The U.N. “Regrets,” Dictators Shrug

 Civilizer

Chalk up the Zimbabwe “elections” as yet another nail in the coffin of the United Nations’ credibility.  Zimbabwe’s best chance yet for meaningful change mangled by widespread coercion and intimidation, a people beset for generations by corruption-fed poverty and dictatorship, and the U.N. “regret[s] that the election went ahead in these circumstances.”  Now that’s inspiring.  My heart went a million miles an hour, reading the full text of the statement. 

These people desperately need intervention, and the U.N. can’t even come up with a finger-wag, instead opting for the sorrowful shake of the head and tongue-cluck.  What’s the matter folks?  Leave your balls in Kosovo?  Zimbabwe is yet another example of a humanitarian failing on this planet, and all your blue helmets are cleaner and shinier than the one worn by Peyton Manning’s backup.

 Zimbabwe, along with Darfur, is yet another shining example of the concept of national sovereignty being an absolute crock.  My stance on the issue might be slightly impolitic, but we really ought to be splitting democracies into 2 categories:  Real and Rubber Stamps For Dictators.  Real ones, like those in America and Western Europe, you may notice, are often hotly and bitterly contested.  A tremendous amount of power and influence (and therefore $$$) hangs in the balance.  And yet, even when the situation becomes chaotic (see Bush v. Gore), you don’t see any coups, leaders refusing to step down, or voters forced to pull a lever at gunpoint.  That’s what’s called “political stability,” and if a country has it, then by all means, U.N., let that country handle its own affairs.

And then there’s countries like Zimbabwe.  For God’s sake, Mugabe is sending goon squads into a flea market over there with orders to find people who lack the telltale red-dyed finger proving that they voted, and to force them to vote for Mugabe.  It’s called Operation: Red Finger.  Stable countries like the United States have to guard against what I have come to call “South Carolina tactics” – slanderous robocalling, push polls, anonymous fliers claiming that Barack Obama eats children – and over in Zimbabwe, the government rapes people.  Now, again, political correctness be damned, that’s when you send in an international force of people with tanks, guns, fighter planes, and the Active Denial System, and you go all Pantera on the resident concubine-raping, statue-erecting, aid-diverting tyrant’s ass.  

What could possibly be the argument for standing to the side when this is happening?  “The people have spoken”?  Bullshit, the people have spoken the way a ventriloquist’s dummy has spoken – forced to say what the guy with his hand up its ass makes it say.  “Countries must be allowed to conduct their own affairs?”  Yeah, and a guy should be allowed to do what he wants in his own house, but if he starts hitting his wife and dealing guns and crack out of his garage, it’s probably not out of line to get the cops over there and have them chuck a tear gas canister or two into the rumpus room.  

My point is that dictators are interested in one thing – staying in power.  The push for democracy in vogue as of late might pressure them to have elections, but you can bet the farm they’re going to do everything in their power to manipulate that election, up to and including making some poor shopkeeper vote to keep them in power by putting a knife to his wife’s neck.  “International pressure” is a sham these days, because worse-than-shit countries like Russia and China, permanent members of the Security Council, will always find a way to prop up an evil regime as long as they can get at their natural resources and/or destabilize U.S. influence in the region.  China, for example, recently took the extraordinary step of condemning the Zimbabwe sham election, but just a couple months ago had no problem shipping weapons and ammunition to Mugabe’s government.  You can bargain, cajole, and sanction all you want, but a guy that refuses to play by the rules of international law only truly responds to one thing: force, the same thing that keeps him in power. 

Robert Mugabe has governed at the point of a gun for long enough.  Let’s see how the bastard likes it when there’s one pointed at him.

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It’s The All Things In Their Place One-Year Blog-iversary!

One year, 150 posts, one comment from a bona fide MIT genius, 3,032 hits from people searching “middle finger” alone, and thousands of man-hours saved worldwide from people who stopped thinking about important issues once they read this blog and just let me do it for them.

Been a good year.  Tell your friends.

Think This Would’ve Happened Without Elections?

 Civilizer 

Israel and Hamas agreed to a truce last week.  Hamas, whose 1988 covenant states:

“The Zionist invasion is a vicious invasion. It does not refrain from resorting to all methods, using all evil and contemptible ways to achieve its end. It relies greatly in its infiltration and espionage operations on the secret organizations it gave rise to, such as the Freemasons, The Rotary and Lions clubs, and other sabotage groups. All these organizations, whether secret or open, work in the interest of Zionism and according to its instructions. They aim at undermining societies, destroying values, corrupting consciences, deteriorating character and annihilating Islam. It is behind the drug trade and alcoholism in all its kinds so as to facilitate its control and expansion.”

Also, in case you were thinking that maybe Hamas leaves a little common sense leeway for peaceful coexistence:

“Leaving the circle of struggle with Zionism is high treason, and cursed be he who does that.”

I point this out for the benefit of those people who were so quick to point to the electoral legitimization of Hamas as America’s Folly.  A sentiment summed up by this clip from The Daily Show, which essentially says “See what happens when you force democracy on a place that isn’t stable?  See what happens?  Now Hamas, a terrorist group, is in charge of Palestine.  Way to go.”

Well, now there’s a truce.  A tenuous truce, one that probably won’t hold, sure.  But consider this:  as long as Hamas operated outside the aegis of the accepted regional political process, this conflict would have been intractable.  Hamas would have been able to pursue, in focused and single-minded fashion, its stated goal of the total reclamation of Palestine and the destruction of Israel.  And Israel would have had few options, none good – negotiate with the notoriously weak and corrupt Fatah, who exercised little control over Hamas, launch phyrric incursions into Palestinian territory, or try and get some sort of regional or international consensus together in order to pressure Hamas.  None of those had much help of effecting a long-term solution, because the present international system still hasn’t really figured out a way for an established state actor to deal both peaceably and effectively with a non-state actor determined to conduct affairs in opposition to the interests of the aggrieved conventional state.

But with elected authority, Hamas also takes on responsibility.  Sure, they still have popular support for their anti-Israel stance, but they can’t stop there anymore.  They have to get the damn roads in decent shape.  They have to administer the schools.  They have to keep the lights on in their constituency’s houses.  They have to provide hospitals and daily necessities – and those daily necessities can’t be sucked into an inflationary whirlpool, either.  Pre-election Hamas just had to fight.  Post-election Hamas had to govern.  In other words, with elections, presto…Hamas is a conventional established state actor.  Vulnerable to any number of the retaliatory strategies practiced by states for centuries.

Like sanctions.  After Israel announced them in February of 2006, there was the predictable chest-beatingby Hamas and its supporters, the gist being “what does not kill us makes us stronger,” and some of the limp-wristed liberal press who just can’t stand to see big bad Israel come down on those adorable rock-tossers said the sanctions would just make the situation worse by inspiring a fresh round of Palestinian solidarity and nationalism. 

Well maybe it did, but when you’re dealing with blackouts and you can’t buy food, solidarity tends to dissolve: “Hey Mr. Mayor – death to the Zionists and everything, but how about some goddam potable water around here?”  And so Hamas, who swore 20 years ago to harden their hearts forever, to refuse to negotiate, to acknowledge Israel even has a right to exist, has agreed to a truce.  Certainly not the end, but shit…Palestine hasn’t even had a beginning until now. 

So to all the smug, grinning assholes who were so quick to point out yet another quixotic American misstep on the “road map” to Middle East peace when Hamas was elected, just remember – elections brought Hamas out of the rocket factories disguised as libraries and to the negotiating table.  If it was up to you people, they’d still be launching mortars, and Israel would still be negotiating for nothing with no one.

Shazam! Sunday News Roundup: June 22, 2008

 Captain Marvel

Top Story – U.N Weapons Inspectors Begin To Investigate Suspect Syrian Site

UN nuclear weapons inspectors hope this weekend to begin solving the mystery of the Syrian building attacked by the Israelis last September and which, according to the CIA, was a nuclear reactor under construction…[click here for more]

Homeland Security News – House Passes New Surveillance Law

The U.S. House Friday easily approved a compromise bill setting new electronic surveillance rules that effectively shield telecommunications companies from lawsuits arising from the government’s terrorism-era warrantless eavesdropping on phone and computer lines in this country…[click here for more

Business News – Citigroup May Fire 10% of Investment Bankers Worldwide

Citigroup Inc., the bank that’s lost more than any other in the collapse of the U.S. mortgage market, plans to fire as much as 10 percent of the about 65,000 employees worldwide in its investment-banking division…[click here for more]

U.S. Spending News – GAO Questions Air Force Tanker Contract

The Government Accountability Office on Wednesday recommended that the Air Force reopen its contract for aerial refueling tankers, launching a new round in one of the longest-running, most vitriolic fights over a Pentagon purchase…[click here for more]

Weapons News – India, Russia Develop Airborne Supersonic Cruise Missile

The Russian-Indian BrahMos Aerospace joint venture has finished the development of the airborne version of an advanced supersonic missile, the company’s managing director has said…[click here for more]

Technology News – Report Rules Out Subatomic Doomsday Scenario

Europe’s CERN particle-physics lab has issued its long-awaited report on safety issues surrounding the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s biggest and most expensive atom-smasher. Some have feared that when the collider reaches full power, sometime next year, it might create microscopic black holes or other exotic phenomena that could endanger Earth. The new report, like earlier safety studies, rules out the possibility of global danger…[click here for more]

It Is Named

 King Civilizer

Metallica has released the album title for their please-God-be-better-than-St. Anger follow-up to St. Anger:

This is huge news here on All Things In Their Place.  And so far, it sounds, mercifully, MUCH better than St. Anger.

John McCain Just Lost Me

 Civilizer

Un-goddamn-believable.  Of all the sops to offer the conservative base of the GOP whose enthusiasm John McCain has thus far failed to inspire, John McCain goes for broke (morally and logically) with overturning the ban on offshore oil drilling

I always figured that if McCain was going to turn hard right on anything, he’d do it on the economy with a low low taxes lower lower regulation scheme to make all the free marketeers and I-bankers piss themselves with glee.  Or he’d start sending coded messages to the Christian right about making sure he nominates a justice who overturns Roe v. Wade.  I did not think he’d do it on the environment or energy.  Not because I thought he was a passionate tree-hugger or anything, but these two issues are 1) closely intertwined and 2) can be effectively addressed with straightforward policies. 

The economy is a complicated behemoth with a lot of moving parts whose future is chock-full of unforseen consequences and influenced by future events impossible to predict.  Imagine announcing to the nation on Sept. 10, 2001 that you’ve got bipartisan support to balance the budget, maintain present interest rates to cap inflationary pressure, and you’ve got a plan to encourage more participation in the capital markets by everyday Americans so every one can strike it rich.  Economists would raise a host of objections, and other economists would laud the plan, but not a one of them would say “But what if a bunch of religiously-motivated aviation enthusiasts get so tired of being turned down for sex at clubs and bars and decide the only way they’re going to get any tail at all is to fly passenger jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and get at some virgins?”  Not a one would say that.  Offshore drilling as a way to manage America’s energy need is another story.

The challenges facing America in terms of oil are both short- and long-term.  The high price of oil is and has been for some time now putting serious inflationary pressure on an already stressed American economy – you don’t have to be an economist to understand that high oil prices push up the cost of transporting all that stuff you buy, and retailers have to pass that cost on eventually.  Plus, petroleum is the feedstock for any number of industrial and consumer goods, meaning that companies that make the stuff are going to experience pressure on gross margins and have to charge you more to make up the difference.  Short-term, those issues have to be addressed in order to right the American economic ship.

Long-term, we have got to come to grips with the fact that we can’t base our economy around dead dinosaur goop that we suck out of the ground with huge drills.  It’s not foreign oil that we need to end our dependence on, it’s OIL that we need to end our dependence on.  All of it.  Commercial transport like sea freighters, planes, it’ll be a while before those things can be reasonably expected to be manufactured with power plants that don’t burn fossil fuels of some type.  But we can sure as hell do something else for our cars and our energy grid.  And that’s why McCain’s announcement is incredibly, undeniably, harmfully, stupid.

“We must embark on a national mission to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil,” he said on Monday.  “We have untapped oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States. But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. . . . It is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions.”  That moratorium, by the way, is one he supported in 2000.  Just like he supported opposing oil exploration in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and the Everglades.  

There’s no delicate way to say it – we’ve got to stop putting off the inevitable with the oil supply with these short-sighted plans to find more of it elsewhere.  Oil was always a finite resource, but with China, southeast Asia, and the Latin American Third World starting to burn gas at an incredible rate, the timetable is far shorter now.  McCain’s plan to overturn the offshore drilling ban fails to both alleviate the short-term oil supply problem and the long-term oil dependence problem.

21 billion barrels sounds like a lot.  Unfortunately, it isn’t.  The Energy Information Administration forecasts that oil consumption in 2008 will 87 million barrels per day, and 92 million by 2010.  If we start drilling and the oil starts flowing by 2010, that’s enough oil for a whopping 228 days of global oil consumption.  Not even a full year.  If we want to keep it all to ourselves so we don’t have to keep funding terrorism in Saudi Arabia, that 21 billion barrels off the American coast is good for about two years and eight months.  Sweet.  So let’s do nearly irreversible damage to a fragile ecosystem so that we can put off a difficult choice for less than three years.  It’s like deciding not to quit smoking because you found a couple cigarettes in your couch cushions and what the fuck, they’re there, you know?       

I was willing to dismiss his harebrained support for that risible “gas tax holiday” idea as a one-off populist appeal his campaign would use to contrast their man with the “out-of-touch” Barack Obama and his elitist contention that America would maybe need the billions of dollars the tax provides for stupid bullshit like highway maintenance.  What hard-working blue collar American worth his or her Richard Petty decal doesn’t like a good pothole, after all?  Gunning your F-150 over one of those babies is what this country is all about!

Unfortunately, McCain has made it clear with this offshore drilling idea that it wasn’t just a one-off.  Rather than having the good sense and political courage to force this country to make some hard choices, to say “I will have the nation’s first post-petroleum presidency,” the senator is acting as an enabler for continued dependence on fossil fuels and failing to stimulate real, substantive government investment in alternatives.  Tax breaks for ethanol might sound nice, but nothing jump-starts real and rapid innovation like urgent need.  You gonna figure out how to break down an oak door faster when you’re just leaving the house for a walk, or when the room you’re in is on fire?

Bad enough the Japanese had to figure out home video for us, they’ve got to show us how to fix our energy problems too?

All Things In Their Place Regrets The Passing Of Tim Russert

One of the few people in the news business with the brains to know what questions to ask, and the balls to keep asking until they were answered.  He will be missed.  Desperately.

“Eternal rest grant upon them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.  May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.”