Blog of Mass Distraction

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Fighting Tyranny

The Whitehouse has released its updated National Security Strategy; the first revision since the last publication in 2003. In it the US Government lists countries which it regards as despotic regimes that are a threat to security or are outposts of tyranny. The list includes Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, Belarus and Zimbabwe. These countries certainly aren't the most democratic of places. Iran and Belarus have had elections though Iran is still a theocracy and the Belarusian elections were not the most free and fair. Still I don't see how Zimbabwe of all countries could be a threat to anyone. With a currency that's virtually worthless and massive starvation, dictator Robert Mugabe drove Zimbabwe into the ground and just kept going.
The US has tried to promote countries like Pakistan which has been an ally in the war on terror. And Secretary of State Condi Rice visited Indonesia which is a key ally and promoted as an example of a peaceful Muslim state (as opposed to some Arab countries). Of course 'peaceful' is a relative term. I'm sure the people of Indonesia are nice and peaceful, but the Indonesian government hardly has a peaceful past. Genocide in East Timor has ended with its independence. Suppression in Aceh ended shortly after the tsunami (though it continued during some of the aid operations there). Suppression of the independence movement there continues in Irian Jaya aka West Papua which has large mineral resources and major mines.

There have been major protests in the US regarding some proposed legislation that would put harsher restrictions on illegal immigrants and people without status. This has angered many latino Americans. The changes and extending walls along the US Mexico border have caused migrants across the country to take to the streets to speak out against the proposed law. Considering the large number of migrant workers in the US, especially those that come in from Mexico as day workers, this doesn't seem like an overly bright move. To appease people like the Minute Men as opposed to the millions of illegal immigrants and hard working people hoping to become citizens.

The Christian Peacemaker team that was being held in Iraq has been released. The two Canadians: James Loney and Harmeet Sooden, and the Briton were released and in good health. The American captive Tom Fox however was found murdered a few weeks ago. Fox was 54 and is mourned by his fellow former captives and family.

The Israeli election is also coming up this week. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert seems to be a likely front runner but we'll have to wait and see what happens. Olmert has promised more unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank, though this likely does not include major settlements and strategic military locations there.

When the government fears the people, you have liberty. When the people fear the government, you have tyranny.
-- Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Oh snap!

Slobodan Milosovic died in his cell a few days ago. It was reported that he died of heart attack as he was known to have heart problems for quite a long time. Some people however, particularly his family living in Russia, have questioned the treatment he was getting and even go as far as saying he was poisoned and murdered. I doubt that would happen, especially under care of an international tribunal, but who knows. Anyway, his death was met with little interest in Serbia. Considering he was overthrown by a massive public revolt, it appears the people of Serbia don't want to dwell on their time with Slobo.
Many people however are disappointed that Milosovic will never face justice for the crimes of which he's accused. The verdict in the tribunal was still several months away and it looks like it will never come down with the death of the accused.

Israeli forces have raided a Palestinian prison in Jericho. The Israelis demanded the handover of prisoners they suspect of being involved in an Israeli minister's death. They have not necessarily captured those prisoners yet but there has been a harsh response from Palestinians. Many Palestinian groups have been observing a cease fire, but thise kind of overt military action strains the ability of the new Hamas government to maintain peace in Palestine. Several attacks have resulted including setting fire to a British Council building in Palestine. British observers who were present in Jericho have stated they will withdraw as well.

Isaac Hayes has said he'll quit working on tv show South Park. Hayes claimed he was leaving because of the religious intolerance on the show. This however is being dismissed by the shows creators. South Park recently did a show that poked fun at Scientology though since its inception South Park has regularly made fun of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Shintoists and others. Hayes however is a scientologist and claims that as a defender of civil rights he feels the show has gone too far. The rather dubious claim will mean the end of Hayes character "Chef", the school cook with ample libido.

I saw this while browsing around, I think it originally came from dailykos but I'm not certain. If you've heard about South Dakota's newly minted laws about planned parenting you'd find it as funny as I did.

Imagine the difficulty in making RUSSELL CROWE look like he got into a fight.
-- Jon Stewart at the Oscars commenting on "Cinderella Man" being nominated for best make-up.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Non-Proliferation and Non-Violence

George Bush was visiting the subcontinent the past few days. Apart from some niceties with Manmohan Singh and playing some cricket in Pakistan Bush was there for an agreement with India. The US government will be providing India with nuclear technology for generation in return for India opening up some of its generation stations for international inspection. The hypocrisy of this when compared with the treatment of Iran is stark. India has been sanctioned by the international community for its development and testing of nuclear weapons and it's one of the few countries to not sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Iran is a signatory of the treaty and has done nothing to break its agreement, yet it will be referred to the UN Security Council while India is rewarded.
The real danger here is the more subtle implication of this proposed agreement. Bush is really looking to build up alliances against the growing super power China, a long standing traditional rival of India. Bush likely hopes this will accelerate the Indian development of nuclear weapons. This of course will also strain the growing, though tenuous, relationship with Pakistan.
The agreement must however pass through Congress. Under current US law passing nuclear technology to India would be illegal since it's not a signatory of non-proliferation (and has an active nuclear weapons program). Iran however hasn't broken the rules of non-proliferation, which it signed, so would be more qualified to receive technology (apart from the likely numerous embargoes the US would have on it as an enemy state...).
Bush also visited the memorial for Ghandi while in India. I'll spare you the possible sarcastic comparisons of him laying a wreath there so as not to further desecrate the memory of the Mahatma and those like him who lived and died for peace and justice.

The growing violence in Iraq has, some say, brought the country to the brink of civil war. While many have said the US forces in Iraq had to stay to prevent factional fighting and dischord, a few people have been trying hard to make that prediction a reality. The tensions spiked when the mosque and Shiah shrine in Samarra was detroyed. Revenge attacks were carried out on Sunnis and now a curfew is in place in the region. Still, removing the existing US forces (which are being condemned by organizations like Amnesty International for the ongoing abuses of captives in Iraq and elsewhere) and replacing them with an international force would be better.

The Oscars are also going on this evening. I actually went and watched all the Best Picture nominees before this evening. Crash I saw some time ago, but the other four I watched in the past few weeks (including one just this afternoon). Crash was really the worst of them, trite and over-hyped. Crash's Dickensian portrayal of racism in 'white America' or any America for that matter was inelegant and lacked subtlety. The other four were quite good though. Brokeback was very well acted, though to be honest, apart from being the main characters being gay it was a rather normal tragic love story. Munich was shocking, but was well done and had lots of depth. Capote had some excellent acting but it was quite dour and depressing. Good Night and Good Luck was just excellent all around, a spectacular film. If any of the four win I suppose it would be worth it, but my preference is probably for the latter two.

Finally, in Haiti the proposal of the Brazilian delegation was accepted. Rene Preval has been named President once more and the people of Haiti may get their due democratic government, though only time will tell what external international stakeholders and opponents of Preval and Aristide will do about it.

Victory attained by violence is tantamount to defeat, for it is momentary.
-- Ghandi