Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

24 February 2014

Museveni and the bill

Today is a very sad day, especially in Uganda.

The Ugandan bill
The Ugandan bill
Monday 24th February 2014 is almost certain to the be the day that President Museveni of Uganda signs his country's new law on homosexuality.

There is already a Ugandan law prohibiting sexual acts between men, but this is now being extended to cover women as well and the penalties are being greatly increased. Read the BBC's article for fuller details.

Originally, the new law would have included the death penalty for some activites, but mercifully (and wisely) this has been dropped. Heavy prison sentences remain (including life) and the law even makes it a legal requirement for all citizens to report people they believe to be gay.

Personally, I am strongly opposed to the new law. More than a year ago I signed one of the online petitions calling for the law to be abolished. But public petitions, religious leaders and foreign governments have all been ignored in their pleas and demands that the law be abandoned. Of course the pressure will not stop now, nor should it.

On the other hand, there are powerful political, public and religious pressures within Uganda backing the signing of the bill.

My personal plea to President Museveni (if he is paying attention to public comment) is to think again. Signing the bill is sure to lead to more difficulties internationally for Uganda. Turn back from the brink. Do not sign the bill. Resist the voices in Uganda demanding the signing of the bill.

06 August 2011

SOCIETY: Between a rock and a hard place

The USA's credit rating has dropped from AAA to AA+ and people are upset. Like most economies, our friends in the USA are between a rock and a hard place. Most nations have over-borrowed, financing current expenditure by selling government bonds and securities.

Euro notes and coinsThe only ways out are to cut spending or increase taxation (or some combination of the two). Neither is palatable.

So what will happen next? Nobody knows! The BBC's Mark Mardell writes on the political aspects and Robert Peston covers the financial situation.

Here are some extracts that strike me as particularly interesting.

From Mark Mardell
  • The decision by Standard & Poor's ... puts the USA below the UK, Germany, France, Singapore, Finland and 14 other countries.
  • All America has been saying: Washington doesn't work.
  • America's debt will continue to balloon and [S&P] have little hope of the politicians fixing it.
  • They single out Republicans for ruling out tax rises.
  • Americans are likely to bemoan the failure of politicians to bridge an apparently unbridgeable gap between two different world views. They may put their faith in Washington politicians, in an outburst of patriotism and goodwill, stumbling on a synthesis that suits all sides. But I wonder whether any of them will muse that the system itself may not be fit for purpose.
From Robert Peston
  • Almost everything in the world - loans, goods, services - is priced in or priced off the dollar ... the dollar has a status in the financial system once occupied by gold.
  • Whenever investors believe that the world is becoming a riskier place, their instinct is to buy US Treasury Bonds, to lend to the US government.
  • When the price of US government debt rises and the yield on that debt falls, that typically means investors believe prospects for the global economy have deteriorated.
  • Last week ... global share prices fell on the back of concerns that the eurozone isn't gripping the problem of investors declining confidence in the ability of Spain and Italy to repay their debts.
  • The US losing its AAA rating ... is a very loud statement that there has been an appreciable increase in the risk ... that the US might one day struggle to pay back all it owes.
  • The fiscal and economic challenges are conspicuous: a substantial and intractable gap between public spending and tax revenues in the US at a time of anaemic economic growth.
  • Chinese news agency Xinhua said: "China, the largest creditor of the world's sole superpower, has every right now to demand the United States address its structural debt problems and ensure the safety of China's dollar assets."
  • Probably the only thing to be said with any confidence is that the downgrade could hardly have come at a worse time, in that conditions in global markets are febrile.
In other words the world is at an economic crossroads and we have no idea where we will find ourselves in the future - but none of the options look very promising.

Meanwhile Europe and the USA are both struggling with debt issues while China, the major creditor, is anxious about losing its savings.

The future doesn't look good, does it. Things could easily get much worse.

05 March 2010

Climate change - An update

There is really no room for doubt that we are affecting the world's climate in a wide variety of harmful ways. BBC news item on the Met Offfice reportA new report from the Met Office finds the evidence has stacked up even more strongly since the IPCC report in 2007. Read the BBC's news item on the Met Office report.

There's more Met Office information on their climate change page. Well worth a look if you want to know more.

(This update is intended to add new information to my earrlier blog 'Climate change - Truth or deception?')

01 March 2010

Climate change - Truth or deception?

Most scientists are agreed, we have a serious problem on our hands. A typical glacierPossibly less severe than we fear but just as possibly more severe than we fear. Meanwhile there are plenty of sceptics who claim the data has been fixed or incorrectly analysed.

It's no good speculating and it's no good just crossing our fingers. We need to know whether the science is sound or not. It makes a difference. Do we need to stop releasing CO2 and methane or can we safely continue as we've been going?

Whichever side of the debate you are on, I strongly urge you to take a good look at Dan Satterfield's latest blog post. He has no doubt which side he is on. I agree with him and I really want to encourage everyone to read his post and its two main references and draw their own conclusions. This is one of the best posts on this topic that I have seen.

24 February 2010

USA thinks open source is piracy!

Now here is a very strange thing. It seems that the USA considers Canada to be guilty of a sort of intellectual property theft, Free Software Foundation emblemor if not exactly theft then at least some sort of underhanded anti-competitive practice.

The argument seems to be that if I write a piece of useful software and decide to give it away instead of selling it, I somehow undermine free enterprise. So things like Linux, Wikipedia, Media Monkey, the Gimp, Microsoft Bing, Google Maps, and thousands of other items used daily by millions of people are undermining free enterprise.

No. I must have misunderstood. Surely?

Well, take a look for yourself.
What is going on here? I mean - really? It will all be sorted out quite quickly once the Office of the United States Trade Representative thinks it through more carefully, right?

I thought the USA stood on the side of freedom. So if I write some software, or a book, I can give it away if I choose to do so. And if I want to use free software written by someone else I may do that too. How would that 'undermine intellectual property rights'?

I must have missed something...

Has the GNU project missed it too? Is Linux in the wrong? And Ubuntu? What about Open Office? Scribd? Wikipedia?

Has anyone told the Free Software Foundation?

14 February 2010

Shai Agassi - Joined-up thinking

Shai Agassi, the Israeli/American alternative energy entrepreneur is thinking big. he can't help it, it's in his nature! Better PlaceThe most valuable things he has brought to the table involve lateral thinking, sudden leaps that change everything, paradigm shifts.

Where most of us are content to tweak the status quo, Shai Agassi understands that to make a real change we need to look at our problems with open minds, recognising that the solutions may sometimes be there right before our eyes but that 'tweak the status quo' may blind us to them. We often look without seeing.

Shai's solution to battery powered motoring is close to rollout in a major way, first in Israel, then Denmark, then Australia, and with a range of other places queuing up to follow the lead of these three. Banks are beginning to believe in the business model of his company, Better Place, and are starting to provide loans to enable the infrastructure to be built. Governments are also backing the idea with funding. Car manufacturers, electricity companies and even oil companies and chains of petrol stations are joining in too. This is an idea that is starting to fly.

But if that's not enough, Shai Agassi is also pointing out that we need joined up thinking on electrical energy. Wind farms, electric motor vehicles, battery exchange systems all face issues, but build them all on a large scale and they help one another out in significant ways.

Listen to Shai as he explains.



You can also watch Shai explain his battery swap technology (recorded in 2009).



See update >

29 December 2009

Movements - Long term success

There have been many movements in the world's long history. Political movements - philosophical, art, and literature movements - scientific and technological movements - and not least, religious movements. Romulus Augustus, the last Roman Emperor in the WestAlmost all of these have failed after a few decades or centuries, many are forgotten, consigned at best to dusty tomes on library shelves.

Every organisation created by human ingenuity and effort has a lifespan and runs its course. Consider Communism, the idea that the Earth is flat, the Roman Empire, ancient Greek culture in what is now Turkey, the Gaulish language once spoken in Europe, the British Empire, Woolworths, or Real Tennis. All gone!

Some of these movements depended on repression, terrorism, crushing military might, or technological superiority for their spread and survival. Communism, Islam, and the Roman Empire are movements of this kind. Others have depended on ideas or beliefs that have been accepted freely, and paramount among these is the church. The first disciples followed Jesus by choice; he called them and they decided freely to follow him. And although the church sometimes depended wrongly on abuse of military or political power (as with the Crusades or the Inquisition) these were temporary and clearly contradicted Jesus' teachings about love.

Even within the church there have been monastic, doctrinal, denominational, and revival movements to mention just a few. Again, most of these have failed sooner or later. Consider some of the great Catholic and Anglican monastic orders. Most of these still exist, but as mere shadows of their former selves.

So what distinguishes successful and failed movements? It seems to me that coercion sooner or later fails, and fails absolutely. But the teachings of Jesus remain as powerful today as they were 2000 years ago. They are still seized upon eagerly by those who understand that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He was, is and will always be a success in the hearts of ordinary people because of his love and compassion. Alone among the originators of the world's religions, Jesus is an entirely attractive character who harmed no-one and called his followers to do the same. And his movement is alive and well today.

Where it has been complicated by methods and organisations it has failed again and again. But always the ideas and teachings of Jesus have moved on, leaving the methods and organisations behind and growing again in fresh pastures.

So let's be very careful to avoid any kind of worldly power, control, or system of management. And let's get right back to the roots of our faith - loving the Almighty with everything we have and everything we are, loving one another and our neighbours with the love we apply to ourselves, and yes - even loving our enemies. Those are the hallmarks of a movement that will know no failure or premature end!

Jesus alone is the one who leads us, our role is always to follow. He speaks clearly to his people, individually, day by day, guiding and encouraging. We must die to self in order to truly live. In poverty we are rich, the humble are lifted up, the powerful are brought low, it's an upside down Kingdom. But it works! And it lasts!

But all human ingenuity, system, power, and organisation will eventually fail - within the church and outside it. For only the Almighty can prevail, and he is love.

22 November 2009

The coming of the electric car

I didn't know that Shai Agassi had spoken at TED until I read about it today on the Tiny Car| Smart Car News Blog. Shai's company, Better Place, is rolling out fully green, all electric cars and the infrastructure to support them. The plan is that they should be cheaper and more convenient than petrol cars. Quite a challenge!

Here's the video of his talk at TED, it's inspiring and convincing and describes an approach that is simple but original. My own belief is that this idea will fly - it deserves to. Watch and see.

30 August 2009

The electric car - but better?

Shai Agassi through his company, Better Place, has developed a system for building and operating electric vehicles - and it might just work. He claims that the car would cost less to buy and be more convenient to use than a Shai Agassi speakingnormal petrol powered car. And the cost per mile would be similar to current fuel costs.

Shai has thought this through in great detail and has persuaded companies (Renault and Nissan) and governments (Israel, Denmark, Australia for example) to make a start on building the necessary infrastructure and the new vehicles. He is a visionary but he also has business acumen, drive, enthusiasm, and good persuasive speaking ability.

Very, very interesting, and well worth watching the video. You will have to watch the sponsor video first (amusingly enough it's for an oil company) but then you can choose individual segments for yourself.

20 June 2009

A turning point for Iran

Today is a turning point for Iran.

Either there will be a change of direction as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei backs down and is, perhaps, replaced by the Assembly of Experts; Grand Ayatollah Ali Khameneior more likely he will continue along the path he's chosen and will try to stifle the opposition and return to some semblance of the repressed normality that has been Iran for so many years.

If he does continue to threaten violence and pretends to pin the blame on the opposition, there could be a rapid growth of upheaval and things would then become extremely unpredictable.

So, if there is violence, who will really be responsible for it? When a member of the Basij points a gun at unarmed people in a crowd and fires indiscriminately, fear has become cowardice and the responsibility for injury or death lies with the one who fired the weapon. To say that peaceful disobedience to the Supreme Leader shifts the blame for violence onto the crowd or onto Mr Mousavi is a strange argument. Surely it is an argument rooted in fear and desperation!

If you strike me or shoot me or burn my house it's my fault, not yours? I don't think so! Responsibility lies with the one who pulls the trigger and with those who give the orders to do so or try to justify such an act in advance.

Ali Khamenei is no more a Supreme Leader than I am! The very title is an affront to the Most High in heaven for he alone is Supreme Leader over Iran, the entire world, and indeed the Universe. It does not befit men or women to act as leader because there is One who has true authority. The Koran instructs its readers to also read the Injil (the gospel), and there every seeker of truth will find Isa (Jesus) who said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life'. He is King, he is the Great Shepherd of the sheep.

No mortal man or woman has a heart great enough, a mind wise enough, a spirit true enough, or an ego humble enough to be a Supreme Leader. No, not one! And we also know that every single one of us has sinned. Let no one stand against the Most High, for he alone has the true authority and power over the lives of men. He will have his way, better not to stand in his path for he will sweep aside everyone who opposes him.

What did Isa say about the law? He said that to love the Most High and to love the people around us (even if they are our enemies) is the fulfillment of the entire law. How can anyone do harm to those they love?

To the reader I say, 'Pray for the people of Iran, for Khamenei, for Mousavi, for Karroubi, for Khatami. Pray for peace, pray for wisdom, pray for the Almighty's will to be done. Pray for those who may decide to go out on the streets today, for the police, the army, the Basij. Pray that they will all hear and obey the voice of their Maker.'

This is a turning point for Iran, a turning forward or a turning back. It could be a disaster or it could be a wellspring of hope. Time will tell.

16 June 2009

Eyewitness report from Tehran

This is an eyewitness account of the events in Tehran on 15th June 2009. It was posted on Facebook, Street protest in Tehranwhere you can read the original version.

In case you can't see the Facebook copy, here it is in full...


I left my home in Tajrish along with my family at 3 p.m. We went down Valiast Street which is the main northern-southern avenue in Tehran and entered the Evin Exp'way which leads to Enghelab Street. We knew that people are supposed to gather in Enghelab Sq. (Revolution Sq.) at 4 and march toward Azadi Sq. (Freedom Sq.). From Gisha Bridge onwards, we saw people walking down. Cars were blowing their horns and people were showing victory sign. We went to Navvab Street and parked our car at the end of the street. Then we took a taxi to bring us back to the Enghelab Street. On our way, near Jomhouri Sq. (Republic Sq.), I saw a group of about 20 militia with long beards and batons on motorbikes. My hand was out of the car window with a little green ribbon (the sign of reformists) around my finger. One of the militia told me to throw that ribbon away. I showed him a finger. All of a sudden, about 15 people attacked me inside the car. They beat me with their batons and wanted to pull me out. My wife and my daughter who were sitting in the back seat cried and hold me tight. I also hold myself tight on the chair. They wanted to shatter the car windows. The driver went out and explained that he is a taxi and we are his passengers and he has no fault. After about 5 minutes,they left. My elbow hurts severely. Then, a young man from their group came and kissed my elbow! I told him: You know, I don't hate you. I am like you with the only difference that I know more and you are ignorant. He apologized and left.

We joined the crowd in Enghelab Street.

Read carefully:

What I saw today was the most elegant scene I had ever witnessed in my life. The huge number of people were marching hand in hand in full peace. Silence. Silence was everywhere. There was no slogan. No violence. Hands were up in victory sign with green ribbons. People carried placards which read: Silence. Old and young, man and woman of all social groups were marching cheerfully. This was a magnificent show of solidarity. Enghelab Street which is the widest avenue in Tehran was full of people.

I was told that the march has begun in Ferdowsi Sq. and the end of the march was now in Imam Hossein Sq. to the further east of Tehran while on the other end people had already gathered in Azadi Sq. The length of this street is about 6 kilometers. The estimate is about 2 million people. On the way, we passed a police department and a militia (Baseej) base. In both places, the doors were closed and we could see fully-armed riot police and militia watching the people from behind the fences. Near Sharif University of Technology where the students had chased away Ahmadinejad a few days ago, Mirhossein Mousavi (the reformist elect president) and Karrubi (the other reformist candidate spoke to people for a few minutes which was received by cries of praise and applause. I felt proud to find myself among such a huge number of passionate people who were showing the most reasonable act of protest. Frankly, I didn't expect such a political maturity from emotional Iranians who easily get excited. My family and I had put stickers on our mouths to represent the suppression. Placards that people carried were different; from poems by the national poet Ahmad Shamlu to light-hearted slogans against Ahmadinejad. Examples include: " To slaughter us/ why did you need to invite us / to such an elegant party" (Poem by Shamlu). " Hello! Hello! 999? / Our votes were stolen" or " The Miracle of the Third Millenium: 2 x 2 = 24 millions" (alluding to the claim by Government that Ahmadinejad obtained 24 million votes) , "Where is my vote?" , " Give me back my vote" and many other.

We arrived in Azadi Square where the entire square was full of population. It is said that around 500,000 people can be accommodated in this huge square and it was full. Suddenly we saw smoke from Jenah Freeway and heard the gunshot. People were scared at first but then went forward. I just heard the gunshots but my sister who had been on the scene at that part told me later that she saw 4 militia came out from a house and shot a girl. Then they shot a young boy in his eye and the bullet came out of his ear. She said that 4 people were shot. At least one person dead has been confirmed. People arrested one of the Baseeji militia but the three others ran away when they ran out of bullet. At around 8 we went back on foot. On the way back people were still in the street and were chanting Allah Akbar (God is Great).

I was coming home at around 2 a.m. In parkway, I saw about ten buses full of armed riot police parked on the side of the street. Then I saw scattered militia in civil clothes with clubs in hand patroling the empty streets. In Tajrish Square, I saw a very young boy (around 16) with a club who was looking at the cars to see if he can find something to attack. I don't know how and under what teachings can young boys change into militia.

I came home. Tomorrow, people will gather again in Valiasr Square for another peaceful march toward the IRIB building which controls all the media and which spreads filthy lies. The day before Yesterday, Ahmadinejad had hold his victory ceremony. Government buses had transported all his supporters from nearby cities. There was full coverage of that ceremony where fruit juice and cake was plenty. A maximum of 100,000 had gathered to hear his speech. These included all the militia and the soldiers and all supporters he could gather by the use of free TV publicity. Today, at least 2 million came only relying on word of mouth while reformists have no newspaper, no radio, no TV. All their internet sites are filtered as well as social networks such as facebook. Text messaging and mobile communication was also cut off during the demonstration. Since yesterday, the Iranian TV was announcing that there is no license for any gathering and riot police will severely punish anybody who may demonstrates. Ahmadinejad called the opposition as a bunch of insignificant dirt who try to make the taste of victory bitter to the nation. He also called the western leaders as a bunch of "filthy homosexuals". All these disgusting remarks was today answered by that largest demonstration ever. Older people compared the demonstration of today with the Ashura Demonstration of 1979 which marks the downfall of the Shah regime and even said that it outnumbered that event.

The militia burnt a house themselves to find the excuse to commit violence. People neutralized their tactic to a large degree by their solidarity, their wisdom and their denial to enage in any violent act.

I feel sad for the loss of those young girls and boys. It is said that they also killed 3 students last night in their attack at Tehran University residence halls. I heard that a number of professors of Sharif University and AmirKabir University (Tehran Polytechnic) have resigned.

Democracy is a long way ahead. I may not be alive to see that day. With eyes full of tear in these early hours of Tuesday 16th June 2009, I glorify the courage and bravery of those martyrs and I hope that their blood will make every one of us more committed to freedom, to democracy and to human rights.

Viva Freedom, Viva Democracy, Viva Iran

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