Compiled and edited by Peter Marmorek
Year Seven; Issue 6
1. Current Actions
2. Insights Into Iran
3. Olympic Views
4. Greece, the Euro, and Democracy
5. Finance Explained
6. Notes on Survival
7. Reading and Writing Tips
8. Unbelievable Animals
9. Eyecandy: Travel
10. Quote of the Week
* Israeli Apartheid Week runs from the 1st–14th of March (long week?… we guess only for one week per location) Check on events world wide here, or in Toronto here. And read this powerful piece of writing by long-time Tikkunista! supporter and Israeli ex-pat. Avi Zer-Aviv, “Apartheid Is An Act, Not A Theory”
2. Insights Into Iran
Context: An attack on Iran has been proposed or expected (or decried) for awhile, particularly by the same folks who advocated the Iraqi and Afghani adventures (Hey, Bible Spice, how’s that WMDy changey thing workin’ out for ya?) Walt explores the mystery of Iranian politics, and both the impeccable Juan Cole and Fareed Zakaria in WaPo show why an Iranian attack by the US would be disastrous.
* What’s Going On In Iran? Who Knows? Stephen Walt
If you find the news from inside Iran somewhat bewildering, and if you don’t know whether to believe those who think the clerical regime is on its last legs or those who think it will easily contain the opposition, don’t feel bad. The reality is that nobody — including the leaders of the Iranian government, the opposition, and all of us watching from outside — knows where they are headed or what the timetable for change might be. We’ll know who guessed (yes, guessed) right some weeks, months, years, or decades from now, but right now trying to handicap events there is a mug’s game. Here’s why…
* “An Attack on Iran Would Lead to US Collapse” Russian General Juan Cole
The Obama administration wants stricter sanctions on Iran, and the Sarah Palin/ Daniel Pipes lunatic fringe wants a military attack on Iran. But Russia’s General of the Army Nikolay Makarov, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, warned that an American attack on Iran now, when the US is bogged down in two wars, might well lead to the collapse of the United States. He said that such an attack would roil the region and have negative consequences for Russia (a neighbor of Iran via the Caspian Sea). And, he said, the Russian military is taking steps to forestall such an American strike on Iran.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was in Moscow earlier this week calling for ‘crippling sanctions on Iran.’…[The Russian response] “The term ‘crippling sanctions’ on Iran is totally unacceptable to us. … He also pledged that Russia would honor its deal to provide Iran S-300 air defense systems.
* Why Attacking Iran is Bad Politics Fareed Zakaria (who’s he?) Washington Post
But this does not change the powerful calculus against a military strike, which would most likely delay the Iranian program by only a few years. And then there are the political consequences….It is important to recognize the magnitude of what people like Palin are advocating. The United States is being asked to launch a military invasion of a state that poses no imminent threat to America, without sanction from any international body and with few governments willing to publicly endorse such an action. Al-Qaeda and its ilk would present it as the third American invasion of a Muslim nation in a decade, proof positive that the United States is engaged in a war of civilizations. Moderate Arab states and Muslim governments everywhere would be on the defensive. And as Washington has surely come to realize, wars unleash forces that cannot be predicted or controlled.
3. Olympic Views
Context: Tikkunista! is pleased to offer, as the esteemed Stephen Colbert would say, “Exclusive Vancouverage of the 2010 Quadrennial Cold Weather Athletic Competition”. We start with our editor’s own bilious screed, then explore the curious mystery of why women’s ski-jumping isn’t an Olympic sport, offer you a step by step breakdown on how to do a “double full full full” aerobic jump (Not responsible! Not insane!), and conclude with Big Picture’s first set of Olympic pictures
* The Olympic™ Games Peter Marmorek, Marmorek’s Mutterings
Hercules was never my favourite Greek hero; wily Odysseus has that medal sewn up. But legend dictates that we have Heracles to thank for founding the “Olympic” Games and establishing the custom of holding them every four years. Those ancient games were quite different from the ones we are battered with today; you are unlikely to be alone in your inability to imagine the Spartans doing ice dancing. Many of the adaptations are positive, such as the paralympic games, but some are perhaps less faithful to the spirit of the modern incarnation of this ancient tradition. When Baron Pierre de Coubertin helped to create the first modern games, in 1896, he decreed , “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” Somehow, that does not seem to be the way it has worked out….
* Let the Women Jump Southern Beale
I’ve always wondered why there is no women’s ski jump event in the Winter Olympics….It makes no sense: we can fly through the air on snowboards, do back flips on the moguls, yet we can’t ski jump? What’s up with that? Especially since men’s ski jumping has been an Olympic event since the 1920s….Although some very thin and lame excuses have been floated around, what it seems to boil down to is that the European men don’t want to be shown up by a bunch of girls, one of whom holds the record on the actual ski jump used at the Vancouver games. Yes that’s right, Lindsey Vonn beat the men’s record on the exact same ski jump the men will be sliding down to claim their Olympic medals this week…This quote cracked me up: ‘In 2005, Gian Franco Kasper, FIS president and a member of the IOC, said that he didn’t think women should ski jump because the sport “seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.” ’
* Aerial Skiing: Interactive Graphic New York Times
United States Olympic aerialist Ryan St. Onge and science reporter Henry Fountain break down the “double full full full,” a jump St. Onge performed in Vancouver. (Editor’s Note: Not appropriate for humans from a medical point of view.)
* Vancouver, 2010 The Big Picture
4. Greece, the Euro, and Democracy
Context: The core of the conflict is who’s running the country, Brussels or Athens? When a government is elected to follow a monetary policy that conflicts with the Euro-powers, does democracy get overruled? It appears the answer is yes, which is why there are riots in the Athenian streets. Put crudely, will a diet of stingy Brussels sprouts be survivable for the EU’s PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Iceland, Greece, Spain)?
* Greece and Brussels Clash Over Debt Crisis The Guardian
Athens and Brussels clashed today over whether Greece was doing enough to resolve the debilitating debt and deficit crisis that is imperilling the stability of the euro.
George Papaconstantinou, the Greek finance minister, pleaded for time and argued that the radical austerity programme aimed at slashing 4% from the ballooning budget deficit this year was unprecedented in his country’s history. But Olli Rehn, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, cast doubt on the Greek package, demanding extra action…
* A Pretence of Democracy Gary Younge The Guardian
The prospect of Greece going broke poses a threat to the credibility of the entire eurozone. So in a bid to defend the currency – not the people – Germany and France, the eurozone’s two biggest economies, have rather reluctantly made it clear that they would be prepared to bail Greece out. But their help comes at a price. They are demanding massive government sector lay-offs, and cuts in state pay, pensions and other benefits. In other words, the very things that the Greeks have just voted for are about to be systematically dismantled….It is no small irony that the three countries (Portugal, Spain and Greece) that saw EU membership as a means of cementing democracy after rightwing dictatorship should have their leaders dictated to on economic policy by unelected officials and foreign leaders.
* The Nature of Banks…. Chris Spannos Znet
….Like much of the third-world and also workers in the first-world, Greece has been victim to global capital and financial speculation. Although the investigation by the EU statistics agency Eurostat revealed that Goldman Sachs “helped” Greece join the EU using a complicated “currency swap” in 2001, masking the extent of its public deficit and national debt, speculation against the euro and Greece continues. Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel, quoted by Business Week at her Feb. 22 speech in Hamburg,acknowledges that Euro debt “is now becoming the object of speculation by precisely those institutions that we saved a year-and-a-half ago”.
5. Finance Explained
Context: Wait! Don’t glaze those eyes! Simple clear and silly explanations of derivative markets, of why not to trust experts on stocks, why the US is going bankrupt, and why people pirate DVDs all lie just a click away. Trust us… have we ever lied to you before?
* An Easily Understandable Explanation of Derivative Markets
Heidi is the proprietor of a bar in Detroit . She realizes that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar. To solve this problem, she comes up with new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later. She keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans). Word gets around about Heidi’s “drink now, pay later” marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Heidi’s bar. Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in Detroit .
By providing her customers’ freedom from immediate payment demands, Heidi gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages. Consequently, Heidi’s gross sales volume increases massively. A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognizes that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Heidi’s borrowing limit. He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral….
* Statistically Unsound Professions Cracked Magazine
|Many of us find the stock market too intimidating to put money into, or at least we would if we had the money to invest in the first place. How do you decide what stocks to pick? We can’t even pick where to go for lunch half the time and we understand lunch. That’s when you call in a professional, or if you’re not rich, you buy a pre-set package of stocks and bonds that a professional has pre-picked for you, and then sit back and, uh… Watch your stocks grow more slowly than if you picked them at random.
Yes, as it turns out, the majority of professionally managed funds picked by stock market experts (70 to 85 percent) actually underperform the Dow or S&P indexes, which are technically supposed to represent the average performance of the market to begin with.
* Why the U.S. Is Going Bankrupt (a simple single pie chart)
* Why People Pirate DVDs (funny picture)
6. Notes on Survival
Context: People have always been saying that the end is coming. But there’s a new popularity to the imminent apocalypse (The Road, et al) and so a new interest in surviving it. We contrast the individualist perspective (and introduce “preppers”) and contrast that to Chris Hedges’ view of communal survival. And conclude with a cheerful (no, really!) story about real spiritual survival.
* Americans Stock Up To Be Ready For End Of The World The Guardian
Like a growing army of fellow Americans, Pennington is learning how to grow her own food, has stored emergency rations in her home and is taking courses on treating sickness with medicinal herbs. “I feel safe and more secure. I have taken personal responsibility for the safety of myself and of my family,” Pennington said. “We have decided to be prepared. There all kinds of disasters that can happen, natural and man-made.”
Pennington is a “prepper”, a growing social movement that has been dubbed Survivalism Lite. Preppers believe that it is better to be safe than sorry and that preparing for disaster – be it a hurricane or the end of civilisation – makes sense.
* Zero Point of Systemic Collapse Chris Hedges (Thanks, Gabe!)
All resistance must recognize that the body politic and global capitalism are dead. We should stop wasting energy trying to reform or appeal to it. This does not mean the end of resistance, but it does mean very different forms of resistance. It means turning our energies toward building sustainable communities to weather the coming crisis, since we will be unable to survive and resist without a cooperative effort.
These communities, if they retreat into a pure survivalist mode without linking themselves to the concentric circles of the wider community, the state and the planet, will become as morally and spiritually bankrupt as the corporate forces arrayed against us.
* What Could You Live Without? Kristof, NY Times
Kevin Salwen, a writer and entrepreneur in Atlanta, was driving his 14-year-old daughter, Hannah, back from a sleepover in 2006. While waiting at a traffic light, they saw a black Mercedes coupe on one side and a homeless man begging for food on the other.
“Dad, if that man had a less nice car, that man there could have a meal,” Hannah protested….
“What do you want to do?” her mom responded. “Sell our house?”
Warning! Never suggest a grand gesture to an idealistic teenager. Hannah seized upon the idea of selling the luxurious family home and donating half the proceeds to charity, while using the other half to buy a more modest replacement home.
Eventually, that’s what the family did.
7. Reading and Writing Tips
Context: We open with a wonderful collected list of hints collated by the Guardian (Our personal favourite? Roddy Doyle’s “Do not place a photograph of your favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.”, then look at how (and how not) to read SF, and conclude with a funny and helpful array of hints on how to use the semi-colon.
* Ten Rules for Writing Fiction Guardian
…Geoff Dyer Have more than one idea on the go at any one time. If it’s a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It’s only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other. I always have to feel that I’m bunking off from something.
* On Reading SF Tor Jo Walton
A reviewer wanted to make the zombies in Kelly Link’s “Zombie Contingency Plans” (in the collection Magic For Beginners) into metaphors. They’re not. They’re actual zombies. They may also be metaphors, but their metaphorical function is secondary to the fact that they’re actual zombies that want to eat your brains. Science fiction may be literalization of metaphor, it may be open to metaphorical, symbolic and even allegorical readings, but what’s real within the story is real within the story, or there’s no there there. I had this problem with one of the translators of my novel Tooth and Claw—he kept emailing me asking what things represented. I had to keep saying no, the characters really were dragons, and if they represented anything that was secondary to the reality of their dragon nature. He kept on and on, and I kept being polite but in the end I bit his head off—metaphorically, of course.
* How To Use a Semicolon The Oatmeal
10. Quote of the Week
“There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it’s only a hundred billion. It’s less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers” Richard Feynman
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.
Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.
You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”