Wednesday, June 27, 2007


While I´m not much for movie reviews (overly unpersuasive wankery for the most part) I do want to send along a positive movie review that 99% of the people reading this blog will never have the chance to see (as in 9 of the 10 readers).

The movie is called Satanas and is a Colombian production. Colombian movies, I have found, generally tend to be pretty good. That’s probably because they’re all focused on some of the actual craziness that goes on here and there just aren’t budgets to be making $200 million mistakes. Take El Colombian Dream, for example. It was a very entertaining movie that dealt with the strong subject of a “normal” middle class family getting involved in the drug business, almost by accident. It was an entertaining movie, but also spread a bit of light on some of the tough subjects that are dealt with here.

(The beginning, in particular, was extremely heavy. It was a narrative from the soul of an aborted baby waiting to be placed in the next available body.)

At any rate, Satanas is the “based on fact” story of a man who murdered about 30 people in a very popular restaurant back in 1985 (or so) before shooting himself. Like all people who commit those types of atrocities, he was fundamentally insane.

The movie follows the story lines of three people who were affected by the terrible Pozzetto Massacre. (Pozzetto was the name of the Italian restaurant where the massacre occurred). It’s a harsh and, at times, violent story. It is not an “easy” movie to watch like Shrek the Third, for example (which I found to be extremely disappointing, by the way).

What I found to be most exceptional about the film, however, is that through the narrative, the audience can almost come to understand the position and emotions of the killer. One can never know how someone like that feels, what they think, or how they got to that point, but this story does probably the best job I have seen. Moreover, the point is not to sympathize with the killer. It’s directly the opposite. He deserves no sympathy, but condemnation. But that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t try to understand him.

Ultimately, I wanted to mention this film because I think it has universal artistic appeal. In the US, where we seem to have one of these shootings every 5 years, perhaps a movie like this one can serve the collective public’s desire to know why some things happen. Or, perhaps it’s just an entertaining film that fairly accurately depicts a series of terrible events with a precise emotional effect.

No matter, if you have a chance to see Satanas (or Satan in English), I strongly recommend the movie.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

An Outbreak of Nobbery

While I do not consider myself an expert on Colombian politics, I am learning a great deal. The current Colombian constitution is about 16 years old and the government has a bi-cameral, balance of power type system that the US has. This is no surprise. The US was involved in developing the constitution in 1990-1991 and the results are telling. That being said, just like in early US history, there have been significant changes to the Constitution over the last decade and a half, most notably, in changing the term limit rule on the presidency to allow Uribe to run and hold a second term.

In any event, I wanted to relate short history of what happened in the Colombian Congress this week. With the backing of Uribe and a strong majority in both the House and Senate, the Congress passed a law that would grant equality to gays and lesbians, including health benefits, social security, and inheritance rights for long-term couples. There were some differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, however, so they had been caucusing to create a uniform law to submit to Uribe.

Colombia would have been the first country in South America to have such a progressive policy and the second in this hemisphere. I obviously would have supported the measure on its merits, but it also would have had the extra pleasure of being a fat slap in the face of the Democratic Congress/Bush Administration if a strategic ally that we have criticized for human rights violations had stronger gay rights laws than the US.

(I say this not because I disagree with the criticism/hold on military assistance. I obviously agree with those actions. I say this because it’s absurd that the “leader of the free world” is so permissive of discrimination against gays and lesbians.)

At any rate, I’ve been using the phrase “would have been” because by some odd twist, the measure failed yesterday. The question is obvious: How could a measure with overwhelming support in both the legislative bodies and the presidency fail?

The answer is nobbery. Apparently, in the Colombian Congress it is traditional to vote in “blocks” instead of on an individual basis. This means that instead of actually showing up to vote, you essentially cede your voting power to your block, something akin to proxy voting. This is the normal practice. Yesterday, a group of conservative lawmakers clearly opposed to the measure requested and received the less common, but equally legitimate, roll call vote on the measure. The wisdom of this move was obvious. Of 102 Senators, only 63 were present for the vote. The measure subsequently failed, 34-29.

There is talk of the measure being revived in July. I know little of that process. Maybe they will have to start from scratch, reopen debate, allow for amendments, etc. Maybe it will pass, maybe it won’t. I really don’t know. I am hopeful that it will pass, but it’s never good to allow the opposition more chances to derail good legislation.

Of course, the pro-gay rights groups are faulting Uribe for not backing the bill strongly enough. But, in the end, the lesson, as always, is that politicians are inherently lazy people. Had the bill’s supporters merely bothered to show up for the vote, this discussion would not be happening. Instead, I’d be ridiculing the US about their lack of equivalent legislation.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Article Published

Long time, no post. No excuses.

However, I got an article published at Foreign Policy in Focus. You can read it here. Although those of you who read this blog have read an earlier version already. It´s about Plan Colombia and the misdirection of current policy. I´m actually a bit surprised they selected this peice to publish. It´s a take-to-the-mat beatdown of conventional wisdom as espoused by a State Department functionary in a Washington Times editorial.

Either way, this is a good development and it looks like I´ll be submitting more contributions in the future.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Fortress America

I am finding the current immigration "debate" to be reaching a level of profound stupidity that risks brain death with increased exposure. In fact, the only thing I find to be remotely interesting about it is that CNN keeps interviewing incredibly foolish people on a split screen who braggadiouscly talk about "enforcing the border" while the other half of the screen shows illegal immigrants scaling the wall, fences, etc to enter the US, and the "interviewer" throws softball questions that totally ignore the point that the current wall isn´t exactly working.

At this point, I know at least 3 things:

1. This whole bru-ha-ha is nothing more than petty politics.

2. There ain´t gonna be no closing ("securing") the border.

3. Illegal immigration has nothing to do with terrorism.

Anyone who says different is just playing this lovely game that we call politics, as we expect.

At any rate, if they build the wall, maybe in 10 years we´ll have an aging octo-genarian saying, "[Mr. X] tear down this wall." Now wouldn´t that be ironic.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Clinton Presidency Concerns

I’m beginning to have very serious concerns about a Hillary Clinton presidency. The election is still a long way off and it remains to be seen if she will win the nomination. Most of the polls currently show her in the lead, but these are national polls which don’t hold much relevance since the winning the nomination depends on winning the primaries. At any rate, as the clear front-runner, I feel it appropriate to address the following concerns. None of this means that I would not support Hillary as President. These are concerns, some of which could be and likely will be clarified by her in due time. That being said, I feel that they are significant enough to mention.

1. I’m fundamentally opposed to political dynasties. The American dream, if you will, was that anyone could become president, but of late, that hasn’t been the case. If Hillary wins the presidency that will mean at least 24 years of national leadership by two families. There are a lot of reasons why I don’t think that’s a good thing, but fundamentally, I feel it cuts against a core American ideal and in this epoch, we’re running awfully short of ideals.

2. Our nation is currently at its worst point since the end of the Nixon administration. We’re involved in an ill-advised, foolhardy war that has no clear end in sight (well, no end that doesn’t mean genocide). The reputation of the United States is reaching all time low levels across the globe at the same time that regional and global threats are emerging (Iran, North Korea, China, Terrorism, Environmental disaster, etc). The next leader needs to have a vision, a willingness to listen to advisors, and make prudent decisions on each of these fronts. Up to this point, Hillary has not articulated or demonstrated that she meets any of the three criteria I think the next president must have.

3. Her Iraq war vote. At this point, we don’t really know much more than she is unwilling to apologize for her vote to authorize President Bush to use force against Iraq. She defends this by saying that the vote didn’t authorize war; it just gave the President the power to threaten Iraq with force. The fact that she is unwilling to apologize or admit a mistake is troubling. Her defense is essentially a non-sequiter since Bush immediately used that power to go to war as everyone at the time knew he would. It’s indefensible for her to claim that she didn’t think it would result in the conflict. And the fact that she’s playing politics with this matter instead of fessing up and taking a strong position on the Iraq war leads me to my next point.

4. She might just be a closet hawk wrapped in sheep’s clothing. This has been circulated quietly, but the rumor is that she won’t apologize for her Iraq war vote because she thinks it was the right thing to do. I have read that she buys the GOP talking point that the war wasn’t the wrong thing, it was just poorly managed and that’s why we have this disaster. To me, employing a president who actually believes going into Iraq was the right decision is the exact opposite of what we need in the Oval Office.

If this is true, and it has not really been substantiated yet, then I wonder what other types of military action she would favor. Iran? North Korea? Cuba? Venezuela? My point is, that the logic used to justify the Iraq war is logic that could be applied to many other places in the world with equally disastrous results.

Bottom line: war should be a last resort, with limited objectives, and a clear end point. Invading countries to initiate regime change is directly counter to these conditions and is not what our military is for. The evidence appears to show that Clinton is much closer to a Neo-Con than a Bill Clinton Neo-Liberal.

5. I don’t trust her. Trust is a tricky area in politics since all politicians are, by nature, untrustworthy. So really, we’re just talking about degrees here. But, I watched the CNN “faith forum” which featured Edwards, Obama, and Clinton. Each candidate got 15 minutes of time and it was an interesting experiment. Of course, I find the whole process of “presidential faith” fact finding to be a sad statement of politics in our time (whatever happened to separation of church and state) but at the least, I felt that Edwards and Obama were genuine. Obama, in particular, was stunningly powerful.

I felt that Clinton, however, was lying through her teeth. Part of this had to do with body language. She answered with her eyes half-closed and appeared coached. All candidates are coached in everything, but the trick is to appear to be speaking naturally. On this issue, at least, she failed in that task.

Now, I won’t hold that against her. I particularly enjoyed her line that she was taught to distrust people that wear their religion on their sleeve (roughly paraphrased). It’s my inclination as well and I find the whole GOP pandering to religion to be barf-inducing and one of the reasons why I will never return to the GOP as currently configured. I’ve had enough of black/white, good/evil, prayer justified politics for a lifetime. And I think the last thing that we need is another “born-again” Christian who believes that God is behind his or her every decision.

So, ultimately, I’ll give Clinton the benefit of the doubt here and chalk it up to the fact that she was pissed off at even having to participate in such a display of utter stupidity. I blame the evangelical movement for this, among other serious transgressions.

Ultimately, it’s very early and the Clinton campaign has been playing it fairly close to the vest. However, I’m waiting for her to clarify her foreign policy position with more than vague allusions to “carrots and sticks”. Obama and Edwards have both taken a risk by clarifying their positions. Clinton needs to step up to the plate.

(Note: Up until this CNN special, I had basically found Edwards to be naive and uninteresting. In particular, I found his foreign policy views to be a bit sophomoric. However, he did improve his standing with me a notch or two with his passionate discussion of poverty. Not that I’m supporting him. I’m still for Obama. But I feel a little bit better about the Edwards potential than I did previously.)

(Addendum: I will be keeping a closer eye on the Clinton campaign from here on out and will post more information and links to relevant articles that go beyond bullet points and clarify her foreign policy position.)


Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Not really sure if this means anything but the media is making a bit deal out of it. I especially like this quote:

"The late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin once labelled Peres an "indefatigable schemer" for his political manoeuvring. Political satirists saw him as a lifelong loser for failing to win a decisive election in the five times he ran for prime minister."

Think it´s too late to take back that Nobel Prize?

(Note: Israel has a parlamentary system meaning that the post of President is largely symbolic.)


Forgive me if this doesn´t bring a whole lot of confidence.

As someone who has studied the UN, at least in some capacity, peacekeeping hasn´t meant a whole lot in the last 15 years. Just as those in Bosnia, Sbrenica, Rwanda, etc. Oh wait, you can´t ask them because they died when the UN didn´t step up to stop the violence (something that would have been exceedingly easy, at least in the case of Rwanda).

At any rate, I do find that a peacekeeping force in Darfur is a good first step. But this statement doesn´t ring like the truth to me:

"After months of negotiations, Sudan accepted on Tuesday a joint U.N.-AU peacekeeping force of at least 20,000 troops and police. Khartoum's delegation chief insisted on Wednesday there were no conditions."

Why don´t I believe the Sudanese government? Well, quite simply, they´ve lied their way to this point and the world has let them due to their oil resources (See China, People´s Republic and Security Council). Among the litany of lies:

- Khartoum says 9,000 people have died. Low estimates put the number at 200,000.
- Khartoum has denied a role in the genocide. A wealth of evidence has proven the government to be complicit, if not directly involved (weapons, uniforms, etc).
- Sudan has signed a number of agreements in the last 4 years, none of which have ever been fully implemented. In fact, it´s more likely that after signing the agreements, the government has actively worked to undermine them.
- Their ambassador to the US is a bad joke at best.

So let´s just say I´m not uncorking any champagne just yet.

I am, however, particularly excited about the increasingly widespread use of satellite data to verify genocide, forced migration, and culpability. This is something I researched almost 10 years ago, presented in my master´s program, and have monitored over the years. Governments aren´t likely to lift a finger in a place like Darfur unless the global civilian community gets mobilized and it seems like more particiption from the citizenry is now possible.


The more things change, the more the stay the same. The FARC is insisting on a De-Militarized Zone as a prerequisite to prisoner exchange and further peace negotiations. The motivation for this is two-fold:

1. It´s a matter of respect. Remember, this is a Latin country. Pride, machismo, and respect are all core values and the FARC is no different. They have felt and continue to feel that the Colombian government treats them as an insurgent group (which is true) and not as a legitimate force that controls a percentage of the country.

2. The FARC wants to be treated like a government and they point to other conflicts (civil wars) that have been negotiated with DMZs (like Korea). For them, the establishment of a DMZ legitimizes their "government" and strengthens their negotiating position.

Given that it would be innanely stupid to create a DMZ (been there, done that), don´t expect much to happen on this front. Uribe is a lot of things, but he ain´t stupid.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Quick Update

We had a 3-day weekend, so I have been a bit out of it. Another one is coming up this weekend, so depending on what we decide to do (maybe Girardot again), I may be out of it for a continuous period of time.

Anyway, the protests have started up again. We´ve had about 12 or more blasts going off in the last 5 minutes and the riot police are out. Apparently, it´s supposed to get even worse tomorrow. The 13th of June is special date although I don´t know why. How exciting.

My boss was fired. He was, much as I had thought, a total and complete disgrace. The downside of that is that my role has been reconfigured and as it sits now, is more or less entirely administrative. This isn´t going to last. I made my case to a big boss that I should be doing case studies on our successes (newspaper style reporting) and he agreed to think about it, but I have the strong feeling that they will follow my advice, but ask someone else to take on the responsibility. Oh well, I don´t want to work in forestry or in foreign aid administration anyway.

That´s about it from my end. Today is a bit of a lazy day. Most people are outside of the office so I don´t have a ton to do. I think I´ll go home early.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Guiliani - Bush´s Love Child

Worse than Bush.

Shockingly wrong.

Dangerous words to speak and believe:

"We are not in a war, where the root cause of this war is poverty. Bin Laden comes from one of the richest families in the world," Giuliani added. "Mohamed Atta, who was the guy principally responsible for 9/11 was based in Germany and he was well educated. I don't think he was exactly drinking dirty water. And the reality is, is that they are coming at it from their liberal mindset of what must cause crime and they are not wrong about that. But terrorism is not caused by poverty. The Islamic terrorist movement, the root cause of it has to do with ideology and a perversion of religion, an idea that they are intolerant of the way we live. And to be a leader, if you lack clarity it is very very dangerous."

Right. They´re just all crazy. Better start killin´em all.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Foreign Policy Agendas - Obama vs. Romney

Presidential candidates Barak Obama and Mitt Romney published articles in Foreign Policy this month outlining their foreign policy agendas. I was planning on a comparative post anyway, and then I read an editorial by Fred Hiatt in the Washington Post. My first reaction was, did Fred Haitt read the same articles that I did? His column “analyzing” the two articles states that:

“(1) The two candidates' programs are strikingly similar to each other.

(2) Both are strikingly similar to Bush administration policy.

(3) And both, far from retreating to isolationism in the face of Iraq and other challenges, set forth their own wildly ambitious calls for American leadership and the promotion of American values. "Boldness" is an operative word for both of them.”

He then proceeds to highlight the similarities that he found including: neither candidate wants to return to isolationism (a false choice by both candidates, isolationism isn’t leering around the corner), both want a bigger military, both want to increase foreign assistance, both see radical Islam as the fundamental challenge of the 21st Century, both want to improve the various foreign policy bureaucracies, both want to “reinvigorate” multilateral alliances, and both think that Bush’s error was in accomplishing too little, not in taking on too much (which I think Obama would vehemently disagree with).

You know, from the Washington Post, I expected something a bit more nuanced.

First, the differences between Obama and Romney are vast. Romney essentially has no detailed plan for Iraq. He speaks of the challenge and of the importance of fighting radical Islam where it is found which implies his desire to continue the fight in Iraq. But he doesn’t offer a plan for Iraq or even comment on what the US commitment would be under his presidency. On the other hand, Obama explicitly outlines a plan for establishing a regional, diplomatic initiative to create a lasting peace in Iraq. This plan would be coordinated with a phase out of US troops and assurances that the US would not keep permanent bases in the country.

Moreover, Obama identifies the Israel/Palestinian conflict as the crux or root of conflict in the Middle East and establishes working toward a lasting peace (a two state solution) would be among his top goals. He also argues that diplomacy and negotiation are crucial to dealing with Syria and Iran, meaning that he would end the “shunning” policy of the current administration and return to a policy of carrots and sticks to attempt to reduce the risks of nuclear proliferation and include those nations in the global community. Romney is noticeably silent on these issues.

Hiatt is correct when he states that both candidates want to revitalize the military. The differences on the aspect are minimal at best. However, the second point of Romney’s plan is entirely different from Obama. Romney establishes energy independence as a central pillar of his foreign policy strategy and his plan would include more oil mining in Alaska (stupidly wasteful) and the Gulf of Mexico, nuclear power development, energy efficiency, coal exploitation, wind and solar power usage, and technology development. This is clearly different from Obama, who mentions energy in the global warming context. Romney sees energy independence as important because of high prices and vulnerability to price shocks. Obama sees energy as important because of its relationship to global climate change and the host of problems that will bring down the road. In fact, Obama speaks extensively of all the current challenges greatly worsening in a world of rising sea levels and human displacement.

Additionally, Romney´s third foreign policy pillar is coordination of civilian agencies, specifically those that distribute foreign aid and other types of activities. Hiatt expresses that this is another similarity with Obama, which is correct in some sense, Obama does want to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations to strengthen interagency communication and coordination. Unfortunately, Romney’s opus skips that point. This is another example of where Hiatt sees “coordination” as meaning that the two are similar, but misses the nuance of what is being coordinated and how. It also bears mentioning that Romney’s third pillar is to tinker with the foreign policy administration as if Bush’s policies weren’t wrong; it was a failure of implementation.

Romney’s last pillar is strengthening alliances. He speaks of UN Reform, re-orientating NATO to fight against radical Islam, calling a summit of nations to unify our response to the threat, establishing a so-called “Partnership for Prosperity and Progress” that would support civil society and infrastructure development across the globe, and finally, free trade.

Obama speaks of some of those things as well, in particular, doubling foreign aid. However, Obama´s approach is substantively different. He believes that “fixing” those alliances starts at home with ending torture, illegal rendition, Guantanamo Bay, etc. Once American values have been revitalized here, then, according to Obama, we can reestablish and strengthen our international partnerships in Europe and around the globe.

More than that, however, Obama goes much farther than Romney. He states that addressing the root causes of terrorism and radical Islam are critical to effectively winning the war against terror. He identifies Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Kashmir, the Palestinian conflict, poverty, and a lack of education around the Arab world as key challenges that US foreign policy must address to alleviate the causes of terrorism.

In this way, Obama’s approach is substantively and qualitatively different than Romney’s. Whereas Romney has essentially a foreign policy grid which he believes can be applied to the globe, Obama has a much more subtle and sophisticated approach to these problems. On the one hand, Obama wants to build up the military to fight the challenges that exist today, strengthen homeland security to make America safer, and fight nuclear proliferation in Russia, Iran, and North Korea to reduce that danger and the risk that terrorists get their hands on nuclear material, while on the other, he wants to find long-term solutions by addressing the root causes.

Romney’s approach is essentially the same as the Bush administration. He pays lip service to UN reform and alliances will identifying a strong military, energy independence, and inter-agency coordination as 75% of his foreign policy platform. He is silent on the origin of Islamic fundamentalism while stating that “Many still fail to comprehend the extent of the threat.” From reading Romney’s opus, one gets the sense that the desire of radical Islam “to replace all modern Islamic states with a worldwide caliphate while destroying the United States and converting all nonbelievers, forcibly if necessary, to Islam” stems directly from the religion and not from a confluence of factors that create radicalism. That type of analysis, one that refuses to identify the causes of radicalism, necessitates a military-only approach to the problem, an approach that has been proven to fail.

I know that Obama’s platform is not flawless. There are certain things I think need further development (it is only a blueprint after all). But what is clear from his essay is that he gets it. I can’t say the same about Romney. In fact, Romney’s platform is chock full of vague generalities, doesn’t highlight the importance American values (freedom is the cornerstone of Western civilization), has strange priorities, and completely ignores some of the greatest and most important challenges (Israel/Palestine, North Korea).

All of which explains why I was shocked to read such poor scholarship from the Post’s Fred Hiatt. But then again, my guess is he’s just positioning himself to be the next Robert Novak.

*Update: I do not want to present Obama´s foreign policy platform as flawless or as a recipe for success. My point is only that he´s at least got the right ideas. Time will tell how those ideas are implemented (if he becomes President) but as of now, his methodological approach is vastly superior to Romney and the rest of the GOP who basically said, Bush´s mistakes were in implementation, not in strategy. Anyone who thinks it wasn´t a huge mistake to go into Iraq shouldn´t be president in my book (and that includes you Hillary).


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Conservatism and the Environment

Here´s one way to make sure you meet a campaign pledge to prevent wetland destruction: Change the rules to limit the scope of the Clean Water Act (excluding streams). That way, you can devote your resources to those wetlands and in the process make environmental enforcement more complicated, less transparent, and extend the timeframe for enforcement actions. These actions are more than likely to appease and satisfy your polluting campaign contributors.

All hail King George!

GOP Debate

Unfortunately, I missed almost all of the Democrat Debate on Sunday. However, I did catch the GOP one which was almost more interesting and definitely more stomach turning. At any rate, here are my thoughts:

1. I am continually shocked that we live in a world (or I used to) in which a candidates views on evolution are important. I was stunned by Huckabee´s, "If you want to believe you came from a monkey, feel free...God made us in his image," diatribe. Questions like that should be irrelevant, sadly, my country has its fair number of fools that prefer to ignore science when it suits them (see Warming, Global).

2. Tommy Thompson is a veritable bull dog. I love that guy. He has no chance in hell to be the President and I wouldn´t vote for him, but I hope he doesn´t go away just yet. He employs the "uzi" style of argument, spitting out whatever comes to mind, quick as possible.

3. I love that little guy (Paul I think) who is the hard core libertarian, except he really blew it on the Gays in the Military question. A libertarian would have said that sexual orientation is not the government´s business and the policy of kicking out gays because of what they are is stupid.

4. Of course, the whole host of 10 candidates just blew it on Gays in the Military. I believe 6 of the 10 clearly misrepresented the current policy (saying that only conduct can result in punishment, clearly false - being "out" means you get kicked out) and Guiliani blew whatever shot he had to win moderate votes when he defended the current administration´s recent decision to kick gay translators out. So much for being strong on national security.

5. The media seriously needs to stop saying that Guiliani is "strong on national security". There is absolutely no evidence to support that claim. Especially when his national security platform is essentially George Bush squared.

6. The GOP has absolutely no answer to the war in Iraq. Of course, I´m not convinced anyone does. But one of the differences between the Dems and GOPs at this point is that the Dems are presenting actual policy suggestions (more on this tomorrow) while the GOPs are just repeating tag lines about the war on terror and winning in Iraq.

7. The immigration debate is popular but non-sensesical. Basically a bunch of scared white men worried about not being able to communicate in English and proposing that the solution is to enforce the law we currently have (oh so easy, that one). Guiliani blew it again on this one. He had the opportunity to make a strong case against an English-Only country. He could have said, "I was the mayor of NY. We have every language in the world. But we still speak English and we didn´t need an English-Only policy." etc.

8. The question of using nukes to stop Iranian proliferation was entirely frightening. These people actually think, or have the seeds of thought, that it would be better to launch a nuclear attack against Iran than deal with a nuclearized Iran. I´m sorry, but so far, history has been pretty stout. Deterrence works. Not to mention that Iran doesn´t have delivery technology capable of reaching the US. I was shocked by the answers I heard because these candidates, many of whom make appeals to Reagan´s memory, clearly have no idea what the fuck they´re talking about and it´s frightening to think we could have a foreign policy based on such ignorance (oh, wait...).

9. Tancredo is clearly the biggest a-hole of the bunch. Complaining in a national debate about having to push 1 for english. Get a life.

10. Someone wake up Brownback. Oh, wait. Just tell him not to squint all the time. He looks like a beetle.

11. Gilmore was very strong when he talked about the "Commonwealth of Virginia" with his little southern accent. But when he shifted to different topics, he pretty much fell apart.

12. Duncan Hunter said he would use nukes "carefully". Not sure what that means.

13. McCain came off as old and feeble. This is the second time I´ve made this point but he looks like he´s primed for the retirement home, not the White House. CNN was looking for big moments and pointed to McCain´s interaction with the first voter about loss of life as that moment but I found the whole thing to be a bit sad. Didn´t really have much impact as far as I was concerned.

14. Romney apparently fell in love with Guiliani since the last debate. Even when Guiliani outright ripped off Romney´s rhetoric about needing an energy policy equivalent to the Apollo program (more on this tomorrow), Romney just buttered up and kissed Guiliani´s ass. Looks like he´s angling for the VP job at the moment.

15. The big GOP response to Iraq as of last night was that the war wasn´t a bad idea, it was just mismanaged. That´s like saying New Coke wasn´t a bad idea, it was just poorly marketed. These guys are never going to learn.

16. These guys are done and should never be seen again: Tancredo, Hunter, Gilmore, Brownback, and Huckabee. They never had a shot in the first place and the longer they stick around, the worse they make the GOP look. On second thought...


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Quick Hits

I have a longer and more detailed diatribe forthcoming, but I wanted to recount a few quick things.

First, we had a bit of a riot/protest yesterday afternoon outside the office. It was a student riot in protest of a new transfer law that I won´t pretend to understand since El Tiempo apparently has no intention of explaining.

We went up to the roof to see what was happening and we saw that the students had armed themselves with molotov cocktails and bricks. The police had riot police out, roads blocked off, and the riot car with the water cannon (like a tank). I even saw a riot cop halfheartedly hitting a student with his beating stick although it wasn´t terribly forceful. The tear gas was heavy, even 10 stories up, so we didn´t stay that long (our viewing angle wasn´t great).

The riot went on for about 2.5 hours. Sounded a bit like a war zone. There were lots of explosions, sounds of gunshots (I imagine rubber bullets), and of course, the roar of angry voices. It was all very interesting.

Of course, it wasn´t very interesting to the Vice Education Minister who received a mail bomb yesterday. He´s ok, just some minor injuries. It was a small bomb. But this protest is obviously quite serious.


In other news, coca production is up again in Colombia. The UN and US are saying that the rise in measured coca plants has to do with the size of the survey area. Either way, this quote is telling:

"Rapid crop reconstitution, a move to smaller plots and the discovery of previously unsurveyed coca growing areas, have posed major challenges to the techniques and methodologies used to understand Colombia's coca cultivation and cocaine output,"

It´s become increasingly obvious that Plan Colombia isn´t substantially effecting coca production. Of course, the White House has been withholding this data since February, but there´s no surprise there.


I saw President Uribe on TV last night. He gave a very strange speech explaining and justifying the release of some FARC prisoners. He had written his notes on a very small pad and on several occassions he took a moment to jot something down during the speech. Very bizarre.

At any rate, I believe there are at least 4 reasons why he made this move:

1. This move, in cooperation with the new French government, should strengthen Colombia´s relationship with the EU. This is very important because given the perceived instability between Colombia and the US, a closer relationship with the EU can be a balancing or stabilizing force for Uribe. Moreover, when everyone laughed at Vice President Santos´claim that Colombia could terminate US aid, it became obvious that a threat to seperate Colombia from the US was empty absent an alternative. A closer relationship with Europe provides some teeth to that threat.

2. This move, something Uribe deemed a humanitarian effort to reintegrate the FARC into civil society, also serves as a ploy to placate Democrats concerned with human rights violations here in Colombia. Uribe has, in at least a small way, demonstrated that he is serious about finding a peaceful, long-term solution to the conflict, a way that respects the rights of the enemy.

3. This move will clearly demonstrate that the FARC is not a political organization, only a narco-terrorist organization. This isn´t terribly important to the Bush administration and probably not important to the Democrats either (the US has labeled the FARC a terrorist org) but it could make a difference in the EU. By making a good faith effort to treat FARC prisoners humanely, to integrate them into civil society, and to attempt to make peace is in stark contrast to the concentration camp-like imprisonment that the FARC is undertaking. Uribe made this comparison last night and I believe his gambit is intended to reveal that the FARC won´t reciprocate or respond in any way except to reject negotiations.

This should help convince the "pro-peace" crowd (mostly European) that the FARC isn´t serious about peace, just as they weren´t in the 90s when they used the "demilitarized zone" to reconstitute their forces. Some may think that given recent history, no further actions are necessary to convince the world that the FARC is just a terrorist organization. Unfortunately, politics has a short memory and in this is no exception.

4. I have the sense that Colombian presidents get tired and/or desperate. The demilitarized zone in the 90s was a horrid idea and one incredibly hard to justify. But they did it anyway. And, given Uribe´s tone last night, I got the sense that he wanted to try something different and see if it could make a difference. I didn´t get the sense that there was more than a smidgeon of optimism in his voice and manner, but at some level, I think he felt he had to try something.

At any rate, I fully expect Uribe´s gambit to fail to bring peace negotiations. The FARC is not interested in peace. Their business is chaos and war. It serves their interests. Peace does not help them. So instead, I expect more of the same.


Monday, June 04, 2007


The boss is here today. Looks like his office is mostly cleaned out and he´s been in meetings for most of the day. Still, somewhat strange. He was acting almost too happy when I saw him. Maybe he worked out a deal to exit gracefully. Not sure what´s going on.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Change is Coming

The last week on the job has been a very strange one for me. While my activities were mostly within the scope of legitimate business activities (I'm at the office 10 hours a day yet don't have work to justify the time I spend there), there was a lot of politicking and gossiping. Now, I'm not really clued in on the scurrying little conversations that go on around me. Not only are they in Spanish, I find a lot of the gossip to be childish and immature. However, I knew that something was up.

Friday, in the afternoon, I started to have concerns that maybe they were going to fire me. I've been on edge since I last talked to my boss and since nothing substantial has actually changed since then and I still do not have a clearly defined role, I have been more nervous about things than I probably should be. As I did my work and observed the scurrying chatter and rumor I started to become angry at the idea that they could fire me. If anything, I thought, they should fire my boss for total and complete deriliction of duty.

Just this week, we had two high level meetings with USAID officials where key parts of our presentations (the team's, not mine) were incomplete to such an extend that the meetings should have been canceled or postponed. It was embarrassing and while not necessarily the direct fault of my boss, it certainly reflected on the fact that he wasn't running a tight ship. Hell, he wasn't running much of a ship at all. I commented to my wife just the other day, actually, that I wasn't really sure what his job was - or, better said, what he did all day. Because he certainly didn't seem to be doing any managing.

Well, Friday night, my wife and I had a friend over to our place who is very connected into this company, the Colombian government, and USAID (she was on the committee that awarded this project to my company). I explained the trouble I was having at the company (interviewing for one position, being contracted for another without being told, and working as a Technical Forestry Assistant which I am completely unqualified for). She put a call in to a friend in the company to discuss my situation (there is an opening in the policy department) and guess what: they fired my boss on Friday night.

Now, I'm not sure what this is going to mean. I'm going to try to transfer out of my department to something more suitable and with this contact that I have (a very good friend of my wife's) that may be a possibility. In the short term, however, I really don't know what's going to happen, who is going to be the new boss, etc. I imagine it will be the previous "sub-gerente" who I think is very good and a very hard worker. Hopefully, my role will develop in a reasonable capacity. Either way, things be a changin and I can only hope that these changes put me in a position to excel.


Friday, June 01, 2007

Frightening Climate News

This article is particularly troubling.

It´s also kind of funny. They use google ads. Sometimes that turns up the most surprising things.


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