simonbillenness: (Default)
Here's the full article.

The editorial is hilarious. I never realized that the Amnesty International USA board was made up of major fundraisers. Why didn't the crack investigative team of the Jerusalem Post discover that I'm unemployed?

On last night's BBC News America broadcast, I was quite proud that both Hamas and the Israeli government both called our report "unbalanced." If that the reaction of both Hamas and the Israeli government, then I think Amnesty International probably struck just the right balance.

I have now been criticized for my human rights work by name by both the Burmese military junta ... and the Jerusalem Post.

No pardon for Amnesty
Feb. 23, 2009

Yesterday, Amnesty International, the world's premier "human rights" brand, called for the destruction of Israel. We're overdramatizing? Were AI to get its way, the UN Security Council would impose a comprehensive arms embargo on the world's only Jewish state - but not on any of the 22 member states of the Arab League, or on Iran. Over time, Israel would find it impossible to defend itself against conventional or WMD threats stemming from hostile states or Palestinian and Islamist terror organizations.

The pretext for the embargo call was the IDF's campaign in Gaza to compel Hamas to end its bombardment of southern Israel and cross-border aggression. Over the years, Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis in terror attacks. Apparently spearheading AI's anti-Israel crusade is the group's "principal researcher on Israel/Occupied Palestine," the London-based Donatella Rovera.

Though Israel purchases arms from dozens of sources, AI's boycott call is really aimed at the Obama administration: "Israel's military offensive in Gaza was carried out [largely] with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with US taxpayers' money," claimed Malcolm Smart, AI's director for the Middle East.

Either to simulate evenhandedness, or perhaps because it really is blinded by moral relativism, AI perfunctorily called for a weapons embargo against Hamas. It thus appears incapable of distinguishing between Israel and Hamas, between victim and aggressor - between an albeit imperfect Western nation which values tolerance, representative government, rule of law and respect for minority rights, and a medieval-oriented Islamist movement which mobilizes Palestinian masses to hate, teaches its young to glorify suicide bombers, and inculcates a political culture wallowing in self-inflicted victimization.

AMNESTY DOES much good work. Many of its rank-and-file members and contributors are sincerely motivated by a desire to make the world a better place. Yet beyond this good-hearted circle stands a professional cadre backed by agenda-driven money, which, we suspect, is exploiting Amnesty's good name. This cadre relies on world-class public relations and advertising firms to leverage AI's human rights brand for blatantly partisan purposes.

AI has long been under internal pressure to champion an arms embargo against Israel. Some have intimated that Jews in the organization were standing in the way. Francis Boyle, a law professor and pro-PLO activist: "You have… the very powerful role played by the Israel lobby on Amnesty International USA… Amnesty pretty much kowtows to them…" Plainly, Boyle's "very powerful" Jews have been sidelined.

AI is not some amorphous, beatific entity; it's comprised of personalities with all the usual human foibles. Everyone connected to AI needs to say whether they really oppose Israel's right to self-defense. Are we to assume that AI's International Secretariat - Irene Zubaida Khan, Paul Hoffman, Tony Klug, Susan Waltz, Jan Egeland, Menno Kamminga, Jaap Jacobson, Margaret Bedggood, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Neil Sammonds, Melvin Coleman - all support an anti-Israel arms embargo?

AI gets money from foundations such as the Sigrid Rausing Trust (which also funds B'Tselem). Does Sigrid Rausing personally want Israel to stand defenseless against Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas? Do board members Josh Mailman, Susan Hitch, Andrew Puddephat and Geoffrey Budlender?

The MacArthur Foundation, better known for its "genius awards," also funds AI. We have no idea whether its board - Robert E. Denham, Lloyd Axworthy, John Seely Brown, Jonathan F. Fanton, Jack Fuller, Jamie Gorelick, Mary Graham, Donald R. Hopkins, Will Miller, Mario J. Molina, Marjorie M. Scardino and Claude M. Steele - appreciate what could happen to six million Israeli Jews were AI to get its embargo. Does the actor Nicolas Cage, another major AI benefactor, stand behind the embargo call?

A good chunk of AI money comes from its American board - Steve Abrams, Jeff Bachman, Simon Billenness, Jessica Morris Carvalho, Mayra Gomez, Rick Halperin, Theresa Harris, Shahram Hashemi, Bill Jones, Frank Kendall, Carole Nagengast, Christianna Nichols Leahy, Dennis Nurkse, Phyllis Pautrat, Aniket Shah, Barbara Sproul, Bret Thiele and Diego Zavala. Which of them will be first to speak out against this immoral embargo call?

In calling on the US and UN to rob Israel of its ability to defend itself, Amnesty International is speaking in the name of its leaders and benefactors. Silence is acquiescence. Or they can dissociate themselves from one of Amnesty's biggest errors in judgment.
simonbillenness: (Default)
Watch Ann deliver a succinct soundbite as an Obama supporter in this BBC news report:

Her comment occurs at 1.33 in the piece.
simonbillenness: (Default)
After watching the swearing-in of President Obama, I was in tears.

This is not about my admiration for Barack Obama even though I remain steadfast in my belief in his potential to become one of America's most inspiring and most accomplished Presidents.

This is about my admiration for the American people. This reflects my deep respect for a country that can rise above its historical failures and elect a President like Barack Obama.

I emigrated from Britain in 1985. During a trip to Britain in 1988, I came to a stark realization that I felt more at home in America. That is the key reason why I have chosen to live in America for over 20 year.

Yesterday, I felt so proud of the American people that I now want to become one of them.

There was a moment yesterday when I realized this. I noticed that I did not tear up during President Obama's inaugural speech even though I found it eloquent and moving.

I started crying during the singing of "The Star Spangled Banner."

The next time I tear up to that anthem, I want it to be at my swearing-in as an American citizen.

(This is also posted on my blog "Pot of George" at
simonbillenness: (Simon and Ann Kiss)
Check the signatures of me and Ann on the ad "A Declaration for Our Times," in today's New York Times!

You can see the ad with its nearly 600 signatories here:

To quote the campaign:

"The declaration will help bring the administration's constitutional violations into focus. Just as importantly, it will promote the People's Campaign for the Constitution (PCC) as a means for people to act locally, within community coalitions, to hold incumbents and candidates for congressional seats accountable for the oaths they must take to defend the Constitution. Correcting the unbalanced concentration of executive branch power that this administration has amassed will be extremely challenging, no matter who wins the presidential election."

"We ask you to support this grassroots organizing and education campaign by bringing it to your community. With the Constitution on our side, we can reverse the freedom-robbing government actions and policies that are threatening our nation's future. Please sign the pledge for the People's Campaign for the Constitution if you have not already done so. Thank you again for supporting the declaration. We will mail you a copy of the ad with our thanks."

"Please forward widely."

Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Address: 8 Bridge Street, Suite A, Northampton, MA 01060
Telephone: 413-582-0110
Fax: 413-582-0116
simonbillenness: (Default)
On Wednesday, March 1st, 2006, in Annapolis at a hearing on a proposed Constitutional Amendment to prohibit gay marriage, Jamie Raskin, professor of law at American University, was requested to testify.

At the end of his testimony, Republican Senator Nancy Jacobs said: "Mr. Raskin, my Bible says marriage is only between a man and a woman. What do you have to say about that?"

Raskin replied: "Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."
simonbillenness: (Default)
From today's (March 24, 2006) "Washington Wire" column in the Wall Street Journal:

"Wal-Mart resists efforts in Congress to dramatically tighten port security in the wake of Dubai-ports furor. The company argues examining all containers, or even a fixed percentage of them, could impede shipping and boost costs."

There you have it. Wal-Mart opposes tighter port security measures that will cost it money.

I feel safe assuming that Wal-Mart believes that the increased security will increase the company's costs. After all, Wal-Mart would not bother lobbying against these security measures if they did not pose increased costs for Wal-Mart.

I give Wal-Mart a week or so to weather the ensuing storm of criticism before it issues a public statement of support for better port security. I also expect that Wal-Mart will even more quickly issue a press release complaining of being "misquoted" or "taken out of context" by the Wall Street Journal.

Whether that statement will represent an actual climb-down from Wal-Mart's position remains to be seen.
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