Tuesday, July 11, 2006

George Bush abandons Geneva convention

How many Human Rights violations can the US government commit before they are held accountable for the atrocities of recent war-related activities?

The Geneva Convention, adopted on 12 August, 1949, lays out the laws by which prisoners of war are to be treated at all times.

The laws clearly state that no prisoner of war, or person not involved in active combat at that very moment, must not be subjected to any form of torture, humiliation, mutilation, degradation or execution.

The law is there to say, if someone is not in the process of active war fare, running around with a weapon fighting you or your army, if they are in any way incapacitated from fighting, having had their weapons removed and then locked away in a POW camp, DO NOT HARM THEM!

The US soldiers who tortured prisoners at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, subjecting prisoners to sexual humiliation and assault and took photos to prove it, directly violated the Geneva code.

The Prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay without trial, their hands and legs bounds, their faces permanently covered, and their bodies given no place to rest have been subjected to all kinds of torture under the hands of the US government, in yet another severe breech of Geneva laws.

The Bush administration tried to argue that the detainees are not entitled to protection under the Geneva Convention, despite a Prisoner of War who is protected by the convention being defined in the following way:

A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:
1. Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.
2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:
(a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
(b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
(c) That of carrying arms openly;
(d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
3. Members of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government or an authority not recognized by the Detaining Power.


That pretty much covers every possible base, wouldn’t you say? The convention also says that all prisoners are entitled to protection until "their status has been determined by a competent tribunal." The Guantanamo Bay detainees remain without trial, guilty until proven anything.

Most recent in the news is the rape of a 14 year Iraqi girl (SMH, July 11, 2006) and the murder of her family by Soliders disguised as civilians, who plotted and planned the rape and apparently bothered the young girl before committing this appalling crime. Such attacks on innocent civilians is the embodiment of the US attack on the very idea of maintaining any semblance of decency in times of war.

And yet the US government will be the first to point fingers and bark accusations as soon as any other government dares put a toe over the line. Outrage flares at the idea of any country building nuclear missiles and yet I ask you, which is the only country to EVER use them?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Screen Goddess IT calendar

A calendar of women in IT, posing in familiar movie-poster scenes, is now available. It’s a delightful little parody of sex-appeal, depicting women who are commonly stereotyped as geeks in the roles of screen sirens.

There’s Sharon doubling as Ursula Andress in the famous Dr No scene, stepping out of the waves in a bikini, Megyn in her voluptuousness doing a Catherine Zeta-Jones in Zorro, and my favourite Barbara and Linda doing it for the older women as a highly convincing Thelma and Louise.

Check it out at http://www.itgoddess.info

The calendar looks great, but according to Sydney Morning Herald article (July 9, 2006) the creators were inspired to challenge the perception that women in IT are about as a sexy as a wet baboon, hoping to attract more women back to IT.

Apparently the number of women employed in IT has fallen and continues to decline. The Sydney Morning Herald touched on this issue once before (Google in need of the feminine touch, April 18, 2006) when they revealed Google Australia’s failing attempts to draw more women to the IT workforce.

The makers of the calendar think it’s due to the perception that people in IT are all geeks that turn women away from the industry. As if women are so shallow and obsessed with appearance that they’d base their career choice entirely on how others may or may not perceive them.

Google and other organisation are trying to attract women to the workplace, but unless they’re a woman who has experience working in the IT industry, I fear they may not know exactly what they’re dealing with.

It’s not that IT isn’t interesting to women. Many women love computers and technology and are just as “switched on” as their male counterparts. But as a woman who worked for several years in IT, perhaps I can shed some light on why women are turning and running away.

There is something to be said about the types of people attracted to the IT industry, and while not all IT workers are geeks, the number of socially-inept males who have no idea how to relate to women and deal with them on equal footing on a day-to-day basis is too great for comfort.

I will share my experience in the IT industry, in the hope that it helps Google and other organisations make drastic changes that will get women back in IT.

My first job while I was still studying multimedia at UTS, I worked for an insane man with no business knowledge. He was an angry man rapidly running his dotcom into the ground. He yelled at clients and then came to me for emotional support. He was my boss, yet he asked me out constantly, not accepting “no” as an answer. He told me “You know how I feel about you,” as if that would make a difference and once tricked me into a dinner date, pretending we were just popping out for a quick feed while working late one evening. He took me to a fancy restaurant instead and I sat through one very akward dinner. Finally, he yelled at me for singing too loudly, punched a door which split down the middle and left the office to go abuse another client. I was gone by the time he came back. He rang me and begged me to return, but there wasn’t a chance.

After that experience, I actually decided not to work in IT any more, but a job came my way and I was unemployed at the time and about to graduate. Although they offered me a pittance of a salary I was thinking about beggers and choosers so I took the job. I worked with some really great, interesting and not-geeky people, my workmates and equals.

I say equals, but that is not how the company viewed it. Let’s just say my closest male workmate doing the same job as me earned $20,000 more than I did. It was far from equal!

But, because I enjoyed working alongside some great people I stupidly endured 2 years at that company and came out of it very bitter and upset. My workmates were great, but my bosses were a nightmare. One hardcore geek with zero social skills (and a personality exactly the same as David Brent from TV’s The Office) was my direct superior. He thought it was amusing to call me a “peanut-smuggler” infront of my workmates and encouraged them to use the term as freely as they liked. I rushed out to buy bras that were heavily lined so that my nipples would never show in the cold again.

I wore jeans and pretty ordinary clothes to that job. It was a casual workplace. I thought I was reasonably attired, but at one christmas party the company’s CEO decided it was appropriate to leer at me and accuse me of wearing tight jeans and wagging my “perky little arse around” at the office. I was gob-smacked and walked away, choosing not to respond to such an uncalled-for accusation.

I considered suing the company for harrassment but they were embroiled in so many other legal battles, and I was planning my move out of IT forever, so I decided not to waste any more time or energy on them. They were probably relying on that. I moved to Japan, changed my life completely and never once looked back.

Neither company exists any more. They imploded through poor management and a general lack of idea about life in general. Good riddance I say, but I have to wonder how many other women have had similar experiences. I can’t be the only one. If woman are to return to IT, there has to be a dramatic re-shaping of society and men’s attitudes towards women need to completely change. While the calendar is cute, shiny and enjoyable I have to wonder what kind of workplace those poor women will return to once their geeky, useless bosses get an eyeful of them in their underwear. I shudder to think!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Actors on strike

I could be wrong, but I thought the point of a hunger strike was to shock decision makers into action for fear that their inaction might actually kill the fasting person. So I have to wonder, what exactly do political activist actors like Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon hope to achieve with their so-called “rolling fast” (SMH, July 4, 2006)? Apparently they’ll go without food for a whole 24 hours before passing the food-ban to the next in line.

I’ve never heard of a 24-hour hunger strike.

I’ve heard of the 40-hour famine, the World Vision organised fast largely participated by teenagers hoping to raise funds and awareness for starving children around the world. Participants go without solid foods (but can eat glucose sweets and drink plenty of water) for the duration of 40 hours. Participants seek sponsorship from family and friends and the proceeds go to the World Vision charity. Apparently 40 hours without real food is something of a challenge, but completely achievable and the effects aren’t exactly lasting.

So again I wonder, what’s with the 24-hour fast?

I feel gypped. I adore Susan Sarandon, she’s my numero uno favourito actress. She was perky and brilliant in Rocky Horror Picture Show, sexy and strong in Thelma and Louise, hot and seductive in Bull Durham, and heart-breakingly tragic in Anywhere But Here. She’s a glory to watch and I appreciate her being politically active and a hell of a lot more than a set of abundant boobs, but 24 hours? Come on Susie, you can do better than that!!

We’re expected to believe that Sean Penn can throw a good punch and survive being married to Madonna, but he can’t go any longer than 24 hours without food? What gives?

I’m far from impressed, and I like these people. So how can they expect any politician, especially no-soul Bush to give a rat’s arse that they’ve got nothing on their plates for a day?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

BB06, Big Brother shock

Named after the omnipresent character in George Orwell’s famous novel comes the TV series shown in various formats around the world. Not being a huge fan of the concept of reality TV I’ve avoided the Australian series for 5 years, but I found myself watching it with Jeremy, a fan of the American series, despite my warnings that the Australian version is very boring.

However, we became involved and we’ve watched almost every daily episode, making friendly wagers as to the fates of nominated contestants. So far I’ve guessed almost every single one correctly. I must be in tune with the opinions of the Australian public. Basically, the ones I like the least have been the ones to leave, which keeps me vaguely satisfied while watching the boring show.

Today I woke up and went through my daily ritual of consuming breakfast and then checking the world of online news. I was surprised to learn from the Sydney Morning Herald that “Ash” and “John” (apparently not their real names) were booted out of the Gold Coast house for a serious breach of house rules. Big Brother (ltd) carefully guarded the truth behind the incident, although it was later reported that people watching the live online feed at 4:30am had described the incident on the Big Brother forum. It turned out loud-mouth Camilla had been sexual harassed by the two boys, perhaps even assaulted.

When I checked, the Big Brother forum was removed from their web site “until further notice” while BB continues to try to censor information and block access to the truth.

Let me repeat that: BB continues to try to censor information and block access to the truth.

This IS Big Brother we’re talking about, the same guy who kept a sharp eye on Oceania in 1984, who bastardised the language into the simplified form of “newspeak”, exercised thought control over the entire public, changed history on a daily basis and invented a world war that wasn’t really happening. In the face of all he’s done, is a little censorship of information very surprising?

Welcome back to reality. This isn’t 1984 and Big Brother isn’t really a dictator. It’s only a TV series.

Why did the host, Gretel Colleen, make assertive claims against evicted contestant, Michael, that Big Brother never edits footage? Michael was simply trying to state the widely known fact that from 24-hours of footage, only 30 minutes are shown which are carefully selected and chosen from certain camera angles with scenes cut short and depicted out of context with the specific intention of creating drama and entertainment. There was little-miss “I have children and I know when someone’s trying to bamboozle me” going red in the face and making poor Michael feel very unwelcome as she defends Big Brother’s … what … honour?

I can’t understand what they’re all so uptight about. The “adults only” edition was recently axed after too much gratuitous footage was aired. That wasn’t Big Brother’s doing, it was the network doing the censoring. This entire series has been a total shambles, but it wasn’t just this year. Apparently last year the show was in serious trouble for showing footage of a male contestant rubbing his penis on a female contestant’s back, without her knowing what was going on.

They got in trouble for that last year, so this year they’re heavily censoring this recent and similar incident. But they don’t seem to understand that there has to be some inbetween ground. Whoever produces the show clearly has no idea.

Or do they? Is the secrecy surrounding the event and BB's refusal to comment just a big publicity stunt? Record numbers of viewers are likely to tune in tonight to the first aired show since the event. By keeping mum about the incident, BB can assure a record-breaking audience for tonight's "daily" update and eviction show. Even if they fail to reveal the truth, there'll be no avoiding the fall out on the housemates. So it turns out Big Brother is still in control, flexing his muscles over the viewing behaviour of the Australian public. It's the next best thing to thought control.