Archive for March, 2012

The hypocrite, the fanatic, or Obama?

By Richard Falk
While the headline deals with the Presidential candidates, Falk reflects also on the essence of democracy itself and on whether the US can at all be called a democracy.

The American electorate is facing a presidential election in which there is almost no prospect of a constructive debate. On the Republican side the campaign for the nomination has exhibited the clash of irresponsible and reactionary views, slightly relieved by the libertarian Ron Paul who at least counsel against militarism and the death dance with Israel.

All the Republican presidential hopefuls, except Paul, exhibit a craven distaste for reality when they attack Obama for being insufficiently pro-Israeli, as if 95%+ is insufficient. Such a posture, whether meant seriously or not, expresses contempt for the intelligence and common sense of the American citizenry. Read the rest of this entry »

The face of the crisis – and some alternatives

By Johan Galtung

From Madrid, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia-UNED, Foro Los Nuevos Problemas Sociales, 24 Mar 2012

Here is one of the hidden faces of the economic crisis:

(¶C/¶t) + (¶C/¶S)rS + (1/2)(¶2C/¶S2)q2S2 = rC

The famous Black-Scholes equation to find the “correct price” for financial derivatives. Based on partial derivatives over time, this is classical calculus for continuous change; useful within a zone of stability, but not at the edge of that zone, the tipping points explored in René Thom’s catastrophe theory years earlier.

Black-Scholes is intellectually like calculating increasing speed of an accelerating car heading for a wall or an abyss. But, with warnings, no 1997 “Nobel Prize in Economics” (actually a Swedish State Bank’s prize honoring Alfred Nobel)? And one year later their company “Long Term Capital Management” had lost $100 billion and collapsed. The trade in derivatives is now at $1 quadrillion a year (15 zeros), ten times the industrial economy of the whole 20th century. Many got rich, but the system collapsed. Maybe prison would have been more adequate for intellectual sloppiness? Read the rest of this entry »

Way to end war in Afghanistan

By Jonathan Power

After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and got totally bogged down there was a joke circulating in Moscow. “Why are we still in Afghanistan? Answer: We are still looking for the people who invited us”.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, architect of US policy in Afghanistan when he was President Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, was convinced Afghanistan would become the Soviet Union’s Vietnam. In fact the Soviet Union’s Vietnam has become America’s Afghanistan.

There is truth in both these cynical observations. And there are lies, distortions and self-delusion built into the narrative. Only Russia has been more or less honest. Under President Mikhail Gorbachev it decided to cut its losses and withdraw and was open about the reason it did so.

Today the debate in the US is contorted. Read the rest of this entry »

Get the law and politics right in Iran now!

By Richard Falk

In his important article in the New York Times, March 17, 2012, James Risen summarized the consensus of the intelligence community as concluding that Iran abandoned its program to develop nuclear weapons in 2003, and that no persuasive evidence exists that it has departed from this decision.

It might have been expected that such news based on the best evidence that billions spent to get the most reliable possible assessments of such sensitive security issues would produce a huge sigh of relief in Washington, but on the contrary it has been totally ignored, including by the highest officers in the government. Read the rest of this entry »

Syria – here are some solutionS and roadS to them

By Johan Galtung

We all feel desperate watching the horrible killing, feeling the suffering of the bereaved, the whole people. But, what to do?

Could it be that the UN, and governments in general, have a tendency to make the same mistake, again and again, of putting the cart before the horse? The formula they use is generally:

[11 Get rid of No. 1 as key responsible, using sanctions; then

[2] Cease-fire, appealing to the parties, or intervening, imposing;

[3] Negotiation among all legitimate parties; and from that

[4] A political solution as a compromise between the positions.

It looks so logical. There is a key responsible, President Assad, ordering the killing; get rid of him by all means. Then the cease-fire, the fire ceasing; then negotiation, and then the solution emerges. Logical, yes; but maybe not very wise. Read the rest of this entry »

Afghanistan: The war turns pathological – Leave!

By Richard Falk

The latest occupation crime in Afghanistan is a shooting spree on March 11 by a lone American soldier in the village of Balandi in the Panjwai District of Kandahar Province of Afghanistan. 16 Afghan civilians, including women and children, were shot in their homes in the middle of the night without any pretense of combat activity in the area.

Such an atrocity is one more expression of a pathological reaction by one soldier to an incomprehensible military reality that seems to be driving crazy American military personnel on the ground in Afghanistan. The main criminal here is not the shooter, but the political leader who insists on continuing a mission in face of the evidence that it is turning its own citizens into pathological killers. Read the rest of this entry »

Africa’s lions are roaring

By Jonathan Power
Abuja, Nigeria

Approximately half the people of Africa own a mobile phone. In many African countries phone technology is ahead of Europe and North America. Money can be transferred from the city to an upcountry village. Bills can be paid. In Ghana farmers can receive text messages reporting the price of yams and corn two towns away and thus find the best market without a middleman. In Kenya residents of small villages can receive texts to say when the perambulating doctor will next be coming. In parts of West Africa nurses are storing patients’ data on phones.

It may be more difficult to build up fast internet penetration on pcs but in some countries 40% of mobile owners are using phones for email and the internet. The IMF says that the telecommunication sector is adding 2% to Nigeria’s already handsome annual economic growth.

Black Africa has come late to the party but a majority of its 48 countries is leaping ahead. Read the rest of this entry »

If it bleeds it leads!

By Jonathan Power

If it bleeds it leads! The mantra of many a newsroom. In their new book, “Pax Ethnica” two great journalists, Karl Meyer and Shareen Brysac, argue that day in and day out ethnic conflict and tension along religious and cultural lines makes for reliable, if dispiriting, headlines.

Journalists regularly play plenty of attention to failed states, sectarian violence and societies at the breaking point. But what about those unsung exceptions, the communities of the world where diverse groups live together in harmony? Read the rest of this entry »

Peace mathematics – does it exist?

By Johan Galtung

It does, even in print; pardon some publicity! You may start at the end with the table of contents, then, here is the book epilogue:

Epilogue: Enthusiast E and Skeptic S: Dialogue at a Higher Level

E: Well, where are we now? How do you feel?

S: A little exhausted. But greatly relieved at one major point.

E: Any particular chapter, branch, part of peace theory?

S: No, the whole thing. I worried that you would put something belonging to all of us, peace, into a big machine with parameters and then the machine would produce outputs about what to do. Like economists do with something belonging to us, our own livelihood. I liked your distinction between equations and formulas, between mathematics and mathematese.

E: Is your worry that reality is so complex that no set of equations can ever mirror it? Like linear equations being inadequate, non-linear equations being more promising? Read the rest of this entry »

Hana Shalabi: A brave act of Palestinian nonviolence

By Richard Falk

No sooner had Khader Adnan ended his 66 day life threatening hunger strike than new urgent concerns are being voiced for Hana Shalabi, another West Bank hunger striker now without food for more than 24 days. Both strikes were directed by Palestinian activists against the abusive use of administrative detention by Israeli West Bank occupying military forces, protesting both the practice of internment without charges or trial and the degrading and physically harsh treatment administered during the arrest, interrogation, and detention process.

The case of Hana Shalabi should move even the most hardhearted. She seems a young tender and normal woman who is a member of Islamic Jihad, and is dedicated to her family, hopes for marriage, and simple pleasures of shopping. Read the rest of this entry »


Subscribe to
TFF PressInfo
and Newsletter