Archive for ‘Foreign Affairs’

September 6, 2011

Political Cartoon of the Day III

by Vince

A user commented on this cartoon and wondered what made China and Russia side with Syria. I say that both super powers do not want any country (including themselves) to be stopped from doing what they have to do.  That is why neither China or Russia are quick to stand in the way of another country’s progress towards establishing nuclear arsenals. For they themselves would loath another world power standing in the way of what they believed was right for their own interests.

August 31, 2011

How Do You Spell “Deposed Crazy Dictator?”

by Vince


Have you ever seen numerous spellings for the name of the fading leader of Libya?

In Arabic, Qadhafi’s name is spelled القذافي which if you drop the article, means
ق – ذ – ا – ف – ي or q – dh – a – f – i. The “q” letter is almost unique to Arabic (sometimes called “the language of the qaf” — sorry, it’s the language of the dhad, not qaf!) and often transliterated as a “k”, since its pronounciation can be difficult for non-Arabic speakers.

It is standard in classical Arabic and places like Fes in northern Morocco, but northern Egyptians, urban Syrians and others often pronounce this letter as a glottal stop, while southern Egyptians and Bedouins most often pronounce as a “g”, as in “go”. (This is why in Syria upscale Damascenes call the regime “the government of the Qaf”, because pronouncing the letter is a country bumpkin thing to do, and Eastern Sunnis and Alawites — long dominant in the regime — often do it). Hence you see Qadhafi, Kadhafi or Gadhafi. The “dh” sound also has no equivalent in many languages as a standalone letter, and to top it off is made emphatic by a shedda — a kind of accent that indicates the letter should be doubled, which is why academics use the unwieldy “Qadhdhafi.” And the “dh” is often not pronounced as such — in most colloquial Arabics, it is pronounced “d”. I’m not sure why it might be pronounced “th”, but perhaps this was used in Qadhafi’s passport because it is close to the English sound in “the”, which sounds very much like “dh”.

H/T: The Dish

August 29, 2011

Quote of the Day

by Vince

“I don’t see Islam as our enemy. I see that motivation is occupation and those who hate us and would like to kill us, they are motivated by our invasion of their land, the support of their dictators that they hate,” –Ron Paul on how he sees America’s foreign policy, not Islam, as a threat to America.

August 28, 2011

The Fear of Multiculturalism

by Vince

This reader of the Dish echoes my grandmother’s fears and anxieties (she is from England but lives in America):

I loved your essay on your return to Britain after so long an absence. But I found it wistfully influenced by American optimism. I have had a different experience going back to England. I should admit up front that I am American but lived there for a decade and am married to a Brit. What I think that you got completely wrong was the sense of settled, accepted multiculturalism. Sure, in London you encounter many cultures mixing like you get in other great melting pot cities like New York. However, outside of London there is paranoia and resentment over that multiculturalism.

My husband’s family are almost all in Devon and Cornwall. We visited them last year, and we also visited friends in London and in the North of England. We found that outside of London our family, our friends, the locals at the pub, or the random person you have a conversation with at the grocery store are all under the impression that England is losing its identity as a result of massive numbers of immigrants. In Devon and Cornwall, I did not see a single non-white, non-English looking person the entire two weeks we were there. This is not hyperbole. Outside of London in general, I almost never saw anyone who wasn’t white, yet they have the panicked impression that they are being taken over from within.

There were many conversations among the people we encountered about the immigrant problem the country is having. It gets brought up unprompted and seems to be weighing heavily on their minds. They felt that they were all coming to England because they are “softer” than most other countries in the world and give out the most generous benefits. All immigrants were coming there to sponge off their generosity and they were taking over (despite none living anywhere near them). I pointed out that in America, immigration is what keeps the country a vibrant, innovative nation and the immigrants on the whole come there to build a better life so they are hard working and actually improve our economy. Countries with aging populations who don’t have good immigration have looming economic problems as a result of not being more inclusive.

They would have none of this American nonsense. Financial benefits (which they didn’t believe anyway) would be secondary to the cultural crisis being caused by immigrants who refuse to give up their old culture and become British. They believe they refuse to fit in and that they brought crime to the areas they live in. So, if they don’t ever actually see any immigrants down in Devon and Cornwall, where do they get these very strong, unbending opinions about them? My only conclusion is from the tabloid newspapers

Then we spent time in London and reveled in the diversity and the sense that no matter where you were from, you could be a Londoner. London was far more diverse than Los Angeles (where I now live) and all the more vibrant and interesting for it.

I’m glad you really enjoyed your visit and I agree that the North/South divide seems to have softened and to some extent the class divide has as well. Accents aren’t used against you quite as much (although an American accent will still get you down-graded in standing). I love so many of the same things that you do about the gentleness and world-weary wisdom of the place. Now that you can go back whenever you like, perhaps the rose-tinted glasses will come off a little more or subsequent trips, although that would be a shame.

July 29, 2011

Comparing Terror Responses Between America and Norway

by Vince

Glenn Greenwald illuminates the stark differences between America and Norway in light of the Oslo attacks last week:

The failed Christmas Day bombing over Detroit led to an erosion of Miranda rights and judge-free detentions as well as a due-process free assassination program aimed at an Muslim American preacher whose message allegedly “inspired” the attacker.  The failed Times Square bombing was repeatedly cited to justify reform-free extension of the Patriot Act along with a slew of measures to maximize government scrutiny of the Internet.  That failed plot, along with Nidal Hasan’s shooting at Fort Hood, provoked McCarthyite Congressional hearings into American Muslims and helped sustain a shockingly broad interpretation of “material support for Terrorism” that criminalizes free speech.  In sum, every Terrorist plot is immediately exploited as a pretext for expanding America’s Security State; the response to every plot: we need to sacrifice more liberties, increase secrecy, and further empower the government.

(…)

The reaction to the heinous Oslo attack by Norway’s political class has been exactly the opposite: a steadfast refusal to succumb to hysteria and a security-über-alles mentality.  The day after the attack — one which, per capita, was as significant for Norway as 9/11 was for the U.S. — Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang, when asked whether greater security measures were needed, sternly rejected that notion:  “I don’t think security can solve problems. We need to teach greater respect.”  It is simply inconceivable that any significant U.S. politician — the day after an attack of that magnitude — would publicly reject calls for greater security measures.  Similarly inconceivable for American political discourse is the equally brave response of the country’s Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, whose office was the target of the bomb and whose Labour Party was the sponsor of the camp where dozens of teenagers were shot:

He called on his country to react by more tightly embracing, rather than abandoning, the culture of tolerance that Anders Behring Breivik said he was trying to destroy.

“The Norwegian response to violence is more democracy, more openness and greater political participation,” Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg insisted at a news conference. . . .

Stoltenberg strongly defended the right to speak freely — even if it includes extremist views such as Breivik’s.

“We have to be very clear to distinguish between extreme views, opinions — that’s completely legal, legitimate to have. What is not legitimate is to try to implement those extreme views by using violence,” he said in English.

Stoltenberg’s promise in the face of twin attacks signaled a contrast to the U.S. response after the 9/11 attacks, when Washington gave more leeway to perform wiretaps and search records.

It reflects the difference between the two countries’ approaches to terrorism. The U.S. has been frustrated by what it considers Scandinavia’s lack of aggressive investigation and arrests.

Since the attacks, Stoltenberg and members of Norway’s royal family have underlined the country’s openness by making public appearances with little visible security. (emphasis by GG)

The American approach, even taken up by Barack Obama, is tough on terror. If we give terrorists (or even in a larger context, criminals) any slack, our demise will be nigh. Ironically, this slogan does not always match our actions (it again goes back to using secrecy for protective purposes):

Patrick Henry’s long celebrated tribute to courage has been turned on its head by the degraded cowardice of GOP tough-guy leaders — such as Pat Roberts, John Cornyn, and Rush Limbaugh — shrieking that civil liberties are worthless if you’re dead: i.e., that safety is the paramount goal.  Meanwhile, as virtually every other country that suffers a horrendous Terrorist attack puts the accused perpetrators on trial in their real court system in the city where the attack occurred — the subway bombers in London, the train bombers in Madrid, the shooters in Mumbai, the Bali nightclub bombers in Indonesia — it is only the U.S., the self-proclaimed Home of the Brave, that is too frightened to do so, instead concocting military tribunals and sticking accused terrorists in cages on a Caribbean island, as members of both parties spew base fear-mongering to bar trials on American soil.

June 24, 2011

Political Cartoon of the Day

by Vince

This one gave me a chuckle.

June 12, 2011

Some Differences Between America and Germany

by Vince

are mapped out well by Gabor Rona. This seems to be the day of subjective material:

For one thing, the two countries have different visions of the purposes of the Geneva Conventions. In the European collective memory, war is as much a scourge on civilians as on combatants. For Americans, war happens elsewhere to US combatants, not to US civilians, the last major war fought on US soil having been a century and a half ago. In Europe, human rights and “humanitarian law” (as the laws of armed conflict are known there) are part of a broader school curriculum, as the Geneva Conventions require. In the US, the “laws of war” (as they are known there) are more exclusively the province of the military and you are lucky to find it taught in law school, let alone high school.

The two countries also differ greatly on enforcement of international human rights obligations. The main European human rights treaty, the European Convention on Human Rights, is enforced by an independent court. The main human rights treaty to which the US is a party, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has no enforcement mechanism applicable to the US. Meanwhile, American courts typically refuse to enforce the Geneva Conventions and human rights law.

It is astounding that we hold other countries to such a high standard but seem to fail miserably in some major areas (human rights to name a biggie).

June 11, 2011

Europe’s Left Crumbles

by Vince

The Economist explains that when economies tank, socialism typically falls out of favor:

There are many theories for the left’s weakness in Europe. One is simply that left-wing parties struggle when times are hard. Our chart shows the number of left-wing governments in the EU-27 countries over the past couple of decades against the annual GDP growth rate in the region. The growth figure is shown with a two-year lag, the hypothesis being that economic changes take time to have political effects.

June 7, 2011

Picture of the Day

by Vince

Pictured: An anti-government protester, center, wearing a red scarf, looks up while praying with other women during a demonstration demanding the resignation of President Saleh, in Sanaa, Yemen, on Wednesday, April 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

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June 6, 2011

Perpetual War is More of a Hazard than Terrorism

by Vince

Conor Friedersdorf makes the case:

Give the hawks their due: terrorism is an ongoing threat to the United States. In fact, it’s likely to pose a bigger threat with every year that passes, insofar as technological advances are permitting people with meager resources to obtain ever deadlier weapons. Heaven forbid they get a nuke or a killer virus. What the hawks fail to recognize, however, is that perpetual war poses a bigger threat to the citizenry of a superpower than does terrorism. Already it is helping to bankrupt us financially,undermining our civil libertiescorroding our values, triggering abusive prosecutionsempoweringthe executive branch in ways that are anathema to the system of checks and balances implemented by the Founders, and causing us to degrade one another.

Alas, we still have an ambiguous exit strategy from the Middle East.

June 6, 2011

Sarah Palin in 2012

by Vince


Sarah Palin gets the same treatment from me as Rick Santorum: she is a divider who plays us versus them, black and white scenarios out in politics, religion, and culture. It is somewhat scary to think about that on a world scale instead of just in Wasilla.

Lexington gives her the benefit of the doubt in the face of poll numbers having her behind Obama by 20 points:

Polls suggest that Barack Obama would trounce her by almost 20 percentage points (Mr Romney trails the president by less than 7%). So it is not only her immediate rivals but also the Republican establishment who have cause to worry. What if she is another Barry Goldwater, who wowed the right but led the Republicans to a crushing defeat by Lyndon Johnson in 1964?

The trouble is that Mrs Palin is not the sort to step aside just because people tell her she cannot win. She thrives on rejection. Twitting intellectuals and the “lamestream” media is part of her brand. She harbours a grudge against the Republican “blue-bloods” who blame her for Mr McCain’s failure to beat Mr Obama in 2008, and would love to prove them wrong. She may not be able to win the presidency herself, but so long as she stays in the headlines, hinting at a run, she makes the party’s sobersides look dull by comparison. For them, the phenomenon from Alaska has gradually mutated into the problem from hell.

June 6, 2011

Why a Two-State Solution Won’t Come Soon

by Vince

It is nothing less than throwing gasoline on a fire when Israel kills 22 unarmed, non-violent Palestinian protesters.

June 5, 2011

Dying at Your Dad’s Funeral

by Vince

Only in Iran?

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June 4, 2011

Quote of the Day

by Vince

Reflections on Sarah Palin as a 2012 candidate and POTUS:

“The objections to Mrs Palin are about personality rather than policy. The fear is that she’s too reckless, too divisive and too intemperate to be an effective president. If that’s the case, there’s no reason to think that voters will go for it.” –Erica Grieder

“Given the massive debt, I think her prescription of more, big tax cuts is like giving an alcoholic a free jagermeister supply. Given the perilous instability and transformation in the Middle East, I think accelerating the colonization of the West Bank is insanely reckless, and striking Iran potentially catastrophic. An energy policy that focuses entirely on sustaining a carbon economy is terribly short-sighted. I suspect she would gladly bring back torture into the American government. Above all, I agree with George Will that someone this unstable, this disturbed and this delusional having access to the nuclear codes terrifies me. These concerns are not all about personality, although in her case, I think we have someone outside any conventional boundaries of responsibility. They are also about preventing America accelerating its decline.” –Andrew Sullivan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 4, 2011

A Free Palestine

by Vince
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June 2, 2011

Syrian Torture of a 13 year old

by Vince

This is pretty brutal stuff.

Many nations who use torture utilize it in a very discreet and clandestine manner. Not Syria. They are broadcasting it so to intimidate people. Here is the news of the 13 year old, Hamza al-Khateeb, who was arrested April 29 and returned to his family a month later:

The child had spent nearly a month in the custody of Syrian security, and when they finally returned his corpse it bore the scars of brutal torture: Lacerations, bruises and burns to his feet, elbows, face and knees, consistent with the use of electric shock devices and of being whipped with cable, both techniques of torture documented by Human Rights Watch as being used in Syrian prisons during the bloody three-month crackdown on protestors.

Hamza’s eyes were swollen and black and there were identical bullet wounds where he had apparently been shot through both arms, the bullets tearing a hole in his sides and lodging in his belly. On Hamza’s chest was a deep, dark burn mark. His neck was broken and his penis cut off.

His father supposedly fainted when he saw his son.

This has then been followed up with protests:

In a revolutionary season that has seen countless “Fridays of Rage” in half a dozen countries, Syrian activists marched on a day that some dubbed “the Saturday of Hamza.” … In the Damascus suburb of Douma, protesters marched through the night chanting “Leave! Leave!” to Mr. Assad while holding signs declaring, “We are all Hamza al-Khateeb,” according to a video posted on YouTube. Video from another suburb, Dereya, showed women and children demonstrating, with a chorus of young voices shouting, “The people want the overthrow of the regime.” They held aloft signs that read, “Did Hamza scare you that much?”

One final note: Syrians across religious, ethnic, geographical, and tribal lines are banding together in support against their government.

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June 2, 2011

Political Cartoon of the Day

by Vince

From fairportfan2: to quote from Leonard Wibberley’s The Mouse That Roared:

While the pen is indeed, in the long run, mightier than the sword, at any given moment the sword speaks more loudly and convincingly.

May 31, 2011

Picture of the Day

by Vince

Pictured: Afghan poppy farmer, Zareen (left) stands in his poppy field with son Azim, 8, in Faizabad, Badakshan, Afghanistan, on May 25, 2011. Local authorities in Badakshan use a tractor to destroy cabbage size poppy plants at their early stages as to lessen the burden on the farmer. According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) the cultivation of poppies in the Badakshan region has more than doubled this season. Opium production in Afghanistan has been on the rise since U.S. occupation started in 2001, and more land is now used for opium in Afghanistan than for coca cultivation in Latin America. In 2007, 92% of the opiates on the world market originated in Afghanistan, reportedly amounting to an export value of about $4 billion, with a quarter being earned by opium farmers and the rest going to district officials, insurgents, warlords, and drug traffickers. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

May 28, 2011

Saturday Afternoon Video: The Kingdom of Scotland

by Vince

TDW:

C.G.P. Grey of The True Cost of the Royal Family and The Difference between the UK, GB, and England fame continues his series of illuminating video infographics with a helpful (and timely) explainer on how Scotland became part of Great Britain.

More info on Grey’s site.

May 28, 2011

Saturday Morning Video: Benjamin Netanyahu Before U.S. Congress

by Vince

Drink your morning coffee, sit back, do your Saturday cleaning, and enjoy Bibi’s pep talk to the U.S. Congress (which gave him 27 standing ovations compared to Obama’s 25 before him. When was the last time this happened and it was labeled anything else but unpatriotic and inciting treason?)

Also, when it’s done, check out this map and see how difficult it would be to establish a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.