Musharraf: Out

August 19, 2008 at 9:20 am (Military, News, Pakistan, The United States, World War III)

Musharraf resigns.

Was this good or was this bad? Perhaps both.

When Musharraf was the autocrat of Pakistan, he was good for The United States. But when he started to play politician, he became unreliable and undependable simply because he no longer controled all the levers of power in Pakistan. Add to this the intense opposition against him by various branches of the government, which did everything they could to stymie his efforts, and we get a situation that makes his cooperation with The United States difficult, if at all possible, and puts us in a position of supporting a man who has become useless.

Most supporters of Musharraf have been complaining that he veered off track soon after becoming the autocrat. They said, “He should be a general or a politician, not both.” In trying to be both, he essentially shot himself in the foot by opening himself up to being challenged, opposed, and taken down by forces he does not and cannot control. He should have stuck to being a general, with a puppet government and figurehead prime minister, while implementing those measures needed to make Pakistan stable and prosperous. Instead, he decided to usher in a wave of democracy, which brought him down.

This selfsame wave of democracy also moved Pakistan away from The United States. The people, who before had to simply accept Musharraf’s stance because they couldn’t do anything about it, began to express their disapproval of cooperating with The United States, and essentially began implementing measures and stances that hindered cooperation with The United States. In fact, the government of Pakistan turned from strenuously opposing militants to coddling and tolerating them, letting them take over key cities and areas rather then putting them down like it should have.

Having Musharraf in power also contributed to an environment of instability and uncertainty. The opposition to him was doing everything it could to unseat him, and we had no idea how successful they would be, or when they would try which trick, and what tricks would be next.

I hope that with Musharraf’s successor, attention to Pakistan’s military by Pakistanis will wane, allowing the military to take on more robust and active roles in flushing out the militants and preventing the establishment of a de facto Taliban mini-state in the North-West Frontier Province. With Musharraf out, critics cannot accuse the military of following Musharraf’s pro-American (and ostensibly anti-Islamic) policies. What is fortunate is that Kayani, the current head military guy, is our guy (or so it is believed). Without the intense public pressure, criticism, and opposition, maybe with the new president he’d be able to operate more freely.

Forging links with Kayani was a excellent decision by the Pentagon, and will help us move forward regardless of who is president of Pakistan. We cannot be tied down to one person, particularly a politician who, as such, is exposed to unpredictable maneuvers by opponents. I hope we are forging links with other military people so we can move forward regardless of unexpected circumstances that may befall Kayani.

In the end, Musharraf became useless, and part of this was his own fault. While democracy is good, there never has been democracy in Pakistan. It’s all a political game with dirty tricks, everyone manipulating (and even changing) the law to suit their needs and interests. There will never be resolution in Pakistan, and the government (and military) of Pakistan will always have to contend with militants. What we must prevent is Pakistan becoming an active supporter of militants, allowing them to use Pakistan as a base.

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Whoohoo! *headbanging*

August 11, 2008 at 12:30 am (Music, Personal)

This Saturday was a very busy and strange day.

First an outline, then I’ll discuss the coolest part about it.
Leave home to vet to take our dog to get his ears checked out.
Leave vet for home.
Leave home for Augustfest.
Leave Augustfest for the Temple.
Leave the Temple for home.
Leave home for the airport.
Leave the airport for home.
Leave home for Augustfest.
Leave Augustfest for home.

Augustfest was a rock concert (hard rock-ish) in northern IL sponsored by Budweiser and the radio station I listen to the most, 95.1 WIIL Rock.

The bands playing were Stereoside, Black Stone Cherry, Midnight to 12, Alter Bridge, Copper, Filter, Another Black Day, POD, Shinedown, and a few others. For $22, this was a steal.

Now, this is the type of music I listen to regularly. But most people wouldn’t believe it: they don’t see me as a hard rocker. And I had never been to a concert.

I liked POD’s song “Shine With Me”, so I thought I’d go to see them. But my parents were leaving the same day and wanted me to accompany them to the airport. (Later, my brother became busy so I had to drop them.) So I stayed for a short while and then left, with a somewhat heavy heart.

For a number of days before the concern, I had been hearing that Shinedown’s performance was not to be missed. It was said that they did an awesome job. So my reasons for going to Augustfest was to see POD and Shinedown. By the time I had dropped my parents and reached home, I realized that I missed many bands but could still make it for Shinedown if I wanted to pay for another ticket. I thought it’d be worth it, and returned to Augustfest. Turns out, one of the ticket-checking staffers at the entrance had an extra ticket he was trying to get rid of, so he sold it to me for very cheap.

The concert was awesome. I was very nervous. I did not know how it would be like, what I should do, whether I’d fit in. But it was great. It was very laid back. I was actually over-dressed. So I bought a Shinedown shirt (came with free CD) and changed into that.

There was a good variety of people, from kids in diapers to grey-haired old people. (A few unborn kids too.) A number of families – father, mother, kids – were there too. The people were laid back. While the music was playing, lots of people just stood and listened. Lots of people brought lawn chairs: they just sat and listened. Those closest to the stage were more into it: pumping fists, head-banging, and other stuff. So I did not feel out of place at all, standing and nodding to the music.

I think I saw three black people, and three South Asians. The rest were white. But, as usual, I didn’t feel out of place. I wasn’t surprised by this white-ness. Hard rock is considered “white music” but I love it.

Midnight to 12 actually as a drummer who’s Mexican (or Latino in any case). Oh, that reminds me: there were a lot of Latinos in the crowd.

Considering this was in northern IL, which is very red and conservative, the whole stereotype of racist hicks holds no water for me. It was obvious that most people didn’t come from ‘burbs, where there’s lots of diversity, but they were all civil and nice.

Most of the bands I saw were good. Mignight to 12 put on a very good show: each bandmember was animated and performed well. Stereoside was also good. Black Stone Cherry was good too. I wasn’t too fond of Alter Bridge (and that’s when I left).

There was no way I could have seen POD: I had to leave home for the airport at 7, and POD would take the stage at 7:30. No way I could make it. But I returned to see Shinedown. And it seemed that lots of people reached there a little later so as to catch Shinedown, not caring too much about the other bands.

Shinedown’s performance was awesome. They started with “Devour”. As I knew a number of words and the beat was very good, this was a good song: lots of people singing it, lots of movement. The lead singer was surprising very well articulate when he spoke with us. He used proper English, with complex constructions even. And his show was part performance, part motivational exhortations. He got us all very excited and into the music. (I’m listening to their CD right now.) He even let the lead singer of Black Stone Cherry sing part of one song. It was very well worth the drive back to Augustfest, the extra money, and the long drive home (even at 11:30 pm, the highway was extremely congested: bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go the whole route thereon).

One thing the lead singer of Shinedown did that I appreciated is that he asked military members to raise their hands, acknowledged them, thanked them, and dedicated a song to them. The crowd was very vocal in their appreciation for military people by cheering and clapping. Very nice to see.

What was also fun was talking to SHW in church today. SHW is the first counselor in the Elders Quorum presidency. Not a small calling. But he’s into this type of music, so it was nice to talk to someone about the bands and songs, and to hear another person’s views on similar bands and concerts.

Concerts like these are nice. I’ll go to more as they arise. There should be Augustfest next year as well. The radio station I listen to is good about such concerts.

(Thanks to The Hostages for giving me advice on concert-going.)

Musli: blogger, mild-mannered Latter-day Saint, hard rocker.

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On international law

August 8, 2008 at 12:30 am (History, International community, The United States, US Government)

People may begin to think: what rebellious people those Texans are, trashing international law!

In one sense, there is no such thing as international law. I say this because states that are signatories to international law bodies apply the law (or ignore it) according to their whims, wishes, and interests. Rather than viewing international law bodies as neutral international regimes, they are viewed as bodies through which to further their own agendas against states they don’t like. If State A doesn’t like State B, it State A will do everything to get an international law body to issue a ruling against State B. However, if the ruling goes against State B’s opinions or whims, it will simply ignore or refute such rulings. So, in effect, there is no international law body that has actual power. Consider the fervent efforts of Pakistan and India against each other through international regimes, and the result of both countries essentially ignoring these international regimes.

What makes American law a little more complicated is the sovereignty of states. Each individual state has great leeway in establishing its own laws and policies. This remains in place despite the fact that federal law has been expanding exponentially recently. States, and their people, don’t want to concede sovereignty, especially to foreign parties.

Americans are notorious for being open about their repudiation of international regimes. We simply ignore things we don’t like. Of course, we’re also very resilient to sign onto any international regime. While the President can attend a summit and think America should join a treaty or body or policy or law, he has to think, more importantly, whether the American people, through the Senate, will accept his opinion. As Woodrow Wilson demonstrated, it is a grave mistake the ignore this. Despite the fact he was instrumental in the founding of the League of Nations, and wanted America in it, the American people rejected his opinion and, to his great embarrassment, refused to ratify America’s joining the organization.

Now, from one viewpoint, this was a major embarrassment. Americans rejected such a good idea. But then, as now for the most part, we don’t care what the world thinks about us. At the very least, we don’t use international opinion to form our policies and laws. We do what is in our best interests, and other states and international regimes can protest all they want.

Now, treaty-wise, one can argue back and forth whether America is bound to the World Court. But in practice, we have ignored the World Court. Of course, this is nothing new or different as many states ignore the World Court and other international regimes.

One thing Americans complain about, and legitimately so, is the burden placed on America to comply with every dinky body’s rulings while other players and states get away with brazen noncompliance. A recent example, which troubled me, was Hezbollah. Israel mandated that a condition for it to agree to an end to the recent Israel-Lebanon war was that Hezbollah would have to disarm below a certain point. The Lebanese government had to guarantee it. In order to end the war, Hezbollah and the Lebanese government conceded. The ink had not dried on the agreement when Hezbollah announced it would not disarm, and the Lebanese government announced it had no intention to make Hezbollah disarm. And yet no one said anything.

And so those that charge America for intransigence should really drop their arguments unless they will just as actively protest other intransigent parties.

However, what this demonstrates, more than anything, is the true standing of these international regimes. They don’t exist to usher in a better world: they exist for states to use them as tools in their foreign policy to further their own national interests. It is naive to suppose otherwise.

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Olmer Out – thank haShem

August 6, 2008 at 12:30 am (Israel, Middle East)

Olmert has announced he is moving to resign after his party’s primaries. This may mean his successor as head of the Kadima Party could succeed him as prime minister. But I wouldn’t count on it.

Kadima was formed by Ariel Sharon (refuah hashalem aleih) to break free from the traditionally dominant parties, Likud and Labour. When Sharon became incapacitated before elections, Olmert became leader of the Kadima Party. As a sign of support for Sharon and his policies, Kadima was swept into power.

But Olmert was and is no Sharon. Many of his policies have been disastrous for Israel. He’s probably as dovish as the Labour Party.

After being unable to secure Israeli national security (including botching the recent Israel-Lebanon war), and making outrageous concessions, Israel may very well ditch Kadima and sweep Likud back into power.

Whenever Israel feels threatened, Likud wins. Whenever everything’s fine, Labour wins.

I’m looking forward to Olmert being out, replaced by either a smarter Kadimanik or by Likud. Israel has some work to do to reestablish deterrence, thanks to Olmert.

* haShem is what religious Jews use to refer to God

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Great day at Church

August 4, 2008 at 12:30 am (LDS, Personal)

I had an awesome day at Church on Sunday.

Right after I bore my testimony, another guy got up to the podium. His first words? “Brother [Musli], thou art the man!” I blushed bright red.

While I was looking around, I caught my name on a piece of paper. Next to it was “+2” under “taught lesson”. In our branch, we’re having a contest to see who gives the most service. This could be for help rendered or some spiritual service. A grade of 1 (nice), 2 (awesome), or 3 (life-changing) is given. So, someone submitted a note for when I taught a lesson. I’m so touched it touched someone that much.

I teach every Sunday in Church. There are usually two teachers, but one was released (and I replaced her) and the other was also released for another calling, leaving me to do it all alone, every week. But I enjoy it. Some lessons are better than others. Preparation, I have noticed, can help. Usually, I let the Spirit decide. To date, not one lesson has gone as I prepared or planned it. The people in my class is awesome. Lots of smart people. I learn so much from them. But it’s wonderful to bring to them insights or knowledge they may not have encountered, and it’s wonderful to bear to them my testimony every week.

After priesthood meeting, the branch president had wandered into the room and approached me directly. He wanted me to set up a tray of bread and two cups of water in his office for sacrament. A brother came later to church and had missed sacrament. I and the Elders Quorum President blessed and passed it. I was the branch president’s go-to guy!

Nothing gives me greater joy than knowing I can serve in the Kingdom of God, albeit in very little ways, in ways that touches people’s hearts. I regularly get feedback on my lessons, that they helped, and I’m glad I can do that.

Don’t know why I’m posting this. Just some insight into what’s going on in my life.

And the best news…on Sunday, August 17, 2008, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ will be visiting our stake. Elder Richard G. Scott will be addressing us. It’s not a stake conference, it’s a special program. It will be so cool!

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