Friday, March 24, 2006

Disgruntled Toy Maker

I know I'm a little late off the mark with this story, considering it broke several days ago, but it was too intriguing not to post about.

Danish Company LEGO has expressed anger at a poster launched by the United Nations in their Campaign for International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The company claims the image links racist behaviour directly to the company LEGO and by association, to Denmark.

The UN has subsequently withdrawn the poster and apologised.

I can't decide whether the reaction to this is overly sensitive, similar in nature to the time I cried hysterically when the chocolate cake I baked deflated like a balloon the second I took it out of the oven, my mother assuring me over the phone that this did not mean I was a failure at being a grown-up.

On the other hand, given the fall-out from the publication of the cartoons depicting Muhammad, perhaps the reaction is actually quite reasonable.

I think the saddest aspect of this is that given current world events, this kind of hyper-sensitivity is only likely to increase.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Sing Me A Song

A new musical depicting horrific scenes of suffering and torture in North Korea has just opened in a theatre in South Korea.

Musicals have often been used as a vehicle to raise awareness about controversial issues. Recently my wives and I re-watched this:

and I was once again reminded of how powerful and effective musicals can be. I think I might have even shed a tear or two.

Following on in this noble tradition I can’t wait for:

“Operation Iraqi Freedom – The Musical”

Featuring the well loved musical numbers:

"I Have Confidence In Me"


"Favorite Things"

"Lonely Goatherd"

"So Long, Farewell"

And finally:

"The Sound of Freedom"

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

All In the Name of Freedom

The US military is investigating allegations that US soldiers executed a family of 11 people. The soldiers claim only 4 people were killed. It is claimed that all those killed were shot in the head.

Iraqi police claim the people executed were:

Turkiya Muhammed Ali, 75 years

Faiza Harat Khalaf, 30 years

Faiz Harat Khalaf, 28 years

Um Ahmad, 23 years

Sumaya Abdulrazak, 22 years

Aziz Khalil Jarmoot, 22 years

Hawra Harat Khalaf, 5 years

Asma Yousef Maruf, 5 years

Osama Yousef Maruf, 3 years

Aisha Harat Khalaf, 3 years

Husam Harat Khalaf, 6 months

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Reality Lite

Georgie has just released the laughingly titled 2006 National Security Strategy of the United States of America. I won't review the whole document because William Pfaff has helpfully summed it up thus:
"The only actualy 'strategy' that can be deduced from it is that the Bush administration wishes to rule the world."

I would, however, like to draw your attention to several points of interest in the introduction.
It begins:

“My Fellow Americans,
America is at war.”
How insightful.

“America also has an unprecedented opportunity to lay
the foundations for future peace.”
Where? In Iraq?

"We have focused the attention of the world on the proliferation of dangerous weapons – although great challenges in this area
Such as reassuring the public that the new nuclear deal signed with India is not meant to undermine years of non-proliferation policies. (Sshh, we're trying to balance China, it's a good thing. Really!)

"We have stood for the spread of democracy in the broader Middle East – meeting challenges yet seeing progress few would have
predicted or expected."
Like the election of Hamas to the Palestinian Parliament. Jeez, that was inconvenient.

"And we are fighting alongside Iraqis to secure a united, stable, and democratic Iraq – a new ally in the war on terror in the
heart of the Middle East."
And a helpful breeding ground for the recruitment and training of terrorists.

"We seek to shape the world, not merely be shaped by it; to influence events for the better instead of being at their mercy...America must continue to lead."
I don't know quite how to respons to this. Considering the bang up job they've done so far it would be cruel to make them stop now. On the other hand, reading this I get the same feeling I did when I heard Steven Spielberg was going to remake Mary Poppins.

It was not a good feeling.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Freedom Crusade

It has been three years since the war to ‘liberate’ Iraq. After the supposed threat of Saddam’s WMD, the fabricated links to Al Qaeda, his brutality towards his own people, and the threat his regime’s continued existence posed to the security of the ‘West’, the Bush administration has finally settled on democracy promotion as the raison d'etre for the war.

The arguments for bringing democracy to an oppressed people ranged from the reasonable (a democratic government is more desirable than a brutal dictator) to the farcical (a democratic Iraq will act as a beacon of freedom and liberty, prompting a democratic transformation across the entire Middle East). Far from bringing stability and freedom to the Iraqi people, the Bush administration’s policy of democracy promotion has divided the country along ethnic/sectarian lines and threatens to push the country into civil war.

Aside from the fact that the recent elections and the constitutional process are further cementing the ethno/sectarian split, some other benefits from the war include:

Between 33679 and 37795 civilian deaths as a result of military intervention.
Daily insurgent attacks, Feb 2004 - 14
Daily insurgent attacks, July 2005 - 70
Daily insurgent attacks, January 2006 - 75
Trained Iraqi Troops Needed by July 2006 - 272,566
Trained Iraqi Troops Able to Fight Without Major US Support, in Feb 2006 - 0
Iraqi Unemployment Rate - 25 to 60%
Average Daily Hours Iraqi Homes Have Electricity - 10.0
Average Daily Hours Baghdad Homes Have Electricity - 5.2
Number of Iraqi Homes Connected to Sewer Systems - 37%
Percentage of Iraqi Homes with Access to Piped Water - 78%
Hepatitis Outbreaks - 2002, 100; 2003, 170; 2004, 200.
Children Enrolled in Primary School - 2000, 3.6 million; 2004, 4.3 million
World Bank Estimate of Iraq Reconstruction Costs - $55.3 billion

Results of Poll Taken in Iraq in August 2005 by the British Ministry of Defense (Source: Brookings Institute)
Iraqis "strongly opposed to presence of coalition troops - 82%
Iraqis who believe Coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security – less than 1%
Iraqis who feel less secure because of the occupation - 67%
Iraqis who do not have confidence in multi-national forces - 72%
Iraqis who rarely have safe, clean water - 71%
Iraqis who never have enough electricity - 47%
(Statistics taken from here and here.)

The difficulties in forming a unified national government, the continuing insurgency, the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, and the horrific wave of retaliatory violence have convinced many that Iraq is on the brink of a civil war.

The fact that Iraq is in this state, not six months after the war but three years after, is an appalling and tragic policy failure.

The naïve and hubristic attitude of Bush and his cabal in the face of this is embarrassing and irresponsible.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

It’s Too Darn Risky

Sex is not just fun kids.
Sex is serious.
One must be responsible about sex.
One must be responsible about who one has sex with.
Sex should only be had between a husband and wife.
Sex is for making the babies.

The Sexual Revolution ignored these timeless truths with horrific and tragic consequences for the WHOLE WORLD. Sex is not a private choice but a public responsibility. Sexual liberation has been responsible for:

An increase in the percentage of single parent families;
An explosion in welfare dependence;
Wrecked cities and public schools;
Violence and abuse;
Endless human misery.

And all this because we as modern, secular, liberated, individuals’ have recklessly wandered from traditional sexual norms. “And this has hurt us badly.”

*Non-traditional sex is also responsible for global warming.*

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Dress Sense

A member of the Dutch Parliament recently stated:

“The burqa is hostile to women, and medieval. For a woman to walk around on the streets completely covered is an insult to everyone who believes in equal rights.”

Our inalienable rights are being eroded at every turn.

So let's outlaw this:

And instead dress like this:

Courtesy of the redoubtable Snazz

you could also choose to dress like this:

Friday, March 03, 2006

Cultural Diversity At its Best

Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, the former second foreign affairs spokeman for the Taliban, has recently been granted a special student visa by the US State Department and is happily enrolled at Yale university, studying, among other things, 'Terrorism-Past, Present, and Future'.

No doubt he is a shining example of the University's Multiultural Recruitment Program.

As top universities like Yale and Harvard compete to attract 'high profile' students, the man who came to the west on a PR exercise to defend blowing up the Buddha's of Bamiyan is now adding to the rich, cultural diversity of Yale's student population.

I love it!