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How to spot a shady deal, whether in Copenhagen or Dubai

Blog posts are the work of individual contributors, reflecting their thoughts, opinions and research.

I've been hearing about the big Copenhagen talks for a while. All kinds of stuff. At first that it was a moderate success, and then the reality that it accomplished as much as Micronesian interference in Afghanistan. Then it became this huge blame game. Britain blamed China for holding the conference hostage; this sounded a bit like America blaming Canada for immersing delicate young ears with swear words in South Park the movie. Naomi Klein very nicely laid out in The Nation how the whole thing was once again Obama's failure to lead. Can't help but agree since the prez with the cool haircut has done this numerous times before. Ellen Snortland wrote probably the best piece on what happened at the summit, and the importance of direct action and involvement to get things done. She reports for Bill Liao who was actually at the summit and had this to say:

I humbly beg you to take direct action! Meet the technical negotiators for your countries, or better yet become a party as I have done. Bring the urgency inside, as it is possible to get into COP16 and not just as an NGO... you can get in as a party and create real change! Find out the names of all the technical negotiators from your country's delegation and get into communication with them: they are real people and many have been at this for 15 years or more. However, please do not distract them or get in their way as it is hard enough already; instead support them, encourage them and even join them.

But, let's get back to the blame game. Specifically the Obama blame game. I usually keep away from US news, generally because it manages to get to me whether I want it to or not. However, Klein got me thinking about Obama's moves on the bailout, and had me hunt down Mother Jones' illustrated depiction of how the bailout funds were used. It certainly helps that MJ has made this visual since the amounts are so bloody staggering. MJ also threw together this illustration of 12 better ways to have spent the bailout money; we could have all had iPhone 3GSs.

The president's other big failing is Afghanistan, which is probably the scariest place in which to vacation right now. Or live. A lot of people point to the invasion of Iraq as being under false pretenses; take a look at Afghanistan. When that country was being invaded, the US showed only Pakistan proof that it was in some way linked to Al Qaeda. Here's the hammer-slash: Pakistani military during 9/11 was caring for Osama in Pakistan (the man has a kidney condition owing to that very Arab thing about drinking tons of coffee and not enough water). Pakistan has, since the invasion of its neighbour, done little to help out other than allow the invasion (did it have a choice?). One thing worth noting is that Pakistan is using very few of its soldiers to fight Taliban insurgencies in the north-west tribal regions.

A recent visit by the former Belgian PM to Afghanistan led the man to make a comment that a stable Afghanistan would benefit everyone. The same way a stable Rwanda would have not benefitted greedy Belgian colonizers. Canada isn't any better: since 2008 the military has been quietly conducting investigations into six different supposed cases of prisoner abuse.

Of course, Pakistan does have its own issues to worry about. Courts in the country are ousting government officials, in a strange reversal of what Musharraf tried before he overdid things.

In neighbouring India, there is a rare bit of non-violent news: turns out that the subcontinent might have been the beginning point of south Asian people, including Far Easterners.

The US' scheme of buying the loyalty of tiny nations is being copied by Russia, which has just gotten Nauru onto its side. I'd always noticed that there's a small contingent of countries whose populations sum less than that of the city I live in, but manage to bolster the US side when it comes to UN resolutions. Shame on your Micronesia.

At least the UN has gotten off its rump to accuse the Sri Lankan government of genocide against the Tamils.

Over in the Mid-East, Dubai is breathing a sigh of relief after Abu Dhabi bailed it out with a $10 bn relief package that covers about 1/8th of its debt. 1/8th is barely worth celebrating, especially since Dubai's plan to pay back world banks its debt was seen by far less than satisfactory by the latter. As I imagine Katt Williams would say, it's like broke-asses trying to reason with the electric company, but on a bigger scale. People in the Emirates are just learning something I did when I touched a grill when I was a year old - actions have consequences. Even that crazy bastard sheikh who was caught on video (well, he had it made so he could watch it naked later on) torturing a man whom he claimed owed him money, is now on trial. His plea is temporary insanity as induced by drugs. Knowing the nepotic system that's in place in Dubai, I wouldn't be too surprised to see him get off scott free.

Wiser heads in the emirate/city of Sharjah are calling for a return to nationalism whereby Arab states stand against Israel and its ongoing persecution of Palestinians. Just another example: Jerusalem's mayor Nir Barkat just nixed plans to set up a baby clinic in a 100,000 person area in favour of doing so in a 7,000 person area because the former had too many Arab families in it.

A number of experts are saying that peace in the region will require more than the stagnating round of talks and US-finger-wagging that has been going on for decades i.e. a concerted effort from more nations. And hummus is made with chickpeas.

Of course this won't happen as long as Jordan and Egypt fall in step behind Israel instead of supporting Palestinians. Egypt: where an article that polygamy should not only mean that men can have more than one wife but vice versa leads to lawsuits. Also the country that is trying to build a wall along its border with Rafah to stop smugglers from getting goods to people in Gaza. One Palestinian smuggler smiled and said "Let them try." Have to love that spirit.

There's also a concerted effort to try and replant olive trees that the Israelis have been uprooting as they march across the land. This bit of audio explains the importance of conservation efforts to Palestinian resistance.

There's a bunch more things going on, here in Vancouver specifically. Rather than write it, I'll link to NOII who've put together this compilation of videos on Olympic opposition.

Also worth watching is Black Panther cofounder Bobby Seale's new talk on the Attica uprising. Big thanks to Art and Anarchy for reminding me about the importance of prisoner stuggles.

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