For once, someone at the top is making sense

26 October, 2006

This from AAP, via Westnet:

Top cop warns of anti-Islamic bias

The nation’s top policeman says there is a risk of creating a generation of Australians with a bias against Islam, which in turn will incite more terrorism.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty called for moderation in media coverage of issues including controversial comments by Australia’s most senior Islamic cleric. Sheik Taj Aldin Alhilali compared skimpily-dressed women to “uncovered meat” and suggested they were “the problem” that caused sexual attacks, The Australian reported.

Mr Keelty said if true, the comments were inflammatory. The sheik has since apologised for any offence caused by the comments.

“Obviously what was said is going to be offensive to many of us in the community,” Mr Keelty said in Adelaide. “But I would also point out that there are many other people in the community who say offensive things from time to time as well, and many of them are white Caucasian Australians. Clearly things are going to be said from time to time that I guess inflame the situation and for all us, we have got to look at ways to try and keep some element of moderation about what we say and what we do.”

In an address to the South Australian Press Club, Mr Keelty said: “if we are not careful, I think we risk raising a generation of Australians who will have a bias against Islam. As I travel around the country and speak to different Islamic communities … you hear more and more stories of treatment of the Islamic community that really is sub-standard by members of our own wider community. If we don’t get a handle on this now, if we don’t actually teach the values to future generations that we were brought up with, we do risk, I think, having a bigger problem in our own future than what we have in our past.”

Mr Keelty said he was concerned some media coverage may incite terrorism. “If we are not careful, the way we treat the issues of security and terrorism can in fact incite others to become involved,” he said.

He cited reported threats to the safety of the Australian cricket team during last year’s Ashes series in England as an example, saying Australian media followed a story of “questionable background” from the United Kingdom. “It was the story of a friend of a friend of an alleged friend of an alleged bomber that made the front pages and drove our media here for over 24 hours,” he said.


Small Arms Trade Treaty

25 October, 2006

I don’t normally give a lot of attention to specific causes – I work on the basis that people in the field are far better at handling these matters and answering questions. But later this week, the United Nations will be considering a General Assembly resolution to open the way for an arms trade treaty. For those not in the know, small arms are basically anything a soldier can carry, ranging from pistols and shotguns through rifles, automatic weapons and even some types of launchers. The significance of this relates to the unregulated trade of small arms such as AK-47s in world trouble spots. The fact that companies from mainly western countries supply these to pretty much anyone on the open market has kept many fires blazing all over the world.

Governments have tended to turn a blind eye to things their companies do in the developing world – I need only remind Australians of the Kilwa incident in the Congo, the Esmerelda mine in Romania as well as incidents involving Australian staples Rio Tinto and BHP in the near-Pacific, not to mention the unfolding story of AWB’s dealings with Iraq where an arm of the government may have assisted in breaches of UN sanctions, to emphasise that the Australian government (irrespective of party) is often fairly blasé about its companies’ behaviour in less regulated parts of the world. There is less international regulation on small arms than there is on wheat, coal or sugar.

The impact of a supplier country pulling their support can be seen in my homeland of Northern Ireland, and also in Israel/Palestine, where one side suddenly realised peace was in its best interests when its means of fighting a protracted war evaporated due to the sudden termination of overseas support. One only needs to look at Sudan, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and some former parts of the Soviet Union to see the worst that can happen – Amnesty claims 1,000 people are dying per day as a result of unregulated small arms.

The measure is being supported by Britain, not to mention a heap of well-respected Nobel laureates, and France is now on board (important as France is/was the largest trader in these items), but the US, Russia and China, whose corporate interests earn quite a fair amount from the trade, are all opposed to it. Nevertheless, it is likely to pass with majority support in the General Assembly, with Britain saying it has the support of 107 of the UN’s 192 member states, with a vote on a finished treaty likely in 2008.

Amnesty International is one of the key drivers of this campaign, as part of the joint Control Arms campaign. Their secretary-general told the Guardian newspaper, “It is crunch time at the UN. Governments should take a historic step to stop irresponsible and immoral arms transfers by voting to develop a treaty that will prevent the death, rape and displacement of thousands of people.” They have been essential in getting many smaller countries on board with this.
I am already supporting Amnesty International but I urge you all to support them either by making others aware of this campaign, or by making donations to them, so that they can ensure that any carried vote is actually enforced and doesn’t go the route of so many other well-intentioned plans (NPT or START I, anyone?)
Amnesty Australia’s page on the campaign is here.


London police sacrifice goodwill

24 July, 2005

This is a woeful state of affairs. The story is as summarised by Sibanu on shortnews (I added plain-clothes as that was not known at the time):

“For those of you who aren’t aware of the background to the story, it appears that a man in a thick coat (in summer) was persued by (plain-clothes) police in the London Underground. The police shouted at him to stop, but he didn’t and continued to run toward a stationary train. Four policemen chased him and tackled him to the ground, where one of the policemen immediately shot five rounds into the back of the mans head, killing him instantly. This is summary execution, no more, no less, whether the man was connected with the terrorists or not, and as such the policemen should be charged with intentional homicide. Our morals and standards are shattered beyond revertion. This if anything will prove to further legitimise the terrorists cause, in their eyes.”

A quote from the following BBC article:

Mr Pereira, said Mr Menezes, who was from the city of Gonzaga in Minas Gerais state, had lived in London legally for at least three years and was employed as an electrician. The BBC’s correspondent in Brazil, Tom Gibb, said Mr Menezes had lived for a time in a slum district of Sao Paulo and that could explain why he had run from the police.

He said: “The murder rates in some of these slums are worse than in a lot of war zones and that could explain why, when plain clothes officers pulled a gun on him, he may have run away.”

The BBC story can be found here.


My Adventure in the USA

3 August, 2004

This has been posted in my blog, but I thought I would repost it here as for varying reasons, my blogs seem to have almost mutually exclusive audiences! If you have time to keep up with me, feel free to do so at this address. The following takes place at the Peace Arch crossing at Douglas BC / Blaine WA, which I’d been oohing and ahhing at earlier in the same entry.

Peace Arch and Blaine

It is truly weird walking down the road to a land border and actually seeing all the weird contraptions set up to handle the thousands of motorists who cross this point every day, and also to look on beaches just a couple of km away and realise they’re in a different country. Coming from Australia, where no other nation is visible, this is just bizarre.

The Peace Arch Provincial Park (BC) and Peace Arch State Park (Washington) span the border, and are basically a big green recreational area with forest on two sides, and the Peace Arch, a big white structure which one can actually walk through, in the middle next to the freeway, which has by this point been separated out and slowed down to 30km/h (or 20mph on the US side). The Peace Arch has several inscriptions on it like “Children of a Common Mother” and “Brothers Dwelling Together in Unity”. On the inside is a gate (which couldn’t serve any purpose as the entire space on both sides is open), jammed open, with the words “Let This Gate Never Be Closed” above it. Each year, there’s a big get-together of kids from both sides for the purpose of engendering communication.

About 400m from it on each country’s side is that country’s customs and immigration centre, which has about 5 or 6 lanes for cars to pass through, and separate duty free areas for each. I noticed Canada’s was far busier than the US’s. Near them is a flower plantation made up of each country’s flag, and not far from the Peace Arch are the actual survey points marking the border.

Now for…

My Adventure in the USA

I walked across the border marvelling at the structures, and followed the path to the US Customs, noting the instructions for pedestrians to go to the east side. I entered a small, functional room at 17:09 whose only welcoming words were that there were no, zero, zip restrooms (in several languages) and that they did not accept Canadian cheques (despite being a border crossing from Canada…) In this room was a counter, behind which sat many black-uniformed police and customs officials, and some seats. I was grilled first by a lady who insisted I leave all my bags on the counter, took my passport and told me to sit down and not leave the building. The grilling seemed to focus mostly on the fact that I was crossing a US-Canadian land border on foot with an Australian passport, and despite having a valid 90-day visa-waiver dated July 24 from Honolulu, this was a very strange thing to do. She didn’t seem to like the fact that I wanted to visit Blaine, and seemed suspicious of my reasons for wanting to go there. (I put it together credibly at the time, but “mere curiosity and novelty” was the real reason).

I didn’t hear anything for 25 minutes, and when I briefly stood up to stretch my legs, I was told by another officer to sit down.

Finally, I heard my name called and yet another officer called me to the far end of the counter. He asked me many of the same questions as the first lady, except he also asked me where I was staying in Vancouver. He seemed suspicious (but not so much as the first) that someone would want to visit a border city, take scenery photos and then leave. I even offered to show him my White Rock photos to give him some idea, but he said that was fine.

10 minutes later, he called me over and said everything was fine and I could go. He wrote “SOUTH” crudely on a 1/4-A4 torn out sheet that looked like recycle paper, and asked me to give it to the officers in the carpark. After some searching, I found said officers, gave the piece of paper to them and they accepted it and wished me to have a nice day. This was at 17:51.

So I wandered around Peace Portal Drive and Marine Drive, noting that apart from the nice harbour scenery and green-themed roads, it had that very different feel that Honolulu had – definitely not like an Australian or Canadian city. Blaine has American flags draped from almost every lamppost as well, which is quite visible (four lampposts at one intersection = four American flags).

After wandering around the town and taking a few shots, I decided to head for the border again. As I was trying to find it, I noticed two US Customs officers sitting in the emergency stopping lane of the freeway sliproad viewing me through binoculars (the town was pretty much closed up except for Subway) as I moved up D Street looking for the pedestrian exit (as the freeway clearly said “no pedestrians”, unlike the Canadian side where pedestrians were directed to use the bike lane).

I found an awesome Mexican restaurant (south of the border :P) called Paso del Norte on 2nd St, where I decided I was actually hungry and would eat. I went in and ordered Arroz de Pollo (which seemed to be a huge dish with bits of chicken, capsicum, tomato, avocado and sauce on rice – and not deep-fried!) and pineapple juice, and sat down in expectation of my meal. The service was fabulous, and the food was authentic. Just as I was getting into the starters, two more Customs officials walked into the restaurant and straight up to me (to some surprise from the staff) and asked me for ID. When I provided it, they asked me how long I proposed to stay, and how long I’d been there. I said I’d been there 40 minutes since crossing at the Peace Arch, and intended to finish my meal before returning. The guy seemed a tad embarrassed when I pointed this out, and said that was fine, and left. I could hear an engine running outside the restaurant the whole time I was there, though, and it was stressful and took away from my enjoyment of the otherwise excellent meal.

After paying, I left the restaurant and realised I was a bit disoriented (the stress probably didn’t help) and I didn’t have a map of Blaine (my Greater Vancouver street map stopped at 8th Avenue, White Rock). Just then, I realised that the two customs guys and a third guy, this one with “US Border Police” on his sleeve, were sitting there in a car watching me. I signalled them and asked them where the exit to Canada was for pedestrians. The guy told me, and I went up to the end of the street, left at the park… and suddenly realised I was back in Canada. Douglas, BC, starts at 0 (Zero) Av and only a crude little ditch with the odd sign indicated the end of the Peace Arch Park was even a border at all. I could have walked off into suburban Vancouver without even trying, most probably.

When I got to Canada Customs, I walked round the side – to find out they were waiting for me and had my name! I showed my ID, explained that I was staying in Vancouver, gave the address, and 2 minutes later (after efficient, reasonably friendly service not unlike when I arrived in Vancouver on the 26th), I was back on Highway 99 going to a bus stop I’d found on the walk there. The guy suggested I surrender my US visa waiver. I didn’t argue. I think Point Roberts is something I’ll do when I feel a bit more brave.

My two run-ins with the US – the first with the state of Hawaii, which was more a culture clash, and the second in Blaine, which was more like a Nazi police state type run-in, have left me somewhat disillusioned. I actually saluted the first Canadian flag I could see on a home just off the highway between 8th and 9th Av – sure, Canada has its problems and isn’t perfect, and same could be said for Australia (I’d happily have hugged an Australian flag right about then), but it is a tolerant, accepting country, and it has accepted me.


Composite noticeboard entry

13 February, 2003

7/1/03
http://www.abc.net.au/news/offbeat/default.htm – ABC’s offbeat news section. Well worth a read.

5/2/03
http://www.sedos.org/english/mcvey_2.htm – A US person who’s lived in Pakistan for many years writes one of the most interesting articles I’ve seen in a while with a unique insight into both mindsets, coming out with a plea for peace, love and tolerance under the banner of God instead of the diatribe being released by the US government.
http://www.atimes.com/global-econ/DB07Dj01.html – A more general article which was also interesting 🙂

7/2/03
All these AFIO newsletters are good reading, but this one in particular grabbed my attention:
http://www.afio.com/sections/wins/2002/2002-28.html#Arabic_Names

Memorable quote:

A listing of some two dozen alleged al-Qaeda operatives and financiers’ names compiled by Justice and Treasury officials was passed to Saudi Arabian authorities with a request that the bank accounts of the individuals be frozen. The Saudis, when they stopped laughing, told the US the list amounted to a bunch of nicknames, Arabic versions of mobster handles such as “Vinny the Chin.”

7/2/03
re – Emergency calls (in particular people phoning 000 after the Waterfall train crash near Sydney) (ABC)

11/2/03
news article re: falsity of Iraq dossier (http://www.channel4.com/news/home/z/stories/20030206/dossier.html) Only a matter of time before we find out about the Powell one, I guess.

(update) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2741003.stm as well.

13/2/03
The Mt Stromlo Observatory, a critical component of our national science program, was destroyed in the Canberra fires recently. The admin buildings survived as did most of the data – but they need our help to rebuild the rest.


My world (Elections and Afghanistan)

31 October, 2001

Well, I’m at work again. Sometimes it seems my life has become a balance of working, sleeping, eating and listening to the problems of others. Not that any of those are bad things, just I don’t seem to actually get out and do anything else.

Well, it’s been 3 weeks to the day since my last entry. Why? Realistically, because nothing worth reporting has happened – it’s either unimportant, too personal, or whatever.

I was reading a discussion in someone else’s journal about the honesty etc of livejournal – I mean, we write here, with the full knowledge that anyone we give this link to, or who stumbles upon it, will read what is here. So yes, when writing here, one does leave out some personal stuff, and does to some extent present for an audience. However, I agree with whoever said it’s a release sometimes – I find it very constructive to work through my thoughts and read some of the replies I get.

The only things really worth emphasising that have come up over the last three weeks are generally:

(1) Australian election campaign. I believe strongly that electing Howard for a third term would be a disaster for Australia. We have a government who puts money above any kind of social program. While Labor are certainly not *good*, just *not as bad*, their social programs and policies are certainly superior to the Liberals’, and at least if they get in, things will not get worse (even if they only get a little better).

(2) I’ve become more and more convinced that this bombing campaign on Afghanistan is both fruitless and morally wrong. I have nothing against the punishment of terrorists – in fact I hope they’re made to face up to the terror – but by bombing, we are killing hundreds/thousands, making millions more hungry and homeless, and I heard today they *still* don’t know where Bin Laden is. And they don’t even know for sure he did it – all they can prove, from his own statements is that he agreed with the actions. The weak justification I’ve heard for the campaign that the above is enough, doesn’t explain why the US and other Western countries seemingly have no problems with terrorist organisations in a range of other countries who have done dastardly deeds against civilisation.

I also firmly believe violence breeds violence. Anyone, it seems, who points out that past actions by the US and its allies in various parts of the world amounted to interference and possibly even terrorism, and that this may have led, amongst other things, to the terrorists feeling the way they do about US and its allies, is denounced. This “for us or against us” mentality belongs in the Stone Age.

I do not believe “the US brought it on itself”, because those who died were civilians who didn’t authorise and weren’t involved in the actions committed overseas by their government. Because of voluntary voting, any administration elected in the US can only claim 20% of the population even voted for them in the polls. But I think it is short-sighted not to see that if US foreign policy had have respected the rights of other nations, the terrorists who attacked America might well have not become terrorists, or at least stayed within that region of the world.

(3) The US need to fix their phone system badly 🙂 It was a great system when it was first developed in the 50s, but hasn’t really been changed since then. Any system where three neighbours have three different area codes, mobile numbers look the same as local numbers, and people who are still trying to work out how to use ATMs and VCRs are being asked to dial 11 digit numbers to call people in their own area, needs a *lot* of work. Have a look at http://www.lincmad.com for some ideas.

Originally posted at personal LJ.


Various thoughts

9 October, 2001

I am becoming convinced that this little problem in Afghanistan is essentially a problem with the male way of thinking. We need more women in advisory and ruling places. It’s odd that by far the majority of people I know who share my opinions on how pointless and possibly counterproductive bombing Afghanistan is, happen to be female. I am not advocating doing nothing, but rather _proaction_ rather than reaction. This “They (possibly) did this to us, let’s bomb the crap out of them and this will solve the problem” mentality tends towards a somewhat cyclical nature, especially as Osama and his mates are also talking about a “final solution”. Some of his mates are worse than he is, and better armed (largely thanks to the US in the 80s, and Osama’s oil money in the 90s) and they’re nowhere near Afghanistan.

  • inactive – indolent, sluggish, passive.
  • reactive – characterised by reacting to situations after they have developed.
  • proactive – taking the initiative in directing the course of events, rather than waiting until things happen.

Inactive would be to do nothing. That would be just wrong in the present circumstances.

Reactive is to simply blast the crap out of them and hope (a) they don’t recover, and (b) we got every last one of them.

Proactive is to look at why terrorism happens. It is usually born out of two basic premises – money and power. Terrorists depend on popular support from their environments to survive, and they get this through exploiting people’s desire to believe in an easy way out of their poverty and powerlessness.

This may be to create a homeland for their people, to give their minority rights in a primarily monocultural society, or to bring down those whom they feel have caused their poverty and powerlessness. Now you’ll notice ALL of these aims can be achieved by peaceful means – the East Timorese and the Indians (under Mahatma Gandhi) are two of many examples of precisely this. Especially in societies which are illiterate and poor where religion is a strong influence (think back to our own feudal history in Europe), religious groups and orders hold a lot of sway with the people. This has been used for both positive – look at Bishop Carlos Belo of East Timor – and negative ends.

What makes the people choose to either actively or complicitly support terrorists over those who propose more moderate solutions? Pretty simple. There is a perception that the terrorists will achieve the outcome much more quickly. Also, their own press, which only reaches the 40% or so who are literate, does not release details of the casualties, and paints a picture of these being a valid and important target towards their final aim (Sound familiar, anyone?)

So what happens if you bomb Afghanistan and declare these champions of their cause to be evil? Quite simply, their allies in remote regions of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan are still able, without hindrance, and now have a new motive to inflict even more suffering on the world, whether it be on the US, on the West, on Israel, or Russia. Who knows, and who can know? I was always taught as a child not to play with fire, or I might get burnt. The same applies here.

We need common-sense, not jingoism, and perhaps that’s why we need more females in control of our defence and foreign policy. I’m not saying all females are better than all males, just saying we need a more balanced perspective and maybe that is one way to provide it.

Originally posted at a previous blog.