Thursday, February 18, 2010

The South Carolina Lolgislature...

..wants terrorists, rebels, evil organizations, and "every corporation, society, association, camp, group, bund, political party, assembly, body or organization, composed of two or more persons, which directly or indirectly advocates, advises, teaches or practices the duty, necessity or propriety of controlling, conducting, seizing or overthrowing the government of the United States, of this State or of any political subdivision thereof by force or violence or other unlawful means" to "register with the Secretary of State on forms prescribed by him within thirty days after coming into existence in this State."

That's right. South Carolina wants villains to register. Mind you, you're not being outlawed...just made to register.

Oh, it isn't limited to terrorists, the Illuminati, and die-hard Confederacy supporters either. The new law includes very broad provisions that apples to organizations "subject to foreign control", which includes everything from S.P.E.C.T.R.E. to the Manchurian Candidate.

Y'know, just in case the CIA wasn't keeping track.

The punishment for failing to register is a $25k fine and being jailed for ten years. Presumably in South Carolina. If this is not a comedic situation waiting to happen, I don't know what is.

I'm just waiting for the headlines when South Carolina's Secretary of State is taken out by H.A.R.M.'s Director of Executive Action.

Full text of the new law is here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Suddenly Haiti

Haiti is in the news due to a large scale earthquake hitting the country, killing perhaps more than a hundred thousand and leaving a very large chunk of the population homeless. This one can easily verify by checking the newspapers and watching the evening news. However, they don't tell you that the country was in shambles BEFORE the earthquake, and honestly I can only think that the earthquake will be of long-term benefit to the island for drawing attention to a situation that has been regarded by many international observers as nearly hopeless since the '60's.

This former pirate colony, wracked by the successive plundering dictatorships of Fran├žois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, and the initially promising but ultimately criminal Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is the poorest country in the Americas and one of the poorest in the world. Scores of people live in the shanty towns strewn with garbage and lacking basic utilities and sanitation that constitute most of Port-au-Prince's urban sprawl. Nearly half the causes of death in the country have been attributed to HIV/AIDS, respiratory infections, meningitis and other diseases according to the World Health Organization. The country has been occupied by U.N. peacekeepers since the 2004 rebellion that toppled Aristide. All this is before the earthquake.

Really, it's a shame that it took an earthquake for normal people to respond to the constant misfortunes of this small and vibrant nation with a rich cultural heritage.

The White House's web site has set up a link to the relief effort spearheaded by Bill Clinton and W. Not that that really inspires confidence, but here's the link anyway. Do offer help. It's entirely possible that these new channels for aid are secure enough to not be siphoned off by the likes of Duvalier or Aristide.


One has to wonder if the arrogant energetic insane idiot lemur king, Julian XIII, of the movie Madagascar, was based on real politics of the island of Madagascar. Recent events there could make for an epic dark comedy, with larger-than-life characters and ridiculous situations tinged with violence, and probably deserve a little more analysis than why the lemur king doesn't have a more Malagasy name. The cast of characters is as follows:

President Marc Ravalomanana is a former peddler of yogurt from the back of a bicycle, a business that he built from distribution to dairies to farms and is now a megaconglomerate, TIKO. TIKO owns a monopoly of all dairy and oil production on the island as well as several media outlets. A fervent Christian, he has before mentioned dreaming of a Christian nation in Madagascar, and has managed to remove limits of religion in government by constitutional referendum. He was elected mayor of Antananarivo (Madagascar's capital) in 1999, and won the presidency in a contentious election in 2001. Since then he has been a very popular leader, and won re-election to a second term by a comfortable margin. Unfortunately, this comfort has led to what many of his people to consider corrupt mixing of national interests and TIKO's business interests.

Mayor Andry Rajoelina of Antananarivo used to spin popular tunes in the city's nightclubs. From that he built up an event organization business that eventually branched into the advertising and printing powerhouse Injet. He also owns the radio and TV broadcaster Viva. Since his election he has had to deal with the fallout of massive debts racked up by his government-appointed predecessor, including the water and power to the city being shut off.


I didn't get to finish this post due to various interruptions, but the gist of it was going to be about the comic rallies that Rajolina was having to the tune of Vangelis' soundtrack to the film 1492: Conquest of Paradise and the goofy one-upping that each of the candidates was doing in the form of media manipulation. The conflict then unfortunately turned bloody, with each side blaming the other for confrontations that killed over 170 people. Rajolina declared himself president, formed a cabinet, and won the military to his side, effectively forming a seperate government. President Ravalomanana resigned a month later (in March), and formed a military council to wield executive power. After the presidential palace was stormed, and Rajolina ordered the military to arrest him, Ravalomanana fled the country. The African Union, European Union, and many other international bodies refuse to recognize Rajolina's government, as it was installed unconstitutionally by force. Since then Rajolina has signed and then scrapped two power sharing agreements with Ravalomanana's supporters. So the situation is tense. In many ways, though, it continues to be ridiculous. Such as Rajolina's attempt to explain the many changes he's made to the constitution through cartoons and the fact that government ministries ignored his order to shut down when he seized power.

Meanwhile, Rajolina's popularity seems to be slipping as the economic situation in the country degrades.

One almost wishes for a popular benevolent idiot autocrat like Julian to restore stability.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Back From Hiatus

I took a year off from frothing about politics and things in general in celebration of the election of Barack Obama, whom I still think is doing decently in a position that is notoriously hard for someone trying to do things the right way. All good things must come to an end, however.

Actually I've just been busy and/or lazy.

Which means that I have a backlog of things to bitch about and new ones are occurring every day.

So here we go! Hello, 2010!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Irony for the Antiquarian

I must note, for a snicker or two, that it seems in the general parlance of symbolic shorthand that the Staff of Asclepius (the doctor-son of Apollo and patron of medicine) seems to have mostly been replaced by the Rod of Hermes (patron of, among other things, merchants and thieves).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Reinforcing the Monastic Walls

The Los Angeles Times reports that a panel of the California 4th District of Appeal has ruled that a Lutheran high school has the right to expel students for being gay. Apparently, it is not a business (despite accepting money to perform a service) and therefore does not have to obey civil rights laws. This sets a lovely precedent for religious schools setting up a monastic culture in which students, sent by their parents, have parts of their humanity repressed in an environment that teaches not about the world, but about a world based on the ideals of the people running the school. They will be taught that such and such a lifestyle is wrong and to be shunned. You know, sort of like terrorists, Nazis, Kim Jong Il, and so forth.

If I'm being alarmist it is because I am alarmed.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Dream Fulfilled? Not quite...

...and I'm not sure I WANT it all to be fulfilled.

Yea, in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s national holiday as well as the upcoming inauguration of this country's first black* president I am taking a moment to examine Dr. King's dream as stated in his speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. It seems that pundits, pastors and politicians are saying that Obama is the fulfillment of Dr. King's dream. I do not believe that this is so, and upon reading the speech again — I have not really done so since middle school — I find that there are a few points that I am not entirely comfortable with wandering about in the generally uplifting and inspiring speech.

This country has changed much for the better since 1963, when racial segregation was law, lynchings were commonplace, and the majority of white people seemed to think this was just fine. This was the atmosphere in which Dr. King gave his speech, and he gave it partially in his role as a Baptist minister. This explains, perhaps, why he chose to argue the way he did.

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'"

My version of the dream has the creed changed to "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are equal." I do not wish for creationism to be promoted.

"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood."

This has, for the most part, come to pass. Racism lingers, but there is no longer a legal divide, and the generations since 1963 seem to be increasingly race-neutral. For a person used to gender neutral language, though, it is left to wonder why it is the sons and not the daughters, or simply the children.

"I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice."

Mississippi is still contested territory for the forces of tolerance and those that would oppose them. It is better than it was then, but it has a very long way to go.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

One can argue that this has come to pass with Obama's election, but it seems to me that too many people are still judged by the color of their skin. Not large public-view things, of course, and not usually things in which a legal action may take place, but stealthily and in personal situations.

"And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Aye, he didn't acknowledge all genders, creeds and religions, as I would have done. I wonder if this was simply the shortsightedness of the era, or perhaps a limit to King's dream. I do not know enough about the man to consider what might be his view on the Equal Rights Amendment, but I am saddened by the fact that this amendment is still not law. I also wonder what he might think of the diversity of religion in America now, and in fact what he thought of the diversity of religion in the world then.

Dr. King's dream was a worthy and lofty goal for 1963, but we can do better in 2009. We can have a dream in which all people, of any race, of any religion, of any gender or no gender at all, of any creed, of any sexuality, can be treated as equals under laws that are fair in a society that values all of its constituents.

* Barack Obama is of mixed ethnicity. His mother, Ann Dunham, was an Irish-American from Kansas. His father, Barack Obama Sr., was a black African from Kenya. He seems to strongly take after his father's features. I don't mean to say that this precludes him from being "black", I just find it interesting.