opposing "democracy, American style" in Iraq.

Watch for it to gain increasing prominence in the right-wing blog world and media such as USAToday and Fox as commentators such as Lim(p)baugh use it to beat their drums of hate and war.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

One of our better kept little secrets...

The NZ Government announced today the opening of the "All New Zealand Encyclopaedia" - a website with the title of te ara - the pathway..

Take a look. It is going to headline my links here for a very long time - if only so that I don't have to keep on thinking how I am going to answer questions that require more than a personal observation.

Please, when you go there, remember that this site is VERY MUCH A WORK IN PROGRESS!!

So far, by my estimation, there are about 200 pages covering the generalities of our people and our culture.

As I say, thus far I see little to criticise but then I must also admit to a patriotic bias...

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Must be a good day - everything is right with my world...

I am tired, so tired of the only comment worthy news being based upon the involvement of the U.S. in its occupation of Iraq.

Let me try something a bit different. A bit of trumpet blowing of my own if I may...

First from Granny Herald The change in NZ over the past ten years...


The report found a significant decrease in concern about racial problems.

The percentage of all people who believed racial problems were getting worse decreased from 65 per cent in 1994 to 60 per cent in 2004.

Auckland residents were significantly less concerned than the rest of the population, despite living in the most ethnically diverse city.


People felt better about society than they did a decade earlier.

Those who thought things were moving too fast decreased from 33 per cent of all people in 1994 to 30 per cent in 2004.

The figures showed those aged over 55 years were increasingly more comfortable with change, although they were still more uncomfortable than other groups.

People were more determined to be successful in life. Almost 70 per cent say success is very important, compared with 66 per cent in 1994.


The proportion of people who believed women got a fair go jumped from 47 per cent in 1999 to 60 per cent in 2004.

Now that is all good to know. I particularly like the idea that we are becoming a more tolerant society; tolerant of difference, tolerant of race, tolerant of religion.

As an illustration, take the following as a lead-in from the papers this morning...
The New Zealand sevens team won their third straight Wellington Sevens title and went top of the World Series standings after beating Argentina 31-7 in the final tonight.

It is not the fact that NZ won, that is almost a given. Read the article for more.

It was watching the tv last night, watching the second day of the competition, that really rang the bell for me. It does not compete in any way, shape, or form with the US Rosebowl or the NBA Finals. The crowd in the Caketin (capacity) was in the vicinity of 37,000. There was no formal entertainment, no Janet Jackson, no Boss Springsteen. The practice over the past three or four years has been to use "signature tunes" for different teams, and rather like the Proms in Britain the taped music between games and during half-time breaks are standards... "Y.M.C.A.", "Loyal", "Forget about the last one", "Let's twist again"... I think "Ten Guitars" and "76 Trombones" might have featured as well. Fancy dress is the order of the day. There is plenty of sponsor's product about - a beer that I refuse to drink until I have been introduced to the dog that drank it first.

Oh, and there were reports - well after the fact - that the day had been marked by only one streaker, female, and that that event had been studiously ignored by the tv cameras.

Yep, despite the fact that summer was two turn months late this year. Despite the fact that it has concentrated summer into just five weeks of high temps (27 plus is high for Auckland, 35 recorded in Central Otago) and humid extremes. Forget that our national average income is still outside the top ten in the world. Despite our centre-left government moving inexoribly to the right. Despite the centre-right opposition's attempts to commit hari-kiri at every conceivable (and even when theoretically impossible). Yep, despite everything that can be said to be wrong, she'll be right mate; this is STILL the best country in the world.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

After the sun has set in Iraq...

The Artist over at TAotB is throwing his paint brushes again as a result of another of my comments. A simple, no sorry - an extensive expression of opinion has once again drawn a testy "...what rubbish, where is your sources..." retort. Well, regrettably, the last time I replied to such a challenge, his response was a biting little e-mail suggesting that I had provided "too much" whether volume or proof was not clear. So, in response to this "where is the proof...", here it is.

First the exchange...
My comment, his reply

Best Lines from Mark Steyn...

But look beyond the numbers. When you consider the behavior of the Shia and Kurdish parties, they've been remarkably shrewd, restrained and responsible. They don't want to blow their big rendezvous with history and rejoin the rest of the Middle East in the fetid swamp of stable despotism.

Yes, "shrewd, restrained and responsible". You are not dealing with monkeys here, Mr Bush.

they've (the US media) failed to notice just how surefooted both the Kurds and Shiites have been -- which in the end is far more important. The latter, for example, have adopted a moderate secular pitch entirely different from their co-religionist mullahs over the border.

They are definitely not monkeys, Mr Bush.

Even on the Sunni side of the street, there are signs the smarter fellows understand their plans to destroy the election have flopped and it's time to cut themselves into the picture.

...and again!

Let us be clear. There is a very strange silence in Iraq. It comes not from the Iraqis themselves or their interim "leaders".

The silence is in the world of the candidates, the parties and those likely to have been elected.

All of these, I believe have a common purpose.

That common purpose is not what George Bush would dream it to be. It is not what he has been telling the world it will be.

Saddam was said to be one of the world's best in playing the "shells and peas" game. Remember that many of those elected yesterday will likely have been playing the same game. They will likely have been learning from Saddam as well - "know your enemy" is a fundamental truth.

"Shrewd, restrained and responsible" also means "concealed hands", "subtle dealings", and perhaps even a common cause in one particular instance.

This election was not about democracy, it was not about fairness, it was about a united Iraq.

The one thing that unites Iraq at present is?


[Ed. Note: Nice rant. Want to back that up or just make yet another unsupported claim that reflects how you wish reality was?]
And just how did "Mr. Bush" (what a sly and devastating insult, probligo) become responsible for Pres Mr. Steyn's words?

Let's look to the Independant for a first hitch...

The Independant

What about the effects of the low Sunni turnout?

It is hoped that the Shia and the Kurds will agree to reach out to bring Sunnis in to parliamentary and government bodies, but this is where it could get tricky if the Kurds and the Shias decide that it's tough luck for the Sunnis because they didn't vote in large numbers.

Does that mean civil war?

At the very least it's a difficult balancing act that will require political maturity, in a country which has had no experience of democracy, to prevent everything going pear-shaped. So far, the signs are that civil war can be averted, as the Shia have resisted the Sunni insurgents' attempts to provoke sectarian conflict.

Will the insurgents' attacks continue?

There is no reason why they should stop for as long as the coalition forces remain in the country. The Sunni insurgents were bent on disrupting the election and could keep going until the next general election.

Will the coalition troops leave now?

The Iraqis would like to see the back of the Americans. But President George Bush said last week that he expected the new authorities to want the coalition troops to stay "at least until the Iraqis are able to fight". That means about 120,000 US soldiers staying in Iraq for the next two years. The Blair government agrees that the 9,000 British troops will remain in Iraq until the national security force is up and running.

There is a good part of the idea I tried promoting to the Artist.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S.A. - that terrible, absolutely scandalous left wing rag the Boston Globe propounds...

There is only one way in which the grand claims made by Washington for the weekend voting will be true -- and that is if the elections empower an Iraqi government that moves quickly to repudiate Washington. The only meaning "freedom" can have in Iraq right now is freedom from the US occupation, which is the ground of disorder. But such an outcome of the elections is not likely. The chaos of a destroyed society leaves every new instrument of governance dependent on the American force, even as the American force shows itself incapable of defending against, much less defeating, the suicide legions. The irony is exquisite. The worse the violence gets, the longer the Americans will claim the right to stay. In that way, the ever more emboldened -- and brutal -- "insurgents" do Bush's work for him by making it extremely difficult for an authentic Iraqi source of order to emerge. Likewise the elections, which, as universally predicted, have now ratified the country's deadly factionalism.

The Scotsman

Iraq's election was a step in the right direction for peace and stability in the Middle East but it was only a first step, the head of the Arab League has said.

"It brought the Iraqi people to the ballot box," Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said yesterday in a speech at Rice University in the US.

"But the election is but one component of larger problems: the lack of security, the presence of the US military, the vagueness of purpose in Iraq. So many negative things loom in the horizon. One step will not solve it all."

Finally, from the Financial Times -

The Shia communities in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain expressed hope on Monday that the Iraqi vote, which is expected to bring a Shia majority to power, would stimulate democratic reforms at home and end discrimination.

Several Arab governments have repeatedly emphasised to Baghdad the importance of integrating the Arab Sunni minority into the political process.

Reiterating this call, Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League, on Monday said it was now "important to organise a comprehensive national dialogue [in Iraq] to calm the current fears and tensions."

I know, I know. Every American that ever lived could produce a whole world of comment and quotation from the past three days "proving" my position wrong.

Well, I most certainly hope that I am. I most certainly hope that "democracy" does stick in Iraq, and that the idea catches on in the rest of the Middle East.

That should go without saying.