Saturday, November 27, 2004
How the heck does one spell that, anyway? It just looks wrong, and hooky doesn't look any better. I guess when we were kids we just said it a lot without caring about how to write it, because after all it means skipping class -- yay!
But your humble correspondent feels the need to apologise for his, um, playing hookie (hmm, it still looks funny, like vaguely risque or something -- but it's not, I promise) ever since Nov. 4. I've been in and out of Bangkok, up in the central provinces and down to an island off the east coast, and well, slacking off in general. But just don't confuse me with one of Lumpy Riefenstahl's touted Slacker Army, who thankfully lived up to their name and mostly stayed in bed this past election day. Slacking off is fine, but in careful moderation.
While I certainly slacked off in relation to blog output this month, I have still been paying attention. The information intake side of the equation is something I don't like to slack off with, because whatever else one might say about this old world, things just keep happening -- whether or not we might happen to notice.
MUNIR (1965 - 2004)
During the few years immediately preceding the fall of the Suharto regime in Indonesia, when more and more democracy activists were losing their fear of speaking openly and organising themselves, one articulate young human rights advocate gradually became well recognised by the public for his fearless work. As one student or union leader after another "disappeared" in a string of kidnappings generally accepted to have been carried out by shadowy elements of the military, Munir was increasingly the one who applied the pressure on the Suharto government, in a very public manner, for accountability. He had founded the rights group KONTRAS, to focus on cases of state sponsored violence and to assist its victims, to expose the cases of secret kidnappings, and to generally attempt to move Indonesian society forward in protecting basic human freedoms.
A little over six years ago, both the campus demonstrations and the kidnappings of activists reached nationwide proportions, but fears of speaking out were also crumbling. And Munir became almost a constant guest on the evening panel discussions regarding the national situation. When the killing of peaceful student demonstrators at the Trisakti campus sparked the widespread rioting which finally brought down the "smiling general" and his corrupt regime, the workload for Munir and his KONTRAS volunteers exploded. There was abundant information that the roving truck-borne bands of arsonists who torched many large stores and shopping centres -- while they were full of slum-dwellers stocking up on food and clothing -- had been in fact organised by certain military elements. Which would make the approximately 1,500 people who died during the three day chaos (most of whom were poor people caught inside those shopping centre infernos), victims of state sponsored violence.
Munir was tireless. He was threatened many times of course, and even his parents' home in rural Java once had a small bomb set off near it, for intimidation purposes against their son. The crimes of the Suharto regime and certain branches of the army at that time (KOSTRAD & KOPASSUS) didn't just stop with the president's resignation. Reformasi is not an instant achievement, and KONTRAS would have more high profile work to come in the following year, with the post-referendum atrocities carried out by army units in East Timor. (Which atrocities of course, were halted by a "coalition of the willing" and a United Nations uncharacteristically supporting a rapid response by willing countries to save innocent lives.)
Munir championed the rights of human beings, even East Timorese who had voted to reject their 25 year integration with Indonesia. He had none of the nationalist or patriotic imperative which tempered responses from some other civil society groups or well known social critics. He was never afraid to say what was right and what was wrong, even if patriots might hate him for it. That went for the ongoing conflict in Aceh as well, and in Papua in the far eastern part of the country. Munir built KONTRAS up into a very effective organisation with a highly public and widely respected profile (though certainly disliked by some within certain powerful state institutions), and he passed it to a new leadership when he founded another advocacy group, IMPARSIAL. I'm not quite sure what its purview was or how it differed from KONTRAS, but it was also passed to new leadership while Munir was planning to further his education in human rights law at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands.
On the night of September 7, it was reported in news bulletins that Munir had taken ill on his flight from Jakarta to Singapore, but he continued onward with his flight to Amsterdam. Not long after the flight left Singapore, he died. This news shocked me greatly, for I admired Munir a lot after having observed his courage and integrity, and his growing influence within the reformasi process over the last seven or eight years. How could this be? The thought crossed my mind of foul play, but even the suspicion of such a possibility seemed far fetched. I'd wanted to write something about this at the time, but as the details were so hidden, there wasn't much one could say until after they came out in the open. Then two days later came the terror bombing in Jakarta's Kuningan district outside the Australian embassy.
Dutch authorities conducted an autopsy, which was shrouded in secrecy. Indonesian investigators flew to Europe, final reports from the Dutch were promised, and delayed with excuses. Munir's body was flown home for burial but none of the questions were answered. All that was known was that he got sick (vomitting) on the flight, and died.
Now the Dutch findings have been released, or rather just a summary. He had high levels of arsenic in his system. He was murdered.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has now gotten behind the case with his full support to solve the crime. He has ordered an independent investigation, with input from KONTRAS, IMPARSIAL and others in the human rights community into the commission's duties, structure and membership. This will be in addition to the police investigation, some sort of safeguard to ensure that there is no cover-up to protect the suspected "powerful institutions" which might be involved.
Netherlands based Indonesian journalist Aboeprijadi Santoso writes that this will be a test case for the new president, who has already stated that he will make this case a priority for his widely touted "first hundred days". We shall see.
BAND (OF BOMBERS) ON THE RUN
A bit of good news now from Indonesia to follow that tragic story. Police have captured four members of a gang which are believed to have carried out terror bombings across the country. However, the most wanted men, the Malaysians Dr. Azahari and Noor Din Top have again managed to evade capture. Investigators have apparently linked all of them not only to the latest bombing in September, but also to the Marriott Hotel blast last year and the Bali bomb in 2002. In a Keystone Kops twist, we learn that Dr. Azahari has slipped through their fingers more times than they already knew. The arrests were made on November 5, but kept quiet until now to facilitate interogations. Let's hope that the noose is tightening, and that the "Mad Bomber" and his sidekick can finally be picked up before they can do any more damage.
THEO VAN GOGH
It happened on the same day Americans were voting in their elections, the murder of a Dutch film maker by a mad jihadi on the streets of Amsterdam. Theo van Gogh was apparently a relative of the more famous van Gogh, Vincent. He could have been called an "activist film maker" but certainly not in the polemic propaganda style of a Michael Moore. He seems to have been more of an artist who had the intention of making people think, as opposed to Moore who seems to say, "Don't think too much, but just accept what I'm trying to convince you to believe."
Theo's last short work was a film called "Submission", which called attention to the violence against women in fundamentalist Muslim societies. It was a collaboration with a former Dutch parliamentarian and former Muslim, Aayan Hirsi Ali. The short film may be viewed here, or on the Ifilm site here.
For his transgressions against 14th century standards of Islamic gender equality, Theo was shot while riding his bicycle (that ought to make the average Dutchman angry), his head was then nearly severed by the mad jihadi before he pinned a message to the film maker's chest with a knife into the heart. Ms. Hirsi Ali and other transgressors would be next on the execution list, according to the warning message.
Outrage against this crime and solidarity with the present and potential victims, not to mention a spirited defense of the freedom of expression, were all noticably absent in the salons and parlours of our western "progressive" artistic "elite". Where are the legions of actors, writers, film makers who are normally so full of venom against "Republicans", and lately of condescending disparagement against all those "red state morons" who voted for them? Not a word of solidarity with an artist who tried to use his work to defend women against violent abuse? Isn't that like, one of the standard causes? What gives? Not a word against the type of fundamentalist religion that mandates such violence, attempts to censor opposing humanitarian views, and kills people for expressing those views? Oh no, our indignation is only for 'moron Jesusland redneck-staters'. Those are the real dangerous fundies, they voted for Bush!
Well I suppose the American cultural elite were just feeling a bit depressed this month, so they had no energy for bravely standing up for truth and justice and tolerance. Or just too busy making travel arrangements for their mass exodus to go and live in exile in France, Germany or Canada -- and away from Bushitler's Chimpy fascist regime. Whatever. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.
The famously tolerant Dutch in their most permissive society of Europe, may be beginning to have second thoughts about their grand experiment in open door multiculturalism. Some have even called this event, the murder of a single, albeit nationally-known man, as their "9/11". I really have no idea what effects this might have on that country, and indeed on Europe in general. Large pockets of the continent are expected to have Muslim majority populations in the not to distant future. For Netherlands this has been a non-problem for their tolerant society for many years -- as long as the majority of their Muslim immigrants came from the former colony Indonesia, where most people are very tolerant and accustomed to living together with other religions. Now apparently the balance has tipped in favour of Morrocans, Algerians, and others who might have had longer exposure to Wahhabist militancy, hatred of Jews, Christians and other kinds of infidels.
But it does seem to take some period of time before certain modes of thinking are questioned. In the days following Theo van Gogh's murder, an artist painted a wall mural depicting his vision of peace, tolerance and nonviolence. Angels or doves or some such, with the words, "Thou shalt not kill." It was immediately ordered to be obliterated by sandblasting, by the city fathers who deemed it to be potentially "inciteful". Good grief, how does one recognise when he's living in an upside down world? When "Thou shalt not kill" becomes a potential religious insult? More on this from the Belgian blog Live From Brussels. Also covering the van Gogh murder and its repercussions is the Vancouver area blogger Pieter Dorsman on his "Peaktalk". (I picked up these links a few weeks ago, so check out both their "front pages" for later information. Also recommended is the Dutch blog Zacht Ei).
It appears that the creepy jihadi murderer Abu Musab al Zarqawi has suffered a bit of a setback with the loss of his home base(s) in Fallujah. While the media such as BBC managed to find all the remaining Fallujah people willing to shake their fists at Iraqi and American soldiers, Marines wrote letters home to tell of notes left for them by some townspeople before they vacated the scene of battle (like nearly all the inhabitants did, by most accounts). The notes said things like, "please stay in our house, there's food in the cupboard" and "thank you for ridding us of this Taliban-like rule of the past 8 months. What took you so long?"
The take-back of Fallujah from Zarqawi and like-minded jihadi thugs and Ba'athists was poised to take place in April, but the Americans were persuaded to be not too harsh, with dire warnings of civilian casualties. They had two choices: just go in and do the job as quickly and painlessly for the civilians as possible, or finesse something with an impromptu Iraqi "Fallujah Force" in the lead. Fearing the bad press of a decisive operation of the type we've seen in the middle of this month, they chose the latter option. It was a grand failure and only ensured a further eight months of Zarqawi operations from his Fallujah bases. The lesson here seems to be, Just Do It. Elections are coming in two months, and the vast majority of Iraqis want them to go ahead. A lawless enclave ruled as a Taliban/al Qaeda-like sultanate, spouting suicide bombers and head lopping kidnappers, cannot go unchallenged. Their description by such august "news" organisations as the BBC as just so many "dissidents", notwithstanding. Today we learn that these "dissidents" not only had special "slaughterhouses" for their bloodlusting activities, but they evidently had some sort of chemical and/or biological laboratories working on only Allah knows what.
Here is another installment of the highly secret happenings and goings on, in and about Iraq. News media are prohibitted from disseminating this information, so after reading Chrenkoff's Part XIV of Good News, you will be required to destroy all remnants of the article, format your hard drive to render the cached page unrecoverable, and eat anything that remains. Then hit Chrenkoff's front page, because he probably has Part XV up by now...
UPDATE: He does.
THE NEW LEFT
It's been extremely interesting to see the post-bout pouting over how they could possibly have lost a race against that idiot. Well, maybe he's not such an idiot, did'ja ever think of that? (And if a moronic chimp could beat him, what does it say about your idiot?) Why are there so many who just simply can't accept an election result they don't like? The excuses were cranked out at full tilt boogie. It was the evangelicals' fault, it was the evil genius Rove, the anti-gay marriage initiatives, and so on -- all the way through to "Kerry actually won, Greg Palast proved it!" And the all time low was the website set up for Americans to apologise to the world for their failure to hire Kerry, using cheesy self portraits with hand scrawled letters of self flagellation for proof of their contrition. (I don't know, it was weresorry.com or something) Which was followed by a website set up for the world to accept the Americans' grovelling, and to bestow upon them the appropriate amount of (mostly European) forgiveness. Again with cheesy home photos and handmade sign props containing sizable doses of smug superiority (try apologyaccepted.com or some such if you're interested).
The actual medical condition attached to the effects of the Kerry defeat upon sensitive souls, was dubbed PEST -- which made me think a hoax was afoot just from the silly name. No, they really were prescribing therapy and clocking office visits on health plans for this one. "Post Electoral Selection Trauma" or something of that nature. Like Dave Barry says, you really can't make up this stuff. I've been disappointed by election results plenty of times. George W. in 2000 for example, before I started questioning all that conventional wisdom that held that Chimpy was as dumb as a box of broken hammers. The B.C. Socreds beating Dave Barrett's NDP out of government after only 3 years. Heck, even Nixon's re-election in '72 -- all great disappointments but never have I felt close to emotional trauma over it, come on already! No wonder the jihadis (and the Chinese communists too...) delight in thinking of the "west" as a bunch of wimpy paper tigers.
I heard a lot of disappointed "progressives" who lamented about their feeling that they don't even live in the same country as the vast swath that chose Bush. What they call "flyover country" is an area they don't even want to set foot in lest they be contaminated by some sort of contagious disease. Looking at a state by state map of results is only a small part of the picture. Try this county by county map, where we can see that it's not quite true that California, Oregon and Washington State were strongholds for Kerry. These states were also a microcosm of the whole -- small strips of Kerryland along the coast and the majority of the states' areas going with Bush. A further refinement of the count, corrected for population density, has resulted in an interesting variety of "cartograms".
The handwringing over whither the "progressive liberalism" movement, did contain a few halfway-reasoned thoughts. Probably a few more actual liberals have left the fold looking for something more consistent with classical liberalism, as the "New Left" buckles under the groaning weight of piled-on contradictions -- as with this lefty refugee who says, "Goodbye to all that." But some few on the left seem determined to stay there without rancour, and to reach out and understand rather than insult the prevailing majority. One such piece was noted in the blogosphere, written by John Perry Barlow. Yes, the same formerly Grateful Dead guy -- showing tolerance and willingness to understand the other side (and unintentionally showing some of the left's more resilient blocks of conventional wisdom and silly canards to boot), in his Magnanimous Defeat. (Surprising fact: Barlow was actually once a Republican supporter.)
Barlow's piece was well noticed by conservative bloggers, and credit was offered for his genuine attempt at concilliation. But the best response was from Dean Esmay, on his Dean's World blog. "From A Pot-Smoking Deadhead Bush Voter", I like that.
It seems so clear that the American electorate was basically very polarised between the two opposing camps, and the one place (or set of places, actually) that this is not reflected is in the academy. Tales of the isolation of non-politically correct persons on university and college campus, the extreme overbalance of a certain viewpoint among tenured professors and the near absence of scholars with differing views -- I've read much about these things during the campaign and before. But this little anecdote seems to sum it up. From a reader's letter to a columnist in the National Review:
Conservatives at Harvard are still embattled, even as the Democrats try to recover from the implosion. I was yelling the phrase "I love America! I love democracy!" in the hallway, and a colleague exploded at me and yelled, "It's completely inappropriate to express your homophobic views like that!" The disconnect with reality continues unabated.How about another view, from the leader whose people obeyed the Islamic jihad movement and kicked out a Prime Minister who was a strong leader in the war against the terror masters -- Jose Maria Aznar writes in Triumph of Hope that "President Bush's re-election gives the free world a second chance."
But there is a very funny glimmer of hope. The Republicans are all ecstatic, but can't really show it. I walked past a TV and asked a girl where Kerry's concession speech would be this afternoon. I then asked her if she was happy about the election, and she lowered her head and crouched a bit, and then peeped, almost silently, "Yes." When I told her I had voted for Bush, her face just lit up and we had a nice chat, like two lonely souls in the midst of an enemy camp.
The democracy-hungry Iranian people had their own style of celebration for Mr. Bush, where "Many were seen walking in the streets and shaking each others hands or showing a discret[e] V sign." It's interesting to see time and time again, how the people living under the most rabidly anti-western theocratic regime of fascist mullahs, are actually the most pro-American population anywhere in that region. Which reminds me, let's all send our best wishes for the current struggle for democracy in Ukraine, and for the success of the "Orange Revolution" without bloodshed. (See Arthur Chrenkoff for the latest developments. His angle is especially valuable for understanding of the Polish role at present.)
I would suppose that Uncle Noam must be mighty peeved about all this, and if anybody is wondering he has a new book / pamphlet out on the stands this month to tell us just exactly "What Uncle Sam Really Wants". However I feel quite sure that this book review is more illuminating about What Chomsky Really Wants (which is how FrontpageMag.com titled the piece). It's long, but this guy knows his Chompskyisms.
As if I needed anything more to shake the credibility of the legacy media, the cooing and fawning over Yasser Arafat takes the cake. Kicked off with a BBC reporter actually crying at the sight of a French military plane whisking him off to his Paris hospital, it went downhill more quickly than the Chairman himself. The whole farcical ceremony in Cairo looked more like an assembly of Mafia dons, maybe due to all the cheek-kissing and sunglasses (Pres. Susilo and a few others excepted). Then the chaotic mess at Ramallah afterwards -- and all through it the announcers are practically worshipping this grandfather of modern terrorism (Lise Doucette this means you!). Here's a corrupt strongman who robbed his people blind for decades, most of the loot provided by Uncle Sam. He had socked away over a billion dollars of Palestinian Authority funds -- a little something for a rainy day..... and Suha's extravagant shopping trips? Look mainstream media -- head loppers are not "dissidents", and the man who popularised suicide terrorism -- who was indeed the quintessential terrorist of our world for many decades -- is not a "statesman". Not when he's the principle reason that his people don't even have a state to begin with.
No, the out of control mess of chaos at his burial tells it all -- dignified with honour, he was not. Shoved hastily into the ground without any of the planned ceremony, even the sacred olive plantings on the grave were trampled into oblivion. The appearance of a squad of hooded, sword wielding al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade goons, and their being shown deference by the crushing throng of "mourners", tells us that the Chairman will leave his lasting influence among his more warlike factions. Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade have been renamed to the Yasser Arafat Martyrs' Brigade. The legacy of the grand terror master will go on for some time to come, bringing tears to the eyes of progressive BBC announcers, no doubt.
Meanwhile, Chairman Arafat remains in a stable condition in Ramallah, where he will be based for the forseeable future.