Tag Archives: Politics

Wired: Anonymous vs. Scientology – Political Activism

Great wired article on Anonymous vs. Scientology.  Occasionally hilarious with things like: “Just inside the doorway, he found church materials loaded onto a cart, which he mounted for a few seconds of simulated man-cart love before fleeing into the city’s streets.”

Seriously though, this could be a major direction for political activism – a dangerous mini-mob counteracting centralized governmental structures.

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Laura Ling, Euna Lee, Growing up

At the risk of being egotistically reflective, I feel stupid.  For those who have been living under a rock, Laura Ling and Euna Lee have just been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in North Korea (link), which means they are now either political pawns or just victims.  Usually, in such cases, I feel a sort of detachment.  A quasi-intellectual this-is-a-black-and-white-documentary-movie-that-doesn’t-apply-to-me sort of detachment.  You know the kind – the one where you see grotesque images from the developing world before dinner, sigh along with your friends about how terrible life is, skip over to some trivial discussion, and proceed to scarf down a nice serving of pizza completely guilt free.

Yet, I can’t detach myself now.  I intuitively can’t.  I’ve never met Laura or Euna.  I’ve seen a bit of Laura’s and her sister’s (Lisa Ling) work on Current.TV.  I was blown away by Lisa Lings home page and the issues she covers…  but what it comes down to is that Laura, Lisa, Euna and other journalists resonate with me almost like family – they are my generation, they live and do the way I feel.  They are real.  They are who I wish I could be.  I watch Bill O’Reilly, Anderson Cooper, a host of other commentators and none of them speak to me.  I do not feel a sense of kinship with them.  I do not feel like they are my eyes.  They are a different generation, they think in a different way, the way they report seems to be full of that detachment – perhaps because they have seen it all before and have come to accept it as the way things are.

Yet with Current.TV and reporters like Laura, Lisa, Christof, I feel that they have credibility with me beyond anything that I would see on any major network.  I intuitively know that these people are not politically driven, they don’t take sides, their loyalty is not with a party, or even a country.  Their loyalty is with humanity.  And I mean this in the most unpretentious way possible.

My generation is different.  We have no rules.  No countries, no borders, no judgements.  It is all replaced by an initially curious, later turning into compassionate observation with a firm belief that we are doing good.  That we can do something about it.  Ideologues perhaps born initially out of luxury if the West – we did not fight for our survival.  Our parents did that.  We, on the other hand, are like Buddha – sheltered, protected by parents until we come out and look.  And then…

And then we are initially no different from other generations – we want to change things.  Yet, unlike previous generations, we can.  We live in an age when doctors Twitter from hospitals, when a two hundred dollar device can create a revolution, when the very natures of democracy and humanity is reevaluated, when Web startups go from zero to having multi-billion dollar evaluations, when people travel between continents with as much effort as previous generation would put into travel between cities.  We see the world differently.

For us borders now delineate only cultural heritage and who collects taxes to provide services.  The idea of legitimacy granted to a government simply because some group usurped power is preposterous.  Respect for fellow human being, no matter how different, trumps all.  It is a way of life.

And generally, the older generation, which has come to accept the status quo, and the newer generation live side by side.  Sets of mental blocks, iron curtains, blinders.  Screw North Korean civilians – just so long as North Korea doesn’t get The Bomb, fact that hundreds of thousands may perish in gulags is "unfortunate", but that’s about all.  And the younger generation, my generation, didn’t know any better.  But now this is changing.  We grew up.  My generation does care and not only do we care, we get involved.  And when we get involved, that is when the difference between different worlds is made evident: the present picture with Laura and Euna feels ridiculous.  It is the the contrast between something that is out of a history book and a generation of people who are aware and who can do more than the previous generation  simply because of the tools available to us.

I am not saying we are better or worse than our parents.  Initially I am sure they were just like us and we like them.  What’s different is the tools available to us and the environment in which we were brought up.

So what can we do?  Or, rather, what can we do that would be radically different from the past?

The way I see it is:

  • Refuse to accept that, which is unacceptable – the status quo is unacceptable
  • Acknowledge that everybody has incentives – nobody is pure evil.  Or at least few are.  In case of North Korea, I am pretty sure that this is a rational society.  A very oppressive, probably fear-driven, but rational society

So what is the problem?

  • The government in NK must remain repressive to sustain itself in the present environment

Which means that either the environment needs to be changed or the government needs to be given a different set of incentives.  Giving incentives is incredibly difficult – what do you give to someone who has little to profit from whatever you can offer?  This is a dangerous path to take as it likely requires resorting to animal dynamics and execution on military threats in an environment that would likely yield a heavy heavy civilian toll…  that is if a strategy was chosen for effectiveness rather than posturing.  Not a very good option.

An alternative would be to change the environment.  What is lacking at this point is communication, empowerment of civilian population.  Of course it is silly to talk of empowering civilian population when you have secret service watching your every move and, even if the dissident movement is strong, you are pushing for a revolution, a civil war.  So this alone would not work either.

Having said that, what a hybrid solution?  Would it be possible to persuade the North Korean government to conduct the following experiment: identify a region to be splintered off from the main body of North Korea.  The region then undergoes a rapid change as follows:

  • distribution of cell phones for
    • communication
    • mobile transaction system
    • Job creation
      • Introduction of Amazon Turk and similar platforms to generate revenue
  • Establishment of Western factories to produce goods
    • Exported into neighboring countries
  • North Korean government collects taxes from this region and thus profits

The main challenge, the way I see it, is to persuade the North Korean government that this sort of a transition is in their interest because both they and the country will be in a far better economic and social state.  Is this doable to any extent?  I don’t know.  But there must be some way to set up communication and conveying this in a reasonable sane manner.  I acknowledge that I am being very naive, but, when you think about it, it would have been naive that any Web 2.0 site would ever get off the ground.  "Wikipedia?  You mean everybody edits and contributes?  Don’t be so naive!"

I hope that Larua and Euna come home safely.  As bad as it may be on a philosophical level, I have no problem of dividing the world into "them" and "us".  I want to help "them", but I want "us" to be safe.  Having said that, I hope that this situation will create awareness in the developed world and create an opportunity to help a backwards regime evolve into what every country should be – a state with a government that represents and serves its people.

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Political links

Recently, the following have been suggested to me by mom:

http://www.hitchensweb.com/
http://www.meforum.org/
http://www.debka.com/

Hitchens… I Christopher Hitchens. Saw him a couple of times on CSPAN… the man. THE man.

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Katrina

Everything I know is wrong.

It’s amazing. This weekend I was hanging out with a seemingly enlightened number of characters (of which I considered my self to be a part), and we, collectively, came to the conclusion that something went wrong and it was the government. The mayor was praised for his emotional appeal to the public. The levees were plugged too late. Nobody noticed anything. The federal government was condemned. etc.

However. That was yesterday. Today I had dinner with parents, who kept a watch (albeit not too close, but still) over what has been happening and either I am easily influenced or… well, judge for yourself. Here is some information I found out:

– the state of emergency was established 2 days before the disaster. Hospitals, the elderly, etc. were NOT evacuated. O’Reilley (Fox) was one of the organizations that ended up engaging in saving these people

– the mayor and the governor did not coordinate their actions

– during the evacuations the people were told to use their own means of transport (no public transport for a city?!?)

– during the evacuation the flow of traffic was not adjusted (i.e. highway had bumper-to-bumper traffic in one direction and FREE LANES in the other)

– the request for troops did not come in until Wednesday (by Friday they were fully deployed – kudos to the military?)

– rescue operations had to be suspended when military and rescue units came under fire from the local population

– with the superdome, people were told to bring their own means of sustenance, no support/safety/etc. was provided on the spot.

– once the superdome was cleared, there were bodies of people stabbed and raped

This is just for starters. Now whose responsibility is all this? What broke down? Everything. Though, while before I thought that the fault was primarily with the federal government, now I feel that it was the local and the state governments that failed. After all, who is responsible for implementing the plans for evacuation? The local government, then the state, then Federal if, pardon me, the shit really, and I mean REALLY hits the fan.

What makes me angry:

– claims that Iraq had something to do with it. Federal government should be the last resort and such a claim should be substantiated (although I can’t prove otherwise at the moment)

– claims of racial discrimination on part of the Federal government

– claims that Bush = evil once again

Right now I do not feel like I know enough to choose a position and stick by it. However, I feel that I’ve been armed with questions that must be answered once any claim is made. The primary question is:

“What did the local government do wrong?”

And the second question is:

“Why didn’t the Federal government just go into the state?” Though the second is easier answered than the first. They go in, the state screams “this is illegal” the Federal government gets blamed for all the things that go wrong because they are more poorly prepared from the informational point of view [than the local government] to handle such an operation. Then, the local government gets off, the federal gets the blame, but people live. As for now, the Federal government reacted late, people died, the local government is pointing its fingers at everyone but itself, and we, the compassionate populace is eating this shit up in spoonfuls.

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Musings: politics

Sometimes thoughts just click… Just posted the following to http://www.uspoliticsonline.com

“IMHO, the US has just as much ignorance as any other place. Just like in any democratic country in Europe, people tend to brew in groups choosing feel-good literature that resonates with their point of view.

Ask most Americans why they like/hate George Bush and you will get the same answer you’ll get from most Europeans: an emotional outpour completely devoid of economic or political perspective/context.”

http://www.uspoliticsonline.com/forums/showpost.php?p=492358&postcount=221

And another post that was a reply to a Bush = Hitler comparison:

“May be I am wrong, but it seems to me a great ignorance to equate Bush and his cabinet to the likes of Hitler.

Bush+friends: elected leaders in a decentralized government structure under constant scrutiny from the outside as well as from within. The closest he comes to violating human rights at home is abortion issues and, perhaps, the presumed stupidity he subjects his voters to during his speeches. The US, even to the most critical of eyes, was a stable economic powerhouse.

Hitler+friends: centralized government, engaged in gross human-rights violations inside his own country as well as outside, head of a country in an economically and politically volatile time period.

Everything else to be said about legality can be derived from the statement above. I agree that we have to pay attention to what’s going on, but let’s be reasonable here.”

http://www.uspoliticsonline.com/forums/showpost.php?p=492354&postcount=100

Can’t wait for eDebate to come to life… damn bugs and no time to weed them out.

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Diary: politics…

This picture, by Anselm Keifer, hangs in Tate Modern in London and, IMHO, is alone worth going to that museum. It hangs (from memory) a solid 5 meters wide by 3 meters high. When standing close to it, much like with impressionists, all you see is dabs of color and twisted wire coming directly out of the picture. Take 10 steps back and you see a breathtaking bird’s-eye-view of a city fading into grayness… There was something overwhelming about it…

Had an interesting talk with Z yesterday, which resulted in this question. Suppose you have a country A that is hungry and country B that has a terrible economy but furtile land. Now suppose that country A sets up a channel with country B (trade channel, free-trade agreement, etc.). Members of country B realize they can make money from exports to country A. They start growing crops, make money, and the economy adjusts towards capitalism. Now suppose that country A is capitalist in nature. Has it just expanded its influence onto B by virtue of creating a market? Now suppose that A is America and B is any country that can provide some goods to America. By creating a market for those goods has America expanded its imperialist influence?

My opinion? Capitalist imperialism doesn’t exist because capitalism is a cold drive for effeciency. Or rather capitalist imperialism exists as much as democratic imperialism which exists as ideological imperialism. If I show someone that 2 + 2 is 4 when they didn’t previously know, have I just colonized?

On the other hand, while imperialism to me is a silly notion, analysis of inlfuence is a valid and complex question that should be debated and that will always, IMHO, end up in a delicate balance between social and economic intertests.

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Politics: my position on Bush’s foreign policy.

Last Updated: 02.11.2005 – 2:35 AM – THIS ARTICLE IS A WORK IN PROGRESS!!!

First off, for me everything comes down to one question: “what will minimize suffering in the short/mid/long term?”

Consequently, while the answer to the above question seems to me to align with the political right, my interest lies SOLELY with the desire to understand: I am open to changing my position as, quite possibly, my present understanding may be incorrect. This issue is too important for egos to play any role in the formation of one’s opinion.

Also, I do know that much of what is here may sound like right-wing rhetoric, but please, if there is something that is obviously wrong, point it out to me, and I will change my view to take your comments into account.

Having said that, the following is how I perceive our world:

Context:

All countries are somewhere between Western and non-Western.

  • The Western countries have decentralized capitalist democratic governments
  • The non-Western countries are ruled by centralized elites having totalitarian control

Most are somewhere inbetween, but it’s safe to say that most are significantly closer to one of the above.
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