At Large

At Large

Turkey Simmering

By 1.9.14

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey made the statement that there was a serious question as to just how independent his nation’s judiciary should be. This clearly rhetorical question reflects the powerful prime minister’s pique at the extent of activity by a federal prosecutor who has been heading an anti-corruption investigation. Ironically the entire episode sounded exactly the same as what Erdogan and his party used to complain about military domination of secular institutions.

Politics aside, the action that pushed Erdogan beyond his professional restraint level was a summons served on his son, Bilal. This action was merely one of many directed at political associates of the Erdogan government, including cabinet ministers’ relatives, who had become subjects of the prosecution probe. Something had to be done and Erdogan came down hard. The prosecutor involved was removed from the case, but not until he had charged that none of the follow-up arrests to his interrogations had been completed and now the suspects were all covering their financial tracks.

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At Large

Keeping the Lid on Africa

By 12.19.13

Western countries’ military role in Africa has become essential in peacekeeping. This past month the French sent 1,000 rapid deployment troops to the Central African Republic, and then followed up with another 600. The French government is trying to avoid committing large numbers of soldiers to countering local sectarian conflicts. Make no mistake, this is clearly more of a political than military decision, though last year they had to rush aid to Northern Mali to retake Timbuktu from a large well-organized jihadist terrorist group.

Paris knows full well that political life in many of its former African colonies is a matter of just waiting for the next coup, rebellion, or terrorist attack. Long ago they were aware that in spite of extensive and continuing programs aimed at instilling a French sense of democracy, the indigenous cultures of physical intimidation and political chicanery would predominate. The best the President’s Office at the Elysée could expect would be an intelligent and strong leader who looked to his earlier mentor and sovereign on key issues. Of course that is the dream of all former colonial nations.

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Lost In Translation

By 12.13.13

Italians talk with their hands. South Africans? Not so much.

“We consider this to be an absolute disgrace and an insult to deaf people,” commented Brit Jan Sheldon of the Royal Association of Deaf People on the stadium-sized tribute to Nelson Mandela. “It represents one of the most public mockeries of deaf people and sign language that we’ve ever seen.”

Translator for the deaf Thamsanqa Jantjie, standing next to the president of the United States at Mandela’s memorial service, treated the international audience to a series chopping gestures and finger flicks. What did it all mean?  

The to-the-letter translation of Jantjie’s punching of the air, for instance, means “ansehjebfibc2u9ygcweodbjcb” in sign language. But must we take everything so literally? One could also interpret the words spoken by Jantjie’s fists as “joeofuhofcnwjhcb” or “uejcnnowdycbg.”

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Back to the Future in Cairo

By 12.4.13

The definitive sign that Egyptian politics had spiraled out of control — or rather back into control — came last August when the former head of the IAEA, the often anti-American Mohammed ElBaradei, unexpectedly gave up his relatively new national ambitions and hurried back to his home in Vienna. He had broken his decades-long self-exile when he thought there might be a chance for him to become a compromise presidential choice. Baradei has always been a barometer of international politics and his flight back to European security told a clear story.

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Still Playing on the Carefree Highway

By 11.13.13

Happy birthday next week!!!” A man shouted his congratulations to Gordon Lightfoot during his concert at the Shubert Theater in Boston last week. It was the penultimate stop of the Canadian recording legend’s eight month long Carefree Highway tour which took him across North America. The tour marked his 50th anniversary on the road.

The audience member was slightly imprecise, but Lightfoot will turn 75 on November 17. That in of itself is remarkable considering he nearly died in 2002 following an aortic aneurysm. Four years later, Lightfoot suffered a minor stroke during a performance in Michigan. The stroke caused numbness in Lightfoot’s right hand and impeded him and severely impeded his guitar playing.

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Gray Side of Border Sercurity

By 11.7.13

There is an interesting documentary that runs on the National Geographic TV channel entitled Border Wars. The series chronicles the continuing battle by American law enforcement -- primarily the Border Patrol and DEA -- to inhibit the flow of drugs and illegal immigrants into the U.S. The title is misleading because the “war” tends to involve little bloodshed, as neither the organized criminal smugglers nor the border agents want the commerce in narcotics and people to become a combat affair – unlike the case in Mexico itself.

There are incidents, of course, where officials and innocents are killed or wounded on the U.S. side. This was the case of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry killed, killed by a weapon from the “Fast and Furious” project, and the mysterious shooting of a long time Arizona rancher whose property was crossed regularly by smugglers. A great deal of press attention was given to the killing of an official ICE agent traveling by car to inspect facilities in the northern provinces of Mexico and the tourist David Hartley who was shot and presumably drowned on his jet ski-boat on Falcon Lake.

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Secession and Tax Hikes

By 11.6.13

Much of the out-of-state attention paid to Colorado in Tuesday night’s elections was in regard to the fundamentally unserious ballot measures in 11 counties to secede from the state and createNorth Colorado. To be more precise: The fact that the votes are happening represents a most serious message from the citizens of rural and oil-rich parts of the state to the petty tyrants in Denver and their mindless supporters in Boulder and Aspen. But there was and is no way that the 51st state will come into creation this way.

Still, let’s mention the results:

With most of the votes counted in the relevant counties, five of the 11 counties supported secession. However, all that really matters in this discussion is that Weld County, home to what would be over 70 percent of the population of the proposed new state, gave the measure a resounding “no” vote, with approximately 58 percent voting against secession versus 42 percent supporting.

So now we can move on to the important elections.

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