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Month July 2009

Colonel Julian didn’t get the memo

Ahh, yes, there’s noth­ing like a little Amer­ican excep­tion­al­ism to get one going in the morning.

Accord­ing to Reu­ters, Col­onel Greg Julian, a U.S. mil­it­ary spokes­man in Kabul, has been com­plain­ing that the Taliban is viol­at­ing inter­na­tional law by parad­ing a cap­tured U.S. sol­dier on camera.

It seems Col­onel Julian didn’t get the memo: the U.S. tore up inter­na­tional law a long time ago.

Not only did the U.S. com­mit the supreme war crime when it invaded Afgh­anistan and Iraq — supreme because of all that ensues from start­ing a war, includ­ing the crimes of your oppon­ents — but this is the same coun­try, of course, to have declared by pres­id­en­tial order that the Geneva Con­ven­tions did not apply to cap­tured Taliban sol­diers and has since been detain­ing Afghan pris­on­ers without trial, sneak­ing them off to Guantanamo and its secret pris­ons and tor­tur­ing them.

Remind me never to buy a Kindle

Amazon has remotely wiped a book that people had already pur­chased for the Kindle (an ebook reader).

As John Gruber notes:

It’s one thing to stop selling them. It’s some­thing else entirely to remove them from the Kindles of those who already bought them. That this happened with1984, of all the books that have ever been writ­ten, is simply incredible.

(Point of com­par­ison: when apps get yanked from the App Store, they don’t get deleted from the iPhones of people who already bought them.)

I don’t care what reason Amazon has for this. If the book shouldn’t have been sold they should have stopped it in the first place.

This is a very dif­fer­ent world to that of the free and open inter­net; this is the world of “inter­net appli­ances,” where the com­pan­ies that sell these products have remote con­trol over them. I feel cagey enough about own­ing an iPhone, which is also an inter­net appli­ance, but there’s no way I’m going near the Kindle after this episode.

The giant Apollo 11 post

Kottke’s giant Apollo 11 post. I’ve spent the last couple of hours or so read­ing it and check­ing out all the great links.

(via Dar­ing Fire­ball)

You’ve gotta be kidding me…

Blair in frame to become first EU pres­id­ent, says Glenys Kin­nock.”

A war crim­inal as pres­id­ent of Europe? I think the accom­pa­ny­ing com­ments tell the real story.

No, Afghanistan is not “a war we should be fighting”

Afgh­anistan is spun as a war we should be fight­ing.

In fact, a fact long for­got­ten by the West­ern media and oth­ers involved in the inva­sion of Afgh­anistan is that, on 14 Octo­ber, 2001, the Taliban pub­licly offered to hand over Osama bin Laden to a third coun­try, provided the U.S. hal­ted the illegal bomb­ing of Afgh­anistan and pro­duced the neces­sary evid­ence about involve­ment of bin Laden or any of his asso­ci­ates in the 11 Septem­ber attacks:

In Jalalabad, deputy prime min­is­ter Haji Abdul Kabir — the third most power­ful fig­ure in the rul­ing Taliban regime — told report­ers that the Taliban would require evid­ence that bin Laden was behind the Septem­ber 11 ter­ror­ist attacks in the US, but added: “we would be ready to hand him over to a third country”.

But, in his usual pissing-in-the-wind style, Bush blew this oppor­tun­ity off, vow­ing to con­tinue the bomb­ing, adding:

There’s no need to dis­cuss inno­cence or guilt. We know he’s guilty.

Sub­sequently, Milton Bearden, a former CIA sta­tion chief who over­saw U.S. cov­ert oper­a­tions in Afgh­anistan in the 1980s, is repor­ted1 to have this to say:

We never heard what they were try­ing to say. We had no com­mon lan­guage. Ours was, ‘Give up bin Laden.’ They were say­ing, ‘Do some­thing to help us give him up.’ … I have no doubts they wanted to get rid of him. He was a pain in the neck.’

The Bush regime’s decision to con­tinue the bomb­ing put an end to any pos­sib­il­ity of a poten­tially peace­ful, legal res­ol­u­tion to the events of 11 Septem­ber 2001 and opened up the way for the inva­sion and occu­pa­tion of Afgh­anistan, Iraq and the threat of inva­sion of Iran, along with the mil­lions who have lost their lives or had them des­troyed as a result.

Not a war we should be fight­ing. Just busi­ness as usual.

Notes:
  1. I had to link to a source other than the Wash­ing­ton Post as the Wash­ing­ton Post appears to have deleted that art­icle from their archive for whatever reason. []

Death over there, excepting ours, is inconsequential

Chris Walker, writ­ing to the The Her­ald (webpage removed):

It’s one of life’s more sav­age iron­ies, but one which has become drear­ily famil­iar, that your head­line “Death toll rises in Afgh­anistan” (Leader, The Her­ald, July 11) means Brit­ish mil­it­ary fatalities.

These are given piquancy because they exceed sim­ilar losses incurred in Iraq. Thus the headline.

As a mat­ter of fact, com­bined, they approx­im­ate the loss of Iraqi civil­ian lives only last week — repeat, week — in Mosul and Bagh­dad. But that’s how war’s rhythms (and its suc­cesses and fail­ures) are cal­ib­rated. That hun­dreds of thou­sands of Iraqis and Afgh­anis have died since 2001 hardly raises an eye­brow, far less engen­der­ing a head­line. But, then, death “over there” was held to be one of the reas­ons for inva­sion, and for stop­ping it “over here”, on the streets of Leeds, Lon­don or Glas­gow. Or so it is said. Thus death over there, except­ing ours, is incon­sequen­tial in our mind­set: even a mil­lion deaths by inva­sion and occupation.

Australian town bans bottled water sales

Someone’s cot­toned onto the fact that they’re being conned:

[The town of] Bundanoon’s battle against the bottle has been brew­ing for years, ever since a Sydney-based bever­age com­pany announced plans to build a water extrac­tion plant in the town. Res­id­ents were furi­ous over the pro­spect of an out­sider tak­ing their water, truck­ing it up to Sydney for pro­cessing and then selling it back to them. The town is still fight­ing the company’s pro­posal in court.

Then in March, Huw King­ston, who owns the town’s com­bin­a­tion cafe and bike shop, had a thought: If the town was so against host­ing a water bot­tling com­pany, why not ban the end product?

On Wed­nes­day, 356 people turned up for a vote — the biggest turnout ever at a town meeting.

Only two people voted no. One said he was wor­ried ban­ning bottled water would encour­age people to drink sug­ary drinks. The other was Geoff Parker, dir­ector of the Aus­tralasian Bottled Water Insti­tute — which rep­res­ents the bottled water industry.

Think I need to move to Costa Rica

Costa Rica is the green­est and hap­pi­est coun­try in the world, accord­ing to a new list that ranks nations by com­bin­ing meas­ures of their eco­lo­gical foot­print with the hap­pi­ness of their cit­izens.1

Photo of beach in Costa Rica

And, sur­prise sur­prise, unlike places like Bri­tain and the U.S. (which fig­ure low on the index) Costa Rica is run by left-wingers not self-serving right-wingers, it has a strong wel­fare state, it uses pro­por­tional rep­res­ent­a­tion to elect its politi­cian, not first past the post, and as opposed to send­ing its youth off to die in illegal wars for the bene­fit of a wealthy elite Costa Rica abol­ished its army back in 1948.

But you keep vot­ing for right-wing war-mongering plonkers if that makes you feel bet­ter…2

HPI report on Costa Rica:

With the highest levels of repor­ted life sat­is­fac­tion, and the highest happy life years – Costa Rica stands out in the HPI even before con­sid­er­ing its eco­lo­gical foot­print. It has the fifth-lowest human poverty index in the devel­op­ing world, and the pro­por­tion of people liv­ing on less than $2-a-day is lower than in Romania – an EU mem­ber. What makes these res­ults even more remark­able is that it achieves this with a quarter of the foot­print of the USA. This is no mat­ter of chance. Costa Rica, a haven of demo­cracy and peace in tur­bu­lent Cent­ral Amer­ica, has taken very delib­er­ate steps to reduce its envir­on­mental impact. Unique in the world for hav­ing com­bined its min­is­tries of energy and the envir­on­ment back in the 1970s, a stag­ger­ing 99 per cent of its energy comes from renew­able sources. In 1997, a car­bon tax was intro­duced on emis­sions – with the funds gained being used to pay indi­gen­ous com­munit­ies to pro­tect their sur­round­ing forests. Defor­est­a­tion has been reversed, and forests cover twice as much land as 20 years ago. In 2007, the Costa Rican Gov­ern­ment declared that it inten­ded to become car­bon neut­ral by 2021. As a res­ult of these huge steps, Costa Rica has risen up the ranks of Yale University’s Envir­on­mental Per­form­ance Indic­ator, from 15th in the world in 2006 to 5th in 2008, the highest pos­i­tion out­side Europe. Pro­fessor Mari­ano Rojas, a Costa Rican eco­nom­ist at the Latin Amer­ican Fac­ulty of Social Sci­ences in Mex­ico, is unsur­prised by his country’s per­form­ance and adds a few fur­ther explanations:
The abol­i­tion of the country’s army in 1949, free­ing up gov­ern­ment money to spend on social programmes.
Solid social net­works of friends, fam­il­ies and neigh­bour­hoods, allowed by a sens­ible work-life balance.
Rich nat­ural capital.
Equal treat­ment of women.
Strong polit­ical participation.
Costa Rica is not heaven. Its wel­fare state, one of the most developed out­side Scand­inavia, must deal with an eco­nomic sys­tem that pro­duces high levels of inequal­ity, and almost 10 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion live on under $2-a-day. Clean water and adult lit­er­acy are almost uni­ver­sal, but not quite. And, whilst we wait with bated breath to see if Costa Rica really does move towards being car­bon neut­ral in forth­com­ing HPIs, its cur­rent eco­lo­gical foot­print is still eight per cent above the one-planet liv­ing threshold.

With the highest levels of repor­ted life sat­is­fac­tion, and the highest happy life years – Costa Rica stands out in the HPI even before con­sid­er­ing its eco­lo­gical foot­print. It has the fifth-lowest human poverty index in the devel­op­ing world, and the pro­por­tion of people liv­ing on less than $2-a-day is lower than in Romania – an EU mem­ber. What makes these res­ults even more remark­able is that it achieves this with a quarter of the foot­print of the USA. This is no mat­ter of chance. Costa Rica, a haven of demo­cracy and peace in tur­bu­lent Cent­ral Amer­ica, has taken very delib­er­ate steps to reduce its envir­on­mental impact. Unique in the world for hav­ing com­bined its min­is­tries of energy and the envir­on­ment back in the 1970s, a stag­ger­ing 99 per cent of its energy comes from renew­able sources. In 1997, a car­bon tax was intro­duced on emis­sions – with the funds gained being used to pay indi­gen­ous com­munit­ies to pro­tect their sur­round­ing forests. Defor­est­a­tion has been reversed, and forests cover twice as much land as 20 years ago. In 2007, the Costa Rican Gov­ern­ment declared that it inten­ded to become car­bon neut­ral by 2021. As a res­ult of these huge steps, Costa Rica has risen up the ranks of Yale University’s Envir­on­mental Per­form­ance Indic­ator, from 15th in the world in 2006 to 5th in 2008, the highest pos­i­tion out­side Europe. Pro­fessor Mari­ano Rojas, a Costa Rican eco­nom­ist at the Latin Amer­ican Fac­ulty of Social Sci­ences in Mex­ico, is unsur­prised by his country’s per­form­ance and adds a few fur­ther explanations:

  • The abol­i­tion of the country’s army in 1949, free­ing up gov­ern­ment money to spend on social programmes.
  • Solid social net­works of friends, fam­il­ies and neigh­bour­hoods, allowed by a sens­ible work-life balance.
  • Rich nat­ural capital.
  • Equal treat­ment of women.
  • Strong polit­ical participation.

Costa Rica is not heaven. Its wel­fare state, one of the most developed out­side Scand­inavia, must deal with an eco­nomic sys­tem that pro­duces high levels of inequal­ity, and almost 10 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion live on under $2-a-day. Clean water and adult lit­er­acy are almost uni­ver­sal, but not quite. And, whilst we wait with bated breath to see if Costa Rica really does move towards being car­bon neut­ral in forth­com­ing HPIs, its cur­rent eco­lo­gical foot­print is still eight per cent above the one-planet liv­ing threshold.

Notes:
  1. Ash­ley Seager report­ing for The Guard­ian []
  2. And, yes, Britain’s New Labour and the U.S.‘s Demo­crats are right-wing []

Abel & Cole upgrade

Abel & Cole have upgraded their web­site and added new lines of products. Great web­site. Great com­pany. Highly recommended.