Tag Archives: current events

It’ll be a cold day in Burma

A Cold Day In Burma

By Russell Imrie

February 9, 2018

A few days ago the 2018 Winter Olympics took off great with ceremony at PyongChang, Republic of Korea (“South Korea”). That a very unlikely competing country, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (“North Korea”) marched in the opening festivities is amazing, given that the two sovereign states have been locked in an unresolved conflict since 1953 when an uneasy armistice began following a short, intense war.

That a prosperous and democratic South Korea even thinks of accommodating the North says a lot about the South’s confidence and progressive outlook—and the pariah North’s need for respect and global credibility as a nation.

This astonishing turn of events is one more step in South Korea’s historic path to establishing itself as a modern, dynamic Pacific nation with a vibrant economy and a place as regional power.

Myanmar’s (Burma) story now lies in strong contrast to South Korea’s narrative. At the end of the 1950-53 war, Korea was in utter ruins and had scant natural resources. Things looked bleak. Burma, another Asian country (now known as Myanmar), was in a similar condition but had rich mineral, forest, and agricultural advantages like fertile land, water, and a favorable climate. The steps each took to evolve their economies in the coming decades have led to vastly different outcomes. SE Asia expert and advisor Dr. David Steinberg, in “Myanmar and South Korea Expert Discusses the Reasons Why the Two Countries Upended Their Development Expectations, September 18, 2017” states that the strikingly contrasting conditions are primarily the result of two contrasting polities.

Myanmar is a country of abundant natural resources, and yet is still one of Asia’s poorest countries. This situation is in part due to recent political turmoil.

Myanmar’s economy, with large deposits of ores to support it, should have lifted the nation to a thriving economic giant and lifted the welfare of its people. Instead, authoritarian regimes controlled by a corrupt military and cronies have hobbled the nation and rejected foreign ideas and management expertise. Its economy and politics, despite the recent relaxing of junta-like control, are more than ever in desperate shape. Religious conflict and ethnic cleansing sees hundreds of thousands of Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh, itself struggling with its own challenges.

Korea’s post-conflict military regime though, exercised intelligient discipline by encouraging a free economy and foreign expertise. The ravaged mountains and cities were populated by an energetic population that could build ventures and were open to imaginative products.

The “my country first” economic model re-emerging as a populist meme ignores this fundamental lesson of national development: “It will be a cold day in Myanmar when the chains of authoritarianism will bless its peoples with freedom and prosperity.”

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The Papal Bull of 2015: Congress, Trump and worthless pontification

By Russ Imrie – September 2015 (first release on Sunday, of course)

With the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) Pope Alexander VI mandated a line pole-to-pole through the Atlantic dividing Portuguese and Spanish claims in the New World.  Of course this was hugely controversial—and still is. Spain got a big chunk and Portugal got some islands. England and others thought it was all overreach and pretty much ignored it. The jury is still out on this but let’s move on shall we?

The Pope accomplished this feat by issuing a Bull, or declaration, that was finally formalized in a treaty in 1506 with some tweaks that pleased a miffed Portugal and assured posterity that Brazil would speak Portuguese and that the local Indian populations would not have a legal leg to stand on. (Part of this remains in effect, more or less, with indigenous Indigenous community researchers and activists developing strategies to rescind policies built on this shaky ground.) A more recent Pope has stirred things up again with declarations such as:

#1. Climate change and inequality are inextricably linked.

#2. The global economy must protect the Earth, our common home.

#3. Everyone must divest from fossil fuels and invest in the future.

#4. It’s time for powerful nations to pay their fair share.

#5. There’s no easy way out of this. (quotes from Pope Francis’ encyclical)

Now, is the office of His Holiness at it again? By using his Bully Pulpit (nice how that fits) and weighing in on the radioactive subject of humanity’s contributions to global climate change as cited in his encyclical of June 15, His Holiness has conservatives (many Catholic) and industry shills all over crying out “BULL!”[bull!]

Prominent among the bullsayers  is Donald Trump, perennial presidential primary candidate and prominent expert on everything including global warming and the acreage of the Papal  bailiwick. He shrewdly refreshed his global warming denial cred in his candidacy announcement June 16. The rest of the tattered GOP presidential candidate field touts its robust nomance with global warming as well.

But topping Trump has been Sen James Inhofe (R.-OK.), who chairs the powerful Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and hauled in a fresh Washington DC snowball (don’t miss my post on snowballs and the warming Arctic) and tossed it on the floor of Congress. With this stunt, Inhofe probably believes he decisively proved Global Climate Warming was a hoax (and perhaps cunningly shilled a bit for his book.) This particular snowball seemed to really get Inhofe rolling—as snowballs are wont to do. And the Bull rolls on…

Senator Inhofe (Liberal Arts BA at 40, bankrupted his insurance company) applied these skills to sermonize the Pope and says that the Pontiff (Masters in Chemistry) ought not talk about science, the climate, and so on. He says the Pope is wrong and that the planet’s poor need fossil fuels. But isn’t it the Pope’s job to discuss the world’s less fortunate and more vulnerable? And Inhofe’s job not so much? Meanwhile some of Inhofe’s staunchest money contributors are the Oil and Gas industry. They take umbrage at the Pope’s statements that put lucrative business under a cloud.

Oklahoma, Inhofe’s home state, has some of the lowest rates of belief that global warming is increasing dramatically and even higher skepticism rates that it’s happening with human help. No surprises there but whose bull are we to believe in? A reason-challenged legislator fiercely protective of his state’s extraction industries? Or maybe a Pope’s Laudato Si  phrased in delightful language rich in Catholic tradition and good advice, and that at the least, is no bull.

[bull!] “bull”, short for “bullshit”, an American colloquialism indicating a statement or action is outrageously nonsensical, deliberately misleading, and ridiculously dishonest, having little to do with reality in the eyes/ears of the listener, and often condemned as imbued with a deliberate measure of “spin” or an agenda.

distant US Capitol dome

U.S. Capitol SOTU eve, 2011 – photo Russ Imrie

Russell Imrie is a  Networking and Content Specialist, craft beer enthusiast, webmaster and an American Indian blogger living in the Washington DC area. For a decade Imrie built systems and lived totally off the grid in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California near Silicon Valley. More opinion pieces are at China Daily Mail (under nom de blog supTweet)

Copyright Russell Imrie 2015