Saturday, December 30, 2006

Video of Saddam's Execution

You can view video of Saddam being executed here. It shows everything except for the snap of his neck.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Annan's Farewell Speech

Yesterday, Kofi Annan made his farewell speech after 10 years as the Secretary General of the United Nations. The speech has been widely reported in the media as blasting the US but, as we have come to expect from a news media suffering attention deficit disorder, very little of the substance of the speech has been actually analyzed in the mainstream press.

The frame of Annan's speech, which took place at the Truman Presidential Museum and Library, was based on the five lessons that he had learned in the decade he ran the UN.

"My first lesson is that in today's world security of every one of us is linked to that of everyone else. That was already true in Truman's time. The man who in 1945 gave order for nuclear weapons to be used for the first time, and let us hope the only time, in history understood that security for some could never come or be achieved at the expense of insecurity for others."

This is certainly an indictment of isolationists like Bush and his companions, who choose to make policy decisions in spite of global opinion rather than trying to build consensus. While I would not argue that the United States, or any country, should need the permission of others to defend itself, alienating other countries is irresponsible, stupid, and does not make the homeland any safer.

This statement is also applicable to the act of nation building. The United States is in Iraq and had the invasion been successful it may have made Iraq secure. But once the decision was made the unilaterally invade the country it is incumbent on the dominating power to secure the occupied nation so that it does not spill into civil war as Iraq clearly has.

"My second lesson is that we are not only all responsible for each other's security. We are also, in some measure, responsible for each other's welfare. Global solidarity is both necessary and possible. It is necessary because without a measure of solidarity no society can be truly stable, and no one's prosperity truly secure. That applies to national societies -- as all the great industrial democracies learned in the 20th century -- but it also applies to the increasingly integrated global market economy we live in today."

As the United States allows its corporations free reign in the world market and does little to oversee or penalize those who engage in exploitative labor practices overseas, it is complicit, and therefore partially to blame, in the perpetuation of human rights abuses. This point is partly about the government, but also about the American consumers. Those who purchase diamonds must recognize that they participate in an industry that exploits workers in some of the most horrendous ways imaginable. (Incidentally, the new film Blood Diamond illustrates this very well.) At home, Annan's second point is also relevant to raising the minimum wage and creating affordable and accessible health care.

"My third lesson is that both security and development ultimately depend on respect for human rights and the rule of law. Although increasingly interdependent, our world continues to be divided -- not only by economic differences, but also by religion and culture. That is not in itself a problem. Throughout history human life has been enriched by diversity, and different communities have learnt from each other. But if our different communities are to live together in peace we must stress also what unites us: our common humanity, and our shared belief that human dignity and rights should be protected by law."

This point is a statement against the politics of exclusion, whether it be based on race, religion, sexual orientation, and the like. The paradox of this inclusiveness is that we should not be so tolerant that we tolerate intolerance. While people cannot be legally penalized for believing stupid things (i.e. homosexuals are evil and marriage between them will bring about the collapse of society), we should not act as though these ideas are acceptable or deserve the same respect as notions based on reason and fact. And we certainly should not allow these stupid ideas to be codified into laws and constitutions, nor should politicians or others be using them to get their flock to the polls.

My fourth lesson -- closely related to the last one -- is that governments must be accountable for their actions in the international arena, as well as in the domestic one. Today the actions of one state can often have a decisive effect on the lives of people in other states. So does it not owe some account to those other states and their citizens, as well as to its own? I believe it does.

What Annan is getting at here is the place and function of international courts, and this statement could be interpreted as a hint that the UN ought to assume a greater role in prosecuting war crimes. If that is the case, I will take this a set further and say that Annan is suggesting that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others maybe subject to war crime charges and that the UN ought to begin a process of building a criminal case against them. On the larger scale, I think Annan's point speaks to a possible emergence of the UN not just as a meeting place but as a world wide governing body whose voice cuts across borders and customs. This has lots of other implications, such as the domination and establishment of a basic norms and laws and how the establishment of such norms may impact minority cultures.

"My fifth and final lesson derives inescapably from those other four. We can only do all these things by working together through a multilateral system, and by making the best possible use of the unique instrument bequeathed to us by Harry Truman and his contemporaries, namely the United Nations. In fact, it is only through multilateral institutions that states can hold each other to account. And that makes it very important to organize those institutions in a fair and democratic way, giving the poor and the weak some influence over the actions of the rich and the strong."

Again, Annan hints that the UN may be the heart in the darkness, able to cast a unifying light throughout the world, bringing it under a single standard of living. His last statement here, that we "organize those institutions in a fair and democratic way, giving the poor and the weak some influence over the actions of the rich and the strong," speaks to a optimism about the potential of the UN and infallibility of democracy that I find a little too naive, since all democracies are doomed to eventually turn into dictatorships.

On the whole, I think that Annan's speech speaks not just to the United States, but to issues for many nations around the world at all levels of development. His ideas about the relationship between the the haves and the have-nots are applicable both at the macro and micro levels. Annan may have just nailed the five areas that world leaders need to pay attention.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Ho Ho Ho

Here is a story to spread that holiday cheer:

Mother Has 12-Year-Old Son Arrested for Opening Christmas Gift Early
By Monica Chen · The Herald - Updated 12/05/06

A mother convinced Rock Hill police to arrest her 12-year-old son after he unwrapped a Christmas present early.

The boy's great-grandmother had specifically told him not to open his Nintendo Game Boy Advance, which she had wrapped and placed beneath the Christmas tree, according to a police report.

But on Sunday morning, she found the box of the popular handheld game console unwrapped and opened. When the boy's 27-year-old mother heard about the opened gift, she called police.

"He took it without permission. He wanted it. He just took it," said the 63-year-old great-grandmother.

Both the great-grandmother and the mother asked the boy on Sunday where the present was. The boy replied he didn't know.

When the mother threatened to call the police, the boy went into his room and got the Game Boy, the report stated. She called the police anyway.

Two Rock Hill police officers responded to the home and charged the boy with petty larceny. He was charged as a juvenile and released the same day, said police spokesman Lt. Jerry Waldrop, who added the boy was never held at the jail.

"We wouldn't hold a 12-year-old," he said.