For over twenty years southern Sudan has been at war with the government in Khartoum. But, for the most part, you never heard about it in the news. Every tiny skirmish in Israel and Palestine gets covered in detail in the press, but this is Africa and nobody cares. Now that it looks like there might actually be peace in southern Sudan the media has decided to cover it.
Meanwhile, the fighting in Sudan is not over. The situation in Darfur is getting worse every day. Aid agencies are now saying that they are not going to be able to get those in desperate need because it is too dangerous. People have no real understanding of what is really going on in Darfur, because we are woefully uninformed about governments in Africa.
The end of the war in the south and the start of the violence in Darfur are not unrelated. But because we are so insistant on seeing every problem in Africa as tribal squabbles rather than political disputes, we don't see the connection. It is not just a matter of getting the government in Khartoum to pull back the jangaweed. The rebellion started in Darfur because of legitimate concerns about how people are treated by their government. The fact that the government reacted by unleashing an armed militia says about everything that needs to be said. Even if the violence stops and the government strikes a deal with the rebels in Darfur, this is not going to resolve the underlying problems of Sudan.
Democracy is possible in Africa, just as it is possible everywhere else on Earth. Legimitate functioning democracy, where the government represents all of the people is the only way to prevent future wars from occuring. If we don't put our energies into helping countries like Sudan make the transition, we are going to be putting it into cleaning up the mess of wars and genocides forever.
Friday, December 31, 2004
For over twenty years southern Sudan has been at war with the government in Khartoum. But, for the most part, you never heard about it in the news. Every tiny skirmish in Israel and Palestine gets covered in detail in the press, but this is Africa and nobody cares. Now that it looks like there might actually be peace in southern Sudan the media has decided to cover it.
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
A piece by Tom Frank in The New Republic criticizes the recent articles suggesting that George H.W. Bush was a much better president than his son, and that Dubya should be paying more attention to his father (because of how well it worked out the first time around). This trend has been driving me mad, and I glad someone has finally responded to it.
The fact of the matter is that the 1990s were an awful time for American foreign policy as the world was falling apart America stood there with its fingers in it's ears screaming "we can't hear you". Bush I started it, but Clinton kept it going (Did you hear he's sorry about Rwanda? That's almost like responding properly in the first place. Right?).
Dubya came to office fully content to continue on in their footsteps. September 11th made that impossible. Say what you will for the mistakes that have been made since then, but at least in his response George W. Bush has acknowledged that the threat to the world is greater than Osama bin Laden. And he saw that the mess left by his father in Iraq needed to be cleaned up.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 4:26 PM
Monday, December 27, 2004
Viktor Yanukovich is refusing to concede defeat. What a surprise.
"I will never recognize this defeat because there were violations of the constitution and of human rights in our country"
"Uncles Vladmir and Leonid promised me I would win!!!!! It's not fair. I was willing to kill to win this thing, what has Yushchenko done?!"
International monitors are acknowledging that the election was not perfect. However, they are saying that it was a lot cleaner than the last round and reflects the will of the Ukrainian population.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 10:46 PM
So the International Federation of Library Associations has named a Cuban librarian to its Intellectual Freedom Committee. Oh, that's great, you say. They've made one of Cuba's jailed librarians an honoury member in protest? Well, no, not exactly. They have named one of Cuba's Castro-approved librarians, Marta Terry Gonzalez. Marta has defended Castro's imprisonment of independent librarians because she says they are actually U.S. agents paid to undermine the Cuban revolution. So, clearly, she's all about intellectual freedom.
Among IFLA's core values?
Well that sounds just like Cuba!
Way to go IFLA, you have just replaced the IOC as the only international body I have more contempt for than the U.N. Come on international organisations that's a challenge to you in 2005: make me hate you.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 1:28 AM
The big pharmaceutical companies are telling their employees not to speak to Michael Moore, whose next documentary is supposed to be about the health care industry (Is he doing this to pander to his Canadian audience? Does anyone else want to watch movies about health care? Really?).
The sad thing is he's just gonna be giddy that he has provoked this kind of reaction.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 1:13 AM
Sunday, December 26, 2004
Don't think that Russia and Ukraine are the only former Soviet Republics with democracy issues. Uzbekistan also held elections today, luckily there shouldn't be the same cries of election fraud as there were in Ukraine. They avoided that trouble by doing away with opposition groups. But it's not what you're thinking, it's just that, according to President Karimov, there is no real opposition in Uzbekistan.
It's nice when a whole country agrees like that, no?
Can I ask why the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe was even there monitoring the election? Does somebody need to certify that it was a farce?
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 11:58 PM
The Blair government is denying the report in The Independent that they are about to send 3000 troops into Darfur as part of a new European Rapid (sic) Reaction Force.
Whether or not the report is true, the West is going to have to respond to this and it cannot wait for the U.N. to take action. I support the African Union's mission. However, they are not equipped to deal with a crisis on this scale.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 5:16 PM
Iqbal Rizvi, Kofi Annan's cabient chief has resigned.
If that is true, it leaves only one question: why did you choose to ignore him?
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 2:47 PM
Salman Rushdie has spoken out against the British government for its failure to defend free speech after a play that deals with rape and murder in the Sikh community has been forced to close due to pressure from certain Sikh groups.
Why are religious gangs allowed to dictate how people behave in a democracy? If the government won't protect free speech, who will? Nobody should be protected against being offended. This is not hate speech, this is art. If individuals choose to live in a democratic society they must be prepared to hear things they may not want to hear.
I would like to ask how we would have responded if this were a play dealing with sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. All of society feels entitled to talk about that issue. However, for some reason, when it is another faith we are willing to accept censorship. If we allow members of minority groups to have their expression crushed by their religious or cultural communities, we are saying that they are not deserving of equal protections and that certain members of society are not going to be held to the same standards as everybody else.
Are we going to allow the same mentality that forced Salman Rushdie into hiding to gain hold in Western society?
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 1:38 PM
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Okay, I'm off to visit the parents for a few days.
If you start to notice a drop in my IQ with each post, or I start complaining that immigrants are destroying the country (specifically certain south Asia groups) -- hunt me down and have me put to sleep. It is an acute case of Bramptonitis; there is no known cure.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 10:24 AM
For all those Blue Staters still thinking of coming to Canada after Bush's election victory, National Lampoon teaches you everything you need to know before you move here.
From gay marriage:
Jesus might disapprove? Forget about it, buddy! In Canada, we've forsaken god!
To civil liberties:
Canada, we protect the privacy of our citizens.
Not because it's illegal—we just think it's polite to mind
our own business.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 1:54 AM
Friday, December 24, 2004
Tariq Aziz is now insisting that he won't testify against Saddam. So, say what you want about him, he's loyal.
You can stand right by him 'til the end Tariq, until they drop the floor out from under you. My understanding is that if they use the long drop method, your neck snaps right away and you won't feel a thing, otherwise it's a slow strangulation. (So yeah, good luck with that!)
Tariq's a good Catholic boy. Do you think they'll bring him Christmas Pudding in jail?
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 11:37 PM
Can I ask why our society is so down on dads? I mean, I get that for a lot of people "mom" was the omnipresent person in their early life; but did dad not register at all? I was just out trying to find a card for my dad's birthday, and really if your dad isn't obsessed, but inept, with tools or really into fishing or golf, there is really no card selection. And even at that there are very few of them.
I would like to say thank you to my father for not being that man. Because, if he was, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to buy him a card.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 5:40 PM
I know it irritates people that I refuse to get into the "holiday" spirit. So here is my seasonal post.
Recognizing that A Christmas Carol would have been a great tale if it hadn't been written by the "crypto-commie" Charles Dickens, Tech Central Station has some modern updates.
My personal favourite:
Ayn Rand: The ruggedly handsome and weirdly articulate Ebeneezer Scrooge is a successful executive held back by the corrupt morality of a society that hates success and fails to understand the value of selfishness. So Scrooge explains that value in a 272-page soliloquy. Deep down, Scrooge's enemies know that he is right, but they resent him out of a sense of their own inferiority. Several hot sex scenes and unlikely monologues later, Scrooge triumphs over all adversity -- except a really mean review by Whittaker Chambers. Meanwhile, Tiny Tim croaks. Socialized medicine is to blame.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 2:47 PM
Tariq "I'm just a diplomat" Aziz denies that there was any corruption in the oil-for-food program.
Alright then, let's cancel the investigation. Because as we all know the worst thing that can happen in the U.N. is to descend into cynicism when it comes to dictatorships. Keep up that Pollyanna spirit and the world will be okay!
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 2:06 PM
Bush has just signed legislation that will allow the United States to impose sanctions against Sudan. Now they just have to follow through with it. The law also calls on the president to put pressure on other UN members to take a similar course of action.
There are concerns about whether sanctions could work because Russia and China have veto-power in the United Nations; and since they are criminal states who victimize their own citizens it would be rather hypocritical of them to impose sanctions just because of a little bit of genocide. But this is the perfect opportunity for the rest of the world to take a stand. Maybe the sanctions won't be effective as long as China continues to buy their oil. But maybe I would feel better living in a country that has a little less of the world's blood on its hands. Doesn't that count for something?
But maybe I'm taking the wrong approach here. Maybe we should be condemning the Americans. Are they allowed to make sanctions decisions without the approval of the U.N. or would they be doing the worst thing imaginable and "acting unilaterally"?
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 1:23 PM
Thursday, December 23, 2004
The Judge in the Maher Arar investigation continues to have roadblocks put in his way by the government who are refusing to release information needed for the truth to come out.
Included among the censored materials deemed too sensitive for Canadians to see were newspaper reports from the Ottawa Citizen and, in one particularly bizarre instance, part of a 1996 judgment from a federal court case involving lumber.
Believe me, I am all about protecting national security, especially when it relates to terrorism. However, I also happen to know that the Liberals play a little fast and loose with the rules when it comes to the Access to Information Act.
Canadians are always so busy whinging about how Americans have supposedly had their freedoms stripped away by the Patriot Act, that they pay no attention to the fact that there are some very serious problems here at home.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 10:51 AM
So Vladimir Putin thinks that there is a double standard applied by the west when it comes to elections. This annoys him, because Vlad doesn't think there should be any standards in elections, unless you count 'making sure your side wins' as a standard.
He is also upset with Polish Prime Minister Aleksander Kwasniewski for suggesting that "Russia without Ukraine is better than Russia with Ukraine".
"If we interpret this [statement by Kwasniewski] as striving to limit Russia's ability to develop relations with its neighbours, then it means a desire to isolate the Russian Federation," he said.
Crazy Poles, always afraid of an expansionist Russia! Aren't you ever going to get over the fact that they destroyed your country and ruled you for most of the past 200 years?
Tell me this man is not starting to sound more and more like the Russian leaders of old.
In a scornful reference to the revolutionary symbols in Georgia and Ukraine, Mr Putin said he was against "permanent rose or sky blue revolutions". In Russian, the words "rose" and "sky blue" are also slang for "gays".
Because democracy? It's kind of a gay thing. When isn't homophobia appropriate?
And who didn't see this one coming: He is belittling the international election monitors for overseeing the Iraqi elections from Jordan. Now, I think it's a bad idea just because it's a bad idea. But it is also a bad idea because now you've got men like Vladimir Putin who can claim that the elections are a sham.
The West, and especially Bush, need to accept that this man is not an ally. He has no interest in democracy, as he has made quite clear. The only thing he is interested in is regaining Russian power. And that would be a very bad thing for the world.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 9:49 AM
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
So Kofi thinks that the U.N. might need to change its approach in Sudan.
So far, some of the radical suggestions include an arms embargo or referal to the international criminal court.
I would like to add to that a lump of coal in their stocking!
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 9:00 PM
In an exam this week I sold my soul to the devil and suggested that Google wasn't the solution to all of the world problems (librarians are still important, damn it!). But the fact of the matter is that I lied and they think of everything: something to think about before naming your children.
In a time when it's hard to believe in anything, there's always Google.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 8:40 PM
According to Kofi, the U.S. and the U.N. need to find a way to put their differences behind them because, "The United States needs the United Nations and the United Nations needs the United States". Sorry Kofi, but that's not really true. The U.N. needs the United States; for the U.S. the U.N. is just a 'nice to have'. You might make the case that collectively the world needs the U.N. (or at least something like it), but the U.S.? And the U.S. isn't alone. Does Canada need the U.N. (except to make ourselves feel important, that is?)? Does Sweden? Does Germany? Does Australia? No. These countries are functioning democratic states unlikely to be facing a war at home any time soon. The U.N. could disappear tomorrow and it would make no appreciable differences in the way these states are run. Who does need the U.N? Most of Africa, huge swathes of Asia and the Middle East. But it needs a functioning U.N. It needs a U.N. not run by a man who thinks that the biggest problem the organisation faces is U.S. power.
I haven't jumped on the boot Kofi over the oil-for-food-scandal bandwagon, because frankly I don't think it's the worst thing he's done. What was his response when Romeo Dallaire (a greater Canadian than Tommy Douglas) warned the U.N. that Hutu extremists were about to start slaughtering Tutsis? "We wish to stress that the overriding consideration is the need to avoid entering into a course of action that might lead to the use of force and unanticipated repercussions." 800,000 dead are pretty unfortunate (if not necessarily unanticipated) repercussions I would say. So you see, he shouldn't have been given the job in the first place, but given the current state of the U.N., it's not inappropriate that he is their leader.
The fact of the matter is that the U.N. can have all the attempts at reform that it wants, but what it really needs is a change of attitude. It needs to start with the understanding that a good chunk of the world is a horrible place run by horrible leaders who care very little for their own citizens, not to mention the citizens of other countries. Because not speaking unkind truths doesn't make them less so. It needs to have alternate solutions when America wants to do things that other countries don't agree with. Because frankly, the "more time" arguement that the rest of the world was offering before the Iraq war sounded to me like a child who wanted to stay up past her bedtime, not a reasonable response to a belligerent state. And I keep hearing that Sudan is going to stop slaughtering citizens in Darfur (that's right mainstream media, it's not just a war between rebels and government with citizens in the middle, it's a genocide) and we just need to believe them. Why? What is the reason that we must remain optimistic at all costs? Start from the assumption that undemocratic states will lie to you and go from there.
All states are not equal. There, I said it. The states that follow the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights can be on the Commission on Human Rights, everyone else stays home. I know that it is basically just a debating society and that it has no power (an argument put forth by far too many well-meaning people as a reason why it doesn't really matter). But, first of all, perhaps it should be something more than a glorified debating club, because don't human rights actually matter? Secondly, perhaps it is just a little offensive to people being abused by their governments that those very same governments are sat on the Human Rights Commission. Granted those rotting in jail for opposing a corrupt regime probably have bigger things to worry about, but need we add insult to injury? Not that the Human Rights Commission won't sometimes take a stand, they do occasionally kick out rogue states like the U.S. I mean, who am I to judge? Maybe Sudan and Syria really do bring something to Human Rights dialogue. Maybe, for example, we shouldn't be taking it as a given that humans have rights. Something to consider?
Kofi Annan is the perfect leader for the current U.N. He takes credit for everything that goes right (like when they successfully feed people who escape genocides) and blames the member states when anything goes wrong (basically, the state of the world). Now, there is some truth to the argument that the mess of the world is the fault of the member states. But if your argument is that the U.N. is no greater than the sum of its members, then what is the point?
When Kofi says that the oil-for-food scandal has 'cast a shadow' over the United Nations he is entirely wrong. It has shone a bright light on the reality that is the United Nations. As it currently stands, the UN is nothing more than a body that allows corrupt states who don't believe in the values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to gain legitimacy by being in the club. Until states that are honestly dedicated to these values are willing to join together and say that they are not going to pretend any longer that Saudi Arabia is the same as Denmark, then the UN doesn't matter. The U.S. shouldn't have to pretend that it does just because it sounds nice and doesn't offend. Because I've read the Declaration, and I'm pretty sure that not offending isn't in there. Maybe I'll give it another look. Perhaps Kofi should too.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 11:27 AM
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
So Canada is going to lead an international team of election monitors to oversee the Iraqi elections... from Jordan. According to Canada's top election official, this is how things should be done:
“Even though there is value to electoral observation in the visual sense of visiting polls and so on . . . I've always said if I had my druthers I'd rather be doing this type of thing.”
Oh, so I take it you'll be overseeing the next Canadian election from Buffalo? (and am I really supposed to listen to a man who wants to have his druthers?) Don't pretend that you think this is the better way. This is a crappy compromise because nobody wants to go to Iraq. I appreciate the fact that it is very dangerous there right now. However, I do think that if Iraqi democracy is going to have a chance at succeeding, the world needs to play its part.
I hope that the Canadian government doesn't think that this is part of its new specially positioned role in the world that Paul keeps going on about. Because if this is it, it isn't looking so hot. Being involved in the world is going to take some risks. You can't just offer opinions from a safe distance and expect to gain any respect.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 1:40 AM
Monday, December 20, 2004
You are not my MP! I know this because when I found out that they had changed the electoral boundaries, I did a little happy dance. You not being my MP is the only thing that can make me mildly tolerate Tony Ianno being my MP (that's quite the acheivement!).
Well that's all very nice Lemon, but why are you going on about this? Because Mr. It- Takes- Me- Nearly-A-Year-To-Respond-My-Constituents- Letters- And- When-I-Do-I-Insult- Their- Intelligence- By- Suggesting- That- Iran- is- Reforming- Itself-And-Is-Basically- Just-Misunderstood, I just got the December 2004 "Bill Graham Report" in the mail. These things cost money, I am a tax payer, and as much fun as it is reading stuff that makes me hate you more, I'm sure that there are more effective ways that my tax dollars could be spent. My money already pays for Tony Ianno's fifty-page glossies (okay, I exaggerate.... a little) to come to my door.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 5:44 PM
Just wondering. Was it dirty politics for Yushchenko to mention that the last election was rigged in today's debates? Surely the gentlemanly thing would have been to just pretend everyone likes voting so much, they're just having another go around.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 4:59 PM
So according to the Times, Viktor Yushchenko was nearly killed and I'm supposed to feel sorry for the KGB (or as they like to call it, the SBU).
When asked how he reacted to being mentioned publicly as a suspect, General Smeshko [head of the KGB -- no I won't stop calling it that], who has two young sons, answered with a question. "How would you like it if your kids asked you, 'Did you do it, Dad?'" he said, locking eyes with a reporter for several long moments.
My heart? It bleeds.
Apparently Yushchenko 'has used the poisoning almost as a theme in his campaign, but has not fully cooperated with the authorities' Would these be the same authorities that helped rig the election? The fact is that he was poisoned, and he's running against the current president's chosen candidate. How is the poisoning not going to come up? As far as I'm concerned he can walk around saying "Leonid Kuchma had me poisoned" and I don't think he's stepped over any lines. If you don't want people to treat you like a dirty Soviet leader, well then you shouldn't act like one.
Now, I get what is being implied here, that Yushchenko isn't as clean as everyone wants him to be. It's quite possible that this is true, but I know he's a lot cleaner than the other candidates, and he has the added benefit of not being Putin's bitch. Are we only allowed to support someone if they are an angel? Because if so, I think we can safely get rid of our entire leadership (good idea Lemon!)
Finding the real cause seems unlikely for now. A thorough investigation would require a reconstruction of Mr. Yushchenko's meetings, movements and meals, but Mr. Yushchenko, busy with his campaign, has not been of much help.
I'm going to suggest -- now bear with me here -- that Yushchenko has every reason to be spending his time focused on the election. Because, if you recall, it was nearly stolen from him already. And -- now this may be a leap -- he might not have very much reason to trust the officials looking into the matter.
Doubt has now been cast on whether he was poisoned at dinner the night before he became ill. According to the various reports, it seems quite possible that he was not poisoned that evening. However, the opposition is treating it like he made up a fanciful story, even though it is probably the conclusion that any rational person would draw -- rightly or not.
"It is a stupid theory," [Mr Zhvaniya -- a parliamentarian and member of a commission on organised crime] said "The poisoning could have happened at any moment. He was always touring. He met hundreds of people in hundreds of places. To link it to that evening can be called only paranoia."
But, as they say, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. And given that he was poisoned, I'd say that they are indeed out to get him.
"Mr. Zhvaniya said that if Mr. Yushchenko had been intentionally poisoned, he believed it probably occurred while he was in the Crimea in late August. He also said the most likely suspect was an organized crime figure, perhaps collaborating with Russia and members of Mr. Kuchma's administration."
IF he was intentionally poisoned? Now what are they suggesting? "Ooops, I meant to put sugar in your coffee, but I used dioxin by mistake". Oh, yeah, this guy doesn't sound guilty at all.
Mr. Zhvaniya... said he had listened to a taped conversation of a Russian crime figure offering to help a member of the Kuchma administration. "He more than once offered his services in poisoning, or removal," he said. When pressed for a copy of the audiotape, he declined. "After the election," he said.
Okay. Where to go with this one? Yushchenko is being uncooperative? And Zhvaniya is doubting that he was intentionally poisoned when he has heard a known criminal offering to kill him on tape? I have a question for you Mr. Zhvaniya: did you hear this tape before or after they tried to kill him? Or am I being paranoid?
And what do Kuchma's people have to say about all this?
Mr. Kuchma's family, which also has said it was not involved, said the dacha theory [that he was poisoned at dinner the night before he became ill] was foolish. Any government wanting to kill an opponent, the family's line of thinking goes, would not try it at a meeting with government officials. "I think they are not kamikazes," said Viktor M. Pinchuk, Mr. Kuchma's son-in-law and a member of Parliament.
So you see, it's not that they wouldn't consider this kind of thing, they just wouldn't be stupid enough to poison him in person. This Yushchenko guy sounds dirtier and dirtier. Imagine allowing people to think that Kuchma might be involved! He should be taken out back and shot by the KGB! (I don't mean it guys, don't go getting any ideas)
The news media have also written, based on a comment by one of Mr. Yushchenko's doctors, that dioxin might have been slipped into his soup. No soup was served at the dacha that night, the three men who dined with Mr. Yushchenko said.
No soup was served?! You know, I'm starting to think that maybe he wasn't poisoned at all. It's just a bad case of adult acne. Alright, that's solved, bring home the international monitors and call off the election. Clearly, Yushchenko is not fit to be in charge.
Claims by Yushchenko's wife that she tasted something medicinal on his lips the night before he became ill have also been called into question:
"She is a normal woman, and to her with the words K.G.B. and S.B.U. comes an unreasonable reaction, the more so because she was brought up in the United States"
Crazy Americans! Always bashing the KGB! A Soviet institution can't catch a break.
It's not that I object to the New York Times investingating this, clearly someone needs to get to the bottom of it all. But I have a problem with the tone of the article suggesting that Yushchenko has been acting suspiciously when the people who they've been talking to all sound -- how do I say this nicely? -- a little Soviet. If you want to look into Yushchenko's behaviour, maybe you could find someone non-corrupt to interview.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 11:13 AM
So it turns out that, contrary to what they have been promising, there is not a ceasefire in Darfur. There is a reason that you hadn't read about the potential ceasefire on this blog before now. You want to know why? Because I knew it wasn't going to fucking happen. I will make a promise to you, my readers, I won't post news that I know to be complete codswollop just because it sounds good.
When genocidal regimes make promises, I tend not to believe them. It's just this thing I have, people say I'm cynical. I know, it's sad, I'll never be UN Secretary-General.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 10:16 AM
Saturday, December 18, 2004
The words of Chemical Ali. Newly released tapes make it clear, in case there was any doubt, just how evil he really is.
The fact of the matter is that he was right. Yes he will go on trial and be punished for his actions, but that does nothing for the thousands that he murdered.
Until the rest of the world is willing to stand up and make it clear that they will not tolerate attrocities, men like Chemical Ali will continue to do as they please.
And we must remember that if the US had listened to the UN these killers would still be in power.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 8:08 PM
A Beijing man arrested for protesting against forced evictions to make way for new developments before the 2008 Olympics has been sentenced to 4 years in jail.
It is possible that the IOC is the only international body that I have more contempt for than the UN. And that's saying something. In giving the games to China, they had to know that this kind of thing would happen. I hope they at least got a nice pay off.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 1:25 PM
Friday, December 17, 2004
Paul thinks that Canada is uniquely positioned to play a role in the world. Would that it were so. While in theory I agree with him (which, let me tell you, pains me to no end), there's one little problem..... We don't have a military. Canada made the decision to get out of that game and into the record-surplus-and-obscene-amounts-spent-on-health-care game. You can't have it both ways.
I'm not sure "Canada: All talk, no action" is a great motto for a foreign policy.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 11:05 AM
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Gambia is sending 200 troops to Darfur to supplement the 800 that are there already. Thank god for that, now we can all go to bed tonight confident that the situation is resolved.
If we're not going to get serious about ending the crisis, then I really wish we would just own up to that fact. All of this hand wringing over what to do is obscene. At the very least, the government in Khartoum is failing to protect its own people. Time's up, you have lost all legitimate claims to state sovereignty. Let's get in there and stop this.
Failing that, who wants to start planning the commemoration activities for ten years from now? We could hold joint events, "10 years since Darfur, 20 years since Rwanda". (and probably five years since something else, we'll have to wait and see).
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 4:06 PM
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
So, the first trials of Saddam's henchmen are set to begin shortly.
International legal experts are concerned that poor Chemical Ali isn't going to get a fair trial. Since anything short of bringing him to the point of death thousands of times before finally finishing him off by gassing him wouldn't be fair, I am inclined to agree. But it seems that is not what they mean.
Now I respect the fact that everyone has the right to representation, and that fair trials are a part of any free society, but aren't there better causes these great legal minds could be working on? Surely a human rights worker in Zimbabwe could be doing with some help right about now? I think the fact that Pinochet was only just indicted this week says something about letting the legal system take its course in these sort of situations.
And I know everyone is supposed to be equal under the law, but I have a bit of difficulty hearing people representing Saddam and his ilk talk about their clients getting justice. Because, I don't remember that being a concern of theirs when they were in power.
I do think it is important that these trials are taken seriously, and that the truth comes out, but for the sake of the Iraqi people, not for the sake of these criminals.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 4:09 PM
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
After bringing us Google Scholar recently to allow us to search for scholarly articles, and Google Suggest, which is just plain fun (I don't get out much), today Google announced that they are undertaking a massive project to convert the holdings of some of the world's top research libraries into digital files so that they can be searched over the web.
How did we ever live in a world without Google?
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 9:51 PM
Monday, December 13, 2004
The UN has issued an "urgent appeal" for the militias to stop fighting in the eastern part of DR Congo. An urgent appeal? Is that the same as saying "pretty please"? Tomorrow they're going to try "I'll be your bestest friend". There are 11,000 UN troops in DR Congo. Do they intend to do something with them?
Not that anybody cares, but they are supposed to be having elections next year. The world worked to make sure that Afghanistan had free elections, we're trying to do the same in Iraq. But as usual Africa just doesn't matter.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 6:18 PM
Sunday, December 12, 2004
A great piece in the New York Times Magazine today by Michael Ignatieff about the need to promote (but not impose) democracy throughout the world. Taken with Peter Beinart's much discussed article about the need for the left to take terrorism seriously, it seems that American liberals are starting to fight back against the Michael Moores of the world and the obsession with domestic policy. Liberalism with a bit of grit. That, I can take.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 5:28 PM
It was 18 years ago today that my family arrived in Canada. I know 18 isn't special for an anniversary like it is for a person, but we're celebrating nonetheless. It wasn't easy for my family to stay here, but it was worth it.
I'm going to take the opportunity to point out that Canada's immigration policy still makes it far too hard for regular people to get here (everyone remember the Sklarzyks?) and far too easy for people like the Khadrs to become citizens.
I think we would all benefit from having a far more open immigration policy that allows people seeking a better life to move here. You know, provided they're not terrorists.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 4:18 PM
According to the US military Chemical Ali and Tariq Aziz are refusing meals, though apparently are still snacking.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 1:35 PM
Saturday, December 11, 2004
A priest who helped to arrange a meeting between Tariq Aziz and the Pope before the Iraqi war is now helping to arrange Vatican support for free legal advice for the former Iraqi foreign minister. According to his supporters, Aziz was just a diplomat. He supported a murderous regime, but it's not like he actually killed anyone with his own hands. Remember, if you're going to be involved with a dictatorship, get one of the jobs where you get to wear a suit. It looks much better when the regime falls.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 9:49 PM
So, Michael Moore is campaigning for the People's Choice Award for Fahrenheit 9/11 (really, is there anything sadder?).
Do you ever get the sense that this man isn't over the fact that he wasn't popular in high school? He claims that the reason he's campaigning for this is because the Republicans really don't want him to win it. Didn't anyone ever tell him just to ignore people who tease him?
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 7:38 PM
Viktor Yanukovych is apparently upset that Leonid Kuchma let him down.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 1:59 PM
While I am in support of the suggestion that the UN hold a special session to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, wouldn't it be better to mark the event by doing something about civilian populations being murdered by their governments right now? And maybe bringing to justice those guilty of genocide who are still at large?
As David Rieff has said, " 'Never again' might best be defined as 'Never again would Germans kill Jews in Europe in the 1940s.'"
And why do I envision this turning into just another opportunity for the UN to bash Israel?
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 2:23 AM
Friday, December 10, 2004
So I just got my first non-christmas card. Guess who it's from? Jack and Liv!!!! You vote strategically once and it follows you around for life. (Let's hope I never need any help from my liberal MP, 'cos now it's out there that I didn't vote for them and we all remember how they feel about that).
I have to say I'm impressed. This is the most politically correct card I've ever seen. It doesn't even say happy holidays, it just says "Hope, Justice and Peace" (ugh!) in English, French, Greek and Chinese.
What's etiquette, do I have to send one back?
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 10:34 PM
An interesting article in Reason about the return of the realist argument to foreign policy. All the kids wanna be like Bismarck! My problem with realism, beyond the fact that it's just a nice way of saying that you don't give a rats ass about people, is that it doesn't fucking work. Oh, the balance of power is great for a while, but then something happens to upset things and then what happens? World War One. Ah, the trenches, the foot rot, the mustard gas.
And as much fun as the cold war was (because who didn't enjoy Dr. Strangelove?), I haven't been so keen on the fallout (the Balkans, DR Congo, and everyone's favourite, the Taliban).
What does work? Democracy, free markets, rule of law, civil society. For everyone. Not sometimes, always. Not just in the west, everywhere.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 1:30 PM
I actually think the comparisons to Rwanda are weak, these are two countries with very different histories. But the situation in Cote D'Ivoire is troubling. The French troops will need to get out. Having your former colonial masters around rarely helps to diffuse a situation. Can't think why (did we learn nothing from the Belgians in Rwanda? Why do I bother asking?). This does mean, however, that other nations are going to have to step up.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 11:19 AM
Ratko Mladic has been hanging out in Sarajevo, but no one has seen fit to arrest him. Really, what do you have to do in Europe to get arrested, or at least lose your pension?
I suppose they should have arrested him in 1997 when Human Rights Watch published his address as part of their "Arrest Now!" campaign. But I guess this isn't the sort of thing you want to rush into.
And really, what's a little ethnic cleansing amongst friends?
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 1:03 AM
Thursday, December 09, 2004
So the UN is warning Rwanda that they are monitoring their possible troop movements into DR Congo. Now, I'm not excusing Rwanda's behaviour, but does the UN think they have any sway here? Is the UN going to be able to convince Rwanda that when it talks it means business? Somehow I doubt this.
Advice to readers: If you enjoy absurdism, subscribe to Yahoo's UN News Updates. Because really, Beckett couldn't come up with this stuff.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 1:33 AM
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
So I can read the New York Times, the Times of London, the Washington Post and countless other newspapers on-line for free. There are a million other sources of news on-line. Yet both of Canada's national newspapers now charge for full on-line access. Is this working for them? Are people paying? For Leah MacLaren and Rebecca Eckler, for Heather Mallick and Anne Kingston. Really? Is this a trick? You deliver a paper to my house and I'll pay you for it. But on-line? That's what advertising is for. Every once in a while I want to hear a Canadian perspective on something (what? I do!), but frankly I remain unconvinced that it's worth paying for. And people, I subscribed to Harper's for five years, clearly I'm not that picky about how I spend my money!
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 11:54 PM
So, apparently Canada has at least two foreign policy priorities and the UN blueprint for reform mirrors them. According to Paul we're keen on "the responsibility to protect". I guess that explains why Canada is deploying troops to Sudan to stop the slaughter of innocents. What's that? We're not? But he just said... We have no troops to send? How do we expect the international community to listen to us if we can't back up our talk with action?... Oh.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 11:34 PM
So, Wangari Maathai arrived in Oslo to pick up her Nobel Peace Prize. There is much controversy surrounding the idea of giving a prize for peace to an environmentalist. Personally, I don't have a problem with that, I can buy the argument that the deforestation of Africa will cause resource shortages that could lead to civil wars. You only have to look at Haiti to see what deforestation can do to a nation. What I have a problem with, is the fact that the woman is cleary a raving lunatic.
Now really people, is this in keeping with the proud tradition of a prize given to as good a man as Yasser Arafat?
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 1:16 PM
Can anybody tell me exactly what it is that the UN does? I mean, besides taking up perfectly good real estate in New York. What exactly does a government have to do to its own people before we take action? The crisis in Sudan is just the latest in a very long list of failures on the part of the international community.
And, while I'm on the topic, does anyone else find it somewhat vulgar that there are basically only two nations with troops on the ground monitoring the situation, and one of them is Rwanda (Nigeria being the other). "Hey Rwanda, remember how we all stood by and watched your genocide ten years ago? Yeah, well, that really worked for us, so we're thinking about doing that again, but this time in Sudan. So, if you could maybe send some troops and make it look like the world cares a little bit, that'd be great. You won't have to doing any stopping of atrocities or anything, just stand there with a concerned look on your face. The optics are much better that way. Thanks!"
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 1:59 AM