Take It As Red

"Blogging is, by its very nature, erratic and irregular, feverish effort punctuated by random silence, a conundrum wrapped in a contradiction wrapped in a mystery wrapped in an unclosed em tag. " - The Poor Man

Friday, December 31


Yet More US Moral Degeneracy.


Jeb Bush Starts '08 Presidential Run

Those lucky, lucky tsunami-hit brown heathens. The chimperor is sending his own holy brother to comfort them in their grief. According to CNN, in explaining why Jeb Bush was chosen to make the trip to indonesia along with that busted flush Colin Powell, Bush's statement said,

"He has extensive experience in the state of Florida with relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts."

Yeah, right. Just like he has extensive experience in being a human being. Seriously, it's my honest belief that this trip is just the start of the Republican's '08 campaign. It's absolutely typical Republican behaviour to use an international humanitarian tragedy to advance their own political agenda.


Thursday, December 30


Fucking Fucking Yanks.

From CNN:

"Tsunamis shatter celebrity holidays

Former German Chancellor Kohl evacuated to safety
Wednesday, December 29, 2004 Posted: 0548 GMT (1348 HKT)
Czech model Petra Nemcova, was injured in the tsunami.
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- A German statesman, a Czech super model and a Swedish Olympic ski champion were among the vacationers whose search for peace and sun in tropical southern Asia was shattered by the tsunamis that spared neither rich nor poor.

Petra Nemcova -- who appeared on the cover of 2003 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue -- was carried away with her boyfriend, the fashion photographer Simon Atlee, after a huge wave plowed into southern Thailand on Sunday."

Bloody hell, just when you think Americans can't disgust you very much more they come up with yet another obsecenity like this.
And then we have the jeebus freaks:

"This morning on c-span (why do I listen to their call-in show, anyway?) the repub callers were all whining about why should WE be expected to give any more aid. Let the arab countries help them. One of them said he'd like to see the list of countries who lined up to give us aid after 9-11, oh, except for that filthy arab guy who wanted to give $10million.

Do these people have any clue that A) they live in the richest country in the world and B) on a per capita basis, we are giving diddly-squat compared to other nations, and C) we are talking about human beings, for fuck's sake?

I finally had to turn off the TV when one woman actually said that sweeping all the children out to sea and killing them was God's way of protecting them from the evil of prostitution. Listening to them made me ashamed to be an American.
semper fubar Email 12.29.04 - 1:16 pm "

"This is God's way of forcing people into goodness. Out of the stories of unspeakable tragedy will come those of heroism, bravery, and charity. Wait and see what the outpouring of support, aid, and hope brings. Sometimes you gotta take a step back (or in this case, more along the lines of 10000 steps back) to move 2 forward.
Posted by Brent at December 28, 2004 05:11 "

Humans, and whatever mumbo jumbo they care to make up and believe it's God, are irrelevant to the planet. The planet does what it does and if humans are affected, then so be it. The planet will continue without us, we didn't make it, it was here before us and will be here after.

What part of that is so difficult for the jeebus people to understand? Religion is just a figment of our fallible human imagination. It's a comfort to some, but that's all it is. There is no eye in the sky making decisions for us for good or ill, we are purely at the mercy of nature.

Anthropomorphising natural forces like tectonics as some sort of act of god is utterly pointless.

UPDATE: Fucking fucking FUCKING Yanks- this post at Whizbang, trying to make rightwing partisan points over blog coverage of the disaster, and then compounding the offence by trying to make out it's ironic.

"Still I have to wonder... We are continually told how much more liberals care about their fellow man than conservatives, yet 60,000 people are presumed dead and many of the liberals hardly mention it... The numbers don't seem to tell the same story."

Call yourself a human being, Paul?


Wednesday, December 29


Simon Winchester On Gaia, Geology & Tectonics

Thanks to Attaturk for this link to Simon Winchester in the New York Times:

"[...]Given these cascades of disasters past and present, one can only wonder: might there be some kind of butterfly effect, latent and deadly, lying out in the seismic world? There is of course no hard scientific truth - no firm certainty that a rupture on a tectonic boundary in the western Pacific (in Honshu, say) can lead directly to a break in a boundary in the eastern Pacific (in Parkfield), or another in the eastern Indian ocean (off Sumatra, say). But anecdotally, as this year has so tragically shown, there is evidence aplenty"

So far, I've been pretty good at predicting earthquakes, being as I am an obsessive follower of even small seismic events via the US Geological Survey's excellent earhquake warnings and maps: I've been right around 70% of the time, mainly on gut instinct. (Please note IANA Geologist, merely an enthusiastic amateur.) My prediction this time is the Cascades, San Andreas or Yellowstone, or possibly the Nazca plate around the coast of Chile. There have already been, since Sunday, seismic events in the Philippines, Hokkaido and Kamchatka Pensinula, and now the Aleutians and Alaska within the past hour. Within the past week there was a moderate (4.10 tremor in Chiapas, Mexico; it was very deep, 78km. This appears to mean that things are shifting deep underground and is not a good augury.You can see subsequent activity to the Indian Ocean event moving around the plate boundaries by looking at the maps as they update.

Anyone up for a wager?



The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog

Courtesy of Alice Marshall, via Atrios, a wiki has been set up by S. Asians, for S Asians, giving all the latest info on the tsunami and the aftermath.

Meanwhile, from CNN: Tsunamis shatter celebrity holidays. Nice to know the US media has its priorities straight...



Yet More Republican Obscenities.

Guess how much the Chimperor has pledged to the aid effort following the tsunami? 20 million dollars. Yes, that's all.

of what his coronation will cost.

From the Idaho Mountain Express -
A coronation or inauguration?


For a "wartime" commander-in-chief, George W. Bush shows scant inclination to be a model of sacrifice and self-denial, even as killed-in-action reports trickle into the Pentagon from Iraq and U.S. soldiers' next-of-kin are notified.

Most unseemly of all is the splendor that Republican planners have arranged for the president's inaugural festivities—including cozy upclose get-togethers with George Bush for moneyed supporters doling out $250,000 each for the privilege of getting the presidential ear over an intimate lunch.

The goal is to raise $40 million. Is this, heaven forbid, what this regal fete will cost? Or is this merely the selling of the president, another dodge to raise funds for some future political operation?

How many armored Humvees would $40 million buy?

One wonders if the Republican elites with expensive tastes in ceremonial majesty have the good sense to invite—at no cost, mind you—a few soldiers grievously wounded in Iraq to rub elbows with the president and his elegant friends over lunch and get an earful of what sort of camaraderie goes on between this president and his flush backers. After all, GIs gave their limbs, which amounts to far more than dollars peeled off by millionaires.

Republicans are creating what appears to be a monarch's coronation, not the inauguration of Everyman's president.

This trend had been shared by Democrats, too—staging opulent lunches, dinners and dazzling presidential balls that price ordinary folks out of attending.

For common folks, inauguration means enduring freezing temperatures or rain to see the presidential oath on the Capitol steps through binoculars, maybe a curbside view of a parade later in the day.

Simplicity once reigned over inaugurations. There was the simple oath taking and, in early days of the nation, Americans strolled over to the White House to shake the president's hand and hobnob with political leaders.

Those bucolic yesteryears can't be revived. The president is doomed by modern circumstances to living in a bubble of security that isolates him from the public and, sadly, from realities that Americans face and endure every day.

At a very minimum, however, decency should compel political parties to collect only enough donations to cover actual costs of a few inaugural festivities, then limit the celebration to more modest parties within reach of more people.

A little sacrifice by political parties is not much to ask while other Americans and their families are sacrificing far more in a war that President Bush started.

40 million? 40 bloody million? Bugger the Humvees, think what 40 million could do for Bandar Aceh.

This is the Chimperor's reaction to the tsunami:

CRAWFORD, Texas Dec 27, 2004 — President Bush spent part of Monday at his Texas ranch monitoring devastation from a deadly earthquake in Southeast Asia a replay of his post-Christmas vacation last year when he was monitoring damage from an earthquake in Iran.

Bush sent letters of condolence to Bangladesh, Thailand, Sri Landa, Indonesia, India, Maldives and Malaysia all countries affected by the Sunday earthquake and tidal waves that have killed more than 22,000 people.

"He's been monitoring it very closely," White House spokesman Trent Duffy told reporters at a briefing here. "He's seen some of the images on television."

Well, whoop-de-fucking-doo. I'm sure we all feel comforted. The mere existence of George Bush is an obscenity and a blight on the name of humanity. If only Yellowstone would blow and wipe this travesty of a president of the face of the earth. Jan Egelund, the UN's Undersecretary General for Humanitarian
Affairs, said "We were more generous when we were less rich, many of the rich countries, and it is beyond me, why are we so stingy, really. ... Even Christmas time should remind many Western countries at least how rich we have become."

An interesting sidebar: the linked article above from the Seattle Post Intelligencer gives a list of organisations, supplied by the State Department, that individuals can donate to. Oddly enough, there's no mention of Oxfam, Save the Children, Unesco, Medecins Sans Frontieres or any of the other secular aid agencies: however, the agencies given are predominantly Christian.

For example Northwest Medical Teams: "We endeavor to help desperate people of all faiths while upholding Christian values. Our Mission is our statement of this commitment."

WorldVision: "World Vision helps transform the lives of children and families in need in the name of Christ."

MercyCorps: "Mercy Corps envisions a world in which acts of mercy, justice, and compassion overcome hate, violence, poverty, and despair - a world where children experience a caring family, a nurturing community, a sacred environment, love, and the opportunity to fulfill their God-given potential."

WorldConcern: We are committed to encouraging the Christian church in communities where we have projects, as well as strengthening local institutions. By combining our efforts with a whole network of international and local organizations, government agencies, volunteers and donors we’re able to do so much more. Our partnership with U.S. churches also helps Christians here at home put their faith into action as they reach out through World Concern to families a world away.

Is there nothing these fundies won't stoop to? Fine, be Christian if you want to, your beliefs are your own. But using a disaster of this magnitude to proselytise for a faith which has caused more suffering than any other disgusts me, and the fact that it's being done in such an underhand way, undermining the real efforts of the UN and secular agencies, well, I'm running out of words.

Obscene is not good enough any more.



A Couple of Quick Blogs

From The Grauniad comes this excellent list of links to specialist websites in activism, the arts, techness, health and news, and this list of useful antiwar sites.



Incomprehension, Grief and Anger

It just gets worse and worse. First 10,000, then 15, then 23, then 60 thousand and the death toll still rises. And that's just the known dead: there are thousands upon thousands of stranded, orphaned, and injured children and adults, and the real scale of the earthquake's effect is only just becoming clear.

A child who has lost his parents and has no idea what has happened

The Independent front page has this picture, and he is just one out of too many to count. My heart breaks for them - they have lost everything, family, livelihood and home. Many more will die from water-borne diseases like cholera and typhoid, and from injuries because some of the islands are so remote that help will be a long time arriving. The scope of the disaster and its longterm aftermath are beyond comprehension.

What has struck me forcibly in watching and listening to the coverage is, that with all the violence that's happening in the world, Iraq, Beslan, Palestine, Darfur and the rest, it seems almost a relief that people are able to feel uncomplicated grief for once because this is a natural disaster. We don't have to consider the politics of the thing; who's right, or who's wrong, or what will the US think, what will Putin do, what will Ariel Sharon say next? It doesn't matter, earthquakes and tsunamis just happen, and make politics irrelevant. The feelings we have for those caught in man-made political disasters may be equally real but they are complicated by our moral difficulties with cause and effect. It is almost a comfort to be able to turn to the tsunami coverage and feel only uncomplicated human sympathy.

However, there are politics to this. The disaster happened on Sunday but it's not until 3 days later that the UN finally managed to arrange a meeting of all the relevant aid agencies. From the current President of the richest nation in the world very little is heard, other than the obligatory ''How sad''. So far the aid pledges are in mere millions, not the billions and trillions that will be needed to rebuild. This is not just a tragedy for the people killed and injured, but an economic disaster for the whole region. How many will go to Thailand on holiday again for example? Who will replace the fishing fleets? Did anyone have insurance? What about the schools, the hospitals, the sewage systems the roads, the infrastructure generally? Can Asia ever recover?

Burying the unknown in mass graves in Sri Lanka, courtesy BBC

What about people like the Andaman Islanders, one of the region's last aboriginal ethnic groups? No-one knows: they may well have been completely wiped out. Also the Maldives, which was on the verge of its first democratic elections ever. Will this derail the democratic process? Bandah Aceh in Indonesia, one of the most hard-hit areas, had been cordoned off by security forces against Muslim rebels. How will this tragedy affect the political situation in Indonesia generally, which is volatile at the best of times? Is this the opening the radical Muslims have been looking for?

And speaking of Muslim nations, where the hell is the Sultan of Brunei? He is after all one of the richest men in the world: with one click of his fingers he could fund the rebuilding of the whole region. Mind you this is true of many individuals in the region. Robert Kuok, of Malaysia, for instance, worth 4.1 billion dollars. The 10 richest men in Asia could sort this out standing on their heads. Of the 40 richest, 8 are Indonesian, the rest Thai, Indian and Malay, all areas badly affected. If they are not helping they should be ashamed.

For those who are not one of the richest men in Asia, ie the rest of us, Vaara reports:

[UPDATE 28.12.04 20.00: News media are now reporting at least 50,000 dead. Here in the Netherlands, an ad-hoc group called Samenwerkende Hulporganisaties has opened a Giro 555 account to help the survivors. Please, give as much as you want to whomever you choose, but give.]

And then give some more. And if you can't afford money then give clothes or shoes or spectacles or something: people are having to start again; they need everything.


Tuesday, December 28


Look! It snowed! (for 5 minutes)

Monday, December 27


Oh, Deary Deary me.

Via the always excellent if somewhat scatological Rude Pundit, prepare for the....


There are many other animal nativity sets featured, but as you know, Bob, we bloggers generally prefer cats. But, but... where are the 3 wise moggies? Why of course, they're sold separately.


I hate myself for my illicit and perverted desires, but I so want these... I'd kill for them if they were squid. Oh, what I wouldn't give for a squidivity set.

UPDATE: I went googling for one, and there isn't a squidivity set, but I fully intend to get these lovely pearly squid lures for the tree next year. They'll be so pretty :




Who are you and can you prove it?

From expatica.com
"The 'Identificatieplicht' is the latest step in a major government campaign to tackle a range of crime, public disturbance and truancy problems in the Netherlands. Mindy Ran reports.

Most people who have watched Dutch television recently will have seen the ad in which a mature man, dressed in a rain coat and walking a cute little dog, spells out C-O-C-K to a police officer. Some expat viewers may have dismissed this as yet another example of the liberal and slightly whacky Dutch attitude to matters that are considered profane in many other countries around the world.

You are a nobody if you haven't got official identification, the government says
The Dutch government hopes — on the other hand — that most viewers will understand the gentleman in question is actor Piet Römer, who plays Detective De Cock in the hit crime series Baantjer. The character seems to have mania for spelling out his name to illustrate it isn't spelled K-O-K.

Taking a break from solving murder mysteries, Römer, aka De Cock, is spearheading the government's campaign to inform the public that everyone, aged 14 and above, will be obliged to carry official identification in the Netherlands from 1 Janaury {sic} 2005.

The government claims that the new identity law (Identificatieplicht) is essential for authorities to be able to perform their job, fight crime and public nuisance and create a safer environment.

Which ID will do?

The form of acceptable identification depends both on the situation, and on your nationality. In general, accepted identification is defined as: a valid passport, Dutch or European ID card, or residence permit. In some cases, but not all, a valid Dutch driver's license will do.

For Dutch citizens, any of the above will be accepted, with the exemptions of the driving license when visiting the tax office, or requesting a SoFi number or social security benefit (uitkering). For Dutch nationals above the age of 14, but not yet able to drive or still included on a parents passport, a Dutch ID card is available for around EUR 30 from the citizens affairs desk at your local city hall.

Even famous tevision detective De Cock needs to have identification.
The Dutch ID card is not available to non-Dutch nationals.

Inclusion on a parent’s passport is no longer considered acceptable identification for any child over the age of 14. Also, for the past two years all non-EU/EER citizens above the age of 12 have been obliged to have their own residence permit.

For immigrants and nationals from countries outside the EU/EER, you will be required to carry a valid residence permit (verblijfsdocument), as a passport will not be acceptable if the matter being investigated concerns your legal status in the country.

EU/EER nationals may use a valid passport, or a residence permit. Although it is not required as an EU/EER national to have a residence permit, the current policy of the identity law states "all immigrants must be able to show [their] immigration documents".

Forgotten expats

Reading the comprehensive website (in Dutch) did not clear up this apparent conflict between needing a residence permit and not being required to get one by EU law. Technically, residence permits are still not required as EU/EER nationals can show a valid passport to comply with the new ruling.

At this time it is also unclear whether any sort of alternative to the Dutch identity card will be available for those not wanting to carry their passports, or for parents concerned about children aged 14 and older carrying their passports.

When the question was put to the gentleman behind the information desk at the Amsterdam Citizens Affairs Office in City Hall (as a parent, not a journalist), his final suggestion in a long line of whimsical answers was to make my son "Dutch" so he could get an ID card. He was also interested when his boss offered me a brochure (Identificatieplicht - Nederland Veilig), because, as he told me, he was unaware of which brochure covered the issue.

Who can ask?

The police, as well as immigration and customs officials, tax officials, forest rangers, labour and environmental inspectors, will all have the right, under certain circumstances, to request to see your ID. At this moment, there are no plans to do spot checks on ID and the reasons for requesting identification by police and other authorities will have to have a legal basis.

Specifically cited reasons include: traffic violations, investigation of criminal acts, identification of witnesses or victims of an accident or crime, creating a public disturbance, truancy, a check for illegal workers, the attempted removal of animals or plants from a nature reserve or illegal dumping.

If you are asked for identification and are unable to provide it, you will be taken to a police station until your identity can be proven. You might also be fined up to EUR 2,250, although according to their website it is "expected" that in practice many simple cases will be fined less."

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Absolutely fucking typical. It's us allochtoons who'll be asked, yet all the relevant information is in Dutch. What is it with these people? The racism is bad enough but allied with Dutch bureaucracy it's an absolute nightmare. I for one will be practicing civil disobedience on this subject; I am an EC citizen, I have a right to be here, and I have full freedom of movement and residence within the EU, and there is nothing the damned Dutch can do to stop it.

Eat shit and die, Balkenende and Verdonk. If that's who you really are.



Merry Christmas Fallujah! Here's Your City Back....

Such as it is.
"I saw the city and al-Andalus destroyed," said Ali Mahmood, 35, referring to the district of the city he returned to briefly Thursday but now plans to leave after seeing the mess.

"My house is completely destroyed. There is nothing left for me to stay for," the teacher said, adding that he would rather live in the tented camp outside Falluja that has been his family's home for the past two months.

Some 2,000 Iraqis, who fled a U.S.-led offensive on Falluja more than a month ago, are returning to the Sunni Muslim city although sporadic fighting persists in some areas, Iraqi ministers said. (Akram Saleh/Reuters)

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, on a suprise pre-Christmas visit to Iraq, visited troops at a base near Falluja Friday but made no mention of the city's rebuilding.


But they're free! Why aren't they cheering?



More Quakes Follow....Please Help The Survivors

The BBC is now reporting over 14,000 dead. This really is a horrible disaster, now upgraded to 9.0 on the Richter scale. when you consider that it is a logarithmic scale, with each full point added meaning it's 10 times higher than the previous point, then a 9.0 is truly horrendous. There is talk from some scientists that it's enough to make the earth's rotation wobble. Tremors were felt as far away as New York's Central Park.

I'm an earthquake junkie and am quite excited by such a huge event and the aftershocks, not to mention the next one that's coming as the shock waves travel around the plate perimeters: but I have to keep looking at the casualty reports to remind myself that there are real people on the recieving end of all this. Particularly worrying is the situation in Burma, which has 1300 miles of coastline exposed to the tsunamis - very little is being reported, and no-one seems to know what the situation is there except it's unlikely to be good.

From the US Geological Survey:

"The devastating megathrust earthquake of December 26th, 2004 occurred on the interface of the India and Burma plates and was cause by the release of stresses that develop as the India plate subducts beneath the overriding Burma plate. The India plate begins its decent into the mantle at the Sunda trench which lies to the west of the earthquake's epicenter. The trench is the surface expression of the India-Burma plate interface.

The tectonics of the region is complex and involves the interaction of the Australian, Sunda and Eurasian plates in addition to the India and Burma plate. The India and Australia plates move northeastwards at a rate of about 6 cm/year relative to the Burma plate. This results in oblique convergence at the Sunda trench. Some of this oblique motion is accommodated on the right-lateral transform faults and rifts that separate the Burma and Sunda plates"

Anyone reading this, please send what you can manage to the Red Cross/ Red Crescent, or Oxfam, who are responding to the disaster with great dispatch.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched a preliminary appeal for 7.5 million Swiss francs to assist some 500,000 people and bring immediate support to relief operations of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and other countries in the region after the strongest earthquake in 40 years caused massive tidal waves, killing at least 6,000 people, according to local authorities, and leaving more than one million displaced and homeless.

The number of injured is still not known. One million Swiss francs were released earlier today from the Federation’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund. Locally, Red Cross teams in Sri Lanka and India have helped evacuate survivors, dispensed first aid and provided emergency relief materials, such as tents and blankets, as well as food.

The International Federation will send medical supplies for 100,000 people into Sri Lanka, the country hardest hit by the disaster, tomorrow, from Copenhagen, Denmark. Additionally medicines to treat up to 2,000 possible cases of diarrheal disease will also be part of the shipment.

“The biggest health challenges we are facing is the spread of waterborne diseases, particularly malaria and diarrhea, as well as respiratory tract infections,” explains Hakan Sandbladh, Senior Health Officer at the Federation’s Secretariat in Geneva. “We are particularly concerned about initial reports of destruction of hospitals and other health infrastructures in Sri Lanka.”

Quakes and aftershocks are still continuing in the region: latest report is of a 5.6 quake this morning off the Nicobar Islands... Like these poor people haven't suffered enough already. For our common humanity, please help.

UPDATE: Bob Harris has a very useful list of links to organisations heping with disaster relief that can be donated to here, including Medecins and Telecoms Sans Frontieres.

Go, donate, show the world we're not all Bushes and Blairs.


Sunday, December 26


Boom! That's It For The Festive Season Then

It's Boxing Day already, blimey, how did that happen? Christmas occurred and was muted fun for all: now we've done the traditional turkey, crackers, pudding and sticky liqueurs, and the sleeping through "Harry Potter" thing, we can have some proper fun, like reading, blogging, listening to the Archers Omnibus and drinking tea. And of course, cake. I also shall be making Black Forest Trifle to follow all the cold ham, turkey and roast pork and salad.

Not quite so much fun for those in the Maldives, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand or the Andamans: a massive earthquake, 8.9 on the Richter scale, hit early this morning our time. Lots of damage, tsunamis, and dead/injured - reports are still coming in. This is the latest in a string of earthquakes around the Pacific Rim, and Mt. St Helens is still rumbling. Maybe we'll see the San Andreas blow.

Floods following tsunamis in Sri Lanka

The BBC is posting realtime reports from individuals on the earthquake and the aftermath. It's being constantly updated.



11/28/2004 - 12/05/2004  
12/05/2004 - 12/12/2004  
12/12/2004 - 12/19/2004  
12/19/2004 - 12/26/2004  
12/26/2004 - 01/02/2005  
01/02/2005 - 01/09/2005  
01/09/2005 - 01/16/2005  
01/16/2005 - 01/23/2005  
01/23/2005 - 01/30/2005  
01/30/2005 - 02/06/2005  
02/06/2005 - 02/13/2005  
02/13/2005 - 02/20/2005  
02/20/2005 - 02/27/2005  
02/27/2005 - 03/06/2005  
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