The International Herald Tribune Fails Neil Armstrong

From: Maurizio
To: Letters IHT
Date: Mon, Aug 27, 2012 at 6:56 PM

Hi

As a long-time subscriber [...] I was looking forward for today’s (27/8) newspaper, but obviously got the wrong one. You see, the death of Neil Armstrong is a tiny mention on the front and a minute area at page 5.

I am sure nobody at the IHT can be such an ignoramus as to reduce one of the biggest stories of 2012 at the level of a small footnote in history. PLEASE SEND ME THE VERSION WITH AN APPROPRIATE EULOGY FOR SOMEBODY DEFINED BY PRESIDENT OBAMA AS A “GREAT AMERICAN HERO”.

In the meanwhile, conscious that the biggest sin for a journalist is to not be read, I am sending you back via post the newspaper delivered this morning, 99.99% of it absolutely pristine.

saluti/regards

Worse Than Berlusconi

(letter sent to the Editors of the International Herald Tribune)

Say what you will of Italy and its Prime Minister, there remains one powerful counterpoint to Silvio Berlusconi, resolutely bringing him a large amount of support: the intolerable pseudo-intellectualism that makes Frank Bruni and his (selected) Italian sources believe there is any correlation between “having a higher education” and “voting Left” (see Frank Bruni’s “The Affliction of Comfort”, IHT, 19 Sep 2011 ).

It doesn’t take much really to understand the utter inability to govern of a political side (such as the Italian Leftists) incapable for two decades of overcoming Mr Berlusconi and his supporters. To consistently lose against people despised as mentally inferior, it is the best evidence of being even more intellectually challenged than them.

International Herald Insanity

From: Maurizio Morabito
Date: Tue, Feb 22, 2011 at 3:01 PM
Subject: Insane Ed’s and Op-Ed’s (IHT, 22 Feb)
To: Letters IHT

Dear Editors

it’s difficult to say if your line about the revolts in the Middle East is appalling or just insane. In the same pages (editorials and op-ed‘s, 22 Feb) where you appear at least in theory to support millions yearning for democracy and free and fair elections in the Middle East, you spend considerable ink arguing that the free and fair electoral wishes of millions of people in a major Democracy should be tramped upon.

I am talking about Italy of course.

Are democracies to be supported only when voters follow your advice? Isn’t yours the very same attitude that made murderous dictators rest easily, safe in the knowledge that all it took them in order to get billions in US aid was to present any democratic alternative as not of Washington’s liking?

And so your dislike for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reveals you yourself as hypocrites, dreaming of getting the World you dream by pretending to care about distant people whose own dreams you wouldn’t think twice to destroy.

saluti/regards
Maurizio Morabito

Berlusconi Isn’t The Problem – Lack of Self-Respect Is

As an “ironing and cooking” Italian man “who does not ask my partner to make sure the pasta is cooked “al dente” when I get back home from work“, I am puzzled by Chiara Riffa and Rosa Raffaelli’s exhortation for more respect to be accorded to women in Italy (“Enough Machismo Italian Style“, IHT Printed edition, 19 Feb).

Ms Riffa and Ms Raffaelli’s goals are as laudable as daft and nonsensical are the chosen means of changing the status-quo. For example, as enthusiastically “reported” by IHT Rome-based journalists Rachel Donadio and Elisabetta Povoledo, the “women’s dignity” mass demonstrations of 13 Feb were overwhelmingly focused against Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi. That was a sure-fire way to degrade any “demand” to low-level party-political diatribe.

It is also unclear what yet another demonstration achieved, what if anything has changed or is going to change at least in the participants’ lives, and most of all how could a person, even a Prime Minister, affect the “dignity” of a mass of individuals (unless, perhaps, it’s North Korea we’re talking about). Like for everybody else, my “dignity” is all mine, and for me to nurture, not to abandon to the care of however-politically-powerful strangers. Actually, by associating themselves to the controversies regarding Mr Berlusconi, the “women’s dignity” demonstrators might have ultimately shown how low their self-respect is, and how weak their demands, all too easily manipulated for the sake of provoking a change in Government.

I can’t wait for the day when “machismo” will be an obsolete word, in Italy and everywhere else. Tough chance though, unless and until the problem is dealt with in a practical, truly apolitical way capable of positively affecting the day-to-day behaviour of millions of people; and unless and until the educated, cosmopolitan, financially-liberated victims of machismo will (at least!) start self-respecting themselves.

A Split Sudan? It’s Spelled “Darfur”

Mohammad Ali Salih’s analysis of what has brought about the USA and the rest of the world to do nothing at all to prevent the splitting of Sudan in two halves, is singularly unimpressive (“My country divided“, IHT, Feb 17, 2011).

What is impressive is Mr Salih’s inability to spell “DARFUR”. Genocide or not, hundreds of thousands have been killed or forced into fleeing from their villages in Darfur, and even those that don’t want to believe in a direct support for those shameful actions against civilians by the Sudanese government, will have to admit it’s hard to win friends when you cannot guarantee the safety of your own citizens.

Compound with that the fact that the Darfur crisis was started just as the Sudanese civil war North vs South was drawing to an end at last.

Note also how the US government had no qualms in trying to help the displaced Darfurians, Muslims driven away from their normal lives by other Muslims. It is therefore apparent that it wasn’t Islamophobia the driver of outside intervention supporting the separation of South Sudan. It was Khartoum’s obviously pernicious policies in “dealing with” internal affairs.

And since even Northern Sudanese people with an international outlook like Mr Salih cannot even mention Darfur, the separation of South Sudan sounds like a very good idea indeed.

Perché Ho Rimandato Indietro L’International Herald Tribune

Affezionato lettore dell’International Herald Tribune da più di un quarto di secolo, e abbonato fisso da almeno 12 anni, il 14 febbraio 2011 ho fatto una cosa che non avrei mai pensato di fare. Ho messo il giornale in una busta, con una bella letterina di accompagnamento, e l’ho rimandato indietro (direttamente a Parigi). Perché quando è troppo, è troppo.

Tutto è cominciato quando durante la tradizionale lettura mattutina del giornale, ho notato un articolo a pagina 3, bello in evidenza e accompagnato da una foto gigante della manifestazione “Se non ora quando” del 13 febbraio a Roma. Titolo dell’articolo, “Angry voices rise against Berlusconi“, “Voci arrabbiate si alzano contro Berlusconi” (qui sul sito del New York Times, con un titolo diverso). E fin qui niente di strano: a parte un rarissimo articolo di Rachel Donadio del 22 gennaio scorso, l’IHT non ha mai fatto molto per far comprendere ai suoi lettori neanche le basi del “fenomeno Berlusconi” e del “caso Italia”, preferendo le solite macchiette e mezze verità.

Ma la stessa Donadio, in compagnia della coautrice dell’articolo sulla manifestazione romana, Elisabetta Povoledo, ha stavolta superato se stessa, scrivendo un pezzo di propaganda spicciola e neanche tanto velata. Il “pezzo” in inglese è infatti di 784 parole, delle quali 766 sono contro Berlusconi. E solamente 18, a favore, nel senso che è stata infilata una insensata frasetta a forza:

Mr. Berlusconi and his defenders have dismissed the demonstrations as purely political, calling his critics “moralists” and “puritans”

Berlusconi e chi lo difende hanno rigettato i cortei come puramente politici, etichettando i suoi critici come “moralisti” e “puritani”

Nient’altro. Meno del 2.4% del totale dell’articolo, per chi volesse fare due conti.

Niente spazio quindi ad alcuna critica alle manifestazioni, anzi ad alcun ragionamento che possa andare al di là delle solite lamentazioni. Niente spazio neanche ad una voce non certo berlusconiana come quella di Beppe Severgnini, visto che la manifestazione l’ha criticata per suoi motivi anche lui.

E allora lo dicano forte e chiaro, all’International Herald Tribune/New York Times. Dicano di non avere intenzione di pubblicare notizie dall’Italia, e di preferire intervenire a cervello spento e con la propaganda a mille, quasi volessero imitare un qualsiasi giornalucolo egiziano filogovernativo dei tempi di Mubarak.

E se quello è il caso, allora si tengano il giornale. Per intanto, come ho detto, l’ho rimandato indietro, al Servizio Clienti però, chiedendo loro di mandarmi l’edizione giusta, quella scritta professionalmente e giornalisticamente, invece che l’edizione delle stupidaggini.

Chissà.

As Green As Any Falsehood – Letter To The IHT and NYT

(click here for more details on the below)

From: Maurizio Morabito
Date: Mon, Feb 7, 2011 at 8:32 PM
Subject: factual error in book review “Polar Distress” by Holly Morris (last weekend’s)
To: Letters IHT , Letters NYT

Dear Sirs or Madams

Please note that there is a factual error in Holly Morris’ “Polar Distress“, published last weekend in the NYT and the IHT and concerned with “The Magnetic North” by Sara Wheeler.

Ms Morris quotes from Ms Wheeler’s book about

one boggling case: Endocrine-­disrupting chemicals handed up the food chain have triggered changes in the sex of unborn children in the first three weeks of gestations, resulting in the birth of twice as many girls as boys in some villages in Greenland and among the Inuit nations of eastern ­Russia

That is an unwarranted claim that originally appeared in The Guardian in 2007 and was attributed to the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), AMAP itself has distanced itself from that very same claim, for example writing in its 2009 SOAER report that

Systematic epidemiological studies, including all possible confounders and other relevant contaminants, must be performed before any conclusive statements can be made about contaminants and sex ratios in Arctic populations

And if you check, AMAP has been consistently reminding its reports’ readers about the preliminary nature of any suggestion of a link between pollution and sex ratios in humans, at least since 2006.

Neither Ms Wheeler, and worse, nor Ms Morris appear to have been curious enough to verify what they were writing about, and especially concerning such a “boggling” example. Please publish a correction as soon and as prominently as possible, otherwise your readers will find themselves severely mislead by a demonstrated falsehood.

Thanks in anticipation

Next Stop, Pyongyang (The New York Times vs FOI)

to Letters IHT
date Wed, Jul 14, 2010 at 2:21 PM

Dear Editors,

Is climate change a threat large enough to make you undermine the very foundations of your trade? That’s the most important question upon observing your cavalier attitude to Freedom of Information (FOI) in the editorial titled “A Climate Change Corrective” (printed on the IHT on 14 Jul 2010), regarding the alledgedly “manufactured controversy” also known as Climategate.

Forget science, and forget politics for a moment: Climategate, as established by every official British investigation about it, has shown a deliberate, concerted attempt at circumventing the letter and the spirit of the local FOI Act. In more than one circumstance, the Information Commissioner’s Office has found that FOI requests were not dealt “as they should have been under the legislation“. Lord Oxburgh’s and Sir Muir Russell’s reports say as much too, just like the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s.

A wide range of commentators of all scientific and political stances have remarked this, and the general consensus is that from now on science itself will have to change its practice, becoming more transparent and open especially to knowledgeable members of the public. We are talking FOI, after all, an extension to the freedom of speech, a right that people including journalists, and The New York Times, have successfully fought for during the past half-century.

It’s only because of the statute of limitations that there has been no prosecution in the UK regarding the attacks on FOI revealed by Climategate. And what do you have to say about that instead? Absolutely nothing, apart from an absurdly understated remark about “a timid reluctance to share data“.

And so you have sacrificed the right to FOI in an attempt to get “firm action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases“. Good for you. And good for Governments the world over: they will surely rejoice upon hearing that the most influential and authoritative global and US newspaper does not care about FOI. Why, all they have to do is claim “a timid reluctance” to open up their files: and all you will be able to print, will be regurgitated propaganda and half-truths.

I have heard the hamburgers are good, in Pyongyang.

saluti/regards
maurizio morabito
journalist and blogger, “The Unbearable Nakedness of Climate Change

Skeptical About ‘The message From The Streets Of Tehran’

Nazenin Ansati and Jonathan Paris claim that “many in the [Iranian] Green Movement [...] would like to see the international community exert pressure on the regime through a progressive set of smart, vigorous and targeted sanctions and more forceful advocacy of human rights” (“The message from the streets of Tehran“, IHT, Nov 7).

But haven’t “targeted sanctions” against the Iranian regime and a seemingly perennial “advocacy of human rights” been in place for decades? And what would any Iranian internal opposition movement ever gain from associating itself with foreign Powers, given the anti-Western-Governments paranoia widespread among the ruling classes, and the evidence of History suggesting that foreign intervention in Iran has invariably been for the worst?

Why Israel Is Not The Palestinian Problem

Many thanks to the Editorial Board at the International Herald Tribune for publishing a letter of mine on the Jan 9, 2009 printed paper, under the headline “When governments fail” (a modified version of yesterday’s blog “Are Palestinian Lives Truly Worthless?“):

David Brooks’s analysis (“The confidence war,” Views, Dec. 7) is missing the fact that the very strategies of successive Israeli governments, the Palestinian Authority and now Hamas have been based on the utter disregard of the value of the lives of individual Palestinians.

This has been true especially in the last decade or so. One side casually bombs crowded residential areas from afar only to release increasingly hypocritical apologetic press releases afterward. The other side sends youths on suicide missions or unleashes them armed with stones to throw at armored tanks – while proclaiming that thousands and thousands of dead women and children are a price worth paying for victory against “the Zionists.”

As shown repeatedly during the last century, it should be the job of international institutions to push hard for the safeguarding of lives, especially when the local governments are clearly unable or unwilling to do so. But I am afraid that with the way things are going, we can only expect a future made of innumerable deaths.

I’ll expand briefly upon that to argue why Israel is not the actual problem for the Palestinians, at the moment.

True, most of the actions undertaken during the latest conflict situation by the Jerusalem Government are at the edge or beyond the very limits of International Law and War Law. It also does look especially fishy how the Gaza invasion coincides with upcoming Israeli elections…one of the luckily few occasions where a democracy makes liberal use of somebody else’s blood for a few votes more.

But that’s less important to Palestinians than the gigantic failure of their leadership(s) to do anything positive on their behalf.

Like it or not, when there is a war one side usually shows little interest in protecting the other side’s civilian lives (it depends on the war, and on the propaganda, but the overall trend is alas towards more civilian deaths). However deplorable, if Azerbaijan declares war against Armenia (just an example) it goes without saying that Azerbaijanis will rather kill Armenians, and Armenians Azerbaijanis.

Usually, that is accompanied by each side trying as much as possible to protect its own: therefore Azerbaijan will do its best to defend Azerbaijanis, and Armenia Armenians. Sometimes that doesn’t actually work out as proclaimed (see Russian botched kidnap rescue attempts) but one can assume that at least the intention is always there.

That is not what happens for Palestinians. They must be the only people on Earth deliberately put in harm’s way by their own leaders. I am sure that even the incredibly locked-up Burmese junta, and the paranoid hermit North Korean state-wide prison, would try to lower casualties among their own citizens in case of war much, much better than Hamas (or Fatah for that matters) have ever managed even to imagine, let alone do.

In fact, just like in Communist states of old (USSR famine in the 1930′s, China famine in the 1950′s), in the world as seen by Hamas people are not people, but pawns to use for a higher ideological purpose (namely, the destruction of Israel). Horribly, a dead Palestinian child becomes more useful to them than a live Palestinian child, as it does make Israel look an abominable entity that doesn’t deserve to seat among Nations.

Whatever Israel has done or is doing, things don’t have to be the way they are. Resistance is a natural reaction to occupation, but suicide (or worse: making sure some of yours get killed for your political advantage) is not.

As suggested in the blog and the letter to the IHT, we would go a long way towards improving the Palestinians’ situation if only we could protect the people from Hamas (and from Fatah).

Now of course one would have to understand what brought Palestinians in the Occupied Territories to a situation that is perhaps worse than Somalia’s and definitely makes Haiti looks like Heaven on Earth. One would not do wrong by considering the issue of politicide by Israel, but that is as relevant to today’s situation as reconsidering the opportunity of wearing warm clothes in a snowstorm is to somebody that has already caught pneumonia.

2009 – Year in Review (by Patrick Chappatte)

Hopefully the link on the IHT website will still be working for centuries to come…otherwise I do have a copy of this great cartoon by the even greater Patrick Chappatte (website)

Chappatte - 2009 Year in Review

Chappatte - 2009 Year in Review

Hard to choose the best “vision from the future”. My favorite is about the first drug-free Tour de France ending…a month late!

In Italian University Education, A Crisis Being Wasted

(letter sent to the IHT)

Zoe Bray and Andrea Calderaro of the European University Institute in Fiesole, Italy, describe the Italian Government’s planned funding cuts as an “assault on an already fragile education system (Letters, IHT, Dec 12).

Perhaps so. But one wonders why “people [brought] together from all walks of Italian life” protesting against those cuts, have been (and still are!) so acquiescent to the one issue that hobbles every single University in Italy: namely, the incredible and totally unrestrained domination by the “Professori Ordinari”, the tenured professors that literally hold the power of academic life and death (and more).

For decades now, there have been plenty of Professori Ordinari in the Italian Parliament, and in successive Governments from all sides. Still, as Bray and Calderaro correctly point out, the education system has been based “in large part [on] the voluntary work of researchers“. Furthermore, nepotism abounds.

Funding cuts or not, the status quo is evidently untenable. Rather than sterile protests against a Government that is more or less obliged to restructure the infamous Italian public accounts, one would hope those working and studying in Universities could take advantage of the current crisis, and force the tenured professors to give an account of their flawed stewardship.

Why Lehman’s Failure Was The Right Move

Millions of gallons of ink must have been consumed in the neverending discussions about the “disaster” represented by the US Government’s decision to let Lehman Brothers fail and disappear. Andrew Ross Sorkin on today’s IHT agrees:

With hindsight, many in the financial industry blame a deepening of the global financial crisis on the government’s decision to let Lehman crumble

I disagree with that analysis, for two very simple reasons. When Lehman was allowed to go bankrupt, a signal was sent to all, saying that not everybody will be rescued. This was in direct contrast with the Japanese Government’s decadal efforts to prop up every financial institution under its watch (that’s why those efforts lasted for a decade or even more).

More importantly, the failure of Lehman Brothers showed everybody what the failure of “just a bank” may mean, with innumerable, overwhelmingly negative consequences propping up even in unlikely places. And this was good: because it is in the human nature to seriously question people advising that something bad may be happening in the near future, and to need a direct experience of that “something bad” before properly reacting.

You can spend every last molecule of your breath explaining a child that eating too many sweets can be painful. But there is nothing like going through a “tummy ache” that will convince the child of changing their way.

And you could transfer yourself back to January 1939 and explain all the reasons for the upcoming Nazi continent-wide monstruosity, but I am sure nobody in the UK or France (or the USA) will agree to go to war until forced to by the pain of circumstance.

And so, had Lehman Brothers been rescued alongside the other relatively large institutions, we would still be discussing the pro’s and con’s of rescue packages. And we would have never known that it takes just a bank to fail, to see a run on money-market funds.

Hindsight will fuel further commentaries on now-defunct Lehman Brothers: and hindsight can be useful to make sense of the world, but only works when there is something to look back at…

My (Mauled) Letter Published on the IHT

From today’s ( Oct 8 ) printed International Herald Tribune:

I understand Thomas Homer-Dixon and David Keith (“The ultimate sun-block,” Views, Oct. 7) when they state that it is better to study global-warming-related geo-engineering now rather than waiting. But what I do not understand is the interest in “flooding the atmosphere with manmade particles.”

Throwing colossal amounts of particles more or less at random into the sky, with no chance of retrieval, is surely a recipe for environmental upheaval.

Maurizio Morabito Orpington, England

Of course the above is a brutally shortened version of my full letter, as published in blog “Only Controllable Geo-engineering, Please!” where I did make the point that it is vital for all human anti-warming interventions to be fully controllable.

And before anybody refers to the ongoing atmospheric experiment called “the emission of additional CO2 from fossil fuels” let me clearly re-state the following: if we really need to combat the effect of the “CO2 emissions experiment” it makes no sense to experiment with a different set of emissions.

What Has President Nixon Ever Done To Us?

James Grant is right in pointing out that one root of today’s financial troubles lies in the Nixon administration’s decision, on Aug. 15, 1971, “that the dollar would henceforth be convertible into nothing except small change” (“The buck stopped then“, IHT, Sep 25).

Really, there’s lots of disasters that can be directly linked to the fewer-than-usual days of Richard M. Nixon as President.

Abroad: the bombing of neutral Cambodia and Laos, resulting in 4 students dead at Kent State in Ohio, and the establishment of the genocidal Pol Pot regime; the threat to India with nuclear-powered USS Enterprise in 1971, resulting in India’s and subsequently Pakistan’s nuclear (bomb) programs; the approval of Pinochet’s bloody coup in Chile in 1973, with a dwindling support for US interests by Latin American governments ever since.

Domestically: the end of all human voyages beyond Earth orbit; the ballooning-up of the Federal Government with the establishment of a long list of Government Agencies; the abuse of Presidential powers with their following corrosion for more than a quarter of a century; the “culture wars” between Republicans and Democrats, all trying to despise each other most; Donald Rumsfeld; and of course the original declaration of the “war on drugs” that surely must have been the most inefficient endeavor ever taken by humanity.

Nixon’s Presidency started a little less than forty years ago. Its legacy, who knows when it will end?

Multi-decadal Single-Party President and Dictator Lectures the World on Human Rights

It may be good news to see that President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of the Maldives preoccupies himself with human rights nowadays, just as global warming threatens the islands he has governed for 30 years (“With millions under threat, inaction is unethical“, IHT, Sep 9).

Some people will call his new worry a tad unethical and hypocritical, with him having won six elections as sole Presidential candidate and now trying to get re-elected for a seventh time.

But who knows? Perhaps President Gayoom will reconsider his priorities, and devote himself full time on solving the global warming issue: finally freeing up his people to choose their new, democratic leader. Ah, and to express their opinions unafraid of the State’s repressive policing.

Fact Checking Is Not What It Used To Be

Dear Editors of the IHT

It is commendable for William Falk to take upon himself the task of updating the wide world of what has been happening whilst Democrats and Republicans cavorted at their respective national political conventions (”The two weeks you missed”, IHT, Sep 8). However, it would have been even more commendable had Mr Falk checked all his “facts”: otherwise, rather than a news update, his effort will be just another act of disinformation.

In particular:

1- “Hezbollah…has a new base of operations in the Americas: Venezuela” – really? This has been an ongoing accusation for years, with little evidence ever provided. Shouldn’t one be a little bit more skeptical about it then, when the only source of the information are unnamed “Western intelligence officials”? This is a Presidential Election year in the USA, after all, and we all know which candidate stands to benefit if any international crisis explodes (or is concocted)

2- “Some [polar bears] were headed toward the edge of the ice shelf, 400 miles away – far beyond their endurance” – really? All we know is that by chance, a helicopter surveying the Arctic for oil-exploration has spotted nine polar bears swimming. The “400 miles away” detail has been reported not by those on the helicopter, and not even by the WWF that published the original story, but by a journalist at London-based “Daily Mail”, a newspaper that has retracted the story (=deleted from their website) since.

All in all, it looks like Mr Falk himself has been too busy watching Barack Obama, John McCain and assorted “dorky delegates bopping to the Beach Boys and Stevie Wonder”

Serie di Articoli per Capire un po’ di piu’ la Cina

Tutti in inglese, ecco un gruppo di articoli recentissimi che possono aiutare a capire un po’ di piu’ cos’e’ questa cosi’ vituperata Cina dell’anno 2008:

(a) The Economist: The illusion of calm in Tibet (10 Luglio): dove l’inviato si chiede se in fondo in fondo il problema sia l’incompetenza delle autorita’ cinesi, politicamente impreparate a fronteggiare i problemi del Tibet, e quindi propense a reagire eccessivamente o addirittura, come nel caso dei disordini del 14 Marzo, incapaci di organizzare alcunche’

(b) IHT: Smoke and Mirrors (15 Luglio): le memorie di un’insegnante/giornalista indiana che vive in Cina rivelano una societa’ impegnata a migliorare il proprio tenore di vita, al punto che la “democrazia” puo’ diventare una minaccia per chi vede finalmente avverare il sogno di una vita agiata se non ricca. I problemi pero’ esistono, anche se nascosti sotto il tappeto

(c) IHT: Success of ‘Kung Fu Panda’ touches a cultural nerve in China (17 Luglio): il successo in Cina del cartone animato americano “Kung Fu Panda”, cosi’ intriso di valori tipicamente cinesi, fa riflettere il commentatore Richiard Bernstein sul deleterio effetto in Cina della censura e in generale del coinvolgimento della politica. Alcuni progetti creativi sono abbandonati a causa dell’eccessivo numero di richieste che li costringerebbero a perdere ogni creativita’

(d) IHT: Out of Mao’s shadow (17 Luglio): recensione del libro di Philip P Ban, recante lo stesso titolo, dove di nuovo si dice che la prosperita’ e’ stata usata per evitare la democratizzazione, e tutto il sistema politico attuale e’ imperniato nel perpetuare il monopolio del Partito. Pur tuttavia, c’e’ speranza nel numero di persone che hanno sfidato il governo, a volte anche riuscendo nel loro intento pur dovendone pagare le conseguenze

I problemi della Cina prima o poi verrano al pettine. Sara’ interessante vedere come evolveranno, e se porteranno a una qualche forma di Democrazia. Di sicuro pero’, ogni interferenza dall’estero sara’ controproducente.

The Illusion of Foreign Policy Morality

It is disconcerting to read a knowledgeable and experienced person such as Thomas L Friedman fall in an old trap, claiming foreign policy morality for his own country (“Which world do you prefer?“, IHT, July 17).

Mr Friedman is apparently convinced that “America still has some moral backbone” because the USA “put forward a simple Security Council resolution” at the UN, calling for a series of sanctions against the quasi-dictatorial Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. Such a move failed, however, due to “truly filthy” vetoes by Russia and China. For that matter, Mr Friedman throws in the “pure, rancid moral corruption” of South Africa’s president, Thabo Mbeki.

All hail the USA, then, because “there are travesties America will not tolerate“?

If only!

Doesn’t Mr Friedman know a thing about the US-backed regimes of Egypt and Pakistan, for example? Doesn’t he remember the scores of murderous dictatorships financed by successive US Administrations, on the horrendously immoral belief that it is ok to support a “bastard” as long as he was “our bastard“?

It is telling that a good response to Mr Friedman’s argument has been published in the very pages of the IHT, in the “Letter from China” by Howard W French of July 4, 2008 (“Behind the reluctance to criticize Mugabe“): where we learn for example how a mere twenty years ago, Washington (and London) were “running diplomatic interference for apartheid rule in Pretoria“, going as far as “backing South African guerrilla proxies in places like Angola, prolonging devastating wars there and elsewhere, and staving off independence for South African-occupied Namibia in the name of fighting communism“.

At this very moment, the USA and its “Western” allies are supporting dictators in Equatorial Guinea, and Angola. Is there a need to repeat here what everybody thinks, i.e. that such “travesties” are tolerated, whilst Mugabe’s is not, because Zimbabwe doesn’t have huge oil deposits?

That said, at the end of the day there is little point in starting a USA-bashing rhetorical exercize, just as there is little meaning in Mr Friedman’s clutching at moral straws regarding a particular vote at the Security Council.
This is the world we live in, and if we care for its morality the first step surely is not to delude ourselves into thinking that our side is “of course” the “good side”.

Time to Indict George W Bush for War Crimes?

Requests periodically recur for the indictment of U.S. President George W Bush, perhaps in front of an International Court, for various charges of war crimes, from the making-up of the “evidence” against Saddam Hussein to the list of abuses by American soldiers in Iraq and at Guantanamo against their prisoners, to the use of torture to extract information and confessions from terrorist suspects.

What is the feasibility of all that? It depends. Of the fact that the build-up to the war in Iraq in 2003 was based on nothing, I do not think there can be any doubt. Furthermore, it was definitely not me the one in charge whilst abuses and torture were (are?) being practiced. If Bush were a private citizen, the whole thing would already be in the hands of prosecutors and defense lawyers, trying to establish the boundaries between law, crime and ineptitude.

But Bush is no private citizen. Instead, he has spent eight years at the top of the Superpower. What hope could then be in getting him indicted, let alone sentenced?

First thing to be clarified is, would there be any role for an International Court? I do not think so. What future U.S. Administration would take the responsibility of establishing a precedent, sending a former president abroad to answer for war crimes? The only possibility is via the American own justice system.

Even in that case, one would have to present shock-and-awe evidence of criminal intent. It is true that, however slowly, the Congress is publishing reports very critical of the choices and behaviour of members of the Bush Administration, such as the results of the Senate Intelligence Committee chaired by Senator John D. “Jay” Rockefeller IV (D, W Va.), published about a month ago. But first of all, behind all that it’s simple partisan struggle, Democrats against Republicans in a fight which little interest in finding the truth about the President: because the only thing they care about is of course, getting re-elected.

To leave everything in the hands of various parliamentary committees, from this point of view, only serves to hush-hush the whole thing, with potential defendants more likely to die of old age than of attending a single hearing in a court of law. Ah, and to polarize the electorate for no overall gain (another positive opportunity for the politicians, and a pernicious disaster for the electorate itself).

One should therefore more than welcome the latest proposal by Nicholas D Kristof, from the pages of International Herald Tribune: forget the parliamentary committees, the courts, the discussions on the legality of Presidential decisions, in favor of a “Truth Commission” (TC) modeled on the one that helped South Africa become a democratic nation without bloodshed.

The TC would be something coming out of the U.S. themselves, thereby dismissing suggestions of “international interference”; it would only establish a single precedent, namely the fact that Presidents are responsible for what they do, and for what they leave behind; many of the “crimes” would be out in the open, because perpetrators just as in South Africa would prefer sincerity in front of the TC, to the danger of being brought in front of a criminal court.

At the end of the day, what Justice is the one that never comes to conclusions? It is much better to “know the truth”, because it allows us to dream to be able to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future.

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?

La Mediorientalizzazione di Israele

Uno Stato multietnico e multireligioso, dove: una “etnia” domina su tutte le altre; il senso di appartenenza al proprio gruppo supera la lealta’ civica comune; ci sono partiti su base etnica, e/o disinteressati ai problemi di chi non e’ “dalla stessa parte” ; interi villaggi “sconvenienti” per il Governo sono abbandonati senza praticamente alcun servizio statale, da decenni; i confini sono per lo piu’ completamente artificiali; i militari sono un po’ troppo importanti e lavorano un po’ troppo in segreto; non mancano certo i fondamentalisti; una “religione di Stato” controlla tante parti della vita e della morte di tutti i cittadini, anche quelli di un’altra religione.

E’ questo l’Israele descritto da Adam LeBor nel commentare sull’International Herald Tribune il nuovo libro “The Hebrew Republic” di Bernard Avishai.

Insomma, dopo 60 anni Israele si e’ mediorientalizzato, uno Stato fra i tanti minati dalla propria storia. A distinguere lo Stato ebraico dai vicini piu’ immediati sono rimasti solo un potere giudiziario indipendente, una stampa libera e vociante, e una robusta societa’ civile.

Ma sopravvirerebbero quelli, a un conflitto interno tipo quelli del Libano, o addirittura a un confronto fra i coloni piu’ duri e puri, e il resto (ebraico) del Paese?

Kosovo: Good Guys vs. Bad Guys?

Letter to the International Herald Tribune

Dear Editors, dear Ms. Dempsey

Can anybody seriously describe the ongoing Kosovo crisis as a good-guys vs. bad-guys conflict, as attempted in Ms. Dempsey’s “Letter from Europe“, June 11, 2008, published on the IHT as “Deadlock in Kosovo risks Balkan instability“?

The articles is a relentless attack on everything Russia and Serbia have to say about Kosovo, with the EU depicted as the poor victim of a machination intending to deprive Kosovo of true independence, by keeping the UN around.

We are even treated to the classic “It is not for lack of trying by the Europeans or the United States to reach an agreement with Russia over Kosovo“, about the aborted Ahtisaari Plan.

Well, Ms Dempsey is well aware and even describes in the article the situation in Northern Mitrovica: could she please then try to explain on what basis would the Ahtisaari Plan free Albanian Kosovars from Belgrade’s rule, while effectively imprisoning the Mitrovican Serbs under Pristina’s?

Neither the EU nor the USA have shown much interest in upholding the rights of the minority Serbs in Kosovo, all too focused in promoting the rights of the minority Albanians in Serbia. This is no recipe for a lasting and peaceful settlement, with or without Russia: and in fact to this day there is no lasting peaceful settlement in sight.

It is also too easy for Ms Dempsey to push aside the legality question. It is not just a matter of Vladimir Putin “claiming that Kosovo’s independence had no international legal basis“. In fact, like Ms Dempsey, also the EU, the USA and legions of international legal experts still have not found any legal basis for Kosovo’s independence.

The best they could come up with, it’s a “sui generis” clause, hoping that all problems will evaporate if everybody agrees that Kosovo’s is a case unique in history, never to be repeated again.

That’s no legal explanation for bypassing the United Nations in order to create a new State in Europe.

Does anybody believe the situation is better today than before “independence” came to Kosovo, with the EU’s “undermined security ambitions” also thanks to its deep divisions on the topic, as correctly pointed out by Ms. Dempsey?

Are we any better down the path of Balkan stability, a “region where the slightest misunderstanding or provocation can lead to violence“? I for one am not sure about that. But if we want to be serious at dealing with this problem, that’s not just a question for Russia to answer.

regards
maurizio morabito

Evidence of Anti-China Reporting Bias in the IHT/NYT

In “Chinese students shed restraint in America” (IHT, Apr 30, published as “Chinese students in U.S. fight image of their home” on the NYT on Apr 29) Chou Wu, a Chinese doctorate student in the USA, is quoted by Shaila Dewan (in co-operation with Michael Anti) as saying that “Western media is even more biased than Chinese media“.

Ironically, in order to find evidence for his claim, Mr Wu should look no further than Ms Dewan’s article!

In fact, after reporting that Chinese students in America believe to be “still neglected or misunderstood (by Western news media) as either brainwashed or manipulated by the (Chinese) government“, Ms Dewan dutifully proceeds to portray those same students as…brainwashed and/or manipulated.

They are described as authoritarian, zealot nationalist prone to threats against Tibetans, also because “demonstrators couldintend to return home (too)”.

Ms Dewan even leaves the last word to Lionel Jensen, of the University of Notre Dame, IN, stating that Chinese students “dont’ ask” if Tibetans wanted the “aggressive modernization” brought by China to Tibet.

That doesn’t bode well for the impartiality of the article: a feeling that is confirmed when we are told that Chinese students’ “handouts on Tibet and Chinacontained a jumble of abbreviated history, slogans and maps with little context“.

Is “jumble” the appropriate word for a reporting piece? Methinks there is too much contempt for the report’s subject showing there.

We have to take Ms Dewan’s word for her judgements, as the only detail provided concerns “a chart showing infant mortality in Tibet had plummeted since 1951” (a positive thing if there ever was any). Alas, we are told, the students “did not provide any means for comparison with mortality rates in China or other countries“.

Too bad one is left none the wiser, as Ms Dewan herself provides no such a comparison either.

Once upon a time newspapers clearly separated news from news analysis. And journalists tried to report impartially. I know, that may be the stuff of Utopia nowadays, but is nobody trying anymore?

Even if the Chinese Government is paranoid…

…it doesn’t mean nobody is “out to get them”…

Serge Schmemann’s otherwise insightful comments on the parallels between Moscow 1980 and Beijing 2008 (“Olympic flames, then and now“, IHT, Apr 28) lacks balance about the inspiration of so many anti-China protests around the world.

This being the Age of the NGOs, there definitely is no shortage of people determined to use a major media event like the Olympics to support this or that issue. Furthermore, there are many that see economic powerhouse China as the enemy, a threat to their jobs and livelihoods.

And so even if the Chinese leadership is clearly showing signs of obtuse paranoia about the Dalai Lama, Hu Jia and pretty much everything else, they may very well still be right in denouncing the protests as maneuvered by a coalition of “anti-China forces behind the curtain”, hitting the right buttons in order to “stir up genuine anger” in “people in free societies”.

Schnemann casts also doubts on the effectiveness of “quiet diplomacy”. Perhaps he is right. One thing is certain, though: you don’t deal with a paranoid…by going out to get him.

Serbia: Trapped in the past…by the EU!

I find the IHT’s Feb 25 Editorial on Serbia and Kosovo rather disingenuous (“Trapped in the past“, IHT, Feb 25).

They state that “Every effort has been made by NATO, the United Nations, the European Union and the United States to accommodate Serbian fears and sensitivities” but then undermine that very claim by decrying Serbia’s lack of “any willingness to negotiate the province’s independence” (as if this were a fait-accompli from the very beginning: so much for “accommodation“…).

They also accuse Belgrade of having “never demonstrated any remorse for the carnage unleashed by the former dictator Slobodan Milosevic“: thereby forgetting how young the Serbian democracy is, and its obvious innocence with respect to the crimes of a past dictatorship.

Serbia and the Serb may have a lot of soul-searching to do having lost pretty much everything and some in their misguided attempts to restore national pride by way of armed conflicts. But nothing, almost nothing has been done by the EU in primis, and by the USA, to help them out of that trap.

Actually, it is apparent that Kosovo has been recognized by some States, and not by others, only as part of a wider USA/Russia geopolitical game. What trust should Serbia put in such a process, is anybody’s guess.

If that can be the basis against “triggering wider conflict“, it’s very much doubtful.

Practical Consequences of Climate Worries

(comment to the IHT’s “Welcome to the new nuclear era”)

Let me understand…so far, the only practical consequences of all the climate change brouhaha have been:

(1) The transfer of billions of euros from European taxpayers to Big Oil/Big Energy firms, under the emission trading scheme

(2) The ballooning of agriculture subsidies to farmers to push them into cultivating corn (despite everybody well knowing the environmental impact from corn fuel will be worse)

(3) A substantial increase in food prices especially for very poor people in many parts of the world

(4) The return of a nuclear industry that will prosper on State guarantees and produce large amounts of radioactive garbage nobody has found as yet a good way to dispose of

???

If that’s what a cleaner, greener world looks like, I’d rather have it brown and dirty, thank you!

Il Modo Sbagliato di Discutere di Pena di Morte negli USA

(una versione ridotta del testo sotto e’ pubblicata nella sezione Lettere sull’International Herald Tribune del 10 Gennaio 2008)

Alla Corte Suprema americana si discute in questi giorni se la procedura di esecuzione dei condannati a morte in Kentucky, basata su tre iniezioni, puo’ essere definita “punizione crudele e inusuale” e quindi incostituzionale (in base all’Ottavo Emendamento).

In realta’, e molto curiosamente, quanto sopra non e’ strettamente vero. Quello che si chiede alla Corte e’ di accettare o rigettare la proposta di due condannati a morte in Kentucky, che vorrebbero morire dopo un’iniezione singola.

In una situazione supremamente ridicola, l’avvocato dei condannati sta cercando di dimostrare la bonta’ del morire dopo la somministrazione di un singolo composto chimico…

Alcuni dei membri della Corte hanno problemi con quel modo di ragionare…e a ragione! Cosa impedirebbe per esempio un condannato in futuro dal chiedere di cambiare ancora, dopo aver detto che anche l’iniezione singola e’ incostituzionale?

E perche’ non continuare a usare qualcosa di ben noto (le tre iniezioni) visto che non c’e’ (ancora) prova che quella singola sia meno crudele o meno inusuale?

========

In realta’ il problema di fondo e’ che l’intera questione e’ veramente mal posta.

La Costituzione dice “[...] punizioni crudeli e inusuali [non saranno] inflitte“.  Non suggerisce di usare il metodo “meno crudele” e/o “meno inusuale”.

Se la procedura a tre iniezioni e’ crudele/inusuale, allora ipso facto non va usata: anche se e’ il metodo meno crudele e meno inusuale che sia stato escogitato al momento.

E l’onere di trovare un modo per applicare la pena di morte in maniera costituzionale deve naturalmente pesare su chi vuole che la pena di morte venga applicata (e non con l’avvocato di due condannati). Il resto, e’ proprio insensato.

On Nuclear Hypocrisy

Letter published on the International Herald Tribune, Dec 14, 2007

Regarding “Get Tehran inside the tent” by Vali Nasr and Ray Takeyh (Views, Dec. 7): The one underlying issue that the writers do not mention, and that does not appear in the article by Valerie Lincy and Gary Milhollin (“In Tehran we trust?” Views, Dec. 7), is that Iran is alone in a sea of hostile neighbors.

Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear bomb is as logical as Israel’s or Pakistan’s. For the current Iranian regime, and perhaps even for a hypothetical Iranian democracy, it would be extremely foolish to leave the fortunes of the state to the whims of the United States, Europe, Russia, or the Sunni Arab states, especially with troubled neighbors like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It is obvious that the West needs a new policy for Iran. Perhaps once – just once – the powers that be will pay attention to the basic needs of Iran, starting by ruling out an invasion.

Isn’t it telling that Nasr and Takeyh repeat the old fairy tale that during the Cold War “confronting Communism meant promoting capitalism and democracy,” forgetting to mention an egregiously contrary example? In a most tragic decision 54 years ago, the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh was toppled and an autocratic monarch reintroduced, all in the name of fighting world Communism.

Maurizio Morabito, England

Iran: Security, Not Insults

Vali Nasr and Ray Takeyh’s op-ed on the IHT (“Get Tehran inside the tent“, Dec 7) may be finally pointing to the obvious: provide stability to the Middle East by realizing that Iran is not going to move elsewhere any time soon.

But for that be achieved, a better vocabulary wouldn’t hurt. In fact, what would any Nation make if not insults of words such as “opportunistic“, “seeking predominance“, “to be contained“?

The one underlying issue that Nasr and Takeyh don’t mention, and does not even appear in Valerie Lincy and Gary Milhollin’s other op-ed in the same newspaper about Iranian nuclear activities (“In Tehran we trust?“) is that the former Persian state is alone in a sea of neighbours all of whom are hostile to various degrees.

Its pursuit of a nuclear bomb capability is as logical as Israel’s or Pakistan’s. For the current Iranian religious regime, and perhaps even for a hypothetical fully-fledged liberal Iranian democracy, it would be extremely foolish to leave the fortunes of the State to the whims of the USA, Europe or Russia, or of the Sunni Arab states, especially with troubled places like Iraq immediately to the West, and Afghanistan and Pakistan just to the East.

With the recent collapse of years of strong-armed American attempts at isolating Iran, it is obvious that there is a need for “a new policy now for going forward“, as one European official is quoted saying. Perhaps once, just once, the Powers will pay attention to the basic needs of Iran, starting from the elemental security of not risking any invasion, war, or foreign-concocted “regime change“.

Isn’t it telling that Nasr and Takeyh repeat the old fairy tale that during the Cold War, “confronting communism meant promoting capitalism and democracy“? Forgetting therefore to mention an egregiously contrary example.

In a most tragic decision 54 years ago by the CIA, the democratically elected government of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh was toppled and an autocratic monarch reintroduced, all in the name of fighting world communism.

And where did that happen? Why, in Iran.