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Mr. Grist, the OSCE, and South Ossetia

Posted in global conflict with tags , , , , , , , , , on 18 January 2009 by Maggie

I read an interesting news piece in the Wall Street Journal December 19th, 2008 about Ryan Grist, former Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) operative.  Mr. Grist’s CV includes military and diplomatic missions in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Kosovo, as well as other places I’ve not personally been.  The man knows his stuff.  He is also known for speaking his mind.  He’s been chastised by the Politically Correct frequently over this.  From all I know of the man, he calls ’em like he sees ’em.

Mr. Grist was OSCE second in command on the mission in Georgia prior to the conflict in South Ossetia, August 2008. 

A very short primer on South Ossetia and the real issue at hand. 

South Ossetia speaks Russian and Ossetian.  They are ethnically, culturally, and religiously tied to Russia and to North Ossetia.  They want independence from Georgia.  Be reminded that the line drawn in the dirt between North Ossetia and South Ossetia that gave South Ossetia to Georgia was arbitrarily created without any regard to the people.  As a point of reference, this is essentially how Kosovo acquired its three northern provinces, which are tied in a similar fashion to Serbia. 

“Here, let’s draw the line between this and that.  What do you mean there’s a house in the middle?  Tear it down.  There are people involved in this?  They’ll adjust.  People always do.  This is our decision, and we’ll draw the line wherever we want it.” 

Thus the West has said in its infinite wisdom many, many times. 

Some have said South Ossetia didn’t provoke the attacks from Georgia.  In a sense they are right – not war waged on them by Georgia.  As Mr. Grist said, “…the response from Georgian authorities was disproportionate.  To react with indiscriminate shelling – there just had to be a Russian response.”  He pointed out that he warned of an escalation in South Ossetia and that monitors in certain locations were ignored.  He was angry when Ms. Hakala ordered, from the safety and comfort of her Finnish homeland, the evacuation of monitors from the OSCE building in Tskhinvali, South Ossetia after it was shelled by the Georgians.  He had been organising a wider evacuation, and she stopped it.

I want to interject here that Ms. Hakala stated that what three monitors heard near their locations (in South Ossetia) was “a bit irrelevant”.  Tell me, Ms. Hakala, what is relevant?  Only those bits that were politically acceptable to the West?

While in charge of the OSCE in Georgia, Mr. Grist questioned the viability of Georgia’s attacks on South Ossetia.  As he made known his desire to understand the truth, it became clear that his query was unwelcome – by Georgia and by his superior with the OSCE, Ms. Terhi Hakala.  She ordered him to take a vacation and leave Georgia.

Mr. Grist is like me.  If something is bothering me, I am going to investigate it.  I go with my instincts until and unless I find out for myself that my instincts are wrong.  Most of the time, they’re not.  I’m convinced Mr. Grist has operated this way always.  It is what has given him integrity over the years.  It is also what compelled him to go, without permission while he was on “vacation”, back into South Ossetia to find out what was really going on.

From the moment he tried to get fair and equitable information all the way to his permanent removal from Georgia back to the UK and his forced resignation from the OSCE, Mr. Grist’s treatment has been deplorable.  Unfortunately, this is what can be expected from an organisation steeped in Western culture and tradition.  The West is no more fair and equitable, and often less so, than other cultures.

I know.

I’ve been there.

The power of words

Posted in Journalism with tags , , , , , , on 14 January 2009 by Maggie

In today’s Wall Street Journal, an article appeared in World News about a blogger in South Korea who was arrested for criticizing the government’s economic policy.  The blogger’s words, the government claims, led to the drop in South Korea’s currency – the won.

According to the article, Park Dae-sung, writing under the pseudonym Minerva, is a widely read blogger who apparently posted a blog on December 29th accusing South Korea’s bureaucrats of sending a letter to bankers encouraging them to refrain from buying U.S. dollars in order to raise the value of the won.  His opinion was that bureaucrats were trying to undercut the government’s measures to help banks obtain U.S. dollars. 

The government claims this one blog sent the value of the won through the floor, caused the government to intervene in trading, and thus the arrest.  What this really seems to speak to, though, is the mindset of the Korean government, which is trying to paint an “it’s-not-happening-to-us” picture in the midst of the global economic crisis.  Since last September, they have been striking out at economists and journalists for portraying South Korea in a less-than-stellar light, but this is the first arrest.

Mr. Dae-sung’s arrest, to quote the Wall Street article, seems to highlight “two facets of Seoul’s response to the economic crisis that worry analysts:  a currency policy that isn’t transparent enough for traders and an intolerance of criticism of public policy.”

The point is clear here, when looking at a graph showing the decline of the won against the dollar.  The steady decline started in August, well before Mr. Dae-sung wrote his blog, plummeted in September, and in fact appears to have risen after Mr. Dae-sung’s blog was picked up by news sources.

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I’m not even going to try to be unbiased about this.  Why?  I am a blogger.  I do not work for any news agency nor do I work for the government.  Neither does Mr. Dae-sung.  To the best of my knowledge, he is just a guy, like I am just a girl.  Granted, he’s a really smart guy, predicting the collapse of Lehman Brothers among other things, but he’s just a guy.

South Korea’s response doesn’t surprise me.  They have not quite grasped the lessons the U.S. government and other Western sovereign states would like to teach the world about how to handle insubordinate citizens.  It takes a little more finesse than an outright arrest.  You do things like, oh, say, take away their passports, instead.  There is less hue and cry from the world when you do something like that.  The arrest of an average citizen for having an opinion?  The world will get them for that.  They really should take a few lessons from the West and learn be more underhanded.

Words are powerful tools.  Hopefully, most of us in the blogging world use them wisely.  Still, even in using them wisely, we may find ourselves in trouble.  I’ve been there.  It certainly hasn’t stopped me.  I rather doubt it will stop Mr. Dae-sung.

Hang in there, Mr. Dae-sung.  You have lots of support.

Social Networking Sites

Posted in General with tags , , , , , on 18 May 2008 by Maggie

At some time or another, a good analysis of social networking sites was in order for me.  I’ve become increasingly disappointed and restless and unsure of my place in any of them.  I’ve made some good friends, adopted new family members, and found a forum for my articles outwith the usual places overseas.

It’s been several years now.  I’ve been on many social networking sites, including the “big ones”.  I’ve seen some unsettling things that, in a civilised world, should never happen.  I’ve seen people do some of the dumbest things on the face of the earth because they couldn’t do something as simple as google for information.  Besides this, I’ve seen many others who refuse to listen to logic and reason because they’d rather “play a game”.  That’s not ignorance.  That’s just plain stupidity.

The sites themselves don’t help.  When it is easy for someone to hack in and write an application that can suck the information from an account holder, including everyone on their friends lists, or you try to block an application and you cannot, even when it says you can, or people start thinking it should be okay to take the piss at other people in very illegal ways just because it’s the Internet and supposedly the US has no laws governing such a thing (sorry, but they do), then I think it’s time to cash them in and call it a day.

Tonight I question my participation in any of them.  I’ve already dumped my accounts at MySpace, Facebook, OK Cupid and Eons.  I have two left:  Teebeedee and Netlog.  I suppose it comes down to what you’re willing to put up with.

Me, I’m not willing to put up with any of it.

My articles are seen in 25 countries and translated in 10 different general languages, besides.  Why do I need to network through social networking sites?  Why should it matter to me what people in the US in particular think in regard to the issues about which I write?  They don’t, for the most part, and I am up to here trying to educate the thickheaded in social networking forums.

I’ll sleep on this and think about it further in the morning, but something tells me that social networking and I will never see eye-to-eye and I’ll end up pitching them all.  Or I’ll just keep Netlog which has, up to this point, been the least offensive.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep on writing here…and sending my articles overseas…and running my publishing company…and somewhere out there someone will learn something.  I just won’t know who.