Friday, February 25, 2011

tango en la boca

Castro, Cuba and the Internet

Cuba without political prisoners. It sounds like Castro without his beard. Still, it's almost upon us. Moreover, Cuba has lifted its blockade of dissident internet blogs. So, have the Castros seen the light of democracy?

 

Flock of doves

Welcome to Cuba! Take a seat in the slightly rundown but astonishing theatre of optical illusions and be baffled by the Masters of Mirage, the Castro Brothers. You may think you see something but you can never be sure. The old illusionists are certainly not going to tell you what's really happening. The tricks are concocted behind closed doors by the inner circle and there's no press conference afterwards.
Here we go. The dissidents appear from the hat in rapid tempo one after another and flap around in the spotlights like a flock of doves. In jail since 2003, 75 of them in total, serving decade-long prison sentences for expressing their opinions. But now they're set free. And soon the last dove will rise into the air. Bravo! No democracy without freedom!

Orlando lives

Thanks are due to the Catholic Church, which insisted on this performance. And to Orlando Zapata, who died in a hunger strike a year ago trying to get himself and his fellow prisoners released. And to the dissident Guillermo Fariñas who took over Zapata's hunger strike and to whom the Castros capitulated, rather than be internationally embarrassed once again.
Behind the scenes, out of sight of the audience, Fariñas was arrested and released, arrested and released. Zapata's mother was arrested because she wouldn't keep quiet about her dead son. "Orlando lives!" she shouted at a police officer. For a year now the police have been making her life a living hell. While ordinary Cubans neither know nor care about dissidents.

Last rabbit

Even so, change does seem to be in the air: the bloggers trick! For years dissident bloggers and journalists like Yoani Sánchez were blocked by Cuba and could only be read abroad. Now, with the snap of a finger, they're back! Give Raúl Castro a hand! Say what you like, surf where you like. No freedom without information! We've seen it in Egypt - social media chase away dictators. Soon Cuba will be Twittering and Facebooking too. Just a pity there are no Cubans in the audience, they couldn't afford the tickets. No one has internet at home and in the hotels it costs six dollars an hour, a week's wages for a Cuban.
Never mind, time for the finale. The Castros are conjuring their last rabbit out of their top hat: the super information highway. Thanks to Venezuela, Cuba will be getting broadband internet. Say goodbye to delays, goodbye to the US embargo! Long live democracy? Read about it in Granma, the Castro Brothers daily magic programme, where it warns that the new cable service "will not result in an explosion of information". Broadband does not means "broader" communication. Still no internet for the ordinary Cuban.

Illusions

The new capacity is intended for the Cuban government and state-owned companies, where one and a half million people will lose their jobs in the next few months. It's the main event in the Mirage Brothers new show: freedom to earn your own money. The former civil servants are expected to set up their own companies. So that is bound to result in more political leeway, isn't it?
Roll up, roll up, it's the Theatre of Illusions, take a seat and sit back and wait for the arrival of... democracy. Now you see it, now you don't!
 

Day Opening - February 25

three amigos

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Gaddafi's and the Netherlands

Gaddafi senior and junior in trouble with the Dutch. Gaddafi sounds like Hitler, according to Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal. He described the Libyan leader’s TV speech on Tuesday as “a verbal outburst reminiscent of the 1930s”
Colonel Gaddafi is losing his grip on the country as the violent chaos in Libya continues. The Dutch government is doing its bit by freezing the regime’s assets in the Netherland. Not that Duthch news papers are under any illusion that the colonel will be losing any sleep over it. But the Dutch press has plenty of suggestions for more action. Enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, a no-fly zone, and a humanitarian air bridge, and a sea blockade. An oil boycott? Armed intervention is the only thing worth bothering with, says historian Gerbert van der Aa. Not feasible, says the other – stick to the no-fly zone.
Meanwhile, Colonel Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, has also been naughty. He’s in trouble with Dutch philosopher Alex Voorhoeve – his old teacher at the London School of Economics – for plagiarism. It’s emerged that he played fast and loose with the quotation marks in his thesis. The worthy thesis is apparently about “the role of civil society in democratisation” and attacks “authoritarian, corrupt regimes that don’t listen to the real needs of the people”. On Monday the author had a slightly different take on authoritarian regimes. He threatened his fellow Libyans they’d be mourning hundreds of thousands of deaths if they didn’t knuckle under and do as his dad told them.

hoeiboei: Grondrechten in Nederland en de islam

hoeiboei: Grondrechten in Nederland en de islam

Arab Revolt

by @rutevera

Day Opening - February 24

Sweet

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Late for this guy

Is it Tuesday after lunch yet?

What the hell happened to the world while I went on that binge, and what the hell was I drinking, smoking, snorting, injecting, and ingesting that would lead to civil unrest in Madison, Wisconsin? Is Moammar going to send troops to help the public employees battle the new Reaganism? Why do Republicans always try to present themselves as such benign assholes? Why is this guy blue, daddy? Why can't we have an endless party system?

So it looks like the world is going for its hand instead of a jack bastard, or some other equally Babelfished inebriation of communication.

If the past several weeks since Wikileaks incited a couple of halfway literate detergents to rouse the rabble and whip them to frothy peaks of idealism have confounded the aged leadership, the liberal bimbos, and the corporate media to put their hands in their shorts and scratch their heads, that's good for the rest of us.

The revolution passed them by. Let them die. Not that they deserve the comfort of the piss that passeth for understanding and all.

There will come a time when you can take your clothes off when you dance.

From out there on that stuff,
The Good Doctor Faustroll

BTW, you won't believe where I had to stick my fist to recover my gmail password.

Day Opening - February 23

Superman!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hindu temple The Hague

The biggest Hindu temple complex in Europe is to be built in The Hague. A consortium of three different currents in Hinduism will build three adjacent temples to the east of the city centre. The complex is due for completion in 2014.

The Hague has a large Hindustani population - immigrants from Suriname, the former Dutch colony in South America, whose forbears originally came from South Asia. With a population of 60,000, they form the city’s largest ethnic minority group. The three communities will foot the bill for the complex themselves. Two apartment blocks providing 45 homes will be built alongside the temple.
The local council has now given the project its final backing, and says the complex will become an icon for the city. Labour Party councillor Rajesh Ramnewash says he is “extremely proud” of the cooperation among the three different Hindu movements, who drew up the plan jointly.
Despite their differences, it proved remarkably simple for the three communities to work together, he says. They were brought together by the need for a “beautiful, serene space” to practice their faith, says Mr Ramnewash. “Until now we were obliged to use out-of-the-way offices or converted garages. Now we can make a start on a huge complex.” The councillor believes it will be the only temple complex in the world to be shared by three divisions of Hinduism.
Funds
The sale of the apartment blocks, to be built by a project developer, will generate funds to contribute to the cost of the temple complex. But the three communities can actually afford to pay for the complex themselves. “Otherwise the council wouldn’t have accepted the plan.”
Mr Ramnewash says a tight schedule has been set for the project. The plan is to be finalised within six months. “Construction will start at the end of 2012.” He doesn’t expect the new temple complex to meet with any resistance in the city.

Day Opening - February 22

Looking for something to eat

Monday, February 21, 2011

The 16 Amsterdam's in the USA












There’s Amsterdam Idaho, Amsterdam Saskatchewan, Amsterdam Virginia, Amsterdam Georgia... you get the picture. In total, there are 16 towns named Amsterdam in North America. And they have become the subject of Amsterdam Stories USA, “an east-to-west road movie” by Dutch filmmakers Rob Rombout and Rogier van Eck.

Why Amsterdam? For both filmmakers, Amsterdam “connects to their Dutch origins and thus to emotions, images and stories.” And, while many European cities have clones in “the New World”, Amsterdam is the only one that has spread across the continent from East to West – perfect for a road movie.

Clogs and windmills

Mr Rombout says that their film about “unknown America” also shows quite a lot of Dutch heritage. “Not people wearing wooden shoes, but there are always windmills. Sometimes they are the biggest building in the whole village. You can even buy Dutch liquorice 'drop' here in the stores. There is always a Dutch element. They are proud of it.” But what do the residents of these small towns and villages think about their home’s namesake? Mr Rombout says they are interested. “Most of them have never been abroad. But I would say they are more interested in Dutch heritage than in Amsterdam heritage. Because Amsterdam unfortunately has this reputation of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll and that’s not really the image they like in the countryside here in America.”
The film is actually the second part in a trilogy of Amsterdam-based feature-length documentaries. The first, Amsterdam via Amsterdam, told the story of a sea expedition between two islands named Amsterdam at the opposite ends of the earth.
The third film, yet to come, will be called Amsterdam Black & White. Mr Rombout describes it as “a double portrait of a small village in South Africa in Transvaal – of course black – and a small village in the North of Holland which is also named Amsterdam which is of course completely white.”
As the slogan goes, I ♥ Amsterdam, all of them. Amsterdam, the Netherlands is the best!

(There is also a small town in Texas called 'Nederland' and 'luling'..the latter, only the Dutch understand that word.))

Day Opening - February 21

Ready to eat...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Singularity

If you read any science fiction or futurism, you've probably heard people using the term "singularity" to describe the world of tomorrow. But what exactly does it mean, and where does the idea come from? I answer today;


What is the singularity?

The term singularity describes the moment when a civilization changes so much that its rules and technologies are incomprehensible to previous generations. Think of it as a point-of-no-return in history. Most thinkers believe the singularity will be jump-started by extremely rapid technological and scientific changes. These changes will be so fast, and so profound, that every aspect of our society will be transformed, from our bodies and families to our governments and economies.
A good way to understand the singularity is to imagine explaining the internet to somebody living in the year 1200. Your frames of reference would be so different that it would be almost impossible to convey how the internet works, let alone what it means to our society. You are on the other side of what seems like a singularity to our person from the Middle Ages. But from the perspective of a future singularity, we are the medieval ones. Advances in science and technology mean that singularities might happen over periods much shorter than 800 years. And nobody knows for sure what the hell they'll bring.
Talking about the singularity is a paradox, because it is an attempt to imagine something that is by definition unimaginable to people in the present day. But that hasn't stopped hundreds of science fiction writers and futurists from doing it.

Where does the term "singularity" come from?

Science fiction writer Vernor Vinge popularized the idea of the singularity in his 1993 essay "Technological Singularity." There he described the singularity this way:
It is a point where our old models must be discarded and a new reality rules. As we move closer to this point, it will loom vaster and vaster over human affairs till the notion becomes a commonplace. Yet when it finally happens it may still be a great surprise and a greater unknown.
Specifically, Vinge pinned the Singularity to the emergence of artificial intelligence. "We are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth," he wrote. "The precise cause of this change is the imminent creation by technology of entities with greater than human intelligence."
Author Ken MacLeod has a character describe the singularity as "the Rapture for nerds" in his novel The Cassini Division, and the turn of phrase stuck, becoming a popular way to describe the singularity. (Note: MacLeod didn't actually coin this phrase - he says he got the phrase from a satirical essay in an early-1990s issue of Extropy.) Catherynne Valente argued recently for an expansion of the term to include what she calls "personal singularities," moments where a person is altered so much that she becomes unrecognizable to her former self. This definition could include posthuman experiences.

What technologies are likely to cause the next singularity?

As mentioned earlier, artificial intelligence is the technology that most people believe will usher in the singularity. Authors like Vinge and singulatarian Ray Kurzweil think AI will usher in the singularity for a twofold reason. First, creating a new form of intelligent life will completely change our understanding of ourselves as humans. Second, AI will allow us to develop new technologies so much faster than we could before that our civilization will transform rapidly. A corollary to AI is the development of robots who can work alongside - and beyond - humans.
Another singularity technology is the self-replicating molecular machine, also called autonomous nanobots, "gray goo," and a host of other things. Basically the idea is that if we can build machines that manipulate matter at the atomic level, we can control our world in the most granular way imaginable. And if these machines can work on their own? Who knows what will happen. For a dark vision of this singularity, see Greg Bear's novel Blood Music or Bill Joy's essay "The Future Doesn't Need Us"; for a more optimistic vision, Rudy Rucker's Postsingular.

And finally, a lot of singulatarian thought is devoted to the idea that synthetic biology, genetic engineering, and other life sciences will eventually give us control of the human genome. Two world-altering events would come out of that. One, we could engineer new forms of life and change the course of human evolution in one generation. Two, it's likely that control over our genomes will allow us to tinker with the mechanisms that make us age, thus dramatically increasing our lifespans. Many futurists, from Kurzweil and Steward Brand, to scientists like Aubrey De Gray, have suggested that extreme human longevity (in the hundreds of years) is a crucial part of the singularity.

Have we had a singularity before?

The singularity is usually anticipated as a future transformation, but it can also be used to describe past transformations like the one in our example earlier with the person from 1200. The industrial revolution could be said to represent a singularity, as could the information age.

In 1992, Vinge predicted that "in 30 years" we would have artificial intelligence. We've still got 12 years to go - it could happen! In his groundbreaking 2000 essay for Wired, "The Future Doesn't Need Us," technologist Joy opined:
The enabling breakthrough to assemblers seems quite likely within the next 20 years. Molecular electronics - the new subfield of nanotechnology where individual molecules are circuit elements - should mature quickly and become enormously lucrative within this decade, causing a large incremental investment in all nanotechnologies.
And in the 2005 book The Singularity Is Near, Ray Kurzweil says the singularity will come "within several decades."
Longevity scientist De Gray says that our biotech is advanced enough that a child born in 2010 might live to be 150, or 500 years old. MIT AI researcher Rodney Brooks writes in his excellent book Flesh and Machines that it's "unlikely that we will be able to simply download our brains into a computer anytime soon." Though Brooks does add:
The lives of our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be as unrecognizable to us as our use of information technology in all its forms would be incomprehensible to someone form the dawn of the twentieth century.
So when will the singularity really happen? It depends on your perspective. But it always seem like it's just a few decades off.

Day Opening - February 19

Earth, fire, water and air

Friday, February 18, 2011

Australia gives the EU advise

Australia has told European countries its model of multiculturalism is "the best in the world", weighing in on a fiery debate in Britain, France and Germany where leaders have called the project a failure (this week the Netherlands too)

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said Australia's assimilation of different cultures was "genius" because it encourages immigrants to integrate as citizens rather than behave simply as "guest workers".
"To me, multiculturalism is a bit like a marriage. It has its stresses and strains," Bowen told the conservative Sydney Institute think-tank late on Wednesday.
"We have to remind each other occasionally that we are better off with each other. It takes nurturing; it takes care. "It is in that spirit tonight that I quite proudly proclaim that Australian multiculturalism has worked.
"That not only has Australia benefited from the immigration of those who come from diverse backgrounds, but we have also benefited from the cultures they have brought and sustained in this, their new homeland."
Bowen's strident defence comes after British Prime Minister David Cameron called for a "muscular liberalism" to force the country's diverse population to coexist more closely as a society.
Chancellor Angela Merkel last year declared that German multiculturalism has "utterly failed", while French President Nicolas Sarkozy also called his country's policies a "failure".

The debate in Europe has heated up in recent years with the onset of homegrown Islamic extremism, but Bowen said some countries had deeper-rooted problems.
"Germany has regarded immigration as an economic necessity. A requirement for guest workers has driven an economic immigration policy," he said. "Never has a German government proposed a policy of respect for existing cultures where they do not clash with basic German values.'' He added: "France's resistance to a formal policy of multiculturalism has not encouraged greater integration of immigrant societies but, on the contrary, it has bred resentment, separatism and violence."

Australia has absorbed generational waves of immigrants, from Chinese during the 1800s Gold Rush to Vietnamese, Italians, Greeks, Eastern Europeans and finally large numbers of Indian students in the past few years. But immigration remains a political flashpoint with intense debate over the steady arrival of rickety boats carrying asylum-seekers from poor countries. Last Thursday, conservative opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison faced calls to resign after he reportedly urged the shadow cabinet to play on fears over Muslim migrants in its attacks on the government.
Australia has an uneasy relationship with its Islamic community. Sydney's Cronulla Beach saw riots in 2005 when mobs of whites attacked Lebanese Australians in a bid to "reclaim the beach".
Dozens of Muslim men have been jailed in Australia under strict anti-terrorism laws which also saw the wrongful imprisonment of an Indian-born doctor following failed attacks in London and Glasgow in 2007.
Bowen said it was "inevitable" that Muslim migration would be questioned "in the age of concern about terrorism inspired by extremist Islam" and condemned "values such as Sharia law or religious intolerance or violence". It is right for Australians to be concerned about extremism, whether Islamic or otherwise," he said.

But Australia was also engulfed in controversy in 2009, when a spate of attacks and robberies targeting Indian students drew street protests in Sydney and Melbourne and accusations of racism in Indian media.
But its patchwork society remains generally harmonious, despite occasional flare-ups. Last week, TV personality Eddie McGuire was condemned for calling diverse western Sydney the "land of the falafel".

Day Opening - February 18

love & satisfaction

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Gay Iman - Jihad for Love

The Dutch gay rights organisation COC has invited an openly homosexual imam to visit the Netherlands “because his expertise is unique'.

Muhsin Hendricks is visiting the Netherlands for a week in which he will give a workshop for Muslim gays, attend a congress for migrant organisations and speak with Christian organisations about the acceptance of homosexuality.
The South African understands that people are surprised by a Muslim imam who is openly gay and about to marry another man. Especially as homosexuality in Africa is still a taboo. The paper compares the scenario to “a poor-quality B film”. Mr Hendricks admits that the fact that his boyfriend belongs to another religion does make things difficult, not least because his boyfriend has not come out yet. That is why for now they will only have a “Muslim” wedding and not an official one.
Muhsin Hendricks studied the ultra-orthodox denomination Salafism. He explains the sins in Bible and Qur’an stories, like Sodom and Gomorrah, refer to the sexual abuse of men who rape other men and not to homosexuality as such. He says there are Qur’an verses which describe “men who are not attracted to women”. His message is simple he wants to persuade Muslim homosexuals that there is nothing wrong with them.
Muhsin Hendricks is also known for Jihad for Love

Day Opening - February 17

Catch the snow ball, by Vinni Bruhn