Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lady Gaga vs. Religion in Asia

My blog is on a roll in terms of covering things I never thought I’d discuss on a political blog about current events and books. Last week, I actually talked about discussed bananas in the context of a territorial dispute between China and The Philippines. Today, I get to discuss Lady Gaga and the recent difficulties that she’s had throughout various parts of Southeast Asia.  
Lady Gaga is an envelope pusher. This has earned her a legion of fans and millions in album sales. It has also made her the object of attack from a Conservative Christian group in the Philippines and a conservative Islamic group in Indonesia.
 Turning first to Philippines, protest organizers are threatening legal action under the countries penal codes pertaining to offending race or religion. In the conservative Roman Catholic country, this pertains to performance of her song “Judas.” Apparently, one could face between six months and six years in jail, though CSM reports no one has been convicted recently.
 In Indonesia, she has earned the ire of Front Pembela Islam (Islam Defenders Front), a group seeking to pursue a chauvinistic approach to Islam in Indonesia. The group threatened to send a mob to meet her at the airport and break up the event if she made it there. Jakarta police officials cancelled her June 3rd show, citing security concerns. Source:

Jerry Brown: Tax Man California

California Gov. Jerry Brown has revealed his plan for dealing with California’s budget deficit and it isn’t pretty. Brown has cautioned California voters that if they don’t pass a tax hike in November that $6 Billion more will have to come out of the budgets for public education and higher education.
His other proposals include cuts to state employees pay- and work week, as well as spending cuts to a variety of public programs and institions like state prisons, care for the disabled, a state courts budget cuts and a one year state building freeze: Source:
There’s no good answer here. We are dealing with the harsh reality of governments and people who lived beyond their means while times were good. But they lacked a plan for when times went bad. I also don’t want to hear any armchair commentary about liberals ruined this and conservatives ruined that…because lets be real: Both liberals and conservatives have screwed this country up.
 America should acclimate itself to plans like Governor Brown’s because they are going to be the norm soon. Painful cuts to important social services and tax increases for all. I think these cuts are horrible—particularly given the vulnerability of our disabled populations.
Getting a tax increase passed in this climate will be difficult, but the hole in California is so deep that I’m not sure there’s another way forward. Whether they pass a tax increase now or later, it will be a reality someday. I think California may serve as ominous prelude of what is to come for several other states in the U.S. and entire nations throughout Europe. If I had the ear of Governor Brown, I would encourage him to find other avenues to cut before social service programs that seek to help the most at-risk populations among us.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Rise of China: The Cyber Dragon

A recent cyber-attack on the gas industry in the United States may have the fingerprints of the China on it.

 Cyber-attacks have grown in prominence over recent years and will likely become an increased focus of national security experts in the coming years and decades.

The type of cyber-attack carried out against our gas industry would need the resources available to a national government. Though many governments may engage in cyber espionage, China has been particularly aggressive on the cyber front as articulated in Death by China by Peter W. Navarro and Greg Autry

China’s aggressive use of cyber-piracy coupled with their need to keep the vast engine of economic growth growing makes it a likely suspect.

 Cyber-crime is tricky by nature, however, because in cyberspace matters, governments have no real friends. Everyone spies on everyone else. The question is which entities serve to do us harm and which enemies are engaging in the practice of cyber-crime to give themselves a technological leg up?

 I don’t think China’s motives for engaging in cyber-crime are simply technological theft.

Life Beyond A Face

On my Twitter account a few days ago I wrote a Tweet declaring that I thought my Facebook friends’ sister was pretty. I’ve never met this girl just seen pictures of this girl and know a few superficial details about her—like that she’s looking for a job in the racing industry.

 The exact tweet read something like “SN’s sister J--- is really pretty. So shameful.” Where most people would probably see no harm in complementing someone’s looks, I do see a problem in it.

As a young man born with Cerebral Palsy, who uses a wheelchair and a walker on a daily basis, one would think that I would have a greater appreciation that there’s more to people than physical beauty. Therefore, there was something shameful for me in admitting that at the end of the day, I’m no more evolved than any able-bodied twenty something.

The realization was quite jarring for me. It is small consolation that I didn’t say anything like “Please have my babies,” or “Baby Got Back”! I’m not sure if I like myself when my opinion of someone is based solely on their looks.

Whatever I say

I’ve been thinking a lot as I ponder whether I want graduate school as part of my future. To that end, this question keeps popping up in my mind “What would I want people to say about me”?

Not just on some letter that could help me get into grad school, but life in general. I pondered and decided that I wanted to be known as a person who cares about people. That’s why I pray for people I’ve never met because they mean something to people I care about.

That’s what and who I want to be. I’m not going to apologize for saying things that most friends won’t say. If I believe it in my heart, its’ probably going to come out either of my mouth or a post on this blog, my Facebook, or Twitter.

 I’ve had too many years of self-censorship and avoiding fights because people were more rhetorically gifted or could intimidate me into silence. Those days are dead.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Philippines and China go Bananas

The Philippines and China are engaged in a territorial dispute in the South China Sea, that has now spread to bananas. China blocked the import of Philippine bananas, after a Philippine naval ship attempted to arrest a group of Chinese fisherman working off the Scarborough Shoal.

The Philippines and China have competing claims on these islands and the Philippines see the blocking of imported bananas as a way of making them give in to China. Unfortunately, the strategy is quite sound because the Philippines is dependent on Chinese demand for its’ products.


Another government verses government territorial dispute in Asia, great. The real losers here are the exporters and the farmers who grew the bananas because the fruits of their labor are rotting in containers or have been destroyed, meaning that they don’t get paid for having their hard toiled crop at market.
 This case is endemic of a problem that has infected this world. We have all these conflicts where two governments are wielding economic weapons against each other with no regard for who their really hurting.
Governments are by their nature, big and complex things that harder to hurt than sanctions regimes would lead one to believe. The farmers and laborers who produce the product may be a failed crop or economic blockade from ruins.

 But why should governments give a crap about people?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A National Interest in Death?

I had another piece on a very interesting spat between the Philippines and China planned for today, but the situation in Syria has really captured my attention, so I will be postponing the Philippines-China story until tomorrow.
Though intervention is a multi-faceted question,Most countries base their decisions to intervene in international conflicts on whether these conflicts are in the national interests of the perspective intervening country.
 I would argue that the national interest question is actually a poor method to use when deciding whether or not to intervene in a conflict.
By not intervening on grounds of national interest, governments are saying that they have no national interest in the conflict.
Yet, these same governments also send a contradictory message that says “Our government has an interest in indirectly causing the death of thousands more people.”
 That’s no message that any government in the Western world should care to send to the international community.
I urge the international community to beware of the unintended messages they send.

Syria: When Peace Goes Dead

The international community was divided on Syria and its’ earned us a front row seat for the civil war. Last Thursday, a series of suicide bombings struck Damascus killing fifty-five people.
 Even the suicide bombing itself has divided the international community. Russia blamed the forces against Bashar al-Assad, while the U.S. blamed the Assad regime itself.
 This bombing also raised the specter of an Al Qaeda entry into the conflict because the twin car bombing during rush hour bears the hallmark of an Islamic extremist organization—per Christian Science Monitor reporting.
If the international community cannot come together and stop pointing at each other as though they’ve just spilled ketchup on a shirt, then we have effectively doomed Syrians to a trial between two tyrannies: Islamic extremism and the al Assad regime.
Absent a consensus, I have but one question to ask the people of Syria—with noted regret—which tyrannical apparatus do you choose Assad or Islamic extremism? Or does it even matter who kills you? Just a very sad commentary, all around folks.

Europe’s Piracy Solution

European Naval forces patrolling off the coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden have begun efforts to bomb land based piracy supply bases in an effort to curb piracy in the region as part of a EU  plan to deal with the crisis in Somalia.
 Piracy has been around for hundreds of years, so a few European Union bombs are not going to serve as much of a deterrent as long as Somalia continues to be a political basket-case with a weak government and little means of economic development.
Even though the EU among others has its’ own economic interests in keeping shipping lanes pirate free, its’ ultimately the responsibility of the Somali people themselves to deal with piracy.
As long as piracy is a profitable economic enterprise, than the greatest bombs and bullets are useless against the problem of piracy. Pirates are the most adaptable international criminals the world has ever known. Faced with this bombing threat, they’ll just move supplies further inland or out into the oceans.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Last Option? Palestinian Prisoner Hunger Strike

As many as 2,000 Palestinian prisoners have engaged in a hunger strike inside Israeli prisons to protest their conditions of indefinite detention without charges or trial under Israelis administrative detention policy. Israel has defended this policy as vital to the state’s national security and has declared that many of the protestors are not boy scouts.
 Many hunger strikers view it as the last option because of their lack of legal rights within Israel. Even Israeli human rights advocates argue that administrative detention is not to be used as a substitute for the criminal process. Source:
I thought this was an interesting story because the paper I wrote for my human security seminar dealt in part with a hunger strike. Hunger strikes by their nature are the actions of desperate men and women. It requires a certain desperation to put physical safety and livelihood on the line.
There’s a certain logic behind the tactic though because while the Israeli government may steadfastly claim national security in authorizing lengthy detentions, being a democracy Israel does not want images of emaciated prisoners splashed across the front page of every major international newspapers.
 What will win out: Israel’s national security or the prospect of being internationally shamed?

The Defeat of Richard Luger and Moderations Death

Last Tuesday, longtime Indiana Republican Senator Richard Luger was defeated by Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock. Luger was a symptom of the very problem that the Tea Party rallies against. He was a long time Washington politician that appeared more tied to Washington than his local district.
The defeat of Senator Luger is also an ominous sign for those wanting Washington to actually get something done. Luger understood how to work across the aisle, looking beyond the party label for the betterment of the country. We need more Richard Lugers’ in the halls of Congress, not less.
As the few incumbents who prided themselves on bipartisianship continue to be defeated by more extreme Tea Party challengers, we need to become concerned about the Congress that we are creating.
By voting out moderate candidates, we are only creating these factions of extremity within both parties. With two extreme political parties, not only does nothing get done, but the American people are deprived of meaningful representation because America is a very conservative country by nature.
 It will be a dark day in America when a little extremity becomes the new moderation.

Iraq’s Continued Kurdish Question

The large Kurdish population in Iraq has been a subject of discussion and concern for the last twenty to thirty years at least.
 In the post Saddam Hussein Iraq, the Kurds have been granted a large degree of autonomy within the Iraqi state. Still, there are once again questions about the Kurds future in Iraq.
 The catalyst for these most recent tensions is the recently discovered oil within Kurdistan. Some leaders argue that there could be a split between Baghdad and Kurdish Iraq if disputes over oil revenue and power sharing are not resolved. The question I have is who needs who here?
Kurdistan is easily the most secure region of Iraq, as the central government in Baghdad struggles to maintain basic services. Iraq needs the oil revenue sharing with Kurdistan as it gives the government a major revenue stream.
Yet, I’m also not certain the Kurds can survive on their own given the difficulties they’ve had with neighboring Turkey.
 As far as I know, there’s no movement on the issue of creating a Greater Kurdistan with Kurds from Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. I therefore believe that the uneasy relationship between Kurdistan and Baghdad will have to continue for the good of both parties.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Khalid Sheik Mohammad Trial: Who’s Justice?

9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammad was recently arraigned in a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Some analysts have described the proceedings as a modern day Nuremburg trial that will test the fairness of US military commissions.
 While there is great focus on the military commissions, I think we have to ask ourselves an even more fundamental question of who are we seeking justice for?
Military justice implies that justice in this case is a military matter, despite the fact that 3,000 U.S. civilians were killed. Yet, it has been said that civilian courts don’t have the safety mechanisms in place to deal with this case.
How does one measure justice in the face of a crime so heinous? No verdict rendered by any court-civilian or military, can ever hope to gratify everyone.
It is my worry that no matter what’s decided in Guantanamo Bay, we’ll have effectively divided those persons directly effected by 9-11 into three camps: those who believe in Guantanamo Bay, those who wanted greater punishment, and those people who don’t believe that a military commission is the right way to deal with the terrorist problem.
Justice in the case of Khalid Sheik Mohammad is far from the black and white matter its’ presented as.

Elections in France and Greece: Wither Austerity

France and Greece held national elections last Sunday. The French ousted pro-austerity President Nicolas Sarkozy in favor of Socialist Francois Hollande, who has vowed to pull French troops from Afghanistan, increase government spending, including a 75% income tax on the rich, and renegotiation of a European treaty on trimming budgets to prevent a Greek like debt crises.
 Meanwhile in Greece, the voters ousted the current government and by extension the European Union negotiated bailout. Do these two results mean the death of austerity within Europe?
Austerity isn’t liable to win any popularity contests—anywhere. Certainly not in Greece where people are committing suicide because the cuts have left thousands of people without jobs, pensions, and livelihoods. In France, they also see a troubled economy that has muddled through austerity measures. If an economy struggles through austerity, than more spending must be the way out right? Add Sarkozy’s personal unpopularity and we may be able to explain these results.
 Ultimately, I believe austerity is the proper way forward, but as I am not French or Greek, so I didn’t get a vote.

Kony 2012

While I was off the blog the mastermind behind the L.R.A. Joseph Kony received international attention thanks to a documentary entitled Kony 2012 that received millions of hits on YouTube and scores of media attention.
 A key criticism of the Kony video is that the very complex issue of L.R.A. involvement in Uganda has been reduced to focus on one man. I’m of two minds concerning this criticism, 1. Capturing Joseph Kony does not end all violence throughout Uganda and elsewhere. 2. If you’re a filmmaker seeking to enlist the public’s help in a cause,  you need to simplify it.
 It’s much easier for the public to implore their representative to GO GET JOSEPH KONY! Than DO SOMETHING ABOUT CHILD SOLDIERS IN UGANDA!
It’ll be interesting to see whether the viral video trend catches on as a tool to go after other international terrorist masterminds. Furthermore, what is the impact of Kony 2012 in six months or a year? If it only serves to focus temporary attention on Kony, and then everyone goes back to musing about Al Qaeda in Yemen or John Edwards, than what has been accomplished?
 The public attention span is fickle and could easily be preoccupied with the viral video of the moment. Therefore, while Kony 2012 is a unique effort to spread the word about an important cause, I question its’ use as a counter-terrorist tactic.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Harry Potter Revisited

Last July, I wrote one of the most infamous posts in the history of this blog discussing moments that define generations. Unfortunately, it got interpreted that I was attacking Harry Potter, and boy did his fans let me hear it. I didn’t understand Harry Potter because I’d never read a word, and only briefly had seen one of the movies.
Over the last ten months, I’ve grown to understand and appreciate Harry Potter. Though I may never grow to be as passionate as some of Mr. Potter’s fans because Harry Potter occupies a ten year time space in people’s lives that I unfortunately missed out on.
 I come here on this blog today to announce that I now love Harry Potter and have now seen the error of my ways. Peace.

Where Have I Been?

Book Diplomacy has not updated lately because I’ve been stuck in the abyss that was my last graduate seminar in human security. But I’m back and committed to making this blog better in the upcoming summer months, which are mostly school free.