Charge Your Voice

Find Your Voice!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

A Life of Randomness

For somebody trying to encourage others to charge their voice, my own is feeling tired. I'm going to share some of my personal life in this blog, an impulse I normally try to avoid.

I have noticed that no one besides me posts here anyway. This is more like a diary of some of my favorite voices in opposed to anything else. I think this is fine. I've also contributed thoughts these same articles aroused in me. They are interspersed, here and there.

In other words, this blog is subdued and quiet, because it's just me here. There's no evidence of anybody popping in and out. Then again, I don't require this in order to feel motivated to blog. For some, I think this would defeat the purpose of blogging at all, because it is considered an act of networking and socialization. However, I consider it a log-book, of sorts.

For the random voyeur venturing into my quarter, just this once I'll give you a few tid bits concerning me. I'm living in San Diego now. I don't feel at liberty to talk about work, though I am dutifully and happily employed.

I was drawn to this city because I was born here, but my memories of this city are few. My parents chose to move a year and a half after I was born. Like many working class people here, they could afford to be here by living in a fifth wheel next to the airport. Anybody who knows anything about San Diego knows it is very expensive to live here, and corrupt. But there is an advantage to being where the money is: employers can afford to pay their workers, and they need them here. There are so many jobs.

My parents didn't want to raise me in the city. They moved me away to what they thought would be a more wholesome life. They bought a farm, near the Olympic Mountains. In hindsight, they were right. I didn't know what we'd left, but I know I grew up very differently than I would have here. I would not have had as much opportunity. I wouldn't have understood certain fundamentals. The city, by contrast, has not been that difficult to figure out.

I am glad that my father got to escape the city. I know that being born and bred in the city, he had long dreamed for more than this. For me, I am glad I've come back. I feel like I've come home. I'm sure it would disappoint them, since they worked so hard to get me out of here. It isn't easy to do. After I was born, they had to work very hard that entire year and a half to save for their permanent departure. It didn't get easier. My parents eventualy divorced, and my father lost his farm. People suffer when they work so hard for something, and lose it. Crushed dreams go down like sour milk. You blame others. You get angry. You can't bear it. His children don't talk to him, including me. The pain that exists between my father and me is like an impenetrable wall.

I would like to know where his son is, though. I have a dual purpose for being here. I know that I have an older brother that he won't talk to. I know he wants to find us. I want to find him. My father won't help me. But...I finally managed to get some personal information that I think might help me. My father taught me that family doesn't turn its back on each other. He may not have been able to live up to this, but I will in his place. Of course, my father tends to consider my thoughts and motives in disingenous terms. He is better read and well spoken, true. But others hearts are elusive to him. I don't think he trusts anyone, honestly, let alone taking their feelings seriously.

But...I want you to imagine something about the degree of difficulty I am having in tracking my lost brother down. "John Smith" is a very, very common name. Though I have more to go on than I did in the past, it isn't enough.

I have imagined that my brother looks like me and my other brother. There is a strong family resemblance due to genetics that is just undeniable. Furthermore, there is a strong personality trait that is difficult to ignore that I know this man must also have. Also, I have to wonder if this man knows he may have inherited certain health issues from my father (which both my brother and me have,) that he would understand better if he became familiar with us. I feel deeply in my heart that if my brother tried to meet us once, he must be willing to try again. He must have the urge to know himself better, and I want to help him. I just wish I knew how to find him.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Next Wave

In game theory and social choice theory, the notion of a dictator is formally defined as a person that can achieve any feasible social outcome he/she wishes. The formal definition yields an interesting distinction between two different types of dictators.

The weak dictator has, for any social goal he/she has in mind, and for any political scenario, a course of action that would bring about the desired goal. For the weak dictator, it is usually not enough to "give her orders", rather he/she has to manipulate the political scene appropriately. This means that the weak dictator might actually be lurking in the shadows, working within a political setup that seems to be non-dictatorial. An example of such a figure is Lorenzo the Magnificent, who controlled Renaissance Florence.

Note that these definitions disregard some alleged dictators, e.g. Benito Mussolini, who are not interested in the actual achieving of social goals, as much as in propaganda and controlling public opinion.

Coming Next
The Return of Bird Flu: If Identifiable Cases in Third Phase Emerge

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Darfur, Sudan

The situation in Darfur, Sudan is characterized as Arabs vs. Africans. To support this premise, Sudan is a member of both the Arab League and the African Union.

In some ways, Sudan can be thought of as the ‘gates to Africa’. The north and east of Sudan lead to the sands and culture of the old world Middle East, and to the South and West are the roads to the peoples of Africa. Arab and African people mix in this unique country.

The country of Sudan has tragically fallen into civil strife. This occurred while the International community divided over Western civilization versus Islamic states. When the International community went to respond to the humanitarian disaster in Sudan, the Western peoples of the International community were rebuffed by the Sudanese president. Western society cannot not help but believe that Sudan chose its Islamic affiliations over the needs of human suffering, bringing into question whether Western and Islamic societies are so at odds that they are willing to favor politics over opportunities to genuinely relieve civilian indignities.

Sudan represents a strategic location for the Western states, certainly. It also represents this for the Arab states. Sudan represents the disconnect between Islamic promises of humanitarian interests and the lack there of. In Western societies where starvation is no longer common, images of starving women and children in Sudan are provide an example of barbaric Arab cruelty. For Arab states, Sudan is an example of Western interference attempting to claim a toehold in a region it greedily hungers after for capitalist conquest. Meanwhile, the President of Sudan has benefited and prospered by pitting powers against each other, having gained attention and interest from outside forces he believes can be used to not only assert his country’s position as fundamentally important, but simultaneously achieve the genocide of simple farmers…the simple root of the current crisis.

Is it possible that a local revolt of farmers who find themselves starving and deprived of humanitarian aid can really be the catalyst for a new battlefield between the Middle East and the West? The need for humanitarian efforts has never been more apparent, where the act of giving food and aid is the simplest answer, yet no one wants it on any side. Perhaps the only people who are capable of it are those actually suffering. Everyone else is fed and distracted by the more attractive idea of power. Can either side really stand tall and honestly when they are laid naked by such truths?

The greatest war that could take place for Darfur, and prove the prowess of either side, should they insist on pursuing it in this region, would be a show of grace. If we are to hold a competition, who among us is capable of producing the most humanitarian supply? Which side, Western or Arab, can fill the greatest need to this state? There is no need to hold battle in such a state as Sudan when there are already plenty of fronts to fight upon. The Sudanese already know suffering. If this is really war for the hearts and minds of the people, then respond to your solutions to the needs of the people. Can a person eat either your Koran or the Constitution? Surely what is important is meaning. The acts are proof of our ability to connect with others. What has more meaning than a piece of food to a starving man, or a helping hand to a dying child? I challenge you.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Story of NoWhere Man

Please REVIEW the posts to date, to follow the history of this combat, and in order to analyze the initial opportunities early on vs. the de facto decisions since then that have shaped the present conflict.

Hezbollah Develops Legitimacy Politically Among the People

Hezbollah continued resistance and first aid to civilians and others in the face of Israeli attacks has earned it respect by many. Its unexpected ability to resist through guerilla style tactics has also been a surprise.

Indicators are that by the time Israel responds to Hezbollah attacks, militia have already moved on. They appear to be able to work with very little when necessary, and because they move light and use guerilla tactics, they are able to make quicker, improvised decisions and respond faster.

The Israeli military continues to upgrade the war, attempting to use more and more weaponry and manpower. As they do so, they require more order, more organization and more equipment that has an effect of bogging them down in combat with a guerilla force. The Israeli military relies on organization and coordination. A guerilla force can move much quicker and subvert this necessary element of a traditional army. One member of a guerilla force, if trained and knowledgeable, may be able to accomplish far more than a soldier waiting for orders, or a soldier who must keep in mind how he must coordinate with others. Israel, however, must have a well organized force by necessity. Hezbollah can afford to be much more free-form, and its members much more independent minded, with great success. Furthermore, they have the ideals of freedom from oppression and the freedom fighter's pride to bolster their efforts.

It is important to realize that guerilla fighting has been around always, and the method of people supported groups that are disenfranchised and have decided to fight back. Guerilla armies take time to develop, and are slow to develop, but eventually learn the tactics of their enemy and become very effective in subverting them. Oragnized armies are the result of government officials, and the organizational efforts of government officials. These two types of armed forces are very different, and government based armies have some difficulty in taking on the auspices of guerilla style warfare because of this creates soldiers who think independently. Soldiers in government based armies are intended to follow orders for the greater good. Guerilla fighters, on the other hand, rely on the ability to think and act independently.

US & Israel Arms Deals

US and Israel have a deal. Israel has asked the United States to speed delivery of short-range antipersonnel rockets that are armed with cluster munitions so that they can be used in Lebanon.

M-26 artillary rockets are fired in barrages and carry hundreds of grenade-like bomblets that scatter and explode over a broad area. The request for a quicker delivery is expected to be approved. These shipments will also include other arms.

Israel's rational is that since it has been unable to supress Hezbollah's Katyusha rocket attacks, they must have the extra arms. Israel has wanted M-26 artillery rockets for some time, argueing previously that they needed them in case they were invaded. However, in recent days, after being pressed repeatedly, they admitted they want them for rocket launches on Lebanon.

Indications are that Israel will get what it has asked for, with the admonishment to "be careful." Israels dropping of leaflets prior to bombing has been reviewed as a cautionary measure meant to warn civilians. The debate over whether to ship to Israel is highly controversial. Meanwhile, the Bush administration continues to focus on the cessation of all activities by Hezbollah in order for peace to be suggested. The United States has positioned itself with Israel in such a way as to be viewed as conducting a war by proxy, while reluctantly playing diplomat.

The M-26 is a particularly brutal and deadly weapon. It also leaves some percentage of unexploded ordinances behind that later can injure or kill civilians. Israel has had delivery of these rockets suspended several times in the past for using them against civilians intentionally, by the determination of the American State Department.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

$10 million to go to Lebanese Military from US-or not?

Lebanon is keeping its army away from the battlefront between Israeli forces and Hezbollah fighters because it lacks the firepower to sway the conflict and fears it may spark a civil war by intervening.

``The Lebanese army won't disarm Hezbollah,'' President Emile Lahoud told reporters in Beirut yesterday. ``Disarming Hezbollah by force may lead to a civil war.''

Lebanon told the United States Condoleeza Rice that unless they call for an immediate cease fire, their is no point to Lebanon receiving the US on diplomatic terms. It is uncertain what the Lebanese military will do, but its ill-will towards the onslaught from Israel has been marked.

The Lebanese army, with about 40,000 troops, is larger yet weaker than Hezbollah's militia, which has several thousand fighters, said Brigadier General Walid Sukkarieh. Lebanon's ground forces have aging Soviet tanks and lack anti-aircraft or anti-ship weapons. It has an annual budget of about $500 million, according to the Central Intelligence Agency's Web site.

Hezbollah has about 12,000 rockets and has improved its technology with guided missiles that were used to attack an Israeli ship off the coast in mid-July, according to military experts. The militia is better equipped than the army, said Sukkarieh.

Israel's Hezbollah targets, including rocket launchers, were hit during the night in the city of Tyre, the eastern Bekaa Valley, and in southern Lebanon, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman said, speaking anonymously by regulation. One of the raids destroyed Hezbollah's regional command center in Tyre that directed rocket attacks on Israeli towns, he said.

The Lebanese army would ``likely disintegrate if it clashes with Hezbollah because it is made of soldiers and officers who belong to the different communities that make up Lebanon, and to a significant extent the Shiite community,'' said Sukkarieh.

Israel continues to insist that the Hezbollah militia disband. Israel plans to hold on to a chunk of the country that it occupied previously to create a 'security zone'. It plans to claim territory that it believes has been used and occupied by its enemies, accorsing to Israeli statements. ``Everybody who knows the Middle East knows Lebanon isn't a serious state and the Lebanese army isn't going to be serious and capable either,''``It has no combat capabilities, only the ability to police Lebanon's streets.''It would be up to an International force to strengthen the Lebanese military as seen fit to secure.

Death & Passion at the Frontlines

Hezbollah cease fire is rejected by Israelis...

Israel prepares for major invasion...
Israel in Race to Complete Task...
Israel Hurries to Complete Task Before EU Ceasefire...

Devotion & discipline fuel Hezbollah's fight...

Stemch of death hangs over south Lebanon villages...
""Four bodies inside this house", reads the notice scrawled with charcoal on the remains of a house in the southern Lebanese village of Aynata."

In the neighbouring town of Bint Jbeil, the stench of death rises from the ruins of the once-bustling market street.

One village along in Aitaroun, tearful residents clutch white sheets and what belongings they can salvage, begging journalists and rescue workers alike for a ride out of "hell".

"We have been living in hell and fear for 21 days, without power or water and we felt real hunger. We even ate stale and mouldy bread to keep going," sobbed Zeinab Baalbaki, who said a number of her relatives have been killed in Israeli air raids.

"The children felt the worst pain because we could not find milk. Is it their fault, these people who had their homes brought down on their heads?"

Says one Hezbollah fighter, ``I'm not crying for the fighters. The fighters can handle it. I'm crying for the ordinary people." One day, he said, he gave his only food, a can of tuna, to a dog so hungry that its tongue was hanging contorted from its mouth. ``If I showed mercy on the dog, maybe God would show mercy on me," he said.

Hezbollah fighters state that only experienced fighters are allowed into front-line combat. Men eat what they can find where they find it, even if it means a plant growing on the side of the road. In the same way, they take advantage of whatever weapons they can, where they find them and "use the kitchen sink if we have to." They know they are experiencing deaths, but do not know the total death toll on their side. It would not matter if they did, they say. "We are unafraid of death. We are tired of living life humiliated, and are ready to die now, if we must."

Forces Abate Momentarily....

"The Israeli suspension of offensive air strikes and general Hizbollah restraint about firing Katyushas has held up now for more than 24 hours, but according to Israel, from the prime minister and defense minister, through the MKs and down to the northerners peeking out of their shelters, are all saying the campaign is not over -- and won't be over until Hizbollah is at least out of sight of the border with Israel, if not out of south Lebanon entirely."

--> Its not over, but its the right idea...a "cease fire" without saying its a cease fire...the idea is not an end, but a period to allow women and children an avenue of escape that keeps them from taking a bullet or a shelling. Soldiers do not shoot through women and children to hit their enemy. They find a way to face their enemy without such a scenario.

Losing Face...the Hard Way

By not losing in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah is winning the hearts and minds war on occupation. By not winning in Iraq, Washington is losing the ground and psychological war on terrorism.

Stripped to bare bones, that's the skeletal shape of this century's first titanic struggle. A zealous cause is proving more than a match for history's most powerful nation, its military and its Middle East proxy.

The implications are momentous. A two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is slipping away, militant Islam is gaining at the expense of moderate Arab states and protecting open societies is increasingly problematic.

Much of this can be traced to a willful misunderstanding. In simplifying the motivation underlying the 9/11 shocks, the Bush administration muddied the root reasons why the
U.S. was a target then and Hezbollah is gaining strength now by wrestling Israel to a bloody stalemate.

More than a fanciful clash of cultures, what fuels extremism is foreign boots on home soil. As the University of Chicago's Robert Pape documented in the largest and most profound study of suicide terrorism, 95 per cent of attacks are linked to occupation.
"The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven as much by religion as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory the terrorists view as their homeland," Pape said in an interview published last year.

It's an important if hardly all-inclusive conclusion. Hezbollah and organizations like it usually have religious as well as state connections and don't limit their tactics to suicide attacks.

But it's also true Hezbollah rose to prominence by using suicidal combatants to drive Israel out of southern Lebanon after an 18-year occupation. And it's even more significant that Hezbollah owes its resurgent popularity to surprisingly stubborn resistance to what is widely seen across the Muslim crescent as another invasion of Arab lands.

George W. Bush sees it differently. In a Miami speech Monday, the U.S. president again tossed this Middle East crisis into the blender with good and evil, the war on terror and the Machiavellian regional machinations of Iran and Syria.

That's good politics and some of it may even be true. But seeing the world through a selective prism doesn't change reality or make failing policies succeed.

The reality is that respective military adventures in Iraq and Lebanon have left the U.S. and Israel exposed as weak. A global superpower is fighting a losing battle after effortlessly toppling Saddam Hussein while a regional superpower is, for the second time, making heroes of Hezbollah.

Memorable lessons are being painfully taught. Assumptions that U.S. troops would be welcomed as saviors and that democracy would flourish in the Baghdad rubble have been exposed as delusional. Expectations the fabled Israel Defense Forces would relatively effortlessly degrade Hezbollah militarily and humiliate it publicly have been sharply diminished.

Consider the net result of current policies. Chaos is the common Middle East denominator, moderates needed for peace are being isolated by war and there is no reason to believe North America is safer now than it was five years ago.

If that isn't convincing, add these: Rocketing oil prices (and profits) are one legacy of the Iraq invasion while Israel's incursions into Lebanon first hardened Hezbollah and then helped make it an asymmetrical guerrilla model admired — and easily replicated — from Afghanistan to South America.

Reflection suggests a course change is overdue. Constructive rather than destructive engagement surely couldn't be more damaging than making more enemies daily and would carry with it the unusual satisfaction of doing the right thing for the right reasons.
It would be dangerously naïve to mistake an injection of Boy Scout morality for an instant Middle East fix. Tensions are simply too high, hatreds too old and the situation too precarious.

Still, going back to the future has a certain appeal when the status quo is unpalatable and a military solution impossible. Reversing direction would mean muscling Israelis and Palestinians back onto the road to peace, encouraging democracy with more carrot, less stick and relying on collective international pressure, not brinkmanship, to discipline rogue states.

Canada's minor role should be to re-establish its foreign policy equilibrium. Wise support for Israel includes the persistent reminder that occupation is a cause, not a cure, for terrorism.

Or we can go on ignoring the inconvenient truths about a war against something that is, after all, only a tactic.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

We're sorry, BUT...our ends justify the means

"Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed ``great sorrow" today for the airstrikes that destroyed houses in the Lebanese town of Qana and killed dozens of people, many of them children, but said he would not halt the army's operation ... "

--> The difficulty for a leader who on one hand expresses regrets over the agonizing deaths of children, but on the other hand says that it must go on....represents a dichotomy and split-tongue that gaurantees he will be viewed as a hypocrite by many. He represents the philosophy that the ends justify the means, that any action towards the achievement of one's goals is therefore justified. This is a slippery slope to base declarations of intent on.

While I do not take sides in this conflict, the formal position of the Israeli cabinet, at present, is difficult to justify. A cease fire is being treated as a peace agreement. Cease fires are intended to be temporary, with the possibility of permanence, mostly so that civilians like women, children, the elderly, etc. can escape the war zone while both sides stand down in a face off and then return to battle. A peace agreement, of course, would mean that the opposing armies had reached resolution and declared an end to conflict amongst themselves, gauranteeing their own safety. In the event of a cease fire, which I presently advocate for, a 3-day cease fire allows Red Cross and humanitarian workers to shuttle those out who need to escape, or allows people to leave by foot or vehicle on their own accord without fear of fire.

It is important to consider that the enemies of Israel have taken life, but do not treat it in as casual a manner. It may be retaliatory, but not an act of 'regretable' habit. Disproportionate inneffectiveness on the part of Israel indicates that while heavy displays of armament may be a feel good policy for an Israeli state that is used to feeling threatened with anhilation, effective war is much more reasoned and an excercise in mental scrutiny. Only the equivolant of a child leader always believes that there actions are justified without careful consideration. The restraint that Israel has been encouraged to display, at this point, has been used to more advantage by the opposition in the public domain.

It is true that this arguement can be broken down, diced, and found wanting. The point is that war is public opinion and other matters even as it is territory won and lost. Leaders are analyzed as they make their decisions and faux pas, and these are crucial. They indicate a leaders state of mind, whether it be rational, arrogant, selfish or altruistic. If the Israeli cabinet wasn't as emotionally driven in a conflict that requires reason, I might be more generous with my commentary. As it stands now, I believe that their course of action will be the catalyst for a major shift of power in the Middle East because Israel failed to address grievances for which the only recourse was war, and those who aspire for this shift of power in the region, far from the battlelines, will take advantage of the results for their own profit. The army may win against Israel, but they will not bring peace.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Bush's Unscripted Conversation @ G8

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