Monthly Archives: May 2007

Women’s Human Rights Violated – No Bikinis

Women at a prison near Gothenburg sent a letter to Sweden’s Justice Ombundsman bemoaning the fact they are not permitted to wear bikinis while sunbathing. The women argued, “It’s a human right” to sunbathe. “How are we supposed to sunbathe at all,” they argued. “The answer we have got is that we can sunbathe in shorts and sport tops. In other words, we are treated differently because we are in an institution and we are discriminated because of our gender. We want to be able to enjoy the sun just like everybody else in Sweden.”

I would think getting sun in Sweden is more of a luxury than a right. I can only side with these unfortunate women who want to get every scant opportunity available in Sweden to get some sunshine. Go for it ladies, after all, our Cro-Magnon ancestors most probably walked around naked in Sweden when there was sun.
Information from The Local

Gay Parade a ‘Satanic Act’?

A combination of Russian nationalists, communists, religious believers and the local Moscow government are furious at attempts by gays and lesbians to march in Moscow. Old women carrying icons, bearded religious leaders, and nationalist toughs believe in the words of Mayor Luzhkov, that gays and lesbians who engage in the gay parade are performing a “satanic act” which is bent on overthrowing all that true Russians hold dear to their hearts – love of motherland, love of religion, and their right to go around in shaved heads and tattoos armed with stones, rocks, and vegetables to be thrown at the infidels attempting to destroy all that they hold dear and holy.

Alexander Belov, head of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, promised his followers were ready to give the gays and lesbians a rough welcome if they dared to march. As one of the protestors told Reuters, “We’re here to show we’re strong and prepared to fight for our rights. Glory to Russia.”

The protest against gays and lesbians is somewhat confusing. I don’t imagine more than a handful of Russian gays and lesbians are illegal immigrants, so why is the group that opposes illegal immigrants protesting a march by legal Russians? I’m also bewildered at the mayor’s claims that marching is equivalent to performing a “satanic act.” Why do opponents of gays and lesbians become so frightened at public displays of that sexual orientation? It is almost as though they believe if a person saw a gay and lesbian walking down the street that would be sufficient incentive for them to become a gay or lesbian. If that’s all it takes to get one into that sexual mode, the opponents really have a problem.
Information from Moscow Times and Mail & Guardian of Nigeria

Foreign Hypocrisy in Iraq

Rami Khouri, in a recent article in the Lebanon Daily Star, rips into American and British hypocrisy over Iraq. As he comments, “The United States makes so many abrupt changes in its strategy in Iraq and its rationale for being there, that you need a direct-feed podcast from the White House to keep up with the breaking news of this broken policy.” He sarcastically notes the US has limited patience with Iraqi political leaders and if they don’t behave, America may pack up and leave. We in America are so accustomed to discussing Iraqi policy through our own lens that we find it difficult to see how others might interpret our twists and turns

“To paint the Iraqis as hopeless hooligans and religious fanatics who cannot grasp the democratic opportunity the US and the UK have placed in front of them while affirming the pure intentions and gallant policy of the Anglo-American military assault is simply one more distortion, and a grossly unfair and inaccurate analysis from the self-deception peddlers who dominate policy-making in London and Washington.” I believe Khorui makes an important point that both Democrats and Republicans in their argument about staying or leaving simply ignore. We Americans brought terrorists into Iraq! There weren’t any terrorists anymore than there were WMD until the Bush/Blair soldiers arrived to establish conditions that would eventually result in terrorist attacks. I realize my last words place me on dangerous grounds. After all, Rudy G. pounced on Congressman Paul who had the audacity to suggest we helped create conditions of terrorism.

Khouri reflects the feelings of many Middle Eastern people about American hypocrisy. Bush proclaims the benefits of democracy, and then is appalled when Palestinians vote in a free election for Hamas. Bush insists there must be a stable, democratic government in Iraq or else. Of course, when Democratic Party leaders in Congress suggest establishing timelines for departure, Bush is furious. But if the president is threatening Iraqi politicians about consequences unless they create a democracy, what else is he talking about but departure of troops?

We Americans on this Memorial Day are sick at heart at the death of so many thousands of our service men and women. We forget that Iraqi people are sick and tired of the deaths of thousands of their own people. Does this mean they wish returning to the Saddam Hussein dictatorship? The answer is a loud no. But Khouri, like so many people in the Middle East, never believed the situation required the “either American democracy or evil Saddam” quandary. There were many alternative paths that might have been selected but were never explored.

The three nation approached was never examined – Kurdistan, Sunni Nation, Shiites Nation. A Chinese model in which a coalition of Sunni/Shiites/Kurds established an authoritarian style government with limited democracy and focused on restoring the economy and establishing viable social relations.

It’s time to tone down the fervent belief in “democracy.” Let me allow Khouri the last word on this matter: “The combined legacies and policies of the American and British governments bring us this summer to the latest phase of this tragic process of
Western powers expediently toying with Arabs for their own convenience. This is one reason why the Arab world is riddled with a combination of local tyrants and pro-Western lackeys, but very few normal, effective leaders, or stable and satisfied citizenries.”
Information from The Lebanon Daily Star

Firepower Forward – Armour

The following is an excellent entry from the blog of Firepower Forward that we offer on Memorial Day to all those who died or continue suffering from the insanity of the Bush war. Unfortunately, people in the Bush administration don’t read such blogs.

“I’ve been maintaining an ongoing skirmish with a small segment of the population of Glenwood Spring, Colorado and the encompassing Roaring Fork Valley through the editorial pages of the local newspaper there: Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

The entire Roaring Fork Valley has become decidedly more liberal in its political views since my upbringing there, and while there is no intent or desire to sway that through my prosaic jousts, it does make for good debate from time to time and I mainly continue the sparing because my mother likes to occasionally see my name in the paper.

There was a recent letter that I think deserves a bit more widespread scrutiny though, that from the mother of a new soldier apparently in or on his way to Iraq. Among other things that Ms. Nicholls states that sustaining casualties from IEDs in Iraq is preventable. All we need to do is provide up-armored Humvees to every soldier in Iraq….

Deaths of American troops by wayside bombs may very well be preventable, but when we are seeing IEDs in Iraq with enough lethality to destroy Stryker vehicles and M1 tanks, conventional wisdom tells us that throwing more armor on a Hummer isn’t the method that is going to achieve those ends. Adding more armor on a Hummer has a diminishing marginal utility. More armor is not only more expensive but the additional weight reduces the performance and handling of the vehicle, which plays its own factor in endangering troops….

Militarily, we can’t stop the lethality of IEDs from increasing nor can we achieve a high rate of success in preventing those intent on emplacing them from doing so. The solution lies in removing the desire to emplace them, and that solution is not primarily a military one, but a political one.”

Information from Firepower Forward

Israel Blamed for Gaza Problems

The New Statesman of England has historically presented a staunch left wing criticism of the world. In a recent article it depicted the current shambles of fighting between Hamas and Fatah as well as Israel responses to rocket bombs, as essentially the fault of the Israel government. It cites a recent report by Amnesty International: that of the over 600 people killed by Israel, half were children. According to the New Statesman reporter in referring to an Israel attack on militants, “Who are these militants? In my experience, all the people of Gaza are militants in their resistance to their jailer and tormentor.”

The article depicts devastation created by Israel policies, which are causing widespread hunger and engendering emotional trauma within children who daily live with bombings and death. The New Statesman is particularly angry at media coverage that reports deaths of Israel citizens but ignores the deaths of Palestinians, particularly of children.

This is a typical New Statesman approach to reporting. First, let’s be clear, Israel was wrong to place settlers in Gaza in what was most probably an illegal act. There was no economic or Biblical rationale to send a few thousand settlers into an overwhelmingly Palestinian area. If anything, it was an invitation to terrorism. Second, Israel has too frequently taken a heavy-handed and brutal response to terrorist attacks on Israel citizens. Thirdly, Israel policies have repeatedly lacked a willingness to take risks to establish peace by insisting on preconditions. But to claim, as does The New Statesman, that Israel seeks to “undermine the elected Palestinian government,” and that after Palestinians “forged a government of national unity,” the Israel “attacks aimed at destroying (it)” appears to lack any understanding of Gaza fighting.

The New Statesman reporter dismisses missiles being fired into Israel as not killing anyone which means Israel has no right to fire back. Is The New Statesman arguing missiles can be fired as long as no one is killed? Ridiculous. No government could allow such attacks. As a Jew, I regard Palestinians as my brothers and sisters and seek establishment of a viable Palestinian state with its capital located in eastern Jerusalem. I believe settlement of the West Bank was among the most inept political steps ever taken by the Israel government. However, Palestinians must accept their share of responsibility for failed peace efforts. The Clinton-brokered peace efforts created a viable (not perfect) program for peace that Arafat rejected. Right now Fatah and Hamas are fighting with one another over issues that have nothing to do with Israel, but concern power and control regarding destiny of the Palestinian people.

The failure of left wing groups to assist in a settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict is a tragedy. Action by British teacher groups to cut off contact with Israel academics due to its government policies is shocking. British teacher groups believe it is OK to interact with Zimbabwe academics despite their government’s horrendous actions toward its own population, or with Syrian, Saudi Arabian and Egyptian academics despite the anti-democratic behaviors of their governments. We need a balanced analysis of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, we need reporters who understand, not merely the psychological damage caused by war upon Palestinians, but also the emotional trauma being experienced by the people of Israel. We need media coverage that does not reinforce those who will not compromise. We of The Impudent Observer will work toward peace between Israel and Palestinians. We oppose preconditions to negotiation by either side. We shall attempt to fairly present the views of all sides, and we believe initial steps are not final steps. Israel and the Palestinians must begin walking the road to peace by taking one small step.
Information from The New Statesman

Great Piece of Reporting!!

Please read the Helsinki Sanomat for its wonderful four-piece report on the life of a Chinese dissident. It is entitled “The Year of the Dog.”

Musharraf Claims Opponents Lie

President Pervez Musharraf argues his attacks on the Pakistan judiciary have led adversaries to give it a “political colour” and now an “ethnic colour.” Musharraf has been one of America’s most steadfast allies in the Muslim world and Asia in the fight to defeat radical elements opposing the war in Iraq. Ghazi Abdul Rashid, an important Pakistani religious leader recently warned, “If the government tries to suppress the change that our movement is demanding, then there is a likelihood of Talibanization…We are not only challenging Musharraf, we are challenging the system.”

The Bush administration regards Musharraf as a key person in the fight against what is termed “terrorism” and the attempt to foster democracy. But, he is also the individual who has aroused the entire legal system of Pakistan because of his attacks on an independent judiciary. America will pour billions into military aid, but the real struggle in Pakistan is creating an entrepreneurial economy that offers employment opportunities and is concerned about creating a modern education system.

But it is even more complicated due to Saudi Arabian support for Muslim style education that encourages youth to join the Taliban. On one hand, America wants Musharraf to challenge the religious style education propagated in Muslim schools, while on the other hand, our ally in the struggle “to spread democracy” is pumping millions to educate youth in a fundamentalist Wahabbi view of the world. In a sense, American policy toward Musharraf and Pakistan is symbolic of confusion reigning within the Bush administration.

A modern thinking young Pakistani only has to look across the border at a booming Indian economy that increasingly is high tech, while within his own nation Saudi funded religious schools encourage rote memory of the Koran. If the United States was serious about fostering democracy in Pakistan it might demand Saudi Arabia cease supporting religious schools whose curriculum leads youth to join the Taliban. We might urge Musharraf to work with the judiciary in creating political conditions conducive to democracy.
Information from Dawn and Daily Times of Pakistan

Gorbachev Blasts US Missile Plans

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev criticized Bush plans to deploy a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, claiming it threatens international security. He commented, “Moreover, it is being done somehow insinuatingly, without discussion. Apparently, it’s an attempt to use the superpower status to scare and pressure everyone to the left and to the right. I think it’s mischief of the political elite, first of all of the political elite of the United States.”

It is remarkable how the American media has basically ignored this blatant attempt to create fear and anxiety among the Russian people. The only rationale advanced is to use the defense system against potential terrorist rockets being fired from unknown places. Obviously, it is a direct challenge to Iran. Iranophobia has grabbed control of the Bush administration and is slowly filtering down to the American population. Any firing of Iranian missiles would result in a massive American – and probably Israel – retaliation. Bush and other fear mongers are trying to persuade America there is an imminent threat. All such talk does is strengthen the forces of conservatism in Iran rather than attempting to reduce tension, which can only result in strengthening the forces of moderation. Bush only thrives politically when fear grips America.
Information from Kyiv Post

European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance Criticizes Finland

The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance accuses Finland of placing many asylum seekers in a Catch-22 situation. They are being granted so-called “B permits” which allow for temporary asylum, but at the same time they are denied the right to work or even to be reunited with their families. So, people from areas like Iraq or Somalia are being told they can stay – temporarily – but while in Finland they can’t work.

It should be pointed out that only 2.5% of the total Finnish population falls into the category of being an immigrant. This does reveal a slight rise since the figure was 1.8% five years ago. Finland is like so many European nations, which historically had limited immigration from African or Middle Eastern nations. It was quite common in France, where I attended college in 1954-1955, that the only contact most French people had with Africans consisted of students from colonies attending colleges. The post war shift toward dramatic improvement in standards of living has led to post industrial society people to import labor for the dirty work.

At some point European societies and the United States will have to recognize, the price one pays for such policies is the need for massive infusion of money into educational systems so that first generation children of immigrants become integrated within the high tech economy.
Information from Helsingin Sanomat

Segregation or Integration – Which Path for Roma Students?

Many East European societies have significant populations of Roma citizens who economically live on the fringes of rising economies. The high school graduation rates for Roma youth are abominable, and probably rarely exceed 25% in most East European nations. About ten years ago the Czech Republic attempted an experiment and established an all-Roma high school in Kolin, located in central Bohemia.

The school is among a handful in which Roma students constitute the majority, and the high school has an extensive program teaching about Roma history, culture, literature, and language. It would be rare for such courses to be offered in any Czech high school, so the self-confidence and success of Roma students rises in the high school. For example, Czech students are taught about the Holocaust and the killing of millions of Jews, but few learn that 500,000 Romas were killed, which virtually wiped out those populations in Bohemia and Moravia.

The high school is attempting to remedy a prevalent feeling among Czech educators that Roma children have limited ability. It is estimated that many Roma children who do graduate high school have the equivalent of a fifth grade education.

The issue now being raised is whether or not to abandon the High School for Social and Legal Issues (SOSSP) designed for Roma students, and work toward integration of the student population within existing high schools. Obviously, similar questions have been raised in the United States of America. There has been a scattering of attempts to have all black high schools in order to instill black pride and success.

As someone who has worked with these issues for 50 years, I must confess a sense of ambivalence. Emotionally and intellectually, I oppose any form of segregation. I do not for a moment believe an all black faculty succeeds better with African American students than I do an all Jewish faculty always works wonders in Jewish schools. I suspect in the immediate future the Czech Republic might seek to work a two-road approach. In areas in which it is apparent that integration will not succeed due to parental and social factors, it might be wise to have specially funded schools like SOSSP which can ensure a higher percentage of Roma students succeed. In other areas, where there are schools containing the right mix of faculty committed to succeed with Roma students, there could be greater steps at integration. However, if the SOSSP has been working it makes scant sense to close it down.
Information from The Prague Post