Thailand: There might be blood [Update: There was]

Here's a novel (and disgusting) political tactic from Thailand's "red-shirt" protesters:

Organizers of the demonstrations in the Thai capital said they're requesting that each protester donate between two and 20 teaspoons of blood - 10 to 100 cubic centimeters - to meet their goal of more than 2,000 pints (1 million cubic centimeters). That would require between 10,000 and 100,000 people - roughly the crowd's peak size - to donate.

"The blood will be taken from the body and democratic soul of the Red Shirts," said a protest leader, Natthawut Saikua, referring to the popular name for the protesters. He said they would start recruiting medical staff for the blood drive Tuesday morning.

They threatened to pour the blood on Government House if their renewed demand was rejected by 6 p.m. Tuesday (7 a.m. EDT, 1100 GMT).

I thought it was going to be hard to top the great Latvian cow head protest of 2009 in stomach-turning outrageousness, but this literal blodbath might do it. The red cross is also complaining about the waste of perfectly good blood.

The protesters -- supporters of ousted Thai Prime Minsiter Thaksin Shinawatra -- want current leader Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve parliament and hold new elections. 

Even grosser update: Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay reports that blood isn't the only vile substance the red shirts have turned into a political weapon (HT: Boing Boing):

The red shirted supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra have been busy mixing up a disgusting and smelly concoction of faeces and fermented fish to throw at anyone who might get in their way.

What this has to do with reforming the Thai political system, I'm not sure. 

Update 2: They did it.

Athit Perawongmetha/ Getty Images


Meet the new drug war, same as the old drug war

Mexican President Felipe Calderon's drug war has been going on now for more than three years, and led directly or indirecty to the deaths of more than 18,600 people -- well over the number of U.S. troops killed on 9/11, and in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. And yet it never seems to gain traction as a major subject of discussion here in the United States.

Will the killing of three people with ties to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez change that? The White House has already commented on the deaths, saying that President Obama is "deeply saddened and outraged by the news." The State Department is allowing its consular staff to leave cities along the border. Another 13 people were killed Saturday in the fabled resort town of Acapulco -- four of them beheaded. Mexican journalists are being terrified into silence. It certainly feels like we are entering a new phase of conflict.

And that's just Mexico, a relatively strong state. Countries in Central America are being overwhelmed by the traficantes. Guatemala just arrested its drug czar and national police chief for stealing some 1,500 pounds of cocaine from the drug dealers, and it's not clear whether the government there is strong enough to win this fight.

So what is Obama going to do about it? His administration has asked for $450 million from Congress to bolster Mexico's security and counternarcotics forces with new equipment, including helicopters and surveillance aircraft, as an extension of George W. Bush's Merida Initiative. That's on top of the $700 million Congress allocated for 2008 and 2009. Central America has gotten another couple hundred million. Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Venezuela outlined a number of other related initiatives during his recent congressional testimony.

If you ask me, it all seems like doubling down on a failed strategy -- a typical example of trying to solve a social and political problem through military and technical means.

To her credit, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged the United States' own culpability during her recent Latin America trip. "The demand in the large market in the United States drives the drug trade," she said. "We know that we are part of the problem and that is an admission that we have been willing make this past year."

But she offered zero new ideas for addressing the demand side of the equation, and the administration's new drug budget looks a heckuva lot like Bush's drug budget, with its focus on interdicting supplies over treating drug addicts and reducing the secondary effects of drug use ("harm reduction"). Obama's drug czar, former Seattle police chief Gil Kerlikowske, recently said that legalizing marijuana in any way was "a nonstarter," even as more states move ahead with their own decriminalization initiatives.

So are the Obamans  smart enough to know better, but trapped by politics and afraid to try a bold new approach? Or do they really believe in the drug war?

AFP/Getty Images