(Full disclosure here: I am planning to launch a website www.DeoGratiaPaintings.com in order to sell my religious themed artwork).
The 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web coincided with the death of RMT leader Bob Crow-ironic in a sense since both the critics of the 'Net and the late Mr Crow could best be summed up as "Luddite" in a sense.
Critics(such as Stephen Glover, in today's Daily Mail- that well known graveyard of common sense or rationality) focus on porn, violent white supremacists and drug traffic( esp via the so-called "Dark Web" which can only be accessed by those with special software and where everything from contract killings to firearms can be arranged), but this is specious reasoning- EVERY technological advance has a downside(pace mobile or cellular phones) and always will.
The real question is: are the advantages of the Web greater than its downside. I would say:YES it is! As Stephen Pinker reminds us in "The Better Angels of Our Nature" many of the advances associated with the Web in particular and technology in general have helped make for a better and more easily informed citizenry- social media sites such as Facebook or Myspace, internet telephoning services such as Skype and even the ubiquitous email( which for I one I am grateful for- prior to 1989 I would have to spend a fortune on long distance telephone bills or post to keep in touch with my friend Julia Millard who lives in Southern California).
Several years ago when I questioned moves by British politicians to petition FIFA(football's governing body) to allow a British team to wear Remembrance Day poppies in the run up to November 11, noting that this might make a bad precedent likely to be cited by other nations(such as Russia and Argentina), few paid anything other than passing attention to my warnings.
But today, when two Russian politicians (although significantly neither belongs to the Ruling United Russia party) reportedly demanded in a letter to FIFA that the US be expelled from the 2014 World Cup, citing calls from Republican politicians for Russia to be kicked out of the World Cup due to the intervention in Crimea, it looks as if I was(much like Cassandra) have been vindicated in the long run.
The Russians cite, the NATO intervention in Kosovo, regime change in Iraq, Libya and Syria- a grab bag of warmed over grievances( esp when no military intervention took place in Syria or is any likely)
To my mind, FIFA should IGNORE both claims and remind both politicians that the answer to politicized sport is de-politicized sport.
For those who don't recall my post about the Poppy ban by FIFA, my point was sporting teams should NOT wear any badge or insignia denoting or implying politico-ideological partisanship(arguments that the Poppy was NOT a politico-religious symbol are specious to the point of absurdity- they commemorate ALL British servicemen who died in conflicts of either the 20th or 21st century- including most recently Iraq and Afghanistan).
UK based observers nay have noted that last week a prominent British veterinarian has called for halal and shechita methods of ritual slaughter( that is the methods of killing animals permitted by Muslim and Jewish religious doctrine) to be banned on the ground it causes unnecessary pain and suffering-leading to an unlikely alliance(albeit of convenience) between Islamic and Jewish leaders, each of whom charged that this call amounted to thinly veiled expressions of Islamophobic and anti-Semitic prejudice, dressed up as "animal welfare".
Given the fact that British Muslims and Jews are hardly on the same page not least on say the Arab Israeli conflict, I'd say that this is a significant development.
Also, the continuing opposition in the US to the Affordable Care Act( popularly known as "Obamacare") on the grounds of "religious freedom" and the ongoing campaign by the Guardian against FGM( Female Genital Mutiliation) has raised issues as to where religious liberty ends and the state's right to put its foot down begins( Although nowhere mentioned in the Koran or the hadiths-sayings of the Prophet Mohammed, FGM is practised in several largely Muslim countries- but significantly NOT Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam-leading to claims from Islamic spokespersons that the campaign against FGM is not just "racist" but "Islamophobic" to boot).
Like any other right- say freedom of speech or expression- religious freedom or tolerance is and should be a treasured human right- but it is NOT intended to be stretched beyond all reason and cynically abused. As the late US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes put it in 1921- "no one has the right to shout"FIRE" falsely in a crowded theatre").
In both the UK and US, courts have convicted those Muslims on grounds of inciting and engaging in acts of jihadist violence, refused entry to known "hate preachers" and(at least to my mind) rightly so-just as it did so(during the NI "Troubles") for those Irish men and women who engaged in terrorist activities-at least the IRA didn't claim to have a religious mandate as Al Qaeda does. Are we to tolerate acts of violence by someone who quotes from the Koran when we will do not so for those who quote from either the Holy Bible , mein Kampf or Das Kapital, Wolf Tone or the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin?- I think not!
To my mind, the opposition to the ACA on grounds of "religious freedom"(even though I regard myself as devout and practising Roman Catholic) bears more than a passing similarity to the likes of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
The more sharp eyed readers of the press(both print and online) nay have ntoed Friday's news item about the conviction of Congolese warlord Germain Katanga on charges of war crimes/crimes against humanity. by the hague based International Criminal Court. Given that the Ukrainian parliament has reportedly voted to send the case of deposed President Viktor Yanukovych to the ICC( if the ICC indeed indicts him, this will put Putin in a thorny spot indeed- it could turn the Russian Federation into a virtual pariah state if it is seen to harbour a wanted war criminal-it will also make Yanukovych the first"white" person to be indicted by the Court- so much for allegations that it only was interested in "hunting Africans"!), as well as calls for the ICC to investigate North Korea and Syria's human rights abuses( never mind pending investigations against Israel over the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident as well drone strike victims filing suit against Britain,Germany and other NATO members claiming that supplying intel to US forces vis a vis the "drone war" in Afghanistan/Pakistan amounts to collusion in war crimes, I'd say that the whole issue of war crimes/crimes against humanity has NEVER been more topical.
A decade or so after its inception, it is now clear that many of the claims by the then Bush Administration vis a vis the ICC are either not proven-to use the Scottish verdict- or at worst have been or can be safely dismissed.
Claim no 1: the ICC will engage in "frivolous/politically motivated" lawsuits against the US, its allies(such as Israel) American servicemen or policymakers.
Response: Despite repeated requests from critics(including the present author) to say the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, the definition of "frivolous/politically motivated lawsuits" has NEVER been expressly made clear.
The only frivolous/ politically motivated lawsuits aimed at US officials I for can think of is the attempted impeachment of Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton (in 1868 and 1998 rdpectively)and these have nothing to do with war crimes or crimes against humanity.
Claim no 2. The ICC infringes on "US sovereignty".
Response: as with Claim no 1, precisely HOW this does so has never been made expressly clear. ( see "Conservapedia" entry on "International Criminal Court")The most notable policy of the ICC towards not just the US but other "major powers" such as Russia has been caution bordering on sheer timidity and it refused to hear cases arising from the 2003 Iraqi invasion and dismissed others against the US made by Iran, North Korea , Cuba( usually on grounds that they happened too long ago or the countries hinvolved had neither signed or ratified the ICC Convention-usually because in the case of North Korea or Cuba, their human rights records are so notoriously bad that the last thing they wish to do is arouse the interest of the Court-no matter how much they might despise or hate the United States)
These two arguments have been repeated ad nauseam by FOX TV, right wing talking heads like Rush Limbaugh, novels like "Falcon Seven" by author James Huston.
If these are the best arguments against the Court by America's right wing then to quote DA Arthur Branch( Fred Dalton Thompson's character in "Law And Order")-"that dog won't hunt!"
Who says "life doesn't imitate art"? A few weeks after causing a stir by speculating about reparations for slavery on this blog 9and receiving a lot of replies to my OP), I opened today's Times(London, March 10, 2014) and dropped my jaws in amazement to read the following:" Caribbean nations to sue UK and several other European nations- Spain, France, the Netherlands,Sweden and Norway over reparations for slavery"( whilst all of the above all participated in the slave trade, I am not certain what Norway and Sweden had to do with it).
In my post, I noted the dubiousness of asking present day whites(whether in the UK, other European societies or even the United States) to pay for the sins of long dead slave traders or plantation owners) but the plaintiffs argue that the underdeveloped nature of their countries largely stemmed from the after effects of slavery and say that if the UK and other European nations refuse to settle their claim out of court, they will take their claim to the International Court of Justice at the Hague( not to be confused with the International Criminal Court).
Given that three recent Hollywood films- "The Butler"( starring Forrest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey), "!2 Years A Slave"(Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyongo and Benedict Cumberbatch) and "Django Unchained" ( Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo di Caprio and Kerry Washington) have revealed to a new generation just how brutal and degrading slavery was(at least in the pre-Civil War Deep South), I can only say- watch this space for details, folks!
First of all, it is worth noting that St.Patrick's Day is ALREADY a de facto bank holiday in BOTH the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, so it may be argued that we should just regularize its status for the "mainland"
I disagree- firstly Britain is supposed to be a Protestant country and has been ever since King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I broke with Rome; only Catholic countries such as Spain, France, Italy, Ireland and Poland made saints' days bank holidays. Secondly it would lend arguments and influence to calls for St George's Day(April 23) to be made a public holiday- I am NOT in favour of this for the same reason
Britain is NOT Ireland(any more than its any other predominantly RC country such as Poland, Malta, France or Lithuania) and should NOT pretend to be!
Sharp eyed readers in the UK may have noted the Home Office's refusal to allow former "Miami Five" member Rene Gonzalez entry to address a conference dealing with his and his four co-defendants trial, conviction and lengthy prison sentences( the rest are still serving their sentences in federal prison) on thr grounds that nobody who has served more than five years in prison is permitted to enter the country\(as Martha Stewart found out). Although I am aware of their existence I have expressly refused to publicize the matter, noting that the whole business is a red herring to cynically deflect attention from the abysmal record of Castro's regime on human rights.
For those who are unaware of the "Miami Five", they were five officers of Cuba's DGI(Direccion General Intrligencia- General Directorate of Intelligence, Castro's intelligence service) who infiltrated anti- Communist Cuban exile groups in order to(as they claim ) to prevent armed( terrorist) attacks on their country.
Due to their being tried in Miami( where there is a large and vocal anti Castro exile community). several groups(including Amnesty International, no friend of Fidel's tyranny) have voiced concern over a fair trial.
Whilst I agree that not only should justice be done it should BE seen to be done, I personally think that given the Castro regime's propensity for drumhead justice, complaints of injustice are a bit rich anyway.
To my mind the only Cubans worthy of support by democrats and liberals in the West are the noble women of "Damas de Blanco"- Ladies In White". Why do so many in the West esp amogst the liberal/left fail to see this just as they failed to see the brutal reality of Stalin's Soviet Union, Mao's China?
Now that several Marvel heroes( Iron Man, Captain America and more recently Daredevil ) have "outed" themselves(ie revealed their formerly secret identities), does that mean that they will have "contracts" taken out on them by hitmen hired by their super enemies or just the "ordinary" underworld?. I doubt it(even though neither is married or with a family of their own-they can afford to do so)- firstly some such as Tony Stark or Steve Rogers are de facto federal officials and their assassination would lead to a big investigation. Secondly their enemies(Mandarin, Red Skull, Owl) would most likely scorn to simply hire a hitman and much prefer to do the job themselves_ they are "hands on"killers..
Thirdly as I noted, although criminals at least in the US frequently threaten law enforcement officials( cops or FBI/ATF/DEA agents) with violent retaliation- "man, I'm going to get you"- no self-respecting hitman in his right senses( I do not use the masculine pronoun by coincidence, if there are "hitladies" around, then I have never heard of them) would agree to take a contract on a cop or Fed, far less a superhero-it simply creates too much "heat" and not just from the regular law enforcement community but also from that of the superhero community.
My regular readers may be curious as to my stance on the current Ukraine crisis(esp given that I am no fan of President Vladimir Putin- or "the fish-eyed Chekist" as I sometimes refer to him- I usually prefer to be critical of people's arguments and not their physical appearance but in this case I think I shall make an exception).
It is simply this: what everybody(including pundits) have a tendency to forget about is: what DO the Ukrainian people themselves want? For centuries, the Ukraine(or "borderland" as it means in both Russian and Ukrainian) and its people have been used as little more than a pawn inthe varying ambitions of czars, Bolsheviks, Nazis and extreme nationalists such as Putin. To that extent, I think what ANYBODY else besides the long suffering (quite literally- pace the infamous Stalin instigated "Holodymyr"- terror famine engendered by collectivization between 1929 and 1933 in which SIX MILLION Ukrainian men, women and children ALONE perished) Ukrainian people want should be of paramount importance- what Putin, the now dethroned Ukrainian President, , his rival Yulia Timoshenko, the EU or the US want- should and must be a distant second!
To his credit, President Obama seems willing and ready to play "hardball" with Putin- cancelling his participation in the Sochi summit for June of this year.
As the late veteran Sovietologist George F. Kennan noted, the less a regime(pace the Kremlin) respects the force of argument , the more it respects the argument of force.
But more needs and should be done( as Dominic Lawson argues in today's Daily Mail- www.dailymail.co.uk, March 3, 2014), the West should be prepared to take even tougher measures- such as denying entry visas to those wealthy Russians who support Putin and freezing their /his assets(hell, if we can do it for drug traffickers, other big time criminals and terrorists- be they Irish Republican and violent Islamists, then why not for Putin and his regime???)
To do this of course will annoy those on both Left and Right(such as Pat Buchanan and Leo McKinstry in the Daily Telegraph) who argue that the best way to get along with Putin's mafia state is to turn a blind eye to whatever it does, but Britain is NOT Switzerland!
The recent collapse of Irishman John Downey's Old Bailey trial, alleged to have participated in the 1982 IRA Regent's Park bombing amid claims that as an OTR(on the run) terrorist he was entitled to the amnesty created by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement has occasioned much hypocritical outrage on the part of sections of the British press.
Let's get a few facts straight: sometimes, as painful as it may be emotionally, we have to do things for the greater good-much like a surgeon who cuts off an arm or leg in order to save a life.
Secondly , and this is usually overlooked, the then British Government of John Major( Tony Blair's predecessor) ITSELF conceded the principle of amnesty when it released British soldiers convicted of murder in NI, Ian Thaine of the Light Infantry, Para Lee Clegg, Scots Guardsmen Fisher and Wright, due in no small way to a mendacious and well organized press campaign by these soldiers' regiments and the "red top"tabloids.
Thirdly "release the prisoners!" is always an emotive cry in Ireland, as Tim Pat Coogan, one of Ireland's foremost journalists and author of the definitive history of the IRA notes.
For all these reasons , as distasteful as the idea of releasing unrepentant and justly convicted terrorists is and was to me(and many others), I cannot share in the sanctimonious tub thumping of the press.
"Paris is worth a mass!" is a phrase attributed to King Henry IV, who although born a Huguenot, converted to Catholicism in order to gain the French Crown.
As painful as it must be for those who suffered the loss of loved ones or limbs in the "Troubles", I think we must all move on!