Monday, January 30, 2006
  Al Qaeda No.2: Bush 'butcher, loser'
So the Americans are blowing shit up again for no apparent reason, leaving a trail of civilian death. And this time the Pakistanis, a supposed American ally no less, take a hit. Not only have they 'illegally' executed a lethal military operation on Pakistan territory without permission, but it turns out the only person they mistook for a terrorist was yet again just some muslim guy with a beard. And as usual the bombs go everywhere and kill everything except the target it was intended for.

Like reflex of course, this called for the making of yet another instalment to the series of Al Qaeda videos, featuring Dr Evil's Osama bin Laden's Number 2 man, Ayman al Zawahiri, taunting the American government with an in-your-face message that they can never be caught and further taking advantage of the situation to fuel anti-western sentiments and gather support from the muslim community. But the only difference is that perhaps for the first time ever, I agree with Ayman al-Zawahiri by calling President Bush a loser. A pretty cheap shot don't you think, coming from a man like him. I can't help thinking about how the taunts thrown from Zawahiri seem somewhat childish for a serious terrorist figure like himself. I imagine him speaking on the tape in his own native language (Arabic?) and occassionally you hear him swearing english words scattered amongst his curses, "loser" or "butcher"...or "bite me, asshole".

(CNN) -- Osama bin Laden's right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, appeared in a new video Monday, saying he is alive and well just weeks after a U.S. missile strike targeted him in Pakistan.

He also called President Bush a "loser" and the "butcher of Washington."

"I will meet my death when God wishes," al-Zawahiri said in the three-and-a-half minute video, which was broadcast on the Arabic-language television network Al-Jazeera.

Al-Zawahiri taunted the U.S. president, saying, "Bush, do you know where I am? I am among the Muslim masses, enjoying their care with God's blessings and sharing with them their holy war against you until we defeat you." (Transcript) Al-Zawahiri specifically referred to an attack that was aimed at killing him January 13 in the remote Pakistan village of Damadola.

"Their claim was to target this poor man and four of my brothers," al-Zawahiri said. "The whole world discovered the lies as the Americans fight Islam and the Muslims."

Eighteen people were killed in the CIA-led attack, which prompted large-scale protests across Pakistan. Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, who al-Zawahiri also blamed for the attack, has said he believed about five or six al Qaeda operatives were killed in the attack, but he also condemned the strike as a "violation of sovereignty." (Full story) Al-Zawahiri did not say if any al Qaeda members died in the attack. He also did not say if he was nearby or if he had plans to be at the homes that were targeted, as some reports have indicated.

"My first message is to the butcher of Washington, Bush: You are not just defeated and lying about it, but you are, with God's help, a loser," he said. "You are bad luck to your people; you brought them disasters and catastrophes, and you will bring them even more disasters."

- Continue reading here...

Ayman al Zawahiri: Bite me.

I'm seriously beginning to think the Americans get their Intelligence from a random British tabloid, e.g. The Sun, and just blow up whatever is on the front page of the day.

Friday, January 27, 2006
  This is not a protest blog
AOL was wrong. The Internet is not a place where freedom of speech truly exists. In some oppressive countries, blogging may be banned altogether. But on the tiny island of Singapore, suppression of speech comes in the most rediculous and anti-democratic form... for a so-called democratic nation. You cannot help but notice the strings attached to every new freedom that the government occassionally treats its people to. With the looming general elections, the short-term future most definitely has the potential to get interesting. As pointed out by popular sociopolitical commenter, Alex Au, the law with regards to the Internet is still rather murky and opportunity stands for those wish to exercise their civil rights. I for one, intend to exercise mine.
Alex, as usual, provides great insight into the facts of the subject:

('Blogging during elections' by Yawning Bread)

No election advertising

Section 78A of the Parliamentary Elections Act says,

78A.—(1) The Minister may make regulations —

(b) regulating election advertising and the publication thereof during an election period on what is commonly known as the
Internet by political parties, candidates or their election agents and relevant persons, including prescribing the features
that must or must not appear or be used in any such election advertising.

(2) Any person who contravenes any regulations made under subsection (1)(b) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $1,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.

The bold italics have been put in by me, since these terms will be
explained below. These explanations are based on the definitions contained within the same Act.

Election advertising:
This is a very broad term to mean any material that can reasonably be
regarded as intended "to promote or procure the electoral success ... for one or more identifiable political parties, candidates or groups of candidates", or may "enhance the standing of any such political parties, candidates or groups of candidates with the electorate in connection with any election." This seems to suggest that even praise for a candidate's wit, eloquence or sartorial flair would fall within the meaning of this term, let alone more substantial discussion that makes a party or candidate look appealing and vote-worthy.

Election period:
This is the period beginning with the day the writ of election is issued by the President for an election and ending with the close of all polling stations on polling day.
Relevant persons:
In the Act, the definition is very wordy, but basically it means every person or group of persons (other than political parties, candidates and election agents) who publishes anything on the internet.

As I've mentioned above, Section 78A devolves the
details to the Regulations. So now, let's take a look at what the Regulations say.

6. For the purposes of section 78A (1)(b) of the Act, no election
advertising may be published or caused to be published on what is commonly known as the Internet during the election period by or on behalf of any relevant person.

-- Parliamentary Elections Act (Chapter 218, Sections 78, 78A
and 102) Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations

That's it! And since the definition of "election advertising" is very
broad, and "relevant person" means you and me, there's not a lot that we are allowed to say!

- Read more of Alex Au's views on the rediculous Section 78 'Fuck Your Rights' Act.

Alex has brilliantly summarised all the citations relating to freedom of speech and general elections to 'we're not allowed to say anything'. Just brilliant. But of course, these definitions of terms are still rather up to individual interpretation. For example, does "relevant person" really mean everyone, including non-Singaporeans or any person not elligible to vote? i.e. young persons under 21.

Regardless, such an Act, unlike the Sedition Act, serves only one purpose alone and is clearly an attack on free speech and the civil liberties of the citizens of a democratic nation. Just another Act in the pillar of stability of Government control over people political dominance over opposition, maintaining apathy and silence amongst those that might have something to say. But more pervasive yet is the extention of the long arm of the law onto the Internet, where civilised political discussion at the very least would never have been considered for regulation by any right-minded democratic, first world country.

The Internet is ours, to the advocates of free expression and civil liberty. And Singaporean bloggers will have to fight the hardest to overcome apathy and amongst all else, the overcast of fear set over decades of government regulation and control. They can control via censorship of the mass media; tv stations, radio stations and newspapers. But they will not take the Internet. It is the front lawn of your Mid-West country home and when the law steps on it to tell you what you can and cannot say, you should respond accordingly with redneck tradition. Cast away fear and set yourselves free. Prove Orwell wrong.

In the meantime, I have a song I'd like to dedicate to the control-freaks of Singapore. It goes something like this...

Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!

- Killing in the Name, RATM.

PS: Please do go out and vote if elligible. You can vote absolutely anyone you want... Just don't vote the knobhead PAP.

Oh, and LKY and offspring are also idiots.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
  Mobile Montage 2004
Those were the days...

You haven't lived at uni until you've stolen an industrial-sized bog roll from the campus toilet, for shit so thick you could stir it with a stick.

Hiding the bog roll and cheesin' it.

I thought the city council was rather stingy with their playground for special kids*.

Men! Don't expect help on a Tuesday...

Housemate Rob: "Uhh...which one's the floor again?"

Housemate Min: Pissed as a chinaman can be.

Housemate Min to Housemate Bea: Pretending your conversation is really interesting when you're way...way too pissed.

And now my absolute favourite...

Housemate Min trying to get it on with Leech. The expression itself is half the picture...

*If you're wondering Leech, the special kid is just Boby being... Boby.
Friday, January 20, 2006
  Big Brother should be watching you
Have YOU seen this "man"?

Pete Burns: Is this what the super-evolved humans of the future will wear on their backs?

Masquerading as the gameshow host from hell on tacky C4 series Celebrity Big Brother, the very sinister Pete Burns could be in hot water over his choice in designer get-up. Police have already seized a hideous coat, at first thought to be from endangered gorilla but now confirmed as dead colobus monkey. This followed complaints from the animal-loving British public [no coincidence at all that they happen watch Big Brother then]. The BBC reports:

"If it had been found to be gorilla fur then Burns could have been prosecuted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), which was passed in 1975. "

It's not clear what could happen next [actually, that's a lie. I just couldn't be bothered to do any research. It's only Big Brother for Christ's sake], seeing as the Colobus monkey is under threat too. Are they affected by this trade law? And just as importantly, why has there been no outrage over the two poor endangered dromedary jumping-slugs [Hemphillia dromedarius to their Latin friends] glued to his face?

The British public are a picky bunch, never considering the beleaguered molluscs of the world. If they were kittens they'd be up in arms.
  Someone bin Ledeen
He was a bit late for Christmas, but Osama bin Laden has offered us another worthless truce. Great, I hate useless presents that I can't return. In his first message in over a year he claimed that:

"In response to the substance of the polls in the U.S., which indicate that Americans do not want to fight Muslims on Muslim land, nor do they want Muslims to fight them on their land, we do not mind offering a long-term truce based on just conditions that we will stick to."

Naturally this so-called "solution" is compromised by two things. Firstly, the government of America is not going to go through with this [and lets face it, bin Laden knows this, that's why he feels he can make it] and secondly, it ommits his long-term desire for the establishment of a Muslim Caliphate, somethig the West would never tolerate. This crazy wish [that's all it is, but try telling him that] wouldn't vanish with withdrawl of troops. It is, of course, propagada aimed at making Al Qaeda seem more than the sum of its parts [something bin Laden has been desperate to do since his small organisation was effectively obliterated in Afghanistan in 2001-2002. He is on the run and is trying hard to stay relevant. These days he makes for a good symbol but little else] and also an attempt to win more hearts and minds in the Muslim world, which, knowing al Qaeda is little more than a small vanguard, he sees as a resevoir to further his overblown and unrealistic ambitions [thankfully, apart from a cerebrally-impaired minority, they don't feel the same way]. When missiles from the US hit innocent people in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sudan, to name three examples, he pops up, trying to perpetuate his Robin Hood image, either by reassuring the victims that he's in their corner or working on construction projects like the road he funded in Sudan.

This message echoes the sentiments expressed in his previous message when he asked us why he didn't attack countries like Sweden. He wants us to think "because they haven't backed a series of despots in the Middle East or bombed innocent Muslims", whereas the true answer is "you would if you had the resources you evil, evil bastard". Most of us can see by now that this appeal to sections of the Muslim world has been very persuasive and well-orchestrated, exploiting their anger and capitalising on, for want of a better, less loaded word 'empirical' evidence of Western evil. We can also see that this has not exactly been at the forefront of the minds of the planners in the so-called reponse to terror attacks.

Still, it seems bin Laden is still alive and as healthy as one can be when they are advocating mass murder. Hardly a shock for most of us, but over in the extremists paradise that is National Review Online, self-appointed terrorism and Middle East expert [and a favourite of my dear Melanie Phillips] Michael Ledeen must be feeling at least a little stupid. In one of his numerous excruciating columns he claimed:

"according to Iranians I trust, Osama bin Laden finally departed this world in mid-December. The al Qaeda leader died of kidney failure and was buried in Iran, where he had spent most of his time since the destruction of al Qaeda in Afghanistan."

It really makes you wonder what planet this man is on. He isn't some random crank like Phillips. The man is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institue, a well-respected opinion leader and an influence on Bush's War on Terror. And yet he comes out with this garbage.

There are two things to be on the look out for here. Number one, his claim that bin Laden died has been made to look highly fanciful and out-of-step with the real world, since the new broadcast refers to the Daily Mirror story from late last year about Bush's alleged [and frankly, rather likely] desire to bomb Al Jazeera offices.

Number two is his need to drag Iran into this. Iran has been a constant theme in his writing. Some of us want to swim with the dolphins, some would like to climb Everest. He wants to flatten Iran, and he's prepared to talk shit to get his wish. Just like him and his pals did with Saddam Hussein, Ledeen has attempted the impressive feat of making the Mullahs of Iran look worse than they really are, once again by linking them to al Qaeda. As real terror experts like Lorretta Napoleoni have pointed out, after the bombing and near destruction of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, bin Laden and al Zawahiri migrated east, to Pakistan. Abu Musab al Zarqawi, not connected to those two in any meaningful way at the time and based near Herat, West Afghanistan, did pass through Iran on his way to Iraqi Kurdistan, but that's as good as his tin-pot theory is going to get. Does Ledeen really believe what he is saying when he makes these extravagant claims? Or does he feel that he wont get his attack on Iran solely on the basis of the governments' nuclear duplicity and woeful human rights record?

Incidently, these Iranian friends of his [yeah, right...], how do they 'know' he died? Did they attend the funeral? Did they have his address? Because they certainly could have been useful in tracking down terrorists in what should be an international policing operation, not a series of bombing campaigns. Call me cynical, but this sounds infinitely more dodgy than all those mysterious 'intelligence sources' that led us into the Iraq war. Stick with something we can believe, Ledeen.

Anybody interested in seeing Michael Ledeen being cut down to size might want to drop by here. This indefatigable man does know what he's talking about.
Friday, January 13, 2006
  Bloghunt: Mel P bashers
I've noticed some who stumble here have come in search of Mad Mel. Thanks to Leech, our religious follower of her Daily Mail rants. But I assure you this is not a dedicated Melanie Phillips bashing site. This blog is registered on Technorati, a useful tool to see what other bloggers are blogging about. And here, you will find 157 or so others who have found the itch to also mention that 'unholy cow'.

The Last Ditch is an interesting place to start for the serious reader in the british political blogosphere.

But for a more tasty discussion on Mad Mel, why not try the Commonplace Book.

Unfortunately, Melanie Phillips Watch was probably the only other blog that came close to being a true basher of the uniquely non-logician, which has now faded into non-existence. Yes, yes... the Leech still holds the torch.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
In a surprising, and even slightly impressive, move, AOL has launched a commercial to at least give an impression that they give a damn about what the fundamental service they provide really means to this world. The Internet. This well-thought out commercial is even more impressively so given that it is a company that's been criticised and parodied by amateur comedians for its infamous piss-ass service. Still I remain a skeptic of the service they actually provide. I thought HSBC commercials had me convinced it was a good bank until I couldn't make out anymore the difference between a wet market on a Saturday morning and a HSBC branch.
To quote casually AOL's attempt to discuss the Internet:
Some say the Internet is a good thing.
In the past year, the percentage of donations made to aide organisations for natural disasters overwhelmingly exceeding those made by governments were made through the Internet. Some say that the Internet is truly the only form of free expression*. The Internet is powerful learning tool for propagating and obtaining information at the click of a mouse button. Orwell was wrong. Society could not be controlled but instead flourish into a free-er, more diverse society.
*Except China. And Singapore. And Malaysia. And etc.
Some say the Internet is a bad thing.
With the Internet, you could be robbed blind without criminals even setting foot in your home. With the Internet, you could buy someone's baby if the price is right. It has been used to propagate the most sinful of desires such as child pornography. Without control and restrictions, terrorists preach and spread their extreme ideologies. Orwell was right. Now that society has fallen reliant on the Internet, Big Brother is able to watch your every move.
I am tempted to side with the latter given that I believe the number of stupid people who spew crap at any one time overly exceeds that of borderline intellectual discussions. Which reminds me of that other interesting credit card commercial scientifically stating that the world is in equilibrium so that for every clever thing that happens, something stupid will happen. Unfortunately if that were true, we'd have cured AIDS and cancer by now and probably be populating Mars as we speak.
Alas I conclude that despite the size of population stupid, they surely cannot outweigh the benefits to be reaped from the Internet. In the end, no good thing ever comes without the bad. It is the crumbs and the crust and even the corners of the bread that we must eat to enjoy the tasty white bit (the analogy doesn't work if you insist that a knife will solve the problem... or if you insist that the crusty bit is the best). If like China, a government may not even consider the white bit being the part to eat and you end up with small bits and chunks that ressemble bird feed (OK clyde, enough with the bread talk!) . The Internet boils down eventually to the freedom of expression. The freedom to communicate in a manner more easily than any other form known to mankind. It is often easier to attack the weapon of crime rather than its perpetrator. Where does one draw the line between weapon and tool?
A recent tv one-off show tried to deal with religion in a similar sort of way. Given that organised religion has been used as an excuse to justify atrocities carried out throughout history. Bush and his "God told me to do it, man" versus Bin Laden's "fuck all non-muslims" being the latest holy war. It is of course unthinkable to even mention the abolishment of organised religion, despite the cost of civilian life and collateral damage associated with some form of destruction in the name of God/Allah/etc. No one is going to close down the Vatican City, or Indonesia. Perhaps religion would make for a much better discussion as to why we should think that a greater good can come of it. Why does a gay muslim man, exiled by his own religion and abandoned by fellow muslims still continue to embrace it? Anyway, back to the topic.
Some say the Internet is a bad thing:
And who is to say that the information is correct anyway? No one is held accountable for what is posted on the net, so can you ever really be sure that what you are reading isn't just a load of rubbish?
True, that enough rubbish is already posted on the Internet that one has to sift through carefully. For example, a particular Singaporean blogger (I'm not naming names) once bragged about how great the toilet space for disabled people were and that the handicapped should wait in line for the toilets just like everyone else. Now if you thought, "hmm, that sounds like a good idea. I think I'll try it some time and tell that retard to get back in line next time", then you're the unfortunate idiot. Not the blogger. I am fond of pointing out cyber-idiots, but I concede that to complain about them would be like the captain of the ship complaining about the sea. You just deal with it. This might be the most mediocre interpretation of "wrong information" nor the most suitable example, but it is hardly a case of whether the Internet presents useful information or not. I'd like to believe it encourages the development of objectivity amongst anything else. The Internet does not pose wrong information. It only poses all information. To have everything spoon-fed to your mind is already the death of you should you choose that direction in life.
There are of course, more deviant crimes such as the propagation of racism and hate on the Internet. But chances are if you buy into that crap, you'd probably turn out to be racist anyway whether you had an internet connection or not. Minds are more easily poisoned than we'd like to believe, especially so in young people. Like most other freedoms, responsibility comes with the package. In my final metaphor, the inherent dangers of the Internet towards society is like that of a car. They are ultimately useful. They get us somewhere.
But if you can't drive, don't get in the fucking car.
"If you can't understand why disabled people need this space, then why don't you go try and break your fucking neck."
Friday, January 06, 2006
  Put the Bible DOWN, Pat
He's done it again. Pat Robertson, speaking to an audience about one million strong on his "Christian" show The 700 Club, claimed that God was punishing Ariel Sharon - currently fighting for his life - for dividing God's land. Though admitting that he found the bellicose leader "very likeable", Robertson had no problem whipping out the Book of Joel and beating him over the head with it. "The prophet Joel [a very blue collar name for a prophet] makes it very clear that God has an emnity against those who 'divide my land' ", stated Robertson, referring to Sharon's much heralded Gaza disengagement plan. The fact that the plan is a sideshow, contrasting with incursions into Palestinian West Bank territory is no consolation for Robertson, or God, apparently.

Robertson's disgusting comments about a man suffering from a dangerous stroke, and his tactless bleating about his favourite book, have left him in interesting company. President and recklessly mouthy supervillain Mahmoud 'Divine Avenger' Ahmadinejad from Iran. While stroking a white cat wearing a veil in his hollowed-out volcano the president said: "''Hopefully, the news that the criminal of Sabra and Chatilla has joined his ancestors is final*", offering superfluous proof that he doesn't like Israel much in any shape and ruling out any Get Well Soon cards when he has his own crisis [a broken neck from removing his head from his arse is still my prediction].

Of course, Melanie Phillips has her own twisted and fawning interpretation, claiming that Sharon was about to impose a state on the Palestinians [how kind. How many little pieces will it be in?], that assasination-happy nutjob Shaul Mofaz could be a good leader and then making a sickeningly racist link to what the "Arabs" [all of them?] were up to [bad things of course]. She, along with Alan Dershowitz and the Bush administration, is going to expect them to show Sharon some sympathy, a bit rich seeing as all three were very happy indeed about Yasser Arafat dying just over a year ago. Melanie Phillips should stick to what she does best and go out and scare some children. Meanwhile, there is not a person on this Earth I would want dead or suffering, even at God's alleged hands. Stay out of politics Ariel Sharon. And get well soon.

*incidentally, I think this is a fair description. The Kahan report claimed he was indirectly responsible for the atrocities committed in these camps, but that was a whitewash. Ahmadinejad could also have mentioned Qibya. Or he could have just shut up.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
  Time to get a Watch
Maybe it's just my cruddy ham-fisted IT skills, but it appears that the weblog Melanie Phillips Watch has suddenly vanished. It was a relatively young endevour that had great potential, and I am now contemplating putting out flyers hoping for its safe return. My suspicion is that, like the food tasters of ancient times - who had to sample their master's dinner to check for poison - such a job will eventually be the death of you. With this in mind I will fire the first salvo of the New Year. And fingers crossed that soon there will be more than one garbage truck to clean up this mess.

Phillips had taken the rather charitable step of not making posts over the festive season, a case of Christmas stealing the Grinch. But by the third day of the year, a year to which I am pinning quite a fair bit of hope, she had launched a blitz of six posts, some of them predictabaly repulsive. She showed her hypocrisy about individual liberty with short rants about drugs and euthanasia, which she knows full well have more to do with her [admittedly valid and reasonable] opinions than they do about protecting Britain from itself. In a move that tells us so much about her, she "translat[ed]" the term "bigotry" into "social protection", thus coming full circle and revealing to the British public why she once won the Orwell Prize for journalism. Happy New Year everybody! It's 1984.

But the issue I would like to dwell on a bit more comes in a post entitled Kafka's Britain (2). It's about the kidnapping of Kate Burton, the aid worker based in Gaza who was snatched by armed Palestinians last week. They also took her parents, who had taken the questionable decision to visit her in an increasingly dangerous and impoverished area, and held them in captivity for several days until she was released and eventually taken into the care of a Britsih diplomatic team.

My beef with this article is more or less split into two parts, both Phillips hallmarks. Firstly, the inaccurate description of events. Secondly, her demonisation of the Palestinians as a people [outrageous and callous racism in my book] and those who sympathise with their squalid living conditions and need for independence.

So, the article begins:

"The British press carries reports today of the fury and exasperation of British officials who rescued Kate Burton and her parents from their Palestinian kidnappers only to find that she refused to co-operate with them and would not be debriefed, thus potentially putting other innocent people in danger from similar activities"

The "British press" she is referring to is The Daily Mail, a right wing paper that I have on my lap here. On any issue it's a bad source, being right-wing, highly critical of immigration and Islam and is also one of the nasty places where Phillips plies her trade [in fact, she's on page 14 of this edition]. I have grown up with it in my house, becoming familiar with its love of the brutal British empire, its compassionless attitude to African poverty and its need to vanquish the opponents of Great Britain, no matter how insignificant the contest [for example, in the week that the International Olympic Committee decided that London should host the 2012 Olympics, The Mail took the inspired decision to print a selection of jokes about Britain's rival France, including such gems as: "Why do so many French men have moustaches? : To remind them of their mothers." A few more of those and The Sun wont have any BNP readers left]. It was inside The Mail that I first discovered Melanie Phillips and realised that what Einstein allegedly said was true:

""The difference between genius and stupidity is that there are limits to genius."

The impressive thing is that, with her selective citation, Phillips makes a witless, inaccurate and nationalistic article even worse than it already was. She writes that "...British officials...rescued Kate Burton..." The Daily Mail reported the story this way:

"Miss Burton and her parents, Hugh, 73, and Win, 55, were released to British officials on Friday night in a tense handover with the gunmen..." She was released, Phillips. They didn't need to call for a man in a bay costume or a smarmy secret agent replete with gadgets. Released. In fact, rather crassly, the kidnappers claimed they were doing it as "a gesture of goodwill". That she was released should come as no surprise. Hostages had been taken and released in quick succession before and after the Burton family in Gaza, such as the the Australian and Dutch teachers, who were held for eight hours last month. The various groups that do it do so to expose and mock the weakness of the corrupt, often ineffectual Palestinian Authority and to gain international attention for the wretched conditions around them. Or, as they told Kate Burton themselves, "getting their message across". The methodology is put well by Amira Hass of Haaretz:

"Foreigners taken hostage in Gaza have usually been released within hours. The kidnappers, who have tended to demand jobs or the release of prisoners as ransom, generally make contact with the authorities to immediately begin negotiations."

But not only was she released. She was released with the help and mediation of the Palestinian Authority, a fact unmentioned by The Daily Mail. This is going to be a real pain in the ass for those who want to slime the Palestinian people as a band of terrorists [more on that below], or claim that disproportionate use of force by the Israeli Defence Force is justified because Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership have no intention of preventing Palestinian terrorism themselves. British diplomats and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw worked side by side with Palestinains at various levels on this case, while the Palestinian authority at one point even threatened to use force against the kidnappers. Coming from an impoverished wasteland, currently having its infrastructure in the northern "buffer zone" bombed by Israel [in what the Israeli government and defence forces call retaliation for rocket attcks, knowing full well that collective punishment is NOT retaliation] this is impressive cooperation.

Melanie Phillips, along with The Daily Mail, also tries to pin the Stockholm Syndrome on Kate Burton. Citing her aunt, Phillips insinuates that she approved of the actions of her terrorist captors. The aunt's quote in The Daily Mail is this:

"Kate will be very forgiving of these men because she believes they wouldn't do this sort of thing without good reason. She has a very sympathetic nature."

Which sounds like a fairly usual thing for the daughter of quakers to think. And bear in mind that the aunt was merely guessing how she would feel. She is hardly going to attribute a vindictive streak to her cherished relative. Whatever she meant by that statement, it becomes significantly warped when it goes through Melanie Phillips' slime machine and is interpreted thus:

"...the kidnap victim's unaccountable sympathy with manipulative violence"


"...Burton appears unable to view her kidnappers as evil people"

As I said ealier, Phillips will rabidly attack anybody who feels that the people of Palestine, including those that she has seen first hand in the swamp of Gaza, are suffering. The best way to see what the victim felt about her kidnappers is to hear her speak. And when she says:

"I cannot forgive them for what they have done"


"I feel like I've been stabbed in the back. I was here to help"

then you realise what a ridiculous clown and circus combo Melanie Phillips and The Daily Mail make.

Now, Melanie Phillips has a good reason for all of this distortion. In her second part of the article she conflates the victim's hostage takers, the men who negotiated her release, the terrorist scum of Islamic Jihad and such groups, and the wretched, suffering Palestinian populations of Gaza and the West Bank into one murderous group, which she refers to as : "the Palestinians". She does it repeatedly, burping out noxious gas like:

"The same people - or at least, Kate Burton - regard those practising genocidal terror as the vulnerable to be helped in the Middle East conflict, while viewing their actual victims as oppressors."


"...the Palestinians' incitement of their children to mass murder..."


..."the Palestinian mass murder of Israeli innocents... "


..." the Palestinians were systematically trying to wipe out Israelis - the process which has been continuing without interruption for the past half-century ever since Israel was created. "

Stuff that is not only hateful and semantically sloppy, but also inaccurate. She can correctly claim that Israel comes in for especially harsh discrimination, [and despite Ahmadinejad of Iran trying to hog the dubious attention here, there are many high profile politicians that do it] but terminates any personal claims for the higher ground by actively participating in racism and discrimination of her own. People are not interchangeable, and to bulldoze an avenue of houses, cut the electricity in a municipality or impose a curfew in response to the acts of a terror group is sickening and simple-minded. But if you refer to the victims as "the Palestinians" then it presents them as a unified force with one ideology and fair game for military response when it enacts this ideology. So, if a group like Islamic Jihad launches Qassam rockets at Israeli civillians and the Israeli government responds by clearing north Gaza of its popuilation, then bombs the area, this is "the Palestinians" being punished for actions by "the Palestininas", much more palatable than a thorough investigation of events. A few months ago I wrote about what nonsense such a blanket hostility was and her latest outpourings reaffirm what a one-sided grasp of the issue she has.

Her distaste for Kate Burton is very clear under this context. Those groups which, using international law, criticize the Israeli government for its actions, or demand just treatment for Palestinians, are lambasted and said to be biassed against Israel. In the past she has attacked Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, putting herself in the company of gross little institutions like NGO Monitor. Both Phillips and NGO Monitor hope that, by delegitimizing such NGOs as mere anti-Israeli propagandists, they can stamp on the critics of the likes of Ariel Sharon, who use findings by neutral groups to back up their criticism. She attempts a similar thing here with Burton's NGO, saying:

"With their customary cirumlocution and moral obfuscation, the British media have described al Mezan, the organisation Burton worked for in Gaza, as a 'human rights' charity'. It would be more accurate to describe it as a 'human wrongs' charity. "

She also crtitises its "vile libels and distortions" and santising mass-murder. While the group does focus exclusively on Palestinian casualties on its website and its references to Islamic Jihad and Hamas are scanty, the basis for the group's findings are drawn from well-established human rights laws and international conventions, including those of the UN. So to criticise the IDF activities in Gaza is not a libel against Israel if it is established that they have happened. And the fact that they do not criticize attacks against Israel [more accurately, she couldn't find any criticism of such attacks] does not stop them being a human rights charity. Their mandate only extends to the Gaza strip, not Israel itself, so abuses outside of its borders are of no concern to them. This is troubling [what about gunfire from Gaza into Israel?], but a writer with more perspective would also note that they do not promote terrorism against the Israeli civilians either. What they do cover is Palestinian on Palestinian violence, including assasinations and the kidnappings that Phillips so snidely claims Kate Burton approves of.

So, a happy new year for Melanie Phillips, who has started no doubt as she means to continue. The disturbing incursions being made in the West Bank by Sharon's forces will soon provide more anger and more terrorism for her to sound off about. And when she hits her stride I hope there is a watch site to cut her down to size.
  Happy New Year, casual readers
And may we see less of this:

...and of this:

...and this:

"Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere." - George W. Bush (March 24, 2004)

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