Saturday, December 12, 2009

Green, the new Black

When I first watched "An Inconvenient Truth," I remember thinking how much better it would be without AL Gore's self-aggrandizing personal narrative about his passion for the slide show. And then, just yesterday, I heard that same voice on NPR, extolling the potential fecundity of a "green economy." Everyone's home will have photovoltaic panels, and jobs will be created to, um, create new battery technologies, the likes of which haven't even been conceived of yet! Gore sounded like a second rate huckster, the guy at the dealership who swears he can get me a deal despite my awful credit.

Why am I picking on Nobel Laureate and erstwhile inventor of the Internet, Mr. Al Gore? Gore isn't the disease, but he is a symptom. Green has become the new black, and sustainability has become the vision of the future. And baby, they are selling it.

The problem with the buzz around the concept of sustainability is that it fails to ask some very, very critical questions. The very first being, do we really want to "sustain" anything? The American way of life, characterized by suburbia, the automobile and the acquisition of consumer goods, depends fundamentally on growth. This way of life also relies on the comparative advantages brought out by exploiting labor and materials markets overseas. Globalization, and the resulting goods and market advantages, are not simply energy intensive, they rely on cheap and dense energy. There is no combination of wind, solar, hydrogen, or any other 'clean' technology, that will allow globalization to be 'sustained' in anyway. Petroleum is simply too energy rich. In fact, it is vital to remember that it is the literally explosive energy richness of petroleum that allowed us to build the civilization we live in today.

Of course, it is always easier and more comforting to say that we can save what we are so deeply invested in, rather than suggest that we may need to radically rethink our civilization. Al gore may be eloquent, even persuasive, but the high-priests of the Green Economy are not telling the whole story. They are telling you that if you change the color of the drapes, the structure of the palace will be saved. But the palace is built on a rotting foundation.

Buyer beware . . .

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Devil in the details

Special envoy George Mitchell recently held high level talks in the holy land with Benyamin Netanyau. I don't want to spend too much time on "what it all means," these meetings are by now standard, perfunctory events for each successive American administration. Instead, let's look at a couple ok key points.

Mitchell suggested that in exchange for Israel halting settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, America would increase pressure on Iran and it's nuclear proram. This should give pause. Our government should not be offering Israel any incentive to stop settlements. Rather, settlements should viewed and treated for what they are, illegal, inhumane and a major obstacle to any lasting peace. We should not be offering incentive, but demanding a halt to settlements, on moral, and legal grounds. If anything, we should be telling Israel that unless settlement activity stops, we will stop supporting Israel. We should not be encouraging the right behavior, we should demand it.

-- Post From Gulistan

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Hindu and a Jew walk into a bar . . .

I was recently alerted to a news item which reports the sale of surface to air missile systems from an Israeli Defense Contractor to the Government of India. The deal is the most recent in a growing line of Israeli/Indian defense contracts, further solidifying ties between the world's largest democracy, and the garrison state of Israel.

Rafael, the defense contractor in question, is owned by the state of Israel, thus the profits will land directly in the coffers of the government. Clearly, the government of India has no compunction concerning the possibility of these funds being used to further destroy the rights of the Palestinian people. Solidarity from the Indian government is absent. Rather, what we see is a furthering of the agenda of New Delhi, to align itself with the dominant Western powers and use the phantasms of terror as the common narrative thread. While Israelis and Indians have perhaps suffered from terrorist actions in greater proportion than any other states (save open war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan) this level of weaponry is evidence not of anti-terrorist action, but of the projection of military power and regional hegemonic ambitions.

Furthermore, it is no surprise that the Indian government should engage in such activity that blatantly rejects the plight of the Palestinian people. One simply need look at the history of the centre government's reaction to minority struggles within India's own borders. The Sikh struggle in Punjab is but one example. And despite India's own struggle against the British Raj, one gets the distinct notion that the Elites in New Delhi feel that they have been "let into the house" in recent decades, having thrived on globalized trade and information technology. They do not intent to go back, and will align themselves and the fate of the Indian people a regime bent on the elimination of an indigenous people.

Hope lies in the numerous minority groups in India, and creating further solidarity and recognition of struggle between all oppressed people. Sikhs, Palestinians, Assamese, Christians in Orissa and Muslims throughout India, and oppressed peoples across the globe. Time to get free . . .

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cut it

Sometimes James brown is perfect. Does not need a dj treatment. Was meant to dance to in the first place

-- Post From Gulistan

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Young Guard

Is the Fatah movement ready for a change? The recent elections and new central committee membership seems to at least suggest the possibility. Only four of nine "old guard" members were re-elected to the central committee, while all remaining members constitute the emerging "Young Guard." In my mind, three major questions emerge:

1. Barghouti versus Dahlan?: The election of Marwan Barghouti provides perhaps the biggest glimmer of hope in my mind. If anyone on the contemporary scene may be regarded as a Palestinian "Mandela" figure, its Barghouti. The likely successor to Mahmood Abbas, Barghouti currently holds court in an Israeli prison. His work in prison proves he has the ability to unite the next generation of both Hamas and Fatah activists, and many believe that he will be able to carry on that unifying spirit once beyond the prison walls. Barghouti is not simply charismatic and widely admired, he represents a way forward, and has proven that partisanship needn't lead to schism.

Dahlan, on the other hand, is cited by Hamas as a primary motivation for the Gaza coup. Hamas believes that Dahlan's security apparatus threatened Hamas' strength in Gaza and Dahlan would not have stopped until Fatah regained a foothold in the strip, at any cost. Dahlan was supposed to be the wunderkind, the rising star in Fatah. Hamas seizing power in Gaza marks a major failure on Dahlan's part, but he still holds a vital place in the party, and likely will for some time. While he may have had deep personal ties to Hamas through his relationship with the family of al-Rantissi, Dahlan stands as a polarizing and aggressively ambitious figure. Internal unity will be vital for any Fatah success, and I think that will largely be defined by the dynamic between these two men.

Next major question tomorrow . . .

Sunday, August 09, 2009

I just finished watching an old PBS which examined the Kitzmiller vs. Dover decision. I know this is old news to many. When Kitzmiller came to national prominence, I willfully ignored the Intelligent Design vs. Evolution debate on the grounds that even the trivial and cursory information I had gleaned on the matter of Intelligent Design proved it to be specious science at best, and thinly veiled Fundamentalist machination at worst. For me, the very existence of the deabte screamed of a kind of madness, the madness of irrational belief.

Consider this the first secular confession of a born-again atheist. Perhaps I have missed the boat a bit, but it has become galringly apparent to me, that we live in a new age of belief. We currently live in a time and place (the post-industrial West) where the availability of knowledge, information, scholarship cultural understadning is greater than ever. The internet and the democritization of technology (while flawed and incomplete) has allowed for the prolifieration of easilty accessible knowledge in a vast number of fields of science, politics and the humanities. In some ways, one could well argue that this should be the most enlightened age in human history.

What we find however, is that these very same tools of technological progress have created a crisis of authority. thoroughly researched, reviewed, contested and revised scientific theory has suddenly been thrust into apparently equal footing with spurious, inherently biased and ideologically motivated pseudo-science. As a result, I dare say, we are becoming a generally less enlightened and continually poorly educated populace.

We are told on an almost daily basis that the "terrorist" pose an existential threat to the physically safety of the United States, as well as a threat to the American way of life. While I do not want to dismiss the danger posed by terrorist organizations, barring the possibility that any such group acquires a nuclear weapon, and the capability to deliver and detonate such a weapoin on U.S. soil, the "existential" threat posed by terrorist group tends to be marginal at best.

Let's not forget, that these terrorists are often described as having some kind of fundamentalist view of the world and religion that justifies their violence and vitriol. Religion can be a dangerous thing. I would argue that one of the greatest threats faced by American civilization is not, in point of fact, Islamic Fundamentalism, but rather Christian Fundamentalists here at home. While countries such as China and India now boast universities that are quickly reaching parity with the West in terms of technical and research sophistication, the heartland of America is being besieged by an ideological virus that would replace critical thinking and intellectual rigor with blind belief in Bronze Age mythology and a world-view that flies completely in the face of hundreds of years of well understood scientific evidence.

Let us be on guard in this new age of belief. Think for yourself, question truths, all truths. It is in this way that human knowledge expands, and that life is advanced. The urge to believe is strong, and faith is a great comfort in a confusing and often cruel world. However, only the open and critically active mind can hope to bring us from the dark to light. It is, in fact, the only thing that ever has.

More later

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Heavy Guns

The Iranian establishment descended upon the Tehran streets in force over the weekend, and the country's de facto leaders, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, responded with ferocity and vicious inflexibility.

I take a moment to honour the fallen, the brave Iranians risking all in the name of justice.

Evidence mounts to reveal the depth of the crisis. In my previous post, I began to explore the current schism in Iranian society, a divide borne from political as well as generational conflict. The vast, and overwhelmingly young Iranian electorate seeks a new direction for the country. The period of cultural appeasement-when President Khatami loosened some of the more draconian restrictions on personal freedom - came to a jarring end during A-jad's first term. And while Iran's nuclear ambitions confer a sense of pride on most Iranians, the country's continued and deepening sense of isolation as a result of the regime's bluster tends to frustrate the young, progressive, urban Iranians. These young Persians (the demographic that largely supports Mousavi) feel that the current regime, just doesn't get it. They understand that a change must come in order to bring Iran fully into the global moment, rather than to retreat to the obscurantism and stagnation of a calcified worldview.

Persian civilization is one of the oldest and richest in human history. So long as the self-styled "retainers of the revolution" continue to stifle the great potential of the Iranian people, another generation of Iranians will be forever cutoff from its rightful and prodigious inheritance.

More later . . . God is Great.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I felt compelled to take an extended break from work today to watch the animated version of Marjane Sateapi's Persepolis. I couldn't help but imagine that the defiant fire of the protagonist burns today in the streets of Tehran.

With guarded optimism, and in the spirit of solidarity, I sing in praise of those who challenge the Iranian status quo. Khas o Khashak, the hour is yours.

The crisis availa itself to viewing through various lenses. The political the most immediate, but the cultural and demographic lends nuance and complexity.

Satrapi reminded me of a significant fact, the relationship Iranians have with Khomeini's revolution changes. With a vast majority of the population currently embracing adulthood, the regime most fears amnesia, amnesia of both the blood and pain of the revolution, and perhaps more importantly the apathy of a generation who accepted basiji and chadors in hope of forgetting. Ultimately brutality only provided half of the fuel to sustain the revolution. The rest came from resignation.

More later. God bless us all . . .

-- Post From My iPhone

Friday, May 22, 2009

Summer Convergence

The season of change that began with the ascendancy of Barack Obama to the highest office in the land stands threatened by a stagnant status quo in the Middle East. This summer we shall witness elections in two vital centers of Middle East contention. The general elections in Lebanon, and the presidential elections in Iran will undoubtedly color the tenor of the Obama administration's Middle East policy and indeed determine, at the very least, the short term future of the region.

VP Biden's recent trip to Lebanon, coupled with Secretary of State Clinton's recent Beirut sojourn has been met, predictably, with suspicion by Nasrallah and the Hezbollah camp. Though it may simply strike us as paranoia, we cannot discount Nasrallah's savvy. In effect, Hezbollah stands at the doorstep of leading a ruling coalition in parliament, and Nasrallah's accusation of U.S. meddling simply enhances his party's stature among the disenfranchised.

Meanwhile, back in the Islamic Republic, Iranians prepare for June presidential elections with Ahmadenijad reprising his role as simple man of the people and heroically defiant enemy of the Great Satan. The particulars of the election and its the candidates involved shall be better explored in a future entry. Suffice it to say, that two factors will play heavy in this election, just as they did in the previous one. The first factor is what brought A-jad to power in the first place, and will indeed be his undoing. The Iranian economy has been and continues to be a shadow of what it really should be. Given the resources available, the general level of education and cultural capital the Republic possesses, it should easily be spoken of in the same sentence as Brazil and India in terms of up and coming nations. However, the Iranians have suffered from bad planning and allocation policies, particularly its investment in distant Latin American countries, while neglecting investment in regional economies, which would undoubtedly yield more productive and efficient long-term interdependancies. The Iranians are losing out on their "now" moment, and the candidate that best points the way out of the morass will surely be the victor.

The other obvious factor, one that plays in both Iranian and Lebanese elections, is the foreign policy factor. The most significant element remains Netanyahu's rise in Israel, and the general shift to the right in Israeli politics. During Netanyahu's visit with President Obama, the Prime Minister's primary concern seemed to be Iranian nuclear and strategic regional ambitions, while the Palestinian issue took a clear back seat. This would very likely push Iranians to the right as well, although the urban middle class may see this election as a way to break with the tradition of isolation. The new generation of Iranians are disconnected from Khomeini and the revolution and may seek a relief from its more isolating elements. The lesson of the last election still looms large: the conservative, largely uneducated rural Iranians will determine the final outcome. The hope held in the west that the progressive, urban Iranians will finally gather the strength to break with the beards has been a perennial dream, perennially deferred.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Legacy of 47

It is a truly remarkable feat, that since the end of the British Raj, India has maintained a relatively stable and well functioning democracy. In a country with such a large, mainly rural and poor population, rife with ethnic, religious and linguistic difference, India's democratic institutions and tradition deserve praise.

Of course, India's modern history has its dark moments, such as the suppression of Sikh rights and the invasion of the Harmandir Sahib complex in 1984. In addition, various Hindu-Right governments have used their influence to stoke communal conflict and violence against Muslims. Its not perfect, but as the elections currently taking place show, India proves that a largely developing and heterogeneous country needn't suffer the pains of dictatorship or obscurantism.

The day Viceroy Mountbatten lowered the Union Jack from Indian soil for the last time, Mohammad Jinnah raised the flag of the believers to the west, in the newly created nation of Pakistan. Since then, a nation built largely on religious homogeneity, Pakistan's relationship with democracy has been uneasy at best. There seems to be an oscillation between resurgent democracy and outright military dictatorship that moves with sine-wave regularity. However, today, as Indians go the polls, Pakistanis are left to deal with a civilian government that has ceaded parts of the country to Sharia Law and Talibinization.

The capitulation of the Swat Valley bodes badly for whatever public confidence Islamabad may have had up to this point. The increasing polarization of the population between moderate, secular forces and Islamic fundamentalists sympathetic to the Taliban's obscurantist vision of the faith, is being felt not only in the far flung provinces of the northwest, but also in major urban centers such as Lahore and Karachi. In the meantime, Washington has unequivocally raised the level of rhetoric and has just stopped short of saying that all would be done to prevent Islamabad from falling.

Pakistan is at a critical juncture in its history. It is unlikely that The Obama administration will sit back and continue to let Zardari's administration fail to reign in Taliban advances. If the ISI still has designs on Afghanistan as an imperial appendage of Pakistan, then it can only be done with implicit coorperation with murderous and regressive elements within the Islamist movement, which will ultimately spill its bile into the Pakistani Military and eventually the civil administration as well. The threat to India is perahps greatest, and nothing should frighten the West more than a conflict between an unstable Pakistan and an ascendant India, both nuclear states with a 60 plus year unsettled grudge.

As I have stated before, Pakistan will be the first serious international crisis of the Obama administration, excluding those he inherited. The legacy of 1947 is coming to a head. The final outcome of this endgame will likely effect not only South Asia, but the Middle East and the West as well. May God bless us all . . .

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The wretched of the earth.

The ICC warrant on Omar al Bashir resulted in demonstrations in the streets of Khartoum. Countless Bashir apologists turned out to reinforce the Sudanese presidents defiance in the face of what he has characterized as "colonialist" actions on the part of the West as represented by the ICC. When such loaded and contentious language is bandied about, it becomes necessary to analyze the claims.

It is vital to understand that the formal colonial period did not end that long ago. And it is clear that neo-colonial structures and enterprises do persist today. Israeli occupation of Palestine, US occupation of Iraq, IMF and world bank lending and debt restructuring across the globe, represent just a few examples.

As Fanon surmised, the liberation of the colonized opens space for the ascendance of tribalist and obscurantist parties, who present a challenge to the native bourgeouis parties that assume power immediately after liberation. The post-colonial process is still very much unfolding in much of the world, as we see a generation in many African and middle eatern nations struggle with the fading images of the heroes of the liberation and the ascendancy of the obscurantists.

It is a sad memorial to the great non-aligned leaders -Nasser, Nehru or Tito- and to the revolutionary liberators like Lumumba, that Bashir claims he is the victim of colonial intervention. This man who has presided over systematic and brutal extermination of black Sudanese in Darfur, a slaughter sponsored by China, is nothing short of a war criminal. If we allow such individuals to use colonial intervention as a defense we risk allowing legitimate claims of colonialism and neo-colonialism to be sullied. This must be resisted on all fronts.

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, January 12, 2009

Endless Tragedy

I have thus far written nothing concerning the current merciless and brutal siege of the Palestinians of Gaza. I must first proclaim emphatically, that I loudly condemn both the heavy handed, inhuman, and seemingly indiscriminate aggression of Israel, as well as the intentional targeting of civilian areas by Hamas and its homemade terror rockets. No party has any moral edge in the current crisis, and it is ridiculous to suggest that determining "who started it" in any way would justify any of the horrors that either side has thus inflicted on the other, when in the form of creating fear and terror, or spilling the blood of hundreds.

I do not want to spend this most somber of occasions to wax on the merits of resistance, or to attempt to define what is right and wrong, a particularly vexing proposition given a conflict on which madness seems to preside on both sides.

What I will say is that Israel cannot possibly "win." There is no way that Hamas will be completely destroyed. It may be wounded, set back, crippled, bu not destroyed. And its very survival after such an onslaught will be viewed as nothing less than catastrophic failure for Israel. Such was the case with Hizbollah. indeed, hamas will survive, and another generation of Palestinian will be fueled by the blood of their kinsmen to resist the occupation at any cost, and by any means.

Israel's best hope is for a cease fire. By taking the position that a cease fire is the only acceptable outcome, they allow for the possibility of negotiating with Hamas (and don't tell me Hamas doesn't negotiate, they have been in proxy negotiations with Israel since they came to power). Only after some level of detente, no matter how minor, can Hamas' failing as an organization become apparent to the Palestinians at large.

For as long as the lives of Palestinians are defined by war, they will look to warriors to protect them and fight on their behalf. Anyone would. Do not thing this is some kind of pathology unique to the Palestinian. It is in fact the natural reaction of any embattled people.

If Israel has any hope of defeating Hamas, it must give the Palestinians a chance to demand more than self-defence from its leaders.

God bless us all . . .

Friday, January 02, 2009

At the mall

Having left work early, I'm passing some time at the galleria (nowhere else to go without my car!) and a few thoughts pass, a few that I don't want to forget. So dear friends, what better place to joy them down than the virtual memory of the digital world?

- most people are in search of something they will not find. It's not that they are bad, or wrong. They just haven't realized that the answer is inside them, nowhere else.

- who the heck am I to say people are looking in the wrong place? No one really. I might well be wrong too. I must learn to tame my ego, and learn the difference between judgement and discernment.

- if I am in fact "correct" in my assumption of our collective spiritual predicament, then the only ethical recourse is compassion and the bestowing of blessings for health and wealth for all. Full stop.

Now back to reality . . .

-- Post From My iPhone