Thursday 30 November 2006

Her wife and his husband in South Africa

Signed and sealed with a kiss – same-sex relationships are now legally recognized in South Africa, we can probably wait a century for that emancipation proclamation to travel north of those borders into other areas of Africa.

I wrote about the animosity same sex marriage was getting in Nigeria in April and someone commented and on it just 2 weeks ago.

His comment - So Mr. West (My new name) are you gay? It is the usual thing isn't it, it is acceptable in the West so it must be acceptable everywhere else, the rest of the world is ignorant, crude etc etc. Do you ask why it is now acceptable in the West only because of the break down of morality you may not like it but that is the truth.

He might have a point there, we think what is acceptable in the West must be accepted everywhere else.

However, the breakdown of morality thing does get to me, are non-Westerners adherents of better morals or prisoners of religious strictures that subscribe to the doctrine of “Do as I say?” – Well, that is debatable, read as rhetorical.

However, if we look at this issue from a perspective of justice, fairness, freedom of choice and association without the fear of persecution, then the civil law must not be used to impose moral values on a people.

What is even more interesting is where people are so up on morals but having nothing on ethical conduct, the abuse of women, the abuse of power, the abuse of influence, the abuse of children and the prevalence of disease, poverty, war and deprivation goes on as the leaders of our moral race dine and wine with impunity.

Morally bankrupt would need some redefining in the light of these issues.

Don't Panic! - it is only Polonium-210

The terror of poisons

We have been advised that the risk of being affected by Polonium 210 radiation is minuscule that we do not have to bother. But, the man died.

This is despite the innocuous but benign endangerment being found in 12 places in London, on three commercial planes involving contacting 3,000 British Airways crew and 30,000 passengers.

Don’t Panic!

One ex-Prime Minister of Russia is allegedly poisoned and in hospital.

To paraphrase a cliché, the only thing to panic about is panic itself – we are sitting calmly listening to all this propaganda that lures us into a great sense of terror and fear – expect a raid on our civil liberties soon.

If that radioactive material did come through Heathrow airport, air travel as we know it is dead.

As for the half-life of Polonium 210 being 138 days, we have a few more days to run on this matter as the plot thickens.

Meanwhile, if you do need the glow of radioactivity to kill your cockroach infested boudoir, for $69 you can order it online from the USA and it would be delivered to your door – Don’t Panic!

Left with the bread crumbs of Middle East diplomacy

I’m not doing dinner

It probably was an expression of glee that came across my face when last night we learnt that the Prime Minister of Iraq had decided not to join George W. Bush and the King of Jordan for dinner.

I should know the feeling, I should have been having dinner with my agent when for some “personal” reason she pulled out of the arrangement and then invited me for one of those dastardly Christmas parties where, I end up being the only sober one at 1:00AM listening to the drivel of inebriated colleagues – No thanks!

Every which way it was spun; it was a clear snub to the leader of the Free World who had squandered every opportunity to make a positive difference to world as his non-Midas touch begins to turn golden opportunities into cack-handed diplomacy.

We can, without America

There seems to be an “in spite of America” development in the Middle East; the Palestinians have negotiated a ceasefire with Israel which seems to be holding. Iraq has renewed diplomatic ties with Syria, and whilst Dubya was busy sulking about being blown out, the President of Iraq was being feted in Iran.

America should have been speaking to these countries for the peace and stability of Iraq, but their myopic sense of hubris has personalized what can only be realized through deliberation and consensus.

In the end, the country that used to be the mediator of grand Middle-Eastern handshakes was left trying to gather the crumbs of diplomacy falling from the table of self-determinant negotiations between neighbouring countries that recognize their need for each other.

So, Condoleezza Rice is on a scurry between Israel and Palestine, giving assurances and offering lame support, those are circumstances that America has with adept created for themselves.

It all comes out – sooner or later

Beyond that, 35 years before, as the India-Pakistan war came to be, some rather unpalatable things (bitch) were said of one of the principals in conversation, that recorded conversation made the light of day in 2005, tensions rose, with anger expressed, profuse apologies after from Henry Kissinger to the heirs of Indira Gandhi and the Indian people.

It did not stop the President of that time – a Richard Nixon from referring to her as an old witch – historians would be at pains not to consider the views of the President and his Secretary of State as policy or the standard with which they had dealings with India despite protestations to the contrary.

Leaks and no plumbers about

As we humans are the poorest students of history as a means of learning to do things better, Mr Nouri al Maliki’s snub came just when a leaked document from the National Security Adviser questioned the ability for the Iraqi leader to handle the mess that America created in the first place.

Obviously, there was the little issue of supporters at home in Iraq not keen on this Iraqi-American summit.

Mr. Stephen Hadley must have thought his advice would be covered by some official secrets diktat such that the dramatis personae would only have learnt of this poor vote of confidence 30 years on.

At the risk of sounding cynical, one can only wonder what they also think of their man in Afghanistan and beneath of the public veneer of great freedom and democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, the lesser known reality is the bluster is really an attempt to stage a suitable “cut and run”.

For now, it is too late to send any of these American diplomats for a course in Diplomacy 101 – What you never want discovered must never be thought, let alone spoken, if published, you are damned.

Now, taking applications for “How to be nice 001”.

Tuesday 28 November 2006

Verdonk in leadership slam dunk - Update

Goats in, Votes out

After the Dutch elections last week, I am still gob smacked about how the results have turned out. The ruling party (Christian Democratic Appeal - CDA) with its burgher, lack-lustre, dour leader who at times appears in need of a radical charismatic lobotomy after his anti-Harry Potter makeover, lead the team to another electoral victory.

He would now have a fourth bite at the cherry in 4 years, even the Dutch should be getting election weary.

Victory, in the sense that they won more seats in the Second Chamber, but 76 are needed to have a majority government, they got 41 losing 3 seats from the last time and needing 35 to form a majority government.

The opposition Labour Party got 33 losing 9 seats; the Socialist Party increased their share from 9 to 25 and the Liberal Party (VVD), the party of the Minister of dis-Integration and Emigration – Mrs Rita Verdonk, lost 4 seats to end up being the fourth party with 22 seats.

A Dutch coalition of pain

The old coalition of CDA, VVD and D66 would only garner 66 seats; however, it is unlikely that D66 would play having lost half their seats nor would they be seen in cahoots with Verdonk the cause of the fall of the last government.

The salutary lesson of this election is, people want more of the same with a lean to the left, then a bit of tough talk on those immigration and religious issues espoused by Geert Wilders whose locks once looked like a permanent lawyer’s wig. His new party of tough-talking intolerance pulled in 9 seats but he is too much of a firebrand to be called into a coalition – he was once in the Liberal Party – methinks we are in the death throes of liberalism in the Netherlands since the standard bearers of that ideology have lost electoral ground.

There is no doubt that a good few people would like to see Mrs Rita Verdonk sacked and pensioned off into obscurity, but not that easily.

She is back – again!

In 10 minutes, I heard the number 620,555 from her lips just as many times, the number of votes polled by Mrs Verdonk as number 2 in the VVD Party list which by circumstance happens to exceed the leader’s number by 50,000 votes. A precedent, they say.

Early on Tuesday, she said she would not challenge for the leadership of the party, having 4 months ago clearly lost the vote of the VVD party for the leadership, well, this evening she is back in a surreptitious and outrageous power grab for the leadership.

First by saying the people have spoken, she is probably more popular than the leader of her party, however, she would not challenge for the leadership of the party.

Rather, a commission should be set up to review this unique situation, and meanwhile, she is loyal to the party and to the leadership of Matt Rutte.

Rotten politics

If I have ever heard a fork-tongued, double-speak, back-stabbing, political about-face of the most slithering snake of treasonable political Brutus-tricks, Mrs Verdonk personifies the side of politics that would make you puke your toes from the inside – the moniker of Lady Oddjob now really fits.

There are rules for the election of a party leader and that is not decided by a general election, but by party membership, the leader only had 3 months to prepare for the elections, Mrs Verdonk has hugged the headlines for years with her tough stance on immigration and she neither won it within her party nor did she win it for her party.

If the VVD has a liability, it would be her, but like we have with the Weakest Link, the party members may not see through this political travesty of honour and integrity.

For a person who being unelected caused the fall of a government to now want to reap the fruits of democratic ascendancy, shows that she has all ambition and has little to show in political maturity or leadership – it would be not surprise me if like the List Pim Fortuyn, her leadership of the VVD leads the party to political obscurity through in-fighting and rancour – some lessons do have to be learnt the hard way and the Liberal Party looks like a ready and willing student.

Update – 29/11/2006

Having not been able to persuade the party hierarchy to establish an unnecessary commission, to examine the unique situation of the party leader polling less than the next person in the party list; Mrs. Verdonk has now pledged allegiance to the party and thrown her weight behind the party leader respecting the decision of the party to retain Mark Rutte and the leader of the Liberal Party (VVD).


The Verdonk Blog Trail

The Lady Oddjob Blog Trail

Sunday 26 November 2006

Do not cross the cross

Handbagging rotten design

“Terrible, terrible, absolutely terrible”, she said as she covered those so-called “world designs” with a handkerchief and walked off with her trademark Salvatore Ferragamo handbag.

Years, before, they paid hefty legal fees, generous compensation and ate humble pie as their institutionalised “dirty tricks” campaign against a business man who does not wear a suit blew up in their faces.

The was the watershed, the comeuppance of the domineering influence of the bastions of British establishment as the common man refused to be cowed by overbearing and reckless abuse of privilege to perpetrate what is patently wrong.

Secular uniforms for the working pagans

Generally, British Airways just seems to find a way of hugging the spotlight for the wrong reasons which border on the inexplicable earning brick-bats from all people of stature till they are forced to adopt what is supposed to be the common sense view.

There are people who would promote the secularist argument about religious symbols and apparel, and this excites social and political comment nowadays with the veil and the burqa.

The cross, a symbol of Christianity was the centre of a debate that had the principled stance of a BA employee elicit the support of civil liberties and put the BA in the crosshairs of religious disappointment and political opprobrium.

Eventually, the fence-sitting Archbishop of Canterbury finally cantered into the debate having flown to Rome in a BA flight – read as a tacit approval of the BA stance or a lack of conviction on a rather serious religious issue.

The employee had gotten suspended for wearing a cross having not been able to reach an agreement with her employers to compromise on a basic inoffensive principle – visibly wearing a cross no bigger than a small coin.

Disappearing Christianity in Europe

This is not the only problem with the way Christianity is being consigned to ignominious irrelevance, you only have to visit a card shop and notice how few cards talk of Christmas and many more talk of Winterval, Seasons Greetings and so on – God forbid, the mention the Christ or Jesus – people might find it offensive to hear about Christmas but be willing to take the holiday and the knock-down sales of the consequent days.

We now have to apologise for being Christian in Europe as people cannot profess their faith publicly because a foreign but non-indigenous faith is gaining prominence. We know the dominance of those faiths in their origin-lands is used to persecute other faiths, with impunity.

Sometimes, it appears political correctness is thumping commonsense values to the chagrin of many and this is becoming unacceptable leading to growing animosity between formerly accommodating societies and the seething intolerance to visiting cultures.

Teaching an old dog …

Now, that BA has backed down from this unsupportable stance having made us cringe from the bluster of official-speak and semantics, the impending boycott of their services can be suspended. Till the bishop customer cannot wear a visible large cross, the imam cannot wear a turban or show his prayer beads or some other inspired idea that a publicity faux-pas official can dream up to bring the BA back into the spotlight of every stupid thing that exemplifies British-ness (Brutishness). Just what we need – every time.

If British Airways can learn any lessons, it would be, you must not cross the cross.


New Tory cover-up shock

BA turns tail on colours

BBC ON THIS DAY | 11 | 1993: BA dirty tricks against Virgin cost £3m

Christian BA employee to take legal action over suspension for wearing cross

Saturday 25 November 2006

And the man died ...

Rare poisons

A few days ago, my DVD buff friends was over and we happened to see on of his Star Trek episodes (Death Wish), this one to do with the a Q who wanted to commit suicide – in the end, he obtained a rare poison that the computers on Voyager could not find an antidote for, this was because the poison was obtained outside of the realms of available knowledge, it was called Nogatch Hemlock – and the man died.

On 9/11 28 years ago, a man sought refuge in London and found a platform from which to criticise the government and policies of his home country, he had just walked over Waterloo Bridge when for some reason he got stabbed with an umbrella.

It so happened that the umbrella was a dart gun that injected a ricin capsule into his thigh, four days after that attack, having waited 9 years after his defection – the man died.

Slow death through unknown causes

Over the last week, we watched as a young man who sought exile in the UK and had become a British citizen, but attacked policies of his original home government where he had worked for the secret service – decay slowly as all speculated on what kind of poison might have been fed the man.

At first, it was thought Thallium, but further tests discounted that supposition, each day his systems failed till he had a heart attack and the eventually – the man died.

Then, they found out, he had somehow ingested Polonium 210, the last time I read about Polonium I was reading the history of Marie Curie and her work in radiation which eventually lead to her receiving the Nobel Prize - Polonium was named for the country of her birth, which at the time was not independent – it was auspiciously political, highlight the plight of her homeland.

The realities and the mirages

Whilst we have been distracted with the spectacular War on Terror, we watched the slow death of another man who being a victim of terror unmentionable left traces of radiation in a restaurant, a hotel, his home and no doubt the 2 hospitals in which he received treatment.

As it dawns on us that a “so-called” dirty bomb can be dispensed without the fanfare of a cack-handed Al Qaeda operative – it need not be a bomb, it only needs a host – but the material if administered in the sushi bar would most likely have contaminated the food batch on that day and subsequent days.

Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko had become a dissident having left Russia, which only recently had its Parliament approve a - James Bond “Licence to kill” – opportunity to take out dissidents even in foreign countries – but we should not get ahead of ourselves.

Putin on people of no significance

Mr. Litvinenko was investigating the brutal murder of Anna Stepanovna Politkovskaya in Russia who only died just about 7 weeks ago, then Mr Putin was meeting with Angela Merkel – he dismissively noted that Anna was not an influential person and as such all this media circus around her death was unnecessary.

This time, as Alexander died in London yesterday, Mr Putin was in Finland meeting with the EU, in the midst of offering condolences he alluded to the medical report that his death was not so violent.

Now, Mr Putin might be the last person you want to challenge to a game of poker, but I would like to understand how these people’s lives could be so trivialised.

Then some ex-KGB person suggested Alexander might just have been a victim in the settling of scores in turf wars amongst Russians in London, now, that is not an original stance to take – Saudi Arabia, years ago dismissed terrorist attacks as alcohol turf wars amongst Westerners until it became too evident that the kingdom was under siege.

Given that is the case, if Russian gangs can obtain something so dangerous and administer it so professionally in the right dose to create the desired effect of the victim walking away before realising he had been done – we live in more perilous times than Al Qaeda can deliver through jet planes, suicide bombers or incitements to violence.

Shackled to energy of compromise

Unfortunately, we cannot be firm with Russia because they supply 25% of our European gas requirements, the softly-softly approach allows for us to appease the rolling back of the frontiers of democracy in Russia.

However, as our inertia, complacency, hesitation and détente gets the better of a principled lecture on the value of human life and the freedom of expression, it would not be long before entering any public place would include being checked out with a Geiger-Müller counter.

The unknown and unexplained might just be made obvious as the crackling and ticking detects alpha and beta radiation.

As for Mr Litvinenko, depending on the level of radiation in his body, I would suspect is appreciable, the Caesium radiation dispersal in Goiania, Brazil offers an unfortunate lesson – they are first put in lead coffins and buried in concrete.

It was a murder most horrid, the culprits might never be found as the possibility of radioactive material entering the UK as diplomatic baggage (my speculation) is going to make this story run into the less expected areas.

Friday 24 November 2006

Of service in Nigerian businesses

The old Wazobia

At times, I have the opportunity to avail myself of services of Nigerian businesses, though more because they offer a service; I can rarely find anywhere else.

I however worry about the possibility of those businesses turning a success with the lax attitudes and poor professionalism that exemplifies the owners of those outfits.

Finding myself in Antwerp this weekend, I left my executive suite and traipsed past the exquisite restaurant to a dinghy Nigerian restaurant (New Wazobia) or rather “buka” two streets away to have goat meat pepper soup and possibly some pounded yam and spinach.

For the lack other places to go for Nigerian fare, I have frequented this place with a prayer and great risk to my health; I have doggedly returned despite at least two attributable cases for food poisoning.

Many a time, I have had to ask for a glass rather than drink through a straw and the food is served so unnaturally hot because the stuff gets tossed in a microwave oven and one is at risk of scalding from the food rather than the plates, as one would have with Western type dishes.

Waiting for no waiter

Anyway, I was there this evening took a seat was acknowledged by the regular crowd and nigh on 15 minutes, there was no sign of a waiter and I was done with waiting.

So, I took my coat, hat, scarf and umbrella and left without event.

As I returned to my hotel, the bellboy who was all over like a rash came forward to retrieve the umbrella he offered me on my way out, and I took the opportunity to ask about the restaurant.

I got details of all that was on offer and he offered to get me a reservation whilst I returned to my room to get into something less stuffy. A table at the window, fine red wine, my steak – half-bleeding – utterly succulent, an inspired menu creation that was set on a bed of spinach and bedecked with a slab of foie gras, smiling and helpful staff, live music to boot.

Then I think to myself, why suffer for a taste of home if the service is so atrocious, I would consider it utterly unacceptable in any other place.

World Cup to rotten dump

My experience of Nigerian businesses does not end there, during the Paris World Cup, my cousin arranged that we could watch Nigeria – Bulgaria in Paris, I paid just a few pounds short of a thousand to get the two of us out to Paris on a bus with other Nigerians, a place in the stadium to watch my team and a night in Paris.

As it transpired, we arrived just in time to hear the last chords of the Bulgarian National Anthem, the Nigerian one having gone first, then we finally got our seats.

For excitement, electricity and good times, this was one I really enjoyed, I probably never saw the ball as it passed round the field but in the end, I had no voice with which to speak for hours.

We then gathered back in the bus for our next rendezvous which was on the outskirts of Paris, it took two hours to find which happened to be a Formule 1 Hotel – I could not believe it – it had bunk beds, the shower was literally above the toilet, if you could squeeze into that bath-toi-room-let.

What could have been, amongst our company was a man who had traveled all the way from Nigeria along with quite a few well-to-do career people – the desire to make maximum profit spoilt an otherwise beautiful day.

We did not quibble, we just took a taxi back into the town centre and got ourselves rooms in suitable hotels – if I can get better arrangements elsewhere, Nigerian-owned businesses have a lot of work to do to gain my custom – they just cannot compete if they exude such greed or lack of attention to customer relationships.

Saturday 18 November 2006

Bringing the Burqa down on the Dutch elections

Electoral opportunism

Only a few days ago, I did wonder if there was anything going on for the Dutch elections on Tuesday.

Then, the Minister of Integration & Immigration, Mrs. Rita Verdonk suggested the idea of banning the burqa was not a discussion point before the elections. Well, that is no more the case, the cabinet having received legal advice that the ban on the burqa would not contravene Dutch law has voted to approve a ban.

This, with just one working day to the elections smacks of opportunistic electioneering by courting controversy. This decision could have been kept on hold till after the elections, but pandering to this cause sends a signal to the electorate about some perceived toughness on un-integrated Muslims and might garner votes from those who may not have seen through this abuse of process.

A seriously flawed leader

The cabinet is a caretaker cabinet which came about because the self-same Mrs. Verdonk, who whilst adhering to the rules about immigration and indigenisation could not interpret those rules with initiative, discretion, compassion and a humane perspective.

This really irked the legislative chamber, that they called her to defend her policies five times, however, the same chamber never had the courage to sanction her, rather, and it was the judiciary that did more to check executive excesses and abuse of office, privilege and procedure.

Her liberal party must have noticed these leadership flaws that they refused to vote her into leadership; rumours now have it that she is vying for the position of deputy Prime Minister – I despair.

How a lame duck cabinet which only had a few days of legitimate existence could pass a motion so radical and controversial, without drawing the ire of the electoral commission and some other judicial body escapes me – it probably shows a weakness the concept of Dutch democracy.

The helmet and the burqa

The interesting thing about this burqa law is that it might affect all kinds of wear that cover or protect the eyes when one is in a public place, on the street or using public facilities. That would include helmets, visors, possibly ski-wear and winter wear, but these have to be included to allow this thinly veiled Islamophobic law to pass.

I expect a few good challenges to this law because it is bad, it is unnecessary, it is blatant, shameless opportunistic electioneering and it does nothing for promoting the perception of Dutch liberality or tolerance.

Then, we learn that there can only be 50 to 100 wearers of the burqa in a population of 16 million in the Netherlands.

It makes you wonder, how a non-issue can gain so much momentum on the perception of a non-existent threat to generate unnecessary clamour and lead to a controversial law that targets a minuscule minority and would affect a reasonable majority who need to care about their welfare and safety.

As an expatriate, Dutch politics never ceases to amaze me.

Cabinet backs plan to ban burka

Dutch Muslims condemn burqa ban

Friday 17 November 2006

Bush finally takes the draft - Vietnam

Cuba ja!

90 miles from a southern cape of the United States of America lies a country that through the adversity of isolation by atrocious embargos has learnt self-sufficiency even though has a government not to the liking of administrations in the US since the 60s.

Then America had a swagger with a 20-gallon hat as they tried to overthrow the government of that island, hoping people would come out on the streets to support a foreign insurrection and eventually lead to ridding Cuba of the “scourge” of Communism – sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

It would appear that many have not learnt of wallowing in the mess of the Bay of Pigs and now, Mess-O-potamia is still a rotten mess and Communism still lives.

A dodge, fudge or a smart?

Then America went to war to rid a faraway land of Communism, somehow, the people who rule today from the comfort of Pennsylvania Avenue never got to do what their pals did, go out there to die for their country.

The gunman of dunking received five deferments; whilst he might have adhered to the letter of the law in getting the deferments, he did not imbibe the spirit of the same law. He was being a student in university thrice, getting married and having kids.

Reminds me of John Kerry again, even then, if you were in university you did not get stuck in a war, you were smart enough to get deferments.

The Commander-in-Chief then joined the rich men’s kids airplane club (Texas Air National Guard) and it appears he never got to take off, probably because he was not there, allegedly.

Now in Commune with faraway Communists

As it transpired, the Americans ended up pulling out of Vietnam having not been able to defeat Communism – only yesterday, the president was hopeful of getting a trade deal approved by Congress, but that did not happen.

Anyway, the President is now reporting for duty in Hanoi, Vietnam for the summit of Asian Leaders.

President & Laura Bush arrive in Hanoi - MSNBC / Vincent Thian / AP

He would also be paying a courtesy call on the Secretary General of the Communist Party, I can only imagine how different things would have been if America had had the magnanimity to pay courtesy calls to the government in Havana.

Cuba is at the forefront of affordable quality medicine – America’s is broken; they are also very organized at disaster management – Katrina was the shaming of America and it is debatable if Cuba has anything that has a patch on Guantanamo Bay.

The unpalatable comparisons

My crystal ball does not like the cold, condensation on the inside of the glass means I may not be able to see things clearly.

However, a window into the future appears, I hit the streets in my haggard witch costume, wailing like a banshee.

Woe, woe, three times woes, I see in Mesopotamia, the shame of Saigon; as peace finds no respite in a land brought to destruction on the flight of a lie.

The many who were carried out having arrived on their feet would not the maidens back home anymore countenance.

We shall leave soon and no sooner than the mess in Mesopotamia has overwhelmed us with more shame than the retreat from Saigon.

Hear, O Dubbiyew, your Saigon has come for the King of Terror has for his kingdom Iraq chosen.

Phew! That crystal does take you places.

Wednesday 15 November 2006

Being fooled out of my liberty for temporary safety

Hating our freedoms

Each time I hear that mantra about terrorists hating our freedoms, I look at how we have systematically moved beyond what terrorists might have intended with how we have curtailed our own freedoms in the quest for safety.

In the Netherlands, until about a year ago, it was OK to walk around with a photocopy of your identity like passport and offer the real thing when specifically asked at a later date.

For people who are not Dutch citizens, their identity is really kept in their passports and they have to carry that around with them amidst the clamour about illegal immigrants and crime, nobody has thought about the additional consequences of the loss of such important documents – they just want to see your identity, no other questions asked.

Air Travel Gloom

Months ago, I spelt the end of the joy of air travel with those outrageous restrictions predicated on people who were going to blow up trans-Atlantic flights that they would probably have boarded without passports, tickets and by mixing baby milk and toothpaste, scenting it with some celebrity piss water.

We now have uniform European regulations about what you can carry on board a flight; my advise, check it all on, forget the hand baggage stuff, they even take my cane off me so that I can hobble through the screening machine.

Besides, considering the Islamophobia that surrounds some of these benign rules, we pay homage by having to take off our shoes, just as if I were entering a mosque.

Now my bank

Nothing really got to me more than when I got this letter in the weekend requiring me to visit a branch of my bank within 10 working days to show my identity and give my signature to be recorded in some secure system – probably available to some secret service personnel anywhere in the world.

The fact is, if the data is collected, no matter the assurances at collection, it can be unscrupulously accessed, laws can change granting untrammelled access to the data on the premise of protecting our security.

The veiled threat, even though I have run the account for about 7 years and it has probably handled transactions that total over half a million Euros, is, they will be forced to block my account with the comforting statement – We naturally assume that this would not be necessary.

The kind of statement you can expect if the matron at Guantanamo Bay called round to pat your head, or maybe, give you a dunking.

Identity card flawed logic

This follows the premise that having an identity card prevents terrorism, as if the document has a bleeper that indicates a terrorist is in the vicinity.

The other thing would be if banks have been offered a watch list such that you walk into the bank and before you know it, truck loads of armed personnel are shooting down the door to cart you away a cadaver victim of excitable but suspect intelligence.

None of this stuff bodes well for our civil liberties and we are lead like helpless sheep to the slaughter of all was won and blood spilt for in the last century.

Fooled out of liberty

I should now expect a visit to the bank that handles my mortgage, then one to the bank that handles my credit card, I wonder if I have to go to Brighton to get certified to use my American Express card – where would all this end?

Then, I suddenly, I wonder if I am deserving of my freedom or liberty as our parliamentarians allow the politics of fear, the lifeblood of the war on terrorism to obliterate the essential context of Benjamin Franklin’s words of over 250 years ago.

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety” – What do we have left of our liberty and how safe do we feel?

Beyond that, I would give Abraham Lincoln the last word on this matter, in the midst of all that is being done to ensure we are no more caught unawares by terrorist, are we being fooled or taken for fools?

“You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all the time”

Bush learnt that lesson last week; hopefully, more people would refuse to be fooled anymore by this phoney war of power trips and marauding police states in Western democracies, in the name of the war on terror.


Liquid Bombers Prove: “They hate our freedoms”

Freedom, the prison of civil society

Getting my head examined

As I wrote about South Africa recognising same-sex relationships, there could be people who still think homosexuals should have their heads examined – I say, maybe we should all have our heads examined – the story of the man below shows that some people just have to come to terms with who they are regardless what others think about them or their lifestyles.

Loving yourself

And the story goes and this is not half the whole tale, as he relaxed and settled into the couch chatting to his shrink to help exorcise the demons that have plagued his life since he could ever remember.

How do you get to the greatest love of all? The ability to love yourself for who you are and then go out to the world and help people get beyond where they have limited themselves.

Feelings and men

So, he starts, I have had feelings for men since I was 7, I always wondered why; beyond the sexual abuse by my aunt and other seemingly innocuous bodily tampering by the house servants, something pleasurable about this thing was seemingly not right – I should get my head examined.

Why, bother? I would grow out of it, then in secondary school, the first time I heard the word copulate, it was one boy asking me if we could play, and play we did – I should get my head examined.

So, I had “friends”, not lovers, sex, but not as we all know it, I was a ladies man to everyone, but I had my eyes on men – something inside, so strong, maybe I am going mad – I should get my head examined.

The religion of self-loathing

It did not really become an issue till when I took religion, the animosity, and the uncompromising message of abominable deeds that got preached out to me more than the gospel – so, it was guilt, self-loathing, self-flagellation and the desire to die, then times seemed good before one fell into the self-same quagmire of abominable sin and incessant confession – I should really get my head examined.

We had deliverance, we prayed like the world was at an end, the Bible was my headstone, but my mind sought men. We were told, people had changed, they were gay and now they are married with kids – There must be something wrong with me, must get my head examined.

Secrets that amaze

Then, a leader of one of those self-help groups died and it transpired that neither his wife nor his children knew about his old life, so no one could send condolences to his wife – this is no life – We all should get our heads seriously examined.

The path to marriage beckoned, I will take me a wife and it would all be well, or so it was with the leader of an evangelical movement in America, then it all came tumbling down, he has been canoodling with men in secret whilst condemning gay marriage from the pulpit – Now, that is one head that needs examining.

Born gay or thinks gay

The fear of AIDS could not compel us to change our ways, the mission was to find comfort and solace in the arms of another man, is this thing in the mind or is there more than meets the eye?

They now say, we were probably born gay, who is going to find the gay gene and get it out before we are unleashed on the world, corrupting its values in self-loathing and pride, whichever way you see it.

How much of a minority can you be? Being black, being gay and being told you need to have your head checked out – a benign type of bigotry that portends to live and let live, but pronounces judgment questioning the sanity of homosexuality.

Sometimes, one asks, why would anyone want to go against the grain, against the norms, against the majority and against conforming to what is expected – why take the hard way and still end up being vulnerable, victimised, discriminated against and so on.

Being a homosexual does not make you any less a professional than you should be, it does not make you any less a contributor to society than the other person – they want your money, they want your taxes, but no, they would not recognise who you are.

Accepting who I am

As he got up from the couch, the shrink looking in need of a shrink herself, offered him a cup of tea and as he sipped from the cup, he said – I have won the biggest battle, I think, accepting who I am.

She replied, that is what I have been trying to get to you in all the sessions we have had, you do not need your head examined, rather, whoever is giving that advice might be in need of some re-education on this matter – they just do not know what it is to be a homosexual.

He put on his pink suede shoes and as he stepped out of the door, he took a whiff of the fresh air and knew he would have a gay day.

That afternoon of therapy came about as a comment on my blog advises that homosexuals should have their heads examined – I would have agreed in the 1950s when they were put in sanatoriums, surely, that cannot be the remedy to acceptance.

Inviting Moi to a gay marriage in South Africa

Meet my husband

Somehow, it is interesting how America gets so excitable about protecting the sanctity of traditional marriage; by attacking every concept that allows consensual partnerships between same sexes to attain a recognition that legally validates what is essentially accepting a next-of-kin - someone that is neither a blood relation nor a spouse in the traditional sense.

I think I have exhausted arguments about the fact that assailing gay marriage does not automatically strengthen the bonds of traditional marriage. Only recently, I revealed studies that indicated that the regions in America that are most against gay marriage have the highest divorce rates.

Surely, that cannot be because of gay marriage, the biggest question being – “How does gay marriage affect the relationship between you and your spouse?” – If it does, you have a problem in your marriage that needs sorting out and if it does not, why are you busy-bodies in other people’s private business?

UnAfrican or unacceptably African

Then we come to homosexuality in Africa, where many leaders have from pulpits, rostrums and lecterns condemned the concept as un-African.

I have news, the parliament in South Africa just voted to recognize same-sex relationships but a margin of 230 votes to 41, so literally 5 out 6 parliamentarians see nothing out of ordinary with Mr. and Mr. A. N. Other or Ms. and Ms. L. U. V. Sher attending the ambassador’s soiree.

Obviously, there are dissenters, how a vote on equality of recognition becomes a blow against democracy, escapes me, but the Catholic Cardinal Napier must be reading the Apocryphal book on Democracy, even so; that from a church that has not come to terms with atrocious and despicable child abuse scandals amongst their priests.

Another religious leader said the consenters would face divine wrath; well, if the tyranny of the majority and the acceptance of bigoted stances to issues of consensual free will is Christianly, I would like to see how these people can be persuaded to come to Church, in the light of such vitriol.

Refuse, but professionally

There is however a provision in the bill that allows officials to refuse to officiate in confirming such partnerships on the premise of “conscience, religion and belief”. I would hope that those who refuse would do that with professionalism and dignity rather that destroy that happy day with a public protest and dissent that would just raise hackles.

In my view, if that does happen, much as I would like that official to be disciplined, they might also become martyrs to the cause of bigotry.

This vote came about because members of the ruling African National Congress were given a three-line-whip to vote for the bill – if I may, a majority of those would have been black African – so much for the un-African-ness of homosexuality.

Would South Africa now be expelled from the African Union for adopting a seemingly un-African and “immoral” stance? I think NOT!


Same-sex unions in South Africa

Whip (Politics)

How the term 'Whip' came to be used in Parliament

Tuesday 14 November 2006

Are we voting in 8 days time?

A Quite Quiet Dutch Election

In the Netherlands, we are deep into electioneering as the parliament is to be elected on the 22nd of November 2006.

Unlike the United States where one would have been bombarded with adverts in televisions, billboards, radio and any other communication medium you can think of; I could imagine a time when they would be able to invade your dreams and plan voting thoughts into would make you suddenly break out of sleep in cold sweat reaching for your gun – I have noticed nothing here in the Netherlands.

In fact, we have billboards set up in particular locations where parties and their activists can post their bills, this society could be so egalitarian, and it is scary.

By proportion to a list

Anyway, I received the list of candidates in my mailbox; we have a system of proportional representation, each party has a list of candidates where the person at number 1 is most likely to be elected and the last is least likely, it is a hierarchy but not as we know it.

When the votes are cast, the percentage of the polled votes against the total votes is computed to determine the number of seats gained as a proportion of the total number of seats contested by all parties, the party then fills the seats starting from number one to the fulfilled number.

The party with the most seats gains the right to seek out a coalition of other parties with which to form a government.

I cannot vote in the Netherlands, but I do have the right to vote if as a European citizen from the UK, I decide to chuck in my British passport for a Dutch one, why would I do such a thing?

I already can vote for the local elections and that is fine by me.

Listing all controversy

A number of things are quite interesting about the list; we have the Christian Unie (Christian Union) which is somewhat conservative evangelical that aligns itself with the Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij - SGP (Reformed Political Party) an ultra-conservative curmudgeon of repressed religionists.

The SGP made the news earlier in the year and were on the verge of losing government funding for not allowing women to participate in the voting process, they do not believe in female suffrage – yes, we have those types in liberal Netherlands.

The CU however, does have men and women on their list; I would say nothing about hypocrisy in this respect.

Illiberal by personality

Then we have the Liberal Party, the VVD which is in coalition in government with the CDA, the party of the man who used to look like Harry Potter.

I for one cannot find what is liberal about the VVD, being the haven of my most revered Lady Oddjob, the Minister for dis-Integration (sic) and emigration (Immigration), Mrs Rita Verdonk whose antics have caused Dutch politics great disservice without remorse.

She happens to be the reason why we have having early elections having mucked up a number of asylum and citizenship issues that the government had to fall, the circumstances around Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s loss of Dutch citizenship and then the reinstatement of the same brought it all to a head.

Mrs Verdonk has never been elected, only appointed, she contested for the leadership of the VVD and came second, thankfully, but in the process, she has landed herself the number 2 position in the VVD party list which means she would become a member of parliament without fail.

Verdonk the enigma

Her initiatives have included calling for the abolition of the Equal Treatment Commission based on the fact that they ruled that a Muslim woman may decide not to shake hands with men and offer alternative greeting methods – I think that is a sensible assessment of the situation, it is quite different from wearing a veil in a class of children.

I have met devout Muslim women who do not shake hands, I respect that decision, in fact, in one instance, a class mate of mine simply clasped her hands and then extended them to lift my outstretched hand, and observers thought I had been accorded more than anyone had every elicited from her, I was honoured.

Equal because of inequalities

It is not that I have required services from the Equal Treatment Commission or in the case the UK the Equal Opportunities Commission, but those commissions exist because of inequalities in society, discrimination, abuse, bullying and many other things that allow dominant cultures to take undue advantage of minorities.

A democracy can well be the voice of the majority, but it should also protect the civil rights of the minority, we cannot have the tyranny of the majority persecuting and prosecution the minority, it makes for societal chaos where terrorism might be employed to fight tyranny.

Nobody seems to have taken to that kite she has flown, so, we would probably hear no more about it, this is the same woman who at one time suggested that Dutch should be the only language spoken on the streets of the Netherlands.

She has a heart of stone

After much protesting, she had considered sending 2 Iranian homosexuals back to Iran in the light of the fact that homosexuals had recently been hanged in that country – saying she had received assurances that no harm would come to the men.

Or, when her ministry passed on information of asylum seekers to repressive regimes that would have laid wait for deported failed asylum seekers, not to mention the fact that witnesses to a fire in an illegal immigrant detention camp were deported before they could give evidence on the matter, she having given assurances to the investigator that they would be retained till they are not needed anymore.

This is the catalogue of events that makes the Dutch vote her as the most popular politician and an Iron Lady, warped as this might seem, it is difficult for an expatriate like me to convince the everyday Dutch person that Mrs Verdonk is anything but nice.

We should soon expect the bombshell of civilizations, we have been intimated that there would for now be no ban on the burka, if the VVD wins, expect a ban of being a minority.


Friday 10 November 2006

Anally explosive

Hooked on crochet

At first, I thought I had flipped pages in my Housewives Weekly from the latest rage of crochet patterns to uncanny old wives tales, so, I sniggered and that grew into a guffaw, it could not be true.

Well, it seems to be one of the biggest stories on the BBC News website, apparently, a 22-year old man put a Black Cat Thunderbolt Rocket up his backside and set it alight – well, it went off and the new treatment of colonic conflagration is born.

I suddenly felt like a Darwin moment, but we were not offered the name of the poor thing lest we trace up the line the likely recessive gene that allowed this act of extreme entertainment to take place, he qualifies for the Darwin Award – only just.

Lock him up

That however does not mean I would not cherish a Galton moment in ensuring that the young man is consigned to a sanatorium and permanently curtailed in a strait-jacket where he can do neither the public nor himself any harm.

Obviously, some might blame this on the impressionable acts on Jackass, well, it shows how the world has changed that utter cretins and dunces that make mules look cute have become staple entertainment and people pay to see them.

If at 22, a man does not know that a Black Cat Thunderbolt Rocket would not take you to moon as fast as it could put you 6-feet under or conclude your cremation long before your last breath, I do wonder and fear for mankind.

As if to corroborate John Kerry’s view of dumb soldiers, the man is a squaddie and we wonder why Iraq is in the state that it is?

One additional instruction that should go on fireworks, from now on, should surely be. “Do NOT launch this from your buttocks”, with the reminder - " are not a cartoon character".

Thursday 9 November 2006

A straight flush - Democrats win all

Seeking food for rage

Everyone once in a while, I allow the multitude of channels on my digital television subscription to excite my curiosity. The group of channels that come under the title of News and Documentaries has a lot to offer, probably 15 or so channels in all.

Then I look for one that would rile me, fill me with righteous indignation and leave me incandescent with rage and as I am astonished at what has come to my hearing.

No, channel excites that much vile and negative emotion than the Fox News Channel – anyone who gets a daily dose of that staple is bound to need augmented mental support be it medicinal or surgical – but, some are just so attuned to the stuff that they call opinion coming from pundits that would not qualify for the analysis of kindergarten skittles.

Giving a wet fish slap

The opinion is so malformed, skewed and radically “conservative” read Republican, none of which can bear educated scrutiny.

Only last week, they had people on who could not imagine the possibility of the Democrats taking the House of Representatives talk less of the Senate, as I sat and listened to the analysis, I saw myself pick up a decently sized wet fish, swinging it with the finesse of a Justine Henin-Hardenne backhand till it hit the pundit square in the face and do that three or four times till he woke up and smelt the coffee.

The President has lost this hand

Well, methinks we have moved beyond the cheap poker hand of a full house and now have a straight flush, the Democrats having taken the House of Representatives and just over an hour ago, the Senate too.

The President was left with a high card and with nothing to flop; he had to fold with the loss of a big bet (Rumsfeld). He now has to be smart with his new hand because, he probably does not have that many chips to play fast and loose anymore. The boy born with a silver foot in his mouth has done what they all do, squander favour, resources, goodwill, life and opportunity.

When we have a Royal Flush (Presidency & Congress) in November 2008 with Hillary Rodham Clinton as President-elect, the fox-hunting season might have been over with the hounds fully sated – basically, Americans cannot afford to have the ilk of the Fox News Channel continue to skew debate with impunity.

As for Dubbiyew, if I shed a tear for the loss of last Tuesday'elections, it would have been for the lives that missed the opportunity for a change to the misguided Iraq escapade.

Wednesday 8 November 2006

Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin - Rumsfeld gone!

Gates open as Rumsfeld steps out

I had probably lost my voice well over a year ago in asking that Donald Rumsfeld either resign or be sacked for his mishandling of Iraq.

In politics, when your boss expresses confidence in you when you are under pressure, it is probably your boss about to pull the carpet from under your feet.

Only two days ago, the President said he would keep Rumsfeld and Cheney till the end of his term, he has kept one part, it is the end of his term with the loss of the sycophantic and toothless Republican dominated Congress to the Democrats.

Bush has reached a Belshazzar moment, even though the handwriting of the polls had been on the wall for quite a while about the change in the power dynamic of Congress, the president refused to read and understand the message, especially on Iraq.

So, Donald Rumsfeld is to be pensioned off; he has resigned with immediate effect, so the unknown unknowns can now read as the inscription of old – Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin – they have all been weighed in balances and found wanting – such is the way of democracy.

Robert Gates might well open the gates to new thinking on the war on terrorism.

Tuesday 7 November 2006

From His Disgrace to Her Grace

The trap of gay marriage

Just in the month of November 2006, 2 notable religious people captured our imagination with one overtaking the headlines as the US elections came upon us.

At the centre was the issue of gay marriage; one supported the notion in the church and the other spat hail and brimstone from the pulpit excoriating every thought of that idea.

As we know, the issue of gay marriage was supposedly used to swing the votes in undecided states in favour of the President George Bush’s re-election in 2004 and the same thing is being mooted for the election that is currently taking place today.

The party of sins

The received wisdom is if this juxtaposed against Republican or Democratic candidate, the gush of liberalism that has been used to tarnish the Democrats would lead religious conservatives, namely, evangelicals to vote for Republicans who have arrogated to themselves the seeming moniker of the “Party of God”.

If anything, it now appears the Republican Party has become the party of sinners from lobbying misdeeds (Abramoff), fundraising indictments (De Lay) or inactivity to sexual predation (Foley), just to mention a few.

Against gay marriage but for divorce

The gay marriage issue which I have written about a few times is quite a hot-button issue in America, but the more interesting part is that it has no relationship to the protection of traditional marriages.

Massachusetts, the only state to legalise gay marriage has the lowest divorce rate in the United States, whilst the highest divorce rates can be found in the Bible belt where they are implacably against gay marriage as research reveals.

It is like a case of they cannot keep together and would not allow others to get together, bizarre but true.

Daytime saint and night time sinner

However, lightening struck when a gay escort went public accusing a leading evangelical leader of having a sex relationship lasting 3 years and abusing drugs. In what is outrageous cant and brazen shameless hypocrisy, he was having homosexual pleasures privately and condemning gay marriage publicly – that is just not on.

So, he resigned his appointment and he was, as it were, defrocked, just about the same time, someone else was taking on the frock.

A woman attended her investiture as the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States.

Not only have we moved beyond the ordination of women, she supported the consecration of a gay bishop which is causing schism in the church she has not taken a negative stance against gay marriage.

Obviously, the police do have to go back to investigate the peddling of drugs by the gay escort amongst other possible misdemeanours, but that is not news, in the midst of what is a religious earthquake.

In one week, we move from His Disgrace to Her Grace, the way of religion is sometimes unsearchable.


US Divorce rates

Episcopal Church elects female leader

Church forces out Haggard for 'sexually immoral conduct'

First Woman Elected as Leader of US Episcopal Church

Katharine Jefferts Schori

Monday 6 November 2006

Kerry not plenty smart on the truth about cannon fodder

The truth lost out

It is a shame that when John Kerry botched that dig at the President which became a cannon fodder joke, the truth of the whole matter got consumed in the outrage that forced him to first apologise and then adopt a seriously low profile.

When you look at what he said again, and juxtapose that with the military recruitment manual - the stealth, tactics, techniques and overwhelming political power they can wield over hostile schools, someone does have to speak up coherently.

This is what he said again, “You know, education -- if you make the most of it, you study hard and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.”

Now, looking at the School Recruitment Program Handbook, I came across a number of interesting points.

They will have your children any which way

The forces assert the right to gain access to all schools with the same accommodation given to other organisations that can visit schools to recruit students be it for work or further education.

The forces assert the right to have access to not just the complete roll of eligible students but their records, assessment, backgrounds and any sort of information that might help in “profiling” prospective recruits. Parents are however, given the right to request that their children be excluded from that list, students and exercise that right too, but imagine the bullying that might ensue.

Any school that denies access to the forces finds itself embroiled in a political whirlpool of increasing pressure that escalates from the council, through Congress to the Secretary of State who can overrule any local objections to granting access. It is like they really want to eat your children and there is nothing that can be done to stop them from getting at them except if the parents disagree, a blanket disagreement cannot be instituted by the school itself.

The forces plant a liaison officer in the school and the official is supposed to become the fix-it man for everything, the official is supposed to make themselves so indispensable that students, teachers, parents are almost all beholding to the official.

Sleight of hand

Then we go to the tactics of getting people into the forces.

They are to target college-capable students and get them to defer their college till they have served in the army.

Knowing that college fees are quite exorbitant, they can cajole students into the army with the promise that the army would handle all that in due course, however, you might get stuck in Iraq long before you get that fillip.

They target students in the first or second year of university who are likely to drop-out for lacking finances to finish their education – somehow, they do not go for those well into their studies because somehow, those might have smartened up about education and might have found less risky ways to sponsor and finish their education.

Snippets that make you think

Chapter 7.2.a To encourage college-capable individuals to defer their college until they have served in the Army. – How smart is this?

Chapter 6.6.b (1) To build the image with students, parents, and educators that the Army is high tech and career oriented. – Fairy tales not stark realities.

Chapter 10.1 This market is an excellent source of potential Army enlistments due to the high percentage of students who drop out of college, particularly during the first 2 years. – It is a meat market ready for Army exploitation.

Chapter 10.4.b (1) Students and/or parents are paying tuition to attend college. Personal debts can accrue and student loan repayment plans can be very appealing to these students. – Very appealing indeed, we’ll share the bill but you’ll feel the pain.

Chapter 10.7.c Focus on the freshman class because they will have the highest dropout rate. They often lack both the direction and funds to fully pursue their education. – Bottom feeder gives focus to rudderless kids and they end up where?

No Child Left Behind

When the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was signed into law in January 2002, though the goals were to raise the standards of education for children, somewhere deep in the Act - In section 9528 (Chapter 11.3) - was the provision gave military recruiters the same access to facilities as a public secondary school provides to higher education institution recruiters, but this along with contact information can be requested, additional information can be accessed through the liaison officer embedded in the school.

As this resonates with the “Leave No Man Behind” tenet that meant that the forces never left their wounded, incapacitated or dead behind, one can only say that President George W. Bush is plenty smart and plenty brave to grant access to your children and then boldly cart them off to get stuck in Iraq.

“The members of the United States military are plenty smart, and plenty brave, and the senator from Massachusetts owes them an apology” – The President.

In the end, politicians should stop trying to be comedians, they can mess up their delivery, big time, and whilst that is plenty brave, it is usually is not plenty smart.


How to Pitch the Military When a War Drags On?

Commentary: Video Game Luring New Recruits

Six Questions for Eli Flyer on Military Recruiting and Abuses in Iraq