This blog is on (very) ‘partial blackout’…

…because I stand in solidarity. And I will also not be gagged.

They seek to move us; but we will not be moved.

For more information, see here:
http://www.petitions24.com/petition_for_the_immediate_withdrawal_of_the_licensing_regime

And here:
https://www.facebook.com/notes/free-my-internet/join-singapores-1st-internet-blackout-protest-130-websites-and-counting/583028208409283

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www.freemyinternet.com

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Oppression and threats will not destroy our spirit

Jentrified Citizen

If you find it suffocating lately, it may not be the haze but quite likely it is due to the oppressive tactics by our government to suppress views that are critical of them and their policies. oppression-11

I had been hopeful that the PAP-led government would change for the better when I first started my blog post GE 2011. Unfortunately, those upbeat sentiments went downhill fast after watching the words and actions by the ministers over the past 2 years. To be fair, there were some positive changes, such as the review of ministerial salaries (lower but still the world’s highest) and various attempts made by the government to engage the citizens more such as through the National Conversation (which has been subjected to both praise and scorn).

However, such improvements get overshadowed whenever the Government issues threatening lawyers letters , exercises heavy use of the law and carries out other…

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“White Indians”

This is good.

n+1: White Indians. Excerpts:

Behind the scenes, the Indian American Center for Political Awareness (IACPA) recruited these deracinated Indians who were “discovering their roots” and sent them to work for American congressmen, quietly pushing Indian issues into the light of the new world order. In 1993, two years after the first neoliberal Indian economic reforms, Congress formed an India caucus. It began with eight members and now has 180. A founding project of the Indian lobby was to push the US away from its cold war alliance with Pakistan and toward an India that was becoming astoundingly “business-friendly” in the ’90s and, after September 11, could be counted on to contribute to the United States’ campaign against Islamic peoples. India’s 1998 nuclear tests briefly alarmed the US (while earning a congratulatory note from Israel), but two years later President Clinton signaled a shift in American policy with a much-feted visit to India. One of the India lobby’s greatest victories came in 2005, when the US finally signed the nuclear energy deal India had been pushing for since the ’90s. Another great success has been to squelch any discussion among American elites of the occupation of Kashmir — which India regards as a “bilateral” issue (i.e., between India and Pakistan) rather than an ongoing international crime. India, land of Gandhi, is now the world’s largest arms importer, with Russia and Israel as top partners. 

The cultural effects could be felt across the world. Bollywood, formerly the leading edge of third-world cinema, the one currency to survive the Sino-Soviet split, became, with the support of the Indian elite, a newly slick Hollywood craze. Indianness itself, for years a source of shame in the diaspora, became puffed with pride. Lahiri’s protagonist in her bestseller The Namesake, Nikhil “Gogol” Ganguly, takes a roots trip east and briefly swaps his white girlfriend for a mother-approved Indian. Less familiar to other kinds of white people, diaspora children in recent years have been subject to low-budget films like American Desi and ABCD (American-Born Confused Desi), coming-of-age stories in which deracinated teenage South Asians — never Muslim, usually male — learned to cast off their self-loathing and embrace Hinduism, arranged marriages, and bhangra dancing.

Kal Penn (right), with John Cho in the film ‘Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle’ (2004). The character of Kumar here and in the sequel is portrayed as the antithesis of the ‘white desi’ in America. Photo courtesy of n+1.

 

A happier image for the future is the desi stoner Kumar of the Harold and Kumar films, who may be the single best role model for generations of brown people otherwise condemned to going pre-med. Kumar, who uses his textbooks to roll joints, suggests the dual character of desi immigration.

An interesting book to read that’s related would be Hamid Dabashi’s Brown Skin, White Masks (Pluto Press, 2011).

The contemporary National Service conundrum (Part one of…infinity)

Two recent articles in Singapore’s TODAYonline caught my attention.

In the first, a commentary piece, Yolanda Chin discusses how and why National Service (NS, i.e. conscription) policies pertaining to male Permanent Residents (PRs) of the country should be changed, suggesting that such policies should adjust to the reality of “today’s new migrant” and complex, evolving social and global phenomena.

This, incidentally, comes on the backs of other ongoing issues regarding NS.

Now: Most male Singaporeans (especially) will notice the snazzy new digitalised camo uniforms, SAR-21 carbines, and the, uhh, fingerless gloves. Photo courtesy of TODAYonline.

Unlike today, the conscription of PRs was non-controversial when it was first introduced in the Enlistment Act of 1970.

There was no question then that citizens were better off than PRs; PRs were required to serve NS alongside citizens, even though state-sponsored benefits remained the exclusive preserve of citizens.

The readiness of these PRs to die for the defence of Singapore was due to the fact that they were stateless individuals displaced by Singapore’s separation from Malaysia, and they aspired for citizenship which few qualified for.


Statelessness was a condition
that allegedly led many (men) to consider – and fulfill – the obligations of citizenship then. Never mind that citizenship in a state should have been first and foremost seen and implemented as a human right, as per Article 15 of the UDHR – and not merely a framework for invoking a set of privileges and responsibilities in policymaking. (For further reading, case studies such as this on ‘Statelessness and the Benefits of Citizenship’ is useful to both get a broader picture as well as an idea of specific country situations.)

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2003 Invasion of Iraq – The ‘commemorative’ round-up (UPDATED)

Last month marked the 10th year (on 19 March 2003 to be exact) since the US-led invasion of Iraq, also known as the Iraq War. This is a war that has cost (for the United States at least) up to three trillion dollars and at least 190,000 deaths – military, ‘contractor’, and civilian(*).

Here is a selection of articles giving a broad overview of reflections.

Leading up to it, James Fallows of The Atlantic magazine ruminates on his initial and consistent opposition (good man!) to the George W. Bush administration’s and neo-conservatives’ folly. Fallows gives a seven-point commentary.

American academic and foreign policy wonk Daniel Drezner does some (perhaps necessary) navel-gazing about how US foreign policy has been affected since 19 March 2003. He has backed off from his initial support of the invasion, but still not repentant regarding the use of force – to achieve security, democracy, or whatever else. Does this then not make him a ‘chickenhawk‘?

And for the love of the gods, Dan, please stop using the phrase ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’. Oh look here, a ‘spade’! I call it what it really was – an INVASION. Of another sovereign state.

Where the neo-conservatives are not mentioned…
Former Ronald Reagan staffer, Republican, and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan does even more navel-gazing about how the invasion has affected the US Republican Party. (Why do I say ‘navel-gazing’? Hint: No mention of the neo-conservative ‘wing’ – any one of them – and their role, anywhere. Yes, exactly.)

…And where they are
International relations scholar Robert Kelly posits a neo-con ‘theory’ (of international relations or otherwise) behind their justification of the war. Bear in mind that he’s not trying to justify it from their point of view, but rather to come up with a plausible explanation why they pushed so hard for war – and got it.

Personally, I think any such theories are hogwash, flawed to the point of ridiculousness. There are theories and ideologies that are appropriate for certain times, and others that are not. The ‘justifications’ for invading Iraq – including from the so-called liberal imperialists interventionists – belong to the latter category.

In the meantime, from author and former US State Department employee Peter Van Buren: the World’s. Largest. Embassy. Ever. will soon stand largely empty.

Taylor Marvin ruminates about learning The Wrong Lessons from Iraq.

Daniel Nexon goes more ‘macro’ into IR theory to discuss the over-arching cause of war between as a form of classic ‘interstate rivalry‘ and explores its specific dynamics.

John B. Judis reflects on what it was like to oppose the Iraq invasion in 2003, giving emphasis on the media and perceived credibility of political figures (hint: NOT George W. Bush).

There is also the US failure in Afghanistan, as seen by Stephen Walt. David Rothkopf contemplates the lessons learnt there and in Iraq, while Paul Rogers observes more broadly the ‘war on terror’ and the West’s inability to eliminate violent conflict [The US seems to be able to eliminate lots of human beings, though. I guess that’s why they think they’re ‘an exceptional nation’. – Ed.] (I’m kidding! There’s no ‘Editor’ for this blog.)

And a little blast from the past: Ghassan Michel Rubeiz wrote this in the run-up to the 2008 US presidential elections (Remember that one? Where’s the Hope and Change now?):

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Archaeology and UAVs

From “Archaeology and UAVs“:

The drones used in archaeology are not the large and frightening remote killing machines that make the news for their questionable use in air strikes by the United States Military. Instead, archaeological drones have their roots in the world of radio controlled hobbyist models and are frequently built from off-the-shelf components marketed primarily to radio control model enthusiasts.

H/t Duck of Minerva

Also: “The Error in the War on Terror“:

…From a military point of view it is better to lose a drone priced at about 37 million dollars than a pilot or crew.  I do not dispute this rationale, but what about the value of those who die in the drone’s wake? Drone strikes inevitably kill civilians from time to time, either due to faulty targeting or the fact that innocent people may be nearby suspected terrorists.  Every time a family mourns the loss of a victim, there is a recruiting tool for yet more terrorists.  Then there are the flight mishaps, especially when drones crash in or near civilian airports, as has been documented. Is it reasonable to expect that every identifiable terrorist can be taken out by a no-end-in-sight drone strategy?

“So, what might King offer as an international thinker, and as a representative of a radical Christian tradition: a focus on the fundamental place of racism, class, and imperialism in international politics, as well as the moral need to confront these common problems. And where Wight and Niebuhr share King’s condemnation of violence, the radical Christian move is not to pacifism or the prudential use of violence, but to direct opposition and resistance through nonviolence.”

The Disorder Of Things

Monday 17 January marked the official US holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. While watching Monday’s Democracy Now! program, featuring substantive excerpts from King’s speeches,  the clarity with which he connected the domestic fight for equality to international politics, in particular poverty and war, struck me. The international aspects of King’s thinking, I believe, are important for two reasons.

King’s Radicalism

First, it challenges the interpretation of King as an insufficiently radical leader offered by some critics, and the co-option of King’s legacy not only by “moderate” liberals but also by conservative political figures in the US. King has become a symbol in the public consciousness of a safe reformism and a favorite icon for the type of liberal who abhors radicalism above any other political sin. As Michael Eric Dyson says, “Thus King becomes a convenient icon shaped in our own distorted political images. He is fashioned to deflect…

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