Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Best music of 2008 (featuring top 10 albums)

Oh, music. When I took a recent five-day excursion into the wilderness of the Aleghenny National Forest in Pennsylvania in late November, with only a large pack on my back filled with food and essentials, I wondered exactly what I would miss, being away from civilization for the better part of a week. Turns out the only thing I truly missed was not my cell phone, computer, Internet, newspaper, books, or anything like that, but music. This, of course, did not come as a surprise to me, but as I was reunited with my iPod for the long drive home, I found myself appreciating my music even more.

I was fortunate enough to see three concerts in the second half of 2008: Wolf Parade performing in Pontiac, MI at the beginning of July; The Hold Steady at the same venue later in the month; and Minus the Bear in Columbus in mid-October — three great shows. Wolf Parade gave a particularly impressive performance, and Minus was just sublime, performing some tracks from their new acoustic EP as well as some old favorites.

My Top 10 Albums of 2008

  • 1: TV on the Radio - Dear Science
    Deep, diverse, funky, elaborate, passionate and energetic yet wholly chill. Innovative beats AND lyrics (when evaluating music I put a lot of weight on lyrics). The poetry of "Dancing Choose" is striking (my favorite lines: "A palette blown to monochrome" and "In my mind I'm drowning butterflies"). Dear Science is less raw and rough as their 2006 LP Return to Cookie Mountain (also an amazing album), which is, I suppose, both good and bad. The album has found mainstream fans, being named album of the year by Rolling Stone and Spin. To me, TV on the Radio is to the '00s what Television was to the '70s. At least TVOTR is receiving the accolades they deserve, while Television really haven't been fully credited for their contribution to punk rock.
    Favorite song: "Halfway Home"

  • 2: MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
    Fun, energetic, electro-poppy, psychedelic.
    Favorite song: "Time to Pretend". Just so much fun. "Kids" and "Electric Feel" also very representative of MGMT's sound.

  • 3: Deerhunter - Microcastle
    Read a good article about this album, including an interview with man-behind-the-magic Cox, here. Anyone who enjoys Microcastle should check out other Deerhunter albums, especially my personal favorite, Cryptograms.

  • 4: Portishead - Third
    Excellent electronic/trip-hop. Sucks you into the music, where you go from there is up to you...

  • 5: Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
    Sweeping, earthly "indie" folk.
    Favorite song: "Your Protector". One of the best songs of the year.

  • 6: Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping
    Kevin Barnes' follow-up to Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? may not live up to the 2007 album's glory, but it is an interesting, sometimes abstract work of psychedelic pop. Barnes and the gang often include several short compositions in every one of the album's 15 eclectic songs; each song jumps about. A sexual, playful, personal album (e.g. the chorus "When we get together/It's always hot magic" from "Wicked Wisdom"; "We can do it softcore if you want/But you should know I take it both ways" in "For Our Elegant Caste"; and plenty of others), Skeletal Lamping has its intelligent moments too ("Technology makes such an ugly mother" in "Mingusings"), though it is in no way as clever as Hissing Fauna. Of Montreal is known for churning out quirky neo-psychedelia and while Skeletal Lamping is a fine piece of work, I hope to see another album on par with Hissing Fauna within the next few years.
    Favorite song: "Women's Studies Victims".

  • 7: No Age - Nouns
    An intense, experimental-ish rock album.

  • 8: Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer

  • 9: Sigur Rós - Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust
    Beautiful music; I can't think of anything more perfect to listen to as I fall into a dreamy, peaceful state.

  • 10 (tied): Beck - Modern Guilt
    Some people weren't pleased with Beck about this album, I, however, view it as a solid entry out of this year's top albums.

  • 10 (tied): Girl Talk - Feed the Animals
    High-speed pop. I have to be in the right mood to listen to Girl Talk, the stage name of Gregg Gillis. But when I am in an upbeat mood, ready to be bombarded with little snippets of pop, hip-hop, and whatever else Gillis decides to mix into his mashups, Girl Talk is a thrill to listen to. The music is not serious; its just a blend of some of the more popular beats ridin' the airwaves, except Gillis is able to make them sound good. If the average poppy pop song has 20 seconds of catchy beats, Gillis fishes those 20 seconds out and mixes it with complementary beats. Listen and you'll understand.

    Honorable mentions: the albums that just barely made the top 10
  • The Dodos - Visiter

  • Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs

  • Beach House - Devotion
    Dream pop for those quiet afternoons.

  • The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
    Darn good rock & roll. Saw these guys in concert over the summer.

  • Cold War Kids - Loyalty to Loyalty
    I personally don't enjoy this album as much as 2006's Robbers & Cowards, but Loyalty to Loyalty is a decent album. Cold War Kids' sophomore work is an evolution of the band's soulful tunes, but I do have greater expectations for them in the future.

    To see all major music magazines' top album lists, see the Metacritic best of 2008 page.

    Currently, my two favorite musical artists are Elliott Smith and The National, followed by TV on the Radio (a more recent love) and Radiohead (a long-time favorite).
    If you're interested in what I've been listening to lately, feel free to check out my profile.

  • Monday, 29 December 2008

    Best movies of 2008

    The two best movies I've seen in theaters this year are Milk, Gus Van Sant's incredible movie covering the life of America's first openly gay major politician, San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk, and In Bruges, an under-appreciated dark comedy (just the way I like 'em). If you don't feel something, I mean really feel something after seeing Milk, there must be something wrong with you.

    Three other movies out or soon-to-be-out in theaters I really want to see are Revolutionary Road, Doubt, and Slumdog Millionaire; and I'll have to rent Man on Wire, among others, on DVD.

    Within the comfort of my own home I was also treated to some fine cinema. The epic Godfather, The Departed, the deeply disturbing but funny Dr. Strangelove (if you haven't seen it, see it), the haunting Vietnam war tale (based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness) Apocalypse Now, P.T. Anderson's Magnolia, and Fellini's 8 1/2 have all made it onto my list of all-time best movies, along with the two mentioned at the beginning of the post.

    Best of '08

    2008 has been a momentous year for me personally. I have matured a good amount, learned many new things, cemented new friendships, and discovered a great amount of music. Over the next few days, dear readers, I will be posting my own end-of-the-year lists: The best I have read, watched, listened to, and found this year...

    Also see the New Yorker's Year in Review and The New York Times' Year in Ideas.

    Thursday, 11 December 2008

    Bush reverses 35 years of endangered species protection... order to help his bigwig pals — concerned only with their money — who have gained from the past eight years of environmental injustice. Pulling America backwards, thanks George W!


    Just six weeks before President-elect Barack Obama takes office, the Bush administration issued revised endangered species regulations Thursday to reduce the input of federal scientists and to block the law from being used to fight global warming.

    The changes, which will go into effect in about 30 days, were completed in just four months. But they could take Obama much longer to reverse.

    They will eliminate some of the mandatory, independent reviews that government scientists have performed for 35 years on dams, power plants, timber sales and other projects, a step that developers and other federal agencies have blamed for delays and cost increases.

    The rules also prohibit federal agencies from evaluating the effect on endangered species and the places they live from a project's contribution to increased global warming.

    Bush is trying to maximize the damage he does to America during his last days in office (mostly to the environment, but also abortion/employment rights).

    From a must read Rolling Stone article:
    "It's what we've seen for Bush's whole tenure, only accelerated," says Gary Bass, executive director of the nonpartisan group OMB Watch. "They're using regulation to cement their deregulatory mind-set, which puts corporate interests above public interests."

    While every modern president has implemented last-minute regulations, Bush is rolling them out at a record pace — nearly twice as many as Clinton, and five times more than Reagan. "The administration is handing out final favors to its friends," says Véronique de Rugy, a scholar at George Mason University who has tracked six decades of midnight regulations. "They couldn't do it earlier — there would have been too many political repercussions. But with the Republicans having lost seats in Congress and the presidency changing parties, Bush has nothing left to lose."

    Easily the worst president in the past 100 years — yes, it's my personal opinion that Bush has had a more destructive reign than recent blunders like Reagan and Nixon. One hopes there will be no worse leaders in this century.

    Just imagine folks — in less than a month and a half we'll have a new president with a reasonably level head! It's going to feel good.

    I expect President-elect Obama not only to reverse these horrendous last-minute executive actions by Bush, but also to move America forward in terms of environmental regulation. Hopefully the government will begin to protect what needs protecting (the poor, the environment) instead of powerful business interests who already hold far too much sway. Hopefully the value of what can not be replaced (including human lives) will overtake the value of a dollar. One can only hope.

    Wednesday, 3 December 2008

    Bush's pushes through last-minute anti-abortion plan

    A friend pointed this out to me today:

    A last-minute Bush administration plan to grant sweeping new protections to health care providers who oppose abortion and other procedures on religious or moral grounds has provoked a torrent of objections, including a strenuous protest from the government agency that enforces job discrimination laws.

    The proposed rule would prohibit recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to perform or to assist in the performance of abortions or sterilization procedures because of their “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

    It would also prevent hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices and drugstores from requiring employees with religious or moral objections to “assist in the performance of any part of a health service program or research activity” financed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

    But three officials from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, including its legal counsel, whom President Bush appointed, said the proposal would overturn 40 years of civil rights law prohibiting job discrimination based on religion.

    There are so many things wrong with this, as is common with orders coming out of the Oval Office in these Bush years. Often things like this go unnoticed; there really isn't much in the media on this abortion ruling.

    Religion should not get in the way of healthcare, and of the patient's personal choice. In addition, last time I checked the government's role didn't include endorsing job discrimination. In effect the administration is trying to withhold funds from health institutions who don't let their employees' views on abortion get in the way of them doing their jobs. Another step backwards for a woman's right over her body fueled by the Catholic church and an ultra-conservative executive.

    Monday, 1 December 2008

    The dreaded recession, one year on

    At last, the recession is made 'official'; officially the US economy has been in recession for a whole year.

    Forbes reports:

    The keeper of the business cycle books, the National Bureau of Economic Research, announced Monday what economists have been saying for a long time--this is a recession. And, NBER says, it's been a recession since December of 2007.

    The economic crisis is putting a stranglehold on the global economy in general and the American economy specifically, but I may just have to verbally assault the next person who compares it to the Great Depression. What we're looking at is NOT the Great Depression, but at the same time it's no temporary (i.e. a few months) downturn either.

    And while we're all looking after our money and jobs, let's also keep the environment in mind. It's priceless. Even if you're constrained to thinking in terms of money, imagine the long-term economic devastation from lost of usable soil, pollution, lost of forestry, etc. not to mention global warming.

    People are stupid

    Well, we already knew that, but still...


    • 1. Britney Spears
    • 2. WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment)
    • 3. Barack Obama
    • 4. Miley Cyrus
    • 5. "RuneScape"
    • 6. Jessica Alba
    • 7. "Naruto"
    • 8. Lindsay Lohan
    • 9. Angelina Jolie
    • 10. American Idol

    (I imagine Google's looks about the same.)

    Sunday, 30 November 2008

    A note

    About a week ago I got back from a five-day backpacking trip in the snowy wilderness of Pennsylvania. It was my first experience being outside for an extended period of time without technology, only with the members of my group, sleeping under a plastic tarp. It was an interesting, if sometimes challenging, ordeal and it opened my eyes even more to the corruption and worthlessness of our modern society. My frustration has increased with the coming of the 'Holiday season' (one month spent focusing on one day?), a time of mass consumption and materialism.

    On a lighter note, I will be returning to 2006/07 post levels soon. I'm going through a very busy period in my life.

    Hope all my American readers had an exceptional Thanksgiving.


    Thursday, 13 November 2008

    John Leonard, RIP

    John Leonard, one of my favorite book reviewers and certainly one of the best out there, passed away Wednesday last week. Although I wasn't alive to enjoy his reign as editor at the New York Review of Books, but I do read his monthly column in Harper's.

    This is a man I'll miss dearly.

    Still-President says 'Don't fight the system!'

    BBC News:

    US President George W Bush has admitted the financial system needs reforming, but insists the credit crunch was not a failure of the free-market system.

    Speaking in New York, Mr Bush said that while financial markets did need some new regulation and more transparency, free trade should not be restricted.
    Yet he said state action was not a "cure-all", and what was now needed was a reform of the global economy "without trying to re-invent the system".

    As readers know, I'm quite ambivalent about the free-market system that represents the economic status quo, most of all in countries like the US, many of my views tending to be on the negative side of things. I do think that the sham we pass off as 'free trade' between developed countries and less developed ones needs to stop. It's not fair if African nations aren't allowed to have food subsidies yet their American and European trading partners pump massive amounts of government money into local agriculture.

    As far as the system in general goes, the Reagan era of deregulation has caught up with us (as has the great shift away from train transport that also occurred under his reign).

    There'll be a meeting consisting of leaders from the major world economies this weekend in Washington, the topic of course being the current global financial instability.

    Tuesday, 4 November 2008

    America votes 2008: election update 6

    The big picture: what we have seen so far

  • The GOP has lost its reign over America's suburbs.

  • The youth vote had quite an effect on this election, with wide support of Obama.

  • Everyone seems to have forgotten about the war in Iraq. Newsflash: it's still going on.

  • We'll still have to wait and see about the Democratic balance in the Senate.

  • Not that everyone doesn't already know this, but Americans have now voted in the first non-white president. Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president on 20 January 2009.


    CNN projects Barack Obama has won the 2008 presidential election.

    Now three words I am very proud to say: President-elect Obama. This is an America I can be proud of.

    I am perfectly ecstatic.

    Hope is alive, even in a political cynic like me.

    America votes 2008: election update 5

  • CNN projects Ohio for Obama. Historically, there has never been a Republican voted into the Oval Office who didn't win Ohio. This is yet another nail in the McCain coffin. McCain is under-performing Bush's 2004 results in most areas around the nation.

  • So far, Obama has been able to deliver votes that went to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, many of them being blue-collar (e.g. in Pennsylvania).

  • For a nice personal look at the man who should be the next US president, see this Washington Post article.

  • For all those poll-hunters out there...

    If you're looking for the most recent polls of this election, not that it matters too much when actual election results are streaming in, see RealClearPolitics.

    America votes 2008: election update 4

  • So far, the Democrats already have four Senatorial pickups. Let's hope they reach that magic number of 60 Senate seats.

  • It looks like Obama will carry Florida and its 27 electoral votes. I'm a bit surprised the popular vote margin is so narrow at the moment, but the night is still young, and we've still got California and New York...

  • Exit polls (read about them here) have shown Americans aren't really concerned with race, and those who were... voted Obama. Age, on the other hand, is of greater concern to the American public, and, as we all know, McCain is one of the older presidential candidates in America's history.

  • At last, perhaps America's international reputation can be restored after eight years of consistent tarnishing. Tonight's the night.

  • America votes 2008: election update 3

    It's all about those southern Senate seats...

  • Republican Elizabeth Dole — a politician I have particular disdain for — has lost her Senate seat in North Carolina, giving the Democrats another win. As an analyst on CNN noted, this is a major change: the holder of Dole's seat before she was elected? Ultra-conservative bigot Jesse Helms.

  • The race in Georgia is looking competitive, with the potential for a Democratic win there.

  • Kentucky remains up in the air.

    15 states' polls will be closing in one minute. Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida have still not been definitively called (Ohio results are coming in very slowly).

  • America votes 2008: election update 2

    As predicted by recent polls, CNN projects Barack Obama has won Pennsylvania. Not too big of a surprise, but a huge setback for the McCain campaign, which insisted it was doing well in the state. Pennsylvania is a must-win this year on the path to the presidency...

    Going by CNN's numbers, only 168 electoral votes to go until Obama has the 270 necessary to claim the presidency.

    America votes 2008: election update 1

    Election results are flowing in; Obama's looking fairly strong. For instance, Obama's competitive in the traditional red-state of Indiana, which Bush won by a wide margin in 2004.

    There's also a chance Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, the Senate's most senior Republican (i.e. the minority leader) will lose his seat. A very interesting night for the Democrats, that's for sure.

    Keep in mind there are 35 Senate seats up for grabs, as well as the entire 435-seat House of Representatives.

    Democratic prospects for the election

    Thanks to the financial crisis over the past month and a half, the Democrats now have a chance to get a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, so initiatives from the House can finally be passed and progressive objectives have a chance of being accomplished. To grab this 60th Senate seat, the Dems need to pull it through in a red state like Kentucky, Georgia, or Mississippi.

    Meanwhile, the Republicans re-toning message to convince voters that there needs to be a "break" against the Democratic influx in Washington, but its the GOP's own fault. There are plenty of examples, even in the south, of congressional seats to be won from conservatives by Democrats thanks to Obama's popularity. As a result of this election, the GOP may be thrown back to pre-1994 days. The good: more can be done in Congress. The bad: less checks within the government (assuming Obama wins).

    The many attacks of the McCain campaign

    "If you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters." From Sen. Barack Obama's DNC speech.

  • McCain is the attack candidate. His whole message is based upon attacking his opponent, namely the fact he'll raise your taxes! (His plan may not be working so well, however. Republicans finally losing tax policy debate? Is the era of cut! cut! cut! finally over?)

  • According to the McCain campaign small towns = real America. Lately, Palin has dished out plenty of veiled insults on basically everyone in urban areas. Oddly enough, hmm, only about 15% of Americans live in these idyllic "small towns". We're going through another spell of questioning patriotism and how "American" one is (even as 9/11 and national security, as well as immigration, which also brought up the "American" question, are put on the back burner because of the financial crisis).

  • McCain's ads focus on Palin almost as much as the actual candidate for the presidency, and the GOP is giving her a prime spotlight. Meanwhile, Palin has even attacked Obama's volunteering work as a community organizer and such trivial things as his loose connection to a Palestinian scholar and a '60s extremist (Ayers). And what has she accomplished? Even the current mayor of Wasilla herself said the city provides essentially no resources for its residents (most things being taken care of by the state government).

  • Ironic that the Republican whose pockets are lined with money from the oil lobby accuses his opponent in an attack advertisement of not supporting alternative energy. Is McCain delusional enough to seriously think he's the green candidate?

  • Paul Krugman wrote an excellent op-ed piece on campaign dishonesty back in September.

    McCain: For voters who think real change is just too darn risky!

  • Today's the day!

    After all these years of waiting, it all comes down to this one day: election day 2008. The turnout is high, as expected; let's hope Obama is voted in as the next president of the United States. Get out and vote if you haven't already!

    Saturday, 1 November 2008

    Electoral excitement!

    In just a few days (can't wait until Tuesday!), Barack Obama should win the race for the American presidency. National polls show him comfortably ahead his rival, who grows increasingly desperate — and right-wing. That's not to say this election is won, of course. Anything can happen. But if one just tinkers with the electoral map one finds a McCain victory at this point is incredibly unlikely. McCain asserts he can win, however, even if he carries Ohio (there's a chance) and Pennsylvania (Obama's looking fairly strong there), as well as most all of the toss-ups, including Florida, Obama still wins by over 30 electoral votes! Even if we then give McCain North Carolina Obama carries the election. To win, McCain would not only have to pick up every toss-up state, but grab some of those big states leaning towards Obama. It's possible, but certainly not as likely as the McCain campaign would like people to think

    Tuesday, 28 October 2008

    One week until Obama hopefully wins...

    Around a week from now, results from the election of America's next commander-in-chief will be coming in, election day being 4 November. At the moment, Obama has a decent lead over McCain (roughly a 7 percentage point spread) in the polls, but the election should be close. Take a look at a nationwide electoral projection map here.

    Wednesday, 22 October 2008

    How a 'plumber' named 'Joe' shook up the election

    His first name isn't actually Joe. He isn't a valid plumber. And he still has back-taxes to pay.

    And yet, he has become the recent hero of the McCain campaign (frighteningly backwards economic plan and all) since his name came up in last weeks debate. Not only that, he has helped bolster his ratings in major swing states like Ohio. The media is all over him, even though he's effectively a non-story.
    Joe the plumber: one of the most appalling political ploys of this election season (up there with the Obama-Ayers connection).

    If there's one thing Americans can't stand, it's taxes. Americans have some of the lowest income taxes in the developed world, and yet, even when we've got a burgeoning deficit and a war to pay for, the thought of raising taxes if only for a few is painful, and, for some, unpatriotic. Because it's unpatriotic to give a slice of your — to be fair — well-earned income to your government.

    Heaven forbid the developed country with the greatest income inequality — that's America, folks — tries to bridge the gap with a more fair, graduated tax system that doesn't benefit the wealthy, using the bogus 'trickle-down' claim as an excuse for unfair taxes.

    So let's all feel sympathy for a man in the top 4% income bracket ($250,000 per year) who will feel a slight pinch in taxes, in fact, since were fighting one of the most expensive wars in modern history and facing a massive recession, lets give him a tax BREAK. That makes economic sense. Not like he hasn't already gotten a massive one under the Bush administration.

    The news media deserves some blame too. Although there has been some skepticism, the outrageous amount of coverage is unwarranted and largely spreads the propaganda the McCain campaign itself is sending out into the mainstream.

    Oh, and, for the record Obama was correct in his statement about small business taxes that started this mess. As 'Joe' plans to campaign across America with McCain, warning the masses about the 'socialist' radicalism a fairer tax system would bring more and more ACTUAL "average Joes" are feeling the pinch of the current economic crisis. If only people like Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher and Sarah Palin could be less greedy and actually give a damn about their own country's economic health instead of accusing their fellow Americans of being unpatriotic.

    If American politics has been reduced to feeling sympathy for a man — an invention of the McCain campaign — who has already received more tax breaks than is healthy for this country's economy, then this really isn't the America I want to live in.

    Sunday, 5 October 2008

    Going door-to-door for Obama

    I canvassed for the first time today. Though it was just a few hours of my day, canvassing gave me a sense of fulfillment. When I got back home and looked at the polls, there was good news. Obama's pushing on as strong as ever now that the nation can fully see Palin for who she is. Hopefully Obama can maintain this lead when election day comes, and we can finally have a competent person in the Oval Office. And, for what it's worth, I plan on canvassing more next weekend and making calls during the week.

    If you're looking to volunteer for the Obama/Biden campaign, get involved in more ways than one by checking out the campaign website.

    Meanwhile, I must get back to these college applications.

    A look back on China and the Olympics

    August was China's great coming-out party
    As summer ended, China was put in the global limelight. It had been chosen to host the 2008 Summer Olympics years ago, but this was it's time to shine. Expectations were built up; some dashed (political), some realized (Olympic).

    Here are three political thoughts on the PRC that I jotted down as I enjoyed the splendor of the Olympic games:
    The future
    Perhaps even in 30 years China may drift away from one-party rule. China's economic change is moving at a rapid rate, prompting political change (moving much more slowly). China has been opening up over the past few decades, and one imagines this process will accelerate. On the flip side I cannot see the full transition to a multiparty state happening in less than 25 years.

    Since when were the opinions of people protesting for basic freedom irrelevant? The Tiananmen Square massacre gave us a chance to observe the total wrath of the Communist Party in China. Since when were the rights of any person outside of the central party in China respected? In a nation where tens of thousands are employed to control what information one can access on the Internet, freedom is obviously something in short supply.

    Actions abroad
    The Chinese government brought the criticism it has received lately for its foreign policy upon itself. In subverting the rights of its people, causing cultural genocide in Tibet and other areas, degrading the environment to a remarkable extent, and supporting genocidal regimes such as the one in Sudan, and propping up the Burmese junta, the PRC presents itself as one of the most negative actors in the world.

    "Palin is the world’s worst sestina"

    I'd like to refer readers to some poetic fun from The New York Times' book blog.

    So what verse form suits the various candidates best? David Orr, author of the Book Review’s “On Poetry” column, offered this analysis: “Barack Obama is pretty clearly a haiku — quiet, unassuming, easy to underestimate. McCain is probably some species of ballad, especially considering his military background and fondness for ‘Invictus.’ Biden just keeps talking and talking, so he’s a rhopalic poem (each line is one syllable longer than the preceding line). Palin is the world’s worst sestina.”

    Orr gamely attempted an anti-Biden haiku (“Barack Obama/ Such an articulate guy./ Clean, too, am I right?”), but his heart just wasn’t in it. “I think Palin is just inherently funnier than Biden,” he said, before letting it rip with this rather artful three-liner:

    So jobs, they … you know,
    Health care’s really …. it’s — Katie,
    That bridge? I said no.

    Thursday, 2 October 2008

    How much longer can the US remain a superpower?

    Article worth taking a lot at. Takes into account the opinion of many international relations heavyweights.

    American international prestige and internal prosperity has been severely damaged by these past roughly eight years of George Bush as president. This upcoming election is huge. There'll be posts covering the presidential and vice-presidential debates as well as the current financial situation soon.

    Wednesday, 10 September 2008

    Palin: What does the VP do exactly?

    So besides her ludicrous views on a number of issues — from abortion to gays to energy security (Sarah Palin is THE darling of the right right now, hand-pushed by James Dobson to be the VP candidate) — is Palin really up to the job of veep?

    "As for that VP talk all the time, I can't answer until someone answers me. What is it exactly that a VP does every day?" she said just a month ago on CNBC when asked about her chances of being on the ticket.
    "We want to make sure that this VP slot would be fruitful type of position especially for Alaskans and for the kind of things we are trying to accomplish here for the rest of the US."
    (emphasis added)
    So, if she and McCain won, Palin would work for Alaska, but not America, which would be her job? Hmm...

    Palin is also using the fact that she's the governor of one of America's remotest states to say she has foreign policy experience. Now, if one were to say John McCain has foreign policy experience, I'd agree, Joe Biden even more so. But Palin? Really?

    Palin mania!

    Palin was a key figure in 60% of campaign stories in the American news media this past week.

    With the other ticket making most of the news, Obama was a focus in 22% of the stories last week, by far his lowest week of coverage in the general election season. His running mate Joe Biden registered at 2%.

    The extent to which Palin commanded the spotlight last week is clear from the campaign storylines. Together, media narratives about McCain and the convention—including the proceedings themselves, Hurricane Gustav’s impact, McCain’s speech, and George Bush’s role—accounted for 43% of the campaign newshole. Palin themes, including reaction to her selection, her public record, her personal and family life, and the question of sexism—accounted for 45%.

    I guess the McCain-Palin camp can no longer complain (repeatedly) about how the media is against them. Seems everyone is trying to paint themselves as a victim.

    News coverage isn't the only thing McCain has taken from Obama. More and more McCain is pushing himself as the "reform" candidate. Because someone who's voted with the incumbent president 90-some percent of the time is obviously a Washington outsider. Oddly enough — considering he's pushing for "change" and all that — McCain has become even more conservative and like the president as the campaign rages on, changing his position and tone on a number of issues. He is less of a maverick now than he was making the president's war speeches for him.

    Thursday, 28 August 2008

    The DNC

    Obama just made an incredible speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. I'm glad he chose the experienced Joe Biden as his vice presidential candidate.

    More posts soon, I promise. I have been very busy lately.

    Saturday, 23 August 2008

    Pakistan takes a turn -- in the right direction?

    A little while ago Pakistani dictator Musharraf was forced to step down. Now the party formerly led by Benazir Bhutto looks set to instal the next leader of the unstable South ASian nation. Remember this is a country with nuclear weapons. Pakistan probably harbos more members of international terroist groups than any other nation, the northern region bordering Afghanistan is the biggest trouble spot. Will Pakistan fall into disarray or will a new democratic government bring peace and stability to this country?

    Hey, at least old Hosni is out of the building!

    Obama picks biden as VP

    Biden was my favorite candidates for the vice presidency, so I am pleased Obama chose him. He posses experience and can court the white working class voting bloc. Sen. Biden has experience, especially in foreign policy matters, and is willing to reach across party lines. It's looking like the Democratic camp has shaped up over the past couple months. However, what worries me is the constant pandering to religious groups who represent their own interests instead of the welfare of the nation. It will be interesting to see how this ticket plays out.

    Breaking news from around the world

  • Tensions have intensified between the Western world and Russia and controversy still reigns over the ceasefire signed between Russia and Georgia. Cold War rhetoric has gone through the roof.
  • (Former) President Musharraf of Pakistan is no longer the leader. At last.

    More soon!

  • Monday, 11 August 2008

    Russia trying to topple Georgia's government?

    It's a complicated situation in South Ossetia. Russia's fighting because she thinks some of her people are being oppressed in South Ossetia. Georgia is fighting to attempt to regain control of the region. The tensions are intensified because the two nations have been sabre-rattling for quite some time now. Questionable actions by the Georgian government have not helped. Russia's trying to act as regional police, but it's coming out looking like a regional bully.

    Russia is escalating the conflict in the autonomous region of South Ossetia in Georgia, and moving into other parts of the former Soviet republic as well as the rest of the world's trying to get the two countries to cool things down.

    Moscow said troops had raided the town of Senaki to destroy a military base before leaving again.

    Georgia said Russian troops had also pushed into Georgia from South Ossetia itself, approaching the town of Gori.

    The US president strongly criticised Russia, saying it might be planning to depose the Georgian government.

    Correspondents say it was some of the strongest US language about Russia in years.

    President Bush said he had talked to Russian Prime Minister Putin sometime around the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

    Russia and Georgia have been going at it for years. It's gotten worse as of late. One only hopes a full-scale war can be averted.

    Thursday, 7 August 2008

    Here come the Olympics!

    Featuring China's blatant disregard for the basic rights of man!

    Just one more day until the '08 games begin.

    Saturday, 19 July 2008

    Early flip-flops in '08 election campaign

    It's no secret that during the primary season, candidates pander towards the more extreme ends of their parties. However, as the campaign progresses, they focus on the center and swing votes, having already courted their own unique party factions. Obama is even trying to steal the religious vote by proposing new faith-based initiatives — an appalling move in my view, counter-intuitive even. While it's good he isn't trying to isolate religious voters, especially in swing-states like my (current) home state of Ohio, I'm worried enough about separation of church and state after this Bible-thumping Bush administration.

    I'm sure you all have also heard about Obama's shunning of public financing for his campaign, going back on an earlier statement. Will this hurt his image as a government reformer? Read more here.

    Thursday, 10 July 2008

    Coral reef inhabitants face extinction

    Some of the most diverse animals on the planet may soon disappear. Coral reefs and their inhabitants are being destroyed at an alarming rate, as rare ocean wildlife is already being harmed and fish supplies are dwindling.

    A third of the world's reef-building coral species are facing extinction.

    That is the stark conclusion from the first global study to assess the extinction risks of corals.

    Writing in the journal Science, researchers say climate change, coastal development, overfishing, and pollution are the major threats.

    The economic value of the world's reefs has been estimated at over $30bn (£15bn) per year, through tourism, fisheries and coastal protection.

    "The picture is frightening," said Alex Rogers from the Zoological Society of London, one of 39 scientists involved in the assessment.

    Friday, 4 July 2008

    Back home

    My plane arrived yesterday from Heathrow, and I'm missing London already! Be on the lookout for new posts...

    Thursday, 19 June 2008

    Lack of confidence in world leaders (but is there hope?)

    Who's the best world leader?
    Well, if UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is counted, then he's the world leader with the highest confidence rating — 35% — according to a new study in conjunction with the University of Maryland. As Newsweek reports,

    On average, only 23 percent of foreign respondents express "a lot of " or "some" confidence in Bush, and only Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does worse (at 22). ... Then comes [Russian President[ Putin at 32 percent, [UK Prime Minister] Brown at 30, [Chinese President] Hu Jintao at 28 and France's Nicolas Sarkozy at 26. The results aren't much different if you tally them country by country: in only two states (Nigeria and India) do a majority of people express at least some confidence in Bush. Putin and Hu each come out ahead in just five nations, and Brown in just six.

    Meanwhile, respondents from most countries in a separate Pew study seem to adore US presidential candidate Barack Obama. Let's hope that, come November, most of America will think the same of him.

    Wednesday, 18 June 2008

    Say no to offshore drilling

    In a move of populist pandering in an age of high gas prices, President George W. Bush...

    has called on Congress to end a 27-year ban on drilling for oil in US coastal waters, to reduce dependence on imports.

    We should not greatly endanger the environment when we should be looking for real solutions to the energy crisis. Offshore drilling -- like the loosening of gas taxes, or increased oil production -- is not a long-term solution. It will only make Americans more dependent on oil, and more dependent on something that destroys the environment in many more ways than one.

    John McCain has made a complete U-turn on his offshore drilling policy, now following Bush in saying he supports it. His electoral opponent Barack Obama opposes both offshore drilling and the opening of ANWAR in Alaska.
    Senator Obama dismissed Mr McCain's call as "political posturing" that would not bring down petrol prices and could endanger the country's coastal environment.

    America's coastal environments have already been put in enough danger as the government takes a step back from regulating polluting industries. We have seen the vital role the coastal environment plays in protecting against hurricanes (New Orleans' natural defenses were down when Katrina hit) to soaking up what we pollute.

    We shouldn't revert to old policies of drill-and-spill. I fail to see how this Republican ploy will do anything but hurt the United States in the long term. Isn't it time we moved beyond oil anyways?


    Hey readers, sorry I haven't posted in a while. I will try to squeeze in a few posts in the coming days, but on Friday I leave for a two week trip to London. Expect July and August to be good post months!

    Firefox 3 released!

    The newest version of Firefox is out. Go get it (8 million people already have) — and set a world record!

    Tuesday, 3 June 2008

    Meet the next Democratic presidental nominee

    Barack Obama!

    According to CNN, Obama has passed the threshold of 2,118 delegates required for the nomination (no surprise as many superdelegates switch over). While Hillary Clinton says she will not make a final campaign decision tonight, it is clear her end has come. However, she mentioned recently that she is willing to be Obama's vice presidential candidate.

    This should end months of fracture in the Democratic Party between these two heavyweights. Obama will have to immediately jump into the race and Clinton and Obama supporters will have to get over their differences to beat John McCain in November. We cannot have effectively four more years of Bush-like foreign policy.

    The South Dakota and Montana primaries are still ongoing, with Clinton looking to win the former while Obama takes Montana.

    One more thing: For all those on the far right screeching that Obama is a liberal socialist, he's not. He is, at most, a left-leaning moderate. I only wish he was more liberal; but, alas, in a country like America, "liberal" is a dirty word and the right dominates more than its fair share of the mainstream.

    P.S. The timestamp should be 10:14 PM not 9:14. Blogger has issues with DST.

    Monday, 2 June 2008

    Who gives a damn about what McClellan has to say?

    While McClellan is cashing in on his new tell-all book, which tells us nothing new by a man who didn't shape Bush administration policy in any way but merely communicated it, Christipher Hitchens points us towards a book by former White House policymaker Douglas Feith...

    Sunday, 25 May 2008

    Israel and Syria: Talking at last

    A debate is brewing about diplomatic negotiations between Syria and Israel, who are technically still at war. In this situation, it's quite hard to see how talks could hurt. However the White House's policy on 'no talks with the enemy (lest we appease them)' seems to contradict its Mideast ally's approach.


    Israel, America’s staunchest ally in the Middle East, just became the latest example of a country that has decided it is better to deal with its foes than to ignore them.

    The announcement that Israel has entered into comprehensive peace talks with Syria is at odds with the course counseled by the Bush administration, which initially opposed such talks in private conversations with Israelis, according to Israeli and American officials.
    But in many ways, the Bush administration’s own policies appear to be at odds with his thesis.

    Isn't this the same administration that took part in talks (albeit delayed ones) that resulted in the ongoing denuclearization of the North Korean state?

    Saturday, 24 May 2008

    Women and the Bible (part 4)

    As the Protestant reformer Martin Luther once commented, "If they [women] become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth, that's why they are there." To be fair, many of the viewpoints expressed up to this point have been those of fundamentalists. After all, a new, modern Christianity cannot just interpret the Bible, it must bring a sense of fairness so it is not seen as an outdated an backwards faith (which is the truth any way one spins it). Egalitarians and liberals, trying to bring their faith into the modern age, say women do have rights; there are even some Christian feminists! But how can there be a feminist whose faith rests upon the words of a book contrary to their sole beliefs? So-called moderates can be just as bad as their extremist counterparts, strongly cherry-picking Biblical passages, liberally quoting them, ignoring the contradictions elsewhere in the Holy Book. That's not to say all modern Christian orginizations recognize women as equal. The Roman Catholic church — the world's largest religious body at 1 billion members and counting — still doesn't let women perform any official religious duties — in other words, they cant be reverends, bishops, etc. Keep in mind, though, that this is the same religious entity that refuses to acknowledge the link between condoms and AIDS prevention, or the scientific theory of evolution (the Vatican is not alone in its views).

    Sunday, 18 May 2008

    Italy's government encourages racism

    It seems that European xenophobia is not limited to people from predominately-Muslim countries...

    Sixty-eight per cent of Italians, fuelled by often inflammatory attacks by the new rightwing government, want to see all of the country's 150,000 Gypsies, many of them Italian citizens, expelled, according to an opinion poll.

    The survey, published as mobs in Naples burned down Gypsy camps this week, revealed that the majority also wanted all Gypsy camps in Italy to be demolished .

    About 70,000 Gypsies in Italy hold Italian passports, including about 30,000 descended from 15th-century Gypsy settlers in the country. The remainder have arrived since, many fleeing the Balkans during the 1990s.
    In a second poll, 81% of Italian respondents said they found all Gypsies, Romanian or not, "barely likeable or not likeable at all", a greater number than the 64% who said they felt the same way about non-Gypsy Romanians.

    Many Gypsies are as entitled legally to live in Italy as 'ethnic' Italians, making this extreme xenophobia and racism all the more alarming. The government has made immigration rules harsher as it takes a swing to the right.

    Italy will only get worse under its reelected, corrupt media-mogul leader Silvio Berlusconi.

    Thursday, 15 May 2008

    The new 'appeasement' controversy

    Make diplomacy, not war
    President Bush made an attack on Barack Obama and other Democrats in a speech in the Israeli parliament.

    The president, at Israel's 60th anniversary celebration in Jerusalem, suggested that some Democrats were acting in the same way some Western leaders did when they appeased Hitler in the runup to World War II.

    Those ready to talk to hostile regimes are not cowardly appeasers; they are actually courageous. Anyone can start a war (see George W. Bush), but it takes someone with diplomatic tact to keep the peace. Diplomacy, and thus engaged discussions, is required to do so. This is one of many reasons Obama is better-suited for the Oval Office than the incumbent officeholder. The Bush administration is responding to Iran's saber-rattling just the way Iran wants them to respond: with more saber-rattling. This makes war a greater possibility and raises tensions on both sides. It's time for both sides to back down.

    It is not 'appeasement' to talk to the enemy, and in fact that word has become all-too-dirty since the appeasement of Hitler before the Second World War. To label everyone who does not support your every whim an 'enemy' is also a dangerous move this administration has chosen to take at a time where the world needs more peace, not more hostility.

    The Republicans' need to smear Obama on foreign policy lies not only on their own warped views of the world, but also their insecurity as America is increasingly Democratic (by a 10% margin). Furthermore, Bush's speech was entirely inappropriate as it was in the Israeli Knesset. Is Bush trying to prove to the world we are the world's most polarized nation when he makes a veiled attack in his speech, or what? Hillary Clinton, Obama's competitor for the Democratic presidential candidacy, and looking more like she belongs on the other side of the aisle than ever, has also struck low blows, criticizing Obama's position on diplomacy with countries like Iran.

    We need a president who's not afraid to talk with the other side.

    Monday, 12 May 2008

    Wishing Israel a happy birthday

    (If only it was a peaceful one.)

    It has been roughly 60 years since the founding of the Zionist state of Israel. Here are a couple articles of note:

  • BBC News - Israel at 60
  • Foreign Policy - Think Again: Israel (subscription required; I'll try to find an alternate link)

    And its nearly impossible to talk about Israel without bringing up the fun topic of Palestine... Is Israel contributing to humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip? You decide!

  • More natural disaster

    China's southwestern Sichuan province was hit by a major earthquake today...

    One of the worst earthquakes in decades struck central China on Monday, killing nearly 9,000 people, trapping about 900 students under the rubble of their school and causing a toxic chemical leak, state media reported.

    The 7.8-magnitude earthquake devastated a hilly region of small cities and towns. The official Xinhua News Agency said 8,533 people died in Sichuan province and more than 200 others were killed in three other provinces and the mega-city of Chongqing.

    The death toll is likely to break 10,000.

    The Chinese government has actually done a fairly good job responding to the post-earthquake humanitarian needs of its people. Conveniently trembles from the quake were felt in Beijing, so the government could not even attempt to mask the damage this earthquake has brought (a 1976 earthquake killed hundreds of thousands; the government attempted to cover it up).

    Thursday, 8 May 2008

    The tale of John McCain and his crazy reverend

    With all the over-hyped fury over Obama's pastor, you'd think McCain's even more insane 'spiritual guide' would make more headlines...

    You may have heard of Rev. John Hagee, the McCain supporter who said God created Hurricane Katrina to punish New Orleans for its homosexual "sins." Well now meet Rev. Rod Parsley, the televangelist megachurch pastor from Ohio who hates Islam. According to David Corn of Mother Jones, Parsley has called on Christians to wage war against Islam, which he considers to be a "false religion." In the past, Parsley has also railed against the separation of church and state, homosexuals, and abortion rights, comparing Planned Parenthood to Nazis.

    So much for freedom of religion. This is a man who wants to see all other religions but his destroyed. Interestingly enough, Obama denounced Jeremiah Wright; McCain hasn't even dropped the endorsement of Rev. Parsley. As far as I'm concerned, this Wright business has gone vastly overboard, politically speaking and considering the massive coverage its gotten over the past couple months.

    Monday, 5 May 2008

    Burma gets hit, hard

    As if enough bad things haven't already happened to the Burmese people...

    BBC News

    More than 10,000 people were killed in a devastating cyclone that hit western Burma on Saturday, Foreign Minister Nyan Win has said on state TV.

    This is one of the worst storms of its kind in years.

    With disasters like this, the death toll usually rises rapidly. From 350 Saturday to 2,000 on Sunday then 10,000 today. It may continue to rise as more evidence of the cyclone's destruction is found. If only the Burmese government didn't block large amounts of aid meant to assist the disaster-ravaged people within its borders. It is also preventing people who aim to survey the effects of Cyclone Nargis from coming to Burma (aka Myanmar).

    Sunday, 4 May 2008

    McCain: Four more years of Bush?

    With the two senators on the Democratic side still duking it out for the presidental nomination, John McCain has been trying to capitalize on the rift within the Democratic party, with his own Republican nomination already secured.

    McCain shows no sign of straying from Bush's path on the economy and the Iraq war — two of the biggest issues facing America today. He is sure to continue the current administration's disastrous policies at home and abroad, and has put forth no plan to combat poverty or the health care crisis. Not even counting Iraq (where the US may maintain presence for 100-plus years, according to McCain), his foreign policy plans are delusional. Of course, McCain shows vastly better leadership skills than the current president, and indeed would be better than the status quo, but that's not good enough. In brief, McCain is a panderer; he panders to the extreme right of the United States, an ideological group that has run this country into the ground with its extremist and irrational views.

    Whichever Democrat comes up on top — be it Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama — they will most certainly be better for this country than the GOP's nominee.

    Monday, 28 April 2008

    Women and the Bible (part 3)

    The very notion of women being vastly inferior goes against all our Enlightenment values — equality, fairness, freedom! I find it astounding that such an antiquated religion that calls for suppression of freedoms seen only in states like North Korea is the most popular faith on the planet. Do these professed Jesus-lovers even know what their book says? No, it does not preach peace and happiness, but submission and barbaric violence — specifically towards women — even by biblical heros! 'God' only knows how far back the mass belief in Christianity has pushed not only equal rights for women, but for other groups (e.g. gays, blacks). Just the fact that the world's first human was a man, and that the first woman was made from one of his ribs sets the stage for the inferiority of women.

    Sunday, 27 April 2008

    The MSM and the race for the White House

    Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards, penned a good op-ed in the New York Times today examining the absurdity of the media coverage in the 2008 presidential race. For instance, while we know Obama's bowling score, many nothing of his health-care plan. Edwards does not blame the mainstream press for the failure of her husband's campaign, but does fault it for ignoring candidates on both sides, such as Biden and Dodd for the Dems and Brownback for the GOP. As the article says,

    I’m not the only one who noticed this shallow news coverage. A report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy found that during the early months of the 2008 presidential campaign, 63 percent of the campaign stories focused on political strategy while only 15 percent discussed the candidates’ ideas and proposals.

    Wednesday, 23 April 2008

    No we can't!

    Poor Obama. Looks like Hillary stole away with a double-digit lead in Pennsylvana after all. The race for the Democratic nomination will continue until the convention this summer. (PA primary results.)

    Tuesday, 22 April 2008

    Happy Earth Day

    Yes, yes — today is the day hippies rejoice and we ponder what our malevolent human activities are doing to ruin the planet we inhabit. Happy Earth Day everyone!

    Monday, 21 April 2008

    Eco-friendly tip: Use less water

    Heres an article from the Independent reminding you that every purchase you make affects someone, somehow — especially in an environmental sense. No, this doesn't concern greenhouse gas emissions, but something much simpler: water.

    The concept of water footprints – or "virtual water" – will tell consumers the amount of precious H2O that has been used in the manufacture of products they buy. As with carbon footprints, a "virtual water" figure will indicate the extent to which a particular product has cost the earth. And, as with carbon footprints, the message is clear: less is better.

    A new website run by the University of Twente in the Netherlands,, gives ethically minded consumers a chance to work out the hidden implications of their shopping habits.
    Though it covers more than two-thirds of the earth's surface, water has never been more precious. An influential UN report published in 2003 predicted severe water shortages would affect 4 billion people by 2050, adding that 40 per cent of the world's population did not have access to adequate sanitation facilities.

    The most effective method to combat the wasting of water? Use common sense. You don't even have to buy less (although two showers a day may be excessive). Recycling and conservation are, as always, the best things to do for the environment.

    Water is already proving to be a global problem. The combination of global warming and overuse of water have made the need for drinking water one of the primary issues of our day, affecting especially those in developing countries.

    Tuesday, 15 April 2008

    A 'bitter' debate

    For those who haven't been following the news, here's the scoop on the 'bitter' controversy:

    At issue are comments he made privately at a fundraiser in San Francisco last Sunday. He was trying to explain his troubles winning over some working-class voters, saying they have become frustrated with economic conditions:

    "It's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

    Both McCain and Clinton have mounted harsh attacks on Obama for his comments, but I must say, I do not disagree with what he said in San Francisco, even if it was a "mistake". Americans are becoming more xenophobic; they are turning more to religion. In fact, as religion has fallen out of favor with many of our European counterparts, Americans have been turning to Jesus in droves. In addition, guns seem to be more popular. These are all factors of working-class and small-town angst, and I don't think Obama should be reprimanded as "elitist" for voicing these views. That being said, Obama's comment was still pretty harsh (John Dickerson attempts to decipher it here).

    Clinton and McCain are sounding awfully alike in their attacks. I'd say more criticism should be placed on Sen. Clinton for her condescending label-throwing.

    More and more I am leaning towards Obama as my preferred candidate. Lucky for him, his comments don't seem to have cost him the uber-important Pennsylvania primary:
    New polls meanwhile suggested that the furor sparked by Obama description of some small town Americans as "bitter" had yet to dent his hopes in Pennsylvania, where votes are cast on April 22, though his rival Hillary Clinton clung to a narrow lead.
    A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll out Tuesday suggested that Obama may have escaped damage among Democrats in Pennsylvania.

    It gave Clinton a lead over Obama of 46 percent to 41, down from double-digit margins in earlier polls, and also had her losing in both Indiana and North Carolina, which both vote next on May 6.

    Sunday, 13 April 2008

    Public discontent with China, and what to do about it

    According to a Zogby poll,

    70% Believe IOC Was Wrong to Award Olympic Games to China

    48% believe U.S. political officials should not attend the opening ceremony due to China's poor human rights record

    Feelings are even stronger in Europe, with the EU Parliament voting in favor of restrictions on attending the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing this summer due not only to China's overall human rights record but to its treatment of demonstrators in Tibet (FREE TIBET!). World leaders such as Britain's Gordon Brown and France's Sarkozy are refusing to attend the opening ceremony, and President Bush has been pressured to do so as well.

    However not all are sure that a boycott would be a good thing.
    71% believe any boycott of the Olympic Games in China by the U.S. would be hypocritical because the U.S. imports so many products from China and retains relatively close diplomatic ties with China that the U.S. has essentially endorsed China’s human rights record.

    I'd say a total boycott of the Olympics would not be a good idea, but national leaders sitting out on the opening ceremony is a strong and righteous move, even if it is ineffective. Some say that we should not be mixing politics with sport, but China brought this upon itself with its atrocious conduct. Having visited China, I've witnessed firsthand the restrictions on fundamental liberties people face there, and the dire effects of the 'communist' government's policies. While nations should not isolate China outright, they should take a strong stand against tyranny and the mistreatment of citizens.

    Monday, 7 April 2008

    If you're wondering why its been a bit cooler this year...

    It's not because global warming is a myth. As the Beeb reports:

    Global temperatures for 2008 will be slightly cooler than last year as a result of the cold La Nina current in the Pacific, UN meteorologists have said.
    But this year's temperatures would still be way above the average - and we would soon exceed the record year of 1998 because of global warming induced by greenhouse gases.

    Global climate change is a long-term trend; that doesn't mean it is not a current threat, though.

    When should a presidential candidate call it quits?

    I feel I haven't been covering the American elections as much as I should. After all, so much is happening. The lone Republican, John McCain, is still trying to drum up support for the Iraq war, and the situation is looking a bit better there. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama continue to duke it out in the Democratic foray, but he seems to be ahead at the current moment, in popular sentiment, delegate count, and within many influential circles. It's a harsh race indeed: Bill Clinton recently said there are two patriots in the election run, his wife and her Republican opponent.

    Anyway, John Dickerson wrote an interesting piece in the Washington Post (which, on a totally unrelated note, won a large number of Pulitzer Prizes this year)

    At some point in the next weeks or months,either Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama is going to face a lonely moment. Standing at the bathroom sink with a toothbrush, or huddling with aides at campaign headquarters or collapsed on a couch at home with his or her spouse, one of them will decide that it's over.

    It's still too soon to say who will have to give up their dream of occupying the Oval Office for the next few years.

    I got a call from Obama offices today ("Would you like to go to Pennsylvania and rally supporters?"), which reminded me that I signed up on his campaign website. I can't say I support him enough to go all the way to Pennsylvania though...

    Thursday, 3 April 2008

    The Bush administration: ABOVE THE LAW

    Another one of John Yoo's masterpieces
    Not like we didn't know this before, but this time it's official! The George W. Bush administration is ABOVE FEDERAL LAW. The statutes and limitations applying to us mere mortals do not apply to the office of the commander-in-chief or his subordinates. Imagine that.

    The Justice Department sent a legal memorandum to the Pentagon in 2003 asserting that federal laws prohibiting assault, maiming and other crimes did not apply to military interrogators who questioned al-Qaeda captives because the president's ultimate authority as commander in chief overrode such statutes.
    Sent to the Pentagon's general counsel on March 14, 2003, by John C. Yoo, then a deputy in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, the memo provides an expansive argument for nearly unfettered presidential power in a time of war. It contends that numerous laws and treaties forbidding torture or cruel treatment should not apply to U.S. interrogations in foreign lands because of the president's inherent wartime powers.

    Oh yeah, and they don't torture either.

    As Andrew Sullivan recently stated,
    One day this president and vice-president will be prosecuted for war crimes.

    Women and the Bible (part 2)

    The Bible is crewel towards women and has promoted inequality for centuries. It has been excuse for the sexual and overall repression of the female sex, among countless other abominations, and condones such actions. It suggests total submission of females to males, and its wishes, 'straight from God's mouth' have been carried out without question.
    Christians accuse us nonreligious folk of "misinterpreting" the Bible. But don't they do the same thing for their own gain? I'm just quoting the Holy Book; you can interpret it as you like. I'm just trying to educate, reveal Christianity for what it is. However, the attitudes in churches are much different. You must view this text this way! So-called moderates throw out the iffy stuff like Abraham making his wife a prostitute — twice (Genesis 12:13-19 and Genesis 20:2-12) — or the condoning of slavery ("Slaves, obey your masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ." Ephesians 6:5; similarly "Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considering, but also those who are harsh." 1 Peter 2:18), but emphasize such "Christian values" as not killing, treating others as you'd like to be treated, etc. Apparently one very Christian value is the submission of women, as Ephesians 5:22 says "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord." 1 Peter 3:1: "Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands..." I think there's little room for debate for that message of the Bible. And yet, nonreligious movements are far more controversial than these troubling Christian fundamentals!

    Sunday, 30 March 2008

    Zimbabwe's democratic test

    Zimbabwe held elections today. The south African state has been led by dictator Robert Mugabe for decades now, who has used his country's colonial past as an excuse for isolation from the West and extremist domestic programs. The octagenerian has, however, fallen out of favor with many Zimbabweans.

    Opposition claims unlikely victory in Zimbabwean election
    The opposition has claimed a win in this probably-rigged election.

    Defying a government order, Zimbabwe's main opposition party released its election results on Sunday, claiming an early victory for their presidential candidate.

    Sunday's announcement sets up a showdown with Zimbabwe's government, which will release the results of its count on Monday.

    Leaders of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have already dismissed the government's results -- expected to show a victory for President Robert Mugabe -- as rigged in favor of the incumbent leader.

    There are concerns that if each side claims victory, tensions could ignite and violence could erupt.

    At a news conference in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, MDC leaders said their candidate Morgan Tsvangirai has won 67 percent of the vote, based on one-third of the returns, journalists inside Zimbabwe told CNN.

    The party did not explain how it arrived at those results.

    The Zimbabwean government has denied CNN and other international news organizations permission to enter the country to report on the elections. Read about reporting on the elections.

    MDC Secretary-General Tenda Biti has accused the ruling Zanu-PF party of chasing its party's agents away from polling stations.

    We'll see the full extent of the election as results are released tomorrow. Whether the opposition really takes power depends on Mugabe, who shows no sign of letting is country be truly democratic.

    Sunday, 23 March 2008


    Note to readers —

    I will be away all week. New post on Sunday.

    Mission accomplished (take two)!

    I have never read of a man who applied such flawed logic, so long, and on numerous occasions, as the American president.

    Reuters story from earlier this week:

    President George W. Bush said on Wednesday he had no regrets about the unpopular war in Iraq despite the "high cost in lives and treasure" and declared that the United States was on track for victory.

    Marking the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion with a touch of the swagger he showed early in the war, Bush said in a speech at the Pentagon, "The successes we are seeing in Iraq are undeniable."

    With less than 11 months left in office and his approval ratings near the lows of his presidency, Bush is trying to shore up support for the Iraq campaign, which has damaged U.S. credibility abroad and is sure to define his legacy.

    All we've got to do is stay the course folks, we're almost there!

    Tuesday, 18 March 2008

    China crushes dissent in Tibet

    Basically the rest of the world told China to respect human rights in response to the Tibet crackdown.

    Saturday, 15 March 2008

    Good news for people used to bad news

    As I turn in for the night tonight, there are some good news stories of note...

  • Chad and Sudan have struck a peace accord;
  • there's a new EU climate change commitment;
  • and the US House of Representatives has passed a bill banning retroactive immunity for telecom companies coerced into/agreeing to comply with the Bush administration's illegal domestic wiretapping program, although the bill is sure to be vetoed once it hits the Oval Office.

  • Tuesday, 11 March 2008

    Ethnic nationalism's around to stay

    Ethnic nationalism is playing a role in human affairs as much now as ever. Check out this intriguing — if long — essay from Foreign Affairs.

    Americans generally belittle the role of ethnic nationalism in politics. But in fact, it corresponds to some enduring propensities of the human spirit, it is galvanized by modernization, and in one form or another, it will drive global politics for generations to come. Once ethnic nationalism has captured the imagination of groups in a multiethnic society, ethnic disaggregation or partition is often the least bad answer.

    The author seems to be saying that once a country or region has reached a high point of ethnic nationalism, there is no turning back. We've seen this in the Balkans; and are we now witnessing the rise of full-fledged ethnonationalism in Iraq? Many times ethnic cleansing is fueled by ethnic nationalism — think of the Ottoman Empire's attacks on Armenians or the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany. Also discussed is how immigration plays a role and the state of ethnic nationalism in historically-troubled Europe.

    Personally, I'd rather we judge each other on our controllable human traits instead of our involuntary ethnic status. Were it not for ethnic nationalism, the world would be much better off today. That's not to say I deny its advantages, such as, in some cases, state stability and the forming of a common bond between peoples. Most nation-states formed with one dominant ethnic group and identify themselves as such. But, as with any form of nationalism, the people of a country can easily be exploited, leading to violence. Isn't ethnic nationalism, in a way, just an evolution of racial tribalism?

    A note on the current state of affairs

    It's so easy to get lost in they hype of the US election season. Yes, it's exciting, and yes this is the most important election in years, but there are other issues that are being overlooked (Gaza, Kenya, climate change, etc.), glossed over with often-shallow primary coverage and political entertainment stories ('What's Hillary wearing today?')...

    Anyway I'll be posting with a higher frequency than I have in the past couple months. Look for coverage of the '08 election, as well as other pressing news and issues.

    Saturday, 8 March 2008

    Bush's continued assault on human rights

    Another nasty veto...
    BBC News:

    US President George Bush says he has vetoed legislation that would stop the CIA using interrogation methods such as simulated drowning or "water-boarding".

    He said he rejected the intelligence bill, passed by Senate and Congress, as it took "away one of the most valuable tools in the war on terror".

    The president said the CIA needed "specialised interrogation procedures" that the military did not.

    Make no mistake: waterboarding is torture. All human rights organizations agree, as well as other nations and even the American FBI! Waterboarding simulates drowning and leaves the victim psychologically — and sometimes physically — damaged.

    There is no reason for torture. This is not a fight between human rights and national security. Torturous interrogation techniques do not get reliable information, countless studies have confirmed this common sense notion. In addition, the declining perception of the US because of the use of torture leaves it more open for attack and helps terrorist recruiters.

    The issue of the CIA lies in the fact that by not leaving it objective, the White House opened the door for flawed, politically-motivated intelligence reports such as the ones justifying the Iraq war. The CIA has had continual use as a dirty political tool in the 'war on terror', where it has tortured and detained innocent people without respect to US or international law, whether in Guantanamo, 'black sites', or cases of extraordinary rendition.

    "This is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe." Bush says. Mr. President, if I may counter. You have failed to produce any reliable evidence that torture has helped the United States. Yes, I know you don't use the exact term "torture". It's politically sticky. You stick to the euphemism "enhanced interrogation". Let's see how you would feel about having to stand up, shackled, for 40 hours or so, while being threatened by a CIA thug. Maybe that would change your mind about the true meaning of torture. You use the same justification for torture as you do for (previously) illegal domestic wiretapping: It has saved lives, it will save lives! We must counter the most dangerous terrorists! We must prevent another attack! While it is compelling for me to follow along with most Americans and politicians on your national security programs, you see, I have a respect for the law. I also recognize the fact that torturing terror suspects will get us nowhere in our fight against those who have wronged us.

    The president's actions are inexcusable; this is one of the times I am seriously angry at George W. Bush and his ludicrous national security policies. Why can't he use at least one of his vetoes to cut spending like he has promised instead of fighting popular stem call initiatives or legalizing torture?

    Friday, 7 March 2008

    Women and the Bible (part 1)

    Imagine: You're a woman in biblical times. You wake up with a bruise on your upper leg; you were beaten last night for insubordination. You try not to think about it. You remember a friend of yours was stoned for being a "witch"; she was alleged to have slept with a man other than her husband. She died, age 17. Everything is OK though. You remember verse 3:18 of Colossians: "Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord." Does that ease your pain, or just make it worse?You're off to do your daily chores, and there are many of them. Where is your husband? Probably off with one of his other wives. You remember Genesis 4:19 — “Lamech married two women…” — and sigh. Remember also that King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). Women were, after all, created for man, from man...

    Tuesday, 4 March 2008

    March 4th: the showdown

    Today's primaries in Ohio, Texas, and several other states may well decide who will be the nominee on the Democratic side. Hillary Clinton is already at a slight disadvantage, in the polls, in delegate counts, and momentum-wise, and even winning the mega-states of Ohio and Texas may not be the boost her campaign disparately needs. Barack Obama, however, is looking as strong as ever. John McCain will probably further secure the Republican Party nomination for president with his expected victories tonight.

    I will publish a post explaining my endorsement of one of these candidates following these primaries.

    Sunday, 2 March 2008

    Putin wins Russian election!

    Wait, you may say, I thought Dmitry Medvedev won Russia's election today. True. But who is this mysterious Medvedev, who current President Vladimir Putin chose as his successor back in December. Simply put, Medvedev is a smaller version of Putin; he is the "nano-president".

    As I said, Medvedev is slated to win the rigged election today.

    Vladimir Putin's handpicked successor Dmitry Medvedev was cruising to an easy victory in Russia's presidential election Sunday, a result expected to give significant power to the outgoing president.

    The Central Election Commission said that returns from 15 percent of Russia's electoral districts showed Medvedev with about 65 percent.

    Some voters complained of pressure to cast ballots for Medvedev, and critics called the election a cynical stage show to ensure unbroken rule by Putin and his allies.

    Sunday's vote came after a tightly controlled campaign and months of political maneuvering by Putin, who appeared determined to keep a strong hand on Russia's reins while maintaining while maintaining the basic trappings of electoral democracy and leaving the constitution intact.

    Medvedev is expected to formally take over as president in May, and Putin has agreed to be his prime minister.

    It will interesting to see Putin as PM. He will no doubt continue to weld power as presidential puppet-master. His popularity continues in Russia as he has brought the former Soviet republic new power by letting Russia's energy resources dominate his policy — petropolitics, it is called.

    Major issues facing Russia right now are its relationship with the West, namely in terms of energy; its own economic diversification, including its hope to join the WTO; internal instability; the situation in the Balkans with Kosovo's new independence; the country's (limited) support for Iran, also straining relations with the West; and trouble Chechnya. The new president will also face increasing criticism in areas such as Iran and Russia's limiting of gas supplies to Ukraine. When you're dealing with Russia, many foreign policy issues deal with geopolitics.

    Wednesday, 27 February 2008

    Congress disappoints in Clemens steroid case, and the media follows along

    Gasp! One of America's baseball stars committed perjury?!

    A congressional committee asked the U.S. Justice Department to review whether pitcher Roger Clemens lied when he testified he never used steroids.

    The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey today requesting a perjury investigation relating to Clemens's deposition and testimony for a Feb. 13 hearing on performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball.

    So the Justice Department will investigate this, but not the lost CIA torture tapes, or the torture itself? It will go through the records on a sports star, but it won't investigate the shady dealings of the executive? Wow.

    Even worse than the fact Justice is wasting it's time on the Clemens case is the fact this steroid drama was brought before Congress in the first place. The House Oversight Committee. Should be cleaning up the government, right? Doing its job tackling national issues?


    The biggest political/sports story of past month had nothing to do with the government, and, in fact, shouldn't be on the front page.

    I know it would be nice to clean up America's pasttime, which also happens to be the world's most steroid-infested sport, but I fail to see how this is the government's job and not that of the MLB. What right does Congress have to question Roger Clemens on his steroid use? Why waste its time?

    And what about the media in all of this? They're having a field day! I have seen no article in the mainstream media questioning whether these hearings should be happening, whether Congress should be wasting its time, or whether this story is over-reported — which it is.

    The hearings are being turned into a partisian show, with Republicans being sympathetic to Clemens and Democrats attacking him. The chair of the committee, Democrat Henry Waxman, regrets holding the hearings in the first place.

    Congress should be spending its time more wisely, as it has a worse approval rating than even President Bush. In addition, the media should focus on real news — not mix sports with front-page politics — and MLB should clean up its act.

    Sunday, 24 February 2008

    China and Sudan: bedfellows in evil?

    In another piece of bad news coming from the Sudan region...

    The Sudanese military is said to have renewed its aerial bombing campaign in the west of the Darfur region.
    The joint United Nations African Union mission in Sudan, Unamid, said it had received reports of aerial bombings in the Jebel Moun area of the region.

    A Unamid spokesman said there was grave concern for the safety of thousands of civilians in the area.

    The reports came as China's envoy for Darfur, Liu Guijin, began a five-day visit to the country to push for peace.

    China has come under increasing pressure to use its influence with Sudan to end the fighting.

    Mr Liu will travel to Darfur on Tuesday, the fifth anniversary of the start of the conflict which has left 200,000 people dead and 2.5m homeless.

    This visit comes after it was revealed that China sold more weapons — both light and heavy arms — to Sudan.

    One can see China's influence within Sudan as the up-and-coming superpower tries its best to gain political support in the whole of Africa — in a way filling the void there — as well as taking advantage of the continent's energy resources. While China is helping development there, it is also overlooking major human rights abuses, and, in some cases, encouraging them.

    Bejing's relationship with Khartoum, as well as its human rights abuses at home, has led such heavyweights as Stephen Spielberg to denounce China and call for a boycott of the 2008 Summer Olympics. Try as it may to play down human rights fears, but there are supporters of human rights just as stubborn as the abusers — i.e. the Chinese government — themselves.

    It's time to get serous with China about its support of the genocidal Sudanese regime. However, powers such as the US should not isolate the emerging giant in its race for economic supremacy or they will find themselves in a tough spot once China has the upper hand.

    Friday, 22 February 2008

    America's troubling abstinence program in Africa

    President Bush has been on a tour of Africa, where he maintains at least a modicum of popularity due to his aid programs there (although that aid sometimes makes things worse). Also on the American leader's agenda was dealing with China's growing influence in the region, fueled by its thirst for oil in nations such as Nigeria and Sudan.

    The New York Times reported

    Mr. Bush used a news conference to address the widespread suspicion that the United States planned to establish military bases in Africa as it expanded its strategic role on the continent. And for the first time, he suggested that he might consider dropping a requirement that one-third of AIDS prevention dollars be spent on abstinence programs — but only if he was convinced that the approach was not working.
    Mr. Bush faced tough questioning from an African reporter about his administration’s requirement that one-third of the AIDS initiative’s prevention funds be spent on programs promoting abstinence.

    The independent Institute of Medicine has said the abstinence requirement is hindering prevention efforts. Democrats in Congress, debating reauthorization of the initiative, want it dropped.

    A president needs to be elected who won't require a certain amount of money be spend on abstinence programs. People will continue to have sex no matter what, and that means the spread of STDs and unwanted pregnancies. Contraception and overall sexual education should be one of the highest priorities for HIV/AIDS prevention programs.

    Belief in abstinence-only programs —  confusing teachers, harming schools, and not properly educating people — is one of Bush's more dangerously irrational religious beliefs, which exists primarily to gain the support of the supposed millions of people who believe that condoms are the devil. Why do you think America has the highest teen pregnancy rate in in the developed world (see map)? In fact, "pro-life" people should like contraception, since it would lower the rate of abortions and terminations of unwanted pregnancies. America's domestic program of withholding important sexual information and instead supplying abstinence-only programs has been listed as a human rights concern by Human Rights Watch.

    The US's foreign policy relating to aid for AIDS program not only needs more funding — one improvement this administration has brought about — but the abstinence requirement must be dropped. Who knows how many have contracted STDs and died because of lack of proper education of sex, and lack of options. There is nothing promiscuous about governments handing out condoms or information on contraception. Withholding those devices and that information is harmful to cause of most of us who want to stop the spread of AIDS and let a woman choose whether she wants to get pregnant.

    Tuesday, 19 February 2008

    Another Muslim cartoon row

    BBC News:

    Hundreds of Danish Muslims have been demonstrating in Copenhagen against the reprinting of a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad they consider offensive.

    The cartoon depicts the Prophet with a bomb in his turban.

    All major Danish newspapers decided to republish it after Danish intelligence said it had uncovered a plot to kill one of the cartoonists.

    Over-sensitive Muslims of the world: Get over the Danish cartoons depicting your profit. It's called free speech; get used to it. For those who don't remember the riots and death threats two years ago, see here.

    Just remember, there's a difference between tolerance and absolute accommodation. If they want to survive in free societies, religions will need to be able to stand up to criticism — or shut up. No death threats; no fatwas; let's settle this in a civilized manner, not by evoking religious barbarity. Up until now, most modern societies have given into religious insanity far too much.

    Monday, 18 February 2008

    The end of Musharraf?

    Pakistan held elections today, the results of which are flowing in as we speak...

    The Times:

    President Pervez Musharraf’s supporters conceded defeat last night in a landmark parliamentary election that could seal his political fate and resurrect democracy in Pakistan after eight years of military rule.

    But while the two main opposition parties appeared to have swept the vote, neither was expected to win an outright majority, setting the stage for a coalition government in this chronically unstable country.
    Final results are not expected until tomorrow, but preliminary figures suggest that the PPP will win the most seats followed by the Pakistan Muslim League (N) led by Nawaz Sharif, another former Prime Minister.

    One can only hope an opposition party will emerge as winner in this election, and that the dictatorial Musharraf will finally face impeachment. Most Pakistanis want him out anyway.

    Meanwhile, a NYT op-ed warns that instability in Pakistan is a problem to all of us — the south Asian country holds active nuclear weapons (not to mention that it's a hotbed of Islamic terrorism).

    Sunday, 17 February 2008

    An independent Kosovo

    Angering Serbia and its allies, such as Russia, Kosovo, already a semi-autonomous province, proclaimed its independence from Serbia today, in a long-awaited move.

    Kosovo's parliament has unanimously endorsed a declaration of independence from Serbia, in an historic session.
    The declaration, read by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, said Kosovo would be a democratic country that respected the rights of all ethnic communities.

    The US and a number of EU countries are expected to recognise Kosovo on Monday.

    Serbia's PM denounced the US for helping create a "false state". Serbia's ally, Russia, called for an urgent UN Security Council meeting.

    To understand the reasons for the Kosovo divide, one must understand the problems the former Yugoslavia faced, and is still facing right now (i.e. the Kosovo War).

    This will add to the strain in relations between Russia and the West.