dissabte, de març 24, 2007

Oksana Chusovitina Worshipping Post

There's only a handful of people I admire, and one of them is Oksana Chusovitina, originally from Uzbekistan, now a German citizen. She's a gymnast and has been on the very elite of women's artistic gymnastics since 1991, yes, 1991. She's the only person in her sport to have competed in four Olympic Games: 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004. Her best apparatus is the vault, followed by floor and beam. She's an Olympic Champion from the Barcelona Games, and has won 10 World Championships medals, including 3 golds. A truly amazing career. She's proven a gymnast can be world-class after becoming a mother and beyond the age of 30. A truly remarkable individual. Go Oksana!


dimarts, de març 20, 2007

divendres, de març 16, 2007

Ghosts keep coming back!!!

Just as I reported some time ago in this very space, there was a person from my past, or ghost, rather, who made a comeback into my life without me really wanting it. Well, there’s been another two such landings recently, namely, a former good friend of mine, and a guy I’ve never really connected with in the first place, but because of common interests was a fixture in a couple of places I used to go to quite a lot. The latter rang me up the other day because he needs something in particular and I’m in sort of the position to say something about what he wants. He wanted to meet up, but didn’t call back again, and I’m surely not going to lift the auricular and phone him. I guess he missed his chance. The other person, and by far a more interesting case, is a guy I had as friend in the early 2000’s. I used to appreciate him quite a lot and had lots of things in common, and were pretty much in the same place spiritually speaking. As his interest in that particular spirituality faded so did our friendship, no returned phonecalls, cancelled appointments ended a friendship, which we never really wanted to save in those days. He phoned me and we had a long chat catching up over things. It was interesting and we may meet up physically for lunch or something. It’s funny, there’s been people who have lost interest in yours truly at times, but there must be something I do that eventually makes them remember me. I’ll ask them all, after all those years, why call again? There’s been times when I’ve felt thoroughly unappreciated by some of my friends, and sometimes we fall out or something, and for good and bad my approach is if there’s no more interest then quit and move on. With all the three persons that had forsaken me I did that and did move on, but they’re back. And I didn’t even ask them to.

diumenge, de març 11, 2007

Los primeros 100 días

Los primeros 100 días
Carlos Monsiváis
11 de marzo de 2007

N otas sobre la campaña me diática de los primeros 100 días del gobierno de Calderón, o de cualquier otro régimen, administración federal o como se le dé en llamar.

* * *

Los símbolos y las realidades. Es muy reciente la estrategia de concentrar en 100 días el destino o la suerte de un sexenio. La maniobra es transparente: impresiona con rapidez y vencerás, y el esquema, típico de la política estadounidense, aparece en el gobierno de Carlos Salinas de Gortari, obsesionado con la mercadotecnia que es publicidad y es manejo de conciencias y es la operación que busca hacer de los ciudadanos clientes adictos...

¡Ah, los primeros días de Carlos Salinas, ese tiempo tan primitivo en materia de "guerra sucia" en los medios electrónicos, cuando un político aún creía ser el giant killer, y se emocionaba hasta las lágrimas al oír los elogios que había ordenado horas antes. ¡Ah, los 100 días de Salinas y de los intelectuales independientes y críticos que lo alababan!

Enero de 1989. Según los rumores, los cuerpos de seguridad en Tampico, la casa del líder petrolero Joaquín Hernández Galicia, y la energía del nuevo mandatario convencen a los todavía creyentes del presidencialismo. Salinas identifica progreso con privatizaciones y patrocina a muy alto costo las atmósferas del triunfalismo. Así, por ejemplo, se decide que quien no reverencie su proyecto es un born loser, un fracasado desde la cuna; se busca extirpar cualquier certidumbre del fraude electoral del 6 de julio de 1988, tarea inútil porque desde esa fecha a 2007, con vigor creciente, no hay duda: en 1988 perdió el PRI, y si esto no modifica la historia sí ridiculiza a los "testigos de calidad" de la victoria arrolladora de Salinas.

El salinismo negocia con la Iglesia católica (abolición de trabas constitucionales a cambio de crédito devocional), pacta en lo oscurito (el único sitio donde en rigor se pacta) con la derecha partidista, y le garantiza todo al sistema financiero internacional y a los empresarios mexicanos: "Y entonces, gracias a Dios, llegó Salinas", exclama Emilio Azcárraga Milmo. También, y allí el estadista resulta organizador de tours sociales, culturales, históricos, Salinas es vidente: el 1 de enero del año 2000, les promete a los jóvenes de la revista Eres: "México estará en el primer mundo...".

No hay debate: la campaña de los primeros 100 días de Salinas es un derroche lamentable y una intrépida contribución al olvido: "Roma no se hizo en 100 días". Nada queda de las mentiras grotescas y las bravuconadas, y la "solidaridad" que modificaría "de raíz" la sicología nacional resulta ser lo previsible: un canje desigual que se impone a la fuerza: "Tú construyes la escuela y la carreterita y te damos crédito o promesas".

Una vez más avasallan la burocracia y la corrupción, y las pirotecnias de los 100 días, al extinguirse en el día 101 ó 102, le abren paso a la represión (los 400 ó 500 perredistas asesinados entre 1989 y 1992), a la privatización salvaje, al Tratado de Libre Comercio al gusto de los empresarios estadounidenses a las alianzas inescrupulosas con el PAN, a los despilfarros, los viajes abigarrados y costosos en pos del liderazgo mundial de Salinas, tan esperpéntico como se oye. ¿Queda siquiera un minuto de esos 100 días?

* * *

A Ernesto Zedillo le da flojera atender los impulsos de su gobierno o, tal vez, se preocupa en demasía por la identidad de Rafael Sebastián Guillén Vicente en Tampico y en la Lacandona. Su mercadotecnia es desganada, y muy dedicada a un solo individuo, el superasesor que es por lo pronto el presidente de la República.

Y Vicente Fox no le concede importancia a tristes y menesterosos 100 días. Acudo a su habla: si está Juan Camaney (él mismo), vale queso andar de cuentachiles con las campañas publicitarias, él ocupa los cuartos y los caserones de la mercadotecnia y no divide el tiempo en días o meses; de hecho, nunca percibe que si hay un principio también hay un final. Chitón. ¿Quién lo dijera? En algún lugar de sus espaciosas meditaciones de 2007, Fox se prepara para sus primeros 100 días de 2000 y 2001.

* * *

¿Por qué concederle tanta importancia a un periodo algo mayor de tres meses? Pesa obviamente la superstición: nunca hay que empezar con el pie izquierdo; el que pega o paga primero, paga dos veces.

Y en el gobierno actual se han querido aplastar las dudas electorales con el mero paso de los días: el desgaste es el equivalente político del carajo, y al que no es dueño del presupuesto ni quien le haga caso. Así que los 100 días se consideran un reparto nacional del olvido.

* * *

Todo en la campaña de los 100 días es y sólo puede ser mediático: la prisa por convencer a todos, la desaparición por decreto de AMLO en el panorama informativo, el éxito sin precedentes de las campañas de cualquier índole, incluso el éxito sin precedentes del éxito sin precedentes.

Luego de 2006 hay cansancio en todas partes, disminuye el impulso de la resistencia y pierden su ebullición las campañas de odio contra los nacos pejistas. Pero la economía, por razones subversivas, no le hace caso a la prosperidad que anuncia el nuevo sexenio, y el alza de la tortilla y el proceso de inmenso deterioro de la economía popular se escapan de la cárcel diamantina de la mercadotecnia, mientras los casi dos pesos de generosísimo aumento al salario mínimo no subyugan a los trabajadores, tan ingratos.

* * *

La extrema derecha prosigue en el éxtasis donde se funden la mística con la ebriedad del poder. Las violaciones feroces a los derechos humanos en Oaxaca y Atenco, para citar dos casos límite, no suscitan mayor respuesta de la sociedad civil, y de este paréntesis de la indignación moral alguna culpa le cabe a las arbitrariedades y desmesuras de grupos y activistas en Atenco y Oaxaca. No hay sino una moraleja: los que exigen respeto a los derechos humanos y civiles deben respetarlos también, no por táctica sino por convicción. De cualquier manera es aberrante, y selecciono con cuidado la palabra, los desmanes y el salvajismo de la represión gubernamental, lo que debería tomarse en cuenta en el recuento de estos días.

La defensa de los derechos humanos es uno de los temas primordiales de la República, y al respecto, con las limitaciones del caso, no cabe minimizar la resolución de la Suprema Corte de Justicia que otorgó el amparo a varios militares cesados por su condición de VIH.

Si los gobiernos en los partidos políticos sólo pueden entregar cuentas mercadotécnicas al desaparecer los milagros de las ofertas de temporada, los avances de la sociedad civil o de los grupos que a ella pertenecen son innegables. Y a este respecto es notable la lección de intolerancia, pobreza argumentativa y confusión mediática ofrecida por tres ministros de la Suprema Corte de Justicia: Salvador Aguirre Anguiano, Mariano Azuela Güitrón y Genaro Góngora Pimentel, empecinados en negar y cancelar los derechos de los militares infectados. Cito a Aguirre Anguiano, que exhibe su cultura fílmica (ignoro de las dos versiones de Pantaleón y las visitadoras que había visto):

"No sé si existen todavía los ´pantaleones´, pero sí existen todavía ´las visitadoras´. Seguirán existiendo y estarán próximas las visitadoras a los cuarteles y, como la Constitución me obliga a no discriminar, a lo mejor también habló de ´visitadores´".

La rabieta nunca reemplaza al ingenio, y de un ministro de la Suprema Corte uno esperaría que su noción de los derechos humanos no se desprendiese de una mala lectura de las zonas homófobas de Picardía mexicana.

Escritor

Worth reading, thought-provoking

Beyond Ethnic

by Florian Bieber
12 September 2005

As Yugoslavia collapsed, conservative elites exploited the language of nationalism primarily as a means to stay in power, V. P. Gagnon argues.

The Myth of Ethnic War: Serbia and Croatia in the 1990s, by V. P. Gagnon, Jr. Cornell University Press, 2004. 217 pages.



If not ethnic, what else? The reader need go no further than the title of The Myth of Ethnic War to get an inkling that the author will suggest that ethnicity was not at the root of the wars in the 1990s in former Yugoslavia. At first, V. P. Gagnon seems to argue as much of the literature published in recent years does: the wars in Croatia, Bosnia, and finally in Kosovo did not arise from "ancient ethnic hatreds" – this dead horse has received more than its necessary flogging over the years – but erupted as a result of manipulation of the citizenry by political elites. However, Gagnon goes one step beyond and suggests that the regimes in Croatia and Serbia did not engage in war for the purpose of mobilizing the nationalist masses or gaining legitimacy. Instead, he introduces the concept of "demobilization" as a process by which political elites discourage the political activism of the population. Demobilization thus is a broad technique of political elites to weaken civil society, moderate the rhetoric of opposition parties, and minimize civic engagement. The "authoritarian wars," as one might be tempted to redub the conflicts of the Yugoslav succession, were thus instruments in the hands of what Gagnon calls "conservative elites" to take political weapons out of the opposition's hands. His analysis of the rich empirical data brings him to conclude that nationalism was not powerful before the beginning of the wars themselves, that the wars were not popular in the two countries, and that the conflicts did not "mobilize" large parts of the population in a nationalist frenzy.

MOBILIZING THE "MODERATES"

Drawing on numerous surveys conducted by Yugoslav social scientists in the late 1980s, Gagnon, who teaches at Ithaca College in New York State and has widely published on former Yugoslavia, makes a convincing case that ethnic stereotypes and nationalist world views were not widely popular, particularly in ethnically diverse regions of Yugoslavia such as in Bosnia and parts of Croatia.

He thrashes out how the nationalist parties won the elections in 1990 and subsequently, not on a platform of ethnonationalist extremism, but of moderation. The Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), in particular, is a good example of a party that generally positioned itself in the political center, with more nationalist parties (Vuk Draskovic’s Serbian Renewal Movement in 1990, Vojislav Seselj’s Serbian Radical Party subsequently) as dark threats mobilizing support for Slobodan Milosevic's "moderate" Socialists. Even as the parties played the card of moderation, neither the SPS in Serbia nor Croatian leader Franjo Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) ever enjoyed the support of the absolute majority of the population, highlighting the constraints to the ruling elites. The hypothesis that most Serbs and most Croats did not want war – most of the youth, anyway – is bolstered by the observation that governments, particularly in Serbia, found it very hard to drum up enough conscripts for the army. The shortfall of reservists forced the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) to revise its ambitious plans for Croatia, as the last defense minister of Yugoslavia, Veljko Kadijevic, admits in his memoirs, Moje vidjenje raspada Jugoslavije (My View of the Breakup of Yugoslavia): young men's draft resistance "became a major limiting factor in carrying out plans to deploy the JNA, more than all the other problems put together.”

Gagnon's argument against the idea that ethnicity was more than a tool wielded by conservative elites to secure their hold on power is coherent and convincing. By the time the regimes headed by Milosevic and Tudjman finally gave way within a few months of each other, the ethnic question had receded, Gagnon writes. Control over power and resources was no longer as intrinsically linked to the state, the "privatization" of businesses to tycoons close to the HDZ in Croatia being a case in point. Thus resistance against "transition" decreased and conservative elites' grip on state organs subsided.

Gagnon’s arguments are refreshing and lucid. His challenge to some of the conventional wisdom on former Yugoslavia joins a line of recent works, some from within the region, some by outsiders such as Eric Gordy in The Culture of Power in Serbia, that have demonstrated how authoritarian leaders made nationalism into a political instrument. While it is not hard to be sympathetic to the argument, the question arises whether this explanatory approach does not attribute too much influence to elites and neglect nationalist mobilization among the population prior to its exploitation by elites.

CONSERVATIVE RADICALS

Gagnon relies heavily on the notion of "conservative elites" to describe the governing circles in Serbia and Croatia. These circles did in fact largely grow out of the conservative wing of the Yugoslav Communists. The term "conservative," however, is so broad that it hardly helps us understand the nature of the elite that took power in each republic. If we understand "conservative elites" in opposition to "democratic elites" in the party, as argued in the 1990s by Latinka Perovic, historian and head of the ruling League of Communists in Serbia in the early 1970s, we also find many conservatives who sided against the rising nationalists. In fact, a significant part of the elites in Vojvodina, Serbia, and Montenegro which were swept away in the "anti-bureaucratic revolutions" instigated by Milosevic in 1988 were part of that conservative elite, as were some of those who made incessant critiques of nationalism in Croatia. What is striking is why Milosevic made a choice for authoritarian and nationalist policies in 1987. As a rising star in the party, his career could have taken a path similar to that of Milan Kucan in Slovenia. Both rose through the ranks as pragmatic reformers in the mid-1980s, but while both survived the end of Yugoslavia and Communism, one made a career as a democratic reformer, the other in being largely responsible for the wars which ravaged former Yugoslavia and finally as a resident of a Hague prison cell. As Jasna Dragovic-Soso’s excellent study of Serb intellectuals (‘Saviours of the Nation’: Serbia’s Intellectual Opposition and the Revival of Nationalism, 2002) highlights, much of the liberal and reformist elites had already turned to nationalism in the 1980s, before Milosevic came to power. While certainly conservative elites existed and in part supported nationalist agendas to secure political or economic power, the persuasive force of nationalism needs to be recognized beyond its purely manipulative function. By no means primordial or inevitably leading to the violent breakup of the multi-ethnic state, the rise of nationalism to dominate political discourse by the late 1980s was not only the result of ethnic entrepreneurs who exploited the rise of nationalism for political ends. When we see a motley group like the Serbian Orthodox Church, popular magazines such as the weekly Duga, and Marxist philosopher Mihailo Markovic taking up the issue of Kosovo in the early 1980s, this indicates a more rooted presence of nationalism. While the mass mobilization in Serbia in 1988 was certainly well organized, as Gagnon points out, it also indicated general dissatisfaction, both of economic nature and frustration with the continued tensions in Kosovo.

While Gagnon's argument that the regimes never won absolute majorities certainly holds true, it does not always dovetail with his case that the regimes' moderation indicates less support for nationalism than has often been suggested. Satellite parties and opposition parties in both Serbia and Croatia often advocated a more radical and exclusivist nationalist agenda than the dominant parties. Although the fringe parties, such as the Party of Serbian Unity led by the paramilitary warlord Arkan or the Croat Party of Pure Right, never gained many votes, elections were often contested either on the basis of more extreme policies or on the basis of a "national consensus." This suggests that while the wars were certainly widely unpopular, there was much shared in the basic assumptions on the war and the national "question" in both countries.

TRANSFORMED CONCEPTS FOR TRANSFORMED SOCIETIES

These points of criticism do not suggest that the mechanism of "demobilization" was not at work. Indeed, the book is overall more convincing than those studies that assume the existence of extreme nationalism or suggest that nationalist regimes shored themselves up by exploiting some kind of mass hysteria. Taking into account the considerable degree of variation within Yugoslavia, the case is probably merely not as clear-cut as the author suggests. As a result, this book is an excellent addition to the literature on former Yugoslavia and stands out for its coherent argument, the comparative perspective, and the inclusion of social science literature from the region itself.

In a thoughtful conclusion, Gagnon raises the question whether “ethnic solutions,” such as increased minority rights protection, as for example in the Ohrid Agreement after the short conflict between Macedonian forces and Albanian-minority fighters in 2001, are appropriate if we agree that the conflicts were not “ethnic wars.” This observation is certainly worth more thorough contemplation than the book (or this review) has space for. It also raises a question: If the wars do not start as “ethnic,” do they end up being “ethnic”? The authoritarian regimes and the wars in Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina have transformed societies, which is one reason why clear hindsight of the 1980s is so difficult to achieve today. Stereotypes and nationalist world views have often become more socially acceptable in the post-conflict regions of former Yugoslavia than some 15 years ago and a new generation has grown up in the isolated countries of the region, suggesting that the postwar systems have to engage with a fundamentally different reality.


Florian Bieber is senior non-resident research associate at the European Center for Minority Issues, Belgrade, and author of Nationalismus in Serbien vom Tode Titos bis zum Ende der Ära Milosevic (Nationalism in Serbia from the Death of Tito to the End of the Milosevic Era), Münster/Vienna: Lit Verlag, 2005.

dijous, de març 08, 2007

All things ExYu

“No evidence Muslims shelled themselves”

8 March 2007 12:42 Source: B92, SENSE

THE HAGUE -- Former UNPROFOR commander Rupert Smith testified at the Hague trial of General Dragomir Milošević.

The former British general took the stand yesterday at the trial of the former Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) Sarajevo-Romanija Corps commander charged with the shelling of Sarajevo and sniper campaign against its civilians from August 1994 to November 1995.

In a brief examination-in-chief the prosecution went through the most relevant paragraphs in General Smith's comprehensive written statement. It was admitted into evidence together with other documents whose authenticity was confirmed by the witness.

Yesterday Smith confirmed the prosecution’s description of the Bosnian Serb strategy, the nature of command and control in the VRS and the peculiar manner in which General Mladić exercised command. General Smith described it as "centralized".

The former UNPROFOR commander said that the use of the artillery - to shell Sarajevo – was controlled at the level of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps, and consequently of the accused General Milošević who commanded the Corps.

The witness thought the sniper activities were coordinated at the battalion level, but they could have been "controlled from higher levels". Smith said that the Corps command could have issued orders to limit the sniper activity or to steer them to certain targets.

General Rupert Smith confirmed that he had concluded "beyond reasonable doubt" the mortar shell that caused the Markale 2 massacre had come “from the Serb positions around Sarajevo.”

He told the court he reached the conclusion by putting together the results of two investigations, undertaken by the UN military observers and the UNPROFOR Sarajevo Sector experts.

At the end of the examination-in chief, prosecutor Alex Whiting asked Smith whether he had any knowledge of the Bosnian Army "shelling and sniping at its own civilians". The former UNPROFOR commander said that he had "heard of such allegations", but that he was never shown "a single piece of evidence to corroborate them".

General Milošević's defense counsel took those claims as the starting point for the cross-examination. One of the defense lawyers referred to the book written by General Michael Rose, Smith’s predecessor at the post of UNPROFOR commander, and the testimony of General Nikolai, General Smith's former chief of staff.

Smith said that he “had not read General Rose's book.” He went on to testify that General Rose himself “never told him anything about the Bosnian Army shooting at its own people". As for Nikolai's statement, Smith said that the Dutch general "merely presented unsubstantiated claims".

Visible, invisible

Visible, invisible

Just yesterday I was doing my usual round of sitting and letting time pass by at Starbucks’, and I observed a number of things: firstly, there’s definitely a problem with the toilets there. I’ve noticed that no one really knocks on the door in they see it closed. At first I thought, what ever happened to manners, didn’t their mothers teach them that it’s compulsory to knock before opening a door? But then I realised that perhaps, when Mexicans think of American franchises and their settings, maybe they think all of them are like McDonald’s or Burger King, where there’s at least two cubicles with toilets inside, and by analogy, consumers think that it will be the same at the Starbucks. Curious, ha?

And then, I tend to think of myself as rather invisible, explaining myself better, I’ve grown accustomed to have the view that because of my rather ungracious looks, I’m the kind of person most everyone won’t be drawn to speaking with, or that will cause somebody’s curiosity. Of course it’s a severe case of heavily-guarded self-view, which of course is rather bad for it’s not helping for my own personal development. Anyways, the point I want to make is that actually someone did talk to me, and was very interesting and humbling because I realised how greatly prejudiced I am towards people. Maybe I’m the one who doesn’t speak to people because of the way they look, which is really a shame and something to work on.

Anyhow, I was sitting there and a Serbian acquaintance of mine called me up and asked about the Balkan entries for Eurovision 2007, being the big fan I am of the contest I replied enthusiastically and in full detail. Such deed required me of speaking more than a few words in the language and stuff. Upon finishing my call, the boy next to me started a conversation. I had noticed him earlier, he looked like one of those teens from exclusive private schools, and with the attitude that sometimes goes with them, so I paid no further attention to him, but then there he was. He asked me what kind of language is that that I was speaking. I mentioned that it was Serbian, but he looked perplexed, and asked me if I could explain to him what it was. I did give him a short lecture on the subject and I thought that would be the end of it. He looked very interested in the topic and thanked for explaining him the thing.

But then he went on and asked me what I did for a living, and then I ended up helping him with his homework, for the kid was taking Art History at school and hating it. I think he was 17. And later came the most interesting, he had with him a Buddha image a teacher of his had given him, he said it looked cool but couldn’t understand it. I offered to explain, and lectured then again. He seemed to have appreciated it even more. I found it difficult to explain, though succinctly, the Dharma to such a young man, but I think the message did come across. I was also happy that there’s still people receptive to other people regardless of their looks, or whether they know them or not. It was a stimulating hour and it made me very happy that I was able to broaden a bit the experience of that young man, in a totally altruistic manner.

dimecres, de març 07, 2007

Aerodroma Željava

Una de las "maravillas" militares de la antigua Yugoslavia se perdió, tal vez para siempre, en el conflicto interétnico de comienzo de los años noventa. El aeródromo de Željava era una de las joyas y orgullos del Ejército del Pueblo Yugoslavo. Dicha instalación, subterránea, constituía una de las armas y ases de los planes de defensa del Estado, ideado por los miembros más prominentes de la cúpula de Tito. Su costo en miles de millones de dólares hace la restauración prácticamente irrealizable, por lo que el aeródromo quedará para las presentes y futuras generaciones, como testimonio del experimento fallido que representó Yugoslavia.




dilluns, de març 05, 2007

Great work by a great artiste

Worldwide Freaks Rejoice: Master DARIO ARGENTO is in the house! His two best films: Deep Red and Suspiria