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Black and White Cat China and Other things Thu, 21 Jun 2012 14:04:07 +0000 en The Daily Telegraph ‘defends’ gay rights in Ecuador Thu, 21 Jun 2012 14:04:07 +0000 rob The Daily Telegraph has discovered gay rights. Not in Britain, where it has argued against the legalization of gay marriage, but in Ecuador:

As well as a poor record on free speech, Ecuador is accused of failing to meet other human rights.

Until 1998, homosexuality was illegal and despite legalising same-sex unions in 2008, there have been reports of corrective therapy centres in which gay women are raped.

Predictably, the Telegraph fails to mention that Ecuador’s health minister, appointed in January this year, is a prominent gay-rights campaigner who is responsible for having made these clinics a national issue and is dedicated to shutting them down:

The appointment of a lesbian politician as Ecuador’s new health minister has caused a stir this week, as she announced a campaign to shut down religious ‘lesbian cure’ clinics.

Ecuadorian president, Rafael Correa, announced the appointment of Carina Vance Mafla, who is openly gay, as the newest member of his cabinet.

The American-born activist hit the ground running, with an announcement that the health ministry will be working closely with lesbian rights group Fundacion Causana, and other civil rights groups, to shut down the remaining religious clinics which promise to ‘cure’ lesbians.

Vance has been heavily involved in campaigning towards equal rights, and was previously the Executive Director of Fundacion Causana.

The Telegraph’s defence of workers’ rights in Ecuador is equally unconvincing, citing criticism that predates Rafael Correa’s presidency. That is one of the reasons Correa was elected and why he is one of the most popular leaders in Latin America with 81% approval in January. Unlike Barrack Obama, Ecuadoreans seem to think he is working for change they can believe in.

Reuters misquotes Cameron on Putin and Syria Wed, 20 Jun 2012 19:24:44 +0000 rob What David Cameron said (quote begins at 02:37):

Now of course there remain differences over sequencing the exact shape of how the transition takes place, but it is welcome that President Putin has been explicit: he is not locked into Assad remaining in charge in Syria.

What Reuters claimed he said:

There remain differences over sequencing and the shape of how the transition takes place but it is welcome that President Putin has been explicit that he does not want Assad remaining in charge in Syria

For the past year, Russia has repeatedly stated with absolute clarity that it is willing to see Assad leave power in Syria, but that is a decision for Syrians alone to make through negotiations and no foreign government has the right to impose regime change. Every time Putin, Medvedev and Lavrov have said this, journalists have claimed that Russia’s position has changed. Do these people have learning difficulties?

To quote Blake Hounshell:

I’m old enough to remember the previous 10 times people have reported that Putin is ready to dump Assad.

Syria - Dead bodies and laughter Thu, 07 Jun 2012 11:56:05 +0000 rob As reports emerged of a possible massacre of 80 men, women and children in a village near Hama, this 31-second video of dead bodies was posted on Youtube. At the end of the video the men filming the bodies burst out laughing. Did the “activists” forget to edit that part out? Not to worry, their publicity officer at the Guardian helpfully did it for them.

Why did they laugh?

Dan Rather is a tree Fri, 01 Jun 2012 18:49:35 +0000 rob All available evidence indicates that the above statement is completely and utterly false. That puts it on a par with Dan Rather’s description of Hugo Chavez as a “dictator.”

Trees don’t file news reports. And dictators don’t hold regular, free and fair elections. Given Rather’s confusion on this simple political matter, his medical exclusive that Chavez will be dead before the election might not be entirely reliable.

Plus ça change, plus ce n’est pas la même chose Wed, 30 May 2012 13:59:00 +0000 rob The train from Cambridge slowly pulled into the newly rebuilt and refurbished King’s Cross station.

“It’s not the same now it’s changed, is it?” said an elderly passenger.

Gaddafi ‘regrets he stopped developing nuclear weapons’ Thu, 31 Mar 2011 20:56:02 +0000 rob When the United States and Britain invaded Iraq in 2003, a number of people pointed out what a terrible message this sent to the world about nuclear weapons. Iraq had dismantled its WMD programmes and it was invaded. North Korea had developed a rudimentary nuclear device and got negotiations. So, if you don’t want to be invaded, build a bomb.

The champions of Bush and Blair’s policy, however, claimed they were vindicated when Libya quickly offered to dismantle its WMD programmes. Gaddafi was welcomed with open arms, by western governments and by many of the same pundits who now want his blood.

So, once again, the message is: get hold of a nuclear weapon, or one day they’ll be coming for you too. According to an interview in the Russian magazine Arguments and Facts, that’s precisely what Gaddafi is saying now. I’ve translated the interview below, but we’ll come to that in a minute.

First, for anyone who still believes the United States and Britain didn’t know Iraq had no WMD, here’s what the British diplomat Carne Ross told John Pilger in the documentary The War You Don’t See:

I remember before I was sent to New York in late ‘97 I did the round of departments in London, saying to them, “OK, I’m going to New York, I’m going to be doing Iraq, what do I need to know?”

And I went to see non-proliferation department in the Foreign Office and I was expecting a briefing on the vast piles of weapons that we still thought Iraq possessed. And the desk officer sort of looked at me slightly sheepishly and said, “Well actually we don’t think there’s anything. We don’t think there’s anything in Iraq.”

I said, “That’s extraordinary. I mean, I thought we had sanctions because we thought Iraq had large amounts of weapons.”

He said, “No, no. The justification for sanctions is basically that we have unanswered questions about how those stocks were destroyed in the past.”

They knew in 1997 that Iraq had destroyed its WMD, but they kept the sanctions in place anyway. Then they invaded anyway. It was a convenient excuse. So could we stop now with the claims that Saddam “fooled us”?

Anyway, here’s a rough translation of the interview which Arguments and Facts (AIF) says it conducted by telephone with a man they say is close to Gaddafi and demanded anonymity. (The original Russian is here; and there’s a Chinese translation here if you prefer.)

AIF: - Does Gaddafi understand the position he’s in?

- Of course. We’re all realists here and no one is expecting a miracle. Our main goal right now is to hang on in Tripoli for a few months, despite the bombing. Another important thing is that Gaddafi should have everything he needs for long-term defence.

AIF: - Weapons?

- No. Money. Soldiers fight better when they’re paid.

AIF: - And then what?

- We’ll see.

AIF: - Is it true that Libya’s aircraft have all been destroyed?

- We can’t compete with NATO’s military power. That’s our fault - after the West lifted sanctions we should have immediately bought the latest Russian weapons. We signed the contract, but we delayed its execution for a long time. But it’s not a complete disaster. Every day CNN says Libya no longer has any air defences and then shows us firing at enemy aircraft. Where’s the logic in that?

AIF: - Yugoslavia resisted NATO for three months, but it had to surrender in the end.

- Gaddafi won’t give up. He saw that Milosevic died in prison and Saddam was hanged. He’s got nothing to lose - so Muammar will fight to the end.

AIF: - How long for? This week the rebels have occupied three cities.

- They haven’t taken the capital. Everyone who is now fighting for Gaddafi knows that if we lose we will be hanged from lamp posts. We have no choice but to fight back. Remember - when the riots started in February, they kept saying: “Gaddafi’s finished. He’s fled to Venezuela.” But Muammar crushed the rebels for two weeks. If it wasn’t for the Americans, we would have already taken Benghazi. Who knows how things will turn out? But Libya can’t hold out against a ground invasion.

AIF: - Do you think NATO has achieved success in the war against Libya?

- It’s funny - the best air forces of the most powerful countries in the world can’t deal with the army of a country with a population of six million in a week. This isn’t war. It’s a farce. Once again the West has shown its contempt for all decency. Protecting “freedom fighters”? Nonsense. In 2008, a small country started brutally killing insurgents. A big country stood up against that. Everyone condemned this country for its “aggression”. You don’t know what I’m talking about? I’m talking about the war between Russia and Georgia. But when a similar situation appears in Libya, the Americans immediately take the side of the rebels. Why didn’t they bomb Tbilisi? It’s all lies. Gaddafi is accused of killing 8,000 people, but nobody has shown even twenty corpses on television, let alone mass graves. Not a single Libyan fled to Europe because of “Gaddafi’s atrocities” but now thousands are fleeing NATO’s bombing.

AIF: - Does Gaddafi regret anything now?

- Only that he stopped developing nuclear weapons. Everyone’s afraid to touch North Korea now. If we had a nuclear bomb no one would have attacked us.

What if Libya’s rebels keep fighting? Sat, 19 Mar 2011 00:01:09 +0000 rob Thursday’s Security Council resolution on Libya is both sweeping and limited.

Sweeping: It authorizes all necessary means to enforce a no-fly zone and to protect civilians.

Limited: It does not authorize warfare to overthrow Gaddafi’s government and it upholds the ban on supplying arms to anyone in Libya, including the rebels.

That ban on arms is reportedly being broken by Egypt and Saudi Arabia with the blessing of the United States. No one seems to be telling them to stop violating two Security Council resolutions. So you can pick and choose which parts of a resolution you want to enforce or obey?

The Libyan government might not be serious about the ceasefire, but let’s suppose for a moment that it is. Why should the rebels go along with that? They were offered negotiations weeks ago and they rejected them. That makes sense. You don’t start a revolution and then stop just when you seem to be winning. Then they started to lose. Now they can win again with NATO’s help. So why should they stop?

All ceasefires are messy. They are always broken to some extent by both sides in a conflict and both sides always blame the other. But even if government forces do respect the ceasefire, they will surely not just sit back and take it if they are attacked. Then what? Presumably, Britain and France will become the rebel’s air force (as NATO was for the KLA) and bomb them.

Or, what if the rebels and the government do respect a ceasefire - at least more or less. Almost from the start the Libyan uprising has been different from others in the region. Elsewhere, the opposition has been unarmed protests, whereas Libya’s opposition has been an armed rebellion - a civil war.

So what if that stops? Not likely, but let’s just suppose. What about unarmed protesters attacked by security forces? Like in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen. How many protesters would need to be killed for foreign forces to start bombing under the new resolution? One? Two? Twenty or more, like Bahrain? Three hundred, like Egypt?

Some people are asking these questions publicly, but it is not the main tune. The main tune is that Gaddafi is mad - all our enemies are personified as a single madman. He killed his own people - true, but so have our allies and they continue to do so.

What the British and French governments, among many others, want is the defeat of Gaddafi. But Resolution 1973 does not authorize that. It authorizes the protection of civilians.

So, one last question before I sign off. Since the protection of civilians is supposed to be the goal - and that would be a worthy goal - when someone suggests negotiations instead of war, who will support them?

Libya - It’s got nothing to do with humanitarianism Tue, 08 Mar 2011 16:41:15 +0000 rob Every once in a while the clouds of propaganda part and, for a brief moment, clarity shines through. One of these moments (political activist and comedian Robert Newman is rather fond of this one) came in July 2002 when The Times forgot the official line and excitedly blurted out the naked truth about the impending invasion of Iraq:

West Sees Glittering Prizes Ahead in Giant Oilfields

A more recent moment of clarity came yesterday at the end of an article in the Guardian:

Senior British military officials have warned David Cameron about the dangers of committing British forces to Libya when they may be needed in the event of crises in other countries, notably Bahrain and Oman, officials confirmed. The Gulf states, bases for British warships and aircraft, are of greater significance strategically for the UK than Libya, whose main interest is commercial, they indicated.

What would those British forces actually do in the event of a crisis in Bahrain? Not overthrow the government - we can be absolutely certain of that. They would be on the side of the government whose Pakistani troops (what was that about so-calledAfrican mercenariesin Libya?) have already shot dead unarmed protesters. Bahrain, after all, is one of our authoritarian states and we want it to remain so.

Meanwhile, the United States is allegedly trying to persuade Saudi Arabia to violate the arms embargo imposed by Security Council Resolution 1970 and supply weapons to the rebels in Libya. Thus, an Islamic fundamentalist dictatorship, which does not even allow women the right to drive a car, would be helping promote democracy and human rights in Libya? Oh yeah!

One way or another, Gaddafi looks set to lose. Who will then be entrusted to control the giant oilfields of Libya? The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group which once declared, then renounced, its allegiance to al-Qaeda? The former monarchy? Or someone else? That, surely, was what the mysterious Tom, MI6 and the SAS were doing at the Al-Khadra Farm Company last week, in addition to “looking for a hotel“.

Unless there is an internal coup, or some other sudden collapse of Gaddafi’s regime, British and American forces may very well move from covert support to open military action in Libya. If that happens, it will be described as a humanitarian mission. It will be nothing of the sort.

Glenn Beck thinks (about China) outside the reality box Wed, 19 Jan 2011 15:18:55 +0000 rob
“Whether it’s true or not … no longer matters” - Glen Beck

Glenn hasn’t been studying his diagram:


If you want to criticize anyone for woolly thinking about anything, Glenn Beck is very, very low-hanging fruit. We should all just ignore him and hope he goes away. But, like everyone else, I have finally succumbed to temptation.

Shanghaiist (with video) and China Hearsay have both pointed out some of the places where the Beckster’s brain might have lost its way during its recent ponderings about China.

Let’s not dwell on Glenn’s claim that a plastic hamster on a surfboard in Burger King is “Chinese culture”. We’ll move straight on to the first piece in his “puzzle” about China and United States: the headline “China Passes U.S. As World’s Top Car Market”.

What does that say to me? That says to me, like this [picks up plastic hamster], that if they’re the top buyer of cars it is going to be their choice - we get the secondary models. That’s just the way it is. They’re the top buyer. They get first crack at it.

Well, that must be true, mustn’t it. After all, look at Monaco. With its population of less than 33,000, Monaco must be one of the smallest car markets in the world. Therefore, it goes without saying that it is absolutely impossible for a Monacan to buy a new Ferrari, Lamborghini or Rolls Royce. Did you ever wonder what happened to all those rattling, brakeless, soot-belching taxis that Beijing got rid of before the Olympics? They’re all in Monaco.

We can extend this ironclad logic (whether it’s true or not no longer matters) to toilets. With its 1.3 billion population, China must have more places to crap than almost any other country in the world. So they certainly must have the first crack at the best models. Like this one in Chongqing perhaps:


Now, that toilet might not look very pretty. But as Chinese living standards rise it will increasingly become a thing of the past, replaced by new, shiny, state-of-the-art lavatories. What will this mean for America? Well, my Yankee friends, there won’t be any flush toilets left for you because, like all the cars, the Chinese will have bought them all. You’re all going to have to empty your bowels into a smelly hole in the ground at the end of the street. It’s plain, simple economics. As Glenn Beck says, “that’s just the way it is”.

And that pretty much sums up the whole of his theory on China’s rise and how it will affect the American way of life.

Why Le Duc Tho refused his Nobel Peace Prize Sat, 11 Dec 2010 20:41:58 +0000 rob On Friday, the BBC’s website published the very surpising claim that in 1973 Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho rejected his Nobel Peace Prize “without explanation”.

It’s surprising because Le Duc Tho wrote to the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee at the time giving clear and precise reasons for rejecting the prize and these reasons were widely reported. I had thought this was common knowledge, but since it apparently isn’t I’ve transcribed (without permission) a New York Times article which included an unofficial translation of Le Duc Tho’s letter.

The decision to give the 1973 prize to Henry Kissinger (along with Tho) was probably the most controversial in the Norwegian committee’s history - two of its members resigned in protest. My own view is that it was akin to a serial killer saying that sometime in the near future he will stop killing people in Iowa. Instead of being arrested for murder, he is given a million dollars and a special award for saving lives. Just before the money and award are presented, he kills a whole load of people in Oregon - after all, he never said he wouldn’t kill anyone there - and, over the next few years, continues to commit mass murder in various other states.

Incidentally, this year’s winner, Liu Xiaobo, has cited the Vietnam War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq as two of the many positive examples of the United States’ idealism and support for freedom around the world.

So here is the New York Times article from October 1973 giving Le Duc Tho’s reasons for rejecting his Nobel prize, followed by an Op-Ed (also copied without permission) by Bronson P. Clark, of the American Friends Service Committee.

Usually I disapprove of posting entire articles (translations are a different matter), but in this case I think the two pieces deserve to be taken out from behind their paywall and made more widely available.

Tho Rejects Nobel Prize, Citing Vietnam Situation
By Flora Lewis

Special to the New York Times

PARIS, Oct. 23—Le Duc Tho has rejected the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to him jointly with Secretary of State Kissinger for the Vietnam agreement they negotiated, Hanoi announced today.

He said that “peace has not yet really been established in South Vietnam.” “In these circumstances,” he added, “it is impossible for me to accept” the prize.

Hanoi’s chief negotiator said, “I will be able to consider” acceptance only when the Paris accord “is respected, the arms are silenced and real peace is established in South Vietnam.”

The decision and the explanation were disclosed in a letter from Le Duc Tho to Mrs. Aase Lionaes, president of the Norwegian Parliament’s Nobel Prize Committee.

Careful Decision Seen

Two members of the committee have resigned in protest against the award, an extraordinary gesture since custom forbids any disclosure of how the prize decision was reached, how committee members voted and whether the outcome was based on unanimity.

Mr. Tho’s reaction clearly reflected a careful decision of the North Vietnamese leadership. There had been no comment on the subject from Hanoi from the time the prize was announced until the publication of his letter, but the rejection was not surprising to observers familiar with North Vietnam’s view of the war and of existing conditions.

There was no mention of Mr. Kissinger at any point in the letter, nor that the prize offered to Mr. Tho was to be shared with Hanoi’s former enemy.

Hanoi’s View of Accord

The North Vietnamese have consistently taken the position that the Paris agreement was not a compromise settlement but a victory over the United States. They could not, therefore, have been expected to be pleased at equal honors granted to their representative and that of the belligerent they feel that they defeated, Mr. Kissinger

Further, they maintain that the United States holds responsibility for continuing violation of the cease-fire and failure to implement any of the accord’s political clauses. Hanoi has invariably considered the Government of South Vietnam as a puppet of the United States, and therefore insists that the United States should account for Saigon’s deeds.

Mr. Tho’s letter made these points explicitly:

“During the last 18 years, the United States undertook a war of aggression against Vietnam.

“American imperialism has been defeated. The Paris agreement has been signed. It is a very great historic victory of the Vietnamese people and the peace-loving and just people of the world.

“Since the signing of the Paris agreement, the United States and the Saigon Administration continue in grave violation of a number of key clauses of this agreement. The Saigon Administration, aided and encouraged by the United States, continues its acts of war.”

A note after the letter said coolly that Mr. Tho had also replied to personages at the United Nations, heads of government, politicians, writers and foreign journalists who had congratulated him on the prize. “He thanked them and gave them his point of view,” it said.

It was not at all clear whether Mr. Tho was suggesting that the prize would be acceptable once South Vietnam was actually at peace.

The phrase saying, “I will be able to consider” the prize when that day comes may have represented a compromise between divergent opinions in Hanoi on whether the award should be rejected because there is no peace, or whether in any circumstances it would conflict with Hanoi’s assertion of victory over an aggressor.

Hanoi’s decision posed a dilemma for the Nobel committee. It could leave Mr. Kissinger as the sole recipient of the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize, but that would violate the balance that had clearly been intended in the joint award.

Or the committee could meet again to reconsider the initial decision. There was no immediate indication of how the Norwegian panel would react.

Following is the text of Mr. Tho’s letter, in unofficial translation from the French version supplied by the Paris office of the Hanoi press agency:

“During the last 18 years the United States undertook a war of aggression against Vietnam. The Vietnamese people have waged a tenacious and heroic struggle against the United States aggression for independence and freedom. All of progressive humanity approves and supports this just cause.

“American imperialism has been defeated. The Paris agreement on Vietnam has been signed. It is a very great historic victory of the Vietnamese people and peace-loving and just peoples of the world. It is an important contribution by the Vietnamese people to the movement for national independence and to the cause of the peoples of all countries.

“The unvarying position of the Vietnamese people and of the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam resolutely and seriously and at the same to time to demand that the other signatory parties do the same in order to maintain a durable peace in Vietnam and to contribute to the safeguarding of peace in Southeast Asia and in the world.

“However, since the signing of the Paris agreement, the United States and the Saigon administration continue in grave violation of a number of key clauses of this agreement. The Saigon administration, aided and encouraged by the United States, continues its acts of war. Peace has not yet really been established in South Vietnam In these circumstances it is impossible for me to accept the 1973 Nobel Prize fo Peace which the committee has bestowed on me. Once the Paris accord on Vietnam is respected, the arms are silenced and a real peace is established in South Vietnam, I will be able to consider accepting this prize. With my thanks to the Nobel Prize Committee please accept, madame, my sincere respects.”

The following article (original here) was published on December 10, 1973. The writer, Bronson P. Clark, was executive secretary of the American Friends Service Committee. Much of it is as relevant three decades later as it was then. The names and places change but the principles are the same.

War Is Not Peace
By Bronson P. Clark

There is a truly astonishing projection of 1984 about the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973. Orwell warned us that the dreadful day would come when war would be called peace and peace, war. The Nobel Peace Prize committee’s homage to the “talents and goodwill” of Le Duc Tho and Henry Kissinger for their skillful negotiations lasting more than three years led us at the American Friends Service Committee to wonder if it should be called the “Nobel Negotiating Prize.” But Peace Prize?

The mind goes back to former recipients. Ralph Bunche, Albert Schweitzer, Philip Noel-Baker, Chief Luthuli, Dag Hammarskjold, Linus Pauling, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. the names lift our hearts. these were people of high principle and persistent idealism, dedicated to peaceful resolution of conflict. The organizations that have won the prize–the International Red Cross , the Friends Service Council of Britain and the American Friends Service Committee, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, UNICEF–are deeply devoted to the value of human life and the critical human need for a world at peace.

The 1973 recipients themselves saw the difference from the past. Le Duc Tho said he would not accept because there is no peace in Vietnam. Henry Kissinger, almost as if peace had come, stated that the award represents “a recognition of the central purpose of the President’s foreign policy.” He gave thanks to the President for the conditions which made it possible to bring the negotiations to a “successful conclusion.”

What were those conditions? They included the myth that the President was seeking peace with honor. They included the unleashing of one of the most savage bombing raids in the bloody history of war, only last Christmas. They included the relentless bombing, secretly and then brazenly, of Laos and Cambodia. They included the hidden intent, after the negotiations, to recognize the Thieu Government as the sole legitimate government in South Vietnam, even though the accords, which Henry Kissinger helped write and the United States signed, were to recognize two governments in South Vietnam.

What was the “successful conclusion” of the negotiations? Even today, although United States soldiers and airmen are out of Vietnam, American technicians, working for American corporations, planes, bombs, guns and dollars are still there, fueling a war that President Thieu won’t stop and cannot wage without United States weapons and money. I.T.T. and Lear - Siegler are performing training and operational functions for Thieu’s air force. The accords called for freeing the civilian prisoners, but in Thieu’s jails and prisons–and in exile–are the thousands of Buddhists, Catholics and neutralists who would help to restore peace to Vietnam. The accords called for democratic liberties in South Vietnam and the repression has never been so harsh as now. United States dollars and advisers help to maintain the odious national and prison system that has imprisoned democratic hopes. The Quaker center that treats civilian war victims in South Vietnam is as crowded as ever with newly maimed peasants. No end to the tragedy is in sight.

Ironically peace can come ot Vietnam. Henry Kissinger can help bring it. He can work for implementation of article 4, chapter II of the accords, which reads, “the United States will not continue its military involvement or intervene in the internal affairs of South Vietnam.” He can oppose the flow of United States dollars that finance President Thieu’s war budget. He can demand that the Vietnamese stop sluicing local funds, generated by the sale of United States Food for Peace, to Thieu’s military. He can urge that our Government stop paying for Thieu’s police and prisons. He can call for even-handed recognition of the two South Vietnamese governments that were party to the accords that the United States signed. If the United States honors the accords, he can press President Thieu to honor them and initiate democratic liberties in South Vietnam.

If these things are left undone, how can peace come to Vietnam? How can the Nobel Peace Prize, which will be presented today, be given and accepted in good conscience unless they are done.