Saturday, May 29, 2004

Come to papa!

/ election / internships / available
Get this: Zhirinovsky invites Bush's daughters to Moscow, for an internship on electoral campaigning. Given the analogous position of Z. and W. in the respective political spectra of Russia and the US, they might actually learn a few useful tricks. Of course after Florida in 2000, one could counter that they could teach the deranged old fascist a few electoral moves themselves...
Zhirinovsky, meanwhile is praying for W's victory...

Chechen Champions

/ politics / football /
It seems that the UEFA cup (the "other champions league" of European football) next year will be more interesting than usual. Terek Grozny has made it to the final of the Russian football cup, despite the obvious obstacles, and is set to compete in Moscow today, thus causing a few headaches...
Apparently they re-joined the Russian football league quite recently.

Let's see which European team's fans are brave enough to actually go to Grozny for the away game!

Thursday, May 27, 2004

New stuff

/ internal / affairs
New contact email (the old one sucked), and quite a few additions to the sidebar: The Angry Arab, Aegean Disclosure, Blogrel, Martuni or bust!!!

European Left Party

/ all / tomorrow's / parties
As if any of my dear readers would harbour any doubts... I'm voting for the "local chapter" of the ELP in the coming EuroParliament elections. I hope however that someone with good writing skills might be able to assist the party in its writing... This manifesto is hardly Marx&Engels quality copy-writing eh? No "ghost haunting Europe", no "nothing to lose but their chains"... this looks like it was written by a social sciences academic whose English, while fluent, is not a first language.This is supposed to inspire...
Fire comrades. What we need is fire!

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Russia joining the European Space Agency?

/ space / program / international
This seems significant as far as the expansion of space exploration is concerned:
Russian and European space officials are discussing the possibility of Russia joining the 15-member European Space Agency (ESA) - a move that would put ESA on a par with NASA in terms of spaceflight experience and access to orbit.

As a space buff and feverent supporter of the significance of space exploration for mankind's future, I can only cross my fingers that this goes through. Next stop for the ESA: the Moon!
Hopeful news in light of recent failures...

Monday, May 24, 2004

"Bad people have parties too"

/ uncommon / killers
The above was the statement that suspected war criminal and US military spokesman Brig Gen Mark Kimmitt made, in response to a video allegedly showing the wedding party that was bombed to smithereens. US military propaganda had initially insisted that "...there is no evidence that a wedding was held at the raid's site..."
These lies were repeated despite the fact that:
Lieutenant-Colonel Ziyad al-Jbouri, the deputy police chief of Ramadi, said that between 42 and 45 people were killed in the attack, which took place at about 2:45am in a desert area near the border with Syria and Jordan. He said the dead included 15 children and ten women. Doctors at a hospital in Ramadi put the death toll at 45.

The video seemingly confirms the assessment of the police chief. If you have bandwith limitations, the BBC presents a series of images from the wedding video. Note the "bad people" depicted i.e. here.
Riverbend in her latest post, comments with her usual eloquence on this breathtaking hypocrisy:

Of course not- it couldn't have been a wedding party. It was a resistance cell of women and children (one deviously dressed in a wedding gown!). It wasn't a wedding party just as mosques aren't mosques and hospitals are never hospitals when they are bombed. Celebrating women and children are not civilians. 'Contractors' traveling with the American army to torture and kill Iraqis ARE civilians. CIA personnel are 'civilians' and the people who planned and executed the war are all civilians. We're not civilians- we are insurgents, criminals and potential collateral damage.

She links to, a site with impressive "propaganda art" on the war, biting and to the point.
Is this the enemy?...

P.S. I couldn't resist: Bad people really do have parties...

Friday, May 21, 2004

A uterus is no substitute for a conscience

/ feminism / demythologized
Barbara Ehrenreich, writes about the lesson of the horrors of AbuGhraib for feminism...

"A certain kind of feminism, or perhaps I should say a certain kind of feminist naivete, died in Abu Ghraib. It was a feminism that saw men as the perpetual perpetrators, women as the perpetual victims and male sexual violence against women as the root of all injustice. Rape has repeatedly been an instrument of war and, to some feminists, it was beginning to look as if war was an extension of rape. There seemed to be at least some evidence that male sexual sadism was connected to our species' tragic propensity for violence. That was before we had seen female sexual sadism in action."

The Djindjic case revisited

balkan / conspiracies
I was aware of a number of Djindjic assassination conspiracy theories, but the one reported at Draxblog was the wildest; the claim was that:
"the assassination was supposed to be staged as a pretext for huge purge against organised crime (which was conducted following the assassination). According to Legija, the fake assassination was part of the deal with Đinđić – only the prime minister's bodyguard was supposed to get killed. However, mysterious third party got involved and made sure that Serbian prime minister gets killed instead..."

It seemed like a hilarious story. Until I realized that it wasn't just a story... First of all the British Helsinki Human Rights Group in an analysis of the events surrounding the murder of Zoran Djindjic, remarked that:
It was puzzling that a cameraman had managed to be conveniently situated outside the government building to record the moment Dr. Djindjic was shot. There were no special events scheduled for the 12th March - the prime minister was only arriving for work as usual. Even stranger, was the fact that the security cameras covering the entrance and scene of the crime had been switched off.

Now Legija, a mafioso / paramilitary thug, possibly involved in most, if not all, of Milosevic's dirty work and his downfall, surprised everyone by surrendering to the authorities three weeks ago. Around that time Kostunica's DPS and Zoran Djinjic's mother, directly accused the deceased's party of plotting the execution!

So it remains to be seen if actual politics in the Balkans are more conspiratorial than wild conspiracy theories elsewhere.

The dotCommunist Manifesto

IT workers / world / unite
"A Spectre is haunting multinational capitalism--the spectre of free information. All the powers of ``globalism'' have entered into an unholy alliance to exorcize this spectre: Microsoft and Disney, the World Trade Organization, the United States Congress and the European Commission...

...We, the creators of the free information society, mean to wrest from the bourgeoisie, by degrees, the shared patrimony of humankind. We intend the resumption of the cultural inheritance stolen from us under the guise of ``intellectual property,'' as well as the medium of electromagnetic transportation. We are committed to the struggle for free speech, free knowledge, and free technology. The measures by which we advance that struggle will of course be different in different countries, but the following will be pretty generally applicable:

1. Abolition of all forms of private property in ideas.

2. Withdrawal of all exclusive licenses, privileges and rights to use of electromagnetic spectrum. Nullification of all conveyances of permanent title to electromagnetic frequencies.

3. Development of electromagnetic spectrum infrastructure that implements every person's equal right to communicate.

4. Common social development of computer programs and all other forms of software, including genetic information, as public goods.

5. Full respect for freedom of speech, including all forms of technical speech.

6. Protection for the integrity of creative works.

7. Free and equal access to all publicly-produced information and all educational material used in all branches of the public education system.

By these and other means, we commit ourselves to the revolution that liberates the human mind. In overthrowing the system of private property in ideas, we bring into existence a truly just society, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all."

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The Berg video

/ terror / slaughter / or what?
The first time I saw the Berg decapitation video, I didn't really see the video. I cringed, looked away, turned down the volume when the scream was heard and pretended I saw the whole thing. Then I read Mark Ames' article linked above and I had to see it again. I did. It wasn't pretty - but the thing that struck me was the victim's passiveness. He just sat there and was slaughtered without a fight. Then those screams seem totally unconnected to the video... it started me looking around to see what's the word on the web:
As Ames notes there are major questions with the official story. Rense lists them all, but let me highlight a few here:
  • The perpetrator doesn't seem to be Zarqawi, because he doesn't talk like Zarqawi and he doesn't limp like Zarqawi is supposed to.

  • Zarqawi was supposed to be dead anyway.

  • Berg had personally known Moussaoui(!), one of the 9/11 hijackers.

  • Then there's the question of the lack of massive bleeding.

  • I don't even want to touch (much less endorse at this point) more uncertain matters such as the chair (the type is common of course), or the more challenging conclusions, but can someone tell me what the hell was that we saw? Because it certainly isn't what they say it is...

    A modest offer

    iraq / coverage / do-it-yourself
    Justin, a USA Today reader, complains about the coverage of only "bad news" from Iraq. Matt Taibbi offers him the opportunity to fix this himself:
    ...I would like to offer to send him to Iraq at my own expense. I would also like to offer him (assuming my editors cooperate) all the column inches in New York Press that he desires to send the missing good news back to the deprived readership of the United States. [Editors' note: Consider it done.]

    I have two conditions. The first is that he goes unarmed and unescorted. The second is that he wear, every day, a t-shirt emblazoned with the American flag on the front, and also bearing an Arabic inscription on the back that reads, "God Bless the U.S."...

    Hilarious in a deadly serious, Swiftian way.

    Tuesday, May 18, 2004

    shi-di-ri-di-duy, shi-di-ri-di-da-na

    / politics / eurovision/
    I was trying to skip mentioning the Eurovision pop contest, if only to avoid the embarassing admission that ~4.2 million of my 11 million fellow Greeks actually watched the damn thing on TV, as well as the, even more embarassing, admission that not only did I personally watch the competition, but I actually tele-voted (for Serbia and Montenegro)... It's hard to explain the appeal of this annual celebration of kitsch Euro-pop, especially since my musical tastes run from Rammstein to Sonic Youth, to all sorts of "heavy" greek folk (the latter explains my vote up to a point). Part of it is the opportunity to have fun at the bizzare antics of desperate eurovisionaries regardless of nationality, to sample a taste of regional kitsch. Part of it is the same sado-masochistic impulse that makes us turn around and stare at a car accident. But mostly it's the voting of course. The "La Belgique, trois point", a numerical drama which traces cultural ties and new alliances, while allowing everyone - in a federal sort of equal way (Andorra and Russia have the same voting weight)- to participate.
    As I said then, I would rather avoid mentioning the damn thing - but this year, regional developements unfolded on the Eurovision scoreboard, and the voting highlights were mostly Balkan, with Croatia's 12 points to Serbia & Montenegro being the surprise of the evening. Dragan Antulov explains it all in a recent post over at Draxblog...
    Check out also this relevant discussion over at Fistful of Euros, where some other interesting voting patterns are highlighted. Let me also add that the eurovision vote probably signaled the first time the massive Albanian diaspora in Greece influenced a major media event (Greece awarding 10 points to Albania), as well as the realisation that Greek pop stars are quite well known over in Albania (12 points from Albania - and it wasn't just the Greek minority)...

    Olympic safety

    / olympics / scare /peddlers
    It's nice to see some perpective on the recent scare stories about olympic safety in a certain part of the British media... From Jon Henderson in the Observer:
    "Standing too close to the British media as they overheat with excitement, proclaiming how unsafe the Olympic Games are going to be, is threatening to turn into a far more perilous exercise than actually going to Athens...
    ...The media, particularly within the Murdoch empire, seem incapable of helping themselves when it comes to the Olympics, unable to see beyond the conditioned reflex of peddling scare stories."

    ...And mind you I was against Athens hosting the Olympics in the first place - albeit for quite different reasons.

    Mind you that what Henderson says about the possibility of hellish transportation conditions is quite likely to occur.

    Monday, May 17, 2004

    UN report: straight out of an agribusiness press release

    spin / doctor / frankenstein
    It seems that the FAO has been made an offer it can't refuse and published a most odious report concerning GM food, that could easily have been written by Monsanto ghostwriters. They are actualy repeating the tired old canard that GM foods will help defeat world hunger, as if the hunger problem was mainly one of production rather than distribution.
    Interestingly the FAO explicitly abandons common sense and the precautionary principle, assuming all GM foods are safe unless proven otherwise, turning the world's consumers, yet again, into lab rats for the Biotech and Agribusiness industries....
    Note that it is becoming increasigly unlikely that it will be "proven otherwise", as the corporate oligarchy has started an all out war against any critical voices against their products, as the case of Árpád Pusztai clearly demonstrates. As summarized in this 1999 Scientific American article:

    British scientist Arpad Pusztai, who was fired last year from the Rowett
    Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland, and banned from speaking to the
    press for a while, told a parliamentary select committee on March 8 in
    London he had no regrets about his comments that led to his dismissal.
    Humans, he had said, were being used as guinea pigs in a vast experiment
    with genetically modified (GM) foods.

    [Not uncharacteristically the BBC's science editor was quick to spew invective on a paper he either hadn't read or, worse, couldn't assess.]

    See also Árpád Pusztai's website...

    Saturday, May 15, 2004

    God Bless you Mr. Vonnegut

    vonnegut / essay
    Kurt Vonnegut, a writer that I grew up with and still enjoy, is still on the side of the humans, helping us to get through this thing, whatever it is...:
    "...Can I tell you the truth? I mean this isn't like TV news, is it?
    Here's what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial, about to face cold turkey.
    And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we're hooked on."

    Wednesday, May 12, 2004

    Throwing for Palestine

    athletics / gestures / symbolic
    This didn't grab many headlines outside of Greece, but I find it the most moving Olympics-related news item to date:
    Sophia Sakorafa, the former world record holder in the Javelin Throw (in 1982), has announced her wish to represent Palestine in these coming Olympics, as a gesture of solidarity to the Palestinian people. Being 47 today, of course, she has little chance of winning a medal, but as far as symbolism is concerned she has already won the admiration of many in Greece (and I presume for their positive reactions in Palestine too).
    Given that Greece is, anyway, very likely to medal (with Mirela Maniani) in the women's Javelin Throw, the event is bound to capture a lot of attention this summer.

    Saturday, May 8, 2004

    The selling of terror

    terror / construction
    Young Fogey, in a comment to my previous post about the ridiculous overreaction of world media to a very small scale explosion in an irrelevant Athenian suburb, alerted me to this excellent article from Spiked-online, on the aggressive overselling of the "terrorist threat" worldwide. This part especially is worth quoting and is telling (if true):

    While fantasy terrorism booms, real terrorism seems to be on the decline. After Madrid, Europe's capitals were all expecting that they would be next - but it is more likely that Madrid was the exception rather than the rule. A recent US State Department report into patterns of global terrorism found that terrorist attacks are at their lowest ebb for years. There were 190 in 2003, compared to 440 in 1995 and 665 in 1987. Moreover, the bulk of the attacks over the past five years occurred in Latin America and Asia, rather than North America or Western Europe. In the main, terrorist attacks tend to be sporadic, and are carried out by small isolated groups to varying degrees of success (8)...

    ...The gap between the fantasy and reality of terrorism becomes more glaring by the day. It seems that Western elites are generating the terrorist threat for themselves - if terrorism stopped altogether, the alerts and arrests could happily rumble on. After all, why should a few facts get in the way of a good war?"

    As I said, excellent article, though I'm somewhat weary of the source....

    Wednesday, May 5, 2004

    If a bomb goes off, and nobody's hurt, does it make a sound?

    olympics / overreactions
    Get a grip folks... The "terrorist attack" in Athens is small scale, with no one hurt and of unknown origin (no one has taken responsibility for the "attack" yet). It was item number three on the radio this morning, and first thing I see on the BBC site is "Greek capital hit by tripe blast". The same story was front page news all over the world! I was furtively calling people and turning on the radio to see what had happenned. I later realised that this was about the Kallithea police station incident, an area pretty much in the middle of nothing special, and (I hope the nice police officers at the station over there don't mind me bringing this up) home to quite a lot of drug and illegal prostitution related activity... This might be connected to a lot of things, but "international terrorism" it most probably isn't. It might be connected with the "ELA terrorism trial" farse, a trial that will go down in history as the most ridiculous ever (that's another story for another day maybe...) and which will soon earn Greece a serious reprimand from human rights' organizations...

    But anyway, just one question: Are the foreign correspondents here on drugs?The story is everywhere! Even over at "a Fistful of Euros"! Next week when (inescapebly) Panathinaikos and Olympiakos football fans clash very violently, not very far from Kallithea, are they going to rush to the phone to report "large scale riots" in Athens? In any case I would like to alert them to the fact that my neighbour parks his bloody car on the sidewalk and maybe if the BBC puts it on its home, bloody, page, someone will do something about it.

    The big story in local media is not the bombing itself, but rather the international media reactions to it. The NYT has a refreshingly less shrill story about the Olympic preparations (free reg. req.).

    In the history of this country, winning these Olympics will rank among the major national catastrophes of this century... I expect that even my grandchildren will be paying for the idiocies of previous administrations. The rich got richer, the poor worked harder, the preparations weren't completed in time, we've payed a billion Euros for security alone, the environment in the city has been degraded and only half of the transportation benefits materialized at unprecedented cost...

    But anyway, you're all welcome to come over: it's gonna be fun I guess (heh! you won't be footing the bill... or live in post-Olympic Athens!) and I'll be watching the games from a TV set by the Aegean or the Ionian sea (not quite decided on that one). Rest assured that no home-grown bomber will be after you, although I'd be mindful of the cab drivers if I were you... OK?

    Horrors in Iraq: the prisons too

    war / crimes / more
    I'm not all over the latest news about the abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib, because, while significant, I don't consider these revelations to be somehow amazing, or unexpected (other than the idiots' smile while taking snapshots of themselves committing war crimes, a very disturbing smile I must say). The US military was recently setting up snipers in Fallujah and targeting women and children for chrissakes. And it "shocked the world that things like this happened"? I'm willing to wager that much worse things have happened - probably not caught on film.
    I hope that the furor over these uncovered abuses stops the worst of the atrocities. I'm not too optimistic though.
    To me, what's even more worrying, is the kind of mess that the Americans are about to leave behind when they get the hell out of Iraq. I can see no bloodless "day after" scenario. I think Bush Jr. screwed up the region even worse than it was - and for years to come. They might try to break up Iraq and give Kurds autonomy or independence (as some, rather optimistic, Kurds are hoping), but this will open up the Kurdish question all over the region, across 4 countries... At the same time the occupation is turning fringe fanatics like Sadr into national (even pan-Arabic?) figures and generally strengthens the most backward elements in an until recently secular country... The current US administration (and Kerry has been anything but clear about Iraq as well) seems so tightly bound to their crudely imperial plans, that one can't really base any hope for a rational proposal from their side.

    I hope I'm wrong, but the greater horror, I'm afraid, is the one that lies ahead.

    Tuesday, May 4, 2004

    Americans are seen losing their scientific edge

    politics / science / priorities?
    An interesting trend with enormous implications. Apart from the overall tendency there seems to be a strengthening tendency due to the current US administration's policies...
    "...scientific papers by Americans peaked in 1992 and then fell roughly 10 percent, the National Science Foundation reports. Many analysts point to rising foreign competition, as does the European Commission, which also monitors global science trends. In a study last year, it said Europe surpassed the United States in the mid 1990s as the world's largest producer of scientific literature..."

    Monday, May 3, 2004

    The bigger, weaker, EU?

    EU / enlargement
    ...10 states larger already. The EU covers now most of Europe, Western and Eastern, with a significant gap in the Balkans that's supposed to be filled in somewhat by 2007 and, ideally, soon afterwards to reunite Yugoslavia within its borders. This should be a cause of celebration and the picture offered is one of joy across the continent… However, while theoretically this signifies strength, in reality it might be a harbringer of trouble...

    The EU was and remains an undemocratic mess, run by a series of bodies decreasingly legitimized by direct public vote and accountability. Much of its economic policy is presented as the fiat of some “well-meaning” technocrats, a fait accompli somewhere in Brussels… In the meantime there is no consensus on the broad rules that should unify the EU’s 15, much less the 25. The “European constitution”, presented this past summer to a largely indifferent populace, is far from the sort of visionary document required for such a task. With major unresolved issues and a multitude of financial worries, the EU commits itself to a great leap forward by accepting close to 70 million new citizens, mostly from the East...

    But is this a real accession? The Framework subsidies that assured that funding and support of the poorest of Europe’s regions, will be significantly less generous for the 10 new members, while freedom of movement and work inside Europe is being deferred for a later date, making this pretty much a mock enlargement. It would seem more managable if instead of taking in 10 new members (among which Poland at ~60% of Greece’s - the EU’s poorest country - GDP per capita and with a population of 38 million) it would take in 2-4: the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta, the richest of the candidate countries, and give them full membership and full financial support, while helping every way possible (with a special trade relationship and even indirect funds) the other countries to reach a preset minimum financial standard. As things stand, there is bound to be huge disappointment at the EU from much of the new member countries’ populations, which will see their sovereignty curtailed with little or nothing in return…

    If the EU is ever to become a democratic, functional supranational entity, it seems to me that the only road is by moving to a closer, federal or confederate union. Any other option would perpetuate Europe’s “Democratic deficit” and lead to even weaker accountability of the governing elites around Europe (which hide behind the EU every time they try to pass an unpopular law). Allowing countries in without deciding on a basic plan and the corresponding commitments that would build such a federal entity is, really, a way to sabotage such a prospect… Increasingly it seems likely that a core of European nations (the Euro-zone or an even narrower set of countries) might move on to the creation of a single confederation of European countries that would function as the de facto leader of an EU relegated to the status of mere trading block, slowly allowing in any country that is interested and prepared to join the confederation. Otherwise the EU risks reverting to a mere trading block as a whole - and a rather undemocratic one at that…