Archive for February 10th, 2012

Lourdes to screen award-winning political documentary The Anatomy of Hate

Friday, February 10th, 2012

On Wednesday, Feb. 22, Lourdes’ Student Government Association (SGA) will present The Anatomy of Hate: A Dialogue for Hope by filmmaker Michael Ramsdell of Under the Hood Productions.

The film, which won Best Political Documentary at the 2009 Philadelphia Independent Film Festival, will screen at 3 p.m. in the Franciscan Center theatre. A powerful production promoting social change, The Anatomy of Hate reveals the shared narratives found in individual and collective ideologies of hate, and how humans as a species can overcome them.

“It’s a film that challenges, informs and inspires. An invaluable tool for anyone who believes that the path to peace is through a deeper understanding of our common humanity,” shares Michael Bochenek, Director of Policy for Amnesty International.

“We’re very excited to show this documentary on campus,” says Maria Thomas, SGA President. “The timing could not be any better based on how diverse our Lourdes community has become. We think that the film can help eradicate discrimination and prejudice that can sometimes exist among us by empowering individuals and giving knowledge to not only our University, but our community as well. We hope all who attend enjoy and leave with a sense of hope that things can change!”

The creation of The Anatomy of Hate represents one determined man’s quest for answers to an age-old question: Why do we hate?

The film examines some of the most venomous ideologies and violent conflicts of the modern age, including the White supremacist movement, Muslim extremism, Palestinian Intifada, Israeli settlers and soldiers and U.S. forces in Iraq.

“What I found was for me, life changing,” said Ramsdell. “There was no boogieman, no devil, nor any single person or group of evil at the center of all this violence, war and hate. Instead I found a planet full of creatures doing their best to fill the void of existence with limited psychological tools and emotional shortcomings – myself included. Instead of embracing these shortcomings and using them as empathetic links to our fellow men, I discovered that our psyche turns them into mythological monsters that we can project onto others, declaring those ‘others’ as inferior, evil or deserving of death.”

Gritty and often harsh first-hand footage is interspersed throughout the film with thought provoking interviews by leading sociological, psychological and neurological experts; along with tales of redemption told by former ‘haters’ to show both the emotional and biological mechanisms which make all people susceptible to acts and ideologies of hate.

The Anatomy of Hate also demonstrates how these very deep human traits make us equally capable of overcoming them, and that’s where hope is revealed. For more information about The Anatomy of Hate

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‘White supremacist’ cop not a racist: lawyer

Friday, February 10th, 2012

A former police officer convicted of illegally accessing a police database to help tip off a suspected white supremacist about an ongoing investigation is not a racist, his lawyer has told a Perth court today.

Robert Critchley was expected to be sentenced today in the District Court by Judge Andrew Stavrianou.

During submissions, Critchley’s lawyer Anthony Elliott told Judge Stavrianou that his client’s time as a career police officer had been exemplary but he had been suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder and depression after the death of his first wife from cancer in 2008 and the death of his colleague Constable Damien Murphy in 2007.

Mr Elliott told the court Critchley was one of the first to the scene when Constable Murphy was hit by a driver on a road in Craigie while on night duty and Critchley found the officer’s severed leg.

Later that same morning Critchley and his wife were told that chemotherapy and radiotherapy had not worked and her cancer had spread, Mr Elliott said.

Christopher Debroy Summers was eventually jailed for eight years over the manslaughter of Constable Murphy.

However, Critchley “felt responsible” for the death because he had not granted Constable Murphy’s request to remain at the office that evening, according to Mr Elliott.

Critchley was also sleep-deprived from working night and afternoon shifts to help his wife get to medical appointments in the morning and had sought no counselling over the trauma he had experienced, Mr Elliott said.

He said that during his wife’s hospital treatment, Critchley also spent time with Constable Matthew Butcher, who was hospitalized after being the victim of a flying head-butt during a vicious Joondalup pub brawl in 2008.

Mr Elliott told the court there was a culture in the police force that officers could not take stress leave for fear of being seen as weak.

He said the prosecution’s racist theory, which had been brought to attention during the trial via an email Critchley had sent his new wife indicating an interest in white supremacist groups, was “drawing a long bow”.

“Particularly in light of other evidence and commendations about Robert Critchley in the references,” Mr Elliott said.

Numerous references were submitted on Critchley’s behalf, saying not only that racism was “out of character” but something the referees had “never witnessed”, according to Mr Elliott.

Mr Elliott also pointed out that Critchley’s father had married a Thai woman.

“(The offending) is some inexplicable flight of fancy. It was done with no sophistication or thought and supports the conclusion that his underlying illnesses affected his judgement and his behaviour,” Mr Elliott said.

Mr Elliott said his client still denied any wrong doing but was aware of the seriousness of the crime and respected the judicial process.

Critchley has lost his job as a policeman and since taken up delivery work for half his previous annual salary of $90,000 as a senior constable, the court was told.

Prosecutor David Dempster argued that aside from the email there was also evidence at trial of a list of white supremacist groups kept on Critchley’s personal mobile phone.

“It is difficult to accept that there would be any other reason than some sympathy (towards this group),” he said.

He said it put a “sinister aspect” to the contact made with white supremacist suspect Jacob Hort, even though Judge Stavrianou pointed out that Critchley explained in his testimony he had those names as part of being a diligent officer.

Mr Dempster argued Critchley should face an immediate term of imprisonment of about two years.

Judge Stavrianou was expected to hand down his sentence today however he adjourned the matter until February 25 to deliver his decision.

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Russia’s White Revolution

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Russia’s electoral scene has been transformed in the past two months, without a doubt inspired by the political winds from the Middle East and the earlier colour revolutions in Russia’s “near abroad”. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s casual return to the presidential scene was greeted as an effrontery by an electorate who want to move on from Russia’s political strongman tradition, and to inject the electoral process with ballot-box accountability.

Putin’s legendary role in rescuing Russia from the economic abyss in the 1990s, staring down the oligarchs, reasserting state control over Russian resource wealth, and repositioning Russia as an independent player in Eurasia (not to mention in America’s backyard) — these signal accomplishments assure him a place in history books. He and Dmitri Medvedev are considered the most popular leaders in the past century according to a recent VTsIOM opinion poll (Leonid Brezhnev comes next, followed by Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin, with Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yelstin the least popular). He will very likely pass the 50 per cent mark in presidential elections 4 March, despite all the protests during the past two months calling for “Russia without Putin”. So why is he back in the ring?

It appears he was caught by surprise when the anti-Putin campaign exploded in November, fuelled by his decision to run again and the exposure of not a little fraud in the parliamentary elections in December. For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the opposition was able to unite and stage impressive rallies, one after another. Despite the chilling Russian winter, they keep coming — this week saw four gathering around Moscow, totalling 130,000.

The opposition poster children even include Putin’s minister of finance Alexei Kudrin. Presidential hopefuls are Communist leader Gennadi Zyuganov (backed for the first time by the independent left forces), nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, A Just Russia’s Sergei Mironov and the oligarch playboy Mikhail Prokhorov — none of whom stand a chance of defeating Putin. This time there are 25 televised debates which began 6 February among the contenders, who are sparring with each other and “Putin’s representative”.

Is this quixotic march back to the Kremlin heights a case of egomania? Or is it a noble attempt to both cast in stone Russia as the Eurasian counterweight to an increasingly aggressive US/NATO, and shaking up the domestic political scene to make sure it will not slump into apathy when he himself passes the torch? And if things go wrong, is this Russia’s very own White Revolution, long feared by the Russian elite, and long coveted by Western intriguers?

Russian politics has always confounded Western observers, and continues to do so. Putin is famously imperious and gets away with it. He taunted the opposition by saying he thought the original demonstrations were part of an anti-AIDS campaign, that the white ribbons were condoms. But he nonetheless sanctioned the largest political opposition rallies in the past 20 years.

US democracy-promotion NGOs such as the National Endowment for Democracy — a key player in Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution — are active in Russia’s opposition, but Putin is clearly gambling that Russians can see past US efforts to manipulate them. Besides, the winners in the Duma elections were the Communists and nationalists, with pro-Western liberals placing a distant fourth — hardly the results NEDers would have wanted.

He is also famously willing to tell US politicians they wear no clothes — the latest, last week in Siberia: “Sometimes I get the impression the US doesn’t need allies, it needs vassals.” Russian foreign policy is now firmly anti-NATO, both with respect to the West’s misguided missile system and its eagerness to turn Syria into a killing fields. Rumours that a Russian Iran-for-Syria deal with the West have proved empty. There are even hints that Iran may still get its defensive S-300 missiles from Russia in exchange for Russian access to the downed US drone. Iran claims to have four already and recently announced they have developed their own domestic version.

Pro-Putin rallies are as large as the opposition’s, with an official count of 140,000 attendees at the festive gathering Saturday. The Putinistas even bill theirs as the Anti-Orange rally. “We say no to the destruction of Russia. We say no to Orange arrogance. We say no to the American government…let’s take out the Orange trash,” political analyst Sergei Kurginyan exhorted at Moscow’s Poklonnaya Gora war memorial park. Putin thanked organisers, commenting modestly, “I share their views.”

The real reason for Putin’s return is due to the failure during his first two terms of his “sovereign democracy” to limit corruption in post-Soviet Russia. Instead, of producing a modernising authoritarianism along the lines of post-war South Korea, Putin’s rule deepened corruption — the bane of late Soviet and early post-Soviet society. Instead of trading political freedom for effective governance, he clipped Russians’ civil and political rights without delivering on this vital promise. Neither did he end collusion between the state and the oligarchs. That was the handle that badboy Alexei Navalni used to catalyse the opposition around his slogan that United Russia is the “party of swindlers and thieves”.

This was the scene in the 2000s in Ukraine, where it was possible for the NEDers to undermine the much weaker Ukrainian state and install the Western candidate Viktor Yushchenko in 2004. However, instead of addressing the problems that led to the Orange Revolution, Putin focused on foreign threats to Russian political stability rather than paying attention to domestic factors, creating patriotic youth organisations such as Nashi (Ours) and the 4 November Day of Unity holiday – the latter quickly hijacked by Russia’s nationalists.

But Russian fears of Western interference are hardly naïve. Russia was sucked into the horrendous WWI by the British empire, suffered devastating invasions in 1919 and 1941, and another half century of the West’s Cold War against it. Further dismemberment of the Russian Federation is indeed a Western goal, which would benefit no one but a tiny comprador elite, Western multinationals and the Pentagon.

Putin’s statist sovereign democracy – with transparent elections – might not be such a bad alternative to what passes for democracy in much of the West. His new Eurasian Union could help spread a more responsible political governance across the continent. It may not be what the NED has in mind, but it would be welcomed by all the “stan” citizens, not to mention China’s beleaguered Uighurs. This “EU” is  striving not towards disintegration and weakness, but towards integration and mutual security, without any need for US/NATO bases and slick NED propaganda. The union will surely eventually include the mother of colour revolutions, Ukraine, where citizens still yearn for open borders with Russia and closer economic integration. The days of dreaming about the other EU’s Elysian Fields are over. The hard, cold reality today has bleached the colour revolutions, making white the appropriate colour for Russia’s version of political change.

Of course, the big problem — corruption — is what will make or break Putin’s third term as president. At the Russia 2012 Investment Forum in Moscow last week, Putin outlined plans to move Russia up to 20th spot from its current 120th in the World Bank index of investment attractiveness, by reducing bureaucracy and the associated bribery. “These measures are not enough. I believe that society must actively participate in the establishment of an anti-corruption agenda,” he vowed. Reforming the legal system and expanding the reach of democracy will be key to fighting corruption, not just via presidential decrees, but through empowering elected officials and voters.  He confirmed this in his fourth major pre-election address this week by promising to provide better government services by decentralizing power from the federal level to municipalities and relying on the Internet.

So far things look good. For the first time since 1995 there will be a hotly contested transparently monitored presidential election, with the distinct possibility of a runoff (unless the new US Ambassador Michael McFaul keeps inviting NED darlings to Spaso House). The sort-of presidential debates, large-scale opposition rallies and the new independent League of Voters intending to ensure clean elections are a fine precedent, making sure that this time and in the future there will be an opportunity for genuine debate about Russia’s future.

Despite all attempts to forestall Russia’s colour revolution, it has begun — Russian-style — with no state collapse, but with a new articulate electorate, wise to both Kremlin politologists and Western NGOlogists. Its final destination is impossible for anyone to predict at this point.

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