A gringo's perspective on Latin American politics, culture and issues. "I never truckled. I never took of the hat to fashion and held it out for pennies. I told them the truth. They liked it or they didn't like it. What had that to do with me? I told them the truth. I knew it for the truth then and I know it for the truth now!" - Frank Norris


























 
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My name: Randy Paul
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Beautiful Horizons
 
Monday, August 04, 2003  
Making It Official

When the release becomes official tomorrow, I will be moving this blog to Typepad. The url is http://beautifulhorizons.typepad.com. If you've flattered me by bookmarking this site, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You'll love the new location!

9:18 PM

Sunday, July 06, 2003  
OPPENHEIMER ON THE ICC

Andres Oppenheimer has a piece about the Bush administration's antipathy towards the newly created International Criminal Court. Unlike some who seem determined to regurgitate the administration talking points about the issue without bothering to find out the facts (there's even a law professor who doesn't bother to correct the error from a reader in his blog that the court is in Brussels. It's in The Hague.), Oppenheimer picked up the phone and called ICC President Phillipe Kirsch. Here's some of what he found out regarding the court's procedures:

But what is to prevent North Korea or Cuba from seeking the arrest and indictment of U.S. officials, or U.S. peacekeeping troops anywhere?

''In the case of a country that has a perfectly well-functioning judicial system, such as the United States, the court has to apply the principle of complementarity. That means that if the judicial institutions in that country work normally, whether or not they lead to prosecution, the court has no interest to take over,'' Kirsch said.

But in a world in which Libya presides over the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, couldn't the court be captured by rogue nations and decide that the U.S. legal system is flawed?

Kirsch said the ICC's 90 member countries are highly unlikely to allow that because they elect the judges, and ''just about all'' of the members ``are democratic states and essentially allies of the United States.''

Even if a politically motivated prosecutor were to take over in the future and try to present a frivolous case, he would need the green light from a three-judge pretrial chamber to start an investigation, he said. If the defendant's country rejected the inquiry, the prosecutor would have to go back to the pretrial chamber for a second authorization, and then to a five-judge appeals court, Kirsch said.

''I find it completely inconceivable that a frivolous case could go to through the process and be considered by the court,'' Kirsch said.


Oppenheimer believes that some of Bush administration's concerns may be valid, but feels that the ability to change the court would only come from within and this anti-ICC stance will do more harm than good. While I am not convinced of the former, he is absolutely right about the latter and offers a good solution:

And the ICC should change its statutes when it holds its scheduled ''review conference'' in 2009, to make it mandatory that all its members be democratic countries. Then, a less worried U.S. government should not only rejoin the ICC, but should become its most ardent supporter.



By the way, all the ICC opponents would have to do to argue from an informed position about the court would be to click here for the ICC website and go to this page for downloadable documents about rules of procedure and evidence. I guess it's just better to curse the darkness.

9:37 PM

Saturday, July 05, 2003  
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT BIRTHDAY

Yesterday was the 37th anniversary of President Johnson's signing the Freedom of Information Act. The National Security Archives has an appropriate commemoration here.

12:50 PM

 
LIGHT BLOGGING

It's hot and I've got a lot to do, so I probably won't be posting anything until tomorrow. meanwhile, if you're seeking refuge from the heat and are a soccer fan like me, go see Bend It Like Beckham if you haven't already. There are far worse ways to spend an afternoon, and that's not damning with faint praise.

12:33 PM

Thursday, July 03, 2003  
THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT AND A WAGER

Although I would never condone gambling, a guy only identified as Cliff in the comments section of this post by Jeralyn Merritt on Talk Left has made the following offer:

Guys, I will be happy to bet any amount of money that the ICC will follow the shallow and self-destructive Euro-left and go after Americans and Israeli's and leave the ever so popular Castro's and Arafats alone all day long.


I would urge everyone to go to the comments section and take Cliff up on his offer. I'm open to setting the terms (i.e. putting a time limit on things, etc.) and serving as arbitrator, or if someone else would rather do that I'll be happy to participate.

I guess what galls me about his comment is that it demonstrates such ignorance about the ICC. I wonder if he has read anything about the court other than the GOP talking points. Has he read the rules of procedure or the Rome Statute? I doubt it, but why take my word for it as to why the US should support the ICC.

Benjamin Ferencz, one of the Nuremberg prosecutors and a longtime expert on the prosecution of crimes against humanity had a letter to the editor published in today's New York Times addressing this issue.

Let me see . . . whose opinion should carry more weight: a guy named Cliff (with no e-mail address and no last name) or the man who was the Chief Prosecutor of the Einsatzgruppen at Nuremberg? Hmmm . . .

10:32 PM

Wednesday, July 02, 2003  
With the Blogger "improvements" I can no longer put in the proper diacritical marks using either Windows Character Map code or the Brazilian Portuguese keyboard. What a pain!
10:51 PM

 
A COMEBACK FILLED WITH IRONY

In a qualifying game for the 1990 World Cup, Chilean goalkeeper, Roberto Rojas committed an indefensible act of cheating:

Chile had needed to beat Brazil to qualify for the 1990 World Cup in Italy but were 1-0 down with around half-an-hour to go.

Then, a firecracker was thrown from the crowd and landed by Rojas in the penalty area. The goalkeeper collapsed to the ground and left the field on a stretcher, covered in what appeared to blood.

Chile abandoned the game, apparently hoping that FIFA would award them a walkover.

But FIFA decided in Brazil's favour, judging that Rojas had been play-acting. He was banned for life and Chile were kicked out of the qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup.


Much to my surprise, he is now coach of Sao Paulo Football Club, one of Brazil's premier teams. Rojas, to his credit doesn't flinch from his responsibility in the incident that ended his playing career (especially considering the fact that goalkeepers often play well into their thirties):

"It was a serious mistake and for nine or 10 months everyone closed the doors to me. I had to prove that I wasn't a bad character because of one mistake. I was judged and I was harshly criticised," Rojas said.

"But the first step to restarting life is to recognise the mistake. First, I had to reconquer myself as a person. I couldn't spend my whole life being guilty."


I, for one wish him well. He's proof that there are second acts in life.

10:39 PM

 
MORE DEMAGOGUERY IN VENEZUELA

What better way to sabotage an upcoming referendum than to claim that your opponents are fomenting a coup against you. Yes, I know it is quite a leap to go from saying the following . . .

"There are still small groups in Venezuela that aim to destabilize the country again," said Chavez at a military decoration ceremony in Caracas.

"We have defeated them. Those who attempt to try it again will be defeated again and again," the former paratroop commander said.


. . . to actually preventing the referendum from taking place, but this is certainly seems to be setting the groundwork for this: claim that there are subversive elements bent on subverting elected authority and use that as an excuse to crack down on legitimate dissent.

As Human Rights Watch notes, Chavez is still attempting to implement a law to limit free expression for broadcasters (i.e. the private media largely controlled by the opposition). He is about to appoint as minister of communication and information, Jesse Chacon, who was a participant in the coup attempt with Chavez in 1992 and one of the architects of the law which Human Rights Watch finds objectionable. I'm still curious to know how any of this is helping a nation whose economy contracted 29% in the past year.

10:24 PM

 
UPDATE TO THIS POST

The situation with the MST (Landless Workers Movement), the ranchers and the government is getting uglier:

After an initial respite in invasions of unused farm land, the MST has launched fresh occupations arguing its members are too hungry to wait on lengthy land redistribution bureaucracy.

West of Lula's palace on the high savanna plains, some 200 families loyal to the MST have invaded a 1,950-acre ranch owned by Brazilian businessman Mario Zinato.

"They are going to leave my land for better or worse," said Zinato, who has brought in hired guns to protect his property. "If they use force, we'll use force."


One hopes that cooler heads on all sides will soon prevail.

9:25 PM

 
THE ICC AND AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM

Jeralyn Merritt has a post about the cutoff of military aid to countries that refuse to agree to exempt US citizens serving within their borders to prosecution by the International Criminal Court.

I don't really have much more to add. The amount of hysteria surrounding the ICC is, frankly, ridiculous. I remember when Pinochet was arrested in London in 1998, the same type of hysteria erupted: if this went ahead, everyone was going to be fair game for arrest by zealous judges around the world. Other than Henry Kissinger having to alter his travel plans on a few occasions, these fears have proven to be groundless. Why, then, does anyone think that a court established with numerous safeguards to prevent meritless prosecutions will be so horrible other than the compelling argument that American exceptionalism is really at the heart of the matter?

Dr. Kissinger, by the way is not averse to using the courts when he finds himself in an embarrassing situation . . .

As they would say in Brazil "Tem festa hoje? Por que voce esta limpando casa" ("Is there a party today? Why are you cleaning house?")

9:16 PM

 
THIS, ON THE OTHER HAND SEEMS LIKE A GOOD WAY TO FIGHT POVERTY

Certainly one of the factors that maintains the cycle of poverty in Brazil is lack of education and this seems like a good way to break that cycle:

Only a few years ago, Rosemary could cut class with the best of them, earning some money here and there doing odd jobs for one of the wealthier farmers in town, unloading packages for the general store or just hanging out with friends who were taking the day off from school, too. Both her parents had dropped out of high school, so truancy was never as much of an issue in their household as hunger.

But then the governor of the federal district of Brasilia began offering stipends to poor parents whose children regularly showed up for school. It's not much -- $5 per child per month for up to three children per household. But in this hardscrabble town in central Brazil, 40 miles northeast of Brasilia, the capital, that's enough to fill empty stomachs and classrooms. And in a country where the minimum wage is the equivalent of about $75 a month, it's a significant sum.

"A lot of the kids in town who didn't go to school before go to school every day now," said dos Santos, who has worked as a maid but has been unemployed for most of the last three years. She has two other children for whom she receives the monthly stipend, for a total of $15. "All my kids' grades have just shot up. A little bit of money can make a huge difference for families as poor as we are."

Brazil's school stipend program is a strikingly promising and innovative social program, a relatively small public investment that goes a long way toward addressing hunger, literacy, child labor and exclusion, officials said. Since it began as a pilot program in Brasilia and satellite towns like Formosa seven years ago, the effort has nearly doubled the number of children attending school here, officials added. And though research remains incomplete, many educators and activists expect commensurate increases in literacy and nutrition.


The problem in expanding the program is in the funding:

But the school stipend initiative -- known here by its Portuguese name, Bolsa Escola -- also represents the central dilemma for Brazil's president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former metalworker and union leader who is trying to combat a budget deficit while promoting social programs. Lula, as the president is widely known, was elected six months ago after a campaign in which he pledged to repay the country's $260 billion foreign debt while also focusing on the hungry, jobless and illiterate.

Brazil must pay about $43 billion in yearly interest payments on its foreign debt, about three-quarters of its annual $60 billion in export earnings. Yet Lula is committed to maintaining the $700 million yearly school stipend program even as he continues to seek billions of dollars in budget cuts.
Education Minister Buarque and other proponents are seeking even more funding for the stipend program, which currently has a nationwide enrollment of about 5 million families and 9 million children. For the program to be really effective -- particularly in the densely populated urban areas -- stipends should be increased, Buarque said.

"It will be truly a pity if we cannot increase the stipend," Buarque said. "Just a real shame."


If Formosa is a microcosmal example of the benefits of this program, then it needs to be expanded:

Since the stipend was introduced, vagrancy and petty crime in Formosa have declined sharply, according to government statistics. The 5,100 children enrolled locally take fewer sick days and grow taller, on average, than those who are not enrolled, officials said.

"You can just see the difference," said Nara Martins Pegoraro Guimares, Formosa's welfare secretary and wife of the city's mayor. "If you take 5,000 kids off the streets, it's bound to make a difference."


This should get a priority. It seems like a terrific and effective program.

7:19 PM

 
LAND REFORM IN COLOMBIA

Well it’s not really land reform, but there is something really creepy about this:

Worried sick but too late to call off the operation, Colombian peasant Marquelis had a panic attack and passed out at the clinic.
Fainting won him only a brief reprieve, and the father of three was soon under the knife. After a few delicate snips, Marquelis became the proud -- if sterile -- owner of acres of land under a private Colombian program that gives plots to men in two Caribbean coast towns who undergo vasectomy operations.
"When the moment of truth came, I almost called the whole thing off. But then I decided: I have to do it," he said.

Marquelis is one of 40 men who in the last year and a half have had vasectomies in the humble towns of El Tigre and Rio Cedro on Colombia's Caribbean coast.

In return for undergoing the operations, the men receive plots of land from a 54-year-old movie producer who sees sterilization as a way to reduce poverty. The man, who declined to be identified, pays for the operations.


I don’t have an issue with this . . .

"The tyranny which I am fighting is irresponsible procreation, unsettling the life of all Colombians and everyone in the Third World," the producer, who lives in Bogota but vacations in the area, told Reuters.


. . . but this bothers me:

But the big lesson from Tell's [the “benefactor’s” pseudonym in the article is William Tell] vasectomy experiment, it appears, is that everything has a price.

"What convinced them was their trust in me and their need for land. That's what got them into the operating room," he said.


It’s disgraceful that it has to come to this.

7:17 PM

Monday, June 30, 2003  
LAND REFORM IN BRAZIL

Boy is this the third rail of Brazilian politics. I can see compassionate arguments to be made on behalf of the MST (Movimento Sem Terra). These people are desperately poor and have little in the way of education, marketable skills and very dim prospects. All they seem to want is enough land to subsist on, but they don't help their cause with statements like this:

Landowners say they favor land distribution but fear the MST wants more than agrarian reform.

"Its ultimate goal is the establishment of a socialist regime," said Marcos Prochet, a leader of the Democratic Ruralist Union, which represents the landowners.

The MST's Mendes readily agrees. "Agrarian reform is just the first step toward socialism," he said.


The government is making an effort . . .

Since [Luiz Inacio Lula da] Silva took office, 593,000 acres of unproductive land have been confiscated for redistribution to landless farmers, said Gercino Jose da Silva, the government's agrarian ombudsman. [ed. note Silva or da Silva is probably one of the lost common Brazilian surnames]

He would not say how much more would be seized by the end of the year, when the government expects to have settled 60,000 families on their own plots. So far, 6,000 families have received land.


. .but there does appear to be some inconsistency in their recordkeeping:

Etuino Luiz Mendes, one of the MST leaders of the Tres Marias invasion, said the farm was targeted because it was idle and had produced not one pound of soybeans, beans or other crop in five years.

The owner, Maria Faria de Lacerda, is now living in her home in Guarapuava, a small town some 70 miles away, according to ranchers and the MST. She could not be reached for comment.

Under Brazilian law, nonproducing property can be seized for agrarian reform purposes. But the government's latest official survey does not list Tres Marias as unproductive.


It seems to me that there needs to be an active negotiator making an effort to work out a compromise here. If a landowner is concerned about a land invasion by the MST, and the MST is frustrated by the glacial pace of land reform in Brazil, then it certainly seems to be incumbent upon the Federal government to address the situation, keep both sides cool and find a way to get both sides some of what they want. The alternative, could be another Corumbiara or Eldorado de Carajas.

10:06 PM

 
HOW A CONSISTENT HUMAN RIGHTS POLICY CAN HELP FIGHT TERRORISM

Seth Green has an article in The American Prospect about the benefits that could emerge from the Bush Adminstration if a consistent policy against human rights abuses was implemented. One way would be to allow cases against human rights abusers to proceed in Federal Court:

Indeed, the Bush administration has repeatedly made the mistake of appeasing governments with poor human rights records, all in the name of building anti-terrorism alliances. Since September 11, the United States has embraced Indonesian and Saudi leaders, despite their abysmal human rights records, in exchange for promises to crackdown on Islamic fundamentalism. As the bombings in Bali and Riyadh illustrate, this policy has worked about as well in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia as Neville Chamberlain's 1938 strategy worked in Germany.

As U.S. News noted, in the case of Indonesia, the State Department in August 2002 specifically asked a federal judge to dismiss a human rights lawsuit brought against Exxon Mobil for allegedly turning a blind eye to the Indonesian military's murder and rape of civilians. According to the State Department, the war on terrorism could be "imperiled in numerous ways if Indonesia and its officials curtailed cooperation in response to perceived disrespect for its sovereign interests." Two months after the State Department's announcement, terrorist bombs exploded at two Bali nightclubs, killing more than 200 people. And yesterday's Washington Post reported that the Indonesian military -- apparently without fear of U.S. reproach -- is rapidly broadening its influence over civilians at the expense of democracy. (Back in February, TAP Online contributor Jonathan Goldberg wrote on how newly declassified records from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet demonstrate just how sensitive developing-world dictatorships can be to U.S. pressure on human rights -- and just how emboldened they often feel when they think America is looking the other way.)


That last parenthesized phrase goes to the heart of the matter for me. It is also, unfortunately a consistent pattern in several administrations on both sides of the aisle in addressing human rights abuses.

9:40 PM

 
CULTURAL ILLITERACY

One thing that consistently annoys me is the lumping together of several distinct styles in the arts - especially music - by an intellectually lazy journalist. Reuters has a fine example with this story about Gilberto Gil, Brazil's Minister of Culture, and one of the true icons of Brazilian popular music and his recent visit to Angola, a country with which Brazil has much in common, in terms of history and culture. Many of the slaves whose descendants make Brazil the largest African country outside of Africa came from what is now Angola and the Congo.

What has me so peeved about this article are a couple of casually tossed out phrases starting with the headline: Bossa Nova Beat Helps Foster Brazil-Angola Ties and the following comment in the body of the story:

Even Angolans without access to television can swing to the Bossa Nova beat thanks to the Brazilian music played on local radio stations.


Gee, I've been listening intently to Brazilian music for nearly thirty years and all those different genres such as Samba, Bossa Nova, Forr?, MPB (M?sica Popular Brasileira), Axé, Pagode, Choro and all those rhythms such as toada, xote, samba, maracatu, frevo, bai?o, etc. were really all just Bossa Nova! At least according to a lazy journalist who would rather toss something off than stretch her mind a little. What's worse is that bossa nova arguably has the least African influence of any genre unique to Brazil.

Brazilian music is as rich and diverse (arguably more so) as any other music in Latin America. Gilberto Gil embodies that diversity thoroughly, playing a panoply of styles many of which are carefully tuned into Brazil's African heritage. He even recorded a Bob Marley tribute that's not to be missed.

If you want to keep up with the latest in Brazilian music, you can do no better than my buddy, Eg?dio Leit?o's Musica Brasileira site.

8:59 PM

Sunday, June 29, 2003  
GARZON GETS ONE

Speaking of Pinochet and Argentina, Judge Baltazar Garzon, the judge who tried unsuccessfully to extradite Augusto Pinochet to Spain to face charges of torture and murder, has had a successful extradition in his efforts to address the crimes against humanity that took place in Argentina during the 1970's. Ricardo Cavallo was extradited from Mexico to Spain seemingly without objection from Nestor Kirchner's government in Argentina.

Accusers say Cavallo served at the Navy Mechanical School, one of the most notorious centers of repression during the 1976-83 dictatorship, during which at least 9,000 Argentines vanished - presumably killed, often after torture. Human rights groups put the figure closer to 30,000.

Cavallo has said that he was in Argentina's military, but he has denied involvement in torture.

Cavallo was director of Mexico's private National Registry of Motor Vehicles, when Interpol arrested him in 2000 after five former political prisoners alleged he had tortured them in Argentina.


Cavallo could not be tried in Argentina because of an amnesty. This will be a case worth following.

9:47 PM

 
KIRCHNER SO FAR

The New York Times has a fairly judicious look at Nestor Kirchner's accomplishments thus far in Argentina. It's definitely worth reading; check it out.

9:41 PM

 
SOMEONE FINALLY FESSES UP

Just a few short posts as I've been really busy this weekend.

Someone has finally fessed up from the Pinochet era Chilean military about what happened to some of Allende's aides shortly after the coup in 1973:

In an interview in the influential El Mercurio newspaper, Eliseo Cornejo said he was a low-ranking officer following orders and that he did not play a direct role in the killings, and later exhumation of the bodies.

He said he drove the vehicle that escorted a group of men, arrested at the presidential palace during the 1973 coup two days earlier, to a military base where he witnessed their execution and burial in a mass grave.

Five years later, in 1978, his commanders ordered him to identify the burial spot. Officials then dug up the rotting bodies and loaded them onto a military helicopter, which flew off to an unknown destination, he said.

[edit]

Human rights lawyers were not immediately available to comment on the implications of Cornejo's statements. But they say recent evidence suggests the military systematically exhumed mass graves, leading to fears the whereabouts of victims' remains will never be known.

"The evidence is clear that wherever the courts have gone to burial sites, there have been remains of remains. It's very macabre," lawyer Jose Zalaquett told Reuters this week.


Of course if you believe Pinochet and his supporters, he never knew any of this was going on . . .


9:35 PM

 
DON'T MESS WITH FIFA

Argentine footballer, Ariel Ortega (often accurately referred to as El Burrito) has been fined a stupendous US$11 million for leaving his Turkish team Fenerbahce and returning to his old club, River Plate in Argentina. He also has been banned from playing professionally until December 30.

Ortega, who you may remember as the player who, after getting a yellow card for diving in a quarter-final game against Holland in the 1998 World Cup, got a second yellow card almost immediately thereafter (resulting in a red card) for headbutting Dutch goalkeeper, Edwin Van der Saar. Seconds later, Holland scored the winning goal and went to the semi-finals while Argentina went home.

Ortega has vowed to appeal the fine. No kidding.

1:12 AM

 
DOING THE RIGHT THING . . .

. . . and having a positive impact (one can only hope) is what Nestor Kirchner appears to be doing in Argentina:


President Néstor Kirchner has signed a decree ordering agents and the former director of the state intelligence agency to testify at the trial of a score of police officers and criminals charged with involvement in the bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994.


Also, Carlos Menem's lackey Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Julio Nazareno, has stepped down at the start of his impeachment trial.

1:05 AM

 
BRAZIL'S ECONOMY

Those two words will all too often be followed by exasperated sighs, especially when you are talking to a Brazilian (something I have the pleasure to do every day).

The New York Times has an article in Saturday's paperthat details the balancing act that Lula has been doing between satisfying the fears of inflation and spurring the economy by lowering interest rates.

There are already signs that the tough anti-inflation stance is working. A broad consumer price index rose just 0.22 percent in the four weeks to mid-June, well off the 0.61 percent rise in the previous month. Brazil's country risk, measured by the spread over United States Treasury bonds that the government must pay for credit, is now below 800 basis points, compared with over 2,400 just before last year's elections. That allowed the central bank to lower rates by half a percentage point last week.

"There is no doubt the government is having success on the financial side," said Alexandre Schwartsman, chief economist at Unibanco, a major Brazilian bank based in São Paulo. "But while the financial sector is happy, the real economy is suffering."

Interest rates are so high — Brazil's 26 percent overnight rate is still more than four times Mexico's benchmark 5.5 percent rate and far exceeds the 1 percent United States federal funds rate — that they are virtually strangling economic activity.

Industrial production in April was down 4 percent from a year earlier. The economy contracted 0.1 percent in the first quarter, and most economists predict that it will have shrunk in the second quarter as well, theoretically pushing Brazil into recession.


Inflation is a palpable fear in Brazil and the type of inflation that existed in the early 1990's effectively becomes a defacto tax on the poorest members of society. With the controlling of inflation that started in 1994, people who otherwise had no hope of really participating in the economy where able to buy items such as microwave ovens in installments. Even with inflation under control, many stores still offer purchases of clothing, for example in installments or with postdated checks, which I would imagine is convenient for those who might not otherwise be able to obtain credit.

Nevertheless, there is some potential good news according to the article:

Announcing a seven-point plan to divert $500 million worth of banks' reserve requirements on cash deposits to help finance loans for low-income earners, the finance minister, Antonio Palocci, said Wednesday that Brazil was "out of intensive care." Mr. Palocci said he was raising next year's inflation target from 3.75 percent to 5.5 percent, giving the central bank more leeway to cut interest rates.


There's still a long, long way to go.

12:58 AM

 
UN PEACEKEEPERS

I haven't posted lately because I have been a little angry, and I just find it better to step back and cool my jets when that happens. With all the armchair trashing of the UN Peacekeeping efforts by those whose greatest risk is sunburn from grilling steaks on their deck, I thought I should write about my cousin (by marriage), Luis.

Luis is now a lieutenant colonel in the Brazilian Army. When I first met him in 1995, he was posted to Tefé, a town in the Amazon region that is reachable only by boat or plane. When I asked him how he liked Tefé, he said it had a lot of mosquitos and a lot of malaria. In 1997, Luis was assigned to Angola as part of the UN Peacekeeping Mission there. He spent about six months there and the experience moved him. When I saw him a couple of months after his return, I asked him how he liked Angola compared to Tefé. He said that Tefé was a paradise compared to Angola.

He told me that he thought he had seen suffering before, but he had never seen it like he had seen it in Angola. He and his colleagues faced the following risks every day in descending order: 1.) land mines; 2.) malaria; 3.) rebels. He told me that he felt that his and his colleagues' presence made some of the average citizens in Angola feel safer and that perhaps their lives were a little better and for those reasons, whatever discomfort or difficulties he faced, it was worth it. He appreciated the fact that he had the luxury of leaving Angola, but that he would never forget his experience there.

So, if you feel like trashing the UN and engaging in character assassination of the peacekeepers because you don't like the fact that they are French, go ahead if it makes you feel better. Perhaps you should talk to someone like Luis before you do so.

12:31 AM

Saturday, June 28, 2003  
BIZARRO WORLD

Further proof that we are living in Bizarro World:

  • Two weeks ago I went to an upscale store to buy a unique product only they sell. They had two examples of the product on display at the first store I went to, but were sold out of the product itself. At the second store they had four on display, but none for sale. Are we living in the age of retail museums now?

  • I am supplied with natural gas by a company called Keyspan Energy Delivery. I have been paying my bill almost exclusively on line since I opened the account. I recently receive an e-mail advising me that my current bill was now available to view and pay. When I tried to log in I received nothing but text with html tags; no links and no way to pay my bill. I emailed their customer service department and received the following answer:


  • KeySpan Energy Delivery Website has been undergoing construction in order to make your online experience more user friendly. However Customers using Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer Version over 6.0 will not be able to view our site. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.


    What's next? "We've improved the highway, but cars with rubber tires will not be able to drive on these roads."

    11:45 PM

    Thursday, June 26, 2003  
    BOOK RECOMMENDATION

    Unfortunately as the Big Apple is right now the Baked Apple and the hottest room in our apartment is the room where the computer is, I'm just going to make this one post today.

    I'm in the midst of reading Samantha Power's brillaint Pulitzer Prize-winning book A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. She covers the US reaction to acts of genocide in places such as Iraq, Bosnia, Armenia, Rwanda, etc. The villains and good guys are bipartisan. For example, on the Iraq side regarding the Kurds, among the good guys were Senators William Proxmire, Claiborne Pell and [cognitive dissonance alert] Jesse Helms. The real force for good at that time was Peter Galbraith who was a staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and made several trips to the Kurdish area of Iraq at great personal risk. Among the villains, some for their sheer fecklessness are Ronald Reagan (whose administration seemed hell-bent on issuing credits to Iraq through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC)), Senator John Breaux, Congressman Dan Rostenkowski (no surprise) and George H. W. Bush (who doubled the CCC credits amount after the chemical attacks against the Kurds in Halabja).

    In any event, the book is well documented, crisply written and ultimately, fair. If you are interested in human rights issues at all you should read it.

    I'll be back with more posts tomorrow or Saturday.


    9:41 PM

    Tuesday, June 24, 2003  
    THINGS YOU CAN COUNT ON

    There are some things in life you can count on: the changing of the seasons, Brazilian soccer fans cursing their coach after a mediocre performance, Glenn Reynolds having an incredibly tin ear.

    Courtesy of The Mighty Reason Man via Ted Barlow:

    It Must Be Nice To Be The InstaPundit

    Calling the French troops in the Congo cowards on his deck via wireless, while sipping a Redhook IPA and grilling steaks.[my emphasis]


    While I would not use the seven letter epithet that the Mighty Reason Man used to describe Glenn, I think an appropriate description may be what a judge once said about Spiro Agnew: "morally obtuse." If you read this Glenn, here's your Armchair Valor Medal. If some fat from those steaks bubbles on to your arm or if you get a splinter from your deck, you'll be eligible for the Armchair Valor Purple Heart.

    Implying, inferring, insinuating or calling someone a coward - who is in one of the most dangerous places in the world - while you sit in the comfort of your home is beneath contempt.

    10:51 PM

     
    BRAZIL WANTS TO EXPAND THE PERMANENT MEMBERS OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL

    Celso Amorim, the Brazilian Foreign Minister thinks that the UN Security Council permanent membership should be expanded and I'm inclined to agree:

    Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, in Cairo after attending the World Economic Forum in Jordan, also suggested that Brazil might join forces with regional powerhouses India and South Africa to press for permanent council slots for all three.

    Brazil has been pushing for years to expand the Security Council beyond the current five permanent members - the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China.


    While we're at it, let's get rid of the veto power for the permanent members.

    10:17 PM

     
    I CAN'T STAND HIM EITHER, BUT . . .

    I would suggest maybe another course of action to the woman who tried to slap Pinochet. The ex-dictator whose secret police committed this act of state-sponsored terrorism in Washington, DC nearly 27 years ago was vacationing in the northern Chilean town of Iquique.

    Perhaps she could have politely asked him where his thugs put her brother's body and the thousands of others. Or, perhaps how he can be deemed physically and mentally unfit to stand trial for his crimes despite the fact that according to the article, "He was limping but relaxed in recent television shots from Iquique, showing him shopping and visiting military friends."

    10:06 PM

     
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