Hooman's Scribbles

Monday, March 31, 2003
 
Not ready yet

The US-led invasion of Iraq has hit some snags. I read somewhere that some Russian military analysts strongly believe Americans have two options: destroy the cities, or starve Iraqis to surrender, both would give a new meaning to "Operation Iraqi Liberation", OIL for short, eh? Whether Americans adopt one of these two options or come up with a third option, as opportunities allow, we have to wait and see. However, these setbacks have already got a time bomb ticking back home whereby George W Bush could be accused of killing an economy creeping out of boom amongst other things. It all started by a miscalculation of the Iraqi resistance.
Some argue there is a fear among the Iraqis that would-be deserters are executed. Some argue that US and British troops should be patient enough to win back the trust of the people who were let down 10 years ago during their uprising. Some argue the resistances come from forces strongly loyal to Saddam. Some argue the resistance is not due to loyalty to Saddam, but rather fending off an apparent aggression. Some argue busloads of ex-pat Iraqis who once fled Iraq are heading back to Baghdad from Jordan to fight against Americans. And finally some argue that it is a bit of all the above mentioned lines of reasoning.
However, regardless of our opinion on the Iraqis' resistance, there is one thing very clear: Iraqis are not ready to be "liberated".

 
A sick day thought

Freedom and democracy are not to be taught, they are to be learned. Every nation should evolve its social and cultural fabric to accommodate these two notions accordingly. The process is surely lengthy and painful, but is proven to be the most promising one by the free and democratic world whose leaders tend to occasionally forget this learning part of their history. In this regard, wrecking a country to achieve freedom or democracy does not seem to be helping.

P.S. I am sick today and I couldn't come up with a better title.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003
 
What's not next?

George W Bush will be likely a single term president. History has proven to have a harsh treatment for victorious prime ministers, like Winston Churchill, or presidents, like Roosevelt and Bush Sr. None got re-elected once the wars were over. They were defeated by rivals who came to prominence almost right before the elections. Now add this too: you run a war that there are still a lot of questions around it, and through your course of action, you have damaged your relationship with your old friends. Even if everything goes well, the incumbent president has got his work cut out for him after the war. There is not much left from his presidency. He has to get prepared for an election, patch up differences with many countries where there's been a rift with recently, and probably start re-building US economy at the same time he is re-building Iraq and Afghanistan.

Consequently I do not really think starting case building for a new war against Iran will be on his agenda, at least in the current term of office. Moreover, there are other concerns against this would-be war too that I don't want to get to them here. On the other hand, there are reasons to believe he might occupy the Oval Office for the second time, I don't want to get there either now. However, to win the election or not, his administration would like to pay more attention to Iran once the war is over. The shadow of a relentless threat has always helped republicans to keep the office. A threat a day keeps the democrats away, that is my take of the republicans' strategy.
Here are a few things we might be seeing after the war with Iraq (excerpts are from 'Online Journal') :

"Media will revisit the Iranian Hostage Crisis and display for Americans footage from the 1978-80 timeframe. That will include images of revolutionaries hanging and executing the Shah's secret police. Movies such as Sally Field's Not Without My Child portraying many Iranians as "evil doers" will be broadcast by all the networks. Reza Pahlavi, son of the former Shah of Iran, will be featured with greater frequency on CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS."

"Images from the 1983 bombing of the US Marine Barracks in Lebanon allegedly by Iranian backed Hezbollah will be aired and printed."

And last but not least, more focus on Iran's nuclear potentials.
P.S. Excerpts have been slightly changed.

 
From porn to war, and to porn again

We live in an incredible era in terms of transfer of information -- that's the only thing I can think of about the incredibility of this era right now. We live in a time when horrific images of bomb explosions are carried to our homes live whereby we see things we weren't able to see before. Even though I am not a big fan of concentrated media, I think they play a crucial role in this respect.
But television aside, the Internet has also played a unique role: breaking us free from the mainstream media. Once mostly used to download porn and sometimes free music, now it is dominated by traffic of news on the war.

It has definitely changed my habits of acquiring news at least. I get most of my news from the Internet, and since the war has started the amount of information I get off it has tripled. I have added reading war correspondents' weblogs to my list too all in all to hopefully have some more unbiased information and perspective. I encounter difficulty connecting to hosts where alternative news servers are, assuming they are undertaking unexpected volumes of traffic. Although it sounds to be still too soon till the Internet is used for other purposes in a consistent way than downloading porn images, it takes one more generation at least till is fully caught on for real information. Till then everything, as far as the traffic on the web is concerned, will be back to normal once the war is over: packets of "valuable" information on nude pictures.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003
 
People's role

I have shattered many people's presumption with my stance on war during small talks. It is quite conceivable that many think I'd be all for this war simply because of my Iranian heritage. They are all surprised once they learn many Iranians do not have hard feelings against ordinary Iraqis, and even more, they hate to see them suffer. This feeling is so powerful that totally overshadows our hidden joy of seeing a long time enemy, Saddam, to be removed for good.
It surprises many people who have lived all their lives in democratic countries. Mutual hard feelings carried for half a century by Germans and British; French and Germans; Dutch and Germans -- to a less extent mutual though, all suggest an otherwise assumption in Iranians and Iraqis case.

Although Iran-Iraq war occurred in modern time and it was more prolonged than many other wars, Iranians and Iraqis' mutual feeling is different. Those who have lived in undemocratic countries, know very well that sometimes governments in power are only cults whose ideas do not represent even a single noticeable minority. Note I said noticeable minority. Consequently those people tend to differentiate between ordinary people and governments in power.

The situation is different in democratic countries though. No matter how adamant I think that the democracy is not a virtue or ideal but a practical method to run the country, I accept that it leaves a practical effect too: More people are represented by governments, far more people. So it is PERHAPS natural that democratic countries' decisions are perceived to have a noticeable support among people. Note again I said noticeable, not necessarily majority. People's vote bring governments to power, and governments decisions are applauded by people. That could explain why democratic nations are often deemed more responsible along their governments for the deeds of their countries than the undemocratic countries, at least in the west.

P.S. Things are depicted black and white here only to get the point across.

Monday, March 24, 2003
 
End game

It seems Iraqi forces have dug deeply into the urban areas at major cities on the American ways to Baghdad. They have dug even more deeply into the suburban districts of Baghdad, waiting for the final game. They know Americans are pressed for time and vulnerable on the human causality given its psychological impact back home. Their strategy could be very well based on buying time by engaging Americans here and there, and eventually giving them a hard time at Baghdad. They have no other option. They know very well they'd have no chance to stand up to Americans in the middle of desert given Americans' aerial superiority. Note it is a known military fact on battles in deserts.

On the other hand Americans are short on the number of their soldiers on the ground. They cannot afford to put troops in strategic cities on their way to keep them guarded or even run them. They were also a bit surprised to see the resistance from the troops in those cities loyal to Saddam who have waged a guerrilla/urban war. Thus they waste no extra effort to capture or consolidate their positions in those cities, unless they fall easily. Why? Because:
- It'd engage their troops.
- It'd increase civilian casualties.
- They are supposed to finish their job ASAP.
There is only an exception of the highly vital Umm Qasr port whereby logistics are delivered to the troops as we speak. Consequently it is logical they push forward towards the capital without any waste of time through desert where they expect no Iraqi resistance.

Taking all of these into account, and given Saddam's records of brutality on civilians in wars, and his likelihood of having weapons of mass destruction, do you think he is having something in his sleeve to unleash before his suicide? Suicide? Well, maybe not technically. He might show some symbolic acts like taking a gun and being killed by an American shot. He has shown his respect for Iranian, Kurdish, Kuwaiti civilians-- and even Iraqis in smaller scale. Plus in his sick mind, those residents of Baghdad, who are involuntarily sacrificed, will be remembered as heroes in history. Well, I think if I can come up with this ugly possibility, the Pentagon should know about this better. Or maybe they know there are no weapons of such nature.

 
Anti-wars' dilemma

If you were an anti-war, what would you pray for?

- a brief war whereby civilian casualties and Iraqi destruction would be minimal?

- a prolonged war whereby the incumbent US administration would learn one lesson or two? The civilian casualties would be much higher in this situation. Totally conflicting with your peaceful view on war!!!

Sunday, March 23, 2003
 
Weblog under Shock'n'Awe

March 22, 2003: I came across this blog in the main page of Blogger today. It is the journals of an Iraqi living in Baghdad. I haven't had a chance to read the weblog yet, and I don't know if he is faking writing from Baghdad, or if he isn't, where he stands on the current war.
March 23, 2003: I skimmed through main page today, and liked these excerpts:
"No one inside Iraq is for war (note I said war not a change of regime), no human being in his right mind will ask you to give him the beating of his life, unless you are a member of fight club that is, and if you do hear Iraqi (in Iraq, not expat) saying “come on bomb us” it is the exasperation and 10 years of sanctions and hardship talking. There is no person inside Iraq (and this is a bold, blinking and underlined inside) who will be jumping up and down asking for the bombs to drop. We are not suicidal you know, not all of us in any case."

"We'd rather not talk about who crushed who. As for the next "Mother of all Battles".... one word (shock'n'awe). learn it in arabic: al-ithara wa al-faza. that's like putting stones in the middle of mud-cakes and throwing them at me, cheater."

"how could “support democracy in Iraq” become to mean “bomb the hell out of Iraq”? why did it end up that democracy won’t happen unless we go thru war? Nobody minded an un-democratic Iraq for a very long time, now people have decided to bomb us to democracy? Well, thank you! how thoughtful."

"Instead the world watched while after the war the Shias were crushed by Saddam’s army in a manner that really didn’t happen before the Gulf War. Does anyone else see the words (Iran/not in the US interest) floating or is it me hallucinating?"

"These sanctions made the Iraqi people hostages in the hands of this regime, tightened an already tight noose around our necks. A whole nation, a proud and learned nation, was devastated not by the war but by sanctions."

 
Iranian New Year's observation

Last night was the Iranian New Year. Part of this 3000 year old or so tradition is to spend the last hours of the Old Year with immediate family. Actually what Iranians do is to hook up to TV or radio that broadcast special programs on the upcoming New Year whereby they get mentally ready for the big change.

TV and radio are not definitely Iranian inventions, and they caught on during the last 50 years in the Iranian households. Ironically, though, they play a far more pivotal and integral role in celebrating the New Year in Iran than in the west where those gadgets were invented.
Gadgets? TV and radio? Sounds a weird word in this context, but they must have been called that way when they came around.

 
In-laws

Regardless of your culture and religion one thing amongst a million other things that you may have in common with the rest of the 6 billion people on this planet is a strange feeling towards your in-laws. Here are my two-cents on why this is the case:
- People usually get involved in relationships very gradually. But once you get married, they are the only ones that walk into your life with no precedence. In other words, they come to our lives while we are mentally least prepared.

- In-laws, like your parents, are concerned about your life. So it is conceivable that in one point or another of life, you see them poke their nose in your life, as do your parents. You can always snap at your parents to back them off, but can you do the same with your in-laws? This ineffectuality leaves us with that weird feeling I was talking about.

Saturday, March 22, 2003
 
A vocal minority

As you know, Canada has officially stayed out of the war, a decision made by the federal government and parliament reflecting Canada's public opinion. However, there are always some whining minorities. This time around, they happen to be very vocal. They are amongst the columnists, industrials, businessmen, and a few premiers whose provinces have close trading ties to the US.
One of their often-used arguments is the economical risk that Canada would take by making this decision. They suggest that US is Canada's biggest trading partner, and distancing from its partner, friend, and ally will make Canadians pay for the consequences. The sheer lack of morality in their ration leaves me surprises me.
As a friend once said, "If our partner goes to an armed robbery, will we have to go too to make him pleased?"

The current generation Canadians, still standing on virtues and values left from ... I don't where and when got away with this cricis, but with this wealthy, influential, and opinionated minority, I doubt the next generation can get an easy way out.

More readings: Middle-of-the-road country, fast-lane media and Why I think conservatives are here to stay.

 
Differences

Some 10 odd years ago, Saddam brought up its border disputes to UN and started building his own case. He also accused Kuwait of stealing Iraqi oil while he was busy with Iran. It simply fell on the deaf ears at the UN, so he simply said f@#$ with you, I will go alone. He started raising "historical" evidences backing up a new claim of Kuwiat being part of Iraq. When he attacked Kuwait, Iraq was called outlaw country by the international community. But he was too busy showing happy Kuwaitis just "liberated" by him to listen.
To people who happened to be in Saddam's cricle of propaganda he sounded as convincing as the leaders of now outlaw countries sound to people within the reach of their cant.
What is the difference between the then outlaw country and the now outlaw countries? As someone once said to me we tend to think Americans have brighter records of human rights and social freedoms for thier own citizens. Can you think of any other? Write me if you can?

Friday, March 21, 2003
 
Afternoon talk

"Americans are dropping leaflets over Iraq to urge Iraqis to surrender." a friend said on our way to lunch. "If Americans drop fliers and Valu Pak coupons advertising 50% off sales, they will surrender sooner."

"Well, when people trade their democracy for those offers and perks here, I guess Iraqis would trade their tyranny for those incentives, hands down." I said.

Background explanation: I think the citizens' economic well-being in the democratic countries has hugely contributed to voter apathy that in turn has plagued the democracy. Why would average person care when s/he has job, house, and entertainment?

Thursday, March 20, 2003
 
Center of the universe

If I don't generally think highly of generalized opinions, that I don't, this one could be an exception ;)
It is an integral part of every nation's pysche to think they are the center of the universe. There is a difference, however, among more successful countries and less fortunate ones.
More successful ones think the whole world deservedly appreciate their being the center.
Less successful ones think the world does not undeservedly appreciate their being at the center.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003
 
Two-cents on falling bombs and democracy

Democracy is not something to be implemented from top to bottom, or by bombs. If democracy is going to prevail, it should start from the society's smallest unit, family. That applies to some of the undemocratic countries, at least, where sage or judgment based on experience is traditionally prized. Sage, or reesh sefid, in Persian, is the focal point in many Middle Eastern countries, and people who are deemed to have the quality of that nature are highly respected and given special social status. However, once you put some one in the center, trust him and respect him with no question, and leave too much unchecked power in his hands, there will be little wonder your elites go corrupt and exploit their powers.

In the western societies, on the other hand, there is no special treatment favouring learned and elite people at least nowaday. Consensus forces every one to respect one another's opinion regardless of individual's social status. Naturally these countries shift to democracy even though democracy is not out of a fairy tale book.
On a slightly different note, it is ironic how elite people are much more protected in the societies where they are assumingly less respected.

 
Democracy is not out of a fairy tale book

Those who have lived in undemocratic countries usually tend to have a philosophical concept of democracy, something out of a book, a philosophical Greek book on "people on people governance". And in times like this when popular wish is ignored in certain countries, a deep question arises in them. I asked two friends' view on democracy, born and lived their whole lives in Canada.

A practical view: "Democracy is meant to ensure minorities' rights and also ensure people have a little more say in country's affairs. That is about it."
A more ironic answer: "Democracy is just majority's tyranny."

I value practicality and simplicity. The fact of the matter is that the public opinion blows in the wind and cannot be consulted when long-term interests compromise immediate public comfort. Would you pay more taxes to get the ... let's say, the education system work better? The question is now who identifies the long-term interest. A corrupt politician?

I learned a lesson here though: Democracy is not something out of a book.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003
 
Why I think conservatives are here to stay

I use the black and white American terminology of liberals and conservatives here knowing they are oversimplified and it may not be applied so simply anywhere else other than the United States.

- Conservatives have always been close to the establishment. That is part of their package, so the assumption of their demise is just a wrong notion. Their association with anchors of power makes them influential and rich by nature. Also part of their package is being well-organized and well-disciplined as opposed to their "pot-headed" liberal opponents :) All of these have made them able to conquer the mainstream media. Moreover liberals rely more on grassroot support. Well, grassroot blows in the wind after all, and cannot be organized by nature.

- The baby-boomer generation who challenged the status quo is fast aging. As they expand their families, the once carefree young people are turning to careful old folks. It is safe to say they are part of the status quo now.

- Religion is marching back through the religious groups' perseverance and orchestrated efforts. I hear some schools in the States already pulled study of evolution and they are now fully back to creationism. Every day more Americans describe themselves as "born again" Christians or evangelicals. By 2 to 1, Americans prefer creationism to evolution as the explanation for human life. And you thought a born-again Christian president was simply out of ordinary?

- The low turnout in the elections means that pressure groups who can rally supporters, from the National Rifle Association to the American Association of Retired Persons, have disproportionate influence on the electoral process. The numbers also suggest the middle class and rich are far more likely to vote than the poor, consequently shifting politics to the right. Americans are increasingly turned off by politics, which they believe is irrelevant to their lives.

- Conservatives talk more simply without leaving any guilty feeling in listener. A typical liberal answer to why there are poor people: "It is a complicated thing. Social failures combined with ... blah, blah, blah", whereas a typical conservative answer is "They are lazy", without making you feel partially responsible. A typical liberal answer to how to tackle world's problems: " It is complicated. Diplomacy through constructive engagement ... blah, blah, blah", whereas a typical conservative answer would be "It is them against us. We have to f@#$ them", without making you feel partially responsible.

The reasons mentioned here were simply based on my personal observation or things that I have read. Many analysts, with more insight, may also find other complicated reasons like conservatives' influence in media combined with ...blah, blah, blah.

Sunday, March 16, 2003
 
Me and my weblog, part 2

prequisite reading:Me and my weblog, part1
More questions on Hooman and his scribbles.
Q. What do you write about?
A. My thought of the day. TheWeblogReview.com presented my site for almost a day on their front page with a favourable rating and review the other week. It pretty well describes what the scribbles are all about. After publishing my review, they asked me to put a link to their site on my web page too. With this explanation, I just wanted to save you from asking questions on a sudden appearance of a link to The Weblog Review on the left of my page. They wanted to take benefit from my site's popularity for their own sake -- I am joking :)
Q. Would you use their review here if it was not favourable?
A. Certainly not.
Q. Apparently you talk about almost everything. Aren't you concerned that you might make mistakes where is not your field of expertise?
A. I think it is everybody could talk or write about everything. The trickiest part though is to keep in mind where to stop before stepping off your field of expertise.

P.S. I just made the second question up.

 
Me and my weblog, part 1

To change the dominant subject of war, I decided to write about me and my weblog, for a while at least. I really gave it some thoughts on how to do it. Then I thought simple is beautiful. And the simplest plot that came to my mind was putting it in a Q&A format. But I cannot obviously put all Q&A in one journal without compromising the length of my journals, so I decided to bring it in a series of 'Me and my weblog'. Questions are from the people who directly know me, and through the answers, I am hopeful to shed light on this Hooman and his scribbles. So be prepared, it is purely me.
Q. What made you write?
A. There are a few reasons:
1. I have always been fascinated by the art or skill of converting feelings and thoughts into words and then tweaking them to reach a precise match between the most complicated non-physical notions and their more physical conceptualizations in simplest fashion. Naturally I am fond of reading a lot even though I cannot spend so much time on it. But after seeing people utilizing their conversion skill, it is again natural that you get an urge to do it too. You tend to play the sport you watch.
2. I have opinion, so I exist. I have ideas on many things. Not that I take those ides seriously, because I really don't. I have never been confident about them, but I have always been confident enough to raise them. I realized that there are too many people out there writing about the things they don't have any clue of. So I decided to join them :)
3.Despite my endless opinions and my admiration for the art of words, I am extremely lousy at expressing my views and feelings in casual conversations. I am often caught off-guarded by a question, as if I have never thought about it, whereas most of the time it is not the case. In those situations, I cannot go further than silly answers.
- "What made you to write?"
- "Hmm ... I dont know", or "I got bored ... I think."
Those were the best I could come up with.
Once you have a narrow opening to the outside world, you look for other channels to vent what you hold inside. That is perhaps why I am writing ...Me, and my weblog’ too.
Q. How long do think you will continue this?
A. I may have opinion on many things, but this one certainly is not one of them.

Saturday, March 15, 2003
 
Yesterday's source of energy?

It has been almost thirty years since nuclear power was introduced as "the source of energy for today and tomorrow". Many things have changed since then, and a lot of questions have been raised surrounding its sustainability in the industrialized countries. While campaigning for the elections, Social Democrats in Germany pledged to phase out nuclear power once they come to power. And in 2000, Germany became the first leading economic power to officially announce its intention to shut down all of its nuclear plants within 20 years. Canada and the United States also considered this option and both, not so officially, though, and amid pro and con arguments, pursue the same goal.

Although it was originally thought that nuclear energy was cleaner and cheape as opposed to fossil fuel alternatives, after a couple of decades downsides started to show. Fossil fuel energy could be immediately dangerous to the environment due to its carbon dioxide emission. However, nuclear waste proved to be no less of a headache in the long run. Dumping the hazardous waste is also facing more and more resistance by populations of these countries. More and more mountains of radioactive waste in Saskatchewan, Canada, and New Mexico, USA are looked at with concern.
Despite all these, what makes provincial or state governments to crunch numbers is the cost of maintenance of facilities. To keep the plants up to certain safety codes and avoid possible disasters, the power plants have to go under long and expensive maintenances. These costs had not been taken into account when this energy was sold to us as a "cheap source of energy". To make things worse, under repair plants have to taken off the grid during the long maintenance periods.

Of course in reality things are not as black an white as I described here. There are heated debates over the economic efficiency of these plants, and the proponents of this energy, maybe not as vocal as before, but still could be heard. However, something is pretty clear: Nuclear power is not the way of future.

Friday, March 14, 2003
 
There is a little politician in every one of us

Has it ever happened to you to read columns written by retired politicians and realize that his or her very own opinion is a lot different than the official party line s/he used to guard? And then you think how on earth someone can hold back his/her opinion for some odd years of a political career. You find out then that he or she kept softening or toughening his or her stance to fall in line with the rest of the comrades. Well, this is politics.

But when you think more closely, we do it everyday of our life too. Sometimes we have to work out a common ground with those we have contact of every nature during the day and in doing so we have to tone down, in some cases, or tone up, in other cases, our positions. Is your wife fat or ugly? Oh, hell no, you won't tell her with such words. You don't want to see her cry out her eyes or your hair pulled off your head because of your "undiplomatic" remarks. Is your husband a pig? Oh, no, he just drinks a little bit more than usual, and the rest is the consequence of the drinks. Is your boss too bossy? To his face, he is just caring and responsible. Is your staff lazy and careless? To their face, they are a talented lot who just need direction.

Sometimes we take the extra mile and suck up to people above us in order to climb up "the ladder of success". Little by little we will have to pay more bills, man. We need bigger houses and more powerful cars. We are led to believe this is the way to go. We fall for it without questioning it. Why? Events happen so fast, and we are caught up and after a while we are all consumed by this atmosphere. And now we have to do our job: playing politics.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003
 
Fattening the turkey?

Iran has joined the countries that are feared to have nuclear weapon or could reach that potential sooner than expected, as you know.

Back in September 2002 an investigation by BBC Radio 4 program File on Four disclosed that Britain's Department of Trade and Industry had allowed a quantity of the metal, Beryllium, to be sold to Iran last year. That metal is needed to make nuclear bombs. Britain has had an arms embargo to Iran since 1993 and has signed up to an international protocol which bans the sale of Beryllium to named countries, including Iran. Beryllium is a metal with a limited number of high-tech uses in civilian industry, but is mostly used in defense applications and is a vital component in a nuclear bomb.
It is interesting to know that Pakistan had also been successful in procuring material for its nuclear program from the same place.

Is it fattening the turkey before the big dinner? We will wait and watch the events as they unfold.

 
Not distracted by war

Forget about the war. Some people are busy in the States suggesting French fries is not politically correct. As a gesture to reflect their displeasure with France's anti-war stance, US congress gets busy changing 'French fries' and 'French toast' to Freedom fries' and 'Freedom toast'.
What about French kiss? and hey, Statue of Liberty is also French.
If you argue this was still somehow related to war, then get this: A bill has been put forward in the United States to designate a day to honour space aliens. Sounds like some people are trying to focus on their job while a war is breaking out.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003
 
Operation Party Posse

If you have read my previous post, Who's next after Iraq?, you know how Party Posse boys, in The Simpsons, turn a useless sandy field into a beach, and mustached Iraqi soldiers to gorgeous belly dancers by dropping bombs.
This operation is not exactly called as I put in the title. The Pentagon recognizes it as Shock and Awe. If the Pentagon sticks to its current war plan, one day in March the Air Force and Navy will launch between 300 and 400 cruise missiles at targets in Iraq, in just the very first day. This is more than the number that were launched during the entire 40 days of the first Gulf War. "There will not be a safe place in Baghdad," said one Pentagon official who has been briefed on the plan. "The sheer size of this has never been seen before, never been contemplated before," the official said. "So that you have this simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but in minutes," says Harlan Ullman, one of the authors of the Shock and Awe concept.
"You're sitting in Baghdad and all of a sudden you're the general and 30 of your division headquarters have been wiped out. You also take the city down. By that I mean you get rid of their power, water. In 2,3,4,5 days they are physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted," Ullman tells David Martin of CBS.
Not everybody in the Bush Administration thinks Shock and Awe will work. One senior official called it a bunch of bull, but confirmed it is the concept on which the war plan is based.

 
Speaking of ironies

News read US will go it alone in case of a no vote by the UN Security Coucil. So let me get it straight. the US will defy UN and attack Iraq because that country has defied UN resolutions --to disarm?

P.S. The original idea of this note comes from Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Monday, March 10, 2003
 
Broken engines

I am asked by friends and strangers alike why people coming from other countries are so into history, politics, and such. It cannot be because of under-funded education system of those countries that they are turned on to those abstract subjects. Here are my two cents:
You don't look under your hood as long as your engine runs well.

 
Who's next after Iraq?

I am no White House pundit. So if you expect an answer to the question in the title, let me be honest with you. I just lured you by that title ;) And now here is the story I am building to: Some Iranians hope that their wait in the line for being served by America's conformist factory will be up shortly.

"I was in Iran a couple of months ago. Whoever I talked [to], cab driver, shop-keeper, janitor, student, devoted Muslims, government employees... all were asking me when president Bush was coming to get rid us from mullahs. Believe [it] or not, they wanted America [to] invade Iran." That made part of an email that I received the other day. I believe the writer of email. However, there are three things I keep in mind.

1. This is not definitely what all people in the country think. The problem with public opinion of Iran or Iraq is that there is no reliable poll indicating where they stand on the matter.
2. I have been there too and I know very well how sometimes you, as a visitor, are given all kinds of crap just for the sake of having a conversation. You are not supposed to read too much into the comments made during small talks.
3. There is no number 3. But now that you are here let me add that news on Iraqis or Iranians who advocate war on their very own population is good sell in the West, of course from a news agency perspective.

Having said all that, there are certainly strong supporters of war on Iran in Iran. We don't know what percentage of the public opinion they make though. Their impression of war reminds me of New Kids on the Blecch episode of The Simpsons where the Navy, under the cover of music producers, tries to put together music bands with sublimed songs to brainwash people to join the Navy in Springfield. In one of their music video clips, the Party Posse singers, Bart, Milhouse, Ralph, and Nelson, are shown piloting jet fighters over a sandy desert where a few Iraqi soldiers are --I think three soldiers. Party Posse press 'Drop Da Bomb' button to release PP labeled bombs. After the explosions die down, the sandy field turns into a beach and mustached Iraqi soldiers turn into three pretty olive-skinned belly dancers. So this is what those bastard peace protesters are against and those Iranians long for, a sandy beach with belly dancers! Well, I don't think it is going to be exactly like that. And no, the difference with reality wouldn't be the size of belly-dancers' waists.

Once the US launched attack against an already scorched Afghanistan, a large portion of the war was conducted in non-urban areas where population concentration was minimal. And yet 3500 civilians were killed. What do you think of civilian casualties in a highly urbanized country like Iran?
The country has a capital that is already one of biggest cities in the world, at least four major urban centers apart from the capital, and many more medium to large sized cities.

Sunday, March 09, 2003
 
A lighter note

After last night's snow accumulation, I think I know why suicide rate in snow-ridden East coast is less than that inthe West coast, i.e. BC. After so much snow shoveling, there will be no energy left in you to kill yourself.

 
Fooled by numbers

Suppose of 11 people in a room, one earned $1million dollars last year, and all the others earned only $10,000. The average income of the 11 would be $100,000. Sounds pretty good, huh? However, the reality is that one person is wealthy and 10 starve. Now imagine of 11 people in a room all earned $50,000 last year. The average income will be $50,000; half of the first room's. And this is the base for measuring living standard: average income. Economists would say that "Living Standard" among the occupants of the first room is twice of that of the second room, while ignoring the fact that the vast majority of people in the first room live below the poverty line.
Mind you, there are around 56000 new millionaires in the States during the past 10 years, plus the top 5% of the richest people in US has more wealth put toegether than the budget of the most countries of the world combined. Now ... what did you think when the headline of some papers read "American standards of living 10 to 50 percent higher than Canada's"?

On a different issue, I read in some book how Gross Domestic Product was calculated --I don't remember a damn thing now. But the interesting part was that you would see how having a car accident, being hospitalized, and eventually your death could help out the economy in terms of GDP. The amount of "product" created by insurance companies, doctors, nurses, hospitals, and funeral services could simply outweigh your loss for the year the index is measured. With the same logic, if you drive to work and help jam the traffic, it will be more helpful to the economy. In doing so you can even contribute more by driving an SUV that consumes more gas. So I wonder how some tiny European countries where people are encouraged to ride bicycle or take public transportation to work, can keep their GDP high.
What did you think when the headline of some papers read "Canada's GDP loosing ground to our neighbour's"?

I also read somewhere that productivity is simply the amount of created work, divided by number of people involved. So less people you keep while maintaining the same level of output, more productivity you gain. What if you axed the whole R&D of a company? The same amount of work would still be created as long as you have your manufacturing section. In manufacturing also, you can let go of half of employees and force the rest to work as twice as hard they used to. Wow, you have increased Productivity index a lot.
What did you think of some analysts' suggestion "Canada must increase productivity to match that of the US" when there were waves of massive layoffs south of the border that helped US keep its title of the "most productive country" in the world?

The interesting thing is that later on I found out economists, not so publicly, admit that these indexes are flawed. As a matter of fact GDP replaced a more flawed index a few years ago. And there are pundits who suggest statistical median replace average for living standard index. There is nothing wrong with working with unsound indexes as long as there is no better alternative and of course you know what you do.
However, until there are better alternatives or we are all able to read between the line, we, the non-pundits, will keep being fooled by numbers.

P.S. All quotes are paraphrased.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003
 
Battle of SUVs and Small Urban Vehicles

If you think your VW Beetle is the best vehicle to travel to your cottage in countryside, you are sadly mistaken. Picture the foot of snow we get in the winter; the image of your VW stuck in snow does not look good. With SUV, though, you can have the convenience of dumping all the stuff, you need to spend a weekend at the cottage, in the back of the car. SUV is the car you need.
During the snowstorms, SUV drivers in rural areas are heroes offering lift to people trapped in snow and sometimes faciliating doctors' visits to patients on the roads not dared by conventional cars.

However, driving these gas guzzling moving fortresses in cities has become hip as you know. And the trend is so hot that has provoked a hot reaction too. Nowadays many people are alarmed by this new fashion which targets the environment in many aspects. Some even go further than that and feel threatened by civilian armoured vehicles that, in case of an accident, endanger the lives of their kids and families in small cars. I also hear people question the morality of city SUV lovers who fall in love with these cars simply because it gives them sight leverage over the road and other vehicles. A self-centered mentality at the cost of other people's sight? Perhaps.
"I can afford the car and the gas. Why would my freedom of choice on buying car be compromised?" City SUV drivers respond. Another proof of a self-centered mindset ignoring anything else? Perhaps.
To me who values practicality, discretion is important.That is perhaps why I have hard time justifying people whose Explorer or Pathfinder is used only to explore the paths ending to the drive thru of McDonald's.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003
 
People are people

People are not so different after all. They all have more or less the same values and goals in life regardless of their culture, religion, and race and despite their seemingly large differences. They all react more or less the same under similar circumstances. They all try to provide a decent life for their family in the end of the day. Some eat popcorns during their pastime, some crack sunflower seeds, and some both. They all enjoy small talks, chitchats, watching movies, and barbecues. I think all people from all races, and cultures can live peacefully together. Vast majority of people everywhere mind their own business even though sometimes it is hard to find an understanding among them.

Things get complicated when you find there is a tiny percentage of us who play on our feelings and thoughts. Sometimes they are called radicals, sometimes governments, and sometimes radical governments. They are those elites or assertive people who are busy plotting to drive us around when we are busy watching TV or living our lives. They are those who whisper in our ears that we are the center of the universe and we deserve better. They are those who provoke us against one another. We get carried away and they rob their hands happily against each other watching us fighting one another.

We would be better off without them. We are the majority and they are the minority. We could fight back, and easily put them aside. And start a happy and peaceful life with one another with no lying politician or lunatic around.

Then we will need people to collect our garbage and fill our potholes. We will need people to run our schools where our kids go. To streamline their activities, we will need to elect trusted peoples among us to organize right institutions to oversee these operations. We will need more people to oversee these elected people's operations too. They will all in all forge a groove, an uptight system that will overlook us. They will put their own interests first and go corrupt. They will start manipulating us and others alike. Inequalities will arise, and some go nuts, and will seek every radical solutions to rock the boat.

Then we will start fighting one another again.