May 30th, 2008

The statue of Hitler

Madame Tussauds in Berlin, Germany, to be opened in July will have a statue of Adolf Hitler. German politicians spoke shame of the plan, but the Jewish community is OK, if done in the right way.

“Hitler should not be a tourist attraction, but if this exhibition adds to a more normalized attitude towards Hitler, a sort of dedemystification, let’s try”‘, said Kramer.

May 30th, 2008

The Wiretappers of Europe re-revisited

The numbers are out:

  • US: 2.208 calls in 2007 (that is, the legal ones, not the NSA illegal tapping) [see update]
  • NL: 1.681 calls active taps per day in 2007.

OK, read that again. My country taps 280 times more calls. If we assume that on average every US and NL citizen makes the same number of calls, then corrected for the number of inhabitants, there is up to a 5000 times higher chance to be tapped here than in the US. The terrorists won.

Update and correction Nov 2009: I might have compared apples with oranges. The NL numbers represent the mean number of phone numbers tapped in a day. I will try to do some digging if the US number represented the same rationale. Anyway, for 2008 NL: total numbers (so not calls) tapped: 26.424, mean number of taps per day: 1946. This implies 1 out of every 605 citizens is being tapped.

Earlier on the nest: The Wiretappers of Europe, The Wiretappers of Europe revisted.

May 30th, 2008

The outside vote

Care how Europe views the States? Here is the link. What it says is not really surprizing, although it fails to make an important distinction between the state and administration one one side and the country and people on the other hand. A generalization that in my opinion is dangerous. Anyway, Obama wins down.

Opinion towards America has become steadily more hostile throughout the presidency of George W Bush, with the Iraq war probably being the single most important factor. (…)

Meanwhile, Mr Obama, the only consistent opponent of the Iraq war in the race for the presidency, commands a clear lead. He is especially popular in Italy, where a remarkable 70 per cent would vote for him if they could.

In France, historically the European country with the strongest anti-American sentiment, 65 per cent would back Mr Obama. In Germany, the Democratic Senator would get 67 per cent of the vote – while Mr McCain would receive a derisory six per cent.

Mr Obama appears to have made less of an impact in Britain than elsewhere in Europe. A relatively modest 49 per cent of Britons would vote for him, while 14 per cent would back Mr McCain – twice the totals favouring the Republican candidate in Germany or France.

Another 13 per cent of Britons would not vote for either man and 24 per cent “don’t know”.

May 28th, 2008

The white house is puzzled


In excerpts from a 341-page book to be released Monday, Scott McClellan writes on the war in Iraq that Bush “and his advisers confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war.”

Puzzled. Hmmmm, that shouldn’t be too hard to do?

May 28th, 2008

The cluster bombs re-re-revisited

In Dublin Ireland, negotiations are proceeding about the ban on cluster bombs. My country’s administration is partnering with the United Kingdom, France and Germany on this subject. It cried loudly for a ban, but oh erm, wanted to keep the 9 bomblet M261 rocket grenade for the Apache attack helicopter. That one will have to go too. That is pretty good news huh? But wait, there is a little spin here eh? Foreign affairs minister Maxime Verhagen:

“In his opinion the treaty text in all reality means a ban on all existing and known [cluster] ammunition, but he doesn’t rule out new cluster ammunition will be developed that will be compatible with the treaty (emphasis added).

Verhagen also assumes it will remain possible to co-operate with allies that have not signed the treaty, such as the United States.

Hey, pst, can your guys hang one of those fancy thingies under my wing if we go in there together?

Earlier on the nest: US is investigating Cluster Bombs “fair use” in Lebanon, The cluster bombs revisited, The cluster bombs re-revisted.

By the way: Today we also decided to buy 2 JSF test aircraft as a pre-ample to buy 50+ to replace the aging F-16. The stealthy JSF will be useless in peace-keeping missions a la Afghanistan and it heavy reliance on stealth technology will be obsoleted by improved rada technology way before we get the real thing. What a waste.

May 27th, 2008

The human rights failure

Amnesty calls out again (full report here), especially on the Western countries, including Europe, which is especially nailed against the wall for helping rendition (read: unlawful deportation of suspects).

“2007 was characterised by the impotence of Western governments and the ambivalence or reluctance of emerging powers to tackle some of the world’s worst human rights crises, ranging from entrenched conflicts to growing inequalities which are leaving millions of people behind,” said Ms Khan. (…)

“2008 presents an unprecedented opportunity for new leaders coming to power and countries emerging on the world stage to set a new direction and reject the myopic policies and practices that in recent years have made the world a more dangerous and divided place,” said Ms Khan.

Amnesty International challenged governments to set a new paradigm for collective leadership based on the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“The most powerful must lead by example,” said Ms Khan.

  • China must live up to the human rights promises it made around the Olympic Games and allow free speech and freedom of the press and end “re-education through labour”.
  • The USA must close Guantánamo detention camp and secret detention centres, prosecute the detainees under fair trial standards or release them, and unequivocally reject the use of torture and ill-treatment.
  • Russia must show greater tolerance for political dissent, and none for impunity on human rights abuses in Chechnya.
  • The EU must investigate the complicity of its member states in “renditions” of terrorist suspects and set the same bar on human rights for its own members as it does for other countries.

Ms Khan warned: “World leaders are in a state of denial but their failure to act has a high cost. As Iraq and Afghanistan show, human rights problems are not isolated tragedies, but are like viruses that can infect and spread rapidly, endangering all of us.” (…)
“There is a growing demand from people for justice, freedom and equality.”

It’s about time isn’t it? It seems to boil down to: Western governments are both sitting on their hands when major human rights violations occur (yes, shouting while sitting on your hands is entirely possible), as well as undermine human rights within their own territory.

Europe remains a magnet for those seeking to escape persecution, violence or poverty, but still fails them with repressive approaches to irregular migration. Security is a paramount concern of states across the region, yet it is consistently undermined by those who privilege it over human rights in the name of counter-terrorism, or blatantly abuse it to stifle dissent or resist a challenge to the status quo.

The region is still unsafe territory for the countless victims of domestic violence.

It is also sadly true that this region, which regards itself as a beacon of human rights, still embraces a yawning gap between rhetoric and reality, standards and application, principles and performance.

States that entered voluntarily into the various commitments of the regional institutions, have equally voluntarily evaded their obligations – attacking and eroding human rights, and failing to find the political will needed to address key abuses.

Emphasis added. Read the full report here. No worries, ALL parts of the world get their fair share.

May 24th, 2008

The arrest

This is what can happen to war criminals, how the process works. The MLC, was a violent guerilla movement, operating in Congo. It is now a political party. In 2002-2003 it is said to have committed serious crimes against humanity: rape, torture and some say even cannibalism. Multi-Millionaire Bemba is the leader of the gang.

Pre-Trial Chamber III found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that in the context of a protracted armed conflict in the Central African Republic from about 25 October 2002 to 15 March 2003, MLC forces led by Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo carried out a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population during which rape, torture, outrages upon personal dignity and pillaging were committed in, but not limited to, the localities of PK 12, Bossongoa and Mongoumba.

Pre-Trial Chamber III also found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, as President and Commander in Chief of the MLC, was vested with de facto and de jure authority by the members of the MLC to take all political and military decisions.

Two days ago, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued a secret arrest warrant for Bemba. A day later he was arrested in Belgium and after a hearing at a Belgium court, he is expected to be transferred to The Hague in the next few weeks.

The Pre-Trial Chamber issued a warrant of arrest on 23 May 2008. This arrest warrant remained under seal until his arrest on 24 May 2008.

Mr. Bemba’s arrest is a warning to all those who commit, who encourage, or who tolerate sexual crimes.  There is a new law called the Rome Statute. Under this new law, they will be prosecuted” said the Prosecutor.

There are no excuses for hundreds of rapes. There are no excuse for the rape of a little girl, with her parents watching. There are no excuses for commanders ordering, authorizing or acquiescing to the commission of rapes and looting by their forces. We have evidence that Mr Bemba committed crimes.. With the Rome Statute, nobody is beyond the reach of international criminal justice. Nobody can side with the criminals and against the victims.  Bosco Ntaganda, who committed crimes in Ituri and continues to commit crimes today in the Kivus, Joseph Kony of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, Ahmed Harun, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs for the Sudan, will also end up in jail.”

I went to CAR, I met the victims, those who survived the violence, those who survived AIDS.  We cannot erase the scars. But we can give them justice. Their testimonies will be strong evidence for the Prosecution. The victims will tell their stories in Court, this power will be theirs.”

Yes, I can see the rationale behind the Jesse Helms masterpiece act. Ruth will love this.

May 24th, 2008

The television

Thanks Harryoh

May 24th, 2008

The comments

We’re under a nasty comment spam attack. Akismet deals with a lot of it, but it is getting seriously irritable. I am switching comments off for a few days. I do apologize, but better to be drastic than letting this linger on. Thanks for your patience.

Added: Comments are on again. It’s not solved yet, but maybe most of the problem is gone now.

May 21st, 2008

The tunnel vision

1994. 22 Year old stewardess Christel Ambosius is raped and killed in the house of her grandmother in the village Putten. A drop of semen is found on her leg and preserved. Soon, two men are arrested.

1995. While they admit under intense police pressure, they later deny any involvement. The interviews were not recorded on video. The two are convicted to 10 years imprisonment.

2002. The two are set free after serving 7 years. Only after they are set free, the highest court tosses out the conviction in not to be misunderstood words. Police had tunnel vision, evidence against the two was withheld, etc. They are set free and are given compensation, but of course their innocence is not accepted by everyone. Where there is smoke, there must be fire. The case is wide open again, stirring up the village. By now, this is already the most discussed case in my country’s history.

2005. A 29 year old man is convicted of beating up his girlfriend.

2007. After fierce legal protesting, he is forced to give DNA material, which is analyzed and stored in the national database for convicted offenders.

2008. The National Forensic Laboratory calls the cold case team: a coincidence, a present, a gift: the DNA of the man shows a match with the semen found on Christel Ambrosius’s leg 14 years earlier. The then 18 year old man (boy?), now 33, lived in the same village at the time of the murder, but he was never seen as suspect. Police cries victory, evidence is, as it seems, conclusive and undeniable. Kristel’s family keeps quiet, but the earlier convicted men are relieved the case seems to come to a close.

This is not the first time police is said to have serious tunnel vision in high profile cases. I have very mixed feelings about this.

  • Record keeping of one’s DNA? Hmmmmm, I am not too sure I like that. It is now mandatory for convicted criminals. The profiles are destroyed for the suspects not guilty.
  • I am thrilled the bastard is caught, and two innocent (but scarred) men walk.
  • Once a criminal, always a criminal? I like to think not.
  • How the hell did it take 3 years to find the match?

BTW: Anyone in favor for the death penalty, hmmmm? Sure, sure, for THIS guy of course yes, but we wouldn’t know that would we? (“Ok, ok, we killed the wrong ones, sorry, SORRY!!! But we are most definately sure we got the real bastard now, so, let’s kill him too”)