Saturday, January 31, 2004
history > killing fields > a reminder
John Pilger reminds us of the events that transpired to bring the dreaded Pol Pot regime in power - and who supported it after it was ousted by communist Vietnam...:
"The genocide in Cambodia did not begin on April 17 1975, 'Year Zero'. It began more than five years earlier when American bombers killed an estimated 600,000 Cambodians. Phosphorous and cluster bombs, napalm and dump bombs that left vast craters were dropped on a neutral country of peasant people and straw huts. In one six-month period in 1973, more tons of American bombs were dropped on Cambodia than were dropped on Japan during the second world war: the equivalent of five Hiroshimas. The regime of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger did this, secretly and illegally.
Unclassified CIA files leave little doubt that the bombing was the catalyst for Pol Pot's fanatics, who, before the inferno, had only minority support. Now, a stricken people rallied to them. In Panh's film, a torturer refers to the bombing as his reason for joining 'the maquis': the Khmer Rouge. What Nixon and Kissinger began, Pol Pot completed. And having been driven out by the Vietnamese, who came from the wrong side of the cold war, the Khmer Rouge were restored in Thailand by the Reagan administration, assisted by the Thatcher government, who invented a 'coalition' to provide the cover for America's continuing war against Vietnam."
Thursday, January 29, 2004
history > memory
Since yesterday was a day of rememberence of the holocaust, let me link (as a small tribute) to two sites about the holocaust in Greece:
The first about the deportation of the Salonica Jews, is titled "The trains of death" and it describes the evacuation of the city from its Jewish population.
The second is an online exhibition of the US holocaust memorial museum, about the Holocaust in Greece. Here's the site in pdf format.
A thorough review of the fate of the Greek Jewish population under the axis occupation can be found in Mark Mazower's book: "Inside Hitler's Greece" along with a detailed account of how EAM saved Athens' 8000 Jewish residents.
things of the past > privacy
Minority Report-like developments paving the way to a market dystopia:
"Once you buy your RFID-tagged jeans at The Gap with RFID-tagged money, walk out of the store wearing RFID-tagged shoes, and get into your car with its RFID-tagged tires, you could be tracked anywhere you travel. Bar codes are usually scanned at the store, but not after purchase. But RFID transponders are, in many cases, forever part of the product, and designed to respond when they receive a signal. Imagine everything you own is 'numbered, identified, catalogued, and tracked.' Anonymity and privacy? Gone in a hailstorm of invisible communication, betrayed by your very property."
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Iraq > 1920 > 2004
This is a great article, an exception to the mainstream ahistorical (or pseudohistorical) coverage, as it looks at before 1979, into Iraq's anti-imperial history to draw parallels to and motivations for the resistance to US occupation. Excerpt:
"To many Iraqis, today's U.S. occupation reads like an old play with modern characters: America as the new Britain, grenade-lobbing insurgents as the new opposition, and Ahmad Chalabi and other former exiles on the Governing Council as the new kings."
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
iraq > saddam > uncle sam
Declassified Secrets from the U.S.-Iraq Relationship, display a definite ambivalence, to say the least, towards the "Butcher of Baghdad", leading us simple folk to the conclusion that it ain't who you butcher - it's when and under whose patronage that counts...
In a disimilar vein, the fine fiends at the faux WTO, have come up with a fun regime change game.
Monday, January 26, 2004
web apps > killer
Yes! I always wanted one of these! I'm putting the furl script on the side bar too.
From the site:
"Furl is a new web browsing tool that lets you save and organize thousands of useful web pages (you know, the ones you want to save for future reference but then can never find again) in a personal "web page filing cabinet".
Once saved, you can effortlessly find any page again later using a powerful full text search tool. With Furl you can forget trying to save and organize dozens of bookmarks, forget saving web pages to your desktop, in fact forget everything except how to find a useful web page again next time you need it. "
(via Metafilter, a treasure, always)
iraq > news
"The Institute for War & Peace Reporting today launched the Iraqi Press Monitor, a daily survey of the main stories in Iraq's newspapers.
It will feature the top 7 stories of the day, along with a political cartoon, and include details of the newspapers they appeared in."
Here is the latest issue....
economy > statistics >historical
This large table contains basic estimates of Population, GDP and GDP per capita for most countries since, umm... 1 AD, but getting more detailed from 1500 onwards and dense by 1900. Use it as a reference, a source for an (obscure) argument about economics, or to create hardcore trivia questions (I'll take "Asian Economy in the year 1500 for 1000, Alex").
Found through following successive links from nationmaster, which has added historical world economy data to its statistics (see this for example) and is quickly developing into the internet statistics benchmark.
Thursday, January 22, 2004
rennaissance > hoaxes
For those that have not heard of the Voynich manuscript and its legend here's a brief summary (from the initial linked article):
The Voynich manuscript is often described as the world's most mysterious book. It is hand-written in a unique alphabet, about 250 pages long, and contains pictures of unrecognizable flowers, naked nymphs and astrological symbols.
The manuscript first appeared in the late 1500s, when Rudolph II bought it in Prague from an unknown seller for 600 ducats - about 3.5 kilograms of gold, worth more than US$50,000 today. The book passed from Rudolph to noblemen and scholars, before disappearing in the late 1600s.
It surfaced again around 1912, when US book dealer Wilfrid Voynich bought it. The manuscript was donated to Yale University after Voynich's death.
More can be found at Philip Neal's Voynich pages, or René Zandbergen's, to mention just two among the thousands of web pages (6280 according to google), on the subject...
Now Gordon Rugg, a computer scientist seems to prove that the whole thing was a hoax perpetrated by the use of a "Cardan Grille" (the page is in French, but the application is illuminating even for non-French speakers), by a shady English alchemist, scryer and lawyer and renaissance con-man Edward Kelley.
If you're really interested, here's an extensive bibliography.
Monday, January 19, 2004
olympic > threats > bogus and real
Balkanalysis has a level-headed assessment of security threats for the Athens 2004 olympics, which exposes another piece of shoddy coverage - from the Guardian this time. Instructive and informed, as usual.
reporting > lame
[update: the article is now for subscribers only... The main points however are recapped below]
A Financial Times article claims that Dora Bakoyianni, Mayor of Athens, and daughter of ex-prime minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis has become "...the first senior Greek politician to admit that Greece should not have supported Slobodan Milosevic..."
This is news to me and it certainly doesn't follow from what the reporter quotes Bakoyianni as saying:
"Addressing leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina, on a visit to Athens, Mrs Bakoyannis said Greece, along with other Nato members, bore "a significant moral responsibility for actions and omissions that contributed to Bosnia's suffering".
"Like other European countries, Greece takes a share of the blame for what happened before and during the conflict," she added.
Now, this woman's father was indeed an admirer of Milosevic's brand of post-communist "nationalism" (although I've showed in the past that Milosevic's political positions were flexible enough to accommodate anything that could keep him in power). It is highly doubtful however that Greece "supported" Slobo. There were more than a few supporters of him (in the context of him preventing a muslim arc to "suffocate the Balkans" or some tripe of the sort), but even during the criminal Kosovo campaign popular opinion was not that enamored of him - but rather supportive of the people of Yugoslavia who were being bombed to the stone age. As for the government, (apart from turning a blind eye to all sorts of smuggling going on at the time) it did little to help Milosevic's position in Serbia or in any war.
What the Mitsotakis government did do, was cave in to the disastrous German demand of immediate recognition of Croatian sovereignty, before any border and population agreements had even began. I sincerely believe that of all the EU countries Greece was the one that had a lot to lose (and lost) from a war in Yugoslavia. It also had knowledge of the area enough to understand (I mean I could see it coming as a twenty-something political activist) that such a development would mean certain civil war. Instead of vetoing the EU recognition, the ever-submissive to outside pressure Greek government, just mentioned their "doubts" in a footnote to the unanimous decision. Had the Mitsotakis government insisted on their veto, and had the decision to recognize the breakaway republics been postponed until after detailed negotiations about all sorts of issues, but especially Bosnia, there is the possibility that the whole Yugoslav tragedy might have been averted.
So much for apologies...
However the Financial Times goes even further and espouses a conspiracy theory that had only been circulated in Greece by confirmed crackpots:
Following a proposal by Mr Milosevic in 1991 that Greece and Serbia should split the territory of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia between them, Mr Mitsotakis asked the defense ministry to make a plan for moving troops across the Greek border into southern Macedonia. The plan was vetoed by Costas Karamanlis, then Greek president, according to a former senior official.
Although such an "offer" might have come from an increasingly unrealistic Milosevic (although this is still unproven), it is certain that no Greek prime minister, no matter how dumb, would entertain for a moment the idea of occupying an unfriendly country with few if any Greeks inhabiting it. This would go beyond adventurism to sheer madness. Anyway by that time Karamanlis was a figurehead with little real power in his hands and could certainly not veto any plans of Mitsotakis. Like a true urban legend, this was repeated in another form in the mid nineties by the (thriving) Greek tin-foil-hat constituency: Greece was supposedly offered Southern Albania by Italy which was planning the annexation of the Northern part of that country...
Again let me point out that this was Kerin Hope in Athens reporting for the Financial bloody Times - and not the Weekly World News. Brilliant. And then people wonder how come "the West" has a distorted view of the Balkans...
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
physics > arcane
My initial reaction to the question was "of course not". I first heard someone make the claim when I was more active in physics, and lamented the sorry state that logical reasoning was in. I was wrong. I had never heard of the Mpemba effect. Although some hasty experiments suggest that this holds for a limited set of conditions not easily reproducible with your average kitchenware.
Now excuse me as I have to go observe some cups I've put in my freezer...
history > palestine > raw
'Ben-Gurion was right. If he had not done what he did, a state would not have come into being. That has to be clear. It is impossible to evade it. Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here.'"
Benny Morris, an esteemed Israeli historian, exposes the violence, cleansing and war crimes against the Palestinians, that were the preamble of the establishment of a purely Jewish state in Palestine in 1948. He also agrees with the necessity of most of it.
Brute sincerity (and scientific integrity) combine with raw nationalist zealotry to produce an interview that should become a reference point for years to come.
In Ha'aretz, a shining beacon of journalistic competence.
via the treasure that is Metafilter
history > lessons
A New Yorker magazine book review, written by Daniel Mendelsohn on Kagan's "Peloponnesian War". This is a wonderful history lesson: an informed and pithy account of the Peloponnesian war, Thucidides' "History" and Euripides' "Medea", debunking, almost in passing, Kagan's very hawkish interpretation of that war and the "lessons" it holds for today, while producing a wonderful, synthetic view of the era and a scholarly approach to its context.
A moving piece, for those with any interest in history: it is an aggressive dismissal of history-as-simple-propaganda, and a shining example of lucid prose.
Online reference: Thucydides' "History", translated in English. Euripides' Medea in English.
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
venus > retroactive > exploration
"Computer researcher Don Mitchell used original digital data from two Soviet Venera probes that landed in 1975.
His reprocessed and recalibrated images provide a much clearer view of the Venusian surface which is hotter even than the inside of a household oven."
Don Mitchell's site has much info on the Venera missions and the Soviet exploration of Venus(although the recalibrated images are not available yet).
Venus, will be coming closer next year (hopefully) when Venus Express starts orbiting the planet.
Monday, January 12, 2004
greece > politics > hereditary
This is happening at home:
"PASOK, which began its political career as a party that was profoundly critical of US policy, both in Greece and internationally, has gradually become the "American" party of some contemporary Greeks, and not only thanks to the communication skills of George Papandreou."
The whole media blitz that Papandreou's nomination as party leader has entailed, reminds me of American elections, only worse. The private TV channels in Greece, owned in their majority by big business interests - which have made a killing under the self-styled socialists, are playing day in and day out more and more pictures of Papandreou the third: a messianic thrill has overtaken the pundits, after the scare of what seemed like the specter of certain electoral defeat this spring. Now, with the force of the biggest Greek political brand-name behind them, they are marching forward hoping to con everyone into giving them four more years of plunder.
These "socialists" have overseen the greatest upward redistribution of income in living memory and have created an ubiquitous system of corruption that makes the Andreas' Papandreou era seem pristine in comparison. They have allowed a handful of magnates to run the country as their own personal feudal property. They have sold off (or are trying to sell off) utilities and public lands, while changing the laws as to allow the destruction of most of Greece's forests. Yet, at the same time they have nothing but friends among TV channel owners who shape public attitudes and distract the populace by showing nothing but the most vile and insignificant gossip as news. Still, PASOK was on the way for a major defeat, as the opinion polls were showing a gaping 8-10% between them and the (equally abominable) New Democracy conservative party, which, however, is not considered by our ruling oligarchs capable of handling the further upward redistribution of income without creating serious social tensions.
Thus the bearer of the name was brought in as saviour - so that a PR coup d' etat could be staged and the battle renewed. I doubt if it will work in the near term, but one can safely bet that George Papandreou will be Prime Minister of Greece sometime in the next four years...
And to make the whole thing more surreal, the most "Anti-American" European country will soon have the most pro-American Prime Minister in Europe.
Friday, January 9, 2004
iraq > history > revolution
After a brief mention of the Kirkuk massacre of 1959 in Riverbend's latest post (no, not this Kirkuk massacre), I searched for more on that episode of Kurdo-Turkmen enmity. I found the article linked above which is a review of post WWII developments in Iraq from a socialist (Trotskyist) perspective. From a similar perspective the following seems convincing:
...This [the strengthening of the ICP] makes the Kirkuk massacre of July 1959 all the more tragic. In the aftermath of the 1958 revolution the ICP concentrated in its hands control of many local governments, militias and even army garrisons. The largely Kurdish ICP branch in Kirkuk used this control to escalate a squabble over the celebration of the first anniversary of the revolution into an intercommunal bloodbath, particularly directed against the Turkomans who made up much of the city's commercial and middle classes. One month later in a central committee plenum called to deal with the consequences of the Kirkuk massacre, the ICP in referring to its own membership was forced to condemn "the dragging of bodies, torture of detainees, looting and trespassing on the rights and liberties of citizens..."
Also see this dissenting view from someone who apparently lived through the events.
About the Kurds in Iraq (and Iran and Turkey and Syria) there's more to say however. They remain the largest nation without a country and to simply deny their right to nationhood isn't morally defensible. That currently a declaration of statehood, or even of autonomy, might plunge the area into even worse adventures, is unfortunately true. But the Iraqi Kurds I see here in Athens, destitute,desperate and angry; who have risked life and limb and/or lost loved ones in their desperate exodus; who didn't belong to any exclusive club back in Iraq; these Kurds have a serious desire for nationhood and that is not going to change anytime soon, unless a serious political settlement is reached.
Forced partition, however, does seem like the potentially bloodiest of options. Not that the W. administration would care - if they can make a better buck out of that...
Wednesday, January 7, 2004
Happy new year
2004 > ?
It's been a while. I've been keeping off the computer screen for the holidays. But I'm back. This is an "Olympic year" in the city I'm living in (for better or worse) and also an election year (with new clowns running for directors of our little circus), sooner rather than later we discovered today... Please note that the two (politically converging) "big" parties will be headed by the grandson and son of past prime ministers on the one side, and by the nephew of another prime minister on the other. Indeed the current match-up (Constantinos Karamanlis vs. Georgios Papandreou) is a carbon copy of the electorial showdowns of the (pre-junta) 60s. I guess it's another case of history repeating itself as a farce.
Oh, and after the elections we will be asked to vote again in June for the Euro-parliament, a vote that seems less important, but in reality is becoming increasingly crucial.