Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Obama's Speech on U.S. Involvement in Libya

A U.S. President's speech to the nation is usually pretty interesting, and tonight's Obama delivery was 7.5/10 interesting. At a time when there looks like a potential prolonged involvement in protecting Libyan citizens/getting rid of Gadhafi, there's a great deal of pressure on him, and a surplus of criticisms. Tonight he gave an engaging and convincing address on the recent U.S. role in Libya.

First, a little perspective on the political situation abroad, and pressures on Obama.

In addition to Libya, there's been similar unrests, protests, government crackdowns and murders in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and other nations in that area of the world. Good questions are asked of the U.S., and NATO, like, why back the rebels in one country, while not offering help to others seeking escape from dictatorial rule. There does not appear to be an easy answer, or at least quick one. So the pressure was on Obama to outline why the U.S. led a NATO force to neuter the Libyan air force, what their future role would be, and how they might afford this.

Well, for this far east Canadian blogger, he spoke the prepared words very convincingly, and answered some questions rather clearly. Obama's critics often say that he should have sent in military help three or more weeks ago. However, he tells his audience and critics that the decision of the U.S. and NATO to act in Libya was made in 31 days as opposed to one year in the 1990s for a similar involvement in Bosnia. So it was relatively quick, and needed at least that time to coordinate with at least a dozen other nations.

He outlines the rationale for going in, emphasizing Gadhafi's violent rule and crackdown of his people. As well, he reminded listeners that the Arab League, and opposition leaders in Libya were the ones in the first place to ask for help there - sometimes those same nations seem to forget that. The question of how involved will the U.S. be, was approached in a way that to this observer, would be generally agreeable for the audience. Obama said that the U.S. has done what it set out to do, i.e., disable Libya's air capabilities (though he did allude to other military weapons that Libya use on the rebels), and that it would be a mistake to escalate the involvement, like the experience in Iraq. He said the Libyan people were the ones to change the regime there.

One more thing that had to resonate with citizens, was the mention of the economic drain another "Iraq" type war would have on the already recession-healing U.S. economy. He said that one had already cost $1 trillion.

While he did not mention the other specific troubled nations experiencing democratic protests, he said that there were ways that the U.S. could help. One can guess that it might also be in similar ways to treatment of Egypt's Mubarak, and Libya's Gadhafi.. freezing assets, and sanctions, jamming communications, but perhaps also a limited role in a NATO unit. However, the first question that might come to mind, is, how is this possible for all the other countries simultaneously? And. Should they even expect this? Is is fair to expect it?

Obama has been very careful to not be perceived by the Mid-East countries as their usual target, the devilish Western aggressor. He seems to be playing out the whole involvement in a wise way so far. Certainly, he seems to have learned some history lessens from Bush's Iraq experience also. But there are other reasons to be careful with his words, and actions. The rebels in 2011's North Africa rebellions, are who exactly? Are there more dangerous elements among them, like a certain more established group in Egypt, who might influence change, but have not had a positive or democratic image themselves?

At this juncture, the rebels in Libya appear to have made progress in their fight to oust their tyrannic leader, and have acknowledged the U.S. led NATO coalition has been a major factor to help them. So, they are not asking for outside soldiers on the battlefield. From this viewpoint, it appears to be a model for involvement in other area nations. That is, say that you are going to help protect citizens by destroying the dictator's air force, and tanks, but then leave it to the rebels to continue their quest, while still providing a patrolled no-fly zone, and other intelligence support.

On CNN's Piers Morgan show, three political guests gave their opinions on Obama's speech. They were: potential Republican presidential candidate and tv star billionaire, Donald Trump, Republican Bill Richardson, and New York Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Donald Trump knows how to make money, but unfortunately, he is also learning dirty politics. He has been critical of Obama's recession measures of multi-billion dollar spending to boost the injured economy. Yet, he takes this opportunity to criticize the President for not saying that the U.S. will get more involved to force out Gadhafi. So when it is convenient for him, saving the U.S. some money is his ammunition, but to score political points, spending money for deeper involvement, not to mention, lives on all sides, is ok for him?

Anthony Weiner was very impressive in his defence of Obama's stance and speech, and his correcting Trump on a couple of points, like mentioning that other countries make up NATO. He also countered Trump by suggesting that the U.S. needs to fix it's own economic problems rather than further dig a deeper hole. Weiner was quick, convincing and seemed to be generally more informed on political matters. Bill Richardson is very informed as well on global politics, and did not agree with Trump's point of view.

It has occurred to more than one observer to be sure, that why aren't the ones who asked for the U.S. and NATO involvement, getting much more involved themselves, and also paying for costs of this? It's a good point that Trump did make, and it was repeated by others. There are some very wealthy oil rich nations in the Arab League, and why don't they pay for this "service"?

Finally, just an observation about the host Piers Morgan - it's fine to be devil's advocate to guests, but please, do you really have to interrupt so often when the person is already attempting to give you a very good answer to your first question?! It is irritating to watch! Sometimes, it's a wonder they just don't walk off the set. Otherwise, the comments that were not interrupted, were useful points of view, and it will be interesting to see how the American public reacts to Obama's speech tonight.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Charlie Sheen's challenging new role - reality

If multiple network interviews could be combined into a series, Charlie Sheen would have his own reality show. After all, he is the star, the main attraction being his own mental plot, the journey of a singular man who keeps so many guessing, "what will he say or do next?!"

One of the attractions for viewers, readers, and listeners is the passion, the emotion, the intensity that fronts the interior combustion so apparent in Sheen's colorful and often disturbing verbiage. One of those emotions is anger, directed at the show's ("Two and a Half Men") producer, and other network executives, or "trolls", or "maggots" as he happily recalled them. Often times anger is caused by frustration, or from a sense of injustice, hurt, or simply personal demons out of control that are out of sync with the values and behaviours of those around you.

He is obviously not frustrated by salary - at around $1.8 million per show. Hmm, if he is angry at that then perhaps he is crazy. But not likely one would think.

He has been a very successful actor, playing his scripted roles convincingly, especially himself on the 2½. So he has been a winning actor, one of his favorite adjectives. This raises other mysteries, like what exactly is a winner! Is he a winner as a parent, a positive cultural role model, as a level-headed individual?

This new reality show Sheen is inventing and performing in each day could be called "One Man" or "Two and a Half man, Too". The latter can be rationalized by the mixed messages that Sheen's 2½ personalities sends to the public. For instance, he's a winner he repeats, but a crack proponent "if you can handle it." He respects women and says that they should be cradled rather than hit, yet he admitted to physical abusing at least one of his women.

After all the mileage comedians get out of Charlie Sheen's antics and words, there is still in reality a sad situation. Now without a steady hit series, a couple of children, possible withdrawal symptoms from drug and alcohol addictions, he has to deal with real reality, and an expectation to entertain his followers either by acting a scripted role or maintaining an exterior persona of strength, success and being a "quite the character to watch" amid the inner turmoil mere humans would experience after traumatic and negative events in their lives.

As a human being and not an entertainer I hope Sheen can find peace with himself, find enjoyment without addiction to risky substances, and simply survive with his life.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Citi Leaks

This blog is exposing something that has been kept underground, that there are major infrastructure problems with old piping in the capital city. This will be a chronic source of expenditure and labour.

Not sure whether this happened of Water or Main St. but I took plenty of shots, and became dehydrated after leaving the scene.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Democratic Insomnia

It's hard to know where to begin with the unprecedented bravery of protesters in Arab nations. Since social networking sites, Facebook seems to be the main vehicle, have been so influential in what seemed to be rather spontaneous revolts, it is fitting to say that what started in Tunisia over a month ago, has definitely gone viral.

For millenniums Egyptians themselves have written history and built monuments that hold us captive when we see, and learn about them. Not only are the creations wonders of the world but a wonder as to why so many were employed/or enslaved for the mesmerizing constructions. Why is there such need for power!

Perhaps factors include tradition, socialization, social structure, ignorance, fear, false hope, a sense of helplessness, or what we presently could call a twisted sense of national success or power. The pyramids and sphinxes were built by tens of 1000s who were employed, and contrary to previous belief, slavery was not the large source of labour. In fact it could be said that many of the 6.4 million of today's Libyans are more slaves to the Ghadafi regime than any ruler previous.

As much as the pyraminds are monuments to what humans could do 1000s of year ago, the protests, bravery, sacrifice and peoples' attempts at freedom will be a great monument of achievement. At the present moment iron-fisted leader Ghadafi is desperately clinging to power at the expense of possibly 1000s of deaths, broken limbs and skulls. It is so far removed from our daily routines here. We have our crimes, but and impatient, rude drivers on the road, but it would be difficult to imagine protesting like a strike for example, and fearing being shot or beaten.

The events that are happening in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria, Jordan and other countries, are also part of a monumental shift in tolerance, attitude, courage, knowledge, and seeing what's possible. The people, the captive are again captivating the world and we are transfixed. Instead of the permanent symbolic reminders of Libya's megalomaniac, these images and icons are being deconstructed, stone by stone.

Courageous protesters are providing the drama for the surprising, shocking, historical chapter, which may blast another road to be taken for a democratic evolution.

There are a number of profound, life altering, progressive and revolutionary lessons that will resonate for an eternity for the Arab nations, and any nation that are unlucky enough to have dictators who viciously rule and enslave it's citizens.

For one, it is false to believe that a single charismatic personality needs to take the lead for change. In the case of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya at least, the leader of the peoples' protest is a what, the idea of freedom that is shared by millions of leading characters. This type of reality show is worthwhile.

Another lesson is that the genie is out the the ignorance bottle. In this globally connected world of shared knowledge and ideas, everyone can educate themselves about anything anywhere, and social networks have played a significant role in the viral wave of protests that seem to be rapidly contagious. Simultaneously, a trend that has been seen in many media formats is the doubt about so many ideas and institutions of society. The origins of the universe, who or what created it, is refreshed, but also doubts about truth, honesty from what's in foods, containers, prescriptions drugs, doctor prescribed treatments, banks, oil companies, etc. The trend of asking why or why not about many things we were socialized into can reach any internet reader.

Pertaining to the North Africa revolutions, people who know that democracy and freedom exists elsewhere, say, "Why not here?", or "We want that too!" For over 40 years, almost all Egyptians have known one ruler, and limited freedom, while many lived poorly as the country makes billions as the 4th largest oil producer in the world. 75% of its income comes from oil revenue.

Another lesson is that change is possible, and turning the world you know, upside-down, is possible and life will go on, but with hope for much more freedom and improvement in the long term. Peaceful protests can work, and it can help to shift the allegiance of the all important army to the peoples' side.

This is extremely crucial because without the killing power of the army, the dictator has no one, except imported mercenaries to try and enforce his continued tyranny.

Finally, there is a lesson for those who rule with an iron fist. Never take it for granted that your evil power will last. It's almost funny that two weeks ago, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmedinijad spouted that governments like Libra's should let the people protest in peace, when his inhumane regime violently ended that idea in his own country.

Though there is mounting pressure from the world for Ghadafi to leave or be removed, his public denial of atrocities and sociopathic slaughter of "his people" has prolonged the democratic struggle in Libya. It will make their citizen's plight much more difficult, but other nations can still be hopeful of change in their respective countries. Bahrain, and other monarchical, or single party, or theocratic countries have been put on alert, and their leaders will realize that life as they knew it, can change because of peoples' restless need for democracy.