Wednesday, December 05, 2007

But killing is really merely scene changer / All men are bored with other men's lives

A few things I came across last night that I found of interest, which I’ll link to with little comment…first up this story on the disappearance of Iraq’s Christians….under the watch of a born again President….

All of the major Republican presidential candidates, echoing the White House, assure us the surge is working, that things are much better in Iraq. They say we're winning, that Iraq is a generational ideological battlefield.

These men believe invading a Muslim country that posed no threat to America was a good idea, but not one of them has explained to their predominantly Christian base that the policies they embraced not only killed or displaced milliions of Muslims but also opened a pandora's box that obliterated a million member Christian community. Someone should ask them about that.

Then a rather pragmatic Salon piece about the Surge from Professor Juan Cole…

What the recent publicity about the "success" of the troop surge has ignored is this: The Bush administration has downplayed the collapsing political situation in Iraq by directing the public's attention to fluctuating numbers of civilians killed. While there have been some relative gains in security recently, even there the picture remains dubious. The Iraqi ministry of health, long known for cooking the books, says that a few hundred Iraqis were killed in political violence in November. However, independent observers such as Iraq Body Count cite a much higher number -- some 1,100 civilians killed in Iraq in November. They reported that bombings and assassinations accounted for 63 persons on Saturday, the first day of December, alone.

Then, in the aftermath of the rather shocking (for those who want yet more blood in the Middle East) US NIE report comes this timeline from Digby illustrating how the US hard right have made it up to suit their agendas for years: and from Arms Control Wonk, who argue that none of this is really a surprise to anyone who’d actually thought about it..or of course if you’d listened to Mohamed ElBaradei, this is pretty much what he and his agency have been saying for a hell of long time.

“Despite repeated smear campaigns, the I.A.E.A. has stood its ground and concluded time and again that since 2002 there was no evidence of an undeclared nuclear weapons program in Iran,” a senior agency official said. “It also validates the assessment of the director general that what the I.A.E.A. inspectors have seen in Iran represented no imminent danger.”

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

If you try, you'll find me / where the sky meets the sea

It’s another beautiful day here in paradise. The sun is up, its thirty odd degrees, the rooster next door is crowing away as it does on and off all day (I thought these things were supposed to make daybreak noise..this lazy bugger doesn’t get going until 9 or so).

Yes, it’s a wonderful day, and the local folks outside are gate are smiling as they do all over Indonesia. I’m feeling great…and then, via email, this arrives:

The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has today updated its travel advice for Indonesia. Full text below.


….. Bali high risk

Our advice against all tourist and other non-essential travel extends to Bali…..(the whole thing is here)

I dunno what to say about this really but I’ll give it a go. I’m aware (more than most gustuofferingI’d say) of the bombings, the aftermath to those bombings and the threat to we non-Indonesians here in Bali. And I’m also aware that our government has a responsibility to warn its citizens of any real threat to their safety whilst abroad.

And therein lies my problem with these warnings, and, I think, pretty much every other New Zealander I’ve discussed this with agrees, as do Australians and Americans here.

We live day to day here, we encounter Indonesians of all religious and political colours and we don’t ever (and I don't use that word lightly) feel threatened. To be honest, as I go about my life here, the personal threat to myself and my family not only feels substantially like its less than much of the rest of the planet, but, if one is to believe the stats here, it actually is.

So lets toss a few things into the mix….you are warned against visiting Bali because you are at threat. Non essential travel is a big no no. But this page places New Zealand near the top of the global per-capita figures for crime. And the US and Australia, the UK and the United States all hang around the upper rungs. Have a wander through all the stats and you’ll find Indonesia strangely absent from the top of the lists. And Bali is substantially more relaxed than the rest of Indonesia.

Remember, this is an island New Zealanders are being warned not to go to because of the extreme personal danger.

Cast your mind back a few years and think of the multitude of attacks, muggings, rapes and murders of tourists in New Zealand over that time. They still happen and are not uncommon. In contrast last year ago Japanese tourist was robbed in a villa in Ubud. This was a very, very big was the first such attack in 25 years and the offender was tracked to Lombok and then returned here with some noise, to face a very unhappy judiciary. A Swedish woman was raped here earlier this year… the first tourist raped on record I’m reliably told. The offender was Australian.

Walking through downtown Denpasar, or most other Indonesian cities late on a Saturday night is a damn sight less threatening than the Auckland viaduct on a Weekend late night. There is no culture of violence in Indonesia, nor anywhere else in South East Asia, unlike the nations that are warning their citizens not to visit. When it exists, it happens often for other reasons than the repeated randomness found in NZ or Australia. Crimes against women in Indonesia, based on UN & NGO figures, are 22 times lower than they are in the USA. I’ve seen more violence on the average night in High Street than I’ve encountered in Bali over three years.

Of course the terror attacks happened, but they also happened in New York City, with deaths ten times the Bali toll. And yes, it could happen again. But only a fool thinks it couldn’t happen again in London, or for that matter Sydney (although probably not Auckland, to be honest, no-one actually knows where it is, let alone planning an attack there). And day to day, all those places are, if you remove the extraordinarily unlikely chance that the aberation of a terror attack will hit you, substantially more dangerous to visit than poor slighted Bali where the only real danger comes from the lunatics on the road.

So what does the NZ government say about a trip to the US? That there is some risk but it’s more pointed advice warns you about, ummm, your visa….. Forget the fact that you are seven times more likely to die violently in NYC or LA than Indonesia.

I’m really not sure where this warning comes it ignorance or confusion, or perhaps both, tinged with a little good old fashioned racial boysindpsprejudice. I’m leaning towards the latter mix of all three, simply because the warnings of visits to other countries where tourists are shot, or mugged far more frequently are missing from the NZ Safetravel website. Or perhaps its just an aping of the US website (and we all know how bang on their intel has been in recent years, and how non-xenophobic they are), via Australia (who will follow the US without question), since the UK and other European counties, whilst warning strongly about Aceh and Sulawesi, offer the advice that caution is required in Bali.

That makes sense. It is anywhere.

And it looks like much of the rest of the world agrees, as 10,000 delegates from 190 nations arrive today and tomorrow for the largest climate conference ever, most, quite clearly unconcerned that their delegates may find themselves in little pieces after a trip to Kuta beach or Seminyak.

Makes one a little ashamed to be a New Zealander.

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I couldn't get enough / so I had to self destruct

No, you can’t have that insert in your sleeve, and your video budget is strictly limited (and 100% recoupable)……….

Guy Hands, the new chairman of the record group, has sent a confidential document to potential investors detailing the spending under the former head Eric Nicoli. This included £5.6m on a three-bedroom townhouse for Mr Nicoli in Park Lane, central London, that he was said to visit as infrequently as once a fortnight………….

……..£20,000 was once spent decorating a Los Angeles apartment used to entertain artists and hangers-on, while £200,000 is spent every year on fruit and flowers for EMI's London offices.

Burn, baby, burn….

I do remember, no so long ago, one major record company in New Zealand flying their whole staff  (some thirty) to Tahiti for a conference, a week after one of their acts was told there was no money for a remix, despite some success with the current release.

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