Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Combining two of my favorite things in the Ukraine:

Handover on the Fly - The ceremony was laughable, with the faux French furniture in the bunker-like setting and the blue binder, which apparently holds "legality" within it. Yet I, and many Iraqi's it appears, are ready to give this new arrangement a little bit of time. It is not encouraging to read of Iraqi police beating suspects in front of Iraqi reporters to show that order will be imposed at any cost. And the IHT reports of shopkeepers eing most enthused about the pistol-whipping they witnessed. Perhaps this strongman aspect of Iraqis was under appreciated. It will be interesting to see how the US and world reacts to the first videotaped beating or torture at the hands of "free Iraq."

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Iran Wrongly Accused on Nukes
More dodgy intelligence it appears. The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency (IAEA) acknowledged wrongly accusing Iran of withholding information from a probe of its nuclear program, the Washington Post reports. The IAEA admitted that Tehran had indeed informed it about a key issue that had raised red flags - the importation of magnets for advanced centrifuges capable of producing weapons-grade uranium. Apprently it was mentioned face to face and in phone calls, but was not in writing. Good enough for a justification for war for Bush.

US Invokes Condemned Law Against Jamaican Invstors in Cuba
Jamaica's SuperClubs resorts company has decided to pull out of its 2 Cuban all-inclusive operations due to US pressure. A internationally condemned law, the Helms-Burton Act passed under Clinton but never invoked because of its quesitonable lawfullness, was used for the first time against investors in Cuba. The Bush Adminstration threatened to ban the top officers of SuperClubs, and their families, from travel to the US if they did not give up 2 of their reorts.

US Human Trafficking of Persons Report a SHAM
Human Rights is Again Used Cynically as a Political Tool
While the "cooked" State Department report on Terrorism got proper attention in the past week for the fraud that it was (and is being re-done), another report released a few days ago shows us more of the same arrogence, double-standards and politization we have come to expect. The report places Cuba and Venezuela as 2 of its top 10 worst countries in their performance against fighting child exploitation. Thailand is not included however, nor numerous other countries without even basic anti-trafficking laws on the books. Venezuela and Cuba both have strong laws protecting children and women against this practice, as well as devoted additional government resources towards preventing such abuse. The documentation cited in the reports are based on hearsay, totally one-sided or simply untrue. Take the Cuban case:

Basically, all the report says is that there is prostitution in Cuba - and some are underage. They say some of the "action" takes place in State-owned hotels and that the government denies the problem and has done nothing to solve it. Yes, there is prositution in Cuba, though it is mostly for foreign tourists. "Jineteras," as they are called, usually work on their own and the transactions are mostly much more fluid and humane than we think of. A fancy dinner may get you a date on your arm, while a paid of shoes may result in sex, but only if she think you are cute. Straight cash for impersonal sex is the minority of cases. Cuba has acknowledged the problem, with Castro, the state-run newspaper and everyday officials openly discussing it.

One of the Revolutionary Government's first acts was to ban prostitution, as US tourists had turned the country into a giant Red-Light district. The result has been that Cuba has the lowest rate of AIDS in the developing world. The Government has taken extraordinary steps to crack down on the prostitution rings that have sprouted up in recent years with increased tourism. There are countless cases of round-ups, stings and other law enforcement activity - directed primarly against the the pimps. Offenders are banned from the country and have been arrested. The girls are often placed in job-training classes or counseled. And they have taken the additional step of trying to keep out Cubans from tourist beaches and hotels. The US has critized all of these moves as draconian in other reports, but interestingly, fails to even mention them it in this one.

The US has a lot of balls making an annual report that talks about everyone but itself, when everyone can see that the US is among the worst nations in the world for child and woman exploitation? Prostitution here is widespread, ugly, unsafe, badly protected and the women are truly the victims. Human trafficking is reaching epidemic proportions. A hundred trafficked humans are held hostages in houses in South Central LA every day probably, awaiting immediate payment or a sex-payoff arrangement. 7% of US agricultural workers are between 10 and 17 years old and come mainly from human trafficking? The US as the largest producer of child pornography in the world? The US act is practically the only one in the world that imposes the death penalty on adolescents. The US refuses to sign the UN Convention on Children, making it nearly alone in the world. The US is the #1 provider of of sexual tourists that are deployed every day throughout the world.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

New FOX TV Shows

North Shore - I was looking forward to this based on the notion's I had read that there is some subversiveness in the show's theme - that is rich people are a**holes and the working classes are noble. While I did see glipses of such last night, I also watched a boring show with bad writing that came about as close to reality as Bush gets. Plot lines showing how staff responds to a guest needing his Lambourgini or a 15 year-old harlet coming on to a lifeguard were all style and no substance. It might have just enough hot babes, hunks and beautiful scenery to pull viewers though.

Casino - Another winner from Mark Burnett. While it started out slow and featured a little more reality "planting" than I prefer, the concept is good enough to lure me in. Two typical young rich men think owning a casino is the coolest thing in the world - and want to bring back the "old vegas." Problem is that this does not fit into the marketing texts of his staff, nor can it really be replicated in today's day and age, without alienating 90% of the general public. When a newly hired young lounge singer draws the line at billy joel requests and audience members on stage, the entertainment manager makes clear who is in charge in Vegas - the customer, tackiness and all - I recognize why reality TV is a really cool thing and has so much potential. The audience has to choose sides, and even if you don't mind the cheesiness of "uptown girl," you likely relate to the young man's dignity and sneer upon the corportate know-it-alls.

The Next Action Star - Awful version of American Idol for action starts, except the judges are boring and the action is even more so. For some reason, all those kicks and punches don't look as cool when you are doing it alone on stage. Who would have thought?
Mainstream Anti-Americanism

An article in the Washington Post finds that Anti-Americanism is becoming THE defining issue in Capitals around the world and that those with Anti-US credentials are moving into the mainstream.

This is exactly what I have been waiting for and what I hoped would be the silver lining of our Iraqi adventure. The potential benefits are stull too nebulous and tenuous to state for certain. But we are likely to see more Bush backers leave office over the next year or 2 (Tony Blair, John Howard, Berlusconi, etc.) as well as increased pressure on the US to do the right things in international fora. Of course our own election will dictate how this affects outcomes, but all those who care about our world should be pleased.

Again, this is what seperates radicals from liberals. Liberals will gladly use the lost prestige in an election, but not by conceding core neo-colonialist values and US corporate domination. Kerry has the same Iraq policy as Bush now, he opposes Kyoto, debt forgiveness, the International Criminal Court, peacekeepers in Israel and the rest of the World's main concners. Only an awakening that comes with a world without allies can nudge some of these positions.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Ban on New York Subway Photography Prompts Underground Protest
Urged on by the NYPD, the MTA is considering a proposal to outlaw taking pictures or videotaping on or around the subway system. Big up to those who came up with the idea for and took part in the action.