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Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

Ask an Iraqi

UPDATE: The original video was blocked, so i’ve found another copy of it now on Youtube.

I came across this clip by accident. It is a segment from Ira Glass’s “this american life”. I did not know of this show, but it has begun running recently on Showtime i believe, and was originally an award-winnign radio show in the US on public radio.

This particular segment, which i found beautiful and powerful, is about an Iraqi who goes around the US, with a small wooden booth titled “talk to an iraqi”, and he just sits there and lets people come and ask to him.

What you see, is fascinating on a human level, on a psychological level, and helps explain a lot. For me it recofirmed the power of words. How many of the orindary americans (as well many ordinary people of ANY country) are able to regurgitate slogans that are fed to them, over and over by their governemnt, without the least bit of reflexion on their meaning.

i just found it so well down, because it was not emotional, not manipulative, simple and moving. Enjoy (and spread it if you like it):

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This is a very interesting discussion between two rather well-known and well-mediatized scientist: famous anti-god and anti-religion flagbearer Richard Dawkins and physicist Lawrence Krauss one of the many pretenders to the throne of former physics/astrophysics for the layperson champion Carl Sagan. It is a very interesting discussion, about the agelong conflict between science and religion, why do we need one or the other, and other such matters.

It is a series of 12 videos (they load automatically), with the final three being a Q&A session with the audience. Enjoy:

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Henry Rollins on his visit to Iran

CBC’s “The Hour with george strombolopolous” is one of the more interesting shows on the great canadian channel. They always have great guests, and he is not afraid to ask good and interesting questions.

Here is a show where he interview the always-interesting Henry Rollins. He recounts in the first part of the interview a trip he made to iran several months ago. Enjoy:

04:38 – February 09, 2007

If you are interested here is the Second Part of the Interview.[tags]the hour, cbc, henry rollins, iran, US, interview[/tags]

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Here is a list of interesting short articles by various specialists done by Harper’s Magazine as part of an online forum on whether the US will engage Iran in military action:

This includes commentaries by Richard Norton, professor of international relations at Boston University; Wayne White, an adjunct scholar with Washington’s Middle East Institute, was deputy director of the State Department’s Office of Analysis for the Near East and South Asia until March 2005; and  Bahman Baktiari who is the director of academic and research programming at the University of Maine’s William S. Cohen Center for International Policy and Commerce

This includes commentaries by Milt Bearden who is an author and film consultant. A former senior CIA officer, he served as station chief in Pakistan from 1986 until the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989; A former CIA official, who asked to remain unnamed. He was stationed in the Persian Gulf during the first Gulf War and served in Iraq after the 2003 invasion; and Frank Anderson worked for the CIA from 1968 until 1995. He served three tours of duty in the Middle East as an agency station chief, headed the Afghan Task Force (1987-1989), and was chief of the Near East Divisionm.

This includes commentaries by Steven Simon who is the Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relation; Anthony Cordesman who holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He formerly served as national security assistant to Senator John McCain, as director of intelligence assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and as civilian assistant to the deputy secretary of defense; and Patrick Clawson who is deputy director for research of the conservative Washington Institute for Near East Policy

As is the case usually with Harper’s, there is some good reading in there. However the general idea i got from them was that for the most part, they don’t think military action will take place.  Let’s hope so.

On other fronts, it seems to me that the Los Angeles Times is slowly becoming one of the more logical, moderate and objective journals i find in the US.  At least that’s how it seems recently, and here is an interesting editorial i found today.  Titled Why Iran ‘Meddles’ in Iraq it is written by Adam Shatz who is the literary editor of The Nation.  Here is just a short excerpt:

Could it be that Iran’s stake in Iraq is solidly grounded in the same realist principles that drive the behavior of most nations, rather than in "malign intentions" or a desire to export the Islamic revolution?

If Iran wants to see a friendly government established in Iraq, it hardly lacks for reasons. Unlike the United States, Iran was attacked by Iraq, back when Hussein’s regime enjoyed American support as a bulwark against Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s revolution. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians died during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88). When Iraq used poison gas against Iranian troops, the United States uttered not a single protest.

Not surprisingly, Iran wants to ensure that no government in Iraq will threaten it again. That’s why Iran made no secret of its joy over Hussein’s downfall, but it also refuses to accept a potentially hostile American base in the Persian Gulf or to cede absolute control over Iraq’s future to the United States.

So, that’s it for now.  I hope to very soon, write a nice long detailed article about the upcoming French Elections.  It’s quite the debated subject here, and for interesting reason. 

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In case you have not heard about it, this past week, FIFA, Football/Soccer’s world governing body suspended IRAN from all international footballing matches.  In the immediate case, this means that Iran will NOT be able to compete in the Asian Games in DOHA, a tournament which they’ve championed three times in their history.

The reason is because of a dispute within the Iranaian Football Federation and the Iranian government.  To be more precise, Iran was suspended from international soccer by FIFA on Thursday because of government interference with the country’s soccer federation.

Now, i will not detail all this for you, but you can read about it in a very detailed article. However, it is incredibly disappointing to see this decision by FIFA, considering the double standard it shows.  I assure you, that IRAN is NOT the only country who’s government has at one time or another interfered with its’ football federation.  This to me and many others smacks of a political motivation.  This is FIFA, the same organization who claims to stand for pure atheltics and yet at one point before the last world cup pondered the idea of suspending Iran from the world cup, because of the ongoing Nuclear issue.  Non-political indeed!

Anyways, Kaveh Mahjoob has an excellent commentary on this issue, i will give you a few quotes:

From a procedural perspective, FIFA’s decision to suspend Iran’s football from the international scenes due to its government interference has merit. Sports need to be independent from politics and individual football federations need to remain independent. Conversely, the international governing body of football, FIFA, must also stay pure from politics.

From a wider perspective, in examining the world of football, FIFA’s decision lacks consistency and seems politically motivated.

In many countries outside of Europe, the governments own infrastructures such as stadiums and clubs. As a result, the governments effectively run all sports including football. Why is it that the Iranian government interfering with its football federation is suddenly “suspension” material and why is it that FIFA deciding to make example of Iran? Answering these questions require deeper analysis.

In Saudi Arabia, a member of the royal family is the head of the football federation. Are we to believe that the hands of governements are nowhere to be seen in football federations in Saudi Arabia, most of Asia, African countries, Eastern Europe and Central America?

Going further he says,

FIFA uses “Fair Play” as means to get cultures closer and provide opportunity to developing nations. “Fair Play” also should mean treating all football nations the same.

My simple question to Mr. Joseph S. Blatter and the members of the FIFA Emergency Committee is: Do you use the same measuring sticks to evaluate ALL of your members or is it just more convenient to pick on a football federation whose government is facing significant political pressure throughout the world?

And i will bring up the same point as Mr. Mahjoob does.  Who does FIFA intend to punish with this? the governement? NO. It will be the people.  This is a country that is brought together under the flag of its nation’s football team.  A country who when it has risen against the oppression of its governement, it has been after nation-uniting victories on the football pitch.  A country whose brave women have resisted humiliation and oppression to simply have the right to attend matches. 

Good Job FIFA.

[tags] fifa, iran, football, soccer, suspesion, asian games, IFF, world [/tags]

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Beautiful Words

Malheureusement, on vie dans une monde ou l’arbre qui tombe fait plus de bruit qu’un forêt qui pousse.

(English Translation: Ufortunately we live in a world where the one tree that falls makes more noise than a forest that grows)

I heard Abd Al Malik say these in and interview yesterday. He is an award winning french rap artist and a fascinating character and an intellectual.  He has a life history which is just as fascinating. 

This was his answer regarding a question regarding the riots that took place last year in the rough suburbs of paris and the whole idea of the mal-integration of the people from arabic and african origins into the french society.  There is no response which could be more apt, beautiful and simple.  Especially one that comes from someone who lived and grew up in one such neighbourhood.

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Wow, just listened to a talk on TVO by Alan Dershowitz at U of T. There was a really really heated question and answer period afterwards.

But holy $%^, listening to him reminds of listening to Saruman. He has an uncanny ability of convincing you of the opposite right in front of your own eyes.

Scary stuff …

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WTO Explained?

This is very funny. I was reading the news, and realizing that i’m exceptionally ignorant of the what the fuss about being allowed to join the WTO is, i looked it up on the web, to try and see what it’s all about.

What i found was very interesting, but not as interesting as i had hoped for. Except for a small bit, where the writer tries to explain the WTO in terms of a soccer game, to make ignoramuses (ignorami?) like me understand. The article was an analysis of whether it is helpful for third-world countries to join the WTO or not. What follows is his analogy of the organization and its operations to soccer!

Country members are called to a game of soccer. However, in this soccer game, unlike the usual soccer game, there are 3 teams, not 2. The age range of members are also very different. One team of players are 20 years of age. The other team, ten years of age and the last team 5 years of age.

The rules of the game are mostly determined by the oldest and most experienced team – the 20 year olds. And often, in this soccer game, the team members come up with more and more new rules for which all the teams must abide by. They sometimes call themselves the QUAD (coalition of US, EU, Japan and Canada).

The younger teams are given some concessions – the 10 year olds have a few concessions and the 5 year olds a couple more concessions. For example, these two teams are given a few more turns at having the ball.

Apart from which, however, all players are treated equally and all 3 teams play together. It is found that the older team scores most of the goals – 9 out of 10 goals. Often the oldest team also plays a dirty game – team members push and shove the younger players when they are not supposed to. Occasionally, the younger team points this out to the referee and the younger team is compensated, but this is rare. More often, the bullying continues but the younger teams are threatened to keep silent, otherwise they would be beaten up in the changing room. In fact, often, the older team complains about the unruly behaviour of the younger team and are compensated.

The other dimension in this game is that the experienced players have huge reserves of manpower and they change their players frequently, so that the players are not tired out and can play well. In contrast, the youngest team have only a small group of players, have no reserves for back-up and have to take part in this soccer game that (unlike real soccer), does not end – it goes on and on and on.

The outcome of the game? Of course almost all the goals are scored by the oldest team. The 10 year olds very occasionally makes a couple of scores, but end up loosing out as well. The youngest team is completely defeated.

This is over-simplified, but gives the gist of the power politics at the WTO today and the bleak picture for developing countries.

(Source: The WTO and Developing Countries: Will Vietnam Benefit from Being a WTO Member? at Focusweb

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Verbal defacation

Remember last week when the Americans ‘accidentally’ bombed a house full of civilians which they thought was a military installment. If you didn’t hear about it, HERE is the story (from CNN).

Well, if you read the article, it says 14 people were living in the house. However, the most horrifying and revolting thing you will read is the following quote, which was the response by the military towards this mistake:

“Multi-National Force-Iraq deeply regrets the loss of possibly innocent lives”

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? How incredibly fucking ruthless and arrogant and *&%$$^$#&$^ do you have to be to actually say “possibly innocent” lives in your goddamn statement.

You know, if they hand’t actually said anything, or even not acknowledged their mistake it would have been more honourable than this. Instead they chose to verbally defacate on 14 more poor souls whose only crime was to be in the wrong place in the wrong time. How incredibly disgusting is that?

And on top of it all, they don’t even take responsibility, but rather the “distribute” the responsibility between the ‘multinational forces’.

How disgusting and gutless can one get?

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Happy 2005 to all who celebrate

Well, another year came and went in a blink, we’re no wiser for it. So to all those who celebrate the new christian year, happy new year and i hope that your new year is filled with happiness, health and love.

It’s quite sad and unfortunate however, to see yet another time of holidays and happiness marred by a global tragedy. I speak of course of the results of the earthquake/tsunami in southern Asia.

BBC reports that the UN estimates that the death toll will soon reach 150,000. I don’t it is even possible to imagine what the event could have been like, or worse, how the conditions are there currently. We can just give our thoughts to them and whatever aide we are able to send their way. But there must be some meaning in this second huge disaster, on the anniversary of last year’s devastation in Bam. As far-fetched and nonsensical as it may sound, you always get back what you put in. Since 2001, think of how much negative enery and negative thought and hate and darkness has been in the world. It has its effects on our nature and environment also.

On other matters, our trip is winding down. We got back to Provence last night, catching a train from Grenoble (where we spent a wonderful new years eve with friends). The city of Grenoble is quite beautiful wedged into a huge valley amidst collosal alpine mountains. And moreover, our stay in Lyon was incredible. It is such a beautiful city and hard not to fall in love with. Pictures forthcoming.

So goodbye for now, and we’ll be back soon …

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