Talking points for 1 May

Good morning, first up today are the reports of the presidential election results in Zimbabwe – MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai beat President Robert Mugabe but didn’t win a majority, according to leaked results. That would force a runoff between the two, which the MDC has rejected taking part in. But given the political violence that has occured while everyone waited for the results, can a free, fair and peaceful second vote take place? And what should be done to ensure it does?

Of course we all know what’s going on in Zimbabwe, but what about Myanmar (as Burma has been officially known for almost two decades)? Celebrities in America have begun a monthlong video campaign to raise awareness of the plight of imprisoned pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi. The aim is for America to know about Myanmar by the end of the month – will they succeed? And will that make a difference?

Will Ferrell kicks off the campaign with an appeal to everyone, particularly those in Toledo.

And Iran – in its yearly report on terrorism around the world, the US State Department has singled out Iran as the “most active” state sponsor of terrorism. Separately, Iran has hit out at Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for saying last week that the US could “totally obliterate” Iran if it attacked Israel. Does America want to mend fences with Iran? Or does Washington need Tehran as an enemy?

And on yesterday’s talking points, Selena picks up on Steff’s suggestion that we talk about how virtual interaction removes people from the community outside their front door and combines that with the very public dispute between Sen Barack Obama and Rev Jeremiah Wright that we

33 Responses to “Talking points for 1 May”

  1. May 1, 2008 at 10:51

    Hi Peter… Happy International Labour Day, YEAH ! :-). May be we can discuss the role of Labour unions in today’s world and how effective the role those unions are playing in achieving reals gains in advantage of the Labouring class. In Egypt recently there have been many strikes organised by the labouring class to protest against low wages paid by the government and the extremely high food prices and especially bread. Can labour unions form a powerful and an effective lobby that can divert the policies of governments towards the advantage of the labouring class ? With my love. Yours forever, Lubna.

  2. May 1, 2008 at 10:52

    A couple of things I forgot – Kofi Annan says Africa needs a green revolution. I’m sure Africa could feed itself, but if it focused on that, what would it mean for Europeans, who import so much food from Africa?

    Also, South Africa has lifted its ban on Elephant culling. Is enough effort being made to keep the population in South Africa down (for example by sterilisation of relocating herds to areas that can support more elephants) without killing elephants?

  3. 3 Ros Atkins
    May 1, 2008 at 12:11

    Here’s an email I’ve just been sent…

    Whenever something happens like the columbine shooting or other things like that there has to be found a scapegoat of some sort. We already had metal music and probably next is the gaming industry.
    To my oppinion you can’t blame anyone for such violent behaviour except for the one that commits the crimes and when he’s a minor his parents/family and even school for not noticing the problems he/she has (I suppose you have some problems when you decide to do something like that).
    It is too easy to blame violent video games because there are millions of people (like me) who occasionally or frequently play such games and at the same time don’t have the urge to commit such violent acts in real life. If you want to ban violent games it seems logic to me you have to ban evereything that contains violence (3/4th of the hollywood films for instance).
    My point is: you can’t blame makers of video games/films/music for things that happen and people who do are just looking for a scapegoat to hide the deeper social problems that occur. On the new gaming consoles, for instance, there are child locks, parents can set an age limit and whenever a game is inserted that is not appropriate it will not start. It is not the responsibilty of the producers or distributers that underaged children (gta is rated 18+) play games they should not play, It’s their parents responsability in the first place although I think shops have to be stricter on the age limit.

    Janai Calluy

  4. 4 steve
    May 1, 2008 at 12:34

    Regarding the email about violence, especially in the US, and blaming video games, I think Janai makes a good point. I think the real reason is that people are becoming sociopathically self absorbed. Sure, having lots of guns makes it easier for someone to go on a rampage, but there use to be freer access to weapons. When my dad went to high school, they had shooting teams. I remember when I was young, I went to my brother’s boy scout outings and they would have .22 long rifle shooting competitions, even in the People’s Republic of Maryland. You didn’t have the shooting rampages back then, though once people starting becoming so sociopathic, you started having the post office rampages. I forget how old I was, but even at my dad’s then work, at the US State Department, some employee’s son came into the building with a gun, went to his mom’s office, and killed his mom. Only then did they begin searching people. All you had to do to get in back then was walk in and show a photo ID, or come in with someone with a photo ID.

    Today, it’s a self absorbed, iPod society, where people just do what they want. I am shocked on a daily basis how selfish people are, and it begins with minor things, like people trying to get onto the elevator before people get off. I see people getting fights over the most minor things. Sure, they didn’t have violent video games, or at least with good graphics back then, but people also weren’t so self absorbed back then. This is an instant gratification society. If people don’t get what they want immediately, then they do what they want. The divorce rate is over 50%, things aren’t perfect, so I might as well leave my spouse… I don’t like my classmates, so I might as well go kill them all.

    People are sick, and only getting sicker.

  5. May 1, 2008 at 13:07

    And Iran – in its yearly report on terrorism around the world, the US State Department has singled out Iran as the “most active” state sponsor of terrorism. Separately, Iran has hit out at Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for saying last week that the US could “totally obliterate” Iran if it attacked Israel. Does America want to mend fences with Iran? Or does Washington need Tehran as an enemy?

    My blog post on this subject including the video clip and the entire interview:

    I’m sure some American’s would love to mend fences with Iran, but it looks like an overwhelming majority of politicians want Iran to be the new Iraq. I was pretty upset over Clinton’s statements (as you can read in my blog link above).

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  6. 6 Xie_Ming
    May 1, 2008 at 13:18


    Hillary’s statement concerning the nuking of Iran parrots the threat of Israel’s Infrastructure Minister (and former Defence Minister) Binymin Ben Eliezer to destroy Iran a few weeks ago. Iran is the number one focus of the Israel Lobby in the USA.

    Yes, a demon or target is required and the former (and real) target, Osama Ben-Ladin, has proved beyond reach.

    Strategically, Iran is the best potential ally of the USA in the Central Command region. A look at the map and at history would make this obvious.

    The situation of Iran differs greatly from that of Kadhafi’s Libya. The policy of threat and isolation is exactly wrong when applied to Iran. It makes the government stronger and fully unites the people against the West.

    An enlightened (and strategic) policy would involve cultural exchange, trade, and dialog-immediately.

    Why not get Rafsanjani on WHYS?

  7. May 1, 2008 at 13:27

    Ahh the age old discussion about video games and their links to dysfunctional behavior. I wonder if this is linked to the latest release of “Grand Theft Auto IV”. It’s a game so well known for it’s violence and adult sexual content that it has made all the major news channels as a story of it’s release.

    Video games are different then the other forms of media in the fact that the audience participates. The user actually makes the decision to shoot the cop, stab the zombie, steal the car, or backhand the hooker. It is requiring the player to make judgments to commit these acts. Music is the least sensory participatory. Half the time you can’t understand what the vocals are saying. (This is evident by anybody who has take a log road trip with their friends who decide to sing along with the radio.) Many people watch seeing Jason slice somebody or watching somebody get “whacked”. Some even take delight in it and that is the shades of social dysfunction. However they are not actually going through the motion. I have never known anybody to perfect an activity or sport by simply watching it on TV or hearing it on the radio. Video games however require to hone many of the talents required to perform that activity. It requires you to blurr that line between fiction and reality. Of course that will have an effect.

    The statement that “lots of people play video games but only a very few of them commit violent acts.” Is an abstract point. Lots of people drink and drive, but very few of them get into deadly accidents. Should we legalize drugs and alcohol? If I took a random group of a 1000 people from all age groups and put them in a room and gave each of them a gun, would anybody want to be part of that 1000. I wouldn’t. I know I am not using that gun, but I don’t trust that 1 in a 1000 wouldn’t.

    That said, the key is also good parenting. But our “free society” doesn’t let us dictate who are aloud to be parents. So that is a factor not of our control. We can control the content of the media, and especially medias designed towards young and impressionable minds.

  8. May 1, 2008 at 13:30

    Hi Peter,
    The local media in Tehran has given generous coverage to the US presidential race but none of the candidates know anything about Iran. That may be a blessing in disguise: But President George W. Bush is having a good laugh at their expense. Are we missing something? Does he know something they don’t?

  9. 9 steve
    May 1, 2008 at 13:38

    Another symptom of the problem today is daddy issues with women. What does that result from? Boomer generation daddy was too self centered to provide attention to his daughter, so daughter grows up with daddy issues. The extreme selfishness of people doesn’t have to just result in mass killings, but takes on other forms, and the less violent forms actually will wind up having more societal impact, such as marriage becoming at hing of the past, more single mothers raising kids alone, meaning more daddy issues, things will likely spiral out of control all because people want to do what they want to do, and d*mn what anyone else thinks or cares. The problem is how self absorbed people are. It seems like the only “Care” about things other than themselves when it involves being part of a trend.

  10. 10 Xie_Ming
    May 1, 2008 at 13:43


    Perhaps we today have a World that is predominately of masses, rather than classes. There are tiny elites that are becoming extraordinarily wealthy, and they are manipulating the system. But the concept of a “laboring class”, has, I think, passed from the scene of history in most places.

    If you are into revolutionary theory, consider that revolutions in the past were essentially led by the lower middle class. Today’s equivalent might be those with enough resource to use the internet. Give it some thought!

    Protest concerning the Food Crisis is only a call for action. Knowing what action to take requires an understanding of how things fit together- (see Talking Points for 30 April).

    You raised the issue of the power of mind in healing on Blank Page 4 and yet apparently have not revisited that thread- there is more there!

    This jumping from topic to topic on a daily basis is characteristic (and a seeming requirement) of news organizations, but does it ever allow anything to be understood or accomplished?

  11. 11 steve
    May 1, 2008 at 14:38

    Hey Xie Ming, maybe Iran should tone it down with the “wipe Israel off the map” statements?

  12. 12 Xie_Ming
    May 1, 2008 at 14:51

    Rather than the propaganda,

    Why not ask Rafsanjani? on WHYS?

    [Do we recall the plaintive lines of “South Pacific”

    “Oh, you have to be taught to hate all the people your relatives hate.

    You have to be carefully taught,

    Before you are six or seven or eight…” ?]

  13. May 1, 2008 at 15:10

    Hi Precious Xie-Ming. Thanks soooo much for your comment. If we go back to the story of the strike in Egypt which was organised purely by the ‘Labouring class’ and its purpose was to protest against the very low wages paid to them by the Egyptian government and also against the obvious disproportion between the very low wages and the very high food (especially bread) prices. In my opinion this story prooves to us that the ‘Labouring class’ does actually exist. This story was covered extensively by the BBC Arabic Service, but unfortunately didn’t get an enough attention from the Western media. With my love. Yours forever, Lubna.

  14. May 1, 2008 at 15:22

    Maybe the US should tone it down with the “Nuclear option is not off the table”. Or at least the “we could obliterate Iran.”

    Truth is , “yes it is”, and no you can’t.” If you think oil and food prices are bad now, try dropping a bomb over a giant oil reserve. or just even start another war in the middle east. If we obliterate Iran we would have two headed Israel babies for hundreds of years. Unfortunately the fallout and environmental problems of “obliterating” Iran would shock the world back into the 5th century.

    MAD still exist, just with only one side firing, if that indeed is the case, it would be a slower and more painful destruction. Politicians need to stop writing checks with their mouths that their arsenal can’t cash.

  15. 15 selena
    May 1, 2008 at 15:28

    Steve, Perhaps you would like to explain the makeup of this society of which you speak. Who are those people? For instance, do you include yourself in this society? Do you include me?

    What makes you think that society was not so self-absorbed “back then”?

    Back then we had polite, mannerly people who covered up their atrocious behaviors, such as sexual abuse of children, rape and hatred of gays. Young boys were taught to open doors for women but they were also taught that forcing sex was acceptable.

    Would you rather couples stay in abusive marriages than get out?

    Who exactly is sick and getting sicker? Do you think we hate more now than before?

    Should we keep covering up hatred under the veneer of civility? Is your hatred acceptable but mine not?

  16. 16 steve
    May 1, 2008 at 16:04


    Society is sick and getting sicker. And society enables sick people by not punishing them when they should be punished. I mean, look at this clear case of a sociopath that needs to be locked away for life:


    What did they do, release her, and she would reoffend. Doesn’t care, she would do it again if she gets out of jail again.

    I never realize that boys were taught that “forcing sex” was acceptable. Do you have evidence of this? Or is that the feminist view that all sex is rape? I mean geesh, I’ve not felt well before and told my girlfriend I wasn’t in the mood and she still had her way with me. Am I rape victim?

    Society was less self absorbed in the past because people would think of things other than themselves. A father would sacrifice his life to feed his family. Now, if there are even two parents families, one party will just flee if everything isn’t perfect all the time. It’s all about that person to that person that flees. This is increasingly common.

    Sure, there were bad things in the past. But I think if you ask any psychologist, they will tell you that people are becoming more and more sociopathic.

  17. 17 VictorK
    May 1, 2008 at 16:05

    Re Zimbawe: why should Tsvangirai be any better than Mugabe? One of the few things Africa is good at is producing power-mad despots, each worse than his predecessor. Mobutu was a villain until, after his death, the DR Congo found itself in a state of chaos with 4 million dead and started to miss the old tyrant. Who’s to say that Tsvangirai won’t be even worse than Mugabe? What I don’t see with the MDC – perhaps it just hasn’t been reported – are the practical constitutional changes they are going to make in order to curb the likelihood of anyone, Tsvangirai included, being able to abuse high office again.

    Re Burma: a purely internal matter. If what’s going on there isn’t important enough for ordinary Burmese to be making an issue of it, or any of their immediate neighbours, then perhaps that’s a sign that Western governments (as opposed to ordinary citizens) shouldn’t get involved either.

    Re Iran: unless the State Department produces hard evidence this time it should shut up and stop lying. Following the WMD fiasco the default position has to be that they’re lying until they can prove otherwise. Obama is a silver-tongued fraud and Hillary is a little too quick to needlessly escalate a nuclear scenario: it will have to be McCain.

    Rafsanjani is as mad as Ahmadinejad when it comes to provoking a nuclear conflagration. And why talk to him – he’s yesterday’s man. It’s Khamenei, Iran’s Supeme Leader, who people need to begin a dialogue with, a far more significant figure than President Ahmadinejad. You may as well present Al Quaeda as potential American allies as the Mullahocracy of Iran. What were you thinking, Xie Ming?

    Re the elephant cull: this is probably a good sign as it suggests a thriving population that’s not in danger of extinction.

    Re Africa’s Green Revolution: does Europe really import that much food from Africa? In any case, the real issue is how can free market economies, the rule of law, and respect for private property rights all be established in Africa, since without these the Green Revolution is just another utopian sound bite. And how will the instinct of many Africans to resent, punish and plunder the hardworking and successful be overcome?

  18. 18 Xie_Ming
    May 1, 2008 at 16:21


    What is your definition of a “labouring class”?

    How is it to be distinuished from other classes?

    Is this true all over the world?

    What is meant by the phrase: “We have a society of masses rather than classes”?

    [Have you given up the research on Open Page 4?]

  19. 19 stevencoran
    May 1, 2008 at 16:31

    MAD doesn’t still exist when you don’t have two rational opponents. The Soviets were rational, there was never any chance of nuclear war.

    I believe during the Korean war, China wasn’t rational, as it invaded N. Korea and drove the UN forces back the dividing line, despite knowing the US had nuclear weapons and China didn’t. Perhaps China had the USSR’s backing, with a promise to nuke if the US nuked Chinese forces? I’m not sure, but the prospects of nuclear obliteration didn’t stop China from crossing the Yalu.

  20. May 1, 2008 at 17:26

    Hello Precious Xie-Ming…. Thanks sooooo much for your comment…. My definition of ‘Labouring Class’… Hmm, well, let me try : If a particular community consists of 900 persons for e.g., together with their families. And those 900 persons all work for a factory for e.g. either private or owned by state, then can you call those 900 persons with their families a ‘Labouring Class’ ?! Even if their numbers aren’t that large ?! Labour by definition is any work that requires a hard physical effort, am I right ?! And as for Blank Page No.4, I did read your comment on answering my question ‘Can the Power of Mind cure or control diseases?!’. THANK YOU. I was putting cancer particularly in my mind when I asked you that question. With my love. Yours forever, Lubna.

  21. 21 nicholas kariuki muthaara
    May 1, 2008 at 17:28

    there will be no fair election in zimbabwe.its unfortunate that mugabe want to cling to power at all cost.

  22. 22 steve
    May 1, 2008 at 17:37


    I don’t know if you listen to Rabbi Shmuley, but he just said on his show that we live in a culture of self-absorbtion. That shows like American Idol are popular becuase everyone wants to be famous, everyone wants attention, everyone is so self absorbed. I don’t know what his views of the consequences of it are, though apparently the world is falling apart. I don’t know how any can deny how self absorbed people are becoming. My personal view is that you care nothing about the consequences of your actions, and that could lead to harming other people, harming the environment, etc… It’s only getting worse now that self absorbed people are raising kids who will turn out to be self absorbed too.

  23. 23 Peter Singapore
    May 1, 2008 at 18:15

    South East Asia’s agriculture is run by big corporation. Thailand is a good example. They lease lands from small holdings. Besides providing infrastruture and market access,they provide employment. Thailand is a big rice exporter. All this is possible with economy of scale. Another good example is Malaysia.

  24. 24 Xie_Ming
    May 1, 2008 at 18:23

    Since Ahmadinejad has been the target of so much defamation, let’s put him on and ask him some questions. (If not on WHYS, then suggest it to HARDTALK).

    Talk to the demonized and see if they are really demons!!



    Is a farmer who works on his on own farm in the “laboring class”?

    A farmer who share crops on the land owned by another?

    A baker who works in a bakery he has rented and who hires others?

    A shoemaker who works in a rented shop by himself?

    What is the difference between a “mass” and a “class”? [hint: this is critical for today’s TV-mediated World]

    [I will follow-up on Open Page 4 your cancer question]

  25. 25 Prince Pieray - Lagos
    May 1, 2008 at 18:25

    i do not share anan’s views on foods production in africa. why? because african governments and people should have absolute charge over their lands, bio-sources of foods production, financing of foods production, means and methods of foods production and distribution.

    they should also have absolute charge over the pricing of foods, definition for green, food, and standards for foods. none of the mentioned should in any way or form be connected to, dependent on, or defined by the usa, european governments or eu, the private capitalists, wb, imf, wto, wef, undp, unfao, etc.

    the means of farming or agriculture should be natural and not genetic engineering or biotechnology. no so-called “improved seeds”, and “variety of seeds”. the focus should be food safety and life security and not increasing food production and food security. the aims should be subsistence and not market, feeding africans and not maximising profits.

  26. 26 Xie_Ming
    May 1, 2008 at 18:26


    the key word in what you are describing is “narcissism”.

    It is thought to characterize current American culture.

  27. 27 John
    May 1, 2008 at 18:29

    Today is Remembrance day in Israel for the Holocaust and I think a debate about this would be interesting for a number of reasons:

    My opinion is that there should be an international Remembrance day for the Holocaust, and it should be the same day as Israel, it’s important to remind us of what we as human beings are capable of, and the relatively recent “ethnic cleansing” in Serbia etc demonstrates we have not learnt the lesson well

    Recent news stories and the internet “urban myth” that schools in the UK are not teaching about the Holocaust for fear of offending Muslim students.

  28. 28 JOHN BACON
    May 1, 2008 at 18:33

    The lad in cambodia, has his passport been used subsequently?

  29. 29 steve
    May 1, 2008 at 18:34

    Xie _Ming, I have seen pro hezbollah signs in pictures in Iran saying “Wipe Israel off the Map”. Why would they say that if Ahadmenijad was “mistranslated”. If I find the link later on I’ll provide them.

    Sorry Xie_Ming, truth hurts some times.

  30. 30 steve
    May 1, 2008 at 18:41

    Wow! I agree with Xie_ming on an issue! Yes, American culture is excessively narcissistic, and very materialistic as well. If you want a good laugh, walk around and find a news film crew setting up, you’ll see people (mostly women) piling up, hoping to get filmed. It’s very sad. I think they view it as a close second to being on American Idol.

  31. May 1, 2008 at 18:59

    Hello Precious Xie-Ming… 1stly please there’s no ‘E’ in my name ! :-). And 2ndly a person who’s working hard in his own property isn’t surely included within the ‘Labouring class’. But in my opinion a community formed by a particular number of persons who perform hard physical work at an establishment (which obviously they don’t own) either private or owned by state together with their families can be called a ‘Labouring Class’. And perhaps you could tell me what the difference between mass and class is. Members of a ‘class’ in my opinion share similar characters, economic, social, cultural, educational, ect., ect., and they also share common interests and needs, and more importantly they all share a similar job. Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong ! With my love. Yours forever, Lubna.

  32. 32 Nick in USA
    May 1, 2008 at 19:19

    I would really like to explore population control a bit more. Not only in South Africa, but everywhere. Since this is an international show with people from many religions, I’d really like to know what everyone thinks about this issue. What does overpopulation mean for the future of the world. It has economic, ecologic, and quality of life implications.

  33. 33 Xie_Ming
    May 1, 2008 at 23:03


    By your intended definition, those doing manual or physical work for wages anywhere would be a “laboring class”.

    That would include clerks in offices, etc.

    I doubt that all of those would consider themselves “laboring class”, although some might.

    State governments might tell them that were a “classless” society.

    In America, I suspect that most blue-collar workers would have called themselves “middle class”, although many may be seeing through the propaganda now.

    So, I doubt that there is enough auto-identification of being in a “laboring class” and, also, since t the number of factory workers is declining, I do not see the rise of an international laboring class movement.

    Mass vs. class we can talk about another day. The basic question would be one of auto-identification, e.g. is one an Iraqui or a laboring class member?

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