Sunday, November 29, 2009

Election Day in Honduras

'tis the 29th of November; time to go to the polls to elect the next President of Honduras. Thankfully, that *can't* be M. Zelaya.

Here's the pre-election coverage from the BBC. Sadly, our friends at Angus Reid Global Monitor have no current polling data for this election, so we'll have to presume a strong chance for either of the leading candidates. The Beeb picks it like this:
The favourite to win is conservative Porfirio Lobo from the National Party, and Elvin Santos from the Liberal Party is considered his nearest rival.
I'll hedge and say that the Liberal Party has done a fine job of distancing themselves from Zelaya's supporters by holding firm in the interim under R. Micheletti; that might be enough for E. Santos to make it.

But what I hope for, and what I think we should all hope for, is that Honduras gets to choose their next President in a free and fair way. That's what the whole removal of Zelaya was about, after all.

Viva Honduras! Viva Democracia!


The best English-language source from inside Honduras on all this remains La Gringa's Blogicito. She's doing a great job monitoring what is on the local media, and what is heard in the street; a far better source than most of what is hitting the wire services. She also has links to lots of Spanish-language sources for those that can read or listen to them.

For summary information from a wide variety of sources, you can also look in on our other friend, Fausta's Blog (Honduras tab). Fausta covers lots of things, so I've taken the link directly to the sort for Honduras items for your convenience.

How to lose a point of GNP in a day


Step 1.
Have ~30% of your GNP be generated by US$-based export trade.

Step 2.
No matter how many warnings you hear, or how bad the trends have been for almost 2 years (since the Americans started the proverbial printing presses to cover massive government red ink)... even as you watch the en (Japanese Yen) muscle up from an arguably overstrong 110-to-the-$ range into the low 90's... do *nothing* to increase availability of the en. Be particularly insensitive to fears that deflation will return to the Japanese economy.

Step 3.
Lose over 3% of your exchange rate on recovering said dollars into your national currency in a single trading day.
...a 14-year high of 84.82 to the dollar...
Voila! It is done.

Seriously... it happened about that way; that's a fact that even the hatoyama naikaku (Hatoyama administration) is waking up to. The question now is:

With deflation already present in the economy *again*, and the loss of domestic consumption that brings with it well underway... is *this* too little, too late?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

very, very distracted

There is a lot to cover going on out there right now, but in one of the unfortunate coincidences of life right now, I'm obliged elsewhere.


Here are some reports and some very good writers you should spend a little time with, while I keep shoveling in the stables. (insert optimistic comment about finding a pony, *here*):

The ICC has opened the trial of two warlords from the 2003 fighting in Ituri, D.R. Congo, on war crimes charges. It is a particularly nasty set of charges, and Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has a very good case.

Also from the Congo, a report to the U.N. about MONUC and cooperating with the FARDC has been leaked... and it is one of those stories that cause one to question if there are any good guys in that fight. There are, but there are some really bad ones on both sides and that's where the problem lies right now.

Richard Fernandez (of Belmont Club reputation) has a superbly insightful piece on how the recent massacre in the southern Philippines came to be, and how it doesn't surprise experienced Philippines-watchers that it happened. There is no more-expert opinion out there on things political in the Philippines than R. Fernandez; he lived what he talks about on that topic.

Lastly, for now, *REMEMBER* 29.November is election day in Honduras... and the Zelaya-insurgents are intent on making a fight of it (and not just in the polling places). Look to La Gringa's Blogicito for first-class English-language reports from in-country as this all happens.

Thanks again, folks, and I'll be back to regular postings as soon as I can. Just need to get a little sleep first...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Midday Push

There is, as always, a lot out there to comment on. I, however, am obliged (hopefully only one more day)... That means it is your turn.

This thread is left open for comments if you have any topics you'd like discussed, or suggestions as to things to look into in more detail here. The usual rules still apply: Play Nice.

I'll be back here late today, at least to look in.

Thanks, All. Your patience is greatly appreciated.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

That was what they wanted...

The French and German governments had made it fairly clear that they wanted the new European Union President as defined under the Lisbon Treaty to be someone limited to greeting foreign dignitaries and chairing summits.

That was what they wanted...
Van Rompuy, 62, is a technocrat with a penchant for haiku poetry. A Dutch-speaking Christian Democrat, he is unknown abroad, and even in Belgium he keeps a low profile. Or as a Belgian commentator recently put it: "Van Rompuy opens his mouth only to breathe."
...and that was what they got. Herman Van Rompuy, currently Prime Minister of Belgium.

Same idea, but more lefty, for the E.U. Foreign Policy brief:
Ashton, who has never been elected to public office and is largely unknown outside Britain, had seemed an unlikely choice. She won the foreign policy brief after British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and left-leaning leaders from Spain, Greece, Slovakia, Slovenia, Portugal and Austria decided to put her name forward.

Ashton, 53, was a junior minister and leader of the House of Lords in 2007 and had a history as an anti-nuclear weapons campaigner.

She has barely caused a ripple during her year as EU trade chief and has no known foreign policy experience.
Catherine Ashton of Britain, currently the E.U. Trade Commissioner.

So it appears that Henry Kissinger's famous question regarding Europe... (paraphrased) "who do I pick up the phone and call?" is still unanswered.

Some one is there to take the call now, but they appear to be a message center worker.


The article linked above has a line saying "German Chancellor Angela Merkel and often-outspoken Premier Nicolas Sarkozy of France did not reveal a preference before the meeting." Technically correct. Other sources have confirmed that the Von Rompuy choice was predetermined by Franco-German agreement before the nomination.

Hugo over-reaches

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is trying to get people to look anywhere else than at the massive economic and utility failures that are defining his administration of the country, and his latest ploy is to once again go looking for trouble with Colombia.

He's been frothing at the mouth on his televised appearances (which happen at a whim, often daily).

He's making more trouble by engaging in petty provocations, and with the number of low-quality militia (and regular) troops he is waving around, things are likely no longer under any real control from the Palacio de Miraflores (Miraflores Palace; the office of the national executive in Venezuela).

This isn't going over very well. A number of sources inside and associated with the Venezuelan military are saying some parts of a war have already started, and it isn't going to end well for Venezuela.

But that's not what friends of Hugo are saying; the best friend he ever had says "I know Chávez very well. He would be the last one to provoke a conflict where Venezuelan or Colombian blood could be shed."

Oh, really?

Clearly we've misjudged Hugo.

If the biggest exporter of Soviet-inspired revolutionary violence in the Western Hemisphere says Hugo is a right fellow, it must be so.

Yeah, right.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

FDLR arrests in Germany

This has the potential to be hugely important:
Police in Germany have arrested two Rwandan militia leaders on suspicion of crimes committed in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ignace Murwanashyaka, the leader of the FDLR rebel group, and his aide Straton Musoni were held on suspicion of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (Rwanda Genocide trials) , the Congolese *and* the Rwandans are probably standing in a queue now to get a piece of this, indictments in hand.

By the way, as long as they are where questions can be asked, let us not overlook asking about where the Gold of the Congo has gone, eh? Some names of the brokers and smugglers in Uganda and Dubai who get a piece of the theft would be good answers.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kabila now wants MONUC out

Oh, how helpful.

Just as some things were going better in the D.R. Congo, at least as a trend...

and Rwanda had come to some accommodation with the Congolese government to deal with the FDLR (Hutu-exile insurgents; the Rwanda Genocide perpetrators and supporters)...

and the focus was shifting to the (previously intentionally underreported) heinous conduct of the FARDC (DRC Army) in the Kivu regions...

President Joseph Kabila of the DRC gets a case of injured dignity and wants to end the MONUC United Nations peacekeeping operation in the D.R. Congo.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, diplomats and U.N. officials said President Joseph Kabila was putting pressure on the U.N. and Security Council ahead of the country's 50th anniversary next year to come up with a plan for ending the peacekeeping mission, known as MONUC.


"It's partly a question of dignity," one Western diplomat told Reuters. "Kabila's eager to show that his government's reliance on U.N. peacekeeping is decreasing. It's understandable. No leader wants to give the impression that he needs U.N. peacekeepers to stay in power."
Now that the attention is being focused on how bad his own army is, he gets a case of pride.

Moreover, the truth is that *he does need peacekeepers to stay in power* unless he resorts to violent suppression of all competing factions. And that will lead us right back to the internecine massacres of the Congo Wars.

Someone needs to take J. Kabila and company aside and tell them that's not acceptable. Privately. Then again, publicly if he insists on *not* taking the opportunity to reform the FARDC that cooperation with a re-enforced MONUC for a few more years brings.

Otherwise, the Security Council will likely be authorizing another peacekeeping operation in a few years to try and pick up the broken pieces of the D.R. Congo after someone brings Kabila down... and a whole lot more people have died.

It is a ploy

The news media has picked up on the reports that the Palestinian Authority intends to make a unilateral appeal to the UNSC for recognition of Statehood. The claim goes something like this:
The Palestinians plan to go to the U.N. Security Council in an effort to secure international support for an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, officials said on Sunday.
Leaving aside the fact that the PLO declared "independence" back in 1988 (likely-not-coincidentally also on the 15th of November)...

What appears to be actually happening is a ploy to self-collapse the Palestinian Authority and throw the door open to things like the "One-State Solution" so beloved by Arab League proxies in the negotiations.
Palestinian officials predict the US would veto a UN resolution. If the resolution fails, senior Palestinian officials are considering completely dissolving the Palestinian Authority. That would leave the burden of running the West Bank to Israel--a policy that the Israeli government would be fearful of.
It is a ploy. A rather nasty one, actually. It can be countered diplomatically, but that will take steely resolve on the part of Israel's friends to hold the line.

Otherwise, the burden of protecting themselves falls squarely upon Israel.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

More Tourists: part 2

The Obama visit to Japan must have gotten a bit crowded a couple of times today, as the American President was accompanied by his three best friends, Me, Myself, and I, during his speech at Suntory Hall.

On the positive side:

He didn't forget the abduction issue when he spoke about North Korea problems.

He specifically mentioned the Treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines as being "...fundamental to our shared security".

The resurrection of the Doha round of the WTO talks was implied by his call to continue working toward an agreement.

He made a renewed commitment to America providing the "nuclear umbrella" in the defense of both Japan and South Korea, "so long as these weapons exist".

Iran was mentioned alongside North Korea as part of the larger weapons-proliferation problem. Locals tend to see those as different problems, but they aren't and it was good to keep them together in the public view. Pity Burma wasn't mentioned in this context, nor Syria.

Bringing up the issue of Human Trafficking, one of the remaining Human Rights scourges of East Asia, and speaking of means to counter that trafficking was a very good thing. This issue has been shamefully overlooked.

On the negative side:

No mention was made of the Northern Territories matter, nor of Russia at all.

Completely left out of all discussions was the fundamental nature of the Japan-America military alliance, that Americans can be asked to die for Japan's defense, but that Japan will not (some argue 'can not') fight for the defense of America other than in the course of its self-defense if war were to come. It remains a protectorate relationship, and until Japan finds a way to *be* an equal partner, it won't be anything else.

Far too much focus was placed on matters of Climate Change -driven activities, and on claiming that progress is being made on both the Burma and North Korea issues. The first can be explained by that being the *only* matter where a substantial agreement was produced as part of this visit... although one can't be very substantial about "striving for success in Copenhagen". The second could have been meaningful, but neither depending on Six-Party Talks with North Korea nor extending the "Sen. Webb goes to Myanmar" approach to Burma have a whole lot of promise of reaching what could be called success; they are at best means of process.

If I hear "Let me be clear:..." one more time in an Obama speech, the possibility of spontaneous combustion on my part can not be ignored. It is an ugly pretension, and it takes away from what ever else the man is saying. The "America's first Pacific President" claim was another annoyance. Hint to the Man in the Oval Office: Really, boss, it is *not* always all about you.

And then, it was off to lunch with His Imperial Majesty and The Imperial Consort.

Well, at least he tried to show respect. If it were I in the position of a being both a Head of State and a visitor calling upon the Imperial Family, I would have gone with the simultaneous bow (understanding that tennou heika bows very little) and then a handshake if His Majesty offered one. This probably wasn't the best move, as some Americans do get upset about Presidents bowing to anyone and more to the point it looked awkward as all heck. Thankfully, His Imperial Majesty is known to be a rather forgiving fellow about such things.

I'd comment about the lunch itself, and the discussions at that time, but the Imperial Household Agency is quite strict about keeping those sort of things absolutely privileged... only an interpreter accompanied the three during the meal.

So, to wrap up as President Obama is on his way to Singapore now:

...not much got done

...not much was expected

...nothing went horribly wrong

...and Ambassador Roos got a visit from his buddy (and then apparently turned invisible, which is may be the first correct thing he's done in his months here. When the President is in-country, the Ambassador becomes a third wheel if he tries to be involved.)

Let's hope the rest of this trip goes as this did, and we can all get back to doing things instead of just talking about doing things.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Civil Trial in New York

Words fail to describe this:

YHGTBFKM <-- ((an outcry of dismay unsuitable for gentle ears))

I'd like to believe that this is just U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder freelancing while the boss is out of town... but the President made the implication that he's on-board with doing this.

Miserable amateurs, the lot of that administration.

More Tourists: part 1

Oh joy, the Yanks are visiting. No, not the sports team, the President and his entourage.

They managed to fit a meeting with Hatoyama souri (Prime Minister Y. Hatoyama) into their busy day, and many words were said. One pre-negotiated* agreement was let out as a Joint Statement on Climate Change Negotiations.

Otherwise, not much. The opportunity to really make a shambles comes tomorrow, anyway: The Big Speech (tm) at 1000hrs local time; and an audience with tennou heika.

Here's the full story in Japanese, which for many of you is just an opportunity to look at the pictures. My regrets, but there's not enough there to merit posting a full translation.


note: pre-negotiated* ~ almost every "summit" agreement is long-before-the-meeting-negotiated by staffers or representatives. No complaints about that here. The rare ones that aren't are often really bad.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Yemen insurgency ~ a three way fight?

The civil situation in Yemen has not been stable for years, but this just about takes the cake:

The National Army is fighting both a low grade rebellion in the South and a real insurrection in the North.

The Northern conflict (the al-Houthi tribal rebellion) has signs of being partly fueled by Iranian activities, and there is a large al-Qaeda presence around that region that seems to be anti-Houthi, but is often anti-Government as well.

The Houthi rebellion has now spilled over into Saudi Arabia, drawing a heavy Saudi response on land and a naval blockade of Red Sea routes of supply to the rebellion. The Saudis are (unofficially) painting their intervention as thwarting Iranian influence.

The National Army, led by a government that can't seem to decide if they are old-school Nasser-inspired Arab Nationalists or new-model Islamists, are being offered help... the American military...

...and... al-Qaeda's Arabian Peninsula forces.

I'd call this a three-way fight, but with all the players now deciding to jump in, it could be a five-way fight. That is, *if* everyone weighing in is really on different sides and no one is being played for the fool.

Any bets the Americans are at least one of the ones in motley?


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Armistice Day

They celebrate it as Veteran's Day in the U.S.A., and as Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth.

It was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, and it was the moment of hope that war would never come again between nations.

To get to that point required the expenditure of the blood and treasure of a generation; To lose that opportunity took only two months... then selfishness ruled the day again and the hope was doomed.

But for the fighting men (male and female) who paid that cost, let this be their day.

Let them be remembered.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Let this also be a day for all our war dead, and one to appreciate the veterans in our nations, making special note of those who could not come home intact. If you have the means and are in the U.S., please consider helping at the Warrior Legacy Foundation, or at Soldier's Angels Project Valour IT... or find a way to donate time in your community to veteran's matters.

Now excuse me, folks; I'm going to spend this day with some old friends. Barring any major interruptions, I'll be back here tomorrow. The Lord bless and keep you, All.


Last year on this topic here at CompHyp.


In Remembrance:

"In Flanders fields the poppies blow..."

"Ich hatt' einen Kameraden..."

Chavez looking for trouble; Uribe looking for support

The #1 fan-favorite here at CompHyp, Hugo A-go-go Chavez, President of Venezuela, has been ranting on about how he expects war with Colombia (and the United States of America) and has recently ordered increased troop readiness along the Colombian border.

The Uribe administration in Colombia is still trying to take the "reasonable" approach to all this, but they have referred the matter to the UNSC for discussion. So long as this can be cast as a preventative measure to counter any war-fever outbreak in the Chavez regime, it is a good move.

The willingness of Correa in Ecuador and Morales in Bolivia to echo the call for "war" should just remind any observer that ALBA (their alliance) never was intended to be a reactive defensive alliance. It is an attempt at forming a regional power bloc to isolate non-member states and then threaten them.

But that threat is still fairly weak; Hugo is still looking for the rest of his "ten battalions of tanks" that were supposed to be there the last time he ordered troops to confront Colombia... but if he keeps buying weapons, one day *soon* he might just have the means to back up his words.

Better to derail this whole ALBA scheme now, before it becomes difficult.

APEC run-up: China Matters

The upcoming APEC meetings, combined with the Japanese effort at the Mekong Development Summit and the East Asia tour of America's President Obama and entourage, will bring many issues to be dealt with, but perhaps none more likely to go wrong than matters with the People's Republic ("Red") China.

Here are two danger areas that the leaders of Japan (and the United States) had best be considering carefully *before* they speak:

The P.R. Chinese economy is very likely not capable of being an engine of recovery, even for its own people not to mention trying to be the next great consumer economy. The numbers just don't add up. Someone is cooking the books. Taking a trusting position right now won't help anyone.


The issue of Taiwan is, and has been, greatly aided by policies of Strategic Ambiguity on the part of Japan and the United States; the answer to the question of "Would either nation defend Taiwan from an attack by the PRC?" being somewhere between "*YES*" and "maybe", but never less than that. But given the performance of the Obama administration abroad so far, there is a genuine fear that he might say otherwise on this trip. Never mind that contravenes American law on the matter; all he has to say is "um... no?" and the PRC will take that as a green light for action.

So here's hoping for some diplomatic good sense on the part of all involved...

...faint hope that may be.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A wreath at dawn

Today's little trivia item:

Someone's grave in the Arch Street Friends Meeting House graveyard (Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A.) is marked at dawn with a wreath this day... every year.

Whose grave? Who marks it? ...and why?

My congratulations if you know this without opening reference material. I had to look up the place.


Monday, November 9, 2009

A wall longer than just Berlin came down

...a wall between families, a wall between people, a wall between freedom and a life of modern serfdom. The Restricted Zone.

The zone is now gone, but for a few marks on the ground like old watchtowers, but the memory lives on:
"When I talk about these times, I get quite angry,” Michaela says. “I'm furious, too, at those who now say that life was wonderful in East Germany. It was anything but wonderful."

Michaela and her parents also ask themselves why, 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, no one has been punished for making them spend the better part of their lives behind fences.
A very good question, indeed.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Morning Push

I'm taking some time to enjoy this weekend... it has become autumn in its fullest here, and that means a fire in the fireplace to fend off the chill and dark that comes earlier each week for now.

It is Remembrance Sunday in the U.K. today, and there will be our own Remembrance come the 11th here at CompHyp.

So until the 'morrow, be well and safe, All. This thread is left open for comments if you have any topics you'd like discussed, or suggestions as to things to look into in more detail here. The usual rules still apply: Play Nice.

My thanks to All who come here, read and especially those who comment.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hun Sen throws in with Thaksin

...and the Thais then throw *out* diplomatic relations with Cambodia.

This is just monstrously stupid of Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, by the way. He *can't* have believed that the Government of Thailand would sit idly by when he invited convicted-in-absentia criminal and former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawarta to an advisory post in his administration.

It ranks as doubly insulting given the delicate negotiations going on over the contested Preah Vihear temple site along the border between the two nations... negotiations that are the only answer other than fighting over the land and heritage site... negotiations that haven't been going very well.

The Kingdom of Thailand is not accustomed to being treated this way, and it is now abundantly clear that they are not going to leave this as a tit-for-tat.

This is going to get worse unless Hun Sen and his crew realize that their little personal gravy-train of foreign aid and quiet self-aggrandizement is going to come to a sudden halt if they don't back off supporting Thaksin.

It remains to be seen whether such rational conduct is in their capacity.

Perhaps some Thai overtures to the Sam Rainsy Party would get Hun Sen's attention?

Speaking of deals that don't work...

Speaking of negotiated international deals to "resolve" constitutional crises in various places, there seems to be a *not* unexpected hitch in the implementation of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord in Honduras. The power-sharing deadline came, and the Micheletti government went ahead and has offered a grand coalition that includes all the viable political factions *except one*:
As the power-sharing deadline passed, Mr Micheletti said he had "finalised the process of confirming a unity government".

"Everybody, with the exception of Mr Zelaya, recommended Hondurans to lead the institutions of our country as part of the new government," he said.

Though Mr Zelaya had not submitted a list of names, Mr Micheletti said the government was "representative of a large ideological and political spectrum in our country and complies strictly with the agreement" signed last week.
Anyone who thinks that Manuel Zelaya has any intention of abiding by the agreement he signed is, given the obvious, clearly dreaming.

The danger remains that those dreams may yet be one of a Zelaya-supporting assault on the liberty of Honduras. They've tried almost everything else; they may be getting to the point of just casting aside all pretense of legitimacy and going for the armed-overthrow-of-the-nation route... which will require outsiders, as there simply isn't enough Zelaya-ista support for a successful insurgency to arise internally.

Watch where Patricia Rodas goes in the next few days; Watch the Nicaraguan border; and for goodness sake, start cooperating with the Honduran government again and bring down the smuggling aircraft that are constantly making it into Honduran territory. They likely are as not are the way the guns are being brought in.

Madagascar talks extended

There was a little set-back in the negotiations to resolve the Madagascar political impasse, but it is all better now...
Madagascar's leader returned to power-sharing talks on Friday, hours after storming out, reviving hopes the Indian Ocean island's political rivals might broker a deal on forming a unity government.

Andry Rajoelina said international mediators had assured him an agreement which saw him retain the office of president, struck last month between the country's main political movements, would remain in place.
That's not going to sit well with the camp of Marc Ravalomanana, and likely as not the same goes for the exile factions negotiating for the advantage of their respective sides.

Resumption of E.U. aid to Madagascar depends on an acceptable (to the Europeans) resolution to this stand-off. Talks will continue until November 7th, according to the lead international negotiator.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

ICC to take up Kenya election violence cases

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is placing the request to open the investigation, so that means that at least it will begin.

Here's the BBC News report on the matter. The formal request is scheduled for December of this year.

Bets are that we do not get to see the 10 names on the indictment list until then.


Previous items here at CompHyp on Kenya's election violence:

Jan 6th, 2009 Media Crackdown

Oct 26th, 2008 Waki Commission report

Mugabe gets time from the Kimberley Process

...undeservedly so, but that's what this report says:
Zimbabwe has escaped suspension from the Kimberly process - the certification scheme which regulates the sale of so-called blood diamonds.

Instead, the 70-member international diamond trade body has agreed to give Zimbabwe more time to reform its mining practices.
A specified length of time would at least have been something. This is, for all intents and purposes, nothing.

The pressure was on at the meeting from both human rights groups (who are *outraged*) and from political players who, knowing that the "Unity Government" of Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) is meeting with SADC officials in Mozambique to try and patch together that sham so it holds together a little longer (Heaven knows, but why?).


By the way, here's a pop-quiz on unsourced / illegal trade / stolen diamonds:

What country is currently the major source of diamonds lacking certified origin?

Hint: They used to be a part of the Kimberley Process, but the current regime there pulled out.

2nd Hint, if you need it: Look at the label at the end of this thread. South(ern) Africa and...


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

...has no time...

Oh, this should go over well: gaimu daijin (Japan's Minister for Foreign Affairs) Okada Katsuya (K. Okada) will not be meeting with American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prior to the visit by American President Obama to Japan later this month, because "(Japan) has no time (to meet with the U.S.)".


Parliamentary sessions.

Scheduling conflicts.

Okada daijin needs to rotate the air in his tires.

We're busy.

Oh, it might have something to do with the "great" impression SecDef Gates made on his last visit here. It might be that the guy wearing the American Ambassador's hat is still playing tourist. It could be that the Hatoyama naikaku (Hatoyama Administration) really doesn't want to do Defense things, or American things, and especially not American Defense things...

But this is more likely:
Correspondents said the cancellation was partly because the Diet, Japan's parliament, was in session, but also because there appeared to be disagreement within the Japanese government about the direction of policy.
No kidding.

In fact, the The Pushmi-pullyu comes to mind.

30 since it was 66, then 52 for 444

It has been thirty years...

Thirty years since the American Embassy in Iran was overrun.

66 hostages ended up in Iranian hands, 52 of them held through the entire incident of 444 days.

If you don't know much about this, this author *strongly* recommends Mark Bowden's Guests of the Ayatollah, the definitive reportage-after-the-fact on the entire incident.

But, if the facts of how this came to be and how it still is part of the War are too dire a tale for your mood, let me offer another part of the tale for your interest: The way six Americans evaded capture and the incredible heroics of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor and his team. (Oh, some guys from Langley helped a little, too.)

May there be an American flag at that Embassy, open for consular affairs, in a Free Iran next year.


Last year on this, here at CompHyp.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fiji tosses Aus, NZ diplomats

The Bainimarama junta was looking to re-stack the High Court, and the Governments of Australia and New Zealand made it clear that *whoever* got hired into the jobs was going to get added to the travel ban on the junta leadership. Fiji, to say the least, disapproved:
The latest spat is over a group of expatriate judges from Sri Lanka that Fiji wants to hire to replace some of those fired by Bainimarama's administration in a power grab earlier this year.

Australia and New Zealand told the judges this week that if they take up the posts in Fiji they would be subject to travel bans the two countries have placed on all senior officials in Bainimarama's government because of the coup.


In April, Bainimarama ally President Ratu Josefa Iloilo fired all of Fiji's judicial officers after a senior court ruled that the commander's government was illegal. Since then, Bainimarama has been appointing new judges, with critics complaining they are not independent appointments.
And with that, hi-ho-and-out-they-go...

The Heads of Mission for Australia and New Zealand have been given 24 hours (Wednesday, local time) to be out of Fiji.

Freedom for Iran -- something is happening

There is something afoot for the 4th of November...

If that date doesn't connect with you, it will. There will be a thread posted here tomorrow about the history of it. But if you *do* get it...

...then this report and the fact that the students were tossing the insult "House of Spies" at the *Russian* Embassy...

...and this tantalizing possibility are both indications that the Green Movement is willing to risk everything to show that it stands against every premise the hard-liners in power have built their "legitimacy" upon.

It could be a heck of a day in Iran tomorrow.

Keep watching. Help, if you can.

Go, Bears!

No, this isn't a sports posting.
A bear killed two militants after discovering them in its den in Indian-administered Kashmir, police say.

Two other militants escaped, one of them badly wounded, after the attack in Kulgam district, south of Srinagar.
source: BBC News

One bear vs. four rifle-armed miltants... Go, Bears!

Mann and 4 others pardoned

Not going to say a whole lot about this, other that to say it is a good thing that they are going home.


CORRECTION: 3 4 others. As per The Times Online (UK)
Four other plotters - South African arms dealer Alan du Toit, who was also sentenced to 34 years, Sergio Cardoso, Jose Domingos and George Alerson were also pardoned and released.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Russia Wargames Polish Aggression?

This would be one for the "You're joking, right?" Department, except for the fact that at least two reports have it that Belarus-Russian exercises called Operation West were based on Poland as the aggressor, Belarus the victim of an "ethnic" uprising, and various means including nuclear missile strikes being required to win, as defined by the exercise set.

This wasn't just a paper exercise, either, apparently:
The manoeuvres are thought to have been held in September and involved about 13,000 Russian and Belarusian troops.
If reports are right, the Polish government is steaming about this, and given how faithful an ally the rest of NATO is looking to be right now, having Russia practicing storming Polish beaches has got to be almost maddening.

One question, though: The best open source on matters like this, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, has *nothing* on this as of right now... the link is included to allow a look there later to see if anything breaks.


A rather lengthy piece on the importance of Belarus to Eastern European security, its history, and the odd with-them-against-them alliance they have with Russia was posted last year, here at CompHyp.

MONUC gives up on FARDC

The Nord-Kivu (North Kivu) district of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been the scene of a long-running tale of horror, with rebel forces of all sort and Congolese Army (FARDC) troops taking turns massacring each other (and the local population). The fact that a significant number of the rebel forces still out there are drawn from the Hutu exiles from Rwanda... the Interahamwe killers of the Rwandan Genocide, now formed under the misnomer of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda; FDLR)... does *not* excuse misdeeds by any other party. Indeed, it almost demands that the forces fighting against the FDLR be demonstrably more legitimate, more correct, "better" than the murderous barbarians they pursue.

...but we are talking about the FARDC here... army slapped together from various tribal and patronage forces; little better than an association of warlords in the same uniform. The integration and reform plans of 2005 and 2007 have been little more than polite fictions to let MONUC, the United Nations peacekeepers in Congo, keep justifying their role in the drama.

But even MONUC is able to see what is happening now, and that means the end of international support may be on the way:
"We have decided that (Congo's peacekeeping mission) MONUC will immediately suspend its logistical and operational support to the army units implicated in these killings," Le Roy, who has been touring the region, said.

Le Roy named the units as being part of the 213th brigade of the Congolese army. But he did not say how many were affected by the move or what the implications were for UN support of the wider operations.
He probably didn't say so because he doesn't really have any one element to fix blame upon.

The FARDC has been so busy renumbering formations recently that it may be that he doesn't really know who and what is in the "213th Brigade" other than the leader's name on a piece of paper.

But far more likely, the field commanders at MONUC know exactly who is doing the killing... the thousands of rapes... and that it is widespread. It is the way these tribal gangs fight, nowadays; the difference this time is that some of them are wearing uniforms.

Nothing short of mass reform will turn the FARDC into a responsible warfighting force, and that reform will require a whole lot of arrests and drummings out. Until then, expect more of the same in tomorrow's news.

The real shame is that the FDLR needs to be run out of business, permanently. The dead of the Rwandan Genocide deserve better avengers than the FARDC. But...


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Kimberley Process goes after Mugabe's thugs

We'll have to see if this can be made effective, but it seems clear now that, given the unapologetic non-compliance by the ZANU-PF -run Ministry of Mines, a KPCS suspension is in the works. In fairness, that is a weak hand to play:
A suspension would in effect stop the Zimbabwean government importing and exporting rough diamonds. However, the scheme is voluntary and the Zimbabwean authorities would be required to enforce it – the same authorities that are said to be heavily involved in illegal smuggling and violence at the mines.

Perhaps more importantly, a suspension would also put the onus on reputable traders and governments not to buy Zimbabwean diamonds, which dealers can easily identify by their coarse, pebble-like appearance. Those trading in non-KPCS diamonds risk expulsion from the world's 24 diamond bourses.
...but it might do something to cut into the Kleptocrat's revenues.

More importantly, it brings back into the public view the reality of how Mugabe's government of Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) is staying in power... by stealing and killing.


Common and Uncommon (Crimes against Humanity).

Crimes that need be answered for.

"...was not suicide"

There have been two notable unsolved deaths in the last year of U.N. anti-proliferation experts. Both cases involved finding the body at the bottom of a stairwell... this time, a 17 story stairwell in the U.N.'s Vienna building.

To no great surprise, the post-mortem has come back with the opinion that this ...was not suicide.

The mystery is two-fold, however: Why would either of these investigators be killed, and why would similar-if-not-identical methods of their demise occur?

This is not time for the U.N. to engage in its usual "close the door; move along; nothing to see here" manner that it resorts to whenever scandal or accusations come their way. It is, however, time for the U.K. to invest a coroner's inquest into the matter *separate from the U.N. investigation*. The truth need be confirmed by more than interested parties.