23 January 2008

More good economic news...

Tourists no longer want to come to the United States! Yay!

Cuz... uh... we really don't need all those euros (and loonies)???

Seriously, we need to seriously consider our ass backwards immigration policies if an article in a major European newspaper first tells people that the United States isn't worth the effort, and then offers a list of comparable alternative destinations.

I leave you with this lovely sampling from the above, on the lovely welcome foreign visitors get at our borders:
A preflight e-interrogation, epic queues at immigration, thin-lipped questioning from aggressive border guards, and an outside chance of a rubber-gloved rectal rummage are all part of the fun. So, if Chertoff and co want to tighten Fortress America further, it’s time we considered other more welcoming holiday options. Such as Iran or North Korea.
Chertoff and company: you're brilliant, really.

18 January 2008

Tyrranical, monarchical rabbit announces presidential candidacy

Since I still can't decide who to vote for in the primaries, I've decided to just vote for my bunny, Buster. He immediately agreed to run, and his official campaign announcement is below.

O! Buster '08... The best there is!

You should vote for Buster. Why? Because Buster said to. Buster has a brilliant plan for Amerka. And what about experience? Buster already knows how to run a country, since he's currently the King of the Dutch Bunnies (conveniently/accidentally born in North Carolina for electoral purposes). That means Buster is a candidate you can trust.

So what does Buster stand for?

The EconomyBuster's economic stimulus package consists of having you ship him lots of cardboard to chew on. Think about all the cool stuff you can order online as a service to your country! And Buster "recycles" everything his little body consumes! Al Gore can't even claim that!

HealthcareWe've all had those embarrassing moments when our bodies do unbecoming things, sometimes disturbing those around us. Buster is here to help. According to a fortune cookie he ate tonight, a carrot a day will keep cancer away! By the end of his lifetime term of office, everyone in Amerka will have the healthcare they need.

National SecurityBuster's sheer intestinal fortitude will keep Amerka saferer. No terrorists. No extremists. No communists (are we even still afraid of them?). And no non-exploitable foreign immigrants.

Foreign PolicyBuster will travel the world to restore Amerka's once glowing international reputation. How else would he be able to satisfy his incredibly sophisticated pallet? And all you developing nations out there needn't worry. Buster eats a lot. A state visit will create jobs!

LeadershipUnlike some people who (have) occupy(ied) the White House, Buster knows what to do with a newspaper. That's the sign of a smart guy who's fit to run a country.

But after 8 years of government by idiots, can we really trust him?Of course. Buster's obligatory goofy campaign outfit is way more goofy than anything those other losers have tried on. And besides, you need to prove to your neighbors that you're not speciesist.

O! Buster '08. He'll make everything better!

(This message has been approved by HRH Buster Terry-Edelman, PhD^7, Esq.)

14 January 2008

Kenya: land of 1,000 explanations

As many of you are aware, there's been a bit of turmoil in Kenya since they had some elections that smelled fishy. While apparently most of the violence has calmed down, the situation is apparently still quite tense. But why did things go so bad, so fast, in the first place? I don't have an answer to that question, but I'll gladly point you towards several people who do:
  • Joel Barkan says it's basically a question of competing ethnic groups.
  • Colin Kahl follows down that path and adds agricultural land scarcity into the mix.
  • Stephanie Hanson goes a different route and suggests that the increasingly young Kenyan population is tired cronyism among the older political elite.
  • Also in the "it's politics more than ethnicity" camp are Steven Fish and Matthew Kroenig, who argue that the weak national parliament is to blame.
  • Finally, Aidan Hartley posits that a superficial process of democratization is to blame.
This looks like an especially tricky multiple choice test, doesn't it? Lacking any deep base of knowledge about Kenya, its people and its politics, I'm inclined to believe all of these people are right to some degree -- if for no other reason than that taken individually, their explanations are too simplistic to stand on their own.

However, one can piece these varying explanations into a framework that will probably start to sound familiar. The colonial power established a system of governance that favored a particular group(s) over others. With their hands on the levers of economic and political power, this favored group took advantage of more than its fair share of the country's resources. Realizing that this power was so lucrative, those in charge derailed any sort of democratic process for the sake of their own wealth. With checks on executive power effectively eliminated, the economy is plundered until change is demanded from below. Seeking to provide only enough "change" to keep the masses at bay, the elite "opens up" the political process. However, when real electoral competition sneaks in the back door, suddenly the openness ends and the population -- now bigger and younger than it was when this system first came into shape -- becomes quite disgruntled, and so here we are today.

Of course, this is an overly simplistic model too, and one completely lacking in situational context. But it does try to take into account a deeper historical perspective than often gets tossed around the punditocracy. In short, if you're looking for the root of any given conflict, and don't dig any more than thirty years deep, you're going to come up short. Here too, we see how academic biases to certain points of view color the analysis provided.

But this is also a common problem one finds in conflict resolution generally. There are often seventeen or so correct answers to one problem. In Kenya, the key to resolving this crisis will be to figure out which roots to address, and when.

01 January 2008

A completely speculative list of global things that may or may not occur in 2008

Method? Who needs it! In spite of my absurdly sporadic posting of late, I'm still alive and even still reading the news. And since it's now a new year, I've decided to motivate myself by making off the wall predictions about what I think will or will not happen in 2008. Bear with me, especially since these are in no particular order.
  • The topsy-turvy politico-military balance in Pakistan will likely get topsy-turvier before it gets better. Some people, however, have at least agreed that Benazir Bhutto's son is "cute."
  • In spite of the establishment of UNAMID today, nothing much will change in Darfur, because the P5 are hypocrites.
  • Olympics in Beijing! How many aspiring athletes will choke on smog? My guess is at least 10. Nonetheless, you will see a gold medal worthy PR operation all damn year.
  • The United States may or may not recognize Somaliland. I hope they do. No point in continuing to punish those that can actually govern a piece of land because those that cannot would be cranky.
  • Also in the United States, "U.S. Americans" will make excellent use of our maps and elect one of 16-odd people as president. This person, regardless of party, will most likely be an idiot, but slightly less so than the current incumbent.
  • Hugo Chavez will engage in dirty tricks to hold onto power. This may or may not backfire.
  • Things will get messy in Nigeria should a review panel determine that Yar'Adua's election to the presidency was illegitimate. Then again, the review panel may suddenly end up with fancy cars and houses just before they make their ruling, which might change their minds.
  • Dirty politics is also likely in South Africa, as Zuma and Mbeki try to sway the ANC.
  • Finally, will there ever be durable peace eastern Congo? Probably not this year.
I'm fairly certain I've missed a bunch of things here. Feel free to add to the list in the comments. I'll probably track these events as the year progresses, and if I'm lucky, will actually remember to write about them.