Thursday, March 09, 2006

East Asia getting dangerous

Asia is heating up, fast.

The multilateral rows between China, Taiwan and Japan have been heating up over the past few days. Leaders on all sides are making mistakes that continue to aggravate the problem, with Chen Shui-bian's pointless abolotion of the National Unification Council; the discovery that China is stockpiling missiles faster than previously expected; the North Koreans shooting off missiles for no apparent reason, sparking a joint US-Japanese test of a missile defense system; and now the Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso calling Taiwan a "country", implying that it is soverign from China.

Meanwhile, in the US, John Warner, is threatening to withold American assistance from Taiwan if they continue to pursue an admittedly aggressively independent foreign policy. Warner's comments, which are equal parts bluster and disingenuity, underscore the central problem with East Asia: Bush completely lacks any plans to deal with the entire powder keg.

Does it make sense for GOP Senators to be making foreign policy on their own? Not so much. But it makes even less sense when the White House is silent on these critical steps that have been taken over the past few weeks. Something is shaking in North Korea, Japan and China continue to drag ties to a new low over territory rights in the waters between them, and Taiwan is stirring things up as well. And there is no sign that the US is willing to even begin confronting these problems.

Bush is either too scared to act, or too dumb to know what to do, (or, likely a combination of both). But in Asia, we don't have to be like Mike Mandelbaum's Goliath, threatening with weapons and towering over the other players.

What we need right now is a simple, easy, slow-paced talk-down of the respective leaders. The US needs to show some leadership in the region by dealing with these problems before they get out of hand. A single issue here isn't enough to put the region over the edge, but a conglomeration of them all is likely to do so. With Taiwan declaring "Anti-Aggression" days, China calling Japan's PM "stupid" and "immoral", it is clear that the status quo will no longer suffice. Let's hope that someone decides to play diplomat before these problems become unsolvable.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Torturerrific

Where do you think Sharen Gravelle learned this trick? Juxtapose this:
The woman accused of locking some of her 11 adopted, special-needs children in cages cried on the witness stand Wednesday as she denied that she and her husband were cruel to his biological children.
with this:
"I saw wooden structures that had a solid wooden piece for a door, an alarm to left of the opening. There was a small handle on it. They were piled one on top of another. They looked like a kennel," said Jo Ellen Johnson of the Huron County Children and Family Services.

One guess. Or, heck, let's say two.

Ah right, that would be this:

US President George W Bush says the US Government is aggressively taking action to protect Americans from terrorism but "we do not torture".
Versus this?
A Syrian witness...said he was force-fed pork and alcohol, against Islamic law.

Another inmate, forced to masturbate in public, said US troops tortured Iraqis "like it was theatre for them".

Or maybe this from 2003?:

The US President, George W Bush, has denied allegations aired on this program last week, that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, including two Australians, have been tortured.
with this
One regular procedure that was described by people who worked at Camp Delta, the main prison facility at the naval base in Cuba, was making uncooperative prisoners strip to their underwear, having them sit in a chair while shackled hand and foot to a bolt in the floor, and forcing them to endure strobe lights and screamingly loud rock and rap music played through two close loudspeakers, while the air-conditioning was turned up to maximum levels, said one military official who witnessed the procedure. The official said that was intended to make the detainees uncomfortable, as they were accustomed to high temperatures both in their native countries and their cells.

Such sessions could last up to 14 hours with breaks, said the official
and this

So I can see how Sharen might have been fooled into thinking that she could lock several children in small cages for hours at a time, and not be torturing them. It ain't right, but it's what she's learning from the top.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Maryland Needs Steely-Jesus

Michael Steele, he of the imaginary cookie attack and the too-real comparison of stem cell research to the holocaust, is once again putting a foot where a mouth should be.
Michael S. Steele exhorted religious leaders yesterday to build stronger ties between church and state and called for targeting more state money for community programs run by faith-based groups.
As usual, the Post aids and abets Steele's gaffe in two major ways by:

* Presuming the existance of ties between Church and State and

* Not having a single Democrat or challenging voice in the whole preposterous article.

But there was worse to come.

"I wanted this to be a come-to-Jesus moment," Steele (R) continued. "We have a lot of different approaches but one common goal: to do good work that touches people's lives."
The phrase "Come to Jesus" has a few secular meanings. It means, secularly, to call someone out for making a mistake and set them on the right path. That's it. And that's not how Steele is using it here.

Steele is asking the State of Maryland to Come to Jesus, literally. How do I figure? Easy. Steele doesn't have a problem with how the faith-based groups are running. He says, after all, they all have a common goal. The problem for Steele is the State of Maryland not giving money to these groups, and other faith-based or community groups who don't ask for money.

"If somebody is whining, you need to kick that brother or sister to the curb. Our modern-day story is not physical enslavement but enslavement of the mind," Steele said. "This is the story of our faith and charitable communities."
Get it, Maryland? You need to Come to Jesus. The Jesus which is government-sponsored churches.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Amazing

I'm always amazed at how conservatives can say things like this:
“I don’t think [Bush] was well served on the port issue by the bureaucracy,” said Republican Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho, who is leading a united front of governors pushing back on potential reductions to National Guard forces. “He’s at the forefront on national security. When you combine this flap on the ports, and these potential cuts on the military, you need to make sure that issue doesn’t slip away. It’s one of his strengths.”
He didn't understand the federal bureaucracy on a matter of national security, and is making critical cuts to the military in a time of a war of choice, and yet, you have to make sure this issue doesn't slip away?

Note to Dirk and the media: if you botch an issue repeatedly, without fail, it is no longer yours to have. It's slipped away. You don't get to have it back by just talking about it again.

The Coming Crisis with Taiwan

President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan has announced the termination of the National Unification Council, a government body that had lain dormant since he assumed office. The NUC's primary responsibility was to unify Taiwan with China. That such a committee existed for so long under Chen is surprising, that he is willing to throw it under the bus after losing ground in last year's elections is not.

While I don't deny that the Taiwan/China issue can continue as status quo forever, I don't accept that Chen Shui-bian is the man to bring about those changes, a sentiment that most of the world holds. China, of course, is supremely pissed:

The remarks also revealed Chen's attempt to carry out new independence activities, especially a try to pave the way for the so-called "reform of constitutional politics and Taiwan's nomological independence", the article said.
The US had already sent advisors to Taiwan secretly to convince Chen not to abolish the council. The logic of risking war to abolish an already dormant committee seems absurd.

Analysts who claim that this move will more likely result in increased tensions, rather than outright war are correct. But as Chen Shui-bian remains committed to making these kind of idiotic decisions, the world will see the current relatively stable situation between the two devolve into a much more unstable powderkeg.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Japanese Royal Birth

Princess Kiko is due in July, according now to official reports. Props to her and Prince Fumihito for not finding out the baby's gender. No one will be able to control the staggering amount of press this will pick up in Japan. Of course everyone is dying for a boy, so that they can continue the royal line. For me, I think patriarchal Japan could use a strong empress role model, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a girl.

Friday, February 24, 2006

See No Evil


"See no evil, Speak no evil, Hear no evil". Idiot.

Unsurprisingly, a young attractive white woman is chosen to represent a movement dominated by old, unattractive white men.

She is then gagged, her ears are stopped and her vision (figuratively) impaired. I don't know what's worse, the disgusting symbolism, or the fact that MSNBC is buying it, hook, line and sinker.

Un-foxing-believable

So the bozos at Faux News think that, somehow, an all-out civil war in Iraq could be a good thing. Unreal.

What other headlines might Faux News have provided throughout history? One can only wonder:

Challenger Explosion: Could it deter aliens from assaulting the planet?

Watergate: Could this strengthen the Nixon Presidency?

Slavery: Well, I guess those folks would be otherwise be stuck in Africa. Right?

The Boston Massacre: Will this alleviate the separatist factions in the Colonies?

The Crucifixition of Jesus: Can we finally stop talking about helping the poor?

The kids are not all right

Fast food doesn't just make you fat. A recent study found that
children who suffer from poor nutrition during the brain's most formative years score much lower on test scores of vocabulary, reading comprehension, arithmetic and general knowledge. Unhealthy eating habits also expose children to serious medical illnesses.
Not only that, but at the rate that kids are gaining weight,
many overweight kids would need to walk three miles or more a day to just prevent further weight gain, say researchers at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston.
Grandparents talk about walking to school because there wasn't any a transportation alternative. This generation may have to start walking to avoid diabetes, heart disease and early death.

The crisis you haven't heard about

So it's been under the radar for most people the past few days, but the President of Taiwan, Chen Shui-Bian, seems determined to abolish the National Unification Council. Is this serious? Well, it is serious enough that two senior level officials flew secretly to Taiwan in an attempt to persuade Chen to change his mind. The officials, National Security Council Asia specialist Dennis Wilder and the State Department's chief Taiwan staffer, Clifford Hart, were apparently unsuccessful. And it's serious enough that China considers this a serious threat to "stability in the Asian region".

The NUC is a body whose sole purpose is to promote the reunification of Taiwan and China. Not something that a whole ton of Taiwanese are crazy about. But war with China is something that they are even less crazy about. Unfortunately, because Chen lost party elections in 2005, he has decided to become more aggressive in his pursuit of independence from the Mainland.

When the People's Daily begins carrying commentary like:

In his interview with Xinhua, Chen Yunlin, director of both the Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said on Wednesday that the remarks of Chen Shui-bian are a risky sign of escalation of Taiwan separatists' activities.

The cross-Straits relations would be undermined seriously and the fundamental interests of the Taiwan compatriots are bound to be impaired eventually, if Chen Shui-bian clings obstinately to his course, the director said.

These are not idle threats, either. If Chen goes ahead and abolishes the NUC, it is difficult to predict what China's next move would be. I doubt that all-out war would be the first option, but it certainly will remain on the table.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Governor and the Chair

So which candidate do you support in a Democratic primary?

Candidate A, who is opposed to the death penalty except in cases of terrorism, but would enforce the death penalty per existing state law.

or Candidate B, who's in favor of the death penalty, but supports a moratorium pending additional research into the finding of a state-sponsored study that alleged bias, by race and geography, in the way the death penalty statute is applied in your state.

This is a dilemma that Democrats in Maryland face. As someone who is strongly anti-death penalty, I would prefer a flat out anti-state killing candidate. Given the two choices, though, I think I would actually support Candidate B. Why? Because candidate A is taking the easy way out, especially with that little "terrorism" bone. For me, treason is a more serious crime than terrorism, so if you're going to start making exceptions to a moral rule, you'd have to start there. But making case by case exceptions is bogus anyway, if it's a strongly held belief.

Candidate B, on the other hand, is asking tough questions. Even as someone who is in favor of state killings, Candidate B is at least willing to put a stop to all of them until it can be determined whether or not there is bias in the way the state kills people. Of course there is bias there, which would mean that Candidate B would likely continue the moratorium indefinitely.

If I was a single issue voter, which I am not, Candidate B would be due my vote. You can read the Post article to figure out that I would be supporting Doug Duncan in Maryland.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Like misspelling potato

I've been a bit concerned about all of the "coverage of the coverage" of the Vice-President shooting a 78 year-old man in the face. Meta-media stories tend to lose the actual story while obsessing about how they are covering the story. This has been the case from the beginning with this shooting, as the press has been more concerned about when the shooting was reported, rather than the fact that it occurred. And now, it seems, my concerns have been justified.

The incident recalls Vice President Dan Quayle misspelling "potato" for a New Jersey sixth-grader in 1992 and President Jimmy Carter hitting an aggressive rabbit with a canoe paddle in 1979. Both incidents played into existing public images of the men and exploded into national jokes.
Yes, it's a story on the media jokes surrounding the shooting, but can you really say with a straight face that blasting a 78 year-old man with a shotgun is the same as misspelling a word? The only parallel I see is that, in America, it's relatively easy to do both.

O'Malley troubles are growing

So Martin O'Malley is not willing to play ball with an obviously Republican partisan crime study. Some people are ok with that, after all, it's obviously a cheap trick by Ehrlich to come out on top. And Doug Duncan has found an issue where people will pay attention to him, so this puppy ain't going anywhere anytime soon.

My problem, though, is with O'Malley on this one. Everyone can see that Ehrlich and Duncan are just trying to play politick on this one. But if you haven't done anything wrong, you should welcome an investigation, yes, even if it's motivated by the opposite party.

This stonewalling is exactly the crap that is turning people off of the GOP on a national level, and I think O'Malley will lose some significant ground unless he decides to play ball.

Egg headed winners

I have an egg-shaped head and I've never won a championship because of it. Not that I'm bitter about that.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Tagging our workers

So now it's hip to chip, as in microchip your workers.
An Ohio company has embedded silicon chips in two of its employees - the first known case in which US workers have been “tagged” electronically as a way of identifying them.
Of course it will be used strictly for security reasons, like how many times did Joe go to the bathroom, and where did Larry go on that twelve minute smoke break?