The older I get, the more I come to believe that the vast majority of the world is a shithole for humans. Let's face it, aside from North America, some parts of Europe, some of Asia, a bit of South America, Australia, New Zealand and Israel, there has been very little progress in the plight of humanity over the past centuries.
Sure, people might have a little more to eat and live longer, but in essence, they are still largely denied basic human rights, freedom, the ability to advance themselves and equality through much of the world.
Let's take a little tour through my morning paper and see if I can explain what I'm talking about...
We'll start in Nigeria
Nigeria is an oil-rich African nation and one of the few on the continent that is not a complete and total basket case. But that might soon change.
Later this week, Nigeria will see its first president-elect following another elected president take office when ex-Marxist turned devout Muslim Alhaji Umara Yar'Adua is sworn into office.
This might sound very nice but the elections were a farce. Yar'Adua was the hand-picked successor to outgoing president Olusegun Obasanjo and even he admits the elections were not properly run. The losers are saying far more: they want the elections annulled, and this being Africa, there is sure to be plenty of violence when that doesn't happen.
Last week 48 Nobel Laureates, including one from Nigeria, issued an open letter to world leaders demanding new elections within 18 months. Of course, 48 Nobel Laureates and $1.25 will get you a cup of coffee...
Even the EU has weighed in, threatening to withhold financial aid from Nigeria. You know something's wrong when the EU issues a condemnation and the target is not Israel.
Perhaps Nigeria is learning from our the second stop on our tour.
That would be Zimbabwe.
In Zimbabwe, President-Thug Robert Mugabe continues his reign of terror and error. Not content with having turned privately-owned farms into publicly-owned wastelands and watching his citizenry starve, Mugabe has now turned his attention to foreign-owned businesses.
Last week, his cabinet passed legislation that would require foreign-owned businesses operating in Zimbabwe to forfeit at least 51 per cent of their holdings to Zimbabwe. If you're a friendly nation, such as China - where corruption and thuggery are the rule - then you're exempt. But, if you're, for instance, a British bank, you're in deep trouble.
Not that the bankers will admit it. A spokesman for Standard Charter, with 26 offices in Zimbabwe, refused comment. A spokesman for Barclays, with 29 offices in Zimbabwe, would say only "it is early days and the proposed bill may not become law."
Mugabe is a total asshole but he does have his proteges.
Take for instance our third stop: Venezuela, ruled by strongman President-Thug Hugo Chavez.
In Venezuela, Chavez is busy consolidating his power for ages to come. First he jailed his political opponents and now he's moved on to that age-old dictatorial policy of shutting down any media outlet that opposes him.
Recently, he refused to re-issue an operations license for Radio Caracas Television, the nation's largest TV station, replacing it with a new, state-funded TV station that will, no doubt, masturbate endlessly over the glory of its leader in typical 1984 Orwellian fashion.
The station went off the air when the clock struck midnight Sunday/Monday, leading to mass protests in the streets. Being the good dictator he is, Chavez responded by having police fire rubber bullets at the protesters.
Mark my words, if this man is still in power in five years, the average Venezuelan will be as destitute as the average Zimbabwean.
Then there's Myanmar.
That's the country formerly known as Burma where democracy icon and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has had her house arrest extended for yet another year.
No surprise there; in fact, if there's any surprise, it's that Suu Kyi is still breathing. Normally, in a country like Myanmar, people disappear and are surprisingly never seen again or magically turn up dead.
Nevertheless, Myanmar's government quickly squashed an attempted prayer rally at the Shwedagon Pagoda in the capital of Yangon. There's really not much one can say about a nation where even praying is illegal.
Except maybe that all of the above examples seem awfully like our next example.
That would be Russia, home of Vladimir Putin
Putin is, for lack of a better phrase, an utter fucking pig who makes the above guys look almost credible.
His newest target is Estonia. The Estonians, apparently, have had the audacity to exercise their own freedom by removing a statue of a Russian soldier that was erected in the former Soviet-bloc nation in commemmoration of the Russians pushing the Germans out of Estonia in World War II.
The problem, from the Estonian perspective, is that the nazis were replaced by
Soviet communists which was kind of like replacing heart attacks with cancer.
Free at last, they wanted to remove memories of both from their national conscience.
Russia has responded by shutting down Estonian Web sites, including its government site, banks and at least one newspaper. As Estonians are a western-style democracy, where people bank online, vote online and read online, this has caused a certain amount of grief brought about by what is, at best, industrial espionage and, at worst, economic terrorism.
Still, there's nothing worse than a democracy in Putin's eyes.
Sadly, our last nation could use a good ol' strongman.
That would be poor Lebanon.
In Lebanon, a new civil war is brewing because terrorists, posing as palestinians (I know, it sounds kind of odd that a terrorist would pose as a terrorist but these are different terrorists than the average palestinian terrorist) are using a 'refugee' camp to launch attacks on Lebanon's embattled civilians and government.
Sadly, Lebanon can't actually respond by going into the camp and destroying the terrorists because there's an agreement with other arab nations not to do such a dastardly thing. So, Syria gets to continue its proxy war in Lebanon using some Muslim fundamentalist assholes known as Fatah al-Islam while the citizenry continues into its nine-thousandth, three hundred and eighty-seventh year of internal conflict as pawns for other arab nations.
Putin, Chavez, Mugabe and even Syria's leader, Bashir Assad, wouldn't bother with the niceties for even a second. They'd squash the whole camp like a bug, eat dinner and then claim it was an accident.
So, there you have it, a news round-up that shows why I'm a right-winger. Because only a left-winger could read this shit day-in and day-out and still show up to bash the US and Israel.