Thursday, May 07, 2009

Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


East of Asia is on vacation until further notice, pending disabling distractions, shifting priorities involving other writing projects and/or the lack of time and energy. The author is soly responsible for its lack of content. Void where prohibited.

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Be Nice to Russia in the Balkans

There’s cause for human rights activists to be antsy about what’s going on in the Balkans. Not just because the Serbs are beating their ethic-cleansing breasts over the Kosovo’s recent declaration of independence. Those people are small-time thugs and NATO peacekeeping troops should know how to deal with them

The worry is Russia. The fear is that Administration officials and Washington think-tankers are going to misread the dynamic of regional politics, once again. There’s more at stake here than stability in a volatile region. Gains in human rights protections in this neighborhood have helped lower the threshold of tolerance for human rights violations globally, with ramifications in such places as Sudan and North Korea

Like it or not, Russia still views Serbia as part of its sphere of influence. It won’t let go as easily as it did in Bosnia during the 1990s, when domestic politics were in turmoil. There’s a risk of America stepping foolishly into an old fashioned proxy war with Russia over Kosovo. Just like we marched blindly into the trap of asymmetrical warfare in conquering Baghdad. Shots may not be fired in this contest, but it would mean a big setback for human rights.

An anemic Soviet Union disintegrated while watching its allies and puppet republics peel away. But it did so when it was on the brink of economic ruin. Russia has oil wealth now. Its thriving economy is integrated with the international community through trade and investment. It has a stable government even if is not the beacon of democracy hoped for by he West.

Ominously, Vladimir Putin’s brand of one-party authoritarianism has caused serious backsliding on human rights, particularly for the freedom of the press. But he enjoys widespread support among the Russian people. With stability and prosperity, Russian patriotism is on the rise. By challenging Russia head-on in Kosovo without thinking about the consequences, however, we’ll risk provoking a far more virulent kind of nationalism, that would place the agents of democracy – independent journalists, human rights advocates and political opposition leaders like former chess champion Garry Kasparov – in grave peril.

Putin has denounced Kosovo’s secession as “immoral and illegal,” and his anointed successor, Dmitry Medvedev, visited Belgrade Monday(2/25) to reiterate the Kremlin’s steadfast support for the Serbian regime. Postwar Russians were raised on the belief that the former Yugoslavia was among the vassal states in Moscow’s orbit, a little brother to protect in the national interest, an ally to help defend the Motherland. That national ethos hasn’t eroded completely.

Kosovo’s right to self-determination should be non-negotiable. But blundering in the dialog with Moscow can ratchet up the odds of resurrecting a history of hostility and nuclear gamesmanship. Putin’s pique over the US missile defense installation in Poland can’t be laughed off. Defusing the Serbian powder keg must involve cooperation and mutual respect between Washington and Moscow. We can only hope that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice knows this. She was a specialist in the Soviet Evil Empire at Stanford before entering politics and hoisting the neocon flag. One can only hope that her replacement will have the wisdom to play nicely with the New Russia.

The U.S. diplomatic mission Kosovo should concentrate on protecting the human rights of the majority ethnic Albanian population. If we can help Kosovo realize a sustainable independence in the real world and not just on parchment – one that also protects the rights of the Serb minority – we’ll have achieved a great victory for democracy. But we’re not going to get there by slapping Russia in the face.

Karl Schoenberger is a journalist and visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Gandhi for President

Bad Taste Political Analysis

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi has studied the latest poll results and decided he could wait no longer. He announced through a medium that he is forming an exploratory committee that wild help him decide whether to run for President of the United States.

In a prepared statement, Gandhi emphasized that he has never equivocated in his advocacy of non-violence as a means of resolving conflicts – in stark contrast to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Bringing a swift end to the Iraq War is expected to Gandhi’s principal campaign promise.

Some political analysts question whether an Indian national is qualified to run for U.S. president. But opinions differ.

The movement to qualify California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as a potential presidential candidate opens the door to other foreign-born politicians like Gandhi, said Ralph Kramden, a politican science professor at the Gleason Institute of International Studies in the Bronx.

“Gandhi is a living legend and the celebrity status thing wins elections these days,” Kramden said. “So long has he can raise the money to buy television airtime, he’s in the race. If he gets the big bucks, he can say, 'How would you like a trip to the moon, Hillary? Pow! Right in the kisser.'”

However, the failure of the would-be future president to make public appearances over the past six decades has many Washington insiders shaking their heads. Ben Kingsley, a spokesman for Gandhi’s campaign committee said it was premature to draw any conclusions about the fitness of the political maverick to endure the rigors of the campaign trail.

Is Gandhi, who will run as an independent, electable? Or will his past practices of civil disobedience, illegal salt gathering and non-cooperation in prison spoil his chances in the primary season, when a candidate's record and personal history are scoured by weasels in the media to discover skeletons in closets.

“Bapu has no skeletons to hide other than his own,” Kingsley said. "His body is wasting away, but we can't promise he won't go on a hunger strike if he feels his message is misunderstood."

The conventional wisdom is that Gandhi will not be viewed as a serious contender for the 2008 election, but will use his campaign as a bully pulpit to promote his controversial views on peace.

Gandhi is rumored to have been a member of India's radical leftist Congress Party, but has disavowed any association with Stalinism. Reports that he once paraded through the streets of New Delhi wearing only a loin cloth could not be corroborated.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Flash News: The Cold War Ends in Pyongyang, North Korea

Lost in the banter over the recent tentative agreement with North Korea that would disarm it’s nuclear arsenal was an incredible development: the Bush Administration backed down, Pyongyang won.

This actually is not a bad outcome. If it holds, the agreement will go down in history not as an arms control deal but as the end of the Cold War.

By opening the door to possible negotiations over diplomatic normalization between the United States and North Korea, Washington made a long-overdue concession, even if it was tacit, to recognize the North Korean regime as legitimate. It’s akin to Iran saying, okay, maybe Israel does have a right to exist.

This is not just a matter of the Bush Administration wisely reversing its foolish policy of promoting regime change. Since the hostilities in the 1950-1953 Korean War ended with a shaky armistice – not a peace treaty – the United States has steadfastly refused to negotiate with the North one-on-one to resolve tensions in the powder keg Korean Peninsula. This suited Cold War strategy and gave virtual combat training to our troops on the DMZ. But the policy should have been jettisoned in 1990, when the opportunity to support South Korea’s new policy of engagement and eventual reunification came and went.

The result has been 17 years of wasted time. Cut off from its major patron in the collapsing Soviet Union, the economy tanked and famines and deprivation followed. The seeds were sown for a desperate and fatalistic course to gain international respect with nuclear weaponry.

The Clinton Administration picked up the hot potato from the myopic Bush I gang and forged a flawed but credible attempt to coax the starving and paranoid Communist state back toward reality. Then George Bush Junior and his foaming-at-the-mouth advisors stepped in and quashed the disarmament deal. Get this: they acted on dubious intelligence reports about a new uranium enrichment program. And they forced the Asian partner in the “axis of evil” into a corner, where it bared its fangs.

North Korea remains a repugnant country, a failed autarkic experiment in totalitarianism ruled by an irrational scion of dynastic political cult worship. It boasts the worst record on human rights violations in our Galaxy, bar none.

But finally, it looks like it got what it needed to start the proccess of rejoining the ranks of international society.

A Sex Study Designed to Paper over History: Abe's Dilemma

Okay, Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Junior is failing the test of whether he can balance the views of right-wing monsters in his ruling party with common sense. In a jingoistic haiku of virtual holocaust denial, Abe made the audacious remark last week that the enslavement of Koran and Chinese prostitutes (“comfort women”) by the Imperial Army during the Pacific War was voluntary. The women weren’t coerced, he said. .

Predictably, the victims of Japanese war time aggression howled in protest. And justifiably so – credible and copiously documented research on the veracity of the army’s sex slave trade by foreign as well as Japanese historians proves the case.

So does the gripping testimony of many aging survivors of the rolling military brothels that followed marauding troops as they marched into China and Southeast Asia, old women who have overcome the shame of their past and risked ostracism in their communities to speak out after all these years.

Indeed, the Japanese government issued an apology in 1993 to victims of the brothels, But that went too far for the rabid nationalist fringe, which is still arguing that the United States baited Japan into World War II and Asia invited its would-be liberators.

So what does Abe do? He announces today, as a sop to critics of his brutish diplomatic blunder, that he appointed a special panel in his Liberal Democratic Party to investigate the matter. We can expect a muffled and indecisive whitewash of guilt or innocence by foxes probing the dried blood in the chicken coop, a half-baked revision of historical revisionism.

Don’t worry. Japan’s ship of state stays afloat on the superbly vague commitment to study contentious issues in a serious and forward-looking manner.

Abe will wait for the scandal to blow over and then put his finger to the domestic political winds. And in August there’s a good chance he’ll appease his power base by making an incendiary pilgrimage to Yasukuni Shrine. The old gods of imperial fascism still hold a death grip on Japan’s honesty and its credibility in international society.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The British Problem

Endangering our Xenophobic Melting Pot, Threatening Subject-Verb Relationships

While we are sleeping, something terribly wrong is happening at America’s borders: Britain are coming! Britain are coming!

This happens to be the worst national security crisis facing our nation. Americans are at risk of having high-paid jobs stolen by legal as well as illegal aliens from the British Isles. British capital is the overwhelmingly dominant leader in direct foreign investment. Brits already own landmark properties here. The country ranks near the top of foreign nations snatching up our treasury securities, and it has the power to undermine our financial system.

British transplants to our soil include many illegal aliens, dozens of them and maybe more, who overstay their visas and go underground to exert insidious influence on our tolerant and defenseless society. Never mind that the rock star Sting represented himself as a legal alien. There are illegal aliens in New York, and the British crooner should know that as a former member of the Police.

These British subjects are corrupting our language and culture and even infiltrating our media. Take the so called US edition of the British news weekly “The Economist,” which hides its real intent behind a thin veneer of witty commentary. Don’t you see the Fabian socialism, bred in sadistic and sexually permissive public schools (euphemistic for elitist private schools), behind the British guise of fiscal conservatism? Their Socialist prime minister has cynically portrayed himself as hawkish Bush-kissing ally.

Just look at what’s happening to the American language. The business world is saying things like “take a decision” instead of making one. In sports casting, the broken syntax of British pidgin (a Germanic lingo with affected French words) is creeping into local vernacular.

Taking a cue from BBC announcers who report on “football matches” (sic), we are beginning to mix up our subject-verb agreements. They say “Liverpool are on a winning streak,” and “Italy are headed for the World Cup finals.” I can’t stand it. So now we’re starting to say “Detroit are the favorite in the World Series” and "Oakland aren’t playing well this season.” If we don’t keep our guard up, we’ll be putting Rs after our vowels and saying things like “the Cubs is a perennial loser.” And we’ll have to watch cricket in prime time, after suffering through programs that unleash sniffy English nannies on American families with naughty children. Wasn't Teletubbies bad enough? Uh oh . . .

People over 50 remember the British invasion of the 1960s, when girly-haired Englishmen copied American folk and blues, putting some pretty damn good US rock bands on food stamps. They unabashedly violated US intellectual property rights by reverse-engineering our native music.

Now, the potential impact on the fabric of our society is enormous when you consider the British Hoards waiting at the border. They’re ready to flood our country with white folks who will upset the fragile balance of our population’s diversity. Because they are wealthier than us, they will have more babies and skew demographics in their favor.

The risks to national security cannot be underestimated. Pretty soon, students of British descent will dominate our school systems and take the best spots in our top universities. Coddled by unofficial affirmative action programs, British women will take over our corporate board rooms, while American men hit the glass ceiling.

It’s not practical to erect a barbed wire fence across the Atlantic to hold back the armada of British interlopers. But we should alert loyal citizens to be on guard for suspicions white people with funny accents at airports and rail stations, and be on the lookout for men carrying little European purses. We need vigilantes to patrol the border with Canada, so that no subjects of the Queen of England can sneak across to our homeland.

It’s widely known that Britain had ambitions of global hegemony in the past, and has never apologized to its victims. It even abused its own British colonists on these shores. Britain are at out doorstep, and we has a duty to stop the menace now, before it is too late.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

There You Go Again, George

Pooh on You, North Korea!

Today our president, our opportunistic commander in chief, proved once again that his inflexible ideology and his unwillingness to face reality are endangering the nation's security. With wailing sirens in the background (staged by Carl Rove, perhaps, for the fear effect) he outlined a rehash of his failed strategy to contain North Korea in a news conference at the embattled White House.

Again, he flatly refused to consider direct negotiations with Pyongyang (a word he has trouble pronouncing) and showed his contempt for ground-breaking negotiates with the reclusive nation at the end of the Clinton Administration. There's no hard evidence Clinton's deal with North Korea to halt nuclear fuel development, if coupled with stringent monitoring, would not have worked in the long run and prevented Kim Jong Il from testing his first little atom bomb.

Rather, there is every indication that the president undermined that historic step in successful diplomatic engagement with North Korea simply because it gave credit to the Clinton administration. The resulting dialogue with "punyong" has been an unmitigated disaster, worsened rather than facilitated by the mamby pamby six-party talks format - constructed to mask the brainless rejection of direct talks by our macho leader and his darkly whispering neo-con advisers -dipl0matic amateurs all.

Yes, I'm beginning to sound a little like a Democratic partisan, maybe even a KCNA mouthpiece. But I speak as a loyal critic, out of loyalty to our flawed democracy's best interests in national security, not to this tragically misguided administration. It doesn't really matter whether this morass was created by a Republican or a Democratic in the White House. But this irrational brinksmanship happens to be the handiwork of an irresponsible leader, who raised the odds of South Korea's capital being incinerated by conventonal rockets, not nukes, and who may take his party down with his ill repute in November.