Blogroll Me! How This Old Brit Sees It ...: January 2008

30 January 2008

Sadrists Threaten to End Truce, Anbar Sunnis Threaten to Re-join Insurgency

Many Sadrists think that it's time to end the truce

From the Associated Press:

Read more »

28 January 2008

Special (Freebie) National Health Supplement ...



Sometimes it seems as though it's all go, doesn't it?

Never ending. Busy, busy, busy.

People to see. Places to be. Things to do, and things to be done.

Problem is though, that even though our latest upcoming trip is an all expenses paid one, this time we're most definitely NOT looking forward to it.

It's not that we don't appreciate the N.H.S., but ...

... while neither hospitals, surgeons nor nurses and such should ever become dispensable, at times like this we'd positively prefer that they could.

All of which is our (whacky as ever), way of saying tomorrow sees us being shipped off for a (hopefully, short) stay in hospital.

A pair of 'procedures' via keyhole surgery are planned but, we've been warned in advance that there's a 60/40% chance that we'll need to be 'opened up' proper.

Double, ouch!

If it's found that the (currently all the craze), keyhole-caper can be carried out safely/sucessfully, we should be back home in our own bed (though probably still pretty sore), and back in circulation within a couple of days or so.

However, if they decide that the 'full monty' open-right-up option is the only one open to them, then your guesses are as good as our own. So please cross those fingers for us.

Meanwhile ... in the best tradition of ... erm ... thingee business ... the show must should go on.

And thanks to Gordo, a blogging American amigo in Oregon, it's looking like it will.

But in the meantime, b'bye ...... for a bit.


Labels: , , ,

27 January 2008

Holocaust Memorial Day ...

Hands up who knew what today is the 63rd anniversary of ?

And with hand on heart, who knew - without looking it up - which army actually did the historic deed? (We've blanked it out below.)

27th January -- 1945:

Auschwitz death camp liberated

The =**=**= Army has liberated the Nazis' biggest concentration camp at Auschwitz in south-western Poland.

According to reports, hundreds of thousands of Polish people, as well as Jews from a number of other European countries, have been held prisoner there in appalling conditions and many have been killed in the gas chambers.

Few details have emerged of the capture of Auschwitz, which has gained a reputation as the most notorious of the Nazi death camps.

Some reports say the German guards were given orders several days ago to destroy the crematoria and gas chambers. Tens of thousands of prisoners - those who were able to walk - have been moved out of the prison and forced to march to other camps in Germany.

Little did we know that we had arrived at a place, the name of which would become as well known and remembered as any battle in the war.

Read the rest of the relevant BBC report of that time -- and find the answer to our earlier army question.

And incidentally, today in Liverpool, our own home city and current European Capital of Culture ...

All faiths commemorate Holocaust

The Archbishop of Canterbury joined the Chief Rabbi to mark Holocaust Memorial Day with a ceremony in Liverpool.

Read the rest of this report re; our own city's solemn remembrance service.

*(Cross posted at Appletree)

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

26 January 2008

United States Special Edition : An Eminently Experienced And Genuinely Independent, International Journalist's Summary ...

Here's a glimpse of what a genuine 'journalist' looks like.

Here's something that the particular journalist pictured above permanently preaches -- and practices -- period.

"It is not enough for journalist to see themselves as mere messengers without understanding the hidden agendas of the message and myths that surround it."

Realised yet that it's John Pilger's praises we're singing?

No matter. Read on.

Here's a few tasty teasers from his most recently published piece.

Having reported four presidential election campaigns, from the Kennedys to Nixon, Carter to Reagan, with their Zeppelins of platitudes, robotic followers and rictal wives, I can sympathise. But what difference would the vote make?

Of the presidential candidates I have interviewed, only George C Wallace, governor of Alabama, spoke the truth. "There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrats and Republicans," he said. And he was shot.


Travelling with Robert Kennedy in 1968 was eye-opening for me. To audiences of the poor, Kennedy would present himself as a saviour. The words "change" and "hope" were used relentlessly and cynically. For audiences of fearful whites, he would use racist codes, such as "law and order". With those opposed to the invasion of Vietnam, he would attack "putting American boys in the line of fire", but never say when he would withdraw them.

That year (after Kennedy was assassinated), Richard Nixon used a version of the same, malleable speech to win the presidency. Thereafter, it was used successfully by Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and the two Bushes.


Nothing has changed. Barack Obama is a glossy Uncle Tom who would bomb Pakistan. Hillary Clinton, another bomber, is anti-feminist. John McCain’s one distinction is that he has personally bombed a country.

They all believe the US is not subject to the rules of human behaviour, because it is "a city upon a hill", regardless that most of humanity sees it as a monumental bully which, since 1945, has overthrown 50 governments, many of them democracies, and bombed 30 nations, destroying millions of lives.

Ready to read the rest -- right here?

Okay. Seeing as you've sifted through so much serious stuff - and since it's the weekend -- lets end on a lighter note.

But remember this -- many a true word is spoken in jest.

(Cross posted at Appletree )

Labels: , , , , , ,

25 January 2008

The Lamentable Latest On The John & Natasha Hogan Tragedy ...


While we've never, ever been branded 'agony aunts' by anyone before ...

No one with even half a heart could fail to have been moved by the saddest of sad stories re:the devoted dad driven to the deepest depths of despair, John Hogan. More than that, the man was actually driven (officially), out of his mind.

Remember? The father who, while away abroad with his wife on holiday, flung himself headlong from an hotel's high balcony - cuddling both his beloved kids in his arms.

Remember? Against all the odds, he and his darling daughter lived - but his lovely little lad lost his life.

And as if that terrible tragedy wasn't agonisingly awful enough in it itself, today we learned a little (or should we say a lot?) more about John's wife (and mother of their children), the two-timing Natasha.

Well, we know what we think. We wonder what you think?

Here's a quick couple of clips from today's remarkable revelation by the 'Mirror'.

Read this and weep.

... The court heard how Hogan snapped as he and Natasha rowed while she was packing her bags - intending to return home to Bristol with the children early. However Tracey added: "The Hogans should never have had a row in front of the children. She knew John had depression. She should have just picked up the kids and walked out."

Tracey said she was glad that Hogan, who along with Mia miraculously survived the 50ft fall from the hotel balcony, would be getting proper medical treatment rather than a prison sentence. She added: "I do not condone what he did for one moment. He will have to live with the fact he killed his son for the rest of his life.

"John acted in an extreme way - he snapped. It's so hard for anyone to imagine how they would react to such devastating news. He has punished himself more than any court could."


" ... 'It's not my fault her husband went mad and jumped off a balcony.' It was shocking, he just totally pushed it away. He had got what he wanted - Natasha."


Tracey said she was shocked when nurse Natasha announced her new relationship with paramedic Richard just weeks after the terrible events of August 2006.

And she said she was even more amazed when she learned they were to marry only days before the start of Hogan's trial.

Tracey said: "How could they get married just a week before Natasha had to give evidence and hear about how her son was killed and face John again?
Read the rest of this heartrending report.

*(Cross posted at Appletree)

Labels: , , , , ,

All About A Pain Named Peter Hain ...


Meet a pain named Peter Hain.

Pete's the 'perma-tan' man, who went from this ...

... to this ...

... to this ...

Hain quits jobs 'to clear name'

Peter Hain has quit the cabinet saying he wanted to "clear his name" after his Labour deputy leadership campaign donations were referred to the police.
Ah, well.

Looks like we'll have another sleepless night tonight, eh?

You know, tossing, turning, fretting, etc.



Labels: , , ,

23 January 2008

Over 22 Thousand Protesting British Police March Through The Streets Of London


Boy, oh, boy!

Now, this
IS what we call news!

Who knew there were still so many sets of balls swinging among so many of our best-of-British 'bobbies'?

Police in protest rally over pay

Police officers gather to demonstrate over pay

An estimated 22,000 [plus] police officers are marching in central London in a protest over pay.

Read the ar rest of this (riotous), report right here.

*(Cross posted at Appletree)

Labels: , , , , ,

22 January 2008

Iran : Sensible/Sane 'Supreme Leader' Publicly Slaps Down Dickhead President ...


Here's what's making most of MSM's Iran related headlines today.

UN powers agree on new Iran draft
However ...... in case you don't read, hear, see, know, or understand enough about Iran - apart from what you're regularly fed by Faux/Fox propaganda/pantomime productions and certain other news organisations of it's vested interests' ilk ......

In the taster/teaser below we've included several (what we consider to be completely unmissable), live links relevant to this particularly important topic.

Important, that is, for all sincere seekers of some semblance of serious enlightenment/explanations/education regarding the realities of present day Iran.

Khamenei snubs Iranian president

Iran's supreme leader has overruled its president by ordering him to implement a law to supply gas to remote villages.

Iran is having its coldest weather in years and parliament had ratified a law to release extra funds to supply gas to rural areas undergoing shortages.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad refused to implement it, prompting the speaker to appeal to the supreme leader.

A BBC correspondent says
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's action is a rare public humiliation for President Ahmadinejad.


The supreme leader agreed that the law should be implemented and his letter ordering that it should, was read out in
the parliament.


Critics of the president have become more vocal as the threat of war with the US or Israel over Iran's nuclear activities appears to have receded.

The political battle is heating up with parliamentary elections in two months, our correspondent says.

Read the rest of this extraordinarily revealing, Iran report. And be sure to read 'between' the lines, too.

* (Cross posted at Appletree)

Labels: , ,

21 January 2008

American (M.L.K. Day) Day-Dreams ?

Regular readers may recall reading an 'Old Brit' guest post by Michael Scott, here at our humble blog last summer. At that time Michael's valued contribution included a couple of telling video links.

Today we're highlighting another must see video brought (once again), to our attention elsewhere online by that self same proud, patriotic, progressive, Mr Michael Scott.

So all Americans are equals, eh?

Well, suck this and see, as they say.

21st century or not, some things never seem to change much do they? At least, never for the better.

Unless of course you're one the utterly unfairly favoured and completely conscienceless, sociopathic almost to the point of cannibalistic, 'fat-cat-few'.

So, maybe after all there's some truth in that corny old time travel theory, eh?

Isn't it sad that so many, many years ago folk like Edna Ferber, Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein 11, Paul Robeson and plenty of others 'got it' -- yet, all these long years later, nothing like as many people do nowadays? Be that fact be by accident or by design.

Awrh, what the hell? Why should we oldies still worry so much? After all, it's been quite a while since we had to haul or heave a lot.

And anyway, it's probably all entirely academical. Since America already seems to be speeding, irreversibly, straight Back To The Future .... in a hand basket.

All thanks, in the main, to the likes of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co - aka - K.K.R.

And, of course, their greedy-pig politico pals, cum aider-abettor-enablers.


Labels: , , , , ,

19 January 2008

Latest Palestinian Dead And Injured [By Israel in Gaza] Figures Disputed ...


While we're not exactly at death's door we're still sick enough not to feel up to taking on too much typing today.

And after reading the the piece we pinched the following paragraphs from, we're now feeling sicker than we were before.

Therefore, we publish the excerpt below, without further personal comment.

... I was in a cab and we were stuck in a long traffic jam. Next to me was a school minibus full of children. They were staring out of the window. So was I.

I engaged them. I made clown faces to them, stuck my tongue out and grimaced...
They giggled, and stuck their tongues out at me, contorting their faces, and pulling their ears in mockery...

We kept at this play for a while. The taxi driver thought I was nuts. The kids loved it and so did I. It was pure joy. We laughed across the window, and then waved goodbye as the traffic finally eased up.

I saw no violence in their eyes, no malice, no craving to inflict hurt.

Today, children were playing in the streets of Gaza, scores were rushed to hospital with blood pouring out of their little limbs, heads, eyes and nose...Israel bombed Gaza again.

40 dead, 100 injured and out of the 100, 45 were children. 45 children not older than 10, soaked in blood. Their own.

(These figures were quoted several times on Al Jazeera Arabic TV. [...] not the 1 dead and 35 injured.
[As later published here via the online Al Jazeera "English" media version].

I don't understand why this sudden discrepancy. Is someone trying to hide the real figures?)

They interviewed a little one, about 6, with a bandaged head and the poor little thing was stuttering, with his face swollen up, and his eyes moist with tears...

He said "I was playing with my friends, and the bombs fell on us...they wanted to kill me."(they = Israelis, who else?!)

Yes you are right little one, they wanted to kill you.

They and the Americans are flip sides of the same coin. They grow, thrive and prosper on violence.

Read the rest of this sickeningly sad story right here.


Labels: , , ,

18 January 2008

Special 'Self-Pity-Sick-Note' Edition ...


Please accept abject apologies for unauthorised absence.

But we've got a good excuse. Honestly. Really. Truly.

Get the picture?

Awful ain't it?

And right now, that's just about how horrible we feel.

However, thanks to the many miraculous marvels of modern day medicine (and the good old NHS), we're sure we'll soon be feeling better.


Labels: ,

16 January 2008

So ... We Say Again : Piss Off, Chertoff !!


When we were first finding our way around the blogosphere, three years ago, we used to go overboard a bit. (What do you mean, we still do?)

In those early days we were still fascinated with the idea of playing around with multi-fonts and multi-colours.

As a matter of fact, at that time we hadn't even learned how to post links properly.

So, please bear that in mind when reading what we wrote re:Michael Chertoff, way back when.


Sad to say though, the shit didn't do as we asked. The shit decided to say.

Worse still, this same
shit is still stirring up all sorts of shit in the USA - as well as elsewhere.

Witness some of the same sort of shit this same shit is saying today.

US fears Europe-based terrorism

One of the biggest threats to US security may now come from within Europe, US Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff has told the BBC.

He said militant attacks and plots in Europe over recent years had made the US aware of the "real risk that Europe will become a platform for terrorists".

Mr Chertoff said it was likely security checks on travellers from Europe would be increased.
Read the rest of today's relevant report on this rat, right here.

So if anyone on the US side of the pond sees this shitty shyster supreme, before we do, please pass on a message from us.

Ask him if he's not yet heard that
with each passing day, fewer & fewer Brits (and other Europeans), are remotely interested in even considering setting foot in the US .

Tell him that we all already know better than a lot of Americans do, that modern day Bush-law-unto-himself-America is definitely NOT the place to be.

Tell him to check with US tourism experts if he doubts us. And/or suggest he sit and watch some of the hard-sell commercials we're being bombarded with on Brit TV, on a nightly basis. Absolutely BEGGING us to visit and spend some bucks. While simultaneously offering us some never seen before, cut-throat, knock-down, bloody barmy bargain basement rates.

[Awrh. We simply can't resist saying the same again.
Piss off Chertoff.
Who needs ya? Certainly not many of us over here in Europe. Nope. Not anymore, mister.]

And if someone does accidentally bump into the bum they might also like to ask him why (as uber patriotic as he's supposed to be), he's still not content with holding a regular US passport for himself. And ask him why he still adamantly insists on holding an Israeli one as well.

Dual citizenship/nationality? For a man in such a high (if not the highest), American Homeland Security position?

Homeland security? National security?

Fear? Threat? Real risk?

Er .... helloooo?

Haysoo, Maria and Yusef! The junta must be joking.

Seriously, it's still as crazy a smelly Chertoff kettle of fish as we've ever sniffed. And when we say crazy we mean completely, absolutely crackers.

The whole caboodle is crazy. Chertoff himself must be crazy.

Crazy like a f*cking fox wolf, that is.

*(Cross posted at Appletree)

Labels: , , , , , , ,

15 January 2008

US President Richard Nixon Calls Vietnam Ceasefire: Special 35th Anniversary Edition


It's thirty five years ago .... to this very day .... since ....
15th January, 1973: Nixon orders ceasefire in Vietnam

President Nixon has ordered a halt to American bombing in North Vietnam following peace talks in Paris.

The decision comes after Dr Henry Kissinger, the president's assistant for National Security Affairs, returned to Washington yesterday from France with a draft peace proposal.

Well, now.

That was mighty big of the (then) United States President, Tricky Dicky (I am not a crook) Nixon, wouldn't you say?

Remember the My Lai massacre of innocent women, young and old? And of their innocent children and babes?

And some thought American "shock and awe" was invented by Donald Rumsfeld, eh?

Then there were those special sorts of shock and awe, saved exclusively for home consumption - cum execution.

Such as the shooting dead at Kent State, of (American-as-apple-pie), innocent college kids.

Simply for having the damned audacity to stage some student war-protesting -- on their own campus.

Of course, after another 35 years of civilization things have changed a lot in the States. Things are different these days in the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free.


Not sure?

Then ask a long standing, dear old American mate of ours, Noel Adamson.

Noel's a Vietnam veteran. Noel's the right stuff. Noel's a proper American patriot.

And, much more to the point -- Noel knows.

* (Cross posted at Appletree)

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

A Little Bit Of Belated Christmas Gift Sharing ...


Today, we finally found time to take the wrapper off a special Christmas present, from our dear daughter.

It's a fantastic CD of the brilliant, blind Italian tenor, Andrea [Voice of an Angel] Bocelli.

While we'd dearly love to be able to share the whole thing with you, we've decided to settle for this duet with Britain's Sarah Brightman.

Recorded live with audience, outdoors in Tuscany, Italy.


Andrea bocelli & sarah brightman - time to say goodbye
Uploaded by gotti57

Sheesh. Isn't civilization something special?!


Labels: , ,

13 January 2008

US Military Vet Murders: Massive 89% Increase in Last 6 Years...


Yep, we know.

Nobody likes a smart arse saying they told you so.

Report: 121 veterans linked to killings

NEW YORK - At least 121 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have committed a killing or been charged in one in the United States after returning from combat, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The newspaper said it also logged 349 homicides involving all active-duty military personnel and new veterans in the six years since military action began in Afghanistan, and later Iraq. That represents an 89-percent increase over the previous six-year period, the newspaper said.

About three-quarters of those homicides involved Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, the newspaper said. The report did not illuminate the exact relationship between those cases and the 121 killings also mentioned in the report.

Read the rest of this heartbreaking report right here.

Our own last word on this shocking subject?

You'd better believe us when we say: "You ain't seen nothing yet."


Labels: , , , , , ,

11 January 2008

Friday Baghdad (and elsewhere) Bombing Blogging ...



Absolutely, bleeding brilliant.

US launches massive Iraq air raid

US bombers and fighter jets have dropped 40,000lb (18,144kg) of bombs on suspected al-Qaeda targets on the edge of Baghdad in a 10-minute air strike.
Another bloody BushCo lame-brained, brain-wave, eh?

Stick it to 'em with some more shock & awe, eh?

Shower Baghdad with some more bombs, eh?

Sure, that'll show 'em. That'll certainly secure some hearts & minds.

Eh? Eh?

And we don't think.

Oh, by the way, lest we forget.

Bush said yesterday, in Israel, that the US should have bombed Auschwitz, too.

Well, erm, yeah, George, er, maybe. We can see where you're coming from. That would have been one solution to Hitler's Final Solution, eh?

That way, there'd be a lot less surviving Holocaust survivor stories to cause any of us so many sleepless nights, eh?

Wow. What a wonderful cure for so many guilt complexes, eh?

After all, revisionist history's something your shower of shits have a lot of special expertise and experience in. Isn't it, mister?

*(Cross posted at Appletree)

Labels: , , , , ,

10 January 2008

Tony Blair Being Bought By US WBankers, J.P. Morgan ...


Remember Tony (the liar) Blair?

You know, that smooth talking, slimy, smarmy son of a bitch? The one who, when he got sick of the Middle East shit storm he'd helped America's Mad King George start, simply slid away to piss off out of it all?

Tony Blair, the boy blunder who one day decided to simply up sticks and bugger off and leave our young uniformed boys & girls still battling [for their lives], in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Remember him? The two faced snake oil salesman? The pathetic, self serving prick of a Brit Premier who put President Bush before his own people? Remember that Tony Blair?

Well, now it's seems the scum bag's decided to re-sell his soul to some others in the states.

Tony Blair to earn £500,000 a year from PART-TIME advisory job at top Wall Street bank

By Jane Merrick - 10th January 2008

Tony Blair came under heavy fire today for accepting a lucrative job with a Wall Street bank.

Mr Blair, who quit as prime minister in July, is to become a part-time adviser to JP Morgan on a salary rumoured to be at least £500,000 a year. It puts him on course to become the richest former premier in recent history.

He also revealed he expected to take a "small handful" of similar jobs with other companies in the near future.

But his bonanza contrasts with the experience of thousands of British soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many faced poverty and hardship on their return because their injury compensation payouts took up to three years.
Read the rest of this report on the (so called, socialist) rogue.

Nice work if one can get, eh?

And, apt ain't it?

That this jerk's joining another well known wunch of bankers.

Well, here's wishing bad luck to you, Mr Blair. And all the shysters sailing with you.

* (Cross posted at Appletree )

Labels: , , ,

08 January 2008

Bush Pushes For European/Turkish Union ...


Someone, whose name (momentarily) entirely escapes us, once said that one of the most miraculous things about miracles is that they sometimes actually do happen. And after today we're a lot less inclined to argue.

We mean ... who the hell would'a thunk it?

That is, ourselves ever agreeing with anything that ever came out of the mouth of George W.Bush. Of course, it's always possible that good ole Dumbya's finally done gone and damned well, come right out and agreed with what we've been yelling (loud and clear), for yonks.

As a matter of fact, come to think of it, it could even have been for lots longer.

Bush supports Turkey bid to join EU
Yep, you read that right.

Now, read on.

WASHINGTON - President Bush gave Turkey's bid to join the European Union a glowing endorsement on Tuesday and called the Islamic nation a "constructive bridge" between the West and the Muslim world, offering a much-needed boost to U.S.-Turkish relations.

"I think Turkey sets a fantastic example for nations around the world to see where it's possible to have a democracy coexist with a great religion like Islam and that's important," he said.

Bush spoke to reporters following a meeting with Turkish President Abdullah Gul. The two appeared together on the South Lawn, where Bush said he supported Turkey's efforts to fight the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK rebels, in northern Iraq.

Bush called the PKK an enemy to Turkey, Iraq and "to people who want to live in peace."

So, read the rest of this remarkable report.

*( Cross posted at Appletree )

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Israel And Britain:Special "About Time Too," Dosh & Disadvantaged Edition ...


In August last year we published a piece about Israel's shameful indifference toward some special old Israelis ...

Today - 5 months later - we caught sight of the following headline:

Israel to probe neglect of Holocaust survivors
Here's quick clip from said relevant report.

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli legislators voted on Monday to form an inquiry commission with executive powers to probe years of failure by the Jewish state to provide adequate financial help for needy survivors of the Nazi Holocaust.

Israel's establishment in 1948 with international backing came after the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees and Holocaust survivors from Europe after World War Two.

Many of the survivors, now elderly and infirm, have complained for years of not receiving adequate funding to allow them to live out their remaining years in dignity.
"Holocaust survivors are tired of promises and they have been treated failingly for years," said Zvulun Orlev, who heads Israel's parliamentary state audit committee

And about time too, eh?

Also today we spotted this story. It's another one highlighting the long term plight of a different disadvantaged/neglected group. But this one's all about Brits.

Disabled poverty 'hits millions'

Disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty than others

As many as three million people with disabilities in the UK could be trapped in poverty, a report suggests.

The study, by campaigning group Leonard Cheshire Disability, says disabled people are more likely to live in hardship now than a decade ago.

The group says the poverty trap is largely due to higher living costs - up to 25% more than for the able-bodied.

The government insists it is developing a long-term strategy to help disabled people lead independent lives.

"Disability poverty is one of the most significant and most challenging problems facing the UK today," said Guy Parckar of Leonard Cheshire Disability.

The report, entitled Disability Poverty in the UK, finds disabled people are twice as likely to live in hardship than others.
So the British government "insists" it's developing a long term strategy, eh?

Well, lets hope they sort out this sad state of affairs faster than the 60 or so years Israel has taken (so far), to sort out a similarly inexcusable, dosh related 'anomaly'.

Read the rest of this report right here.

Labels: , , , ,

06 January 2008

Yesh Din, Israel, Palestinians and Kangaroo Military Courts ...

Oy, vey!

Guilty, schmilty, blah-blah, whatever.

Hands up who knew the Israeli military regularly hold kangaroo courts for Palestinians.

JERUSALEM - Israel's military court system for Palestinian suspects in the West Bank produces almost automatic convictions, an Israeli human rights group charged Sunday.

The group, Yesh Din, עברית عربية ...
... said in a new report that in 2006 more than 99.7 percent of those accused were convicted, 95 percent in plea bargains.

Yesh Din said its inquiry, which included attending more than 800 hearings and conducting extensive interviews with lawyers and court staff, concluded that suspects were often unable to present a full defense with effective counsel.


The Yesh Din report said, however, that military court proceedings can be startlingly brief, citing a study of 38 hearings where prosecutors sought to extend suspects' detention in custody until the end of case, which generally means remand for a year or more.

Of those 38 hearings, Yesh Din says, seven lasted between two and four minutes, 19 lasted between one and two minutes and 12 were over in less than a minute.


Hearings were held in Hebrew and simultaneous translation into Arabic was mainly carried out by conscript soldiers rather than professional interpreters, with the result that suspects, and their attorneys, often did not understand the charges.

"Most are detained in Israel and their attorneys are not able to meet them," said Michael Sfard, Yesh Din's legal counsel. In addition, minors were often tried as adults and detained at length before being charged.
Read the rest of this news report.

So, who was it who said "Shalom" ?


Labels: , , , , , ,

05 January 2008

Blogging US Army Major, Andrew Olmsted : 'The Last Post' ...


In life, Andrew Olmsted was an American Army Major, serving in Iraq since last summer.

He was also a 'Blogger'.

Some time ago he put together what he called 'The Final Post' and asked a friend to to promise to publish it should he himself ever have to stop blogging.

Sad to say, Andrew Olmsted recently became the first American fatality in Iraq of 2008.

However, his friend kept the promise.

Below, we've reproduced that 'Final Post' in full, since we're certain the Major meant it to be read by as many people as possible.

January 04, 2008 -- Final Post

"I am leaving this message for you because it appears I must leave sooner than I intended. I would have preferred to say this in person, but since I cannot, let me say it here."
G'Kar, Babylon 5

"Only the dead have seen the end of war."

This is an entry I would have preferred not to have published, but there are limits to what we can control in life, and apparently I have passed one of those limits. And so, like G'Kar, I must say here what I would much prefer to say in person. I want to thank hilzoy for putting it up for me. It's not easy asking anyone to do something for you in the event of your death, and it is a testament to her quality that she didn't hesitate to accept the charge. As with many bloggers, I have a disgustingly large ego, and so I just couldn't bear the thought of not being able to have the last word if the need arose. Perhaps I take that further than most, I don't know. I hope so. It's frightening to think there are many people as neurotic as I am in the world. In any case, since I won't get another chance to say what I think, I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. Such as it is.

"When some people die, it's time to be sad. But when other people die, like really evil people, or the Irish, it's time to celebrate."
Jimmy Bender, "Greg the Bunny"

"And maybe now it's your turn
To die kicking some ass."
Freedom Isn't Free, Team America

What I don't want this to be is a chance for me, or anyone else, to be maudlin. I'm dead. That sucks, at least for me and my family and friends. But all the tears in the world aren't going to bring me back, so I would prefer that people remember the good things about me rather than mourning my loss. (If it turns out a specific number of tears will, in fact, bring me back to life, then by all means, break out the onions.) I had a pretty good life, as I noted above. Sure, all things being equal I would have preferred to have more time, but I have no business complaining with all the good fortune I've enjoyed in my life. So if you're up for that, put on a little 80s music (preferably vintage 1980-1984), grab a Coke and have a drink with me. If you have it, throw 'Freedom Isn't Free' from the Team America soundtrack in; if you can't laugh at that song, I think you need to lighten up a little. I'm dead, but if you're reading this, you're not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact.

"Our thoughts form the universe. They always matter."
Citizen G'Kar, Babylon 5

Believe it or not, one of the things I will miss most is not being able to blog any longer. The ability to put my thoughts on (virtual) paper and put them where people can read and respond to them has been marvelous, even if most people who have read my writings haven't agreed with them. If there is any hope for the long term success of democracy, it will be if people agree to listen to and try to understand their political opponents rather than simply seeking to crush them. While the blogosphere has its share of partisans, there are some awfully smart people making excellent arguments out there as well, and I know I have learned quite a bit since I began blogging. I flatter myself I may have made a good argument or two as well; if I didn't, please don't tell me. It has been a great five-plus years. I got to meet a lot of people who are way smarter than me, including such luminaries as Virginia Postrel and her husband Stephen (speaking strictly from a 'improving the species' perspective, it's tragic those two don't have kids, because they're both scary smart.), the estimable hilzoy and Sebastian of Obsidian Wings, Jeff Goldstein and Stephen Green, the men who consistently frustrated me with their mix of wit and wisdom I could never match, and I've no doubt left out a number of people to whom I apologize. Bottom line: if I got the chance to meet you through blogging, I enjoyed it. I'm only sorry I couldn't meet more of you. In particular I'd like to thank Jim Henley, who while we've never met has been a true comrade, whose words have taught me and whose support has been of great personal value to me. I would very much have enjoyed meeting Jim.

Blogging put me in touch with an inordinate number of smart people, an exhilarating if humbling experience. When I was young, I was smart, but the older I got, the more I realized just how dumb I was in comparison to truly smart people. But, to my credit, I think, I was at least smart enough to pay attention to the people with real brains and even occasionally learn something from them. It has been joy and a pleasure having the opportunity to do this.

"It's not fair."
"No. It's not. Death never is."
Captain John Sheridan and Dr. Stephen Franklin, Babylon 5

"They didn't even dig him a decent grave."
"Well, it's not how you're buried. It's how you're remembered."
Cimarron and Wil Andersen, The Cowboys

I suppose I should speak to the circumstances of my death. It would be nice to believe that I died leading men in battle, preferably saving their lives at the cost of my own. More likely I was caught by a marksman or an IED. But if there is an afterlife, I'm telling anyone who asks that I went down surrounded by hundreds of insurgents defending a village composed solely of innocent women and children. It'll be our little secret, ok?

I do ask (not that I'm in a position to enforce this) that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes. I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn't a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side. If you think the U.S. should stay in Iraq, don't drag me into it by claiming that somehow my death demands us staying in Iraq. If you think the U.S. ought to get out tomorrow, don't cite my name as an example of someone's life who was wasted by our mission in Iraq. I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I'm not around to expound on them I'd prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn't support. Further, this is tough enough on my family without their having to see my picture being used in some rally or my name being cited for some political purpose. You can fight political battles without hurting my family, and I'd prefer that you did so.

On a similar note, while you're free to think whatever you like about my life and death, if you think I wasted my life, I'll tell you you're wrong. We're all going to die of something. I died doing a job I loved. When your time comes, I hope you are as fortunate as I was.

"What an idiot! What a loser!"
Chaz Reingold, Wedding Crashers

"Oh and I don't want to die for you, but if dying's asked of me;
I'll bear that cross with honor, 'cause freedom don't come free."
American Soldier, Toby Keith

Those who know me through my writings on the Internet over the past five-plus years probably have wondered at times about my chosen profession. While I am not a Libertarian, I certainly hold strongly individualistic beliefs. Yet I have spent my life in a profession that is not generally known for rugged individualism. Worse, I volunteered to return to active duty knowing that the choice would almost certainly lead me to Iraq. The simple explanation might be that I was simply stupid, and certainly I make no bones about having done some dumb things in my life, but I don't think this can be chalked up to stupidity. Maybe I was inconsistent in my beliefs; there are few people who adhere religiously to the doctrines of their chosen philosophy, whatever that may be. But I don't think that was the case in this instance either.

As passionate as I am about personal freedom, I don't buy the claims of anarchists that humanity would be just fine without any government at all. There are too many people in the world who believe that they know best how people should live their lives, and many of them are more than willing to use force to impose those beliefs on others. A world without government simply wouldn't last very long; as soon as it was established, strongmen would immediately spring up to establish their fiefdoms. So there is a need for government to protect the people's rights. And one of the fundamental tools to do that is an army that can prevent outside agencies from imposing their rules on a society. A lot of people will protest that argument by noting that the people we are fighting in Iraq are unlikely to threaten the rights of the average American. That's certainly true; while our enemies would certainly like to wreak great levels of havoc on our society, the fact is they're not likely to succeed. But that doesn't mean there isn't still a need for an army (setting aside debates regarding whether ours is the right size at the moment). Americans are fortunate that we don't have to worry too much about people coming to try and overthrow us, but part of the reason we don't have to worry about that is because we have an army that is stopping anyone who would try.

Soldiers cannot have the option of opting out of missions because they don't agree with them: that violates the social contract. The duly-elected American government decided to go to war in Iraq. (Even if you maintain President Bush was not properly elected, Congress voted for war as well.) As a soldier, I have a duty to obey the orders of the President of the United States as long as they are Constitutional. I can no more opt out of missions I disagree with than I can ignore laws I think are improper. I do not consider it a violation of my individual rights to have gone to Iraq on orders because I raised my right hand and volunteered to join the army. Whether or not this mission was a good one, my participation in it was an affirmation of something I consider quite necessary to society. So if nothing else, I gave my life for a pretty important principle; I can (if you'll pardon the pun) live with that.

"It's all so brief, isn't it? A typical human lifespan is almost a hundred years. But it's barely a second compared to what's out there. It wouldn't be so bad if life didn't take so long to figure out. Seems you just start to get it right, and's over."
Dr. Stephen Franklin, Babylon 5

I wish I could say I'd at least started to get it right. Although, in my defense, I think I batted a solid .250 or so. Not a superstar, but at least able to play in the big leagues. I'm afraid I can't really offer any deep secrets or wisdom. I lived my life better than some, worse than others, and I like to think that the world was a little better off for my having been here. Not very much, but then, few of us are destined to make more than a tiny dent in history's Green Monster. I would be lying if I didn't admit I would have liked to have done more, but it's a bit too late for that now, eh? The bottom line, for me, is that I think I can look back at my life and at least see a few areas where I may have made a tiny difference, and massive ego aside, that's probably not too bad.

"The flame also reminds us that life is precious. As each flame is unique; when it goes out, it's gone forever. There will never be another quite like it."
Ambassador Delenn, Babylon 5

I write this in part, admittedly, because I would like to think that there's at least a little something out there to remember me by. Granted, this site will eventually vanish, being ephemeral in a very real sense of the word, but at least for a time it can serve as a tiny record of my contributions to the world. But on a larger scale, for those who knew me well enough to be saddened by my death, especially for those who haven't known anyone else lost to this war, perhaps my death can serve as a small reminder of the costs of war. Regardless of the merits of this war, or of any war, I think that many of us in America have forgotten that war means death and suffering in wholesale lots. A decision that for most of us in America was academic, whether or not to go to war in Iraq, had very real consequences for hundreds of thousands of people. Yet I was as guilty as anyone of minimizing those very real consequences in lieu of a cold discussion of theoretical merits of war and peace. Now I'm facing some very real consequences of that decision; who says life doesn't have a sense of humor?

But for those who knew me and feel this pain, I think it's a good thing to realize that this pain has been felt by thousands and thousands (probably millions, actually) of other people all over the world. That is part of the cost of war, any war, no matter how justified. If everyone who feels this pain keeps that in mind the next time we have to decide whether or not war is a good idea, perhaps it will help us to make a more informed decision. Because it is pretty clear that the average American would not have supported the Iraq War had they known the costs going in. I am far too cynical to believe that any future debate over war will be any less vitriolic or emotional, but perhaps a few more people will realize just what those costs can be the next time.

This may be a contradiction of my above call to keep politics out of my death, but I hope not. Sometimes going to war is the right idea. I think we've drawn that line too far in the direction of war rather than peace, but I'm a soldier and I know that sometimes you have to fight if you're to hold onto what you hold dear. But in making that decision, I believe we understate the costs of war; when we make the decision to fight, we make the decision to kill, and that means lives and families destroyed. Mine now falls into that category; the next time the question of war or peace comes up, if you knew me at least you can understand a bit more just what it is you're deciding to do, and whether or not those costs are worth it.

"This is true love. You think this happens every day?"
Westley, The Princess Bride

"Good night, my love, the brightest star in my sky."
John Sheridan, Babylon 5

This is the hardest part. While I certainly have no desire to die, at this point I no longer have any worries. That is not true of the woman who made my life something to enjoy rather than something merely to survive. She put up with all of my faults, and they are myriad, she endured separations again and again...I cannot imagine being more fortunate in love than I have been with Amanda. Now she has to go on without me, and while a cynic might observe she's better off, I know that this is a terrible burden I have placed on her, and I would give almost anything if she would not have to bear it. It seems that is not an option. I cannot imagine anything more painful than that, and if there is an afterlife, this is a pain I'll bear forever.

I wasn't the greatest husband. I could have done so much more, a realization that, as it so often does, comes too late to matter. But I cherished every day I was married to Amanda. When everything else in my life seemed dark, she was always there to light the darkness. It is difficult to imagine my life being worth living without her having been in it. I hope and pray that she goes on without me and enjoys her life as much as she deserves. I can think of no one more deserving of happiness than her.

"I will see you again, in the place where no shadows fall."
Ambassador Delenn, Babylon 5

I don't know if there is an afterlife; I tend to doubt it, to be perfectly honest. But if there is any way possible, Amanda, then I will live up to Delenn's words, somehow, some way. I love you.

Posted at January 4, 2008 11:18 AM

Here's a link to the the late Major's blog.

Also, we strongly suggest you should read this related Rocky Mountain News report.

*(Cross posted at Appletree)

Labels: , , , , ,

04 January 2008

Willy Russell's Brilliant 'Blood Brothers' Revisited ...

Yesterday, on a day that America's Iowa caucus-circus unknowingly & unintentionally entertained (as only America can entertain), serious political pundits everywhere outside that country, we elected to venture out in search of some serious culture.

We braved the (blooming biting), bitter winter weather and went to our own beloved fair-seaport-city's famous 'Empire' theatre - where we watched once again a brother Liverpudlian's masterful musical drama - 'Blood Brothers' - a immensely inspirational creation of a tried, tested & true fellow scouser extraordinaire, Willy Russell.

Over several recent years we've now watched, listened to, laughed and wept our way through this brilliantly moving piece of musical theatre - three times in all.

Starring yesterday was ex 'New Seeker' Lyn Paul (shown above), whose wholly admirable & enjoyable performance came a fairly close second to our own particular favourite - by far - filler of the forlorn Mrs Johnstone's stage shoes -- ex Nolan Sisters' Bernie Nolan.

The other Mrs Johnstone we once watched was (probably the better known), Barbara Dickson.

Yesterday's supporting cast, musical director and orchestra were as good as any we've ever experienced.

Sadly, the latterly revised stage script was most certainly not.

For yesterday the 'F' word wasn't thrown in once or even twice, for (perhaps?) dramatic
effect -- but for far too many times.

It's not that we're prudes - in fact we couldn't be further away from same. Moreover, if this 'fouling up' of all earlier productions had actually helped make this super show better than it originally was, we'd no doubt have actually welcomed it.

But it didn't.

The fact is that quite to the contrary, it definitely detracted - since it was unarguably, and entirely gratuitous. And as such was nothing short a shame.

We can't help but wonder if Willy Russell is aware of these alterations - and if he is we'd love to learn what he, as the writer, thinks. Likewise, local lad made good (as an extremely impressive, multi-millionaire impresario), Bill Kenwright.

Willy Rusell.

Bill Kenwright.

Perhaps it's just another - in the words of one of the show's especially poignant songs - "Sign of the Times". If so, we're saddened.

All that being said, this is still a magnificently, marvelous piece of musical drama.

In conclusion, if the opportunity to see it ever presents itself, do not miss it - because, believe us - you'll be all the better for seeing it.

We guarantee it.

But unless and/or until this revised, class act is cleaned up (script-wise), please don't take any children.

We (as it transpired, rather regrettably), took our 12 year old granddaughter. She was dumbfounded. We were embarrassed. As were several other families we overheard expressing some similarly strong views as the Empire emptied after the show.

"Did yer ever 'ear the story of the Johnstone twins?
Both, born and died on the self same day."


Labels: , , , , , , ,

02 January 2008

Make A New Year Resolution To Stop Force Feeding Kids To Death With Fast/Fat/Junk Food ...


What we really want to know (really, really want to know), is why it took so many successive (so called, caring) British Governments so long to see some sodding sense.

Apart from their (constantly & callously lobbied for), perpetual pandering to filthy fat-cat, fast food, close to criminal profiteering of course -- entirely regardless of the fast becoming, fatally catastrophic cost to our kids.

Ban on junk food ads introduced

A ban on adverts for junk food during television programmes aimed at children under 16 has come into force.

Regulator Ofcom has outlawed adverts for foods high in fat, salt and sugar in an effort to tackle rising childhood obesity levels.

But broadcasters say the quality of children's programmes will be hit by the loss of an estimated £39m in advertising revenue.

The move is the latest stage in a phased crackdown on advertising during programmes aimed at or appealing to children.

In April 2007, junk food ads were banned during programmes made to appeal to seven to nine-year-olds.

And by December this year, dedicated children's channels will have to phase them out altogether.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls has said that UK children see some 10,000 television adverts a year and recognise 400 brands by the age of 10.

And surprise, surprise, there's even more (isn't there always?) where that came from.

Y'know, some (such as ourselves), see this sort of inexcusable serial-stuffing-fest, as nothing short of child abuse.

Increasingly, some of our children are slowly being force fed to death -- entirely as a result of a no holds barred, never ending battle (waged by all the usual suspects), to grab as big a slice as possible, of the already obviously obscene, junk food market mega-profits.

The bottom line, as appallingly unpalatable as it may first appear, is that these conscienceless crooks are now literally 'farming' us and our children, exactly as the animals we eat are farmed.

We are all now being 'farmed' - as perpetually profit producing, cattle-like, obsessive compulsive consumers. No more and no less.

Yep, really.

What's next? Soylent Green?

Meanwhile, millions of our fellow human beings, both young and old, are needlessly suffering and starving (worldwide), on a damned daily basis.

Anyway, have a nice day. (With great massive dollops of extras on the side).


*(Cross posted at Appletree)

Labels: , , , ,