Archive for the Asia Category

Japan and Nuclear Power

Posted in Asia, Environment with tags , on March 17, 2011 by Black Pumpkin

Japan is suffering through a three part disaster.  First came the earthquake, then the tsunami, and now the meltdowns of their nuclear power plants.  My heart goes out to all the people of Japan and especially those that have been directly affected by one of these three disasters.  But I can’t help but think about the issue of nuclear power.

Nuclear power is not safe.  And it never will be safe.  There is always the potential of something like this going wrong.  And when it does, thousands and perhaps millions of people are affected.

Many people like to tout nuclear power as the answer to global warming since nuclear power doesn’t produce any greenhouse gases.  But we cannot forget about the very real danger that nuclear power plants pose to people all over the world.  All it takes is one natural disaster or terrorist attack to unleash nuclear radiation over a very wide area.  Not to mention the normal operation produces waste that needs to be stored for thousands of years.  That is just the normal operation.  It is really amazing that these things have been allowed to operate at all.  But the incident in Japan really needs to give everyone pause before we say that nuclear power is the way of the future.

All from McClatchy

Is Nuclear Worth It?

Rethinking Duke Energy’s plans

Is California in Peril from its Nuke plants?

China Sending Prime Minister to Copenhagen

Posted in Asia, Environment with tags , , , on November 27, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

This one comes from the Guardian in the UK.  It seems that China is sending Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to Copenhagen.  It has also released targets for the reduction of carbon emissions.  This is a most welcome development.  Earlier this week, Obama said that he would go to Copenhagen himself (there was some concern that he would send someone else in his stead) and I think this has moved the Chinese.

Some are questioning the fact that China is sending the Prime Minister instead of President Hu Jintao.  More than likely this is because Wen has headed a committee that has been dealing with climate change issues.

Of course, the targets that China has laid out are being challenged by some, particularly Europe, where it is felt that  reductions of at least 50 percent are needed.

Having both Obama and Wen at the table with real numbers and a plan to reduce their carbon emissions is certainly a step in the right direction.  Hopefully, they along with the other countries in attendance  can come up with a binding agreement that represents real change.  We are all on this ship called Earth together, and if we don’t act fast, climate change could be the hole that sinks us all.

China and Obama

Posted in Asia with tags , , on November 20, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

There has been a lot of talk lately about Obama and how little he got from the Chinese government.  (If you didn’t know, this past week, Obama was in Asia, specifically Japan, Singapore, China and South Korea.)

Much of the talk about China seems to be acknowledging the changing roles of China and the US on the world stage, but more importantly, how they relate to each other.  I don’t know that we have really gotten a lot of concessions from China even when we were ostensibly more powerful or less dependent on the Chinese.  But perception creates reality, so now because the Chinese are simply ignoring our requests for them to stop the human rights abuses or allow the Chinese more internet access it is because the Chinese are in a better position.

While it is hard to argue that China is not in a better position, I think that there hasn’t been much change in the real-world, on-the-ground realities for the Chinese people.  The US gives lip service to human rights while continuing our economic “partnership” with China.  And China continues to sell us cheap plastic crap and buy our debt (which is literally astronomical, they might as well be talking about the debt in light-years…) while ignoring our calls to democratize.

China seems to be taking the worst of Western society (capitalism) and leaving the best parts (democracy, political freedom) alone.  As long as the US continues to do nothing but pay lip service to China and its horrible human rights record, China will continue do to whatever it wants.  Unfortunately, the US is really in no position to push China too hard, but we haven’t been in a good position vis a vis China for quite some time.

Of course, the US is really good at doing nothing but paying lip service.

Does Israel come to mind for you too?

Journalists Freed!

Posted in Asia, Domestic, Human Rights Abuses with tags , , , , on August 5, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

I was hopeful when I read that former President Bill Clinton was going to North Korea to ask that the two journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, be freed.  But I didn’t want to get too hopeful until I read that they have actually been released.  So I am very glad that Clinton did what he did.

Even if they were treated well, they should never have been arrested and sentenced to 12 years hard labor.

Of course, not everyone is happy about their release.  John Bolton has decried Clinton’s visit even if he wasn’t explicitly saying that these two journalists were not worth it.  Perhaps Bolton thought it was a bad idea to try to get North Korea to release them because they were working for Current TV which was founded by Al Gore.  And of course, one of the Clintons got them released, so that has got to get under his skin.

More on John Bolton from Wikipedia.

China Has Muslims Too?

Posted in Asia, Human Rights Abuses with tags , , on July 8, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

Yes, believe it or not, China has a segment of the population that is Muslim.  And they are now fighting against the Chinese government for religious freedom and an end to persecution.

Now, I am one who believes whole-heartedly that we should all abandon religion for a number of reasons.  (Someday I will write about that exclusively.)  But I think one of the basic freedoms that a citizen (of any country) must have is the freedom to believe whatever they want (as long as it doesn’t infringe on others rights, of course.)  So if people want to believe that Jesus is their personal lord and savior and he is one true way to Heaven, so be it.  Or perhaps they feel they must submit themselves to Allah.  Go for it.  I might argue that you are wrong, but I am not going to point a gun at you and tell to stop believing.  And unfortunately, that is what the Chinese government seems to do all too often.  Whether it is those that practice Falun Gong or the Uighers, the Chinese government feels that they should not believe any of it, and they are more than happy to use violence and repression to reach their goals.  Of course, it doesn’t often work.  It just drives these people underground.  And if you really want to get rid of religion, there are much better (and certainly less violent) ways to do it.  Try education, it works.

And, of course, Glenn Greenwald brings up a great point: What if the Uighers were Christians?

Reading an Obit with Great Pleasure

Posted in Asia, Domestic with tags , , , on July 7, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.” —Clarence Darrow (1857–1938)

So begins Joe Galloway’s very short commentary on Robert McNamara’s passing.  Not many outlets would run something like this.  And this is yet another reason why I like McClatchy.

I wasn’t alive when the Vietnam War was actually happening so I can only assume that I would be opposed to the war were I alive at the time since I have been opposed to all of the wars that the US has been involved in since about 1990.  But from what I have read, McNamara was not only the architect of the Vietnam War (as Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson) but even admitted (much later in life) to being a war criminal.

I can certainly understand how someone who lives through something like his tenure as Secretary of Defense would look back on his life and feel that mistakes were made.  Unfortunately, when most people make mistakes hundreds of thousands of people don’t die.  So it is hard to feel anything but contempt for McNamara no matter what he may have felt later in life.

It is times like this that make me wonder if the old adage that “the good die young” is really true.

McNamara was 93 when he died.

In addition, Galloway has 100,000 reasons not to shed a tear for the bastard.

Galloway, it seems, is my new hero.  And McNamara is certainly someone who should rot in Hell, if I believed in such a thing.

Obama’s Concern for Afghan Civilians

Posted in Asia, Middle East with tags , , , on July 2, 2009 by Mort the Sport

Picking up where Black Pumpkin left off, I’d like to comment on Obama’s focus on curbing civilian casualties in Afghanistan. I think it admirable that he wants our troops to try to limit the number of deaths of innocent people. Here’s what McClatchy reported:

Instead of calling in air support or firing into civilian homes where Taliban fighters have sought refuge, commanders will be instructed to reach out to tribal elders or undertake other efforts to dislodge the fighters.

This is the right thing to do for two reasons: 1) There is no way to fight a counter-insurgency without winning the support of the civilian population. 2) It is the ethical choice to make. Without trying to sound hopelessly naive, I think that policies like this one, if enacted properly, can help our standing in the world. They can show the people of Afghanistan that we are concerned for their welfare. And yet I can already envision the reaction of the hawks on the right to the new policy: they’ll be foaming at the mouth calling this a limp-wristed and unnecessary course of action. I couldn’t disagree more. Winning the hearts and minds of the people is just as important as “defeating” the enemy.

Even though I agree with Obama’s specific policy, I still do not agree with the war. Without being too corny, I’d like to point out that we need butter, not guns in Afghanistan. The best way to get rid of the Taliban is to help the Afghan economy. People there need a stable way to support themselves without having to sell opium. One of the main reasons that joining the Taliban or Al-Qaeda looks like a viable option for many young Afghani men is that the economy there is broken. The country is broken. The AP reports that the latest U.S. offensive is necessary just to get polling locations open in the southern areas so that an election can take place. If Afghanistan had a better economy and government, this military intervention would not be necessary because the Taliban would not have been able to take control. The unfortunate situation is partially our fault. In the ’80s, the U.S. government was comfortable supporting insurgents against the Soviets, no matter how religiously zealous these anti-communist fighters were. Now the chickens, as they say, are coming home to roost.

What is an utter shame in this situation is that the U.S. is still in Afghanistan in the first place. If we had to go to war (which I still strongly opposed, even in 2001), we should have committed to a comprehensive solution whereby we sent in enough troops and provided the Afghan people with money to help bolster their economy and help rebuild their government and their infrastructure. Unfortunately, because Bush 43 wanted to invade Iraq as some sort of sick vendetta, we’ve had a “back burner” war that has been a disaster up until this point.

I just hope Obama can lead us in a different direction. This new policy is a glint of light in the darkness. What lies at the end of the tunnel still remains to be seen.