Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Back-to-back Earthquakes in Oceania

A bad day, to say the least.

Reports are now being confirmed in detail from the region of the Samoas and Tonga stating that over 100 people are feared dead after an 8.0 magnitude earthquake hit southwest of American Samoa and then a tsunami smashed everything along the various islands coastlines.

Far to the west, across Indonesia and many hours later, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit off the coast of the island of Sumatra, collapsing buildings over a wide area. It looks very bad...
Rustam Pakaya, the head of the health ministry's disaster centre, said via a telephone text message that a hospital in Padang in the area near the epicentre of the quake had also collapsed.

"Jamil hospital collapsed and thousands of people are trapped in the rubble of buildings," Pakaya said.
Coming just days after the Philippines floods and now the same storm system hitting Viet Nam, this is going to be a very taxing time for relief efforts.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Micheletti's misstep, and its reversal.

The government of Honduras, trying to manage having former president Manuel Zelaya sitting in the Brazilian Embassy but stirring up trouble all over the country, made a bad move. Not quite as bad a move as letting Zelaya out of custody in the first place, but a bad move; The executive ordered a suspension of civil liberties.

The only possible good to come of a move like that was shutting down the Zelaya-backing elements of Radio Globo and Channel 36 TV. Fine, but it could have been done differently.

The Congress of Honduras saw all this as bad as well, and *ordered* the restoration of civil liberties. Micheletti is suitably chastised, and the executive order has been recinded.

Some evil coupsters, huh? Still obeying civil authority goes a long way toward making claims of legitmacy stick. That is actually of value now as even the U.S. government is calling Zelaya's stunt "foolish".

Fausta has all about this, in more detail. She has also posted her "Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean" for this week, which remains my favorite overview of public media on Latin America matters. Thank you, Fausta. You're the best.

This is what a military coup looks like

For those readers still unclear on what a military coup d'etat in the developing world and its aftermath looks like, one need look no further that Guinea (the formerly French Guinea)...
Tensions have risen in Guinea amid rumors that military leader Capt. Moussa "Dadis" Camara may run in presidential elections set for Jan. 31. Camara said that the shootings by members of his presidential guard were beyond his control.

"Those people who committed those atrocities were uncontrollable elements in the military," he told Radio France International on Monday night. "Even I, as head of state in this very tense situation, cannot claim to be able to control those elements in the military."
157 dead.

The reports list shootings, rapes in the street, bayonetings and knifings. Human rights groups claim (granted, unsubstatiatably) more than 1,200 wounded.
Soldiers reeking of alcohol menaced Guinea's capital Tuesday, a day after the military's presidential guard shot at pro-democracy demonstrators in the West African country...
It all happened in a single day.


IED kills three in Philippines

Sadly, the names of the men lost have not yet been made public.
The Philippine government offered its condolences to the families of the slain soldiers and praised them for helping undertake civic projects and secure peace on Jolo, about 590 miles south of Manila, the capital.
The troops were on a public support project building a school.

I'd venture to guess this made the AP because two of the dead were American Seabees, but it is more newsworthy from the point of view of reporting some sophistication to the Abu Sayyaf group's attacks.

If the days of improvised nail-bombs outside cafes has given way to command-detonated anti-vehicle strikes, then a whole new level of force protection is going to be the order of the day, for both the Philippines Military and those American advisors/support elements in the region.


Update 3.Oct

Hm... this just came down the wire... and U.S. DOD has nothing on Navy personnel losses...
10/03/2009: DoD Identifies Army Casualty
10/03/2009: DoD Identifies Army Casualty
10/02/2009: Army Establishes Program Executive Office Integration to Support Modernization
10/02/2009: Awards Announced In “Social And Behavioral Dimensions Of National Security, Conflict And Cooperation” Competition
10/01/2009: DoD Identifies Army Casualties
10/01/2009: DoD Identifies Army Casualty
10/01/2009: General Officer Announcement
10/01/2009: General Officer Assignments
10/01/2009: DoD Identifies Army Casualty
09/30/2009: National Guard (In Federal Status) and Reserve Activated as of September 29, 2009
09/30/2009: $555 Million DoD Homeowners Assistance Program Details Announced
09/30/2009: DoD Identifies Marine Casualty
Note: the 10/01/2009 "Army Casualties" is the report of the two operators killed in the Philippines.


h/t to Uncle Jimbo at Blackfive on this one.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The end of the Grand Coalition in Germany

The Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands (Christian Democratic Union; CDU this telling also including the allied Bavarian regional party, the CSU) of Chancellor Angela Merkel have won pride of place in the German Federal Election this weekend, albeit by the lowest total in years. But, best of all, their ally-of-preference the Freie Demokratische Partei (Free Democratic Party; FDP) did well enough to allow the formation of a two-party coalition government with the CDU.

The Socialist, the Left, and the Greens... are to be taken out with the recycling bin. The Socialists haven't done this badly since the Bundesrepublik came into being.

Bravo, Madam Chancellor. May this opportunity be put to good use. Europe, and The World, needs a Germany that can pull its weight.

Sunday Late Push

Better late than never.

Here's your place to start something of your own interest. This thread is left open to comments for folks to make their own fun or leave messages for me about breaking news events. The usual rules still apply: play nice.

I'd also direct your attention to the Discussion Item for 25.September before it gets buried under other matters; It is a fun one.

As always, thanks for coming here. Enjoy!

Philippines Flooding

There have been many incidents of natural disaster over the last year, and this weblog rarely touches upon them... other sites, more focused on humanitarian relief, do a far better job of promoting awareness.

But this time, the effects are felt as much in the Foreign Policy department as in the Humanitarian Aid section:
Hundreds remained on rooftops, waving and shouting for food, water and warm clothes as floodwaters began to subside in and around Manila on Sunday.

Television images showed several houses and cars being swept by swollen rivers and clusters of people on the roofs of their homes. Army and civilian helicopters were seen dropping food and relief goods.

The weather bureau said Ketsana brought the heaviest rainfall in the country in 40 years. About 410 mm of rain fell in 24 hours on Saturday, twice the amount that drenched the United States during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
This is the kind of event that people blame on their government, which is a bad thing in this case. The Arroyo administration has very limited resources with which to answer the need.

Japan should be there to really help. This is *not* enough.

The Americans should be pitching in as well, but as of today there is *nothing* on the U.S. Embassy to the Philippines web site. Here's hoping that's just an oversight...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Oh, that was the word: prætentious

Not much else to say about the performance of various international organizations during the U.N. General Assembly round this last week.

The OAS had already made sure Honduras's de jure government under R. Micheletti was not offered an invitation to the confab... although, amusingly at this point, pretender-to-the-executive M. Zelaya is a bit occupied and couldn't make it to pick up his invite from his pal M. d'Escoto Brockmann (whose term as UNGA President was over as of the 15th of Sept. The only man who could make a Libyan UNGA President look good...)

In the Africa department, the AU was mostly harmless this time, but SADC continues to show its appalling sense of what is proper by applauding the man who has ignored SADC-sponsored judicial rulings against his regime (that would be "Red Bob" Mugabe and his gang of thieves) while allowing some SADC members to undermine an invitation to the Rajoelina junta of Madagascar. Whether that invitation should have been offered is a matter of debate, but having done such...
The Democratic Republic of Congo, speaking at the General Assembly on Friday on behalf of the Southern African Development Community, which suspended Madagascar after the coup, asked that Andry Rajoelina be barred from addressing the gathering.

The motion was carried by a vote on the Assembly floor after chaotic scenes which led to most member states abstaining.
...then this is simply an act of political pretense of the most foul kind.

The United Nations General Assembly. Living down to your expectations at every opportunity.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Discussion Item for 25.September

Assertion: The insistence that even late 'teen-age human beings are "still really children" is one of the great canards of overprotective minds in modern day.

Example: It hasn't been all *that* long since a young man in Japan was considered adult at 15... certainly old enough to fight if he was of the military class. In the last ~60 years neither vote nor drink, much less the obligations of adulthood, are burdens placed on persons before the age of 20.

So when someone brings out that presumption of incompetence in those still living their second decade, you could point out all the good done by Americans of ages 18 and 19 who are by most measures functioning adults. The American Armed Forces are a professional volunteer force that values experience, but even in that environment, the average age of a soldier out on deployment barely cracks the low 20's.


you could simply point to examples of premeditated, competent, intention to do harm on a large scale, and note the accused is... 19 years old.

Discussion item:

Which is it? Are they really all just children, some wayward, others led astray, others even kidnapped and brainwashed into being child soldiers; if society can just find a way to set them on the straight path they will be saved? Or are human beings competent at a far younger age than is generally accepted in modern society and thus should have both the privileges and punishments meted out to "adults"?

U.K. Major-General Mackay resigns

He's out.
Major-General Andrew Mackay, a former brigade commander who oversaw critical operations in Afghanistan, resigned on Thursday, the Ministry of Defence said, asking for the reason behind his decision to remain a private matter.
Yeah. Private. Reuters implies another cause.

Given the dithering and ducking going on in Washington D.C. over General Stanley McChrystal's request for forces... filed the better part of 2 months ago and left to rot then pulled back for a re-write (it gets rolled out again next week)... the only question is: will A. Mackay shortly have someone to keep him company from across the pond?

There are ways to fight wars, to win them. Apparently neither Gordon Brown *or* the guy in the Oval Office who keeps refusing to return his phone calls have any clue about those ways. The only other explanation would be that their intention has nothing to do with winning the GWOT anywhere, much less in the Afghanistan theater.

The next general election in the U.K. must come by June 2010. I'd ask for sooner, but the Labour Party knows what the voters have waiting for them.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bokova to head UNESCO

It almost inexplicably took five rounds of voting, but former Bulgarian Foreign Minister Irina Bokova is to be the new chief of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). A very fine choice, this is.

She won out over Egyptian Culture Minister Faruq Hosni, who had wide support but a shall-we-say-odd view of what constitutes cultural preservation... Last year he said he would be willing to "burn Israeli books in Egyptian libraries" (and then apologized. uh huh). *Not* exactly the attitude one wants in the chief dispenser of international funding for cultural preservation.

UNESCO has had it bad years; think back to the 1980's and 90's when the U.S., the U.K. and Singapore all withheld funding over ideological differences and accusations of misappropriation (mostly the typical U.N. graft problem). Things are much better in the main, now. If there is a continuing problem, besides the bureaucratic bloat that exists throughout the U.N., it would be in the UNESCO-chartered NGO's out there that are often tools for causes that may not actually serve the goals of the main organization.

But UNESCO itself *is* doing better, and seeing Ms. Bokova take the helm is just one more step in the right direction.


Canada leads, but...

...will enough others follow?

In one of the most appropriate public reactions to the conduct of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Canadian Foreign Ministry has announced a boycott of the U.N. General Assembly speech by the President of Iran.
...saying his outbursts about the Holocaust and Israel are “shameful.”

Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon will be at the world body to attend the opening of the UN General Assembly’s annual debate, but officials signal he and other members of the Canadian delegation will vacate the Canadian seats when the Islamic republic’s president approaches the podium.
In fairness, the German Foreign Ministry has asked European nations to walk out "if Ahmadinejad again denies the Holocaust, or makes anti-Semitic statements", but the Canadians are setting the bar higher.

After all, it is a given what Ahmadinejad believes. He restated it only last week.

Will the U.S. or (granted, this would be a surprise) the Japanese delegation walk out when all good conscience says they should?


Afterhours Update:

The speech came and went... and eleven more national delegations walked out, including the Americans. AFP wire has it like this:
Delegations from Argentina, Australia, Britain, Costa Rica, Denmark, France Germany, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand and the United States left the room as Ahmadinejad began to rail against Israel, a European source said.
Add Canada to that list, as they were already headed out the door as the speaker approached the podium. The Israelis weren't even in the chambers.

H/T to Allahpundit at Hot Air for getting this report out. When compared to the incomplete coverage in this FOXNews report that only cites "Four delegations walked out during the Iranian president's remarks including the United States and Canada", it just goes to show: second source *everything*, folks.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Honduran Authorities enforce the curfew

The public demonstration by an ALBA provided rent-a-mob supporters of former Honduran President M. Zelaya, outside the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa where Zelaya has been smuggled into, has been broken up by the riot squad.

Military and Police, enforcing the curfew decreed after Zelaya's most recent stunt, did not attempt entry into the Embassy, but at least a couple of tear gas canisters ended up inside the compound... which certainly got the attention of the media reporters who are conveniently also inside the Embassy...

Sources are also coming in with reports of a possible order to detain Zelaya:
Miembros de la Dirección General de Investigación Criminal llegan a la zona pues la orden es ejecutar la captura de Manuel Zelaya Roisales y colocarlo a la orden de los Tribunales.
...(English) to capture him and place him at the disposal of the courts.

Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. It is what should have happened on day one, frankly. Not sure the Brazilians are going to go quietly along on that; they may well take one for the team on this. Pity, really. I've always thought better of the Brazilian Foreign Service.


H/T to my most excellent Spanish-language Reader for citing the above source to me.

U.S. Embassy in South Africa closed by threat

The United States Embassy in the Republic of South Africa, and the various consulates and offices throughout the country, have been temporarily closed due to "an unspecified security threat".
A State Department spokesman in Washington said the U.S. government was warning American citizens to be extra vigilant while near U.S. government facilities in South Africa.

"We are maintaining close contact with South African authorities on this issue," he said, adding that the facilities would reopen as soon as the security situation permits.

As well as the embassy, there are U.S. consulates in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. U.S. embassy spokeswoman Sharon Hudson-Dean said the current assumption was that the offices would reopen on Wednesday.
South African Police are considering whether the threat is real or a hoax, but are taking precautions.

There has been an ugly little undercurrent for a few years now of various terrorist operatives transiting or even temporarily remaining in South Africa. If this threat is real, and related to recent al-Qaeda-linked (al-Shabaab, in Somalia) matters, then this likely is an exploitation of that previously tried capability to operate in South Africa.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Zelaya sleight of hand trick

It does appear that between certain U.N. maneuvers, and a bit of a sleight of hand trick that smells of some players in the U.S. government, former President of Honduras Manuel Zelaya has been snuck back into the country... is said to be in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa under protection... and has apparently triggered the arrest warrant for him that was in abeyance...

Sources tell me that the U.S. State Department "...says Zelaya is yes- indeed- back in Honduras. They claim it took them by surprise."

Maybe he is there. Maybe not.

But you can bet money on the fact that this stunt (real or staged) is timed to catch attention in the very week of scheduled fun and games at Turtle Bay... eh hem... I mean the week of U.N. General Assembly speeches by any and all presiding leaders of the member states, and then a session of the U.N.S.C. where American President Obama has already said he is to push aside Dr. Susan Rice (AFRICA EXPERT), his Ambassador to the U.N., and chair the subsequent SecCouncil meeting himself. Yeah, the topic is supposed to be nuclear disarmament... any guesses whether that agenda will still hold?


A little more:

Fausta's Blog is already on this, and has several pieces of the puzzle... but this is still all up-in-the-air.


Here's the version of the story told by the AP. It is a "breaking news" item, so it may well have more updates as the day goes along.


Update 21st, 2200hrs, blog time

Anyone care to explain to me how giving Zelaya a pulpit on the roof of the Brazilian Embassy is not conduct incompatible with diplomatic status for the entire Brazilian presence in Honduras?

...there is also something distinctly fishy about the "2 Days Overland" return story being bandied about, but for now I lack a good challenge to it.


More on this as more information comes in.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Morning Push

Maybe you'd like to weigh in on the recent public statements by Madeline Albright (former Clinton-era U.S. SecState) to a Russian audience, or take a swing at Carter-era NSA Zbigniew Brzezinski about the opinion he voiced in an interview about Israel and Iran...

Or maybe this whole world is too depressing a place right now, and you'd rather see some nice pictures of the area where I live (taken almost 2 years ago by a visiting friend who *just now* got around to posting them, heh)...

Or most anything of merit, so long as the discussion is civil.

Here's your place to start something of your own interest. This thread is left open to comments for folks to make their own fun or leave messages for me about breaking news events. The usual rules still apply: play nice.

As always, thanks for coming here. Enjoy!


h/t to John Hinderaker at Powerline 'blog for the Albright speech link (in his text); the Zbig foolishness was originally published at the Daily Beast, but the link above points to the Weekly Standard 'blog because there is more to that matter than just the interview.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Red Shirts protest

The Kingdom of Thailand remains but one spark shy of mass civil disorder, still.

On the third anniversary of the forcible removal of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra by the Royal Thai Armed Forces, masses of his supporters turned out for rallies even in appalling weather. Perhaps more appalling would be the fact that the man's populist support is entirely blind to the conviction (in absentia, as Thaksin is in self-exile) for massive corruption during his administration. The "Red Shirt" true believers of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) simply ignore all that. They just want to bring down the current government and bring back Thaksin.

The other side came out for rallies as well, with "Yellow Shirt" demonstrators from the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) out in force as well. But in a case of ill-considered conflation of issues, a group of PAD activists attempted to force entry into the Preah Vihear temple site, claiming the Thai nationalist goal of forcing Cambodian authorities out of the area.

This isn't helping, fellows. Standing up to the "Red Shirts" is domestic politics... albeit argued in the street... and fair game. Dragging the border dispute with Cambodia into the disorder simply endangers any hope of a reasoned resolution to that matter.

The foreign investment community isn't pleased by all this disorder, either:
Export credit and risk insurance agency ONDD this week downgraded its medium and long-term political risk rating for Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy because of continued uncertainty and "the absence of a durable solution to the crisis".

Friday, September 18, 2009

The logical reaction to being abandoned

Who? NATO, in particular the Eastern European members.

Abandoned? Yeah. Sold out by the Yanks.

The reaction? NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called for a new strategic partnership with Russia.
In his first major foreign policy address as Nato chief, Mr Rasmussen called for a "joint review" with Moscow of global security challenges.

Mr Rasmussen was speaking in Brussels after the US announced it was shelving plans for controversial missile defence bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Actions have consequences. Sadly, none of those consequences are likely going to fall upon the perpetrators of this situation any time soon. Former President (American) J. Carter, for example, nearly made it out of his four year term before one of his administration's acts of poltroonery came back and bit them.

But the people of Eastern Europe have to deal with this as of today, if they can.

It sure must be fun to be Vladimir Putin right now.

Damn it.

Freedom for Iran -- Qods Day protests

It was supposed to be the annual "Qods Day" (Jerusalem Day) event in Iran to show solidarity with the "Palestinian Cause"... be that as it may...

...but it seems that it turned Green despite warnings from the authorities. A wonderful outpouring of continued protest against the regime. Almost needless to say, the thugs were sent in. Mr. Mousavi, Khatami, and Karoubi of the Opposition camp all suffered assaults or indignities.

But the movement against the regime will not go away.


Raye Man Kojast? (Where is my vote?) has a series of articles and video on the protests and the crackdown. For simplicity, only one article of the series was linked, above.

Three articles worth reading

Here are three good articles, on things that likely won't make it to your nightly news... but that you should be aware of...

1) While one French national kidnapped in Somalia earlier this summer has made a successful escape, the other "security advisor" is still being held. al-Shabaab has issued their demands upon which they condition his release. Note that (they)
...say they will free the man if France stops its support for the weak UN-backed government and ends its anti-piracy patrols in Somali waters.

The group also wants African Union peacekeepers withdrawn from Mogadishu.
(Bold added by me)

Gee... and all this time we've been told that the Islamists crack down on piracy when ever they take over a region of the country. Uh huh.

2) The finds of offshore oil continue to roll in. This time, it is an extension of the partly-defined Gulf of Guinea formations off the coast of Sierra Leone. It looks to be fairly big, but... that region is just barely post-conflict and has some of the weakest institutions of governance around. Developing these resources without enabling an entire new generation of Kleptocrats is going to take some responsible conduct. Given the usual observation ("T.I.A.") that seems unlikely, but I'd love to be wrong on that.

3) Lastly, here is a superb summary of the Kleptocracy in Venezuela which names the names and calls it as it is. We've touched on parts of this here at CompHyp, but this puts it all in a single picture... and it is *not* a pretty one. It is also one of the few analyses I've seen in open sources that points out the defining nature of Hugo Chavez' relationship with his cronies: They profit so long as his inherent cowardice in the face of personal danger does not leave them twisting in the wind.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Hatoyama Cabinet

Here it is, in all its polka-dot-suit-and-red-nose glory:

The Democratic Party of Japan-led hatoyama naikaku(The Cabinet formed by Y. Hatoyama).

Read it and weep. With rare exceptions, this is going to be on-the-job training at its finest. Of course, that presumes that any of them have the slightest interest in learning...

This time, they got Noordin Mohammed Top

As reported over at The Long War Journal and by mass media sources (this example being the AP), the most wanted terrorist in Indonesia is now room temperature. Noordin Mohammed Top was killed by the Special Detachment of the National Police in a raid last night.

This puts a wrap on the case a month after he was mistakenly reported as killed.

Good pursuit, and good work by INP Detachment 88.

One good... two bad...

The current American administration certainly has a demonstrated willingness to take action... generally the concern voiced by observers regards the thought involved prior to said actions...

Here are three reports: one good; two astoundingly ill considered

A (rare) direct action Special Operations mission scored a major kill, doing in Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who was (among other villainy) an operative in the 1998 Kenya and Tanzania Embassy Bombings. Good riddance.

This is a case of Presidents getting the credit when people actually doing their jobs do it right. Fair enough; the chief executive has to take the blame when things go sideways in public, after all. So good job for approving Operation Celestial Balance (this raid) and BZ to the operators who got it done.


The apparently intentional contempt for established alliances held by the Obama administration has been obvious for months now, and Asian alliances have gotten a particularly short shrift. So much so that advice given here (to the previous government, however) was to plan for the day when the Americans would lack the will and means to effectively contribute to the defense of Japan. Well, the day the U.S. leaves Japan to its own defense grows closer. This was actually floated by the Yanks back in April, but it hit the open source media this week designed to tie in with the change in government to the DPJ majority.


It seems that no decade is complete without a Western sell-out of Eastern Europe's liberty or security. This time, it is the abandonment of any meaningful antimissile defenses based in the region and the obvious corollary of conceding regional dominance to Russian desires. The antimissile system was not about Russia, of course. It was intended to thwart Iranian aspirations of having a nuclear missile threat to Europe. However, the timing of the agreement (during the Russo-Georgian crisis last year) *and* the associated guarantees of an American presence providing improved air defenses (which could be reasonably considered a trump card over Russian intentions) both cast the U.S. as making a commitment to the Eastern European NATO members. But this commitment is neither desired nor fulfilled by the current regime in the 'States. What makes this bone-deep foolish is that it looks like *nothing* was gained in a realpolitik sense from Russia.

Oh, bother.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Weblog Damage Control

Damage Control Parties report that all compartment doors are holding, and that the pumps are winning the race against flooding in the compromised spaces. Two boilers are holding steam and Engineering says that we can make Ahead One Quarter speed as of now. Most fires are out, and those that remain are contained.

We have power; the magazines are intact; the fire directors are in turret command.

This ship can still fight.


Personal Note: Don't ask about the last month. You'd likely not get a reply you'd like to hear. We pick up, as of now, and go on.