Jan 8 In Damascus on the 6th a suicide bomber killed 26 people on a bus said to be carrying policemen. The Assad dictatorship and its supporters responded with outrage, surprised apparently that slaughter and abuse of people opposed to the Assad regime would be met with a counter violence. The dictatorship and its supporters seem to assume that the only legitimate violence is their violence. Syria's interior ministry vowed to "strike back with an iron fist" as a sectarian civil war continued to unfold. The Free Syrian Army, on the side of the protesters and military deserters, accused the government of staging the blast on the 6th. The US, meanwhile, proclaims that violence is not "the right answer to the problems in Syria" (as it was for George Washington in the colonies).
Jan 10 New Hampshire presidential candidate voting is today, with Mitt Romney described as the favorite and the conservative Republican Ron Paul expected to do well. Romney is widely criticized for his "baloney" and his slick but contradictory statements. Some big-gun and big-money Republicans support him believing he is the candidate who can win. Paul, on the other hand, is running on small donations and is critical of big money in politics. Romney's candidacy has an element of cynical opportunism that Paul's campaign lacks, and some Paul supporters see in Romney's candidacy politics as usual.
Jan 11 The dictator Assad claims that victory is near, that he will stay in power because "I am not someone who abandon's responsibility," that the Arab League "has failed for six decades to take a position in the Arab interest," and that he will restore order "by hitting terrorists with an iron fist." Crowds of his supporters respond enthusiastically.
Jan 12 Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich defends his criticism of his rival, Mitt Romney, pointing out that a difference should be recognized between bad practice by an individual capitalist and the capitalist system in general. He says he is not attacking capitalism. Rush Limbaugh, guru for some Republicans, responds by saying it's none of the government's business what Romney does and that Newt sounds like he is supporting left-wing social engineering.
Jan 14 Taiwan's Ma Ying-jeou is re-elected president and promises closer ties with mainland China. His 55-year old female opponent, leader of the Democratic Progressive Party, described as a "China-sceptic," concedes defeat. According to Al Jazeera, officials in China breathe a "sigh of relief." China still claims Taiwan as its territory but welcomes stability, close ties and trade with Taiwan.
Jan 16 Alan Krueger, Princeton economist, has charted upward mobility in various countries in relation to inequality in distribution of wealth. His chart places Denmark, Sweden and Finland as best for upward mobility. His fellow Princeton economist, Paul Krugman, writes in his January 15 NYT column that Krueger shows "America is both especially unequal and has especially low mobility."
Jan 16 Syria's dictator, Assad, makes another show of benevolence in victory. He offers amnesty to anyone accused of "crimes" committed in connection with the last 10 months of anti-government unrest. It is a gesture that regime opponents cannot take seriously and that now equates with surrender.
Aung San Suu Kyi
Jan 17 The world saw on CNN yesterday an enraged Syrian soldier with a few other soldiers around a seemingly dead comrade. He screamed to journalists and Arab League monitors: "Is this what you want for Syria? Is this what you want for Syria?" It's a question he could have asked when the dictator he supports first started dragging protesters from their homes and shooting protesters in the streets.
Jan 18 Burma (Myanmar) continues its move toward more democracy. Today, hundreds of Aung San Suu Kyi's supporters have turned out to see the democracy advocate register as a candidate for a parliamentary seat. Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the release of political prisoners in Burma as a substantial step towards democratic reform, and there was a move toward exchanging ambassadors.
Jan 20 In Malawi (largely Christian) cultural conservativism among a few men has given rise to attacks on women in public for wearing trousers rather than traditional dress. President Bingu wa Mutharika has responded by saying on national radio that women have the right to wear what they want.
Jan 20 The sensational news of the day yesterday was the second wife of Newt Gingrich telling a journalist why she thought he was unfit to be president: because he wanted an open marriage. Private (corporate) news organizations tend toward sensationalism over substance in order to attract viewers, and in last night's presidential debate CNN's John King directed his first question to Newt Gingrich regarding his former wife's allegations. Gingrich responded: "'I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.'' He called the question despicable. The audience (conservatives whose respect for public media – PBS and NPR – is limited) leaped to their feet and applauded with passion.
Jan 21 As conservatives in the United States try to increase their political power, some of them are expressing disdain for the "liberal" media. At a rally in South Carolina a couple of days ago one could see a sign that read, "DON'T BELIEVE THE MEDIA." This comes when journalism is more opinion with selected facts, and it comes with the new media democracy that appears on the internet and flies around cyberspace. Sloppy opinions, bias and errors abound, while liberals and some who are not-so-liberal hold that of course one should not believe the media the way traditionalists believe scripture. One should always have one's question and evaluation motor running. Meanwhile, some good journalism continues from professional journalists; liberals continue to see bias in conservative commentators; conservatives continue to see bias in the "liberal" media because it isn't purveying their perspective; and extensive coverage of debates, candidate speeches and interviews saturates television with conservative opinion.
Jan 22 Africa's most populous country, Nigeria, continues the religious and ethnic fragmentation and lack of tolerance that challenges it as a nation and a democracy. Muslims and Christians are at war. The Muslim group, Boko Haran, attacked with bombs yesterday in the city of Kano – the attack, described as Boko Haran's bloodiest assault to date, with at least 160 dead. The democratically elected president, Goodluck Jonathan, has respect internationally, and he is responding to international and local requests for more security.
Jan 23 In China's Sichuan province, dozens of ethnic Tibetans attack a police station with stones and clubs. Police are reported as shooting at the crowd and killing at least one of the protesters.
Jan 24 An article in the Guardian this month has described the weird weather of 2011 continuing into 2012, with "arctic ice at almost its lowest extent ever recorded in midwinter, disastrous droughts and searing heat in Africa and Latin America." The article reports "thousands of people in Austria, France and Germany ... digging themselves out of some of the heaviest snowfalls seen in 30–50 years." In the US yesterday, tornadoes were confirmed in at least four southern states, with hundreds of homes destroyed. And yesterday an article in The New York Times claimed that "Warnings from the scientific community are becoming louder." Meanwhile, the only Republican running for president who confessed to believing in global warming, Jon Huntsman, has dropped out of the race, and global warming deniers are arguing that humans cannot change nature – although nobody is arguing the absurdity that humans are or can.
Jan 25 China reports that violence has erupted again among Tibetans in Sichuan province – another attack on a police station, yesterday. China's news agency, Xinhua, writes that "Police were forced to use force after efforts involving persuasion and non-lethal weapon defence failed to disperse the mob." The death of one of the attackers is reported.
Jan 26 Believing that military confrontation alone will not stop their insurgency, President Jonathan of Nigeria invites the violent Islamist Boko Haram sect to a dialogue.
Jan 27 It's widely recognized in the US that technological change has altered work. Manufacturing plants are not going to be as crowded with workers as they were thirty or forty years ago. In an American or a Chinese factory these days, Robert Reich observes, "you see technicians sitting behind computer consoles controlling a lot of robots and numerically controlled machine tools." Regarding the skills needed for new kinds of jobs, Martin Schmidt of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology claims that as a nation "we need to figure out how to revitalize our community college education system to train those folks that want to work in these types of jobs."
Jan 29 Yesterday the Arab League announced it was suspending its monitoring mission in Syria because of deteriorating conditions and rising violence there. The Assad regime has been stepping up its efforts to crush its enemies, and in increasing numbers its enemies are picking up the gun – the logic of events in Syria that has been anticipated on the website, out of tune with the intentions of the Arab League mission. ArabNews.com reports that Syria's "state security forces battled rebels holding three suburbs just outside the capital Damascus." Anti-Assad Syrians continue to call for help from abroad. According to Al Jazeera late Saturday New York time, "Opposition activists say that at least 210 people have been killed in the past four days in Syria, and a further 27 people have been killed across the country on Saturday."
Jan 29 Niall Ferguson expresses his belief that regarding the Arab Spring the US should get some credit for what it has done in Iraq and showing that democracy can work. Wadah Khanfar (former Director-General of the Al Jazeera network) counters that in his opinion what happened in Iraq delayed the Arab Spring. (See today's Zakaria GPS)
Jan 30 The honey you buy may be fake, according to nutritionist Dr. Joseph Mercola (mercola.com). "Nearly all of the fake honey," he writes, "is made in China," and made of "a mixture of sugar water, malt sweeteners, corn or rice syrup" et cetera. Real honey has a pollen content, and Mercola cites an investigation by Food Safety News that has discovered "76 percent of honey samples" bought at various grocery stores (which Mercola names) were absent of pollen. (Mercola.com, Jan 28, 2012)
Jan 31 Speaking at a Communist Party conference, Cuba's President, Raul Castro, defended his country's one-party political system (similar to the one-party system in China). Anyone interested in engaging in public service of a poltical nature (with all that entails) is limited to doing so within Cuba's Communist Party.
Jan 31 Some occupy protesters in Washington DC don't want to differentiate between their ability to demonstrate on public property and their right to camp on public property. The Park Service has a long-standing ordinance against camping in the public parks in question. Pro-camping protesters are using interesting rhetoric to support their defiance of park authority and the police. In doing so some of them are also not differentiating between normal civic regulations in our democracy and the oppressions of an authoritarian state. And some like-minded persons will probably rule out the possibility that what is expressed here is other than rightist thinking.
Copyright © 2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.