Monday, December 29, 2003

How Many People Have Ever Lived on Earth?

fallacies > widespread > debunked
Have you ever heard the "fact" that 75% of all people who ever were vorn are alive today? Well it just isn't so. As the article linked above most emphatically proves. The article is hosted on the Population Reference Bureau website, an excellent resource and information bank on all aspects of population studies.
Via Barista, an excellent blog about all sorts of fascinating stuff!

Friday, December 26, 2003

Not your typical suicide bombings

palestine > marxist > suicide bombers?
Today's news about the new round of erupting violence in Palestine, contained this interesting excerpt:

"Four Israelis and a Palestinian suicide bomber were killed in an attack at a bus stop near the Israeli city of Tel Aviv...
... The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said it carried out the attack, which, it said, would be followed by more."

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine? George Habash's group? This is the first that I notice an explicitly secular (indeed Marxist-Leninist) organization involved in suicide bombings. Apparently it's not the first time. Then I realized that the Al-Aqsa martyrs' brigades, are also a secular organization
So, it is evident that it isn't simply the islamic fanatics that are involved in this practice - a fact which should give some, rather shallow, analysts some pause.
I found this Al-Ahram article on the subject, observing that:

The fact that martyrdom operations have been carried out by Marxists and followers of secular movements, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Fatah, as well as Hamas, strongly refute Israeli disinformation. In fact, suicide bombers represent a broad cross-section of Palestinian society.

See also a Washington Institute article on the return of Palestinian Nationalist terrorism.

One could then assume that it's not simply those crazy fundamentalists; that utter, hopeless desperation might have something to do with it.
Although successive Israeli governments can be celebrated as the most compelling recruiters for the most extreme of fundamentalists indeed.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Iraqi Resistance Website

iraq > resistance
According to the people (person?) that runs it, this is "a personal site which has been on the net since April 2003", forced by events to change character. It includes regular resistance reports (this is the latest Iraqi Resistance Report, Dec. 18 - Dec. 21).
The whole rhetoric of the site, sort of reminds me of the Communist Party of Iraq (Cadre), a recent splinter group from the collaborationist CPI. I might be completely wrong though, who knows? (Update: Uhmmm, more likely a Ba'athist site it seems - although they seem to have removed a Saddamic eulogy, again who knows? - I guessed CPI(Cadre) because I've seen resistance reports originating from that group somewhere on the web. I might be totally off-base).
Anyway, the CPI (cadre) website, has this report about Saddam's current state of mind. The old tyrant is losing it...

Merry Christmas & happy new year

happy > holidays
I'd like to thank all readers (of both blogs) that were kind enough to send their holiday wishes to your most humble blogger (and also to those that didn't bother!). I actually have sent personal replies to each, but my web mail being rather full of surprises lately, I'm not 100% sure that all have received my reply. So...:
Thanks, and enjoy your holidays... I know I will!

'It's a pantomime where tinsel takes the place of substance'

empire > awards > unwanted
It is indeed consoling to learn that a lierary hero of mine, the unique J.G.Ballard, has turned down the "Commander of the British Empire" award for services to literature. He also pretty much told them where exactly to put it, or - to put it more politely - dismissed the whole delusional circus that is the British monarchy:

"'It goes with the whole system of hereditary privilege and rank, which should be swept away. It uses snobbery and social self-consciousness to guarantee the loyalty of large numbers of citizens who should feel their loyalty is to fellow citizens and the nation as a whole. We are a deeply class-divided society."

It is rare nowadays that heroes of youth withstand the test of time.
Worth reading, if you're interested in such matters, is an - old - Ballard interview about W. Burroughs.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

An introduction to American Talibanism

politics > god help them > they're nuts
This gem of a site was mentioned in Matt Taibbi's, excellent as usual, recent column. The "Presidential Prayer team" is not a joke, these are people (christian fundamentalist people) close to the US presidency, that are asking Americans (and everyone else I guess) to actually pray for, and I quote:
"As reaction to Saddam’s capture has sparked uprisings and violence, pray for peace and calm in Iraq, and protection for our troops." Notice that it's "pray for our troops" - and no one else, it's not as if any Iraqis are hurt in the process... It's a good thing they have God on their side ain't it?

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Okay, who wants to play baseball for Greece?

sports > hilarious > greek baseball
Nobody plays baseball in Greece. I mean apart from the odd american expatriate or Greek-American visitor... So when Greece got an automatic entry, as home team, in the olympic games... I really couldn't figure whom exactly we were going to field. The article above describes what the local sports authorities did to create the Greek National Baseball team... Here's the actual call for players. Now, apparently, Greece might actually win a medal! Especially given that the favourites are out of the picture.

A guide to nation-building

reports > RAND > whitewash
"The Rand Corporation has just published a timely study of nation-building, much appreciated by Paul Bremer, President Bush’s special envoy in Iraq: 'A marvellous how-to manual for post-conflict stabilisation and reconstruction. I have kept a copy handy since my arrival in Baghdad and recommend it to anyone who wishes to understand or engage in such activities.'"
An interesting analysis of the RAND report in the Monde Diplomatique, that points out a few things that are wrong with the comparisons the report is making and some rather important facts about recent nation-building efforts that are not considered...

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Keiko, star of 'Free Willy' movies, dies in Norway

celebrity > deaths
"Keiko, the killer whale made famous by the 'Free Willy' movies, has died in Norwegian coastal waters where he remained after millions of dollars and a decade of work failed to coax him back to the open sea, his caretakers said early today."

Apparently the whale was used to human companionship and would not return to the wild... I found this, somehow, enormously sad:

...Keiko was released from Iceland in July 2002, but swam straight for Norway on an 870-mile trek that seemed to be a search for human companionship...
via Baloney

How do you spell Hypocrisy? O-S-C-E - by Mark Ames

politics > russia > hypocrites >osce
One of the few non-russian analysts worth reading on Russian (and ex-USSR) matters, Mark Ames, on OSCE assessments of recent russian elections. Read it! this guy has the added advantage of not being able to write a boring sentence if you paid him.

You see the OSCE condemned the recent (undemocratic) Russian elections while conveniently forgetting that the previous elections it "approved" were just as bad:

...the supposedly "bad" 2003 elections were not significantly less democratic than the "good" 2000 presidential elections, or indeed the 1996 presidential elections, which the OSCE enthusiastically approved.

"I would maybe say that the 2003 elections were even a little better," said analyst Boris Kagarlitsky. "But there is one interesting point. This time, most of the votes that were stolen were stolen from the liberal parties [as opposed to being stolen from the Communists]."

NGO's as Western patsies, whoda thunk it...?

PowerPoint Makes You Dumb

presentations > tools > evil
Not that you didn't know this already. Power point is the ideal tool for the cubicle culture, advertising and other low IQ and short attention span environments. The argument is made by Edward Tufte, a man who should know about presentations:

Ultimately, Tufte concluded, PowerPoint is infused with ''an attitude of commercialism that turns everything into a sales pitch...
...Perhaps PowerPoint is uniquely suited to our modern age of obfuscation -- where manipulating facts is as important as presenting them clearly. If you have nothing to say, maybe you need just the right tool to help you not say it."

This seems like a summary of the essay, predictably titled: Power Point is Evil.

Friday, December 12, 2003

If you cannot bring good news, then don't bring any

iraq > occupation > silent
This is pathetic. Typical of the mentality of the idiots running Iraq, but pathetic nonetheless.
"Iraq's Health Ministry has ordered a halt to a count of civilians killed during the war and told its statistics department not to release figures compiled so far, the official who oversaw the count told The Associated Press on Wednesday."

Friday, December 5, 2003

Author of Saudi Curriculums Advocates Slavery

religious > nuts > wahabbi
This is really difficult to believe. You know that there is nothing quite as inhuman as a religious fanatic, but this guy is a toyal lunatic. Also goes to show how well adjusted certain religious dogmas become, to the needs of authority, in this case of feudal Saudi Arabia... Check this out:

Al-Fawzan refuted the mainstream Muslim interpretation that Islam worked to abolish slavery by introducing equality between the races.
"They are ignorant, not scholars," he said of people who express such opinions. "They are merely writers. Whoever says such things is an infidel."
Al-Fawzan's most famous book, "Al-Tawheed – Monotheism", is taught to Saudi high school students. In it, he says that most Muslims are polytheists, and their blood and money are therefore free for the taking by “true Muslims.""

Via the eyeranian

Thursday, December 4, 2003

Especial Bruno Bozzetto

europe > cultural gaps > north-south
This animated depiction of differences between (I assume Northern) "Europeans" and Italians could be easily applied to Greeks (and I suspect other southerners)... Its creator, Bruno Bozzeto, has a couple of other hilarious animations on-line as well: Olympics and Yes and No...

Tuesday, December 2, 2003

Interview with Ariel Sharon published in the Israeli daily Davar Dec. 17, 1982

politics > fascism > israeli

update research > insufficient > mea culpa
Update, Dec. 4 2003: This is not a real interview of Sharon. Amos OZ has said it isn't so - and that the following interview was given by an unnamed Israeli soldier... so despite the fact that I found the story in three separate sources, it's still a stupid mistake: I should have known better since, if this were a "legitimate" Sharon interview, I would have been bound to have run on in to it over the years... Mitigating factors: It seems that many *real world* journalists have fallen for this as can be seen here. This correction was also pointed out in a thread in Jerusalem's indymedia (in the ensuing discussion). More in this Flit post... Ahh! shouldn't have fallen for it, although I still stand by my assertion that Ariel Sharon is a fascist ideologue - based on his track record of wanton atrocities and his involvement in the Shabra and Shatila massacres.
Having said all that, see how casually this "conservative" writer (in the Spectator, an unabashedly Tory rag) is perfectly willing to defend even this spectacularly, cartoonishly, primitive fascist worldview.

I'm keeping the original post below for the record...:

I wasn't aware of this interview at all. Ariel Sharon was interviewed in 1982 by Amos Oz, an Israeli leftist writer. I knew that Ariel Sharon was a demented criminal pulling the region towards war and destruction. What I didn't know was that he was a raving lunatic Nazi (by his own admission). This interview makes Kim il Sung and Mobutu, Zhirinovsky, Saddam and Bin Laden seem sane by comparison. Be very afraid: this is the man that heads a nuclear power, a man who plays the dominant role in the powder-keg of the Middle East... Here's an excerpt, but the whole interview is in a similar vein:

"'...Leibowitz is right, we are Judeo-Nazis, and why not? Listen, a people that gave itself up to be slaughtered, a people that let soap to be made of its children and lamp shades from the skin of its women is a worse criminal than its murderers. Worse than the Nazis...If your nice civilized parents had come here in time instead of writing books about the love for humanity and singing Hear O Israel on the way to the gas chambers, now don't be shocked, if they instead had killed six million Arabs here or even one million, what would have happened? Sure, two or three nasty pages would have been written in the history books, we would have been called all sorts of names, but we could be here today as a people of 25 million!
'Even today I am willing to volunteer to do the dirty work for Israel, to kill as many Arabs as necessary, to deport them, to expel and burn them, to have everyone hate us, to pull the rug from underneath the feet of the Diaspora Jews, so that they will be forced to run to us crying. Even if it means blowing up one or two synagogues here and there, I don't care. And I don't mind if after the job is done you put me in front of a Nuremberg Trial and then jail me for life. Hang me if you want, as a war criminal. Then you can spruce up your Jewish conscience and enter the respectable club of civilised nations, nations that are large and healthy. What you lot don't understand is that the dirty work of Zionism is not finished yet, far from it. True, it could have been finished in 1948, but you interfered, you stopped it. And all this because of the Jewishness in your souls, because of your Diaspora mentality..."

Of course it shouldn't come as a surprise: In 1953, this beast had already practiced what he preached... Here's an annotated portrait of a killer.


stalin > art > bizarre
Can't make heads or tails of this... It seems to use Stalin as a stepping stone for weird surreal art (post-art?). I mean, check out the Party Music and some of the more imaginative imagery and see if you can fathom this (lovely in a montypythonesque kind of way) joke (?). Eat well, ignore the wandering Hitler, listen to the meaningful commentary and enjoy!
Let me know if the russian section is more explicit in stating the site's purpose. Or if you know whether this is related.

Iraq poll, shows little support for occupation forces

politics > iraq > occupation > not throwing flowers
"The vast majority of Iraqis are deeply mistrustful of the US-led coalition that is occupying their country, even if they're happy Saddam Hussein is history, suggests the preliminary results of a major public opinion poll released Monday.

Fewer than one percent of the 3,244 Iraqis interviewed by Oxford Research International, in conjunction with Oxford University's sociology department, bemoaned the fall of Saddam's regime after the March invasion.

But 79 percent said they have no confidence in the US-led forces now occupying Iraq, according to a summary of the poll's findings released Monday by Oxford Research International, a private research organization."

Note that: "Oxford Research International said its results were "mainly based on simple statistics such as percentages," and that some of the findings might not stand the test of secondary analysis to be carried out in the coming weeks."

Let me tell you though, W's policies aren't exactly winning over hearts and minds the world over.

Monday, December 1, 2003

The Problem with the Kurds

politics > kurds
Pedram, over at the, always interesting, eyeranian, has an excellent post on Kurds and their plight, and the unfortunate set-up for yet another betrayal of their hopes that is brewing. I wonder if the nice, hopeful Kurds I was watching on Greek TV before the war (there is a large Kurdish refugee/migrant community in Greece) making plans and believing that this was their chance at autonomy (at least) are as disillusioned as the Iranian (?) Kurd that Pedram mentions...

Friday, November 28, 2003

Georgia Update: Mark Ames

politics > caucasus > great game
Mark Ames returns, post-revolt, to the subject of Georgia, with some rather dire, but also realistic predictions...

"What’s next? If you take the example of Serbia, then what’s next is this: in about six to nine months, vast disappointment and disillusionment with the Velvet Revolution will set in. Burdzhanadze will be too weak to control the brutal politics, and Saakashvili, a nationalist who at one time was compared to Zhirinovsky (not apt, but he’s definitely a populist), will find that the struggle to maintain and expand his powers will take up all of his energies and enmesh him into all the ugly tactics used by his predecessors: corruption, corruption and more corruption."

Let me add that in Serbia now they can't even get 50% of the people interested enough to vote in the elections... though I hope Georgia has a brighter future...

A keyboard of gestures

animation > uncouth
Hoogerbrugge is brilliant. Wonderful animations that transcend mere black humor to become an, occasionally dark, zen exercise in shockwave. And when I say dark, I mean dark.
link via Metafilter

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Laputan logic

weblogs > excellent > more
Laputan logic is a magnificent science / history / archeology weblog with a great collection of subjects. Great stuff, such as this "Interview with Carver Mead" about Quantum Mechanics, the Copenhagen interpretation and why it isn't right ... Very interesting, as I too feel that the Copenhagen school has proven less than convincing, but the interview raised more questions than it answered (as far as this humble physicist is concerned) so I guess I'll have to buy the book, which seems quite interesting.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Commentary on Croatian elections

politics > balkan
This seems like a rational and realistic assessment of the recent Croatian elections, by a Croatian, Dragan Antulov, whose weblog, Draxblog, is a great source of commentary about Croatia and beyond... The following passage seems to capture the essence of Western media coverage of, or even western policies, towards the Balkans in general...:

Most of the world media talk about "return of nationalists" in Croatia, while some carefully talk about HDZ being "reformed, pro-European" or "purged from extremists suspected of atrocities during 1991-95 war".
I'm not optimist. This all looks like wishful thinking. After September 11th 2001 USA and the rest of Western world forgot about Balkans. Their governments consider all of the regional problems solved – Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo elected "moderate, pro-Western and democratic" governments in 2000, refugees are returning, borders are being open, market reforms are improving living standards, media is free from hate-speech, war crimes suspects are being handed over to Hague tribunal or tried in domestic courts, former warriors are becoming champions of peaceful cooperation etc. Whenever something happens that doesn't fit this rosy picture, it is ignored and disregarded as something of little or no importance. When guerrilla war continues in Macedonia, it is regarded as "glorified border smuggling". When Serbian prime minister gets gunned down, it is the "desperate act of small band of die-hard ultra-nationalists". When nationalists win in Bosnia (parties that dominate Bosnian national assembly are same ones that led country into the war) they are "reformed".
Why should victory of Ivo Sanader be treated any worse? Since his party replaced "pro-Western moderate democratic" forces on fair, free and democratic elections, it should too be regarded as "pro-Western and moderate", because everything else should indicate that West failed in Croatia between 2000 and 2003.

I couldn't agree more, and it's not only the ex-Yugoslavia that's receiving this least-effort type of analysis either...

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Another World Is Here

weblogs > excellent
A truly marvelous weblog covering, a broad range of topics, as diverse as biotechnology, lo-cost hi-tech, open-source, systems and current events, connected through the prospect of connecting people who are working for change at all levels. This is how they describe themselves: works from a simple premise: that the tools, models and ideas for building a better future lie all around us. That plenty of people are working on tools for change, but the fields in which they work remain unconnected. That the motive, means and opportunity for profound positive change are already present. That another world is not just possible, it's here. We only need to put the pieces together.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Who ordered this, again?

physics > interesting
The real fun times in science is when weird stuff like this comes up and no one has a clue as to what they're about:

A mysterious sub-atomic particle has been revealed that does not to fit any of the models currently used by physicists.

The discovery either suggests that a new family of molecule-like sub-atomic particles exists, or that theorists must substantially re-think their theory of the masses of sub-atomic particles.

via baloney

What's happening in Georgia?

politics > ex USSR > chaos
Mark Ames delivers an insightful and convincing analysis of the root causes of recent events in the republic of Georgia. The article helps explain Washington's apparent difference in tone, as far as rigged elections are concerned, never mind a horrendous human rights record and Middle East style nepotism - and all this despite the American government's love for Eduard Shevardnadze...
Also by Mark Ames, an analysis of the Yukos situation, worth reading if only as a counterbalance to all sorts of naive nonsense one reads about the issue in most of the western press...

Friday, November 21, 2003

Questions for Noam Chomsky: The Professorial Provocateur

chomsky > interview
A brief interview of Noam Chomsky in the NYT (!), choice quote:

Have you ever been psychoanalyzed?

I do not think psychoanalysis has a scientific basis. If we can't explain why a cockroach decides to turn left, how can we explain why a human being decides to do something?

Ah! The rationality! That's why I like this guy.

via npat's blog

Monday, November 17, 2003

Robert Fisk: The Palestine Regiment

politics > palestine > peace alternative
"No one remembers the Palestine Regiment. Even this morning, on the actual day of remembrance, few will recall that Arab and Jew once fought together under the British flag against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Even fewer will know the extraordinary story of an Arab and a Jew who fought side by side against Hitler, and then twice fought each other as enemy combatants - in 1948 and 1967 - and of how, in their declining years, they became friends. But in a Middle East in which 'hawks' and 'doves' and 'terrorists' and 'security forces' battle to the death, their story provides an extraordinary - and shaming - indictment of both Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat. "

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

A physics of society?

physics > statistical > human societies
"From theories of pedestrian movement and traffic flow to voting processes, economic markets and war, researchers are striving towards a physics of society...
...To many physicists, the social sciences are a treasure trove of complex systems, for which there often exists mountains of data and next to no theory. They regard society as a fabulous experiment (although economists sometimes complain that the things that "econophysicists" want to do are simply not interesting). The aim of social sciences, however, has never really been just to understand, but to improve. Social science is often regarded as an adjunct and guide to policy-making. From Thomas Hobbes to Karl Marx, moral and political philosophers have used their ideas about the way society works to argue for ways of making it better. The trouble is, of course, that they seldom agree..."

This prospect I find thrilling as a physicist and it seems interesting enough as an ongoing project. What I worry about is the further pseudo-scientification of political decisions disguised as "natural laws", something that economists are already doing today anyway.
But can it work? Can a physics of society make any actual and meaningful predictions, or would such highly non-linear systems as those that constitute the engines and processes of society and its economics be as immune to detailed analysis as most naturally occuring dynamical system are? And if we can't develop a long-term predictive discipline, might these methods be able to develop a qualitative study, a coarse grained model of society? It doesn't seem too far-fetched. Thus we might never know the "societal weather" over the next few months or years, but we just might be able to describe the probable "social climate".
But what if this knowledge is used to push society towards abominable ends, what if this develops into literal social engineering? Well there are no assurances, but I seriously doubt that this is indeed such a powerful tool: again, think of how much control we have over the weather or the climate despite the advances in meteorology and climatology!

The conclusion of the article is worth quoting as it is applicable to any kind of societal study:

A physics of society cannot tell us how things should be, but it can hopefully elucidate the consequences of particular choices and policies. Physicists would be right to be wary of constructing a "utopia theory", but historian Richard Olson explains the role social physics could serve: "One way of expressing the relationship between physical and moral laws... is to say that social systems are 'softly' deterministic. Left alone, they will inevitably develop along certain lines; but the possibility of changing those lines by conscious and intentional intervention does exist. The whole point of a 'social science', then, is to explore the opportunities for and likely consequences of intentional moral action. Without the science, morality is blind; but without the morality, science is useless, pointless, and paralytic."

And, yes, sci-fi buffs might be reminded of Asimov's "Foundation" series' psychohistory...

via missing matter

Media Carta: Adbusters

politics > rights > new ones
"What we ultimately seek is a new human right for our information age, one that empowers freedom of speech with the right to access the media. This new human right is: The Right to Communicate.
WE HEREBY LAUNCH A MOVEMENT to enshrine The Right to Communicate in the constitutions of all free nations, and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. "
Go ahead and sign... This is an interesting proposal.

Monday, November 10, 2003

US troops clash with 'PKK rebels'

iraq > turkey > big mess

I guess that this has something to do with some deal surrounding Turkey's decision to not send troops to Iraq after all, after some (fortunate for the whole world) second thoughts the American administration had on the issue, as well as Turkish fears and popular opposition to the plan.
That Turkey isn't sending troops to Iraq: good for all involved.
That the US has now targeted a major Kurdish militant group (hardly different in its aspirations than Barzani's and Talabani's parties): bad, serious trouble ahead for all involved, and especially bad news for the Kurds.

A proposal to limit the size of corporations in the EU

economy > proposals > interesting
"Rules should be made on the level of the European Union declaring an upper limit to the size of all enterprises that (want to) do business within the Union...
The intention of this proposal is nothing more and nothing less than restricting the power of the biggest enterprises.
Aiming at the European Union to take the initiative is obvious. Countries like the Netherlands, India or even France do not stand a chance: they would simply encounter the power of the transnational corporations that this proposal is confronting. The economic importance of the EU is enough to face this confrontation. Even after the ENRON- and WORLDCOM-scandals there little can be expected from the USA in decades ahead. Some sympathy can be expected from the UN but the UN itself lacks the power. "
Thought among similar lines is, sadly, scarce in the EU or anywhere...
Worth pondering I think... Though I'm all for it, anyway you cut it.

Friday, November 7, 2003


art > online > amazing
Unique flash-based udescribables. Note for example this awesome, surreal, faux-North Korean, sexual manifesto [turn on your speakers!].
via hama7 at metafilter

Khodorkovsky the oligarch

russia > economy > mafia wars
Matt Taibbi describes what's really happening between Putin and Khodorkovsky with the latter's arrest. As a companion piece I offer you this prime example of the interpretation of a mafia showdown as an ideological battle, kind of shocking in its unabashed adoration of a bloody mobster who stole everything he has ever owned, leaving a not insignificant trail of dead people behind him, written before Khodorkovsky's arrest but after the prosecutors were after him, excerpt:

I have no expertise on the story of his meteoric rise from Komsomol (communist youth) leader, to the founder of Menatep bank, to oil baron though people who have studied his career say that he has fewer skeletons in his cupboard than many oligarchs.
What I am sure of is that today, in strict utilitarian terms, Khodorkovsky is a force for good in Russia. He gives direct and indirect support to a range of organizations and individuals that are trying to raise the standards of Russian capitalism, civil society and democracy. He wants to make Russia more western, which in my view is exactly what it needs.
Whatever his past, I am convinced that he now believes in his own rhetoric on the need to promote civil society in Russia.

A hilarious read especially the part where MK includes Zhirinovsky among the forces of Russian "civil society", along with the communists and Yabloko.

Meanwhile, Pravda reports that MK might be the Russian Communist Party's presidential candidate: more proof that Zyuganov is an idiot.
Putin has suffered not an iota from all this, as the oligarchs are hardly popular among the Russians anyway: see this rather pro-Putin piece by N.Gvosdev in the National Review regarding his possible strategy.

Background reading: Mark Ames, 1999, on Khodorkovsky's rise to power:

So where did this oil magnate get his start? Did he rise up through the ranks of the great Soviet oil industry? Maybe he worked in related chemicals or the energy sector? Well, no.
Here's a wild guess: he made his first bucks using his connections as a Komsomol [Communist Youth League] leader to sell Russian girls to rich Westerners? Bingo!

Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky disinfopedia entry.
Taibbi on Russian privatization, 1999 including a 15 step guide to successful privatization in Russia.

Thursday, November 6, 2003

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

politics > latin america > chavez
"On April 12th 2002 the world awoke to the news that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had been removed from office and had been replaced by a new interim government. What had in fact taken place was the first Latin American coup of the 21st century, and the world's first media coup..."
The website of the award winning documentary on last year's coup against Chavez in Venezuela, and the local plutocracy's use of the media to distort the surrounding events.
Unfortunately no excerpts or order forms...

Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Milosevic trial part II: Former British foreign secretary calls Milosevic a 'pragmatist'

This is the second of a fascinating series of recent testimonies in the "forgotten" trial of Slobodan Milosevic. Lord Owen's testimony seems to me to be a defense of Milosevic. David Owen, who served as an EU envoy to Yugoslavia in the early 1990's, accuses Milosevic of not stopping the war when he could have in the early days, but concedes (and this is what's important as far as the tribunal is concerned) that he had little influence over the Bosnian Serb army by the time of the Srebrenica massacre.
It seems that the titles of the story in the British media are quite misleading, as sampled both in the BBC and the Guardian coverage.
From the BBC story:
But Lord Owen also gave some support to Mr Milosevic's claims that he had less control by the time of the massacre of thousands of Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995.

and from the Guardian:

But he depicted Mr Milosevic, facing genocide charges for his role in the war, as a pragmatic nationalist who made a "massive mistake" a decade ago in not exerting what influence he had. Lord Owen, a former foreign secretary, spent three years mediating in the Balkan conflict...
..."Milosevic is not fundamentally racist... He is a nationalist, but even that he wears very lightly. He's a pragmatist who wanted the Serbs to be in the majority. I don't think he was an ethnic purist."

[comment: he concurs with Markovic's opinion mentioned in the last post, "pragmatist" being polite english talk for Markovic's "somebody who was ready to use everything at his disposal to secure power for himself"]


Lord Owen testified that in April 1993, Mr Milosevic had expressed concern about a confrontation between Muslim and Serbian forces at Srebrenica, where more than 7,000 Muslims were murdered in 1995.
"He feared that if the Bosnian Serb troops entered Srebrenica there would be a bloodbath, because of the tremendous bad blood that existed between the two armies," Lord Owen said.

Belgrade's (anti-Milosevic) B-92 reports the following:

Owen also said that Milosevic was neither a racist nor an advocate of ethnically pure states and did not want to expel all Muslims from the Bosnian Serb Republic.
However, he added, the former strongman of the Balkans probably had a long-term goal of uniting all Serb territories in one state.
Unlike Milosevic, said Owen, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman openly demanded the annexation of a significant part of Bosnia to Croatia, saying that Bosnia could not survive as an independent state.

I'm waiting for the full transcript to be published in the ICTY website, and might return to this story soon.

Milosevic Trial part I: Ante Markovic testifies

politics > former yugoslavia

Extended excerpt from the transcript of Ante Markovic's testimony in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic in the ICTY. Ante Markovic was the last "prime-minister" of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This excerpt backs up what a lot of people have known for a while. Namely that the division of Bosnia was decided by the nationalist leaders of Serbia and Croatia together...:

Q. And can I now move to Karadjordjevo and the March 1991 meeting between Tudjman and the accused. Following that meeting, did you have meetings with both Tudjman and the accused where they spoke of that meeting?
A. Yes.
Q. There are two ways of dealing with this: You can either, as it's set out in your statement, deal with the way in which their accounts to you had elements in common; or, whichever is most convenient for you, you can tell us item by item -- not item by item -- person by person what the accused and what Tudjman said to you. Can you give us an account of what you were told.
A. As I had received information about the topic discussed in Karadjordjevo, that is, the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina between Serbia and Croatia, and that Milosevic and Tudjman had agreed to carry out this division, and also there was talk of the dismissal of the Prime Minister, Ante Markovic, because he was in the way of both of them in implementing this division of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
At my initiative, I had a meeting with Milosevic in Belgrade and with Tudjman in Zagreb. According to my custom, I spoke to both of them very openly. The results of these talks were that both of them confirmed to me that they had agreed to divide up Bosnia and Herzegovina. Milosevic told me this very soon. Tudjman needed much more time to admit this and to say that they had reached an understanding about it.
They did not have identical interpretations of this agreement.
Milosevic said that Bosnia and Herzegovina was an artificial entity created by Tito, that it could not survive, and that most of the Muslims were in fact Orthodox who had been forced to change their religion. When I asked him directly or, rather, I asked both of them directly, "Do you think --" that's what I said to Milosevic, "Do you think that this will be so simple? Do you think you will be able to do this without bloodshed, without blood up to the knees?" Milosevic said he didn't believe that.
He said that Bosnia and Herzegovina anyway has a majority of Serbs and Croats in the population so that there would be no conflict, and that they had envisioned an enclave for the Muslims, the two of them, and that the Muslims could live in that enclave.
I asked the same question of Tudjman. I said to him, among other things, "Do you think that people who will be born and who will die to the sound of gunfire, that this will not transform Bosnia and Herzegovina into a kind of Palestine? How many victims will there be? How much destruction? How much will be ruined?" Tudjman thought this would not be the way things would happen. He said, "Europe will not allow a Muslim state in its heart. We will gain the support of European. And as for your fears that there will be war there, all I can say is Bosnia fell silently," because in history Bosnia once fell without an armed struggle, so there is this saying in our language that Bosnia fell with a whisper. Tudjman said that the Muslims were anyway Catholics who had been forced to adopt Islam. So each of these men admitted and thought this was something quite normal. Tudjman even asked for my approval and support that Bosnia and Herzegovina should be divided.

So this was a deal, between two people determined to break up Yugoslavia. Two people who proved to entertain totally unrealistic expectations about what would follow.
The whole of the testimony is tremendously interesting, as it points to preperations between Milosevic and Karadjic in creating Bosnian Serb militias and contains this shocking testimony of the most murderous cynicism that personal ambition can induce:

[Markovic]...First I talked to Milosevic and asked him whether he could see what was happening in Vukovar and Dubrovnik. I asked him how he could allow Dubrovnik to be shelled, a famous place like that, important for the culture of this country and for world culture. Milosevic replied, "Who would be crazy enough to shell Dubrovnik? Dubrovnik isn't being shelled." But it was clear, you could see on television that it was being shelled.
I then asked Milosevic to go and see Tudjman, wanting Tudjman to confirm to Milosevic that what I was saying was true and that Dubrovnik was being shelled. I repeated my statement. He replied in the same way, saying that this was impossible, that it couldn't be because were this the case, he would know about it. And Tudjman replied to this quite calmly, "Well, you see what Milosevic says." He didn't say anything in favour of an intervention against the shelling of Dubrovnik.
Q. The inference that you drew from this as a politician on the ground at the time?
A. Well, it imposed itself logically. The conclusion was that Milosevic did wield influence, quite obviously, on what was happening, and Tudjman didn't find it to be in his interest that Dubrovnik should not be shelled, and Vukovar either, or rather, it suited him in the sense of winning over arguments for his emancipation or for his secession and having Croatia recognised.

And finally please consider this assessment of Milosevic's nationalism, which is IMHO very accurate and illuminating:

Q. In all your conversations with the accused - and I think I've probably come to the end of questions about that topic - were you able to discern whether he was a Serb nationalist, in your judgement?, or not?
A. No. No. Slobodan Milosevic used everything he could to ensure power for himself and power over people. And if that was nationalism, well, then he used nationalism. But in principle, he wasn't a nationalist. He was quite simply somebody who was ready to use everything at his disposal to secure power for himself.

Israelis angered by EU 'threat' poll

ultra-nationalism > Israeli
The recent Eurobarometer survey that sparked the whole fuss (its a 3.6 MB pdf file, this will take a while unless you have a fast connection). It's mainly about EU reaction to the US invasion of Iraq (mostly negative) with the question in question at the end of the survey.

First of all, let me point out two obvious things:
1. There are no ultra-nationalists in any nation, from Zhirinovsky followers, to Kemalist generals, to Ann Coulter fans, to Ariel Sharon, to the folks we have around here that claim Greece's "natural" borders are somewhere near Ankara, to Serb, Croat, Albanian and what have you maniacs, who when faced with international disapproval of their plans and, more importantly, of their actions, don't claim an international conspiracy of anti-"X"ites and start shrieking hysterically about the "enemy", as all fascists do when confronted by reason. That the radical Zionists react similarly is no surprise.
2. There is no doubt, in my mind at least, that highest among the nations who really are a danger to world peace should be India and Pakistan which not only have nuclear weapons but frequently sound like they're over-eager to use them against each other.

Let me point out also point out some, apparently, less than obvious things:
Of the countries making the top 5 "most dangerous" according to Europeans, one is in blatant and repeated defiance of UN resolutions, in unlawful occupation of foreign territories which it has proceeded to settle (West Bank and Gaza), was until recently occupying a third of a neighboring country (Lebanon) - where it had committed crimes against humanity - and attacked another (Syria).
Another of the countries has recently invaded two other countries, the latest in total defiance of the UN and public opinion almost everywhere, and has installed an occupation government, against fierce local resistance.
The other two among the top-5 are not to my knowledge involved in any actions even remotely comparable as to their international unlawfulness, nor does any sane analyst believe that they would launch an attack against any country unprovoked, especially Iran.
Iraq is in fifth place, which probably indicates that the question was interpreted differently by different people.

So if anything, European public opinion has been rather moderate on condemning both Israel and the US as threats to world peace. Indeed the poll shows that US government and corporate media propaganda has less effect in the European populations than desired - at least on this issue. Ranking Israel as the number one threat to world peace, is a sign of being in touch with current events.

Thus when Prodi:

"... expressed his concern about the findings, saying that they "point to the continued existence of a bias that must be condemned out of hand".
and added that:
"... To the extent that this may indicate a deeper, more general prejudice against the Jewish world, our repugnance is even more radical," Mr Prodi said in a statement.

... it's total bullshit. This isn't "anti-semitism" any more than the inclusion of Iran and North Korea in the list is "anti-Iranianism", or "anti-North Koreanism". Prodi knows this, and for him to play into Israeli propaganda by condemning the views of a majority of EU citizens (who gave him the right or the authority to apologize on my behalf? How dare he assume that my opinion of the Israeli lunatic nationalists is in any way informed by anti-Semitism?) is absurd and improper.

As for the "Israeli mission to the EU", which had the gall to state the following:
"We are not only sad but outraged. Not at European citizens but at those who are responsible for forming public opinion",
I reserve nothing but the kind of contempt I have traditionally reserved to all similar type of nationalist/racist mouthpieces be it apartheid government spokesmen in South Africa or Indonesian army representatives in East Timor. One thing we still have in Europe is the ability to form our own opinions in defiance, often, of the propaganda machines and media brainwashing.

And may I add that I'm not only sad, I'm outraged that, according to the Guardian, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, ("dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust by fostering tolerance and understanding through community involvement, educational outreach and social action"), "has begun ordering a petition to condemn the European Commission and demand the EU no longer be represented in the so-called Quartet group trying to mediate an end to violence between Israel and Palestine."
I think the SWC should try a little harder to preserve the memory of the Holocaust by pressuring the Israeli government to abandon its policies of plunder, ethnic cleansing and murder in the West Bank and Gaza, instead of morphing into Israeli apartheid/racism apologists. I can't think of a more inappropriate tribute to those that were murdered by the Nazis than blind support to a person that has expressed his racism clearly and eloquently:
"I don't know something called International Principles. I vow that I'll burn every Palestinian child (that) will be born in this area. The Palestinian woman and child is more dangerous than the man, because the Palestinian childs existence infers that generations will go on, but the man causes limited danger."
Ariel Sharon, In an interview with General Ouze Merham, 1956.

Calmer discussion of the issue at Fistful of Euros...

Correction June 18 2004: Reader Hayyim Feldman has noted in the comments that the quote I attributed to Sharon is fictional. A little research (which I should have done in the first place) shows that this is indeed the case. I apologize for the error - that was lazy research.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Karl Marx: the interview

marxism > post mortem > interviews
Donald Sassoon interviews Karl Marx about himself, 19th century and modern politics and the left. Brilliant, witty and displaying a deep understanding of Marx. From Prospect magazine.
link via Metafilter's monju_bosatsu

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Flash Planetarium

astronomy > toys > cool
A real time flash planetarium.
Use your mouse to look around the sky (click to start/stop moving). Pointing at stars shows their name, magnitude and constellation (all loaded from an XML file).
It doesn't include planetary positions (yet?), but nevertheless it's quite impressive!
(For users in or near Athens Greece change latitude to +38 and longitude to +24 for local view).
link via crunchland at MeFi

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

National holiday

history > WWII >those who fought it
Today is a national holiday in Greece. Every 28th of October, over here, we commemorate Greece’s rejection of Mussolini’s ultimatum demanding total capitulation, thus drawing Greece into WWII. The Greek army pushed back the Italians (to everyone’s astonishment) and was only defeated when Germany, after invading Yugoslavia, declared war on Greece, thus making the defence of the country impossible.
The line of events leading to October 28th can be found in this article from Paul Newman’s awe inspiring WWII website, the Balkans’ section of which, (the only one I'm even remotely in a position to judge), is impressively thorough and provides an excellent tutorial of the, little known outside the Balkans but nonetheless important, WWII battle and resistance history of the region.
In particular (and as a small web memorial to all that died fighting the fascists and the Nazi occupiers in my country) I quote the following extended excerpts from P. Neumann’s chapter on the Greek resistance, since the story of the most massive, broad-based and intensive resistance movement in Europe (with the possible exception of Yugoslavia) has remained virtually unknown outside Greece since its leaders were Communists and cold war propaganda found this fact unpalatable:

At the night from 30 to 31 May 1941 in Athens young Greeks Manólis Glezos and Lakis Sandas (Apostolos Santos) had torn away from the Acropolis a hitlerite flag, hung there on 27 April by the Germans, immediately after their entry into the town. That exploit became a symbol of Greek nation's fight.

In February 1943 the occupation authorities and collaborationist government issued an order to forced "civil mobilization". It caused a new wave of riots. On 24 February 1943 workers, clerks and youth proclaimed a general strike, demanding bread, salaries' raise and cancellation of "civil mobilization". When the invaders and government did not meet the demands and tried to fulfil the order about 200 thousand people took to the streets (5 March).7 The demonstrators attacked German and Italian troops, managed to get inside the buildings of the Ministry of Labour, destroyed the files of over 80 thousand persons put to deportation to the Reich and burned them publicly. In this situation occupation authorities had to give up the carrying out the "civil mobilization". On 25 March 1943 in the streets of Athens came again to the riots. This time several thousand inhabitants demonstrated against increasing forced deportations to labour in Germany. The crowds disarmed the police and seized the buildings of the Ministry of Labour of the collaborationist government. They destroyed the lists and files of the population. The Germans sent the troops against the rioters. Hundreds of people were killed, and many were wounded.
Such mass street riots, demonstrations and strikes were unknown in other European countries. They made a marvel of the Greek resistance movement and eventually they caused a change on the post of the puppet Athens government.

Also significant is this horrific account of the Nazi massacre at Liggiades. The names of the towns change, but similar events (and even more massive slaughter) to those in Liggiades happenned in Kalavryta, Kandanos, Viannos, Hortiatis, Diakofto and too many towns and villages to mention in a simple list. These are stories that have to be preserved and remembered. So fascism can never raise its ugly head again.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Appeal from the Iraqi Communist Party (Cadre)

politics > iraq > communists > not that cooperative
While the Iraqi Communist Party after much thought is participating in the governing council, there's a splinter group that has announced its decision to participate in the armed struggle against the occupation forces. The question is, how large of a splinter group is this?

Misha Glenny: Asleep at the wheel in Kosovo

politics > balkans >uninspired
Misha Glenny on Kosovo and a possible EU hand in defusing the area. Makes perfect sense. Must read:
"The prospect of EU membership is a mighty lever in south-eastern Europe - used imaginatively, it would solve not only the Kosovo problem, but all others once and for all. For too long, the EU's Balkan policy has been in the hands of bureaucrats. If Europe wants to show its vision, the Balkans could be its big chance. "

Balkan Analysis

politics > balkan
A site about Balkan politics and developments, by Chris Deliso an American journalist who is among relatively few western journalists (and I won't even start about "think tank experts") to actually have a working knowledge of the area its people and its languages, making what he has to say substantially more interesting than the vast plethora of commentary - even if one disagrees with him on certain issues.
Case in point his insightful article on Albanian immigrants in Greece, one of the few I've seen outside the region that recognizes that "minority issues" and immigration inside the Balkans is a bit more complicated an issue than in, say, the Benelux and recognizes Albanian nationalism as the only remaining actively expansionist nationalism in the region (in no small part thanks to the ill conceived 1999 NATO attack on Yugoslavia).
However what I see here in Greece is an Albanian immigrant population that refrains from any sort of provocation, which is assimilating gradually but steadily, and hardly can be said to constitute a national threat (since the vast majority of permanent Albanian residents are living in Athens or Thessaloniki). I can't get myself worried about the nutcases of the ALA (see this article from their own website!) and I believe that the vast majority of Albanian immigrants in Greece see them as a joke as well - since there are none (0) native Albanians in the Greek regions they want to "liberate" - and I have spent 9 years of my life in that area, I should know!
Indeed I am more concerned about Greek narrowmindedness and nationalist hysteria than I am about Albanian "irredentism" in Greece. I'll return to the subject in a future post.

Oh and as an "antidote" to "Eleni" suggested in the linked article pages (of which I doubt even the truthfulness of the major elements of the plot) I suggest Mark Mazower's "Inside Hitler's Greece"!

Friday, October 24, 2003

Yet more polling data from Iraq

politics > polls > under occupation
This from the "Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies":

"Just under half those polled (47.2 percent) told interviewers they had considered the coalition forces to be either liberation forces or peacekeepers when they first arrived, but only 19 percent said they still hold that view.
About 46 percent said they felt less safe personally than they did three months ago, while only 23 percent said personal safety was getting better."

Older surveys (August 2003) have shown anyway that:

"Fewer then a third of Iraqis believe the armed attacks against coalition forces in their country are attributable to former Ba'ath party operatives turned guerrilla, as US officials suggest, a public opinion survey suggests.
The study reveals scepticism among Iraqis at the US-led coalition's version of the postwar violence, which US General John Abizaid likened to a "classical guerrilla campaign" in remarks last month."

Meanwhile, yet other polls suggest that the image of the Governing Council seems to be improving.

Finally, as far as occupation polling is concerned, Richard Burkholder, director of international polling for the Gallup Organization, talks about his experiences in Baghdad.

In other Occupation news, "thieves" can now be added to the other epithets used for the description of the Occupation Authority.

Zogby on the Baghdad Zogby poll

spinning > polls > wildly
If my gentle readers recall, I did a piece about the Zogby poll of Iraq a while ago, which attempted to debunk the primitive spin that the WSJ.American Enterprise magazine.
I discovered today (through Metafilter) that James Zogby (John Zogby's - the owner of Zogby International- brother) has a similarly low opinion of the AEM spinmeisters.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Dying for McDonalds in Iraq

mcpolitics > mcbusiness > mciraq > i told you so
Two postings ago, reporting on the opening of a Burger King at Baghdad's airport, I concluded with the following rhetorical question, in my usual sarcastic manner:
"Can McDonalds be far behind?"
The answer is, no, it can't.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Slovenia arrests possible war criminal - the UN scrambles for his release

politics > x-yugoslav > unpunishable war crimes
So this guy, a Croatian general of Albanian ethnicity, who was seriously involved in the ethnic cleansing of the Serbs from the Krajina, a NATO ally, and who went on to become capo di tutti capi of the KLA in Kosovo, a UN empoyee and a key perpetrator of acts of terror around the region, was arrested in Slovenia on a Serbian government warrant. So what does the UN mission to Kosovo (which oversaw the KLA's ethnic cleansing of over 200.000 Serbs, Jews, Roma and non-Albanian Moslems from Kosovo) do? This:

"A source at the UN mission in Kosovo (Unmik), which has been governing the mainly Albanian province since Serbia withdrew in 1999 after a Nato bombing campaign, said it seemed that Mr Ceku had been arrested on the basis of an 'old' warrant.
'Unmik is working to resolve this problem with the Slovenian authorities,' the source told Reuters news agency.

The "freedom fries" they've been talking about

business > fast food > "would you like a war with that?"
"The former Saddam International Airport now houses Iraq's first Burger King. Part creature comfort, part therapy for homesick troops, its sales have reached the top 10 among all Burger King franchises on Earth in the five months since it opened. The shiny metal broiler spits out 5,000 patties a day."
Ah the irony! but instead of ranting endlessly about this, let me refer everybody to the eyeranian's (from whom this link was found) excellent commentary: Free at last, free at last, thank god almighty they're free at last.
Can McDonalds be far behind? Those guys at "exile"? They might have been on to something.

Europe's Migrancy Problem Gains Urgency

immigration > deadly
"On Monday a spokesperson for the Italian coastguard, which fished out the 40-foot vessel southeast of the island of Lampedusa, said that the pile of decaying corpses and severely emaciated survivors was like something straight out of Dante’s Inferno." Coverage of the story in the Guardian.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Blame Your Mother

genetics > genes > more than
"Mice with virtually identical genes can grow into quite different-looking animals—fat and yellow, or lean and brown—depending on what their mothers ate during pregnancy. As this ScienCentral News video reports, researchers are studying a twist to heredity that goes beyond our genes."
Slowly but surely the mechanistic approach to genotypes, phenotypes and their relation is being eroded.
Meanwhile gene regulation is turning out to be connected to a strictly choreographed histone dance, possibly dictated by "a complicated non-DNA code".

EU copyright law: more draconian than in the US?

politics > family > business
Apparently there is a proposal in the European Parliament backed by a commissioner and a member of the EP that would "go far beyond existing laws in Europe and the United States by classifying copyright violations and patent infringements, even some unwitting ones, as crimes punishable by prison terms." This is designed to quell the concerns of the major industry lobbies but the law id so broad that it even companies "like Nokia, the BT Group and even Microsoft, itself a major victim of software piracy, have called the proposed law excessive and warned that it could crush innovation and strangle e-commerce in Europe."
This is brilliantly nightmarish - it caters to the needs of the pharmaceutical industry (although there are signs that the patent issues will be removed from the final proposal) and the completely clueless recording industry which is proving as idiotic in the EU as it is in the US (not exactly unexpected as they are part of the same recording oligopoly that is ripping off musicians and fans alike). The interesting part of the story is that the member of the EP that's behind this legislation, Janelly Fourtou, is the wife of this guy, Jean-Rene Fourtou, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Vivendi Universal, one of the largest record companies in the world, thus giving a whole new meaning to the phrase "family business".
The NYT article concludes:
Some lawyers and legal experts say that, whether it was influenced by her husband's position or not, Fourtou's amendment would give rights holders too much power under a law whose reach was already worrisome before. William Cornish, a professor at Cambridge University, and Josef Drexl, Reto Hilty and Annette Kur from the Max Planck Institute in Germany, said in a joint statement published in the European Intellectual Property Review that the proposed law was out of proportion to the problem of piracy. They criticized lawmakers for rushing the bill through and for listening too closely to lobbyists.

To which I attach this prime example of the literary form known as "rant" by yours truly:
And the question arises: how does a citizen of a EU country lobby against this, or other even more offensive, EU laws and directives? It seems to me that it is impossible to engage in a political project that involves an opposition to any policy and especially the current neoliberal punishment that is being inflicted on Europe by the corporate oligarchy. If lobbyists can have their voices heard, how can simple citizens do the same? There is no accountability and, on economic matters, no access to decisions that are being made in our absence but have an overwhelming effect on our lives, while these huge issues are escaping any serious publicity or public scrutiny. The claim that the EU is democratic, therefore, is false. Democracy implies the people's access to control over all possible decisions that could affect them. The neoliberal backlash hashappenedd pretty much without any discussion in EU countries, occurring as it were by fiat of some invisible supernatural force called the EU or the Central Bank, while governments hid behind these "European decisions", using the "it's not us, its an EU law and, unfortunately, we must follow" excuse, while the issues themselves were to be discovered by the EU's citizens only after implementation, since EU matters are "too boring" for the Mass Media to cover.
If that's only the Greek experience and things are more transparent in other EU countries please let me know. Somehow I doubt it.

So, if you want a democratic Europe, it's Confederation or Dissolution. I'm for the first option. And fast.

Turkish Chief of Staff on Turkey in Iraq

politics > turkey > military liscense
In an interview in the Athens daily "Eleftherotypia", among much talk about Greco-Turkish relations and Cyprus, Turkish Chief of staff Hilmi Özkök had the following to say about Turkish involvement in Iraq (translation is vague where original transcript was vague):

Q: Many in Turkey seem mistrustful of US policy towards your country and the region in general and, in a sense, express their fear. Are American plans actually feared?

A: I wouldn’t call it exactly fear. Although it isn’t just the Turkish people, but the whole world that’s wondering what the US is up to. It’s strange because the US has not stated its aims. They talk about Weapons of Mass Destruction, the democratization of Iraq or bringing down the dictator, Saddam. They don’t have any concrete objective aim that would explain the American operations. And it’s natural for people to ask themselves if all this is the real target or if America has something else in mind. We should, I think, rather put faith in the Authorities when they say they want to oust Saddam and bring back security to the region and its people, while stopping the terrorists from using Iraqi territory to threaten other countries such as Turkey. As you know the PKK [Main Kurdish Armed resistance group in Turkey] is in the North and is continuing its war. The coalition forces have begun operations to stabilize Iraq since May 1st, and many countries are contributing troops to the stabilization force.

Q: It has been said that the parliament’s authorization to the government to send troops to Iraq means that Turkey wishes to defend itself from Baghdad rather than Habour [the Turkish-Iraqi border].

A: Everyone is free to believe in various weird things. It isn’t feasible, militarily speaking, to defend Turkey from Baghdad. Someone may have told you this, but I disagree with this opinion.

Q: Could this opinion have to do with the fears that are being expressed in Ankara?

A: Of course there are two big problems that are not connected to each other. One is the PKK, which is a terrorist organization. It is included in the relevant US list, and the US are claiming that they are fighting against international terrorism, therefore they are fighting against the PKK as well. That’s one issue we want to settle with the Americans. The other is Turkey’s stability and security, which depends on the security of its neighboring countries. I do not only mean Iraq, but the whole region. Any instability in Iraq will impact on Turkey’s stability. Furthermore we have friendly and brotherly relations with the Arab world and we know they are suffering because of the war and the long dictatorship, and that they need help. We are willing to help them achieve stability in Iraq. And of course our allies, the US and the UK, need help which other countries are offering them as well. Turkey is not taking part in the coalition to defend itself from Habour. This opinion [of defense from Baghdad] is not completely a fantasy, but no such issue has been discussed.

Q: If Turkey does indeed send troops to Iraq, wouldn’t it be a dangerous decision given the instability that has inflicted the whole of the Middle East due to the US plans to reshape the area?

A: Of course there is uncertainty and risk. We do not know what the consequences of this instability will be. But we certainly are basing our decisions on military and political logic. The politicians have examined the situation, they have drawn their opinions and have reached certain conclusions. Instability and the current circumstances in Iraq have undoubtedly repercussions on Turkey. There are many terrorist organizations, there is no rule of law and there are many ethnic and religious groups that could possibly clash. Some of them are near the border and have historical ties to us. If a group asks for Turkey’s help, we won’t refuse as we did in the past with clashes between Kurdish groups [Barzani’s and Talabani’s]. A stable Iraq is what is wanted and we should play our role in this direction.

Q: After the parliament’s decision to authorize the government to send troops to Iraq, is this “confidence crisis” between Turkey and the US over?

A: I think you’re referring to my statement after the incident with the arrest of Turkish soldiers in Suleymaniye by local forces. I had characterized it as a “failure of confidence” not a “lack of confidence”. A lot of things have changed since then. I have talked about it with my American counterparts and the politicians have discussed this with their counterparts and now it is just a shadow on Turko-American military cooperation. This shouldn’t prevent us from creating friendly relations anew. The lesson has been learned but nothing similar should ever again happen. This is a wound that will certainly heal with time. We’re not going to Iraq just for the sake of the US. There are many other reasons.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Public Library of Science

open source > science
This is a magnificent idea. Give every working scientist and physician free public access to published research. As stated in the site:
"The internet and electronic publishing enable the creation of public libraries of science containing the full text and data of any published research article, available free of charge to anyone, anywhere in the world."
A noble cause if there ever was one. The Guardian had a concise and noteworthy leader about the PLOS.
Despite the fact that my science days are more or less over, this strikes such a chord and I consider it such a priority for the future pursuit of independent science and medicine, that in a rather pointless move I'm placing their banner (one of many) at the bottom right of these pages.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Reality television before World War Three

future > history
"Excerpt from The Rise and Fall of the United States (Putnam, 2037), William Shirer IV. From the chapter entitled, 'The Anschluss Begins.'"
Matt Taibbi delivers a view of the future of Swiftian brilliance. I demand that he be canonized and/or run for public office somewhere in the world.

The Number of the Beasts

numbers > beastly
The number of the beasts is not, as one would expect, 666, but rather "a number between 0.2 and 0.4". Rather anti-climactic I'm afraid. Oh, and it doesn't apply to all beasts, it just "describes the locomotion of flying and swimming animals, from moths to dolphins".

A real viral campaign

politics > contagious
"A new virus, which promotes one of the candidates for the upcoming Moscow mayoral election, has appeared in the Russian sector of the World Wide Web. "

Yet more about Turkish involvement in Iraq: What's In It For Turkey?

iraq > turkey > trouble
Columnist Semih Idiz writes on Turkey's Iraq policy, sanely. A summary of his article. Excerpt:

"It's still unclear how Turkey will benefit from this military alliance. If our problem is northern Iraq, it's already clear that our troops won't be allowed to enter this region. The TSK is of course capable of giving the necessary answer to its enemies and facing down such threats. However, I don't think that our government is up to grappling with the serious political problems quite likely to emerge in the near future."

[Regarding this issue, Hellblazer was kind enough to link and comment on my previous post. ]

Let me just add the following for further illustration of Turkey's internal problems: Turkish Press (the english language turkish news-source on the web IMHO), lists four "terrorist related" attacks on Turkish security forces by insurgents (3 involving Kurdish rebels) in just three days! (1, 2, 3, 4), a total of 8 insurgents and/or members of outlawed political parties killed and 1 member of the security forces killed and 2 injured.
For Turkey to become further involved in counter-insurgency campaigns in a foreign country, with at least 95% of the population hostile, is madness. Even the trigger-happy Turkish generals should realize this. However military people over there (and it is the Turkish military that has the final word as far as foreign policy is concerned - Turkey is yet to democratize itself in this respect among others- despite the brave efforts of its people) are stuck to some version of 19th century voodoo geopolitics and imperial pretensions, so really I don't know. One thing is clear though: should Turkey find itself involved in a war in Iraq, EU membership will be postponed to an even more distant future...

Privatisation vs democracy in Iraq

iraq > economics > plunder
An intersting note from Cairo's Al-Ahram. As if being invaded was not enough, plunder in the form of "free-market" policies designed to favour the plunder of all of Iraq's resources by the west are being implemented.

"But the new policies could prove controversial among the many Iraqis who have not aligned themselves with the US. Some Iraqi businessmen expressed concern that well- capitalised foreign firms will enjoy an unfair advantage and siphon profits out of the country. Most disquieting is the fact that the reforms read like a free-market manifesto devised by Washington to sign off more than 30 years of a socialist-oriented economy that provided millions of Iraqis with subsidised food and services, even through Saddam's costly wars and blunders. "

Monday, October 13, 2003

Turkey in Iraq pt. 3

politics > iraq > mess > huge
Continuing on the subject (I, II) of Turkish involvement in Iraq:
"Turkish troops will strike back if attacked by Kurds in Iraq who oppose their deployment in their war-torn country, a senior Turkish general said..." Again this sounds like Turkey has no problem in creating further havoc in Iraq and may manage to alienate the only real allies the US occupation forces have in the region. The BBC confirms this threat.
Barzani is calling for the Arab League to oppose the deployment of Turkish troops to occupied Iraq, while the other Kurdish pary the PUK has a ticker on its site blinking: "Iraq governing council doesn't want Turkish troops".
Talk about making a bad situation worse...
[update Oct. 14: A suicide bomber has attacked the Turkish embassy in Baghdad, the Financial Times report on the row about Turkish involvement in Iraq and Hellblazer publishes an ominous Stratfor analysis. This analysis however fails to take into account the severity of Turkey's internal situation:
  • The fact that the current "moderate islamic" government in Turkey is at odds with the country's semi-dictatorial military leadership - and the power struggle is ongoing, while the "traditional" Kemalist political parties are thoroughly discredited;

  • that Turkish public opinion is overwhelmingly against the deployment of Turkish troops in Iraq and sick and tired of a permanent civil war that is heading towards being rekindled - and that the islamists, unlike the traditional parties, can depend only on popular goodwill;

  • that Turkey's EU bid limits the severity of measures of violent repression of popular discontent that has traditionally been the hallmark of the military establishment in times of revolt;

  • that Turkey has a devastated economy which might or might not be able to afford a semi-permanent war on its southern borders;

  • and that it took Turkey 10 years to quell just the PKK rebels (to little effect anyway: they're back in Iraq!) The prospect of facing the Turkish and the Iraqi Kurds together must be daunting even to the Turkish generals who thrived on the bloodshed in SE Turkey.

  • All this however doesn't mean that the worse case scenario of "deep" Turkish involvement won't come to pass. Just that the possible side effects might be too terrible to even contemplate... and, frankly. I live too close to the area, to view all this as a strategic exercise].

    Sunday, October 12, 2003

    A damme good proposal.

    [if I may say so myself...]
    kicking > ass
    The world is moving on. It is moving on to where only sci-fi writers dared to tread a few years ago. Arnold Schwartzenneger, is now the governor of California. A lump of barely differentiated muscle is leading the richest state in the US and, possibly, might soon be a presidential candidate.
    This is a painful moment for us Europeans. First of all Arnie was born and bred (uncontrollably) in Austria - an EU member country. Then, whether one views this as a radically post-modern interpretation of politics-as-celebrity-competition, or as the psychological projection of a manufactured insecurity and the subconscious hope that this big, strong man, will protect an terrified populace from the bad guys that are out to hurt them, the fact of the matter remains that the US is again leading a trend.

    More importantly however, there is bound to be a psychological fear factor in our dealings as Euros with the US. It's easy to say no to "W-for-wimp" Bush, but can you imagine the nerve it takes to say no to musclehead in his face? Can you imagine Chirac, Schroder [where are those damn umlauts?!], or Prodi standing up to Schwartzenneger?

    Thus something must be done before Arnold moves on to claim the presidency!

    So I want to call on the European (and beyond) internet community / blogosphere to get behind an important political campaign: it is time to unite our not inconsiderable (well...) voices to have the beleaguered Romano Prodi replaced with Jean Claude Van Damme! It is the only real choice our graying continent has left. Think about it, although diminutive compared to Ahhnold, it is very likely that the martial arts expert Van Damme could easily kick Arnie's ass. In fact a new possibility for international negotiations is opening, a possibility in tune with the transformation of politics and news into a Hollywood spectacle: leaders' grudge matches. You have an unresolved trade issue between the US and the EU? Let the Terminator and the "Muscles From Brussels" fight it out in a steel cage. The US wants to invade country X and the Europeans oppose this? Let the President of the US (or the Governor of California) and the President of the European Commission, slug it out. This is (comparatively) bloodless and certainly much more fun to watch than two middle aged guys talking. Also, it is bound to revive interest in politics (although politics of a rather different form than what we're used to up to now) around the world.
    And the man himself is a winner: as a prospective leader/representative/avatar, he is not only a serious butt kicker, but an accomplished philosopher as well, not to mention his other rather unique and varied skills...
    This proposal comes on the heels of other less ambitious ones, but let us hurry: the cunning Clint Eastwood is touting JC VD as the next governor of California! Let's not allow the US to grab another natural born leader from the EU. Let's act quickly!
    So let's get together and propose a European commission that is made of men and women of steel, real superheroes... From Greece I would suggest either the incomparable traditional wrestler turned cult movie star Apostolos Souglakos (alas this is the only image of his I could find on the web), or the Greek-Australian kickboxing legend turned action star Stan "the man" Longinidis. Let's hear some more suggestions for the commission from around the Union. Let's create a pan-european movement to counter the (treacherous) Terminator's threat! Tag-team Europe - coming to kick some serious ass! California has shown us the way...
    The only thing that worries me is that, if this trend goes global, Jet Li would soon be chosen president of the CP of China and the rest of the world would be in serious trouble...

    Saturday, October 11, 2003

    Lethal Virus from 1918 Genetically Reconstructed

    wmd > real
    "The 'Spanish Flu' influenza virus that killed 20-40 million people in 1918 is currently under reconstruction. Several genes of the extraordinarily lethal 1918 flu virus have been isolated and introduced into contemporary flu strains. These proved to be lethal for mice, while virus constructs with genes from a current flu virus types had hardly any effect. These experiments may easily be abused for military purposes, but provide little benefit from a medical or public health point of view..."

    "...From an arms control perspective it appears to be particularly sensitive if a military research institution embarks on a project that aims at constructing more dangerous pathogens. 'If Jeffery Taubenberger worked in a Chinese, Russian or Iranian laboratory, his work might well be seen as the 'smoking gun' of an offensive biowarfare program,' says van Aken. "