I look into the world and i think that we live a great time, where, in a click you can talk to people all around the world.

Interested in being a member (click here) or if you just want to leave a short message (click here)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated

Benazir Bhutto was assassinated today. This is perhaps one of the worst things that could have happened to Pakistan at this time, as she was the best chance of getting rid of Musharraf. I'm interested to hear what people think will happen now. I think it is likely that Musharraf will declare another state of emergency and postpone the elections indefinitely.

You can read the NYT story here.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Letter to Santa Claus...

Hi Santa Claus,

I know that last year was impossible for to you to give me any present. I thought it was too easy, but it seemed it was the other way around.
So this year I will try to ask something simpler. This year I will be more selfish and I will only ask some gifts for myself.

First, I would like to be able to move around in December without being steeped, kicked and pushed around. Probably you don’t know, since you are extremely busy this time of the year, but people get crazy in December. You cannot buy anything without having the sensation that you are in the savannah, in the middle of a stampede.

Second, as you already know I love to travel, so I would love, as a present, to be able to travel around the world without feeling afraid or feeling that there are people around me that live a more miserable life than mine.

Finally, since I want to travel, I just would like you to replace me over the next year on my job. That way I can travel as you will be working for my salary. Don’t be afraid, my job is easy. If you can manage to deliver all presents to the world in only 24h, for sure you can do my job easily.

Hope that you receive my letter on time,

Best Regards,


Life without Christmas presents…

Responding to a challenge here is my view of life without having to buy presents.

What would I do with the money I would save if I did not buy the presents for Christmas?

When she first asked me this I had no answer. I never thought of this question in my entire life, so I had no answer. I thought, and thought, and thought until smoke came out of my head. I though that I would give a Social Institution. Or that I would buy something to myself, etc…

But as I thought of this, something in my mind told me that this would not happen. Well it is not that I do not wish to do that, but rather that I would not do that.

Then it stroke me. Really nothing of that would happen. If I did not spend the money on these presents, nothing significant would change in my life and in the world. I would just spend on little stuff like a coffee, or one more magazine, or a drink in the rest of the year. Just that! Why? Well, because I would not have in my mind that I had to buy presents in December, so I would be freer to spend it in insignificant stuff.

So, it is good that someone created Christmas so we can buy a present to the ones more close to us.

In our fast pace world we need this mandatory stuff to make us stop a little bit and appreciate the people around us. It is sad, but true…

Friday, December 14, 2007

Congratulations Europe

It is not a perfect union, but, nonetheless, it is a successful one. After many wars, countries that were almost historical enemies taught a lesson to the world a created this space that we now call European Union. Some generations don't know how it was before, and how we progress with this Union.

Yesterday in Lisbon we took another step forward, and everything considered it is a good progress. Only the future will tell what it is going to happen next but I am looking forward to reach what this treaty points to - a True Union!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Without net...

This last two weeks I have been without Internet.

I do not remember the time I was that long without the possibility of going to the net. Normally when I go on vacation I do not miss it, don’t even think about it, but being here (and being too lazy to go to a net cafe), doing my normal life but without the possibility of blogging or surfing the net was, without a doubt, a very odd experience. It was like something was missing, like I have been cut out of the world.
It made me realize that this little tool already gain its own importance in my life. Not a vital importance, but nonetheless a importance.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Question to You All...

Hi everyone!

Just a question to everybody here... should I carry on with my chronicle?

I'm not trying to sound silly (although I might do anyway!) - but I've noticed a huge lack of response to my chronicles! Am not guilting anybody into commenting, of course, but they do take a large chunk of my time to write....

Let me know, lovelies!

Friday, November 09, 2007

And In Tonight's News...

(See my previous entry for a brief explanation to this two-part chronicle!)

Part Two - News and Media

Think about the last time you saw, heard or read the news? How much of what was reported was good news that put a smile on your face? My bet is, unless it was the local newspaper you were reading there was very little in the way of happy stories.

I can't claim to know a lot about American news broadcasts, as I have only seen it a handful of times in my life when visiting New York - but the news that I did see really opened my eyes to the way they don't just inform people of the news, but they make them fear the news.

Compared with UK news (which I will talk about in a moment) their style is faster - with headlines issued in dramatic bullet points. If you went by some of their news alone, it almost seems that the USA is constantly under threat by some way - be it terrorists, dangerously faulty products or animal attacks!

But again, I stress that I have only seen a handful of news broadcasts in America, so these could all be isolated occasions - I am happy for people to prove me wrong!

Also, this does not mean I am sitting here saying that the news in the UK is any better - whilst not as edgy and fast-paced as out American counter-parts, it is still made into a dramatic event to watch the news. We are constantly told our homes, health, family, money and country all could be at risk from various elements.

Don't get me wrong - having access to the current events and knowing what is going on is very important, and I am not arguing that at all, what I am talking about is the way the news is presented. One could argue that it needs to be dramatic to get our attentions and make us sit up and notice.

I also put to you the newspapers - once more, I don't know what newspapers outside of the UK but many of the newspapers here sensationalise everything sometimes I often think more time is spent on eye catching headlines then the story and facts itself.

Another point I would like to raise is how can we trust 100% what we are reading, seeing or hearing? In the UK there have been notable scandals in print - what is to stop this happening again? Here are a couple of examples:

In April 1989 at Hillsborough football stadium in Sheffield, England, a tragedy occurred when a human stampede occurred resulting in the death of 96 people (all Liverpool football fans). However, The Sun's report on this event was grossly altered with the addition of shocking facts to, presumably, sell more copies of their publication. This backfired on them terribly, and people in Liverpool to this day hardly buy the paper. For a more detailed account:- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillsborough_disaster#The_Sun_newspaper_controversy

Piers Morgan, former editor of Daily Mirror was fired in 2004 for a scandal that rocked the country and everyone talked about - he authorised the publication of faked photographs of Iraqi prisoners being held and abused by British Army personnel. The Daily Mirror countered that it had fallen victim to a "calculated and malicious hoax" and apologised for their publication.

Of course, all this is my personal view and once again I am not 'slagging off' the news as such, just the way it is presented to us, the general public.

What do you think? How is the news presented where you live? And do you agree or disagree with any of my points?

Monday, November 05, 2007

A concerted effort !

Life has been extremely busy in the last week, plus I am hitting the high road again for a week to all points south, so will try to get some photos posted of my travels. Then off to the Baltic for three days.

I feel the need to pass comment on the man of very little honour, Sir Ian Blair, who feels no sense of personal shame in his role in the shooting to death with Dum Dum bullets a totally innocent man.

I feel the need to comment on the 'requirement' to keep innocent men and women locked up pending enquiries for upto three months.

I feel the need to oppose the authoritarian ravings of 'Balls' dragooning the next generation with threats of Court action if they fail to obey.

Being so busy I feel I have taken my eye off the ball, and let another two weeks of the State grabbing more power without me noticing.

Friday, November 02, 2007

I'm Ready For My Close-up, Darling...

In light of the recent rantings and ravings of Heather Mills-McCartney against the UK press*, I decided to do this chronicle about the media, both here in the UK and what we actually get see of the press from around the world. I'll make this over a couple of chronicles otherwise it will be a very long entry....!

Part One - Celebrity

I decided to start with one of the most obvious things we think of when we consider the media and the press - celebrity. It seems today you can hardly switch on the TV, open a newspaper, browse a magazine or surf the Internet without being bombarded by stories, pictures and quotes from these people.

More common than not, nowadays, are quotes from celebrities complaining about the way paparazzi treat them. Many well known faces and names continually bemoan how the press focus on how they look, where they go, what they do and how they live. They urge people to not by the tabloids which - according to them - always contain false stories and quotes.

Whether you are interested in celebrity gossip or not, it is hard to get away from the fact the world seems to be obsessed with them.

Should the paparazzi leave them alone? Just because they sung that song, acted in that movie or wrote that book does that mean that we have to see pictures of them in their daily life? Why shouldn't we relish photographs of them looking rough - after all it shows that nobody's perfect...
But the trouble is, do we really - deep, deep down actually care? Could the obsession with fame be simply a way of avoiding looking at our own lives? Celebrities aren't perfect - we all know that, but why do some people need the round the clock, daily evidence of this?

Why do people hero worship these men and women, who in reality have as many - if not more - flaws than we do! Their rise to fame is closely monitored, they have praise and adoration lavished upon them and then eventually the world relishes in their eventual downfall.

Perhaps you think that they should, if not embrace, at least tolerate the attention they receive? After all - you can't possibly become famous and not expect to see your picture in the newspapers or attract interest when you pop to your local corner shop!

So - what do you think, should they stop complaining and actually use their positions to become role models for the younger generations, or do you think they have a right to 100% privacy when they are not purposefully in the spotlight?


*External Links re: Heather Mills McCartney

GMTV - http://www.gm.tv/index.cfm?articleid=27356
BBC - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7070634.stm

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Jingle Bell Rock

Well, it's officially started over here. The UK is buzzing with thoughts of Christmas... in October!

Nearly every person I've spoken to feels the urge to mention "x number of weeks till Christmas". Great, thanks a lot - that makes me feel really fabulous. I don't know about you, but the thought of Christmas sends me into a panic, but normally I can to wait until December 1st to to have a meltdown over presents, gift wrap, gift tags, sellotape and ribbon. Don't even mention the food!

Switching on the television last night I was greeted by an advert for a well known catalogue singing out "I wish it could be Christmas every day...." and more toy commercials then you could shake a tinsel covered stick at!

Why do they feel the need to sell Christmas to us? Why do supermarkets pipe the smell of freshly baked mince pies through the air ducts to tempt us into buying them? Why bombard us with adverts telling us that their product will make it the best Christmas ever? Surely it goes without saying most people will spend a ton of cash on Christmas without making us start two months early!

I also wonder how they get away with it - after being warned against showing the Union Jack in England during the football World Cup in case it offended people I wonder why is there isn't a similar rule? Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas and by no means am I a Scrooge, but if you personally don't celebrate Christmas - for whatever reason - do you really want to be reminded of it everywhere far earlier in the year than is really necessary?

I read recently that some smaller towns have has their local Council banning Christmas lights and a tree going up in the town centre in case it offends people with other beliefs. Is that political correctness gone mad or a reasonable step to take?

Christmas is a lovely time of the year for spending time with the family, eating lovely food and having time off work, but as we all know it is a religious celebration - so why don't we have the similar mass advertising on other religions festivals? One could argue that Christianity has been the main religion of England for many hundreds of years - many people belong to the Church of England - and therefore we have that 'right' over other religions, but is that fair?

Who draws the line between what might offend other people and what wouldn't?


Sorry that this post is late, by the way! The area where I live has been having major cable issues and I have only just got my Internet connection back!!!


Monday, October 22, 2007


It was said that last week was an important week for the future of Europe. Under Portugal’s presidency, the main figures of power finally agreed upon a common text that will change European Union!

Saying this, I some questions arose in my mind:

Which Future?

It seems now that is the fundamental question. We have to find out what is our vision for E.U. in 5, 10 or 50 years. Being a federalist it is easy to guess my vision for the future, but it is not a peaceful view, and I don’t know if there are many supporters of a Federal Future.

Where is the document?

I tried to find out over the Internet but I could not find it. Probably I did not search it right. I read a lot of comments, news, people who form opinion, but I can not find the actual document, proposal, or a glimpse of paragraphs of the future treaty. So how can I formulate a position? How do these leaders want the public opinion to have a mature opinion about it?

It seems that for most leaders that is irrelevant. They conduct the policies and we have to prey that they are doing the right choice. I don’t like to be kept blindfolded in a subject that will affect my life in the future and most important I, a voter, would like to have the same importance as reporters, since it seems that they had the chance to read the document to formulate their opinions…

When do we get involved?

It is important to bring the debate to the people. At the same rate that E.U. grew, population grew apart E.U. It seems now that E.U. is a bunch of bureaucrats that everyday try to find a way to complicate our lives. I think that everyday that passes a new Euroceptic is born and in a few years there will be no space to E.U. to have a future…

Friday, October 19, 2007

Dream a Little Dream of Me.

I became inspired to write a small piece on dreams following a rather peculiar dream I myself had a couple of nights ago. It made me think about dreams in general and the way they affect us.

I am aware that dreams, as a whole, seem to be a bit of an ongoing mystery amongst the science wizards. Taken from Wikipedia:-

"There is no universally agreed-upon biological definition of dreaming.

General observation shows that dreams are strongly associated with REM sleep. REM sleep is the state of sleep in which brain activity is most like wakefulness, which is why many researchers believe this is when dreams are strongest, although it could also mean that this is a state from which dreams are most easily remembered.

During a typical lifespan, a human spends a total of about six years dreaming, (which is about 2 hours each night). It is unknown where in the brain dreams originate — if there is such a single location — or why dreams occur at all."

So, as one of those mysteries of life, many people speculate about them and why we have them. A high percentage people believe in dream symbolism - that dreaming a certain thing means that a good or a bad event is likely to occur in your life

Other theories I have heard include that dreaming is a way for the mind to "clear up" unwanted information or "data" whilst we sleep. Freud even went so far as to suggest that dreams protect our sleep.

Whatever the reason is, I personally love having dreams and hearing about other peoples dreams and listening to their interpretation of the dream.

I wonder - can dreams create a feeling of adoration, or even love, for someone? If you have a romantic, happy or even sensual dream about a person you know - whether you are close to them in life or not, could that dream mean you have feelings towards them, whether consciously or not?

On the other side of that, if you have a dream about a close friend or a loved one hurting you, either emotionally and physically, would you feel any differently about that person the next day? I know I have had a dream like that before and the next day I felt unreasonably stressed and irritable at that person and it actually took me until the evening of that day to realise why.

I also think that if you have a really quite frightening dream, be it violent, a horror movie scenario, or just featuring a personal fear, it is often difficult to completely get rid of that spooky feeling when you wake up - whether you wake up naturally or as a result of the bad dream.

I believe that dreams are an amalgamation of various components. A series of random images, events, noises, people and places which the brain tries to put in some sort of logical order as it 'unwinds' ready for sleep. For example, have you ever had a dream that has had a 'plot' similar to a storyline on a TV show or move that you watched recently? Do you ever dream about a person who you saw and spoke to that day?

I would love to hear your views and ideas on this - what do you personally think dreams are? Have you ever had a dream affect you outside of sleep?



Thank you for taking the time to read my first chronicle!

I appreciate my posts will be different to what you are normally used to seeing on here, but I do hope you'll enjoy them! I'll be writing on a different topic, idea or event every Friday; I am aiming to entertain as wide an audience as possible and I would love to receive any comments or suggestions you may have!

I look forward to many happy Friday's here!!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Elisabeth's Chronicle

The Wall of Speech (WoS) is not a static wall. It tries to improve itself as time goes by. Some changes were already madeand it is now time for another one.

A few days ago I came up with the following site (Wine Glass Logistics), and while I was reading I immediatly came with a new idea. So I asked the author to join and, lucky for me, she accept it. Starting tomorrow, Elisabeth will begin hers weekly chronicle.

Hope you'll enjoy it


Monday, October 15, 2007

The Material Brain

Salon.com has a great interview with Steven Pinker and Rebecca Goldstein in which they discuss, among other things, the idea of consciousness going beyond the physical mechanics of the brain.

Virtually all religious believers think the mind cannot be reduced to the
physical mechanics of the brain. Of course, many believe the mind is what communicates with God. Would you agree that the mind-brain question is one of the key issues in the “science and religion” debate?

PINKER: I think so. It’s a very deep intuition that people are more than their bodies and their brains, that when someone dies, their consciousness doesn’t go out of existence, that some part of us can be up and about in the world while our body stays in one place, that we can’t just be a bunch of molecules in motion. It’s one that naturally taps into religious beliefs. And the challenge to that deep-seated belief from neuroscience, evolutionary biology and cognitive science has put religion and science on the public stage. I think it’s one of the reasons you have a renewed assault on religious beliefs from people like Dawkins and Daniel Dennett.
The neuroscientific worldview — the idea that the mind is what the brain does — has kicked away one of the intuitive supports of religion. So even if you accepted all of the previous scientific challenges to religion — the earth revolving around the sun, animals evolving and so on — the immaterial soul was always one last thing that you could keep as being in the province of religion. With the advance of neuroscience, that idea has been challenged.

This question has always been fascinating to me, partly because I know a lot of progressive people who see the hypocrisy of religion, and the brilliance of scientific thinking, and yet have such a hard time with the idea that everything you think and feel can be reduced down to material mechanisms in the brain. Some are even offended by the notion that feelings such as love don’t have some sort of extra-physical existence.

To me, complexity does not mean that we need to step out of the realm of the physical to attempt to explain something. The brain is truly a remarkable organ, and every day we learn more and more how remarkable it is. People have always turned to religion, to spirituality, to explain what they could not understand - and the workings of the brain are perhaps the last refuge for these people. It’s the last pillar of religious belief to fall.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Something to think about it…

When I was younger I would always look forward to the future. My main Idea was that in future we would be in power and so all the injustice that we felt those days would end. It was as simple as this: once we reach the years to make decisions (political, economical and social decisions) would change because we would do the right decision.

Well reality is now different and no revolution came, little changes happened but nothing worth enough to be proud. Well a pessimistic would say: “That is life!” but my eternal positive view of the world does not allow me to support that view.

For now I only would like to know this:

If you had a chance what would you change in this life?

Well just something to think about the weekend …

(If you want please leave a comment on this question)

Thursday, October 11, 2007


This news (click here) made me think about limits of freedom and multiculturalism. For me it was shocking when I read: “Some Muslim medical students are refusing to attend lectures or answer exam questions on alcohol-related or sexually transmitted diseases because they claim it offends their religious beliefs.

This is nonsense. If people feel that they can not do some particular part of a job because of religious beliefs then he or she should quit. I don’t know how people feel at ease to even ask if they can complete the course without taking this lectures or exams. But the worst was the fact that “Sainsbury’s is permitting Muslim checkout operators to refuse to handle customers’ alcohol purchases on religious grounds”. This for me is going too far and is extremely dangerous.

First, if someone is so religious to the point that it does not touch a bottle of wine (for example) then it should also be that strong in terms of not working there. It has the choice, but it can not force his beliefs on others. For me it is a lame excuse for not working, nothing more. It has no grounds to support such action, or even allow it in a company.

Second, there are limits to freedom and to the notion of multiculturalism. For me it is not multiculturalism to endorse such actions, not from the company and not for the costumers. It is the promotion of an attitude that it is not in our common values. People shouldn’t forget that we live in a part of the world where discrimination is a crime. Those people are using the “discrimination factor” only in one way. The reality is that by fearing to be viewed as discriminators we are allowing other people to discriminate.

I don’t know where people got the notion that they can wear a Burka on the street (I am against) but they are allowed to refuse to handle customers’ alcohol purchases.

In general the message that we are giving everybody is that is ok to become more radical, to loose values that were so dear to us. I don’t know if it is out of fear or belief in radical multiculturalism but either way is wrong. People should be free to have their religion beliefs but it should be an inner choice and not a social choice. By endorsing this attitudes we are promoting religion to enter the social area, a place that we thought it had left a long time ago.

The only reason that I think this is allowed is because of our eternal pride and belief of our moral superiority. Imagine that you live in a country where you couldn’t buy something because you are homosexual, and it is a common religious belief to be against sexual promiscuity, do you really endorse such an attitude?

I am just sorry that I am not a Sainsbury’s customer. If I was I would stop being as a protest against their acceptance of discrimination of customers. And I really think you should do the same!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

One Year - Many Lessons

It is been one year since this Project started, and many lesson were learn. This are a few:

1-No matter which country you come from, you find great people that are very helpful and with strong opinions that should be read;
In the beginning, when I started this project I had no idea how to create a blog. In the process I found many people that help in terms of articles, ideas, design, etc… People that don’t know my real name, where I come from, or what were my ideals, but that immediately started to help. For all of them a Big Thank You, and an even bigger apologize the last semester…

2-In one year this blog passed all the life cycle that is possible: birth, growth and death;
I found that Life is quick and also in terms of blogs. Around April I had a writers block and that was the beginning of the end of my articles. I also found that just writing an opinion it is not enough to keep it going. That lesson will be the moto of this new year of WoS. I will put my efforts on Direct Speech, and to create new sections that are innovative and more interactive with society worldwide. I will also try to bring more people from around the world to participate in this project. Of course the main purpose will continue, to build a space for free speech.

3-You can never tell that a blog is dead until it is deleted!
More than a lesson this is my wish for next year…

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"In the Name of the Father"

I have just seen this film (which I strongly recommend) and it was amazing the parallel that you can make with the present time. The plot to few that might not know is:

"A small time thief from Belfast, Gerry Conlon, is falsely implicated in the IRA bombing of a pub that kills several people while he is in London. Bullied by the British police, he and four of his friends are coerced into confessing their guilt. Gerry's father and other relatives in London are also implicated in the crime. He spends 15 years in prison with his father trying to prove his innocence with the help of a British attorney, Gareth Peirce. Based on a true story." (source: IMDB)

Which I found very similar to this old news:

"MAHER ARAR, Subject of Canadian Government Commission Report: I wanted to clear my name. Today, Justice O'Connor has cleared my name and restored my reputation.

JEFFREY BROWN: On Monday, a Canadian government commission report concluded that Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was wrongly accused of having ties to terrorism by Canadian officials and improperly taken by U.S. authorities to the Mideast, where he was tortured." (to know more click here)"

OK, it was a different sentence, different number of people implicated and different type of person but is the same irrational reaction to fear from authorities. The first happen 30 years ago, the second a few years ago.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

It's war Jim, but not as we know it

It appears as if Britain really is at war with Iran - well, a war of words to be more precise - and mealy-mouthed words at that. However, it seems that no one can hardly accuse the British government of being disproportionate in its response to this apparent act of war by Iran, or how the Times (London) puts it 'casus belli'.

Well, what else could you call the latest Iranian military actions? If anything, the ambush of some 15 British soldiers by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards represents something of a propaganda and military coup for the ever increasingly embattled Iranian authorities. When it comes to the art of war, the British government's image in the eyes of the world is increasingly perceived as second-rate and 'softly-softly'. Such a military strategy by Britain will only succeed in encouraging even more ambushes.

A week has now passed and the British government have failed to set any deadlines for the immediate release of the soldiers, it's as if our political class have been struck down with a chronic case of 'risk aversion'. There is a serious flip side to pursuing a cautious approach - such a risk averse strategy is actually bordering on moral cowardice in the face of the enemy.

It's as if the British government have fully and wholeheartedly embraced a cautionary strategy, that is remarkably similar to the doctrine commonly known as the Precautionary principle, much loved by the environmental movement, which states that under no circumstances should action be ever taken, unless you can be certain, without doubt that there will be no negative consequences as a result of your actions.

More recently, risk averse societies like Britain would tend to strike first on the basis that pre-emptive action was a legitimate form of self-defence. Today, the adoption of a precautionary strategy seems to have led to paralysis in policy making. It appears that our political elites are relying more on the words of lawyers in terms of strategic and political leadership. Our government itself seems paralysed in the face of a blatant act of war - they are fearful that any military action against Iran could have a negative 'boomerang effect' - so, instead of 'going in' and saving the marines, thereby averting a disaster, they fear that action would only realise another catastrophe - not the kind of things politicians really desire. (1)

Britain’s precautionary approach to Iran has only succeeded in slowly dragging this whole affair along, rather than settling it - none of this has been lost on the Iranian authorities who have used the past few days to ratchet up the political and military stakes. With a government like ours, there is one thing we can be certain of, their increasing obsession with risk, and aversion to risk, will only succeed in inviting even more ambushes, and other such 'gestures of defiance' in the not so distant future.

(1) The Risk Society at War: Terror, Technology and Strategy in the Twenty-First Century By Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen - p93 and p199.

Monday, April 02, 2007

EU slams United States, Australia on climate change

By Jeff Mason at Reuters

"BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union accused the United States and Australia on Monday of hampering international efforts to tackle climate change.

"We expect ... the United States to cooperate closer and not to continue having a negative attitude in international negotiations," Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told delegates at a United Nations-sponsored meeting to review a report on the regional effects of rising global temperatures.

"It is absolutely necessary that they move because otherwise other countries, especially the developing countries, do not have any reason to move," he said. (...)"

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Guido the 'prat' meets Michael White

Watching the TV performance of the blogger extraordinaire Guido Fawkes, with the heavyweight political editor Michael White, on the BBC's Newsnight programme last night - the words 'way out of your league' sprang immediately to mind. It's been a little while since I've seen anyone get so savagely and systematically demolished (politically speaking) as Guido did last night.

It certainly appeared that Guido had stepped into the gladiators arena, only to find out that he was going to be fed to the lions anyway - indeed, I didn't know what was more humiliating, watching Guido uming and r-ring, or watching the self-righteous Jeremy Paxman step in to 'defend' Guido. Either way, Guido certainly looked like a right first-class 'prat', as described by Michael White.

There are a few serious lessons to be learnt when dealing with the likes of Michael White on TV - for a start, you had better make sure you know off-by-heart every imaginable question that might be thrown up. Secondly, have (at the very least) a half decent progressive answer for those questions - or else you might end up looking like Guido - a laughing stock.

A few choice words on this matter from the Devil's Kitchen, well worth reading.

Also, Benedict White over on the Conservative's blog now wishes he had never voted for Guido in the first place to appear on Newsnight.

Oliver Kamm, the anti-blogger, who describes himself as being 'hostile to the whole medium of blogging', throws in his two penth worth here.

Finally, some words from Guido himself, who said 'the live interview was definitely a mistake and against my better judgement'. You can say that again!

I am not stealing I am an Activist!!!

I just saw the site of yomango (literally I Steal) and my world changed. They present an all new perspective to the world of robbery. It is no longer an illegal activity it is a political statement. I have to admit that the founder of this movement was really imaginative. And they are really organized too. They have a forum where they discuss the techniques of stealing, they perform legal advice and they support all that with their political statement.

Probably that was what Winona Rider was doing when she was busted.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Time to Think

Just a thought. If you had to create an entire society would you create the society that you are living it?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Direct speech: Eric Langager

When I thought of creating this section I immediately thought of China because of the recent comments about China censorship of internet sites. I wondered how it was living there and what could be the point of view of someone living there. So it was then that I came up with Eric´s site and contact. Eric Langager is the writer of Eric’s Beijing Diary, a blog about his stay in China. He lives in China since 2003, where he teaches. He already lived in four different countries and had many professions.

Once again I would like to thank him for the immediate response and sympathy that allowed the following interview:

In a few words describe yourself (so people can get to know you better).

Eric Langager (EL) - Who am I? The story really begins with my grandfather, who was from Norway, and came to the US as a homesteader in the early days of the 20th Century. I myself was born in Tokyo, and grew up in the north of Japan where my parents were missionaries. I took my first trip to America when I was three, but we returned to Japan, where I lived until I was thirteen. After that, I lived in the United States. Mainly four states (North Dakota, Minnesota, Oregon and Arizona) except for seven years in the trucking industry when I spent some time in every one of them. After driving to the moon and back (600 thousand + miles), I cleaned out my truck and decided to go back to my profession (I had been a teacher). However, I didn't want to return to the public school system, so I studied for Microsoft certification and became a technical trainer. During the four years I taught at a private software university in Arizona (UAT), I decided to become a database specialist, and obtained Oracle certification. In 2004, I joined the faculty of the Software College here at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

You already lived in 4 different countries (Japan, USA, Canada and China) and visited many places and people. What did you find similar in those places/people and what did you find completely different?

(EL) - Kipling said that "East is east, and west is west, and never the twain shall meet." Japan has spent the years since World War II trying to disprove that notion, and has largely succeeded. So while there are ways that Asian cultures differ from a western culture like America, there are also ways that a developing country like China differs from developed nations like Japan and America. China today reminds me so much of the Japan of my childhood: growing economically, yet somehow simpler, slower paced, and more relaxed than the more frenzied developed societies.

What was the biggest shock when you start living in China?

(EL) - You know, I went through major culture shock when I moved to America as a thirteen-year-old kid. I didn't ever want to go through anything like that again, so I took great pains to prepare myself to live in China. But there is always something you don't anticipate. For me, it was food. I thought I would be able to adapt to a different cuisine. I was prepared to suffer through food that tasted very different from what I was used to. What I was not prepared for, was the seemingly unlimited variety of incredibly delicious dishes in the seven cuisines of China. It really shouldn't be legal to make food so delicious.

You live in China for about 3/4 years. How is the day-by-day life in a dictatorship and how do you feel their presence?

(EL) - First of all, China cannot really be called a dictatorship, because in order to have a dictatorship, you need to have a dictator. The leadership of China is very different from the early days of liberation in that respect. Mao certainly was a dictator. And I suppose you could say the same thing about Deng Xiao-ping, because, although he was very different from Mao, he did tend to lead by dictate that went beyond legal authority. The most far-reaching of his famous economic reforms really began in the nineties, after he had relinquished all formal official positions.

But the modern leadership is not this way. The days of one man being able to arbitrarily overrule the party are history (at least for now). Don't get me wrong, Hu Jin-tao is not just a figurehead. He is an executive, much like the US president, or the British prime minister. He is essentially the "CEO" of China. But he does not by any means wield absolute authority. Truthfully, it is not that easy to define exactly how things work in China, because it is changing so rapidly. The only thing we know for sure is that it is very, very different from the way it was before. China is not a democracy in the American sense of the word, but it is not the oligarchy that some in the West suppose, either. True, the government is controlled by the Communist Party, but remember, the Party has 60 million members.

Now, as to the main part of your question: What is it like? Well, when times are good economically, it's great. I took a drastic cut in pay to come to China (about 75 per cent). But I also saw a 90 per cent cut in cost of living. Simply put, in terms of day-to-day living, it is easier (at least for a single person) to get by in China. I don't have a car. I don't want a car. There are lots of busses, I have a bicycle, and taxies are not expensive.

But what would life be like in an economic downturn? There could be problems, because corruption is quite widespread in China. A booming economy absorbs much of that. China has close to a 200 billion dollar trade imbalance with the United States. That means that every five years or so, the United States of America pours a trillion dollars in hard, cold cash into the Chinese economy. That's a lot of money.

We talk about censorship in China a lot but how is it he felt in China? What does the common Chinese feels about it?

(EL) - Basically, if you can read English, you can get the information you need in this country. I read the China daily, and watch a couple programs on the 24 hour English channel. In addition, I go to the coffee bar and read the Wall Street Journal. Every day, I listen to BBC Newshour. I also listen to Morning Edition on National Public Radio, and I watch one American news program each week. It's called "Mclaughlin Group." I download the Quicktime video file for this half-hour program from their web site.

Chinese people seem to be amazingly resigned to getting news from the sources that are allowed to them in Chinese. This is not all bad, because there are some very good papers in China (such as Beijing News), that operate as close to the edge as the government will let them. But I encourage them to use the Internet to avail themselves of other perspectives.

In your opinion, how does the Chinese people perceived the western countries?

(EL) - Generally favorably. The US has lost credibility because of the Iraq War, but Chinese people are generally very friendly to westerners.

What is the effect of China economic growth in the common Chinese person, and what is changing because of this?

(EL) - Deng Xiao-ping's economic reforms lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty (at least the population of the United States). So it is much better than before, but there are still lots of poor people in this country.

Still, many more people than before have the money to provide their children with good education even if they did not pass the National Entrance Examination.

What do you find more appealing in teaching and living in China?

(EL) - Well, I alluded to it before...I don't know, I guess I just like being able to decide for myself how modern I want to be. I ride a bike, but I carry my laptop with me.

Being connected to technology what was the best inovation for you? And what innovation do you want to see in the future?

(EL) - The most useful innovation since I have been in China, is that all the coffee bars in this area have set up free high-speed wireless Internet connections. Regarding future innovations, this may seem strange coming from a technical trainer, but I hope China doesn't develop too many new innovations. Life tends to get complicated when you do that. I guess if there is one thing that would be nice, it would be the development and enhancement of remote communications.

[All pictures were taken from Eric's site]

Direct Speech

Direct Speech is a new section of Wall of Speech. In this section it is conducted some interviews with people around the world. The main focus is to get to know some interesting people and their inside view of topics that are discussed in many blogs and newspapers. There is no regular schedule to do these interviews and they will occur every time there is an opportunity and relevance.

The first person to be interviewed is Eric Langager, Associate Professor who is currently teaching in College of Software, Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics and will be published tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

ID(eal) or not ID(eal) System

I came up with this discussion at Matt's Site (click here). I have to admit that I couldn't understand the problem about the implementation of an ID Card System in the UK. After being explained and reading 22 reasons against this system at a site that Matt pointed me (click here) I had a clearer picture of the problem.

I have to admit that the system is quite different from the one that regulates my country. Here is mandatory to have an ID card and to always use it (if you don't have the policemen can take you to the police station to identificaty). But for this system to be secure (and not misused) there is one thing that must be always present: there can not be any cross reference to other personnel information. I know that this is difficult to secure, for instance when you open a bank account you have to put your id card number, but is quite effective. There is no direct link from this information database with another (for example a person has a different ID card number, Social Security number and Tax payer number and these informations are independent and it is prohibited for the state to have a common database with this information).

These rules were created so that the state isn't able to hold complete information about a citizen and misuse it like it already happen in the past. This notion is vital for the all system to work, otherwise politicians will have access to much information that is not necessary for them.

I know that we now live a time where security is almost number one value of many regulations and we are losing our freedom for that. For now it is not yet present the danger of these changes because we still live in an open democracy but what about in the future? Is this the ID(eal) system to protect us or will be more helpful for future leaders that will be more totalitarians?

I think that we are slowly loosing our freedom, not understanding that this will have a major impact in our future freedom of choice and speech.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Wall Of Speech is banned in China

It's not as if the Wall Of Speech is the hub of anti-Chinese propaganda in the West, but for some strange reason (unknown to me) WoS has effectively been banned in China. No one in China can visit or view this site.

To find out if your own site is available to be viewed in China simply take this test that I discovered over at the heavyweight Conservative blogger Elle Seymour .

If anyone has any ideas as to why WoS in banned in China, I would surely like to hear it.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Letter from Santa Claus

I have just received a letter from Santa Claus answering my wish list letter that i sent him this year.

"Dear Mr. Stran

First of all I am sorry for only writing you back now but I have been in the hospital until today. For now you know that I could not fulfil your request. But what you call "simple request" was completely impossible to obtain.

I first went to see George W. Bush but immediately he kick me out (literally) of his office saying that the next time I was there he would make me USA public enemy #1 and would bomb my house for preventing reasons.

I then went to Iran but he just told me if I thought that he really believe in Santa Claus and kick me out (once again literally) saying that he make a "Fatah" against me. Then came the suicide bombers but I was almost blown away buy one and had to get out of there in a hurry.

Being near, I went to Israel but they direct me back to Palestine telling me that only after they declare the same thing they would accept to make this statement. The Palestinians said the same thing and direct me back to Israel. I was like that for days until I gave out.

As for Ben Laden do you really think that I could find him?!?

Then, I went to see the G7 leaders but when I was arriving to the place I remembered what George W. Bush told me and thought it was better for me not to go (after all I need my factory intact to give the presents to all the other kids).

Finally, I tried to convince all countries in the world to comply with the obligations of the charter of the UN. For some it was easy but for the rest, let me just say that I was shot at, stabbed and beaten up and end up in an hospital where I remained until yesterday (because of this it was Mrs Santa Claus that gave the presents this year).

I am sorry that you didn't received your present but like I told you it was impossible.

Ho, Ho, Ho

Santa Claus

[P.S. Next year, if you ask me the same or similar I quit!!!]"

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

New Look of Wall of Speech

I have just completed the changes in the blog. The first of all and most obvious is the looks. I hope that you liked the change (hope that you don't find it too dark), and that it will be nicer for you to read the posts.

But that was not the only change. First of all there is no more google ads (I just left them in WoS Internal talk to whoever is interested).

Besides this, I have created the following:

1) Blog Feed: I putted the feed of the blogs of the main contributors so that you can see what is being written there.

2) Labels: I introduced the labels so that you can easily see the posts by themes. I also put the author of each article (hope that you don't mind) so that people could also view articles by Author (I will ask you a favour: if you could always label your article with your name in order to not miss any article)

3) Wall of Speech quick links:
*Open Invitation (if people want to participate they just need to leave a message or send an email)
* WoS Statement (tells what the site is about);
*WoS Internal Talks (link to the discussion blog about this site);
*Box of Suggestions (new): I have created this article so people would suggest improvements or could complaint about anything they dislike;
*Quick Speech (new): this space is created to enable people who don't want to be a member to write articles to be published;

These change aim to improve the appearance of the blog, to improve the its quality and to build up the participation, hope you liked it.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the writers of this blog for their great articles and for making possible the fulfilment of the initial idea. Besides this, I would also like to thank Matt M. for the big help that he gave me to enable me to change the appearance of this site .

Thank you to everybody and I hope that you continue to have fun at this blog.

Monday, March 05, 2007

God-shaped hole

There’s a piece on the New York Times website today in which Scott Atran, “an anthropologist at the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, with joint appointments at the University of Michigan and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York”, puts forward a version of the God-shaped hole argument – the idea that human beings are “wired” to believe in the supernatural.

The work done by Atran is fascinating, especially the “African magic box” experiments, but I think he takes his findings a step too far.

“Why do we cross our fingers during turbulence, even the most atheistic among us?” asked Atran when we spoke at his Upper West Side pied-à-terre in January.

I don’t. In fact I quite enjoy turbulence, especially if it’s a long flight. For what it’s worth, I’m not superstitious: I don’t cross my fingers, I don’t mind the number 13, I don’t touch wood, I walk under ladders and on cracks, etc. I’d also quite happily put my hands in Atran’s magic box. I rather suspect I’m not alone in this.

This isn’t to deny that there’s a general tendency towards beliefs in the supernatural in some form. However, it’s far from as strong as some people seem to think. Most superstitious behaviour is probably a result of upbringing – it’s always difficult to shake off the beliefs you were brought up with, and they often remain, lurking, at the back of your mind – and the, understandable, desire to somehow influence events beyond our control.

I’d bet that Atran had a far more ”religious” upbringing than I did – the opening paragraph of the piece seems to confirm that. Which might explain why it appears to be a lot harder for him to shake off superstitious beliefs than for me.

Atran says he faces an emotional and intellectual struggle to live without God in a nonatheist world, and he suspects that is where his little superstitions come from, his passing thought about crossing his fingers during turbulence or knocking on wood just in case.

For him, atheism is counter-intuitive because he was raised to see the world in a completely different manner. For me, it’s the opposite way round: I find theism to be counter-intuitive and I’m far more comfortable with the atheistic, naturalist view of life.

That the God-shaped hole is more an environmental than biological issue would also seems to be confirmed by the changing attitudes towards religion in the UK, as shown in this Telegraph article. Atran, presenting himself as a typical case, argues that his superstitious side will probably become stronger as he becomes increasingly aware of his impending demise. However, an increasing number of people seem to be heading in the opposite direction.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Not for America, not for the World!

The Bush’s 15 minutes of Fame are almost over. His presidency is reaching is final time and his Legacy will be clearer in the future. He will leave the Presidency failing almost all goals and will be a great candidate for the worst USA president of all time.

The recent plans for the Iraqi war shows us that his quest for war was not to make USA or the World safer. Also, was not to gain economic power at long term. Instead the war was intended to make some companies very profitable during his presidency and to support his personnel revenge against Saddam Hussein. With his decisions, he made UN weaker, to the point that is no longer sure that it will survive at long term.

In terms of internal affair his policy also failed, but I believe that it is better for Americans to write about this subject (I am an outsider).

The worst part, the part that American citizens are guilty is that he won two elections. While the first was very imprecise, the second one was clearer that USA citizens had a chance to change for better and did not take it. You can say that Democratic Party had a weak candidate, but I think when making a decision you have also to take into account the team behind the man and the republican team was really bad.

Now that every thing is almost over, we can just hope that in future the presidents will be better and able to correct so many mistakes. Bush was a terrible president and work only for his personnel goals. He clearly was not the right president.
Not for America and not for the World!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Serbia cleared of genocide

By Mark Oliver, Mark Tran and agencies,
Monday February 26, 2007
Guardian Unlimited.

Serbia was guilty of failing to prevent the genocide of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica in 1995, the UN's highest court ruled today.

But the international court of justice cleared Serbia of direct responsibility for genocide and complicity in genocide in Bosnia, in the 1992-1995 war.

The decision took the form of several votes. In the key verdict, the court decided by 13 votes to two that Serbia had "not committed genocide, through its organs or persons whose acts engage its responsibility under customary international law". In another vote, however, the court found by 12 votes to three that Serbia had "violated the obligation to prevent genocide".

Thursday, February 22, 2007

£300 million

The taxpayer is going to take a hit for £300 million because of NuLab's inability to give the farmers their money on time. Another Government IT failure ? and they reckon that ID cards will be secure- We need a new chief executive for UK plc

Blogger's block

Just like a writer’s block I am having a blogger’s block.

I look at the news and can not find anything relevant enough to write about. I look to what divide us and yet not a single word comes into my mind. I look at the world and it is the same. The war did not end, the hunger still exists, diseases are killing and there is no cure for cancer. So why this is not affecting me enough to, at least, write something about it.

Is it a blogger’s block or am I just to tire to talk about the same things?

Friday, February 16, 2007

A brief look at the World

Watching some headlines it seems that we are on the Apocalypse. For instance on Reuters I read that "Taliban deploy 10,000 fighters for attack"and that "U.S.-Iraqi forces meet little resistance in Baghdad". At BBC I read that "Chad may face genocide, UN warns". It is war, war and more war. I know that it has been always like that (I don't remember one year of my life that there was a war in this world). But it seems to me that there is a difference between old wars and the XXI century world. We no longer have ideology behind a war. There is no different sides that want to develop people welfare through different means (like Communism Vs Capitalism).
Some say that ideology is dead. I am a sceptic, I don't believe in that, I rather believe that we are living a period that ideology is resting, probably to "blow up" in a near future...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Love the sinner, hate the sin?

In Internet and other debates a distinction is often drawn between attacking a person’s ideas and attacking the person themselves. The first is seen as healthy, objective criticism, while the second is merely an ad hominem attack designed to rouse tempers rather than provoke discussion.

But can the distinction be so easily made? Can we draw a line between a person and the ideas they hold? I don’t think we can.

Consider the following: “It’s not you I’m calling hideous, just the clothes you wear!” Or, closer to home for a lot of us here: “I didn’t insult you, I just called your blog a mess of infantile, badly-written drivel!”

Both would be perceived as attacks on us by association: I choose the clothes I wear, I write my blog, etc. The same can be said for more ideological matters: Can we really separate criticising a religion from criticising those who believe in it?

Our ideas often have an emotional investment simply because they are our ideas. They reflect who we are and our ability to think. Suggesting that someone’s political views are misguided, for example, is inevitably to suggest that they themselves stupid enough to hold such views.

If we were purely rational beings, selecting ideas purely on a cost-benefit type basis, then we’d have no trouble adopting or abandoning them in light of new information. But we’re often more emotional/instinctive beings. The ability to rationally determine which political/economic system is best for 60 million odd fellow-citizens living in an increasingly connected world is beyond most of us, so we rely on gut-instinct and the emotional impact of certain events to guide us in what’s hopefully the right direction: a simple distrust of government, or experience of poverty can have more influence over our political thinking then the works of Smith, Marx, Keynes and Milton combined a lot of the time. Rational arguments are then drawn up after the fact to support our own beliefs and attack those which are different.

Human beings crave certainty: we like to think that our ideas are correct and that the life we’ve chosen is the right one. To this end, we wrap ideas and concepts around us like a protective cloak. To have someone start pulling on a loose thread can be an uncomfortable experience.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Climate Problems

“The IPCC, the most authoritative group on warming grouping 2,500 scientists from more than 130 nations, predicted more severe rains, melting glaciers, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels, especially if Antarctica or Greenland thaw.

The final text said it was "very likely" – or a probability of more than 90 percent -- that human activities led by burning fossil fuels explained most of the warming in the past 50 years.” (Taken from here)

First of all let me start to say that I like driving my car, I like travelling by plane, I like the products that some polluting industries give me, I like my lifestyle.

Saying this I have to say that I would like to see politics taking into account climate changes and its problems in their actions.


I won’t be moral about this issue (leave that for Greenpeace) but show one of my egoistic reason about this issue:
The natural resources that we use are scarce. What this affects me? Well, scarce resources will lead to nation conflicts (we have Iraq war as a good example) and to war. Almost all wars have economic reasons, more than moral reasons, to happen and most of them can be linked to the necessity of controlle of scarce resources. Also scarce resources will become more expensive to us which will lead to the end of our lifestyle.

I would like to leave a question: when will we start solving this problem?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Behind a great man…

… Probably it is better to rephrase that.

Hillary Clinton announced, without big surprise, that she is running to the Presidency. This makes her the second woman that is trying to reach a G7 country Leadership (the other is Segolene Royal in France). If both win we will have a unique scenario. For the first time we will have 3 female leaders at G7 or 2 Female leader with the veto power at the Security Council of the U.N.

Will this change Politics? Is this the dream time of feminists? Is it good? Well I don’t have a straight answer for these questions. I don’t think that gender will influence the politic world and also I don’t think that they are prerequisite for being a leader. But this scenario shows us that some barriers are being broken. It is not a huge step but rather a small step to a more equalitarian and representative society.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Iraq's Absentee Government

The New York Times has an interesting article about the problem of the Iraqi Parliament members not showing up for sessions.
They're paid hansomly, with additional funds for security - and yet still do not bother to show up.

Some of Iraq’s more seasoned leaders say attendance has been undermined by a
widening sense of disillusionment about Parliament’s ability to improve Iraqis’
daily life. The country’s dominant issue, security, is almost exclusively the
policy realm of the American military and the office of the prime minister.

While a large part of the problems in Iraq are unquestionably security related - part of the problems might also be related to the fact that the Iraqis don't feel like they have control over their own government. Even the Iraqi government doesn't feel like it is in control. Maybe if the Parliament were allowed to make a difference the members would start taking it more seriously.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Moshe Katsev

Moshe Katsev the President of Israel is facing charges of Rape, and is being urged to resign rather than bring the office of President into disrepute.

America's image

According to BBC World Service poll, the global view of the United States’ role in world affairs is negative. This questionnaire was taken across 25 different countries (you can see it here).
Of the 25 countries only 3 countries (Philippines, Nigeria and Kenia) strongly think that USA influence in the world is mainly positive.
For me this is not surprising, but rather a confirmation of what i imagined.
With the recent disasters in terms of foreigner affairs, with Iraq as major example, USA proved these lasts years that it is not prepared to be in the position that it is now - the major, and probably only, super power in the world. I don't now if it is the responsibility of that role or if it the vanity of the name, but they failed completly.