Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Editorial: Lack of Accountability

http://www.arabnews.com/?page=7§ion=0&article=103031&d=31&m=10&y=2007

31 October 2007

The news yesterday that the US State Department had promised immunity to Blackwater security personnel involved in the shooting deaths of 17 Iraqis in Baghdad last month is both shocking and beyond belief. But should we really be surprised, considering that the Bush administration has treated Iraq as a colony since the 2003 invasion? Not really.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been promising a thorough investigation of the deadly fiasco committed by hyped-up American mercenaries who have a long history of being trigger-happy, testosterone-driven killing machines. But it now seems that those Blackwater personnel who let loose a barrage of bullets on Sept. 16 in Nisour Square, killing innocent Iraqis as they turned and tried to flee from the square, are never going to be held accountable. The worst that can happen to them is to be fired from Blackwater — which is what happened to the Blackwater employee who killed a guard of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in a fit of drunken rage on Christmas Eve in 2004.

The Democrats have now lambasted the Bush administration for failing to hold Blackwater accountable. Sen. Patrick Leahy says, “In this administration, accountability goes by the boards.” Which is not really surprising, considering the deep ties that run between Erik Prince, the owner of Blackwater, and the Republican Party. He and his family have given the party more than $325,000 in political donations over the past 10 years, and have hired some high-profile former Bush administration officials to work at Blackwater. Which perhaps explains why the State Department has made Blackwater the main provider of security for its embassy staff in Iraq, and why it recently gave the company a new contract for even more security work in Iraq. According to statistics compiled by the US media, Blackwater has been involved in nearly 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005, most of them from moving vehicles where they did not bother to stop and check to see how many Iraqis they had maimed or killed. In two cases, Blackwater paid compensation to the families of victims and tried to cover up the other incidents. That Blackwater has long been the most irresponsible and violent security group in Iraq has been well-known to both Iraqis and foreign journalists in the country, even though their nasty tactics became apparent to the wider world only after the bloodbath that they caused on Sept. 16.

The Iraqi Parliament is now trying to repeal Order 17, the law put in place by former US viceroy L. Paul Bremer III in 2003, which gives immunity to private security contractors. It seems doubtful, however, that they will be able to repeal the law without consent from their masters in Washington.

That private security guards in Iraq are exempt from any law in the world, allowing them to kill at will, beggars belief. Even American soldiers are subject to US military law and have been held accountable in US military courts for unlawful killings and torture committed in Iraq. Why Blackwater and its overpaid soldiers of fortune should be above US law, let alone Iraqi law, is something that the Bush administration is going to have to fix extra-quick if they want to retain even the tiniest shred of a reputation for decency.

Monday, October 29, 2007

This says it all about the World Economy

Dollar's Demise Can Be Seen Even in the Maldives: William Pesek

By William Pesek

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601039&sid=ahcvx7iJ4tXM&refer=home

Oct. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Bargaining while buying some trinkets in the Maldivian capital, Male, recently, I heard most unexpected words: ``You can keep your dollars.''

This tiny nation of 1,200 islands has long accepted U.S. currency out of convenience for visitors and financial sobriety. The dollar tended to do better in global markets than the local monetary unit, the rufiyaa. That may be changing and it's a bad omen for the world's reserve currency.

``My dollars aren't as popular here as they've been in the past,'' says Moyez Mahfouz, 51, who has visited the Maldives from Bahrain with his family once or twice a year for a decade. ``More and more on this trip, I'm being asked for rufiyaa.''

Why does it matter what happens in the Maldives? Its $1 billion economy is worth 1/59th of Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates's wealth and 1/27th of Sri Lanka's output. While it's an amazingly beautiful place, the Maldives is a rounding error on the global economic pie chart. Yet it may be a microcosm of a tectonic shift in finance: the demise of the dollar.

These things start out slowly, and in recent months I have had similar experiences from Mexico to Vietnam. In markets, restaurants, taxis and tourist shops that long accepted dollars, many are opting for local currency. The reason: concerns the dollar plunge that analysts have predicted for years is afoot and that the U.S. is uninterested in halting it.

Transformational Event

There's also a nascent realization that something transformational may be happening in global markets. Some states that long pegged their currencies to the dollar are scrapping the policy -- like Kuwait -- while others are quietly considering it. A survey by HSBC Holdings Plc found that twice as many Gulf businesses see benefits from dropping currency pegs to the dollar as those that see negative consequences.

Following Kuwait's May 20 move to drop its dollar peg, Gulf states are under pressure to do the same. The catalyst isn't so much anger over the Bush administration's policies, but how the dollar's slump is raising the price of imported goods. Inflation has reached record levels in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman in the last 12 months.

President George W. Bush's handiwork doesn't help, of course. In December 2004, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad suggested Muslim countries should refuse to trade in dollars and use their economic influence to force a change in U.S. policies. The U.S. ``owes huge sums of money to the rest of the world,'' Mahathir said. ``If people do not keep giving money to the U.S., it will go bankrupt.''

`Rogue Nation'

For years now, Joseph Quinlan, chief market strategist at Bank of America Corp. in New York, has been warning that the U.S.'s image as a ``rogue nation'' is a key force behind the dollar's decline.

The subprime crisis doesn't help, and neither does the perception that U.S. officials -- who recently helped negotiate a bailout fund to calm credit markets -- are protecting reckless investors from losses.

``Bubbles are easier to inflate than to sustain,'' says Richard Duncan, a partner at Blackhorse Asset Management in Singapore, and author of the 2005 book ``The Dollar Crisis: Causes, Consequences, Cures.''

It also hasn't escaped Asians that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He supports a strong dollar while the U.S. stands to gain from its decline through more-competitive exports and repayment of international debts with cheaper dollars. That's the problem with beggar-thy- neighbor policies -- the neighbors realize what's going on.

Debased Dollar

Investors such as Jim Rogers, too. ``It's the official policy of the central bank and the U.S. to debase the currency,'' Rogers, a former partner of George Soros and chairman of Beeland Interests Inc., said in Amsterdam last week.

Not that the U.S. has enough currency reserves, $44 billion, to halt a dollar crash. The real stockpiles are in Asia. China has $1.4 trillion of reserves, followed by Japan with $923 billion, Taiwan with $263 billion, South Korea with $257 billion and India with $249 billion. Were Asians to dump dollars, the U.S.'s reserve-currency status would be in jeopardy.

The rise of sovereign wealth funds adds another wrinkle. There's much chatter in markets about whether these massive, politically connected funds will shift assets from dollars to euros or other currencies. Islamic finance also gives Gulf states an alternative to dollar-denominated markets.

View From Maldives

There are many arguments against dumping the dollar. The result of diversifying revenue for oil exporters and reserves held by central banks might be a dollar rout, says Larry Hatheway, a London-based analyst at UBS AG. The ensuing jump in U.S. risk premiums and the deflationary impact on the world economy could boomerang on OPEC and central banks via a collapse in oil prices and weaker exports.

With the euro coming into its own, the dollar looking wobbly and some nations miffed by U.S. policies, a slow and steady shift may nonetheless be under way.

Not that the Maldives can tip the balance. Yet the more nations, no matter how small, that begin eschewing the dollar, the bigger the challenges facing the U.S.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Confessions of the Naan Maker

Had a wild night last night (Friday October 26-07). After sorting out my daily affairs, managed to get Azmi and Hadi, my Citibank buddies to go out and hit town together. Started off in Mortons for the Martini and stake sandwiches (lovely USDA Prime Rib and fabulous bread), then it was off to the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel. We've bcome quite close to the band that play there. It was also a chance to Azmi to have an SAF reunion with Eddie, the band's saxaphonist. Then we capped the evening off at the Lock, Stock and Barrell across the street. The band was fantastic - music was as always first-rate.

Anyway, the evening or by then, morning, was capped off with a visit to Bijay's work place.There was no Naan at 4am but we managed to get a tea out of him. I don't know what posessed me to push him on this but after two years, I managed to get him to admit to me that he had quick fling with Gina - or in this words "Go with her to hotel." As strange as it sounds, I'm glad he finally spat out the truth of what went on with my ex-wife. Funnily enough, I'm not at all angry - During the time he was pursuing her under my very own nose,I joked about being able to look at my father-in-law and telling him - "Can you take out what he put in" (when he found out about the abortion he asked me "Can you put back what you take out?)

A mutual friend was very upset with Bijay over his confession. The saying, "Bros before Hoe's" reflects one of the greatest social taboos I can think of between friends - You simply don't contemplate having sex with a friend's girlfriend (Gina at the time was technically still my wife and he and I are good friends).

Unfortunately for the Naan Maker, his brain and other moral senses are trapped in between his thighs. We're talking about a man who announces his size to perfect strangers. Gina, I think, must have known this. She actively used him to, in her words - "Make me jealous." She would flirt outrageously with him - so much so that she made the claim that "Had she known him before me, she would have married him instead." (Yeah, right - she had a problem explaining to her parents why she was with someone who was not Teochew when I was in the picture - I'd have liked to see her explain a Nepaleese or at least the difference between a Nepaleese and an Indian to the old man).

He was equally enamoured of her at first - "Brother, I find that woman EXCELLANT - Her face hungry for cock." - I think I must have given him my "tacit" approval - Now, as I sit back and remember facts - I did tell him that she was violent in our relationship. - I don't think he listened too much - even if he did try to assure me "I know you don't like it when I call Gina, brother - don't worry I LOVE my wife [he was married to a cash cow at the time]."

The signs that something had happened between them. She called me up a few months later offering me a number and asking me not to give it to my friends (which could only have meant him - the rest of my friends loathed her). She claimed to have helped him type out loads of doccuments for his brother's PR. Eventually, he managed to get the brunt of her abusive phone calls. When she finally decided she could never see me again (I had mistakenly sent her an MMS of a girl I had slept with), she did confess that the Naan Maker had tried to kiss her - in her words "Some people simply don't know how to take NO for an answer."

Ah well, things did work out for the best. God granted me the PPO and allowed her the honour of divorcing me. Dad had warned me to be careful - "Your girl can bite you back," he said (In one of our few father-son moments - he was getting out of his marriage around the same time Gina and I were getting ready to end things.) To be fair to Gina, she's dissapeared from my life and financial and health stresses aside, my life has been wonderfully good.

I'm not a schemer by nature, I despise under hand games and doing things like having to be unpredicatable. It's tough and I don't have the energy to play games. But when it came to Gina and her unpredictable volatility - I was forced into playing games. Towards the end, I braced myself for violent episodes so that I could collect the medical evidence that would be used against her. I got my paper work in order so that when we were called to court, getting the PPO became a formality.

She went to church and became a "Good Christian" in an effort to win me back. I went along with her to church to show that I was decent enough to try to reconcile. I think, had I known of the fling she had with the Naan Maker and a friend of his earlier on, I could have ended things much more ruthlessly. - I would have had her firmly secure in a legal (adultery) and cultural (She's from a family that takes pride in insularity - the idea of a relationship with a 'Nepalese/Indian' would be considered a slap in the face) bind.

I think, with the luxury of hindsight, I'm glad we never went down this course. I managed to get what I wanted -an end of the violence. She and her family got to save face. I'm not unhappy I learnt of this, I now have a way to ensure that the status quo of non-contact shall remain in force.

Was I using the Naan maker? Perhaps I was? Poor bugger acted on his nature and I sat there and watched as he charged head on into a rat's nest of her personality. I hope for his sake, she'll leave him alone too.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

When being too clever comes to the fore?

Say whatever you like about the Singapore government but it is filled with clever people. As much as the masses may like to think that things are changing, the way to the top in Singapore remains simple - study hard, get a government scholarship, work in the civil service for a few years and before you know it you will soon be asked to run for politics. When you have entered politics, all you have to do is to keep your senior colleague (usually a cabinet minister) looking good and before you know it - hey presto you're in the cabinet, earning a salary that is the envy of your counterparts in the rest of the world.

This formula has worked exceedingly well for Singapore. While other countries have gone to dogs whenever they've tried to use central planning, Singapore has succeeded brilliantly. Our Ministers and civil servants are genuinely clever people who are genuinely devoted to the betterment of Singapore. So, whatever one may say about the lack of freedoms in Singapore, or the "Nanny Mentality and super high salaries - we put up with it - no we actually quite like it because the government has done exceedingly well by us. How can you argue with an institution that has proved to be correct time after time in what its done.

However, my faith in the Singapore government and dare I say, Singaporeans has been shaken by recent debates in parliament. Yes, this is the case of section 377A - the section of the penal code that makes consensual sex between consenting homosexual adults a crime. But its also a case of other issues that were debated - namely the removal of marital rape and certain gender specific legislation.

Firstly, the way the PM handled 377A was exceedingly disappointing. As things stand, Singapore will keep 377A but not enforce it. The PM has said that we need to balance the rights of homosexuals in Singapore with the conservative values of the majority of Singaporeans. Keeping 377A but not enforcing it is the wonderfully legally ambiguous solution to make everyone happy. Sounds fair.... rather like Israel's stance over its nuclear weapons - we neither deny (so you'll think twice before trying to mess with us) nor do we admit (to stop us from having to actually submit to play by the rules everyone else is subjected to)

To be fair to the PM, ambiguity would probably would have been great if the Fags had not brought up the issue in the first place. Fags are allowed to operate quite freely in Singapore even if being a Fag is actually illegal. Had they not raised the issue, it would never have become and issue in the first place.

But now that the issue is raised, we can't for the hell of us go back to the way things were on this issue. Now that the whole nation knows that homosexuality is a criminal offence, a can of worms has been opened and the worms are crawling all over the rest of us. It's not just the Fags who are criminals. but the rest of us who deal with Fags should all get lawyers. As MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, Mr Baey Yang Keam pointed out - renting a flat to a homosexual couple could actually put one in legal danger rather in the same way that renting out a room to illegal migrant workers or prostitutes is.

Is Mr Baey exaggerating? The government seems to think so. After all the PM has said that the law won't actively be enforced. If I'm to understand it correctly, its something like the US military policy of "Don't ask, don't tell." You can be gay even if being gay is actually illegal. More importantly, for the rest of us non-Fags, we won't be prosecuted in our dealings with Fags - which is a relief for any of us working in the creative and media industries - which are incidentally industries that the government wants to promote.

What's the legal guarantee that we won't be persecuted for aiding and abetting criminals in our dealings with the Fags? The government's promise that 377A won't be enforced. Which leads to another Singaporean weakness - blind faith that the government will be good and sincere in its intentions for all eternity. Today's government may be good in its intentions towards Singaporeans but who or what guarantee do we have that some government down the future won't use a law like 377A to beat us over the head with. I am, of course speaking of a hypothetical situation. The government can easily argue that the public's tolerance for homosexuality will increase and we'll change the law by then. But then again, every argument used by the proponents of 377A has been purely hypothetical - ohh make Fags legal and the rest of us will want to have a stick up our buttocks. More importantly, as long as the hypothetical situation remains real ......we place ourselves at the mercy of the government of the day's good intentions.

My disappointment over the government’s copout over 377A was further compounded by its refusal to make marital rape a crime. As with 377A, the government has gone out of its way to fudge issues in the name of ….wait to you hear this…protecting family values. To please the “rights for rape victims” brigade, the government will make martial rape a crime but only if the woman comes forward to get a PPO against her husband. The reason given is because, according to our Minister of State for the Ministry of Law and Order is because men have been tricked into having sex and later been accused on rape.

You don’t need to watch CSI to realize that proving you have been rapped is harder than it looks. Rape victims are medically examined and the examinations they have to go through are often humiliating and degrading. So, for the life of me, I cannot understand who we’re doing anyone a favour by making a married woman who’s husband has forced himself on her to go through the extra hassle of getting a PPO. But then again, this is a conservative society and we need to protect the institution of marriage.

How nice of the Minister of State to realize that women can be as nasty and vindictive as men. I mean, we are talking about the same Minister of State who says that some crimes are not gender neutral because of certain physiological differences between men and women. So, a man who entices a married woman to leave her husband is a criminal but a woman who entices a man to leave his wife is not. Men, under Singapore law, seem to be made of exceedingly stern stuff!

I’m not sure if the learned professors who have been the biggest proponents of these views on marriage have observed the way men and women react. I’m no expert, but I’ve been around long enough to realize that women are very capable of making suckers out of men. We love pretty faces and are by nature willing to throw a relationship with a loving wife to the wind in pursuit of a pretty face. Women on the other hand tend to be calculative enough not risk a good relationship in pursuit of a good time in the sack.

I wonder what’s going on with the state of mind of people but it seems that common sense is no longer a natural part of the day. When someone ask you for something – never answer straight – it’s a sign that you’re not clever enough – just look at the people who are tinkering with our domestic laws.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Stalin, Mao And … Ahmadinejad?

http://www.newsweek.com/id/57346/page/1

Conservatives have become surprisingly charitable about two of history's greatest mass murderers.

Oct 29, 2007 Issue

At a meeting with reporters last week, President Bush said that "if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." These were not the barbs of some neoconservative crank or sidelined politician looking for publicity. This was the president of the United States, invoking the specter of World War III if Iran gained even the knowledge needed to make a nuclear weapon.

The American discussion about Iran has lost all connection to reality. Norman Podhoretz, the neoconservative ideologist whom Bush has consulted on this topic, has written that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is "like Hitler … a revolutionary whose objective is to overturn the going international system and to replace it in the fullness of time with a new order dominated by Iran and ruled by the religio-political culture of Islamofascism." For this staggering proposition Podhoretz provides not a scintilla of evidence.

Here is the reality. Iran has an economy the size of Finland's and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?

When the relatively moderate Mohammed Khatami was elected president in Iran, American conservatives pointed out that he was just a figurehead. Real power, they said (correctly), especially control of the military and police, was wielded by the unelected "Supreme Leader," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Now that Ahmadinejad is president, they claim his finger is on the button. (Oh wait, Iran doesn't have a nuclear button yet and won't for at least three to eight years, according to the CIA, by which point Ahmadinejad may not be president anymore. But these are just facts.)

In a speech last week, Rudy Giuliani said that while the Soviet Union and China could be deterred during the cold war, Iran can't be. The Soviet and Chinese regimes had a "residual rationality," he explained. Hmm. Stalin and Mao—who casually ordered the deaths of millions of their own people, fomented insurgencies and revolutions, and starved whole regions that opposed them—were rational folk. But not Ahmadinejad, who has done what that compares? One of the bizarre twists of the current Iran hysteria is that conservatives have become surprisingly charitable about two of history's greatest mass murderers.

If I had to choose whom to describe as a madman, North Korea's Kim Jong Il or Ahmadinejad, I do not think there is really any contest. A decade ago Kim Jong Il allowed a famine to kill 2 million of his own people, forcing the others to survive by eating grass, while he imported gallons of expensive French wine. He has sold nuclear technology to other rogue states and threatened his neighbors with test-firings of rockets and missiles. Yet the United States will be participating in international relief efforts to Pyongyang worth billions of dollars.

We're on a path to irreversible confrontation with a country we know almost nothing about. The United States government has had no diplomats in Iran for almost 30 years. American officials have barely met with any senior Iranian politicians or officials. We have no contact with the country's vibrant civil society. Iran is a black hole to us—just as Iraq had become in 2003.

The one time we seriously negotiated with Tehran was in the closing days of the war in Afghanistan, in order to create a new political order in the country. Bush's representative to the Bonn conference, James Dobbins, says that "the Iranians were very professional, straightforward, reliable and helpful. They were also critical to our success. They persuaded the Northern Alliance to make the final concessions that we asked for." Dobbins says the Iranians made overtures to have better relations with the United States through him and others in 2001 and later, but got no reply. Even after the Axis of Evil speech, he recalls, they offered to cooperate in Afghanistan. Dobbins took the proposal to a principals meeting in Washington only to have it met with dead silence. The then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he says, "looked down and rustled his papers." No reply was ever sent back to the Iranians. Why bother? They're mad.

Last year, the Princeton scholar, Bernard Lewis, a close adviser to Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal predicting that on Aug. 22, 2006, President Ahmadinejad was going to end the world. The date, he explained, "is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the Prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to 'the farthest mosque,' usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back. This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world" (my emphasis). This would all be funny if it weren't so dangerous.

© Newsweek, Inc

Monday, October 22, 2007

Queer Sense

I don't like Faggots. Perhaps I'm just a typical uncaring heterosexual male but I've had enough dealings with homosexuals to find them as group to be self-centred, bitchy, shallow, uncaring and self-absorbed. Perhaps it could be something to do with the fact that I spent my formative years in a male-dominated boring school, followed by the army but I am most comfortable with my fellow men and least comfortable with women (particularly the glamour girls) and homosexuals - at least the glamour girls are good to look at. One of the most painful moments in life was having lunch at BANG Pr when I had to endure the prattle of a Fag and a gang of women obsessed with the latest fashion.

However, I've been disturbed by some of the comments in recent days about the homosexual community in Singapore. These comments from "Conservative" Singaporeans begging the government to keep section 377A of the legal code show a lack of rationality and a desire to celebrate prejudices backed by ignorance. There has been no attempt by these “Conservative” folks to sit down and present a clear and rational case for keeping the State involved in the bedroom. For readers outside Singapore, 377A is the part of the penal code that makes homosexuality a crime! Reading the sentiments expressed, I fear that we are seeing the ugly emotions that brought us the Salem Witch hunts, Auschwitz and Hotel Rwanda.

And I'm sad to say that the government seems to be pandering to this. This government, which has been known to "Do what's Right rather than what’s Popular”, has decided to indulge the prejudices of the ignorant. One Minister of State has declared that Singapore must be diverse and not divisive and since 377A is a divisive issue, it will be ignored. The Prime Minister has gone as far as to point out that we should keep 377A because that’s what the majority of people (who are conservative) want but they won’t prosecute homosexuals. This is a cheap cop-out coming from a government that prides itself in being “strong” in the face of public opinion. Iran’s President was more ingenious in dealing with the question – he merely denied that homosexuality existed in Iran.

Let’s get straight to the point – the state should have no business in the bedroom. Sex is a fact of human existence. As long as it remains an act between consenting adults, it should remain just that. The only time the state and the legal process should ever get involved is when one of the parties is coerced or unable to provide consent (as with children). There is a clear distinction between sex and rape.

But then again, when it comes to homosexuality, people are likely to come-up with all sorts of arguments as to why the State should get involved.

Let’s start with the fact that homosexuality is “Not Natural.” As a heterosexual man, I can spend a good portion of my brainpower on any given day imagining the pleasure I’d get out of a vagina and the number of vagina’s I could enjoy. The penis on the other hand does not capture my imagination and the only penis that seems to interest me is the one attached in between my thighs. For the life of me, I can’t imagine how any man in his right mind could find the penis of another man more attractive than a woman’s vagina. To me, this is natural.

But what about the guy who has no interest in the vagina but gets excited by penises? I find this turn on to be unnatural. But then again, my obsession with the vagina and lack of interest in penis is also unnatural to the other guy. Face it, we all find different things sexy. Even between heterosexuals there are differences. I find a woman’s feet very attractive and erogenous. However, I once had a partner who found her feet to be horrible and didn’t want me touching them – so that was that. What’s natural and wonderful could easily be unnatural and repulsive to another. As long as both parties keep their preferences to themselves, who’s to say the other is wrong?

Can homosexuals help it? A few heterosexual women I know have admitted to wanting to “convert” the “hunky” beefcakes in the gym who are unfortunately for them, only interested in the other beefcakes. Leaving that aside, there are plenty of arguments on the nature and nurture side of the debate to indicate that homosexuality is not an abomination of nature as some would have us believe. Women is brothels for example are likely to enjoy lesbian relationships – given the abuse they face from men, why should that be surprising? The latest study into the subject of homosexuality indicates that a gene, which some people inherit, causes it. Either way, homosexuality is not a disease that someone can cure by going for hormone therapy.

The second argument against the legalisation of homosexuality in Singapore is centred on the question of values and the family. The family as the “Conservatives” have been quick to point out that in Asian societies, the family is the most important unit. A family is of course, defined as a man (papa), woman (mama) and several kids. Any deviation from this definition somehow ruins the family.

This mindset reflects shallow thinking. You don’t have to be a social scientist to realise that a family is more than just a man, woman and several kids – it is about a network of relationships where each individual has certain roles and responsibilities. Sexuality only comes into the fore because the man needs to get turned on by the woman to want to make her pregnant to produce the kids. Other than that, family units are primarily about performing certain roles and responsibilities and homosexuals have proven no less capable than heterosexuals at performing these family roles. I know a gay man who contributes more to his mother than I do.

Furthermore, in a world filled with rising divorce rates, domestic abuse and children being abandoned by parents, homosexuality is a minor issue in discussions about the family. Shouldn’t the family brigade show it is actually concerned about the family unit by concentrating its efforts on solving serious family issues than on denying consenting homosexual adults the right to form a family unit?

Perhaps one of the most pressing issues when it comes to homosexuality is HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS. The “Moral Majority” is under the impression that the “homosexual” lifestyle promoted by things like “Gay Pride Parades” leads to increase in this terrible disease. What the “Moral Majority” seems to forget is that the days when HIV/AIDS was a purely homosexual disease are long gone. Even in Singapore, the most likely person to contact HIV is a young heterosexual male. More shockingly, the biggest increase of HIV in woman comes from loyal married women. The continual linkage of HIV as a homosexual condition is irresponsible and reckless.

Another fallacy that the moral majority (who seem to tolerate prostitution amongst other things) seem to be saying is the fact that legalising homosexuality will promote it? I could be blind but I fail to see how this will happen?

Is there a rational reason to keep 377A? How can it benefit Singapore? The moral majority have gone on about maintaining the moral and religious fibber. But so far they’ve only shown a few misguided examples of the morals of keeping this law. Non of them has shown Singaporeans a clear rationale for keeping a law. The government even goes as far to say that they won’t enforce the law but they’ll keep it.

What is the point of having a law but not enforcing it? Or is it a case where the government knows it cannot enforce the law? And if it cannot enforce the law, why keep the law?

In a day and age where Singapore claims to need talent from all over the world, why do we insist on keeping a law that will put off people from coming. Why should a talent from say San Francisco relocate to Singapore because his sexuality will criminalized? No point saying – “Under our law, we won’t prosecute you but you’re still a criminal because of your sexuality.” Let’s get the state out of people’s bedroom and move onto a brighter future instead of letting our prejudices hold us back.

Arabs should pursue independent strategy

http://www.gulfnews.com/opinion/columns/region/10161863.html

By James Zogby, Special to Gulf News
Published: October 21, 2007, 23:04

In the aftermath of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's fourth recent visit to the region to prepare for a Middle East peace conference, only the meeting's proposed location has been decided. The situation looks quite bleak, with little to show for the efforts made to date.

Early in her visit, Rice made an effort to tamp down expectations about the conference - not a good sign - sending mixed and confusing signals. Despite, yet again, reiterating the Bush Administration's commitment to a Palestinian state, after meeting with a number of Israeli officials, Rice made it clear that the US Administration would not press hard for a declaration of a defined outcome with a fixed timetable for implementation - two essential Palestinian requirements.

During Rice's meetings with the Israelis, there was no focus given to the intolerable strangulation of the population in Gaza, and only slight attention directed at the hardships being visited upon the West Bank. Even the recent Israeli confiscation of a large swath of land east of occupied Jerusalem, in order to build a bypass road that would, in effect, complete the separation of the northern and southern portions of the West Bank, was given short shrift. While previously the US had cautioned against "unilateral actions" (not quite a rebuke), at one point on this visit Rice appeared to diminish the significance of this recent land grab, and even offer an excuse for it.

Rice made a point of meeting with many of the fractious elements comprising Olmert's government, each of whom in their own way, laid down their objections and/or preconditions to the peace conference. Fearing no pressure from the US, each made clear what they were not willing to surrender to the Palestinians. Having followed this process for decades, it never ceases to amaze me how the Israelis are able to use their internal differences to their advantage, and to pose as the weak party always in need of US support. After hearing this cacophony of Israeli voices, Rice, of course, felt compelled to offer the Israelis and their weak prime minister renewed assurances.

The bottom line: Israel, it appears, feels no real compulsion to respond to Palestinian requirements for peace, or to alter its behaviour. Evidence of this abounds. The above-mentioned seizure of Palestinian land for the purpose of building a bypass road, and the ongoing efforts to expand colonies while continuing other disruptive projects in the occupied West Bank make this clear. So does the intensified blockade on Gaza which amounts to cruel collective punishment.

For their part, the Palestinians and the Arab leadership who have made clear their commitment to this peace conference, and who, in fact, have much invested in its outcome, are in a bind. Without a committed American partner willing to apply direct pressure on Israel, the talks will surely fail. But failure is no option. With failure the only winners would be despair and extremism, and it is Arabs who will pay the dearest price.

Salvage

To salvage the situation, Arabs need to aggressively pursue an independent strategy. Instead of being passive recipients of whatever ineffectual US diplomacy can deliver, and instead of allowing success or failure to be determined by the outcome of the asymmetric Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Arab principals (including, at least, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia) ought to formulate and project a common position, the elements of which should include:

1. A detailed account of Israeli behaviours that are destroying Palestinian life and impeding hope for an independent Palestinian state;

2. A specific and realistic list of those Israeli behaviours that must end before any Peace Conference can occur;

3. An elaboration of the Arab summit proposals that, instead of using vague language about "full peace for full normalisation", spells out in detail what a final peace would look like and lays out the stages of implementation, in sequence, and a realistic timetable for realisation of this state; and

4. A call for a postponement of the proposed meeting until Israel and the US respond to this unified Arab call.

In the intervening weeks, or months, while the US and Israel are shaping their response, the Arab side ought to engage in active diplomacy to press their call in the US, in Israel, and with the other partners in the Quartet. The advantages of such an approach are clear. It moves Arabs from the role of passive recipients to active agents, and allows them to seize the political initiative on their own behalf. Such an effort would have the additional benefit of avoiding the risk of a failed summit.

At the moment, the Israeli, Palestinian, and US governments are not in a strong position to address difficult diplomatic challenges. On the other hand, the Egyptian, Jordanian and Saudi governments are in a better position. The Palestinians would do better to work in this broader Arab context, than to be at the mercy of the US and Israel, because the Israelis appear to be in no position to move forward, and the US is disinclined to push.

Perhaps instead of urging reconsideration of the roadmap, Arab interests would be better served by developing an actual "Road to Peace". More than a poorly-conceived and ill-prepared conference, an Arab diplomatic offensive, at this time, might help breathe new life into the peace process and set the table for future talks.

Dr James Zogby is the president of the Arab American Institute in Washington, DC.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Peanut Farmers and the Value of Common Sense

I've just finished reading Jimmy Carter's Book, "Palestine: Peace not Arpathied." This was a book that proved to be an exceedingly controversial one in as much as the former US President stated the obvoius - there will be no peace in the Middle East until, Israel stops grabbing land that it has no right to and when the USA actually starts acting like an honest broker rather than like an Israeli pawn. The former President goes onto say that the current "Anti-American" sentiment is linked to America's blatant support for Israel's violation of a host of UN resolutions.

Personally, I never thought much of Jimmy Carter. Like many of his critics in AIPEC, I believe Jimmy made some pretty horendous mistakes. For example, he tried to make the Shah of Persia into a "Democratic Hero" when in reality, the man was a dictator. He also underestimated the threat of the Soviet Union - the worst he did to protest the Soviet invasion of Afgahnistan was to lead a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games. The poor man's administration was marked by such a long list of blunders that the American military suffered one of its most embarrasing moments in its history just as he was leaving office after being crushed by Ronald Regan.

Old Jimmy certainly did not come accross as being heavy in the brain department. For Christ sake, the man was peanut farmer! But having said that, you have to hand it to the peanut farmer for having something which a load of intellectuals don't have - common sense. Perhaps I'm reading too much into a romanticised image of farmers here but when you read his book on Palestine, you really start to wonder if we should kick out all the intellectuals running policy in that part of the world and leave it to the hands of ordinary people with good old fashioned common sense.

Carter is not some sort of liberal "Arab-Lover" from the campuses of Berkly. The man is actually one of the better friends that the Israeli people have had. Which makes what he says so much more credible. He does not cheer for suicide bombers - in fact he condems such practices as vile. However, throughout the book he states the blatantly obvious - Israel is occupying land that it should not be occupying, it is violating the human rights of people whom it should not be harming and most important of all, the USA, the land of the brave and free is....well being held hostage into colluding with criminal acts.

He points out that the vast majority of Israeli people are willing to swap land for peace and have been constantly sabotaged by their political leadership. And he points out that the lack of discussion in the American media about the role of Israel is precisely what America needs.

Humm, its so blatantly obvoius and yet, and yet the Fags in the White House and their cabal will never allow common sense to rule the day. - Isn't time for a change of global leadership?

Friday, October 05, 2007

A Bum Who Lives Well

It's Firday today and I'm currently in a reflective mode, one where I look back on the week that has gone by and look forward to the week that is to come. What did I do well last week and what I could I do to improve this week. Usual answers abound - I could have had more women killing themselves to use me sexually, some foreign dignatary could have showered me in gold and I would be elected to a Bullshit job like being the Head of State. But since these things did not happen to me, I look back at the things that did happen.

Highlight of the week is undoubtedly GE Day on Monday. Managed to touch base with the Commercial Finance arm that I work with and meet some of the people from the other GE units. The article in Straits Times came out and the SEA CEO that I am working for actually wrote me a mini-testimonial, which I shall, God Willing have printed up on my Tang-Asia website. This will as they say, add a wee bit more to my credibility.

There was also a good lunch with Kuntal Joshi on Wednesday. He was being interviewed by the Business Times. Seemed to go quite well, he had a lot of fun telling her about Alcon and there was quite a tasty meal at Novus in the National Museum.

All in all, I managed to have a fairly good week even if I didn't get paid and remained fairly skint in real terms, I managed to live rather well. Had a few good meals here and there and managed to enjoy the company of some new found friends - namely the band at the Long Bar in the Raffles.

Which brings me to the main cut, thrust and parry of this rant. Life is about not making any money of your own and finding ways to live off other people's money. Corporate expense accounts or at least friends with corporate expense accounts are wonderful boon. Its thanks to things like these that keep the economy running. Spend lots and lots of the company's money - nobody will object - that is unless you choose to spend it on things like....hookers, drugs and endless booze.