Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Israel Invading

I know that Israel has a right to defend itself but turning away aid workers, ramming a boat carrying aid and showing very little regard for who they hit in their attacks is simply revolting, The people of Israel have been targeted for so many centuries. They've been beaten down, oppressed and massacred. They were treated like garbage in nearly every land they've lived in and they, the Jewish people have suffered terribly. I get that. I also get, and accept that I can't understand their situation. They do have a lot of people who hate them, but Arabs have a lot of people who hate them too.

Take a look around the "free" world today...the stigma against racial profiling is...well pretty much gone...especially if your an Arab. As a society we just say it's fine to treat Arabs differently than other people...because well..they like to blow up people. Yes, some Arabs do like to blow up people, but most do not. Most are perfectly happy to live their lives and would really prefer to be left alone. Why do you think that the Arab and Islamic world has been so happy with China? Because China doesn't try to force their values down Muslim necks. I'm not saying that we, in the west need to adopt the values of the people of the Arab world but we have to at least understand that their lands are theirs and we should give as much respect to them as what we want for ourselves. They shouldn't hurt us, and we shouldn't hurt them. I feel like I'm saying something controversial but it's actually basic kindergarten manners.

I don't want to post the pictures I've been finding. It's just so horrific, what is happening. I just want to say that at this moment their are people being blown apart and suffering unimaginable horrors. For us, this is all just lines on a page and bytes on a screen, but for these people this is every minute. It is real and it is horrifying.

I think Israel's reaction is entirely too extreme and is counter-productive as it is simply going to turn more people even further away from Israel. There could very well be a day, maybe sometime soon where Israel finds herself in the same situation as Taiwan. I mean that Taiwan cannot really depend upon the United States Pacific fleet any longer. Technically, the U.S says it will help Taiwan, but that U.S resolve is not what it once was and China owning much of the U.S debt load has a great deal of say in U.S governance. Israel can today count on the support of the U.S and a number of other countries, but I think the political risk of being too close to Israel correlates with how Israel is perceived. If Israel is though of as being a sort of oppressor, public opinion might force the U.S to cool down it's relationship with Israel.

Iran confirms arresting blogger


Iranian-Canadian Hossein Derakhshan (Hoder) has not updated his blog since October 6th. It was suspected that he might have been arrested. Iran just confirmed that he has indeed been arrested. Something to do with comments he made about some religious leaders.

Mr. Derakhshan was very outspoken on his beliefs and views. He was very much in favour of many of Iran's policies and of Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's policies including Iran's nuclear goals. I just wanted to make that clear that he is an independent thinker and is not some sort of apologist for the west. He most certainly is not.

His views clearly were not considered appropriate and so he has been arrested. One of his "offences" was his effort to show Iranians how Israel really is, and not the sort of caricature that Iran's government would have the population believe.

At least we know where he is now and what happened. I hope and even pray that he'll get through his sentence and get back to writing. I encourage any of my readers to look through his words.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Examples of Subversive Political "Street Humour"


'How will we know that communism has arrived?'
--'It will be declared by radio and in the newspapers. If people haveTVs, they'll be informed by TV.'

'Tell me-is this already communism or will it be worse yet?

A socialist, a capitalist and a communist agreed to meet. The socialist was late. 'Excuse me for being late, I was standing in a queue for sausages.'
'And what is a queue?'
the capitalist asked.
'And what is a sausage?' the communist asked.


One man to another: 'Because of communism I will have a plane!'
'What do you need a plane for?'
'Well what if suddenly, say, flour is being given out in Kalug. Fly for half an hour--and I'm there!'

'Is it true that because of communism products can be ordered by phone?'
'It's true. But they will be given out by TV.'

Communism has come!
'Hello, Manka, turn on your color TV! Red caviar is being shown.'


Will there be KGB in communism? No, by then people will have learned to arrest themselves.
Brezhnev asked the Pope, 'Why do people believe in a Catholic paradise, but refuse to believe in a communist paradise?'
'Because we don't show our paradise!'

Is communism a science?'
'No. If it were a science, it would have been tested on dogs first.'
-
Lenin showed us how to govern. Stalin showed us how not to govern. Khrushchev showed us that any fool can govern. And Brezhnev showed us that not every fool can govern.
Why was Andropov and then Chernenko unanimously chosen by the Politburo?- Because Andropov had the worst prognosis of the kidneys, and Chernenko the worst cardiogram.

A citizen came to the funeral of Chernenko.
'Your ticket!' a guard demanded.
'For these performances I have a season ticket!


What is the difference between the two newspapers "The Truth" and "The News"?
In "The Truth" there is no news, and in the "The News" there is no truth.

--Alexander the Great, Caesar and Napoleon observed the army parade in Red Square, as honorable visitors.
'If I had Soviet tanks,' Alexander said, 'I would have been invincible!'
'If I had Soviet planes,' Caesar speaks, 'I could have conquered the whole world!'
'And if I had had the newspaper "The Truth",' Napoleon said, 'the world, even now, would not have found out about Waterloo!'


What is economic reform?
An injection into an artificial limb.

Brezhnev called together a group of cosmonauts. 'Comrades! The Americans have landed on the Moon. We here have consulted and have decided that you will go to the Sun!'
'But we will burn up, Leonid Iljich!'
'Be not afraid, comrades, the Party has thought of everything. You will leave at night.'


On Armenian radio there came a question from abroad: 'Is it true that in the USSR the pay does not correspond to the work?
'Incorrect. It corresponds quite well. They pretend to pay and we pretend to work.'

What will the harvest be like this year?
Average: worse, than last year, but better than next year.
There was a question on Armenian radio for which there was no answer: If all countries became socialist, where would we buy grain?

An Englishman, a Frenchman and a Russian are praising their wives.'When my wife goes for a ride,' the Englishman says, 'herlegs drag on the ground. Not because the horse is small, butbecause my wife has long beautiful legs!'
'I embrace my wife around the waist with only two fingers,' says the Frenchman, 'not because I have a big hand, but because my wife has a slim waist!'
'Before leaving for work,' says the Russian, 'I slap my wife's behind. And when I come back from work, her behind is still shaking. It's not because my wife has a big flabby ass, but because in the USSR we have the shortest working day in the world!'

When did the first Soviet elections take place? When God put Eve before Adam and said: 'Choose yourself a wife!'

'Comrades!' - Brezhnev addressed the people by radio. 'I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that for the next seven years we shall eat only shit! The good news is that it will be plentiful!

The seven miracles of the Soviet Authority:

1. There is no unemployment, yet nobody works.
2. Nobody works, yet the Grand Scheme is carried out.
3. The Grand Scheme is carried out, yet there is nothing to buy.
4. There is nothing to buy, yet there are lineups everywhere.
5. There are lineups everywhere, yet everyone has everything.
6. Everyone has everything yet everyone is dissatisfied.
7. Everyone is dissatisfied, yet everyone votes 'Yes'.

Why is the Soviet Sun so joyful in the morning ?
Because it knows that by evening it will be in the West.

'Who's your father?' the teacher asked Vovo.
'Comrade Stalin!'
'And who's your mother?'
'The Soviet native land!'
'And what do you want to become?'
'An orphan!'



In a prison:
'How many years did you get?
'Twenty-five.'
'For what?'
'For nothing.'
'You're lying! For nothing they give ten.'
Under the specified theory of historical materialism between Socialism and Communism the intermediate stage is inevitably-alcoholism.



-- Translated by Troy Morash

Monday, December 29, 2008

Michaëlle Jean and what I like about Canada

I spend a lot of time talking about things that are wrong in the world. That's sort of the point of this blog, well actually it's not but this blog does cover world affairs and we do seem to have a tendency to focus on the negative. I suppose that means that humanity is essentially good (yeah, yeah, bleeding heart liberal that I am) otherwise if humanity's natural state was to be "evil" than we would be shocked by kindness and not terror. Not a very well thought out argument, but that is only another bunny trail that I won't explore at this moment.

I do however want to talk about something that is positive and that is Canada. Yes, everyone loves his or her own country, but I think we have something truly great in Canada. We seem to have made this peaceful and diverse country with few social problems. Okay, yes there are homeless in the streets, for which there is little excuse. There is also great poverty in some areas and the First Nation's people do not enjoy the same living conditions as the rest of Canada.

But, I claim that if we stake Canada up against how most people have lived throughout history, Canada would come out at just about the top, if not the top on certain measurements. Those measurements would be: personal liberty balanced by rule of law and protections for the weak, opportunity to create wealth, opportunity to become a stake-holder in the governing system (democracy) and opportunity to pursue personal goals and interests. When compared to other democracies, Canada has a very tolerant population and is relatively free of violence, racial tensions and extreme poverty. Is it good enough? Of course not. But, it is good and getting better in some regards.

Don't mistake what I'm saying for some kind of Molson Canadian nationalism which is in itself deeply ironic as Molson Canadian is no longer Canadian...it's owned by Coors...Jokes on you Molson Canadian nationalists! But rather what I'm saying is more of what drunken lunatics really talk about when they are missing home.

Damn, that was out loud...err in type. I could delete it, but why bother. It's out there...no back on topic we go.

Don't mistake this for some sort of ....errrr frick, already said that....

Canada is actually stronger because we are not so nationalistic (made it up, 2008, p. 0) Maybe I mean to say that I don't really like nationalism because it can sometimes be bad.
Changed my mind...nationalism is fine as long as it doesn't involve blowing up other countries and as long as anyone can become a member of that nation.

Oh, but what is a nation? Hmm...I prefer to think of Canada as a multi-national state. Quebec is certainly a nation, and good for them. They add a lot of colour to the country, and I hope they stick with us. More power to the Quebec nation is fine by me. They have an inalienable right to self determination, after all but I hope they continue feeling comfortable and happy in the Dominion...(I like that word...Star Trek has made me like that word...(and heck, my name is Williamson after all) even if the name implies that someone has dominion over the land, perhaps someone does (used to be Jesus, but now it's Stephen Harper)...I still like it).

Another set of nations within Canada are the First Nation's. Those are the peoples currently living in North America who are indigenous. They governed themselves in a very different fashion than Europeans governed themselves, and were who were largely marginalized (and remain so) ,perhaps as a result of previously mentioned different political system?

Anyway, I digress (frequently). Canada has been moving in a very good direction and I miss it. I also miss the cold rapid rivers in the winter, and I miss the flowers and trees. (There is a guy taking a piss outside of my window...talking on the phone and pissing outside of my window!...weirdo).

When I started to write this, I was going to write about Michaëlle Jean, Governor-General of Canada, but this is a blog so I don't need to be organized. And I was going to talk about how she is telling Canada to be realistic with things given the "economic crisis". So, I'll close with that. the Governor General is telling us to be cautious and she's right...get out of debt and stay out of debt.


I'd also like to say how great of an image it sends to the world, and the people I've met who live in oppressed nations, to see this young, intelligent, media woman as the most powerful person in Canada. I love seeing her sit on the Throne and I love what is says about us.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Israeli Air Strikes on Gaza, death toll rising.

I once read, somewhere...probably in something by Noam Chomsky or maybe something by Al Franken that some committee or some group (likely Dick Vader Cheney's doing) that a recommendations was made that the United States should respond to any attack on it's assets or soil with a response so powerful and so vengeful that it borders on the irrational...just so that anyone who might want to attack the U.S would clearly know that the U.S response would likely destroy all opposition.

That seems to be what Israel is doing in the Gaza strip in response to Hamas rocket attacks. No one is disputing that Hamas has been killing Israelis and shares a great deal of the blame for disrupting the peace, but Israel's response seems to be way over the top.

The number of dead is now at 275 according to CNN and the hospitals are overflowing with 600 people injured in the last day . On the other side, the Israeli government is claiming that 110 rockets have been fired into Israel since Saturday (again, in the same article).


Arab Backlash

What concerns me (other than the deaths of hundreds of people) is how the Arab, and non-Arab Muslims are responding, and will respond should the Israeli attacks continue for much longer.

Already Egypt has become rather strong worded and has opened it's border to allow the wounded to flow through. Egypt, of course, has a strong interest in seeing peace in the area and it was they who brokered the previous peace agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Israel that ran out on December 19. Egypt's government faces intense pressure from her people to ensure that the Palestinian people are protected from Israeli attacks, and Egypt also doesn't want to return to conflict with Israel.

King Hussein of Jordan has also condemned the attacks, which is not surprising. Other Arab countries are giving Israel a short deadline before they go to the U.N security council in search of tougher action against Israel. I don't think the security council would agree to it, but it would certainly raise an embarrassing debate for Israel.

What concerns me the most here is that while the government's of the Arab states are mainly tolerant of Israel, many of the people are not. Anything that Israel does to provoke the Palestinians is going to provoke all of the Arab nations of the world and other Islamic states.

It also raises tensions in countries like the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada who all have large Muslim minorities. I'm not sure if Israel realizes that world opinion (even outside of the Muslim states) has already been turning against Israel (Lebanon was a big part of that) and this is going to make it worse.

A worse image for Israel means less security for Israel. Israel might find herself without the friends she once had and without the business, access to technology, trade and military equipment coming in, Israel would suddenly become that much more vulnerable.

Now, I believe that both Israel and Palestine have a right to exist but it's getting really hard to picture how that will ever work. Israel long ago squandered any opportunity for a true partnership between Palestinians and Israelis and has proceeded to carve up Palestine into several incongruous territories that could never really function as a productive nation.

So, I argue that it is in Israel's own self interest to cease the attacks and turn it over to a U.N operation of some sort.

Dick (Vader) Cheney

No blog with the title Sinister Cynical Instrument could possibly ignore the end of Dick Cheney's Vice-Presidency. For starters, let us take a look at a sampling of "Dick Cheney headlines" that came up through google. Keep in mind that these are news items and should be a little truthy, at least.
So, here is the current top stories appearing under this guys name:

Dick Cheney leaves with a
record of contempt, secrecy and lies
Salt Lake Tribune, United
States - Dec 23, 2008By Dick Polman It's impossible to critique the
failures of the Bush era without targeting the de facto deputy president, Dick
Cheney, a historically unique ...

Karl Rove on War of
Words Between Dick Cheney and Joe Biden
FOXNews -

Dick Cheney Calls 9/11 the "Highest Moment" of the Last Eight
Years
AlterNet, CA -

Good riddance to Dick
Cheney
Kansas City Star, MO - Dec 22, 2008By Yael T. Abouhalkah,

Carl Levin vs. Dick CheneyMLive.com, MI - Dec 21, 2008Carl Levin
(D-Detroit) announced Vice President Dick Cheney needs to be investigated for
signing off on torture. And he plans to pressure Barack Obama to do ...

Cheney wielded the war to deceiveSan Francisco Chronicle, USA - Dec 23,
2008In the end, the shame of Vice President Dick Cheney was total: unmitigated
by any notion of a graceful departure, let alone the slightest obligation of
...

Dick Cheney Rated as Worst Vice President Ever by 1 in 4 RespondentsAssociated
Content, CO - Dec 24, 2008... 2008 It would be difficult to name a
United States vice president about whom less was known—and who wielded more
power—than Vice President Dick Cheney. ...

Video: Joe Biden avoids advice
from Dick Cheney - 22 Dec 08
AlJazeeraEnglish - Dec 21, 2008Joe Biden,
the US vice-president-elect, does not plan to seek advice from Dick Cheney, the
outgoing vice-president. This comes despite a long tradition in ...

Cheney's Shocking Admissions on How Close He Came to Nearly .destroying the country
..
AlterNet,

Open and Shut CasesDick Cheney's unique
gift for making hard ...
Slate - Dec 22, 200822, 2008, at 7:14 PM ET
Dick Cheney
In an ever-escalating game of chicken between the executive
branch and the rest of the world,
Vice President Dick Cheney ...

Editorial: Cheney remains
arrogant to the end
San Jose Mercury News, USA - Dec 23, 2008You
have to hand it to Dick Cheney. Very few people could fail so miserably and
still depart with arrogance intact. How bad was Cheney's eight-year tenure
...

Vice
President-elect Biden is sharp contrast to Dick Cheney
Rochester Democrat and
Chronicle, NY - Dec 24,
Rove: Joe Biden Is
Trying To Acquire More Power Than Dick Cheney


Poll: 1
in 4 consider Cheney 'worst' veep in history


Poll:
23 percent say Cheney worst vice president ever
CNN - Dec 22,
2008WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A new national poll suggests that almost a quarter of
Americans think that Dick Cheney is the worst vice president in American
history. ...

Cheney
Defends Bush on President’s Role
New York Times, United States -
Dec 22, 2008By RACHEL L. SWARNS WASHINGTON — Vice President Dick Cheney on
Sunday vigorously defended the White House’s use of broad executive powers
during the last ...

Cheney's
accusation of complicity by top Congressional Democrats
Salon -

Cheney
articulates chilling truths
Atlanta Journal Constitution, USA -
Dec 22, 2008Let history note that Dick Cheney smuggled a bit of truth into a
very large package of lies last week.

Dick Cheney – The VP Remembered For His
Unpopularity?


Cheney
Defends Administration
Hartford Courant, United States - Dec 22,
2008WASHINGTON — Vice President Dick Cheney offered an unabashed defense of the
Bush administration's claims of broad executive powers Sunday, mocking criticism
...

Cheney interview shows
comtempt for facts on Iraq
Kansas City Star, MO -

Public Opinion of Dick
Cheney
UnCapitalist Journal - Dec 22, 2008Those taking the poll were
asked questions that included one about their opinion of Vice President Dick
Cheney's performance in office relative to others ...

Dick
Cheney doesn't care if you like him or not
The Flint Journal -

Cheney
says Congress failed struggling automakers
The Associated Press - Dec
21, 2008WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Dick Cheney blamed Congress for failing
to bail out the auto industry, saying the White House was forced to step in to
save ...

Dick
Cheney Still An Asshole
Jossip, NY - Dec 22, 2008Just because Dick
Cheney is practically dead and buried doesn't mean the old hunter doesn't still
have a couple more bullets left in his rifle to take down ...

Dick
Cheney’s Everyone-Said-We-Could-Do-It Dodge
The Washington
Independent,

Sharp
differences between Cheney and Biden on vice presidential role
International
Herald Tribune, France - Dec 21, 2008... and the departing one, Dick
Cheney, saying that if Biden "wants to diminish the office of the vice
president, that's obviously his call. ...

Democrats Need Their Own
Cheney
Consortium News - Dec 23, 2008By Brent Budowsky Editor’s Note:
Over the past week, Vice President Dick Cheney has – without apology –
implicated himself in what appear to be serious ...

I'll
be thrilled to see you go, Dick Cheney
New York Daily News, NY -
Dec 22, 2008US Vice President Dick Cheney is saying goodbye, not a moment too
soon for his many detractors.

Dick
Cheney: Musicologist
Indecision 2008 (satire) -



Saturday, December 27, 2008

Israeli warplanes pound Gaza

According to this Globe and Mail report, Israeli warplanes and helicopters just killed 155 people in what is being called the bloodiest day for Palestinians in 20 years. Israel is said to be doing this in response to rocket attacks orginating in the Gaza strip.




In response, Hamas is promising to unleash "hell".
I could go on about the details, but I just made my point.


10> Israel attacks


20> Hamas promises hell


30> If Hamas succesful than go to 10


40>If Hamas not successful than go to 20



On Afghanistan

Thoughts on the Canadian involvement in Afghanistan have been swirling around in my head a bit today, though I don't pay nearly enough attention to the day to day details of the conflict there.

I suppose it is on my mind because I've had some conversations with some fellow leftwing Canadians that I find somewhat disturbing. I'm all for examining what we are doing wrong in Afghanistan and how we can actually better define our mission and our purpose in that country, but when it all comes down to dust I guess I support the mission...then again I tend to be a bit of a hawk, myself.

The rational is that the Taliban was, and is sick. They really do terrible things and they are not representative of the majority. Though, sadly due to stupid things like U.S bombings in Afghanistan, more and more of the people there are turning against Canada and turning toward the extremists. This is not our (Canada's) fault, but it is our problem. So, I think we need to better sort out who we want to stop, and just what means to achieve that goal are appropriate.

First of all, I think that the idea that Jack Layton had needs to be examined. I read somewhere that a British general had basically the same thought...and that is that we need to immediately sit down with whomever we can get to sit down and figure out if there is anyway to expand the group that has a stake in the governing of Afghanistan.

We have to realize that we might not like a lot of these groups on the fringes of what we call the Taliban, but some are less extreme than others. We need to get some of these groups on our side, and we need to get the people back on side. I'd really love to see some opinion polls on who Afghan people see our involvement.

Another good idea I've heard from Elizabeth May of the Green party of Canada. Her idea is to allow the opium producers to sell for pharmaceutical use. This would allow these poor farmers to continue selling the only thing they've got, while it would remove more opium from the drug supply line. We could give overly generous prices to encourage legal sales while building good will and helping the local economy.

So, I'd say that yes, we do need to make some changes but overall, what we are doing there is not for nothing. Our people are fighting for a free, democratic and united Afghanistan. They are fighting to protect schools, and the right of women to attend those schools. They are fighting for the right of people to live without fear and oppression.

I remember back when the Taliban first took over in much of Afghanistan. I remember how left wingers were pleading the case of the oppressed and asking for U.S intervention. Well, they got it. It doesn't look so pretty, but I think the goal is a noble one.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Thai politics in a coconut shell, policy on Burma

Abhisit Vejjajiva, the young and handsome prime minister of thailand certainly has a big job cut out for him. I don't know if you, my loyal readers have been following the politics of the day here in Thailand, but for a while there it was looking like an impossible situation.

Some Background on recent Thai politics.

Basically, there are two large groups that affect political life in Thailand. To make it easy, lets break it down into colours. Red is the colour favoured by the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra people, these are mainly made up of the poorer farmers and labourers in the country's north and north east. Opponents say that billionaire tycoon, Thaksin has essentially bribed millions of the country's poor.
Some anti- Red shirt people tell me that the Thai country people will be loyal to the red shirt movement for many, many years due to Thaksin's pro-poor policies.
On the other shirt...er side are the yellow shirts...the PAD (no, not Peripheral Artery Disease...the other PAD...People's Alliance for Democrazy). Anyway, name implies democracy but most of us consider what they want to be something other than democracy as it's usually been known. For starters, they want the majority of Member's of Parliament to be appointed...now they say its a new kind of democracy where some minority groups and interest groups (the army the most notable of them) will have some official role in political life.

They challenge that Thaksin had been leading the government through his various proxies. I'm sure you know that Thaksin was the PM and happened to be out in New York, ready to give a speech when all of a sudden the military took command of Thailand in a bloodless coup. That was 2006. Jump ahead a year and a bit and we get to new elections.
Guess who won? The pro-Thaksin (in exile) red shirts. Guess what the anti-government PAD did? They started protesting...peacefuly at first and then increasingly violent to where some experts were saying that the though of civil war has not been more real than in 700 years. The airports were occupied...(I live in Don Muang, so for me it was a little crazy walking past the protests everyday to get to work)
So, along comes that handsome Abhisit, the new 44 year old Thai prime minister. He was the Orly guy that the PAD said would allow to be Prime Minister. Though the Red Shirt party has more seats in parliament, Abhisit's Democrat party was able to get some red shirt defectors and small party support.

Things have mostly returned to normal, but how long will they stay that way is anyone's guess. I hope he tries to buy back some support in the north so that we can avoid this constant struggle between the farmer/labourers and the urban elite PAD.

A new policy on Burma

Now, just reading on http://www.irawaddy.org/ that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has a new policy on Burma. The article says cites an interview with Al Jazeera where he states that Thailand will try to work with her ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) partners to press Burma's abominable (my word, not his) human rights record.

He stated: “The West and Asean have a common objective. We want to bring good change in Myanmar [Burma]" (source) . His new foreign affairs minister, Kasit Paromya went further stating: "“From now on, there will be no personal business dealings on the side. This government will not mix business and politics,” he said. “We shall have no [personal] business deals with the [Burmese] junta; we shall observe human rights and environmental concerns; we shall treat Burmese as we do Thais" (source)

Well hold my coat and give me a rock, they are going to treat Burmese people like Thai people! Treating people like people? Wow, I'll be watching to see if they do.

Abhisit hot, Samak not

The Democrats have a much better record on Burma actually. The last Democrat Prime Minister, (1997-2001) refused to visit Burma. Also, in 1999 when Burmese freedom fighters stormed and occupied the Burmese embassy in Thailand, the government of Thailand said that these guys were not "terrorists" they were students merely seeking democracy in their country

So, as opposed to the former Prime Minister, Samak Sundaravej who was forced to quit as PM due to his illegal cooking show, Abhisit is no friend of the Burmese junta.



For his part, Samak actually visited Burma several times in his short time in office and said that the Burmese Generals are religious and devout Buddhists.

Yah, whatever...devout Buddhists who rape, or tolerate the rape of six year old girls. Give me a fucking break. The pig faced Samak also was well known for telling starving Thais to eat more chicken bone soup: "You can make a nice soup for the whole family. It tastes just great," he said.

Samak also once asked a female journalist if she ever had "sinful sex" and he made a lot of people angry when he called for the military to use violence to put down protests back in 1976 and today basically denies that anyone was seriously hurt when the official death toll stands at 46. So, nice guy and all...but happy to see him out.
One of my connections (a Reuters journalist speaking off the record) said that Samark's guys like to say they work for the poor...to this I asked..."would you say they are socialist"? the journalist responded "yes...fake socialist".

What's your point?
Point of this ramble is that I always supported the red shirts because I believe, unlike the yellow shirts, that the only solution to Thailand's problems is a peaceful resolution through democratic means. I don't support occupation of government offices and airports unless that government is really, really doing something bad. As much as I hated Samak and felt bad for Somchai Wongsawat Samak's predecessor, who really just wanted to help, I supported a democratic resolution to the problem.

So, when the parties all got together to form a coalition that doesn't include the largest party (red shirt part) my democratic conscience was satisfied...anyone note the interesting parallel to the Canadian situation here?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

UN Condemns human rights violations in Myanmar (Burma).




The U.N just gave one of it's strongest condemnations of Burma's junta ever, yesterday. Amazing that the world still keeps going over Christmas.

The U.N resolution, "sponsored by United States, Australia, South Korea, Israel and many European countries" who believe in human dignity and freedom " was approved by a vote of 80-25 with 45 abstentions". Those who voted against it are primarily nations that either don't believe that humans should be treated at least as well as a pet chickend, and don't believe that the rape and intimidation of entire cultures is bad, or are part of the Chinese coalition of the bribed and coerced.
Burma's fascist regime (hell bent on producing nuclear weapons in order to terrorize even more people according to one source) denounced the U.N assembly for "blatant interference".
I think a machine gun pointed in Than Shwe's face might be somewhat more pursuasive, but let's take what we can get.

According to the International Herald Tribune "The General Assembly "strongly" called on Myanmar's government "to desist from further politically motivated arrests and to release without delay and without conditions those who have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, as well as all political prisoners."

Another article that I just glimpsed at says that Daewoo signed a business deal in Burma...so, a big "f*ck you" goes out to Daewoo.

Is it 2009 Yet?






Living in Thailand, a country that is overwhelmingly Buddhist and that has little connection to Christmas makes this season a bit of a lonely one. You can see that pathetic sadness in the eyes of every foreigner here. The feeling is weaker every year that one is abroad but even still I find myself trying to ignore the date and the feeling that I'm just squandering my time. Also, I'm looking for a job, so that's not something I really prefer to do on Christmas week either but it is important.


So, this makes me just really want January to hurry up and get here. Everything happens in January. The Canadian House of Commons will finally get back to work after Harper's desperate prorogation, and he'll either be singing a new, sweet song or Michael Ignatieff will be the Prime Minister. Also, January is the month that we will finally be liberated from George W. Bush!!! Yay! Do I really need to say more? I suppose I do if I want to get picked up in the google results! Ha!

January is also the month that I was born on, 30 years ago. Yes, I will be 30 in January. So, my plan was always to become a good person by the age of 30. I've stopped taking drugs, don't smoke, don't get into bar fights and riots and pretty much obey the law. I'm back in university and somewhat employable. So, I guess I'm on track. And, I guess I have no regrets. I guess I'll try to plan a big trip for next Christmas so that I don't have to be sitting around pondering the meaning of life, the universe and everything on the Lord's Birthday. I could just as easily be living on a mountain meditating, or on Bali being sinful but forgetting.

Forgetting what? It's like that Leonard Cohen song..."I can't forget, but I don't remember what". So, here I am "burning up the road" and going nowhere. December is a deep, dark abyss that I'm waiting for to disappear. I can't make it stop being Christmas, but it will stop.

slightly different topic, went out to a club (DJ station) last night with my Korean friend. Actually, we went to an infamous neighbourhood pub earlier with him as well. Met a few people who work for an NGO in Burma. Interesting that I keep meeting NGO workers everywhere I go now. I think it's a sign.

This is three NGO workers, who work near the Burmese border who I've met in just a matter of days. And it's not like I've been searching them out either...I just keep running into them. Life is often like that. I do want to work for an NGO ...I should point out that that means Non Governmental Organization and that perhaps I should be referring to them as humanitarian or relief organizations instead. Anyway, point is that I want to work for one of them. I see stuff happening around me, bad stuff and the fact that I feel powerless to stop it is driving me up the wall, as they say.

I do do some things. I give some money to different charities. I give money to no leg people and the elderly beggars. I donate my time to helping anyone who needs help, when the opportunity arises, and I try to deny my selfish and evil nature in favour of my higher nature. Value statements, yes I know but it is impossible to be without values no matter how far one buries them beneath lugubrious language.

I do hope that the five people who read my blog will find these thoughts less than interesting. Again, in the words of Cohen: "If these thoughts interest you for even a moment, you are lost".



Merry Christmas, and may it also pass. I'll leave you with some beautiful words from Jikan

A person who eats meat
wants to get his teeth into something
A person who does not eat meat
wants to get his teeth into something else
If these thoughts interest you for even a moment
you are lost.

from Selected Poems 1956-1968

I heard of a man
who says words so beautifully
that if he only speaks their name
women give themselves to him.

If I am dumb beside your body
while silence blossoms like tumours on out lips
it is because I hear a man climb the stairs
and clear his throat outside our door.

from Let Us Compare Mythologies (1956)

I'd like to read one of the poems that drove me into poetry I can't remember one line or where to look
The same thing happened with money girls and late evenings of talk
Where are the poems that led me away from everything I loved
to stand here naked with the thought of finding thee
-Leonard Cohen

What is a saint? A saint is someone who has achieved a remote human possibility. It is impossible to say what that possibility is. I think it has something to do with the energy of love. Contact with this energy results in the exercise of a kind of balance in the chaos of existence. A saint does not dissolve the chaos; if he did the world would have changed long ago. I do not think that a saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant and warlike in the notion of a man setting the universe in order. It is a kind of balance that is his glory. He rides the drifts like an escaped ski. His course is a caress of the hill. His track is a drawing of the snow in a moment of its particular arrangement with wind and rock. Something in him so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance. Far from flying with the angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid bloody landscape. His house is dangerous and finite, but he is at home in the world. He can love the shapes of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love.


-- From the novel, Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen

Some more selections from here and here.





Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nicolas de Torrente is Handsome, support MSF


I was just looking over the hits I've been getting from google search. One that I just got a few minutes ago was "nicolas de torrente is handsome" and my blog came up because I had his name and the word handsome (from a different article) on my blog. No other results came up.

So, I don't know why but I thought I would like to put a picture of this guy up, because yes he is handsome and he's the Executive Director of Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the U.S.
Doctors Without Borders/ Medicins Sans Frontieres is a private, non for profit organization established in 1971 by a group of French doctors that delivers emergency assistance to the victims of armed conflict, epidemics and natural and man-made disasters and to others who lack health care due to social or geographical isolation.

Mr. de Torrente was an administrator and the head of mission in Tanzania and Rwanda and later an emergency coordinator in Somalia, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Macedonia and Afghanistan.
So, Mr. de Torrente, I salut you. I salut your good looks and your good deeds.
Sources:

A rationale for Chinese Intervention

If you follow China, you will know that part of their strategy is to be a unique voice in the world. Much of that rests upon China simply not interfering in an another state's internal affairs. They tell the world that unlike some nations (i.e United States, European Union, Canada), China does not interfere in the domestic policies of any country trading with her. This has often caused what Jiang Zemin (former President of China) advertised as "win-win" relations, however their are cases where China's interests were not necessarily in line with the people of a given area's interests.

It sounds like something from Star Trek's Prime Directive, I know. The Chinese position, on the surface can sound ideal. And, indeed there are many countries that have really benefited from the Chinese "win-win" policies. But, there is a far more sinister aspect to that policy as well.
To be more specific, China openly and notoriously partnered with the Sudan in order to purchase oil from them. Groups in the Sudan (with government participation and knowledge) have been launching a genocide against black tribes in the Darfur region. Most of the world was united in condemning the genocide and they fought really hard to even have the genocide designation applied (when genocide is declared, the U.N has a legal duty to intervene, so they don't like to use the world 'genocide' very often). The Sudan was able (and still is) to murder all the young men in entire villages and impregnate the woman through rape because one particular nation was willing to close their eyes and ignore the "internal issues". That nation was China. China simply refused to interfere.

China does intervene in cases where they look really bad to the outside world, as has begun to happen in Darfur, but also in Burma. In Burma, China has pressured the government to get control of it's HIV crisis and drugs which are pouring across the Burma/China border. In that case, China's domestic interests line up with what is good for average people in Burma. But, China's intervention in that matter was simply out of her own good. China needs stable borders.
Now, I don't want to go on and on about all of the examples that come to mind (there really are many) of when China has or has not intervened for humanitarian reasons, except to point out that they very seldom do intervene. They proudly state that they do not interfere in other nation's business. But, there is a dangerous side to this for Beijing, and I think some of that is already being seen.

The world is now getting used to a re-engaged China. Yes, China was (for almost all of history) the most powerful nation to exist. Very little in Europe can truly compare to what China has almost always been. They took the 19th century off from dominance but now, in the past two decades they have shown that they are truly back. Today, however, we have a very tuned in world. People are well aware of China as a major world player. As such, China's activities do not go unnoticed and China will suffer some "blow back" for their activities world-wide just as the United States does.

In his book (Charm Offensive), Joshua Kurlantzick points out that in some cases local people have already been so enraged by Chinese support for their corrupt governments that they've attacked Chinese business people on the streets, or have attacked their place of business.
This could just get worse for the Chinese if those countries do experience "regime change". How would a newly free Burmese people feel about the country that enabled those who murdered their men and raped their woman and children to prosper? How will the various Black tribes in The Sudan view China?

China does not want to interfere in the domestic affairs of another nation. Admirable in theory, but in practice we can see that it often alienates the citizens of those countries from China. China's interests would be better served by operating with other nation's to get tough on the worlds most brutal regimes. China would add legitimacy, and be viewed positively if she were to work through the U.N to improve life for the people of some of these regimes.

China has an interest in building up good relations around the world, and if China wants to take a long view they must realize that sometimes it is better to intervene...if only for selfish reasons.

Top Ten Horrors of the World

BBC just ran an article where they detail how dangerous it has become to do aid work in some parts of the world. The article is based on a Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) report shows a very alarming trend.

In many parts of the world, it is getting more dangerous for organizations like Medicins Sans Frontieres to do their work because they are often targeted for attacks. Nicolas de Torrente, the director of MSF-USA stated to the BBC:

The issue for us is how to reach these people and how to try to
provide them with meaningful assistance and there we find that there are many
obstacles," he said.
Governments don't want us to be present - they fear
the exposure that comes with that. They want to deny assistance to these
populations and, increasingly, we see attacks, directed attacks, against aid
workers (Torrente).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Will Michael Ignatieff be Barack Obama's Poodle?


Provocative title? Derivative is more like it. Heard it someone before, maybe www.theglobeandmail.com but can't remember exactly.
The though is that Michael Ignatieff will almost certainly become the prime minister of Canada for at least part of the time that Barack Obama is president of the United States.
Both of these guys can read, and do read! In fact they both also write, though Ignatieff was a Harvard professor and wins out on that one.

Ignatieff's connections to Harvard (where some of Obama's cabinet comes from) could be good for U.S/Canada relations. At this point in time, it is probably good for our relations to be a bit warmer especially if intelligent people are setting the policies of both countries.

19 North Korean Defectors to be Tried in Burma

A number of months or years ago I happened to be in the South Korean embassy here in Bangkok when I saw a group of rather starved looking people in oversized clothes. I asked a few questions and it turns out that they were from North Korea. That is where I first learned about the very long and dangerous trip that these people make to escape the repressive North Korean regime. These people in particular had traveled from North Korea in China and from China into Burma and then to Thailand. From Thailand they apply for a visa to South Korea in hopes of living there. Necessary to note that it is impossible to cross between the North/South Korean border.

Now we have a case of 19 North Koreans captured by the junta in Burma. Burma is going to try them with illegally entering the country. Wouldn't surprise me if they eventually ship them back to North Korea. Repressive nations have to stick together, after all.

The real wild card continues to be China. China now allows North Korean defectors to stay in China and work like slaves with food (as opposed to working as slaves without food in their homeland). China is, slowly moving in a direction of respecting human rights at home and abroad. Part of it is that China is very concerned about her image abroad.

So, maybe someone in China can pick up a phone and ask the Burmese junta what they really plan to do with the defectors. Perhaps China could hang on to them for a while, unless South Korea wants to intercede on their behalf.

Certainly it is clear why these people would want to live in Korea (South), and I hope they make it there.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Obama's Cabinet

The topic of Obama's cabinet briefly came up during our class today. One media article refers to it as a cabinet of 'rivals'. I've heard a great deal of talk on the left from people disappointed that a "hawk" like Hillary Clinton would occupy the Secretary of State position, while Robert Gates would stay on from the Bush Administration.

Well, clearly Barack Obama is attempting to create a broad based cabinet of thinking people who aren't just going to be a bunch of "yes" men and women. If you ask me, we could use a bit more of that non-partisan, bridge builder thinking in Canada.

Our professor mentioned today that a number of the newer, and younger faces in the the cabinet have some Harvard connections. Perhaps that could be good for Canada when, and if Michael Ignatieff becomes prime minister, as he himself just left Harvard a few years ago.

I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but I really like Michael Ignatieff and I have to be honest...I'm beginning to grow tired of Jack Layton and the NDP. Even though the NDP is really, still my party...I've beginning to just crave a change in leadership.

Perhaps it is Obama envy. I would like to see a team of bridge builders and educated people take over the Canadian government. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'd like for us to adopt the U.S system (certainly not), but I too am getting caught up in all of the excitement. One thing that I like about Ignatieff is that he appears in some of my text books at my university. I've been outside of Canada long enough that I seem to like anything that reminds me of home...especially around this time of year. Maybe after the festive season is over and the Thai summer comes roaring back I'll be all finished with Ignatieff and back to Jack.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Off to write.

Off I go to spend the day at the university. Woke up before 8 this morning. Now it is 10. I don't know how the time goes so fast. Today, I must complete my paper and help a friend with his. The topic is Chinese-Russian soft power relations. I've already written half of the paper but I think I'll likely end up throwing out most of what I've written so far. I'm having some trouble really getting my head around this topic, to be honest. The perspective is supposed to be from a semi-historical perspective and from the public policy side rather than the international relations side, but as it is a matter entirely envolving relations between two countries, I'm extremely confused.

We'll see how it goes today.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ramblings before Christmas

I went to a wedding reception last night at the Sukhothai on Sathorn. Some friends of mine recently were married in the U.S and decided to have their reception here for the Thai side of the family and that. It's always interesting to see different cultural expectations in these sorts of things.

For example, in the Western world it is generally expected that the bride and groom will have to talk a little bit and endure lots of stories about themselves from the guests. In Thailand, it seems that the masters of ceremony tend to run the show and the bride and groom are limited to walking around and getting photographed.

Anyway, as my "roommate" always says to me: "what's your point?"...and as usual...I don't think I have one. Just an observation....

In other news, I'm struggling to get my first paper finished. It's on the "soft power" relations between Russia and China. I keep getting caught up in these little bunny trails that could take my paper off it's path so easily. There is so much to research in order to really be able to properly take on the topic. I have to limit the scope even further and just talk about the historical aspect in painfully broad strokes. There is a ten page limit on this assignment and the topic is pre-arranged, so it is challenging.
Anyway, I will hopefully have most of the major content completed today...though I don't have enough sources still, so I'm just going to make it up and then tomorrow when I go to the library I'll find sources to back up what I know is true and then take it back with me and print it out Friday night for Saturday's class.

Reminds me of the
politics Canada game I used to play. I was the Prime Minister in our little online forum fantasy (the link above is for the old version...one where I was PM) I was accused of making up government numbers and just having them released. It was suggested to me that I note the source of everything I say as PM...if there is no source then I should reference whatever I say with "I made it up". Wouldn't that make a great paper. "The current asymmetrical military relationship between Botswana and New Zealand is natural given the geographical realities of the post Pangaea period" (Made it up, 2008, p. none).

Oh, the life of a student. The pain, the glory.

So, Saturday is the last class and then I'm off for a few weeks. Frighteningly few plans for the holidays. If I manage to get some money together I will go to my Kayan friend's village for Christmas. They are Roman Catholics, so Christmas has some relevance for them. I don't expect there to be any Germanic trees covered in "made in China" polymers" on display, but I'd rather be with people who apply some sort of importance to the day beyond jingle bells and greed. Not that I don't miss the trappings, the smells, the sights, the lights but as the years go on the less attractive it is to me. I'm sure I'll snap back into place should I return to Canada.

If this trip doesn't work out...depends on both of us getting enough money together for the bus...than we might just hang around Bangkok. Biggest thing on the holidays is to be with someone you care about. Even a coffee at Starbucks is enough of a holiday splurge for me.

The person with whom I live is going up to Chiang Mai. Sounds like a nice time but the family tends to not acknowledge my existence. Yes, I can sit politely for hours and hours and try to grasp the point of the very rapid Thai speech but even when I do grasp it it has nothing to do with anything I know about. It's allways about shoes, and feet, and food, and some restaurant, and uncle somchai and other stuff. If it was in English I'd likely have not a lot more luck getting into it, but in Thai...it's hopeless. Even eye contact...lack of eye contact for days is hard on the mind. I've long ago realized that the thing I hate the most is to be with a group of people who won't look at me...who, in a moment of curiosity ask a question about me (that I could answer if I was asked) and then hearing someone else respond on my behalf as though I weren't capable of talking for myself. It goes something like this:

Aunt Petunia: So, what does foreigner eat?

Me: Well....I....

Uncle Jimbo: He eats potatoes and soup.

Me: Actually I...

Aunt Petunia: Ahh can he eat spicy salad?

Brother Bee: Yes, he can eat spicy salad, but only in the afternoon.

Me: Actually I can...

Aunt Petunia: So, I think I'll go over to 7 11 and take a look at the magazines. I need to buy...blahblah blah.

Me: Nice to meet you. Hope we can talk again.

everyone: ka...bye.

My point is not that I mind so much but over three days these sorts of family trips become too much and I find myself drinking whiskey with tuk- tuk drivers and sleepy-head security guards just for some mental relief. Really...the amount of Thai I know is enough to answer questions about myself and ask questions of others. In a small group, we almost never have a problem with comprehension.

My friend who got married and who's reception I went to commented several ti
mes on the fact that no one was making eye-contact with him all night. I told him it's just because they are shy and don't know what to say. But, I understand his feelings because I have been living like that for three years now. So, I've become much more assertive in getting people to look at me and acknowledge my presence.

So, a nice room in the beautiful city of Chiang Mai, with visits to waterfalls and splendid beauty. Nice cool temperatures with lots of pink flowers and greenery. Or a cup of coffee with a friend. I'll take the coffee because at least he'll look me in the eye.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

To Visit or Not to Visit, or a Better Question.


Most charitable organizations and resistance groups are asking tourists to boycott Burma (Myanmar), but some others believe that doing so is not a good idea. Those with the former view state that tourism directly benefits the regime, while the latter believes that to visit Burma allows the people to have an important interaction with other people. If you are interested in looking into the debate, I can recommend a simple google search as a good way to start.
Andrew Boncombe, in The Independant wrote an excellent article. For your viewing pleasure, I'm going to summarize some of the arguments made by various people that Mr. Boncombe asked on the issue.
Arguments For:
Derek Tonkin, Chairman Network Myanmar

“The hostility shown by the military regime in Burma to immediate and generous Western offers of assistance...has shocked many people... and has lead to allegations ranging from xenophobia to inhumanity... Many now realise that attempts to isolate and ostracise Burma over the past 20 years have been a disastrous failure, for it has been the Burmese people who have suffered, and not the generals."
“...discouragement of travel and tourism to Burma by most EU countries, ...on the grounds that the leader of the Opposition National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi, was opposed to any action which might bring financial support and respectability to the military regime. In point of fact, her call for a boycott of travel to Burma only related to the ‘Visit Myanmar Year 1996’... she has acknowledged that some might have good reason to visit her country as “responsible tourists”.
"...far from propping up the regime as critics allege, a respectable case could be made to show that the regime actually subsidises tourism to Burma."
“The tourism industry was largely privatised after 1988 and at least 300,000 Burmese people are directly employed, not counting the many tens of thousands of postcard sellers, taxi drivers, handicraft workers and stall holders who depend on tourism for their livelihoods. Together, they support families of well over 1.5 million people. Visitors to Burma say that they meet no one who even hints that they ought not to have come. The Burmese people crave contact with the outside world."
-- Craig's notes:
Indeed, they do seem to crave it. I entered on an afternoon pass (leave passport with the police, slip across and be out by sundown...no fee) and couldn't believe the number of people who smiled at me, stopped to talk and just said hi. The beggar kids were not in the least bit aggressive and seeing my silly face brought instant smiles. I was struck by the racial diversity of the city and the feeling that everyone is just trying to get by. No paved roads when I was there...very few motorized vehicles, and some very lovely people. I dropped in, ate some delicious food (Burmese cuisine tastes more Indo than Chinese), had a beer or two. Took a picture with an old man who seemed so happy to see my big nose, and like a movie star slipped back across the border. A bit muddier, a little tipsy but feeling very confident that the regime didn't get a penny from me but a few worn down local businesses made a killing.

Arguments Against:
(think I better give her argument in full as I seem to have already biased everything by my personal account above)
Hlaing Sein, Campaigns Officer, Burma Campaign UK
“It is impossible to visit Burma without funding the military dictatorship.

Some people in the travel industry argue that tourists bring information from the outside world to the isolated local people, but what do we learn from the copies of Hello! magazine that they leave behind? If we talk about political things to tourists we risk being arrested. Only regime trained tourist guides are allowed to speak with tourists, and those tourist guides are told by the regime what to say to foreigners. As a Burmese citizen I personally didn’t experience the benefit of the tourism. The regime declared 1996 as ‘Visit Myanmar Year’ but in the same year there were some student protests in the Rangoon University and the universities were closed for several years. Even as the regime opened the doors to tourism they were still committing human rights abuses.

Tourism helps fund the regime that oppresses us. A very small number of people make their living from tourism, and so of course they defend it, but all of us suffer from the regime that keeps us living in poverty and in fear. Three quarters of the population are farmers and these people are not benefiting from tourism industry. Luxury hotels import foreign goods for tourists instead of using local products. Tourists sit by swimming pools in hotels like those owned by Orient Express and pay five dollars for an imported can of coke. How do we benefit from that?
“The regime identified and promoted tourism as a source of foreign exchange, not as a way of providing jobs for the people. Front page articles in state owned newspapers talk about the importance of tourism to Burma, but they only mention foreign exchange, not employment for ordinary people. They need foreign dollars to buy the guns they use to rule over us. Not only does tourism fund the regime, tourist facilities have been built by forced labour. Ordinary Burmese people have been forcibly removed from their homes to clean-up areas for tourism.
“Some have tried to argue that the presence of tourists could help prevent human rights abuses, as the regime would not do certain things in front of tourists. But during the uprising last September, even before the crackdown, tourists were hiding in their hotels until they could get on the first flight out. Our people are struggling for freedom and democracy in our country.
“Tourists should think twice before they consider Burma as a tourist destination. How will their money be spent by the regime? Bear in mind that the regime spends around half its income on the military. This is the military that shoots at monks who are peacefully protesting. A military that uses rape as a weapon of war in its war of ethnic cleansing in the east of Burma, even raping girls as young as six. They torture, they assassinate, they mutilate and behead people. This is what your tourist dollars help pay for. By visiting Burma, tourists are not providing financial or moral support to us, instead they fund our oppressors. Stay away.”

Lonely Planet also offered a rebutal to the claims that they are profiting on the backs of the Burmese people. Their main argument was that people make the choice to go on their own and that they only buy a guidebook if they are already going to go.
So, I suppose my position on this is that a person who wants to go and who doesn't support the rape of six year old children (and yes, that really does happen) should exercise great caution to not allow the junta to profit from the visit. Breaking a few government facilities might be a way to offset any visa fees, but I'd absolutely never advocate anything illegal. So, I'd say research it, make sure your hotel is independantly owned, and go with kindness in your heart. Talk to people, don't just be a cultural pirate.

Monday, December 15, 2008

In Defence of Rage

I don't want anyone to think that I walk around angry all day, or that I don't understand that true compassion also means laughing and having agood time with other people. I do those things regularly. Perhaps I'll try to write some funny things from time to time.

Actually, something funny did happen today. I was walking up the...what the heck are they called...Saphan roi in Thai. Foot bridges? Crossing bridges? Ahh, pedestrian walking across road enablers. Anyway, they are cement steps that go up into the air and cross a street. It's a way of allowing people to cross the street without having to walk on the street. Is this making any sense? Perhaps not, but it is funny that I have no idea what to call this pedestrial walking bridge. I think they should have something like a ski-lift in stead of these stairs. You know, those things you hold onto that drag you up the ski-hill. Wouldn't that be fricking awesome? (Alright, I'm a student again so I'm allowed to use words like fricking awesome).

Okay, that's not my point. The funny thing is : I was walking up the cement stairs and fell flat on my face at the top stair. A few metres in front of me was a guy passed out on the surface with a beer bottle beside his face. I've never seen that in Thailand before...so it was kinda funny that I fell so close to that guy. For a brief moment we were both laying face down on the cement. My friend, who can speak Burmese overheard a couple of Burmese students comment on the scene (never asked for the translation). It was funny. I wasn't injured. Hope the drunk wasn't either.

Alright, so yes...funny things do happen. My friend has trouble using elevators and escalators. They don't really have things like that where he is from, so I get a perverse bit of enjoyment in watching him fiddle with the elevator controls, trying to make it move.

But the point of this blog entry was supposed to be about Rage. I almost never write titles before I write the text so doing it in the reverse this time seems to have made the title not fit the entry. Now that I've written about the title, I can't change it. So, let's just get on with it.

I was reading Bruce Cockburn's views on anger yesterday. In various interviews he noted that he spends a great deal of time being angry, but he says that it's not necessarily a bad thing:

Yes, anger can be effective when it is focused in an effective
way on a certain goal. Otherwise it's a waste of time. Some
say it's no use walking around angry, but I don't share that
opinion. Even though I spend a lot of time in my life being
angry, it works better for me if it means something. You
only have to read the newspaper, on every page there is
something which makes you angry
(here).

I think about this in my own situation. My anger has forced me to overcome shyness, self-consciousness, and social conformity to do things that I think of as being good. Like putting a bit of money in the beggar's cup. I almost entirely stopped doing that until I started allowing myself to get really angry about inequality and extreme poverty. I've also started giving a lot more of my time to helping others whenever I can. Maybe I can't pick up a gun and overthrow the Burmese regime, but that doesn't mean that I can't do anything. My rage drives me to do whatever I can. I like the feeling of red emotions. Like joy and anger. I don't like absense of emotion.

What makes me angry? Seeing an old woman on the street begging for money. How does this happen? We do we allow it? What is wrong with society that we can't fix these problems? Why can't we all get together, chip in a bit and build every single homeless person a shack and give them something to do with their time? I'm not talking about turning them all into doctors, lawyers and business executives (though certainly some of them could do so if they had the chance) but about giving them some productive sort of job with a decent enough income so that they can at least engage in mainstream society.

Think about it. Why can't we do it? I'm not talking about the government or any other construct, but about us (I'll let you define that for yourself). Alright, enough of this ramble. Blogging is considered a socially acceptable way to talk to oneself.

Burmese women on display in "human zoo"



"It's absolutely a human zoo - one solution is for tourists to stop going"
Kitty McKinsey
UNHCR


What's sticking in my eye right now is the "Human zoo" operating in Thailand. Not sure if you've heard of it but it's a bit sickening.

Okay, so various tribal groups in Burma ran for the border to escape the Burmese military who persecutes them...that word is way too soft but I don't want to get into all of that horror right now. What I do want to get into is one particular tribe. The Kayan.

The women of the Kayan are famous for their artificially extended necks. They add rings to their necks to make them longer. Alright, interesting yes...but get over it. They are still people and don't need to be photographed by safari goers.

Anyway, for some 'mysterious' reason, this tribe was put into three small villages in Thailand near the Burmese border rather than in a large refugee camp where all of the other groups were put. No real explanation for that was ever given...but given the appearance of the Kayan, the cynical mind might make a guess.

Well, if only that were all...so these women make a bit of money by smiling and looking pretty to the hordes of tourists. One woman, Mu Pao was quoted in a BBC report as saying "At least we're safe here and can earn some money" (Andrew Harding, BBC News reported).

So, yes better than rape and murder but still a little off...right? And what is even more than a little off is that 20 member's of this tribe have been accepted by New Zealand (God bless them) with houses already waiting. But, for the past two years (again according to BBC, not my imagination) "the Thai authorities have refused to sign the paperwork needed" (BBC). So, one woman, a 23 year old by the name of Zember has taken off her neck rings in protest. "It felt a little uncomfortable at first". She said

"I was so happy....they tell me a house is already waiting for us in New Zealand"...but she's not allowed to go to it. She brings in too much money as an exhibit. "Because of my rings I have suffered many problems...I wear them not for tourists. I wear them for tradition...Now I feel like a prisoner."

Shame on the Thai authorities for allowing this to happen. There is absolutely no reason, at least not a valid reason to keep these people there when another country is actually willing to accept them and treat them like people.

The Thai refugee camp commanders insist that these people are not refugees. "Actually they aren't refugees...according to the regulations, you have to live inside the refugee camp" said asshole Wachira Chotirosseranee, deputy asshole of the district office refugee camp.

"They absolutely are refugees," according to Kitty McKinsey of the U.N. "It comes as a great surprise that the Thai authorities are criticising them for living outside the camps, when it was the Thai authorities who wanted them to live (outside)."

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7215182.stm

Thanks to BBC reporter Andrew Harding for his excellent journalism on this.
Phote above taken from http://www.karennihomeland.com/ and is (I hope) exploitation free.
(sorry, link was broken so I fixed it. Also added a snazy quotation.