“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Archive for October 2007

Punished For Being a Trade Unionist

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The International Transport Workers’ Federation reports on the plight of one noble trade unionist in Iran:

“Osanloo sentence ‘appals world opinion’

30 October 2007

Commenting on news that Iranian trade union leader Mansour Osanloo has been sentenced to five years imprisonment ITF General Secretary David Cockroft said: “We have just heard that an injured, victimised trade unionist has been condemned to jail on charges that would be laughable if they weren’t so serious.”

“For two years Mansour Osanloo has fought back against the Iranian regime’s brutality. Now they are trying to crush him with spurious accusations of endangering national security and criticising the regime. We know – the world knows – that Mansour’s only crime in their eyes is to have asserted his right to belong to a trade union.”

He continued: “This sentence appals world opinion. Mansour has been an example to us all and to see him treated this way – beaten, arrested, rearrested, intimidated and nearly blinded – brings shame on the government of Iran. We have tried to reason with them and detected at least some sympathy for what he stands for, but that has now clearly been overruled by the hardliners.”

“The international trade union movement, including across the Islamic world, has fought all the way for Mansour and his colleagues and we will continue to do so. We will be alerting them now, along with the International Labour Organization, before planning a new wave of protests.”

He concluded: “If the government get away with this then they will hand out the same treatment to Mansour’s deputy, Ebrahim Madadi, and all of the 17,000 members of the union will be at risk.”

Mansour Osanloo, 47, is the President of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (Sherkat-e Vahed) trade union, which has been violently repressed by the Iranian authorities. Osanloo has been made a particular target for imprisonment and brutal attacks. He is currently being held in Evin prison in Tehran.

See for further information.

A short film on the Osanloo case can be seen at

and at YouTube:

Written by modernityblog

31/10/2007 at 01:26

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News Quiz

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I used to be a big fan of the News Quiz on Radio Four, although I haven’t listened to it for a while, I did catch this week’s episode which is a tribute to Alan Coren, which is excellent.


Written by modernityblog

29/10/2007 at 01:01

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No More Danish for Dictators

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John Gray has news of Danes take on Burmese Military collaborators, worth a read and a welcome development.

Written by modernityblog

27/10/2007 at 18:18

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Florence Moses.

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The treatment of minorities in a society is a good indicator of how healthy or otherwise it is, and in particular how we treat refugees says a lot about our ideals.

The plight of Florence Moses and her son, has been highlighted by stroppyblog and the work of the Manchester Lesbian Community Project:

“Florence fled Sierra Leone because she was suffering physical abuse including beatings by her parents and rape by her cousin, who she had been forced to marry. This all happened because Florence told her parents she is a lesbian, a fact that she had previously kept secret.

When Florence turned to the police for help they turned her away, saying it was a family matter. She tried to find a safe place to stay but could not and was forced to return home to face more abuse and violence.

She was horrified when told her parents were planning to force her to undergo female genital mutilation, commonly called female circumcision, as they believed this would ‘cure’ her. This process involves mutilating a woman‘s genitals, often resulting in serious infection and illness, and sometimes death.”

She should not be returned to Sierra Leone.

Written by modernityblog

25/10/2007 at 14:55

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Ubuntu Or DSL.

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Unless you have a highly specialised application there are plenty of alternatives to Microsoft’s Windows, not least the cornucopia of Linux distributions to be found at Distrowatch.

I’m a bit underwhelmed by the new version of Ubuntu, 7.10, the Gutsy Gibbon and it seems that I am not the only one. I’d stick with 7.04 if it works for you.

But if you’re adventurous you could try the new version 4 of damn small Linux.

I’ve been tinkering with DSL V4 and it looks very good, a great improvement in previous versions and performs well on low specified hardware.

Written by modernityblog

25/10/2007 at 00:43

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The web is a wonderful thing, you never know what you will discover, I found out about Fingilish whilst reading an Iranian blog, wiki explains:

“Fingilish (Farsi + English) (also Penglish or Pinglish, Finglish, Pingilish and Fārgilisi) is a term used to describe the way Persian words are written in Latin alphabet. This type of writing is commonly used in online chat, emails and SMS.

For example, the Persian word سلام (“hello”) is written “salaam”. The use of this type of writing spreads due to the lack of knowledge and/or proper software supporting Persian in the past.”

Kamangir is an interesting blog from Arash Kamangir, an Iranian student in living Canada.

Written by modernityblog

23/10/2007 at 23:57

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Pants to Dictators

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The 21st century has seen a decline in feminism, direct action from women is often scorned, equal pay is still an issue, repressive regimes still treat some women has little more than chattel. but this particular campaign against the Burmese dictators is ingenious and an example of what women can do for themselves and others, the Register reports:

“The Burmese military is facing an unexpected threat from female opponents to its regime – a deluge of panties dispatched to the country’s embassies in a “culturally insulting gesture of protest” against its recent crackdown on protestors.

According to AP the Panties for Peace initiative is not merely symbolic, since the the group behind the campaign – Lanna Action for Burma – claims “superstitious generals, especially junta leader General Than Shwe… believe that contact with women’s underwear saps them of power”

Written by modernityblog

21/10/2007 at 19:49

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One Madam

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The blurb says “Madam Miaow casts a sharp eye over the culture and names the guilty parties.”

She does, and with a mean sense of humour, so why not pay a visit.

Written by modernityblog

18/10/2007 at 01:05

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No Voice

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Seth Freeman on Cif covers the recent cancellation of the OneVoice peace concert in Jericho:

“Hayman’s distress will doubtless be shared by everyone connected with the organisation, but it’s the people the group are trying to reach who will also suffer the consequences of the concerts’ stifling. The events would have bolstered the confidence of the moderates on either side of the divide, making them believe that the middle-ground peace camp was gathering momentum and taking centre stage in both the hearts of Israel and Palestine.

Instead, those – like me – reading of the event’s cancellation in the national press will shake their heads in disappointment before turning the page and reading of the “success” of other, more violent groups as they push their own solutions on the troubled area. And, when it turns out that those purportedly helping the Palestinian cause (ISM, PACBI, and the like) are the ones who’ve done the most damage to OneVoice’s pleas for peace, hopefully the penny will drop that it’s time to ignore the extremists once and for all.

From the right-wing rabbis to the flag-burning ISMers, there has to be a mass awakening that neither side will ever have their every last demand met when it comes to a conflict as complex as this. As Tony Klug pointed out in his brilliant analysis of the situation, there will need to be very heavy, and very painful, concessions from both sides before peace really has a chance to envelop the region.

Until they do, however, the lights of peace will continue to be snuffed out whenever they’re lit, and the likes of OneVoice will continue to be beaten down whenever they try to rise above the maelstrom and bring the warring factions together. And, if they’re kicked down every time they try, one day they’ll just stop bothering – and when that day comes, the ISM and Israeli hardliners will only have themselves to blame for what follows.”

Written by modernityblog

17/10/2007 at 14:06

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Ubuntu 7.10 Release Candidate

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Ubuntu is out again, new and improved:

We consider this release candidate to be complete, stable, and suitable for testing by any user.

The final release of version 7.10 is scheduled for 18 October 2007 and will be supported for 18 months on both desktops and servers. Users requiring a longer support lifetime on servers may choose to continue using Ubuntu 6.06 LTS, with security support until 2011, rather than upgrade to 7.10.

Before installing or upgrading to Ubuntu 7.10 please read

I am hoping to get my old friend, David Toube into open source, he’s an old hand at PCs!

Written by modernityblog

13/10/2007 at 19:14

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Hard Influences

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Bob from Brockley poses a hard question: who was most influential upon my politics?

The question should be easy, but to be honest I can’t come up with an quick answer, my views have changed over the years, it is hard to think back that far and I most definitely am not into hero worship but I’ll try:

1. My family.

My family contained some of the stroppiest, most belligerent trade unionists you could find, along the way, as if by osmosis, I picked up many of those views. Some of their views were shaped by the extreme poverty of the 1930s, and when they told you what they went through you’d sometimes laugh at the absurdities and misery. They were not for self-pity so would joke about the pawn shops, the kids with no shoes, buying things on tick, the hunger and the dole office. Compared to their existence I had it mostly easy, although it would have been hard to have it worse.

2. Harold Wilson/Ted Heath.

Watching Harold Wilson in black-and-white giving the Labour Party election broadcasts was always enjoyable, even if I didn’t take in half of what he said, I knew that when I voted I wouldn’t vote for Tory scum, and every time I saw Ted Heath I felt like spitting. I still feel like spitting when I see Thatcher or Cameron.

3. Unions and my first real Branch Sec.

I have been in numerous Unions over the years but I remember when I was made a young Branch chairperson, I didn’t have a clue. My first real Branch secretary, Maureen, was a lovely woman from Kent, a departmental secretary and she eventually came down with arthritis of the hands, which was horrible, but a more resilient, organised and honest person you could not wish to meet, no side to her. She never crawled, she never moaned, just organised and I learn the basics from the best role model you could want. I didn’t fully appreciate her ideas for years, but having seen many lay official, scheming politicos, ambitious no bodies and empty suits, I wish I had listened more.

4. Travelling.

I was lucky that I could travel a bit, seeing countries that my forebears would only hear about vaguely. I enjoyed the comfort that travelling gives you, the insights, the good meals and the company, but mostly seeing a wider world, in some parts very organised in others dire. From the height of modern technology to kids walking round in bare feet and shorts, always looking hungry. It made me aware of the things that I now took for granted, but others could only dream of. It made me conscious of the world’s wider problem of deprivation and what I had suffered, in a small way, wasn’t the real poverty, even though it seemed so at the time.

5. Trotsky.

I am most definitely not a Trotskyist, and I think the near religious reverence that he is held in, is absurd.

But I remember reading his book on fascism in Germany and it struck me how many lessons could be learnt from that sad period. The mad politics of the KPD, the weakness of the SPD, Stalinism’s malevolent influence and, above all how many very intelligent people underestimated the Nazis, and they often died as a result. Looking back I can see how crude the book is now, but the essential point: complete opposition to Fascism is still sound.

5a. My books.

Having only comics as a kid, I acquired the love of books very late in life, but it’s interesting to muse on a problem, then realise thousands of people have looked at it the same way as you. Or that the ideas put forward in politics and history are not so hard to understand if you sit down and think about them, and they most definitely are not the province of the rich, pampered or educated elite’s.

I enjoyed Down and Out in London and Paris, the Borstal Boy, Memoirs of a British Agent, Hugo Gryn’s biography and many more, which are stored away, if I could only look at them my poor memory might recall some of the better ones. Oh and that book on how to chair a Union meeting, how many times did I re-read it?

No more hard questions Bob, just ask me about how to fix the world (or computers), I have plenty of swift answers to that!

Contentious Centrist
answers it in tick.

Written by modernityblog

10/10/2007 at 04:35

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Another Antiwar Demo?

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The Burmese dictatorship continues and despite the media blackout and vigorous censorship the news of the brutal and murderous suppression of the Monks leaked out.


Yesterday saw demonstrations across the world, organised by various Burma campaigns and human rights groups, to highlight the military dictatorships vicious history and actions.

In London, there was a small demonstration, a small step of solidarity with the Burmese people, a necessary step to remind the Burmese generals that their killing spree did not go unnoticed.

The world will need to do more than pass resolutions in the UN to bring the Burmese generals to their knees.

I suggest as a first step that their financial assets in Singapore should be confiscated and put into trust until the rightful ownership can be discerned, which would happen after the generals have step down and democracy has returned to Burma.

Written by modernityblog

07/10/2007 at 01:18

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Catching The Embezzlers

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Dictatorships and corruption go hand-in-hand, the elites invariably skim off millions and billions from government contracts, kickbacks or simply expropriate national budgets.

Thus it should come as no surprise that the Pinochet’s have been at it, as the BBC reports:

“The widow and five children of Chile’s former military ruler, Gen Augusto Pinochet, have been arrested on charges of embezzlement.

They are accused of illegally transferring $27m (£13.2m) to foreign bank accounts during the general’s time in power between 1973 and 1990.

A judge ordered 17 other suspects to be held, including aides to Gen Pinochet.

Gen Pinochet died in December 2006 before he could stand trial on charges of corruption and human rights abuses.

More than 3,000 people were killed or “disappeared” during his military rule.

Pablo Rodriguez, the Pinochet family lawyer, said he was “astonished” by the decision, which he called “illegal and abusive”.

He expressed confidence the ruling would be reversed on appeal.

Aides implicated

Gen Pinochet’s 84-year-old widow, Lucia Hiriart, was taken to hospital with high blood pressure following her arrest.

However, Judge Carlos Cerda said there were “solid indications” the accused had “participated in the misuse of fiscal funds”.

Judge Cerda is investigating a case in which Gen Pinochet allegedly hid funds with the help of Washington-based Riggs bank.

Suspects include Gen Pinochet’s former personal secretary, Monica Ananias, and his lawyer Gustavo Collao.

At least three retired army generals – Jorge Ballerino, Guillermo Garin and Hector Letelier – were also charged.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said she would await the court’s decision “with calm”.

“No-one in Chile is above the law,” she said.

In 2004 a US Senate investigation found hundreds of bank accounts in the name of Pinochet and his relatives at the bank. He was being investigated for tax evasion, fraud and embezzlement in relation to those funds.

His immunity from prosecution was stripped in 2000, sparking years of legal wrangling to try to bring him to trial for alleged human rights abuses and tax fraud.

His lawyers said he was unable to defend himself for health reasons.

In 2006, Gen Pinochet died of a heart attack aged 91 while under house arrest.”

Augusto Pinochet escaped justice, hopefully that won’t be true for his embezzling family.

Written by modernityblog

05/10/2007 at 01:13

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Where do human rights apply? Europe? America? Britain? China? Or even Burma?

It seems that the answer is everywhere and nowhere.

China’s appalling human rights records in Tibet is well documented from the annexation of the country, suppression of dissent and forced settlement.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Burma’s biggest ally is China.

These regimes exist by monopolising power, limiting news and information, restricting external access and brutal military power.

The Burmese generals who have run Burma for the last 45 years, since the military coup in 1962 have brutally dealt with any dissent:

“A military-dominated regime led by the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) held power for the next 26 years. There were no free elections, and freedom of expression and association were almost entirely denied. Resistance to the regime occasionally flared, and student and worker demonstrations in the 1960s and 1970s were brutally crushed. Torture, political imprisonment, and other human rights abuses were common. Throughout this period, costly guerrilla wars with ethnic opposition groups along the country’s frontiers continued.”

As far as I can see, there are effectively four outcomes to the current revolt:

1) the Burmese dictatorship gives in to public pressure
2) China exerts extraordinary pressure on the Burmese Generals and they give up power willingly
3) the military dictatorship in Burma uses all their might to crush it
4) the whole of the population rise up and depose the Generals

The first two seem highly unlikely, all of the Security Council resolutions count for nought in Burma, only tangible and concerted force would remove the Burmese military from power.

China has played a duplicitous role at the UN, blocking any action against the Burmese dictatorship.

So unless the people of Burma emancipate themselves it is doubtful that any external force will achieve much.

Pressure on China might have worked, early on in the revolt, as they are very vulnerable over the Olympics but the world’s weak response has embolden the dictatorships in both countries.

Here are some background links on Burma:

Burma: the history behind the protests by Michael Charney

Factfile: Burma’s history of repression

Burma Labour Solidarity Organisation

Rebound 88

Project Maje, an independent information project on Burma’s human rights and environmental issues.

ILO on Forced labour in Myanmar (Burma)

Burmanet News

Narinjara News

Mizzima News

Kaladan Press Network

(Hat tip: Jim D)

Update 1: Burma Campaign

Update 2: Irrawaddy News reports on Burma Information Blackout

(Thanks to BobB for picking up typos!)

Update 3: March for Bumra

Written by modernityblog

01/10/2007 at 18:18

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