Archive for November, 2010

24
Nov
10

ONLY A KOREAN CAN STOP A KOREAN

The United States is sending an entire aircraft carrier group to Korean waters after North Korea fired artillery shells at a South Korean island yesterday. I’m kind of angry because, frankly, I do enough pieces on North Korea on this site. There’s so much else in the world to aim my own unique proprietary blend of paranoia and nonsense at. Seriously, it’s a leper colony out there.

But noooooo, the Asian version of Ernst Stavro Blofeld can’t keep a lid on his military for five minutes. It’s still not entirely clear what provoked North Korea’s assault. Then again it’s not clear just what in god’s name is wrong with these people to begin with.

“The U.S. State Department said Wednesday that the United States believes the North’s attack was an isolated action and not part of a wider campaign by Pyongyang.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley also said the United States expects China to use its influence to get North Korea to cease its provocative behavior, saying Beijing could play a “pivotal” role in helping to calm the situation.” – MSNBC

It’s interesting because North Korea has a history of “isolated” incidents which are supposedly not part of any “wider campaign” going back decades. Here’s a few in case you’re unfamiliar with the country we’re still technically at war with. According to Wikipedia:

  April 1970: Three North Korean infiltrators were killed and five South Korean soldiers wounded at an encounter in Kumchon, Gyeonggi-do.[14]

  November 1974: The first of what would be a series of North Korean infiltration tunnels under the DMZ was discovered.

  March 1975: The second North Korean infiltration tunnel was discovered.

  June 1976: Three North Korean infiltrators and six South Korean soldiers were killed in the eastern sector south of the DMZ. Another six South Korean soldiers were injured.

  18 August 1976: The Axe Murder Incident resulted in the death of two U.S. soldiers and injuries to another four U.S. soldiers and five South Korean soldiers in a neutral zone of the Joint Security Area.

  October 1978: The third North Korean infiltration tunnel was discovered.

  October 1979: Three North Korean agents attempting to infiltrate the eastern sector of the DMZ were intercepted, killing one of the agents.

  March 1980: Three North Korean infiltrators were killed attempting to enter the south across the estuary of the Han River.

  March 1981: Three North Korean infiltrators spotted at Kumhwa, Gangwon-do, one was killed.

  July 1981: Three North Korean infiltrators were killed in the upper stream of Imjin River.

  May 1982: Two North Korean infiltrators were spotted on the east coast, one was killed.

  March 1990: The fourth North Korean infiltration tunnel was discovered, in what may be a total of 17 tunnels in all.

  May 1992: Three North Korean infiltrators dressed in South Korean uniforms were killed at Cheorwon, Gangwon-do. Three South Koreans were also wounded.

  October 1995: Two North Korean infiltrators were intercepted at Imjin River. One was killed, the other escaped.

  April 1996: Several hundred North Korean armed troops entered the Joint Security Area and elsewhere on three occasions in violation of the Korean armistice agreement.

  May 1996: Seven North Korean soldiers crossed the DMZ but withdrew when fired upon by South Korean troops.

  April 1997: Five North Korean soldiers cross the military demarcation line’s Cheorwon sector and fired at South Korean positions.

  July 1997: Fourteen North Korean soldiers crossed the military demarcation line, causing a 23-minute exchange of heavy gunfire.

  May 2006 – Two North Korean soldiers enter the DMZ and cross into South Korea. They return after South fires warning shots.

  October 2006 – South Korea fires warning shots after North Korean soldiers cross briefly into their side of the border.

Just this year a North Korean submarine is believed to have torpedoed a South Korean naval ship killing 46 sailors. And there has been weeks of mounting evidence that North Korea is preparing to conduct a third nuclear test.

And, for reasons which are not entirely clear, someone was running around with an axe back in 1976.

Semantics aside, when you’re sending soldiers across the border and firing rockets and torpedoes and artillery shells at your neighbor you’re at war. And, just in case we’ve all forgotten, we’re still technically at war with North Korea.

Apparently North Korea knows we’re still at war. So far they’re the only ones putting any effort into this conflict. We’d better start showing some interest before North Korea cheats on us and goes to war with someone else.

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12
Nov
10

HOT WATER IN THE BA’ATHTUB

There’s an old Arab saying that pretty much sums up their attitude towards outsiders: “My brother and I against our cousin. My brother, my cousin and I against a stranger.” There’s also another one about ninjas or something that’s pretty cool but I can’t remember it.

For about six years we were the strangers in Iraq. And everyone’s brother, cousin, sister, nephew, uncle, father and mother was shooting at us. I guess in that sense we unified the people of Iraq like nothing else ever has.

Of course now we’re leaving Iraq like hippies leaving Woodstock: a total mess with no plumbing. There is no stranger to focus all that ethnic hatred and animosity on anymore. Consequently they can hardly even form a government now that the bulk of our military forces have left their country.

“In Iraq’s March 7 election, the Iraqiya list, led by the former prime minister, Iyad Allawi, won two more seats than al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition, but neither side won a majority, leading to eight months of political deadlock.

But just hours after leaders cemented the power-sharing agreement that seemed to smooth over lingering ethno-sectarian tensions, politicians belonging to Iraqiya left parliament.

A walkout was staged after al-Nujaifi declined a request to vote on removing three parliament members’ names from a list of those associated with deposed president Saddam Hussein’s Baath party.” – Al Jazeera

See, for nearly 40 years the Ba’ath Party was Iraq’s only political party. They ran everything. Likewise, one had to be a party member to get any kind of higher education or be allowed into the military leadership. When we came along and broke the place in 2003 we banned any former member of the Ba’ath Party from working in government or the military.

This, understandably, made finding people who knew how to run a country very difficult. And, as you can see, this law that we made them enact is part of the problem. Well, thousands of years of sectarian hatred, killing and torture are playing a role too I guess. Oil as well. At any rate, it’s all a rich tapestry.

We certainly didn’t teach them anything about political compromise. That’s for sure. But, now that we have another awesome war in Afghanistan to go fight we can’t stick around and make sure that people don’t start blowing things up and killing each other. Al Jazeera goes on to say:

“Despite receding Shia-Sunni violence, the long parliamentary deadlock has fuelled tension as US forces prepare to withdraw in 2011.

The backing of Iraqiya was seen as vital to preventing a resurgence of violence. A series of attacks on Christian targets across Baghdad on Wednesday stirred renewed fear in the minority community.

The bomb and mortar blasts occurred just 10 days after a bloody siege at a Catholic cathedral in the capital that killed 52 people.”

I guess you really can’t make a Democracy Omelette without blowing up a few chicken coops. And cathedrals. Which does make me wonder what in the hell Catholics are doing building cathedrals in Iraq to begin with. At the risk of sounding like the prosecutor in THE ACCUSED, you were kind of asking for it.

08
Nov
10

WELCOME TO THE SAUSAGE FEST

Having spent four years in Catholic school I know in great detail all the strange, mysterious and complicated things supposedly going on in Da Vinci’s THE LAST SUPPER. One guy has three feet. Another guy has no feet. There’s a TV set in the foreground. Jesus is… asleep I think.

Here’s one thing I’ve always noticed about it: there are no women in it. Although one or two of them are clearly Bee Gees fans, everyone in the painting is male. And, this is a tradition that most organized religions have invariably carried on. One of the notable exceptions is the Church of England which ordains both women and men to their clergy.

Now, there’s talk of allowing women to become bishops in England. And, according to the Guardian, five C of E bishops have left the church in protest.

“In a statement, five bishops said they were “dismayed” to see the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches “move further apart on some of the issues of the day” and “distressed” by developments in the Anglican communion which they believed to be “incompatible” with 2,000 years of Christian tradition.

Two of the five are what are termed as “flying bishops”, providing leadership and pastoral care for opponents of women clergy; they are the bishop of Ebbsfleet, Andrew Burnham, and the bishop of Richborough, Keith Newton. Two others are retired: David Silk and Edwin Barnes, while bishop John Broadhurst, of Fulham, declared his intentions to leave last month.”

Firstly, the Catholic Church and reality have been “moving further apart on some of the issues of the day” for some time now. Secondly, English bishops have the power to fly which makes Anglicanism the coolest goddamn religion ever.

Thirdly, running away from where the girls are is what you do on a grade school playground.

Below I’ve posted a picture of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, who had this to say about the recent bishop brouhaha:

“I have today with regret accepted the resignations of bishops Andrew Burnham and Keith Newton who have decided that their future in Christian ministry lies in the new structures proposed by the Vatican. We wish them well in this next stage of their service to the church and I am grateful to them for their faithful and devoted pastoral labours in the Church of England over many years.”

In other words: piss off, mate. Williams, the former torpedo officer aboard a Romulan battlecruiser, has been grappling with this issue for some time now as the church body becomes increasingly liberal. One actual compromise being floated by conservatives would involve the establishment of a new church post which would oversee the bishops. This position would be open to men only. It’s a time-honored technique used in business all the time.

I really don’t understand the rationale behind male-only religious organizations. They claim it has something to do with… I don’t know. I don’t really care either. Intra-religious bickering is like when you come across two Star Wars fans arguing about who would win in a fight between Jengo and Boba Fett. It’s all just made up. You could make your cat a bishop. Nothing is going to happen.

Or, maybe we will all die in a reign of fire and divine retribution that will lay waste to the non-believing world while those who stuck to their wieners will be hanging out with… other dudes in heaven.

04
Nov
10

VLADIMIR PUTIN HAS… ISSUES

I’m terrified of Vladimir Putin. Most of the world is. He reminds me of a cross between Yul Brynner in WESTWORLD and the bald Nazi mechanic in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. So I’m a little perplexed at his recent PR campaign to project a more macho image.

I remember when Al Gore tried that during the 2000 elections. There was a purposeful effort to have him seen hiking and boating and generally looking like a model in LL Bean’s fall catalogue. Putin, by contrast, is making every effort to look like something out of THE TURNER DIARIES. Then again in Russia this sort of imagery is considered sexy I guess. It’s also politically saavy:

“With speculation growing that he may run for president again in 2012, analysts say such photo opportunities keep him firmly in the public eye and remind people that he remains a serious contender for the country’s highest political office.

The photographs show him posing with a large fish he has apparently just caught in a nearby river, nuzzling a horse in the style of a horse whisperer, and shouldering a hunting rifle with telescopic sights as he strides through a rock-strewn landscape.

But crucially he is not shown actually shooting anything. He has been careful to cultivate an image as a keen animal conservationist who does his best to protect Russia’s endangered species. The rifle therefore appears to be more of a fashion accessory rather than something he either needed or used.” – Telegraph

Ah. Good. He wanders around forest shirtless with rifle. But, he kills nothing. Why yes. I like this man. He is semi-nude, armed yet merciful. I would drink with him. I will vote for him.

George Bush (not that one, the other one) was the biggest macho idiot the world has ever seen. Yet I could only imagine the uproar if he were photographed waving a rifle around Burt Reynolds style. And the less we think about Obama going Rambo with a Remington the better.

Putin runs Russia whether he’s in office or not. Even having to hold office at all is a formality for him. Forbes magazine just rated him the 4th most powerful man in the world. Interestingly, Barack Obama was 2nd only to Hu Jintao, the President of China. Why? According to The Washington Post:

“The 67-year-old is “paramount political leader of more people than anyone else on the planet; exercises near dictatorial control over 1.3 billion people, one-fifth of world’s population,” Forbes said. “Unlike Western counterparts, Hu can divert rivers, build cities, jail dissidents and censor Internet without meddling from pesky bureaucrats, courts.”

Now that’s pretty hardcore. And he didn’t even have to take his shirt off.

03
Nov
10

THE MIDTERMS ARE OVER

Ah, yes. Another election has come and gone. And despite all the dire prognostications it pretty much turned out the way we all figured it would. And I realize that those are British Redcoats in that picture, not the Continental Army. But it looks all Revolutionary War-ish which is what the whole Tea Party thing is about. I think. I don’t know. I honestly still know nothing about those people.

Politics is a game for the pragmatic, not the idealistic. There is no such thing as a definitive election, only the next election. And the smart players in this game are already planning ahead several election cycles. So for all of my liberal and progressive friends out there who are weeping this morning (seriously, you guys are always weeping) I have composed a list of five reasons why last night was a relatively good night.

1. PEOPLE STILL DON’T LIKE REPUBLICANS

Last night was about us, not them. Stop telling me that America is running back to the warm embrace of the party of Bush. We only have two parties in this country to begin with. But, once Mr. Boehn and his buddies start doing and saying Bushy, Republicany things I think some people’s attitudes will change. I give it a year before buyer’s remorse sets in.

2. THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IS NOW THE TEA PARTY

2012 now has a clear set of combatants: Barack Obama vs. Sarah Palin. And this will be the case whether sugartits is the GOP nominee or not. Palin, and what she represents, has given the dying husk of the party the only life’s blood it has. For that reason it will be her agenda that Obama will be running against. And I think Obama himself put it best when he pointed out in 2008 that you can “put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig”. The Oh My God There’s a Black Man in The White House Party can dress up in all the pretty moderate dresses it wants. It still has the five o’clock shadow and giant Adam’s apple of a movement for angry white people.

3. OBAMA WILL BE FORCED TO FIGHT FOR THINGS

Democratic control of the government made Obama feel comfortable letting others take the ball on domestic policy. He assumed that his agenda was in safe hands. Kind of like when Moe would entrust Larry and Curly with something. Teapublicans in Congress will prove to be an excellent nemesis for him even if they only manage to be agitators. From now on he will have to take his administration’s case directly to the electorate rather than to other Democrats alone.

4. THIS WILL BE FUN

Government needs more entertainment value. It’s the only way to get people to pay attention to what’s going on. And while I’m not thrilled to see our nation’s political system turned into a reality TV show, at least people are watching. And the cast of characters on this show are some of the most entertaining I’ve seen in years.

5. THIS IS STILL THE GREATEST NATION MANKIND HAS EVER PRODUCED

I’m not a big believer in the concept of “American Preeminence”. It’s an attitude that is obsolete in an increasingly globalized world. And I think that Americans need to come out of this cultural shell we’ve constructed for ourselves. But, when the story of the human race is told The United States of America will be the standard to which all other societies are compared. You could live in Somalia where they have gunfights instead of elections. You could live in Iran where elections are overruled by religious leaders. You could live in China. I’ll take the circus sideshow that is American politics.