Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Syria in the news

If you're anything like me, you are fascinated by Middle East current events. I have had my eye on the so-called Arab Spring from day 1. It's interesting to see what the socially connected people are doing to throw off the shackles of repression.

As country after country has fallen to the mass demonstrations, one regime has maintained power for surprisingly long given how long the demonstrations have gone on. Not too long ago, I got a unique perspective that shed some light on this situation.

On our flight to California to see my dad get married, I sat next to an Iranian grad student. Unable to let this opportunity pass me by, I spoke with him about the Middle East. His philosophy on the happenings was surprisingly simple: if a country has the resources, it can resist revolutions.

I thought back to Iran in 2009. The Green revolution was close, but then it fizzled. Why? It turns out that Iran is in the top 25 highest GDP countries. They used their resources to effectively quash any meaningful opposition. Poorer countries not so much. Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, etc. I always thought of Egypt as a reasonably wealthy for one reason or another. Maybe it stems back to them having the pyramids. However, this guy on the plane explained that Egypt's GDP is 1/6 of Iran's. It's no wonder they couldn't do much to stop the protestations.

But Syria is not a very wealthy country. So how could they effectively stop the protests going on? Iran. I don't know what's going on in Syria, but it seems like it's one big mess. The latest estimates are that more than 6000 Syrians have been killed and the country seems to be edging closer to a civil war. But Al Assad has long maintained that he isn't to blame. He has contended that foreign militants are to blame. Everyone seemed to either think that the Syrian dictator was crazy or completely ignorant based on the happenings on the ground. But maybe it's true to the extent that the snipers taking out peaceful demonstrators come from Iran. Iran has the money, for one. They have the interest. Iran needs Syria. It needs the close influence to its neighbor to the West Israel. Iran needs Syria the way it is right now. It cannot afford for Syria to stage a revolution. So maybe the fighters inside Syria that have caused so much mayhem are paid foreigners trying to quash an uprising using whatever means possible. This is not unreasonable, considering there was evidence that when Iran's revolution was going on, Jordanian and other foreign fighters were found combating the protesters.

It's one thing to get your news from mainstream America outlets. It's another to get your news from an Iranian who by the way speaks Russian. Yes, I got to combine my flight with a little bit of Russian too, it was very nice. But it's interesting to me how Russia also needs Syria. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/31/un-syria-resolution-opposed-russia?newsfeed=true and they are not about to let the UN do anything to encourage Syria undergo its "inevitable" change of power. Russia will lose out on selling weapons to Syria and in this economy you fight for every bit of economic leverage you can.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Stance on SOPA/PIPA -- I oppose

I am against the so-called Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act. I have long held views favoring a less regulated Internet (as noted here) because I feel like the Internet is a very unique invention that has already transformed all of our lives and will continue to only do so in the future. To regulate this developing infrastructure with 20th century paradigms will be detrimental for our society in more ways than one. Additionally, the Constitution provides for Congress with the authority to create a copyright law to promote the progress of science and the useful arts. However, if the copyright law is divorced from this basic premise, on the effect regulations have on promoting innovation, the law becomes unconstitutional. That is why in my opinion every copyright case should be looked at with a healthy dose of fair use. SOPA/PIPA seem to look at copyrighted content only from the perspective of the established, powerful content police, seeking to fix piracy with an overly broad measure that chills precisely what the Internet has done a marvelous job of promoting: fair use. There are less troubling means of stopping pirated content than by these proposed bills. I have already made my thoughts known to my Congress representative and if you similarly think that SOPA/PIPA is not the best approach, I urge you to do the same. There is a really cool website that allows you to easily find out who and how you can contact: http://americancensorship.org

Monday, January 09, 2012

Help me with your extra sky miles!

Almost 23 years ago, my mother passed away. Now after raising all of us kids, my dad is finally getting married again. I'm so happy for him and his fiance; they go so well together. The only problem is that I won't be able to go without a financial miracle. At first, I wrote this off as an expense I could not handle. Money is really tight right now. Now 11 days away, I realize that my dad needs me there and I would love to be there. My wife would also love to go! If you have any extra miles, I am happy to provide any sort of services in return that I can such as web development or patent support. If you want to donate to my cause, please click here at WePay: https://www.wepay.com/donations/my_dad_s_sacramento_wedding