world

Obama Leadership "Tested" by Egypt

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

A good part of my recent visit to Toronto was spent glued to the news coming out of Egypt. Then on Thursday, Mubarak finally addressed the  nation -  and failed completely  to satisfy the demonstrators. But by the time I read the headline in the Globe and Mail on Friday announcing that he would stay, the announcement that he would actually quit had already been made (sometime while I was in the air the previous evening and apparently too late to make the morning paper). Subsequent news stories were all about the celebrations and implications of the "new regime" with surprisingly little about the timing and process of the change of heart - though I eventually did find a blow by blow account on the BBC website.

Of course, any enthusiasm for the result must still be tempered by uncertainty about what will really happen and whether or not the democratic spirit will survive the stresses of inevitable failure to fully meet the expectations of all and to actually solve the structural economic problems (many of which are due to external causes beyond any national control).

But what does not need to be tempered is our admiration for the way the people of Egypt have handled themselves so far. The thuggery that  has occurred has been little beyond what one would expect of disappointed British soccer louts or Canadian hockey fans, and the restraint of the military (both soldiers and leaders) has provided a model that could improve the behaviour of our own guardians of "order" at events like the G20 last year.

A couple of factors worth noting by way of partial explanation (but without significantly detracting from the huge amount of credit due to both protesters and militars in Egypt) is the almost complete absence of serious weaponry outside the control of the military and the dependence of that military on American approval for funding. Despite appearances (and his last ditch attempt at defiance), Mubarak's power has always been subject to military approval and the military has always been highly dependent for both resources and training on its American counterpart. And so Obama's pleas for restraint on all sides may well have helped ensure the victory of progressive elements in any debates that occurred within the regime side of things. An anti-colonial cynic might say that Obama was "running" the military and Google was "running" the protesters, but I prefer to believe that they were all just significantly more humane and enlightened than some of their contemporaries in other places.

Remarkably some idiots in the US media are now second-guessing the public pronouncements of the Obama administration (notwithstanding their complete ignorance of whatever was being said in private) - even to the extent of believing in some cases that he had "told"  the Egyptian administration to have Mubarak to resign (or for those who did not hear him that way wishing that he had been firmer about it). Of course any such "telling" would have been totally inappropriate and an almost inevitable cause of future resentment, so anyone who thinks he did so would actually be best advised to say as little as possible about it.

Muslim Reactions to Violence

Monday, January 10th, 2011

What a contrast between this and this!

Interesting Poll Results

Monday, November 9th, 2009

BBC NEWS | Special Reports | Free market flawed, says survey.

Am I wrong on this?

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Mr Ahmadinejad has a reputation for having a good eye and ear for the popular mood. So doesn't the fact that he appears to be distancing himself from the RG and SL (to whom he may have been considered to be indebted for his victory at this point) perhaps suggest that a good eye sees things on the ground moving at last in a mor liberal direction?

A Necessary Job Done Badly

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

Claudio Lomnitz and Rafael Sánchez have done a poor job of raising some legitimate concerns about possible anti-semitism in the rhetoric of Chavez. I say "poor job" because, although the problem is real, the article reeks of bias and resorts repeatedly to misinformation, inuendo, and guilt by association. Fortunately many of the commenters call them on this, but they flub their opportunity to correct themselves, and their response in a subseqent article is just self-serving rather than appropriately self-critical.

Interesting New Twist in Iran

Friday, July 24th, 2009

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iranian leader 'orders dismissal'
...more »

Mythical Myths about Sustainability

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Many of these Top 10 Myths about Sustainability are mythical in the sense that they are just elementary misconceptions that don't qualify as myths because they are not widely held by intelligent adults, but "Myth 6: Sustainability means lowering our standard of living" is an exception because it is, I think, widely believed by intelligent adults. ...more »

Yes, There *IS* an Elephant in the Room

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

AlterNet Article by Chris Hedges

Rebuttal by Betsy Hartmann
...more »

What is 0^0 equal to? - squareCircleZ

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

This post at squareCircleZ (a very nice enrichment and support website for students and teachers of mathematics) raises the conundrum of how to define 0^0 if all positive x give x^0=1 and 0^x=0.
...more »

How Much is Too Much?

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

I have always believed that disprportionate reponse is justifiable (if struck once I will strike back unpredictably harder if I can so that there is no future temptation to estimate expected value of an attack). And I understand that in the event of military action some level of "collateral damage" has to be expected (and that even those opposed to a belligerent regime can expect to suffer the consequences of retribution if they have failed to remove it from power). But the scale of suffering now in Gaza (when comared to the ineffectiveness of the attacks which prompted it) does make me wonder how much is too much?

Prompted by this article (by Fares Akram in The Independent via Alternet)

Don’t Drink the Nuclear Kool-Aid | AlterNet

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Don’t Drink the Nuclear Kool-Aid | AlterNet

Typical knee-jerk anti-nuke article but comments actually worth reading

CO2 Reduction Scenarios (UK example)

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Heavyweight physics prof weighs into climate/energy scrap [printer-friendly] | The Register

AlterNet: Environment: Exposed: The Truth Behind Popular Carbon Offsetting Schemes

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

AlterNet: Environment: Exposed: The Truth Behind Popular Carbon Offsetting Schemes

The Chronicle: 7/13/2007: Banishing the Ghosts of Iran

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

Commenting on the arrest of Haleh Esfandiari in The Chronicle: 7/13/2007: Banishing the Ghosts of Iran, Fatemeh Keshvarz says "We all wish Esfandiari to be freed, but the danger is that we will color all of Iran..." and goes on to harangue Azar Nafisi for not mentioning enough contemporary Iranian women writers in her story of the travails of an occidophilic women's reading group in post-revolutionary Tehran. As if the readers of 'Reading Lolita ..' will not see the protagonist as well as her oppressors as the ends of a spectrum which includes many other categories in between. Perhaps 'Reading Lolita..' is a bit two dimensional (but it certainly allows for more than one!) but is concern about this issue is the most appropriate response to the arrest? Don't get me wrong. I am interested in trying to see and understand a broader range of Iranian experience, but the context of this complaint is really rather dissonant.

Deep Sixing

Friday, December 1st, 2006

My main reason for posting about this from David Brin is to see if any qualified comments come back on the feasibility of subductive disposal.

David Cox on Saddam

Monday, November 6th, 2006

In Comment is free: Saddam: a tribute David Cox says "Saddam offered his people a harsh deal. Yet, their lives were at risk only if they chose to challenge his authority. Now, they die because of the sect to which they happen to belong."

Neo Culpa indeed!

Monday, November 6th, 2006

WOW!

Contrary Brin: Arguments for your obstinate uncle...

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

David Brin quotes and annotates Russ Daggat comparing Bush and Clinton records.

AlterNet: Evidence of Election Fraud Grows in Mexico

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006

AlterNet: Evidence of Election Fraud Grows in Mexico

Reviews: 'Illusions of identity' by Kenan Malik | Prospect Magazine August 2006 issue 125

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

Reviews: 'Illusions of identity' by Kenan Malik | Prospect Magazine August 2006 issue 125