Posts Tagged ‘independence

Pic of the Day

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Looks like the Brits – and especially the Tories – are getting worried about for-real devolution, this time. This is a fiery topic with old mates of mine in Progressive politics in the UK coming down on both sides of the question. As a “child” of the Highland Clearances, I’m a supporter of sovereignty for Scotland. Causes more pub rows than an Auld Firm derby.

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Written by Ed Campbell

January 15, 2012 at 10:00 am

Netherlands apologises to Indonesia for 1947 Rawagede massacre

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Dutch Ambassador Tjeerd de Zwaan throws petals over graves at the Rawagede Hero Cemetery

The Dutch government formally apologised Friday for a 1947 massacre on Indonesia’s Java island, in an emotional ceremony on the anniversary of the executions by its colonial army.

Dutch troops swooped into a village in the town of Rawagede during Indonesia’s fight for independence and executed men and boys as their families and neighbours looked on. Dutch officials say 150 people were killed, but a support group and the local community say the death toll was 431.

“In this context and on behalf of the Dutch government, I apologise for the tragedy that took place in Rawagede on the 9th of December, 1947,” the Netherlands ambassador to Indonesia Tjeerd de Zwaan said.

He then repeated the apology in the Indonesian language, to the applause of hundreds of people attending the ceremony, some of whom broke down in tears as they listened in front of a marble monument commemorating the dead.

In a landmark ruling, a Hague-based civil court in September found the Dutch state responsible for the executions and ruled in favour of eight widows and a survivor of the massacre who lodged the case. Two of the widows have since died, and so has the survivor, Saih Bin Sakam, who passed away in May at the age of 88…

One of the widows, 93-year-old Anti Rukiyah, said she was relieved to finally receive an apology, and would use the compensation money to help her children buy a home…

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa praised the Dutch government for making the apology.

I live in a land where fools in one political party condemn members of the other as unpatriotic cowards for “apologizing for America”. Slavery and genocide never happened in this Land of Liberty – if you listen jaw agape to the pronouncements of Republicans, Kool Aid Partygoers and the Blue Dog flavor of spineless Democrat.

Someday, no doubt when I will have shuffled off this mortal coil for a century or two, American education will have progressed sufficiently to produce a generation or two of adults who embrace an ethical view of history.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 9, 2011 at 2:00 pm

In 2011, the 4th of July has become Independents Day

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As we celebrated Independence Day at the start of a long hot campaign season, it is worth remembering that patriotism is not the same thing as partisanship.

Our first president, George Washington said, “I was no party man myself, and the first wish of my heart was, if parties did exist, to reconcile them…”

And the third president — and author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, observed: “I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all…”

The fact is that 41% of Americans describe themselves as independents — as opposed to Democrats or Republicans — according to an April Washington Post/ABC News poll. Independents are the largest and fastest-growing segment of the electorate. Back in 1945, they made up 15%…

…And the growth of independent voters has occurred precisely as the two parties have become more ideologically polarized than at any time in our recent history…

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ed Campbell

July 6, 2011 at 10:00 am

Missouri coppers “kill” cement alligator

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Buy the mold and make lots of ‘em for your yard

Police in a suburb in the state of Missouri recently encountered one tough alligator — or so they thought.

Officers in Independence, a Kansas City suburb, responded to a call on a Saturday evening about a large alligator lurking on the embankment of a pond, police spokesman Tom Gentry said.

An officer called a state conservation agent, who advised him to shoot the alligator because there was little that conservation officials could do at that time, Gentry said.

As instructed an officer shot the alligator, not once but twice, but both times the bullets bounced off — because the alligator was made of cement…

Gentry acknowledged the incident is drawing a lot of attention.

“In hindsight, it’s humorous,” he said. “But we have to take every call seriously.”

You could chuck a rock at the “critter” if no one’s seen it move in a day or two – before you open fire.

Any idea where the ricochet went?

Written by Ed Campbell

June 4, 2011 at 2:00 am

Nearly 4 million southern Sudanese to vote on independence

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Almost 4 million southern Sudanese, or roughly half the south’s population, have registered to take part in an independence referendum next week that is likely to split Africa’s largest country in two.

The U.S. State Department said it was optimistic ahead of the vote, which is due to begin in six days and marks the climax of a 2005 peace deal that ended a civil war in Sudan that killed at least 2 million people and destabilized much of the region…

Southerners are expected to vote to separate from the north and form a new nation.

“The total number of people registered in the south, in the eight countries abroad and in the states of northern Sudan is 3,930,916,” said Chan Reek Madut, a member of the referendum’s organizing commission.

The vast majority of voters are in the southern region. Only some sixty thousand registered in the diaspora and less than 120,000 in the north, amid accusations of voter intimidation and a fear of reprisals should the south separate…

The State Department’s Crowley said both the Obama administration’s special envoy for Sudan, Scott Gration, and Princeton Lyman, a veteran U.S. diplomat named to help negotiations between north and south, would be in Sudan for the vote, and said both sides appeared to be sending “the right signals” about the need for an open and credible process.

But he noted that the two sides remain split on key issues including border demarcation, the fate of the disputed region of Abyei, and the sharing of oil revenues — any of which could spark potential confrontation in the weeks following the referendum…

In order to be valid, the referendum requires that 60 percent of those registered turn out to vote.

Cripes. That wouldn’t work in the great democratic nation of the United $tates of America.

And, yes, I trust the government of Sudan about as far as I could throw them uphill into a heavy wind. These are the gangsters who still say they never knew Osama Bin Laden was training in their land back in the mid-80′s.

They didn’t know. The CIA didn’t know. Anyone who travelled through the region knew. But, official liars say they didn’t know. Hogwash!

Written by Ed Campbell

January 4, 2011 at 2:00 am

Welcome to Laptopistan

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Inside the Atlas Cafe

Just after 4 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon, as a dozen people clicked away on their laptops at the Atlas Café in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, half of a tree broke off without warning less than a block away. It crashed into the middle of Havemeyer Street, crushing a parked car, setting off alarms and blocking the street. A deafening chorus of horns rose outside Atlas’s window as traffic halted. An 18-wheeler executed a sketchy 10-point turn in the middle of a crowded intersection before a pair of fire trucks made their way through the traffic jam in a blaze of red. Chain saws roared, sawdust flew and the horns built to a peak. It was New York urban pandemonium at its finest.

Inside the warm confines of Atlas, separated from the chaos by only a thin wall of glass, not a soul stirred. A quiet mention was made of the falling tree, a few heads rose for a second, and then, just as quickly, they ducked back down. They all returned to whatever was on the other side of their glowing, partly eaten apples. On a day when the cafe Internet connection had already been down for four hours, and the toilet had been blocked for even longer, I thought I had seen these worker bees pushed to their limit. But I had underestimated them. Nothing could stir these people. They were not in New York; they were citizens of Laptopistan…

I was, admittedly, a profoundly skeptical observer. Though I had been a freelance writer for the last eight years, I had always worked at home, clad in pajamas and brewing my own fuel rather than paying $3 for someone to make pretty designs in my caffeinated foam. Whenever my wife suggested that I get out of the house, maybe take my laptop to a cafe, I shot back: “Real freelancers don’t work in coffee shops. It’s just unemployed hipsters and their unpublished novels, or screenplays, or Facebook stati…”

So what was I doing in Laptopistan? I moved from New York to Toronto in September, but had come back to the city for a week and was sleeping on a friend’s couch. I needed a place to work. Someone suggested Atlas. I swallowed my skepticism and got my passport ready.

Set on the corner of Havemeyer and Grand Streets, and flooded with light from two walls of windows, Atlas Café, which opened in 2003, looks like a combination of worn trattoria and late 1990s Seattle coffeehouse. The name reflects its wall-sized map of the world (there are also a mobile of hanging globes, and flourishes of décor inspired by someone’s travel to the Far East). The soundtrack is a mix of old country and folk (Dylan, Willy, Cohen and Cash), classical, bebop and French ballads…

Laptopistan’s is an entrepreneurial economy, driven by solitary thinkers. Aszure Barton, a choreographer from Alberta, was working with colleagues to prepare for her contemporary dance show called BUSK, which will debut Dec. 17 at the Jerome Robbins Theater. Robert Olinger runs a biotech startup that is getting silkworms to make spider silk at commercial scale, designs online education programs for the New York City Department of Education, and directs theater projects with Russian artists. In just a few days I met architects and event planners, database designers, classical musicians, film editors and app developers, every facet of the creative economy working under one roof, not so much together as in tandem…

RTFA. It’s long, interesting, well-written, sometimes humorous, always introspective. The sort of “notes from our journalist in the field” that keeps much of my weekend online reading stuck into the Observer or the NY Times.

This particular effort reflects a certain portion of my life with telling accuracy. I think much of the style – as observed – fits a close look at intellectuals shoehorned physically if not mentally into an urban shoebox. It still won’t impose restrictions on their curiosity or openness.

And, of course, MacDonald’s can fill the bill as well as many a coffee shop. Or, if you’re in Santa Fe, Java Joe’s.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 6, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Happy 1,000th Birthday to Hanoi

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Drummers below a statue of King Ly Cong Uan
who founded Hanoi as VietNam’s capitol in 1010

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

A musical refrain blared from a loudspeaker as this weekend began — “Hanoi, Hanoi, Hanoi” — and on the sidewalk below, Nguyen Thi Thuy was selling red heart-shaped decals printed with the gold star of Vietnam’s flag.

“I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” said Ms. Thuy, a 20-year-old college student, who had pasted one of the decals on her cheek.

This day only comes once every thousand years.”

With parades and concerts and flamboyant kitsch, Hanoi is celebrating its 1,000th anniversary on Sunday, and much of city life has ground to a halt to make way for it…

But in the symbolism of the celebration, the Communist Party ruled supreme, just three months before a once-every-five-years party congress, at the pinnacle of a history that includes royalty and feudalism as well as revolution…

As an urban landscape, though, Hanoi seems mostly to be succeeding, where other Asian cities have failed, in integrating development with preservation.

Zoning laws have maintained the low-rise heart of the city with its shade trees and broad sidewalks. Most development has been shifted to the western suburbs.

Many of the elegant villas of the old French quarter have been preserved, and the bustling Ancient Quarter, choked with tourists and commerce, survives. The area around Hoan Kiem Lake has so far resisted development…

As the city’s modernization picks up pace, it seems, the pace of nostalgia accelerates along with it.

The article is more than a little choppy – likely edited to suit New York/American politics.

After all, this is the celebration of a nation that generally succeeded in rebuffing attempts of their much larger neighbors like China to absorb them. They defeated old colonialists like Japan and France and a new imperialist like the United States. The distance they have brought a nation impoverished by war – by comparison with neighbors like Thailand – is stellar.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 10, 2010 at 6:00 am

UN court says Kosovo independence is legal

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Declaration of Independence in 2008
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Kosovo’s unilateral secession from Serbia in 2008 did not violate international law, the World Court has said in a decision with implications for separatist movements everywhere.

The non-binding, but clear-cut ruling by the International Court of Justice is a major blow to Serbia and will complicate efforts to draw the former pariah ex-Yugoslav republic into the European Union.

It is likely to lead to more states following the United States, Britain and 67 other countries in recognizing ethnic-Albanian dominated Kosovo, which broke away after NATO intervened to end a brutal crackdown on separatism by Belgrade.

It may also embolden breakaway regions in countries ranging from India and Iraq to Serbia’s war-torn neighbor and fellow former Yugoslav republic Bosnia to seek more autonomy.

“The court considers that general international law contains no applicable prohibition of declaration of independence,” Judge Hisashi Owada, president of the ICJ, said in the clear majority ruling delivered in a cavernous hall at the Hague-based ICJ.

“Accordingly it concludes that the declaration of independence of the 17th of February 2008 did not violate general international law…”

News of the court’s decision prompted celebrations in the Kosovo capital Pristina, where people drove through the streets waving Kosovo, U.S. and British flags and shouting “USA, USA!.”

That last bit is scary enough on its own.

Meanwhile, I have to wonder about what depth was dedicated to discussion of ethnic minorities moving into a region – and then claiming it as their own? The history of Kosovo since WW2.

Albanians moved in and eventually became a regional majority and declared independence.

It’s the sort of politic tactic long used as a slander and fear in the United States. First against Mormons. Nowadays – realistically – against Mexicans. I have a few acquaintances who have dedicated their lives to reclaiming the Mexican state of Aztlan – which would include Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and southern California at a minimum.

Xenophobes on the American Right don’t miss a chance to bring it up every chance they have. And there are enough of those, lately.

It’s also cutting off your nose, etc., on the part of the U.S. government which applauds Kosovo – and whines to the heavens over Ossetia. Which is it to be: hypocrisy or a double standard?

Written by Ed Campbell

July 22, 2010 at 6:00 pm

The Afghan women jailed for having bad character

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We are sitting in Badam Bagh, or Almond Garden, Afghanistan’s only prison for women in the capital Kabul.

The prison is a window on a world where, outside these walls, women are constantly judged against a standard that makes many of their stories difficult to fathom.

Sixteen-year-old Sabera, with a pretty yellow head scarf, frets that she is missing school.

“I was about to get engaged, and the boy came to ask me himself, before sending his parents. A lady in our neighbourhood saw us, and called the police,” she explains.

She was sentenced to three years but, in an act of mercy, it was shortened to 18 months.

Fellow inmate Aziza was accused of running away from her husband. She says she was acquitted two months ago, but still languishes in prison.

A senior official in Afghanistan’s Ministry for Women’s Affairs told a recent UN workshop that about half of Afghanistan’s 476 women prisoners were detained for “moral crimes”. That includes everything from running away from home, refusing to marry, marrying without their family’s wishes, and “attempted adultery”.

In many cases women run away because they can’t bear the domestic violence and then they are picked up and taken into custody for a long time,” explains Nader Nadery, a commissioner at Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission…

About 40 young children also share their mother’s fate, living in Badam Bagh…

Prison authorities say children are taken away to a boarding school after the age of five.

Regular readers know I generally support other nations’ independence from the rule of Western ideology and so-called morality. We usually can figure out how to be as corrupt and inhuman as anyone else on the planet – given the opportunity.

I also have a measure of confidence in commerce being likely to move reactionary nations forward to some better place on the planet. If people can learn to deal with each other in the course of making a living – we might be less likely to kill each other.

But, that friendly support for commercial interchange doesn’t mean avoiding criticism of folkways and mores, the delightful tidbits of stupidity and anti-human behavior left dangling from many religions, many cultures, like political dingleballs. My old business acquaintances in China, Taiwan, Japan, Iran, Philippines and on and on – would know exactly what I mean.

Treating women as chattel is over, folks. Lose the stupid hangups!

Written by Ed Campbell

June 30, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Political tremors in Tokyo – Hatoyama resigns

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Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s resignation after just eight months in office has triggered shock across Japan and raised new doubts about the country’s political stability. The fact that a U.S. military base figured centrally in his decision has also generated concerns about the damage to the crucial relationship with Washington under his government.

Hatoyama pointed to two factors in his decision. The first was his inability to fulfill his campaign promise to relocate the U.S. military’s Futenma Marine Air Station on Okinawa…

Perhaps more surprising was the role of a political scandal. In Hatoyama’s announcement, he also asked the party’s secretary general, Ichiro Ozawa, to resign with him…

Perhaps as important is the DPJ’s foreign and security policy vision. The U.S.-Japan alliance and the management of forty thousand U.S. troops in Japan created opportunity for opposition party critique of the old-fashioned LDP approach of solving problems behind closed doors. Public tolerance for this approach was growing thin, particularly in Okinawa where the bulk of U.S. forces are concentrated. In its rise to power, the DPJ took aim at some of these oversight practices. Likewise, it took aim at some of the allegations that “secret agreements” with Washington ran counter to government statements on nuclear weapons transit and other sensitive issues…

What remains to be seen is how the Democratic Party of Japan internalizes the lessons learned over the past eight months as Japan’s governing party and what the legacy of Hatoyama’s resignation will be. In Tokyo, there is also concern that the first effort to govern by the DPJ so badly bruised the bilateral relationship with Washington–particularly with President Barack Obama, a president that many think shared so much of the DPJ’s own goals.

The CFR doesn’t confront the Democratic Party’s unwillingness to address secret agreements, obvious and unpublished restrictions on Japan’s freedom to manage their own political life.

There isn’t any populist army marching on the streets of Japan calling in unison for an end to American governance over portions of foreign policy – other than that last election. But, that vote rejected a half-century of sidekick politics.

Wars of national liberation have been fought over as much.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 2, 2010 at 12:00 pm


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