Thursday, April 29, 2004
Which country are you?

You're Madagascar!

Lots of people don't really know anything about you, making you
buried treasure of the rarest kind.  You love nature, and could get lost in it
whenever possible.  You're remote and exotic, and the few people who know you
value whatever they share with you a great deal.  For some reason, you really
like the word "lemur".

the Country Quiz at the href="">Blue Pyramid

Wednesday, April 28, 2004
This list is supposedly circulating around the blogging world. One is supposed to highlight or bold the books one has read. FromLatino Pundit

I don't think it's a particularly good or complete reading list, but it is the standard curriculum in most first year literature courses in North American universities. And then there is my critique of fiction per se, but I won't get into that ;)

Achebe, Chinua - Things Fall Apart

Agee, James - A Death in the Family
Austen, Jane - Pride and Prejudice
Baldwin, James - Go Tell It on the Mountain
Beckett, Samuel - Waiting for Godot
Bellow, Saul - The Adventures of Augie March
Bront�, Charlotte - Jane Eyre
Bront�, Emily - Wuthering Heights
Camus, Albert - The Stranger
Cather, Willa - Death Comes for the Archbishop
Chaucer, Geoffrey - The Canterbury Tales
Chekhov, Anton - The Cherry Orchard
Chopin, Kate - The Awakening
Conrad, Joseph - Heart of Darkness

Cooper, James Fenimore - The Last of the Mohicans
Crane, Stephen - The Red Badge of Courage
Dante - Inferno

de Cervantes, Miguel - Don Quixote
Defoe, Daniel - Robinson Crusoe
Dickens, Charles - A Tale of Two Cities
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - Crime and Punishment
Douglass, Frederick - Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Dreiser, Theodore - An American Tragedy
Dumas, Alexandre - The Three Musketeers (movie)
Eliot, George - The Mill on the Floss
Ellison, Ralph - Invisible Man
Emerson, Ralph Waldo - Selected Essays
Faulkner, William - As I Lay Dying
Faulkner, William - The Sound and the Fury
Fielding, Henry - Tom Jones
Fitzgerald, F. Scott - The Great Gatsby
Flaubert, Gustave - Madame Bovary

Ford, Ford Madox - The Good Soldier
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von - Faust
Golding, William - Lord of the Flies
Hardy, Thomas - Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - The Scarlet Letter
Heller, Joseph - Catch 22
Hemingway, Ernest - A Farewell to Arms
Hugo, Victor - The Hunchback of Notre Dame (movie)
Hurston, Zora Neale - Their Eyes Were Watching God
Huxley, Aldous - Brave New World Homer - The Iliad
Homer - The Odyssey

Ibsen, Henrik - A Doll's House
James, Henry - The Portrait of a Lady
James, Henry - The Turn of the Screw
Joyce, James - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Kafka, Franz - The Metamorphosis

Kingston, Maxine Hong - The Woman Warrior
Lee, Harper - To Kill a Mockingbird
Lewis, Sinclair - Babbitt
London, Jack - The Call of the Wild
Mann, Thomas - The Magic Mountain
Marquez, Gabriel García - One Hundred Years of Solitude
Melville, Herman - Bartleby the Scrivener
Melville, Herman - Moby Dick
Miller, Arthur - The Crucible
Morrison, Toni - Beloved
Proust, Marcel
O'Connor, Flannery - A Good Man is Hard to Find
O'Neill, Eugene - Long Day's Journey into Night
Orwell, George - Animal Farm
Pasternak, Boris - Doctor Zhivago
Plath, Sylvia - The Bell Jar
Poe, Edgar Allan - Selected Tales
- Swann's Way
Pynchon, Thomas - The Crying of Lot 49
Remarque, Erich Maria - All Quiet on the Western Front
Rostand, Edmond - Cyrano de Bergerac
Roth, Henry - Call It Sleep
Salinger, J.D. - The Catcher in the Rye
Shakespeare, William - Hamlet

Shakespeare, William - Macbeth
Shakespeare, William - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare, William - Romeo and Juliet

Shaw, George Bernard - Pygmalion
Shelley, Mary - Frankenstein
Silko, Leslie Marmon - Ceremony
Solzhenitsyn, Alexander - One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Sophocles - Antigone
Sophocles - Oedipus Rex
Steinbeck, John - The Grapes of Wrath

Stevenson, Robert Louis - Treasure Island
Stowe, Harriet Beecher - Uncle Tom's Cabin
Swift, Jonathan - Gulliver's Travels
Thackeray, William - Vanity Fair
Thoreau, Henry David - Walden
Tolstoy, Leo - War and Peace
Turgenev, Ivan - Fathers and Sons
Twain, Mark - The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnVoltaire - Candide
Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. - Slaughterhouse-Five
Walker, Alice - The Color Purple
Wharton, Edith - The House of Mirth
Welty, Eudora - Collected Stories
Whitman, Walt - Leaves of Grass
Wilde, Oscar - The Picture of Dorian Gray
Williams, Tennessee - The Glass Menagerie

Woolf, Virginia - To the Lighthouse
Wright, Richard - Native Son

Tempting as it was, I refrained from counting the books I've started (but didn't finish) on this list. I do think we should be allowed to highlight the name of the author only if we have read (and finished) something else by them not mentioned on the list, and I've done that ;)
KickAas has mentioned the WTO ruling in this article:kickAAS: The WTO slams cotton subsidies:

"But hang on – isn’t this the same US administration which, according to an exclusive story in the Guardian today is claiming $1.8 billion through the WTO in compensation for the loss of exports to the European Union because of the latter’s ban on genetically modified crops? What was that about having your (subsidized) cake and eating it?"

At least some of us are addressing this issue. A general silence pervades over this issue in much of the leftist blogging out there. It would seem that either many leftist Americans do not follow international trade enough to comment on this, or do not consider world poverty an important enough issue to address. The impact on world poverty from unfair trading has been well documented and well discussed (see, for example, any report from the UN Economic Committee on Latin America and the Caribbean); but many private individuals do not seem to have understood the impact this has on average citizens throughout the world.

Talking about it is the only way to counter this lack of information.

Do most leftists concentrate only on domestic policies?
International criticism would make it seem so. After all, many international observers have pointed out that whether democrats or republicans are in power, American foreign policy remains much the same. And most Americans remain unaware of this.

This is a decision that affects millions of lives of people in the world, and has the potential to help fight world poverty in the long run. But international issues like this seldom figure in leftist American blogs. All too often, attention is directed at domestic issues only, and foreign policy -- the major qualm the world has with the US -- remains in obscurity.

Several wonderful sites have surged as a response to this. Some examples are American Amnesia or Kick Aas.

But overall this information gap when it comes to international politics has yet to be bridged
The True Colours of Benetton
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Brazil has won a contention in the WTO that could force the US to remove or lower its subsidies on products like cotton.

"Brazil won a preliminary ruling at the World Trade Organization on Monday night that could force the United States to lower the subsidies it pays farmers to grow cotton and, eventually, most subsidized crops.

The decision supports Brazil's contention that the subsidies paid to American cotton farmers violate international trade rules. A final ruling against the United States could lead to stiff penalties if it fails to change its practices. In another recent case involving steel, President Bush chose to remove subsidies and therefore did not have to face the penalties.

The ruling also puts the Bush administration in a tight bind in an election year, when Republicans are counting on support from the Farm Belt. The largest American farmers have grown dependent on the $19 billion they receive in annual subsidies.

If the final decision in June goes against the United States, the administration is expected to appeal, if for no other reason than to delay action until after the election. Nearly all preliminary opinions are eventually upheld by the W.T.O.

As the first successful challenge of a wealthy nation's domestic agricultural subsidies, the Brazilian case could also force the United States, the countries of Europe and other well-to-do nations to act this summer and offer new compromises at global trade talks that have been blocked over this agriculture issue for more than a year."
(Story from the New York Times via the Financial Times)

Perhaps the most important effect of this ruling is that it is a first step against the unfair demands made by many first world nations in trading with the third world. Often the first wolrd nations demand that third world nations eradicate all subsidies, only to continue subsidizing their own products. As a result, third world producers are left unprotected and cannot stay adequately competitive in a market where only first world produces are "allowed" (behind the scenes) to subsidize.

Part of the problem originates with lending institutions like the International Monetary Fund. It is no secret that the IMF, guided by the Washington Consensus forces third world countries to comply with harsh free market rules that not even their first world proponents are willing to live by. This has generated much of the anti-FTAA and anti-globalization movements, in criticism of unfair, "un-free" trade that masks itself as pure market competition when it actually favours only first world nations.

But the decision made by the WTO shows that change is possible. In a landmark case, Brazil -- the third world nation behind much of the anti-globalization movement seen in Cancun in September 2003 during the WTO talks involving over 145 countries -- has won a case against a first world nation that subsidizes while advocating against government subsidies. The US is not the only first world nation guilty of this, but this decision may prove to be a first step towards more equal trading rules.
Sunday, April 25, 2004
Electrolite started out with some religious discussion in which I promised myself I would not participate. Nonetheless the debate touched on a very key issue which I think has some relevance here. Pz Myers commented that:

"Although I must admit that my objection to the responses to Atrios's post is that we see far too much sheep-like behavior from many Christians, who too readily identify with any old wolf (or oyster, or lichen, or mineral) that happens to have a fleece draped over it. There is a pattern of undiscriminating defense of anything labeled "Christian" that allows a lot of evil to flourish in this country."

I think that applies to a lot of people, regardless of their beliefs. A lot of people do not seem to need or care for a coherent moral foundation of their own, and would rather follow a prescribed one -- usually the one that comes in the cultural package handed down to them by their environment. If we go to Brazil, we see a lot of sheep-minded Catholics. We also see a lot of sheep-minded "spiritualists," pan-African orichas, Buddhists, etc. It's not that one religion in particular makes people more irrational -- although I've heard of some cults where the purpose is entirely to brainwash you (but that's another story).

I've come across some very intelligent, rational Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, you-name-it in my experience. But even these people do not always care to develop their theological foundation to any great extent. Religion all too often has only a functional purpose in many people's lives, and that is what they need and that is what they get out of it.

The same can be said, however, of people's philosophical convictions. How many people do you know that have formulated intricate philosophical theories to understand their world, and act accordingly? Most people, when asked, have very marked opinions about ethical issues -- often contradictory and without a cohesive moral thread. My point, then, is to say that if most people cannot be bothered even to think about their life from a macro perspective, how can we expect them to have their theological convictions any more solidly? I don't think the sheep-mentality is a good thing, I really don't like it at all. But i do think it's a human, rather than a Muslim, Christian, or atheist condition.

My $.02. I usually prefer to separate my philosophical debates from my observations on international policy, but after all, any sound normative claim about what policy should be made must always be supported by a theoretical foundation.
Saturday, April 24, 2004
Via Boing Boing, I found out that a Seattle-based company has been making luggage whose bilingual labels have the French portion read:

We are sorry that our president is an idiot. We did not vote for him

There are 30 million people in Canada. All products sold nationally must be printed both in English and in French. I know quite a few Quebequois people who must be having quite the laugh! But they are not the only ones...
Friday, April 23, 2004
In a wildly entertaining episode, character Bill O'Reilly from Fox News called the Globe and Mail a "far-left" newspaper, dismissing it as "the most ridiculous item of the day." In response, Globe and Mail columnist John Doyle responds to the charges, and to the onslaught of criticism that followed from the well-informed viewers of Fox News (via Electrolite:

"But the very idea that The Globe and Mail is "far left" only proves my point that the Fox News Channel is the most hilarious thing on American TV since Seinfeld. When we get to see it, we'll decide if, like Seinfeld, it's about nothing.

Spurred by O'Reilly's remarks, dozens of Fox News viewers wrote to me...In an nice touch, a man from somewhere-in-the-USA opened by cheerfully calling me "sonny bub" and, after some confusing name-calling that involved the word "intellectual," he rose to a great rhetorical flourish -- he asked if I had served in Vietnam!"

Hmmm...I'm glad to see that Fox News viewers are kept well informed enough of the global situation to know which countries do and do not engage in wars...

But on a serious note, I do disagree with Doyle on one thing. A rift between the comedic show Fox News and the Globe and Mail should not exemplify or embody a rift between Americans at large and Canadians. That would simply collectively dismiss the pool of intelligent and well-informed Americans out there.

And although the anti-American sentiment runs high in the world right now, it's important to remember that a people as a whole must not be dismissed, no matter what the majority of persons do. Otherwise we are making the same kind of "cultural superiority" argument that has been forced by those whom we would criticize. It's true, many Americans need to realize that the US borders are not the edge of the earth beyond which things fall apart -- although things frequently do fall apart.

But I've encountered some intelligent and well-informed Americans in my time here in the US, and while there is a very marked deficiency in awareness of global events, those of us who would call themselves "more aware" can all contribute to fighting this deficiency, rather than judge. As this blog intends to do.
The Globe and Mail
A US Midwestern marathon has decided that it will only award the $25,000 cash prize if the winner is an American citizen. This is to counter-balance "Kenyan dominance of U.S. foot races." - Twin Cities Marathon to pay U.S. winners only

I'm baffled. I suppose those Kenyans are getting just way too rich off their merit. Let's reward birthplace instead.
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
"Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu emerged defiant after 18 years in prison on Wednesday, saying he was proud of revealing secrets that exposed the Jewish state as an atomic power.
Vanunu flashed victory signs and waved as he walked through the gates of Ashkelon's Shikma Prison, where supporters cheered him as a "peace hero" and counter-demonstrators booed him with chants of "Shut up, atomic spy".

"I am proud and happy to do what I did," the grey-haired, former nuclear technician said standing before a bank of television cameras.

Vanunu's 1986 revelations to a British newspaper about the top-secret Dimona reactor led analysts to conclude Israel had amassed an arsenal of 100 to 200 nuclear warheads, one of the world's largest stockpiles.

Vanunu, 49, complained bitterly of "cruel and barbaric treatment" at the hands of Israel's security services but insisted he had no more state secrets to divulge after serving his full term for treason and espionage.

Fearing he could reveal more classified information, the government put him under close police surveillance and slapped restrictions on his movements, including a one-year ban on travel abroad."

Do I really need to reiterate why keeping hidden nuclear arms is not a good thing?

Story from Financial Times
Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Spring is finally here
Sunday, April 18, 2004

Photo from BBC News

With the election of leftist Luis Ignácio Lula da Silva (Lula), Brazilian politics looked as if they might embark on a different course from the previous neoliberalist, macroeconomic reforms of Cardoso. Yet since in power, Lula has not made any significant alterations to the macroeconomic reforms of the Cardoso era that many expected and some feared. At the same time, there is a growing sector of the Brazilian public that identifies Lula with rightwing politics. In a recent Datafolha survey, 38 percent of those asked would classify Lula ideologically as belonging to the right wing, 12 percent would place him in the centre, and only 31 percent would currently place Lula as left of centre (Latin American Weekly Report, 2 September 2003).

Despite his participation in Brazilian politics as a voice for labour and union movements since the 1970s, since the past election Lula has arguably demonstrated that he plans to continue the IMF-approved austere financial measures (Financial Times, 25 June 2002). Moreover, an increasing number of Latin American scholars have regarded Lula as a descendent of Cardoso’s right-of-center economic reforms. These authors argue that although Lula’s party, the Partido do Trabalhador (PT), has traditionally represented labour interests, there has been a shift in his politics towards neoliberalism.

From his recent alliance with the Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (PMDB), to the controversy now surrounding the PT over the expulsion of more radical, critical members like senator Heloisa Helena, there is emerging evidence to support these arguments. His previous supporters are also critic of the relationship Lula has enjoyed with the IMF, traditionally viewed in Brazil as a mouthpiece for the US in international affairs.

At the end of November 2003 Lula was close to completing his first year in office. Meanwhile, the IMF hailed the president’s macroeconomic policies and issued a press release stating that ‘As the President and his administration celebrate the first anniversary of their election, we at the Fund would like to extend our congratulations for their first year in office (Press Release No. 03/182, 5 November 2003).” While this may project a somewhat stabilizing image of Brazil to foreign investors, Brazilians feel, as the Datafolha survey shows, that their president has committed himself to right-of-centre politics.

However, analysis of some other policy areas reveals that he has not abandoned his original leftist platform entirely. For instance, Lula’s foreign policy remains distinct from that of Cardoso. Although Lula has shown signs of continuing Cardoso’s market program, his international policies, unlike his domestic ones, do not seem to be geared towards appeasement of core nations but rather toward carving out a stronger and more independent stance for Brazil in the international stage. If anything, Lula’s market and trade policies seem to be geared towards the strengthening of relations with other developing nations.

But problems are on the horizon. In order to create a strong role for Brazil internationally, Lula must maintain the support of his electorate. To lose their support could mean a loss of legitimacy. And to maintain this legitimacy, Lula must advocate greater social inclusion, and the actualization of the promises made during his campaign. Lula’s approval is no longer riding on a “honeymoon” with the Brazilian electorate, and unless these reforms begin rather soon, Lula is in danger of alienating certain groups that previously supported him. Despite the constraints on Lula’s actions, imposed both externally by agents such as the IMF and internally, by necessary cooperation from a large right-of-center PMDB presence in the legislation, Lula needs to be remain more accountable to those who elected him and more sensitive to marginalized groups so as to maintain legitimacy. And in a country that has come out of military rule only a decade and a half ago, it is all the more important for a leftist opposition to establish to the public that using the democratic system to resolve conflict can work.
I can't believe I'm blogging about this, but it's one of the funniest things I've seen out there in some time...The Subservient Chicken

Via bloggg and a few other sites out there that have found their way to the chicken as well.
Thursday, April 15, 2004
A fascinating read:

Brains drained by hidden race bias
article:"Brain implant devices approved for trials". It comes from CNN but it's worth a read anyways...a brain chip that would allow paralysed patients to give a machine commands by simply thinking of what they want
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Rio de Janeiro state plans to wall off slums/Financial Times

"The government of Rio de Janeiro state yesterday proposed to build a wall around its sprawling favelas in an effort to help control rampant crime in the picture postcard city.

"The wall won't put an end to violence [in the slums] but if we don't contain it, it will destroy the [surrounding] forest, the economy of Rio de Janeiro and the lives of the city's residents," Luiz Paulo Conde, deputy governor, said on Monday.

The proposal comes after yet another wave of violence rocked parts of the city during the Easter holidays, shutting down commerce, and killing 10 people, including civilians, police and gang members."

Globo news reported last night on television that a school teacher was killed by a stray bullet in this same favela, Rocinha -- the largest in Latin America. Deaths like hers happen nearly every day.

But isn't fighting police inefficiency and corruption a better solution? Anyone ever seen City of God?

Sunday, April 11, 2004
Canadian joke I came across at Explanada. Warning: you must have lived in Canada in order to get the joke.
Saturday, April 10, 2004
Via upyernoz I got the idea of adding some well written, intelligent commentaries that may offer a differing perspective than mine to my blogroll.

I ended up coming across some really interesting sites:

-> Moskau blog <- Weblog aus Russland, is a blogger in Germany writing about Russia. Pretty interesting content, and it's a great way to get a different perspective on Russian expatriates in Germany.

The Argus offers centrist-conservative commentary on Central Asia; it's a well-written blog to watch if you want to find out more about this region of the world.

Kandahar Chronicles is a MUST read diary of a doctor in Afghanistan, placed by the Medecins sans Frontieres program. It is a very well designed web site with detailed descriptions of his daily life. He stopped blogging in February 2004, presumably when his placement term must have ended, but his posts are worth a read!
Friday, April 09, 2004
I was reading around the blogsphere when I came across the Web Fire Escape for blog readers. It's really amusing that people have now come up with a way that readers can click a button that takes them to a "company friendly" site when their boss is around.

By clicking on this button
Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!
you are taken to a non-blogging site. They are also reader-preference friendly, so users can have the fire escape point to their own company site or a document they are supposed to work on.

I found this so amusing, I installed one on the reference bar on this blog. I don't actually blog at work, and I don't recommend reading blogs if doing so may get you fired -- so the fire escape is for entertainment purposes only.
Thursday, April 08, 2004
The international community fails to give an adequate voice to the less powerful of its members. It is no secret that the strong get their say -- and their way -- but this deficiency can become all the more exasperating when it comes to acknowledging and listening to victims as the authorities on their own conflicts. As I have argued earlier, this is also happening in Iraq, where the debate over the country's future has stayed in upper levels, and no real devolution of power to the people has occurred. Rwanda is a no less painful example.

Article: Rwanda's Latest Ethnic Cleansing;
True reconciliation is impossible until everyone's suffering is recognized.

This second one is written by a Rwandan genocide survivor. In keeping with a non "first world"-centric point of view, I believe it is important to look at what a people have to say of their own history in addition to what analysts from outside -- myself included -- would claim:

Article by Joseph K. Sebarenzi, Speaker of Rwandan Parliament 97-00

I have put these two articles side by side for a reason. The first is written by a person who has done considerable research on Rwanda, has been there, and makes a strong case for the need for truth in Rwanda. The latter is written by a Rwandan genocide survivor, Joseph Sebarenzi, who can write with more firsthand information. This is to counter what I perceive is a deficiency by the international community in acknowledging and listening to victims as the authorities on their own conflicts.

Sebarenzi lost his parents, seven brothers, and many members of his extended family in the genocide. While in parliament he fought against corruption in government, and after an assassination attempt he was forced to resign and go into exile. More on Sebarenzi here.

Sebarenzi now argues that "For the victims, the most pressing need is the truth, healing, and prevention of future violent conflict that a successful reconciliation process could provide." I agree with him, and I do think a Truth commission is very much needed in Rwanda. "Yes, I am a victim of genocide. But we cannot judge one million people -- no jail is big enough. Retributive justice will just lead to another cycle of killing," he says.

This is not to say that there isn't an opposing viewpoint, however. I have read (and will later include the link here) other Rwandan scholars who argue that it is better for Rwanda to simply move one rather than try to recount the past. While I disagree with them, I think it is important to consider genocides victims as authorities on the issues that concern them. And, as authorities in any subject are bound to do, Rwanda genocide victims disagree on how to best achieve reconciliation. But listening to them, and paying attention to what they have to say is a very important first step.

As Kavanagh says in his article,

"In Rwanda, if you question political oppression, if you criticize the widely disputed elections of August 2003, or if you inquire about the massacres the RPF itself carried out in western Rwanda and in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the wake of the genocide, you are labeled a génocidaire. Consequently, Rwandans are afraid to speak their minds...And no matter how enlightened the government's rhetoric, it seems unlikely that there can be a real, lasting conversation about "unity and reconciliation" when 80 percent of the population feels they are not part of the discussion."

For more people to speak up as Sebarenzi has done, a public forum needs to be opened. And the international community must be receptive to the idea of letting the victims give their own accounts.
Via as I live the questions I found a link to the Globe and Mail RSS news feeds, so Canadian news shall be displayed here shortly. Ultimately I'd like to have this for good newspapers from several countries -- but wil have to wait until my rss skills and the newsfeeds out there become more compatible ;)
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
BBC NEWS | Greenland's ice cap under threat

"If the ice-sheet was removed Greenland would be a lot warmer because the land surface would be at a lower altitude and reflect less sunlight.

"Unlike the ice on the Arctic Ocean, much of which melts and reforms each year, the Greenland ice sheet might not re-grow even if the global climate were returned to pre-industrial conditions," he says.

Tentative evidence suggests the icesheet has already to started to melt"

As we all know, a slight increase in sea levels could erase major world cities like L.A., Rio de Janeiro, the pays-bas (Belgium, Netherlands, countries below sea level), among others...

This is a serious issue that not only pertaining to the third world, but to the world in general. Worse, it really pertains to the first world, but little is being done:

"The only international agreement on cutting greenhouse gases is the UN's Kyoto Protocol, which requires industrial countries to make a small cut in global emissions by a timeframe of 2008-12.

But the pact is in limbo. It still needs ratification by Russia to take effect and in any case has been abandoned by the United States, the world's biggest CO2 contributor."

Yet another Bush administration legacy -- the rejection of the Kyoto Protocol.
"In Falluja, a reporter for the Associated Press saw cars carrying the dead and wounded from the Abdul-Aziz al-Samarrai mosque, following the US air strike.

The US Marine colonel said his troops attacked the mosque complex because Sunni insurgents were using the site to fire on US forces with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.

'If they barricade themselves inside a mosque, we are not going to care about the mosque any more than they do' -- Maj Gen James Mattis, 1st Marine Division commander"

BBC NEWS | Middle East | US bombards Iraq mosque complex

This isn't good -- an understatement. If even during the Middle Ages someone could call for sanctuary within a church, shouldn't mosques, churches and synagogues be off limits for bombing as well? Not only do they represent relentless revenge, but they also plant further seeds for anti-US hatred among those who feel their religion has been disrespected. I think we have seen enough of what blind retaliation has to offer us.

In the words of Hannah Arendt, revenge "acts in the form of re-acting against an original trespassing, whereby far from putting an end to the consequences of the first misdeed, everybody remains bound to the process, permitting the chain reaction contained in every action to take its unhindered the natural, automatic reaction to transgression and because of the irreversibility of the action process can be expected and even calculated." (The Human Condition, p241).

I remember when I first really understood why hatreds are built into the core of identity and do not die out over the years. I was fifteen, and had just watched the movie Before the Rain, a fantastic movie about the story of retaliation and blind hatred. It dawned on me for the first time that people really did hate each other simply because they were born on different sides of a feud, here the Albanians and Macedonians. Such bitter hatred seemed so senseless at the time, and yet the more I grew up the more I started to take this concept for granted.

Revenge isn't something new to us. It's as old as humanity itself, "an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth." But if we look to history for lessons, we see that resentment goes a long way. If it is allowed to fester and escalate, it will not die with a generation, or with the memories of a past war. As in Germany after WWI, when many people feel unjustly treated, they can provide a fresh base for violent populist causes.

So what can be done in Iraq? Well, maybe -- just maybe -- giving Iraqis a public voice of their own. While the coalition has been so busy debating what is best for Iraq, no one's really asked Iraqis what they want. Salam Pax had a fantastic post on this a couple of months ago. I am taking the liberty of block quoting him:

Have you been noticing all the talk about Iraq as a federal country lately? Something made me itch every time I heard and Iraqi or CPA official talk about it, first I couldn’t figure out was bothering me, but during the long long drive to Amman I was finally able to put my finger on it. No one asked us what we thought of the idea.
I remember almost a month ago when Zibari (our minister for foreign affairs) talked about federalism and I thought “that’s nice we are starting the discussion finally”. I was wrong it was not a discussion; it was a done and made deal. It got so silly that Kurds and Arabs are having real trouble about the issue, the Kirkuk incident was . I can’t remember anyone asking me what I thought about the whole issue, neither was it put to debate openly. Someone high and mighty suddenly decided that is what’s good for you, and we are going thru the process of trying to fit into that prêt-a-porter federalism. “The Officials” are not discussing whether that system is good for us or not they are way beyond that point, they are discussing into how many pieces Iraq is going to be cut up. Along “ethnic” lines or by governorates.
Have I mentioned already that we were not asked?

Looks like the doctors should maybe ask the patient what she feels before administering their doses.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004
The Landless Movement in Brazil (Movimento dos Sem Terra -- MST) has thousands of landless protestors invade over 25 hectares of land to push for agrarian reform, the Financial Times reported. As Brazilian Globo news reported yesterday, Lula has already said the reform will come with compromise on both business and landless sides, "sem grito" -- without yelling, or great shows of dramatic display.
Monday, April 05, 2004
Since I have spent the last four years living in Canada I consider myself partly Canadian too :)

I'm very very excited to know that blogscanada likes the New World Blogger and has picked it as a top blog. Thanks!!!
Saturday, April 03, 2004
With the exception of Canadians and some Mexicans with special permits, the US will now fingerprint and photograph all foreign citizens entering the country -- including Coalition allies UK, Australia, Spain, to name a few. The change will take place by the end of September and is aimed at increased control of who enters and exists its borders.

'The move comes as a response to the failure by European and other countries to issue new passports to their citizens that include a biometric identifier such as a fingerprint by an October 2004 deadline set by the US Congress. Virtually all European countries have said they will miss that deadline, and the US too has admitted it will not begin issuing such passports by October.

The US administration yesterday formally requested that Congress extend the deadline for two years. If Congress refuses, the US would be forced to issue visas to all travellers from visa-waiver countries, creating enormous backlogs at US embassies abroad.' (Financial Times)

The biometric passports that governments plan to move towards would include a computer-readable file that contains all of the passenger's bio and can be examined upon entry into any country. How much worse must things get before they get better? Will we ever return to a paranoia-free world?

The background colour has changed in an attempt to make it more readable...let me know if you think this was a bad idea..
Thursday, April 01, 2004
After trying to figure out why my page rank has dropped literally overnight, I came across this detailed explanation of how the algorithm is calculated. Didn't really shed any light on my particular case but it's still interesting to understand how the google spider crawls its web. Or at least to try.