Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sign of Modernity killed

Former Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto was killed this morning, being shot in the chest before a suicide bombing. Already, international leaders are sounding renewed support against "the terrorists," calling for maintenance of democracy, and "holding those responsible for justice."

US presidential candidates have put out their press releases, relaying their firm stance against terrorist bombings and support for democracy...I like democracy too.

And right-wing nutjob blowhards are already placing bets on the culpability of various Islamist groups/leftist conspirators.

No doubt, this will shake things up before January elections. So-called moderate candidates were already leery about running.

"Experts" name the most likely culprit to be Islamic militants, which wouldn't be surprising given Bhutto's rhetoric supporting the War on Terror and modernity before elections. With riots starting around the country and renewed calls by opposition to boycott the elections, who else would benefit as much?

President Bush restated his support for the Pakistani democratic process, blaming extremists. But could insensitivity of US policy be partly to blame?

Installment of a western-friendly puppet like Musharraf was a way to jab at already angry militant factions. And what about U.S. Pentagon arming of tribal groups against Al Qaeda? Maybe arming an angry group so that they'll serve US interests, even though they have no reason to want to do so besides economics, wasn't the best idea?

All in all, violent forms of Islam and western encroachment makes such travesties less shocking.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

English Escape

For the past week, I've been visiting Friend's in the UK, at the London Chinatown, a Leamington Spa wedding, and with a Slovakian and German in Nottingham. Aside from the slight jet lag and realization that I am back in the real world, things went splendidly.

Among some things that I appreciate in UK was their attitude toward transportation and vacation.

After being accustomed to a shaky, ill-maintained CTA, the silent, smooth London Tube was a treat. On the other hand, quibbles about a three dollar fare to ride the CTA strike me funny when a one-way ticket on the tube from zone 1 to 4, (similar to a ride from O'Hare to Clark/Lake downtown) costs 4 pounds, that's ~$8.25 here in the US.

Our friends there gawked when we told them the U.S. average yearly vacation, if your lucky, is two weeks. New Doctors in the UK get about six weeks; the average is four.

And Scotch is much cheaper...

Among the interesting sights:

In the lounge area of London's Paddington Rail Station, tourists are greeted with YO Sushi, a live-action, sushi-preparing spectacle.

I was rather skeptical about the quality, as I've not yet experienced raw, dead fish rolling around me on a conveyor belt. But it was surprisingly fresh and pleasantly spiced.

Magical Brewery Tour - Not wanting to waste valuable money on stuffy museums where I can be quiet and look at things the British stole from their conquests, I decided instead to see a rare cask brewery (Cask=not adding CO2) and drink complimentary beer whilst eating chips (freedom fries for those of us in the US).

My lovely girlfriend and I

English Fireworks - wanted to try this setting on my camera, worked out nice.

I need sleep...

Monday, December 3, 2007


Ok, I admit it. The Surge in Iraq has worked, to some extent. Violence is down and news reports say markets are opening up, Iraqis are trying to rebuild their towns and refugees are starting to consider moving back.

I was always against any prolonged engagement in which the U.S. tried to "democratize" Iraqis. Not only because of the impractical costs in lives and money, but frankly, the whole assertion that the rest of the world needs to be like the U.S. is distancing us from...the rest of the world. You know who else tried to pacify other nations to help their own security? The Romans, and their empire was about twice as long as ours.

Anyhow, stuck with the current situation, the best outcome (and one that I assume is the aim of our government, but I'm not sure) would be that the Islamic and ethnic sects within Iraq reconcile and form a working government. After reading about Sunnis wanting to ask U.S. soldiers to help reconstruction rather than their own Shiite-dominated government, I'm thinking that keeping our troops over there is still not the answer.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki acknowledges the lack of governance, blaming it on Saddam's years of autocratic rule. John Soundbite McCain said there are no Thomas Jeffersons left in Iraq, whereas Bush said all the Nelson Mandelas are dead.

To some extent, they're right. But maybe the Islamic world needs a Martin Luther more than an Uncle Sam with a M-16? The enlightenment, the reformation, and rationality took a long time for the West to develop, and the fruits of these ideological developments haven't entirely blossomed yet. With executive branches not allowing due process, torturing, extraordinary renditioning, and committing treasonous acts, such as outing CIA agents, maybe the West is not the best example?

In Iraq's long-term Interests, the Iraqi government has to reconcile and function. And the Bush Admin. seems to be doing little to promote that. Bush has said, "it's their country." Yes, but it's our troops. Why not offer a stick to go with that carrot of seemingly less violence? Why not set a timetable for withdrawal that says, "Hey, we appologize for invading your country under false pretenses. We can only help out so long. You have to figure out something for the long-term."

Instead, Bush is making photos ops and horribly mispronouncing the names of the leaders of Israel and the West Bank. That deal may not hold much promise either.

And another time-frame continually reverberates in the news. 2008, 2008, 2008. Olmert and Abbas are set to figure out a two-state solution at the end of 2008, Maliki says things will get better in Iraq after he declares a "War on Corruption" 2008, Pakistan is set to have elections in 2008, and after 2008, we'll have another president.

The disruption in Iraq will last much longer than 2008. But in the meantime, can we get a way to stop throwing lives of loved ones over to a conflict that one military cannot solve? It takes a village.