Saturday, August 30, 2008
An interesting article from Sarah Palin published in January about the "endangered" status of polar bears, a subject on which she is obviously qualified. She says the listing is purely political hokum. She does not denounce the global warming scam but does day say "What is justified is worldwide concern over the proven effects of climate change" (which can be taken 2 ways - either that the effects are proven or that we should worry about effects if they are proven) & "limits should be adopted through an open process in which environmental issues are weighed against economic and social needs, and where scientists debate and present information" which definitely does not endorse claims that "the debate is over".
This is probably about as far as you can expect a mainstream politician to go. I assume global warming is not generally seen as much of a problem in Alaska.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Obama has certainly played the race card.
In choosing Biden as his running mate he has gone for an out & out Nazi. Anybody who told the Senate “all Serbs should be placed in Nazi-style concentration camps” is clearly not fit for government in any civilised nation. Even the Klan never said anything as extreme as that.
Does Obama simply not care about racism if it doesn't impinge on the race which he has decided to make part of his self image. (He is after all only half way to being black & none of the way to being ghetto black).
It will be interesting to see if the American media, who were all over Clinton for the alleged racism of referring to a "fairy tale" will have anything to say about the overwhelming & undeniable racism of putting an entire people in concentration camps. My suspicion is that the "liberalism" of the media is a pose but we will see.
McCain's choice, Sarah Palin, on the other hand is one I had never heard of & I suspect most Americans are pretty much the same. Looking her up on the net I found this which I suspect has had more hits in the last few hours than in all the time since 26th Feb when it went up.
She was certainly energetic and young, having become governor at only 42 years of age. Watching her speeches and campaign ads, I discovered that she was definitely a new kid of leader, coming off more as a spunky soccer-mom than a stuffy career politician. As for abortion, she was staunchly pro-life; and as a lifetime NRA member she was the most pro-gun candidate in the country. Furthermore, her experiences in rural Alaska provided a perfect complement to the big-city credentials of candidates like Giuliani. Her moderately libertarian positions on most other issues also match up perfectly to Giuliani.
There was thing about Palin that initially worried me - "lack of experience". She had only been elected governor in 2006, and her only previous experience was as a two terms as a city councilwoman and two more as mayor in Wasilla, AK (population 8,471 in 2005) followed up by a failed campaign for lieutenant governor and a brief stint on Alaska's Oil and Natural Gas Conservation Commission. This didn't seem very appealing at first, but then I took the time to look closer at Palin's history. What I had failed to realize was that she had habitually knocked of powerful incumbent opponents and was a quick learner on the job. In the 2006 gubernatorial election, she rolled over scandal-prone incumbent Frank Murkowski in the GOP primary, then went on to defeat former governor Tony Knowles in the general election - pretty impressive. Further back, she had knocked off an entrenched incumbent to become mayor of Wasilla, then developed a reputation as a hard-nosed, effective mayor. Her performance in Wasilla got her elected president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors and earned her the nickname "Sarah Barracuda".
Seems to me she will be the sort of rightwinger that McCain needs to satisfy the Republicans, but female enough to lance the question of people who feel they really ought to vote for a minority candidate (OK women aren't a minority but they are a "minority"). And a Washington outsider. And "moderately libertarian " which will suit me. And experienced in the complexities of oil drilling while satisfying genuine environmental concerns - something on which the Democrats are easy meat since the overwhelming majority of Americans know that if you don't want an oil shortage you have to drill for it & the Democrats vested interests won't let them even discuss that.
McCain has also taken a daring choice here which is a sign of character in him. Lets see if (A) she produces the bounce in McCain's polls that Biden so clearly failed to give Obama & (B) she talks & after November is, as good as her resume sounds. Difficult to forget Dan Quayle but this could be the moment when McCain seizes the initiative & never loses it.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
There has been quite a lot of talk about whether Russia has kept to the cease fire agreement or not. Perhaps the most interesting one was between Kirsty Wark & the Russian ambassador a few nights ago where she said that Russia, by recognising Ossetia & Abkhazia, had broken their undertaking not to change the legal situation without negotiation (point 6). His reply was that that point in the plan had been vetoed by the Georgian President. She said that since the Russians had initially put agreed to it they were bound by it which seems wrong to me. I think only the final agreement, as actually agreed by both parties can be binding on them.
This suggests the Russians would much rather have taken time over it & did envisage doing so.
One point is that though there has been so much discussion on this ceasefire agreement, the great success of Sarkozy in negotiating it & how the Russians weren't keeping to it, none of the press actually say what it entailed, which would seem to be basic to any discussion of whether it was being kept. I had to go to Russia Today for this summation
1) Non-use of force.
2) Stop all military action.
3) Free access to humanitarian aid.
4) Georgian troops return to their previous positions before the conflict.
5) Russian troops return to the lines they held before the start of the military operation. Before an international solution is worked out Russian peacekeepers are taking up an additional security role.
6) The start of an international discussion over the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia
If point 6 actually wasn't agreed then it seems a remarkably simple thing & Russia has clearly kept to it when, had the wished, they could easily have marched into Tibilisi.
UPDATE BBC Radio News just said that the EU were considering what sanctions they could impose on Russia in light of the fact that Russia had failed to withdraw its troops as required by this agrement.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Up until Taft Presidents used to keep a cow on the White House lawn for milk (admittedly by Taft's time it may have been posing but it wasn't in the early years). Somewhat earlier Andrew Carnegie provided a pension, from his own funds, to keep Presidential widows out of poverty, because the government had failed to do so.
In the Sherlock Holmes story the Naval Treaty Holmes suspects Britain's Foreign Secretary because the fact that he had had to get his boots resoled proved he was not rich & thus possibly susceptible to bribes.
The era when politics was not rewarding is over & I am not sure that that is a bad thing. Honest & capable people who are not independently wealthy should not be deterred from public service. On the other hand the greedy should not be encouraged. On the 3rd hand the honest but poor don't seem to be doing particularly well in the present system. On the 4th hand if Prince Charles is what you get from selecting your leaders by a different system I think I will stick with what we laughingly call democracy.
On the 5th hand when we see that even the poorest now buy their milk & shoes at the supermarket & are, in almost all ways that don't involve having human servants, richer than Alexander the Great perhaps we would benefit from some perspective.
Indeed. We all have REAL freedoms that the wealthiest could not have when I was a lad. Such as the right to go to the DC/X reunion in Alamogordo or fly to Seattle (recall the scene in Captain Courageous when Leland Stanford needs to get across country in hours). But it is still the case that few of our masters in Washington have the foggiest notion of how we all live. Which is a great reason for limiting the power they hold over our lives. We need government. We need strong government; but strong in its sphere. That sphere ought to be as limited as possible.
You cannot abolish power, but you can distribute it among competing entities so that there is freedom in the interstices. We used to know that.
Entirely unrelated I recommend this stunning picture of star formation in a dust cloud via the same source. http://ipac.jpl.nasa.gov/media_images/ssc2008-15a.jpg
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
"Albania has long been known as a hot spot in the illicit trade of human organs, and the missing Serb prisoners are likely just the tip of the iceberg in a much larger scandal that could involve the murder of thousands by ethnic Albanian organ traffickers.
Italian police first became aware of illegal organ trafficking from Albania in 1997 when a young Albanian boy was found with a large scar in the renal area of his back...
Reports published in Italian newspaper Il Giornale described Italian authorities intercepting Albanian speedboats racing across the Adriatic with eye-retinas and kidneys freshly removed from human bodies and prepared according to all the necessary medical conditions....
In 1998, London’s Observer newspaper published a shocking expose detailing a massive black market trade in human organs taken from children and infants in Albania. UNICEF told the Observer that hundreds of children simply vanished from the Albanian highlands during the late 1990s. The report said, "There have been many cases of dead new-born babies being discovered on rubbish dumps in Tirana" and that "It is widely thought that most of the missing babies are stolen from mothers who are told they are stillborn."....
According to the Greek report, the organ smuggling began in 1994 and Albanian children with special needs were the primary source of black market organs. The children’s organs were often removed with the permission of parents or the directors of orphanages and institutions where the children were hospitalized.
Women forced into sexual slavery are thought to be another source of black market organs. Thousands of women are held captive for sexual slavery in Kosovo. According to one witness, when the enslaved women are no longer sexually attractive they are killed and their organs are harvested and sold on the black market.
In 2003 Elizabeth Rehn, the former U.N. undersecretary general and special rapporteur for human rights in the Balkans, gave an interview to the Washington Post where she described the trafficking of young females in the Balkans for sexual slavery and organ trafficking. Rehn accused the international community of turning a blind-eye to the problem because diplomats, workers at non-governmental organizations, police officers and religious group employees are among the pimps' biggest clients
Presumably, since the Italian police & even the British press knew about this before our war, NATO intelligence services, being active in the region knew it too. From the description we are likely to be talking about at least 10,000 killings which, in a population of 3.6 million is a very substantial number.
Isn't it good that our media, which can be guaranteed to crucify Garry Glitter, for having paid for underage sex can equally be guaranteed to provide blanket censorship for the obscene animals who do this & the equally obscene animals who hired them to do it. Otherwise people would understand that nobody from Clinton, Albright, Blair, Kohl, Ashdown, Robertson down to Clare Short & Biden have shown they have 1% as much human decency as Glitter (which is not to speak highly of him but there really is no comparison between what they did).
Monday, August 25, 2008
If it is unanimous then that is pretty much a done deal. No Russian leader could turn it down purely on the grounds that NATO doesn't like it. In which case we can expect to see more NATO huffing & puffing. The interesting question will be how many countries, particularly China & India, join in recognising Ossetia & Abkhazia?
So is this a breach of international law or is it legal or is it a grey area & if so how grey.
Well it is certainly a result of an incursion into territory Georgia claimed. On the other hand Georgia has never ruled it. The relevant international law is the Montevideo Convention of 1933, which requires
Article 1 - The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: a ) a permanent population; b ) a defined territory; c ) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.but on the other hand that
The contracting states definitely establish as the rule of their conduct the precise obligation not to recognize territorial acquisitions or special advantages which have been obtained by force whether this consists in the employment of arms, in threatening diplomatic representations, or in any other effective coercive measure. The territory of a state is inviolable and may not be the object of military occupation nor of other measures of force imposed by another state directly or indirectly or for any motive whatever even temporarily.But that
Article 11 - The contracting states definitely establish as the rule of their conduct the precise obligation not to recognize territorial acquisitions or special advantages which have been obtained by force whether this consists in the employment of arms, in threatening diplomatic representations, or in any other effective coercive measure. The territory of a state is inviolable and may not be the object of military occupation nor of other measures of force imposed by another state directly or indirectly or for any motive whatever even temporarily
Russia's defence to accusations of breaching article 11 are that (1) they had an internationally binding peacekeeping agreement with Georgia requiring them to stop a Georgian attack & (2) the UN Charter which supersedes this has a specific requirement to act to prevent genocide, which was clearly what the Georgian attack was achieving. Even so, & even bearing in mind that they are not acquiring territory, it is the local inhabitants doing so, they are in a grey area here. However it is not black & white.
However under the rules South Ossetia does possess all the requirements for statehood. The only other alleged requirement is by those who support the Constitutive theory of statehood - that it is only a sovereign state when it is recognised as such. However "The constitutive theory is merely a theoretical construct as it has neither been codified by treaty nor widely recognized in international law.
Most modern authorities reject the constitutive theory of statehood, citing among other reasons that it leads to subjectivity in the notion of the state. Another problem is that recognition, even majority recognition, is not binding on third states in international law." It also begs the question of who does the recognising. The claim that Milosevic was a war criminal was based largely on the assumption that EU recognition of the successor states made it so, which, even if legitimate did not make it binding on Milosevic's Yugoslavia. On the other hand we have Turkey's recognition of North Cyprus & South Africa's recognition of the Kwa-Zulu etc as independent states not counting for much.
That suggests that whatever other bits of law say the big countries have more rights than the small ones. What a surprise.
That being the case I think the Russians would be well advised to get a lot of other countries to recognise Ossetia too. Presumably their co-members of the Shanghai Co-Operation Pact.. This may be the first real test of its strength.
Of course the same western powers objecting to Russia doing this are the ones who supported the "Independence of Croatia, Bosnia & Kosovo despite having signed the Helsinki Treaty preventing them taking an action "against the territorial integrity or unity" of Yugoslavia. The Montevideo Treaty is also unequivocal on the basic rule on which NATO supported independence ie that the federal states making up Yugoslavia were the sovereign constituents. NATO & the EU are quite clearly lying on that point
Article 2 - The federal state shall constitute a sole person in the eyes of international law.The right of Croatia & Bosnia to independence, within the boundaries they claimed, is also illegitimate under article one because they didn't have government over all the territory. Republica Srpska, Krajina & indeed Bihac (the moderate anti-al Quaeda Moslem region of Bosnia which declared separate independence & which we then destroyed) all have a much stronger claim since they were actually governing the territory they claimed. The question of Kosovo rather depends on whether it really has become independent or whether it is still, in practice being run by NATO.
The bit about governance was put in as a reaction to the American "recognition" of Panama immediately before they seized it from Colombia & then "negotiated" the sale of the Canal Zone with newly installed government. Since it led to the creation of the Panama Canal that can be justified on utilitarian terms but even Americans are shamefaced about it.
On the pther hand we have Biafra which did, for a time have governance of all its territory & limited international recognition but was exterminated anyway.
Certainly by the standards we apply Ossetia & Abkhazia, have a right to separation as does Republika Srpska. Biafra, Bihac & Krajina being, legally, grey areas since they have been destroyed by us.
Russia needs to get some other countries to recognise South Ossetia. The world needs to get a clear & consistent set of rules. The NATO countries need to get some respect for the laws we do have. Good laws make for good neighbours.