Your true traveller finds boredom rather agreeable than painful.
It is the symbol of his liberty - his excessive freedom.
He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically,
but almost with pleasure.

Aldous Huxley

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Flying pigs, saucisson and flu

Bless you.
Yes it is certainly not the time to sneeze in public! The swine flu is swining, and the world is going crazy...
But is it really? When watching the different major media broadcasters the last couple of days, I have been fairly surprised at the discrepancies between the different views on the flu. Pandemic, not pandemic, a mere spring flu? Where is the fine line?

I have looked at the big guys like Financial Times or BBC or even Bloomberg, and after feeling a bit scared of this pandemikeria I actually understood that things weren't that bad in fact. The WHO is trying to prevent countries to close their borders and impose travel restrictions, for it would be no help anyways.

But the Nile ain't just a river, as one would say! I was looking at this editorial from the Asia Times by Chan Akya, and his view is quite interesting. I was actually wondering about the same thing just before reading his article, that is the link between the current economic crisis and flying pigs. As the markets struggle to go on, government and most of the major news agencies have produced a rainfall of good looking new in the past couple of months,with slogans such as "the worst is over" and such. But as I was writing in a previous post, the worst ain't over! And a pandemic certainly wouldn't make things easier.

Is that why the WHO headmaster, Mr Fukuda, repeatedly said that there was no risk of pandemikeria? How can there be no risk when now 7 countries around the world have confirmed cases, and out of over 2000 people infected in Mexico 150 have died. That's a pretty bad rate! Yesterday (2th of April) on Al Jazeera, however, the interview of the head of the medical research council based in London clearly stated that
"it is clearly serious because we are dealing here with a flu virus that has picked up some of the genetic material from pig flu viruses but it is embedded in essence of human virus that can spread rapidly from man to man and that sets up all the potential for a pandemic."

A bigger picture of the flying infected pigs...
But who knows? Maybe a good pandemic is what we need to realize that something must be done. I had hopes that with the economic crisis there would be a change in the wind, but no such change happened. There are indeed signs that in a few remote corners of the financial world some are trying to bring a fairer world, but "cold warriors" from Washington and their bastions of neo-liberals are fighting hard. And they are strong.
So as I said, maybe the good pandemic could actually bring the world in such a bad shape that a new order could emerge from it? Lets dream...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A glimpse of hope for the IMF?

The International Monetary Found, what a great thing. Some rightly wondered if its sole purpose was really to assert the North's supremacy on the South, nothing more. It might be true but it also might not. Let's not let our vision be troubled by the dark cloud of world conspiracy theories.

At least the recent developments of the economic crisis and etc are suggesting some sparkles of hope for change!
The last G20 meeting in London ended with big promises of renewed funds to the IMF and the World Bank of a total of $500 billions. This money is then supposed to be "given" to countries all around the world to help them struggle in these tough economic times.
Well, we'll see about that.

But in the meantime the major contributors are quite reticent to hand in the billions of dollars. Apparently, the Obama is trying to get the Congress to pledge $100 billions, the EU has promised another $100 billions, China $40 billions, and etc... But it still falls short of over $200 billions. Countries like Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia and other are thus being asked a contribution.

And while this is not entirely unseemly, what is new is that these new donors are expecting something back! Brazil, among others, have already voiced its demand for reforms on the weighting voting system of the IMF. Many [most] have been unhappy with the IMF for a long time, but never the South have had a proper bargaining tool. I guess we will soon see what comes out of the IMF and the World Bank's early spring meeting on Monday in Washington...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A parliamentarian day in Ottawa...

Yes, that was something. A wonderful parliamentarian experience with Aurelia, Thomas, and Sabrina of course.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Rough path...

It seems indeed a rough path when looking at the DJ index of the past months... But it also seems that we have already gone through the worst. And yet The Economist was saying today that the road ahead is long and dark. Indeed most numbers apparently suggest that the worst is over only in the sense that the path down to recession has slowed down. But it's still going down.

I liked these simple numbers, that quietly calm down the optimists:
Between 1929 and 1932, the Dow Jones Industrial Average soared by more than 20% four times, only to fall back below its previous lows. Today’s crisis has seen five separate rallies in which share prices rose more than 10% only to subside again.
Well well, we'll see. In the meantime we shall bury our head in the ground as ostriches wisely do. Because although the global economy might get a brighter look by the end of this year, for what matters to the actual people (we, the people) unemployment is still rising, big times. GM just announced that it might close it's factories for 9 weeks this summer, while it has until June to decide what part of the production will be shut down for real so GM can get a new bailout for its healthy half. It won't be fun for American workers this summer.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Jesus Sucks at Le Cagibi

On Sunday Sabrina and I went to her favorite cafe, Le Cagibi, to have some kind of lunch and study...

So I brought my laptop, and of course I connected myself to the wireless, and this is what I found.
Click on the image to get it bigger and you'll see the network called "jesus sucks"...

Pretty funny. It always makes me happy to see some kind of rebellion against any dogma....

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pain au Chocolat.

Breakfast plate, pain au chocolat, good coffee, everything. And the Obliterated Pigeon. Last week Sabrina dragged me to the Ceramic Cafe to make a plate, but I was terribly hangover. Here is the result.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Oh Kim!

From The Economist.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Great Little Woman!

What a great little woman. Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, spoke at the Montreal Millennium Summit, and I was relieved to finally hear something concrete from someone. As all speakers recalled long and large their own stories, she was the first and only one to actually have an idea of a solution.

Shirin Ebadi took the opportunity to have as audience the vice-Secretary of the United Nation (and me of course) to make the following proposal: to bring in front of the General Assembly a resolution (and pass it) that would limit development aid only to countries that have a educational and healthcare budget at least equal to their military expanditures. And this is a good point: why give money to country that spend it in army stuff, while they could cut the military budget and pour more money in health and education instead. Costa Rica manage quite well without military...

A good point.

I assisted today the Montreal Millennium Summit. First I was appalled by the [ridiculous] performance of Quebecois singer Ima, the pompous speech given by Canada's Governor General Michaelle Jean, which was further followed by the Quebec Education Minister Michelle Courchesne's own. But then I finally heard some really interesting facts. Indeed as the Vice Secretary General of the United Nation Asha-Rose Migiro was recalling, it seems ridiculous that in times of economic crisis countries from the OECD use the lame excuse that they are too short of money to continue giving aid to poorer countries. And as we speak the amount of given aid is plummeting dramatically.

But then at the recent G20 meeting in London over one trillion dollars was suddenly found, overnight. And the annual amount of total aid given to developing countries barely goes over 100 billion dollars! And they say there ain't no money? Hum... In the last 8 months, over 3 trillions US$ was injected in the biggest banks owned by the richest people on earth, and another 3 trillions US$ was also spend in army stuff in 2008... And there ain't no money for developing countries?

Because it's actually there that the lack of money will be most felt, of course. How about the millions people's life depending on aid? As Mia was saying, if people in darfur don't start receiving food again soon maybe one millions people might die!

And finally Salil Shetty, the director of the UN millennium development goal, the great Canada, which sponsored the goal of 0.7% of countries' income to be given as development aid as early as 1969 only gives 0.32% in 2009! We are going backward instead of forward! Let the rich go richer and the poor be bamboozled!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Follow the Wind!

There we go. Sometimes priorities are priorities, and what must be done must be done.
That said, I just wanted to inform that Enigmatic Worthlessness will from now on be entirely dedicated to what the title embraces: enigmatic worthlessness. Indeed no more fuss with travel stories and pictures everywhere. Travel stories will be posted on The Ubiquitous Traveller, while picturesque pictures will be displayed on Picturesque Reality. This is of course does not include The which is my project under development where travel information, as well as a photography section on Central Asia will soon be available.

Priorities are priorities!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

2+2 = 4?

"Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted, all else follow." (Orwell, 1949).
In Orwell's 1984 Big Brother has become so big that two plus two makes four is not granted anymore; and Winston, the protagonist, when writing the above quote in his diary thinks he's being a lunatic, as the whole world surrounding him seems to believe the contrary.

Compare and contrast. This seems quite far from the world in which Fyodor Dostoyevsky was writing Notes from Underground, in which his underground man is shouting out and loud that two and two makes five is just as nice as two and two makes four. It seems that the road has been long since the rationality brought by the booming industrial revolution was perceived as a threat to human condition. In this time it was the underground man who was the lunatic when being irrational.

The critics of rationality went unheard by the mainstream ideology prevailing throughout most of the 18th and 19th century. Industrialization went on, international trade boomed, and standards of living increased dramatically when a wave of romanticism and illusory peace finally flooded the beginning of the 20th century. Yet as Norman Angell's Great Illusion became the Great Disillusion with the outbreak of the First World War, as in the east a bloody civil war ended up with the victory of the Red Army, and as further time of uncertainty came with the Great Depression George Orwell wrote 1984 in which two plus two makes four seemed inattainable.

And now where are we? In the past twenty years everyone witnessed and acknowledged an increase in the phenomenum of globalization. In the 80s the world catched up with the rate of globalization that prevailed on the eve of the First World War - and with the rate of rationalization - but since then numbers have sky rocketed any previous figures. Thomas Friedman, the famous collumnist of the New York Times, described globalization as embracing the rationalization process, hence we can now safely assume that two plus two makes four.

But is that a good thing? Has the wheel turned enough so that Dostoyevsky's wanderings are once again relevant? Michael Veseth wrote an answer to Thomas Friedman in his book Globaloney. Quote: "The more globalization proceeds, the more we have and the less it means to us. Existential questions inevitably arise." (Veseth, 2005, p.141). Indeed as globalization proceeds people loose identity and their reaction can be violent sometimes, as the rise of fundamentalism often denotes.

So where will that lead us once we recover from the actual economic crisis? Who knows? The wheel will probably turn again. I will finish this post with a quote from captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Carribean 3: "It's not the world that's smaller, there's just less stuff in it".