Zardari leaves Pakistan with a legacy…

English: Asif Ali Zardari.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

In the last week, Pakistan has held it’s Presidential elections in which PML (N) nominee Mamnoon Hussain won in a landslide 432 to 77 against Pakistan Movement for Justice party nominee Wajihuddin Ahmed.

Why is the election of Hussain such a big deal?  Political handoffs take place all the time.

This is the first, in Pakistani history, that a democratic change, by the will of the people has come.  For Pakistan, a nation nearly a century old, this is it’s first true democratically willed exchange of power.

Pakistan itself was conceived in 1930 by a proclamation by British Indian politician Sir Muhammad Iqbal, the nation itself formed in 1940 as a sovereign state for Muslims that was originally part of British-controlled India.  Since then, it has been fraught with political problems and disaster that left many wondering if Pakistan would ever become democratically governed.

Pakistan received official independence on 14 August, 1947 from British India, becoming a British controlled dominion under control of King George V of the United Kingdom, under the title of “Emperor of India.”  He later renounced this role and styled himself as the “King of Pakistan,” a title passed to his daughter, the incumbent Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, who styled herself as the Queen of Pakistan.

In 1956, a revolution created and installed an Islamic Parliamentary Republic, which was supposed to be civilian run, but in the process, a military coup took over the revolution and installed the army’s commander-in-chief, Ayub Khan, as the ruler of Pakistan.

Pervez Musharraf

Former Chief Executive and President General Pervez Musharraf

In 1970, free elections were held, heralded as a transition from a military junta to a democratically elected civilian government, but the sitting military government refused to hand power to the elected successor.  Internal fighting in the nation sparked an independence movement which led to a secession of east Pakistan into the nation now known as Bangladesh.

Power was handed to a civilian government which didn’t last long, and Pakistan soon found itself under martial law again with the coup led by army General Zia-ul-Haq.  Zia, who died in a plane crash 1988, was succeeded by Pakistan’s first female Prime MInister, Benazir Bhutto, followed by Nawaz Sharif after a scandal which cost her her seat.  During Sharif’s time in office, Pakistan’s military nuclear weapons testing led to destabilization and the Kargill War of 1999, in which point Army Chief of Staff General Pervez Musharraf assumed power in a bloodless coup.

Ruling as both civilian and military leader of Pakistan, he executed his duties often under one title, as a civilian or commander in chief independently, theoretically, while being the same person.  He resigned from his Army post amid massive protests for elections, but continued on as President of Pakistan until the return of Benazir Bhutto in 2007, returning from a self-imposed exile to see that Musharraf’s dictatorship was unseated.  Assassinated in the twilight hours of 2007, Musharraf heeded calls for an election, which saw him replaced with Bhutto’s husband, Asif Ali Zardari.

President Zardari took the helm of Pakistan during some of it’s most trying times –and became a friend of the United States in the war on terror, which was extremely unpopular amongst voters in Pakistan, particularly since the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden, which took place in an initially secret strike in Abottabad.

Which leads to today.  For the first time in it’s history, a democratically elected government of Pakistan is set to hand authority and power over to a new democratically elected government.  This is history in the making, particularly for a newer, nuclear-powered nation.  What can the future hold for a stable, and flourishing Pakistan?

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Detroit Skyline. Courtesy of Mike Boening www.memoriesbymike.zenfolio.com

Detroit Bankruptcy… Why is this such a big deal? I will tell you…

Yesterday, at 4:07PM, on approval from Governor Rick Snyder, Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr ordered the City of Detroit to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection under Title XI of the USC.  Sure.  Other cities have done this before — and people and businesses do it every day, but what’s the big deal?

The big deal is simple: Detroit is the largest municipality in history to declare itself insolvent.  This not only is going to be a major rule-writing moment in American legal history, but also has the potential to do as much harm as it does good over the long term.

The long term positives are fairly simple: Detroit, if successful, will be relieved of most of it’s obligations, and many of the others will be repaid at drastically reduced amounts, as ordered by a federal bankruptcy judge.  This will allow Detroit to begin paying its bills — without borrowing to do so, as it has for the past decade.  This is a good thing.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

The bad news is what gets cut.  The Emergency Manager of Detroit made it clear that his priorities were people first, then creditors — meaning he wanted to protect pay, pensions and benefits for workers and retirees of the City of Detroit as much as he could.  He made this abundantly clear; but stated it was not off the table.  Creditors and contractors would be the next priority.  Creditors didn’t take kindly to this, and indeed, made THAT also clear.

Before all this can happen though, the filing sets in motion several things: the first is immediate relief from creditors.  As of the moment the bankruptcy was filed, for the moment, creditors lost all rights to any money for the time being.  This can, if the Judge allows, give Detroit enough relief to pay what’s necessary to keep it running: it’s employees, contractors and even things like the light bills.  What’s next, and likely beginning to happen today, is the investigation by the court of wether or not Detroit CAN qualify for a Title XI bankruptcy.  Just because one files doesn’t mean one qualifies.  This sets into motion a massive audit of EVERY creditor of every DOLLAR owed BY the City — likely including employees as well.  Next, creditors to the city have a right to appeal, and will likely use the excuse that the City/Emergency Manager negotiated in bad faith, just to hold the process up — as it’s their legal right to do so.  Assuming the City is found to be eligible, the Judge then decides what gets the axe, what gets paid, and who gets paid in what amounts; as likely, those who do get paid (speaking in the terms of creditors and contracts) will likely get paid only a portion, if not a FRACTION, of what they’re owed.

Because this move essentially lays waste to Detroit’s already junk-level bond and credit, the move also will not at all inspire confidence in businesses in Detroit, particularly those who DO business with Detroit.  My major fear is large employers will wind up packing up, and saying “So long, Detroit — it was a nice ride, we wish you the best of luck.”  Not only is this further revenue from taxes and spending lost, just one or two larges businesses to do so could inspire other businesses OR people to flee as well.  A CLEAR vote of no-confidence by the business sector if it were to happen.

Make no mistake, we’re witnessing history — the municipal equivalent of Lehman Brothers is happening as we  speak; which will write books and rules on how to accomplish such a bankruptcy in the future.

I see a Title XI as a mixed blessing for Detroit.  The good — DEFINITELY comes with the bad here.

“We have a great city, but a city going down hill for the last 60 years,” he said at an evening press conference. He said 38% of the city’s budget is being spent on “legacy costs,” such as pensions and debt service. He said police take almost an hour to respond to calls, compared to a national average of 11 minutes, and that 40% of street lights in the city are turned off.  That’s unacceptable,”
    — Kevyn Orr
    Emergency Manager, City of Detroit

Detroit city skyline shot courtesy of Mike Boening
www.memoriesbymike.zenfolio.com

Russia — What’s happening?

English: Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin

English: Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everyone’s concerned with things in the Middle East.  Be it Iran or Morsi’s Egypt… or even the Korean Peninsula.  Rightfully so, these could be hotspots for problems that America; and even the world, could find itself dealing with in the future if they’re not handled appropriately by the international community.

However, I look at one country — like many others, and wonder: What’s happening in Russia?

Over the past several years, Putin has managed to not only consolidate a considerable purse of power, but indeed, even a cult of personality that North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un would even find respectable.  However, compared to North Korea, Russia is far more democratic.  …or is it?

Not only has Putin managed to skirt the constitutional term limits in office by playing musical chairs with his Prime Minister (and former President) Dmitry Medvedev, but he’s also begun exercising power by “popular decree.”

Indeed, when Putin was originally elected in 2000, he drastically restructured the governance of the Federation as such.  When he took office, there were 89 regions that had some form of independent governance.  Chechnya itself had a democratically elected President.   This changed under Putin, who essentially reshuffled their powers into seven (now eight) federal districts that aligned almost exclusively with the Army commands, with the heads of these regions enjoying powers similar to that under Imperial Russia.

Bribery, particularly when it comes to government contracts, went from “accepted” practice to near-standard practice.  In a poll conducted in 2010, 15% of Russians admitted to paying a bribe within the previous year.  Those are the ADMITTED numbers.

Moreover, the amount of bribes in the economy have skyrocketed from the equivalent of $33 billion to over $400 billion in the last decade, notably during the Putin Administrations.  Arguably a consequence of economic and legal mismanagement after Federation from the Soviet era.

Media has also become a major concern.  Two of the three major television outlets are owned and operated by the Russian Federation itself.  State owned, state controlled.  Further, ITAR and RIA-Novosti are state-owned as well, while Interfax is stated to not be.  Music and public expression is also a concern, as members of the band Pussy Riot were arrested and charged with “hooliganism,” stating that the band was trying to incite religious hatred and blasphemy.  The Orthodox Church has even called on the Russian government to “criminalize” acts of blasphemy.

Obviously, the external forces in government, as well as the will of Vladimir Putin, are a major concern.  Bribes fly back and forth, ambitious Putin-friendly commissars are installed as figurative regional-governors general, and the political freedom of the people continue to erode, all while the cult of personality that surrounds Vladimir Putin continues.

Why aren’t people talking about the political freedoms in the largest nation on the face of the planet being talked about more?

Social Justice in the Arab Spring claims another Government…

…for the second time in the same country.

English: Celebrations in Tahrir Square after O...

English: Celebrations in Tahrir Square after Omar Soliman’s statement that concerns Mubarak’s resignation. February 11, 2011 – 10:15 PM (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Morsi presidency has officially been toppled, according to the heads of the Army, who have surrounded Morsi’s palace with barbed wire, effectively placing him under house arrest.

Arguably one of the largest gatherings in history, the millions crowding in Tahrir Square to protest on the anniversary of Morsi’s ascension to Egypt’s presidency — his toppling comes just over a year after his election.

So, what made this democratically elected President so toxic to the Egyptian people just over 50 weeks after he took power?

His apparent hunger for power started almost immediately, culminating with him decreeing his having unlimited power to “protect” the Egyptian nation, which resulted in the Courts protesting his obvious grabs for more and more political power.  The national wounds of the Mubarak administration’s dictatorship still open and weeping, the people took to Tahrir Square once again to protest the figuratively hypersonic grab of power.

The Arab Spring is alive and well — the love of self-determination and Democracy in people in the age of information and social awareness won’t stop those who want it from getting it.

Property Zoning… Past Residential, does it matter?

Proposed_LU_ranges_July 7 2007I’ve been working on a small research project for a couple of months on Zoning ordinances and people’s trust in the government.  While I’ve noticed no major correlation, it has raised an interesting point I thought I’d share.

While I’ve always understood the need for Zoning residential property — as it ensures the ground is not contaminated, or otherwise unsafe for residences, why are there oodles upon oodles of commercial or industrial zoning regulations, aside from the fact that, say, a nuclear power plant can’t sit next to a farm?  That much I get…

But for instance, say an adult store, or a strip club (which I’m using as an example in my paper, actually) wants to open its doors in a particular city.  I can understand people’s desire not to have one in their town…  but — instead of having a government board tell an otherwise-legal [assuming it is in that area] business owner, who is conducting business that s/he can’t open the business there… why can’t people just *not* patronize it?

Further, again, leaving out safety issues such as a nuclear waste facility next to a cattle farm — is this just an example of local government trying to just appropriate things JUST for the sake of appropriating them?  Is telling a car-wash that it can’t open next to a library when the land has been bought and paid for and the business owner follows rules like the reasonable person should — that “Your business can’t be there”?

Again, just food for thought…  discuss amongst yourselves… or here.  😀

CISPA passes in a closed-door session… uhh…

cispaSOPA failed to pass last year because of a MASSIVE internet uproar that made it so politically toxic, even co-authors pulled their support.

This time, John Boehner‘s House Intelligence Committee is doing a good job of keeping it’s successor, CISPA, very quiet — and indeed, passing it with as little noise as possible.

Passing in a vote of 18-2 in the House Intelligence Committee, one of the dissenters to the bill, Rep. Jan Schakowski (D-IL) specifically voted against it, because she wished to attach riders to the bill that, among other things:

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Rep. Jan Schakowski (D-IL)

“…would have strengthened privacy protections, ensured that consumers can hold companies accountable for misuse of their private information, required that companies report cyber threat information directly to civilian agencies…  I strongly agree with the need to enact effective cyber-security legislation… but this bill doesn’t sufficiently protect individual privacy rights.”

When she proposed these amendments above, she was overruled in Committe, saying that the amendments were not acceptable.  Moreover — the bill amends the National Security Act of 1947, a law that, while arguably, needs constant “boning up,” to keep the law up to date with those who would go “around the law” to harm American citizens.

If this is such a horrible problem — particularly with American citizens, why is a warrant unnecessary?  Why are your browsing histories, your private email, and your other digital rights now any less meaningful than your other privacy rights?

Law Enforcement needs a warrant to enter your home… and right now, Law Enforcement needs a warrant to access your private documents, browsing history, and your other private digital information.  CISPA, essentially says, “no longer necessary.”

I find this highly disturbing.  Does anybody else?  If you’re as disturbed by this as I am, call your members of Congress, both the Senate AND the House — and demand a NO vote on this nonsense.

Personally, I think they don’t get to play with privacy rights on the internet until they fix… oh, I don’t know… THE DEFICIT?  Maybe the Fiscal Cliff disaster, too?

A good video with further information -> The Young Turks – 12 April 2013: “What Privacy?  CISPA Passes in Closed Door Vote.”

Political Comebacks… Are they possible?

265005_10151214146056817_1276640492_nMany political careers — particularly in the late 20th and this, the early 21st century thus far, have ended in embarrassing ruin.  Bill Clinton, leaving office with some of the highest presidential approval rates in history, is often cited for jokes such as “having made the word ‘blowjobpolitically correct,” or having all sorts of goofy images posted of him that would otherwise be looked over as innocuous.  On the other hand, George W. Bush left office with among the lowest approval ratings in history — but in his retirement, the vehement rhetoric launched toward him, and his dismal approval ratings, have been softened by time.

Other political post-mortems have been much more hilarious.  Former Congressman Anthony Wiener resigned in disgrace after he accidentally posted a photo of himself on Twitter; which blew open a scandal of himself sending less-than-fully-clothed pictures of himself to women online.  Having resigned nearly two years ago, he’s now looking at making a comeback as a candidate for the Mayor of New York.

George W. Bush has essentially retreated to a private life — arguably because of the overwhelmingly negative view the people had on his Presidency; whereas Bill Clinton, while still as polarizing, has enjoyed overwhelming public support — even in the ever-existing shadow of his own sexual scandals in office.

Are such political comebacks possible?  Could George W. Bush or Bill Clinton [or Anthony Wiener in this case!] make a comeback in a positive light, or would their scandals and disgrace continue to follow them?

SOPA + PIPA + CISPA = Congress selling out?

ImageFor at the third time, the Congress in the United States is attempting to circumvent the privacy rights of its citizens on the internet.  The first two attempts, the Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act failed in Congress because of overwhelming negative feedback from constituents that, was indeed so strong — that even the co-authors wound up pulling their support of the bill.

Why do Representatives in Congress keep trying to shove this type of legislation through?  Is it because of issues that Congress says, which is everything from intellectual property protection to the enforcement of trade embargoes.  OR…

SOPA author Congressman Lamar Smith, a member of the House representing the 21st District of Texas, received almost US$ 2 Million in the last reporting period, according to OpenSecrets.org.  Among his Top 5 Highest Contributors?  CC Media, Comcast and TimeWarner.  What do these companies have in common?  Oh!  Intellectual Property!

Republicans in the United States often argue that “big government” is bad for business — that “big government” today is the basis of why the American economy can’t gain significant traction post-The Great Recession.

However, government in business affairs is okay, on the other hand, when the businesses say it’s okay, apparently.  Fund a Congressman’s campaign — and all of a sudden, you can now write your own legislation, which you hand over to the Congressman’s office, and he places in the ballot box for you.  Sounds preposterous, right?

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Rep. Rachel Burgin     (R-FL)

Sadly, it’s not as preposterous as you may think.  Recently, a Congresswoman from the State House of Florida submitted a Bill for consideration.  In her haste to do so, however, she forgot to remove the cover sheet of the email that it came through.  Rachel Burgin’s blunder blew open the fact that the American Legislative Exchange Council actually WROTE the Bill, and gave it to Burgin to submit, to which she did… without even removing the proof that SHE didn’t write it.   [The Bill can be seen here, in it’s original format, as she submitted it — the name of ALEC is plainly visible on the first page…]

Is this an example of the leadership exhibited by our Members of Congress?  While they can’t come together to work out issues of Party and Partisanship, they quietly collect campaign contributions, and then do their bidding by submitting Bills that they write, in the name of the Representative or Senator they buy and sell like Stocks on an exchange?