Monday, April 13, 2009

World Ups and Downs

World Ups and Downs, a view of the national movers and shakers for the past week.

For a further explanation, see the original post...

moving UP
Croatia & AlbaniaI'm not 100% sure what the point of NATO is these days, other than to offer rich Atlantic powers a way to have their militaries hang out, and do jobs they don't trust to the people provided to run UN peacekeeping missions. Whichever, it is one of the prestigious rich clubs that countries ache to get into (unless they're petrified of, or in love with, Russia). This week, Albania and Croatia join the group. Albania in particular seems delirious about the accession, where over 95% reportedly favor the chance to offer their 100,000 tons of obsolete ammunition to the cause.

Early moves reminiscent of the Ukraine's"Orange Revolution" have broken out in Moldova as streets fill with people protesting a suspicious election where ex-communists did exceptionally, surprisingly well. Russia, anxious to protect its perceived turf, is already accusing the European Union of meddling. The West, of course, is welcoming this slight climb of the democratic ladder by threatening to downgrade the country's bond status. The Moldovan people are doing the right thing, as people around them aren't.

moving DOWN
South Africa
It appears that the next president of South Africa will begin his tenure under a cloud of suspicion. Prosecutors forswore pursuing ANC candidate Jacob Zuma Reminiscent of the Stevens case, "prosecutors said the withdrawal had nothing to do with Zuma's guilt or innocence". This feels awfully close to the "political solution" an "appalled" Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu feared a couple days beforehand. So South Africa will again be led by a man ignorant of the realities of the AIDS virus.

The term "mob rule" doesn't get much more literal than what's happening in Thailand these days. Popular/populist Thaskin Shinawatra was elected on a Chavez-esque platform of screwing the middle class to help the poor. Slightly corrupt and uneven governance was marked by funneling money to the poor during his tenure. Well, the middle class couldn't have that, so organized mobs began protesting until they managed to get the military to install a less populist government, and to begin persecuting Thaskin and his followers. After a period of these people bumbling along, Thaskin's supporters have turned out in force and are currently surrounding the house of a regime general (barriers to the house were removed by two cranes that the protesters brought with them). It seems that we're headed for a cycle when mob rule is the norm in Thailand, where governance is wasted but good food isn't.


As many people from Adolf Hitler to Osama bin Laden have learned, the United States is pretty much content to let you do whatever you want to your own people and neighbors as long as America is left alone. Another group -- the pirates of Somalia -- may learn that lesson more directly in the days to come. An American ship was briefly captured, and its captain remains a hostage. Somali pirates have exploded as a concern for Americans. Granted, much of it is from right wingers desperately searching for an Obama mistake, and Americans remains scarred by their last sojourn into Somalia. News of the hostage's rescue brings optimism that a smart president won't paint the are with a broad, explosives-laden brush, but if American ships continue as targets, the people of Somalia may find themselves caught in a conflict they didn't want.

The idyllic archipelago of Fiji hosts politics that are anything but. In this latest in the cycle of coups, juntas, and stabs at democratic government, the constitution was just suspended. Though the media is bravely trying to undermine the new regime of censorship, recent history doesn't bode well.

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