A tangential update to my previous, and much more relevant, post on the current shape of things in Japan

As any sane person would point out, now certainly isn’t the time to have a wide-scale debate about civil nuclear policies. Decade-long policies should not be decided in the middle of a day-to-day disaster…

Unfortunately, that is not how some people see it: the debate is already happening. I have no particular animosity against the die-hard anti-nuclear types1 who have seized on the occasion for their own political purpose: I know they sincerely mean well2. But I do certainly find it distasteful when any side uses the emotion generated by such a tragedy to advance points of questionable relevance. It’s also a bit insulting when reports of anti-nuclear demonstrations trump reports on actual earthquake/tsunami-related fatalities on the front page of German newspapers (yes, I am looking in your direction, Spiegel).

Now, since we are having that debate. Allow me to raise one single point, based on very easily verifiable facts:

  1. see: Germany and other countries with similarly contentious domestic policies on nuclear energy and strong anti-nuclear groups. []
  2. Keeping in mind that meaning well and being sincere has never meant you can’t be an irrational loon, far from it. []

Fielding Mellish: Are we fighting for or against the Government?

CIA operative: CIA is not taking any chances this time. Some of use are for and some of us are going to be against them.

The US have a rather poor record of picking sides, when it comes to dictator-sponsoring. Sure, they could do worse: like France’s Foreign Minister, who assured Mr. Ben Ali of her enduring friendship (along with offer of police back-up)… a mere two days before the Tunisian people drove him out of the country for good. A comically bad timing.

Not long before they opted for an altogether different approach to democracy-spreadin’, the United States used to have nothing but kind words for their good Iraqi friend, Mr. Hussein: shining beacon of containment, if not stability, in the Middle East. Containment made all the more necessary by the fresh return of Mr. Khomeini to Iran, where the people were oddly pissed at the United States for blatantly overthrowing their previous, democratically-elected, government in order to back their own puppet-dictator

By comparison, I guess a few decades of murder, military coups and oppression by proxy in half of Latin America is a mixed diplomatic bag for the US. At least they managed to keep Pinochet in place longer than Baptista. And, while their success rate on backing a stable dictatorship in Bolivia was only slightly above average, they certainly get extra points in creativity for enlisting a notorious nazi war criminal to help them along the way1.

Back to our Winter of 2011, where increasingly degrading global economic conditions provide the proverbial straw to the Middle-Eastern camel’s back, sending it to the street2. For the Department of State, Tunisia was a thankfully low-stake gamble: sure, Ben Ali was a model of stable, affably-corrupt, anti-islamist3 dictator, but Tunisia wasn’t exactly a central piece of their Middle-East strategy. And with Club-Meds as its main natural resource, Halliburton wasn’t rushing at the door either. So it did not take much to release reasonably non-commital statements in support of “the will of the people”, when the chances of said people appeared to raise slightly above your average strangled-at-birth democratic uprising.

For Egypt, Mrs. Clinton was considerably more restrained in extolling the virtues of democracy. At first suitably neutral (aka “I understand your inspirations… but why must we use violence to settle this? Can’t you people wait another couple decades for a peaceful transition to democracy?”), and progressively more assertive as the situation evolves (but never more than the strict minimum), on the off-chance that she might have to woe Mubarak’s successor in a not-too-distant future. Because if you think the US doesn’t know when to drop a losing horse, you should ask Imelda how long it took Ronnie to erase her husband’s number from the White House speed-dial, when the wind started turning.

Perhaps most surprising (and somewhat hopeful) about the ongoing events in Egypt, is the apparent detachment of the army from Mubarak: not a week ago, every single analyst assured us that Mubarak could rely on the indefectible support of his military, ensuring that no movement could be taken beyond a certain point. In reality, it currently seems like the army might soon join in on the demand for him to step down (remains to be proven what role they would play in the immediate aftermath)…

Anyway, if Egypt pulls this off after Tunisia, I can think of quite a few pet dictators in the region that will start worrying for their job.

  1. nothing beats the know-how of an infamously sadistic Gestapo officer, when it comes to fighting communist insurgents []
  2. those same economic woes that prompted Western countries to reach for the lube while bending over in front of Goldman Sachs []
  3. In our post-cold-war days, “anti-islamist” is the new “anti-communist” magic label that gets you US backing and CIA funding. []

Last Tuesday, I was serendipitously told of a talk by Anna Baltzer in Yoshida campus. I remembered seeing her on the Daily Show a while back and was curious to hear her talk in more details about her experience and views on the current Middle East situation.

As it happens, I even ranted not long ago about the lack of rational and moderate discourse, in the neverending clusterfuck™ of a situation that is the Middle East. How timely.

No point copy-pasting Anna’s bio, but the skinny is: as a Jewish-American grown up in the US and backpacking her way through North Africa and Asia, she came by herself to the conclusion that many of the views commonly held by her fellow countrymen and community members with regard to contemporary Israeli politics were perhaps overlooking a few teeny details… In particular: serious human right issues with the current treatment of Palestinians in Occupied Territories.

It is an understatement to say that the entire frame of Israel-related issues has long been overtaken by vociferous extremes. Increasingly weak attempts at launching reasonable, moderate discussions around the topic are bound to be drowned in the heady, simplistic rhetorical bullet points peddled on each side and gladly amplified by scores of well-intented moronic third parties.

Of course, for all the wishful thinking out there: Gaza is not some sort of plucky little nation bravely resisting a cruel barbaric invader. And Israel is not acting out of pure self-preservation to preserve its legitimate borders from impending invasions by neighbouring countries.

Israel is not the source of all oppression and abuse in Gaza. Gaza is currently ruled by a bunch of muslim extremists who have amply demonstrated their lack of concern for basic human rights and are not above propping up kids for their war, presumably because the adults are too busy stoning gays and impure women. Incidentally, hatred of gays and women: a point on which their conservative archenemies on the Israeli side seem to be in complete agreement.

Conversely, Israel has long slipped from its legitimate goal of ensuring its survival against hostile neighbours, toward appeasing a vocal ultra-orthodox minority, whose views on Arab-Israelis and their right to exist are only a couple degrees removed from what could be heard in the streets of 1930’s Berlin. It is no surprise that Israel has started alienating even its staunchest allies over the past decade: claiming to work toward peace while rushing to approve new settlements, like some schoolboy cramming as much as he can into his test sheet before the headmaster snatches it (or, for a more appropriate analogy: like victor nations of past World Wars, rushing to grab as much land as possible before calling in an armistice). There comes a point where no amount of denying the obvious through intellectual contortions can hide the fact that your policies are the exact opposite of what you claim them to be.

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

No particular reason, just felt in a Rand-bashing mood tonight.

Darth Vader and Leia Poutine and Timochenko

Presented above: female head of state confronting her nefarious neighbour’s imperialist views. Also presented above: Darth Vader and Princess Leia.

It must be my medications, but when I saw this illustration of a French article on the current gas crisis between Russia and Ukraine, I immediately thought of another political squabble, in a galaxy far, far away (photo credits on the right: AP/Alexei Nikolsky).

As you may have noticed, I have painstakingly avoided writing about the upcoming election.

Not just because I am busy enjoying a month-long semi-vacation under the Californian sun, but also because last time didn’t work out as expected (we could say that) and left me caring (and wanting to care) considerably less about the political future of America. Recent economic events have only made this indifference stronger, in that I am pretty sure we have just witnessed the collapse of the US empire and the beginning of its steadily decreasing imprint on the world.

However, now that an Obama victory seems nearly too tempting not to call (though I won’t, because I’ve learnt my lessons), it is within reach.

This could mean an end to 8 years of the most viciously incompetent, borderline criminal, administration this country has ever had (and competition is fierce on that one). An Obama win is definitely the only thing at this point that might help bring the US back up, steer it to a somewhat peaceful retirement amongst the club of Former-ruler-of-the-earth-turned-important-but-not-so-much countries. Considering the other option (broke-ass third-world piece of land with a large military and not much else), this would definitely be for the best.

It would also be the first time I am actually supporting wholeheartedly a candidate, instead of simply rooting against his opponent. Obama might not be perfect, but he certainly strikes me as one of the most promising US candidate of the past 3 decades…

Tomorrow, make sure you vote if you are entitled to. Also if you live in California, make sure to help keeping bigots out of your constitution.

Either way, I think I’ll be drinking heavily tomorrow night.

China’s recent efforts in Tibet to thwart the nefarious plot set in motion by that most infamous of evil-doers (Peace Nobel Prize recipient 14th Dalai Lama, in case you hadn’t seen through this two-faced monster for who he was) apparently seemed to have awaken some conveniently fast-asleep Human Rights concerns among nations taking part in the Olympic Games this Summer. News in France and elsewhere in Europe abound with competitors in rather forgettable disciplines (pole vault anybody?) voicing their concerns about the ethics of the whole thing…

Frankly, I find it all rather funny (or at least: would find it funny, if we weren’t talking about a massive PR operation unequivocally benefitting a dictatorial government).

If you still have some delusion about the International Olympics Committee upholding some sort of code of ethics or caring for democratic values and such, you have clearly been sleeping through the past hundred years.

Forget the widespread corruption, the notorious bribing, the less than inspiring list of IOC members (a good half of which sits atop one minor autocratic regime or other) etc. etc. For fuck sake, do you know who was the head of the IOC for more than 20 years until 7 years ago (still Honorary President for Life)?

Ask your Spanish friends what they think of Mr. Juan Antonio Samaranch. Ask them, for instance, how they feel about Juan’s former boss and good pal: el Caudillo de la Última Cruzada y de la Hispanidad, also known as the guy who butchered thousands and kept Spain in an iron fascistic rule for 40 years. Before his gig at the IOC, Juan Antonio was a prominent political figure in Dictator Franco’s regime (and stayed involved, long after joining the IOC full-time). Best to say that, despite an innate dislike for those dirty heathen Commies, there were certain Human Rights abuses he very much could live with.

The IOC is not a humanitarian organization, they are a for-profit corporation, and a very conservative-right one at that.

So, shout all you want about the World’s powers leaving their principled Human Rights concerns at the door in the name of Olympic Brotherhood and Coca Cola partnerships, but please spare me the part about how you’d expected better from the IOC. Chances are, the last time the IOC expressed an ounce of concern for the ethics of the Games, you weren’t even a glimmer in your dad’s left testicle…