Archive for June 18th, 2009
By M K Bhadrakumar (Asia Times Online)
By the yardstick of Jacques, the melancholy philosopher-clown in William Shakespeare’s play As You Like It, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has indisputably passed the stage of “Mewing and pucking in the nurse’s arms”.
Nor is SCO anymore the “whining schoolboy, with his satchel/And shining morning face, creeping like snail/Unwillingly to school”. The SCO more and more resembles Jacques’ lover, “Sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad/Made to his mistress’ eyebrow.” Indeed, if all the world’s a stage and the regional organizations are players who make their exits and entrances, the SCO is doing remarkably well playing many parts. That it has finally reached adulthood is beyond dispute.
But growing up is never easy, especially adolescence, and the past year since the SCO summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, has been particularly transformational. What stands out when the SCO’s ninth summit meeting begins in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg in Russia on Monday is that the setting in which the regional organization – comprising China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – is called on to perform has itself unrecognizably shifted since last August’s gathering of leaders in Dushanbe. First, the big picture.
The locus shifts east
The world economic crisis has descended on the SCO space like a Siberian blast that brings frost and ice and leaves behind a white winter, sparking mild hysteria. The landscape seems uniformly attired, but that can be a highly deceptive appearance. Russia and China, which make up the sum total of the SCO experience, are responding to the economic crisis in vastly different terms.
For Russia, as former prime minister and well-known scholar academician Yevgeniy Primakov observed ruefully in a recent Izvestia interview, “Russia will not come out of the crisis anytime soon … Russia will most likely come out of the recession in the second echelon – after the developed countries … The trap of the present crisis is that it is not localized but is worldwide. Russia is dependent on other countries. That lessens the opportunity to get out of the recession in a short period of time.” 
Primakov should know. It was he as president Boris Yeltsin’s prime minister who steered Russia out of its near-terminal financial crisis 10 years ago that brought the whole post-Soviet edifice in Moscow all but tumbling down.
Russia’s economic structure is such that 40% of its gross domestic product (GDP) is created through raw material exports, which engenders a highly vulnerable threshold when the world economy as a whole gets caught up in the grip of recession. But what about China?
This was how Primakov compared the Chinese and Russian economic scenario:
In China too, as in Russia, exports make up a significant part of the GDP. The crisis smacked them and us. The difference is that China exports ready-made products, while on our country [Russia] a strong raw material flow was traditional. What are the Chinese doing?
They are moving a large part of the ready-made goods to the domestic market. At the same time, they are trying to raise the population’s solvent demand. On this basis, the plants and factories will continue to operate and the economy will work.
We [Russia] cannot do that. If raw materials are moved to the domestic market, consumers of such vast volumes will not be found. Raise the population’s solvent demand? That merely steps up imports.
Asia Times Online for more
By Philip Ochieng (The Citizen)
According to elementary physics, water always finds its level. Barack Obama epitomises the fact that, no matter how you tilt the ground, water eventually returns to the horizontal plane natural to it.
Like H2O, too, the human mind is homogeneous in its chemical composition, namely, in what defines us as a species. Yet an overgrowth of pernicious ideology has long tilted the playing ground terribly against some humans.
Europe’s intelligentsia the very world elite whose education should make them know much better than we has poisoned the mass mind with the completely unscientific teaching that the Negro’s mental and moral composition is inferior to the Caucasian’s.
Still hag-ridden by this evil thought, the white mercantile world continues to think of black people in terms of cheap labour and profit, the very yoke which has arrested the expression and development of our natural mental and manual potentialities ever since the slave days.
Even in the 21st century, black Africans remain the world’s poorest, hungriest, most diseased, most mal-governed, most despised, most aided human lot.
But all of these superlatives are a direct consequence of 500 years of a kind of Mercators projection of thought.
Eurocentrism puts the North namely, Europe — on top of the world’s map, not only in geographical terms but also in terms of knowledge, technique, economy, development, military clout and the super-wisdom called democracy.
And it puts the South — namely, Africa — at the very bottom of that map. By what logic of the cosmos do we think of the South as down and the North as up or of black Africa as sub-Saharan (Africa below the Sahara)? Many do see how serious the question is.
Once you accept such terms — imposed by Europe — you tacitly agree that Europe is above the Sahara.
Once you do that, Europe’s self-proclaimed superiority quietly sinks into your subconscious. Without knowing it, you internalise the idea that Africa is naturally inferior.
By its own mental and financial servility towards Europe, the black elite — the product of a deeply corruptive European-imposed educational system — simply intensifies the Northern world’s conception of us as childlike, helpless, beggarly, needing compassion.
The compassion must, however, be accompanied by spanking because, with children, you cannot afford to spare the rod.
That is why even the most junior white diplomat in African capitals feels free to comment licentiously about the erratic ways of governments.
But water finds its level. In proportion as black people have been freed to participate equally in each social field, in the same proportion have they excelled in those fields.
Music, entertainment and sports were the first fields to be levelled for competition with whites.
And so, in instrumentation or voice, in comedy or theatre, in soccer or cricket, in tennis or golf, in pugilism or hockey, in dance or skiing, in the short dashes or the marathons, black men and women have progressively dominated the world’s events ever since a black athlete stunned Hitler in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
The door to economics and education — especially in science and technology — was the last to be opened to the former victims of slavery and colonialism. That is why, in these fields, the black person still generally lags behind.
However, despite the conspiracy of silence by the white corporate media, the fact is that Western blacks have patented a hundred times more inventions than even the black world is aware of.
In the social fields, acclaimed and domineering white European intellects have declared that blacks (and Jews) are too deficient, mentally, to make any history.
Yet we have recently witnessed some phenomenal events. A black Kenyan has twice been elected mayor in an all-white Canadian city.
Citizen for more
By Javier Darío Restrepo (Inter Press Service)
BOGOTA, Jun 13 (IPS) – Colombian journalist Hollman Morris phoned an international news agency and said in an agitated voice: “I am being followed by the police.”
As he left his apartment on the north side of Bogotá, he saw a police car on the other side of the street; when he reached his parents’ apartment a few minutes later, to drop off his kids, another car was parked near the building.
And when he reached the spot where he was planning to meet with this reporter, a third car with plainclothes police officers made it clear to him that orders had been given to follow him.
Ten days earlier, President Álvaro Uribe had publicly accused Morris of being an accomplice of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) because of his newspaper coverage of the release of a group of kidnapped victims by the insurgent group.
A few weeks later, Morris commented in a meeting of journalists on the “chilling” discovery of a dossier in his name that had been kept for some time by the Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (DAS) – Colombia’s domestic secret police service, which answers directly to the office of the president – when its offices were searched on orders from the attorney general’s office in the midst of a scandal over widespread illegal wiretapping.
The file contained photos and information on his parents, siblings, wife and children, and on his day-to-day movements, with a level of detail that reminded those looking at it of the thorough investigations carried out by hired killers while planning their hit jobs.
Morris is one of the reporters who was targeted by the DAS, which illegally eavesdropped on a wide range of opponents of the right-wing Uribe administration. Searching through DAS computers, investigators from the attorney general’s office found that the secret police had intercepted the phone calls and e-mails of Supreme Court justices, opposition lawmakers, reporters and even the likely presidential candidate of the opposition Liberal Party, Rafael Pardo.
The ongoing scandal over illegal wiretapping operations by the DAS has led to the resignation of the director of the intelligence agency, María del Pilar Hurtado, and investigations of the last four directors as well as 30 DAS agents.
The similarities of the case with the Watergate scandal, which forced U.S. president Richard Nixon (1969-1974) to step down, have been cited by opposition figures calling on Uribe to resign – not a likely outcome, however, due to the president’s high level of popularity and Colombian society’s jaded attitude towards such scandals, which are all too common in this country.
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By Ron Jacobs (Monthly Review Zine)
Here comes the hysteria and bold-faced lies. In the wake of the Iranian election, various commentators and so-called reporters in the United States are reacting as if the end of the world was at hand. Although nobody knows for certain and everyone only has the words of Western press pundits and an angry candidate to go by, virtually every mainstream US news source is calling the re-election of Ahmadinejad the result of fraud. There has been no verification of this from any objective source, nor has there been any proof beyond the speculation of media folks who either want to create a story or are so convinced of what they believe to be the incumbent’s essentially evil nature that they can not comprehend his re-election. A good example of this is a story by Bill Keller in the New York Times. In that piece, Ahmadinejad was once again incorrectly called a Holocaust-denier and his support was put down as being comprised mostly of women-hating peasants and civil servants who somehow benefited from his patronage. The liberal reformer Moussavi’s supporters were portrayed in a considerably more favorable light.
Completely missing from Keller’s piece and many other pieces in the US mainstream media (and liberal magazines like The Nation) is any genuine attempt to analyze both the class nature of the different candidates’ supporters and the role Washington plays in the media’s perception of Iranian politics. Keller’s most honest analytical statement in his entire piece: “Saturday was a day of smoldering anger, crushed hopes and punctured illusions, from the streets of Tehran to the policy centers of Western capitals.” Keller and his fellow journalists accept that the desires of Western capitals, especially Washington, should be important to Iranians. While this may certainly be the case among a small number of the intelligentsia and business community in Iran, the fact is that the West, especially Washington, is still not very popular among the Iranian masses. Not only are they aware of decades of Western intervention in their affairs, the fact that thousands of US troops continue to battle forces in two of Iran’s neighbors makes Washington unwanted and detested. Why should they do anything to please it? Yet, in the minds of the US news media, it is Washington’s needs that dominate all discussion.
As for the class analysis, rightly or wrongly, Ahmadinejad seems to appeal to the majority of peasants and workers in Iran. Just like Marat and the Jacobins appealed to the peasants and urban poor during the French revolution while Brissot and the Girondins appealed to the merchants and educated classes, Ahmadinejad’s support comes from those who need bread while Moussavi’s comes from those with plenty of bread and now want more civil liberties. While it is arguably true that Ahmadinejad’s policies have caused as many economic problems as they have solved, the fact remains that his supporters believe in his 2005 campaign call to bring the oil profits to the dinner table. Mr. Moussavi’s statements regarding the eventual reduction of commodity subsidies that benefit the poor may have hurt him in that demographic more than his supporters acknowledge. In a Washington Post article published the day before the election, it was noted (along with the fact that Ahmadinejad won the 2005 election with a “surprising” 62% of the vote) that his economic policies included the distribution of “loans, money and other help for local needs.” One of these programs involved providing insurance to women who make rugs in their homes and had been without insurance until Ahmadinejad came to power. Critics, including Moussavi, argue that his “free-spending policies have fueled inflation and squandered windfall petrodollars without reducing unemployment.” There are other elements at play here, including the fabled corruption of certain unelected leaders in Iran and the role the international economic crisis plays in each and every nation’s economy — a factor from which Iran is not immune. In addition, the particular nature of an Islamic economy that blends government and private business creates a constant conflict between those who would nationalize everything and those who would privatize it all.
MR Zine for more
By Ingrid B. Mork
I watched President Ahmadinejad`s press conference on Al-Jazeera and was impressed by the politeness and deference conferred on the Iranian President by most of the people of the press who were present.
The moment he was re-elected, the threats, the aggressive stance and rhetoric started up again from the directions of the US and Israel.
I have yet to hear anyone in Iran make threats against anyone.
The difference with the Iranian elections, it seemed to me, was this: in both Iraq and Afghanistan the US were able to control the elections to ensure the election of a government which could be controlled by the US in accordance with US and Israeli wishes. The US and Israel were unable to control the elections in Palestine but were able to emasculate the democratically elected government in various ways, economically, geographically and by using Hamas` rivals to undermine them physically. The Lebanese elections were influenced by both the US and Israel in various ways but the Iranian elections proved to be a little more difficult to sway.
It now remains to be seen whether the Palestinians will receive the justice they so richly deserve. It is, unfortunately, too late to turn back the hands of time and restore Palestine to the land it once was. Power, greed and corruption have put an end to that pipe dream and there is little chance that the Israelis will withdraw behind their ugly wall, rebuilt on the green line of 67, live their lives and allow the Palestinians to live theirs.
How different things might have been had the Zionists not been so brutal and driven by power and greed?
It also remains to be seen whether or not the Obama administration will realize that the Palestinians will not, nor should they, settle for anything less than their rights.
Photo/Bryan Denton for The New York Times
Wedad Lootah, who wears a full-length black niqab, has been a marital counselor in Dubai for eight years.
By ROBERT F. WORTH (New York Times)
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates
WEDAD LOOTAH does not look like a sexual activist. A Muslim and a native Emirati, she wears a full-length black niqab — with only her brown eyes showing through narrow slits — and sprinkles her conversation with quotes from the Koran.
Yet she is also the author of what for the Middle East is an amazingly frank new book of erotic advice in which she celebrates the female orgasm, confronts taboo topics like homosexuality and urges Arabs to transcend the backward traditions that limit their sexual happiness.
The book, “Top Secret: Sexual Guidance for Married Couples,” is packed with vivid anecdotes from Ms. Lootah’s eight years as a marital counselor in Dubai’s main courthouse. It became an instant scandal after it was published in Arabic in the Emirates in January, drawing praise from some liberals and death threats from conservatives, who say she is guilty of blasphemy or worse.
Ms. Lootah, a strong-willed and talkative 45-year-old, is one of a small but growing number of Arabs pushing for more openness and education about sex. Unlike earlier generations of women who often couched their criticism in a Western language of female emancipation, Ms. Lootah and her peers are hard to dismiss as outsiders because they tend to be religious Muslims who root their message in the Koran.
Ms. Lootah, for instance, studied Islamic jurisprudence in college, not Western psychology, and her book is studded with religious references. She submitted the text to the Mufti of Dubai before publishing it, and he gave his approval (though he warned her that Arab audiences might not be ready for such a book, especially by a woman).
“People have said I was crazy, that I was straying from Islam, that I should be killed,” Ms. Lootah said. “Even my family ask why I must talk about this. I say: ‘These problems happen every day and should not be ignored. This is the reality we are living.’ ”
She is not a liberal by Western standards. One of the themes of her book is the danger of anal sex and homosexuality generally, not because of AIDS but because they are banned by the Koran. But her openness about the issue was itself a shock to many here.
In Saudi Arabia and other countries where the genders are rigorously separated, many men have their first sexual experiences with other men, which affects their attitudes toward sex in marriage, Ms. Lootah said.
“Many men who had anal sex with men before marriage want the same thing with their wives, because they don’t know anything else,” Ms. Lootah said. “This is one reason we need sex education in our schools.”
She is also emphatic about the importance of female sexual pleasure, and the inequity of many Arab marriages in that respect. One of the cases that impelled her to write the book, she said, was a 52-year-old client who had grandchildren but had never known sexual pleasure with her husband.
“Finally, she discovered orgasm!” Ms. Lootah said. “Imagine, all that time she did not know.”
Another important theme of the book is infidelity. The prevalence of foreign women in Dubai and the ease of e-mail and text-message communication has made cheating easier (and easier to detect), Ms. Lootah said, helping push the divorce rate to 30 percent.
NYT for more