Ok, let's take a moment to talk about something serious (as I occassionally try to do here). I'm keeping close track of the presidential campaigns going on here in the US, but the thing that's really worrying me the most is what's going on Russia right now.
Of course, there's the horrific events in Beslan which occured last week. There really is no excuse to take school children, teachers, or anyone hostage. But the reaction by Moscow was something, sadly, which I was expecting. When I first learned of the kidnapping, I didn't realize that so many people were being held. In some maddening part of my mind, I figured that Moscow would somehow screw this up and get some of the hostages killed. Of course, it turned out much worse: Over 350 people, over 150 of which were children, were killed in a crazy attempt to rescue the hostages.
Anyways, the fallout from all of this is nothing short of outrageous. As per usual, the Chechen rebels who took the hostages have been called international terrorists, by President Putin. This, of course, is simply an attempt at garnering favor with the rest of the world which is so concerned about terrorism. It's pretty clear that Russia's terrorist problem with Chechnya is wholly different from whatever threat Al-Queda and the like pose.
Moreover, Putin's response to this is to further lock down his control over the nation. I dare say he's a president in name only, because everything he does is designed to enhance his dictatorial control over the country. A month or two ago it was his actions with Yukos, Russia's largest oil producer, that stank of dictatorship. Now, it's this crazy plan to limit electoral choices. It proposes that elections should be for parties, rather than candidates and that regional governors would be appointed by Moscow rather than elected by constituents.
This stinks of iron-fisted dictatorship. Or at least Putin's attempts to maintain complete and utter control over the nation. Anti-terrorism? Gawd. From what I've read, Russia's intelligence has absolutely no clue about the activities of various Chechen rebels. None of this fiddling with the pittance of demoracy which Russians "enjoy" is going to help fighting terrorism. Sure, they're throwing some money at security agencies, but until Putin decides to give real democracy a chance, this problem is not going to go away. It will simply get worse.
Apparently, Colin Powell has expressed "concern" over these turn of events, but I'm afraid nobody is going to do anything to stop Putin and his moves to clamp down the country in his fist. Russia is teetering on Failed State status (or perhaps it has already fallen to that level), but the country's place in the UN and the USSR's legacy will ensure that nobody takes effective action against this insanity.
This is truly sad, and unforuntately, I don't think anything can be done (given the realities of the world we live in) to slow this march away from democracy.
That said, I'll calm down. You can go on with your web surfing now :)