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Month July 2009

Colonel Julian didn’t get the memo

Ahh, yes, there’s nothing like a little American exceptionalism to get one going in the morning.

According to Reuters, Colonel Greg Julian, a U.S. military spokesman in Kabul, has been complaining that the Taliban is violating international law by parading a captured U.S. soldier on camera.

It seems Colonel Julian didn’t get the memo: the U.S. tore up international law a long time ago.

Not only did the U.S. commit the supreme war crime when it invaded Afghanistan and Iraq—supreme because of all that ensues from starting a war, including the crimes of your opponents—but this is the same country, of course, to have declared by presidential order that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to captured Taliban soldiers and has since been detaining Afghan prisoners without trial, sneaking them off to Guantanamo and its secret prisons and torturing them.

Remind me never to buy a Kindle

Amazon has remotely wiped a book that people had already purchased for the Kindle (an ebook reader).

As John Gruber notes:

It’s one thing to stop selling them. It’s something else entirely to remove them from the Kindles of those who already bought them. That this happened with1984, of all the books that have ever been written, is simply incredible.

(Point of comparison: when apps get yanked from the App Store, they don’t get deleted from the iPhones of people who already bought them.)

I don’t care what reason Amazon has for this. If the book shouldn’t have been sold they should have stopped it in the first place.

This is a very different world to that of the free and open internet; this is the world of “internet appliances,” where the companies that sell these products have remote control over them. I feel cagey enough about owning an iPhone, which is also an internet appliance, but there’s no way I’m going near the Kindle after this episode.

The giant Apollo 11 post

Kottke’s giant Apollo 11 post. I’ve spent the last couple of hours or so reading it and checking out all the great links.

(via Daring Fireball)

You’ve gotta be kidding me…

Blair in frame to become first EU president, says Glenys Kinnock.”

A war criminal as president of Europe? I think the accompanying comments tell the real story.

No, Afghanistan is not “a war we should be fighting”

Afghanistan is spun as a war we should be fighting.

In fact, a fact long forgotten by the Western media and others involved in the invasion of Afghanistan is that, on 14 October, 2001, the Taliban publicly offered to hand over Osama bin Laden to a third country, provided the U.S. halted the illegal bombing of Afghanistan and produced the necessary evidence about involvement of bin Laden or any of his associates in the 11 September attacks:

In Jalalabad, deputy prime minister Haji Abdul Kabir—the third most powerful figure in the ruling Taliban regime—told reporters that the Taliban would require evidence that bin Laden was behind the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US, but added: “we would be ready to hand him over to a third country”.

But, in his usual pissing-in-the-wind style, Bush blew this opportunity off, vowing to continue the bombing, adding:

There’s no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he’s guilty.

Subsequently, Milton Bearden, a former CIA station chief who oversaw U.S. covert operations in Afghanistan in the 1980s, is reported1 to have this to say:

We never heard what they were trying to say. We had no common language. Ours was, ‘Give up bin Laden.’ They were saying, ‘Do something to help us give him up.’ … I have no doubts they wanted to get rid of him. He was a pain in the neck.’

The Bush regime’s decision to continue the bombing put an end to any possibility of a potentially peaceful, legal resolution to the events of 11 September 2001 and opened up the way for the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, Iraq and the threat of invasion of Iran, along with the millions who have lost their lives or had them destroyed as a result.

Not a war we should be fighting. Just business as usual.

Notes:
  1. I had to link to a source other than the Washington Post as the Washington Post appears to have deleted that article from their archive for whatever reason. []

Death over there, excepting ours, is inconsequential

Chris Walker, writing to the The Herald (webpage removed):

It’s one of life’s more savage ironies, but one which has become drearily familiar, that your headline “Death toll rises in Afghanistan” (Leader, The Herald, July 11) means British military fatalities.

These are given piquancy because they exceed similar losses incurred in Iraq. Thus the headline.

As a matter of fact, combined, they approximate the loss of Iraqi civilian lives only last week—repeat, week—in Mosul and Baghdad. But that’s how war’s rhythms (and its successes and failures) are calibrated. That hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis have died since 2001 hardly raises an eyebrow, far less engendering a headline. But, then, death “over there” was held to be one of the reasons for invasion, and for stopping it “over here”, on the streets of Leeds, London or Glasgow. Or so it is said. Thus death over there, excepting ours, is inconsequential in our mindset: even a million deaths by invasion and occupation.

Australian town bans bottled water sales

Someone’s cottoned onto the fact that they’re being conned:

[The town of] Bundanoon’s battle against the bottle has been brewing for years, ever since a Sydney-based beverage company announced plans to build a water extraction plant in the town. Residents were furious over the prospect of an outsider taking their water, trucking it up to Sydney for processing and then selling it back to them. The town is still fighting the company’s proposal in court.

Then in March, Huw Kingston, who owns the town’s combination cafe and bike shop, had a thought: If the town was so against hosting a water bottling company, why not ban the end product?

On Wednesday, 356 people turned up for a vote — the biggest turnout ever at a town meeting.

Only two people voted no. One said he was worried banning bottled water would encourage people to drink sugary drinks. The other was Geoff Parker, director of the Australasian Bottled Water Institute — which represents the bottled water industry.

Think I need to move to Costa Rica

Costa Rica is the greenest and happiest country in the world, according to a new list that ranks nations by combining measures of their ecological footprint with the happiness of their citizens.1

Photo of beach in Costa Rica

And, surprise surprise, unlike places like Britain and the U.S. (which figure low on the index) Costa Rica is run by left-wingers not self-serving right-wingers, it has a strong welfare state, it uses proportional representation to elect its politician, not first past the post, and as opposed to sending its youth off to die in illegal wars for the benefit of a wealthy elite Costa Rica abolished its army back in 1948.

But you keep voting for right-wing war-mongering plonkers if that makes you feel better…2

HPI report on Costa Rica:

With the highest levels of reported life satisfaction, and the highest happy life years – Costa Rica stands out in the HPI even before considering its ecological footprint. It has the fifth-lowest human poverty index in the developing world, and the proportion of people living on less than $2-a-day is lower than in Romania – an EU member. What makes these results even more remarkable is that it achieves this with a quarter of the footprint of the USA. This is no matter of chance. Costa Rica, a haven of democracy and peace in turbulent Central America, has taken very deliberate steps to reduce its environmental impact. Unique in the world for having combined its ministries of energy and the environment back in the 1970s, a staggering 99 per cent of its energy comes from renewable sources. In 1997, a carbon tax was introduced on emissions – with the funds gained being used to pay indigenous communities to protect their surrounding forests. Deforestation has been reversed, and forests cover twice as much land as 20 years ago. In 2007, the Costa Rican Government declared that it intended to become carbon neutral by 2021. As a result of these huge steps, Costa Rica has risen up the ranks of Yale University’s Environmental Performance Indicator, from 15th in the world in 2006 to 5th in 2008, the highest position outside Europe. Professor Mariano Rojas, a Costa Rican economist at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Mexico, is unsurprised by his country’s performance and adds a few further explanations:
The abolition of the country’s army in 1949, freeing up government money to spend on social programmes.
Solid social networks of friends, families and neighbourhoods, allowed by a sensible work-life balance.
Rich natural capital.
Equal treatment of women.
Strong political participation.
Costa Rica is not heaven. Its welfare state, one of the most developed outside Scandinavia, must deal with an economic system that produces high levels of inequality, and almost 10 per cent of the population live on under $2-a-day. Clean water and adult literacy are almost universal, but not quite. And, whilst we wait with bated breath to see if Costa Rica really does move towards being carbon neutral in forthcoming HPIs, its current ecological footprint is still eight per cent above the one-planet living threshold.

With the highest levels of reported life satisfaction, and the highest happy life years – Costa Rica stands out in the HPI even before considering its ecological footprint. It has the fifth-lowest human poverty index in the developing world, and the proportion of people living on less than $2-a-day is lower than in Romania – an EU member. What makes these results even more remarkable is that it achieves this with a quarter of the footprint of the USA. This is no matter of chance. Costa Rica, a haven of democracy and peace in turbulent Central America, has taken very deliberate steps to reduce its environmental impact. Unique in the world for having combined its ministries of energy and the environment back in the 1970s, a staggering 99 per cent of its energy comes from renewable sources. In 1997, a carbon tax was introduced on emissions – with the funds gained being used to pay indigenous communities to protect their surrounding forests. Deforestation has been reversed, and forests cover twice as much land as 20 years ago. In 2007, the Costa Rican Government declared that it intended to become carbon neutral by 2021. As a result of these huge steps, Costa Rica has risen up the ranks of Yale University’s Environmental Performance Indicator, from 15th in the world in 2006 to 5th in 2008, the highest position outside Europe. Professor Mariano Rojas, a Costa Rican economist at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Mexico, is unsurprised by his country’s performance and adds a few further explanations:

  • The abolition of the country’s army in 1949, freeing up government money to spend on social programmes.
  • Solid social networks of friends, families and neighbourhoods, allowed by a sensible work-life balance.
  • Rich natural capital.
  • Equal treatment of women.
  • Strong political participation.

Costa Rica is not heaven. Its welfare state, one of the most developed outside Scandinavia, must deal with an economic system that produces high levels of inequality, and almost 10 per cent of the population live on under $2-a-day. Clean water and adult literacy are almost universal, but not quite. And, whilst we wait with bated breath to see if Costa Rica really does move towards being carbon neutral in forthcoming HPIs, its current ecological footprint is still eight per cent above the one-planet living threshold.

Notes:
  1. Ashley Seager reporting for The Guardian []
  2. And, yes, Britain’s New Labour and the U.S.’s Democrats are right-wing []

Abel & Cole upgrade

Abel & Cole have upgraded their website and added new lines of products. Great website. Great company. Highly recommended.