Monday, July 30, 2007

Looks Like an Opportunity in Iran

But will we take it?

Meshkini is dead, paving the way for increased influence for Rafsanjani. Oh, how I wonder what Tom Friedman will have to say about this . . . Don't forget to check your NYT tomorrow!

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Dictators without Borders

Well, poor old neoliberal dictator Alberto Fujimori lost his bid for parliament in Japan, but he remains under house arrest in Chile (ahem). He has to stay there in order to be safe from extradition for human rights violations committed as president of Peru. Ironic, it seems to me, not only that he is hiding out in Chile, of all places, but that the last "terrorists" to give him any real trouble in Peru were not the famous lunatics, Shining Path, but the pseudo-indigenous (Inca) Tupac Amaru (when they took over the, um, Japanese embassy in 1996).

On a side note, the Economist mounts an interesting defense of international courts, noting:

It is easy to pooh-pooh international courts. After the creation of the world's first international war-crimes tribunals in Nuremberg and Tokyo at the end of the second world war, it took nearly half a century before another one was established—the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), set up by the UN in The Hague in 1993. But since then, progress has been impressive. Of the 161 people the ICTY has indicted, only four are still on the run; 59 have been convicted.

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What Does 'Moderate' Mean, Again?

US doing an arms deal with Saudi Arabia:

The officials said the arms deal aimed to bolster the militaries of the Sunni Arab states as part of a strategy to counter what it sees as a growing threat posed by Iran in the region.

"The role of the Sunni Arab neighbours is to send a positive, affirmative message to moderates in Iraq in government that the neighbours are with you," a senior State Department official told the New York Times on Friday.

Um, so "moderate" means "Sunni"? Am I the only one who sees a problem, here?

And here's the best part, we take the $20Bn we get selling weapons to the homeland of one of the most conservative versions of Islam in the world (Wahabbism), a country for whom the Qur'an and the Sunna comprise the constitution, and give it to Israel in the form of military aid.

Genius. More brilliant, even, than selling arms to Iran and funneling the proceeds to "freedom fighters" in central America, where running the sale through Israel was necessary as icing on the cake.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Driving While Organizing

In Colombia, organizing a union can cost you your life. Those of us who follow either Colombia or unions (or, in my case, both), already know this:

More than 4,000 Colombian union leaders have been assassinated since 1986, according to the U.S. State Department, accounting for most union murders in the world during the period.
Many of these people organize unions within foreign companies in Colombia or within subsidiaries of foreign companies -- Coca-Cola bottlers are particularly notorious, as I recall. In this case, it's an Alabama-based coal company.
The lawsuit alleges Drummond's top Colombian executive was seen handing money to paramilitary thugs in exchange for killing the men, who were arguing with the company over higher wages and better workplace safety at the time.
And in case you missed this one, speaking of notorious US-based companies operating in Latin America.
Earlier this year, in a case that never went to trial, U.S. banana giant Chiquita Brands International Inc. pleaded guilty to paying $1.7 million in protection money to Colombian paramilitaries between 1997 and 2004.

Hamas Secures Release of Abducted Journalist

Reporter Alan Johnston is back in Britain.

Armed gunmen from the shadowy Army of Islam group snatched him on March 12 as he returned home to his flat in Gaza, where he had been reporting for the BBC for three years. He was released following pressure on his captors by Hamas, a group boycotted by the EU and the US because of its terror links and refusal to recognise Israel.
Once again, Hamas has shown that they can get things done, the kinds of things Fatah has never been able to do. And that they're willing to get those things done. It looks very much like they will soon arrange the release of Gilad Schalit with a prisoner-release deal.

Why has no one in government yet learned that these are in many ways the most straightforward and most sophisticated terrorists on the planet. Even while we can disagree with certain tactics (and with certain aspects of their agenda), they are deeply pragmatic and unhindered by corruption or renegade factions. I think, but don't know, that this is in no small part due to a certain genuine populism, despite (or perhaps in some ways because of) the Islamist authoritarianism.

Maybe if Kirkpatrick can distinguish between authoritarian and totalitarian, Rice can find some similar wordgames to give us a chance to find a way to work with Hamas. Or maybe not.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Well, He Is an Arrogant, Lying, SOB

I don't know if the count about "threatening aggression against Iran" and so "undermining the national security of the United States" has much substance or much point, but otherwise i mainly wish I believe this could actually go somewhere.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

And Most People Live in Both at the Same Time

Or so it would seem . . . the "Two Americas," that is, the one (ones?) Edwards likes to talk about.

Income differences in the U.S. are too stark, and the government should provide jobs and training for those having a tough time, according to majorities in a national poll released Thursday.
OK, so far so good, right? And respondents on either side of $80k/yr agreed, roughly. But there's still this unshakeable meritocratic bootstrap mentality . . .
In the survey, 58 percent said large pay differences help get people to work harder. Yet 61 percent said such discrepancies are not needed for the country to prosper.
Um. Hm. Soooooo . . . it's about who's more deserving, but even lots of undeserving people will prosper when the deserving get paid lots more? I'm so confused.

Maybe more of the article will help me sort it out:

Two-thirds said the government should make sure there is a job for everyone who wants one. Small majorities said it should provide jobs for people who can't find private employment, increase federal training programs and redistribute money with high taxes on the wealthy.

Even so, nearly two-thirds said it is not the government's responsibility to ease income differences.


It sure looks like lots of the same people believe that government should make sure there are jobs, but not do something about income gaps, like, say, progressive taxation. Er, wait, "small majorities" said that was a good idea?

And while large income gaps are not necessary, and the government ought to do something to make sure that people have jobs, still, large income gaps motivate people to work harder.

Are YOU motivated by the fact that that rich f*** at Blackstone made $4M last year?

Is this the worst designed survey in the history of surveys, or are we the most oxymoronic beings in the universe? I'm all about how people are irrational, but how do we think all these things at the same time? And when he confronted with it, what do we say?

Why don't we explode, like when matter and anti-matter meet? Why haven't we already destroyed the world with those explosions?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Standards Do, After All, Facilitate Communication

A spec for My Enemy's Enemy is my Friend (MEEF), via nettime.

Abstract MEEF, My Enemy's Enemy is my Friend uses the World Wide Web Consortium's Resource Description Framework (RDF) to allow for automatic generation of ontology for networks based upon shared antipathies.

Status of this Document. This is the first draft proposal specification for MEEF. It provides a description of a basic vocabulary which can be used in generating MEEF applications. MEEF files can be added to documents and web resources as Unicode. Versions of MEEF will incorporate the FOAF vocabulary in order that friends of your enemies can also be readily identifiable.
Sample properties:
This property identifes the enemy's favourite tv programme.

This property specifies social networking mechanisms used by the enemy. Where FOAF is not used, other tools must currently be used to identify their 'friends'.

Enemies love some things. It is important to be able to identify them.

This property locates a URI where a rumour concerning the entity can be found. Rumours may be generated without including any of the identifying characteristics of the entity and assigned to multiple enemies. The re-use principle is important.
And let's do a declaration:
A sample MEEF declaration incorporating FOAF:

<foaf:name>George Bush</foaf:name>


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Ambivalent Much? Confused Much?

According to a new poll, Israelis support a two-state pact by 70% to 26.5%. That's pretty clear, but of course there are several problems.

First, that's a large minority in opposition, and odds are they're pretty dedicated. I reckon they're the same group who've held such efforts back for a long time. Remember Rabin?

Second, the same poll showed that 63% oppose giving up the Golan in exchange for full peace with Syria. Not only is that its own problem, but where exactly is that Palestinian state going to go?

Third, there is still deep ambivalence about supporting Abbas even in the face of Hamas. Fewer than 55% could even support releasing frozen funds, while 39% oppose it. Hello? And we wonder why Palestinians, Arabs, and other Muslims are radicalized (i.e., toward Hamas) on this issue?

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Hamas Frees Abducted Journalist?

No, not yet. But they've captured an Army of Islam leader in Gaza. What will Israel and the US do when Hamas proves themselves capable of winning against an al-Qaida-related group in Palestine? I hope they're thinking about it, because it seems imminent, but they've not shown themselves especially capable of thinking ahead on this stuff.

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