Wednesday Aug 06, 2008

Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba's Peace Declaration

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba included the following observation in his 2008 Peace Declaration:

This truth received strong support from a report compiled last November by the city of Hiroshima. Scientists and other nuclear-related experts exploring the damage from a postulated nuclear attack found once again that the only way to protect citizens from such an attack is the total abolition of nuclear weapons. This is precisely why the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the International Court of Justice advisory opinion state clearly that all nations are obligated to engage in good-faith negotiations leading to complete nuclear disarmament.

Tuesday Aug 05, 2008

The end of the deep freeze

After the two great wars (WWI and WWII) and particularly after the first one, the world went into a deep freeze over international trade. Whole sections of the world were forcefully left out of its active commercial core. Political storms divided natural trade partners and put their commerce into a deep freeze. In the new millennium, those affected have fully woken up to the grander design of the world trade. So, now, we can read the following in Financial Times ("Sino-India trade wave captures banks' attention," August 4, 2008), as a normal course of events:

Sino-Indian trade last year climbed by 56 per cent to $38.7bn, according to Chinese data, and could reach $60bn as early as this year rather than in 2010, as was previously expected.

This is still pittance compared to the major bi-party trade figures in the rest of the world but looking at the growth rate will tell you where we are heading. Will the world commercial core next shift to where it was 800 years ago?

Tuesday Nov 13, 2007

Wars' Cost

Josh White of The Washington Post summarizes the findings of "The Hidden Costs of the Iraq War," a report issued by the Democratic staff of U.S. Congress's Joint Economic Committee. I do not believe the cost analysis takes account of the immeasurable human toll involved.

If, instead of a dogged focus on imperial goals powered by fear, people demanded that this money be spent, prudently, on making U.S. economy more competitive, i.e. if they demanded that government-driven investments be focused on people, institutions, facilities and technologies that help people get on with their lives, work and play, the U.S. would not be facing the economic problems it is facing now and will be in a much better economic, political and social position globally.

 

Thursday Sep 20, 2007

Zero Degree Turn -- Persian TV mini-Series

 

Farnaz Fassihi of The Wall Street Journal ("Iranian Unlikely TV Hit"), Washington Post, Nasser Karimi of Associated Press ("Iran's Newest Hero Aids WWII Era Jews"), a certain teenage family member ("Persian Stuff: Zero Degree Turn") and now NPR ("Romance on Iranian TV Crosses Cultures") have all published stories and bits and pieces about "Zero Degree Turn," an Iranian TV mini-series shot in Paris and Budapest.

The mini-series involves a love story between an Iranian-Palestinian Muslim man and a French Jewish woman during World War II. It is based on the true story of an Iranian student-diplomat in Paris who saved some 1,000 French Jews by issuing Iranian passports to them as a means of passage to the safety of neutral Iran.

YouTube seems to have some pieces of some of the episodes. I hear that the theme song of the mini-series has become quite a hit in Iran, and every Monday night people gather to watch it. Here, in the U.S. it broadcasts every Friday night on JJTVN through free satellite connection.

(I also ran into a CNN character and political analysis of the mini-series on YouTube. Unfortunately, it was grossly, almost purposefully, inaccurate. While commenting on the mini-series, the reporters don't even bother with getting any of the characters correctly and blatantly confuse very minor characters for the major ones. However, I am hardly surprised. Much of the mainstream media's bar on accuracy in reporting on Iran remains fixed shamefully low.) 

Wednesday Aug 08, 2007

Sometimes, pictures ...

Sometimes, pictures can tell or cover-up whole stories—more than any news report or any press conference can.

In the English-speaking world, John Berger, more than any art critique I know, has shown how pictures and looking can disclose a great deal about events, people and places. (See his Ways of Seeing and class of the same name by Professor Lori Landay at UC Berkeley.)

When I write this entry, i.e. during lunch hour on August 8, 2007, two of the three pictures above are less than 24 hours old.

What do these pictures tell you?
 

Saturday May 12, 2007

Security Consequences of Urban Planning

 

Modern urban planning in the U.S., as it has been conceived and implemented in the urban sprawl since WWII, poses serious security concerns that arise from its economic vulnerabilities. The vulnerabilities are both explicit, in terms of direct transaction costs such as transportation to work, and more implicit, in terms of aggregate and individual worker productivity. Thus, did The Economist ("In a Jam," May 5, 2007, p. 38) describe the situation in the area where I live:

[The] Bay Area is not set up like a European metropolis. Most suburbanites have quite a drive just to get to an underground station, and must then win a vicious struggle for parking to make it onto a train.

The description fits well with my family's experience here.

In major American cities, workers have to drive long distances (of the order of 80 - 200 km / day) from home to work and back, and a significant increase in gas prices, without a similar increase in better communications technologies (that allow people to reduce trips to work to compensate for other losses) or a similar increase in energy efficiency of automobiles (at the same unit price) can cause perturbations towards lower growth rates.

Lack of adequate and efficient public transportation is not limited to major cities. One in eight who live in the U.S. live in California, just as I do. The state by itself has consistently accounted for one of the top 10 largest GDPs in the world for multiple decades, and it drives the U.S. economy with its vast consumption, tax base, farming and real estate, not to mention high technology. And yet, there are no super fast trains connecting any of its major metropolitan areas together: Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento Valley, etc.

The economic inflexibility of urban sprawl leads not only to higher overall transaction costs throughout the economy but also to instabilities in various sectors. For example, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that 51 leading retail store chains have reported a collective 2.3% decline in same-store sales. Michael Niemira, chief economist of the New York-based International Council of Shopping Centers says this is the weakest showing since he began tracking the closely watched industry measure of performance in 1970. People have blamed this on a soft housing market, bad wheather in March, a fast Easter or fuel prices. Fuel prices and a soft housing market seem to be the most likely explanations for why this drop has been as large as it has been. While the real estate industry benefits from generally cheap gas prices (which lead to better possibilities for greater urban sprawl) and may be willing to go to war for it (observe how the representatives of American economic power offered almost universal support, in 2002-2003, for aggression against and occupation of Iraq), the spending for war might come back to bite the real-estate and other industries in the form of rampant deficits and inflation, higher interest rates, higher fuel prices and general asset attrition. One would expect that the economic elites and political leaders of a super power to comprehend that peace, justice, stability and truly open commerce (of course, not in commerce of aggressive war machinary) remain the solid base and the best guarantors of mutual understanding and development, economic vitality and growth. However, "stability" is often confused with the extension of imperial rule. In the meantime, a rampant political jargon and an infected moral language equates mass aggression with liberation, injustice with natural rights, murder with "collatoral damange," etc. Such infection of moral language, publicly spread, will always fog people's minds and provide a kind of self-belief among the elites to perpetuate the rule of what becomes a militaristic economy unashamedly pursuing its ends until it exhausts all resources at its disposal (and reaches its own end) at a huge toll in human life and well-being.

Friday Mar 30, 2007

Inquisition, Fact and Fiction

Some say The Inquisition ended centuries ago. They may be right but, in 21st century, torture (depending on how you define torture) continues as a means to extract the required confessions from the victims. Whether the confessions are truth or false, may matter not, as long as they perpetuate the necessary fears and the required propaganda.

Wednesday Jan 10, 2007

Modern Diplomacy

The "gunboat diplomacy" which was a constant feature of British Empire's 19th and 20th century dealings with Persia has been picked up for a dreamy revival by the new empire -- a dream that this time may prove ready to turn into a real nightmare! Other perspectives seeing recent developments in the U.S. occupation of Iraq can be found here, here, here and here. President Bush's speech can be found here. (Unfortunately, the latter speech blames others for the problems caused directly by the occupation and the consequent and gradual destruction of Iraq's civil society. It seems that Iraq must bleed more before it is left to its own account: "We must expect more American and Iraqi casualties"!) Financial Time's editorial about the same, can be found here. The Washington Post reports the story and some poll results here and elsewhere in an editorial. Unfortunately, the editorial, while advocating some pragmatism, accepts some of the fiction told earlier repeating several false mantras when it comes to the region.

The WP also carries Zbigniew Brzezinski's column analyzing the president's speech. Of the old guard of U.S. diplomacy, he has the keenest view of the trends in the region. He observes: "America is acting like a colonial power in Iraq. But the age of colonialism is over. Waging a colonial war in the post-colonial age is self-defeating. That is the fatal flaw of Bush's policy." [Some have produced evidence that Brzenzinski, who served in President Carter's administration, was the American diplomat who gave the green light to Saddam to attack Iran when Iran had disbanded its military after the revolution and the hostage crisis. See for example, Noam Chomsky's Towards a New Cold War: Essays on the Current Crisis and How We Got There (1982 edition). So, Brzezinski is no dove.]

Monday Jan 08, 2007

Green Colonialism

Guy Dinmore, the Washington reporter for Financial Times, has today (January 8, 2007) written one of his best pieces of journalism about the largest embassy in the World being finished in Baghdad.

[Read More]

Thursday Jan 04, 2007

The Barbarians, Beautiful Basra and Natural Law

The beautiful city of Basra has a sad history involving, among other less glorious moments, multiple British occupations over the last 100 years or so.

So, in that context, I wonder why some news reports from Basra take so long to get to me and why it has become taboo to report and aggressively investigate this video on the BBC. Why have such crimes related to occupation been overlooked or forgiven simply because they may have occured some months prior to the start or conclusion of investigations, and what sort of people actually manned the video cameras which capture them? (You have to watch the whole video to understand the meaning of these questions. Wikipedia does have a short mention of the incident in its entry on Basra and also here. Or perhaps, we need to turn to the Swedish media for an investigation.)

Note that we purportedly live in the 21st century and not "1984" when talk of human rights comes from the same institutions and corners where the greatest violations seem to be tolerated and propagated.

Occupation and aggression begets resistance, ultimately by all means. No matter in which part of globe and what part of history you look, people will resist occupation when occupiers overstay and stretch their welcome to its natural limit. To borrow a phrase from the author of Leviathan (a certain Mr. Thomas Hobbs), the premise that overstay leads to resistance is surely a "natural law," if there ever was a "natural law." If this "natural law" applies to guests in the West, how much more true should one expect it to be in the guest-welcoming East with occupation even when occupiers are originally invited and welcomed--and truer yet when uninvited and unwelcome?

Basra's distinguished history includes other sad moments such as the Battle of Camel some 1400 years ago. However, despite war and occupation, like for all ancient  and honorable cities, there has been millenium when Basra has lived in peace and prosperity -- exactly what she deserves and wants again if left to her own account.

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