One of the sticking points of the Gore Administration’s original foray into Middle Eastern politics that happened shortly after 9/11 was the educational package Gore pushed through Congress. That effort, packaged as The Bill of Hope, was a $90 billion aid package designed to improve civil infrastructure and education throughout the Middle East, particularly those countries that seemed susceptible to rising Islamic fundamentalism. The theory, since proven, was that the impetus behind the growth of Islamic radicalism wasn’t its ideology but poverty and (less talked about) repressive governments aligned with a superpower that always seemed to be on the side of the Middle East’s pariah, Israel. The education part of the aid package made many uneasy because it routed most of the funds through Islamic-based organizations.
However, the vetting process for determining how to manage the financial aid package was well thought out, although one foreign aid expert was quoted at the time as saying, “It’s really not too challenging to find out who the bad guys are when it comes to who is okay to work with. There are lots of groups doing good work in the Middle East. Some of them are bad guys within the framework of our definitions, and those are usually pretty well known, and you just avoid them.”
It may seem incongruous to suggest that bad guys can do good work, but in fact that was part of the strategy of the early Islamic radicals. Hamas, for example, has pretty much made a living off it and actually managed to sprout a new nation from its good works. The Islamic Republic of Hamazistan hasn’t received much official diplomatic recognition yet (that’s expected to change after it changes its name), but it got there by touching the hearts and minds of the populace. Hamas, in between mortar shots fired at Israel, developed a broad-based educational program. They built schools and small, but important, infrastructure projects in Gaza.
So as the new nation of Palestine was struggling to get on its feet, Hamas managed to establish a name for its self in its stronghold in the Gaza, which resulted in a near civil war with the Palestinian government based in the West Bank.
Eventually pundits began to look for a scape goat and they found it in The Bill of Hope. Republicans claimed that money was leeching out of the “trusted” members of the Palestinian government into Hamas, even though no money was given to the Palestinian government. Still, there’s little doubt that Hamas did indeed manage to get some of their hands on that money, and that brings us to today’s news item.
The newest round of education aid is being funneled this time through gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. In return for the aid, and the diplomatic prestige they’ll gain for distributing the money to key regions in the Middle East that haven’t been touched yet by the economic boom, each Gulf nation will help fund the new worldwide Kyoto Alternative Fuels Initiative by matching the $20 billion U.S. educational initiative dollar for dollar over a twenty year period.
There will be plenty of complaints about this latest initiative because it will give complete discretion to the Gulf states on where to focus their attention. Many critics are already pointing out that 9/11 would not have happened if not for the growth of Wahabbism-based educational efforts stemming originally from Saudi Arabia. Whether or not this is true is of course open to debate, but there it is. Keep in mind, though, that the monies provided under the new initiative will be spent via a group called the Gulf States Economic Group. Since each state in the group has only one vote, it actually turns out that the gulf states will have more influence on where the money goes than Saudi Arabia or Qatar, the countries where Wahabbism has the greatest influence.
No matter how we look at it, though, we can be thankful that we’re no longer discussing things like $20 billion dollar military sales to Middle Eastern countries, which was the hallmark of American foreign policy for so many prior administrations.
Today, our discussions revolve around the tactics of how school books should be distributed to Middle Eastern countries, not air-to-air missiles. These are debates that should make all of us happy.
Clinton, Obama Bicker on YouTube Debate July 24, 2007Posted by chuckwh in Barack Obama, Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton, Neo-cons, News and politics, Obama, YouTube.
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The stars of CNN’s YouTube debate were clearly Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but it was Clinton’s reaction to a question posted to Obama that is curious, given the success the Gore administration has had dealing with hostile regimes.
Stephen Sorta of Diamond Bar, Calif. asked the candidates if they’d be willing in their first year in office to talk with the leaders who, from the viewpoint of some U.S. policymakers, are considered the world’s troublemakers, including presidents Fidel Castro of Cuba, and Kim Jong Il of North Korea.
SEN. OBAMA: I would. Not only has this been the guiding diplomatic principle of this country, but this administration has demonstrated the importance of maintaining this approach with its successful rapprochement with Iran and Fatah in Gaza, which has led to the highest level of peace the Middle East has seen since World War II. (Applause.) Ronald Reagan and Democratic presidents like JFK constantly spoke to the Soviet Union at a time when Ronald Reagan called them an evil empire. And the reason is because they understood that we may not trust them, they may pose an extraordinary danger to this country, but we have the obligation to find areas where we can potentially move forward.
But Hillary Clinton, one of the architects of the diplomatic efforts in Iran as Vice President under Gore, disagreed, saying, “While I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these during my first year, I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort, because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are. I don’t want to be used for propaganda purposes. I don’t want to make a situation even worse. We’re not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro and, you know, the president of North Korea.”
This was a curious reaction considering the successful waves of diplomacy initiated under Gore. Especially odd was her reference to making a promise, which wasn’t part of the question (the question was whether candidates would be willing to talk to hostile governments, not whether they would issue promises to that effect).
Clinton continues to distance herself from the progressive end of the Democratic party (and her own administration) by sounding the foreign policy mantras of her husband, who was centrist only in name and only within the relative scope of the era he presided.
Keep in mind just how far right the Reagan era swung the pendulum of political discourse. In many eras, Clinton the Husband’s foreign policy would have been considered far to the right and subservient to special interests, but he looked progressive when matched up against conservative Republicans and neo-cons (who wanted to invade Iraq, which would have been an unmitigated disaster).
Today, the U.S. still isn’t talking to Cuba, a harmless little island to the South whose fangs, if there ever were any, were removed by the fall of the Soviet Union. Diplomatic relations would only help the island’s economy. And maybe even ours. If we’re the good guys, there’s nothing left, right, or centrist about that position, and making an effort towards that regime or any other hostile regime can never be harmful.
Reports are trickling in that former vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney was found chained to a car axle next to a dog named Gorey Mutt at Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels. There is no official confirmation from Surry County prosecutors to reports that Cheney was one of the most successful in Vick’s stable, with at least 14 kills.
“He’s got a vicious snap,” says one dog fighting enthusiast on a dog fighting web site forum. “And a nasty disposition.”
President Gore Offers To Fix Brazilian Airports July 19, 2007Posted by chuckwh in News and politics.
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President Gore today said that the United States, flush with cash from an unprecedented economic miracle that began with the Clinton administration, would help build the infrastructure necessary to improve Brazilian airspace.
“I say today that Americans can get out of our comfort level and extend our remarkable resources to other nations,” said Gore in a speech before a Himalayan singing group.
“We can extend air strips, and create agreements to allow others to,” said Gore, alluding to the various, nearly fifty-year old hold ups preventing improvements in Brazilian airports like Congonhas Airport, where a recent accident took place.
Brazilian bloggers are abuzz about the real cause of the accident, but most airline pilot blogs say that the real cause of the accident is a short runway that runs nearly 700 shorter than most major international airport runways.
“It’s my fault” some close to Gore are saying he said in describing his reaction.
“Loss of life is unacceptable to this president,” said one source. “He believes the great fortune harvested over these years of prosperity should be extended to our neighbors.”
Gore, Putin Sign Extension of 1990 Arms Treaty July 14, 2007Posted by chuckwh in Al Gore, arms control, News and politics, Putin, Russia, treaties, treaty.
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President Gore, along with his European counterparts, and Russian President Vladimir Putin today signed a comprehensive arms control agreement that further draws down conventional armed forces in Europe and sets lofty goals for a reduction of both strategic and theater nuclear weapons.
The signing ceremony took place in Beirut, Lebanon, which has become the de facto capital for peace treaty signing ceremonies since peace broke out in the Middle East. The symbolism is huge because Beirut has regained its prestige as an international city and has become a brokerage house of sorts for much of the world’s diplomatic activity, replacing Geneva as the place to be for major international agreements.
The new agreement means that both NATO and Russia will each reduce the amount of conventional weapons in Europe, accordingly:
From 20,000 tanks under the old treaty to 10,000
From 20,000 artillery pieces to 10,000
From 30,000 armored combat vehicles (ACV’s) to 15,000
From 6,800 combat aircraft to 2,300
From 2,000 attack helicopters to 500.
Right wing Republicans expressed concerns that such high reductions, particularly of attack helicopters, would leave the United States weak in an emergency in such crisis-prone regions as the Caucasus or Baltic regions, but what really pushed their buttons was a commitment from NATO and Russia to transfer some of the equipment to the auspices of the United Nation. This part of the treaty has left a familiar trail of sovereignty whining among various jingoistic crowds in both Congress and parts of Montana.
The nuclear angle of the treaty is much less specific and makes no formal commitments other than a general agreement to reduce the number of strategic and theater warheads under a separate treaty.
Apple Announces Plans for iPhone 2 July 7, 2007Posted by chuckwh in Apple, gadgets, iPhone, News and politics, President Gore.
Apple, Inc. today announced plans for iPhone 2, which will only be available to consumers willing to have the hardware device soldered to their heads in a fashion similar to the La Forge character on the series “Star Trek, Next Generation.”
Cherry Core, a spokeswoman for Apple, today told The Gore Years that the concept behind iPhone 2 is an extension of the way the current iPhone’s battery is soldered into the device. Currently, it’s necessary to bring the iPhone in for servicing when a new battery is required.
“This is a necessary part of the process of owning an iPhone,” said Core. “Consumers should feel like they’re part of the system itself. We call it consumergy, the synergy between our customers and this device. With iPhone 2, we take it a step further, and attach it to your face.”
Apple says that consumers will need to visit approved medical facilities to install the device. There are rumors that several leading health care organizations are clamoring to become exclusive regional licensors of the phone. Among the considerations Apple will be taking into account, of course, will be a health facility’s ability to handle the early rush of consumers eager to be first in line.
In California, for example, the leading candidate is probably Kaiser Permanente, which has a massive network of facilities and the infrastructure to handle long lines of camped out people for days at a time.
The iPhone 2 is an obvious route to new revenues for the health care industry. And it’s a win-win for both Apple and health care organizations. By paying a modest licensing fee, health care organizations feed Apple’s coffers, while gaining new customers who will often feel locked in to their providers. “Generally people will probably feel most comfortable with the health care facility that made the initial installation when maintenance is required”, says Stanford University’s Dr. Gustav Klinger of Stanford’s Eye, Ear and Apple Institute. “It may even begin to establish a sense of brand loyalty among certain health care providers. If you’re a clever hospital administrator, really, the sky’s the limit on what can be achieved with a licensing agreement with Apple.”
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Apple, Inc., today filed a class action lawsuit against purchasers of the new iPhone, saying in court documents filed today in Santa Clara County that it has become “the victim of malicious whining from a cluster of overly aggressive customers who, in their frenzy to acquire the greatest gadget of all time, tainted the name of the company when their precious toys didn’t activate instantaneously.” The lawsuit is asking for between $499 and $599 from each customer who purchased the new phone, depending on the model purchased, as well as unspecified damages.
Legal experts are not aware of any precedent for such a lawsuit, or even if it is possible for a company to file a class action suit against customers. “I’m not sure if there is any legal precedent for this or not,” said attorney Alberto R. Gonzales of Boston’s Crane, Pool & Schmidt in an email to The Gore Years. “But in my opinion, legal precedent is not relevant in most judicial circumstances. The first consideration that needs to be made when considering legal action is who’s got the most leverage in the case, the most power?”
The lawsuit claims that the same users who salivated over the phone’s initial launch turned around and attacked the company on blogs and message boards, thus damaging the company’s reputation. A company spokesperson today discounted the possibility that customers were simply tired and cranky after waiting as long as 72 hours in line for their devices. “Scoble wasn’t bitchy,” said the spokesperson. “You didn’t hear him whining.”