Friday, October 09, 2009

Take That, Arizona State!

"Barack Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize"

I will admit that I am somewhat dubious about this award at this time. While he may not have accomplished anything concrete yet, he has single-handedly brought the U.S. back into better favor with most of the rest of the world. His administration will agree to a historic reduction in nuclear weapons with Russia, which will reduce the likelihood of nuclear proliferation. He has stopped needlessly provoking the Muslim world like a little kid throwing rocks at a hornet's nest, and he is actually pushing on the Middle East process without waiting until the last year of his second term. He is also working to restore the primacy of diplomacy in U.S. foreign relations. Outreach to Cuba, Syria, Iran, and Myanmar may piss off the hard right (neocons) and hard left (for human rights reasons), but they may well bring rapprochement and sanity to those complicated relationships in place of bluster and political inertia.

Will anything come of these initiatives? Who knows? It is not all up to Obama, after all. There are myriad players in all of these foreign policy issues. It only takes one nut with a bomb at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem to inflame the entire Muslim world.

Hopefully, this will just give Obama another weapon to push his foreign policy, and in the end it will be seen as a no brainer. (Maybe he will win another one to bookend his presidency.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Obama Hosts Tsvangirai at White House

There are still a lot of problems that Zimbabwe has to deal with, but this meeting is remarkable, nonetheless.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hit It and Twit It

Life is good my friends, but busy and in flux.

Loyal readers of this blog (both of you) will notice that I have REALLY slacked off of late. I feel bad about this, especially in light of everything that I have failed to cover in the ever changing situation in Zimbabwe. [Incredibly long story short: Things are better but still bad.] Hopefully, I'll be better about this in the future. [Although it has amused me that the words "Legalize It" have been at the top of the page for over two months now.

To help me keep this blog up to date with Things You Should Know, you will notice (if you cast your eyes slightly upward from this post) that I have added a Twitter feed. This way, I can "retweet" news stories that I think deserve extra attention. [Expect to see a lot of stories from the Zimbabwe Times.] Please let me know what you think of both the tweets in general and also the way I have formatted the Twitter widget.

Also, it is possible I will be unemployed in the near future; the only benefit of which is that I will (possibly) have more time for blogging.

And lastly, Rancid is releasing their first studio album in around ("Let the Dominoes Fall") 6 years on Tuesday. I listened to it on their MySpace page and am enthused (to say the least). I would suggest buying it; I will be.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Legalize It.

I never would have thought that an issue that I am relatively non-passionate about would make me so disgusted with the president that I think is the best thing to happen to our country in decades, but here we are.

I am dumbfounded at how flippantly the idea of legalizing marijuana was handled at yesterday's online White House town hall. [Especially considering the hypocrisy that Obama has admitted using marijuana himself.]
"After taking questions lower on the list, Obama addressed the pot issue head-on, noting the huge number of questions about marijuana legalization and remarking with a chuckle, “I don't know what that says about the online audience."

"The answer is no, I don't think that is a good strategy to grow our economy," he said, as the audience in the room applauded and joined him in a laugh."
Thousands of people have been killed in violence between Mexican drug cartels fueled by billions of dollars in sales of illicit drugs. All of this is leading people to wonder if Mexico - a country with which the United States shares an enormous border - is on the verge of becoming a failed state.


There are obviously legitimate reasons to be against legalizing marijuana, but to reduce all those with a pro-legalization position to a Seth Rogan-esque straw man does a disservice to the very real problem that we (that's right; Mexico AND America) face right now.

Over 3.2 million pounds of marijuana were seized coming over the border last year. THAT'S WHAT WE FOUND! Imagine how much we missed. Some estimates say that 60% of the Mexican cartels earnings come from marijuana alone. Eliminating that revenue would be a devastating blow.

Also, to address the economic bent of the marijuana question asked at the Obama town hall: With all the Great Depression comparisons being thrown around during the current economic crisis, I can't believe more people haven't noted that prohibition was ended at that time, which gave the government a new revenue stream and struck a huge blow to organized crime. Make it legal, build a domestic industry (Virginia could certainly use a new cash crop to replace the dying tobacco industry), and get tax revenues from it. How would that not help the government and the economy? I'm not saying it is the answer, but it certainly is no joke.

Furthermore, enforcing anti-marijuana laws that mostly target users has swamped our justice system and wastes money that could be used to focus law enforcment on the truly destructive drugs. Here are some stats from an upcoming article from (my boy) Senator Jim Webb on the effect of drug offender laws:
"Justice statistics also show that 47.5% of all the drug arrests in our country in 2007 were for marijuana offenses. Additionally, nearly 60% of the people in state prisons serving time for a drug offense had no history of violence or of any significant selling activity. Indeed, four out of five drug arrests were for possession of illegal substances, while only one out of five was for sales. Three-quarters of the drug offenders in our state prisons were there for nonviolent or purely drug offenses. And although experts have found little statistical difference among racial groups regarding actual drug use, African-Americans—who make up about 12% of the total U.S. population—accounted for 37% of those arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted, and 74% of all drug offenders sentenced to prison."
Just to be clear, I do not use any drugs and I only think marijuana should be legal. Cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, etc. are far too addictive and destructive to be decriminalized. Marijuana on the other hand is certainly no worse for people than tobacco and alcohol, which are both perfectly legal.

There is a war on in Mexico. People are dying and there is a viable solution that could be at least debated and it is being treated like a joke and that pisses me off.

I like to think that I have made a reasoned argument here (here's another); but then again, I'm probably just hopped up on doobies, right Mr. President?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sign a One Petition to the African Union about Zimbabwe

I received this email from the ONE Campaign. I signed the petition and would ask that you do the same.
Dear ONE Member,

My name is Kumi Naidoo, a South African founder of the Global Campaign Against Poverty, and a ONE member. I’m writing to ask you to join me in signing ONE’s petition calling on the African Union to do everything in its power to end the human rights violations against Zimbabweans and hostility towards humanitarian groups in Zimbabwe. Only then will Zimbabwe’s unity government be able to take on the rampant hunger and widespread cholera epidemic that is ravaging the people of Zimbabwe.

Petition text:

Please ensure that the African Union executes its role as guarantor of the new Zimbabwe unity government.

I recently completed a 21 day fast in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe, many of whom are fasting involuntarily in a country ravaged by want, destitution, fear and terror. During my fast, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in Zimbabwe joined the government, after reaching an agreement with Robert Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF. This agreement will be overseen by the African Union, acting as guarantor. For this new unity government to have any chance of ending the humanitarian and political crises in Zimbabwe, the African Union and its member nations must take decisive action to ensure that their role as a guarantor is defined and fulfilled.

I have seen with my own eyes what happens when regional powers like the African Union passively allow governments to dismiss the will of a people. Late last year I travelled to Zimbabwe to see for myself what years of corruption, repression and mismanagement had wrought. While there, I met a 10 year-old boy named Sibusiso who had not eaten for 10 days. He told me, "Our country needs to be free – free as a bird – here we are not free. We do not get food to eat."

We must take action for Sibusiso, for the millions of Zimbabweans who are just as hungry and face the threat of Africa’s worst cholera outbreak in 19 years, which has already killed almost 4,000 people.

Please add your voice:

Despite the new unity government, Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party is still exercising the tactics it has long used to silence opponents and terrorize innocent Zimbabweans. Just this week, police arrested Jestina Mukoko, a leading human rights campaigner in Zimbabwe, on erroneous charges of plotting to overthrow the government. She joins Robert Bennett, a leading member of the opposition, who has also been wrongly imprisoned.

Still, we have signs of hope. In contrast to the past government’s stonewalling and denials, the opposition MDC, now part of the unity government, speaks with great candour about the challenges Zimbabwe faces and the need for international aid to end the humanitarian crisis. They have also reached a deal to pay Zimbabwe’s teachers in foreign currency so Zimbabwe’s schools will open for the first time in months. Even President Mugabe met with the same UN officials he has rebuffed in the past to talk about joint efforts to end the tragic humanitarian crisis there.

At this turbulent time, Zimbabwe’s fate hangs in the balance and we must not waiver in our support for its beleaguered people.

As I fasted earlier this month, the pangs of hunger were replaced by a thirst for change and justice for my neighbours to the North in Zimbabwe. That thirst will go unquenched unless the African Union does its part as guarantor of the unity government agreement by condemning ongoing outrages and interceding wherever necessary to promote government that is free and committed to replacing the misery and suffering in Zimbabwe with dignity and hope.

In solidarity,

Kumi Naidoo

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Sad News from Zimbabwe

"HARARE, Zimbabwe – Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has left the hospital where he was treated after a car crash that killed his wife.

Associated Press reporters saw the former opposition leader leaving with a baseball cap pulled over his bandaged head.

Dr. Douglas Gwatidzo, head of casualty at the hospital , said the prime minister had head injuries and chest pains. State television showed pictures of Tsvangirai in a neck brace, which Gwatidzo said was being used to keep him comfortable.

Tsvangirai was traveling Friday to a weekend rally in his home region, south of Harare when his car and a truck collided.

The U.S. Embassy said that the truck involved in the crash was transporting AIDS medicine donated by the U.S. government. It was driven by a Zimbabwean contractor."

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mugabe Pushes on with Land Grabs

So, if you were wondering how much better things would be in Zimbabwe after the swearing in a the ZANU-PF/MDC Unity government, the answer, sadly, is not much:
"Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has vowed to continue seizing land from white farmers after a spate of "farm invasions" over the past month.

Speaking at a rally to celebrate his 85th birthday, he also promised to push for majority Zimbabwean ownership of companies operating in the country."

Just to clarify, the land redistribution policies that have turned the country from a net exporter of food into one where at least half of the 11 million people are in need of some sort of food assistance is going to continue? Secondarily, a country that may well need $5 billion to rebuild its collapsed economy is going to tell foreign corporations (who have already fled the country, mind you) that they cannot operate unless a 51% stake in the company is owned by Zimbabweans (which, by the way, means Mugabe's cronies)? That should get foreign investment ramped right up!

Problem solved! Way to go you crazy, old bastard!

I was afraid the Unity government would not work (although it was hard to fault MDC for trying to do something to halt the complete collapse of the country - there have been some improvements). It may have been better to wait for the Obama Administration to lean on the U.N. (including Russia and China) to actually do something to remove Mugabe from power, which they were apparently discussing. Sadly, that is probably off the table for the time being.

Apparently, beggars can be choosers...they can choose to continue making their people beggars.

PS: While I'm here, I'd also like to point out a fun story that illustrates how China can see Mugabe burn his country down and still support him (hint: they don't give a damn about anything):
Tibetan monk shot while on fire

"The monk, named Tapey, is said to have shouted slogans and waved a Tibetan flag, then doused himself with petrol and set himself alight.

Campaign groups said witnesses then saw Chinese police shoot the man."
Thank goodness me only owe them a trillion dollars.

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