Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Lucia On the hunt for the stolen Ukraine billions

Britain and America pledged to spearhead a worldwide hunt for “tens of billions” stolen from Ukraine by its former president and his cronies on Tuesday at a London summit called to beef-up the country’s anti-corruption efforts.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said an order to freeze £23 million of suspect funds as part of a Serious Fraud Office investigation was a demonstration to the people of Ukraine that foreign governments “stand behind” Kiev as it attempts to recover looted funds.

The Crown Prosecution Service and National Crime Agency has already sent officials to Ukraine following the flight of Viktor Yanukovych, the former president who left the country bankrupt and divided between pro-Revolutionaries and Russian sympathisers.

Oleh Makhnitskyi, Ukraine’s general prosecutor, said his country has already identified some £1.8 billion of stolen assets and expects to find tens of billions taken by an “organised criminal group” headed by former president Viktor Yanukovych. He said Mr Yanukovych had fled to Russia with a vast fortune, which he was using to fund unrest in eastern Ukraine.

“The new government was set up and we found that our treasury was empty and the funds were misappropriated,” he said.

I wouldn't be surprised if the money trail leads to Russia. Could that be why Putin is being so aggressive towards Ukraine - is it an effort to cover tracks? Time will tell.

Related link: Ukraine billions sought by US and UK ~ The Telegraph

Monday, April 28, 2014

Lucia What's going on with Ukraine and who is being more truthful

There's been a bit of debate in the blogosphere about whether or not what Russia is up to in Ukraine is justified or not. The debates I've been involved in have been mostly at KiwiBlog in the General Debates there. It's been too hard to post here for me, as I think the media have been doing a good job of keeping track of what is going on, and this is an emotional subject for me.

Emotional because I have read a lot of what happened to Poland with regards to Russian propaganda ahead of the Teheran and Yalta agreements that basically gave large chunks of Poland to the Soviet Union without much protest or effort on behalf of Poland's supposed allies who just thought it was better to placate Russia, than do what was right. Coupled with the lies back then about who was really responsible for the Katyn Massacres (the allies and the Soviets pinned it on the Nazis, even though the Poles were adamant that it was the Russians, but no one was listening to them at that point).

Oh, but Russia is not the Soviet Union, you might say. True, the Empire has fallen, but there has been no de-Communisation in Russia that has taken a good, hard look at the past and everyone's role in it. A de-Communisation would put ex-KGB chiefs into retirement, not re-elect them as the country's President.

Anyway, here's a good article on the Daily Beast (a much better site now that Andrew Sullivan has left), that goes into who is doing the most in Ukraine to escalate the situation into a full out war: Reality Check in Ukraine

DONETSK, Ukraine -- In the war of words between Washington and Moscow—a rhetorical clash that is descending to personal insults – both sides are determined to prove they are in the right in an information war waged at a Twitter-driven speed that would have made the heads of their Cold War predecessors spin.

But who is telling the truth? Below is The Daily Beast’s checklist on the Geneva agreement that is the closest thing we have as a touchstone for gauging reality.

Diplomats drawn from Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union hammered out the accord on April 17. They agreed to “initial concrete steps to de-escalate tensions” in Ukraine with all sides saying they would “refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions.” The joint communique called for “all illegal armed groups to be disarmed; all illegally seized buildings to be returned to their legitimate owners; all illegally occupied streets, squares and other public places in Ukrainian cities and towns to be vacated.”

Under the accord amnesty would be given to surrendering protesters except for those found guilty of capital crimes. And the OSCE was given a lead role in implementing the accord.

So, who has kept to the letter and spirit of the accord more and who has been more egregious in shunning it?

Read the link to find out. If that's too much for you, then I can summarise. Russia has been escalating, while as the response from Ukraine and all the other countries has been restrained.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

ZenTiger Espiner the Easter Bunny

Colin Espiner blames Christianity for the laws of the land:

If you’re desperate for a pint, you could always sign up to a chartered club, because that’s less offensive to Christianity. Or check into a hotel. Or head to a gastro pub or a restaurant that serves alcohol, as long as you purchase a meal as well.

Jesus loves those with a full stomach.

The article highlights the desirability to sort out the inconsistencies in the law, but strangely enough Colin Espiner, after mocking Christians and Jesus, doesn't draw the obvious conclusions behind his statements: That the government doesn't make laws according to the whims of parliamentarians, but instead are completely in the pocket of a small evangelical church somewhere in Utah. Or perhaps all laws in NZ were passed according to a couple of notes direct from the Pope? Or perhaps he could lambast the Unions and Labour organisations for trying to minimise the number of people forced to work on public holidays? Nope, it's the most popular of pastimes at Easter: kicking Christians for secular laws.

Yes, Christians are likely to consider Easter and Christmas as fair grounds for public holidays, but when it comes down to it, the laws are set by politicians in a secular system. They are frequently updated by politicians, or they are left alone by politicians. If the Easter trading laws are inconsistent, then blame the lawmakers, and stop crucifying Christians. Even after 2000 years, cold-hearted people such as Colin Espiner insists on throwing stones at the wrong targets.

Also on the radio this morning was some strange Professor with an American accent proclaiming that he knew what authoritarians were like. Authoritarians were the kind of people that had a different point of view from liberals such as himself. Presumably, they wanted to pass laws to protect that point of view - much like liberals want to make laws. Yet he seemed to be speaking of democracies, where there is presumably allowed to be a contest of ideas, and a freedom to debate? He painted a stereotypical picture that authoritarians had their lawns neatly mowed, didn't like foreign languages (and presumably foreigners) and definitely didn't like Thai food. He then, perhaps without realising it, used the example of his 6 year old son. At age six he liked tinned spaghetti-like foods but by the time he had grown to his 20's, enjoyed Thai food and now in his forties, he was definitely not an authoritarian because he liked all sorts of cuisines of the world. Seriously?

Obama was not an authoritarian, pronounced this Professor, and he wasn't sure about George Bush (probably was, but couldn't really mount anything resembling facts to support his opinion, wisely relied on sentences trailing away to nothing, inviting the listeners to fill in the rather large blanks that revealed much of his mind.) Seems he wanted to mix any differing stance with an issue of authoritarianism. The more I listened to him, the more he sounded like a liberal fascist - by railing against authoritarianism in such a stereotypical, and substance-less fashion, it just sounded like he couldn't handle dissenting points of view. I missed the start of the radio show, and I decided to miss the end of the show. If he had a reasonable point to make, I didn't hear it.

Perhaps he and Colin can get together and share notes on how evil it is that non-liberals are holding back the politicians from making sensible laws and allowing 24/7 shopping over Easter.

I, for one, fully support Parliament sitting over Easter, pulling 16 hour days with no overtime or penalty rates. Just imagine the efficiencies we gain, whilst striking a very important blow for liberal democracy and free trade.

Update: Actually, Colin does blame more than just the Christians for Law Making.  He suggests those evil unions, responsible for the evil 40 hour week, share the blame with corrupt politicians:

"New Zealand's shop trading laws are one of the last bastions of religious tradition, union strong-arming and pork-barrel politics."

"When the 40-hour working week was implemented in 1945, weekend trading came to an abrupt halt for nearly four decades. When I was a child, the Christchurch seaside suburb of New Brighton was the only place in the entire country where shops were permitted to open on a Saturday.
The argument put forward by the union movement was that workers needed the break - after all, even the Almighty took Sunday off.

Although I note, he managed to get a sneering comment in about "the Almighty". Although, that could equally apply to the Unions, given the 40 hour week stranglehold they apparently have NZ under :)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lucia A Russian joke making the rounds

Two Russian tankmen are sitting in a Parisian cafĂ©, drinking coffee, and eating croissants. Several columns of Russian tanks are parked outside. A stream of troops is passing by, headed westward. One tankman says to the other, “There is one thing I do regret: that we lost the information war over Ukraine.”

The above joke is quoted in one of the New Republic's latest articles, The U.S. Is Being Routed by Russia in the Information War Over Ukraine

The author says:

How can the U.S. be expected to win the hearts and minds of a people capable of a joke like that?

Yeah, I can relate to that.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Andrei Prayer

Almighty God and Creator, You are the Father of all people on the earth.

Guide, I pray, all the nations and their leaders in the ways of justice and peace.

Protect us from the evils of injustice, prejudice, exploitation, conflict and war.

Help us to put away mistrust, bitterness and hatred. Teach us to cease the storing and using of implements of war. Lead us to find peace, respect and freedom.

Unite us in the making and sharing of tools of peace against ignorance, poverty, disease and oppression.

Grant that we may grow in harmony and friendship as brothers and sisters created in Your image, to Your honor and praise.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Andrei USA exports democracy

In 2008 President Bush gave Vladimir Putin a lesson on democracy

And now democracy Iraq style has come to Ukraine courtesy of the USA.

Its amazing that people get so upset that the Government they voted for has been replaced and their current "prime minister" actually got less than 7% of the vote at the ballot box last elections.

But the current Prime minister does have the approval of the American State Department, who engineered a coup to install him so they should just accept it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fletch Woman Credits Dawkins' 'God Delusion' With Becoming Catholic

I read an interesting story today about a woman who says that reading atheist author Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion led her to becoming Catholic. I doubt that Dawkins would be very happy with that!
After she began reading the book, at the insistence of her daughter, she found that it contained "no cogent arguments" and afterward, read Pope benedict's book Jesus of Nazareth which led to her conversion.
Truthfully, I found the [The God Delusion] a waste of my time as it afforded me no cogent arguments concerning the existence or non-existence of God. In fact, not only was Dawkins disrespectful of opinions other than his own, I found his statements about Jesus to be so ill-informed (and, mind you, I was no fount of scholarly information myself) that I resolved to actually learn something about Jesus Christ.

Reading Dawkins challenged me to go beyond my comfort zone and honestly confront the issues holding me back from a full commitment to faith. My sense of The God Delusion is that it is written as a testimony to Dawkins’ belief system (which I call fundamentalist atheism) and that the author cherry picks convenient quotes to bolster his opinion that esteemed scientists (such as Einstein) couldn’t possibly be ignorant enough to actually believe in a supernatural God, no matter what they may have said to the contrary. In fact, anyone with any intelligence at all couldn’t possible believe in a supernatural God. Dawkins is preaching to his atheist choir and evidently they loved the book based on their many five-star recommendations of it.


I choose to believe in a supernatural God and his son, the Word, Jesus. I believe in miracles. I believe that, while science has many valuable insights to offer us, it is not the final word. I believe that some things are beyond our understanding, certainly now, and perhaps forever. I believe that God is great and that man, created in His image and with free will, has made wonderful discoveries about the natural world that we inhabit. I choose to believe in God and that he is no delusion, nor am I delusional.
Nice to know that reading Dawkins can have a positive effect :)


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Fletch 'Noah' Movie Not Based On Bible At All?

I read a very good article on Darren Aronofsky’s new film 'Noah' that is in cinemas at the moment. From what I've read the film is weird - very weird; with walking 'fallen angels' covered in molten rock that help Noah build the Ark etc. In the article (which has gone viral and is stirring up much controversy), the author has an opinion that the film is not based on the Bible at all, rather a Gnostic version based on Kabbalah. In this tradition, basically The Creator is bad, and the snake (Sophia, or Wisdom) is good.

Except that when Gnostics speak about “The Creator” they are not talking about God. Oh, here in an affluent world living off the fruits of Christendom the term “Creator” generally denotes the true and living God. But here’s a little “Gnosticism 101” for you: the Creator of the material world is an ignorant, arrogant, jealous, exclusive, violent, low-level, bastard son of a low level deity. He’s responsible for creating the “unspiritual” world of flesh and matter, and he himself is so ignorant of the spiritual world he fancies himself the “only God” and demands absolute obedience.

This Creator tries to keep Adam and Eve from the true knowledge of the divine and, when they disobey, flies into a rage and boots them from the garden.

In other words, in case you’re losing the plot here: The serpent was right all along. This “god,” “The Creator,” whom they are worshiping is withholding something from them that the serpent will provide: divinity itself.

The world of Gnostic mysticism is bewildering with a myriad of varieties. But, generally speaking, they hold in common that the serpent is “Sophia,” “Mother,” or “Wisdom.” The serpent represents the true divine, and the claims of “The Creator” are false.

So is the serpent a major character in the film?

Let’s go back to the movie. The action opens when Lamech is about to bless his son, Noah. Lamech, rather strangely for a patriarch of a family that follows God, takes out a sacred relic, the skin of the serpent from the Garden of Eden. He wraps it around his arm, stretches out his hand to touch his son—except, just then, a band of marauders interrupts them and the ceremony isn’t completed. Lamech gets killed, and the “villain” of the film, Tubal-Cain, steals the snakeskin. Noah, in other words, doesn’t get whatever benefit the serpent’s skin was to bestow.
Worth reading the whole thing. Having heard and read about it, I think the movie is something that probably should be approached with caution.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Lucia Daylight Saving is ending in NZ on Sunday [UPDATE]

UPDATE: Daylight Saving officially ends at 3am on Sunday morning when the clocks go back to 2am, so the picture is not totally accurate, but, I liked it, so it's here with the post.
The end of Daylight Saving cannot come soon enough. As I have been posting every year now, Daylight Saving lasts too long on the tail end. Easily by two weeks, maybe more, but the last two weeks of it are physically painful.

This morning my body did not want to wake up. I was groggy and wooden, like when I wake up really early to go to the airport. Both my boys were the same, in that their internal body clocks refused to acknowledge the time that politicians have told us we have to live by until Sunday.

Unfortunately, every working person so far that I've mentioned the length of Daylight Saving to really enjoys the extra hour of sunlight in the evening. All women, without teenage boys at home who have trouble winding down at night because of the heat. Why not, on that basis, wind our time back another hour or two, so we all get up in very, very early morning and have several more hours of sun in the evening? Why not? Because there's only so much time denial that the human body can cope with.

Now, a recent study has found that heart attacks go up when the time changes into Daylight Saving, causing a little bit of consternation, to say the least:

The study, published online in Open Heart, found that Michigan hospitals attended to an average of 32 heart attack patients every Monday in a three year window - from 2010-2013. A curious pattern emerged: on the Mondays immediately following the start of Daylight Saving Time (when an hour is lost), the average number of heart attack patients went up by around eight.

Also, the number of heart attacks reduced after Daylight Saving ended:

Interestingly, the reverse was found when daylight savings came to an end for any given year, with heart attacks decreasing on the following Monday by 21 percent.

Which made me think - have there been studies on the general health effects of Daylight Saving on people? I know the change in NZ was pushed through because Peter Dunne presented a 40,000 signature petition to Parliament that was signed by mostly sports people who wanted that extra hour of sunlight in the evening in autumn to practice after school and work. There was no study backing up that extending Daylight Saving would be beneficial, just a desire that it be changed, and it was. I know from personal experience that the artificially long Daylight Saving is affecting my sleep and my children's sleep, which much be having a negative effect in general.

Daylight Saving never used to bother me as much as it does now, because it wasn't noticeable as a problem for me. Now it is.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Andrei What you can do with a black belt in judo....

Operation Urgent Fury: a 1983 United States-led invasion of Grenada, a Caribbean island nation with a population of about 91,000

Casualties USA19 killed
Grenada45 killed
Cuba25 killed
Civilians24 killed

Operation Just Cause: the invasion of Panama by the United States in December 1989

Casualties:USA23 killed
Panama205–314 killed
Civilians250-500 killed

Russian takeover of Crimea: the invasion of Crimea by the Russia in February 2014

Casualties: Russia 0 killed
Ukraine0 killed
Civilians0 killed

And when you recall what the costs of historical attempts to take this particular peninsular have been....