Saturday, October 20th, 2007 at 11:12 pm - - UN, Whipping

Mr. Miliband, the Foreign Secretary of United Kingdom, gave his speech in the UN General Assembly on 2007-09-27. The interesting paragraph is:

Beyond those crises, we also need to improve our capacity to prevent the emergence of conflict. That is our vision of the responsibility to protect. A critical dimension is controlling the spread of weapons whose easy availability makes it so simple to set up militias and provoke violence and mayhem. Last year, the Assembly voted overwhelmingly to take forward United Nations work towards an arms trade treaty (see resolution 61/89). The Government of the United Kingdom will continue to press for the achievement of that goal.

With the power of undemocracy, I look up the votes taken on this resolution, which were:

Operative paragraph 2

Also requests the Secretary-General to establish a group of governmental experts, on the basis of equitable geographical distribution, informed by the report of the Secretary-General submitted to the General Assembly at its sixty-second session, to examine, commencing in 2008, the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for a comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms, and to transmit the report of the group of experts to the Assembly for consideration at its sixty-third session;


Operative paragraph 3

Further requests the Secretary-General to provide the group of governmental experts with any assistance and services that may be required for the discharge of its tasks;

and the resolution as a whole.

The votes were 148 votes to 1, with 22 abstentions; 147 votes to 1, with 21 abstentions; and 153 votes to 1, with 24 abstentions, respectively.

The one country to vote against all three? The leader of the free world, the United States, the only country with the balls to tell the world that it does not believe there is any need to establish “common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms”. Thank you. The United Kingdom also does not believe there should be any common international standards for weapons transfer either, particularly when it applies to BAe who paid illegal bribes to the Saudi officials for years. Due to the non-separation of powers in the design of the British State, an investigation into this corruption was able to be canceled in broad daylight at the highest level.

Anyway, this is just a normal trivial issue of hypocrisy which the foreign minister unwittingly brought up in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly when he was talking about the good things his Government has being doing there. What about resolution 61/88, the one that was voted through overwhelmingly minutes before his favoured resolution 61/89. Guess what it says.

Establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia

The General Assembly,

1. Welcomes the signing of the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, on 8 September 2006;

2. Notes the readiness of the Central Asian countries to continue consultations with the nuclear-weapon States on a number of provisions of the Treaty;

3. Decides to include in the provisional agenda of its sixty-third session the item entitled “Establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia”.

The vote was 141 votes to 3, with 37 abstentions. Among those in favour of the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia were Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The three nations against a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia were United States, France, and United Kingdom.

Having just done all the research writing the wikipedia article on the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, the objections by these Nuclear Powers boiled down to the fact that it might stop them flying their f*cking nuclear weapons through this region. Someone missed the clue in the title. “Veggie-burgers — warning: contains beef.”

Also, Iran might have been able to join in as part of the nuclear weapons free zone, but that clause got deleted by United States request. The last thing we want ever to happen is for Iran to be in a nuclear weapons free zone, isn’t it? Otherwise how will we manufacture an excuse to go to war with them?

These international diplomats, they really do think ahead about what they want to achieve. They plan their military massacres years in advance, and make sure that nothing comes by to obstruct it.

Thanks, UK Government, for your help in spreading nuclear weapons throughout the world. And thanks to rest of Europe for voting against Resolution 61/85 which:

Calls for a review of nuclear doctrines and, in this context, immediate and urgent steps to reduce the risks of unintentional and accidental use of nuclear weapons, including through de-alerting and de-targeting of nuclear weapons; and
Calls upon Member States to take the necessary measures to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in all its aspects and to promote nuclear disarmament, with the objective of eliminating nuclear weapons;

What is their game, I ask you? I better stop looking before I find any more of this filth. None of this ever shows up in the newspapers. Totally worthless journalists. Get back to your Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq stories. The puppet master’s strings are all over the place I don’t know how you avoid tripping over them.

Hello! Is anybody listening?

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007 at 2:34 pm - - UN, Whipping 1 Comment »

More childish goings on in the General Assembly according to the latest download:

The President: On behalf of the General Assembly, I have the honour to welcome to the United Nations His Excellency Mr. Branko Crvenkovski, President of the Republic of Macedonia, and to invite him to address the Assembly.

I first give the floor to the representative of Greece on a point of order.

Mr. Mourikis (Greece): With regard to your reference to the country of origin of the next speaker, I would like to point out the following.

The Security Council, by its resolution 817 (1993), has recommended, and the General Assembly, by its resolution 47/225 of 8 April 1993, has decided that that country will be provisionally referred to, for all purposes within the United Nations, as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, pending settlement of the difference that has arisen over the name of this State. Furthermore, the Security Council, by its resolution 845 (1993) urged “the parties to continue their efforts under the auspices of the Secretary-General to arrive at a speedy settlement of the remaining issues” (para. 2).

I would therefore request that the proper name, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, be used for all purposes within the United Nations, pursuant to the aforementioned resolutions and in view of the fact that there are ongoing negotiations between the two countries.

The President: I am fully aware of the fact pointed out in the statement by the representative of Greece. At the same time, as President of the General Assembly, I am required to show full respect for the dignity of every single State Member of the United Nations, including my own.

I now give the floor to President Branko Crvenkovski.

What is it about Governments and territory and the names of things? Why do they have to care so much?

Meanwhile, President Bush managed to get through his speech on the same day without declaring war on anybody. Here’s how he referred to the regions of the world where his military forces are most actively slaughtering or planning to slaughter people.

Bush: … Brave citizens in Lebanon and Afghanistan and Iraq have made the choice for democracy. Yet, the extremists have responded by targeting them for murder. This is not a show of strength; it is evidence of fear; and the extremists are doing everything within their power to bring down these young democracies. The people of Lebanon and Afghanistan and Iraq have asked for our help, and every civilized nation has a responsibility to stand with them. Every civilized nation also has a responsibility to stand up for the people suffering under dictatorship. In Belarus, North Korea, Syria and Iran, brutal regimes deny their people the fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration.

Astoundingly, he did not mention 9/11 once. Could the era of referring every action back to this finally be at a close?

Thursday, October 11th, 2007 at 11:06 am - - UN, Whipping

At last, about a month after the session opened, the documentary record has appeared.

Three files got downloaded today. I had to make 4 edits to make them parse (missing paragraphs, misplaced bold tags, and bad indentation) and now they’re on-line.

Until now I only had Security Council meetings to keep me interested, and often found a relevant wikipedia article to link to it from. For example, their most recent meeting was convened for five minutes solely to condemn the attack on the Polish ambassador-general to Iraq, Edward Pietrzyk, though without mentioning him by name.

At some point I would like to see a review about what are the sorts of events that trigger a Security Council meeting. It seems to me that attacks on military members of the occupying powers by the resistance are entirely predictable and going to happen whenever possible by people who will see an explicit condemnation of their opportunistic attack by the Security Council as evidence of success.

On the other hand, throughout the two months that the city of Fallujah was used as a free-fire zone from November to December 2004 (Operation Phantom Fury) in celebration of President Bush’s re-election, 35 meetings of the Security Council took place. No meetings were held on the subject, however the ambassador of the US-appointed Iraqi government described the events in week 5 in terms of a vindication during a routine meeting entitled “The situation between Iraq and Kuwait Report”, and the following day the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator made one mention of the quarter of a million inhabitants displaced by the military action during a thematic meeting entitled: “Protection of civilians in armed conflict”.

The next cursory mention of this demolished city where they deployed napalm and lied about it appears the following April during another quarterly meeting for a “Situation between Iraq and Kuwait” report.

Anyway, that’s the Security Council, which is about as rotten an international body as any created. If you can’t legitimize a war within even its low standards, then it must be an extremely bad idea. After all, it has fully legitimized the occupation, which is already a complete disgrace.

Back to 2007, over in the General Assembly, meanwhile, they had a short interlude on 21 September from their usual wrangling about whether Taiwan could be admitted to the United Nations, by the President saying:

It is now noon. I would like to ask members join others around the world in observing a minute of silence in commemoration of the International Day of Peace.

The members of the General Assembly observed a minute of silence.

The pointless and thoroughly petty Taiwan issue occupied the entire afternoon’s meeting as well.

It’s good to see the world is run by grown-ups.

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007 at 9:18 am - - UN, Whipping 1 Comment »

Yesterday the 62nd session of the General Assembly opened. You can look up the webcast here. The schedule is A/61/1015. There’s going to be quite a bit of climate change on this one. It won’t all be drowned out by the skewed discussions on “terrorism”.

You’ll also notice that one ongoing event which has resulted in an estimated 1.2 million violent deaths and 2 million refugees has not made it onto the agenda. There are many things which the United Nations can do nothing about, but there are others which it can’t even talk about.

It’ll take a while for the documents to start flowing through to the site due to their extensive typesetting. There are still some meetings from session 61 missing, specifically meetings A/61/PV.105, A/61/PV.107 and A/61/PV.108, which haven’t shown up. I don’t know if the thematic meetings will ever get transcribed.

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007 at 10:57 pm - - UN, Whipping 3 Comments »

This article will be updated

This website needs contributions from programmers as well as from active users.

Users can find, read, and research pieces of information buried in these speeches and documents, and share them by blogging about them, or citing them from from wikipedia articles. For a selection of articles that have links to documents indexed by this site, click here.

More instructions to follow.

Programmers and web-designers should be able to recognize many deficiencies which they may have the time to correct. At this point I’ll welcome any help. Everything is backed up on knowledgeforge awaiting your perusal. Python source code for the website is available here and the scraper/parser is available here awaits your perusal. At present, for ease of development, it runs without a database.

Job 1 If you know about PDF files, a really useful job would be to insert hyperlinks into them wherever a reference to another UN document is present. For example, in this page of a document I have highlighted six references to other documents which should be hyper-linked. It would be useful to have a stand-alone module through which each document could be filtered that would massively improve the browsing experience whilst enabling the backtracking the links to find what future documents refer to this one.

At the limit, such a module would incorporate an OCR capabilities so that links could be inserted into the many older documents that have been photographically scanned.

Job 2 A wide field for research text mining. When heads of state visit New York to speak at the United Nations, they often mention historical events in order to illustrate their speech. Probably the most commonly mentioned event is 9/11, but there are many others. A consequence of any good text mining system should be to be able to identify which historical events are mentioned in each speech and flag them for future visualization. Perhaps there is a relationship between the location of the event, and the territory which the speaker represents.

Job 3 If you have a lot of money and influence to make things happen and want to contribute, please turn it into programming directly by paying/bribing a programmer to get something done. I am utterly hopeless at converting money into work (productive or not) so there is no point me having it.

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007 at 10:38 pm - - UN, Whipping 2 Comments »

Updates will be made to this article

Having done a lot of work for the UK Parliamentary parser in the service of my webpage (with Francis) and mySociety’s far more popular, the project was both obvious and familiar once I had seen that it was possible to download the Parliamentary documents from the United Nations website.

Unlike the UK Parliament, the source documents for the UN are in PDF form rather than HTML. This makes it far more difficult to extract the information from.

Almost all pre-1994 United Nations documents are bitmap scans embedded in a PDF file, while later ones contain character information which can be extracted using a piece of free software called PDFTOHTML.

The result is a file containing the pixel positioning of each word as it appears on the page, for example:

<text top="902" left="122" width="327" height="14" font="6"><b>The President </b><i>(interpretation from French)</i>: None</text>
<text top="920" left="90" width="358" height="14" font="1">the less, I should like to endorse strongly the practical</text>
<text top="938" left="90" width="358" height="14" font="1">suggestion made at previous sessions that each delegation</text>
<text top="956" left="90" width="358" height="14" font="1">designate someone to be present at the scheduled time. I</text>
<text top="974" left="90" width="358" height="14" font="1">sincerely hope that all delegations will cooperate in this</text>
<text top="992" left="90" width="42" height="14" font="1">regard.</text>
<text top="109" left="512" width="12" height="14" font="1">In</text>
<text top="109" left="543" width="60" height="14" font="1">paragraph</text>
<text top="109" left="621" width="19" height="14" font="1">11,</text>
<text top="109" left="659" width="18" height="14" font="1">the</text>
<text top="109" left="695" width="47" height="14" font="1">General</text>
<text top="109" left="761" width="67" height="14" font="1">Committee</text>
<text top="127" left="481" width="347" height="14" font="1">recommends to the General Assembly that delegations</text>
<text top="145" left="481" width="347" height="14" font="1">should be reminded of the utmost importance of</text>
<text top="163" left="481" width="71" height="14" font="1">punctuality.</text>
<text top="163" left="566" width="262" height="14" font="1">May I take it that the General Assembly</text>
<text top="181" left="481" width="194" height="14" font="1">approves that recommendation?</text>
<text top="218" left="512" width="111" height="14" font="5"><i>It was so decided.</i></text>

Once this has been done, it takes a good many days of hacking work using the very effective text processing capabilities of Python and fixing many of the invisible typos to develop what is known as a scraper and parser which can process it into a structured form more like:

<div class="spoken" id="pg002-bk08">
<h3 class="speaker"> <span class="name">The President</span> <span class="language">French</span> </h3>
	<p id="pg002-bk08-pa01">None the less, I should like to endorse strongly the practical suggestion....</p>
	<p id="pg002-bk08-pa02">In paragraph 11, the General Committee recommends to the General Assembly that...</p>

<div class="italicline" id="pg002-bk09">
	<p id="pg002-bk09-pa01">It was so decided.</p>

This then is amenable to the website generating tools and can be used to generate many of the capabilities that we should expect from online information, such as searchability and automatic hyperlinks.

Unfortunately, the software behind the webpage is quite primitive. You can see the files which run it here

Ideally, a bureaucratic organization such as the United Nations would migrate away from paper and conduct its business using structured data without reference to the printed documents. Unfortunately, this us unlikely to happen any time soon.

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007 at 11:17 am - - UN, Whipping 3 Comments »

With reference to which is a website and parsing system that has taken quite a bit of time to put together.

I have been told by colleagues that I am wasting my time. Instead I should be doing something to earn money. It’s a sad situation that when you invest a lot of effort into something that has the potential (though not the certainty) to improve the world, you barely get any encouragement. You have to keep justifying what you are doing. Even people who do say they support you don’t get very involved.

I have decided to outline some of the justifications for what I am doing below. These are not the reasons the project got started; I just did what I had the power to do. These ideas came much later. Hopefully people will think of other tangible uses in the future.

The United Nations is not supposed to be a democratic institution. It is an organization that has a mission statement and is, presently, the only planetary institution that has the potential to mitigate the self-destructive forces that have emerged from the affairs of the human species. That mission statement, written in 1945, reads:

To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind

To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small

To establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained

To promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom

Presently, the United Nations is staffed by the cream of the world’s diplomatic elite. These men and women know how tread lightly around the most powerful interests in society without causing offense, whilst sometimes persuading them to do the right thing.

Unfortunately this does not mean they achieve enough to guarantee survival.

If these men and women knew that there were people in the outside world, beyond their cosy culture of diplomacy, watching what they did, perhaps it would be easier for them to find their voices.

Example 1: In September 2003 the Security Council submitted its annual report for the period from August 2002 to July 2003 in document A/58/2. This was an important report, for it covered the period in which a permanent member of the Security Council bombed, invaded, and occupied a sovereign nation nowhere near its border in a manner seemingly inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations. Prior to this action, there was a great deal of debate in the Security Council as well as significant disputes over whether the nation in question had actually breached its Security Council resolutions. However, lacking the diplomatic words to describe the events in a way that wouldn’t offend, the issue was barely covered (between page 19 and page 20). Furthermore, no procedure was put into place to get to the bottom of the dispute, and the issue has never since been brought up for discussion. Out of the entire General Assembly, only the Ambassador for Brazil noted (paragraph 3) the deficiency of this particular report.

Example 2: The General Assembly rule of procedure (listed under the section Maximization Utilization of time available) states that

“condolences addressed to a delegation on the death of a prominent person or in the event of a disaster should be expressed solely by the President of the General Assembly.”

As a result, it is possible to compile a list of such condolences since 1994. Included are many natural disasters and tragic incidents that have happened over this time period when the General Assembly happened to be in session. The list includes a handful of notable terrorist attacks. However, tragic events involving massive losses of innocent lives resulting from the firing of cruise missiles are omitted, presumably because the people in the Assembly knew that there is no way they could mention such “sensitive issues” diplomatically.

Example 3: There have been a topics, such as the Question of the Falkland Islands, the United States bombing of Libya in 1986, and the Israeli bombing of an Iraqi nuclear installation which have been persistently on the agenda, but are systematically postponed for decades. Rarely do any delegates note the embarrassing nature of this situation.

If people from outside the culture of politics and diplomacy watched what was going on and read the documents with their own eyes, perhaps it would not be so easy for the Security Council to file incomplete reports; perhaps people would be generally appalled by what massacres are not worthy of official condolence; perhaps the items on the Agenda would be seen as having so little relevance to the visible crises, that it would become more politically awkward to not to mention them than to mention them.

There are problems. There will always be problems. But there is major evil in hiding those problems and actively protecting the very sources of those problems.

The international diplomatic community, like any elite crowd, operates, exists and thrives on respect. No respect should be granted by the mere holding of office. It should be earned. Do the ambassadors for your country conduct their affairs in ways that make you proud to be a citizen, or are they shameful? Only you can decide.

People, everywhere, need to learn how to explore for themselves these vast troves of recent historical official documents. In and of themselves, they do not provide answers. What they do is bring up questions. When you find evidence that goes totally against the official narrative, you have to ask “What does this mean?” and “Why is this inconsistent with what I know?”

There are questions. Thousands of them. Almost all will be outside the scope of the managed political message of the day. If all of us developed the habit of digging around into every different corner imaginable and started asking real Questions, the powers that be won’t have had time to craft and prepare their sets of answers to fit with the official narrative.

Why knows. They might be left with no alternative but to tell the truth.

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007 at 1:33 pm - - Machining, UN, Weekends

Two days before I head south, less than a week before I go to Austria. I’ll have to go caving once because the freezer is full of spit samples to form a base-line so when they measure the amount of hormones in my spit just before going down a big scary pitch, they scientifically prove I’m miserable.

Have written some tosh for the undemocracy site. Who knows who will read it. Maybe even the Sec. Gen. These guys at the top don’t want people to know if they’re checking stuff said down at the bottom. Or they prefer to live in their bubble.


Monday, June 18th, 2007 at 4:29 pm - - UN, Weekends 7 Comments »

I still don’t understand what this wacky Hackday London 2007 incident was. It probably got off the drawing board because something had to. We didn’t see what the other ideas were. This one — whatever it was — was well-executed. A couple of large corporations, such as the BBC and Yahoo, organized Alexandra Palace as the venue. After getting struck by lighting (causing all the hydraulically operated roof vents to spontaneously creak open for the rain to pour in) and the wireless access being on the blink for the first six hours, things settled down for a long haul. Here’s me with one of the few painted laptops.


Saturday, June 16th, 2007 at 1:00 am - - UN, Whipping

I gotta have some things prepared to show to people curious about the UN tomorrow. I need some stories.

Rights of the child

A short debate with three votes, including one on paragraph 26 (b) which urges the elimination of corporal punishment in schools, and one on paragraph 41(c) about locking up children. The United States has some interesting allies, and is the only country in the world to also reject the resolution about the rights of children outright.

See above this for rights of women. Are there any resolutions about the rights of gays?


There’s always Colin Powell’s lame evidence.

Here is the 2003 report by the Secretary General about the invasion of Iraq, which does not comment on the invasion in terms of what happened (hint: hundreds of cruise missiles exploding in a heavily populated city one night) and how many died. The security council managed to explain it in more mild terms.

It’s perfectly normal to defer discussions year by year for years.

UN on the web

There is their search facility.

Talk about the fish

Got a petition back claiming “The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) discussed a Sustainable Fisheries Resolution in New York from 16 to 23 November 2006. Of particular interest was the section of the draft Resolution relating to bottom fisheries, notably bottom trawling, and their impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems.”


UK minority nuclear

An interesting set of countries are against the total elimination of nukes.

There’s also resolution Y about the new agenda for the nuke free world. You get here from the minority votes of the UK who didn’t like the idea of not being allowed to threaten nukes on non-nuke nations.

This resolution was then rejected by loads, unlike the child one where everyone lumped it.

Sometimes there are funny voting problems.

Here is John Bolton annoying the Russians.