April 2007 Archives
Filed under: Middle East
The following video was shot by a cell phone camera in Mosul, Iraq. It's hard not to be disgusted when you see it, but the fact that it's out there made me realize that most people cannot comprehend such a thing until they've seen it with their own eyes. So I've decided to post it. Viewer discretion advised.
UPDATE: Gateway Pundit covers a protest rally against these honor killings and stonings that are in response to what happened in this video.
Filed under: Iran
Here are more photos of the crackdown on the women wearing "immoral dresses".. Notice that it's not only in Tehran, but all across Iran, too.
Here is another video from BBC Persian. You won't understand what they say, but the images should be enough to figure out. To sum it up, the women explain how they are harassed.
The police, Bassiji/Hezbollah militia, are the very same 'people' who burn Israeli and US flags, pelt Western embassies, shout "Death to Israel, America", call for the execution of hostages, etc. And are called "students" by the ignorant MSM. By seeing this third series of photos, you may have realized who these "students" really are.
The Islamists are mentally ill.« Close It
Filed under: Iran
Iranian Secularist Movements applauded an historic bill which was passed unanimously by the California Assembly. The bill, proposed by Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon), "would prohibit California’s public retirement funds from investing in foreign owned companies that do business in Iran."
According to Iranian freedom fighters, this is one of the best options the US has to effectively act against the Islamic Republic.
Read the press release: Anderson’s Historic Iran Divestment Bill Passes Unanimously
From the Jewish Journal: Jews and Iranian Secularists unite behind Iran divestment bill . I changed the headline because generally many Iranian secularists don't consider themselves as "muslims" but "Iranians".
My friend Roozbeh Farahanipour, chairman of the Marze Por Gohar Party (Iranians for a Secular Republic), testified about being tortured while he was in jail in Iran in 1999.
Good morning,« Close It
Filed under: Iran
I was able to find video of a young Iranian girl being arrested by the Islamic Republic's police. In the shocking and sad video, you'll hear the screams of the young girl, whose only "fault" was not covering herself like the black cows.
See the video here.
Here's a translation of what the girl shouts and what the police say to her:
Girl (screaming): I am not coming. Let me go. You man! Dont touch me! Let me go! I dont want to go! I dont want to go! Police (to people): Do not gather! Go!
Where are the Western feminists who always complain against alleged 'discrimination' in the very same societies that grant them full rights? Where are they when you need them? Ms.Nancy Pelosi, anything to say? Are you still planning to go shake hands with the Mullahs' while women are being humiliated? Why dont the Western women take action to help their sisters in Iran?
But it's not only the women who are being arrested, fined and "rebuked", though they are the main victims. It's the guys, too.
Why? Because they dare to defy the regime by dressing like their Western counterparts, with long hair and fashion hair style, other than listening to music or wearing shorts.
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Filed under: Belarus ~ Europe ~ Protest Babes
Every year, the Belarusian opposition holds a demonstration to commemorate the world's worst nuclear disaster, which to this day still affects their country. You will want to check out Charter 97 for all the details, including more picture and briefings on police beatings. However, I know what you're all actually interested in is the protest babes... so click "read more".
Filed under: Technology
Bentley College in partnership with TIME magazine hosted the 2007 leadership forum on April 25, in which a lot of important an influential people attended. Even more important we the speakers. I made sure to take video of the entire thing. It's not the best quality, but there is a heck of a lot to learn from these people.
This video is of Nicholas Negroponte giving the luncheon keynote address. He talks about the $100 laptop project, the technology that's driving it, the purpose behind it, and how the business world is making it all possible. I had to chop it up into four pieces for YouTube, but I guess that just allows you to watch it in snippets. Check it out.
He even gives a little demonstration of the $100 laptop. It looks pretty cool, and judging by his answers to some pretty some questions, pretty secure and smuggle proof as well! Enjoy.« Close It
Filed under: Iran
A female Bassiji is rebuking a brave Iranian woman who removed her headscarf on a street of Tehran. This picture should prove to you that Iranian women are as much liberal and modern as the women in any Western nation. Wait until the Mullahs' regime falls, you will be seeing amazing scenes on the streets of Iranian cities.
If it's true the saying according to which a picture is worth a thousand words, then this one is. And keep in mind that she's not the only woman who tries to defy the Islamists by taking out the veil. There have been more, and I will post the pics as soon as I retrieve them.
And below are more photos of the ongoing crackdown on the 'un-Islamically dressed' women. The Bassiji militias (including black cows) stop the women and young girls and force them to adjust their mandatory veils in order not to show their hair.
A woman tries to defend herself from the black cow.
The Iranian women are generally very beautiful and attractive.
Some are imposed fines while others, like the below ones, are taken to Islamic courts...
Female tourists from foreign countries may be fined, too.« Close It
Filed under: Iran
Shirin Ardalan, Zara Amjadian, Fariba Mohajer and many others were accused of "participating in illegal gatherings and conspiring to disrupt national security," "disrupting public order," and "undermining national security by enticing anarchy." The punishment? Long years in prison for the "guilt" of speaking their mind.
Filed under: Asia
The Talibans are distributing a propaganda video with a 12 year old boy being encouraged by men as he takes a knife to behead a Pakistani man accused of being an "American spy."
The men and women around him shout Allahu Akbar – "Allah is Great" as the boy carries on the slaughter.
This is the video clip but I warn you that it is one of the most dreadful things I have ever laid my eyes on.
China, on a domestic and international cleaning binge, is seeking to cleanse its status and reputation by the time it begins hosting the Olympics in 2008 to appear as a developed nation in a first-world prom dress. While this may appear as a farcical whitewash operation by a totalitarian regime, it presents an opportunity for the international community to take concrete steps in resolving the Darfur crisis.
While the Darfur conflict has been well-documented (Wiki on Darfur Conflict) and officially labeled a genocide by the American government, the nations that allowed the situation to continue have until recently seen relatively little outside pressure else than the editorial page. China, as the leader in Sudanese oil imports, is at the center of enabling the Sudanese government. As the BBC states of the rise of China as an energy importer:
“From zero 15 years ago, China last year became the world’s number two oil importer… China has, we are told, been running around the world signing oil deals with everyone from Iran, to Sudan to Angola. In the race to secure future oil resources China is prepared to deal with even the dodgiest regimes, and pay the highest prices.”
China's economic relations with the Sudanese government provided it with significant leverage that it has chosen not to use until of late. With concerns about manners, proper English, and all things image savvy that will hopefully provide an ideal experience for the foreign traveler visiting China for the first time at the 2008 Olympics, China is similarly trying to improve its image abroad as well. Helen Cooper writes in the New York Times about the collision between the internal worries of public image in China and the relation with diplomacy:
China's decision to pressure Sudan about violence in Darfur, after years of protecting that government, can be traced to campaign to boycott 2009 Olympic Games in Beijing; Mia Farrow, good-will ambassador for United Nations Children's Fund, started campaign to label Games in Beijing 'Genocide Olympics' and called on corporate sponsors to publicly exhort China to do something about Darfur; she challenged Steven Spielberg, artistic advisor to China for Games, to add his voice, prompting Spielberg to send letter to Pres Hu Jintao of China asking him to use his influence to stop killings in Darfur; senior Chinese official, Zhai Jun, recently traveled to Sudan to push government there to accept UN peacekeeping force, and then visited Darfur refugee camps; turnaround in China's policy serves as classic study of how pressure campaign, aimed to strike Beijing in vulnerable spot at vulnerable time, could accomplish what years of diplomacy could not...
If the United Nations and the West are serious about ending one of the greatest humanitarian disasters of the decade, it must utilize the chance given in this pre-Olympic window by China. With the first noticeable signs that China is willing to act, a formidable and unified multilateral consensus should take advantage of a diplomatically-sensitive China to leverage a more proactive role in solving the Darfur crisis.
Darfur Collides With Olympics, and China Yields, by Helen Cooper, New York Times
">Darfur Crisis: Towards An Ever Greater Tragedy by Amit Pyakurel« Close It
Yeltsin dying seems pretty irrelevant to me, but it's one of those news days where not too much is going on. Now that the Anna Nicole Smith affairs is over and done with, the media must be breathing a sigh of relief that Yeltsin died. He was an extremely important world political figure as Russia transitioned from communism. Truthfully, one can only guess to what people will remember of him. I suppose the first thing I think of is vodka, but that's because he didn't affect me much.
Talking he did during his times seems like a waste of time, though. It's well-documented. If you want to know more about his era, read The Oligarchs, which I'd say is a fantastic intro to the era.
His effect on that past of the '90s is much less important than talking about present of today. Outside of shock therapy and all the moves that were intended to promote a democratic and capitalist society, the two moves that he personally made that have the most impact today are the strengthening of the presidency and his selection of Vladimir Putin to succeed him. Facing a communist revolt early in his career, Yeltsin constantly sought to take away power from the Duma so that he could maintain power over the direction of the country. This may have seemed like the right thing to do to erode the power of the communists, but overall it has led to a super-presidency that, in the hands of Vladimir Putin, is neither democratic nor as he intended. I guess that's what I'll remember the most about him.
Filed under: Iran
The Islamic Republic of Iran has intensified the 27 year tough war on women and Gender Apartheid policy.
Here are some more photos showing the Bassiji-Hezbollah paramilitary militias (including black cows, the female Islamists) repressing and intimidating women who dare not to observe stricly the Islamic dress code.
Notice that the veil in Iran is mandatory for all women, regardless of whether they are Iranian or non-Iranian (even female tourists have to wear it while they are in Iran).
Women took to the police station to be interrogated and who knows what'll be their fate!
UPDATE: Two thousand young men protested at the new dress code. My prediction is that there will be more protests, all across Iran.« Close It
Three U.S. free trade pacts are about to go down in flames.
Colombia, Peru and Panama, three friendly countries, are about to see the door slammed shut on them by a lunatic U.S. Congress, whose idiots extend to both sides of the aisles.
For Long Beach, whose Press-Telegram reported the story, billions of dollars of trade income is about to be thrown into the dumpster. They might as well take a few warehouses every day and burn them, because that illlustrates the kind of money they are going to throw away. As for the poor black kids in the Long Beach area who have nothing but drugs and gangs in front of them, and no longer any port job opportunities, well, too bad. Democrats (it's mostly them) have better things to do than provide jobs for them.
Like insult our friends.
And what good friends they are indeed. Colombia, Panama, and Peru are at the forefront of defying the leftist push of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. All three have stood up to him on multiple fronts. It's not just in public forums but in what they are doing. They are defying conventional wisdom about free markets in Latin America and engaging them. That, instead of crony porkbarrel handouts. They also have the highest pro-American sentiment in the region, which is otherwise full of anti-Americanism. Panama's is the highest in all Latin America.
What does this say about us that we would throw out our money and screw our allies? It is O-U-T-R-A-G-E-O-U-S!
And that's not the only outrage. In the absence of a free trade pact, these economies will not just sit there. They can go two ways. One is to move closer to Hugo Chavez, who is offering his 'ALBA' Latins-only free trade pact as an alternative to any trade with America. Won't that be nice to see them move to that circle instead of ours, because they cannot get free trade?
Two is that they will move closer to Red China. They won't be able to sell anything here and they won't be able to buy any American goods, so what's left is China's goods. They'll buy from China and move into China's orbit, their interests fully aligned and set in that direction.
Meanwhile, instead of being able to buy from our choice of Peruvian, Panamanian, Colombian, or Chinese goods, and pick the best prices, we will be stuck buying just from China, Made In China, that's all we'll get.
In both cases, China makes out like a bandit.
And our good and noble friends in Panama, Peru and Colombia, will be stuck on the outside, forever looking in.
This is insanity.
Filed under: Iran
An Iranian researcher wrote a must-read report on the activities of the Mullahs' Lobbyists in the United States. I recommend you to read it all.
University Female Students Rebel Against the Mandatory Veil . Na Toosari, Na Roosari! (No to Veil, No to Submission).
Islamist policeman trying to intimidate two women into respecting the Islamic 'moral code'.
A black cow, seen on right, (the name the people uses to describe the female Islamists) trying to intimidate a young woman.
Another black cow, warning a woman against the status of her clothing and hair
Imposing heavy fines for 'un-islamic clothing' !!
Iran's Babol University Students protesting kidnapping of the Student Leader: Bijan Sabagh. See Video here. (h/t: Kaveh Z) . Some wondered why there are no women. As you know, the Islamic Republic segregates women through a Gender Apartheid Policy. The students fight for secularism and democracy, as well as women's rights.
In the footsteps of the Taliban, the Islamic Republic of Iran is going on with a dam that is flooding an archeological site dating back to the Persian empire era and considered as world heritage by the UNESCO. One hundred Iranians dared repression by staging a protest against this crime. More Photos here.
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Filed under: Iran
According to OPEC, Iran is the fourth leading exporter of crude oil to Europe with Saudi Arabia, Russia and Venezuela the first, second and third leading oil exporters. What a terrific bunch of democratic, freedom loving countries!
On Saturday afternoon, Iran and Austria signed a 30 billion dollar agreement at the 12th international oil, gas and petrochemical exhibition held in Tehran. The event was attended by 797 domestic and 510 foreign companies from 35 countries.
What will Europeans do next? I bet on unimaginably lame approaches. Why sanction Iran hard when we can help mullahs prosper?
Filed under: Iran
In Iran, Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mohammad Khatami and Mehdi Karoubi met up and the rumor is that they are joining forces to combat the ultra conservatives in Majlis, Iran’s Parliament. Next step would be to bring Ahamadinejad down, that is if they convince Ayatollah Khamenei to do so.
The West often calls Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami moderates. I have yet to understand why. In Iran’s parliament and government there are only two camps that matter (for now): ultra conservatives and conservatives. Lets see how 'moderate' they truly are.
In 2005, then President Khatami said: “We love Hizbullah.”
About USA he said, “The roots of terrorism are the discrimination and double standard, and the division of mankind into Americans and non-Americans. These roots also stem from the belief held by those in power in America that in order to ensure their interests they have the right to cause wars and cause coup d'état, to interfere in other countries' (affairs), and to apply economic, military, and political and propagandistic pressure on anyone aspiring to independence and desiring freedom.”
And only two days ago, in the Friday prayer, Rafsanjani said, "Occupiers came to the region, but they could not achieve their goals, and were disgraced in the world, and are in danger."
Filed under: Europe
Are we losing the war on global terror? This is the most frequently asked question in these times. The general feeling is that we actually are, though it may sound defeatist to say so. The efforts to undermine the fight against evil are being led by an Europe that has totally lost its mind and rationality, compares counter-terror military actions to the suicide attacks against which the civilized world should be united and, worse yet, prevents the intelligence agencies from haunting and detaining the hate preachers who recruit would-be mass murderers. In Italy, some CIA agents may go on trial for doing basically their duty: capturing an Islamist cleric, known by the alias of "Abu Omar", with proven ties to Al Qaeda recruiters. In spite of plenty of evidence about his terror-enabling activities, he is being victimized like a 'martyr of injustice'.
There is a worrisome trend, among some Western nations, to appease the enemy who plots to murder innocents. As of recently, Italy has justly come under fire by the international community, for sucessfully pressuring the Afghan government to release five (or even more) Taliban detainees in exchange for the liberation of Daniele Mastrogiacomo, a reporter working for the center-left newspaper "La Repubblica". The most baffling detail in all of this is the decision of the Italian government to rely on a so-called 'charity' to mediate with the kidnappers. Such a group, named "Emergency", is headed by Gino Strada, a controversial individual who is a communist and openly compares Bush to Bin Laden. A source in the Afghan intelligence service has accused Emergency of having ties and friendly relations with the Taliban and even Al Qaeda operatives in the country, echoing the suspects some have always had but never dared to speak publicly about them, as the mere criticism of the 'group that helps the civilians in war-torn countries' is a taboo.
The Italian government knew full well that Emergency chose one of their members, Rahmatullah Hanefi, as mediator to get the deal. It turns out that this 'mediator' was not as independent as Strada would have us to believe; the Afghan authorities detained him on charges of being a Taliban militant and even involved in the kidnapping of Mastrogiacomo and the beheading of his driver. In an effort to get him out, Italy might pave the way for a deeper crisis with the Karzai administration, which - for now - has ruled out any concession to the Taliban friends of Strada and persists in keeping Hanefi in prison.
Here you can see a photo showing Gino Strada (on left) shaking hands with what is believed to be Latifullah Hakimi. ex spokesman for the Taliban regime. (Hat Tip: Il Moschettiere )
Indeed, you can compare the above photo with the below one and you'll notice it's the exact person.
There's video of the release of Mastrogiacomo, and you'll see the above-mentioned man and Strada acting as the "liberator". Strada is him who forced the Italian government to release 5 of his Taliban friends (who were detained by the Afghan authorities because of their terrorist activities) in exchange for the Italian reporter.
You would think that the least the government of Italy could do is to investigate about the allegations against the other Taliban 'mediator', Rahmatullah Hanefi to verify if they are credible and stop funding Emergency with the taxpayers' money. But you shouldn't bet on that.
UPDATE: Emmanuele Ottolenghi at Commentary Magazine's blog writes about Strada's political agenda.« Close It
The United Nations, the Europeans, the Saudis and the Russians said that Hamas is now an example of moderation. Taking in consideration the sources, no wonder it is all a lie.
Sheikh Ahmad Bahr Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council said in a sermon that "America will be annihilated, while Islam will remain." He felt the need to ask God to "vanquish the Jews and their supporters. Oh Allah, vanquish the Americans and their supporters. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them all, down to the very last one." A genuine prayer coming from Hamas ranks, huh?
Filed under: Venezuela
Reuters reports: "Venezuela launched a Zeppelin on Thursday to patrol Caracas, seeking to fight crime in one of Latin America's most dangerous cities but also raising fears that President Hugo Chavez could be turning into Big Brother." Anybody got a slingshot handy?
Meanwhile, Hugo's supporters held a rally, and the President of Chile came to visit. More photos after the jump.
Chile's President Michelle Bachelet is greeted by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at Miraflores Palace in Caracas April 18, 2007.
A Zeppelin is seen after its launch in Caracas April 19, 2007. Venezuela on Thursday launched a Zeppelin to patrol Caracas.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez talks to supporters during a rally to promote his new United Venezuelan Socialist Party (PSUV) in Caracas April 19, 2007.
Supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez raise their fists at a rally to promote Chavez's new United Venezuelan Socialist Party (PSUV) in Caracas April 19, 2007« Close It
ZIMBABWE has cancelled the licences of all aid groups, accusing them of working with the opposition to oust President Robert Mugabe, sparking fears the ban could cut food supplies to hundreds of thousands of people in the nation dependent on handouts. Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said that all non-governmental organisations had been deregistered and would have to reapply for permits, reports said yesterday.This is basically committing the entire country to suicide. This year's harvest brought in absolutely nothing. The only reason people have been surviving at all is because of Western aid programs that distribute food to people. That this happened though is not that all surprising. As opposition to Mugabe's rule mounts, so does his will to crack down on dissent. He has used food as a political weapon since the day he gained power, especially noticeable in the 2005 election when food was distributed all over the place in order to buy votes.
But now the situation has changed; there will be no food at all. If the Zimbabwean people don't fight now, when will they?
After playing the number games, Hezbollah attempts yet again to mislead the international community. Through its international relations officer, Nawwaf al-Musawi, Hezbollah informed some of the European Union delegates in Lebanon about Hezbollah's role as a resistance. Reportedly al Musawi said "Hezbollah's experiment as a resistance movement in confronting the Israeli threats and reviewed the nature of these threats that are represented in Israel's designs on Lebanon's waters, its continued occupation of the Shab'a Farms, its continued detention of a number of Lebanese prisoners in its jails, and its threats to Lebanon's security". Al-Musawi called on the delegation "to review French Foreign Ministry documents in Nantes and the document of the peace conference that was held in San Remo in 1919 when a memorandum presented by the Zionist movement asked that Israel's borders with Lebanon be delineated north of the city of Sidon". (Lebanese News Agency)
Hezbollah is indeed a very resourceful party and militia. Instead of complying with the UN 1559 and UN 1701 it chooses to blame, who else? the darn Zionists. It is not Israel, EU should be worry about, but rather the fact that Hezbollah still has large amounts of weapons, no honest intention to disarm and that it isn't accountable to the government.
Hussein Khalil, an adviser of Sheikh Nasrallah warned that the Party of God "firmly opposes the supervision of the Syrian-Lebanese border, " and if that were to happen, Hezbollah "has enough weapons to defend Lebanon against ‘Israeli’ aggression."
What Hezbollah (generally) asks to think about disarming:
- Shebaa farms (the territory was taken by Syria from Lebanon, at the end of '50s beginning of '60s, and UN maps and documents demonstrate its Syrian land)
In Hezbollah's words, "the problem did not start with us or other Arabs; it started with the occupation of Palestine."
Hopefully the international community will prove them wrong, but I am not holding my breath for the Europeans to lead this process.
p.s when referring to Israel or Israelis, Hezbollah affiliated sites use quotation marks because they do not recognize Israel as a state
Filed under: Asia ~ East Timor
In the last few days there was much talk about what happened. There was a big election turnout, or was there? The elections were open and not violent, or was their serious coercion from Fretilin? In a run-off the voters for other candidates will switch to Ramos-Horta, or will they go to Fretilin? All interesting, but what is important?
The President of the Country has a figurehead, ceremonial role of relatively limited power. But the current President, Xanana Gusmao, has had more relative power because his opinion is highly valued by the Timorese people. Now an independent (Ramos Horta) is running against a Fretilin party leader (Francisco, Lu-Olo, Guterres) for this figurehead position. Probably both want it because it is more important than it appears, and because Gusmao, who used to want to be a carrot farmer, has declared that he wants to run for Prime Minister, a post he most probably will win.
Is this important for the country? Probably it is. The Fretilin/Alkitiri government has been criticized for failing to invest more money in its people. As Prime Minister Alkatiri avoided any indebtedness for the country, even did not spend oil revenues so the country could have a good bank account in the future. But many, myself included, felt that was a major error. Since the country is so poor, and since future oil revenues probably will be pretty good, the wise thing would have been to request loans, particularly soft loans from the World Bank with very favorable interest rates and long payback times, to invest the money in education, health, roads and agriculture so the country could significantly improve the welfare of its people. Alkatiri did not do that but relied on support from international organizations. Much help was given, but certainly not enough to jump-start the country. Some of the help, like the UNICEF/WorldBank efforts in education, was very inadequate.
So Fretilin wants the Presidency so that their party can keep some form of control (they will also want seats in the parliament), while Ramos-Horta wants the Presidency so he can help the country to take actions to do more for the people. If Ramos-Horta wins, and the Xanana Gusmao becomes Prime Minister, they most probably will take major action to help the people. If Lu-Olo wins he and his party may be able to continue their short-sighted policies of saving money instead of investing it.
So who wins the Presidency is important.
Who becomes Prime Minister is more important.
Filed under: Middle East
Shiia cleric Muqtada al Sadr ordered his six ministers to step down from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki government in protest against "his failure in coming up with a timetable for the withdrawal of the foreign forces from Iraq".
Isn't that neat? Finally, Muqtada al Sadr did what he should have done a long time ago. His business in politics was merely to sabotage the government in Iran's interest. Enough is enough even for those who see the coalition forces as "evil".
Today, Al Hayat reported that the negotiation efforts of Anbar tribal leaders finally succeeded between the various armed factions and the Shia tribes in southern and central Iraq "to eliminate the sectarian dimension of the resistance project and to prepare a political program calling for the withdrawal of the occupation (...) The continuous security anarchy and the impotence of the government to deal with the sectarian and party violence are pushing the Shia tribes in southern Iraq to help Sunni armed groups and tribes in western Iraq in their double war against the occupation and the Al-Qaida organization."
As long as the Iraqis have the strength to unite in order to fight Al Qaeda there is still some hope for the country. Is it too much to wish that next they might chop up Iran's and Syria's tentacles? What a day that would be!
Ilya Somin wrote a good summary of the opposition protests that occurred in Russia this weekend, in which Gary Kasparov was temporarily arrested (along with hundreds of others, who were also beaten), taking place in both Moscow and St. Petersburg. Somin is certainly right to say that it's hard to be optimistic about the country's near-term political future given who is running it, but the statement before it reeks of optimism: "Hopefully, there will be enough of an international outcry to persuade Putin to desist and force him to tread more cautiously in the future."
It's hard for me to imagine that Western criticism of Putin's policies would ever cause him to change direction. Inherent to the nationalist nature of modern Russia is the idea that Western criticism is both an attack on the country's sovereignty as well as lower simply because of the source. The response last week to a U.S. State Department human rights report which listed a number of factual problems in Russia was fiercely blasted roundly. Now that the EU is criticizing the excessive police force used against the demonstrators, what do you think the response will be?
Thinking about Russia in the Cold War strategic pretext may not be totally applicable. For one, Western government will never take the necessary measures against Russia, or even heavily criticize it, because too many Western companies are invested there now. The recent opening of Russian state companies to initial public offerings on the London Stock Exchange has investors clamoring to get a piece of companies like Gazprom, though they retain little influence over these companies which make up the bulk of the Kremlin's financing power. What's terribly ironic is that American PR and lobbying firms are hired by these goons to make themselves look good despite what's really going on.
Beside that, Europe is completely bought out with Russian natural gas. Even if efforts to diversify bring Europe out from under its boot, Russia itself has a diversification plan that wasn't there during the Cold War -- China! So even if Europe decided to stop buying Russian gas, energy craving China who doesn't care about human rights one bit is right there willing to buy it all at a premium. Try to top that.
The West right now is in a terrible position to criticize Russia and make it reform. Putin's regime, while authoritarian and anti-democratic and illiberal, is lent legitimacy by his huge popularity as well as his powerful security forces that are bolstered by sky high energy prices. I'm not saying we shouldn't criticize and give moral support to the opposition, but this criticism is just used as propaganda by the regime to keep those numbers high.
What Europe needs to really concentrate on is figuring out how to get what it needs without having to use Putin to get it. Minimizing its own indirect support for Putin will give it much more leeway to actually do something about human rights there. Meanwhile, the only way that this regime will be dismantled is if the people of Russia themselves stop supporting it. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening anytime soon, and even if they did, it is not completely apparent that the KGB masterminds behind it are willing to give it up just like that.
Western criticism is nice, but really, it's just blowing into the wind.« Close It
A New York Post exclusive reveals that Michael Moore, for his new fraudumentary called "Sicko", is taking a bunch of 9/11 workers down to Cuba so that they can experience the joys of free national healthcare. Cuba's healthcare system is considered by many so-called experts and governments as the best in the world, so what Moore is trying to do is make the argument that America should mimic the Cuban system.
Only, it isn't the best. Not near it. Those foreigners and wealthy people who go to Cuba, including the people that Michael Moore are bringing down, are only shown the few top of the line facilities which probably are some of the best in the world. It's a huge propaganda campaign aimed at deceiving people into believing that Cuba does, in fact, have the best healthcare system in the world. This is totally false. The clinics and hospitals that the everyday Cuban sees, if they see one at all, are cockroach infested hovels that one might be wise to stay away from lest they get worse.
Michael Moore is just aiding in promoting Fidel Castro's mythology. If he gets away with it, he'll have all blue-state Americans believing it rather than just most of them.
In case you missed it nearly two years ago, here are the photos of real Cuban clinics accompanying a story written by Carlos Wotzkow and María Elena Morejón for Gentiuno.
Looking good, Michael! You've made a business out of producing documentaries based on skewed and outright false figures, but there is no methodology to cold, hard facts. The pictures show all. Who will believe you now?
Welcome rabid Instapundit readers! Anti-tyranny international politics and democracy is our game here. If you like what you see and want to keep reading hassle-free, I suggest adding our RSS feed to your reader. And no one's complaining if you "digg this" article either.« Close It
Journalist Alex Perry, writing for Time magazine, was in Zimbabwe only 22 hours before plainclothes policeman picked him up and threw him in jail. Five days of rotting there without food, water, or sleep. His crime? "Dedicated journalist on a clandestine mission."
This kind of humiliation and repression is what the Zimbabwean people face every day, and often much much more. It's a pretty good read though. Check it out here.
Filed under: Americas
Source: AP, via Yahoo! News
Two hundred thousand Colombians protested Thursday in the city of Cali. They marched against terrorism brought on to them by the Marxist FARC narcoterrorists, who, for the first time in years, were emboldened to blow up a police station in the city. Instead of getting cheers from the populist mobs, or indifference, as would have happened in the past, the FARC got an earful and eyeful from the citizens who spontaneously - in their hundreds of thousands - took to the streets to send a message that these dirtbag fishes will never have a sea to swim in in Cali, as the Maoist saying about revolution goes. Instead, they'll have every Colombian against them, daring them in the open streets to try to stop them, not flinching.
Bear in mind that this is Cali, Colombia's third largest city. It used to be one of the world's most odious narcoterrorist nests. It was a dreaded hellhole twenty years ago. If you've ever seen the movie "Our Lady Of The Assassins" you will know how narcoterrorism saps the life and spirit of a city, making everyone corrupt - churches, pregnant women, toddlers, doctors, absolutely everyone. The net result is that everyone turns inward and looks out only for themselves. Eventually, everyone just dies.
Now, like a bad dream, it's just a movie. With the great leadership of President Alvaro Uribe, that scenario no longer exists. The city of Cali has been transformed. Not just with new buildings, which is exciting enough. But in the hearts of the people, the hardest thing in the world to change. Civil society has blossomed. People care about each other again. They are not turning inward but turning outward, and turning to each other! They are no longer terrified and they won't let themselves be intimidated. Never again will leftist terror be permitted to take over, ever so cynically 'in the name of the people.' The message to the FARC is that here are the people all right and they don't like leftist clowns who bomb in what they claim is the name of the people. The people have spoken. And they've struck a blow for democracy.
Opposition leader and chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, along with 170 other activists, were rounded up by Russian security forces before a planned peaceful protest today. But more than just rough-handling, I think the police might get sued for sexual harassment. Here's why...
... any good caption ideas? Post in the comments!
Filed under: EconomicsTyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution answers an email from one of his readers, which asks: "Is authoritarianism excusable or permissible - for any length of time - if it is justified by a need for economic growth/reform?" Here's the meat of his response: (followed by my own, of course)
More democratic versions of those regimes would have been better. That said, I don't think absolute majoritarian democracy in Singapore, from day one, would have been better than the reign of Lee. It would have led to ethnic voting and the quick end of democracy, in destabilizing fashion. Yet now Singapore, a successful and well-established country, can and should become more democratic. When it comes to Pinochet, we should condemn part of the regime and praise some of the parts concerning economic policy. Viewing Pinochet purely as an individual moral agent, he was quite wrong to act the way he did. If you ask "would I be willing to endanger the good economic reforms by eschewing torture to enforce the rule of the regime," the answer is yes I would want to immediately end the torture and take that risk.
To start, democratization research fully shows that dictatorships are no better at creating economic growth than democracies with even the most highly bickering political classes. In fact, the latter have shown to do just a tad better. There is absolutely not reason to believe, in general, that a dictatorship can allocate resources in the most efficient way to grow the economy.
There are exceptions, though, and that's undeniable. Chile, South Korea, Japan, and other one party states or outright dictatorships experienced great economic growth because they were being led by a political elite with the desire to boom the economy. Within these supposedly one-party states are many different groups, mostly elites, who agree about the economic future of the country. Human rights issues aside, the macro view is that this kind of dictatorship will do very well.
The military regime can go either way. It can be like Pinochet's, where economic growth occurred and people got thrown out of planes, or they can just totally screw things up all around. In fact, there is also the honorable military regime, such as in Mauritania, that truly commits itself to a short timetable of existence and uses that time to build the political civil society necessary for a functioning democracy.
Looking away from just economic reasons alone, dictatorships can have attributes that are desirable in the short-term. Absolute control can suppress ethnic bloodletting or socialist revolution as reforms go into effect. And while economic growth itself has been shown not to lead to democracy, a mid-range GDP per capita somewhere above $6000 is the point at which no democracy has ever collapsed. So if one of these particular dictatorships can be benevolent enough while preventing terrible atrocities, people will eventually be economically well off enough that they won't try to kill each other anymore.
The very definition of dictatorships, in its absoluteness, makes it very hard to trust that the regimes will act in this benevolent manner. So democracy in the general sense is almost always preferred to dictatorship. If there is a very special reason why a transitional dictatorship is necessary, however, there better be some very good way to know that it won't be just as bad.
What one has to keep in mind is that everyday people of most traditional societies are not so concerned with vast economic development and so would not be particularly concerned with it, especially if it means so much torture and death. They have tended to retain more of their humanity in this cultural sense. And if we look at a place like Rwanda, where an entire ethnic group was nearly wiped out, it is mostly at the behest of the elites who command the campaign of violence and propaganda. In some cases, there is a huge economic benefit to these elites if instability and even genocide occurs. This is why, in the end, I'm going to agree with Cowen that in general dictatorship cannot be economically excused. In fact, it should be generally distrusted.« Close It
Dear all,So now, as governments crack down on physical media, now they and their supporters are going strong against news sites as well. If anything, though, I'd say this just brings more attention to them.
Big bad billionaire Boris Berezovsky declared to the Guardian that he is "plotting a new Russian revolution," saying that force is the only way to remove Putin from office and change the regime of ex-KGB officers. His latest is that he's bankrolling members of the Russian political elite in an attempt to cause a split. He's made statements like this before, and it's always hilarious because Pootie Poot's cronies go bonkers.
His criticisms of Putin's regime, that he's rolling back democracy and that it may only be possible to remove his regime through force, are ideas and options that should be weighed and considered -- especially the first. But when it comes to violence, some character assassination is in order.
Boris Berezovsky and his ilk, along with Putin, are just two sides of the same corrupt coin. He spent a great part of the 90s buying up the country at bargain barrel prices using his own connections in the government, leaving the country in ravages while he profited. Berezovsky, at one point, was Russia just as Putin is now. Since he was sent into exile, he has been using words such as "democracy" like he owns them. But contrary to what he says, democracy isn't just political elites -- him and Putin -- being able to fight like dogs for power. It certainly isn't a slogan to be thrown around to gain Western support.
All in all, he's just another billionaire slimeball whose very actions led to the rise of a person like Putin. There are plenty of people who are actually in Russia, risking imprisonment and police baton beatings, who are fighting for democracy there. Chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, ex-prime minister Kasyanov, and a host of others are trying to put together a feasible democratic opposition at this very moment. Others, like Anna Politkovskaya, actually died trying to bring about a democratic Russia.
In other words, Berezovsky can shove it.
It's certainly not the United States, London, or even China or India. Hong Kong pales in comparison, and Brazil is but an afterthought. Mexico? Where's that? All of these places are doing well enough, but they aren't top dog. The Ludwig von Mises Institute, however, has the answer we're all seeking.
With inflation at nearly 1800%, unemployment at 80%, and GDP having been slashed in half over the years, a thriving Zim stock market seems, well, impossible. But the 12,000% year-over-year increase is well over the rate of inflation, so people are obviously getting rich and keeping their money safe . The Institute explains that the Austrian Business Cycle Theory has something to do with it.
The ZSE is growing some three times faster than consumer prices. This relative outperformance versus general prices is a result of stocks being a chief entry point for the flood of newly created money. Keep Zimbabwean dollars in your pocket, and they've already lost a chunk of their value by the next day. Putting money in the bank, where rates are pithy, is not much better. Investing in government bonds is the equivalent of financial suicide. Converting wealth into foreign currency is difficult; hard currency is scarce, and strict rules limit exchangeability. As for capital improvements, there is little incentive on the part of companies to invest in their already-losing enterprises since economic prospects look so bleak. Very few havens exist for people to hide their wealth from the evils created by Mugabe's policies. Like compressed air looking for an exit, money is pouring into shares of ZSE-listed firms like banker Old Mutual, hotel group Meikles Africa, and mobile phone firm Econet Wireless. It is the only place to go. Thus the 12,000% year over year increase in the Zimbabwe Industrials.Though the government print more and more money and distributes it into the system via financial institutions such as banks, they are opting to put it into stocks rather than hold onto it. One day can cause its value to collapse, but the stock market is driven by demand. Therefore, all of the rich people, government officials, and banks are putting their money into stocks so that it doesn't lose value. Demand is high, so the price is too.
The everyday people of Zimbabwe don't see any benefit to this, though. Their masters may not see it for much longer either. Stock prices on the index are obviously inflated and unsustainable. It's only a matter of time before it comes crashing down, taking down many in its spiral.« Close It
Filed under: International Institutions
The Statesmen reports that Paul Wolfowitz, head of the World Bank, is embroiled in a nepotism scandal. Apparently his longtime girlfriend, Shaha Riza, a communications officer for godsakes, has been receiving some pretty large pay raises that haven't been approved by the ethics committee as they're supposed to be. By large, I mean an extra $47,300, bringing her up to $180,000, since Wolfowitz arrived. Then she got another $13,590 last year. Now everyone is wondering why these raises were ordered and bypassed around the ethics committee. Well, now we know.
At the risk of turning this into a tabloid, occurrences like this are particularly regrettable because it reflects on the entire organization. Wolfowitz went into the World Bank promising to clean up corruption and make it actually, you know, work so that its goals are achievable. Politicians and bureaucrats, especially at the international level, are all sleazy. It's no wonder that hookers line the streets of New York in force when political conventions and conferences come to town.
Speaking of which, wouldn't it be cheaper from the World Bank to get Wolfowitz one of those rather than boost his girlfriend's salary by over $60,000?
Filed under: Kyrgyzstan
The Taliban has nothing on these guys when it comes to organizing and getting your people out there in the springtime. Kyrgyz opposition forces, meanwhile, know how to party like its 2005 and the Tulip Revolution was just a rehearsal. Right now 10,000 protesters, and apparently many more to come, have gathered in Bishkek's Alatoo Square to demand the implementation of promised reforms and the resignation of President Bakiev.
April 11, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- A crowd estimated to number more than 10,000 people is rallying on Bishkek's central Alatoo Square to demand the resignation of Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev.Nearly two years ago the Tulip Revolution swept the old autocrats in power and swept in... well, new ones with new promises that never really came to fruition. Promises to dilute the power of the president never truly came to pass, while other reforms haven't even been touched.
It appears, though, that many of the opposition leaders hail from old ruling class of northern Kyrgyzstan where ousted President Akaev is from, while Bakiev gets most of his support in the south. So there is a tint of regionalism to all of this, though of course there are people in on both sides that support the opposite side. However, there are also many that simply want the reforms, and others who have broken from Bakiev's government as well. It looks pretty diverse as far as I can tell.
By the way Akaev fled the country and how Bakaev capitulated to changes to the constitution last January, I fully expect that he will do so once again. Even though he tried to sneak his power back in December (which is why these protests are going on anyway), yesterday he approved a package of reforms that would once again give more power to parliament. But it appears as if the opposition don't believe him this time. Once again, we may be seeing another revolution in Kyrgyzstan. I'm calling it Tulip II, for what it's worth.
Remember to keep checking out Registan for up to date information on how this is going!« Close It
The latest Publius feature article title, "The Catholic Church Can Save Zimbabwe," can be found by clicking on this link, looking at the right sidebar, or clicking on the Articles tab. It explores the relationship of the Catholic Church's support for the liberation of Poland and ties it into the potential for support that it can give to the people of Zimbabwe in their own struggle. Check it out.
Filed under: Iran ~ Middle East
The Islamic Republic of Iran announced it produces nuclear fuel on an industrial level. Reza Aqazadeh, the country's vice president and head of its Atomic Energy Organization said that the 3, 000 centrifuges from Natanz are merely the beginning. "When we say we have entered industrial scale enrichment, (it means) there is no way back. Installation of centrifuges will continue steadily to reach a stage where all the 50,000 centrifuges are launched." (IRNA)
Meanwhile the United States, Russia, China and Germany (holder of the EU Presidency) accused Tehran of abusing the goodwill of the international community.
Clearly the isolation measures didn't work and new tactics have to be employed to moderate Iran's nuclear and regional ambitions. The West at large tends to forget that in the ME a soft approach is often perceived as weakness. Vigorous actions are needed, diplomatic or otherwise.
Filed under: Middle East
In a televised speech on Sunday, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said that Lebanese "are stuck with us for 50 years more." He further added, "If we were to choose between civil war and keeping the situation this way for a limited period of time, we prefer to continue with this state of affairs (stalemate)."
He doesn't want anymore the 19/11 government formula his party proposed and continues to oppose the international tribunal in Rafiq al Hariri's assassination.
Sheikh Nasrallah is actually promising 50 years of political isolation, poverty, social despair and economic disasters. If Hezbollah will continue sabotaging the government of Premier Siniora, Lebanon will be very soon in a constant state of pandemonium and servitude to Iran and Syria. That is what the 14 March is trying hard to prevent and what March 8 aims of restoring.
Filed under: Central Asia ~ Pakistan
Look at her, Nilofer Bakhtiar, that harlot. Not only is she parading around in public as Pakistan's tourism minister, but she's going around giving hugs to French men, walking around sans ninja gear, and... and... are those boobs?? Many may believe that she is clapping for something in this picture, but really, she is sinisterly rubbing her hands together plotting the weakening of the public morality!
At least, this is what people inside the Taliban-like Red Mosque are saying right now. These people issued a deadly fatwa against this poor woman for giving a victory hug to an instructor after a successful parachute jump. No mind that this was her first jump, which takes a great deal of courage, and not to mention that the jump was for an aid organization raising money to aid the people of Pakistan who had been injured or displaced in the great October 2005 earthquake.
But who cares about them, right? All that really matters is that women aren't in public doing, well, anything!
Filed under: Venezuela
There's something of a revolutionary ferment in and around Venezuela's media. More so than any other Latin country. Maybe it's because Venezuela's billionaires, like Gustavo Cisneros, are media kings. Maybe it's because of the starry international appeal of the many Miss Venezuelas. For whatever reason, media is pivotal in Venezuela as an essential instrument of dynamism and change. That explains a lot about why RCTV is under such seige from Chavistas, as this excellent account from Daniel's Venezuela News & Views shows here.
It's also a two-edged sword.
On the one hand, the power of media in Venezuela has contributed signficantly to the rise of Hugo Chavez, whose persona and mastery of the colloquial speech, the raging diatribe, the entertaining tale, and even the song have propelled him to the top from obscurity as Venezuela's leader in 1998. It's not very well known here, but Hugo Chavez is a product of the Venezuelan boondocks, not a product of its cities, nor its experienced political establishments. He's a rube outsider from the outback of Barinas state near the Andes. But as a leader, he's managed to use media to propel him to stardom, a short route to power in a state with a calcified political power establishment. From there, he's kept with it, hosting his own reality television show as president.
He's simply a natural. In Chavez, anyone can see his star qualities from his early speeches. I have seen them and was struck by how full of magnetism he is. He seems to be talking right to you through the television set. It's only in later years that some sort of mask has formed over him, a signal of his growing guardedness. He still emits bursts of volcanic bile in his public addresses. But he doesn't have quite the same early charisma. He's also grown fat and sloppy as he becomes comfortable and complacent in his absolute power.
But if Hugo can master media, there are plenty of others who can innovate into it, too.
A very dramatic example of this is Carlos Ortega, the imprisoned former union boss who led the great oil strike of 2002-3. Ortega escaped from a Chavista military prison in August 2006, and has been in hiding for several months, with no one knowing where he is. His story is here. Now, taking a page from another escaped political prisoner, Governor Eduardo Lapi of Yaracuy state, Ortega has started using media to transmit messages to his people. Unlike Lapi, who writes letters, Ortega is using electronic television media. It's a very dangerous and rebellious thing to do in a system that no longer allows dissent.
Ortega might have borrowed this idea for this from, of all people, Osama Bin Laden, who also uses filmed messages to his followers as a way of leading them, too. Just as Bin Laden uses Al-Jazeera to transmit his terror messages to destroy America, so Ortega uses the popular Globovision station to transmit messages designed to rally his followers and fight an odious dictator who's oppressing his people. Media, after all, can transmit any message, good or bad, and this new means is ideal for a leader on the lam.
Ortega is a gutsy brawler of a union boss, whose daring defiance of Hugo Chavez began with the great oil strike of 2002-3 and extended from there. He's never feared Chavez, and he won his own union elections with powerful political support. That's why he scares Chavez - it's because of that proven record of winning elections and his fearlessness. That's why Hugo Chavez not only fired Ortega from his elected union boss job, he also threw him in prison. Ortega didn't let prison walls stop him though. He escaped, with the aid of his military guards, probably. Now Ortega's given Chavez another reason to fear him, he's using media beyond what even Chavez did to to rally Chavez's enemies. That's innovation.
What we may see is a YouTube revolution capable of taking out Hugo Chavez, his own mastery of television media superceded by the determined Carlos Ortega's innovations. Keep an eye on this new evolving development - in a dictatorship where all dissent is forbidden, YouTubes may be the final unbeatable path to democracy.
Filed under: Philosphy
Happy Easter everyone! Enjoy your holiday weekend. I know we will. Publius will be back on Monday,
Is President Bush giving Russian war criminals too much, er, lip service? Kim Zigfeld takes issue with it, as it appears that our Commander-in-Chief met with a Russian war criminal in the Oval Office without even really knowing who he is. Definitely not the way to speak out for human rights. It's our latest Publius feature article, so check it out here!
Filed under: Europe
We already have the Islamic Bank of Britain (2004) and more will follow soon. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported yesterday that the British banking group Lloyds TSB (one of UK's leading banks) has introduced a new service for Islamic banking for Islamic-owned companies. Apparently other banks will introduce such services in the next two to three years. Sharia prohibits the interest and investment in businesses that are morally deviant (eg alcohol)
If we were to live under Sharia law the tax, jizyah, would have to be paid only by non-Muslims male. Women and children don't have to pay the tax. And men would pay only 0.5% of their yearly earnings. Economically that doesn't sound bad, if it weren't for the other steps of Islamic rule, 1) dawah, primary invitation to Islam followed by intellectual debates, 2) paying the jizya and 3) preparation for an offensive Jihad.
The discourse about an Islamic Caliphate in UK now includes, among others, the economic benefits. Too wild? Not really, if we check the demography statistics of the old continent.
The Muslims advantages are: "fervor and conviction, which in most Western countries are either weak or lacking. They are self-assured of the rightness of their cause, whereas we spend most of our time in self-denigration and self-abasement. They have loyalty and discipline, and perhaps most important of all, they have demography, the combination of natural increase and migration producing major population changes, which could lead within the foreseeable future to significant majorities in at least some European cities or even countries." (Bernard Lewis, 2007)
Filed under: Middle EastNancy Pelosi got a very interesting, symbolic, relatively meaningless privilege during her trip to Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday visited Saudi Arabia's unelected advisory council, the closest thing in the kingdom to a legislature, where she tried out her counterpart's chair - a privilege no Saudi woman can have because women cannot become legislators.
I don't know why the Saudis would make such an exception. Perhaps that's the cause for the shocked expressions in the picture. Maybe it means that they think she's a man? I can imagine how they'd make the mistake since she wasn't wearing that hijab she picked up. . .
Filed under: Middle East
One quick glance at a photo of the [now freed] British sailors shows a bunch of guys wearing new suits, and a female sailor bedecked in an Islamic headscarf. People noticed this immediately and condemned the way it must have been forced on her. Such outrage was greater inflamed when Nancy Pelosi went parading across Syria wearing one.
As for the guys, they looked pretty clean pressed. But look closely... Ahmadinejad got one last laugh.
See it? None of the sailors are wearing ties! In fact, the chick isn't the only one donning the latest fashion of the mullahs. The hottest new thing is mock-Ahmadinejad suits with unbuttoned shirts! A favorite of clubbers and tyrants alike. But more importantly, where is The Manolo on this?
Filed under: Middle East
The Quds press agency (UK) announced on April 2 that more than 4,000 members of Al-Mahdi Army joined the Iraqi police and regular forces even before the implementation of the much publicized security plan for Baghdad (which is running for almost two months now). The South of the capital is dominated by the Al Mahdi Army of Shiia cleric Muqtada Al Sadr.
The plan of Al Sadr seems to be that of deliberately sabotaging the work of the Iraqi police and security forces by all necessary means. Since the Mahdi militia members joined the national forces the violence escalated in Baghdad.
Filed under: Middle East
The latest feature article is up on the right. It takes on the British hostage crisis in the context that Iran is trying to win over European public support to stop sanctions against the country. In fact, it argues that Iran probably treated the sailors really well for that express purpose. To read the article, click here.
Filed under: Europe ~ Protest Babes ~ Ukraine
Supporters of the pro-Russian government coalition protest on Independence square in Kiev. Ukraine's pro-Western president Viktor Yushchenko held crisis talks Tuesday with his prime minister, as a deepening power struggle between the two rivals brought thousands onto the streets in protest.(AFP/Sergei Supinsky)
Normally this isn't a problem, but Yahoo! News doesn't have a single picture of a protest babe on either side. Neither Yanukovich nor Yushchenko have babe backing, and Tymoshenko doesn't have the protest appeal like she used to. That must mean that, indeed, Ukraine is in a true crisis.
Disturbing images revealing Mugabe's henchmen brutally beating opposition leaders last month were leaked to the West, greatly amplifying the shock that many felt reading through the headlines. The name of this brave journalist is Edward Chikombo, a cameraman for state-run broadcaster ZBC. Or should I say, was? Revealing his name on this site makes no difference. Today, he turned up dead about 50 miles away from the capital.
A local journalist suspected of having links to Zimbabwe's opposition has been found murdered following an escalation of the government's campaign of violence and intimidation.There is a fine mental line for most of today's leaders between collective savagery imposed on a nation, for that is collective and thus equally shared, and targeting the opposition politicos. The former is a constant regardless with totalitarian regimes. Morgan Tsvangirai and the Movement for Democratic Change represent the organized effort to oust Mugabe. If they're put out of commission, it will become all the harder to do so.
It is a sign of desperation on Mugabe's part that he is now physically attacking -- and now evening killing -- his rivals and betrayer rather than simply threatening and harassing them. International pressure, even some coming from African countries, is reaching fever pitch while the people of Zimbabwe increasingly see no difference between life under Mugabe and death. Yet the former they can do something about. At the risk of sounding overly optimistic as I have in the past, Mugabe may not see the next "election."« Close It
Venezuela has dropped from being our number one oil supplier, as it was in 1998, to our fifth-largest supplier. The Energy Department statistics just came out today and for the first time in a long time, Venezuela's exports to the U.S. dropped below 1 million barrels a day, to only 955,000. See here.
Chavez and his pals claim it's because they're selling oil to China, and for sure it's up, but I wouldn't be so sure about that being the main reason. There have been vast breakdowns in Venezuela's supply chain, like this one here, which affects Venezuela's ability to produce oil. That, and a lot of things, make Venezuela an unreliable source of oil for the U.S., and thus declining in importance.
Meanwhile, today Venezuela doubled its planned international borrowing (who the heck would lend to them!) through the issuance of a $7.5 billion bond, which is up from the planned $3 billion. Clearly, people want to buy the bond, but just as clearly, the Venezuelan oil company needs foreign investment from this bond to keep its oil wells producing. Chavez has already robbed the foreign oil investor companies of their assets so the only thing left to do to get cash is to get it from the banks, as this debt illustrates.
The main thing this points to is that Venezuela's oil company is spending more than it's earning, and its declining earnings are not being made up elsewhere. It's all a function of declining oil sales to the U.S.
While Venezuela is selling us less oil, our oil import consumption is up, based on the statistics provided by all but 2 countries (Venezuela and Angola). The Mexicans are selling us more. The Saudis are selling us more. The Canadians are selling us more. Two players worth noting who are selling us significantly more are the Colombians and the Brazilians, both of whom nearly doubled their oil sales to us. That bears watching as the strategic picture evolves. One month's sale doesn't tell us a whole lot, but a long pattern of it will be interesting news.
Is there a terrorist threat against its major cities? Do mass rallies and civil war rue the day? Good old chaos and anarchy?
In case you're wondering, it's not the American or European governments that have issued such an order. It's the Russian government, of course. True to its bullying nature -- especially against the Baltics! -- First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov has told citizens that they should shun Estonia. The real reason is because Estonia plans to take down an old, irrelevant WWII monument that the people widely regard as a symbol of the beginning of Soviet occupation. Yes, those crazy Estonians are going to tear down a statue! First it's a statue, then the entire Russian Federation!
How ironic that as the Estonians prepare to take down a symbol of Soviet oppression, the Russians react by basically calling for a boycott on Estonian tourism and goods. How perfectly predictable! Big bad Russia's ego gets bruised by baby Estonia and, failing to reconcile with its own history, throws a temper tantrum.
I really hope not.
Yaracuy Gov. Eduardo Lapi escaped from a Venezuelan prison on Sunday. He'd been imprisoned by the Chavistas for a more than a year on "corruption" charges in the state capital city of San Felipe. Venezuelan law says one is supposed to get a fair trial in less than a year but he never got it. All he had heard was that he was going to be transferred to a more dangerous prison in the coming days, according to relatives.
From what I know of Yaracuy, it sounds like there is a really vicious, venal Chavista political machine there. It forced peasants to expropriate farmers' land whether they wanted to or not. But it also had this incredibly mean woman who ran the land institute who constantly decried Christopher Colombus. She did this as a means of beating on the Spanish and Italian farmers who tried to get justice when their land was stolen by campesinos and guerrillas. Can you imagine getting abused for Christopher Colombus just because you are Spanish and then being told you deserved to have your land confiscated as a consequence? You can see the lawlessness of Venezuela right there in that vignette. That's what Lapi was operating against.
But Lapi wasn't like that. Lapi was a popular and efficient governor who I think first had the election stolen from him in 2004, shortly after Chavez's recall referendum, and accepted it stoically, but eventually was swept up because his remaining popularity continued to be a threat to the Chavistas, who were filthy, corrupt, tacky and inefficient.
I went to Yaracuy and by chance I met Gov. Lapi when he was out of office. He had not yet been arrested or taken to prison. He told me he thought they were going to eventually get him. If I recall correctly, he didn't even have a fixed place to stay because they were looking for him. And I recall they had already gotten his private house. We had scotch and dinner at Venezuelan club whose wood and dark surfaces and palms and windows sort of looked like 1940s Havana, I remember I had some kind of soup and then steak and so did he. He was a fine man, quick witted and tended to draw a crowd. I asked him if the election was stolen from him and he said, matter of factly "oh yeah." He spoke fast, sometimes too fast for me to understand, and seemed to have an agile mind.
Soon after that, he was hauled off to prison on "corruption" charges, which I do not believe had merit in themselves. Also, Chavistas don't prosecute corruption anyway, if they did, they'd have to go after themselves first.
On Sunday, he escaped. But no one knows how he got out and everyone knows he didn't have the money to pay anyone in the prison system. His "escape" is the second high-profile prison break in the last couple years, the first was of Carlos Ortega who led the great strike of 2002-2003.
His wife Jeanette, meanwhile, says he hasn't contacted her and she had no inkling of his possible escape, all she knew was that he was never given the trial he had a right to within a year, and he was slated to go to an even worse prison than he already was, and he'd already had death threats. She thinks there's been foul play and he's going to turn up in a ditch somewhere in rural Yaracuy, "shot trying to escape." It certainly is a possibility and it's a chilling one. After all, this is someone I had dinner with. It makes me worry. No one knows where he is right now.
Later in my trip, I went to the governor's mansion now being occupied by his successor who stole the election from Lapi, a guy named Gimenez who pasted his face all over the billboards in a big greasy politician grin. The locals called a drunk and showed me the fresh tire skidmarks ON THE WALLS of his governor's mansion as proof of that. I mean, who drives their Hummer (Chavistas love pricey, militaristic vehicles) on the side walls rather than across the driveway unless they aren't completely in control? When I inspected those skidmarks and got a photo, armed troops rushed out and asked me what I thought I was doing. I said I was a tourist and everything was all so beautiful, the sun, the sky, this pretty house, this architecture, these flowers ... getting the hell away from the guy as fast as I could. But I got the skidmark picture, think I have posted it earlier, and I will do so again when I can.
I hope Gov. Lapi really did escape and is safe in Bogota or Mexico City or Miami. He doesn't deserve any of this. The fact that he was targeted by the Chavistas, had the election stolen from him, had his freedom taken from him and now may have had his life taken from him is too much injustice to contemplate. Keep watching and waiting.
Daniel at Venezuela News & Views has an absolutely riveting three-post roundup of all that's being said in the Venezuelan press about this strange and disturbing case. I really enjoyed reading this update of his. Highly recommended, read the whole thing here, here and here.
See also what Venezuela Today has in updates.
"It is really ridiculous, like implementing a Muslim regime," said Jorge Dominguez, 36, leaving a liquor store at 4.55 p.m. with two chinking carrier bags full of beer.
"I got nervous. I thought Chavez had prohibited the sale of liquor seeing how he talks about Cuba, socialism and the (Iranian) ayatollahs," said 67-year-old retiree Enrique Salazar after buying three bottles to last him through the holiday.
Hugo's really done it now. He's relegated all of Venezuela to the status of college freshmen. Until the end of Easter, alcohol sales will be limited in public services such as restaurants to between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. while sales altogether are explicitly banned throughout the holy weekend. You heard me right. No spring break for Venezuelans.
The reason for the ban is because alcohol drinking infuriates Chavez. He blames Venezuela's love of whiskey on the great enemy up north, the United States. You see, it's all a plot to degrade the moral fiber of the country, leading to the 100 or so deaths every Easter blamed on drinking. It's no simple criminal act in which people need to be thrown in jail; it's an enemy plot!
What he didn't anticipate was that people would not simply submit to his edict. They're doing what all of us did at some point in college, only worse. Coca-Cola is ordered with a wink, a smile, and some extra tip. Bottles are being bid on as if liquor stores were stock exchanges. Given that everyone found out at the last minute, the mad rush to get the weekend wine has assured not only that everyone will get what they want, but Chavez will look like he's kowtowing to an Islamic regime on a Christian holiday.
Oh yeah, and he'll look like an idiot. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin lost some of his highly acclaimed popularity when, early last year, Russia experience an extreme vodka shortage. Because whiskey is to Venezuelans what vodka is to Russians, there is just no telling how far down Chavez may go!
Filed under: Ukraine
In perhaps the ballsy-est move he's made since gaining the presidency, Orange Revolution President Viktor Yushchenko signed a decree disbanding the parliament and calling new elections.
April 2, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has signed a decree dissolving parliament and ordering new elections, RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service reported.Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich had been accused of unconstitutionally building up his power base in the parliament by convincing individual members to join his coalition. According to the constitutional changes made during the Orange Revolution, members of a bloc join coalitions together. That is, individuals members cannot break off from their elected bloc to join another one. I can imagine the purpose of this is to solidify the power of parties against temporary electoral crises which can provoke opportunism and payoffs. But that's what Yanukovich has been tempting people with, and a steady stream of opposition lawmakers have left their original parties. If Yanukovich can get less than 50 more then he will have complete ability to rewrite the constitution.
Given that the hostility between Yanukovich and Yushchenko has already provoked the former into decreasing the powers of the latter, Yushchenko was in a real bind. If he didn't stop this from happening, Yanukovich would unconstitutionally usurp more power and crush him.
There have also been rumors of late that say Yanukovich and Moroz were meeting with Putin on whether or not to seek Yushchenko's impeachment. If that's the case, self-defense would be the biggest reason why he finally acted. Impeachment would mean total destruction of the Orange forces.
The only question is, what is the constitutionality of Yushchenko's own decree, and will anyone follow it?
I see no reason why the pro-Yanukovich members of parliament would simply back down and comply with the order for new elections. With no firm legal mechanisms in place to enforce the constitution or even make constitutional judgments right now, everything is up in the air. The president and the parliament are operating on two completely separate wavelengths of power and sovereignty. It will all come down to who has control.And according to Peter Byrne, chaos has basically enveloped the parliament, with the pro-Yanukovich coalition unraveling reforms and reversing every last democratic gain made since 2004 in one fell swoop.
it's almost midnight and the rada is still in session, busy being destructive and rescinding previous legislation.I wonder if the obvious needs to be said here. Back in August, when Yanukovich became prime minister, the generally accepted knowledge was that no matter who gained power, the gains made since the Orange Revolution could never be reversed. But how can the biggest gain, free elections, ever be repeated if the old and corrupt election commission is in place? « Close It
Filed under: Middle East
Jim at GatewayPundit has a big photoessay of the Iranian "students" in a "spontaneous" demonstration against Britain's embassy. It echoes the 1979 student demonstrations of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's youth, back when he seemed to be a member of the hostage-taking "students" who took American diplomatic personnel hostage in the not-missed days of Jimmy Carter. Britain's appeasing attitude is not going to help.
See the whole thing here.
Hat tip: Instapundit
Russia contributor Kim Zigfeld takes a look at Russia since Putin gained power, year by year, month by month, and ends with a scary conclusion.
Filed under: Americas
RCTV is under fire. The big television station, which has been broadcasting under license in Venezuela for 54 years, sort of the equivalent of FoxNews or CBS, officially loses its right to broadcast at the end of today. But that wasn't all that happened.
Like furies, red tshirted Chavista mobs gathered and bayed liked wolves in the days leading up to this end of an era, graffiting and spray-painting the TV station with words like 'expropriacion' along with filthy slogans that if you know Spanish, you can see the equivalent of 'f word' among, racism charges, campesino movement slogans, anti-Vatican slogans (the Vatican actually defended this TV station, which is run by a devout Catholic) and 'RCTV out' slogans. They also left plenty of garbage and mess, including what looks like a dead dog - a mob symbol if there ever was one, behind.
This is how Venezuela is being ruled right now - not just by arbitrary "legal" rulings based on what Chavez likes, but by the added calling card of the Chavista mob, spray painting its vile messages in its 'revolutionary' fervor to get the point across that this isn't about law or the public interest anymore, this is about bloodthirsty mob rule.
One little fact that will make you sick to hear is that I know exactly who organized the attack. I hung out with him in Caracas because I was curious how the other side thought and I went to his "Bolivarian Circle" meeting and I got literature - it was 100% against the dissident TV stations - and I even got drunk with him in one of the mayor's offices out in the western slums. I know who he is and how he thinks. He had a string of "community" television stations of his own, and he told me the pbig rivate TV stations were "against democracy." His people were after Globovision and its broadcasting equipment at the time but they rapidly moved against RCTV and have been talking about destroying them through violence. He even had state-funded pamphlets, with the little Venezuelan government jumping-people logo on them to give to me and I still have them. His bile against private media finally came to fruition yesterday. And he will be the beneficiary of the spoils.
The injury added to insult against RCTV shows that not only is the law against the existence of the dissident TV station, it's also against enforcing even civic laws against the integrity of the property itself. Think about how you would feel for your personal safety in the wake of these attacks. These thugs would have thrown a bomb or set a fire if they could but the government wants to steal the equipment for its own 'public broadcast' service, which will fall into the hands of this rapcious graffiti mob. This is violence, from top to bottom, with the state making common cause with the criminal elements to make Venezuela a holy hell for anyone who produces anything of value.
God help Venezuela.
UPDATE: Alek Boyd at VCrisis sends me a correction - RCTV is slated for closure on May 31, not March 31 as had been reported earlier. Thanks Alek! Read Alek's item on RCTV, complete with more strings of photos, here.
UPDATE: Venezuela Today has a whole special section on RCTV with all the coverage and all the photos for easy viewing here.
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