Today is the day we remember.

Japanese, Japan residents and pretty much anybody who has been exposed to images and testimonies of the astounding amount of death and destruction that befell the north of Japan a year ago to the day…

Today is also the day I must remember more than ever not to read a single foreign news site (particularly these enduring bastions of journalistic incompetence that have become French and German newspapers). Because I know that, even on this most symbolic day, they will not fail to make their front page on the largely unrelated and comparatively irrelevant aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident.

After all: why bother with the death of 15,000 people in some remote part of the world, when you can instead focus on a political issue that resonates with your local readership…

On the 17th of October 1961, 50 years ago to the day, France-residing Algerians gathered in Paris for a non-violent demonstration in support of Algeria’s independence.

Between 20,000 and 30,000 men, women and children, dressed in their best Sunday clothes, many coming from the outer suburban slums where France crammed its growth-fueling immigrant workforce in the 60s, were marching peacefully toward the centre of the city, when municipal police forces charged into crowds, raiding isolated groups, firing on people and making good use of their wooden clubs, murdering dozens of unarmed Algerians: shot, beaten to death or thrown into the Seine river… Weeks later, swollen corpses of Algerian protesters were still being fished out of the river or found hung to trees in nearby forests.

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While Fox News is busy repurposing Shibuya nightclubs into nuclear plants and Europeans are hoarding potassium iodide capsules, Muammar Gaddafi is leisurely clawing back Eastern Libya and killing hundreds, to the deafening sound of silence in foreign media. Unleashing unrestrained military force over his own people, he has successfully crushed his way to the gates of Benghazi and has made no secret1 of what awaits those that were foolish enough to think the West would help their fight for freedom and democracy.

Little did they know: the perspective of thousands killed at the hand of a lunatic dictator in a faraway middle-eastern country, however preventable, just doesn’t make for the same quality of frontpage fear-mongering as some good ol’ worldwide nuclear scare.

Next-day update: Turns out you can’t even count on fickle news outlets to stick to their sensationalistic headlines for more than a week… it only took a last-minute UN vote (after much waffling) and a few bomb raids on Tripoli, for Japan to be relegated to some tiny one-liner in a corner of the front-page. So apparently nuclear apocalypse just wasn’t so imminent after all.

  1. Although I cannot find back that news quote, I believe his own words were along the line of “going door-to-door, purging the region” and “enacting retribution”. []

Speaking at a London conference on Tuesday, Donal Byrne, chief executive of Corvil, a high-speed trading technology company, caused a ripple of audible incredulity throughout the room when he suggested that trading speeds could be reduced to picoseconds in the not too distant future.

Before you dismiss this as yet another unneeded example of what’s wrong with modern finance and how little actual value high-speed arbitrage brings to the market… consider for a moment: light travels by less than a millimeter in a picosecond! Hell, it does not even break a meter in a nanosecond

Leaving aside petty issues of actual CPU speed and everything but the most basic signal transmission aspect, I think this grandiose prediction from some random finance schmuck, no doubt busy at work on the next global crisis, can only mean one thing:

Finance has finally toppled the laws of conventional physics and invented supraluminal speed travel!

Take that, Albert.

Last Tuesday, I was serendipitously told of a talk by Anna Baltzer in Yoshida campus. I remembered seeing her on the Daily Show a while back and was curious to hear her talk in more details about her experience and views on the current Middle East situation.

As it happens, I even ranted not long ago about the lack of rational and moderate discourse, in the neverending clusterfuck™ of a situation that is the Middle East. How timely.

No point copy-pasting Anna’s bio, but the skinny is: as a Jewish-American grown up in the US and backpacking her way through North Africa and Asia, she came by herself to the conclusion that many of the views commonly held by her fellow countrymen and community members with regard to contemporary Israeli politics were perhaps overlooking a few teeny details… In particular: serious human right issues with the current treatment of Palestinians in Occupied Territories.

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It is an understatement to say that the entire frame of Israel-related issues has long been overtaken by vociferous extremes. Increasingly weak attempts at launching reasonable, moderate discussions around the topic are bound to be drowned in the heady, simplistic rhetorical bullet points peddled on each side and gladly amplified by scores of well-intented moronic third parties.

Of course, for all the wishful thinking out there: Gaza is not some sort of plucky little nation bravely resisting a cruel barbaric invader. And Israel is not acting out of pure self-preservation to preserve its legitimate borders from impending invasions by neighbouring countries.

Israel is not the source of all oppression and abuse in Gaza. Gaza is currently ruled by a bunch of muslim extremists who have amply demonstrated their lack of concern for basic human rights and are not above propping up kids for their war, presumably because the adults are too busy stoning gays and impure women. Incidentally, hatred of gays and women: a point on which their conservative archenemies on the Israeli side seem to be in complete agreement.

Conversely, Israel has long slipped from its legitimate goal of ensuring its survival against hostile neighbours, toward appeasing a vocal ultra-orthodox minority, whose views on Arab-Israelis and their right to exist are only a couple degrees removed from what could be heard in the streets of 1930’s Berlin. It is no surprise that Israel has started alienating even its staunchest allies over the past decade: claiming to work toward peace while rushing to approve new settlements, like some schoolboy cramming as much as he can into his test sheet before the headmaster snatches it (or, for a more appropriate analogy: like victor nations of past World Wars, rushing to grab as much land as possible before calling in an armistice). There comes a point where no amount of denying the obvious through intellectual contortions can hide the fact that your policies are the exact opposite of what you claim them to be.

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Nearly two decades ago, good ol’ Lisbeth the 2nd famously declared the year closing an annus horibilis

In fact, 1992 was no particularly bad year unless you were a male heir to the throne of Britain with marital problems or minor royalty with a taste for topless frolicking…

In 1992, the world at large was not doing much worse than usual. Western Europe was entering a decade of economic prosperity, things were starting to look up on the eastern side and the US was taking a breather in between two Bushes. Bloody coups, genocides and paramilitary dictatorship seemed to be ever so slowly becoming less of a common occurrence in South America and Asia, and while Africa was not doing so great, one could at least hope that, with old age, an entire generation of Western-backed dictators would eventually come to pass. Not such a bad era for music either: in 1992, Nirvana had just released Nevermind and Black Eyed Peas had not yet been spawned from the darkest recess of stale junk pop marketing.

It is nigh-impossible for one person to give an objective appraisal for such a scale as the entire world, particularly without the hindsight of a couple decades: the year Sally broke your heart or you lost your pinkie to a freak juice-blending accident will always overshadow that earthquake where 10,000 people died in some remote country you have never heard of.

Yet, I cannot help but feel rather depressed by what seems to be happening in the world these days. And I am not talking about broad general issues and the no-doubt very fucked-up things in store for the future, 40ºC English Winter days included. I am talking about today’s factual state of the world.

Let’s Have a Look, Shall We?

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It is not often that you read familiar names in local news reports. Even less so if the locale itself is one you haven’t lived in for over 6 years.

This is why, when I first came upon a mention, in the SF Chronicle, of a slain college teacher living in Oakland, CA, it did not register much: random acts of violence and the senseless killing of innocent, beloved community members is unfortunately too common an occurrence in Oakland these days, to raise one’s attention…

And then today, while parsing Californian news again, I glanced upon the name of that teacher and realized that, against all odds, I knew him.

Not only did I know Dr. Dennis, but I also personally kept a very fond memory of these two semesters I studied with him. In fact, it was he who gave me a taste for Political Science, to the point of making it my college major the following semester, when I had originally just thought of it as a quick requirement to cross off my list before transferring with a science major.

Out of the very few classes I took at CCSF, “Dr. D” was easily the most striking professor: both as an incredibly smart, witty and engaging teacher and at the same time, obviously dedicated toward helping all students and making sure everybody got their fair chance in the end. I remember his fits of calculated zaniness in the middle of the most serious dissections of US Federal Institution and Constitutional Law. I remember that one time where, upon learning of my odd place of birth, he surprised us all by giving a quick but thorough geo-political recap of that tiny Indian Ocean island most wouldn’t even know where to put on a map, all in impeccable French. More so, I remember how astounded I was, when he concluded by throwing in a couple cheerful comments in perfect Seychellois Creole… I even remember that house of his in Oakland, where he traditionally invited his students for a semester-capping potluck dinner…

I still can’t believe now that his name, of all people, would add itself onto that seemingly unending list of tiresome injustices that is Oakland’s violent crimes reports.

He truly was a good man, in deeds and in inspiration for others. I know he will be missed by a lot.

Good bye Dr. D: may you rest in peace, Oh Zany One…

So, apparently, “The Blogosphere is in deep mourning” and It has consequently decided to stop writing about Its cat for a day, “in honor towards” the latest US shooting craze victims. All that with shiny, yet appropriately sober, webtwozero buttons, because the Blogosphere likes nothing like an easy cut-n-paste mirror-effect logo to put in Its sidebar.

While some might be prompt to point at a culturally self-centred inconsequential web fad with vaguely nauseating marketing overtones, I won’t.

In fact, let’s take it one step further!

As of today, Tuesday, April 17th, the official death count for the ongoing Darfur genocide clocks in at a little over 400,000.

By my own calculation, and using the ongoing rate for online death commemoration, this gives us a mere 33.2 years, which we will round up to 30, for simplicity’s sake.

And it is therefore with great pleasure that I hereby introduce the 30yearBlogSilence initiative. Forgive me if I haven’t got the shiny web buttons ready, but feel free to set up a website for it.

As for the starting date, I think right fucking now is probably a good time: go ahead, I’ll be right behind you.