Sunday, June 29, 2008
Sometimes “Oops” just isn’t enough.
Hope they all pull through.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
On the Latest “Victory” for Robert Mugabe
I’ve been stuck on what I want to say about Zimbabwe for a few days now. When Robin left a comment noting that “the thugs won” I realized that at that moment there wasn’t much more for me to say. The thugs--Robert Mugabe and his goons--won through a program consisting of violence and terrorism. They did it with not precisely the complicity of other regional leaders, but certainly with folks like Thabo Mkebi making excuses and providing some cover and legitimacy.
Of course, even those African leaders are finding it harder to excuse the behavior of their old comrade. Sadly, any turn to overt criticism and something other than “quiet diplomacy” will be coming too late to support the change that the people of Zimbabwe deserve. Politics as usual in post-colonial Africa has betrayed the trust between the government and the governed. Democracy has not failed them; this turn of events has proven conclusively that there simply is no democracy in Zimbabwe.
The election was a sham. “Quiet diplomacy” is a lie. The people of Zimbabwe are paying. They are paying sometimes with their lives, with their health, and with a future that seems now to be irretrievably broken. The Mugabe apologists are speaking for one of the most brutal regimes in the world today and for a leader who has proven himself adept only at bullying his way to power. They should be ashamed.
In a country where the media is truly controlled by the government, where the demand for fair elections is met with murder, where the leader threatens a new civil war if the opposition party wins in fair elections, there can be no democracy. This isn’t just whiny progressives childishly complaining when they don’t get their way; this is a brutal government grinding its citizens into the dust.
The US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee, has been an unwavering voice of support for the citizens of Zimbabwe. We back home should be proud of him and the job he is doing.
Consider this: Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who won the original election (although apparently not be enough) and recently dropped out of the new round of voting, has been harassed and arrested throughout the campaigning process. That stands as some of the more tender oppression in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.
Amazingly, this doesn’t even touch on the mismanagement of the government that has left Zimbabwe’s schools, health care, infrastructure, and economy in ruins. Failed governments don’t often fail more dramatically than this one.
What remains for us to decide after reading through this recounting of vile governance is to find a way to effectively support the people of Zimbabwe in their hope for a good government. And, I believe, that means supporting Tsvangirai’s call for an African solution.
For the sake of legitimacy throughout the governments of the region and for the sake of the legitimacy of any government that would be placed after any removal of Mugabe, this eloquent call for basic freedoms, good government, and the restoration of democracy seems right on. I wonder, though, how quickly surrounding nations will be to not only criticize Mugabe, but to use their own diplomatic levers as an effective lever to force Mugabe to negotiate the transfer of power? So far, none of the nations that make up the SADC or the AU has shown that kind of initiative or will in relation to Zimbabwe’s ongoing problems. And the UN is as toothless as an old lion--all roar, no bite.
There is no practical way for Western nations to take a direct part unless we are asked by the MDC--and even then it would be a risk. Mugabe plays the race card with brilliance and any belief that a new government is just a stooge for Western powers (specifically either the UK or the US) could lead to a weak new government. The best role we could play would simply be to extend our offers of knowledge, help, and friendship to the MDC and the citizens of Zimbabwe along with a promise to help them limp out of their economic crisis once a new and truly representative government is in place.
The people of Zimbabwe deserve better than Robert Mugabe; the SADC and AU have the opportunity to help make that “better” happen. To that end, I think Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times has a series of good suggestions that could do a good deal to help salvage Zimbabwe. As he says, though, the need to act is urgent. I urge you to read his piece--it’s an honest (and, in terms of Thabo Mbeki, blistering) look at the situation. It doesn’t read particularly hopeful, but it is unflinching about the prospects.
A last “must read” in this opening salvo is Counterterrorism Blog’s “Africa’s Shame and Zimbabwe’s Greater Threat. It answers the question of why we should care about the future of a small, landlocked country in Southern Africa. It leads to a longer post on another site.
More links follow in the extended entry.
Why, You Ask, Will I Vote for McCain?
There are quite a few reasons that I would prefer McCain to Obama, but this article actually encapsulates a good chunk of my reasoning. See, the way the Democrats run their convention seems to me to be the way they want to run the country: micromanaging every little detail to questionable effect, with an arrogant disdain for choices that might not match their purity tests, filled with feel-good decrees that might actually achieve the opposite of their goals, and behaving a bit like humorless scolds when they detect non-correct behavior.
All I’m saying is I can’t imagine inviting these folks over for dinner at my place. I’d be afraid that I’d bought the wrong tequila or non-organic, non-union, non-Made in the USA napkins.
And, Mr. Hickenlooper, we don’t need a new patriotism. The old kind works just fine.
Monday, June 23, 2008
American Crude: The Ten Point Review
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Please, Angry Terrorist, Don’t Blow Me Up
Here’s a funny article from Shawn over on NRO that includes one of my all-time favorite lines:
Who You Gonna Call?
No, not Ghostbusters. Get your head out of the eighties, pal.
You’re gonna call Blackwater--that is, you will if you have a very specific set of needs that generally don’t include finding the Keymaster or defending the world from the minions of Zuul. If you need a paramilitary outfit with global reach and capabilities to take on some dangerous, tough jobs, though, keep Blackwater on your speed dial. This even goes for left-leaning activists, apparently.
I recognize the concern many people have about subcontracting military functions to a group like Blackwater. In fact, I share those concerns. I find this approach from a charitable, non-government organization intriguing, though. Could Blackwater play a part of peacekeeper in Darfur? If so, would they be acting on a charitable level or a more mercenary level? Would they even be able to provide a good solution to the problem?
Without a willingness and the authority to take action--violent, decisive action--I’m not sure that any peacekeeper presence is going to make a significant difference. And that kind of action could precipitate a much larger confrontation. Does anyone have the will to stick through that kind of a military action right now?
For the record, Farrow represents Dream for Darfur, although I am unsure whether her approach to Blackwater was an official approach or not. When I called Dream for Darfur, I was given the number of their media representative. He didn’t answer his phone and has yet to return my call; if he does get back to me, I’ll update this post if necessary.
Update: I just spoke with Jonathan Freedman, the media contact for Dream for Darfur, who actually confirmed most of the story. Mia Farrow has been in contact with Erik Prince (although she has never personally met with him). She and the organization are reiterating their stance that they are willing to talk to anyone who can help provide security--and although the word “peacekeeping” was used, I have a feeling that they might be speaking more about a security roll, especially after consideration of what Robin wrote in the comments.
Freedman was very clear that there is no partnership with Blackwater at this time, but neither are they really backing away from the story. I was considering writing something a bit bigger on the subject, but, honestly, there’s not much story in this so I think I’ll leave it where it sits. While I don’t always agree with either methodology, tone, or some of the chosen targets of the Darfur activists, I admire their cause. I also admire the streak of pragmatism that allows them to approach a group like Blackwater that has been demonized in the media over the last few years.
And here’s a link for folks in Denver who want to join a Dreams for Darfur protest in hopes of forcing some large corporations into pressuring China to use their leverage to help end the genocide in Darfur.
Big Development in the Oil Market?
Is this report the sign that oil speculators were waiting for to abandon an over-inflated oil market?
How much will demand fall without the Chinese government subsidies? My guess is that it is one of those things that will spook some people out of the market in the short term. People who have bought into the bullish belief that oil prices only go up might take a little more convincing.
It definitely could be big news and I imagine there will be many pixels and much ink spilt in analysis.
It’s definitely good news, though: the Chinese government is moving to remove some of the distortion in the oil market. This, of course, is balanced by the bad news of calls from the US for increased regulation, nationalization of refineries, and other such madness that will distort the market further. When representative Hinchey (the Democrat from New York) is saying things like, “We (the government) should own the refineries. Then we can control how much gets out into the market,” we can almost guaranty high oil and gas prices if the US government gets directly into the oil and gas business. Efficiency and frugality aren’t words often associated with any government agency.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
My Kingdom for Freer Markets
Interesting piece from Marketwatch.comtoday that should interest all of us who wish our government would stumble upon a more sane energy policy--and that isn’t just finding responsible ways to use the abundant natural resources with which the U.S.A. has been readily blessed. A sane policy would also stay out of the way of a market finding the real value of a thing. I’ve said (and continue to believe) that the price of a barrel of oil has been distorted by not only a weak dollar, but also by investors far too willing to grasp any hiccup in production or world politics to justify another increase--and sooner or later that kind of run up will end.
Of course, I’ve been saying the same thing for a few years now and I’ve missed some really wonderful investment opportunities of my own, so what the hell do I know?
Still, this Marketwatch piece caught my attention:
Of course, the people who are now calling for more regulation to control oil costs will continue to ignore the damage that bad regulations do to commodity pricing in precisely the same way that I’ve heard “deregulation” blamed for California’s energy woes. It wasn’t a lack of regulation that caused California’s rolling blackouts; California’s energy market was distorted by partial deregulation, price caps, bad laws, and unscrupulous companies like Enron taking advantage of a poor set of laws that are misleadingly termed “deregulation.” We get that far without even considering how “deregulated” a state’s energy industry is when building the capacity to produce energy is damned near impossible.
The government sets out, with good intentions, to maintain stable markets; unfortunately, what government sets out to do is often at complete odds with what it accomplishes. All government activity should be viewed with some skepticism.
What I find most frightening right now is not the cost of oil--or, at least, not that alone. I find it frightening that inflation is definitely rising to unacceptable levels, the drag in the economy is starting to impact the unemployment numbers, and our country is in a recession. In a way, it is starting to feel like the late 70’s again. But instead of running away from the malaise of the Carter years and into the Reagan revolution, our nation seems to be diving right back in to Carter, part two.
While McCain may only be the smallest bit better on energy policy than Obama, President BHO will be reaching for heavy regulation, price caps, tax increases, and an anti-business bent that will probably bring us an even greater bump in unemployment and a decrease in new investment.
So, America, are we really hoping to drag out this recession as long as humanly possible? Is the illusion of change really that meaningful to you?
I’m not feeling particularly happy about either choice, but I have a feeling that a congress dominated by Democrats with a passionate progressive spurring change from the White House will be far more effective in bringing about change than the idiot Republicans who pissed away the best opportunity the party has ever had to make meaningful changes to government programs. That is, Democrats are far more likely to get what their leadership has been promising than the Republican faithful got from theirs during the first half of this decade.
I like McCain on a personal level--even when I feel the urge to roll my eyes at much of his straying from the supposed conservative values of the party--but I can’t help but feel insulted by a party that gave us broken promises of fiscal responsibility, smaller government, massive entitlement reform, and, well, conservative government in the ideological and pragmatic senses of the word. I’ll be voting for McCain, but it won’t be motivated by party loyalty; my motivation will be avoiding the worst of what I think would happen with Obama in the White House.
Whoever wins, though, the campaign to change our government (and, more personally, my party of choice) begins as soon as this election is over.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Public Service Announcement from Kanye West
President Bush hates white folks, too, apparently. Which is sort of weird since I thought that was totally Louis Farrakha’s job, you know? This is one crazy, mixed-up, post-racial America we’re living in.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Watching golf isn’t usually particularly exciting to me, so I can’t claim to have been watching the US Open this weekend. I did, however, read the coverage and see, live, one hell of a putt.
I was skipping through the channels on Saturday and came up on the coverage. Tiger Woods happened to be on, so I stopped to watch. I was wondering how he was handling his first tournament back since his knee surgery. He must have been 25 or 30 feet off of the hole (don’t ask me which hole, because I didn’t notice) and I thought for sure that it was going to take two to get the ball in. He aimed maybe four or five feet off of the hole and tapped it a little soft. At first it looked too soft and too far off--but the ball rolled in this perfect arc and straight into the hole. Seriously, golf isn’t all that exciting, but seeing a putt like that sure as hell is exciting. Being able to read and judge a green like that isn’t a skill that God blessed me with and Tiger made it look easy.
Apparently Tiger’s knee started hurting him a few holes later and the tournament has been a hell of a challenge for him--the continued injury combined with a long layoff have left him fighting for his position. He’s fought like hell to stay in it and I’ll be pulling for him in the 18 hole playoff coming up against Rocco Mediate. If Mediate wins, though, I’ll be cheering, too--an old guy with a gimpy back who wasn’t expected to be anywhere near the top, and a guy who is easy to like in interviews.
But Tiger is special. In the world of golf, it’s hard to imagine anyone who will capture the game the way he has, who will dominate the game in quite the same way. Instead of folding when his injury gave him an easy (and legitimate) excuse, he played harder and (mostly) better. If I had a kid, Tiger is the kind of guy I would want him to idolize. Not that I would want the kid to be a golfer, but to understand that Tiger climbed to the heights of golf by working hard and by constantly improving his game--he was certainly born with more skill than most of us, but it wasn’t just some genetic lottery that won him all those titles. Tiger is physically talented, smart as hell, committed to his craft, and persistent in his desire to win. He has defined excellence in golf in a way that would apply beautifully to almost any path that a person might choose to take in their life.
Aside from that, he makes golf fun to watch for me in the same way that John Elway made football fun to watch.
Go, Tiger. You have the zombyboy vote.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Damned, Evil, Misogynist Apple…
It seems that terms like “misogyny” and “discrimination” get tossed around cavalierly these days.
Monday, June 09, 2008
When the citizens of Zimbabwe voted for change--a peaceful, democratic vote for change in the way their interests were represented by their government--I was hopeful that there would be a reasonably calm change in the government. I, very obviously, misplaced my faith in a big way. Here’s a report from the Beeb:
I’ve been watching the news every day and it’s only getting worse.
Blogger Bash 7.5 is Gone (But Blogger Bash 8.0 is Coming Soon)
Thanks to everyone who came out for the mini-Bash; it was a great time to celebrate the wonders of alcohol.
Thanks as well to Liz and the folks at ViewMyLife.com who made me look like a cheapskate. It’s been a while since anyone bought me dinner and that many drinks without expecting a little something extra at the end of the night, if you know what I mean. I realize that buying us drinks isn’t an act of charity, but it was still good of them to arrange the venue, buy us food, buy us drinks, and then spend quality time with us talking politics, business, and the technical realities of launching something as complex as ViewMyLife.com.
They will also be hosting the next bash (Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash 8.0: The Donkeys in Denver Edition, scheduled to take place on August 28th, 2008--the last night of the Democratic National Convention), and I’ll be working with Liz to cover the details of the event. In fact, this one was a bit of a trial run for the main event--a party that promises visitors from out of state, more booze than you could possibly need, a killer venue, and a few surprises.
I know that Denver during the convention is a little scary, but this will be a party you don’t want to miss.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Good Lord, I Had No Idea…
I bought a refurbished laptop to act as my travel computer when I don’t want to put my pretty MacBook in harms way (which is to say, mostly for the trip to India), and the new laptop came with Vista Home Premium Extra-Spiffy Edition. I realize that some of the things that I’m dealing with are related to the OEM (the tons of useless and trial software that I’m having to remove item by item), but I’m experiencing something horrible.
Vista is the worst operating system that I’ve used in a really long time. Overly flashy, amazingly intrusive, slow as hell at doing basic tasks, big, and not particularly attractive. Uninstalling programs takes forever, the procession of pop-ups asking for permission for applications to do things is not only annoying, but worrying. Some of the pop-ups on this entirely clean, from the manufacturer installation seem to come up from nowhere.
The funniest bit might be that the first error message--and the first message that I got from the computer after the irritatingly lengthy set-up process--was that one of the pre-installed device drivers wasn’t working and had to quit. It’s giving me that message every time the computer starts up at this point.
OS X takes up a good chunk of drive space; no one would call it a lightweight. But Vista is impressing me like you wouldn’t believe (although I’m also convinced that it might have something to do with HP’s no-installation disk policy that leaves all of the default software stuck on a nearly 12 gig partition of it’s own) and the 120 gig hard drive is down to less than 80 gigs before I’ve ripped an mp3, installed a program, created a document, or dumped a single picture from my camera. One third of the drive is gone to clutter and crap.
Vista is a truly horrible operating system. Once I get enough of the extra stuff trimmed down, I’m going to see about setting up the latest edition of Ubuntu on its own partition (I want to leave the Windows partition for testing sites and such) and make that my default computing environment when I’m away from my Macintosh.
The thing is, I don’t think Ubuntu is a perfect operating system and there is much--especially in presentation--that still needs to be polished. It’s a hell of a lot better than being stuck with Windows Vista, though, which is one of the least pleasant computing experiences that I’ve had in a long time.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Strange Story of the Day
Given the industry I’m in--without saying too much, I’ll simply say that it’s a mining-related industry--stories like this one always catch my eye. That it happened down in Colorado Springs just makes it more intriguing to me.
That coal dust was left from at least five decades ago (in likelihood, much longer than that). I can’t say that I’m an environmentalist (at least not in the progressive politics sense of the word, although perhaps more so in the Ted Nugent sense of the word), I’m a fan of the kind of legislation that made dumping coal dust a crime. Not all environmental legislation is created equal, of course, but some is well worth supporting. Incidents like this act as a good reminder of that fact.
It’s a shame this kid walked into a hazard left from a very different era. Luckily, it sounds as if he’s going to be just fine, though.
PS - RMBB 7.5 updates coming later today or tonight.
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