Saturday, January 31, 2009

Thailand - a Sad Slide Backwards

For Rohingyas refugees, this scandalous episode in Thailand where hundreds of them feared dead and dumped into sea and hundreds of them more were let loose in the sea without food or any basic amenities, to starve to death, aren't new. Even the military government in Myanmar doesn't acknowledge the existence of them, "There is no so-called Rohingya ethnic minority group in our history before or after our independence", and the Thai government has entrusted the very military to conduct investigation on one of its own rank, as if mockeries to justice have no bound, no shame.

Here is an observation from The Economist: "while soldiers act with impunity and royalist rioters get soft treatment, the country’s anachronistic lèse-majesté law is enforced rigorously. America and its allies long turned a blind eye to such stains on Thailand’s reputation, because King Bhumibol and his army were staunch anti-communist allies. Recalling that relationship, next month America is due to hold annual war games with regional allies in Thailand, a source of prestige for Thai generals. But the cold war is long over. President Barack Obama should threaten to move the games elsewhere until the Thai army is tamed."

Recession Spreads to Canada's Storefronts

Saturday mornings bring that sought after relief after any grueling hard work week for many. World economy's bloom and gloom stories are not appealing with a cup of morning coffee, but can sure provide necessary knowledge to protect one's own and loved ones. The following news story published in The Globe and Mail may not be comforting, however, it can illuminate reality from illusion.
"Canada's recession is spreading from the car factories to the coffee shops, reinforcing the case for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's $40-billion stimulus program and adding to the risk that he may have to do more.

The baristas, shopkeepers, financial planners, technicians and consultants that make up Canada's services industries are starting to feel the same malaise that has gripped factories and exporters for the better part of a year, new government figures show.

Output by the services sector — which accounts for 70 per cent of Canada's $1.2-trillion gross domestic product — shrank for a second consecutive month in November, exacerbating the continuing slump in manufacturing and speeding the economy's fall into recession.......................

Taken together, Friday's data, reflecting some of the worst turmoil ever experienced in global financial markets, serve as a prelude for a recession that the Bank of Canada, the federal government and economists say is just getting started.

"There is no silver lining, which is something we are not used to seeing," said Sébastien Lavoie, an analyst at Laurentian Bank in Montreal and a former economist at the Bank of Canada. "It was not a blip. It's as bad as it looked. It will look the same in this quarter."


Link to full news story: http://business.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090130.wgdpcanada0130/BNStory/Business/home

Saturday, January 24, 2009

War of Words between China and America

While the world economy is falling into whirlwind recession, the abysmal depth of depression not seen since the infamous 1930s, the world doesn't need unnecessary tensions between China and America. "In a written response to questions from senators debating his confirmation, Mr Geithner accused China of “manipulating” its currency and promised that the Obama team would push “aggressively” for Beijing to change its policies. The sharp tone and use of the legally-loaded term “currency manipulation” ricocheted through financial markets as investors shuddered at the prospect of a Sino-American spat in the midst of a global slump."

Is there any truth on following speculation?
"American policymakers have long pushed Beijing to accelerate the appreciation of the yuan, arguing that China’s exchange-rate policy played a big role in creating the global imbalances and that—both for the sake of China’s economy and the rest of the world—the currency needs to strengthen."
Maybe. But there are other factors contributing to global financial meltdown, including the slumping demand and loss of confidence of consumers around the globe toward markets and also to their manipulative governments. The Economist correctly observes that "Currency movements switch demand between countries; they do not create it. In the short-term, therefore, the outlook for the world economy depends on whether governments’ stimulus packages are successful and, right now, team Obama would do better to focus on the scale, nature and speed of Beijing’s stimulus measures than rant about the currency. What’s more, the evidence for currency manipulation is weakening. Although China still runs a huge current-account surplus, it is no longer accumulating foreign-exchange reserves at a rapid clip, as capital is flowing out of the country."

The New York Times provides more background info: "In 2005, the Chinese government ended a strict peg between the Chinese currency, called the renminbi or the yuan, and the American dollar. Since then, the yuan has floated in a narrow band against the dollar. The value of the currency is now 6.84 yuan to the dollar....“the price advantage of Chinese exports may not be a result of currency issues, but the country’s lower costs of labor, resources and land.”The global financial crisis has resulted in foreign companies placing fewer orders with exporters in China, leading to a severe downturn in the export industry. Chinese leaders now say the nation must move away from an economy so dependent on exports."

Links to articles: War of Words & China Rejects Currency Manipulation Charge.

Praise Song for the Day



Elizabeth Alexander's inauguration day poem was indeed memorable. Her somber recitation of each line describing the mundane, every not so praised events and uplifting the summation of all into universal theme of collective humanity with ease, in her careful selection of words, slowly delivered in a day of January winter while the leaders from past and current look on and the sea of crowds who had come to witness the change and hope over fear may indeed become the symbolic implication of the "Day" when it seemed goodness is still achievable and rottenness and hideous vileness are in sure retreat. Praise Song for the Day.............

“Praise Song for the Day,” by Elizabeth Alexander, January 20, 2009

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need
. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Someone has to stop Israel's rampant madness in Gaza

Gideon Levy has courage. Being in the middle of all the jubilation, proud smirks and chest thumping madness, this Israeli writer with conscience writes in Israel's prominent newspaper Haaretz what needs to be written about Gaza and deaths of more than 1100 of women, men and children and that the number is continually growing with increasing pace.
"In the streets, people are running back and forth in panic, holding children and suitcases in their hands, helpless as the shells fall around them. Nobody in the diplomatic corridors is in any hurry to help those unfortunates who have nowhere to run.

The handful of journalists trying to cover the events, despite the outrageous media closure Israel has imposed, are also in danger. The Israel Defense Forces Thursday shelled the media building they were in and now they are all crowded in one office, as fearful and horrified as the rest of the scorched city's residents.

.................
This is how Israel now looks to the outside world - its tanks in the burning streets of Gaza; more and more people being killed for nothing; tens of thousands of new refugees; an appallingly haughty foreign minister, and a growing clamor of condemnation and disgust from all over the globe."
Can only the verbal condemnations and disgusts stop this murderous onslaught? In the face of mighty tanks and supersonic killers in the sky, can all the good wills, candle light prayers, silent tears in one's solitary moment seeing the blood drenched images from war's gruesome reality be any "game" changing factor?

These all goody woody feelings and in many cases sincere gestures toward the oppressed ones surely can surmount to boisterous protests around the world as has already been rumbled on icy to heated streets. But what would definitely affect the outcome is the protesting in meaningful way like the time when South African Apartheid was dealt its final knell. Naomi Klein writes in The Nation: "
Economic sanctions are the most effective tools in the nonviolent arsenal. Surrendering them verges on active complicity. "

Link to Naomi Klein's article, which is a must read.


A sticky ending for the tar sands

Slumping oil demand has already caused thousands of job losses across Alberta. The heydays of oil boom is slowly eroding into coldness matching the chill of snowy windchill. The Economist surmises the brief history of tar sands, its spectacular rise and seemingly similar astonishing fall in coming days unless a real "miracle" turns the world economy back to its agonized feet:
"Extracting oil from the sands took off in the late 1990s, boosted by technological advances that greatly reduced costs. Sitting on the equivalent of 173 billion barrels of crude, the provincial government dreamed of making Alberta a new Saudi Arabia (with moose instead of camels). Although some, such as Peter Lougheed, a former premier, called for “orderly” development, a wild rush ensued, causing provincewide labour shortages. Even servers at fast-food restaurants had to be lured with an iPod or other inducements. Now, though, employment is slumping: Steve Vetter, a manager at a firm that services the gas industry, says it recently had 50 applicants for one job; two years ago it would have been lucky to get any."
Two years from now, economy may change back again into full robust gear. Is this possible? Indeed, it is.

Monday, January 12, 2009

US to help Bangladesh seize bribe money

The sons and daughters of ex-Bangladesh rulers siphoned of hundreds of millions of dollars to foreign banks. After BNP got ousted in recent elections, and Awami League got into power, the massiveness of corruptions committed by "prince" and "princesses" of this proud but still impoverished nation slowly started to emerge.

It took the fall and the change of the government before the thieveries were uncovered. Awami League, the current ruling party in Bangladesh, that came to power very recently after winning a landslide victory in parliamentary election, must take serious note in the happenings and flattenings of once upon a time's big giants, the behemoth thugs and petty thieves who had sucked the nation of Bangladeshis dried and cold like brute vampires.

Awami League's mantra should be avoiding this scandalous bruteness with representative governance devoid of the same fleecing of the nation wholesale. Otherwise, should there be any doubt among all respective parties, of another similar possible scandals when Awami League's ruling days come to an end in years from now?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Occupation 101 - a Documentary to Watch


Perhaps we can take a bit of break from watching entertainment news, and can learn a thing or two of suppressed history and contemporary miseries, and about men, women and children of a land where violent deaths, and utter humiliations are in abundance mostly due to the inaction and willful ignorance of global citizenry.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

I don't want to write about Gaza

I don’t want to write about Gaza. Don’t want to see still images of the bloodied streets full of blown off corpses, children, women, men, and the ghoulish videos of horrific screams pouring out of wounded human beings amidst macabre deaths.

Sometimes words leave you. Sometimes, the degree of horror and brutality snuff out heated air. And the responses from the civilized world, leaders and politicians, high brow scholars of glorified predilection to softening blows, intensify the silent acquiescence to massacres. In the name of furious self defense from rudimentary resistance of starved dehumanized, genocide is uplifted as camouflaged battle on fright.

I heard it enough!

I’d read the same stories many times now.

Nothing would change. People would die. Children would be crushed under collapsing buildings from bombs and missiles.

Agonies of women, widows, amputated school teachers would only be reverberated from the confined walls of their dismal surroundings. Emergency ambulances’ blaring roar would be faded away, as would the dying despairs.

Only the curses would remain for the living.

In words mumbled from blood dried swollen lips, and the silent stares of hopeless refugees, thoroughly maligned and smeared to the level of invertebrates, only the seething curse would be deciphered from exhaled grunts. Even the dismembered corpses in overflowing morgues would point the long stretched broken fingers in cold accusatory gestures.

Guilty!

Our culpability is affixed with destiny.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Just started reading Junot Diaz's 2007 novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. His choice of words, dialogues, and the moving way this remarkable story is unfolding in different voices, first through Oscar's voice, then his sister Lola and now I've started reading their mother Belicia, in reverse chronological order, making it a story to remember I believe. The author gave sporadic historical information on Dominican Republic, especially, the long forgotten dictator Trujillo in relevant footnotes, that made the story more interesting.

I hope to write more on this novel in the coming days.

Two Memorable Music Videos



MGMT's Time to Pretend is a touching music, though ironical in its contradictory messages, but that's what made it a great song with memorable lyric like the following excerpt:

"This is our decision, to live fast and die young.
We've got the vision, now let's have some fun.
Yeah, it's overwhelming, but what else can we do.
Get jobs in offices, and wake up for the morning commute.

..................

We were fated to pretend

I'll miss the playgrounds and the animals and digging up worms
I'll miss the comfort of my mother and the weight of the world
I'll miss my sister, miss my father, miss my dog and my home
Yeah, I'll miss the boredom and the freedom and the time spent alone

But there is really nothing, nothing we can do

...............
We'll choke on our vomit and that will be the end
We were fated to pretend
To pretend
We're fated to pretend
To pretend"

Lyric Link: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/m/mgmt/time_to_pretend.html


Another cool music is by Kanye West, his Love Lockdown has that slow built up in rhythm, alternate base and octave voice, nicely synchronized.

Link to Love Lockdown video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVZX-W3vo9I

Link to MGMT's Time to Pretend Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9GH-yvPHSY