Wednesday, December 29, 2004

RealClimate � Climate Science

/ climate / change / facts /
A really useful site for those that prefer to remain among the reality-based community, setting things straight about climate change and the science behind it - a useful antidote to the corporate backed tripe, or the Lomborgian fallacies that pass for skeptical analysis these days...

The site describes itself as follows:
"RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science."

See also these two relevant news items:

- Earth's permafrost starts to squelch

- Argentina scolds 'two-faced' rich.

Paranoid conspiracy theories kill!

/ viruses / lethal / idiocy /
Stupid conspiracy theories and/or religious superstitions are lethal, as the story of current attempts to eradicate polio shows:
"...Polio's [resurgence] started in the summer of 2003 in northern Nigeria. In the Kano state, politicians and clerics claimed that the polio vaccine was a 'Western' ploy, tainted with HIV or with hormones meant to render Muslim women infertile. The resulting resistance to the eradication program led to immunizations being suspended for 11 months. By the summer of 2004, outbreaks in Nigeria had spread to 10 surrounding nations that had been polio-free for years, leaving nearly 700 children paralyzed and reestablishing polio in four countries..."

Monday, December 27, 2004

Comment fixes

/ fixing / this /
Well, the blogback comment system I was using started to falter & has relaunched or something and asks me to re-register, so I finally got down to rewiring the comments using blogger's comment system (designated below as "active comments") whereas the older comments I saved (in an ugly and hurried fashion) as combined posts in the new comments, had the blogback prompt removed from wherever there were 0 comments and where there existed comments they are now designated as "old_comments".

Thus, all new comments should be directed to the "active comments" link - all new posts will only have this option anyway.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Abu Ghraib in Athens

/ greece / the other white meat /
Indicative of the kind of abuse endemic to the treatment of illegal immigrants (not only in Greece), but also of the inspirational nature of the new reality-photography initiated by the avant-guard soldier/artists in the US army, the Greek police has been caught torturing illegal Afghan immigrants, among them minors, in their houses and in an Athens precinct (images from the raided house and a few of its occupants here).

This came at the heels of the acquittal of a police officer from charges of rape committed against a Ukrainian woman, a case of blatant occlusion of justice to say the least. There has been little action on the part of the Greek police in persecuting the torturers and its a safe bet that the worse that can happen to them is a slap on the hand.

Thus, the reaction of ~50 young Athenian anarchists to the events, could be considered appropriate, even. Not really effective, and totally symbolic, of course, but it's some sort of relief that 30 years after the torturers' trials (in the aftermath of the military junta's collapse), there are some people willing to risk more than their free time to concretely express their opposition to such atrocities.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Oh! Apple tree, oh apple tree...

/ merry / newtonmas /
Nature and Nature’s Laws lay hid in night:
God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.
Alexander Pope

Tomorrow we will be celebrating the birth of Sir Isaac Newton, who was born on Christmas day 1642. A fine and appropriate alternative to the crassly commercialized shopping frenzy surrounding the birth of (the possibly non-existent) Jesus of Galilee, it can be adjusted to modern capitalist consumerism requirements by co-opting much of the Christmas celebration (pagan in origin itself of course), as in the substitution of the Christmas tree with the apple tree, or this specially designed Newton tree; the fat and sartorially challenged Santa Claus riding on reindeer (I mean, reindeer?) with the 17th century man of science, Newton's friend and financer of the publication of Sir Isaac's major opus Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, Edmund Halley, riding on his Comet, according to its well defined trajectories (but alas showing up only every 76 years); the nativity scenes with the apocryphal apple falling on Newton's head etc.

The fact that sir Isaac, was by all accounts a nasty and jealous ole bugger, (enjoying sending counterfeiters to the gallows as Governor of the Mint) is by no means an obstacle to celebration (although had, say, Albert Einstein been born in a more opportune date, he would be a preferable alternative, on grounds of character alone), since we will be celebrating the man's ideas, contributions and, through them, rationality and the modern scientific method - not the petty old Don himself. Another beautiful detail is that using the modern calendar (which his theory of gravitation helped refine and standardize with an unprecedented accuracy) he was not born on Christmas but on January the 4th, possibly leading to heretical alternate celebrations of Newtonmas - much as the Slavic Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas on January the 7th because the *real* calendar is the *old* calendar...(showing a stubbornness in the face of facts that transcends the bizarre). The wonderfully ironic aspect of the holiday, is that sir Isaac was heavily into Biblical interpretation and chronology, to an unhealthy extent. As John Maynard Keynes (Newton's biographer among many other better-known things) has said:

Newton was not the first of the age of reason. He was the last of the magicians, the last of the Babylonians and Sumerians, the last great mind which looked out on the visible and intellectual world with the same eyes as those who began to build our intellectual inheritance rather less than 10,000 years ago. Isaac Newton, a posthumous child born with no father on Christmas Day, 1642, was the last wonder-child to whom the Magi could do sincere and appropriate homage.

So let's switch Magi: from Gaspar, Balthazar and whatshisname let's move on to the celebration of the last (and obviously the best) of their line.

Merry Newtonmas everybody!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Ho, ho, ho

/ bleeding / christmas /
Matt Taibbi is driven to such a spiteful frenzy over the Christmas thing, that he regresses back to his old sociopathic, misathropic self we all knew and loved in the exile days. Merry Christmas:

I hate Christmas. I hate it more than anyone in the world. Put me in a room with the man you think is the world's biggest Christmas-hater, and within 10 minutes he'll be shining my shoes. Christmas is the world's most compelling argument for immediate nuclear attack against the territory of the United States. American Christmas makes heroes of Osama bin Laden, Jim Jones, the Shining Path, the Baader-Meinhofs, Jack the Ripper and the virus that causes AIDS.

It is true that American Christmas has not yet reached the point where it excuses the crimes of the Nazi Party. Still, even the regime of Adolf Hitler was probably too burdened by humanity to dream up an endless loop of I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, blared over the speakers in the escalator entrance to Bed Bath and Beyond. We are the first explorers to set foot on this region of hell.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Whistle-blower anthropologist to be reinstated

/ field studies / anthropological / in a broader sense /

The American Anthropological Association moved on Thursday to right an 85-year-old wrong done to a pioneer in the field and a founder of the association. At its annual meeting, the group voted to rescind its censure of Franz Boas...

The controversy dates from December 1919 when, amid a bitter dispute about patriotism, espionage, and scientific ethics, the group's governing council censured Boas, then a professor at Columbia University and probably the country's best-known scholarly anthropologist...

But in the aftermath of World War I, he angered many of his peers by making sharp-tongued criticisms of anthropologists who had covertly served as U.S. spies in Latin America...

A detailed account of anthropologists as spies can be found in the Nation (where Boas' original denounciation of his spying colleagues was published). Some further details on the Boas affair can be found here.

Laughing Dragon, Dancing Bear

/ alliances / new /
"While President George W. Bush, his "neo-conservative" advisers, and centrist Democrats bask in the glow of America's status as "the one remaining superpower in the world," signs are mounting that other major powers do not intend to hunker down and suspend their own efforts to shape history.

The most striking result of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov's four-day visit to China this week was the agreement announced Monday to hold "substantial military exercises on Chinese territory in 2005" (quote from Russia's Interfax news agency). This was Ivanov's second trip to Beijing this year, and Chinese President Hu Jintao used the occasion to assert, "Sino-Russian strategic coordination has attained an unprecedentedly high level."

The agreement to hold joint exercises is, in fact, unprecedented, and Hu went on to express satisfaction at the growth in relations between the two armies..."

As reported in Reuters, People's Daily, Novosti. Check out the take from this South Korean source: China-Russia-India: “Let’s Join Hands Against the US-EU”

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Turkey: The EU door has unlocked

/ europe / turkey / union /
Turkey has been given finally a launch date for accession talks. The terms were greeted as a success in Greece (and to a lesser extent in Cyprus). Yet, I can't help thinking that it's all a sham, since (at least) both France and Austria, will require, they say, a referendum to finalize their OK, which under current conditions means that the Turks will be refused entry to the EU. Also, the breadth and the scope of the change required in Turkey is bound to create reactions in Turkey, reactions that might create serious problems for the accession process.

I have mixed feelings about the Turkish accession to the EU. On the one hand I agree that culturally Turkey can certainly be part of Europe, and I'm optimistic that Greece will benefit from the process through improved relations and the fall out of heavier investment in the region. Yet I can't help but notice that the large bulk of the people unconditionally supporting Turkish accession are Euro-skeptics, people who would like to see the prospect of a closer European union crushed, and the EU reduced to simply a free trade zone. The fact that the US is annoyingly over-eager to push Turkey in the EU, can of course only reinforce my reservations.

Anyway, here are a couple of the more interesting articles I've read from the Turkish "side":

How different are we really?:

...Does the life of an ordinary Turkish family remind us of the life of an ordinary Afghan or Saudi Arabian family, or that of an ordinary Greek, Yugoslav or Italian family?

Religious differences are of course important. However, religion might not be the determining factor in secular countries like Turkey. A larger category, ‘social culture,’ shapes and determines people’s behaviors, habits and traditions...

From Hasan Unal:

Turkey would be better of outside the EU:

...But the fact is that the European honey-pot is emptying. New members are already bitterly disappointed to discover that they will have to wait 10 years before receiving the full available subsidies. The reality is that the Turks are in for a bit of a nightmare -a decade of acrimonious, protracted negotiations in advance of which they will have to make enormous concessions, including some that could easily excite the very nationalist-Islamist backlash that Turkey's pro-Europeans seek to forestall by opting for EU membership. The European Commission itself states in its reports that there must be permanent "derogations" on movement of Turkish labour and that Ankara should not be given any structural or agricultural funds...

I would also like to point out an article by Fred Halliday in Open Democracy, as an example of an ineffective argument in favour of Turkey: It targets the easy and "soft" (cultural and historical) arguments against Turkish accession effectively, yet it glosses over the issues of democracy (comparing Berlusconi's getting off on a technicality to systemic torture in Turkish jails isn't really ummm... convincing - and doesn't even touch the economic issues (the cost of Turkish accession to the large European countries) or the issue of "over-representation" (the poorest and newest member of the EU will have the greatest political clout through the European Parliament. Indicative of this (not uncommon lately) line of defence for Turkey is that it mentions in passing that of course Turkey will work towards "creating a reasonable federal solution to the Kurdish question" as if this is not opposed by very powerful segments of the Turkish elites and, quite probably, by a vehement majority inside Turkey! (The author is also impressively off the mark about Cyprus, both historically and politically...)

Friday, December 17, 2004

Why Does No One Care That The World’s Worst Conflict Has Broken Out Again?

/ it's only / africans / ? /
George Monbiot, is among the few noticing an apparently rather uninteresting piece of news:
"...On Sunday the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), already responsible for 3.8 million deaths, started again. If you missed it, you're in good company.
The Rwandan army appears to have crossed back into north-eastern DRC. Rival factions of the Congolese army - some of them loyal to Rwanda - have started fighting each other. As usual, it's the civilians who are being killed - and raped and tortured and forced to flee into the forest. Last week, before the fighting resumed, the International Rescue Committee reported that over 1000 people a day are still dying from disease and malnutrition caused by the last conflict. Nearly half of them are children under five..."

What was still just a threat a few months ago, is seeming inevitable now, as the situation is getting rapidly out of hand as events unfold.

Again I ask, why does no one care about anything that's happenning in Africa, unless it's part of some agenda? This situation, although of incredible brutality, seems to bother no one. Is this a racism inbuilt in the media, in popular perception, what? Imagine if 3.8 million people were killed in a war anywhere else on the planet, what the coverage would be. Or even whether a war with such a toll would be possible anywhere else on the planet.

Might the blogosphere I wonder, break the pattern and be bothered to give a damn? Because that might - just might - help in turning some attention to the massacre, or making the "international community" a tiny fraction more interested.

On a related note: Africa needs a Marshal Plan.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The case for Chechnya

/ imperialism / russian /
The Chechen war as an anti-colonial struggle; a very interesting, learned and serious analysis of Chechnya, it's history, the war and western attitudes:

The scale of destruction wrought in Chechnya in the course of the last decade, the scores of thousands of deaths, the continuing savagery of the occupation, all form a standing rebuke to the complacency of Western governments and citizens alike. But the most shameful aspect of both Russian and Western reactions to Chechnya—a mixture of eager complicity and mute acquiescence—is the consistent refusal to countenance the Chechens’ legitimate aspirations to independence. We should have no truck with such evasions. The Chechens are engaged in an anti-colonial struggle comparable to those waged by Europe’s other colonies in Africa or Asia in the last century. They have never accepted foreign dominion—‘no legitimate Chechen authority has ever signed any formal treaty accepting Russian or Soviet authority’—and have repeatedly given democratic approval to the idea of sovereign statehood. The starting point for any discussion should be the fact that they are as entitled to their independence as any other nation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Ukraine again

/ lesser / evilism /
Chided for my doubts about the situation in the Ukraine by Doug Muir in my previous post about the Orange revolution, I was referred to this Timothy Garton Ash piece on Ukraine, in which he acknowledges the shortcomings of the "pro-Western" candidate and the other doubts that surround him, but nonetheless he sets the unbelievers straight: Yushchenko is still the better option... No! Really? I thought the guy with the dioxin seemed pretty nice on camera! The problem with the whole article was of course that it wasn't really cynical enough (much as the author tried) or bothered to go beyond today... So I had to wait for the above linked article of ex-exile journalist Matt Taibbi in order to be vindicated, by someone who is far more cynical tha I am. He too pretty much agrees that Yu is better than Ya, but points out that this is incidental to the problem, which is of course that one shouldn't really hold one's breath expecting far reaching democratic reforms or even a decline in corruption from either of the two. He also stresses the really annoying part of this whole furore, to me at least (a point I was much less eloquently trying to make earlier) concerning the coverage the whole thing has been receiving:

...This whole debate, it seems to me, is ridiculous.

Of course the U.S. is improperly influencing the domestic politics of places like Ukraine, Georgia and Serbia. It has been shamelessly injecting its proteges in ex-Soviet governments ever since the Soviet Union collapsed, and it has used groups like Freedom House and the NDI and USAID to funnel money to all sorts of unsavory characters. That's why the reaction of certain people familiar with these mechanisms has been to balk at the Orange Revolution—because it's seldom failed to be true that anyone described in the New York Times or other major American dailies as a "pro-Western politician" has ever turned out to be anything other than a scumbag of the highest order.

Hell, just look at this quote from Alessandra Stanley of the Times a few years back:

Under the leadership of President Leonid Kuchma, elected last July, the once isolated and economically ruined Ukraine has turned pro-Western and pro-economic-reform...

Within a few years, Kuchma would be chopping off the heads of journalists, and a few years after that, he'd be stealing elections. Next thing you know, this same pro-Western president is showing up in the news as the "Kremlin puppet," and his successor's opponent is being hailed as the Thomas Jefferson type. It should be noted that Yuschenko's chief pro-Western quality is that he opposes the government of the old pro-Western guy, Kuchma.

Anyone familiar with ex-Soviet politics has seen this script repeated endlessly over the last decade or so. It has always been next to impossible to identify the "pro-Western" politician by his politics alone, as he, too, steals elections (see: Boris Yeltsin's theft of the 1993 referendum), represses the media (Kuchma, lately the bad anti-West guy, beheaded Gongadze; Yeltsin, at the time still the good pro-West guy, whacked Dmitri Kholodov), and commits gargantuan acts of thievery (too numerous on all sides to detail).

Now, let me be clear, at first analysis I'm all for people in the streets - generally it's good. I'm sure that there are Ukrainians who seriously hope and believe that a Yushchenko government will mean the decline of the corruption and authoritarianism that have marked the previous years, and I'd wager that there are not a few Yushchenko supporters that believe that his economic program will make them less poor, or something equally IMHO outlandish. Good for them, and I hope they continue to join demonstrations and protests in the event that their current leadership fails them (which, if it happens of course, will be page 12 news in the same newspapers that have hailed the Orange revolution as a democratic Revelations of sorts). I also genuinely hope that Ukraine will be the exception rather than the rule and that things start looking up for this tortured republic. I really hope I'm being too cynical about it. Yet, I'm sorry, I find both the rhetoric and the expectations unrealistic. I can only hope that the exaggerated emphasis on reform will act as a force to push through some measure of true democratic changes and lead the country, at least, away from the mafioso decapitators and poisoners that seem to dominate its political life. But, people, I have to repeat this: the pro-Western candidate in previous Ukranian elections was Kuchma. Kuchma! The same man described currently as Putin's puppet.

So, what's not to be cynical about here?

Monday, December 13, 2004

Is Turkey the next Argentina?

/ IMF / disaster zones / next? /
Erinc Yeldan a professor in the department of economics at Bilkent University in Ankara and Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research on the prospects for a new IMF powered economic collapse. They're rather pessimistic about the direction the Turkish economy, under the guidance of the IMF, is taking:

"...The Turkish economy grew by an average of 7 percent annually in 2002-3, and is expected to have grown at the same rate in 2004. Inflation, which was at 68.5 percent in 2001, has been brought to a projected 11.4 percent for 2004.

But beneath these numbers, a crisis looms. The expansion has been driven by a huge inflow of capital from abroad, $10.9 billion in 2003 (4.6 percent of the economy) and $12.5 billion in just the first eight months of 2004. These are overwhelmingly speculative, short-term inflows - not direct investment, for example, which would expand the country's productive capacity and create jobs. Foreign direct investment has in fact fallen since 2000. The country is very vulnerable to a serious economic downturn when the inflow of foreign money goes dry.

These kinds of massive speculative capital inflows have a habit of reversing themselves, as they did in Asia in 1997, setting off the Asian financial crisis and a regional depression. In such situations, investors eventually begin to worry about the sustainability of such borrowing and debt. Any number of external events could trigger such an exodus from Turkey...

...As Turkey and the European Union continue talks on the possibility of EU accession, the Turkish government should re-examine its unsustainable economic policies of the last five years. Continuing these IMF-supported policies in hopes of garnering credibility with the EU may be dangerous. Ironically, such policies could lead to an economic failure that would actually doom Turkey's chances for membership."

Forgive me the extended quote, but this paints a picture quite different than the usual triumphalism. Of course what it fails to take into consideration is that, should Turkey receive an accession date, one could easily make the case that even investor flight would be reigned in and the EU economy would act as a safety valve against the Argentinization of the Turkish economy. Note that the way out of an economic disaster is apparently pretty much the opposite of IMF perscriptions, and it remains to be seen whether EU economies can suffer crashes - and what happens if they do.

It could be argued then, that for Turkey the EU accession talks might be far more important economically than politically. Making December 17th even more crucial in the short term...

Friday, December 10, 2004

Turkey, the EU and Cyprus

/ eu / turkey / cyprus /

My humble prediction is that, should Turkey not recognize Cyprus by Dec. 17, Cyprus and (probably) Greece (at the least) will veto any specific date for the beginning of accession negotiations. Although I've been a critic of the Greek Cypriot leadership, it stands to reason, really, that Turkey should at least recognize all the member-states of a union it plans to be part of. I can't imagine how this could be sidestepped at all. I can also foresee that, should Turkey not recognize Cyprus, the Greek government will have a hell of a difficult time not vetoing the accession dates for Turkey, regardless of the current climate of goodwill, which the Turkish military doesn't seem too keen to preserve anyway...

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Cold fusion reheated

/ herrings / not quite / red /
Turns out that cold fusion is still alive (though hardly kicking) and it's still worth investing money on.

According to the report, the panel was "split approximately evenly" on the question of whether cold experiments were actually producing power in the form of heat. But members agreed that there is not enough evidence to prove that cold fusion has occurred, and they complained that much of the published work was poorly documented...
...Although the reviewers remained sceptical, they were nearly unanimous in their opinion that the energy department should fund well-thought-out proposals for cold fusion.

Regardless... Pons' and Fleischmann's handling of the issue will still remain as an example of how not to announce earth-shattering technological discoveries...

Friday, December 3, 2004

"What the Hague?" - War criminal at the helm in Kosovo?

/ balkans / success stories / war criminals /
With Ramush Haradinaj, a man charged with war crimes and suspected mafioso as Prime Minister, the Kosovar Albanian electorate sent a message of love and reconciliation to the beleaguered Serb minority in the province... finally we've come full circle to the time that the area was under an indicted war criminal's control, haven't we? Of course now it's different, and it represents "democracy at work" according to the United Nations Governor in Kosovo, Soren Jessen-Petersen. Meanwhile, Serbian President Boris Tadic (who represents the least aggressive position inside Serbia on the issue) made it clear recently, that he is adamant in his opposition to Kosovo's independence.

Speaking of Tadic, apparently just the other day he survived an assassination attempt... um... actually a road rage attack, by a Serbian US embassy employee, whetting the appetite of conspiracy theorists around the Balkans - and indeed the world, despite the obvious lack of motive...

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Ukraine revisited

/ political / spontaneity / planned /
Katrina vanden Heuvel, [link via the Angry Arab] pretty much expresses my rather undecided reaction to events in Ukraine. Especially combined with this Ian Traynor report from the Guardian... there seems to be more than meets the eye playing out in Ukraine at the moment.
Yeah, I know that Ahmetov and the corrupt Kuchma regime is behind Yanukovich, but isn't (beautiful, powerful, ex(?)-oligarch) Yulia Tymoshenko behind Yushchenko? Wasn't the decapitator himself a "pro-western moderate" backed by the same Western powers that are now backing Yushchenko? Wasn't Yushchenko prime minister under Kuchma? Weren't the 2002 elections at least as flawed? Who gave a damn then?

I do not know. Honestly I can't tell you either way... I can only direct you to this BBC report from the 2002 elections and point out a few of the things mentioned:

...Myth 2: Former Prime Minister Victor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc is "an opposition alliance"

Mr Yushchenko has never described himself as "an opposition" politician. On the contrary, he once even called himself the "son of the president."

...Myth 5: Ukraine is divided between nationalist regions in the west, and pro-Russian regions in the east

Elections from 1991 to 1998 did indeed show up such a divide. But the 1999 presidential election was won by Mr Kuchma on pro-European ticket with strong support from western Ukraine, and a reasonable level of support from central and eastern Ukraine too.
This time, Mr Yushchenko's Our Ukraine alliance has gone some way towards repeating Mr Kuchma's 1999 achievement, with good results in the west, and some success in the central and north-eastern part of Ukraine.

Myth 6: The election was won (a) by Russia (b) by the pro-Western / pro-American Our Ukraine alliance

Both ideas are untrue.
Moscow-based commentators have noted that three parties endorsed by the Kremlin - the pro-presidential For United Ukraine, the Communists and Social-Democrats - picked up nearly 200 of the parliament's 450 seats.
But that fails to reflect the pro-EU orientation of the president's bloc, and the fact that the Communists have recently been toning down their pro-Russian rhetoric... Mr Yushchenko's pro-westernism is also easily exaggerated - his bloc's list of candidates includes many self-made businessmen with commercial interests in Russia.
Mr Yushchenko himself has never said anything bad about Russia, the Russian language or the ethnic Russian community in Ukraine.
His campaign advertisements widely featured him with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his current employment is as director of the Russian-Ukrainian Management Institute...

Of relevance perhaps is this 2002 public opinion survey of Ukraine, [pdf] including a wide variety of issues relevant to public political perceptions, priorities and preferences.

Finally if you're eager to draw obvious geopolitical lines, in this case, it's not that simple: Yushchenko has vowed to withdraw Ukrainian troops from Iraq, troops that were sent there by the decapitator himself (as a tribute perhaps to his former career as pro-western moderate?)

Friday, November 26, 2004

Nukes... others do not and will not have...

/ nukes / russian / new /
In case you're still clinging to the belief that Russia is a former superpower, you might want to check this out:

Speaking at a meeting of the Armed Forces' leadership, Putin reportedly said that Russia is researching and successfully testing new nuclear missile systems.

"I am sure that ... they will be put in service within the next few years and, what is more, they will be developments of the kind that other nuclear powers do not and will not have," Putin was quoted as saying by the ITAR-Tass news agency.

The beggining of a new arms race?

Random TV screenshots from the bombing of Yugoslavia

/ tv / war & some porn /

"These few pages contain nearly random screenshots of the night in front of the tv set. Possibly there will be more. The date was 24/25 of March 1999 and it's all about the bombing of Yu."

This through Carniola, providing crucial extra commentary!...

... This brought back memories of the 99 Bombing Yugoslavia Web Wars, indeed I was pleased to discover that Nela Šukara's indecent proposal is still preserved online!

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Giscard d'Estaing and Turkey

/ ethnography / 101 /
In an article published today in eight newspapers across Europe, veteran French statesman Giscard D'Estaing, suggests that Turkey should not be accepted (for the forseeable future) in the EU, but instead should develop a (rather permanent) "special relationship" with the Union ... The English version is published in the FT, while the French version in Le Figaro... I'm posting both versions since the FT article seems like an edited version of the French (and Greek BTW) article. Whether that is due to FT editing, web editing, the author's choice, or other considerations I do not know... What I do know is that one of the missing sentences is a rather obvious howler:

Les Turcs disposent d'une langue et d'une culture propres. La langue ne fait pas partie de la grande famille des langues indo-européennes.

Which translates as "The Turks have their own language and culture. The language does not belong in the great indo-european language family..."

Which is true, but then neither does, Basque, Hungarian, Finnish and Estonian... That seems neither here nor there as far as Turkey's place in Europe is concerned.

Note also another rather misleading sentence:

"Turkey has a short border with its two European neighbours, Greece and Bulgaria; a very long border with Syria and Iraq..."

The land border with Greece might be short but the maritime border is rather long, something quite important since one can, relatively easily, swim to Turkey from a number of Greek islands.

Despite the rather poor geographic and linguistic competences of the author, one must admit that d'Estaing is refreshingly sincere: What he basically says is that Turkey should not be part of the European Union because: a. none of the "rich" EU countries, can afford to bankroll a Turkish accession, (nor the other poor countries to lose the funds that would be diverted to Turkey in such a scenario, one could add); and b. because it's politically undesirable, since then the newest and poorest member would have a disproportinate weight in decision making due to its large population.

D'Estaing also makes a point about the limits to European expansion, which he thinks has gone far enough already:

The current uncertainty and scepticism about the European project is due to lack of clarity. Progressive enlargement has led to increasing unease. Europeans need to strengthen their identity. No "European patriotism" can exist until European citizens realise they belong to a single entity...

...Turkey's accession would change the nature of the European project... First, it could not be an isolated case. There is already a queue forming to the east and west. Morocco would probably be tempted to follow Turkey's example. This could result in a process of permanent enlargement, destabilising the operations of the European system and removing its original rationale.

From my perspective, this is one of the few politically sound arguments against Turkey's accession to the EU. This would apply however to all interested countries, and indeed should have been considered before the recent enlargment. If you don't develop some sort of functioning EU base (and IMHO this can only be democratically achieved on a Federal/Confederate basis), you're building a dilluted EU, an "EFTA" (as in NAFTA) zone, with little sense of purpose or mission. You also allow for the continuing use of the EU as the "superior force alibi" to which governments turn to when they have to pass an (economic usually) measure that would otherwise be solidly rejected by their societies. However one could argue that, after the recent enlargement, the (Right and Left) Federalist agenda has been defeated anyway- and it remains to be seen whether some countries will opt to form a "Federal Core" of the Union, as recent developments might suggest.

Anyway since I didn't hear d'Estaing complaining about Poland's accession, I think his argument loses some of its persuasive power. Interestingly the question of the limits of EU expansion is being opened again through the Ukrainian elections' issues. If Turkey is accepted, then why not Ukraine? And if Ukraine, why not Russia?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

An earlier report about the Ukrainian elections

/ elections / new technologies /
In case you're missing the background of the Ukrainian election saga, this article from the Exile, in September, about the elections in Ukraine might help. Including the following, rather accurate prediction (not that it was something one would have to be an expert to forsee!):

"Yanukovich wouldn't have a prayer in a free and fair head-to-head election against Yushchenko. Not only does he charisma, but he is an ex-convict who has served time twice. In much of the US, as a convicted felon, he wouldn't even be allowed to vote for himself. Sixty-five percent of Ukrainians are against a former prisoner becoming president. Not a single person out of dozens I asked said they would vote for Yanukovich (of course, this was in relatively cosmopolitan Kiev and western Vinnitsa; the east might be different).

Yushchenko, by contrast, is a civilized, intelligent man running on an anti-corruption, pro-European integration platform. People from the Russified east worry that they might be marginalized if Yushchenko were to win, but that fear is blown way out of proportion. So, the Yanukovich team has adopted several strategies. The most effective is the most simple: they'll probably just stuff the ballot boxes. Lest anyone doubt his democratic credentials, at the end of August Yanukovich was quoted saying, "I do not believe in exit polls. These are new technologies that will be tested in Ukraine for the first time. We do not know how to manipulate them."

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Children Pay Cost of Iraq's Chaos (and other news from the debacle in Iraq)

/ iraq / humanitarian / intervention / continued /

The Washington Post, on other unmentioned casualties:

"Acute malnutrition among young children in Iraq has nearly doubled since the United States led an invasion of the country 20 months ago, according to surveys by the United Nations, aid agencies and the interim Iraqi government.

After the rate of acute malnutrition among children younger than 5 steadily declined to 4 percent two years ago, it shot up to 7.7 percent this year, according to a study conducted by Iraq's Health Ministry in cooperation with Norway's Institute for Applied International Studies and the U.N. Development Program. The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children suffering from 'wasting,' a condition characterized by chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein."

(link via Lenin's Tomb)

Meanwhile Scott Thomas talks about the aftermath of Fallujah and makes an interesting point:

..As American troops pounded Falluja into rubble, the Iraqi resistance overran police stations in a number of urban centres throughout Iraq - not the least of which was the city of Mosul. While the Americans acknowledged these setbacks, they did their best to downplay their significance.

In reporting that six police stations in Mosul had been overrun, no explanation was given as to how 5000 American-paid Iraqi police could have been "overwhelmed" without a single casualty on either side. The six heavily barricaded police facilities were occupied, looted of weaponry, munitions and flak jackets and then destroyed without interference...

Finally, from the mouth of the beast himself, Paul Wolfowitz makes one wonder if, at the end, he does believe in the ideoleptic garbage he expounds... The interview is filled with "is he serious" - type moments, but I'll just mention one; says Wolfowitz:
What Saddam did in Iraq was certainly genocide - not as systematic as Hitler's, not as fundamentally racist as Hitler's, but absolutely horrible. And for various reasons, the world looked the other way.

Heh! this from a man who actually served in both the Reagan and WH Bush state departments, meaning some of the parties heavily involved in supplying weapons (conventional and biological) o Iraq, fanning the flames of a most irrational war (Iraq-Iran) with the obvious and cynical purpose of hurting Iran and actively campaigned against UN action against Saddam after Halabjah...

...Read the whole thing, its infuriating but educational...

Background: The Crisis in Ivory Coast

/ africa / ivory coast /
This is an article published this past June as the situation was getting out of hand in C�te d'Ivoire, providing important background. Current developments are that a refugee crisis is developing as thousands flee to Liberia (of all places), which predictably has a serious problem supporting them.

This is as good a recap of the situation in the Ivory Coast as you will find, by MeFi's obruni, i.e. Ethan Zuckerman who hosts the comment in his very interesting blog.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

1990s Greco-Serbian scheming: what really happened

/ balkans / rearrangements / proposed /
On Tuesday, former Greek foreign minister Antonis Samaras, who served in this capacity during the early nineties, revealed what Milosevic really proposed to the Greek government in 1991. This is a quick and rough translation from the Athens daily Eleftherotypia:

Antonis Samaras interviewed on TV, revealed an offer made by former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic in 1991. The ex-foreign minister claimed that Milosevic offered to move 100.000 Serbs then living in Tetovo [a region of what is now the Republic of Macedonia with a large Albanian majority] towards the Greek borders so that Greece might have immediate borders with Serbia.

He also revealed that Milosevic was planning to give to Albania a strip of Kosovo, so that local Moslems could move there in order that "Pristina might breathe a little, since 90% of its inhabitants are Moslem". Milosevic, in fact, asked Mr. Samaras, according to the Greek politician's claims, if Athens would be interested in him asking Albania to give in return a comparable strip of land in Vorios Epirus [a region of Southern Albania where a sizable Greek Minority lives] to Greece. Mr. Samaras stated that he told Milosevic that Greece had recently signed the CSCE [Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe] treaty, which expressly forbids any changes of borders. When he returned to Athens he informed [then Greek Prime Minister] Mitsotakis. He accuses the former prime minister of giving a misleading interview a while later, where he claimed that Milosevic had offered to carve up Skopjie [that's how most Greeks call the RoM]. Mr. Samaras claims that the offer had to do with moving Serb populations and not with the division of the neighbouring country.

This in a sense being a follow-up on a previous post.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A historical reminder - Engels on China and Persia

/ history / repeating / itself /
Engels on the situation in Persia and China (about which is the following excerpt), writing in the New York Daily Tribune in 1857... Notice also the rhetoric, indicative of how widespread racial stereotypes were at the time... and how dominant the idea of European superiority was. Yet much of what Engels says might reasonably remind people of current colonial wars:

"There is evidently a different spirit among the Chinese now to what they showed in the war of 1840 to '42. Then, the people were quiet; they left the Emperor's soldiers to fight the invaders, and submitted after a defeat with Eastern fatalism to the power of the enemy. But now, at least in the southern provinces, to which the contest has so far been confined, the mass of the people take an active, nay, a fanatical part in the struggle against the foreigners. They poison the bread of the European community at Hong Kong by wholesale, and with the coolest premeditation. (A few loaves have been sent to Liebig for examination. He found large quantities of arsenic pervading all parts of them, showing that it had already been worked into the dough. The dose, however, was so strong that it must have acted as an emetic, and thereby counteracted the effects of the poison). They go with hidden arms on board trading steamers, and, when on the journey, massacre the crew and European passengers and seize the boat.

They kidnap and kill every foreigner within their reach. The very coolies emigrating to foreign countries rise in mutiny, and as if by concert, on board every emigrant ship, and fight for its possession, and, rather than surrender, go down to the bottom with it, or perish in its flames. Even out of China, the Chinese colonists, the most submissive and meek of subjects hitherto, conspire and suddenly rise in nightly insurrection, as at Sarawak; or, as at Singapore, are held down by main force and vigilance only. The piratical policy of the British Government has caused this universal outbreak of all Chinese against all foreigners, and marked it as a war of extermination.

What is an army to do against a people resorting to such means of warfare? Where, how far, is it to penetrate into the enemy's country, how to maintain itself there? Civilizationmongers who throw hot shells on a defenceless city and add rape to murder, may call the system cowardly, barbarous, atrocious; but what matters it to the Chinese if it be only successful? Since the British treat them as barbarians, they cannot deny to them the full benefit of their barbarism. If their kidnappings, surprises, midnight massacres are what we call cowardly, the civilization-mongers should not forget that according to their own showing they could not stand against European means of destruction with their ordinary means of warfare.

In short, instead of moralizing on the horrible atrocities of the Chinese, as the chivalrous English press does, we had better recognize that this is a war pro aris et focis, a popular war for the maintenance of Chinese nationality, with all its overbearing prejudice, stupidity, learned ignorance and pedantic barbarism if you like, but yet a popular war. And in a popular war the means used by the insurgent nation cannot be measured by the commonly recognized rules of regular warfare, nor by any other abstract standard, but by the degree of civilization only attained by that insurgent nation."

See also Engels' book review about the Afghan wars...

Monday, November 15, 2004

Collective reprisals

/ punishment / collective /

"We'll unleash the dogs of hell, we'll unleash 'em... They don't even know what's coming - hell is coming. If there are civilians in there, they're in the wrong place at the wrong time." (Sergeant Sam Mortimer, US marines, Channel 4 News, November 8, 2004)
In June 1944, as a reprisal for a partisan ambush that killed 40 German soldiers, SS troops stormed Distomo and rampaged through the village in an act of revenge, part of the Nazi reprisal policy at the time, which held the local population as a whole responsible for any guerrilla attacks. The toll was 218 dead, men, women and children. Collective responsibility and collective punishment were staples of the Nazi reaction to resistance everywhere in occupied Europe.

So you see where I live, this image, rings a familiar bell.

Thus it must come as no surprise when the whole Fallujah debacle is seen over here as what it really is: collective punishment, presented as regrettable necessity, for having the gall to resist foreign occupation. Over here,there are still historical memories of being on the receiving end of various imperialisms. Recent memories: besides the Nazi barbarity, we still recall how the British were greeted with flowers in 1944, only to open fire at a defenseless crowd of demonstrators some weeks later, enlist the services of Nazi collaborators and become targets of attack soon thereafter. Greek guerrillas were guinea pigs for napalm in the mountains of Pindos, while our quasi-dictatorial post-civil war governments, were replaced by a bloody military junta sponsored and blessed by the US. So given this historical experience of imperial and colonial violence, it is no wonder that there exists a default sympathy for those defending their country against any imperial aggression - a sympathy that seems nowadays to transcend the left-right divide (for reasons too complicated to describe here...)

I'm willing to bet that this legitimization of popular resistance is the predominant sentiment in every country that has had similar experiences. The pc variants of the White Man's Burden, that seem to dominate the American neo-cons and their jingoist nationalist base (and some of the more nutty British fellow travelers), are easily seen for the ideoleptic apologetics of power they are in most of the world.

Around the world, a war crime, is seen as a war crime. Letting people die of thirst [pdf file], is considered a war crime, not allowing civilian males to escape the massacre, is a war crime. Blocking access to Red Crescent aid is, again, a war crime.

So you see, my instinctive hermeneutic schema concerning the recent horrific events is that Allawi is an Iraqi version of a Tsolakoglou, the Iraqi troops in Fallujah are more or less the counterparts of the "security battalions" (the vile riff-raff that collaborated with the Nazis), attacks against collaborators are like attacks against the hooded thugs who exposed the resistance members - and the Iraqis that joined the resistance after accepting passively the previous local despot, are just like the thousands who didn't dare rise against the Metaxas dictatorship, but were willing to risk their lives against the foreign invaders...

No two imperial occupations are the same. But all share, to an extent, the same ruthlessness and vileness. This woman, mourning the death of some loved one, or indeed loved ones, became emblematic of the Distomo massacre in 1944, when her photo was published in Life magazine. Her gaze, I feel, extends across the decades from the ruins of Distomo to rest, uneasy, on the ruins of Fallujah.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Come and spend this night in Fallujah

/ winning / hearts / minds /

"The man who said these words, and many like them is Falluja's most famous "Maddah" or traditional Sufi singer, Salah Hesham al-Janabi, one of the most revered men in the community, on the run from US forces."
The link includes two (huge ~15) wma files, of the above and one more of al Janabi's songs. This is the extremely interesting article by Charles Clover referred to in the linked page, which claims that "Al-Janabi's songs and video are the closest thing to a public statement that Iraq's resistance has yet made. For the first time they have a face and a message, and an ideology of sorts. It is not a political manifesto, more like a jazz improvisation, but in 66 minutes of the CD one can learn a surprising amount about the resistance as a movement - who it is, and what its goals are".

The link taken from the Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation (IDAO) website, "a group of progressive Iraqi activists who have been involved since 1991 in the committee of IRAQI DEMOCRATS AGAINST WAR AND SANCTIONS. The formation of IDAO is in recognition of the new political situation inflected on our country, and will continue the campaign of solidarity with the Iraqi people in their struggle to end the illegal military occupation and to build a free, democratic and united Iraq".

Anti-Saddam, anti-sanctions and anti-occupation...
Obviously these guys are now included in the sidebar links...

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Philosophy and Monty Python

/ philosophy / spam / spam / spam / sp... /
"My aim in this talk is to present a comprehensive overview of each and every one of the main themes endured by analytic philosophy in the last sixty years or so, and to argue the bold historical claim that the whole lot is well represented-indeed, often best represented-in the work of Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin, collectively and henceforth referred to as "Monty Python." Since I have all of fifty minutes to make my case, I expect we'll have time for a song at the end..."
(Probably this song...)

Via the persistently exquisite monochrom, providing (at least) two more deeply philosophical links: Zombies invade philosophy and philosophical breakup lines.

Nato is a threat to Europe and must be disbanded

/ nato / no /

Jonathan Steele spells out the glaringly obvious. The question is can any British government release itself from the role of an American satellite? Who in Europe has the audacity to declare this alliance defunct?

...Many commentators now argue for Europe to distance itself. But vague pleas for greater European coherence or for Tony Blair to end his close links with the White House are not enough. The call should not be for "more" independence. We need full independence.

We must go all the way, up to the termination of Nato. An alliance which should have wound up when the Soviet Union collapsed now serves almost entirely as a device for giving the US an unfair and unreciprocated droit de regard over European foreign policy...

Sunday, November 7, 2004

Iraq as Armageddon

/ attacks / satanic /
A review of the building up of the attack on Fallujah, the above article concludes with a statement I actually saw on TV here:

Col. Gary Brandl voiced his troops' determination:

''The enemy has got a face. He's called Satan. He's in Fallujah, and we're going to destroy him.''

This is a US Marine Colonel...

Now I might be wrong about this, but a person who has delusions about personally fighting and destroying the Devil himself, should be under heavy medication and in way allowed near heavy machinery - much less weapons or the command of heavily armed soldiers.

But then again he's probably following his superiors' battle plan...

Summarizing, the US government is about to send crazed christian fundamentalists to wreak havoc in a city, true to the American army's battleplan in situations like these: "Kill them all and let God sort them out".

Who is the terrorist again?

Friday, November 5, 2004

Letter from the people in Fallujah calling for help to end the bombardment and prevent the threatened assault.

/ massacres / impending /

"To plunder, to slaughter, to steal, these things they misname empire; and where they make a wasteland, they call it peace." - Tacitus

While the occupation forces and the local quislings, prepare for the final onslaught against Fallujah, the people of the city sent this open letter to the Secretary General of the UN. They are pleading for a UN intervention, an intervention that I'm crushed to say will never happen, and even if it does, the slaughter has been pre-decided by people who don't give two fucks about the United Nations or the World.

The few remaining residents are scared and waiting, while the stormtroopers are preparing for the kill.

A symbolic gesture: maybe you'd all like to take a look and sign the World Wide Petition Against the Escalation in Iraq, endorsed by the World Tribunal on Iraq. I know... I know... how's that going to help? but look at this way: you'll be on record opposing these coming atrocities...

Wanna see the real Red States?

/ reds / real /
A brief message of hope for us Reds and fellow travellers, the world over... A red map to enjoy!

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Obituaries: "Former President George W. Bush Dead at 72"

/ obituaries / prophetic /
by Greil Marcus
"Policy Review, October 5, 2018--George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, died today at Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas. He was 72. The cause of death was announced as heart failure.

Mr. Bush's always controversial presidency left behind a changed nation and a changed world. Taking office in 2001 after a disputed election settled only by a 5-4 decision by a bitterly divided Supreme Court, and decisively reelected in 2004, President Bush led the United States into four wars, oversaw the dismantling of Social Security and Medicare, and enforced a drastic shrinking of elementary, secondary, and collegiate education. He spearheaded the transformation of President Bill Clinton's budget surpluses of 1999 and 2000 into permanent deficits of more than a trillion dollars a year, thus profoundly reducing the amount of capital available to address the needs of the vast majority of citizens and inhibiting the creation of new jobs with any promise of advancement or financial security, while at the same time pursuing tax reductions that increased the differences between the income and assets of, in his own terminology, "owners" and "pre-owners" of "the American ownership society" to extremes almost beyond measure. When he left office, taxation of personal and corporate incomes, while still legally extant, had been effectively replaced by a new payroll tax, so that almost all investment, inheritance, and interest income was left tax-free. "Those with the greatest stake in America," President Bush often said throughout his second term, "have the greatest stake in defending it. Thus we as a nation must do all that we can to ensure that the commitment of those with the greatest stake to the rest of us, a commitment on which our freedom and security rests, only grows greater...."

Meanwhile in another timeline: A Patriot Falls...

Election watch

/ elections / selections /
On Tuesday, OSCE observers called to oversee the elections taking place in the north American republic of Usa (after the serious problems observed in the previous elections), despite finding certain faults and facing some access issues, concluded that voting went smoothly and normally at most precincts.
The result in this embattled country saw the nationalist and christianist "Republican" party - whose leader, George W. Bush, is the son of a former ruler - winning through the support of the fundamentalist hinterland, while the modernizing urban centers and the coasts in general, went heavily for the "Democratic" party candidate. Despite the ferocity of the cultural battle, the majority of the country didn't bother to show up at the polls, pointing to a rather large democratic deficit. The vast masses of the economically destitute and the disaffected youth saw no hope in either candidate, struggling as they are under an asphyxiating neoliberal economic policy, which both candidates, to varying perhaps extent, were certain to continue.

As the elections were polarized, despite the low voter turnout (which however was high by the county's own standards), the defeated modernizers are somewhat dazed by an unexpected defeat, especially since most of the international community was solidly against the Republican leader (and indeed was shocked that he won). There is talk of secession and a redrawing of borders among the disappointed educated classes in Usa, but most regional analysts find these prospects unlikely. The possibility of a brain drain as the younger, more progressive educated classes seek to flee from the close-minded theocrats running the country (much as what has happened in similar cases in Iran and the Arab world), cannot be ruled out, especially considering the anti-rationalist overtones of the ruling party's platform, which has created problems for scientists and researchers in a variety of fields...
The re-elected Republican administration, is forecast to remain steady in its policies of a introducing theocratic elements to government, nationalist jingoism, cronyism, raising inequalities, increasing human rights violations and world domination.

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Kirchner and Krugman: a conversation

/ argentina/ economy /
"On May 5, 2004, Argentine president Néstor Kirchner and economics professor Paul Krugman held a conversation about Argentina’s economic predicament. They discussed the crisis of 2001, MERCOSUR, the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and Argentina’s economic relations with the United States and the European Union..."


"NK: ...Now all those who opened the market, who went into these major debt swap programs, and all the things you are aware of, said, “Go and invest in Argentina.” But it was obvious that these people ended up being responsible for much of what happened. When a business goes bankrupt you will sustain losses. Now, Professor, we are told that we need to pay more, but Enron, for instance, went bankrupt in the U.S. and it pays 14 cents for each dollar. So I think we could say that we’re almost extremely generous. We want to pay 25 cents for each dollar..."

Very interesting.

The vanguard of the revolution

/ maoists / reformed /

This was too precious not to post. Below is a picture of Durao Barroso (center, looking down) back in the day (1975), when he was a member of the Maoist MRPP. (Never trust a Stalinist in whatever guise or form, I tell you...)

Picture from the Athens daily Eleftherotypia, taken from the Portugese Visao.

Incidentally Buttiglione can find solace in the Orthodox Church of Greece's Archbishop Christodoulos'good words: he describes him as a "good christian" who was perfectly justified in regarding homosexuality as "a sin before God, although not a criminal offense".

BTW, John Laughland was busy outing other ex-communist members of the commission a month ago...

Monday, November 1, 2004

What next? Zarqawi, bin Laden and Lex Luthor?

/ october surprise / real /
Have you heard? Zarqawi, it is claimed, wrote a letter, pledging allegiance to Osama... As the above linked Asia Times article notes though...

...the letter doesn't make sense when one considers the bitter strategic split between Jordanian Zarqawi and bin Laden. This is the first time ever that al-Tawhid wal-Jihad has even considered abdicating its ruthless sovereignty. The al-Qaeda nucleus is a mix of hardcore Saudi Wahhabis and the Egyptians of Ayman al-Zawahiri's Islamic Jihad. Zarqawi's group contains basically Jordanians, Palestinians and Syrians. They are Salafis, Islamic purists. The incompatibilities are not only ideological, but also methodological: al-Qaeda never attempted kidnappings or beheadings of Muslims. On the other hand, the black and orange brigades in Iraq are growing - these are disgruntled Sunni Iraqis increasingly attracted by the hardcore methods of al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, whose symbol is black and orange.

So one is easily lead to the plausible scenario that:

In the end, this could be merely another US intelligence "black operation". Allawi wants Fallujah to hand him Zarqawi. Fallujah tribal leaders say Zarqawi is not in the city. Now, with alleged "proof" in writing of a Zarqawi-bin Laden link, there are no holds barred to leveling Fallujah. This October surprise from "the land of two rivers" is far from being the last.


/ terrorist / lotteries /
Given that the Osama bin Laden message was rather underwhelming and a rather poor "October Surprise"... I belatedly bring you... The October Surprise lottery: Osama bin Lotto!
Now that it's kind of late for these predictions (and anyway if anything happens tomorrow it will be the November surprise), you might want to check out the adaptability and inventiveness of online betting!

You pick the time and date among these October Surprises:

• Osama bin Laden captured;

• America attacks Iran ;

• America attacks North Korea ;

• Bush postpones the election.

• Cheney is dumped from the ticket.

This may seem like a goofy sweepstakes but there is a serious intent. The more that people are aware of the “October Surprise” before it happens, the less impact it could have and the less likely it will be to happen at all...

You see, it worked!

Adventure Capitalism

/ iraq / economy / thievery /
Spectacular revelations from Greg Palast about the planned hijack of Iraq's economy by the usual thieves:

In February 2003, a month before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a 101-page document came my way from somewhere within the U.S. State Department. Titled pleasantly, “Moving the Iraqi Economy from Recovery to Growth,” it was part of a larger under-wraps program called “The Iraq Strategy.”

The Economy Plan goes boldly where no invasion plan has gone before: the complete rewrite, it says, of a conquered state’s “policies, laws and regulations.” Here’s what you’ll find in the Plan: A highly detailed program, begun years before the tanks rolled, for imposing a new regime of low taxes on big business, and quick sales of Iraq’s banks and bridges—in fact, “ALL state enterprises”—to foreign operators. There’s more in the Plan, part of which became public when the State Department hired consulting firm to track the progress of the Iraq makeover. Example: This is likely history’s first military assault plan appended to a program for toughening the target nation’s copyright laws.

And when it comes to oil, the Plan leaves nothing to chance—or to the Iraqis. Beginning on page 73, the secret drafters emphasized that Iraq would have to “privatize” (i.e., sell off) its “oil and supporting industries.” The Plan makes it clear that—even if we didn’t go in for the oil—we certainly won’t leave without it.

If anyone had any doubts... But the nerve of these crooks!


/ pop / goes the politics /
Damn the man can rap...! IMHO Eminem's video could just turn out to be more important an anti-Bush factor, than the OBL October Surprise v.2004, which was kinda ineffective if you ask me... Heck even Moby liked it! Shady is not a pop icon, in the manufactured sense, he represents - and he's a voice and an indicator for a whole class of young, disaffected poor, quite a few of whom are part of the US army over in Iraq. This is a true "opinion leader", street savvy, street tough and street honest - which means honest enough to have nothing to lose when he speaks his mind. Eminem's is the sort of From The Gut political reaction that sparks riots, creates unrest and is dangerous, because it comes from that part of society that has the most to lose if things don't change. This isn't a radical manifesto of course. But it's a lot more than simply a call for a vote - although the video doesn't allow itself to become as aggressive as it initially promises. Because you know that the masses of the disaffected, when they gather, all dressed in their dark hoods, are not simply going to vote... This perceptive passage from an article in the the (consistently superb) Asia Times about the Mosh and other Signs of Our Times, pretty much hits the nail on the head:

For an 18-year-old voting for the first time, "Mosh" provokes the same impact that the barricades of May 1968 in Paris did on the "children of Mao and Coca-Cola", as film genius Jean-Luc Godard put it. The esthetic of the video may be cartoon teenage wasteland - a code easily identified by Eminem's core audience - but hardly could there be a better metaphor for the current US political nightmare than "moshing". The thing is, Eminem and director Inaba use "moshing" to organize a strategic, political response to alienation and dystopia. Voting, in this case, is only the first, necessary step toward a society of real free speech and informed, participatory democracy.

Similarly Megan O'Rourke (despite describing the clip's mode as simultaneously "fascistic" and "anti-authoritarian" - big enough to contain its opposite eh?) points out that:

...the image of an army of youth marching down the street is meant to make you feel, momentarily, that the peace between the classes is a precarious one, and that violence is the recourse—and the idiom—of those who feel themselves to be terminally disenfranchised...

Finally Juan Cole, commenting on the Mosh and Eminem, concludes with the following paragraph:

The song is important as a development in popular culture. But I am arguing that it may also be important in class terms. If any significant number of lower middle class white youth are thinking like this, it could make a difference in some races.

Heh! If any significant number of lower middle class white youth are thinking like this, it could make a difference in a hell of a lot more than presidential politics...

So regardless whether Slim Shady is entering his political phase, the sentiment, indeed the anger, expressed seems deeper than hype - and as far from the academic PC mentality that has kept the left stale and disconnected from its natural constituency (especially across the Atlantic), as possible.

Listen, the way things are, a Michael Moore documentary and a smart hip-hop icon's video with a political message are far more important to the left than any number of petitions for peace or theoretical treatises that the academia has to offer - and their anger and the ability to voice it in an inclusive and effective way, shows a way out of the miserable and self-defeating variety of "identity politics" that has been a gift to the left's opponents everywhere for the past few decades.

Note: This wasn't the first GNN / Eminem collaboration either.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq [PDF file]

/ murderousness / champions /

This from the Lancet, among the most authoritative medical journals in the world, not exactly a publication that publishes political op-eds:

Background: In March, 2003, military forces, mainly from the USA and the UK, invaded Iraq. We did a survey to compare mortality during the period of 14·6 months before the invasion with the 17·8 months after it.
Findings: The risk of death was estimated to be 2·5-fold (95% CI 1·6–4·2) higher after the invasion when compared with the preinvasion period. Two-thirds of all violent deaths were reported in one cluster in the city of Falluja. If we exclude the Falluja data, the risk of death is 1·5-fold (1·1–2·3) higher after the invasion. We estimate that 98 000 more deaths than expected (8000–194 000) happened after the invasion outside of Falluja and far more if the outlier Falluja cluster is included. The major causes of death before the invasion were myocardial infarction,cerebrovascular accidents, and other chronic disorders whereas after the invasion violence was the primary cause of death. Violent deaths were widespread, reported in 15 of 33 clusters, and were mainly attributed to coalition forces. Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children. The risk of death from violence in the period after the invasion was 58 times higher (95% CI 8·1–419) than in the period before the war.

100.000 in a year and a half... This is impressive even when compared with Saddam's worst years... How many dead can you see, by the dawn's early light? How many can you name?

Monday, October 25, 2004

The Greek agenda for the Security council

/ unsc / members / only /
Greece was recently elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council... Linked above is the statement of policy as far as the Greek membership in the UN Security Council is concerned. You'll see that it's short on specifics, other than that it intends to focus on the Balkans and Cyprus. About the more general and pressing agenda of the UNSC its has this to say:

The horizon over the Middle East remains dark. The Greek Government is convinced that only the implementation of the Road Map can lead to the two state solution, that is Israel and Palestine, coexisting in peace and security. Half measures could only complicate matters and add new sources of tension.

Essential progress in the peace process cannot be achieved without a comprehensive cessation of all kinds of violence, especially those directed against civilians. Terrorism cannot be a weapon to achieve political goals and terrorist attacks cannot be justified by any means.

As to Iraq, we are deeply committed to the territorial integrity and unity of the country in a federal system. We are deeply worried by the ongoing violence and we hope for progress in the political process which will lead to a stable and prosperous democratic country allowing all of its citizens to enjoy the fruits of peace and exploit the country's enormous potential.

Which isn't much, but, hey, times are rough...

Rather than elaborate on the problematic nature of the UN these past few years, let me point to this very interesting, utopian (in a good way) proposal for the transformation of the UN (into something that will have the black helicopter crowd in the US screaming "World Domination!"). This is part of a discussion concerning the necessary changes to the UN's internal structure and external responsibilities, that needs to begin soon, since the only visible alternative to the UN is currently a very dangerous form of absolute unilateralism.... and there's no telling what that will bring.

Filoglossia - Learning Greek as a foreign language

/ greek / to you / no longer /
In case my non-Greek visitors are interested in learning the language so that they can enjoy my much more eloquent (yet similarly inane) ramblings in Greek, over at the Greek Histologion (Ιστολόγιον), there is now the opportunity to learn Greek through the web, brought to you by the Greek Institute for Language and Speech Processing.

However, I feel that I must respectfully point out to those that succumb to the sirens of simplification, that it should be Philoglossia (as in Philipp, Philosophy, and Coprophilia to name a few similar composites...)

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The making of the terror myth

/ terrorism / organizations / contrived /
A documentary is about to be shown on BBC2, in three parts starting next Wednesday that is bound to stir some controversy. It's titled "The Power of Nightmares" and it "seeks to overturn much of what is widely believed about Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. The latter, it argues, is not an organised international network. It does not have members or a leader. It does not have 'sleeper cells'. It does not have an overall strategy. In fact, it barely exists at all, except as an idea about cleansing a corrupt world through religious violence..."

Which is voicing in a well argued (it is claimed) manner, the concerns of everyone that's been paying attention to the scant evidence of the group's existence that has been offered till now.

I wonder if one can actually order this from the BBC somehow...?

Update Oct. 24 Ask and you shall receive...: From a comment at Barista, to Silt and from there to a bittorrent version of part one of the documentary! Ain't the internets something! However the file is over 350 Megs so I'll have to wait to download this... The bittorrent software can be freely downloaded here...

Monday, October 18, 2004

Chechnya: The New Magic Kingdom

/ caucasus / projects / surreal /
I first saw it in MosNews (check the image collage!), but couldn't believe it so I turned to the BBC and...there it was:

"Chechnya is to get its own version of Disneyland under plans announced by the war-battered republic's prime minister. Sergei Abramov, who heads Chechnya's pro-Moscow government, said on Friday that the park would be built next year along with a range of cultural and entertainment facilities, including a new football stadium."

This is the sort of unintentional very dark humour coming from the former USSR I find astonishing. MosNews is a treasure trove of similar forrays into the world of "visiously surreal yet real", covering news items that boggle the mind, and leave you agog, such as:
  • Two Mental Patients Detained in Urals on Suspicion of Organizing Terrorist Attacks

  • Russia’s Far East Region to Reopen Czarist Penal Labor Camps as Tourist Attraction [You see its a national web of adventure theme parks!]

  • Russian Policeman Uses Hammer to Finish off Old Woman After Running Her Over in Car

  • Russian Pensioner Kills Intruder with Zucchini

  • Siberian Villager Builds Missile Fence, and then a day later: Missile Falls Near Private House in Russian Far East

  • Rafting Tournament on Sex Dolls in North Russia, possibly connected with the Monument to the Potato Erected in North Russia

  • and in what is possibly the funniest (yet exaggerated) headline of the year, from everyone's favourite deranged dictator, Sparmurat Niyazov: Turkmen Leader Orders People to Stop Chewing Chicken Crap

    For even darker humour there's always the exile's Death Porn

    Sunday, October 17, 2004

    Well.. he should know...

    / politics / demonic /
    Apparently Wojtyla isn't the only one with this concern. Numerology is invoked, while others are publically asking the question. The internet hosts at least 871 related pages. Apparently this issue was first publically discussed by an evangelical christian who gave a negative (but was it really?) answer.

    Anyway the seriously scary story is about dubya's world view... Truly frightening... [last link from Metafilter]

    Saturday, October 16, 2004

    Muslim seperatists apply for association with Russia

    / caucasus / geopolitics / more complicated than you thought
    Apparently "the People’s Assembly (legislature) of the self-proclaimed republic of Abkhazia has addressed the Russian president and Federal Assembly with a request for supporting the idea of establishing Abkhazia’s associate membership relations with Russia."
    Now Russia might already have troops in Abkhazia, despite protestations to the contrary. The situation is tense and it seems that trouble is brewing in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where Russia is making warning sounds...

    I think this might put to rest the idea that the conflicts in the Caucasus are an "Islam vs. Christianity" issue or simply an instance of the Islamic terrorist mentality.

    (That last link leads to a WSJ editorial, which - I must point out - contains this incredible phrase: "Whatever Russian President Vladimir Putin's mistakes in Chechnya (see David Satter's article in The Wall Street Journal today), they don't justify the deliberate targeting of innocents." Well, Putin's mistakes included the massive and deliberate targeting of innocents, a fact that the author seems to find irrelevant.)

    Thursday, October 14, 2004

    Meaningful choices

    / politics / choices /

    Can you properly attribute the quotes to the two US presidential candidates? Good luck.

    A telling quiz.

    Did Derrida Die?

    / deconstructing / death /

    Sort of morbid but in a completely non-hegemonic way, fafblog's "Flowers for Derrida", refuses to privilege the dead/alive binary discourse. The exchanges in the blog's comment section are further instances of blog-culture narrativity as voicing the subaltern concern (and you all won't believe it but I have actually personally shadow written a graduate paper about the subaltern. Really. I swear. I probably helped secure a decent grade as well. No, I mean it!)

    This too. While this is a real obituary.

    via Phersu