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« January 2005 | Main | March 2005 »

Europe and Bush

A bit of sarcasm from Greek blogger, Dystropoppygus, on Bush's recent trip to Europe spurred by Dominic Hilton's article about Fashionable anti-Americanism. I wonder what he would make of Dominic's recent interview with Timothy Garton-Ash?

Timothy Garton Ash:

"I hope that I’m some way ahead of George W Bush, who is still described as the leader of “the” free world, and who would still feel that the notion of “the” free world has some validity. European liberals like myself should not deny our own goals just because President Bush embraces them. I quote in the book an Arab scholar saying, “We should improve our education system, even though the Americans encourage us to.” We should be for these goals because they are the right goals, even though President Bush embraces them."

February 28, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Counting women

Like to hazard a guess on which country has the highest representation of women in parliament?

Nope, it's not Sweden or Denmark (they come in second and third). It's Rwanda.

The NY Times carried a nice article, "Women's Voices Rise as Rwanda Reinvents Itself" the other day, that says women make up 48.8% of seats in the lower house. The reasons are slightly depressing. Not only were so many more men than women killed during the genocide that there may be seven times more women than men left in Rwanda today, but women are also seen as being less implicated in the genocide that left nearly one million people dead 1994. (This is even in spite of the fact that the former minister of family affairs, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, is on trial in the international crime court in Tanzania for inciting Hutus to rape Tutsi women, and is referred to in the media as the "minister of rape".)

But more women in politics is a good thing. A quote from the article:

"Before the genocide, women always figured their husbands would take care of them," said Aurea Kayiganwa, the coordinator of Avega, a national organization representing Rwanda's many war widows. "But the genocide changed all that. It forced women to get active, to take care of themselves. So many of the men were gone."

The film Hotel Rwanda didn't win any Oscars last night, but it seems to have generated plenty of interest in the small African country among editors at the New York Times. There's been a Rwanda story every day lately.

The film is excellent, but I would only go after reading this book first. The screenplay doesn't really examine the causes or reasons for the horrific genocide. But this book sure does. The title? "We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families". Magnificent writing by Philip Gourevitch.

February 28, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ties that bind

Last night to the Iran Heritage Foundation for their seminar Children of the Revolution.  Participants included Christopher de Bellaigue and Ali Ansari. The event was chaired by openDemocracy contributor Rouzbeh Pirouz.

A good event - if you could get in, that is.

Because the event was held at the Royal Automobile Club, which requires men to wear ties.   And, this being the 21st century 'n all, a number of us turned up smartly dressed but sans cravate

The RAC keeps a menagerie of soon-to-be-ex-ties for precisely such occasions. But the ties ran out.

Imagine if you will, a thick scrum of males - the dodgey and the dignified - but all tieless, roiling through the RAC lobby as the club staff scraped around for neck attire.   There were no more ties!

I tried a line about ties being "incompatible with my cultural practices". The doorman gave me a look.

But the day was saved. New ties appeared. I was awarded a formica-plastic-yellow one - a nice contrast with my blue and red checked shirt.  The tie had what appeared to be bits of sick on it, but turned out on inspection to be part of the design.  Eh voila.

The irony is that in Iran ties are pretty much verbotten.  I hope to go there this summer, fun and games permitting.

February 25, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Email from Hillary Clinton

At home, in my own personal capacity, I followed the links in Caspar's post Killing in Sudan and ended up on a page where I could email my Senator about stopping the genocide in Sudan. I live in New York. I forgot I had sent the email, until I received a response from Hillary Clinton saying she's been telling Colin Powell to do something about Sudan for ages.

Sure, you might say its just a standard response. But what if it's not?
It smells like democracy either way.

Subject: A message from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
Date: Thu, 24 Feb 2005 16:42:11 -0500

February 24, 2005

Ms. Solana Larsen

Dear Ms. Larsen:

Thank you for sharing with me your concerns regarding the situation in Darfur.
It is important to me to know the issues that are foremost in the minds of my
constituents and I appreciate that you took the time to write to me about this
issue that is of importance to you and to many New Yorkers.  I take this
situation very seriously.

We cannot stand by and let atrocities continue.  The people of Darfur have been
subject to a genocidal campaign of vicious attacks conducted by the armed
militias of the Janjaweed, with the backing of the Sudanese government.  The
concerted acts of these groups have created a humanitarian crisis of astonishing
proportions.  We have an obligation to work with our allies and others to help
protect the people of Darfur.

In September, during Senate debate of the fiscal year 2005 Foreign Operations
Appropriations bill, I spoke on the Senate floor in favor of doing all we can to
try to end the genocide in Darfur.  In June, I joined more than 50 of my
colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell
urging him to work to end the atrocities committed by the armed militias
operating in the region; to commit additional resources; to publicly identify
those responsible for the atrocities and impose sanctions; to stabilize the
situation through a monitored and enforced ceasefire and unfettered access for
humanitarian aid; and to submit a United Nations Security Council resolution for
a vote that would condemn the government of Sudan, demand cooperation in the
provision of humanitarian aid, and authorize peacekeeping.

Also in June, to respond to the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of
Sudan and in Chad, I co-sponsored a bipartisan amendment to the Fiscal Year 2005
Department of Defense Appropriations Act that added millions in funding for
international disaster and famine assistance, and migration and refugee
assistance in the region.  I am pleased to let you know that the amendment was
adopted by the Senate and this funding was retained in the legislation that was
signed into law.

The United Nations Security Council has adopted resolutions addressing the
situation in Darfur.  The United States government should work to ensure these
resolutions have force, and continue its work with our allies to help bring
security and peace to the region and end the suffering of the people of Darfur.

Please be assured that I will continue to work in the Senate to help the people
of the Darfur overcome the dire challenges they face.  Thank you again for
contacting me.  Please check my website at for updates
on this and other important matters being discussed before the United States

Sincerely yours,
Hillary Rodham Clinton

February 25, 2005 in Media & the Net | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BlogCall with US blogs

Over at in America Bob Fertik has initiated a regular live conference call between upto 100 progressive bloggers and news journalists. They call it BlogCall and if you fit the bill, you should ask him for an invite to the next one.

Today's BlogCall (the first ever) was with special guest John Aravosis from speaking about the Jeff Gannon/male prostitute scandal which has burst out of the White House in recent weeks thanks to much digging and blogging. The whole BlogCall will be broadcast today on at 6pm ET.

A fake journalist has been coming to White House press meetings for two years asking right-bent questions to President Bush. It turns out he was a front for a Republican organisation (real name James Guckert) and - as a bonus - that he was a male prostitute. The story has hit the mainstream press and "Gannon" is giving interviews left and right. You can see his version of events here.

Why is it interesting? People are wondering whether the White House knew Gannon was a plant, and let him stay to make Bush look good in press conferences. There's a national security angle, and allegations of religious right sexual hypocrisy too. In pushing the story Aravosis says that as a journalist and a blogger he is only interested in "the truth". On a more cynical note he says, "As soon as you mention George Bush and gay hooker in the same sentence, we've won".

On AmericaBlog he surprises himself by emphatically recommending an article from the consvervative WorldNetDaily. "I don't think any of us could have written this," he says during the BlogCall, and recommends the final paragraph especially: "It raises serious security questions. It raises questions of propriety. It raises questions of judgment. And it raises questions about the role of a free press in a free society."

But the main issue for bloggers right now seems to be to keep the story alive.

February 24, 2005 in Media & the Net | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Gunner Palace

There is something about the presentation of this new film, Gunner Palace, that disturbs me.  It looks like a music video. In actuality, it's a documentary about US troops who live in the bombed and abandoned luxury mansion of Saddam's son Uday in Baghdad. The filmmaker, Michael Tucker, was embedded with the "gunners" for a total of two months. The reviews say Tucker doesn't push any particular political point of view, but lets the soldiers tell their own story. In interviews he says he wants to challenge "the Fox news view of the world" and "just wants people to talk about the war". I haven't seent the film yet so I can't judge. But I will. Apparently the soldiers rapping about their experiences is a highlight.

Watch the trailer here.

February 24, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What's the fuss about Iranian blogs?

Iran's government isn't very tolerant when it comes to freedom of expression. In the past couple of years Iranian bloggers have become some of strongest defenders of freedom on the Net. According to this source there are more than 75,000 active Iranian blogs, most of them in Persian (here's a list of those in English). That's a lot. Most of us who surf around in English are completely oblivious to the fact that Persian is the fourth most popular web log language.

I first became aware of Iranian blogs when, Hossein Derakshan emailed openDemocracy last year the time of the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) to tell us how Iranian president, Seyyid Mohammad Khatami, was exposed for lying about internet censorship in a WSIS press conference that was broadcast live on the web. We asked Hossein to put it in an article, "Censor this: Iran's web of lies". (The second phase of WSIS is taking place in November 2005 in Tunisia, and preparatory meetings started earlier this month.)

Unfortunately, as the bloggers have grown in importance, they've also more frequently become targets for arrests and torture. Official Iran is torn between the positive effect of spreading Persian and positive images of Iran around the world, and the negative (to them) effect of government criticism. Around half of 2000 Iranian bloggers polled around the time of the US presidential election on Hossein's website preferred Bush over Kerry, because they hoped he would invade Iran and unseat the regime. This view was most common among bloggers who still live in Iran. In a recent post, Hossein blames Iranian state media for making everybody believe in the opposite of whatever they say is bad.

February 23, 2005 in Media & the Net | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Killing in Sudan

Last June, openDemocracy published an open letter to world leaders by Gareth Evans of the International Crisis Group, in which he called for the leaders of the G8 richest industrialised countries to act to prevent further deaths in Sudan's eastern region of Darfur.  Two months later, he told openDemocracy that the situation had deteriorated and that action was even more urgent.

A lot of blood has gone under the bridge since then. On the positive side, a peace deal signed early this year that may bring an end to the war in the south Sudan, in which millions have died over the last thirty years.

But today, as if a reminder is needed, Nicolas Kristof and the New York Times publish photographs of dead civilians in Darfur taken by African Union monitors.

Web sites like and are trying to galvanize Americans, says Kristof, "but the response has been pathetic".

Someone will correct me if this is wrong, but the situation in Darfur didn't rate a mention in George Bush's speeches in Brussels this week (and if it did, it was pretty low down the agenda).

At one point in an interview with the BBC today, Sudan's ambassador to Britain said that refugees in Darfur had fled to the camps because they preferred being looked after by foreign aid agencies. 

It does get blacker than this, but not often.

Articles on openDemocracy relating to Sudan include:

Accoutantability in Africa: whose problem? by David Mepham
Darfur Journal by Lyndall Stein
America in Africa: plunderer or partner? by Ken Wiwa and Gayle Smith
Who is accountable for Darfur?: an interview with Gareth Evans by Caspar Henderson
Darfur: countdown to catastophe by Stephen Ellis
The United States and international aid: missing the big picture by Anne Richard
Rwanda, Sudan and beyond: lessons from Africa by Caspar Henderson

February 23, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Flashmob the Iranian UN mission?

Juan Cole has an interesting suggestion:

Wouldn't a flashmob protest in front of Iran's permanent mission to the UN be an appropriate blogger tool for this campaign?

Here's something for openDemocracts in the New York metropolitan area to organise on a cold February day!

Iran (Islamic Republic of)
    Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
    622 Third Avenue, 34th Floor, New York, NY 10017
    Telephone: (212) 687-2020, Telefax: (212) 867-7086

February 23, 2005 in Media & the Net | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Free Mojtaba and Arash Day

Click on the banner to learn what you can do to help.

Reporters without Borders reported on the arrests earlier this month.

February 22, 2005 in Media & the Net | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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