Monday, November 21, 2005

poor execution

I doubt it will do much good, but I've thrown my two cents into a campaign to spare the life of Van Tuong Nguyen, who is due to hang in Singapore on 2 December after the poor fool was caught trying to smuggle heroin through Changi Airport. My email to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is below. And to supporters of the death penalty who might try to catch me out with any of their crude old chestnuts: no, I don't think serial killers or terrorists or war criminals – or anyone else – should be executed, either.


Dear Prime Minister,

I doubt this email will make much difference. I guess it is unlikely that you will ever read it. But I decided I should at least do something.

Nobody thinks that Van Tuong Nguyen should go free. But, as you no doubt know, many people do not think he should die for his crime. It is a very, very final act. What I ask, is that you – as the one person who has the power to spare this man his life – carefully weigh this upon your conscience. Would long-term or life imprisonment be less of a deterrent? Think also of the grief caused to Nguyen’s innocent friends and family. Are the lawmakers of Singapore prepared to accept a death penalty for their own children, should their own children stray? Is Singapore prepared to accept that maintaining a death penalty means that innocent people will be executed? It may not happen often, but humans are fallible, and court decisions are made by humans. Wrongful executions are, from time to time, a certainty. Is this a price worth paying?

I write not because I am Australian, like Nguyen. I write because I believe that in killing a person for their crime, we are no better than those we condemn.


pick your targets carefully

Here’s a report on a Philippine coal-fired power station protest by Greenpeace. The protest was part of activities planned while their boat, Rainbow Warrior II, is touring SE Asia.

I am all for peaceful activism against rampant fossil-fuel consumption. But it seems to me misguided to protest global warming at power plants in poor countries whose per capita carbon dioxide output is a fraction of that of developed countries, and where the guards are probably poorly-trained blokes on a couple of dollars a day, and who probably haven’t spent a whole lot of time thinking about climate change. Go and protest in Washington DC; I might join you there.

I don't for a second condone the violent response of the guards, and I hope the Greenpeace fellow recovers OK. If this sort of protest is poorly targeted and executed, though, it’ll do more harm than good. Greenpeace’s approach to several issues has turned me off over the last few years. I gave up membership years ago, and don’t intend to rejoin if they keep up the pseudo-scientific sensationalism that they seem to go for nowadays.

puerile self-gratification

The below is a puerile joke I made a couple of weeks ago, and one which amused me greatly. G originally emailed me to ask about electronic visas ("elec visa" as the subject heading) to Oz, wanting to know how long they took to process.

There's nothing like self-gratification...

From: G
Sent: Monday, November 07, 2005 7:51 PM
To: A
Subject: Re: Elec Visa

BTW. Y laughed so hard when I read this to her that it gave her the hiccups.

Dear G,

I've edited the subject heading below in such a way as to convert the content of your email into a suggestive – bawdy, if you will – item.


From: G
Sent: Monday, November 07, 2005 5:06 PM
To: Y
Cc: A
Subject: Re: Erection cream

Is it instant?

Friday, November 04, 2005


More than 70 years ago, Bertrand Russell presaged job-sharing and the downshifting movement. While I'm not sure how well the advice in his essay In praise of idleness would work in developing countries, it makes a lot of sense to me for the rich ones. (Or maybe people in the developed world could use their extra time to help sort things out in poorer nations...?)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Threshing rice in Modipuram, Uttar Pradesh, India (October 2005).

Alya, a rice farmer (and widow) from Rajshahi, Bangladesh (October 2005).

Man on Bicycle: from October 2005 trip to India; this taken in Pantnagar, Uttar Pradesh.

beer bonging

A brief return to my early-20s on Monday night (or at least it would have been if I'd been rather more adventurous when I was in my early-20s). Was shagged after taking D to the airport at 5am and consequently ready to sleep at 9pm. Gathered enough energy to walk down to a bar/restaurant for one quiet beer with N (visiting on his way home from Tibet) because it was his last night and he justifiably wanted to step out. Bumped into a few people I knew and a second wind hit me. Ended up beer bonging (first time ever and cringingly trés frat-house...only 2 bottles, but 2 bottles in 7.5 seconds was enough to have some effect) and stayed out (including something that passed for dancing) till almost 4am. Tues was a public holiday, thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but I felt like ratshit (to invoke a term I’ve not used since grade 8) when I woke up at 10am. I had a reasonably big Saturday night too. I think N departed thinking I live a far more exciting life – filled with wine, women, and song – than is anywhere near the case. I am, of course, happy for him to spread this idea around back home provided I’m not expected to live up to it when I return.