What a suprise: Arab GDP declined in 2001
MEMRI's latest translation on regional economic news is quite distressing. Arab countries' GDP droped 1,9%; their exports declined 8,1% but their imports increased to 4,8%. These statitsics points to a very unhealty economic situation pointing to an exceptionally inefficient productive and labour markets that simply can't provide either jobs or goods and services.
Even more worrisome is that Al Qui'ada's financing is unaffected by the present economic malaise. Indeed according to MEMRI's translation, North African and Gulf states contribute anywhere between 30-300 million$U.S.(!) Such financing is unproductive and exports a scarce resource from the countries that can ill-afford to lose such money. Even more galling is that the Gulf states' Islamic investment houses prefer to invest their money in luxury apartments and other high end investments within the U.S. I myself don't understand why those investment houses don't invest in manufacturing companies- I include software companies if ones resorts to the fundamental sense of the word manufacture as -'handmade'
Bernard Lewis' observation that the exclusion of women from public life as the gravest impediment to Arab/Modelm development is quite perceptive. In fact, I blogged 2 articles on girl's education in Saudi Arabia. I found a third about divorced women which I sent to Christopher Johnson with an off handed comment. He wrote back and reminded me that people within a society must have the desire to change. That's true because his comment reminded me of the experiences of the Europeans during the 'enlightened despotism' period. Kings or their favourites wanted to reform their countries and began banning all sorts of practices or telling the ordinary people that certain traditions were irrational. The result was fierce backlash that caused many favourites to be toppled and the kings to reverse many of the reforms-even the positive or necessary ones- with no thought but to undo them as quickly as possible.
Surprsingly, I'm optimistic that the Arabs, in particular, will desire and demand sweeping reforms. The debate whether or not to invade Iraq and the consequent proposition of a post Saddam regime has compelled the Arab regimes to focus on their futures, lest external events and outside actors impose their own solutions.
El fiscal general amenaça de suspendre l'autonòmia basca
El fiscal general ha amenaçat el bascos, en una entrevista amb Tele 5, de suspendre l'autonòmia basca segona l'art 155 de la constitució. Trobo molt símbolic que un partit de dretes recolza un jutge militant del partit d'esquerres. Demonstra que el centralisme passa de sobre l'idelògia. Que més em molesta de tot el exercici es que el PP ha provocat de manera deliberada aquesta crisis per justificar una ma de ferro no sols contra Batasuna sinó el PNB el veritable cabra negre del PP. El veig com un estratègia de reduir les nacionalitats en una curiositat antropoògica i castigar els partits nacionalistes per haver revendicats durant els últims anys mes decentralització. El PP atempta un cop d'estat constitucional en contra el règim autonomic.
Some beefs about Star Trek the next generation
I've always had my pet peeves about the Next generation series. They differ from most others because my beefs are sociopolitical critiques. Here's a brief list
I hate Q and the whole concept of the continuum. I thought the character was a mistake when he was introduced in the first episode John DeLancie is fine actor but the writers showed a profound lack of imagination. I found the Q episodes to be real cop outs.
2) The rampant elitism
The Federation is supposed to be a meritocracy; yet no single episode has ever covered the the enlisted crew
O'Brien doesn't really count because you never new what his rank was. We saw lots of admirials prancing on the show but how come we never heard from the sergeant major or chief pett officer of the fleet. An old sea dog who could bring Picard and teh gang down a few notches Worse, all the officers went to the academy- how come there was never any character that rose through the ranks through officer candidate school.
3) The near absence of conflict and politics
The Next generation was dull; everyone got along on the ship; there was barely any conflicts. My brother pointed out that pros will get along and put aside their differences. True but eventually the rivalries and personality conflicts would still crack through teh façade. The writers blew every opportunity. I found it rather annoying that politics only occured with the Other: the Klingon empire, Bajor, the Romulans but never the Federation.
The episodes with the Borg were fun though a bit heavyhanded with the fetishism between individuality and collectivism. Davis Hanson's book Culture and Carnage
was published too late for the writers to benefit.
I was annoyed with the rampant scientism. I found the handwringing moral dilemmas rather shallow since the writers explicitly banned religious, philisophical, ethical or cultural influences not from the AngloAmerican Enlightenment. Every moral/ethicla problem conveniently had a scientific, more precisely a scientistic, solution. The resolution was always very elegant and clean. No loose ends or messiness that sullied.
Of the New generation spin offs; I found Deep Space Nine to be the best. I know many Trekkies hate it but that's because it offends the traditional American optmistic moralism with its pessimism, political intrigue, its messiness and moral ambiguity. Deep Space Nine is more Other (i.e. European, Latin American, Asian, Mideastern)
5) Section 31
OK technically it's not Next Generation but since the organization was introduced in Deep Space nine, Section 31; it still counts. You can't have a secretive, conspiratorial organization for 200 years. There's too much vanity in human affairs and someone would either bragged about or some black op would go so wrong that the organization would've been exposed. Think the crazy CIA schemes of the 50-60s. Section 31 should've been modelled on the British SOE of WW II. The dirty trick, back ops spy division.
Those are just some of my pet peeves with the series.
The German election: shaking my head in sadness
Josh posted this depressing article
Really word escape me except to cite the opening words of the Lord of the Rings:a shadow fell on Mirkwood.
A darkness of the heart envelopes humanity. It's guys like Stoiber, Schorder and Chrétien that make me throw my hands up in disgust at trying to defend the underlying unity of the West and forestall the emergence of American jingoism.
I understand everyone's reticence of going to war in Iraq. It's difficult to see the connection between Al Qui'ada and Iraq as well as what any role the latter played in 11 September. Nevertheless, Iraq is still a danger. The regime has relently pursued all types of weapons of mass destruction in flagrant violation of several UN resolutions. How seriously should the world take the international body if it doesn't even bother caring if its laws are enforced or not?
Further, I'm deeply disgusted at how the Irakis are supposedly suffering very heavily from the sanctions yet the regime somehow scrape enough money to pay off the sucide bombers' families- 25 000$ U.S. is unethically generous. Either the sanctions are ineffective deterrents or the international is just too greedy to let sanctions be effective.
In any case, what I want to know is why are Schorder and Stoieber so keen to protect Saddam? Do they dispeise America that much that they'd rather shelter Iraq from any sanction
even if it's approved by U.N.? Honestly, I'll never understand what the attarction to tyranny is.
Protesting girl's education in Saudi Arabia
Arabnews.com has published tw rather interesting articles. The first chronicles the need to find places for expatriates girls in Saudi schools
Thanks but no thanks. I have a number of objections. First, is the inferior curriculua that doesn't emphaisize enough math and sciences; second, I object to the way they teach history, the humanities and the other social sciences. MEMRI
has catalogued enough abuses that I want nothing to do with it. Third, I can't exactly go to the Education ministry and and exempt my daughter(s) (I don't have kids yet so bear with me in my subsequent point) from Islamic religious classes to learn the catechism from either a Latin or Eastern rite priest, nun or lay catechist. Another strike against Saudi public schools is the total absence of physed for the girls
The second columnist complains that it's bad enough that women in Saudi Arabia are restricted in so many public activities, so why should the girls be deprived of gym classes and sports? No school official nor Education ministry functionary could answer the question when queried by the second journalist. The answer is pretty straightfoward:girls and women really don't matter in Saudi society. And that's a sad comment about a society.
Premption: or a sober Arabnews.com
Arabnews often seesaws between tiresome whining and sobr articles like one
I suspect that teh Saudi regime is trying once again to tell the Iraqi regime (yes yes we know although a stongman runs it; it's not a unipersonal regime)that the Americans have outmanouevered the Iraqis and unlike the first Gulf war, they're going to oblierate the regime. Worse is that the UN has suddenly become reenergized and realized that for nearly a decade its resolutions have been dead letters;if the institution wished to remain relevant it'll have to enforce its previous resolutions as well as the whatever new one currently being negotiated.
Saddam won't have the luxury of time as he did 10 years ago.
Concordia University:The past is present
Sue Montmogery's article
provokes a sardonic observation that that the moral relativists suddenly discover absolutist values in free speech. I flatly disagree with Montmomery's turid rehashing of clichés that the administration's decision to ban political activism over the Mideast is an atack on free speech and deminish's Canada's committment to democracy.... Um where was I before I daydreamed? It's precisely when a democratic institution imposes limits that democracy is respected. After all, one of the collaries of a democarcy is the rule of law.The riots and the behaviour that ensued negated both. It's rather telling that a blogger like me has to take Montgomery, the columnist to task over her historical amnenia. The riots that occured at Concordia remind me so much of the thuggery that engulfed Spain's universities at the turn of the last century. Political parties and factions would hire thugs and pistoleros to disrupt not only each other's political rallies but also any political activism at the universities. Enventually intellectual life began to suffer as the universities polarized in relfection to the societal. The Spanish civil war soon followed. The sterile intellectual life under Francoism serves a sobering reminder of what can happen.
Universities in North America have become islands of totalitarian reprssion. There hasn't been any good faith debate or exchanges of controversial ideas or people in many years.
1-800 number: A North American glory
I just got a new credit card and as one of the security measures I had to call this 1-800 number to activate it. Wow in 35 seconds my card is usable. Mama tells me that the 1-800 services is one of the things she loves most about North American life; that you can pick up the phone and resolve most problems just by talking to someone dsitant from you and not have to pay long distance charges. Europeans who come here for study or sabbatical, are skeptical at first but become hooked once they've called a 1-800 and were able to order something or have a question answered hassle-free. Sure toll free numbers exist in Europe buty they're not as ubiquitious as in in North America; nor do I hear of European countries or regions fighting each other to get a call centre.
Iraq: or Saudi Arabia's volte-face
the reasons for Suadi Arabi's
change in policy towards allowing Americans to use the Saudi basis.The desire that any military intervention be under the auspices of the UN is public relations. The real change of mind is the Saudi desire to take part in the post Saddam regime. I can assure the Saudi that they'll never ever have that opportunity. Bush is the personality type that has a very long memory of deeds. He has no hesitation to lavishly reward his friends but he also has no compunction in severly punishing his enemies. The Saudi regime has opposed the U.S. and not just over the freezing of assets or the arrest of Al Qua'ida operatives, but 15 of the 19 hijackers originated from that country. More importantly, the Americans know from their Balkans experience that wherever the Saudi missionaries show up, the practice of Islam becomes starker, harsher, more intolerant and antagonistic. The American administrations wants to create a state with a moderate Islamic political and social life that would be a model for other states in the region. And the Saudis know that too.
La France mettra fin aux 35 heures
Le Figaro note
que le Cabinet français mettra fin aux 35 heures. Enfin! Sans doute, cette réaction offend la gauche et tout group social qui prône pour les travailleurs; b'en tant pispour vous! Limiter le travail à 35 heures par la force de loi constitue une bêtise et un mépris à la bonne fois de employeurs et salariés. One ne doit pas oublier qu'imposer 35 heures de travail dans certain milieux où les échéanchiers sont serrés ou d'une durée impréscise- tel qu'une intervention chuirgicale par exemple- nuit la productivité. En autre, à l'égard d'adultes, je pense que tant les employeurs et les employés peuvent s'accorder quant aux horaires et à l'organisation du travail. L'état peut jouer son rôle de surveillant en assurant que les deux parties n'abusent pas de leurs droits.
C'est à voir comme déroulera cette modification législative dans la réalité mais au moins réintroduire une peut de flexibilité est à souhaiter.
The arts and architecture: the cult of ugliness
Mark Sullivan's blog
there's a photo for the proposed new church at Fatima that made my jaw drop. My reaction was that neither the church, the diocese, the bishop and the architect are seriously proposing that object as a church!? I wrote to Mark and joked about what I thought of the proposed building and complained that we're being inundated by the cult of ugliness.
It's not just architecture that's succumbed to the cult of ugliness; pretty much public art has fallen under the spell of the uglier the better. Sensation
comes to mind but that's the more notorious example of what passed as art nowadays.
Why is the cult of ugliness so popular with the intellectuals?
Contempt. Pure unadultered contempt for the ordinary person, his esthetic tastes and sense of beauty. The intellectuals sneer at the ordinary person because he's such an ignoramus. From ideologists, beauty hallucinates the ordinary person from his true revolutionary destiny due to inculcation of the domainant hegemony of the ruling classes (think the sci-fi movie the Matrix); from the philistines, beauty is abhorrent because its popular with 'the little people' whose esthetics are so untrustworthy. Hence, beeauty must be discredited, 'deconstructed' 'explained' via obtuse jargon etc.
Another factor is the pressures of false originality. Originality has become such an obligation that it compels artists to veer to the ugly, the bizarre, the grotesque, the shocking. Unfortuately for the artists succumbing to the cult of ugliness isn't a mark of originality but of no talent, a profound abyss of imagination as well as a sadness from the constant stress to be original all the time. Not every artist can be original; nor should it be the sole criterion to judge an artist's work
Sometimes there's nothing wrong with copying someone else's style or technique one in a while. I'm a model builder and I've shamelessly borrowed techniques from other modelers over the years. partly it's to try them out and partly to imitate them. Most of the time, I don't succeed but ironically enough, I still create original models and dioramas even though I've borrowed from others. True originality lies in how the artist has synthesized his influences. The beauty is the result of how well he's blended those influences and how people respond to the effort.
The Open source society
James Bennett sent me a link on the application of the Open source/LINUX paradigm to human affairs. Reading though his article, it merely reinforced some longheld views that I briefly articulated at the Penguinista; notably that openess is superior to enclosure.
The classical illustration is the beginnings of the Apple and IBM PC computer. Contary to much opinion, Apple's choice of a closed proprietary system wasn't shortsighted, stupid or ill concieved but a perfectly rational choice with venerable legacy. Nonetheless, we forget just how radical the concept the PC was. It was built with off the shelf components based on open norms and open standards that anyone could copy. The creativity that was subsequently unleashed constitutes a Big bang. Companies and people were able to improve the original components and challenge the then current ideas on computing, hardware manufacture and programming. The leaps in knowledge; the advances have been utterly staggering.
The parallels with societies and history aren't lost. Indeed, I view the competition between Apple and the PC as small scale example of what's gone on between the closed and open societies. History has clearly demonstrated that open society advance faster, further, earlier than a closed society.
The rise of the open source society merely accelerates a foritori the bewildering choices available to societies. Indeed, if one compares the contracts/licences that govern open source software with the constitutions of open societies, one concludes that there's no monolith; rather, there's a a mosaic. A mosaic which higlights the infinite variety of orgainizing human affairs. What I appreciate most about the Open society paradigm is that it captures a glimpse of the spontaneous and ad hoc social relations that coalesce into a network. That network then radiates its effects to other networks and vice-versa.
All in all, a fascinating article and one I highly recommend.
'Dead software' and the GPL: saving the code
Dale Amon from the Libertarian Samizdata blog broches on a subject that's dear to my hear: saving 'dead software' via the GPL
. I find this use of the GPL to be one of the most significant and positive developments of the Open Software movement. Software source code shouldn't disappear just because the company has gone bankrupt; or worse, lost interest in it. Software is a tool and users are better off having as much variety of tools as possible. I, frankly, don't see why IBM can't release Magellan under GPL or whoever owns Wordstar to do the same. The only explanation I have is fear and greed. Fear that if a software program comes under the GPL and become popular, the company stands to lose billions (greed). I find that argument spurious; after all, if some program hasn't been used in decades what makes the owner think he'll suddenly make billions?
El govern basc querel.la contra Garzón
¡Ostres! Ja comença a amargar-se entre el Govern basc i Garzón
Una querl.la per prevaració es una carga molt greu. Ja sé que el Govern citarà el fet que Garzón dictà l'ordre d'il.legalitzar Batasuna abans que la Llei dels partits polítics es legisferà. Encara que sigui una formalitat, un estat de dret no pot passar-se d'aquest formalitats que limiten ço que pot fer o no un estat. Personalment, considero Batasuna com una faxada d'ETA i la cara política; però ademto que la manera que Grazón i Aznar actuen demonstra palesament que entre el dret i esquerra a nivell nacional no hi ha difèrencies quant a llurs visions envers les nacionalitats- ambdós son centralistes que veuen qualsevulla manifestiació dels bascs o catalans, reaccionen com si el pais s'esfondria.
Penso que en fin de comptes, el PP i els socialistes haguéssin pogut actuar amb més mà dreta que ara.
The Buffalo five: or l'indignité nationale
Over the weekend, we eard about the 5 American citizens of Yemeni origins who were arrested on suspicions of being an active Al Qua'ida cell. Over at Charles Johnson's blog
many of the commentators wanted to strip the citizenship of some of the accused. That's possible with those that were naturalized;you can't strip the citizenship of someone who was born here. So I propose borrowing a judicial category from the French.
The noise you hear is that of the American bloggers' jaws hitting their desk. The judicial category is called l'indigité nationale
Basically it was applied to those Vichy collaborators when they were paroled. What the status entailed was that the person was permanently inhabilitated from holding office; he was dispensed from swearing the oath in court as his testimony was worthless, couldn't vote in elections and other permenant disabilities.
My proposal is to bring back a sense of shame to those citizens that aided and abetted terrorist in a time of war or peace.
150 pilots sense feina
Arabnews.com informa que uns 150 pilots no tenen feina
deguda del refus del Ambassat d'EE UU a atorgar les vises que els hi calen per estudiar al pais. Mestrestant, els saudites envien alguns pilots a Angleterra per completar els cursos requirits; però, Saudia, la línia aèria nacional construirà 2 centres per evitar problemes semblants al futur. Un centre es dedicarà per l'aviació; l'altre per la seguretat. Ambdós es conformaren amb els reglements de la FAA- l'autoritat americana d'aviació.
Es a veure si els saudites reeixiran o no.
Chrétien plaide pour la pauverté comme clef du terrorisme
Chrétien dans son discours à l'ONU insiste davantage que la pauvreté est la clef du terrorisme et announce une augmentation d'aide...pour l'Afrique.
Cependant Mark Steyn rappelle les terroristes qui ont effondrées les Tourelles jumelles, n'ont pas été ni Africains ni Latino-Américains. Steyn aussi cite un étude fait par Sala i Martin duquel il souligne l'emérgence d'une classe moyenne mondiale dans toutes les régions sauf une: le Moyen Orient.
Or,d'emblée, on discerne facilement les «racines». Ce sont des pays avec des régimes autoritaires, corrumpus d'où le clan et le tribu à travers leurs valeurs d'honte et d'honneur priment tout: le mérite, la dissension, la recherche désintérsée de la vérité, la libérté, l'innovation et un gran étcetera. Les femmes et les minorités réligeuses, éthniques et linguistiques sont carrément exclues de la société et donc aggravent davantage la pauvreté. Finalement, les Arabes aliemnteent une honneur blessée car 1000 ans jadis la civilization islamic a été dans son apogée glorieuse et aujourd'hui elle a descendu tellement que ça fait pitié.
La solution est d'ouvrir ces pays-là et permetre la population vraiment s'épanouir sans crainte et sans trop d'obstacles gratuits.
A sad story: how the Bosian Moslems have been betrayed
The Mideast Forum has this sobering article
about how the Arabs denigrated the Bosnian Moslem plight and lambasted the Americans. What particularly appalled me was the incredible ingratitude towards Bosnian Moslem traditions. Smashing of gravestones? What hadith or Qur'an possibly justifies such a descreation? None but some narrowminded fanatic's interpretation of the prohibition agianst graven images (does an engraved passage of the Qur'an constitute an image?)
I'm satisfied that the Bosian Moselms are standing up to the bullying by the foreign Islamic missionaries to conform to a strand of islam that's contrary to the former's. I'm bothered by the fact that we in the West can't do much except give moral support and some minor material support (i.e. printing presses, courses on architectural presevation, how to curate museums, etc.)
El jefe militar de ETA y el número 2 detinidos en Francia
El Mundo informe que la polícia judicial francesa ha detenido
el máximo dirgiente con su número 2. Esta es un golpe muy fuerta contra ETA y tal vez podrá enfin acabar con el grupo aramdo. Sin embargo me molesta que los franceses han tardado al menos unos 15 años rastando su culo. Me pregunto si el 11 septiembre y los atenteados frustrados en Alemanía hace unos dos semanas habrá galvinizado por fin las autoritades franncesas a actuar contra ETA.
Bueno, lo importante es no amargarse del pasado y aplaudir de este gran éxito policial.
(la ponencia del Fons de desenvelopment arab de l'ONU)
America must defeat Al Qua'ida on the cultural front:
Over the weekend Arabnews publishes an article on on how the U.S" has to defeat Al Qua'ida on the cultural
front. My first question is why? Isn't it more incumbent for the Mideastern/Islamic states to stop the religious fanaticism in their own countries? The UN even has a blueprint
of where to start.
To argue that it's the U.S. responsibility to defeat Islamic integrist terrorism is for the Arab/Islamic states to abidcate their primary obligation to their own people.