Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cult of Misery Latest: Pope Delivers Annual Message of Hate

The famously dress wearing Pope, in an early release of his annual message of hate to the world, declared today that stopping homosexual behaviour is as important as stopping the destruction of the rain forest. The BBC News, in a remarkable display of analytical insight and critical thinking skills noted that the Pope hadn't referred to homosexuals as 'sinners'. Strangely, the BBC News didn't note that the Pope might be in need of professional psychological help to deal with his homophobia. Strangely, nobody of the usual politically correct crowd insisted that anti-hate speech legislation be properly applied and the Pope and/or his senior executives be prosecuted.

Happy hol's everyone. I'm away till early January trying to escape Xmas (not an easy task...).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Complete list of civilised countries now available

Very interesting stuff: the UN (that beacon of hope for human rights - NOT) voted on a resolution demanding basic civil rights for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered (lgbt) people. Some 66 countries supported the resolution, and not unexpectedly, to quote Donald Rumsfeld, Old European countries with their respect for civil rights feature prominently on the list. No surprise, unfortunately, that thuggish places like Saudia Arabia, Russia, Jamaica and others are missing in action. No surprise either that the USA and the Vatican cannot be found on the list of supporters of the human rights of lgbt people. No surprise also that South Africa, sliding ever faster itself into a Zimbabwe type failed state, is absent among the signatories of the resolution, despite the fact that the country's progressive constitution binds the government of the day to recognize the rights of lgbt folks.

It's probably useful to reflect on this also in the context of high hopes that people have for the incoming Obama administration in the USA. This guy (leaving aside for a moment the fact that he doesn't even support the idea of universal health care in the USA) has announced today that a known homophobic evangelical preacher will hold the sermon during his inauguration ceremony.

Here then the complete honor list (keep em in mind, next time you plan a vacation!):

Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon,
Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

The UN statement, which includes a call for the decriminalisation of homosexuality worldwide, was read by Argentina.

Here's a Background briefing from IDAHO, the organisation that launched a campaign to get this resolution off the ground:

On May 17 2006, the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), the IDAHO Committee launched a campaign « for the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality », and published a list of the first signatories, which include several Nobel Prize winners: (Desmond Tutu, Elfriede Jelinek, José Saramago, Dario Fo, Amartya Sen), entertainers (Merryl Streep, Victoria Abril, Cyndi Lauper, Elton John, David Bowie), intellectuals (Judith Butler, Noam Chomsky, Bernard-Henri Lévy), and humanitarian organisations like ILGA, Aids International and the FIDH. On IDAHO 2008 (17 May this year) the French government announced that it would bring a LGBT human rights statement to the General Assembly of the United Nations. The text was read today in New York, and was supported by 66 countries in the world, and it clearly inscribes sexual orientation and gender identity as human rights.

The IDAHO Committee is the NGO coordinating the International Day Against Homophobia. This day is celebrated in more than 50 countries in the world, and is officially recognised by the European Union, Belgium, United Kingdom, France, Mexico, Costa-Rica, etc. These actions support international campaigns, like the call launched in 2006 "for a universal decriminalisation of homosexuality"
http://www.idahomophobia.org/

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Call for an End to Sharia Courts

For your information, from me as one of the signatories of the Call for an End to Sharia Courts, the press release of the group that initiated this campaign.
udo schuklenk

Press Release
CALL FOR END TO SHARIA COURTS AFTER REPORT SHOWS WIDESPREAD INJUSTICE
December 16, 2008

A new report showing that Muslim women are discriminated against and encounter gross bias when they subject themselves to Sharia adjudications was welcomed today (news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7783627.stm) by The One Law for All Campaign, which is supported by a variety of organisations and individuals.

The campaign's spokesperson Maryam Namazie said: 'This research reinforces our own findings that Sharia Councils and Muslim Arbitration Tribunals are discriminatory and unfair. However, the solution to the miscarriages of justice is not the vetting of Imams coming to the UK as the report has recommended but an end to the use and implementation of Sharia law and religious-based tribunals.' She added: 'At present these Sharia-based bodies are growing and appear to have some sort of official backing. But they are leading to gross injustices among women who are often unaware of their rights under Britain's legal system.'

This perspective was reiterated in the One Law for All Campaign's launch on December 10, 2008 in the House of Lords at which Maryam Namazie and campaign supporters Gina Khan, Carla Revere, Ibn Warraq and Keith Porteous Wood spoke; the meeting was chaired by Fariborz Pooya, head of the Iranian Secular Society.

Gina Khan, a secular Muslim, said: 'Under British law we are treated as equal and full human beings. Under the antiquated version of Sharia law that Islamists peddle, we are discriminated against just because of our gender. These Islamists use our plight by meddling in issues like forced marriages, domestic violence and inheritance laws for their own political agenda. To allow them to have any sort of control over the lives of Muslim women in British communities will have dire consequences.' She added: 'Sharia courts must be a pressing concern not just for Muslims but for all those living in Britain. Anyone who believes in universal human rights needs to stand united against the discrimination and oppression visited upon Muslim women.'

Carla Revere, Chairperson of the Lawyers' Secular Society, said: 'Such self-appointed, unregulated tribunals are gaining in strength; they increasingly hold themselves up as courts with as much force as the law of the land, but are not operating with the same controls and safeguards. They appear to be operating in the area of family law and some even in criminal matters, where they have no right to make binding decisions as they claim to do. Even if the decisions were binding, UK courts do not uphold contractual decisions that are contrary to UK law or public policy. We call on the Government and legal establishment to stand up for the vulnerable and tackle this significant and growing problem, rather than ignoring it.'

Writer Ibn Warraq said: 'Sharia does not accord equal rights to Muslim women- in regards to marriage- she is not free to marry a non-Muslim, for instance; in regards to divorce, custody of children, inheritance, the choice of profession, and freedom to travel, or freedom to change her
religion. In other words, Great Britain in allowing Sharia courts has contravened the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, and all the other more legally binding United Nations' Covenants on Discrimination and the Rights of Women... Multiculturalism is turning communities against each other, it is fundamentally divisive. We need to get back to the principles of equality before the law, principles that so many people fought so hard to achieve for so long.'

Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, said: 'Sharia is becoming a growth industry in Britain, putting growing pressure on vulnerable people in the Muslim community to use Sharia councils and tribunals to resolve disputes and family matters, when they could use the civil courts. Sharia law is not arrived at by the democratic process, is not Human Rights compliant, and there is no right of appeal.'

Writer Joan Smith who was unable to speak at the launch sent the following message: 'This campaign is very important because many people in this country - including politicians - have yet to realise the isolation of many Muslims, particularly women, from the wider society. Some of them are already under intolerable pressure from their families, and the principle of
one law for everyone is a protection they desperately need. That's why I give this campaign my whole-hearted support.'

To find out more or support the One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain visit www.onelawforall.org.uk.


Some of the signatories to the Campaign

Nazanin Afshin-Jam, Coordinator, Stop Child Executions Campaign, Canada
Mina Ahadi, Spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Germany; Coordinator, International Committee against Stoning, Köln, Germany
Sargul Ahmad, Activist, Women's Liberation in Iraq, Canada
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Writer, Washington, DC, USA
Mahin Alipour, Coordinator, Equal Rights Now - Organisation against Women's Discrimination in Iran, Stockholm, Sweden
Homa Arjomand, Coordinator, International Campaign against Sharia Courts in Canada, Toronto, Canada
Farideh Arman, Coordinator, International Campaign in Defence of Women's Rights in Iran, Malmo, Sweden
Abdullah Asadi, Executive Director, International Federation of Iranian Refugees, Sweden
Ophelia Benson, Editor, Butterflies and Wheels, USA
Susan Blackmore, Psychologist, UK
Nazanin Borumand, Never Forget Hatun Campaign against Honour Killings, Germany
Roy Brown, Past President, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Geneva, Switzerland
Ed Buckner, President, American Atheists, USA
Marino Busdachin, General Secretary, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples
Organization, Netherlands
Center for Inquiry, USA
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, UK
Council of Ex-Muslims of Germany, Germany
Council of Ex-Muslims of Scandinavia, Sweden
Caroline Cox, Peer, House of Lords, London, UK
Austin Dacey, Representative to the United Nations, Center for Inquiry-International, USA
Shahla Daneshfar, Central Committee Member, Equal Rights Now - Organisation
against Women's Discrimination in Iran, London, UK
Richard Dawkins, Scientist, Oxford, UK
Patty Debonitas, TV Producer, Third Camp against US Militarism and Islamic Terrorism, London, UK
Deeyah, Singer and composer, USA
Nick Doody, Comedian, UK
Sonja Eggerickx, President, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Belgium
Afshin Ellian, Professor, Leiden University Faculty of Law, Leiden, Netherlands
Equal Rights Now - Organisation against Women's Discrimination in Iran, Sweden
European Humanist Federation, Belgium
Tarek Fatah, Author, Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State, Toronto, Canada
Caroline Fourest, Writer, France
Tahir Aslam Gora, Writer and journalist, Canada
AC Grayling, Writer and Philosopher, London, UK
Maria Hagberg, Chair, Network against Honour-Related Violence, Gothenburg, Sweden
Johann Hari, Journalist, London, UK
Christopher Hitchens, Author, USA
Farshad Hoseini, Activist, International Campaign against Executions, Netherlands
Khayal Ibrahim, Coordinator, Organization of Women's Liberation in Iraq;
Arabic Anchor for Secular TV, Canada
International Committee against Executions, Netherlands
International Committee against Stoning, Germany
International Humanist and Ethical Union, UK
Iranian Secular Society, UK
Shakeb Isaar, Singer, Sweden
Maryam Jamel, Activist, Women's Liberation in Iraq, Canada
Keyvan Javid, Director, New Channel TV, London, UK
Alan Johnson, Editor, Democratiya.com, Lancashire, UK
Mehul Kamdar, Former editor of The Modern Rationalist, USA
Naser Khader, Founder, Association of Democratic Muslims, Denmark
Hope Knutsson, Chair, Sidmennt, Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association, Iceland
Hartmut Krauss, Editor, Hintergrund, Germany
LAIQUES - Région PACA, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France
Stephen Law, Editor, Royal Institute of Philosophy journal, London, UK
Shiva Mahbobi, Producer, Against Discrimination TV Programme, London, UK
Houzan Mahmoud, Abroad Representative, Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq, London, UK
Doreen Massey, Peer, House of Lords, London, UK
Anthony McIntyre, Writer, Ireland
Caspar Melville, Editor, New Humanist magazine, London, UK
Bahar Milani, Activist, Children First Now, London, UK
Tauriq Moosa, Writer, Capetown, South Africa
Reza Moradi, Producer, Fitna Remade, London, UK
Douglas Murray, Director, Centre for Social Cohesion, London, UK
Taslima Nasrin, Writer and activist
National Secular Society, London, UK
Never Forget Hatun Campaign against Honour Killings, Germany
Samir Noory, Writer; Secular TV Manager, Canada
David Pollock, President, the European Humanist Federation, London, UK
Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, Pakistan
Fahimeh Sadeghi, Coordinator, International Federation of Iranian
Refugees-Vancouver, Vancouver, Canada
Michael Schmidt-Salomon, Chief Executive Officer, Giordano Bruno Foundation,
Germany
Udo Schuklenk, Philosophy professor, Queen's University, Canada
Sohaila Sharifi, Editor, Unveiled, London, UK
Issam Shukri, Head, Defense of Secularism and Civil Rights in Iraq; Central Committee Secretary, Left Worker-communist Party of Iraq, Iraq
Bahram Soroush, Founding member, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, London, UK
Peter Tatchell, Activist, London, UK
Hamid Taqvaee, Central Committee Secretary, Worker-communist Party of Iran
Union des Familles Laïques - section Arles-Istres, France
Union des Familles Laïques - section Marseille-Aix-en-Provence, France
Afsaneh Vahdat, Coordinator, Council of Ex-Muslims of Sweden, Stockholm, Sweden
Marvin F. Zayed, President, International Committee to Protect Freethinkers, Ottawa, Canada

For more information, please contact Maryam Namazie, email:
onelawforall@gmail.com, telephone: 07719166731; website:
onelawforall.org.uk.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Buch's administration responsible for policies that led to torture of detainees

This needs no further comment!


AP by Joby Warrick

WASHINGTON - A bipartisan Senate report released today says that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials are directly responsible for abuses of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and charges that decisions by those officials led to serious offenses against prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere.

The Senate Armed Services Committee report accuses Rumsfeld and his deputies of being the principal architects of the plan to use harsh interrogation techniques on captured fighters and terrorism suspects, rejecting the Bush administration's contention that the policies originated lower down the command chain.

"The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of 'a few bad apples' acting on their own," the panel concludes. "The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees."

The report, released by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz., and based on a nearly two-year investigation, said that both the policies and resulting controversies tarnished the reputation of the United States and undermined national security. "Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority," it said.

"Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right," wrote Petraeus, who at the time was the top U.S. commander in Iraq. "Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy."

Fascinating background on Nobel Prize money

The German language weekly broadsheet DIE ZEIT has published an interesting backgrounder on the Nobel Foundation, ie the organisation bankrolling the 1 mio $ per pop Nobel prizes. It turns out that the foundation's investment people burned a lot of its money by means of investing in hedge funds instead of safer shares. The initial donor who established the foundation, Alfred Nobel, insisted that the foundation invest the money only in 'safe shares'. A Swedish radio station did the maths and reported that it is in serious doubt these days whether there's enough cash left to fund the generous prize monies that the winners have grown accustomed to.

There are also questions to do with good judgment when the committee chairs of several of the foundation's selection committees went on luxury junkets to China (ie business class fares, luxury hotels, that sort of thing), while being quizzed on what China would need to do in order to score nobel prizes. Quite amusing in a way, one is used to endless corruption when it comes to that Olympic farce and its committee, but nobody probably expected similar conduct from chairpersons of nobel prize selection committees. Anyhow, as to China, that country routinely censors information about the nobel peaze price winners from its bulletins, because it is too concerned that its name might once again be mentioned by the winners in the context of civil rights violations or cosying up to dictators in Zimbabwe, Sudan and Burma. The kind treatment meted out to nobel committee bigshots might explain why there was no nobel prize for Chinese human rights activists this year.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, given this context of clearly less than transparent activities, it turns out to be the case that the largest commercial sponsor of the foundation's commercial arms (nobel media and nobel web) is the pharmaceutical multinational Astra Zeneca. The discovery made by this year's nobel prize winner in medicine (namely that the sexually transmissible HPV causes cervical cancer) has led to a somewhat controversial vaccine against that virus. There is some argument ongoing whether the side-effect profile of the vaccine is too significant and its efficacy too low to justy using it in every teenage girl prior to her becoming sexually active. It turns out to be the case that the owner of the patents to the vaccine is no one other than Astra Zeneca. So, the largest commercial sponsor of the foundation's activities also happens to market the product that was made possible by the discovery of this year's winner. Having said that, the nobel prize winner well and truly deserved the price (as arguably many others for different discoveries in medicine), and he personally does reportedly not financially benefit from any sales Astra Zeneca makes.

Still, it seems that not all is nobel in the house of Nobel ...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Economic crisis leads to even more good news

The economic crisis that Anglosaxon style capitalism has brought us into might not only herald the end of those dreaded US car manufacturers (here's wishful thinking), no, there's more good news: this could even herald the end of Formula 1. Yes, the end of men driving around in circles in gas guzzling racing cars for no good reason at all. Honda has already withdrawn from sponsoring a Formula 1 racing team, and rumours have it that there will be more to follow. Stay tuned ... and fingers crossed.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Bizarre system of democracy in Canada's constitutional monarchy

A farce - by the standards of most, if not all, liberal parliamentary democracies - has just taken place in Canada. A couple of weeks ago a minority government under the conservative PM Stephen Harper took office. The thing is, as it goes with minority governments in democracies, only a minority of Canadians actually support the government. The opposition parties consisting of the Liberals, the leftish NDP and the Quebec based nationalists have a comfortable majority in parliament over the Conservatives. So, most sensible minority government PMs would have navigated compromise courses to ensure that their government is not brought down by the parliamentary majority. Sensible politics and Stephen Harper is well and truly a contradiction in terms. So, very quickly he pissed off the parliamentary majority to such an extent that they clubbed together, signed a deal and declared that they'd oust his government.

In most liberal democracies (probably all West European ones) the president or governor general (if it's a former British colony of sorts), if there's a working majority in parliament, would task the majority coalition formally with forming government within a certain period of time. That failing there will be elections.

Now, you might think this German-Australian expat shouldn't be that judgmental about the banana republic equivalent machinations of Canadian politics. So for what it's worth, Ed Shreyer, a former governor general of Canada, had this to say on the same matter: "I'll put it this way and I will make this a plain-spoken sentence. Nothing should be done to aid and abet the evasion of submitting to the will of Parliament. I think one can stop there. It's about as basic as that."

Hey, not so in Canada. Here, bizarrely, the governor general can suspend parliament for weeks in a row for no good reason. And that exactly is what she did! Now the minority government can continue for another couple of weeks time, despite the fact that the majority of elected parliamentarians declared in writing that they (representing their electorate, ie the majority of Canadian voters) do not support the government. As if this complete disregared for democratic process wasn't enough, the governor general can also decide, after the suspension of parliament (if the recalcitrant majority still insists on electing a new government) to call a new election. Again, why bother taking the views of the democratically elected representatives of the people seriously? No need in Canada.