Saturday, January 31, 2009

Obama's Global Interest Imperialism

By Ben Shapiro

President Barack Obama's feckless, pathetically apologetic perspective on foreign policy has America's enemies celebrating their great good fortune in the election of this platitudinous, morally relativistic, Jimmy Carter carbon copy in the midst of battle. Less than a week into his term President Obama granted his first television interview as president of the United States to Al Arabiya, the Dubai-based television network part-owned by the Saudi government. In the interview, President Obama demonstrated with the utmost clarity that his understanding of the War on Terror is inversely proportional to his arrogance.

He started by humbling America before the world. "(A)ll too often the United States starts by dictating," Obama said, shame for his country dripping from his lips. "So let's listen." There was no call for the Muslim world, which has sponsored genocide after genocide, terrorist group upon terrorist group, to listen.

Obama apologized for President Bush's "Islamic fascism" terminology, equating Muslim terrorism with nonexistent terrorism by Jews and Christians: "the language we use matters. And what we need to understand is, is that there are extremist organizations -- whether Muslim or any other faith in the past -- that will use faith as a justification for violence. We cannot paint with a broad brush a faith as a consequence of the violence that is done in that faith's name." There was no call for the Muslim world to actively fight terrorism.

Obama repeated the Clintonian line that the Palestinian Arab-Israeli conflict could be solved by pressing Israel into negotiations with terrorists -- a foolish conceit that has cost Israeli and Palestinian lives. He talked about getting rid of "preconceptions" regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict -- code for embracing negotiations with Hamas. He pledged to talk with Iran -- on the same day that Iran's government spokesman branded the Holocaust "a big lie." He bought into the Muslim-sponsored notion that the Palestinian Arab-Israeli conflict lies at the heart of all trouble in the Middle East. He praised the one-sided Saudi peace plan as an act of "great courage."

Most sickeningly, Obama openly jettisoned his constitutional role as the caretaker for America's national interest. Instead, Obama posed himself as an honest broker between America and the Muslim world. "(T)he United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect," he said. "I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries." Obama didn't stop there. He stated that his job is to speak for the Muslim world, defending them from Americans' negative perceptions: "And my job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives."

No, Mr. President. Your job is not to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world harbors us no ill will. That is their job. The Muslim world must demonstrate with its words and actions that they do not wish America replaced with an Islamic state. They must demonstrate that they do not support terrorism against America and our allies.

Your job is to protect and defend the United States of America. That is your sworn duty.

And you abrogate your sworn duty every time you go on Arab television stations and apologize for America's foreign policy. You abrogate your sworn duty every time you force American allies to negotiate with terrorists. You abrogate your sworn duty every time you pledge to protect the interests "not just of the United States, but also ordinary people who right now are suffering from poverty and a lack of opportunity" -- the same ordinary people who elect Hamas, prop up the Ayatollahs, supported the Taliban, recruit for al-Qaida, and live off of the beneficence of Hezbollah. Not all Muslims are "extraordinary people," and the interests of suffering Muslims do not always align with American interests.

On Nov. 4, 2008, Americans elected their first international president. They elected a man who does not seek to preserve American values. Leftists perceived George W. Bush as an imperialist for American interests; by the same token, Obama is an imperialist for "global interests." In a war to save America from implacable foes, Obama's Global Interest Imperialism dooms American exceptionalism to the ash heap of history. With it may go the last, best hope of Earth.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Watch what you say.......or else

The United States government has no place in censoring what it is that the public is "allowed" to view, not withholding provisions against illegal material such as "snuff" and child pornography.  The first amendment holds that freedom of speech and even the press shall not be infringed upon, and yet it is against FCC regulations to utter phrases deemed "too vulgar" on television or the radio; this is a direct disregard for the freedom the first amendment protects. It is the claim of the moral majority and the religious right that this "mature content" is objectionable and ought not be in the hands of children. Truly, this is the responsibility of the parent to decide what their child will and will not be exposed to, and any claim to the contrary is merely the lethargic complaints of parents too engrossed in their own lives to take notice of what their children are viewing. This age of "Uncle Sam knows best" has gone on for quite long enough; no longer should the masses be subject to "big brother" and his all-seeing eye.  I quote the late great Ronald Regan when I say "I do not believe in a government which protects us from ourselves" president Reagan brings to light here that the government ought not interfere in social matters that overstep their constitutional boundaries. It has been said that violent media can encourage adolescent audiences to mimic what they see on the screen, but statistics show otherwise. The 1993 game Doom was demonized from its start, with moralistic interest groups attacking its very premise the "first person shooter" concept. The interest groups found their argument in the influential aspect of media, claiming that it would "teach our kids to kill". In the decade following the release of the game, juvenile homicide arrests fell 77 %, showing almost no correlation between the violence in teens and the games or movies they partake in.  A heavy backlash was felt by the media community after the Columbine high school incident where enraged parents turned their angst against all that which the perpetrators identified, and anything that could be blamed(Sternheimer,13-17). Though it is easy to mistake a correlation between adolescent violence and the media they enjoy, upon further examination it is easy to see that the two are not mutually inclusive. It may be that troubled teens all identify with violent media not all violent media patrons are troubled teens. There is strange inconsistency in the policies of what is and is not "protected speech". Video games are deemed protected, where movies and most notably television are heavily restricted. The 8th circuit court of the United States upheld that states have no right to restrict the sale of "M" for mature rated games to minors, deeming such a restriction as unconstitutional(Browning). It is often claimed that it is not the American peoples "fault" that their children mature to be killers, all too often the stance is taken "it's the medias fault they corrupted my son" while this is an obvious case of just plain bad parenting its also highly untrue. Other nations enjoy the same box office block busters we do, most movies make it "across the pond" and one of the most violent movies in recent memory is an American adaptation of the hit thriller from Spain, "REC" or its American title Quarantine (Roger Moore). European nations as well as our brothers to the north have far fewer murders per year than us. America has the second worst overall  murder rate in the civilized world second only to Russia (Seventh United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems). The United States has its own unique set of problems; its social unrest and overall sense of confinement causes great social strain. It is not what we watch but why we partake in such vices that makes us a nation on the verge of social collapse.

Yours truly,

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Devastation of Gaza: From Factories to Ice Cream

By: Tim McGirk (TIME Magazine)

Yaser Alwadeya wanders past a field strewn with the remnants of gaily painted ice cream carts, which were shredded by a blizzard of shrapnel. He enters the blackened innards of the Al Ameer factory, which once manufactured Gaza's tastiest ice cream and popsicles. Shaking his head, he says, "I can't figure out why the Israelis thought that Hamas had anything to do with ice cream."
The ice cream plant, which had been owned by Alwadeya's family for 55 years, was far from the only factory destroyed in Israel's 22-day assault on the Palestinian enclave. All along Gaza's factory row — which produced everything from biscuits to cement to wooden furniture — hardly a single building remains standing. It's as if a tsunami of fire had roared through Gaza's industrial district, leaving in its wake a tide of twisted metal and smashed buildings.
Israeli war planners had vowed to destroy the "infrastructure of terror" in Gaza, but many Gazans — even those opposed to Hamas — believe the operation was directed against general infrastructure. It certainly demolished much of Gaza's economy and civil society.

The Israeli military targeted tunnels, arms caches, police stations and the hideouts of several Hamas military commanders. But Israeli attacks also destroyed more than 230 factories, according to the Palestinian Industries Federation. Nearly 50 schools and 23 mosques were damaged as well as scores of government buildings, including the Presidential Compound and the Assembly building, which Gazans saw as the symbolic foundation for an eventual Palestinian state.

"The Israelis want to keep us poor and ignorant," says Amar Hamad, chairman of the Palestinian Industries Federation. "Businessmen were the last layer of society who believed that prosperity would bring peace with Israel. Now they don't believe that."
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) says it chose its targets carefully, to minimize destruction to surrounding property and human lives. And the IDF accuses Hamas of putting ordinary Gazans in harm's way by firing rockets at Israel from within crowded neighborhoods. But several businessmen interviewed by TIME insist that no militants were taking refugee inside the factories bombed by Israel. "They're targeting factories to make us dependent on the Israeli economy," claims Hamad.

Gazans are also baffled as to why Israeli planes rocketed the American International School, an institution that served the sons and daughters of wealthy Palestinians and which, until recently, flew the U.S. flag. "Our students learned American geography and history," says Sharhabe el Alzaeem, a trustee. "We sent kids to Harvard and Yale." Asked if militants might have been using the grounds to fire rockets, Alzaeem retorted, "We had high walls and good security. Our guard asked if he could bring his family to stay with him because the school was safer than his neighborhood. Would he be sending for his family if there were militants running around inside the school?" The caretaker was killed when an Israeli aircraft fired several rockets at the facility, regarded as Gaza's finest school.
In addition, Gaza's housing stock took a hammering in the hostilities. Initial estimates of the Public Works Ministry point to more than 2,100 houses destroyed and another 45,000 left in need of major repairs. A key sewage plant, whose construction with international funding had the backing of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was also hit, causing nearly $200 million in damages. Maintenance experts say a crumbling wall around a sewage lake is now in danger of spilling tons of fetid waste into the streets and alleys of northern Gaza.

Total reconstruction costs for Gaza as a result of the three-week offensive are estimated by the United Nations to be more than $1.5 billion — but the channeling of reconstruction aid into the territory is a contentious political issue. Israel and some international donors are reluctant to send funds through Hamas, which governs Gaza, for fear of "legitimizing" the Islamists, as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says. One Hamas spokesman told TIME that the group's primary concern was rebuilding Gaza from the rubble. "We want to rebuild houses, not our military capacity," he said. But other Hamas commanders said they would continue bringing weapons into Gaza to enable their "resistance" against Israel.

With the conflict unresolved, Israel is pressing for a continuation of the 18-month economic siege imposed on the 1.5 million people of Gaza by Israel, the U.S. and certain European and Arab allies. But John Ging, head of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, warned of the danger of keeping the crossings into Gaza closed for political reasons. "This isn't about keeping the people of Gaza alive on a drip of medicine and subsistence aid. That allows extremism to ferment in Gaza," he says. Indeed, with few factories left, there are no jobs, no ice cream and plenty of new recruits for Hamas.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Outsourcing faces new era of scrutiny

LONDON (Reuters) - Outsourcing, Indian-style, is challenged as never before by an erosion in business confidence that makes corporate spending, even to generate quick cost-savings, harder to justify.
"No New Investment" is the order of the day; cost avoidance, the mantra; zero percent, the growth target in the current era of uncertainty.
Software service providers emerged out of the 2000-2002 technology spending bust with sales growing up to 50 percent a year as they won over companies to contract out inefficient operations instead of managing them in-house.
But shocks to the world economy seen over the past 18 months are triggering reassessments of corporate growth expectations, cost considerations and operational accountability. It's no longer safe to assume that the logic that drove outsourcing in the past will drive it again, once the economy picks up.

Here are reasons why the industry will find it difficult to repeat its past performance in the tough times ahead.
CUTTING BACK ON COST-CUTTING: The paradox at the moment is that spending on services meant to cut costs and save money is itself being squeezed.
Technology Partners International (TPI), a research firm that has tracked the outsourcing industry for 20 years, reported this week that total contract volumes fell 22 percent in the fourth quarter from a year ago.
Just how bad things could get this year is only likely to emerge as corporate customers nail down their 2009 spending plans to vendors in the next two to three months.
"The worst of the IT (information technology) spending slowdown likely remains in front of us as we start the clock on slashed 2009 budgets," Goldman Sachs warned in a report on the software industry earlier this month.
The conventional wisdom is that companies will eventually need to cost-cut their way out of the economic morass. But as the software services industry has matured over this decade, Goldman analysts say the sector has become more cyclically dependent on overall IT spending, reducing the chances it will be an early winner in any corporate recovery.
Tata Consultancy Services, the largest of the Indian software service providers, estimates that budgets for IT outsourcing will fall between 5 and 20 percent during 2009. Market forecasters predict more declines in store for 2010.
KEY CUSTOMERS IN TROUBLE. One problem is that the $40 billion-a-year industry's fortunes are heavily linked to the financial sector. Indeed outsourcing started out 30 years ago as a way to help banks automate tangled back-office operations.

But while it grew more diverse in the 1990s, branching into telecom, manufacturing, retail and other industries; banks, brokerages and insurers are still the biggest slice of the market at 20 percent of overall sales, Goldman Sachs estimates.

The finance sector is not just in trouble, it is experiencing a meltdown like no other since the 1970s or perhaps even the 1930s -- long before outsourcing itself was invented. And while the credit crisis has left many institutions needing to slash costs, we are seeing a wholesale contraction of the market that will lead to steep reductions in overall demand. Whole parts of the business will disappear and not be replaced.
Moreover, the financial industry's reliance on governments for bailouts has curtailed the autonomy of bosses. Governments are likely to be dubious should big banks and insurers seek to offshore financial jobs, especially in countries with mounting unemployment. Outsourcers may have to get used to having fewer, and more conservative, financial services customers.
GROWING COMPETITION. Even if volumes hold up, Indian software services may find their market share eroded. After all, Indian firms no longer lay claim to the sort of exclusive cost advantages -- lowest cost technical labor -- they did.
In recent years, the industry has expanded into other offshore regions such as Southeast Asia, Central Europe and Latin America but promises to handle sensitive work "near-shore" or onsite when customers demand or labor politics require.
Big computer services firms IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Accenture got in on the act by expanding into India or by acquiring offshore companies themselves.
Accenture now has more staff in India than in the United States. Because these firms are agnostic about whether they offer their services offshore or near-shore, they look better placed to navigate global labor politics than Indian rivals.
TRUSTWORTHINESS. Adding to the sector's troubles is the massive corporate fraud uncovered recently at Satyam Computer Services Ltd, India's fourth largest software services provider. The scandal has Satyam customers scrambling to find alternative providers.
Other offshore services providers report stepped-up scrutiny from clients of their own corporate governance and financial viability. It has also revived questions about the trustworthiness of Indian accounts and the adequacy of corporate controls.

That's a big black eye for an industry that sells risk management and corporate governance services as a major client offering. It may raise the risk premium investors require for holding these stocks.
PRICE PRESSURES. Rising competition isn't the only threat to offshore outsourcers' margins.
Many of the more profitable, longer-term contracts worth tens or hundreds of millions of dollars are being put on hold as companies scramble to reassess their business strategies.
Customers want more control over projects and are demanding fixed-price deals that are more likely than not to limit margin growth. Infosys, Tata and others say they are doing their best to make up for price cuts by driving greater sales volumes.

The trend is disguised by the long-term nature of many existing software services contracts. Recent reports suggest many customers are scaling back or cancelling long-term "mega-deals" until they can get a handle on the impact of economic decline on their own businesses.
The industry is subsisting on short-term, quick-fix contracts aimed at cutting operational costs as fast as possible. These price-sensitive deals are what software services firms had been trying to move away from in favor of higher-value projects to create new businesses for customers, not just manage existing software or customer services.
There is a big cultural change underway in global corporations that may be less friendly to outsourcing. Fallout from the financial crisis is likely to mean far greater pressure on chief executives to run a tighter ship. There's likely to be less merger activity, less headlong expansion and less resulting need to consolidate organizations using external services.
Chief executives are sure to be more closely scrutinized for the operational choices they make, instead of farming out responsibility to lower level technical managers in order to focus on deal-making.
Inevitably there is a lack of control involved in contracting business operations out around the globe. This more constrained environment could be less favorable for outsourcing than downturns of the past.
-- At the time of publication Eric Auchard did not own any direct investments in securities mentioned in this article. He may be an owner indirectly as an investor in a fund.
By:Eric Auchard


Monday, January 26, 2009

Morocco: From Top-Down Reform to Democratic Transition?

Marina Ottaway, Michele Dunne, William Zartman, Abdeslam Maghraoui
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Marina Ottaway emphasized that the Middle East Series, of which her paper is a part, assumes that reform processes are bound to vary in different Arab country. Morocco exemplifies an extreme case of top-down reform, because reform comes from the king without much involvement  by the opposition. Ottaway argued that while many changes have taken place in Morocco, none could be described as democratic. Political power remains in the hands of the palace, which has deliberately monopolized the reform process. Significant changes in the Moroccan political scene include a dramatically improved human rights situation, and the adoption of a new personal status code, that is by far one of the most progressive by regional standards. The press is also freer than it was in the past, although some journalists point to a relapse in the past few months. Despite these changes, there have been no constitutional reforms and the system of alternance was reversed when the king handed the prime ministership to a technocrat in 2003.
Ottaway emphasized that her analysis does not mean that Morocco's socio-economic reform process has come to end, but it does suggest that there is little reason to believe that Morocco will embark on a political reform process anytime soon. The Islamist Justice and Development party (PJD) aside, there is a lack of powerful opposition forces capable of pushing for a greater political opening. Under the alternance system, former opposition parties were able to form government, but were co-opted as a result of their proximity to the monarchy. The PJD risks facing the same fate if it chooses to participate in the upcoming government. In many ways, however, the future of Moroccan political reform process hinges on the success of the PJD in the 2007 parliamentary elections—being the best organized opposition party—and its ability to press for further openings.
William Zartman commended the report's positive assessment of the role of the King Hassan II in initiating the reform process, but warned against forgetting that he is responsible for taming Morocco's political parties. Zartman urged observers to recognize the difficult balance between democrazation and stability in Morocco and to ponder mechanisms for making monarchies more participatory. A more powerful prime minister in Morocco is a case in point. To conclude, he echoed Ottaway's concern regarding the weakness of Moroccan political parties.
Abdeslam Maghraoui identified three areas that Ottaway's paper does not address: the monarchy's involvement in the private sector, which makes it difficult for the business elite to challenge the monarchy; the role of the military; and the social conservatism that is on the rise in Moroccan society.
During the question and answer period, Ottaway argued that a distinction could be made between the PJD's positions on domestic and regional issues. Its discourse on the latter witnessed some re-radicalization after the recent Lebanon war. Maghraoui noted that the PJD's dilemma is that it must negotiate its moderation with its conservative popular base. Zartman emphasized that the PJD remains a protest party and is likely to moderate if it gains more political power.
Maghraoui, Abdeslam, William Zartman, Michele Dunne, and Marina Ottaway. "Morocco: From Top-Down Reform to Democratic Transition?" Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 01 Nov. 2006. 26 Jan. 2009 <>.

Do Juarez Killings Signal Failing State?

The Houston Chronicle
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — In this carnage-racked border city of 1.3 million, more than 80 murders have been clocked in the past three weeks, and kidnappings, extortions, robberies and rapes further bedevil an already rattled population.

So far, the new year looks to be bringing as much, if not more, havoc than the last.

“Walking in the streets of Juarez is an extreme sport,” said political scientist Tony Payan, an expert on border violence, repeating a grim quip making the rounds.

Though little more than 1 percent of Mexico’s 105 million population lives in Juarez, it accounted for almost one-third of the country’s nearly 5,400 gangland murders last year, according to the federal government. And with President Felipe Calderon’s war on the country’s powerful drug syndicates unlikely to abate, this city bordering El Paso looks to remain a prime battleground.

Some U.S. security experts warn that Mexico teeters on meltdown — of being a “failed state.” Mexican leaders shrug off the notion, but Juarez’s criminal chaos wails like a siren before an approaching storm.

“Those of us on the border are evidence of how raw things can get,” said Lucinda Vargas, a former World Bank official who heads the Juarez Strategic Plan, a think tank. “There is not a corner of the city that escapes the effects of crime.”

Beyond gangsters
Once contained largely to the gangsters themselves, the mayhem has become generalized.

Consider Tuesday, alone:

• • Authorities recovered the decapitated head of a police chief from a town just downriver. Three other heads stuffed into a cooler were left on the steps of a city hall in a neighboring village.

• • Two state police detectives were shot to death in their patrol truck in a downtown Juarez parking lot.

• • A Juarez traffic police commander was kidnapped by unknown assailants.

And then consider that 10 people were killed the previous Wednesday, Jan. 14, including a 19-year-old law student who was a varsity baseball pitcher. He had been abducted 30 hours earlier from his family’s townhouse near the border.

The parents of the student, Jaime Irigoyen, said their son’s abductors wore army uniforms and spoke with southern Mexico accents, like many of the 3,000 soldiers patrolling the city’s streets.

A Mexican army statement denied soldiers were involved.

“That whoever deprived him of liberty were dressed in military-style uniforms in no way says they were soldiers,” the army said. “We call on the general public not to be fooled by criminal gangs.”

But members of the public said they saw men in uniform commit crimes. Witnesses said the eight gunmen who stormed a prayer service at a drug rehabilitation center last August and killed eight people were attired in military garb as well.

“They were dressed like soldiers,” Socorro Garcia, the Assemblies of God pastor who was leading the service, told reporters.

No arrests in deaths
As in most of the city’s more than 1,600 homicides last year, no one has been arrested for the clinic attack nor for the student’s killing.

“One can’t take refuge in a real rule of law, because it doesn’t exist here,” said Vargas, a Juarez native and reformer who nonetheless returns to El Paso each night.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Washington has made contingency plans to bolster U.S. border defenses if gangsters seize control of a city like Juarez.

And former U.S. drug czar Barry McCaffrey recently warned that Mexico faces becoming a “narco state.” U.S. military planners have hypothesized that Mexico and Pakistan pose the greatest risk of sudden collapse.

Mexican officials have dismissed such talk as overblown.

“We are putting the house in order,” Calderon said in a recent speech. “Mexico has political stability.”

True enough, perhaps. People still line up to pay their taxes and vote at election time. Public utilities work much of the time. Police direct traffic, patrol neighborhoods.

Most of Mexico — and even much of Juarez — functions peacefully. But some fundamentals have gone dangerously awry.

Problems amid progress

International trade has built Juarez’s new highways, office towers and gated suburbs.

But too many of the city’s people watch that progress with their noses pressed to a window. Factory jobs start at less that $50 a week, and even that work is dwindling amid the global recession. Criminal enterprise — selling narcotics in the neighborhoods, or helping to smuggle drugs to U.S. consumers — pays far more.

Thousands of young men belong to the 500 street gangs that police estimate operate in Juarez.

The gangs ally with the larger drug syndicates and battle one another for turf.

“The young don’t have any long-range plans,” said sociologist Julia Monarrez, who studies the gender factors of Juarez’s violence, which also has claimed nearly 600 women since the early 1990s. “They are disposable.”

But amid the violence here, many Juarez residents with money and U.S. visas have slipped across the Rio Grande to El Paso.

As for those who remain, they shut themselves inside after sundown.

“In a micro sense,” Vargas said, “Juarez is a failed state.”

Bolivians OK new constitution, giving Morales a key win

McClatchy Newspapers

LA PAZ, Bolivia — President Evo Morales took a major step toward creating a socialist state that empowers the indigenous majority when about 60 percent of Bolivians approved a new constitution on Sunday.

The new charter also allows Morales to seek re-election to a five-year term in December.

The country's first self-identified indigenous president, Morales begins the race as the heavy favorite to remain in power until 2014.

Vice President Alvaro Garcia said Sunday's victory marked a watershed because it essentially would end the sometimes violent debates that have wracked this politically turbulent country since 2000.

"There will still be conflict and tension," Garcia told McClatchy in an exclusive interview Sunday afternoon in the Gold Salon at the presidential palace. "But from here on out, this country will be governed by three principles: equality, autonomy and a strong state presence in the economy. From here on out, we will only debate these principles on the margin."

Morales had sought the new constitution even before he became president three years ago, as part of his plan to carry out a social revolution in power.

As president, Morales has "nationalized" foreign companies by sharply raising their taxes and used the windfall to establish pensions for the elderly and sharply increase state spending on public works.

Morales, 49, has allied with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Fidel Castro — all in the name of giving the poor a greater share of the political and economic pie — while expelling the U.S. ambassador in September and kicking out Drug Enforcement Administration anti-drug agents this week. Bolivia is the world's third biggest producer of coca, the raw leaf that is the main ingredient in cocaine. Morales, a coca farmer, still heads the country's coca growers union.

While Sunday's results may have reassured Morales and Garcia that Bolivia is heading in the right direction, they scared many descendents of the Spanish who colonized this country nearly 500 years ago.

"The new constitution will divide the country by giving special rights to some people," Gerardo Zevallos, a 59-year-old architect, said after voting. "People like me will become second-class citizens. This is an act of revenge."

"We're being discriminated against," said Aurora de Lopez, another light-skinned voter.

Opposition was concentrated in cities and in Bolivia's eastern lowlands, centered in Santa Cruz, the country's economic capital.

Light-skinned Bolivians have held political and economic power for generations in a country where 60 percent of the population — nearly all of them indigenous — live on $2 per day or less.

The new charter enshrines greater government control of the economy and limits the size of new landholdings in an attempt to redistribute land to peasants.

It gives special rights to Indians, who would be guaranteed a certain number of seats in Congress and on the Supreme Court and would have to approve exploration of minerals and natural gas on their territories.

The new constitution also gives a greater form of autonomy sought by conservative governments in the eastern lowlands — a measure included to weaken opposition to the constitution.

Many analysts predict that conflicting and vaguely worded articles in the new constitution will ensure continuing battles.

Nonetheless, Sunday's result continued a string of political victories for Morales. The last came in August when 67 percent of Bolivians voted for him to remain in power while ousting two governors opposed to him.

That election took place amid such heavy polarization that Morales could not even campaign in five of the country's nine states before the referendum.

Morales campaigned freely for this referendum, in a sign that tension has eased.

When Garcia stood in line to vote at a school Sunday afternoon in La Paz, some voters in the middle-class neighborhood whistled in derision and shouted "Go home!" But many others applauded him.

During the interview afterward, Garcia dismissed those who say the new constitution creates special rights for indigenous people at the expense of others.

"For anyone to say that in a country with a history of colonization and racism is a scandal," said Garcia, a former Marxist sociology professor who spent five years in prison in the 1990s, charged with conspiring to overthrow the state that he now helps lead.

In a country where marchers airing a grievance block roads and highways nearly every day, Sunday felt like a festive holiday, as ordinary people thronged the streets on foot or bicycle.

Under Bolivian law, nearly all vehicles were banned from the streets, alcohol sales were prohibited and voting was obligatory.

Enterprising Bolivians grilled such local delicacies as cow hearts outside voting precincts, on a day when most restaurants were closed.

The Onion: Many U.S. Parents Outsourcing Child Care Overseas

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mugabe should face trial for crimes against humanity

The Boston Globe
Published: January 23, 2009

Life expectancy in Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe fell from 62 years in 1990 to 36 in 2006. And, as described in a recent report by Physicians for Human Rights, this man-made catastrophe has only gotten worse in the last two years. To end their agony, Zimbabweans need new leadership.

Although the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai lamented a deadlock Monday in power-sharing talks with Mugabe, a peaceful transfer of power is still the best hope for Zimbabwe's rehabilitation. But even if Mugabe cedes power after 28 years, the international community will still confront a haunting question: How can Mugabe and his henchmen be held accountable for the catastrophe they created?

This question is broached in a preface to the report signed by Desmond Tutu, South Africa's retired archbishop; Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; and Richard Goldstone, former UN chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. They cite "growing evidence that Robert Mugabe and his regime may well be guilty of crimes against humanity." And they call for urgent intervention by Zimbabwe's neighbors and all UN member states to prevent more deaths.

Physicians for Human Rights sent a delegation to Zimbabwe last month. The team found that the Mugabe regime destroyed the country's healthcare system and pursued policies that ruined what had been a vibrant agriculture, depriving all but a tiny elite of proper nutrition, water, and a sustainable livelihood. One result has been a cholera epidemic and the spread of other diseases.

The rights group is calling for the UN to pass a resolution instructing the International Criminal Court in the Hague to investigate Mugabe and his cronies. The group argues that Mugabe's depredations meet the requirements for an ICC prosecution for crimes against humanity.

Mugabe should face trial for crimes against humanityFirst steps at GuantánamoThe need for judgment is the same as it has always been: to prevent the next despotic regime from doing to another people what Mugabe has done in Zimbabwe. At present, comparable crimes are being committed by the military junta in Burma and the genocidal regime in Sudan. The best hope to save lives in the killing fields of Darfur or the forests and rice paddies of Burma may be to make an example of Mugabe.

Iran Is the Terrorist 'Mother Regime'

By BRET STEPHENS with Benjamin Netanyahu

It's Sunday morning, and I've been trying for days to get an interview with former -- and, if his poll numbers hold up through the Feb. 10 election, soon-to-be -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But it's a political season, and there's a war on, and my calls aren't being returned. With nothing better to do, I go downstairs to the hotel gym for a jog.

So who should be on the treadmill next to mine? Benjamin Netanyahu. We chat for a few minutes, mostly about the cease-fire that the government of outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has just declared, and I ask if he'd be willing to sit for an interview later in the day. His answer is something between a "maybe" and a "yes." As a nod to the customs of the country, I take that as a definite yes, so much the better to press his aides to arrange the meeting.

When the interview finally happens, in the grand reception hall of the old King David Hotel, it's close to one o'clock in the morning on Monday. Mr. Netanyahu has come from a long dinner with visiting European leaders -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel among them -- and he is plainly exhausted, joking that he can't be held responsible for anything he might say.

The crack is unnecessary. Rare for a leading Israeli political figure, the 59-year-old Mr. Netanyahu is a phenomenally articulate man -- Obama-esque, one might even say -- not just in his native Hebrew, but also in the unaccented English he acquired at a Philadelphia high school and later as an architecture and management student at MIT. True to form, near-lapidary sentences all but trip from his tongue. Such as:

"I don't think Israel can accept an Iranian terror base next to its major cities any more than the United States could accept an al Qaeda base next to New York City."


"If we accept the notion that terrorists will have immunity because as they fire on civilians they hide behind civilians, then this tactic will be legitimized and the terrorists will have their greatest victory."


"We grieve for every child, for every innocent civilian that's killed either on our side or on the Palestinian side. The terrorists celebrate such suffering, on our side because they openly say they want to kill us, all of us, and on the Palestinian side because it helps them foster this false symmetry, which is contrary to common decency and international law."

And so on. The immediate question, of course, is the Israeli government's unilateral cease-fire, followed hours later by Hamas's declaration of a conditional, one-week cease-fire. Was the war a win? A draw? Or did it accomplish nothing at all -- thereby handing Hamas the "victory" it loudly claims for itself?

When Mr. Olmert announced Israel's cease-fire late Saturday night, he could hardly keep a grin off his face. In his estimate, along with that of his senior military brass, Israel had scored a clear win: It had humiliated Hamas militarily; it had caused a political rift within the group; it had taken relatively few casualties of its own; it had focused international attention on the problem of the arms smuggling beneath Gaza's border with Egypt. Most important, in the eyes of the Olmert government, it had avoided the trap of reoccupying Gaza -- the only means, it believed, of finally getting rid of Hamas.

Ordinary Israelis, however, seem less confident in the result, and Mr. Netanyahu gives voice to their caution. He is quick to applaud the "brilliant" performance of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the "perseverance and strength" of Israeli civilians under Hamas's years-long rocket barrages.

But, he adds, "we have to make sure that the radicals do not perceive this as a victory," and it remains far from clear that they would be wrong to see it as one. "Notwithstanding the blows to the Hamas, it's still in Gaza, it's still ruling Gaza, and the Philadelphi corridor [which runs along Gaza's border with Egypt] is still porous, and . . . Hamas can smuggle new rockets unless it's closed, to fire at Israel in the future."

So is Mr. Netanyahu's preference regime change in Gaza? "Well, that would have been the optimal outcome," he says, adding that "the minimal outcome would have been to seal Gaza" from the missiles and munitions being smuggled into it. So far it's unclear that Israel has achieved even that: A "Memorandum of Understanding" agreed to last week by Israel, the U.S. and Egypt could be effective in stopping the flow of arms, but that's assuming Cairo lives up to its responsibilities.

"One would hope they would actually do it," says Mr. Netanyahu, sounding less than optimistic. Within days, his doubts are confirmed when the Associated Press produces video footage of masked Palestinian smugglers moving through once-again operational tunnels.

Rather than looking for solutions from Egypt, however, Mr. Netanyahu's gaze is intently fixed on Iran, a subject that consumes at least half of the interview. Iran is the "mother regime" both of Hamas, against which Israel has just fought a war, as well as of Hezbollah, against which it fought its last war in 2006. Together, he says, they are more than simply fingers of Tehran's influence on the shores of the Mediterranean.

"The arming of Iran with nuclear weapons may portend an irreversible process, because these regimes assume a kind of immortality," he says, arguing that the threat of a nuclear Iran poses a much graver danger to the world than the current economic crisis. "[This] will pose an existential threat to Israel directly, but also could give a nuclear umbrella to these terrorist bases."

How to stop that from happening? Mr. Netanyahu mentions that he has met with Barack Obama both in Israel and Washington, and that the question of Iran "loomed large in both conversations." I ask: Did Mr. Obama seem to him appropriately sober-minded about the subject? "Very much so, very much so," Mr. Netanyahu stresses. "He [Mr. Obama] spoke of his plans to engage Iran in order to impress upon them that they have to stop the nuclear program. What I said to him was, what counts is not the method but the goal."

It's easy to believe that Mr. Netanyahu, of all people, must be wishing President Obama well: If diplomacy with Iran fails and the U.S. does not resort to military force, it would almost certainly fall to Mr. Netanyahu to decide whether Israel will go it alone in a strike. (In a separate interview earlier that day, a senior military official assured me that a successful strike on Iran's nuclear facilities is well within Israel's capabilities.)

On the other hand, a Prime Minister Netanyahu could easily tangle with the Obama administration, particularly if it makes a big push -- as it looks like it might with the appointment of former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as the new special envoy to the region -- for the resumption of comprehensive, "final status" peace negotiations. There's already a history here: During his first term as prime minister from 1996 to 1999, Mr. Netanyahu frequently clashed with the administration of the man whose wife is now the secretary of state.

Mr. Netanyahu's own prescriptions for a settlement with the Palestinians -- what he calls a "workable peace" -- differ markedly from the approaches of the 1990s. He talks about "the development of capable law enforcement and security capabilities" for the Palestinians, adding that the new National Security Adviser Jim Jones had worked on the problem for the Bush administration. He stresses the need for rapid economic development in the West Bank, promising to remove "all sorts of impediments to economic growth" faced by Palestinians.

As for the political front, Mr. Netanyahu promises a gradual, "bottom-up process that will facilitate political solutions, not replace them."

"Most of the approaches to peace between Israel and the Palestinians," he says, "have been directed at trying to resolve the most complex problems, like refugees and Jerusalem, which is akin to building the pyramid from the top down. It's much better to build it layer by layer, in a deliberate, purposeful pattern that changes the reality for both Palestinians and Israelis."

Whether this approach will work remains to be seen: Palestinian economic development was also a priority in the 1990s, until it became clear that billions in foreign aid were being siphoned off by corrupt Palestinian officials, and after various joint economic projects with Israel were violently sabotaged.

But however Mr. Netanyahu's economic and security plans play out, he makes it equally clear that he is prepared to go only so far to reach an accommodation that will meet some of the current demands being made of Israel -- not only by Palestinians, but by the Syrians, the Saudis, and much of the rest of the "international community" as well. "We're not going to redivide Jerusalem, or get off the Golan Heights, or go back to the 1967 boundaries," he says. "We won't repeat the mistake our [political opponents] made of unilateral retreats to merely vacate territory that is then taken up by Hamas or Iran."

This brings Mr. Netanyahu to the political pitch he's making -- so far successfully -- to Israelis ahead of next month's election. When elections were held three years ago, bringing Mr. Olmert to power, "we [his Likud Party] were mocked" for warning that Gaza would become Hamastan, and that Hamastan would become a staging ground for missiles fired at major Israeli cities such as Ashkelon and Ashdod.

"I think we've shown the ability to see the problems in advance," he says. "Peace is purchased from strength. It's not purchased from weakness or unilateral retreats. It just doesn't happen that way. That perhaps is the greatest lesson that has been impressed on the mind of the Israeli public in the last few years."

The polls seem to agree. As of Wednesday, an Israeli poll gives Likud a 30-seat plurality in the next Knesset, ahead by eight of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's Kadima party. Well behind both of them is the left-leaning Labor Party of Defense Minister Ehud Barak (at about 15 seats), which in turn is running roughly even with Avigdor Lieberman's right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu.

The dovish parties of yore, particularly Meretz, barely exist as political entities anymore. Whether they'll ever be back will be a testament, one way or another, to the kind of prime minister Mr. Netanyahu will be this time around.

Mr. Stephens writes Global View, the Journal's foreign affairs column.

Friday, January 23, 2009

An Eye for an Eye

Those who oppose the death penalty claim that it is committing a crime just like criminal, and how a life sentence is more effective. However, former Republican candidate, Mitt Romney was, as Seth Stern put it in his article, Can You Build a Foolproof Death Penalty? "pushing capital punishment with a provocative new twist." The provocative twist is that capital punishment is "possible to adopt a death-penalty system so reliable that innocents on death row can be made a thing of the past." Romney also claims, "Just as science can be used to free the innocent, it can be used to identify the guilty." Science can also be used to prove the falling numbers of homicides with inmates on death row. In Studies Say Death Penalty Deters Crime by Robert Tanner, he states just that. "Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University." With the execution of one person, the United States saves 18 more people. Eighteen people who could have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Eighteen people whose goals in life would have been to do good things. While the execution of that one person, who didn't have that goal in mind. That one person who took the life of an innocent person, and ultimately lost their innocence. That one person who was proven guilty and put on death row; taking that one life saves a few more. For those who are opposed to capital punishment because it's committing a similar crime as the criminal sentenced, consider this quote from Henry J. Cordes's article, New Lethal Injection Protocol Is Possible, "New York Law School professor Robert Blecker is a strong death penalty supporter. He has no problem with painful executions, asking, "Can't some killers deserve a quick but painful death?"
I'm not saying, just kill every person who's committed a crime. True, capital punishment is not a perfect system for dealing with certain crimes and criminals. But no system can be foolproof. The process is rather long, leading many criminals to come down with a cause of the "death row syndrome." "Death row inmates can now expect to wait an average of 12 years from the day of their sentencing to death by lethal injection or electric chair, a doubling of the time gap in the mid-1980s, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice," as Michael J. Carter wrote in his article, U.S.: Longer Waits on Death Row Erode Mental Health. I want to leave you with this quote from Walter Berns's Can't Have One Without the Other? "A world so lacking in passion lacks the necessary components of punishment. Punishment has its origins in the demand for justice, and justice is demanded by angry, morally indignant men, men who are angry when someone else is robbed, raped, or murdered ... This anger is an expression of their caring, and the just society needs citizens who care for each other, and for the community of which they are parts. One of the purposes of punishment, particularly capital punishment, is to recognize the legitimacy of that righteous anger and to satisfy and thereby to reward it. In this way, the death penalty, when duly or deliberately imposed, serves to strengthen the moral sentiments required by a self-governing community."


Works Cited

Berns, Walter. "Can't Have One Without the Other?" Weekly Standard 4 Feb. 2008: 18-19.
Carter, Michael J. "U.S.: Longer Waits on Death Row Erode Mental Health." Inter Press Service 4 Nov. 2008.
Cordes, Henry J. "New Lethal Injection Protocol Is Possible." Omaha World-Herald 10 Feb. 2008.
Stern, Seth. "Can You Build a Foolproof Death Penalty?" CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR 5 Nov. 2003.
Tanner, Robert. "Studies Say Death Penalty Deters Crime." LINCOLN COURIER 11 June 2007

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An Eye For An Eye?

The 8th amendment guarantees us all as American citizens the right to be free from cruel and unusual process. The process of the death penalty directly infringes upon that right. We as Americans need to stand up and abolish the death penalty. This is an unfair and unjust practice. Take for example the case of Jesse Tafero, Tafero was testified against, the witness was tampered with (being offered a lighter sentence to say Tafero was guilty). Although Tafero was innocent but was executed in 1990, even after the witness took back his testimony and claimed that he was the guilty one.(Innocence Project) With the recent development of DNA testing we can find the innocence or guilt of almost any inmate; including those whom may have already been executed. Just the simple fact that we are killing our own INNOCENT American citizens should be reason enough to want abolish the death penalty. There have been 227 post-conviction DNA exonerations. (Innocence Project)

Currently our system is flawed. It is just immoral execute innocent prisoners who potentially have families hoping for Daddy's release from jail, kids who will have to live a whole life without one of the parents, parents who have to bury their kids; and all this happening to someone who is innocent. The death penalty is based on the archaic ideology of 'an eye for an eye'. Is it really right to murder murderers? If so why don't we rape rapists or steal from people who steal? This strange double standard is something that we should not keep in practice. While the death penalty is meant to be the harshest punishment available but it creates sympathy for the most monstrous of perpetrators.

One of the biggest issues revolving around the death penalty is the ineffectiveness of a lot of our methods. The electric chair quite often does not initially kill the victim. This often leaves the victim hurt, burned, or even paralyzed. Lethal injection which is the most commonly used form of capitol punishment (Amnesty USA), is probably the most inhumane technique in practice today. A series of three drugs, Sodium Thiopental, Pancuronium Bromide, and Potassium chloride are used. The first drug puts the inmate to sleep, the second stops the inmates breathing, and the third is intended to stop the heart. This may seem like a very humane process, it actually can be one of the most painful. If not rendered unconscious, the inmate will feel excruciating pain; if paralyzed by the Pancuronium Bromide, the inmate will be unable to show this pain (Amnesty USA) Most executions take over twenty minutes to conclude and often leads to inmates gasping for air and suffering immensely before being put to death. By law health professionals are required to administer the drugs to the inmate but this violates almost all codes of professional ethics for doctors and physicians.

It is for these reasons I think we need to stand up as Americans and no longer allow this barbaric and inhumane process to continue in our country. We cannot allow our own citizens to be brutally executed in any way, shape, or form.


Works Cited

"The Innocence Project - About Us." The Innocence Project - Home. 23 Jan. 2009 .

"Lethal Injection." Amnesty International USA - Protect Human Rights. 23 Jan. 2009 .

Taliban warn Obama: Leave Afghanistan

Analysts say the war will be one of the new president's toughest challenges.

By David Montero
posted January 21, 2009 at 10:15 am EST

As President Barack Obama steps into the White House and into history, the Taliban have a message for him: Leave Afghanistan.

"The insurgent Taliban said Wednesday that US President Barack Obama should learn from the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan and pull his troops out of the country to allow Afghans to decide their own fate," reports The News, a popular English-language daily in Pakistan.

"We have no problem with Obama," a spokesman for the extremist Islamist movement [said] after the inauguration of the new US president. However, "he must learn lessons from [former US president George W. Bush] and before that the Soviets," Yousuf Ahmadi said by telephone.

Their remarks come as militants in neighboring Pakistan widened a bloody campaign in the country's North West Frontier Province, blowing up girls' schools and engaging in pitched battles with Pakistani military forces.

As President Obama officially enters the White House, some analysts say the fight in Afghanistan and Pakistan may be his toughest international challenge, reports ABC News.

Now the hard part begins, and there may be no harder spot on the planet for President Barack Obama than Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The unreliable border between those two countries will help determine whether some of the tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops being sent to Afghanistan will come home in body bags; whether al Qaeda can launch another attack; and whether the Taliban can continue to destabilize both countries economically and politically.

The Boston Globe adds that a "record 151 American forces died in Afghanistan in 2008, compared with 111 the previous year. It was the deadliest year yet in a seven-year war that military officials say is likely to get even bloodier this year, as thousands more American troops pour into the country."

Responding to the challenge, the new Obama team has outlined a diplomatic as well as military approach to fighting the Taliban, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported yesterday.

Despite plans to send tens of thousands more troops to Afghanistan to boost stability, the Obama administration seems to be heeding expert advice that no military solution is possible over the long term.

Hillary Clinton, Obama's pick for secretary of state, last week omitted mention of the idea of a military victory….

"We will use all the elements of our power -- diplomacy, development, and defense -- to work with those in Afghanistan and Pakistan who want to root out Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other violent extremists," Clinton said.

The challenges Obama faces were crystallized in violence in neighboring Pakistan.

Pakistani forces have been fighting Taliban militants up and down the Afghan border, and claim to have killed more than 1,500 in the last 17 months, according to AFP.

Some 60 militants were killed in the latest round of fighting on Tuesday, reports The News.

Twenty-two militants, including several local commanders, and two civilians were killed and several others sustained injuries as fighter planes and gunship helicopters blitzed different areas of Pandyalai and Lakaro Tehsils of the troubled Mohmand Agency on Tuesday. A press release of the Frontier Corps, however, claimed killing 60 militants in the ongoing operation besides securing a number of militant-held areas.

In the neighboring Swat district, the Taliban blew up five schools for girls in a growing effort to stop female education, according to Dawn, a leading English-language daily based in Karachi, Pakistan. "Swat District Coordination Officer Shaukat Khan Yousafzai said 182 schools, most of them for girls, had been destroyed by militants, affecting over 100,000 primary- to college-level students," it reported.

The violence comes as Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in the Middle East, wraps up meetings with Afghan and Pakistani leaders. In Pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari told General Petraeus that the US should halt the predator drone attacks it has increasingly used to target Al Qaeda and Taliban militants inside Pakistani territory, reports The News.

Pakistan on Tuesday stressed the need for halting the drone strikes and urged its key ally, the United States, to enhance intelligence-sharing with Islamabad....

President Zardari said the drone attacks in the tribal areas were weakening the writ of the government and destabilising the political process, according to sources.

The sources said the president was of the view that the ongoing war on terror had badly affected Pakistan's economy and that the world should help Pakistan tackle the economic challenges.

Petraeus is scheduled to return to Washington on Wednesday, where he will attend Obama's first official meeting with military commanders, reports the Associated Press.

Obama will begin to put his imprint on the nation's war strategy in his first full day in office, gathering his top military and national security advisers at the White House for what is expected to be the start of the new commander in chief's shift in emphasis from Iraq to Afghanistan.

According to officials, Obama will conduct a video teleconference late Wednesday afternoon with members of the National Security Council as well as the US military commanders in the two war zones.

2,688 Days

By Marc A. Thiessen
Thursday, January 22, 2009; A17

When President Bush left office on Tuesday, America marked 2,688 days without a terrorist attack on its soil. There are 1,459 days until the next inauguration. Whether Barack Obama is standing on the Capitol steps to be sworn in a second time depends on whether he succeeds in replicating Bush's achievement.

As the new president receives his intelligence briefings, certain facts must now be apparent: Al-Qaeda is actively working to attack our country again. And the policies and institutions that George W. Bush put in place to stop this are succeeding. During the campaign, Obama pledged to dismantle many of these policies. He follows through on those pledges at America's peril -- and his own. If Obama weakens any of the defenses Bush put in place and terrorists strike our country again, Americans will hold Obama responsible -- and the Democratic Party could find itself unelectable for a generation.

Consider, for example, the CIA program that Bush created to detain and question senior leaders captured in the war on terror. Many of these terrorists, including Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, refused to talk -- until Bush authorized the CIA to use enhanced interrogation techniques. Information gained using those techniques is responsible for stopping a number of planned attacks -- including plots to blow up the American consulate in Karachi, Pakistan; to fly airplanes into the towers of Canary Wharf in London; and to fly a hijacked airplane into the Library Tower in Los Angeles.

During the campaign, Obama described the techniques used to prevent these attacks as "torture." He promised that if elected, he would "have the Army Field Manual govern interrogation techniques for all United States Government personnel and contractors." If he follows through, he will effectively kill a program that stopped al-Qaeda from launching another Sept. 11-style attack. It was easy for Obama the candidate to criticize the CIA program. But as president, what will he do when the next senior al-Qaeda leader -- with actionable intelligence on plots to strike our homeland -- is captured and refuses to talk? Will the president allow the CIA to question this terrorist using enhanced interrogation techniques? If Obama refuses and our country is attacked, he will bear responsibility.

Consider also the National Security Agency's program to monitor foreign terrorist communications. In the Senate, Obama voted against confirming then-NSA Director Michael Hayden to lead the CIA because, in Obama's words, Hayden was "the architect and chief defender of a program of wiretapping and collection of phone records outside of FISA oversight." In 2007, Obama voted against the Protect America Act, which temporarily authorized the NSA program. Last year, he promised to filibuster a long-term authorization but at the last minute switched his vote. He explained that he still wanted to make changes to the law, including stripping out immunity for telecommunications companies for their cooperation with the NSA -- which would effectively kill the program. And he promised that "once I'm sworn in as President . . . my Attorney General [will] conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and . . . make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties."

Now that he has been sworn in, will Obama allow the program to continue through 2012 as Congress authorized -- breaking his pledge to his liberal base? Or will he move forward with his promised review and impose new constraints on the NSA's ability to learn what terrorists are planning? If he does, what if we fail to connect the dots before the next attack?

Obama faces a similar quandary regarding Iraq. Bush left him with a stabilized Iraq, where al-Qaeda is in retreat and American forces are coming home by the end of 2011 under a policy of "return on success." Candidate Obama promised to dramatically accelerate this withdrawal and to remove American troops within 16 months. Just last week, senior Obama adviser David Axelrod declared on ABC's "This Week" that Obama intends to keep that promise. The problem is that Gen. David Petraeus and the Joint Chiefs are not likely to recommend such a rapid and irresponsible withdrawal. That leaves Obama with two choices: He can scale back his plans and continue the slower drawdown already set in motion by President Bush. Or he can overrule his military commanders -- and pursue a rapid drawdown over their objections. If he does this, he will own the potentially devastating results. In 2007, President Bush revealed intelligence that Osama bin Laden had told al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq to form a cell to conduct attacks inside the United States -- then the surge drove them from their havens and set back those plans. If Obama allows al-Qaeda to regain its Iraqi havens, and the terrorists use them to strike our country, he will not be able to blame Bush.

President Obama has inherited a set of tools that successfully protected the country for 2,688 days -- and he cannot dismantle those tools without risking catastrophic consequences. On Tuesday, George W. Bush told a cheering crowd in Midland, Tex., that his administration had left office without another terrorist attack. When Barack Obama returns to Chicago at the end of his time in office, will he be able to say the same?

The writer, who served in senior positions at the White House and the Pentagon from 2001 to 2009, was most recently chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush.

Zimbabwe's decline did not happen on its own

January 22, 2009

Africa's leaders have helped Robert Mugabe remain in power.

THE US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, James Mcghee, says Zimbabwe is a failed state. Cholera and malnutrition are bringing death everywhere while schools and hospitals have closed. Unemployment is 90 per cent, prices are doubling every day and barter has replaced a worthless currency — the Zimbabwean dollar had

13 zeros removed last year in a vain attempt to make it viable. Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans have fled to bordering countries.

But African leaders still refuse to intervene effectively.

Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe, lost a close-run election last year to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai, but he is hanging on by diplomatic bluff and bluster abroad combined with torture, murder and criminal neglect at home.

Cholera is spread in conditions of poor sanitation, where sewage can easily contaminate water supplies. It marks the breakdown of the most basic systems of public health. Aid agencies are trying to deliver clean water, antibiotics and rehydrating salts to treat the tens of thousands of people infected, but supplies are intercepted by officials. The UN figures of roughly 40,000 cases and 2100 deaths underestimate the situation because many die at home, often alone, too weak to seek treatment. The World Health Organisation estimates 60,000 cases are likely now the rainy season has begun washing even more human waste into the water supplies.

The economy is in its death throes, too. This week a 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollar was introduced, but all meaningful trade is done by barter or in foreign currency, illegally, amid inflation higher than 230 million per cent. Previously productive mines are now lethal places to work, as army officers have seized control and pocketed the dwindling revenue.

Yet the ruling Zanu-PF and Mugabe, its 84-year-old leader who has run Zimbabwe since 1980, still refuse to yield any power. As the country collapsed and the MDC won the elections but could not take office, South Africa, Botswana and Tanzania pushed Mugabe to the negotiating table.

The result was a deal for Zanu-PF to share ministerial power with MDC. But within days of the much-heralded agreement, Zanu-PF backtracked, refusing the MDC control of any ministries overseeing the security forces. The MDC rejected lesser portfolios because the ruling party's record of violence and intimidation meant an agreement was worthless without control of the police, since Mugabe and his cronies would never yield the army.

Recent events prove them right. In the past three months more than 40 MDC supporters have disappeared and others have been arrested and tortured. Abductions not only undermine the rule of law and weaken the political organisation of the MDC, they drive MDC spokesmen to aggressive condemnation of Zanu-PF. MDC criticisms are eagerly reported in international media alongside similar comments from Western leaders. This actually helps Mugabe, who simply claims that the MDC is the stooge of the West.

Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu shamelessly described the cholera outbreak as a "genocidal onslaught on the people of Zimbabwe by the British". Mugabe claimed that Britain and the US were using cholera as a cover for an invasion plan. Mugabe knows that by constantly blaming distant Britain and America for his country's ills, he makes it hard for democratic but awe-struck leaders in his own region to criticise the veteran revolutionary hero — some even seem ready to believe that Britain wants its colonies back. So Mugabe's lies still carry the day.

Although he should have known better, Thabo Mbeki, who was persuaded to resign in September as South African president and was negotiator of the power-sharing deal, followed Mugabe's lead and even rebuked Tsvangirai for looking to the West for help.

If Mbeki had shown any leadership, Tsvangirai would be president of Zimbabwe, but his successor Kgalema Motlanthe shows no sign of squaring up to Mugabe either. South Africa's stint on the UN Security Council has just ended, but its replacement, Uganda, stated right away that it also would oppose any UN action against Mugabe, just as Mbeki did, with Chinese and Russian support.

Although Mugabe is a murderous despot, he understands how to retain power.

Until Africa's democratically elected leaders can ignore his rhetoric, Zimbabweans are doomed.

With Barack Obama's inauguration causing a news frenzy all over Africa, he has the opportunity to shame those leaders into action.

Dr Roger Bate is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a US think tank. He was refused entry into Zimbabwe earlier this month.

Tell the US, 'No We Can't'

Article from: The Australian
WE all hope Barack Obama can rebuild the US's place in the world. But will that hope be fulfilled? To answer that, we need to do more than admire the new President. We must go back and look at what's gone wrong during the past eight years, because then can we say whether Obama has what it takes to overcome them.

For me, alas, the answer is no. The challenges to America's global position are not those of mere mismanagement. They arise from a profound mismatch between America's global objectives on the one hand and its power on the other, now and increasingly in the future.

To reconcile that mismatch, Obama needs to define new, more modest and more realistic and achievable objectives for his foreign policy.

This is not the way most Americans, including the new President, see the problem. Instead they blame the previous president. That's understandable enough. George W. Bush used American power so badly it seems natural to blame the setbacks of the past eight years on his errors. But America's problems are much bigger than Bush. His administration was arrogant, cynical, negligent, brutal and incompetent. But even if it had been wise and skilful, the aims Bush set for US policy were simply beyond the scope of US power to deliver, no matter how prudently and persuasively it was applied.

Consider Bush's key objectives: he committed the US to transforming Iraq, to rebuilding Afghanistan, to containing Russia, to disarming North Korea and Iran, and to sustaining US primacy in Asia in the face of China's rise.

He has failed in all of them, but would anyone else have done better? Bush's incompetence created America's problems in Iraq, but none of these other challenges are his fault. And no one - certainly not the new President - has any persuasive ideas about what new things the US can do to fix them that differ much from Bush's plans, or have any better prospects for success.

So far as we can judge thus far, including from this week's inaugural speech, Obama's aims are just as ambitious as Bush's. Like Bush, Obama believes the US can defeat the Taliban and transform Afghanistan. Like Bush, he believes the US can stop Iran building nuclear weapons. Like Bush, he believes the US can pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. Like Bush, he believes Russia can be denied a sphere of influence in its "near abroad".

Even on Iraq, Obama differs from Bush on matters of method, not purpose: like Bush, Obama believes the US can create in Iraq a stable, well-governed and broadly pro-Western counterbalance to Iranian power in the Persian Gulf.

Most importantly, like Bush, Obama believes the US can remain the dominant power in Asia, just as it has been for the past few decades, as China's economic and hence strategic weight grows to rival its own.

Of course Obama will bring to the conduct of foreign policy many advantages Bush lacked: charm, intelligence, sober judgement and a capacity for hard work, for a start. But not being Bush is not enough. He will find, as Bush did, that US power, great though it is, simply will not deliver the unrealistic agenda he has inherited from his predecessor.

And the reasons go deep; much deeper than today's economic problems or the threat of Islamist terrorism. They derive from a fundamental collision between Americans' expectations about their place in the world and the perplexing realities of global power. Having won the Cold War, Americans looked confidently forward to a new American century in which, unlike the conflict-riven 20th century, their primacy would be uncontested and their leadership would be absolute.

This expectation was founded on America's apparent pre-eminence in economics, in military force and in political ideas. But each has proved less potent than expected. Twenty years after the end of history, the US model of a modern society still faces spirited competition around the world. Its armed force turns out to be less omnipotent than we had thought.

The US economy - immense, dynamic and creative though it is - faces an unprecedented challenge from China. Within a few short decades China may have overtaken the US to become the most powerful economy in the world. That is the most consequential trend in the world today, and the most important for the US's future role in the world.

It cannot expect to exercise unchallenged political and strategic leadership in a world it no longer dominates economically.

This deep mismatch between ends and means, and not the failings of the 43rd president, is the real reason the past eight years have been so disappointing for Americans.

It turns out the US does not have the power to rebuild complex and fractured societies from the ground up. It turns out it cannot compel even quite weak states to forgo nuclear weapons. It turns out it cannot dictate to Russia what will happen on Russia's borders. And it appears the US cannot retain uncontested primacy in Asia as China's power grows. All that is just as true of Obama's America as of Bush's.

This is a pity. These grand aims are good in themselves, and the world would be a better place by far if they could be attained.

But it never does good to pursue noble aims with inadequate means. The essence of statecraft is to achieve the best outcomes possible with the means available.

The risk is Obama will never find that balance between means and ends. Instead, through muddled analysis, jingoism or political timidity Obama will fail to adjust his foreign policy objectives to the power available to achieve them. He will keep on saying to Americans, "Yes, we can" when the more honest, statesmanlike answer would be "No, we can't." Those are words that can take a lot of wisdom and courage to say. I'm not sure he's got it.

Hugh White is a visiting fellow at the Lowy Institute and professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chinese Translation Cuts Out Parts of Obama Inauguration Speech

BEIJING - The official Chinese translation of President Barack Obama's inauguration speech was missing his references to communism and dissent, while a live broadcast on state television Wednesday quickly cut away to the anchor when the topic was mentioned.

The comments by the newly installed U.S. president veered into politically sensitive territory for China's ruling Communist Party, which maintains a tight grip over the Internet and the entirely state-run media. Beijing tolerates little dissent and frequently decries foreign interference in its internal affairs.

At one point, Obama said earlier generations "faced down communism and fascism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions." He later addressed "those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent — know that you are on the wrong side of history."

The Chinese translation of the speech, credited to the Web site of the official China Daily newspaper, was missing the word "communism" in the first sentence. The paragraph with the sentence on dissent had been removed entirely.

The censored version was carried by the state-run Xinhua News Agency and posted on popular online portals Sina and Sohu. Another portal, Netease, used a version without the paragraph mentioning communism, but retaining the part about dissent.

The news channel of state broadcaster China Central Television broadcast the speech live early Wednesday local time, but appeared caught off-guard by the statement about facing down communism.

The translator had no sooner said "fascism and communism" when the audio faded out from Obama's speech and cameras cut back to the studio anchor, who seemed flustered for a second before turning to ask an expert what challenges the president faces in turning around the U.S. economy.

Wang Jianhong, deputy director of the CCTV general editing department, said he did not stay up to watch the inauguration broadcast but suggested the transition was a normal part of the program.

"There are breakaways even when broadcasting China's own meetings," he said. "Americans might care a lot about the presidential inauguration, but Chinese may not be very interested."

No one in the editing department of the China Daily Web site was immediately available to answer questions.

The full translation of Obama's speech could be viewed on the Web site of Hong Kong-based broadcaster Phoenix Satellite Television, which has a reputation as a more independent news source. The China Daily Web site posted Obama's full remarks in English only.

China has previously altered the words of U.S. officials. A 2004 speech in Shanghai by former Vice President Dick Cheney was broadcast live on state-run television at the insistence of U.S. officials, but the Chinese transcript of the remarks deleted references to political freedom.

In 2003, the memoirs of then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton were pulled from publication in China after the government-backed publisher removed references to the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests and altered Clinton's comments about human rights activist Harry Wu.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Prime Minister warns of de-globalisation

Web posted at: 1/20/2009

Source ::: AFP

The Peninsula

LONDON: Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned yesterday of a "damaging spiral" of de-globalisation as he launched a new multi-billion dollar bank rescue and governments around the world prepared costly new measures.

The European Commission predicted that the EU economy will shrink 1.8 percent this year with surging unemployment and government deficits.

In a new sign of the recession taking a grip, Japan's industrial output plunged a record 8.5 percent in November and a regional bank said it was considering asking for public funds.

The prime minister, widely praised for his efforts to pull banks out of crisis last year, said that no country can counter the economic crisis on its own.

"Unless we come together to address these problems in a coordinated way, the world is at risk of a damaging spiral of de-globalising. It is fuelled by a combination of deleveraging and national-only policy solutions."

Brown called for the "widest possible international agreement" and warned against protectionism which he said "could be every bit as damaging to jobs and businesses in every part of the world, as the protectionism in trade has been in the past." Brown has taken a leading role in the international debate on battling the financial crisis and will host a recession-busting summit of the Group of 20 advanced and developing nations in London in April.

He has been forced by mounting bad debts to offer new protection to British banks and the government said it would coordinate its new insurance scheme to protect banks from toxic assets with other countries. British media said the new cash injection into banks could cost £200bn ($295bn). The government said was to help "otherwise creditworthy businesses, homeowners and consumers" find ways to lend money and keep the economy moving. Banks would pay to have bad loans underwritten by the government, leaving them with more freedom to increase lending to cash-starved businesses and individuals. As part of the plans, the Bank of England will use Treasury bills to purchase bank-owned assets worth up to £50bn.

The measures follow October's £37bn recapitalisation scheme, which failed to increase lending by banks suffering from the global credit crunch.

The announcement came as Royal Bank of Scotland, now majority-owned by the taxpayer, said it estimated an underlying annual loss of up to £8.0bn.

With the European Commission putting out a drastically more pessimistic forecast of prospects for Europe, other countries are already planning new measures.

It said the 27-nation EU economy would contracting by 1.8 percent this year before achieving growth next year of 0.5 percent. The eurozone economy would shrink 1.9 percent this year.

It predicted unemployment will climb to levels not seen in Europe for over decade.

Standard and Poor's rating service lowered its assessment of Spain's long-term sovereign debt by one notch to AA-plus from AAA. The downgrade, which came after similar action against Greece last week, followed mounting warnings about Spain's rapidly slowing econony.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel — who has ordered an ¤80bn economic stimulus — warned against the danger of mounting debt in the "period of deep global degradation."

"In order to meet its national responsibility, the federal government has decided, in addition to having a plan to repay its debts, to lock long-term debt reduction into the German constitution," she said. The auto sector has been badly battered and France could take stakes in struggling car makers, Peugeot-Citroen and Renault, Industry Minister Luc Chatel said in an newspaper interview published yesterday, one day before the government announces its measures. Japan's Mazda Motor said it would cut its managers' salaries by up to 10 percent and cut production at domestic plants. Japanese industrial output plunged a record 8.5 percent in November — the biggest fall since records began in 1953 — as companies slashed production, official figures showed.

There were also fresh signs of trouble in Japan's financial sector as a regional bank, Sapporo Hokuyo Holdings, said it was considering applying for an injection of public funds to help it weather the financial crisis.

It would be the first Japanese bank to do so since parliament approved a new law last month allowing the government to pump public funds into banks.

- Inigo Montoya

There's more to life than democracy, Madeleine

By Tony Karon

( -- Democracy may be as American as apple pie, but it's not quite as universal as, say, the Big Mac. And, unfortunately, in the ambiguous, compromised world of geopolitics, it doesn't provide a basis for foreign policy.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spent the early part of last week in Warsaw, at a conference of 107 nations to celebrate what she considers the Clinton administration's foreign policy legacy -- the spread of democracy. But it may be precisely this idealistic, even ideological conception of foreign policy that has had many pundits from both ends of the political spectrum expressing disquiet over the state of U.S. foreign policy.
The hype in Warsaw notwithstanding, democracy has never been the linchpin of U.S. foreign policy. During the Cold War, the very term "democratic" was simply a synonym for anticommunist -- Suharto, Mobutu, Generals Diem and Pinochet, the medieval Islamists who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan and many other dodgy candidates were all in the "democratic" camp, remember. Even since communism's decisive defeat has allowed Washington to abandon such questionable company, it's simply not true to proclaim democracy as the basis for U.S. foreign policy.
It wasn't for democracy that we sent our troops to war in the Gulf in 1991. We sent them into Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to protect the vital interests of the U.S. and its allies -- the oil reserves that Saddam Hussein would've controlled if he hadn't been ejected from Kuwait and stopped from invading Saudi Arabia. This was a valid and vital projection of the national interest, even if it meant shoring up Saudi and Kuwaiti regimes that would hardly be deemed democratic by U.S. standards.
The quest for Middle East peace, to which the Clinton administration has devoted so much energy and effort, also has little to do with democracy. Israel is the only democracy in the region, and that may be a good thing if peace is the goal. Popular opinion in Egypt, Jordan and among Palestinians is far more hostile to Israel than are the political elites who interface with Washington. President Mubarak, King Hussein and Yasser Arafat would have had a hard time concluding their peace agreements with the Jewish state if they had to answer, in short order, to an electorate.
China policy, the administration's other major foreign policy thrust, has little to do with democracy. We may placate our concerns with the idea that trade with the West will speed China's democratization -- it may contribute in the very long term, but don't hold your breath -- but it's really based on the economic self-interest of both countries. In fact, many sober foreign policy heads recognize that convulsive social upheaval will accompany the epic transformation from socialism to capitalism currently under way in China and say that a strong (yes, even authoritarian) state might be necessary to avert a cataclysmic collapse. Which is why electoral democracy isn't Beijing's immediate priority, and nor do serious foreign policy players believe it should be.
And while Washington may have insisted that democracy is the precondition for rehabilitating Serbia, that won't necessarily end all of the Balkan troubles: Slobodan Milosevic may be a despot and a demagogue, but the troubling reality is that most of the Serbian opposition accepted the principle that their nation should fight to hold on to Kosovo.
Kosovo, in fact, showed the danger in simply exporting an American conception of democracy into a situation with a very different history. The U.S. led NATO to war against ethnic cleansing, projecting, as an alternative, the notion of a democratic multiethnic Kosovo. Convinced of his own vision of a peaceful Balkan melting pot -- as implausible as that sounded to long-term analysts of the region -- President Clinton lashed out at anyone who dared to view the conflict instead through the politically incorrect lens of centuries of unresolved tribal hatreds. And yet, a year later, it's increasingly clear that a democratic, multiethnic Kosovo is a Western illusion. The Kosovo Liberation Army, backed by NATO against the Serbs, appears to be animated by instincts every bit as violently racist and intolerant as those of its enemies in Belgrade, and simply started its own ethnic cleansing campaign as soon as it had the opportunity. The West may yet have to accept a partition solution despite its discomfort with conceding that in some circumstances, people can't all just get along.
The Clinton administration has been correctly accused of lacking a coherent foreign policy vision, and instead simply responding to crises. In its defense, it must be noted that crises have proliferated on an unprecedented, alarming scale in the decade since communism's collapse. But that deepens the urgency of defining U.S. interests on a world scale, fashioning policy objectives on the basis of those interests, building alliances on the basis of those objectives and using a variety of policy levers to realize them, always guided by a comprehensive global picture.
As gratifying as the spread of democracy and market economics has been, it hasn't necessarily created a uniform interest among nations. Russia is now a full-fledged democracy, according to Washington, and yet since the election of President Vladimir Putin -- whose popularity with voters was derived in no small part from sticking out his jaw in the face of Western criticism over his conduct in Chechnya -- it has positioned itself ever more assertively as a competitor to Washington on the global stage. Putin is working aggressively (and not without success) to win Western European support for his opposition to Washington's national missile defense, and is making a concerted effort to restore Moscow's influence in some of the capitals that most perplex U.S. policy makers -- Pyongyang, Havana and Belgrade. There's nothing ideological about this. It's just a pragmatic, calculating attempt to assert the national interests of a newly capitalist Russia on the global stage, playing Moscow's weaker hand to maximum advantage. And he'll prove quite a match for the next U.S. administration if its conception of foreign policy is limited to exporting democracy.
Copyright © 2000 Time Inc.

~charlie the unicorn~