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.