Archive for the ‘america’ Category

I just googled “google number of servers” and found out the following:

Wikipedia article

  • Google gets kind of vague when asked direct questions about its infrastructure. The reasons will become clearer soon.
  • Some people estimate that Google currently has about 450,000 servers, with major centres in California, Georgia, in Dublin, Ireland, in Oregon, and in Belgium, and minor centres all over the place.
  • they run x86 PCs with customised Linux OSs, on a 24/7 basis in each of the centres. The machines need to be powered, and generate waste heat. This heat then has to be dissipated, which requires huge (HUGE) air conditioners, which draw more power.
  • for an estimated 450,000 PCs, they quote about 20 megawatts. This would imply about 45Watts per machine. This makes me suspect that they are not counting the electrical cost for cooling, which is comparable to the power needed for the machines. So maybe 40 megawatts?
  • A new system, composed mainly of a supercomputer, is called Project 02, and is based in Oregon. It will cover about two football fields, and will have cooling towers four stories high.

Regardless, the power used is gigantic. People used to say in the 80’s that bigger is better was becoming old hat. We’ve become a lot bigger, but its more in a reproducing rabbit sense (or maybe Tribbles would be a better analogy). Not computers like Colossus, but more like bunnies and Australia.


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People have a blind spot concerning their computers, the internet, and modern communications. For a while now (since about 15 years ago) I’ve thought about the seeming inconsistency of people worrying over the internet about what is the greenest way to make a change in their lifestyle, and discussing it throughout the world wide web. The changes, while laudable, may have little impact. Meanwhile they are getting the latest PC/PDA/Cell Phone/iPod, etc every few years, leaving their machines on all the time so they stay in touch, using massive web resources to get their messages across, and happily paying the electrical bills for same. These items are often replaced every 2-4 years (half the average replacement period for a car), contain steel, non-biodegradable plastics, toxic rare earth elements, require a huge infrastructure to maintain, have probably the worst and most deliberate obsolescence factor of any class of products on the planet, and are probably expanding their markets as fast or faster than any other class of products. Bill Gates isn’t the richest man in the world for nothing. If you try and break it down into what factors may be ecologically or climatologically unsound, interesting questions arise, regarding:

  1. Construction of the devices
  2. Construction of the communications networks, including land-lines, fibre-optic cables, wireless LAN networks, satellites and their replacements
  3. The facilities and infrastructure related to the facilities used to store and retransmit data over the web, especially considering the amount of information that the general public puts online (Google has hundreds of facilities, each with lots of servers, for example)
  4. Energy needed to run them, and the “Vampire energy” they use even when “turned off”
  5. Heat production, and energy needed for the cooling systems required to dissipate the heat (air conditioners draw energy from the outside to cool things; it is not a closed cycle). There are potential local effects on the environment, for example heating streams and rivers used as cooling sources, etc.
  6. The carbon emissions for much of the above
  7. The ecological disruptions of putting in the physical internet (fibre-optic cables, older cables, launching satellites, the facilities at the hubs, and the ongoing energy costs and pollution produced in acquiring the energy).
  8. The ecological disruptions of mining and otherwise aquiring the raw materials for construction of the devices, and the pollution produced in processing the raw materials and in making the gadgets, then packaging them, then transporting them, then removing them, then getting rid of them…
  9. What happens to most of them when they become obsolete? And what does obsolete mean these days?

I could add things, but this is definitely enough to start with.

Carbon emissions due to Internet servers.

Regarding carbon emissions alone, on the CBC program Spark, Bill St. Arnaud from Global Action Plan claimed that “the worldwide ICT sector is responsible for around 2% of man made CO2 each year – a similar figure to the global airline industry.” There is also evidence that it is growing significantly faster with respect to emissions than the airline industry, at least in the United Kingdom. The magazine New Scientist published an article indication that using a server effectively produces the same carbon emissions as a 15 mile per gallon SUV. One estimate of the number of servers in the world is 160 million, half of them being Apache servers, followed by 50 million MS servers. The number of SUVs in the U.S. was estimated by the Census Bureau to be about 25 million in 2002, up 56% from five years before. So extrapolating, we’d estimate about 55 million in 2007, and then sales slumped due to oil prices and market uncertainty. So we’ll guess about 60 million now. If so, there are about 2.67 servers in the world per SUV in the United States, and they put out about 2.67 times the emissions of the entire American SUV fleet. And the carbon footprint from servers is just the cost of running the bloody things; it doesn’t count construction, maintenance, replacements, etc.

With the number of PCs in the world projected to more than double by 2015, reaching about 2 billion machines, the carbon footprint prediction above is more than plausible, especially considering that much of the increase will be in developing countries, and most of these countries don’t have the greenest energy sources. To compare growth rates and impacts, there are currently about 600 million cars in the world, and they are projected to double in number by 2030. If true, the growth rate of PCs is at least 22 times faster than cars, and there is no reason to suppose that this rate will get any smaller (unless we run out of materials…).

I think it would be safe to say that the computer/internet industry is a bigger threat in the long term than the automotive industry, and accounts for a significant percentage (defined as greater than 1%) of the human carbon impact on global climate change. They’ll definitely beat the airline industry in the short term, which is one of the more notorious polluters.

Aside: the airlines are taking a worse beating than shipping is from environmentalists, especially from the amateur enthusiasts, but shipping does far worse damage. The airlines are responsible for about 2% of emissions, while the shipping industry accounts for 5%. Part of the reason that shipping goes unnoticed is that airlines are more high profile and visible, and more sensitive to popular pressure on their bottom line. Very few people could tell you what the major shipping lines are, or how much pollution they produce. The ships just quietly pollute their way around the world, incidentally dropping a little bunker oil here and there near Newfoundland and Atlantic Canada…

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After work today I went to the doctor’s office. I was slightly proud of myself because I was early; on the other hand, even when I’m late I usually have to wait. It looked a little busy, so I had a seat, and went for a magazine. You might have noticed that the literary value of the reading material in a doctor’s waiting room leaves much to be desired, especially in the last few years.

However, the first thing I found was a copy of the June issue of Harper’s Magazine, and on the front cover was a picture of the little president with an eleven-gallon hat. The main topic was “Undoing Bush: how to repair eight years of sabotage, bungling, and neglect”. It was a forum of prominent columnists and experts discussing the problems and possible solutions to various aspects of the little guy’s administration. They included

The Constitution
by David Cole

The courts
by Dahlia Lithwick

Civil service
by Ken Silverstein

The environment
by Bill McKibben

by Chris (Chris C.) Mooney

The economy
by Dean Baker

The marketplace of ideas
by Jack Hitt

by James Bamford

The military
by Edward Luttwak

by Anne-Marie Slaughter

The national character
by Earl Shorris

I was 45 minutes in the waiting room, and it gave me time to finish the eleven essays, and it was time well wasted. There was little that was new to me, but it did give me a different perspective on all of the hammer blows that this administration has inflicted on the United States and the world. It’s well worth reading, especially the Marketplace of Ideas, Intelligence, the Military, the Constitution, and finally the National Character.

Only this long until the King’s Horses and Men can get started on the Great Fall.

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John, Taylor-Hood, a friend of mine, recently posted some place names in Atlantic Canada comparing interesting pronunciations versus spellings of local placenames, and asked about other strange or interesting cases. I had a few minutes of fun doing this (Newfoundland has an amazing variety of names that are interesting for many reasons) and threw in a few bad plays on words in the process.

Then I noticed that he had a number of First Nations place names (mostly Mi’kmaq from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) in his list, and I tried to come up with a number of Aboriginal place names in Newfoundland that might have weird and wonderful sounds. Off the top of my head I could come up with none. For Labrador there were a number of names that came to mind, mostly because they have weather stations that I use. They are mostly Innuit with possibly a few Montagnais or Naskapi names. These include Makkovik, Cape Kiglapait, Cape Kakkiviak, and Sheshatshui (pronounced shesh-a-sidhe, I think). For the Innuit names pronounce every vowel, and if you say the words fast it usually comes out fairly well, and at worst people don’t have a lot of time to catch the errors.

The fact that I knew of no Beothuk names, lest alone Mi’kmaq names, on the Island disturbed me. The history of the Beothuk’s interactions with the European settlers, and the consequent destruction of their people by a combination of distrust, displacement from their coastal hunting and fishing areas, violence, and European disease has haunted me since I was a child. Because of the minimal interaction between the settlers and the Beothuks, I would have expected that only a few names would survive, but I remember absolutely none. Regarding the Mi’kmaq, they came to Newfoundland as scouts and hunters for the settlers, and they are basically the only Aboriginal people in significant numbers remaining on the Island. On that basis I should have been aware of at least a few names, but again I came up empty.

I went of Geonames Canada (just google it), and tried Beothuk with no luck. Then I tried Micmac and got half a dozen places in Newfoundland and Labrador; a Hill (actually a mountain when you walk down it), a brook, a river, a lake, and and island. Then I tried Eskimo and Inuit and found a few points in Labrador. Finally I did a bit more searching on the web.

Here are a few that I know or suspect refer to the Beothuks:

  • Red Indian Lake (the Beothuks were the Red Ochre People, and the not so politically correct term Red Indian refers to the tone of their ochre-adorned skin)
  • Western and Eastern Indian islands (Fogo)
  • Indian Cove Island (Bay of Exploits)
  • Ochre Pit Hill (Terra Nova National Park)
  • Oche Pit Cove (Conception Bay)
  • Indian Lookout (Trinity Bay)
  • Indian Harbour (near La Poile)
  • Indian Bay Pond, and sadly
  • Indian Burying Place (Baie Verte Peninsula)

As to actual Aboriginal place names in Newfoundland and Labrador, here’s what I came up with after a cursory search:

  • Beothuk
    • Aguathuna (possibly derived from aguathoonet meaning grindstone). On the Port au Port Peninsula, it was named in 1911 by Archbishop Howley, who though it was Beothuk for white stone. Still, this is not a place name given by the Beothuks
    • Shannoc Brook (Beothuk name for Mi’kmaq) Joseph Jukes, Geological Surveyor for Newfoundland from 1839-1840, believed the brook was named this way
  • Innuktitut
    • Kaipokok Bay (“frothy water”)
    • Makkovik (“two places”?)
    • Nunatsiavut (“our beautiful place”)
    • Sheshatshui (“narrow place in the river”)
    • Torngat Mountains (from “turngait” or “spirit”)
  • Mi’kmaq
    • Meepaeg Resevoir
    • Ebegunbaeg Hill
    • Kepenkeck Lake
    • Kikupegh Pond
    • Awachanjeesh Pond
    • Kaegudeck Lake
  • Other Aboriginal Languages
    • Wabush (Innu for “rabbit ground”) western Labrador
    • Wabana (Abanaki for “east land”), named by Thomas Cantley of the Nova Scotia Steel Company in 1895 on Bell Island in Conception Bay

The names labelled Mi’kmaq were done so based on the fact that they are inland from Hermitage Bay in the Bay D’espoir region and personal supposition. Many of the Mi’kmaq still in Newfoundland settled in this region, and I’m guessing that European settlers didn’t explore into these regions much until the latter half of the 20th century. By this time it was more usual to allow native place names to be accepted by white Newfoundlanders and Canadians, so these inland features in the Bay du Nord region kept their Aboriginal names. However, all I have at this point is names on a map that resemble Mi’kmaq names from Nova Scotia. Some of them may be Beothuk.

In summary there is a scattering of First Nations based place names in Newfoundland and Labrador, with more in Labrador due to lesser and later European intrusions. The Moravian missionaries were also more accepting of the native cultures in Labrador. For the Island, if the names near Bay D’espoir are Mi’kmaq, then my supposition that their names would be more common than the Beothuks seems to be born out.

The saddest aspect is that I could only find two placenames with a good possibility of Beothuk origin. One of them may be the Beothuk word for Mi’kmaq, and the second may be the Beothuk word for grind stone. Only one of them may have been given by the Beothuks. Without Demasduit and Shawnadithit, we would have known almost nothing of this people, their language and their culture. But as long as we do remember, something of their culture will survive. For those who aren’t aware of this, if you take our provincial flag and rotate it 90 degrees clockwise, it is the design of a Beothuk pendant that used to be on display in the old Newfoundland Museun and is probably in The Rooms. It is the main reason I like the flag, and reminds us to avoid our ancestors mistakes, and to do what we can to remember the people who lived on and loved this land before we came.

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Earlier this year the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the detainees at Guantanamo Bay and other such facilities were entitled to the rights spelled out in Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. They also ruled that the detainees had the right of habeas corpus. Without this right a person can be detained indefinitely without any recourse to the court system to determine the legality of the detainment.

Article 3 states the following:

Article 3

In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.

The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.

The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

Article 3, and the Supreme Court decision upholding it, limits the methods allowed in interrogations and other questioning by American forces, and further limits the type of evidence allowed to be used in military commissions. It must be understood that the American military commissions follow different practices than that of the US Judicial system, as well as the court martial system used for the military. Both of these systems give people approximately the same rights. The military commissions for Guantanamo give the defendants far fewer rights, and allow evidence to be entered that has been obtained by hearsay, coercion, or torture. There are also limitations on the choice of legal defence, etc. The Supreme Court argued that the military commissions established to try the detainees violate US Law and the Geneva Conventions.

This week the Military Commissions Bill (MCS) of 2006 passed through Congress with a majority in both Houses, and is ready to be signed into law by President Bush. It addresses the issues leading to the Supreme Court’s previous decision by legalising some of the practices addressed by the court decision, by giving the President increased authority to interpret what is acceptable as torture, and by denying the right of habeas corpus in any US court jurisdiction to the detainees, thus allowing them to be detained indefinitely without judicial recourse (there is a military review board, however). In addition, the President has the right to interpret the Geneva Conventions, and the courts have no legal recourse to question his interpretations.

This gives the government more powers and authority than before the earlier Supreme Court decision, and attempts to reduce the jurisdiction of the court system. Some have argued that this is a precedent to reduce the constitutional powers of the judiciary relative to Congress and the Executive Branch.

However, when I heard about this I went surfing for more information and I came upon a very interesting blog entry. It discusses the issue very carefully, and there are some interesting implications and implied contradictions in the new legislation. I would highly recommend that you read it.

The blog is Balkinization. The author is Jack M. Balkin, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale University. In particular look at his points regarding the legality of some of the authorised actions in the bill versus the means to bring to account those who choose to choose questionable actions.

Here is a quote from Dr. Balkin’s entry:

Let me repeat what I have just said: The MCA continues to recognize that certain conduct is illegal, but attempts to eliminate all judicial remedies for such violations. That means that if the President violates the MCA, he still fails to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, which is his constitutional duty under Article 2, section 3 of the Constitution.

Well worth reading.

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I was really ambivalent about expressing my thoughts, feelings, and memories of 9/11. Then two good friends, Heather and Vicky, expressed their thoughts and feelings eloquently and with great honesty and sensitivity. So being a better follower than a leader, here are my thoughts.

This will be about a number of things. First are my feelings and what happened around me at the time of the event. Second is what I hoped would happen versus what actually happened following the attacks. Third is about what this anniversary means, and the future. Given all the intense feelings and viewpoints that have impacted me and everyone else, this outline may change significantly.

September 11-14, 2001

I worked at the weather office in Gander in 2001, and normally I would have been there. But that September I was finishing up a project in Halifax. That morning I was waiting at a bus stop to go to work, and a young lady came up with a quizzical expression on her face.

“I saw something really strange on the TV this morning, as I was scooting out the door. There was some sort of show where a passenger plane hit one of the Twin Towers in New York. But it looked so real…”, she said. There was an expression on her face, half a smile and half an uncertain frown.

We talked about it for a little bit until the bus came, and she really was uncertain about what had happened. I decided to check it out when I got the Oceanography Department at Dalhousie. Some people were working quietly, while a couple of others were listening to a radio. From what they were saying, there was definitely something going on. I went to my office and tried to get CNN online, then CBC, then the Globe and Mail, then the NY Times, etc. Then on a hunch I tried the Jerusalem Post and got in. They summarised the info on the first tower, but the second plane hadn’t hit yet.

I ran out, bought a tiny radio, and listened through the rest of the morning and afternoon as I tried to get work done. I left early that afternoon and saw what had actually happened, including the Pentagon impact. Who had done this? Why? Were the Americans actually going to fire on airliners still in the air? Why was there no news from the president or vice-president? Why did Cheney hide for so many days after the attacks? Most important, how many people were still in the buildings when they collapsed? The normal occupancy was about 50,000, and it was the beginning of a normal working day.

When people started talking about who had done this and what should be done, I remember feeling strangely angry. For most of my adult life I have been and am opposed to the death penalty, and any sort of war except for the purpose of self-defence. But this time I was almost at the point of agreeing that killing the perpetrators was justified. Then I thought about what the citizens of the United States in general, and New York in particular, must be feeling. That was when I started to feel afraid. Were they going to wait long enough to find out who was really responsible, and were they going to make a reasoned response when they did find out? With Bush and Cheney in power, it could get really bad.

The next day I started thinking about what little I could do to help the people in New York, and at our airports. I was living in a small room for the period of the research project, and had no real resources there. I ended up giving the largest monetary donation I had ever done through the American Red Cross, and I donated blood at an emergency blood clinic on campus, hoping it would help some survivors. Two things happened there to affect the value of my gesture; every other potential blood donor in North America had done the same thing (of course), and as it turned out, there was no need for large amounts of blood. This was for a “good” reason and a bad reason. The good reason was that only about 3,000 of the potential 30-50,000 had been in the buildings when they collapsed; the bad was that almost none of the 3,000 had survived.

Meanwhile the day shift at the weather office in Gander were forecasting good weather for Newfoundland and Labrador, and the only concern was a hurricane threatening the Atlantic Provinces. There were also a number of other forecasters in the office doing some training. Not much training was done that day.
Gander had and still has an important role in Atlantic flight operations. The Newfoundland Weather Center at that time was responsible for, among other things, severe weather for the Western Atlantic flight routes, and aviation weather for all but some military airports in Atlantic Canada. Also in Gander is a NavCan centre responsible for air traffic control for all of the Western Atlantic flight routes (i.e. for about 400 planes heading into the U.S. that morning from Europe). It also has some of the largest runways in Canada, due to its role as the major refueling stop for trans-Atlantic flights during World War II and the post-war years. These three aspects made it especially important during 9/11.

The good weather and the good forecasts kept all critical airports open during the emergency. This made it easier for NavCan to redirect hundreds of flights into a few airports, which they did extremely efficiently. Gander was able to take 38 trans-Atlanticaircraft and a few domestic airliners, and was still able to operate the main runway. It must have been a sight to see so many planes landing so quickly. This visitation increased the local population by about 66% (town population:10,000, visitors:6,595); St John’s accomodated 26 aircraft containing 4,426 visitors; eight aircraft and 1,695 passengers ended up in Stephenville; seven aircraft and 788 passengers went to Goose Bay; 44 aircraft holding a total of 8,800 passengers landed in Halifax; and 10 aircraft carrying 1,847 passengers arrived at the Moncton airport. So the population of Newfoundland increased by about 13,500, with about half of them living in and near Gander.

By late that afternoon all the planes were landed and waiting on the aprons and runways. It was a beautiful warm day, and the planes were shut down, and there were too many aircraft for the portable generators designed to keep the air conditioning and power systems running when the engines were shut down. So it became hot, stuffy, smelly, and crowded. No one was allowed to leave the aircraft except for severe medical emergencies, for obvious security reasons, and because it was difficult to arrange for people to be processed through customs quickly and then get to food and shelter as efficiently as possible. In some locations it took more than 24 hours. Meanwhile people at the local pharmacies in Gander stripped their shelves of useful medications for those in need on the planes.

The strangest thing was how quickly the people there were able to organise, with volunteers jumping in where needed, and everyone having a lot of common sense. One thing that helped was the local mindset; they didn’t think in terms of masses of people; someone would get over to the airport, pick up a family and contact information, and proceed to make them feel at home. For those in gyms, parish halls and school there were things like concerts, bingo (aghh!), and singalongs with passengers and locals exchanging music.

My friends at the weather office did a lot. Many of them welcomed families into their homes, some families with children still had visitors over for meals and showers, other helped with large scale kitchen work, blankets, cots, sleeping bags, etc, etc. One of my friends was letting people get showers and breakfasts, and he remembers waking up one morning, going down the stairs in his houserobe, and passing a young lady he’d never met, dressed only in a towel, heading up from her shower.

I still wish I had been there, and that I might have done something to help. I’m proud of my co-workers, and unlike some people they neither inflated their roles nor did they bore you with their stories. However, they did have a few funny stories, and every day they looked out the windows at the planes, and every night they talked with, helped, and entertained their guests.

The Weeks and Months After

There were many different things to worry and think about. First was the growing despair as all that they found at Ground Zero were remains, and the frustrating uncertainty about who and how many had died. Then there was the dark day it stopped being a rescue operation. There were also the allegations that some of the killers had come through Canada, and tensions about border security. And looming over all this were the worries about what the American Government was finding out, and what they were going to do.

Initially the Americans seemed to be responding rather well. They waited until they had good evidence of al-Quaeda’s culpability, they determined the link with the Afghani Taliban, and they organised a multi-national coalition to root out the Taliban government and the camps in that war-torn area. Then they proceeded to attacke in an intelligent and measured way. I was worried that they would not carry though the campaign to the point where there was a stable government, but things looked good to that point. The Bush administration also made a point of being inclusive with the mainstream followers of Islam in the States and abroad. In general, things were not as bad as I had feared. The great danger was that the United States would attack indiscriminately and then leave the country in a shambles, and create a new wave of disillusioned people with little recourse to revenge through terrorism, the only (albeit two-edged) tool available to them.

The Last Four Years

Into the Night and SnowThen there was the State of the Union Address, where the president declared Iraq, Iran, and Korea as an “Axis of Evil”. Domestically the Patriot Act was being set up, and Homeland Security was getting broad and sweeping search and seizure powers. Muslims were starting to be victims of subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination. Many of those captured during the war on terror were carefully classified so they wouldn’t be subject to the Geneva Conventions, and detention camps including Guantanamo Bay and more secret centers were growing. Other countries were using the American precedent to declare their favourite enemies as “terrorists”; in many cases the smaller side in a civil war or struggle would be named terrorists.

So there were reduced freedoms at home in the name of safety, which often seemed to be more threatened near and before important elections. Meanwhile Afghanistan was allowed to reinstate warlords outside of Kandahar other key areas protected by American and UN forces. Then came the pressure to remove weapons of mass destruction from Iraq, combined with claims that Iraq was supporting Islamic fundamentalist terrorists.

After Desert Storm in 1991, Iraq was basically toothless, and was being constantly searched and intermittently bombed for the next ten years. And everyone knows about the WMD. Regarding Iraq as an Islamic fundamentalist stronghold is a little surreal. Saddam was the head of the Baathist Party, which was Socialist, atheistic, and almost entirely secular. In the 1980’s there had been a number of attempts at assasinating him by religious factions both within Iraq and from neighboring countries. The ruling faction in Iraq was Sunni (usually moderate Islam) throughout his dictatorship. He did express Islamic sentiments near the beginning Desert Storm, but this was widely considered as a pragmatic survival tactic, and possibly part of his position vis a vis Israel and the Palestinians.

Now Iraq had been conquered, Saddam deposed, and the country freed by a surprisingly small army with amazing despatch. The army was too small to hold it, so it has had to increase. Many of the population have become frustrated with how the country has been administered, and see their post-war aspirations for power fading under the constraints the Americans wish to impose. And the Shiite majority in the south started to use guerilla (or terrorist to the American) tactics to win the upcoming civil war. In the meantime the country is becoming a source of bitter young men who hate the United States, so the terrorists are finally starting to appear. And of course this is spreading to other countries in the area.

Finally, the Bush administration’s stand of not having a dialogue nor negotiating with state sponsors of terror has isolated them; in the case of North Korea they have reneged on a path to nuclear disarmament initiated by the Clinton administration, which has alienated the Koreans. The Mid-East is becoming progressively more polarised against the United States in particular, and the west in general. Because they are weak economically and strategically many of the young people become fodder for a retreat to the radical Islamists who argue for suicidal attacks today for a life in paradise tomorrow. Heavan can’t be made in this world, so perform these appalling acts for your positively-absolutely guaranteed place of eternal grace.

A Better Future?

Across the Foggy BridgeInstead of the Us versus Them ideology of the current administration, the government needs to learn how to learn new ways to remove their enemies. One is to deal in good faith and to be pragmatic about what the U.S. can offer to others to get stability. For example, in Libya the government was given some pragmatic concessions, including measures to help their economy, in exchange for throwing out the terrorist training camps in their country and in exchange for their nuclear arms. You don’t hear too much about this precedent today, because it doesn’t support the current doctrine.

Another good measure would be measures to help the economies and education of potentially dangerous countries and groups. Most soldiers/guerillas/terrorists come from marginalised and poor groups. Help them have better lives and you start creating amity as well as removing some of the sources of discontent and anger. If your life is good, why fight?

A third measure is to treat your enemy with fairness and respect, and not to sink to treating them as devils, regardless of how they think of you. If you are a faith-holder, you will be judged by your actions, not by theirs. If you’re not, think of it from their side. They are fighting rich, well-equipped soldiers with much superior firepower. Moreover, the devastation is happening on their land and in their homes. Then the western soldiers dis-respect their beliefs and culture, and treat their fighters like dogs and inhuman criminals. Respect and fair treatment may reduce the animosity and feelings of inferiority held by many of the terrorists.

What I Feel Today

The world almost feels like the Palestinian-Israeli situation grown large. This really scares me, because that conflict has gotten to the point that neither side can think rationally anymore. Each side thinks their list of perceived crimes and abuses is unassailable, and thus there is no will to forget the past and think of a future where they can live in peace. I’m pessimistic about the Middle East and I don’t want that type of situation to spread to my world.

I’m sure you remember the old saying, “Diplomacy is the Art of the Possible”. Rigid and black-and-white stands make “the possible” extremely small. Remember the First and Second World Wars. The Versailles Treaty humiliated and marginalised Germany. The Marshall Plan in Europe and similar practices in Japan created shining examples of what respect and generosity can do to former enemies.

Five years ago the direction of the world changed. My hope is that it can change again.

Thinking of Home

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Early in August the Freedom Schooner Amistad arrived in Halifax. She received recent public attention due to the excellent movie Amistad.

When I heard about the Amistad‘s arrival, I made a point of visiting and I was not disappointed. It also encouraged be to see the movie for a second time, and it moved me as much as when I first saw it in the theatre.
There are some things that become taken for granted, and one should review and expand one’s understanding of these issues, so that the signs can be recognised, and complacency does not set in.

Reflections on Slavery
This is the Freedom Schooner Amistad, a reconstruction of the original coastal schooner which set an important precedent regarding the status of Blacks in 19th century America.

The story started near Sierra Leone, where people illegally made into slaves were put aboard the slave ship Tecora, to be sent to Cuba. From Cuba about 40 of them were put aboard La Amistad, possibly to be sold illegally in the American South.

This version is a Baltimore Clipper like the original, but it has greater draft and beam to make her seaworthy enough to cross the Atlantic.
Home Port
The slaves managed to free themselves and to take over the ship, led by Singbe Pieh (called Cinque by most Americans). They tried to make the two Spanish survivors sail them back to Africa. However, at night they Spaniards were able to divert north, until the ship was captured near Montauk Point, Long Island. The slaves and the ship were taken to Connecticut. The current Amistad‘s port of registry is New Haven, also in Connecticut.

By the time they made it to Montauk, Long Island, New York, the sails were in rags, and they were out of food and water. They were then captured by the American Navy and sent to Connecticut. By all reports they were so weak that it wasn’t difficult to seize them.

Jib and Staysail
After arriving in Connecticut, through a trial and two appeals, there were three decisions determining that the slaves were really free men, and couldn’t be considered part of the salvage of the Amistad. This was done against strong pressure from the van Buren administration, the Spanish Government, and several other parties.

Going Home
Three years after they were taken to the United States, they sailed for the aptly named Freetown, Sierra Leone, in the Gentleman .

Judgement of the appeal to the United States Supreme Court, ably defended by John Quincy Adams and Roger S. Baldwin. Most of the Africans from the Gentleman to Mendiland and Sierra Leone. Cinque’s village had been ravaged and it is thought his family was sold into slavery. Others from the Tecora, was destroyed by the British in 1849.

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