Genocide As The Losers’ Choice

I have recently argued that “those who felt there was not enough time to save the world, went on to commit genocide“. Of course that’s not part of an effort to justify anybody or anything, rather a step forward towards recognizing genocidal conditions before the killings happen.

Is genocide a crime for idealistic losers then? Yes it is. Read for example from “Genocide – A Comprehensive Introduction, 2nd ed.” by by Adam Jones, Ph.D., Routledge/Taylor & Francis Publishers, August 2010 (p. 37):

in his 2006 book The Order of Genocide, political scientist Scott Straus [wrote that] “a dynamic of escalation was critical to the hardliners’ choice of genocide. The more the hardliners felt that they were losing power and the more they felt that their armed enemy was not playing by the rules, the more the hardliners radicalized. [In Rwanda they] chose genocide as an extreme, vengeful, and desperate strategy to win a war that they were losing.”

Straus’ book is on Amazon. Interestingly, at page 155 it reports that among the main reasons why they committed genocide, 47.9% of interviewed Hutus mentioned: Insecurity, war, “kill the Tutsis before they kill the Hutus”.

Actually, there is a clear link between the Shoah, the beginning of Nazi Germany’s defeat and a general initial state of panic from Hitler to all, about lack of time and resources. From Wikipedia:

the German defeat in front of Moscow in November–December led to a sharp change of emphasis. Euphoria was replaced by the prospect of a long war, and also by a realisation that food stocks were not sufficient to feed the entire population of German-occupied Europe.[8] It was at this time the decision to proceed from “evacuation” to extermination was made. Speaking with Himmler and Heydrich on 25 October, Hitler said: “Let no one say to me: we cannot send them into the swamp. Who then cares about our own people? It is good when terror precedes us that we are exterminating the Jews. We are writing history anew, from the racial standpoint.”

The point about insecurity has indeed become a historical trait of modern genocide. Writes Malcolm Bull in the London Review of Books (“Ultimate Choice“, Vol. 28 No. 3 · 9 February 2006, pages 3-6 – it’s the original source that inspired my quote above):

Reasoned defences of most genocides can be constructed on the basis of a conjunction of the just war and social exclusion arguments, for if there is an identifiable social group engaged in total war against you, then it has to be neutralised. The Armenian genocide in 1915 was justified on these grounds, for the Armenians were expected to fight with the Russians in the event of an invasion of Anatolia. Stalin’s classicide was an attempt to deal with counter-revolutionary elements who might have sided with the Whites in the event of a renewed civil war or foreign invasion. A defence of the Holocaust might be constructed along the same lines: the attack on Bolshevism was a just war against an outlaw state ‘driven by slavery and the threat of human sacrifice’; it became a total war in which Jews would probably have taken the Soviet side; their pre-emptive internment was therefore a natural precaution, and their execution an unfortunate necessity at a time of ‘supreme emergency’ when the Red Army threatened the Fatherland. If you accept the just war and social exclusion arguments, then these genocides can only be criticised on the basis that they relied on shaky political analysis. They were, in effect, misjudgments, failures of statesmanship, perhaps.

And

Genocides do not occur in stable, peaceful environments, but at moments of crisis when the state is in danger. So societies only go over the brink when the perpetrators of the genocide are radicalised by war.

Analogously, when the Center on Law & Globalization extracted from the work of historial Mark Levene “Nine Common Features” of genocides. here’s what they chose as feature #3:

3. The government or regime believed it was in extreme danger and that crisis was looming,

Finally, in “State Power and Genocidal Intent: On the Uses of Genocide in the Twentieth Century” (part of “Studies in comparative genocide“, edited by Levon Chorbajian, George Shirinian, Palgrave Macmillan, 1999), Roger W Smith
makes an explicit link between trying to make the world a better place, and genocide (p. 8):

contemporary ideology [of genocide]…aims at transforming society. With us the attempt has been to eradicate whole races, classes and ethnic groups…in order to produce a brave new world free of offensive human material…what Camus called a ‘metaphysical revolt’ against the very conditions of human existence: plurality, mortality, finitude and spontaneity. It is , as it were, an attempt to re-establish the Creation, providing for an order, justice and humanity that are thought to be lacking…often motivated by a profound desire to eliminate all that it perceives as being impure. […] How else explain the constant references in Nazism to purification and the Cambodian references to the cleansing of the people?

And so to go back to the original point…is genocide analysis at all applicable to people so desperate about human-induced climate change / global warming, they might get tempted into exploding a little more than fictional children and football players? Yes, in more than one respect. Unfortunately so.

Calls For AGW Skeptics To Be Silenced (Or Worse) In The USA Are Unconstitutional

US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr writing his dissenting opinion in November 1919 (Abrams v. United States):

Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition….

But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe [...] that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas—that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market….

That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment…. While that experiment is part of our system I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.

Justice Holmes’s and the whole of the USA’s journey towards contemporary interpretation of the meaning of free speech in America is the subject of “Justice Holmes and the ‘Splendid Prisoner’” by Anthony Lewis, published in The New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 11 · July 2, 2009.

Ban Ki-Moon Has Lost The Plot

What the &^%$ did UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon think he would be doing, by going to Burma only to come back absolutely empty-handed?

The risks were fully known, but Ban Ki-Moon vowed the “right things” and then dedicated a speech in Yangon with the “right words” inside but…is it really the business of the UN Secretary-General to fly around the world begging to visit local dissidents, and then to lament his “disappointment” when not allowed to?

There’s plenty of low-ranking UN diplomats that perfectly able to do just that.

The bloody Burmese junta has made the usual electoral promise (this time for 2010…yeah, right!).

It could all have been so simple:

  1. Ban Ki-Moon lands in Yangon
  2. Ban Ki-Moon asks to see Aung San Suu-Kyi
  3. Ban Ki-Moon is refused to see Aung San Suu-Kyi
  4. Ban Ki-Moon flies away (immediately that is)

One would think even the current UN Secretary-General could devise such a complex plan, couldn’t he?

Perhaps in the post-Cold War world there is something fundamentally wrong in the way UN Secretary-General are chosen.

From Deimocracy To Theatrocracy: A Sad Day For The British Press…..

…isn’it, when most of the headlines during the past few years can be explained in a few words in a farcical radio show.

Here’s an excerpt from BBC Radio 4′s The Now Show, broadcast Friday 26 June 2009:

We do not really want change, we want villains for our national pantomime [...] everyone says they want change but hate figures are basically more satisfying and they don’t entail having actually to do anything [...] it is much easier to find a hate figure [like the BBC in Iran]

Goodbye deimocracy, the power of fear…hello theatrocracy?

Italy Explained: Berlusconi, The Northern League And A Working Class That Votes Centre-right

The extraordinarily lucid analysis below is my translation of an article published by “Notizie Radicali”, the online newletter of the Italian Radicals, a political party currently associated to the centre-left Democratic Party.

The original publication date was 4 May 2009. Little has changed since then, despite all the Berlusconi sex scandals. The results of local and European elections in June 2009 have seen a further erosion on the centre-left of the Italian political spectrum.

Probably, the best thing the Democratic Party could do at the moment would be to dissolve itself and give somebody, anybody the chance to start anew.

(the text between square brackets is all mine)

When the Working Class Votes Centre-Right
by Valter Vecellio

The People of Freedom (PDL) at more than 50 percent. The Democratic Party (PD) at around 26 percent. The data from the Ipsos-”Sole 24 Ore” opinion poll is not news in itself, rather a further confirmation of what was already common knowledge.

Among professionals and the self-employed the coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi reaches a “People’s Republic”‘s majority, around the 70 per cent. But the actual “bleeding wound” for the PD concerns that section of the electorate traditionally linked to left, the workers. Among them, consensus for the governing coalition of Northern League (Lega Nord) and PDL exceeds 43 per cent. The PD appears stuck at much more modest 22.4 percent.

The Democratic Party certainly is paying for the competition with Antonio di Pietro’s Italy of Values (IdV). The IdV has been widening its base by leveraging on demagoguery and low-level “qualunquismo” [the mindset of being unable to tell one established party from another].

PD is also paying for competition from its left, from parties such as Communist Refoundation, the Italian Communists [several of them], the Greens, the Socialists. Although those will be unable to cross the 4 percent threshold for being represented at the European Parliament, they will all be eroding valuable points of consensus and percentage from the PD.

Nevertheless, the fact that Berlusconi has managed to wrestle consensus from the centre-left is beyond dispute. A trend in this direction was already clear after the general elections of April 2008. In fact, surprising and inconvenient truths can be found in a very useful report, “Winners and losers in the elections of 2008” published by “Itanes” (Italian Election Studies), a research group started in the early 90s by the Cattaneo Institute in Bologna and guided by a “student” of Giovanni Sartori, Professor Giacomo Sani.

Those are surprising and inconvenient truths, of course, for the losers, not for the winners. According to the report, the PD has paid a combined effect: on the one hand the phenomenon scholars call “selective abstention”, affecting PD voters much more than PDL ones. On the other hand, there has been a real-and-present migration of support.

To put it simply: for every three PD voters of the past, one decided not to vote in the general elections of 2008, and one voted for the opposing coalition.

The centre-left as a whole“, we read, “suffers from the flows of mobilization and demobilization a loss of around 4 per cent of the electorate .. . whilst the PD sees the disappearance of the votes of around 10 percent of those who had chosen the Olive Tree coalition in 2006, in favour of parties of the centre-right.”

The end result is that nowadays, the traditional centre-left electoral base has more overall confidence in the governing by Berlusconi than in the opposition by the PD. But we can go beyond that, by reading a well-researched book “Padanian Breed” by Adalberto Signore and Alessandro Trocino.

It is a book that chronicles twenty-five years of Umberto Bossi’s Lega Nord, and it is not lacking in surprises: despite some “folksy” and “noisy” [i.e. bordering on the loony] public statements by Lega Nord leaders, the authors tell of a a political party made up of activists running local public Offices to the voters’ appreciation, regardless of the social group to which the voters belong.

In Lombardy or Piedmont, it is nowadays no longer considered odd to find members of the communist-leaning workers’ trade union CGIL also belonging to Lega Nord and/or having no qualms to vote for centre-right candidates.

At present, what is new is that how the above phenomenon has become consolidated and disseminated. An entire section of the Italian society doesn’t vote to the left any longer, tired of in-fighting, demagoguery, and inconclusive statements of intent. It is a situation exposed to little or no avail by those in the PD nearer to the electorate, for example the Mayors of Turin Sergio Chiamparino, and of Venice Massimo Cacciari.

Like the mythical Cassandra, nobody listens to them speaking the truth: instead Veltroni, assisted by a strategist of no strategy called Goffredo Bettini, collected a string of ever bitterer defeats, before resigning. Now we have Dario Franceschini seeking to unite the pieces of a vase broken in a thousand pieces. The outcome of all those efforts is reflected in the results of the Ipsos-”Sole 24 Ore” survey: bitter results, for the PD, but also a confirmation of a situation whose cause is to be found in the PD itself.

As things stand, the PD can only wait for its final decay. Its leaders have done their utmost to reach that goal, and now they are reaping what they have sown.

Iran’s Elections: Looking Through The Fogs Of Propaganda

Has President Ahmadinejad truly and fairly been re-elected? Will the violence in Tehran continue in the next days?

Unfortunately, there is no way to know. In-between the average Western-based person and Truth there are the Iranian Electoral Commission, the Iranian Interior Ministry, the Iranian Government, Iranian newsmedia and Propaganda, Western newsmedia and Propaganda, and Western Governments.

Chances are, whatever we read and see, including live TV and apparently evident pictures, will be manipulated to the extreme.

Let’s try to list instead whatever we can be sure about. First of all: there is too much of Iranian democracy at stake for the election to end up been seen in Iran itself as a “charade”. After a TV debate and photographs of the Supreme Leader of Iran, Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Seyyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei coming out of a mosque after having casted his vote like any other citizen, nobody can expect anything but a victory recognized by the vast majority of Iran to be enough for the Iranian society itself.

Cynically, one could say that either you have a democracy, or you do not. Any “hardliner” really in the business of blatantly manipulating the election, would have made a mockery of Ahmadinejad’s campaign and Khamenei’s voting effort.

If they have some kind of dictatorship in mind they better go for it, or face the consequences. For Khamenei, and even more for Ahmadinejad, it’s like facing the choice between getting rid of democracy as such, or look like buffoons

==========

In fact, if things stand as they appear at this very moment, with a contested re-election for President Ahmadinejad, clashes in the streets, and arrests of members of the opposition, the long-term loser will be Ahmadinejad himself, no longer able to interact with the outside world as a legitimate leader of Iran. A new attempt at a Columbia University debate would be met with derision if not much worse.

Another obvious point concerns foreign interference. So far the barrage of news from Iran have been answered with anodyne comments from the Obama Administration and that is the way it should be.

Like in the Ukraine, if a sizable number of Iranians truly believe the elections have been stolen, it can only be up to them to claim their Nation back. For example if Ahmadinejad’s rival Mir Hossein Mousavi finds himself unprepared in the fact of the current situation, well, it’s better if he stays away from any position of power.

It’s just impossible from anybody to understand all the details from the outside.

==========

Nobody has died so far. That can only be a good thing.

International Authoritarian Tribune

Or “the curious case of the June 23 Op-Ed page”…

Have the owners of The New York Times morphed into their evil twins? Look at what happened on June 23, when readers of the International Herald Tribune were treated to three gems for liberty and freedom of choice (or not):

(a) Roger Cohen “Fight for Turkey” – ending in a call to safeguard openness in society by making use of “secular fascism” (i.e. forcing girls not to wear scarves)

(b) Anatoly Lieven and Alexis Rowell “Oil shock: Three strikes and we’re out” – with a heartfelt calle for “leadership” to combat climate change, i.e. by corralling a discontent, recalcitrant public

(c) Thomas L Friedman “Addicted to Oil” – a long-winded summary on the topic of oil dependence, with little if anything new (including forcing “critical tax credits” for renewable energy sources)

It is well known that an enlightened dictatorship is very effective in dealing with a society’s problems (when and if it is truly enlightened, that is) but…isn’t it a little bit worrying that the idea is so overwhelmingly popular among so many esteemed opinion leaders?

Palestinian Politicide – aka Israeli Suicide

(a previous version of this blog “Sad Word of the Day: ‘Politicide’” was published first on Sep 4, 2003)

It was almost five years ago when cruising through a Books etc bookshop I finally found a word I had been looking to invent myself for quite some time.

In fact, on the one hand I know from several first-hand sources, plus plenty of newspaper reports and analyses, of the systematic destruction of the Palestinian identity by Israeli policies. On the other hand, I do not think this can be described as a “Palestinian Genocide“.

Unless there is a massive media cover-up including, the situation in Palestine simply does not reflect the common definition of Genocide. For example, there is no killing of Palestinian people for the mere fact of them being Palestinians. The risk is that to talk about a “Palestinian Genocide” means to demean both the victims of genocide (a word that would be watered down), and the Palestinians (whose situation would be completely misunderstood, with the cause fought not even theirs)

Politicide” is the right word instead: that is, the destruction of the political identity of a group of people .

The word “politicide” of course comes from what looks like a long tirade against Ariel Sharon, published by Baruck Kimmerling as a book. It is originally defined

[...] a process that has, as its ultimate goal, the dissolution—or, at the very least, a great weakening—of the Palestinian people’s existence as a legitimate social, political, and economic entity [...]

Kimmerling, who has died in 2007, was by the way a complex figure if there ever was any: a self-proclaimed Zionist with leftist views, critical of Israeli policies and outspoken in considering Jewish settlements in the West Bank as colonialism).

Kimmerling’s book has been reviewed and criticized a lot, of course. But in the case of the Palestinians, “politicide” does explain many an action by current and past Israeli governments, including the cancellation from history of Palestinian villages, the delegitimisation of Palestinian institutions, the demeaning treatment of migrant workers, and so on (I understand the dividing wall has been painted in places to make Palestinians literally disappear from view).

Importantly, the concept of “politicide” as defined above is not limited to a war, or even a crisis situation. It has nothing to do with Israel’s right to exist, or its internal political system. And it harms both the victim and the perpetrator.

In fact, as commented by Jonathan Freedland on The New York Review of Books on Dec 21, 2006 (my emphasis):

[...] [Sharon] saw desperately late the threat that his pursuit of the settlement project posed to the very Jewish state he had devoted his life to protecting. Even putting aside the morally corrosive effect of occupation on the occupier, Sharon understood only at the end the problem represented by Israel ruling over a territory that would eventually contain equal numbers of Jews and Arabs. Either the state would be democratic and no longer Jewish or it would have to become what Kimmerling calls a Herrenvolk democracy, an apartheid term used to describe a regime in which citizens enjoy full rights while noncitizens enjoy none. Sharon apparently did not see the simple demographic realities until his final years in office [...]

As he prepared to tell the Likud central committee in September 2005, before his opponents cut off his microphone and prevented him from speaking: “We cannot maintain a Jewish and democratic state while holding on to all the land of Israel. If we demand the whole dream, we may end up with nothing at all. That is where the extreme path leads.” [...] 

As things stand at the moment, Israel does not look sustainable at all: even if there were a complete military victory tomorrow, with Hamas and Hizbullah routed out into the Arabian desert and Fatah reduced to the rank of a puppet government, there would be a painful choice to be made between transforming Jewishness into apartheid, or embracing full democracy by losing its identity to include hundreds of thousands of people with no social, political and economical identity.

And a non-Jewish or a non-democratic Israel would be no Israel any longer.

(for the record, I do believe in the continuous existence to this day of a clear-and-present-danger of Genocide (and I mean it!) against the Israeli population)

Is China’s Authoritarian Capitalism Better Than Liberal Democracy?

(No it isn’t: just like trying to earn a living by gambling is not better than having a salary, even if potential returns are much higher)

Is China’s authoritarian capitalism better than liberal democracy (as “the condition and motor of economic development“)? That’s more or less what Slavoj Žižek, co-Director of the International Centre for Humanities at Birkbeck College, asks in the Letters section of the London Review of Books (Vol. 30 No. 8 · Cover date: 24 April 2008), at the end of a singularly even-handed description of the Tibet-China relationship (that by the way only victims of their respective propaganda machines will believe to be a story of good guys vs. bad guys).

Fareed Zakaria has pointed out that democracy can only ‘catch on’ in economically developed countries: if developing countries are ‘prematurely democratised’, the result is a populism that ends in economic catastrophe and political despotism. No wonder that today’s economically most successful Third World countries (Taiwan, South Korea, Chile) embraced full democracy only after a period of authoritarian rule.

Following this path, the Chinese used unencumbered authoritarian state power to control the social costs of the transition to capitalism. The weird combination of capitalism and Communist rule proved not to be a ridiculous paradox, but a blessing. China has developed so fast not in spite of authoritarian Communist rule, but because of it.

There are a few i’s to dot, and t’s to cross in Mr Žižek’s discourse. First of all, Taiwan, South Korea and Chile became “today’s economically most successful Third World countriesafter getting rid of “authoritarian rule“. So from those examples it appears that dictatorship may gestate a successful economy, but more often than not “Authoritarian Rule” transforms itself into a suffocating mother, if not an evil stepmother.

More importantly, China itself is in a sense only the last manifestation of a truism: an (economically) enlightened dictatorship can be much more efficient than the collection of dirty tricks known as democracy. Voltaire likely believed in that, just as Plato and countless others, and even if it does sound like an elitist concept, it is obvious nevertheless. An intelligent, caring, politically and economically wise Prince can decide for the best of everybody in minutes, rather than wasting months trying to convince, negotiate, win over people, perhaps in interminable parliamentary committees.

Such a Prince can also guarantee decades of good governance, truly a blessing for his (or her) people.

There is a small matter though. Say, your Prince is Octavianus Augustus and peace and prosperity is for everybody. Then comes Tiberius, and things start out ok: only, to worsen with his increasing paranoia.

Then you’re stuck with Caligula. And Nero is not too far away either.

Things haven’t changed much in the intevening 2,000 years. The trouble with authoritarian rule, hence with authoritarian capitalism, is not its ability to generate prosperity: rather, its perfectly equivalent capacity to degenerate, quickly because almost without control, thereby hampering the growth of that prosperity if not killing it off entirely.

Speaking the language of the financial world: just like a new CEO can resurrect or destroy a Company, so a despotic Prince (or committee of Princes, aka the “Communist Party of China Central Committee“) is a recipe for increased earning opportunities and, for the very same reasons, for an increase in risk.

And that’s something that should definitely be factored in in any judgement about what to choose as “the condition and motor of economic development“. After all, who wants to continuously gamble all of one’s wealth?

The Moral Equivalence of Hamas and Israel (and us)

Another day, another series of reports on tens of dead, dying and injured people in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

I’ll leave the sorting out of who’s to blame to anybody wishing to waste their time.

Sure, there are more victims on the Palestinian side than on the Israeli, indicating an overwhelmingly disproportionate response as if the value of human life really depended on nationality (a consideration unfathomably shared by the Palestinian leadership too: prisoners exchange usually involve a handful of Israelis to tens of Palestinians).

On the other hand what purpose can it be in the launching of aimless rockets by Hamas, randomly towards civilians? Apart, that is, from killing if not terrorizing them on purpose, because they are civilians: as if that has ever won anybody’s war.

The height of mutual stupidity is that people in charge on the two sides are determined to brutalize each other. At the same time, retaliation after retaliation, they have kind of abdicated all hopes of recovering their own humanity…to the sudden appearance of virtuous behavior in the other camp.

It’s fairly obvious that whatever the causes of their madness, they are all directly responsible for untold miseries that will befall on their own children.

=========

What should be done to bring peace to Israeli and Palestinians alike? It’s more than obvious, it’s actually boring. Stop wishing the others could go away. Realize the land is for the two of them, and for the rest of humanity as well. Decouple Israel from the messianic undertones, by getting it into the European Union.

But that doesn’t look like in anybody’s interest. The main hope is that the situation has worsened since the quasi-agreement with President Clinton in 2000, because when everybody knows peace is tantalizingly near, everybody rushes to settle the last scores.

=========

But that’s still too easy an analysis.  

Who else is brutalizing civilians in the futile attempt of getting a military and thus a political advantage in a never-ending war, worsened exactly because and by that brutalization?

It’s us from NATO.

The civilian victims are in Afghanistan, nowadays, and likely but less evidently in Iraq.

And it’s no novelty. Leaving aside the famously useless killings of tens of thousands in Dresden during World War II, just fifty years ago the French Government tried almost casually to defend the bloody bombing of a Tunisian border village, in the Algerian war.

Despite our illusions, things have not changed since. We are still eliminating fellow human beings without much of a thought. Here’s NATO proudly using American and European taxpayers’ money to kill road building workers. Never, or almost never, big news in our media.

=========

It is high time we leave aside idle discussions about other peoples’ business to mind about our own idiocy.

If I Were a US Citizen…

…I’d be hard pressed to find any mainstream candidate sharing my views.

Now I know why neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton inspire me much enthusiasm 8-)

http://www.dehp.net/candidate/
Pick Your Candidate
Instructions: Go through each issue listed below and choose the stance you would prefer in a president. If a particular issue is important to you, select a different weight to the right. If an issue is not important to you, leave it as unknown/other. This site will attempt to match your views against the views of the US presidential candidates

Results and details of the answers below:

  • My Results

42 Kucinich
Disagreements: (4) ANWR Drilling, Kyoto, Guantanamo, Iraq, Troop Surge

32 Gravel
Disagreements: (4) No Child Left Behind, Kyoto, Guantanamo, Iraq Troop Surge

15 Edwards
Disagreements: (8) Death Penalty, ANWR Drilling, Patriot Act, Guantanamo, Iran Sanctions, Iran – Military Action, Iraq Troop Surge, Same-Sex Marriage

12 Richardson
Disagreements: (9) Death Penalty, Kyoto, Assault Weapons Ban, Patriot Act, Guantanamo, Iran Sanctions, Iran – Military
Action, Iraq Troop Surge, Same-Sex Marriage

12 Obama
Disagreements: (7) ANWR Drilling, Patriot Act, Guantanamo, Border Fence, Iran Sanctions, Iraq Troop Surge, Same-Sex Marriage

12 Clinton
Disagreements: (10) Death Penalty, ANWR Drilling, Kyoto, Patriot Act, Guantanamo, Border Fence, Iran Sanctions, Iran – Military
Action, Iraq Troop Surge, Same-Sex Marriage

11 Biden
Disagreements: (8) Death Penalty, ANWR Drilling, Patriot Act, Guantanamo, Border Fence, Iran Sanctions, Iraq Troop Surge, Same-Sex Marriage

10 Dodd
Disagreements: (9) Death Penalty, ANWR Drilling, Kyoto, Patriot Act, Guantanamo, Border Fence, Iran Sanctions, Iran – Military
Action, Iraq Troop Surge

-2 Paul 13/1
-6 McCain 15/1
-10 T. Thompson 7/14
-10 Giuliani 13/3
-13 Huckabee 13/5
-13 Brownback 14/3
-17 Cox 11/9
-30 Hunter 17/3
-31 Romney 16/3
-43 Tancredo 20/2

  • My Answers

Abortion Rights – No federal legislation banning abortion. SUPPORT/IMPORTANT

Death Penalty – States’ right to issue the death penalty. OPPOSE/IMPORTANT

No Child Left Behind – Maintaining the No Child Left Behind Act. SUPPORT/IMPORTANT

Embryonic Stem Cells – Legalizing research that uses stem cells derived from embryos. SUPPORT/IMPORTANT

ANWR Drilling – Drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. SUPPORT/MINIMAL

Kyoto – The US adhering to the Kyoto Protocol. OPPOSE/MINIMAL

Assault Weapons Ban – Reinstating the Assault Weapons Ban. SUPPORT/MINIMAL

Guns – Background Checks – More thorough background checks for gun ownership. SUPPORT/IMPORTANT

Patriot Act – Maintaining the Patriot Act. OPPOSE/KEY

Guantanamo – Maintaining a military presence at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. SUPPORT/MINIMAL

Torture – Torturing prisoners such as enemy combatants or suspected terrorists. OPPOSE/KEY

Wiretapping – Intercepting internet/telephone communications without a warrant. OPPOSE/MINIMAL

Citizenship Path for Illegals – Creating a path by which illegal aliens already in the US can become citizens. SUPPORT/KEY

Border Fence – Constructing a border fence between the US and Mexico. OPPOSE/IMPORTANT

Net Neutrality – Regulations to ensure that public networks treat all content, sites, and platforms equally. SUPPORT/MINIMAL

Iran Sanctions – Maintaining trade sanctions with Iran. OPPOSE/IMPORTANT

Iran – Military Action – Utilizing military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities. OPPOSE/IMPORTANT

Iraq War – Maintaining the current war with terrorists in Iraq. OPPOSE/MINIMAL

Iraq Troop Surge – The increased troop presence in Iraq. SUPPORT/IMPORTANT

Iraq Withdrawal – Withdrawing from Iraq. SUPPORT/IMPORTANT

Minimum Wage Increase – Increasing the minimum wage. SUPPORT/IMPORTANT

Same-Sex Marriage – Allowing same-sex marriage. SUPPORT/IMPORTANT

Same-Sex Civil Union – Allowing civil unions between people of the same sex. SUPPORT/IMPORTANT

Same-Sex Constitutional Ban – The creation of an ammendment that bans same-sex marriage. OPPOSE/IMPORTANT

Universal Healthcare – The creation of a federal, universal healthcare system. SUPPORT/IMPORTANT

UPDATE: HERE MY RESULTS FROM THE WQAD SURVEY
Dennis Kucinich 48
Mike Gravel 43
Barack Obama 43
John Edwards 39
Rudy Giuliani 38
Hillary Clinton 36
Ron Paul 31
John McCain 24
Mike Huckabee 20
Mitt Romney 17

The Wrong Way of Discussing About Death Penalty in the USA

The US Supreme Court has started discussing whether current 3-drug death penalty procedures in Kentucky can be defined as “cruel and unusual punishment” and thereby declared uncostitutional (regarding the Eigth Amendment).

Actually, and quite strangely, the above is not strictly true. What the Court is being asked to deliberate on, is the proposal by two death row inmates in Kentucky to be killed with a single drug, rather than three.

In a supremely ironical situation, their lawyer is trying to argue something like “one drug good, three drugs bad”.

Some of the justices have problems with the whole reasoning, and rightly so: what would be there to avoid in the future a repeat of the same discussion, with somebody arguing that the “one drug” procedure is unconstitutional too?

Why not stick to what is relatively well known (three-drug) since there is no evidence one-drug will be less cruel and/or less unusual?

IMNSHO the underlying problem is that the entire setup is wrong.

The Constitution says “[...] cruel and unusual punishments [shall not be] inflicted“. It does not refer to “the least cruel” and/or “the least unusual” penalties.

If the 3-drug procedure is cruel/unusual, then it is ipso facto wrong to use: even if it is the least cruel/unusual way anybody has thought of at the moment.

The burden of coming up with a constitutional (non-cruel, non-unusual) way of applying the Death Penalty should be with the people advocating for it.

Everything else, makes very little sense indeed.

UPDATE: A shortened version of the above is published in the Letters section of the International Herald Tribune (newspaper date: January 10, 2008). 

Step Zero in Freeing Up Half of the Human Race

“There can be no safe future without safe motherhood”
Women Deliver global conference (London, 18-20 October)

The very, very first step we need to do to provide at least the possibility of freedom for the whole of humanity, and not just men, is actually made up of two actions:

Step 0.1: diminish the chances of death during pregnancy
Step 0.2: increase the survival rate for children 0-5

In fact, as long as would-be mothers die at the enormous rates of 1 in 6 in places like Sierra Leone and Afghanistan, no wonder the relative value of each of those human beings is not considered that much.

Cynically one would ask why would anybody emotionally attach himself to a person that is quite as likely to die within a year (obviously, in reality things do not work out so simplistic, but still…).

Furthermore, if children die in large numbers (especially in their most vulnerable years, from birth to 5), the only way to nurture some possibility of leaving descendants in this world, is to conceive as many babies as possible.

Having women wait out their entire reproductive lives doing only house chores, with no time for business or political activities whilst going from one pregnancy to the next, becomes then a perfectly logical, if horrendous choice.

Given the fact that death-during-pregnancy and the need of a large number of children just to hope for one’s family not to die have both accompanied humanity for much of its existence, no wonder women have been set aside as virtual slaves for millennia.

And so there is simply no opportunity for “emancipation” if we don’t get mortality rates lower for mother and for young children.

===========

Luckily but tragically, the solution is not that difficult.

It’s all very feasible stuff and so it is a real tragedy that we have not achieved yet that for all: just as abject poverty and “under-development” are still very widespread.

In truth, there is a precise correlation between those concepts, and the health of women and children is one of the best indicators of how truly “rich” a country is.

===========

And so: let’s provide education to all the girls, and provide them with all the drugs and all the resources needed to mantain their health and the health of their children.

Otherwise, all efforts may as well go to nothing.

A Fred Fisher Moment for Climate Supremacists

The beginning of the end of Senator McCarthy’s 7 years in the spotlight was surely and improbably his mentioning of young Boston lawyer Frederick G. Fisher, Jr.: whose left-wing past the Senator unwarrantedly used to undermine US Army’s attorney Joseph Welch. On live TV, June 9, 1954, Welch famously retorted “Have you no sense of decency, sir?

Having seen what excesses the Senator could reach in his campaign to uncover Communists, public opinion turned against him.

Are we witnessing something similar about Climate Change? Have the catastrophists finally overreached, to the point of toppling themselves over? The indications are all there: because after Newsweek’s 9-page-tirade against anybody that dares to doubt anything about anthropogenic climate change (Aug 13, 2007), the tide is starting to turn.

In fact, no less commentators than Jeff Jacoby on the Boston Globe, and Robert J Samuelson in the next issue of the very same Newsweek magazine, have recently denounced the absurd attitudes of people apparently allergic to any form of dissent in matters of climate change.

For years, in the best of circumstances one has been labeled a “skeptic” (as if there were anything wrong with that!) at the first hint of not following the exact line behind the likes of Al Gore, James Hansen and the IPCC. Some of us had to repeatedly answer charges of “denialism”, a slur meant to create the impression of equivalence between those skeptical of a _possible_ FUTURE catastrophic change in the climate caused by human activities’ carbon dioxide emissions, and those still doubting the historical, PAST _fact_ of the Holocaust.

Note that I haven’t even mentioned the veiled and not-so-veiled threats of future trials ‘a-la-Nuremberg.

Between that and a complete picture of Climate Change Supremacism, only violence appeared to be missing in the actions of those carrying out a hard-headed campaign bent on stifling any hint of opposition to upcoming grand, poorly-thought-out lifestyle-changing plans such as carbon-emission-rationing.

Who knows, perhaps crosses will start burning on somebody’s lawn as soon as a zero-carbon-emission flame becomes readily available? But then, psychological violence has already started creeping in. How else to characterize President of the American Council on Renewable Energy, Michael Eckhart’s threat of career destruction against Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute?

That must surely be the most egregious example of the poisonous atmosphere concocted up by climate totalitarians. But it is just the latest and the biggest in a series.

Martin Durkin, author of the Great Global Warming Swindle documentary found himself under an unduly heavy barrage of condemnations of various sorts, including highly-browed calls for censorship by esteemed Professors. Steve McIntyre, the blogger/statistician that has recently discovered a bug in the software used by NASA to incorrectly attribute the warmest of US years to 1998, has seen his website crushed by an apparent DOS attack just hours later.

My own views (a basic question: if the climate is changing, where is the change in weather, not just temperature?) have been abused at times to “demonstrate” I wasn’t worthy of engaging in a discussion in a completely different area.

We literally live in the middle of an escalation of tones. Even people genuinely worried about Global Warming must understand how dangerous and ultimately self-defeating the attitudes of climate totalitarians and climate supremacists are.

If there really is an upcoming disaster, shouldn’t efforts concentrate on getting the world prepared, rather tan on stamping out differences of opinion?

Jacoby is right when he specifies that good intentions are not an excuse. All revolutions are avowedly meant for the betterment of Humanity. But whilst the American one led to the Constitution, the French Revolution brought years of guillotined Terror.

There is no need to remind the horrors perpetrated by Italian Fascists, German Nazis and Russian Communists, believe it or not all in the name of great ideals of peace and prosperity.

Justice Louis Brandeis is quoted by Jacoby as saying “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.

We are the children and grandchildren of the millions that either fought to contain and defeat dictatorships, or were misguidedly seduced into selling out their freedoms to monomaniacal, homicidal types with illusions of omnipotence.

History will not and cannot forgive us, if we let that happen again.

No War Without the Draft

The droning on of the Iraq war is a tragedy of middle-class pacifism

The draft, the forced conscription especially of men in their late teens and early twenties forcefully sent off to learn how to behave in a war, has been as unpopular in Western Europe and the USA in the last 30 years as a fact of life since the days of the French Revolution.

But now, its end has paradoxically brought about a situation where wars can be fought without much care for the approval by the people, and hence without real concern for using military power and personnel wisely and efficiently.

The turning point may have been Vietnam, another war of wastefully managed people and equipment. At the time, relatively well-off college and university American students vehemently protested, and many youths got dispatched to premature deaths also because of their families’ lack of economic and political links to find a way around the “call to arms”

Earlier efforts had seen far fewer troubles. The minority today’s American political leaders served in Vietnam, whilst the majority of their fathers fought world-conquering Germany and Japan up, close and personal.

Fast forward to 2007. The draft is no longer, in America since 1973. All soldiers are volunteers. But whilst the Iraqi conflict is going nowhere, popular protests are insignificant, with no danger of a re-run of the killings at Kent State (1970) or the riots at the Chicago Democratic Convention of 1968.

In one sense, the droning on of the Iraq war is a tragedy of middle-class pacifism. Even if many people may be unsure, unhappy and/or against the war, they do not march down the streets: because the conflict does not impact the daily lives of most people “back home” (in the USA, but also in the UK),

On the other hand, all those that opted for a military career, perhaps during the Clinton years, have found themselves facing the prospect of multiple trips to Iraq, literally at great danger of loss of life and limb (and their mind, too).

Whatever their original “lifestyle choice” for the military, surely after the second tour of duty the Nation is unfairly taking advantage of them? Either the war is important and all resources should be poured into getting it won, (especially after years and years); or it is not, and so every life lost there, including those of volunteer soldiers, is a tragic waste.

Those volunteers have dedicated their lives to fight for the USA. This does not mean the USA have a right to treat them as consumables: just like even if policemen and medics, having voluntarily joined their professions, are ready to give their lives to patrol the street or fight infectious diseases, still the State does not have a right to misuse them.

And yet that is what is happening in the Iraq war, where 10 dead a week is treated as “good news”; pictures of returning body bags are forbidden; veterans are not given appropriate treatment; and now somebody is suggesting monthly group commemorations, instead of proper salutes to each of the fallen.

With the disappearance of the draft it’s as if wars, always too serious to be left to generals, have been abandoned to politicians.

After all, Presidents, Senators and Representatives live off votes. As so, if votes do not depend on the care reserved to military personnel including casualties, there is no democratic control on wars: the Republic may have its President, but the Armed Forces risk being at the mercy of a Tyrant King with the same title.

That is a tragedy in itself. With freely elected governments and parliaments, and fairly independent judiciary, modern democracies have been fantastically good at avoiding warring each other, whilst in the XX century tens of millions have died in armed conflict. Such a miraculous result has surely something to do with the checks-and-balances of the 1787 American Constitution, whence most others derive. Unpopular and/or incompetent leaders can be voted off the power chair, and delinquent ones can be brought in front of the Law.

The remedy, as in many cases, is in the middle. Don’t just reintroduce universal draft. Don’t just leave conflicts to “professionals” with the result that intolerable amounts of them will die fruitlessly whilst wars will drag on as long as money is still available.

Simply, reintroduce the draft temporarily and only _in case of_ war. And so ultimately empower the voters, that will have to face the real issues, and decide if the Nation has the stomach to start or join the fight.

If it has not, and the citizens refuse the draft, then there is no point in going to war anyway. If instead the Nation agrees it’s time to go to war then, the whole draft-risking electorate will have all the reasons to closely follow the conflict, and get their opinions fully heard: thereby re-establishing the full checks and balances of a healthy democracy.

And who knows, perhaps there will be no more escape clauses for former enthusiasts later to claim they never really believed in the war.

Free the Women

Former U.N. envoy Stephen Lewis, at the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada, 2006, recently quoted by Jane Roberts in “Five years later, girls around the world need help more than ever:

I challenge you to enter the fray against gender inequality. There is no more honorable or productive calling. There is nothing of greater import in this world. All roads lead from women to social change.

I agree wholeheartedly. But arguably the contemporary relative freedom of Western women has been an accident of history, borne out of the men-hungry tragedies of both World Wars. Is there any hope and any means to make that happen elsewhere, the empowerment of women that is but without forcing their societies to live quite a long time without much of the male workforce?

Not to mention the futility of trying to inculcate freedom for half of humanity, from the outside.

The Positive Side of Terrorism

A warm welcome to my blog to all the folks at the NSA.

Hello guys and gals, how are you doing?

I know, I know, it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. Don’t move, son, let me beat you up, I assure you it’s gonna hurt me more than it’s gonna hurt you. And all that.

By the way: no, I don’t see any positive side in terrorism. If you ask me, it’s a crime against humanity and an act of cowardice to plant bomb or otherwise try to instill fear into innocent people getting on with their daily lives with little or no hope to prevent their Governments do this or that.

Oh well, I hope you and your automatic e-mail scanning system have had the time to properly digest the paragraph above. Otherwise, see you all in Gitmo!

Kisses for now and goodbye also to the American Constitution

90 Years After Killing Itself, Europe at the Crossroads

The umpteenth EU summit is taking place in Brussels from tonight.

The issue at stake is far heavier than in past meetings of Heads of State and Government. With the expansion to include countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain, the EU has to find a way to work despite its components living in different histories.

Call it “Constitution”, call it “Treaty”, call it “Donald Duck” but a new set of rules is needed for a future of prospects rather than implosion.

As I wrote yesterday, the best way to keep one’s life truly alive is to deal with the diverse times that cohabit in one’s soul: just as well for the European Union. Its old, Western core is several decades in front of the new Eastern members in matters of handling national interest in a multi-state Union.

It is not that the Poles or the Czechs are slow-witted: it is that by wrapping their national evolutions in ice under the Soviet domination, it is all too natural to them for history-heavy questions such as strategic defence and World War II considerations to be on the table right now.

Unfortunately, those are exactly the questions that cannot interest their Western counterparts. Because to them, history is at best a nuisance.

———

Europe and European culture committed suicide around 1917 and perhaps didn’t stop stabbing itself for another 30 years. All the Empires that boldly entered World War I in 1914 were irreparably damaged by three years of war, and in all the participating countries only the most rabid types were not appalled by the pointless carnage.

To compound the situation, millions had joined the fight inspired by enthusiastic nationalism, almost invariably spiced up by religious references. Ominously, they had done it in Britain, in France, in Germany, in Russia, in Italy, everywhere following similar patterns.

They literally marched on to kill one another, seemingly unaware of their extraordinary similarities. And obviously in hindsight, their war could not end, as they were able to perfectly match and outwit one another.

That’s why it was a mass suicide, of bodies and of culture. The U.S. officially joined the war on April 2, 1917. Their mere presence was enough to finally put it to a stop. Old Europe heard its bell tolling.

———

Fast-forward to 1947. Hell-bent on destroying themselves, Europeans had managed to complete the Great War with the even bigger World War II. A great chunk of them were taken out of history by falling into the hands of that failed experiment called Soviet Communism.

Another large chunk, to the West, decided to forego history altogether, laying its soul finally to rest. No more violent nationalism, no desire to stomp on one another, no talk of reparation of this or that historical tort, and since they were at it, steam ahead with a Union of nation states, but down with religion and all mores of old (from “Father knows best” to “A woman’s place is in the kitchen“). Some call it “modernity“.

Sixty years later, the process is almost complete. There is no aspect of contemporary (Western) European life that has not been affected by modernity. The artistic renovation s of the 1920′s have fathered an incredible variety of movements. Religion is on the wane, especially organized religion, and it has become perfectly normal to practice homosexuality and to raise single-parent children, things considered quite deviant as recently as 30 years ago.

Frankly, it is more than absurd to imagine the great-grandchildren of those knowingly sent to die at the Somme or Caporetto, accept any Government initiative without much skepticism.

————–

That’s not the experience elsewhere on the Continent and beyond. For example it is almost impossible to deny the impetus given to liberation of Western European women by the request to work during both wars in stead of their war front-bound men. That’s not exactly what has happened in Communist countries (where the desire to free men and women alike somehow became synonimous of morphing citizens into State servants).

And that’s not what has happened in the Middle East either. Who knows, without World War I there would still be little or no voting rights for female citizens of…liberal democracies! (The U.S.A., of course, is a whole different topic).

————-

And so the new bunch of countries cannot simply join the European Union without a lot of kicking and screaming: Poland especially, a former Empire in itself from the Baltic to the Black Sea, then put together, dismembered and forcibly moved westward by its neighbours.

Will the Brussels meeting be any fruitful? Usually, if a summit like that fails, it is simply forgotten. But let’s hope it does succeed, so it will leave a mark in history.

Imagine if Germany could finally accept Poland’s requests, recognizing each other’s completely different historical paths, and convince it to actually become a leader in the Union: putting to rest at least 13 centuries of enmity.

———–

If the EU will be able to rationally accommodate so many countries with such a variety of experience, cares and worries, then it will be ready to expand even further: Turkey, the Ukraine, Israel, Morocco, Tunisia…and why not?

As a sort of grass-root United Nations, the EU could then become the first gift to Humanity by a more peaceful, re-born Europe. 

Heroical Immigration Police

I am having a nightmare.

It is about a democratic country on this planet, where Immigration Police routinely ambushes people at their place of work, sending armed officers into workplaces to apprehend those guilty of working a decent and honest job.

In the process, those officers scare the wits out of any law-abiding person in sight.

Anybody and everybody, not just the person they are looking for, is threatened if not manhandled, unless he or she provides full co-operation, including letting said officers rummage through personal items including e-mails without showing so much of a photo ID.

All in all, the experience has the one result of instilling terror in perfectly innocent people, more than a couple of train bombs put together. How much they will feel protected, it’s anybody’s guess.

========================

My nightmare is that such a country is 40,000km/25,000mi away from where I am standing at the moment.

Kosovo, Another EU Failure

The European Union is chugging along with its Ahtisaari Plan for the future of Kosovo, the quasi-independent province still nominally and legally part of Serbia albeit occupied by NATO and a UN protectorate since the end of the 1999 war.

In truth, that Plan seems more the result of a vision-free EU that is trying its might to get out of a region that has seen the Union’s reputation hit rock bottom several times for the past 15 years or so.

Of course, ultimately any failure and the blame for any violence lie with the Kosovo residents. It’s their lives that they themselves seem so apt to make more miserable than should be.

But the sudden push for making Kosovo independent does not look like the wisest of choices for the EU.

They are now claiming that they want to prevent development of local dependency on foreign aid, but foreign aid will surely continue flowing to Kosovo for the foreseeable future.

Also, the Ahtisaari Plan is highly-detailed: yet more evidence that there is no comprehensive vision for both communities. Expect further hardships for the Serbs.

What are the alternatives? For example, simple allow Serbian areas of Kosovo to rejoin Serbia, rather than remain a small minority in a brand-new State that Serbian will never be.

And what is this idea of attaching peoples one to the other with superglue even when they blatantly do not want to live together?

The EU itself is made up of nation-states that were established and are still run on the idea that people of the same nation (traditions, culture, but at the end of the day a matter of shared heritage with dubious genetic aspects) must be allowed to govern themselves free from the influence of other nations.

The Kosovo plan makes no sense in this respect. Why force them something we have no intention to do ourselves?

Long Live the European Dream

It is encouraging to see that there are still politicians courageous enough to stand out of the crowd, as Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt does when speaking the simple, yet inexplicably unorthodox truth that the European Union’s very lifeline resides in its outward expansion (“Open wide Europe’s doors”, November 7)

Inspired by a historic opportunity of peace, (or more likely,  unwittingly), EU leaders have been creating for the past 40+ years a community of states perhaps like no other: something like a mixture between a Honors Club, accessible only after passing tough exams on civil rights, infrastructure and the fight against corruption; and a peaceful Roman Empire, forever beaconing the people outside its borders to join in the benefits of free movement for people and goods

And just like the Roman Empire, the European Union will start to die the day it decides it has expanded enough, and cannot go any further

Only the lack of visionary politicians such as Mr Bildt could prevent the EU as an Association of States to move beyond the arbitrary definition of what Continental Europe is, and embrace all Asian and African nations capable to “pass the grades” (apart, perhaps, from the already-giant states like Russia, China, the USA)

May that be our future, I really hope: and not the whining, embrittled EU of those too afraid to continue the European Dream

Climate Change Propaganda? No thank you

Today’s TCS Daily (Europe) sported my article on the sinister side of Climate Change propaganda, a commentary on the recently-published report ““Warm Words: How are we telling the climate story and can we tell it better?”

global-warming pessimists [...] are now being encouraged to make-believe their own reality, building for all of us an almost certainly gloomy future. Armed with propaganda rather than rational persuasion, they are advocating an orthodoxy reminiscent of some past Communist States. [...]

[The authors of the report] go as far as to implicitly recognize that possibly climate change catastrophism is “another apocalyptic construction [...] perhaps a figment of our cultural imaginations”. [...]

Is the terrain being prepared for zealot eco-revolutionaries soon to remove most freedoms and a wide range of technological achievements, imposing us a future “eco-friendly” life of pain, illness, manual labour and struggle, with the belief that human ingenuity is an evil that will destroy the planet instead than improve our lives? [...]

I am still waiting for a single weather pattern to change due to Global Warming. Feel free to point that out when (and if) it happens

Think the Unthinkable: Make Bombing a War Crime

Lives of enemy civilians have already little importance but in hypocritical declarations for the media.  

The progressive increase in the ratio between civilian and military casualties has been a sad trend during the history of war. Together with the overall rise in our weapons’ killing efficiency, it will only mean that in a few decades if not years, wars will be fought with zero dead among the warriors, and millions among the rest of humanity

Actually, the fact that wars mainly kill and maim people with no weapon, no intention to use weapons and posing absolutely no danger whatsoever to the enemy, is considered sound and sensible. It is accepted. 

But it really makes no sense

———-

I was surprised actually this week at my relief when finally Israel soldiers marched into Lebanon, instead of just the usual rounds of military airplanes trying to “surgically” act and killing hundreds of bystanders in the process (not to mention the distorted lives of countless children living in terror of the sound of bombers flying nearby)

Finally, I thought, there will be real people fighting each other directly, not through bombs far away

And so there will be the hope that a soldier won’t kill groups of children, like an airplane pilot does: perhaps, by the mere fact that the soldier will have to look at whom he’s killing, whilst the pilot gives his soul away to a robotic murderer.

————

Can bombardment be anything but a war crime?

In fact, say you are a Hizbullah fighter shooting rockets towards Israel. Are you aiming them at anything in particular? If not, anything and everything is your “target”. But then what are military advantages gained in killing mothers and children, something that is bound to happen? And if there aren’t what are you doing shooting those rockets but an indiscriminate killing, a crime then against the rules of war?

Say you are instead an Israeli pilot releasing a smart bomb to destroy a building where you’ve been told Hizbullah wdfd shooting rockets from. Imagine now the bomb actually hits that building, and not one nearby. Say, tens of children are killed. Even if somebody would be able to demonstrate the military advantages gained in doing that, who is going to do that? What independent tribunal will check your behavior? And still, if you were sorry about those children, what will make you less liable than a just-as-sorry person guilty of manslaughter?

This is not limited to Israel and Lebanon. The US and other forces have periodically justified the bombings of villages in Iraq and Afghanistan, as a justified way of targeting al-Qaeda terrorists.

Just as in Vietnam, we terminate lives in order to free them

————

The above does not even cover the use of cluster bombs, merrily floating towards the ground while luring little children to get near them toy-like killers

What do we do with killers and people committing manslaughter in “normal” life? Why would that have to be any different in war, apart than when all the people involved in the war are consciously doing so?

————

What kind of civilization are we talking about: one that has learn its ways out of the Nazi’s destruction of
Guernica in Spain during the local Civil War?

Are we willingly equating ourselves to the supposedly despised Nazis? Has any other Nazi policy or strategy been accepted in any other part of life?

And yet for some reason we all espouse the idea of “total war”, where every pram and every hospital bed in the enemy’s hands is to be bombed like an aircraft carrier or a dirty-bomb production facility

Instead, for the sake of safeguarding our lives, we give the Governments we have freely elected the power of taking out somebody else’s, however innocent, however young or old. How nice to sleep soundly with our consciences bloodily clean

Truly the Pearly Gates will open only for a few elected people!

————

What should a State do then, to fight another State or militia? Use a “novel” approach: send infantry with the precise aim of finding, routing, destroying the enemy soldiers.

You’re going to lose plenty of soldiers (if you can’t stomach that, surrender at once): but you will concentrate your fire power onto getting rid of the enemy’s ability to harm you and your country.

————

How can anything else be taken as reasonable?

What would you think of a racing driver wasting fuel in knocking down the mechanics of the other teams and their families, instead of focusing on winning the race with the minimal effort?

A more complete analogy would be: what would you think of a racing driver intent at (1) knocking out down the mechanics of the other teams and their families, (2) making the other drivers’ racing easier, and (3) lining up his own mechanics for the others to eliminate?

Because bombings have always elicited a stronger fighting mood in the enemy. And any civilian that dies as “collateral damage” is an argument in favor of exploding terrorist bombs among innocent bystanders

————

And so the Geneva Conventions must be expanded to prohibit all kinds of remote warfare, starting with bombing, but in the most exceptional circumstances (such as the targeting of military compounds)

We must protect civilians for our own sake. Because the idea that children and the elderly can be considered legitimate targets or even acceptable collateral damage surely is repugnant to anybody but mass murderers. Because it’s our lives that are becoming more and more cheap and expendable.

We must go back to the old ways of military confrontation between military forces. Anybody touching any person not actually fighting should be considered a war criminal and treated as such

————

Is this feasible? We know we could win wars by slaughtering each and every one in our enemy’s population. That’s what happened for thousands of years, and yet, we have managed to outlaw such a crime against humanity.

Many nations could have access to chemical arms of untold horror and killing potential. Many have used them, in World War I and up to the Second World War. And yet, we have managed to outlaw such a crime against humanity too

Ditto for nuclear weapons

————

The only thing preventing us from seeing bombings and all other kinds of “remote warfare” for the crimes they are, is the same thing that prevented our forebears to understand that wars need have rules too: and so until the Red Cross was founded, wounded enemy soldiers were left to die, and bayonets were badly-shaped for un-necessary harm

————

Think the Unthinkable: Make bombing a war crime

Mobile phones, weapons of self defence

Personal recording devices, and by that I mean especially mobile phones, will soon become a tool for reasserting our individual rights

Already now, one can record sound and even images with nobody noticing. Pictures are taken with no much of a fuss in the most unlikely of places, and whatever happens in the (connected) world, some sort of audio/video record usually tends to show up on the Internet (newsmedia are starting to make large use of user-provided content).

All you need for your mobile to become an electronic shield is some kind of wireless minicamera and a bit more memory on the phone

Your entire life will then be recordable *

And what could be there to record, as a way of defending oneself? For example: when asked for a bribery, the business person could walk into next police station and deposit the evidence of the crime.

Or when threatened by the mob, he or she will be able to throw back the threat. Or when confronting politicians that are trying to expand their sleaze empire, the “victim” will have the option of cashing in by sending the right files to scandal-hungry magazines

Elderly people will be able to show who attacked them in their house, and which carers treat them inhumanely

Children bullied at school won’t need to hide a thing, and life will become harder for sadistic teachers and nannies as well.

We’ll soon be able to literally see the last thing a murder’s victim was looking at

Even torturers will be in trouble, if they won’t take care of eliminating anything with an electronic memory: and still it may not be enough: one can imagine pictures being downloaded elsewhere continuously (it already happens with some mobile phone providers), so that even if the Bad People snatch the camera, what’s been snapped until then will be left for posterity

Expect a flurry of hi-tech bust-ups then not prepared by police. Ehi, even Robocop got out of trouble by showing what he had recorded.

And expect lots of “interesting” items appear on gossipy and even serious newspapers, mostly during the initial period, with people not smart enough to understand they are being filmed during 99% of their lives.

Things will definitely get better on several fronts for a while (and even if you’re the paradigm of honesty, just be careful about picking your nose in the street: your fame may be preceding you at your next job application)

But surely it will be no Paradise: criminals and evildoers will simply have to find a different way.

Some scandals will turn up to be elaborate hoaxes based on doctored pictures, and no doubt we will see discussions about that at trials, as entertaining as genetics during OJ Simpson’s

Still, it will be a progress. Hypocrisy will need a tad more effort to be maintained.

After all, the only freedom we are losing by getting our lives recorded, is the freedom of not having to face our individual consciences

(* How much memory? 24hx3600s/hx24pics/s=2 million pictures. Say, 320×240=76,800 pixels x 3 bytes = 230kB/pic

So one day is 230kB/pic * 2 million pics = 440 Megabytes. With a good compression rate, 200 Megabytes. Do we want to record while asleep? If not, 180 megabytes may suffice. How long before that much will be available on mobile phones? It is already. Average memory now is a bit more than 400 Megabytes)

The Biggest Hypocrisies

How many pretenses do we really have to live with?

1. “Third World Development”? In truth it is just old-style Colonialism under a new guise. Proof is the fact that so few “Developing Countries” have been able to “emerge”: and no Emerging Country has been able to get its seat with the “Big Powers” (China is a special case due to sheer size). So the biggest result of decades of “development” may really be that things are more or less exactly the way they were
2. “Liberal Democracy”? Instead, it keeps evolving into the rule by a self-perpetuating oligarchy. See the creation of personality-based powerful parties in France and Italy; and the obscene number of sons and daughters of former Presidents and other politicians, kind of inheriting from their parents their supposedly elected positions
3. “The War On Drugs”? Only pea-brained idiots will not agree that such a “war” has been won, by drug cartels and mafias the world over. Completely but hopefully unwillingly forgetful of the Prohibition disaster in 1920s’ USA, we have spend money like there is no tomorrow, in what can only be described as an elaborate plot to finance the traffickers
4. “Public Service”? In reality, it is better described as “minimal-cost appeasement” as most of the time, it provides no service at all, as its efficiency is measured more on how much money has been saved, rather than the quality of assistance provided to people in need
5. “Reality TV”? It is nothing of the sort. Television may be portraying “real” happenings by using a Candid Camera, perhaps, but definitely no sane person in the world would “act naturally” and “realistically” with a light, camera and sound crew openly working in their immediate proximity. The only hope to see “reality” is if the characters forget the existence of all those cabled people around. But then, it is just Television, a sort of enhanced theatre where things happen because of their entertainment value
6. “The Ethical State”? And then it becomes Hell on Earth. How many times do we need to repeat the horrendous mistakes of early XX century, where otherwise good and intelligent people devised, approved, encouraged and enacted crimes in the name of eugenics, i.e. their hope into making the world a better place and the humans a better race? And so we should steer quite clear of any simplistic thinking on how to improve ourselves and the planet, especially when single-minded: just as, contrarily to what suggested by D.H. Lawrence, urban poverty cannot be seriously solved by gassing all poor in a building as big as the old Crystal Palace
7. “Christian Love”? And so why then it transforms itself so easily into unbounded cruelty, of the sort that tries to impede couples from loving each other even if of the same gender? And that has worked hard, eg in Italy, to make artificial insemination almost impossible to succeed, in the name of protecting the lives of the fetuses that now will never be born? And that pretends to solve the issue of abortion by prescribing what should not be done? And finally that happily leaves people suffer in unspeakable agony, only to defend a right to live in a way that transforms it into an obligation to be tortured by one’s own body?
8. “Islamic Fundamentalism”? If only! In the last two decades or so, all self-appointed defenders of Islam have been extremely successful…at killing fellow Muslims. Think of the all the dead locals after the bomb outside the US embassy in Tanzania. Think of the untold number of Algerians killed during the Civil War in the 1990s. Think of the vast majority of victims in almost all Egyptian terrorist act. Think of the Palestinian wedding mysteriously targeted for the 2005 bombs in Amman, Jordan. And think of the Muslim children killed during the attack against the foreigners’ compound in Saudi Arabia’s capital
9. “War on Terror”? What is coming up is instead the repositioning of governmental power in the USA, in the UK, in Europe and elsewhere. Governments of all colours and tastes appear all over the world to have tried to infiltrate the private lives of their citizens more than ever before. The only thing they haven’t justified with the “war on terror” appears to be open-ended proctology. For the rest, eavesdropping, hidden cameras, additional paperwork, complicated passports, not to mention the muzzling of dissent even in London’s Parliament Square. And who’s going to dare stopping them, for the fear of being labeled a terrorist, or worse, an appeaser of terrorists
10. “Logic-based Evaluation”? It would be ridiculous were it not so sad and pernicious. All kinds of company and governmental decisions and strategies appear on paper to be the result of a wide consultation with all interested parties. Too bad then they are usually so efficient in confirming the prejudices of whoever’s in charge. There is simply too much of what we do that ends in the hand of the finest speaker rather than the needy

And here even more hypocrisies are out there in the open:

a. They call “Exporting Democracy” another way of getting control of an area whilst blowing the potential “voters” to pieces
b. They call “Environmental Protection” the fixation of considering anything done by humans as “toxic”. In the meanwhile, carbon-emission-reduction schemes provide additional financing to…big oil companies
c. They say “Sport” is a physical competition where specific ethics make it a fun and fair environment. Too bad it’s just another giant entertainment biz, opiating large masses in submission, making them discharge their violent selves around a green field rather than on the grey tarmac of a city
d. They call it “The Israeli-Palestinian Peace process” what is obviously a mad rush before things get settled, a grab-and-bomb-while-you-can
e. They say they are developing “New Drugs”, when a great part of them is a bunch of pointless substitutions no one needed

Help the EU save some money…

…for once!

The European Parliament should be located in Brussels

It costs European taxpayers approximately 200 million euros a year to move the Parliament between Brussels/Belgium and Strasbourg/France. As a citizen of the European Union, I want the European Parliament to be located only in Brussels.

MEP's from different parties are behind the initiative

Please sign the on-line petition. It surely won't hurt. As of this moment there are already 60,000 signatories

And if we "need" the Strasbourg building because we "have to", let the French Government pay the whole bill