February 2003

Positive Noises from Washington

From Todays Independent:

The United States is ready to make a sustained commitment to a post-war Iraq similar to the commitment it made to Germany and Japan after the Second World War, President George Bush declared last night. He also told Israel that as the peace process resumed with the Palestinians, it must end settlement activity in the occupied territories.

A Fable

From The Peoples Republic of Seabrook

A mouse looked through a crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife opening a package; what food might it contain?

He was aghast to discover that it was a mouse trap!

Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning, There is a mouse trap in the house, there is a mouse trap in the house.

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, Mr. Mouse, I can tell you this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me; I cannot be bothered by it.

The mouse turned to the pig and told him, There is a mouse trap in the house.

I am so very sorry Mr. Mouse, sympathized the pig, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray; be assured that you are in my prayers.

The mouse turned to the cow, who replied, Like wow, Mr. Mouse, a mouse trap; am I in grave danger, Duh?

So the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected to face the farmers mouse trap alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house, like the sound of a mouse trap catching its prey.

The farmers wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see that it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught. The snake bit the farmers wife.

The farmer rushed her to the hospital. She returned home with a fever. Now everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soups main ingredient.

His wifes sickness continued so that friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

The farmers wife did not get well, in fact, she died, and so many people came for her funeral the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide meat for all of them to eat.

So the next time you hear that someone is facing a problem and think that it does not concern you, remember that when the least of us is threatened, we are all at risk.

So lets assume that the anti-war campaigners get their way. Saddam gets another four months if inspections and a clear signal that, short of leaving a nuclear warhead lying around, theres nothing left for him to worry about.

Once the four months are up, he can go back to gassing Kurds.

Truth is the first casualty of war

How the US army intends to ensure a positive spin on all reporting.

Human Shields: War Tourists

Where is Raed? on the subject of Human Shields:

One of the latest group to arrive in Baghdad, mostly Europeans, were welcomed to the Rasheed hotel , which is like the Waldorf Astoria of Baghdad, no other hotel is more expensive and exclusive. All of them were wearing T-shirts with what was supposed to be Human Shields in Arabic, but they had it all wrong it said Adraa Basharia instead of Duruu Basharia which got them a few giggles and a new name; they are now the Adraa just to show how clueless they are. A lot of funny Arabic these days with all these HSs running around, a van with a foreign number plate standing near the ministry of information has No War written all over it in many languages the biggest in Arabic. All over the front of it is says La Harba which is wrong and sounds like a night club, my cousin thought that was cute. Anyway, what really got my goat this time was finding out that they get food coupons worth 15,000 dinars per meal, 3 for every day.fifteen thousan.
Do you know how much the monthly food ration for a 4 person family is worth, for a whole month not per meal (real cost, not subsidized) ? 30,000 dinars, if you get someone to buy the bad rice they give you for a decent price. 15,000. What are they eating? A whole lamb every meal? Lets put this within context. Today in the morning Raed, our friend G. and I went for a late big breakfast we had 2 tishreeb bagilas (cant explain that, you have to be an Iraqi to get it otherwise it sounds inedible) and a makhlama (which is an omelet with minced meat), tea, fizzy drinks and argila afterwards (the water-pipe-thingy) all for 4,750 dinars, and we were not going super cheap. A lunch in any above-average restaurant will not be more than 8,000 dinars and that includes everything. 15,000 thousand is a meal in a super expensive restaurant in Arasat Street, in one of those places that really almost have an only foreigners allowed, no Iraqis welcome unless you are UN staff sign on it. I will stop calling them tourist when they stop taking all this pampering from the Iraqi government. Did I tell you about the tours? Today was Babylon day. You are really missing it, the cheapest way to do the Iraq trip you have wanted to do but were too scared.

Good to see that there are people willing to risk their lives to defend a regime they have absolutely no understanding of.


The award winners

Best Film: The Pianist, Roman Polanski/Robert Benmussa/ Alain Sarde
Outstanding British film: The Warrior, Bertrand Faivre/Asif Kapadia
Debut by a British director, screenwriter or producer: Asif Kapadia (Director/Co-Writer: The Warrior)
Adapted screenplay: Adaptation, Charlie Kaufman/Donald Kaufman
Achievement in direction: The Pianist, Roman Polanski
Original screenplay: Talk To Her (Hable Con Ella), Pedro Almod�var
Best actress: Nicole Kidman, The Hours
Best actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs Of New York
Best supporting actress: Catherine Zeta Jones, Chicago
Best supporting actor: Christopher Walken, Catch Me If You Can
Achievement in film music: The Hours, Philip Glass
Foreign language film: Talk To Her, August�n Almodovar/ Pedro Almodovar
Editing: City Of God, Daniel Rezende
Sound: Chicago, Michael Minkler/ Dominick Tavella/David Le E/Maurice Schell
Cinematography: Road To Perdition, Conrad L Hall
Production design: Dennis Gassner
Costume design: The Lord Of The Rings, Ngila Dickson/ Richard Taylor
Special visual effects: The Lord Of The Rings, Jim Rygiel/Joe Letteri/Randall William Cook/Alex Funke
Make-up and hair: Frida, Judy Chin/ Beatrice De Alba/ John Jackson/Regina Reyes
Short film: My Wrongs 8245-8249 And 117, Mark Herbert/Chris Morris
Short animation: Fish Never Sleep, Ga�lle Denis
Orange film of the year: The Lord Of The Rings
Academy fellowship: Saul Zaentz
Outstanding British contribution to cinema: D Tomblin/M Stevenson

Iraq: How far can we trust the Americans?

Todays Independent takes a timely look at the current state of Afghanistan which, if you recall, was liberated by the Americans following the September 11th attacks.

The country is still in ruins, dominated by feuding warlords and without many of the essentials of a viable nation. Communications, transport, law and order, health and education are all noticeable by their absence. Both al-Qaida and Taliban are still active.

The UN and the Afghan transitional government have both tried to convince the international community to extend the relative peace of Kabul to the rest of the country.

Worryingly, the Americans still portray Afghanistan as a success.

It is not enough to simply invade a country, topple whichever regime happens to be in power and then abandon the population to whatever chaos ensues. This is as true in Afghanistan as it is in Iraq.

At Last! A Coherent Outsourcing Policy

from Dilbert.

No Comment

From todays Independent:

Zimbabwes president, Robert Mugabe, and his wife, Grace, left their five-star Paris hotel last night at the end of the France-Africa summit, praising French hospitality and President Jacques Chiracs role in uniting the world.

If you want to see a world in which brutal and repressive regimes continue to prosper, you have a friend in France.

Sonic Light over the internet

I mentioned, about a week ago, the Sonic Light conference and performance being held this weekend in Amsterdam.

For those of you unable to make the journey, it is also being streamed over the internet.

The conference will be streamed between 1:00pm and 6:00pm Central Europe Time on February 21st, 22nd and 23rd at

The performance will be streamed between 11:00pm and 5:00am Central Europe Time on February 21st and 22nd and between 8:00pm and 2:00am Central Europe Time on February 23rd.

If you want to know any more, visit the Sonic Acts website.

Give honesty a chance

It looks like Blair is wavering a little.

Bland assurances such this

If I thought we were going to unleash something in which hundreds of thousands of people were going to die and we would have more Bin Ladens and the Middle East was going to go up in flames of course I dont think that.

convince no-one.

It would be both more honest and more effective to recognise the tensions and the potential risks of any military actions in Iraq. An invasion will stoke anti-western feelings and it will encourage people to turn to terrorism.

These dangers can be minimised, but only by recognising that they exist in the first place.

There is a - not unreasonable - perception that the West in general, and America in particular are guilty of applying one rule to their friends, one to their enemies and yet another to everyone else. This should stop. These are genuine grievances and to threaten Iraq with invasion while, for example, mindlessly supporting Israels brutal repression of Palestinians bolsters the perception that any claims emanating from the Bush administration are nothing more than a cynical attempt to gather support for purely selfish aggression.

There is also the question of what will happen in Iraq once the expected war is over. Again, anything less than a strong and clear commitment to rebuilding the country, dismantling Saddams dictatorship in its entirety and helping the Iraqis to build a governmental structure that is both transparent and fair is not only an abandonment of fundamental human rights principles, but also plays directly into the hands of those that would like to present Saddam as the underdog and victim of American neo-imperialist aggression.

Only by behaving in a fair and consistent manner can we in the West expect to build a solid and lasting peace.