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.