Burma Shave

Filming secretly in Burma nine years ago, I came upon what might have been a tableau from Dickensian England. Near the town of Tavoy, in the south, gangs of people were building a railway viaduct, guarded by soldiers. These were slave labourers, and many were children. I watched one small girl in a long blue dress struggle to wield a hoe taller than herself, falling back exhausted, in pain, holding her shoulder. “How old are you?” I asked her. “Eleven,” came the reply.Just as we should not forget the people of Fallujah and Najaf and Baghdad, and Ramallah and Gaza, so we should not forget this little girl, and her people, and their leader, who ask for the most basic rights and deserve our support.

Burma is on the brink, demonstrations of the size now happening and the key involvement of monks in organising the resistance make for a moment that could be a tipping point, before you read on click here to sign a petition in solidarity with the protesters.-

Tens of thousands of people joined around 10,000 Buddhist monks in Rangoon today in the biggest demonstration against the ruling military in Burma for 20 years. The monks were also supported by two of the country’s best-known celebrities…

The number of monks marching through Rangoon in the last six days has been matched or out-numbered by civilian supporters.

Kyaw Thu, a popular actor, joined a comedian known as Zargana, in offering up food and water to monks gathered at the Shwedagon.

“We are Buddhist. All Buddhists have to support this movement,” Kyaw Thu said. “We will do whatever we have to do take care of the monks. They are doing a lot on behalf of the people.”

They are in sync with Aung San Suu Kyi-

A day after hundreds of monks had walked to the house of the imprisoned democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, thousands more returned to the streets in a show of numbers not seen since the pro-democracy marches of 1988. Back then the regime responded with a brutal crackdown, killing thousands of civilians and monks. While yesterday’s march ended peacefully, it was clear that the authorities had increased security in the city and the monks and the other marchers were refused access to Ms Suu Kyi’s house when they tried to repeat Saturday’s extraordinary meeting.

But that first article from The Guardian expected Gordon Brown to make some strong statements in support of the people’s movement, yet Burma was mentioned once and not in specific reference to the current amazing events-

You know, there is a golden thread of common humanity that across nations and faiths binds us together and it can light the darkest corners of the world. And the message should go out to anyone facing persecution anywhere from Burma to Zimbabwe: human rights are universal and no injustice can last forever.

Even though Brown has named Aung San Suu Kyi as a personal hero in his recent book Courage: Eight Portraits (h/t Chicken Yoghurt). Right now the dictatorship will be mulling a crackdown which will mean many deaths and imprisonment and torture for hundreds/thousands. Right now. So are we to assume our noble leaders are doing all the threatening and bargaining behind the scenes? Are they making it clear to the junta that their time is up they cannot get away with another massacre, maybe if they really want a regime change they will be offering to spirit them out of the country. After all that’s the form used when they actually want a change of government, ask Aristide. But…a rather large amount of nothing, a few diplomatic nudges of support for the protesters but no big display to support democracy in Burma. Realpolitik has no interest in the currency of human welfare, human rights, for the moment Total Oil has very good relations with the military dictators. Publicly sanctions are announced all over but away from the audience of the credulous trade with Burma goes on with little moral outrage.

The latest reports show the military are beginning to threaten the protesters-

Burma’s ruling military junta has warned it is ready to “take action” against Buddhist monks leading mounting protests, state media have reported. Brig Gen Thura Myint Maung, minister for religion, warned them not to break Buddhist “rules and regulations” as Rangoon saw the largest march yet. He blamed the protests on “destructive elements” opposed to peace in Burma.

The UK’s man in Rangoon says-

UK Ambassador Mark Canning said Burma’s leaders were now in uncharted territory and he expressed concern about a possible government counter-reaction. “That… would be a disaster, although in terms of probability it, I’m afraid, ranks quite high,” he told the BBC.

That article also says Bush will announce some visa restrictions on Burma, big whoop. China is Burma’s big patron and as trade is not effectively impeded by the junta’s rule or the sham sanctions there are no corporate pressures for change. America trades discreetly and has little imperial interest or ambitions to confront China, the EU shamelessly supports the regime which spends half its income on weaponry-

The junta holds more that 1,350 political prisoners, many of whom are routinely tortured. Up to a million people have been forced from their land. Half the national budget is spent on a brutal, peacock military whose only enemy is its own people, while next to nothing is spent on health; one in ten Burmese babies die in infancy.

Meanwhile, the EU shores up the regime by increasing imports, worth around 4bn dollars between 1998 and 2002.

“None of the EU officials I have met,” says John Jackson, “denies that foreign investment and military spending in Burma are closely linked. In the week the regime received its first payment for gas due to be piped to Thailand from a gas field operated by Total Oil, it made a 130m dollar down-payment on ten MiG-29 jet fighters.”

Jackson points to the farce of present EU sanctions. After as many as 100 of Suu Kyi’s supporters were publicly beaten to death by soldiers in 2003, the EU extended its visa ban to the junta and Germany froze no less than 86 euros of German-based Burmese assets.

Total Oil Company, part-owned by the French government, the largest foreign investor in Burma, where the oil companies’ infrastructure of roads and railway access have long been the subject of allegations of forced labour. Total’s euros allow the junta to re-equip its state of fear.

Writing to Total about their involvement in Burma I got a form response from Jean-François Lassalle (E&P Vice President Public Affairs) that pointed to Total’s website-

Unfortunately, the world’s oil and gas reserves are not necessarily located in democracies, as a glance at a map shows. As a result, oil companies often face criticism and questions from civil society concerning their operations in countries with repressive regimes, their relations with governments, the security measures deployed to protect their facilities, and the way in which host countries spend oil revenues.

Rather than respond to the unwarranted criticism, we want to restore balanced debate on whether a responsible multinational company can contribute positively to the economic and social development of a country that faces sharp internal divisions.

Unfortunately… you’re a bunch of Motherfuckers-

Rape is used as a weapon of the state against ethnic woman and children. Forced labour is widespread, described by the UN’s International Labour Organisation as a “crime against humanity”.

Hey Jean-François, you’re a piece of shit, as Bill Hicks might say- Seriously, just kill yourself. So Burma occupies a limbo where Realpolitik finds it most convenient to support the dictatorship and affluent westerners if they think about it at all, think about it as a holiday destination or an edgy location for a cookery program, but of course they are ‘aware of the issues’ so that’s all right then-

“I definitely respect what Aung San Suu Kyi said, but I felt I had to see the place for myself,” she said. Ms Smale does not regret her decision to go. “It’s the best place I’ve ever been to,” she said. “It’s had a huge influence on me.”

…In fact, according to Mr Farmaner, Burma is unique in that many of its human rights abuses are directly connected to the military’s decision to promote tourism. “Much of the country’s tourist infrastructure is developed by the use of forced labour,” he said. “People have been made to construct roads, airports and hotels, and thousands more have been forcibly relocated to make way for tourist areas.”

Yeah what a great holiday, next year she’s probably going to Fallujah (I’m not a tourist right, I’m a traveler yeah?). So right now it is time to show support, we are at a tipping point, like the man standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square this could go either way, our governments do not seem concerned, they would rather duel with Ahmadinejad. But this is a crucial moment, time Gordon Brown made good on his admiration of Aung San Suu Kyi, while his speech was a pointless avoidance of talking about the wars we are engaged in he could buy back some karma by taking this opportunity to help put an end to the military dictatorship in Burma. Now is the time.

US Must Reduce Emissions By At Least 80%

Oh dear-

 By 2050, the United States must cut its emissions by at least 80 percent below those created in the year 2000 if the world is to avoid potentially dangerous impacts of human-induced climate change, according to a report released today by Texas Tech University, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Stanford University.

To avoid the most severe effects of climate change, the world must stabilize the concentration of heat trapping gases in the atmosphere at no more than 450 parts per million, said Katharine Hayhoe, an associate professor of geosciences at Texas Tech University who performed the emissions-reduction calculations for the joint report.

This 450-parts-per-million limit aims to avoid a temperature increase exceeding 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit in a global average temperature above pre-industrial levels – a temperature-change benchmark which Hayhoe and other scientists believe could wreak increasing havoc on the environment as it is exceeded.

“The study assumes both developing and industrialized countries would have to converge to equitable per-capita emissions to stabilize the world’s climate,” she said. “However, even with other countries taking aggressive action, since the United States is responsible for nearly one-quarter of global emissions, it must act now to achieve the deep cuts in its energy consumption that will be required to meet this target.”

The cost of delaying U.S. emission reductions could be high, said Michael D. Mastrandrea, a research associate at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University.

“If we wait until 2020 to start emission reductions, we’ll have to cut twice as fast than if we start in 2010 to meet the same target,” Mastrandrea said.

While an 80 percent reduction sounds daunting now, Hayhoe said that the sooner we start, the greater our chances of successfully meeting that target.

“We’ve got 40 years to radically increase the efficiency of the way we use energy,” she said. “It’s also time to start considering more extensive ways to harness renewable energy sources through solar panel arrays and wind farms, for example. It’s worth it to put in the effort now to reduce our emissions. If we don’t, there will be a lot more work to do just to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the future.”

More detail at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) site here and here.

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No Fake Boobs For Chavez

Good man, I prefer quality not quantity ( ‘quan-tity’!) and I’m more of an ass man anyway. Ahem, the nexus of wealth and sexual attractiveness is not a happy or a good place.

President Hugo Chavez railed against a new trend in beauty-conscious Venezuela, giving girls breast implants for their 15th birthday. “Now some people think, ‘My daughter’s turning 15, let’s give her breast enlargements.’ That’s horrible. It’s the ultimate degeneration,” Chavez said late on Sunday on his weekly TV show that lasted a record eight hours.

Venezuela is well known for its beauty queens, who have regularly won world crowns, and many women have plastic surgery in the oil-rich country where there is widespread spending on consumer items that would be considered luxuries elsewhere. But Chavez, the anti-U.S., self-styled revolutionary who came to office in 1999, is seeking to change those attitudes to create what he calls the “new man” to build a socialist society in this South American nation.

Chavez complained about the new fad of giving the plastic surgery operation at 15 — when Latin Americans celebrate a girl’s coming-of-age — during a diatribe against what he says are Western-imposed consumerist icons such as Barbie dolls. While breast implants are advertised on TV and banks offer special credit lines for such operations, if girls do get the enlargements they are not expected to become sexually active afterward.

Venezuelans’ have a habit of avid consumerism since the 1970s oil boom in the OPEC nation. They have won the nickname of the “Give-Me-Twos” in the tourist destination of Florida for buying double the amount of typical consumers. Breast implants cost thousands of dollars in Venezuela. Chavez’s answer? He has told his supporters to give away any extra goods they do not need, urging them to leave out in town squares items such as fans or refrigerators.

“I am calling on your conscience, fathers of this country, mothers of this country, they are our sons, they are our daughters,” Chavez said. Still, Chavez, who happily describes himself as ugly, may struggle to change Venezuelans’ mind-set to spending on plastic surgery. In elevators, at huge, jam-packed shopping malls, women can be overheard openly boasting about their recent, conspicuous operations.

A Culture In Terminal Decline

So a conservative married politician who has publicly been shown to habitually use prostitutes secures public funds for a program to promote creationism and attack science-

In a move ostensibly aimed at providing “better science education” in Louisiana schools, Sen. David Vitter has secured $100,000 in taxpayer dollars to fund an anti-evolution effort spearheaded by a religious group politically connected to the alleged prostitute-soliciting Republican.

Vitter secured an earmark in an upcoming labor, health and education financing bill for the Louisiana Family Forum, which The New Orleans Times Picayune reports has “taken the lead in promoting ‘origins science,’ which includes the possibility of divine intervention in the creation of the universe.”

The group was founded by Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana state lawmaker who now leads the conservative Family Research Council. The Louisiana Family Forum works to “present biblical principals” on public policy issues, and until a reporter questioned them about it, the group’s Web site included a “battle plan to combat evolution,” which argued the theory “has no place in the classroom.”

Erm, is fucking prostitutes while married a very family friendly conservative thing? Ok stupid question, of course it is, conservatism is nothing if it isn’t hypocrisy & denial for the mentally ill elevated to the status of an ideology. And that science stuff, no that’s fine, the rest of the world enjoys laughing at an empire in its end-stage, well the portion not being killed by it in desperate last minute attempts at dominance. Hey, tell you what, when the earth is completely uninhabitable and we invent hyperspace teleport beams (provably to be called iBeam) to zip to a new planet, you can all stay here and that ‘God’ thingy can help you out. And if some land on that new world gets called Eden, well…yes we are doing that to annoy you. However if such an eventuality does not arise your endtime idiocy and rejection of climate change will mean we all get to die which won’t be so good, but then I’m sure you’ll think the joke will be on us when we all get turned away from the pearly gates for being so ungodly. That’s if y’know your brand of religion is the right one, there are a few others you see and um, I mean should a deity be the simplistic myth you enjoy then clearly an awful lot of people are signed up to the wrong team (and so their loyalty cards or whatever won’t work the turnstiles in Heaven,…or something) and that might include you.

Also that house you live in? Science. Car? Science. Clothes? Yep, science. The money that you now have in your hot little retarded hands to promote your guesswork? Designed, printed, shipped- science. You see intelligent people who retain a faith know that writings from thousands of years ago don’t necessarily prove how the world came into being, or that people can turn into pillars of salt, or seas part etc. They don’t need a God as an authority figure and grand magician, which brings us back to conservatives- stupid, wanting their daddies and intent on telling everyone else how to live. It’s the totalitarian stupid! An Empire that wants to control the world, a religion that wants to control all creation. And always, always, ALWAYS, they are fucking whores on the quiet. Which makes me think, was conservative authoritarian religion dreamt up by the sex industry? Because it seems to be an effective consumer creation program. Is God a woman? And she charges? Is that why the Pope wears a dress? All that purple and red and incense…it’s a brothel!

And worst of all stoopid fundie nonsnese inspires me to write stoopid nonsense! Arrrgghhh!

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Sanctions Schmanctions

It was Naj who pointed out to me that sanctions on Iran are a business tactic to squeeze down Iranian prices to global customers which does give the context to this-

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is to oppose French calls for European Union sanctions against Iran and is planning to back up his case with evidence of French and American hypocrisy over sanctions against Iran.

According to information obtained by SPIEGEL, the economics department of the German Foreign Ministry has collected revealing data which Steinmeier will use to back up his argument against EU sanctions.

Several French companies in the automobile, energy and financial sectors — including Peugeot, Renault, Total, BNP Paribas and Societé Générale — have hardly reduced the level of business they do with Iran, according to the Foreign Ministry data. German exports to Iran, in contrast, have dramatically declined.

Even more explosive is the data that reveals US hypocrisy over sanctions. The German Foreign Ministry accuses American firms of bypassing the boycott against Iran, which has been in place since 1979, by creating front companies in Dubai to carry out their business. German politicians have long internally accused the United States of knowingly tolerating the practice.

The differences in how strictly sanctions are applied by different countries has led to “German firms being pushed out of the Iranian market,” a high-ranking source in the Foreign Ministry told SPIEGEL.

Oh those poor Germans getting squeezed out of the trough anyway it does rather show the tasty prize Iran is to the world’s corporations and whether it’s sanctions or installing a business friendly puppet regime (the objective of an attack) Iran is a target.