Sunday, April 02, 2006

Week 13

Weekly Roundup

Introducing a new feature of my blog!
A sum up of the most memorable (and intellignt) articles/quotes I've read online this week.


'Fortunately, history is not made up of daily headlines, blogs on Web sites, or the latest sensational attack. History is a bigger picture, and it takes some time and perspective to measure accurately Donald Rumsfeld


Herrings are dangerous! (as dangerous a bombs and firearms)

Airlines ban 'foul' Swedish fish, Lars Bevanger

On religion

At a time when religion is becoming increasingly important elsewhere, we Europeans have largely forgotten our religious past, and we have difficulty understanding the role that religion can play in other peoples' daily lives. In some ways, "they" are our own buried past and -- with a combination of ignorance, prejudice and, above all, fear -- "we" are afraid that "they" could define our future.

Emotion at the root of clashing 'civilizations', Dominique Moisi

On globalization

Globalization may not have created these layers of conflict, but it has accelerated them by making the differences more visible and palpable. In our globalized age, we have lost the privilege -- and, paradoxically, the virtue -- of ignorance. We all see how others feel and react, but without the minimal historical and cultural tools necessary to decipher those reactions. Globalization has paved the way to a world dominated by the dictatorship of emotions -- and of ignorance.
Emotion at the root of clashing 'civilizations', Dominique Moisi

On the EU

EU texts also have a grab-bag nature with each member state seeking to insert pet projects or ideologies. The intentions may be good, but this means a summit communique often contains clauses which appear contradictory. And most EU declarations are far too long.

The classic case of doing the EU splits pits pro-market economy Anglo-Saxon and northern European member states against countries like France which favors a bigger government role in the economy and is often accused of being protectionist.
Acquis communautaire? Subsidiarity? It's all Euro-babble to me, DPA

On French protests

Behind the current political crisis seems nothing less than the essential question confronting Europe today: whether the soft safety net can survive in a more competitive world.

But on another level, France is not seized by ambitious dreams or a desire to sacrifice. So this is a protest that uses the revolutionary methods of the streets - which proved so potent in riots last autumn in the disadvantaged city suburbs - in defense of thoroughly conservative principles.

It has become a cross-generational revolt. Baby-boomers embraced by the generous French social welfare system want to protect treasured benefits long into retirement. Their children do not believe they should pay to keep the system in place - unless they too benefit from it.

Shaking France, a revolt both angry and mellow, Elaine Sciolino

…there is something in the argument that in this most conservative and reform-resistant of nations, where citizens can feel both oppressed by an omnipresent state and reliant on it for their sense of security (or even identity), strikes and marches act as a kind of national therapy.

Strikes: French national therapy, John Henley

On language learning and Chinese
language study is like mountaineering: you reach one crest, only to discover you are still in the foothills; you scale the next big peak only to find another, far higher one further ahead. But for exactly the same reason, it can be very satisfying to look back at all the ground you have covered.

Two big differences between learning Chinese and any other language are the tones and the characters. Mandarin has a far wider range of characters than English (more than 4,000 ideograms are commonly used, compared with the 26 letters of the alphabet) but a far narrower range of syllables.

As my erudite predecessor the classical scholar John Gittings put it: "Chinese is rich in vocabulary but phonetically impoverished." To distinguish between identical phonemes, Mandarin uses tones - four of them. And as a foreigner who struggles to hit the right note even in karaoke, it is the tones that get me every time.
Empire of signs, Jonathan Watt

On US imperial overreach

In becoming so catastrophically engaged in the Middle East, making the region its overwhelming global priority, it downgraded the importance of everywhere else, taking its eye off the ball in a crucial region such as east Asia, which in the long run will be far more important to the US's strategic interests than the Middle East.

The overwhelming preoccupation of the Bush administration (and Blair for that matter) with Iraq, the Middle East and Islam, speaks of a failure to understand the deeper forces that are reshaping the world and an overriding obsession with realising and exploiting the US's temporary status as the sole global superpower. Such a myopic view can only hasten the decline of the US as a global power, a process that has already started.

Iraq was supposed to signal the US's new global might: in fact, it may well prove to be a harbinger of its decline.

Imperial overreach is accelerating the global decline of America, Martin Jacques

On the rise of the East

If you want to understand the future, [East Asia is] where to be. It may now be a cliche, but it is no less true for that. East Asia - driven by China - is in the process of remaking the world. For two centuries, Europe was the epicentre of the world - no more; now it is here, or will be very soon.

Always beware your moment of triumphalism: such emotions are a poor steer on the future.
How the west is lost, Martin Jacques

On Europe and cultural clash

…it is no longer possible for Europe to ignore the sensibilities of peoples with very different values, cultures and religions. First, western Europe now has sizeable minorities whose origins are very different from the host population and who are connected with their former homelands in diverse ways. If European societies want to live in some kind of domestic peace and harmony - rather than in a state of Balkanisation and repression - then they must find ways of integrating these minorities on rather more equal terms than, for the most part, they have so far achieved. That must mean, among other things, respect for their values. Second, it is patently clear that, globally speaking, Europe matters far less than it used to - and in the future will count for less and less. We must not only learn to share our homelands with people from very different roots, we must also learn to share the world with diverse peoples in a very different kind of way from what has been the European practice.

Old attitudes of superiority and disdain - dressed up in terms of free speech, progress or whatever - are still very powerful. Nor - as many liberals like to think - are they necessarily in decline. On the contrary, racial bigotry is on the rise, even in countries that have previously been regarded as tolerant.

Europe's contempt for other cultures can't be sustained, Martin Jacques

On Al-Jazeera

All this makes me so sad. In 1996, the birth of al-Jazeera was a breath of free speech in a region of censorious governments, and Bush should back them rather than bomb them. I made the mistake of making a masochistic appearance on Fox TV once to justify my representation of "terrorists" in Guantanamo. "Fair and balanced" is the Fox motto, but I was labelled a traitor for trying to defend American constitutional values. If the US wants to criticize bias in the press, perhaps it should look a little closer to home.
Embedded in Gitmo, Clive Stafford Smith

On grammar
Why grammar is something we care about, Michael McCarthy

On the end of superpower-ism

The lessons for today are clear. While military power remains important, it is a mistake for any country to discount the role of economic power and soft power. But it is also a mistake to discount the importance of leaders with humanitarian values.

Gorbachev and the end of the Cold War, Joseph Nye

On democracy’s hypocrisy

When is an election not considered free and fair by the West? Answer: when it delivers victory to a government that rejects neoliberal orthodoxy and refuses to orientate its foreign policy toward Washington or Brussels.

The West's hypocrisy on Belarus, Neil Clark

On civilian targets

Defenders of the area-bombing campaigns point out that losing the war against such wicked, dangerous enemies would have been the biggest immorality of all. They are right. But stooping to tactics as barbarous as those of the axis powers could only have been justified if there were no other arguably better ways of using the bombing weapon.

Bombing civilians is not only immoral, it's ineffective, AC Grayling

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