The day the world changed

November 5, 2008

I have spent the night watching history in the making.

Barack Obama is to be the new President of the United States.

There are times in a lifetime when you realise that something special is happening.  Something that will change the world for the better.  Something that is literally history in the making.

Watching this landslide victory unfold it was easy to forget that some black people of America alive today once did not even have the right to vote, and today they have a black president.

That’s the historical.

But even more important is what Obama stands for and where, hopefully, he will take America and the world.  A country that has been hated, and in some cases laughed at, in recent years around the world has taken it’s first steps to rebuild it’s reputation.

From voting in a dangerous clown for two terms in office I truly believe that an amazing change is coming.

I had shivers down my spine watching his victory speech.

Well done America.  Well done President Obama.

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42 Day Detention

June 11, 2008

Today there is a vote in The House of Commons to change the law to allow the police to hold suspects for 42 days without charge.  If you are reading this I urge you to spread the word of opposition to this massive curtailment of human rights by signing this petition http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/notadaylonger.  Here is a press release from Amnesty International:

Backbench MPs have received an impassioned plea from Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen ahead of today’s debate on plans to extend pre-charge detention limits to 42 days in terrorism cases.

Describing the vote as ‘A watershed moment for human rights in the UK,’ Kate Allen urges MPs to oppose any further extension of pre-charge detention. By doing so, MPs ‘have an opportunity this week to defend the values that underpin civil liberties in this country.’ The letter has been sent to potential rebel MPs whose votes will be pivotal to whether the Counter-terrorism Bill becomes law. It concludes:

‘I urge you to stand in support of principles that lie at the heart of our society, principles such as justice and liberty.

‘The alternative is to succumb to the climate of fear that terrorists seek to breed among us.

‘I urge you to oppose any further extension of pre-charge detention.’

Kate Allen states that the proposal to extend pre-charge detention ‘flies in the face of principles of justice’ and argues that she is ‘not reassured by the Government’s recent ‘concessions’.’  Amnesty believes that the Bill still lacks proper judicial safeguards and that parliamentary scrutiny will be meaningless because of the risk of prejudicing future trials. There is also serious concern that the definition of the ‘grave and exceptional threat’, that would trigger the Home Secretary’s decision to seek extended pre-charge detention, is too broad.

Amnesty accepts that the government has a duty to protect the public but argues strongly that this should only be done in a way that respects their rights. Allen’s letter argues:

‘All states have an obligation to act to protect people from terrorism. The perpetrators of terrorist attacks must be brought to justice. But unless governments respond to the threat of international terrorism with measures that are fully grounded in respect for human rights, they risk undermining the values they seek to protect and defend.’

Amnesty International members have been campaigning against extending pre-charge detention limits since the idea was first proposed. Over 7,000 people have signed its ‘Not a Day Longer’ petition at the Number Ten website http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/notadaylonger

We cannot as a sensible and evolved country allow human rights to be curtailed further.  The United Kingdom should be a leader in the pro-human rights struggle and a hindrance to them.

The line must be drawn here.


McClennan

May 28, 2008

As time goes by the reality of world changing events becomes clearer and definitely more honest. That is the nature of documentation when it comes to history.

Most people with hindsight and the sensible few at the time realised that the war in Iraq was unnecessary. Quite a few even realised that the majority of the reason mustered as justification were basically false. So it is hardly surprising that one of George Bush’s aides now basically admits as much.

The revelations are just that, but only because they come from one George W’s circle. Scott McClennan’s statements, coming out in a soon to be published book, lay out what we have all known for a long time.

Bush relied on propaganda “in a way that almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option”.

The administration was not “open and forthright on Iraq”.

On the outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative and the subsequent coverup, “I allowed myself to be deceived into unknowingly passing along a falsehood”.

The press were too deferential to the White House on Iraq

Steve Hadley, the deputy national security adviser, offered to resign over the erroneous claim that Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium.

“The Iraq war was not necessary”


The Amnesty Report 2008

May 28, 2008

Amnesty has recently published its yearly report on the state of human rights across the world and it makes very interesting, if not depressing, reading.

I will leave the deatils to the report itself but here are some of the details that struck me and were highlighted by Amnesty International themselves:

“The most powerful must lead by example,”

* China must live up to the human rights promises it made around the Olympic Games and allow free speech and freedom of the press and end “re-education through labour”.
* The USA must close Guantánamo detention camp and secret detention centres, prosecute the detainees under fair trial standards or release them, and unequivocally reject the use of torture and ill-treatment.
* Russia must show greater tolerance for political dissent, and none for impunity on human rights abuses in Chechnya.
* The EU must investigate the complicity of its member states in “renditions” of terrorist suspects and set the same bar on human rights for its own members as it does for other countries.

Ms Khan from Amnesty warned: “World leaders are in a state of denial but their failure to act has a high cost. As Iraq and Afghanistan show, human rights problems are not isolated tragedies, but are like viruses that can infect and spread rapidly, endangering all of us.”

“Governments today must show the same degree of vision, courage and commitment that led the United Nations to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sixty years ago.”

“There is a growing demand from people for justice, freedom and equality.”

Some of the most striking images of 2007 were of monks in Myanmar, lawyers in Pakistan, and women activists in Iran.

“Restless and angry, people will not be silenced, and leaders ignore them at their own peril,” said Ms Khan.

Facts and Figures

ARTICLE 1

1948 Promise:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights
2008 Reality:
In the first half of 2007 nearly 250 women were killed by violent husbands or family members in Egypt and on average 2 women were raped there every hour.

ARTICLE 3

1948 Promise:
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person
2008 Reality:
1,252 people were known to have been executed by their state in 2007 in 24 countries; 104 countries however voted for a global moratorium on the death penalty.

ARTICLE 5

1948 Promise:
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
2008 Reality:
Amnesty International documented cases of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in more than 81 countries in 2007.

ARTICLE 7

1948 Promise:
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law
2008 Reality:
Amnesty International’s report highlights at least 23 countries with laws discriminating against women, at least 15 with laws discriminating against migrants and at least 14 with laws discriminating against minorities.

ARTICLE 9

1948 Promise:
Noone shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile
2008 Reality:
At the end of 2007, there were more than 600 people detained without charge, trial or judicial review of their detentions at the US airbase in Bagram, Afghanistan, and 25,000 held by the Multinational Force in Iraq.

ARTICLE 10

1948 Promise:
Everyone charged with a crime is entitled equally to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal
2008 Reality:
54 countries were recorded in the Amnesty International Report 2008 as conducting unfair trials.

ARTICLE 11

1948 Promise:
Everyone has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law
2008 Reality:
Amnesty International figures show that around 800 people have been held at Guantánamo Bay since the detention facility opened in January 2002, some 270 are still being held there in 2008 without charge or due legal process.

ARTICLE 13

1948 Promise:
Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state
2008 Reality:
In 2007, there were more than 550 Israeli military checkpoints and blockades restricting or preventing the movement of Palestinians between towns and villages in the West Bank.

ARTICLE 18

1948 Promise:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion
2008 Reality:
Amnesty International has documented 45 countries as detaining Prisoners of Conscience.

ARTICLE 19

1948 Promise:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
2008 Reality:
77 countries were restricting freedom of expression and the press according to the Amnesty International Report 2008.

ARTICLE 20

1948 Promise:
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association
2008 Reality:
Thousands of people are believed to have been arrested during the crackdown on protests in Myanmar in 2007, Amnesty International estimates that around 700 remain in detention.

ARTICLE 23

1948 Promise:
Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to fair and equal pay, and to form and join trade unions
2008 Reality:
At least 39 trade unionists were killed in Colombia in 2007, 22 have died in the first 4 months of this year.

ARTICLE 25

1948 Promise:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for their health and well-being, especially mothers and children
2008 Reality:
14% of Malawi’s population was living with HIV/AIDS in 2007, only 3% of them had access to free anti-retroviral drugs, 1 million children were orphaned there by HIV/AIDS related deaths.

(All figures from Amnesty International Report 2008)


Conservative Blast

May 28, 2008

People on the right wing of politics around the world annoy me.  The further right the bigger the annoyance.

It seems to me that the conservatives of this world, by their nature, veer off into a closed bubble of self.  The very nature of conservatism is to be introvert.  Amass wealth and superficial sundries.  Look after nobody but yourself.

The further people drift left the more they see the injustice on this tiny planet, the socialist tendency allows facts like:

“Richest 2 Percent Own Half the World’s Wealth.”

…to sink in.

I would go so far as to say most conservatives are so consumed in their own personal bubble that they are beyond caring for anything or anyone who doesn’t in some way come into contact with them.

Superficial actions do not count.

Most people vote based on a surface tension layer of understanding, formed from tabloid red top head lines for the most part.  Xenophobes who think that people worse off than them should not be allowed in to their respective country.  They of course forget that if the positions were reversed they would leave their nation of birth and seek something better.  That of course is irrelevant to them.  Xenophobia creates many of the worlds issues and ruins many lives.  But I again refer to the ‘bubble’.

Let’s not be silly and say everything that is proposed by right wing parties or organisations is sensible.  But the essence of the philosophy is correct.  The morality at the core should speak to a society based on ethics, morality and the good of mankind.

I have little faith in the human race as a whole.  Not to say I haven’t been in my own bubble of self indulgence, but I like to think that I learn from mistakes and evolve in my own understanding of this small planet we all inhabit.  I suppose my urge to study the arts, philosophy and politics in relative depth rather than showbiz, soap and tabloid news stands me in a better stead and I think that is where the general population of the western world falls down.  But I generalise.

I suppose I can sum up by saying that I wish the population of our wide ranging societies would spend less time looking in their own wallets, at their own selfish desires and more to the bigger picture.  You may only have £50 in your bank, but someone else only has £1.  You may want that bigger house or other belonging that you don’t really need. Someone else wants for the means to survive.  Even in your own country.

I recently listened to a podcast that made an impression.

It focused on spending an hour thinking about what you could do without and still be happy.  I think if most people were brutally honest with themselves it would be a lot more than they would initially realise.  We live in an ultra capitalist society here in the west.

Is it really good for us as a species, individuals, on a planet of limited resources?


Dreams From My Father

May 20, 2008

Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama

I have been fortunate enough to experience this book in its audio format read by the author himself. Maybe fortunate is an understatement because this book is a wonderful experience in every sense of the word.

Obama’s story, the parts of it related here, is one spanning generations of his family and parts of his own life and how they have woven together to make the man that all of the world is looking on today. During his narration he pulls no punches and you really do feel the struggles that he has been through emotionally with his family and friends, personal and professional life and those of simply growing up. At no point do you get the sense he is holding back to protect his political aspirations and the effect of this is a book that engages from start to finish. A story that stands head and shoulders above the crowd that I think would be praised if written by an unknown.

Obama does a brilliant job of reading his story to us and I think that in this case it must raise the audio book above the text version. His style and intelligence shines through throughout and by the end you are wishing that there was more. Which of course there is, and he is in the process of living it. Yes, I was already an Obama fan before hearing this book and I have an offering of John McCains to consume, but as it stands at the moment Obama is the one for the White House in my opinion, and this exceptional read simply highlights that fact in my opinion.

A book that I can recommend for the American politics fan, or those who love to read an amazing true story.


Trouble around the world

May 14, 2008

A cyclone in Burma and an earthquake in China.

Natural disasters are just that.  Natural.

It doesn’t mean that we should be any less sympathetic or charitable.  Luckily China has, in it’s own ways, the resources to deal with a disaster of this scale.  However, with possibly hundreds of thousands dead or dying and damage to infrastructure beyond comprehension hopefully they will be more open to outside help than the dictatorship that is Burma.

I have been reading in newspapers, online and hearing over the radio how this secretive state is blocking foreign aid at almost every turn.  Either simply not letting aid and aid workers in, or placing unreasonable conditions on the aid agencies involved.  The ruling military power is taking the abuse of human rights to new levels and we as a civilised world should not take their ‘no’ for an answer.  Forcing aid in via peaceful means should be considered.

The world is at a stage in it’s life, with us as the dominate species, where nobody should go hungry, nobodies human rights should be infringed on and we should be looking after our fragile planet.  Even more so in a time where millions of litres of water has to be shipped in to Spain, just for people to be able to drink, due to never before seen levels of drought.  Sceptics beware, global warming may just be rearing it’s head enough to bite.

Sadly, even in times of desperate need, lives that could be saved through the goodness and charity of others is refused and the human race suffers needlessly.

Our evolution stutters in the face of adversity and our right to call ourselves civilized should be called in to question more often than not.

We fail to act over atrocities like genocide in Africa.  Yet fall over ourselves to initiate a wars over oil and imaginary WMD and terrorists, killing those we profess to save.

I hope with all my heart that the influential Super Powers of the world are subject to the political changes necessary to rip up the rotten foundations of our political morality and that grass roots voters open their eyes and minds to the reality of our existence.

We are one species, one human race on one small planet.