Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Romney v. Santorum: Economic vs. Social Issues

While I am unable to crawl into the mind of every Republican voter and know what motivated them to select either Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum, I believe that Michigan will come down to whether Republican voters in the state are more concerned about economic issues or social issues.

Mitt Romney is touting his business expieriance and ability to create jobs. He has also made a key attack point, Rick Santorum's lack of business expieriance. Santourum has argued that Romney would've allowed the automakers to go bankrupt, depriving Michigan of thousands of jobs. Santorum doesn't mention that he also did not support the government bailout of the automakers. But why let facts get in the way of a good attack?

Santorum makes his inroads with voters on social issues. Santorum may be better able to connect with voters of the Midwest with his preaching from the pulpit style of campaign speeches. Romney meanwhile is seen as cold and detatched from the average voter. This allows Santorum to score points on social issues like contraception and governments role in our daily lives.

What matters more to Michigan voters? We'll know soon enough.

The Democrat Effect in Michigan

The Republican primary contest in Michigan is an open contest. This means that voters from any party can show up at their polling location and vote in the Republican primary. There is some concern that Democratic voters in Michigan will show up to vote for Rick Santorum in order to create electoral choas within the Republican party.

I'm positive that some Democratic voters will show up at the ballot box in Michigan. However, these voters are likely to be partisan Democrats who see Rick Santourum as an easier victory for President Obama in November. These partisan voters are a narrow section of the electorate, but in a close primary contest like the one anticipated in Michigan, they could provide the margin of victory.

But I wouldn't look for a sprint to the polls from moderate Democrats.

Welcome to the LIVE Michigan Primary Blog

Tonight is the Michigan Primary and i'll be producing LIVE blog updates as events merit. But before we get to the crunching of numbers, lets discuss some issues surrounding the Michigan primary.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Does Romney’s Political Career Depend on Tuesday?

Running for the presidency of the United States is generally the highlight of a politicians political career. The question has been asked; “If Mitt Romney doesn’t win in Michigan and Arizona on Tuesday is his political career over”?

 Well, we are firstly assuming that Romney would not run for a seat in Congress or a state seat in Massachusetts. Overall though, I believe Tuesday is not an absolute game-breaker for Mitt Romney because of the teeter totter that is the Republican nominating process.

I guess the assumption would be that Rick Santorum would win both Arizona and Michigan and use the momentum to roll through the other states. Unlikely.

 No candidate has gotten on any sort of sustained roll. A candidate wins a few states and is promptly stopped in his tracks. Mitt Romney was a sure thing himself less than six weeks ago before key wins by Gingrich and Santorum. Now Santorum is surging, but if Romney wins, than is he the presumptive nominee again?

The process of delegate allocation will probably block any candidate from getting to 1100 delegates they need to be the nominee. Which means I’ll see you at the convention.

Ethiopia: Autocratic with Western Silence

The recent trial of two Swedish journalists in Ethiopia has shed light on the countries increasingly autocratic practices. Though various human rights groups and international media have raised some concern over human rights and the treatment of the journalists, Western leaders have been largely silent on Ethiopia’s turn towards autocracy.

The Western silence may be explained through Ethiopia’s geographic positioning. They are viewed by many in the West as a important strategic partner in countering violent extremism in the Horn of Africa. Further, Ethiopia is a neighbor to North and South Sudan who could be headed for war. In addition, Ethiopia is a neighbor to Somalia where the al-Shabab terror network is based.

These geopolitical factors combine together to mute criticism of the regime of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi who has used a vaguely worded, far reaching anti-terror law to imprison opposition leaders and journalists as threats to the state.

Nice to see that the Cold War model of diplomacy isn’t dead. The West is basically saying as long as your not an Islamic terrorist, you can abuse human rights at will. Enemies may change, but our policies don’t change with them.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Iron Law of Oligarchy

The Iron Law of Oligarchy was proposed by German sociologist Robert Michaels and the essential argument is that oligarchies (and really all hierarchical organizations) will reproduce themselves not only when the same group is in power, but even when an entirely new group takes control.

The democracy crisis outlined in my previous post may provide a perfect test for the Iron Law of Oligarchy.

Africa is notorious for having backward political and economic institutions that benefit the elite and their highly connected friends. All of the leaders outlined in my previous posts threw off oligarch rulers with promises of reforms, but once they took control of the country, they engaged in many of the same behaviors of their predecessors.

Much of the blame for this behavior, I feel lies with the weak political and economic institutions. Fixing broken institutions requires an “iron will.” There’s virtually no political will to engage in the building stronger institutions because that would mean sharing the wealth and inciting a rebellion from elites who benefited from the old system.

Even I must lament sadly: “Why risk a potentially deadly coup attempt when you can just sit back and grow fantastically wealthy”? At least until your deposed by your military or the people in a popular uprising.

 I’m not sure whether Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Wade in Senegal, or Kabila in the Congo were ever interested in instituting reforms. I’ll leave that to more seasoned Africa experts.

But the hope of reform these men once embodied is often swallowed by the materialist greed of the law of oligarchy particularly in Africa.

2012: The African Autocratic Revival

Several African nations appear set to reverse their democratic gains in 2012, which has prompted the Christian Science Monitor to question whether 2012 will mark the return of the African Despot.

I have previously commented on the situation in Senegal here: http://wwwbookdiplomacy.blogspot.com/2012/02/senegal-not-another-africa.html.

A constitutional court ruled that President Abdoulaye Wade could run for a third term, in spite of a two term limit that Wade himself signed into law after his election in 2001. Wade had argued that he could run again because he had been elected under the old constitution, a claim the five judges all appointed by Wade, agreed with.

In the Congo, Joseph Kabila was declared the winner of last November’s elections, despite widespread irregularities and poor organization led international observers to declare results inconclusive and one opposition candidate declared himself present before votes were cast.

 Not helping matters, the main negotiator between Kabila and the opposition parties was killed in a plane crash on Feb. 12th, complicating the task of government formation.

Zimbabwe still has Mugabe. Mugabe is vowing to run in the 2013. He’s served as prime minister and president for the last thirty two years. Opposition forces are trying to draft a constitution to block such long tenures, but Mugabe has vowed to never sign such measures.

 Even more disheartening, he’s banned twenty nine aid groups, that provide valuable aid to Zimbabweans at risk of starvation.

In Malawi, President Bingu’s creeping autocracy and economic mismanagement has caused international donors, most notably the IMF to suspend loans and financial aid to the country.

 Bingu has also imprisoned human rights workers and journalists for questioning his governing/lifestyle and he expelled the British ambassador for calling the President “becoming more autocratic and intolerant of criticism.

SOURCE: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2012/0217/Will-2012-be-the-Year-of-the-African-Despot-again

Though Mugabe is no surprise, this is disheartening for democratic development in Africa.

Western analysts saw great hope in the regimes Senegal and Congo, who themselves defeated autocrats to ascend to power, amid promises of reform.

Apparently, the iron law of oligarchy is stronger then we thought.

Yemen: One Candidate Election

Yesterday, voters in Yemen went to the polls bringing an end to the three decade rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

This election is different than most because there’s only one candidate on the ballot--Saleh’s Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and no one is complaining about it. In most countries, if there was a one candidate presidential election, democracy advocates would be fuming over a lack of political choice and probably accuse the government of a blatant power grab.

 But in Yemen, the process is viewed as necessary to peacefully remove Saleh from power and begin the process towards future democratic elections.

I share the view of some Yemenis that such exercises could leave Yemenis discontented with the electoral process. What if where just anointing a new autocrat, who will use his electoral victory and the very real threat of Al Qaeda to seize the reigns of power?

 However, it is vitally important that Yemen has a leader that is seen a legitimate to the Yemeni people.

I realize these points may be contradictory, but I think we have to accept that both sides raise valid issues.

I hope that Hadi will stand for competitive elections in two years and won’t use this “election” as a Western issued “blank check for autocracy.”

More Explaining Tweets

7 different brands of championship tennis balls. I guess quarterfinalist tennis balls wouldn’t sell too hot.

I had said previous to this that I was searching for random stuff on Amazon while articles for my seminar downloaded. I was merely commenting on how many companies market “championship” tennis balls. Conventional wisdom would dictate that they can’t all be championship quality.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tweets Explained

Did this back in September or October and really enjoyed it. So I’ll take the time to explain some of my more eccentric tweets. Some of these may be paraphrased since I’m on my non-Internet connected laptop.

What type of tennis balls you have won’t matter, if your wife slaps the umpire after the fact.

This refers to an infamous moment in Wimbledon History. In 1995, American Jeff Tarango was at Wimbledon and became infuriated with umpire Bruno Rebeuh, who had ruled against Tarango several times, and refused to continue. During the match, when preparing to serve, the crowd heckled Tarango and he responded "shut up".

 Rebeuh immediately gave a code violation to Tarango for this claiming "shut up" was an audible obscenity. Tarango protested this and called for the tournament referee calling for Rebeuh to be removed. No relief was given to Tarango and he was instructed to continue to play. He then accused Rebeuh of being "One of the most corrupt officials in the game" - to this Rebeuh gave Tarango another code violation, this time for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Tarango took umbrage, packed up his rackets and stormed off the court. To add to the controversy, Tarango's wife then slapped Rebeuh twice in the face. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Tarango

Capitol Bomb Plot

On Friday, counter terrorism officials arrested a twenty six year Moroccan national on his way to commit a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol Building.

This is the latest attempted lone wolf terrorist attack on American soil. Most terrorist experts indicate that the most likely avenue for a terrorist attack on American soil is not the coordinated large scale mass episode like what occurred on September 11th but rather a lone wolf attack.

What made this attempt different from others, is that El Khalifi apparently intended to commit a suicide bombing because he thought America’s war on terrorism is a war on the Islamic faith.

Suicide bombings on American soil are a rare phenomenon. Most terrorist attacks on U.S. soil have been in the mold of lone wolf. I’m not sure whether its’ a difference between Christian and Islamic terrorists or a difference between the developed and developing world.

Most lone wolf terrorists opt for a method of terror that is non lethal to themselves like the OKC bombers, while Islamic terrorists have opted for suicidal methods to make their point. This case will be interesting to follow.

The Case of Hutaree

Nine members of the southern-Michigan based militia Hutaree are facing federal sedition conspiracy charges in a trial that is expected to determine whether the group is a threat to the U.S. or if its’ a band of “gun enthusiasts” gathered in a social club as the defense alleges.

 The FBI says the group wanted to ambush and kill a police officer and then use his or her funeral as a stage for further killings using explosives. The government has tapes where leaders say the group should start hunting law enforcement pretty soon. The groups website talks about bringing about a new world order.

 Defense attorneys argue that this speech is protected under the First Amendment and a God-given right to blow off steam. Source : http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2012/0217/Michigan-s-Hutaree-militia-Band-of-gun-enthusiasts-or-a-threat-to-the-US

The larger issue before us is the 200% increase in militia groups since Barack Obama became president. Now there are 127 armed militia groups, while there were just 28 in 2008. Of course, militia groups aren’t exactly out there screaming “Hey look at us.” So there’s no way to get an absolutely accurate accounting of militia groups.

 Even though we’d like to pretend that we are beyond our old prejudices, we can’t account for all forms of ignorance. Ignorance and hatred are two enemies that war and time can’t expunge from this planet.

Sentencing the Underwear Bomber

A United States District judge has agreed with government lawyers that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, otherwise known as the Underwear Bomber posses a threat to the safety of American citizens everywhere and has sentenced him to life imprisonment for his attempt to detonate an explosive while aboard Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day of 2009.

The device in the lining of his underwear caught fire, but did not explode.

Sentencing terrorists should be taken on a case by case basis, but given the defendants unrepentant nature about attacking the United States, the judge in this case had very little alternative.

 Islamic radicals inspired by Al Qaeda would all too relish death sentences because they been taught that it is noble to die in the service of their Islam.

Further, because of the hit and miss nature of de-radicalization programs, we can’t sentence them to less then life imprisonment and pray that they will be rehabilitated.

Life imprisonment is our best option because it denies the terrorist the instant martyrdom he seeks, and keeps the population at large safe.

Does Romney have a Midwest Problem?

Mitt Romney has won three states: New Hampshire, Nevada, Florida, and perhaps Maine. This list of primaries is impressive, but I can’t help but notice that there have been three contests held in Midwestern states and that Romney hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire in at least two of the three.

 In Minnesota, he finished third behind Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. In Missouri, he was blown out by Rick Santorum. Then there was his narrow loss in Iowa. There’s something about Romney that has failed to connect with Midwestern voters at least at this point.

 If Romney can’t make some headway in the heartland, his candidacy is in trouble.

Because of the electoral college, candidates tend to focus on states with big delegate prizes. While this approach is not exactly improper from a candidates perspective, I mean you want to win the electoral college and the Presidency, so of course, you would pay special attention to California, Texas, New York, Florida, etc.

 But it can be equally problematic for a candidate to be uncompetitive in a specific region of the country. We see this when Republican candidates win large swathes of the southern United States.

Consider  2008 where John McCain was largely non-competitive in the West.

Regional non-competitiveness can doom a presidential campaign.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Romney wins CPAC Straw Poll

The same day as Mitt Romney won the Maine Caucus, he won the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Committee. Even this did not come without controversy as Rick Santorum alleged that the Romney campaign bussed supporters into the event to vote in the poll. I wouldn’t put too much stock or faith in the results, if I were Romney or Santorum.

Straw polls tell us nothing. Michelle Bachmann won the Ames Straw Poll. That was easily the highlight of her entire campaign. Romney won a poll of the group of conservatives assembled in that particular location.

 Labels like liberal and conservative are not absolutist stamps. There are different flavors of each. One can be socially liberal or socially conservative. Economically liberal or economically conservative. Hell, a conservative in the Western U.S. isn’t the same as a conservative in the South or Midwest.

Madness in Maine

Mitt Romney defeated Ron Paul by 194 votes last Saturday in the Maine Caucus. This victory still appears in doubt because Washington County cancelled its caucus due to weather and several counties who scheduled their caucuses for after February 12 have not had their vote totals included. Even worse, some counties that did caucus did not have their totals listed in the final count.

Now, a full recount is unlikely because these caucuses are run by the Republican party within the state of Maine, rather then the national Republican party. Maine is largely a beauty contest where results are non-binding in terms of selecting delegates--that’s a second state run process.

Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/The-Vote/2012/0215/Should-Ron-Paul-demand-a-new-vote-count-in-Maine.

If I was a Republican, I would be embarrassed. This is the second caucus state officials may have screwed up. This makes the party look incompetent on some level. This is the party that wants to unseat President Obama, but yet screws up their nominating process in at least one, if not two states.

This has serious repercussions for voters, why should anyone go to a caucus or primary, if the state party apparatus can make such a mess of things? Voters want to know that their vote matters and the results are tallied accurately.

Without this, the party opens itself to conspiracy theorists, who would claim some pro-Romney agenda. I am not touching that one.

Romney's Michigan Moment

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has issues. First, he is unexpectedly swept by Rick Santorum in three February 7th contests [more on this later this week.] then he wins?Maine by 194 votes over Ron Paul.

 Now, Mitt Romney is trailing Rick Santorum in Michigan ahead of the states February 28th primary contest. On paper, this should be a slam dunk for Romney, he was born in the state and his father was once the governor of the state.

I call this a must win for Romney because how do the Republicans as a party nominate a man for the presidency who can’t even win a state, he has such personal ties to? If he can’t win in Michigan, questions reign about his candidacy.

 He hasn’t won a single state in the Midwest and only holds concrete wins in Nevada, New Hampshire, and Florida [See note on Maine above.] If you cannot win essentially a home state, how can we trust that you can beat President Obama in a general election?

Ask Al Gore failing to get the home-state win has disastrous consequences.

Words to the Rock Valley College MUN Team

I’m a few days late, but between changing my paper topic yet again and being unceremoniously roused from bed at six because the house of the neighbor two houses down from me was burning to the ground, it hasn’t been a great weekend so far. But enough about my life.

 I know that you guys are well prepared for this conference and are just going to kick butt. You guys have had the tremendous faith of Professors Quirk and Dinwiddie invested in you, and as long as you’ve prepared like champs, there should be no worries.

To the advisors of the Rock Valley College Model UN team, regardless of what happens at this conference, I want you to look at the team and ask this fundamental question “Are the people on our team better people for having been on the Model UN team”?

If you can check this box yes, then little of nothing else matters. Your ultimate wish for your team should be whether the people on this team go on to be successful human beings. Even if everything hit’s the fan, your still having a better weekend than me. 

 Between the neighbors house burning down and my mother catching one of the raccoons that inhabit our attic, which necessitated a call to Animal Services. I’m actually begging Monday to get here.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Senegal: Not Another Africa

Africa is dogged by fragile democratic institutions. The latest example of democratic fragility comes from relatively peaceful Senegal.

 Protests have broken out ahead of the February 26th presidential election after a constitutional court ruled that President Abdoulaye Wade could run for a third term, in spite of a two term limit that Wade himself signed into law after his election in 2001.

Wade had argued that he could run again because he had been elected under the old constitution, a claim the five judges all appointed by Wade, agreed with.

 Last June, Wade attempted to reduce the number of first round votes needed to win from fifty to twenty five percent. Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2012/0206/Senegalese-opposition-denounce-president-s-bid-for-third-term

These sound like the actions of a would-be autocrat. Attempting to violate constitutionally prescribed term limits while getting a favorable ruling from judges that Mr. Wade appointed. We cannot have African democracy while we have leaders willing to use constitutions as toilet paper.

Sadly, the type of behavior exhibited by Wade is an all too common story around Africa that the African people cannot and should not tolerate. The people of Senegal can choose to stand for democracy or they can choose to stand for masked tyranny.

South Africa’s UN vote on Syria

While the world was fixated on pointing a shameful finger at China and Russia over their vetoes of the UN resolution urging Bashir al-Assad to step down, South Africa had a very complicated tightrope to walk.

 South Africa voted with the majority in supporting the resolution, but cautioned that the Syrian people should be allowed to determine their own fate including leadership without the intervention of outside foreign powers. They voted for the resolution ultimately because they felt the resolution was not aimed at advocating Syrian regime change.

Developing nations like South Africa, India, and Brazil used the resolution vote to raise concerns about human rights violations in Syria, while expressing misgivings about foreign intervention in the wake of the NATO action in Libya.

These developing powers can hedge their votes in this way because of their positions as non veto holders. In this way, they have advocated the interests of Western Europe and The United States, while heeding the concerns of Russia and China about intervention.

The only question I have is “How long can developing powers play this role”?

A Brief Note On Africa

Over the coming days and weeks, I’ll be incorporating more material on Africa into the blog.

Anyone with a functioning pair of eyes can see that Africa is a rather challenged continent besieged by war, poverty, disease, and economic woe. Hopefully, I will be able to use Book Diplomacy in order to shine a spotlight on some of these issues.

I firmly believe that the African people are not hopeless, war does not have to be their destiny. Western governments have done African people a disservice by treating much of the continent as a charity case in need of salvation.

 As long as the attitude of Western governments doesn‘t change , don’t expect Africa to change either.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Egypt Military Complex

It came out this weekend that Egypt is bringing criminal charges against forty people including some Americans over foreign funding of NGO’s in the wake of last years Revolution that toppled longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak.

The U.S. allied itself with the military council that took power following Mubarak’s ouster. The United States increased funding for democracy organizations, hoping to ease the transition to democracy. But the Egyptian military has cracked down on NGO’s requiring them to register as a means of screening them out.

 The organizations in question: International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute filed paperwork, but it was never approved or denied, allowing the military a grey area to crackdown on. Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2012/0205/Americans-face-prosecution-as-Egypt-ignores-Clinton-Congress.

This is either a gutsy or stupid maneuver by the military authorities in Egypt. The United States pays Egypt 1.5 billon in aid every year, most of which is military aid. A budget crunched United States may be willing to consider yanking the aid forcing Egypt to concede.

 The military council is already under pressure for failing to provide security to the Egyptian people in the face of last weeks soccer riot that killed eighty people. In addition, the military has been slow in transitioning to democratic elections. A cut in U.S. aid isn’t going to help the military’s fortunes.

Back to the Falklands

Britain and Argentina are fighting over the Falklands yet again. The Falklands are about three hundred miles off the Argentine coast, though Britain has ruled them since 1833. Brittan has no intention of giving the islands up and accuses Argentina of colonialism for pursuing its’ claim.

 The two parties fought a two month war in 1982 that killed 905 British and Argentine soldiers. Tensions rose in 2010 as British ships began to show an interest in oil exploration in the Falklands. Argentina decreed that ships passing through its waters to the islands would require permits. Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2012/0201/Why-Britain-and-Argentina-are-tussling-again-over-the-Falklands

There is a fairly simple solution to the problem of the Falklands. The population of the Falklands should be allowed to vote whether they want to be considered British or Argentinean citizens. Of course, the battle over natural resources will complicate things.

Natural resources present on the Falklands could be considered a national interest, which will prevent either party from just stepping aside. That’s why we need a vote. Letting the people decide this matter, resources and all, is the best way to decide this conflict.

What Hotels Mean in Rwanda

Most people have seen the movie Hotel Rwanda about the iconic Hotel des Mille Collines that became a sanctuary for thousands of Tutsis during the 1994 genocide. Now thanks to a bold program of economic reform, several large international hotel chains are preparing to build luxury hotels in the former ethnically torn country.

The hospitality industry may prove to be the engine to economic growth there. The fact that international chains like Marriott want to come to Rwanda should be seen as encouraging for a society still recovering from a genocide.

This is an interesting story because it asks the fundamental question “How does a country respond to a genocide”? As a country, you can either be remembered as a land of untold bloodshed and remain economically depressed over it.

 I think Rwanda is doing the right thing by acknowledging its’ genocidal past. The past cannot be changed. All we can do is everything we can to ensure it never happens again. Surely, building an economically prosperous society with international hotel chains is a good step in the right direction.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Terror in the Philippines

When I think about terrorism, the Philippines doesn’t exactly leap to mind. But apparently, the Southern Philippines has been called Southeast Asia’s Afghanistan.

On Thursday, the Philippine military scored a major victory by killing Southeast Asia’s most wanted terrorist and two other senior militants in a U.S. backed air strike. Zulkifli bin Hir was a top leader of the Al Qaeda linked Jemaah Islamiyah.

 Also killed was the leader of the Philippines based Abu Sayaf militants, a group linked to several kidnappings of Westerners in the area. Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Latest-News-Wires/2012/0202/Most-wanted-terror-leaders-killed-in-the-Philippines.

Asia is the battleground of the present and future. The ingredients exist for a lengthy battle within Asia. Globalization has proved a game changer within Asia.

 You have the modernizing forces of democracy and the Western capitalist culture--in the form of multinational corporations butting up against traditional Asian cultures and the Islamic faith.

There will be great conflict between tradition and modernity that will occupy security analysts for the next lifetime. How this conflict is resolved will likely determine whether the next few decades are grounded in peace or scorched by war.

Columbine Walks: Bomb Plot in Utah

The 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School is still having a disturbing impact on society.

 A recent bombing plot was foiled at a Utah High School. One of the suspects was apparently so fascinated with Columbine that he went to Columbine and interviewed the principal.

The bomb plot in Utah was uncovered when a friend and classmate reported a suspicious text message to school administrators. The message said “If I told you to stay home on a certain day, would you”?

The minor and an eighteen year old senior were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit mass destruction. Police say that they were planning to set off a bomb during a school assembly and then try to escape by stealing an airplane.

They had knowledge about the schools security cameras and had been using flight simulator software. Both teens wanted “revenge on the world” and one had broken up with a girlfriend. Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2012/0127/Utah-school-bomb-plot-from-inspiration-to-prevention-Columbine-had-a-part

Before I begin, I’d like to say “May God Bless the victims and survivors of Columbine.”

Time has a bad tendency to make the general public forget the tragedy that was Columbine. But there are some misguided souls who don’t see Columbine as a tragedy, but rather an inspiration. They see the Columbine shooters as heroes and try to emulate them.

Just because Columbine isn’t on the front page anymore, doesn’t mean its’ impact can’t still be felt.

Be aware, Columbine’s spirit walks, for good and evil.

Without the UN: What Now in Syria?

Thanks in no small part to the self interested response by Russia and China to a rather watered down U.N. Security Council on Saturday, diplomacy is running out of steam over the conflict in Syria.

A lack of U.N. action will have the likely embolden Assad which will make the bloodshed in the streets even worse. Assad is now untouchable by the international community, meaning he will step up his repression efforts in the city of Hom.

 It goes both ways though. Opposition forces knowing that the West is coming to the rescue, will become more violent in their actions as well.

Nothing looks promising right now. The U.N. has been effectively sidelined. The Arab League mission in Syria collapsed in November. Russia is expected to push for democratic reforms, but Assad is moving at a glacial pace to implement them.

 Russia is clearly unwilling to press Assad to hard out of fear he’ll break or something. The ranks of the opposition FSA are swelling, but still don’t match the logistic or manpower of the Syrian army loyal to Assad.

Hope we all enjoy bloody carnage leading off our World News broadcasts because there’s more to come.

The Rio Building Collapse

The recent building collapse in Rio has brought to light an unfortunate truth. In Rio De Janiero, renovations are the responsibility of the project engineer and the building ownership. Government inspections are only carried out when a building first goes up. Rio has been plagued by exploding manhole covers, and stoppages in national transportation systems. Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/Latin-America-Monitor/2012/0127/Rio-building-collapse-where-is-the-oversight

Rio De Janiero is going to be under the international microscope as it prepares to host the 2016 Olympic Games. Incidents like recent building collapse are not likely to inspire the confidence of the international community in the Brazilian governments ability to provide security to the world’s best and brightest athletes.

 The Brazilian government is in a race against the clock to erect a modern looking metropolis. What is going to prevent a massive building collapse from occurring during the Olympic Games? I’m calling on the Brazilian government to increase oversight of building and zone regulations before their great coming out becomes an international tragedy.

Syria: United Nations Standoff

If Israel’s allies wonder why they are considering unilateral action against Iran, perhaps they should review the events of Saturday at the United Nations Security Council.

On Saturday, Russia and China vetoed a resolution backing the Arab League peace plan calling for Bashar Assad to step down. The vote occurred as Syrian forces loyal to Assad continued to shell the city of Homs. In the latest episode of violence, 200 people were killed and the United Nations says that 5,400 people have been killed in the Assad crackdown on civilian protests.

Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Latest-News-Wires/2012/0204/Russia-China-veto-UN-resolution-on-Syria

Russia is said to be against any U.N. resolution that advocates for regime change or military intervention. I’m assuming China objections are similar.

 I echo the sentiments of French ambassador Gerard Araud “ Russia and China had "made themselves complicit in a policy of repression carried out by the Assad regime." Apparently, its’ okay to terrorize your own people as long as you have big friends, gee isn’t that a great message for all of humanity.

 Russia and China should be ashamed of themselves, but probably see common bloodlines between their leadership and Assad.

May God be with the Syrian people. I am ashamed to admit that the Western powers embodied in the United Nations Security Council have let yet another beleaguered people

Monday, February 6, 2012

States of Union

Presidential addresses like the recently delivered State of the Union address have two audiences: domestic and global.

 Christian Science Monitor did a very interesting article on how the international press reacted to the speech. The full article is available here: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2012/0125/State-of-the-Union-speech-as-heard-by-China-India-France-Israel. Here are some highlights :

Israel saw President Obama reaffirm the United States commitment to Israel’s security by declaring that negotiation was still possible with the Ahmadinejad government, while refusing to take any option off the table.

India saw President Obama’s tough words against intellectual piracy as a reflection of their own rivalry with China. Both China and India see themselves as the voice of the worlds impoverished, are growing economically, and are seeking a foothold within Africa.

South Africa sees in the United States a similar political dynamic. Two political parties that hardly talk to each other and instead orate to their own constituencies.

The French saw the address as outlining the case for a second Obama term. He wanted to portray the country as growing stronger, with plans to create an economy built to last.
This goes to show that while the American media has their own contextual reasons to view the State of the Union , the international community often has its’ own interests when looking at the State of the Union.

Dead Primary Season?

February shapes up to be pretty dead for Republican Primary season. We’ve already seen a rather sleepy Romney victory in the Nevada caucuses. This will most likely be followed by another win Tuesday in Colorado. Maybe it has something to do with Valentines Day, but the month of February shapes up to be one of sleepiest of the Presidential campaign.

 Maybe its’ that they don’t want the news media to go into absolute orgasm before March’s Super-Tuesday and the rather Juvenile named Super-Duper Tuesday…gee is the Justice League of America going to run down and save me from evil dooers?

Well maybe I can focus on that Russian Presidential Coronation…I mean election J

The Unilateral Bomb?: Israel’s Decision

The recent escalation in rhetoric from Israeli officials insisting that Iran poses a great danger to Israel and The West because of its’ nuclear program is beginning to alarm Western leaders. Western governments are afraid that Israel may launch unilateral strikes against Iran, which could have the effect of destabilizing the Middle East.

Though their Western allies are trying to dissuade them from such actions, Israel may view Iran as an existential threat that needs to be dealt with, international consent or not. Many still say that an Iranian attack of Israel is unlikely because Iran would be destroyed by a counterstrike.

However, when the Iranian president refers to the Holocaust as a fiction and declares that the state of Israel needs to wiped out, it does make you wonder what Iran would do.

Note it is actually the religious hierarchy of Iran that would make any decisions relating to war, not President Ahmadinejad.

Israel is one of the most unique states in the modern state system. It was created in the face of an unspeakable human tragedy. Millions of Jews were exterminated during World War II. These facts leave Israel with an unprecedented national security situation.

 Israel is going to do whatever it thinks it needs to do for its’ own security. They’ve never had issue going against U.S. wishes before, why would now be any different? Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail, but Western governments need to be weary of placing their own perceptions of reality on Israel.

The British Stock Bomb Plot

Four British men were convicted last Wednesday for their role in an Al Qaeda inspired bomb plot that would’ve spread economic terror by bombing the London Stock exchange around Christmas 2010. They were reportedly inspired by the words of a U.S. born Muslim cleric.

Interestingly, even prosecutors conceded that the men had not planned to kill anyone, but that because of their chosen method meant that there was risk people would have been maimed or killed. Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Latest-News-Wires/2012/0201/Four-British-men-admit-guilt-in-London-Stock-Exchange-bomb-plot

London has a lengthy history of being targeted by terrorists. This targeting will likely only intensify as the London Olympics approach. Terrorists would love to disrupt an event like the Olympic Games because of the international media attention attached to it.

 A would be terrorist would have a captive audience for their message. Fortunately, security officials have gotten better at securing “big targets”, but this still leaves a litany of soft targets. Unfortunately, even the best security can’t block everything.

Donald Trumps Endorses Romney

Yesterday Donald Trump endorsed Mitt Romney…yawn. A rich white guy who appeals to the fringe of the Republican party making an endorsement. Trump was probably more concerned about his own bottom line and image rather than the presidential race itself. He has a new season of The Apprentice premiering soon after the Super Bowl? That had probably had nothing to do with the timing of this [eye roll.] Not like Romney needs help in the Nevada Caucuses. Yet, the news media had to go into a virtual orgasm over the news.

Florida: The Hispanic Vote

The recently contested Florida primary provided a first gauge of the large Hispanic vote in this country.

 Several key states including California, Texas, Illinois, and Florida have large populations of Hispanic voters. Both parties would be wise to pay attention to this diverse group of voters because winning the Hispanic vote could mean the difference between moving into the White House and delivering a concession speech.

Capturing the Hispanic vote is far from easy. Party leaders shouldn’t paint any group of people with a broad brush, but this is particularly true of the Hispanic voter.

 The Hispanic voter in Florida may be concerned about future U.S. policy towards Cuba, while Hispanics in California and Texas may be more concerned about illegal immigration or plans to deal with the escalating drug violence in Mexico.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, just illustrative of the diverse issues that any population in America faces. How the presidential candidates meet this populations diverse needs will be an interesting aspect of the 2012 campaign.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

U.S. Intervention in Somalia?

On the same day as President Obama’s State of the Union address, a team of Navy Seals rescued two hostages from a criminal gang in Somalia. Does this mean that the United States will intervene further in the troubled African nation?

Don’t count on it.

The American public is feeling worn down by our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is virtually no appetite to launch a large scale invasion in Africa. Furthermore, the American military establishment still has bad memories of the disastrous 1993 intervention there that left 27 dead.

Even if the United States was in a better morale and could afford the financial burden of a third war, regional security has largely been delegated to other forces from the African Union, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Our military has decided to leave the fight against Al Shabab in the hands of East African forces.

Operations like those conducted by the Navy Seals allow the President to take a tough stand against kidnapping and piracy without a large military investiture. This militarized approach to piracy is no cure all though, military patrols have often dispersed the problem over a wider area making anti-piracy efforts more difficult.

Newt Gingrich: The Tea Party Choice?

I’ve been off-blog for a few days, but still wanted to comment on some of the goings on down in Florida.

 Newt Gingrich was endorsed by Herman Cain down in Florida and Sarah Palin compared him favorably to Mitt Romney. It looks like major forces in the Tea Party are trying to rally around Newt Gingrich, and I’m not exactly sure why Gingrich holds such an appeal to some Tea Party favorites.

Forgive me for perhaps understating the Tea Party platform, but I thought the premise behind the Tea Party was that Washington D.C. was broken and needed fixing?

Apparently, some key figures within the Tea Party believe that the best way to fix Washington is to make a twenty year Washington insider…the President?

 How does that advance the interests of the Tea Party? I mean, sure Gingrich has inventive ideas, but how does he propose to get them through Congress?

Submit to Theocracy: Election Season in Iran

While Iran remains in an icy stare down with the West over its’ nuclear program, the international community is largely ignoring the other drama playing out within Iran. It’s time for another election in Iran.

 Ever watchful of the internationally broadcast street demonstrations following the dubious results of the last presidential election, Iran has begun clamping down on the press and personal freedoms throughout the country. Sadly, this is just pretty much par for the course for the Islamic Republic these days.

Iran has basically proven every Western leader that has called the Islamic Republic a corrupt, authoritarian, police state correct. What exactly do the religious leaders not want the world to see?

I’m not Colombo, but sounds like their preparing for another controversial election where basic democratic rights are withheld. This will probably be followed by large scale mass protests that will be broken by the elite guards under the thumb of the theocracy.

Another Iranian election season…joy.

Rafael Correa: Free Speech Killer

The President of Ecuador Rafael Correa has come under increasing fire internationally for his perceived moves against free speech in the country.

 Correa has sued El Universo and other newspapers claiming libel and created new media laws to greater increase the scope of the state media apparatus. President Correa claims that he is trying to put the herd on a sensational private industry with a political agenda.

Ironically, one of the new laws Correa championed would seem to benefit his own political career as he prepares for a reelection campaign in 2013.

The National Assembly passed a law last month that placed severe restrictions on what journalists can cover about candidates. Correa defends the action on the grounds that he doesn’t want the media to ally with political campaigns and hold too much sway over political matters.

During Correa’s time in office, state-run media has expanded from one station to fifteen. Worrisome indeed.

Latin America has a lengthy history of autocratic rule and I’m afraid Correa is the next autocrat. When a political figure moves to control the dissemination of the written word, he is violating the key democratic principle of freedom of the press.

Without the freedom of words and ideas, politicians themselves become illegitimate strongmen, relying on the resources of the state to ensure their rule.

Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/Latin-America-Monitor/2012/0124/Ecuador-s-President-Correa-sues-newspaper-and-is-blamed-for-killing-free-speech.