Crazy mood swings... thoughts of hourglasses... weight loss.. lighter spirits, how did the Java go? Abstraction.. a quiet place outside of the souq.. each cluster calls everything outside it insane... so much space between, perspectives, the empty space between mountains, far above the earth accepts consideration.. "You will be alone", the customary greeting.
- An analysis on Chávez.. I think they're at least partly wrong about Chávez's arms buildup being intended to intimidate neighbours - his concerns about the US planning another coup or outright invasion are well-founded. It may be a bit late for that though - the Washington consensus is no longer the sole source of gravity in Latin America.
- Chávez's new socialism aims to stress the importance of culture in the societal fabric. This is promising.
- Nobody's sure if South Korea paid a ransom to Taliban forces, but their missionaries are free and back in South Korea. Those forces have announced that such kidnappings will continue, and the fact that those forces were dealt with represents a kind of political victory for them (even as they continue to be hunted by the Afghan and Pakistani governments). The political implications within South Korean society have yet to play out...
- North Korea has decided to end its nuclear programme, probably to avoid gambling against a US invasion (and to take the financial compensation). This may weaken Iran's standing (although I would not be surprised if they continue cooperating on nuclear activities on some level)
- In Sweden, a small sequel to the Danish cartoon controversy last year continues to press the perspective that the western world will not live under de facto Sharia for the sake of not offending Muslims. The predictable protests have occurred across the Muslim world, but things have been much more subdued. Personally, I approve strongly of this - if we need a thousand more "Piss Christs" and Mohammad-in-a-bikini paintings, Vishnu and Moses at a Pig/Cow bake-off, and the like, we must make and maintain the expectation that integration in and relating to western society requires that people expect noone else respect their holy symbols/notions or adopt their worldview. If enlightenment liberalism aims to embrace and extend other cultures, and other cultures do the same, as members of western society we should aim for supremacy of eventualities in that regard, as the alternative is to give up what we are to others. Tolerance comes on our terms, within a liberal framework - if we decide as a society that we must not blaspheme in order not to offend, we have lost something precious in our identity.
- Possible end to tax breaks for the Vatican. Untangling the state, religious, and charity purposes of the Vatican/Holy See and finding out what *should* happen with taxes would be a daunting task.. as a state/organisation, they're so tied into European history/institutions (consider the Swiss guards, Mussolini's Lateran Treaty, etc) that books could be written on the subject..
- Cameron has taken the Tories very close to equity with Labour, putting an end to Labour's plans for new elections. The ability to call for elections at nonset times adds an interesting twist to British politics...
- Sri Lanka is tightening the noose on the Tamil Tigers, capturing their primary shipping hub (and possibly stemming the flow of weapons to their movement). Given the Tigers' recent tendency to conscript young children for their struggle, I have a tough time sympathising with them (their national hopes of a category of intents I generally don't like to judge)
- Largely unrelated to US efforts (as far as I can tell), recent changes with al Sadr's Mehdi military group's activity and peace talks in Finland may eventually yield fruit in restoring legitimacy to Iraq's parliament. One thing I've been wondering about - if things like this work, how should it be used to evaluate BushJr's post-invasion plans? On one level, it's a clear failure in that the promised/expected swift establishment of a new, stable government didn't happen (and, of course, the reasons for invading Iraq were shown to be bunk). If it all turns out ok in the end, could he claim a victory in that? Would it be fair? Judging the kinds of gambling involved in foreign policy is very difficult. We could draw all sorts of wonderful analogies that point us one way or another (e.g. fool goes in, makes mess, others clean it up at great risk and cost, and fool claims credit .. or alternatively, person has wisdom to know that in the end, things will turn out ok, and keeps pushing until it does), but a conclusive answer isn't easy to come by. Things arn't resolved yet.. right now, I'm sticking with my intuition that at the very least, secularism will have been dealt a blow from pre-invasion to post-invasion, and that's more important to me than democracy. Further, I think American credibility, reputation, and relations with Europe have suffered from this invasion, and that terrible risks have been taken with very little concrete benefits even possible, much less attained. I am disgusted that the justification for the war proved to be false, and suspect that the American (and world) people was decieved as to the real reasons for the war (First, claims that the secular leader Hussein had aided Al Qaeda, a group that even now threatens Iran and Saudi Arabia for not being Islamically pure enough (and practically every other government in the area), and second, claims of WMDs (whatever that even means)). Personally, even if things turn out "all right" in the end, I think it should not be forgiven and that Saddam should have been left in power. I suspect that a lot of people won't see it that way though.
- The California senate passed legislation barring employers requiring their employees to have RFID devices implanted to track them. I am pleased - the limited legitimate usage for these kinds of devices is outweighed, I think, by their threat to dignity and autonomy of the workers.
I've recently been thinking that it would be a good thing for the US and Europe to collaborate on establishing a minimal set of universal labour standards, acceptance of which would be mandatory for trade partners. This would prevent harmful competition from eroding labour interests beyond the point of these standards, and ideally a body would be established (imagine something like the WTO, but actually positive for humanity) that would allow for slow progress in pushing labour interests forward. Example content:
- No laws binding people to particular jobs
- Minimum ages for labour
- No longer than an 8 hour work day
- Laws protecting the ability of workers to unionise
- Some form of countermeasures against tax shelters
Wondering if what's coming is Fimbulwinter...