28 January 2009

OZ TV: The Chaser's War on Everything

One of Australia's most controversial, and in my opinion, greatest, TV shows has come to America. The Chaser's War on Everything will premiere on G4 tonight at 9pm Eastern. If you want to see Australia's brand of satirical humour, check it out. It is largely about Australian current events, so some of the references may be lost on you. If so, feel free to post a comment here and I'll be happy to get you up to speed.

Heather and I saw these guys around town every once in a while getting ready for a bit, although I don't think we ever saw them actually in the middle of something. It was always fun to watch and look for familiar locations in the city that they pranked. One that comes to mind is when they attempted to "move" furniture using the city buses. Guess you had to be there.

The picture above, as well as the two videos below, are from their fine work during the APEC meeting in late 2007. The Osama bin Laden stunt got them arrested--Heather and I saw a big crowd, including cameras, around the police station near our flat, but didn't find out until the next day that it was for the Chasers. Given the ultra-tight restrictions that we witnessed, including snipers in helicopters hovering over the city, Heather and I found this segment particularly amusing. It's fair to say that this was the Chasers' finest moment.

Chaser's APEC security measures

Chasers infiltrate APEC security

25 January 2009

Obama and Guantánamo

Last week, President Obama signed an executive order to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility within a year, a quick move signaling that the United States would once again respect human rights concerning the war on terror. While reading "Issue of terrorists' rights to test Obama's pledge" I came across this interesting quotation from John Boehner (R-OH), House GOP leader:

"The Guantánamo Bay prison is filled with the worst of the worst -- terrorists and killers bent on murdering Americans and other friends of freedom around the world. If it is closed, where will they go, will they be brought to the United States and how will they be secured?"

Rep. Boehner is either a remarkably uninformed member of Congress or he is knowlingly lying through his teeth. Of the 775 prisoners who have been held at Guantánamo over the past 7+ years, 420 have been released without charge. Of the roughly 270 currently held, "50 to 70" have been cleared for release, but cannot be returned to their home country for fear of punishment (Reynolds). Clearly, Gitmo is not "filled with the worst of the worst" and it would be refreshing if Republican leaders would stop parroting Rumsfeld's tired lie.

In spite of this, Boehner does raise an important point: where do the freed prisoners go? I feel Obama's executive order is lacking in this area. The United States continues to deny any innocent detainees settlement in the United States. How can we expect our allies around the world to help with this process if we do not take some of them as well? What is wrong with taking seventeen Uighurs, a nomadic people from Western China, who ended up in Guantánamo because they were sold for bounty by Pakistanis (Mariner)? They have been cleared for release for nearly five years but remain in Gitmo because they cannot be safely returned to China and no one else, including the U.S., will take them in. The case of the Uighurs, and many others like them, is an injustice and a human rights violation.

Also, Obama's order does not end the military commissions that conduct the trials of the charged detainees in a manner that denies them due process, but instead calls for a study into the feasibility of moving the trials to the federal system. In seven years of operation, only three people have been convicted by the military commissions at Guantánamo: David Hicks, an Australian who joined the Taliban; Salim Hamdan, Bin Laden's driver; and Ali al-Bahlul, who made a video. All in all, these are three very low-ranking, low risk terrorists. On the other hand, you have the infamous Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the designers of 9/11, and Richard Reid, the "shoe-bomber". Both were convicted in Federal courts, not Guantánamo (Sullivan).

I was glad to see that Obama quickly followed through on his campaign promise to close Guantánamo, but his order was incomplete. Obama's declaration of last week was a good first step, but there is still further to go if the United States is going to take its place once again as a champion of human rights and justice in the world.

21 January 2009

Masters degree conferred--now with merit!

What began as a dream is now official: I am a Master of Development Studies with merit. It may bear a stronger resemblance to a business letter than a diploma, but I'll take it. Behind this mere piece of paper is a year and a half of my life, and hopefully my future, in the form of the following:

There were too many choices and only eight slots, but I'm satisfied with my selections. If nothing else, I have a foundation for further study. It was a challenging course of study, both academically and intellectually. Many of my world view assumptions were challenged, many altered, others reinforced, but all were strengthened with information, logic and reasoning.

Perhaps the most important thing I learned is that I have a lot more to learn.