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Election Circus

Uganda is not the only country experiencing an unique electoral season. The United States, the beacon of democracy, recently completed the mid-term electoral cycle in which Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives. There was a fair share of clean and competitive campaigns with intelligent candidates from both sides, but of course there were some circus acts involved. Fortunately, many of the candidates and campaigns that were better suited for the limelight of Barnum & Bailey’s can now only bask in their former glory of national attention and not enjoy the limelight (maybe better phrased as the puke green light) of Washington, DC or their respective state capitols.

One of the up and coming global powers recently completed an election cycle as well, but in Brazil, some candidates, Francisco Silva in particular, have literally stepped out from the circus tent and into the Parliamentary halls of Brasilia. Silva, better known as Tiririca (Grumpy in Portuguese) the clown received more votes than any other Parliamentarian candidate. Although electing a clown sounds crazy enough, what makes this story even more interesting is that Tiririca may be illiterate. Due to Brazil’s relatively high rate of illiteracy, laws require that all elected officials must be literate in order to take office. Democracy and illiteracy are now clashing in Brazil and the only way to move forward is to test Tiririca’s reading and writing. Tiririca was tested on Thursday 11/11, but results have yet to be revealed (at the time this post was written), so stay on the lookout to see if a clown was elected to the Brazilian Parliament.

Maybe this is a good sign for Brazil’s future; although the U.S. did not vote a witch into Senate, Americans did vote an Aqua Buddha into the Senate. Brazil, you’re almost there, next time you vote, don’t vote for the clown, be more creative and vote for a mythical figure.

A New Rap Mogul?

Do you recognize this man?

No? Well he’s the newest hip-hop/rap sensation to hit the international scene. He’s also Uganda‘s President.

Rap video

Yoweri Museveni has been the President of Uganda since 1986. He was one of the guerrilla leaders that ousted Idi Amin and then fought against the Obote Regime. He quickly gained support from the West. Under his leadership, Uganda’s economy rapidly grew and the country was improving and Uganda mounted one of the more successful responses to HIV/AIDS.

Much like previous and contemporary African rulers and Presidents, Museveni enjoyed success and widespread support in his early years, but as time passed, his benevolent style of leadership slowly changed.

In 1996, the first free elections under Museveni’s leadership were held. Museveni won. Don’t worry, international observers said the election was free and fair. As his first elected term as President was coming to an end, he stated that the 2001 campaign would be his last run for President. It made sense that Museveni would gracefully bow down from the political scene because Uganda was no longer the celebrated African nation it had once been.

Museveni reached his international political pinnacle in 1998 when President Clinton visited the country. Of course this visit came too late, Museveni’s decline into the all too familiar story of African benevolent President becoming authoritarian strong-hands had already begun.

The first signs of Museveni’s and Uganda’s decline occurred when Tutsi rebel forces that would eventually slaughter thousands of Hutus invaded Rwanda from Uganda. Kagame, the Tutsi established leader of Rwanda was a former Museveni fighter. In 1998, the same year that President Clinton visited, Rwanda and Uganda invaded the Democratic Republic of Congo to finish the slaughtering of Hutus who had fled across the border and to assist the CIA overthrow the President of Zaire.

By the way, his re-election in 2001 was marked with considerable increases in violence, especially aimed at opposition leaders. The 2001 elections were not free and fair, the results were taken to Uganda’s Supreme Court and all five judges recognized irregularities and illegalities, but three of the judges believed that such issues did not ultimately change the outcome of the election. Museveni won and the Supreme Court ratified his victory.

As his second term unfolded, Museveni continued to restrict opposition movements and by 2006, Museveni had changed Uganda’s constitution in order to eliminate Presidential term limits.

Obviously he won re-election since he’s running again. Elections are to be held in February 2011. In his newest political stunt, Museveni has released the rap video. It is aimed at garnering support from the youth of Uganda. Maybe it will work, maybe the youth are too young and blind to his past infractions, lies and evil deeds, but maybe it won’t. Either way it’s time for the African Union and the United States to take a stand against the practice of writing Constitutional amendments that either increase of eliminate term limits; but then again, with the United States primarily focused on the prevention of Islamic fundamentalist gaining power, keeping Museveni in power may not be such a terrible thing.

As the bearer of Democratic ideals, philosophy and law, shouldn’t the U.S. be interested and at least semi-involved in providing guidance and correction for the democratic process in all countries and not just the Islamic world?

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. According to Uganda’s law, homosexuals can be sentenced to prison anywhere from 14 years to life; but that’s not it, lawmakers have proposed a new bill that adds the death penalty as a legal punishment for homosexuality. Still think the United States shouldn’t be more involved?

Being the super power in a unipolar world implies such responsibilities. The U.S. has the responsibility and duty to promote and ensure free and fair elections throughout the world. But of course there will always be set backs (Palestine) to pushing for free, fair and democratic rule.

Arizona Strikes Again!

If Arizona’s recent immigration law wasn’t worrying enough, the Governor, Jan Brewer, has just signed a new bill that removes the Mexican-American studies program from Tucson schools. Arizona’s school chief has been pushing this bill for years because he is afraid that the program teaches Latinos that they are oppressed by White Americans. He must be underestimating the powers of observation and experience because I doubt the lessons learned in the program is the source of Latinos’ awareness of oppression by the White man. I think Latinos are inherently intelligent enough to see their brethren routinely given fewer employment opportunities, lower salaried jobs and now seeing their Constitutional rights (Amendment 4) being disregarded and violated by the new Arizona immigration law.

The class may actually serve the opposite purpose of teaching oppression. It may actually teach Latinos that not all Arizonans are bigoted assholes who only want Latinos in the state in order to afford cheap home repairs and gardens maintenance, but now they won’t have the chance to learn that.

Cold War Reborn in the Hot Middle East?

Earlier today, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said “tensions in the Middle East threaten to lead to a new explosion or even a catastrophe.” Really? I’m impressed with how observant of a person he is, apparently he reads the newspaper just like the rest of us. Over the past few years, Russia has been increasing her role in the Middle East, both as mediator and instigator. President Medvedev asserted that the tensions he spoke of were Israeli-Arab tensions, yes these tensions exist, but Russia has done little to appease this tension.

We all know of the political and military ties between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. Russia is also well aware of the connections, but the country continues to be hesitant in placing stronger sanctions and limitations on Iran as a punishment for pursuing nuclear development. Although Russia has been coming around after it was revealed that Iran has improved enrichment abilities, Russia remains the last major entity to not fully support harsher sanctions. Hey Medvedev, here’s an easy way for you to help reduce tensions, stop resisting sanctions and punishment for Iran.

Actually I have an even better way for you (Medvedev) to stop instigating the tension you claim you want to reduce. Don’t build a nuclear facility in Syria! New reports claim that Russia plans on developing a nuclear power plant in Syria, citing that cooperation on the atomic front is the best way forward. I guess Russian schools must not offer informative or accurate history classes. For one, let’s think back to the later half of the 20th century. If I remember correctly, there was this thing called the Cold War. I’m pretty sure this term was coined to describe the tensions between the USSR and the US over nuclear activity. I’m also pretty sure that most of the fighting was carried out in satellite countries where one side supported said country and the other didn’t. Let’s fast-forward to today, something about this nuclear facility announcement and the divergence of opinion between Moscow and the West over Iran seems strikingly similar to the Cold War. Russia is heading down a path of opposing Western interests on the atomic front and is on the verge of helping one of the axis of evil countries build a nuclear facility.

Lesson two, Syria has supposedly attempted to build a nuclear reactor in the past. Guess what happened to it, Israel bombed it. So Russia, do you think it wise to invest in a nuclear power plant only to see the investment destroyed by Israeli fighter jets? Although Russia boasts a large number of tycoons, it doesn’t seem as though Russian schools were the source of such successful business or investment knowledge (I suppose instead of schools, the Kremlin or friendships were the best educational sources for business success).

Dear President Medvedev (and your puppet master, the stealthy Vladimir Putin),
If you want to truly be a source of international positive recognition and assume a role in Middle East mediation, don’t be the instigator who prevents punishment to Iran and supplies nuclear facilities to Syria. By continuing to pursue the current policies, Russia is inadvertently being a supporter of Hezbollah. Thank you for signing the new arms reduction treaty, but we all know it doesn’t take the massive cache either country owns to destroy the enemy. Signing the treaty was a nice gesture, but please come to your senses before you cause Cold War II or WWIII.
Thank you,
The World

But, it’s not fair!

Comedy Central recently presented their upcoming original cartoon shows to a panel of advertisers and one of the shows is about Jesus Christ. Good ol’ JC is on the verge of making it to the comedic tv-waves of America! The funniest part of this plan is not the show itself, it’s the response it is getting in the media. Recently, South Park was censored in order to prevent the image of Muhammad from airing, but now Comedy Central has given the green light to a show that is all about the Christian Prophet. To me, the bigger problem here isn’t the fact that Comedy Central is going to be airing a sketch about Jesus, it’s this comment from Kent Alterman, head of original programming, “In general, comedy in its purest form always makes some people uncomfortable.” If this is true, how come Muhammad was censored out? Yes it’s against Islamic Law to show his face, but last I checked we are not living under Islamic Law. Yes, it’s offensive to Muslims, but last I checked making Black jokes, Jewish jokes, etc. was offensive to millions of people, yet they are not censored. In fact, many shows center around making fun of the “Jewiness” (or South Park’s relentless Jewish jokes) or “Blackness” (South Park does Black too) of characters.

Some have argued, it’s not fair that Comedy Central is going to green light a show that could make fun of Jesus. At the least it will definitely distort the image Christians have made of Jesus for centuries. I cry not fair for a far different reason. It’s not fair that we get to see and watch Jesus get a comedic makeover, but can’t see the same thing happen to Muhammad. The reaction of Islamic radicals has hijacked the comedic liberty of this country. Jews, Blacks, Christians, Italians, Irish, Mexicans, etc. are all ok to make fun of, but don’t you dare cross the line and make a Muslim joke.

By the way, South Park aired an episode with Muhammad in it a number of years ago and it had a full depiction of the Prophet. Not much protest after that one, but since the Danish cartoon and the violent, radical and dare I say ridiculous response by pockets of the Muslim community, it is now blasphemy not only in Islam but in free speech to joke about Muhammad.

Here’s a South Park clip summing up my point in a more poignant fashion…

Laser Warfare & China

Laser Warfare won the March news stories championship which means it is now time to return to writing. I thought it’d be a little extra fun to make the first post-playoff post about the champion. Based off the post’s title, I imagine you assume that I will be writing about some crazy new Chinese technology that will affect laser warfare, but you’re wrong. By the way, my Dad taught me, only asses assume! I will actually be writing about how the US should employ laser warfare in the Pacific Ocean to reduce both the current and future threat China and the Chinese Navy pose for US interests in the Pacific rim.

As far back as June 2005 (ancient times, I know), Robert Kaplan has been writing about the threat China poses for US interests in Asia and the Pacific Rim. He suggests and I concur that a country of over 1 billion people will be a greater threat to US economic, energy and defense security than the Middle East or the Soviet Union ever was. He more recently reiterated this point in an essay entitled “The Geography of Chinese Power” that appeared in Foreign Affairs. The most interesting section is when he describes China’s new-found love of Naval power. Although the Chinese Navy cannot compare in strength and prestige to the US’s, Chinese ships continuously act like the school yard bully. They harass American vessels and trying to demonstrate their strength, yet it is always just a show and as Kaplan suggests, a show of immaturity. Proven Naval powers do not feel the need to posture themselves in the open ocean and harass others, but the immature Chinese Navy acts as though this is the only means of exemplifying power. As China continues to solidify the western border by building oil and gas pipelines with the “Stan” countries, China can focus her expansion on expanding her sphere of influence over Southeast Asia and what have been deemed the first island chain. The first island chain is a block of Western Allies such as Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines that is currently preventing Chinese expansion. Military experts suggest that if China did not feel so boxed in on the seaside front, they would not act as aggressively toward US naval ships. As China continues to expand militarily, the cost to the US to maintain strong military allegiances and counter forces in the first chain of islands will become tremendous. Therefore, the US command centers should be re-focused upon the second chain of islands. Turns out most of this second chain is already US property – Guam, Marshall Islands, Caroline, Northern Mariana, Solomon Islands – and of course non-US property such as Australia. Retired Marine colonel Pat Garrett suggests that Chinese aggression should not be met with military response, but rather a repositioning of bases. Keeping troops and bases in the second island chain would be less provocative. Of course this does not mean that the US should diminish naval activities, in fact naval activities should be increased in the Indian Ocean. This allows the Chinese to exercise power in her region of the world, but provides a barrier and overseer in the form of US naval commands and fleets in the Indian Ocean and the second island chain.

One aspect of the new strategy that is not addressed by Kaplan or Garrett is the strategic use of laser weapons. As the technology develops, it will be increasingly easy to mount laser weapons in Taiwan and the Philippines and in South Korea and Japan. These weapons would serve as a deterrent to the Chinese and also provide a capable and strong defense system without having to continuously spend resources on manning and supplying American bases and forces half way around the world.

Laser weapons and warfare may be the ideal deterrent for Chinese military and naval expansion. I used to think, if it ever came to a physical war with China, how does one beat a 1 billion person army? Tragically the only answer I could come up with was using a nuclear or atomic weapon, but now thanks the laser warfare, if it ever comes down to it, we don’t have to kill million of innocents, destroy the country and pollute the world just to eliminate an economic enemy.

CHAMPIONSHIP

It’s that time. Vote away for your favorite news story of March 2010. I know we’re almost into May, but I promise once this vote ends, we will start writing about the world and what is happening in our backyards.