Friday, October 31, 2003

Karl Marx: the interview

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

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Flash Planetarium

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

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

National holiday

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Appeal from the Iraqi Communist Party (Cadre)

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

Misha Glenny: Asleep at the wheel in Kosovo

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

Balkan Analysis

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

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

Friday, October 24, 2003

Yet more polling data from Iraq

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

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

Older surveys (August 2003) have shown anyway that:

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

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

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

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

Zogby on the Baghdad Zogby poll

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

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Dying for McDonalds in Iraq

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

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

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

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

The "freedom fries" they've been talking about

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

Europe's Migrancy Problem Gains Urgency

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

Monday, October 20, 2003

Blame Your Mother

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

EU copyright law: more draconian than in the US?

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

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

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

Turkish Chief of Staff on Turkey in Iraq

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 17, 2003

Public Library of Science

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

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Reality television before World War Three

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

The Number of the Beasts

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

A real viral campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

Privatisation vs democracy in Iraq

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

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

Monday, October 13, 2003

Turkey in Iraq pt. 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Sunday, October 12, 2003

    A damme good proposal.

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

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

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

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

    Saturday, October 11, 2003

    Lethal Virus from 1918 Genetically Reconstructed

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

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

    Friday, October 10, 2003

    Oil, the Dollar, and US Prosperity - The Machiavellian perspective

    politics > iraq > war > reasons
    Brutal honesty is certainly less annoying than lame excuses. So this article, despite having not a few obvious flaws is very interesting:
    ...the one factor underpinning American prosperity is keeping the dollar the World Reserve Currency. This can only be done if the oil producing states keep oil priced in dollars, and all their currency reserves in dollar assets. If anything put the final nail in Saddam Hussein's coffin, it was his move to start selling oil for Euros.

    The US is the sole super power and we control and dictate to the Middle East oil producers. America has the power to change rulers if they can't follow the "straight line" the US dictates. America's prosperity depends on this.

    But what if Russia sooner or later makes this shift?

    Ramzi Kysia: Seeing the Iraqi People

    politics > iraq > suffering
    "It's hard to explain to outsiders how fundamentally humiliating the looting of Iraq has been to the Iraqi people. Everywhere you go, Iraqis compare these days to the time of Halaka Khan--when the Mongols looted Baghdad and burned it to the ground. But today, despite the fact that the looters are a vanishingly small fraction of the population, the image the world has of Iraqis is of an out-of-control and rabid people destroying themselves. After 30 years of Saddam, to finally be free of his tyranny and humiliation, only to be drown in further humiliation, is almost unbearable. Grown men have cried in front of me, to see what's become of their country."
    A voice in the wilderness for the invisible Iraqi people...

    Truthful Disclaimer

    honesty > best > policy
    This is nice coming fom a site called Astromance.
    "Astrology is not a science. Please don't take it seriously. There exists no hard scientific evidence to support the proposition that positions of the Sun, Moon, and planets in the heavens at the time of one's birth have an effect on a person's personality or determine in any way the course of his or her life events. "
    Words to remember...
    via metafilter

    Thursday, October 9, 2003

    Comment functionality added

    talk > back
    I just added a comment option through Blogback. Feel free to comment, just don't expect me to actually answer ( I might but then again I might not) Greek or English is OK with me, but feel free to display your language skills if you really must... Or feel free to ignore it. If it isn't used I'll remove it...
    Ahhh enjoy anyway!

    Winners of the Ig® Nobel Prize 2003

    science > profound
    The 2003 IgNobel prizes, the science awards that honor people whose achievements "cannot or should not be reproduced," were awarded on Thursday evening, October 2. The winners include:

    - Physics:
    Jack Harvey, John Culvenor, Warren Payne, Steve Cowley, Michael Lawrance, David Stuart, and Robyn Williams of Australia, for their irresistible report "An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep over Various Surfaces" [pdf]. Summary here. This is a snapshot of their experimental methodology, based on extensive field research.

    - Biology
    C.W. Moeliker, of Natuurmuseum Rotterdam, the Netherlands, for documenting the first scientifically recorded case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck. Abstract (includes images). Full paper [pdf].

    - Interdisciplinary Research
    Stefano Ghirlanda, Liselotte Jansson, and Magnus Enquist of Stockholm University, for their inevitable report "Chickens Prefer Beautiful Humans."

    Wednesday, October 8, 2003

    Iraq Kurds warn of violence if Turkey sends troops

    politics > middle east > deadly
    Following up on a previous post about Turkey's involvement in Iraq: the Turkish parliament has voted in favor of sending Turkish troops in Iraq, despite popular opposition to the move (polls show more than 60% of Turks opposed to their country's military involvement in Iraq). The opposition has attacked the government's decision, while Erdogan himself leaves little doubt about the motives for this move (apart from the 8.5 billion $ bribe): He has stated that: of the main conditions of a tranquil and secure life in Iraq was elimination of this country from the terrorist organizations and elements taken shelter there, including the PKK/KADEK and stated that this had priority for Turkey...

    This sounds rather threatening.
    There was initial unanimous opposition from Iraq's governing council, which rejected the idea of Turkish troops in Iraq, and which (after some obvious pressure) was somewhat blunted. The Turkish government was unimpressed:

    Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Huseyin Dirioz said he expected talks with the United States on the details of the deployment to start soon, but the discussions could take months.
    "The interim council does not reflect or express the feelings of the Iraqi people,'' Education Minister Huseyin Celik said before leaving for the United States to attend a conference.

    But anti-turkish sentiment is brewing in Iraq (especially among the Kurds). The story linked to from the title concludes as follows:

    ''What [the Turks are] after is control in the north,'' said Jasim Mahmoud, 34-year-old Kurd working at a Mosul Internet shop. ''Kurdish parties are preparing their weapons and if the Turks come down through the north I'm sure they will be attacked.''

    Of interest also is this rather extensive analysis of Turkey's situation with respect to Iraq, the US and the Kurds by K Gajendra Singh in the Asia Times.

    Tuesday, October 7, 2003

    The Churchill you didn't know

    politics > personalities > enlightened
    A Guardian collection of some choice quotes form the revered Mr. Churchill. Here's a sample:
    "One may dislike Hitler's system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as admirable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations.'"
    From his Great Contemporaries, 1937 .
    Hair-raising, all of it.
    via Ethel the Blog.

    Suicide bomber Barbie

    politics & art > bitter > sarcasm
    Simon Tyszko’s Suicide Bomber Barbie conflates Western commodification with Palestinian desperation. Religious and capitalist dogmas struggle within Barbie’s idealised form, in an artwork of potent incongruity. It is a work whose political stridency is tempered by a well placed humour.
    Warning: some may find this disturbing or obscene.
    In other words: what real agitprop should be like.
    Or real idiocy. I'm ambivalent.

    US and Turkey to hit PKK

    politics > middle east > hell breaking loose
    This is a very ominous piece of news especially combined with a possible deployment of Turkish troops in Iraq and with the fact that the PKK (Turkey's Kurdish rebels, pretty much the counterparts in Turkish Kurdistan of the American Kurdish allies in Iraq - but with serious factional differences) has recently abandoned the unilateral ceasefire with the Turkish government, and Abdullah Ocalan, its leader, has warned about this from prison - in no uncertain terms. There is no mention of where in Iraq the Turkish troops will be stationed, but one hopes that there is still a shred of common sense in the US administration that will prevent Turkish troops from being posted in the Kurdish north. This article from the associated press however, besides pointing out the difficulty an overstretched US army might face in hunting 5000 weathered and tough guerrillas who will be supported by the locals, has an American military analyst suggesting that:
    "If it is going to happen, it would be a joint U.S.-Turkish operation," Cagaptay said. "The U.S. could contribute air power and intelligence while the Turkish troops fight on the ground."
    This would be an invitation for a total and massive war in the Iraqi north, with the US's Iraqi Kurdish allies being forced to fight America's NATO allies...

    Buried at the bottom of the story about the possible deployment of Turkish troops in Iraq is another piece of under-reported news:

    Last month, the US agreed to lend Turkey $8.5bn as compensation for the damage its economy suffered during the Iraq war.

    But both the US and Turkey deny any link between the loan and the question of Turkish troop deployment.

    Now the final decision for sending Turkish troops will be made by the parliament, which will have to ignore a vast majority of Turks that oppose sending Turkish troops in Iraq to support the Americans. This didn't use to be a problem when the military ran the country with little tolerance for substantial dissent, but now Erdogan can ill afford to lose public support in the country, because he too is involved in an attempt to wrestle the country from the grip of a military industrial complex that has ruled it this past century with an iron fist. Erdogan and the dream of joining the EU have complicated things and the developments might turn out to be catastrophic for the poor souls in Iraq who have been trough hell ten times already.

    The War on Al-Jazeera

    killing > journalists > unpunished
    Dima Tareq Tahboub is the widow of Tareq Ayyoub the Al-Jazeera journalist murdered by the US & UK invasion forces on April 8, 2003, during the bombing of the Al-Jazeera offices in Baghdad. About the deliberate character of the bombing she seems quite certain:
    "The US didn't take responsibility for the attacks, claiming that all three were mistakes and insisting that it did not know the whereabouts of journalists, apart from those "embedded" with its troops. Later, al-Jazeera's director confirmed that it had given the precise location of the station's Baghdad office to the Pentagon three months before the war. My husband and the others were killed in broad daylight, in locations known to the Pentagon as media sites."
    This is part of the attack on Al-Jazeera, whose latest manifestation was the arrest of Tayssir Alouni in Spain.
    Freedom of the press doesn't mean what it used to any more...

    Monday, October 6, 2003

    Don't wake me up, you're killing me!

    sleep > not enough
    Stanford Research Builds Link Between Sleep, Cancer Progression: finally I have a strong argument against those that would undermine and limit my sleeping hours. Now if you would excuse me I have a nap to take:
    "Psychosocial factors affect your behavior patterns, such as exercise, what you eat and drink, and your sleep," Spiegel said. Of these factors, how well you sleep can seriously alter the balance of hormones in your body. This makes the sleep/wake cycle, also called the circadian rhythm, a good candidate for linking a person's social network to their cancer prognosis.

    Saturday, October 4, 2003

    Central Asia: The Great Game revived

    politics > imperial > competitive
    Ed Blanche, a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, writes about "the recent emergence of an evolving alliance between Russia, China and India, all nuclear powers, all grappling with Islamic extremism and all deeply concerned about the unilateralism of the United States and its doctrine of pre-emption", and how this is playing out in the geostrategic battlefields and oilfields of Central Asia.

    Friday, October 3, 2003

    Case study: Double Standards

    politics > pot > kettle > black
    From the US State Department's "background notes" [scroll down to "Media" section] on Greece:
    "The Greek media constitute a very influential institution--usually aggressive, sensationalist, and frequently irresponsible with regard to content. Objectivity as known to the U.S. media on the whole does not exist in the Greek media. Most of the media are owned by businessmen with extensive commercial interests in other sectors of the economy. They use their newspapers, magazines, and radio and TV channels to promote their commercial enterprises as well as to seek political influence. "
    A sublime example of selective blindness, this (100% accurate BTW) portrayal of the Greek media landscape shows how difficult it must be for the thoroughly indoctrinated to come to terms with reality.
    This USSD note (again, absolutely accurate as far as the description of Greek media ownership is concerned) should be read in the context of a major new study [pdf document] in the US, released in Washington on Thursday, that shows that :
    "The more commercial television news you watch, the more wrong you are likely to be about key elements of the Iraq War and its aftermath", with a high correlation, it seems, between cluelessness and watching Fox News.

    Saturn-Bound Spacecraft Tests Einstein's Theory

    physics > general relativity > triumphs
    Brings back memories from my GR days...
    "An experiment by Italian scientists using data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, currently en route to Saturn, confirms Einstein's theory of general relativity with a precision that is 50 times greater than previous measurements."
    One of the early achievements of Cassini on its way to Saturn which it will reach in approximately 271 days. Among other tasks it will drop a probe on the surface of Saturn's mysterious moon, Titan, which might make quite a splash...

    Iraqi resistance to foreign occupation enjoys great popular support

    iraq > occupation > assessment
    Sami Ramadani, a political refugee from Saddam's regime, returns to the city of his childhood, to come face to face with the harsh realities of an occupied territory and to witness the popular resistance to the American invaders.
    "The US authority's nonsense about a 'Sunni triangle' and 'Shi'ite Baghdad and south' is a smokescreen which has so far failed to divide the Iraqi people or drive them into internecine conflict. The only people who now believe that the US will back a democratic path in Iraq are the few who have still not fully grasped America's role in Iraq's modern history, the strategic significance of Iraq, or the nature of US foreign policy today. "

    Thursday, October 2, 2003

    ‘Why We Want to Make the Internet Chinese’

    internet > Speaking in tongues
    A multilingual vision for the internet:
    "“I believe,” Zhou says, “that some day China will become an Internet superpower and that Chinese will become a dominant language of the Internet. It is because of this belief that I have continued working on the sinicization project for the past five years, against all odds. I am not saying that we should export the Chinese language and make Internet users all over the world communicate in Chinese. What I really mean is that as the Internet develops, its content and applications will be further localized. Internet users in France will be communicating primarily in the French language, the Russians in Russian, and the Chinese in Chinese. And that’s when the Internet will really come down from the ivory tower to enter ordinary people’s everyday lives.”

    Eric Hobsbawm: The Empire Expands, Wider and Still Wider

    Politics > neo-cons > historical perspective
    An excellent essay by the eminent historian Eric Hobsbawm, written a few months ago, on imperial America and the limits of its reach. Provides a sense of perspective of our troubled times.
    Part of Hobsbawm's argument reinforces my conviction that the recent imperial adventures of the US are becoming increasingly opposed by key actors in its economy and that the model on which they seem to be basing their actions (parading military strength, coercing where they can convince or bargain, widening income gaps around the world to a point of critical stability etc.) is beginning to be seen as a detriment to the uniterrupted workings of the global economy. It seems to me that there is a rift developing not only between national elites (a rift based, among other things, on historical and cultural differences of perspective), but inside American elites, with more than a few in the American oligarchy having serious misgivings about the recent Iraq invasion inter alia. This would explain the difficulty the US/UK alliance is having in obtaining "evidence of WMD" in Iraq: How difficult would it be to plant a few canisters, or "find" a few "labs"? I assume that there are people in positions of power that must be aching to expose any wrong moves, any setups, any propaganda lie from what they probably increasingly see as a bunch of quixotic fascists who have taken over the White House. Therefore no "evidence" can be comfortably fabricated, because it runs the risk of quick and world-wide exposure (the internet has played a role in this, as there are issues nowadays that simply can't go away no matter how much the corporate media ignores them). Note how much more combative and contrarian a lot of mainstream media organizations (NYT and the BBC are two prominent examples) have become since the end of the war, and how much more ready to contradict the US and UK administrations' claims then they were after Panama or Kosovo?

    "Effectively, the collapse of the Soviet Union left the US as the only superpower, which no other power could or wanted to challenge. The sudden emergence of an extraordinary, ruthless, antagonistic flaunting of US power is hard to understand, all the more so since it fits neither with long-tested imperial policies developed during the cold war, nor the interests of the US economy. The policies that have recently prevailed in Washington seem to all outsiders so mad that it is difficult to understand what is really intended. But patently a public assertion of global supremacy by military force is what is in the minds of the people who are at present dominating, or at least half-dominating, the policy-making in Washington. Its purpose remains unclear."

    New Bridge Strategies

    capitalism > crony
    New Bridge Strategies is a company claiming that "...The opportunities evolving in Iraq today are of such an unprecedented nature and scope that no other existing firm has the necessary skills and experience to be effective both in the United States and on the ground in Iraq..."
    This is not idle talk: check out who the people behind the firm are.
    Talking points memo has background info on some of the players.
    New York Times coverage.
    Via Warfilter

    Data Reveal Inaccuracies in Portrayal of Iraqis (

    polls > spinning
    Apparently I'm not the only one bothered by the creative interpretation of, questionable already, data from Iraq polls.