April 18th, 2008

The bringing of democracy

According to Amnesty international, 28 people were trialled and executed last week in Iraq, often after being arrested in combat only weeks earlier.

Twenty-eight people have been executed in Iraq this week following what appear to have been hasty and unfair trials. Those executed were arrested in clashes that took place in the past three weeks.

Amnesty International has said that, for them to be arrested, sentenced and executed within such a short period raises serious concerns about the trial process. The organization has called on the Iraqi authorities to disclose all relevant information about these trials, including whether those executed had access to legal representation or not.

April 18th, 2008

The price of war

Two days ago, the new chief of staff of my countries defense forces was installed. Yesterday his 23 year old son, who was serving in Afghanistan, was killed in a roadside bomb attack by the Taliban. Another soldier died too in the same incident, two were severely wounded. One of those two might not make it.

Just for the record: the Taliban claimed they did not know the kid was in that convoy. Not that it matters at all.

April 15th, 2008

The things not to say

Seven things NEVER to Say to people with disabilities.

6. “But you look so good.”
There is no doubt that in today’s corporate America that keeping a good game face is important to one’s success. While this can be difficult for some people with disabilities, no one wants to have his or her work discounted.

“Comparing the appearance or ability of a person with a disability to a person without a disability has the same underlying messages as saying to a women, ‘Your report was well done, for a girl,’” Susan Henderson, managing director of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), tells DiversityInc.

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April 15th, 2008

The killing re-revisited

It’s that time of year again. Amnesty International published the death penalty report (Abstract. Links to the entire and detailed report at the end of the linked page).

The figures also show an increase in executions in a number of countries. Iran executed at least 317 people, Saudi Arabia 143 and Pakistan 135 – in comparison to 177, 39 and 82 executions respectively in 2006.

Eighty-eight per cent of all known executions took place in five countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the USA. Saudi Arabia had the highest number of executions per capita, followed by Iran and Libya. Amnesty International has been able to confirm at least 470 executions by China – the highest overall figure. However, the organization has said that the true figure for China is undoubtedly much higher.

China, which the report refers to as the world’s top executioner, classifies the death penalty as a state secret. As the world and Olympic guests are left guessing, only the Chinese authorities know exactly how many people have been killed with state authorization.

“The secretive use of the death penalty must stop: the veil of secrecy surrounding the death penalty must be lifted. Many governments claim that executions take place with public support. People therefore have a right to know what is being done in their name,” said Amnesty International.

Please note the numbers are the absolute verified numbers. China is by some believed to execute around 6.000 of their citizens yearly. From another, related part of their website:

The death penalty violates the right to life. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. It has no place in a modern criminal justice system.

An execution, just like torture, involves a deliberate assault on a prisoner. Even so-called ‘humane’ methods such as lethal injection can entail excruciating suffering.

Capital punishment is irrevocable. All judicial systems make mistakes, and as long as the death penalty persists, innocent people will be executed.

It is also discriminatory and is often used disproportionately against the poor, the powerless and the marginalized, as well as against people whom repressive governments want to eliminate.

The death penalty does not deter crime more than other punishments. In Canada the homicide rate has fallen by 40 per cent since 1975; the death penalty was abolished for murder in 1976.

Added April 16th: Oh yep, Injection is legal, so all the stalled executions will commence again. Virginia announced they will start immediately.

April 13th, 2008

The moral dilemmas

Been away for a week. Business as usual will commence slowly again. Want a mind-sharpener? Here are some moral dilemma’s. Number one:

 In 1842, a ship struck an iceberg and more than 30 survivors were crowded into a lifeboat intended to hold 7. As a storm threatened, it became obvious that the lifeboat would have to be lightened if anyone were to survive. The captain reasoned that the right thing to do in this situation was to force some individuals to go over the side and drown. Such an action, he reasoned, was not unjust to those thrown overboard, for they would have drowned anyway. If he did nothing, however, he would be responsible for the deaths of those whom he could have saved. Some people opposed the captain’s decision. They claimed that if nothing were done and everyone died as a result, no one would be responsible for these deaths. On the other hand, if the captain attempted to save some, he could do so only by killing others and their deaths would be his responsibility; this would be worse than doing nothing and letting all die. The captain rejected this reasoning. Since the only possibility for rescue required great efforts of rowing, the captain decided that the weakest would have to be sacrificed. In this situation it would be absurd, he thought, to decide by drawing lots who should be thrown overboard. As it turned out, after days of hard rowing, the survivors were rescued and the captain was tried for his action. If you had been on the jury, how would you have decided?

April 5th, 2008

The retirement

David sent me this report. Of course I cannot vow for it’s scientific quality, but it made a good case for “quitting early’.

The pension funds in many large corporations (e.g., Boeing, Lockheed Martin, AT&T, Lucent Technologies, etc.) have been “Over Funded” because many “late retirees” who keep-on working into their old age and retire late after the age of 65 tend to die within two years after their retirements. In other words, many of these late retirees do not live long enough to collect all their fair shares of pension money such that they leave a lot of extra-unused money in the pension funds resulting in the over-funded pension funds.

(…) Table 1 and the chart indicate that for people retired at the age of 50, their average life span is 86; whereas for people retired at the age of 65, their average life span is only 66.8. An important conclusion from this study is that for every year one works beyond age 55, one loses 2 years of life span on average. The Boeing experience is that employees retiring at age of 65 receive pension checks for only 18 months, on average, prior to death. Similarly, the Lockheed experience is that employees retiring at age of 65 receive pension checks for only 17 months, on average, prior to death.

Funny (not), in the newspaper today social affairs minister Donner made a plea for working beyond 65 and wants to start negotiations with unions and employers. I think not. It stresses though that one cannot count on employers nor the state to secure pension rights. Better arrange it yourself.

April 3rd, 2008

The plan

Today in the news, it made me chuckle with dis-belief. Background: it’s a tradition here that around Christmas, your employer tosses you a box of goodies, think in terms of a bottle of wine (or two), some jars with stuff you’d never buy yourself, crackers, pate, you got the image. The Minister of home affairs *) declared that this year, civil servants will not get food, but a “survival kit”, stating the people should be made more aware of their personal responsibility when “external disasters happen”.

Listen, I can understand the theme she’s addressing; people are so looking at “the government” when things go wrong, but give me a break: a survival kit for Christmas, helllooooo???? And in this timeframe of fear-spinning? Happy Christmas!