Sunday, December 30, 2007

Action on Chad Workers

Further to the post I made several days ago about the French humanitarian workers who are in jail thanks to the government of Chad, I have obtained the address of Chad's embassy in the United States online, and will post it here. Please use the address to send them a civil letter calling for the Chadian government to agree to the commutation of their sentence.

The address is:

Embassy of Chad in Washington, United States
2002 R Street, NW
D.C. 20009
United States

Friday, December 28, 2007

Bhutto: The Imperfect Martyr

I am not very convinced of the view of Benazir Bhutto as a martyr for democracy. Even if some of the charges against her were made up by Pakistani intelligence, as some have suggested, there is strong reason to believe she was involved with Oil-for-Food corruption, as the BBC has reported. Furthermore, some of these convictions have been by foreign courts, where the influence of the Pakistani military would probably be little or non-existant.

Andrew Sullivan has a relatively realistic look at the implications here. The Suburban Guerilla blog has some good commentary on the U.S.'s role and aims in bring Bhutto back to Pakistan.

Note to Humanitarian Workers: DO NOT Go to Chad

Although coverage of this issue has largely been lost in the storm of news over Benazir Bhutto's assassination, Yahoo news has recently reported that six French aid workers convicted of kidnapping in Chad by a kangaroo court are being sent back to France.

These workers, from a humanitarian group called Zoe's Ark, are accused of supposedly trying to kidnap a group of Chadian children, whom they masqueraded as children from Darfur. The case is very complex, but the Chadian court, strongly biased against the French due to the previous imperial relationship between the countries, came to a verdict in only four days.

Many have described the group as being in over its head and amateurish. They tried to pose the children as being injured in order to get them out of the country more easily. Although this may be the case, there is no reason to believe they were actually trying to kidnap the children. For example, they had a journalist with them who was documenting their efforts, not a usual activity for a kidnapper.

Hopefully, the workers will have their sentences commuted in France, as many are expecting. In the meanwhile, humanitarian workers should think twice before they waste their efforts on an ungrateful country such as Chad.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Entry on Young Philly Politics

I just posted an entry to the Young Philly Politics blog. You can look at it here.

Friday, December 21, 2007

What the Philadelphia Media Should REALLY Be Agog About

Rather than focusing so much schadenfreude on Alicia Lane, the Philadelphia press should focus their attention on where it matters, the ever-mounting scandals in city government. This post on Young Philly Politics can fill you in on all the sleazy details.

A large part of the reason that we are never able to really reform City Hall is that a large segment of the population doesn't really focus on these scandals. They just see it as part of the course of life. Our media are largely content to blandly report the story without showing any real outrage. The best they could must was support for the so-called reformer, Sam Katz, who turned out to be a little tainted himself.

I e-mailed one columnist, Jill Porter, who writes for the Daily News. I stumbled across her blast against Alicia Lane on the Philly News website, and after lamenting her gloating, suggested she direct her outrage in a more important direction. All she could say was that she had written about corruption before, and that she just writes about what people are talking about.

Write about it again, Ms. Porter. Get people talking about it.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I (Don't) Heart Huckabee

This past Thursday, while listening to All Things Considered on NPR, I heard a mind-boggling story about Mike Huckabee's plan to replace the income tax and the IRS and the income tax with the fair tax, which would tax consumer goods rather than income.

As the story notes, this is a regressive tax which would put more of a burden on people with low incomes than on the wealthy. Furthermore, although it would dispose of the IRS, it would create two more huge bureaucracies, one to see that the tax was enforced, another to administer the rebates Huckabee proposes to offset the taxes on needed household items.

Huckabee may be likeable-even my father, a New Deal Democrat, likes him-but his ideas are all washed up.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

This Is Why I Tend to be Skeptical of Animal Rights Groups

A recent posting on the website gives me real cause for concern. This organization, Animal Place, gives shelter to animals that have been rescued from factory farms and advocates better treatment of animals, all of which I support. However, what I saw demonstrates a serious case of misplaced priorities.

The posting in question asks people not to donate to charities such as Heifer International and Oxfam because they offer to give farm animals to poor Africans and Asians for them to eat. Although, towards the end of their post, they quibble about whether the donations are actually used to provide animals, (something the organizations themselves point out in their mailings, as Animal Place itself admits). However, it is easy to tell from reading the post that their real concern is the animal getting killed. Dead goats, a tragedy. Starving black people...boring.

Am I the only person who sees this as mildly racist? Even if the money doesn't go directly to providing animals, it still helps these organizations fulfill their mission. To me, that seems more important than some animals' suffering.

The vegan types will quibble that if we didn't use a lot of grain to fatten livestock, we would be able to feed everyone. Never mind that fact that this would not solve the problem of food distribution and economic inequality, it also ignores the issue of what the people of these countries want to eat. Time and again, when countries such as China and the Pacific islands become more prosperous, they tend to switch to a meat based diet. These people have a right to eat what they want to without critiques from the vegans.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Why Huckabee Worries Me...

It's not just the whole not believing in evolution thing. It's his entire value system. Andrew Sullivan gives us one evangelical blooper from Huckabee here. Not gonna help with the women's vote, Mike.

Even more disturbing is a recent story regarding past remarks Huckabee has made about HIV / AIDS. That was just over the line. More information can be obtained from this Slate article.

Military Commissions and Justice

The local blog Suburban Guerrilla has an interesting post regarding military commissions and dissent within the military over how they are being run. Apparently, someone involved in running the commissions has resigned because he believes they are not being run in a fair, impartial manner.

You can read it here.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Hitchens on Romney

Christopher Hitchens is his usual cutting self in a Slate commentary on Mitt Romney's Mormonism speech.

A must read!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Post on Another Blog

Just so you know, I have posted an entry to the Young Philly Politics blog. You can view it here. It is about the violence in Philadelphia.

Romney Gives His Spiel

Andrew Sullivan has an interesting commentary about Mitt Romney's new speech regarding his Mormonism. He has some interesting points.

First, although Romney wants to make his Mormonism a non-issue, he still uses a religious rhetoric, which will naturally bring religion into the race as an issue. For instance, in today's speech, he claims, "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom." Uh Mitt, if you want to keep your religion out of it, you shouldn't constantly bring up religion.

Also, as Sullivan correctly points out, Romney does not acknowledge the right not to have a religion, to be an aetheist or a secularist. If people are allowed not to vote for aetheists, then they can not vote for Mormons, either.

I do think that Sullivan goes too easy on Romney. For instance, while Sullivan claims that Mormonism should not be a factor at all, I do think it should be a matter of concern to voters if a candidate is a devout Mormon. Let's face it, Mormonism is Christianity's answer to Scientology (i.e. an outright, easily seen through scam.) If a candidate is willing to swallow that, who knows what else he might swallow. (For more on this, see this Slate article by Jacob Weisburg.)

Furthermore, the religious rhetoric itself disturbs me. Previous candidates who have had to deal with religious intolerance, such as JFK, maintained a steadfastly secular approach to their campaigns. They did not sell themselves as God or the Pope's candidate. NPR had a great segment about this on Morning Edition.