September 19, 2014

Futility of Peace

War Is Peace

I’ve blogged here since 2008 specifically about the toxic mix of religion & politics & notably how religion self-justifies personal flaws.

Today, let’s categorize Middle East crisis (now in its 2,500th year) camps:

  • Rational Historians: There’s been plenty written for centuries, especially recently, about the Mideast crisis. Most of what’s to be said has already been said.
  • Gave Up: A religious war 2500 years long with which self-justifies the mutual killing will end only when religion ends. Which is never.
  • Idealists: Let’s make peace! The endless stream of preachey & arrogant social media posts (i.e. “A Plea to Christian, Muslim and Jewish Friends“) by outsiders, especially white saviors & their kind
  • Jews: Peace is killing all the other side & taking their land.
  • Islamists: (see Jews)
  • Lawyers: Let’s defend religious expression with ethics and the rule of law. (as always, such folks are clueless & useless)
  • Killers: Busier killing the other side instead of bothering with futile social media posts like our friends’ & blogs like this.

So it goes on. And on. Until the end of time mortal. That’s not news, that’s daily life.

Lord’s Resistance Army’s Un-Christian

With all the bad news from Iraq thanks to so many failures from so many overpaid corrupt folks enjoying an Iraq time, I thought it useful to visit another failed state. So many to choose from, so let’s try Uganda, #22 on the Failed States Index, 1 better than North Korea (ouch).

Some are concerned that our sending military advisors to Uganda last year worsend the US’ might or our image in central Africa. Some falsehoods & truths:

Falsehood: Rush Limbaugh said the LRA (“Lord’s Resistance Army”) are Christians. They fight the Muslims in Sudan. They’re on our side. Obama’s a Muslim so he wants to fight Christians.
Truth: The LRA is not “Christian”. They are agnostic. It is not fighting “the Muslims”. It is killing, abducting and torturing ordinary citizens, originally in Uganda, now mainly in South Sudan, DRC and CAR. Most of its victims are Christians or followers of African traditional religions. The oppressive Islamist regime in Khartoum supports the LRA openly and officially with all sorts of support: logistical, governmental, militarily and legally.

Falsehood: The US sent soliders to fight their war.
Truth: These advisors are forbidden by international law and our mission from firing (except in defense) or being in direct combat. For something that doesn’t sound like it came from a press officer, we’ve too little to gain by breaking the law because they’ve not enough oil to satisfy any American corporate lobbyists.

Falsehood: The US is getting involved in war & we’ve no oil to gain anyways.
Truth: See above. Seriously. And Uganda’s our friend not enemy. Conservatives like the world black and white: no oil, no troops.

Falsehood: The Lord’s Resistance Army is the Lord’s work.
Truth: Just another Christian terrorist group waving the flag of Jesus to justify their personal flaws & equally flawed ideology.

Falsehood: The US is getting into messy alliances with people we can’t trust.
Truth: Luckily, we owe the LRA & Uganda government little.

Falsehood: We need to stop the terrorists.
Truth: The situation is so local, even professionals in international policy don’t understand the true nature of this fight.

I note the danger of listening to politically extreme radio personalities who don’t deal in truths but rather whatever is entertaining which can include falsehoods because few know the truth and fewer fact-check because they’re intellectually lazy.

Slaughter in Egypt

Q: How do you make people more sympathetic to religious fundamentalists?

A: Make martyrs of the religious fundamentalists by slaughtering them in broad daylight.

The Meaning of Patriotism: Edward Snowden

Is Edward Snowden a patriot or a traitor?  It’s only fitting to bring this up over the July 4 weekend.

As for myself, I’m not sold that he’s in either category.  On the one hand, it takes guts to reveal that our government (specifically, the NSA) has been illegally spying on us.  On the other hand, why did Snowden reveal some embarrassing information that had nothing to do with our civil liberties?  What good did it accomplish to reveal that our country has spied on both our competitors and allies?

Personally, I wish Snowden would return to the US to stand trial.  Given that a lot of people have already volunteered to fund his defense, he would receive a fair hearing.

What do you think about Edward Snowden?

— Gautam Dutta

Arizona v. ITCA: Translate the Bigots

Protect the Right to Vote

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Arizona’s Proposition 200, the state’s restrictive new voter registration law, in a 7-2 decision in Arizona v. ITCA.

Background (skip if you already know it): Earlier this year, many of our friends filed amicus brief on behalf of 12 other Asian American organizations arguing that SCOTUS strike down Prop 200 for unfairly burdening naturalized citizens, who make up almost 40% of the state’s Asian American population. Congress thus retains the power to pre-empt inconsistent state laws with regards to federal elections, thereby striking down Arizona’s Prop 200 law by finding that it violated the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The NVRA established a national form for voter registration, with a clear provision that no additional requirements may be imposed by the states. The brief argued that Arizona’s Prop 200 imposed additional registration requirements on the national form, in a clear violation of the NVRA. The federal voter registration form is particularly beneficial to Asian Americans because it is translated into Asian languages. In states that do not translate their state voter registration forms, voters may use the federal form, which is translated into Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Tagalog. Prop 200 also violated the purpose of the NVRA by imposing unequal burdens on foreign-born, naturalized U.S. citizens who are registering to vote. These additional requirements disproportionately affected Asian Americans in Arizona, because a high percentage of them (~40%) are naturalized citizens, compared to only about 5% of white non-Latino citizens. The decision casts doubt on the efforts of other states, namely Alabama, Kansas, Tennessee, Georgia and 7 other similarly backward states that may disenfranchise voters with citizenship laws.

Now my bit: that all eligible citizens, either naturalized or native-born, have full and equal access to the electoral process, is a theme we repeatedly see conservatives disavow. Their usual protectionist, misplaced patriotism, using religion or policy as excuses for hating foreigners & general inepitude about talking to or about due process is again on display. They might claim their usual claims which calls for a table. It’s been a while since I’ve done one (last time was years ago):

what they say what they mean
Engish is the national language, required no it’s not, stop revising history as you do naturally
foreigners must fit in same thing as using religion to justify your personal flaws (i.e. hating gays)
only Americans should vote sure, but you mean, Americans you agree with only? that’s why you’re not allowed to regulate the right to vote
protect America from non-Americans usual political phrasing you were fed from watching Fox only
why have government spend money translating? why have the government pay for the highways you so badly need?
why stop at just a few Asian languages? would you support any language?
we should know who’s voting sure, just don’t have it be an unreasonable requirement to protect your own kind
we will appeal admit it, you just hate foreigners and want to protect other billy bob’s like yourself
we seek to uphold the law you uphold only the law you want, just like you pick-and-choose the parts of religion you prefer and ignore, say, Jesus’ whole charity bit

The truth is ugly. Out it by writing for us or entering our blogathon.

It Takes A Village To Blow One Up

West, Texas was best known as a place to grab something from the Czech Bakery while driving between Austin and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Now, West is best known as the latest in a long line of American industrial disasters reprehensible for their utter preventability.

The explosion at the fertilizer plant comes from failure of the local, state, and federals governments and the plant owners and operators to satisfy the needs of worker safety, community safety, and national security. OSHA has not inspected the plant since 1985. Schools and homes were allowed to be built very near the plant. The plant had 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate at which Department of Homeland Security regulation is triggered. We know the plant had so much ammonium nitrate, because paperwork indicating such was filed with with a Texas regulatory entity. The mishmash of regulators is not required to share information. Unlike the inability of first responders to communicate with each other because of technical incompatibilities, government regulators don’t interact with each other. Given the large variety of regulating agencies, better intercommunication is needed.

A tangle of agencies regulates plants like the one in West. Different agencies were assigned oversight for different chemicals there. Among the federal agencies responsible were the E.P.A., Homeland Security, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. State agencies include the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state chemist’s office and the state health services department.

Ammonium nitrate is a national security concern because in nefarious hands it can cause this:

Murrah_Building_-_Aerial

Terrorism isn’t the only reason for concern about the large amount of such an explosive chemical:

The explosion was so powerful it leveled homes and left a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep. Judging by the size of the crater and the extent of the damage — pieces of twisted metal landed in distant pastures, and ceiling tiles and lights shook loose in buildings two miles away — the explosion was more powerful than the Oklahoma City bombing, experts said.

Texas markets its lax regulations as a reason for businesses to relocate:

Loose regulations” in Texas may be a nice pitch for out-of-state business, however, in 2010 the state accounted for 10% of all workplace-related fatalities in the country. In 2011, Texas had the second-highest number of fatality investigations from OSHA (California was first), in 2010, Texas led the nation in Latino worker fatalities.

The marvelous economic tales spun about Texas even beguile those who should know better like a writer for Texas Monthly. Jack Ohman and the editors of the Sacramento Bee, however, were not beguiled:

RTSHf.St.4

The owners and operators of the plant seem to have long thought they could pick and choose what few regulations with which they were supposed to comply would apply to them. Among other problems, the company received a citation for construction of 6,000 gallon ammonia tanks without a permit, did not have a sufficient risk management plan, and had no signs or illegible signs on many storage tanks, many of which did not meet safety standards.

The Czech connection in West remains strong; the Czech Republic may provide nearly $200,000 to aid recovery. That’s very helpful and kind; it’s greatly appreciated. I wonder, though, if Bangladesh provides something even better, a guide on how to handle preventable disasters — arrest the owners.

How many other extremely dangerous plants and chemical storage facilities continue to operate in similar fashion with such disregard for the workers, the community, and national security?

– Justin Gillenwater

Royal Tragedy

This story’s really upsetting.  The British nurse who allowed a prank radio-station call to go through to England’s future queen when she was staying at the hospital committed suicide.  While it’s unfortunate that Kate Middleton got an annoying call, it’s shocking that nurse Jacintha Saldanha felt that she had to kill herself to make amends for her understandable mistake.

Let’s pretend that Middleton was just an ordinary Brit whom the tabloids did not care about.  Would anyone have cared then if she’d received a prank call?

It’s truly a sad moment when a royal prank leads to tragedy.

— Gautam Dutta

Question of the Week: Egypt

True or False:  Holding an election is undemocratic.

True — according to critics of controversial Egyptian President Morsi.

— Gautam Dutta

Whither Hillary?

We applaud Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for playing a key role in bringing out a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.  We hope that both sides will give peace a chance, as it’s the only way the entire region can move forward.

Which brings up an intriguing question.  If Clinton steps down as Secretary of State, will she run for the White House in 2016 — and become the first female President?  While she would face some strong competition, she would certainly begin as the frontrunner.

A lot can happen in four more years.

— Gautam Dutta

 

Counting our Blessings

While Obama and Romney are vying for the White House, a more violent struggle is going on in Pakistan.  A couple days back, the Taliban nearly killed a 14-year-old student who had fought for a girl’s right to get an education.

No one should take democracy — and freedom — for granted.

– Gautam Dutta