jueves, 24 de septiembre de 2009

Another useless exercise in smartough diplomacy

There were, of course, two illicit nuclear projects stopped during that period, though the U.N. had nothing to do with it. One was Libya's clandestine nuclear kit, which al-Qaddafi--spooked by the fate of Saddam--agreed to hand over to the U.S. in late 2003. The other was Syria's North Korea-abetted secret reactor. That was destroyed in 2007, not by a U.N. resolution, but by an Israeli air strike.

America has "re-engaged the United Nations," said President Barack Obama in his maiden speech Wednesday to the U.N. General Assembly. Yes, it has, and within hours both Libya's Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi and Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had gone far to illustrate what a terrible idea that reengagement is.
But Obama is certainly correct that Bush did not enjoy anything like Obama's welcome at the U.N. Obama is indeed ringing in a different era, including new promises and a new gift list. He came to the U.N.'s headquarters in New York with an agenda of three jam-packed days, starting with an address on climate change and culminating with plans to chair a summit-level meeting of the Security Council, focused on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.
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miércoles, 23 de septiembre de 2009

This is what smartough diplomacy gets you

Don't we need a cowboy to enhance the national security of this cowboy nation? Yuppie smartoughness doesn't cut it with the likes of Ahmadinejad and Putin.

Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s most recent statement that the Holocaust is a myth and denouncing Israel is an indication that he does not see U.S. President Obama’s call for dialogue and improved relations with Iran as desirable from his perspective.

Tehran is undoubtedly focusing on the Obama administration’s plan to instead deploy sea-based ballistic missile defenses closer to Iran. Ahmadinejad is highly likely to see this not only as more threatening to Iran than the Poland/Czech Republic option, but also to see the Obama administration’s foregoing the latter as an attempt to curry favor with Moscow in the hope of enlisting its cooperation against Tehran.
Moscow, though, is making it clear that the Obama administration’s abandoning the Poland/Czech Republic BMD deployment plan will not result in a quid pro quo from Russia vis-à-vis Tehran.
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martes, 22 de septiembre de 2009

Twenty-seven dead in drug rehab massacres

This article gives a unique Mexican twist to a pair of horrendous massacres.

Government-run drug rehab clinics are used as distribution centers by the narco and as infiltration points by police.

This fact makes the week's massacres at least intelligible to non Mexicans.
clipped from www.stratfor.com

Another Juarez Rehab Attack

At approximately 10:50 p.m. local time on Sept. 16, an unknown number of gunmen entered the Anexo de Vida drug rehabilitation center in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, and opened fire on a group of patients, killing ten and wounding two others. This was the second attack on a drug rehabilitation center in Juarez in recent weeks. (A previous attack saw 17 dead and five injured.) After the Sept. 16 attack, 10 drug rehabilitation centers in Juarez closed their doors out of fears of further attacks. Juarez is hands-down the most violent city in Mexico, with the more than 1,600 organized-crime related deaths this year already surpassing the city’s 2008 total.
According to one Mexican government source, some of these clinics have become a point of contention between the police — who use the centers as a location to spy on cartel activities — and cartels, which use the facilities as distribution points.
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viernes, 18 de septiembre de 2009

Justice begins at home

The main thing to keep in mind here is that Goldstone is not lying. Everything he says is true.

It should be obvious to anyone who has followed this situation that the IDF's so-called "serious violations" of the laws of war are truly nothing of the kind. Even if one hasn't been following the situation, simple rhetorical analysis will show then the utter fallacy that underlies Goldstone's sentence: notwithstanding his pro forma nods to Hamas violations, he's obviously telling only one side of the story, Hamas's side.

His version implies that the IDF was indiscriminately bombarding hospitals, schools and other typical civilian sites to sow terror as part of a campaign to subdue the Resistance. This is just a fairy tale.

For example, ask yourself why Israel attacked the civilian structures. It was because they couldn't fairly be considered civilian if they were being used as firebases by Hamas.

But the essential point is this: there would have been no IDF attacks whatsoever,
on anything in Gaza if Hamas had not provoked it by years of truly indiscriminate attacks themselves.
Therefore, Hamas bears the blame for all of the civilian casualties and deaths in the war: Israeli as well as Palestinian. Nobody had to die if Hamas didn't promote its intolerant rejectionist policy.
Some made the analogy to WWII: Germans bear the blame for all of the death and destruction simply because they started it. I don't see how anyone could possibly object to such logic and it was the basis for all the postwar treaties.

Why is this same logic not on display here, in the Palestine/Israel conflict, especially by such eminent personalities as the head of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, Richard Goldstone?
clipped from www.nytimes.com

Justice in Gaza

In the fighting in Gaza, all sides flouted that fundamental principle. Many civilians unnecessarily died and even more were seriously hurt. In Israel, three civilians were killed and hundreds wounded by rockets from Gaza fired by Hamas and other groups. Two Palestinian girls also lost their lives when these rockets misfired.
In Gaza, hundreds of civilians died. They died from disproportionate attacks on legitimate military targets and from attacks on hospitals and other civilian structures. They died from precision weapons like missiles from aerial drones as well as from heavy artillery. Repeatedly, the Israel Defense Forces failed to adequately distinguish between combatants and civilians, as the laws of war strictly require.
Failing to pursue justice for serious violations during the fighting will have a deeply corrosive effect on international justice, and reveal an unacceptable hypocrisy.

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jueves, 17 de septiembre de 2009

This doesn't look too good for smartough diplomacy

Could it be possible that he just went into this blind, with no previous quid pro quo agreement with the Russians? Would he set himself up for such a humiliation for nothing? It's hard to believe, but, according to Stratfor, it looks like it's true. What happened to the smartough world charmer whose "face," (Andrew Sullivan dixit) was going to change the world?
If this turns out to be true, then it just fits the same sad-sack pattern of all of Obama's diplomacy so far: "engagement" and appeasement as a tradeoff for rebuffs and humiliation. Maybe world powers don't want to negotiate and engage. Maybe they want to get as much power and wealth as they can, while they can. Maybe negotiation and engagement are just playing into their hands, then.

Stratfor Intelligence Guidance for today says,

Ballistic missile defense (BMD) as a military system had no significance for either Poland or the Czech Republic. It was not designed to defend them. Rather, its presence was a symbol to both countries that the United States was prepared to defend them, because it has a vital strategic asset in their countries. The shock in Poland and Czech Republic is about a symbolic shift from their point of view.
And furthermore,

The timing of the decision is clearly intended to induce Russian cooperation with the United States over Iran. The question is whether there was any prior understanding with Russia regarding this matter. Does the United States have some understanding of a quid pro quo with Russia? The Russian-U.S. tussle over the issue of BMD in Central Europe was never really about BMD. The system never gave Poland anything. It was about the future of U.S.-Polish military cooperation. This is what defines Russia’s view of its relationship with the United States.

It seems like they answered their own question below, “The Russians are letting the United States know they do not see the scrapping of the planned BMD system as a concession” that could get them to cooperate with us on Iran.

clipped from www.stratfor.com

U.S., Russia: Moscow's Response to Washington's Shift in BMD Plans

Russia’s initial response to the United States’ scrapping its plan for ballistic missile defense (BMD) in Poland and the Czech Republic indicates that Russia is not convinced that the change in plans is any sort of concession.

The Russians are letting the United States know they do not see the scrapping of the planned BMD system as a concession — and certainly not something that would spark a concession from Russia, such as Moscow ceasing its support for Tehran. Instead, Russia is linking the BMD move to the deal on Afghanistan. As far as the Russians are concerned, they owe the United States nothing until real concessions are made.

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Smarttough diplomacy at work?

I certainly hope so. For the US to get Russian concessions on its support of Iran would practically mean that missile BMD would be superfluous.

I don't think we're abandoning allies like the Czechs and Poles either. We don't need BMD to be loyal to them.

At least, this is what I hope US authorities are assuring them today. It's not too much to expect that at least this much common sense is on display.

It's past time to push Iran into a corner. It's the key insurgency in the region. The Islamic movement had its first success there and it must end there for it to end at all.

If this is what it takes, then I say my hat's off to Obama. I'm changing my opinion 180 degrees. Bush would never have dared such a move.
Clipped from stratfor.com

U.S.: Backing Down on BMD

Rumors are flying late Sept. 16 that the United States could be shelving its plans to build a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in Poland and Czech Republic. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates reportedly will hold a news conference on the issue sometime Sept. 17 or Sept. 18
As the entire situation intensifies, a U.S. concession on BMD would be one of the first major steps in a Russian-U.S. deal — one which could see Iran’s greatest foreign backer flip sides. This means that Russian support to Iran in things like complicating military strikes through the sale of strategic air defense systems and blocking crippling sanctions could now come into question. But all of this is hinged on Washington’s following through with shelving the BMD plan — something STRATFOR will be closely watching for as rumors are intensifying that Washington may in fact be conceding to Russia on the BMD issue.

miércoles, 16 de septiembre de 2009

Obama's law-breaking style of diplomacy, or not

Commentary » Blog Archive » Breaking the Law to “Engage” Iran

Jonathan Tobin has a point here:
Liberals spent most of the past decade decrying what they never tired of describing as the “lawlessness” of the Bush administration. But today’s New York Times brings to its readers’ attention the fact that Obama’s team is just as willing to disregard legalities. But whereas Bush’s people showed a willingness to bend the rules to fight a war against Islamist terrorists, Obama’s minions will do the same in their quest to appease Islamists.

In this case, the Justice Department “has declared that President Obama can disregard a law forbidding State Department officials from attending United Nations meetings led by representatives of nations considered to be sponsors of terrorism.” Thus, rather than obeying laws passed by Congress to quarantine a nation like Iran, which ranks very high on that list of state sponsors of terror, Obama has sent State Department officials to take part in UN meetings chaired by Iran.

His point is of course the hypocrisy of leftists and their media. This is just the latest example of such a thing.

Crying about hypocrisy gets really old after a while. So both leftists and rightist and libertarians are hypocrites? What else is new? Someone once said that hypocrisy is the hallmark of civilization. With so many values to comply with, it's inevitable, after all. Thus, the most civilized cultures are the most hypocritical.

I find it hard to refute this idea. Is it just an excuse and/or a pretext for ethical laziness? Maybe, maybe not. Being ethically lazy, I'll never know.

On the other hand, on the narrow issue of legality, I can't really fault Obama for this.

As far as I know, the Constitution gives the president a free hand to conduct foreign relations in pursuit of his responsibilities as C in C. Therefore, he's entitled to negotiate with anyone he wants to, if it seems like it will enhance US national security. He was elected just for that reason: to use his best judgment to enhance US national security. That's just US-style democracy.

Tobin's conclusion  makes this point obliquely,

Don’t expect many of those who are ready to hang anyone who worked for Bush on any technicality they can find to express much anger over legalisms conjured up to advance the cause of appeasement. As the Times notes, “the new memorandum demonstrated that the Bush legal team’s approach was not as aberrational from other administrations as some critics contended.”

I'd go The Times one more:

“the new memorandum demonstrated that the Bush legal team’s approach was [completely in line with other administrations. No president will ever give up his constitutionally enumerated powers, nor should he. Our democracy is founded on just such a principle.”—ed.]

lunes, 14 de septiembre de 2009

More Swine/A(H1N1)/Mexican Flu

A(H1N1): Just Another Flu | STRATFOR (Subscription requiered)

It has been five months since the A(H1N1) influenza virus — aka the swine flu — climbed to the top of the global media heap, and with the start of the Northern Hemisphere’s annual flu season just around the corner, the topic is worth revisiting.
If you take only one fact away from this analysis, take this: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that hospitalization rates and mortality rates for A(H1N1) are similar to or lower than they are for more traditional influenza strains. And if you take two facts away, consider this as well: Influenza data are incomplete at best and rarely cross-comparable, so any assertions of the likelihood of mass deaths are little more than scaremongering bereft of any real analysis or, more important, any actual evidence. [My emphasis]
Mexico will continue to shoot itself in the foot over this. Sinaloa has already closed schools in anticipation of the virus. Even today, the government must be meeting to discuss just what measures to adopt that will lower the nation's GDP even more—in fell some nine percent in the first quarter and ten percent in the second.

domingo, 13 de septiembre de 2009

China sues us for dumping

Stratfor reports (subscription required):
China has launched an investigation aimed at subsidy and dumping practices involving U.S. automobile and chicken products, Xinhua reported Sept. 13, citing a statement by the Ministry of Commerce.
Obama puts prohibitive tariffs on Chinese goods. China sues us for dumping. our trade policy and its support of our national security interests are damaged, but the steel workers (or whoever Obama wants to kiss up to) are happy. I thought the president was supposed to mark out strategy tha would make the nation stronger... We get involved in a gratuitous trade dispute with China while we are fighting wars and struggling with an economic collapse... That's smarttough diplomacy for you!

Obama Vows to Fight Health-Care Overhaul Opponents

This is fighting:
“This is when the special interests and the insurance companies and the folks who want to kill reform fight back with everything they’ve got,” Obama said. “This is when they spread all kinds of rumors to scare and intimidate the American people.”

There were hundredes of thousands marching in Washington in opposition to Obama and his plans. All these folks are special interests? They're all paid scabs for the insurance companies? How stupid does Obama think people are?

jueves, 10 de septiembre de 2009

The Chávez/Iran Nexus breaks into the MSM

Finally! One mad genocidal dictator in alliance with another mad genocidal dictator... what else is new?

Well…for most people it is news. But now I hope not for long.

You can ask, if the WaPo editorial is true, then why are we harping on Israeli settlements as the key to world peace? Why are we obsessed with reforming the health care system? And so on.

Is there a contradiction here? I don't think so: Obama is in the midst of an unprecedented expansion of the state and little issues like Iran's nuclear capabilities and genocidal intent against Israel are not helpful, according to his thinking.

He's wrong: the state has expanded historically on the wings of war. He can't expand the state while at the same time promoting a pacifist agenda, as much as this will satisfy his legions of followers.

A Friend to Iran

Does the Obama administration know what Venezuela is doing to assist Tehran's weapons programs?

DEBATES IN Washington about Hugo Chávez often end with the dismissive conclusion that the Venezuelan strongman poses no threat to the United States. If that's right, it's not because he isn't trying. For years he has been traveling the world in an effort to build alliances with present or former U.S. enemies, from Cuba to Vietnam. He dreams of standing at the head of a global anti-American military alliance. Most of his efforts have been rebuffed; some have produced mere buffoonery, like his annual, ludicrous love-fest with Belarusan dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

But Mr. Chavez has clearly forged a bond with one leader who is as reckless and ambitious as he is: Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The growing fruits of this relationship, and its potential consequences for U.S. security, have not gotten as much attention as they deserve.

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lunes, 7 de septiembre de 2009

Anti American anti Semitic get-together

Can people really believe that this has no meaning for US security? That's aside from the moral issue of piling on the state of Israel by Venezuela, as if twenty two Arab/Muslim states in a declared state of war against it weren't enough to make Israelis paranoid.

Do Venezuela's ties to Iran mean a foothold for Hizbollah in the Americas? That is, one more foothold, since they have been a presence in the "four corners" region of Brazil/Argentina/Paraguay/Uruguay for many years now.

Do Venezuela's ties to Iran mean Hizbollah collaboration with the FARC? Does Hisbollah collaboration with the FARC mean Hizbollah collaboration with insurgents/drug gangs in Mexico? Mexicans have been identified at FARC camps in the past. Etc etc.

With Iran/Hizbollah influence in the Americas, and possibly in Mexico, the instability caused by the war on drugs should cause even more concern. Mexico is bordering on "failed state" status as it is. It will take very little to push it over the edge--a natural disaster, of which there are plenty to threaten the country; political unrest--and there a multiple groups interested in prolonging and deepening this unrest.

A failed state on the US' southern border rife with Hizbollah agents? This would be a nightmare under any president. Under Obama it becomes worse than a nightmare. He's in way over his head as it is. Add something like this, and he'll just go under completely.

Hugo Chávez/Ahmadinejad nexus 
TEHRAN, Iran  —  Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez railed against the West on Saturday, pledging to deepen their ties and stand together against the United States and world powers the two perceive as imperialistic.

Chavez said Iran is "a true strategic ally, a staunch ally" to his country and defended Iran's right to a nuclear program.

He praised Iran for standing up to alleged attempts by "Western forces" to destabilize it after the June presidential election that brought his ally Ahmadinejad a second term in office. These attempts have failed, Chavez said, and "Iran has been strengthened." 
Chavez and Ahmadinejad — both well-known for their anti-U.S. rhetoric — have forged ties in everything from finance to factories. Iran now manufactures cars, tractors and bicycles in Venezuela, and the deepening relationship has provoked concern in Washington. 
This is the same Chávez who said, earlier,
"The state of Israel has become a murderous lackey at the service of imperialism," Chavez said. "It's a genocidal government. I condemn that Zionist government that persecutes the heroic Palestinian people."
[Chávez] added that "the people of Israel shouldn't support a genocidal government." 

viernes, 4 de septiembre de 2009

Nobel prize winner covering up for Iran

Once again, the indispensable DebkaFile tells all. Although it's not as though we never suspected that UN officials were in the pockets of the world's dictators.
clipped from www.debka.com

Six nations may reveal data concealed by ELBaradei on Iran's nuclear progress

US, Israel and four other governments are urgently discussing the release of intelligence that Iran is running covert military nuclear projects parallel to its civilian program after Mohammed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, withheld this data from his last report, DEBKAfile's military and intelligence sources disclose.
In Paragraphs 18 to 20 of his report, he admits to possessing substantial intelligence but regrets he is unable to use it to confront Iran without betraying his sources and so Iran was not able to fully answer IAEA queries.
US and Israeli sources denounce this evasion as a diplomatic scandal verging on fraud.
The material passed to him left no doubt that Iran was engaged in developing a nuclear weapon and revealed for the first time that it reached the final stages, weapon design, of the process. But ElBaradei decided to keep it hidden
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One official told DEBKAfile that passing the new information to the IAEA director had compromised its sources anyway so there was no point in holding it back any longer.
The seven governments concerned will decide very soon which parts of this unpublished information to air. According to our sources, it will not be attributed directly to any government but to "Iranian exiles" who will present it as coming from inside Iran.
This tactic was employed in 2004, when the opposition Mojaheddin al-Khalq leaders first broke the news of Iran's uranium enrichment plant in Natanz at press conferences in Washington and Paris.
The Israeli foreign ministry denounced the ElBaradei report, released ahead of the nuclear watchdog's regular annual meeting in Vienna on Sept. 7, for omitting "to detail "Iran's efforts to obtain nuclear arms or its continued attempts to deceive and conceal those efforts. Neither did it mention Tehran's refusal to cooperate with the IAEA and the international community."
Next month, when the UN General Assembly opens, a special high-level meeting of the UN Security Council will discuss nuclear proliferation.

jueves, 3 de septiembre de 2009

Cold War mythology made new by hope n'change

Oleg Atbashian is some kind of genius. Born in the ex USSR, he's impossible to fool with leftist propaganda. His sense of humor leaves one defenseless. Read the whole series.
This article concludes,
Evidently, if President Obama didn’t share these received views, he wouldn’t have felt the need to apologize before the world for America’s alleged wrongdoings " a gesture that could only reinforce such stereotypes. If his policies weren’t driven by these tenets, he wouldn’t be using the powers of the U.S. president to prop up the forces that oppose America’s founding principles of liberty while denying support to those who want to live by such principles.

The reason many Americans haven’t realized it yet is that most media coverage is also born of the same old yellowed clichés.

And yet no media bias can obfuscate the fact, clearly demonstrated by events in Iran and Honduras, that even in the absence of U.S.-led conspiracies, anti-American tyrants are still not welco
clipped from pajamasmedia.com

Generated in the depths of KGB think tanks, the Cold War-era propaganda template is comprised of the following linked axioms:

1.    Socialism is “progress.”

2.    Aversion to “progress” is a sign of outmoded backward thinking.

3.    All forward-thinking people are leftists.

4.    Leftists always speak for all people.

5.    People always unanimously support leftist leaders.

6.    Leftists are always under assault from the well-organized capitalist enemy.

7.    All workers and peasants hate capitalist exploiters.

8.    Armed resistance to a leftist government can only conceivably be staged by CIA agents in the service of American imperialism.

9.    Capitalists engage in relentless anti-socialist propaganda, subversion, and sabotage; they will commit any crime in order to kill hope and prevent the masses from liberation.

10.    The dying non-socialist sector of the world is run by a criminal conspiracy of capitalist oligarchs operating from the United States (and sometimes from Israel when appropriate).

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What happened to "no meddling?"

According to most accounts, the overthrow of Zelaya was "democratic, constitutional." At least, there is a good argument to be made that it was, even if other people disagree.

Now we have our government extorting the government of Honduras to reinstate Zelaya, which may be a reinstatement-for-life if he has his way.

What's going on here? I'd like to see half the pressure we've put on Honduras applies to the Palestinian Authority, for example. Or on Iran.
clipped from www.stratfor.com

Honduras: U.S. Terminates Aid

The U.S. Department of State announced in an official statement Sept. 3 that the United States has terminated a broad range of foreign aid to Honduras. The statement said aid will be restored when “democratic, constitutional” governance is returned to Honduras, and that several individuals and supporters of the current regime have been identified and will have their visas revoked. Aid had been suspended following the June 28 coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya. The statement also said that the United States would not support the result of the planned November presidential election unless a settlement between Zelaya and the current regime is reached.
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miércoles, 2 de septiembre de 2009

New facts and new troubles for Mexico

The estimated million plus Mexicans returning to Mexico plus the many more who choose to stay home, when earlier they would have gone to the other side, means more pressure on the nation's development.

In this situation the country's GDP shrunk nine percent in the first quarter and a bit over ten percent in the second one. Whatever fiscal and economic reforms the government has planned are still being planned. The president insists on using his power to fight a useless losing drug war and effectively sabotaged the economy by locking the nation down for a month so that we wouldn't get the flu.
The country cannot provide opportunities to vast swaths of the population. Now there is another swath to add to the others: returning illegal immigrants and others. Vast numbers of young unemployed kids whose skills are mainly in how to break the law and profit by it somehow are swelling the populace of Mexico's provincial backwaters (where most illegal immigrants come from) quite outside the the awareness of most people, who live in the cities, not to mention the government, who will never be aware of anything besides preserving their own grip on power and the impunity to chingarnos.

New facts undercut old positions on immigration

The Pew Hispanic Center reported in July that the flow of immigrants from Mexico -- by far the leading source of illegals -- has declined sharply since mid-decade, and that from spring 2008 to spring 2009 only 175,000 Mexicans entered the United States, only about one-quarter as many in 2004-05.
The Center for Immigration Studies had a different interpretation in its July report. It tried to distinguish legal and illegal immigrants, and found no decline in legal immigrants. But it estimated that the number of illegals in the United States dropped from 12.5 million in summer 2007 to 10.8 million in spring 2008 -- a decline of 14 percent. It found that the illegal population declined after July 2007 when the immigration bill died in the Senate and then fell off more sharply with the financial crisis in fall 2008. It estimated that 1.2 million illegals returned to Mexico between 2006 and 2009, more than twice as many as in the 2002-05 period.
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This is what happens when you have "Education Ministries"

They become control systems for the future. The conclusion:young students who will be given Danilov’s history textbook on Tuesday will be taught not to pose unnecessary, uncomfortable questions to their leaders. Let the wise politicians and bureaucrats continue to rule the country and pilfer the oil and gas wealth. This is precisely how they will build a strong and wealthy Russia " at least for themselves and their families.
Any similarity with the Obamoid "independent experts" who will run the US health-care system is quite accurate.
clipped from www.moscowtimes.ru

An Enlightened Way to Distort Soviet History

On Tuesday, the whole world will remember how 70 years ago, Adolf Hitler — nine days after signing the Molotov-Ribbentrop nonaggression pact with Josef Stalin — invaded Poland and started World War II. Seventeen days after Hitler invaded western Poland, the Red Army invaded eastern Poland

Sept. 1 is also the first day of classes in Russia. Hundreds of thousands of last-year high school students will be given a new textbook recently approved by the Education and Science Ministry that contains a highly distorted version of  20th-century history.

they try to reject the notion that Stalinism and Nazism had the same criminal, totalitarian foundations. This allows the authors to “normalize” the Soviet regime and to claim, for example, that “the Soviet Union was not a democracy, but in terms of social policy and programs, it was the best model of a fair and just society for millions of people around the world.”
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martes, 1 de septiembre de 2009

Bringing Chaos out of Order, Latin American Style

Montaner's proposal for bringing order to arbitrary facts suffers from pundit/academic dissociation. His purpose is to show how Latin American societies can change their collective attitude towards the law from one based on revenge to one based on justice and truth. In the end, his proposal simply makes the traditional attitude seem all that more set in stone.

Author reviews several cases pending against former rulers for corruption. He says,

Few Latin American countries are exempt from these judicial vendettas. The victor attempts to liquidate the vanquished. In those nations, the law is not an instrument to regulate civilized coexistence but a mace to crush the adversary’s head.

Which is quite true.

Benito Juárez (Mexico’s first Indian president, mid-19th century) put it best, after the ten-year civil war and insurgency against conservatives and monarchists: “For my friends, clemency; for my enemies, the law.

Montener can have these insights and yet they do not interfere with his policy proposals, which completely contradict the insights themselves.

The author’s suggestion for a remedy is to revisit a Spanish colonial practice, called “judgments of residence.” These are,
For 50 days, any citizen who was convinced that he had been the victim of an injustice or abuse by a judge or official could sue him before a tribunal created especially for that purpose, as soon as the official completed his mandate.
Instead of a remedy, however, they would become just another example of the evil that the author describes: the law as a club with which to beat one’s enemies and not as what we consider “justice,” or finding the truth. These “judgments of residence” seem to be similar to the Chinese practice of “talking bitterness.” A government functionary is brought up before the public and humiliated by former victims of his corruption.

It’s a good idea, but not for “bringing order” to the chaos of political culture in LA. It’s a good idea for revenge. If Montaner added a bit of "talking bitterness," i.e., public humiliation in the public square, then I'm sure he would find a lot of support amongst the people of Latin America.

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder

Painting by Victor Oliva, from Wikipedia.

Yesterday, I had two glasses of absinthe. I was going to order tequila but when I saw the absinthe (made in the Czech Republic), I had to try it. After reading the decadent turn-of-the-century artists and poets as a kid, I was curious. The stuff was supposed to be hallucinogenic and therefore banned along with so many other drugs at the turn of the century.

I was ready for an experience like the one Viktor Oliva portrayed, above. No such luck, as always. But the Wikipedia remark, "The most commonly reported experience is a "clear-headed" feeling of inebriation — a form of 'lucid drunkenness'"(See below) is accurate. The feeling lasted only a few moments, however.

Below, the Czech absinthe:
From Wikipedia
The banning of absinthe
Spurred by the temperance movement and the winemakers’ associations, absinthe was publicly associated with violent crimes and social disorder.

A critic said that:[23]
“ Absinthe makes you crazy and criminal, provokes epilepsy and tuberculosis, and has killed thousands of French people. It makes a ferocious beast of man, a martyr of woman, and a degenerate of the infant, it disorganizes and ruins the family and menaces the future of the country. ”

Edgar Degas’ 1876 painting L’Absinthe, which can be seen at the Musée d’Orsay, epitomized the popular view of absinthe addicts as sodden and benumbed. Although Émile Zola mentioned absinthe only once by name, he described its effects in his novel L’Assommoir:[24]
“ Boche had known a joiner who had stripped himself stark naked in the rue Saint-Martin and died doing the polka — he was an absinthe-drinker. ”

In 1905, it was reported that Jean Lanfray murdered his family and tried to kill himself after drinking absinthe. The fact that Lanfray was an alcoholic who had consumed much more than his usual two glasses of absinthe in the morning, was overlooked; the murders were blamed solely on absinthe.[25] The murders were the last straw, and a petition to ban absinthe in Switzerland was subsequently signed by more than 82,000 people. The prohibition of absinthe was then written into the Swiss constitution in 1907.
Effects of absinthe

Absinthe has been frequently and incorrectly described in modern times as being hallucinogenic. In the 1970s, a scientific paper mistakenly reported thujone was related to THC, the active chemical in cannabis.

Ten years after his 19th century experiments with wormwood oil, Magnan studied 250 cases of alcoholism and claimed that those who drank absinthe were worse off than those drinking ordinary alcohol, and that they experienced rapid-onset hallucinations. Such accounts by absinthe opponents were embraced by its most famous users, many of whom were bohemian artists or writers.

Two famous painters who helped popularize the notion that absinthe had powerful psychoactive properties were Toulouse Lautrec and Vincent van Gogh, the latter having suffered from mental instability throughout his life. In one of the best known accounts of absinthe drinking, Oscar Wilde described the feeling of having tulips on his legs after leaving a bar.

Today it is known that absinthe does not cause hallucinations. Thujone, the active chemical in absinthe, is a GABA antagonist; and while it can produce muscle spasms in large doses, there is no evidence that it causes hallucinations.[62] It has been speculated that reports of hallucinogenic effects of absinthe may have been due to poisonous chemicals being added to cheaper versions of the drink in the 19th century, to give it a more vivid color.

However, the debate over whether absinthe produces effects on the human mind additional to those of alcohol has not been conclusively resolved. The effects of absinthe have been described by some as mind opening. The most commonly reported experience is a "clear-headed" feeling of inebriation — a form of "lucid drunkenness". Chemist, historian and absinthe distiller Ted Breaux has claimed that the alleged secondary effects of absinthe may be caused by the fact that some of the herbal compounds in the drink act as stimulants, while others act as sedatives, creating an overall lucid effect of awakening.

Long term effects of low absinthe consumption in humans remain unknown, although the herbs in absinthe have both painkilling and antiparasitic properties.