US Military Base in Paraguay?

I’m familiar with neither this author nor this publication, but here’s a thought-provoking article about rumored US military efforts to build a base in Paraguay.

If it’s true, it’d make sense strategically — the base would be close to both ever-unstable Bolivia and the troublesome triple frontier region, which is home to South American al-Qaeda-linked groups.



Ecuador, Peru, and the Failed States Index Map

Check out Foreign Policy’s Failed States Index Map. Interesting stuff.

My gripe: Ecuador is listed as “borderline,” while neighboring Peru is described as “in danger.”

Is Peru really in worse shape than Ecuador, which has seen three presidents deposed since 1997? While Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo’s approval ratings have been subterranean for a while (only about 7-10% of Peruvians currently approve of his performance), the government appears more stable than its northern neighbor.

The country-by-country data provides some insight: Peru receives a poorer score for “Security Apparatus.” I suppose that’s a reference to the Peruvian state’s ongoing struggle to deal with those pesky Maoist rebels, the Shining Path. The guerillas have been quiet of late, though, so I find this explanation surprising.

UPDATE: I just took another glance at the map, and I wanna know this: who’s doing the fact-checking over at Foreign Policy? Morgan Spurlock? Amazingly, Bolivia’s not even included on the list.

Bolivia’s president — as you’ll recall reading about here and elsewhere — stepped down a few months ago after a massive indigenous uprising. Bolivia is truly teeting on the edge of chaos; Peru and Ecuador are comparatively far from collapse.

Where Can I Get a Ken Version?

I find this more than a little disturbing. For a variety of reasons.


Myanmar (nee Burma)


Ostracising Myanmar has not helped its people. It is time to explore the possibility of a deal

You Have Got to be Kidding Me

AP: “N.J. May Ban Drivers’ Smoking”:

Ashtrays have been disappearing in cars like fins on Cadillacs, and so could smoking while driving in New Jersey, under a measure introduced in the Legislature.

Although the measure faces long odds, it still has smokers incensed and arguing it’s a Big Brother intrusion that threatens to take away one of the few places they can enjoy their habit.

Opium Eradication in Laos


The opium poppy that has long bloomed across the mountains of northern Laos has almost been wiped out by the government’s drastic eradication campaign.

But what is being hailed as a victory by the international anti-narcotics agencies has also spawned a humanitarian crisis, due to the massive displacement of hill tribes and their loss of economic livelihood.


Next Item on the Docket: Outlawing Fun

I heard about this on the radio this morning and it made my stomach turn:

GREEN TREE, Pa. — A state lawmaker is pushing for doggy seat belts on the advice of an 11-year-old constituent. Marc McCann of Green Tree came up with the idea as part of state Rep. Tom Stevenson’s annual “There Ought to be a Law” contest.

Stevenson, R-Pa., submitted a bill to the House Transportation Committee in June that would require drivers to keep their dogs’ heads inside the vehicle at all times. Stevenson also wants to require drivers to restrain the animals, either with some kind of modified seat belt or in a crate or carrier box.

“I never did like dogs sticking their heads out the window,” said McCann, one of more than 500 students from his legislative district who proposed laws. “Maybe a sign might have been too close to the road and they’d get hit. Maybe they’d jump out the window on a highway.”

Stevenson said the bill will protect “not only human lives, but pet lives. I think it’s going to be a great idea because it’s going to cut down on driver distractions.”

Rep. Tom Stevenson has an annual “There Ought to be a Law” contest? Wait, creating more laws is a good thing? Don’t we have enough already? Why do we automatically look to the government to legislate our behavior? Can’t we depend on ourselves to keep our own goddamned pooches out of harm’s way?

Calm Returns to Bolivia—But Not For Long

The NY Times reports that, just as analysts had begun discussing the possibility of civil war, the situaion in Bolivia seems to have been resolved—for now:

Bolivia’s Congress accepted the resignation of President Carlos Mesa late on Thursday night and swore in the head of the Supreme Court as the new president, an appointment expected to defuse more than three weeks of protests that have paralyzed the nation.

The “solution”: a new head of state and new presidential elections to follow. We’ll see how that goes. Will the indigenous narco-politician Evo Morales take office, which would delight the protesters? (If you think Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is scary, check out Morales’s resume.)

Here’s the problem with the current prez, Eduardo Rodríguez. Look at the color of his skin. The guy’s white, he wears Armani specs, and he sports a power tie straight outta the Brooks Brothers Summer catalog:

Now take a gander at your average protesters. Notice the color of their skin. Notice the way they dress:

That, kind readers, is what this conflagration is all about: Race. And Money. The white, European-descended, wealthy Bolivian oligarchs who run the country vs. the impoverished Indian majority. No way around that fact.

Next Andean country to dissolve into chaos: Peru. Seriously.

If Only the War on Drugs Were Going As Well as the War on Terror…

Reason Online: “Legalize Now! War-weary Colombia—and its Conservative Party—consider ending the drug war.”

Many Colombians and foreign observers feel fumigations treat the symptom rather than the underlying illness. While the poverty that propels farmers to plant coca remains, any attempt to stop them from doing so will in all likelihood be futile. “At the moment, we’re spending around $5,000 per hectare fumigated,” says the U.N.’s Sergio Calvani. “If that money could be distributed among the peasants, then Colombia would be like Switzerland.”

(Via Rock Creek Rambler.)

“Former President Clinton quietly given Lynndie England’s phone number”

Don’t miss the fine print on the filibuster deal.